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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Iran Parliament mulls U.S. calls for talks

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has said the country's lawmakers have not rejected a request for talks from the U.S. Congress.

"We have received a polite letter from the U.S. Congress on parliamentary negotiations between the two countries," Larijani said in a Saturday interview with Farsnews.

"We are studying the letter. We have not rejected it, but we have not given a positive response either," he added.

In an October visit to the United States, an Iranian parliamentary delegation reportedly received a request for talks from a group of U.S. lawmakers.

The Iranian MPs were in Washington to take part in the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They received the letter from a lawmaker during an unofficial tour of the U.S. Capitol.

Larijani explained that a decision had been taken to postpone the response until after the U.S. elections on November 4, and that this was the reason for the delay in deliberating the letter.

Iranian lawmakers received a similar unofficial request for negotiations from 60 congressional representatives last year. However, most political analysts reject the suggestion that the letters are a sign of change in US policy towards Iran.

In 2006, the U.S. Congress launched a plan to 'promote democracy' in Iran and allocated $75-million for the program, but the move is seen by many Iranians as a part of a wider plan to enforce regime change in the country.

Mohammad-Javad Zarif, the former Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, said recently that Washington is conspiring to foment discord among Iranians in order to topple the Tehran government.

Washington severed diplomatic ties with Tehran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The revolution ended the rule of a U.S.-allied dictator in the country.

Since then the United States has passed several rounds of sanctions against Iran, particularly in recent years over the country's legal nuclear activities.

U.S. president-elect Barack Obama, however, has vowed to try and resolve the nuclear dispute by engaging in direct talks with Iranian leaders.
Source: Press TV

US Church Hosts Muslim Worshippers

CAIRO — A church in the north-central US state of Wisconsin is hosting Muslim worshippers to perform prayers twice a day, reported the Journal Sentinel on Saturday, November 29.

"We're very grateful to the church," said local Muslim leader Ajaz Qhavi.

The Faith Presbyterian Church in Franklin city in southern Wisconsin has allowed Muslims to perform prayers five days a week.

Since last week, Muslims have gathered at the Church's Sunday school space to perform the Fajr (Dawn) and `Isha` (night) prayers.

The Islamic Center of Milwaukee pays a nominal rental fee to cover church expenses.

The move was taken as there are no close mosques for Muslims to perform their prayers.

The prayers can be performed anywhere, at home, outside, at the airport, said Isa Sadlon, the Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Milwaukee.

But many Muslims prefer to pray with others, and five daily trips to the mosque can be burdensome, he said.

The prayer sites, Sadlon said, allow them to meet their obligations closer to home or work.

There are 150 Muslim families in Franklin city.

Muslims pray five times a day at the appointed times: Fajr (dawn), Zhuhr (noon), `Asr (mid-afternoon), Maghrib (sunset) and `Isha' (night).

Prayer is one of the most important obligations of Islam, being one of the five pillars of Islam.


Allowing Muslims to pray at the church drew a mixed reaction from church members.

"I think we're doing this, not because of what they believe, but because of what we believe," said Pastor Rev. Deb Bergeson-Graham.

She said the church decision drew an overwhelming support from parishioners, adding that the move is in line with the Christian teachings.

"It's what Christ would have us do."

But the decision was objected by some church members.

"I told him, 'I'm sorry you feel this way, and I hope you continue to worship with us,' " said one older member.

Sadlon, the Islamic Center Executive Director, was not surprised.

"We don't take it personally," said Sadlon, who was raised Catholic but reverted to Islam about 20 years ago.

"Sometimes your worst enemy becomes your best friend. But it takes time."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Islam Through the Western Cinema Lens

The organizers of Cairo Film Festival – held between November 18 - 28, 2008– were not only content with dedicating a section for films tackling the life of Muslims in Western countries under the title of "Islam’s Tolerance in the International Cinema", but also picked one of those films for the opening evening, namely the Spanish film Return to Hansala.

The film critic Yusuf Sherif Rizkallah, the festival's art director, told that among the films chosen for display, he noticed a group of films on the lives of Muslims in the West, depicting through the behavior of their heroes and heroines the tolerance of Islam and decided to group them in a section with that title.

"I thought it was useful to focus on such films, highlight the main viewpoint in each of them, and push them toward a greater percentage of viewing in order to face the intentional defamation of Islam and Muslims by the western cinema and media with a few exceptions," adds Rizkallah.

The opening film tells the story of a Moroccan woman who loses her brother in an attempt of illegal immigration from Morocco to Spain. She was obliged to take his corpse back to their homeland.

The film is directed by Chus Gutierrez who directed many short and documentary films including A Home for Rent, Alma Gitana, Anxiety, Warmth, and lastly Return to Hansala in 2008.

American Mozlym

The American film Mozlym is about an African-American young man who tries to improve his situation and get out of the neighborhood where he lives. He joins college and pursues a master’s degree in film direction, but is haunted by his past memories of gangster life, and fears that his brother will follow the same route.

Influenced by the image propagated about them in the media and by his younger brother’s adventures with Afghan gangs, he decides to make his graduation project about Muslims and violence.

The film director, Edreace Purmul, was born in the U.S of an Afghan origin. His parents had left for the U.S as refugees during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late seventies. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in business administration and film direction from San Diego University in 2006. He currently lives in California.

The English film Shoot on Sight delves into the heart of English society and centers around Tareq Ali, the Muslim police officer of the intelligence department of Scotland Yard, who is asked to arrest the terrorists who carried out the July 7 bombings.

Things become convoluted, however, when Tariq is shot by the English police. In spite of being a British Citizen and his long service in British intelligence, he is under his boss's suspicion.

The film is directed by Jag Mundhra, born in India in 1948. Jag carried out a comparative study between the marketing methods of American and Indian cinema. His works include The Final Call, Sand Storm, Private Moments and Natasha (2006).


The incidents of the Algerian-French film Adhan, take place in an ancient industrial park where a Muslim called 'Mao' owns a specialized company for fixing cars and hoisting gears. Mao decides to build a mosque and hires an imam without getting permission from the labor department.

The film is for a French director of Algerian origin Rabah Ameur Zaimeche who was born in Algeria in 1966 and moved to France in 1968. In 1999 he established Sarrazink Productions and directed his first film Wesh Wesh in 2002.

Wesh Wesh, or What’s Going on?, won the Wolfgang Staudte at the Berlin International Film Festival for 2002 and the Louis Delluc prize in France for 2005.

Zaimeche also wrote, produced and directed Bled Number One that won the youth prize in 2006 at the Cannes International Film Festival. Adhan is his latest work.

A Film on Prophet Muhammad

A number of Arab American cinema producers are preparing a one million Euro budget film entitled The Messenger of Peace about the biography of Muhammad – peace be upon him – as a launching point for the story of persons who lived around the Prophet, and were affected by his message, and witnessed the dawn of Islam.

Oscar Zoghby, the main producer of the film, said that it was about time to show the true values of Islam. He added that the film would tackle the life of common persons and families who live in the same place at the time of the rise of Islam.

The film, he says, is not addressed to Muslims only but is an international film addressed to the whole world; a "Hollywood film with Islamic values" in his own words.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Best Islamic Financial Institution in USA (Global Finance) : Shariah Capital

Shaykh Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo, Chief Shariah Officer at Shariah Capital

Shariah Capital, Inc. is a multi-dimensional company that creates Shariah-compliant financial products and provides Shariah compliant consulting and related services. It delivers these products and services under its own brand name, under co-branding arrangements with joint venture partners or on a private label basis. Its targeted clients are financial institutions and investment management firms that are building product platforms primarily directed to the Middle East, Asia and the Far East and, specifically, to Islamic institutional and high net worth investors.
Shariah Capital is committed to becoming a leader in modern Islamic finance by developing the solutions behind competitive Shariah compliant alternatives to conventional Western financial instruments and investment products.

Product Innovation

In collaboration with prominent Shariah scholars and Western financial and legal experts, Shariah Capital has developed risk management tools that replicate the economics of conventional short sales, options trading and leverage with Shariah compliant equivalents. It has refined the screening criteria for equities and built a software engine that streamlines the process for determining Shariah compliance for publicly-listed companies.
Based upon this experience, Shariah Capital has advanced its skill sets to build similar Shariah compliant equivalents for conventional bonds (known as “Sukuk”), other derivative instruments, private equity strategies, liquidity management instruments, principal protection vehicles, exchange traded funds (ETFs), futures contracts, real estate investment trusts (REITs), home mortgages and global real estate.

