Articles of Interest, March 12th, 2008

Second Muslim Elected to Congress

Carson wins seat in 7th District race

Democrat wins grandmother’s seat; campaign now turns to primary
Democrat Andre Carson won Tuesday’s special election to succeed his grandmother, the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, and fill out the final 10 months of her term.
Carson’s win makes him the first Muslim to represent Indiana in Congress, and only the second Muslim nationwide to serve there.
Carson’s 54-43 percent win, with 100 percent of the vote tallied, over Republican state Rep. Jon Elrod, was strong. But it might not have been the type of knockout blow that would fend off the competition he faces in the May 6 primary.
The campaign for that election, a mere 55 days away, begins today.
He now must win the trifecta of not only Tuesday’s special election, but also the May primary election and the November general election to win a full term in Congress and be more than a footnote to his grandmother’s legacy.
“The battle’s not over,” Carson told cheering Democrats as he declared victory at the Westin Hotel Downtown. “Friends and family, we have to hit the ground running.”
He was speaking about the issues he’ll be tackling as the newest member of Congress, including seeking an end to the war in Iraq and spurring new jobs for Indiana. But the words rang true for his political future as well.
The competition will be steep. Three of the seven Democrats who have filed to run against Carson in the May primary election will be well-known and well-financed: state Reps. David Orentlicher and Carolene Mays, and former state Health Commissioner Woodrow Myers. Myers, in fact, is holding a news conference today to preview his TV ads.
While Carson and the Democrats celebrated, Elrod and the Republicans never conceded defeat Tuesday night. Leaving the GOP state headquarters, Elrod said he wouldn’t concede until all the votes were counted.
As he left to head home, the 30-year-old Elrod added, he was “too tired” to talk about the whirlwind campaign he’d just been through, or the one he now faces. He has not given up his hope of being the first Republican elected to Congress from this district since 1975 and will be competing against two other little-known Republicans for the GOP nomination in May.
At the Westin, Carson was jubilant.
“We did it! We did it! Thank God we did it,” he said, each line punctuated by a roar from the crowd that packed the hotel ballroom. “I want to thank each and every one of you for your sacrifice, hard work and efforts. This isn’t about me. It’s about you. I’m not going to Congress. We’re going to Congress.”
He wished, he said, his grandmother, who died of cancer Dec. 15, was there to see this moment.
Someone shouted back: “She is here.”
Carson, a 33-year-old who won his first election last year to the City-County Council, called this win an “extremely humbling experience.”
“Tonight’s victory is a great indicator of the atmosphere of the 7th Congressional District,” he said, noting that people want Social Security protected, jobs, health care and, for the troops, an end to the war in Iraq.
And although much has been made of his faith as a Muslim — as well as the fact that controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was among those who eulogized Carson’s grandmother at her funeral — Carson said his campaign had benefited from volunteers who crossed all age, racial, religious and social backgrounds.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, stands with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, left, in the Chancellery in Berlin, in this Monday, Feb. 12, 2008 file photo. Israeli and German leaders are quick to note the cordial relations that have developed between the two countries over the decades despite the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. But sensitivities remain, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's plan to address the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, speaking in German next week has inflamed passions in Israel. (AP Photo/Franka Bruns, File)

JERUSALEM – German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s upcoming address to the Israeli parliament has inflamed passions here, with one lawmaker threatening Wednesday to storm out of the session.

Arye Eldad said he was furious Merkel has been allowed to address the Knesset at all because it is a privilege reserved for heads of state — presidents and monarchs. Allowing her to speak in German, instead of the more neutral English, makes it even more painful, he said.

“German was the last language my grandmother and grandfather heard before they were murdered. The execution orders were given in German … I plan to stand up and leave” before she speaks, he said.

Eldad, a member of the hardline National Union party, said he was not trying to organize a parliamentary boycott of Tuesday’s speech and he did not know if other lawmakers intended to protest it.

 Obama won more delegates in Texas than Clinton.

Obama Relishes Mississippi Win

CHICAGO (AP) – If Hillary Rodham Clinton is baiting her Democratic presidential rival with increasingly pointed criticisms, Barack Obama isn’t biting. At least not yet. Savoring his Mississippi primary victory Tuesday, Obama brushed off the aggressive tactics of Clinton and her supporters, said he’d support her in the fall if she happens to win and predicted a united Democratic party in the general election.

