Monthly Archives: May 2009

Muslims are quick to condemn terrorist attempt

The Riverdale Press: Muslims are quick to condemn terrorist attempt

Muslims are quick to condemn terrorist attempt

By Kate Pastor

When Khalid Isa heard about the attempted bombing of Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Center, his first thought was to hope it wasn’t the work of Arabs.

The American-born Palestinian owner of Sqweez Juice Bar & Grill on West 238th Street between Waldo and Greystone avenues got little relief, however, from learning the alleged terrorists identified themselves as Muslims.

“It’s a misrepresentation of Islam because this is exactly what Islam tells us not to do,” said Mr. Isa, who together with other local Muslims and Jews has started a group called World Peace, One Falafel at a Time. The group is dedicated to enabling dialogue between Muslims and Jews, and ending violence between the groups.

“This is not the way to be, this is not the way to think, this is not the way to grab somebody’s attention, this is not the way toward peace,” he said of the alleged conspirators.

“It’s ridiculous because these are guys who converted to Islam in jail and they don’t know what the hell Islam is about. They have no idea,” Mr. Isa said.

Many Muslims in and around Riverdale have condemned the violence allegedly planned for Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Center on May 20, drawing clear distinctions between their religion and the beliefs held by men thought to be jailhouse converts to Islam.

Three Imams from different Mosques showed up at the Riverdale Jewish Center’s solidarity rally on Friday. The Muslim American Society of Upper New York’s board president, Ali Salhab, a former Riverdale resident, also walked a letter into the Riverdale Press, repudiating and denying any religious justification for the violent plot.

“We just want to make sure that our neighbors understand where we stand on this issue,” said James Momani, who accompanied Mr. Salhab.

It seems, however, that not everyone does.

Last week, Mr. Isa got a phone call from a friend whose child attends The David A. Stein Riverdale/Kingbridge Academy, MS/HS 141. She was upset because after the foiled plot Islamic children started being taunted by other kids at school, he said.

Mr. Isa’s friend asked if he would consider giving a talk at the school to discuss the true meaning of Islam with children, some of whom may have gotten the wrong idea.

“The word Islam means peace, comes from the word Salam that means peace,” Mr. Isa said, personally enraged that the men he calls “uneducated, uninformed idiots” claim to be bound to him by faith.

The negative impact of violent acts like the one thwarted in Riverdale last week spared almost nobody.

“Hate crimes hurt all of us,” said Mr. Momani. “Today they do something to you, tomorrow they do something to me.”

When Muslims react to violent extremism here in Riverdale, said Basheer Hasan, a Muslim who manages a gas station on Broadway, “It’s gonna be the same reaction like everyone else.”

CAIR Questions FBI Tactics in NY Synagogue ‘Plot’

CAIR Questions FBI Tactics in NY Synagogue ‘Plot’
New details of informant’s actions prompt Muslim group’s concerns

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 5/26/2009) ­ A prominent
national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today questioned the
FBI’s tactics leading up to the arrest of four New York men for
allegedly plotting to attack Jewish institutions in that state.

Based on early reports of a foiled plot to bomb a synagogue and a
Jewish community center and to shoot down military planes, the
Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) initially
applauded the FBI and the other law enforcement agencies that took part
in the investigation.

In a statement issued today, CAIR cited newly-revealed
details of the case that indicate the alleged “plot” may have been
based more on the financial inducements of a government informant

than on the predisposition to terrorism of three petty criminals and a
mentally ill Haitian immigrant. The Associated Press described the
alleged plotters as “down-and-out ex-convicts living on the margins in
a faded industrial city.”

SEE: Islam Not to Blame for Bronx Terror Plot (Huffington Post)

“This entire scheme seems to be the product of sending yet another
FBI agent provocateur into an American mosque to instigate a ‘plot’
that would likely never have been hatched but for the rhetorical and
financial inducements of the government informant. As a defense attorney said of the informant
in this case, who was also the informant in a previous case, ‘Where he
goes conspiracies blossom.’ According to the family of one of the
suspects, the FBI informant even promised to pay for a liver transplant for his dying brother.

“We need to know who first suggested the specific targets in this
plot and, if it was the FBI informant, why a government agency would
create a scenario that may drive a wedge between two American religious
minorities.

“These arrests seem to be based on a government formula for
announcing law enforcement ‘victories’ that we have seen all too often
in the past – take a paid informant, insert him into a mosque or
community without probable cause of criminal behavior, locate marginal
characters open to financial or rhetorical inducements, facilitate
criminal actions suggested by the provocateur, and then announce
‘terror’ arrests with great fanfare.

“This formula, which could be used in any faith community, produces
flashy arrests but rests on shaky constitutional ground and does little
to advance legitimate law enforcement goals. It also serves to alienate
an entire religious minority and provides fodder for those who seek to
demonize Islam and marginalize American Muslims.”

SEE: Terrorism Arrests: Snitch, Sting, then Controversy (AP)

CAIR’s statement reiterated the American Muslim community’s
longstanding repudiation of terrorism in all its forms and encouraged
anyone who is aware of criminal activity to immediately contact law
enforcement authorities.

SEE: Muslim Organizations Condemn Terror Plan: Is Anyone Listening?
SEE ALSO: CAIR’s Anti-Terrorism Campaigns

The statement also restated CAIR’s concerns about Justice Department guidelines, implemented under the Bush administration, which allow race and ethnicity to be factors in opening an FBI probe.

In an interview with the New York Post,
the girlfriend of the alleged ringleader said the informant was
constantly around, “It was like he was stalking him.” The girlfriend of
one of the other alleged plotters said: “They aren’t radicals they were
just financially motivated. They aren’t terrorists. If [the informant]
wasn’t in the picture they would’ve never come up with this idea. This
was not their idea. They make it sound like they sought him out and
said we want to do this when he’s the one who approached them. He
enticed them with money.”

The New York Times wrote:
“Everyone called the stranger with all the money ‘Maqsood.’ He would
sit in his Mercedes, waiting in the parking lot of the mosque in
Newburgh, N.Y., until the Friday prayer was over. Then, according to
members of the mosque, the Masjid al-Ikhlas, he approached the young
men.”

A lawyer who represented the last terror suspect tried in New York
state called the FBI’s operation “a foolish waste of time and money.”
He said, “It is almost as if the FBI cooked up the plot and found four
idiots to install as defendants.”

SEE: FBI ‘Lured Dimwits’ Into Terror Plot (The Times)
SEE ALSO: Yet Another Bogus ‘Terror’ Plot (The Nation)

CAIR noted that the FBI informant in a similar case in California
recently stated that he views Islam as a threat to national security.

SEE: FBI Spy: “Islam Itself is a Threat to National Security”

In March, a coalition of major national Islamic organizations announced that it is considering suspending outreach relations with the FBI,
citing similar incidents in which American mosques and Muslim groups
have been targeted. The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and
Elections (AMT) also called on the FBI to reassess the use of
informants as agents provocateurs within the Muslim community.

CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35
offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to
enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil
liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote
justice and mutual understanding.

Gujarat’s Mundra port sees import of Quran objectionable, holds back its 4,000 copies for a month

Gujarat’s Mundra port sees import of Quran objectionable, holds back its 4,000 copies for a month | TwoCircles.net

Gujarat’s Mundra port sees import of Quran objectionable, holds back its 4,000 copies for a month
Submitted by admin3 on 25 May 2009 – 11:15am.

* Crime/Terrorism
* Indian Muslim

TwoCircles.net Staff Correspondent

Ahmedabad: The 4,000 copies of the Holy Quran in Arabic script landed at the Mundra port more than a month ago but these are yet to be handed over to the consignee in Gorevali village of the Muslim dominated Banni area in the Rann of Kutch within Kutch district.

The consignment along with some 500 CDs have been sent from Dubai. The copies of the Holy Quran are meant for free distribution and not for sale.

This is despite the fact the consignments have been sent legally and the consignee has got valid documents. Even assistant customs commissioner at Mundra Ashok Nagade admitted to journalists that the import of the Holy Quran was not illegal. He said that the customs department would hand over the material to the consignee as soon as certain investigations were over.

The copies of the Holy Quran are meant for Jamia Darul Masiha, an Ahl-e-Hadees madrasa at Gorevali run by Abdul Qayyum Khan. Set up in 1952 by Khan’s grandfather Haji Dalil Khan, the madrasa has been imparting Islamic education among 40,000 Muslims of Banni region bordering Pakistan.

The consignment has been sent by Khan’s father Haider Khan working in Dubai.

Speaking to TwoCircles.net, Khan said that after the consignment landed, he contacted a number of clearing agents but all of them refused to entertain him. Finally, he himself went to the customs officials along with the papers of the consignment sent by his father.

“As soon as I reached the customs office, I was surrounded by police and intelligence sleuths who were waiting for him in advance’’, Khan told this reporter over phone from his residence in Gorevali on Sunday evening.

“I was surprised by this behaviour of the customs officials as also the intelligence sleuths from the central and state agencies because I had valid documents and the consignment was sent legally’’, Khan stated.

However, Khan cooperated with the agencies and gave them all the information about himself and the sender of the consignments. “Investigators told me that they had advance information that some objectionable materials are being sent to me and hence, they were waiting for me to personally reach and claim it’’, narrated Khan.

However, customs officials, who checked each and every copy of the Holy Quran found nothing objectionable.

“Their objection was to some of the CDs packed within the cartons of the Holy Quran’’, said Khan. But this was not illegal because the papers sent from Dubai mention CDs as part of the consignment.

Khan said that the copies of the Holy Quran were meant for distribution among the local people. “The copies of the Quran were gifted in Dubai by several people and my father sent them for the benefit of the people here’’, he explained.

He said that though the custom officials had finally become convinced and agreed to release it after conducting investigations. “But now I will have to pay the demurrage charges because the customs allow free storage only for 15 days in their godowns’’, informed Khan.

Khan’s madrasa is affiliated to Jamia Salafia Islamia University of Banaras in Uttar Pradesh.

In Gujarat, Kutch district has the largest concentration of Muslims, most of them located in border areas.
Nothing is going to change unless we start to rule India
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on 27 May 2009 – 4:39pm.

Muslims r 2nd class citizens in India. I respect and love most of the indians and i also know that constitution gives us rights but in practicality it is not observed.It is not the time for tears but to snatch the rights by whatever means.We r cornered to the wall.Since our history tells us that we were brave when we had real faith in Almighty ALLAH now since we have faith on the people and that too on politicians we become nothing more than heap of ashes.In allama Iqbal’s words”Mussalman nahee rakh ka dher hei”.We have to rise again we should read our glorious past and conquer the world again let us rise o muslim ummah let us rise together.Fight and fight till persecution is no more.SO again i would like to quote Allama Iqbal’s words”Dayar e ishq mein apna Muqam paida kar”.
It is my sincere advise to all muslims to read Allama Iqbal too.Let us be united and stand together and have firm faith in ALLAH.Even if we dont have anything to eat and let us not depend on any government.cuz we were the rulers and we r destined to rule.Cuz the sovereignty belongs to ALLAH alone.

* reply

SUGGESSTION
Submitted by S.M.PASHA (not verified) on 26 May 2009 – 8:32am.

SOME SHER DIL” MUSLIM MUST COME FORWARD AND FILE A CASE AGAINST THE UNJUST ACTION OF THE AUTHORITIES.

* reply

Shame on the Govt.
Submitted by Patwardhan (not verified) on 25 May 2009 – 4:34pm.

Pay demurrage charges for no fault of the consignee. Amazing logic. If you dont pay they desecrate it or burn it ! This is Modi’s Gujarat. “Real Secularism” in action for all to see

That bogus “terrorist plot” in New York

More On That Bogus “Terrorist” Plot in New York

That bogus “terrorist plot” in New York has fallen from the headlines, but its pernicious impact lingers on. My earlier piece on this story, written late last week, drew a lot of comments, and a number of people contacted me about the story, too.

Here are a few updates.

First, a sensible AP story puts it in perspective, emphasizing the role of the FBI’s agent-provocateur who entrapped the four men now charged in the “chilling” terrorism plot:

What happens to these cases after the media spotlight fades and the noise dies down? And are the snitches involved reliable?

“Most of these guys don’t get tried,” said security analyst Bruce Schneier. “These are not criminal masterminds, they’re idiots. There’s huge fanfares at the arrest, and then it dies off.”

The New York men arrested last week were ex-convicts down on their luck. In federal court, one admitted that he’d recently gotten stoned. “I smoke it regularly,” he told the judge. Not to worry, he added, “I understand everything you are saying.” …

However, court statistics show that most domestic terrorism cases never make it to trial.

And why don’t then make it to trial? Because nearly every one of them is utterly bogus.

A reader of The Dreyfuss Report forwarded an interesting piece that reveals some information about the FBI’s agent-provocateur in the New York case, apparently a Pakistani immigrant who’d been busted for felony fraud and then recruited by the FBI to go around searching for domestic “terrorists.” He was involved in a case in upstate New York several years ago, helping to frame an Iraqi Kurd named Yassin Aref in an unrelated “terrorism” plot:

When illegal eavesdropping failed to turn up any improper activity on Yassin’s part, the FBI engaged a Pakistani immigrant named Malik, who already had been convicted of 80 to 100 felonies in a scheme to market fraudulent drivers licenses, and essentially told him that the government would make all of his legal troubles go away (and cancel his scheduled deportation) if he could entrap Yassin into terrorist activity by means of a concocted “sting.”

According to the fictitious plot, the government set Malik up as a supposed secret arms merchant who sold missiles to terrorist groups, particularly JEM (Jaish-e-Mohammed), which sought to liberate Muslim Kashmir from India. Malik offered to loan money to a member of Yassin’s mosque if Yassin would witness the transactions for free in the Islamic tradition (as a notary does, under American law)–a perfectly legal and even praiseworthy act by Yassin, under normal circumstances.

For a proper “sting,” Malik was to tell Yassin that the money for the loan came from the sale of missiles to JEM, which intended to use the missiles in an assassination in New York City. If Yassin witnessed the loan transactions with the intent to help Malik conceal the illegal source of the money for the loan, he would be guilty of several terrorist-related crimes.

But Malik did not give Yassin the necessary information for him to understand the illegality of the plot, the loan, or the witnessing. As a result, the sting never developed; instead, it became a simple frame-up by the government.

You can read the whole piece, by one of Aref’s attorneys, here.

The New York Post has more details on the agent-provocateur’s role in the earlier case, too:

The FBI informant in the Bronx synagogue terror plot helped convict two Albany Muslims on terror-related money-laundering charges three years ago.

Shahed Hussain, 52, an upstate motel owner, turned informant in 2002 after being busted on fraud charges while working as a translator for the Department of Motor Vehicles. The man, who had helped immigrants cheat on driver’s tests, began cooperating with the FBI in a bid to win leniency in court and avoid deportation to Pakistan.

The informant then posed as an arms buyer who needed to launder money from the sale of a shoulder-launched missile to be used to kill a Pakistani envoy. His act duped Albany pizzeria owner Mohammed Hossain into laundering cash for him, while Yassin Aref, an Albany imam, acted as a witness.

Hossain and Aref were convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Several of the informant’s tenants told The Post that he claims to be a “spy” for the FBI, and that he “blew out of here Tuesday night.” One tenant said the cooperator was on the telephone “a few weeks back . . . telling somebody about buying guns.”

Aref’s lawyer, Terence Kindlon, called the informant “a liar and a sneak and a trickster.”

Hossain’s lawyer, Kevin Luibrand, said the informant “completely lied” to his FBI handlers about information in the Albany case.

You can read more about the new case at the New York Times blog, which also has some interesting links.

The Times also has detailed profiles of the four men accused in the latest case, all petty criminals with only the most tenuous connection to Islam and no connection whatsoever to any terrorist groups.

SIT begins probe into Zakia’s complaint against Modi and his ministers

SIT begins probe into Zakia’s complaint against Modi and his ministers | TwoCircles.net

SIT begins probe into Zakia’s complaint against Modi and his ministers
Submitted by admin3 on 26 May 2009 – 10:32pm.

* Crime/Terrorism
* Indian Muslim

By Twocircles.net Staff Correspondent

Ahmedabad: The probe into the complaint filed against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 others in connection with the post-Godhra riots of 2002 began today with Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team(SIT) “interacting’’ with Zakia Jafri and Teesta Setalvad.

The probe was ordered by the Supreme Court through its order on April 27 this year on a petition filed by Zakia, widow of slain former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri. The ex-MP was among 69 Muslims brutally murdered in the Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002, during the statewide anti-Muslim riots.

Speaking to mediapersons, SIT chief R K Raghavan said that SIT had officially begun the probe into the complaint filed in the apex court seeking probe against Chief Minister Modi, his seven cabinet colleagues and several senior IAS and IPS officers.

He said that they first called Zakia and Teesta because SIT wanted to know what happened on the day of riots in Gulberg society. As for Teesta, he said that she was called for interaction as she was convener of the Concerned Peoples Tribunal which had conducted a hearing in the matter and its findings had been used by Zakia in her petition.

Asked if Narendra Modi would also be called for probe or “interaction” as Raghavan preferred to call in connection with Zakia and Teesta, he said that whoever was needed for a probe as per orders of the Supreme Court would be interrogated.

According to SIT sources, two former judges of the Supreme Court including Justice P B Sawant, who had participated in the proceedings of the tribunal, would also be called for “interaction.”

Talking to Madhyamam, Teesta said that she was questioned particularly about former minister (now murdered) Haren Pandya who had deposed before the tribunal.

Belonging to anti-Modi camp, Pandya had deposed before the tribunal about a meeting held by Modi on February 27, 2002, after the Sabarmati train tragedy. In his depositions, he had stated that Modi had ordered the then DGP Chakravarti and senior IAS official Ashok Narayan not to take any action against the Hindu mobs venting their ire by attacking the Muslims.

Pandya had also revealed that there were four or five ministers also present in Modi’s meeting. However, Pandya had not revealed their names to the tribunal. Unfortunately, Pandya was murdered subsequently in broad daylight. While his family members accused Modi of plotting the murder, police arrested several Muslims from Hyderabad and Gujarat and about a half dozen accused in the case have been convicted in the case.

Four months on, CBI yet to file charge sheet in Hari Masjid police firing case

Four months on, CBI yet to file charge sheet in Hari Masjid police firing case | TwoCircles.net

Four months on, CBI yet to file charge sheet in Hari Masjid police firing case
Submitted by admin4 on 26 May 2009 – 8:01pm.

* Indian Muslim

By TwoCircles.net Staff Reporter,

Mumbai: It has been about four months since the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took the charge of the Hari Masjid firing case but it did not submit the charge sheet yet. While taking the case in their hand in February this year, after the intervention of the Bombay High Court, the central government agency had expressed confidence to file the charge sheet within 15 days.

The CBI has made no progress in the case except recording the statement of the petitioner Farooq Mapkar, says a report in the Urdu Times daily.

It was on January 10, 1993 during Bombay riots when a police contingent led by then Sub Inspector Nikhil Kapse opened fire at the Muslims offering prayer in Hari Masjid at Wadala under RAK Marg Police Station. Six persons died in the police firing.

Farooq Mapkar, who is among those who were injured by police bullet in the firing, had told Justice Sri Krishna Commission, formed for the investigation into the riots, that Nikhil Kapse had fired at the Namazees without reason. The Commission had held him “guilty of unjustified firing” and “inhuman and brutal behavior.”

But the government did not believe the commission observation and formed Special Task Force which later gave clean chit to the police. After many years of battle when Farooq Mapkar did not get justice, he filed a petition in the Bombay High Court.

The High Court on December15, 2008 came down heavily on the state government and the CBI in the case and asked why the central investigating agency was not taking up the case. After initial hesitation CBI agreed to probe the firing.

Muslim Resistance to LTTE in East First Major Obstacle to Eelam

Sri Lanka Breaking News-Daily Mirror Online

Muslim Resistance to LTTE in East First Major Obstacle to Eelam

By M. M. Zuhair, P.C. Former Member of Parliament

Muslims across the island joined in the national celebrations that marked the end of three decades of war, culminating in the liberation of the brutalized Tamils, Muslims, and Sinhalese of the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. Indeed, the end of Velupillai Prabakaran, signifies the liberation of the entire country, nearly 504 years after the Portuguese invasion of Sri Lanka in 1505. Mosques, Muslim homes and businesses joined the rest of the country in hoisting the National Flag and saluting the armed forces.

Many of them stopped their vehicles at check points and served sweets to the young soldiers on duty. I heard of many others who had walked into Buddhist temples and shared their new found joy of “freedom with security”. There were still others who shared with the Tamils, the freedom that they would henceforth enjoy in the North, in an identical manner they did in the rest of the country.

