Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

SHAWWAL 1424 H
December 2003
Volume 16-12 No : 204
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News From Islamic World


Muslims feel Discriminated
Fatwa bars Muslims from working on Barrier
Love Australia or Leave it
World Snooker Champion Embraces Islam
Model Schools for the Poor

Visionary Leadership The UAE Way
Women on Streering in Aramco
Mohammed Zakariya Heals with the Pen

France Challenges Religious Symbols

Muslims feel Discriminated

A recent study, reveals that Muslims have not been adequately represented in the Parliament and the state assemblies in the country.

By Andalib Akhter

New Delhi: New Delhi: Non-representation or Under-representation of Muslims in the various democratic institutions and political set-ups of the country have always troubled Muslim minds. A recent study conducted by Jamia Hamdard here has further compounded the fear. It says that this tendency has led to a feeling of 'discrimination and alienation' among Muslims, who form about 13 per cent of India's one billion population. A 300 page study, 'Electoral System and Inclusive Democracy: Muslim Under-representation', conducted by Professor Iqbal Ahmed Ansari, graphically reveals that Muslims have not, in comparison to their demographic strength, been adequately represented in Parliament and the state assemblies in the country. As a result of the extensive study, Ansari proposed, the introduction of a new electoral system to ensure the full participation of all minorities and suppressed groups in the country's political process. The study, which is based on the number of Muslim candidates elected to the Parliament and 12 state assemblies since 1952, the year independent India's first Parliament was elected, says, this has led to a feeling of 'discrimination and alienation' among Muslims. According to Siraj Hussain, vice-chancellor of Hamdard University which sponsored the research work, the study is aimed at bringing this under-representation to the attention of academicians, lawmakers, political parties, media and social activists. India's democratic system allows all citizens to contest elections if they fulfil certain conditions. Certain constituencies, however, are reserved for the scheduled castes and tribes because of their high numbers in those constituencies. This reservation was meant to empower them politically. The study claims that many of these constituencies actually have a Muslim majority. Some findings of Ansari's study are: *There should have been 47.45 per cent more elected Muslim representatives in Parliament from 1952 to 1999. The expectation is based on India's Muslim population in the same period. *The Madhya Pradesh assembly that was constituted in 1993 did not have a single Muslim MLA. Rajasthan had only two Muslim MLAs from 1952 to 1994, while the community's share in the state's population demanded at least 21 representatives. *The level of Muslim deprivation in terms of electoral representation vis--vis population in state assemblies has ranged from 13.79 per cent in Delhi to 79.27 per cent in Gujarat. Gujarat, in fact, has five Muslim MLAs against the expected 24. *Muslims achieved a satisfactory representation of about 76 per cent in the five Delhi assemblies from 1951 to 1998, though their representation in the Lok Sabha was poor. Only one Muslim has been elected from Delhi to the Lok Sabha in 50 years, whereas their numbers in the national capital would have suggested seven members. *Muslims attained the highest level of representation in the Lok Sabha and many state assemblies from 1978 to 1984; the political climate during this period was Muslim-friendly. In 1980, Muslims from Uttar Pradesh were actually over-represented in the Lok Sabha. According to the study, the reasons for persistent under-representation of Muslims in elected political bodies are: Inadequate nomination of Muslim candidates by political parties, especially the Indian National Congress, and their near exclusion by the BJP. The Congress has given tickets to just 6.67 per cent Muslim candidates since 1952 when the number should have been about 13 per cent. The record of the Communist Party of India, Marxist, in this matter has been satisfactory. The nominations by some Janata Dal formations since 1989 and the Bahujan Samajwadi Party and Samajwadi Party have been generally fair to the minorities, but this has not always translated into an equitable share of seats. The second reason is the single-member constituency and the first-past-the-post system. Prof. Ansari's study suggests certain remedial measures, including switching to a proportional representation system. This would ensure fair representation to women, the minorities and backward castes under a single formula by allotting certain 'uncontested additional seats' to the election's 'best losers'. It would also increase the number of seats in Parliament and in the state assemblies. Currently there are 543 seats in Parliament. The number of seats in the assemblies varies from state to state. Ansari believes this format, which is used in Mauritius, would help Muslims, women and other suppressed groups achieve representation in elected bodies that would be in tune with their demographic strengths.

