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News of Islam and the Muslim World


Canada's Arctic Muslims buy land for town's first mosque

Wed, 2 Apr 2008 07:34:00 GMT

Two empty, snow-covered lots in the small town of Inuvik, in Canada's Northwest Territoritories, could soon be home to Canada's most northerly mosque. The Muslim association in the Arctic town of 3,500 recently purchased the lots, after three years of fundraising.

"It's suited for a mosque or for a church or for a religious place," association president Said Daher told CBC News in an interview.

For the past eight years, Inuvik's Muslims have prayed in a converted one-bedroom trailer. But space in the makeshift mosque is getting tight — Friday prayers can attract up to 25 people. By comparison, Daher said the proposed mosque will hold up to 100 people, and have space for activities beyond prayer.

There are no current statistics on the number of Muslims in Inuvik, but census data from 2001 show 45 Muslims in the community that year. The Northwest Territories had 175 Muslims in the 2001 census.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said, "Wherever you may be when the time for prayer comes, you may pray in that place because the whole earth is a mosque."

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Jordan's Queen Using 'YouTube' to Change Minds About the Middle East

Tue, 1 Apr 2008 20:23:00 GMT

Queen Rania of Jordan has launched an official YouTube page in an effort to dispel stereotypes of the Arab and Muslim world.

Do all Arabs hate Americans? Can Arab women work? Are there any YouTubers in Jordan? The queen said questions like that are what she seeks to address. "In a world where it's so easy to connect to one another, we still remain very much disconnected. There's a whole world of wonder out there that we cannot appreciate with stereotypes, so it's important for all of us to join forces, come together, and try to bring down those misconceptions," she said in her YouTube posting.

"I want people to know the real Arab world -- to see it unedited, unscripted and unfiltered -- to see the personal side of my region -- to know the places and faces and rituals and culture that shape the part of the world I call home," she said in her first official YouTube clip.

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Dutch YouTubers disassociate themselves from Quran-Bashing Film 'Fitna'

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 17:26:00 GMT

Dutch people eager to dissociate themselves from the anti-Quran film Fitna have taken to the web to apologize for the controversial video.

Hundreds of Dutch citizens have uploaded videos to YouTube showing themselves holding signs with apologies for the film. In other anti-Fitna clips, the subjects simply say the words, "I'm sorry."

Fitna, a 17-minute film by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, juxtaposes passages from the Islamic holy book with graphic footage of terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe. In one scene, the sound of paper ripping can be seen as a reader pages through the Quran.

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Islam overtakes Roman Catholicism in number of adherents

Sun, 30 Mar 2008 19:56:00 GMT

Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world, the Vatican said on Sunday.

Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, who compiled the Vatican's 2008 yearbook of statistics, said Muslims made up 19.2 percent of the world's population and Catholics 17.4 percent.

"For the first time in history we are no longer at the top: the Muslims have overtaken us," Formenti told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, saying the data referred to 2006.

He said that if all Christian groups were considered, including Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants, Christians made up 33 percent of the world's population, or about two billion people. The Vatican recently put the number of Catholics in the world at 1.13 billion. It did not provide a figure for Muslims, generally estimated to be around 1.3 billion.

Formenti said that while the percentage of Catholics in the the world's population was fairly stable, the percentage of Muslims was growing because of higher birth rates. He said the data on Muslim populations had been compiled by individual countries and reported by the United Nations. The Vatican, he said, could only vouch for its own statistics.

In a nushell:

Roman Catholics, 1.13 billion; Other Christians 0.87 billion
Total number of Christians, 2 billion
Total number of Muslims 1.3 billion

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Egypt's Grand Mufti says Wilders misinterprets the Qur'an

Sun, 30 Mar 2008 09:19:00 GMT

(image) The Grand Mufti of Egypt has issued an open letter to Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP who this week posted a controversial film critical of Islam. The Grand Mufti said that he had heard the call in the film for Islam to rid itself of hatred, but responded that Wilders was guilty of hatred for misinterpreting the Quran.

In his open letter he writes: “We have heard your call to get rid of hatred and we are thankful that you have made this call for we have rid our hearts of hatred through following God’s message and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad.

“Now it is time for you to heed the call and remove hatred from your heart and understand the Quran as it has been understood by Muslim scholars throughout history: as a book of guidance that warns against misinterpreting it and confusing matters that are clear. Whoever adheres to these principles will perceive the reality of the Quran, but those who want to play with its meanings will never arrive at the truth, regardless of their religion.

“We will not let extremists, regardless of their ideological background, religion, or perspective, whether they are from the East or the West, destroy the bridges of mutual understanding, cooperation, and dialogue that we have built for our children and ourselves. We want to live in peace, and we have seen that the majority of people in the world, individuals, governments, and entire populations, have rejected your bigoted approach, and for this we praise God.”

