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Islamic Voice Logo

DECEMBER 1999

MONTHLY    *    Vol 13-12 No:156    *   DECEMBER 1999/ Ramadan 1420H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

NEWS FROM ISLAMIC WORLD


Cyberspace : Muslims urged to face new Challenges
Islam Second Largest Religion in Europe
No Fatwa on Qur'an's Curative Power
Turks demand General's Head for Blasphemy
Islam Has No Relation With Extremism: Vatican
1,377 People Embrace Islam
'Don't give Indiscriminate Fatwas'
Syria: Cradle of Arab Art
Sana'a : Surviving Ravages of Time
Washing of Ka'abah
Haramain Foundation: Offering a Helping Hand
Chechnya: OIC Condemns air raids, calls for dialogue
Thailand Wants Islamic Bank
OIC Gearing up to launch Media Project
Islamic Art Exhibition
Qur'an in Sign Language
Curbs on Hijab in Tanzania
Inter-Religious Meet at Jakarta
Pak to Register Mosques
Cigarette Smoking On Rise In Muslim World
Bahrain Names Woman Envoy
'Interaction between Islam and West Growing'
Islam In The Land Of Rising Sun
Chechnya: OIC to Peaceful Solution
Rwanda Wakes Up To Islam
Spain Prevents Teaching Of Islam
IDB Fund to Promote Private Sector
Riyadh Population Four Million
New Mines of Gold in Saudi Arabia
Mosque Set Ablaze In Cyprus
Holland : Training Muslim Researchers
Millennium End: "No Basis for Doomsday"
4000 Year Old Palace in Syria
Interpreting Qur'an And 'Israiliyyat'
Acehnese Welcome Malaysia's Shariah Banking

Cyberspace : Muslims urged to face new Challenges

Jeddah, (IINA): The Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Dr. Azeddine Laraki has called upon the Muslim world to deal consciously and responsibly with the media by utilising the satellite channels of the various member states to their optimum. He emphasised the importance of Information Technology in a changing world. Addressing the fifth meeting of the Group of Experts On Studying the “Islamic Information and Cyberspace Project,” at the OIC Headquarters in Jeddah, Dr Laraki said the world is approaching a new era based mainly on information, in which issues of communication, especially media connected with space, will be of profound importance. OIC assistant Secretary General for Information, Cultural and Social Affairs, Ambassador Ibrahim Auf, recalled what he had highlighted on some other occasions that the limitation of Islamic media was not confined only to the inability of their mechanisms to handle the speed of the Muslims urged to face new Challenges flow of news and information which characterised foreign mass media, but also their failure to penetrate communication space of our age. He reminded the participants of the importance of activating elements of a strategy on communication space, adding that this was, in fact, finalisation of the work carried out by their colleagues for updating the mechanisms of the information strategy of the OIC member states and identifying the necessary priorities. The OIC Secretary General requested the maintenance of multilateral cooperation between information institutions and private mass media in the member states in order to achieve a well-planned joint action that would respond to the needs of the Islamic Ummah and realise a strong, effective and consistent presence in the space and domains of international communication and information in a fruitful and satisfactory manner.

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Islam Second Largest Religion in Europe

Supreme Council for European Muslims Mooted

Riyadh (IINA): Dr. Maneh Hammad Al-Johany, the secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), has called for the formation of a specialised committee comprising scholars, academicians, and intellectuals from among Muslim minorities in Europe. The objective of such a committee would be to study the situation of Muslims in European countries and plan a strategy for their future. Dr. Johany said this in a study which he prepared on “Muslim Minorities in Europe,” and among the proposals is the formation of a supreme council that should be made up of the various entities that are responsible for Islamic work in Europe. The objective should be to establish lines of cooperation, and determine the points of convergence of Muslims in Europe. He said the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) should have a role in the proposed council. Dr. Johany said the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) should also play the role of financier and supporter of Supreme Council for European Muslims Mooted various development projects, and also extend loans that would serve Islamic projects and help in the development of the Muslim minorities in the countries concerned. He also suggested the formation of an Islamic Trust that would have its headquarters in Makkah, and among its functions should be the building of Islamic centres, schools, youth clubs, and other social and cultural amenities for European Muslims. He also made several proposals calling for the participation of European Muslims in the political and social affairs of the countries they live in. Dr. Johany has revealed that the total Muslim population in the 40 European countries has reached 80,260,586, almost 10 per cent of the total population. He said Muslims now make up three-quarters of the total world population, that is, 15 per cent. Islam is the second largest religion in Europe, after Christianity, including Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians. The study also reveals that according to a census carried out in 1979, there were 43,395,000 Muslims in the former Soviet Union, spread over 37 nationalities and ethnic groups. The study also mentions the various Muslim nationalities, particularly the Turks who live in various parts of Eastern as well as Western Europe. The majority of unskilled workers in Europe are Muslims, which indicates that their economic status is at the lowest rung of the social ladder. The main problems facing the Muslims in Europe are ignorance, illiteracy (particularly with regard to their own religion) and the prevailing conditions in the European countries where they live. They also lack a body that would serve as a point of convergence, and that is mainly because of their differing educational and intellectual levels and backgrounds. Another problem is the lack of sufficiently qualified Dawa workers among the European Muslims, including those coming from some Muslim countries, and the fact that many of the Muslims are too busy in material pursuits to worry about such spiritual matters, says the study.

