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Thursday, December 21, 2006

NEWS YOU WON'T FIND ON CNN

Gaza's Reality

Would you be able to live like this?

"We live in constant fear"

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When becoming humiliated, remember the Prophet [PBUH] in Ta'if.
When being starved, remember the Prophet [PBUH] tying two stones to his stomach in the battle of Khandaq.
When becoming angry, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s control of anger on the martyrdom of his beloved Uncle Hamza.
When losing a tooth, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s tooth in the battle of Uhud.
When bleeding from any part of the body, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s body covered in blood on his return from Ta'if.
When feeling lonely, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s seclusion in Mount Hira .
When feeling tired in Salaat, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s blessed feet in Tahajjud.
When being prickled with thorns, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s pain from Abu Lahab's wife.
When being troubled by neighbours, remember the old woman who would empty rubbish on the Prophet [PBUH].
When losing a child, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s son, Ibrahim.
When beginning a long journey, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s long journey to Madinah.
When going against a Sunnah, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s intercession, (Ummati, Ummati, Ummati) (My Ummah).
When sacrificing an animal, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s sacrifice of 63 animals for his Ummah.
Before shaving your beard, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s face rejecting the two beardless Iranians.
When falling into an argument with your wife, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s encounter with Aisha and Hafsa.
When experiencing less food in the house, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s days of poverty.
When experiencing poverty, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s advice to Ashaab-e-Suffa (People of Suffa).
When losing a family member, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s departure from this world.
When becoming an orphan, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s age at six.
When sponsoring an orphan, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s sponsor for Zaid ibn Haritha.
When fearing an enemy, remember the Prophet [PBUH]'s saying to Abu Bakr in Mount Thour .
Whatever situation you may find yourself in, remember your role model, the best of creation: Prophet [PBUH] Muhammad.

Compiled, edited and adapted by Khalid Latif

All praises and thanks be to Allah, Lord of everything that exists.The most Gracious, the Most Merciful.Master of the Day of Judgment You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help.Guide us to the Straight Way The Way of of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger, nor those who went astray. Ameen

inspirational thoughts....

Anger is a condition in which
The tongue works faster than the mind.
You can't change the past,
but you can ruin the present
By worrying over the future

Love...and you shall be loved.
God always gives His best to those
who leave the choice with Him.
All people smile in the same language.
Everyone needs to be loved...
especially when they do not deserve it.
The real measure of a man's wealth
is what he has invested in eternity.

Everyone has beauty
but not everyone sees it.
It's important for any teacher to live
the same things they teach.
Thank God for what you have,
TRUST GOD for what you need. MS"
If you fill your heart with regrets of yesterday and the worries of tomorrow,
you have no today to be thankful for.
Man looks at outward appearance
but the Lord looks within.
The choice you make today
will usually affect tomorrow.
Patience is the ability to idle your motor
when you feel like stripping your gears.
Love is strengthened by working
through conflicts together.
.
Harsh words break no bones
but they do break hearts.
To get out of a difficulty,
one usually must go through it.
We take for granted the things
that we should be giving thanks for.
Love is the thing that can be
divided without being diminished.
Happiness is enhanced by others
but does not depend upon others.
For every minute you are angry with someone,
you lose 60 seconds of happiness
that you can never get back.
Do what you can, for who you can,
with what you have, and where you are.

The blessed days are approaching....

Among the special seasons of worship are the first ten days of
Dhul-Hijjah, which Allah has preferred over all the other days of the
year.

