Sunday 26 December 2010

Conrad Koch on Muslim Women and Hijab

There is an interesting post on comedian and ventriloquist Conrad Koch's blog called "My response to @GarethCliff and his Eurocentric arrogance towards Muslim women".

The tweet that led to this article was from Gareth Cliff (no I have never heard of him either) and basically said:
“I feel dreadfully sorry for any woman who has to cover herself up for religious reasons in the heat of summer. Very cruel.”

Personally I didn't think this even merited a response it is so inane, but Koch's responsed by saying:

"You say you “feel dreadfully sorry for any woman who has to cover herself up”. The important points here are that you a) feel sorry for them, and b) see them as having to do this. I have never heard you feeling sorry for Western women who ‘have to’ pour hot wax on their genital area and legs to make themselves more socially acceptable, or feeling sorry for female Idols contestants who ‘have to’ have near anemic figures to fit into the tight clothing we prefer them to wear, or for African women who are forced into the cultural practice of genital mutilation, so I need to ask, why the special sorrow for poor suffering Muslim women?

The academics reckon the reason white guys like us are so obsessed with Muslim women is because they have come to occupy a special place in our symbolism. George Bush calls them ‘women of cover’ (at least his prejudice is mildly entertaining, Gareth). They form part of a discourse of how the West has justified its exploits in the Middle East… they are the primary example for how weird and oppressive these crazy Muslim men are, or in Chakravorty Spivak’s (1988 in Abu-Lughod, 2002: 784) words: “White men saving brown women from brown men”.

Your statement implies that these women would prefer to be uncovered. I think Abu-Lughod (2002: 788) says it best: “I have done fieldwork in Egypt over more than 20 years and I cannot think of a single woman I know, from the poorest rural to the most educated cosmopolitan, who has ever expressed envy of U.S. women, women they tend to perceive as bereft of community, vulnerable to sexual violence and social anomie [big word Gareth, get Fresh to explain it to you], driven by individual success rather than morality, or strangely disrespectful of god.”

As interesting as the article were the comments. One was from Nani-ma who wrote:

"I am a muslim woman. I write this letter from peace and to inform your readers why Islam is so beautiful and practical. Muslim woman do not wear hijaab(headscarf and modest clothing) for men but for themselves. It is their choice to wear hijaab to follow what God has instructed them to do, not their husbands, fathers or anyone else but God. My favourite story about modest dress was: One day a school girl asked a religious leader - Mufti Menk. Why are muslim women oppressed and wear a head scarf and dress like that and why do men have beards and wear robes? His answer was: "the same reason the mother of Jesus, Mary wears the head scarf in all your portraits and the same reason Jesus has a beard and wears robes in all your portraits, for the love of God." Why has God instructed women to dress modestly? At the time when Islam started women were treated the worst buried alive, etc. Islam came and liberated women. Many examples to numerous to mention here. A woman wears hijaab the same reason you lock away all your valuables in a safe. If you had the most precious stone in the world wouldn't you want to hide it from everyone and wrap it up safely. Hijaab is a women's security blanket. With her modest dress she feels safe to walk the streets without even being noticed and maybe even being respected for it. In these times where women are being sexually abused left, right and centre the hijaab is one of the best safety mechanisms she has, almost a shield of protection. With the hijaab all women are the same equal to each other and in retrospect equal to man. Fat, thin, tall, short. Woman are talking to each other, the person, not getting distracted by their assets or liabilities. The same goes with man communicating with woman. With the hijaab you are talking to HER not her looks. God is the most wise and knows best. I admire the father who is inculcating such beliefs in his children at such a young age. Religious freedom is a democratic right and one of the reasons I love South Africa and wouldn't choose to live in France wear the headscarf is banned. My only regret is I didn't ask permission to wear hijaab when I was the first muslim girl to attend my model c school in the eastern Transvaal way back then."

You can read the full article and comments here.

Muslim Women Do That

Yasmin Diallo Turk has created a short video called "Muslim Women Do That" to challenge some of the stereotypes about Muslim women. Sister Yasmin explains on her project website:

"This documentary film will highlight American Muslim women doing 10 Things you may not anticipate if you are among the 62% of Americans who claim they have never met a Muslim. More than 1 out of every 5 people on Earth identifies as Muslim. They do not have one look, personality, or passion. Following 5 Muslim women in their 20's, 30's and 40's as they take on adventures introduces you to them as people rather than impersonal stereotypes"

Sunday 19 December 2010

Muslim School Assists Neighbouring Ailing School

The Independent (10 November 2010) writes about how the Tauheedul Islam Girls' School in Blackburn,one of the country's first state-funded Muslim schools, is helping it's neighbouring secular school. Blakewater College has traditionally is in another part of the city and has been described as having a "chequered past", having problems with behaviour and exam performance:

"But now Tauheedul is helping Blakewater turn itself round. It is the first time that a Muslim school has been asked to perform a rescue act on a non-faith state school, but the experiment is already paying dividends.

After only eight months the percentage of pupils gaining five A* to C grade passes at Blakewater has risen from 11 per cent to 26 per cent.

Alan Chambers, head of Blakewater College for the past year, said the link with Tauheedul – led by its principal, Hamid Patel – had helped immeasurably. "Hamid is a Blackburn lad and there is no doubt that he wants to put something back into the wider community that both of us serve," Mr Chambers said.

The college now assesses the performance of pupils as soon as they arrive, giving them extra support if they fall short. It has also approached parents to get them more involved in the process – a tactic previously honed by their colleagues across the city."

You can read the full article here.

New York Times Feature: Muslims in America

The New York Times has an interesting series of features by Andrea Elliott grouped under the theme of "Muslims in America":

Tending to Muslim Hearts and Islam's Future
Explores the Journey of Imam Shata as he becomes an America Imam:
"The bookish Egyptian came to America in 2002 to lead prayers, not to dabble in matchmaking. He was far more conversant in Islamic jurisprudence than in matters of the heart. But American imams must wear many hats, none of which come tailor-made."

To Lead the Faithful in a Faith Under Fire
Looks at the way Imam Shata has had to deal with questions from the FBI as Islam becomes a "religion under watch":
"In the Islamic world, imams are defined as prayer leaders. But here, they become community leaders, essential intermediaries between their immigrant flocks and a new, Western land. When Islamic traditions clash with American culture, it is imams who step forward with improvised answers. Outside the mosque, many assume the public roles of other clergy, becoming diplomats for their faith."

A Muslim Leader in Brooklyn, Reconciling 2 Worlds
Explores the wide variety of roles an imam has to play in America and the challenges he might face:
"America transformed me from a person of rigidity to flexibility," said Mr. Shata, speaking through an Arabic translator. "I went from a country where a sheik would speak and the people listened to one where the sheik talks and the people talk back."

Islam in the Suburbs - Audio Slide Show
Sheikh Reda Shata discusses his move from a storefront mosque in Brooklyn to a palatial mosque in Middletown, N.J.

A Cleric’s Journey Leads to a Suburban Frontier
Catches up with Imam Shata in the suburbs:
"To be a successful suburban imam, he found, meant persuading doctors and lawyers not to rush from prayers to beat traffic. It meant connecting with teenagers who drove new cars, and who peppered their Arabic with “like” and “yeah.” It meant helping his daughter cope with mockery at school, in a predominantly white town that lost dozens of people on Sept. 11"

image source

Monday 25 October 2010

Lauren Booth Converts to Islam

According to the Guardian (24 October 2010), Tony Blair's sister-in-law, Lauren Booth has converted to Islam:

"Journalist and broadcaster Lauren Booth, 43 – Cherie Blair's sister – now wears a hijab whenever she leaves her home, prays five times a day and visits her local mosque whenever she can.