Structuring a Shariah Overlay

Shariah Capital looks for opportunities, usually with joint venture partners, to establish new companies or to restructure existing companies or investment partnerships to comply with Shariah, particularly in industries whose underlying businesses, by definition, largely are Shariah compliant: healthcare, technology, energy, telecommunications, consumer and basic industries (construction, manufacturing, mining, etc.).

Shariah Advisory

Shariah Capital selectively undertakes Shariah consulting mandates that can lead to more extensive, longer-term product development relationships. Our efforts include assembling teams of knowledgeable and experienced Islamic jurists to coordinate research followed by product certification and ongoing Shariah supervision. We also typically work with institutional clients and their legal counsel to explain the Shariah process and to facilitate compliance-related issues, including management of Shariah compliance risk and the challenges to specific product solutions.

Competitive Edge

Developing Shariah compliant investment products requires two critical elements that distinguish it from the development of conventional investment products. The first is time and intellectual capacity with prominent Shariah scholars, especially those trained or educated in Finance or Economics or who are familiar with capital markets and, in particular, U.S. 1934 Securities Act and 1940 Investment Company Act requirements.
The second is Western business, financial and investment managers who equally are conversant with 1934 and 1940 Act legislation, understand a product’s methodology and can work with Shariah scholars with a goal to formulate new products that accommodate both frameworks. Shariah Capital management has learned that Shariah scholars, working together with Western legal and finance professionals, should be involved early in the development process of a Shariah compliant product—both for their guidance as Islamic jurists as well as for their commitment to serious scholarship. Their leadership in defining pivotal issues and helping to devise practical solutions is invaluable to moving a product or investment project forward. Successfully sourcing and coordinating both sides within new Shariah compliant products is Shariah Capital’s competitive edge.

Access to Shariah Scholars

With the dramatic rise in demand for Shariah compliant products, internationally-recognized Shariah scholars, similarly, are in high demand.
Shariah Capital has always enjoyed close working relationships with some of the most reputable scholars in Islamic finance, the result of Eric Meyer’s early and full-time commitment since 2000 to learn directly from, and to work individually and collectively with, prominent Shariah scholars.
To address the problems caused by scholar shortages, Shariah Capital consolidated and enhanced its capacity with Shariah scholars in October, 2006 by hiring Shaykh Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo of Washington, D.C. as its full-time Chief Shariah Officer and a member of its Board of Directors. In this role, Shaykh Yusuf draws upon his relationships with Shariah scholars around the world to assemble committed critical thinkers best suited for Shariah Capital’s advisory mandates. He has formulated a process for identifying and commissioning Shariah scholars to projects best suited to their particular capabilities.
This access to, and process with, Shariah scholars gives Shariah Capital an advantage over competing firms: Shariah Capital now can offer clients and partners a senior Shariah scholar, permanently on staff. It enables the firm to commit to reliable product timelines and workflows.

Access to Deal Flow

Shariah Capital’s reputation in Islamic finance and its extensive contacts on Wall Street and in Washington, D.C. have led to numerous relationships – both where the firm acts as Shariah advisor and transactions where Shariah Capital creates and contributes a Shariah compliant solution. Shariah Capital’s value added – a Shariah compliant component imbedded within a transaction or an investment vehicle – is intended to make an investment (or project or company) acceptable to a wider audience that includes Islamic investors and thereby enhance its marketability.
Moreover, Shariah Capital and its executives have wide exposure to and experience with 1934 Securities Act and 1940 Investment Company Act regulations. Rewriting prime broker documents to accommodate its solutions for Shariah compliant hedge funds demanded that Shariah Capital senior management learn the intricacies of U.S. securities’ law. That expertise today enables Shariah Capital to distinguish between those Western products and instruments that potentially can be restructured to comply with Shariah (e.g., distressed debt) and those that are more challenging (such as convertible arbitrage hedge funds).

Shariah Capital is unlike any other firm in the Islamic finance industry with its combined in-house proficiency of Shariah scholarship and U.S. securities expertise and its direct mutual fund, venture capital and hedge fund management and marketing experience

Access to Clients

Through contacts developed by Shariah Capital senior management over nearly 25 years in the region, Shariah Capital has direct access to Middle Eastern institutional and high net worth investors. Regular travel to the Gulf, along with regular speaking engagements at conferences in the Middle East, gives the firm’s management direct client contact with traditional commercial banks, Islamic banks, investment management firms and local government investment authorities. On a first-name basis with CEO’s, institutional board members and other key decision-makers, Shariah Capital’s senior management have first-hand information about (1) institutional and high net worth investors, (2), their product interests, and (3) the factors – local and international – that impact their investment decisions. This access to investors and the ability to interpret their demand for Shariah compliant products often dictates the direction of the firm’s product expansion and determines the dimensions of Shariah Capital’s longer-term business lines.

Managing the Shariah Process

Acknowledging that Shariah expertise is fundamental to all Shariah-compliant solutions, and recognizing the need to manage the Shariah compliance process, Shariah Capital has enlisted Shaykh Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo as its Chief Shariah Officer to manage its Shariah process, from development to certification and, finally, to ongoing supervision. This position of Chief Shariah Officer is believed to be unique to Shariah Capital. It is designed to maximize Shariah resources at a time when Shariah scholars increasingly find themselves constrained by multiple obligations.
With his experience, scholarship and industry profile, Shaykh Yusuf plays a key role in ensuring the Shariah compliance of all of Shariah Capital’s assignments, as well as in assessing the feasibility of proposals and assisting in project development and execution. Working with management, Shaykh Yusuf coordinates wide-ranging groups of Shariah specialists to work with business and legal teams through the various phases of projects selected by Shariah Capital.

Monday, November 24, 2008

RPT-UK government rules out Islamic debt - Chancellor

LONDON Nov 24 (Reuters) - The UK government has ruled out issuing Islamic compliant debt, or Sukuk, but said it will legislate to help develop Islamic corporate debt.

The pre-budget report delivered on Monday by Chancellor Alistair Darling put an end to the prospect of achieve the issuance. [ID:nLO6260]

The government was expected in Islamic finance circles to eventually approve Britain's first Islamic debt instrument.

The Sukuk market has reached $111.9 billion in the eight years to 2008 and a further $69 billion is expected to be issued in 2008/2009, the International Islamic Financial Market said.

Western countries represent 50 percent of the Sukuk market the IIFM estimated.

Sukuk issuance including sovereign and corporate issues avoids the payment and receipt of interest.

"We have decided that at this time it would not be viable to do it. It would not offer value for money at the present but we will keep the situation under review," a spokesman for the Treasury told Reuters.

So far only the German state of Saxony-Anhalt in Europe has issued a sovereign Sukuk in 2004, launching a 100 million euros ($125.9 million) debt programme.

The UK government had mentioned the possibility of issuing sovereign Sukuk in the pre-budget report 2007, launching a consultation afterwards.

In response to that consultation, it said in June that about 2 billion pounds ($2.98 billion) of Sukuk debt would be achievable over time. It had intimated a preference for Sukuk treasury bills rather than bonds.

The scheme was part of government plans to make London an international Islamic finance centre.

Five Islamic banks and one insurance company have been established with authorisation by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

While not issuing Sukuks itself, the government will support corporate their issuance in the Finance Act 2009, the Treasury spokesman told Reuters.

"We will legislate to remove stamp duty land tax barriers on Sukuks," the spokesman said.

This move would change the tax structure applied to Sukuk issuance backed by UK properties.

Currently a company issues a Sukuk by selling the building to a special purpose vehicle, leasing the property for the maturity of the bond and buying it back.

Under this structure the company issuing Sukuks is liable to tax when it sells the property and when it buys it back.

Mohammed Amin, partner and Islamic finance head at PricewaterhouseCoopers, called Monday's move "disappointing".

"This decision could make it easier for other western countries to catch up with the UK as centres for Islamic finance, attracting banks that might otherwise have set up in the UK," he said. (Reporting by Cecilia Valente; Editing by Andrew Macdonald)

What Do Muslim Women Want?

An excerpt from the book Who Speaks for Islam? by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed

In sharp contrast to the popular image of silent submissiveness, Gallup findings on women in countries that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations hardly show that they have been conditioned to accept second-class status. Majorities of women in virtually every country we surveyed say that women deserve the same legal rights as men, to vote without influence from family members, to work at any job they are qualified for, and even to serve in the highest levels of government. In Saudi Arabia, for example, where as of this writing, women were not allowed to vote or drive, majorities of women say that women should be able to drive a car by themselves (61%), vote without influence (69%), and work at any job for which they are qualified (76%). Egyptian women, who have faced far fewer restrictions than their Saudi counterparts, speak even more strongly in favor of women's rights, with 88% of Egyptian women saying that they should be allowed to work at any job for which they are qualified. In Egypt, as in other parts of the Muslim world, this attitude is not just a theory, as a full third of professional and technical workers in Egypt are women, on par with Turkey and South Korea.