The Grand Mufti concluded: “It is incumbent on Muslims throughout the world not to be alarmed by zealots or crushed by those whose purpose it is to destroy. Rather you should be productive members of your communities, as is the teaching of Islam and Prophet Muhammad.”

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Why Shari'ah

Sun, 30 Mar 2008 09:12:00 GMT

In some sense, the outrage about according a degree of official status to Shariah in a Western country should come as no surprise. No legal system has ever had worse press. To many, the word “Shariah” conjures horrors of hands cut off, adulterers stoned and women oppressed. By contrast, who today remembers that the much-loved English common law called for execution as punishment for hundreds of crimes, including theft of any object worth five shillings or more? How many know that until the 18th century, the laws of most European countries authorized torture as an official component of the criminal-justice system? As for sexism, the common law long denied married women any property rights or indeed legal personality apart from their husbands. When the British applied their law to Muslims in place of Shariah, as they did in some colonies, the result was to strip married women of the property that Islamic law had always granted them — hardly progress toward equality of the sexes.

In fact, for most of its history, Islamic law offered the most liberal and humane legal principles available anywhere in the world. Today, when we invoke the harsh punishments prescribed by Shariah for a handful of offenses, we rarely acknowledge the high standards of proof necessary for their implementation. Before an adultery conviction can typically be obtained, for example, the accused must confess four times or four adult male witnesses of good character must testify that they directly observed the sex act. The extremes of our own legal system — like life sentences for relatively minor drug crimes, in some cases — are routinely ignored. We neglect to mention the recent vintage of our tentative improvements in family law. It sometimes seems as if we need Shariah as Westerners have long needed Islam: as a canvas on which to project our ideas of the horrible, and as a foil to make us look good.

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Muslim, UN, EU outrage over Dutch anti-Islam film

Sat, 29 Mar 2008 11:11:00 GMT

United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon calls far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilder's movie "Fitna" 'offensively anti-Islamic,' Iran and Bangladesh warn movie could cause grave consequences, while Pakistan protests to Dutch ambassador Muslim nations, the European Union and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday expressed outrage at an anti-Islam film posted on the Internet by a far-right Dutch lawmaker.

"I condemn in the strongest terms the airing of Geert Wilders' offensively anti-Islamic film," the UN chief said in a statement. "There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free speech is not at stake here."

Fearing a repeat of the violent clashes in 2006 that followed the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in Danish newspapers, the Dutch government has distanced itself from Wilders' film. "The film equates Islam with violence. We reject that interpretation," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said.

Islamic leaders in The Netherlands called on Muslims in other countries not to overreact. "We call on them to follow our strategy and not react with attacks on Dutch embassies or tourists," the head of the Dutch Moroccan community, Mohamed Rabbae, said. "An attack on the Netherlands is an attack on us."

The public prosecutor's office in the Netherlands is scrutinizing the film to see if it breaks Dutch law. Wilders claims the film is legal.

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Employer ordered to pay $65,000 in hijab case

Fri, 28 Mar 2008 07:54:00 GMT

A suburban St. Louis (Missouri) collection company has agreed to pay $65,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former employee, a Muslim woman who claimed she was fired for refusing to remove a religious head scarf.

The agreement requires a revised dress code policy for the company, informing employees of the right to religious accommodation. Soultan was told no exceptions could be made to a dress code prohibiting head wear. She asked to be allowed to wear the scarf required by her religion.

"Allah rewards them according to the best of their deeds and adds even more for them out of His Grace: for Allah provides for those whom He wills, without restriction." --Qur'an 24:38

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Dutch MP posts anti-Islam film on web

Thu, 27 Mar 2008 19:54:00 GMT

Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders has posted a controversial film critical of Islam's holy book, the Qur'an, on the internet. The opening scenes show a copy of the Qur'an, followed by footage of the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001.

The 17-minute film was posted on video-sharing website LiveLeak. Its planned release had sparked angry protests in Muslim countries.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said the film wrongly equated Islam with violence. "We believe it serves no purpose other than to offend," he said in a statement. "But feeling offended must never be used as an excuse for aggression and threats."

The film is called "Fitna", a Qur'anic term sometimes translated as "strife".

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Class Teaches New Muslims About Faith's Practices

Wed, 26 Mar 2008 08:01:00 GMT

Via Big News - Breaking Religious News:

It may be one of the fastest growing religions in the world, but in the U.S., it's a challenge for converts to Islam to learn about their new faith. Muslims are a minority here, with estimates of the population ranging from 2 million to 6 million, and they often come together in small groups to learn what they can and cannot do as practicing Muslims.

