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Scotland: Muslim vote could swing referendum

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 04 November 2013 | Posted in

By Yvonne Ridley

The Yes campaign may be gaining in momentum but its success or failure could be determined by an unlikely group of Scots – those coming from the Muslim community.

They represent less than 2 per cent of the Scottish population but in a battle that has divided public opinion some are beginning to wonder if Muslims could swing the balance of power. Campaigners on both sides are slogging it out for every single vote and the final battleground could be fought in those households belonging to Scotland’s most recent arrivals.

That Muslims in Scotland could produce a Bannockburn-style victory for the Yes campaign has not been lost on the SNP. They might represent only 1.4 per cent of the population in Scotland but in a country which could be split down the middle come next year, Muslims could tip the vote in favour of independence.

Census figures released at the end of September show that in the last decade the number of Muslims in Scotland has nearly doubled, from 40,000 to 77,000. More confident than their English counterparts, it seems integration – while preserving religious identity – has been much easier than elsewhere in the UK. This was supported in 2010 by a poll, for the British Council Scotland, which found six out of ten Scots believed Muslims were integrated into everyday Scottish life.

The survey, carried out by Ipsos Mori, also revealed that 46 per cent of those questioned thought that Muslims living in Scotland were loyal to the country. Will that loyalty prove stronger than loyalty to the Union? A leading question indeed and one that, for the time being, remains unanswered.

Rowena Arshad, director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland, said at the time: “The finding that 65 per cent of survey respondents have some degree of favourability towards Muslims is, to some extent, reassuring, regarding the future of Scottish community relations.

“Scotland is a small country but, as the research shows, there is potential that it is not a country of small minds.”

The concept of independence is nothing new for the older generations in the Muslim community and their influence could also sway the younger ones, especially those drawn from Pakistan and Indian communities, which emerged as sovereign nations following the end of the British Raj rule in 1947.

The Bangladeshi communities had to wait until 1971 before enjoying the same status, so could this now be seen as an opportunity to strike back at Empire after generations of their ancestors were forced to endure British colonnialism?

One of the leading lights of the Yes campaign, and someone who is a highly regarded source of pride for most Muslims in Scotland, is Humza Yousaf, who has served the SNP as a member of the Scottish Parliament since 2011. The following year he was appointed Minister of External Affairs and International Development.

While Scottish politics does not get as bogged down with the cult of celebrity as in Westminster, Yousaf, the son of immigrants who arrived in Britain in the 1960s, is considered to be a rising star.

He says: “The prime motivation to vote Yes in the referendum will be the same for Muslims as it is for every other community in Scotland. It’s about what is best for our families, for jobs, the cost of living and communities. These motivations and values are shared across communities.

“Independence is about enabling us to belong to a country with the power, resources and ambition to build an inclusive society, nurture world-class public services, tax fairly and be a good global citizen.

“A lot of people in Scotland’s Muslim community were inspired, as I was, by the words of the late and great Bashir Ahmed, who said it doesn’t matter where you come from but where we are going to go together as a nation that matters.”

If Humza Yousaf is right, the spirit of Braveheart is alive among Scotland’s Muslims. But while a tartan-clad Mel Gibson portraying Robert the Bruce’s doomed brother-in-arms William Wallace may have rallied millions of cinemagoers’ sentiment against Westminster rule, it will take more than the rousing words of a script writer to impress the wily Scots – including those from the Muslim community.

[British journalist Yvonne Ridley is the assistant secretary general of the International Muslim Women’s Union. She moved to Scotland two years ago.]

(Courtesy: The Scotsman)

Why Muslims should love secularism

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

Though secularism is widely misunderstood as anti-religious and iconoclastic, all it means is the neutrality of the state on religious affairs

By Hussein Ibish

Muslims should love secularism. But very few of them do, largely because they misunderstand what it stands for and would mean for them.

Secularism as an English term – in contrast to the French concept of laïcité – simply means the neutrality of the state on matters of faith. This bears almost no resemblance to the way in which most Arabs understand the term, whether translated as ‘almaniyya, ilmanniyya, or even dunyawiyya.

Secularism has become strongly associated in the Arab and broader Muslim worlds with atheism, iconoclasm, and anti-religious attitudes and policies. And in the process, one of the most important pillars of building tolerant, inclusive, and genuinely free Muslim-majority societies has been grotesquely misrepresented and stigmatized.

The first of these experiences was the overtly anti-religious attitude of the government of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which was presented as "modernization" and "secularism."

The second is the objectionable and noxious French concept of laïcité, which also tends to be more anti-religious than neutral. This association has been particularly exacerbated by "secular" laïcité laws in France and elsewhere that oppressively prevent Muslim women from covering their hair in public spaces such as schools.

The third, and perhaps most damning of all, has been the misappropriation, abuse, and discrediting of "secularism" by regimes that placed Arab nationalism at the center of their authoritarian ideology. Socialist, communist, and fascist Arab regimes oppressed, abused, and waged wars against their own peoples and each other in the name of, among other things, "secularism."

None of them were properly secular, of course, but they certainly were anti-Islamist. And that has set up the present-day dichotomy in contemporary Arab politics in which not only Islamists, but also many ordinary Muslims, instinctively mistrust secular politics.

