Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

November 2008
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Muslim World

IRCICA to set up Database on Islamic heritage
Istanbul :
The Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) is establishing a database relating to the Islamic sites and monuments which constitute the architectural heritage of the Muslim world. This major initiative has been made possible by the sponsorship of Prince Sultan Ibn Salman Ibn Abdulaziz, Secretary General, Supreme Commission for Tourism, and Founder-President, Heritage Foundation (Al-Turath), Saudi Arabia. The programme to establish a database was included in the work plans of IRCICA starting from 2006 and commended by the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers and the Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers in their sessions held during the last two years.  The Database shall be treated as set of digital information to be kept on Internet which would include detailed information of about upto 100,000 Islamic heritage  monuments to be entered in an estimated period of ten years. The information will  include descriptions of geographical location, photographs and plans, facts and figures, assessments of present condition and future prospects, for each monument. The database programme aims to register the Islamic archeological and architectural heritage assets around the world, depict them by recording comprehensive information on their history and present state, their environment, physical plan and features, past and present functions, restorations done, etc., and by that way, to contribute to their preservation, development and promotion worldwide. The database will include all sorts of information, in a way to meet the needs of all research disciplines and sectors of activity - archeology, architecture, tourism, etc. In addition to data collected and elaborated by IRCICA, information is collected and provided to IRCICA by the government institutions and non-governmental organisations in charge or dealing with preservation of monuments in OIC member countries, and in other countries having Islamic architectural heritage. These data will be processed in the Central Base Unit operated by IRCICA using the internationally adopted criteria for the selection and collation.
Bahrain to host World Islamic Banking Conference
Bahrain will host the 15th Annual World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) in November that will bring together international industry leaders who have contributed significantly to forging the future of this industry to map out the next phase of development. David McLean, the Managing Director of MEGA, the owners of the WIBC brand said that WIBC will be celebrating 15 years of success in bringing together the industry’s thought leaders and foremost practitioners to chart the future direction of the industry.

He said that it attracts more than 1,000 delegates from 45 countries and has grown to have 60 market leaders as sponsors. Keynote speakers this year include Rasheed M. Al Maraj, the Governor of The Central Bank of Bahrain, and Heng Swee Keat, Governor of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. In addition, renowned author Toby Birch will provide insights into the current turmoil in the international financial markets which he foreshadowed in his book The Final Crash.

A barometer of recognizing market leading initiatives and outstanding achievements in the global industry, the World Islamic Banking Conference features the Islamic Banker of the Year Award as one of the international industry’s most prestigious and high profile awards. “The World Islamic Banking Conference plays an important role in the international development of the industry. WIBC also goes beyond the ‘conference basics’ of the right topics and speakers in order to find innovative new sources of value,” Mclean said.

“The launch of the ‘WIBC McKinsey Competitiveness Report’ has taken the conference format to new levels by creating powerful new research insights into the Islamic banking industry and has over the past 5 years become an indispensable reference resource for industry decision-makers.” He continued that building on the phenomenal growth of WIBC and the Islamic banking industry in general, the eagerly anticipated 2008/09 WIBC McKinsey Competitiveness Report will again this year examine the growth and profitability trends in the Islamic banking sector and the leading players.
First Guide Dog allowed to enter UK Mosque
After months of work by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), guide dog Vargo has become the first guide dog in the UK to enter a mosque after the Islamic Shari’ah Council issued a historic fatwa stating “a blind person, in the light of Shariah Law, will be allowed to keep a guide dog to help him and if required to take him to the mosque for his prayers”. In this momentous event, Vargo accompanied his 18-year-old owner Mahomed-Abraar Khatri to his local mosque in Leicester, seen as a massive step forward for other blind and partially sighted Muslims. Previously a guide dog has not been able to accompany its owner into a mosque as the Islamic faith recognises dogs as being used for guarding and hunting only. However Vargo and other guide dogs are working dogs and so necessary adjustments to encourage independent mobility are supported. A specially constructed rest area has been set up in the entrance of the mosque for Vargo to stay in whilst Mahomed-Abraar is praying. Previously Mahomed-Abraar, who attends the RNIB College in Loughborough had to be accompanied to the mosque by a sighted assistant. Mahomed-Abraar and his father Gafar attended an event organised by Guide Dogs and MCB in November 2007 – held to increase awareness of how guide dogs help their owners and their high standards of grooming and cleanliness, to ask if Mahomed-Abraar could have a guide dog. Mahomed-Abraar was given full support of local mosque leaders and the partnership qualified in June 2008. The fatwa allowing Vargo to enter the mosque was issued in September 2008. Guide Dogs hopes the fatwa and Mahomed-Abraar and Vargo’s story will set a precedent, encouraging other blind and partially sighted Muslims to consider guide dog ownership. Mohammad Shahid Raza, OBE, the Director of Imams and Mosques Council U.K and the Secretary of Muslim Law (Shariah) Council U.K who issued the fatwa commented: “I am pleased to know that Bilal Jamia Mosque in Leicester is providing a unique facility to our blind Muslim brothers to take their guide dogs with them while visiting the mosque to join the prayers. I hope that all existing Mosques will follow Bilal Mosque in serving the disabled people in similar ways by providing facilities to them.
Taliban fear burns Lahore Porn CDs
Plums of thick black smoke billowed up into the sky as thousands of burning CDs littered the famous Hall Road street in the city of Lahore last month. This was not a short-circuit fire or the action of an angry mob. The CDs, mostly porn, were being set ablaze by shopk-eepers themselves.