The purpose of this contribution is limited to place the answers to these questions before the public, though it is time that the Muslims consider serious programmes that will help the community forge ‘unity in diversity’ and ‘integration with identity’.

Muslims, particularly of the North and East, became the first major obstacle to the Eelam project, to which more detailed reference will be made later on. Muslim resistance resulted in the expulsion of over 100,000 Muslims from the North by the LTTE, followed by the killings of large numbers of Muslims by the LTTE in several districts in the east ending in brutal massacres.

It is best that I quote the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka Rohitha Bogollagama, who addressing a meeting of Heads of Missions of Muslim countries based in Colombo on 11th March, 2009 soon after the suicide bomb attack at the Godapitiya Jumma Mosque in Akuressa, targeting the National Milad-un-Nabi festival, on 10th March, had this to say:

“The Muslim community in this country has co-existed peacefully with both the Sinhalese and the Tamil communities and lived amidst them for centuries. The Muslims, particularly in the North and the East of Sri Lanka have been especially targeted by the LTTE for their resolute opposition to the separatist agenda espoused by the LTTE. For their stubborn defiance, the Muslims have paid a heavy price. The LTTE commenced its murderous campaign against the Muslims in the East by launching coordinated attacks on the Meera Jumma and Husseiniya Mosques in Kattankudy on 3rd August 1990, in which 147 worshippers were gunned down, as they knelt in prayer. The fear psychosis that was instilled in the Muslim community by the LTTE was reinforced by further massacres carried out on isolated Muslim villages in the Eastern Province. The Palliyagodella village was targeted in October 1991 in which 109 Muslim men, women and children were brutally hacked to death in their sleep by women and child cadres of the LTTE. This also marked the beginning of the induction of women and children by the LTTE to carry out cold blooded massacres of civilians in other parts of the country as well.”

“The ethnic cleansing of the entire Muslim community in the Northern Province, which the LTTE carried out in October 1990 with cold blooded and clinical precision, stands out in the annals of world history as a chapter written in shame of the wholesale uprooting and expulsion of an entire ethnic community which has lived for generations in that part of the country. Even today, 18 years after this shameful incident, these Muslims numbering over 100,000 are still languishing in IDP camps in the Puttalam district and other parts of Sri Lanka, as refugees in their own country.”

The end of the LTTE, responsible for these massacres caused to the Muslims – because they were Muslims – is sufficient cause for the Muslims of Sri Lanka to celebrate firstly as Sri Lankans but more so as Muslims. Their resistance to Eelam was the first major obstacle that helped defeat terrorism in Sri Lanka.

Another relevant factor to be recalled in this connection is that many Muslims who served in the country’s forces, mainly from the Malay community of Muslims, have laid down their lives in battling terrorism.

They are too many to be named here. All credit should no doubt go to the Commander in Chief President Mahinda Rajapakse, his brother, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the Service Commanders and their men and women and to all those mostly from the forces who laid down their lives in this war.

Equally important is the role played by Members of Parliament, in ensuring that the Mahinda Rajapakse government enjoyed a secure majority in Parliament, throughout the period of the war. For a Government threatened to be defeated in the first Budget it presented to Parliament, credit must be given to President Rajapakse and his brother M.P. Basil Rajapakse for ingeniously ensuring a stable parliamentary majority, which included almost all the Muslim Members, who stood with the Government all along the war, excluding an insignificant minority.

The country will not forget another factor of relevance which contributed immensely for the government’s successful prosecution of the war, namely the contribution of Muslim countries in contrast to many countries from the West. Pakistan, Iran and Libya, in addition to China came out effectively to off-set the negative impacts on the country’s external resources, vital to continuously oil the war machinery and replenish stocks.

India, our important and immediate friend, helped notwithstanding all local pressures to the contrary, from Tamil Nadu. Pakistan and China supplied essential weapons, though at a price while Iran kept Sri Lanka economically going in 2008 with an interest free credit package for oil purchases valued at US$ 700 Million, in addition to two major project aids to the tune of US$ 1.4 Billion, the highest single country contribution to Sri Lanka, so far. The oil credit package helped Sri Lanka defeat the LTTE’s expectations of an economic fall out of the Sri Lankan Government.

PART II

In assessing the Muslims’ contribution

by 1985, the LTTE was growing as a critical force in the East, following the failure of President Jayawardene from 1978 onwards, to crush the LTTE then in its formative years. I had by 1983 left the Attorney-General’s Department as Senior State Counsel, after 10 years of service to the state. I had retainers from the Eastern Courts and the late M.H.M. Ashraff at that time had a wide practice in the courts of law in the East. Hashim, a former teacher and Advocate from Akkaraipathu who first alerted me to the coming events. His own son had become the Area Leader of the LTTE for Akkaraipathu. He was angry he could not stop his own son from joining the armed group. There were several other young Muslims who were joining the LTTE in numbers. They had lost confidence in both the UNP and the SLFP, and that was why they were joining the Tamils fighting for autonomy, he told me, and if this is not stopped, this would spell great danger, more for the Muslims outside the North-East. I spoke to Ashraff, I told him, the time has come for us to address this growing danger of Muslim boys joining the LTTE. He understood the repercussions and the likely fall-out. He was ready to give up his lucrative practice and form a Muslim Party, as the only way to arrest all possible damages.

As law students, we had our sympathies with the SLFP, following the post of Minister of Education being given to a Muslim, the late Dr. Badiuddin Mahmud by Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Ashraff said a Muslim party was the only answer to prevent Muslims joining the LTTE. He also said, that we could not tell this reason to the country, as it would spell disaster for the Muslims in the East. I told him that the party must be confined to the East, as the majority in the South could misinterpret and become suspicious. He said the party, could not be either pro or anti-LTTE, as that would create problems for the Muslims in the East, who were living with the Tamils peacefully, as much as with the Sinhalese in the South. He was clear of the need to form a Muslim party, to absorb the Muslim youths and prevent the spread of the LTTE amongst the Muslims in the East.

Months later, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was formed in the East, with its leader Ashraff having to walk a ‘tight rope’ of keeping Muslim interests to be seen neither as anti-Sinhala nor anti-Tamil. This was an exceptionally challenging task for the SLMC with both the Sinhala and Tamil leaders soon becoming suspicious. The suspicions were mainly due to the superficial and shallow response of politicians and sections of the media to the major event of the emergence of a Muslim political party. Muslims in the UNP as well as the SLFP too found the SLMC an unhappy irritant.

Muslims in the east, however, joined the SLMC in large numbers .Whilst the SLMC succeeded in attracting the youths, the LTTE saw a huge threat in the SLMC for its projected objective of exclusive control over the North-East as the Tamil speaking homeland. LTTE’s attempts to give leadership to the Tamil speaking Muslims of the East was now doomed to fail with the SLMC emerging as the sole voice of the Muslims of the East,

The country must pay a tribute to the Muslims of the East, who stood under Ashraff’s SLMC flag and resisted firmly at a huge cost to their community, the LTTE’s attempts to inveigle the East into the tiger empire. This was indeed the first major obstacle to the Tiger dream of a Tamil homeland.

Previously labelled as ‘Tamil Speaking’ homeland, the LTTE soon found its attempts to encompass the culturally distinct, politically independent Eastern Muslims, who comprise nearly 1/3rd of the Muslim population of over two million in the entire country a frustrating failure! The repercussions were unbearably grave. Hundreds of Muslims whilst at prayers inside mosques, were brutally murdered, hundreds of Muslim policemen were lined up by the LTTE separated from Tamil policemen and shot to death, and large numbers returning home after performing Haj were ruthlessly assassinated by the LTTE.

Muslim businessmen, farmers, their farm lands and even their cattle were not spared. All this happened after nearly 100,000 Muslims were forcibly driven out from their homes in the North overnight and who found refuge in Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts, where I led a team of FAMYS (Federation of Assemblies of Muslim Youths of Sri Lanka) volunteers from Colombo as the first group to help, with a Libyan donation of US$ 50,000.

In my view, the sacrifice of hundreds of lives of Muslims, the pain and suffering of thousands of other Muslim men, women and children exposed to LTTE brutalities – similar to the atrocities suffered by the Sinhalese – would place the Muslim resistance to the LTTE’s attempts to eelamise the East far above that of the much touted and most welcome defection of Karuna Amman alias Vinayagamoorthy Muralidaran and others from the LTTE. If the Muslims had lost sympathy for the Tamil struggle, the LTTE must blame only itself and perhaps also its arrogance.

It would not be an exaggeration to place on record that if not for the Muslim resistance beginning in the 1980’s the LTTE would have seen the birth of ‘Eelam’ comfortably, with the consequence of instant recognition by the West, ala Kosovo! When the opening paragraph of the Vaddukoddai Resolution of 14th May, 1976 of the ‘moderate’ Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) referred to the “Tamils possessing the Northern and Eastern districts” – to the diabolical exclusion and the arrogant marginalisation of the Muslims and the Sinhalese – there was nothing that the Muslims could have hoped for, from the terribly extremist LTTE!

Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe of 1947-48

Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe of 1947-48

[Click here for a PDF flyer containing the text below.]

What Is Al-Nakba?

“Nakba” means “catastrophe” in Arabic (“al-nakba” means “the
catastrophe”). Throughout the Arab world, the word is used to refer to
the devastation of Palestinian society and the dispossession of the
Palestinian people resulting from the ethnic cleansing conducted by
Zionist forces during 1947-48.

What Is Nakba Day?

The most important date on the Palestinian calendar, Nakba Day is
observed throughout the world on May 15. This is a time to learn about
the history of Palestine and of Palestinians, and to remember the
tragedy inflicted on the Palestinian people in 1947-48, which has yet
to be rectified.

Nakba Day is also an occasion to celebrate the continued vitality of
Palestinian culture in the face of continuing hardships, and to
reaffirm Palestinian aspirations for peace and self-determination.

What Happened During Al-Nakba?

  • During the late 1930s and early 1940s, many among the European Zionist leadership in Palestine openly favored “transfer” of the indigenous Palestinian population to make way for a future Jewish state.
  • As the colonial British Mandate of Palestine ended in 1947-48,
    clashes began and Zionist forces attacked Palestinian communities, in
    most cases driving out their inhabitants.
  • In other cases, Zionist forces conducted massacres of civilians (e.g. 100 villagers at Deir Yassin, 200 at Tantura) in order to induce the rest of the Palestinian population to flee.
  • Over 700,000 Palestinians — 2/3 of the Palestinian population — fled in panic at the Zionist attacks or were forcibly expelled by Zionist forces.
  • Zionist forces depopulated over 400 Palestinian towns and villages,
    many of which were purposefully demolished. The newly established
    Israeli government confiscated refugees’ lands and properties and
    turned them over to Jewish immigrants.
  • Israel has since refused to allow Palestinian refugees to return to
    their homes and has refused to pay them compensation, as required by UN Resolution 194 of 1948.

What Was the Aftermath of Al-Nakba?

Even though before 1948 Jews had owned about 7% of the land in
Palestine and made up only 1/3 of the population, following the
conquest Israel was established on 78% of Palestine.

What Is the Significance of Al-Nakba?

The Nakba destroyed a thriving and diverse Palestinian society and scattered the Palestinian people into diaspora.

The Nakba is also the source of the still-unresolved Palestinian
refugee problem. Today, over 4 million Palestinian refugees are
scattered throughout the world. Many of them live in Jordan, Lebanon,
Syria, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip in poverty-stricken refugee
camps.

Why Is Nakba Day on May 15?

Although May 15 is the date on which Israel declared independence in
1948, Nakba Day is not a protest against Israeli independence. Israeli
Independence Day, which follows the Jewish calendar, was celebrated on
April 17, 2002.

Where Can I Find Out More?

Visit the following web sites:

introduce ethical Islamic Banking

The Island-Features

THAT ORGY OF JUNK LOANS
introduce ethical Islamic Banking
By K. Godage

The current spate of financial scandals reminded me of the orgy of junk loans that had been given by the Peoples Bank in the period (if my recollection is right) 1992-93. I wonder as to whether any of that public money was recovered. Subsequently we had the Pramuka Bank scandal and three other scams including perhaps one of the biggest in the world have surfaced. As a concerned citizen, I am certain that I speak for thousands, we would like the Central Bank to inform us as to the action taken against those who obtained ‘junk loans’ and defaulted and also what action has been taken against those involved in the Pramuka affair?

In many respects the Central Bank has failed us as has the banking system as an instrument to assist in the development of the country. Should we not consider changing the banking laws, perhaps adopting some of the extremely good features of the Islamic Banking system which has an ethical orientation.

Islamic banking refers to a system of banking or banking activity that is consistent with the principles of Islamic law (Sharia). Sharia prohibits the payment of fees for the loaning of money (Riba, usury) for specific terms, as well as investing in businesses that provide goods or services considered contrary to its principles (Haraam, forbidden). While these principles were used as the basis for a flourishing economy in earlier times, it is only in the late 20th century that a number of Islamic banks were formed to apply these principles to private or semi-private commercial institutions within the Muslim community.

There are some features such as the non charging of interest (but only the imposition of administrative charges) which are not only commendable but should be emulated by people of all religions. There are also other features which could be adopted with advantage. What was most important of all, to mind, is that the bank which lends money for a project becomes a partner in the project; all project lending is therefore for joint ventures and the bank not only shares in the profits but has a stake in the project and would be on the board of directors and would seek to ensure its success. An Islamic tenet worthy of mention is that those with excess wealth are required to share with those less fortunate. The money deposited with a bank is placed as a trust to allow the bank to lend to those who have no resources to use such monies.

Considering the fact that the global financial crisis has been the result of reckless lending it does appear that the world has a thing or two to learn from Islamic banking. If the rules of Islamic financing had been in place, the mortgage crisis in the USA, which triggered the current financial crisis, could never have happened. If the details had been closely inspected, it would have been evident in many cases that the people taking out the mortgage would never been in a position to repay it.

Islamic law stipulates that all financing activities must be linked to a real economic transaction. “It is essential to know exactly what the transaction is based on. If someone wants to buy a house, can it be sold to him in installments? At first glance, it might look like a loan, but ultimately, it ensures that those involved know exactly what is happening,”

Similarly, instances – whereby money is earned not by selling goods or providing services, but by cleverly using capital to generate major profits would have been prevented.

The same can be said for earning interest: Islam forbids the faithful to “let money work”. There are other strict rules in the system: businesses that are not compatible with the “Sharia”, i.e. with the Islamic code of religious law, may not be financed. Naturally, it is forbidden to trade in pork, pornography, or gambling. Most unfortunately trade in hard drugs was not prohibited because such drugs or even hashish or cocaine was unknown. Those who indulge in the trade of drugs know that it is not in the spirit of Islamic law but they pocket their conscience because of the money involved. They stand cursed for they are in actual fact in violation of the law of Allah.

The ban on gambling applies not only to doing business with casinos, but certainly also to gambling-like behaviour on the international finance markets, where conventional rules of economics were abandoned and where “financial instruments” that were not even understood by many of those who were dealing in them suddenly appeared.

Sri Lanka has a few banks that indulge in Islamic banking but it is certainly time that the government appointed a new Banking Commission (the last such Commission was appointed in1934 during the days of the State Council—- the Commission was headed by Justice Pokinwala and the late N. U. Jayawardena was the Assistant Secretary of the Commission and functioned as the virtual Secretary of the Commission (as Prof. Das Gupta was unable to make himself available) to examine the state of our banking industry and to suggest ways of modernizing it. A new Banking Act which would ensure that no junk loans are given and that our banking system would play a positive role in the development of our country is an imperative.

The market value of the Islamic banking sector in Sri Lanka is estimated at LKR 70 billion to LKR 100 billion. Islamic financial services providers currently active include Amana Investments Limited, Ceylinco Islamic Investment in a Shariah compliant Corporation (CIIC), Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB), National Asset Management Limited (NAMAL), First Global Investments Group and ABC Investments

I am certain that there are experts in Islamic banking in this country; the government should include such specialists in the work of a new Banking Commission, they would be able to make an invaluable contribution to modernizing our banking system and bring it in line with our own requirements. Adopting some Islamic banking practises could also help this country to strengthen our relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Libya and the rest of the Islamic world in particular and of course ensure that no junk loans are granted at the instance of politicians.

A Woman in the Muslim Brotherhood

A Woman in the Muslim Brotherhood | Jacksonville.com

A Woman in the Muslim Brotherhood

Submitted by t.nicole.hernandez on Mon, 05/11/2009 – 21:03.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt would give more freedom for all aspects of Egyptian society, including women, if the movement achieved power in the country, a female member of the group said.

Hiba, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The 28-year-old said she joined the party nine years ago because the party’s plans include social as well as religious and political concerns. Although the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928, it remains banned in Egypt. Because of its illegal status in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is not recognized by the U.S. government, although it is not listed as a terrorist organization.
While the Brotherhood is Egypt’s largest opposition party, the current government makes it difficult to join parties other than the ruling National Democratic Party, led by current president Hosni Mubarak, according to Hiba and other Egyptians. Hiba said the Mubarak regime has not allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to take the parliamentary seats it won in the 2005 elections. She added that some government branches, such as the Minister of Information, create problems for women who adhere to the Islamic dress code, even though the constitution of Egypt lists the state religion as Islam. This discrimination against veiled women, Hiba said, exists regardless of whether they are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. For example, the Minister of Information controls the state-owned broadcast stations and does not allow female presenters to wear a headscarf on-air, even though adherence to the rules of hijab has recently increased among Egyptian women.

“You should judge me as a woman from my experience [and] my knowledge,” Hiba said through a translator. “Not the shape of my body.”

For Hiba, the Muslim Brotherhood’s goals of instituting Islamic law would provide benefits for women similar to those of American women, such as equality between the genders, job opportunities, free elections, more seats in ministries and Parliament, and the ability to choose what to wear without discrimination.

“American women have all these rights; I wish I had these rights,” Hiba said.

The Muslim Brotherhood has a female candidate every parliamentary election, according to Hiba. She added that the party does not restrict her from an active role just because she is a woman, and she said she would like to be a parliamentary candidate one year. However, she doubts she could abide by the Mubarak regime’s treatment of prominent Muslim Brotherhood members.

And her fear is real. Egypt’s government has detained more than 500 members of the Brotherhood without issuing any kind of charge, and the regime arrested two lawmakers from the party in August 2007 after removing their immunity, according to an Agence France-Presse article.

Even though she faces such danger, Hiba said she is honest about her membership with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“If anyone asks,” she said, “I’ll tell them [I’m a member].”

Jihad Against the Abuse of Jihad

Jihad Against the Abuse of Jihad

by: Abukar Arman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

photo
A Palestinian walks along a deserted road in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Photo: Muhammed Muheisen / AP)

    In light of the rampant extremism and militarism around the world, nothing
proves more dangerous than the manipulation of truth for political ends. This
tactic facilitates the demonization process that blurs ideologies and beliefs
in both the West and the Islamic world. And, no concept is more abused by both
sides than the concept of Jihad.

    To Muslim extremists and their cronies, Jihad is a narrowly defined license
to fight their perceived enemies (including Muslims, as is the case in Somalia)
even if that leads to atrocities against civilians. And to Western extremists
and their cronies, Jihad is a religiously sanctioned, perpetual holy war led
by militant non-state actors sworn to destroy Western values and civilization.

    However, Jihad is a complex concept deeply embedded in Islam. It is a principle
that all Muslims who adhere to the teachings of their religion embrace. And,
contrary to prevalent post-9/11 perception, the concept does not connote senseless
violence against innocents or suicide bombings.

    While the concept carries different relevance for different people, the Arabic
word means to strive or struggle toward achieving a higher aim, which includes
the “struggle in the way of God.” It can also mean to defend oneself,
or to strive against injustices. Finally, Jihad means the attainment of the
ultimate goal of Tazkiyatul Nafs, or purification of the soul – morally, spiritually
and ethically. Indeed, it is this latter aspect, the Jihad with oneself as one
resists temptations and strives against his/her evil tendencies, which Prophet
Muhammad referred to as “the Greater Jihad.” The purification of the
soul, or simply self-purification, is an around-the-clock process of deep introspection.

    Despite great achievements in the fields of science and technology; in the
compilation and standardization of knowledge; and, yes, in the art of its dissemination,
humanity still remains in an embryonic, if not an imbecilic, stage when it comes
to morality and ethics.