She decided to become a Muslim six weeks ago after visiting the shrine of Fatima al-Masumeh in the city of Qom.

"It was a Tuesday evening and I sat down and felt this shot of spiritual morphine, just absolute bliss and joy," she said in an interview today.

When she returned to Britain, she decided to convert immediately."

Read the full article here.

image source

Lauren Booth: I'm now a Muslim. Why all the shock and horror? (Guardian, 3 November 2010)

Friday 22 October 2010

PBS Documentary: Muhammad

A beautiful documentary created for PBS by Michael Schwarz of Kikim Media and Michael Wolfe and Alex Kronemer of Unity Productions Foundation. Includes interviews with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Karen Armstrong.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

BBC: The Koran Through the Ages

The BBC has an article entitled "The Koran through the ages" by Razia Iqbal which looks at the origin of the Quran, how it has been preserved and memorised through history and how modern technology is making it accessible to everyone:

"A secular interpretation of any sacred text says, of course, that it's a human production," explains Tim Winter, also known under his Muslim name Abdel Hakim Murad, who lectures in Islamic studies at Cambridge University in England.

"But a traditional believing interpretation says that this is the word of God. It's not a work of co-authorship between God and the Prophet. God wrote it all," he adds.

One of the oldest surviving fragments of the Koran, dating back to the late 7th or early 8th Centuries, is at the British Library in London.

A page from Sultan Baybars' Koran at the British Library, written entirely in gold. Although the script slants to the right and looks unfamiliar to modern Arabic speakers, the text itself is almost exactly what you would find in a modern printed edition.

Soraya Syed is one of the few full-time female Arabic calligraphers in Europe.

Even though writing the sacred words is so closely bound up with the Islamic faith, she says she experiences her art as liberating and profoundly universal.

As she showed me how to write a version of the Bismillah - the declaration "In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful" - she revealed something astonishing.

"When you study calligraphy and read how the old manuscripts describe the letters and the proportions, they use the human anatomy to describe the letters," she says.

"So in order for you to understand the letters and how to write them, you need to understand the human form."

Read the full article here.

Obama and The Ground Zero Mosque

The Independent (16 August 2010) carries a leading article supporting Barack Obama's decision to support the "Ground Zero" mosque which has had staunch opposition in the US:

"The very idea of building a mosque in lower Manhattan was bound to be divisive, and it has indeed been fiercely opposed. After a long planning battle, permission was finally granted only at the beginning of this month. Yet Mr Obama, with or without his uncommon family background, is right to have said what he said, and to have said it as forcefully as he did.

Religious freedom is one of the great strengths of the United States, and one that has facilitated its successful integration of many waves of immigrants. Nor, although it requires particular generosity of spirit after 9/11, is Islam the only religion that represents a challenge to the status quo in America, now and in the decades to come. The rapid increase in the Hispanic population, which is predominantly Roman Catholic, is also bringing change to many parts of the United States, even as the traditional White Anglo-Saxon Protestant establishment is in numerical decline.

Mr Obama's election as the country's first non-white President was an extremely positive sign of US voters' openness to cultural change. But there are still those who harbour suspicion and even hatred of the diversity that he represents. It is regrettable that Mr Obama felt he had to underline the need for religious tolerance as he did, but admirable that – despite the sensitivity of the mosque's location – he nonetheless went ahead and gave it the seal of presidential approval."

You can read the full article here.

CSM Ramadan Gallery

The Christian Science Monitor has a gallery called "Scenes of Ramadan":

An Afghan man reads the holy Koran at a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug 11, the first day of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan (Ahmad Massoud/AP)

A Musaharati, or dawn awakener, strikes his drum just before dawn on Aug. 11 to wake observant Muslims in Sidon's old city in southern Lebanon for their overnight 'sahur,' or last meal before the day's fast. (Ali Hashisho/Reuters)

Filipino Muslim students read the Koran inside an elementary school during Ramadan in Manila, Philippines, on Aug. 11. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)

Indonesian Muslim students march during a rally for Ramadan in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Aug. 7. Ramadan, the holy fasting month, began Wednesday, Aug. 11. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. (Achmad Ibrahim/AP)

An Egyptian vendor prepares the display of traditional lanterns for sale at his shop in Cairo on Aug. 3, in preparation for the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan (Nasser Nasser/AP).
View the full gallery here.

Sunday 15 August 2010

CSM Ramadan Round-up

The Christian Science Monitor (11 August 2010) mentions Ramadan:

“Ramadan 2010 USA started Wednesday as Muslims from Miami to Mecca began the month-long fast to mark what they believe was Allah's revelation of the Koran 14 centuries ago. This is the first time in nearly 30 years that Ramadan, whose timing depends on the lunar calendar, has corresponded with the hot summer months of the Gregorian calendar.

In addition to the heat, Muslims – who now comprise roughly a quarter of humanity – face unique challenges and perks depending on whether they’re celebrating in America, Arab countries, or as far north as the Arctic Circle.

In Jerusalem, considered the third holiest city in Islam, West Bank Palestinians will be allowed to visit the Temple Mount compound without permits. But there’s a catch to visiting the area, which is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the iconic golden Dome of the Rock: Men must be over age 50 and women over the age of 45. For married individuals, the age limit drops to 45 and 30, respectively.

Many Muslims in Morocco will be forced to congregate in makeshift tents after the government announced this week that it is closing 1,256 mosques. The move came after the religious affairs ministry inspected nearly 20,000 mosques for safety standards in the wake of a minaret’s collapse that killed 41 people in February.

Iraq is bracing for an uptick in attacks, as US combat troops withdraw by Sept. 1 and temperatures of 120 degrees F. – coupled with a dire lack of electricity – agitate an already tense situation.

Indonesia ushered in the holy month by banning pornographic websites, prostitutes, and firecrackers – “things that can distract Muslims from faithfully observing Ramadan in peace,” deadpanned the Jakarta Globe. (In addition to abstaining from food and water during daylight hours, Muslims are also to refrain from sex.) Some 80 percent of porn sites had been blocked by the government, said Communication and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring.

Egypt, meanwhile, is keeping time in a rather unorthodox way – turning the clock back an hour so that the Ramadan fast ends earlier in the day. Some Muslims worried that the special Ramadan time zone might violate Islamic law, reported NPR. But most carried on with preparations for nightly feasting that causes Egypt to triple its food consumption during the month – a tradition one Egyptian compared to 30 Christmas Eve dinners.

In New Jersey, school administrators decided to cancel classes on the culminating day of Ramadan – part of a controversial move by 10 of the state’s school districts to incorporate Muslim holidays into the school calendar.

To counter what many see as increasing anti-Islamic sentiment in America, such as that surrounding the ground zero mosque, Muslims at a storefront mosque in the Miami area have decided to broadcast their Friday sermons live.”

You can find the original article here.

Fasting for Non-Muslimas

BBC Bradford explores what it means to fast during Ramadan for a non-Muslim:

“Eilish Bromley works with the youth service in Bradford. She's not Muslim but will begin fasting this year. She explains her reasons behind it.

