Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

MUHARRAM - SAFAR 1424 H
MARCH 2004
Volume 17-03 No : 207

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News From Islamic World


Shun Hatred, Save Country!
Field Marshal Al-Dahab wins King Faisal Prize for Service to Islam
Snoopy US Army Interrupts Conference
Premarital Check-ups Mandatory Now
Alabama Changes Rules
Unique Elections in Iran
Islam Attracts Top Britons
Muslim Welfare House Hosts Exhibition
More People Visit Mosques than Church of England
More than One in 10 Muslims is White in UK
Half the Gold Shops 'Expat-Owned's

Shun Hatred, Save Country!

Bangalore: The Karnataka and Goa zone of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind observed a fortnight campaign with the theme " Shun hatred, save India". At a public meeting organised here recently, religious heads and followers of different religious faiths strongly felt that it was necessary to promote inter-religious harmony and mutual co-operation. All the religious leaders proclaimed that hatred and animosity are quite contrary to the teachings of all religions. According to a resolution passed at the public meeting at National College Grounds on February 23, the participants condemned in the strongest possible terms the efforts of those, who in order to achieve their political ambitions are trying to create hatred and enmity in the name of religion, race and colour. The meeting drew large crowds and an appeal was sent to all citizens to discourage such activities at all levels. " Those who opt for caste conflicts and communal hatred to stay in power do not deserve to be our leaders," the resolution said.

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Field Marshal Al-Dahab wins King Faisal Prize for Service to Islam

Jeddah: Field Marshal Abdul Rahman Swar Al-Dahab of Sudan has won this year's prestigious King Faisal  Prize for Service to Islam. The announcement was made by Prince Sultan, second deputy premier and minister of defence and aviation, after chairing a meeting of the jury in the southern resort of Abha.

"The jury selected Field Marshal Swar Al-Dahab for the award in appreciation of his noble activities which the Arab and Islamic worlds are proud of," said Prince Sultan, who is  chairman of the Supreme Dawa Committee.

Several foreign dignitaries have won the King Faisal Prize for Service to Islam over the past years. The first winner was Syed Abul Aala Al-Moududi of Pakistan (1979) while the Prince Sultan Charitable Foundation was the last winner (2003).

"Swar Al-Dahab is one of the outstanding Islamic personalities who have gained international fame," the King Faisal Charitable Foundation said in a statement. As chairman of the board of trustees of the Islamic Dawa Organization in Sudan, he initiated the construction of several schools, hospitals, clinics, orphanages and wells in the country. Swar Al-Dahab is also a member of 11 Islamic and international organisations and has presented several research papers on Islam, Dawa and Muslim issues and challenges at conferences. . Swar Al-Dahab was selected from 13 short-listed candidates.

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Snoopy US Army Interrupts Conference

Houston: You might think that a conference on "Islam and Women", held at a prominent law school and organised by mainly non-Muslim groups, would be an unlikely target for a terrorism investigation, but apparently it is too hard to US Army intelligence to follow actual terror leads. According to conference organiser Sahar Aziz, intelligence agents came looking for a (non-existent) list of participants and video of the proceedings afterwards, creating what the Houston Chronicle called "needless hostility." "I thought it was outrageous," said Jessica Biddle, co-editor of the Texas Journal of Women and Law, who was questioned by one of the agents. "He was intimidating and was using the element of surprise to try to get information out of us. The conference was an academic conference, totally benign and not focused on foreign policy." The agents said they were following up on reports from Army lawyers who attended the conference (co-sponsored mainly by non-Muslim groups such as the Human Rights Center, the Center for Women's and Gender's Studies, the Freedom and Justice Foundation and the National Lawyers Guild) and said they were approached by "suspicious" Middle Eastern men. Aziz said the Army's visit was a scary indication of attitudes towards Islam. "It's confirming a lot of people in the Muslim community's fears that anything we do related to our religion, no matter how secular it may be, or religious which is perfectly legitimate," she said, "that we will be under surveillance that we are guilty by association."

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Premarital Check-ups Mandatory Now

Jeddah: Pre-marital medical check-ups have become mandatory, with most Saudis supporting the measure aimed at preventing the spread of hereditary disease in the country. Maadoun or those who officiate at marriages will now demand a medical certificate from the bride and groom. They have, however, no power to stop the marriage, but will advise the couples on the basis of the medical report.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest percentages in the world of people who are either carriers of the sickle cell trait or have sickle cell anemia - in some regions reaching 30 per cent of the population. Sickle cell anemia is spread mainly through inheriting abnormal hemoglobin from both parents. A study on congenital blood diseases, which include sickle cell anemia, thalassemia and others - submitted to the Council of Ministers in 2002 concluded that 1.5 million Saudis had or were carriers of inherited blood diseases. Every day, 12 babies are born in the Kingdom with the disease and 154 are born carrying the trait. According to Al-Yaum daily, 735,000 people in the Eastern Province suffer from a hereditary disease, accounting for 30 per cent of the total population. In the Makkah region, there are 360,000 patients and carriers.The government spends about SR600 million on people suffering from such diseases.