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No Fatwa on Qur'an's Curative Power

Cairo (IINA): Sheikh Sayyid Wafa, the chairman of the Fatwa Committee at Al-Azhar has decided that any pronouncement regarding the curative powers of the Holy Qur’an and matters related to superstitious beliefs should not be made in writing, rather a verbal pronouncement should suffice. He said many people, particularly those practising witchcraft, have been urging the committee to issue written verdicts on certain matters, their main aim being to use such Fatwa as evidence that what they were doing was right or sanctioned by the Shari’ah. The committee’s chairman also urged the media not to give undue publicity to such people because such publicity would unintentionally help the charlatans.

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Turks demand General's Head for Blasphemy

Istanbul, (IINA): A number of Muslim personalities and organisations in Turkey have demanded the resignation of Turkey’s General Yaltshen Ishimar, for insulting the Prophet (Pbuh) and his holy Companions while addressing the Military Medical Academy last September. Dr. Abdulrahman Qoul, a Member of Parliament, said that the general insulted the Muslim faith in his address, though it is the faith of 70,000,000 Turks. He said this was a blatant sacrilege against Islam, the Turkish people and is in flagrant violation of the internal military regulations. Dr. Qoul said the general’s act is a very dangerous precedent, and reflects the animosity toward Islam, which is harboured by a number of military men in Turkey. Several Turkish organisations continue to deprecate the general’s remarks and demand his immediate resignation. They demand that military men should desist from interfering in political and religious matters and confine themselves to their military duties.

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Islam Has No Relation With Extremism: Vatican

Rome (IINA): Cardinal Paul Popard, one of the aides of Pope John Paul II, has said that Islam has no relationship with extremism or violence, but it is posing a challenge to the West, because it is spreading fast in the world. He said Islam is a religion, a culture, and a way of life. The chairman of the Council of Churches (Culture) said over the centuries Islam has not changed, but on the other hand many Christians in Europe, faced with life’s pressures and other internal factors, have taken to marginalising the church, forgot the Christian fasting and are awed at the Muslims’ fasting during Ramadhan. He said Islam is making its presence felt in Europe.

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1,377 People Embrace Islam

Riyadh: 1,377 people of different nationalities embraced Islam in Saudi Arabia during 1998. The converts include 1,091 Christians, 233 Hindus and 53 Bhuddists. They are drawn from various countries of the world such as Australia, Europe, Africa, America and Asian countries. Those figures have been taken from statistical data published by the Saudi Ministry of Justice.

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'Don't give Indiscriminate Fatwas'

Jeddah (IINA): A number of scholars and sheikhs have made a ruling to the effect that making religious pronouncements without proper knowledge is not allowed as it is fraught with dangers and abominations. In a report published by “DAWA” magazine, they said doing such a thing would have an adverse effect on the doer, for Allah has compared any talk about Him without knowledge as tantamount to blasphemy. Sheikh Muhammad bin Saleh Al-Otheimin has stressed that it is not proper for anyone to make a pronouncement without being equipped with absolute knowledge that it is what Allah has wished. He added that one should be well versed in both the Holy Book and the Prophet’s Sunnah in order to make a religious pronouncement. Sheikh Otheimin said the Mufti is supposed to be speaking on behalf of Allah and is the conveyor of what the Prophet (Pbuh) said. So if he were to utter something of which he has no knowledge he must be prepared for the consequences that might follow, as provided for in the Holy Qur’an. For his part, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Mutlaq said, according to the Holy Book and the Prophet’s Sunnah one should never make a pronouncement without proper knowledge, saying that whoever does so is not only sinning or misleading the people, but also doing something that is contrary to what Allah and His Prophet have enjoined. Sheikh Abdulmuhsin Al-Bakr said it must be understood by all that the position of the Fatwa is a dangerous one as well as an honourable one, and that is why whoever takes up the task of issuing such pronouncements must be not only knowledgeable but also his knowledge must be intensive as well as extensive. Sheikh Kassim Al-Dhawahiri said that to say something pertaining to God without proper knowledge was a great sin and a malicious conduct, and has something to do with the Devil and against the edicts of the Prophet (Pbuh)

