Wednesday, 30 March 2011

CNN Documenary: Unwelcome: Muslims Next Door

This documentary, presented by Soledad O'Briens takes us to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a small, close-knit town of 104,000 people where there are 140 churches and 1 mosque. When plans for a new Islamic Centre are announced, a local campaign to block permission ensues leading to Court hearings. The documentary gives airtime to people from both sides, meaning that in this instance, Muslim's get the chance to speak for themselves.

Sister Ponn Sabra, of American Muslim Mom was invited to a private screening of the documentary and her thoughts are here.

Moroccan Craftsmen in The NY Met

The China Daily carries an article entitled "An Islamic fantasia by authentic craftsmen" about the New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition showing Moroccan craftsmen at work recreating a medieval Maghrebi-Andalusian-style courtyard in one of it's galleries:

"A group of highly regarded Moroccan craftsmen came essentially to take up residence at the Met. Beginning last December, they worked some days in their jabador tunics and crimson fezzes (known as tarbooshes in Morocco) to build that 14th-century Islamic fantasia, a courtyard with tile patterns based on those in the Alhambra palace in Granada. Above the courtyard rise walls of fantastically filigreed plaster, leading to a carved cedar molding based on the renowned woodwork in the 14th-century Attarin madrasa, or Islamic school, in Fez.

The courtyard has taken on an unforeseen importance for the museum; for the Kingdom of Morocco itself; and for a constituency of Muslim scholars and supporters of the Met. They hope it will function as a symbol of the fact that aesthetic and intellectual commerce remains alive between Islam and the West.

The Moroccans are in essence living historians who have carried on patterns and designs preserved in practice for generations. But they have never attempted a job requiring this level of historical attention or artistry."

You can view the full article here.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Muslim Taxi Driver Returns $100,000 Worth of Jewelry & Cash

The Muslim Observer (24 February 2011) writes about a New York taxi driver who returned $100,000 worth of jewelry and cash after left in his cab:

"Muslim taxi drivers across the US continue to be the best ambassadors of Islam by living out their faith. This is evident by the number of recent cases where they have returned expensive items left behind by their passengers. In the latest instance New York taxi driver Zubiru Jalloh returned $100,000 worth of jewelry and cash after they were left in his cab.

John James forgot his bag with the valuables in the backseat of the taxi last week. Zubiru Jalloh was able to reunite with James the next day to return the goods. For his honesty, Jalloh was given $10,000. James said the taxi driver reluctantly took the money.

James John, who thought he had lost his valuables and his family’s jewelry, told the New York Times: “He is just a quiet citizen doing his business, earning his leaving and respecting his family, and I intend to entertain him and his children and his wife when I return from Maryland.”

You can read the original article here.

Muslims in the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament

The Muslim Observer (17 March 2011) reports on the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament and the number of Muslims taking part:

"First, in the most difficult region, the East region, there is the largest collection of Muslim players. One of the toughest teams in this region is Syracuse, and they rely on the services of freshman big man Baye Moussa Keita from Senegal. Their fellow Big East Conference teams in this region, West Virginia and Villanova, also sport players from the Muslim world: Villanova with center Maphtao Yarou from Benin and West Virginia with Turkish forward Deniz Kilicli. But the team in the East Region with the most prominent Muslim representation is the number seven-seeded University of Washington, with guard Abdul Gaddy and seven-foot center Aziz N’Diaye.

In the West Region, Turkish guard Dogus Balbay is an important player for the University of Texas who are considered dark-horse favorites to reach the Final Four. University of Cincinnati center Ibrahima Thomas, from Senegal, plays a prominent role for his team. And French-Muslim forward Mehdi Cheriet plys his trade for number two seed San Diego State University.

The Muslim presence is most sparce in the Southwest Region, with Louisville center Gorgiu Dieng, from Senegal, being the only one in this region. And two more Muslims will be competing in the Southeast Region, with Nigerian center Talib Zanna for power-house University of Pittsburgh, and Mathis Keita for Gonzaga. Keep an eye on these teams and these players as the main rounds of the tournament get going."

You can read the original article here.

Muslim Charities Assisting Japan

Muslim charities are moving to assist victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Islamic Relief is working with a local Japanese NGO in Aoba, Wakabayashi and Miyagino (estimated to have the largest number of evacuees from the tsunami). So far the charity has distributed cooked food, hygiene kits, sanitary goods, vegetables, rice, and water tanks) benefiting 1,200 people. You can donate here.

