Need for strong Islamic media

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

By Abdullah Saeed 

(South Africa)

This refers to the report, “OIC chief affirms need for strong Islamic media” (Arab News, Dec. 23).

Unfortunately, especially after Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Muslims are stereotyped as extremists, fundamentalists, fascists, terrorists and suicide bombers.

Islamophobia should be accepted as a crime against humanity just as anti-Semitism is. It is not about the question of integration and how compatible the religion of Islam is with a modern secular society. It is about double standards. It is about hypocrisy. The West’s double standards, hypocrisy, and injustice fuel Muslim anger. Muslim anger is also fueled by the deaths of over a million Iraqis following the US invasion and Washington’s support for Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and the ongoing US occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries.

Islam is a religion of peace and justice. It is compatible with a modern secular society. It is a way of life based on equality, truth, compassion and justice. What some individuals present as Islam has nothing to do with the principles and values of Islam.

The verses concerning jihad are frequently misquoted, mistranslated or taken out of context by those who deliberately or erroneously seek to slander Islam and spread hatred toward its followers. Such people are only following the example of earlier oppressors who carried out ethnic cleansing by painting a certain group as wicked or evil. This was the rationale used by Nazis to murder millions of Russians, Jews and others. In South Africa we saw a replay of such oppression, suppression, humiliation and victimization. Millions of South African citizens suffered untold pain and suffering by being stripped of their dignity.

Muslims are experiencing the same challenge today. In South Africa, to challenge apartheid Stephen Biko (Steve) founded the Black Consciousness Movement. Similarly Mahatma Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King, Jr in US did it for their people.

Islam is a misunderstood religion. We can only challenge the deceptions, misinformation and negative discourse about us through our own media. We must create a network of positive reporting by using the latest technologies. We must present our own version of events, stories, realities and experiences, and not just rely on foreign wire services.

(Courtesy: Arab News)


OIC chief affirms need for strong Islamic media

By P.K. Abdul Ghafour

Jeddah: Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), on Wednesday emphasized the need for a strong media to confront the smear campaign against Islam and Muslims.

“There is big negligence from the part of Islamic media organizations in keeping with the fast developments in the media world,” he told the General Assembly of the Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU), an affiliate of OIC.

Ihsanoglu said the extraordinary OIC summit that was held in Makkah in 2005 at the initiative of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah had called for strengthening OIC media agencies such IBU and the International Islamic News Agency (IINA).

Culture and Information Minister Abdul Aziz Khoja, who presided over the meeting, emphasized the need to strengthen IBU in order to realize the hopes and aspirations of the Ummah.

The Saudi minister called for greater cooperation between OIC countries in producing world-class radio and television programs. “We should also highlight the developments taking place in our countries in a professional manner,” he said. Khoja spoke about King Abdullah’s interfaith dialogue initiative that has won the applause of world leaders. “It is the duty of IBU to highlight such important initiatives to inform the world that the Islamic Ummah works for global peace and stability,” he said. He congratulated the Islamic world on King Abdullah’s recovery.

The meeting, which was held at OIC headquarters here, approved the appointment of Malaysia’s Zain Al-Abidine Ibrahim as the new secretary-general of the union. It also endorsed the reports of 2009 and 2010 and reshuffled the union’s Executive Council.

Madhya Pradesh Urdu Academy literary awards presented amidst thunderous applause

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: The Urdu literary awards of Madhya Pradesh Urdu Academy were presented in a glittering function at the Mulla Ramuzi Sanskriti Bhavan here on Thursday evening (Dec 23) in the presence of overflowing gathering of Urdu lovers.

The national and state level awards were presented by former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and sitting Member of Parliament Kailash Joshi, who was the chief guest, well-known poet Padamshree Dr. Basheer Badr, who is Chairman of the Urdu Academy presided over the gala function, along with ex-MP Kailash Narain Sarang to the Urdu litterateurs amidst thunderous applause.

The awardees were presented cheques, mementos and shawls at the award ceremony. The Madhya Pradesh Urdu Academy had announced the national and State level awards for 2010-11 recently. The awards are conferred for commendable services provided to the Urdu language by litterateurs.

