News in Brief: Arab leaders condemn Israeli policy
- Arab leaders condemn Israeli policy
Arab leaders have expressed their total rejection of Israel's settlement policy in occupied East Jerusalem at the end of a two-day regional summit in Libya.
Regional leaders issued the statement on Sunday after the final session of an Arab League summit in the northern city of Sirte.
Israel's settlement policy poses "a dangerous obstacle to a just and comprehensive peace process", the final resolution of the summit read.
Earlier, at a news conference following the session, Amr Moussa, the league's secretary-general, said Arab leaders are "fed up" with Israel's policies.
"The ball is in the Israeli court," he said.
"We are waiting to see if they are serious. If they are serious they have to deal with the situation in the occupied territories in a different way."
Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as a joint capital for a future state, has been a particular point of focus for delegates.
Muhammad: A 21st Century Prophet?
The teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) changed the lives of the Arabs. Before him they were merely Bedouins with no civilization, as compared to the civilization that they themselves made after becoming Muslims.
Prophet Muhammad's character could ultimately change a person like Umar Ibn Al-Khattab—who worshipped an idol that was made of dates—to become the leader of the whole Muslim community and one of the most righteous leaders the world has ever known.
Anybody who reads about the Muslims' civilization and how it was built would certainly recognize the huge effect of the Prophet's personality, the ethics and values he taught, the simple lifestyle he lived, and his wisdom that could unite the Arabs after being so tribalistic. So many books were written about Prophet Muhammad; however there always remains much more to be written.
Muslims believe that the character and teachings of Prophet Muhammad are not specific only to one time. One can benefit from them even though they are living in the 21st century. ReadingIslam.com presents a folder that will shed some light on the character and teachings of the Prophet, and show how beneficial his biography is to humankind today.
Browse through our extensive coverage below where you will find a mix of articles, audio, Q&A sessions, and upcoming live talks where you can personally ask our consultants any questions you have about this topic.
Stay tuned to this page for more special additions over the coming week.
Drugs and desertion: how the UK really rates Afghan police
Corruption, desertion and drug abuse within the Afghan police are threatening its ability to take over the fight against the Taliban and the UK's chances of an exit from the country, government documents show.
A series of internal Foreign Office papers obtained by The Independent on Sunday lay bare the deep concerns of British officials over the standard of recruits to the Afghan National Police (ANP), ranging from high casualty rates and illiteracy to poor vetting and low pay.
The memos, which warn that building an effective police force "will take many years", also reveal how non-existent "ghost recruits" may account for up to a quarter of the purported strength of the police force, often the front line against the Taliban insurgency. The "attrition rate" among police officers – including losses caused by deaths, desertion and dismissals, often due to positive drug tests – is as high as 60 per cent in Helmand province.
Muslim women reject cleric's advice to stay away from politics
Muslim women have reacted angrily to a leading Muslim cleric's advice to keep away from politics and concentrate on home and family, saying this could be his personal view and there is no such stipulation in Islam.
Even as the debate over the women's reservation bill continues, Shia cleric Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawwad had said Saturday that women should have no role in politics and stay at home.
'They should become mothers of good leaders rather than try to be leaders themselves,' he reportedly said. Also, the Lucknow-based Nadwatul Ulema had also issued a 'fatwa' (edict) against Muslim women's participation in politics, in line with the 2005 fatwa of the influential Darul Uloom Deoband, which contends that Muslim women cannot remain in purdah when in politics.
However, the advice has not been taken well by Muslim women here who not only described them as 'personal views' and also disagreed that it could be a fatwa as Islam does not prohibit women from being leaders and a fatwa can only be issued in reply to religious queries.
'Who is he to advise us on what to do and what not to do? It is a conspiracy of vested interests to keep women within the four walls of a house under the garb of Islam's strictures despite our religion giving equal status to men and women,' social activist Shahala Masood told IANS.
