Dini ni mfumo wa maishani

Dini ni mfumo wa maishani

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Snoop Dogg Joins Nation of Islam Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg has announced that he has joined the Nation of Islam. Snoop appeared at the annual Saviours’ Day convention in Chicago where he told reporters that he became a member of the religious group because he was “doing what’s right and representing what’s right.” At Sunday’s event, which featured a pre-recorded appearance by T.I., the host of MTV’s “Dogg After Dark” sat on stage while Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan gave a speech. “I live how I’m supposed to live as far as doing what’s right and representing what’s right–that’s why I was here today,” said the Doggfather. “We’re doing a lot of wrongs among ourselves that need correcting.” When asked if he had joined the movement he replied, “I’m already in the Nation, that’s why I’m here. I’m an advocate for peace, I’ve been in the peace movement ever since I’ve been making music.” Other celebrities previously involved with the Nation of Islam include Ice Cube and Muhammad Ali.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The jumuʿah prayer is half the ẓuhr (dhuhr) prayer

Jumu'ah (also rendered jum'ah; Arabic: صلاة الجمعة‎ ṣalāt al-jumuʿah, "Friday prayer") is a congregational prayer (salah) that Muslims hold every Friday, just after noon in the place of dhuhr. Muslims pray ordinarily five times each day according to the sun's sky path regardless of clock time.It is mentioned in the Qur'an as: O ye who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly, yawma 'l-jumuʿati), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of Allah, and leave off business (and traffic): That is best for you if ye but knew! And when the Prayer is finished, then may ye disperse through the land, and seek of the Bounty of Allah: and celebrate the Praises of Allah often (and without stint): that ye may prosper.as per quran,friday is the best day among all the days. it has been given much importance in the islam.there is one full chapter in quran called surah jummah, in which the importannce of jummah is mentioned. —Qur'an, sura 62 (Al-Jumua), ayat 9-10 The jumuʿah prayer is half the ẓuhr (dhuhr) prayer, for convenience, preceded by a khuṭbah (a sermon as a technical replacement of the two reduced rakaʿāt of the ordinary ẓuhr (dhuhr) prayer), and followed by a congregational prayer, led by the imam. In most cases the khaṭīb also serves as the imam. Attendance is strictly incumbent upon all adult males who are legal residents of the locality. The muezzin (muʾadhdhin) makes the call to prayer, called the adhan, usually 15-20 minutes prior to the start of Jum'ah. When the khaṭīb takes his place on the minbar, a second adhan is made. The khaṭīb is supposed to deliver two sermons, stopping and sitting briefly between them. In practice, the first sermon is longer and contains most of the content. The second sermon is very brief and concludes with a dua, after which the muezzin calls the iqama. This signals the start of the main two rak'at prayer of Jumu'ah.
Worshipers listening to the sermon preceding the prayers. Sermon is being delivered by Sheikh Murtaza Alidina The communal prayers have higher compliance of worshippers, as compared to the non-communal ritual prayers. In Turkey for example, the ritual prayers are performed regularly by 44%, whereas Friday prayers were regularly attended by 56% (25% responded that they sometimes attended and 19% that they never did). From hadith: Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "On every Friday the angels take their stand at every gate of the mosques to write the names of the people chronologically (i.e. according to the time of their arrival for the Friday prayer) and when the Imam sits (on the pulpit) they fold up their scrolls and get ready to listen to the sermon." —Collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj an-Naysaburi relates that the Islamic prophet Muhammad used to read Surah 87 (Al-Ala) and Surah 88, (Al-Ghashiya), in Eid Prayers and also in Friday prayers. If one of the festivals fell on a Friday, the Prophet would have made sure to read these two Surahs in the prayers. A person who goes to Friday prayer and remains quiet during the sermon is said to have his sins between that Friday and last forgiven

Thursday, May 24, 2012

America in the Muslim world: War, intervention, and nation building

PAKISTAN, March 18, 2012—Americans view their country’s activities in the Muslim world as a necessary part of the “war on terror.” Nation building and spreading democracy are activities whose popularity spans the American ideological divide. But these activities raise questions about such fundamental concepts as the nation-state and sovereignty, and they raise fears in the Muslim world that America’s motives are selfish, its policies not in the best interests of the people in the countries where America interferes. There is growing interest in these countries in the politics of religion, ethnicity and varieties of pluralism. After 9/11, America first attacked Afghanistan to capture Osama Bin laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders. Then, America attacked Iraq in order to free its people from the regime of Saddam Hussein. During the last year, the leaderships of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen have changed. The West certainly played a decisive role in these revolutions by backing the revolutionaries in these countries. Syria is the latest addition to the list of countries facing pressure to change its leaders. America is strongly backing the revolt in Syria. Most of the Muslim countries of the Middle East and Africa are ruled either by monarchs or by military dictators. The new unipolar world, after the fall of USSR, is being lead by America, and America is supporting democracies all around the world. The West fears the rise of political, radical Islam. Iran is an example of a fundamentalist regime that is an irritant in the eyes of the West. America has imposed sanctions on Iran in the hope that it will quit its nuclear program, which is a danger for the security of the region. Whether these new sanctions stop Iran from pursuing its goals of making a nuclear bomb or not, only time will tell. Might Pakistan be the next country that will be subjected to the American hegemony? Many have asked this question since the American invasion of Afghanistan. Every war has a broader economic agenda, and so does the war in Afghanistan. But Pakistan is different from Afghanistan in many ways. By population, Pakistan is the sixth-largest country in the world. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and it a running democratic government. And above all, Pakistan does not have natural resources as the countries of Middle East and Africa have. Instead of being a source of natural resources, Pakistan is a huge consumer of natural resources in order to feed its huge population. A motion was passed recently in the American congress calling for the right of self-determination for the people of Balochistan, which is a province of Pakistan. This act sent shockwaves throughout Pakistan and is against Pakistan’s interests, but it is not equivalent to a military attack. Pakistan has protested the resolution and asked America not to work against the interests of Pakistan. A resolution proposed by America at the UN to help the rebels of Syria has been vetoed by Russia and China. Here the question rises about the sovereignty of Syria. Is America trying to undermine Syrian sovereignty? America should let Syria deal with its internal problems on its own. Any Western attempt to help the Syrian opposition militarily or economically would not be taken as a good move by the Muslim world. The Koran-burning incident in Afghanistan, involving American military personnel, is taken very seriously by the people of Afghanistan, and by the Pakistani people as well. The politics of religion is a dirty game. American troops should not use religion in order to advance the agenda of conquering the people of Afghanistan. The issue of ethnicity has become very clear in America’s internal politics. Republican nominees Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are trying to get the nomination from their party to run for the presidency of the USA. The Democratic Party is relying on Barack Obama. Because of the African ethnicity of Barack Obama, it will be very difficult for him to get reelected and win a second presidential term. In the end, it is clear that just changing the leadership of Muslim countries is not enough. Every Muslim country has different culture and traditions and to export democracy to every Muslim country is not the right choice. Rather, a pluralistic approach should be encouraged.

Amnesty calls on Canada to arrest George Bush

Human rights organisation says Canada must prosecute former US president during October visit for "authorising torture".
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was reportedly waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 [Reuters] Amnesty International has called on Canadian authorities to arrest and prosecute George W Bush, saying the former US president authorised torture in the course of the United States' "war on terror". Bush is expected to attend an economic summit in Surrey in Canada's westernmost British Columbia province on October 20. The human rights organisation said in a statement released on Wednesday that the Canadian government has "international obligations ... given [Bush's] responsibility for crimes under international law including torture". The London-based group also released a 27-page memorandum that it had submitted in September to Canada's attorney general laying out its legal case. "As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring former president Bush to justice, the international community must step in," said Susan Lee, Amnesty's Americas director, in the statement. "A failure by Canada to take action during his visit would violate the UN Convention against Torture and demonstrate contempt for fundamental human rights." A spokesman for the Canadian government was not immediately available for comment. Bush cancelled a visit to Switzerland in February after facing similar public calls for his arrest. 'Face justice' Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International's Canadian branch, told a news conference the rights group will pursue its case against the former US president with the governments of other countries he might visit. "Torturers must face justice, and their crimes are so egregious that the responsibility for ensuring justice is shared by all nations," Neve said. "Friend or foe, extraordinary or very ordinary times, most or least powerful nation, faced with concerns about terrorism or any other threat, torture must be stopped." Amnesty, backed by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, said Bush authorised the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and "waterboarding" on detainees held in secret by the Central Intelligence Agency between 2002 and 2009. Bush himself has confirmed he authorised the waterboarding of several individuals. The detention programme included "torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment [such as being forced to stay for hours in painful positions and sleep deprivation], and enforced disappearances," Amnesty alleged. Amnesty's memorandum relies on the public record, US documents obtained through access to information requests, Bush's own memoir and a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross critical of US counter terrorism policies. The organisation cites several instances of alleged torture of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay naval facility, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, by the US military. They include that of Zayn al Abidin Muhammed Husayn [known as Abu Zubaydah] and alleged September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, both arrested in Pakistan. The two men were waterboarded 266 times between them from 2002 to 2003, according to the CIA inspector general, cited by Amnesty

