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News in brief: A Muslim Imam At My Church + other news

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  • Zafar Khan
    A Muslim Imam At My Church By Lisa Munyan Freelance Writer, USA Friday, 08 February 2013 00:00
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 10, 2013
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      A Muslim Imam At My Church
      By Lisa Munyan
      Freelance Writer, USA
      Friday, 08 February 2013 00:00


      To put into context my own personal faith-based community and how it has effected me, the reader should know that I was raised a catholic in England and attended catholic schools primarily due to my devout catholic Irish grandparents. Twenty five years ago I moved to the US, married and raised two kids in a small rural town about an hour outside of Washington DC. and we are members of the local catholic church. To me this is a close-knit community and, while it has much to do with religion, the key is the genuine concern and care we have for each other as human beings.
      Fifty years ago this community was a close knit one comprised primarily of farming and other traditional occupations. The railroad was a significant presence and so people here were used to hard physical labor and the inherent risks associated with working on farms and for the railroad.

      Thus, by necessity the community was well grounded in the reality of life and the very real everyday dangers that could snuff it out. Christianity had always been a cornerstone of life here and the Lutheran and Christ Reform Churches have both been here for over a hundred years. While each had its own loyal following, research shows that they have always worked together for the sake of the small agrarian community.

      Islam Embraces Australia’s Indigenous People
      From Inside the Communities


      Australian society raises each successive generation to etch out a place for themselves in the world.

      Doing so has become a prerequisite for success in our time. Yet, despite being engulfed in the culture of white society, Australia’s Indigenous people are struggling to create a space for themselves in a country that has been theirs for over 40,000 years.

      It is now acknowledged that Australia was built on the ashes of a nation that has had more than 18,500 generations, while since the first fleet arrived on Australia’s shores in 1788 there have only been eight generations of settlers.

      Connecting with Muslims

      Indigenous Australians have been in contact with Muslims from various parts of the world for centuries. It began with Muslim fishermen from Indonesia in the 1700s and these visitors left a lasting imprint. Islamic motifs have been in found in some north Australian Aboriginal mythology and ritual.

      In funeral ceremonies in Elcho Island today, the Galiwinku community refer to ‘walitha’walitha’; an adaptation of the Arabic phrase ‘Allah the Exalted’. It is confirmed that from the mid-1880s, Muslim Malays came to northern Australia to work in the pearl-shelling industry.

      The famous Afghan Cameleers came to Australia between the 1860s and the 1920s to help expedite the development of the inner regions of Australia. They were easily able to cope with the rugged conditions in Australia’s interior and facilitated the development of train lines throughout the country and overland telegraph lines. They were also hawkers; mobile department stores and were friendly faces in outback Australia and for this reason they came in close contact with Indigenous people and made lasting relations. They built the first mosque in Australia in Adelaide and after that, small and very simple mosques opened up in many places, like Broken Hill.

      The Afghans were known as upstanding and hospitable people who were willing to share whatever they had and many married into Indigenous communities.

      At that time in Australia’s history, it was illegal for Indigenous people and Afghans to marry into white society without permission. At the same time, it was common for white men to hunt down Indigenous people, raping the women and committing murder. The Afghans took up arms to defend the Indigenous people. Australia failed to acknowledge and respect their unions, and deported many Afghans and they were not permitted to take their families with them.

      Some Afghans went back home, but some did not and are buried in Australia. There are many tombstones scattered throughout central Australia with Arabic script.

      Wilder’s Hate Message Hurts Aussie Muslims


      CAIRO – A looming visit by far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is notorious for slurs against Islam, is sparking tensions in Australia with white supremacist groups calling for confrontations with the country’s Muslim community.

      “We encourage all patriots to exercise their legal right of self defense if any rag-heads try to prevent them accessing the venue, or threaten, or use violence against their person,” Australian New Nation group said in an audio posted on “Radio Free Australia, the voice of white revolution in Australia”, The Canberra Times reported on Saturday, February 2.

      “Once they try to strike the first blow, everything that follows is self defense on your part,” it added.

