By Rafid Shoaib
LONDON : London’s The Observer newspaper has said that Pope John Paul II has paved the way for making the most far-reaching apology that a religious leader has publicly made concerning the Inquisition. The Inquisition was part of the Catholic Church for a period of seven centuries, but the way is also paved for apologising to Muslims for the Crusades.
The paper said the Pope is considered an example to emulate in a wider search for peace in the world, which is on the brink of the third millennium. The paper said the Pope indicated there was a possibility that such an apology would be made when he met historians in the Vatican. The encounter will be on the fringes of the seminar for devising a historical and religious framework for recording the church’s behaviour vis-a-vis issues which are still debatable.
The Observer said that the apology would also include Judaism, for the discrimination it was subjected to by the Catholic Church. It also alluded to the Pope a hint on the necessity of apologising for the Inquisition, in which persecution was used to compel suspects to confess. IINA
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has authorised 40 companies to act as Internet Service Providers (ISP) in a belated move to provide access to the Saudi citizens and residents. The country had so far resisted moves to throw open the web apprehending negative impact on youth, the Saudi Press Agency said in a despatch.
The Agency quoting Saleh bin Abdel-Rahman al-Athel, president of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, said “the Internet service will be provided to the general public during the coming month of Ramadan, Insha Allah’’. The Ramadan is expected to start around December 19, based on the sighting of the moon.
Athel said KACST would link the ISPs to a main server in the technology city, giving them access to the worldwide web.
A Saudi-based marketing manager for one of the companies bidding said he expected some 20 firms to be picked as ISPs. “It won’t be a very open Internet. It will be a censored one,’’ he told Reuters.
The main server at the technology city would have so-called ‘’firewalls’’ blocking certain sites deemed inappropriate by authorities in the Islamic country, he said.
At present, most people inside the kingdom wishing to access the Internet have to dial up to ISPs in neighbouring Gulf Arab states, which also bar access to some websites featuring pornography, sex and hatred against Islam and other religions. A few official bodies in Saudi Arabia already have some access to the Internet.
DUBAI: A group of Islamic scholars has ruled that Muslims can benefit from genetic engineering to prevent or cure diseases, said the Reuters quoting a Saudi newspaper on November 3.
But the scholars from the Islamic Jurisprudence Council, based in Makkah, urged for steps to ensure the process did not become dangerous or violates Islamic laws.
“They called on the companies and factories, producing medical and food substances by applying genetic engineering to reveal the composition of their material, so that these can be screened and used in a manner that does not contradict Islamic teachings and become detrimental,’’ the daily Arab News said.
The Muslim thinkers also acknowledged that tests using the DNA genetic code were an accurate means of identification and a great help to forensic medicine. But they postponed until next year a ruling on the permitted uses of DNA. They also upheld an earlier decision banning human cloning.
The council is an affiliate body of the Muslim World League, a Saudi-based organization, which aims to advance Islamic unity and solidarity while promoting peace and human rights. The scholars’ meeting was chaired by Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Baz.
KUWAIT : The fifth International Conference on Zakah, which completed its deliberations here recently, recommended that a scientific seminar be called to determine the standards for poverty in the light of the modern economic changes. It also called for creating employment opportunities out of Zakah funds and investment funds for the benefit of the poor in each Islamic country. .It said that the Zakah should be used for setting up cottage industries.
The participants appealed for the integration of the Zakah organs in Muslim countries, and to benefit from the advancements in technology. The conference also recommended the means of cooperation between the various organs dealing with Zakah and international development organizations in implementing joint programs for the benefit of the poor in the Muslim world.
The conference also called for the setting up of a center specialized on Zakah, so that it could make available researches and prepare studies for consideration by the scientific committees, the Shari’a organs, and the Fiqh academies. IINA
JEDDAH: The Jeddah-based Muslim World Congress will soon publish The World of Islam 2000 AD reference book containing facts and figures about Muslim countries and communities around the world. It will highlight the achievements of Muslims in various fields of endeavour, past and present. The publication will also evaluate the political, economic and strategic potential of the Muslim world.
The publication will cover such topics as: an appraisal of the major gains and losses of the last 1400 years made by Muslims, country-by-country data relating to the Muslim world, leading languages of the Muslims, Muslim intellectuals of the 20th century, and several other relevant topics.
Also among the data to be included in this Islamic work of reference will be: Islamic organisations, historical places, Muslim scientists, prominent Muslim women, historical events, reference books, Muslim scholars, Islamic publishers, leading companies, leading converts to Islam, Islamic banks, Islamic periodicals, mosques and monuments, women's organisations, Muslim athletes and sportsmen, best books on Islam, libraries and archives, universities and other institutions of higher learning, charitable and relief organisations, research academies, et al.