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Syria: Cradle of Arab Art

Damascus (IINA): Syria’s National Museum is preserving about 5,000 important glass items of intrinsic historical value, including plates, rings and Kohl applicators of various eras, that were made by Syrian craftsmen. They were the first to practise this art of decorating glass, and other countries then copied the craft. Syria is considered the cradle of handicrafts, and others, particularly the elite in various societies, keenly sought the items made by its craftsmen. The Syrians also became expert weavers of wool and silk, and it was from this country that this industry was copied by the West, in such places as Granada and Seville in Spain. Syria also became famous for its cloth, particularly that known as “Barukar,” which Syria has been making for thousands of years, and also the “Damasco” weave, and numerous other textile and textile-related crafts. The Syrians are also famous for gold and silver craftsmanship, and the mosaic that is decorating the Umayyad Mosque. Syrian craftsmen also became famous for making paint that withstands both hot and cold weather, and is not affected by termites or any of the other vermin that attack paint - the most famous of Syrian paint is known as “AJAMI.” The Syrians also learnt to work with copper and brass from ancient times and some of their copper and brass items, chandeliers, mugs, gilded swords and daggers have become a collector’s pride. It is said that one of the Roman emperors built a weapon-making factory in Syria, a clear indication that the Syrians were also good at this craft. The young generation of Syrians is also learning the ancient crafts, and many are encouraged by the government to learn and practise them.

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Sana'a : Surviving Ravages of Time

Sana'a's Old City

Sana’a (IINA): Sana’a’s Old City, with its unique structures and interwoven palaces represents an ancient milestone in Arab and Islamic civilisation. Even before the advent of Islam, Sana’a had become a well-known trading route and one of the important Arab markets, and after Islam it continued to be a well-known trading post. Although Sana’a has seen different eras of Muslim rulers, the city’s architecture still reminds one that it is an expression of the Islamic society and its customs and cultural traditions. After the advent of Islam new milestones were added to it, such as the Grand Mosque that was built by the Companion of the Prophet (Pbuh) called Muadh bin Jabal, on instructions from the Prophet (Pbuh). The Old City also has a wall 7-metre tall surrounding it, but of its many gates the only one that remains is the “Yemen Gate.” The wall is now undergoing repairs, for it is something that has really added to the beauty of the city. In Sana’a there are many craftsmen who have inherited their crafts from their fathers and forefathers, such as goldsmiths, silversmiths, makers of leather goods, and numerous other crafts, and it is said that at least 31 percent of the city’s population still practise such crafts. The houses and other structures in the city are mostly decorated with beautiful colours and inscriptions, and this includes some mosques. In general, there are efforts on the part of both the government and the people to preserve the Islamic imprint of the city and to protect its buildings from falling into a state of decay.

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Washing of Ka'abah

Ka'abah

Makkah (IINA): The first ceremonial washing of the Ka’abah was done by Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) when, after his conquest of Makkah, he walked into the Ka’abah and cleansed it of all the idols that were inside. Since then, this has become an annual event, which all the succeeding rulers of Makkah have been observing to this very day. As for the Saudi government, the ceremonial washing of the Holy Ka’abah is done twice a year, with the first washing being done in the month of Sha’aban and the second one in the month of Dhul Hijja. The washing is done with Zamzam water and a variety of other perfumes, and is usually carried out by the Emir of Makkah region, and attended by a coterie of Muslim scholars, Sheikhs, Imams of the Grand Mosque, ambassadors from Muslim countries, and many others. The head of the caretakers of the Grand Mosque, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Sheiby, who also holds the Ka’abah’s key for safe-keeping, said that inside the Ka’abah there are a number of wooden colonnades that support its roof, and a stairway leading to the top. There also is a small box in which various paraphernalia, such as perfumes, relating to the ceremonial washing of the Ka’abah are kept, in addition to a number of ancient lanterns that hang from its ceiling. Sheikh Abdul Aziz said the Ka’abah also has a ceremonial key, and this key was handed to the ancestor of the Sheiby clan by the Prophet himself, with the instruction that they should retain custody of the key forever, and this is what has happened.