She says: "I've got a lot friends who are Asian and they're fasting so I want to respect their religion and fast.

Eilish says: "I'm also trying to have a small understanding of what's going on around the world, people who are suffering in poverty, and I hope this will also help me gain more understanding about myself."

Eilish has fasted in the past and it's something she says she was glad she did and will be glad to do it again.

She explains: "I will try and eat the same amount I eat normally. I didn't notice any weight loss the last time I did it. I don't think you necessarily lose any weight. "It's about trying to gain a better understanding of people and what they are going through, which is why I want to do it."

You can read the full article here.

Mahya: Turkish Illuminations

Reuters (12 August 2010) carries an article on the Turkish tradition of Mahya:

“Yildiz is one of the few remaining masters of Mahya, a tradition unique to Turkey and for which Istanbul's Ottoman-era imperial mosques with their soaring minarets are ideally suited.
Suspended between the minarets, dangling lights spell out devotional messages in huge letters, visible from afar and intended to reward and inspire the faithful who have spent the daylight hours fasting.

While Yildiz's working conditions are hard -- he must mount the minaret's 250 narrow, dark steps every week of Ramadan to change the message and deal with dizzying heights -- his counterparts of previous centuries had it harder. They would have to light and suspend hundreds of oil lamps and wicks and carefully plot letters in Arabic's curving letters.

Today just a handful of Istanbul's mosques use Mahya, but they are the city's grandest, and the phrases, set by Turkey's directorate of religious affairs, are legible from afar.

"Fast, find good health," reads another of this year's Mahya, seemingly printed onto the night sky.

image source

Mahya are said to have their origins in the reign of Sultan Ahmed I (1603-1617), who was so pleased by a Mahya a muezzin had created as a surprise for him, he ordered that they be copied elsewhere.”

You can read the full article here.

UK Foreign Secretary Ramadan Message

The UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague released a Ramadan message on the 12 August 2010:

"As-Salaam Alaikum. As the Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins I want to send as British Foreign Secretary good wishes to Muslims across the globe.

This is a very important time in the calendar. It’s a time of fasting, of prayer, of introspection, of the gathering of families and I’m very conscious as a British politician of the huge contribution that so many Muslims in Britain make across the whole breadth of our society and that is something of course that we want to see even more of in the future.

So it’s a very, very important time of year celebrating what Ramadan is about, important values of selflessness, of charity, of compassion, of looking after people less fortunate than ourselves. And these are values of course that unite Muslims and non Muslims alike.

So at this special time of year I say to you, your friends and your relatives, Ramadan Mubarak."

The original video message is on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website here.

Prime Ministers Ramadan Message

The UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron released a message for Ramadan (Thursday 12 August 2010) on the No.10 website:

“I want to send my very best wishes to all the Muslim communities in Britain and around the world as you start this hugely significant month of Ramadan.

I know one of the messages of Ramadan is the importance of charity and the act of giving to those less fortunate than ourselves. That tradition is not just a great Muslim tradition. It’s also a great British tradition, something we cherish right across our society, amongst people of every faith and none.

At this time of prayer and reflection, I hope that your prayers will be answered, your families and communities strengthened and that this Ramadan may bring you peace, happiness and every blessing.”

You can read the full briefing here.

Thursday 12 August 2010

German TV Ramadan Reminder

A German TV Channel, RTL2 is offering an on-screen reminder at sunrise and sunset to indicate the start and end of the daily fast during Ramadan. German English newspaper The Local comments:

"German television channel RTL2 said Tuesday it was launching a special service for Muslim viewers during Ramadan, letting them know when to begin and end the daily fast.

"You can theorise all you like about integration, but we wanted to send a clear signal," Carsten Molings, head of marketing at the channel, said in a statement.

"RTL2 makes programmes for all people and followers of all religions. Just as every year we reflect Christmas and Easter in our programming, we wanted to do the same for Ramadan."

The Central Council for Muslims in Germany (ZMD), representing Germany's roughly four million believers, welcomed RTL2's decision.

"This shows how successful integration is in this country," ZMD general secretary Aiman Mazyek said in a statement. "Actions like this are an example to all."

You can read the full article here.

Sister Alison Lake on Conversion, Hijab, Worship and Ramadan

The Washington Post carries a series of articles by Alison Lake, one of their staff writers, on the experience of conversion to Islam:

1. Confessions of a convert to Islam
"Well before formally converting, I knew I wanted to be Muslim. I felt Muslim, and enjoyed spending time with Muslims. I began to avoid alcohol and eat halal (permitted) foods, changed my dating habits, and become more aware of how I dressed. As I continued to read, I became more aware of how our actions affect other people, and our futures. For example, Islam is centrally focused on community awareness and charity, so much that the entire month of Ramadan is devoted to good deeds and awareness of the feeling of hunger.

The word Islam means "submission." That is all: submitting to God and admitting your humility. I love the Islamic phrase insha'Allah, or "God willing." It admits that we (humans) cannot control everything. We don't know God's plan for us and should be humble to that and follow what we do know from Him. With that in mind, living my life according to what I believe is a little easier."

2. Converting to Islam today
There is much to admire in Islam, and Muslims should educate non-Muslims, as well as their own brothers and sisters in the faith, on the religion's nuances. There is a rich field for debate on subjects such as the meanings of the Quran, the implications of Prophet Muhammad's life practices today, the behavior of men and women in the public sphere, and what Islam shares in common with other religions. Islam is also in dire need of a better public relations campaign around the world, particularly in the West.

Islamic civilization was born in the Middle East but also has deep historical roots in India, Iran, central Asia, and Africa. Western textbooks and histories previously ignored Islamic civilization's rich history, which is slowly becoming more accepted in the European/American worldview. While Europe was in the bubonic depths of the Dark Ages, Islamic civilization produced great thinkers, writers, and inventors. Baghdad and Damascus were bustling, advanced centers of learning and commerce. Arab scholars (many of them Muslim) helped to launch the Renaissance in Europe with their scientific advances and translations of ancient texts for wider consumption.

Islam also shares many points in common with the histories of Judaism and Christianity, based on scriptures and the tradition of such prophets as Abraham, Moses, and Noah. This commonality in the Abrahamic faith tradition is a helpful foundation for interfaith studies, and for pursuit of greater understanding of Islam by non-Muslims. There are too many Muslims worldwide to ignore -- more than 1.5 billion. Hopefully more non-Muslims will take time to understand this religion and its people, and try to look beyond the crimes of terrorists and the stereotypes perpetuated in the media and in Western culture.

3. "Why don't you love Jesus?"
My recent first visit to a Muslim country demonstrated that daily practice of Islamic faith does not have to be cumbersome or a cause for social shyness, and further inspired me to challenge my own timidity about outwardly being Muslim.

The Quran instructed the Prophet Muhammad to "Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their garments [or veils, depending on the translation] close around them," so as to be known as believers and not molested. The Quran does not expressly instruct women to cover their hair and necks, but Islamic culture and faith practice surrounding the Prophet Muhammad led to use of the headscarf. These are known as hadith (sayings of the Prophet) and sunnah (practices of the Prophet), and are central to Islamic practice.

My trip to Morocco in June transformed my perception of what a day should look like for a Muslim. I observed how many Moroccans incorporate prayer into their daily schedule, and how easily women moved about, dressed modestly in extreme heat, stylishly, and without baring lots of skin.

