Amnesty says veil bans rob Muslims of jobs, education

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 06 May 2012 | Posted in , , , ,

By Tim Castle

London: Bans on full-face veils in France and Belgium and a failure by other European countries to stop employers from enforcing informal dress codes means Muslim women are being denied jobs and education, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

In a wide-ranging report highlighting examples of discrimination against Muslims across Europe, Amnesty said governments were pandering to prejudices by stopping Muslim women from wearing full-face veils and urged France and Belgium to repeal their own bans on such veils.

"Muslim women are being denied jobs and girls prevented from attending regular classes just because they wear traditional forms of dress," said Amnesty researcher Marco Perolini.
"Rather than countering these prejudices, political parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest for votes," he added.

The human rights group said countries like Belgium, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands were also failing to prevent employers enforcing informal policies that banned religious dress - such as headscarves worn by many Muslim women - on the grounds of preserving neutrality, promoting a corporate image or pleasing customers.

Pupils in these countries and others had also been barred from wearing religious and cultural dress, it said.

"Women should be able to wear whatever they prefer ... States have focused so much in recent years (on) the wearing of full-face veils as if this practice were the most widespread and compelling form of inequality that women have to face," the report said.

Amnesty called on the European Union to ensure European legislation banning discrimination by employers on the grounds of religion or belief was properly implemented across its 27 member states.

It also urged European leaders to avoid introducing bans on the wearing of religious or cultural dress at schools and universities.

France banned clothing that covers the face in April 2011 and Belgium followed suit in July of the same year, while similar legislation has been proposed in the Netherlands, Italy and some Spanish regions.

Citing individual witnesses, Amnesty said France's introduction of the ban had increased hostility against Muslim women wearing the niqab, a veil across the face that only reveals the eyes.

It said the ban was the wrong approach to address concerns that some Muslim women were being coerced to wear such clothing against their will because of cultural or family pressures.
Governments should not try to impose restrictions on full face veils for security reasons or just because a section of the public found it objectionable, it added.

It cited cases in which employers had refused to hire women who declined to remove their headgear.

One Dutch Muslim woman told Amnesty how a travel agency in Antwerp said it could not employ her if she insisted on wearing a headscarf. "We cannot hire you for front-office positions, we do not want to lose clients," she was told.

In the same report, Amnesty also urged Switzerland, which uses referendums to decide some legislation, to annul votes that were discriminatory after the country barred the construction of new minarets following a referendum in 2009.

"There is a groundswell of opinion in many European countries that Islam is alright and Muslims are OK so long as they are not too visible. This attitude is generating human rights violations and needs to be challenged," Perolini said.

(Courtesy: Chicago Tribune)

Muslim woman gets huge award in workplace discrimination case

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

By Mará Rose Williams

On Friday (May 4, 2012) in her attorney’s office, Susann Bashir told how her boss at AT&T grabbed her scarf and exposed her hair. For Muslim women, the head and hair are private.

Her face framed by a white scarf covering her head and hair — considered “a private part” for Muslim women — Susann Bashir grew sad Friday afternoon recalling her final encounter with a former boss.

She said she had already endured years of harassment by co-workers and had started pursuing a religious discrimination case against her employer when the supervisor, during a routine meeting in his office, snatched her scarf and exposed her hair.

Bashir sued, and this week a Jackson County jury awarded her $5 million in punitive damages against Southwestern Bell/AT&T, where she worked as a fiber optics network builder for more than 10 years.

Bashir said she endured religious discrimination nearly every day of the last three years she worked in the company’s downtown Kansas City office.

AT&T said Friday that it disagrees with the verdict and plans to appeal. AT&T is a “nationally recognized leader in workforce diversity and inclusion,” a spokesman said.

The amount Bashir stands to receive will be much less than $5 million, however, because Missouri law caps such awards at five times the actual damage amount plus attorney fees.

The jury awarded Bashir $120,000 in lost wages and other actual damages. Attorney fees will be determined later by the judge, said Amy Coopman, Bashir’s lawyer.

Thursday’s overall award appears to be the largest jury verdict for a workplace religious discrimination case in Missouri history, Coopman said.

The previous largest such verdict came in 2009, when Mohamed Alhalabi, an Arab-American Muslim, was awarded $811,949 in St. Louis County Circuit Court in a case against the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

That same year a Jonesboro, Ark., jury ordered AT&T to pay $1.3 million to two former employees fired for attending a Jehovah’s Witnesses convention.

Bashir was living in North Kansas City in 2005 when she converted to Islam. According to court documents, that’s when her troubles at AT&T began. Just months before she converted, she had been commended in the company newsletter for doing good work, she said.

In court documents, Bashir said her work environment became hostile when co-workers made harassing comments about her religion and referred to her hijab as “that thing on her head.”