If you want to put faces to these data, observe women such as Souad Saleh, an assertive and outspoken woman whose area of expertise is fiqh, or Islamic jurisprudence. Saleh is an Islamic jurist and professor at al-Azhar University, the most prominent institution of Islamic scholarship and authority in Sunni Islam. She was the first woman dean of faculty at the institution and is a prolific writer on issues ranging from family law to women's rights, authoring more than seven volumes on Islam and at least four in-depth research works. A regular on pan-Arab television and one of the most outspoken preachers on Islam, her message is clear: "Islam is simple and holds women in high esteem."

Celebrity preachers aren't the only ones who defy conventional wisdom. There are also women like Salwa Riffat, an Egyptian woman now in her late 50s who earned her bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from Cairo University and went on to earn her Ph.D. in civil engineering. At the same time, she managed to successfully balance raising a family and fulfilling the demands of her career. She is now a professor of engineering, teaching men and women alike. "Women of my generation were at the forefront of a new era in Egypt," she says, referring to the wave of women attending college that gained momentum in the 1950s and 1960s. "Now, it's hardly something worth noting that in Egypt, universities are filled with women, in some cases more than men, and they are excelling." The valedictorians of Cairo's elite medical school are famously known to almost always be female.

These cases are hardly unique. Nationally representative self reported data show percentages of women in Iran (52%), Egypt (34%), Saudi Arabia (32%), and Lebanon (37%) with postsecondary educations. In the United Arab Emirates and Iran, women make up the majority of university students. However, in Muslim countries -- as well as in non-Muslim countries -- Gallup finds a wide range of female education with percentages of women pursuing postsecondary educations dipping as low as 8% and 13% in Morocco and Pakistan, respectively, which is comparable with 4% in Brazil, or 11% in the Czech Republic.

Based on the largest and most in-depth study of its kind, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think presents the remarkable findings of the Gallup Poll of the Muslim World, the first ever data-based analysis of the points of view of more than 90% of the global Muslim community, spanning more than 35 nations. Lean more Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Global financial collapse - Is Islam the best cure?

Al Rajhi Bank

By Dr. Robert D. Crane

The recent implosion of the Western financial system and its adverse impact on the real economy may have a silver lining if it produces a paradigmatic change in attitudes toward the possibility of avoiding the injustices and inefficiencies of both populist socialism and oligarchical capitalism.

An immediate challenge is to explain in simple and politically sensitive ways the theory and workings of a just third way designed to overcome the mistakes of the past. Reliance on greater transparency and governmental regulation may accomplish nothing more than to solidify the current system rather than to address the fundamental changes necessary to replace its faulty premises with better ones.

As an example of the stubborn challenges, some Muslims do not see the difference between pure credit backed by real goods and the ponzi scheme of debt derivitives. Understanding the difference seems to pose almost a paradigmatic barrier to real change. Of all people, Muslims should be able to see the fraudulent nature of money treated as a commodity rather than merely as measure of exchange, because the nature of money is the absolute core of Islamic economics. The Islamic opposition to riba or financial interest is merely a by-product of more fundamental principles.

Another serious problem is mainline acceptance of the scarcity theory of value, whereby the expansion of population supposedly will outstrip the resources to support it. The Prophet Muhammad said, ‘’For every sickness there is a cure, so find it.’’ This applies to the use of human ingenuity in multiplying the bounties of God available in nature without destroying the source of the bounties. The ‘’limits to growth’’ doctrine, first accepted as mainline doctrine through efforts of the Club of Rome more than thirty years ago, is perhaps the most serious threat to both economic and political justice, because peacefully broadening access to wealth can come not from redistribution from the rich to the poor in a world of scarcity but only by the use of pure credit to assure that the millions of new people in the world will share not past wealth but the many trillions of dollars of new wealth that will be created in the future.

The only way equitably to ‘’spread the wealth around’’ is to create new wealth. Any other approach would violate the sanctity of private property in the means of production, which is the absolute bedrock of any just system of economics and is valued in every world religion as the surest protection against political oppression.

The National Association of Muslim Lawyers is trying to recruit scholars who can think beyond the box to give a paper on Islamic banking next year at the American Bar Association’s annual convention, because the professional Islamic banking experts can not see beyond their own noses. The people already invited to this session of the International Law Section are part of the establishment crowd of well-paid riba advisers - the top dozen earn on average more than a quarter million dollars a year in consulting fees. Perhaps this will provide an opportunity to break open the closed shop of paid professionals who can’t see the forest for the trees.

There is much to celebrate in the field of Islamic economics. Investors are now rushing to shift their assets to the so-called Islamic banking system because it does not allow creating money out of debt and then selling the fraudulent product supposedly with a guaranteed profit from interest. The Islamic banking industry now is approaching a trillion dollars in real assets, led by the three largest biggest Islamic banks, the Dubai Islamic Bank, the Kuwait Finance House, and the Al-Rajhi Bank of Saudi Arabia, which latter provided the early funding for the International Institute of Islamic Thought near Washington, D.C.

A good sign is that the goal of maintaining the fifteen percent annual growth rate that has obtained since the inception of the institution of Islamic banking by Prince Muhammad al Faisal thirty years ago is being surpassed by success. This permitted a veritable revolution in the business since the ninety billion dollar market in sukuk was declared to be un-Islamic a few months ago. This form of commercial paper was good because it is tied to a specific asset and confers ownership of it, but it generates a predetermined return that is identical to interest even though it is called a ‘’profit.’’ Once the sukuk was declared to be un-Islamic, the market in sukuk immediately fell by fifty percent, which shows that ethics can still trump profits in a just world.

During the past twenty years the real experts in Islamic economics, specifically in the branch of the maqasid al shari’ah known as haqq al mal, have been sidelined as threats to the status quo and to the billionnaire investors who like this new way to concentrate wealth because the ‘’experts’’ tell them that they are not doing so. The recent implosion of the Western financial system may prompt scholars outside of the Islamic banking world to take a more careful look at what until now has been merely an Islamic alternative. As a successful survivor in a world of collapse, Islamic banking based on the essential principles of Islamic economics could provide a model for a new generation of central banks and perhaps a world resource bank to address the need for a revolution in both money and credit. The details are readily available in an entire shelf of books available online and in print at the Center for Economic and Social Justice.

The current institution of Islamic banking is half right, but still has another half to go. The real problem may be that the so-called experts have been thoroughly brainwashed by graduate studies in mainline Western universities, so that their real objective is to fit Islamic banking into an un-Islamic paradigm. The result is a phenomenon that waddles and looks somewhat like an Islamic duck, quacks even louder than a Western duck, but really is an Australian platipus.

Source: The American Muslim (TAM)

MICHAEL JACKSON has become a Muslim — and changed his name to MIKAEEL

The skint superstar, 50, donned Islamic garb to pledge allegiance to the Koran in a ceremony at a pal’s mansion in Los Angeles, The Sun can reveal.
Jacko sat on the floor wearing a tiny hat after an Imam was summoned to officiate — days before the singer is due to appear at London’s High Court where he is being sued by an Arab sheik.
A source told last night how Jacko, brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness, decided to convert as he used a studio at the home of his chum to record a new album.
The star — whose hits include The Way You Make Me Feel — was spotted looking “a bit down” by a producer and a songwriter who had both embraced Islam.


The source said: “They began talking to him about their beliefs, and how they thought they had become better people after they converted. Michael soon began warming to the idea.
“An Imam was summoned from the mosque and Michael went through the shahada, which is the Muslim declaration of belief.” Mikaeel is the name of one of Allah’s angels.
“Jacko rejected an alternative name, Mustafa — meaning “the chosen one”.
Brit singer Yousef Islam, 60 — who was called Cat Stevens until he famously converted — turned up to help Jacko celebrate.


It was his pals David Wharnsby — a Canadian songwriter — and producer Phillip Bubal who counselled Jacko.

The pair’s new names are Dawud Wharnsby Ali and Idris Phillips.
Jacko now prays to Mecca after the ceremony at the Hollywood Hills home of Toto keyboard player Steve Porcaro, 51, who composed music on the singer’s Thriller album.
Jacko, who rarely ventures out without a mask, is due to give evidence on Monday in a £4.7million lawsuit brought by Prince Abdulla Al-Khalif of Bahrain.
The sheik claims he bankrolled the singer’s lavish lifestyle in exchange for an exclusive recording contract. The billionaire sent songs for him to record but claims he was blanked.
He told the court yesterday: “Many times he confirmed to me he would pay me back.”