The battle for the soul of the Islamic world

Islamists and Salafis have been battling for prominence in forging new political realities in the Islamic world.
The international community will have to learn how to live with a vibrantly religious Islamic world, say the authors [AP] Khartoum, Sudan and Oxford, UK - From Egypt's post-Mubarak elections to Tunisian debates about media freedom: a battle is raging for the political soul of the Islamic world. Contrary to what was predicted during the heyday of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), the clashing visions are not those of jihadi terrorism and Western-minded secularism. The new realities emerging from the Arab Spring are demonstrating that Islam will occupy a key position in the political debate from Morocco to Indonesia. Yet what remains unclear is whether this will lead to greater societal cohesion or increased tensions within the Islamic world and between it and outside actors. To understand what the future might look like, we must analyse the struggle within the camp of the pious believers: reformist Islamists versus archconservative Salafis. Misconceptions proliferate about the battle, which is a product of contemporary socio-political conditions, but by no means new: it is the return of a clash between old rivals with new bones of contention. Debates about the appropriate role of Islam in politics have evoked passions since the end of the Rashidun Caliphate. While reformists highlight Islam's dynamic character - the texts can never be changed, but our interpretations evolve in function of new challenges - Salafis depart from a literalist interpretation of ther Quran and Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad. They stress conservatism both in the personal sphere and in the political realm, producing a very ambivalent position - to say the least - towards democratic processes. The 13th century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, intellectual godfather of 21st century Salafis, rejected popular participation in processes of political change: "The ruler can demand obedience from his subject, for even an unjust ruler is better than strife and dissolution of the society." Today's battles revisit the old divide between those who believe in emancipating society through Islamically sanctioned reforms and those who question innovation and free debate in theology and in politics. Salafis vs Islamists For all their differences, important similarities exist between Salafis and Islamists. The choice is not between "Westernisation" and "traditional Islam": neither camp belongs to the caricature categories of the GWOT. Both are products of modernity, who think about politics and religion in deeply modern ways and who respond to modernisation through discourses, institutions and ideas that are solidly rooted in 21st century imaginations. The role of religion in Egyptian election Despite the heated rhetoric, this is not about returning to 7th century Arabia. Both Salafis and Islamists lament the loss of status in past centuries and propose pathways to a Renaissance of the Islamic world. Both contest social injustice, the corruption of the "real Islam" and the inability of Muslims to deal with challenges from the West. Both speak of a lost glorious past, urging a reinvention of the status-quo. But while Salafis emphasise order, external ritual and religious difference within the Islamic world and outside it, Islamists highlight that Islamic civilisation has historically been a progressive force in the world, embracing innovation, science and rationality and engaging in free discussion within an Islamic framework that seeks to integrate, not to divide. The central questions that Salafis and Islamists clash over today are those of liberal democracy, freedom and societal inclusion. The answers produced by the rivalry between them - in Egypt's elections, in Syria's growing three-way civil war, inside Sudan's Salvation regime, etc - are determining the future of the Islamic world. Both Islamists and Salafis have had an uneasy relationship with elections. At the time of decolonisation, they both hoped for a politico-spiritual revival instead of merely formal independence. Yet the ascent of Pan-Arabism and socialist governments - Nasser's Egypt, Saddam's Iraq, Gaddafi's Libya - marginalised religiously inspired projects. As these secular regimes grew increasingly authoritarian, the options for change from within shrunk dramatically. Salafis struck a Faustian pact: following Ibn Taymiyyah, they refrained from any challenges and were given the liberty from the 1970s onwards to develop their social networks, with Saudi support, to compete with the Islamists. The Salafi rise anno 2012, including the Al-Nour Party's capture of 25 per cent of the seats in Egypt's parliament, is a direct result of this nurturing. Shifting the political centre Islamists have been keener than Salafis on electoral democracy but past experiences proved traumatic, leading many to question the intentions of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Tunisia's Ennahda Party. In Sudan and Algeria, Islamist coalitions ran for parliament but their ascent ended in large-scale violence. In Khartoum, the Islamists abandoned their commitment to democracy by working with the military to execute a coup in 1989 - a controversial alliance that ended up dividing Sudan's Islamic Movement later, undermining its promises of modernisation and democratisation. In Algiers, the Islamist FIS obtained an absolute majority in the legislative elections in 1991 but refused to accommodate the interests of Algeria's powerful military class. Hawks on both sides radicalised in a civil war that claimed between 150,000 to 200,000 lives. The mistakes made by Algeria's and Sudan's Islamists when on the brink of absolute power allowed GWOT theorists to ignore the Islamist-Salafi divide; both were approached through the prism of al-Qaeda and possible radicalisation, unlike the "good" secularists. But the Arab Spring has shifted the political centre of gravity to the clash between Salafis and Islamists and has forced both to build a new engagement with democracy. While the former have reluctantly but successfully begun participating in elections, the latter have re-embraced their original Islamic freedom agenda, emphasising economic reforms, participative governance and freedom of religion. This is a moment of great opportunity in the Islamic world, but also one fraught with risks. Inside Story - Egypt's Islamists: Threat or opportunity? Despite growing momentum in past years, a Salafi victory in this struggle looks unlikely in the long term: their rigid theology offers little guidance on how to deal with economic decline, the crisis in education in the Arab world and its youth bulge. Yet Salafis can still help deny Islamists a comprehensive victory. Optimists argue that their involvement in political institutions will force them to craft pragmatic solutions to bread-and-butter issues. This is a hopeful thought that may yet be eclipsed by the alliance between the old military establishments and zealous Salafis to torpedo the project of the Islamist archrivals. Such an outcome risks deepening the Sunni-Shia divide in Islam, endangering the position of religious minorities and lead to (not so spontaneous) outbursts of violence against "unbelievers", like recent attacks on churches in Iraq, Egypt and Sudan. The Islamic revival The choice between Islamists and Salafis is not one between a rock and a hard place. Many Islamist leaders have matured dramatically since the Algerian and Sudanese experiences and have begun abandoning their revolutionary utopias, without sacrificing their principles. While some are indeed still too equivocal about "Western" human rights, the commitment of the great majority of Islamists to constitutionalism, a greater role in politics for Muslim women and harmonious co-existence with other faiths should no longer be questioned. Islamist voices have become the most credible defenders of these principles, unlike many secularists in Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt who in the past have too often been too willing to "dissolve democracy to save it". The international community will have to learn how to live with a vibrantly religious Islamic world, with a bigger and more visible role for Islam in day-to-day politics: modernisation does not mean Westernisation. But for those concerned with international security, freedom of expression and social justice, the project Islamists are advancing to defeat Salafism and dictatorship is to be welcomed. Strong demands exist from Mauritania to Malaysia for a society-wide ethical revival and an Islamic Renaissance that catapults Islamic civilisation back to its pre-eminent position on the global stage. For those willing to look beyond largely symbolic discussions about tourists in bikinis and alcohol consumption, modern Islamism, like that of Tayyep Recip Erdogan in Turkey, is not a reactionary flight from reality but a cri-de-coeur for a rights-based, progressive restructuring of domestic and global society. It is also an indictment against a form of globalisation that for too many has held out the promises of modernity - social mobility and greater individual freedoms - while in practice deepening injustices and causing psycho-social dislocation. Dr Ahmed Daak is a lecturer of Medical Biochemistry at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Khartoum in Sudan. Harry Verhoeven teaches African Politics at the University of Oxford. The views expressed in this article are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy

Is Saudi Arabia really opening up?

It has held its second-ever municipal elections and said that from 2015 women will be able to participate in elections.
Saudi Arabia held its second-ever municipal elections on Thursday. More than 5,000 candidates competed for 816 seats to fill half of the country's 285 councils - the other half are appointed by the government. The first elections were held in 2005, but this second round has been delayed since 2009. The vote comes just four days after the country's absolute monarch, King Abdullah, granted women the right to vote and run in the next municipal elections in 2015. But is this ultra conservative country really opening up or is this yet another attempt to stop the spread of the Arab Spring? Inside Story, with presenter Shakuntala Santhiran, discusses with guests: Ali al-Ahmed, the director of the Institute of Gulf Affairs; Mahjoub Zweiri, a professor of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern history at Qatar University; and Laila Alkadim, the coordinator of Baladi, a group campaigning for women's participation in Saudi Arabian municipal elections.

