CHICAGO : The annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) held this month in Chicago was attended by as many as 35,000 Muslims drawn from various Islamic organisations in North America. Prominent Muslim leaders, intellectuals and academicians from various parts of the world also attended as guests.
The main agenda of the conference this year was the strengthening of the network and unity among North America’s Muslims, particularly with regard to political, social, economic and cultural matters, in the framework of Islamic concepts. It also aimed at strengthening the voice of Muslims in electoral matters and preserving their Islamic identity.
Several topics were on the conference’s agenda, among them the need of humanity for guidance and direction, the importance of providing guidance and direction to the family, Islamic Da’awah and its reflection on today’s Muslim world.
ISNA was formed in 1983 as an umbrella organisation that encompasses Islamic organisations, and every year it holds conferences, seminars and other assemblages, in addition to the annual conference.
MAKKAH: The Muslim World League (MWL) has expressed its anxiety at the fighting that is raging between Russian and Daghestani forces, which has led to the death of hundreds of Daghestanis. The MWL has called for an end to the bloodshed, and a political solution to the conflict to bring peace and stability to the area. In his appeal MWL secretary-general, Dr Abdullah Saleh Al-Obeid said: “The league, which represents all the Islamic organisations and states is closely following the developments in Daghestan, and is saddened by what is going on there.”
The loss of life and the bloodshed that is going on, including the suppression of the human will to live in freedom and peace, said Dr Obeid. “When we consider the events in Afghanistan, Chechenya, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosova, the blood that flowed and the loss of life and property in these place because of religion, we find that the victims have invariably been Muslims.”
Dr Obeid said it is no coincidence that others have been able to get their independence, such as the Baltic States, Soviet Central Asia, in addition to the Ukraine, all without the need for war or the spilling of blood.”
Dr Obeid said the Muslims are asking themselves: “Why are the North Caucasian Muslims not granted their independence?” The MWL leader called on Russia to liberate the Muslims of Daghestan to ensure peace and security in the region.
SANTA LOUIS: The Milikian Publishing Company of San Louis, USA, has stopped the publication of a book entitled Byzantium and the Muslims that contains numerous falsities about Islam.
The first edition of the book had been published in the seventies, but the Muslim community in the US did not then discover the faux pas. This time, however, the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sent a letter to the company drawing its attention to various insinuations in the book. Consequent to the letter, the publishers have formally issued an apology for the contents of the book, and have promised to stop any future publication of the book.
Delirium Invites Muslims’ Ire:
In another similar incident, the Network Records Company has tendered an apology to the Muslim community in the United States, for producing a recording of songs containing Qur’anic verses interspersed with music, in a song entitled “Koran.” The recording was made by the music group Delirium, and is sung using Qur’anic verses from the surah Al-Rahman chapter as lyrics, as well as the opening salutation “Bismillah,” interspersed with music.
The Council for American-Islamic Relations contacted the company and lodged its complaint in this connection.
The company responded by making a direct apology for the production, saying that the group and the company did not intend to hurt Islam or the Muslims, claiming that the mistake was the result of ignorance. The company says it has taken a decision to withdraw all such recordings that are in the market.
PARIS: France has over 6,000 mosques, with capital Paris alone having over 40 of them. This was disclosed here by Sheikh Al-Saghir, the chairman of the Islamic Centre in Paris in an interview to the IINA. He said the number of Muslims in France is steadily increasing, and that there is good response to Islam among the French people, adding in Paris alone there were over one lakh Muslims.
“We need preachers and Da’awa workers who can communicate in French,” said the chief of Islamic Centre. The Muslims also need Islamic literature, copies of the Holy Qur’an and translations of its meanings in French, in addition to the construction of Islamic schools, mosques and centres.
“The Paris Islamic Centre is the first mosque in France, for it was inaugurated in 1927, after the French government of the day had allocated a piece of land for the purpose of building the mosque,” said Sheikh Al-Saghir. “This was in appreciation of the Muslim soldiers who fought on the side of France in the World War I.”
BERLIN: Disillusioned Christians in the West as a whole are increasingly abandoning the church. Figures show that at least 204,000 kept away from the church in just one year, and only 17 per cent of the youth care about the church and about Christianity.
