Unite Muslims Homepage

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A blog addressing Indian Muslims concerns

Assalamu Alaikum,
The Indian flagAs you might already know India has a very large Muslim population which according to some sources might be only second to Indonesia. Roughly estimated to be around 140 million, Indian Muslims form a significant portion of the Muslim Ummah. Intellectuals like Dr. Zakir Naik and Dr. Rashid Shaz are two shining examples of this communities contribution to todays Islamic world.

However in modern India, living as a Muslim has become very tough in a Hindu majority society (81% of India's population is Hindu) due to reasons like the partition of Pakistan, communal riots, the Kashmir dispute and terrorist attacks. Coupled to this has been the economic and educational backwardness of Indian Muslims and inaccurate reports coming out of India about them. In this atmosphere it's very important for outsiders to have a local Muslim source to get first hand opinions and information from Indian Muslims.

preview of Indian Muslims blog Fulfilling this need is the Indian Muslim community blog - indianmuslims.in It has a growing contributor base from across the country and publishes well written posts about issues concerning Indian Muslims. The blog is a must visit for everyone interested in India, Muslims and Indian issues.

A recent post I like to draw your attention is the post titled - And this is why we need this blog! Its about the gloomy side of the worlds largest minority Muslim community.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Women Praying in Mosques

Assalamu Alaikum,
Muslim Women prayed in Prophets mosqueSometime back we had a discussion about sisters in the mosque at ummah.com forum. It was an interesting discussion with brothers and sisters from different areas expressing their views. This blog post is a result of that discussion plus some information from a little research.

Strange as it may seem to many, women praying in Mosques is nothing new to Islam. In the early days of Islam mosques were just as open to women as it was for men because the mosque is for Muslims, men and women, to worship our Creator. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Do not stop the maid servants of Allah from going to the mosques of Allah." (Muwatta of Imam Malik) and, “When the wife of one of you asks about going to the mosque, do not stop her." (Bukhari). So it’s perfectly okay for women to attend prayers in the mosque if they wish to.

Today, owing to various reasons in many Muslim communities it has become the custom for only men go to the Mosque and women to pray at home, (except on special occasions such as Ramadan ‘Tarawee’ prayers and Eid festival prayers) This may have being fine until recently. But inline with Prophet’s Sunnah, due to many reasons we need to make our mosques accessible to women. The most important reason is for the convenience of women who are traveling, working and away from home and unable to get back home on time for prayers. It’s also important to make our mosques women friendly because it’s vital for dawah activities and helps new convert sisters to learn to pray and practice Islam not to mention it benefits them and new families to the area to get to know the local Muslim community. When a mosque accommodates women it also helps change negative stereotypes non-Muslims have about Islam. In addition this allows other beneficial activities like Islamic classes, tajweed classes etc. to be setup for women. The modern world is so tantalizing it’s very easy to forget the hereafter and get engrossed in this temporary worldly life. In this environment it is vital our Muslim women and in turn our children are fully included in our mosques to be sure that our next generation understands and follows Islam as it was truly taught by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Though one might think we need to rebuild mosques, actually for women to pray in the mosques they don’t necessarily have to have their own section. The only separation between men and women in the mosque is during prayers when women must stand behind the men. In Prophet’s mosque women occupied the back rows and could be seen and heard by the rest of the congregation. Ibn Abaas (ra) said: "Once the Prophet came out (for the 'Eid prayers) as if I were just observing him waving to the people to sit down. He then, accompanied by Bilal, came crossing the rows till he reached the women. He recited verse 12 of chapter 60 to them and asked: 'O ladies, are you fulfilling your covenant?' None except one woman said 'Yes'. The Prophet then said: 'Then give sadaqah.' Bilal (ra) then spread his garment and said 'Keep on giving alms'. (Bukhari)

The Prophet’s open main space mosque will be the ideal but I think due to privacy and other concerns it’s best to have a women’s area or at least some sort of a covering separating part of the praying area of the mosque for women.

Today in non-Muslim countries a mosque must definitely accommodate women, preferably with a women’s prayer area and other facilities. However many mosques in these countries are small and converted properties so it is understandable if a women’s area is not provided immediately for obviously maximizing the space for men is important because unlike women it’s mandatory for men to attend Friday prayers (though at other times a movable curtain or panel would allow women to use the mosque). But a purpose built mosque should definitely include a women’s area.

Fortunately many mosques, especially in western countries have begun to address this need. However I hear in some cases they are tiny rooms and basements with a leaky roof and a bad smell! I know this is not the case everywhere but this type of situation should never occur. For men or women mosques should be a place of refuge where your mind can be at ease from worldly affairs. If a Mosque has or plans to have a women’s area it need not be as big as men’s area but every step should be taken to ensure it is equal in facilities and other aspects to the rest of the Mosque and maintained accordingly. Getting the opinions of women in that community and making sure their requirements are met will also ensure pleasant and practical facilities are provided.