Muslim Hands volunteers are based in Nagata (near Tokyo) and are conducting aid missions to the destruction zones near the areas of Isinomaki and Iwaki. You can donate here.

Muslim Aid is monitoring the situation closely and has been in contact with partners in the region to discuss the needs of the affected people. You can learn more and donate here.

Bengali Innkeeper assists Japanese

The Japan Times writes about about Akter Hossain, owner of the Hotel Asian Garden and Hotel Lake Garden in Tochigi who has offered to house up to 400 Japanese made homeless by the recent earthquake:

"Akter Hossain, owner of the Hotel Asian Garden and Hotel Lake Garden in Tochigi Prefecture, contacted the Foreign Ministry on Friday, offering completely free accommodations and food for quake evacuees at his two hotels.

"The Japanese government has helped the people of Bangladesh so much in the past," Hossain, 44, told The Japan Times. "As a Bangladeshi, I have seen many natural disasters and this time, I wanted to do something for Japan."

Hossain, a 25-year resident of Japan, said he had canceled all reservations at the two hotels in Nikko and was on his way to Tochigi Friday night, bringing 200 kg of rice with him. He said he hadn't set any time frame and believes the people will leave "when the crisis has passed."

You can read the full article here.
(Thanks to Samana Siddiqui of Positive Muslim News for the link)

Monday, 14 March 2011

Carly Fiorina Speech: "There was once a civilisation"

The Hewlett-Packard website carries the transcript of a speech by Carly Fiorina, Chief Executive of the company from 1999 to 2005:

"There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world.

It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.

One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.

And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.

Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.

When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.

While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.

Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership."

You can read the full transcript here.

Muslim Superhero: Silver Scorpian

Time magazine (8 March 2011) carries an article about a new superhero. The differeence this time is that "The Scorpian" is Muslim and disabled:

"A collaboration between Los Angeles–based comic-book company Liquid Comics and the Open Hands Initiative — a nonprofit stemming from President Obama's pledge to extend America's "open hand of friendship" to the rest of the world — the Silver Scorpion is the brainchild of a group of young disability advocates from the U.S. and Syria. Brought together at the first international Youth Ability Summit in Damascus in August 2010, the attendees, who are all disabled, were asked to create a superhero who reflects what they have always wanted to see in a comic book. The kids had never met before. They spoke different languages and came from different cultures and backgrounds, but they immediately clicked.

The idea was to come up with a character that readers from East to West could relate to. And so the Silver Scorpion was born. He's the alter ego of teenager Bashir Bari, who comes from a fictional Arab city and loses his legs in an accident triggered by gangsters. Confined to a wheelchair and consumed with anger and grief, Bashir retreats into isolation — until he witnesses the murder of a mysterious metalsmith and is unknowingly chosen as the new guardian of an ancient power that allows him to manipulate metal with his mind. As the series continues, readers will be introduced to various other superheroes — some disabled, some not — who must join forces to combat an evil force that threatens the peace and stability of their world. To do that, they learn to overcome adversity in the face of physical, social and gender limitations. The message is simple: just because we're different doesn't mean we can't work together toward a common good."

You can read the full article here.
You can also see Time magazines article on Muslim Superheroes "The 99" here.
Finally, there is the Niqabi Muslimah superhero created by Marvel Comics for the X-Men called Dust (real name Sooraya Qadir) - wiki page here (I really don't know what to make of this one)

image source

Islamic History: The Camera

This week's edition of Friday Nasiha touches on the invention of the camera:

Like many eminent philosophers and mathematicians, Ibn al-Haitham was a keen observer. While in a room one day he noticed light coming through a small hole made in the window shutters. It fell onto the wall opposite and it was the half-moon shape of the sun's image during eclipses. From this he explained that light travelled in a straight line and when the rays were reflected off a bright subject they passed through the small hole and did not scatter but crossed and reformed as an upside-down image on a flat white surface parallel to the hole. he then established that the smaller the hole, the clearer the picture.

In later stages, his discoveries led to the invention of the camera obscura, and Ibn al-Haitham built the first camera, or camera obscura or pinhole camera, in history. He went on to explain that we see objects upright and not upside down, as the camera does, because of the connection of the optic nerve with the brain, which analyses and defines the image.

During his practical experiments, Ibn al-Haitham often used the term al-Bayt-al-Muthlim, which was translated into Latin as camera obscura, or dark, private or closed room or enclosed space. Camera is still used today, as is qamara in Arabic which still means a private or dark room.

