Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

May 2008
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First International Conference on Arabs' and Muslims' History of Sciences
By Sameen Ahmed Khan
The College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates organised a four day landmark event, First International Conference on Arabs’ and Muslims’ History of Sciences, from 24-27 March 2008 with the title, Arabs’ and Muslims’ Scientific Contributions to Humanity. It was held under the patronage of Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah, Supreme President of the University of Sharjah. The conference was held in collaboration with the College of Sharia and Islamic Studies, University of Sharjah, and the Arab Union of Astronomy and Space Sciences (AUASS). The motivation for holding this conference included the need to highlight the testimonies of non-Muslim scholars regarding the scientific accomplishments of Arab and Muslim scholars in the various fields of knowledge, in addition to emphasizing the contributions of Arab and Muslim scholars in the fields of medicine, astronomy, architecture and agriculture. The Conference brought together over 300 participants from 200 scientific and research institutions in 35 countries, to celebrate a millennium of Arab Muslim contributions to modern science. There were about 250 research papers with about 150 oral presentations and the remaining in the form of posters. All these scholarly works were made available in the form of CDs. Besides, a few selected papers are also being published in a special volume of the University Journal and will be available on the University website. The conference succeeded in highlighting the impact of Muslim scientists on the advancement of civilization.

The Conference created an intellectual platform for the execution of the three objectives of the conference namely: (i) Enhancing communication among scientists and researchers concerned with the history of sciences; (ii) Highlighting the impact of Muslim scientists on the advancement of civilizations; and (iii) Documenting the testimonies of non-Muslim scientists that recognize Muslims’ scientific achievements.
OIC Secretary General Ihsanoglu re-elected for another term
Dakar (Senegal):
The Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, was re-elected for a new term of office during the closing meeting of the 11th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference held in March this year.

The new Charter sets the new term of office for OIC Secretary General at five years instead of four years as it was in the previous Charter.
The incumbent Secretary General has one year remaining in office, thereby bringing the overall length of his term to six years.

The Member States commended the Secretary General for his performance during the past years as well as for his efforts in preparing the Dakar Summit.
Quranic Gardens in UAE and Qatar
Doha: The UNESCO office here is working on the creation of two botanical gardens in the UAE and Qatar in a bid to protect the Arabian Peninsula’s biodiversity, which is under threat by the region’s rapid development. The first of the two botanic gardens under development is the result of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) cooperation with the government of Sharjah, where Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, has offered a donation for undertaking the project. The second garden, to be set up at a later stage, is a joint initiative between UNESCO and the Qatar Foundation, a non-profit organization promoting study and research, with the funding of Maersk Oil Qatar. Both projects have been dubbed as “Quranic Gardens” because they contain species mentioned in the Quran and their configuration features the main aspects of botanical gardens found in the Islamic architectural tradition. According to a UNESCO publication, the creation of the Sharjah Quranic Garden has been supervised by Sheikh Abdul Nasser Abul Basar, dean of the faculty of Sharia and Islamic studies at the University of Sharjah. The garden will host samples of regional flora mentioned in the Quran and medicinal plants, which have been used in the Islamic traditions and were cited by Prophet Mohammad (Pbuh).

The elements of the garden will be drawn with reference to over 150 verses of the Quran mentioning the “Gardens of Paradise.
Indonesian Film Presents True Face of Islam
As anti-Islam critics continue to deplore the heavenly religion, an Indonesian movie comes to light to counter Islamophobia and show the true face of Islam. A reported three million people, including Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and senior government officials, watched the movie that features the life of an Indonesian graduate student at Egypt’s Al Azhar University and discusses the problems that he faces and how he uses Islamic teachings to overcome them.

“Ayat Ayat Cinta” or “Verses of Love” was released in mid-January by 33-year-old film maker Hanung Bramantyo, who seeks to present the peaceful nature of Islam. This new romantic Islamic movie is considered by many Muslims as a positive reaction to the offensive film that was released by Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch lawmaker who has mocked the holy Qur’an through airing his less than 20-minute documentary over the internet last week. Ayat Ayat Cinta is an adaptation of a well-known novel by novelist Habiburrahman El Shirazy, which brings back the romance to the country and the world in a vision of how Islam really is. It also shows that Islam is growing in Indonesia in a modest way.
ICCI signs MoU with Hemaya to protect consumers in the Muslim world
The Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Jeddah based Hemaya Universal which designs strategies and spreads awareness on consumer protection in the Muslim world.