    Human beings, though endowed by their Creator with a profound faculty that
renders them superior to other known creatures, they are given by that same
Creator the capacity or the free will to bring themselves to “the lowest
of the low.” This latter capacity inspires wickedness, extremism in all
its forms (social, economic, political and religious) and the ever-increasing
appetite to exploit others, to kill and destroy.

    The human being remains a profound enigma and a paradox of clashing potentialities.
As we surpass animals in the realm of intellect and wisdom, we surpass them
in savagery as well. There is no animal group that plays “war games”
and makes deliberate plans to oppress or annihilate others while they are belly-full
– all in the name of ideology, religion, economic exploitation, strategic opportunism
or simply racism.

    So when the Prophet was referring to a particular aspect of Jihad in such high
regard, he was not merely offering an opinion. Rather, he was pointing to what
the majority of Muslim scholars consider the peak of piety – to a process which,
according to the Qur’an, leads to the ultimate salvation.

    As He does throughout the Qur’an for emphasis, in the Chapter Al-shams (The
Sun), God swears multiple times; in fact, more than any other time: “(I
swear) By the sun and its glorious splendor; and by the moon as it follows it;
and by the day as it reveals it; and by the night as it conceals it; and by
the sky and what built it; and by the earth and what smoothes it out all over;
and by the soul and who gave it balance and order, and inspired it with the
capacity to turn to disobedience and the capacity to fear God; Verily, whosoever
purifies the soul attains the highest of success, and verily whosoever corrupts
it descends into utter failure!” And the engine that drives this process
is known as Taqwah (sincere fear and devotion to God). It is through Taqwah
that one attains the profound God-consciousness which cultivates one’s capacity
to self-police against all evil.

    So how could such a noble concept get so distorted? How come the robe-wearing
extremists of the East and the suit-wearing extremists of the West are the ones
who hold monopoly on the definition of Jihad?

    In the past eight years of global political discontent, one persistent warning
has been systematically ignored: When militant politics takes over the stage,
reason makes a run for the exit. This was a period when people were generally
herded toward one side of the argument or the other. Two nihilistic manifestos
dominated the political discourse and brought the world closer to a self-fulfilling
prophecy known as the “clash of civilizations”: the global war on
terror and the global Jihad.

    The former was based on an erroneous premise that “political Islam”
in all its manifestations is anti-democratic and anti-Western, and, as such,
should never be afforded a space in the marketplace of ideas. Proponents of
this view insisted that such movements were dangerous fronts for Muslim militants
with sinister “Jihadist ambition,” intent on destroying the West because
of its freedom and economic success. Therefore, they were to be met at their
incubation place: with “preemptive” force if they were based in foreign
lands and by draconian policies if they were stationed in the West.

    The proponents of this view work hard to conceal two particular facts that
dismantle their claim by default: the success of the Turkish political system
led by a democratically elected Islamist government, and the millions of Muslims
who live peacefully in the US and various parts of Europe in spite of ever-growing
Islamophobia.

    The concept of “global Jihad,” on the other hand, was based on an
opposite yet equally erroneous premise – that the West is collectively bent
on destroying Islam by occupying the Islamic world: exploiting its natural resources,
oppressing its peoples and Westernizing Islamic values. And as such Jihad against
them is not only right, but the moral thing to do.

    The proponents of this manifesto, such as Al Qaeda, selectively use the confrontational
rhetoric often used by their counterparts in the West – secularist and evangelical
Zionists – to lend credence to their claim. And they, too, work hard to conceal
two particular realities: that Muslims are afforded more rights in the West
than in most of the so-called Islamic countries when it comes to practicing
their religion freely and establishing Islamic institutions; and that the Obama
administration is adamant about its desire to improve relations with the Muslim
world.

    Back to the abused concept: Until Jihad is openly discussed in both the Islamic
and the Western worlds, and its true nature is unveiled, abuse of the concept
for self-serving political ends will continue – and so will its unjust violent
expression.

»


Abukar Arman is a writer who lives in Ohio. His articles and analyses
have appeared in the pages of various media groups.

Muslims have right to establish Shariah Courts: Govt. to Supreme Court

Muslims have right to establish Shariah Courts: Govt. to Supreme Court | TwoCircles.net

Muslims have right to establish Shariah Courts: Govt. to Supreme Court
Submitted by mumtaz on 11 May 2009 – 11:07pm.

* Indian Muslim

By RINA,

New Delhi: Responding to public interest litigation (PIL), additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniyam submitted before Supreme Court bench comprising Justice A. R. Laxamanan and Justice Altumash Kabir, “Muslims have the right to establish Shari’ah Panchayats under their personal law.” Next hearing has been postponed for 12 weeks.

Earlier, advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan had filed a PIL requesting the court to instruct people to refrain from establishing ‘parallel’ judicial system, namely Qazi system. Government attorney today rejected the plea and said, “Neither the Fatwas issued by Shari’ah courts clash with Indian judicial system nor these courts are deemed a parallel system of justice.”

In support of his PIL, advocate Madan had cited Imrana case in which her father-in-law had allegedly raped her but village Panchayat asked the lady to take him as her husband. Later, Darul Uloom Deoband ruled that presently she cannot live with her former husband and this was confirmed by All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Advocate Madan requested the court to declare that Fatwas issued by various authorities cannot be put in practice and direct union and state governments to take immediate steps to dissolve all Darul Quzat (Sharia Court).

Referring to article 26 of Indian Constitution, the union government pleaded in it reply to the court that religious freedom has been guaranteed for all religions and all communities, under which they can establish and run their charitable institutions including Darul Quzat or Shariah system and manage their religious affairs on their own.

The union government submitted, ‘these institutions are not a parallel system. Moreover, Darul Quzat do not stop Muslims from going to civil courts. So, the people not satisfied with Darul Quzat verdict or do not want to solve their tangle through them are totally free to a court of law.’

Converting Islamic ideals to a hip-hop flow

Converting Islamic ideals to a hip-hop flow

Converting Islamic ideals to a hip-hop flow

Caille Millner

Monday, May 11, 2009

To convert to Islam, a man or woman must pronounce the shahada, or testimony of faith, either in private or in public. The convert states that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet; the reason, according to the Quran, is that followers need to understand that they may not worship anything but God. Many converts opt to shower either before or after their declaration, to symbolize the repenting of sins from their previous life. Nothing more is required.

Becoming a rapper is a bit more complicated. The sheer technical skill (learning rhythm and meter, building a vocabulary, adjusting one’s voice) often requires years of practice, and then there is the not-so-small matter of developing beats and musical production. The convert to rap must also prepare to adjust his lifestyle. The most successful rappers on the market focus their subject matter and their public appearances around a small list of topics: one’s previous experiences of poverty, drugs – especially the dealing thereof – guns and/or criminal records, fast money and loose women.

The twain shall meet, however, as I learned while watching “New Muslim Cool,” a new documentary about a Puerto Rican convert, Hamza Perez, who gave up drug-dealing in exchange for Islam, but couldn’t quit hip-hop. Perez’s new life is certainly rich with subject matter – the FBI raids his mosque without giving a reason; he teaches prisoners in the county jail until his security clearance is mysteriously revoked – but it’s a different kind of subject matter, and he’s operating under different constraints. His ideal audience isn’t the head of a major label – it’s the young men hanging out on the corner, to whom Perez offers his albums and a new way of life. He doesn’t consider there to be anything odd about this. He considers his music to be a form of da’wa, or religious outreach.

“New Muslim Cool” will be showing on PBS on June 23, but I couldn’t wait that long to find out more. Perez’s record label was originally based in the Bay Area – where there is, apparently, a thriving Islamic hip-hop scene.

“Oh, I love being a citizen of the Bay,” Tyson Amir-Mustafa told me. Amir-Mustafa is a 29-year-old San Jose native who’s released four Islamic-influenced rap albums. “Islam is still young here. The Muslim community is still shaping its identity here. And it’s very much a Muslim-American identity, with no question that the two things can go hand in hand.”

And the “American” portion of that identity would include hip-hop. Many local Islamic rappers have been rapping longer than they’ve been Muslim.

“I started writing poetry, winning poetry awards when I was 10 years old,” said Amir Abdul-Shakur, who’s 26 and originally from Oakland. “Then I started honing my rap skills in middle school.” Abdul-Shakur, who raps under the name Five Eighty, converted to Islam in 2000. There are no contradictions, he said, “but there are a lot of things I can’t talk about. There are a lot of things I just don’t do.”

Those things would include: drinking alcohol, using drugs, any kind of criminal behavior, casual sex. Both men are married. Neither wants to use his music to evangelize.

It would seem to be hard to create lyrics around these limitations until I realized that they both had a bigger topic than most mainstream rappers: their own personal journeys. After all, the rap marketplace is saturated with the same old, same old – who better to offer a different take on risk and reward than a converted Muslim rapper?

“You’re already different,” Amir-Mustafa told me. “People are already looking at you with all these associations, all these misperceptions. So why not take the opportunity to talk about things they’re not used to hearing in the music, things like integrity? Why not talk about why you decided to go a different way?”

Caille Millner is an editorial writer. E-mail: cmillner@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page A – 10 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Mothers Day Heroine

Rola Awwad
Town: Wayne
Children: Adam, 10; Amana, 7; Miriam, 3
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom; Arabic teacher

Rola
Awwad wasn’t angry at first. Her son Adam’s elementary school in Wayne
had denied requests for the Muslim fifth-grader to pray in a private
room during school, citing safety concerns.

But
then Awwad learned from chatting with a woman at her mosque that the
Constitution protected the right to practice religion and that children
in nearby public schools had been praying in school for decades without
incident.

“I
never knew he had the right to pray, as long as it’s not interfering
with education and others,” said Awwad, a Palestinian raised in Jordan.

Awwad
sprung into action, pressing the school district to allow her son to
perform the obligatory afternoon prayer in a quiet, private space, such
as the library or the principal’s office. The Council on American
Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, intervened on Awwad’s
behalf and a compromise was reached in February. Adam was growing weary
of the public attention surrounding the case. Adam agreed to pray
during recess, while other children played nearby, either outdoors or
in the back of the classroom.

“This
was a lesson for my son not to give up on your rights. Be proud you are
a Muslim and to be proud you’re an American and born here,” she said on
a recent afternoon in her Wayne living room. Relenting on the issue for
now, she still worries about her son praying outside during recess when
it’s cold or rainy or when he enters middle school next year, when his
peers may be more apt to bully him.

Awwad
says she’s more outspoken than her husband, an engineering professor.
Her first foray into community activism was as a graduate student in
Jordan. She and a group of women built a social services center that
was controversial in the community. On a trip home, she brought her
kids to the site. “I wanted them to see it,” she said.

As
the clock struck 4, a recording of the afternoon call to prayer floated
from her kitchen while the children played in their rooms upstairs.
Awwad explained that she is intent on raising her kids with strong
Muslim values.

“I
want my kids to have a relationship with God,” said Awwad. “That will
protect them, and they will grow up to be good citizens,” she said.

ETHICAL INVESTMENT = SHARIAH COMPLIANCE

ISLAM & FINANCE FROM MY PERSPECTIVE: ETHICAL INVESTMENT = SHARIAH COMPLIANCE

Friday, May 8, 2009
ETHICAL INVESTMENT = SHARIAH COMPLIANCE

The notion of ethical investing goes back at least to 1758, when the Quakers banned profiting from the slave trade. But the market for ethical investments has always remained a niche. The goals of maximizing profit and fulfilling a moral agenda conflict more often than they complement one another, and investors who want to put ethics first have turned out to be relatively few.

Finance that complies with Shariah, is still a niche within the ethical investing niche. In all, there are at least $500bn worth of Islamic finance assets worldwide and Islamic banking has expanded by more than 10% annually over the past decade, according to Standard & Poor’s. It’s grabbing the attention of some of the biggest banks in the world and changing how they do business.

So just what does Shariah-compliant banking entail? Some of it is simply prohibiting things seen as immoral. Investing in casinos, pornography and weapons of mass destruction is out.

The animating religious goal behind other restrictions is to achieve greater social justice by sharing risk and reward. Islamic finance bans people from selling what they don’t own, which rules out short selling, and from engaging in contracts deemed to have excessive uncertainty on either side. That rules out traditional insurance, so Islamic banks have instead developed takaful, in which a group of people pool risk.

The Shariah stipulation banning interest, though, is the one that poses the most problems for modern finance.

To be sure, from the Bible to Buddhism, most of the world’s faiths have issued warnings against usury, and theologians through the ages have debated the line between permissible and excessive interest rates. But ultimately, in the West, governments and religious authorities deemed some amount of interest permissible.

Not so in Islam, in which most scholars deem fixed-interest payments forbidden. So, for example, the sukuk issuer does not sell a debt, as a traditional bond issuer would, but rather sells a portion of an asset, on which the buyer is then entitled to receive rent. Likewise, rather than take out an interest-bearing loan, a business in need of financing might enter a musharaka, a partnership with profit-and-loss sharing.

Why the growth in Islamic finance now? After all, Islam’s rules have been around since the seventh century, and some Muslim countries have been rich since the discovery of oil.

One important factor has been the recent rise in religiosity in Muslim countries especially, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. With the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, there was a feeling in many countries that Islam was a religion under siege.

Some observers date the rise in religious observance back even further, to the 1980s, when guest workers in Saudi Arabia from across the Muslim world began returning to their own countries, re-importing with them the strict Wahhabi subsect of Islam for which the desert kingdom is known.

Whenever this burgeoning religious observance began there is now an increasing appetite for Shariah finance. In some cases, Middle Eastern governments have embraced Islamic banking to advertise their religious chops.

Some of the growth in Islamic finance has also been due to clever positioning by Malaysia. After September 11, US authorities froze the bank accounts of several prominent Saudis, which triggered other wealthy Arabs to withdraw their funds from the United States.

Ultimately, some $200bn left the US. Many of the investors were from tiny Gulf states whose economies were too small to absorb their funds, and so they looked to Malaysia, a Muslim country with a relatively sophisticated financial system. It issued the first sovereign sukuk in 2002, and made a point of appointing Shariah scholars from the Gulf to monitor compliance.

Today, Kuala Lumpur rivals traditional hubs like Dubai and Bahrain as a global centre of Islamic finance.

In the end, the maths behind the growth of Islamic banking may be pretty simple: There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world – roughly a fifth of the world’s population. Some live in quickly developing economies, some sit on vast oil wealth and some are newly middle-class Americans and Europeans.

No one can say for sure how many will seek out banking that complies with Shariah, but even a small fraction of 1.3 billion is a market no one wants to ignore.

Posted by SWEET CHILD at 11:52 AM

British Muslims more ‘loyal’ to Britain

Poll: Brit Muslims more ‘loyal’ to Britain – UPI.com

Poll: Brit Muslims more ‘loyal’ to Britain
Published: May 8, 2009 at 7:57 PM

LONDON, May 8 (UPI) — A survey suggests 77 percent of British Muslims describe themselves as loyal to the country, compared to only 36 percent of the general public.

The survey, conducted by Gallup and the Coexist Foundation, suggests British Muslims are more likely than the general public to have high opinions of British elections, courts, media and financial bodies, The Times of London reported Friday.

“Since 9/11 and the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London, mistrust towards European Muslims has become palpable. Significant segments of European societies openly express doubt that Muslim fellow nationals are loyal citizens,” the report’s authors wrote. “The general construct of this premise rests on an oversimplified and erroneous understanding of Islam and terrorism.”

The poll involved 1,000 telephone interviews and 500 face-to-face interviews with Muslims living in areas with high Islamic populations.

UN blames Israel for Gaza attacks

UN blames Israel for Gaza attacks

More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in
Israel’s month-long assault on Gaza [EPA]

A United Nations inquiry into the war in Gaza has found that Israel was to blame for at least seven direct attacks on UN operations – including schools and medical centres.

The UN report, commissioned by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said the Israeli military intentionally fired at UN facilities and civilians hiding in them during the war and used disproportionate force.

Missiles, bombs and small arms were all used by Israel against the UN – leading to dozens of deaths.

The UN’s own fuel and aid depot in Gaza was hit with Israeli artillery shells causing widespread damage.

The attack continued for two hours after the UN asked the Israeli military for it to stop.

‘Negligence and recklessness’

Report reaction


 Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti
 Israeli spokesman Mark Regev
 UN rapporteur Richard Falk

The report’s summary accused the Israeli army of “varying degrees of negligence or recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and to the safety of UN staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries and extensive physical damage and loss of property.”

Ban said at a news conference on Tuesday that the aim of the report, which is not legally binding, was to establish “a clear record of the facts” surrounding incidents involving UN premises and personnel.

A total of 53 installations used by the United Nations Relief and Works agency (UNRWA) were damaged or destroyed during Israel’s Gaza campaign, including 37 schools – six of which were being used as emergency shelters – six health centres, and two warehouses, the UN agency said.

In video


 Ban denies downplaying Gaza report
 Revisiting Gaza attacks

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey in New York said the UN secretary-general was still determining the UN’s course of action over the report’s 11 recommendations.

The report said the UN would seek reparations for damages from Israel and meet the Israeli government.

Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, told Al Jazeera that the report was “one-sided” and that he hoped Ban would take into account Israel’s response to it.

Israel’s army concluded its own report into the three-week war on Gaza in late April, finding that Israel followed international law and that while errors occurred they were “unavoidable”.

Notorious incident

The report found that in seven out of the nine incidents involving UN premises or operations that it investigated, “the death, injuries and damage involved were caused by military actions … by the IDF [Israeli army]”.

The UN has called for an impartial inquiry into alleged crimes during the war [AFP]

It also said one of the incidents, when a World Food Programme warehouse in the Karni industrial zone in Gaza was damaged, was largely caused by a rocket “most likely” fired by Hamas or another Palestinian faction and condemned those responsible for using such “indiscriminate weapons” to cause deaths and injuries.

The investigation included one of the most notorious incidents in the war, when up to 40 people are believed to have died at a UN school in Jabaliya after Israeli mortar shells struck the area.

The UN initially said the shells had hit the school but later retracted the claim, while Israel initially said its forces were responding to firing from within the school, but also later reportedly withdrew the statement, although the UN report noted the claim still appeared on the Israeli foreign ministry’s website as of Tuesday.

The report also recommended that because there had been “many incidents” during the war involving civilian victims, an impartial inquiry should be mandated “to investigate allegations of violations of international law in Gaza and southern Israel by the IDF [Israeli army] and by Hamas and other Palestinian militants”.

Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, including around 400 children, Gaza health officials said, along with 13 Israelis.

Much of the coastal territory was also left in ruins.

Report ‘flawed’

In depth


Analysis and features from after the war

Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, told Al Jazeera that the report was “fundamentally flawed” and contained “methodological problems are so deep that everyone has to ask on what basis they make these criticisms”.

“Evidence shows one thing and the UN report clearly shows that they are not looking at reality.”

Israel has said the aim of its operations in Gaza was to cripple the Palestinian group Hamas’s ability to launch rockets into the south of Israel.

Earlier this month an Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed to Al Jazeera that it would not co-operate with a separate UN Human Rights Council investigation into alleged war crimes during the assault on the Gaza Strip.

International rights groups have accused both the Israeli military and Palestinian groups such as Hamas of violations throughout the conflict.

The UN secretary-general commissioned the report, written by a special committee led by Ian Martin, former head of Amnesty International, in January, shortly after fighting ended.

 Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Islam and democracy can – and do – coexist

Islam and democracy can – and do – coexist

Just look at successes in Indonesia and Turkey.

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Over the years American presidents have preached the power of freedom to the un-free nations of the world.

In recent times, the focus has been on the Arab world, where democratic progress has been scant. President George W. Bush’s efforts – from candid speeches to Arab leaders to a costly war in Iraq – have yielded mixed results.

President Obama is pursuing a different course, using a blend of personal charm abroad and efforts at home to burnish America’s image as a democratic example.

Throughout all this, skeptics have argued that this is a lost cause, and that democracy and Islam are incompatible.

So it is heartening to see the integration of democracy and Islam taking place in three huge countries whose Muslim populations make up somewhere between a quarter and a third of the world’s entire Muslim populace.

Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population (205 million), is undergoing national elections that will strengthen its steady democratic progress. India, which has a minority population of some 150 million Muslims, is finishing up month-long elections for a nation of more than 1 billion people. Turkey, with a Muslim population of 77 million, is a working example of a secular democracy in a Muslim country.

These examples may not offer a blueprint for the mostly undemocratic Arab world. But their success does offer welcome evidence that Islam and democracy can coexist, maybe even integrate.

