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94Sharia News Watch 94

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  • Enzo Picardie
    Dec 29, 2003
      Sharia News Watch 94 : a collection newsquotes on Sharia, for
      research & educational purposes only. [*] Shortcut URL:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/shariawatch/message/94
      The Sharia Newswatch provides an almost weekly update of news quotes
      on Sharia (Islamic Law) & related subjects, as appearing on the major
      news- searchengines. All editions :
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/shariawatch/

      AFGHANISTAN

      Afghan Islam Debate Muted But Concessions a Concern - 27 Dec 03
      http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=reutersEdge&storyID=4049493
      ..
      The sensitive issue of Islam, and strict sharia law imposed by the
      ousted Taliban, has barely surfaced during two weeks of debate over
      Afghanistan's constitution that is reaching its closing stages. But as
      the interim leader bids to win delegates over to his vision of a
      strong presidential system that will weaken opponents, observers are
      wondering what concessions his supporters have had to make, including
      in the area of religion. Conservative Islamic leaders, many of them
      former "mujahideen" or holy warriors who defeated the Soviets with
      U.S. backing in the 1980s, have been busy jockeying for power at the
      expense of Washington's favorite, President Hamid Karzai. "Rather than
      viewing the passage of the draft as a sign of Karzai's strength, you
      should look at the compromises that have to be made to the draft,"
      said Vikram Parekh, analyst on Afghanistan for the International
      Crisis Group think-tank. A Western observer closely tracking the
      constitutional Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly, in a giant white tent on
      the edge of Kabul, said Karzai's opponents could have won a greater
      say over the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court. As a result,
      conservative clerics may win more control over the implementation of
      the law. That, and the vague wording of religious articles in the
      draft constitution, mean the real tussle over the role of Islam in
      post-Taliban Afghanistan will come later.
      ..
      Loya Jirga okays greater role of religion in state affairs - 28 Dec 03
      http://www.dawn.com/2003/12/28/nat18.htm
      ..
      Former Mujahideen groups appear to have scored a moral victory after a
      Loya Jirga committee approved changes proposed by them to the Afghan
      draft constitution which called for a greater role of religion in the
      government affairs. The Mujahideen groups have also struck a deal
      with President Hamid Karzai that called for curtailment in the powers
      of the president as given in the draft constitution, and for creation
      of a council to interpret and oversee the implementation of the
      constitution, according to a delegate who represented the Mujahideen
      groups in negotiations. Some of the changes were approved by a
      majority by the 38-member reconciliation committee.

      Two of the delegates who were members of the reconciliation committee
      and the two committee observers detailed the changes to Dawn on Friday
      evening shortly after the committee's meeting ended. Given the large
      number of former Mujahideen leaders and their political allies in the
      502-member Loya Jirga, the changes stand a good chance of being
      approved by the full assembly when they are voted on. The
      reconciliation committee, under pressure from these leaders, agreed on
      significant changes that would strengthen the role of Islam, now
      balanced with the government's secular powers as embodied throughout
      the constitution and carried out by the elected officials.

      These changes included the second and third articles of the
      constitution, members of the reconciliation committee said. One of the
      most significant changes has been sought in Article 3, which currently
      states that "no law can be made contrary to the sacred religion of
      Islam and the values of this constitution." The reconciliation
      committee agreed to eliminate the reference to "the values of this
      constitution," which includes concurrence with the UN Declaration on
      Human Rights. If the phrase were eliminated, some fear, conservative
      interpretations of Islam could take precedence over human rights.
      In article 2, which in the draft constitution states "the religion of
      Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam," the committee voted to
      change the wording to "the religion of Afghanistan's government and
      people is the sacred religion of Islam." However, in an
      acknowledgement to the women rights advocated by many delegates, the
      coordination committee also voted to specify in article 4 that the
      term "citizen" applied to men and women.
      ..
      A new article would be added to create the Diwan-i-Aali, or high
      council, which would supervise the implementation of the constitution,
      including review of the new laws passed by parliament. The council
      members would be appointed by the president immediately following the
      Loya Jirga's approval of the constitution. This addition leaves a
      room for a conservative interpretation of the constitution - depending
      entirely on who is selected for the council. Some delegates opposed
      the creation of this council for that reason.

      "All the (Jihadi) delegates wanted the word 'Islam' added to the end
      of every article," said a delegate. "They did not even want a market
      economy, rather Islamic economy to be written," he said. Mr Chakari
      said the Jihadi leaders had also been advocating for special rights in
      the constitution, "but the privileges they were demanding have not
      been fulfilled." The reconciliation committee, however, has to agree
      on another 22 articles that would probably be put to vote. These
      include: 1) the list of powers of the president, which some delegates
      want reduced. 2) The powers of parliament, which some delegates want
      to enhance. 3) That parliament should be elected at the same time as
      the president, presumably in June 2004. 4) The official languages,
      which the draft says are Dari and Pushtu; ethnic Uzbeks have advocated
      that their language should also be made one of the official languages.
      5) The national anthem, which the draft says should be in Pushtu; some
      have suggested a new anthem that is still in Pushtu but includes names
      of various tribes of Afghanistan. 6) The former king's title of
      "Father of the Nation" and awarding of ceremonial privileges to him.
      7) Former Mujahideen groups want to be accorded some privileges. 8)
      That anyone appointed as a minister could not have dual citizenship.
      10) The article allows Shia jurisprudence to be used "in cases dealing
      with personal matters" among Shias, who are in the minority in
      Afghanistan; but some delegates feel that only the Hanafi law of the
      majority Islamic sect should be used.

