Around the world
Compiled by Mike Ghouse
All the good you intend is meaningless, unless you put your name to it.
The underlying theme in the twelve pieces is usually the lack of relationship. As Muslims we do several things right, including attending the place of worship religiously – but we fail in community relationship test. This ought to be # 1 item on our list of priorities – getting to know our neighbors. We have to serve others in the community as much as we receive from others.
Why do we need to know others? Because many of the people don’t really know who we are, and what they know is not necessarily the full truth. We don’t know about others either. Think about the wisdom of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)… the first lesson for us is to be Amin… the trustworthy, the truthful and the peace makers. Everything else follows that. Let’s request our Imams to focus their sermons on serving others.
- Saudi Arabia :: Muhammad Yaseen -Islamic History - 8th Century (700-799) C.E.
- India :: Ghulam Muhammed - ABOUT BJP- MUSLIM RELATIONSHIP
- Canada:: Farzana Hassan - Unite against the Fanatics
- United States: Ingrid Mattson - A Call for Moral Leadership: Imagining a New Heroism –
- Pakistan : Musharraf's grip falters in Pakistan
- Iraq: Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria
- Opinion: Where Islam jostles for political space
- United States: Muslim center in White Plains launches classes for converts
- United States: Bias Attack or Juvenile Brawl?
- Malaysia :: Muslims are Cross Road – in Malaysia
- Switzerland ::Swiss move to ban minarets
- Appeal to Malaysia :: Press Release on Malaysian Apostasy Case
If you wish to be a signatory, please go ahead and sign at http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2007/05/malaysian-apostasy-case.html
All the good you intend is meaningless, until you put your name to it.\Mike Ghouse
From: "Muhammad Yaseen" <>
Date: Tue May 29, 2007 7:56 am
Subject: Islamic History - 8th Century (700-799) C.E.
700: Campaigns against the Berbers in North Africa.
702: Ashath's rebellion in Iraq, battle of Deir ul Jamira.
705: Death of Abdul Malik. Accession of Walid I as Caliph.
711: Conquest of Spain, Sind and Transoxiana.
712: The Muslims advance in Spain, Sind and Transoxiana.
713: Conquest of Multan.
715: Death of Walid I. Accession of Sulaiman.
716: Invasion of Constantinople.
717: Death of Sulaiman. Accession of Umar b Abdul Aziz.
720: Death of Umar b Abdul Aziz. Accession of Yazid II.
724: Death of Yazid II. Accession of Hisham.
725: The Muslims occupy Nimes in France.
732: The battle of Tours in France.
737: The Muslims meet reverse at Avignon in France.
740: Shia revolt under Zaid b Ali. Berber revolt in North Africa. Battle of the Nobles.
741: Battle of Bagdoura in North Africa.
742: The Muslim rule restored in Qiarowan.
743: Death of Hisham. Accession of Walid II. Shia revolt in Khurasan under Yahya b Zaid.
744: Deposition of Walid I1. Accession of Yazid II1 and his death. Accession of Ibrahim and his overthrow. Battle of Ain al Jurr. Accession of Marwan II.
745: Kufa and Mosul occupied by the Khawarjites.
746: Battle of Rupar Thutha, Kufa and Mosul occupied by Marwan II.
747: Revolt of Abu Muslim in Khurasan.
748: Battle of Rayy.
749: Battles of lsfahan and Nihawand. Capture of Kufa by the Abbasids. As Saffah becomes the Abbasid Caliph at Kufa.
750: Battle of Zab. Fall of Damascus. End of the Umayyads.
751: Conquest of Wasit by the Abbasid. Murder of the Minister Abu Salama.
754: Death of As Saffah. Accession of Mansur as the Caliph.
755: Revolt of Abdullah b Ali. MUrder of Abu Muslim. Sunbadh revolt in Khurasan.
756: Abdul Rahman founds the Umayyad state in Spain.
762: Shia revolt under Muhammad (Nafs uz Zakia) and Ibrahim.
763: Foundation of Baghdad. Defeat of the Abbasids in Spain.
767: Khariji state set up by Ibn Madrar at Sijilmasa. Ustad Sees revolt in Khurasan.
772: Battle of Janbi in North Africa. Rustamid. state set up in Morocco.
775: Death or the Abbasid Caliph Mansur, Accession of Mahdi,
777: Battle of Saragossa in Spain.
785: Death of the Caliph Mahdi. Accession of Hadi.
786: Death of Hadi. Accession of Harun ur Rashid.
788: Idrisid state set up in the Maghrib. Death of Abdul Rahman of Spain, and accession of Hisham.
792: Invasion of South France.
796: Death of Hisham in Spain; accession of al Hakam.
799: Suppression of the revolt of the Khazars. Ninth century.
From: "Ghulam Muhammed" <>
Date: Mon May 28, 2007 9:49 am
ABOUT BJP- MUSLIM RELATIONSHIP ...
Monday, May 28, 2007
A LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ABOUT BJP- MUSLIM RELATIONSHIP
This refers to your article: 'How to transform BJP-Muslim relationship' published in The Indian Express (May 27, 2007).
One would think, Mr. Kulkarni, the opportunist who had jumped on to the BJP bandwagon from his Marxist perch, is on a wild goose chase, if he thinks that BJP and Indian Muslim can ever be on the same page. The fault lines are too deep.
The more relevant question could be how a working Hindu-Muslim reconciliation can be promoted in the wake of a Mayawati victory and a parallel dissemination of the BJP's dreams to win a victory on its own. The more RSS/BJP hold on to their 'Hindu Rashtra' obsession, the less they can ever carry the day on their own. And many are convinced that those who harbour such a minority dream of ruling a democratic Indian state on the basis of an exclusive ideology have not fully grasped the very essence of the ethos of India that thrives on diversities and pluralities. RSS and BJP with a long history of their combined struggle to fashion India into their own private image of Brahmin supremacy on religious lines, are too deeply identified with their exclusivitism to be ever trusted by Muslims on a mass scale.
Even though Indian National Congress did carry Hindu Brahmin leaders who nurtured a secret dream of carving an India, without their Muslim compatriots, to avoid in any way sharing power with them at any level of governance, they were clever enough to hide their secret aspirations, no doubt, waiting for better and more suitable time to stage a come out. Even their tame acceptation of the partitioning of India, however camouflaged as forced on them by the British, was in essence a major first step to achieve monopoly power, with the virtual exclusion of Indian Muslims. Muslim had dominance in armed services, police and intelligence agencies. Congress Brahmins could have never have succeeded in imposing their monopoly agenda, without throwing out their rivals.
It is only when they lost their cool and let RSS railroad an insecure Congress Prime Minister, P. V. Narasimha Rao, surrounded by short-sighted opportunists, like S. B. Chavan, Arjun Singh, Sharad Pawar among others, to demolish the Babri Masjid through a combination of professional demolition experts and a horde of rabble rousers, posing as Kar Sevaks, that the traditional Muslim vote bank finally realized the basic perfidy of Congress politics. Congress now even after 15 years, has not been able to win back Muslim vote bank. It was all very open, when Muslims of Uttar Pradesh, ignored Rahul Gandhi's mocking remarks over Babri and divided their votes between the two prominent lower caste leadership formations --- Mayawati and Mulayam. Without any leadership, without any public endorsements, without any support wave, Muslims only articulated their abject hatred of the two main Brahminical parties, who had dominated the political space during the last 60 years and who were the main architect of their monumental dispersion. Muslims in India appear to have found alternative partners and they will gravitate away from both, the BJP and even the Congress. In such situation, Sudheendra Kulkarni's sincere efforts to find a solution to the apparent disenchantment between Muslims and BJP, borders on sheer wishful thinking if not outright self-delusion.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
From: Farzana Hassan <>
Date: Wed May 30, 2007 9:36 am
Unite against the fanatics
The Ottawa Citizen
The recent death by stoning of 17-year-old Duaa Khalil Aswad in a Northern Iraqi town is yet another reminder of the barbarism and savagery endemic to religious fanaticism.