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Alabama Changes Rules

Washington: The State of Alabama has allowed the Sikhs and the Muslims to be photographed with turbans and headscarves while being issued driving licences. They won the battle against a US state order. Following a vigorous campaign by the two communities and a threat to file a class action lawsuit -- the Alabama state has changed its controversial rule on headgears and head coverings. Several Muslim women and Sikh men had been denied driving licences in Alabama because of their refusal to take off the head scarves or turbans while being photographed. Both the communities have hailed Alabama's reversal as a victory for religious freedom. Some activists view it as a possible forerunner in the larger battle being waged in France against the new law barring the wearing of turbans and head scarves in schools.

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Unique Elections in Iran

Teheran: Conservatives formally reclaimed control of Iran's Parliament. Even though 700 candidates were eliminated by the selection process, almost all of them from the reformist camp, there is no doubt, Iran's election were the most open since the Revolution.

In strictly secular terms, the mandate delivered by the Iranian people in the just-concluded elections has no doubt been marred by the banning of over 2,000 reformist candidates, including 87 members of the outgoing 290-seat Parliament. But the boycott called by opposition politicians has not been heeded to a point where the vote can be deemed a farce. The conservatives allied to the theocratic elite have got a comfortable and legitimate majority in the legislature, whether the world likes it or not.

The result, however, may not be as bad as it seems. Iran's newly elected "hardliners" would not have been deaf to the massive student demonstrations of the last few years. Nor can they afford to ignore the drift of the electorate towards the reformist parties, particularly after the election of President Mohammad Khatami, who won by a landslide in 1997. Rhetoric apart (though this can still send chills to Western observers and moderate Muslims alike), the conservatives do not constitute a single bloc dedicated to emulating the Taliban. There are enough differences between them to sustain hope of a modernising Iran that will not stray too far from the strictures of Ayatollah Khomeini's 1979 revolution. Their clout could yet bring the clerics around to more pragmatic social, economic and foreign policies.

This poll was unique in other respects too. For the first time, clearly identifiable political parties with lists of candidates and explicitly formulated policies were competing for the 290 seats. If there was any surprise in the result of this general election, it was again in the scale of the reformist victory and the conservative defeat.

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Islam Attracts Top Britons

Jeddah: Over 14,000 Britons have embraced Islam, according to UK's Sunday Times.

Citing the first authoritative study of the phenomenon, the paper said that they had done so because of disillusionment with Western values. Some of Britain's top land-owners, celebrities and the offspring of senior establishment figures have embraced Islam.

The trend is being encouraged by Muslim leaders who are convinced that the conversion of prominent figures will help protect a community stigmatised by terrorism and fundamentalism. The study by Yahya (formerly Jonathan) Birt, son of Lord Birt, former director-general of the BBC, provides the first reliable data on the sensitive subject of the movement of Christians into Islam. He uses a breakdown of the latest census figures to conclude that there are now 14,200 white converts in Britain. Speaking publicly for the first time about his faith, Birt, whose doctorate at Oxford University is on young British Muslims, argued that an inspirational figure, similar to the American convert Malcolm X for Afro-Caribbeans, would first have to emerge if the next stage, a mass conversion among white Britons, were to happen. The great-granddaughter of a British prime minister has converted. Emma Clark, whose ancestor, the Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, took Britain into the First World War, said: "We're all the rage; I hope it's not a passing fashion." Many converts have been inspired by the writings of Charles Le Gai Eaton, a former Foreign Office diplomat. Eaton, author of Islam and the Destiny of Man, said: "I have received letters from people who are put off by the wishy-washy standards of contemporary Christianity and they are looking for a religion which does not compromise too much with the modern world." Islam has received formal acceptance at the heart of the Establishment. The Queen has approved arrangements to allow Muslim staff at Buckingham Palace, time off to attend Friday prayers at a mosque.

