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The Danger of Customizing and Privatizing Islam: 4 Mindsets We Need to Change

By Saud Inam

In recent times we’ve encountered the rise of extremist groups who theologically twist, omit and reinterpret Islam in a way that Islam was previously not interpreted by the scholars in our past. As Muslim Americans living in the West the struggle to hold onto our faith is becoming harder and harder every day.  In our efforts to be accepted by broader American society some Muslim Americans knowingly or unknowingly omit, whitewash or remove certain Islamic beliefs, values and morals in their lives or practice.

This is a dangerous trend that can lead to us misinterpreting Islam and compromise our Hereafter. Many may say that we must adopt to our society and blend in, however, the purpose of Islam is to change a society for the better not blend into the background of the society. Islam should be front and center in the lives of Muslims. Shying away from your Muslim identity isn’t helping reduce Islamophobia in America—in fact it’s doing the opposite. Each Muslim who shy away from his or her faith is one less Muslim who has the ability to positively impact and influence the image of Islam and Muslims amongst his or her friends.

In order to preserve our Muslim identity and truly represent Islam we must uphold all Islamic values, principles and beliefs in our lives. I’ve come up with a couple of areas or topics of concern that I’ve heard in the Muslim American community that are dangerous both spiritually for a Muslim, but also counterproductive in countering Islamophobia.

Here are a couple of mindsets that are common in our community that we need to address:

1) “You do know there are different interpretations on ________  in Islam?”

This phrase often comes from the layman Muslim, not students of knowledge or seekers of knowledge. It comes from an individual who seeks to justify his/her opinion or view without actually having to defend it. It’s a common phrase you often hear from Muslims who seek to simply diminish anyone’s argument to “interpretations.” Yes, in Islam there are several interpretations of Quran, Seerah and Hadith, but some principles, values and practices cannot be negotiated. Often times when this phrase is said evidence is not given and the phrase simply gives the Muslim the comfort in his or her mind that what they’re doing is right. They don’t want to be proven wrong and are truly not seeking the Truth. Their egos and desires get in the way of hearing the Truth.

However, if one is truly seeking the Truth they must open their minds and hearts and avoid intellectual arrogance when seeking the Truth.

2) “Only Allah can judge me”

This phrase is dangerous as well when Muslims say this it doesn’t mean what they say it means. This phrase essentially means: “do not give me advice on my spiritual practice.” It shuts the door on any possible help you may be able to provide an individual. Yes, in the phrase were to be taken literally it is correct, but often Muslims who say this are merely deflecting the advice or the injunction / ruling that Islam prescribes and throws it to the side.

Dawud Walid has a great blog post about this and would highly recommend everyone read it:

3) “I interpret Islam by myself, because the scholars/imams/mullahs can’t be trusted these days”

By far this is quite possibly the most dangerous things that some Muslims do. Interpretation of Islam by oneself is virtually spiritual death.  If Islam were to be interpreted by the individual then why did Allah send the Prophet Muhammad  (peace be upon him) to teach us Islam and how to practice it? Did his companions tell him “I can learn how to pray by myself, it’s ok I’m good” or did they listen to every letter, every word and follow every action he took. Yes, there are awful imams, mullahs and scholars out there who are irrelevant, ridiculously strict and extreme in their views, but just as there are bad doctors there are also good ones too. Imagine for a moment if you were sick with the flu and went to one doctor who misdiagnosed you with a broken arm would you say: “I’m never going to go to a doctor again, they’re all not qualified and don’t know what they’re talking about?” No you’d find a qualified doctor who would diagnose your sickness correctly and provide you an appropriate cure. Likewise, we need to treat our scholars, imams and mullahs the same way.

This is not to say to completely say that we need to shut off our critical thinking capabilities and leave it at the door when seeking spiritual knowledge. We must ask questions and keep on asking questions until the answer we’re seeking makes sense.

4) “You don’t know how it’s like to be __________, you have no right to speak about my lifestyle/spiritual practice”

This is another dangerous trend where some Muslims seek to deflect sincere advice by saying that the one giving advice is unaware of their struggle and thus is not qualified to give them advice. This shows a problem of ego within the Muslim that must be addressed. Regardless of where advice is coming from it should be analyzed and processed. If one truly wants to achieve a better understanding of Islam and get closer to Allah they should treat every moment of their life as a learning opportunity to learn more about themselves and their relationship with Allah. If that learning opportunity comes through the form of advice from one’s fellow brother or sister then take it and use it as an opportunity to use their advice as a mirror to reflect upon your weaknesses and how to improve upon them.

Those who seek to remind their brothers and sisters about their Islamic beliefs, practices, morals and values are often demonized or shamed or labeled “Salafi” or “Wahabi” or strict. It’s an unfortunate phenomenon that when advice is given the first knee-jerk reaction of some is to become defensive or respond with anger, resentment or hate. As a religious community our faith encourages us to be mirrors to one another and to remind each other and exhort each other to good and forbid evil. Yet, we see a dangerous trend of privatizing and customizing Islam to our desires and opinions. Yes, everyone has their struggles in adhering to faith, but we should have the intellectual humility and humility in general to know when we are doing wrong and avoid justifying our wrong actions to ourselves and others.

Obviously all of this is reliant on how the advice is given. We must give sincere advice in private to each other and with sincerity and a clean heart.

Conclusion

I pray that we become a community who’s intellectual humility increases, our egos decrease and our yearning for seeking the Truth increases. In order to grow spiritually we must work together in this journey to seeking Allah’s pleasure and his Paradise. So next time that brother or sister gives you sincere advice listen with the intention of analyzing and deeply reflecting on their advice. It is only through reminders and advice we as a community will grow.

Editor’s note: Saud Inam is a Muslim American activist, social entrepreneur, blogger and Project Manager for Discover Islam-USA a Muslim American media company dedicated to producing high quality media about Islam and Muslims. He is always on the lookout for more opportunities to help empower the Muslim American community.

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Women with Syrian opposition flags draped over their shoulders sit next to a sign that reads, “No to the war. Not Assad. Not ISIS”, as they take part in a protest in solidarity with the refugees from Syria, in Malaga, southern Spain, September 9, 2015. Jon Nazca / Reuters

The stories that matter to Muslims should matter to us all

Women with Syrian opposition flags draped over their shoulders sit next to a sign that reads, “No to the war. Not Assad. Not ISIS”, as they take part in a protest in solidarity with the refugees from Syria, in Malaga, southern Spain, September 9, 2015. Jon Nazca / Reuters

Women with Syrian opposition flags draped over their shoulders sit next to a sign that reads, “No to the war. Not Assad. Not ISIS”, as they take part in a protest in solidarity with the refugees from Syria, in Malaga, southern Spain, September 9, 2015. Jon Nazca / Reuters

By Ken Chitwood
ISLAMiCommentary

From the news headlines over the past year you’d think that the news about Muslims mainly consists of ISIS, Charlie Hebdo, Qur’an controversies, the occasional Muslim holiday, and lately the bigoted opinions of some presidential candidates.

Stories in the media that imply that Islam is all about violence, Mohammad cartoons, or subjugating women and non-Christians to harsh impositions of Sharia law, not surprisingly find a big audience in the U.S.

But what are the stories that matter to Muslims?

Dilshad Ali, Managing Editor of the Muslim Portal at Patheos, contends that this is not something that outside media has “sufficiently covered.”

While she recognizes that the everyday American knows more about Islam than one or two decades ago, “It’s possible to have a basic understanding, yet not have any idea what the day to day life of a Muslim is like.”

Addressing a panel meant to address this gap in news coverage at the Religion Newswriters Association conference last month, she said that news outlets and the general public would benefit from more coverage of the narratives of the breadth and depth of the American Muslim community.

What are those stories? Looking to intra-Muslim sources, the panelists offered, news outlets would soon discover complex stories such as the ways in which Muslims are using digital media to build community and counter extremism; Sunni/Shi’i tension and cooperation in local masjids; and debates about the authenticity of various Muslim groups and other causes that are important to Muslims.

All of these, the panelists said, need discussion, debate, and dissection, but continue to go seemingly uncovered in the mainstream news.

Hasan Azad, a doctoral candidate specializing in Islamic Studies at Columbia University, said that news headlines too often assume, or suggest that, “there is an inherent connection between religion [specifically Islam] and violence.” Unfortunately, he said, “positive stories about Muslims don’t make headlines — because ‘if it’s not bleeding, it’s not leading.’”
Ali added that it is not enough to ask Muslims to condemn violent extremism and call it a good, balanced, day of news that told the whole Muslim story. Instead, she encouraged journalists to sharpen their focus on the variety of Muslim narratives in the U.S.

For her part, Kameelah Rashad — Muslim chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania — said that while black American Muslims make up most of the American Muslim community they are too often left out of its story. This only exacerbates what she sees as false divides and arguments over authenticity between “indigenous” and “immigrant” Muslim communities.
As a chaplain, she sees many black American Muslims struggling with multiple identities, personal, and public crises. She said, “black American Muslims have to deal simultaneously with Islamophobia and having to show that #BlackLivesMatter.”