Ibn 'Abbaas (ra) also reported that the Prophet (saw) said:

"There is no deed more precious in the sight of Allaah, nor greater in
reward, than a good deed done during the ten days of Sacrifice." He was
asked, "Not even jihaad for the sake of Allah?" He said, "Not even
jihaad for the sake of Allah, except in the case of a man who went out
to fight giving himself and his wealth up for the cause, and came back
with nothing." [Bukhaaree]

Ibn 'Abbaas (ra) reported that the Prophet (saw) said:

"There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah
than these ten days." The people asked, "Not even jihaad for the sake
of Allah?" He said, "Not even jihaad for the sake of Allah except in
the case of a man who went out to fight giving himself and his wealth
up for the cause, and came back with nothing." [Bukhaaree]

*THINGS TO DO:

1- One of the best deeds that one can do
during these ten days is to perform Hajj to the sacred House of Allaah.
The one whom Allah helps to go on Hajj to His House and to perform all
the rituals properly is included in the words of the Prophet (saw):

"An accepted Hajj brings no less a reward than Paradise"
2- Sacrificing animal
Sahaba asked Prophet (saw):What we’l get from this?Prophet (saw) replied:A good deed will be recorded for each hair (of sacrificed animal) [Hakim,Ahmed]
Sacrifice big and fat animals they will be your transport on pul e sirat [Al talkhees-aljeer]
3- Ibn Umar (ra) reported that the Prophet (saw) said: "There are no days
greater in the sight of Allaah and in which righteous deeds are more
beloved to Him than these ten days, so during this time recite a great
deal of Tahleel (La ilaaha ill-Allaah) Takbeer and Tahmeed." [Ahmad]

4- Fasting on 9th dhul hajj "(This fast is )expiation for the last & coming year "[Muslim]
5- Prophet (saw) said: "When you see the new moon of Dhul-Hijjah, if any one of
you wants to offer a sacrifice, then he should stop cutting his hair
and nails until he has offered his sacrifice." [Muslim]

Those who don’t intend to offer a sacrifial animal ,should also avoid cutting nails and hair till the day of eid –
to show their sacrifice this way.

Doing good deeds as these are beloved by Allaah and will bring a great
reward from Him. Whoever is not able to go to Hajj should occupy
himself at this blessed time by worshipping Allaah,
praying,
reading Qur'aan,
remembering Allaah,
making supplication,
giving charity,
honouring his parents,
upholding the ties of kinship,
enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, and other acts of worship.
One must understand that these ten days are a great blessing from
Allaah to His slave. It is the Muslim's duty to appreciate this and
make the most of the opportunity, by striving hard to increase in
worship.

Among His blessings to His slaves, Allaah has given us many ways in
which to do good and worship Him, so that the Muslim may be constantly
active and consistent in the worship of his Lord.

*We should know that the virtue of these ten days is based on many
things:

1-The Prophet (saw) testified that these are the best days.

2- The Prophet (saw) encouraged people to do righteous deeds because
of the virtue of this time for people throughout the world, and also
because of the virtue of the place - for the Hujjaaj (Pilgrims) to the
Sacred House of Allaah.

3- These ten days include the Day of Arafaah on which Allaah
perfected His Religion. Fasting on this day will expiate for the sins
of two years. These days also include the Day of Sacrifice (Nahr), the
greatest day of Hajj, which combines acts of worship in a way unlike
any other day.

We should ensure that we do not miss any of these important occasions,
because time is passing quickly. We need to prepare ourselves by doing
good deeds which will bring us reward when we’d be most in need of it,
for no matter how much reward we earn,its for our own benefit-our deeds
would invites Allah’s mercy to get us salvation from hell fire & higher ranks of Jannah.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Danish Sermon Lures Reverts, Youths

By Nidal Abu Arif, IOL Correspondent

Imam Abdel Wahid Pedersen delivered the first ever Danish sermon last Friday.

COPENHAGEN — A milestone step by the Muslim Council in Denmark to use the native language in delivering the Friday sermon – the main weekly gathering of Muslims – has immediately appealed to new Muslims, non-Arabic speakers and the second generation of Muslims born and raised in the Scandinavian country.

"I always felt out of place in mosques were the sermons was delivered in Arabic, Turkish or Urdu. I couldn't make head nor tail of the sermon," Madis Wstbrik, a 2o-year-old Dane who embraced Islam two years ago, told IslamOnline.net.

