Cycle-Fatwa rides into my Re-Cycle bin

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 26 July 2010 | Posted in ,

By Nigar Ataulla

The Dar ul-Uloom Deoband, India’s largest madrasa, is back in the news again—this time for a fatwa it has just issued that lays down that Muslim girls above the age of 13 should not ride cycles on the grounds that it would be difficult for them to do so while wearing their veils. Besides, so claims the fatwa, cycling has an adverse effect on girls’ physiques.

A recent fatwa, issued some months ago by the very same madrasa, advising Muslim women not to work in offices left me dumbfounded, but this one, I must confess, made me burst out laughing. Gobbling up my breakfast, I jumped into a three-wheeler, zoomed into my office and marched into my editor’s cabin. I told him that I was going to speak my mind to the world about this latest decree. He did not seem to share my indignation, though. “Don’t get sucked into negativity,’ he advised, seeking to me to calm down. “Forget about them. Let them do what they want. In any case, people don’t listen to such fatwas”. But, gosh! I cannot be a saint like him and I really must speak out my mind, I said to myself.

My mind travels back to years ago, when I was just a little girl. In those days, one could hire a cycle for just three rupees for an entire day. So, thinking that one day I would begin to cycle to school, I hired a bike and tried to learn to use it. There was little traffic around the colony where I lived, and it was safe to learn cycling there. Nobody told me that because I was a Muslim girl, I could not ride a cycle.

The great thing about a cycle is that it has no motors, and so all one needs is to learn how to balance. That was where I goofed badly, however. I never learnt the art of balancing. Despite several attempts, I swished and swayed, tossed and turned, but could never learn to ride straight. So, after months of experimenting, which, by the way, almost completely exhausted almost all my pocket-money, I gave up struggling to learn the fine art of balancing on a cycle.

But now this latest fatwa has rejuvenated my desire to hop on to a cycle again. It has also enthused me to share with the manufacturers of this fatwa news about the 6000-odd cyclists who took part in the cyclathon held in Mumbai in February this year to promote cycling as an environmentally-friendly alternative mode of transportation that can help bring down levels of air and noise pollution, especially in crowded urban areas.

But apart from its environmental benefits, cycling is also a great form of exercise that packs in a mighty punch a host of health benefits. Quite the opposite, you will agree, of what the men who have penned this latest fatwa claim, who, rather intriguingly, argue that cycling is bad for women’s physiques! Cycling boosts cardiovascular health, and does miracles for your heart. Regular cycling can thus protect you from heart disease and other related conditions such as high blood pressure and Type-2 diabetes—so say the experts. In fact, a study estimated that people who cycle regularly moderately cut down their risk of death from heart disease by 22 percent.

Cycling also helps maintains body weight. It is a simple and easily accessible form of exercise that successfully burns calories. Cycling for about 30 minutes, five times a week, may provide you with enough exercise to remain trim and healthy. Cycling also relieves depression. It is an enjoyable activity that imparts self confidence and a sense of cheer.

Now I am not going to argue with my ‘learned religious brothers’ about why they have decreed cycling to be ‘dangerous for Muslim women only.’ Only they have an answer, and I am not particularly interested in it. My concern is why these men presume that they must do our thinking for us. Surely, God has given brains to us women, too, and these are meant to be used by us, rather than left to rust and rot! Surely Muslim women must use their God-given brains to decide what mode of transportation to use!

For a girl to ride a cycle is now, so the fatwa has announced, ‘irreligious’ on the alleged grounds that it would be impossible for her to be suitably veiled while doing so. Hmmm. And the cow jumped over the moon, you could well say. For heavens sake, will you leave this problem to be sorted out by Muslim women and their tailors themselves? Women who wish to wear the veil, or a headscarf or a black burqa or whatever and still ride a cycle will find a way out themselves if they have to. As for me as a Muslim woman, if I wish to I will hop onto to a bicycle, or, if I still cannot manage to balance on two wheels, then onto a tri-cycle if I please, with my husband behind me, riding pillion.

A fatwa is an opinion. One can follow it or not. As for me, I’m clicking my computer mouse and dispatching the fatwa about cycles to my re-cycle bin.

[Nigar Ataulla is Executive Editor of Bangalore-based Islamic Voice. She can be reached at nigs3@yahoo.co.in]

Muslim and Hindu Indians require the same solutions

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Muslim and Hindu Indians require the same solutions

By MD Nalapat

It is an irony that the very parts of British India that demanded that the Muslims of the subcontinent be given their own country remained within what – in their view – was “Hindu” India, while the moderate parts got transformed into Pakistan. British ingenuity, accelerated by the Congress Party’s decision to remain neutral during the Second World War – in contrast to the Muslim League’s full-throated backing for the Allies – ensured that MA Jinnah’s Muslim League gained control of Bengal and Punjab from secular, (although majority-Muslim) political formations.

