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.