Many of Ibn al-Haitham's works, especially his huge Book of Optics, were translated into Latin by the medieval scholar Gerard of Cremona. This had a profound impact on the 13th century big thinkers like Roger Bacon and Witelo, and even on the 15th century works of Leonardo da Vinci.

Compiled From: "1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World" - Salim T S Al-Hassani, pp. 268, 269

Illustration of Camera Obscura, from 1001 Inventions book (source)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Prince Charles Speech: Islam and the West

Excerpt from speech by Prince Charles at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford on the occasion of his visit to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (27 October 1993):

"We in the West need also to understand the Islamic world's view of us. There is nothing to be gained, and much harm to be done, by refusing to comprehend the extent to which many people in the Islamic world genuinely fear our own Western materialism and mass culture as a deadly challenge to their Islamic culture and way of life. Some of us may think the material trappings of Western society which we have exported to the Islamic world - television, fast-food, and the electronic gadgets of our everyday lifes - are a modernising, self-evidently good, influence. But we fall into the trap of dreadful arrogance if we confuse 'modernity' in other countries with their becoming more like us. The fact is that our form of materialism can be offensive to devout Muslims - and I do not just mean the extremists among them. We must understand that reaction, just as the West's attitude to some of the more rigorous aspects of Islamic life needs to be understood in the Islamic world. This, I believe, would help us understand what we have commonly come to see as the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. We need to be careful of that emotive label, 'fundamentalism', and distinguish, as Muslims do, between revivalists, who choose to take the practice of their religion most devoutly, and fanatics or extremists who use this devotion for political ends. Among the many religious, social and political causes of what we might more accurately call the Islamic revival is a powerful feeling of disenchantment, of the realisation that Western technology and material things are insufficient, and that a deeper meaning to life lies elsewhere in the essence of Islamic belief.

Ladies and gentlemen, if there is much misunderstanding in the West about the nature of Islam, there is also much ignorance about the debt our own culture and civilisation owe to the Islamic world. It is a failure which stems, I think, from the straightjacket of history which we have inherited. The mediaeval Islamic world, from Central Asia to the shores of the Atlantic, was a world where scholars and men of learning flourished. But because we have tended to see Islam as the enemy of the West, as an alien culture, society and system of belief, we have tended to ignore or erase its great relevance to our own history. For example, we have underestimated the importance of 800 years of Islamic society and culture in Spain between the 8th and 15th centuries. The contribution of Muslim Spain to the preservation of classical learning during the Dark Ages, and to the first flowerings of the Renaissance, has long been recognised. But Islamic Spain was much more than a mere larder where Hellenistic knowledge was kept for later consumption by the emerging modern Western world. Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilisation, it also interpreted and expanded upon that civilisation, and made a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavour - in science, astronomy, mathematics, algebra (itself an Arabic word), law, history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, music. Averroes and Avenzoor, like their counterparts Avicenna and Rhazes in the East, contributed to the study and practice of medicine in ways from which Europe benefited for centuries afterwards.

Islam nurtured and preserved the quest for learning. In the words of the tradition, 'the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr'. Cordoba in the 10th century was by far the most civilised city of Europe. We know of lending libraries in Spain at the time King Alfred was making terrible blunders with the culinary arts in this country. It is said that the 400,000 volumes in its ruler's library amounted to more books than all the libraries of the rest of Europe put together. That was made possible because the Muslim world acquired from China the skill of making paper more than four hundred years before the rest of non-Muslim Europe. Many of the traits on which modern Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open borders, the techniques of academic research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, alternative medicine, hospitals, all came from this great city of cities. Mediaeval Islam was a religion of remarkable tolerance for its time, allowing Jews and Christians the right to practise their inherited beliefs, and setting an example which was not, unfortunately, copied for many centuries in the West. The surprise, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent to which Islam has been a part of Europe for so long, first in Spain, then in the Balkans, and the extent to which it has contributed so much towards the civilisation which we all too often think of, wrongly, as entirely Western. Islam is part of our past and present, in all fields of human endeavour. It has helped to create modern Europe. It is part of our own inheritance, not a thing apart."

You can read the full transcript of the speech here.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

California Protests and the Muslim Response.

Kari Ansari, writer and co-founder of America's Muslim Family Magazine writes for the Huffington Post on the recent protests outside of a Muslim-run charity event in Orange County, California:

Families who had given up a relaxing Sunday evening at home to attend their community's chicken dinner fundraiser were forced to walk past an angry mob that had gathered hours earlier in protest of their banquet. Shouts of "We don't want you here! Go back home! Go back home! Go back home!" and awful insults to the Prophet Muhammad were yelled as Muslim parents and their children entered the community center. Local news covered the protest, and a video was made of the ugly scene.

Many have commented on the poise and dignity displayed by the Muslims at the Yorba Linda event. They marvel at how those children and teenagers walked through that line of screaming maniacs without responding in kind. I think I know why they were able to do it so gracefully.

Muslims have the Quran and the example of the life and words of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad. Like all of God's Prophets, he suffered greatly while delivering God's Word to the people in the early days of being a Messenger of God. The Quraish of Makkah, Muhammad's own friends and relatives, turned on him after he began to receive divine revelations of monotheism. Muhammad had been a well-respected member of one of the society's most prestigious tribal families, but when he declared that God forbade idol worship his place in society disappeared. Many people in the city turned on him with spite and malice. People threw rotting offal onto his back while he was prostrated in prayer; they threatened his life and those lives of his followers. He eventually had to flee from his oppressors in the night to save his life.

His early companions suffered greatly as well. One well-known example is of Bilal, a young Abyssinian (from modern day Ethiopia), who was tortured and dragged through the streets and then laid out on the hot sands while heavy rocks were piled on his chest in the effort to get him to renounce his belief in One God. It didn't work. Bilal was a constant companion to Muhammad thereafter, and he was Islam's first muezzin, the one who calls the faithful to prayer. The early Muslims remained strong, and did not compromise their beliefs, nor did they respond to the hate from the lowest depths of their character. Instead, they held strong to the words of God and drew their resolve from His message, and His Messenger. The accounts of persecution are many; we relate them to our children as they learn about Islam.

We teach our children that if those early Companions of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad could withstand physical torture, exile from their homes, and severe condemnation from family and neighbors, we can withstand a few idiots with signs and a bullhorn. We talk about how the early Muslims were a small minority among a majority of people who didn't understand them, and who often hated them. We celebrate the stories of those faithful who stood firm in their belief in One God.

You can read the full article and view a video of the protest here.

Bridging Communities Programme

Following the wave of ongoing anti-Muslim sentiment after the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks, members of the American Japanese and American Muslim community joined together to develop the "Bridging Communities" programme. The programme's website describes it's origins as follows:

The Bridging Communities program was established as a proactive response from JACL, NCRR and CAIR to a number of incidents of hate and intolerance incurred by the Muslim American community in the long aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Recognizing the similarities that Japanese Americans faced in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor ultimately resulting in Japanese American incarceration, Bridging Communities was meant to build solidarity and partnership between these two communities.

You can find out more baout the work of the Building Communities programme here

Japanese American's Voice Support for American Muslims.

The Washington Post (8 March 2011) reports on the support Muslim's in America have received from the Japanese community at what is becoming a difficult time for people. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (New York) is launching a series of hearings on radical Islam in the US saying that the Muslim American community has not always been cooperative with the FBI and other law enforcement authorities in countering the growth of radical Islam. The Washington Post describes one of the outcomes of the alliance:

During the chaotic days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Basim Elkarra was passing by an Islamic school in Sacramento when he did a double-take: The windows were covered with thousands of origami paper cranes - peace symbols that had been folded and donated by Japanese Americans.

Amid the anger and suspicions being aimed at Muslims at that time, the show of support "was a powerful symbol that no one will ever forget," said Elkarra, a Muslim American community leader in California.

Spurred by memories of the World War II-era roundup and internment of 110,000 of their own people, Japanese Americans, especially on the West Coast, have been among the most vocal and passionate supporters of embattled Muslims. They've rallied public support against hate crimes at mosques, signed on to legal briefs opposing the indefinite detention of Muslims by the government, organized cross-cultural trips to the Manzanar internment camp memorial in California and held "Bridging Communities" workshops in Islamic schools and on college campuses.

As King's congressional hearings have drawn near, Japanese American groups have condemned him. Last week Mori co-authored an op-ed with Deepa Iyer, executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together, that said the hearings "will do nothing but perpetuate an atmosphere of alienation, suspicion and fear."

You can read the full article here.

Daily Star and Islamophobia

For those people who think Muslim's are paranoid and wrongly blame the media for all of their ills, the following article in the Guardian (4 March 2011) might be of interest. The Guardian write about the resignation of Richard Peppiatt, a Daily Star employee who cites false anti-Islamic reporting as one of the reason's he can no longer work for the ahem...newspaper (it actually hurts to call it that):

The Daily Star has been accused of printing fictional stories by a disgruntled reporter who has resigned over its "hatemongering" anti-Muslim propaganda.

The reporter, who was once made to dress up in a burqa, now accuses the paper of inciting racial tensions and Islamaphobia. "You may have heard the phrase 'the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil sets off a tornado in Texas'," Peppiatt wrote to the proprietor, Richard Desmond, in a letter seen by the Guardian.

"Well, try this: 'The lies of a newspaper in London can get a bloke's head caved-in down an alley in Bradford.' If you can't see that words matter, you should go back to running porn magazines."

The EDL story is one of a number of prominent articles published by the Star that Peppiatt claims were made up, including some of his own. The reporter was recently involved in stories claiming Rochdale council had spent taxypayers' money on "Muslim-only squat-hole loos". In fact, the toilets were neither paid for by the local authority or "Muslim-only".

"I was tasked with writing a gloating follow-up declaring our post-modern victory in 'blocking' the non-existent Islamic cisterns of evil," Peppiatt wrote. The Press Complaints Commission later ruled the story was inaccurate and misleading.

You can read the full article here and the see the text of the resignation letter here.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Who's afraid of Islam? - Episode 3

'Who's afraid of Islam?' is Irish RTÉ journalist Mark Little's journey across the globe in search of a clearer understanding of Islam. It sets out to provide a better appreciation of what it means to be Muslim. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world with well over a billion followers in every corner of planet. As the world witnesses a global Islamic resurgence the series asks questions such as; What lies behind the current Islamic revival and where will it take us? Why do Muslims seem to hate Western life? Do the radicals we see on the news represent all Muslims? Or, are Muslims just misunderstood?

To answer these questions, Mark Little spent six months travelling around the world meeting a diverse range of Muslim people, seeking the broadest range of views and opinions. "Who's afraid of Islam?" goes beyond the simplistic views of radicals and apologists. In doing so, Mark Little travels to 10 countries on four continents to get to the heart of the religion and importantly, its people.

Who's afraid of Islam? - Episode 2

'Who's afraid of Islam?' is Irish RTÉ journalist Mark Little's journey across the globe in search of a clearer understanding of Islam. It sets out to provide a better appreciation of what it means to be Muslim. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world with well over a billion followers in every corner of planet. As the world witnesses a global Islamic resurgence the series asks questions such as; What lies behind the current Islamic revival and where will it take us? Why do Muslims seem to hate Western life? Do the radicals we see on the news represent all Muslims? Or, are Muslims just misunderstood?

To answer these questions, Mark Little spent six months travelling around the world meeting a diverse range of Muslim people, seeking the broadest range of views and opinions. "Who's afraid of Islam?" goes beyond the simplistic views of radicals and apologists. In doing so, Mark Little travels to 10 countries on four continents to get to the heart of the religion and importantly, its people.

Who's afraid of Islam? - Episode 1

'Who's afraid of Islam?' is Irish RTÉ journalist Mark Little's journey across the globe in search of a clearer understanding of Islam. It sets out to provide a better appreciation of what it means to be Muslim. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world with well over a billion followers in every corner of planet. As the world witnesses a global Islamic resurgence the series asks questions such as; What lies behind the current Islamic revival and where will it take us? Why do Muslims seem to hate Western life? Do the radicals we see on the news represent all Muslims? Or, are Muslims just misunderstood?

To answer these questions, Mark Little spent six months travelling around the world meeting a diverse range of Muslim people, seeking the broadest range of views and opinions. "Who's afraid of Islam?" goes beyond the simplistic views of radicals and apologists. In doing so, Mark Little travels to 10 countries on four continents to get to the heart of the religion and importantly, its people.

One More Muslim for Peace

Halal Trends in the West

Zahed Amanullah writes for (23 February 2011) about the introduction of halal foods into the mainstream and about the negative reaction of some towards this as a kind of "sharia law by stealth". I can recognise this as my children's non-Muslim school in London serves halal meat, which has lead in the past to complaints from non-Muslim parents. Amanullah explores some of the trends emerging in Britain and America:

Campbell’s Soup is an American icon, embedded in the American culinary subconscience long before artist Andy Warhol featured their soup cans in his most recognized work. So when the Canadian branch of the Edison, NJ food producer started offering halal versions of its popular soups, many people hostile to Muslims proposed a boycott of the company, a situation (along with others) lampooned on late night show “The Colbert Report” in a segment titled “Radical Muslim Snacks.”

In spite of controversies such as this, the number of halal food products and services offered in the West by mainstream companies is growing. In Britain, Tesco and Sainsburys, two of the country’s largest supermarket chains, sell fresh halal meat and frozen halal products in dozens of their stores, largely resisting the occasional tabloid frenzy over halal products allegedly sold by stealth. “There are all kinds of other products - not just halal or kosher - that groups would rather we not sell,” says a Sainsbury’s spokesman.” As long as products confirm to our safety, quality, and provenance standards, we will continue to sell (halal products).” The same resilience can be found in British Subway and KFC restaurant chains, each of which maintains well over 100 halal-only versions of their stores throughout the country.

Other food producers also see promoting a holistic definition of halal as an opportunity to meet the desires of Western consumers, rather than just Muslims. “Most food products aimed at British Muslims tend to be marketed heavily from an ‘Islamic’ perspective, using Arabic names and Arabic script extensively” adds Zia Choudhury, founder of boutique British food producer, The Serious Sausage Company. “It’s fine for appealing to the target audience, but the approach may alienate non-Muslims. Our branding and marketing is designed to portray taste and quality first, as these are leading and universally appreciated benefits of a food product.”

Part of the strategy is to convey the aspects of halal meat production that go beyond the widely known aspect of reciting the name of God before slaughtering an animal with a sharp knife. Saffron Road describes it as tayeeb, “the sacred tradition of respect for the land, fair treatment for farmers, humane treatment of livestock, and clean, healthy food to eat.” All of the company’s meats come from animals that are “sustainably and humanely farmed, and free of anti-biotics and hormones.” The Serious Sausage Company takes a similar line, saying they “believe halal means more that just correct slaughter techniques. We strongly believe that an animal has to have led a decent life, from start to finish.”

You can read the full post here.

Islam and Healing in Rwanda

This is an old article, but one about an issue I recall reading about in an English newspaper which I could nott locate again, butt which was a pertinent example for me about the way Islam can transcend race and nationalism. This article comes from the Washington Post (23 September 2002) and is about the way many Rwandan's turned to Islam following the genocide that occurred in that country:

We have our own jihad, and that is our war against ignorance between Hutu and Tutsi. It is our struggle to heal," said Saleh Habimana, the head mufti of Rwanda. "Our jihad is to start respecting each other and living as Rwandans and as Muslims."

Since the genocide, Rwandans have converted to Islam in huge numbers. Muslims now make up 14 percent of the 8.2 million people here in Africa's most Catholic nation, twice as many as before the killings began.

Many converts say they chose Islam because of the role that some Catholic and Protestant leaders played in the genocide. Human rights groups have documented several incidents in which Christian clerics allowed Tutsis to seek refuge in churches, then surrendered them to Hutu death squads, as well as instances of Hutu priests and ministers encouraging their congregations to kill Tutsis. Today some churches serve as memorials to the many people slaughtered among their pews.

In contrast, many Muslim leaders and families are being honored for protecting and hiding those who were fleeing.

Some say Muslims did this because of the religion's strong dictates against murder, though Christian doctrine proscribes it as well. Others say Muslims, always considered an ostracized minority, were not swept up in the Hutus' campaign of bloodshed and were unafraid of supporting a cause they felt was honorable.

"I know people in America think Muslims are terrorists, but for Rwandans they were our freedom fighters during the genocide," said Jean Pierre Sagahutu, 37, a Tutsi who converted to Islam from Catholicism after his father and nine other members of his family were slaughtered. "I wanted to hide in a church, but that was the worst place to go. Instead, a Muslim family took me. They saved my life."

Imams across the country held meetings after Sept. 11, 2001, to clarify what it means to be a Muslim. "I told everyone, 'Islam means peace,' " said Imiyimana, recalling that the mosque was packed that day. "Considering our track record, it wasn't hard to convince them."

At a recent class here, hundreds of women dressed in red, orange and purple head coverings gathered in a dark clay building. They talked about their personal struggle, or jihad, to raise their children well. And afterward, during a lunch of beans and chicken legs, they ate heartily and shared stories about how Muslims saved them during the genocide.

"If it weren't for the Muslims, my whole family would be dead," said Aisha Uwimbabazi, 27, a convert and mother of two children. "I was very, very thankful for Muslim people during the genocide. I thought about it and I really felt it was right to change."

You can read the full article here.

image source