Monthly Archives: December 2009

Urban Forest

If you are tired of looking at rigid building designs, this post is surely going to blow you away!

Designing is an art and one rarely envisions such path breaking ideas. This building, modeled by MAD architects will be located in Chonquing, China. Connected by a core cylindrical structure, each floor has been placed a little off the centre, giving the building a unique feel. Abstract floors with full length glass windows make the building look surreal and the balcony gardens only add to its beauty.

The floors are designed to create an illusion of each floating upon another. The model is such that it brings together nature and the urban metropolis thereby creating a masterpiece that would please all!

Take a look.

urban forest - from far away

urban forest - image

urban forest - in the day

urban forest building

urban forest building amongst others

urban forest - similarities

urban forest - building magnificance

urban forest - images from the floors

urban forest - partially

urban forest - inside

urban forest- levels of the building

urban forest- partial view

These were the two proposals for the building before the design above was finalized.

urban forest proposal 1

urban forest proposal 2

[Via] & [Via]

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Masjids around the world

 

Fatma Masjid in Kuwait

Jamie Asr Masjid in Brunei (night)

Koutoubia Masjid in Marakesh – Morocco

Kul Sharif Masjid in Kazan – Russia

Larabanga Masjid in Ghana

Masjid Al Nabawi in Madinah – Saudi Arabia

Masjid in Akhaltsikhe – Georgia

Masjid in Bangladesh

Masjid in Bobo Dioulasso – Burkina Faso

Masjid in Gauteng – South Africa

Masjid in Kazkhstan

Masjid in Kyrgyzstan

Masjid in Matara – Sri Lanka

Masjid in Pattani – Thailand

The Underground Masjid in Malaysia

Cyristal Masjid in Kuala Terengganu – Malaysia (night)

 

The Benefits of Islamic Finance Instruments for Russian Businesses

The Benefits of Islamic Finance Instruments for Russian Businesses

Pepelyaev, Goltsblat and Partners
https://i0.wp.com/www.themoscowtimes.com/photos/large/2009_12/2009_12_14/mc6.jpg

Rustam Vakhitov 
Senior manager of international taxation group 
Pepelyaev, Goltsblat and Partners

Islamic finance is gaining more business interest worldwide as well as in Russia. Why has this way of doing business gained so much popularity over the recent years?

The reason is that a significant number of Islamic investors have recognized that there is an opportunity of doing business in accordance with their religious standards and have encouraged the financial institutions that handle their funds to offer Shariah-compliant solutions. As Shariah is not a written law, but rather a flexible guidance based on a number of principles, creating such solutions was not that difficult.

What benefits can Islamic finance bring to Russian businesses? One of the most obvious benefits is to attract investment into Russia. There are a few Islamic finance instruments that are particularly useful for this purpose. These are financing of trading operations (murabaha), partnership (musharaka) and leasing (ijara). The latter could be done in the form of securitized leasing (sukuk-al-ijara).

Despite a widespread misconception, Islamic finance does not require specific laws and is not limited to the Muslim community. Except for several predictable prohibitions (trade in arms, alcohol, pornography, gambling etc), Islamic finance solutions could basically be used anywhere by anyone.

In fact, many conventional transactions may qualify as Shariah-compliant. Such examples include lease contracts, equity contributions into a joint venture and deferred payment sales.

Let us now take a closer look at the types of contracts briefly discussed above from the perspective of the existing Russian tax and legal environment.

In a murabaha contract a financial intermediary buys particular goods at spot price and sells them to a customer at a higher price on credit. There is nothing in Russian law preventing such transactions. The only limitation is the prohibition of trading activities for banks, which itself is subject to many limitations, e.g. permission to trade in securities and precious metals. In addition, the law No. 281 of Dec. 25, 2009, lifts the limitation further and permits banks to enter into forward or option contracts wherein the object of the contract is the delivery of goods, although that is on the condition that such contracts would not involve the physical delivery of such goods.

It appears that this amendment extends the involvement of banks in trade contracts and may support interpretations allowing Russian banks to be involved in murabaha transactions.

From the tax perspective, the difference from conventional loans is that in order to buy an item worth 100,000 rubles (VAT inclusive), a customer would take a loan of 100,000. Provided that interest rate is 10% annually, he would pay 10,000 rubles interest which is VAT free. In murabaha transactions the markup to the original price representing premium for deferred payment would be subject to VAT, i.e. the total price for the customer would be 111,800 rubles in a murabaha transaction compared to 110,000 rubles in the case of a conventional loan.

Therefore, somewhat disadvantageous treatment of murabaha is limited to specific cases of sale of goods on credit to retail consumer and might be remedied by clarification from the Ministry of Finance. This relative disadvantage is not based on the fact that the murabaha is Islamic finance transaction, but on the fact that sale on credit is treated differently from sale with the use of loan facility.

Ijara or lease contract would not involve any particular difficulties in structuring in both domestic and cross-border scenarios. In the case of lease payments to a nonresident without a permanent establishment in Russia, payment may be subject to withholding tax at the rate of 20%. However, under many Russian tax treaties, including the tax treaty with the Netherlands, such income would be exempt from tax in Russia.

In the case of a combination of sukuk and ijara, i.e. in classical sukuk structure, establishing a special purpose vehicle in the Netherlands or Luxembourg, which would lease out assets in Russia, possibly operating via a Russian branch, would help to create an efficient and transparent structure in full compliance with the Russian legislation.

These are just few examples of opportunities of successful implementation of classical Islamic finance instruments in Russia. Such instruments could be used for retail sector, project financing and other things relevant to the Russian market. Despite widespread negative perception, many Islamic finance instruments can be successfully implemented in Russia under the current tax and legal laws and regulations.


Islamic Finance in Russia: Issues and Solutions

Islamic Finance in Russia: Issues and Solutions

Norton Rose LLP

Farmida Bi 
Partner, International Securities Team Norton Rose LLP

Islamic finance is the fastest growing market in ethical finance with an annual average growth rate of between 10 percent and 20 percent. Current global Islamic finance assets stand at $800 billion and are predicted by some to rise to $4 trillion by 2015. The credit crunch has provided Islamic finance with a unique opportunity to assert its values of ethically based financing, which could help to shape the global financial industry as a whole.

Islamic finance distinguishes itself from conventional finance in its compliance with the principles of Islamic commercial jurisprudence. Islamic finance techniques seek to promote ethical and socially responsible investment while providing an alternative to interest-based finance. The main tenets of Islamic commercial jurisprudence prohibit interest payments on monetary loans or securities, speculation, uncertainty in certain contractual terms and engaging in anti-social business activities. Some of the main Islamic financing techniques include murabaha (cost-plus financing), sukuk (Islamic bonds), ijara (based on the leasing of an asset), istisna’a (production/construction financing) and musharaka (equity investment).