Saudi Arabia beheads woman for 'sorcery'

Human rights group describes execution as "truly appalling" and notes steep rise in country's use of capital punishment.
A Saudi woman has been beheaded after being convicted of practising sorcery, which is banned in the conservative Gulf kingdom, the country's interior ministry said. Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser was executed on Monday in the northern province of Jawf for "practising witchcraft and sorcery", the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA, Saudi Arabia's state news agency. The ministry gave no further details of the charges for which the woman was convicted. London-based newspaper al-Hayat quoted a member of the Saudi religious police as saying Nasser was in her 60s. The official claimed she had tricked people into giving her money, claiming that she could cure their illnesses. According to the report, she apparently charged up to $800 a session. Amnesty International said the beheading brought the number of executions in the kingdom to 73 this year. Another woman was beheaded in October for killing her husband by setting his house on fire. There are no available statistics on how many women have been executed in Saudi Arabia. 'Truly appalling' Amnesty condemned Monday's execution as "truly appalling", and called on Saudi Arabia to urgently halt the practice. "The charges of 'witchcraft and sorcery' are not defined as crimes in Saudi Arabia", Philip Luther, Amnesty's interim director of the Middle East and North Africa, said. "To use them to subject someone to the cruel and extreme penalty of execution is truly appalling," he added in a statement, which stressed the "urgent need" to stop executions. "The charge of sorcery has often been used in Saudi Arabia to punish people, generally after unfair trials, for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion" - Philip Luther, Amnesty's interim director of the Middle East and North Africa Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy with no written criminal code. Its law is based on a form of Islamic sharia law, as interpreted by the country's judges. Amnesty has reported that Saudi Arabia executed 27 convicts in 2010, compared to 67 executions announced the year before. Luther described the increasing number of executions in Saudi Arabia as "deeply disturbing" . Many of those executed have had no defence lawyer and are not informed about the legal proceedings against them, according to Amnesty. "While we don't know the details of the acts which the authorities accused Amina of committing, the charge of sorcery has often been used in Saudi Arabia to punish people, generally after unfair trials, for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion," Luther said. Earlier this month, Amnesty accused the oil-rich kingdom of conducting a campaign of repression against protesters and reformists since the Arab Spring erupted 12 months ago. The rights group said Saudi Arabia was one of a minority of states which voted against a UN General Assembly resolution last December calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

Muslims and Africans face the same ghastly discrimination in Europe as Latin American

"Muslims and Africans face the same ghastly discrimination in Europe as Latin American illegal immigrants do in the United States, Afghan refugees do in Iran, Palestinians (now joined by Africans) do in Israel or Philipino or Sri Lankan labourers do in the Arab world."
Led by France and President Nicolas Sarkozy, Europe continues to move towards a full ban on both the full face-covering burka and the niqab, while cries of discrimination against Muslims run through the Arab World. A funny thing then happened – Muslims the world over were caught off guard when Syria banned veils of all types from post-secondary institutions across the country, both public and private. The ban reveals an unusual agreement in principle between the authoritarian secular government of Syria and democratic Europe. In the end, both see the niqab as an oppressive threat to identity and secularism. Directives have been given to all Syrian universities from the Ministry of Education to ban niqab-wearing (and burka-wearing) women from even registering. Syria has taken things even further by transferring all primary school teachers who were wearing the niqab out of the classrooms and into administrative positions, separating them from the children altogether. The political aim is to protect Syria’s secular identity. Only last week, the French parliament approved a ban on the niqab, doing so in an effort to define and protect French values — a move that angered many in the country’s large Muslim community. When news of Syria’s ban hit however, there was barely a ripple. The lack of protests suggests there is a double and somewhat hypocritical standard being applied by many in the Arab World. “Well, it’s not really a part of Islam. Nowhere does it say that a woman must cover her face and anyone who says so is lying. It’s more about very old traditions,” is something I heard several times when discussing the ban with people here in the Middle East. This is a far cry from, “ Those French Bastards should mind their own business! Sarkozy is an asshole! ” Back in August this writer openly disagreed with the blanket ban being attempted by France. Niqabs and burkas should certainly be banned from any and all levels of education and places of work, but banning someone from wearing what they want to wear while walking down the street on their day off is just plain ridiculous. A government cannot over-reach itself in such a manner and must have limitations. Too much government is never a good thing. A sweeping law such as the one proposed in France suggests a blindness to the fact that drafting laws to dictate the dress codes of women at all times is exactly what the backwards dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Iran do, making such a law an inverted reflection of what it is standing against. Nevertheless, one can argue the extremist ban by France has had ripple effect of positive change in the Middle East. Syria is only the latest nation to take a stance on the veil. Turkey has not only long banned the niqab, but even the headscarf, considering attempts to allow them an affront to the nation’s secular Laws. The Egyptian and Jordanian governments have started to discourage them, and the United Arab Emirates has also begun to ban them in certain instances. With the Muslim world looking to cut out the niqab, its no wonder the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium are all considering taking steps similar to that of France. And it’s also understandable that if Muslim countries are willing to ban them from schools or workplaces, European countries would take things one step further and attempt to ban them altogether. Opponents have said such bans violate freedom of religion, one’s personal right to choose and further still, such legislation damages the image of Muslims. They fall relatively silent however, when countries within the Arab world take similar measures. It’s also important to note that while the West’s objection to face-covering is largely a form of activism in the name of women, moves to do the same from inside the Arab World stem from fear of social dissent. Middle East experts say the issue is more about the growing chasm between the Arab World’s secular aristocracy and the poverty-stricken masses of the lower class who often turn to religion for comfort. The niqab is not widespread in Syria, Jordan or Egypt, but in recent years it has become more common. The Middle East in general is currently witnessing a rapid growth of income gap, and governments have been quick to take note. Lower class and the working poor tend to cling to religion as a way to cope with their less than satisfactory existence. Salafism, the most extremist sect of Islam, is what Syria is trying to discourage with this ban. Simply put, the government wants to stamp out any symbolic dissent represented by the very un-secular niqab in order to maintain control. “We are witnessing a rapid income gap growing in Syria — there is a wealthy ostentatious class of people who are making money and wearing European clothes. The lower classes are feeling the squeeze. It’s almost inevitable that there’s going to be backlash. The worry is that it’s going to find its expression in greater Islamic radicalism,” says Joshua Landis, an American professor and Syria expert who runs a blog called Syria Comment. It’s a mistake to view the niqab as a personal freedom. It is rather a declaration of extremism.” Says Bassam Qadhi, a Syrian women’s rights activist. There’s no doubt, Islam is changing. As a religion, Islam is more than 600 years younger than Christianity. Let’s not forget 600 years ago the Judeo-Christian West was burning women at the stake for being witches. A more pluralistic, more secular and indeed, a more Western version is Islam is inevitable. It will simply take some time, but the clock is already ticking.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Genesis creation narrative

Genesis 1:1–2:3 Opening: "In the beginning...".[Gen 1:1] First day:
Light is commanded to appear ("Let there be light!") The light is divided from the darkness, and they are named "day" and "night".[Gen 1:3] Second day:
God makes a firmament ("Let a firmament be...!")—the second command—to divide the waters above from the waters below. The firmament is named "skies". [Gen 1:6–7] Third day:
God commands the waters below to be gathered together in one place, and dry land to appear (the third command)."earth" and "sea" are named. God commands the earth to bring forth grass, plants, and fruit-bearing trees (the fourth command).[Gen 1:9–10] Fourth day:
God puts lights in the firmament (the fifth command) to separate light from darkness and to mark days, seasons and years. Two great lights are made to appear (most likely the Sun and Moon, but not named), and the stars.[Gen 1:14–15] Fifth day:
God commands the sea to "teem with living creatures", and birds to fly across the heavens (sixth command); he creates the "great sea creatures" and the creatures of the sea and the birds according to their kinds.[Gen 1:20–21] Sixth day:
God commands the land to bring forth living creatures (seventh command);[Gen 1:24–25] He makes wild beasts, livestock and reptiles. He then creates humanity in His "image" and "likeness" (eighth command). They are commanded to "be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it." To this point has seen his work on each day and described it as "good"; now the totality of creation is described by God as "very good."[Gen 1:26–28] Seventh day:
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them."
God, having completed the heavens and the earth, rests from His work, and blesses and sanctifies the seventh day

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Day overlap the Night.”