The Syrian dictatorship is a perfect case in point. In the name of "secularism," among other things, it is waging a brutal war of repression. But for various reasons, high among them Western and Arab government negligence, the opposition has become increasingly Islamist. The consequence has been increasing numbers of religious minorities, particularly Christians, reluctantly siding with the dictatorship, while growing numbers of Sunni Muslims are siding with various Islamist groups. Faux-secularism and Islamism mutually provoke and promote sectarianism.

What devout Muslims need to understand is that real secularism alone offers them something most of them seem to badly want: freedom. If there really is no compulsion in religion, only a secular society can provide that. Only in a secular system can Muslims be free to practice Islam exactly as they see fit. Any "Islamic" polity will of necessity be imposing a particular version or interpretation of Islam, which is an extremely heterodox set of traditions.

The claim that secularism is really just Christianity in disguise is manifestly false. The language is European, inherited from the Enlightenment. But both Western chauvinists and anti-Western demagogues badly misread the fact that although the specific language of modern human rights and freedoms is, for historical reasons, currently packaged in Western terms, this hardly means that they lack non-Western cognates, origins, or bases.

Since at least the 10th century, most Muslim societies have distinguished between political and religious authority, and it's absurd to claim that religious freedom originates only or even mainly as a concept from the Protestant Reformation. There are deep roots in both traditional and modern interpretations of Islam that lend themselves to political secularism.

The Islamist project of trying to obliterate traditional heterogeneity within Islam and establish religiously-oriented states is misguided and totally inappropriate. In many Muslim-majority states, there remains a vast range of diversity of doctrine and practice that must be accommodated for even the Muslims to be free in religion. This is to say nothing of Christians, Jews, atheists, agnostics, and others who also have a right to freedom of both religion and conscience.

What would be the spiritual virtue of religious dogma that is imposed by the state? It would produce, at best, a false religiosity in many, practice without belief, and mere pretense. Religious leaders generally don't care what people really believe (because they can never really know that) and instead concentrate on what people can and cannot do. But when such authority is asserted by the state, it demeans and abuses the very concept of faith by mandating the pretense of belief by force of law.

Secularism offers Muslims religious freedom, religious authenticity, and religious meaning. Imposing or privileging religion through state power invalidates all three. Muslims must recognize secularism as the only real path to religious freedom, rather than confusing it with an attack against religion.

Some Muslims can claim to have come by their suspicions about secularism honestly, through a series of unfortunate historical contingencies. But that doesn't change the fact that, for all their fears, they should not only want, but in reality need, genuinely secular societies.

"Muslims must recognize secularism as the only real path to religious freedom, rather than confusing it with an attack against religion."

(Courtesy: Now)

RBI supports Islamic banking

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By Cithara Paul
New Delhi: In its attempt to woo minority votes ahead of the 2014 General Elections, the Congress-led UPA is making every effort to introduce Islamic Banking in India.

The idea was first mooted by Raghuram Rajan in 2008 when he was Chief Economic Advisor to the Ministry of Finance. But the Rajan report did not get the stamp of approval from the RBI Governor of the time, D Subbarao. Rejecting the recommendations, Subbarao conveyed to the government that Islamic Banking was not legally feasible in the current statutory and regulatory framework. He had also made his stand public.

With the RBI governor taking a strong public position, the government too was forced to take a similar stand. With Rajan running the RBI, Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan is now on overdrive to make Islamic Banking a reality. The minister told The Sunday Standard that it would not take much time before Islamic Banking becomes legal.

But the RBI did not confirm the ministry’s optimism. “There are no applications for any approvals lying with us for Islamic banking. Besides, it will take an amendment of the Regulations Act and the RBI Act to introduce Islamic Banking,” a RBI spokesperson told this paper. She said an approval given by RBI to a Kerala-based non-banking finance company that follows Islamic principles was not a blanket permission.

But the UPA is likely to go for it. “No political party, except BJP, will oppose such an amendment in this election year,” said a source in Khan’s office. He said there is a strong demand to introduce Islamic Banking in the country from various quarters. Muslim political parties, including IUML, had submitted a memorandum to the Planning Commission urging it to promote interest-free banking in the country, he said.

In case the government fails to bring in amendments, its next option is to allow more non-banking finance companies that adhere to Sharia principles. “The government shall take measures to permit delivery of interest-free finance on a larger scale, including through the banking system, which is in consonance with the objectives of inclusion and growth through innovation as recommended by Rajan,” said H Abdur Raqeeb, an Islamic Banking expert.

(Courtesy: The New Indian Express)

Lessons from Indonesia’s Hindu legacy

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

The country’s official recognition and generally peaceful acceptance of Hinduism contrasts with India’s own problematic record of religious tolerance

By Pallavi Aiyar

Indians tend to see themselves as unique, in terms of both the achievements, and dilemmas, related to their bewildering social and cultural diversity. Partly this is because the Indian mental map of the world has tended to focus on the countries of the West, with the addition of our relatively homogenous neighbour, China, in its updated version.