And when building a new mosque or arranging a women’s prayer area it’s important to have women’s participation. This will make sure the best possible is available to women and avoid many difficulties and complaints later on. Also women must ask for mosque facilities/activities if they are not provided. Because sometimes it is unlikely anything will be provided unless there is a demand.

So if anyone knows of any mosque being built in their area or nearby, get involved with it (e.g. like helping raise funds etc.) This is a great rewardable action and at the same time puts you in a position to influence the decisions and push for a women’s area. For existing mosques it would certainly help to discuss with the management and create awareness in the community for a suitable arrangement for women.

See Also
* Why Your Mosque Should be Woman Friendly
* Women in Mosques
* Women in mosques - No curtains, no walls, no partitions!
* Denying women access to the ‘Main Space’

Friday, November 17, 2006

Uzbekistan and Bogus Al-Qaeda Terrorist

Assalamu alaikum,
map of Uzbekistan and Central Asia“Sir, Do you want a steady supply of Al Qaeda terrorists to frighten the wits out of your countrymen and maintain a state of emergency to carry on your secret plans at home and abroad? Then Central Asia is the place to go. Specify the quantity and rest assured they’ll be delivered on time.” I know nobody told this to the architects of the War on Terror but this is exactly what’s happening in Central Asia - a predominantly Muslim region of five countries, today ruled by ex-Soviet dictators who brutally suppress the people and cash on America’s War on Terror.

Professor Juan Cole wrote an eye opener about Uzbekistan a few weeks back in his popular blog, juancole.com. In the post 'Craig Murray on Manufacturing Terror' he gave an insight into this former Soviet and 90% Muslim country about which many Muslims outside the region haven’t even heard about let alone know what’s happening. Here are excerpts from that article that dealt specifically on Uzbekistan.

Craig Murray formerly Ambassador to UzbekistanWrites professor Juan Cole: ‘I was at the conference of the Central Eurasian Studies Society the last couple of days. Saturday evening, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray addressed us. He served in Tashkent 2002 through 2004. (right image: Craig Murray)

Murray's exhibit number 1 is Uzbekistan, which has major gas reserves. The US sought and received basing rights there after September 11. The US supported the government of Islam Karimov, the old Soviet apparatchik who turned himself into a post-Soviet dictator. The US and the UK maintained in their official documents that Uzbekistan was making progress toward democracy. They praised Uzbek elections as a sign of such progress, even though Islam Karimov did not allow the opposition to run in the elections.

bogus Al-Qaeda prisoner torture victim UzbekistanMurray began receiving photographs and other evidence from victims' families that the Uzbek government was engaging in brutal torture techniques as part of its interrogation of dissidents. One corpse had been beaten around the neck and jaw, and boiled alive. There was a line across his chest, under which it was scalded. Boiled like a lobster.

Murray as UK ambassador began seeing CIA reports naming known al-Qaeda operatives who were prominent in Uzbekistan. But these turned out to be just run of the mill Uzbek politicians who were on the outs with Karimov. Where did the CIA get this information about high-level terrorists in Uzbekistan? From Karimov's secret police. And where did they get their phony "intelligence"? From torturing dissidents and making them admit to being al-Qaeda and implicating others as al-Qaeda. From torture. From the twilight of consciousness before the boiling killed them. From lobsters.

Flag of UzbekistanNow I have to back up and tell you about Uzbekistan. Uzbeks have a Muslim heritage. They have Muslim names. But Uzbekistan is a country full of atheists and secularists. It is more secular than France. Everyone drinks vodka like fish. Almost no one could actually tell you how to pray the five daily prayers. There are a few. They are considered odd by the other Uzbeks. I know a sociologist brought up in the Soviet Union who has studied its "Muslims," who were deracinated over 60 years, and he said, "What you have to understand is that they were normal Soviet citizens." He is right.

Uzbek president Islam Karimov makes terroristThe government of Islam Karimov, which is basically corrupt dusted-off apparatchiks from the old Soviet system, is aware that the West is afraid of Islam. And as people brought up Communist, they don't like it either. So they scare the Americans and Europeans with tall tales about an Islamist menace in Uzbekistan, which attract support to the Uzbek government and also cause the Westerners to make excuses for a degree of political repression that approaches that characteristic of Saddam Hussein in the old days. (left image: Islam Karimov)

There is an academic industry in the United States, by the way, of alleging radical Muslim fundamentalism is a big problem in Uzbekistan. It is bunkum. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which was tied to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, had between 150 and 1,000 members at its height, and that was about it for Islamism in Uzbekistan.