[Al-Qur’an 39:5] The Arabic word used here is Kawwara meaning ‘to overlap’ or ‘to coil’– the way a turban is wound around the head. The overlapping or coiling of the day and night can only take place if the earth is spherical. The earth is not exactly round like a ball, but geo-spherical, i.e. it is flattened at the poles. The following verse contains a description of the earth’s shape: “And the earth, moreover, hath He made egg shaped.” [Al-Qur’an 79:30] The Arabic word for egg here is dahaahaa1 which means an ostrich-egg. The shape of an ostrich-egg resembles the geo-spherical shape of the earth. Thus the Qur’an correctly describes the shape of the earth, though the prevalent notion when the Qur’an was revealed was that the earth was flat. MOONLIGHT IS REFLECTED LIGHT It was believed by earlier civilizations that the moon emanates its own light. Science now tells usthat the light of the moon is reflected light. However this fact was mentioned in the Qur’an 1,400 years ago in the following verse: “Blessed is He Who made Constellations in the skies, and placed therein a Lamp and a Moon giving light.” [Al-Qur’an 25:61] The Arabic word for the sun in the Qur’an, is shams. It is also referred to as siraaj which means a ‘torch’ or as wahhaaj meaning ‘a blazing lamp’ or as diya which means ‘shining glory’. All three descriptions are appropriate to the sun, since it generates intense heat and light by its internal combustion. The Arabic word for the moon is qamar and it is described in the Qur’an as muneer which is a body that gives noor i.e. reflected light. Again, the Qur’anic description matches perfectly with the true nature of the moon which does not give off light by itself and is an inactive body that reflects the light of the sun. Not once in the Qur’an, is the moon mentioned as siraaj, wahhaaj or diya nor the sun as noor or muneer. This implies that the Qur’an recognizes the difference between the nature of sunlight and moonlight. The following verses relate to the nature of light from the sun and the moon: “It is He who made the sun to be a shining glory and the moon to be a light (of beauty).” [Al-Qur’an 10:5] “See ye not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another, “And made the moon a light in their midst, and made the sun as a (Glorious) Lamp?” [Al-Qur’an 71:15-16] The Glorious Qur'an and modern science, are thus in perfect agreement about the differences in the nature of sunlight and moonlight. THE SUN ROTATES For a long time European philosophers and scientists believed that the earth stood still in the centre of the universe and every other body including the sun moved around it. In the West, this geocentric concept of the universe was prevalent right from the time of Ptolemy in the second century B.C. In 1512, Nicholas Copernicus put forward his Heliocentric Theory of Planetary Motion, which asserted that the sun is motionless at the centre of the solar system with the planets revolving around it. In 1609, the German scientist Yohannus Keppler published the ‘Astronomia Nova’. In this he concluded that not only do the planets move in elliptical orbits around the sun, they also rotate upon their axes at irregular speeds. With this knowledge it became possible for European scientists to explain correctly many of the mechanisms of the solar system, including the sequence of night and day. After these discoveries, it was thought that the Sun was stationary and did not rotate about its axis like the Earth. I remember having studied this fallacy from Geography books during my school days. Consider the following Qur’anic verse: “It is He Who created the Night and the Day, and the sun and the moon: All (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its rounded course.” [Al-Qur’an 21:33] The Arabic word used in the above verse is yasbahoon . This word is derived from the word sabaha. It carries with it the idea of motion that comes from any moving body. If you use this word for a person on the ground, it would not mean that he is rolling but would imply that he is walking orrunning. If you use this word for a person in water, it would not mean that he is floating but would imply that he is swimming. Similarly, if you use the word yasbah for a celestial body such as the sun, it would not only mean that it is flying through space but would also mean that it is rotating as it goes through space. Most school textbooks have now incorporated the fact that the sun rotates about its axis. The rotation of the sun about its own axis can be proved with the help of an equipment that projects the image of the sun on the top of a table, so that one can examine the image of the sun without being blinded. It is noticed that the sun has spots which complete a circular motion once every 25 days i.e. the sun takes approximately 25 days to rotate round its axis. The sun travels through space at roughly 240 km per second, and takes about 200 million years to complete one revolution around the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy. “It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law).” [Al-Qur’an 36:40] This verse mentions an essential fact discoveredonly recently by modern astronomy, i.e. the existence of the individual orbits of the Sun and the Moon, and their journey through space with their own motion. The ‘fixed place’ towards which the sun travels, carrying with it the solar system, has been located preirsely by modern astronomy. It has been given a name, the Solar Apex. The solar system is indeed moving in space towards a point situated in the constellation of Hercules (alpha Lyrae) whose exact location is now firmly established. The moon rotates around its axis in the same duration that it takes to revolve around the earth. It takes approximately 29½ days to complete one rotation. One cannot help but be amazed at the scientific accuracy of the Qur’anic verses. Should we not ponder over the question: “What is the source of knowledge contained in the Qur’an?” THE SUN WILL EXTINGUISH The light of the sun is due to a chemical process on its surface that has been taking place continuously for the past five billion years. It will come to an end at some point of time in the future, when the sun will be totally extinguished, leading to extinction of all life on earth. Regarding the impermanence of the sun’s existence, the Qur’an says: “And the Sun runs its course for a period determined for it; that is the decree of (Him) the exalted in Might, the All-Knowing.” [Al-Qur’an 36:38]1 The Arabic word used here is mustaqarr, which means a place or time that is determined. Thus the Qur’an says that the sun runs towards a determined place, and will do so only up to a pre-determined period of time – meaning that it will end or extinguish. INTERSTELLAR MATTER Space outside organized astronomical systems was earlier assumed to be a vacuum. Astrophysicists later discovered the presence of bridges of matter in this interstellar space. These bridges of matter are called plasma, and consist of completely ionized gas containing equal number of free electrons and positive ions. Plasma is sometimes called the fourth state of matter (besides the three known states viz. solid, liquid and gas). The Qur’an refers to the presence of this interstellar material in the following verse: “He Who created the heavens

SHAPE OF THE EARTH IS SPHERICAL BY QUR'AN

In early times, people believed that the earth was flat. For centuries, men were afraid to venture out too far, for fear of falling off the edge! Sir Francis Drake was the first person who proved that the earth is spherical when he sailed around it in 1597. Consider the following Qur’anic verse regarding the alternation of day and night: “Seest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day and He merges Day into Night?” [Al-Qur’an 31:29] Merging here means that the night slowly and gradually changes to day and vice versa. This phenomenon can only take place if the earth is spherical. If the earth was flat, there would have been a sudden change from night to day and from day to night. The following verse also alludes to the spherical shape of the earth: “He created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): He makes the Night overlap the Day,

INITIAL GASEOUS MASS BEFORE CREATION OF GALAXIES

INITIAL GASEOUS MASS BEFORE CREATION OF GALAXIES Scientists agree that before the galaxies in the universe were formed, celestial matter was initially in the form of gaseous matter. In short, huge gaseous matter or clouds were present before the formation of the galaxies. To describe initial celestial matter, the word ‘smoke’ is more appropriate than gas. The following Qur’anic verse refers to this state of the universe by the word dukhaan which means smoke. “Moreover, He Comprehended in His design the sky, and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth: ‘Come ye together, willingly or unwillingly.’ They said: ‘We do come (together), in willing obedience.’” [Al-Qur’an 41:11] Again, this fact is a corollary to the ‘Big Bang’ and was not known to anyone before the prophetehood of Muhammad (Peace be upon him)1. What then, could have been the source of this knowledge?

ASTRONOMY CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE: ‘THE BIG BANG’

CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE: ‘THE BIG BANG’ The creation of the universe is explained by astrophysicists as a widely accepted phenomenon, popularly known as ‘The Big Bang’. It is supported by observational and experimental data gathered by astronomers and astrophysicists for decades. According to ‘The Big Bang’, the whole universe was initially one big mass (Primary Nebula). Then there was a ‘Big Bang’ (Secondary Separation) which resulted in the formation of Galaxies. These then divided to form stars, planets, the sun, the moon, etc. The origin of the universe was unique and the probability of it happening by ‘chance’ is nil. The Qur’an contains the following verse regarding the origin of the universe: “Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of Creation), before We clove them asunder?” [Al-Qu’ran 21:30] The striking similarity between the Qur’anic verse and ‘The Big Bang’ is inescapable! How could a book, which first appeared in the deserts of Arabia 1400 years ago, contain this profound scientific truth?