“We had received letters from unidentified persons, presumably Taliban or their local supporters, who warned us to immediately close down this business,” said a local shopkeeper who has been selling such CDs at Hall market for the last ten years. “You all are informed to close down this abhorrent business immediately otherwise you will solely be respons-ible for the further cons-equences, including blowing up your shops,” read one of the letters. Under threat of attack, many traders volun-tarily torched all their stock of CDs to send a message of compliance to the suspected Taliban.

Suspected militants have blown up numerous music and CD shops in different parts of the Northwestern Frontier Province (NWFP), which borders Afghanistan, in the last two years.

Brooklyn's Arab Muslims in Vote Awakening
Like many Arab Muslim residents of New York’s composite neighborhood of South Brooklyn, Zein Rimawi has recently discovered the basic truism of American politics. “You vote, you exist. You don’t vote, you don’t exist,” Rimawi, one of the founders of the Islamic Society of south Brooklyn, told the New York Times. “Here in our country, the votes count, and votes can change a government,” he adds. “We had to convince older people that their votes would count.” Jihad Kifayeh, 17, is among several dozen teenagers in South Brooklyn volunteering for the Yalla Vote ’08,” a campaign aiming to mobilize the community’s vote. “Some of my people are scared to vote. They think their opinions might be criticized, particularly after 9/11,” says the high school senior whose family moved from the West Bank city of Ramallah when he was only 3. “But it’s better that our voices are heard by the politicians.” Kifayeh, who is contributing to voter registration drives, has persuaded his parents to register to vote for the first time. This new political awakening has already brought a growing number of Arabs and Muslims into the electoral process. In South Brooklyn, the number of Arab Muslims registered to vote increased by about 60 percent from 2000 to 2006.

Community leaders believe this is the first step towards the empowerment of their people. “We look at the Italian community, the Jewish community and the Greek community. They started like us or even worse off,” said Wael Mousfar, the president of the Arab Muslim American Federation.
The increasing vote enthusiasm is drawing the attention of elected officials, with many of them now courting the community.

Iraq wants US Pact changed
Dealing another blow to proposed security pact, the Iraqi government called for more changes to the controversial agreement that would govern the stay of US troops beyond the end of this year. “The cabinet unanimously sought amendments to the text of the pact so it can be acceptable nationally,” said Ali al-Dabbagh, a government spokesman.

The government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki convened to discuss the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which lays the legal basis for US troops presence after the expiry of the UN mandate by the end of this year.

“The cabinet called on the ministers to submit their suggestions to be included in the negotiations with the US,” Dabbagh said. He added that ministers would meet over the coming days to “give their opinions and consult and provide the amendments suggested” before submitting the amended draft to the US negotiating team. Maliki told the ministers that the deal was unacceptable in its current drafting. The ruling United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), a powerhouse coalition of mostly Shiite groups including Maliki’s Dawa party, is pressing for more changes to the text.

Hamas, Fatah accept Cairo Plan
Gaza City:
Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah have given their initial blessings to an Egyptian-crafted reconciliation plan to end months of divisions that followed weeks of infighting. “The paper has several positive points and we will not reject it,” said Salah Al-Bardawil, a leading Hamas lawmaker. “Many of these points are similar to what we have already agreed with Egypt.” Egypt, which has been trying for months to bridge Palestinian gaps, submitted to all factions a detailed proposal to be the basis for Palestinian national dialogue. The paper calls for forming a government of independents or technocrats or a national unity government acceptable to Fatah, Hamas and other factions. The mission of the new government will be ending the months-long siege on Gaza Strip, preparing for legislative and presidential elections, restructuring security agencies and reforming the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Bardawil, the Hamas MP, asserted the Egyptian paper is being scrutinized by Hamas leadership inside the impoverished coastal enclave. “It will also be reviewed by Hamas leaders abroad and some modifications will be made to the document. Then the paper will be sent to Egypt.” Hamas has expressed reservations about holding legislative elections before the expiry of the mandate of the current parliament in January 2010. It insists on implementing previous understandings with Fatah on reforming the PLO, a body seen internationally as representing the Palestinian people and in which Hamas is not a member. The rival Fatah of President Mahmoud Abbas has already welcomed the Egyptian document as a good basis for Palestinian national dialogue. Egypt has invited both Hamas and Fatah to meet in Cairo on November 9 for talks aimed at restoring Palestinian unity.
UK's Islamic Bank serves more non-Muslims
On a Friday afternoon, the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB) branch in West London is bustling with a large number of customers, including non-Muslims. At a time many conventional banks have gone bust in the credit crunch and financial crisis, the IBB is reporting a growth of 5 percent in customer numbers and 13 percent in customer financing.

