Devout Muslims donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of Canada’s largest Islamic organizations on the promise that the cash would be used to help the poor. But only one in four dollars donated to a special pool of money at the Islamic Society of North America Canada (ISNA Canada) actually reached the needy. ISNA Canada draws in close to $1 million in charity donations a year. The audit looked closely at one portion of those donations, an obligatory alms giving called Zakat and Fitrah meant to aid the needy. The audit found that of about $810,777 collected over four years, only $196,460 went to aid the poor.
ISNA Canada is embroiled in controversy, with the audit revealing the practice of giving free perks to family members of a top official; the improper issuing of charitable tax receipts; and the diversion of charity money to private businesses. At the centre of it all is long-time secretary general Mohammad Ashraf, who has recently announced he is stepping down.
The ISNA Canada headquarters houses the city of Mississauga’s most visible mosque and provides a variety of services, including a Muslim high school and a halal meat certification agency.
The directors of the planned Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero have applied for grants from an agency tasked with helping Lower Manhattan recover from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Gamal has said he plans to raise the $140 million required to build the center by tapping small donors, enlisting paying members and courting corporations and philanthropists. Nothing has been raised yet, but the developers insist that their fund-raising efforts are going according to plan and that they have found interested donors.
In a statement, the developer, Sharif el-Gamal, said that the board of Park51, as the center is known, asked for about $5 million financing from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation about two weeks ago. The money, which would come from a pool of $2 billion in federal financing administered by the corporation, would be used for domestic violence prevention programs, language classes, art exhibitions and other social services at the center.
Two Muslim women were ordered out of a swimming pool at the Rives des Corbieres holiday camp in Port Leucate, southern France, because they were wearing ‘burkinis’. The incident came ten days after French MPs voted to outlaw the burka in public places.
The women were asked to either change into conventional bikinis or one-piece costumes or leave the swimming pool. Police were then called to the drama after the husband of one of the women threatened the pool’s lifeguard with a bowling ball.
Last year a Muslim woman was banned from wearing a burkini at a public swimming pool also for hygiene reasons. She later failed in her bid to sue the council in the Paris suburb for discrimination. Police have this year also stopped and fined two women for wearing a burka while driving because the garb impaired their field of vision. The Lost Angeles Times reports a rise in discrimination of Muslims across France.
A group of women in Amsterdam are seeking a women-only swimming session at an Amsterdam pool, Telegraaf reports. The women wear burkinis to swim but do not want their hands and feet to be visible should men be present. Local councillor Egbert de Vries argued that the pool already has a one-hour naked swimming session for men and should perhaps consider having a women-swimming session as well.
Under the rules, swimmers — including non-Muslims — are barred from entering the pool in normal swimming attire. Instead they are told that they must comply with the “modest” code of dress required by Islamic custom, with women covered from the neck to the ankles and men, who swim separately, covered from the navel to the knees.
The phenomenon runs counter to developments in France, where last week a woman was evicted from a public pool for wearing a burkini — the headscarf, tunic and trouser outfit which allows Muslim women to preserve their modesty in the water.
But across the UK municipal pools are holding swimming sessions specifically aimed at Muslims, in some case imposing strict dress codes. Swimmers were told last week on the centre’s website that “during special Muslim sessions male costumes must cover the body from the navel to the knee and females must be covered from the neck to the ankles and wrists”.
Labour MP Anne Cryer, whose Keighley, West Yorkshire constituency has a large number of Muslims, said: “Unfortunately this kind of thing has a negative impact on community relations. It’s seen as yet another demand for special treatment. I can’t see why special clothing is needed for what is a single-sex session.”
Carole, a 35-year-old French convert to Islam has threatened legal action after she was evicted from a public pool for wearing a “burkini” – a veil, trouser and tunic covering that she said allowed her to swim while preserving her modesty. The case revolving around the Emerainville pool east of Paris (Seine-et-Marne) has reopened France’s bitter debate about female Muslim dress.
The local authorities in Emerainville said the case had nothing to do with Islam, but regulations stated that garments bigger than standard swimsuits, including men’s board-shorts, could not be worn in pools for hygiene reasons.
The Islamic Foundation of Toronto mosque overflowed as more than 3,000 people paid their respects to a dedicated mother and her two bright and friendly daughters, whose lives were cut short in a swimming adventure gone wrong. In 2002, the family moved to Toronto from Pakistan. On July 18, during a family trip to the Thousand Islands, the two girls and their mother, Naila Yasmin, 43, were found unconscious in the Best Western Country Squire Resort pool. They had slipped out of their room early in the morning to go for a swim. Yasmin was a schoolteacher in Pakistan and worked at a Tim Hortons in Toronto while caring for her husband and four children.
Muslim women in the northern Italian province of Bergamo will now have private access to a local swimming pool, where they are able to swim freely without traditional clothing and without the company of men. At the Siloe pool, men are not permitted to swim at designated times each week, when women’s-only hours are in effect. During such times, Muslim women can swim without their veils, burqas, or other garments usually worn in the company of non-relative males. The Siloe pool is owned by the diocese of Bergamo, who made the arrangement with local Muslim women; but the pool is also open to all Italian women during designated times.
The religion-based system’s attitude to risk stands it in good stead compared to Western banks.
Islamic finance is set to be a big winner in the current financial crisis, BDO Stoy Hayward said today.
The financial advisor claimed that the religion-based system retains large amounts of money available to borrowers. This is in contrast to mainstream lenders, many of whom depend on inter-bank loans for revenue and have therefore been forced to make cutbacks due to the frozen money markets.
Invented in the mid-20th century by muslims looking for a system of finance that was in-keeping with the tenets of their religion, Islamic finance also has a radically different attitude to risk than other forms of banking. Commonly, the system works on a “risk-sharing” model. For example, Islamic insurance works by policyholders paying into and claiming from a central pool, which is used by all – in contrast to the common Western model. With usury from loans banned by Islam, the leverage – or, more simply, the amount of money owed – by Islamic financial institutions also tends to be lower.
Speaking to FT Advisor Dan Taylor, head of banking at BDO Stoy Hayward, explained: “As the risk profile of Islamic Banks is generally lower than conventional western banks, this presents a more solid option for both retail and institutional investors and suggests that dealings with Islamic financial institutions will grow dramatically as people switch to more secure products in this environment.
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Residents of Calgary, Alberta will now be allowed to swim in city pools wearing saris, hijabs and other clothing deemed “religious” in a new policy designed to encourage the participation of ethnic and religious minorities. For safety reasons, saris will be banned from the deep end. The city´s superintendent for aquatics and fitness stated that the policy clarifies what before had been a grey area, typically handled on a case-by-case basis. Ms. Bruce stated, “We wanted to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and they can participate with dignity when they use our facilities.” Clothing must be clean and swimmers must shower in the garments before entering the pool.
Similarly, last winter, the Alberta Soccer Association changed its rules to, like in the provinces of British Colombia and Ontario, allow female soccer players to wear the hijab while playing. The headscarf is banned on Québec soccer fields.
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