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October 2004
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VHP Tantrums Over a Tomb
By A Staff Writer
Mumbai
When the elections arrive, the family members of Sangh Parivar wake up to up-hold the flag of Hindutva. This time, just before the Maharastra Assembly elections, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) wants to remove the tomb of Afzal Khan, as it lies near the fort of Shivaji. “Our fear is that this could someday become another Babri Masjid,” said A.R. Bhujbal, a senior police officer adding that “the movement started in a similar manner and then gathered momentum. We will not allow a single soul to get past the checkpoint and gain access to the tomb. Afzal Khan met Shivaji to initiate peace talks on the hill where the tomb and the ruins of Shivaji’s Pratapgadh fort now lie. Shivaji, stabbed him instead and buried Afzal Khan where he fell. The propaganda machinery of the VHP is in full gear. Irfan Habib, historian and formerly professor of History, Aligarh Muslim University said that “Communal forces have to realise how weak their case is if they resort to violence. There are a large number of facts: some are established, some partly true and others pure fantasy — like the BJP saying peasants were oppressed under Muslim rulers. BJP textbooks ignore the facts that they were also suppressed equally under earlier regimes and under medieval Hindu rulers too”. Y. D. Phadke, historian and social scientist opines that injustice is being done to Shivaji. Letters written by him to Aurangzeb show he was very tolerant towards all religions and never treated Muslims badly. He was against the Mughal regime, but did not hate Muslims.
Anglican Network Urges Sanctions on Israel
London
The Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN), a leading international organisation has asked sanctions on Israel and a boycott of businesses there to protest the occupation of Palestinian lands. “There was no question that there has to be a very serious kind of sanction in order to get the world to see that at least one major church institution is taking very, very seriously its moral responsibility,” said Jenny Te Pea, leader of the network.“It happened in South Africa, and in South Africa the boycott had an effect. Everybody said it wouldn’t work and it did work. So here we are taking on one of most wealthy and incredibly powerful nations, supported by the United States. That’s the Christian call,” she added. APJN said it would press leaders of the 75 million Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide to impose sanctions on Israel after an eight-day visit to the occupied territories. APJN is a recognised network of the Anglican Communion and is made up of representatives from each Anglican Province.
Fifth Minaret for Temple Mount
Jordanian Wakf officials are planning to build a fifth minaret on the Temple Mount, and Israel has not objected to the proposal, according to a senior Jordanian official. “We informed the Jerusalem police chief that we are going to build a fifth minaret at the site,” said Dr. Raief Najim, the vice-president of the Jordanian Construction Committee.

He added that the tentative location chosen for the planned fifth minaret was just north of the Golden Gate near the eastern wall and the five Temple Mount minarets would symbolise the five pillars of Islam.
International Forum of Muslim Scholars
Makkah (IINA):
The Founding Committee of the International Forum of Muslim Scholars was held recently at the headquarters of the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL), under the chairmanship of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Aal-Al Sheikh. The meeting was convened by Dr. Abdullah Al-Turky, secretary-general of the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL).Dr. Turky said that the aim of the MWL in forming the forum is to protect the Islamic identity of the Muslim Ummah, and to reinforce the bonds between the Muslim scholars , coordinate their efforts, and to unify their Fatwas, and their stand on matters that are crucial to the Muslim Ummah. The Founding Committee of the Forum is made up of scholars from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Bosnia, India, Central Asia, Taiwan, Senegal, Burma (now Myanmar), Chad, Mauritania, and Bangladesh.

Alarming Poverty in Mid-East
Cairo (IINA):
A World Bank report, recently has revealed that 70 per cent of the Middle Eastern population live on under a dollar a day, adding that this means that a quarter of the people live under the poverty line, which is the worst in the last 20 years. Part of this, says the report is due to the middle class in these societies taking to the capitalist system, lack of economic protection, and the opening, under external pressure, of the markets. Other reasons ascribed include the selling off of public concerns, the liberation of trade and commerce, and also the collusion of states with the wealthy. Some of the wealthy countries, says the report, pay as much as 59 per cent of their incomes to subsidise costs of living of their people, in Europe they pay around 51 per cent, while in the Middle East only 14 per cent for subsidising people and industries.