The MoU signing ceremony was attended by ICCI Chairman Sheikh Saleh Kamel and Hemaya Chairman Ahmed Abdulaziz Al-Hamdan. The two organizations will exchange information, share experience through sessions and symposiums to support scientific and social initiatives against counterfeit and piracy.

In line with this initiative, the Arab League and ICCI, in association with Hemaya Universal, are organizing the First Arab Consumer and Brand Protection Forum in Jeddah on October 19-21 this year, under the patronage of Prince Khalid Al-Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, Governor of Makkah region.

The Forum aims to raise public awareness on the risks of counterfeit products and make recommendations for an effective fight against piracy, in association with the relevant international organizations.

Recently launched official website of the Arab Consumer and Brand Protection Forum - - provides detailed information about the forum, its objectives, partners, sponsors and registration information.

The ICCI chairman Sheikh Saleh Kamel stressed the importance of activating the private sector in an effort to find solutions to the problems and challenges facing the Arab and Muslim countries.
“Since the private sector’s role in preventing counterfeit and protecting consumers will have a positive impact on the economies of the Arab and Islamic countries, ICCI agreed with Hemaya Universal to cooperate in promoting awareness on how counterfeit products put the health and safety of consumers at risk,” Sheikh Saleh added.

“The First Arab Consumer and Brand Protection Forum organized by ICCI and the Arab League as partners will contribute strongly in unifying visions for the protection of the Arab and Islamic consumer societies free of counterfeit and piracy,” Chairman Ahmed Abdulaziz Al-Hamdan said.
“ICCI recognizes Hemaya Universal’s efforts as a strong supporter between Arab and rest of the Islamic countries and is an influential link between the chambers of commerce as well as the private sector in the Islamic world,” he said.
Saudi Mufti Calls for Moderation in Islam
The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz al Sheikh, reiterated his call for moderation in Islam and condemned extremists saying, “Fanatical zeal cannot be considered part of religion, even if they [extremists] falsely pretend to be devout.” During a meeting with the press that followed a workshop at the headquarters of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Chair for Contemporary Islamic Studies at King Saud University, the Mufti stressed the need for moderation and tolerance which he said lie between “extremism and estrangement, and excess and renunciation.” The Mufti’s statements coincided with the announcement that Saudi Arabia would be hosting an international conference entitled ‘Wastiya’ (the moderate nature of Islam) at the beginning of next year, which will include the participation of a number of senior Muslim clerics. The idea behind the first international Wastiya conference emanated from goals pursued by the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Chair for Contemporary Islamic Studies which aspires to counter destructive ideologies that misguide and harm in a systematic and continuous manner, in addition to combating the phenomenon of extremism among Muslims.
Moroccan Minister wants Fajr Adhan Ban
A Moroccan minister has sparked uproar by calling for a ban of the Adhan for the Fajr (Dawn) Prayers for not disturbing tourists in the North African kingdom. “Why Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity, Nouzha Skalli is disturbed with the Adhan,” headlined Attajdid newspaper last fortnight. “What harm could happen from the Adhan that lasts for minutes.” “Has she ever heard a Moroccan complaining about the Adhan? Does she have evidence that tourists and cruises were disturbed by the Adhan?”