But, if we “Look East,” as our foreign policy mandarins are supposed to be, this exceptionalism is diluted, particularly in the case of a country like Indonesia. India and Indonesia share more than a similarity of names. Both are colourful tapestries of multiple languages, geographies and religions welded together by the imagining of a state where unity coexists with diversity.

India’s diversity is commonly linked to the “unique” characteristics of Hinduism: its ability to accommodate, reinterpret and absorb the other. But Muslim-majority Indonesia has similar claims to openness. In fact, for all of “Hinduism’s” vaunted tolerance, it is arguably better to be Hindu in Indonesia, than Muslim in India.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country and its third largest democracy. Spread over 17,000 islands, if superimposed end-to-end on the map of Europe, the country would span the distance from Ireland to the Caspian Sea. The archipelago is home to some 700 languages, and features fauna from both sides of Wallace’s line. And although around 210 of its 242 million citizens, are classified as Muslims, Indonesia also accounts for substantial numbers of other religions.

Demographics

Hindus comprise two per cent of Indonesia’s population and form close to a 90 per cent majority on the island of Bali. The Hindu faith is however, far from limited to Bali. The 1960s and 1970s saw substantial conversions to Hinduism on the island of Java, by groups of people inspired by the imagined glories of the region’s past, which was dominated by Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms until the 16th century.

Meanwhile, many adherents of indigenous animist and tribal religions among the Dayak tribes in Borneo, the Toraja in southern Sulawesi, and the Karo in North Sumatra, also converted to Hinduism.

A final component of the country’s Hindu demographic is the 100,000-plus strong Indian diaspora, largely comprising Tamils and Sindhis, the majority of whom live in the capital, Jakarta, and the city of Medan in Sumatra.

Since the country’s independence in 1945, Indonesia’s Hindus have not been the targets of riots or pogroms. They are not disproportionately backward in terms of education, income or employment. Bali, home to some 3.4 million Hindus, is in fact one of the most economically developed parts of the country, with less than five per cent of the population below the poverty line (compared to a national average of 12 per cent).

Coexistence and intolerance

There are no visible restrictions on the practice of Hinduism, and Bali teems with temples devoted to various Hindu gods. Even in other parts of the country, for instance, the Muslim-majority neighbouring island of Lombok, Hinduism exists in a syncretic embrace with Islam. Lombok is home to the Pura Lingsar temple complex, where both Hindus, and those Muslims who adhere to the island’s unique “waktu telu” tradition of Islam, worship.

It is important to note that some of the effervescence demonstrated by Hinduism, notably the conversions from tribal religions, has been due to the intolerance of the Indonesian state which only recognises six religions: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism and Confucianism. For adherents of religions not on this official list, discrimination by the state is rife, making it difficult to register children for school, obtain wedding certificates and secure employment. Asking to be redesignated as a Hindu is therefore often driven by the harassment faced by believers of indigenous religions, rather than their genuine embrace of Hindu tenets.

In fact, human rights activists claim that religious intolerance, as a whole, is on the rise in Indonesia. The brunt of this trend has been born by so-called apostates like Shia and Ahmaddiya Muslims who have found their places of worship summarily closed down, and in some cases been violently evicted from their homes. Christian groups have also complained of increased harassment.

Hindus have by and large had an easier time, but, Dr. Made Sadguna, a member of the Governing Council of the Bali-based World Hindu Parishad says that devotees sometimes face obstacles in gaining approval from local authorities to construct temples. And despite constitutional equality with Muslims, he adds, “it is widely understood that it would be impossible for a Hindu to become President of Indonesia.”

Reformulation

While not subject to violence, Hindus in Indonesia have had to modify the presentation of their faith in order to comply with the Indonesian Ministry of Religion’s definition of religion as a monotheistic creed, based on a holy book. Hinduism, with its polytheistic character, was rejected at first when it applied for official recognition in 1950. It was subsequently recognised in 1959, after Balinese intellectuals reformulated their faith by presenting “Sangh Yang Widhi Wasa” or the “cosmic law” as the equivalent of “God,” and texts like the Bhagavad Gita as divine revelations conceived by holy seers, similar to the Koran. Hinduism’s myriad gods were explained as corresponding to the angels in Islam.

Country comparison

Comparative analysis is always fraught with the danger that one might be likening apples to oranges. And it is therefore important to acknowledge the differential historical backgrounds of India and Indonesia. Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms ruled much of the territory encompassed by modern-day Indonesia, between the seventh and 16th centuries. Islam spread across the region, largely peacefully, under the influence of Muslim traders and clerics from India and China, as well as the Arab states. More syncretic strains of Islam, including sufi traditions, have historically had a strong foothold here.

By contrast, the advent of Islam into India was a bloodier affair. India moreover, did not convert whole scale to Islam and its population remained Hindu-majority, despite being ruled for centuries by Islamic emperors. Most significantly, Indonesia does not bear the scars of a cataclysmic religion-based trauma like the partition of India in 1947. There is therefore no historical memory of large-scale violence between religious communities.