The recent defaults in the Islamic finance industry have shown that the Gulf has been affected by the same liquidity issues as the West, with central banks actively intervening to encourage interbank lending. However, there are significant differences in the views about long-term prospects expressed by bankers in different states in the Gulf, as well as between bankers situated in Western banks, conventional local banks and Islamic banks, with the latter being the most optimistic, especially if they are based in countries with rich energy resources. The general view among all bankers is that they will monitor market performance in the first two quarters of next year.

Aziza Atta 
Associate, Islamic Finance Team 
Norton Rose LLP

As European economies come to terms with the effects of the economic crisis, Islamic finance is attracting greater attention because of the ethical and socially conscious principles that underpin the industry. A number of countries in Europe, such as the United Kingdom, France and Italy are ensuring that their legal systems create a level playing field for Shariah-compliant structures. In Asia, Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong are vying to be the hub for Islamic finance, despite Malaysia’s traditional dominance. There is also increased interest from China, Turkey and India. Meanwhile, the entire financial system in Iran is Shariah-compliant. These are all significant trading partners for Russia.

There is a growing interest in Russia (as well as elsewhere in the CIS) among banking and corporate borrowers as well as potential arrangers in the diversification of sources of financing through access to the Islamic financial markets. However, Islamic finance is very new to Russia and marrying the principles of Islamic finance with the legislative framework in Russia is going to be an iterative process. The London and Moscow offices of Norton Rose LLP have recently been involved in structuring a Russian murabaha trade financing as well as a Russian sukuk. During this process, we identified a number of corporate, commercial and tax issues that should be noted by any parties seeking to engage in similar transactions in the Russian market.

We were able to work within the limits of the existing Russian legislative framework in order to find solutions to the challenges that we faced, but it would be helpful if Russia, like the U.K. and France, for example, considered making certain changes to the existing tax and commercial laws to remove some of the current barriers to Islamic finance in order to create a level playing field with transactions that are structured conventionally.

In the current economic climate, Islamic finance is a real alternative for financiers who face a lack of liquidity in the debt capital markets and are looking for alternative ways of raising finance.


India, China will economically surpass U.S., U.K. in 2048

By Andrew Nusca | Nov 25, 2009 | 7 Comments

In a speech at TEDIndia, statistician Hans Rosling predicted the exact date that India and China’s economies will catch up with the U.S. and the U.K.

Background about Rosling: He’s a doctor and professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute who previously identified a new paralytic disease induced by hunger in rural Africa. His current work focuses on dispelling common myths about the so-called “developing world.”

A few quoted takeaways from Rosling’s presentation:

“Asia will regain its dominant position as the leading part of the world, as it used to be, over thousands of years…I will [predict] that by trying to predict precisely at what year the average income per person in India, in China, will reach that of the West. And I don’t mean the whole economy, because to grow an economy of India to the size of U.K., that’s a piece of cake, with one billion people. But I want to see when will the average pay, the money for each person, per month, in India and China, when will that have reached that of U.K. and the United States?”

“People interested in growth are turning their eyes towards Asia.”

“Inequalities in China and India I consider really the big obstacle because to bring the entire population into growth and prosperity is what will create a domestic market, what will avoid social instability, and which will make use of the entire capacity of the population. So, social investments in health, education and infrastructure, and electricity is really what is needed in India and China.”

“What I’m really worried about is war. Will the former rich countries really accept a completely changed world economy, and a shift of power away from where it has been the last 50 to 100 to 150 years, back to Asia? And will Asia be able to handle that new position of being in charge of being the most mighty, and the governors of the world? So, always avoid war, because that always pushes human beings backward. Now if these inequalities, climate and war can be avoided, get ready for a world in equity. Because this is what seems to be happening.”

Rosling’s date on which India and China will economically catch up to the U.S.? July 27, 2048.

Listen to his justifications and see his statistical slides in the full video.

The Cyber Sea

December 8, 2009 | 1 comments

World’s First Internet Undersea Science Station Boots Up [Slide Show]

NEPTUNE Canada, the world’s first regional cabled undersea network, promises to usher in a new era of ocean sciences when it goes online December 8.

By Anne Casselman   

 

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BENTHIC CRAWLER: Meet Wally the Benthic Crawler, the world’s first Internet-operated deep-sea crawler (here astride a gas hydrate outcrop in Barkley Canyon). Wally was designed by ocean scientists at Jacobs University Bremen in Germany to measure conditions such as temperature, salinity, methane content and sediment characteristics at seafloor depth.
Photo taken by ROPOS[[http://ropos.com]], which is operated by the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility.

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Thanks to a new, wired undersea observatory, when it comes to exploring the deep blue sea, there will be no more of this tethered buoy business or taking ships out to upload data from brief time snapshots taken by instruments. The NEPTUNE network set to go online Tuesday will stream data from hundreds of undersea instruments and sensors direct from the Pacific Ocean floor to the Internet 24/7, year-round.

The network is expected to produce 50 terabytes of data annually, all of which will inform scientists about everything from earthquake dynamics to the effects of climate change on the water column, and from deep-sea ecosystems to salmon migration.

“It’s revolutionary in that it brings two new components into the ocean environment, which are power and high-bandwidth Internet,” says Project Director Chris Barnes, from the project’s offices at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. “We’re really on the verge of wiring the oceans.”

After the Hubble Space Telescope was lofted into orbit, astronomers gained their clearest view of space yet, one freed from the murky atmosphere. “That has transformed how astronomers do their science in the same way that we believe the cabled networks will be changing the way ocean scientists do their science,” Barnes explains.

“We happen to have on our coast here just a wealth of processes that characterize many many parts of the world’s oceans,” Barnes says. NEPTUNE has several larger scientific themes. Its sensors will monitor earthquake dynamics in greater detail, including tsunamis and crustal processes. (Recently NEPTUNE’s deep-sea instrument array detected a tsunami generated from the magnitude 8.0 Samoan earthquake on September 29.)

NEPTUNE will also study the extensive gas hydrate deposits that lie along the continental margin. No one knows yet whether these gas hydrates represent either a potential energy source or a source of greenhouse gas emissions that could exacerbate global warming, Barnes says. “There’s a real need to understand those processes.”

NEPTUNE’s network will also examine the effect of deep-sea fishing on benthic communities. Humans fish down to about 1,200 meters but the tendency has been to keep fishing deeper and deeper, Barnes says. “We know so little about how life exists down there.”