“I was shocked. I thought, ‘What is going on?’ ” she said during an interview at her lawyer’s Kansas City office. “Nobody ever cared what I wore before. Nobody ever cared what religion I was before.”

Bible verses were left on her desk. Co-workers asked if she was going to blow up the building and called her a “towelhead” and a terrorist.

Bashir said she called an employee help line in March 2005 and asked that sensitivity training be provided for her co-workers.

“It was a worthless call,” she said. “Nothing ever changed.”

When the harassment continued, she said, she complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March 2008 and it launched an investigation.

Bashir said that made some workers angry. The final encounter with her boss “happened after the EEOC investigation had started,” she said.

Bashir said she was so stressed that she was unable to return to work. She asked that her boss be removed or that she be transferred, but neither happened. After she did not return to work for nine months, she was fired from her $70,000-a-year job.

“By firing me, they stole my ability to work at a job I liked,” Bashir said.

Bashir said the entire incident was mentally and physically taxing for her and tore her family apart. She is going through a divorce. In October, she moved with her daughter to Anchorage, Alaska, where she is an apartment manager.

“I have mixed feelings,” Bashir said. “I’m happy not to be reporting to that management structure. But it’s hard in this economy to find a job with that level of compensation. I didn’t want to lose my job, because I felt I was doing good work.”

Bashir said she hopes her case will make other employers more sensitive and quicker to respond to complaints like hers.

“I hope others who get discriminated against won’t feel so vulnerable,” she said. “They will know they can speak up.”

(Courtesy: The Kansas City Star)

Muslims-Dalits unite on Maharashtra Day to form Avami Vikas Party

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 02 May 2012 | Posted in , , , , ,

IMO News Service

Mumbai: “Anger and hatred are taught in history. When Shivaji and Afzal Khan had a confrontation, Afzal Khan’s betrayal was conveyed to Shivaji by a Muslim, while Afzal Khan’s bodyguard was a Maratha. But what they teach us in class is different. And that is what creates a rift between Hindus and Muslims like it happened with me at school. We are here to bridge that divide, to be respected for who we are and to show the world that we will not longer be treated as less-equals.” 

This statement came from educationist Javed Pasha took centrestage at Shamukhanana when at the historic moment when Dalit and Muslims came together on Maharashtra Day to celebrate Maharashtra Day with the launch of a party that stands up for the rights of minorities from the pockets of India. Based on the principles of Shivaji Maharaj, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and Maulana Azad among others, the party that has elected former ACP  Shamsher Pathan as its National President and Babban Kamble, Editor – Samrat  as his Deputy, was launched at Shanmukhananda Hall, Kings circle.

Sixty five years after independence, even now Muslims and Dalits are not getting equal treatment and are still socially, economically and politically backward and are caught in the mire of religious and caste politics, and are merely being used as a voting bank.

“In fact, the state of Muslims in India is worse than that of the Dalits. In the name of Reservation Dalits are being exploited while Muslims are being exploited under the name of safeguarding them. Though together they contribute to 39 per cent of voting bank, they are disregarded when it comes to being in power. Both these communities are being used as a staircase for those wanting to rise to power,”  explained Shamsher Khan Pathan, National President, AVP. “The Dalits and Muslims both have to unite if they have to make their presence felt and make a difference,”

“Malegaon, Prabhani, Nanded have illustrated who the real terrorists are. Why then are the Muslim community being branded as terrorists? This is their India as well. We need to stand together and fight,” added Babban Kamble.

We do not see the Dalits as younger brothers. That time is gone when you considered someone less equal. Today, everyone is an equal. They are my equal brothers,” announced Pathan to a roaring audience.

The party is backed by educationists, journalists, and people from various spheres of life and is being guided by a former cop and a journalist as their leaders and hence we believe we can make the difference with AVP. This is the first party which has taken the principles of  Shivaji Maharaj, Maulana Azad and Babasaheb Ambedkar and will fight for the upliftment of the downtrodden.

This unity, aver party members, will make a difference from gram Panchayat to Vidhan Sabha levels. Btoh Muslims and Dalits need socio-economic progress and this is not possible without making a political  change.  This is the reason behind the Awami Vikas Party because we as educated people shy away from politics, and this attitude should change if we seek an awakening.

BJP wooing Muslims to expand its base

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

By Abhay Singh

Patna: As the national BJP has read a certain slide in the public stock of the Congress-led UPA at the Centre and also signs of possible re-emergence of space for the NDA in the national arena despite confusions caused by the talks regarding possible formation of the Third Front, the party has seemingly taken to wooing people of Muslim minority community in Bihar, where the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government has been ruling the roost for over the last six years in continuation.