There are some, including stalwarts of India’s Hindu right, who claim Indonesia’s broadly tolerant mindset to be the result of its Hindu past which makes Indonesian Muslims, coconut-like creatures, with a Muslim outer shell, but with a beating Hindu heart. This is an idea that would gravely offend most Indonesians for whom a moderate, and sometimes syncretic, approach to faith, does not in any way detract from a strong Islamic belief. The idea that to be a “real” Muslim one must subscribe to a wahabist interpretation of what it means to be a Muslim, or else be described as a closet Hindu, is itself a fundamentalist one.

And so the fact remains that on most objective criteria, a Hindu in Indonesia is better off than a Muslim in India. And while this should not let Indonesia off the hook on its record of religious tolerance, it does highlight India’s enormous problems with its own record.

(Courtesy: The Hindu)

Sri Lanka besieged by religious conflict

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

Buoyed by the government’s indifference or perhaps encouragement of violent crimes against the Tamil minority, a militant offshoot of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority is increasing targeting all minorities

By Tariq A. Al Maeena

Notwithstanding all the glib assurances by Sri Lankan politicians, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on the cohesiveness of its people in this island nation, ground realities tell another story.

The Tamil nation, whose struggle for a separate homeland began in 1983, were long targeted by government forces until the massive military manoeuvres by the Sri Lankan armed forces came to a head and defeated their representative military unit, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in 2009.

An estimated 100,000 civilians were killed in the 26-year struggle, and there have been charges of war crimes against the Sri Lankan government during the final phase of the battle where an estimated 40,000 civilians were indiscriminately killed.

In 2011, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released findings based on a study by experts of the 2009 events on the island. It indicated that along with the LTTE, government forces “conducted military operations with flagrant disregard for the protection, rights, welfare and lives of civilians and failed to respect the norms of international law”.

There was also a recommendation that an international investigative body be established to bring the war criminals to justice. The Sri Lankan government quickly dismissed the findings of the experts and scoffed at their recommendations.

A US report in 2013 said that the Sri Lankan government’s human rights record was rampant with “major human rights problems”, which included involuntary disappearances and unlawful killings by government security forces and pro-government militia groups.

The US State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 stated that “the major human rights problems were attacks on and harassment of civil society activists, persons viewed as LTTE sympathisers, and journalists by persons allegedly tied to the government, creating an environment of fear and self-censorship, involuntary disappearances as well as lack of accountability”.

The government prosecuted a very small number of officials implicated in human rights abuses, but is yet to hold anyone accountable.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2013 identified “Sri Lanka as a country of concern with regard to human rights violation”, and guilty of increasing violent “campaigns against religious minorities”.

Both the US and the UK charged the Sri Lankan government with failing to conduct impartial investigations into the alleged war crimes committed by government forces against Tamil civilians, and that the government’s reconciliation committee was “deeply flawed, and did not meet international standards for such commissions, and has failed to systematically inquire into alleged abuses”. Tamils today are still waiting for justice.

Buoyed by the government’s indifference or perhaps encouragement of the violent crimes against the Tamil minority, a militant offshoot of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority has in recent times set its sights on the other minorities — the Muslims and Christians of the island — who unlike the Tamils have not been involved in any struggle for a separate homeland and have lived peacefully along with all other groups.

These militant Buddhists, operating under the banner Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and headquartered in the capital city of Colombo, have organised many campaigns and acts of violence against the island’s Muslim and Christian minority groups.

In February this year, the BBS general-secretary Galagoda Gnanasara warned that “this is a government created by Sinhala Buddhists and it must remain Sinhala Buddhist. This is a Sinhala country and Sinhala government. Democratic and pluralistic values are killing the Sinhala race”.

Through campaigns of terror, the BBS and their militant followers have looted, burned and defiled religious citadels of both minorities. Their aim is simple. They want to rid the island of anything or anyone that is not Sinhalese Buddhist, and protect the island’s Sinhalese-Buddhist character.

In a sharp departure from the normally peaceful teachings of Buddha, these religious terrorist Buddhists are not averse to violence against individuals of other faiths and exhort their followers to do the same.

Writer Don Manu warns: “From the first virulent flow of vituperative slime that cascaded from the steps of the BMICH — where they [BBS] held their first convention last year in July — to seep into the nation’s collective thought stream, their venomous flood has continued unabated and, though it irrigates hotbeds of faith’s animalistic fervour sprouting violent passions and threatens to rip the fragile fabric of religious harmony, no serious effort has been taken by the government to dam its ebullient tide.
“For a nation still convalescing from the horrors of a 30-year war provoked by racial discrimination to complacently accept in its stride the potential birth of another war, this time based on religious acrimony, borders on criminal negligence. To acquiesce and watch it grow unchecked, to look askance while its parasitic tendrils that have lost its taproot spread around to ultimately throttle the body politic is to invite disaster on an unimaginable scale.”

At present, all the positive vibes coming from Rajapaksa’s government on his stern actions against the Buddhist militants lack credibility as actions against minorities indicate otherwise. The BBS are the new Buddhist terror group and their actions will undoubtedly give rise to the normally placid Muslim and Christian and force them into acts of defiance, with no other means of survival.

The policies of the present government prefer to sweep the antics of the BBS under the carpet at the expense of the abuse suffered by its minorities. It is the president and his cohorts who should be brought to book, or else the island will soon sink into another sectarian conflict that could well last for decades.

[Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena]

(Courtesy: Gulf News)

A Proven Solution to the Syrian Crisis

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By Teresa Studzinski and Dr. David Leffler

President Obama said, "...my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warning, and negotiations - but chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime." Even if Assad gives up his chemical weapons and joins the Chemical Weapons Convention, prohibiting their use, the Syrian crisis will still not be solved. Also, regarding any future military action, Obama has said "…we cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Obama's previous actions and any future military actions are based largely on conjecture, and such is their outcome. It is particularly dangerous to base actions on guesswork, especially in the Middle East. A massive regional firestorm could erupt.

There is a scientifically-validated approach to effectively, efficiently, and quickly end turmoil. If President Obama has the political will to order his military to deploy an unusual but effective approach, he no longer needs to base actions on guesses.

This means of violence removal is based on peer-reviewed research. The approach has been field-tested by non-US militaries and validated by 23 studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Based on 25 years of research, it has been endorsed by independent scientists and scholars.

Where deployed by foreign military circles, it is known as Invincible Defense Technology (IDT). This preventive defense system is thought to work on the level of the unified field, where all the forces of nature are united. This defense technology supersedes all others based on weaker electronic, chemical, and nuclear forces.

For political reasons, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has ignored this unified field-based approach. Despite the success of IDT deployment by Latin American militaries, the DoD continues to rely almost solely on its non-unified field-based weaponry, rather than on the IDT prevention-based approach.

IDT involves creating Preventive Wings of the Military. Their warrior's daily routine includes two hours twice a day practice of a human resource-based technology, also known and researched as the Transcendental Meditation and its advanced TM-Sidhi program. As a military societal coherence-creating unit, they quietly practice these programs for about two hours, twice a day, seven days a week, preferably in a secure location near the targeted population. Their presence and operation does not need to be disclosed to achieve the effect of violence removal and conflict resolution.

The 23 studies carried out in developed and developing nations in all continents, including the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, constitute the largest and the most successful experiment in social sciences of the 20th century.

Such coherence-creating groups have achieved positive benefits to society, shown statistically, in even just 48 hours. Modern statistical methods used in this research preclude chance or coincidence.

The IDT approach was used during wartime (drop in fighting and in number of deaths and casualties, progress toward resolving the conflict), and in peace (drop in crime rate, drop in violent death index, decrease of misery index, drop in unemployment, rise in a quality of life index). Societies using it perform extremely well in a very short time. This is what decreased the intensity of war in Lebanon in 1984 in a dramatic way in 48 hours, to name only one of the successful experiments.

In 1992, President Joaquim Chissano, Lt. Gen. Tobias Dai, and the Chiefs of Staff of the Mozambique military carefully analyzed the IDT research. They made a unanimous decision to adopt it for their country by training about 3,000 soldiers and 16,000 police.

As predicted, violence disappeared by 1993. Societies using these groups also become more self-sufficient. For instance, in Mozambique the economic growth reached 19%. Once the poorest world country in 1992, by 2000 it had moved up to be the world's fastest-growing economy.

History has been shaped by technological innovation that was radical at the time. The Roman Empire developed a revolutionary sword. British soldiers used their new menacing muskets. The German war machine required fast engines burning fossil fuels to launch their Blitzkrieg. Powerful atomic weapons as well as the flying devices that carry them have greatly influenced political decisions since World War II.

Such technological innovation is taking place now. At least one Latin American country is training 11,000 military IDT experts. The historical ramifications of this are profound. According to previous research, this number will create a global effect of coherence. By accessing the Unified Field of all the Laws of Nature, this military IDT group will harness the most powerful force in the universe, and hence become the most powerful military in the world - simply by creating a peaceful influence.

If Commander-In-Chief President Obama really has "...a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions," he should have the courage to order the US military to use IDT. If he quickly acts, the US could once again make history by catching up just like it did with the Russians in the race for outer space. It could gain international prestige by winning both the race to conquer the ultimate "inner space" - the unified field and create lasting world peace.

[Teresa Studzinski, is the President of The Global Alliance for Preventive Wings in the Military, USA. Dr. David Leffler is Executive Director, Center for Advanced Military Science, Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy, USA. He is the author of "A New Role for the Military: Preventing Enemies from Arising -- Reviving an Ancient Approach to Peace." He is on Twitter. Dr. David Leffler can be reached at drleffler@hotmail.com]

UK PM unveils plans for Islamic Market Index

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Cassandra Vinograd

London: Prime Minister David Cameron is taking strides to tap the burgeoning interest in Islamic finance, announcing the launch of a new Islamic Market Index in London and plans for Britain to be the first non-Muslim country to issue an Islamic bond.

Describing London as "already the biggest center for Islamic finance outside the Islamic world," Cameron said Tuesday that the U.K.'s ambition is to go further.

"I don't just want London to be a great capital of Islamic finance in the Western world," he told an audience of international political and business leaders in London. "I want London to stand alongside Dubai as one of the great capitals of Islamic finance anywhere in the World."