The “fire hose of information,” as Barnes calls it, will be tailored for public and academic consumption, and its initiation marks the culmination of an $8-million, eight-year undertaking.

Slide Show: The Cyber Sea: World’s First Internet Undersea Science Station Boots Up

Interiors of the Air Force 1

Interiors of the Air Force 1

Dec 8th 2009,  
tweetmeme_url = ‘http://www.home-designing.com/2009/12/interiors-of-the-air-force-1’; tweetmeme_source = ‘homedesigning’;

Air Force 1 has always brought with it a certain degree of curiosity and amazement for the laymen. Unless you are a member of the inner circle of the President of the United States, chances are that you would be unable to visit the air-borne office. However, Pete Souza, who is the Chief White House photographer for Barack Obama, has managed to click and display a few of the pictures with the president of the United States of America and his team inside, which is what this post is about.

A post on the Russian Air Force 1 will be released. Covered with gold, the Russian office is a treat for the eyes.

air force one

Air Force 1 interiors

Meeting in Air Force 1

Michelle in Air Force 1

Obama in Air Force 1

at the desk - air force 1

airforce-1-interiors

Air force 1 workspace

Enjoying the view outside

On the plane

Interiors

Board room Air Force 1

in the plane

Michelle and Barack

We run a steady stream of cool posts like this at Home Designing and if you like to be notified when we have more such inspiring posts

Storeowner: A little compassion changed would-be robber’s life – CNN.com

Storeowner: A little compassion changed would-be robber’s life – CNN.com

New York (CNN) — Six months ago, a Long Island convenience store owner turned a would-be robbery into an act of compassion. On Wednesday, the shoplifter made amends with a $50 bill and a thank you letter for saving him from a life of crime.

The story began in May 2009, when Mohammad Sohail of Shirley, New York, was closing his Shirley Express convenience store one night. Security camera footage from that evening shows a man wielding a baseball bat barging into the store and demanding money.

Sohail had a rifle ready and quickly aimed it directly in the robber’s face, forcing the man to drop the bat and lay on the ground. Unbeknownst to the man, Sohail never loads his gun.

According to Sohail, the man immediately started to plead with him, tearfully saying, “I’m sorry, I have no food. I have no money. My whole family is hungry. Don’t call the police. Don’t shoot me.”

“When I see him starting crying [those] things, I really feel bad for him,” said Sohail. “I say, oh man, this is something different.”

Sohail made the man pledge never to rob anybody ever again, then gave the man $40 and a loaf bread. Sohail, who is from Pakistan, said the man then wanted to be a Muslim like him, so he recited an Islamic oath and gave the would-be robber the name Nawaz Sharif Zardari.

Sohail went to get some milk, but when he returned the man had fled with the money and food.
Video: Robber returns a favor
RELATED TOPICS

* Robbery
* Suffolk County Police Department
* Islam

Both Mohammad Sohail and Suffolk County Police have no idea who the man is. After the May incident, Sohail explained that he will “absolutely not” be pressing charges, though police are still investigating the case.

Over the past six months, Sohail’s story of sympathy and kindness has inspired many across the country.

The Shirley Express store has received numerous letters of admiration.

“No person has ever moved my spirit the way you did. From your biggest admirer,” one letter says. “Great men are capable of great acts. You are a great American,” another reads.

He has also received several checks with such messages for “a couple hundred dollars” in total, says Sohail. He has made a point to give this money “to the people” by offering free bagels, rolls and coffee in his store every night after 9 o’clock.

But the envelope that arrived on Wednesday came as a surprise. Postmarked November 11 without a return address, it enclosed a $50 bill and a note apparently from the would-be robber.

The typed letter begins, “You change My Life (sic),” and goes on to say that the man is sorry for his actions six months ago.

“At the time I had No money No food on my table No Job, and nothing for my family. I know that it was wrong, but I had know (sic) choice. I needed to feed My family. When You had That gun to my head I was 100% that I was going to die,” reads the letter.

The letter says Sohail’s acts inspired him to become a “True Muslim” and that his life has changed dramatically.

“I’m very happy that somebody got to change his life,” Sohail said. “If he is a maybe criminal, maybe is not anymore. So now he is a good person in this community and I’m very glad for that. He’s staying out of trouble, he’s not in a jail, he’s taking care of his family.”

In fear of ‘Eurabia’?

The posters encouraging people to vote for the ban, showed a niqab-wearing Muslim woman [EPA]

The images were clearly intended to get out the vote, and judging by the 57 per cent “yes” vote to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland on Sunday, they worked all too well.

They included the depiction of minarets piercing through the Swiss flag; minarets on top of the flag, with a menacing, niqab-wearing Muslim woman in the foreground.

One could be forgiven for imagining that the Muslims were at the gates of Vienna, or even Lucerne, threatening to overrun Christian Europe. And of course, for the proponents of the ban, that is precisely the situation Europe faces today.

For centuries, the peoples of Europe have defined their continental identity against the threat of Islam. So much so that it is hard to imagine a European identity that does not have Islam as its foil.

There are, of course, good historical reasons for this.

From the eighth century Europe was in fact surrounded by Muslims to the East and South, who ruled much of the Eastern continent for the next millennium.

Of course, except in the wildest dreams of jihadists, Europe will not be taken down by Muslim swords today. But for right-wing fear mongers, the contemporary Muslim threat is just as nefarious, only the weapon is different.

The ultimate ‘other’

That Muslim woman in the now infamous poster is not just the ultimate ‘other’ – totally impenetrable to the Western gaze in a social space where topless women are de rigeur on billboards, magazines, TV commercials and the beach – but, the niqab or burka-wearing Muslim woman is believed to stand for all Muslim women, who, it is assumed, possess little or no control over their own bodies.

And because of this, she is as dangerous as the H1N1 virus currently scaring people across the continent. Underneath her niqab lies a human bomb – not a suicide vest, but a baby; lots of babies, if you believe the hype.

All these Muslims babies threaten to transform the fundamental identity of Europe as a “Western,” “modern,” “secular-yet-Christian” space – the very antithesis of what most Europeans imagine Muslims to be.

In some sense, of course, the return of a robust Muslim presence in Europe would be a return to history, to a time when a good share of Europe was Muslim. But that is a history few Europeans hearken to. In fact, Europe’s first post-Cold War conflict, in the Balkans, was driven in good measure by just this fear.

Beneath the fear, however, lies that undeniable reality that the combination in Europe of very low indigenous (meaning white and Christian) birth rates and increasing immigration of Muslims with higher birth rates means that the percentage of Muslims will continue to grow.

They will not, however, become a majority in Europe under any conceivable scenario in the coming decades.

