NIAMEY: Muslim intellectuals from 28 countries called on governments to fight extremism and work to free women from traditional confinement.
Winding up a seminar by the United Nations Fund for Population (UNFPA) in the capital of Niger, around 100 delegates urged their leaders “to struggle against extremist trends which, in the name of Islam, preach confinement of women, and to apply a policy of equality in law between men and women.’’
The delegates, from Africa and Asia, recommended the introduction of Islamic family education and the need for governments to support morally and materially Islamic bodies working to uplift Muslim women. The seminar affirmed that Islam authorised the spacing of birth by legal means. It however added that Islam rejected the limitation of births. The scholars ruled that Islam permitted artificial insemination provided it was within the framework of marriage, i.e., transfer of husband’s sperm to wife’s ovary.
Family planning, as in some other Muslim countries, is a controversial subject Niger where 95 per cent of the population is Muslim. Some of Niger’s Islamic associations oppose contraception and accuse the authorities of inciting debauchery through popularising the pill and use of condoms.
Opening the seminar, Niger’s President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara said: “It is time for our predominantly Muslim societies to have a sound joint approach and healthy understanding of what the Quran and the Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad’s sayings ) suggest on burning topics such as reproductive health, family planning, the status of women.”
Niger has a birth rate of around 3.2 per cent, one of the world’s highest, while economic growth over the past few years has stagnated around three percent. Over the past five years Muslim a section of Muslims have been running a campaign against the country’s family planning policies which offer contraception to all adults and to minors who have parental consent.
Around a dozen Islamic associations have now come out in favour of a population policy espoused by the UNFPA and support activities backing family planning, said the Reuters.
Falls Church (in the neighbourhood of Washington D. C.):
Shoe manufacturer Nike Corp. began building a playground for Muslim children on November 22 and a bridge with the Islamic community — and making amends for one of its biggest marketing embarrassments, according to Washington Post.
Post staffer Alice Reid said about two years ago, Nike came up with a new shoe and emblazoned the rear edge of its sole with the word “Air” written in what looked like flames. The only problem was that the squiggly lines made the word look like Arabic script for the word Allah, and many Muslims object. Under threat of a worldwide boycott of its products by 1 billion Muslims, Nike recalled more than 38,000 pairs of the offending shoes last year. Now, the playground, to take shape at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Centre over the next two months, is part of the company’s agreement to include Muslim educational centres among the recipients of its $34 million annual community grant program.
“We wouldn’t have objected if the logo had been on a hat,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which protested the logo last year and negotiated the agreement with Nike. “But on shoes, it was very disrespectful.”
Now, working with the council, Oregon-based Nike is building playgrounds at the Falls Church Islamic Center, as well as other centres on the West Coast and in Michigan, company representatives said yesterday.
“We certainly never intended to offend,” said Nike spokesman Roy Agostino, who was on hand with other corporate representatives for the groundbreaking. “Our company has to be more vigilant and work more with communities on issues of sensitivity.”
Omar Ahmed, president of the council, said Dar Al-Hijrah in Falls Church had been chosen for the first of the Nike-built playgrounds because “this community is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse in the nation, with Somalis, Arabs, Egyptians, African Americans and whites,” he said.
The centre — one of the largest Washington area mosques — draws 1,200 worshipers to its Friday prayer services and enrolls 700 children, ages 4 to 14, in its weekend Muslim education programs. In 1992, there were barely 200 children attending the centre’s lessons in Arabic language and Qur’anic studies, school administrators said.
LONDON : An Islamic-Jewish Forum was set up here last October and has attained a membership of 150, according to Dr. Zaki Badawi, the Dean of London’ s Islamic College. He told IINA that the Forum was established with the cooperation of the “Maimunis” organization - Maimunis is the name of a Jewish philosopher who lived in Andalus (Spain) and wrote all his publications in Arabic. Muslims know him as Issa bin Maimun, but his place with the Jews is equivalent to that of Al-Ghazali to Muslims. Dr. Badawi said the Forum aims at improving the relations between the two sides by holding seminars, conferences, and lectures, to be held on a rotation basis.