Some of the questions new Muslims have can be as complex as the "meaning of life" or as simple as owning a dog or hanging a photo in their home. Many Muslims regard dogs as unclean, and there are rules about whether you can own one. Whether Muslims can hang a picture depends on if it has any spiritual meaning.

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Saudi king calls for dialogue among different religions

Tue, 25 Mar 2008 21:11:00 GMT

King Abdullah has made an impassioned plea for dialogue among Muslims, Christians and Jews — the first such proposal from ultraconservative Saudi Arabia, which has no ties to Israel and bans public non-Muslim religious services.

The message from the Saudi monarch, who met with Pope Benedict XVI in November, comes at a time of tensions between followers of the three religions. Muslims have been angered by cartoons published in European papers seen as insulting the Prophet Muhammad — and the pope's baptizing on Easter of a Muslim commentator who converted to Catholicism has also raised eyebrows.

"The idea is to ask representatives of all monotheistic religions to sit together with their brothers in faith and sincerity to all religions as we all believe in the same God," the king told delegates Monday night at a seminar on "Culture and the Respect of Religions."

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Dutch Christians and Muslims join forces to limit anti-Qur'an film's impact

Mon, 24 Mar 2008 15:02:00 GMT

'Fitna', the much anticipated anti Qur'an short film by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, is already casting such a long shadow that a number of Dutch Christians and Muslims think it is time to take action.

The anger felt by some people in the Muslim world has already reached such a level that a delegation from the Dutch Protestant church, the Dutch Council of Churches, the Muslims and government contact organisation (CMO) and the Islamic contact group is to go to Egypt in a joint effort by these organisations to ward off possible disaster.

One of the delegation leaders is the head of the Dutch Protestant church, Bas Plaisier. He and his fellow delegation members are intent on trying to limit the possible consequences of the film by explaining the religious and social make-up of the Netherlands.

Radical groups in particular are equating ‘Wilders' with 'the Netherlands', hence "the Netherlands is insulting the Qur'an" can be the only conclusion in their eyes. The fact that freedom of speech and expression makes it impossible for the government in The Hague to gag Wilders, is simply not hitting home at all.

"We regard it as our responsibility as Christians and Muslims from the Netherlands to go and explain in Egypt, which is after all also part of Islam's heartland, how the situation in the Netherlands is precisely, and how we as Christians and Muslims have good relations, and what we think about this entire matter."

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"Muslim" converts at Vatican Easter vigil

Sun, 23 Mar 2008 01:11:00 GMT

Italy's most prominent Muslim commentator converted to Roman Catholicism on Saturday during the Vatican's Easter vigil service presided over by the pope. An Egyptian-born, non-practicing Muslim, Magdi Allam has infuriated some fellow Muslims with his criticism of extremism and support for Israel.

The deputy editor of the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Allam often writes on Muslim and Arab affairs. "I was never practicing," he was quoted as saying. "I never prayed five times a day, facing Mecca. I never fasted during Ramadan."

There is no overarching Muslim law on conversion. But under a widespread interpretation of Islamic legal doctrine, converting from Islam is apostasy and punishable by death -- though killings are rare.

Egypt's highest Islamic cleric, the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, wrote last year against the killing of apostates, saying there is no worldly retribution for Muslims who abandon their religion and that punishment would come in the afterlife.

Reaction to Allam's conversion was largely muted from Italy's Muslim community. The Union of Islamic Communities in Italy -- which Allam has frequently criticized as having links to Hamas -- said the baptism was a personal choice. "He is an adult, free to make his personal choice," the Apcom news agency quoted the group's spokesman, Issedin El Zir, as saying.

One must ask whether it is appropriate use the label "Muslim" for a man who says the he never practiced Islam, never prayed the daily prayers and never made the fast of Ramadan.

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Saudis to retrain 40,000 clerics

Thu, 20 Mar 2008 20:48:00 GMT

(image) Saudi Arabia is to retrain its 40,000 prayer leaders - also known as imams - in an effort to counter militant Islam.

Details of the plan were revealed in the influential Saudi newspaper Al- Sharq al-Awsat.

The plan is part of a wider programme launched by the Saudi monarch a few years ago to encourage moderation and tolerance in Saudi society.

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Vatican-Saudi talks on churches

Tue, 18 Mar 2008 19:31:00 GMT

The Vatican is holding talks with Saudi Arabia on building the first church in the kingdom, where some 1.5m Christians are not allowed to worship publicly. Archbishop Paul-Mounged el-Hachem, one of Pope Benedict XVI's most senior Middle East representatives, said the discussions had begun a few weeks ago.

But the archbishop cautioned that the Vatican could not predict the outcome.

The discussions come in the wake of King Abdullah's historic meeting with the Pope at the Vatican last November. The disclosure of talks between the Vatican and Saudi Arabia, which do not have diplomatic ties, came soon after the first Roman Catholic church in the Qatari capital, Doha, was opened in a service attended by 15,000 people.