Not only do black American Muslims feel they have “to apologize for being ‘too Muslim-y’” Rashad said, but have to wrestle with a double-consciousness as they witness mass movements in the streets calling for justice for black lives in places like St. Louis, Baltimore, or Florida. She said, “black Muslims fight battles on two fronts: being ‘too black’ to be Muslim, ‘too Muslim’ to be black.”
From challenging professors for their Islamophobic comments to being required to represent all-Muslims every time an “extreme” story comes up, Rashad said that all young Muslims she works with — regardless of ethnicity — are “emotionally exhausted.”

She said, “know this — after every event involving Muslims in the news there is a behind-the-scenes story of trauma in Islamic community.”

Abdullah Pocius, a Salafi imam in Philadelphia, said that the story of American Muslims is the story of religious freedom and, in many ways, the story of the U.S. itself. It’s about “searching and ‘finding home’ in Islam,” said Pocius.

Still, and especially for quietist Salafis like himself, stories of “kindness, mercy, and forbearance,” which he said he sees everyday, go unreported. This shows a significant lack of “humanizing Muslims,” he said.

Pocius emphasized that “we have to push the dialogue toward expressing & appreciating the diverse forms of humanity” from various perspectives. The problem, he intimated, is that news often equals entertainment and everyday Muslim stories are “too boring” to sell. Instead, “representations of Muslims in the media and the culture industry boil-down to fears of the ‘blue-eyed Muslim’ like me,” he said.

The challenge for newswriters and commentators like me is to really listen to these voices that tell the narrative of American Islam.

This means rejecting the false binary between converts and migrants — as if the former were “less” Muslim and the latter more so.

This means telling stories that undermine the narrative that Islam’s story is either one of violence or countering violence. While it is important to cover CVE programs and discuss the ways in which religion and violence are often linked, newswriters and analysts must be careful to balance this coverage with stories that undermine the narrative that religion and violence — or specifically Islam and violence — are inherently interwoven.

While this does not mean we do not tell the story of ISIS or Charlie Hebdo, it does mean we have to tell other stories — like about “radical” Muslim clothing lines, interfaith relationships and initiatives, intra-Muslim dialogues, American Muslim cultural production (music, movies, social media campaigns, visual art, and material consumer products), and the history of Muslims in the Americas.

The stories are out there. The public will listen and learn. The challenge is on newswriters to put pen-to-paper to tell the stories that not only matter to Muslims, but matter to us all.

Editor’s note: Ken Chitwood is a religion scholar and PhD student at University of Florida studying Religion in the Americas and Global Islam (with the Center for Global Islamic Studies) with interests including Islam in the Americas, globalization, transnationalism, intersections of religion & culture, Christian-Muslim relations, global Christianity, and Muslim minorities. He is also fascinated by the intersection of religion & popular culture. He writes and speaks on this topic as both an academic and a journalist covering ‘the god beat.’ His work has featured in a number of publications.

This article originally appeared on http://islamicommentary.org/2015/09/the-stories-that-matter-to-muslims-should-matter-to-us-all-by-ken-chitwood/#sthash.DAhVMsh7.dpuf

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Many Muslims miss Ramadan as it leaves.  Photo credit:  Clipart.com

5 ways to keep Ramadan momentum alive

Many Muslims miss Ramadan as it leaves.  Photo credit:  Clipart.com

Many Muslims miss Ramadan as it leaves. Photo credit: Clipart.com

By Mohannad Hakeem
OnIslam.net

Ramadan is almost over, but there are tons of opportunities that you can use to keep the Ramadan spirit. I hope that you will find the following 5 tips handy, especially during the first half of Shawwal (lunar month following Ramadan in the Islamic calendar). This article is based on what is known in behavior science as the “Habit Loop”.

The Habit Loop

Ramadan comes with an emotional and social package that makes worshipping Allah easier during the blessed month. The reason why many people fail to keep their gained habits and deeds after Ramadan is simply the lack of a “Ramadan environment”. With the help of Allah first, you may be able to recreate this environment on a mini scale by understanding how habits work.

Based on Charles Duhigg’s amazing book, “The Power of Habits”, there are three components in a habit loop: The Cue (External factor that enables the habit loop), the routine (the actual habit or action), and the reward (whatever craving your mind has that drives the routine). An action can be deemed a habit if it is not taking you a lot of mental power to start the action (such as praying the taraweeh prayer, or fasting the long days of Ramadan once the first few days are gone and you get used to it).

The key here is simple: search for special Ramadan “cues” and keep them alive after it. A Cue is defined as an external factor that is outside of your control, but can cause your mind to crave a certain reward. In this case, the reward is the emotional /spiritual connection that you felt during Ramadan, but unable to maintain afterwards. Here are my five suggestions for cues, which can be remembered by simply memorizing their initials (ISLAM):

ISLAM = Iftar, Sweet, Lectures, Ayah, Mate

1. I for Iftar: Organize regular Iftar Dinners

Let’s admit it, we all love iftar parties. Yes people may waste time and money preparing lots of food that may be thrown away, BUT no one can deny that Iftar dinners are a major ingredient of the Ramadan cultural package.

So the first practical advice is: take the lead to organize regular iftars with your friends or at your local mosque or group. This should encourage others to fast outside Ramadan (such as the 6 days of Shawwal, Mondays /Thursdays, or the three white days of every month). In order to make this idea successful, remember the KISS advice: Keep It Simple and Sequential

2. S for Sweet: Pray in your “Sweet Spot” at your favorite masjid

Duhigg talks about many hidden cues that affect people’s behaviors and trigger their habit loops. One of the obvious cues that encourage us for more worship are the houses of Allah. The advice here is straight forward: visit the masjid that witnessed your “Ramadan High” moments more regularly, at least once a week other than Fridays.

The following saying by Ali Bin Abi Talib should encourage you to build that connection with your “masjid sweet spot”:

“When a righteous slave dies, the spot that he used to pray at, and the location where his deeds ascend to the heavens, both will cry on him”, and then he recited (an ayah describing Pharaoh and hi folks), (the heaven and earth wept not for them…) (Ad-Dukhan 44:29)

3. L for Lecture: Keep a list of your Favorite “Ramadan Lectures”

Ramadan offers a great opportunity to listen to lectures, Friday sermons, and short speeches. Whether in your local mosque or online, try to “add to your favorites list” some of those motivational speeches that affected you during the holy month. If you attended a lecture in person, try to take some notes, at least the 3 MIT’s (Most Important Things) that you got out of that lecture. According to many of my teachers, the spirituality that stems out of knowledge is a deep one that will survive and will be there for you at a moment of weakness.

4. A for Ayah: Bookmark your favorite Ayhas from the Qur’an

So you can save the words of great speakers and knowledgeable scholars, but don’t forget the words of Allah: They are indeed more powerful. We all believe that the Qur’an is a great book, and that all its Ayahs (verses) are nothing but a pure miracle. However, each of us has their favorite verses, chapters, or passages that we relate to the most under different times or emotional states. If you happen to hear or read a moving verse, Bookmark it and “save” that spiritual connection with that particular verse for later.

5. M for Mate:

Connect with your “Ramadan Mate”

Islam is a system that is based on congregation, team work, and friendship. You will need the support of a righteous companion, spouse, friend, or youth group to keep the Ramadan spirit. What I love about Ramadan the most is the opportunity to meet those people and interact with them in a spiritual environment, whether it is a community service event or a taraweeh prayer. Those people turn to be the best friends I have ever had, and they definitely give me some dear memories from my Ramadan exposure with them.

While I got my 5 “ISLAM” tips, I am sure there are many, and every one reading this article can come up with their own version of these Ramadan cues. Dear brother/sister: feel free to share this article with friends, especially your “Ramadan Mates”; Also, you may write down your own personalized list in the comments section, and hence benefit me and others who might be reading your comments.

Happy Ramadan, `Eid Mubarak, and may Allah allow all of our days and months to be similar to those dear moments that we witnessed during Ramadan.

Editor’s note: Dr. Mohannad Hakeem holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. He is a youth counselor and motivational speaker in Greater Detroit area, Michigan, USA. Visit Dr. Mohannad Hakeem’s blog. His views are solely his own.

17-30

Map of religions reveals a world of change for Christians, Muslims and Jews

By Cathy Lynn Grossman
Religion News Service

Muslims will overtake Christians by the end of this century.

India, now mostly Hindu, will become the world’s largest Muslim country.

The numbers of people with no religious identity will soar in the United States and Europe, but the unaffiliated will lose worldwide market share as Christians maintain a steady growth.

All these changes are drawn from the Pew Research Center’s new projections, released Thursday, April 2, that map global faith traditions and how they’re likely to shift by 2050.

The report says nothing about the transcendent message of any religion. It makes no claims about believers’ level of devotion or practice.

Instead, it’s a story of nitty-gritty statistics: Which group is having babies (lots of babies or just a few)? Which ones have many young people, and which are slowly graying out? Whose followers are on the move — from one nation to another, or switching religions?

