Dhu'l-Qa'dah / Zil-Hijjah 1423 H
Volume 16-02 No : 194
Camps \ Workshops
We may not believe in clash of civilisations, but Muslims who have migrated to the West do seem to betray some conflict between the culture they have inherited from their native lands and the Western lifestyle.
Here we translate a dialogue between a Somali woman and the manager of the Islamic Centre in Ilford, a London neighbourhood. The Somali woman is seeking permission to use the Centre premises for a marriage function beyond the permitted limit of 11 pm.
Somali Lady: We booked this function hall in order that this being a premises managed by Muslims would lend us some concession in matters of payment and timings.
Manager: We cannot allow any concession. You will have to tell the guests that the hall would be closed at 11 p.m.
Somali Lady: This is an occasion for marriage. Ours guests would be arriving from far off places and it would be difficult to tell them that they have to depart and vacate the hall at 11 p.m.
Manager: Laws have certain limits. Tell your guests to come on time and depart on time.
Somali Lady: You should understand our difficulties. We have all come from a nomadic society where people cannot be convinced that marriage functions would be so abruptly ended.
Manager: That does not make much difference. I too am from a Pakistani village and came here 40 years ago. Whenever I return to my village, I find that functions continue endlessly. But I strictly stick to timings in cities.
Somali Lady: But Mr. Chowdhury, allowing one more hour does not make any difference.
Manager: It does make a great deal of difference. This is a residential locality. It is necessary for us to consider people’s comfort and convenience. If we continue to use this hall after 11 pm, somebody from the locality might take a snap and take us to the court with the photographic proof. Indeed, we have been dragged to the court at least twice during my tenure of 11 years. Once the court was told that the owners of the premises are Muslims and they do not have much consideration for timings. Now you tell us if you would like to avail of the concession in the name of Islam?
(This dialogue has been translated from Asad Ali Chowdhury’s article on BBC.urdu.com by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj)
It would be fair to say that the most important invisible figure on American television is Prophet Muhammad, (Pbuh) the seventh-century prophet who founded Islam. Even many educated PBS viewers know very little of his story, yet his legacy is felt in some form every day in the United States as well as in the rest of the world.
September 11, 2001, sharpened the nation’s scrutiny of Islam, but it did not spawn a thoughtful, comprehensive television biography of Muhammad himself. It is a significant lapse, as if Muslims were to study Christianity without any notion of how Jesus lived and died.
PBS filled the gap with a two-hour documentary, “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet.” It evocatively, if sparingly lays out the biographical material unfamiliar to most Americans: Muhammad’s childhood as an orphan in Makkah, his marriage to a wealthy widow, his visions of the Angel Gabriel, his military battles and his victory over Arab paganism. Perhaps understandably, given the climate after September 11, the film also seeks to reassure viewers who fear a link between the Quran and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Steering viewers away from considering terrorism, the filmmakers illustrate Muhammad’s teachings by focusing on a cosy, comforting portrait of Muslim communities in America. The documentary, prepared by KQED/San Francisco, was created and produced by Michael Wolfe and Alexander Kronemer and produced and directed by Michael Schwarz. Wolfe, the author of “The Hajj: An American’s Journey to Mecca” , is a convert to Islam who first proposed the project to Schwarz three years ago. Some of the academics recruited to help narrate the story are so eager to banish stereotypes about Islam that they sound like missionaries, not historians. Karen Armstrong, a former nun who wrote a biography of Prophet Muhammad, dismisses critiques of Muslim practices like polygamy or the veil in a authoritative British accent Explaining that Prophet Muhammad sanctioned polygamy to protect war widows, Armstrong sounded unassailable. “It was an act of faith, not an act of lust that inspired men to take more wives,” she declares.
For all its tiptoeing through history, however, the documentary is well worth watching both as the first serious attempt to tell the story of Prophet Muhammed on television and also as a testimony to the hypersensitivity of our times.
(Compiled by Abdul Alim, email@example.com from the New York Times. The documentary was screened on PBS on December 18, 2002.
Dubai: “The Western media is only looking at a minority which they think represents Islam. The press needs to look elsewhere and they will find a vast majority of Muslims who want a good life, a peaceful life and a happy life. We don’t want to be fought for our religion,” said Yusuf Islam, formerly the international pop star, Cat Stevens. He was responding to a question by Gulf News on the viewpoint of Western nations that ordinary Muslims are not doing enough to stop the hijacking of their religion by extremists.
He said he is working with schools in the UK and in some countries, to develop broad curricula, which will include all knowledge, but with the guidance of the Quran and the Sunnah. “The problem is that many Muslims have not really studied or understood the depth of the Quran,” he said, adding “that there is no competition between faith and science. Only when you see the miracle of life can you understand the Divine Creator.” “The West, if you like, in many cases has gone too far in the over-indulgence of the senses,” he said. “Music is one of the things which delights people. But it should be used with wisdom.”
“If you look back into the history of Islam, hundreds of years ago, they used to teach the principles of Islam through the learning of ‘Qasaidh (through singing in the poem form). It is an easy way for children to learn. It is not going to displace anything, but is going to help complement it in what we believe is an important education mission.