Skalli, a member of the Progressive Socialist Party which has 17 seats in the 325-member parliament and two cabinet ministers, told a cabinet meeting recently that the Adhan for the Fajr prayers should be banned to avoid harming tourism.
Symposium on Muslim Minorities

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) General Secretariat has finalized preparations to organize a symposium on Muslim minorities in South and East Asia in cooperation with Korea Muslim Federation in Seoul on July 4 – 6 2008. The three-day event will be held under the patronage of OIC Secretary General, Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, according to an OIC statement. The symposium, first of its kind to be held in Asia, has received support by the Korean government and some Muslim organizations. The symposium, with the theme “Muslim Minority in South and East Asia – Challenges and Prospects in Multicultural Society”, attempts to discuss conditions of Muslim communities and minorities in South and East Asia. It also looks into ways and means of supporting Muslim communities and minorities to overcome political, economic, cultural, social and environmental challenges.
Prince Salman to Launch Haj Encyclopedia

Riyadh Governor, Prince Salman ibn Abdul Aziz will launch a project to develop an encyclopedia on the annual Haj pilgrimage and the Haram Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. Fahd Al-Simari, secretary-general of the King Abdulaziz Museum, who is heading the project, said the encyclopedia would shed light on the Haj from religious, social, cultural and economic perspectives. Al-Simari said that Prince Salman would also be opening an exhibition on King Abdulaziz and Makkah at the event, prepared by the King Abdulaziz Museum.
He said that when finished, the encyclopedia would document the history of the Haj from pre-Islamic times to the present day and detail the location and situation of main cities and pilgrim routes. The encyclopedia, which will be illustrated with photographs, paintings and maps will also include input from several historians and researchers, historical documents from the Kingdom and abroad, discourse on terminology, and the experiences of pilgrims.

The project is being undertaken by the King Abdulaziz Museum, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Haj Research in Makkah, the Ministry of Haj, the General Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques Affairs, the Ministry of Higher Education and the Saudi Binladin Group.
Muslims outnumber Catholics, says Vatican
Vatican City:

Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the world’s largest religion, the Vatican has announced.

Muslims now make up 19.2 per cent of the world’s population, outnumbering Catholics at 17.2 per cent, according to the Vatican’s 2008 yearbook of statistics.
“For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us,” Monsignor Vittorio Formenti said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. “It is true that while Muslim families, as is well known, continue to make a lot of children, Christian ones on the contrary tend to have fewer and fewer.”

Monsignor Formenti, who compiled the yearbook based on 2006 data, said that if all Christian groups were considered - including Orthodox churches, Anglicans and Protestants - then Christians made up 33 per cent of the world’s population, or about 2 billion people.

The Vatican recently put the number of Catholics in the world at 1.13 billion people.

It did not provide a figure for Muslims, generally estimated at around 1.3 billion.
Second Islamic Bank to Open in Switzerland

As Islamic finance and banking products continue to grow and attract more clients, Switzerland, a world financial hub, will soon get its second Shariah-compliant bank in less that two years. “There is demand,” said Ibrahim Dabdoub, chief executive officer of the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) which plans to set up the new bank. The institution will target investors and wealthy individuals from the Gulf region, which is currently awash with liquidity fueled by the windfall from unprecedented, sky-high oil prices.

“Switzerland is still a haven for people who want to keep money outside,” Dabdoub explained. The new bank will be the second private Islamic bank established in Switzerland. In 2006, Faisal Private Bank opened in Geneva, becoming the first in the country to operate according to Shariah principles.
Electronic Mufti

A controversial new electronic device could revolutionize the field of Islamic jurisprudence and allegedly issue more accurate Shariah fatwas [religious edicts]. The device, currently in production in France, will be known as the ‘Electronic Mufti’ and will depend on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to issue opinions on contemporary Muslim affairs and matters. Asharq Al-Awsat met with the only Arab participating in the production of this machine, Engineer, Dr. Anas Fawzi, who hails from Egypt and is a communications expert who is part of the team based in France. He describes the device as “a very large capacity computer on which all the information that is relevant to a given [historical] figure is uploaded; everything that has been mentioned in history books or chronicled documents that indicate his/her responses and attitudes towards all positions adopted in his/her life. Through a process that relies on AI, the computer then simulates responses based on the available data so that the answers are the expected response that the person in question would give if he was alive,” said Dr. Fawzi. “The device deduces the expected response through consulting thousands of examples that have been uploaded on to the machine, pertaining to that person whilst taking into account their reactions so that it may relate the expected response in accordance with their personality as created by the Artificial Intelligence apparatus,” explained Dr. Fawzi. Regarding the team working to implement this project, Dr. Fawzi said that the creation of this machine is undertaken by a group of French scientists.