“We’ve been very measured in terms of how we talk about Senator Clinton,” he said on CNN, while adding pointedly, “I’m not sure that we’ve been getting that same approach from the Clinton campaign.”

Earlier in the day, his campaign denounced comments by Geraldine Ferraro, a Clinton fundraiser and 1984 vice presidential candidate, that Obama only got this far because he’s black. Clinton said she disagreed with the comment but didn’t remove Ferraro from her unpaid position. Obama had described Ferraro’s comments as “patently absurd.”

“Obviously I think I would be the better nominee,” Obama said. “But I have been careful to say that I think Senator Clinton is a capable person and that should she win the nomination, obviously I would support her.”

Asked whether he would consider her as a running mate, he said only that “she’d be on anybody’s short list.”

Caucus win gives Obama more Texas delegates than Clinton

(CNN) — Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has won the Texas Democratic caucuses and will get more delegates out of the state than his rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, who won the state’s primary, according to CNN estimates.

Under the Texas Democratic Party’s complex delegate selection plan, Texas voters participated in both a primary and caucuses on March 4. Two-thirds of the state’s 193 delegates were at stake at the primary, while the remaining third were decided by the caucuses.

An additional 35 superdelegates were not tied to either contest. Clinton, of New York, defeated Obama in the primary by a 51-47 percent margin. But results of the caucuses were up in the air on election night and for several days afterward, due to state party rules that did not require local caucus officials to report their results to a centralized location.

Partial caucus results, representing 41 percent of all caucus precincts, showed Obama last week with 56 percent of the county-level delegates chosen at the caucuses to 44 percent for Clinton. The state party says it will not be able to provide a further breakdown of the caucus results from March 4.

After a comprehensive review of these results, CNN estimates that Obama won more support from Texas caucus-goers than Clinton. Based on the state party’s tally, Obama’s caucus victory translates into 38 national convention delegates, compared to 29 for Clinton.

And though Clinton won more delegates than Obama in the primary, 65 to 61, Obama’s wider delegate margin in the caucuses gives him the overall statewide delegate lead, 99 to 94 — or once superdelegate endorsements are factored in, 109 to 106.

Obama Says Ferraro Dividing Democrats

WASHINGTON (AP) – Democratic Sen. Barack Obama assailed as “slice and dice” politics Geraldine Ferraro’s assertion that he wouldn’t be where he is in the presidential race if he weren’t black.

The back-and-forth between the two Democratic trailblazers – Obama, seeking to be the nation’s first black president, and Ferraro, who was the first woman on a major party presidential ticket in 1984 – continued for a second day as they made appearances on network and cable morning news programs.

“Part of what I think Geraldine Ferraro is doing, and I respect the fact that she was a trailblazer, is to participate in the kind of slice and dice politics that’s about race and about gender and about this and that, and that’s what Americans are tired of because they recognize that when we divide ourselves in that way we can’t solve problems,” Obama said on NBC’s “Today” show.

Ferraro: My comment wasn’t racist, it was fact

Story Highlights

  • NEW: Geraldine Ferraro says her comments were “a statement of fact”
  • She had said Obama would not be a candidate if he were white
  • Obama has called the comments “patently absurd”
  • Clinton says she disagrees with Ferraro’s comments

WASHINGTON (CNN) — An unapologetic Geraldine Ferraro said Wednesday that her comments about the impact of Barack Obama’s race on the electorate were taken out of context, and she stands by her words.

art.ferraro.file.gi.jpg

Comments by former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro are drawing criticism from the Obama campaign.

Ferraro stirred controversy with her recent remarks that Obama’s campaign was successful because he was black.

“It wasn’t a racist comment, it was a statement of fact,” she said on CBS’ “The Early Show,” adding that she would leave Hillary Clinton’s national finance committee if she were asked, but would not stop raising money for the New York senator’s presidential bid.

She also blamed Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, for misinterpreting her remarks.

Ferraro also told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “every time” someone makes a negative comment about Obama, they are accused of racism. Video Watch Ferraro’s interview »

Late Tuesday, she told interviewer that she felt she was being attacked because she was white.

“Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let’s address reality and the problems we’re facing in this world, you’re accused of being racist, so you have to shut up,” she told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, California. “Racism works in two different directions. I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?”