In fact, the actual demographic trends show a decline in birth rates by Muslim women as they become settled into Europe, which corresponds to the declining birth rates across the Muslim world (many of whose governments have initiated aggressive family planning programmes).

Indeed, as Muslim women live in Europe, learn the languages, get educated and join the workforce, they become more “European” – or more accurately, like women globally, who, if they have the resources and freedom to control their reproduction, choose to have smaller families.

Of course, if they are marginalised and, along with their male counterparts, not given sufficient chance to become a functioning part of their new societies, this process will happen more slowly, if at all, creating a self-fulfilling cycle of recrimination and disintegration.

From Europe to ‘Eurabia’?

Either way, it is clear that Europe is going to become more Muslim in the coming decades. The question is whether in the process it will become more Islamic – that is, publicly religious and impacted by Muslim religious symbols and practices – and which version of Islam will define the emerging European Islam.

Will it be a “Euro-Islam” that respects core liberal values of tolerance, openness and respect for the rule of law, or a “Ghetto Islam” that produces subcultures that are largely isolated and hostile to the European self-image (one which, it must be remembered, largely excludes Muslims in the first place)?
 
The fear mongers behind the rising tide of Islamophobia in Europe argue that the continent is on the way to becoming “Eurabia” – that is, taken over by a Muslim tide and losing its core Europeanness in the process.

It is hard to know how many Europeans buy into this argument. But, while it is rarely a good idea to generalise, the majority would likely prefer Muslims to assimilate into their host societies, to shed the outward appearances of difference, and not integrate – a process that inevitably changes the host culture as well, as it takes on elements of the newer arrival and, inevitably, loses some of its traditions in the process.

Picture-postcard Europe

It is not surprising that in Switzerland the focus would be on minarets.

More than most countries, Switzerland defines itself by its visual aesthetic. It is the picture postcard of Europe, with nothing out of place, the quintessential European destination.

Never mind that Swiss Muslims are among the least conservative in Europe and that the call to prayer is already banned in Switzerland; the presence of more minarets would call out to the Swiss, saying: “We are here and we’re not going anywhere. And we’re not just going to assimilate to your culture. We intend to keep core parts of ours as well.”

There are just four minarets in Switzerland
at present [EPA]

Thus the referendum slogans calling for a halt to the “Islamisation of Switzerland”. The minaret, as a highly visible sign of Islam’s presence, becomes a “spearhead” of that Islamisation, “the symbol of political-societal power claim of Islam” as the website of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the party behind the vote, describes it.

Never mind that most of the claims by the minaret ban’s backers about Islam and the demographic threat are inaccurate. Islam, in their view, cannot exist without asserting unique claims to social and ultimately political power, which is why it is an existential threat by its very presence.

Muslims cannot just be; they have to convert others, and the voice of the muezzin “proclaiming down from the minaret” is the most powerful manifestation of this. Or so the backers of the minaret ban imagine.

Even Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, Switzerland’s justice minister, admitted that the result “reflects fears among the population of Islamic fundamentalist tendencies,” as if one cannot be Islamic without being fundamentalist.

This is the underlying problem in the debate over minarets, hijabs, or yet more troubling, attempts by European Muslims to establish separate courts and laws aligned with their interpretation of sharia to cover personal status issues.

At best, it says Muslims are willing to integrate, not assimilate into European society.
 
Comparisons to anti-Semitism
 
In the aftermath of Sunday’s vote, many commentators, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, are comparing Islamophobia in Europe today to the anti-Semitism that plagued the continent in the first half of the 20th century.

While understandable, such comparisons miss the fundamental difference between the position of Jews in Europe then and Muslims in Europe today.

Jews had lived in Europe for centuries and, despite anti-Jewish sentiments among huge swaths of Europe’s population, were very much a part of their societies’ cultures, economies, and increasingly politics.

Indeed, in Germany it was precisely the increasing full participation of Jews in so many parts of national life that made them such an existential threat.

They were Europe’s most intimate ‘other’, inside the very fabric of European identity and increasingly, impossible to tell from “real” Europeans.

As such they became a lethal virus that, in the Nazi logic, had to be eradicated to restore the purity of the race.

The situation for Muslims today is very different.

Muslims are still relatively new to most European societies; at most a couple of generations old. As one Fox news report put it after a riot in Muslim neighbourhoods of the Swedish town of Malmö, they are “outsiders who are already inside” European societies.
 
What is worrying is that as a new generation of European Muslims come of age and move deeper inside European culture, economies and politics, the fears and prejudices against them will surely grow, especially if, as in Germany of the 1930s, the economic situation continues to deteriorate.

Mass violence against Muslims comparable to that visited against Jews is unimaginable. But as Muslims become, welcomed or not, part of the European fabric, the prejudices against them could begin to take on some of the form of the anti-Semitism that plagued pre-war Europe.

The larger picture
 
Ultimately, the vote to ban minarets, like other anti-Islamic legislation, is a symptom of a larger problem within contemporary European societies.

It is not just that Europeans are increasingly inhospitable to Muslims and other immigrants. These sentiments reflect the fraying of the social fabric of Europe more broadly, particularly of countries that have had strong recent traditions of social solidarity and welfare.

The larger implications have not been touched on in most of the commentary and reporting in the multi-lingual Swiss media, or the European press more broadly.

Instead, papers such as the German language Neue Zürcher Zeitung, described the vote as a revolt of “the people over the elites” and emphasised the need for rulers to “listen to the people” (a terminology which, in German at least, has alarming historical connotations).

The French language Le Temps questioned: “How can you dialogue when you’re crushed by the weight of stereotypes?”

The answer is that people are increasingly scared that their social safety nets are fraying and that life is inexorably going to become harder. And they want quick solutions, not long and complicated dialogues.

And herein lies the real problem underlying the vote. It is not merely about Islam. It is also about the solidification of neo-liberalism economically and conservatism politically across the continent, and ultimately, about globalisation more broadly.

Those in favour of the ban argued minarets represented the Islamification of Europe [AFP]

Together, the political, economic and social dynamics are creating a situation in which governments are less able to deliver the high level of services that post-war Europeans have gotten used to, at the moment that ideologically, people are increasingly unwilling to look out for their fellow citizens’ welfare as they did previously – when, of course, they also happened to look, speak and act much more like them.

Sweden, where I’m currently living, has long had one of Europe’s most generous welfare states, which is coming under severe strain just as the Muslim population is growing rapidly.

But as a priest who works with immigrants pointed out to me, the unwillingness of Swedes in the wealthy town of Vellinge (to cite one example), to allow a home for child war refugees from Muslim countries in their town owes not merely to a fear or loathing against Muslims.