Her views were supported by 'Shahar Qazi' (city religious judge) Abdul Lateef Qasmi. 'Islam does not prohibit women from being leaders but if some one has issued any fatwa, it needs to be checked under what circumstances it was delivered,' he said.
Masood's stand has more adherents.
'The views expressed by ulema could be their personal thoughts as no one had sought their opinion. I am of the view that more and more women from the community should come forward and contest elections as Islam does not put any bar on it,' Samajwadi Party member Nazma Parveen told IANS.
'Everyone has the liberty to express views, and the statement of the Maulana could be his personal view, because as far as my knowledge is concerned, Islam does not prohibit women from entering politics,' Congress state unit women cell general secretary Noori Khan said.
Madhya Pradesh Urdu Academy secretary Nusrat Mehndi contended women should prepare themselves for a double responsibility 'looking after domestic activities and performing well in professional life as well, be it politics or job,' she said.
'No religion including Islam prohibits anyone from serving the people and in the present time, entering politics is the best way to serve the people. Women can also serve the people and Islalm does not stop them from doing so,' Shamim Nasir, a corporator, said
Muslim fashion label conquers streets of Europe
WITTEN, Germany — T-shirts and hoodies declare "Terrorism has no religion." A head-covering tunic bears the message: "Hijab. My right. My choice. My life."
A German fashion label is out to tell the world that Islam isn't just compatible with Western values of tolerance and free expression — it can be hip, too.
The project was born in 2006 as Muslim mobs rampaged across Europe against Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Designer Melih Kesmen became fed up with the anti-Muslim stereotypes that sprang up over the protests as well as the rioters' attempts to stifle free speech.
So Kesmen, a practicing Muslim born and raised in Germany to Turkish parents, decided to express his feelings through fashion.
"I first created a sweater just for myself with the slogan 'I love my Prophet' to take a stand as a peace-loving, tolerant Muslim," said the 34-year-old designer, sporting designer glasses and a black goatee.
The reaction was huge: People kept stopping him in the street to ask where he had found the top.
Kesmen quickly realized he'd found a market gap.
Together with his wife, Yeliz, he set out to create Style Islam, a brand of hip, casual clothing with Islamic-themed sayings as its focus.
More than three years on, Style Islam offers 35 different motifs that playfully merge Islam and pop culture. Besides clothing, their collection also features bags and posters.
"Women love buying rompers with the writing "Mini Muslim" across their chest,'" said Yeliz Kesmen, 30, who wears a brown hijab, or headscarf, and silver nose stud.
On its Web site, Style Islam's creators explain every motif they sell.
For hijabs they write: "In today's society, it is not easy for a woman to wear a headscarf. Often she is exposed to discrimination and prejudice ... even though from an Islamic point of view, the headscarf is a symbol for women's liberation from society's constraints."
Above all, the brand strives to spread a message of tolerance. One design reads: "Jesus & Muhammad/ Brothers in Faith."
Cotton T-shirts sell for just under euro20 ($27), laptop bags and hooded long-sleeve shirts go for around euro35 ($47). Style Islam also offers key chains featuring praying, covered-up Muslim girls.
Through the Internet, the company sells its clothes across western Europe, the U.S., Canada and Turkey. The next target market is the Middle East.
"We're ... getting a lot of requests from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates or Morocco," Kesmen said in his sleek white office in Witten, a town nestled in a western region known more for its steel mills than avant-garde fashion.
"They all want to buy our products, but we simply haven't built up the infrastructure yet to ship to the Arab world."
Currently the label sells thousands of items each month and has a team of seven designers, according to Kesmen.
Exact sales figures have not been released. But Kesmen says sales growth has prompted plans for a brick-and-mortar store in Berlin, with other locations likely.
Boozing Jesus Angers Christians
A primary school textbook picture showing Jesus Christ holding a beer cane and a cigarette is infuriating India’s Christians and fueling sectarian tension in the country.