Accordingly, in his bid to clear any confusion on that point, senior BJP leader and deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi on Monday appealed to the people of the Muslim minority community in Bihar to ignore the anti-BJP propaganda unleashed by some political parties, specially the Congress and the RJD, and also asked them to join the BJP, as for the first time, a Muslim, Saba Jafar, has been elected MLA on the BJP ticket in the state.

Modi was particular in reminding his audience that the anti-BJP propaganda, underlined by "jajbaati baaten (emotional matters)", first failed in Uttar Pradesh. "Subsequently, it failed in Bihar, too," he said while addressing a function organized at the state BJP headquarters to celebrate the entry of Sheikh Muzammil, former national secretary of LJP, into the BJP along with his supporters.

Curiously, in the recent months, despite a number of prime ministerial aspirants in the BJP, the gravity within the party has been shifting towards Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, whose rule, however, is haunted by Gujarat riots, but nearly offset or drowned by the hoopla that surrounds the "development plank", so much so that even corporate players, both in the country and outside, have not been shy of praising his rule for the same reason.

"The BJP believes in taking the people of all caste and communities along with it on the path of development. Our party has been practising it in Bihar as an inalienable part of the NDA government. We want Muslims to also join the mainstream," the deputy CM said, adding that the party's minority front had opened its units in all 38 districts of the state.

Among the steps taken by the Bihar government for improving the lot of Muslims in the state, he referred to effective running of Maulana Mazharul Haq Arabic and Persian University, fencing of Muslim graveyards for which annual allotment had been increased to Rs 100 crore, grant of Rs 10,000 scholarship to Muslim girls who pass matriculation in first division, grant of scholarship to school children belonging to scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and extremely backward caste (EBC) sections that also includes Muslims, and taking steps to send their children to schools.

"Earlier, graveyards used to be the cause of many a tension in the state. Caste and community tensions have not occurred, and social harmony is the norm in our state," the deputy CM said.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

Trust that hosted AIMPLB convention is SIMI front: Centre

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

By Mohammad Ali

The Maharashtra-based Khair-e-Ummat Trust, one of the hosts of the recent three-day convention of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) in Mumbai, has been named by the Union government as one of the “fronts/pseudonymous organisations of SIMI.”

The trust's general secretary, Haroon Mozawalla, has decided to present its case before Justice V.K. Shali, who heads the one-man tribunal that is determining the validity of the ban on SIMI. Justice Shali is slated to visit Maharashtra to examine the evidence against SIMI.

The Home Ministry's “background note on the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI),” a copy of which is with The Hindu, mentions four more organisations as being SIMI ‘fronts' at the national level — Tahreek-e-Ehyaa-e-Ummat (TEU), Tehreek-Talaba-e-Arabia (TTA), Tahrik Tahaffuz-e-Shaaire Islam (TTSI) and Wahdat-e-Islami.

Importantly, the Union government has not banned these groups, which it claims to be ‘fronts' of SIMI that was declared an unlawful group under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The note is part of the government's arguments before the Justice Shali Tribunal.
The government has argued that after the ban, SIMI had been trying to revive itself through fronts and pseudonymous organisations in a clandestine manner.

The background note alleges that the Khair-e-Ummat trust, which tops the list from Maharashtra, is one of the three dozen ‘fronts,' “organisations of SIMI, which are State-specific and are being used for carrying out its activities, including collection of funds, circulation of literature, regrouping of cadres, etc.”

Mr. Mozawalla denied ever being contacted by any government authority regarding the issue.
“We are a charitable organisation working for the underprivileged in areas of education and medical facilities since 1998,” he told The Hindu.

When contacted, a Home Ministry spokesperson said it was not the practice of the Ministry to comment on a matter pending before the tribunal.

The AIMPLB reacted very strongly to the news. “Intelligence Agencies are bringing a bad name to the government. No one knows who directs the agencies which are hell-bent on accusing each and every Muslim organisation for an undesirable act,” Abdul Rahim Qureishi, general secretary of the AIMPLB, said.

“The activists of SIMI have managed to enter into political parties and have been found to be maintaining links with other Muslim organisations for putting pressure on the Government to lift ban on SIMI,” the background note claims, without giving any detail or naming any political party.

(Courtesy: The Hindu)

French Muslims get call to vote for president

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Elaine Ganley

Paris: They are France's millions-strong minority with a voice that usually falls silent at election time. But this year, there is a special new effort to mobilize French Muslims to speak up at the ballot box in Sunday's presidential race - amid a surge of Islam-bashing among the French right.

Imams and Islamic associations are calling on Muslims to do their duty as citizens and go to the polls. And while they're not officially endorsing anyone, the call itself is a bold move in a country where statistics on religious affiliation are formally banned and where secularism is enshrined in the constitution.