4.Embracing new rituals
Prayer in Islam is beautiful, peaceful, and humble. The act of praying is powerful, especially when you do it several times a day. I feel closer to God the more often I pray, and my faith deepens. Somehow the greater frequency of prayer sharpens my spiritual senses. As a result, I approach life more in spiritual terms; think of God more often; and feel stronger emotionally, intellectually, and physically. I feel motivated to read the Quran, to reach out to people, and to thank God for all the blessings of life.

I look forward to the quiet reflection of Ramadan that comes every year, along with the pleasure of cooking certain meals and foods I can eat in the morning and after breaking fast in the evening. Knowing I am fasting changes the tenor of my day and gives focus. The daily routine throughout the year of dressing the part, reading Quran, and wishing salaam to other Muslims provides other comforting, predictable, and rewarding rituals.

Fasting is definitely challenging to learn if you don't grow up with it. I still struggle with it. My blood sugar rebels and I feel thirsty, even dizzy. I try to be easy on myself, because in Muslim families, children learn to fast slowly, short periods at a time. But I do my best because it is a mark of the faith and brings great rewards: understanding the feeling of being poor or starving; self-discipline; cleansing of the body; and spiritual closeness to God. In the Quran, God enjoins Muslims to fast. Those who are sick or on a journey are not required to fast, and should give money or food to someone needy. Also, women are not expected to fast after childbirth or during their monthly cycle.

I believe Islam is needed now more than ever, especially in our hectic society that seems to be regulated by television, fluorescent lights, commercialism, self-indulgence, and the 24-hour clock. Regular spiritual practice is calming and grounding. Islam expects more of us. Knowing that God is responsible for this world but also gave us brains and heart to use well is somehow freeing -- we can do our best and leave the rest up to God.

Click on the links to read the full articles.

Ramadan in Britain

The Independent (8 August 2010) explores different individual's perspectives on what Ramadan means for them and how they prepare in "Ramadan and me: A month in the life of British Muslims":

Farasat Latif, 41 - Project manager from Luton

"I'm going to take some time off from my jobs – working with ex-offenders, and teaching business and English to overseas students – and use it to get closer to god. It is a spiritual time during which one abstains from things which are normally permissible, so we learn how to abstain. I will be fasting from dawn until dusk and praying five times a day, with congregational prayers in the evening."

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, 35 - Author from London

"For the past three years, I've organised a dinner in Ramadan in which I get 10 or so friends to bring people they know who are not Muslim to break the fast with us. As British people, we tend to be quite reserved about religion, but I think we should be open. In a recession, people can understand the importance of stepping back from consuming and focusing on what's inside rather than what we have."

Ayesha Abdeen, 26 - CEO, Muslim Women's Sport Foundation, from London

"I adhere to everything, fasting from dawn until dusk. It is quite a long day, hard at the beginning, but the benefits always outweigh the difficulties. It is one month of being disciplined and a reminder, especially for those who are always busy, of our surroundings and those less fortunate. It is a month where everybody gets together, we visit friends and family. There is a sense of community."

You can read the full article here.

Ramadan Lights in Palestine

Palestinians decorate an alley of Jerusalem’s old city with lights in preparation for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan

Photographer: Muhammed Muheisen/AP
Source: Guardian 12 August 2010

Ramadan Apps

The Metro (12 August 2010) carries a short article discussing the use of technology to assist Muslim's in their worship this Ramadan:

"Mobile phone applications such as ‘iPray’ or ‘iKoran’ offer a beeping reminder of requisite prayer times, while the ‘mosque finder’ programs help travellers in unfamiliar cities find the nearest place to pray.

The apps are not just for Ramadan; there are Islamic-themed programs that help users find the nearest supermarket offering halal foods, learn the correct Arabic pronunciations in a daily prayer, or count how many pages of the Koran they have read that day.

The programs are not only offered by Apple. Nokia has a ‘Ramadan suite’ on its phones, a guide to Islam’s holiest month, in which Muslims worldwide observe daily daylight fasting"

You can read the full article here.

The Guardian (11 August 2010) also discusses the topic:

"As millions of Muslims around the world began observing the holy month of Ramadan today, modern technology has stepped in to help them through the 30 days of fasting.

Perhaps inevitably, applications for the iPhone and iPad are now available to provide inspiration, support and practical information during Ramadan, the dates of which are determined by the lunar calendar.

The Ramadan Daily Dua, available for the iPhone and iPad, offers a prayer of supplication specific to each day during the holy month, while Ramadan Booster Pro offers "tips and recommended good deeds to help organise your Ramadan". Nokia has its own updated, free Ramadan application suite, which allows users to browse the Qur'an, get prayer times and find their nearest mosque, among other things."

You can read the full article here.

Monday 12 July 2010

Reflecting on 7/7 in Leeds

The Guardian (8th July 2010) writes about one masjid's attempt to reflect on the events of 7/7 in the UK and bring the local community together in the process:

"People of different backgrounds came together yesterday afternoon in a show of unity at Makkah Mosque in Hyde Park. The event was organised to remember those who lost their lives in the London bombings on 7/7 and also to remember the lives still being lost throughout the world due to violent extremism.

The Imam of Makkah Mosque, Qari Asim, said: "The event was a chance to reflect on the past five years and on how communities have worked together to make Leeds a better place. There is still fear and mistrust, but we have a lot to celebrate in this city."

"Today the message is that this area - this city - is linked through tolerance and we can be a model of how we can all live together in peace and ensure that something like this will never happen again."

You can read the full article here.

A show of unity at Makkah Mosque in Hyde Park Photograph: John Baron/ (image source)

Malaysia Appoints Female Shariah Judges

The Miami Herald reports that Malaysia has appointed its first female judges in its Shariah courts:

"Suraya Ramli and Rafidah Abdul Razak, formerly officials at the government's Islamic judicial department, were named Shariah court judges for Kuala Lumpur and the administrative capital of Putrajaya in May, but the appointment was only announced in the past week by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Najib said the step was meant to "enhance justice in cases involving families and women's rights" in Malaysia, where nearly two-thirds of the country's 28 million people are Muslims.

Norhayati Kaprawi, a prominent Malaysian Muslim women's activist, said the appointments were long overdue.

Female judges are common in Malaysia's secular courts, though most top posts are held by men."

You can read the full article here.

Beautiful and Islamic - Modest UK Fashion

The Independent (2 July 2010) interviews Muslimah designer Hana Tajima as part of an article on the rise of modest fashion in the UK:

"Frustrated by this lack of variety, a small number of devout young Muslims are making their own way into the fashion industry to try and provide a middle road – sleek, elegant clothing that is both beautiful and Islamic.

The seeds of this particular sartorial movement have only just begun to be sown and the number of Hijabistas in Britain can probably be counted on one hand. But their arrival heralds a shift reflected in the wider Muslim demographic of a community making their way towards the mainstream and forging their own indigenous identity.

“Islam has a really amazing definition of beauty,” she says. “Hijab is about how a woman can be beautiful without placing overt emphasis on her sexuality. In western society it’s quite difficult to separate the two. I design clothes that are beautiful in the way that women find each other beautiful.”

“Despite what some people may claim Islam is not a religion that tramples over culture,” she says. “In China, mosques reflect the indigenous culture. In India the clothes that we now think of as Islamic were originally taken from the Hindu culture. It’s only natural that British Muslims will begin to make their own creative choices that fuse both their nationality and religion. It’s not about choosing one or the other.”