      Tensions have been mounting over the impending visit of the far right-wing politician, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party (PVV), who has been accused of Islamophobia and racism.

      Wilders' trip to Australia this month is the next stage of a journey that has taken him to the US Senate, the House of Lords, the Knesset in Israel and several European parliaments.

      Encouraging followers to attack Muslim protesters, the group warned them to “expect an Islamic rent-a-crowd outside screaming and foaming at the mouth like the evil bastards they are”.

      The vitriolic broadcast, which lasts almost 10 minutes, goes on to say, “go … and be prepared to defend yourself and if they take a swing at you, they push at you, they spit on you, don't hold back. You have a legal right of self defense do what should be done to this rag-head camel f--- … Islamic filth who have no place in civilized society.”

      The tour has been organized by the Q Society of Australia.

      Indian police warn Kashmiris to prepare for nuclear war
      People have been advised to build underground bunkers and stockpile food, candles and torches


      Pity the people of Kashmir. Days after a series of cross-border shootings left both Indian and Pakistani soldiers dead, police on the Indian side of the Line of Control have warned residents to prepare for nuclear war.

      In an advert placed in an English language newspaper, police warned people in Srinagar to build underground bunkers equipped with toilets, collect two weeks’ worth of of food and water and ensure they have a supply of candles, torches and a radio.

      “If the blast wave does not arrive within five seconds of the flash, you were far enough from the ground zero,” says the notice, headed Protection against Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons, that appeared in the Greater Kashmir newspaper.

      According to the AFP, local officials said the warning was part of a routine civil defence preparedness that are carried out throughout the year. But several local people said they were concerned that the advertisement was unnecessarily creating tension.

      “This is fuelling an atmosphere of fear. Educating people is fine but not this brazen way,” Srinagar resident Fayaz Ahmed told the Associated Press.

      The warning comes after the Indian and Pakistani armies agreed to halt cross-border firing that had threatened to unravel a fragile peace process in place along the so-called Line of Control since 2003.

      The notice describes what might happen in the circumstances of a nuclear exchange and warns people to be ready for an initial shock wave. It advises people that they should then wait for the winds to die down and the debris to stop falling.

      “Blast wind will generally end in one or two minutes after burst and burns, cuts and bruises are no different than conventional injuries,” it adds. “The dazzle is temporary and vision should return in few seconds.”

      The advice also warned drivers that in the event of a nuclear strike they should dive out of their cars and towards the blast, lest the vehicle be thrown into the air and fall on them.

      “Expect some initial disorientation as the blast wave may blow down and carry away many prominent and familiar features,” it says.

      The advertisement also warned survivors to keep anyone exposed to the blast out of their shelters.

      Police confirmed they issued the notice but said it “should not be connected with anything else”. Mubarak Ganai, deputy inspector general of civil defence in Kashmir police, added that the notice was part of “year-round” preparations.

      Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought four conflicts since partition in 1947. Two of them have been over Kashmir, which both countries claim as their own.

      Are humans created or evolved?
      Intolerant atheism refuses to acknowledge the possibility that science and religion can coexist.
      Last Modified: 27 Jan 2013 12:32


      Religion and science seem to be at loggerheads again. This time it is evolution that takes centre stage - the creation of our species on Earth - and it appears aggressive atheism is desperate to turn a theory into "fact".

      Recently there have been impassioned debate on this area on two high-profile TV programmes: one an Al Jazeera interview with atheist Richard Dawkins by Muslim political commentator Mehdi Hasan and the other a BBC Big Questions debate over whether it is time for all religions to accept evolution as fact. Many of my co-religionists are left bemused, if not downright confused, by all this kerfuffle.

      Why fight on two dissimilar subjects?

      In its heyday, Islam brought about harmony between religion and science. With, among other things, the demise of Islamic scholarship, science clashed with religion during the European Renaissance. After this co-existence for many centuries, we are now entering an era of science led by intolerant atheism.

      Is a confrontation between religion (I exclude "dogmatism" here) and science necessary? Having a background in both science and religion, I do not think so. We do not have to battle over things that are dissimilar in terms of reference and remit. Let me say why.