      ALGERIA

      Algerian government refuses to lift restrictions on Balhah - 26 Dec 03
      http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/031226/2003122613.html
      ..
      The Algerian authorities refused a request proposed by an Islamic
      party, to lift the sanctions off Ali Balhah, the deputy chairman of
      the banned Islamic Front For Salvation, who was released July this
      year, after he had spent 12 years in a military jail. The prominent
      member for the national reforms movement which leads the Islamic
      factions, Hassan Oreibi, said in a parliament session attended by the
      minister of justice al-Tayeb Bal A'ez that the sanctions imposed on
      Ali Balhah, that limit him from practicing any political activity, are
      legally baseless. Oreibi explained that Balhah, who was interrogated
      by the police twice after his release under the charge of violating
      the ban, found himself after his release jailed once again under other
      accusations, noting that the man issued no Fatwa (religious rulings)
      of bloodshed, and that everything attributed to him in this regard is
      baseless. But the minister of justice said in his reply that Balhah
      was jailed because it was proved he violated national security, and
      conspired against the state, and over damaging the national economy.
      .. Madani Balhah is currently outside the country for medical
      treatment after the authorities gave him a passport.

      BANGLADESH

      Thousands pour in as Ijtema begins - 28 Dec 03
      http://www.thedailystar.net/2003/12/28/d3122801044.htm
      ..
      The Biswa Ijtema * , the biggest Muslim congregation after Haji, began
      yesterday at Tongi on the bank of the river Turag with sermons
      highlighting the significance of Islam by scholars from home and
      abroad. The deliberations, on the basic norms and teachings of Islam
      in the light of the holy Quran and as explained in the Hadith, started
      after Fajr prayers and ran late in to night with breaks for prayers
      and for rest.
      ..
      The huge canopy on the 160-acre ground on the eastern bank of Turag
      was brimming with devotees. Many listened to the speeches squatting on
      the open space or on the adjacent roadsides. Thousands of others are
      still converging at the Ijtema ground from different districts of the
      country and abroad in all modes of transports including trains. Large
      numbers of delegates from India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, The
      Philippines, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran,
      Iraq, Oman and Qatar are participating. A significant number of
      devotees also came from Europe and the Americas. The day's
      deliberations were translated simultaneously into a number of
      languages including English, Arabic, Hindi and French for the foreign
      delegates.
      ..
      * http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2002-12/11/article09.shtml
      ..
      Biswa Ijtema, or the world congregation of Islamic preachers - the
      second largest Muslim congregation after Hajj. Led by Islamic
      preachers, devotees from across Bangladesh and thousands of others
      from countries including India, Pakistan, Sudan and Indonesia are
      assembling for the three-day Ijtema.
      ..
      The gathering is dedicated to teaching the tenets of Islam and
      practicing peace and harmony. An annual event at the site along the
      river Turag near Dhaka since1966 , it is sponsored by Tablig Jamaat,
      an organization of Muslim preachers based in New Delhi, India. Tablig
      Jamaat's followers, including farmers and university teachers, take
      weeks off each year to travel through cities and villages to preach
      Islam. Tablig Jamaat originated in India in the1950's. Followers of
      the Sunni group which organizes the Ijtema, believe in spreading the
      word of God without using modern media or technology.
      ..
      Most Tablig members are Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi, but the
      Ijtema now attracts believers from the Middle East, Turkey, and from
      as far afield as Japan, western Europe and north America. The purpose
      of the gathering is to remind Muslims of their responsibilities, and
      to encourage them to spread Islam. The event's rituals include
      readings from the Koran, hymns and sermons by Islamic scholars, and
      daily mass prayers relayed by hundreds of microphones throughout the
      area. Organizers, the Tablig Jamaat movement, was specifically
      launched to encourage Muslims to practice Islam in everyday life.
      In the early1960 s the Ijtema was moved to Kakraeel mosque in Dhaka,
      then the capital of Bangladesh's forerunner East Pakistan. It was
      relocated to open land north of the city owned by the government as
      numbers of participants grew. A list with the names of Sunni scholars
      who may take part is yet to be finalized.

      200 couples married in mass ceremony in Bangladesh - 27 Dec 03
      http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1016898.htm
      ..
      Two hundred Bangladeshi couples were married in a mass ceremony meant
      to make a statement against dowry payments, a frequent trigger for
      domestic violence, press reports said on Saturday. The non-
      governmental Chasi Chashi Kalyan Samity gave each couple gifts worth
      10,000 taka [EUR 138,-] after they pledged to reject the dowry
      tradition. The ceremony was led on Friday by Moulana Obaidul Haque,
      the chief cleric of the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque. Dowry
      payments or gifts, customarily given by brides' families to grooms,
      are officially banned in Bangladesh, the world's third largest Muslim
      majority country. But the tradition remains widely practiced, with
      disputes over dowry frequently cited as triggers for violence against
      women.

      BRUNEI DARUSSALAM

      Muslims urged to disregard chain letters - 27 Dec 03
      http://www.brudirect.com/DailyInfo/News/Archive/Dec03/271203/bb11.htm
      ..
      Believing that failure to resend chain letters or phone messages to a
      certain number of people may bring disaster is fictitious and must be
      avoided by Muslims. Religious experts said disasters would not strike
      people who disregarded such letters and that there is no religious
      teaching that stated such orders must be executed. They said in some
      chain letters, al-Quran verses and hadith (prophet's sayings) were
      included. "The writers of such chain instructions are exploiting
      religion to their own advantages," they said. Many in Brunei
      Darussalam have been receiving chain letters claiming that if they
      failed to forward such letters, they would be struck by disasters.
      Such letters began with religious teachings which religious experts
      said must be adhered too.

      CANADA

      Some Canada Muslims to Use Sharia in Civil Disputes - 27 Dec 03
      http://asia.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=reutersEdge&storyID=4048653

      DUBAI UAE

      DIB presents 'Small Saver' programme - 27 Dec 03
      http://www.ameinfo.com/news/Detailed/32787.html
      ..
      'We live in an extremely commercial environment where the focus is on
      spending and buying,' said Mr.Nasser Al Suwaidi, Manager, Abu Dhabi
      Branch, DIB. 'As a bank with family oriented values, we strongly feel
      that we need to educate and encourage the children in our society to
      save money and plan wisely for their future. It is with this objective
      that we have launched this programme that is focused on the younger
      members of our society. We are happy to note that our participation at
      the expo has attracted the attention of a large number of children,
      who were thrilled to receive the attractive money boxes,' he added.
      The 'Small Saver' programme presents children with moneyboxes that
      have been sealed by the DIB seal, thus prohibiting them from taking
      the money out once it has been put into the box. Once filled, the box
      can be taken to the nearest DIB branch in Abu Dhabi and opened by the
      bank teller, who will open an account for the child. The teller will
      also present the child with another moneybox, to continue the saving
      process.