Speaking on the occasion, Kailash Joshi lauded the activities of the Urdu Academy and stressed that promotion and propagation of Urdu language is the need of the hour. He said in the last more than 500 years different people and races have been coming to India and there was a need felt for a common language for one and all. Urdu language, thus, evolved by the amalgamation of various languages. It started to be spoken for last several hundred years by the common man and the elite and the magic of the language due to its richness and depth spread all over the country.

However, Joshi lamented that in the present era there seems to be some indifference towards this language and it is languishing. The rot which has set in due to negligence by the people should be arrested and the pristine glory of the Urdu language restored with the hope that the new generation would adopt it in a big way.

He moaned that the new generation is neither attracted towards Urdu nor to Hindi but feels pride in learning English language alone because the society has given more importance than it is due to it. Taking up the learning of English only and neglecting Urdu and Hindi which are their mother tongues is a great disservice to these Indian languages, he remarked.

Kailash Sarang, who was the guest of honour on the occasion, bemoaned that Urdu which was his language has been associated with Muslims alone. This notion should be done away with and through Urdu Academy efforts should be made that the people of all faiths and creeds take up learning of Urdu language without having bias towards it. He said the Madhya Pradesh Government had increased the budget of Urdu Academy so that Urdu language could spread its wings and more and more people motivate their children to study it. If need be initiatives could be taken to get the budget of the Urdu Academy increased, he added.

Maulana Ashfaque Mushhadi Nadwi, Madhya Pradesh Special Correspondent of Rashtriya Urdu Sahara, who was honoured with national level Hakim Qamr-ul-Hasan award for Urdu journalists, presented a paper on the occasion. The title of the paper was “Urdu Sahafat Andeshe Aur Imkanat”. He said in the paper that today is spoken and read more in the country than before and its future is bright. To buttress his point he gave the examples of “Dawat” and “Rashtriya Sahara” which can be seen in the country.

“Dawat” is example of missionary spirit while “Rashtriya Sahara” is true picture of professionalism, Maulana Ashfaque asserted. The two streams which these two Urdu newspapers have carved out others can tread on these paths in Urdu journalism and strive to reach its zenith, he added.

Earlier, Ms Nusrat Mehdi, secretary MP Urdu Academy, welcomed the guests and threw light on the various activities of the academy to promote Urdu language and literature.

Mirza Jafar Baig, vice chairman of the Urdu Academy, while proposing vote of thanks said apart from honouring Urdu litterateurs and publishing their books, holding Mushairas (poetic meets), the Academy is doing basic work of conducting coaching classes of Urdu language. The Urdu coaching classes are being conducted in different cities of the state by the Academy wherein people of different religion and faiths are taking advantage of it and learning Urdu language, he added.

Others felicitated with the national-level awards included: Zafar Sehbai for the Meer Taqi Meer Award, Qaiser Siddiqui for the Hamid Saeed Khan award, Ishrat Wahid for Shadan Indori Award and Mushtaq Waleed for the Johar Qureshi award.

While those conferred State-level awards were: Shakeel Gwaliori for the Siraj Meer Khan Sehar award, Shan Fakhri for the Basit Bhopali award, Abdul Hai Anjum for the Mohamed Ali Taj award, Iqbal Girami for the Nawab Siddique Hasan Khan award, Farukh Anjum for the Sheri Bhopali award, Khalida Siddiqui for the Kaif Bhopali award, Om Prabhakar for the Sukhan award and Qazi Malik Naved for the Shifa Gwaliori award.

The programme was conducted by Abdul Mannan Khan.

Meanwhile, an All India Mushaira was held on the occasion after the awards presentation ceremony. The Mushaira was compeered by poet Mansoor Usmani of Moradabad. Mohammad Anees Ansari of Urdu Academy gave a brief account of the poets who participated in the Mushaira.

[Pervez Bari is a Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

Minister fond of staying away from Jammu civil secretariat

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 25 December 2010 | Posted in , ,

By Bashir Assad

Jammu: At a time when the government has decided to cancel winter vacations in educational institution in Kashmir valley to compensate the losses suffered by the education sector during the recent unrest, it has miserably failed to improve attendance of it ministers in the civil secretariat here, turning it virtually defunct.

Most of the cabinet colleagues of Chief Minister chose to stay away from the civil secretariat on one pretext or the other causing great inconvenience to the litigants coming from far off places.