“Demographics are an underappreciated force that is shifting the contours of faith,” said Conrad Hackett, the Pew demographer who led the six-year study. Hackett analyzed projected changes for Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, folk religions, other minority religions and the unaffiliated.

Those contours matter. The Pew Research Center doesn’t delve into political forecasting, but readers of the report’s projections from 2010 to 2050 might feel a thumb press down on many sore spots and raise questions beyond the scope of Pew’s data:

• Will prejudice against Muslims rise as the percentage of people in Europe who are Muslim climbs to 10.2 percent, up from today’s 5.9 percent? “The projected growth rate is only about 1 percentage point a decade,” said Hackett. “But it’s a very visible change: More people wearing veils, more behaving in culturally distinct ways.”

• Who will assume the minority voice in the U.S. public square as Muslims outpace Jews as the country’s third-largest group, after Christians and the unaffiliated?

• Will religious tensions flare as India becomes the world’s most populous Muslim nation, supplanting Indonesia? “The quality of interfaith relations in such a country (about to pass China as the world’s most populous) will be of global importance,” said Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.

• How will more secular regions such as Europe and the U.S. relate to deeply religious regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, divided among Christians and Muslims?

“The question is: ‘How will we understand each other?’” said Cooperman. “Sub-Saharan Africa is 12 percent of the world population now, and it will be 20 percent by 2050. That’s huge growth for people to get their heads around.”

The report, sponsored by the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, offers many more head-spinning numbers and a religion-by-religion, region-by-region analysis of data from 198 countries and territories, representing nearly all the world’s population.

“No one has done anything like this before, so we had no idea about the big picture,” said Hackett.

Among the major findings:

• “As of 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third of the Earth’s 6.9 billion people. Islam came in second, with 1.6 billion adherents, or 23 percent of the global population.” Four in 10 of all the world’s Christians will live in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050.

• While Christian numbers will continue to grow, Muslims, who are younger and have a higher birth rate, will outpace them. By 2050, “there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30 percent of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31 percent), possibly for the first time in history.” Barring unforeseen events — war, famine, disease, political upheaval and more — Muslim numbers will surpass Christians after 2070.

• Worldwide, the unaffiliated will fall from 16 percent to 13 percent. Christians, Muslims and Hindus live in areas with “bulging youth populations,” high birthrates and falling levels of infant morality, the report said. Even the global tally for Jews is expected to rise, based on the high birthrate of Orthodox Jews in Israel. Meanwhile, the unaffiliated are “heavily concentrated in places with low fertility and aging populations, such as Europe, North America, China and Japan,” the report said.

• Nearly two-thirds of all the unaffiliated worldwide live in China, the research found. “If Chinese authorities allow greater freedom of religion, the share of unaffiliated in the world population could shrink even more dramatically than the report predicts,” said Ariela Keysar, associate director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture, who consulted on the project.

• While religious switching has a significant impact in North America and Europe, in many countries, changing one’s religion is difficult — if not illegal. There’s no data on religious switching among China’s 1.3 billion people, with nearly 50 percent of them in the unaffiliated ranks, for example. But in the 70 countries where survey data was available, the report found that Buddhists and Jews are the primary losers on the switch-in/switch-out balance sheet, Hackett said. “In the USA, there are famous converts like Richard Gere, but there’s a lot of disaffiliation among those who grew up Buddhist.”

• In the U.S., Christians will decline, from more than three-quarters of the population (78.3 percent) in 2010 to two-thirds (66.4 percent) in 2050. Religious “churn” — people leaving their childhood faith for a different faith or none at all — is the primary driver of change.

• The Muslim share of the U.S. population is projected to climb to 2.1 percent, up from less than 1 percent today. Jews will fall from 1.8 percent to 1.4 percent.

• In 2010, there were 159 countries with a Christian majority, but that will fall by eight countries, including France, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. By 2050, Muslims will hold the majority in 51 countries, up by two from 2010, including Nigeria, which just elected a Muslim president, and the Republic of Macedonia.

“In many ways the value of projects like this is not to say what the world will look like in 2050. The world could change,” said Cooperman. “But they tell us about the world today and the recent path. Peering into the future greatly illuminates what is happening today and its consequences.”

17-15

Cricket ball resting on a cricket bat on green grass of cricket pitch

Cricket: patriotism overshadows differences

By Almas Akhtar

TMO contributing writer

Cricket ball resting on a cricket bat on green grass of cricket pitch

Cricket ball resting on a cricket bat on green grass of cricket pitch

I am a huge cricket fan. My earliest memories of my childhood are watching a cricket match with my parents cheering Pakistan’s cricket team during their English tour when Muddassar Nazar, the talented opener, was able to bowl magnificently and was dubbed the “Man with the Golden Arm”. One of my most prized childhood memories is watching Javed Miandad hit a six off of Cheetan Sharma on the last ball of Australiasia Cup with my mom , brother and grandfather. I agree cricket is the soul food of the Pakistani nation and me becoming a cricket fanatic was mainly due to the impact of my surroundings.

Since the start of this year cricket fanatics like me were anxiously waiting for the Cricket World Cup of 2015. The tournament started last week in Australia and New Zealand last week and me the highly detail-oriented human being re checked the schedule of all the matches on dish network and installed the ESPN Cricket app on my phone for instant score cards.

Like all other Pakistani cricket fans I was too heartbroken to see Pakistan get defeated a sixth time in a row by India in their first match of Cricket World Cup 2015. The heartfelt emotions of defeat were quite high for me but I saw something during this match which greatly touched my heart.

Mohammed Shami an Indian bowler took five Pakistani wickets during the match. He happens to be a Muslim from Bengal. His team on the field which compromises of mostly all non-Muslim players hugged him and congratulated him. The thousands of Indian Cricket fans roared for him and cheered for him on the ground at Adelaide. Mohammed Shami’s religion did not matter, he was an Indian playing for India, his performance for his country made him special. He was cheered as an Indian by thousands of his countrymen present there and millions watching on TV.

I also watched the South Africa / Zimbabwe game earlier that day . The South African team for cricket World Cup 2015 compromises of many talented players out of which there are three Muslim players Hashim Amala, Wayne Parnell and Imran Tahir. Amala is the son of Gujrati Muslim immigrants and Imran Tahir was born in Lahore but later his family moved to South Africa. Wayne Parnell read about and researched about Islam and converted in 2011.

South Africa along with New Zealand are the two favorite teams of this World Cup. I saw the same jubilation among the players and fans of South Africa as I did among the Indian fans while they cheered for these three Muslim players. I have heard that Hashim Amla is quite a practicing Muslim, he has grown a beard, prays five times and his wife also wears hijab .

While the acts of hate crimes against Muslims are very raw in my mind I was greatly moved by these gestures of great respect for Muslim players by their non-Muslim team mates and countrymen.

During matches played by England I noticed Moeen Munir Ali who is also a Muslim. He happens to be a greatly admired player by his countrymen. He is representing team England in the World Cup 2015.

It was quite an electrifying sight looking at a bearded Muslim men being cheered by people belonging to other faiths.

Those sights on the cricket field made me think if these guys can win the hearts of so many by their talent and spirit of dedication for their sport why can’t many others like them also acquire that respect?

I replied to myself in a firm voice “yes it can be done”.

I read an interview of Mooen Munir Ali in the Huffington Post in which he said : “ I Am A Muslim, Yes, But I Am Also Very English”. So true, so right!

As Muslims are not allowed to drink alcohol, Hashim Amla was permitted not to wear the logo of Castle Beer, which sponsors South African cricket. Also, Pakistan-born Australian cricketer Fawad Ahmed did not wear a beer logo on his shirt during his debut international match against England. Carlton United Breweries were respectful of the personal beliefs of these players.

Moeen Ali and Hashim Amala both have beards and are often seen praying in the dressing rooms. Moeen Munir Ali has been compared to the greatest English player of all times W.G.Grace who also had a long beard.

Parnell converted to Islam from Catholicism after doing research about the religion and Tahir is a greatly popular leg break bowler.

The sight of all these talented players being cheered for by their hundreds of fans gave me a strange feeling of happiness, maybe more like relief.

There was a controversial remark by Dean Jones, the former Australia Test batsman turned TV commentator in 2006. He said “the terrorist has taken another wicket” after Amala dismissed Kumar Sangakara during a South Africa / Sri Lanka match in 2006. Ten Sports, Jones’s employers terminated his contract with the company for those remarks and also asked him to issue a public apology.

That broadcast was aired around the world, including South Africa, and he was subsequently widely condemned by South African fans, former cricketers and commentators.

I know racial and ethnic profiling has risen in the last decade but if we think it through we will realize that spirit of patriotism is so strong that it engulfs all other human inhibitions.

As Charles de Gaulle said “patriotism is when love of your own people comes first”.

I salute the spirit of patriotism and the multicultural field of cricket for making this spirit so beautiful.

17-11

Sound Vision Event for Shariah Education

By Adil James, TMO

A fundraiser was held Saturday evening at the Dearborn Hyatt to counter the “anti-Shariah” legislation that is sweeping the nation.

