Articles of Interest, February 28th, 2008

Holland Scrambles to Avoid Muslim Crisis

IslamOnline.net & News Agencies

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The Dutch government urged the far-right politician to back off plans to release his anti-Qur’an film to avoid damaging relations with Muslim world

THE HAGUE — The Netherlands is scrambling to avoid a crisis in relations with the world’s Muslims, appealing to a hot-headed right-wing lawmaker not to broadcast a controversial anti-Islam documentary.Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin and Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen personally met with Geert Wilders, the leader of the Freedom Party, which controls nine of 150 seats in parliament.

“They expressed their concerns over the possible consequences and damage the film could unleash, politically, economically and for individual figures,” Justice Ministry spokesman Ivo Hommes told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The two ministers pleaded with the far-right lawmaker for almost an hour to back down on plans to release a controversial documentary about the Qur’an.

Entitled “Fitna,” an Arabic word used to describe all things that can test faith and sometimes synonymous to evil, the 15-minute edit is slated for television airing next month.

According to a Dutch daily which has seen early rushes, the film links images of current bloodletting in Muslim countries to chapters of the Qur’an, ending with an image of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

Islam considers any drawing or picture of the prophet as blasphemous.

Defiant Wilders said he was determined to air the film and there are plans to make it available on a special internet site.

In August, Wilders described the Qur’an as a “fascist” text which exhorts followers to kill and rape, comparing it to Mein Kampf, which outlines Hitler’s racist ideology.

He has also called for banning the Qur’an from the Netherlands.

Offensive

It was the second time government officials warned the far-right politician over his offensive documentary.

“The government is worried about the reputation of the Netherlands, Dutch businesses and the security of Dutch citizens living abroad,” state television reported after interviewing Wilders at the end of the meeting.

The government fears the documentary broadcast would trigger protests in Netherlands and overseas and strain ties with Muslim countries.

The reprinting of a drawing of a man described as Prophet Muhammad with a ticking bomb in his turban in Denmark has reignited an international crisis that began in 2005 when Jyllands-Postens commissioned and published 12 caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

Protests have been raging in Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Jordan, Sudan and Egypt, since the cartoon was reprinted two weeks ago.

Sudan has declared a national boycott of Danish products, diplomats, companies and institutions.

Several Muslim scholars, politicians and lawmakers are calling for reactivating a boycott campaign against Denmark, launched in 2005.

Wilders’ anti-Islam film has already sparked street protests as far afield as Indonesia.

Turkey has voiced concern about the film, and the Iranian government called it a “provocative and Satanic” act.

Dutch Muslims, who make up one million of the country’s 16 million population, have vowed a calm and smart handling of the crisis, with plans to open mosques on the day the film is screened to demonstrate tolerance and diffuse tension.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has accused Wilders’ party of stigmatizing, stereotyping and even outright racist discourse targeting Muslims.

  • Look at this guy….Does he look like a guy that has nothing but good intentions behind his “work”? This is why I believe many have been misinformed as to what freedom actually is. Freedom is no longer that, when my right to live in peace have been encroached upon. If this guy has a problem with Islam and Muslims, that’s his personal problem, but to have the ability to attack others because of your personal issues under the guise of freedom of speech is a fraud. Speech cannot be free, when others are imposed upon because of your speech. Call it PC run a muck, but freedom for all should be just that. These sort of things should be dealt with in private not in public. One has the right to believe what they will how they will, but the private should never be imposed on the public. Therefore, it’s quite foolish to wonder why many are upset when they are imposed upon. It’s kinda ironic when you think about it, because what Muslims are continually accused of doing, people like this Danish lawmaker feel justified in doing it to Muslims. When will the mature adults stand up? A special kudos goes out to the Danish Muslims who have decided to silence the critics by pledging to be peaceful, call, and silent deciding to make lemonade out of lemons.

Positive 9/11 Nightmare

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Many Muslims have found themselves in the role of educators, explaining their faith to the wider community.

CAIRO — The 9/11 terrorist attacks spelled trouble for America’s Muslims and charities, yet it also offered a chance for many of them to speak about their faith and set the record straight.“We’re more in the limelight now,” Anees Masood, a 66-yar-old resident of New York’s downtown area of Rochester, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on Thursday, February 28.

Seven or eight years ago, Masood, who came to the US from Pakistan with her cardiologist husband more than 45 years ago, was just another Rochester resident.

After the terrorist 9/11 attacks, her colorful saris, head coverings and prayer became the center of attention.

Like millions of American Muslims, she found herself in the role of educator, explaining her faith in a predominantly Christian community.