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Haramain Foundation: Offering a Helping Hand

Riyadh, (IINA): The Haramain Charitable Foundation which has its headquarters at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, takes care of 4,500 orphans in 33 countries, and is also sponsoring 3,000 Imams and Dawah activists. The foundation is now active in 50 countries, in some of which it has its own offices, while in others it merely has representatives. Last year the foundation spent a sum of nearly SR 5,000,000 in Saudi Arabia alone. Sixty-four per cent of this amount was spent on the construction and maintenance of mosques, 23 per cent in giving aid to the poor and needy, nine per cent used for helping students with scholarships to attend a university in the Kingdom, and four per cent was used for miscellaneous purposes. Foundation’s headquarters would soon be shifted to more spacious premises in Riyadh. The Haramain Foundation has four Internet websites, which get about 4,000 hits daily, while its Dawah booklets that have been distributed exceed 11,000,000, and are in different languages. The Haramain Foundation is also involved in relief activities in various parts of the world, such as Bangladesh, Burma, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Kosovo, among others, and in this connection it has spent over SR2,000,000. It is also involved in helping the needy in some countries of Asia and Africa. It also distributed 94,000 carcasses of sacrificial meat and 80,000 blankets, plus 60,000 other articles of winter clothing for the needy among Muslim communities. The Haramain Charitable Foundation was founded in 1991 in Saudi Arabia with the main objective of helping Muslims in various parts of the world, and affirming Islam in the hearts of its adherents, in addition to providing succour and relief during their hour of need.

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Chechnya: OIC Condemns air raids, calls for dialogue

Jeddah, (IINA): Dr Azeddine Laraki, the secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) has been closely following the bloody events in Chechnya since the beginning of the Russian bombardment of that country. Dr Laraki said the air raids and rocket attacks carried out by the Russians in populated areas and killing hundreds of fleeing innocent civilians calls for condemnation, because there is no way one can call such action as a fight against terrorism and justify it. The secretary-general also said that the differences between Russia and Chechnya cannot be solved by the use of force and the indiscriminate bombing, nor by besieging towns and villages and destroying the infrastructure. He said the only way to solve the problem is through dialogue and discussion, so that there is peace and stability in Chechnya and in the Caucasian region as a whole.

Millions Homeless: The medical clinic that was set up by the Jeddah-based International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO) in Ingushetia is facing a lot of pressure from the sick and wounded who are fleeing the fighting in Chechnya, particularly in view of the fact that their number has now swollen to 148,000 refugees, and still continues to rise. In any single day, over 14,000 cross the border, trying to get away from the fighting. IIRO’s Secretary-General Dr. Adnan Khalil Basha, said reports reaching his organisation indicate the flood of refugees is increasing by the day and that Ingushetia cannot deal with the problem, because it is itself a poor country, and this has contributed to their miseries. He said what the refugees need most are food relief, blankets, clothes, medicine and tents, because at the moment most of them are sleeping in the open and have little or nothing to cover their bodies with.

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Thailand Wants Islamic Bank

Thailand: A group of Malaysian representatives will visit Thailand soon for helping the Thai government set up the first Islamic bank here, Deputy Secretary to Thai Prime Minister Thanin Chaisamutr said.

Thanin told TNA that Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad had authorised four representatives from Bank Negara, the Malaysian Central Bank, to visit Thailand to discuss the issue. The group will meet Thai Finance Minister Tarrin Nimmanahaeminda and other Finance Ministry senior officials, as well as high-level representatives of the government Saving Bank and Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives to exchange views and discuss feasibility and prospect of the establishment of the first Islamic Bank in Thailand, he stated.