"We are deeply shocked and hurt at the objectionable portrayal of Jesus Christ in the school book," Archbishop Dominic Jala told Agence France Presse (AFP) Monday, February 22.
"We condemn the total lack of respect for religions by the publisher."
The lampooning picture was found in a handwriting book for children in church-run schools in the Christian-majority northeastern state of Meghalaya.
The image was used to illustrate the letter "I" for the word "Idol".
The Indian Catholic Youth Movement of the Shillong Archdiocese denounced the image.
"The publication of the despicable picture has deeply hurt our religious sentiments, and its publisher has manifestly breached the provisions of the Constitution of India."
The Meghalaya state government condemned the controversial Christ image.
"We strongly condemn such a blasphemous act," said M. Ampareen Lyngdoh, the education minister.
Christians make up less than 3 percent of India's 1.1 billion population, but over 70 percent of Meghalaya populace.
Turkey in Anti-Army Swoop
More than 40 people, including current and former Army officers, were arrested Monday, February 22, in connection with an alleged plot to unseat the government.
"This morning our security forces began a detention process," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference during an official visit to Spain, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"As of now, more than 40 people have been detained."
Among those detained are former air force chief Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek and former First Army commander Ergin Saygun.
CNN-Turk said army chief Ilker Basbug postponed a three-day official trip to Egypt over the swoop.
The arrests were linked to investigation into an alleged 2003 plot to discredit the ruling Justice and Development Party government.
The plot, codenamed “Sledgehammer”, involved planting bombs in mosques and museums in Istanbul to stir chaos, according to documents obtained by Taraf newspaper.
It also included provoking Greek jets into shoot down a Turkish plane over the Aegean Sea in a bid to show the government as inept.
Turkey and neighbouring Greece have longstanding territorial disputes and came close to war in 1996 over an islet in the Aegean.
"I don't know what the result of this is, but after the security forces have finished this process the judiciary will make its assessment," said Erdogan.
Neither police or the military had any immediate comment.
Pakistan’s Sprint Queen
When leaving for Bangladesh in late January to participate in the 11th South Asian Games, Naseem Hameed was little-known even in her neighborhood let alone across Pakistan.
But by the time she returned in mid-February with a gold medal in the 100-meter sprint had had already became a celebrity.
"It was the most joyful moment in my life," a jubilant Naseem, 23, told IslamOnline.net in an exclusive interview.
"Tears flew down my cheeks, and I bowed to Allah right there."
Naseem won the 100-meter sprint competition in the 2010 South Asian Games, setting a new South Asian record with 11.81 seconds.
She did not just make history as the fastest woman in South Asia, but became the first ever woman gold medalist in the 62-year history of Pakistan.
"I have no words to be thankful to Allah. It is just because of His grace and the prayers of my parents, that I have achieved this all," said an emotional Naseem.
A huge crowd waving national flags and chanting slogans such as "long live Naseem Hameed" and "Welcome sprint queen" awaited her arrival for hours outside the Quad-I-Azam International airport.
The huge rally took hours to reach her 80-yard one-room house in a low-income area of Karachi, where her laborer father, mother and other family members were anxiously awaiting.
President Asif Zardari hosted a reception in her honor and awarded her Rs one million (12000 dollars).
Cash rewards worth million of rupees and a house have also been announced by the provincial government, state-owned corporations, private businessmen and the army, which she represents in national events.
"It is only because of Allah that I have got wealth and fame together."
Zambia's Umbrella Islamic Body in Crisis
Veiled Saudi poet rises to stardom after bashing clerics
A Saudi housewife's bold poems which blast "evil" extremist fatwas by Muslim clerics have earned her death threats but could yet win her a 1.3-million-dollar poetry contest on Emirati television.
Ahead of Wednesday's finals of the "Million's Poet" aired weekly on Abu Dhabi state television, the poems have put Hissa Hilal, who wears a traditional head-to-toe black "abaya" cloak and veils her face, in the spotlight.
