Bradford synagogue saved by city’s Muslims

December 20, 2013

 

It was around this time last year that the trustees of Bradford’s final remaining synagogue faced a tough choice. The roof of the Grade II-listed Moorish building was leaking; there was serious damage to the eastern wall, where the ark held the Torah scrolls; and there was no way the modest subscriptions paid annually by the temple’s 45 members could cover the cost.

Rudi Leavor, the synagogue’s 87-year-old chairman, reluctantly proposed the nuclear option: to sell the beautiful 132-year-old building, forcing the congregation to go 10 miles to Leeds to worship. It was a terrible proposition, coming just after the city’s only Orthodox synagogue had shut its doors in November 2012, unable to regularly gather 10 men for the Minyan, the quorum of 10 Jewish male adults required for certain religious obligations.

But rather than close, Bradford Reform Synagogue’s future is brighter than ever after the intervention of Bradford’s Muslim community, which according to the 2011 census outnumbers the city’s Jews by 129,041 to 299.

A fundraising effort – led by the secretary of a nearby mosque, together with the owner of a popular curry house and a local textile magnate – has secured the long-term future of the synagogue and forged a friendship between Bradfordian followers of Islam and Judaism. All things being well, by Christmas the first tranche of £103,000 of lottery money will have reached the synagogue’s bank account after some of Bradford’s most influential Muslims helped Leavor and other Jews to mount a bid.

At the start of December, Karim and other Muslims attended a Hanukah service at the synagogue. Yet until a year ago, Karim didn’t even realise the synagogue existed. “The Jewish community kept themselves to themselves,” he said. Since the last race riots in the city in 2001, there has been no sign to mark the building. “We didn’t want to be the cause of potential trouble, so we took the plaque down over 10 years ago,” said Leavor.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/20/bradford-synagogue-saved-muslims-jews

Islamic Gatehouse Bank to aid UK housing crisis

November 28, 2013

 

Britain’s mainstream banks may be reluctant to lend these days, but a Kuwait-backed Islamic bank is to become one of Britain’s biggest residential landlords with a plan to build 6,600 rental homes and gain from the shortage in decent housing stock. It promises to be one of the biggest privately run home building projects ever. Shariah-compliant Gatehouse Bank hopes to gain from the big shift in the country’s housing market away from buying to renting, as mortgages have become more scarce and unaffordable and prices have risen out of the grasp of many families. Gatehouse already has a £1bn property portfolio across the UK and US.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/islamic-gatehouse-bank-to-aid-uk-housing-crisis-8971137.html

Prince Charles visits shrine to Sufi saint

November 11, 2013

 

The Prince of Wales laid flowers on the tomb of one of India’s most revered Sufi saints today as its imam prayed for the health and happiness of Britain’s royal family. The visit to the shrine or ‘dargah’ of Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, one of Mumbai’s most celebrated landmarks, was to support the restoration of its 500 year old building and to promote dialogue between different faiths.

The shrine commemorates the devotion of Haji Ali, a wealthy merchant who migrated from Bukhara and died while making his Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Prince entered the shrine to the sound of Sufi devotional music, celebrating the saint’s miracles, to pay his respects and inspect the extensive renovation works under way. ‘Haji Ali’ is a tiny mosque-like shrine with arches and minarets at the end of a promontory, surrounded by the sea.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/prince-charles/10440860/Prince-Charles-visits-shrine-to-Sufi-saint.html

Prayer, Culture, meetings all within the glass house of Islam

We begin with a five-story building (possibly six), with the mosque or prayer hall on the ground floor, a tea room on the second, a large Islamic bookstore with books in more than ten languages ​on the third, a museum of Islamic culture and cultural center on the fourth and offices and international centers on the fifth. The space will be six thousand square meters, all in glass, steel and stone, as proposed by the architectural designers (who remain anonymous).

 

And no minaret, to avoid changing the profile of the waterfront in Darsena, the only building still to be finalized is the House of Islamic Culture. Or rather, the House of Peace, as it might be called.

 

Designs were directed by Alfredo Maiolese, a Genovese Muslim and president of the League of European Muslims who helped to create the possible home of the Islamic culture. These are the same designs that will be presented next week in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for the Islamic Development Bank. This is the bank that maintains an international Muslim presence abroad, likely funded by the governments of Kuwait and Qatar, and could make available the 12-15 million euro needed to buy the building and renovate it.

 

And Genoa? Available. “If indeed there is a need then doors are open to all” says Stefano Bernini, Deputy Mayor and Councilor for Urban Planning “If Maiolese and the European Muslim League will be able to find the resources, the municipality would support the project including town planning procedures and helping to convince the ‘neighbors’ who have doubts that this is a major accomplishment, which would be a great for the entire city.”