Even the employees including the top bureaucrats in the civil secretariat Jammu express displeasure over the functioning of the ministries. “Either they don’t want to work or are scared of people who have voted for them,” said a senior official requesting not to be named. “The civil secretariat reminds me of the Governor's Rule during early 90’s, it presents the same picture, no public representative and no public,” the official said adding that the number of visitors to the civil secretariat has considerably gone down due to absence of ministers from the civil secretariat.

The District Development Board meetings are over but ministers do not return to their offices, said a visitor holding a representation in his hand. A senior political worker of ruling National Conference said that the civil secretariat employees have a three-day week while as ministers have single-day week, but nobody knows which day each one of them have fixed.

This correspondent visited the official residence of a minister at 12 noon Friday (December 24, 2010) and was surprised to see the minister sitting in comfort chair in track-suit as if he had just returned from morning walk and was taking a long breath. Inside his room were sitting a couple of government officials probably from department of which he holds the charge as minister of state. There was a heap of files on his table and the minister was about to start signing the files.

The secretariat employees mince no words in asserting that the “vital public offices there” have turned defunct in absence of ministers. “Work in the departments involving public dealing has come to a grinding halt. Though higher ranking officials, reach the offices but are not able to work in absence of the in-charge ministers. You need the presence of ministers if you want to do some work,” said a secretariat official.

“When Darbar was at Srinagar strikes confined people to their homes. They were not able to visit the secretariat to get their work done. And even if some people were able to reach there, they were not able to get the work done in absence of staff. And now in Jammu functioning suffers due to absence of ministers. Of course tour programs are vital for a minister to know pace of work on various schemes and developmental projects but remaning on tour for six days a week is unjustifiable, said another visitor.

Though the political bureaucracy off and on issues stern instructions to bureaucrats and other administrative staff at the Civil Secretariat to report on time and not to meet political workers and the public before 3 p.m. Scores of officers have been suspended in the past for remaining absent or coming late for their duties. However, when they themselves chose to stay away from their offices, their instructions cannot be taken serious by the employees.

[Bashir Assad is a senior Journalist based in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir. He is now Bureau Chief (J&K) of IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be contacted at bashirassad@rediffmail.com]

Saudi youths take up the cudgels against diabetes

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Rima Al-Mukhtar

Jeddah: Around 500 people attended a fun and informative event at the Red Sea Mall in Jeddah on Thursday organized by the Young Initiative Group to raise awareness about diabetes.

Volunteers from the group distributed fliers, brochures and T-shirts to shoppers explaining everything they need to know about the illness.

“We targeted children and young people in this campaign to spread the message about the causes of diabetes because a lot of people and children have diabetes and don't know about it,” said Maha Taher, cofounder of the Young Initiative Group (YIG).

“We also wanted to make this event fun for children to make it easy for us to have their full attention … we had them participate in some games and physical activities in addition to interacting with them and speaking to them about the definition of diabetes and its effects,” she added. “We also prepared a five-minute cartoon that shows animated people speaking about diabetes in an educated and informative way. We also had a booth full of doctors who collected blood samples from attendees and talked to them about their health,” said Taher.

Red Sea Mall's ground floor had turned blue due to the balloons and decorations used for the event. “We used this color on purpose because it's known to be the color of diabetes like the color pink is known to be the color of breast cancer,” said Abdulrahman Turjuman, a member of YIG.

The participation of the large number of people in the event showed that a lot of people are interested to know about their health, said Turjuman.

“We are willing to create more events and invite people if this helps raise awareness about diseases and other health or social issues,” he said.

(Courtesy: Arab News)

Girl power evident all around in IYWA’s Edutainment event

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

Jeddah: “Girl power” was evident in the Indian Youth Welfare Association (IYWA)-organized “Edutainment 2010 – Learning With Fun” event at the Indian Consulate premises on Thursday (December 23, 2010).

The event comprised a Spelling Bee contest for children from different schools, competing in an inter-school format, and an Islamic calligraphic competition for students of two age groups — seniors and juniors.

The aim of the event was not only to inculcate in children the habit of learning new words and their spellings, but to also emphasize that these words could take them into the realms of the magical world of reading and writing in a language, English, that is becoming a binding force in this global village. The mode of learning was through a fun-filled contest that even saw adults interact freely.