The movement for Pakistan reflected the elite character of Jinnah, its leader, who was a successful barrister who sported three-piece suits and a monocle. Led by upper-class Muslims who were nervous of being swamped by the Hindu majority once the British left, the Muslim League built up pressure on the colonial authorities to accept it as the sole representative of India’s Muslims.

France moves one step closer to criminalizing full Muslim veil

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France moves one step closer to criminalizing full Muslim veil

By Henry Ridgwell

French lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to ban the public wearing of Muslim veils that cover the face.  The lower house of parliament passed the bill last week by an overwhelming 335 votes for, to one against.

It still must be ratified by France's senate and faces other legal hurdles. Its supporters say the law upholds the secular nature of French society. But critics of the ban argue it could violate the French constitution and have vowed to take it to the European Court of Human Rights.

Society awakes and Fatwas fail

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Society awakes and Fatwas fail

By Zahid Khan

In the wake of a recent controversy involving a fatwa (aimed at controlling Muslim women working outside their homes), the well-known Mumbai-based writer Javed Akhtar rightly noted that the times are gone when such fatwas had any effect. Today, he said, these fatwas have almost no impact at all. They are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Our Muslim society must warmly welcome voices such as Akhtar’s that are emerging from within our community.

The furor witnessed over the recent fatwas is, of course, nothing new. These fatwas, that come out with distressing regularity, have become a subject of much debate and discussion in India. Most of these fatwas are anti-women. Shortly before the Deoband madrasa issued its fatwa advising Muslim women to avoid working in offices, Saeedur Rahman, rector of the Nadwat ul-Ulema, a large and influential madrasa in Lucknow, declared that Muslim women had no right to abandon purdah and address public gatherings. Rather, he insisted, they should remain confined within the four walls of their homes. Another recent fatwa advised Muslim women to avoid standing for elections to panchayats. Yet another fatwa strongly condemned girls being educated in schools where boys also study. A whole slew of similar fatwas have been issued in recent years, all concerning women—on a range issues, including on of even such minor matters such as whether or not women can cut their hair, use perfume, wear pants, and so on.

In contrast, it is striking to note that Islam provides for equality for men and women. Prior to the Prophet Muhammad’s advent, girls had no share in the property of their fathers. Islam did away with this restriction, and this was a truly revolutionary step. Prior to the Prophet, marriage was generally considered to be a life-long sacrament, and women had no way to escape tyrannical husbands. Islam’s message of women’s liberation broke with this tradition. It insisted that women could not be married off against their will, that they could fix their dower as they pleased, and that they could also have their marriages dissolved if they wanted to. In addition, Islam gave women complete freedom to pursue education.

In fact, Islam does not place any restriction on women’s education and work. This is what we must tell those mullahs and maulvis who issue fatwas to deny women their right to work and who consider their earnings to be unlawful or haraam. We need to tell them that Hazrat Khadijah, the first wife of the Prophet, was herself a rich trader. Before he was appointed as a prophet, Hazrat Muhammad used to work for her. In addition, she had several other male employees. If (as some mullahs insist) a woman’s earnings are haraam and if it is also haraam for men and women to work together, one may well wonder if our mullahs and maulvis will now start pointing fingers at these historical facts!

It is also incumbent on us to inform these men who spend their entire lives reciting the Quran and who are seen as learned in the Hadith and other books that Hazrat Ayesha, another wife of the Prophet, led an army in the Battle of the Camel. Narratives of bravery about Hazrat Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter, and his grand-daughter Hazrat Zainab also abound. And the fact that Umar, the second Caliph, appointed a woman, Shifa Bint Abdullah, as the overseer of the market, is also well-known.

Today, it is essential for us Muslims to understand the true meaning of the Quran and Islam for ourselves, and to wrest this right from the ‘policemen’ of religion, the mullahs and maulvis. The entire Muslim society, particularly Muslim women, needs to come forward to do this. And, although belatedly, this task has already begun.

[This is a slightly modified translation of an article titled ‘Bedar Hota Samaj Aur Be-Asar Hotey Fatve’ published in the Hindi monthly Qaumi Farman, July 2010. The magazine can be accessed online on http://www.qaumifarman.com]

Clear and present danger in Kerala

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By R. Gopakumar

Several youths who died in the Kashmir encounter were NDF activists.

Kerala was jolted by the terror lurking in its backyard for the first time in October 2008, when five youths from the state were killed in an encounter with security forces in Jammu & Kashmir. The state government and the police had then just woken up to the reality that terror had arrived in God’s Own Country.

However, little did they realise that much water had already flown under the bridge well before that incident thanks to the political deals struck by both the UDF and LDF with organisations of dubious repute overtly and covertly. The events of the past few months and police raids have now established that terrorism has taken roots in the state.

Kerala may have so far witnessed only a series of low intensity bomb blasts like the Kozhikode twin blasts and the Ernakulam civil station blasts. However, seizure of gelatin sticks, detonators and other materials for making explosives, hawala money and counterfeit notes have been frequently reported, even as recent as last week from Kannur.