Source : The Sun (UK)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Besieged Birmingham Muslims

CAIRO — Muslims in Birmingham, often considered the second city of the UK, feel imprisoned in their own city, with the very details of their lives put under a piercing microscope under the pretext of fighting extremism, a government-commissioned report concluded on Thursday, November 20.

"A number of respondents felt that the police and security services were watching their every move due to the focus on the Muslim community," Waterhouse Consulting Group, a leading management consultancy firm, said in a report cited by the Birmingham Post.

The group interviewed individuals and organizations across the city for an in-depth analysis of the government's 11 anti-terrorism projects planned under the Preventing Violent Extremism initiative (PVE).

Making its conclusion, the group warned that Birmingham Muslims feel virtually under siege because of the intense scrutiny imposed by police and security services.

The fear of being constantly monitored has affected Muslims' lives.

"They had to watch their every step, what they uttered, the clothes they wore, the people they associated with and the mosques they attended," said the report.

"Therefore, [they] felt imprisoned in their own city."

Britain has launched a £45m strategy to curb extremism following the 7/7 London terrorist bombings, with 200 projects in 70 towns and cities funded so far.

* Demonized

The government-commissioned report warned that Muslims feel demonized by the way violent extremism is routinely associated with Islam in the media and by those in authority.

"Central government and local authorities must understand the extent of the deep anger and concern among Muslims at grassroots level over the linkage of violent extremism with Islam," it read.

"This has helped to demonize and vilify Muslims in a climate where Islamophobia is already heightened."

Britain's two million Muslims have taken the brunt of anti-terror laws since 7/7.

They have repeatedly complained of maltreatment by police for no apparent reason other than being Muslim.

A Financial Times opinion poll has showed recently that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.

A government-commissioned study has also found that a torrent of negative and imbalance stories in the British media demonize Muslims and their faith by portraying them as the enemy within.

The Waterhouse report said that even the name given by the government to the £525,000 year-long PVE program in Birmingham has alienated the Muslim community.

It suggested abandoning the Preventing Violent Extremism title for a "more acceptable phraseology."

For most Muslims, terms like the war on terror and Islamic extremism suggest targeting their faith rather than those with an extremist ideology.

The Foreign Office has already told diplomats and spokespeople around the world to stop using the controversial "war on terror" phrase, which is offensive to Muslims worldwide.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Global financial community turns towards Middle East

Continuing with the financial community's interest in the MENA region, NASDAQ OMX is hosting its first ever Middle East Investor Conference on 20 November in Dubai.

As the single largest exchange entity worldwide, NASDAQ OMX offers a full suite of capital raising solutions to publicly traded companies around the world.

The event, held jointly with the NASDAQ Dubai, will provide the Middle Eastern investor community with the opportunity to meet with and learn more about the strategies of several leading listed companies, as well as learn more about NASDAQ Dubai's exciting new equity derivatives initiative. The regional potential for exchange-traded funds will also be discussed.

The NASDAQ OMX Middle East Investor Conference further supports this growing interest by bringing together private and institutional investors with regional businesses within a networking and information exchange forum.

NASDAQ OMX has been hosting investor programs in Europe and Asia for over 13 years and they have grown to become the largest institutional investor programs for U.S. equities in Europe. In 2008 alone, the NASDAQ OMX international investor programs will have hosted over 130 NASDAQ-listed companies.

In addition to the conference discussion panels and many high level-networking opportunities, investors from the Middle East will be offered access to the senior management of many leading companies in the form of private one-to-one meetings.The day will conclude with an Opening Bell Ceremony for The NASDAQ Stock Market. It marks the first time a global exchange has opened its market remotely from Dubai.

The Bell Ceremony will take place at the DIFC Gate and will be broadcast live in New York's Times Square and around the globe.

Presentations will be made by the senior management of 28 companies, from across the

These participating panelists, will not only be in the optimal position to secure investment funds to fuel their continued growth, but as well, serve as corporate ambassadors for the region by building strategic relationships with business leaders, key investors, and with local and international business media.

Being such an integral facilitator of both financial jurisprudence as well as global liquidity, both at the corporate and investor levels, it is no wonder that NASDAQ OMX has turned its focus to one of the remaining economic dynamic regions of the world.

The GCC countries continue to enjoy growth and liquidity due to a spate of profitability in recent years, coupled with budget surplus supported by high oil and commodity prices, and an economic diversification policy that has decreased the reliance on oil-based income, according to reports.

NASDAQ Dubai is a strategic union that will offer investors everywhere greater exposure to Middle Eastern companies, while simultaneously positioning MENA region businesses for a broader pool of capital raising possibilities.

The rebranding NASDAQ Dubai is instrumental in putting the spotlight on MENA based companies and helping them attract investor interest and raise capital.

In addition to a more liquid financial context, comparatively speaking, the GCC continues to house companies that are seeking expansionary and operational financing.

Investors cashing in on the opportunity to pick up equities and other securities at a fraction of their market values mere months ago, and with growth potential, are answering the call.

Many multinationals that have set up establishments in the UAE in recent years, a number of local and regional companies have also established their presence on the MENA corporate horizon, with grand ambitions and the desire to raise the necessary capital to achieve them.

Finally, the events of this week-the NASDAQ Dubai rebranding, the Middle East Investor Conference, and the opening bell ceremony - all indicate the beginning of a fruitful relationship between Dubai and New York, and other global exchange capitals.
Source :

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Best Islamic Bank in Europe (Global Finance) : Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank is a leading global investment bank with a strong and profitable private clients franchise. A leader in Germany and Europe, the bank is continuously growing in North America, Asia and key emerging markets. With Euro 1,097 billion in assets and 67,474 employees in 73 countries, Deutsche Bank offers unparalleled financial services throughout the world. The bank competes to be the leading global provider of financial solutions for demanding clients creating exceptional value for its shareholders and people.

Deutsche Bank has today published a White Paper outlining the investment structure that facilitates the issuance of Sharia compliant securities that offer investors access to alternative asset classes.

Deutsche Bank has made public its procedures both in the interests of transparency and in an attempt to help alleviate some of the 'supply side' constraints that exist in Islamic financial markets. These constraints are mainly related to capacity - in respect of the number of qualified bankers involved and their Islamic structuring capabilities. In addressing these issues, the market will be more able to develop in line with customer demand.

By publishing this paper, Deutsche Bank hopes to achieve three objectives which will see the area of Sharia compliant securities growing, but off a solid and uniform base.

* Make Deutsche Bank's investment structure (or the 'Structure') available to other financial institutions and thereby alleviate the current shortage of supply of products.
* Establish the White Paper as a quality benchmark, and encourage the use of academic resources to assist the industry in developing new products - something that has not been a feature of the industry so far.
* Encourage the use of the Structure in its correct context through reference to the White Paper.

Geert Bossuyt, Managing Director, Regional Head of ME Structuring, Deutsche Bank, commented:

"We are confident that the Structure will eventually be viewed as a significant milestone in the development of the Islamic finance industry as it provides Islamic investors with exposure, in a liquid and cost-efficient way, to new asset classes and pay-outs, removing one of the main structuring barriers. The Structure itself is the result of close co-operation between academics, bankers and, of course, scholars. "

"Too often, 'innovation' is achieved by pushing the barriers and/or misusing fatawa by taking them out of their context. Innovation ideally should be the result of a well documented and fundamental discussion on Sharia. Deutsche Bank wishes to encourage the use of academic resources to assist the industry in developing new products as this has not been a feature of the industry to date."

"We believe that those institutions with the vision, creativity, innovation, courage and commitment to develop the Islamic financial markets will be recognised for their hard work and ideas. Sharia itself has inherent flexibility and fewer constraints than is often assumed by the financial services industry. Fundamental research is the key to unlocking this inherent flexibility, thereby allowing this market to grow to its full potential."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Muslim woman defies male dominance

Amal Soliman, a 32-year-old Egyptian woman, has endured harassment, intimidation, and ridicule in the year since she applied for a job as the Muslim world's first mazouna, or female marriage registrar, but she says her victory has been worth the fight.
In late September, Soliman, who holds a Masters degree in Islamic Sharia law, broke into what has until now been an exclusively males-only club.
However, the Committee of Egyptian Mazouns, an all-male organisation, challenged Soliman's application saying the job would be inappropriate for a woman and voiced their opinion in a statement issued by the committee.
A marriage officer presides over a wedding (or divorce) ceremony, recites verses from the Quran and signs the official certificates making the union legally binding.
Al Jazeera recently spoke with Soliman shortly after she conducted her first wedding ceremony on October 25.

Al Jazeera: Why did you decide to apply for a position that has traditionally – and for centuries – been a male vocation?

