Ramadan 2013: Fasting for the body, food for the soul

Ramadan in Britain during the early Eighties was very different from the way it is now. There was no awareness of the rotating month of fasting in the Islamic calendar, no flexibility to working hours, no facility for prayer in offices and no calls for prayer on television. For one month every year, my family and I would undertake this annual Islamic duty furtively, tip-toeing around for the pre-dawn meal for fear of waking up the neighbours with the kitchen clatter, and reluctant to talk about the practice for fear of censure or mockery. The Eid festival that marks the end of Ramadan is also increasingly celebrated in public venues around the country, including Trafalgar Square in London. Channel 4 announced last week that it would broadcast one out of five “calls for prayer” during the month-long fasting period.

 

Four decades on, Ramadan is marked far more openly in Britain. Some employers are offering flexi-time to those Muslims who, from this week, will undertake a daily fast for 30 consecutive days that will involve around 19 hours of abstention from all food and drink – from sunrise to sunset. Some firms are allowing Muslims to begin their working day later, so they can catch up on sleep after waking up at 3am to eat, and to end their shifts earlier, so that they are not working when they are physically weakened. Now, fasting seems to have been reinvented as the ancients saw it – a way of giving the body a rest, cleansing both physically and spiritually, and a way of sharpening our collective sense of self-restraint. These objectives are being resurrected in our obesity-riddled Western world, with its binge culture, its childhood obesity and its addictions to food.

 

Dr Michael Mosley’s Horizon investigation in 2012, which studied the effects of intermittent fasting, presented medical evidence for the life-extending and life-improving benefits of fasting on the human body, though this is still contentious territory in the scientific and nutritional community. Even grander claims came from American scientists last year who said that fasting for regular periods could help protect the brain against degenerative illness.

 

Faith and fasting: Ramadan rules

* Fasting at Ramadan is deemed to be one of the “five pillars of Islam”, which are the basis of the Muslim faith. Only children or those health conditions or children are excepted from fasting.

* Fasting is seen to cleanse the soul from worldly impurities. It also serves to formally train Muslims to repel negative social vices through self-control and restraint.

* In the UK, 2.7 million citizens are Muslim, according to the 2011 census, comprising 4.8 per cent of the population. Among under-25s, the figure is 10 per cent.

* Advice on how to deal with Ramadan is widely available to schools, which are largely tolerant and flexible. Stoke-on-Trent city council advised in 2010 that schools should rearrange exams, cancel swimming lessons, sex education and school-wide social events during Ramadan, as well as offering school meals as packed lunches to take home to facilitate flexibility.

«Without a doubt, Jihad has Spain as a target»

16 July 2012

 

Interview of Ignacio Cosidó, General Director of Spanish Police about the jihadi threat in Spain

 

-Spain remains the focus of international jihad?
-No doubt the international jihad has Spain as a target. But it is a shared threat across Europe and the Western world.
– Is the risk of attack higher or controlled?
-Jihadist terrorism is the threat that concerns us the most at medium and long term. Recent events in the Sahel and the strength of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb are very obvious risk factors, especially by our geographical location. The police are on constant alert, to avoid either the recruitment of terrorists or funds in Spanish territory or the departing of Spanish Jihadis to training camps.
– Is Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb the biggest risk or are there others?
-Yes, but mainly by geographical proximity, but again, the risk of Al-Qaida is shared in all Western European countries. It is also true that references to Spain by this group in their communications and their web sites are quite recurrent. The problem to combat jihadism is that its members are not grouped into organized structures. Sometimes they are just individuals who, as happened in Toulouse last March, decide to commit terrorist acts on their own.
-These are called ‘lone wolves’. Are there in Spain?
-So far they have not appeared in our country but it is certainly a threat that we take into consideration, especially after what happened in France. It is not a hypothetical threat it is a real threat.
– Are there more or less radical Islamist activities since 11-M?
-Al-Qaida as a centralized organization is weaker than a decade ago, but it is true that the increased presence of jihadi terrorism in the Sahel is greater. The threat persists with different methods.

Opinion Piece by Jonathan Kay who suggests Islamophobia exists in Canada

The National Post – June 19, 2012

This opinion piece captures Jonathan Kay’s talk as a panelist at the “Message of Peace: Countering Islamophobia” conference, hosted by the University of Toronto’s Muslim Students’ Association and ICNA Canada. He says, “Contrary to what some pundits argue, I do believe Islamophobia is a real phenomenon. Which is to say: I do believe there are some Canadians out there who have an irrational fear of Islam. For these purposes, I define “irrational fear” as a fear that goes beyond (a) the very real, legitimate and widely shared fear of Islamist terrorism; and (b) the very real, legitimate and widely shared concern about retrograde Islamist attitudes toward women being imported into Canadian society.”

 

“Overall, I think Canada likely ranks as one of the least Islamophobic nations in the Western world (just as it is one of the least anti-Semitic nations in the Western world). This is not because Canadians are particularly wonderful people — but, rather, because we happen to have a generally well-educated and well-integrated Muslim minority population. Unlike many of the nations of Europe, there is no Canadian equivalent of the impoverished, ghetto-like Muslim cités on the outskirts of Paris, or the no-go (for non-Muslim) areas in central England. There are a few radical mosques in Canada with some bad apples, but they are well-penetrated by intelligence agents and informants.”