Islamic finance conforms to Islamic law, or Shariah, which forbids charging interest and requires deals to be based on tangible assets. Speculation is banned, as is dealing in futures. Although still small compared with the world of mainstream finance, Islamic finance is expected to hold growing appeal for Gulf investors seeking to invest oil revenue or pious Muslims who want retail Islamic banking services.

The market in Islamic investments has grown quickly since 2006, and its value is expected to hit 1.3 trillion pounds ($2 trillion) next year. Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, is regarded as its hub, but London has been courting the industry aggressively.
Cameron made a case for mutual benefits in his address Tuesday at the World Islamic Economic Forum, which for the first time is being held in a non-Muslim country.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were among the nearly 1,800 political and business leaders attending the meeting. King Abdullah II of Jordan told delegates that Muslims worldwide needed to join economic blocs, follow open market trends and engage their country's youth. Frustrated unemployed youth were a major driver of the revolutions that rocked the Arab world in 2011 and beyond.

"The business world must make it a priority to answer the needs of young people everywhere, for jobs, good jobs, secure futures and the opportunity to excel," he said.

The London index — which would track the ups-and-downs of Shariah-compliant investments — is being launched on the London Stock Exchange. Cameron also said plans are underway to make Britain the first country outside of the Muslim world to issue an Islamic bond. It is expected to be worth around 200 million pounds and issued next year.

"For years people have been talking about creating an Islamic bond — or sukuk — outside the Islamic world. But it's never quite happened," Cameron said. "Changing that is a question of pragmatism and political will. And here in Britain we've got both."

Alex Conroy, a trader at Spreadex, said that the U.K.'s effort to diversify business could be seen as a way to stay competitive in the finance world as Britain faces the prospect of caps on bankers' bonuses.

"By welcoming all foreign investment this should ensure London remains a leader in global finance," he said in a note.

(Courtesy: ABC News)

Breaking news: Muslim women like sex too. Who'd have thought it?!

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

After the launch of a Halal sex shop, one which is proving popular with women, Shelina Janmohamed implores society to stop just seeing female Muslims through the prism of a veil.

By Shelina Janmohamed

An online Halal sex shop has just opened its digital doors out of Turkey. Over its first weekend it received more than 30,000 visitors.

Wait, what? A sex shop for Muslims? And one that is popular with Muslim women?

As a society, our discussions about Muslim women only go as far as whether they should wear hijabs, niqabs and burqas. Sometimes we think veiling is oppressive. Bizarrely, sometimes it’s seen as a bit saucy. But mostly we are just not sure if Muslim women should be allowed to decide for themselves.

And then along comes a story of aphrodisiacs, orgasm creams and Halal lubes that Muslim women (perhaps literally) are sucking up. Whilst this is exciting news for Turkey (will there be a baby boom in July 2014?), it’s not a world first. We’ve already seen plenty of coverage in the Netherlands, Bahrain and even Atlanta, USA. So why is a Muslim sex shop that women love, such big news?

Let’s pan out, and take a look at the landscape of ideas and news coverage when it comes to Muslim women. This week alone, Channel 4 news is running a series on “Britain’s niqab”. Barely weeks ago, Britain had its burqas in a twist at the thought of meeting a doctor who covers her face. (helpful tip: there aren’t any in the UK.) And it’s not just the UK that’s in a tizzy. Belgium passed a law banning the face veil, despite there being only thirty women who the country who wear it. Couldn’t the PM just call them round for a cup of tea and a chat instead to discuss their niqabs?

It’s a bit, erm, kinky, that what captures our imagination about Muslim women is either veiling or sex. Are Muslim women exotic and oriental, an ongoing titillation and sexual fetish for our consumption?

I think the answer is much simpler: Muslim women are depicted simply as bodies, covered or uncovered. Any deviation from this script is heavily policed. Ask Google images about Muslim women and you’ll get pages of black cloaks, with the odd nude women wearing nothing but a face veil. You’ll also find Lady Gaga in a gauzy neon pink burqa, Madonna with a bizarre niqab made of chain mail, and a Diesel Ad of a naked tattooed woman and denim burqa. No, I’m not making this up.

Women as a general rule face the challenge of being seen as nothing but bodies, but the problem is heightened for Muslim women where the entire debate focuses on what we do or don’t wear and whether we are brainwashed into our choices. Surprisingly even self-identified feminists will reduce Muslim women to what they wear, rather than hearing what Muslim women have to say.

Yet the female Muslim experience – including in Halal sex shops – has something experimental to offer women in general. There are women-only spaces created by Muslim women where a celebration of womanhood takes place outside the male gaze.

When so much of the feminist debate is dedicated to understanding what beauty, body and femininity mean when freed from the male gaze, these spaces already exist. These are finally places where ubiquitous sexualisation of the female form is banished. Weddings and parties are the most popular where Muslim women can explore what it means to be beautiful and sexy for themselves, and even do so across generations, without worrying about men.

Online Halal sex shops like this latest one in Turkey extend that courtesy to their customers, taking away the almost pornographic images. The owner of El Asira in the Netherlands, says that many of his customers are women who are not Muslim, because they find the imagery and tone less off-putting than traditional blue imagery. Halal sex shops give the chance to women to explore their sexuality without imposing pornographic norms.