 

Bernini explains that the center would be a point of reference for the thousands of Muslims, but it could also be appealing as a cultural point of attraction for cruise passengers. And the claim that this may jeopardize security? “If there is a place that is controlled, it is the port area” replies Bernini “not to mention it is where the state police headquarter is.”

 

“In every home there are those that pray but this does not mean that every home is a mosque,” says Maiolese , which he discusses is the point of the “Moussala” on the ground floor, a place of prayer, it is more than a “majid,” meaning mosque. The space could accommodate between 5 and 600 people, and it would be the only space exclusively for Muslims. The rest of the building, however, will be welcome to everyone.

 

“The tea room will express welcome by offering Arab tea and cakes” explains Maiolese “but in the 240 square meter space we will also sell cakes and tea from the entire Arab world, which will help people better understand different food cultures” Upstairs will hold 750 square meters of Islamic books. Books will be in Italian, English, Arabic, and also French, Albanian, Urdu, Persian, Bengali, this will be a store for the visitors of the Museum of Islamic Culture,

 

Another 2,400 square meters will host works of art, manuscripts, and also cultural events. “We have already established contacts with universities in Medina, and also Qatar and others, in order to have works exhibited” says Maiolese. Finally, going even higher, there will be 1,230 square meters of diplomatic and commercial offices.”

Mosque, all ready but the negotiations between the City and Muslims stalled

It’s a negotiation both complex and delicate, and still in progress. Those in search of compromise include the Islamic Association on one side and the city of Mangalore on the other.

 

The building is constructed but it is not in use. Talks now center on the possible rebuilding of the structure. In 2007, a proposal arrived on the desk of the mayor, Guerino Surini a center-left affiliate, asking for a change of order for a building in an agricultural area.

 

The building is a house with two floors, and was acquired by the the Islamic association An-Hur which intends to transform the building into an Islamic cultural center and a place of prayer. The mayor, Surini, rejected the request. The association did not give up and sought an appeal through TAR, the Regional Administrative Court. In September 2010, the TAR judgment ruled against the municipal administration.

THE JUDGMENT OF THE TAR

 

“There are no insurmountable reasons that prevent the development of a residential building into one of social function, even a religious one” reads the judgment of the Regional Administrative Court “no damage would be dealt to the natural environment, since the building would remain in the current state and it would not be necessary for changes to be made to the road. Article 70, paragraph 2, of Regional Law 12-2005 does not authorize municipalities to decide on the legitimacy of religious denominations. Therefore, local governments must not only comply with any form of official recognition of a particular religion, but also comply with the general principles of the state in matters of religion.”

 

THE DIFFICULTIES OF NEGOTIATION

 

In short, TAR granted a green light for the use Islamic center however, the judges urge the association and the city administration to reach an agreement. It’s been three years since that ruling, but the deal between Muslims and the City has not yet been reached. A new mayor Dario Colossi, right-center, stated he would not talk in open negotiations.

 

Mangalore is a municipality that has approximately 4 thousand inhabitants, with immigrants just over 400, 10% of the population, which is further subdivided into 15 different ethnic groups. The building, owned by the An–Hur, after TAR’s decision he intended to have the building become a center of Muslim prayer and the de facto place of worship for all the Muslims in the area. The city fears that it will not be able to cope with the influx of thousands during times of celebrations like Ramadan.

 

Islamic group sues Des Plaines for rejecting planned mosque

Another federal court battle is brewing over a northwest suburb’s refusal this summer to let a 160-member Islamic group open a mosque in a vacant building in an industrial area.

The lawsuit filed Monday against Des Plaines and five of its aldermen is the latest to take on a “knee-jerk reaction to something Islamic or Muslim,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Chicago.

His group helped win a $445,000 settlement from DuPage County in a similar case earlier this year. Now, it’s backing the case brought by the American Islamic Center and its attorney, Tony Peraica.

“We believe this was done for discriminatory reasons,” Peraica said.

Des Plaines officials either declined to comment Monday or failed to return calls from the Sun-Times.

Nearly all of the American Islamic Center’s members are Bosnian refugees from the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to its lawsuit. It said it entered a contract in February to buy an empty office building on 1.8 acres of land at 1645 Birchwood Ave., for religious and educational activities.

Nashville rabbi offers Murfreesboro mosque trip on Yom Kippur

The rabbi of Nashville’s largest and longest-practicing synagogue used the most holy night of the Jewish year to invite his congregation on an unusual trip.

Going to the beleaguered mosque in Murfreesboro, he told them Friday, is part of Yom Kippur’s call to introspection.

“It’s the day that we look into our most honest selves and we have to wrestle with ourselves — not just to do what is the easy or comfortabl thing — but that which is courageous and filled with strength of conscience,” said Rabbi Mark Schiftan of The Temple-Congregation Ohabai Sholom.