Socialist Francois Hollande - the poll favorite - is more likely to benefit from the get-out-the-vote push, because conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy has spoken out against Muslim practices in his campaign and experts say that Muslims in poor neighborhoods and Muslim youth tend to vote for the left. But the Muslim vote is diverse, and there's no guarantee that the push will bring out voters, since Muslims have tended in the past to avoid politics.

French Muslims have been pounded with blame throughout the campaign for what they eat (halal meat), how they pray (in the street), and for allegedly using their growing numbers to supplant France's civilization with their own. The massacre of Jewish schoolchildren and French paratroopers in March by an alleged Islamic extremist put Muslims in the spotlight anew and fed far-right fear mongering.

Under the banner of patriotism and preserving the national identity, Sarkozy is trawling for far-right votes as he tries to undo Hollande.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who ran an anti-immigration and anti-Europe campaign and sowed fears that France is being Islamicized, placed a strong third in the April 22 first-round vote. Though she was eliminated, her 18 percent score was a historic high for her National Front party and her supporters could now boost Sarkozy's support in the runoff.

For some Muslim religious leaders, it is time to act.

"We don't live on Mars. We live in France and we are constantly listening to what is happening," said Kamel Kabtane, the rector of the Lyon mosque, who was among a group of imams at some 30 mosques in southeast France pressing Muslims to vote.

"By this initiative, we want to show that Muslims aren't citizens of the second zone ... They can vote for whom they want but be present in the voting booth," he said.

The more than 5 million Muslims in France - the largest such population in western Europe - could potentially prove a decisive weight for or against a candidate. But experts say their footprint on the political landscape is nearly invisible.

The French model of integration is officially colorblind, demanding that immigrant minorities forgo their customs to meld into the universe of Frenchness. Statistics on race, ethnic origin and religion are formally banned, though researchers find ways to circumvent the rule, like using last names to deduce who is who.

Kabtane said the Muslim get-out-the-vote initiative in southeast France was the first of its kind, although some mosques in the Paris area are also asking Muslims to go to the polls.

In most cases, imams say they make a point not to advise the faithful how to vote. However, an expert on secularism, Jean Bauberot, says the anti-Muslim rhetoric by the right makes the preferred candidate clear - the one on the left.

"In the current atmosphere, Nicolas Sarkozy is doing all he can to alienate the Muslim electorate ...," Bauberot said. "When they (imams) say go out and vote, people think ... you shouldn't vote for Sarkozy."

For the head of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, such calls to vote are dangerous because they risk dragging a religion into politics, and "I refuse it."

The Paris mosque issued a statement saying it opposed the Lyon call.

"Mobilize, yes, but not in the name of Islam," he said. "In the name of justice, the economy, housing projects, misery, unemployment. But not in the name of Islam."

However, other Paris imams have pressed for Muslims to vote, including Mohamed Saleh Hamza who heads the northern Paris mosque where, until last fall, the faithful spilled into the street to pray because crowds had grown too big to fit inside.

For Le Pen, the street prayers were ammunition for her anti-Islam cause. Sarkozy took up the call and a giant prayer room was opened in a firehouse barracks where thousands now pray. 
At Friday's prayer service in the new space, there was no mention of the presidential election; the sermon was on the power of love.

Earlier, however, mosque leader Hamza had called for Muslims to go to the polls.

Muslims "have a tendency not to vote. Now, we're telling them that they are full citizens," Hamza said. "They're not organized yet, but that will come."

The calculations of the Mosque of Paris puts the number of Muslim voters at some 10 percent. It's a diverse population, most with family origins in former colonies in North Africa and Saharan Africa, and political opinions are not homogenous.

Experts say that Muslims in poor neighborhoods and Muslim youth tend to vote for the left.
Sarkozy has walked both sides of the line in addressing Muslims. While campaigning, he has spoken out against Muslim prayers in the street, the multiplication of halal butchers and the immigrant flux, in France seen as mainly Muslim. However, he embraced the Muslim population at the start of his term in 2007, appointing two ministers of Muslim North African origin and working for an "Islam of France."

Well before that, he was behind the creation of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, bringing France's diverse Muslim population under the same umbrella group. As interior minister, he was even once a guest speaker at the annual pow-wow of the powerful fundamentalist Union of Islamic Organizations of France, or UOIF - only to be booed for saying headscarves must be removed in identity card photos.

Sarkozy initiated last year's law banning face-covering Islamic veils and is no longer in the good graces of the UOIF. He forbade six guest speakers from abroad from attending this year's gathering on the grounds that they preach a radical brand of Islam.

UOIF leader Ahmed Jaballah called this year for Muslims to vote at the close of the gathering.
The director of the widely respected Bondy Blog, born during the 2005 riots in France's housing projects, says that many Muslims are more French than politicians think, and want respect.