On April 7, the girl was ambushed by a mob of men thirsty for her blood, after they discovered she was in love with a Sunni boy from a neighbouring village. While affirming their faith in God, they hurled bricks and stones at her as she lay pleading for her life.
Such self-righteous piety, often mindless of its own inhumanity is nonetheless ever ready to condemn perceived moral infractions in the most vicious and brutal manner. Regrettably, such hypocrisy pervades many fanatical societies today.
Being a Yazidi girl, in the eyes of the fanatics, Duaa committed not one but two crimes, first by daring to love in the first place and second, to do so among "enemies," thus incurring the wrath of her uncles and cousins who passed the death sentence against her.
The world came to know about the tragedy when jeering bystanders took pictures of the public humiliation and stoning of the ill-fortuned girl.
Yet such tragedies would not be confined to Iraq. Half a world away in France, Muslim women of marriageable age stand to suffer a similar fate upon being discovered to have engaged in premarital sex. Many are therefore demanding doctors perform hymenoplasties on them, a surgical procedure to restore hymens, lest they perish at the hands of their husbands, fathers or brothers. They would not dare ask these men if they too had engaged in such activity prior to marriage. This is blatant hypocrisy.
The incidence of honour killings of women has risen astronomically throughout the Islamic world with the rise of fundamentalism and its male-centered morality that often skews the sense of what is decent, compassionate and just. According to a United Nations report, such incidents numbered 40 in January and February of this year in Iraq alone.
There have been just four arrests in the stoning of this girl, which reportedly took place while police stood by. We have yet to hear an uproar from moderate segments of the Muslim world over such a brutal killing.
Moderate Muslims across the world must unite against the inhumanity that was Duaa's public stoning. They must raise their voices loud and clear against the atrocities committed in the name of their faith. No one should be able to kill with impunity.
It is the lack of redress for such criminal actions in Muslim countries, coupled with the deafening silence of moderate Muslims that tarnishes the image of Islam beyond repair.
Also puzzling is the stance of western feminists and liberals who espouse equal rights for all, but shy away from denouncing the oppression of Muslim women. In support of pluralism and multiculturalism they are willing to allow subcultures to flourish, often forgetting the marginalization and oppression that persists within them.
It is only in the breaking of these silos that the cause of liberalism and social justice can be truly advanced. Moderate Muslims and western liberals must unite to obliterate the scourge of honour killings from Muslim countries, as well as other Eastern cultures.
Farzana Hassan is the president of the Muslim Canadian Congress and author of Islam, Women and the Challenges of Today.
Dallas - Pluralism workshops
Religion workshops: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Calendar.asp
May 2007 Festivals: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Images_Holidays/May2007_Festivals.asp
Dallas Events: www.Dallasevents.net
Dallas, Texas : - Friday, June 1, 2007 . The Foundation for Pluralism is committed to promoting understanding between peoples of different religious affiliations. "We believe knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of another point of view".
The Foundation for Pluralism has taken the initiative to present all religions in its programs. The goal is to bring people of different faiths together and provide a platform for them to share about their beliefs, their systems and rituals, while expanding the knowledge zone of each group.
We hope each one of us would walk out with an open mind and an open heart towards our fellow beings. It is difficult to shed the prejudices, but once we do, there is genuine freedom (Mukti, Moksha, Salvation, and Nirvana.) in it.
Bahai Faith : Everything you wanted to know about the Bahai faith, you can learn about it in this workshop. As with all faiths, non-Clarity, myths and mis-information are part of Bahai as well.
Pluralism Workshop: - What is Pluralism? What is a pluralistic attitude? Learn its application at work place, home, social situations and other circumstance. It is about co-existence.
When : Sunday, June 24, 2007
Time : 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM (Pluralism workshop) & 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (Bahai Faith)
Where : Crowne Plaza Hotel, 14315 Midway Road, Addison , TX 75001
Directions : Click Map : From LBJ, north on Midway, after Spring Valley on the left.
Confirmation : ConfirmAttendance@gmail.com
Schedule for the year : http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Calendar.asp
A Call for Moral Leadership: Imagining a New Heroism
A Reflection on the 2007 Pew Research Center report about Muslims in America.
This week the Pew Research Center released a report about Muslim Americans. I was among a group of academics who were consulted by the Pew as they were preparing a list of questions to be included in their poll. We academic advisors had no control over the final shape of the questionnaire, nor over the final analysis offered by Pew. Over the next year, we will see a number of experts in polling challenge some of the methods employed by Pew as well as their conclusions. Most scholars of American Islam are convinced that Pew’s estimate of the number of Muslim Americans is extremely low. The study simply does not take into account the extent to which Muslims withhold identifying their religious identity out of fear that this information will be misused.
At this point, however, the most pressing concern is finding ways to contextualize the data. Pew presents comparative data in some cases, such as the finding that roughly the same numbers of Muslim Americans and Christian Americans think of themselves as “Muslim” or “Christian,” rather than “American” first. However, as Glenn Greenwald discusses in his analysis of the study on Salon.com (www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/?last_story=/opinion/greenwald/2007/05/23/polls/) relevant comparisons for Americans’ approval of the use of violence for what they consider just causes are lacking.
It is these statistics that are the most disturbing. As a Muslim leader, I am disturbed that 7% of Muslim Americans say that “suicide bombings against civilian targets” are “sometimes justified.” How could those who claim to follow Muhammad reject his explicit teachings on this topic? And what am I to make of the fact that according to the University of Maryland, 51% of Americans believe that “bombings and other types of attacks against civilians are sometimes justified”? I am simply dumbfounded that according to a 2005 Pew poll, a majority of American Catholics and White Protestants think that “the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information” can “often” or “sometimes” be justified. How could those who claim to worship Jesus, who was tortured by political authorities, accept the torture of human beings?
What all of this demonstrates, more clearly than ever before, is that at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the moral leadership of our religious and political leaders is clearly deficient. We have allowed the appropriation of sinful and immoral means for political ends. By abandoning faith for “necessity dictates exception” we have thrown ethical constraints to the wayside. We have made our “interests” into idols, obeying their demands and not the demands of our Creator. In our tribal zeal, we violate the God-given dignity of other humans. Our creative potential that could be directed towards resolving disputes is put to work to find ways to punish each other – with explosive belts, cluster bombs and electric shocks. The “enemy” does not deserve any mercy from us – they are “animals,” “uncivilized,” “infidels.” In our (American) hands detainees are deprived of the basic rights afforded by the Geneva Convention; in our (Muslim) hands prisoners are deprived of the protection afforded by the sacred law. As they say in the movies, “the gloves are off.”
The truth is, there has never been a ticking time-bomb and torture has never saved a city. This happens only on TV. In real life, there is only pain, agony, burning flesh, deep and abiding humiliation.
Now consider this scenario: A red-eyed, scruffy man set his sights on the enemy. For many years, he has been a disappointment to himself and his family. His life has never been the same since he was detained and mistreated by the enemy years earlier. He is bitter. For years he has not been able to hold a steady job. He can not provide a good home for his children. What kind of man is he? He has not been able to protect himself and he can not protect his children. He has no dignity, no honor.
But suddenly he has the chance to change that. He has a chance to be a hero. By a twist of fate, only he is positioned to strike at a vital power center of the enemy. This would be no ordinary operation. To succeed, he would have to sacrifice his life. He would have to fly his plane into the enemy stronghold. The exploding plane would destroy them. It would destroy him too. It would be worth it. He would become a hero. He had been a victim of aggression, humiliated, powerless. Now he was powerful. Now he could make an impact. A big impact. Everyone cheered his sacrifice. Only with his death did his life now have meaning.
The man on this suicide mission was not a Muslim. He was Russell Casse (played by Randy Quaid) – the disillusioned patriot who redeems his life with a suicide mission in the 1996 film Independence Day.