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Fatwa bars Muslims from working on Barrier

Jerusalem:: The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikeremah Sabri had issued a religious decree which would bar Muslims from working in any capacity on the construction of Israel's West Bank separation barrier. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikeremah Sabri, said the barrier was being built on "stolen" land and therefore any financial gain from its construction would be immoral. "The wall is built on stolen land and whatever is built on stolen land is illegal and the participation of anyone in building this wall - whether they are contractors or owners of heavy machinery - should be forbidden," he said. "Any Palestinian participating in this is, from a religious view, committing a sin and his money is immoral." The issuing of the decree, or fatwa, comes after two Israeli watchmen appointed to guard the separation barrier around east Jerusalem were shot dead recently. One was an Arab Israeli. While Israel insists the barrier is merely designed for security purposes, Palestinians say that the fact that it cuts deep into their territory is proof that it is an attempt to pre-empt their future borders. The mufti also criticised the so-called Geneva Initiative, an alternative peace plan drawn up by Palestinians and left-wing Israelis which is to be unveiled in Switzerland. The agreement comes to a compromise on the right of return for Palestinians who were either expelled or fled their homes after the creation of Israel in 1948. "We insist on the right of refugees to return to their homeland - the land of their fathers and grandfathers," the mufti said.

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Love Australia or Leave it

Sydney: TThe spiritual leader of Australia's 2,80,000 Muslims has used a sermon marking the end of Ramadan to try to head off growing cross cultural hostilities and ethnic tension by warning his people to love Australia or leave it. Sheikh Taj Din Al-Hilali also told some 30,000 Muslims gathered outside a mosque in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba, heart of Australia's Islamic community, that they must shape up or ship out. "Australia is our compassionate mother, and I say to every person living in Australia, from the person in the highest office down to the ordinary man in the street: love this country or leave it, shape up or ship out," he said in his sermon. The Lakemba mosque has been a focal point of police investigations into the actions of a French convert to Islam, Willie Brigitte, who was arrested in Sydney and deported last month under suspicion of plotting attacks on behalf of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

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World Snooker Champion Embraces Islam

London: Former world snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan has given up Roman Catholicism to become a Muslim according to a statement the player's mother. "Ronnie is a lot better in himself since he converted. I hope it will steady him," said his mother, Maria. O'Sullivan overcame a troubled childhood, in which his father was jailed for murder and his mother for tax offences, to win snooker's world championship in 2001. Despite his precocious talent, the 27-year-old has battled drink and drug addiction as well as depression. O'Sullivan's mother said, British boxer Prince Naseem Hamed, a born Muslim, helped her son convert. "Prince Naseem has been a good friend to Ronnie,He has been the main factor." O'Sullivan, who was raised as a Roman Catholic in east London, converted at the Islamic Cultural Centre, the capital's main mosque, during a short ceremony. Nicknamed the "Rocket" for the speed in which he can clear a snooker table, O'Sullivan joins boxers Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson as leading sportsmen who have converted to Islam.

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Model Schools for the Poor

Jeddah: Pakistan Welfare Society, a non-profit organisation promoting education among Pakistani expatriates, plans to open three new model schools in Jeddah next year. Ahsan Rashid, the man behind the project, said, "we are planning to open three new schools by next year for the children of those who cannot afford education at the embassy school. These schools will be located in Makkah Road, Bawadi and Bani Malik." The welfare society already runs two primary schools, one for boys and the other for girls, in Guwaiza district, about 30 km from Jeddah. The boys' school was started four years ago and has a strength of over 100 students, while the girls' school with 85 students was started last year. Besides these schools, which are fully financed and governed by the society, another school in Aziziya district gets partial financial assistance from the society. Ahsan Rashid assured parents of continued support to students who pass grade 6 exams from Guwaiza school.

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Visionary Leadership The UAE Way

Dubai:The UAE is an oasis of peace and prosperity that has shown tremendous growth across a broad front, said Saeed Mohammed Al Ghandi, Speaker of the Federal National Council. As the UAE gears up to celebrate its 32nd National Day, the young nation has shown to the world what visionary leadership can achieve in such a short span of time for human development. The UAE has reduced illiteracy from over 80 per cent to two per cent and increased life expectancy rates tremendously. Its leadership has offered a model for stability, while providing a strong voice for moderation and dialogue among civilisations. Al Ghandi said: "It is under the wise leadership of President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan that we were able to achieve unmatched success and development, which puts us in a unique place on the world map" "Our policy is to work to reinforce cooperation with our Arab and Muslim brothers who are indeed part of us as also to work with the larger family, consisting of friendly countries and to continue extending friendly ties with them," said Al Ghandi, echoing Sheikh Zayed's own words. Many other parts of the world crave for the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, but people in the UAE are fortunate enough to have not only a decent place to live, but hospitals to take care of their health and schools to educate their children. In the last three decades, from 1971 until today, the country has been moving ahead.