If on March 31 she is announced the winner, she will walk away with the grand prize from the competition, which draws masters of bedouin dialect poetry, known as Nabati, which is highly appreciated by Gulf Arabs.
But Hilal has drawn the wrath of Islamist conservatives in her country after criticising its strict segregation of the sexes and blasting fatwas that reject an easing to allow women to take on jobs that are currently for men only.
The Saudi mother's loud opinions have resulted in death threats on Islamist websites like Ana Al-Muslim, an online forum known for posting messages from Al-Qaeda, the Saudi daily Al-Watan said.
A participant in the forum even asked for her address, in an apparent threat to kill her.
Somali population, cultural tension rising in St. Cloud, Minnesota
Women rally in Yemen to ban child brides
Following demonstrations on Sunday against a proposed law that would set a minimum age for marriage, hundreds of Yemeni women held a counter protest yesterday outside Yemen’s parliament building in support of the legislation.
The participants in the protest, organised by civil society organisations and women’s rights groups, carried posters demanding the protection of childhood by establishing a minimum age for marriage.
“No to the abuse of childhood, prevention of happiness and usurpation of life,” one poster read. “Setting an age for marriage is a legal, humanitarian and developmental necessity,” said another.
Among yesterday’s protesters was Nojoud Mohammed Ali, 11, who obtained a divorce in 2008 after her father married her off to a 30-year-old man when she was only nine. “I went to ask the parliament not to touch the law that sets the marriage age at 17 years,” said Nojoud.
“We have presented to them signatures from all over the country. Children like me should be protected and should go to school.”
The parliament voted last year for an amendment to the civil status law that stipulated that parents who marry off their daughters before the age of 17 and sons before 18 could face a year in jail or be fined US$500 (Dh1,800).
Some conservative MPs who had opposed the legislation said it was against Sharia. The draft measure was sent back to the Sharia committee in the parliament for review. It recommended that no age for marriage be set, according to Mohammed al Hazmi, an outspoken MP who is against a minimum age for marriage.
A delegation of 50 protesters met yesterday with Yahia al Ra’e, the parliament speaker, who set up a committee to negotiate with the MPs opposed to setting an age for marriage, according to Hooria Mashhoor, the vice chairwoman of Woman’s National Committee, a government agency, and a delegation member.
“I feel happy about the rally as it brought together all women activists regardless of our differences. There is a consensus among all of us that a minimum age for marriage should be set. We have got one objective to strive for,” Ms Mashhoor said.
A call to help Muslims in need of health care
When Imam Siraj Wahhaj was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year ago and discovered that his health insurance did not cover treatment, the word went out.
"People all over the world called me and said, 'I'm praying for you,' " said Wahhaj, head of the Muslim Alliance in North America. "But what about the little guys? No one is praying for them. No one is raising money for them."
Yesterday, the national social service organization announced intentions to create a network of free clinics - some existing, others new - staffed by volunteers in underserved Muslim communities nationwide, starting in Philadelphia.
The news conference was less about concrete plans than a vision and a call to action for Muslim health professionals to serve others. More details are expected at a health forum, show, and fund-raiser April 24 at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater.
But Rashidah Abdul-Khabeer is fully expecting to follow through with plans to expand the volunteer social-service organization she now runs out of a community center in Nicetown into a part-time medical clinic with a bricks-and-mortar building.
Secular strongman edges out Iraq leader in poll endorsed by UN
Israel ends Gaza incursion
Israel has ended its incursion into the Gaza Strip a day after its military was involved in a deadly clash with Hamas, the Palestinian faction that rules the territory.
Troops and tanks left Gaza on Saturday after the bloodiest clash in 14 months killed two Israeli soldiers and at least one Palestinian, witnesses said.
The fighting was the fiercest since Israel fought with Hamas in a three-week offensive last year that killed at least 1,400 Palestinians, mainly civilians, and 13 Israelis, mainly troops.