 

“The Muslim community in Canada needs to form a moderate, professional, authoritative NGO that brings together the alphabet soup of smaller groups that already exist; and which gives journalists and politicians a one-stop shop for liaising with Muslims on an organizational level.”

Radicalization Among Young Muslims in Aarhus

The recently established Centre for Studies in Islamism and Radicalization has published its first research report entitled “Radicalization among Young Muslims in Aarhus”.

The new research report investigates the results of applying the Danish authorities’ definition of radicalization to existing Danish Muslim environments in Denmark, which are widely denoted as “radical”. One of the main findings is that these environments do not seem to generate extensive hate to democracy or the Western World, rather the rejection of democracy should be seen as a result of individual choices.

The report concludes that used rigidly the definitions of radicalization provided by the Danish Police Intelligence Service and the Danish government are not very fruitful.

New report on radicalization among young Muslims in Aarhus, Denmark

The recently established Centre for Studies in Islamism and Radicalization has published its first research report entitled “Radicalization among Young Muslims in Aarhus”.

The new research report investigates the results of applying the Danish authorities’ definition of radicalization to existing Danish Muslim environments in Denmark, which are widely denoted as “radical”. One of the main findings is that these environments do not seem to generate extensive hate to democracy or the Western World, rather the rejection of democracy should be seen as a result of individual choices.

The report concludes that used rigidly the definitions of radicalization provided by the Danish Police Intelligence Service and the Danish government are not very fruitful.

Two new books out in France: profession imam and pari de civilization

Tareq Oubrou, imam in Bordeaux, has published a new book on his vision of “Occidental Islam” in Profession Imam (Albin Michel, 2009). Raised in Morocco in a non-practicing family, fifty-year old Oubrou claims that this Islam is capable of secularization theologically-speaking. He advocates a “minority Shariah” adapted to French laicite, wherein in the Western world Muslims make their faith less publicly visible.

In Pari de civilization (Seuil, 2009), writer and university professor Abdelwahab Meddeb calls for a reinterpretation of the Qur’an, notably that it is a direct revelation from God. Renegotiating this point allows for a modernization and neutralization of Islam in the public sphere.

The truth about Arab science

In regards to the medical case of British citizen Hannah Clark, who has survived the first “piggyback” heart transplantation and has now fully recovered, author Khaled Diab questions the relationship of Arab science and the Islamic religion. The doctor who undertook this surgery, Magdi Yacoub, is an Egyptian who did not find his success in his own country but in Britain, where he is now one of the most esteemed heart surgeons and researchers and where he furthermore obtained both citizenship and knighthood.

Diab holds Arab countries responsible for hindering scientists to make a career and for science in general to spread, and it is not surprising that the Western world is far more advanced. While he affirms that the Quran can be interpreted in line with some modern science, he warns that other proved scientific aspects are rejected for moral reasons, such as confusing homosexuality with illness. Finally Diab calls for more investment of the Arab states into science, but also to hold universal truths over religious “truths”.

Europe unfriendly to Muslims, Princeton scholar says

Many Muslims today struggle to integrate into Western society, but those in the U.S. are better off than those in Europe, said Islamic scholar Ralph Ghadban during a lecture Monday at Ohio State. “Many of the millions of Muslims that have moved to the West wish not to integrate into society,” Ghadban said. As a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies of Princeton University, Ghadban spoke in a small conference room in Hagerty Hall, with only 15 people in attendance. The lecture, “Islamic Law of Muslim Minorities in the West” was sponsored by the Middle East Studies Center and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. “[Ghadban] is not a traditional scholar,” said Arabic professor Georges Tamer. “He has practical experience that combines Islamic studies with political science and philosophy.” Ghadban said that during their integration to the West, Muslims are confronted with new norms and customs, as well as a new structure of society. Most importantly, they must abide by a secular law system, which they have never or barely been confronted with in their home countries, he said. A third of the 1.2 to 1.4 billion Muslims in the world are minorities in 149 non-Islamic countries, and 25 to 30 million of them live in Western Europe and North America, he said. With the exception of black converts, the majority of Muslims living in the West came to the Western world during the modern migration period of the second half of the 20th century. He said that Muslim immigrants follow Sharia law, which is a form of Islamic justice often criticized for its brutal physical punishments, including flogging and execution by stoning. Sharia punishment is often enforced against women found guilty of offenses such as premarital sex and adultery. Mariam Khan reports.

Greece: Hijab no threat to secularism

On Saturday March 8th, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis defended the right of Muslim women to cover their heads, refuting claims that the headscarf poses a threat to secularism. Human rights and the secular nature of a state are not threatened by the headscarf. Nor are they safeguarded by a ban said Bakoyannis. Bakoyannis blamed western media as ignorant in its propagation about misconceptions of women in Islam, saying that the so-called Western world has more stereotypes than we care to admit. In addition, Greece’s top diplomat insisted that women and men are ensured equality in Islam.

Scheduled to lead the mosque of Créteil, imam is threatened with deportation to Algeria

A commission of expulsion will decide the fate of an Algerian imam, Ilyes Hacene, who has been accused of inciting an ideology of discrimination, hatred, and violence against the Jewish people and the Western world. Hacene, who has been living in France since 1999, was approached to become the imam of the main mosque in Cr_teil in 2008. A decision will be made on Monday, December 3rd.