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Abdul Malik Mujahid speaks at his fundraiser

The voices from the extreme right that vilify Muslims and Islam have made an important strategy shift in recent years, aiming to promulgate their hatred into the law of the land.  That difference has come in the form of plainly unconstitutional legislation that despite its illegality in relation to the religious protections of our nation has been passed as “anti-Sharia” legislation in 5 states to date, with ongoing battles to enact such legislation in other states.

Sound Vision pioneer Abdul Malik Mujahid is therefore planning an intelligent response to the shrill anti-Shariah efforts.  He has begun to assemble a team of knowledgeable people from relevant walks of life including lawyers and professors, and a website (called Sharia101.org) and more, all designed to fill the void on the internet of people knowledgeable about Islam who can respond to the “anti-Shariah” distortions of Christian bigots.

Mr. Mujahid has successfully built Sound Vision, and is prominent for his other contributions as well, in fact he was given the honor of being listed in the “Muslim 500” book of most influential Muslims.

Saturday, approximately 100 influential Southeast Michigan Muslims attended Mr. Mujahid’s fundraiser, one stop on Mr. Mujahid’s tour of several fundraisers, to raise money in support of his vision of educating people on what Shariah is.

Mujahid spoke eloquently on the importance of Shariah legislation, the danger it poses to Muslim investing, the danger to Muslim family arbitration, the danger to the existing multibillion dollar halal investment funds, the danger to the halal industry.

Mujahid also pointed out the profound implications of anti-Shariah legislation for similarly distinct religious groups which apply their religious laws within the American legal system, for example Jews, Catholics, the Amish, and Mormons. 

Mujahid gave one of the first good explanations of the nature of Shariah as being our way of life–something that is not at all fairly represented by sometimes hideous abuses done in foreign countries under the banner “Shariah.”

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The Women of Karbala

By Asghar Ali, Engineer

15
Women of the Ahlul Bait at the feet of Zul-Janah (the horse of Sayyidinal Hussain (kw)) who returns after the martyrdom of its rider.

TRADITIONAL Muslim set-ups place many restrictions on women. They cannot even venture out of their homes; most are required to restrict themselves to performing household chores only. Few Muslim women take up public roles; fewer still participate in outdoor events.

All this is being done in the name of Islam by the self-styled guardians of social norms. However, if we cast a glance on the early history of Islam we find women taking part in various events alongside men. Prophet (s) Muhammad (PBUH) had from Hazrat Khadija four daughters and brought them up as model women who participated in his revolution.

Islam’s was not only a spiritual but also a social revolution. It empowered women and gave them equal rights which was unthinkable at that time. Women played at best a secondary role in any civilisation in the seventh century CE. However, Islam raised their status and assigned them an equal role in all worldly affairs along with men. Many women, like Umm-i-Ammara, even took part in various battles which the Prophet (s) had to fight. In the Battle of Uhud, Umm-i-Ammara took the attack of a sword on her arm and saved the life of the Prophet (s).

Hazrat Fatima, as all Muslims agree, was indeed very close to her father, and thus Muslims highly revere her. She too was brought up by the Prophet (s) enshrining the highest values of Islam. Her sons, Imam Hasan and Husain, were equally loved. Her daughter, Hazrat Zainab, played a pivotal role in the aftermath of the battle of Karbala. Bibi Shehar Banu was the daughter of Kisra, the King of Persia who was defeated by the Muslims, and Hazrat Ali married her to his son, Husain.

Shaher Banu also faced the tragic events at Karbala very bravely and sacrificed her two sons, Ali Akbar and Ali Asghar, in the way of Allah.

It is important to note that when Imam Husain was leaving Makkah for Kufa (Iraq) in response to the letters he had received from many important citizens of Kufa to lead them in their fight against Yazid (who had usurped khilafat in violation of the condition laid down by Imam Hasan while abdicating in favour of Ameer Muawiyah), Imam Husain was advised by his well-wishers not to take his family along to Kufa.

It was feared the people of Kufa might betray him.

However, despite the risks, Imam Husain turned down the advice and took along all his family members, including women and children. He knew that the women, who included his wife, his sisters and daughters, would play a very important role even if he had to fight against Yazid’s forces in or near Kufa. The people of Kufa did betray him even though they were the ones who had invited him to lead them in a fight against Yazid’s tyranny.

Yazid stood for all that was against Islamic norms. Not only was his lifestyle against that of the Prophet (s) (PBUH) and his companions he also tried to destroy the institution of khilafat by introducing monarchy.

This was totally against the revolutionary spirit of the political system introduced by Islam. Husain perhaps knew, before he left for Kufa, what was in store and he deliberately took women along with him to show to the world that women could also play a role in saving the Islamic way of life.

The women of the Karbala tragedy did play a role which was no less significant than that of the male companions of the Imam.

The Imam was right: his women played a pivotal role, particularly the Imam’s sister, Hazrat Zainab. After the martyrdom of Husain and his colleagues, Imam Zainul Abidin and all women and children were arrested and taken to Damascus on camelback via Kufa. Bibi Zainab, a brave and bold woman, addressed Muslims everywhere along the way, exposing Yazid and his evil actions and un-Islamic acts.

Bibi Zainab and the Imam’s entire family were kept in prison in Damascus. When they were brought to Yazid’s court, Zainab eloquently spoke in front of Yazid’s courtiers and thoroughly exposed him. She never shied from her mission, so much so that he had to release her and the Imam’s entire family. They were sent back to Madina with their security being ensured.

Syeda Zainab’s role was exemplary. It showed how bold Muslim women were and how they played a key role in consolidating Islamic teachings.

Today, despite so much progress and the spread of education, so many Muslim women are suppressed. In Saudi Arabia, for example, even a woman’s voice is considered ‘awrah i.e. so that it should not be heard in public; and here was Zainab from the Imam’s family who became a public speaker to save Islamic values.

Zainab was the eldest among the women of the Imam’s family, including Imam Zainul Abidin who was very unwell at the time.

The leadership of the family thus fell to Zainab, and she proved to be more than what was expected of her. Today, women have to learn much  from her example and leadership qualities. Her public role in the Karbala saga has much to teach us.

It is wrong to think, as many Muslim men do, that women are weak and cannot achieve much in the public domain. Hazrat Zainab’s role is a wake-up call for those who feel that women are fit only for domestic chores and nothing beyond the confines of a house.

The writer is an Islamic scholar who heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai.

Source: The Dawn, Karachi

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The Candidates on Islam

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, Muslim Chaplain, Attorney and Political Analyst

2011-11-23T013356Z_410979054_LM2E7BN04CK01_RTRMADP_3_USA-CAMPAIGN-DEBATE

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, businessman Herman Cain, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), stand at attention during the singing of the national anthem during the CNN GOP National Security debate in Washington, November 22, 2011.

REUTERS/Jim Bourg

As republican voters near the time to elect their presidential candidate for the 2012 election, the candidates’ respective religious perspectives become significant to many. One topic that does not escape public scrutiny is the candidates’ stand on Islam and Muslims in America. It has become an important issue that calls the attention of both Muslim and non-Muslim voters. Noticeably some candidates appear not to realize that the American Muslim community has a significant number of political conservatives sympathetic to many issues within the Republican Party platform.

The GOP presidential hopefuls’ stand on Islam and Muslims has been varied. Their stands have ranged from being thoughtful and considerate to being discourteous, rude and unappreciative of the history, losing potential support.

Some candidates have clearly opted to try to win votes by denigrating Islam and disparaging Muslims. Taking the lead in the anti-Muslim frenzy is Herman Cain, who has consistently held a hostile discourse on Islam, belittling almost anything or anyone resonating Muslim. Among many instances we may take as example Cain’s opposition to the construction of an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., unreasonably arguing that it’s not religious discrimination for a community to ban a mosque. On this same line, Cain has also affirmed that he wouldn’t appoint Muslims to his cabinet and even suggested to impose a loyalty test on any Muslim before allowing him to serve in his administration.

His anti-Muslim rhetoric returned recently when he expressed that more than half of American Muslims are extremists based on a “trusted adviser” who informed him so.

Rick Perry has wisely distanced himself from the bigoted rhetoric and instead has a history of good and positive relations with the Muslims community. Perry endorsed Texas public high school teacher education programs on Islamic history. As governor he signed a Halal Law, which makes it a criminal offense to sell Halal and non-Halal meat in the same store without specifically labeling the two and to misrepresent non-Halal meat as being Halal. Governor Perry has held constructive ties with the Muslim Aga Khan’s community and hosted their world known leader on his visit to Texas. He followed up by attending the inauguration of their Ismaili Jamatkhana Islamic Center in Sugar Land, Texas in 2002; and later laid the first brick for another of their centers in Plano, Texas in 2005. On the other hand, Perry’s ties to the rest of the mainstream Muslim community as a whole are scarce, and his posture is mostly perceived as neutral, with neither “pro” nor “against” community stances.