"There is a part of the population that is French first of all, but not recognized as such," said Nordine Nabili. "They try to drag this population into cultural, ethnic or religious issues, but it is all about social suffering, really. There is the will of a whole generation saying, 'I am French. You need to accept me as I am.'"

For Jamel Nouri, leaving Friday prayers at the Paris mosque, "Nicolas Sarkozy fell into the trap of the National Front. He was dragged through the mud."

Sarkozy may get one reprieve, by default, the Paris mosque rector suggests.

"If Muslims were organized, it would be dangerous for Sarkozy," Boubakeur said. But "between the danger and the inconveniences, we keep quiet."

(Courtesy: Omaha.com)

Graves of Muslim soldiers desecrated in France

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

Paris: The graves of several Muslim soldiers in a cemetery in southeastern France were desecrated over the weekend, officials said Monday. The French president called the act “a slur” on the country’s history.

France has the largest Muslim population in western Europe -- estimated at more than 5 million -- and has struggled with Islamophobia.

A killing spree by a young Frenchman of Algerian origin this year, which targeted soldiers and Jewish children, has reinvigorated the debate over the integration of Muslims in French society.

That debate has played a big role in presidential elections, in which the far-right candidate drew nearly a fifth of the votes in the first round. President Nicolas Sarkozy has tacked hard to the right in the hopes of winning over those voters and, with them, Sunday’s decisive second round.

The French Muslim Council condemned the desecration of the graves and called it cowardly. Local press reported the vandalism included racist sayings scribbled on the tombstones.

Sarkozy expressed indignation at the “serious slur against our history” in a statement from his office that said the graves belonged to French soldiers.

(Courtesy: Al Arabiya News)

Qatar University students debate topical issues at Model OIC conference

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

Doha: The Model Organization of Islamic Cooperation Conference (MOICC) organized by Qatar University's College of Sharia and Islamic Studies (CSIS) and the Diplomatic Institute at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was held on April 27-28 at Doha Sheraton Hotel in the presence of HH Sheikha Hind Bint Hamad Al Thani, QU President Prof Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad, CSIS Dean Dr Aisha Al-Mannai, Diplomatic Institute Director H.E. Ambassador Hassan Al-Mohannadi, QU faculty, students and guests.

Some 500 students, 460 of whom were women, represented 28 countries throughout the Islamic world as they debated two primary issues -- food security and the environmental crisis, and political changes in the Muslim world.

The conference provided a platform for the students to debate key political issues facing countries in the Arab and Muslim world and to discuss major challenges for the wider Middle East and North African region.

Its objective was to strengthen the dialogue on Islamic unity and mutual understanding, promote the spirit of leadership, and give students the opportunity to enhance their presentation, communication and debating skills. Most importantly, the conference was aimed to widen students' knowledge of broader issues on religion, culture, and nationhood.

In her opening remarks, Dr Al-Mannai stated that the conference was being held to connect students to the recent issues that affected the Arab and Islamic countries at an economic social and political level, especially in light of the Arab Spring.

"You will gain practical and educational experience, and it will help you to better understand the recent and ongoing issues facing the Arab world", she told the students.

Ambassador Al-Mohannadi noted that the OIC had tried during the past four years to activate its role in supporting the efforts of the international society in maintaining stability in the region, and in trying to reduce the side effects of natural disasters, armed conflict and poverty.
"It is our responsibility to broaden students' awareness of such issues, especially on food security and changing politics that are particularly relevant today", he said.

Engineering student Abdulla Izzat said: "This event greatly contributed to bringing a level of maturity to the students' approach to the issues, encouraging critical thinking, and giving them practical experience in debate and exchange of opinions. It will help QU students to better interact with the society and enhance their understanding of contemporary Islamic issues. This conference also played a great role in strengthening their leadership skills and encouraging them to be effective members in Arab, Islamic and international societies."

(Courtsey: AMEinfo.com)

Historical Session on Jewish and Pakistani Cooperation Conclude in Toronto

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

On the initiative of Weekly Press Pakistan – Canada, the only reliable source of information about Israel in Urdu language, a session of group discussions between Jews and non-Arab Pakistani Muslims was held in Toronto to boost people-to-people dialogue for the sake of world peace, humanity and global harmony.

On behalf of Jewish community, David Nitkin, President of EthicScan Canada and a full-time corporate ethicist, who was also the host of the session, warmly welcomed the Muslim participants and said: "Thank you for gracing us with your presence. We earnestly hope to learn more about Islam and Pakistan and with open heart have started informal meetings with brothers and sisters in the Ajmi Muslim community in Toronto."

"...My Messiah speaks Hebrew, not Arabic because the God we both pray to is wise and great enough to speak to people and hear from us in many languages. Whether you call him Allah or I call HaShem (The Name), the Almighty we both pray to has inspired Moses, Mohammed, and other prophets we both revere," he further said.