The unprecedented sermon was delivered at the Muslim Council on Friday, December 1, by Imam Abdel Wahid Pedersen, himself a revert.
He tackled spiritual aspects as well as some political issues like the situation in Iraq and other Muslim hotbeds.

"This time around I felt at home. I identified with the imam and felt he was talking to me and feeling my needs," said Wstbrik.

"He has recharged my faith batteries," added a visibly moved Wstbrik.
Others agreed that language is the best courier of ideas to the worshippers.
They say sermons in Danish help Muslims irrespective of racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Sermons used to be delivered in different languages like Arabic, Turkish and Iranian with simultaneous interpretation into Danish.

There are about 180,000 Muslims in Denmark, according to unofficial estimates.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after the Lutheran Protestant Church, which is actively followed by four-fifths of the country's population.

Building Bridges
The Danish Friday sermon is seen as a way to build bridges with non-Arabic-speaking Muslims and help them better understand Islam.

"Delivering the sermon in a language other than Danish creates barriers between the imam and the youths, who cannot grasp the message of the homily," said imam Pedersen.
"Some imams risk losing touch with the worshippers, particularly when they uses complicated terminology," he added.

"Delivering the sermon in Danish is very much appealing to the youths who get the advice directly without simultaneous interpretation that could be inaccurate," said the imam.
"I try to strike the right balance between spiritual and modernistic aspects of this life," Pedersen said. "I also touch on hot topics in Denmark and the world."

Jihad Al-Fara, the Muslim Council President, said the move would enhance communication between Muslims of different ethnicities and help them integrate into society.

"We are putting our heads together and have joined forces with other Islamic organizations to render the experience a success," he told IOL.

"We primarily target the second generation of Danish Muslims."

Fara, however, said using the Danish language will not substitute the Arabic entirely.
He added that the Council will continue to offer religious classes in both Arabic and Danish.
Last month, the second Danish translation of the meanings of the Noble Qur'an and the first by a non-Muslim saw the light.

Muslim community leaders welcomed the translation and hoped it would be useful for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

SHOCK NEWS: Blair To Spread Peace In The Middle East

27sep06

“From 9/11 until now I have said again and again.If we want our values to be the ones that govern global change, we have to show that they are fair, just and delivered with an even hand.From now until I leave office I will dedicate myself, with the same commitment I have given to Northern Ireland , to advancing peace between Israel and Palestine.I may not succeed.But I will try because peace in the Middle East is a defeat for terrorism.
We must never again let Lebanon become the battleground for a conflict that neither Israeli or Lebanese people wanted though it was they who paid the price for it.
Peace in Lebanon is a defeat for terrorism.”

So said Tony Blair yesterday in his big farewell speech at the Labour Party conference in Manchester. If he’s being serious when he says he will dedicate the next few months to working towards peace in the Middle East, all I can say is that I feel sorry for the Middle East.

Actually, that’s not quite true; if Blair really was being sincere, and he really does intend to spend his last few months in office solving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, then that’s great, amazing and desperately needed. But the trouble is, when Tony Blair talks about being “fair”, “just”, what he really means is conspiring with the US to block a resolution calling for an “immediate” ceasefire early on in the Lebanon conflict. When Blair talks about imparting “values” with an “even hand”, what he really means is allowing US planes carrying bombs and missiles to Israel to re-fuel at British airports. That’s right; Blair helped arm the aggressor before the war was even over, and he now has the nerve to talk about and bringing “peace” to the Middle East with an “even hand”.

Mr. Blair was right to say that neither the Israeli people nor the Lebanese people wanted the war. But he could have added, ‘The Israeli and US governments did, and we supported them’.

But let’s, for a second, pleasantly delude ourselves and imagine that Blair was being sincere. What would that look like? How would he do it?

