Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Professor Abdullahi An-Na'im: On Religion, Peace, Responsibilities and Possibilities

I am greatly inspired and guided by Abduh who has been a mentor to me for a few years now. Every time I hear him speak or read his work it reinvigorates my passion for seeking change for the better. In this YouTube clip Abduh shares a platform with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and gives his opinion on what we, as individuals, need to do for change to happen.

"Here the path of the world's three great monotheistic religions meet, reminding us what they share in common," said the Pope.

Patriotic, respectful and homophobic: a portrait of British Muslims' state of mind

Giant global survey reveals the opinions that shape nation's 2.4 million-strong Islamic population

By Chris Green
Friday, 8 May 2009
The Independant Newspaper (UK)

A startlingly candid snapshot of the views and beliefs of Muslims living in Britain today has been uncovered by the first-ever study of Islamic interfaith relations across the world. The reseach, a collaboration between Gallup and the Coexist Foundation, challenges the view that the country's 2.4 million Muslims are largely intolerant of the British way of life. British Muslims were found to identify more strongly with the UK than the rest of the population, and have a much higher regard for the country's institutions.

However, the poll also found that the vast majority of Muslims have extremely conservative views on moral issues such as homosexuality and the death penalty, which differ dramatically from those held by the rest of the UK population. The wide-ranging study, entitled The Gallup Coexist Index 2009, was based on data collected through polls of residents in more than 140 countries. More than 1,500 interviews were conducted in the UK alone.

77% said they strongly identified with UK

Perhaps the survey's most surprising finding was that more than three-quarters of British Muslims (77 per cent) said they identified "very strongly" with the UK, compared to just half (50 per cent) of the general public. This contradicts the idea that Muslims are outsiders who have little in common with the UK, and is further borne out by a second statistic: 82 per cent said British Muslims were loyal to the country. Professor Ziauddin Sardar, a London-based scholar who specialises in the future of Islam, said that British Muslims with Pakistani or Middle Eastern heritage are all too aware of the troubles in their homelands and can see the UK's benefits better than those who have lived here for generations. "They look at the stability of Britain and appreciate it deeply," he said.

0% thought that homosexuality was morally acceptable

Not a single British Muslim said homosexuality was morally acceptable, compared to 58 per cent of the general public who believed it was. In other European countries with large Muslim populations such as France and Germany, the difference was far less pronounced: more than a third of French Muslims said they did not have a problem with homosexuality.

However, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, who has written a book about growing up in Britain as a Muslim woman, said the UK's apparently stark contrast did not necessarily point to a divided society. "Part of the British way is that you can have your own opinions as long as you can live harmoniously with others."

76% had confidence in the police

British Muslims were found to have faith in the police, with 76 per cent saying they trusted them compared to 67 per cent of the general public. They were also found to be more likely to have confidence in the Government, the judicial system, financial institutions and the media. "British Muslims and their parents have sometimes had personal experience of societies which are not democratic and where the rule of law is not always followed," said Professor Sardar. "They are not yet disillusioned with the systems of governance, in the way that those who have lived here for generations might be. There is still a lot of expectation."

3% felt that sex outside marriage was morally acceptable

Extra-marital sex was deemed morally acceptable by only three per cent of Muslims, compared to 82 per cent of the general public. And while 15 per cent of the general public considered adultery morally acceptable, only two per cent of Muslims felt the same way. The attitudes of Muslims in France and Germany is very different, where 48 per cent and 27 per cent had no problem with sex outside wedlock. This discrepancy is likely to be caused by the fact that British Muslims mainly originate from rural parts of conservative Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, whereas French and German Muslims tend to be from Morocco, Algeria and Turkey, where the culture is different.

63% thought that the death penalty was morally acceptable

More Muslims said they believed in the death penalty than the general public, of whom 50 per cent said they regarded such a policy as morally acceptable. This stance tallies with Sharia law, which allows for both corporate and capital punishment. Sharia still provides a moral framework for many moderate Muslims, and many would have answered this question without hesitation.

3% believed people belonging to other religions threaten their way of life

British Muslims appear to be a lot more tolerant than the rest of the UK population when it comes to accepting other religions. More than a quarter of the general public (26 per cent) said they felt the above statement was accurate. According to Professor Sardar, tolerance of other faiths is an important part of Islam and the handful of British Muslims who felt it was under attack could safely be called extremists. "The vast majority of Muslims believe that Christianity and Judaism are not just viable religions but also contain part of the ultimate truth," he said.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Ode to the Women Who Got Away

By Mona Eltahawy

May 25, 2009 Jerusalem Report

I am terrified of thunder. My mother thinks its rumbles trigger in me memories of the sound of bombs falling. She was pregnant with me during the 1967 war and remembers that whenever a bomb fell she would feel me kick inside her.

During most of her pregnancy my parents were in Port Said, on the Mediterranean coast. They had met and fallen in love in medical school in Cairo, married after their graduation and headed to the coast for their year as interns. My parents joke they just wanted to spend the year by the sea, but their departure from Cairo to Port Said was typical of the wanderlust that grips my family.

My mum – the eldest of 11 – became a doctor and left Egypt for the U.K. to get a PhD in medicine. She was of the generation that made the huge leap from “East” to “West.” She has three children. She was 43 when she gave birth to my sister, who is 19 years younger than I. I am of the generation that straddles that “East” and “West.” I have lived in Egypt, the U.K., Saudi Arabia, Israel and now the United States. I am a journalist and public speaker. I was briefly married and at almost 42 have no children and do not want any.