A Ferraro flashback

If Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn’t be in the race,” she said.

Really. The cite is an April 15, 1988 Washington Post story (byline: Howard Kurtz), available only on Nexis.

Here’s the full context:

Placid of demeanor but pointed in his rhetoric, Jackson struck out repeatedly today against those who suggest his race has been an asset in the campaign. President Reagan suggested Tuesday that people don’t ask Jackson tough questions because of his race. And former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his “radical” views, “if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn’t be in the race.”

Asked about this at a campaign stop in Buffalo, Jackson at first seemed ready to pounce fiercely on his critics. But then he stopped, took a breath, and said quietly, “Millions of Americans have a point of view different from” Ferraro’s.

Discussing the same point in Washington, Jackson said, “We campaigned across the South . . . without a single catcall or boo. It was not until we got North to New York that we began to hear this from Koch, President Reagan and then Mrs. Ferraro . . . . Some people are making hysteria while I’m making history.”

Clinton’s Pennsylvania Plan

Learning From Iowa,
Campaign Goes Frugal,
Tries Personal Approach
By AMY CHOZICK
March 12, 2008; Page A5

In the six weeks leading up to the Pennsylvania primary, the Clinton campaign will blanket the commonwealth with events, recruit thousands of volunteers and throw strategic attacks at rival Sen. Barack Obama.

[Hillary Clinton]

What it will not do is mimic the tactics it used in Iowa — flying the candidate around on a “Hill-A-Copter” that costs several thousand dollars a day to charter; spending more than $95,000 on sandwich platters for caucus-night parties; or paying an estimated $3,000 for 600 snow shovels and thousands of pounds of rock salt to clear sidewalks for caucus goers when the forecast didn’t call for snow. Such expenses left the Clinton campaign hobbling into New Hampshire and led to Sen. Hillary Clinton’s $5 million loan to her campaign in January.

It has been just over two months since Sen. Clinton came in third in the Iowa caucus. The lessons the Clinton campaign took from its expensive and unsuccessful yearlong effort there have altered the fabric of the campaign.

In no contest has that been more apparent than it will be in Pennsylvania, which gives the Democratic candidates the longest time to campaign in a single state since the run-up to Iowa.

Hillary’s race against time

March 12, 2008 | Greetings from ground zero — the Philadelphia suburbs where the epic battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may be decided in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary on April 22. Current scuttlebutt — a frail reed in this mercurial race — is that the multiracial metropolises of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will go for Obama, while the vast rural and small-town heartland will endorse Clinton, whose family roots are in coal-country Scranton.

I saw the first Hillary signs going up this week: a thin, white-haired, but very determined elderly lady was trying to wrestle one into the ground near zipping traffic on a county highway. I thought, “Hmm … Hillary’s demographic?” Obama is certainly a darling of youth, the wave of the future. If he has failed thus far to reach working-class whites, it’s because he’s a dewy and somewhat reserved newcomer on the national stage. Ruggedly stumping Hillary, warts and all, is a known commodity. Obama’s effect has been heaviest on the information class — journalists, academics and white-collar professionals chained to computers and surfing the Web all day. He’s been a flickering media phenomenon for everyone except attendees at his electrifying mass rallies. What’s militated against Obama is simply time. The more he is known, the bigger his gains.

Obama and Islam: Character slur by insinuation (again)

David Aikman is among the stable of conservatives whose commentary appears on the Web site Townhall.com.

These commentators are nothing if not predictable: Democrats bad. Islam bad.

So, of course, any chance to put “Barack Obama” and “Muslim” in the same sentence… good.

You can hear Aikman’s recent commentary on the subject here. Or read the text after the jump.

Either way, you should recognize the work of a skilled cheap-shot artist.

Aikman magnanimously declares that we should take Obama “at his word that he’s a Christian.” However, he quickly adds, “the issue of his Muslim father won’t go away so easily.” (In fact, it won’t go away for one reason and one reason only: People like Aikman won’t let it go away, because they don’t want it to go away.)

Then, without missing a beat, Aikmna implies that Obama must be lying.

“According to Shariah, Islamic law accepted as normative by the world’s one billion Muslims, if you are born to a Muslim father, you yourself are a Muslim. It’s against Muslim law to stop being a Muslim, and if you do so, you are an apostate. …”

All of which would have some relevance to Barack Obama, IF HE WERE A MUSLIM.