Soliman: In 2007 one of the two marriage officers of my neighbourhood passed away, leaving behind a job opportunity.
For three months everyone wondered who would be able to replace Al Hajj Abou Mesalam and right before the deadline (October 2007) for applying I rushed over to the civil court in Zagazig, the heart of rural Egypt, to give in my application.
I had been interested in pursuing a doctorate degree in Islamic studies but also maintaining a flexible job that would allow me to spend time with my three children.
Legally, there is no reason why a woman can't do the job, and the Mufti (Islamic scholar and interpreter of Islamic law) said it was religiously acceptable as it is only an administrative position.
In October 2007, my husband and I formally submitted an application to the local family court clerk for the post of marriage officer.

Was your application accepted?

Soliman with her husband and children [EPA]
Well, I took my husband with me because I was afraid I would be made fun of, which I was.
When I applied the man at the desk laughed openly at me and said that is was just not possible.
He imagined I would go home and forget about it, but instead I argued and told him that I had studied Sharia Law and I know it is an administrative job.
Though the clerk refused to accept my submission, I turned to Ibrahim Darwish, head of the local magistrate in Zagazig for his opinion.
Darwish was puzzled; he said there was no precedent for this situation so he did not know what to say. I took that as a sign that there was a small window of opportunity.
I then consulted Khaled el-Shalkamy, the head judge of Zagazig's family court.
I told him it was my right to be nominee as I was extremely qualified.
I told him just to accept me and let the other people involved in the selection process do the rest.

Were there no other applicants for the job?

Actually, I was in competition with 10 other candidates, all men, but none of them held post-graduate degrees in Sharia law like I did.
So el-Shalkamy accepted my application.
On February 25, I couldn't hold back my tears as I stood in front of the local court and was appointed as my district's new mazouna.
But the battle was half-won. I would not be able to begin work as a mazouna until Mamdouh Marei, the Egyptian minister of justice, formally signed off and authorised my appointment.
But many males did not accept the idea that a woman could hold what has been a man's job and you were targeted in the media.
The chairman of the Committee of Egyptian Mazouns, Muhammad Abou Ayeeta, said "the Ministry [of Justice] should refuse the appointment, because it is unacceptable that women would work in this occupation."

How did you deal with the backlash?

Well, at first my optimism slowly started to fade as I saw so much opposition.
But there were two main reasons for the opposition I faced. Firstly, it is simply rooted in male chauvinism. These people believe the woman's place is firmly in her house.
The other group was comprised of uneducated people who have developed an image of women's role in Islam from television; usually based on the words of a sheikh with a turban on his head.
Arguments made against me claimed that a woman couldn't perform marriages because of menstruation, as religion prevents women from praying or entering a mosque during her monthly cycle.
Others claimed that it was inappropriate for a woman to sit amongst men during the signing of the marriage certificates, which is traditionally predominately a male gathering where the marriage officer sits directly between the groom and his father-in-law.

Did no religious authority or group support you?

Well, four months after contacting the Ministry of Justice and receiving no word, I contacted the National Council for Women for a louder voice and stronger backing.
Both my opponents and proponents were beginning to wonder if I would ever receive the approval of the ministry of justice.
From the first moment that my papers where accepted as a nominee, the national press caught wind of this unusual event.
A journalist in Al Akhbar, one of Egypt's leading newspapers, heard about the situation, and helped launch my cause as a national debate.
Eventually the news went global. I think the media was a catalyst and made my appointment go through faster than it would have.

It made me happy to have so much international coverage … Sometimes when I'm sitting alone I wonder if I'm dreaming. What is going on? Did we really pull this off?

I'm happy not just for me; I had always wanted to show the world Egypt's developments with regards to women rights and gender equality.

But you did not get ministry approval until September 27; why did it take the ministry so long?

Of course I was happy and relieved, but more importantly I regained my confidence when the minister finally signed my appointment. I had slowly started to doubt myself up to that point.
However, I now believe that the minister had to be cautious, as this case was the first of its kind.
But laws are not religion. We can develop them.
Source : Al Jazeera

Monday, November 17, 2008

What Makes a Radical?

An excerpt from the book Who Speaks for Islam? by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed

Understanding extremists and the nature of extremism requires a global perspective that extends beyond conflicting opinions of experts or anecdotes from the "Arab street." What do Muslims polled across the world have to say? How many Muslims hold extremist views? What are their hopes and fears? What are their priorities? What do they admire, and what do they resent?

According to the Gallup Poll, 7% of respondents think that the 9/11 attacks were "completely" justified and view the United States unfavorably. Among those who believe that the 9/11 attacks were not justified, whom we'll call "moderates," 40% are pro-United States, but 60% view the United States unfavorably.

Analyzing and comparing the answers of the 7% with the moderate majority produced some surprising results. By focusing on the 7%, whom we'll call "the politically radicalized" because of their radical political orientation, we are not saying that all in this group commit acts of violence. However, those with extremist views are a potential source for recruitment or support for terrorist groups. This group is also so committed to changing political conditions that they are more likely to view other civilian attacks as justifiable: 13% of the politically radicalized versus 1% of moderates say that attacks on civilians are "completely justified."

What is the age and gender of those with extremist views? They are younger, but not substantially: 49% are between the ages of 18 and 29; 41% of those with moderate views are in the same age range. Contrary to what some might expect, while political radicals are more likely to be male (62%), 37% are female. In addition, a minority of suicide bombers have been women.

What Is the Link Between Terrorism and Poverty or Ignorance?

The Arab Development Report of 2005 and many other studies of Muslim countries well document the existence of significant poverty and illiteracy. These problems are found in Palestinian refugee camps and in the slums of Algiers, Cairo, Baghdad, and Jakarta as well as in many other non-Muslim developing nations. Poverty and lack of information and skills necessary for social mobility result from deep-seated economic and social problems that can generate broad-based discontent. But are lack of education and poverty key factors that distinguish those with extremist views from moderates? The data say no.

The politically radicalized, on average, are more educated than moderates: 67% of the politically radicalized have secondary or higher educations (versus 52% of moderates).

Radicals are not more economically disadvantaged: 65% of the politically radicalized say they have average or above-average income, versus 55% of moderates.

Based on the largest and most in-depth study of its kind, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think presents the remarkable findings of the Gallup Poll of the Muslim World, the first ever data-based analysis of the points of view of more than 90% of the global Muslim community, spanning more than 35 nations. Learn more Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think

Sunday, November 16, 2008

World Charter for Compassion

CAIRO — Eying harmony among followers of different faiths, a website has been launched to help craft a universal platform for compassion between all religions.

"The chief task of our time is to build a global society where people of all persuasions can live together in peace and harmony," U.S. faith scholar Karen Armstrong said on the website.

"If we do not achieve this, it seems unlikely that we will have a viable world to hand on to the next generation."

The brainchild of Armstrong, who wrote 20 books about the common ground among religions, the website,, will allow people worldwide to take part in drafting a groundbreaking, universal platform for compassion.

"The Charter for Compassion is a collaborative effort to build a peaceful and harmonious global community," said a statement on the website.

People of all faiths will be allowed through the website to post their words and stories related to the Charter.

"Over the next months this site will be open for the world to contribute to Charter for Compassion."

Early next year, a Council of Sages, a multi-faith group of high-level religious leaders and thinkers, including Islamic Studies Professor Tariq Ramadan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rabbi Julia Neuberger will use the words submitted and jointly craft the final document.

The Charter will then be signed by religious leaders of all faiths, and promoted and publicized around the world.

"Instead of being seen as part of the problem, the religions could make a vital contribution to this urgent undertaking."

* Golden Rule

The Charter aims to highlight the commonalities among the different religions.

"Bringing together the voices of people from all religions, the Charter seeks to remind the world that while all faiths are not the same, they all share the core principle of compassion and the Golden Rule," reads the charter's initial permeable.

The Golden Rule essentially calls on people to do unto others as they would have done unto them.

The project organizers said the charter will also touch upon some of common misconceptions.

"The Charter will show that the voice of negativity and violence so often associated with religion is the minority and that the voice of compassion is the majority."

It is also meant to highlight ongoing efforts to promote compassion and interfaith dialogue.

"Our goal is to highlight these groups in effort to raise the profile of their work.

"Through the participation of the grassroots, people around the world will expect more out of religious leaders and one another.

"In doing so, the Charter will shift conceptions of religion for all people."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Oil output talks ongoing with non-OPEC states: Iran

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's OPEC governor said on Saturday talks were underway on cooperation between OPEC and producers outside the cartel to reduce oil output, following tumbling crude prices in recent months.