In the “new” and increasingly inegalitarian Sweden, the emerging wealthy class living comfortably in low tax areas like Vellinge are equally unwilling to pay high taxes to support their fellow Swedes.
 
Of course, it is much easier to blame it on the Muslims and to continue to push them away even as they find their way inside Europe.

But if history is any guide, Europeans will start out blaming the ‘inside other’ for their problems, but it will not be too long before their anger, and violence, turns on each other.

Mark LeVine is currently visiting professor at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University, Sweden. His most recent books include Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books, 2009) and Reapproaching Borders: New Perspectives on the Study of Israel-Palestine (Rowman Littlefield, 2008).

Teaching and curriculum of Darul Uloom

By Manzar Bilal, TwoCircles.net,

Part 3 of the seven part TwoCircles.net series on Darul Uloom Deoband

After the failure of 1857 freedom war, the British East India Company started to target especially Muslims as the commanders of the movement were mostly Muslims. The government hung thousands of Ulema and shut down many madarsas.

Under these circumstances, a group of learned theologians led by Maulana Qasim Nanotvi established Darul Uloom seminary on 15th Muharram, A.H. 1283 (May 30, 1866) in Deoband, UP , in order to train the youth with the necessary Islamic knowledge. They deliberately decided to keep it aloof from political or government participation.

At that time no one could imagine that the seminary whose foundation stone was laid down in a small village would be famous all over the world because of its educational services. Many illustrious personalities rose up from this teaching institution, innumerable scholars were fostered in its laps, and thousands of Ulama, Shaikhs, traditionists, jurisconsults, authors and experts of other arts and sciences were produced here.

The products of this historical educational centre , besides in this sub-continent, are busy in performing religions and academic services in various other countries also, and everywhere they have acquired a prominent status and have provided the service of religious guidance of the Muslims.

Darul Uloom Deoband curriculum based on the 12th century Hijri Indo-Islamic syllabus prepared by Mulla Nizamuddin Sahalvi which is known as Darse Nizami. More attention was being paid to Quran, Hadeeth, Islamic jurisprudence, Islamic law or Shariah, traditional Islamic theology. The current syllabus consists of four stages: Primary, Middle, High, Masters (Post-graduate stage). Primary is from first year to fourth year of Arabic, Middle from fifth year to seventh year and High is eight year. After the successfully completion of these eight year student becomes eligible for receiving the graduate degree (Sanad-e-Faraghat) of Darul Uloom.

The post-graduate class is not compulsory; if the student wants to acquire expertise in any subject or topic, he can take admission in the post-graduate class and continue his education but these classes are only for Darul Uloom graduates.

Darul Uloom conduct entrance test every year immediately after Ramadhan where thousands of students from across the country as well as from some other country come to participate. In this year over 10,000 students appeared in the test. Of them 1000 were selected for different classes. Recently, around four thousands students are boarding at hostel of Darul Uloom. The institution boasts a library of around 67,000 printed books and manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Urdu in different arts and skill where students quench their thirst of knowledge.

The Books and subjects that are taught in eight-year course of the Arabic classes at Darul Uloom

First year

Subject Books
Biography of the Prophet (sirat) Sirat-e-Khatimul Anbiya (By: Mufti Md. Shafi)
Conjugation-Grammar (Sarf) Arabic Primer; Mizanus-Sarf and Munsha’ib

(complete); Panj Ganj (complete)

Syntax (Nahv) Memorizing of Nahv-e-Mir (complete); Sharh-e- Mi’ata A’mil (complete).
Arabic Literature Miftahul Arabia Part 1,2, & Alqira’atul Waziha (1)
Logic Taiseer al-Mantiq
Chirography (Khush-navisi) Correct writing and Dictation
Cantillation: (Tajvid) Exercise in cant illation in the first quarter of the Para-e-Amm

Second year

bject Books
Conjugation-Grammar (Sarf) Ilmus Segha & Fusool-e-Akbari
Syntax (Nahv Hidaytun Nahv (complete) & Kafiya (chapter: Fail & Harf)
Arabic Literature Alqira’atul Waziha (2) & Nafhatul Adab
Jurisprudence: (Fiqh) Noorul Izah & Qudoori (To Haj chapter)
Logic A’san Mantiq & Mirqat
Chirography (Khush-navisi) Correct writing and Dictation
Cantillation: (Tajvid) Jamalul Qra’an & Exercise in cant illation of the Para-e-Amm

Third year

Subject Books
Quranic Exegesis Tarjumatul Quran (From Sura-e-Qaf to end)
Jurisprudence: (Fiqh) Qudoori (From Kitabul Boyoo to end)
Syntax (Nahv) Sharah Shuzuruz Zahab (complete)
Arabic Literature Nafhatul Arab & Alqira’tul Waziha (3)
Hadith Mishkatul A’thar
Logic Shrah Tahzeeb (complete)
Islami Akhlaque Talimul Muta’allim
Cantillation: (Tajvid) Exercise in cant illation of the five Para
External study Tareekh Millat (Khilafat-e-Rashida)


Fourth year

Subject Books
Quranic Exegesis Tarjumatul Quran (From Sura-e-Yousuf to Qaf)
Jurisprudence: (Fiqh) Sharah Wiqayah (Part 1 coml. & part 2 up to Itaque)
Principles of Jurisprudence Tasheelul Usool Arabi & Usoolus Shasi
Rhetorics Darusul Balaghah (complete)
Hadith Alfiyatul Hadith
Logic Qutbi (complete)
History Khilafat-e-Bani Umayya, Abbasiya, Turkiya (By: zamullah Shahabi)
Cantillation: (Tajvid) Exercise in cant illation of the five Para
Modern Sciences Sciences of Madaniyyat, Geography of the Arab Peninsula and other Islamic countries.


Fifth year

Quranic Exegesis Tarjumatul Quran (From beginning up to Sura-e-Hood)
Jurisprudence: (Fiqh) Hidaya Part 1 (complete)
Principles of Jurisprudence Noorul Anwar up to Sunnah & Matan Alminar ( form Kitabus Sunnah up to end)
Rhetorics Mukhtasarul Ma’ani 1st subject & Talkhisul Miftah (2nd & 3rdSubject)
Beliefs (Aqa’id) Aqidatut Tahavi
Logic Sullamul Uloom (up to subject of Shartiyat)
Arabic Literature Muqamat ( up to 15 Muqama)
Cantillation: (Tajvid) Exercise in cant illation of the five Para
External study History of Indians Kings (up to 1947 A.D.)


