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.
News Agencies – November 1, 2011
A Canadian imam who was arrested by religious police while on a pilgrimage to the Saudi Arabian city of Medina thanked the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the Canadian media and his supporters across the country for their efforts in ensuring his release. Edmonton-based imam Usama Al-Atar said he felt “deeply relieved” and “very grateful” to be reunited with his friends after spending 36 hours in a Medina city jail, according to a statement he issued on behalf of the IHRC, a U.K.-based organization that spearheaded an urgent appeal effort that brought international attention to his case.
He said the detainment facility he stayed in was “horrid” but didn’t elaborate on the specific conditions. He said that because he was staying in Saudi Arabia for two more weeks to complete his pilgrimage, it would not be “sensible nor wise” of him to speak to the media about his experience with Saudi authorities.
Al-Atar, a prominent Islamic scholar and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Alberta chemistry department, was leading 10 pilgrims in prayer at a religious burial site in Medina when a group of Saudi religious police began to harass the group, according to witnesses, including Hayward. The religious police first asked Al-Atar to lower his voice and then asked the group to leave the cemetery, witnesses said. The police then accused Al-Atar of being a thief before restraining him, Hayward said Sunday. Eventually one of the religious police officers pushed Al-Atar into a small kiosk area where he reportedly struggled to breathe.
A small travel agent from Birmingham has been found guilty of ripping off a Muslim family over Hajj pilgrimage package to Saudi Arabia bought in July 2009. As the Birmingham Mail reports, during a five-day trial at Birmingham Court, the jury heard about the family’s trip to Mecca and Medina that was blighted by a “catalogue of disasters” and then found the owner of the agency, Chowdhury Ahmad, guilty of one charge of fraud and three counts of flouting package holiday regulations. Ahmad was released on unconditional bail, but could be jailed when he is sentenced on December 9th.
News Agencies – October 31, 2011
A Canadian Muslim cleric will have to keep a low profile and stay quiet about being arrested, bruised, bloodied and shackled in a holding cell while he completes a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. Usama Al-Atar, a well-known Edmonton Shia spiritual leader, was arrested after a clash with Saudi religious police who noticed his group performing supplications at the Jannat al-Baqi, the graveyard near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. “I was falsely arrested and held by Saudi authorities for the best part of the previous 36 hours in what can only be described as horrid conditions,” Dr. Al-Atar said in a statement.
The cemetery has long been a place of tension between Shia pilgrims and the religious police, who uphold a strict application of Wahhabist Islam at odds with other Muslim schools of thought. A friend travelling with Dr. Al-Attar said that the Saudi religious police had warned them twice the previous day that they were being too loud. Dr. Al-Atar, a post-doctoral chemistry researcher at the University of Alberta, is familiar to many Shia because he has given lectures around the world. The Edmonton cleric has denounced human-rights violations in Saudi Arabia and in neighbouring Bahrain.
Mahmood Mavani, president of the Islamic Shia Ithna-Asheri Association of Edmonton, a southeast city mosque where Dr. Al-Atar served as an imam, praised the work of the federal government and the local MP, Mike Lake, in pressing for his friend’s release.
On Saturday June 5 the Danish singer Median gave a free concert and 15-20 young men threw eggs at her while she was performing at the stage. She stopped the music and said: “Someone has been very badly raised. I think it’s disrespectful to the people who have come here to enjoy themselves and have a good time. It’s okay that you don’t like my music, but your parents should be ashamed of you. Don’t spoil this for us who are happy and feeling good”. After the scolding Medina continued the concert and the audience applauded her consistent handling of the episode.
Apparently the young men are offended that Medina uses the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s final resting place because she is lightly dressed and sings songs with erotic undertones. Medina is not the pop star’s real name. She took it after visiting a numerologist and it has nothing to do with Islam. The Islamic Society in Denmark condemns the attack and doesn’t understand why someone would be offended by a singer who uses Medina as a stage name.
The president of “the group of fathers”, Khalid Alsubeihi, is sure that the young men are just ill-mannered brats and that the religious arguments are just an excuse for making trouble. The spokesperson from the Islamic Society in Denmark, Kraman Shah, supports this view and says that the young men are welcome to come by the mosque if they want to know what Islam is really about.