The second part of the program was to bring focus back on calligraphy and rediscover the charms of the Arabic language through writing harmoniously, innovatively and imaginatively.

The event was attended by students of CBSC-affiliated schools. The Spelling Bee was conducted to counter the effects of this IT era, where children are exposed to computers, which have built-in language editors, and abbreviated mobile text messaging and online chatting. These have led to a decline in students knowing how to spell correctly. This has impacted on the writing and speaking skills of people, with the students being the most affected.

The Spelling Bee program in some way tried to bring back the charm of spelling to students, with its unique format that saw children go through an elimination round before four finalist teams emerged.

The Bee involved spelling the words in traditional format, forming multiple words from a single word, filling in crosswords through given clues, and unscrambling scrambled words before a “Gift Bag” and rapid-fire rounds brought about the best between the competing teams.

While the Bee’s elimination rounds were in progress, the Islamic Calligraphy competition was also under way. The participants were given the free choice to write “Rabbi Zidni Ilma” in various Arabic calligraphic forms.

The good numbers that participated, both in the junior and senior categories, brought out some brilliant patterns. While some used simple and neat writing with artistic embellishments on the side, others developed the sentence in cursive or linear dimensions.

Five schools — Al-Falah International School (DPS), Al-Wurood International School, Dauha Al-Uloom International School, Novel International School and Shathi Al-Noor International School — participated in the event.

Ten teams, with each team comprising three participants, entered the fray and four teams made it to the final.

Girls dominated the competition and Al-Wurood girls’ team — consisting of Ashily Joy, Safrin Asha and Fareeha Jabeen — beat the girls’ team of Al-Falah (DPS) — comprising Juveriya Asif, Juna Khaleel and Anam Ahsan — to the title.

The other two finalists were the girls’ team of Shathi Al-Noor International School and the boys’ team of Al-Falah (DPS), who finished fourth.

In the Islamic Calligraphy, the first position in the juniors category went to Raveesh Ahmed - Grade VI of Dauha Al-Uloom International School - Boys; second position went to Nusaiba Fati - Grade VI of Al-Wurood International School – Girls; and third position went to Jawad -Grade VI of Dauha Al Uloom International School - Boys.

In the senior category, Dauha Al-Uloom International School - Girls dominated the competition by wining all the three prizes. First prize was bagged by Sumaiya Hakeem of Grade VIII, second place by S.A. Azeem Sabeen of Grade VIII, and the third spot by Fathima Ashfaq of Grade VIII.

Consul General of India Sayeed Ahmed Baba was the chief guest of the occasion. He presented the prizes to the winners of the Islamic Calligraphy event.

Consul (HOC) B.K Aseeja and Consul (Consular) Rajendra Kharayat distributed prizes to the winning teams and participants in the Spelling Bee event.

Sahar Sultan was the competition’s host and conductor. She was assisted by Jaspreet Kaur and Syeda Amtul on dictionary checks, Hasan Bayazid and Zubair Mohammed as scorers, S.P. Singh as timekeeper and Khwaja Nasir Jamal through multimedia support.

Women Coordinators who assisted in the Islamic Calligraphy Competition were Naheed Zaidi, Jaspreet Kaur, Kahkashan Ahmad and Sara Ali.

The event was judged by Mahmoud Ahmed, National and Gulf editor at Arab News, and Awad Al-Sabae, loss adjuster at Lloyd’s Agency, Jeddah.

(Courtesy: Arab News)

Pakistan's blasphemy law to be amended

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By Azhar Masood

Islamabad: Pakistan's federal Minister for Minorities' Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti said the government will not scrap the blasphemy law but an amendment will be made to it to prevent its misuse.

“I and my ministry have initiated a series of dialogues with all stakeholders after discussing the matter in the Cabinet,” Bhatti told Arab News.

“I have planned to meet all chief ministers, governors, the federal minister for law and parliamentary affairs, and the leaders of all religious parties to elicit their views before making changes to the law,” he added.

“We will consult Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and other minorities also on the issue.”

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has invited leading religious scholars to seek their views on the misuse of the blasphemy law. “We do not want to undo the blasphemy law but our efforts are to bring an end to its misuse,” he said.