But this is just a movie. Real suicide bombings are not targeted at aliens (only “aliens”). The martyr and his target do not explode into the heavens with a glorious light. Rather, nails and screws pierce the eyes, hands, abdomens of children and elderly women whose flesh burns and lungs gasp for a last breath.
Everyone wants to be a hero. So much of popular culture gives us a demonically false narrative of heroism. For those of lesser means, there is the internet, where “martyrdom” narratives are constructed. In a world apparently out of control, the false hero takes control through unmitigated force. Here is the sin. False heroism is about the inflation of the ego. It is achieved by imagining oneself, over and over, at the center of a dramatic, violent story (we have seen this clearly with the Virginia Tech shooter).
Authentic religion teaches one to imagine the other – to consider another’s vulnerability and humanity. The beginning of ethics is this transcendent imagination. Exclusivist, triumphalist communal identities (religious or political) block this imaginative capacity.
In their primary debates, the Republican candidates, with one exception, eagerly supported the use of torture. Only John McCain, who did not need to engage his imagination, but only his memory of torture, rejected it. Our political leaders are failing as moral leaders. For their part, a number of popular preachers in the Muslim world demonstrate a similar lack of imagination. A clear violation of Islamic ethics in the acceptance of suicide bombing is easier for them to accept than an imaginative rethinking of communal identities.
We need to restate our position that “any means necessary” is not heroic, it is not manly, it is immoral and sinful. Moral leaders need to engage the imagination of their communities to, at the very least, understand what it would feel like to be the victim of torture, cluster bombing or a terrorist bombing at our (American, Israeli, Muslim) hands. Here, there is a perfect opportunity for cooperation and common ground between moral leaders and artists – secular or religious. We need their stories, their plays and their films that allow us to imagine being in the position of the other.
Here there is a complication. It is clear from the evidence left behind by the London suicide bombers that their imaginative capacity was fully engaged. They would imagine, over and over, what is would feel like to be a Palestinian youth humiliated at an Israeli checkpoint. They imagined how it would feel to be a Muslim prisoner at Gitmo, shackled and humiliated while the holy Qur’an was defiled. Filled with outrage and a zeal to act, they struck out.
What they did not imagine was how a young British girl would feel, when a bomb exploded in the underground and she burned to death. They did not imagine what it would feel like to be an elderly man choking on the smoke, despairing of dying in a dark tunnel. An identity that denies the brotherhood of humanity leads to such demonic ends.
What this means is that our narratives – the narratives we tell from the pulpits and minbars – as well as from the politician’s podium – need to begin from the assertion of the God-given dignity of all human beings. Then we need to engage this imaginative capacity to call for a robust heroism that is fully-grounded in morality. The hero who resists oppression, not least of all, the oppression he is tempted to inflict upon others.
Musharraf's grip falters in Pakistan
Nationwide protests push the U.S.-backed general into a corner.
By Laura King, Times Staff Writer
May 29, 2007
click to enlarge
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — When President Perez Musharraf survived back-to-back assassination attempts in 2003, he might have thought the worst was behind him. But now, after easily quelling any threat to his power during eight years of military rule, the general appears trapped in a labyrinth of his own making.
His attempt 2 1/2 months ago to sideline Pakistan's independent-minded chief justice touched off nationwide protests that have coalesced into a full-blown pro-democracy movement. Islamic militants have established a firm foothold in the tribal borderlands, and vigilante-style followers of a radical cleric here in the capital have been kidnapping police officers and menacing those they consider to be promoting a licentious lifestyle.
Musharraf's supporters are widely blamed for bloody street fighting this month in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, which killed more than 45 people, many of them workers for opposition political parties. And the general's once-polished speeches and public statements lately have taken on a tone that alternates between shrill accusations and near-tearful pleas for understanding.
Longtime political allies are beginning to distance themselves from the 63-year-old Pakistani leader. And although top generals appear to be standing by him, even government ministers are silent in the face of withering criticism of his rule, or offering only tepid support.
"His position has become untenable, unsustainable," said author and analyst Ahmed Rashid.
"I don't see how he can hang on," said journalist Zahid Hussain.
Musharraf faces stark choices, analysts say. He could hunker down and try to ride out the crisis, or move to declare martial law. He could seek to strike a deal with opposition figures, who are likely to spurn him. Or he could step aside.
"It's a scenario that could play out over some time, or could play out quite quickly," said Teresita C. Schaffer, director for South Asia affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "My experience is that in Pakistan, when things are in decline, they don't go down a sloping ramp; it's a series of steep stair steps."
The United States is increasingly viewed as the main power propping up Musharraf in the face of calls that he resign as army chief, allow the creation of an interim government and call free and fair elections.
Some observers warn that the Bush administration's continuing support for Musharraf at this crucial juncture could threaten long-term U.S. interests in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state considered an indispensable ally in the fight against Islamic insurgents across the border in Afghanistan.
"There's a huge disappointment over the American position, a real sense that it is a shortsighted one," said Samina Ahmed, South Asia project director at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. "This didn't happen overnight. Every military government at some point loses its legitimacy."
For the time being, the general appears to still have the backing of his patrons in the Bush administration, with whom he cast his lot after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That relationship has been clouded, however, by allegations that Musharraf's intelligence services remain entangled with Islamic militants, including the Taliban.
"Are we pulling away from Musharraf? No," said a U.S. diplomat, who spoke on condition that she not be named. "Because that would be pulling away from the government of Pakistan…. We will not draw away from this relationship."
The conventional wisdom has always held that Musharraf is a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalists, and that without him, the country could slide into a chaos that extremist groups would exploit.
But opposition parties insist that free and fair elections could instead empower a moderate, Western-leaning regime. Islamist parties won only about 12% of the vote in the last elections, in 2002, and many believe they would draw less support now.
"There's this perception that if Musharraf goes, in come the Taliban," said Sherry Rehman, a lawmaker with the Pakistan People's Party, the political home of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, now living in exile. "That's really not the case."
Although they clearly have self-interest at stake, opposition leaders insist that the groundswell of support for Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, whom Musharraf is trying to oust, has become a larger renunciation of military rule.
"I see this as a national movement. People with no previous interest in politics are saying to us, 'Keep up the pressure,' " said Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who also lives in exile. "Over the past six or seven years, you have had so many drops of water filling a glass, and finally it spills over."
Musharraf derives much of his authority from his position as commander in chief, and he has resisted repeated calls from domestic opponents and the international community — though not the United States — to relinquish his army post. In an interview last week with the BBC, he described his military uniform as a "second skin" and said he could not imagine giving it up.
Senior army generals have derived enormous benefit from Musharraf's close ties to Washington, and many analysts doubt they are willing to push him aside — at least, not yet.
"At the moment, they haven't turned against him. It's too early," said author Rashid, who has written extensively about Pakistani politics and Islamic extremists.
But there is general agreement that if the senior military echelon were to decide at some point that Musharraf had become a liability, he would have little choice but to go.
"The endgame, whatever it turns out to be, will come from the military," said Hussain, senior editor at the Pakistani magazine Newsline.
Until the current turmoil erupted, Musharraf had planned to have himself reelected president by the sitting parliament, which his coalition controls, rather than waiting until after a new parliament is elected toward the end of the year. Groups including the New York-based Human Rights Watch say such a mandate would be a sham.
Chaudhry, the chief justice at the center of the controversy, had signaled that he would entertain challenges on constitutional grounds to Musharraf's election plan, and to his retention of his military post if he sought reelection.
Even those close to Musharraf acknowledge that splits are surfacing not only within his ruling coalition, but also within his party. Last week, longtime political ally Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, a former prime minister, resigned as a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party without any explanation.
The general's defenders, most of them in senior government posts, say he retains the support of the people.
"Things are not always as bad as they seem," said Minister of State for Information Tariq Azim Khan, who also serves as a spokesman for the ruling party. "What is happening is that the opposition parties are using a purely legal issue for political purposes."