"Now there are negotiations that non-OPEC countries cooperate with OPEC to lower output to some extent because if they don't ... or if they increase output, they have neutralized OPEC's action," Mohammad Ali Khatibi said in an interview broadcast live on Iranian state television.

OPEC countries are calling for action to halt oil's slide as they face reduced revenues and a struggle to finance domestic projects. Oil prices have tumbled more than 60 percent from a record level of $147 per barrel in July.

"Considering that non-OPEC countries have an output of around 50 million barrels per day ... they will have to cooperate for market stability," Khatibi said.

"We believe they will also incur losses from the drop in oil prices. Therefore it is necessary that they will also cooperate and lower their output," he said.

Khatibi said OPEC Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri recently discussed cooperation with officials in Russia, which is not a member of the OrganisatiOrganizationon of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

"We are hoping these negotiations will soon result in fruition so that they (Russia) would expand their cooperation with OPEC," Khatibi said.

OPEC members agreed in October to reduce supplies by 1.5 million barrels per day, or about 5 percent, from November 1 but that measure has failed to stop oil prices declining.

Iran, seen as a price hawk, has previously said OPEC could take action if oil prices fell more and an Iranian oil official said on Thursday that its members would meet in Cairo on November 29 for "consultation" on the oil market.

On Friday, U.S. crude fell $1.20 at $57.04.

Khatibi said that, according to his information, non-OPEC members would attend a meeting of the organization in Algeria in December. "But I'm not sure they will be taking part in the Cairo meeting," he said.

(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian and Hashem Kalantari; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Patrick Graham)

Friday, November 14, 2008

ISDA to launch sharia-proof derivative standard

A global derivatives organisation plans to launch standards for over-the-counter Sharia-compliant derivative contracts, opening further growth opportunities for Islamic finance.

The template for the contracts should be available early next year and would offer a key tool in Islamic-compliant risk management, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) told newswire Reuters.

"It standardises the main terms that go with every transaction. This saves time as volumes grow, so that market participants can focus on the commercial side rather than the legal one," said Peter Werner, policy director at ISDA.
The aim of the contract is to make Shariah over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives contracts more quickly available by providing a legal framework, and will benefit Islamic banks and Islamic-compliant investors.

OTC derivatives, or swaps, are privately negotiated deals between investors and counterparties. Sharia requires the underlying assets to be tangible, such as commodities, excluding most mainstream derivatives instruments.

ISDA's master agreement, to be known as Ta'Hawwut or "hedging". Risk hedging is a key feature in Islamic finance, which forbids "gharar" or preventable ambiguity in contract essentials such as price.

Data from the Bank for International Settlements show the notional amount of OTC deals outstanding was just over $596 billion at the end of last year, including forex, interest rate, equity linked, commodity, and credit default swaps.

It is unclear how large a proportion of that market is compliant with Islamic law.

"The master agreement will help in increasing the activity as it will refer to a mechanism which will be most widely acceptable and used," said Ijlal Alvi at International Islamic Financial Market, who is working with ISDA on the project.

ISDA is also lobbying for regulation changes in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

"Dealing with the contractual issues is one leg, the second one is to get regulatory framework," Werner said.

Others took a more sceptical view of the rise of Sharia-compliant derivative products, because there are different interpretations of Shariah and there is no single set of globally accepted standards.

"The possibility of such derivatives being marketed as Sharia-compliant should not be ruled out," said Usman Hayat, director Islamic Finance & ESG Investing at the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute.

"Having said that, I'd not expect the market for such instruments to be large or acceptable to the mainstream."

On Tuesday, Malaysia's central bank said it would issue guidelines to encourage a more standardised application of Islamic finance contracts. (Reuters)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Michigan's first Muslim woman state lawmaker

WASHINGTON — Rashida Tlaib, 32, has made history by grabbing a seat in the Michigan legislature, becoming the first Muslim woman ever to serve in the state legislature.
"Allah had chosen me for this job which I did not know before," Tlaib, the eldest daughter of Palestinian immigrant parents, told in an exclusive interview.
Tlaib, a lawyer and community activist who had never thought of coming into politics, easily won a seat in Michigan House of representatives on November 4, the day of the historic White House elections. She defeated her Republican opponent by a 9 to 1 margin in her southwest Detroit district, largely populated by blacks and Hispanics.
"My parents had taught me the importance of hard work, honesty and commitment. And those values today paid me in the form of being electing to the prestigious position of Michigan State Legislature, representing a diverse community of Latino, African American and Arabs," Tlaib said proudly.
Born in Michigan, she is the eldest of her 13 siblings of Palestinian parents who migrated to the US in the early 1970s. Her father was born in Beit Hanina, a suburb of Al-Quds, while her mother was raised in Beit Ur El Foka, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
"I had to take care of all of younger brothers and sisters because I was the first in my family to have earned a high school degree," she recalls.
"It was a tough task to continue my studies while working full-time."
She also feels indebted to outgoing Democratic Rep. Steve Tobocman, the majority floor leader.
"I would have never been here today, if my Jewish boss and predecessor Steve Tobocman had not encouraged me to venture into politics," he said.
"I got my inspiration from Tobocman who insisted that I must take part in the elections."
Tobocman had recruited Tlaib years ago to serve as part of his House staff in recognition of her passion for social justice and ability to work with people across the political aisle. He encouraged her to run for his seat because he could not couldn't seek re-election over term limits.
• Myths
Tlaib, who earned her political science bachelor degree in 1998 and law degree in 2004, believes her election to the State Legislature debunks many myths.
"There was a lot of propaganda against me in some of the local press that she is a Muslim extremist and that her election to the state legislature will send negative signals and that she will work only for the rights of Muslim community," she remembers.
"But I didn't care and never attacked any of my seven opponents. I just kept working work. I campaigned door-to-door, and I think it was my aggressive door-knocking campaign of around 8000 families that paid me back a lot."
Tlaib said the voters were interested in her commitment for the social service and not to her religious or ethnic background.
"There were only 2 percent Arab Muslims in my constituency. Majority of the voters were Latino who made 40 percent and African Americans who were 25 percent," she explained.
"But ninety percent of them voted me, which is a great signal of optimism for American Muslims.
"If any Muslim or even a woman want to achieve something, she needs only a hard work and honesty."
According to the American Muslim Alliance, only nine Muslims were serving in state legislatures nationwide before Tuesday's elections. Tlaib insists that as a Democratic Representative for Michigan State Legislature, she will be pursuing policy change in the larger interest of the community.
"As a lawyer and social activist, I was already working for social justice, immigrant and civil rights for people in the Southwest Detroit."
She used to provide social and advocacy services to thousands of Southwest Detroit families through the Latin Americans for Social & Economic Development (LASED), the Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services (ACCESS), the International Institute of Metro Detroit and the Neighborhood Tax Center.
• Proud Muslim
Tlaib is a mother of three-year-old Adam.
Though she is living happily with her husband Fayez, she is still taking care of some of her siblings, providing them proper education and guidance.
"Though I don't wear hijab but I am a practicing Muslim, performing five times prayers daily and will be carrying along my prayer rug to my office in Lansing," she told IOL referring to the headquarters of the Michigan legislature.
"I am sure wearing hijab or following Islam is not an obstacle here in achieving one's goals, provided there is commitment and persistent efforts," she said emphatically.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tlaib had to struggle hard for the rights of immigrant families in her community especially Arab Muslims. But finally she succeeded in getting back their civil liberties and restoring their image and confidence.
In 2007, Tlaib was selected as fellow by Michigan Center for Progressive Leadership in recognition of her leadership skills.
"Like many other immigrant Americans, my family too had an American Dream, and today it got materialized," she told IOL.
"I fee myself fortunate enough to serve the community where I grew up and which shaped me in a Muslim representative woman that I am today."
Source : Islam Online

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Who Are Muslims?

So, what role does religion really play in Muslims' lives? According to Gallup Polls in 2001 and 2005-2007, of countries with substantial or predominantly Muslim populations, majorities in many countries (several in the 90% range) say that religion is an important part of their daily lives. Sizable percentages rate "having an enriched religious/spiritual life" as an aspect of life that is essential, that one cannot live without. Asked what they admire most about the Islamic world, the No. 1 response from significant percentages of populations in countries as diverse as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia is "people's sincere adherence to Islam."

Many regard religion as a primary marker of identity, a source of meaning and guidance, consolation and community, and essential to their progress. Majorities of both men and women in many predominantly Muslim countries want to see Islamic principles, Sharia, as a source of legislation. These respondents have much in common with the majority of Americans who wish to see the Bible as a source of legislation. Both groups emphasize the importance of family values and are deeply concerned about issues of social morality. In fact, what respondents in the Muslim world and a significant number of Americans say they admire least about Western civilization is an excessive libertinism in society.

