Major Mecca Pilgrimage Exhibition Opens in Netherlands

21 August 2013

 

In partnership with the British Museum in London, Leiden’s National Museum of Ethnology is displaying an exhibition dedicated to the Hajj. More than 250 objects from Indonesia and Morocco have been collected for the show, including 80 works from the Nasser D. Khalilii Collection of Islamic Art. The exhibition is to run from 10 September, 2013 to 9 March, 2014.

 

PBS series ‘Life of Muhammad’ explores diverse opinions of prophet

The portrait of the Muslim prophet, which emerges from a PBS documentary “Life of Muhammad,” may surprise some American viewers.

 

“As major polls by Gallup, Pew, and others have reported, astonishing numbers of Americans, as well as Europeans, are not only ignorant of Islam but have deep fears and prejudices towards their Muslim populations,” said John Esposito, professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University who appears in the three-part series that debuts Tuesday (Aug. 20) on PBS.

 

Esposito praised the series’ “balance,” and its attempts to describe controversial aspects of the prophet’s life with a diversity of opinions.

 

Produced for the BBC in 2011, the series examines the world into which Muhammad was born and his marriage to his first wife, Khadijah. The second hour focuses on the “Night Journey to Jerusalem,” his departure from Mecca and the eight-year war with the Meccan tribes. The third analyzes events during his later life, including the introduction of the moral code known as Shariah and the concept of jihad.

 

Narrated by Rageh Omaar, a Somali-born journalist, the series presents Muhammad in a respectful, positive light, though it doesn’t shirk from the controversies that surround Muhammad, who was born in Mecca in 570 A.D.

 

Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at University of Oxford, says in the film, “We never represent or have any images of any of the prophets.”

 

Omaar’s signoff at the end of the three-hour documentary attempts to contextualize all of the stories—flattering and damning—surrounding the prophet.  “He left Arabia a better place than he found it,” Omaar says.

700 Muslims attend the End of Ramadan Festivities in Legnano

August 8, 2013

 

Despite the bad weather this morning, 700 Muslims “invaded” the sports field on via dell’Amicizia in Legnano to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

The event, for the second year in a row, was organized by the Cultural Italian-Arab Association of Legnano. The association was founded in 2005 and is chaired by Mustapha Lhamid.

Men, women and children, arrived around 8 o’clock in the morning; they gathered on the green to celebrate Eid Al-Iftar, the party that for the end of the period of reflection which takes place during the ninth month of the year, according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

The rain did not stop people from praying. In fact, all those present were positioned facing Mecca, creating a real human “carpet.”

The second most important holiday of the Islamic religion was meticulously planned: “At dawn they placed carpets and loudspeakers” says Lhamid “this was done in order to avoid discomfort similar to how we operate in the cultural center, also some volunteers pointed people to where to park their cars. After the speech of Imam and the time of prayer, came the time to celebrate all together, to share.”

Ramadan is a time of fasting and prayer: “The event taking place today is the celebration of the end of Ramadan, one of the two most important holidays in the Islamic religion” says the Lhamid. “Today, as last year, we welcome many of the faithful who are coming from neighboring countries. Until now we have never had any problems in our city. Ours is an association open to dialogue: in fact, we have also collaborated with many other Italian organizations. Multiculturalism is among our goals and that is why we are ready to get involved and participate in events organized by other local associations.”

 

Ramadan fasting dilemma when sun never sets

 

Practising Muslims across the world are observing Ramadan. For one month, they are fasting between first light and sunset. But what do Muslims do in a town where the sun never really goes down? The town of Rovaniemi in Finland lies in a land of extremes. At 66 degrees north it straddles the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland. During midwinter it is cloaked in total darkness. But in the summer it is bathed in daylight. The long days pose a particular problem for fasting Muslims like Shah Jalal Miah Masud. The 28-year-old moved to Rovaniemi – 830km (515 mile) north of the capital, Helsinki – from Bangladesh five years ago to study IT. He has not had any food or water for 21 hours. Masud says it is difficult to fast according to Finnish time and admits he is tired. But despite the hunger and fatigue, he says it is a pleasure to observe Ramadan during the long Finnish days.

 

There is another option which reduces the number of fasting hours – mark its duration by the rising and setting of the sun in countries far to the south of Finland. Dr Abdul Mannan – a local Imam and president of the Islam Society of Northern Finland – says there are two schools of thought. “The Egyptian scholars say that if the days are long – more than 18 hours – then you can follow the Mecca time or Medina time, or the nearest Muslim country time,” says Dr Mannan. “The other (point of view) from the Saudi scholars says whatever the day is – long or short – you have to follow the local time.” Dr Mannan says the majority of Muslims in northern Finland observe either Mecca’s fasting hours or Turkish time because it is the nearest Muslim country to Finland.

 

Nafisa Yeasmin recalls her first Ramadan in Rovaniemi when she decided to fast according to Finnish daylight hours, going without food for up to 20 hours a day. “It was very difficult to follow because in Bangladesh we are used to 12 hours’ daytime and 12 hours’ night-time,” she says. “Then I thought, not any more. I have to follow Mecca’s timetable. But I’m a little bit worried whether Allah will accept it or not.”