Talking openly about sex and pleasure has only recently lost its taboo status in the West. It’s true that its public discussion in Muslim cultures is still difficult. However, in private among Muslim women, it’s as of much interest as anywhere in the world.

Muslims have form on the subject too, with love, sex and erotic manuals dating as far back to the eighth and ninth century Abbasid Muslim period. Rumi is perhaps the most famous of Muslim poets globally, he wasn’t shy about sexual references. And even the Prophet Muhammad pronounced that to deny women foreplay was a form of oppression.

A popular American Muslim scholar even has this to say: “There is certainly a case for producing an advanced manual in English drawing on Islam’s rich legacy in this field.”

So a sex shop that appeals to Muslim women is fun, important, and just as natural as everyone else’s lust. Stop the presses! Muslim women like sex too. Who’d have thought it?

[Shelina Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf - Muslim Woman Seeks the One. She can be found tweeting here. She is the Vice President of Ogilvy Noor, the world's first branding agency for Muslim consumers.]

(Courtesy: The Telegraph)

Indonesian designers defy stereotypes of Muslim fashion

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

By Andjarsari Paramaditha

Jakarta: As the world's most populous Muslim country, Indonesia has high demand for clothing that adheres to religious rules emphasising modesty for women.

But as the stylish, colourful and cool outfits at Jakarta Fashion Week showed, the Southeast Asian nation also aims to be the global leader in the Muslim fashion industry that is worth nearly $100 billion by some estimates.

Indonesia's government is championing young designers and the garment trade, which employs more than 3 million people and contributes about $15 billion to the economy.

"We can be the trend-setter," said Mari Pangestu, the tourism and creative economy minister. "We have the vision and mission that Indonesia can be the capital of Muslim fashion."

Often perceived as conservative and requiring women to be covered from head to toe, the rules range from strict interpretations of modesty in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan to more moderate versions in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Headdresses are compulsory in any case and outfits should not be tight or see-through, but the three young Indonesians who kicked off Jakarta Fashion Week were clearly challenging stereotypes with their ready-to-wear collections.

Nur Zahra showed folk designs in organic materials with natural colours, mainly indigo and khaki.


Jenahara Nasution's Eastern Opulence line was sleekly cut with linings of flowing organdy and chiffon silk, accented with traditional Tasikmalaya embroidery from West Java.

Dian Wahyu Utami's Dian Pelangi brand delved into the 1960s with bursts of bright colours in batik prints.

Modern And Cool

The three designers - all participants in the government's Indonesia Fashion Forward programme to develop young talent for the international market - said they wanted to create clothes with broad appeal, including for women in Western countries.

"To make Muslim wear so the people look cool has always been my mission," said 27-year-old Nasution.

Her Jenahara brand is in talks with an agent from Milan to market the collection in Italy, Russia and Dubai. She said her production capacity has nearly doubled since last year.

"The agent had an initial order of 200 pieces per season," Nasution said. "But after they checked out my collection, they wanted me to sign a three-year contract."

Wahyu Utami, whose parents started the Dian Pelangi brand 22 years ago using her first name, went to her first show five years ago in Melbourne. She got a "wonderful response" and plenty of interest in her next collections, she said.

"I realised there is international potential for this Muslim fashion," she said.

Dian Pelangi now has a branch in Malaysia and is expanding into Singapore and Brunei. It has buyers in Australia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Kuwait. The collections were also sold at shows in France, Germany, Hungary and other European countries.

"We haven't reached the United States yet, so that is our next target. I also want to open my own stores in the Middle East, not just sell our collection in department stores," Wahyu Utami said.

"Korea is famous for its K-Pop culture and Indonesia is famous for its Muslim wear, so why don't we focus on that?"

(Courtesy: Reuters)

Allah's Universe produces Life Everywhere

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

During Medieval times Christian theologians accepted the Ptolemaic earth centered Greek view of the universe as an absolute universal truth. Some Christians still think that humans must be at the literal center of God's creation.

Thus they believe that the rarity of life in our universe proves that God must have created life only on this planet.

They also believe that if intelligent life were found to exist on other planets; it would diminish the miracle of God's creation of Human Beings.

The Qur'an and the Hebrew Bible however teach that the Living God created the whole universe to be conducive to the universal evolution of life. The Qur'an says, “We have not sent you but as a blessing for all the worlds.” (Al-Anbiya 107) Commentators say this refers to the 18.000 worlds created by Allah. Our world is one of them. (Mir'at-e-Kainat, vol.1, p.77).

The Hebrew Bible says in the Zabur of Prophet David, King of Israel; “ Your kingdom is a kingdom of all the worlds; and Your dominion is for all generations.” (Psalms 145:13)

I am a Reform Rabbi who first became interested in Islam 55 years ago, when I studied it at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I have continued my study of Islam off and on since that time. I now consider myself to be a Reform Rabbi and a Muslim Jew. Actually I am a Muslim Jew i.e. a faithful Jew submitting to the will of God, because I am a Reform Rabbi.

As a Rabbi I am faithful to the covenant that God made with Abraham – the first Muslim Jew, and I submit to the commandments that God made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. Thus, I see scientific things from the perspective of both the Qur'an and the Torah.