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OIC Gearing up to launch Media Project

Jeddah, (IINA): The panel of experts who have been assigned the task of studying the feasibility of the “Islamic Media and Space” project by the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) has made several recommendations, among them the utilisation of the materials that are available to the media organs in Muslim countries, and also to increase their output of news on both radio and television regarding the achievements jointly made by Muslims. Another recommendation concerns the support which the experts urged should be given to the two media organs of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), namely the International Islamic News Agency (IINA) and the Islamic Broadcasting Organisation (ISBO). As for satellite transmission, the experts called for the formation of a committee made up of senior officials of government television stations in member countries, and their counter-parts in private stations, who should then discuss coordination of their joint efforts. The objective of this exercise would be to put in place an Islamic plan that would enable the Islamic media to establish its existence in the annals of satellite transmission on an international level, in a better and bigger way. The recommendations made by the experts would then be presented to the Ministers of Information’s meeting that is scheduled to be held in the Iranian capital, Teheran, during the current month.

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Islamic Art Exhibition

Toronto: The Islamic Art and Science Committee of Canada held a 22-day exhibition in the Scarborough civic centre have from October 3. The Toronto Arts council also collaborated in the event. The exhibition displayed handicrafts, paintings, calligraphy plaques, posters, charts explaining Islamic tenets, history and Muslim contribution to science and art.

Among the organisers were Musa Rexa, Ali Reza Rejai, Dr. Fazil, Mubeen Khwaja and Rahmatullah. Free literature on Islam was presented to the visitors on the occasion while Toronto mayor and Ontario governor sent messages.

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Qur'an in Sign Language

Cairo: The work on producing Qur’an into sign language for the use of deaf and dumb people is nearing completion by the Anti-Disability Society in Egypt. According to president Ahmed Yunus, this would help 25 million Muslims world over in understanding the Qur’an. The 10 segments would record the Qur’an on 30 video-tapes and would be put on computer and internet.

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Curbs on Hijab in Tanzania

Dar-es-salam: Parents of Muslim girl students in the Morogoro region of Tanzania have lodged a complaint against officials and teachers in the region who forbid the students from wearing the Islamic dress Hijab during class. They said this is contrary to the decree issued by the country’s President allowing the Hijab. They said that their girls are not allowed to even enter the school premises, if they are wearing the Hijab. They said they did talk to the education officials in the region, but it was futile, and that is why they have decided to lodge their complaint with the senior officials at the Ministry of Education, and demand that the President’s directive be implemented.

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Inter-Religious Meet at Jakarta

Jakarta (IINA): Indonesia will hold an international conference in January 2000 with the aim of creating a channel for dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews. Announcing this, Indonesia’s foreign minister, Alwy Shihab, said his country’s President Abdulrahman Wahid has been thinking of just such a conference for a long time now.

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Pak to Register Mosques

Lahore: The government of Pakistan’s Punjab province has decided to get registered all the mosques and religious institutions. According to sources, Imams and Khateebs, who had obtained training from Auqaf department, will be appointed in the mosques to impart primary education to children in mosques. These Imams and Khateebs would be government employees and get salary as well as promotion, the sources said.

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Cigarette Smoking On Rise In Muslim World

Cairo (IINA): While cigarette smoking has gone down in Europe, in many Arab and Muslim countries the habit is on the rise. In the United States, tobacco companies pay to the government a sum of US$320 billion annually as compensation for those suffering from diseases brought about by smoking. Cigarette sales in the world have gone down from US$595 trillion to US$561 trillion this year. Saying this, the dean of the medical corps in Egypt, Dr. Himdi Al-Sayyid, said that while the sales of cigarettes have declined in Europe and the United States, in Arab countries the habit is still on the rise. He added that an average of one person dies every two minutes as a result of smoking. He said the number of smokers in Egypt stands at six million. Dr. Al-Sayyid said the hookah is even worse than cigarette smoking, and among the diseases caused by smoking the hookah are TB, cancer, cardio vascular diseases, and impotence. Other diseases caused by hookah-smoking are gum diseases, lung diseases, and one’s intelligence is also affected, he said, adding that even cigarette smoking causes many of these diseases, including infertility in both men and women. He said in Egypt there are 74,000 children below the age of ten who are smoking, adding that even scholars have declared that cigarette smoking is forbidden in Islam, and not just discouraged, since its harmful effects have already been publicised by doctors.

Dr. Al-Sayyid said while in the West the habit is being discarded, it is on the increase in the Arab world, and therefore there should be a consistent campaign to publicise the harmful effects of smoking. He said many women have taken to hookah smoking in their homes, and this is a catastrophe that is playing havoc with the Muslim Ummah.