You can read the full article here.

Hana Tajima, founder of Maysaa, on a shoot in north London for her new collection (image source)

Mike Tyson to Perform Umrah

The Boston Herald (6 July 2010) reports that former Boxer Mike Tyson, known as Malik Abdul Aziz, is performing Umrah:

"Mike Tyson reportedly is visiting the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina on pilgrimage, the Saudi newspaper Okaz reported. Tyson, world heavyweight champion from 1986 to 1990, arrived Friday in Medina with the Canadian Dawa Association for the umrah, or minor pilgrimage. From Medina he will travel on to Mecca and also reportedly plans to visit other Saudi cities"

Arab News (4 July 2010) also states that:

"While in Madinah, Tyson met Dr. Muhammad Al-Oqala, president of the Islamic University, who briefed the world heavyweight champion on the services being rendered by the university to students from across the world.

From Madinah, Tyson will travel on to Makkah to perform Umrah, press reports said. He will also visit Jeddah, Abha and Riyadh as part of his Saudi tour. His visit to Saudi Arabia was arranged by the Canadian Dawa Association (CDA) as part of visits it organizes for new Muslim celebrities to the Islamic sites in the Kingdom. Shazad Mohammed, president of CDA, was present at Prince Muhammad International Airport in Madinah to receive Tyson.

Mohammed, an ambassador of peace with the United Nations, said Tyson would be in the Kingdom for one week, visiting the holy places as well as important landmarks in the country and meeting with Saudi people to get to know their culture and traditions."

image source

Sunday 4 July 2010

An American Muslim Sporting Legacy

AltMuslim carries an article entitled An American Muslim Sporting Legacy: the Riyaadah and the Islamic Games (14th June 2010) by Su’ad Abdul Khabeer which explores the role of sports in bringing the Muslim community in the US closer and creating a sense of pride and belonging amongst Muslims:

“Despite their different trajectories, the Islamic Games and the Riyaadah share many of the same goals. Both competitions seek to give Muslims the opportunity to participate in an athletic environment that conforms to Muslim social norms. According to Imam Nadim Ali of the Atlanta-based Community Masjid part of the impetus behind the Riyaadah were the many new Muslims who were athletes before conversion and wanted to continue to their athleticism as Muslims. These sports competitions also provide opportunities for Muslim women to, as the President of the Islamic Games Salaudeen Nausrudeen, remarked “compete, in hijab or not, with full glory of the game.” In fact, at the Islamic Games women are the fasting growing sector of participants, with a 40% increase in 2010 in comparison to a 20% increase in overall participation. These specific outcomes are tied to an overarching theme of these games: building relationships within an American Muslim community that is deeply divided by race, class, politics, and ideologies. Perhaps the hope is that through a mutual love for “the game” we will rediscover our love for each other.”

You can read the full article here.

Monday 14 June 2010

Mum and Muslim Request

Mum and Muslim magazine are now online at We have had fantastic feedback from readers both positive and constructive alhamdulillah and are keen for more.

Better yet we are re-launching the magazine shortly with a new title and an updated new website insh’Allah. We are keen to make the magazine inclusive to fathers as well as mothers and we are eager for the magazine to reach as wide a readership as possible, so that the wider world can see how positive, effective and spiritually-rich parenting based on the Quran and Sunnah can be.

Why am I telling you this?
Because we would like the voices represented in the magazine to be as varied as possible. We want to embrace the full beauty and diversity of our ummah and learn from as many people as possible and hopefully pass that wisdom on to others.

Accordingly we need new contributors – anyone keen to share their experience or their literary work – articles, poems, short stories, how-to-tutorials are all of interest to us. Although our magazine is centred around parenting, we also publish material that may not be directly related to parenting but may be useful to parents – so recipes, lifestyle, product reviews, crafts and creative writing, again, are all of interest to us.

We would also love to get on board photographers – you don’t have to be a professional, you just have to have some clear, crisp shots that we can use to liven up our pages.

So, if you are interested in writing for us (fi’sabillah for now), submitting something you have written or sending us some photographs that we can use, please e-mail us at Bloggers are welcome to send us material they have used before if they think it is particularly relevant and we will link back to your blogs insh’Allah.

Please do have a look around our website and get a feel of what we are aiming to do and take a look at the sections to see if there is knowledge, experience or wisdom that you have to offer. If you aren’t able to contribute at this time, please do have a browse and leave a comment. Your feedback is invaluable to us so that we can learn what is useful and interesting to readers and what is not.

Bloggers – we will soon have a button for our site to place on your website or blog and we would love if you could mention our site or display the button. More news on this once it is ready insh’Allah.

In the meantime, jazakh’Allah-khairun for your support, ideas, kind comments, e-mails and enquiries, please do keep them coming.

Sunday 6 June 2010

American History and Islam

The chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington DC, scholar Akbar Ahmed, writes for the Guardian 2 June 2010 about the role US history could play in bringing greater understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims in America and the challenges facing Muslims today:

"America has a strong foundation in which to solve the challenge of the Muslim community if Americans look to their past and revive the spirit of some of their truly great leaders. Roger Williams, in the 17th century laid the groundwork for separation of church and state and welcomed people of other faiths. The state, said Williams, should allow all religions, including the "Turkish" (Islamic).

Thomas Jefferson owned a Qur'an and we found a statue of Jefferson advocating "Religious Freedom, 1786" with the words God, Jehovah, Brahma and Allah carved on the tablet he embraces.

A treaty, which was sponsored by George Washington and signed by John Adams in 1797, pertained to Tripoli and assured that the United States "has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen." Even the Prophet Muhammad was praised by the founding fathers; Adams called him one of the world's "sober inquirers after truth" alongside such figures as Confucius and Socrates, and Benjamin Franklin cited the prophet as a model of compassion

Our findings from the field bring both bad news and good news. The bad news is that every one of the major American Muslim categories – African Americans, immigrants, and converts – has been involved in recent violence-related cases in the United States. In view of the bankruptcy of Muslim leadership and American failure to truly understand the Muslim community, it is not difficult to predict that violence will increase in both frequency and intensity. I am sorry to say that the government and its various agencies still do not have an adequate policy towards the country's Muslim population. Some Muslims are affected by US actions taken in response to 9/11, which included the arrests and deportation of thousands, prompting many others to flee the country. These realities have reinforced the sense of being a mistrusted community. Others resent the Islamophobia they see in the media.

The good news is that American and Muslim leaders alike are now conscious of the problem of terrorism and its scale and are actively discussing the position of Muslims in America. Some of our findings challenge the received wisdom telling us that most Americans are hostile to Muslims. Of those questioned for our study, 95% said that they would vote for a Muslim for public office, for example, and an equally high number of respondents had no problem with Muslims being "American", although some inserted "if" clauses. We found a patriotic and vibrant Muslim community committed to contributing to the country. Dialogue and understanding are urgently recommended."

You can read the full article here.


LikeMedia is a website that is dedicated to providing 'A fresh approach' to Islam and issues surrounding it. They describe their objective as being:

"to create a virtual portal of high quality Islamic knowledge for the online community. The project was initiated by university graduates who had a vision that Islamic knowledge should be imparted to all; each generation, each individual and each audience should be able to refer to knowledge at greater ease than is currently available. A lot of wisdom is shared across platforms across universities, mosques, youth projects and the like through various channels. Talks, courses and conferences take place on a regular basis and attract strong crowds, but how many of those preserve and display that knowledge that they have gained visually? How do we prevent all of these wise words being lost? How do we make that information accessible to all and not only reserved for those who had the means to attend the talk? That is when decided to embark on this journey of presenting the cyber world with videos of talks, courses and conferences that had been organised through their work from the past, present and future."