      FRANCE

      French Woman Denied Access To Bank For Wearing Hijab - 27 Dec 03
      http://www.islam-online.net/English/News/2003-12/27/article04.shtml
      ..
      A French bank admitted Friday, December26 , preventing a woman wearing
      hijab from getting in, amid calls from Muslim groups and scholars to
      boycott French goods in protest against violation of Muslims' civil
      rights in France. Société Générale said one of its security guards had
      turned away from a branch in Paris a woman on Monday, December22 ,
      after she refused to take off her hijab, French press reports said.
      ..
      The bank claimed that the Muslim woman did not abide by a sign that
      required customers to take off "scarves, caps, helmets and all other
      head coverings and sunglasses".
      ..
      In another related development, a number of British Muslim groups
      launched a campaign to boycott French products in order to send Chirac
      a clear message that hijab is a red line that must not be crossed. The
      Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) and Muslim Woman Society urged
      other Muslims groups and institutions to respond to the boycott calls.
      The campaign is to begin on January 17 , with peaceful demonstrations
      and sit-ins outside French embassies in the world to protest the
      proposed ban, the groups said in a joint statement sent to
      IslamOnline.net. They also formed a world alliance against hijab ban -
      in response to an appeal by prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Youssef
      Qaradawi.
      ..
      A leading Iraqi Shiite scholar has also called for a boycott of French
      products in protest at the ban move. "I suggest that a fatwa be
      issued by (Shiite religious scholars in the Iraqi holy city of)
      An-Najaf, (the Iranian Shiite religious center of) Qom and Al-Azhar
      (the Sunni Muslims' highest religious authority) ordering a boycott of
      French products," said Moqtada al-Sadr.

      INDIA

      Ayodhya probe may be extended - 27 Dec 03
      http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/385410.cms

      Bigots demand bill declaring Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims - 27 Dec 03
      http://www.thedailystar.net/2003/12/27/d3122701077.htm
      ..
      The anti-Ahmadiyya religious bigots yesterday threatened to hem in
      members of parliament (MPs), elected on Islamic manifesto, if they do
      not table a bill declaring the Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims in the next
      parliament session. "Since they promised an Islamic society, Motiur
      Rahman Nizami, Fazlul Haq Amini, Delwar Hossain Sayeedi (and MPs of
      Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamic parties) must place a bill in this
      regard in parliament,"demanded Mahmudul Hasan Mamtazi, amir of Khatme
      Nabuwat Andolon Coordination Committee, an anti-Ahmadiyya alliance.
      "If you don't do so, beware Nizami, Amini, Sayeedi and the others, we
      will gherao you wherever we find you," warned Mamtazi from a
      demonstration he chaired at Jatrabari. Some fifteen hundred
      anti-Ahmadiyyas of a conglomerate of Islamist outfits took part in the
      demonstration jointly organised by Nabuwat Anodolon and Aamra
      Dhakabashi, a socio-cultural organisation, on Shaheed Faruq Road after
      Juma prayers yesterday. "We will paralyse the whole country including
      the city if the government does not evict the 'kaffir Ahmadiyyas' from
      the Nakhalpara Ahmadiyya mosque by January 9," Mamtazi threatened.
      Joint Secretary General of Nabuawat Andolon, Nazmul Haq said, "We will
      drive the Ahmadiyyas out of their Nakhalpara mosque and lay siege to
      other Ahmadiyya mosques across the country simultaneously on January
      9."

      INDONESIA

      People take over fight against corruption - 26 Dec 03
      http://www.thejakartapost.com/yesterdaydetail.asp?fileid=20031226.M01
      ..
      It is a miracle that Indonesia has remained intact as a Nation given
      the rampant corruption that benefits only the ruling elite, while many
      of their fellow Indonesians struggle to survive, or worse. The
      government appears ignorant of the many international surveys that
      consistently rank the struggling country one of the most corrupt in
      the world.
      ..
      The most recent example was when Indonesia's largest Muslim
      organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, which claim a
      total of 70 million members, signed a memorandum of understanding
      (MOU) in October to fight corruption.
      ..
      Both NU and Muhammadiyah run thousands of learning institutions, from
      elementary schools to universities. NU even went a step further,
      saying it was considering issuing a fatwa that states that a Muslim
      who dies as a corruptor is not eligible to be given a special prayer
      by other Muslims. This act is considered as the most disgraceful
      sanction for Muslims. The initiative was followed by concrete steps
      by the Prosperous Justice Party and the Star Crescent Party, which
      requires that its candidates contesting next year's general election
      sign agreements not to become involved in any corruption.
      ..
      Though the vast majority of judges stubbornly acquit the few
      high-powered thieves that actually end up facing corruption charges,
      some courts have done their duty to find some guilty, based on the
      evidence presented to the court. However, those few have not seen the
      inside of a jail where they may finally get a chance to think about
      the misery they cause their victims, the long-suffering people of
      Indonesia. It is a disgrace that Indonesia's House of Representatives
      is led by House Speaker Akbar Tandjung, who has been convicted of
      stealing money intended to be used to feed the country's poorest
      citizens. The sentence has even been upheld by the High Court.
      ..
      But, it is not fair to put the burden on the NU, Muhammadiyah and
      other groups, while the government lacks a commitment to phase out the
      crime. The government must not defy a warning from the late noted
      senior economist Sumitro Djojohadikusumo late last, who estimated that
      about 30 percent of the country's state budget was siphoned off each
      year.