Responding to a question about Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who has been convicted of blasphemy, he said, “The president had directed me to submit a report on the subject which I did. The blasphemy law in this case was misused and leaders of various religious parties later started protesting over the issue… The government has already constituted a committee to look into the negative aspects of the law.”

On clemency to Bibi, who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, Bhatti said the president would await the court ruling.

Bibi's lawyer has said the proceedings might take years because the case is still in the high court and may later go to the Supreme Court.

“It was incorrect and inaccurate to say that our government had planned to scrap the blasphemy law off the statute,” said Bhatti, adding that there are many cases with different motives but registered under the blasphemy law.

Thousands of protesters rallied in major Pakistani cities on Friday threatening further protests and anarchy if the government moves to amend the law.

Demonstrators marched in the eastern city of Lahore, the port city of Karachi and the central city of Multan, after influential religious parties called for protests to defend the law.

Politicians and the country’s religious parties have been at loggerheads over whether President Asif Ali Zardari should pardon Bibi. Pakistan has yet to execute anyone for blasphemy.

Protesters also demanded the removal of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer who helped file a mercy petition with Zardari’s office. In Lahore and Shikarpur, Taseer’s effigies were torched by angry protesters.

A Pakistani court in November found the 45-year-old woman guilty of defiling the name of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during a 2009 argument with Muslim fellow field workers.

The offense is punishable by death or life imprisonment, according to Pakistan's penal code. But an investigation by a Pakistani government ministry found the charges stemmed from “religious and personal enmity” and recommended Bibi's release.

Zardari has said he would pardon Bibi, but a court has ruled that the president can't act until a higher court confirms the sentence — a process her lawyer says could take two to three years.

(Courtesy: Arab News)

Pakistan gets $633m US anti-terror aid

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

Islamabad: Washington transferred more than $600 million to the Pakistani government this week to pay for its efforts in the fight against violent extremists, the US Embassy said.

The $633 million payment under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) program came Wednesday, amid reports that top US military commanders in Afghanistan were pushing to expand special forces ground raids across the border into Pakistan's tribal areas.

"The Coalition Support Fund is designed to reimburse the government of Pakistan for expenses incurred fighting violent extremist groups," the embassy said in a statement.

It added that the payment covered the first six months of this year and Pakistan had now received "approximately 8.76 billion dollars" since 2001 under the scheme.

The CSF process reimburses 27 nations, including Pakistan, for logistical, military and other support provided to Washington's overseas military operations.

Pakistan has been fighting militants on its border with Afghanistan for years. On Friday some 150 extremists attacked five security posts in an unusually large and coordinated assault, sparking hours of fighting that killed 11 soldiers and 24 insurgents, officials said.

The top government official in Mohmand, Amjad Ali Khan, said 12 soldiers were wounded in the fighting.

The troops called in helicopter gunships to help push back the militants, said Maj. Fazl Ur Rehman, a spokesman for the Frontier Corps security force. The fighting ended by morning.

The Pakistan Army says 2,500 of its soldiers have been killed by militants in the tribal areas since 2001.

(Courtesy: Arab News)

U.S. Catholic universities seeing influx of Muslim students

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

By William Wan

On a quick break between classes last week, Reef Al-Shabnan slipped into an empty room at Catholic University to start her daily prayers to Allah.

In one corner was a life-size painting of Jesus carrying the cross. In another, the portrait of a late priest and theologian looked on. And high above the room hung a small wooden crucifix.

This was not, Shabnan acknowledged, the ideal space for a Muslim to pray in. After her more than two years on campus, though, it has become routine and sacred in its own way. You can find Allah anywhere, the 19-year-old from Saudi Arabia said, even at the flagship university of the U.S. Catholic world.

In the past few years, enrollment of Muslim students such as Shabnan has spiked at Catholic campuses across the country. Last year, Catholic colleges had an even higher percentage of Muslim students than the average four-year institution in the United States, according to the Higher Education Research Institute. The influx has astonished and sometimes befuddled administrators. Some Catholic campuses are creating prayer rooms for new Muslim students and hiring Islamic chaplains to minister to them. Others are unsure how to adapt.