Indonesia’s emergence as a peaceful democracy is notable because its past has not always been free of violence or manipulation. When I worked as a correspondent in Indonesia in the 1960s, the Army put down a communist-triggered coup and wrought terrible vengeance across the Indonesian archipelago.

Estimates of the death toll rose as high as 1 million people. My own estimate was about 200,000. An investigating commission reporting to President Sukarno listed 78,000 people dead – a dreadfully inaccurate figure that was offered up, a source told me, because “We gave Sukarno the figures we thought he wanted to hear.”

Indonesia’s travail continued under the man who deposed him, General Suharto. Yet today, Indonesia has become a country of order and promise.

India is currently conducting its 15th national election since achieving independence in 1947. Indians proudly proclaim the process to be the “world’s biggest exercise in democracy.” Though India is predominantly Hindu, the Muslims who live there tend not to vote as a religious bloc, but spread their votes across a multiplicity of parties with differing policies.

Months ago, Mr. Obama said he wanted to make a major address in an Islamic capital early in his presidency. He hasn’t done that yet, but it is no surprise that he chose Turkey for his “the US is not at war with Islam” speech. Turkey has proved, as Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, once said, “that you can have a democracy in a Muslim-majority country.” In free elections, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has successfully maintained Turkey as a secular, free-market society since 2003.

There have been spats between Turkey and the US. Turkey barred US forces from using its territory as a launching pad for the war against Saddam Hussein. Its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been a blistering critic of Israel over Gaza. But Obama’s visit was well received, and the US considers Turkey a useful potential interlocutor in the various challenges of the Middle East – a role that Turkey appears ready to assume.

Though Indonesia, India, and Turkey, each in their different ways, present welcome examples of compatibility between Islam and democracy, it is often democracy molded to accommodate local cultures and customs. It is freedom, but not necessarily democracy as defined in Washington or the capitals of western Europe.

John Hughes, a former editor of the Monitor, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for his coverage of Indonesia. He writes a biweekly column for the Monitor Weekly.

‘Go back and die in Gaza’

‘Go back and die in Gaza’
Short on supplies and facilities, Gaza’s hospitals cannot treated the most severe cases [GETTY]

Since Israel’s closure of the Gaza Strip in 2007, only severely sick Palestinians have been allowed to seek medical attention elsewhere provided they receive authorisation and security clearances from the Israeli authorities.

However, getting the special permit that allows patients to leave Gaza for medical treatment is a bureaucratic hassle and, many Gazans say,
comes with strings attached. 

According to the Israeli organisation Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Palestinian patients are increasingly being asked to make an impossible choice: Either to become collaborators with the Israeli intelligence apparatus – or to remain in Gaza without medical treatment. 

Al Jazeera spoke with Hadas Ziv, the director of PHR.

Al Jazeera: Your organisation has collected dozens of testimonies of patients who were pressured to collaborate with the Israeli General Security Services. How did you find out about this? A Palestinian will not easily admit he or she has been asked to become an informant. 

Ziv: True; it is not a subject people talk about easily and it happened gradually. Our organisation tries to support Gazan patients who were prevented by the Israeli authorities from treatment in Israel, or from crossing Israel on their way to hospitals in the West Bank.

Instead of clear rejection or admittance, the Israelis started saying: “permit pending interrogation”. The permit became conditional – not so much on individual health conditions, but on the outcome of the interrogation at the Erez Crossing. 

Then, many of the patients we were in touch with came back from interrogation and told us they did not get the permit: “They tried to extort me to collaborate and I wasn’t willing to give them information, so they sent me back to Gaza.”

When more and more people told us the same story, we understood that this was a new policy.

How do you know the testimonies are true?

The testimonies come from very different people, of different ages, different political opinions and from different towns in the Gaza strip. To believe that there is such a high degree of co-ordination among all the patients is pretty far-fetched. But more importantly, it needs a lot of courage to speak to us about this.

Some of the patients have a lot to lose if they talk.

You started collecting testimonies in the summer of 2007. But when do you think this practice started?

Very soon after the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. Since then Israel sees Gaza as an enemy entity, as something that has to be closely monitored and controlled.

And since then, it has become more difficult for the General Security Services (GSS) to gather intelligence from Gaza. They have little direct contact with Palestinians.

The only ones who are still allowed to cross Erez, even if they also have a lot of difficulties, are the patients. They are an easy prey for the GSS.  They are very vulnerable – for some, getting out of Gaza can be a question of life and death.

The GSS is using this situation to exert pressure.

Is there a standard procedure for these interrogations?

It varies. The newest development is that you have a specific appointment for interrogation and it’s not on the day of your treatment. But there are also cases where people think they have a permit and can go out, but then they are suddenly being taken to interrogation. Sometimes the patient has to wait in a room for several hours, without his family.

Then, they take him to another room for interrogation. They may ask just a couple of questions to find out if you know any Hamas members or they may suggest a deal for long term co-operation: “If you help us, we will help you. You need a treatment, we need information. We will give you a number, you call us once a week and give us information about your neighbours.”

If you refuse, they become more blunt: “Okay, go back and die in Gaza.”

What happens back in Gaza?

The patients are in a lose-lose situation. If they refuse to co-operate with the Israelis and are sent back, they may die because they can’t get appropriate treatment in Gaza.

If they do manage to get the permit, they will be branded as potential collaborators.

Whether you really did it or not is not so important. If people think you collaborated, your life may be at risk. In the end, everyone suspects everyone else. It’s like Orwell’s 1984.

And this is the objective – humiliation and fragmentation.

Isn’t the objective in the first place a more immediate one – simply gathering intelligence?

That’s just the surface.

I think the main goal is to break the cohesiveness and solidarity among Palestinians. This way, it’s much more difficult for them to unify and to struggle for a common cause.

What already happens between Fatah and Hamas then also happens between neighbours, between families … and this is good for the one who tries to control you.

But the Israeli government says it wants a partner for negotiations and thus a united Palestinian position.

What troubles me most as an Israeli citizen is that we suffer from a kind of collective psychosis.

We are governed by fear and manipulated by fear. Security is everything.

But what we are being offered is a very narrow definition of security. No one has the courage to say that long-term security is security for everyone, not just for us but also for Palestinians. But we are obstructed from seeing this, because we let fear govern our lives.

We constantly have something to fear. If one fear stops, another comes up. When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, it was very convenient for the Israeli government to use this. Hamas is being presented to the Israeli public as an entity that you cannot talk to. But 20 years ago, we claimed Fatah could not be talked to. Every time, a situation is being created in which you claim you have no one to talk to.

How are your views received by other Israelis?

When I argue with people they tell me I should be grateful to the people who defend me. That the GSS may be saving my life through these interrogations. They say I’m naive, that I am not patriotic and things like that.

But I think my point of view has the same legitimacy as others.

In Israel, if you mention the word “security”, no further arguments are needed. They say patients may come to Israel to organise terror attacks. In this case, Israeli society does not demand further explanation.

The result is that even things that we wouldn’t think about doing with convicted criminals, these things are suddenly permissible when it comes to Palestinians. It is as if we had two different sets of values. And this is only possible because we constantly dehumanise the Palestinians. If we would consider them as normal human beings, it would not be possible.

Everything is conditioned according to us. To our needs and our security. I think this is not justifiable. Not just because the victims suffer. Of course, the victims’ suffering is unimaginable.

It is beyond what I can express. Imagine you are the mother of a 17-year-old girl who has cancer, needs urgent treatment and is being extorted by the GSS. You, as a mother, are in a different room and you don’t know what your daughter is going through. This is unimaginable to me.

But it is also unimaginable to me what future my society has if it continues to act like this. I’m afraid for my society as well. I think we are at a crossroads. We have to choose. If we want to remain human, we cannot continue like this.

In a written statement given to Al Jazeera, the Israeli defence ministry has denied all the allegations made by Ziv.

“These charges are false. The only considerations Israel has are humanitarian and security-related ones,” the statement says.

“There is no truth to the contention that other factors are involved. The reason why clarifications are conducted by our security personnel is to ensure that those granted medical entry permits are indeed in need of such permits, and to ensure that those planning on abusing these permits to foment terror in Israel cannot gain entry into Israel.”

 Source: Al Jazeera

Police pulls down a portion of Madina Masjid

People gherao Nizamuddin PS, block traffic following police pulling down a portion of Madina Masjid

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net

New Delhi: In an incident which the local people described as a calculated move by the police to vitiate the communal atmosphere on the eve of the elections in Delhi, a police team from Nizamuddin Police Station on May 5 allegedly demolished some portions of the Madina Masjid near Delhi Public School in Sunder Nagar area near Nizamuddin Dargah.

According to eyewitnesses, a police team comprising 8-10 policemen in the leadership of Nizamuddin Police Station SHO came to the mosque around 12:30 pm on Tuesday. Without any provocation they started pulling down the asbestos sheets structure on the veranda of the mosque. Locals said the police also demolished wazukhan (place of abulation.)

When TCN reached the mosque it found the inside of the mosque ransacked. Prayer mats, books and rehals were strewn over there. The locals also alleged that the children of the madrasa attached to the mosque were also roughed up by the policemen. The children were sleeping when the policemen came. They used filthy language for them and roughed up them.

“Over the time the police have been threatening us. Whenever we put up a sheet or do some temporary construction on the land of the mosque, police come and threaten us,” said Muhammad Islam, imam of the mosque.

Local people got enraged that the mosque and the adjoining land are the properties of the wakf board yet the police have pulled down the sheets and ransacked the wazukhan. They took away the sheets and the water taps fitted in the wazukhana, the locals said.

When TCN tried to know from ACP Gurucharan Das who was visiting the site, he said he was looking into the case and verifying about the incident. People surrounding him did not seem to be satisfied with his statement.

The news about the incident has already spread. People began gathering near the mosque. About 10:30 pm about 200 people marched towards the Nizamuddin Police Station. They were shouting anti-police slogans. When they reached the station they blocked the road on both sides causing halt to the traffic for about half an hour. The mob also threw stones on the road and forced some vehicles to retreat.

Locals said the incident was planned to instigate Muslims and vitiate the communal atmosphere before the voting due on May 7. The election campaign ended on May 5. Nizamuddin area falls in the East Delhi Lok Sabha constituency for which among others Delhi CM Shiela Dikshit’s son Sandeep Dikshit (Congress) and Chetan Chauhan (BJP) are in the fray.

Al Jazeera Strikes Back at Pentagon, Releases Unedited Footage of US Soldiers’ ‘Bible Study’ in Afghanistan

Jeremy Scahill: Al Jazeera Strikes Back at Pentagon, Releases Unedited Footage of US Soldiers’ ‘Bible Study’ in Afghanistan (Video)

Al Jazeera Strikes Back at Pentagon, Releases Unedited Footage of US Soldiers’ ‘Bible Study’ in Afghanistan (Video)
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Read More: Afghanistan, Al Jazeera, Bible Study, Breaking News, Brian Hughes, Christianity, Jesus, Pentagon, War In Afghanistan, World News

A day after the Pentagon accused Al Jazeera of being ‘irresponsible and inappropriate’ for broadcasting the ‘hunt for Jesus’ in Afghanistan footage, the network releases unedited tapes.

Hours after Al Jazeera first broadcast a video showing US soldiers in Afghanistan being instructed by the military’s top chaplain in the country to “hunt people for Jesus” as they spread Christianity to the overwhelmingly Muslim population, the Pentagon shot back. It charged that Al Jazeera had “grossly misrepresent[ed] the truth.” Col. Greg Julian, told Al Jazeera: “Most of this is taken out of context … this is irresponsible and inappropriate journalism.”

Now, Al Jazeera and the man who filmed the controversial material are striking back. The network has just released unedited and unaltered footage (see below) of US soldiers in ‘bible study’ in Afghanistan. Jazeera describes it as “Extended footage shot by Brian Hughes, a US documentary maker and former member of the US military who spent several days in Bagram near Kabul.”

In Al Jazeera’s original report, Hughes addressed the fact that soldiers had imported bibles translated into Pashto and Dari. “[US soldiers] weren’t talking about learning how to speak Dari or Pashto, by reading the Bible and using that as the tool for language lessons,” Hughes told Al Jazeera. “The only reason they would have these documents there was to distribute them to the Afghan people. And I knew it was wrong, and I knew that filming it … documenting it would be important.”

Regarding allegations that the sermon of the military’s top chaplain in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, where he instructs soldiers to “hunt people for Jesus” was taken out of context, Hughes said in a statment, “Any contention by the military that his words are purposefully taken out of context to alter the tone or meaning of his sermon is absolutely false.”

Hughes is completely standing by the accuracy of Al Jazeera’s report. Here is Hughes’s statement:

On Sunday, May 3, the Al Jazeera English network and I made an agreement to produce a broadcast segment from a rough cut of my documentary film. This opportunity came after a May 2009 Harper’s magazine cover story called “Jesus Killed Mohammed.” While he researched and prepared that article, I allowed the author Jeff Sharlet to view the work-in-progress documentary. Sharlet’s article brought the film to Al Jazeera English’s attention.

My documentary, titled The Word and the Warriors, is inspired by a personal experience I had while serving as a combat flight crew member during the first Gulf War. During a very difficult and emotional time at war, an Army chaplain provided me comfort and counsel. I will never forget the important advice or the man who – without questioning my own faith – helped me at a time of need.

For two-and-a-half years, I have been researching and producing this film. I have traveled the world, interviewing both military servicemembers and civilians about the important role of these religious leaders/military officers.

During April/May 2008, I went to Afghanistan. With the assistance and full cooperation of the U.S. Army, I was allowed to film at Bagram Air Field. During that time, I was always wearing press credentials, and I was always accompanied by a media liaison while filming. The media liaison staff knew everything I filmed and – as I was told by them – they filed reports every evening about what I had filmed. It was my primary media liaison, an Army NCO, who – on my first day – invited me to meet LTC Gary Hensley. Hensley, the ranking chaplain in Afghanistan talked to me off camera expressing a concern he had about allowing me to film his chaplains. At the conclusion of the discussion, he agreed that I would be allowed to embed with his chaplains and invited me to film several hours of religious services.

Those hours at the Enduring Faith Chapel included his own sermon at a service called Chapel Next. With the exception of a few minutes I could not film because I was reloading my camera or moving to position for another shot, I videotaped Hensley’s entire sermon.

Any contention by the military that his words are purposefully taken out of context to alter the tone or meaning of his sermon is absolutely false…

In recent press statements, the military also contends that – in the footage depicting the Afghan-language (Dari and Pashto) bibles – a cut was made before “it would have shown that the chaplain instructed that the Bibles not be distributed.” This is a false statement. The chaplain – as seen in the footage before the cut – instructs the group to be careful and reiterates the definition of General Order #1. After this cut he begins to organize the group for the evening’s bible study lessons.

Finally, and in my opinion most important, is the fact that EVERY FRAME of the rough cut from Bagram was provided to the U.S. Army Public Affairs Office in advance of this release. On Thursday, April 30 at approximately 1 pm EST, the Army took possession of a DVD with this footage by accepting a FedEx from me. Since Al Jazeera English first aired the piece Sunday, May 3 at 10pm EST, the Army had every frame of this rough cut for more than 80 hours.

See related:

US Soldiers in Afghanistan Told to “hunt people for Jesus… so we get them into the kingdom”

U.S.
Military Calls Al Jazeera ‘Irresponsible and Inappropriate’ After
Network Broadcast US Soldiers Being Told to “hunt people for Jesus” in
Afghanistan

Read more of Jeremy Scahill’s work at RebelReports.com

A day after the Pentagon accused Al Jazeera of being ‘irresponsible and
inappropriate’ for broadcasting the ‘hunt for Jesus’ in Afghanistan
footage, the network releases unedited tapes. Hours after …

A day
after the Pentagon accused Al Jazeera of being ‘irresponsible and
inappropriate’ for broadcasting the ‘hunt for Jesus’ in Afghanistan
footage, the network releases unedited tapes. Hours after …

Related News On Huffington Post:

 

How Hackers Can Steal Secrets from Reflections

How Hackers Can Steal Secrets from Reflections: Scientific American

From the May 2009 Scientific American Magazine | 7 comments
How Hackers Can Steal Secrets from Reflections
Information thieves can now go around encryption, networks and the operating system

By W. Wayt Gibbs

JEN CHRISTIANSEN (photoillustration of reflection); DIGITAL VISION/GETTY IMAGES (man with glasses)
e-mail print comment
Key Concepts

* Even with the best network security, your electronic data may not be safe from a
determined hacker.
* Researchers have extracted information from nothing more than the reflection of a computer monitor off an eyeball or the sounds emanating from a printer.
* These attacks are difficult to defend against and impossible to trace.

More from the Magazine

* coverMay
2009 Issue
* Feature Articles Our Planet’s Leaky Atmosphere
* Updates Updates: Whatever Happened to the Universal Flu Vaccine?
* News Scan Quiet Bacteria and Antibiotic Resistance
* Buy the Digital Edition

Through the eyepiece of Michael Backes’s small Celestron telescope, the 18-point letters on the laptop screen at the end of the hall look nearly as clear as if the notebook computer were on my lap. I do a double take. Not only is the laptop 10 meters (33 feet) down the corridor, it faces away from the telescope. The image that seems so legible is a reflection off a glass teapot on a nearby table. In experiments here at his laboratory at Saarland University in Germany, Backes has discovered that an alarmingly wide range of objects can bounce secrets right off our screens and into an eavesdropper’s camera. Spectacles work just fine, as do coffee cups, plastic bottles, metal jewelry—even, in his most recent work, the eyeballs of the computer user. The mere act of viewing information can give it away.

The reflection of screen images is only one of the many ways in which our computers may leak information through so-called side channels, security holes that bypass the normal encryption and operating-system restrictions we rely on to protect sensitive data. Researchers recently demonstrated five different ways to surreptitiously capture keystrokes, for example, without installing any software on the target computer. Technically sophisticated observers can extract private data by reading the flashing light-emitting diodes (LEDs) on network switches or by scrutinizing the faint radio-frequency waves that every monitor emits. Even certain printers make enough noise to allow for acoustic eavesdropping.

Outside of a few classified military programs, side-channel attacks have been largely ignored by computer security researchers, who have instead focused on creating ever more robust encryption schemes and network protocols. Yet that approach can secure only information that is inside the computer or network. Side-channel attacks exploit the unprotected area where the computer meets the real world: near the keyboard, monitor or printer, at a stage before the information is encrypted or after it has been translated into human-readable form. Such attacks also leave no anomalous log entries or corrupted files to signal that a theft has occurred, no traces that would allow security researchers to piece together how frequently they happen. The experts are sure of only one thing: whenever information is vulnerable and has significant monetary or intelligence value, it is only a matter of time until someone tries to steal it.

From Tempest to Teapot
The idea of stealing information through side channels is far older than the personal computer. In World War I the intelligence corps of the warring nations were able to eavesdrop on one another’s battle orders because field telephones of the day had just one wire and used the earth to carry the return current. Spies connected rods in the ground to amplifiers and picked up the conversations. In the 1960s American military scientists began studying the radio waves given off by computer monitors and launched a program, code-named “Tempest,” to develop shielding techniques that are used to this day in sensitive government and banking computer systems. Without Tempest shielding, the image being scanned line by line onto the screen of a standard cathode-ray tube monitor can be reconstructed from a nearby room—or even an adjacent building—by tuning into the monitor’s radio transmissions.

Many people assumed that the growing popularity of flat-panel displays would make Tempest problems obsolete, because flat panels use low voltages and do not scan images one line at a time. But in 2003 Markus G. Kuhn, a computer scientist at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, demonstrated that even flat-panel monitors, including those built into laptops, radiate digital signals from their video cables, emissions that can be picked up and
decoded from many meters away. The monitor refreshes its image 60 times or more each second; averaging out the common parts of the pattern leaves just the changing pixels—and a readable copy of whatever the target display is showing.



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Arab, Muslim traders call China market town home

Arab, Muslim traders call China market town home | Lifestyle | Reuters

Arab, Muslim traders call China market town home
Tue May 5, 2009 9:54am BST

By Jason Subler and Zhou Xin

YIWU, China (Reuters Life!) – Saied Elnagdi is at the heart of the growing trade links between China and Muslim nations, and the 26-year-old Egyptian loves it.

Elnagdi runs a bustling cafe-restaurant in the center of Yiwu, a famed wholesale market town in the eastern province of Zhejiang, known for its hard-driving private enterprises.

His clientele: the tens of thousands of Muslim traders who live here or pass through regularly to buy small consumer goods that eventually find their way into homes from Kabul to Cairo.

“Here, I don’t feel like I’m living in a foreign country,” Elnagdi said in his restaurant, the smell of scented tobacco permeating the air. “This is my second home.”