“But I’m happy for that in one aspect: There have been so many invitations to talk about Islam.”

The experience is shared by many of Rochester’s 19,000-strong Muslim population.

Mosques and Islamic centers in the area now regularly host classes and panel discussions on Islam, attracting a large number of curious people.

In Brighton High, one of the area’s schools, the Muslim Student Association is providing additional material on Islam for the teachers to use in class.

Fatima Bawany, 15, says she is now used to questions over her hijab and the pants she wears under her shorts when she competes in track.

“I’ve learned more about my religion and am able to stand up for it,” said the Brighton High student.

“I explain it to them, and it builds up my confidence…It’s definitely shaped my character.”

Unwanted Attention

But in many cases the special attention was not quite a boon.

Many Rochester Muslims were detained, questioned or harassed because of their faith, imam Mohammad Shafiq of the Islamic Center of Rochester, told the paper.

His own son was handcuffed and kept for two hours at the borders last December as he was coming home.

Yusuf Sharif, an imam at Masjid Sabiqun, has a similar experience.

Sharif, who embraced Islam in the late 1990s, was recently stopped on his way back into New York.

Officers went through all papers and notes from the religious conference he attended before letting him go.

Sharif says he became used to that kind of “attention”.

“I tell them, ‘Thanks for the special attention,'” he said with a laugh.

Six years after 9/11, many American Muslims complain that they continue to face stereotyping because of their Islamic attires or identities.

The US Senate Office of Research has admitted that Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have taken the brunt of federal powers applied after 9/11.

Imam Sharif says it saddens him to see people in his community so desperate to ovoid undesirable attention that they shun using any language that could distinguished them as Muslims, such as as-salamu `alaykum, an Arabic greeting translating as peace be upon you.

“Some of my brothers and sisters are afraid to give the greetings. They shouldn’t be afraid.”

  • One should conduct a study on this.  I believe this is another example of what Muslims should be doing.  We should turn every hostile situation against Muslims and Islam into an opportunity for education (for Muslims too)

Trevor Phillips

Obama victory will prolong US racial divide, says British equality chief

One of Britain’s most influential black figures today accused Barack Obama of cynically exploiting America’s racial divide and gave warning that he could prolong, rather than heal the rift.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, claimed that the Democratic front-runner would ultimately disappoint the African-American community and dismissed the notion that he would be “the harbinger of a post-racial America” if he becomes the country’s first black President.

Writing in Prospect, the monthly current affairs magazine, Mr Phillips suggested that guilt over transatlantic slavery was behind Mr Obama’s support from middle class whites.

“If Obama can succeed, then maybe they can imagine that [Martin Luther] King’s post-racial nirvana has arrived. A vote for Obama is a pain-free negation of their own racism. So long as they don’t have to live next door to him; Obama has yet to win convincingly in white districts adjacent to black communities,” he wrote.

Mr Phillips compared Mr Obama to Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey, prominent black “bargainers” – those who strike a deal with white America not to make an issue of historical racism if their own race is not used against them.

But, in a warning to the Democratic candidate, he added that Cosby now cut a “sad and lonely figure” because he had abandoned the moral weapon used by figures such as Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and Jesse Jackson in insisting that “in the end, salvation for blacks won’t depend on the actions of whites.”

  • I find it a “little” amusing that the author speaks as an authority on American race relations and politics from across the pond.  But he does have some points….I guess….you decide…

McCain: Obama Represents Politics of the Past

In his back-and-forth with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., over Iraq, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Thursday morning sought to portray the Democratic front-runner as representing the Iraq politics of the past by focusing on the decision to invade in 2003 rather than what to do now.

“That’s history, that’s the past,” McCain told attendees at a town hall meeting at Rice University. “That’s talking about what happened before. What we should be talking about is what we’re going to do now. And what we’re going to do now is continue this strategy which is succeeding in Iraq and we are carrying out the goals of the surge, the Iraqi military are taking over more and more of the responsibilities.”

It was an interesting claim from the man seeking to be the oldest American ever first elected president — about a candidate 25 years his junior — and is just the latest charge in what may be a preview of the general election.

  • Maybe it’s just me, but someone in the McCain campaign should advise him not to refer to the word “past” especially when comparing himself to Senator Obama. 🙂

Exchange student says he was denied adequate food

HALLOWELL, Maine – Jonathan McCullum was in excellent health at 155 pounds when he left last summer to spend the school year as an exchange student in Egypt.

But when he returned home to Maine just four months later, the 5-foot-9 teenager weighed a mere 97 pounds and was so weak that he struggled to carry his baggage or climb a flight of stairs. Doctors said he was at risk of a heart attack.