Dr. Badawi went on to say: “The Forum has been set up as a result of cooperation between us and Khaliy, an Iraqi Jew who advocates Jewish indebtedness to Islam.” What is noteworthy is that Khaliy has in his possession the largest collection of Islamic artifacts, and only recently he held an exhibition at the University of London.
Dr. Badawi said: “Our objective is to publicise the forgiving nature of Islam and to tell the youth from both sides that Islam is not as it is portrayed,” adding,” this is our problem as Muslims, our religion is not adequately known in many parts of Europe, because of the weakness of our media vis-a-vis the hostile media.”
Dr. Badawi told IINA’s correspondent that the Jewish organization presented him with the manuscript of a book on Islam, which it is going to publish and distribute at its own expense. He has been requested to go through it and vouch for it.
JAKARTA : The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has said that Indonesia is still a promising country for investment by the Middle East businessmen, despite its current prolonged economic and political crises.
In this context, sixty leading entrepreneurs and investors from the Middle East will be meeting their Indonesian counterparts in Jakarta for talks about possible economic cooperation, Dr. Bashir Omar Fadlalla, IDB's advisor on business development, told reporters in the Indonesia capital.
"The IDB has paid special attention to developing projects in the private sector in its member countries," he said, adding that the bank provides member countries with a US$2.5 billion financing budget annually. Bashir, who was Finance Minister of Sudan before joining the IDB further said that the meeting would be mainly aimed at boosting mutually beneficial economic cooperation.
He said the bank has just initiated the business dialogue as its strong commitment to assist the country of more than 200 million people to get out of its current economic and political turmoil.
Also on hand at the press conference on the business meeting were Iwan Ponco from the state-run PT Danareksa Fund Management and Muchrim Hakim, President B.J. Habibie's special envoy for North Africa and the Middle East. Iwan Ponco from PT Danareksa Fund Management, which had recently received a US $ 100 million investment from the IDB, said the one-day business meeting is expected to produce a financing scheme to help Indonesian businessmen and their partners from the Middle East do business in the future.
The briefing was also attended by IDB Regional Office Director Muhammad Siddik, and former general manager of Bank Muamalat Indonesia (first Islamic bank of Indonesia), Zainul Baharnoor. (IINA-Antara)
TRIPOLI : Libya has set up a petrochemical industries complex at Ras El Anouf. It is considered as one of the largest oil complexes in Africa, for, its production capacity, except for the refinery, is about 961,000 tons a year. In this it depends for its raw material on products of the refinery.
The industries in the complex have already entered their production stage. Among them are the ethylene factory, the polythene, propylene, and the butane unit, etc. Also within this huge complex is a chain of other industries, such as two units each of methanol, urea and ammonium factories and a natural gas factory, with its immense production capacity. (IINA)
ABU DHABI : Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Naihayyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) donated UAE dirhams 12 million to the Sheikha Fatimah bint Mbarak Charity Award on December 12. The charity has decided to designate the new year the “Year of the Orphan,” and the sum donated will be dedicated to projects related to orphans, which will be implemented under the auspices of the Red Crescent Society, and will be distributed to all the charity organisations in the Emirates. (A UAE dirham is equivalent to four US dollars.)
Sheikh Zayed held a reception for 48 individuals and organizations that care for orphans. The reception was held during the second session of the award in Abu Dhabi. In his address to the gathering, Sheikh Zayed called for the affirmation of the values of compassion between members of the Muslim society, and to increase their keenness in doing charitable work
The UAE First Lady, Sheikha Fatima bint Mbarak, who is Honorary President of the Women’s Committee of the Red Crescent Society, for her part held a reception for the 65 women winners of her award for the care of the orphans. Sheikha Fatimah is also President of the General Women’s Union and the Association for the Awakening of Abu Dhabian Women.