Mitt Romney’s relations with the American Muslim community have not been smooth. Recently, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) asked the presidential hopeful for the ouster of Dr. Walid Phares a recently appointed foreign policy adviser to his team. Phares authored “Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America” and also acts as an advisor to the U.S. Congress on the Middle East. According to CAIR he worked as an official in the Lebanese Forces, a Christian militia, and other militias that reportedly took part in various massacres of Muslims. The controversial appointment has certainly created a wave of controversy within the American Muslim community that waits for Romney to take their concerns into consideration.

Newt Gingrich’s stance on issues related to American Muslims and Islam has been scornful. Falling victim to the Muslim hysteria on the debate on the Ground Zero Mosque, Gingrich compared the Islamic Community Center project to building a Nazi monument outside the Holocaust Museum. This was clearly a very insensitive position that will take more than a simple apology — not that it is expected — to amend.

Michele Bachmann has not demonstrated a capacity to engage the American Muslim community neither shown capacity to understand and respect diversity. Her comments on the civil uprisings that took place in France back in 2005 were very discomforting: “Those who are coming into France, which has a beautiful culture, the French culture is actually diminished. It’s going away. And just with the population in France, they are losing Western Europeans, and it’s being taken over by a Muslim ethic. Not that Muslims are bad, but they are not assimilating.”

Rick Santorum has joined Gingrich’s Islam-bashing team, expressing misleading comments on the question of sharia taking over the U.S. court system. On the most recent debate Santorum was even more assertive on his opinion on Muslims. When asked if he would support ethnic and religious profiling he replied: “The folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes … obviously Muslims would be someone you’d look at, absolutely.”

Among all candidates, libertarian leaning Ron Paul seems to be the one who have consistently pronounced himself distant from any expression that could be construed as Islamophobic. He issued firm statements condemning Pastor Terry Jones’ controversial call for a “Burn the Quran Day.” In September 2010 Paul stated: “This blame of all Muslims for the atrocities of 9/11 only makes things worse — especially since it wasn’t the Taliban of Afghanistan that committed the atrocities.” More recently, on a CBS interview, Paul said that al Qaeda itself cited American intervention in the region as its motivation for attacking the U.S. and “to argue the case that they want to do us harm because we’re free and prosperous I think is a very, very dangerous notion because it’s not true.”

John Huntsman is another candidate that for the most part has rejected to take a ride on the Islamophobia train that most republic candidates not only designed but are now fueling and giving hand-detailed maintenance.

The comments and actions that vilify Islam and Muslims — or any other religion and its practitioners — by the Republican Party presidential hopefuls show an evident betrayal of commitment to the freedom of religion consecrated in the U.S. Constitution. Exploiting Muslims for political gain will undoubtedly alienate them from a significant section of the voting public who hold religion dear to their hearts.

Follow Wilfredo Amr Ruiz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnalistaInter

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Jazz Musician Hassan Abdullah Passes

084bb818-f0ad-534b-a914-96788bdf5500.preview-300ATLANTIC CITY–Popular musician Stanley Barber, whose Muslim name was Hassan Abdullah, passed away last Saturday. He was 59. He had converted to Islam as an adult.
Imam Umar Salahuddin led the Janazah prayers. Abdullah, a native of Norfolk, Va., moved to Atlantic City with his family when he was a child. The saxophonist played jazz for most of his life and also served as a jazz advocate. One of his greatest accomplishments was playing at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

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One Ummah

The 15th Annual Western Regional Convention of MAS

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

maslogoThe United States faces serious problems, both domestically and internationally, problems that at a glance seem insurmountable.  Ignorance of Islam and Islamophobia are rampant. Muslim organizations are needed to combat the latter two and to offer Muslim solutions based on Muslim values to provide answers to our crises at home and abroad. Our culture is moving from R rated to X rated: What to do?

Many Islamic groups are active in offering such aid. One in particular the Muslim American Society (MAS), deserves special mention.

The Muslim American Society held a highly successful annual Western Regional Convention, the organization’s fifteenth, this past weekend in Los Angeles. The title of the event and its theme was: “One: One Ummah, One Brotherhood, One Pulse”.

More than two thousand people were in attendance in an event that began on Thanksgiving Day and ran through the following Saturday. The Muslim American Society of Greater Los Angeles (MAS GLA) was the host.

The majority of the three day convention was devoted to workshops, many intended for youth. The titles of the work sessions mirrored the theme of the convention. They included, but were not limited to: “The Believers are But a Single Brotherhood”; “One Ummah, One Body”, “The Fiqh of Priorities”, and “Our Means to a Beautiful End”.

Each session was conducted by learned speakers who were available to answer questions and expand on their presentations at the end of each session.

In one particularly timely session,  students from the original Irvine 11 spoke about their legal ordeal which grew out of their collective exercise of free speech at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in February 2010. At that time the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, addressed a student audience and was confronted by a group of young Muslims vis a vis the illegal actions of the state of Israel.

Their subsequent arrest and indictment – almost a year to the date after the original incident and days before the statute of limitations would expire – angered civil libertarians. The students became a symbol of the limitations on free speech imposed on Muslims.

In a session titled: “I Don’t Plead the Fifth: Irvine 11 Speak out”, the students received a standing ovation, and many in the audience sought their autographs after the session ended. Each of the students stated unequivocally that he was glad of his actions and, given the opportunity, would do it again.

“What brave people” said one young woman in the audience. “It makes me feel  so proud”.

During a session titled: “A Quilt to Cover the Nation: Shaping the American Society by Applying the Fabric of Islamic Family Values”, two young Muslims introduced the Islamic Speaker’s Bureau.That organization will send Muslim speakers to address schools and law enforcement officers, to name but a few potential audiences, in an effort to explain Islam to non-Muslims and to counter act Islamophobia. Farhan Simjee and Shaista Azad invited the attendees and others who are interested to contact them at: isbsocal@gmail.com.

In one of the final sessions of the convention, the topic could not have been more timely. “One Ummah, One Pulse: Education and Mobilization to Help our Syrian Brothers and Sister” featured three speakers who gave the history of Syria, both ancient and modern, and offered practical actions that might be taken on Syria’s behalf.

One of the speakers,  Hussam Ayloush, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the greater Los Angeles area spoke movingly on behalf of the aspirations of the Syrian people. “We have a common bond as human beings and as Muslims”.

He called for the following actions. Be outspoken, use Facebook and e mail; talk to the media, and take part in protests; Get the DVDs sold at the booth of the Syrian American Council (SAC) in the bazaar, stay in contact with the activists (syrianetLA@gmail.com); wear buttons and T shirts to advertise your cause; donate money to help the victims in Syria.

“The right to freedom is a human right”.

A bazaar was held in the lobby during the convention. Attendees could purchase Islamic clothing, books, jewelry, and DVDs, and they could learn of different community organizations.

The booths included, but were not limited to: CAIR (http://ca.cair.com), ACCESS (www.accesscal.org ), InFOCUS News (www.infocusnews,net), One Legacy Radio (www.onelegacyradio.com),and the Institute or Arabic and Islamic Studies (IAIS) (www.islamic-study.org) and (www.legacyofpeace.net).

The Muslim American Society began in 1993 as a charitable, religious, social, cultural and educational  organization. It has grown since then to its present strength of fifty chapters across the United States. It is a go-to group for information and commentary, held in high esteem by the media and government officials on all levels. MAS emphasizes proactive community involvement such as community service, interfaith dialogue, youth programs, and civic engagement. It seeks to build strong Muslims with strong faith and a deep knowledge of Islam.

The recent roots of MAS can be traced to the Islamic Revival Movement that took place at the turn of the 20th century. Its ancient roots, of course, can be traced back to the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). The recent convention lived easily up to the standards of the Muslim American Society – to fulfill its mission for God consciousness, liberty and justice through the conveyance of Islamic values.

For more information on the Muslim American Society, please use the following email address: http://www.mascalifornia.org.

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500 Most Influential Muslims – 2011

muslim500-cover-2011-web2A new book has been released very recently (available here). 

This is the third edition of the book, which came out for the first time in 2009 and has since been updated annually.

The price of the book is $39.99, and in fact this new edition may be a must-have book for anyone writing about Islam, as it provides snapshots of many key and influential people, not to mention a snapshot of Islam itself.

There are several new qualities in this new edition.  The size and layout have been changed; there is an essay on the Arab Spring; there are quotes from the top 25 and from some others; there are statistics about the top 25 and some others; the bios have been expanded; there is an “Arab Spring box” for the top 50 to show whether the Arab Spring was a plus or a minus for each of the top 50; higher quality photography; expanded honorable mentions section, new obituaries section; updated Muslim population statistics; new maps; expanded glossary.

There is also a companion website (www.TheMuslim500.com). 

The format is improved and despite some changes in position, mostly the same people are in the book. 

Hamza Yusuf has fallen a few places.  The USA is very well represented as before.  Tariq Ramadan is among the honorable mentions but not in the top 50.

There is an excellent discussion of the major schools of thought in the book.

The book’s Introduction was written by a Muslim convert from Judaism, Prof. Abdallah Schleifer, who teaches at the American University in Cairo.  In his introduction he provides an excellent defense of monarchy based on Qur`an, ahadith, and Islamic scholarship, quoting Ghazi bin Muhammad at length, who in turned argued:  “Traditional, Orthodox Islam has always endorsed monarchy as such.”  