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Bahrain Names Woman Envoy

Manama: The government of Bahrain has chosen a prominent woman lawyer as the first Bahraini woman ambassador, official sources said. The sources said Shaikh Hayya bin Rashid Al Khalifa will be posted in France. The appointment is part of the reforms launched by the Amir of Bahrain Shaikh Hammad bin Isa Khalifa.

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'Interaction between Islam and West Growing'

AbuDhabi: Cultural organisations and educational establishments have a pivotal role to play in establishing a better understanding of Islam in the West, according to a leading expert on the subject, Dr Peter Clark, OBE. Dr. was one of the guests at a one-day seminar on Islam and West in the New Millennium, organised by the Research and Studies Administration of the Crown Prince’s Court, which was attended by Prince Charles earlier this week (3rd Week of Nov-99). The heir to the UK throne’s efforts to establish a dialogue between Islam and the West were widely praised by UAE leaders during his four day visit to the country. Dr Clark said it was important that discussions on the subject continue into the next millennium, with organisations such as the British Council and universities taking practical steps to bridge the gap between Islam and the West. A former director of the British Council in Abu Dhabi and Cultural Attache at the British Embassy, Dr. Clark, now runs his own consultancy called Middle East Cultural Advisory Services. He was the organiser of a conference entitled: Mutualities — Britain and Islam, which was attended by representatives from 36 countries including Dr Ezzadin Ibrahim, Cultural Adviser to the Presidential Court in Abu Dhabi. There have been conferences on the subject in the past for a number of years, and things are moving from confrontation to exploring areas of common ground and common interest , said Dr. Clark, who worked for the British council for 31 years. “I don’t think we overplay the fact that there are all sorts of interesting things going on in the UAE and England. In sport, for example there is a Sharjah Cricket festival and the England captain is a Muslim. Britain can hardly be Islamophobic when the cricket captain is a Muslim. Dr Clark said there are now 1.5 million Muslims in the U.K, representing three per cent of the population and the number is steadily growing. It is hoped there will be a series of further discussions on joint activities. One interesting point is that English has emerged as an auxiliary language of Islam and the most heard language during the Haj.” Dr Clark also pointed out to the high level of investment in British institutions by the Islamic businessmen. Some people want polarisation, but there is so much interaction between Islam and the West that the talk of polarisation becomes irrelevant, he said.

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Islam In The Land Of Rising Sun

Tokyo (IINA): Muslims in Japan have done their best in spreading Dawah and in guiding their fellow Muslims and improving their lives, through the activities of not less than 100 Muslim societies and associations in the country. There are numerous mosques spread all over Japan, and where none exists, prayer areas are improvised for the purpose of worship. The Tokyo Mosque was built in 1938, though this was preceded by the one in Kobe. Another mosque is at the New Institute in Tokyo, and this was built by the Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University, in Riyadh. The Islamic Center of Japan functions as a religious organisation that seeksto raise the standard of Muslims in the country, at the same time striving to promote mutual cooperation between members of the Muslim community in the country. The center also has long-standing relations with the Shoao University in Tokyo. Professor Sanau, Dean of the Law College at the university, has written a book on how the Islamic Shari’ah is more acceptable than common law, and how the Japanese need Islam as a religion. He also explains what and how Muslims in other parts of the world can do to present Islam to the people of Japan. The center also dispatches lecturers to various Japanese universities and to other non-Muslim communities to explain what Islam is all about and give them any information they may seek on this faith. The response to Islam in Japan is very great, for hardly a day passes when not less than 50 non-Muslims embrace Islam, who are then trained in Islamic practices.

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Chechnya: OIC to Peaceful Solution

Jeddah (IINA): The Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), Dr. Ezzedine Laraki, has called upon Russia to solve the Chechnya problem through an objective dialogue. He said: “The problem has turned into a humanitarian catastrophe that concerns every Muslim, wherever he may be.” The Secretary-General urged Russia to look at the matter from the humanitarian point of view, and that this would be for the good of both Chechnya and Russia. He said the issue couldn’t be resolved by a military invasion. Laraki said he received a letter from the Russian leadership, through that country’s ambassador in Riyadh, in which they tried to justify their military action, but he told the Russian envoy that he was not convinced. He said he told the diplomat that Muslims throughout the world have been psychologically affected and pained by events in Chechnya, particularly by the rendering of people homeless and harming the elderly, women and children. He said Russia was always regarded as a friendly country, and its stance vis-á-vis Arab and Islamic issues had invariably been positive.