In a poll done in 2002 by Pew, 91 percent of Uzbeks agreed with Bush's War on Terror and the way it was being waged! You couldn't have found those numbers anyplace else in the world, maybe even in the US!

Al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin LadenMurray pointed out that if you had a referendum in Uzbekistan on whether Islamic canon law should be the law of the land, and explained that it would result in a ban on vodka, less that 1 percent of the population would vote for it. That is certainly true.

So there isn't, frankly, any al-Qaeda to speak of in Uzbekistan. But Karimov used torture and false allegations to manufacture an al-Qaeda, and Murray thought that the Bush administration and elements in the CIA were swallowing it hook, line and sinker.

I came away from this consummate insider's presentation with a sinking feeling that Uzbekistan is the tip of the iceberg.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Islam in Turkey and Kemal Ataturk reforms for Secularism

Assalamu Alaikum,
Secular Turks waving Turkey flagTurkey is gradually regaining the global attention it once enjoyed albeit for different reasons. The main international focus has been on Turkey's EU entry talks which began in October 2005 on joining the European Union (EU). But the subtler and the less pronounced is the revival of Islam in Turkey despite nearly 90 years hostile secular Governments.

Although today Turkey seldom figures in Muslim or Islamic discourse, it was for five centuries the center of the Muslim world, until that fatal day, March 3rd, 1924, when Mustafa Kemal Pasha Ataturk abolished the Caliphate -office of the successors to prophet Muhammad, the supreme politico-religious office of Islam, and symbol of the Turkey sultan's claim to world leadership of all Muslims—was abolished.

Today 98% of Turkey’s population is officially Muslim but the proportion of practicing Muslims is as low as 20%. However unlike in Europe where church attendance gradually fell in Turkey it is the result of a systematic attempt to constrain and weaken Islam by successive Kemalist secular governments and the military.

Mustafa Kemal Pasha Ataturk Founder of TurkeyThe hostility towards Islam began in early 1920s. A military commander, Mustafa Kemal Pasha led the Turkish War of Independence to form the Republic of Turkey as the successor state of the defunct Ottoman Empire. For this Mustafa Kemal became very popular and adored by all Turks. Thereafter he became the first President of the Republic of Turkey. The Turks venerated him so much he was given the name ‘Atatürk’, meaning Father of the Turks, (honorific name formally presented to him by the Turkish Grand Assembly in 1934.)

But Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was no ordinary leader. He was an astute statesman and strewed strategist. He didn’t express to the public how he would develop Turkey until he got the power to execute his vision (i.e. not until he was President of Turkey.)

Then Atatürk carefully constructed and deployed a master plan, today known as the Kemalist ideology or Kemalism. Believing in this strategy Ataturk and his associates started to publicly question the value of religion and held the view religion was not compatible with modern science and secularism was imperative for modernity.

Ataturks reforms for secularism of TurkeyThus Ataturk regime began step by step to implement the Kemalist ideology with a radical reformation of the Turkish society with the aim of modernizing Turkey from the remnants of its Ottoman past. In line with their ideological convictions the Ataturk government abolished Islamic religious institutions; replace the Shariah law with adapted European legal codes; replaced the Islamic calendar with the Gregorian calendar; replace the Arabic script which was used to write the Turkish language with the Latin script and closed all religious schools.

In addition Ataturk took over the country's 70,000 mosques and restricted the building of new mosques. Muftis and imams (prayer leaders) were appointed and regulated by the government, and religious instructions were taken over by the Ministry of National Education. Mosques were to preach according to the Ataturk’s dictates and were used to spread the Kemalist ideology.

For Sufi Muslims it was worse. Atatürk confiscated Sufi lodges, monasteries, meeting places and outlawed their rituals and meetings.

Turkey secularist against headscarves womenAccording to Ataturk modernity was valued and represented as not wearing any religious dress or being non-religious. So he ordered what cloths Turkey’s citizens should wear. The traditional garb of local religious leaders was outlawed. The fez (Turkish hat) was banned for men and the veil and hijab (headscarves) were discouraged and restricted for women.

Atatürk and his colleagues even wanted to Turkify Islam. They ordered Muslims to use the Turkish word Tanri instead of Allah for God and use the Turkish language in Salaath (the 5 times prayers) and Azaan (the call for prayers). These preposterous changes deeply disturbed the faithful Muslims and caused widespread resentment, which led in 1933 to a return to the Arabic version of the call to prayer.

After some time the Atatürk regime moved towards more extreme measures. Ataturk prohibited religious education. The existing mosques were turned into museums or used for the regimes secular purposes.

human rights in secular TurkeyThe faithful Turkish and Kurdish Muslims (Sunni, Shia and Sufi inclusive) were powerless against Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s regime and his military. But they tried to resist the oppression and even led rebellions. But he was too strong for them and Ataturk suppressed the rebellions after massive bloodsheds. (e.g. Seyh Sait rebellion in southeastern Turkey claimed about 30,000 lives before being suppressed.)