It is “the best – and perhaps only conceivable form of government because it can best deliver justice and adherence to God’s laws.”  Islamic Monarchy, he says, “whilst not democratic as such in the modern sense of ultimate power being derived and delivered through universal suffrage, nevertheless makes participative consultation (shura) of experts, the learned and the wise (16:43; 21:7; 4:83) incumbent on the ruler…”

Moreover, he also gives extensive time to Dr. Yusuf Ibish, who taught political thought at the American University of Beirut and who taught a “rather obscure” course on Islamic Political Thought, meaning traditional Sunni Islamic political thought of Imam Abdul Hamid Al-Ghazali” and others.  “Modern Islamic or Islamist political thought is usually a coupling of any number of 19th and 20th century Western ideologies – be they left-wing Leninist (Marxist) or right-wing Leninist (Fascist—be that hyper-nationalist or racist) or the kinder ideologies of Social Democracy (the welfare state) and Democracy blended with Islamic pieties…”

Schleifer gives these arguments in defense of monarchy into the context of the modern tumult in the Arab world and in turn argues that perhaps the grass roots efforts to topple the leadership in Egypt and Tunisia was actually not responsible for their success, but rather the interference of the armies in those two countries.

The House of Islam.  The book has a brilliantly written 10 page introduction to Islam (reprinted by permission of Vincenzo Oliveti) followed by several charts, which manages in such a brief space to define all or most of the major subsets or alternative (and sometimes complementary) models of Islam that exist until today.

This overview is followed by the “Amman Message” (see more at www.ammanmessage.com) which is a restatement of the “historical 2005 international Islamic consensus on the three points of the Amman Message,” namely (1) that the four Sunni schools and the two Shi’a schools adherents are Muslim.  Calling any of those people an apostate is impossible and impermissible.  His/her blood, honor and property are inviolable.  Further, it is impossible and impermissible to declare anyone who subscribes to the Ash’ari creed or who practices real Tasawwuf (Sufism) an apostate.  Further, “it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to true Salafi thought an apostate.” (2) There exists more in common between the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence than there is difference between them.” (3) Acknowledgment of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas; no one may issue a fatwa without the requisite personal qualifications which each school of Islamic jurisprudence determines [for its own adherents]. No one can claim unlimited ijtihad and create a new school of Islamic thought.

After this brief but excellent introduction, the book dives into the top 50 influential Muslims.  The first, again, is His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  The second is the king of Morocco, King Mohammed VI.  Third is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan—who has gone several steps up since the issue of 500 Muslims from two years ago.  Most of the top 25 are politically powerful people.  Slipping to fifth place was Grand Ayatollah Hajj Syyid Ali Khamenei.

Shaykh Nazim al-Qubrusi, leader of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order, is listed by the book at number 48. Sheikh Ahmad Tijani Ali Cisse, leader of the Tijaniyya Sufi Order, is listed at number 26.

The first scholar listed is Dr. Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Al Tayyeb, the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar University and Grand Imam of the Al Azhar mosque.  In fact, of the top 25, eight are scholars from across the world, representing several different schools of thought.  Three are leaders of movements, including Tablighi Jamaat, Ikhwan and Hezbollah.  Sheikha Munira Qubeysi, leader of the Qubeysi movement of scholarship for Muslim women, is among the top 25

The book’s top 25 also includes Dr. Amr Khaled.

Where before (in 2009) the book seemed to sway towards political correctness, by being sure to mention a prominent Shi’a political leader after mentioning the Saudi political leader, now it seems to focus more clearly on those people that the authors consider important—although there seems to be some bias in the still very high status of Hamza Yusuf Hanson (43), disproportionate to his world stature.  While Mr. Hanson is building the Zaytuna Institute, he hardly compares with some of those ranked below him; and also does not compare with those near in proximity but above him.  Does it make sense that the president of Palestine is only seven ranks above Hamza Yusuf? Mahmoud Abbas has the capacity to move newspapers by the ton simply by saying a choice sentence.  By contrast, Hamza Yusuf Hanson’s influence is really confined to an investment in the future of traditional Muslim scholarship in the US.  Certainly his influence is not more powerful than the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, who is ranked at #44, immediately Hanson’s junior.

Sheikh Hisham Kabbani is listed among the top 500, as a spiritual guide in North America.

Paging through the book you will notice a huge improvement in the quality of the pictures—this book is one that is suitable to display on a coffee table.

Swiss Antagonist of Minarets Is Now Muslim

By TMO Stringer Based on News Reports

daniel-streichRENOWNED Swiss politician Daniel Streich, who previously campaigned against Swiss minarets, embraced Islam a few years ago.

A member of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and a well-known politician, Daniel Streich was the first man who had launched a drive for imposition of ban on mosques minarets, and to lock the mosques in Switzerland. The proclamation of Streich’s conversion to Islam created a furor in Swiss politics, and caused a tremor for those who supported ban on construction of mosques minarets.

Streich had propagated his anti-Islamic movement far and wide in the country, sowed seeds of indignation and scorn for Islam among the people, and paved the way for public opinion against pulpits and minarets of mosques.

But now Streich has become a servant of Islam. His anti-Islam thoughts finally brought him so close to this religion that he embraced it.

He is ashamed of his past doings now, and desires to construct the most beautiful mosque of Europe in Switzerland.

The most interesting thing in this regard is that at present there are four mosques in Switzerland and Streich wants to lay the foundation for a fifth. He wishes to seek absolution of his sin of proliferating venom against Islam. He is thinking of a movement contrary to his previous one to promote religious tolerance and peaceful cooperative living, in spite of the fact that ban on mosques minarets has gained a legal status.

This is the greatest quality of Islam that it comes up with even greater vigour, when it is faced with confrontation.

Abdul Majeed Aldai, the president of OPI, an NGO, working for the welfare of Muslims, says that Europeans have a great desire to know about Islam. Some of them want to know about the relationship between Islam and terrorism; same was the case with Streich.

During his confrontation, Streich studied the Holy Quran and started understanding Islam.

He wished to be hard to Islam, but the outcome was otherwise. Aldai further says.

Later the question of the ban on minarets was put to a vote in Switzerland, wherein the Swiss nationals did ban minarets in the country.

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UnChristian & Unpatriotic

By Dr. A S Nakadar, TMO CEO and Publisher

PglobeOn 11-11-11, the Ford Field in Detroit witnessed a highly publicized bigoted event.  The venue, Ford Field is where the Detroit Lions play and the area is near Dearborn that has a large Muslim population.

The organizer of this event was “TheCall” organization; a relatively unknown organization that has been in existence for about a decade. It claims to tackle issues such as economy, racial strife, same sex relationship, abortion and other such issues. But to many it appeared that the objective of this event was to gain cheap publicity by bashing Muslims and Islam. The organizers had said in their statements that they wanted to raise concerns against the growing Islamic popularity and Islamic renaissance in USA.

They heavily promoted their Detroit event on their website. According to “The Christian Post” they called it, “The Rising Tide of the Islamic Movement.” But after receiving complaints, perhaps, about the factuality and the phrase giving legitimacy to the prevailing situation, TheCall dropped the phrase from its web site.

The Pentecostal Minister, Engle, had announced that the program would start on Friday night (11-11-11) and would end the next day, Saturday morning. Their announcement also touted that they expected a crowd of more than 50,000. But most reports suggest the program was a flop in attendance. The stadium mostly remained empty and according to some reports the attendance was about less than tenth of their predicted number.

The reason given for the night vigil and night prayer, according to “The Christian Post”, quoting their minister Engler, “You got to pray all night long because it’s when the Muslims sleep.”

Looking at the thin attendance, he found out that Christians and others sleep during those hours too. 

Earlier this week and prior to the event, a group of Christian pastors gathered in Grand Circus Park, near the Ford Field venue, to denounce Lou Engle’s “The Call Detroit” rally at Ford Field as “un-Christian, “un-American,” and “idolatrous.”

This group counts Islam among the ills facing the nation. Some Muslims answered this by saying, “their heads needs to be examined” while others said, “I bet you they will say “Occupy Wall Street” movement is Muslim inspired;” others from the group said “I wish to bring to their attention the Muslim contribution to this great nation.” He went on to say: “More than 50% of the Muslims income bracket was over $50,000 as compared to nationwide average income of $47,000 and nearly 60% Muslims are college graduates as compared to 27% as a whole.”

The statement emphasized the great contributions Muslims have made in practically all fields, be it social, military, political, economic, medical, engineering, business, technology and you name it.

Most in the group agreed that we were here to strengthen the country. We want to see communities unified, and not divided. The action of “TheCall” group is divisive and needs to be condemned in strongest terms.

A true American would surely know that pluralism is the Achilles Heel of our society’s foundation.

Today our biggest concern and the concern of all of us should be the challenges that our pluralistic society and our country face.