Those wishing to contribute material to the "Millennium Souvenir" may send their contributions in English, before the closing date of June 30, 1999, to the Muslim World Congress, P.O. Box 20126, Jeddah 21455, Saudi Arabia. IINA
By Burhani Muhunz
ZANZIBAR : The president of Zanzibar, Dr. Salmin Amour inaugurated the island's first university, Zanzibar University here, built by the Geneva based Daral Iman Charitable Association founded by the nationals of Saudi Arabia. The president thanked the Daral Iman for its assistance to establish the first university in the islands and urged for maximum cooperation between the students and the university's administration to attain the academic achievement. Dr. Amour told the inauguration ceremony which was also attended by former president of Tanzania, Alhaj Ali Hasan Mwinyi and former president of Zanzibar, Alhaj Aboud Jumbe Mwinyi who is also member of the university's board of trustees that Zanzibar would need more universities to restore its historical status as education centre in the region.
The chancellor of the university, Prof. Mohamed Omar Al Zubeir expressed his hope for the bright future of the Zanzibar University which has taken off with the Faculty of Business Administration. "The future of this university is for all in Africa", he told the ceremony which was also attended by the Sudan Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Prof. Ibrahim Omar.
JEDDAH : The Hijri Calendar Unification Committee has recommended preparation of a unified Hijri calendar that can be followed by all Islamic countries. This will take into consideration the fact that the birth of a new moon starts before sunset and should disappear when darkness dawns thereafter, according to the Makkah Time Zone or any Islamic country that shares its longitude with Makkah. The sighting of the new moon has to be verified according to Shari'a norms and with the help of a special committee which will be charged with the responsibility of preparing the calendar.
The Hijri Calendar Unification Committee also recommended that Friday should be the official day of rest (weekend) in all Muslim countries. It also recommended that the sighting of the new moons for starting and ending the month of Ramadan, and that for the beginning of the month of Dhul Hijja, should be made in accordance with the Shar'ia norms.
The committee also recommended the publication of a scientific periodical with articles by diverse scholars of different Shari'a and astronomy disciplines. The publication should be in three languages, namely Arabic, English and French, and to assist in its editing the help of the following organizations may be sought: the Islamic Fiqh Academy, the Muslim World League (MWL), the Institute of Astronomical Research at the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), the Malaysian Science University at Penang, and other academies and institutes in Islamic countries. The committee called for the recognition of the consensus of the 12 astronomy scholars who participated in the meeting and agreed that the birth of the new crescent should be definite and not subject to any doubt about its sighting. The committee requested the formation of a specialised scientific committee by the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), which should take up the responsibility of studying the project of setting up an Islamic satellite, as proposed by the Mufti of Egypt , Dr. Sheikh Nasr Farid Muhammad Wasil. IINA
By Malika B.Mistry on return from Amman
AMMAN: The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) which held its 8th international conference between October 20 and 23, resolved to make the Muslim youth aware of the negative impact of globalisation, coordinate efforts among media in the Islamic world to use their services for spread of Islam, introduce Islamic element in educational curriculum, strengthen relations with non-Muslims and bring Muslim women into the public life within the limits prescribed by the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The Conference was opened by Prince Gazi bin Muhammad, culture secretary and consultant on tribal affairs to the King of Jordan at the Islamic Cultural Centre in the Shahid King Abdullah Mosque. Prince Hassan bin Talal, the crown prince of Jordan, urged the Muslim youth to take up the challenge of combating the propaganda linking Islam with terrorism. He also suggested that the Islamic nations should create an International Zakat fund for refugees as 75 per cent of the world’s refugees were in Muslim countries.
WAMY general secretary Maneh Al Johani said that the most important challenge lay in the new world order which was targeting the Muslim world. He said that the youth should shun violence and face the challenges with moderation and recognise the ways of persuasion.
Globalisation received the major focus in the conference. There was a unanimity that in the past colonialism was the medium for globalisation. Dr Kamal Al Sharif, former Wakf Minister of Jordan said, “globalisation helps militarily strong nations to dominate.” He said that Israel which dominated Palestine was the best example. He said that the West had double standards. Even while they talked about human rights, they were the biggest killers and had the maximum military might to destroy the world. He however urged the youth to discern between the positive and negative influences of globalization.
Orientalism, the technique of the Western scholars to learn others’ language and religion and plant doubts and corruption, also received good amount of attention. Speakers pointed out that the Christian missionaries were taking up developmental work in poor Muslim nations such as Ghana and converting the Muslims to Christianity. They suggested that Muslim youth should counter this trend by taking up social work among poor. They stressed the need for Muslim missionaries to become versatile and even be professionals like doctors, engineers, computer specialists, anthropologists and produce Islamic films, Islamic songs and Islamic storybooks.
The speakers expressed concern that affluence of rich Muslim countries was leading the Muslim youth astray while in poor countries, social tensions and economic miseries were causing stress among the youth. It was pointed out that Pakistan had three million drug addicts. A number of delegates from liberation movements such as ones from Kosova (Serbia), Arakkan (Burma), Palestine (Meddle east), spoke about the condition of youth there.
Islam Recognises Human Duties: Zaki Yamani
Cultural Differences are Vital: OIC Chief
GENEVA: “Islam recognises human rights, but those rights may not be defined in the same terms as they are in the West,” delegates to the first UN Muslim conference on the subject proclaimed here last month.
The two-day meeting, coordinated by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), is part of a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The conference discussed Islam’s stance on principles of non-discrimination, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to civil, political, social and economic rights.