McCullum says he was denied sufficient food while staying with a family of Coptic Christians, who fast for more than 200 days a year, a regimen unmatched by other Christians.

But he does not view the experience as a culture clash. Rather, he said, it reflected mean and stingy treatment by his host family and a language barrier that made it difficult to communicate.

“The weight loss concerned me, but I wanted to stick out the whole year,” he said in an interview at his family’s home outside Augusta.

Friends and teachers at his English-speaking school in Egypt urged him to change his host family, but he stayed put after being told that the other home was in a dangerous neighborhood of Alexandria.

After returning to the United States, he was hospitalized for nearly two weeks. The 17-year-old has regained about 20 pounds, but his parents say he’s not the same boy he was when he left under the auspices of AFS Intercultural Programs.

  • Interesting story, even if only for the 200 day fast part.

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 Newborn survives fall through train toilet

AHMADABAD, India (AP) — A newborn baby girl fell through the toilet in a moving train and onto the tracks moments after her mother prematurely gave birth, surviving nearly two hours before being found, relatives said Thursday.

The child’s mother, who uses the single name Bhuri, was traveling with relatives on an overnight train when she went to the bathroom shortly before midnight Tuesday and unexpectedly gave birth to a baby girl, said Arjun Kumar, her brother-in-law.

“Later, she fell unconscious and the baby fell through the toilet,” he continued. “Two stations later, we knocked at the door.”

Bhuri opened the door, soaked in blood. Video Watch baby who survived fall »

“When we asked her about what happened, she said the baby had fallen through onto the tracks,” Kumar said.

Toilets on Indian trains usually have holes that open directly onto the tracks, and there were no indications Thursday that authorities doubted Bhuri’s story or planned to investigate the incident.

Kumar said that after finding Bhuri, relatives pulled the train’s emergency brake and told railway officials what had happened. A search was quickly organized, and guards at one of the stations the train had passed soon found the baby.

  • Praise God!  This is a great feel good story.  My prayers go out to the child and the family.  They are truly blessed.

Distorted images of Islam

Distorting Image of Muslim Women

Modern Europeans and Americans assume that Muslim women are invariable oppressed, it is by no means clear that Muslim women have always suffered from disadvantages in comparison with Christians or others. This is an instance in which very recent advances in Europe and America are somehow assumed to be an essential part of the West.

English women did not have full property rights until the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 and 1882, yet under Islamic law, Muslim women have been guaranteed inheritance and property rights since the seventh century. English women were still chattels of their husband or father when Lady Mary Wortley Montagu traveled to Constantinople in 1716 with her husband, the British ambassador. She was amazed to meet there Ottoman women of the nobility who owned large estates and managed their own property without male interference. Lady Mary even found the veil to be a liberating device that freed women from the prying eyes of men.

Certainly misogyny and unequal rights for women are features that can be found in abundance in the societies of North Africa, the Near East, and much of Asia, but can we honestly say that America and Europe are free of these problems? It is easy and hypocritical to accuse other societies of abuses and inequities when injustices still exist in our own culture. The image of the oppressed Muslim woman can all too often serve as another self-righteous reason for Europeans to congratulate themselves on their superiority.

Anti-Islamic stereotypes

In all the images of Islam that are commonly circulated in European and American culture, little can be found that is positive. Is it possible for an entire civilization to have such negative features, enduring more then 1,000 years across half the world?

Although I am not a psychologist, I cannot help but feel that there is a mechanism of projection operating here, along the lines spoken of by Jungians, in which one’s own negative characteristics are projected onto others. There is certainly plenty of evidence of fantasy throughout the history of anti-Islamic stereotypes. Muslims are considered to be violent, yet we do not hear any similar accusations about intrinsic violence in Christianity or European culture; what was it about Christianity  that motivated the world conquests of the nineteenth century or more recent atrocities such as the 1995 massacre of more than 6,000 Muslim men and boys carried out in a single day by Eastern Orthodox Serbs in Srebrenica?

Muslims are considered to have dysfunctional roles for women, yet that emblem of Western technological superiority,  the Internet, is saturated with pornographic images, and the sexualization of women is omnipresent in television, newspapers, and advertising.

Is the West so confidant of its relations between the sexes? Everyone needs to become educated as a media critic nowadays, because the recycling of sensational images is what the communications media love the most, especially when conflict is present.

Islam is a subject that most Americans and Europeans have experienced only through theses negative images and stereotypes. Clearly the time has come to go beyond those images and encounter real human beings.

Excerpted from ‘Following Muhammad’ by Professor Carl W. Ernst, W.R. Kenan is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of several books on Islam.

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