Well, on Sept. 21st, the 1.8 million strong Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) unanimously approved a resolution dealing with the Middle East. Let’s have a look at what they decided (note: the resolution also addresses Afghanistan and Iraq, but for the purposes of this article I’ll focus on what it had to say regarding Israel):

“Noting:

1. The merciless killing of civilians in particular children in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.

2. The imprisonment of Iraqis, Palestinians and others by the U.S. administration and its allies.

3. These attacks are backed by the advanced capitalist economies in particular the U.S which arms and funds the Israel army.

Resolve:

1. The U.S. must withdraw all its forces unconditionally from Iraq and Afghanistan so that their people can determine their own future under the supervision of the United Nations.

2. Our government should impose sanctions against Israel until the aggression on Palestine and Lebanon is stopped.

3. We should step up the campaign for the release of Palestinians, Iraqis and other nations across the globe held by the U.S. and Israel.

4. COSATU members must boycott Israeli goods and demonstrations must be held at the embassies of Israel and the United States in South Africa.

5. The government must end with immediate affect the diplomatic ties with Israel including recalling the ambassador.

6. To strengthen the coalition against the wars in the Middle East.

7. Pledge our solidarity and support to the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom and condemn in the strongest terms:

a. the war crimes that are currently being perpetrated against the people of Palestine and Lebanon;

b. the wanton destruction of life-sustaining infra-structure in Palestine and Lebanon;

c. the deliberate impotence of international agencies and either the silent complicity and/or the active support of most governments in these acts of terror;

d. the current and ongoing shipment of armaments from the US to Israel; and

e. the detention of almost 10 000 Lebanese and Palestinian people including women and children.

8. Demand that:

a. Israel immediately cease its aerial bombardments and military attacks on Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

b. Israel abides by the provisions of the international humanitarian law and human rights law, and refrains from imposing collective punishment on Palestinian civilians.

c. The international community holds Israel legally accountable for all crimes committed against civilian populations.

d. The international community implements diplomatic and trade sanctions against the State of Israel with immediate effect.

e. The international community holds Israel responsible for the compensation and reparation for the loss of life in Lebanon and Palestine.

f. The EU stop the severe sanctions imposed by Europe on the Palestinian Authority as a penalty for exercising their democratic right and electing a government of their choice.

g. The United Nations implements the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on Israel’s Apartheid Wall.”

So, essentially, it can be summarised to: we recognise that Israel has broken the law, and we are going to attempt to put pressure on them to start abiding by it again.

Can you even imagine a mainstream Western politician formulating such a policy, expressing such thoughts? Can you imagine Tony Blair doing so? Doesn’t the fact that you can’t make you sick? The sad truth is, no mainstream Western politician would dare do something so radical as to accept that criminality is wrong, and then go about pressuring the criminal to stop committing crimes - at least, not when the criminal in question is a major US/UK ally. Christ - we haven’t even got around to recognising the fact that Israel did commit war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza.

So ignore the flowery rhetoric and the proclamations of good intent. Take a look at the facts, and what you will find is that Blair, throughout his premiership, displayed a complete disrespect for the rule of law, a cold indifference to human life and a willingness to support terror that, sadly, is all too familiar (because, of course, we shouldn’t fall into the cult of personality created by the media: the problem is not just Tony Blair and it is not just George W. Bush; it is systemic).

Take a look behind the apparently sincere and passionate speeches, and take a look at the situation in Lebanon and Gaza now. Bear in mind that the US/UK, thanks to their actions and inaction during the war and thanks to their virtually unconditional support for Israel, are heavily complicit in all of this.

- Today, a 14 year-old girl was killed by an IAF missile strike, and seven other children were wounded. The IAF targeted the house of a weapons dealer. They contacted him 15 minutes beforehand to get out, and he did. The missile struck, the house was levelled and there were no major injuries. Then, as people started to gather round to have a look, a second missile struck, killing the child. This sort of thing happens daily, always justified by Israel’s ’security needs’. IDF soldiers go around “arresting” Palestinian “militants” (for some reason, the media always accepts Israel’s branding on trust) at will, shooting people (some militants, some civilians), levelling houses with missile strikes…all justified by Israel’s need for ’security’.