But since he IS NOT, what Shariah says has as much to do with him as papal encyclicals do with Jackie Mason.

No matter to Aikman. Obama, he says, needs “to denounce Islamic law on apostasy as barbaric and anti-American.”

Why?

Spitzer Steps Down

NEW YORK — New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer said on Wednesday that he will resign effective Monday after allegedly spending thousands of dollars on meetings with prostitutes.

“I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been,” Spitzer said, with his expressionless wife Silda standing at his side. “There is much more to be done, and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people’s work.”His wife took deep breaths as hundreds of photos were taken at close range. Each of Spitzer’s words was accompanied by a rush of camera clicks.

VIDEO: Angry Kilpatrick Attacks Foes, Media

DETROIT (AP) – Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has lashed out at his opponents and the news media in the aftermath of the scandal over his exchange of sexy test messages with a former top aide.

It happened Tuesday night at the end of his State of the City address, which till then had only a brief allusion to the text-message controversy.

The case has led to a criminal probe of whether Kilpatrick lied under oath when he denied the affair.

After an hour-long prepared address focusing on development plans and economic initiatives, Kilpatrick said he and his family have received threats and racial slurs in recent weeks.

He says Detroit broadcasters are putting their own ratings ahead of his family’s safety with their intense coverage of the scandal.

Tight US immigration forces outsourcing: Bill Gates

US high-tech companies are being forced to outsource more jobs overseas because of outdated restrictions on immigration, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates told Congress Wednesday.

Gates, echoing a longstanding complaint from the technology sector, told a congressional panel that the US immigration system “makes attracting and retaining high-skilled immigrants exceptionally challenging for US firms.”

“Congress’s failure to pass high-skilled immigration reform has exacerbated an already grave situation,” Gates said in remarks prepared for delivery to a hearing of the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee.

“As a result, many US firms, including Microsoft, have been forced to locate staff in countries that welcome skilled foreign workers to do work that could otherwise have been done in the United States, if it were not for our counterproductive immigration policies.”

Gates said the limits on so-called H-1B visas aimed at highly skilled professionals are far too low for the rapidly growing tech sector.

He said the current cap of 65,000 H-1B visas “is arbitrarily set and bears no relation to the US economy’s demand for skilled professionals.”

The Microsoft founder noted that all the 65,000 visas for the current fiscal year were snapped up in one day last April and that employers are now waiting to apply for visas for fiscal 2009, starting in October.
Ethernet cables going into a broadband router

Google could be superseded, says web inventor

The next generation of web technology is likely to be far more powerful than the current crop, Tim Berners-Lee said.

Google may eventually be displaced as the pre-eminent brand on the internet by a company that harnesses the power of next-generation web technology, the inventor of the World Wide Web has said.

The search giant had developed an extremely effective way of searching for pages on the internet, Tim Berners-Lee said, but that ability paled in comparison to what could be achieved on the “web of the future”, which he said would allow any piece of information — such as a photo or a bank statement — to be linked to any other.

Mr Berners-Lee said that in the same way, the “current craze” for social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace would eventually be superceded by networks that connected all types of things — not just people — thanks to a ground-breaking technology known as the “semantic web”.

The semantic web is the term used by the computer and internet industry to describe the next phase of the web’s development, and essentially involves building web-based connectivity into any piece of data — not just a web page — so that it can “communicate” with other information.

Apple iPod fire probe after Nano shoots sparks while recharging

Last updated at 14:14pm on 12th March 2008

Sparks fly: The iPod Nano model number MA099J/A, which was discontinued in 2006

An investigation into the safety of the iPod Nano has been ordered after a reported case of one of the popular music players shooting out sparks while recharging.

A Japanese official investigating the possible defect in the Nano said a problem in the lithium-ion battery is suspected in model number MA099J/A.

The problem, which surfaced in Kanagawa Prefecture south-west of Tokyo in January, was reported by Apple in March.

No-one was injured in the small blast but lithium-ion batteries have been blamed for a series of blazes in laptops recently that have resulted in massive global recalls.

The Japanese government has instructed Apple to find out the cause of what it is categorising as a fire linked to the iPod, and ordered the company to report back.