      Mislabeled Halal Products Upset Uighurs


      BEIJING – Chinese firms labeling home-made food items as halal products imported from Muslim countries to sell to the country’s Uighur Muslims have sparked fury among Xinjiang Muslims who lost their faith in Chinese companies.

      “Our company was set up a long time ago and has grown to a large scale,” or hundreds of thousands of US dollars, the director of Tianren International Ltd., surnamed Luo, told RFA Uighur Service on Friday, January 18.

      “We mainly produce halal foods for the whole Xinjiang region and net hundreds of thousands to several million yuan [annually].”

      Luo admitted that his company had been producing food products domestically and mislabeling them as certified halal goods from Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country.

      An investigation of the address listed on a Tianren International product label for its office in Malaysia found a personal storage facility and not a food processing center.

      Luo said that her company makes its food using halal ingredients, although she refused to provide details on how production was monitored.

      “We label our foods as a Malaysian brand and mark them halal, but most of the halal foods we send to Xinjiang are produced in our factory,” she said.

      “We have a large market in Xinjiang,” she said, referring to the region's 9 million mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uighurs.

      As the news spread to Uighur Muslims, angry reactions appeared on online forums denouncing the cheating Tianren company.

      Commentators also vented anger at an importer named Albert Lim, referring to him and the company as “dishonest traders” that were retailing “fake halal foods.”

      The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.

      Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.

      Muslims do not eat pork and consider pigs and their meat filthy and unhealthy to eat.

      Now other goods and services can also be certified as halal, including cosmetics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and financial services.

      Ahmadiyyahs Revert to Islam in Indonesia


      Winter Depression and Prayer


      "As I grew older, the arrival of autumn every year brought with it a sense of depression held over from my youth. The coming of winter blanketed my heart with a darkness that seemed to be inescapable. Although the world was covered in white, my emotions were black and grim. I became sullen, I gained weight, all I wanted to do was sleep. The sadness appeared in late September, and seemed to fade away with the first new leaves of spring, and the call of the arriving robins. Like the crocuses and daffodils awakening from their slumber, my soul seemed to wake up as well.
      "As an adult, I have learned to put a name to this seasonal depression: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Somewhere, somehow, a wise and knowing person recognized that millions upon millions of human beings across the world acknowledged the same symptoms I had suffered through virtually every autumn and winter of my entire life. This wise and knowing person put a name to it, and suggested treatment: light. Bright, blazing, intense, warm, wonderful light." - Mirium

      Many people suffer from what is call SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a particular form of acute depression. People born in warmer climates and move to cold climates find they are unusually susceptible to this disorder. However, no matter where you live, this disorder usually begins when the temperature begins to drop, and the daylight hours grow short. This winter depression may be accompanied by a craving for sweet foods and a resulting weight gain, as well as difficulty in motivating oneself to rise from bed in the morning before sunrise. In severe cases medical attention needs to be sought, especially for those persons whose normal routines are interrupted and they find themselves withdrawn and overly sad, seeking sleep during the daytime hours, and unable to perform their normal duties.

      Some people also experience Summer SAD due to lack of exposure to the sun in the summer months. This may be due to long hours at indoor work or to avoidance of the sun in very hot climates - such as Saudi Arabia. Symptoms of Summer SAD may be poor appetite, weight loss and insomnia. Either type of SAD may also include symptoms present in some other kinds of depression, such as feelings of guilt, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities, persistent feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, or physical problems such as headaches and tummy troubles.

      In ALL cases of SAD, however, melatonin seems to be the common link in the causes of the disorder. Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the body's pineal (pih-knee-uhl) gland. The pineal gland lies at the base of the brain. When the sun goes down, and darkness comes, the pineal gland "goes to work." As melatonin production rises, a person begins to feel less alert and body temperature starts to fall. Sleep seems more inviting.

      Then, melatonin levels drop quickly with the dawning of a new day. Levels are so low during the day, in fact, that scientists often have difficulty detecting melatonin at all during the day. Melatonin levels thus go hand in hand with the light-dark cycle, not just for people, but also for plants and animals that keep alert during the day.