THE CHALLENGE OF THE QUR’AN

Literature and poetry have been instruments of human expression and creativity, in all cultures. The world also witnessed an age when literature and poetry occupied pride of position, similar to that now enjoyed by science and technology. Even non-Muslim scholars agree that the Qur’an is Arabic literature par excellence – that it is the best Arabic literature on the face of the earth. The Qur’an challenges mankind to produce the likes of it: “And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Surah like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (if there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true. “But if ye cannot – and of a surety you cannot – then fear the Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones – which is prepared for those who reject. The challenge of the Qur’an, is to produce a single Surah (chapter) like the Surahs it contains. The same challenge is repeated in the Qur’an several times. The challenge to produce a Surah, which, in beauty, eloquence, depth and meaning is at least somewhat similar to a Qur’anic Surah remains unmet to this day. A modern rational man, however, would never accept a religious scripture which says, in the best possible poetic language, that the world is flat. This is because we live in an age, where human reason, logic and science are given primacy. Not many would accept the Qur’an’s extraordinarily beautiful language, as proof of its Divine origin. Any scripture claiming to be a divine revelation must also be acceptable on the strength of its own reason and logic. According to the famous physicist and Nobel Prize winner, Albert Einstein, “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” Let us therefore study the Qur’an, and analyze whether the Qur’an and Modern Science are compatible or incompatible? The Qur’an is not a book of Science but a book of ‘Signs’, i.e. Aayaats. There are more than six thousand ‘Signs’ in the Qur’an of which more than a thousand deal with hard core Science. We all know that many a times Science takes a ‘U-turn’. In this book I have considered only established scientific facts and not hypotheses and theories based on mere assumptions and not backed by proof.

WHAT IS BIBLE?

The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία ta biblia "the books") is any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the contents and the order of the individual books (Biblical canon) vary among denominations. The 24 texts of the Hebrew Bible are divided into 39 books in Christian Old Testaments, and complete Christian Bibles range from the 66 books of the Protestant canon to the 81 books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Bible. The Hebrew and Christian Bibles are also important to other Abrahamic religions, including Islam[1] and the Bahá'í Faith,but those religions do not regard them as central religious texts. The Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, is divided into three parts: the five books of the Torah ("teaching" or "law"), comprising the origins of the Israelite nation, its laws and its covenant with the God of Israel;the Nevi'im ("prophets"), containing the historic account of ancient Israel and Judah focusing on conflicts between the Israelites and other nations, and conflicts among Israelites – specifically, struggles between believers in "the LORD God" and believers in foreign gods, and the criticism of unethical and unjust behavior of Israelite elites and rulers; and the Ketuvim ("writings"): poetic and philosophical works such as the Psalms and the Book of Job. The Christian Bible is divided into two parts. The first is called the Old Testament, containing the (minimum) 39 books of Hebrew Scripture, and the second portion is called the New Testament, containing a set of 27 books. The first four books of the New Testament form the Canonical gospels which recount the life of Jesus and are central to the Christian faith. Christian Bibles include the books of the Hebrew Bible, but arranged in a different order: Jewish Scripture ends with the people of Israel restored to Jerusalem and the temple, whereas the Christian arrangement ends with the book of the prophet Malachi. The oldest surviving Christian Bibles are Greek manuscripts from the 4th century; the oldest complete Jewish Bible is a Greek translation, also dating to the 4th century. The oldest complete manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (the Masoretic text) date from the Middle Ages.[3] The bible was separated into chapters in the 13th century by Stephen Langton, who eventually became a Roman Catholic Archbishop, and into verses in the 16th century by Robert Estienne, a french printer. During the three centuries following the establishment of Christianity in the 1st century, Church Fathers compiled Gospel accounts and letters of apostles into a Christian Bible which became known as the New Testament. The Old and New Testaments together are commonly referred to as "The Holy Bible" (τὰ βιβλία τὰ ἅγια). Many Christians consider the text of the Bible to be divinely inspired, and cite passages in the Bible itself as support for this belief. The canonical composition of the Old Testament is under dispute between Christian groups: Protestants hold only the books of the Hebrew Bible to be canonical; Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox additionally consider the deuterocanonical books, a group of Jewish books, to be canonical. The New Testament is composed of the Gospels ("good news"), the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles (letters), and the Book of Revelation. The Bible is the best-selling book in history with approximate sales estimates ranging from 2.5 billion to 6 billion, and annual sales estimated at 25 million Bibles.
The English word Bible is from the Latin biblia, from the same word in Medieval Latin and Late Latin and ultimately from Greek τὰ βιβλία ta biblia "the books" (singular βιβλίον biblion). Medieval Latin biblia is short for biblia sacra "holy book", while biblia in Greek and Late Latin is neuter plural (gen. bibliorum). It gradually came to be regarded as a feminine singular noun (biblia, gen. bibliae) in medieval Latin, and so the word was loaned as a singular into the vernaculars of Western Europe.[9] Latin biblia sacra "holy books" translates Greek τὰ βιβλία τὰ ἅγια ta biblia ta hagia, "the holy books". The word βιβλίον itself had the literal meaning of "paper" or "scroll" and came to be used as the ordinary word for "book". It is the diminutive of βύβλος bublos, "Egyptian papyrus", possibly so called from the name of the Phoenician port Byblos (also known as Gebal) from whence Egyptian papyrus was exported to Greece. The Greek ta biblia (lit. "little papyrus books")was "an expression Hellenistic Jews used to describe their sacred books (the Septuagint). Christian use of the term can be traced to ca. AD 223 Main article: Old Testament
The books which make up the Christian Old Testament differ between Protestants and the Catholic and Orthodox faiths, the Protestant movement accepting only those books contained in the Hebrew Bible, while Catholics and Orthodox have a wider canon. The books were written in classical Hebrew, except for brief portions (Ezra 4:8–6:18 and 7:12–26, Jeremiah 10:11, Daniel 2:4–7:28) which are in the Aramaic language, a sister language which became the lingua franca of the Semitic world.[26] Much of the material, including many genealogies, poems and narratives, is thought to have been handed down by word of mouth for many generations. Very few manuscripts are said to have survived the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The Old Testament is accepted by Christians as scripture. Broadly speaking, it contains the same material as the Hebrew Bible. However, the order of the books is not entirely the same as that found in Hebrew manuscripts and in the ancient versions and varies from Judaism in interpretation and emphasis (see for example Isaiah 7:14). Christian denominations disagree about the incorporation of a small number of books into their canons of the Old Testament. A few groups consider particular translations to be divinely inspired, notably the Greek Septuagint, the Aramaic Peshitta, and the English King James Version.
The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία ta biblia "the books") is any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the contents and the order of the individual books (Biblical canon) vary among denominations. The 24 texts of the Hebrew Bible are divided into 39 books in Christian Old Testaments, and complete Christian Bibles range from the 66 books of the Protestant canon to the 81 books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Bible. The Hebrew and Christian Bibles are also important to other Abrahamic religions, including Islam[1] and the Bahá'í Faith,but those religions do not regard them as central religious texts. The Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, is divided into three parts: the five books of the Torah ("teaching" or "law"), comprising the origins of the Israelite nation, its laws and its covenant with the God of Israel;the Nevi'im ("prophets"), containing the historic account of ancient Israel and Judah focusing on conflicts between the Israelites and other nations, and conflicts among Israelites – specifically, struggles between believers in "the LORD God" and believers in foreign gods, and the criticism of unethical and unjust behavior of Israelite elites and rulers; and the Ketuvim ("writings"): poetic and philosophical works such as the Psalms and the Book of Job. The Christian Bible is divided into two parts. The first is called the Old Testament, containing the (minimum) 39 books of Hebrew Scripture, and the second portion is called the New Testament, containing a set of 27 books. The first four books of the New Testament form the Canonical gospels which recount the life of Jesus and are central to the Christian faith. Christian Bibles include the books of the Hebrew Bible, but arranged in a different order: Jewish Scripture ends with the people of Israel restored to Jerusalem and the temple, whereas the Christian arrangement ends with the book of the prophet Malachi. The oldest surviving Christian Bibles are Greek manuscripts from the 4th century; the oldest complete Jewish Bible is a Greek translation, also dating to the 4th century. The oldest complete manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (the Masoretic text) date from the Middle Ages.[3] The bible was separated into chapters in the 13th century by Stephen Langton, who eventually became a Roman Catholic Archbishop, and into verses in the 16th century by Robert Estienne, a french printer. During the three centuries following the establishment of Christianity in the 1st century, Church Fathers compiled Gospel accounts and letters of apostles into a Christian Bible which became known as the New Testament. The Old and New Testaments together are commonly referred to as "The Holy Bible" (τὰ βιβλία τὰ ἅγια). Many Christians consider the text of the Bible to be divinely inspired, and cite passages in the Bible itself as support for this belief. The canonical composition of the Old Testament is under dispute between Christian groups: Protestants hold only the books of the Hebrew Bible to be canonical; Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox additionally consider the deuterocanonical books, a group of Jewish books, to be canonical. The New Testament is composed of the Gospels ("good news"), the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles (letters), and the Book of Revelation. The Bible is the best-selling book in history with approximate sales estimates ranging from 2.5 billion to 6 billion, and annual sales estimated at 25 million Bibles.
The English word Bible is from the Latin biblia, from the same word in Medieval Latin and Late Latin and ultimately from Greek τὰ βιβλία ta biblia "the books" (singular βιβλίον biblion). Medieval Latin biblia is short for biblia sacra "holy book", while biblia in Greek and Late Latin is neuter plural (gen. bibliorum). It gradually came to be regarded as a feminine singular noun (biblia, gen. bibliae) in medieval Latin, and so the word was loaned as a singular into the vernaculars of Western Europe.[9] Latin biblia sacra "holy books" translates Greek τὰ βιβλία τὰ ἅγια ta biblia ta hagia, "the holy books". The word βιβλίον itself had the literal meaning of "paper" or "scroll" and came to be used as the ordinary word for "book". It is the diminutive of βύβλος bublos, "Egyptian papyrus", possibly so called from the name of the Phoenician port Byblos (also known as Gebal) from whence Egyptian papyrus was exported to Greece. The Greek ta biblia (lit. "little papyrus books")was "an expression Hellenistic Jews used to describe their sacred books (the Septuagint).[12][13] Christian use of the term can be traced to ca. AD 223