Islam: Bitonci to Alfano and Kyenge: In Padua, Open Mosques Become Hotels

July 1, 2013

 

“It’s just a matter of money” some members of the Moroccan community in Padua say they quarreled among themselves about economic issues and, it seems, can no longer pray together. For this reason they want another mosque, in a district which is already suffering, where integration is made impossible by immigrant riots who are without work. Numerous places of worship are transformed, little by little, into shelters, kitchens and hotels, as seen in the Bengali mosque in Via Jacopo da Montagnana. So Bitonci Massimo, president of the Northern League, has submitted an urgent request to ministers Alfano and Kyenge: “Padua is dying. Tourists and young people do not know how to spend thier free time. Do you want a curfew imposed on the center premises, because there is little investment into the city. The case is emblematic of Via Bernina: where there was a disco, now you want to raise another mosque. The project of the municipality is revealed: to transform our city to another Mecca, from which young people and entrepreneurs are forced to flee, while the various forms of humanity that revolve around places of worship create makeshift shelters.”

Book Review: ”The Daughters of Allah” by Nedim Gürsel

Allah’s Disempowered Daughters

In 2008, the renowned Turkish author Nedim Gürsel was charged with insulting Islam in his novel The Daughters of Allah. He was later acquitted. The novel has now been translated into German. Stefan Weidner read the book

Upon reading this book, it at last becomes apparent what has always been missing – from the western reader’s perspective – from even the best novels from the Islamic world. Although it has never been possible to exactly put a finger on it, these novels lacked an insight into the fundamental mindset, the spiritual substructure, woven of myths and legends, of the people about whom we are reading.

 

Muslim brothers sacrifice big NFL paychecks for spiritual journey to Mecca

Put simply, this is just another striving, improbable, poetic American Dream story: How a family, venerating work and education, traveled from the notorious South Central LA of “Boyz In The Hood” to settle in Spielberg Americana in the shadow of the soaring San Bernardino Mountains—a family with not one but two brothers recruited to play Division I football at Washington State University, followed even more notably by NFL careers.

But this story has taken many more remarkable turns.  Tonight on Rock Center with Brian Williams (10p ET), in  a remarkable journey from Southern California to Saudi Arabia,  correspondent Mary Carillo tells the story of Husain and Hamza Abdullah,  who, at their athletic peak … associated with America’s most glamorous, most  popular sport … walked away, for the glory of God.

 

“We’ve been playing football since we were 8 years old,” Husain Abdullah told Carillo, “from Pop Warner to high school, and to college, and into the NFL.  And although we’re knocking down all these barriers, doing things that people said you can’t do, all of a sudden, it was like there’s more to life than this. There’s more.  And we had to go for it.”

Study: Islamic extremists using rhetoric of victimization, not world domination

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Islamist extremists make heavy use of the Qur’an (Islam’s most sacred text) in their strategic communication. This study analyzed the most frequently cited or quoted verses in the Center for Strategic Communication’s database of over 2,000 extremist texts. The texts date from the years 1998 to 2011, and originate primarily from the Middle East and North Africa. Taking this data as a starting point, we provide a qualitative analysis of the historical contexts and core narrative components of the cited passages.

 

The results confirm certain common assumptions about extremist readings of the Qur’an. There is a disproportionate use of surahs (chapters) from the later Medinan over the earlier Meccan period – only one of the top ten most frequently cited surahs of the Qur’an is Meccan. The Medinan surahs also fall within a certain historical window representing the onset and completion of military conflict between the earliest Muslims and the “pagan” clans of Mecca and their allies.

 

Other findings in the report raise questions about the veracity of claims often made by analysts. The most surprising is the near absence of the well-known “Verse of the Sword” (9:5) from the extremist texts. Widely regarded as the most militant or violent passage of the Qur’an, it is treated as a divine call for offensive warfare on a global scale. It is also regarded as a verse which supersedes over one hundred other verses of the Qur’an that counsel patience, tolerance, and forgiveness.

We conclude that verses extremists cite from the Qur’an do not suggest an aggressive offensive foe seeking domination and conquest of unbelievers, as is commonly assumed. Instead they deal with themes of victimization, dishonor, and retribution. This shows close integration with the rhetorical vision of Islamist extremists.

Based on this analysis we recommend that the West abandon claims that Islamist extremists seek world domination, focus on counteracting or addressing claims of victimage, emphasize alternative means of deliverance, and work to undermine the “champion” image sought by extremists.

Right at home: U.S. mosques are often more Middle America than Middle East

Tucked into the corner of a series of industrial parks in West Valley City, the Khadeeja Islamic Center’s golden dome and minaret might strike some passersby as out of place, even foreign to this American suburb where the dominant architectural features are grey box stores and white church steeples.

To be sure, the Islamic Center exterior looks arabesque. Completed in 2002, the mosque “was built to face Mecca” in Saudi Arabia, the center of the Islamic world, explains Muhammed Shoayb Mehtar, the imam who leads the thriving Islamic Center of Greater Salt Lake whose main gathering place is the Khadeeja mosque in West Valley City.

Yet what goes on inside the mosque is just as much Middle America as it is Middle East. The several hundred Muslims who gather here each Friday — the Muslim holy day — come together to worship, pray and socialize with their fellow believers, not unlike churchgoers and other believers across the country.

The Khadeeja Islamic Center also serves as an important gateway into American culture for this very international community, whose regular attendees hail from 30 to 35 different countries. Hundreds of African American, Asian, Middle Eastern, as well as blond-haired, blue-eyed Muslims entered the mosque’s front door, removed their shoes and performed the “wudu”— the ceremonial washing of hands, arms and face. They then sat on the mosque’s carpeted floor, “because we believe in equality in Islam,” explained Tariq Nossier, a former president of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake who now greets visitors at the mosque’s entrance. In dress as varied as their ethnic make-up — seersucker suits and ties, long white cloaks, even a Chicago Bulls basketball jersey and jeans — the community faced the mihrab, the niche at the center of the mosque’s eastern wall indicating the direction of Mecca.