      Melatonin production is also related to age. Children manufacture more melatonin than the elderly do and melatonin production begins to drop at puberty. Also, when days become shorter and darker the production of this hormone increases. Melatonin levels in the body determine a person's activity and "energy" level. High melatonin levels cause drowsiness, while low melatonin levels correspond to an alert state of consciousness.

      Light therapy using special light lamps is the most common ways to alleviate this struggle for alertness. Our bodies need a full spectrum of light to carry out a variety of metabolic processes and produce melatonin at acceptable levels. Light entering the eye regulates body chemistry, and in particular, the secretion or suppression of melatonin. Note, however, that due to UV dangers, therapists do not recommend the use of tanning beds as a cure for SAD http://www.nu-light.com

      Some very light-sensitive people who live or work in dim environments may feel improvement with increased exposure to normal room light. Research studies show, however, that most sufferers of SAD and winter doldrums require exposure to light levels much higher than ordinary indoor lamps and ceiling fixtures provide.

      Kurdish PKK co-founder Sakine Cansiz shot dead in Paris


      Three Kurdish women activists - including a co-founder of the militant nationalist PKK - have been found dead with gunshot wounds in a Kurdish information centre in Paris.

      The bodies of Sakine Cansiz and two others were found on Thursday.

      France and Turkey both condemned the killings.

      The motive for the shootings is unclear. Some 40,000 people have died in the 25-year conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK.

      However, Turkey has recently begun talks with the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, with the aim of persuading the group to disarm.

      Camels in the Outback
      Can a Qatari former camel herder find an alternative to the mass killing of camels underway in Australia?
      Al Jazeera World Last Modified: 02 Jan 2013 14:26


      Camels were brought to Australia from Pakistan and India by the British to help with exploration and load-carrying in the mid-1800s.

      Given the Australian outback's vast, arid landscape, camels were the only animals strong enough for the job.

      But by the early 1900s, there were trucks and trains to do this work, and camels were no longer useful. So the South Australian government ruled that they be destroyed.

      This was unthinkable for the Asian camel herders. They disobeyed the order, and set the animals loose in the outback.

      Dawkins Is Wrong - Religion Is Rational
      Posted: 24/12/2012 10:33


      "You believe that Muhammad went to heaven on a winged horse?" That was the question posed to me by none other than Richard Dawkins a few weeks ago, in front of a 400-strong audience at the Oxford Union. I was supposed to be interviewing him for al-Jazeera but the world's best-known atheist decided to turn the tables on me.

      So what did I do? I confessed. Yes, I believe in prophets and miracles. Oh, and I believe in God, too. Shame on me, eh? Faith, in the disdainful eyes of the atheist, is irredeemably irrational; to have faith, as Dawkins put it to me, is to have "belief in something without evidence". This, however, is sheer nonsense. Are we seriously expected to believe that the likes of Descartes, Kierkegaard, Hegel, Rousseau, Leibniz and Locke were all unthinking or irrational idiots?

      In trying to disparage 'faith', Dawkins and his allies constantly confuse 'evidence' with 'proof'; those of us who believe in God do so without proof but not without evidence. As the Oxford theologian (and biophysicist) Alister McGrath has observed: "Our beliefs may be shown to be justifiable, without thereby demonstrating that they are proven."

      Cover-up fears haunt Khuram Shaikh's family as they campaign for justice
      Sri Lankan suspects bailed as the Shaikh family struggle to deal with Christmas Day killing of Red Cross worker at resort
      Sam Jones
      The Guardian, Sunday 23 December 2012 14.29 GMT


      Mohammad Shaikh has observed the same ritual almost every day for the past 11 months. After a short drive to a Rochdale cemetery, he prays and then checks the flowers on his youngest son's grave. He always brings a fresh bunch.

      Since he buried Khuram, a 32-year-old Red Cross worker, on 6 January this year, Mohammad has interrupted his routine only for the three weeks it took him and his wife to perform the hajj on their son's behalf.

      Twelve months after Khuram was murdered while on holiday in Sri Lanka, his relatives are far from coming to terms with his death. They still do not know exactly how or why he died, and are still waiting to see his killers brought to justice.