The disenchantment is attributed to the fact that Christianity does not offer the spiritual solace that is needed. Besides, many unreasonable and incomprehensible innovations have been introduced in it, which appear unacceptable to the mind.
That is perhaps why many churches in Europe are being abandoned. In Britain they are even sold off and converted into commercial areas or simply pulled down.
BERLIN: The German Parliament (Bundestag) is expected to debate this month a motion that calls for the teaching of Islamic studies in German schools from the next academic year.
German Parliament Speaker Wolfgang Teirzeh told IINA that members of the Bundestag are studying the question of appointing an independent Muslim personality to advise on Muslim affairs. He said the person appointed would be someone who is grounded in Islamic Fiqh, and his main function would be to advise the Bundestag on matters connected with Islam and Muslims in Germany. He would be the point of reference in all matters or discussions between the government and the Muslim organisations. Teirzeh said there are some in the German parliament who have studied Islam quite deeply, but they do not give opinions on religious matters as they are only conversant with political Islam.
WASHINGTON DC: In a landmark development, Muslims have been allowed to offer namaz each Friday inside the Capitol building which houses the offices of the US Congress and government. American Muslim Congressional staffers worked with the Speaker of the House to arrange this historic initiative.
Jumaa prayers (congregational Friday services) have been conducted in Cannon House Office Building since February 1998, but now the Jumaa congregation is held in the Capitol itself. The Jumaa service was originally coordinated by American Muslim Council representative, Sabah Karam in conjunction with Asim Ghafoor, legislative assistant to Democrat member of the House of Representative Ciro Rodriguez.
The Friday prayers bring together staffers from the two houses, federal employees, and other Muslims in the Washington area to pray, network, and discuss policy and legislation important to American Muslims.
WASHINGTON D.C.: Muslims are playing a very important role in the American society and politics, said Richard Curtiss, the executive editor, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Inaugurating a seminar on the Muslims in United States and the American foreign policy, Curtiss stressed on the political guarantees for the increasing numbers of American Muslims.
The seminar was organised by the US Council for Middle East Policy at the US Senate. Those taking part were the Chairman of the Middle East Policy Council, Ambassador Freeman; Richard Curtiss, Abdulrahman Alamoudi, President of the American Muslim Council; Jameel Alam Johnson, and the Director of the American-Muslim Public Affairs Council, Hisham Rida.
He said there are now in the US about six million Muslims, plus a million Arab-Americans who profess Christianity, both of whom should participate in the political process.
Curtiss stressed that the Muslims in America are concentrated in states where there are huge concentrations of votes. He added that the Muslims in such places as California, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois, could be decisive in that no candidate can hope to win an election without their electoral support.
Alamoudi spoke on the efforts that are exerted by the American Muslim Council in trying to make the Muslim vote in the US more effective. “When we first formed the American Muslim Council, our aim was to help the American Muslims and focus on the internal national issues that are important to us.”
He said when the World Trade Center was blown up, the council felt the urgency of the need for organising the US Muslims better, and also make sure that their voice is heard beyond their immediate confines.
Alamoudi said: “We are against all forms of terrorism,” adding that democracy and human rights are in the interests of the American Muslims. We have to establish our presence as Americans, as Muslims, and as Islamic organisations, and should not blame others for our faults.” He added that Muslims must shoulder the responsibility of educating their children and the new generation.
Alamoudi said the American Muslim Council (AMC) is in close cooperation with members of other faiths, such as Christians and Jews.
With regard to international issues, Alamoudi said: “We hope that the Jerusalem issue would be looked at as an Islamic as well as Christian issue, and also as the capital of Palestine.” Alam Johnson said, Muslims in America must involve themselves in the internal politics of the country, and work-related matters.
WASHINGTON D.C.: Islam has entered the American prisons and more and more inmates are embracing Islam. Religious propagation in the US prisons has become sophisticated and resembles any other competitive business. In prison, religious volunteers “do things like any advertiser” to win new converts, says Warith-Deen Umar, the Islamic Affairs specialist for the New York State Department of Correctional Services.