Islam is not to its adherents what it might appear to outside observers: simply a restrictive shell of rules and punishments. To many Muslims, it is a spiritual mental map that offers a sense of meaning, guidance, purpose, and hope. Vast majorities of residents in predominantly Muslim countries say their lives have an important purpose (90% of Egyptians, 91% of Saudis).

The importance of religion is reinforced by what Muslims say about their traditions and customs, which also continue to play a central role in their lives. When asked, "Are there traditions and customs that are important to you, or not?" majorities in many predominantly Muslim countries say "yes": Jordan (96%), Saudi Arabia (95%), Turkey (90%), and Egypt (87%). This contrasts sharply with percentages of those answering "yes" to the same question in the United States (54%) and especially in European countries such as the United Kingdom (36%), France (20%), and Belgium (23%).

If religion is regarded by so many Muslims as a core life value, beyond the sensational images and religious rhetoric of extremists, what is this faith that has won the devotion of so many? What does it mean to be Muslim? What principles call more than a billion people, with different languages and cultures, spread all over the world?

Based on the largest and most in-depth study of its kind, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think presents the remarkable findings of the Gallup Poll of the Muslim world, the first ever data-based analysis of the points of view of more than 90% of the global Muslim community, spanning more than 35 nations.

An excerpt from the book Who Speaks for Islam? by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed

Samba Financial Group

Samba Financial Group was formed pursuant to Royal Decree dated 26/3/1400 H. (February 12, 1980), to take over the then existing branches of Citibank, N.A. in Jeddah and Riyadh, which were opened in 1955 and 1966 respectively. Samba was formed in accordance with a program adopted by the Kingdom in the mid-1970s, under which all foreign banks were required to sell majority equity interests to Saudi nationals. Samba commenced business on February 12, 1980 and closed its first fiscal year on December 31, 1980.
The principal terms and conditions of the deal were: 44.5% of the equity was sold to the Saudi public for cash, under rules which favored the allocation of shares to small subscribers. Share allocations were made to nearly 166,000 individual subscribers.

An additional 15.5% of the equity was sold for cash to a selected group of Saudi founders, including the original Saudi members of the Board of Directors. Thus, Saudi nationals held 60% of the total share capital. Citibank acquired the remaining 40% of the equity in exchange for assets of its Riyadh and Jeddah branches. Citibank entered into a Technical Management Agreement under which it agreed to manage the new bank.
This agreement provided that Citibank would second staff to the new bank and provide technical support, and that it would not receive compensation for these services other than as a shareholder (except for reimbursement of actual expenses). Towards the end of 1991, Citibank sold part of its equity ownership in Samba to two Saudi national agencies for social welfare. As a result, 70% of the share capital of Samba was held by Saudi nationals and institutions while Citibank retained 30% ownership of the share capital of Samba.

On July 3, 1999, Samba merged with the United Saudi Bank (USB) by exchanging 1 new share in Samba for each 3.25 existing shares in USB. The merged bank retained Samba name and there was no change in the composition of the Board of Directors. The merger did not affect the Technical Management Agreement with Citibank.
This resulted in Citibank holding 22.83% of the merged bank shares. However, near the end of 2002, Citibank sold 2.83% of its shareholding to a Saudi agency. As a result, Citibank held 20% of the share capital of Samba.

On September 14, 2003, Samba moved to a full local management, culminating a transition plan previously agreed with Citigroup. On December 14, 2003, the Extraordinary Shareholders Meeting was held and resolved to amend several of the company's Articles of Association including changing the name of the company to " Samba Financial Group". On May 26, 2004, Citibank sold its 20% share capital to a Saudi agency.
On March 9, 2005, the Extraordinary Shareholders Meeting decided to increase the share capital of the company from SR to SR divided into 600.000.000 of equal nominal value of fifty Saudi Riyals cash shares , all of which will be ordinary and as one class in all respects.

Samba was the first Bank to offer Priority Banking (Gold and Diamond), Phone Banking, Credit Shield, Saving Linked Insurance, Cash Deposit through ATMs, Speed Cash Remittance Service and Automated Signature Verification. It was also the first bank to establish a dedicated Investment Department, introduced the first local equity fund and the first fund, (SAIF), open to overseas investors and listed on the London Security Exchange.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Open Letter to President-elect Obama By Dr. Abdel-Fattah Mady

I write this letter to the US President-elect, Barack Obama, as a Muslim and Arab, believing that it expresses the feelings and aspirations of most Muslims and Arabs. My ultimate sincere aim is to convey to the new president insights into what the real problem in the Middle East is, how the majority of Arabs and Muslims feel toward US foreign policy and how the United States should modify this policy to restore American credibility in the region, reduce anti-Americanism, and achieve a real and complete peaceful solution. It is a time when soberness and candor are more necessary than ever before.

The Problem of Israeli Occupation
Mr. President,
Many peoples in the Middle East believe that the core problem in the region is not a dispute among two nations on borders or territories as the American administration started describing the Israeli-Arab conflict in the 1990s.

The problem is the Israeli occupation of Arab territories in Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon. It revolves around the longest, ongoing occupation in the recent history. An occupation which has engaged, in practice, grave breaches of international law, including colonial settlements, extra-judicial assassinations, "authorized" torture, house demolitions, extended curfews, destruction of agricultural land and civilian property, deportations, use of civilians as human shields, and other forms of collective punishment and repressive measures that have failed to bring "security" to Israel over the last 60 years.

The previous American administrations claimed that the problem is that Arab countries oppose a peaceful settlement with Israel and that Israel is defending itself against Arabs. Mr. President, please ask your aides to provide you with three important documents:
1. The Saudi-inspired peace plan adopted by the Arab Summit in Beirut in March 2002, which called for full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967 in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel. Israel rejected this plan and your predecessor never tried to push Israel to consider it.
2. Documents officially and publicly announced and published by the Israeli government which show Yitzhak Rabin's addresses to the Israeli Knesset on Oct. 27, 1994, and May 29, 1995 (during the Oslo process in 1990s) that contrast with UN resolutions 242 and 338 and the Oslo Accords.

Further, you need to see documents published by several Israeli human rights organizations which provide empirical evidence indicating that (a) under Rabin's government, the growth of the Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories was greater than it had been under the previous "hard-line" Likud government of Yitzhak Shamir; (b) during Ehud Barak's tenure (18 months), the number of settlers grew by 12 percent; and (c) between Sept. 1993 and Sept. 2001 the number of West Bank settlements (excluding East Jerusalem) increased by about 90 percent. (Yehezkel Lein and Eyal Weizman, Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank, B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights, May 2002, p.12).
3. A set of scholarly studies and testimonies before Congress which highlighted the issue of Israel's use of American-made weapons and possible Israel violation of US laws, especially the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) and the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA). AECA specifies that American-supplied weapons may only be used for "internal security" and "legitimate self-defense purposes" and that American weapons cannot be transferred to a third country without US approval.

As many Human Rights organizations reveal, the Israeli army uses American-made weapons to suppress Palestinians under occupation. Furthermore, charges were raised in the Congress in 1982 and 1992 about the possibility that Israel transferred US arms or technology — without US permission — to Iran, China, South Africa, Chile, Ethiopia, and other countries.

US Protection of Israel
Mr. President,
In that region, it is widely believed that the United States is not only responsible for what is taking place, but also is undermining the Middle East peace process and jeopardizing the stability of whole world. The occupation forces — which violate many UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, the Hague Convention, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — are militarily and economically backed by the United states.

Around the world, countries as well as international and Israeli Human Right organizations have condemned Israel's aggressive policies. Only the United States has opposed almost all UN Security Council resolutions that are critical of Israel. The United States not only provided diplomatic protection in the UN organs (more than 40 American vetoes since October), but also increased its economic and military aid to Israel.
People in this part of the world are intensely aware that US policy in the Middle East is based on double standards. While the United States supported UN resolutions in the cases of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, East Timor, Rwanda, Kuwait, and Iraq (and suspended all licenses and approval concerning the export of defense articles and services to Yugoslavia, Indonesia, and Rwanda), it did not support UN resolutions when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, in spite of Israeli violations, the United States kept on increasing its aid to Israel. It is easy to provide numerous examples of double standards.
The conflict has affected not only the Palestinian and Israeli peoples and the stability of the region, but also the interests of the American people, especially in light of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and popular anger in the Arab world directed at US foreign policy.

Also, many American intellectuals have begun to write about the cost of American support for Israel. On April 21, 2002, former President Jimmy Carter wrote in the New York Times that American aid to Israel is approximately $10 million daily. In the Christian Science Monitor article published on Dec. 9, 2002, economist Thomas Stauffer estimates that since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion.