And Yiwu does feel like home for many Arabs and Muslims because the town has become a magnet for merchants from Afghanistan to South Africa.

Traders plying the markets occasionally pause from bargaining over everything from doorknobs to wall hangings to pray in the hallways. On Fridays, thousands gather at the local mosque for prayers, often meeting up with friends afterwards for kebabs and conversation in the stalls set up out front.

Touts outside the mosque even offer to illegally install satellite television channels to help the homesick keep up with news from back home.

“Everybody knows about this place,” said Mahomed Paruk, a South African trader spending a couple of months in Yiwu during his first trip here. “I’ve always been meaning to come here.”

“CHINA IS THE FUTURE”

Merchants like Paruk may come for the inexpensive goods, but they stay in part because life is affordable and comfortable.Far from restricting religious observance as it does in parts of

China where separatism is rife, such as the northwestern region of Xinjiang, the government built the main mosque and assigns police officers to control traffic during Friday prayers.

Dana Hamad, an Iraqi Kurd working in Yiwu as branch manager for an air cargo company, said he chose to live here rather than in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou because it is smaller, safer, and the people more friendly.To Hamad, moving here was a good chance for a fresh start after

having his hopes of becoming a teacher dashed by war and finding few
other suitable opportunities back home.

“What can I do in my country, with wars happening all the time? This place is much better for doing business. China to me means

opportunity,” he said.

Life in Yiwu, however, is not always easy.Elnagdi, the restaurateur, said it took him some time to sort

through all the red tape involved in setting up a business in China, and that stepped-up security during sensitive times such as last year’s Beijing Olympics could be a hassle.

Still, business is so good that he plans to open a second
restaurant. He is even thinking of making longer-term plans to stay here.

“I hope I can find a Chinese wife, and then I’ll stay on,” he said.
“People are very friendly here, and more importantly, China is the
future.”

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

The FBI, the Islamic Center of Irvine and Craig Monteilh

The FBI, the Islamic Center of Irvine and Craig Monteilh: Who Was Conning Whom?

By NICK SCHOU

Published on April 29, 2009 at 1:06pm

Who Was that Mosqued Man?
Craig Monteilh insists he was hot on the trail of terrorist plots at OC mosques. Count the victims of his earlier con games among the skeptics

If there’s a precise moment when the FBI first began to have a sinking feeling about Craig Monteilh, it likely occurred sometime in the spring of 2007, when his handlers read a small detail buried in one of his surveillance reports. Monteilh had been spying on the Islamic Center of Irvine and other mosques for several months. He’d earned the friendship and trust of a small group of Muslims, all of whom, he claims, were actually terrorists bent on carrying out violent attacks in Orange County. Their targets included shopping malls such as Fashion Island, South Coast Plaza and the Irvine Spectrum and, somewhat improbably, abandoned buildings in downtown Los Angeles.

According to his report, Monteilh was walking into a mosque in Tustin with a couple of the terrorists whose cell he’d infiltrated when he noticed a group of young Middle Eastern-looking men unloading several barrels from a van and hauling them into the mosque. At the time, Monteilh insists, he didn’t really think too much about what he saw. He was too busy focusing on the terror plot that he and the terrorists planned to discuss at the mosque that day.

“I looked at them like this, really quick, ‘Salaam aleikum,’” Monteilh recalls two years later in an interview at his house in Irvine, re-enacting the casual sideways glance and standard Islamic greeting—“Peace be unto you”—that he says he uttered that spring day. “I kept walking because we had other business. But I put it in my report that I observed six to eight young Middle Eastern Muslims loading barrels in the back of the mosque.”

But when Monteilh’s FBI handlers read his report, he claims, they began arguing about whether or not he was a liar. “They went, ‘What the hell is this?’” Monteilh recalls. “‘He’s lying.’” The FBI refuses to comment on anything Monteilh says, so assuming any of this happened the way Monteilh says it did, one could easily imagine what went through his handlers’ minds when they read his report: Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to hire a convicted felon and con artist to spy on Orange County’s Muslim community after all.

*     *     *

Craig Monteilh’s self-declared status as an FBI informant first became public three months ago, shortly after the bureau arrested a 34-year-old Afghan immigrant named Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, charging him with perjury and passport fraud for allegedly lying about previous trips to Pakistan and the fact that his brother-in-law was a high-ranking member of a Taliban faction allied with al-Qaeda. In his sworn affidavit against Niazi, Special Agent Thomas J. Ropel III stated that, in a tape-recorded conversation, Niazi had referred to Osama bin Laden as “an angel.” On Feb. 21, the day after Niazi’s arrest, Monteilh told the LA Times that he was the informant who gave the FBI that tape and that the FBI had paid him to spy on Orange County mosques.

Although the FBI never responded to the latter claim, a week after Niazi’s arrest, Ropel testified in Niazi’s bail hearing that Monteilh had in fact provided the FBI with the tape recording. Ropel’s admission didn’t surprise the leadership of the Islamic Center of Irvine, of which Niazi had been a member. In June 2007, Niazi and another mosque member had reported Monteilh to the FBI, claiming that Monteilh was espousing terrorist rhetoric and trying to draw them into a plot to blow up shopping malls and abandoned buildings. When the FBI refused to investigate, the congregants suspected Monteilh might have been an agent provocateur; the Islamic Center sought and won a restraining order barring Monteilh from entering the mosque. (See Matt Coker’s “Talkin’ Jihad With Craig Monteilh,” March 5.)

Ropel’s admission that the FBI had been working with Monteilh all along led to a firestorm of controversy among Muslims in Orange County and beyond. It flew in the face of a June 2006 promise by J. Stephen Tidwell, an assistant director with the FBI, in a speech before an angry crowd at the Islamic Center of Irvine, that the bureau would never spy on mosques. That promise followed an Orange County Register story that quoted an FBI agent telling a group of Republicans in Newport Beach that the bureau was monitoring “extremists” affiliated with UC Irvine’s Muslim Student Union. (See Derek Olson’s “Against the Wall,” Oct. 19, 2007.)

The only confirmed cases of Orange County residents joining al-Qaeda involve Khalil Deek, a Palestinian exile, and Adam “Yahiye” Gadahn, a Jewish American teenager, both of whom fled to Pakistan before 9/11. Deek spent time in a Jordanian prison for his alleged role in a terrorist plot there but was freed months later. He has since disappeared and is believed to be dead. (See “So I Married a Terrorist . . .” April 20, 2007.) Gadahn, also known as Azzam the American, has appeared in several al-Qaeda videos and is rumored to be hiding out near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Muslim groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Muslim Task force on Civil Rights and Elections have been working to provide the FBI information about potential terrorist actions on U.S. soil. But after the bureau’s relationship with Monteilh became public, both groups called for Muslim Americans to consider calling off any outreach efforts with the government. As the outrage spread, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hauled FBI Director Robert Mueller to Capitol Hill to explain his bureau’s policy with regard to spying on mosques.

“We do not focus on institutions; we focus on individuals,” a defensive Mueller responded at the March 25 hearing, adding somewhat optimistically that he fully expected the controversy to blow over. The Muslim community, he insisted, “has been tremendously supportive and worked very closely with [the FBI] in a number of instances around the country.” Meanwhile, despite Monteilh’s claim that he’s a hero who helped thwart advanced-stage terrorist plots in Orange County, the FBI hasn’t arrested anyone except Niazi, who claims that the bureau tried to turn him into an informant, threatening that if he didn’t cooperate, they’d turn his life into a “living hell.”

*     *     *

Roughly a year before his FBI handlers apparently began to doubt him, someone else was starting to experience a sinking feeling about Craig Monteilh. On the evening of Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006, “Danielle”—she asked to be identified  by a pseudonym—was working out at a 24 Hour Fitness Center in Irvine when she saw Monteilh pedaling away on an exercise bike. She recalls that he was throwing unsubtle glances her way. “Who is this slimeball?” she thought.

After a few minutes, Monteilh approached her with a friendly smile and inquired why a nice young lady like her was alone at such a late hour. “My first impression was that he was a creep,” Danielle recalls. “He wasn’t attractive to me at all. I like guys who have hair on their head.” Monteilh quickly picked up on the fact that she wasn’t receptive to his efforts at flirtation. Adopting a businesslike tone of voice, he complimented her workout regimen and explained that he was a fitness consultant and could help her achieve her goals. “You don’t need a personal trainer,” he said. “I’ll help you out for free.” When Danielle asked him for a business card, she recalls that his response seemed almost too rehearsed. “My body is my business card,” he said. “My body is my certification.”

Over the next hour, Monteilh explained how he could help Danielle. As a fitness consultant, he had special access to health supplements such as ephedra and human growth hormone, he said, which he provided to famous athletes who paid a handsome price for his services. In fact, Monteilh said, he was doing so much “consulting” that the demand for his talents far exceeded his ability to supply his customers. “All my money is tied up right now,” he said. “If you will front me some money now, I will pay you back with huge returns.” Specifically, if Danielle could write Monteilh a check for $18,100, he would return the cash—and a profit of $12,900—within two weeks.

“I was dumb enough to write him a check,” she says. “When people ask me for help, I’m a sucker. Part of it, I will admit, was greed.”

On the day Danielle was supposed to get her money, Monteilh told her he had some wonderful news: He had another client who needed some ephedra immediately, and if she could give him another $6,000, her total profit would exceed $42,000. The following Monday, when Monteilh promised her the cash, he failed to return her telephone calls. Finally, Monteilh agreed to meet her at the Irvine gym. He explained that the cash was being held up because the “pharmaceutical cartel” he was working with needed a way to make their payment to her look legitimate. If Danielle would simply write another check for $9,000, they’d pay her a total of $53,000 within two hours.

On Sept. 18, 2006, Danielle met Monteilh in the parking lot of a Bank of America branch on Culver Street in Irvine and gave him a $9,000 cashier’s check. He promised to return a few hours later with her money. She waited for him until late that afternoon. At the last minute, he called and, apologizing profusely, invited her to meet him for dinner at Chili’s. While they ate, Monteilh told her that his associates had given him the slip, but he’d secured a promise they’d have her money by the end of the week, he said. Danielle told him that if he failed to deliver this time, she’d file a fraud complaint with the bank.

Even after that, Monteilh managed to coax another $15,000 from Danielle, a good-faith showing on her part that would smooth the way for her to double her rate of return and be paid $91,000 by that weekend. That never happened. Just as before, Monteilh apologized and promised her the money was on its way. Once again, he failed to deliver the cash, and Danielle realized he’d bilked her of $54,256 that she’d never see again. She called the Irvine Police Department, but the detective who took her call told her that she had no more legal standing against Monteilh than a person who gave a drug dealer money but was never delivered the drugs.

Danielle also posted a complaint against Monteilh on the Internet, detailing his fraud and accusing him by name. One person who read the post was “Carla”—which is not her real name—a previous Monteilh victim. She had met Monteilh in February 2006 at Twin Towers Fitness in Irvine. “We actually started dating,” she says. “He was actually the worst lay of my life, not very romantic. If it wasn’t for the money I gave him, I never would have kept dating him. But I was stuck.” Just as Monteilh later did with Danielle, he introduced himself as a fitness consultant who was looking for an investor who wanted to earn massive profits. Between February and August, Carla gave Monteilh a total of just more than $100,000—and never received a single penny in return. She even bought Monteilh a Samsung plasma flat-screen television, which Monteilh said he’d give to the president of the “pharmaceutical cartel” in a bid to ensure she’d receive even more money in return for her investment.

“When I met him, he was driving an old Lexus sedan,” she says. “After I gave him about $20,000, he purchased another car, a new Chrysler 300. After a few months, he was making all these excuses about why I couldn’t get paid. He would always talk about this money being invested in other countries at a high rate of interest and that his phone calls were being monitored. He had me living in fear that if I said anything to anyone, it would interfere with my payout.”

Monteilh told Carla he was involved with Eastern European businessmen who he often had to meet early in the morning, which was why he never spent the night at her apartment. “Obviously, I didn’t know he was married,” she says. (By his own admission, Monteilh was indeed married at that time.) Carla found out about his wife only after she read Danielle’s Internet post and realized she wasn’t the only person Monteilh had conned. Together, she and Danielle hired a private investigator, who told them about Monteilh’s marital status and the fact that he’d served prison time for writing bad checks. “Looking back, I feel stupid, but the man was so good at manipulating,” Carla concludes. “This gentleman is extremely good at what he does and can actually convince you to believe anything he says.”

In January 2007, after hearing each other’s horror stories about Monteilh, both Carla and Danielle walked into the Irvine Police Department’s headquarters, determined to find someone who would listen to them. They met with Sergeant Terry Head and Detective Ronald Carr, who promised to follow up on their accusations. Carr has since retired and could not be located; the police department refused to make either officer available for an interview.

But a September 2007 police report obtained by the Weekly shows that Carr questioned Monteilh about the two women at his house. “The first thing I noticed was a large-screen Samsung plasma television mounted on the wall of the living area,” Carr wrote. When Carr asked Monteilh about Carla, he claimed she had made up lies about him because of their “dating relationship.” Monteilh’s wife was in the room, and when Carr asked her if she knew Monteilh was dating other women, she said she “knew everything about him.” Monteilh denied any wrongdoing, but Carr left the house determined to see him put behind bars for numerous counts of grand theft. “Based on this investigation,” he wrote, “I am requesting an arrest warrant for Craig Frederick Monteilh.”

*     *     *

By the time Carr’s grand-theft investigation brought him to Monteilh’s house in Irvine, the target of his probe had already received tens of thousands of dollars in payments from the FBI in return for spying on mosques. At least, that’s how much Monteilh conservatively estimates the FBI paid him from early 2006 through late 2007, when Carr’s investigation sent him back to state prison. Monteilh claims his work as an informant actually began with his first stint behind bars in 2002, when he spent a year at Chino State Prison for writing bad checks.

While at the prison, Monteilh claims, he ran with the PEN1 Death Squad, a white-supremacist prison gang. “If you are reasonably intelligent, you can learn their doctrine. ‘We must secure the existence of our race and the future of our white children.’ If you memorize that, along with certain key precepts, you’re pretty much in, and if you memorize all of it, you are leadership. That’s what I did.”

After being released in March 2003, Monteilh says, he was working out at a gym in Costa Mesa when he fell into conversation with a couple of police officers who said they worked for the Regional Narcotics Suppression Program. He told the cops that he’d been an ordained minister with Calvary Chapel in Compton who counseled Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies at the Twin Towers jail in downtown LA as well as a station in San Dimas before going to prison. (An investigator who looked into Monteilh’s claim for Calvary Chapel says there is not now nor ever has been a Calvary Chapel in that city, and the LA Sheriff’s Department has no record of ever having employed Monteilh.)

The cops invited him to meet some of their colleagues at Sam Yoo’s, a Chinese restaurant in Irvine. “In the course of the conversation, they said, ‘Would you mind sitting down with us and telling us about activities going down in Orange County? You can even be paid doing this,’” Monteilh recalls. “I said sure, and that’s where this started.”

Over the course of the next few years, Monteilh says, he helped the FBI arrest several white-supremacist and Russian-mafia figures.

Monteilh claims his next operation involved “the illegal distribution of HGH [human growth hormone] and anabolic steroids,” but that in the middle of his investigation, the FBI invited him to do “national security work.” Because he wanted to help to defend his country, Monteilh says, he had to abruptly cease his HGH probe. In Monteilh’s telling, Danielle and Carla—the two women he ripped off—were actually targets of his investigation. “There were people we had focused on,” he says. “They gave me money. . . . They were very pissed off that I left. They wanted me to continue providing HGH to them.”

According to Monteilh, an FBI agent met with him at a Starbucks in Costa Mesa and invited him to spy on local mosques in the name of national security. Monteilh claims he then met with two FBI agents, who asked him to name various Middle Eastern current heads of state and every Russian leader since Czar Nicholas. Monteilh rattled off all the names without hesitation. “They looked at each other and said, ‘You’ve already passed,’” he says. “‘We’re going to take what you already know, incorporate it with other things, and make you into a weapon of intel.’ I said, ‘Okay.’”

From there, Monteilh claims, he was taken to a training center, the location of which he refuses to divulge, and was provided with basic Arabic instruction and a refresher course on Islam, which included memorizing the Koran. Monteilh would enter the mosque under his own name but ask to be called Farouk Aziz. He would falsely claim to be of mixed French-Syrian ancestry. “The plan,” he says, “was to enter the ISOI [Islamic Center of Irvine], to begin very slowly, start with Western clothes, Italian suits, and in the process of my studies, shed off all Western [clothes] at the direction of Muslims . . . and to make this transformation as real as possible.”

After converting to Islam—or pretending to—in a public ceremony at the mosque, Monteilh began regularly attending prayers there in August 2006. The mosque’s imam, Sadullah Khan, is a widely respected moderate who grew up in South Africa and was involved in the struggle against apartheid. (He declined an interview request for this story, citing the mosque’s ongoing legal efforts to enforce a restraining order against Monteilh.)

Monteilh also claims he fell in with a group of Egyptians, all of whom were secretly members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that when the group invited him to visit their houses and attend their meetings, the FBI increased his pay.

In late September 2007, Monteilh claims, one of the Egyptians told him that a Muslim “brother” wanted to meet him and teach him how to make bombs. Monteilh told his handlers. “At the time, we were negotiating my monthly payments,” he says, so the FBI supervisor thought he was lying in order to boost his pay. Monteilh offered to tape-record the Egyptians talking about bombs. A few days later, he accompanied the Egyptians to the It’s a Grind coffee shop on Culver Street. While the rest of the group went inside to buy tea and coffee, Monteilh taped himself thanking the man who’d told him about the bomb instructor. “I am honored that you would trust me in that way,” he said.

“Farouk,” Monteilh claims the man replied. “We’re brothers. I trust you with everything now. I don’t mind telling you about a brother that wants to help you make a bomb.”

Soon thereafter, Monteilh says, he met Ahmadullah Sais Niazi. Over the course of the next few months, Monteilh says, he spent an increasing amount of time with Niazi, discussing jihad. While eating dinner at a Chinese Islamic restaurant in May 2007, they discussed the recent death of an Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Dadullah. According to Monteilh, he secretly recorded Niazi praising Dadullah and Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

“The other one is even greater,” he claims Niazi stated.

“Who’s that?” Monteilh asked.

“The tall skinny one,” Niazi replied.

“Osama bin Laden?” Monteilh asked. “He said, ‘Shhh.’” Then, Monteilh says, Niazi boasted that when bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan from Sudan in 1996, he was there to welcome him. Niazi then offered to provide Monteilh with speeches by bin Laden.

“He is an angel,” Niazi concluded. That quote, Monteilh explains, is the one that FBI agent Ropel later cited in his affidavit against Niazi.

Monteilh didn’t just secretly record Niazi, but he also kept what he claims are copies of all his e-mail communications with him, which he provided to the Weekly. Most of the messages are simply links to various websites and YouTube video clips with subject titles such as “Check this out.” Many of the links no longer work, but the ones that are still valid direct viewers to everything from Arabic instructional websites to clips of such 9/11-conspiracy movies as Loose Change, which posits that the infamous attacks were an inside job. Although many of the e-mails contain essays that are paranoid, distasteful, anti-Semitic and pro-radical-Islam, none of them even comes close to being evidence of any kind of a terrorist plot.

But Monteilh insists that such evidence does exist because he recorded Niazi and other Muslims—none of whom has been arrested nearly two years later—discussing a plot to blow up buildings in Orange County. “We talked about sites, places that were going to be targets: OC malls, Fashion Island, South Coast Plaza, the Spectrum, and the Superior Court and federal court buildings in OC,” he says. “Abandoned buildings in LA and military installations, including recruitment sites.”

It was at about this time that Monteilh typed up the surveillance report in which he claimed to have seen a group of young Middle Eastern-looking men carrying several barrels into the back door of a mosque in Tustin. After his handlers argued over whether he had made up the incident to justify the money they were paying him for three weeks, Monteilh says, the FBI finally sent a radiological team to snoop inside the mosque, using a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant, which allows agents to search homes or buildings without their owners’ permission or knowledge. The results of the radiation tests, he says, were inconclusive. While there’s no evidence other than Monteilh’s word that the barrels ever existed or that the FBI took his claim seriously, the FBI has acknowledged, in response to a 2005 U.S. News & World Report story, that since 9/11, it has conducted radiation tests at mosques in the United States.