Tariq Khan, Editor of Weekly Press Pakistan, thanked Jewish community for the hospitality and informed that Pakistani people also don't speak Arabic language and the language of Pakistan is Urdu which is considered as world's 4th largest spoken language, followed by Chinese, English and Spanish languages. "We must admit that Jews are the first ones on the planet to accept the oneness of Almighty God. Muslims recognize and accept the truth that the basics of Judaism are the same that of Islam. Muslims and Jews are cousins. There has never been any armed conflict between the two. Either it was era of Khalafat-e-Rashidiya, Ummaid Caliphate, Abbasaid Caliphate, Muslim Spain, Muslim India or Ottoman Caliphate, peace-loving and intelligent Jewish people were never considered as enemy of Muslims and were reportedly holding top-level administrative and financial positions." Editor of Weekly Press Pakistan said.
He further enlighten that a Muslim man is allowed to marry Christian and Jewish lady. Prophet Muhammad, (PBUH) had only one Non-Muslim wife, Hazrat Safiya, (RA) and she was a Jewish lady by birth.

On the issue of Jewish HOLOCAUST, Muslim participants including Muhammad Nadeem, Khaleel Siddiqui, Irshad Mahmood and Iqbal Qamar explained that Muslims were not at all a party to it. Rather Muslims of occupied France assisted Jews in getting away from the clutches of Nazis. Hitler, the cruel ruler of Nazi Germany, was common enemy of both communities as during World War II, Ajmi Muslim soldiers, majority of them belonging to today's Pakistan region, had fought along with Allied Forces against him. It is on record that the Grand Mosque of Paris served as a safe heaven for the Jews of that time. "We need to understand Jewish history. We need to understand Muslim history. We need to understand Jewish-Muslim cooperation history." The participants emphasized.

Historically, Palestine was neither a Muslim state nor any administration unit, but ancient Israel of Prophet Hazrat Israel was established according to the divine order of Allah. It was only in 1948, just after the re-birth of Israel, when the enmity with Jewish people was fueled by Communist rulers of Arab countries in the name of Arab Nationalism. Contrary to both Islamic and modern democratic values of government, the Arab rulers are kings and dictators with out having any moral and political grounds. The Jew is enemy of no body but the hypocrite dictators of Arab countries simply need an enemy to blame the result of their own wrong-doings. The Arab population is not more than 20 % of the total Muslim population across the globe and Ajmi Muslims should not become part of any kind of hate crime against Jews and Jewish State of Israel.

Israel was created with signed consent of Kings of Jordon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states but to fulfill their vested interests, the Arab rulers invaded Israel. Since God Almighty never supports unjust and hypocrite people, Arabs were defeated badly and today, when there is bloody rebellion in Arab countries by their own citizens, Israel is emerging as a great unbeatable power and the only democratic country in the region as well advancing to serve humanity. It is most unfortunate that the Arab countries, which shamelessly call the talented and educated Pakistani people as AL-MASAKEEN (The beggar people), also misled the rulers of newly-born Islamic ideological state, Pakistan. The meeting participants regretted.

Pakistan's first Foreign Minister Sir Zafrullah Khan, who did not attended the funeral of founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam intentionally delivered an opposing speech against Israel in the United Nations just to serve his own personal vested interests and to please the Arabs and thus, the ideological democratic country which has to become strategic partner of another ideological democratic country, was forced to pose herself as truly anti-Israel country which is no more acceptable by majority of Pakistani educated people. It is kindness and greatness of Israel that Pakistan is not being considered as enemy under the Israeli laws and now it is right time for Pakistan to review the Foreign Policy and recognize Israel with out further wastage of time. Israel has never done anything against the interests of Pakistan and Pakistani people.
Khaleel Siddiqui, a senior Pakistani-Canadian journalist, presented his research article on ISRAEL in which he historically proved that according to Holy Quran, the City of Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people. He believed that recognition of Israel by Pakistan and other Muslim countries will burst bubble of hatred. "Could we ever ponder as to why our prayers for the liberation of Palestine and Kashmir, are not responded despite the submission of millions of Muslims during Hajj since 1948? Allah will never help you for a Wrong Cause," he expressed.

"The frank discussions, I hope, will open a new chapter in Jewish – Muslim relations. I believe that the misunderstanding between the two communities will be ended. Real Muslim is not a Terrorist and Enemy of Jewish people. Judaism and Islam have the same source – the religion of Abraham. Our (Jews & Muslims) God is one, and we both believe in the "DAY OF JUDGEMENT". We have similar instructions regarding Alcohol, Slaughtering of animals, Matrimonial relations, and other Social activities," he concluded.