      Khuram, who had just spent months fitting prosthetic limbs in Gaza, was spending Christmas and the new year in Sri Lanka when, early on Christmas morning last year, he became involved in an altercation at his hotel in the resort of Tangalle.

      Eight men, who are said to have been armed and drunk – and to include a prominent local politician with ties to the government – are accused of attacking him. Stabbed and shot, Khuram died; a female colleague who was with him was assaulted and left badly injured.

      O little town with big ideas: Welcome to Bethlehem
      Come all ye tourists: that's the message from Bethlehem, which is having some success in overcoming high unemployment and the Israeli blockade, writes Matthew Kalman


      After years of financial depression amid violent confrontation with Israel, the West Bank city of Bethlehem is celebrating the beginnings of an economic revival.

      The ancient city, built around the Church of the Nativity on Manger Square that marks the grotto where Jesus is believed to have been born, has recently been re-energised by a combination of overseas investment, micro-finance initiatives and a record-breaking tourism rush.

      Despite its location just a few miles from Jerusalem, Bethlehem has been cut off from the city since 2003, when Israel hastily erected a security wall during the violence of the four-year-long second Intifada, or mass uprising, citing the need to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian terror attacks.

      Since then, tourism has ebbed during times of conflict and increased – if not exactly flowed – during times of relative peace.

      For Bethlehem, the Christmas season has long been regarded as the backbone of the city's economy – a time when increased numbers of tourists bring work and money to the West Bank town – but local businesspeople are now heralding signs that its popularity may begin to stretch further across the year.

      Changes in local banking practices initiated by the Palestinian Monetary Authority in 2010 are now bearing fruit, allowing young Palestinian entrepreneurs to take advantage of hundreds of millions of pounds in small-business loans to open new manufacturing and services companies.

      Jevara Kharoufeh, who left the family business of carving crucifixes and other religious mementos from local olive wood, successfully launched DejaVu – the city's first bowling alley with a 300-seat restaurant, bar and conference centre – in August with the help of a series of loans.

      Mr Kharoufeh was keen for his enterprise to create a new experience for the town's youth.

      "We cannot get easily to Jerusalem or Ramallah, so we need to create our own nightlife here in Bethlehem," he said. But it was also intended to give Bethlehem residents new hope of overcoming the high level of unemployment, which many blame on the ban on most Palestinians crossing into Israel to work. DejaVu employs 40 local people, rising to 70 during Ramadan.

      The town's new mayor, Vera Baboun – the first woman to hold the post– told The Independent: "In Bethlehem we have the highest rate of unemployment in the West Bank – 18 per cent. We hope that with the change in city council we can look to a better situation."

      The Chamber of Commerce, together with the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land and the Italian Consulate, have awarded more than 20 micro-finance loans of up to €7m (£5.7m), interest-free, to small business owners such as Abeer Karam.

      The Catholic Church has been one of the main organisations to encourage investment, hoping to stem Christian migration from the area and to help Bethlehem's residents overcome the economic crisis.

      Ms Karam was born to a Palestinian family in Kuwait and was expelled when Saddam Hussein invaded the Gulf state in 1991. On arriving in Bethlehem she opened a dressmaking and repair business that employed one full-time assistant plus three seamstresses working from their homes.

      After receiving a San Miniato micro-loan, she has doubled the space she rents in the El Khoudri Tijari Centre in Bethlehem's Old City, bought a steam press and replaced her old sewing machine with four new ones. She now employs three full-time assistants and 25 homeworkers. Her wedding dresses, combining traditional Palestinian and Bedouin needlework with modern fabrics, sell for up to £800 each to customers from around the world.

      The financial incentives have also given rise to social enterprises. Nancy and Susan Atallah used their San Miniato loan to open Diva, a coffee shop where single young women, who mostly stay at home after dark, in accordance with Bethlehem's strict traditional social codes, can spend an evening in safe surroundings without igniting harmful gossip.