Resistance is not Terrorism
Mr. President,
Many people in Arab and Muslim countries believe that it is not accurate to judge Palestinian and Lebanese resistance to Israeli occupation the same way we judge the terrorist attacks against America. Peoples under occupation have the universally acknowledged right of legitimate resistance of the foreign occupation.

They are doing exactly what the Europeans did with the Nazis in Europe or the Africans did in their struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. The previous administration made US foreign policy in the region identical to that of Israeli right-wing extremists, whose vital goal is to make Israel's conflict with the Palestinians synonymous with the US war on terror.
Previous US administrations kept on talking about conditions generating terror in Arab and Islamic countries, citing dictatorship, poverty, and other cultural factors. Some of these might be true. Yet what is missing in US thinking is the feelings of frustration and anger shared by millions of Arabs and Muslims as they witness how Israeli occupation forces humiliate and suppress the Palestinians, and how Israeli laws and regulations officially discriminate against the Arab minority inside Israel.

Of course, frustration, injustice, and anger pushed those who lost their beloved relatives or suffered from the destruction of their homes to react to Israeli aggression by sacrificing their lives, the only way they find possible to confront their oppressors, who are armed with the most sophisticated war machines.

Blind bias towards Israel and Washington's double standards policy pave the way for more violence and extremism in the Middle East, and also make the United States' call for domestic "reform" in Muslim and Arab countries sound suspect. Undoubtedly, there is a strong correlation between US policy toward Israelis and Arabs and the feelings and grievances of Arab and Muslims around the world.
Mr. President,
People in this part of the world will never give up their right to self-determination, to return to their land, and to live peacefully and freely. They seek a just, comprehensive, and peaceful solution, which protects their rights. A solution that will also secure the region, protect US interests, and restore its credibility as a mediator.

A solution that should involve the end of occupation in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syrian Golan Heights, and Lebanese Shab'a Farms, and the elimination of all racist laws, regulations, and policies toward the Arab minority inside Israel.

It is now up to you, Mr. Obama, to diminish the harmful, disastrous impacts of the previous US administrations' policies towards the Middle East and work vividly for the interests of US people.

Dr. Abdel-Fattah Mady is an assistant professor of political science at Alexandria University, Egypt.

Arabian Businesswomen 2008 : Amna Bin Hendi

Amna BinHendi, Chief Executive Office of BinHendi Enterprises

Amna BinHendi currently sits as the Chief Executive Office of BinHendi Enterprises, a position she has held since September 2007. As the CEO, Amna has successfully stirred the organisation into becoming one of the fastest growing trading and distribution companies in the UAE that has its eyes sets on becoming power house in the industry across the region.

Prior to joining the family business, the young ambitious executive’s experience included a brief stint at the Dubai E-Government after which she joined Bin Hendi enterprises as Vice President for Human Resources in December 2002. With her strong business and leadership skills, she has been promoted to become one of the youngest top female executives in the corporate sector.
Born in 1980, Amna completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems and Business Administration from Zayed University.

At BinHendi Enterprises we believe our philosophy has driven the organization to offer unmatched quality, luxury, and elegance coupled with strong and professional business acumen. We strive to live up to our commitment in developing a diverse retail portfolio of the world's most prestigious brands. Today the group has successfully introduced more than 75 world-renowned brands to the UAE in the fields of fashion, watches, jewellery, accessories, furniture, fine dining and more. will give you an insight on our background, our brands & stores. Enjoy your stay with us & keep connected for updates & the latest happenings on the retail front.
Almost three decades ago market research analysts at BinHendi Enterprises recognized a growing consumer interest in international products and fashion brands. In direct response, we established the United Arab Emirate's first exclusive fashion boutique, Pierre Cardin. Enthusiastic consumer response propelled the Company to fill another untapped niche in the Middle Eastern market with the introduction of Dubai's first car rental agency. Our unique approach, in hand with strong market growth, favorable government relations and an intimate knowledge of consumer preferences, encouraged BinHendi Enterprises to develop new sources to help meet the growing demand for high quality products and international services. BinHendi Enterprises currently operate twenty-nine highly successful fashion, Jewellery, accessory and food retail outlets, while our trading division reaches in excess of one thousand retailers, thus establishing the company as a leader in one of the world's most exciting and affluent markets.

Best Sharia Compliant Index Provider (Global Finance) : Dow Jones Indexes

The Dow Jones Islamic Market (DJIMSM) Index was the-first-and remains the premier-benchmark of investment performance for the global universe of Shari'ah compliant equities. Since its launch in 1999, the Dow Jones family of Islamic indexes has expanded to provide over 90 benchmarks tracking Shari'ah-compliant equity and fixed-income securities.
The components of the DJIM Index are companies listed in the Dow Jones Global Indexes (DJGI) that have been screened to ensure that each meets Shari'ah requirements for acceptable products, business activities, debt levels, and interest income and expenses. The independent Shari'ah supervisory board that advises Dow Jones makes these evaluations using a proprietary Dow Jones methodology.
In addition to the DJIM Index, which is a comprehensive listing of investable Shari'ah-compliant global equities securities from 46 countries, Dow Jones Indexes also publishes Islamic Market indexes that track Shari'ah-compliant equities subdivided by specific countries, regions and industries.
This family of indexes provides performance benchmarks for securities in both developed markets and emerging markets. In addition, by identifying appropriate investments for observant Muslims, the indexes help to reduce research costs and compliance concerns they would otherwise face in constructing Islamic investment portfolios.

Dow Jones Shari'ah Supervisory Board
The DJIM Shari'ah Supervisory Board was established to advise Dow Jones Indexes on matters relating to the Shari'ah compliance of the indexes' eligible components. The independent board consists of five eminent Shari'ah scholars from around the world. The geographic diversity of the scholars ensures that diverse interpretations of Shari'ah law are represented.
Rushdi Siddiqui, Global Director of Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes, manages the meetings of the DJIM Shari'ah Supervisory Board.
Members of the DJIM Shari'ah Supervisory Board are :
Dr. Abu Ghuddah is a senior Shari'ah Advisor to Albaraka Investment Co. of Saudi Arabia. He holds a PhD in Islamic Law. Dr. Abu Ghuddah has published many books on Islamic Financial transactions. He was an advisor for Islamic Law Encyclopeadia (Kuwait Awqaf Ministry). Dr. Abu Ghuddah is a member and chairman of seeral reputed Islamic Shari'ah Boards.
Mr. Yaquby is a member of the Islamic supervisory boards for several Islamic institutions, including the Arab Islamic Bank and the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. His work has appeared in the following publications: Risalah Fi al–Tawbah, Qurrat al–'Ainayn fi Fada il Birr al–Walidayn, Irshad al–'Uqala'ila Hukun al–Qira'h min al–Mushaf fi al–Salah, Tahqia al–Amal fi Ikhraj Zakat al–Fitr bi al–Mal.
Dr. Elgari is an associate professor of Islamic Economics and the director of the Center for Research in Islamic Economics at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia. He is an expert at the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy (OIC), Economics. He is also an advisor to several Islamic financial instituitons worldwide and the author of many books on Islamic banking.
Mr. DeLorenzo is considered a leading Islamic scholar in the United States. He has translated over twenty books from Arabic, Persian, and Urdu for publication in English and has been commissioned to prepare a new translation of the Qur'an. Mr. DeLorenzo compiled the first English translation of legal rulings issued by Shari'ah supervisory boards on the operations of Islamic banks. since 1989, Mr. DeLorenzo has served as secretary of the Figh Council of North America. He is also a Shari'ah consultant to several Islamic financial institutions and was an advisor on Islamic education to the government of Pakistan.
Dr. Baker is currently a member of the Shari'ah Advisory Council of many financial institutions in Malaysia and around the world, including the Central Bank of Malaysia, Securities Commission of Malaysia, International Islamic Financial Market in Bahrain, Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions in Bahrain and HSBC (Malaysia).
Dow Jones Citigroup Sukuk Index

The Dow Jones Citigroup Sukuk Index, which tracks the global performance of investment-grade, U.S. dollar-denominated, Shari'ah-compliant fixed income securities, is also part of the Dow Jones family of Islamic indexes. The Shari'ah Supervisory Board screens Islamic bond issues on an individual basis to determine whether they are appropriate for inclusion in the Sukuk Index.
Only fixed-income securities that pass three sets of screens for compliance with
Islamic investment guidelines are eligible for the Sukuk index. Bonds must be certified as sukuk by a globally recognized Shari'ah board and also must comply with Auditing and Accounting Organization of Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) standards for eligible asset classes. Additionally, the underlying assets must comply with Shari'ah principles.