The meeting participants admitted that Christianity and Islam borrowed heavily from Judaism, but the latter does not proselytize and never went to war to convert people, but has adapted, modernized, progressed and fit into whatever culture Jews have found themselves in. Muslims can continue to learn from Jews, and vice versa, and there need be no coercion to change, only there must be acceptance that leads to peaceful co-existence.

"Thanks for Jewish friends for inviting us at their home and very special thanks to Dr. David Nitkin. It was nice meeting with you to exchange our thoughts. We are children of Adam and Eve and we are brothers. This is the key thing to meet and exchange our views keeping in mind fixing the Global World as a Global Family and we must keep moving forward," Irshad Mahmood, a Muslim participant expressed his feelings.

"I sincerely hope that this meeting will prove a milestone in establishing faithful win-win relations between our two communities. It is our desire to remove useless misunderstandings and live in peace. Pakistanis are very talented and peace-loving people having lots of God-gifted skills. They are proving their worth in each and every field on international level. Let's join hands together to serve the mankind." One of the Jewish participants commented.

Tariq Khan also briefed the audience how the Press Pakistan email discussion group on Google is playing a vital role for the promotion of media ethics in Pakistan and helping over 14,000 Pakistani journalists to connect with each other to not only share their media issues but also to find solutions. He suggested celebrating national and cultural festivals of Pakistan and Israel jointly in Toronto and publicizing to further boost the interaction.

David Nitkin, in his concluding remarks, said: "I learned a lot about Pakistani history and Ajmi Muslim practice, for which I am grateful. Over three hours, we talked about religion (Christian, Jewish, and Islam), Muslim-Jewish stereotypes born out of ignorance but not hatred, recent Pakistani history, the role of authorities in religious interpretation, redemption before God, what it means to be a good person, the brotherhood of our respective faiths, the content of the Holy Books, and many other topics. Several of my friends who couldn't attend would like another opportunity to meet. The idea of more direct people-to-people sessions in community centres and private homes without rabbis and imams is promising."

The Muslim participants expressed their deep gratitude and appreciations to the host. The session was ended with a pray that "May Allah Almighty grant Muslims, throughout the world, the wisdom to accept the reality – That is – Israel and the right of the Jewish people to live on that land peacefully which was awarded to them by Allah Ta'laa when Prophet Moses (PBUH) brought them from Egypt, a fact which the Holy Quran also certifies."

(Courtesy: Palestine News Network)

West looks to the East for growth as Islamic finance comes centre stage

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

As the Muslim population is expected to rise twice as fast as the non-Muslim population, financial products to service this market could be in line for dramatic growth

By Fiona Reddan

With Western financial markets still suffering the after-shock of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the resulting credit crunch and Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, attention is now turning to the Middle East.

While Dubai may have been caught up in the global asset bubble, the region has emerged largely unscathed from the recent crises, paving the way for dramatic growth in Islamic finance. But what is Islamic finance and what does it mean for Irish investors?

What is Islamic Finance?

In short, it involves the application of Sharia law, the moral code of the Islamic religion, to financial services.

According to Farmida Bi, partner and Islamic finance specialist with UK law firm Norton Rose, the following are the main rulings of Islamic finance:

Riba: this is the prohibition against charging interest, but also applies to usury or unjust enrichment

Gharar (uncertainty): there must be full disclosure when it comes to investments, such as certainty as to the subject matter or price of a contract

Maisir (speculation or gambling): this refers to obtaining something easily or becoming rich without hard effort

Unethical investment: under Sharia law, certain products are prohibited such as alcohol, armaments or pork, as well as activities such as gambling, entertainment and hotels.

How does this work in practice?

The principles of Sharia law are applied to financial services in varying ways. With regards to deposit accounts for example, rather than earning interest, savers share in the profits and losses made by the institution from the use of this money. From an Irish context, this “return” would be liable to DIRT, much in the same way as if it was interest.

When it comes to mortgages, as it is against Islamic law to receive or pay interest, prospective homeowners may enter into a lease agreement with their lender.

How big is it?

The UK Islamic Finance Secretariat has estimated the value of Sharia-compliant assets to be in the region of about $1.3 trillion. While this may only account for about 1 per cent of the global financial system, it is growing at a rate of about 15-20 per cent a year, up from about $150 billion in the mid 1990s.

The main centres for Islamic finance are largely concentrated in the Middle East and Gulf region, with Malaysia another hub.

Andrew Quinn, head of tax at Maples and Calder, puts this growth down to a number factors, such as “greater sophistication in the Arab world” and the opening up of countries in this region, both economically and politically, since the Arab Spring. Moreover, the Muslim population is expected to grow twice as fast as the non-Muslim population up to 2030.
But it is yet a burgeoning industry, which is largely dominated by banking. As of the end of 2010 for example, Islamic banking assets represented 83.4 per cent of overall Islamic assets, followed by Sukuk (11.3 per cent) and Islamic funds (4.6 per cent).