'Scandal hidden in secret vaults'
Jeff Anderson is one of two lawyers representing five men in the US who have brought lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for failing to take action over cases of alleged child abuse in the church.
The case involves a number of documents including internal correspondence between bishops and the Vatican that claim to show Pope Benedict XVI, then a cardinal, failed to respond to letters warning him about a priest who may have molested 200 deaf boys.
CIA prepared birthday cake for double agent who bombed Afghan base
Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi killed seven CIA employees after agents invited him to Afghan base to build rapport
Key leaders 'to skip' Arab summit
Clone wars: Mossad's London chief expelled over forged passports
New details are revealed showing how Israeli security services stole British citizens' identities. Foreign Office advises travellers to Israel that they risk having their passports cloned
Four cousins and their funerals
Reporting on the death of children is never an easy task. It challenges your sense of professionalism and puts you face to face with the strongest of emotions; a mother’s inconsolable grief at the loss of her child.
On Sunday, I went through this unforgettable experience - four times.
It started out with news coverage of a funeral for 16-year-old Mohamad Qadus and his cousin Usaid - 18 years. They were shot dead by Israeli soldiers at the conclusion of a day of demonstrations in their small village of Iraq Burin.
The mood was so sombre; you could feel it walking around… Men silent and serious, women distraught and in tears.
Young and Muslim in Ecuador
It's not the first place you'd imagine encountering young Muslim women. But Ecuador has its own confident community
A group of young women in hijab talk animatedly as they await the start of their weekly Islamic class. This is a scene that could easily be from a mosque in London, Cairo, Indonesia or New York. However, this is happening in Quito, the chatter is in Spanish and the ladies are all Ecuadorian.
Here in the heart of an overwhelmingly Catholic South America, an unmarked building in an affluent suburb in the centre of Ecuador's capital city provides a focal point for the country's few thousand Muslims. White walls, geometric designs, sumptuous furnishings and shelves arranged with Islamic literature complete the spacious interior of the Centro Islamico del Ecuador.
The reasons that brought these women to Islam are various and not dissimilar to those cited by converts in the UK. Maria Fernanda Novilla, a 29-year-old veterinary surgeon, took the declaration of faith, or shahada, at the Centro Islamico del Ecuador three years ago. Her conversion came after years of gradually learning about Islam. A curiosity, initially sparked by one of her university lecturers who happened to be Muslim, eventually brought her to the realisation that this was the path that seemed right for her.
Her parents were not thrilled, however, fearful that their daughter was joining a religion they knew little about and associated with terrorism. "Some members of my family are conservative Catholics" she explained, "so it was a shock and a worry for them. But three years later they are reconciled to my choice and broadly supportive. More importantly I have convinced them Muslims are not all terrorists."
Israel defies US over settlements
'US knew about settlements'
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said yesterday that he had told Washington in writing just before heading for talks with the US President, Barack Obama, that he would not stop Jewish settlement around Jerusalem.
The settlement issue, accompanied by mounting violence in the occupied West Bank, is challenging renewed efforts by the American special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to get peace talks under way.
"Our policy on Jerusalem is the same policy followed by all Israeli governments for the 42 years, and it has not changed. As far as we are concerned, building in Jerusalem is the same as building in Tel Aviv," Mr Netanyahu told his cabinet yesterday.
"I believed it would be of great importance for these things not to remain in the context of commentary or speculation. I subsequently wrote a letter, at my own initiative, to the Secretary of State so that things would be crystal clear."
The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Mr Netanyahu spoke by telephone on Thursday in an attempt to defuse a vocal US-Israeli dispute over settlement in areas around East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967.
Israel's announcement – during a visit by the American Vice-President, Joe Biden, two weeks ago – that it would build 1,600 homes for Jews near East Jerusalem embarrassed Washington and stymied indirect peace talks with the Palestinians.
Mr Netanyahu was flying to Washington yesterday after meeting Mr Mitchell. An aide said he is to meet Mr Obama tomorrow.