      New additions to the town's fledgling entertainment industry only boosts tourism, and vice versa. Foreign tourists must pass through Israel or the Israeli-controlled border crossing from Jordan, to visit Bethlehem. Shopkeepers and café owners have long lamented that organised day tours to Bethlehem from Israel – the most common way for tourists to visit – were costing their businesses dearly.

      Now, as foreign tourism to Israel has increased to record levels, so have visitors to Bethlehem, pushing up demand for trips that last longer than one day, and so lifting income.

      Samir Hazboun, the chairman of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, says 13 new hotels in the past five years – with two more opening in 2013 – have increased the number of rooms from 1,000 to 5,000. The increase in hotel rooms has resulted in a record 1.8 million overnight tourism stays this year – a 25 per cent increase on 2011.

      "There is a very high trend in opening new restaurants, coffee shops and hotels," Dr Hazboun said. "It's a chain. If you open a new hotel it helps the baker, the butcher, the dry-cleaner and everyone who provides services."

      However, despite the excitement of new projects and cash injections, Bethlehem's economy remains fragile, and is sensitive to political upheaval. During the week-long Israeli assault on Gaza in November, which killed more than 160 people, West Bank hotels closed and laid-off workers and hundreds of Christmas reservations were cancelled.

      On Star Street, the traditional gateway to the old city, 87 of the 102 shops have been closed since the Intifada began in 2000. Restrictions on movement resulting from the Israeli security barrier have cut off hundreds of families from thousands of acres of land, reducing their income and contributing to poverty and unemployment. The failure of the Palestinian Authority to pay government salaries – because of Israel's refusal to transfer tax funds – also reduces local spending power.

      On Manger Square, 27-year-old Nabil Giacaman works at Christmas House, the olive-wood factory outlet founded by his grandfather Elias in 1925. Mr Giacaman's family arrived from Italy with the crusaders in the 14th Century. While he acknowledges the improving economic conditions in recent years, the isolation from Jerusalem and the uncertain future of relations with Israel still loom large.

      "I have the right to live in freedom without walls and without checkpoints," Mr Giacaman said. "They took ten acres of our olive groves when they built the wall. I have a permit to go through but I can't haul the harvest back without workers, and who knows when the soldiers might open fire? I don't want to die for olives."

      Nor does he expect any great improvement after the Israeli elections in January, the results of which are unlikely to change the blockades and the financial penalties imposed by Israel on the West Bank.

      "I'm 100 per cent for peace, but I don't hold out much hope," he said. "I don't expect the elections will have any effect on Israeli policies. History says there has been war here since the time of Jesus. We have a saying here: The land of Jesus will always cry."

      Mali fighters destroy more Timbuktu tombs
      Ansar Dine leader says "no single mausoleum will remain" in fabled city, as another armed group carries out amputations.
      Last Modified: 23 Dec 2012 18:28


      Al-Qaeda-linked fighters occupying Timbuktu in northern Mali have destroyed remaining mausoleums in the ancient city using pickaxes, a leader of the group says.

      "Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu, Allah doesn't like it," Abou Dardar, head of Ansar Dine, told the AFP news agency on Sunday. "We are in the process of smashing all the hidden mausoleums in the area."

      The smashing of the mausoleum, part of what the fighters say is about defending the purity of their faith against idol worship, follows a United Nations approval of a military force to wrest back control of the conflict-ridden area.

      Historians say the rebels' campaign of destruction is pulverising a valuable part of the history of Islam in Africa.

      The AFP reported that witnesses confirmed the claims, which were also corroborated by a resident who said he belonged to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), another group occupying the fabled city.

      "The Islamists are currently in the process of destroying all the mausoleums in the area with pickaxes," one witness said.

      "I saw Islamists get out of a car near the historic mosque of Timbuktu. They smashed a mausoleum behind a house shouting 'Allah is great, Allah is great'," another resident told AFP.

      Rebel groups with links to al-Qaeda took control of northern parts of the West African nation after a March 10 coup by low-ranking soldiers.

      Chechnya: Russia closes paper after journalists laugh at Vladimir Putin
      FRIDAY 21 DECEMBER 2012


      A Chechen newspaper has been closed down just hours after its editor-in-chief embarrassed the region’s Kremlin-backed leader while questioning Russian President Vladimir Putin.