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mobster’s body exhumed in Vatican

Rome - The body of a mobster buried among cardinals and bishops on a Vatican property has been exhumed in an investigation into a teenage girl’s disappearance. Investigators at the church of Sant’Apollinare in central Rome opened the tomb of Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis on Monday in the search for clues about what happened to Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a prominent Vatican employee. The 15-year-old vanished without a trace after leaving her Vatican apartment for music lessons on the afternoon of June 22, 1983. The mystery has captivated people throughout Italy and triggered numerous conspiracy theories. In the crypt, in addition to De Pedis’ body, investigators found dozens of boxes of human bones, which they are testing. At the time of Emanuela’s disappearance nearly 30 years ago, a witness reported seeing a girl who fit her description getting into a dark green BMW near the music school, which was adjacent to the Sant’Apollinare church. That lead was never corroborated. In 1981, two years before the girl’s disappearance, Turkish national Mehmet Ali Agca shot Pope John Paul II. In the days after Emanuela disappeared, her parents received anonymous phone calls from someone promising the safe return of their daughter if the Vatican released Ali Agca. Meanwhile, an anonymous caller told police that Emanuela was kidnapped to keep her father, Ercole Orlandi, quiet. That caller said Ercole Orlandi had stumbled upon sensitive documents that tied banker Roberto Calvi to an organized crime syndicate. Calvi was known as “God’s banker” for his close association with both the Holy See and its primary banking facility, Banco Ambrosiano. Orlandi worked in the Vatican’s special events office that organizes papal functions and Catholic celebrations. Calvi was found hanged in London in 1982. Speculation turned from suicide to homicide in that case. The tipster to police in Italy said Orlandi’s daughter was nabbed to ensure her father’s silence. Ercole Orlandi died in 2004. In 2005, another anonymous call to an Italian detectives said Emanuela was kidnapped on the orders of the then-vicar of Rome, Cardinal Ugo Poletti, and that “the secret to the mystery lies in a tomb in Sant’Apollinare basilica” — specifically De Pedis’ tomb. De Pedis was gunned down in Rome in 1990 and his body was moved to the basilica some time before 1997, presumably either as part of a secret deal for a massive loan De Pedis made to the Vatican or to protect his tomb from being desecrated by rival gang members. In 2008, De Pedis’ mistress said he was involved in Emanuela’s kidnapping and that the girl was buried under the foundation of a house outside of Rome. Investigators searched that house but found that the cement foundation was poured the year before the girl’s disappearance and could not have been connected to the crime. The Vatican has distanced itself from the Orlandi controversy. In a three-page letter broadcast on RAI television, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said he asked Vatican cardinals whether the Vatican’s failure to collaborate in the original kidnapping probe was “normal and justifiable affirmation of Vatican sovereignty, or if in fact circumstances were withheld that might have helped clear something up.” The Vatican cooperated immediately with the exhumation. After opening the tomb Monday, investigators found De Pedis’ body so well preserved that scientific police were able to confirm his identity through fingerprints. Also inside the crypt were the boxes of bones, according to investigators on the scene. The church has been used for burials for two centuries. Still, all of the bones will be tested to determine whether they are tied to De Pedis or to Emanuela’s disappearance. De Pedis will not be reburied in the church, the Vatican said. De Pedis family lawyer Lorenzo Radogna said the remains will either be cremated or reinterred in a public cemetery in Rome

Suspected US drone kills 2 Qaeda militants in Yemen

ADEN: A suspected US drone strike killed two al Qaeda militants on Thursday in eastern Yemen, as an army offensive against the extremist group entered its sixth day, a local official said. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the two al Qaeda suspects were killed in a strike on their car in Shibam, a historic city in Yemen’s Hadramawt province. Air strikes on al Qaeda targets in Yemen have increased since the Yemeni army, backed by US experts, launched an offensive on Saturday to retake southern cities that in the last year had fallen under al Qaeda control. At least 144 people have been killed in the last six days of fighting which has centred around the three cities of Loder, Jaar and Zinjibar in the southern Abyan province. A military official involved in the offensive said on Thursday that al Qaeda gunmen retreated from three locations on the outskirts of Loder. “We have cleansed Loder (of al Qaeda) and the fighters have been forced to flee,” said the official on condition of anonymity. Al Qaeda remains in control of Zinjibar, Abyan’s capital, though diplomats and officials said on Wednesday that the Yemeni military was advancing towards the southeastern entrance of the city. One local official said on Thursday that the Yemeni airforce launched several late night airstrikes on the southern cities of Shaqra and Arqoub, both near Zinjibar, though no casualties were reported. A force of around 20,000 soldiers from all regions in the south are believed to be engaged in the operation launched on Saturday. They are backed by armed militias, mostly local residents of the towns and cities in the south that since the ouster of veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh and the election of a new president earlier this year have thrown their support behind the Yemeni military.

HRW urges Zardari not to sign Human Rights Commission bill

A view of Pakistan’s National Assembly. On May 4, 2012, the NA had passed a bill forming the National Human Rights Commission. The bill, however, still requires President Asif Ali Zardari’s assent to go into effect.—File Photo KARACHI/NEW YORK: The Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the President of Pakistan not to sign a bill to authorize a newly formed national human rights commission until it is revised to “authorize investigations of the military and the intelligence agencies for human rights violations.” “The National Human Rights Commission if given teeth can play a critical role in improving Pakistan’s dire human rights situation. President Zardari should tell parliament he will only sign the bill when it gives the commission authority over abuses by the military and intelligence agencies,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at the international human rights’ watchdog, in a press release issued today. Pakistan’s National Assembly had passed a bill – the National Human Rights Commission Act – on May 4 for the commission’s formation, but the act requires the president’s approval before it goes into effect. The Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns that the bill would prevent the commission from addressing or investigating “human rights violations by members of the armed forces and intelligence agencies.” “Pakistan’s military and its intelligence agencies have a long and well-documented history of serious and systematic abuses,” said Adams. “A primary reason to create a national human rights commission should be to address longstanding impunity for the army and intelligence services.” “A strong and independent National Human Rights Commission can be a key institution in aiding Pakistan’s transition to a truly rights-respecting democracy,” he said. “But a commission that cannot take on cases involving the army and intelligence agencies would perpetuate a cruel joke on Pakistanis whose rights have been violated.”