In an article published by the Wall Street Journal in July this year, Lisa Miller says: “The Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, DC, now sends about 100 copies of the Qur’an a month to prisons, and prominent Imams, or spiritual leaders, in New York and Atlanta are making videos for the prison. Associations of immigrant Muslims are sending volunteers to prisons to teach Arabic, and on feast days they’re providing prisoners ceremonial foods, like dates for breaking fasts.” She goes on to say that the old educational materials about Islam are no longer used, and adds that a Muslim businessman by the name Muhammad Qadir several years ago began to produce “Discover Islam” packages. They included easy-to-read pamphlets, glossy posters, and a teaching video that stars famous baseball player of Houston Rockets team Abdul Hakeem Olajuwon.
The writer says the businessman sent the packages to most of the country’s 94 federal prisons, which are then shown to the inmates. “The growth of Islam in US prisons is creating anxiety among some Christian ministers. While the vast majority of inmates in the federal prison system are still Christians, the number of Muslim inmates has nearly tripled over the last six years to 6,500.”
A Christian minister, Carl Ellis, thought it fit to comment that Islam in prison is “a threat to Christianity as it stands.”
TEHRAN: Iran will host an international three-day conference on ageing next month with representatives from 14 other nations, the official Iran news agency reported.
Organisers said the conference would focus on society’s attitudes toward the elderly, understanding their special needs and in particular preparing it to handle the population growth in non-Western nations.
Although the aged are highly respected in the East as compared to the West, given the rapid growth of population of the aged the East will also be faced with the problem, conference director Ehteram Malakuti-Nejad said. Zahra Sadeqi, wife of Iranian President Mohamed Khatami, will make a rare public appearance in chairing the event, which begins here on October 19.
WASHINGTON: The report of the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for 1999 on the situation in the US and their civil rights says there has been an increase of about 40 per cent in the number of discrimination cases. Most of the cases are related to the question of performing prayers in schools and at workplaces. The report also indicates that there were 280 instances of discriminatory and violent acts against Muslim women and other forms of harassment on the part of individuals, and that 80 per cent of these occurred in 14 states and in the capital, where Muslims are concentrated.
TUNISIA: The Istanbul-based Center for Research in Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), an organ of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), in conjunction with the Tunisian Ministry of Tourism and Traditional Industries, is organizing the first international seminar on the “Islamic Traditional Carpet and Kilim (Kaleens) : their past, present, and future”, in view of the changes and technological advancements that are applied.
Also taking part in the organization of the seminar will be the Mashariq International, in Jeddah, and the Morocco-based International Center for the Development of Cottage Industries, in Fez. The seminar would be held in the Tunisian capital during the last week of October 1999, and will discuss all aspects of the manufacture of carpets and kilims in various parts of the Muslim world. The discussions would include the various schools of thought on their design, the raw materials used, and the technologies applied. The seminar would also discuss the shortage of qualified cadres in this industry and the effect of the traditional Islamic carpet on European art, among other topics on the agenda.
The seminar will also seek to prepare a special colour catalogue of the Islamic traditional carpet and to document the methods of its manufacture, and stock Islamic libraries with the end result. The seminar would also consider the setting up of a specialized library in Tunis that would confine itself to the promotion of this industry and kilims, not only by stocking relevant books and publications, but also by producing a newsletter for a wider circulation.
Another proposal is to establish an international center in Tunis for training and preparing the cadres in this profession, from member countries of the OIC.
MAKKAH: The great library at Makkah’s Grand Mosque is among the most ancient libraries in the world, its history dating back to the second Hijri century, during the era of the Abbasid Caliph Almahdi, in 120 AH. In ancient times, the library was mainly used for the preservation of various copies of the Holy Qur’an, including the Othman bin Affan copy, but with the passage of time the library had to move to a place outside the Grand Mosque. This was done in 1375 AH.
The library’s doors are open to researchers, students and other seekers of knowledge, and has special areas for women and for children, apart from the main reading room.