      [Aceh] Rebels have no address to be obliterated - 26 Dec 03
      http://www.thejakartapost.com/yesterdaydetail.asp?fileid=20031226.N01
      ..
      In a desperate attempt to crack down on the secessionist movement,
      President Megawati Soekarnoputri placed the country's westernmost
      province of Aceh under a state of emergency with the declaration of
      martial law on May 19, paving the way for a power-hungry military to
      take the reins in the resource-rich province.
      ..
      But seven months into the operation, GAM rebels are still very much
      around and their leaders are still in full command of the secessionist
      movement. Indeed, government troops have regained territories
      previously controlled by GAM but the insurgency still poses a great
      security threat to both civilians and the military. Its mission not
      accomplished, the government extended martial law in mid-November for
      another six months.
      ..
      The government took the right path when it introduced in 2001 special
      autonomy status for Aceh, under which the province would largely
      manage its own government and retain almost 70 percent of its
      revenues. The province would also be free to implement sharia (Islamic
      law) and establish a sharia court. The government, however, has yet to
      implement the law. Since Jakarta has long failed Aceh and violated
      the rights of its people, don't expect the Acehnese, especially GAM
      rebels, to patch up their differences with the government quickly and
      abandon their independence aspirations. The government has to go the
      extra mile, proving to and convincing the Acehnese and the rebels that
      it is now serious about addressing their grievances. It is the
      government, not GAM rebels, that has to prove that it is sincere in
      its peaceful undertaking.

      IRAN

      EC approves equal blood-money - 28 Dec 03
      http://www.iribnews.com/Full_en.asp?news_id=195275
      ..
      The Expediency Council (EC) on Saturday approved a Majlis bill on
      equal "blood-money", or diyeh, for Muslim and non-Muslim Iranian
      nationals. EC secretary Mohsen Rezaei said under a state verdict by
      the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali
      Khamenei, Iran's religious minorities can enjoy a "blood-money" equal
      to that of Muslims. He said the EC had completed and clarified the
      bill that the supervisory Guardians Council (GC) had earlier rejected.

      The GC in April had returned the bill to the Majlis, arguing that it
      contradicted the Sharia law (the law of Islam) because the amount of
      diyeh for recognized religious minorities in Iran is known in that
      law. "If the Vali Faqih (the supreme jurisprudent) deems it right
      that a certain amount should be paid to the family of a non-Muslim
      victim in addition to his diyeh to equal that of a Muslim, we will act
      according to his directive," the GC had stressed in a letter to Majlis
      Speaker Mahdi Karroubi.

      [Bam] Crucial test for mullahs - 28 Dec 03
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1113112,00.html
      ..
      The symmetry is striking. In the years before the revolution of 1979
      there was a series of earthquakes in Iran. The Shah and his acolytes
      remained aloof, the administration was incompetent and it was the
      Islamic groups that led the humanitarian effort - and boosted their
      popular support massively as a result. Now, of course, it is the
      Islamic groups that are in power, facing the daunting task of
      rebuilding a city from the ground up.
      ..
      If someone like Hashemi Rafsanjani - the powerful former president who
      comes from Kerman and is a key conservative - is seen in the rubble of
      Bam with his sleeves rolled up in the next few days, the revolutionary
      elite may still make some political capital out of Friday's tragedy.
      But whatever the ayatollahs do, it will still be clear that they are
      not the ones doing, literally, the bulk of the heavy lifting. It will
      be the Red Crescent, other NGOs, the pre-revolutionary units of the
      armed forces, largely moderate or secular Iranian medics and
      scientists - all assisted by a large number of foreigners. In a direct
      echo of the situation in the Seventies, the ayatollahs are likely to
      remain distant and suffer politically as a result. And, as Dr Ali
      Ansari of Leeds University points out, the earthquake raises key
      questions about the religious authority of the regime too.
      'Superstitious, devout people in rural areas will be asking why this
      can happen if Iran is, as they have been told, a pure Islamic country
      favoured by God?' he said. 'They will want to know what is wrong. Is
      it the government itself?'
      ..
      In 1972 an earthquake led to the ousting of Somoza, the Nicaraguan
      dictator. In both Algeria in 1988 and Egypt in 1992 Islamic groups led
      the effort to help earthquake victims while their governments
      floundered. The support they received contributed to vicious Islamic
      insurgencies in both states.

      Modern Muslims surf for love and marriage - 27 Dec 03
      http://iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=29&art_id=ct20031227092701168I653444&se=
      t_id=1
      ..
      An Internet site run by a Muslim cleric may not sound like an obvious
      route to wedded bliss. But hundreds of Iranians, frustrated by
      traditional marriage customs and strict restrictions on mingling with
      the opposite sex, are turning to mid-ranking Shi'ite cleric Jafar
      Savalanpour Ardabili to find their ideal match. Such is the demand for
      his services that 38-year-old Ardabili has had to restrict access to
      his website (www.ardabili.com) to process the floods of applications
      from those in search of love. "This place is like an Islamic coffee
      shop where people can meet each other, have a healthy relationship and
      finally get married," said Ardabili at his cramped office on the third
      floor of a nondescript building overlooking a busy Tehran street.
      ..
      The modern Iranian woman, he points out, typically has a university
      degree - more than 60 percent of students entering higher education
      are women. Many have jobs or run small businesses. For them,
      traditional marriage customs - a complex, class-ridden procedure in
      which the families of the prospective couple first reach an agreement
      before the man formally proposes - are anachronistic and suffocating.
      ..
      A section on his website contains queries from people struggling to
      reconcile their sexual urges with religious beliefs or fretting over
      the realisation that they are gay. Ardabili, whose website contains
      links to official endorsements by senior Shi'ite clerics, is quick to
      distinguish his from other Iranian sites offering love over the
      Internet. "Mine is not a friendship dating service. We are using the
      Internet as a tool to help those who are willing to get into married
      life," he said. In the waiting room, fairy lights and soft music
      lighten the heavy, expectant atmosphere that hangs over the group of
      mostly middle-aged men and younger-looking women.
      ..
      Since he started six years ago, Ardabili has brokered a thousand
      unions. His clients range in age from 16 to 82 and he receives around
      30 new applicants a day. Those who fill out the basic form over the
      Internet are invited to his office and asked to answer more probing
      questions which take two hours to complete. Questions include: "Are
      you interested in going to parties?," "Will you stay married if you
      learn your spouse can't have children?," "What will you do if your
      family opposes the union?". After studying the answers, Ardabili
      selects a shortlist of five prospective partners for the applicant and
      allows them to look through their forms. No photographs are shown at
      this stage. .. Once a preferred match has been selected, their
      photographs are exchanged and if they are still keen to proceed a
      first meeting is arranged, at Ardabili's office, in his presence.