The Red Crescent Society of the UAE is taking care of 3,927 orphans, among them 560 within the emirates and the rest in 12 other Muslim countries. (IINA)
TORONTO : The Canadian Islamic Congress has launched second major study of distortion of Islam and Muslim related in the Canadian media. The study covers one major French daily (La Presse), six major English dailies (The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The Ottawa Citizen, The National Post, The Toronto Sun, and The Montreal Gazette), plus four English TV programs. The Congress’ first media study that was released in September 1998, was one of the first such study to offer a methodological assessment of new coverage, editorials and cartoons. The study results have been used by the Canadian journalism schools, and have been covered by the media. Senior editors of Canadian media have received copies of the study and the Congress has made representations to editorial boards. (IINA)
AMSTERDAM : The Muslim Seniors Union in Holland serves the aged members of the community in the country by organizing their affairs. According to the Saudi daily Al- Daawa said the union was formed in 1993 in Holland as a local society and was officially recognised in 1996. At the moment it already has five regional offices and 25 branch offices, all of which act as bridge between the Muslim seniors and the rest of the Dutch society. The union has been following up the difficulties faced by the Muslim seniors in Holland and undertakes ameliorative measures in order that they lead an Islamic life within Islamic families. (IINA)
LONDON: Sabrina Sardar, 16, a Muslim teenager female working in McDonald fast food restaurant won a case asserting her right to wear headscarf on the job last October, said The Muslim News. Sabrina fought her case at the Industrial Tribunal on the grounds of sexual discrimination. Restaurant manager, Shazid Ansari and recruitment manager Khalid had pleaded that the wearing of headscarf was opposed because it came below shoulders and it could be trapped in the kitchen equipment or could catch fire. Sabrina said she was happy that she won the case which also gave the message that Muslims should fight when they were in situations like hers.
KUALA LUMPUR : Iran’s Muhammad Gandom Najat Toosi and Malaysia’s Swafiya Muhammad were declared first winners among men and women in the 40th International Qur’an Reading Contest held here last month. Second place went to Ahmed Mudai Bakri and Nurhayati Tahir, both from Indonesia in the two categories. The contest began on December 1, 1998 and the judges were drawn from Indonesia, Egypt, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Libya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia. Each of the winners received a trophy and a cash prize of Malaysian ringitt 10,000 for the first prize,7,000 for the second prize, and 5,000 for the third prize. The trophies were handed the awards by the King of Malaysia, Tunku Ja’afar.
CAIRO: The Scientific Heritage Centre of the Cairo University would place the famous letters written by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, on the Internet for permanent access. The letters were written by the Prophet to the then rulers, Caesar of Rome, Khusru of Persia, King Negus of Abyssinia and the King of the Egypt had contained the message of Islam and inviting them to embrace the religion of Islam. Director of the Centre, Hameed Abdel Al Raheim was quoted by the PTI as saying "Islam was a powerful religion from the beginning and would remain so." The rare letters carried the seal of the Prophet.
NIAMEY : An international Seminar on “The Writing of the Languages of Islamic Nations in the Arabic Script,” was held this capital city of Niger in the middle of December. The seminar was organised by the Islamic Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO), in conjunction with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). Participants were drawn from all walks of life, particularly those specialised in linguistics. This is in the framework of the cultural programme of he Islamic Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) that is pursuing the programme of re-writing of the languages of Islamic nations in the Arabic script. The first phase of the programme has achieved the objective of reverting 17 African languages to the Arabic script. This was done in cooperation with the IDB. These languages were initially being written in the Arabic script, but were later changed to the Latin script, following the colonisation of those African countries by the European colonisers. (IINA)
RABAT : The Islamic Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) has awarded its decoration to His Highness Sheikh Doctor Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qassimi, Ruler of the Emirate of Sharja, as a tribute to his outstanding efforts in the service of Islamic and Arabic culture. The presentation was made by Dr. Abdul Aziz Othman Al-Tuweijri, the Director-General of ISESCO, in Sharja.
Al-Tuweijri said Sheikh Sultan has relentlessly been supporting cultural projects in the United Arab Emirates as well as in a number of Arab and Islamic countries, besides other countries where there are Muslim minorities. (IINA)
LONDON : The First Holy Qur’an Exhibition was held in London by the Islamic Center of Britain between December 12 and 14 this year. Many manuscripts of the Holy Qur’an from various Islamic countries were on show, and the exhibition also had a wing in which other Islamic books were exhibited, mainly those related to translation, the Prophet’s Traditions, and other relevant matters.
There also were recordings of recitations from the Holy Qur’an by boys and girls below the age of ten, as well as video cassettes in which scholars from various parts of the Muslim world explained the basics of Islam, in both Arabic and English. (IINA)