*     *     *

The FBI’s surveillance of Orange County Muslims hit a snag on May 14, 2007, when an agent who was trailing a member of the Muslim Student Union at UCI nearly ran over his target with his car after the student, who realized he was being watched, tried to take the agent’s picture. Monteilh says he learned of the incident through one of his handlers, who called him with the news and warned him that mosque officials would likely become suspicious of any recent converts. “I got a phone call saying they are suspicious of [me] because of what happened,” he says, adding that the agent told him that several mosque officials had discussed him at the Islamic Center. “Our youth are being openly surveilled,” one allegedly fumed. “What about that guy Farouk? How well do you really know him?”

In Monteilh’s telling, the UC Irvine incident led to his cover being blown, thus short-circuiting his spy operation. Assuming that Monteilh isn’t fabricating the conversation he says took place, the only way the FBI would know this dialogue had happened would be if the bureau wiretapped the center. Asked if that were the case, Monteilh nodded. “I don’t know,” he said. Asked if he had bugged the office himself, he nodded again. “You know, I really don’t know.”

But there is another explanation of how Monteilh was exposed. In early June 2007, Niazi and another member of the Irvine mosque told Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR’s Southern California chapter, that they were riding to a mosque in Culver City with Monteilh when he began espousing jihad, saying he wanted to blow up buildings. “At that point, Niazi and the driver of the car realized the guy has gone crazy or is about to do something,” Ayloush says. “They were worried this guy was going to do something and they would be considered accomplices since they knew him.”

Ayloush, who’d been working with the FBI since 9/11, immediately called Tidwell, the official who a year earlier had promised the crowd at the Irvine mosque that the bureau would never spy on mosques. “I am calling to report a possible terrorist,” Ayloush told the assistant director. “He is a white convert in Irvine.” As soon as Ayloush uttered those words, he says Tidwell cut him off. “Okay,” he reportedly replied. “Thanks for letting us know.”

Ayloush offered to provide the FBI with the man’s name and address, but, he says, Tidwell told him to give the information to the Irvine P.D., which he promptly did. “Neither the FBI nor the Irvine P.D. ever bothered to talk to the guy after he was reported,” Ayloush says.

When the Irvine mosque sought and obtained a restraining order against him, Monteilh began sending angry e-mails to Niazi, Ayloush and others, blasting them for being “weak Muslims” and “traitors” for talking to the FBI—a ploy Monteilh says he used to try to maintain his cover.

In June 2008, Ayloush says, Niazi came to CAIR’s office in Anaheim and complained that the FBI had accused him of perjury when he testified for the restraining order against Monteilh and threatened to send him to prison for years if he refused to become an informant. Among other things, he says, the FBI confronted Niazi with their knowledge that his sister was married to Amin Al Haq, an Afghan mujahedin leader who went on to become involved with a militant Taliban faction allied with al-Qaeda, a fact that Niazi had failed to mention in his immigration paperwork. Niazi told Ayloush that he couldn’t pick his in-laws and he did not wish become an informant. “He started crying,” Ayloush recalls. “He said, ‘I don’t want anything to happen to me. I came to America thinking this was a free country and I’d be treated with dignity and humanity.’”

In September 2007, Irvine police finally followed up on Danielle’s and Carla’s complaints, and after working out a plea deal that avoided a jury trial, Monteilh went to jail for conning the two women out of more than $150,000. Although he could have spent more than five years behind bars, prosecutors agreed to lower his sentence to 16 months, of which Monteilh served only eight. The district attorney’s office refused to comment on Monteilh’s claim that he received a reduced sentence after the FBI intervened on his behalf. “We formulated the state prison sentence based upon the amount of theft and the facts and circumstances and proof in the case,” says DA spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder. “That’s all we’re going to say about it.”

His victims aren’t being so quiet, especially when it comes to the question of whether the FBI should believe anything Monteilh told them while working as an informant. “When I read about the mosque thing, I couldn’t believe it,” recalls Carla. “His con would be to convert [to Islam], con the Muslims into believing him, and con the FBI out of their money. That’s what he does.”

Danielle agrees. “It would not surprise me if he bullshitted the FBI,” she says. “‘I’m going to prevent another 9/11! Give me your money, and I’ll do that.’ Shame on them for believing him.”

Not surprisingly, in Monteilh’s version of events, he’s both the victim and the hero of this story. He’s preparing a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the FBI. “They allowed Irvine P.D. to arrest me,” he says. “They didn’t live up to the exit strategy. I still have a restraining order against me, and if I violate it, I go back to prison for three months. Does that sound to you like the FBI lived up to its end of the bargain?”

If Monteilh is angry at the FBI, he’s certainly not alone. “The fact that the sanctity of our mosques has been totally violated shows the total disrespect the FBI has toward Muslims,” says CAIR’s Ayloush. “For the past eight years, CAIR and other groups have been engaged in a campaign to build a relationship with the FBI, and at the same time, their instigator was trying to get innocent Muslims to become terrorists. We feel like we were stabbed with a huge dagger in the back.”

Shortly before President George W. Bush left office, the FBI broke off its relationship with CAIR, citing the fact the group was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a case against the Holy Land Foundation, which was convicted in November 2008 of sending cash to Hamas. The FBI’s decision rankled Tareef Nashashibi, former chairman of the Orange County Arab American Republican Club, which has been active in helping to advise the FBI on its relationship with Muslim Americans. “I wasn’t happy with that,” Nashashibi says. “But what really bugs me is all the trouble coming out of the Orange County office. We saw a threat [Monteilh] and automatically called the police and the FBI, as good citizens should do. And guess what? Our people are getting prosecuted for it. We are doing the best we can to safeguard this country, and we get shot in the foot for it.”

Nobody is less surprised that the FBI supposedly used Monteilh to spy on mosques than Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. “This has reinforced our suspicions and fears all along that we carried,” he says. In May 2006, just before the FBI’s Tidwell insisted the bureau would never spy on mosques, Syed and several other Muslim leaders filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FBI, demanding records of any surveillance operations against them. When the FBI handed over only 50 pages of heavily redacted material, the ACLU filed a lawsuit and ultimately won hundreds of pages—most of them blacked-out—showing that the FBI had indeed been monitoring them. The FBI continues to withhold numerous records on national-security grounds, but on April 20, a federal judge ordered the FBI to hand over those records.

According to Monteilh, Syed’s FOIA request could turn up quite a scandal. Although he refused to elaborate, he claims the FBI wasn’t just spying on mosques. “This is way bigger than that,” he says. “If you think this was racial profiling, you haven’t even heard the beginning.” When asked why the FBI hasn’t arrested anyone other than Niazi if he really thwarted a terrorist plot, Monteilh insists that the FBI is just biding its time for the controversy over his infiltration of the mosques to blow over. “With all that is going on now, maybe it’s best to hold on,” he says. “When they start arresting people, who’s going to be the hero?”

nschou@ocweekly.com

Indian Muslim scholars condemn Taliban for harassing Sikhs in Pakistan

Indian Muslim scholars condemn Taliban for harassing Sikhs in Pakistan _English_Xinhua

Indian Muslim scholars condemn Taliban for harassing Sikhs in Pakistan
http://www.chinaview.cn 2009-05-03 17:01:37 Print

NEW DELHI, May 3 (Xinhua) — Muslim scholars in India have condemned the harassment of Pakistani Sikhs by Taliban militants who imposed “jizya”, or religious tax, on the ethnic minority.

A joint statement issued by Islamic high scholars of India said Sunday such acts by the Taliban are more of extortion at the hands of a lawless group and does not hold any legality in Islamic Jurisprudence.

“We wish to make it clear that the imposition of the so-called “jizya” is nothing more than extortion by an armed and lawless gang, which does not constitute a sovereign government or state or even an organ thereof,” the Muslim scholars said in the statement.

Taliban militants have reportedly demolished some 10 houses belonging to Sikhs in Pakistan after they refused to pay religious taxes (jizya) levied on them by the Taliban.

“We condemn the kidnapping and extortion of huge amounts of money from their Sikh compatriots by Taliban in Pakistan,” said Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan, President of All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawaratas, in a telephonic interview to Xinhua.

The religious scholars demand that the Pakistani authorities should take steps to retrieve the extorted sums and pay them back to the affected non-Muslim citizens, besides providing them due protection.

India Friday expressed concern about the harassment of the Sikhs by the Taliban in Pakistan and said that it has already raised the issue with Islamabad.

Pakistan said Saturday it would protect all its citizens and asked India not to worry about the safety of Sikhs living in Pakistan.

What does Islam say about Terrorism?

Brochure: Islam on Terrorism

What does Islam say about Terrorism?
877-WHY-ISLAM Brochure.
Request a copy View in PDF

One of the distinctive characteristics of the times we live in is the overwhelming presence of violence in our societies. Whether it is a bomb going off in a market place, or the hijacking of an aircraft where innocent people are held at ransom to achieve political ends, we live in an age, where the manipulation and loss of innocent lives has become commonplace.

Such is the all-pervasive nature of indiscriminate violence, that “terrorism” is considered as one of the prime threats to peace and security in our societies.

The word terrorism came into wide usage only a few decades ago. One of the unfortunate results of this new terminology is that it limits the definition of terrorism to that perpetrated by small groups or individuals. Terrorism, in fact, spans the entire world, and manifests itself in various forms. Its perpetrators do not fit any stereotype. Those who hold human lives cheap, and have the power to expend human lives, appear at different levels in our societies. The frustrated employee who kills his colleagues in cold-blood or the oppressed citizen of an occupied land who vents his anger by blowing up a school bus are terrorists who provoke our anger and revulsion. Ironically however, the politician who uses age-old ethnic animosities between peoples to consolidate his position, the head of state who orders “carpet bombing” of entire cities, the exalted councils that choke millions of civilians to death by wielding the insidious weapon of sanctions, are rarely punished for their crimes against humanity.

It is this narrow definition of terrorism that implicates only individuals and groups, that has caused Muslims to be associated with acts of destruction and terror, and as a result, to become victims of hate violence and terror themselves. Sometimes the religion of Islam is held responsible for the acts of a handful of Muslims, and often for the acts of non-Muslims!

Could it be possible that Islam, whose light ended the Dark Ages in Europe, now propound the advent of an age of terror? Could a faith that has over 1.2 billion followers the world over, and over 7 million in America, actually advocate the killing and maiming of innocent people? Could Islam, whose name itself stands for “peace” and “submission to God”, encourage its adherents to work for death and destruction?

For too long, have we relied on popular images in the media and in Hollywood films, for answers to these pertinent questions. It is now time to look at the sources of Islam, and its history to determine whether Islam does indeed advocate violence.

Sancity Of Human Life

The Glorious Qur’an says:

“…take not life, which God hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.”
[Al-Qur’an 6:151]

Islam considers all life forms as sacred. However, the sanctity of human life is accorded a special place. The first and the foremost basic right of a human being is the right to live. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“…if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”
[Al-Qur’an 5:32]

Such is the value of a single human life, that the Qur’an equates the taking of even one human life unjustly, with killing all of humanity. Thus, the Qur’an prohibits homicide in clear terms. The taking of a criminal’s life by the state in order to administer justice is required to uphold the rule of law, and the peace and security of the society. Only a proper and competent court can decide whether an individual has forfeited his right to life by disregarding the right to life and peace of other human beings.

Ethice Of War

Even in a state of war, Islam enjoins that one deals with the enemy nobly on the battlefield. Islam has drawn a clear line of distinction between the combatants and the non-combatants of the enemy country. As far as the non-combatant population is concerned such as women, children, the old and the infirm, etc., the instructions of the Prophet are as follows: “Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman”[1]. “Do not kill the monks in monasteries” or “Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship.”[2] During a war, the Prophet saw the corpse of a woman lying on the ground and observed: “She was not fighting. How then she came to be killed?” Thus non-combatants are guaranteed security of life even if their state is at war with an Islamic state.

Jihad

While Islam in general is misunderstood in the western world, perhaps no other Islamic term evokes such strong reactions as the word ‘jihad’. The term ‘jihad’ has been much abused, to conjure up bizarre images of violent Muslims, forcing people to submit at the point of the sword. This myth was perpetuated throughout the centuries of mistrust during and after the Crusades. Unfortunately, it survives to this day.

The word Jihad comes from the root word jahada, which means to struggle. So jihad is literally an act of struggling. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that the greatest jihad is to struggle with the insidious suggestions of one’s own soul. Thus jihad primarily refers to the inner struggle of being a person of virtue and submission to God in all aspects of life.

Secondarily, jihad refers to struggle against injustice. Islam, like many other religions, allows for armed self-defense, or retribution against tyranny, exploitation, and oppression. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“And why should ye not fight in the cause of God and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? – Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!”
[Al-Qur’an 4:75]

Thus Islam enjoins upon its believers to strive utmost, in purifying themselves, as well as in establishing peace and justice in the society. A Muslim can never be at rest when she sees injustice and oppression around her. As Martin Luther King Jr. said:

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Islam enjoins upon all Muslims to work actively to maintain the balance in which God created everything. However, regardless of how legitimate the cause may be, the Glorious Qur’an never condones the killing of innocent people. Terrorizing the civilian population can never be termed as jihad and can never be reconciled with the teachings of Islam.

History Of Tolerance

Even Western scholars have repudiated the myth of Muslims coercing others to convert. The great historian De Lacy O’Leary wrote:

“History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims, sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated.”[3]

Muslims ruled Spain for roughly 800 years. During this time, and up until they were finally forced out, the non-Muslims there were alive and flourishing. Additionally, Christian and Jewish minorities have survived in the Muslim lands of the Middle East for centuries. Countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan all have significant Christian and/or Jewish populations.

This is not surprising to a Muslim, for his faith prohibits him from forcing others to see his point of view. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things.”
[Al-Qur’an 2:256]

Islam – The Great Unifier

Far from being a militant dogma, Islam is a way of life that transcends race and ethnicity. The Glorious Qur’an repeatedly reminds us of our common origin:

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”
[Al-Qur’an 49:13]

Thus, it is the universality of its teachings that makes Islam the fastest growing religion in the world. In a world full of conflicts and deep schisms between human beings, a world that is threatened with terrorism, perpetrated by individuals and states, Islam is a beacon of light that offers hope for the future.
———-

[1] Narrated in the collection of traditions of Abu Dawud
[2] Narrated in the Musnad of Imam Ibn Hanbal
[3] Islam At Crossroads, London, 1923, page 8

Gujarat Carnage-Role of Narendra Modi

Gujarat Carnage-Role of Narendra Modi | TwoCircles.net

Gujarat Carnage-Role of Narendra Modi
Submitted by admin3 on 1 May 2009 – 10:53pm.

* Articles
* Crime/Terrorism
* Indian Muslim

By Ram Puniyani,

In the worst ever communal carnage of this century, the post Godhra Gujarat violence, over 2000 innocents lost their lives. Most of the survivors not only lost their livelihood and shelter but also have been degraded to the status of second class citizens. Most of the perpetrators of violence, have not only gone scot-free; many of them had an upward political mobility. The efforts of the victims and human rights activists had yielded very few results and majority of the victims are grieving and living with the scars of their losses. In the whole process, the direction of Apex court to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the role of Modi, his cabinet colleagues and other top functionaries of state and those involved in violence, has come as a sigh of hope. The court gave the direction (April 27, 2002) in response to appeal by Jakia Ahsan Jafri, the widow of slain Congress MP, Ahsan Jafri. One complements the courage and doggedness of Jakia Jafri for all her efforts.

This comes in the backdrop of the arrest of Maya Kodnani, Modi’s cabinet colleague who instigated and led the carnage in Naroda Patia. Just to recall, Ahsan Jafri ex Congress MP had made frantic calls to all those concerned but the police help was not forthcoming to save him from the mob assembled by the VHP-Bajrang Dal and others, the lead players in Gujarat carnage. So far the official inquiry committees have not pointed its finger on the role of Modi, while the Human Rights Commission report (2002) pointed out that state machinery failed to protect the innocent people. Most of the citizen’s inquiry committees by human rights activists have pointed out about the role of state administration and Modi in particular in the violence. In the major such report of ‘Citizens tribunal’ headed by retired Justice Krishna Ayer and Justice P.B.Sawant, (Crime against Humanity), a Minister in Modi’s Government Haren Pandya gave description of the meeting which Modi had called on the evening of Godhra train accident. As per Pandya Modi instructed all the top state officials to let the Hindu anger not be curtailed in the aftermath of Godhra. Modi popularized the thesis that Godhra train was burnt in a pre planned manner by the international terrorism, in collusion with the ISI and local Muslims. Infamously, he announced that every action has an opposite reaction, meaning that now Hindus will take revenge and state should sit back and let the opposite reaction take its course.

Same Harem Pandya was murdered later and his father stated that his murder had taken place on the instance of Modi. While the carnage was on, the Central government, NDA led by BJP, kept watching and barring some stray noises by PM Vajpayee and Home Minister Advani, the carnage went on spilling the rivers of blood. Despite Modi’s claim that he controlled the violence in 72 hours, it took months for the din to settle. Modi’s acts of omission were more than obvious. His permitting the procession of dead of Godhra tragedy in the lanes of Ahamadabad, violating all the norms of prevention and control of riot situation are too well documented by now. Now as matters stand our legal system has lots of loopholes and most of the guilty are not punished. On the contrary, in the case of Gujarat, Modi ‘succeeded’ in splitting the Gujarat society along religious lines, and he took advantage of the communal divide by riding back to power and strengthened his vice like grip on the administration and state as a whole. And now, In Gujarat the matters are not seen as guilty versus innocents, they are seen as Hindu versus Muslim.

While on one hand Modi is being projected as the future Prime minister of India, not only by many captains of industry but also by the party sustaining on the fodder of communal divide, the BJP. While most of the people with plural values and concern for national integration are welcoming the direction of Apex court, the others doing electoral calculations point out that this investigation will enhance the standing of Modi. BJP spokesman also pointed out that this direction of Apex court will be helpful to the BJP in electoral arena. The nation is standing on a tragic point where the communal polarization brought in by communal violence and anti-minority propaganda has resulted in the loss of sensitivity of a section of society towards the miseries and travails of large part of our own country, our own nation.

In response to court directive, Modi asserted that he is ready to go to jail. This assertion is the outcome of his knowledge that in the polarzed state he will benefit despite his criminal acts. The observation so far has been that Modi has shown no remorse for what happened in Gujarat, forget apologizing for the same. The path to power for the practitioners of divisive politics is through the rivers of blood, and they know it.

So should we press for justice or fall in the trap of electoral arithmetic? The point is if we loose our basic human morality, if we compromise on the issue of rule of law, what is the worth of values of Constitution? Tragedy is not that the nation is knowing the guilt of the ilk of Modi and is watching helplessly, the tragedy is that our justice delivery system has been eroded from bottom upwards, where justice is sacrificed at the drop of a hat. The communal mind set cultivated by divisive politics, the large section of state machinery being guided by considerations other than the values of constitution is a matter of deep concern.

It is because of this total communalization of state apparatus that the Supreme Court had to reprimand Modi, time and over again. It is because of this that the major cases were shifted out from Gujarat. It is the same place where Zahira Sheikh changed her versions times and over again, lured by the lucre offered to her by BJP workers.

Modi bloating his chest while sitting over the corpses of thousands, is a symptom of deeper rot which has set in the society. By now first the cases are not investigated properly due to communal considerations, then when the reports nail the culprits, many of them are not touched for political considerations. Rather than having remorse and anguish on what happened to say that this Apex court direction will benefit BJP, is the most immoral and base statement which only heartless inhuman characters can make.

A heavy responsibility lies on SIT to cull the truth out, to ensure that the rule of justice and law prevails, in the communalized state apparatus in Gujarat. One hopes the victims of Gujarat will get justice, and the process of restoration of their civic and political rights begins in right earnest.

Issues in Secular Politics

May 2009 I

For Circulation

Re-Writing Muslim Political History

Re-Writing Muslim Political History | TwoCircles.net

Re-Writing Muslim Political History
Submitted by admin3 on 1 May 2009 – 11:35pm.

* Articles
* Indian Muslim

By Yoginder Sikand, TwoCircles.net,

Based in New Delhi, Maulana Waris Mazhari is a leading Indian Deobandi scholar. He is a graduate of the Dar ul-Uloom at Deoband, and is the editor of Tarjuman Dar ul-Uloom, the official organ of the Deoband Madrasa’s Graduates’ Association.

In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, Maulana Mazhari talks about his views on Islam, historiography and politics.

Q: Muslim history has generally been written in the form of a series of battles and a succession of rulers and military generals. This, in turn, has had a deep impact on the way Muslims imagine their past and their identity and on the way they relate to people of other faiths. What do you feel about this way of presenting Muslim history?