In January 2013, astronomers estimated that there could be at least 17 billion Earth-sized exoplanets in just our galaxy; the Milky Way. They also said that one in six stars could host an Earth-sized planet in a closed orbit.

Three other recent scientific studies support a Muslim and Jewish view of God as the creator and ruler of all living beings, on all the inhabitable worlds. The number of observed exoplanets -- world's circling distant stars -- has passed 1,000. Of these, 12 could be habitable - orbiting at a distance where it is neither "too hot" nor "too cold" for water to be liquid on the surface.

One study in the journal Nature reported by ScienceDaily (Oct. 26, 2011) found organic compounds of unexpected complexity exist throughout the Universe. Thus. complex organic compounds are not the sole domain of life. They can be made naturally by stars. This means that life is not a random fluke; the universe itself is formed to create life.

Organic substances commonly found throughout the Universe contain a mixture of ring-like and chain-like components. The compounds are so complex that their chemical structures resemble those of coal and petroleum. Since coal and oil are remnants of ancient life, this type of organic matter was thought to arise only from living organisms.

The team's discovery suggests that complex organic compounds can be synthesized in space even when no life forms have yet evolved on any planet. (Thank God.)

By analyzing spectra of star dust formed in exploding stars, the astrophysicists showed that stars are in fact, making complex organic compounds, and doing so in extremely short time scales of weeks.

Not only are stars producing complex organic matter, they are also ejecting it into interstellar space, the region between stars. Thus, exploding old stars are molecular factories capable of manufacturing organic compounds. "Our work has shown that stars have no problem making complex organic compounds under near-vacuum conditions," said researcher Kwok. "Theoretically, this is impossible, but observationally we can see it happening." (Thank God)

Most interestingly, this organic star dust is similar in structure to complex organic compounds found in meteorites. Since meteorites are remnants of our early Solar System, the findings raise the possibility that stars enriched our early Solar System with organic compounds. The early Earth was subjected to severe bombardments by comets and asteroids, which would have carried organic star dust to planet earth; that then helped create life on earth: (Thank God.)

Another study published in the Nov. 20, 2011 edition of Astrophysical Journal found that methanol formation is the major chemical pathway to complex organic molecules in interstellar space and much more complex organic molecules are required to create life.

Scientists discovered that methanol is most abundant around a very small number of newly formed stars. Not all young stars reach such potential for organic chemistry.

In fact, the range in methanol concentration varies from negligible amounts in some regions of interstellar space to approximately 30% of the ices around a handful of newly formed stars. They also discovered methanol for the first time in low concentrations (1 to 2 percent) in the cold clouds that will eventually give birth to new stars.

If life only forms on planets with stars that have high concentrations of methanol, life would be very rare in our universe. But when scientists compared their results with methanol concentrations in comets in our own solar system they found that methanol concentrations at the birth of our solar system were actually closer to the average of what they saw elsewhere in interstellar space. Yet earth has had life for over three bilion years.

"This means that our solar system wasn't particularly lucky, and didn't have the large amounts of methanol that we see around some other stars in the galaxy," one researcher said. As a Rabbi who believes in the verses of the Qur'an and the Hebrew Bible cited at the beginning of this article, I say that random luck has nothing to do with it. More and more evidence is accumulating that nature has been formed to create life: Thank God.

But planet Earth is essentially a 'dry' planet, with only 0.02% of its mass as surface water, so oceans must have came long after it had formed. Scientists think that happened when water-rich asteroids or comets in the solar system crashed into our planet. But there was no evidence to support this theory.

Now (early October 2013), scientists announced that for the first time both water and a rocky surface, two "key ingredients" for inhabitable planets, have been found together beyond our solar system. The star GD 61 is located about 150 light years away. It has a fragmented asteroid (so it can more easily be analyzed) which is composed of 26% water mass, very similar to Ceres, the largest asteroid in the main belt of our solar system. Both have a vastly higher percentage of water than planet Earth.

This new discovery shows that the same water 'delivery system' that delivered water to planet Earth, could have occurred in this distant star's solar system.

For those who believe in the One God of all the inhabitable worlds, none of these new scientific studies are shocking. For unlike the Italian inquisition’s condemnation of Galileo, no Muslim or Jewish astronomer was ever condemned by a Muslim or Jewish inquisition, because Jews and Muslims never had an institution like the inquisition.

Also, because both Muslims and Jews had many philosophers who were critics of Aristotle’s and Ptolemy’s science, most medieval Jewish and Muslim religious leaders did not feel they had to prevent new science from disagreeing with Greek science.

Thus, even as new discoveries always change the scientific understanding of God’s universe; the religious belief that the whole universe exalts God and reveals God’s glory remains the same.

As it is written in the Zabur of Prophet David, King of Israel; “The heavens declare the glory of God.

The universe proclaims God’s handiwork.” (Psalms 19:2) And as the Qur’an proclaims over and over again, “All that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth exalts Allah” (Qur’an 57:1, 61:1, and 64:1)

[Rabbi Allen S. Maller is a Reform Rabbi. His works can be seen on his website www.rabbimaller.com. He can be contacted at malleraj@aol.com]

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