Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Benazir Bhutto, Democracy and Women's Rights

I know! I know! a lot of you will not be happy that I post anything to do with Bhutto but like her or loath her she is an intellectual asset to the state of Pakistan. No one is perfect (especially our much beloved politicians in the world) and I am not going to go down the line of arguing for or against her, I'm sure you will find that in abundance in many local and national newspapers but what I do want us to appreciate is the way in which this woman thinks and expresses her views, her views seem progressive, if they materialise into action is up to you to decide.

Just two points I wish to make here, that quite possibly women (or anyone for that matter) like Bhutto are a blessing (yep blessing!) for understanding the + and - in humanity for if we were not faced with such individuals who challenge our standpoint on ethics and morality then there would surely be a void in society. In order to know something is 'wrong' we must be able to counter it with a 'right' and hence opposites are essential for a better life. Secondly, it is essential to understand that the politics and situation in Pakistan will effect the way in which British Islam develops since the majority of Muslims are of Pakistani origin and the numbers increase since a lot of the new generation of Muslims in the UK return back to their country of origin to marry. The changing political landscape of Pakistan precipitates into Britain in some way or another and so what leading politicians in South Asia say and do is something we should all be paying attention to.

Monday, 10 September 2007

al-Saadawi, Feminism and Economics

Nawal al-Saadawi is the famous feminist author from Egypt who has written numerously on issues relating to women and Islam ( In this interview she makes some interesting observations about the rise of fundmentalist Islam and its relationship with the economic situation in Muslim countries, a challenging viewpoint worth listening to.

Sex, Taboo and Saudi Woman - Zaynab Hifni

Saudi Author - Zaynab Hifni talks about her book and her views on sex and Muslim society. I found this interview very interesting and thought the interviewer made great attempts at discrediting Hifni, though she fought her corner very well. The end is left rather ubpruptly and not sure if this has been edited further in order to discredit Hifni further. All in all a good piece! :)

Diamonds, Millions and Human Worth

Amanullah De Sondy – Thought for the Day, BBC Radio Scotland,
Wednesday 11th October 2006

The Lesotho Promise, one of the world’s largest diamonds was sold for a staggering six point 7 million pounds, in the Belgian city of Antwerp two days ago. The six hundred and three carat white gem, which weighs one hundred and twenty grams, was found in Lesotho this summer.

What intrigued me was that the precious gem was modelled and showcased by Lesotho black women. All of this in the city of Antwerp where Vlaams Belang, the anti-immigration party, which also calls for the de-recognition of Islam as an official religion, has its stronghold. Despite the party’s position slipping from first to second in recent local elections, they still have a third of the city’s vote.

Sitting watching this news unravel many questions came to mind. How do we decide what is worthy and what is not? While the diamond found in Lesotho is highly valued it seems that the value of diverse people is not. Are we in a state where we have placed a greater value over our real treasures? What are our real treasures? The diamonds new owner said that the cutting and processing stage was a delicate one, which could quite easily end in disaster. In the same way I feel that if we do not appreciate and take time to unearth the priceless treasures in our own lives, and the lives of others, we might lose sight of what is of real value.

Diamonds and glamour walk hand in hand said the news reporter, so is it all about what we add to our bodies that gives us our worth? This question struck a chord in relation to the recent debate over Muslim women and the veil. Diamonds or veils - nothing can be priced higher than our human worth. In the Islamic tradition what is of importance is the way these material additions are utilised to deepen Muslim spirituality and in turn helping others release their own priceless treasures.

Ghandi, Satya Graha and a Changing World

Thought for the Day – Wednesday 3rd October 2006
BBC Radio Scotland
Amanullah De Sondy

Ghandi’s Birthday was celebrated in a settlement in Johannesburg two days ago. It was a time to reflect and ponder the way of a man whose method inspired many to realise humanity’s shared values. Ghandi’s teachings are still taught throughout the world, especially his concept of Satya Graha – passive resistance. In an interview, his great- grand daughter Kirti Menon, answered a question she is often asked. What would Ghandi do if he lived in South Africa today? He would be a sad man, she said, thinking about how to tackle things like HIV, poverty and violence.

This led me to think about how religious leaders of the past might act in our modern world? What would Muhammad say to violence being used as a path to God? What would Jesus say to the closing of doors to our neighbours, especially those from foreign lands? What would Sidhartha Gautama say to those who have no time to meditate and contemplate the finer things in life because of our hectic lifestyle? At the heart of these questions is the way in which the teachings of the religious leaders are implemented in our daily lives. What core values could we extract from their lives that are sorely needed for humanity today? Then again, the question is not just what would these religious leaders do, but what would you do for humanity? The people and places may change but the obstacles to peace have not.

One of the ways that Muslims are remembering the teachings of their prophet, Muhammad, is through fasting during Ramadhan. An exciting time when Muslims throughout the world are united in hunger to reflect on how they will strengthen their spiritual relationship with God and also how they will follow the practices of the Prophet during the other 11 months.

Not an easy task, but in the words of Ghandi himself, ‘We must be the change we wish to see.’

The Rich and The Poor

BBC Radio Scotland
Thought for the Day
Thursday 29 June 2006 Amanullah De Sondy

We all want to be rich, don’t we? Money can buy us much in the world, but it also brings its own problems. This week the billionaire investor Warren Buffett announced his decision to donate 22 billion pounds to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He said he wanted to make sure that his money got used in the right way and he had re-assessed the purpose of his wealth after the death of his wife.

After reading his story, I wondered what makes us decide where we spend our wealth?

Helping our fellow human beings is promoted in all faiths and cultures. I remember interviewing Muslim donors and recipients of the compulsory alms tax. This is the 2.5% of accumulated wealth that Muslims give to the poor. Now, I was amazed when I discovered that the poor recipients were actually giving more of their money than the rich donors.

Millionaires and billionaires worldwide make it to the front pages for their generosity but who reports on the small acts of charity that make someone’s day? In Islamic tradition a smile is an act of charity. Isn’t the concept of charity just about giving what you have?

A Christian and Muslim parable springs to mind. “O you who believe, says God. I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not offer me water, I had no clothing and you did not clothe me, I was ill and you did not care for me.’ Then the believer will say, ‘O God you give to everyone so how can I give you anything?’ And God will say, ‘This person was hungry and if you had fed him you would have found me there. That person was thirsty; if you had given him water you would have found me there. And that person was ill; if you had helped him you would have found me there”