A: I have major problems with the traditional approach, including the traditional way of presenting the sirat, the history of the Prophet Muhammad, who Muslims consider as the model for all humankind. Typically, sirat-writing has taken the form of a narration of events that focus mainly on the maghazis or military confrontations and victories of the Prophet. This tradition goes back to early times. In fact, one of the first available sirat texts that we have, by Ibn Ishaq, is also known as Maghazi Ibn Ishaq. This is a reflection of how Ibn Ishaq portrayed the Prophet’s life. Ibn Ishaq was by no means an isolated case. In fact, many other sirat writers followed in that mode, and still continue to do so.

By focusing so much on the battles of the Prophet, most sirat-writers gave much less attention to other crucial aspects of the Prophet’s life, in particular his efforts, both in Mecca and then in Medina, to communicate, through peaceful persuasion and dialogue, the message of the Quran to people of other faiths. Since these aspects have been given little attention in the corpus of sirat literature, it is made to appear as if battling was the major occupation of the Prophet, which was not really the case at all, because this was just a minor part of the Prophet’s life. His major focus was actually the peaceful propagation of God’s message and moulding the beliefs and morals of his followers.

I think there is an urgent need for reappraising our approach to writing Islamic history. Many aspects of the Prophet’s life, which numerous sirat-writers, in their obsession with war and conquest, ignored or else gave little attention to, must be highlighted as these are particularly relevant for Muslims living in a plural society today. For instance, the Mithaq-e Medina, the pact between the Prophet and the non-Muslims of Medina, which set out the rights and duties of the different communities residing in the town. And, of course, the thirteen years of the Prophet’s peaceful preaching in Mecca. These things need to be highlighted in sirat writings, for they are particularly relevant to Muslims in India today, living as a minority in a very diverse country.

Q: Some radical Islamists might counter that by arguing that the Medina model of the Prophet—of establishing political power and supremacy—is the one that Muslims should follow, because it came after the Meccan period of the Prophet’s life.

A: Those who argue in this way give a political interpretation of Islam, but they have no solid basis for their claims. The whole life of the Prophet is a model for Muslims to follow, not just one phase of it. If the absurd argument that the Medinan phase of the Prophet’s life eclipses or abrogates the Meccan phase is accepted, it would lead to the bizarre conclusion that only some aspects of the Prophet’s life are worth following and that the others must be rejected. This is a conclusion that no real Muslim would ever accept. It would be tantamount to claiming that the verses of the Quran that were revealed in Mecca, that have to do with tolerance, patience in the face of adversity, peaceful persuasion and so on, have no validity. Needless to say, almost all the ulema would vehemently denounce this argument.

Q: Radical Islamists might argue that in Medina the Prophet succeeded in establishing a state or polity, and that, hence, struggling for such a state is a duty incumbent upon Muslims for all time.

A: God bestowed upon the Prophet the opportunity to establish and lead a polity in Medina, but this was a result of a long process of peaceful persuasion or dawat which the Prophet began in Mecca many years before that. It can be said to have been a stage in the path of the Prophet’s dawat. But this does not mean that winning political power must be the ultimate aim or the natural result of the peaceful missionary work of dawat. God gives political power to whomsoever He wills. But that should not be the main aim of the Islamic dawat, whose major focus is to communicate God’s message and to shape human beings’ minds and character in line with that message. If, in the course of the work of Islamic dawat, God provides political power, it is to be accepted as a gift, but it is not, and should not be, the real aim of the dawat. And if political power, to establish a polity that would enforce God’s laws, does not come into being, it is not a sin, contrary to what radical Islamists claim.

Q: But radical Islamists, such as Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e Islami, argue that what they call an ‘Islamic state’ is indispensable in order to ‘enforce’ God’s laws, in the form of the shariah, in their entirety. How do you look at this argument?

A: Maududi and others like him, ideologues like Hasan al-Banna and Syed Qutb, have indeed argued in this way, but their arguments have been heavily critiqued by many well-known ulema. If we accept Maududi’s insistence that struggling for establishing what he calls an ‘Islamic polity’ is the central aspect of Islamic dawat, many serious questions arise. It would, God forbid, mean that many prophets of God had failed in their mission because they did not establish any religion-based polity. Muslims accept the Prophet Muhammad as being of the same stature as the other prophets, and the Quran warns against making any distinctions between the prophets. All the prophets, the Quran says, taught the same primal religion or deen, which, in Arabic, is called al-Islam or ‘The Submission’, although their methods may have been different in some respects. Now, from the Quran it appears that only a few of them were also political rulers. Most were not, and focused only on peaceful persuasion or dawat. God gave the Prophet Muhammad the opportunity to establish a polity, but Jesus did not, so, would this mean that Jesus should be regarded as having failed in his mission? Obviously no. No Muslim would ever say or think so.

So, I would repeat, contrary to what people like Maududi have claimed, the final culmination of Islamic dawat does not have to necessarily be the establishment of a religious polity. The establishment of Islam does not depend on such a state.

Q: Some have argued that the notion of Islam as a total system of life (nizam-e hayat), including the concept of an ‘Islamic state’, is a modern invention, the product of people like Maududi, Qutb and the like, and not an integral part of Islamic tradition. What is your own view?

A: The notion of an Islamic system or order is definitely part of Islamic tradition, although not in the same stark, radical way as it is presented by people like Maududi who have a totalitarian understanding of Islam and who believe that Islam is incomplete without a state to enforce the shariah. Maududi made the Islamic state as the real basis of his version of Islam, but this is something quite different from the traditional approach. It is absent in traditional Islamic thought, which does not countenance the notion that Islam and what Maududi termed as the nizam-e islam are virtually synonymous. Traditional thinkers saw Islam as a religion, a basis for morality, a relationship between the individual believer and God, and as a means for success in the hereafter. They also believed that Islamic teachings must influence and shape society and governance, but they did not equate this with the notion of an Islamic state in the way Maududi developed it. In contrast to the ulema, Maududi based his entire understanding of Islam on the notion of the state as the pivot, and he sought to interpret Islam solely in a political framework.

Q: Maududi argued that Islam calls upon Muslims to work for establishing its supremacy (ghalba) over other religions and political systems. This, he claimed, was an exhortation to struggle for the establishment of an ‘Islamic state’. How do you relate to this argument?

A: The Quran refers to the ghalba of Islam, but many traditional ulema understand this to mean the establishment of the ideological supremacy of Islam through offering proofs (dala‘il). People like Maududi have, however, taken it to mean the political supremacy of Islam. Naturally, this has created major problems, as evidenced by the violence that numerous radical Islamist groups have unleashed in the name of struggling for establishing the ghalba of Islam.

I think Maududi and others who saw Islam in this fashion were a product of their times, and were reacting to the fact of Western colonialism, which had reduced almost the whole of the Muslim world to European control. What they wanted to argue was that it was not enough if Muslims were allowed to pray or fast or build mosques by the colonial rulers. If they had said that Muslims, not Europeans, should rule their lands, it would have been understandable. However, they instead made the contentious claim that Islam should rule. They saw the state as an end in itself, rather than as a means. This was in contrast to the ulema’s position. Hence, it is not surprising that, for instance, the majority of the Indian ulema opposed Maududi and his understanding of Islam. Even now the Jamaat-e Islami, the outfit established by Maududi, does not have much support among the traditional ulema of South Asia. In the years leading up to the Partition of India, the Deobandi ulema, who are commonly thought of as the most ultra-conservative, consistently opposed Maududi’s ‘Islamic state’ demand, as well as the Pakistan scheme of the Muslim League, and demanded a united India where Hindus and Muslims, who it considered to be members of the same qaum or nation, would have equal rights. This, it based on the model of the Mithaq-e Medina, the Treaty of Medina between the Prophet and the various Muslim and non-Muslim tribes of the town. So, it is important to note the opposition of numerous traditional ulema to the political project of radical Islamists, something that is unfortunately not widely known or recognized.

Another point that many traditional ulema have made with regard to radical Islamists is that the latter have, by seeking to reduce Islam to a political ideology, ironically sought to secularise it, in the sense of making it an instrument of worldly power. The Islamist vision of Islam, they claim, is drained of true spirituality, and appears like any worldly ideology, an alternative to, say, capitalism or socialism or nationalism or whatever.

Q: Do you see any shifts emerging within Islamist movements in their approach to capture of state power, their attitudes to democracy and secularism and to relations with people of other faiths?

A: I think religious worldviews of people are often shaped by social and political contexts and conditions. So, as I said, colonialism provided the context and conditions for radical Islamism to emerge as a means to seek to challenge it. Likewise, today the demands of living as a marginalised minority in religiously plural India has forced the Jamaat-e Islami to make a major departure from Maududi’s rigidly doctrinaire thinking. Maududi was vehemently opposed to democracy and secularism, branding them as wholly un-Islamic. But now in India the Jamaat is planning to launch its own political party, which would function under the Indian Constitution, and which would naturally have to accept the Constitution’s secular and democratic character. The Jamaat has realized that, given the context in India, there is no feasible alternative to this. So, it is the force of circumstance and the feasibility or otherwise of something that forces such changes, which then get translated into modifications in ideology, and then all sort of arguments are sought to be marshaled to seek to ‘prove’ the new position as ‘Islamic’, and the previous position as ‘mistaken’. The same thing happened with Maududi himself. To begin with, he denounced the Pakistan plan as ‘un-Islamic’, but no sooner was Pakistan created than he migrated there. He consistently opposed the notion of women in politics, but, when he felt he had no alternative, he openly supported Jinnah’s sister, Fatima, as presidential candidate.

So, yes, I would say, force of circumstances is making several radical Islamists reconsider their approach to politics. In many countries, including in the Arab world, Islamist groups have witnessed fierce repression, and, despite decades of struggle, are no closer to achieving their dream of an ‘Islamic state’. In fact, they find that the ground is slipping further from under their feet in many places. Many of them are now realizing that violence does not pay, and, from their point of view, is even counter-productive. As a result, many are now convinced that the Islamic state that they aspire to create cannot come about by force—that it cannot be imposed, and that to attempt to do this is totally unrealistic. Rather, they are now realizing, it can only happen through democratic means, through peaceful persuasion which leads to the people themselves wanting it.

This sort of change in approach has taken place in some Islamist circles as a result of the experience of Islamist groups in the last few years. It has to do with the realization that holding on to a certain ideology is one thing, but that if it is too utopian its implementation is quite another matter, and then this leads to ideological modification. And so you see moves in some Islamist circles that suggest a reappraisal of standard Islamist approaches to crucial political issues. For instance, the head of the Egyptian Ikhwan ul-Muslimun recently went on record as saying that Christian Copts must have the same political rights as Muslims. Some Islamists are now willing to consider a woman as head of state. Rashid Ghanouchi, the Tunisian Islamist leader, now talks about the pressing need for Islamists to dialogue with people of other faiths, to work with them for issues of common concern, to value pluralism and to adopt a secular, democratic, humane approach, insisting that this is not at all un-Islamic. Of late a number of books have appeared in the Arab world dealing with what is called Marajat, or turning away by former radical Islamists from what they now consider to have been a deviant, terror-driven interpretation of Islam.

Q: In today’s context, when the nation-state itself is being questioned, and when the centre of power has shifted from the nation-state to international bodies, multinational corporations, the media, etc. how do you think Islamic political thought, which has hitherto been obsessed with the state and the capture of state power, should respond?

A: I think Muslim groups should give much more focus to issues such as the economy, education, media and interaction with civil society. These are major centres of power and influence. No community can progress if it is weak in terms of economics, education and media presence. Because Muslims, not just in India, but globally as well, lag behind others in these spheres, their marginalization is hardly surprising. And, being marginalized, it is not likely that others will bother to listen to them. Even from the point of view of Islamic dawat, Muslim empowerment in these sectors is crucial. This must get much more attention from Muslim community organizations than it has so far. One often hears Muslims lament about how backward we are in these spheres, and all sorts of conspiracy theories purporting to explain this do the rounds, but, sadly, few Muslim leaders are willing to do anything practical to address these issues in a positive and constructive way.

This, of course, is related to revisiting our understanding of what ‘Islamic awakening’ means. There is this very warped understanding, especially in Islamist circles, that it is synonymous with political activism for establishing an ‘Islamic state’ or simply greater commitment to Islamic rituals and laws. I disagree. I think Islamic awakening must also be thought of in terms of working to strengthen Muslims in such spheres as the media, education and economics, because only thereby can they have greater voice and influence and be able to put across their message and views more effectively and also be able to engage in Islamic dawat. After all, is not that the secret of the success of the Jews, who, despite being such a numerically small community, are so powerful at the international level because of their strong presence in the Western media, economy and educational institutions?

Sadly, though, I do not see Islamist movements making any major shift in their approach to the capture of state power, although, as I said, some of them are now advocating democratic, as opposed to violent, means for the purpose. I do not see them giving more stress to strengthening their presence in the non-political spheres, the new nodes of power. They have not realised that this can also be a major means for Islamic dawat. They still tend to cling to the notion of the capture of political power as the solution, and obviously here it is not simply loyalty to traditional thought that is involved but also, in many cases, a host of vested interests.

One must also add that working to strengthen the Muslim presence in the media, economy and education requires serious planning, organization and rational thinking, but, sadly, we Muslims are easily swayed by emotionalism, by emotional slogans about Islam, and are just not prepared to do any serious thinking and work. Many Muslims simply don’t want to learn from others, because of a misplaced sense of superiority and also intellectual lethargy, although the Prophet clearly said that wisdom should be accepted no matter where it is found.

There is another issue that I want to touch upon here. Experiments by radicals to impose an Islamic state by force have failed throughout the world, and these efforts have often been opposed by the people in whose names these states were set up, because they soon turned totalitarian and even fascistic. This shows the failure of the top-down approach to Islamisation and the Islamic state, through capture of state power. As I suggested earlier, this approach reflects a deep-rooted notion in traditional Muslim political thought and modern Islamism. This belief in the primacy of the state and of its capture needs to be urgently reconsidered, because the sort of change that Islam demands is possible not only through political power, but through other means, such as peaceful dawat, working together in solidarity with non-Muslims for common aims and empowering Muslims in the fields of economics, education and the media. The failed experiments at seeking to impose Islamic states by force, as in Iran and Afghanistan, should makes us realise that the nurturing of truly moral and Islamic individuals, rather than the state, should be the principal focus of Islamic movements. And in this the activists of these movements should not be like militia men, as radical Islamists conceive themselves to be, but guides, social reformers and missionaries of love and mercy, inviting people to God’s path through peaceful means. This is precisely what the Prophet Muhammad himself did.

Sadly, radical Islamists do precisely the opposite of this. So, for instance, Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e Islami, once proudly declared that his movement was like a train, whose passengers were forced to go to the destination decided by the driver, although many of them might have wanted to go elsewhere. This forcing of people to agree to live under what is proclaimed as an Islamic state, which is so characteristic of the attitude of radical Islamists, is not at all in accordance with Islam. It breeds hypocrisy and violates the Quranic dictum that there should be no compulsion in religion. It is also totally counter-productive. Seeking to force Muslims and others to accept and live under the state that the radical Islamists want to impose on them just cannot work for too long if the people themselves do not want it. That is why many Iranians are now vehemently opposed to the mullah regime in their country and many Afghans to the Taliban.

Q: To come back to the issue of Muslim historiography, the history of Muslims after the Prophet also tends to take the form of political history, being a narration of the military exploits and successes of various Muslim kings. What do you have to say about this?

A: I suppose this is a universal phenomenon, and not one peculiar to Muslims alone. Although Islam is a democratic religion, and hence Muslim historiography ought to have been much more egalitarian, it has not generally been the case. One factor for this is the influence of pre-Islamic Iranian monarchical traditions, which the Arab conquerors soon absorbed. Muslim rulers employed historians to pen treatises to sing and exaggerate their praises, and in that stern feudal age the masses naturally got little or no attention in history-writing.

Today’s context is vastly different, and so we need a new way of understanding and presenting Muslim history. If traditional Muslim historiography was triumphalist, chauvinist and stressed Muslim supremacy over others, this was a result of the general social climate of those times. The same was true in the case of other communities in those days. Things have changed now, and we need to understand and present our religion, tradition and history in the context of the demands of the plural society in which we live. We need to shed the communal approach to writing our history. We also need to move away from the obsession with the history of Muslim political and religious elites and retrieve and highlight the histories of ‘ordinary’ Muslim people, whom our historians have cruelly ignored. Work in this direction has begun in some Arab countries. Unfortunately, this has not been attempted in ulema circles in India, one reason being that our ulema do not have access to new forms of history writing coming out from elsewhere because their English and Arabic language skills continue to be very limited.

Q: What sort of mind-set do you think develops as a result of the way Islamic or Muslim history is presented, as mainly a series of military conquests directed by Muslim rulers against non-Muslims?

A: I think it has seriously negative consequences for how people imagine what Islam is, what Islam demands of its followers and how Muslims should relate to people of other faiths. It makes Muslims think that non-Muslims are enemies who should be opposed, through military means if need be. It rules out the possibility for good and harmonious relations with non-Muslims, which is really indispensable in our day and age. It also tends to overlook the Islamic imperative of dawat or peacefully inviting others to God’s path, which is the fundamental duty of a true Muslim.

Since the history of Islam or of Muslims comes to be seen essentially as the story of a series of wars between Muslims and others, the misleading impression is definitely created that Islam demands constant physical confrontation with non-Muslims, that the principal aim of Muslims must be to capture political power and so on, which, in my view, represents a gross distortion of what Islam really stands for. And because of the way our history is written, the stress that Islam gives to peaceful relations with people of other faiths, to the fundamental duty of Muslims to peacefully dialogue and communicate with others and to think and work for the welfare of the whole of humankind, and not just Muslims alone, is completely shut aside.

Unfortunately, there is also a stifling defensiveness about many of the negative aspects of Muslim history, which most Muslims are still unwilling to admit, leave alone confront. They see the whole of Muslim history as somehow something to be ardently defended, ignoring the fact that, after the short period of the Prophet and a few decades thereafter, there was no truly Islamic polity and society in existence, with the onset of monarchy and despotism, which gave rise to all sorts of distorted interpretations and versions of Islam. It is wrong to consider this latter part of our history as sacrosanct, as something to be defended as ‘Islamic’. We have to admit that many of our rulers, for instance, including several of those who claimed to be champions of Islam, were bloody tyrants. We have to critique them if they strayed from Islamic teachings—for instance if they oppressed non-Muslims or destroyed their places of worship, which Islam does not allow for, even though in taking some of these actions they were instigated by worldly-minded ulema in order to please them. We have to look at our historical heritage critically, and critique un-Islamic actions that may also have been done by Muslims in the name of Islam. Unfortunately, we shy away from all this that is indefensible from the Islamic point of view. Moreover, we tend to glorify and romanticize everything about the Muslim past—warts and all—as if Muslims are the epitome of virtue and non-Muslims have a monopoly of vice. We have to make a crucial distinction between Islam and Muslims, Islamic history and Muslim history, and this should be reflected in the way we approach and write our history.

Q: The only noticeable radical Islamist group in post-Partition India, the now-banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), is reported to have exhorted the Indian Muslims to struggle to establish an Islamic Caliphate (Khilafah) in India, and to resort to what it called armed jihad. What do you feel about this approach?

A: The SIMI’s ideological roots lie in the Jamaat-e Islami, of which it was, till some years ago, an official part. Its vision of Islam is the same as that of Maududi, whom it regards as its ideological mentor. I believe the SIMI’s approach was stupid. It was totally wrong and un-called for. Muslim political and religious leaders ought to have nipped the SIMI in the bud when it began mouthing its radical rhetoric in response to Hindu fascism. They should have discouraged it and not let it spread. But, sadly, for whatever reason, they took no action against it. And the whole thing backfired on the Muslims, making their position even more vulnerable.

However, one thing is clear. If the ban on the SIMI is lifted, I am sure that the new avatar of SIMI will not be extremist or radical. They would have learnt the hard way that their misplaced utopianism and sloganeering was not at all feasible or practicable, that it was as foolish as trying to drill a tunnel into the face of a mountain by banging one’s head against it.

I also want to say something about the concept of the Khilafah, which groups like the SIMI insist are integral to Islamic politics. They lament the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924 by Kemal Attaturk, but little do they realize that it was hardly an Islamic form of governance. It was horribly corroded from within and so its demise was not unexpected. It was like a terminally ill patient who had suddenly been removed from his artificial supply of oxygen. These ardent advocates of the Caliphate stupidly imagine that if Attaturk had not abolished the Caliphate, it would still be there, and that, because of it, Islam would have been triumphant. This is foolish thinking.