The website features lectures, nasheeds and conversion stories from well know Muslims and "words and wisdom video's like the one here by Baba Ali.

O Magazine - Choosing to Wear the Muslim Headscarf

The Oprah magazine recently published an article called "Choosing to Wear the Muslim Headscarf" by Krista Bremer, mother to a little girl who decided that she wanted to wear the headscarf, at first, much to the discomfort of her mother:

"Last summer we were celebrating the end of Ramadan with our Muslim community at a festival in the parking lot behind our local mosque. Children bounced in inflatable fun houses while their parents sat beneath a plastic tarp nearby, shooing flies from plates of curried chicken, golden rice, and baklava. Aliya and I wandered past rows of vendors selling prayer mats, henna tattoos, and Muslim clothing. When we reached a table displaying head coverings, Aliya turned to me and pleaded, "Please, Mom—can I have one?"

In the past, my excuse was that they were hard to find at our local mall, but here she was, offering to spend ten dollars from her own allowance to buy the forest green rayon one she clutched in her hand. I started to shake my head emphatically "no," but caught myself, remembering my commitment to Ismail. So I gritted my teeth and bought it, assuming it would soon be forgotten.

I understood then that while physical exposure had liberated me in some ways, Aliya could discover an entirely different type of freedom by choosing to cover herself.

I have no idea how long Aliya's interest in Muslim clothing will last. If she chooses to embrace Islam, I trust the faith will bring her tolerance, humility, and a sense of justice—the way it has done for her father. And because I have a strong desire to protect her, I will also worry that her choice could make life in her own country difficult. She has recently memorized the fatiha, the opening verse of the Qur'an, and she is pressing her father to teach her Arabic. She's also becoming an agile mountain biker who rides with me on wooded trails, mud spraying her calves as she navigates the swollen creek".

Read the whole article here.

Draw Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him)

The recent 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day' controversy which began Facebook has meant that Saudi Arabia, bangladesh and Pakistan (temporarily) have banned Facebook and many Muslims have deactivated their accounts.

However, Dr Mehzabeen Ibrhim has suggested a different response:

They Asked Me to Draw Mohammad… So I Did

For most Muslims, there were only two ways to deal with the controversial “Draw Mohammad Day”: boycott Facebook, or ignore it completely. I stumbled across a third: to draw Mohammad.

I had heard about the event several weeks earlier, and assumed it was some kind of twisted joke. Having learnt my lesson after several so-called cartoon “crises”, I paid no heed to it; a stance mirrored by many of my Muslims friends and acquaintances. “Just ignore them”, they said. “All they want is attention!” So, I did, and life progressed as normal.

Then, a fortnight ago, I started to sense disquiet amongst the ranks. The word “boycott” started appearing in my Facebook feed. Then in my inbox. Then on my phone. It soon became clear that the initial “ignore” position was soon to be challenged by an old friend: the Muslim boycott.

Yet, still, I was not moved to action - or even inaction. I did not think a boycott of Facebook was the right way to go. Much like the Danish boycott, it mistakenly punished the social network for a group it had not created, and did not endorse. And even if Facebook agreed to close down the page, surely it would only spur its 100,000+ members to seek revenge? No, ignoring was the way to go in my mind. I would not budge.

Finally, the night before the big day, I received an email from a fellow student who seemed to have only just learnt of all the brouhaha: “I can't believe this exists. If anyone has the good way to guide these people, it would do so much good.” Below this brief message, she had pasted a link to the group in question. I had avoided it for so long, and now here it was. “Click me, click me!” it said. “Witness the madness!” And being the sucker for talking URLs that I am, I did what it asked. It did not lie.

Perhaps it was the vision of so much misinformation, tied up with a brown bow of ugly, Hollywood-inspired, Arab-villain-esque caricatures that inspired the following response, which soon became a tweet: “Idea for Draw Muhammed Day: we should all draw Muhammed! As in meem-haa-meem-daal. Submit 1000 pieces of calligraphy. Combat hate w/ beauty.”

For the non-Arabs, “meem”, “haa” and “daal” are the three Arabic letters needed to spell “Mohammed”, or “Muhammed”, or “Mohamad”, or… you get the idea. Arabic calligraphy is a traditional, well-respected craft, which has helped to fill the void in the landscape of Islamic Art, where portraiture would normally reside.

Surprisingly, my idea (which was more like an expression of my angst) seemed to resonate with a few people, as demonstrated by the number of retweets. I realised then that my status message wasn’t just a nice set of words: it was a call to action.
So, the following day – Draw Mohamed Day, May 20th - I set to work. Below are the results of 24 hours of non-continuous graft.

The hand-drawn illustration is a combination of Arabic and English (“Muhammad”). The surrounding text are quotes from several authentic narrations describing the physical attributes of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

They asked me to draw Mohammed, so I did. My hope is that my simple piece will inspire people to seek the truth about this amazing leader of mankind, by offering a glimpse as to why Muslims love him so much.

Dr Mehzabeen b. Ibrahim is a staff blogger for She currently studies Bioinformatics & Theoretical Systems Biology at Imperial College London.

Monday 10 May 2010

Modest Fashion from Chechnya

Trendhunter magazine has a curious article about the a fashion show in Chechnya showcasing modest designs:

The local Chechen government commissioned the Arzhiyeva sisters to create Muslim-inspired fashion, then showed it in Grozny last week. The Arzhiyeva sisters designed Eastern-inspired floor-length gowns in jewel-toned colors with accents of heavy embroidery and metallic trims. Complete with hijab-framed faces, the ensembles are reminiscent of medieval fairytale gowns.

The Arzhiyeva sisters’ creations were shown in Grozny, Chechnya, where Islamic extremism has fueled separatist wars with Moscow. The medieval fairytale gowns are part of the designers’ second fashion show collection. Perched on the front row, Kadyrov and his wife enthusiastically clapped as 25 dark-haired Chechen models paraded the flowing dresses which completely cover the arms and are pinched at the waist with shimmering cords. They sell for $3,000 a piece in Grozny’s most luxurious boutique.

“To find something modest amongst European clothes shops is so difficult, this is refreshing,” said Mizana Aliyeva, 28, one of 700 guests at the show, entitled “You are in heaven.”

Read the article and see the pictures here and here.

Niqab and High Fashion

The Times (9th May 2010) has a curious article about the potential effect of the niqab ban in France on designer shopping:

THE Avenue Montaigne in Paris is a magnet for wealthy shoppers. This summer, though, the Saudi princesses often to be seen browsing in black robes among the Chanel handbags and La Perla lingerie may stay at home — or shop elsewhere.

Under a proposed French law banning women from wearing the burqa in public, they could be fined. Their husbands, often potentates in their home countries, could end up in jail.

“A lot of our customers come from the Gulf, especially Qatar,” said a public relations officer at the exclusive Hôtel Plaza Athénée, a stone’s throw from Chanel. “There is some concern about this law.”

“They’re some of our best customers,” said a shop assistant in Chanel. “It’ll mean a drop in our sales.”