      IRAQ

      U.S. backing down on some plans for Iraq - 28 Dec 03
      http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/specialreports/iraq/s_172035=
      .html
      ..
      Plans to privatize state-owned businesses -- a key part of a larger
      Bush administration goal to replace the socialist economy of deposed
      president Saddam Hussein with a free-market system -- have been
      dropped over the past few months. So too has a demand that Iraqis
      write a constitution before a transfer of sovereignty.

      Everyone casting suspicious eye on Iraq's Hezbollah - 29 Dec 03
      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/a/2003/12/29/MNGBN3V=
      54A1.DTL
      ..
      Since September, the group has had a low-key presence in Baghdad, and
      is publishing a slick weekly newspaper. The newspaper, Beyna (which
      means "truth" in Arabic), for years a small monthly magazine intended
      for guerrilla fighters in the southern marshes, now is a four-color
      broadsheet. A recent front page featured photos of two bogeymen of
      international terror -- Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of
      Iran's Islamic government, and Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah, the spiritual
      head of Lebanon's Hezbollah -- along with an article about the
      religious and political meaning of Jerusalem Day, which ends Ramadan,
      the monthlong Muslim holiday. Underneath the headlines, however, was
      an editorial by editor-in-chief Sittar Jabbar recounting the Iraqi
      Hezbollah's long years of guerrilla sacrifice in the marshes and
      plaintively asking the Americans to give it a seat on Iraq's Governing
      Council.
      ..
      The origin of the group's name -- which means Party of God -- is a
      matter of general confusion, but it generally connotes Shiite
      radicalism. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is a major political player, with 11
      members in the parliament and an extensive social-services network.
      Its guerrilla forces led the resistance against the Israeli occupation
      of Lebanon, and it is blamed in several major acts of terrorism,
      including the 1982 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina.
      ..
      For now, it appears that Iraqi Hezbollah's fighters have been excluded
      from the recent deal between U.S. administrator Paul Bremer and the
      Governing Council that would allow militia members from seven of the
      council's parties to join a new counterinsurgency battalion being
      formed under American supervision. But Al-Alawi said that Hezbollah's
      militia currently acts as a local police force in many southern
      cities, such as Nasiriya and Ummara, where the official U.S. ban on
      militias is widely ignored. He says Hezbollah has 250,000 members
      nationwide -- a number that observers in Baghdad call greatly
      inflated.
      ..
      [Jabbar and Hezbollah chief spokesman Mohammed] Al-Alawi insisted that
      Hezbollah does not want to install religious government in Iraq. He
      said that velayat-e faqih, the Iranian concept of clerical rule, "is
      their idea, implemented in Iran. But Iraq is a totally different
      society, you see a lot of (religious) minorities. Velayat-e faqih
      would not fit in Iraq."
      ..
      Other Shiite politicians take a hands-off stance toward Iraq's
      Hezbollah, saying its goals are unclear. "We know Hezbollah well from
      the years of resistance, but we do not know what its current aims
      are," said Ibrahim Al-Jaffari, the head of the Islamic Dawa Party and
      a member of the Governing Council. "We are watching them."

      Sunni leaders band together for power transition - 26 Dec 03
      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/a/2003/12/26/MNGSL3U=
      MK71.DTL
      ..
      Leaders of Sunni Muslim groups across the country agreed to form a
      council on Thursday to speak with a unified political voice during the
      transition of Iraq from American rule to Iraqi governance. The demands
      of the group, called the State Council for the Sunnis, could greatly
      complicate the transfer of power for the Americans and for other Iraqi
      religious and ethnic groups, especially Shiite Muslims and Kurds.
      ..
      It is not yet apparent what demands the new council will make of the
      Coalition Provisional Authority or the Iraqi Governing Council as the
      June 30 deadline for a transfer of power approaches.
      ..
      Council spokesman Muhammad Ahmed al-Rashid told al-Jazeera, the Qatar-
      based satellite news channel: "It was complicated during the
      oppressive former regime, and now it's become more complicated because
      of the occupation. So we're forming this shuria to gather all the
      voices and to be one voice." A shuria is a state council, and it is
      clear that the new group intends to wield considerable influence in
      the formation of a government. Seventy people attended the inaugural
      meeting Thursday morning at the Umm al Qura Mosque in western Baghdad.
      They mostly represented the three major Sunni groups in Iraq: the
      Sufis, the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood.

      KUWAIT

      Call for music ban in Muslim schools - 27 Dec 03
      http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,8268915%255E1702,00.html
      ..
      An Islamist parliamentarian has said he was coordinating with other
      MPs to ban music education at schools in Kuwait as "anti-Islamic and a
      waste of time". MP Daifallah Buramia al-Mutairi, in a statement
      received today, said he could submit such a proposal to parliament,
      which is due to start a debate on the emirate's education policies
      next week. "Music lessons use up the students' time without any
      benefit. Parents do not send their children to learn how to play
      music, but for useful scientific education that is good for them and
      for their nation," the MP said. Mutairi was a medical doctor before he
      was elected to parliament for the first time in July's general
      elections, backed by his tribe for his religious views. Arguing that
      music contravened Islam, Mutairi said he would propose substituting
      music lessons with Islamic education.

      Kuwait remains a religiously conservative country, where alcohol and
      discotheques are banned. In July 1997, the information ministry banned
      all public music concerts or shows that contravene sharia Islamic law
      and Kuwaiti traditions, in line with parliamentary recommendations.
      But the emirate recently resumed granting licences to music shows by
      well-known Arab pop singers despite opposition from Islamic MPs who
      make up at least 40 per cent of the 50 member parliament.