Why am I hearing so much about it happening in Ireland?

Despite the fact that Ireland still has a relatively small Muslim population – at about 50,000 according to the 2011 census – Ireland has nonetheless emerged as a major global centre for Islamic finance.

Earlier this year Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government was “determined to ensure that the IFSC is a centre of excellence for Islamic finance”.

About 20 per cent of all Sharia funds located outside of the Middle East are now based in Ireland, while the industry here services about €2.5 billion worth of funds. In 2010, the Government published extensive tax legislation in the Finance Act to facilitate a wide variety of Islamic finance, such as debt capital markets, securitisation and investment funds. Moreover, Ireland has double tax treaties in place with 67 countries including Turkey, Malaysia, the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait.

More recently, it has positioned itself in the debt space, with Goldman Sachs listing a $2 billion sukuk on the Irish Stock Exchange late last year. The Sharia-compliant bond acts as a trustee and seller of “murabaha” trust certificates. Murabaha is a contract whereby the seller must disclose its profit to the buyer.

But despite the hype, Islamic finance still remains a small segment of the overall international financial services market in Ireland, given that the total funds industry is worth about €2 trillion. “It’s a reasonable number but is growing,” notes Quinn.

Is Ireland facing other competition for this business?

Given the potential growth prospects for the industry, it is not surprising that other centres in Europe are also trying to cash in. Luxembourg for example, is also aiming to position itself as a centre for offshore Islamic funds and debt issuance, while Switzerland is looking to cover the private banking angle.

London is also very active in the sector. Most major UK banks now have opened “Islamic windows”, which are treated as independent departments within the banks, in order to reassure customers that they fully respect Sharia law.

Moreover, the UK is home to the first wholly Sharia-compliant retail bank in the West, the Islamic Bank of Britain.

Are any products aimed at the Irish market?

Despite the growing Muslim population in Ireland, as of yet there are no specific Sharia-compliant products available here.

According to the Irish Banking Federation (IBF), the most likely area of activity will be mortgages. However, according to a spokesman for the IBF, this is currently constrained by demand, which is subdued in line with overall mortgage market demand. Moreover, to facilitate an Islamic mortgage product, legislative change will need to happen in relation to taxation matters such as stamp duty, tax relief at source, etc.

Can I invest in Sharia products even if I'm not Muslim?

Given the all-important diversification benefits that can be had by spreading your investments, exposure to the Middle East might be a good thing for some investors. According to Quinn: “There is nothing to stop a non-Muslim investor from investing” in Sharia products and he notes that it can help an investors’ diversification.

Moreover, Sharia-compliant funds might appeal to investors with specific ethical concerns, given that they don’t invest in gambling or alcohol-related stocks, and short-selling is banned.
For Irish investors, exchange-traded fund (ETF) specialist iShares offers the MSCI Emerging Markets Islamic Index, which offers exposure to stocks from the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which comply with Sharia investment principles.

However, given that other opportunities exist to invest in the region, if you’re looking for exposure to the Middle East it might be easier to do so through a traditional investment product. For example, Rabodirect has an “Emerging Europe, Middle East and Africa” fund managed by Fidelity you could consider, while the iShares MSCI GCC Countries ex-Saudi Arabia ETF is another option.

Indeed depending on market conditions, being able to short-sell can be a better option for a fund. For example in the year to March 31st, the Dow Jones Islamic Market USA Index, which tracks Sharia-compliant stocks was up by 7.43 per cent. The SP 500 on the other hand, grew by 8.54 per cent. When looked at over a five-year period however, the Sharia index slightly out-performed the SP 500.

Could Islamic Finance be a source of new funds for Ireland?

With traditional credit lines squeezed in the West, countries in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), such as Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, offer the possibility of a new form of funding from wealthy investors in this region such as sovereign wealth funds and family offices.
As a result, European companies have increasingly started to look to this region for funding by issuing sukuk bonds that are Sharia-compliant.

In 2010, International Innovative Technologies (IIT), a maker of industrial milling machines located in the northeast of England, launched this market when it funded its expansion plans by raising $10 million through a private sukuk.

Global giant GE has also raised $500 million through a sukuk which it listed on Dubai’s Nasdaq. Indeed HSBC recently forecast that global sukuk issuance will jump by 50 per cent this year. Moreover, in a time of much volatility on the debt markets, many sovereigns have also considered this route. The UK has repeatedly considered it, although continues to rule it out on the basis that it does not offer “value for money in the current low interest rate environment.

For Ireland however, it could prove a source of much-needed funding whenever it gets back to the debt markets. Indeed two weeks ago, Tánaiste Eamonn Gilmore told the International Fiscal Association conference in Dublin that the Government was “open to considering such an option in the future”.

(Courtesy: Irish Times)

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