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Women on Streering in Aramco

By Sameen Khan

Dhahran: The Aramco Compound here is a world by itself where Saudi law does not apply. Last time when a friend got married, she was gifted a Mercedes Benz. Even a Saudi princess cannot be presented with such a gift. You would be surprised as to what a woman would do with a car, Mercedes Benz, at that in the conservative Saudi Kingdom. But perhaps I forgot to tell you that the lady was residing within the Aramco Compound where women can drive, roam free in shorts and with or without Abaya. Aramco compound belies all Saudi taboos and in one way exposes the Saudi hypocrisy. The women inside the Aramco compound have enjoyed this privilege ever since the company was given a licence in 1930s. Yet no Saudi media can highlight this fact. When I tried to contact Saudi Relations Officer in the Aramco he warned me against writing anything in this regard. He refused to provide me any information as to how many women inside the compound enjoy the driving licence. Aramco Compound sprawls over a circular area whose radius is about 10 miles. It has cinema theatres, swimming pools and women driving on its streets. Till 1980, the women were issued driving licences within the precincts of the Aramco Compound. But now only identity card is enough. However, non -Aramco women found driving inside leads to trouble and the penalty has to be borne by her husband. Violation of traffic rules can result in warning to the husband and any excess of the same can even arrest promotion. Women therefore consider themselves privileged within the Aramco Compound. However, a Pakistani-American woman complained that she gets bored because the driving has to be confined within the 10 miles radius. This writer spoke to many women who all expressed the desire for restriction on driving by women to end in Saudi Arabia. However, none of them was ready to go on record. None of them would like to identify herself or provide her photograph. In 1991, some Saudi women including a few professors, teachers and doctors, took out their cars and went in a procession on the streets of Riyadh and protested against restriction of driving by women. Soon all of them were sent behind bars, some of them even lost their jobs. Their husbands got warning. Yet none in the Saudi media took up the same. Saudi law allows women to purchase and possess cars, but does not allow driving. Some Saudi women question as to why? Why can't women drive when it is not against sharia or Islam in any way? There is a wave of reforms sweeping this conservative Islamic country. But as for driving, it might take some years before women would hold the steering. (This article by writer Sameen Khan appeared on BBC.Urdu.com and has been translated for the readers of Islamic Voice.)

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Mohammed Zakariya Heals with the Pen

In an age of digital art and laser printing, few Muslims have bothered to master the ancient art of Islamic calligraphy. To truly master such a medium takes years of tutelage under a dwindling number of experts around the world. One renowned artist, Mohamed Zakariya of Arlington, VA, is widely recognised as one of the most accomplished Islamic calligraphers in the United States, and his work has been used over the past several years to bridge the gap between Islamic and Western culture and to convey the beauty of Islamic spirituality. "Religion is a quest of trying to find out what things mean," says Zakariya. "Proper calligraphy is supposed to expand your heart to the meaning of a text." Zakariya, the only American to receive certification from master Turkish calligraphers (the main bastion of Islamic calligraphy today), sees the art form as taking "the high road" in the face of adversity. Zakariya is working on an upcoming interfaith exhibition, "Writing The Sublime: The Art of Calligraphy in the Religions of Abraham," which features the calligrahpic work of the three major Abrahamic religions.

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France Challenges Religious Symbols

Paris: A parliamentary group has called for a ban on the wearing of any visible religious symbols in schools, broadening a debate on whether Muslim girls can wear Islamic head scarves in class. France's body politic is heating up over the issue, with some religious leaders fearing a ban, will foment religious extremism while politicians say it is needed to preserve the country's cherished separation of religion and state. The issue is all the more thorny because the Muslim community in France is large and growing at some five million, the largest in western Europe. President Jacques Chirac returned the long-running topic to the political front burner by appointing a blue-ribbon panel of French intellectuals to study the broader issue of French secularism and recommend whether new laws are needed to defend it. The 20-person panel, headed by national mediator Bernard Stasi, will report to the president by the end December 2003. Its proposals are to provide the basis for an eventual decision on the head -scarf issue.

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News Community Roundup Countdown for Hajj Editorial Features Response Features Readers Comments Insights Trends & Traditions guidelines Muslim Perspectives Living Islam Journey To Islam Children's Corner Our Dialogue Quran Speaks to You Hadith Matrimonial Jobs Archives Feedback Subscription Links Calendar Contact Us

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