      MALAYSIA

      Looking back....: Towards gender equity in the workplace - 29 Dec 03
      http://www.emedia.com.my/Current_News/NST/Monday/Features/20031229110113/Ar=
      ticle/indexnew_html
      ..
      Feb 27 - The Government agrees to the appointment of women Syariah
      Court judges with scope of duties and jurisdiction similar to that
      enjoyed by their male counterparts. Despite this, a female Syariah
      judge in Malaysia remains an unrealised dream.
      ..
      Oct 27 - Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat
      Abdul Jalil slams the Kelantan Government's RM 60,000 [EUR 12.744,-]
      roadshow to teach its women to dress in "proper Muslim attire".
      ..
      Nov 18 - The Women and Family Development Ministry announces that it
      has begun preparing a document outlining strategies to unify the
      enforcement of Syariah for the benefit of single mothers.

      [opinion] Stigma and discrimination - 28 Dec 03
      http://thestar.com.my/lifestyle/story.asp?file=/2003/12/28/features/6934559=

      ..
      I was enraged when I read a part of the article They Are Not Alone
      (Insight, StarMag, Nov 30) because the imam refused to conduct the
      last funeral rites because the deceased was HIV positive. A man of God
      would not have done that because He does not discriminate against us.
      As a first-aider, I was taught that HIV can only be transmitted
      through an exchange of body fluids (breast milk, semen, vaginal fluid,
      etc), contact with blood or transmission from mom to child in the
      womb. There is no other way a person can be infected with HIV, even
      through tears, urine or sweat. The imam should have known better.

      Malaysians told to strive for greater progress - 27 Dec 03
      http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/Saturday/National/20031227082015/Art=
      icle/
      ..
      "We must learn to become intelligent. In this respect, our education
      system must be dynamic. This is required by our religion," [Prime
      Minister Badawi] told a large crowd, comprising employees of Petronas,
      Telekom Malaysia and Tenaga Nasional attending a Hari Raya open house
      at the UiTM hall in Suragate. Abdullah said the success that Malaysia
      had achieved so far, such as the introduction of an Islamic banking
      and insurance system, Islamic bonds and the Gold Dinar was done
      without the disagreement of other races.

      [opinion] Religion, rather than 'adat', leading community now - 28 Dec
      http://www.emedia.com.my/Current_News/NST/Sunday/Columns/20031228085453
      ..
      Titled Adat Melayu Serumpun, the book touches on the customs practised
      in the Malay archipelago, and has extensive references on how adat
      (custom) had influenced and shaped the direction of Malay nation
      states. Compiled by Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Abu Bakar, a member of the
      museum's board of directors, with contributions from Malay
      intellectuals and academicians, the book helps us understand the Malay
      adat. A phrase used on the book cover, adat bersendi syarak, syarak
      bersendi kitabullah (customs propped up by religious laws, religious
      laws propped up by the Book, in this case the Quran) is very telling.
      It tells of the golden era of Malacca and other Malay kingdoms, how
      they attracted foreign traders, and how colonisers destroyed all that.

      Much as these intertwining of adat and Islam has persisted till today,
      there have been attempts to separate the two by Islamists. Though it
      can be argued that some aspects of adat are nothing less than a direct
      affront to the principles and teachings of Islam, it can also be
      argued that adat ensured the archipelago was a fertile land for Islam
      to flourish. Adat had featured strongly in how the community lived and
      worked together to build what is today known as the Malay race. So
      firmly did Malays of those days follow their adat that it gave rise to
      the saying biar mati anak tapi jangan mati adat (let the child perish
      but not the custom).
      ..
      In the past, it was Malay nationalism steeped in adat that led the
      community forward. Now it is religious consideration which is
      providing the thrust. These changes are obvious. Gone is the
      selendang, the cloth used by Malay women to cover their head, and in
      comes the tudung, the headscarf. The baju melayu, the traditional
      attire worn by Malay men, is competing with the jubah, the flowing
      Arab robe, that seems to denote religious piety. While such a
      viewpoint may be deemed simplistic, these changes have affected almost
      all levels of Malay society.

      As a consultant with a Government think-tank noted: "Most of these
      changes can indeed be superficial. Take the tudung, for example. While
      it is accepted as a religious requirement, many of our womenfolk are
      wearing it as a representation of religious awareness. "I have nothing
      against that. However, to force the use the tudung, either by
      legislation or peer pressure, is something which should not be
      encouraged. "Wearing the tudung then becomes a mere form without any
      substance. There could be cases of Muslim girls with the tudung
      indulging in vice and this, when publicised, could affect Islam." The
      consultant said the tudung was only one example of form being
      emphasised without first ensuring that substance becomes the essence.
      ..
      Most Malay Muslim writers tend to stay away from questioning the
      wisdom of enforcing the wearing of the tudung though they may be in
      the forefront opposing any move to stop Muslims from wearing the
      headscarves in public schools, as witnessed when France and Singapore
      decided to impose the ban.
      ..
      The 1999 general election is a classic example of the disregard for
      religion and adat. It was one election when anything went, with Malay
      politicians, from those without Islamic credentials to those revered
      as tok guru or ulama (religious experts), making vitriolic political
      statements, some of which are not fit to be printed. If politicians
      without Islamic credentials had acted in this way, it would have been
      something expected of them. But when tok guru themselves so behave,
      what hope then is there for the religious and adat values of Malays?
      All these reflect on form rather than substance. In that sense,
      those having a religious outlook, especially those who promote
      themselves as a representative of Islam, carry a heavier burden than
      "ordinary" politicians in terms of how to behave. But somehow or
      other, Malays seem to be able to overlook such aspects and are still
      comfortable with these developments. Going by what the scholars had
      written in the book at the Malacca Museum, it is possible that such
      indifference could very well be caused by the erosion of adat. All
      these do not paint a nice countenance of modern Malays. They are lucky
      though for there is still the statue of the Malay warrior in Malacca
      who has that kind face for reflection.