Iran flouts UN sanctions, sends arms to Syria -panel

The UN Security Council has deployed a team of observers to Syria to monitor the tenuous ceasefire [EPA]
Syria remains the top destination for Iranian arms shipments in violation of a UN Security Council ban on weapons exports by the Islamic Republic, according to a confidential report. The report, submitted by a panel of sanctions-monitoring experts to the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee, said the panel investigated three large illegal shipments of Iranian weapons over the past year. Iran, like Russia, is one of Syria's few allies as it presses ahead with a 14-month-old assault on opposition forces determined to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The report comes as Tehran and the UN International Atomic Energy Agency try to narrow their differences on how to tackle concerns over Iran's atomic programme, and as Iran prepares for talks with the five permanent Security Council members and Germany in Iraq next week. The report was leaked to the Reuters news agency hours after an article appeared in the Washington Post revealing how Syrian opposition fighters battling Assad's government are beginning to receive more, and better, weapons in an effort paid for by Gulf nations and co-ordinated partly by the US. The article cited opposition activists and US and foreign officials, detailing how the administration has expanded contacts with opposition military forces to provide the Gulf nations with assessments of fighters' credibility and command-and-control infrastructure, the paper reported. "We are increasing our nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, and we continue to co-ordinate our efforts with friends and allies in the region and beyond in order to have the biggest impact on what we are collectively doing," a senior US state department official told the Post. Illegal shipments The panel on Iran said of the three shipments that it had investigated: "Iran has continued to defy the international community through illegal arms shipments. "Two of these cases involved [Syria], as were the majority of cases inspected by the Panel during its previous mandate, underscoring that Syria continues to be the central party to illicit Iranian arms transfers." The third shipment involved rockets that Britain said last year were headed for Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. "The panel recommends the designation [blacklisting] of two entities related to these interdictions," it said. "The report also takes note of information concerning arms shipments by Iran to other destinations." The kinds of arms that Iran was attempting to send to Syria before the shipments were seized by Turkish authorities included assault rifles, machine guns, explosives, detonators, 60mm and 120mm mortal shells and other items, the panel said. The most recent incident described in the report was an arms shipment discovered in a truck that Turkey seized on its border with Syria in February. Turkey announced last year that it was imposing an arms embargo on Syria. Diplomats said that the panel's draft report may be changed by the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee before it is submitted to the council itself for consideration. It was unclear how long it would take the committee to pass the report to the Security Council. Last year's expert panel report on Iran was never made public because Russia blocked its publication. Circumventing sanctions The report also discusses Iran's attempts to circumvent sanctions on its nuclear programme but notes that the four rounds of punitive measures the 15-nation Security Council imposed on Iran between 2006 and 2010 are having an impact. In-depth coverage of a growing regional debate "Sanctions are slowing Iran's procurement of some critical items required for its prohibited nuclear program," it said. "At the same time prohibited activities continue, including uranium enrichment." Among the items Iran has attempted to procure for its nuclear programme, the panel said, were nuclear-grade graphite, high-strength aluminum, aluminum, powder, specialised alloys, maraging steel, carbon fiber, magnets, vacuum pumps, turbines, electrical switchboards and helium gas detectors. "The panel identifies the acquisition of high-grade carbon fibre as one of a number of critical items Iran requires for the development of more advanced centrifuges," the report said, adding that nations should be on alert for illicit attempts to acquire such items. Iran rejects allegations by Western nations and their allies that it is secretly developing the capability to produce nuclear weapons. It has refused to suspend its enrichment programme as demanded by the Security Council despite being hit with increasingly strong UN and various national sanctions

Racialising sexual crimes

A grooming case in the UK highlights the need to stop blaming entire communities for the crimes of individuals. Nine men were found guilty of child sexual exploitation in the Lancashire town of Rochdale [Al Jazeera]
London, United Kingdom - The news that nine men have been found guilty of child sex abuse in Rochdale has created widespread revulsion. The disclosure in Liverpool Crown Court that the men plied their victims with drink and drugs so they could "pass them around" and use them for sex was vile. One of the girls "groomed" was as young as 13. The case involved Asian perpetrators and white victims. The far-right British National Party (BNP) is gloating that Nick Griffin, its leader, is now "vindicated" on his past comments about "Muslim paedophile gangs". Meanwhile, the head of the Rochdale-based Ramadhan Foundation, Mohammed Shafiq, has accused Pakistani community leaders of "burying their heads in the sand" on the issue of street grooming. However - and, perhaps confusingly for the outside observer - the police insist the grooming was not "racially motivated". Let us be clear: Sex with underage minors is a crime. A crime is a crime, whether it is committed by a white, black or Asian person. It remains a crime if done by a Muslim or Christian, a Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist. To every right-thinking member of society, street grooming of under-age vulnerable girls is despicable. There is no justification for it whatsoever, nor should shame from any one sector of a community be used as a cloak to allow this sort of behaviour to continue. We must expose abuse and make sure the authorities react. But pointing fingers at certain communities without comprehensive concrete research could be a distraction. Scapegoating may even deflect society from the main issue (sexual abuse) and lead us to focus excessively on one small part of an overall problem, leading to further social division. "Racialising" the crime with claims about Muslim men grooming white girls could hide legitimate worries about a system that fails victims of abuse. Crime of individuals An entire community should not be blamed for the crimes of its individuals; in 2009, eight white men were found guilty in Scotland of a catalogue of charges relating to child abuse. We must address the issue firmly and objectively. Community and civil society groups, youth centres, religious institutions - along with relevant statutory agencies, including the police, children's services and the third sector must come on board to tackle this in a holistic way. "At the moment, our nationwide figures on on-street grooming are still patchy and incomplete", according to UCL researchers Ella Cockbain and Helen Brayley in the Guardian. They believe that white offenders make up the majority of lone street groomers, but when it comes to group groomers, Asian youth of Pakistani origin are found in disproportionately high numbers. "Nonetheless, it is crucial to remember that these cases do not paint a full picture of this crime," say Cockbain and Brayley. "We need a better, more efficient system of data collection and collation. What's more, these data need to be comparable and consistent across the country and across different agencies involved." Expressions such as "conspiracy of silence", "political correctness" and "fear of appearing racist" are not helpful. Some communities may have a disproportionate presence in certain crimes, but that does not necessarily give the full picture surrounding those crimes. Nor should this allow politicians and media to vilify those communities; the result could be handing over ammunitions to hate groups such as the BNP and the English Defence League (EDL), who in their very black-and-white discourse blame Muslims for many awful things in our country. On 'Muslim' criminals Islam is the religion of some of the criminals recently convicted. However, even extra-marital sex is totally unacceptable in our faith. A story at the time of Islam’s Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is highly relevant to understanding Islam’s position on the recent grooming saga: "It is vital that wider society and the state itself employ all in their armoury to prevent problems from arising and bring offenders to justice." A man came to the Prophet and asked his permission to have sex (outside marriage) with other women. The Prophet asked: "Would you like it if other men commit such acts with your mother, sister, wife or daughter?" The man said: "No." The Prophet then said: "Well, then why do you want to commit such vile acts which you hate for your own womenfolk?" The Prophet then prayed for the protection of this man’s soul from such evil. These men convicted in Rochdale may have been nominally Muslim, but they were clearly not practising the true essence of their faith. Many so-called "Muslim criminals" (as identified by the media) are in fact people who might drink, take drugs or engage in other practices considered haram ["forbidden"]. Individuals who commit abuse are abusers, full stop. It is vital that all of us - including those in any community where group-level abuse has taken place - take the matter seriously. Community members must wake up to why this is happening in their midst. And they must find ways to eradicate it, through better awareness, education, religious sermons, improved neighbourhood watch, youth work, parenting courses and so on. At the same time, it is also vital that wider society and the state itself employ all in their armoury to prevent problems from arising and bring offenders to justice. We need strong deterrents in the form of punishments in order to discourage future sex offenders. Children, whether young or teenage, are our treasure and trust. Our life centres around our children. They are our future. We need to safeguard them from social ills and protect them from harm. We must not hide from our duty as parents, and as a society, to our youngest and most vulnerable people. Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is a parenting consultant (www.amanaparenting.com). He is a founding member of The East London Communities Organisation (TELCO), Chairman of the East London Mosque Trust, and former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (2006-10). Follow him on Twitter: @MAbdulBari The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Lover Boys