The reason is that the bank “has been better protected from the credit crunch affecting mainstream banks,” said Sultan Choudhury, the commercial director at the IBB. A financial crisis swept the US last month after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest investment bank, and the financial woes of a number of Wall Street giants. This triggered a domino effect across the world leaving conventional banks, lending each other on the money markets, short of credit. Western governments have since pumped billions of dollars into their troubled banks to keep credit flowing and prevent a complete financial meltdown. The British government recently unveiled a massive £37bn bank bailout of taxpayer’ funds to rescue Lloyds TSB, HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland from liquidity shortage. Choudhury said the IBB does not take interest-based loans from other banks, and has high quality, asset-based investments. “That means that the bank avoided the instability the other high street banks have suffered,” he explained. Shari`ah-compliant financing deals resemble lease-to-own arrangements, layaway plans, joint purchase and sale agreements, or partnerships. Investors have a right to know how their funds are being used, and the sector is overseen by dedicated supervisory boards as well as the usual national regulatory authorities. The IBB, UK’s first stand-alone Islamic bank, is reporting an increase in the number of non-Muslim customers. Bank officials said the numbers are growing because Islamic banking offers a “safer option” thanks to its operations which are based on no-interest schemes. Non-Muslim customers are drawn to the IBB because High Street banks offer less opportunities for house mortgages during the crunch. Recent figures from the Council of Mortgage lenders have shown a continued slowdown in mortgage approvals and advances. Along with financial advantages, Choudhury said that a growing number of non-Muslims are drawn to his bank’s genuinely ethical offering.
Is there something wrong with being a Muslim, asks Powell
Colin Powell, America’s former top military commander and President Bush’s former secretary of state who crossed party lines and endorsed the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has lambasted American attitude towards Muslims. Speaking at NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, Powell was more critical of the Republican Party and John McCain’s campaign than of the candidate himself. “I’m also troubled by not what Sen. McCain says but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said. Such things as ‘Well you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well the correct answer is ‘He is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian, he’s always been a Christian.’ But the really right answer is ‘What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?’ The answer is ‘No. That’s not America.’ “Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

“I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo-essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave.”

“And as the picture focused in you can see the writing on the headstone. And the awards, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have a Star of David.

It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American, he was born in New Jersey, he was 14 at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he can go serve his country and he gave his life.”
Israeli Settlers burn 3000 Olive Trees
Fires set by Israeli settlers in southern Nablus olive groves are up this year, reports journalist Ali Daraghmeh. “This year settlers south of the city of Nablus burnt about 3,000 olive trees. The settlers are also burning cars and beating farmers. Ghassan, a local official in municipal affairs, described “masked gunmen attacking farmers in 33 basin areas in Salfit and 39 in Nablus.”
Israeli settlements in the West Bank are most often built on hills and then spread down. Palestinian agricultural lands are afflicted from the initial land confiscation to the eventual threat in the basin areas. Fields just beyond those overtaken are particularly dangerous. Officials note that the coordination between the Israeli army and Palestinian residents does not provide security to the farmer. “The initial dates for protection were not abided under the pretext of the Jewish holidays and closures. We are in contact with each village under attack by settlements and monitor all ongoing damage. The reports go to the President and Prime Minister.” Says Ghassan. The olive harvest season is meant to be a major source of income but yearly, the obstacles increase. After the olives are picked they must be made into oil and taken to market, neither of which is undertaken without additional risk.

Indonesia calls for Muslim representation on Security Council
Hassan Wirajuda, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia said that world’s estimated 1.1 billion Muslims deserve specific representation on an expanded Security Council, calling for any reform of the 15-member body United Nations body to consider the need for a variety of constituencies as well as greater geographic distribution. Hassan Wirajuda told the General Assembly’s annual General Debate that the Council was in urgent need of reform, saying that in a series of recent conflicts and tensions – over Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Iraq and Afghanistan, among others – the panel “should have been more decisive.”.
He said that true democratization of the Council “also means an equitable distribution of its membership – not only in terms of geographical representation, where we already have imbalances – but also in terms of constituencies. Hence, the world’s major civilizations should be proportionately represented.