The congregation will load up on buses Oct. 27 and travel to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro for food and conversation, Schiftan said Saturday. While Jews and Muslims are often in conflict overseas, they’re both religious minorities in the U.S. The meeting gives both congregations the opportunity to ask questions and affirm their appreciation of the First Amendment right to practice their religions.

While Muslims have been meeting in Murfreesboro for decades, their newly opened mosque faced a number of tribulations, from burning of equipment on the construction site to a legal effort to prevent the building’s use.

Muslim girl attempts suicide following attack

Liberation

27.08.2013

16-year-old Aïssatou N. jumped off the fourth floor of her apartment building in Trappes an attempt to commit suicide. Days prior to her suicide attempt, the Muslim teenager was attacked by two white male on the street who violently pulled off her hijab (veil). The attack follows violent riots in the same town in July after a Muslim woman wearing a niqab was frisked and stopped by local police officers.

Aïssatou N. survived the fall and was released after having been briefly hospitalised. The attack draws further attention to the rise of islamophobic attacks in France.

Coptic unity in Washington D.C. area starts to gel since Morsi ouster

For years, Steve Messeh watched his small Egyptian American Coptic Christian community remain splintered in a jumble of weak advocacy groups. But now, since the violent ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, the young Virginia financial analyst is seeing something new: an effort toward real influence.

Messeh belongs to Coptic Solidarity, which on Thursday pulled together perhaps the largest local Egyptian American effort in memory. About 500 people gathered at the White House and outside several media organizations (including at The Washington Post’s building in Northwest) to voice their support for the military’s removal of Morsi in June. Like-minded Copts who Messeh knows are lobbying Capitol Hill policymakers on the topic this month, and a contingent from political parties was in town this week in a drive to mold the Egyptian Americans who supported the coup into a more unified, effective voice.

The same burst of organizing is happening among Egyptian Americans who oppose the military’s removal of Morsi, who was democratically elected. New groups have popped up since Morsi’s overthrow, including Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights, which is focused on the hundreds of civilians killed by the military in recent weeks.

But if the sudden activism this summer among Egyptian Americans, who for decades during the rule of Hosni Mubarak tended to be largely quiet, has solidified and motivated the two camps, it has also embittered them, activists and experts say. People’s positions have become hardened, and Egypt’s politics have become too fraught to discuss among friends and even family.

 

“There is an extremely deep polarization going on among Egyptian Americans,” commented Dalia Mogahed, a Washington-based native of Egypt who is the co-author of “Who Speaks for Islam?” and is a consultant to Muslim groups.

 

Ahmed Ghanim sees the same energy, but from the other side. The Michigan-based activist, who has 35,000 Facebook followers for his Egypt updates, is working with Egyptian Americans who oppose the coup. He’s now working with groups starting in Michigan and Texas.

“Even if we didn’t agree with Morsi, it’s a black comedy when you see an elected president in prison and Mubarak going free,” he said.

The new activism is tempered by the polarization, he said.

The revolution created a lot of Egyptian American interest in Egypt.

“Now everyone is accusing one another of being for or against democracy, or for or against revolution.”

Fort Hood Gunman Told His Superiors of Concerns

KILLEEN, Tex. — Days before he opened fire inside a medical processing building at Fort Hood here in 2009, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan sent two e-mails to his Army superiors expressing concern about the actions of some of the soldiers he was evaluating as a military psychiatrist.

In the e-mails, one sent 13 days before the attack and the second three days prior, Major Hasan asked his supervisors and Army legal advisers how to handle three cases that disturbed him. In one case, a soldier reported to him that American troops had poured 50 gallons of fuel into the Iraqi water supply as revenge; the second case involved another soldier who told him about a mercy killing of a severely injured insurgent by medics; and in the third, a soldier spoke of killing an Iraqi woman because he was following orders to shoot anything that approached a specific site.

 

The Army never fully investigated his concerns. On Nov. 5, 2009, Major Hasan walked into a medical deployment center to kill as many soldiers as he could as part of a jihad to protect Muslims and Taliban leaders from troops heading to Afghanistan, he has said.

In 2007, when Major Hasan was a resident in the psychiatric program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, the academic presentation he made that was required for graduation — known as his grand rounds presentation — stated that a risk of having American Muslims in the military was the possibility that they would murder their fellow troops.

 

He had also asked a supervisor at Walter Reed whether he qualified for conscientious objector status, told classmates during a fellowship that his religion took precedence over the Constitution, and in an academic paper defended Osama bin Laden.

 

Major Hasan’s radical beliefs and his correspondence with his Army superiors have played a limited role in his military trial, now in its third week at Fort Hood.