About 425,000 iPods of the same suspected model were shipped into Japan by Apple.

It was unclear how many have been sold and how many might still be in stores.

Mom throws kids off bridge, then jumps; all survive

Story Highlights

  • NEW: Woman, 2 sons in good condition after 22-foot fall from overpass onto highway
  • NEW: Khandi Busby and boys, 8 and 6, landed on concrete on I-30 at rush hour
  • Police say Busby threw kids, jumped, while her father was buying gas
  • “Miraculous” there were no fatalities, police say

DALLAS, Texas (AP) — A woman threw her two young children from a freeway overpass during Wednesday’s morning rush before leaping off herself, police said, but all three survived the 22-foot fall into traffic.

Khandi Busby, 27, and her sons, ages 8 and 6, were hospitalized in stable condition, said police Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse. They are well enough to speak with investigators, police said.

All three landed on concrete in the far left lane of westbound Interstate 30 at about 6:30 a.m.

“It was really miraculous that we didn’t have some fatalities with this incident,” said police Sgt. Gil Cerda. “At this particular time, there is very heavy traffic and it is fast moving.”

Disabled girl’s parents defend growth-stunting treatment

Story Highlights

  • Parents of severely disabled “pillow angel” say controversial treatment is success
  • Girl had hysterectomy, other treatments to stunt her growth
  • Parents’ blog about “Ashley’s treatment” created firestorm of Internet debate
  • Expert: No consensus among doctors on whether treatment is appropriate, ethical

NEW YORK (CNN) — It’s been a year since the parents of a severely disabled child made public their decision to submit their daughter to a hysterectomy, breast surgery and drugs to keep the girl forever small. Today, the couple tell CNN, they believe they made the right decision — one that could have a profound impact on the care of disabled children worldwide.

art.pillow.angel.0308.2.jpg

The profoundly disabled girl known as Ashley, now 10, has achieved her full height, 4 feet 5 inches.

“The ‘Ashley treatment’ has been successful in every expected way,” Ashley’s parents told CNN exclusively in a lengthy e-mail interview. “It has potential to help many others like it helped our precious daughter.”

While unwavering in their belief in the treatment, Ashley’s parents continue to insist on anonymity. In the year since Ashley’s parents went public, not only did the hospital that sterilized Ashley admit it broke Washington state law, but also the doctor who treated Ashley committed suicide.

As scrutiny of the case deepens, so too does the chasm in the medical community: Is it mutilation, with doctors “playing God” — or, is stunting growth a liberating option for caregivers and the disabled children who will need constant care for the rest of their lives?

Ashley is now 10 years old and, at 4 feet 5 inches tall, has achieved her full height and weight, 63 pounds. The treatment permanently closed her growth plates and took more than a foot off her anticipated height.

“Ashley did not grow in height or weight in the last year, she will always be flat-chested, and she will never suffer any menstrual pain, cramps or bleeding,” say her parents, who felt it important to publicly address their decision after repeated interview requests, in the hopes of sharing their experience with other families.

They responded by e-mail only, to protect the family’s identity. (Read the complete interview)

What Islam Actually Is Fatwa

Question

Respected scholars, As-salamu `alaykum. I am a 16-year-old Christian fromTexas, US, and I was wondering if you could explain what Islam actually is. It is confusing when people here tell me about it. Thank you.

Answer

Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Many thanks for your kind words, and we earnestly implore Allah the Almighty to guide all human beings to the light of Islam and to grant Muslims insight to understand Islam in the best way.

Islam is the very nature of man. It is the religion and the path chosen by Almighty Allah for mankind so that they may gain happiness in this life and Paradise in the next life. Islam is not a religion in the common and distorted sense, for it does not confine its scope to one’s private life. It is a complete way of life and is present in every field of human existence. Islam provides guidance for all aspects of life—individual and social, material and moral, economic and political, legal and cultural, and national and international. The teachings of Islam are simple and intelligible.

In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states the following:

I commend you for your desire to know about Islam. In this time of ours, when the entire world is shrinking into a global village, perhaps there is nothing nobler for us people of various religions to do than to make genuine efforts to get to know one another and thus create better understanding among all people. This alone would enable us to make this world a better place for all. God tells us in the Qur’an: (O mankind, We have created you all from a single (pair of a) male and female and made you nations and tribes so that you get to know one another; verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most mindful of Him. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware ) (Al-Hujurat 49:13).