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Community News (V13-I46)

Davidson students hear lecture on Islam

DAVIDSON,NC– Middle and high school Students at Davidson Day  School in North Carolina learnt about modern day Islam last week. The guest speaker Ahmad Shakur is the founder and director for the Center for the African Diaspora in Charlotte and director of development for the Museum of Muslim Cultures.

He discussed misperceptions of Islam, its history, and how some modern day conflicts are based on that history. He also visited an Islamic history class at the school and in which the students for their final projects are researching how Islamic history is impacting modern global issues.

“Middle school students really thrive in an environment that allows them to think about the world around them,” Mr. Coddington,a teacher, told the Davidson News said. “It allows them to think about themselves, take an issue that is relevant to their lives, and gain an educated perspective.”

Fast-a-thon held at Southern Methodist

DALLAS,TX–The Muslim Students Association at Southern Methodist University held its annual fast-a-thon on Nov.3. The funds raised this year for orphans around the world.
MSA President Khurram Taufiq told the student newspaper that  Fast-a-Thon allows college students to make a difference.

“We as students oftentimes can’t do a whole lot of donating to charities,” Taufiq said. “But Islam teaches us to always give back to the community what we can, regardless of the amount.”
According to MSA reps the SMU MSA has raised close to $1.2 million for various charitable activities in the last eleven years.

Fire doesn’t stop Wichita mosque

WICHITA,KS–A fire which gutted a Wichita mosque couldn’t deter are Muslims from holding their prayers.

The Islamic Association Mosque held its friday prayers outside the burned facility.  Its caught fire last Monday morning and flames gutted the inside.  The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Federal agents are leading the investigation to determine if the fire was an accident or a hate crime.  The Islamic Association had received threatening letters prior to their building catching fire.

Purdue holds Islamic Awareness Week

The Muslim Students Association at Purdue University held its second annual Islamic Awareness Week by hosting a variety of activities last week and its theme was “Exploring the Muslim World.”

The Muslim Student Association was excited to see a large increase in visitors this year compared to last, with more than 1,250 people visiting throughout the week.

The event aimed to educate others about the fundamentals of the Muslim culture and Islam, as well as correct common misconceptions, which revolved around theology and fine details. The bazaar, located in Memorial Mall throughout last week, hosted a variety of booths displaying different aspects of Islamic culture including food samples, henna tattoos and boards explaining the basics of Islam.

Boston University gets footbaths for Muslim students

BOSTON,MA–Muslim students at Boston University don’t have to worry about spilling the water while they do wudu on campus. The university’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs has installed footbaths in its bathrooms, the BU Today reported.

Designed to accommodate Muslim students who must wash before prayer five times a day, the footbaths are available to everyone.

Elsie El Dayaa, CELOP’s operations manager, says the decision to add the footbaths fit nicely with the office’s planned remodel and its desire to meet the needs of its growing Muslim student population.

The number of Middle Eastern students enrolled at CELOP—many of them Muslim—has grown by 175 percent in the past four years and Middle Eastern students now comprise nearly 40 percent of the program’s total population, according to El Dayaa. That is due in large part to a significant increase in enrollment of Saudi Arabian students sent by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation. Several other Muslim students come from Africa and Asia.

CELOP is so proud of its new facilities, El Dayaa says, that “now we’re known as the office that shows you its bathroom.”

The footbaths are a first for the University.

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Islamic Awareness Week at Wayne State University.

Press Release, Wayne MSA

Wayne is planning annual Islamic Awareness Week for November –

Below is the program for the week:

All the events are free and open to the entire campus.

Theme: Revolution of Reason

Monday, Nov. 14th – “Ask a Muslim” – Easel Boards  (people ask q’s about Islam)
—–Location: Undergraduate Library
—–Time: 1:00pm-3:00pm

Tuesday, Nov. 15th – Islam Fair    (with Discover Islam posters, hijab demonstrations, etc)
—–Location: Undergraduate Library
—–Time: 1:00pm-3:00pm

Wednesday, Nov. 16th – Keynote Address with Imam Abdul Malik
—–Topic: Reformation of the Heart
—–Location: Bernath Auditorium
—–Time: 2:00pm-4:00pm

Thursday, Nov. 17th – Fast-A-Thon: A Taste of Islam with Saqib Shafi
—–Location: Grand Ballroom 2nd Floor Student Center
—–Time: 4:45pm-7:30pm

Friday, Nov. 18th – Campus “Jumu’ah” (Friday Prayer) – Islam: Liberating Hearts & Minds
—–Location: Grand Ballroom 2nd Floor Student Center
—–Time: 2:30pm-3:00pm

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Women & Islam: Rise of the Convert

By Richard Peppiatt

16-Women-Islam-1-SUTCLIFFE

Record numbers of young, white British women are converting to Islam, yet many are reporting a lack of help as they get used to their new religion, according to several surveys.

As Muslims celebrate the start of the religious holiday of ‘Eid today and hundreds of thousands from around the world converge on Mecca for the haj, it emerged that of the 5,200 Britons who converted to Islam last year, more than half are white and 75 per cent of them women.

In the past 10 years some 100,000 British people have converted to Islam, of whom some three-quarters are women, according to the latest statistics. This is a significant increase on the 60,000 Britons in the previous decade, according to researchers based at Swansea University.

While the number of UK converts accelerates, many of the British women who adopt Islam say they have a daily struggle to assimilate their new beliefs within a wider culture that both implicitly and explicitly positions them as outsiders, regardless of their Western upbringing.

More than three-quarters told researchers they had experienced high levels of confusion after conversion, due to the conflicting ways Islam was presented to them. While other major religions have established programs for guiding new believers through the rigors of their faith, Islam still lacks any such network, especially outside the Muslim hubs of major cities.

Many mosques still bar women from worship or provide scant resources for their needs, forcing them to rely on competing cultural and ideological interpretations within books or the internet for religious support.

A recent study of converts in Leicester, for example, found that 93 per cent of mosques in the region recognized they lacked services for new Muslims, yet only 7 per cent said they were making efforts to address the shortfall.

Many of the young women – the average age of conversion is 27 – are also coming to terms with experiences of discrimination for the first time, despite the only visible difference being a headscarf. Yet few find easy sanctuary within the established Muslim population, with the majority forming their closest bonds with fellow converts rather than born Muslims.

Kevin Brice, author of the Swansea study A Minority Within a Minority, said to be the most comprehensive study of British Muslim converts, added: “White Muslim converts are caught between two increasingly distant camps. Their best relationships remain with other converts, because of their shared experiences, while there is very little difference between the quality of their relationship with other Muslims or non-Muslims.

“My research also found converts came in two types: some are converts of convenience, who adopt the religion because of a life situation such as meeting a Muslim man, although the religion has little discernible impact on their day-to-day lives. For others it is a conversion of conviction where they feel a calling and embrace the religion robustly.

“That’s not to say the two are mutually exclusive – sometimes converts start out on their religious path through convenience and become converts of conviction later on.”

Another finding revealed by the Leicester study was that despite Western portraits of Islam casting it as oppressive to women, a quarter of female converts were attracted to the religion precisely because of the status it affords them.

Some analysts have argued that dizzying social and cultural upheavals in Britain over the past decades have meant that far from adopting an alien way of life, some female Muslim converts are re-embracing certain aspects of mid-20th-century Britain, such as rigid gender demarcation, rather than feeling expected to juggle career and family.

The first established Muslim communities started in Britain in the 1860s, when Yemeni sailors and Somali laborers settled around the ports of London, Cardiff, Liverpool and Hull. Many married local women who converted to Islam, often suffering widespread discrimination as a result.

They also acted as a bridge between the two cultures, encouraging understanding among indigenous dwellers and helping to integrate the Muslim community they had joined. Today, there is growing recognition among community leaders that the latest generation of female converts has an equally vital role to play in fostering dialogue between an increasingly secular British majority and a minority religion, as misunderstood as it is vilified.

Kristiane Backer, 45

Television presenter and author, London

I converted to Islam in 1995 after Imran Khan introduced me to the faith. At the time I was a presenter for MTV. I used to have all the trappings of success, yet I felt an inner emptiness and somewhat dissatisfied in my life.

The entertainment industry is very much about “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”, which is the exact opposite to the more inward-oriented spiritual attitude of my new faith. My value system changed and God became the center point of my life and what I was striving towards.

I recognize some new converts feel isolated but, despite there being even fewer resources when I converted than there are now, it isn’t so much an issue I’ve faced. I’ve always felt welcomed and embraced by the Muslims I met and developed a circle of friends and teachers. It helps living in London, because there is so much to engage in as part of the Muslim community. Yet, even in the capital you can be stared at on the Tube for wearing a headscarf. I usually don’t wear one in the West except when praying. I wear the scarf in front of my heart though!

I always try to explain to people that I’ve converted to Islam, not to any culture. Suppression of women, honor killings or forced marriages are all cultural aberrations, not Islamic ones. Islam is also about dignity and respect for yourself and your femininity. Even in the dating game, Muslim men are very respectful. Women are cherished as mothers, too – as a Muslim woman you are not expected to do it all.”