      PAKISTAN

      First Hajj Flight Leaves For Jeddah - 27 Dec 03
      http://www.paknews.com/flash.php?id=20&date1=2003-12-27
      ..
      The first Hajj flight for Saudi Arabia left here Friday evening, as
      hundreds of Hujjaj reciting "Labaik-Alahuma-Labaik" boarded PK-1101 on
      their way to perform their religious obligation.
      ..
      The Pakistan International, he said will carry the bulk of pilgrims
      through 320 flights, while the Saudi airline plans to operate 43 such
      flights. He said 480 khuddam, 270 members of the Medical Mission will
      accompany the pilgrims. He said special training programmes were
      arranged for Hajjis and they have been provided books, audio tapes and
      have been shown video documentaries to make the performance of Hajj
      easier. He said on the directive of the Prime Minister the Hajjis
      have been vaccinated free of cost. He said the imported vaccine from
      Belgium costs Rs 450 [EUR 6,30] per head. He said the Hujjaj will be
      provided 10 litres of the holy water (Ab-e-zam-zam) besides travel
      bags, umbrellas and some other items.

      [Balochistan] Sharia Bill will block extremism, says Agha - 27 Dec 03
      http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_27-12-2003_pg7_10
      ..
      Balochistan's Sharia Bill for 2003 will block sectarianism and
      religious extremism, said Maulana Abdul Bari Agha, Sharia Council
      chairman and member of the provincial assembly (MPA), here on Friday
      at a council meeting. He said that publicity or propaganda of
      sectarianism would be prohibited and all sects would be free to follow
      their beliefs. No one would be allowed to issue statements and
      interfere in others' affairs, while violators of the law would be
      punished, he added.

      Chairman Agha said details of the bill would be thoroughly considered
      at regular council meetings to make it acceptable to all sects of
      Muslims. The Sharia Bill was prepared according to the recommendations
      of the Islamic Ideology Council. Chairman Agha said the media would be
      bound not to show or produce anti-Sharia programmes and people found
      guilty of violating this restriction would be punished. There would be
      a ban on anti-Sharia business practices, as well as on means of
      earning that the bill considered illegal, he added.
      ..
      He said all Muslims would be advised to pray regularly. There would be
      a prayer break in offices and all necessary arrangements in offices
      etc for prayers en masse. Talking about tribal feuds, he said jirgas
      (tribal councils) of clerics, tribal leaders and law experts would be
      formed in Balochistan.

      PALESTINE

      Increased Palestinian Adherence to Right of Return Following the
      Geneva Initiative http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD63403

      PHILIPPINES

      Philippine brand of Islam faces foreign influence - 26 Dec 03
      http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/MAN161070.htm
      ..
      His ancestors were among the first Arab missionaries who introduced
      Islam to the Philippines in the 15th century. But times started
      changing in the late 1970s with the introduction of rigid Wahabi
      teachings brought to the southern Philippines by religious leaders
      trained in the Middle East. The newer ways have little room for the
      brand of Islam practised by most of the nation's eight million to 10
      million Muslims or traditions such as the "pandita", the dwindling
      number of old village men who conduct cradle-to-grave rituals.
      ..
      The younger generation of Muslim scholars and preachers, called
      "ustadz" and "ulama", is fast embracing the imported practices,
      especially after being given scholarships to Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi
      Arabia. "Their numbers are growing rapidly," Baraguir said. "They
      have the facilities and the money to recruit more missionaries and
      scholars, send them to the Middle East for schooling and bring them
      back to influence more people to embrace their faith." He said the
      Wahabi influence could be seen in the daily lives of many Filipino
      Muslims who were being urged to give up habits such as smoking and
      drinking beer, and were growing beards and attending Islamic schools
      called "madaris". Islam in the Philippines is predominantly from the
      Shafi'ite Sunni school with an influence of Sufism, a more mystical
      branch of the religion widely practiced in Southeast Asia, where close
      to 300 million Muslims live. Sidney Jones, the Southeast Asia
      director for International Crisis Group think-tank, said the influence
      of Wahabism was not a new phenomenon.
      ..
      Ampatuan said the Sunnis mounted an unprecedented Islamic revival
      campaign by recruiting, training and sending missionaries and even
      helping the Afghans drive out the Soviet forces. Poverty was another
      factor behind the increase of Wahabi influence, he said. Thousands of
      the Filipino contract workers who have gone to the Middle East since
      the 1970s have returned as converts, many showing more dedication than
      those born as Muslims at home. They build rural clinics, mosques and
      Islamic schools, and influence the community to embrace their brand of
      Islam. Ampatuan said there were now at least 3,000 Islamic schools in
      Mindanao and some government officials believe they could be becoming
      the recruitment ground for militants.
      ..
      Baraguir [..] and several others in Cotabato City have taken up the
      cause of trying to check the inroads of Middle East-inspired Islamic
      beliefs. Five years ago, they began broadcasting a radio programme
      criticising foreign-trained religious leaders seeking to impose
      practices akin to those of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But Baraguir
      has not fund it easy trying to prompt Muslims to defend their
      heritage. Three years ago, a bomb exploded outside the radio station
      where the group was airing its one-hour daily show.

      QATAR

      woman appointed President of Hamad medical establishment - 26 Dec 03
      http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/031226/2003122608.html
      ..
      Lateifa Ibrahim al-Houti was appointed as the chairperson of the board
      of Hamad medical establishment in Qatar. According to the decree which
      was signed by the Amir of Qatar, Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, on
      Wednesday, each of Aesha al-Ansari and Hanan Muhammad Salem al-Kawari
      were appointed in the membership of the establishment's board council
      which is composed of 6 persons.
      ..
      During the past few months, several women were appointed for the
      presidency of important official establishments in Qatar. In May this
      year, Sheikha al-Mahmoud was appointed as a minister of education to
      be the first woman in the Gulf region to assume a ministerial post in
      the government. In November Aesha al-Mana'e was appointed a dean for
      the faculty of Sharia, the law and the Islamic studies at Qatar
      university in an unprecedented event in the Arab and Islamic world.
      The appointment of both Sheikha and Aesha came following the
      ratification of the first constitution in Qatar since the independence
      of the country in 1971, in a referendum on April 29 this year. The
      Qatari constitution offered woman the right to vote as a candidate and
      prticipate in elections, and created the principle of a Parliament by
      forming the Shoura council whose 45 members are elected by direct
      vote, in elections to be held next year.