Many observers believe Musharraf might have weathered this storm if not for the outbreak of violence May 12 in Karachi, when Chaudhry tried to travel to the city to address supporters. Gunmen from the Muttahida Quami Movement, a pro-Musharraf party, blockaded the road into the city and fired on opposition gatherings.
The bloodshed makes it almost impossible for opposition leaders, including Bhutto, to strike any kind of power-sharing deal with the general.
And opponents are growing bolder. The chief justice, making his first public statement since the start of the crisis, declared on nationwide television Saturday that "absolute power corrupts absolutely," an unmistakable swipe at Musharraf.
The president, for his part, continues to make the public rounds, though usually appearing before crowds of handpicked supporters. At one such appearance last week in the northern town of Mansehra, he appeared sweaty and distraught as he accused opponents of conspiring against him.
"It will be a day of supreme grief if these lies and deceptions triumph over truth and reality," said the general, who was clad in a traditional white Pakistani tunic rather than his uniform.
"That would be a sad day for Pakistan, a day that would make me weep."
May 29, 2007
Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria
By KATHERINE ZOEPF
MARABA, Syria — Back home in Iraq, Umm Hiba’s daughter was a devout schoolgirl, modest in her dress and serious about her studies. Hiba, who is now 16, wore the hijab, or Islamic head scarf, and rose early each day to say the dawn prayer before classes.
But that was before militias began threatening their Baghdad neighborhood and Umm Hiba and her daughter fled to Syria last spring. There were no jobs, and Umm Hiba’s elderly father developed complications related to his diabetes.
Desperate, Umm Hiba followed the advice of an Iraqi acquaintance and took her daughter to work at a nightclub along a highway known for prostitution. “We Iraqis used to be a proud people,” she said over the frantic blare of the club’s speakers. She pointed out her daughter, dancing among about two dozen other girls on the stage, wearing a pink silk dress with spaghetti straps, her frail shoulders bathed in colored light.
As Umm Hiba watched, a middle-aged man climbed onto the platform and began to dance jerkily, arms flailing, among the girls.
“During the war we lost everything,” she said. “We even lost our honor.” She insisted on being identified by only part of her name — Umm Hiba means mother of Hiba.
For anyone living in Damascus these days, the fact that some Iraqi refugees are selling sex or working in sex clubs is difficult to ignore.
Even in central Damascus, men freely talk of being approached by pimps trawling for customers outside juice shops and shawarma sandwich stalls, and of women walking up to passing men, an act unthinkable in Arab culture, and asking in Iraqi-accented Arabic if the men would like to “have a cup of tea.”
By day the road that leads from Damascus to the historic convent at Saidnaya is often choked with Christian and Muslim pilgrims hoping for one of the miracles attributed to a portrait of the Virgin Mary at the convent. But as any Damascene taxi driver can tell you, the Maraba section of this fabled pilgrim road is fast becoming better known for its brisk trade in Iraqi prostitutes.
Many of these women and girls, including some barely in their teens, are recent refugees. Some are tricked or forced into prostitution, but most say they have no other means of supporting their families. As a group they represent one of the most visible symptoms of an Iraqi refugee crisis that has exploded in Syria in recent months.
According to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, about 1.2 million Iraqi refugees now live in Syria; the Syrian government puts the figure even higher.
Given the deteriorating economic situation of those refugees, a United Nations report found last year, many girls and women in “severe need” turn to prostitution, in secret or even with the knowledge or involvement of family members. In many cases, the report added, “the head of the family brings clients to the house.”
Aid workers say thousands of Iraqi women work as prostitutes in Syria, and point out that as violence in Iraq has increased, the refugee population has come to include more female-headed households and unaccompanied women.
“So many of the Iraqi women arriving now are living on their own with their children because the men in their families were killed or kidnapped,” said Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf, a Syrian nun at the Good Shepherd convent in Damascus, which helps Iraqi refugees.
She said the convent had surveyed Iraqi refugees living in Masaken Barzeh, on the outskirts of Damascus, and found 119 female-headed households in one small neighborhood. Some of the women, seeking work outside the home for the first time and living in a country with high unemployment, find that their only marketable asset is their bodies.
“I met three sisters-in-law recently who were living together and all prostituting themselves,” Sister Marie-Claude said. “They would go out on alternate nights — each woman took her turn — and then divide the money to feed all the children.”
For more than three years after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraqi prostitution in Syria, like any prostitution, was a forbidden topic for Syria’s government. Like drug abuse, the sex trade tends to be referred to in the local news media as acts against public decency. But Dietrun Günther, an official at the United Nations refugee agency’s Damascus office, said the government was finally breaking its silence.
“We’re especially concerned that there are young girls involved, and that they’re being forced, even smuggled into Syria in some cases,” Ms. Günther said. “We’ve had special talks with the Syrian government about prostitution.” She called the officials’ new openness “a great step.”
Mouna Asaad, a Syrian women’s rights lawyer, said the government had been blindsided by the scale of the arriving Iraqi refugee population. Syria does not require visas for citizens of Arab countries, and its government had pledged to assist needy Iraqis. But this country of 19 million was ill equipped to cope with the sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of them, Ms. Asaad said.
“Sometimes you see whole families living this way, the girls pimped by the mother or aunt,” she said. “But prostitution isn’t the only problem. Our schools are overcrowded, and the prices of services, food and transportation have all risen. We don’t have the proper infrastructure to deal with this. We don’t have shelters or health centers that these women can go to. And because of the situation in Iraq, Syria is careful not to deport these women.”
Most of the semi-organized prostitution takes place on the outskirts of the capital, in nightclubs known as casinos — a local euphemism, because no gambling occurs.
At Al Rawabi, an expensive nightclub in Al Hami, there is even a floor show with an Iraqi theme. One recent evening, waiters brought out trays of snacks: French fries and grilled chicken hearts wrapped in foil folded into diamond shapes. A 10-piece band warmed up, and an M.C. gave the traditionally overwrought introduction in Arabic: “I give you the honey of all stages, the stealer of all hearts, the most golden throat, the glamorous artist: Maria!”
Maria, a buxom young woman, climbed onto the stage and began an anguished-sounding ballad. “After Iraq I have no homeland,” she sang. “I’m ready to go crawling on my knees back to Iraq.” Four other women, all wearing variations on leopard print, gyrated on stage, swinging their hair in wild circles. The stage lights had been fitted with colored gel filters that lent the women’s skin a greenish cast.
Al Rawabi’s customers watched Maria calmly, leaning back in their chairs and drinking Johnnie Walker Black. The large room smelled strongly of sweat mingled with the apple tobacco from scores of water pipes. When Maria finished singing, no one clapped.
She picked up the microphone again and began what she called a salute to Iraq, naming many of the Iraqi women in the club and, indicating one of the women in leopard print who had danced with her, “most especially my best friend, Sahar.”
After the dancers filed offstage and scattered around the room to talk to customers, Sahar told a visitor she was from the Dora district of Baghdad but had left “because of the troubles.” Now, she said she would leave the club with him for $200.
Aid workers say $50 to $70 is considered a good night’s wage for an Iraqi prostitute working in Damascus. And some of the Iraqi dancers in the crowded casinos of Damascus suburbs earn much less.
In Maraba, Umm Hiba would not say how much money her daughter took home at the end of a night. Noticing her reluctance, the club’s manager, who introduced himself as Hassan, broke in proudly.
“We make sure that each girl has a minimum of 500 lira at the end of each night, no matter how bad business is,” he said, mentioning a sum of about $10. “We are sympathetic to the situation of the Iraqi people. And we try to give some extra help to the girls whose families are in special difficulties.”
Umm Hiba shook her head. “It’s true that the managers here are good, that they’re helping us and not stealing the girls’ money,” she said. “But I’m so angry.
“Do you think we’re happy that these men from the gulf are seeing our daughters’ naked bodies?”