“London will certainly look more appealing,” said Sarah Peters, a retail analyst with Verdict Research. “Luxury retailers will benefit most, especially the big department stores.”

image source

You can read the full article here.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Jack Straw Apologises for Niqab Comments

Aware that the election is looming and that this time the Muslim vote might make a difference to the closest election race in years, Jack Straw, the MP who started the niqab (face veil) debate in this country a few years back has now apologised for his comments. Islamaphobia Watch has quoted him as saying:

"To be blunt, if I had realised the scale of publicity that they [his comments] received in October 2006, I wouldn't have made them and I am sorry that it has caused problems and I offer that apology.

"Can I just say, this is about an issue of communication (you understand). I wasn't raising it to say it [the burqa] should be banned – quite the opposite. Let me say, I'm not responsible for those in France or Germany or in this country pursuing this. That is their business. I am fundamentally opposed to what they are doing.

"But if you ask me the specific question: Do I regret the fact that it [my comments] had then got taken round the world and taken out of context? Yes of course I do and I go on seeing people – Muslim women, wearing the full veil in my constituency advice surgery. I wouldn't dream of treating them other than with respect and I think they know from me that I do give them respect and I give them as much help as I give anybody else whatever their faith. And I am really glad to have had that opportunity to clear that up."

You can read the full text of what he said here.

Muslim voters ‘hold key in marginal seats’

ENGAGE, the not for profit organisation set up to encourage the participation of British Muslims in public life has kicked off their “Get Out & Vote” campaign to encourage Muslim’s to vote arguing that the impact of Muslim voters in certain marginal and target seats could hold the key to the election outcome.

Muslim voters are concentrated in fifty parliamentary seats in which they form up to 20% of the constituency population and stand to affect outcomes in key three way marginals and low swing target seats. These include Pendle, Poplar and Limehouse, Ealing Central and Acton, Hampstead and Kilburn, Bethnal Green & Bow, Enfield Southgate, and Ilford North.

Mohammed Asif, CEO of ENGAGE, said, “This is a crucial election for the UK. It is the closest fought for a generation and the interest and enthusiasm in Muslim communities to have their voices heard and make their votes count is immense. With the rise of the far right, and the continuing debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan, Muslims are keen to make a difference in this election, and that’s what we’re supporting and working towards.”

Find out more about ENGAGE here and the Get Out & Vote Campaign here.

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Hayaatan Tayyibah - The Goodly Life

Muhammad Alshareef's Time Travel Master blog has this beautiful video, which I wanted to share.

The talk is by Sheikh Muhammad Mukhtar Ash-Shinqitee, from the holy city of Madinah, a translated extract from his lecture "Al Hayaat At-Tayyibah" ("The Goodly Life"), in which he discusses the realities of the life of this temporary world and man's relationship with it, and most importantly his relationship with his Creator.

Friday 2 April 2010

Hissa Hilal and the Power of Poetry

AltMuslimah (31 March 2010) explores the rise of Hissa Hilal, the Arab housewife featured on Abu Dhabi TV’s Million’s Poet the televised poetry contest in which participants compete for $1.3 million. Hilal's most recent poem, The Chaos of Fatwas, about clerics who issue inhumane fatwa's, has lead to denunciation by many clerics:

"In an interview with, Hilal explained why she is horrified by these manipulations of religion. “My relationship with God is strong,” she said, “It’s a loving relationship. I always say that when I am alone at night there is a rope between me and God towards the light.” She reminded me of the hadith, “God is wide in mercy and always compassionate.” Hilal has written many poems and prayers that reflect this idea.

“When I recite poetry,” Hilal said, “I feel power[ful].” Poetry has always held a prominent place in Arabic society. It has been used by people of all capacities for the purpose of entertainment, praise, requesting aid, raising social issues, and provoking change. Poetry, for the Arabs, is the mouthpiece of the people.

Fighting words are, however, not what won Hilal her spot in the final rounds. The contestants on Millions Poet are judged for their recitation, performance, and content. Hilal’s poetry is diverse and colorful. Since the age of 11, she has been writing in both the classical Arabic and colloquial styles of poetry. “Not all of my poetry is an act of protest … My poetry has to do with my issues. My poetry is strong,” she proudly said. “You will find in it my children, my nation. My poetry has life in it. My poetry has struggles. My poetry is about people, and love. It has some stunning touches, loving touches. It has touches that demand our [attention] in issues. Thanks to God, my poetry is strong,” she repeated."

image source

The Times (24th March 2010) - Veiled Saudi poet Hissa Hilal on course to win £864,000 TV poetry prize.

Hijab 20 Years On

Aisha Alvi, Barrister at Law and her sister Fatima Alvi fought for the right to wear hijab as far back as 1990 after being suspended from Altrincham Grammar School for Girls in Cheshire. 20 years later Sister Aisha writes for Asian Image (18th February 2010) about how things stand for those wishing to wear hijab today:

"My love for wearing hijaab is purely, this: it is a commandment by Allah, my Creator, in the Quran. My scarf is my pride, honour and dignity and it has shaped the person who I am today.
My vision for the next ten years is this. We need to enlighten people so they know that the hijab, niqab and jilbaab are part of our religious freedom.

If you don’t want religious freedom in this country, ban the religion, but don’t ban parts of a religion that don’t fit in with British sensibilities. Islam is totalitarian and let us not be apologetic for that.

It is one and whole and not to be fragmented to divide Muslims with the introduction of various classifying notions, such as Radicals, Moderates and Islamists.

There is no difference between forcing the hijaab off or forcing it on.

Real practical progression over the next decade will only be seen when Muslims are truly accepted in wider British society and Muslims genuinely feel free to practice their faith."

You can read the full article here.

Wednesday 31 March 2010

The Guardian Getting Hijab Curious

I was surprised to find that even the Guardian has gotten into the hijab fashion fray with their gallery entitled "Three great hijab-friendly looks", although to be honest not very much in the gallery felt very hijab-friendly or particularly gorgeous:

The Guardian also carries an article from March 2009 by the wonderful Jana Kossaibati of Hijab Style who does know how to put an outfit together mash'Allah. In "It's a wrap!" Jana explores the trends that hijabi's interpret and how sisters keep what they wear halal and hijab-friendly without compromising their style:
"Browsing through the rails at Topshop's Oxford Circus store, there are plenty of vest tops and micro-shorts, but not much in the way of long-sleeved, thigh-length tops. That's to be expected, I guess. So I head to Uniqlo, where I know I can find plenty of long-sleeved cardigans. In Dorothy Perkins I spot a floral tunic I've had my eye on for ages (flowers being big this season) and a purple maxi-skirt. It turns out to be not quite so maxi though, so it is cast aside in favour of (yet another) striped scarf that I can use as a hijab. On the street younger girls are already sporting bright headscarves, which reminds me to dig mine out of my wardrobe"

Monday 22 March 2010

Campaign set up to get Muslims to vote

The BBC reports that leading Muslim scholars have given their backing to a campaign to try to get more people from their community to vote in the general election. A Get out and Vote website has been put together in a strategy to encourage Muslims to make it to the ballot box:

"A Get out and Vote website has been put together in a strategy to encourage Muslims to make it to the ballot box. There is a large population of Muslims living in 50 UK parliamentary seats.

Imam Abu Eesa Niamatullah told the BBC Asian Network: "Despite the fact we have large numbers we are not making our presence felt." It is expected that this year's election will be a close contest and Imam Abu Eesa from the Prophetic Guidance Project says the Muslim vote could be a key factor. "

You can read the full article here.