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk died in 1938. After that some of his preposterous laws were revoked by his successors due to their harshness and the fact that Islam was always a strong force at the popular level despite the suppression.

Kemalist against practicing Islam in TurkeySince then there have been occasional calls for a return to Islam. But the secular governments and military true to the Kemalist ideology have managed to suppress them. Amidst this environment in the 1980s a new generation of educated, articulate and religiously motivated leaders emerged to challenge the dominance of the Kemalist political ruling elite. By their own example of piety, prayer, and political activism, they have helped to spark a revival of Islamic observance in Turkey.

But the Turkish military and the state bureaucracy are infiltrated with (Kemalist) secularists and act as the guardians of Ataturk’s reforms and work to preserve Kemalism and weaken Islam. This situation has gradually led to a polarization of the Turkish society and today Turkey remains as someone observed a 'torn society'.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

US denies entry to Western Muslim Scholars

Assalamu Alaikum,
President Bush At WarUS Government accuse Muslims for extremism and imposing restrictions on personnel freedom. But when it comes to practice they are the first to break their own rules. Recently there has been a sting of entry denials by the US Government to Western Islamic scholars who attempt to visit the United States on invitations by American universities and organizations. Under the ironic heading, “Fear Of A Muslim Opinion” the resourceful community blog, altmuslim.com reports on recent US entry denials to some top Islamic scholars from Western countries.

A pattern of denied entries to the United States of Muslim scholars - with no evidence given - is exacerbating tensions caused by an already existing lack of dialogue [between America and Muslims]

Swiss academic Professor Tariq RamadanIn September, American authorities upheld their ban of noted Swiss academic Tariq Ramadan, who had a previous visa revoked in 2004 before he could begin a tenured position at the University of Notre Dame. Reason given for the denial was a small contribution made to a Palestinian charity allegedly linked to Hamas before the charities were blacklisted by the US. (Note: Tariq Ramadan is a renowned academic in Europe and many view him as the leading figure of European Muslims. His official site is tariqramadan.com)

British Muslim leader Dr. Kamal El HelbawyBritish Muslim leader Dr. Kamal Helbawy was denied entry in New York on October 18, despite not being on any no-fly list and serving as an advisor to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Two South African scholars - Adam Habib and Fazlur Rahman Azmi - were denied entry after reaching the US, visas in hand, prompting intervention by the South African government, to no avail.

Interestingly they are Muslim Islamic scholars from Western countries and respected by Muslims as well as non-Muslims. However these are only some high profile cases. In addition to scholars, there have been many recent entry denials to the United States that include students, academics and businessmen. Besides entry denials recent years have seen many Muslims being deported from the US on flimsy allegations that seem to be getting bizarre by the day.

Couple of months back, former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami had his visa personally approved by President George Bush and visited United States in a lecture tour. Then many were seen praising the Bush administration for its openness to differing opinions. That openness seems to be ‘pick and choose’ openness when it comes to Western Islamic scholars. Perhaps they’ll be allowed to enter if they were to come from Iran!

Friday, November 03, 2006

6 Double standard opinions about Muslims

Assalamu Alaikum,
double standard opinions on MuslimsWe like to be considered as rational and considerate people. Unfortunately when it comes to dealing with Muslims these higher ideals of logic and reason are often sacrificed in place of prejudice. The following are six instances where double standards are unwittingly employed against Muslims often causing Muslims to endure physical and mental hardships.

  • No one abuses a Jewish man for growing a beard according to his religious beliefs.
    But if a Muslim man does the same thing he is labeled as a terrorist, extremist or fundamentalist!

  • When a Christian nun covers her body from head to toe it is considered as act of devotion to God.
    But if a Muslim woman dress like that she is ridiculed and discriminated!

  • When a western woman stays at home to look after her children without going for a job she is respected for being devoted to her family.
    But if a Muslim woman stays at home like that she is considered as a prisoner and a woman without women rights!

  • A young woman can wear any dress she prefers and enter any higher educational institute.
    But if a young Muslim woman wearing a hijab enters higher educational institutes she is ridiculed!

  • When a Christian, Jew or anyone else murders someone their religion will not prop up.
    But if a Muslim did the same crime it will be blamed on Islam!

  • When someone fights and sacrifices his life for his country, his leaders or his people he is venerated as a hero.
    But if a Muslim fights and sacrifices his life for his country or his people his family is persecuted, his house is destroyed, his mosque is closed. And he is labeled a terrorist. Why? because he is a Muslim!

  • When facing a problem any solution will be accepted and considered.
    But if the solution is in Islam it will be rejected!