One of the sharpest increases in Muslims students has been at Catholic University in Northeast Washington. In the past five years, as the number of self-identified Catholics on the campus has decreased, the number of Muslims has more than doubled, from 41 in 2006 to 91 this fall.

The largest group of international students by far now comes from Saudi Arabia.

Muslim students say they enroll at Catholic schools for many of the same reasons as their classmates: attractive campuses, appealing professors and academic programs that fit their interests. But there is also a spiritual attraction to the values that overlap the two faiths.

"Because it is an overtly religious place, it's not strange or weird to care about your religion here, to pray and make God a priority," said Shabnan, a political science major who often covers her head with a pale beige scarf. "They have the same values we do."

A place to pray

Echoing Islam's conservative culture, the school separates men and women in its dorms and imposes visiting hours. The university prohibits sex before marriage. Daily prayer and periodic fasting are common concepts.

At the same time, Muslim students find themselves immersed in what can seem at times alien iconography. Almost every classroom is adorned with a crucifix. Statues of the Virgin Mary and Holy Child dot the campus. Professors often open their classes with an appeal to Jesus. Courses in theology are an undergraduate requirement.

That's how Shabnan found herself buying her first Bible, for a required Old Testament class. It's also the reason, she said with a smile, that she registered for an introductory course on Islam.

"I was looking for an easy course," she said. "I learned a lot that was new to me . . . and just seeing how someone completely outside our religion views it was fascinating."

But there are also drawbacks to being Muslim on an overwhelmingly Catholic campus.

Most of the students eat everything but the pork in the student union. For the more orthodox, eating can be a tricky proposition that involves driving as far as Potomac to find halal meat, which is slaughtered according to strict guidelines.

Although other Catholic schools have established prayer rooms and student associations for their growing Muslim populations, Catholic University has neither. For their five daily prayers, Muslims often scramble to find empty classrooms where they can kneel, face Mecca and bow before God.

Some students even meditate in the school's chapels and at the structure that looms over the entire campus - the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

An adjustment

During his more than four years as a graduate student at Catholic, Ali Basiri has become one of the regulars at the small chapel in Caldwell Hall, the oldest building on campus. Basiri, 27, has spent so much time in the chapel's pews that he has befriended the organist who practices there.

It took him a while to adjust to life outside Iran. During his first semester, he lived in the dorms and tried not to be shocked when women held out their hands to shake his and sometimes hugged him.

In Iran, Basiri said, all schools run by the Islamic government are religious. The Iranian university where he studied for his bachelor's degree was named after a Muslim cleric, and his engineering department had detailed rules for praying and a dedicated room separated for men and women by blankets.

But at Catholic, he has forged new ways to connect spiritually. Several times a week, the electrical engineering student makes his way past the marble statue of the Virgin Mary at the Caldwell chapel entrance and listens in the pews to Islamic prayers on his MP3 player.

"I feel there is something powerful here because people are thinking about God all the time and not just about their own life or studies," Basiri said.

He has struck up friendships with equally fervent Catholic believers.

"We do this thing where he teaches me his prayers in Arabic, and I share with him the prayers I say as a Catholic," said one of his friends, Kenny White, 20, a sophomore from Annapolis. "I've learned about God by learning about him and his own faith. It's been a really important and beautiful part of being here."

'Proud of who we are'

It was that kind of exchange that prompted Basiri's attempts to start a Muslim student association. He wanted to help Muslim students connect and gather for prayer in addition to helping spur conversations across religions.

He found a faculty adviser and filled out the required paperwork but heard nothing back for a while.

Then, an administrator pulled him aside and said it wouldn't work to have a Muslim group at such a major Catholic institution.

When asked about the experience, Basiri is hesitant to say anything negative about a school that he says has embraced him so fully and given him a chance to grow in faith and academics.

"I understand the difficulty," he said. "In Iran, if you tried to start a Catholic group at a Muslim university, that would be just as strange and hard to make it work."

Many other Catholic schools with rising numbers of Muslim students have set up prayer rooms and formed Muslim student associations.

Georgetown University, whose Muslim student numbers have also been climbing, has a prayer room, student association and an entire center devoted to Muslim-Christian understanding, and the school hired a full-time Muslim chaplain in 1999. Catholic administrators at colleges that have added similar features say they haven't perceived the efforts as a challenge to their religious identity.