      Belkis Dudayeva, the editor-in-chief of Kadyrov’s Path, provoked laughter when she asked Mr Putin a question which began: “Thank God that Chechnya has now become a region of peace and prosperity...”

      The resulting laughter from other journalists seems to have stung Ramzan Kadyrov, inset, the head of the Chechen Republic, who announced later that the newspaper would be closed down.

      Dealing with Loss


      Whether through death, loss, or disagreement, when we lose someone or something dear to us, we become overwhelmed by the pangs of grief; the pain of loss feels overbearing as though it would never end. Having to face the consequences of detachment can be a traumatic experience. All we can think of is the pain enshrouding our hearts and consuming our minds. With tears streaming down our faces, our faces contorted with emotion and our hearts too feeling as though a heavy burden has landed-the misery takes a hold of us and, blinded by our tears, we fail to see the light.

      But there is a light; a light to behold even in the darkest corner of the earth, even in the murkiest depths of the ocean. We don't have to drown in the quicksand of trauma. Nothing and nobody by Allah's Will has the ability to overpower the underlying depth of:

      Inna lilLahi wa inna ilayhi raji`oon.
      Verily, unto God do we belong and, verily, unto Him we shall return.
      When we actually give some time and thought to reflect upon the words which constitute this statement, we come to realize that there is an extremely powerful and truthful message behind it-an answer to all our questions, grief and emotions.

      This profound phrase captures the essence of our entire existence; it encapsulates where we came from and also where we are headed:

      Understanding the statement has the ability to eradicate regrets and past events. It holds the key to finding contentment during those times when we think, 'Why did that have to happen?' We can become immersed in questioning, and drown in the misery of relentless searching for the answer...Or we can discover patience by asserting that regardless of whatever has occurred, we will indeed return to Allah .

      When we truly understand the meaning of inna lilLahi wa inna ilayhi raji`oon, we find that no sadness will last forever, and that we shouldn't destroy ourselves by holding even the slightest bitterness or anger within us. By understanding that Allah is the One, the only One to Whom we belong, we should be able to move on from painful moments in our life (which we should assert as not being able to occur except that Allah willed for it to be) and strive for our goal of meeting Him.

      There should be no space for bitterness or anger when one truly comprehends the deep truthfulness of this phrase, and we should be able to forgive those who have intentionally or unintentionally wronged us because we know that Allah alone holds all sovereignty and that even our emotions belong to Him. By forgiving ourselves and others, by showing sabr (patience) in the face of death or loss, and by aspiring for Allah's Mercy and Judgment, we open ourselves to a whole new level of understanding ourselves in the context of space and time. We can understand by His Will that Allah is all that matters, and everything else in this dunya (current life, world) is a means for us to reach Him because we want to be able to See Him at the end, for without a doubt we will have to return to Him.

      'Inna' meaning 'verily' tells us that with certainty we belong to Allah , that is, He Created us and bestowed on us our beginning without a doubt. 'Inna' occurs twice in this phrase, providing an emphasis on the certainty of Allah's Ever-Lasting existence, emphasizing the certainty of our beginning AND our end. So Allah is Al-Awwal (the Beginning, the First) and Al-Akhir (the End, the Last). Al-Awwal ul Akhir (The Ever-Lasting) is the source of light in every single moment of despair, hardship, and difficulty where our tears and grief blind us. Instead of allowing or hearts and souls to become blinded by the darkness of sadness, we can train ourselves in times of positive feelings and negative feelings to find contentment in Allah's Decree, for nothing happens without His decreeing it.

      Allah tells us in Surah Baqarah, verses 155-156:

      And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirun (the patient). Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: "Verily! To Allah we belong and verily, to Him we shall return." (Qur'an 2:155-156)
      This is our Lord, the One Who Created us when we were nothing, telling us in His Divine Book-tanzil (sent down) to humans and jinn as a dhikr (reminder) - that He will definitely test us with trials, but that He has Promised reward for those who are patient.

      And how do we be 'patient' in the face of turmoil?