The Religious Directorate of Muslims in the Asian cultural region of Russia provided an incentive to open libraries at mosques in Siberia and the Urals, says the chairman of the Directorate Nafigulla Ashirov.
While Muslim communities in Central Russia, the Volga region and in Northern Caucasus are well supplied with Islamic books, it still remains a problem in the Urals, Siberia and Far East of Russia. “Available books are few in number and expensive for simple Muslims”,–says Ashirov.–“That is the reason why we need to open libraries at every mosque in these regions so the books can be accessed not just by Muslims but for everyone who is interested; for example, students who write papers on Islam and Muslim-related matters.”
Medina Publishing House, one of the largest Muslim publishers in Russia, is ready to contribute to this initiative. Its books on the history of Muslim communities in Russia and Islamic theology and practice, form many libraries around the country.
The Milliken Mills Community Centre in Markham, Ontario is home to an active mostly-Muslim ball hockey league. The Madina league has eight teams, each with about 16 to 18 players. They meet every Friday night in Markham, battling towards the Madina Cup in mid-August. “The best time to play ball hockey is the nighttime, around the sunset or after the sunset,” because there are fewer prayers, said Habib, 33, as the players, bowing on a white mat in the corner of the rink, observe the fourth prayer of the day. Players shout encouragement, but there is little to no swearing. Swearing in tournament play will result in a penalty and could mean a suspension, said Habib. “We are trying to teach the religion as much as possible, and that is hard to do if you are allowing bodychecks or fighting.”
There are more than 400 Muslims playing organized ball hockey across Greater Toronto, and interest in the connection between the community and the sport is at a high. Last month, the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted their first Muslim player, Nazem Kadri.
Abbas Taj, 30, a mini-cab driver, was found guilty of conspiracy to firebomb the home of Martin Rynja, the publisher of The Jewel Of Medina. He was to be the getaway driver, but was stopped in his car and arrested by armed police near Angel Tube station in the early hours in September last year, just after he and two other men had set fire to the premises. The other two have been convicted last month.
The novel is about the Prophet Mohammed and the life of his child bride, Aisha, and has stirred quite some controversy. Its publication was cancelled by one major publisher in the United States over fears that it could offend Muslims. In Serbia the book was withdrawn after protests from local Islamic leaders but was subsequently returned to bookshelves. Speaking last October, Mr Rynja said that the novel was not offensive and added that he felt its publication was part of a liberal democracy.
The case is one of many examples where liberalism and pluralism clash with the extremist opinion of a few who employ vigilante justice to enforce objectives.
The launch of controversial novel The Jewel of Medina about the Prophet Mohammed has been postponed: American writer Sherry Jones has also delayed a three-day publicity tour of the UK for her book scheduled for next week. The novel focuses on Mohammed’s relationship with his child bride Aisha but has been dismissed by one academic as “softcore pornography”. The Jewel of Medina was due to be released by Gibson Square Publishers this month but two weeks ago the home of Martin Rynja, who works for the publishing house, was targeted in a suspected petrol bomb attack. Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas, was quoted in the US media as saying the Jewel of Medina took “sacred history” and turned it into “softcore pornography”. A spokesman for Gibson Square Publishers said today: “We respect Sherry Jones’s decision. In her view the best thing to do is to postpone her visit and the publishing of the novel in Britain. “It is not an easy call for any author, particularly in the case of a debut novel that attracts so much attention from the British media. “We appreciate that she will continue to make time available to any interested British groups to dispel misinformation about The Jewel of Medina.” The statement added: “We hope that they will get in touch with us to receive further information about her hopes for her novel to foster greater understanding of Islam for Western readers.
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A book about the prophet Muhammad’s child bride, Aisha, was rushed to US booksellers nine days ahead of shchedule, after the office of the book’s British publisher was attacked. Beaufort Books picked up “the Jewel of Medina” after it was dropped by Random House, after it was deemed controversial and could incite violence. The fictional novel by Sherry Jones traces the life of Aisha from her engagement to the prophet until the prophet’s death. The book has received criticism for its disrespectful misrepresentation of history, and has also been welcomed by some erring on the side of literary freedom.
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