Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

May 2006
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The Muslim World

2006 UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science
(Reported by Sameen Ahmed Khan)

Dr. Abdullah S. Daar of Oman was presented the UNESCO Avicenna Prize-2006 for Ethics in Science by the UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura at the UNESCO Headquarters.The UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics and Science is a way for the Organisation to recognise and reward the research and contributions of individuals and groups in this field and help the role of ethics in science to achieve greater prominence. Dr Daar is from the Sultanate of Oman and previously held the Chair of Surgery at the Sultan Qaboos University, Oman. He is currently Professor of Public Health Sciences and of Surgery at the University of Toronto, where he is also Director of the Program in Applied Ethics and Biotechno-logy and Co-Director of the Canadian Program on Genomics and Global Health at the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics. His significant contribution to research in the ethics of science and technology not only covers a wide range of topics, but engages in depth with issues at the crossing point of science and ethics, technology and society. The Prize owes its name to the renowned 11th-century physician and philosopher of medieval Islam, Abu Ali al-Husain Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina (980-1038 CE, known by the Latin name, Avicenna). A healer and a humanist, Avicenna developed an exemplary holistic approach that captures the essence of ethics in science and has thus come to serve as a source of inspiration for the promotion of this concern, which is of central importance in current times. The Prize consists of a Gold Medal of Avicenna along with a certificate, the sum of ten thousand US$, and a one-week academic visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Makkah-Madinah Rail Link

The Saudi Railways Organization (SRO), designated by the Kingdom’s Supreme Economic Council as the Executing Agency for the Railway Expansion Programme is holding a Project Day for the Makkah Madinah Rail Link (MMRL) in Jeddah on May 23, 2006. The Makkah Madinah Rail Link is a key part of the Railway Expansion Programme and will provide a fast, safe and reliable passenger transport service, propelling Saudi Arabia into the world of high speed rail. The project is to be implemented through private sector participation on a DBOT (Design, Build, Operate and Transfer) basis, and will be offered as a long term concession through open competition. It presents a unique opportunity for high speed rail technology suppliers, passenger rail operators, civil and electro-mechanical contracting companies and other investors, to participate in a project which will have a significant impact on the social and economic development in the Makkah and Madinah regions. The Makkah Madinah Rail Link Project will comprise the construction of approximately 500km new high speed electrified railway line in the Makkah and Madinah regions, equipped with a modern signalling and tele-communications system and the provision of state-of–the-art train sets.

Common Ground for Imams and Rabbis
Seville (Spain)

A number of rabbis and imams gathered here recently, to discuss what they called a deepening crisis in relations between Muslims and Jews, saying religious leaders must confront religious extremism. Leaders who seldom meet, even though they live only minutes apart, like ultra-Orthodox rabbis from Israel and former members of the radical Palestinian group Hamas, spent four days in a hotel sitting in the same rooms, eating the same meals and talking - guardedly at first, but increasingly freely as the conference progressed.

The meeting, organised by the French Foundation, Hommes de Parole, which promotes dialogue among conflicting groups, included hostile exchanges and pointed arguments about terrorism, Israeli settlements and claims to Jerusalem. At the opening ceremony, the chief rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, noting that most Muslims are moderates, asked the imams in the audience: “Why don’t you speak when Bin Laden invokes your religion to justify terrorism? Why don’t you express yourselves in a loud voice?” “No one can speak about peace while there is occupation,” said Imad al-Falouji, a former Hamas member and one of the most prominent imams in Gaza, referring to the Israeli presence in the West Bank. But the participants appeared to agree broadly that tensions between Muslims and Jews had grown worse in recent years in part because religious leaders had lost their voices, allowing politicians, diplomats and extremists to dictate relations between the two religions.

Kuwait Hospital in Puttalam

The first phase of operations of the 50-bed Kuwait Hospital in Puttalam, a project of the Social Service Department of the Sri Lanka Jamaath- e- Islami, was launched recently. The project is sponsored by Zakat House, Kuwait. “This is a not-for-profit, self- sustaining institution. It is equipped with almost all the basic facilities of a modern hospital,” said Dr. Khaleelur Rahman, Medical Director of the Hospital. “It has Emergency Treatment Unit, Operation Theatre, X-Ray Unit, Ultra Sound Unit, Maternity Care Unit, Dental Care Unit, , Male General Ward, Female General Ward, Patient Rooms, Medical Laboratory, Pharmacy, Nurses Quarters, Doctors Quarters etc. It also has 24-hour OPD and Ambulance Services,” he elaborated. Chairman of the Kuwait Hospital Foundation, Faisz Musthafa P.C, in his address at the ceremony presented the main features of this Project. For more information, contact: Social Services Dept, Sri Lanka Jama’ath-e-Islami, 77, Dematagoda Road, Colombo: 00900, Sri Lanka, email:islambks

Women as Leaders
Princeton (New Jersey)

The majority of respondents in all, but one of the eight Muslim countries surveyed in a Gallup Poll agree women should have leadership roles. The majority range was wide, from 54 per cent in Egypt to 92 per cent in Lebanon. Only Saudi Arabia, with 40-per cent approval, fell below the 50-per cent mark. Other countries included Turkey at 86 per cent, Iran 78, Morocco 74, Pakistan 58, and Jordon 55. Overall, about nine out of 10 of those asked in Lebanon and Turkey agreed that women should be allowed in leadership positions. Gallup World Poll surveys were conducted in eight countries and respondents were asked to agree or disagree on the supposition that, “Women should be allowed to hold leadership positions in the Cabinet and National Council.”