"We're not going to take down the cross or change our name. We're proud of who we are," said Marco Masini, associate vice president of student life at Benedictine University in Illinois. "Hospitality is a part of the Benedictine philosophy, so it's important we welcome individuals of all faiths."

When Catholic University has declined to officially recognize other student groups, such as a gay advocacy organization, it has been because their beliefs run contrary to church teaching. University President John Garvey said that although other religious services aren't offered at Catholic, its campus ministry collects information from nearby religious centers and offers those connections to students.

"I think there's a lot of benefits to having students of other faiths here," he said. "They bring the grace of many of their own religious traditions."

Muslim students there say they have benefited as well. In his years at Catholic, Basiri said, he has experienced a long list of firsts: meeting a nun and priest, celebrating Mass, witnessing Easter and Thanksgiving.

Basiri said his Islamic faith has grown and matured in the past four years while studying in buildings named after Catholic leaders, in classrooms adorned with crucifixes, and with classmates often named after saints.

"The face of my prophet and my God has changed," he said. "It is even more beautiful now."

(Courtesy: Washington Post)

Top Mumbai employment agency slated for swindle

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By Siraj Wahab

Dammam: Two Islamic scholars from India who came to the Kingdom on work visas issued by Gulf Catering Co. claim they were swindled out of SR25,000 by a Mumbai employment agency that forged job contracts sending them to Riyadh under false pretenses.

Brothers Asrar-ul-Haq, 27, and Ashraf-ul-Haq, 25, now endure a kind of limbo in Riyadh after being told by Gulf Catering Co. that the job offers with the salaries they agreed to in Mumbai do not exist.

In the presence of the brothers, Gulf Catering officials called on a representative from the employment agency Imtiyaz International to explain the contract who reluctantly admitted he had invented the high salary numbers and vacation details.

“We were shocked and didn’t know what to do,” elder brother Asrar-ul-Haq told Arab News. “We protested and told our Saudi manager what we were promised in India. We showed them the documents we signed in India.”

The actual jobs the young men believed they were taking pay half what they were promised with the food allowance reduced by 25 percent and a repatriation trip offered every three years rather than the two years listed in the contract.

Unless they sign a new contract the two brothers are in limbo. They will receive neither insurance nor iqamas. This process is called contract substitution, where wages and benefits agreed-upon before departure are reworked after the worker has already arrived and has fewer choices.

The practice common for lower-skilled workers from labor-remitting countries, such as the Philippines, who have a minimum wage demand and require contracts before issuing overseas employment certificates for their workers. In this case, however, the contract-substitution scam came to light because the men’s father, Mufti Quasid Ahmad Al-Qasmi, a veteran expatriate worker in the Kingdom, demanded the contract details be provided in writing.

None of them expected the details provided by Mumbai-based Imtiyaz International would be different from the ones demanded after the men's arrival. They have been in Riyadh for 47 days now and are unclear what their next step should be.

Many foreign workers become victims of dubious agents who promise the moon to their clients in a bid to extract the maximum amount of money from them.

Once they land here they are trapped, and they are forced to sign on the dotted lines. The fact that such a large group’s name is being used to deceive people is a cause for alarm. This only brings the name of Saudi Arabia business into disrepute because people tend to see all this as the handiwork of Saudi employers.

Indian expatriates familiar with the plight of the two brothers have called for revoking the license of the Imtiyaz International (Registration No. 4374/MUM/PER/1000/4 3/4/6818/2004) in Mumbai. They maintain the agency should get maximum punishment and fined monetarily. Some Indian organizations have vowed to approach the Saudi Labor Ministry and the Saudi Consulate in Mumbai to get the agent barred from doing business in Saudi Arabia.

In the meantime, the two brothers are seeking legal advice as to what they should do next.

“The salary that Gulf Catering is offering is a lot less than what we were making in India through teaching,” Asrar-ul-Haq told Arab News. “Our father has already paid a huge sum to get these jobs. Imagine what will we do with SR550 per month?”