Sixth year

Subject Books
Tafsir Tafsir Jalalayn (complete)
Jurisprudence: (Fiqh) Hidaya Part 2 (complete with Itaque subject)
Principles of Tafsir & Jurisprudence Alfauzul Kabeer & Husamy (complete)
Arabic Literature Deevan-e-Mutanabbi (appointed chapter) & Deewan-e-Himasa (Babul Adab)
Philosophy Mabadiul Falsafa & Mabazi (Complete)
Cantillation: (Tajvid) Exercise in cant illation of the five Para
Study of Sirat Asahhus Siyer

Seventh year

Subject Books
Hadith Mishkat, Sharah Nukhba & Muqadma Shaikh Abdul-Haque
Jurisprudence: (Fiqh Hidaya Part 3/4
Aqa’ed Shrah Aqa’ed
Fra’iz Sirajy
Cantillation: (Tajvid) Exercise in cant illation of the five Para
External Study Al-Mazahibul Islamia Urdu (Shaikh Abu Zahra )


Eight year

Subject Books
Hadith Bukhari Sharif (Complete)
Hadith Muslim Sharif (Complete)
Hadith Tirmizi Sharif (Complete)
Hadith Abu Da’ud Sharif (Complete)
Hadith Nasa’i Sharif (Complete)
Hadith Ibn-e-Maja Sharif (Complete)
Hadith Tahavi Sharif (Complete)
Hadith Shama’il Tirmizi Sharif (Complete)
Hadith Mu’atta Imam Malik (Complete)
Hadith Mu’atta Imam Mohammad (Complete)
External Tajvid

After these eight years students can enroll in following coerces;

Masters in Tafsir, Masters in Theology, Masters in Fiqh, Masters in Arabic Literature, Masters in Training for Teaching (B.Ed.), Masters in Tajweed w Qira’at, Masters in Calligraphy, Masters in Journalism, Masters in Dawah, Masters in Urdu journalism and many additional courses.

There is also one year diploma in computer in which students are trained for basic Computer operations.

Some years back on the initiative of MP Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, who is also the member of executive committee of Darul Uloom, two-year course in English language and literature was established.

Central government considering Islamic banking

By TwoCircles.net Staff Correspondent,

Malappuram: The central government is reportedly considering the scopes of Islamic banking in the country in order to invite big investments in the time of economic crisis. Investments including those from Arab countries could be used for infrastructural development and other purposes if the central government begins Islamic banking.

The Intelligence Bureau is reportedly studying the working methods of several private Islamic finance institutions in different states. The IB is reportedly directed to submit a detailed report on the matter.

Investments from the Arab countries have been flowing to countries like the USA due to the power of the dollar. Several American banks had reportedly even started ‘interest-free Islamic windows’ aiming Arab investments. Islamic banks began operation in the UK and other countries too. Islamic banks have been established in countries like Singapore, Thailand, Germany and Japan. But, Arab investors are now hesitant to invest in western countries due to the economic crisis in the US and inconsistency in the value of the dollar. Full-fledged Islamic bank could not be opened in India due to the rules and directives of the Reserve Bank.

It is analysed that India could draw investments from NRIs who don’t expect interest as well Arab investments now in the western countries. Presently, several NRIs have invested in banks on condition that they would not receive any interest. Detailed study on the matter has come in such a circumstance. It is expected that common people too could borrow interest-free loans for education, agriculture, etc if full-fledged Islamic banking comes into effect. However, amendments would have to be made in the rules of the reserve Bank for the purpose.

Robber Thanks Would-Be Victim For Saving His Life

A deli owner gives a $40 and a loaf of bread to a man who attempted to rob him.

By ERIC LUU
Updated 1:30 PM EST, Thu, Dec 3, 2009

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NBC New York

What can $40 and a loaf of bread do for a man?

Apparently it can turn a crook’s life around and help him get on track.

An ex-thug sent a thank-you note and a $50 bill to the Long Island deli owner who spared his life and saved him from a life of crime.

Back in May, the letter-writer attempted to rob the deli when the owner, Mohammed Sohail, 47, pulled out a rifle. But after the ex-crook pleaded for his life, explaining he was only doing this because his family was down on luck. Sohail spared the thief’s life and gave him $40 and a loaf of bread.

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Clerk Thwarts Robbery, Then Gives Thief $40

Clerk Thwarts Robbery, Then Gives Thief $40

WATCH

Clerk Thwarts Robbery, Then Gives Thief $40

“When you do good things for somebody, it comes back to you. I gave him $40 and he sent me back $50. It was a good investment,” Sohail said, laughing.

The anonymous writer apologized to Sohail, his intended target. “First of all I would like to say I am sorry at the time I had [no] money no food on the table no job and nothing for my family,” the ex-crook wrote.

The letter went on to say he “was wrong but I had [no] choice. I needed to feed my family,” comments similar to those he made during the attempted robbery.

“When you had that gun to my head I was 100% that I was going to die,” he wrote.

“Now I have a new child and good job make good money staying out of trouble and taking care of my family. You gave me forty dollars thank you for sparing my life. Because of that you change my life.”

The letter-writer wrote that he initially said he would convert to Islam only because he feared for his life, but he has since followed through, according to the letter.

The Islam convert signed the letter: “Your Muslim Brother.”

“That’s the same guy I gave $40 to,” Sohail told the New York Post. He showcased the letter at his Shirley Express deli yesterday. The typewritten letter had no return address and was mailed on Long Island the week before Thanksgiving.

“I’m really thrilled,” said Sohail. “I’m very happy for that guy, because he is now doing good for the community He has a job and he is a good person. I really feel great. Thank God he’s doing good. He’s got a new baby and he’s not in jail.”

Suffolk County police turned down the Post’s requests for comment until they have reviewed the letter. Detectives investigating the attempted robbery in were unable to track down the suspect after reviewing surveillance camera footage.

First Published: Dec 3, 2009 12:24 PM EST

Buzz up!

Halal Slaughter is Most Humane

Halal Slaughter is Most Humane


What we always knew about Halal slaughter is borne out by the results of a recent study undertaken by Professor Wilhelm Schulze and Dr. Hazim at the school of Venerinary Medicine, Hanover University, Germany. the professor and his colleague have found that the ‘Direct Method’ of slaughtering an animal, which is the Islamic method of Dhabh, is more merciful as compared to the conventional method in vogue in the west, whereby the animal is stunned with a ‘captive bolt pistol’ before being slaughtered.

Research into the pain and consciousness of an animal slaughtered in the Halal/dhabh way, as was practiced by the Prophet Muhammad http://www.geocities.com/mutmainaa/saws.jpgand enjoined upon Muslims to follow, discovered that:

  • the first three seconds [after the fatal incision is made across the throat] as shown on the EEG (Electroencephalogram) – electric recording of the brain – did not show any change in the EEG pattern, as compared to before the incision, thus indicating the animal did not feel any pain during or immediately after the incision.
  • in the following three seconds, the EEG recorded a condition of deep sleep-unconsciousness caused by the large quantity of blood gushing out of the body;
  • after the lapse of these six seconds, the electric recording of the brain (EEG) registered zero level, showing no feeling of pain by the animal at all.