Film Festival introduces Americans to “Real” Arabs
New York

Seeking to counter the stereotyped portrayal of Arabs by Hollywood, directors from different Arab countries are featuring their films in the US to show Americans what the Arab world is all about. “It’s Arab voices coming out for the first time now as opposed to voices from the West on the Arab world,” said Bader Ben Hirsi, a British-Yemeni director whose film opened the Alwan Film Festival last month. The film festival featured more than 30 movies from across the Arab world, Iran, Turkey, and South Asia. The movies tackle timely subjects such as the US-led war in Iraq, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Afghanistan. “Everybody is frustrated seeing how Western media are depicting the Arab world. There seems to be a one-way street where Americans send information out, but it’s not receiving information, so hopefully this can provide a different point of view to the mistakes out there and the images being flashed on TV everyday”, said Hirsi. The festival was created by the Alwan for the Arts, a non-profit organisation founded in 1998 in lower Manhattan.

“Al-Quds Jeans” Divide Austrian Muslims

A new Italian line of jeans designed for Muslims and named after the holy city of Al-Quds has drawn mixed reactions among young Austrian Muslims. “It is a victory for Islam, to my way of thinking, when clothing makers race to lure Muslims into buying their designs,” said Egyptian-born student, Haitham Abdul-Mohsen. Mohamad Labib, a tradesman, believes that the new design will appeal to a broad section of Muslim youth in Europe. The Udine-based Italian company said Al-Quds Jeans are designed to be extra roomy so as to avoid the Muslim wearer stiffness while kneeling during prayers. The pockets are also designed to accommodate the usual array of accessories Muslims have to remove whilst they worship. The company says the jeans are sold at a promotional price of $22.53, hoping to make an impact first among the 1.1 million-strong Muslim minority in Italy. If successful, the company will plan to reach out to the estimated 18 million Muslims living in Europe. Luca Corradi, designer of the new jeans, said the design is made by a plant near Karachi, Pakistan, that employs about 15,000 people. Other Austrian Muslims are not enthusiastic to name clothes after Muslim sacred places like Al-Quds, seeing it as “cheap propaganda” from such profit-seeking companies.

Straw Praises Muslim Community

Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, praised the contributions of the Muslim community to the “success, prosperity and culture” of British society. Speaking at the sixth annual, The Muslim News Awards for Excellence in London, he said, “British Muslims are where Britain and Islam intersect”. He added, “Celebra-ting their success is the best way of showing that these two identities can and do thrive in the same place and in the same person. British Muslims contribute hugely to this country’s success, prosperity and culture and it is only right that this is recognised through events like the Muslim News Awards for Excellence.” The awards are designed to celebrate the achievements of both Muslims and non-Muslims in the British society. Opening the awards ceremony, Ahmed J Versi, Editor of The Muslim News said the annual event “has become a beacon of light in the midst of much gloom. In these trying times, it is befitting to honour and acknowledge our shining stars.” The monthly newspaper launched its first awards ceremony in 2000, to mark the 10th anniversary of the publication as Britain’s leading Muslim newspaper.

Iraqi Kids Find Joy in Theatre

Braving violence and insecurity under the US occupation, Iraqi children have sought moments of joy and hopes of a better future in arts and theatre “We are trying to give children a moment to dream and to take them out of the climate of fear that reigns over the city,” said Awatef Naim, author of the children’s play, “The Clown and Me.” Drawing an applause from the viewers, a group of young Iraqi girls came together in ballerina outfits onto the stage in Baghdad’s Al-Mansour neighbourhood to perform. The play revolves around the dream of a new Iraq in which a flower is planted every day instead of bombs and non-stop bloodshed. The play was part of the 11-day festival themes, “The Child Is As Sacred As The Country,” in tribute to the spirit of young actors and dancers who dared to perform despite Iraq’s daily bloodshed.

Cross the Creek in an Abra

Abras in Sharjah Creek are providing transport services to people from Al Majara area and Irani Souq to the Courthouse and the Khalid Port in Al Khan area and vice versa. The trip costs 50 fils and takes only five minutes. Abra, a traditional boat made from wood, is being used to transfer people in the Sharjah Creek. Abdul Salam Ahmed, an employee at a law firm who uses the Abra daily to cross the creek to go to the court, said he likes the services as it helps save time, fuel and energy. He said it takes more than 20 minutes to go from the Sharjah Clock Tower to the court as the Al Khan area is very crowded. He reaches the court every day in three to five minutes by using the Abra. Nittin Raj, an employee at the Khalid Port, said that the Abra is making life easy for him, as it is difficult to find parking space near the port. He parks his car everyday near the Irani Souq and uses the Abra to cross the Creek to reach his office. According to statistics, more than 50 people use the Abra services every day to commute between the two banks of the Sharjah Creek.

Documentary on Tsunami Survivors

A documentary on the plight of the Acehnese women who survived the tsunami disaster in December 2004 was screened recently in Indonesia, highlighting the deplorable living conditions in refugee camps they are housed in and the resulting mental and physical torments they often face. The film — Kartini-Kartini Kita (Our Heroines) — is produced by the National Commission for Violence Against Women, which has just released a research conducted in 59 refugee facilities in Aceh from October 2005 to February 2006, documenting many cases of human rights violations against women.

The movie features a young woman telling her story of being raped three times, impregnated and later beaten by her family. The Commission says in its research that women tsunami survivors in Aceh have taken the full brunt of rights violations in the province, taking different forms ranging from discrimination, forced eviction to sexual assaults. At least 200,000 people were killed and two million driven homeless when giant walls of water, unleashed by a 9.3 magnitude under-sea earth-quake, the world’s biggest quake in 40 years, hit south Asian countries on December 26, 2004. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, was the worst hit, with around 168,000 dead or missing.