NJ town elects Indian Muslim Mayor... with Orthodox Jew Deputy

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NJ town elects Indian Muslim Mayor... with Orthodox Jew Deputy

By Hussein Rashid

Every so often the state of New Jersey surprises me. Teaneck, a heavily Jewish township, recently elected the first Muslim mayor of Bergen County. Mohammed Hameeduddin is an American-born Muslim of Indian descent. Elected to serve with him as deputy mayor was Adam Gussen, an Orthodox Jew. They both went to the same middle school and college. However, Islamophobes are latching on to the election of Hameeduddin as proof of the creeping Islamization of America.

Several news reports of the election describe the process as contentious and divisive. For example, here's how Matzav begins their story:

“Mohammed Hameeduddin became the first Muslim mayor in Bergen County history Thursday, as a divided Township Council elected him after a fierce, weeks-long debate over who should take the gavel. This year marked the first time in memory that a mayoral selection created a public uproar, adding to the divisions that have frequently plagued politics in recent years.”

Indonesian Muslims turn prayers back to Mecca after 1,000-mile mistake

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Indonesian Muslims turn prayers back to Mecca after 1,000-mile mistake

Allah always listens, promise clerics, after cosmography corrects human error that told worshippers to face Somalia

By Riazat Butt

Indonesian Muslims have been praying in the wrong direction for months, facing Somalia when they should have been facing Saudi Arabia, the country's highest religious authority said today (July 19, 2010).

A cleric from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) admitted the body made a mistake last March when calculating where Muslims should turn to when praying. He said new instructions had now been issued and that people only had to shift their position for the correct alignment.

According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad was born in Mecca, and it is said to be the place where Allah's message was first revealed to him. Each day Muslims from around the world turn to Mecca to pray and, at least once in their lives if they can afford it, travel there to perform the hajj, or pilgrimage.

Private school to produce Muslim scientists to be built — Taib

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Private school to produce Muslim scientists to be built — Taib

By Kas Alwi Sepawie

A private science-stream Islamic religious school will be built in Samariang soon to help produce more Muslim scientists.

Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the move was also meant to dispel negative perceptions, held by some non-Muslims, that Muslims were ‘un-progressive’.

Taib said it was important for the Muslim society to infuse science and mathematics into their education system.

“When we successfully produce many scientists among us, it can help to enhance the confidence of non-Muslims towards Islam,” he said when launching the 25th anniversary celebration of SK (A) Datuk Haji Abdul Kadir Hassan and its school alumni here on Saturday (July 17, 2010).

He added that he had instructed the city’s planning authority to look into the establishment of the proposed school.

“In our efforts to build a new township in Samariang, we should have a private school (there), Islam (Religion) Council School,” he said.

Taib also touched on the important roles former students of a school could play to support the development of their alma mater.

He cited as an example the glorious alumni movement of Harvard University which helped Harvard to be the best university in the world.

“Former students or Old Boys are the most influential group of people in all societies.

“In respect of Harvard University, it could become big and rich because of the strong support it received from its former students,” he said.

Taib later announced that he would donate RM10,000 to SK (A) Datuk Haji Abdul Kadir Hassan to undertake some upgrading works.

Many individuals, including those from the corporate sector, also came forward to donate to the school.

Also present were Housing and Urban Development Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Fadillah Yusof, Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman, Assistant Minister of Rural Development Abdul Wahab Aziz, Islamic Affairs Council (MAIS) president Datu Putit Matzen and Education director Datu Dr Julaihi Bujang.

(Courtesy: Borneo Post)

Saudis warned against marrying foreign women

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Saudis warned against marrying foreign women

By P.K. Abdul Ghafour

Sociologists and rights activists have warned young Saudi men of negative social and economic consequences of their marriages to foreign women. They also warned that the practice increases the number of unmarried women in the Kingdom.

To avoid problems, those who seek foreign wives are advised to first obtain official permission.

Nizar Al-Saleh, assistant secretary-general of the National Center for Research on Youth at King Saud University, said some Saudis travel to foreign countries with the intention of entering into temporary marriages. At the end of their vacation, they divorce their wives.

Syria's niqab ban is part of a clash within Islam itself

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Syria's niqab ban is part of a clash within Islam itself

Far from the heated debates of Europe, Syria has banned the niqab in classrooms, adding another layer to this complex story

By Faisal al Yafai

Quietly, away from the fanfare that accompanied the French vote on banning the niqab in public, and calls by Philip Hollobone to impose a ban in Britain, the Syrian government has instituted its own, more limited, ban, removing teachers who wear the full face veil from teaching in public schools.

At first glance, such a move might seem puzzling: Syria, with dozens of religious sects and a nominally secular government, has managed for decades to use a light touch, at least when it comes to personal faith.

But the rise of religion among the population has shaken the leadership: with overt displays of faith on the rise and a rare terrorist attack in Damascus two years ago attributed to Islamists, the government appears to be moving against hardline religious ideas.

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