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Muslim Welfare House Hosts Exhibition

A new exhibition for schools entitled 'Islamic Experience', held in Britain recently presented youngsters with an excellent insight into the contribution made by the Muslim community to the society. The Exhibition was held at the Muslim Welfare House (MWH) in Finsbury Park to build bridges and understanding between the Muslim community and their non-Muslim neighbours. A key focus of the Exhibition was the positive role British Muslims have played in Britain, particularly over the last 100 years. "Only through discussion, interaction and getting to know one another on a personal level can people of different faiths or no faith, build bridges of understanding and tolerance," said Executive Director of the MWH, Fadi Itani. Director of Centre for Ethic Minority Studies, Dr Humayun Ansari, gave an overview of the history, contribution and influence of Muslims in Britain. At the beginning of 20th century, there were some 10,000 Muslims increasing now to 1.6 million. According to a recent research, there are currently over 5,000 Muslim millionaires with liquid assets of more than 3.6bn in Britain. However, they face many difficulties, argued Dr Ansari. Many of them are subjected to religious discrimination, persistent attacks, increasing threats to civil liberties in the name of security measures, a resurgent of the far-right, a crackdown on refugees fleeing persecution.

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More People Visit Mosques than Church of England

Fact File

London: More people in Britain attend mosques than the Church of England. It is for the first time that Muslims have overtaken Anglicans. According to figures, 930,000 Muslims attend a place of worship at least once a week, whereas only 916,000 Anglicans do the same. Muslim leaders are now claiming that, given such a rise of Islam in Britain, Muslims should receive a share of the privileged status of the Church of England.

A spokesman for David Hope, the Archbishop of York, second in the church hierarchy, said the archbishop had conceded defeat, but added: "He believes that many more people have an affinity to the church than the number recorded as having attended once on a Sunday." The figures were compiled from government and academic resources.

According to the 2001 census, three-quarters of the British population regards itself as Christian. Although there are no registers kept at mosques regarding attendance, but the census had included a question about religious adherence. Those figures have been further supported by surveys to give the first assessment of worshipping Muslims.

Although the census recorded 1.59 million Muslims, but Ceri Peach, professor of social geography at Oxford University said the census could not record the correct balance because the question was voluntary. Academics believe the figure to be at least 1.8 million.

Tariq Modood, a professor of sociology at Bristol University has found that 62 per cent of Muslims pray in places of worship. The figure, after excluding young children, most of whom do not worship in mosques, is about 930,000. The figure is said to underestimate the number of practising Muslims. Immigration from Eastern Europe and conversions are believed to be adding to the number of Muslims. Lord Ahmad Patel, a Labour peer said 10 extra seats should be allocated to other religions. The Church of England has 26 seats in the House of Lords. However, the recent figures do not include Catholics. The Catholic church has 1.5 million British worshippers.

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More than One in 10 Muslims is White in UK

London: More than one in 10 Muslims in England and Wales describe themselves as white as the number of conversions to Islam increases, according to the census of 2001. The number of people described as Muslims in the census, which recorded religion for the first time, comes to a total of 1,546,626 of whom 179,773 claim they are white. Aziz Sheikh, professor of primary care at Edinburgh University and a British Muslim Council member, expressed surprise at the finding. He said he did not get such sort of feedback. He suggested that many whites, who, claimed to be Muslims could originally be from countries like Turkey, Cyprus, Bosnia and Albania. The fact is that 63,000 British white recorded their religion as Islam. The number of conversions estimated by different sources vary. There could be as many as 50,000, but it is said that the figure between 15,000 and 20,000 was more credible.

(Report by Vijay Dutt in the Hindustan Times, New Delhi)

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Half the Gold Shops 'Expat-Owned'

Jeddah: The recent full Saudization of the gold market has exposed the fact that nearly half the gold shops in Riyadh, Jeddah and elsewhere are illegally owned by expatriates. They got around the law by operating under the nominal sponsorship of Saudis.

More than 60 per cent of jewellery shops in Jeddah are owned by expatriates. These expatriates employed their relatives in their shops, and naturally they do not want to implement the Saudization law. Saudi authorities have been inspecting gold markets in various parts of the country to make sure they are run by Saudis. According to another report carried by Al-Madinah Arabic daily about 40 per cent of jewellery shops in Riyadh belonged to expatriates. Jameel Farsi, chairman of the Gold and Jewellery Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, emphasized the need to combat "the dangerous phenomenon" of Saudis covering up illegal gold businesses owned by expatriates. Saudi Arabia's gold market is estimated at SR15 billion, one of the largest in the Middle East. There are some 6,000 retail jewellery shops with Jeddah having the largest one with nearly 1,300 shops or 21.7 percent of the total.

According to economist Ihsan Bu Hulaiga, the jewellery sector "was already an almost 100 percent" Saudi affair in the Eastern Province, where a tradition of passing the trade from one generation to another had been kept alive.

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