This is the story of Ibrahim, a Dutch-Moroccan man tackling the taboo problem of sex-trafficking within his community.
This is the story of Ibrahim, a courageous Dutch-Moroccan social worker in the Netherlands who is tackling the high incidences of sex-trafficking of young Dutch girls by their so-called 'boyfriends' - the Lover Boys - the majority of whom are Dutch-Moroccan. It is a taboo subject, but Ibrahim and his allies, including a local sheikh, are determined to remove this stain from their community. This raw and often graphic film introduces us to both perpetrators and victims of this branch of internal sex-trafficking. Ibrahim does preventative work with vulnerable young men in youth clubs as well as political lobbying to get the matter addressed in his local authority. The complications of working in a country where prostitution is legal for over 18s, as well as cultural taboos within his own community, make for many challenges - and he is only too aware that right-wing elements thrive on any vulnerabilities among immigrant groups. The film includes a disguised interview with a former Lover Boy, as well as harrowing and graphic testimonies from young women who were pimped by their 'boyfriends' when aged 12 and 15.
NOTE: This film contains some graphic descriptions of sexual abuse and some strong language which has been appropriately beeped. By Ibrahim Wijbenga I got involved in the battle against human trafficking - and in particular against the young pimps sometimes referred to as 'Lover Boys' - in 2003. It is a term too lovely to convey the horror of their actions: buying girls gifts and fancy clothes with the aim of gradually establishing a tighter grip over their lives and eventually forcing them into prostitution. In the Netherlands, many 'Lover Boys' - and some of their victims - are of Moroccan origin. It was this connection to the country of my own roots that inspired me to gather more information on them and their practices. 'Lover Boys' often seduce girls with gifts and promises of easy money. But when those girls are from their own community, they also abuse the culture of that community for their own ends. Once a girl from that community has lost her virginity to a 'Lover Boy' she has little choice but to stay with him for the other men in her community are unlikely to befriend or marry her. We knew that getting a hold on these boys would not only be a task for the police, but that it would require getting the inside track on them - using the forces within their community for prevention and utilising the power of Islam and our imams, who have a strategically important position within the Moroccan community. Most of the young men involved in this form of criminality are not scared of a judge, the police or the prison system - but they are sensitive to the standards of honour within their own community and will listen to the imams; they are, after all, Muslim. "They use promises of love, romance and even marriage to win the trust of young girls who they then trick into working as prostitutes .... But because pimping is legal in the Netherlands, it is easy for them to operate below the radar." Read more of the filmmaker's view We sought to confront them through both direct and indirect methods with anti-propaganda against pimping as our central goal. Our aim was to make the pimps lose face, to turn them into the laughing stock of their community and to create an environment in which, if you are a pimp, you are considered the biggest loser of all - a man without honour and the lowest form of criminal. Initially two imams, Abu Bakr el Fadil and Ahmed el Ouazzani, began the process of information gathering and started using the Friday prayer to launch a campaign on the issue of youth criminality, especially the problem of forced prostitution and pimping among Moroccan youth. After some time I set up a network of imams, including well-known imams such as Sheikh Shershaby, Sheikh Jneid Fawaz and Sheikh al Bakkali, who took the battle against 'Lover Boys' nationwide. We also started an information campaign to warn young girls about the practices of 'Lover Boys' and worked to inform their parents about the practices of our youngsters. I also visited various courts across Holland and saw cases of 'Lover Boys' in Utrecht, Den Bosch, Rotterdam, Arnhem and in The Hague. I attended court sessions on human trafficking by young men. Unfortunately, many of them did not receive any penalty or punishment due to lack of evidence or because their victims withdrew their cases. Often the victims I saw at the courts were young Dutch women, while many of the suspects came from immigrant communities and were of Surinamese, Antillean, Moroccan or Turkish backgrounds. Around this time I collaborated with Frank Bovenkerk, a professor from Utrecht who wrote a book on this matter. He essentially identified the same pattern: predominantly Dutch victims and suspects from various cultural backgrounds. We began contributing to the discussion of this topic within political parties and contacted the ministry of justice to see how we could best help each other. My focus remained on the young men, but also on working with the parents of young girls who often did not know that their daughter was a victim of a 'Lover Boy'. As a result of our efforts, we have successfully reduced the number of Moroccan men involved in pimping. But I have recently seen a new development - the emergence of 'Lover Girls'. These girls often work for 'Lover Boys' although they sometimes operate alone - becoming friends with a victim and then dragging them into prostitution. Now they too have become targets of our information campaigns. As our community has grown increasingly aware of the existence of 'Lover Boys', their practices have become a hot topic of discussion in mosques and schools. We have had to confront those groups and political parties who have sought to use the fact that some Moroccan youth have been involved in this form of criminality to turn the general population against the Muslim community in its entirety. But it all starts with educating the young people in our community. If they have positive role models - good brothers and sisters - then good schools and neighbourhoods will follow. Islam teaches us to be good fathers and role models, to obey the law and to give the best of ourselves. If we can beat the threats to our community and the criminality within our ranks, then we can easily have harmony within Dutch society

Monday, May 14, 2012

Art, culture and cuisine in Qatar

Qatar’s reputation as a cultural and lifestyle hub in the Middle East continues to grow, as more businesses flock to the Emirate.
Doha’s blossoming arts and culture scene was given a massive boost with the opening of the Museum of Islamic Art in 2008, and a steady stream of galleries, hotels and other cultural attractions have followed ever since. The opening this month of the Anima Gallery and Lounge on The Pearl-Qatar – the emirate’s luxury lifestyle development – brings an additional 570 sq m of gallery space to the waterfront, showing a collection of contemporary art from local and international artists.
The adjoining Anima Lounge, set to open later this year, will provide a creative meeting space for visitors and art enthusiasts to come and meet with like-minded individuals, as well artists and collectors, or simply enjoy the creative environment. The Pearl has become Qatar’s primary lifestyle destination, with high-end boutiques and fine dining restaurants lining the boardwalk, despite a government curb on the sale of alcohol on the man-made island. The city’s top-end dining scene has also had a boost with the opening of several new five-star hotels, including the St. Regis Doha and InterContinental Doha The City, which both promise spectacular dining options as well as a glamorous place to stay. As of this month, InterContinental Doha The City is home to Doha’s highest dining experience, the exclusive two-level restaurant and lounge Strata. The stylish venue occupies the 55th and 56th floors of the hotel and serves a selection of chilled seafood in designer surroundings, with stunning views of the city. St. Regis Doha opened last month to huge fanfare. Shortly after welcoming its first guest, Leonardo Ferragamo, CEO of Salvatore Ferragamo Group, it announced plans to open two Gordon Ramsay restaurants led by chef Gilles Bosquet (pictured) in May. “The Pearl has become Qatar’s primary lifestyle destination, with high-end boutiques and fine dining restaurants lining the boardwalk”.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Princess Diana Bible is a version of Bible reflecting on fictitious world shown in the movie Horror in the Wind. Writing of the Princess Diana Bible have been announced by director and producer of the movie, Max Mitchell. It happened in the year of 2008 and shortly after sending the movie to the distribution. His version of the Bible responds to the needs of the gays and lesbian world which have been presented in the movie. Plans of new translation of the Bible which answers the needs of homosexuals became a focus of criticism by members of few christian churches in USA who quoted excerpts from the Bible. Criticism of the idea to write new version of the Bible became stronger when the author of the idea announced that his translation of the Bible would call Gay Old Testament and Gay New Testament. This new version of the Bible has been titled Princess' Diana Bible to commemorate Princess Diana's friendliness with the lesbian and gay people (AP) — With a flurry of coast-to-coast developments this week, same-sex marriage is back in the political spotlight and likely to remain there through Election Day as a half-dozen states face potentially wrenching votes on the issue. In Maryland, New Jersey and Washington, bills to legalize same-sex marriage have high-powered support and good chances of passage in the legislature. Gay-marriage opponents in Maryland and Washington would likely react by seeking referendums in November to overturn those laws, while New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, says he’ll veto the bill if it reaches him and prefers that lawmakers OK a referendum so voters can decide. In all three states, polls suggest voters are closely divided on whether gays should have the right to marry, so there’s a chance one could emerge as the first state to support same-sex marriage in a statewide vote. LGBT topics and Islam are influenced by both the cultural-legal history of the nations with a large Muslim population, along with how specific passages in the Qur'an and statements attributed to the prophet Muhammad are interpreted. The mainstream interpretation of Qur'anic verses and hadith condemn homosexuality and cross-dressing. In this, Islam resembles socially conservative interpretations of other Abrahamic religions such as Judaism and Christianity. The Qur'an cites the story of the "people of Lot" (also known as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah), destroyed by the wrath of God because they engaged in "lustful" carnal acts between men. Eminent scholars of Islam, such as Sheikh ul-Islam Imam Malik, and Imam Shafi amongst others, ruled that Islam disallowed homosexuality and ordained capital punishment for a person guilty of it. Homosexual activity is a crime and forbidden in most Muslim-majority countries. In the Islamic regimes of Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, North Sudan and Yemen, homosexual activity is punished with the death penalty. In Nigeria and Somalia the death penalty is issued in some regions. The legal punishment for sodomy has varied among juristic schools: some prescribe capital punishment; while other prescribe a milder discretionary punishment such as imprisonment. In some relatively secular Muslim-majority countries such as Indonesia,Jordan and Turkey this is not the case. By contrast, homoerotic themes were present in poetry and other literature written by some Muslims from the medieval period onwards and which celebrated love between men.