 
However, in contrast to this Islamic Halal or Dhabh method, the western Direct Method with a captive bolt pistol showed:

  • the animal was apparently unconscious soon after stunning;
  • EEG indicated severe pain being experienced by the animal, immediately after stunning; and
  • the heart of the stunned animal stopped beating earlier than the animal that is slaughtered according to the Islamic method of dhabh, resulting in retention of more blood in the carcass.

Meat thus produced for consumption is unhygienic (and can cause poisoning and disease to the consumer).

Stunning an animal before killing has been found to spread the mad cow disease in recent research carried out at Texas University and by Canada’s food inspection Agency as it scatters brain tissue throughout the animal. the brain tissue is the most infectious part of the infected animal.

Therefore, the proper halal, or dhabh/direct method is not only the humane method – a mercy to the animals – of slaughtering animals, but also the safest for consumption of meat – for it rids the meat of blood.

This is the only method that drains the blood completely from the carcass (blood is unhygenic and harmful) and without any danger to health from the brain and spinal cord.

Truly Prophet Muhammad http://www.geocities.com/mutmainaa/saws.jpgcame as a mercy to all the Alameen (Worlds): saved animals from suffering and showed the way to healthy and safe way of consuming meat!


Halaal Slaughtering Method

  • The purpose of slaughtering is only for Allah and not for other purposes.
  • The phrase Bismillah-ar-rahman-ar-raheem (In the name of Allah Most Gracious, Most Merciful) must be invoked immediately before the slaughtering of each animal.
  • Slaughtering must be done only once to each animal. The ‘sawing action’ of the slaughtering is permitted as long as the slaughtering knife is not be lifted off the animal during the slaughter.
  • The act of halal slaughter shall begin with an incision on the neck at some point just below the glottis (Adam’s apple) and after the glottis for long necked animals.
  • The slaughter act shall sever the trachea (halqum), oesophagus (mari’) and both the carotid arteries and jugular veins (wadajain) to hasten the bleeding and death of the animal (see Figure 1 to Figure 4). The bleeding shall be spontaneous and complete.
(Kindly consult an ‘Alim for more clarifications)

Settling the “infidels” question in Islam

Maher Y. Abu-Munshar

Kuala Lumpur – Despite the substantial number of scholarly works and news stories to the contrary, many people still have the unfortunate misconception that Muslims cannot tolerate, coexist, or cooperate with followers of other religions. This is partly because Muslim extremists themselves often (mis)use Qur’anic verses to justify acts of violence against non-Muslims.

Simply put, these interpretations are wrong. In fact, many verses in the Qur’an call for friendship, fair treatment and cooperation with non-Muslims but are ignored by those wishing to create division in order to fan the flames, so to speak.

Examples of the misused Qur’anic verses include, for example: “Let not the Believers take for allies or helpers Unbelievers rather than Believers” (3:28) and “O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your allies. They are but allies to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them [for alliance] is of them” (5:51).

These verses should be seen as providing the necessary support for the survival and cohesion of an early vulnerable community of Muslims–the Prophet Muhammad and his followers who arrived as refugees in Medina–in a potentially hostile environment.

In other words, the Qur’an was advising a particular community of Muslims in 7th century Arabia to be wary of entering blindly into political alliances. And indeed they were betrayed at that time by some of their Jewish allies. In fact, these verses were revealed in particular because some Muslims, for personal gain, were keen to establish or keep alliances with non-Muslims at the expense of their co-religionists and the newly formed state. These verses therefore were instructing these early Muslims to be self-reliant and to not depend upon others’ protection in order to establish a strong, lasting community.

Like the verses cited above, others are also quoted out of context, easily misleading the uninformed reader. One such verse, “And slay them wherever ye find them…” (2:191), is quoted extensively by many extremist Muslims and non-Muslims alike to showcase Islam’s supposed hatred of non-Muslims.

However, this verse too is taken out of context, because the ones just before and after it maintain that Muslims should never be aggressors and should only protect themselves against persecution. The context then becomes clear: this verse was revealed for a specific incident relating to the pagan Arabs who continuously breached the peace and reneged on truces at that particular time. In other words, this instruction is only applicable to this specific incident.

The Egyptian Muslim jurist Yusuf al-Qaradawi points out that these verses are not unconditional and certainly cannot be applied to every single Jew, Christian or non-Muslim. Taking them out of a specific context that relates to some event in earlier Muslim history, they contradict other instructions in the Qur’an that call for kindness to those who wish Muslims no harm.

Both Muslims and non-Muslims must learn to differentiate verses in the Qur’an that are specific to a particular context from those that are universal by also reading those verses that frame the contentious ones.

It is also important to remember that a prevailing message of respect for freedom of religion abounds in the Qur’an: “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256); “Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans–whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right–surely their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve” (2:62); among others.

But the ideal relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is best captured by two Qur’anic verses in particular (60:8-9). These verses–which advise Muslims to treat those of other faiths justly–employ a word which comes from the root word birr, which refers to a deep-rooted type of kindness and justice. The Qur’an counsels that birr be the basis of the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims–the same instruction it gives for dealing with one’s parents.

Today, when violent extremists quote these verses out of context to justify terrorism, it is essential to look at the Qur’an closely. All Muslims need to combine recitation of the holy text with full understanding of its injunctions. As the majority of Muslims do not speak Arabic, the language of the Qur’an, it is essential that they refer to trusted sources of interpretation and translation and not follow an unsupported, misguided reading of this text. This will surely pave the way toward eliminating misunderstanding and the misuse of the Qur’an for violent ends and instead promote the universal vision of Qur’an: genuine tolerance and peaceful coexistence between all of humanity.

###

* Dr. Maher Y. Abu-Munshar is Visiting Senior Lecturer to the Department of History and Islamic Civilization at the University of Malaya, Malaysia and the author of Islamic Jerusalem and its Christians: A History of Tolerance and Tensions (I B Tauris 2007). This article is part of a series on the myth that Islam is inherently violent written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 1 December 2009, http://www.commongroundnew s.org
Copyright permission is granted for publication.