MWL Support: The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Abdullah Saleh Al-Obeid, has appealed to all Muslim countries, organisations, and people to show solidarity with the people of Chechnya. He said they are the victims of incessant Russian attacks that have rendered them refugees.

The Yemeni Committee for the Support of Arab and Islamic Issues has also announced its solidarity with the Muslim people of Chechnya in confronting the attacks by Russia. The committee said the number of Chechen refugees who are now in Ingushetia has reached 150,000, and is increasing by the day.

Red Crescent Appeal: Meanwhile, both the International Red Crescent and Red Cross societies have appealed to the world as a whole to contribute a sum of Swiss Franks 18,000,000, in order to finance relief activities for thousands of Chechnya’s victims of the fighting that is raging there. The society has put in place a plan to provide succour to 150,000 of the victims during the winter season (November - March, 2000).

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Rwanda Wakes Up To Islam

Kigali (IINA): The Muslim Association of Rwanda is doing everything possible within its means to help new Muslims in learning more about the faith they have chosen, and the practices that are enjoined by it, such as circumcision, the eating of Halal food, the mode of dress, and other related matters. Islam entered Rwanda in 1901, through Arab merchants, and then from 1908 there followed several waves of Muslim immigrations during the period of German colonisation of the country. The first mosque to be built in Rwanda was built in 1913. But it was not easy for Islam to spread in Rwanda, because there was no studied plan for such work to be done, and the successive colonial powers did not make matters any easier. For example, the first Muslim school was built in 1957, but was confiscated by the authorities, though it was returned to the Muslim community in 1997. Rwanda gained its independence in 1962, and though the new rulers recognised Islam as such, there still are stumbling blocks that were and are being put in the way of the educational advancement of Muslims in the country, and the image of Islam as such is very much distorted. However, things took a different turn after the 1995 civil war that led to the death of more than half a million Rwandans, but in which the Muslims had not taken any part. From that time the picture of Islam in the minds of the Rwandans took a 360 degrees turn, and from then on the authorities in the country started to allow Muslims to expand their propagation activities and to teach Rwandans about Islam.

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Spain Prevents Teaching Of Islam

Ceuta & Melila: (IINA): The Muslim Committee in the occupied Melila city has accused the Spanish government of preventing the teaching of Islamic studies in the city’s educational institutions when it turned down the list of teachers who would undertake the teaching of this subject to about 4,800 Muslims students. The chairman of the committee, Ahmed Mawh, has said that the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culturehas made it a condition that the teachers should obtain an equivalent certificate as per the requirement of the educational system in Spain. He said he regarded this condition as a ruse used by the Spanish authorities to deny the Muslims students knowledge in this subject, contrary to an agreement that was reached in 1992 for the inclusion of this subject in the curricula of the schools. It may be noted that Ceuta and Melila are Spanish occupied islands with predominant Muslim population.

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IDB Fund to Promote Private Sector

Jeddah: The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has decided to set up a one billion dollar corpus fund to promote the private sector in member states, its chief said. IDB chairman Ahmad Mohammmed Ali said 25 member states signed an agreement setting up the body at the end of the IDB board meeting in Jeddah held recently. The Islamic private sector development corporation will be an active arm of IDB in activating the bank’s role in promoting economic and social development, the official Saudi Press Agency quoted Ali as saying. He said the agreement would go into effect as soon as four member states, including Saudi Arabia, which hosts the IDB , approved the deal. Dr. Mohammed Khalfan bin Kharbash, UAE Minister for Financial and Industrial Affairs, said the IDB would focus on financing private sector development in Islamic states. The IDB said it would contribute $ 500 million to the new corpus fund. The other half billion is expected to come from other Islamic banks. The IDB was set up in 1975 as part of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to promote trade between Islamic states. It funds economic development in member states and Muslim communities in non-member states. The Jeddah meeting was attended by finance ministers and representative of 53 countries.

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Riyadh Population Four Million

Riyadh: The Saudi capital Riyadh's population is on the verge of touching four million, and has an estimated annual growth rate of 8.1 per cent, the Riyadh Development Board said.

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New Mines of Gold in Saudi Arabia

Jeddah: New gold mines have been found in Hajar and Asir zones of Saudi Arabia. They are likely to yield 22 tons of gold. Another new gold mine at Al-Zalam near Taif too is likely to be reopened. According to the US Geological Survey which is surveying the mines, the gold deposits in these mines were 550 to 850 million years old. The Survey is assessing the commercial viability of these deposits.