Most so-called casinos do not appear to directly broker arrangements between prostitutes and their customers. Zafer, a waiter at the club where Hiba works, said that the club earned money through sales of food and alcohol and that the dancers were encouraged to sit with male customers and order drinks to increase revenues.
Zafer, who spoke on condition that only his first name be used, refused to discuss specific women and girls at the club, but said that most of them did sell sexual favors. “They have an hourly rate,” he said. “And they have regular customers.”
Inexpensive Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists from wealthier countries in the Middle East. In the club’s parking lot, nearly half of the cars had Saudi license plates.
From Damascus it is only about six hours by car, passing through Jordan, to the Saudi border. Syria, where it is relatively easy to buy alcohol and dance with women, is popular as a low-cost weekend destination for groups of Saudi men.
And though some women of other nationalities, including Russians and Moroccans, still work as prostitutes in Damascus, Abeer, a 23-year-old from Baghdad working at the same club as Hiba, explained that the arriving Iraqis had pushed many of them out of business.
“From what I’ve seen, 70 percent to 80 percent of the girls working this business in Damascus today are Iraqis,” she said. “The rents here in Syria are too expensive for their families. If they go back to Iraq they’ll be slaughtered, and this is the only work available.”
The Hindu (http://www.hinduonnet.com/2007/05/29/stories/2007052900991000.htm)
Opinion: Where Islam jostles for political space
Turkey which has Europeanised itself without abandoning Islam is struggling to accommodate a newly resurgent political Islam within its secular state system.
AS TURKEY's moderate Islam jostles for political space within a rigidly secular state structure, several commonly held notions of liberal democracy and secularism have come under challenge. For one thing, the secular state backed by the armed forces and the urban elite represents the orthodoxy and Islamists have harnessed the democratic forces and the market economy to gain political legitimacy. For another, lifestyle issues have come to mark the divide, with secular fundamentalists not willing to grant such symbolic affirmations of the faith as wearing headscarves. Ominously, the armed forces have stood as the fiercest defenders of the secular tradition while moderate Islamist parties working their way up through the political process have found an unlikely ally in the West.
"The Turkish experience has amply demonstrated through the years that secular democracy can prosper in a predominantly Moslem society while also preserving traditional values," asserted Turkey's elder statesman and former Prime Minister and President Suleyman Demeril at the inaugural session of International Press Institute's annual world congress held recently in Istanbul. Even as Turkey is knocking at the doors of the European Union, he noted that its admission "will demonstrate to the world at large that democracy, the rule of law, transparency and good governance are not exclusive to Western culture. They are indeed the product of mankind's collective wisdom." This broad vision, most Turks would argue, is not under challenge, but political Islam is pushing the frontiers, with the reigning constitutional ideology of secular nationalism struggling to come to terms with it.
In the top down modernisation of the country started by the founder of the modern secular Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, religion was not to be allowed to imperil state building. His philosophy was that whatever was for the good of the country was good for Islam and religion was to be under the firm control and in the service of the state — a distinctive system in a region where the dominance of Islam over the state is taken for granted. Alongside came such measures as reforming family names, the introduction of the Roman alphabet, prayer calls in mosques in Turkish rather than in Arabic, Western modes of dress and education and the celebration of national holidays rather than religious ones. It is a drive that has stood Turkey in good stead. At the end of World War I, noted a Syrian scholar of the region and author of the book The Challenge of Fundamentalism: Islam and the New World Disorder, Bassam Tibi, at a session on Turkey at the IPI conference, Syria and Turkey were at the same level of development. The Kemalist revolution elevated Turkey to European standards while by comparison Syria still remained in the Stone Age.
The present Turkish constitution, following the Kemalist philosophy, lays down some unchangeable characteristics of the nation, among them "as required by the principle of secularism, there shall be no interference whatsoever of the sacred religious feelings in State affairs and politics."
The subordination of Islam to the goal of building a modern state was not accepted by all, and tensions remained, surfacing periodically only to be contained by the armed forces. The most recent round of tensions has been brought on by the Iraq war which has led to ferment in the Islamic world and raised anti-American feelings, noted Editor in Chief of the leading Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and author Ertugrul Ozkok, adding his generation of Turks had assumed that the problem with Islam was over. While the Iraq war may have been the spark, the changing nature of Turkish society inevitably brought the challenges to the fore. While the urban elite and the armed forces have been staunchly secular, the devout from the rural areas with modern education, moved into the middle class areas of the cities and gained political power through a sustained grassroots campaign. It is this change that brought to office the Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials AK) government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a one time Islamist but now professing commitment to secularism.
When the ruling party tried to get the Turkish national assembly elect one of its own, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul who is a former Islamist like Mr. Erdogan, as president of the nation, secularists as well as the armed forces were alarmed. The armed forces issued an unusual statement declaring the military as "the absolute defender of secularism" and warning "It will display its attitude and action openly and clearly whenever it is necessary." The prospect of a military coup — there have been four coups since 1950 — seemed to be looming large, sending shockwaves across Europe. Both the European Union and the United States rallied behind the government of Mr. Erdogan and condemned the military warning. The government itself reacted sharply to the military's ultimatum, asserting that the armed forces had no right to interfere in the democratic process and observing, "It is unthinkable in a democratic state based on the rule of law for the general staff, which is subordinate to the prime ministry, to speak out against the government." In the event, Mr. Gul could not be elected because an opposition boycott of the vote meant the national assembly did not have the required quorum for conducting the election. Yet Mr. Erdogan, sure of the popularity of his government, has called for national elections and had the national assembly pass a constitutional amendment providing for the direct election of the president.
That popularity stems in large part from the performance of the Turkish economy which has almost doubled during his five years in office. The party viewed as moderately Islamist has proved to be the most effective modernising force, encouraging enterprise and initiative unlike its statist predecessors that had the support of the military and the secular elite but did little. The new, upwardly mobile migrants from the rural heartland to the cities that constitute his main support base have proved to be a dynamic force.
Both Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Gul have repeatedly and publicly declared their commitment to secularism and their party has proved to be moderate in office. Yet, the secularists view their growing support with alarm. Elaborating on this fear, Mr. Ozkok noted that in Europe if the Christian Democrats won power, the life of the ordinary people was hardly touched. In Turkey where institutions and civil society were not strong, a political change bringing fundamentalist forces to office could have a direct and immediate impact on the way people live, dress and work as it happened in Iran.
Indeed, lifestyle issues seem to dominate the secular-Islamist debate in Turkey. Both the Prime Minister's wife and the wife of the President of the National Assembly wear headscarves, a practice frowned upon by the military and the secular elite. Mr. Gul's wife too does, and to the secularists his election to the presidency would have symbolised the complete capture of the state by Islamists. Among the practices objected to by the military were organising Koran classes on the Turkish national day and the call to declare Prophet Mohammed's birthday a holiday. Other areas of concern for the secularists are the moves by new local officials representing the AK party to separate men and women in hospitals, beaches and swimming pools.
In contrast to the liberal secularism of the West that allows personal freedom of religious observances, Turkish secularism may seem rigid and intolerant. "We have no problem with women wearing mini-skirts but why are they so bothered with our headscarves," asked a woman at Mr. Erdogan's rally (reported in The New York Times). If headscarves seem to represent a relatively minor issue, a woman participant at the IPI conference was quick to point out that Turkish women were worried not about a piece of cloth but that the mentality of even the moderate Islamists was frightening. Asked for his reaction to honour killings (of women victims of rape or abduction), Mr. Erdogan, in a reply typical of those who do not want to offend the fundamentalists even while appearing to be moderates themselves, would not condemn it outright but would only say that he was opposed to all types of murder and was against adultery as well.