GE unit nears Islamic bond sale – bankers

GE unit nears Islamic bond sale – bankers | 投资资讯 | 公司新闻 | reuters.com.cn

2009年 11月 19日 星期四 20:23 BJT

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* General Electric unit to sell 5-yr benchmark bond

* Could raise as much as $1 bln

* U.S. conglomerate looking to diversify investor base

By Rachna Uppal

DUBAI, Nov 19 (Reuters) – A unit of General Electric (GE.N: 行情) is expected to close the order books on Thursday on a 5-year fixed-rate dollar denominated sukuk, or Islamic bond, as the U.S. conglomerate looks to diversify its investor base, bankers said.

Unofficial price guidance for General Electric Capital Corp (GECC)’s (GEA.N: 行情) Reg S sukuk is between 165 basis points (bps) and 175 bps over U.S. Treasuries, and the issue could be worth as much as $1 billion, depending on demand, bankers close to the transaction said.

The global Islamic bond market has been lying idle for much of 2009, after issuance was hit last year by the global credit crunch and a debate over the compliance of some of its structures with Islamic law.

Several sovereigns, including Gulf Arab state Bahrain and Indonesia, have issued sukuk in recent months.

Issuance fell 56 percent to $14.9 billion in 2008, according to Standard & Poor’s, but interest for high-rated emerging market debt has seen a flurry of conventional and Islamic bond issues in the third quarter of the year.

Bankers say GE Capital, the financial services arm of General Electric, aims to diversify its investor base to incorporate Islamic investors.

“GE is one of the most prolific issuers in the U.S. and all they are trying to do is tap a different investor base,” said one banker, who declined to be identified as the transaction is ongoing.

“Its always good to have a new market, and a diversified investor base,” another banker said.

GE Capital’s sukuk will be issued through GE Capital Sukuk Ltd, a subsidiary of GE Capital, in an Ijara structure.

Ijara — Arabic for leasing — incorporates an agreement in which banks lease an asset to a client for a specific time at a specific price. At the end of the leasing period, the client may or may not own the asset.

A series of roadshows taking in Asia and the Middle East were held recently to gauge demand from investors for the GE Capital bond.

Goldman Sachs, Citi, Kuwait’s Liquidity House – a subsidiary of Islamic lender Kuwait Finance House – and National Bank of Abu Dhabi are joint bookrunners for the sukuk issue.

Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam is joint lead manager, according to a banker.

Abu Dhabi government-owned investment company Mubadala said on November 9 its commercial finance joint venture with General Electric (GE.N: 行情) was aiming for at least $4 billion in business next year. [ID:nL9432986]

(Additional reporting by Rania el Gamal and Stanley Carvalho; Editing by John Irish, John Stonestreet)

Swiss voters back ban on minarets

One of four minarets in Switzerland

There are only four minarets in Switzerland

Swiss voters have supported a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets, official results show.

More than 57% of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons – or provinces – voted in favour of the ban.

The proposal had been put forward by the Swiss People’s Party, (SVP), the largest party in parliament, which says minarets are a sign of Islamisation.

The government opposed the ban, saying it would harm Switzerland’s image, particularly in the Muslim world.

But Martin Baltisser, the SVP’s general secretary, told the BBC: “This was a vote against minarets as symbols of Islamic power.”

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes, in Bern, says the surprise result is very bad news for the Swiss government which fears unrest among the Muslim community.

Our correspondent says voters worried about rising immigration – and with it the rise of Islam – have ignored the government’s advice.

In a statement, the government said it accepted the decision.

It said: “The Federal Council (government) respects this decision. Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted.”

This will cause major problems because during this campaign mosques were attacked, which we never experienced in 40 years in Switzerland

Tamir Hadjipolu
Zurich’s Association of Muslim Organisations

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said: “Concerns [about Islamic fundamentalism] have to be taken seriously.

“However, a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies.”

She sought to reassure Swiss Muslims, saying the decision was “not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture”.

Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims and has just four minarets.

After Christianity, Islam is the most widespread religion in Switzerland, but it remains relatively hidden.

There are unofficial Muslim prayer rooms, and planning applications for new minarets are almost always refused.

Supporters of a ban claimed that allowing minarets would represent the growth of an ideology and a legal system – Sharia law – which are incompatible with Swiss democracy.

But others say the referendum campaign incited hatred. On Thursday the Geneva mosque was vandalised for the third time during the campaign, according to local media.

Amnesty International said the vote violated freedom of religion and would probably be overturned by the Swiss supreme court or the European Court of Human Rights.

‘Political symbol’

The president of Zurich’s Association of Muslim Organisations, Tamir Hadjipolu, told the BBC: “This will cause major problems because during this campaign mosques were attacked, which we never experienced in 40 years in Switzerland.

“Islamaphobia has increased intensively.”

And there was dismay among Switzerland’s Muslims upon hearing the result.

It’s a message that you are not welcome here as true citizens of this society

Elham Manea, co-founder of the Forum for a Progressive Islam

Farhad Afshar, president of the Coordination of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland, said: “The most painful thing for us is not the ban on minarets but the symbol sent by this vote.

“Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community.”

Elham Manea, co-founder of the Forum for a Progressive Islam, added: “My fear is that the younger generation will feel unwelcome.

“It’s a message that you are not welcome here as true citizens of this society.”

Sunday’s referendum was held after the SVP collected 100,000 signatures from voters within 18 months calling for a vote.

In recent years countries across Europe have been debating how best to integrate Muslim populations.

France focused on the headscarf, while in Germany there was controversy over plans to build one of Europe’s largest mosques.

Lewiston Student Forbidden To Pray

The family of a 7th-grade Muslim student says she was forbidden to pray inside Lewiston Middle School by school officials. Ismail Warsame says his niece had been praying on her free time ever since school started in September. But he said school administrators told her last week that praying wasn’t allowed in school, and that her mother would have to take her outside the building to pray. Warsame says the family contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington D.C., and that his niece was briefly allowed to pray after the organization contacted the school…but that a teacher once again kept her from praying the next day.

Superintendent Leon Levesque says the incident is the result of a miscommunication. According to the 2003 guidelines set by the No Child Left Behind Act, no student can be forbidden from praying at school during non-instructional time, as long as it doesn’t disrupt others. The law states that school officials can’t encourage or discourage prayer, or participate in such activities. Levesque says no Lewiston student has even been kept from praying on school property. He says this student had requested that a room be made available for praying. Levesque says Lewiston schools strive to be neutral and don’t provide prayer rooms so as not to appear to promote religious practices.

Warsame says his niece never requested a prayer room, and that the issue only arose when school officials told her she couldn’t pray on campus because the school lacked a prayer room. Warsame says he also believes the incident is the result of a misunderstanding, and wouldn’t mind meeting with school officials to clarify any misconceptions about Muslim prayer.

Catherine Parrotta,

Posted: Wednesday, November 25 2009, 01:54 PM EST