      Just as Allah has created tests involving struggle, risk and loss, Allah has also told us how to approach these tests; He has revealed to us that the patient are those who, when afflicted with calamity, say, "Inna lilLahi wa inna ilayhi raji`oon." In His infinite Mercy, Allah has allowed for relief to accompany difficulty. This also shows us that the losses and difficulties won't last forever, and that everything which we regard as 'good' or 'bad' in the dunya is of temporal nature.

      Jesus Through a Muslim Lens


      François Hollande acknowledges Algerian suffering under French rule
      French president says occupation and war leading to Algerian independence were 'brutal', but stops short of apology


      China sentences three Uighur men to death over alleged plane hijack
      Men were arrested after the incident in June, which rights groups say was prompted by an argument over seating


      China has sentenced three men to death and another to life in prison over an alleged plane hijacking attempt in June by members of the minority Uighur ethnic group in the Xinjiang region.

      Charges against the men included organising, leading, and taking part in a terrorist organisation, and using explosives, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the intermediate people's court in the city of Hotan where the incident occurred. It said the four confessed and did not contest the charges.

      In total, six men from the Muslim Uighur ethnic group were arrested for the alleged attempt on 29 June, two of whom later died from injuries sustained while fighting the crew and passengers. An overseas rights group says the incident was a brawl over a seat dispute, a relatively common occurrence in China, and not a hijacking attempt.

      Xinhua said the men had prepared for months, hoping to divert the plane overseas or blow it up in the process. Shortly after takeoff, they rose from their seats shouting "religious extremist slogans" and attacked the cockpit with pieces of a metal crutch that had been broken apart and sharpened at the ends, it said.

      However, in the process of trying to light explosives, they were subdued by air crew and other passengers and the plane returned to Hotan, the report said.

      Musa Yusuf, Arsdikali Yimin and Omar Yimin were sentenced to death on Tuesday, while Alimu Musa was given a life sentence, in part for "showing a good attitude in admitting his crimes", Xinhua said.

      Xinjiang is home to a large population of Uighurs, but is ruled by China's ethnic majority Hans. Clashes are common between authorities and Uighurs resentful of large-scale Han migration and heavy-handed government controls over their culture and religion.

      Beijing says China faces an organised terrorist threat from radical Muslim groups in the region.

      Such cases are usually decided by security officials well before any hearings are held, and confessions usually feature prominently in the prosecution. Activists say torture is especially common in Xinjiang.

      The alleged hijacking attempt came just days ahead of the third anniversary of 2009 riots in Urumqi when nearly 200 people were killed in fighting between Han Chinese and Uighurs.

      Beijing has since boosted its already massive security presence in the region and stepped up economic development and moves to further assimilate the Uighur population.

      Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the overseas World Uyghur Congress, said local Uighurs told him the four defendants were given court-appointed lawyers who failed to properly defend them, and called for an independent investigation.

      "No local Uighurs believe it was terror because of the heavy security Uighurs have to go through before they fly, several layers of it, much more than Han Chinese. So, no one believes they would be able to try to hijack a plane," Raxit said by telephone from Germany.

      Arab states agree on aid for Palestinians
      At meeting of Arab League ministers, Qatari PM brands the Quartet "a failure" and calls for rethink of peace process.
      Last Modified: 09 Dec 2012 18:25


      Arab League foreign ministers have agreed during a meeting to send hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority to make up for punitive measures imposed by the Israeli government after a successful bid for recognition at the United Nations.

      The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly last month to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state, an historic though largely symbolic move.

      Israel responded by withholding some $100m per month in taxes and customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

      The Israeli government said the money will instead go to pay Palestinian debts owed to Israeli companies.

      Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator from the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), an umbrella group of Palestinian political factions, said that Arab states agreed on Sunday in the Qatari capital, Doha, to make up for the shortfall.

      "We agreed that Arab states activate a resolution of providing $100m per month," he said.

      "The Qatari prime minister and the Arab League secretary-general will follow up the implementation of this resolution within two weeks."

      Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, had warned that the PA could collapse without the funds. Many of the authority's employees have not received their full wages for months. "We can't pay the salaries," he said.
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