Amy Sall, 28

Retail assistant, Middlesbrough

I’d say I’m still a bit of a party animal – but I’m also a Muslim. I do go out on the town with the girls and I don’t normally wear my headscarf – I know I should do, but I like to do my hair and look nice! I know there are certain clothes I shouldn’t wear either, even things that just show off your arms, but I still do. My husband would like me to be a better Muslim – he thinks drinking is evil – so it does cause rows.

I haven’t worshipped in a mosque since I got married, I find it intimidating. I worry about doing something wrong; people whispering because they see my blonde hair and blue eyes. Middlesbrough is a difficult place to be a Muslim who isn’t Asian – you tend to be treated like an outsider. Once, I was out wearing my headscarf and a local man shouted abuse. It was weird because I’m white and he was white, but all he saw was the scarf, I suppose. It did make me angry. My family were surprisingly fine with me converting, probably because they thought it would rein me in from being a bit wild.

Nicola Penty-Alvarez, 26

Full-time mother, Uxbridge

I was always interested in philosophy and the meaning of life and when I came across Islam it all just clicked. In the space of four or five months I went from going to raves to wearing a headscarf, praying five times a day and generally being quite pious – I did occasionally smoke though.

I felt very welcomed into the Muslim community, but it was a mainly white convert community. My impression of the Asian community in west London was that women felt sidelined and were encouraged to stay at home and look after the men rather than attend mosque. I think this was more a cultural than religious thing, though.

Non-Muslims certainly treat you differently when you’re wearing a headscarf – they’re less friendly and as a smiley person I found that hard. After a year-and-a-half of being a Muslim I stopped. I remember the moment perfectly. I was in a beautiful mosque in Morocco praying beside an old lady and something just came over me. I thought: ‘What the hell am I doing? How have I got into this?’ It just suddenly didn’t feel right. Needless to say my husband, who was a fellow convert, wasn’t impressed. He remained devout and it put a lot of strain on our relationship. We split up, but are on amicable terms now. I’m not really in contact with the Muslim friends I made – we drifted apart.

I don’t regret the experience. There is so much that I learnt spiritually that I’ve kept and I haven’t gone back to my hard partying ways.

Donna Tunkara

Warehouse operative, Middlesbrough

I was a bit of a tearaway growing up – drinking, smoking, running away from home and being disrespectful to my parents. I converted 10 years ago because I met a Muslim man but I’ve probably become more devout than him.

Sometimes, I miss going shopping for clothes to hit the town and then going home and getting ready with my mates, having a laugh. The thing is no one is forcing me not to – it’s my choice.

It did come as a shock to my family, who are Christian. They’ve not rejected me, but they find it difficult to understand. I feel bad because I don’t now attend weddings, funerals or christenings because they’re often at pubs and clubs and I won’t step inside.

There needs to be more resources for women who convert. I know some mosques that won’t allow women in. But in the Koran there is an emphasis on women being educated. I’ve learnt about the religion through my husband’s family and books – if you want support you have to look for it. It’s taken time to regain an identity I’m comfortable with. Because I’m mixed race and a Muslim ,people don’t see me as British – but what’s important is that I know who I am.

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Crescent Moon, Waning West

The decline of Western power in the Arab world

ShowImage.ashxAFTER a slow summer, the Arab spring has turned into a turbulent autumn. The past few days have seen the gruesome end of Muammar Qaddafi, the more edifying spectacle of an orderly and open election in Tunisia (see article) and the death of Saudi Arabia’s ancient crown prince Sultan amid demands for the kingdom to modernise faster. Egypt, by far the most populous Arab country, is poised to hold its first proper election next month. Revolts and civil strife continue across the region, from Syria to Yemen and Bahrain.

For the West, whose ties to Arab dictators once gave it great clout in the Middle East, events in the region have spun way out of control.

That fact was underlined this week by the Iraqis’ insistence that all American forces must quit the country by the end of the year. Yet the West should not regret this turn of events. The power that it has lost in the short term should, in the long run, be replaced by influence born of good relations with decent governments.

On balance, the Arab world is in far better shape than it was less than a year ago. For sure, the economies of all the countries affected by the democratic upheavals have slumped. That is true even of Tunisia, which has the best education and skills in the region. But dictatorship and state control suffocated the Arab economies—even those awash with oil. Once Arab countries’ borders open up and their governments become accountable to their citizens, they are likely to grow faster. And that will not happen until they have put in place a system of government that gives a far wider degree of participation than before.

It is beginning to happen. Tunisia has led the way. Egypt promises to follow, though the generals in charge of its transition have been horribly inept of late, raising fears that the country may slip backwards to disorder or military control. But a parliament is due for election next month. It is to choose an assembly that may take a year or so to write a constitution providing for the election of a new Egyptian president. Libya, too, should have elections within a year.

Everywhere risks lapsing into bouts of chaos and strife. But this trio of north African states looks set to give a democratic fillip to other Arab countries, including those such as Syria that seem destined for a time to be soaked in blood while they strive for liberation.

The rise of political Islam is not necessarily cause for alarm among democrats in the West and the Arab world. In Tunisia an Islamist party, Nahda (“Renaissance”), that was brutally banned for decades has won a stunning victory at the polls. Egypt’s Muslim Brothers are likely to do well too. In Libya the Islamists may also be gaining ground. This rattles secular-minded Arab liberals and many well-wishing Westerners.

But a more open and tolerant brand of political Islam better suited to the modern world seems to be emerging, especially now that its proponents must compete for the favours of voters who admire the Islamists’ hostility to corruption, but dislike the sectarian and conservative attitudes that many of them expressed when they were underground.

No one can be certain that if Islamists gain power they will give it up at the ballot box, but secular rulers sometimes fail that test. And, on the whole, the threat of religious extremism with which strongmen used to justify repression has not materialised. Barring a few ungoverned pockets in Yemen and on the fringes of the Sahara, al-Qaeda has failed to benefit from the democratic wind.

It’s a local show these days

The strength of these revolutions is that they have been almost entirely home-grown. Those in Egypt and Tunisia had no outside help.

Syria’s brave protesters are on their own and may, in time, triumph.

Libya’s new rulers could not have succeeded without NATO’s bombers, but the absence of Western ground troops and of proconsuls telling the locals what to do has been in salutary contrast to what happened in Iraq eight years ago, where democracy was crudely imposed on an unprepared people (see Lexington).

After the deaths of some 150,000-plus locals and around 5,000 Americans and other foreigners, Iraq has a freely elected government. But it has not developed the habits of tolerance between communities and the independent institutions that underlie all truly successful democracies. A decade of American hard power has been less effective than a few months of peaceful protest in setting countries on the road towards representative government.

Partly because of the Iraqi adventure, America—at least its foreign policy—remains heartily disliked by Arabs across the region. That is only slightly less true under Barack Obama than it was under George Bush. America’s unpopularity stems partly from its backing of Israel and the continuing humiliation of the Palestinians, partly from its willingness to use force to get its way and partly from its history of supporting useful Arab dictators. Prince Sultan’s death may make this last point particularly salient. If the reactionary Prince Nayef becomes the crown prince and de facto regent, America may struggle to maintain an alliance with him alongside friendships with the Arab world’s nascent democracies.

Yet in the decline of Western power lie the seeds of hope for healthier relations in the future. Although the Arab world’s revolutionaries in general, and the Islamists in particular, are unlikely to hail the West as a model, they seem to be moving towards open political and economic systems. Nobody in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya is arguing for a Saudi Arabian, Iranian or even Chinese model. Arab students, businessmen and tourists in their thousands still choose to go to the West for their studies, their deals and their fun.

The prospects for Western influence in the Arab world are good. But in the future it will be won through education, investment and, when requested, advice on building up institutions. Such levers do not work as quickly as those that were forged from deals with unpopular and unstable dictators. But, in the end, they are likely to prove more reliable.

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Ingrid Mattson Appointed as Chair of Islamic Studies

IngridMattsonLONDON, ON–Huron University College, at the University of Western Ontario, announced the appointment of Dr. Ingrid Mattson as the inaugural London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at its Faculty of Theology. The Chair in Islamic Studies builds on an almost 150-year tradition at Huron University College of open discourse and engagement between people of different faiths. Dr. Mattson will begin her appointment on July 1, 2012.

“Dr. Mattson brings an incredible wealth of knowledge and expertise to this area of study and Huron is privileged to have a scholar of her calibre,” said Dr. Stephen McClatchie, Principal of Huron University College. “We are honoured that, with her pick of many positions around the world, Dr. Mattson has decided to return to Canada and accept our appointment to the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies.”

Dr. Mattson was born and raised in Kitchener-Waterloo and earned her PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Chicago. She is the first convert to Islam and the first woman to lead the Islamic Society of North America. Before accepting the Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College, Dr. Mattson was Director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford Connecticut. She has also been an Advisor to both the Bush and Obama Administrations.

“It is an honour to be back in Canada and to accept this position at such a prestigious institution as Huron University College,” said Dr. Mattson. “Huron has a remarkable history of critical inquiry and I look forward to building on this tradition by offering Huron students the opportunity to learn about a faith that more than 20 per cent of the world’s population practices, in an open and liberal environment.”

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