There has been a lot of debate on whether the Caliphate, as the Sunnis traditionally understand it, is really necessary or not. Personally, I don’t think it is an article of faith for a Muslim to believe or desire that all the Muslims of the world should be governed by a single Caliph, as some radical Islamists insist. In fact, almost the whole of Muslim history is against this fallacious notion. It is not possible or realistic, nor, in my view, necessarily desirable. It is not at all feasible in today’s world of nation-states. Were this something that Islam demanded, it would go against the Quran’s assurance that God does not put any burden on us more than we can bear. So, I would say that the concept of Khilafah is not an indispensable or integral feature of Islam.

Q: Radical Islamists consider lands not under Islamic rule to be abodes of war (dar ul-harb) that must be conquered and brought under what they regard as Islamic rule. What do you feel about the notion of dar ul-harb?

A: The term dar ul-harb is not mentioned in the Quran. It was developed after the demise of the Prophet. I think this concept has lost its validity today, if ever it had any validity at all. I would like to refer here to the noted Deobandi scholar Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanavi who once remarked that the whole world should now be considered as dar ul-ahad or dar ul-mu‘ahida, the ‘abode of treaty’, because, following the setting up of the United Nations, all the countries of the world are bound together by common treaties. One could also consider the whole world to be dar ud-dawa, or an abode where Muslims must continue with their mission of peacefully communicating God’s message to everyone, Muslims and others.

Q: A final question. From an Islamic point of view, what do you think the Muslim political approach and agenda in India should be?

A: I think the Muslims of India must seek inspiration from the life of the Prophet in Mecca, where he spent the first thirteen years of his prophethood, when Muslims were a relatively small minority lacking political power—a situation analogous to that of the Indian Muslims today. We need to learn from the tolerance and patience exhibited by the Prophet at this time, despite the painful opposition that he faced, and his determination to carry on with the work of inviting people to God’s path. Despite the odds that he was confronted with, the Prophet did not resort to violence. He did not demand Muslim communal rights. His only concern was to communicate God’s message and win people’s hearts through peaceful persuasion and concern for their welfare. And that, I think, is what we Indian Muslims should also be doing. He accepted the conditions set by his foes, as at Hudaibiyah, as long as they let him carry on with the work of inviting humankind to God’s path, and did not get involved in communal controversies with them. We have a valuable lesson to learn from his noble example in this regard.

Muslim students at JNU being targeted by ABVP activists

Muslim students at JNU being targeted by ABVP activists

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net

New Delhi: In a setback to the secular culture and history of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, the right wing Hindutva groups, it seems, have strengthened themselves in the campus, and they are announcing it by their actions: in the last six months ABVP activists have carried out three attacks on Muslim students in the campus. The administration did take action but in a way that only emboldened the attackers.

The recent attack was on April 17 on a Ph.D. student. “I was outside the Lohit Hostel. Five students came up on bikes and started beating me without any provocation,” says Idrees Kanth. They were from the same group of people who had beaten up some other students in the past also, says he who lives at Lohit Hostel.

On March 17 this year another student Masihullah, from the same hostel, was brutally beaten in full public view by the Hindutva activists. “Five students from the same hostel beat up Masihullah in the mess room. The warden remained mute spectator as he was threatened by the attackers,” says Abhilash, a Ph.D. student living at the hostel for four years.

“They are not misguided youths, they are guided RSS activists,” says Abhilash adding that one of the attackers is son of a Rajasthan Congress leader.

In Ramazan last year, another student Iqbal Zia was also beaten by the same group. Apparently there is no such reason like personal enmity or student politics. Behind the attacks there is simply a communal agenda of the extremist group. In all incidents they have singled out Muslim students. By attacking and frightening Muslim students they may be seeking communal polarization in the campus.

Stanlee, a Ph.D. student who is living at Lohit Hostel for four years, says the attackers are hardcore ABVP activists. “Tension has prevailed Lohit since the beginning. Since it was opened for students four years ago, there have been a number of incidents, and in most cases ABVP activists have been involved,” says Stanlee. “There is no student politics behind the incidents. There is simply communal thinking behind the attacks,” he says. All victims so far are Muslims. There are about 300 students in the Lohit Hostel, of them Muslims are between 20-25.

In Masihullah’s case action was taken against seven attackers. Three were declared out of bounds and four were transferred to different hostel. A fine of Rs 3000 was also slapped on them. But notice about the action was not pasted on notice board anywhere in the campus. And some time later the punishment was revoked.

The administration has taken the cases as a normal law and order issue. They have not acted against them seriously, says Abhilash.

“In my case they have not taken any action. They say the accused are last year students. We cannot take hard action against them. This will affect their career,” says Idrees. “The problem is not just these incidents. Problem is rather deeper. The administration is fast turning anti-minority,” says he.

No difference between congress and BJP

Their are no difference in between congress and BJP. Tese two are the different side of the same coin.

Jailed Houston Imam Zoubir Bouchikhi Speaks from Private Immigration Prison

Jailed Houston Imam Zoubir Bouchikhi Speaks from Private Immigration Prison

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We look at the case of Sheikh Zoubir Bouchikhi, who has been held without bail at a private immigration prison in Houston for the past four months. Bouchikhi, a native of Algeria, has lived in the United States for the past eleven years and has four children, three of them American-born citizens. In 2007, he received notice that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services had denied his application for permanent residency status. He was arrested by immigration authorities in December 2008. He has been held without bail ever since. He speaks from immigration jail in his first national broadcast interview. [includes rush transcript]

Sheikh Zoubir Bouchikhi, speaking from immigration prison.

Rush Transcript

This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re here in Austin, Texas, as we end today’s show by looking at the case of Sheikh Zoubir Bouchikhi, who has been held without bail at a private immigration prison in Houston for the past four months.

Imam Zoubir, as he’s known, is a native of Algeria, has lived in the United States for the past eleven years. He has four children, three of them American-born citizens. He first came to the United States in 1998 on a student visa. He earned a master’s degree in Islamic Studies, then moved to Houston, where he applied for a religious worker visa and was hired in 2001 by the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, or ISGH, a coalition of mosques and schools . Since then, he has served as the spiritual leader of the Abu Bakr Siddqui in southeast Houston.

In 2003, Imam Zoubir applied for permanent residency status as a religious minister. He also applied for his wife and the couple’s oldest child, who was born outside the country. In 2007, the family received a notice that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services had denied their application. They appealed, but the appeal was rejected in November of 2008. A month later, immigration officials arrested him at his home and led him away in handcuffs in front of his wife and children. He has been held without bail ever since. The case has angered many in the local Houston community, who are rallying to support him with letter-writing campaigns, petitions and websites.

A few days ago, I had a chance to interview Imam Zoubir. He called in from the private immigration prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America, where he is being held. This is his first national broadcast interview. I began by asking him to explain why he’s being held.

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: I am here because the ICE is charging me with arriving alien. And I am denied bond, because I am under that category, called “arriving alien,” although I have been here in the United States legally for eleven years.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe how you were arrested? Did you have any warning? What are the reasons that they are giving you now? And have you had a hearing since you were jailed?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Yes. The way I was detained, ICE officers came to my home around 6:30 in the morning, and they were waiting for me, because they knew I was at the mosque leading the morning prayer. And they detained me in front of my children, while coming back to the house, and my wife kindly requested them that “Let his children please give him a hug before you take him.” And my hands were handcuffed behind my back, and still they refused even a hug to their father.

    I have—I met—I had the chance to be in front of Judge Benton, who belongs to the immigration circle, but they completely refused to give me a bond or to let me go on my recognizance. And this is where I am.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about your own family? How old are your children?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: OK. My oldest son is twelve years old, and his younger brother is ten years old. I have another daughter who is eight years old and another daughter who is almost two years old.

    AMY GOODMAN: Are you able to see them?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Yes, I am able, but behind the—between—I cannot see them directly; there is glass between me and them.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about your work in the mosque of Houston?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Sure. I am an imam here in Houston, Texas. I lead a congregation of almost 700 people in my mosque, which is called the Masjid Abu Bakr in the southeast of Houston. I belong to an organization called the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, which is my employer.

    And I do teach my community several things, such as, for example, I counsel them, I perform marriages, I perform funerals, funerals and burials, I teach the children values and ethics. I’m very deeply involved in interfaith dialogue and comparative studies. I work with Christian churches, synagogues. I work with the Interfaith Ministries here in Houston. We do provide food for the hungry, such as Meals on Wheels.

    And I’m deeply involved in many other activities, such as speaking against injustice, speaking against the war in Iraq. And I think that these are some of my problems, how I’m perceived by the authorities.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: I do think that they are just punishing me for helping people and speaking against injustice.

    AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at a Houston Chronicle piece of March 6th, and it is quoting an attorney for the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, saying that “In 2007, the family received a notice that USCIS revoked the [Islamic Society of Greater Houston]’s petition and denied Bouchikhi’s request for permanent residency.” Your request.

    “According to Cowan, the government said ISGH,” the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, “had failed to prove Bouchikhi had been continuously employed for the two years prior to filing of its petition and had not demonstrated its ability to pay Bouchikhi’s salary.

    “The government also questioned why ISGH had not proved Bouchikhi was an imam by submitting a formal certificate of ordination.”

    Can you respond to those points?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Yes. I’m glad you brought that, Ms. Goodman. Actually, every issue mentioned by the USCIS in its letter of notice of intent to revoke on January the 16th, 2007, and I have received this letter three-and-a-half years after my approval of the I-360. Three-and-a-half years. It has been fully addressed. Everything mentioned in that letter has been fully addressed by my attorney and by my employer, and all documents requested were made available on February the 15th, 2007. So, we were like perplexed by this statement and this allegation that we didn’t have enough documents. Still, we went and gave them everything, everything they asked.

    The concerns raised by the USCIS have changed at each stage. Each stage, the USCIS sent us a letter. Each time, there is what we call a change of arguments. So we knew that they were not really trying to help me, because each time we answered their letters, they come up with something new.

    AMY GOODMAN: That issue of a certificate of ordination?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Mm-hmm. Oh, yeah. We, in Islam, we don’t have an ordination, unlike maybe Catholicism or other faiths, where a religious leader is given something by a higher authority. In Islam, we go by the amount of knowledge that the person has in this field of Islamic studies. So, having two master’s degrees in Islamic studies, I am fully qualified to be an imam. And we have given them everything.

    AMY GOODMAN: Are you acting as an imam in the detention center? Are you leading prayers?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Yes, yes, yes. I’m leading the prayer. I’m counseling the inmates. I’m even talking to non-Muslims, helping them with their problems. And we are being discriminated against even here inside the CCA.

    AMY GOODMAN: How?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: OK. For example, there was a huge problem about the kufi that I use, which is a head cover. Forty-nine days after my detention, there was no problem. After forty-nine days, they raised this problem, and they told me that “You need to take it off. You have no right to walk in the hallways with it.” And I told them, even in Guantanamo the detainees have the right to wear their headscarf if they want, their head covers if they want. And I didn’t keep quiet. I took it to the higher authorities here, and they finally accepted that I use it with a pass.

    AMY GOODMAN: So you’re in a prison, in a detention center that is run by a private corporation, by the—

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Private corporation, yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —Corrections Corporation of America. What are the conditions in the jail?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Well, we had encountered so many difficulties. For example, Ms. Amy, they do not allow more than thirty-four detainees to perform their obligatory prayers Friday, although we have over fifty detainees here who are Muslims. And although the Constitution of the United States gives every right to any group to perform their religious duties, they don’t want to give us more than thirty-four, under the pretext of capacity. And when we told them, “OK, give us a bigger place or space,” they are not really helping.

    AMY GOODMAN: Have you had a hearing since you’ve been jailed—

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —on December 17th? Was this on April 13th?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: It was December the 17th.

    AMY GOODMAN: You were jailed on December 17th. When was your hearing?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: My hearing was April the 13th.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what happened?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: I went in front of Judge Benton, and he heard the arguments of my attorney, as well as the DA, and he said that he would give his final verdict on May the 14th.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what are they weighing right now? Are you facing deportation at this point?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: I don’t know what honestly goes in his mind.

    AMY GOODMAN: Your children are American citizens?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Yes, they are. Three of my children are US citizens. They were born here in Houston, Texas.

    AMY GOODMAN: In 2003, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston filed a petition on your behalf for permanent residency as a religious minister?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Mm-hmm.

    AMY GOODMAN: That was what? Six years ago. What happened?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Yeah. Since 2003, October 2003, I have been waiting for my green card, and suddenly, in January 2007, I received a letter of intent to revoke. When we answered completely and fully that the allegations or the documents that they needed, a month later, they gave me a letter of revocation. When I appealed, again the arguments changed. We appealed to the AAO in Washington. They seemed to agree with every answer we gave, yet they went with the Texas Service Center’s decision, and they dismissed my appeal. It was November the 5th, 2008.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, what is the next step? The final decision?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Yeah, the final decision, we are waiting for the judge, Judge Benton, to give his decision, and we will see if it’s in our favor, and thanks God; if it is not, then thanks God again, but we’re going to appeal it to the BIA.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Bureau—

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: BIA.

    AMY GOODMAN: —of Immigration Affairs.

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Immigration Appeals, yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: Of Bureau of Immigration Appeals.

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: The Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia.

    AMY GOODMAN: What has been the response outside the jail, where you are in the Greater Houston community?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Well, I thank—I take this opportunity to thank each and every man, woman, young children, everybody, Muslim, non-Muslims, who stood up by me and by my family, knowing that this is an injustice done to a human being, to a family. They are punishing me and punishing my family, punishing my community, just for who I am. So I thank them. It was tremendous support. They came to the court. And they were not allowed, unfortunately, to enter the courtroom.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: I don’t know. I don’t know. They said only ten people can come, and then later on they changed their mind.

    AMY GOODMAN: I was reading the Houston Chronicle piece about your youngest daughter, your wife not wanting to bring her to the jail to see you. Have you seen her?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Yes, I did. Finally, I told her that things are going to go along, just bring her. And when she came in, it was heartbreaking. She was like trying to kiss me through the glass.

    AMY GOODMAN: What are your final thoughts in this interview? What would you like people to understand in this country about your situation?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: I just want them to know that I am really surprised that this is happening in the Obama administration time, although it started in the Bush administration. Every problem that I’m facing and my family and my community are facing started in the Bush administration, but it is continuing. And we really wanted change, and we were hoping for change, but I don’t see it. I don’t see it.

    And they are denying me—by the way, they gave me a bond after ninety days. DHS gave me a bond, and they did not honor it until today. They gave me the bond on March the 17th. And just like that, they did not, when a friend of mine, a dear friend of mine, went to pay the bond, which was $20,000—I mean, they are bonding out criminals. I have no criminal history whatsoever. I have never committed even a misdemeanor in my life. And they did not even honor what they have given me.

    AMY GOODMAN: They revoked the bond when it was—

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: No, they didn’t even—they didn’t even send me a letter or anything to say that it’s revoked. Just verbally, they said, “We are not going to give it to you.”

    AMY GOODMAN: When you say they are punishing you for who you are, what do you mean?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: I mean, I strongly believe that I am targeted because of my political views, especially I was against the war in Iraq, against bombing innocent civilians in Lebanon in 2006, and for my clear stance that I am pro-democracy and values that this country was founded on. And they don’t want for somebody who is free-minded and outspoken.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. And finally, your message to your own children—when they come to see you, do they ask you why you’re behind glass, why you’re in jail?

    SHEIKH ZOUBIR BOUCHIKHI: Yes, yes. Like my third child, Bushra, who is eight years old, she keeps telling me, “Why, Daddy? Why are you here? Why don’t you come home?” And I say, “It’s not yet time, my daughter.” She said she thinks I am actually—for three months, she thought I was in a conference, because she’s used that I travel for conferences. And she said, “This time, you took long time.” Then, when her mother brought her to the detention center, she was crying, and she told me, “Why are you staying here? This is not your place.” I said, “I know, my daughter. But I’m coming very soon.”

    And they decorated the home, by the way, on the 18th of March. They decorated the home. They bought balloons. They bought a sign, “Welcome, Daddy.” And their father didn’t come, just because DHS didn’t honor its bond.

AMY GOODMAN: Sheikh Zoubir Bouchikhi, speaking to us from the private detention facility he has been detained at for the last four months in Houston.

“Islam Changed My Game Plan”

“Islam Changed My Game Plan”

By  Farah A. Chowdhury IOL Correspondent

Image

“He never allows anything to stand in his way to help a client. He goes the extra mile,” says Garment’s boss.

NEW YORK — The book on Mustafa Garment’s office desk has the title “Changin’ your Game Plan.”

For the African American, who broke his criminal life cycle through embracing Islam, the book relates like no other.

“I can identify with changing the game plan, changing the way you think, because that’s pretty much my story,” Garment, now a forensic coordinator at the Brooklyn Mental Health Court, told IslamOnline.net.

Soft-spoken, bushy bearded Garment, 64, is nothing of the man he used to be some 20 years ago.

Working at the Mental Health Court, an affiliate of the New York State Supreme Court, he helps jail inmates get treatment for mental illnesses and drug addiction.

No one can help better than Garment, who spent his early life struggling with homelessness and drug and alcohol addiction.

Growing up in poverty-stricken Harlem, he had a childhood full of sufferings.

“I remember being so hungry. I remember feeling weak from hunger.”

His first experience with drugs and alcohol, which became part of his “lifestyle” for 30 years, was at the age of 13.

Garment says that part of being accepted among his peers involved a routine of smoking marijuana and drinking wine.

“I would meet my mother in the bar,” he says of his former self.

He dropped out of the High School in the beginning of the tenth grade.

But it was when introduced to crack, a smokeable form of cocaine that Garment’s addiction-based lifestyle came to a climax.

He began to resort to stealing and even selling drugs at one point to feed his addiction. 

“When you’re addicted to crack, the first thought that comes to mind is how to get more.”

He grew up into a bitter and angry man jailed for more than 30 times for crimes ranging from drug dealing to robbery.

Turning Point

Amid his drug problems and incarceration, Garment, raised a Baptist, first contact with Islam was in 1972.

Then 27-year-old, he converted and married a Muslim woman.

But Garment admits that his conversion was only nominal, and it did not keep him off his criminal lifestyle.

“I wasn’t thinking about changing my game plan,” he says.

“I had the same mindset. So I pretty much got the same thing I always got. I didn’t change.”

As his life continued to be identified by addiction and incarceration, his Muslim wife eventually asked for divorce.

It was finally in 1998, after nearly 40 years of living on the streets, surviving on soup kitchens and stealing and using drugs that Garment decided to open a new chapter with himself.

He started attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings and sought assistance through The Bridge, an organization that helps the homeless and those with substance abuse problems.

It was there that Garment met Amin, his Muslim mentor who guided him into becoming a real Muslim while on the path to recovery.

Amin, a former heroin addict and AIDS patient, introduced Garment to Millati Islami – a drug recovery program based on Islamic principles. 

“We would talk about getting close to Allah, talk about praying,” Garment remembers.

Lucille Jackson, who used to run The Bridge, describes Garment’s re-discovery of Islam as a turning point for him.

“He took advantage in a positive way of what was around him. He made use of knowledge very well.”

Helping Others

Jackson was so impressed that she decided to give Garment a job in her organization while he was still in treatment.

When she became Project Director of the Brooklyn Mental Health Court, she wanted to hire him as a forensic coordinator.

But because of Garment’s criminal record, she needed to obtain a special permission from the state’s Supreme Court to hire him. She did.

Garment work involves linking inmates with services they need to find treatment for mental illnesses and substance abuse problems or to help them with unemployment and homelessness.

Though he is not required to share his own experiences with clients, he does speak about it if he believes it will help someone, especially young people who live his own tragedy as a youth.

“I see that their lives are being interrupted. I take them on as my own children. I tell them ‘Get an education. Don’t do this to yourself.’”

Jackson describes Garment’s work as “fabulous.”

“He is an incredible human being,” she told IOL.

“He never allows anything to stand in his way to help a client. He goes the extra mile.”

Today a happily married father and grandfather, Garment thanks God every day for discovering Islam during the hardest days of his life.

Besides his job, he has finished General Educational Development (GED). He is also excelling in Arabic classes he recently undertook to fully understand the Noble Qur’an.

Garment plans to get a degree in Islamic Studies some day.

“When we were young, we used to blame everything on the white man,” he recalls.

“But I’m a Muslim today. My condition is by my own hands [and] by the will of Allah.”