I can’t escape restlessness. So at the end of 1997 when it was a choice of applying for emigration to Canada or moving to Israel as a Reuters correspondent, I moved to Jerusalem and stepped into the arms of trouble that continues to this day with Egyptian State Security, which regards with great suspicion any Egyptian who lives in Israel.

Was I a silly romantic for thinking Cairo winked at me whenever I came home to her from Israel? Were those street lights celebrating my return or letting me know they were in on my illicit trips?

Illicit because I wasn’t supposed to be in Israel. Illicit because returning to Cairo meant coming home to see an increasingly impatient boyfriend. Every time I said yes I would marry him I quickly balked, terrified of standing still. Illicit because I would often also visit my parents and sister, who at the time lived in Saudi Arabia. I didn’t know anyone else whose itinerary was Tel Aviv – Cairo – Jeddah in the space of a week.

Just four years later, another leap, another country. I was taking photographs of adobe buildings in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when I heard the words of the Koran. I thought I was either losing my mind or that I missed the Middle East so much I was hallucinating.

But it was for real and it was coming from a silver shop behind me. I entered, in search of an explanation. The store clerk explained the owner was a Muslim and brought him out to talk to me. He told me he’d put on a tape of a Koran recitation to mark the first day of Ramadan, the fasting month.

It turned out that Palestinians in New Mexico and Arizona basically ran the silver market. They would go to the reservations and buy silver from the Native Americans, which they would then in turn sell in the cities. He insisted I return later to break the fast with him and his cousin. How could I turn down the opportunity to learn more about how the dispossessed of today were running the silver business along with the dispossessed of yesterday? And how could I turn down an iftar (the evening meal for breaking the fast) at Applebee’s with the Palestinian cousins Mohammed and Abdel-Karim, who in Santa Fe were now Al and Mike?

I was in the middle of an epic 18-day road trip across America. Just a few weeks earlier I had put pen to divorce papers to end the marriage that had brought me to the U.S. in 2000. So when my marriage ended, I knew there was only one city in the U.S. that could possibly contain my restlessness. And I knew I had to drive to get there – no getting on a plane and starting a new life five hours later. America and I needed time. I was both Thelma and Louise but I wasn’t going to drive off a cliff. I wasn’t done moving and besides, I had people to see, like American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who was the reason I came to Santa Fe.

Before my iftar at Applebee’s with Al and Mike, I went to the museum dedicated to O’Keeffe. Rebelliousness. Freedom. Independence. I found them all on the walls of the museum but it was a poster I bought at the gift shop that gave my life so far sense. It was a photograph of O’Keeffe on the back of a motorbike, grinning as she contemplated the journey ahead. It was part of an exhibition called “Women Who Got Away.”

That night after iftar at Applebee’s, Mohammed a.k.a. Al put his hand on mine and said he felt like he’d known me his whole life. I pulled my hand away and told him that was nice.

The next morning I left Santa Fe, destination New York City. •

Copyright 2009 Mona Eltahawy

Oh Valorous Heart

I dedicate this translation to all those working hard in Scotland to uphold our shared values of love, peace, success and prosperity - from loved and loathed politicians, religious leaders, and annoying critical progressive Muslims ;-) If we are led by our inner convictions of goodness, all opposition will be met with strength, we just need that strength to recognize our mistakes and errors some times! God bless us all!

A Pakistani patriotic ghazal by Bahzad Lakhnawi and sung by Nayyara Noor (see:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nayyara_noor). I feel the sentiment is appropriate to raise the spirits of us Scots with split identities as a strength to our proud nation!

E-Jazba-e-Dil aGur Mein Cha’ho
Oh Valorous Heart

E-Jazba-e-Dil aGur Mein Cha’ho
Hur Cheez Muqabil A’ja’ay
Manzil kay li’ay do ghaam chalo
Aur Saamney manzil a’ja’ay

Oh Valorous Heart
If I so desire
All opposition can be met
Take those steps forward
With courage, all can be achieved...

Haa yaad mujhe tum kur’lay’na
Awaz mujhe dey dayna
Is rahay mohabbat mein ko’ee dur pesh mushkil a’ja’ay

Yes, remember me (God)
Just call out to me (in prayer)
If on this path of love
Any difficulties come your way

He dil ki kalish chul yo’hi sahi
Chalta to hu unki mehfil mein
Us waqt mujhe chon’ka deyna
Jub rang pey mehfil a’ja’ay

The heart may have some impurity
So be it
I still walk in the congregation of purity
Awaken me at that very moment
When the congregation turns to those colors

E-Jazba-e-Dil aGur Mein Cha’ho

E-rahbar-e-kamil chulnay ko
Tayyar to’ho pur yaad rahay
Us waqt mujhe bat’ka deyna
Jub saamne manzil a’ja’ay

The path of pious prophets, saints
I am ready, if only I remember
Be ready to remind me yet again
When the destination is in sight

Ata hai toofan to anay do...
kashti ka khuda khud hafiz hai...
mushkil to nahi in maw'jo mein behta huwa sahil a'ja'ay...

Let the storm come at its will,
God is the protector of this boat,
These waves are no trouble when there is promise of a shoreline
(or God's guidance)...

Oh Valorous Heart