      SAUDI ARABIA

      Saudi 'national dialogue' goes into round two - 27 Dec 03
      http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=8311
      ..
      Some 75 Saudi intellectuals, clerics and researchers will take part in
      a second session of the "Convention for National Dialogue" opening in
      the holy city of Mecca Saturday, the official SPA news agency reported
      Friday. The gathering is a follow-up on a similar landmark meeting
      held in Riyadh in June, which ended with a call for wide-ranging
      reforms in the conservative kingdom and led to the establishment of a
      dialogue center. More than 60 Muslim clerics and intellectuals
      including woman academics, in addition to 15 researchers in various
      fields, will participate in the five-day gathering, which will be held
      under the theme "Extremism and moderation, a comprehensive view,"
      organizers said.
      ..
      The first Convention for National Dialogue, called by crown prince and
      de facto ruler, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, urged widening of political
      participation, more judicial independence and fair distribution of
      wealth, among many other things. The unprecedented meeting for the
      first time brought members of the Sunni majority face to face with
      their Shiite and Ismaili counterparts. The latter two Muslim sects
      have not been recognized in Saudi Arabia, which is dominated by the
      strict Wahhabi Sunni school. But Abdullah Nassif, deputy chair of the
      second session, denied Friday that the dialogue was being conducted on
      a sectarian basis, insisting it was an inclusive "national dialogue."

      Validity and Applicability of Fatwas - by Adil Salahi - 22 Dec 03
      http://www.arabnews.com/?page=5§ion=0&article=36838&d=27&m=12&y=2003
      ..
      In the light of all this, it is established that a fatwa is binding on
      the person giving it only. Others may or may not take it. They may ask
      a different scholar, or adopt some earlier ruling. The question arises
      here concerning those who act on the basis of a certain fatwa, which
      is mistaken. The matter is simpler than people think. If you act on
      the basis of a fatwa given by a scholar you trust, and you have no
      means of establishing that it is wrong, God forgives you the mistake
      that you do as a result. The scholar will be accountable for his
      fatwa. If the mistake is genuine and the person concerned has exerted
      the necessary effort to arrive at the correct view, he gets his single
      reward, because God is much forgiving and merciful.
      ..
      Muslims are under extreme pressure from outside powers to curb the
      resistance to such aggression. Even the Palestinian Authority is
      required to disown the armed struggle. Scholars who hold certain
      positions are under enormous pressure and asked for fatwas leaning in
      one direction or another. They may find themselves in a very difficult
      position, or may be given a lop-sided picture. All this is due to the
      weak position Muslims generally find themselves in now. Therefore, it
      is important to look for the right ruling by consulting competent
      scholars who are not subject to any such pressure.

      YEMEN

      Yemen frees Britons jailed on terror charges - 24 Dec 03
      http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?storyID=4042745
      ..
      Yemen has released two Muslim Britons jailed on terror charges in the
      Arab state at the end of their five-year terms, a Yemeni official
      says. The official told Reuters on Wednesday the two men, Shahid Butt
      and Sarmad Ahmed, were freed from prison in southern Yemen.
      ..
      The two were convicted by a Yemeni court in 1999, along with six other
      Britons of Pakistani or Arab origin, of forming an armed group to
      carry out "terrorist" acts in Yemen. Most received terms of up to
      seven years, but three were sentenced to time served and returned to
      Britain that same year.
      ..
      The eight initially made confessions, which they later retracted. They
      said they came to Yemen to study the Koran. The eight Britons, along
      with two men of Algerian descent, were arrested after 16 Western
      tourists were kidnapped in Yemen in 1998. Four of the tourists were
      killed in a botched army rescue attempt. Yemen wants Britain to hand
      over Abu Hamza al-Masri, father of the Briton freed in 2002, for trial
      on alleged involvement in the kidnapping. Masri, an Egyptian-born
      British citizen heads the London-based Supporters of Sharia (Islamic
      law) group.

      WORLD REGIONS

      [Qatar] Zakah Conference Opens, Set To Refute Terror Claims - 28 Dec
      http://www.islam-online.net/English/News/2003-12/28/article05.shtml
      ..
      The sixth international zakah conference opened here Sunday,
      December28 , with participants set on refuting propagated claims that
      charity organizations help fund "terrorist" groups.
      Addressing the opening session of the three-day conference, prominent
      scholar Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi hit out at the "powers which fight
      and impede Islamic charity on charges of inciting terrorism". "This
      is nothing but calumnies. Charity has everything to do with feeding
      the hunger and serving the community," said Qaradawi, who heads the
      European Council for Fatwa and Research. "Those who make such
      accusations do not understand that we pursue noble goals required by
      our religion," he said in a reference to zakah, alms-giving, one of
      the five pillars of Islam.
      ..
      The event is organized by Qatar's Zakah Fund in collaboration with the
      Kuwaiti Zakah Fund and the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank.
      It brings together some 38 officials from Arab, Asian and European
      zakah organizations along with university professors and researchers.

      FINANCE

      Bangkok Post, Thailand, Business Briefs Column - 26 Dec 03
      http://www.newsalert.com/bin/story?StoryId=Cp:PU0aicveGTqKLAlujssuvguW
      ..
      SVOA Plc has been awarded an IT outsourcing contract from the Islamic
      Bank of Thailand, covering retail banking, ATMs, credit cards and
      network services.

      [Pakistan] Bank Alfalah launches Islamic banking - 28 Dec 03
      http://jang.com.pk/thenews/dec2003-daily/28-12-2003/business/b22.htm
      ..
      Bank Alfalah Limited (BAL) has launched Islamic banking at five of its
      branches all over the country saying it would open new vistas for
      'Riba shy' clients. Two out of five branches would be located in
      Lahore, one in Karachi, Islamabad and Faisalabad, all dealing in
      Sharia compliant banking and offering Islamic instruments of banking,
      said Ijaz Farooq, executive in-charge of the Islamic Banking division
      at the BAL, while speaking to The News here on Saturday. These
      branches will offer a comprehensive range of Shariah compliant Islamic
      Banking products for their clients and new innovative products in home
      financing, debt and credit cards, Murabia, Musharika etc said Ijaz
      while elaborating the salient feature of his Bank's Islamic banking
      facility.

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