Centralised Prayer Call
Cairo (IINA):
Egypt’s Ministry of Endowments will soon centralise the prayer call, which will now emanate from the ministry’s mosque in the centre of Cairo or from the Omar Makram. The call will then be relayed to all the other mosques, instead of each mosque beaming it at different times. The new system will start in Cairo, before it is implemented in other parts of the country. Dr. Mahmoud Zaqzouq, Egypt’s Minister of Endowments, has said that it is not true that the ministry aims at doing away with prayer-callers, rather it is to maintain uniformity and see to it that the prevailing chaos in the different prayer-calls at different mosques is avoided, adding that this would not only relieve the worshippers and other people, but is also in keeping with what Islam enjoins.
Yusuf Islam Refused Entry into US
London:
United Airlines Flight 9191 from London to Washington was diverted to Maine when the FBI discovered that Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) was on board. Yusuf Islam is on US’s security ‘watch list’. The passengers were welcomed by FBI agents at Bangore airport. Homeland Security Department spokesman Dennis Murphy said Islam was refused entry to the US on ‘national security grounds’ after interview. The passengers did not even know they were being diverted to Maine. They were first told they were being diverted because of bad weather, then the story changed to refuelling and then at the end told it was a security issue. It seems he was on the ‘watch list’ because he was refused entry into Israel in 2000 for allegedly funding Hamas. Islam has strongly denied the accusations.
Hospitals Lack Spiritual Space
England:
Hospital patients and staff of religions other than Christianity have limited access to religious and spiritual care, an Edinburgh University survey has found.

A survey of 72 hospitals in England and Wales reveals that, although more than 54 of them had a dedicated place of worship for Christians, only four had similar facilities for Buddhists; six for Hindus; four for Jews; 13 for Muslims; five for Sikhs and four for other faith groups. The research is highlighted by Professor Aziz Sheikh in British Medical Journal. He said: “Concern had been expressed that access to spiritual care in hospitals for those of non-Christian faith is limited, so we carried out this survey. Our findings show comparative disadvantage to non-Christians in relation to access to space for worship, chaplaincy staff and quality of chaplaincy care.”

Islamic Writers Alliance
Muslim women writers are invited to join the Islamic Writers Alliance, established in January this year. Its goal is to market and promote the work of published and unpublished writers. In addition, it seeks to encourage “…elders, through creative reading, writing and story-telling of the Muslim traditions, cultures and history, to help build together a solid foundation for the future.”
More information can be had from: http.//www.islamicwritersalliance.net

New York University to close for Eids
Albany (NY):
The State University of New York at Albany, the capital of the State of New York, will close for the observance of the two principal Muslim festivals of Eid-ul Fitr and Eid-ul- Azha from 2005. The University Senate voted 13-9 for the decision, but decided to make re-evaluation of the religious holidays on a year-to-year basis.

Rice Links Terrorism to Islam
Washington
US National Security Advisor, Ms. Condoleeza Rice has linked terrorism to Islam. She used the term ‘Islamic terrorism’ in an address at the Institute of Peace on August 19 and listed a number of efforts the US State Department is taking to curb the growth of it. An Urdu press-note released by the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy in New Delhi on August 20 says Rice urged that ‘Islamic terrorism’ should be tackled at the ideological level too. She said it was not enough to fight ‘Islamic terrorists’ at the battlefield alone. It is for the first time that the US press note has used the word
Swiss Phobia Over Muslims
Switzerland
Could Switzerland go from 4 per cent to 72 per cent Muslim in less than four decades? A Swiss anti-immigration group thinks so, and has run ads in major Swiss newspapers with ominious charts warning of the possibility. “We think this advert is positive,” says Roman Jäggi, spokesman for the Swiss People’s Party. The group has also published literature showing the church tower of Zurich’s famous Grossmünster replaced by a minaret with the accompanying words, “It’s a Question of Time.” Muslim and anti-racist groups are fighting back with a ten-day campaign to reach out to non-Muslims and counter the takeover claims with statistics from the Swiss Federal Statistics Bureau showing that Muslim birth rates are no different than for other Swiss.

Pro-Hijab Campaign in EU Parliament
ISESCO Convenes Cultural Symposium
Rabat (IINA)
The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) convened an international symposium on multi-culturalism in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, recently. The Symposium discussed the “Islamic Convention on Multi-culturalism,” that has been prepared by ISESCO. The international symposium was chaired by Dr. Abdul Aziz bin Othman Al-Tuweijry, the Director-General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Pro-Hijab Campaign in EU Parliament
London
In an effort to contain the French hijab-ban law and halt it from extending to more European states, human rights activists and European Parliament (EU) members embarked on a campaign aimed at issuing a declaration demanding EU countries to respect the freedom of faith and dressing. Meeting in Brussels last fortnight, human rights activists and members of the European Parliament discussed the draft declaration, to be referred to the European parliament for endorsement. It calls for respecting free beliefs and free clothing, including the right to wear hijab and other religious symbols.

The attendees probed introducing amendments to the draft declaration, focusing the right to believe or dress without hurting others, before referring it to the European parliament for endorsement in January 2005. The draft declaration needs the support of around 380 members of the European parliament to put it into force.