There are increasing fears that a US attack on Iraq will be exploited by Al-Qaida to carry out terrorist outrages and thereby widen the gulf between Muslims and non-Muslims. However India, with the second largest Muslim population in the world, has not been penetrated by Al-Qaida. Our Muslim population, by and large has been free from extremism, whatever terrorist violence has occurred here is largely attributable to the machinations of the intelligence agency of our neighbour, ,various terrorist organisations sponsored by it and their links with organised crime in this country. India’s seeming immunity to Al-Qaeda has attracted international attention and is attributed to the fact that ours is a democratic and secular polity. In 1947, when the issue arose before India’s Islamic community as to how to define India, it was accepted that while India was not Darul Islam (land of Islam), it was also not Darul Harb (land of discord), since the free practice of Islam was in no way hindered. That Pakistan had to resort to cross-border infiltration and send in Pakistani and Afghan mujahideen to carry out terrorist outrages in the Muslim majority State of Jammu and Kashmir, is proof that there is little support for pan-Islamism among Indian Muslims. The people in Jammu and Kashmir are aware that most of the Kashmiri casualities, almost all Muslims were victims of terrorists from across the border, claiming to act in the name of Islam. Even as the international community braces itself for the consequences of any unilateral action against Iraq and its fall-out, India needs to evolve a pro-active strategy highlighting the Indian Muslims’ disavowal of jehadi doctrines and practice. Regrettably, this issue has not received the attention it deserves. On the other hand, sections of the Sangh Parivar have sought to identify Indian Muslims with Pakistan and tried to create a divide for electoral reasons. Such a divide is precisely what Pakistan’s ISI has been trying hard to create. Those who promote divisiveness are playing straight into the hands of Pakistan. The coming months are likely to be crucial. International developments and their impact on us will put our secularism and pluralism to an acid test. New Delhi should start formulating an anticipatory strategy, perhaps by convening a meeting of the National Integration Council to consider how to deal with the fall-out of possible Al-Qaida responses to an attack on Iraq.
Editorial in Times of India dated December 31, 2002.
January 15, 2003 to February 15, 2003 is the time for the Dubai Shopping Festival in sun-drenched Dubai, where modern day sophistication blends with the simplicity of a bygone era. Newspapers in India raked in huge revenues bringing out glossy supplements on the occasion. One mainstream Daily said, “Destination Dubai- Taste of Arabia with cosmopolitan style, clean beaches, crime-free environment, shopper’s paradise.” While another Daily in the Capital city presented the fact-file of Dubai under the title-”Dubai Dhamaka-Shop till you drop!” and concluded it with an unnecessary snippet on the nightlife-“Alcohol is available in Dubai, unlike many other Gulf states. Thursday and Saturday are the biggest nights for going out. Tuesdays and Sundays are often “ladies nights” with free drinks for women guests. Dress codes for bars are relaxed, although some bars and all clubs disallow jeans or sandals”. But not a single publication which brought out these glossy supplements cared to say a few nice words about Dubai’s mosques. Dubai’s Grand Mosque, rebuilt in 1998 to a height of 70 meters has the city’s tallest minaret. It has 45 large domes besides nine large ones boasting stained glass panels, making it a distinguished landmark. How can one forget the Jumeira Mosque, located on Al Jumeira Road which is the most beautiful of all mosques? The artistry of the mosque is best seen when its floodlit.
Since Eid-ul-Fitr, certain thoughts were lurking in the mind. I was thinking on writing on the subject, but feared harassment from the public. Eid-ul-Fitr, was on December 6, 2002. I learnt about the wailings of the Muslims on the anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Mosque which was also on December 6, 2002. I was in Itekaf during the last ten days of Ramadan. A friend of mine gave me some newspapers from where I gathered information that Muslims in different parts of the country celebrated December 6th as Black Day to display their sorrow at the demolition of the Babri Mosque. But it is sad that these very people desert the mosques when they fail to take the trouble of going to the mosque to offer their five times prayers. In many of the mosques, the Imam himself announces the azaan and thereafter goes back after performing namaz all alone. Recently I had to pass through Shimoga town. There is a mosque near the railway station. I went to the mosque around 1 pm, that is the time for zuhr. Neither namaz was offered in jamaat nor was the azaan said. This is only one example. There are Muslim houses close to the mosque. When non-Muslims demolish mosques or cause damage, they weep over it. But what is the use of weeping when Muslims do not perform their namaz and desert the mosques? There are few Muslims who are regular in their prayers, but in most villages and suburbs, prayers are not performed in the mosques in jamaat. There is also a ruling that if atleast three individuals in an area do not perform the namaz in jamaat, it opens the doors to the devil and is also a sin. Being an illiterate, I am unaware of what sin is and what punishment is. I can only pray to the Almighty Allah that he gives good sense to the Muslims that there is no point in getting sorrowful over a demolished mosque, when they do not practise the basics of offering namaz in jamaat in the mosques. Muslims today ought to realise that instead of mourning over their lost mosques, they should first step into the mosques that are existing instead of deserting them.
Khaled, Hegde Nagar, Bangalore.
(Courtesy: The Daily Salar, Jan 15, 2003, rendered into English by Maqbool Ahmed)
(Courtesy: The Hindustan Times)