The OIC, representing 66 Muslim countries, put forward 20 experts on Islam and human rights at the meet on the theme “Enriching the universality of human rights: Islamic perspectives on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. “Human Rights are a duty under Islam, but a right for Westerners,” argued Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, a former Saudi Oil Minister who now heads a religious foundation.
The two-day seminar was suggested by Iran and organised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. The meeting has raised fears in some diplomatic circles that the United Nations may be modifying its stance on the universality of human rights, which exists independently of cultural, political or religious contexts. But in her inaugural address,
Robinson sought to stress that such meetings “would make a contribution to the dialogue between civilisations and to the building of the global civilisation based on respect for human rights. “An important element in building this global civilisation is dialogue and discussion between religions,” she said.
It is needed because the West has a bad perception of Islam, one of the Muslim experts said. For OIC Secretary General Ezeddine Laraki, the seminar would unquestionably have a positive impact in highlighting the message of Islam in terms of human rights.” He noted the role played by religious and cultural differences in protecting human rights.
He said that Muslims were “shocked” by the way in which the West characterises Islam regarding human rights. Islam respects those rights and stresses notably the equality between men and women, he added. But Islam also has its own specific rules, such as outlawing homosexuality and abortion, Laraki told delegates.
Some diplomats regretted the lack of public debate on the topic. Robinson noted that the gathering would not seek to reach conclusions, but said it would offer opportunity for an exchange of views on the subject.
QAZAN: A Tartar Muslim intellectual, Dr. Saadiev, has appealed the world community to support the right of the Muslim Tartars to return to their homeland, and to help them in forming a Republic of Qarm Tatars, which the Russians absolved in 1934. He said there are 18 million Muslim Tartars, three million of whom live in the Republic of Tartaristan, and the other 15 million have been made homeless. He said that they were not allowed to have an attachment with their original homeland, and that the Republic of Tartaristan could not be the substitute for the Republic of Qarm Tartars.
He said that it was the communist regime which caused the Tartar people to disintegrate and be scattered around, because of the forced emigration - about 50,000 Muslim Tartars were exiled, in addition to the 1.5 million who were summarily executed.
Dr. Saadiev went on to say that the Soviet Communists blew up 1500 mosques and a large number of Muslim schools and libraries, and also set fire to all the Islamic rare manuscripts.
Dr. Saadiev confirmed to Ad Dawa magazine that the Tartar Muslims still maintained their Islamic faith, in spite of the economic, social and irreligious system that was imposed by the Communists. He said that the Tartar families preserved their entity and continued to memorise the Qur’an and verbally learn about their religion, after the Communists had forbidden anyone from holding or reading the Holy Book. But the Tartars went on to repeat and recite Islamic lyrics and songs and maintained their sincerity to Islam, added Dr. Saadiev. (IINA)
PARIS: A Paris appeals court on October 27 upheld a 20,000 franc ($3,600) fine against former actress Brigitte Bardot for inciting racial hatred in published criticism of Arab customs and the role of Islam in France, said Reuters.
The 64-year-old actress-turned-animal-rights campaigner had seized on the ritual slaughter of sheep for the Aid-al-Kebir (Eidul Azha) Moslem festival to describe Arab customs as barbarian.
The appeals court upheld a sentence passed by a lower court last January that included the fine and an order to pay the cost of printing the verdict in two popular daily newspapers as well as the far-right anti-immigrant newspaper Present.
Bardot had been fined 10,000 francs ($1,800). Last year over similar criticism, the court had said that her stinging condemnation of the Moslem ritual exceeded any possible concern for animal welfare.
AMMAN : The Royal Academy for Research in Islamic Civilization in Jordan is preparing an encyclopaedia on Arab-Islamic civilization which will include and analyze all aspects of this civilization and its achievements. The encyclopaedia will include places and people that had a profound effect on the march of Islamic civilization. (IINA)
MAKKAH : An encyclopaedia containing write-ups on the gracious morals of the Prophet of Islam (Pbuh) has been published in Makkah, and consists of 12 volumes, comprising 7,000 pages. It took nine years to prepare the encyclopaedia, which contains the qualities and the impeccable morals of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). (IINA)
LONDON : The British Council has decided to strengthen its relations with Arab and Islamic culture, according to the council’s plan for 1999, which will be its blue print for its activities next year. The British Council has chosen the theme “Britain and Islam” for this programme which is expected to start in February 1999 and will end in July of the same year. The programme will include the holding of a conference of Islamic art and culture in Islamic countries, in addition to presentations, exhibitions and lectures. These are expected to play a role in helping members of the public in Western countries to known more about Muslim civilization, art and culture in Britain or in any other Islamic country. (IINA)
TEHERAN : About 1.7 million Iranian men and women work in the carpet-making industry, mostly in their homes or at industrial centres set up for the purpose. They comprise 85 per cent of the labour force in cottage industries. The number of women who work in cottage industries has reached 1,715,000, of whom 1,400,000 work in the carpet-making industry. They work five hours a day, 162 days a year. The Iranian families are involved in this earn Iranian Riyals 1.806 per annum, and receive IR351 billion as wages. IINA