What would you do if one of the richest men in the world dumped you? Muslim ‘divorcee’ Nivin El-Gamal explains all

This piece is an interview with Nivin El-Gamal who had years of court appearances against Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, 54, the son of the former ruler of Dubai and a man reportedly worth £19bn with regards to whether they were married and the consequences for their child. The London-based Muslim tells Louisa Peacock how she is finally escaping from the Sheikh’s shadow and putting two fingers up to her traditional upbringing, to forge her and her son a new life. The interview covers a variety of topics such as how El-Gamal, who comes from a rich family and who has led no ordinary life, might not find it hard to find the money to launch her new charity. However as someone with a solid business background; having founded an interior design business called Galaxy Stars, which counts pop stars, VIPs, foreign dignitaries and high-end London projects among its clients. She recalls how her father and grandfather disapproved of her business in the early days because she would come into “regular contact with men”. She says she was expected by her father to “marry someone from his society, rich like you, just be a mum, and if you are studying interior design, you’ll design your own house, that’s it”. Living in a world heavily steeped in tradition, where women are expected to behave and act in a certain way, it was unusual and brave for a 20-something girl like El-Gamal to break the mould and start her own firm – especially coming from a rich family where she did not need to make more money. The interview covers her early life in Egypt long before the current political situation and how the interviewee felt about life under Mubarak. Stating that life under Mubarak was much better and more liberal than life under the Muslim Brotherhood. Having said that, El-Gamal still holds views comparable with the Muslim brotherhood when it comes to the notion of family, she believes that people were put on earth only to reproduce and it follows that she disagrees with abortion; disapproves of contraception and sneers at same-sex marriage.

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.


It is Appropriate for Muslims to participate in Holy Thursday?

March 28, 2013

“It was fine to include Muslims and women” said the Father Federico Lombardi, Director of Media at the Vatican, who was asked about the Pope’s recent trip to Casal Del Marmo Jail where he washed the feet of women: a serious departure from Papal tradition. The Pope also gave mass in the prison to an interfaith congregation, which included Muslims.


A study of Arab attitudes to sexuality reminds us of a liberal Islamic tradition

sex-and-the-citadel-intimate-life-in-a-changing-arab-world.jpgThe book Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World, by Shereen El Feki was reviewed by Roula Khalaf in the Financial Times.

The article reviews the book which aims to offer insight into this highly sensitive subject whilst also establishing that there are a multitude of views held by Muslims around the globe on the subject of sex and sexuality. The review goes on to explain the structure of the book and it’s usage of historical examples. These historical examples have a variety of uses, for example: they can be to illustrate historical precedents that contrast or compare to the current situation or how the current practice has grown out of the historical background.

Europe’s ”Judeo-Christian heritage”: The Fiction That It Always Was

Contemporary debate over Europe’s identity increasingly refers to the continent’s Christian or Judeo-Christian heritage. But a closer look at the history books belies this theory and teaches us that for centuries, Islam and Judaism have played an integral role in shaping European history and that both religions have been regarded with deep hostility down through the centuries. By Stefan Schreiner

Whenever discussions centre on how Europe perceives itself and in particular on the continent’s values, it is still commonplace – today apparently even more so than in the past – to speak of a “Christian” Europe, or at least to make reference to its Christian roots and to emphasise the Christian character that these roots have produced. But political correctness forbids the exclusive interpretation of the word “Christian” in this context, and particularly well-meaning commentators are quick to define it instead as a Judeo-Christian tradition or Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage, which does little to improve matters.

On the contrary – upon closer inspection, this reference to Europe’s Judeo-Christian tradition or its Judeo-Christian heritage is revealed all too smartly as a transparent manoeuvre. After all, those who most vociferously reclaim a Judeo-Christian tradition for Europe generally do this with the sole aim of saying that Islam does not per definitionem belong to the continent.

From a historical point of view, however, the Christianization of Europe was an arduous process that took more than a millennium and followed anything but a straightforward course. In fact it was a process that was repeatedly dogged by “setbacks”. Essentially, the Christianization of Europe never really reached a conclusion or was properly completed. This is because at the point when the last Muslim had been driven from the Iberian Peninsula in the West, and the “last heathens of Europe” – the Lithuanians – had been converted to Christianity in the East (in the fourteenth/fifteenth century), Islam had long begun to spread back into Europe from the East and the South-East (the Balkans). Muslim communities would then maintain a long-term presence in central and eastern Europe (Lithuania, Poland, Belarus), just as they did in the Balkans.