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Mosque Set Ablaze In Cyprus

Larnaca (IINA): Vandals recently set fire to four spots in the historic Hala Sultan Mosque, situated in the south of Cyprus. Later, the Cypriot police interrogated 12 people, but did not detain anyone. The Turkish Cypriot Government on the other hand does everything possible to protect churches from any harm, and the church prayers are conducted by Greek bishops, in complete safety and security. What is even more galling is that the Greek Cypriot government allows women tourists to enter mosques wearing short dresses, while such mode of dress is not allowed in the Vatican and in churches.

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Holland : Training Muslim Researchers

Rotterdam, (IINA): Dr. Muhammad Harb, Deputy President of the Rotterdam Islamic University in Holland, has said that through its three colleges, the university is trying to qualify cadres of Muslim researchers among the third generation of Muslim Dutch people. The three colleges are the College for Islamic Studies, College of Comparative Religion, and the College of Eastern Languages. The aim is to create a cadre of European Orientalists who are equipped with Islam as a creed. He pointed out that the three colleges operate under a curriculum that meets the needs of the Muslims in the European environment. The Deputy President of the Rotterdam Islamic University welcomed the idea of coordinating and cooperation with the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL) in the field of education, particularly Islamic studies. He said this would enable them to prepare their Muslim students to understand better the concepts of Islam and enable them to confront the anti-Islam elements in their societies.

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Millennium End: "No Basis for Doomsday"

Makkah, (IINA): The Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL) has warned against claims that the world would come to an end on the advent of the new millennium, as asserted by some people who say that they have gleaned this from the Torah, the Bible, the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah. The warning said that these days some people who claim the ability to see the future, basing their assertions on the stories of the awaited Mahdi and the Second Coming of Jesus (may Allah bless him), have taken it upon themselves to set a date for the world’s end. The fact is that there is no truth whatsoever in such assertions. The MWL pointed out that knowledge springs from reliable sources, Fiqh academies, and scholars who are deeply immersed in Allah’s Shari’ah, and these are the people from whom one should take his cue and glean right knowledge.

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4000 Year Old Palace in Syria

Damascus: Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a royal palace believed to be 4000 years old near Damascus, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported. It said ‘highly valued ruins’ were discovered by a joint German, Italian and Syrian expedition in Qatanah, about 12 miles southwest of the Syrian capital. The palace dates back to 2000 BC, the news agency said. It did not give a more precise year or say which ruler built it. Government officials in charge of archaeology were not immediately available for comment. Historians believe that the Amorites, who came form the Arabian peninsula around 2100 B.C. were the first important Semitic settlers in the area, and that they established many small states. The palace contains a throne hall that is 70 feet by 132 feet with 6 foot high adobe walls, the agency said. In the centre of the hall, an unbroken jar with ‘amazing decoration’ was found stuck to the ground, the agency said. The archaeologists also discovered houses with clay jars and basalt tools for grinding grain. Weights and spindles were found in one house. More than 30 human footprints in the yard of one the houses were found in addition to nine tombs scattered in different places.

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Interpreting Qur'an And 'Israiliyyat'

Cairo (IINA): The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Egypt is actively discussing the elimination of the possibility of the entry of what is known as “Israiliyyat,” in translations of the Holy Qur’an. These are inferences that are of doubtful origin that some times find their way in translations of the Holy Book, and they are initiated with sinister motives. So far the council has succeeded in eliminating a lot of such snippets from the translations, and Dr Muhammad Alsaadi Farhood, former chancellor of Al-Azhar, who is also chairman of Qur’an Affairs and Sciences Committee of the council told IINA that the committee is still continuing its work in going through the Qur’an translations and removing such impurities from them.

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Acehnese Welcome Malaysia's Shariah Banking

Banda Aceh, Sumatra (ANTARA/IINA): The people of Aceh have warmly welcomed the implementation of the Shariah (Islamic Law) banking practice by 11 national banks maintaining branch offices in the troubled Indonesian province. “This is a positive idea, and all Acehnese will welcome the move,” said Bank Indonesia (central bank) Deputy Governor Subardjo Joyosumarto and Dean of Shariah Faculty of the Ar-Raniry Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN), Muhammad Sulaiman.

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