There are other sections in the library, such as the manuscript section that has 4,749 Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Urdu, and English manuscripts, in addition to journals (1,920), microfilms (5,395), and university theses (239). Many of the manuscripts are rare ones, with some of them being the only ones available in the world. The periodical section of the library has over 700 magazine and newspaper titles, and more than 7,000 volumes.
The microfilm section of the manuscripts preserves the records on film, which at the moment has over 4000 such films. The binding section is where books, periodicals and manuscripts are bound and preserved. Then there is the audio library that has over 40,000 cassettes containing sermons and lectures delivered at the Grand Mosque.
The ancient library contains books and other library materials that were donated by their owners. 12 such donated libraries exist in the Grand Mosque Library.
CAIRO: Pressure is mounting on the Walt Disney Company to disallow the Israeli exhibit in the Millennium Exhibition which shows Jerusalem as capital of Israel. The exhibition is set to begin on October in Orlando in Florida. Several Arab and Islamic countries have threatened boycott of Walt Disney cartoons, films, toys and Disney entertainment channel and ABC news which has clients all over the world. Newspapers throughout the Middle East have pleaded for boycott of Walt Disney, a company formed in 1929 which gave rise to such famous cartoon characters as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck an Pluto. The company specialised in animated motion pictures and is widely watched. It collects huge sums for copying the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck characters. The Israelis, though offered to remove the reference to Jerusalem as capital of Israel, the Arab League has refused to accept such arguments, pleading that the status of Jerusalem remains to be discussed in peace talks.
Even earlier, Walt Disney company has been charged with maligning Arab image through cartoons and films and their portrayal as barbarian and uncivilised. Films such as GI Jane and Kaazam are cited in proof.
Following is a list of heads of state, including kings, queens and presidents, who are billionaires, according to Forbes magazine. Listings of the top 10 includes names of eight Muslim emirs, sheikhs, khalifas and dictators with the name of the country, estimated net worth and source of wealth.
- Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Brunei, $30 billion, oil, gas, investments.
- King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia, $28 billion, oil, investments, property.
- Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayhan, United Arab Emirates, $20 billion, oil, investments, property.
- Amir Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Kuwait, $17 billion, oil, investments, property.
- Queen Elizabeth, Britain, $16 billion, investments, property
- Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, United Arab Emirates, $12 billion, oil, investments, services.
- President Saddam Hussein, Iraq, $6 billion, oil, son controls business.
- Queen Beatrix, Netherlands, $5.2 billion, investments.
- Amir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar, $5 billion, oil, investments.
- President Hafez Al-Assad, Syria, $2 billion, oil, agriculture
LONDON: Five Muslims figured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List last month. Naseem Fatima Khan for serving cultural diversity, Faizur Rahman Choudry for serving community relations in Birmingham, Ahmed Abdi Jama for medical service (He is assistant director, facilities, Preston Acute Hospital), Hossain Rezaie for service to ethnic minority especially bread sector (He is managing director, Price Valley Foods) and Mohammad Ishaque for serving patient care (he is general medical practitioner, East Sussex), according to agencies.
ANKARA: The Turkish parliament has passed a legislation that may allow former Refah party chief Necmettin Erbakan to return to Turkish politics. Refah has now regrouped as Virtue party after it was banned under the pressure of Kemalist army. According to The Muslim World of Karachi, the Political Parties bill passed by the parliament, Erbakan can be elected to the parliament. However, it is still not clear whether the former prime minister can be elected as the prime minister.
LONDON: The Muslim Council of Britain, the apex body of Muslims in Britain has welcomed the move by the Leicester Haymarket, a theatre company for having changed the name of a play that offended Hindu community. The Council general secretary Iqbal Sacranie said the theatre company has shown that it respects civilized values unlike the publishers of the Satanic Verses who are bent upon causing hurt to the Muslim community. It may be recalled that the Haymarket had changed the title of the play from “Playboy of the Asian World” to “A Play of the Asian World” in which Hindu deity Krishna was depicted in manner that would hurt the sentiments of the Hindu community in Britain.
ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi Gulf Air Maintenance Company (Gamco) has plans to to set up an aeronautical college in the capital. The ambitious project is part of Gamco’s efforts to encourage UAE nationals to enter the aviation industry. The college is expected to be fully operational by November next year, and will enjoy full technical and expert support from Gamco to prepare qualified world class workers for the industry. Islamic Capitals Organisation Announces Awards for Town Planning, Architecture
BAGHDAD: Iraqi children embarked on their 10th school year with their country under UN sanctions, which have led to shortages in teaching materials and hundreds of thousands of pupils dropping out. “We hope this will be the last return to school under embargo, so that the government is able to provide the same standard of schooling as it did in the past,” said Salima Najib, taking her daughter Bayan to school in Baghdad. “Why should innocent children carry on paying the price?” Asked the mother.
The official news agency INA said the country had taken measures to “face up to the difficulties caused by the unjust embargo” which was slapped on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The government has printed almost 121 million school books to compensate for the embargo. But according to UNICEF Iraqi schools lack materials and desks, while the value of teachers’ salaries has crumbled to the equivalent of less than two dollars a month.
Belgium Islamic Centre
BRUSSELS, (IINA): The Islamic Centre in Antwerp, Belgium, intends to put up an Islamic complex, that would include a university, an Islamic Academy, and a market for Halal products. It is expected that Muslims in all parts of Europe would be able to benefit from the complex.
Islamic Book Fair
BAHRAIN: Around 25 local and international publishers and book shops will display their products at the 10th biannual Islamic book fair from October 20 to 30 here. There will be a wide range of books on Islam, general knowledge, and books of interest to children.
Kuwait to open free trade zone
KUWAIT: Kuwait’s first free trade zone will be opened within the next two months. Kuwait’s minister of commerce and industry Abdul Wahab Al Wazzan said the zone was almost ready. The zone at Shuwaik Port, just west of Kuwait City, will offer facilities for offices, light industry and storage. It is being built by a private firm, the National Real Estate Co., which will manage it for 20 years. Kuwait is trying to attract foreign investment and boost its private sector. The aim is to revitalise an economy that has depended for decades on oil revenue.
Iraq Oil as Aid to Turkey
BAGHDAD: Iraq will pump $ 10 million worth of oil to quake-battered Turkey. The Iraqi news agency INA quoted President Saddam Hussein as saying that the oil aid to Turkey would be to a greater value than aid provided by the United States, INA said without specifying when Iraq would begin to pump oil to Turkey.
News Week in Arabic
KUWAIT: Kuwait has approved the publication of an Arabic edition of the American weekly magazine Newsweek, a local newspaper reported. Al Watan daily said Information Minister Saad bin Tiflah had given his nod. It said a few trial issues of the Arabic version of the magazine would be published this month “with the hope of issuing the first official edition within two months, Mr. Tiflah, who assumed his post in July, also approved the publication in Kuwait of an edition of the London-based, Arabic language Al Hayat daily.
Oman’s First Woman Envoy
MUSCAT: The Sultanate of Oman has named its first woman ambassador, appointing Khadija bint Hassan bin Salman Al Luweti to head the embassy in the Netherlands.
Omani women have proven their competence inside the country. It was time for them to be put to the test in the diplomatic arena, Luweti, a mother of four, told AFP. The new ambassador, named in a decree by Sultan Qaboos bin Said, graduated in English from Baghdad University in 1974.
Three women hold the post of under secretaries in Oman and two others sit on a consultative council. Kuwait is the only other Gulf Arab state to have a female ambassador.
Behind the Headlines
The moral dilemmas is becoming deeper and deeper for the Britons who are faced with an avalanche of teenage pregnancies with 95,000 women aged under 19 giving births to babies every year. A 26 year old mother was shocked to find herself becoming grandmother last month when her 12-year old daughter delivered a baby in her bathroom. While the British authorities feels early sex education and easy access to birth control pills would delay such pregnancies, the Muslims and other religious groups are stressing inculcating moral and religious values in the school children. They feel early sex education would desensitise the children and destroy their childhood due to early dawn of sex awakening. These groups urge the authorities to introduce family values in order to engender the emotional security of homes and durable family system to wean away children from turning to unscrupulous elements who exploit girls under the pretext of love.