Nordic Daylight makes Muslims Indecisive

July 17, 2012


The Muslim month of fasting – Ramadan starts on Friday, July 20. However the short Swedish nights makes faithful Muslims concerned. When can a person break their fast?

”It is a big issue,” says Mohamed Amri, the Luleå Imam (in the far north of Sweden) Imam. According to the tradition the fast should last from dawn to sunset. For Muslims in Luleå, that means abstaining from food and water up to 21 hours.

“It is clear that is far too long,” says Amri.

Ruling on Circumcision in Germany: When Judges Become Religious Referees

For Jews and Muslims, the circumcision of male children is more than just a pious custom. A German court has now for the first time ruled that the religiously motivated surgical procedure is a crime. The Cologne judgement can be seen as an expression of our secular society. But sometimes it’s not a good thing for judges to rule over religions. By Matthias Drobinski

When Abraham was 99 years old war, the first Book of Moses tells us, God made a pact with him and his descendants: If you’re true to me, I’ll be true to you. There would be special sign for this pact: “All male children, as soon as they are eight days old, must be circumcised.” According to the Islamic tradition, Abraham first carried out this act on himself – with the help of an axe.

Circumcision of male children thus was, and still is, the indelible archaic distinguishing feature of Jews and Muslims, and to make sure it stays that way Jewish parents often find themselves facing the death penalty. For Jews and Muslims, circumcision is more than just a pious custom.

Accordingly, one pair of Muslim parents who have now inadvertently written a new chapter of legal and religious history had their four-year-old-son circumcised. They went to a doctor so that it would be done properly, but there was some bleeding afterward, whereupon the mother took her son to the hospital. From what she said there, the doctor inferred that she didn’t completely consent to the procedure, and he informed the police.

Right of the child to physical integrity

The Cologne District Court acquitted the doctor of the charge of grievous bodily harm. But on appeal the Regional Court of Cologne then caused a sensation by passing a different judgement: The decisive factor is not the parents’ right to religious freedom and to decide how to bring up their children, nor is it the good of the child, who can presumably after the procedure grow up in the lap of a religious community. Decisive instead is the fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity. The doctor who performed the circumcision was only acquitted because he was acting to the best of his knowledge within the law, in other words, he couldn’t have known that what he was doing was punishable by law.

Ancient practice and medical arguments: Both Islam and Judaism require circumcision for men. In the United States by contrast, hygienic and medical motives lead to some 75 per cent of men being circumcised This is the first time that a German court has passed such a ruling. Should other courts follow suit, this would have grave consequences for Muslims and Jews in Germany: circumcision would henceforward be equated with grievous bodily harm.

Only those boys could be circumcised for which it could be assumed they did so of their own free will. Undercover agents would have to get to work in the many synagogues and mosques. At some point, all associations in favour of circumcision of young boys would have to be prohibited. Blithe religious peace would spread throughout the land.

The man whose deliberations were for the most part responsible for the judgement is named Holm Putzke and is professor of criminal law at the University of Passau. Born in 1973 in the town of Dohna in Saxony, he is regarded as one of the most ambitious scholars of jurisprudence in the country. He was an Adenauer Foundation fellow and active in the “Liberal Universities” group, and is far from having any anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim leanings. Ever since he examined “the criminal-law relevance of circumcision of boys” in a commemorative publication in 2008, he has been fascinated by this topic; the Cologne ruling now follows his arguments.

Basically, Putzke merely approached the topic with the tools of the professional jurist: every time a doctor uses a knife, bodily harm results, as far as jurists are concerned. The doctor therefore needs a good reason to start cutting: because he is trying to save the patient’s life and health, or, in the case of cosmetic surgery, in an effort to enhance the well-being or at least the social status of the individual requesting the procedure.

An intervention in religious freedom: the chairman of the Council of Muslims in Germany, Ali Kizilkaya, as well as Germany’s Central Council of Jews have sharply criticised the ruling of the Regional Court But what, then, gives a doctor the right to follow the will of the parents and remove the foreskin from the penis of their child?