Let me explain, therefore, in a true spirit of sharing, what Islam means through its own authentic sources:

Islam is an Arabic word that is linguistically derived from silm or salamah; it denotes peace, wholeness, and submission. As a religion, Islam teaches us that it is only through submission to God’s will that we can find true peace—peace within ourselves, peace with fellow humans, as well as peace with God’s creation.

Islam does not claim to be a new religion revealed to Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Rather it is essentially the same message revealed to all of God’s prophets and messengers from the beginning of time. Among these messengers were Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (may God bless them all and grant them peace). A Muslim must believe in all of them as true messengers of God and must never discriminate between anyone of them.

The Qur’an states: (We believe in God and in what was sent down to us and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and all the prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we devote ourselves to Him ) (Al-Baqarah 2:136).

The fundamental beliefs of Islam can be summed up as follows:

1. Belief in the oneness and unity of God. This entails belief in God as the one and only Creator, Cherisher, and Sovereign Lord of the entire universe.

2. Belief in God’s angels. Angels are spiritual beings who are engaged in glorifying God and doing His bidding.

3. Belief in the Scriptures (revelations) that contain God’s communications to His prophets and messengers. Among the scriptures are [the original] Torah, [the original] Gospel, and finally the Qur’an, which confirms and preserves intact the pristine, perennial religion revealed to all of God’s prophets and messengers.

4. Belief in prophets and messengers. These were message bearers from God, who called mankind unto God; they were ideal Muslims (i.e., they submitted themselves wholly and totally to the will of their Lord). In this sense, the prophets are our true role models, as they represent the best of what humanity can aspire to and become.

5. Belief that both good and bad are decreed by God, as He alone is in charge of the entire universe.

6. Belief in the Last Day when all of humanity will stand before their Lord for final reckoning, where one’s good as well bad deeds will be scrutinized by the One Who knows all.

Besides the above fundamental beliefs, a Muslim observes the five pillars, and lives a morally and ethically exemplary life, according to the best of his or her ability.

1. The first and foremost of these pillars is testifying to the oneness of God. By testifying to the divine oneness, one is recognizing God as the sole entity to worship, to attach one’s ultimate loyalty. Such recognition frees one from bondage of matter and values that enslave, cripple, and dehumanize one.

2. The next most important pillar is offering five daily Prayers at the appointed times: dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, dusk, and before retiring to bed. Prayer in Islam is a direct communion with God, without any intermediary; it bestows on us grace, serenity, tranquility, and peace.

3. The next foremost pillar of Islam is offering charity. A believer parts with at least a minimum of two and a half percent of his or her wealth for the poor and needy, although he or she is encouraged to give more.

4. Fasting in the month of Ramadan closely follows charity as the fourth pillar. It is an institution intended to teach empathy with the poor, besides inculcating in us the need to overcome and transcend our physical desires in order to deepen our spiritual awareness.

5. Finally, pilgrimage (Hajj) to the house of God in Makkah, the house built by God’s prophets Abraham and his son Ishmael. Pilgrimage brings us face to face with people of all races and colors, and challenges us to break the walls that separate us from one another and to embrace the true brotherhood of humanity as the sacred bond that unites all of us under the lordship of the one and only God.

The above cardinal tenets and practices of Islam are intended to instill, nurture, and deepen the basic attitudes and values of submission to the will of God. Islam essentially means to lead a life of mindfulness of God while being compassionate to all of God’s creation. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked what was the best teaching of Islam; he said, “To feed the hungry and to spread greeting of peace to everyone, regardless of whether you know the person or not” (Ibn Majah and An-Nasa’i).

At the moral level, Islam teaches us to be truthful, honest, just, compassionate, virtuous; to shun all evils; to be ever bent on doing good deeds while sparing others of any harm or injury. Stated differently, it teaches us to think right, speak right, and act righteously.

At the spiritual level, Islam teaches cultivation of mindfulness of God—being grateful to Him, patient in adversity, and content with His decree and ever willing to make our will conform to His will.

For further information, I suggest you refer to the following work: Yahiya Emerick’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam 2nd edition. It should be available through your local library system or bookstores or you can order it online from Amazon.com.

Excerpted, with slight modifications, from: http://www.islam.ca.

 

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