As political Islam renegotiates the frontier with the secular establishment, which way will the balance tilt? A worrisome factor is the role of the military which some Turks see as the guard rail along the road, keeping the politicians from straying off the track. A major weakness of the Turkish state is that in the last 80 years it has not developed an effective constitutional and legal system and civil society organisations that could check government excesses. Most Turks remain ambivalent about the role of the military which remains very popular, being regarded as the most trustworthy institution by over 70 per cent according to public opinion surveys. The surveys also show that over 70 per cent want to retain secularism as the guiding philosophy of the nation. Yet, the democratic elections are expected to bring back Mr. Erdogan's moderate Islamists, riding on their performance in office, to power.
In Professor Tibi's view, a compromise can surely be found and Turkey may well emerge as a model for the Islamic world. Already, the country has been Europeanised without abandoning Islam and on the other side, political Islam had entered the government without destabilising the secular state system. One interesting suggestion that he made was that Islamic countries could develop a culture of Islam while separating religion and the state. The political system could accept Islam and the Shariat as a system of ethics that ordains good and forbids evil but not as a legal code to be enforced by the state.
Copyright: 1995 - 2006 The Hindu
Muslim center in White Plains launches classes for converts
By ERNIE GARCIA
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: May 29, 2007)
There are no welcome wagons awaiting converts to Islam after they recite the "shahada," a declaration of faith made by new Muslims. The White Plains-based Muslim Education and Converts Center of America - or MECCA - wants to be that greeting committee.
The center, launched last year, has as its goal to create "rightly guided Muslim citizens," its Web site says.
"What it means to us is people who are moderate in their faith and don't take it to extremes, and people who feel comfortable as Muslims and Americans and don't feel a dichotomy between that hyphenated identity," said Scarsdale resident Thomas M. Wilentz, MECCA's president.
One example of the type of Muslim converts the group wants to avoid is John Walker Lindh, an American Muslim convert serving time in federal prison for fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
"I wouldn't point him out as an example, but that sort of thing we're definitely trying to eliminate," said Wilentz, a Scarsdale resident who converted to Islam from Judaism about 20 years ago.
MECCA's outreach began last year with Saturday classes in a New York City mosque in midtown Manhattan. Its New Muslims Program is a three-month course focusing on Islamic belief, practice and way of life.
Mount Kisco resident Saleem Niazi, 25, a medical student, teaches the Saturday course at the Islamic Society of Mid-Manhattan at 154 E. 55th St. MECCA chose the Manhattan location because it is more centrally located to Muslims in the tri-state area than Westchester County, though the group eventually wants to offer classes in Westchester, New Jersey and other states.
Teaching Islam runs in Niazi's family. His mother taught weekend religion classes at the Upper Westchester Muslim Society in Thornwood.
MECCA's spring semester attracted a class of six women, who sat at tables decorated with little snack plates of dried fruit.
Niazi's May 5 lesson touched on many subjects, including modesty, dress and interpreting the Quran.
He said that only highly trained scholars should interpret the Quran for the observant, because some verses can be taken out of context. He said that nonspecialists have interpreted passages like "slay the pagans wherever ye find them" to justify terrorism.
"That whole section of revelation refers to situations of war as mandated between two recognized authorities," Niazi said.
He referenced Osama bin Laden, saying, "He's not a jurist. So what is the result of that? He justifies heinous acts that were never permitted in Islam."
Niazi also spoke about modesty and the head scarf, a divisive topic among Muslims. His wife explained how her older sister's decision to wear one initially angered her Pakistan-born parents.
After class, Brooklyn resident Gabrielle Gantz, 27, a book publicist, talked about her own inner debate over the head scarf. She had been wearing one for a week, but she said she didn't feel that she needed it.
"It is obligatory, but it isn't something you should do against your will," said Gantz, who came to the classes to learn the basics of Islam.
Gantz converted to Islam in April, and by May 5 she had attended the MECCA classes for three weeks.
"It's a nice place to meet other converts and Muslims. This is one thing you can do to build a community," Gantz said.
Like many Muslim converts, she needs support because of the reaction from family and friends to her decision.
"My mom and sister know and freaked out because all they know about Islam is from Fox News," said Gantz. She also upset her Jewish father, whom she described as "blindly Zionist."
Jeanett Gibson, 23, a Columbia University student who graduated this month, converted to Islam last year. Her family was initially angry but now they support her, said Gibson, who returned to her native Fremont, Calif., this month after leaving school.
Gibson praised MECCA's New Muslims Program because, she said, many books on Islam discuss doctrine rather than practical aspects of living as a Muslim.
"You can only learn it from other Muslims," she said, adding that the course allowed her to create special bonds. "These girls will always be in my life, I hope."
Reach Ernie Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-696-8290.
Moderator: This is a brawl between two boys, leave it as is, punish them what the law permits… don’t give the color of religion to this stupidity.
MAY 25, 2007, 11:09 AM
Bias Attack or Juvenile Brawl?
By SEWELL CHAN
[Update, 7 p.m.: The police have come down on the side of calling the attack on a Sikh student in Queens a hate crime. At a press briefing following a promotions ceremony at police headquarters this morning, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said investigators deemed the attack a hate crime because the Pakistani students’ remarks were religiously biased.
According to Mr. Kelly, the Sikh student and a Pakistani student got into an argument, and the young Sikh student apologized after making an insult. However, the apology was not accepted, Mr. Kelly said, and the Pakistani student said, “To apologize appropriately, you will have to cut your hair.” The Pakistani student dragged the Sikh student into the bathroom and, with two other students standing watch outside, tore off the Sikh’s turban, and cut his hair, Mr. Kelly said. After the Sikh student filed a complaint, the Pakistani student was charged with hate crime and menacing, Mr. Kelly said.]
Two students at Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens, stand accused of pulling off the turban and cutting the hair of a 15-year-old Sikh student in a school bathroom after a verbal altercation, the authorities said. The accused, who are 17 and 15, were charged yesterday as juveniles with unlawful imprisonment, coercion, menacing and aggravated harassment.
The case calls to mind the increase in bias attacks after the Sept. 11 attacks against Sikh men, who generally wear beards, long hair and turbans as an article of faith. (They are neither Arabs nor Muslims, and their faith is centered in Punjab in northern India, not the Middle East.) However, the police have not yet determined the motive: The other two boys were said to be Pakistani Muslims and friends of the victim.
Amardeep Singh, executive director of the Sikh Coalition, a national civil rights group based in Manhattan, told us this morning that he could not comment until he had spoken with the police.
He did say that bias attacks against Sikhs have been leveling off. “There was a spike in the first six months after 9/11, when our Web site got 300 reports of bias incidents in the first six months,” he said. “There have been 200 since then. We see increases during times of increased tension in the Middle East and attention on terrorism.”
He added, “Every time people see the image of a turban and beard on TV, the image is of a terrorist.”
There are an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Sikhs in New York City, based on the membership rolls of eight gurdwaras, Sikh houses of worship and gathering. Nearly all are from India, with a small minority from Britain or Kenya. Estimates of their numbers in the United States range from 280,000 to 500,000, Mr. Singh said.
From the Los Angeles Times
Pakistani businessman who donated to Democratic campaigns returns to U.S. to face charges
Abdul Rehman Jinnah, who is charged with illegally funneling funds to Boxer, Clinton campaigns, collapses at a hearing in Los Angeles.
By Greg Krikorian and Robin Fields
Times Staff Writers
May 30, 2007
A Pakistani businessman accused of illegally funneling tens of thousands of dollars to the political campaigns of U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) surrendered to the FBI on a year-old indictment Tuesday, then collapsed in Los Angeles federal court.
Looking tired and disoriented, Abdul Rehman Jinnah, 56, complained of chest pains and began shaking an hour into a contentious bond hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Walsh. The judge interrupted the hearing for nearly 30 minutes while paramedics attended to Jinnah.
After Jinnah's condition was stabilized and he was taken to a local hospital for an examination, Walsh set bond at $300,000.
The drama unfolded shortly after Jinnah, who has a history of heart problems and diabetes, flew back to the U.S. from Pakistan to answer charges by a grand jury that he engineered illicit donations to Clinton's political action committee and Boxer's 2004 reelection campaign.