Monday 22 February 2010

Turkey and the Ban on Headscarves

Despite numerous articles, blog posts, interviews and column inches from Muslim women explaining why they love the hijab, Times contributor (28 January 2010), Suna Erdem is still entirely unable to see it as anything other than oppressive and offensive. Despite this, even she agrees that banning the burka would not benefit women in any way:

“Despite its mainly Muslim population, Turkey, whose strict understanding of secularism was imported from France, has Draconian practises against female Islamic clothing. There is no law specifically outlawing the burka or the headscarf, the more common choice in Turkey. But various central directives and local decisions have meant that Turkish women wearing headscarves have been effectively prohibited from parliament, state offices and universities (even France went only as far as schools).

Has the headscarf and even more strict coverings disappeared from Turkish streets at least? Well, given that a Government with an Islamist history and many headscarved wives has won two elections, no. The secularists may recoil when Mrs Erdogan, representing them, is photographed wearing a black scarf and long black clothing at the Royal Opera House next to Michelle Obama, but their ban did nothing to prevent that, did it? Women in headscarves are, against the odds, also achieving prominence in the media and even fashion, where the designer Rabia Yalcin is well-known, despite a boycott by Turkish glossy mags.

From what I have seen, the Turkish ban has penalised women whose decision to cover up is not negotiable, either because they truly believe or have been forced by their families. The militants can look after themselves, but others have been denied a place in the world, an education and a chance to equip themselves with the tools to make up their own minds.
They are denied a chance to empower themselves and pushed deeper into a society where they are likely to be downtrodden.

So please, don’t tell me that banning the burka would be a step for women’s rights.”

You can read the full article here.

Two women display a sign Thursday that reads “Don’t touch my head scarf” in protest of a ban on the Muslim head wear in universities in Turkey (AFP) (image source).

Sunday 21 February 2010

Al-Isharah and the First Umrah for Deaf Muslims

I came across Al-Isharah through their leaflet for a fund-raising event and was positively inspired by the work they are doing. Al-Isharah works with the Muslim Deaf community to make resources accessible and cultivate independent thinking. The organisation aims to break down complex Islamic concepts and Quranic Arabic into a format that engages and works with Deaf educational needs.

Thier work has successfully engaged deaf children often isolated due to cultural taboos around deafness and disability. They state that their aims are to:
  • To make Islamic education accessible and possible for the Deaf community.
  • To make previously inaccessible Islamic texts (Quran and Hadiths) catered to the language structures used by the Deaf community Teaching basic life skills through the use of Islamic topics to encourage the building of confidence and self-esteem.
  • To actively raise Deaf awareness amongst families and the wider community and ultimately the emotional and Islamic responsibilities they have towards Deaf Muslims.
The charity provides Islamic classes for deaf children and adults, Islamic British Sign Language vocabulary workshops, recitation classes for hard of hearing children and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters for Friday khutbahs (sermons) at the London Muslim Centre with the aim that the model used will be easily replicable in other Mosques who also wish to set up such a service up for their local Deaf community.

One of their current projects is to raise funds for the first ever Umrah (pilgrimage) for deaf Muslims with the intention of raising enough money to take 32 deaf Muslim men and women in March 2010. You can support their wonderful work by going here

Tuesday 16 February 2010

The Adab Trust

Established in 2007, Adab is a charity helping to combat the under representation of minority ethnic graduates in graduate schemes and at management level in leading firms by providing practical experience and knowledge of the corporate recruitment process, to increase their employment outcomes. Adab offers a 'Steps to Success' training programme, which provides its graduates with experience in selection and recruitment process, similar to that used by big employers.

Dermot O’Brien, the Chief Executive of Adab Trust, comments:

“The recession has disproportionately affected graduate employment opportunities for those from BAME backgrounds. As a result, employers are missing out on a large pool of talent right on their doorsteps. Adab aims to work with top companies to address the imbalance which recently has been further exacerbated by the economic downturn"

The next scheduled application deadlines are on the following dates: 23 April; 30 June; 12 September; 10 October; and, 19 November, contact details are here.

Muslimahs Doing it for Themselves

Ruqaya Izzidien has written a humorous article for the Guardian (11 February 2010) about Muslima women and their search for husbands:

"Muslim marriages often come about through arrangement (not to be confused with forced marriage) of which I have heard great things from people who have chosen that particular route. Although perhaps not for me, neither do I want to fall into the category of women who (after some intense thumb-twiddling, of course) open their doors only to find an unannounced marriage proposal drop out of the blue. Not that I do not enjoy the romance, but why is it always the men who choose between meeting woman A, B or C? The Prophet Muhammad's first wife, Khadijah, proposed to him. What is that, if not a precedent?

For fear of perpetuating the BNP-commissioned portrait of Muslims, I must cover my Muslim behind by saying that not all female Muslims sit at home, learning the art of the jilbab and waiting for Prince Ibn Charming to come along. In fact, I would go as far as to say British female Muslims are far more eligible (and more awesome) than their male counterparts. For many of us, education was a way out of a sometimes intense family life: one reason why we are faced with an ever-increasing number of female Muslim professionals. All I am saying is that we should not wait for men to fall at our feet.

By thinking proactively about marriage, we can be on the "lookout" but still not be obsessed by the idea. It will allow us to seize control of the situation, should the right man come our way, without wondering if that Muslim man you met last week is thinking of proposing. Many Muslim girls will vouch for the fact that it is the most frustrating feeling in the world wondering what is going on inside a Muslim man's head. So let them do the wondering."

Read the full article here.

Monday 15 February 2010

The Muslim Response to Haiti

AltMuslim has posted a brief about the The Muslim response to the Haiti crisis:

"The international effort to aid Haiti by individuals, Islamic relief organizations and the governments of Muslim-majority countries reflects a proactive generosity and empathy espoused by the Prophet Muhammad and the teachings of the Qur'an. Charity, in fact, is one of the five obligations for Muslims, and Muslim organizations have been working alongside other faith-based groups to fulfill this duty.

Islamic Relief, one of the most respected and successful disaster relief charities in the world, has used technology, new media and social networking sites to mobilize people. Along with "Seekers Digest", a popular Muslim community blog run out of Canada, Islamic Relief hosted the "Muslim Online Haiti Fundraiser" and raised over $100,000 in two hours. The organization also used its existing partnership with the Mormon Church to send hygiene kits and temporary shelters to Haiti, in addition to pledging a total of $2.5 million.

Islamic Relief also sent an emergency response team to directly assist victims in Haiti. These Muslim aid workers have been updating a daily blog with sobering first-hand accounts of the tragedy.Assisting Islamic Relief, Muslim American artists and community activists convened to put on a concert in New York City, hosted by the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), and used the opportunity to raise donations for Haiti. In Chicago, IMAN partnered with a local synagogue and church to raise aid money.

Governments and non-governmental organizations (NGO) of countries that are more often known as recipients of aid have also reached out. Two Pakistani NGOs, Al-Khidmat Foundation and Edhi Foundation, are mobilizing relief efforts to help Haitians despite the country's own political and economic volatility. Both organizations have considerable expertise in this area due to the massive 2005 earthquake that killed nearly 80,000 in northern Pakistan. The Edhi Foundation has already pledged $500,000 to assist Haiti."

You can read the full brief here.

Below are links to those agencies who have co-ordinated a response to the disaster: