Sunday 12 August 2012

BBC Documentary: Great British Islam

Great British Islam is a documentary about three Englishman who embraced Islam and the consequences they faced.  It also explores the legacy they left behind in Britain.

Iftar at the White House

President Obama recently hosted an iftar dinner at the White House.  The Examiner (11 August 2012) published a transcript of the speech given by the President at the dinner:

"As I’ve noted before, Thomas Jefferson once held a sunset dinner here with an envoy from Tunisia -- perhaps the first Iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago. And some of you, as you arrived tonight, may have seen our special display, courtesy of our friends at the Library of Congress -- the Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson. And that's a reminder, along with the generations of patriotic Muslims in America, that Islam -- like so many faiths -- is part of our national story.
This evening, we’re honored to be joined by members of our diplomatic corps, members of Congress -- including Muslim American members of Congress, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson -- as well as leaders from across my administration. And to you, the millions of Muslim Americans across our country, and to the more than one billion Muslims around the world -- Ramadan Kareem.
More broadly, we’ve seen the extraordinary courage of Muslim women during the Arab Spring -- women, right alongside men, taking to the streets to claim their universal rights, marching for their freedom, blogging and tweeting and posting videos, determined to be heard. In some cases, facing down tanks, and braving bullets, enduring detentions and unspeakable treatment, and at times, giving their very lives for the freedom that they seek -- the liberty that we are lucky enough to enjoy here tonight.
These women have inspired their sisters and daughters, but also their brothers and their sons. And they’ve inspired us all. Even as we see women casting their ballots and seeking -- standing for office in historic elections, we understand that their work is not done. They understand that any true democracy must uphold the freedom and rights of all people and all faiths. We know this, too, for here in America we're enriched by so many faiths, by men and women -- including Muslim American women.
They’re young people, like the student who wrote me a letter about what it’s like to grow up Muslim in America. She’s in college. She dreams of a career in international affairs to help deepen understanding between the United States and Muslim countries around the world. So if any of the diplomatic corps have tips for her -- (laughter.) She says that "America has always been the land of opportunity for me, and I love this country with all my heart." And so we’re glad to have Hala Baig here today. (Applause.)
They are faith leaders like Sanaa Nadim, one of the first Muslim chaplains at an American college -- a voice for interfaith dialogue who's had the opportunity to meet with the Pope to discuss these issues. We're very proud to have you here. (Applause.)

They are educators like Auysha Muhayya, born in Afghanistan, who fled with her family as refugees to America, and now, as a language teacher, helps open her students to new cultures. So we're very pleased to have her here. (Applause.)
They are entrepreneurs and lawyers, community leaders, members of our military, and Muslim American women serving with distinction in government. And that includes a good friend, Huma Abedin, who has worked tirelessly -- (applause) -- worked tirelessly in the White House, in the U.S. Senate, and most exhaustingly, at the State Department, where she has been nothing less than extraordinary in representing our country and the democratic values that we hold dear. Senator Clinton has relied on her expertise, and so have I.
The American people owe her a debt of gratitude -- because Huma is an American patriot, and an example of what we need in this country -- more public servants with her sense of decency, her grace and her generosity of spirit. So, on behalf of all Americans, we thank you so much. (Applause.)
These are the faces of Islam in America. These are just a few of the Muslim Americans who strengthen our country every single day. This is the diversity that makes us Americans; the pluralism that we will never lose."
You can read the full speech here.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House August 10, 2012 in Washington, DC. Credit: Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images  (image source).

British Muslims in the 2012 Olympic Games

London has been a rather exciting place in the last few days with the Olympics nearing an end and the gold medal tally for Britain in third place for the world.  One of the things I enjoyed seeing was the Muslim participation to British sports.  The video's below are interviews with athlete Mohammed Farrah, rower Mohamed Sbihi and hockey player Darren Cheesman.  All three talk about the role of faith in their professions and lives.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Olympic 2012: Year of the Muslim Woman

Operation Black Vote (Parmila Kumari) calls the 2012 Olympics "Year of the Muslim Woman":

"The Olympics 2012 has been named ‘Year of the Woman’. Within team GB there is much evidence of this. The likes of female athletes like Jessica Ennis, the women's team pursuit cyclists and the Hosking – Copeland rowing duo have bolstered Great Britain’s place on the medal table by grabbing gold medals.
The accolade of ‘Year of the Woman’ has been earned because for the first time in Olympic history women will be represented in all 205 of the participant national teams, and make up 45% of the total athletes. This has been made possible since Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar decided this year to send female athletes.
Consider then the case of Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, the female judo competitor from Saudi Arabia. The 16 year-old was given a special invitation by the International Olympic Committee to compete in the over-78kg category under the Olympic charter, which bans gender discrimination.
She was told last week by the International Judo Federation that she would not be allowed to wear her hijab, because of safety concerns. Saudi Arabia has only allowed its women to compete on the condition that they are at all times dressed in suitable clothing that complies with Sharia (religious law).
Depending on how the international community wants to present itself (democratic, tolerant), it must find ways to accommodate such expressions of religion. Some have already started this process – and ended up with solutions such as the ResportOn ‘Hijood’, which is a hoodie attached to a t-shirt made from sports fabric. It was created by Elham Seyed Javad for female Muslim athletes who want to keep their hair covered. She set about designing such a piece after learning of five Muslim girls being banned from a tae kwon do tournament in Montreal because of the health and safety question their hijabs posed.
One prominent wearer of such an item of clothing is the 28 year old athlete from Bahrain, Roqaya Al Gassra. She won the women’s 200m final at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, making her the first Bahraini-born athlete to win a major international athletics gold medal, and has been the first ever to wear such a piece at the 2004 Olympics.
2012 will be the first year to showcase the talents of the Muslim female athletes from the participating countries, where this was not the case before, in many ways this is the year of the Muslim woman."
You can read the full article here.

Friday 10 August 2012

In the Guardian (8 August 2012) Huma Qureshi describes how she participated in an initiative to share the iftar (fast breaking) meal with non-Muslims:

"I'm taking part in Dine@Mine, an initiative set up by 25-year-old Maryam Douale from Manchester. The idea is that Muslims host an iftar (the meal with which you open your fast) for non-Muslims, to forge better understanding over food. "Ramadan at my house is loud, fun and full of love and good food," Douale says. "It's my family at its warmest and best. I thought what if we could give non-Muslims a chance to see what a normal Muslim family is like? Food plays such an important role in cultures and traditions ... it brings people together" 

Jack and Jenni arrive. We offer them elderflower drinks, explaining we will wait until we've opened our fast, but they say they want to wait with us. Although they haven't fasted ahead of the meal, they are excited about joining in: "When would I ever get the chance to experience any part of Ramadan?" Jenni asks.

I was worried the experience might put us on show – Look! Here are Muslims who fast! – but it hasn't at all. Friends and colleagues are intrigued about Ramadan but shy of asking questions and I want our guests to feel they can ask anything. Being used to fasting, I forget this is what baffles people most. "Do you really get up at 3am? Is it like a midnight feast" asks Jenni, who thinks sehri, the pre-fast meal, sounds "magical". I tell her that eating bagels while half asleep is quite mundane. They've been reading up on Ramadan, and instead of bringing flowers, made a donation to a charity for the homeless.
The simple act of sharing a meal together has laid down the foundations of a new friendship – Douale will be pleased to hear we're going over to theirs for dinner after Eid."
You can read the full article here.

Ramadan and Turkish Hospitality

Krista at Muslim Media Watch describes how she spent the first few days of Ramadan in Turkey this year and how what really struck her was the generosity of the people:

"My favourite memory is from my last night of the trip.  I had been walking around Istanbul all day in the heat, and I was tired, with maghrib still about an hour and a half away.  I sat down on a bench near a bunch of picnic tables, content to just sit and absorb what I could during my remaining time in the city.
A man came up to me and started chatting in English: had I been walking around all day, where was I from, how did I like Turkey.  He mentioned that he was fasting, and I told him that so was I, and he invited me to join him and his family (his two sisters, his niece, and his niece’s children) for iftar that evening.  Soon, he and I were walking through the crowd, searching first for his sisters and then for a free picnic table, and then he was off to go buy some food, while I stayed with the others.
They gave me gifts: prayer beads shaped, and scented, like roses, and earrings with a matching heart-shaped pendant.  When the man I had first met came back with the food, the women spoke to him in Turkish, and he explained to me that they had given me the gifts because they liked me so much.  And yet they only barely knew me. There are many teachings in Islam about the importance and value of feeding someone who is fasting, but this wasn't just about the food. The meal, the gifts, their warmth: this is Turkish hospitality, they explained."
You can read the full article here.

Monday 6 August 2012

The Prophet's Sermon on Ramadhan

I should have posted this at the beginning of Ramadan, but came across it at the weekend halaqah (study circle) I attend and was so moved it by it mash'Allah:

Baihaqi reported on the authority of Salman Al-Farsi (Radhi Allah ‘Anh) that Prophet (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasalaam) delivered a sermon on the last day of the month of Sha’ban. In it he (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasalaam) said,

“O People! The month of Allah (Ramadan) has come with its mercies, blessings and forgivenesses. Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. The days of this month are the best among the days and the nights are the best among the nights and the hours during Ramadan are the best among the hours. This is a month in which you have been invited by Him (to fast and pray). Allah has honoured you in it. In every breath you take is a reward of Allah, your sleep is worship, your good deeds are accepted and your invocations are answered.

Therefore, you must invoke your Lord in all earnestness with hearts free from sin and evil, and pray that Allah may help you to keep fast, and to recite the Holy Qur’an. Indeed!, miserable is the o­ne who is deprived of Allah’s forgiveness in this great month. While fasting remember the hunger and thirst o­n the Day of Judgement. Give alms to the poor and needy. Pay respect to your elders, have sympathy for your youngsters and be kind towards your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongue against unworthy words, and your eyes from scenes that are not worth seeing (forbidden) and your ears from sounds that should not be heard.

Be kind to orphans so that if your children may become orphans they will also be treated with kindness. Do repent to Allah for your sins and supplicate with raised hands at the times of prayer as these are the best times, during which Allah Almighty looks at His servants with mercy. Allah Answers if they supplicate, Responds if they call, Grants if He is asked, and Accepts if they entreat. O people! you have made your conscience the slave of your desires.

Make it free by invoking Allah for forgiveness. Your back may break from the heavy load of your sins, so prostrate yourself before Allah for long intervals, and make this load lighter. Understand fully that Allah has promised in His Honour and Majesty that, people who perform salat and sajda (prostration) will be guarded from Hell-fire o­n the Day of Judgement.

O people!, if anyone amongst you arranges for iftar (meal at sunset) for any believer, Allah will reward him as if he had freed a slave, and Allah will forgive him his sins. A companion asked: “but not all of us have the means to do so” The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasalaam) replied: Keep yourself away from Hell-fire though it may consist of half a date or even some water if you have nothing else.

O people!, anyone who during this month cultivates good manners, will walk over the Sirat (bridge to Paradise) o­n the day when feet will tend to slip. For anyone who during this month eases the workload of his servants, Allah will make easy his accounting, and for anyone who doesn’t hurt others during this month, Allah will safeguard him from His Wrath o­n the Day of Judgement. Anyone who respects and treats an orphan with kindness during this month, Allah shall look at him with kindness o­n that Day. Anyone who treats his kinsmen well during this month, Allah will bestow His Mercy o­n him o­n that Day, while anyone who mistreats his kinsmen during this month, Allah will keep away from His Mercy.

Whomever offers the recommended prayers during this month, Allah will save him from Hell, and whomever observes his obligations during this month, his reward will be seventy times the reward during other months. Whomever repeatedly invokes Allah’s blessings o­n me, Allah will keep his scale of good deeds heavy, while the scales of others will be tending to lightness. Whomever recites during this month an ayat (verse) of the Holy Qur’an, will get the reward of reciting the whole Qur’an in other months.

O people!, the gates of Paradise remain open during this month. Pray to your Lord that they may not be closed for you. While the gates of Hell are closed, pray to your Lord that they never open for you. Satan has been chained, invoke your Lord not to let him dominate you.”

Ali ibn Talib (Radhi Allah ‘Anh) said: “I asked, ‘O messenger of Allah, what are the best deeds during this month’?” ‘He replied: ‘O Abu-Hassan, the best of deeds during this month is to be far from what Allah has forbidden’.”

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Learnings from the US Mosque Survey 2011

The Wall Street Journal's Market Watch (June 2012) cites a report called the US Mosque Survey, the second instalment of which was released today:

"A coalition of major American Muslim and academic organizations sponsored the comprehensive study of mosques and the attitudes of mosque leaders in the United States from which the latest report, titled "The American Mosque 2011: Activities, Administration and Vitality of the American Mosque," was compiled.

Major findings of the report released today include:

* Full-time Islamic schools have experienced significant growth in the past decade.

* Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of mosques indicated that they have hosted an open house for their neighbors of other faiths in the past 12 months.

* The majority of mosques (70 percent) use only English for the main message of the khutbah (sermon).

* The vast majority (88 percent) of American mosque leaders say domestic abuse should be addressed.

* In terms of social services, mosques compare very well with other religious congregations. For example, surveys show that only 26 percent of congregations of other faith traditions are involved in providing some type of health programing as compared to 45 percent of mosques. Only 29 percent of other religious congregations are involved in community organizing activities, while 47 percent of mosques are involved in these types of activities.

* A majority of mosque leaders (71 percent) agreed that their mosque is working for social justice. African American mosques are the most likely (87 percent) to be active in social justice.

* The role of the religious leader (Imam) is becoming more professionalized.

* The percentage of mosques unaffiliated with any national organization has increased significantly over the past few decades."

You can read the full article here.

You can access the original report here (PDF).

Islam and Feminism

ABC's Religion and Ethics has an interesting article by Rachel Woodlock on Orientalism and perspectives on Muslim women:

"It is precisely because Western Orientalists were refused access to the inner sanctum of the harem that they made up the most fanciful tales, and that the feminine in Islam is still the most poorly understood and misrepresented of all femininities.

This is not to say that feminism has no place in the Muslim world - far from it. From the earliest days of Islam, women and their supporters have been battling misogyny and oppression, from both within and without.

Nor is modern feminism necessarily a Western "import" into the Muslim world. The brilliantly inspiring Nana Asma'u (d.1864), for example, initiated a massive campaign of education and female leadership in northern Nigeria. And while second-wave Western feminism only really captured the attention of secular elites in the Muslim world, there also exists a strong Muslim feminist movement that reclaims the right to draw inspiration from Islamic textual and historical sources, to challenge patriarchal strictures on their lives.

The tale of Hagar is told through Islamic traditions and her search for life-saving water is re-enacted and celebrated by every Muslim who completes their life-time's obligation of performing the hajj. It is perhaps the only example of a woman-initiated ritual from any of the world's great religions that is obligatory for both men and women

Hagar is not the only female role-model to which all Muslims, men and women, look for inspiration. There is Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba, who makes liars out of those who claim Muslim women cannot be leaders (Qur'an 27:23-44).

The Yemenis claim Bilqis as their own, along with the much-beloved Queen Arwa (d.1138). The latter, known as a wise and just ruler, is as fondly recalled today as ever before, something I discovered for myself when I visited Yemen in 2002.

There is Jochabed, the mother of Moses, who was given divine inspiration and strength from God (28:7-13).

There is Asiya, long-suffering wife of Pharaoh, who adopted and protected Moses. She was tortured and finally martyred by Pharaoh, but given a paradisiacal reward by God (66:11). Islamic tradition holds her as one of the most holy women in human history.

Then there is the pre-eminent Mary, mother of Jesus, after whom a whole chapter (19) of the Qur'an is named. She was brought up in the holy of holies, under the guardianship of Zechariah, and miraculously supplied with provisions (3:35-37).

Then we have Rabi'a al-Adawiyya (d.801), one of the greatest Sufi teachers of all time, known for developing a theology of selfless love for God; Imam Shafi'i's teacher Nafisa (d.824), who was so highly respected and honoured, that the eponymous founder of Islam's second-largest school of law asked her to perform his funeral prayer; and the various women that inspired one of the greatest Islamic thinkers to have lived - Ibn 'Arabi (d.1240)."

You can read the full article here.

Monday 18 June 2012

Muslim Players and U.S. Basketball

The Kansa City Star (15 July 2012) carries an article by Omar Sacirbey and John Ngirachu on the Muslim basketball players in the USA, including a number of players in the NBA;

"At least eight Muslims compete in the NBA: four Turks, two African-Americans, one Iranian and one Tanzanian. One of them is center Nazr Mohammed of the Oklahoma City Thunder, now battling the Miami Heat for the championship.

The special relationship between Muslims and basketball goes beyond any particular player or team and embraces the sport itself. It is not unlike the one described in “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story,” a 2010 documentary film by Ira Berkow, Pulitzer winning sportswriter.

“Every Muslim community I go to, there’s this obsession for basketball. Almost every mosque you go to, there’s a basketball court outside,” said Musab Abdali, a 19-year-old Houston man helping to organize youth programs.

Muslims have competed professionally in football, boxing and soccer, but the number of basketball stars putting their faith in a positive spotlight is unrivaled. These include all-time NBA leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and 12-time NBA All-Star Hakeem Olajuwon, who retired in 2002 after a long career spent mainly with the Houston Rockets.

You can read the full article here.

Thunder center Nazr Mohammed (right) met Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in the NBA playoffs. Mohammed inspires Muslims across the U.S (image source)

Fathers Day: A Love Letter to Muslim Fathers

Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi write for the Huffington Post (17th June 2012)on Fathers Day about Muslim fathers, usually a much maligned group:

"All of my life, Muslim men -- from my father to my uncles, from my cousins to my friends -- are the ones who have nurtured, supported and protected me. They've cheered every success, inspired me to push higher with my personal and professional ambitions, and believed in me even when -- especially when -- I did not believe in myself.

I'm married to an utterly irresistible Muslim man who makes me laugh, respects and cherishes me as an equal partner. I'm the mother of a Muslim son whom we are raising with the Islamic values that will make him a strong advocate of women's rights, just like his father and the other Muslim men in my life.

So this Father's Day, I'm writing a love letter to Muslim fathers.

I begin this love letter with my own Pakistani-American father, who raised three strong, independent daughters, encouraged us to pursue our professional goals, and who made space in his heart for the Albanian-American man I told him I wanted to marry. Though no other woman (or man) in my huge, extended family had ever married someone who was not Pakistani, my father listened to my perspectives and made room for my desires even when they were different from what he had imagined for me."

You can read the full article here.

Monday 11 June 2012

What the Muslims Did for the Jews.

Threre is an interesting essay in the Jewish Chronicle entitled "So, what did the Muslims do for the Jews?" (24th May 2012). It argues that the Jews flourished within Muslim communities and may have died out without them:

"Islam saved Jewry. This is an unpopular, discomforting claim in the modern world. But it is a historical truth. The argument for it is double. First, in 570 CE, when the Prophet Mohammad was born, the Jews and Judaism were on the way to oblivion. And second, the coming of Islam saved them, providing a new context in which they not only survived, but flourished, laying foundations for subsequent Jewish cultural prosperity - also in Christendom - through the medieval period into the modern world.

Within a century of the death of Mohammad, in 632, Muslim armies had conquered almost the whole of the world where Jews lived, from Spain eastward across North Africa and the Middle East as far as the eastern frontier of Iran and beyond. Almost all the Jews in the world were now ruled by Islam. This new situation transformed Jewish existence. Their fortunes changed in legal, demographic, social, religious, political, geographical, economic, linguistic and cultural terms - all for the better.

The political unity brought by the new Islamic world-empire did not last, but it created a vast Islamic world civilisation, similar to the older Christian civilisation that it replaced. Within this huge area, Jews lived and enjoyed broadly similar status and rights everywhere. They could move around, maintain contacts, and develop their identity as Jews. A great new expansion of trade from the ninth century onwards brought the Spanish Jews - like the Muslims - into touch with the Jews and the Muslims even of India."

You can read the full article here.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Hijab Ban in International Football Lifted

A number of newspapers are reporting on the International Football Association Board's decision to lift the ban on hijab for female football players:

The Independent (4 March 2012):
The International Football Association Board, world soccer's rule-making body, unanimously agreed to overturn a ban on the headscarf at its meeting in Surrey yesterday.

But it took the intervention of a Jordanian prince, Premier League footballers – and a new Velcro-based design – to convince the guardians of the game that Islamic women should be granted their wish. It is expected they will be able to wear the hijab while playing once the decision has been ratified in July. the ban was introduced in 2007.

The new design, fastened with Velcro instead of pins, persuaded Fifa that safety was no longer an issue, bringing soccer in line with rugby and track and field events.

The Huffington Post (3 March 2012):
Observant Muslim women's soccer players won a first victory on Saturday with the International Football Association Board's (IFAB) decision to allow the players to test specially designed headscarves for the next four months.

The Guardian (3 March 2012):
IFAB, which comprises four representatives from the world governing body FIFA and four from the British associations, also agreed in principle to overturn the decision they took in 2007 and will now allow Islamic women footballers to wear a hijab, or headscarf, when they play.

The hijab decision, taken after a presentation to the Board by FIFA executive committee member Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, was agreed by all eight members and will also be subject to further testing with a view to a final decision on July 2.

"I am deeply grateful that the proposal to allow women to wear the headscarf was unanimously endorsed by all members of IFAB," Prince Ali said.
"I welcome their decision for an accelerated process to further test the current design and I'm confident that once the final ratification at the sepcial meeting of IFAB takes place, we will see many delighted and happy players returning to the field and playing the game they love."

image source

Muslim Sisters of Dayton Doing Their Bit

The Dayton Daily News (9th March 2012) carries an article about the Muslim Sisters of Dayton:

"In January, Husein and a small group of women formed the Muslim Sisters of Dayton.

The organization promotes charitable activities throughout the Miami Valley as a positive representation of Islamic values.

“Our very first project was to help at (Kettering Hospital), supplying knitted caps for the newborn children,” Husein said.

“And we just completed a coat drive through Warm Coats and Warm Hearts, collecting 228 coats in two weeks,” Husein said.

“They were so happy with us, but we were more happy in helping them out.”

Many coat donors were friends, neighbors and co-workers outside the Muslim community.

“We don’t care who the person is, as long as they are kind to each other,” she said. “Anyone and everyone who wants can come to work with us.”

Next up? Serving the homeless and those in nursing homes, and working with the Women For Women International, a charity that educates and empowers third-world victims of war, human trafficking and other violence.

“Wherever there’s a need, we would want to help,” Husein said."

You can read the full article here.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Muslims Build Homes for Fellow Americans

OnIslam (7th March 2012) describes a volunteering project undertaken by Muslim students from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. have volunteered to build homes for residents in south Parkesburg in West Virginia:

"In a new outreach to show the true face of their religion, Muslim students are volunteering to help build homes for residents of the US state of West Virginia.

"They are one of the most delightful groups of students you are ever going to meet," Gwen Miles, volunteer coordinator for Wood County Habitat for Humanity, told the Parkesburg News and Sentinel on Wednesday, March 7.

"This is the first group of Muslim students (to volunteer here) and the first group we've had from as far away as Washington, D.C.”

"Not many students would give up their Spring Break to come work in cold and snowy Parkersburg," Miles said.

"They are making the best of it."

"I asked how we can best translate our faith into action, how we can best be Americans,” said Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain for Georgetown University.

“The idea is to be there for those who are overlooked," he said. "The students decided to take this idea seriously."

Read the full article and quotes from the students here.

Monday 27 February 2012

Muslims Recognised in the UK New Year Honours

Elham Asaad Buaras writes for the Muslim News about the 18 Muslim men and women that were honoured in the new years list in 2012:

"Eighteen members of the Muslim community were recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours. One CBE, 5 OBEs and 12 MBEs will be handed to British Muslims for their varying contributions to society.

Gynaecologist Dr Tahir Ahmed Mahmood is the highest decorated member of the Muslim community this year; he is to be made a CBE for his service women’s health.

Professor Mohamed El-Gomati, who has been a Professor of Electronics at the University of York since 1997, is to be made an OBE.

Mohammad Habeebullah has also been awarded an OBE for his services to the community in Greater Manchester. Habeebullah, 60, worked for Rochdale council for 29 years. As a part of his work he set up various other community projects. Habeebullah’s work helped Rochdale council achieve various national awards such as RIBA commendation award for helping to set up Sparth Community Centre and the AMA award for launching Castleton Water Activities Group.

Durdana Ansari of Queens Walk, South Ruislip, was “shocked” and “overwhelmed” to learn of her inclusion in the in the honours, for her services to Muslim women in the UK. The Pakistan born journalist, who led a successful Muslim women’s charity project, is to be made an OBE.

Saki Chowdhury, an outreach worker at Surestart Longsight Children’s Centre, run by The Big Life (TBL) group, has been appointed MBE. The mother of three has volunteered in her local community for the past 30 years and began her work with children and families in Longsight 10 years ago volunteering at the Children’s Centre - which supports over 1000 parents and carers to access services each year - before becoming employed as an outreach worker which she continues to do today.

Staffordshire University’s Equality and Diversity officer Hifsa Haroon Iqbal has been has been awarded an MBE. The honour was awarded in recognition for services to community cohesion in Staffordshire."

The Full List


Dr Tahir Ahmed Mahmood, for services women’s health

Zahoor Ahmed, chm, Gifts Internat for services to internet trade.
Durdana Ansari for services to Muslim women in the UK.
Prof Mohamed El-Gomati, prof of electronics, Univ of York, for services to science. Mohammad Habeebullah for services to the community in Gtr Manchester.
Amin Mohamed Mawji for services to public and voluntary service.

Akram Zaman, JP, pres, protocol for service to community in Northants.
Al’adin Maherali for service to Voluntary Sector and to Business.
Anwer Ibrahim Issa Ismail Patel, md, Cohens Chemist Group, for service community pharmacy. Bajloor Rashid, restaurateur and pres, Bangladesh Caterers Association for services to Bangladeshi catering.
Mohammad Bhatti for service to local govt and to the community.
Dr Syed Nayyer Abbas Abidi for service to black and minority ethnic community.
Hanif Mohammad Raja for service to inter-faith relations, Scotland.
Hifsa Haroon Iqbal, DL for service to community cohesion in Staffs.
Mohamed Foiz Uddin for service to community cohesion.
Mohammed Akram, JP for service to Brit Pakistani community in Scotland.
Mohammed Saeed Moughal for service to community in Birmingham.
Sayeeda Chowdhury, outreach worker, Longsight Sure Start children’s centre, Manchester for service to children and families.

You can see the original full article here.

German Muslims Show Solidarity with Threatened Catholic churches

Ruby Russell writes for ENI News (10 January 2012) about Muslims in Germany who have been undertaking dialogue with the Catholic Church about three churches in their town which may have to close:

"Three Catholic churches in the west German region of North-Rhine Westphalia that may have to close this month have received a show of solidarity from the local Muslim community.

Muhammed Al, chairman of the Merkez Mosque Association, wrote to Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, head of the Essen diocese, on behalf of local Muslims last fall about the three Catholic churches in the town of Duisberg. "We emphasized our long years of cooperation with the parishes and the importance of the churches in the area. We said this should be seen not just from a financial perspective, but also a cultural and social perspective [including] for the sake of interfaith and cultural dialogue," Al said in an interview.

Since the foundation of the Merkez Mosque in 1984, Duisburg's Muslim and Catholic communities have been in close dialogue. The congregations hold regular events where they learn about each other's faiths and pray together. They also cooperate on social projects and hold a joint harvest festival each year. In 2008, the Catholic parishes spoke to their congregation to encourage acceptance among locals for the construction of a new mosque, which is Germany's largest. "Interfaith and intercultural dialogue promotes mutual awareness and does away with a great many prejudices," said Al. "People approach each other through dialogue and get to know each other's unfamiliar prayers and traditions."

You can read the full, original article here.

Islamic Finance as a Way to Alleviate Poverty?

Tasnim Nazeer writes for Muslim Matters (21 February 2012) about how Islamic finance is alleviating poverty:

"Islamic microfinance is becoming an increasingly popular mechanism for alleviating poverty, especially in developing countries around the world. The Islamic finance industry as a whole is expected to reach over $2 billion dollars in 2012 and is a continually growing sector due to its ethical principles and prohibition of riba (interest).

The concept of Islamic microfinance adheres to the principles of Islam and is a form of socially responsible investing. Investors who use their wealth for Islamic microfinance projects only involve themselves in halal projects which benefit the community at large. Such projects include zakat, which is charity based, or trade and industry projects to develop a country's economy.

At a time when poverty is still prevalent around the world, there is no better solution than opting for funding which can provide benefits to a poverty-stricken community and help to rebuild economies.

Islamic microfinance gives the investor a chance to get involved in worthwhile projects which could essentially play a significant role in targeting poverty and alleviating it in many countries around the world. Islamic microfinance primarily relies upon the provision of financial services to the poor or developing regions which are subject to certain conditions laid down by Islamic jurisprudence. It represents the merging of two growing sectors: microfinance and the Islamic finance industry.

It has the potential to not only be the solution for an increased demand to help the poor but also to combine the Islamic socially responsible principles of caring for the less fortunate with microfinance's ability to provide financial access to the poor.

Unleashing this potential could be the key to providing financial stability to millions of less privileged people who currently reject microfinance products that do not comply with Islamic law."

You can read the full original article here.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Reflections on Black History Month

Imam Zaid writes at New Islam Directions (15 February 2012) about the importance of Black History Month for Muslims in Reflections on Black History Month:

Black History Month should be of interest to every Muslim, especially in America. It is estimated that upwards to 20% of the Africans enslaved in the Americas were Muslim. In some areas, such as the coast of the Carolinas, Georgia, and parts of Virginia, the percentages of Muslims in the slave population may have approached 40%. The fact that the search of a random African American, Alex Haley, for his roots led him to a Muslim village in West Africa is indicative of the widespread Muslim presence among the enslaved population here in the Americas.

In identifying with those African Muslims, we must not allow ourselves to forget that they were part of a greater community, a community which has evolved to almost fifty million African Americans. The struggle of that community, its pain, perseverance, triumphs, and defeats, cannot be separated from the struggle of its Muslim members. If we as Muslims are moved by the suffering of our coreligionists who were exposed to the dehumanizing cruelties of a vicious system, we should similarly be moved by the plight of their non-Muslim African brothers and sisters who suffered the same injustices.

African American Muslims have a particular responsibility in addressing such racism. In beginning to do so, we can take our lead from our formerly enslaved brothers. Despite their lack of freedom, many of them were never “owned.” This fact is strikingly clear in their increasingly widespread biographies. Individuals such as Ayyub bin Sulayman (Job Ben Solomon), Ibrahim Abdul-Rahman, and Yarrow Mamout, to name a few, did not allow the ravages of chattel slavery to rob them of their dignity, honor, or their human worth.

You can read the full article here.

What I’m Learning and Loving in the Quran

Peggy Fletcher Stack writes for the Salt Lake Tribune (27 January 2012) about her attempt to read the Quran entitled "What I’m learning and loving in the Quran":

"Every year during the Islamic 30-day holy month (which begins in July this year), in addition to fasting from dawn to dusk, millions of Muslims read the entire 600-page Quran. That’s a mere 20 pages a day, but I couldn’t do it.

It’s not that the book is boring or hard to read. In fact, I find it fascinating.

I was moved by the volume’s approach to forgiveness, including these verses in Quran 3:135-136: “Those who, when they have committed illegal sexual intercourse or wronged themselves with evil, remember Allah [God] and ask forgiveness for their sins — and none can forgive but Allah — and do not persist in what [wrong] they have done, while they know.”

I was amazed to learn how many of the familiar figures from Jewish and Christian texts make appearances in this Muslim scripture — Adam, Abraham, Noah, David, Moses, Mary, Jesus and more.

I was intrigued by the role Satan plays. He is an evil figure who tempts humans but takes no bows for winning any souls to his side.

On Judgment Day, according to Quran 14:22, Satan will say to those who choose to follow him: “Verily, Allah promised you a promise of truth. And I too promised you, but I betrayed you. I had no authority over you except that I called you, and you responded to me. So blame me not, but blame yourselves.”

Despite popular misperceptions about forced conversions, the Quran 2:256 says, “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path.”

You can read the full article here.

Why the Prophet Muhammad Is So Beloved to Muslims

Imam Sohaib Sultan, Muslim Life Coordinator and Chaplain of Princeton University writes for the Huffington Post (17 February 2012) about why Muslims love the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) so very much:

"After several years of persecution and little success in preaching the word of God to his own people in the ancient city of Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad decided to take his message and teachings to the people of Ta'if, an agricultural city southeast of Mecca. The Prophet's Meccan persecutors sent word to their allies in advance of Muhammad's arrival in order to thwart his mission and turn the people against him. As the Prophet entered the precincts of the city of Ta'if, much to his bewilderment, he was met with sticks and stones as the people tried to drive him out. The Prophet ran for his life, bloodied and bruised like never before, finally finding safety and taking refuge in a vineyard. He turned his face to the heavens, admitting his weakness and asking God for strength to carry on. The Archangel Gabriel appeared with the angels of the surrounding mountains and asked the Prophet if he would allow them to crush the city of Ta'if for the way its inhabitants treated him. The Prophet, instead, asked for the people to be forgiven and prayed that future generations would be rightly guided. After this, God revealed in the Qur'an about the Messenger, "And, We have not sent you except as a mercy to the worlds."

This mercy really comes to define the way and path of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet's wife, Lady Ayesha, recalled after his passing that he would always be the first to greet his family with peace upon entering the home; constantly serve the members of his household with tasks and chores without complaint; and, he would mend his own clothes and repairs his own shoes. The Prophet would playfully rub the children's heads and encouraged his grandchildren to ride his back like a horse. A smile would come upon his face and he would stand up to greet his beloved daughter Lady Fatimah, the only child of his seven children to live longer than he, when she would come in his presence.

The Prophet's relationship with his community was similar. His companions would say that when he spoke to them they would feel like they were the most beloved to him, and he would direct his full attention to them when they spoke to him. The Prophet preferred to sit and eat with the poor and weak, and he would always be the first to visit the sick and depressed. He showed as much concern for his closest friends as he did for the African woman who swept the floor of the Prophet's Mosque. And, he taught his followers to also resemble this mercy, teaching them to share their food with others even if it was half a date; to remove harm from the path even if it was a small branch; to smile and give cheer even on a bad day; and, to smell nice and clean even if resources were little.

But, it was, perhaps, his way with rude and hostile people that really exemplified the Prophet's mercy. Early on in Muhammad's advent as a Prophet, a woman would throw her garbage on him every time he would pass by her place. One day the woman did not come out, so the Prophet became concerned and inquired about her. Learning that she had become ill, he went to visit her and offered comforting words. Once a Bedouin entered the sacred precincts of the Prophet's mosque when he was with some of his companions and began urinating and defiling the space. The companions immediately rose to physically confront the Bedouin, but the Prophet stood in their way and calmed them down. He asked his companions to wash the mess that was made and took the Bedouin aside to talk to him. He spoke of the sacredness of a worship space and spoke well to the Bedouin until the man exclaimed, "May God have mercy on you and I, and no one else!" The Prophet laughed upon hearing this, and replied, "You have limited something that is immeasurably vast," teaching him that God's mercy envelops all beings.

In the West, the Prophet Muhammad is often portrayed only as a warrior who led and fought in battles. The Prophet was indeed a warrior who defended his community with the courage of a lion. But, it is also true that the Prophet practiced the highest ethics in war by avoiding the killing of innocents, prohibiting torture and mutilation, the poisoning of wells, cutting down fruit-bearing trees, and so on. Even on the battlefield, the Prophet practiced restraint and patience at every turn.

The Prophet's mercy extended to the universe around him. He taught his companions to protect birds; he even consoled grieved animals; and showed endearing concern for the trees and plant life. The Prophet always took little from the earth and taught his followers to preserve water even if they were near a running river.

So, why is the Prophet Muhammad so beloved? It is because, for Muslims and for anyone who comes to know him with love, the Prophet exemplified the life of compassion toward all that was around him. And, even when he was offended and harmed, he showed his followers how to find inner peace with God, to live with grace and dignity under pressure. For this and more, this month we celebrate his birth, life, and legacy. Peace and blessings be upon the Messenger Muhammad, the great teacher of truth and wisdom."

You cn find the original article here.

Interfaith Feast: Muslims and Jews in Utah

The Salt Lake Tribune (27 January) carries an article on some interfaith cooking and dining entitled "Utah Muslims and Jews to feast on food, friendship":

"Muslim and Jewish chefs will work side by side next week to whip up a religious-themed feast as a symbol of mutual friendship and awareness.

There will be matzo, signifying the hurried Jewish flight from Egypt, and chana chaat, traditionally eaten to break the daily fasts of Islam’s Ramadan. Add to that honey cake, served during Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and halva, a nut-butter sweet used in Muslim and Jewish cuisines.

The event, “Cooking Together,” is co-sponsored by the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake and Congregation Kol Ami as an effort to build bridges of understanding. It is part of February’s Interfaith Month, which features many religious gatherings and events.

“There is so much controversy that gets built up between people, especially these two groups,” says Kol Ami Rabbi Ilana Schwartzman. “We want to mitigate that by bringing people together at their basic level, which is their need to eat. It’s a way to recognize our common humanity.”
So many of these recipes have been tenderly passed down from one generation to the next, she says. “Sharing them is about sharing love with each other.”
It is the second event for these faith groups.

Last October, the two met at the synagogue during Sukkot, a Jewish holiday that emphasizes hospitality and welcoming strangers to their homes. Participants sat under or near the sukkah, an outdoor structure that is meant to symbolize the temporary huts where Jews lived during their Exodus from Egypt.

The rabbi and imam set the example for the gathered Jews and Muslims by dining, talking and learning from one another. There was a scavenger hunt, singing and games for Muslim and Jewish children, while the adults toured the synagogue’s sanctuary and listened to an introduction about Islam."

You can find the full article here.

Islamic Outreach: Gain Peace, Chicago

The New York Times (23 February 2012) carries an article on Gain Peace, an Islamic outreach organization based in Chicago:

"Gain Peace, an Islamic outreach organization based in Chicago, spent $40,000 in December to counter negative portrayals and produce two television ads intended to promote Islam as a just faith. The spots, which will run through March in the Chicago area on Fox, CNN and TNT, depict friendly Muslim students and professionals and display a phone number and a Web site for more information.

“This is an election year and in the Republican primaries and elsewhere, generally we have seen more discrimination, hate and misunderstanding about Muslims,” said Sabeel Ahmed, director of Gain Peace. “We wanted to take it up a notch.”

During a political engagement workshop for immigrants on the near West Side early this month, Ahmed Rehab, the head of a Muslim advocacy group, urged attendees to fight attacks on Islam with accurate information about the Muslim faith.

Gain Peace, which produced the television ads, is part of the Islamic Circle of North America, an Islamic education organization based in Queens, N.Y., accused by conservative groups of extolling terrorism.

Mr. Redfield, of the University of Illinois at Springfield, said he thought the Muslim groups were smart to combat anti-Muslim rhetoric. “In politics, if you don’t define yourself someone else will,” he said. “They have to be proactive in terms of trying to neutralize ignorance and willful manipulation of negative opinion.”

You can read the full article here.

Brigham Young University Museum of Art: Beauty and Belief

The Brigham Young University Museum of Art is hosting an exhibit called "Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture" showcasing 250 works from 10 countries making it the biggest exhibit the museum has ever held.

The Salt Lake Tribune and The Deseret both cover the exhibition;

Salt Lake Tribune (25 February 2012): In what’s being hailed as the first time a Mormon institution has sponsored a traveling exhibition of Islamic art, “Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture” has opened at Brigham Young University. The 250 works represent art from 10 countries and dozens of institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the British Museum.

The Deseret (23 February 2012): Like stepping back in time, visitors to a new exhibit walk through the art and culture of Islam. Works from as long ago as the seventh century, from 10 nations and more than 40 private donors have been brought together to create an atmosphere of "Beauty and Belief." Visitors pass from one area of the exhibit to another through arches or bridges.

Each room has different colors, signifying different ideas, like light, which leads to knowledge. The exhibit, which stretches over 16,000 square feet, features masterworks from the al-Sabah Collection at Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyya in Kuwait, unique manuscripts from the Royal Library in Morocco and works from collections across the United States.

“When we have an occasion, we can bring people together, so we can understand each other and we are in one world, and we live together and this friendship is very important," said His Excellency Mohamed Rachad Bouhlal, Moroccan ambassador to the U.S. He says people better understand the Islamic culture by seeing the art, seeing what the artists have done and the message the pieces convey.

Saturday 4 February 2012

NYT Books: Love Inssh'Allah

The New York Times ( January 2012) has a review of Love Insh'Allah a new anthology edited by Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi (Lifting Veil on Love and Islam):

The two editors, Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, sought to create a book that dispelled the stereotype of Muslim women as mute and oppressed. They gathered 24 portraits of private lives that expose a group in some cases kept literally veiled, yet that also illustrate that American Muslim women grapple with universal issues.

“We are thought of as being submissive and given in marriage to big, bearded men,” said Ms. Mattu, 39, an international development consultant, “while the reality is that a majority of American Muslim women are creative, funny, intelligent and opinionated.”

You can read the full review here.

British Museums Hajj Exhibition: Media Coverage

The media has been covering the British Museum's newest exhibition Hajj: Journey to the heart of Islam, quite extensively:

The Guardian - Prejudices about Islam will be shaken by this show
Like Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Sikhs and secularists, some Muslims have undoubtedly been violent and intolerant, but the new exhibition at the British Museum – Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam – is a timely reminder that this is not the whole story. The hajj is one of the five essential practices of Islam; when they make the pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims ritually act out the central principles of their faith. Equating religion with "belief" is a modern western aberration. Like swimming or driving, religious knowledge is practically acquired. You learn only by doing. The ancient rituals of the hajj, which Arabs performed for centuries before Islam, have helped pilgrims to form habits of heart and mind that – pace the western stereotype – are non-violent and inclusive.

Daily Mail (26 January 2012) - Mysteries of the hajj revealed as British Museum opens exhibition on Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca
"A major exhibition devoted to the annual pilgrimage to Mecca aims to lift the veil on a ritual that has remained a mystery to many in the non-Muslim world.
'Hajj: journey at the heart of Islam' has arrived at the British Museum and curators hope an insight into the historical and spiritual journey will draw in both Muslims as well as non-Muslims.
I think what the exhibition does is to talk about the one facet of Islam we don't know much about and that it's very much about peace"

Financial Times (27 January 2012) - Pilgrims’ Progress
The British Museum’s new exhibition on the Hajj is the most complete such enterprise yet undertaken. In a story that stretches from ancient beginnings to modernity, many of the rituals are unchanging, even if the infrastructure surrounding the trip has transformed dramatically. What was once a perilous voyage with serious risk of illness or loss of life is today administered by specialist travel agents who offer packages with visas and vaccinations included. It is just as well: annual visitors are estimated to top the 3m mark in the next few years. It is a testament both to the enduring hold of the Islamic faith and to the ability of this remarkable event to adapt with the times.
The historical section of the show is a tale of progress forged by continuing devotion (and serves as a corrective to the western assumption that modernity and secularism go hand in hand). There are fabulous accounts of the journey that are, if nothing else, important documents of sociology. The pilgrims of the 19th century, for example, were the first to notice the disparity between their modest surrounds and the wealth, and growing imperial ambitions, of western powers.

Wall Street Journal (27 January 2012): The British Museum's Pilgrimage
A clearer understanding of Islam has become an urgent priority for the West. And this may very well be the closest guide to experiencing one of its central rituals—and, as the exhibition demonstrates, ideas of community, trade and shared knowledge—that any non-Muslim will be able to obtain, since the Hajj itself is reserved for the faithful.
As the exhibition shows, the practicalities of organizing the Hajj are astounding. While the manuscripts and etchings of the 19th century had already identified it as a marvel, the development of first steamships, and then the railways and air travel, made it what Mr. MacGregor calls "on a planetary scale, one of the more remarkable things humans do." A timeline on one wall points out that, while there were around 30,000 pilgrims in the early 1930s, almost three million people now visit Mecca for the Hajj each year.

The Telegraph (04 February 2012) - Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam, British Museum, review
The first thing confronting you as you step up beneath the old reading room dome is an extraordinary aerial photograph of the Ka’aba, the sanctuary in the centre of Mecca, surrounded by perfect concentric circles formed by hundreds of thousands of praying pilgrims, filling not just the immediate courtyard, but the surrounding terraces and vast squares. It looks at first disconcertingly like some huge piece of devotional performance art – if I can say that without being remotely offensive. And at the same time it brings home the fact that with its emphasis on unitary oneness, Islamic art is in essence abstract.
Among many intriguing exhibits, my favourite was an exercise book containing the Hajj diary of a London schoolgirl, written in a rounded girlish hand: “words cannot describe the emotions that are created when one looks at the Ka’aba, such a simple object structurally yet so majestic and awe-inspiring it is difficult to take your eyes off it.”
The sentiments are Islamic, the means of expression a product of the British education system. If this was Britain’s contribution to the vast culture of the Hajj, it made one feel oddly proud.

British Museum: Hajj Journey to the Heart of Islam

The British Museum has an exhibition called Hajj journey to the heart of Islam. The exhibition is on from 26 January to 15 April 2012 and explores British Muslims hajj experiences. There is a page for people's stories:

"I was privileged to make the Hajj of 2011. The moment you enter the Harem Mosque and first lay eyes on the Ka’ba feels like the day you are truly born of life, your soul, heart and eyes soften and ease to the glorious sight. It’s incredible, so many Muslim around the globe pray towards and visualise this point before ever making the journey, now I have returned home I think it is testament to the faith."

"The highlight of my Hajj was to walk with millions of people wearing the same piece of simple cloth, saying same words here I am at thy service oh Lord, here I am, submitting ourselves to Allah. It was very uplifting to be united with people from all walks of life from all over the world as one umah (community) all for the sake of God Almighty. That sudden feeling of Joy once I completed all rituals of Hajj gave me the feeling I was reborn clean of sins and hoping that my Hajj has been accepted."

"I made my Umra 7 years ago and to this day the memories send shivers down my spine. It was magical; more magical than Disneyland!! Words alone can't explain the uplifting and exhilarating feeling rippling through myself! My favourite part was when we set foot inside the Haram and my siblings and I were going to lay eyes on the Ka'ba for the first time. We kept our eyes on the ground and only when we reached the courtyard did we look up. Wow. Gobsmacked. Amazing. I could only hear the birds singing and the general hum of people praying; I'd zoned out and no word in the entire dictionary will come close to describing how I felt. Pure, pure serenity :) The overall experience is very humbling. As I'm writing this, I'm smiling."

As well as hajj stories, the exhibition promises "beautiful objects, including historical and contemporary art, textiles and manuscripts". You can visit the websit to book tickets here.

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Hajj certificate (detail). 17th–18th century AD. Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art Khalili Family Trust (image source)

Huffington Post: The Last Sermon of the Prophet Muhammad

Imam Abdullah Antepli, the Muslim Chaplain at Duke University writes for the Huffington Post (2 February 2012) on the Prophet's (PBUH) last sermon, describing it as "earliest declarations of human rights in written history":

"For those who can drop their 21st century cultural baggage and read this sermon in its own historical context, one can't help but admire it as one of the earliest declarations of human rights in written history. Almost everything he says in this prophetic sermon was almost unheard of and inconceivable prior to the arrival of Islam. The prophet of Islam addresses some of the core universal values in a society where those values are long forgotten and violated in a systemic basis. The prophet didn't only say but transformed his society, in a very short period of time, remarkably in all the values and lessons that he talks about.

All human beings are equal, racial supremacy is unacceptable, women have rights, socio-economic inequality is despicable and should be fought against and so on. In twenty three years he united a deeply divided and polarized Arabian peninsula, stopped the ongoing bloodshed, restored the dignity of women, minimized the gap between the poor and the rich and more. In his lifetime former slaves become governors of provinces and generals. Centuries old, deeply rooted primitive patriarchal and oppressive cultural practices were wiped out, racism and tribalism were defeated. There is hardly any other religious figure who has been as successful both in religious terms as well as in secular terms as Muhammad.

In this sermon of Muhammad, Muslims find their deep commitment to the universal human values such as sacredness of life and property, equality, justice, peace and more. Upon these high universal values, the religion of Islam was built."

You can read a translation of the semon and the full article here.

Liam Neeson on Islam

Independent Film and Cinema (25 January) quotes an interview with Liam Neeson in which he shares his thoughts on Islam:

"He famously played a cleric in Cal, and was named after a priest, but Liam Neeson has admitted he is now considering converting to Islam.

The Ballymena raised star has told one British newspaper that Islamic prayer "got into his spirit" while filming in Turkish city Istanbul.

He said: "The Call to Prayer happens five times a day and for the first week it drives you crazy, and then it just gets into your spirit and it's the most beautiful, beautiful thing.

"There are 4,000 mosques in the city. Some are just stunning and it really makes me think about becoming a Muslim."

You can read the full article here.

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Friday 13 January 2012

ISNA and Deaf Muslim Family Conference

The Islamic Society of America recently co-sponsored the Deaf Muslim Family conference:

"As a part of ISNA's ongoing efforts to provide quality education to the community about Islam and create environments in our mosques and Islamic centers that are inclusive and empowering to all, ISNA co-sponsored the Deaf Muslim Family conference last weekend in Virginia. Current and past ISNA Presidents Imam Mohamed Magid and Dr. Ingrid Mattson both spoke at the event, organized by Global Deaf Muslim, and have been very active in their own communities to make them more inclusive.

Imam Magid stressed the importance for our leaders and communities to make it a highest priority to develop programs and accommodations, such as a sign language interpreter during Friday prayers, to better include our deaf community members. Many of them currently attend prayers without the ability to hear and learn from the knowledge that is passed along each Friday.

Dr. Mattson spoke about the Islamic perspective on deafness and the role that our community should play with respect to deaf Muslims. In particular, she notes our responsibility as people of faith to protect the diverse needs of our communities by reflecting that diversity in our leadership. Our ability to see the needs of others is limited by our own perspective, she says, therefore, if our leadership is not reflective of our diverse community, many people's needs will continue to go unnoticed and unfilled."

Learn more here.

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Some 2011 Round-Ups

A few people have posted summaries of some of the Muslim good news stories from 2011:

Muslimah Next Door has posted "The Best ‘Good News’ Muslim Stories of 2011" (also posted at AltMuslim here)

Islamophobia Today has "My favorite 2011 Good News Stories About Muslims"

I hope 2012 brings plenty more good news for Muslim insh'Allah.

White House Honours Linda Sarsour

Illume magazine highlights the acheivements of Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York (AANY) after she received the Champion for Change Award:

"Last Thursday, the White House honored Brooklyn activist, Linda Sarsour, and nine others with the Champion for Change Award for their advocacy work in their communities.

Linda Sarsour, 31, who was not drawn to activism as a student, is now the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York (AANY). She joined AANY in 2002 to provide guidance to a worried Muslim-American community in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Since then, her work has expanded to areas such as community development, youth empowerment, community organizing, civic engagement and immigrants’ rights advocacy.

Sarsour’s advocacy is far reaching, and has also led her to local Democratic politics. In the months leading up the 2008 presidential elections, she organized a large voter turnout initiative directed towards the Arab American community in Brooklyn community.

Most recently, Sarsour organized and protested at the forefront of two rallies held by the Muslim community in New York: the first was an Islamic prayer and protest held in Zuccoti Park to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and the second was a rally and prayer to protest the NYPD surveillance of Muslims in New York.

The Champion of Change Award, which is part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative, is one of number of awards that Sarsour has received which includes the Brooklyn Do-Gooder Award from the Brooklyn Community Foundation."

You can see the original article here.

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