Officials from both campaigns have said they were unaware of the alleged wrongdoing and returned the contributions.
At Tuesday's hearing, Assistant U.S. Atty. Dennis Mitchell urged the judge to deny Jinnah bond, arguing that he was a "tremendous flight risk" with a long history of financial misconduct that included five bankruptcy filings that had been dismissed by the courts.
Mitchell said authorities suspected that Jinnah returned to the U.S. to face federal charges only because the government had initiated travel restrictions that made it increasingly difficult for the businessman to travel overseas.
"The government's position is that he is coming back just to test the waters" and could flee again if he believes he will be imprisoned, Mitchell said.
But Jinnah's attorney, former federal prosecutor Douglas Fuchs, said that was "absurd," noting that his client had voluntarily surrendered and faced only one to two years in prison if convicted. Fuchs said his client went to Pakistan last year to tend to his ill mother and delayed his return because of his own health problems.
Fuchs said his client did not know the indictment had been returned against him in May 2006 when he flew to Pakistan later the same month.
It was near the close of Tuesday's hearing, during a discussion of his assets and setting bond, that Jinnah, handcuffed and behind a glass partition, suddenly fell back in his chair. After paramedics whisked Jinnah to a hospital, defense attorneys Fuchs, Thomas Holliday and Robert C. Bonner assured the judge that the proceeding could continue.
The lawyers are with the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where one of Jinnah's sons also is an attorney.
Born in Pakistan, Jinnah immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1980s and settled in Northridge. Over the next decade, he tried his hand at a string of businesses and left a trail of angry creditors and former business partners, many of whom accused him of making grandiose promises he failed to fulfill, court records show.
But by 2004, Jinnah had positioned himself as a point man who could help the Democratic Party tap the increasingly affluent Pakistani American community for campaign funds.
He and his family personally contributed $122,000 to Democratic candidates and organizations that year and held events for Clinton and Boxer at his home.
Jinnah's legal troubles began when he allegedly attempted to circumvent federal contribution limits by reimbursing friends, business contacts and their family members for contributions made in their names.
From June 2004 to February 2005, according to an indictment, Jinnah solicited nearly $60,000 in political contributions to Clinton and Boxer from more than a dozen "conduits," reimbursing them with funds from his company, All American Distributing, a cellphone wholesaler.
The scheme the indictment lays out allowed Jinnah to get around limits then in effect on individual donors of $5,000 per year to political action committees and $2,000 per election to candidates, as well as the ban on using corporate money for political donations.
Stuart Schoenburg, 76, a Tarzana television producer charged as Jinnah's co-conspirator, has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count and is awaiting sentencing.
Malaysian PM: Muslims 'at crossroads'
POSTED: 2:31 a.m. EDT, May 29, 2007
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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia, Indonesia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan have challenged Islamic countries to work together to create a new golden age to liberate Muslims from poverty, conflict and extremism.
The five nations told an Islamic conference on Monday that many of the 1.6 billion Muslims globally rank among the world's poorest people with an international reputation that has been tarnished by false perceptions that most support terrorism.
"We are now at a crossroads in our history as an ummah (Muslim community). Never in the history of the ummah ... have we faced such great odds," Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told government officials, corporate executives and analysts attending the World Islamic Economic Forum.
"While the nations of the West basked in the glory of their global ascendancy, Muslim nations were largely consigned to what people term 'the Third World,"' Abdullah said.
He noted that the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference accounted for only 5 percent of world's gross domestic product in 2005 despite comprising 21 percent of the global population.
Abdullah said Muslim nations must take bold measures such as investing heavily in education. He cited the examples of his own country, which spent 8 percent of its gross domestic product on education in 2004, and the United Arab Emirates, which recently announced a US$10 billion (euro7.4 billion) endowment for investments in education across Arab countries.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who leads the world's most populous Muslim country, said Islamic nations can work "as a collective force" for their own development because they currently supply 70 percent of the world's energy requirements and 40 percent of raw material exports globally.
"We in the Islamic ummah can achieve true solidarity among ourselves ... and reclaim the eminence that (we) enjoyed in the Golden Age of Islam," Yudhoyono said.
He suggested Muslim countries remove trade barriers to boost business and encourage tourism.
Kuwait's Prime Minister Sheik Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah said another challenge for Muslim countries is to promote dialogue with the rest of the world, especially to "refute activities by the minority (of Muslims) who do not represent the tolerance of Islam."
Sheik Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, the Crown Prince of Ras Al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, said such efforts to improve ties with other nations were necessary because "the Muslim world is not an island, it is part of the (larger) world."
Zahid Hamid, Pakistan's Minister of Privatization and Investment, said a widening ideological chasm between the West and the Islamic world has resulted in Muslims "paying the highest price for being caught in the clash between extremism and moderation."
Islamic countries increasingly feel "the overwhelming majority of Muslims ... are being demonized for the actions of a small minority," he said, adding that frustrations have grown because of persistent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestinian
Yasmic Mahmood of Microsoft Malaysia
In a message dated 5/29/2007 11:59:56 PM Mountain Daylight Time, HKKM writes:
Swiss move to ban minarets
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Berne
Swiss Muslims pray in disused factories and warehouses
Minaret ban proposal
A row is brewing over religious symbolism in Switzerland.
Members of the right-wing Swiss People's Party, currently the largest party in the Swiss parliament, have launched a campaign to have the building of minarets banned.
They claim the minaret is not necessary for worship, but is rather a symbol of Islamic law, and as such incompatible with Switzerland's legal system.
Signatures are now being collected to force a nationwide referendum on the issue which, under Switzerland's system of direct democracy, would be binding.
The move has shocked Switzerland's 350,000 Muslims, many of whom have been campaigning for decades for more recognition for their faith.
In theory Switzerland is a secular state, whose constitution guarantees freedom of religious expression to all. In practice however mosques in Switzerland tend to be confined to disused warehouses and factories.
Across the country, there are only two small minarets, one in Zurich and one in Geneva, neither of which are permitted to make the call to prayer. In Switzerland's capital Berne, the largest mosque is in a former underground car park.
In the small town of Langenthal, just outside Berne, plans to build a very modest minaret have been put on ice following thousands of objections.
Many Swiss think minarets have no place on their urban skylines
Langenthal's mosque is housed in a former paint factory on the outskirts of town.
Mutalip Karaademi, an ethnic Albanian who has lived in Switzerland for 26 years, was at first pleased when his proposal for a 5m-high (16.5ft) minaret was approved by the local authority.
But following a vociferous campaign against the plans, including a petition with thousands of signatures, the cantonal government in Berne delayed the project indefinitely.
"We are very disappointed," said Mr Karaademi. "We just wanted to do our mosque up a bit, with this small minaret and a tea room. We actually thought it might promote dialogue."
Mr Karaademi is also bitter at what he sees as unfair discrimination against his faith. "I even gave them a written undertaking that we would never make the call to prayer," he said. "They seem to think we are all criminals or terrorists - that's like saying all Italians are in the mafia."
But supporters of a ban on minarets say they have no intention of preventing anyone from practising their faith.
"We don't have anything against Muslims," said Oskar Freysinger, member of parliament for the Swiss People's Party.
"But we don't want minarets. The minaret is a symbol of a political and aggressive Islam, it's a symbol of Islamic law. The minute you have minarets in Europe it means Islam will have taken over."
Mr Freysinger's words may sound extreme, even paranoid, but this is a general election year in Switzerland, and the campaign against minarets is playing well with voters.
A recent opinion poll for one Swiss newspaper found that 43% of those surveyed were in favour of a ban on minarets.
"We have our civil laws here," insisted Mr Freysinger. "Banning minarets would send a clear signal that our European laws, our Swiss laws, have to be accepted. And if you want to live here, you must accept them. If you don't, then go back."