The authorities cite a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad that only Islam can be practised in the Arabian Peninsula.

The authenticity of the saying attributed to the Prophet (peace be on him) may not be in question but the interpretation given to it by some Muslims certainly is. While it is understandable that the ban on the presence of Christian churches the Holy City of Mecca itself may be justified, it is doubtful that a total ban on Christian churches in the Arabian peninsula is in conformity with the Traditions of the Prophet (peace be on him). After all, we know that when a delegation of Christians from the neighbouring province of Narjan came to the Prophet's city of Medina, accompanied by their bishop, they were allowed by the Prophet himself to hold their Christian rites in the mosque of the Prophet. We also know that some of the Prophet's companions and some other early Muslims, who were very faithful to the Prophet's teachings, sometimes prayed in Christian chruches when they were not able to go to a mosque. God himself commands us to give a special status of "protégé" to the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) who live peacefully in Muslim lands, it is contrary to logic to believe that they are not allowed to have places of public worship.

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Islamic summit seeks dialogue with Christian world and denounces terrorism

Fri, 14 Mar 2008 22:04:00 GMT

World Muslim leaders on Friday condemned extremism and terrorism as incompatible with Islam and proposed a high-level international meeting to promote a "dialogue of civilizations" with the Christian world.

Leaders of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which represents 1.5 billion Muslims from across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, made the "Dakar Declaration" after a two-day summit in Senegal's capital.

"We continue to strongly condemn all forms of extremism and dogmatism which are incompatible with Islam, a religion of moderation and peaceful coexistence," the declaration said.

"We believe that it is important to plan along such lines a preparatory phase by organizing a major international gathering on Islamic-Christian dialogue that involves governments among other players," it said.

The Muslim body condemned acts of terrorism committed in the name of Islam, one of the biggest preoccupations of the international community.

Iraqi archbishop's death condemned

Thu, 13 Mar 2008 21:49:00 GMT

(image) The death in Iraq of an archbishop who was kidnapped two weeks ago has provoked furious condemnation. The body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, was found in a shallow grave in the city after a tip-off from his captors.

Pope Benedict XVI said he was deeply moved and saddened, calling the death an act of inhuman violence.

Iraqi prime minister Nouri Maliki said it was a horrible crime aimed at stirring strife between Iraq's religious communities. Shia and Sunni Muslim leaders have expressed their condemnation.

In the Qur'an, God says:

Nearest among men in love to the believers you will find those who say, "We are Christians": because amongst them are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. And when they listen to the revelation received by the Apostle, you will see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth: they pray: "Our Lord! we believe; write us down among the witnesses. "What cause can we have not to believe in God and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?" And for this their prayer God rewards them with gardens, with rivers flowing underneath: their eternal home. Such is the recompense of those who do good.

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Second Muslim enters US Congress

Thu, 13 Mar 2008 08:04:00 GMT

Democrat Andre Carson won Tuesday's special election to succeed his grandmother, the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, and fill out the final 10 months of her term.

Carson's win makes him the first Muslim to represent Indiana in Congress, and only the second Muslim nationwide to serve there.

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Discrimination against women who wear a hijab

Thu, 6 Mar 2008 19:09:00 GMT

The Canadian group Women Working With Immigrant Women has published a report on a study on the experiences of Muslim women wearing the hijab who apply for work in the manufacturing, sales and service sectors. The study, entitled "No Hijab is Permitted Here", was funded by the Canadian government and the city of Toronto. The authors found that women who wear the hijab experience barriers and discrimination when applying for work. They are denied jobs, told they must remove their hijab, harassed in the workplace and fired from jobs as a result of wearing hijab.

A high percentage (90.6%) of the Muslim women who filled out the survey reported having had an employer make a reference about their hijab while applying for work. It is also significant that 40.6% of these women were told that they must take off the hijab if they wanted a job. The women wearing hijab who visited the job sites experienced discrimination in all sectors, regardless of age, skin colour, experience in Canada, accent, mannerisms and education.

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Muslim Women Are Agents of Change

Wed, 5 Mar 2008 09:18:00 GMT

Contrary to common perception, women in the Arab world have achieved significant advancement in recent years. There are female C.E.O.'s, female government officials, female professors, female engineers; women run e-businesses and financial institutions.

Presently, most Arab countries have at least one female government minister, if not more. In Tunisia, 40 percent of doctors and 70 percent of pharmacists are women. Laws and decrees that grant women equal rights to participate in local councils, in consultative councils, and in municipality councils have been passed into law in many Arab countries. Most tellingly, in the Arab world overall, 70 percent of university graduates in 2007 were female.

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