(Courtesy: Arab News)

Christ forgotten, Christmas celebrated

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

By Abdul Rashid Agwan 

While billions of people are observing Christmas and the rest share the festivity with them, there arises a pertinent question what is the meaning and objective of this ritualistic celebration? Obviously, most people believe this is to remember the historic occasion when the ‘Saviour’ of the world came into being, the future founder of one of the greatest religions took birth and the harbinger of good tidings was there in the lap of the reverend mother Mary. Jesus Christ came and went and, as the Christians and Muslims believe, will come again sometime in the later ages. No doubt, he will remain an epitome of compassion and inter-human love for all times to come. And, celebration of Christmas provides an opportunity to those who revere him as the greatest messenger of love and peace for assessing whether the world is celebrating peace and co-existence as taught by him or the things are otherwise?

The matter of the fact is that the two communities, Christians and Muslims, who revere and love Jesus in their own way, are at loggerheads with each other without taking any advantage of knowing the blessed teachings of Jesus, and that too on the behest of those who neither respect him nor recognize him as a true messenger of love and compassion. The Christian countries hailing from both the major Christian sects Catholic and Protestant have geared behind the minority sects such as evangelicals or Fundamentalist Christians of the USA for clashing with the sister civilization in the middle-east and the common believers in these countries are apparently supporting their warmongering Christian leaders. In a way the vast majority of the Christian world is either supporting these unjustified wars or chose to remain silent on them. This raises a question in the mind of a non-Christian, whether Jesus has been forgotten by his own followers although his birthday is celebrated each year with great pomp and show?

However, this year’s Christmas message of the Pope Benedict XVI on BBC revives new hopes in the strife-ridden world. On this celebrating moment, he prayed for God to punish the world's ‘oppressors’ and bring about ‘true brotherhood’. “Lord, make your promise come finally true! Break the rods of the oppressors! Burn the tramping boots! Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end!” Pope Benedict said at the Christmas Eve mass in the Sent Peter’s basilica. His angst and anxiety against the state of the world is quite clear. The reverend Pope who is supposed to bless the world on such festive occasion as Christmas is invoking the divine wrath on those who have spread conflict and violence in the world of God. This is tremendously an unusual Christmas message.

In order to understand the prevailing hypocrisy, let us examine the contemporary Christian life on the universally known Christian doctrine “Turning the other cheek”, exhorting a believer to respond an aggressor without violence. The phrase originates from the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament. In this historic sermon Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42, NIV). In Luke 6:27-31, NIV his these words have been recorded: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. ….”

When this doctrine is seen against the recent aggressions of the west on some of the Muslim countries, this hypocrisy becomes even more pronounced. A few Christian dominated countries are playing contrary to this doctrine with almost unprovoked ill-will, vengeance and scheming against many nations. The US lead coalition has attacked Afghanistan in 2001 on the alleged charge that some terrorists protected by the Taliban ruled government had destroyed the twin towers of New York. A lot of ‘conspiracy literature’ available on the Internet successfully challenges this 9/11 allegation and creates a strong suspicion regarding the motive of the NATO invasion on this hilly country. How much blood has been shed thereafter in the entire ‘Af-Pak’ region due to this outlandish theory of ‘Islamic’ attack on the ‘Christian’ world! The world knows it evidently that Taliban, the abased militant group which entered the Afghan scene after the defeat of the USSR to fight the genuine militants there, was the brainchild of none but the America itself. Simultaneously, an imposed war has been waged on Iraq by the so-called coalition forces on the proclaimed pretext of a ‘pre-emptive’ measure against the would-be aggression of Saddam Husain through his so-far unfounded ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. Two independent countries of the civilized world have been entirely destroyed, millions of lives lost, even more crippled and wounded and the peace in the major part of the world brought at stack. The sheer materialism and arrogance reined the western forces and the perverted media created a nightmarish havoc in the mind of common westerners and people in other parts of the world about some invincible ‘enemies of humanity’. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI there seems the lack of “strength to overcome the tyranny of might” as the world so faces it.

The modern protagonist of peace and non-violence Mahatma Gandhi remembers Jesus Christ as “a man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.” Certainly, as other communities, Christians are also living a life which their faith could hardly endorse. Therefore, the Christ’s absence from Christmas celebrations is becoming pronounced year after year. In the wake, may the prayers of the Pope be heard and responded by the Heavens so that the world could become a peaceful abode for humanity at large!

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