It's a harsh message for Swiss Muslims, many of whom were born in Switzerland. There are fears that the campaign against minarets will provoke growing resentment against Swiss society.
"I think Swiss Muslims will be angry and bitter over this," said Reinhard Schulze, professor of Islamic Studies at Berne University. "And we know that anger and bitterness among a community can lead to radicalisation, even to militancy."
The Swiss government is extremely nervous about the prospect of militancy among Swiss Muslims; three cabinet ministers have already spoken out against the campaign to ban minarets.
There is also a growing fear that the debate will damage Switzerland's traditionally good relations with the Arab world.
But the Swiss People's Party is powerful. If the minaret campaign is, as some suspect, a vote-grabbing ploy ahead of October's general election, then it is a successful one; the party is riding high in the opinion polls.
A constitutional amendment forbidding minarets will have to be approved in a nationwide referendum. In the meantime, no minarets are being built anywhere in Switzerland; the controversy has created a situation in which no local planning officer wants to be the first to approve one.
In that respect, the People's Party may have got what it secretly wanted all along, an unofficial ban on minarets.
So for now, Switzerland's Muslims will continue to pray in abandoned buildings, many with the growing feeling that they are tolerated only as long as they remain invisible.
Malaysia rejects Muslim convert's bid to be recognized as Christian
The Associated Press
Published: May 29, 2007
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: Malaysia's top civil court rejected a Muslim woman's appeal to be recognized as a Christian on Wednesday, in a landmark case that tested the limits of religious freedom in the moderate Islamic country.
A three-judge Federal Court panel ruled by a 2-1 majority that only the Islamic Shariah Court has the power to allow Lina Joy, who converted to Christianity in 1998, to remove the word "Islam" from the religion category on her government identity card.
"This appeal is rejected," Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said. "Apostasy is a matter linked to Islamic laws. It's under the jurisdiction of the Shariah court ... Civil courts cannot interfere."
"She cannot simply at her own whims enter or leave her religion," Judge Ahmad Fairuz said. "She must follow rules."
The ruling is likely to drive another wedge in the Malaysian society which has become increasingly polarized in recent years with Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities complaining that their religious rights are held hostage to Islam. Muslim groups that say Islam is under threat because of people like Joy hailed the verdict.
Dozens of Muslims gathered outside the domed court house in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, and shouted "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," when they heard about the verdict.
Judge Richard Malanjum, the only non-Muslim on the panel, sided with Joy, saying it was "unreasonable" to ask her to turn to the Islamic Shariah court because she could face criminal prosecution for apostasy there.
He said the constitution was the supreme law of the land and Joy — who was not present at Wednesday's hearing — should have the freedom to choose her religion.
Joy is "extremely disappointed" with the verdict, said her lawyer, Benjamin Dawson. She has not decided on the next course of action, he told The Associated Press. Joy can either remain a Muslim, go to the Shariah court or leave the country.
Joy, 43, was born a Muslim and named Azlina Jailani by her parents. In 1998, the National Registration Department granted her request for a name change on her government identity card but refused to drop Muslim from the religion column.
She appealed the decision to a civil court but was told she must take it to Shariah courts. A series of rejected appeals brought her case finally to the Federal Court, with Joy arguing all along that she should not be bound by Shariah law because she is a Christian.
If Joy insists on practicing Christianity now, she could be charged with apostasy — the abandonment of a faith or belief. In Malaysia, the offense is punishable by fines and jail sentences. Offenders are often sent to prison-like rehabilitation centers.
Joy's case is the most prominent in a recent series of religious disputes, some involving the custody of children born to parents of different faiths, and one involving a deceased Hindu man who converted to Islam without his family's knowledge and whom Islamic authorities ordered to be buried as a Muslim.
Muslim Youth Movement President Yusri Mohammad praised the verdict.
"We fully believe justice has been served," he said.
But others said the verdict failed to protect religious rights.
"It's a major blow and a grievous setback to Malaysia as a secular nation," opposition politician Lim Kit Siang said. "It has cast shadows over fundamental liberties and civil rights in the country."
The Rev. Hermen Shastri, secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, said conversion was a personal matter and that no one has the right to "play God."
"This ruling will not stop anybody from exercising that right to choose their religion and practice it," he said.
Angela Wu, international director of the U.S.-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said the ruling "violates international law and stands in wrongheaded defiance of the universal human right to religious freedom."
The Malaysian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens. But it also says Islam is the official religion.
This has tacitly given the Shariah courts — which govern the personal and family rights of Malaysian Muslims — the upper hand in disputes involving Islam.
Generally, the Shariah courts have not allowed Muslims, who comprise nearly 60 percent of the country's 26 million people, to legally leave their religion.
Civil courts, which govern the personal and family rights of non-Muslims, have opted to remain subordinate to the Shariah courts even though the constitution is vague on who has the higher authority.
Joy has been disowned by her family and forced to quit her computer sales job after clients threatened to withdraw their business.
She and her ethnic Indian Catholic boyfriend, known only as Johnson, went into hiding in early 2006 amid fears they could be targeted by Muslim zealots, Joy's lawyer has said.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq - email@example.com
Mike Mohamed Ghouse – MikeGhouse@gmail.com
Websites: www.Apostasyandislam.com and www.worldMuslimCongress.com
Malaysian Apostasy Case
Muslims must affirm the freedom of faith
The news about Malaysia's civil court to defer the case of Lina Joy [formerly a Muslim, Azlina Jailani] to the Shariah court is deplorable.
Qur'aan: al-Baqarah 002:256 "Let there be no compulsion in religion.”
We believe that, we have to honor the life given by Allah to Lina Joy and grant her the freedom to practice her faith. Qur'aan: al-Kafirun 109:006 "To you your religion, and to me my religion"
We believe that, God is the master of the Day of Judgment, he alone we worship and he is the only one who can judge us on that appointed day. Qur'aan: al-Fatihah 001:004 "Master of the Day of Judgment" and 001:005 "You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help."
Freedom of faith means not only freedom to choose a faith, but also freedom to change one's faith. While Islam regards apostasy a grave sin, but that is between God and the respective individual. When it is a matter of simple apostasy, i.e, merely changing one's faith without any aggression or treason against an Islamic State or Muslims, the principle of freedom of faith in Islam requires that such apostate must be allowed to exercise their God-given freedom.
The traditional position, which seems to have been the basis for the Malaysian civil court to defer the matter to the Shariah court, is based on unwarrantedly mixing the matter of simple apostasy with treason or aggression. An encouraging thing is that the tide of opinion among Muslims is turning away from the traditional view to one that is in consonance with the message of the Qur'an and the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad.
Now, there is dedicated blog regarding the issue of apostasy and Islam, which presents a more contemporary position of Muslim scholars, academics and even Imams affirming the freedom of faith and the freedom to change one's faith, when it involves simple apostasy, not apostasy-cum-treason. Please visit http://apostasyandislam.blogspot.com.
There is no worldly punishment or consequence specified in the Qur'an regarding simple apostasy. Indeed, the affirmation of freedom of faith in the Qur'an is explicit. There is also no precedence during the time of the Prophet that anyone was punished solely for apostasy.
While there might be questions or issues about the traditional view, Muslims are to seek guidance and uphold the teachings of the Qur'an and the legacy of the Prophet.
While we as Muslims invite our sister-in-humanity Lina Joy [Azlina Jailani] back to Islam, we unequivocally urge Malaysian government, court and the people to affirm the freedom of faith in Islam and not to stand in the way of her exercising her God-given freedom.
For more information about the issue of apostasy and Islam, please visit http://apostasyandislam.blogspot.com. Also, Muslims (especially, scholars, intellectuals, academics, imams, professionals) are urged read a Statement presented at the blog and be counted among the signatories affirming the freedom of faith in Islam.
1. Mike Ghouse, World Muslim Congress - www.WorldMuslimCongress.com
2. Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq, Apostasy and Islam – www.ApostasyandIslam.com