Tradition and history of minor significance

One by one, the Passau criminal lawyers reviewed the usual arguments for making circumcision immune from punishment. Because the right to religious freedom allows for it? This comes up against certain limits in view of the right to bodily integrity, says Putzke, as does the right of parents to decide how to bring up their children.

Because circumcision is for the good of the child, because one in four men worldwide are circumcised anyway, and in the USA as many as 75 per cent of men live without a foreskin, not any better or worse off than others? The medical benefits of the operation are also controversial, Putzke replies. And how much good it actually does the child to bear the pain and trauma of an operation that is not medically indicated in order to be part of a community – that’s another question entirely. “Why can’t Jews and Muslims postpone circumcision to a later point in time”, he asks, “and just leave it at a symbolic rite, a small jab for example?”

This is a positivistic argument that pays no heed to the tradition and history of the Occident and Orient – and what is really remarkable about it is that the Cologne Regional Court is espousing it. The ruling on the Rhine reflects how the relationship between law and religion is changing in a society that is becoming secular and multi-religious.

A case for Germany’s Constitutional Court

A pact with God: in the Jewish tradition, a boy is circumcised on his eighth day of life. In exile and in the Diaspora, circumcision became, along with dietary laws and the Sabbath, one of the central identifying features of Judaism Things are not like they were thirty years ago, when the culturally dominant Christian society in Germany was accompanied by just 30,000 Jews largely keeping to themselves and a Muslim community of which it could be assumed that they would soon be returning to their homelands. Today, more than four million people are living in this country whose religion decrees that boys are to be circumcised.

The sense of Christian rituals is being lost, while those of other religions are understood even less, are contested, battled and brought before the courts – who then become the referees.

Sometimes this is justified, as for example with dramatic human rights violations such as female circumcision, which is nothing more than a violent act signifying that women are not mistresses over their own sexuality.

But sometimes it’s not good at all when judges make themselves referees of religion, putting themselves above it and making legal positivism into almost an ersatz religion. The border between legitimate objection in the name of basic law and transgression will be readjusted in the coming years by many judgements being passed down by different courts, all the way up to Germany’s Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.

From the way things look at the moment, it seems that the judges in Karlsruhe will at some point have to turn their attention to the religious circumcision of boys, and that they will then follow the opinion of the Central Council of the Jews, which sees the Cologne ruling as an intervention in the right to self-determination of the religious communities.

Meal builds bridges between Muslims and inner-city residents

News Agencies – June 10, 2012

Dozens of volunteers from Edmonton’s Muslim community spent their Sunday helping feed inner-city residents. They set up in the Hope Mission, preparing and handing out 800 roast beef dinners.

“It’s a human obligation,” said Ahmed Ali, one of the volunteers.”We all might succumb to this type of situation, so it’s good to give back.” When they were still finding their feet in their new home, Ali says his family often relied on charities and organizations for food.

The meal has been a tradition in Edmonton for a decade. Ali says it’s a chance to disprove some of the stereotypes that plague both the city’s immigrant and homeless populations – especially in the wake of media attention that Ali says often paints the communities in a bad light.

Dutch MP Angered at Welcome for Mecca Pilgrims

26 November 2011

The Schipol Airport’s practice welcoming pilgrims returning from Mecca with a small room providing mint tea and sweets has angered MP Hero Brinkman of the PVV Freedom Party. Brinkman contrasted the practice with an apparent lack of Christmas decoration at the airport. A Schipol spokesperson explains that due to the upcoming festival of Sinterklaas the airport is not yet decorated for Christmas, but will soon “go all out”. The airport emphasized it is a tradition of many years to welcome pilgrims returning home from Mecca “out of a spirit of hospitality”.

IFOP poll suggests French Muslims torn between traditional and modern relationships

According to a recently released IFOP poll, French Muslims are torn between tradition and modernity when it comes to relationships and marriage. Done for an online dating service, the poll found huge opposition to both polygamy and arranged marriages.

The poll suggests that the group’s value system remains “impregnated” with a moral code which views sex as legitimate only within a marriage and which strongly influences marriage partner choices. The poll found that 84% opposed the legalization of polygamy in France, while 83% reject the notion that parents should choose spouses for their children. Roughly three out of four (73%) are against sex outside marriage, while 53% said they were unwilling to marry a non-Muslim.

The telephone poll involved 503 respondents interviewed Nov. 23-24, 2010. The poll’s margin of error is between 1.3 and 4.4 percentage points, according to Ifop.