- It could take between 8 and 14 months to repair the Gaza power station, bombed by Israeli jets in June, and to restore electricity to the region. The Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, had this to say:

“In the early morning hours of 28 June 2006, following the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli Air Force attacked the only electrical power plant operating in the Gaza Strip. Six missiles were fired at the power plant’s six transformers. Two of the missiles missed their target, so two more missiles were fired a few minutes later, destroying the remaining transformers…

As a result of the lack of electricity, the level of medical services provided by clinics and hospitals has declined significantly; most of the urban population receive only two or three hours of water a day; the sewage system is on the verge of collapse; many inhabitants’ mobility has been severely restricted as a result of non-functioning elevators; and the lack of refrigeration has exposed many to the danger of food-poisoning. Small businesses reliant on a regular power supply have been badly affected. The hardship involved in living without a steady flow of electricity is exacerbated by the deep economic crisis afflicting the Gaza Strip…

Aiming attacks at civilian objects is forbidden under International Humanitarian Law and is considered a war crime. The power plant bombed by Israel is a purely civilian object and bombing it did nothing to impede the ability of Palestinian organizations to fire rockets into Israeli territory…

Even if Israel reached the highly questionable conclusion that disrupting the supply of electricity in Gaza might provide the Israeli army with a “definite military advantage,” under the principal of proportionality, Israel was legally required to choose the action that would prove least harmful to the population. Accordingly, Israel could have reduced the supply of electricity that the Israel Electric Corporation – which is the primary provider of electricity for the Gaza Strip – sells to the Palestinian Authority. However, in the wake of the company’s objection to this alternative, which was likely to harm its commercial interests, the decision-makers within the Israeli government and army opted for the more harmful option.”

- There are up to a million unexploded cluster bomblets scattered over south Lebanon, according to U.N agencies. It will take an estimated 12-15 months to clear them up, and in the meantime they pose an enormous threat to people wishing to return to their homes after the war. According to the UNHCR, around 200,000 Lebanese remain displaced, thanks to either the destruction of their houses or due to the unexploded bomblets. Either way, it looks like they have a long wait ahead of them, as the UNHCR’s Arjun Jain explained:

“Displacement which we would have expected to end much more quickly is going to continue for many, many more months to come… We expect that instead of the displacement ending so people can return to their homes in 12 months or so now it could take up to 24 months”.

We should not forget that Israel fired 90% of the cluster bombs in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when it was clear to all sides that a ceasefire would be reached soon. The UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland described Israel’s use of cluster bombs as “completely immoral”.

You would think that now, at least, Israel would be doing its best to help the UN forces and the Lebanese Army clear up the bomblets (they’ve cleared up 40,000 so far), wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. Chris Clark, manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre in Lebanon, said the information Israel provided to help with cluster bomb removal was “useless”, adding:

“We have asked for grid references for [cluster bomb] strikes…We have not received them so far.”

- An Israeli military court has ordered the release of the Palestinian Deputy PM, due to a lack of evidence against him. He was “arrested” (read: abducted) on August 19, and detained by Israel along with 64 other members of Hamas, including seven Cabinet Ministers. Now, we have confirmation of what we already knew - it wasn’t an “arrest”, because they had no evidence with which to charge him. There should be an investigation and an official apology, but don’t hold your breath.

- UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories John Dugard released a report yesterday strongly criticising Israel for the situation in Gaza. He said:

“Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into a prison for Palestinians and have thrown away the key…in other countries this process might be described as ethnic cleansing…life in Gaza has turned to be intolerable, appalling and tragic…If … The international community cannot … take some action, it must not be surprised if the people of the planet disbelieve that they are seriously committed to the promotion of human rights…Israel violates international law as expounded by the Security Council and the International Court of Justice and goes unpunished. But the Palestinian people are punished for having democratically elected a regime unacceptable to Israel, the US and the EU.”

To read the full report, go here and click ‘A/HRC/2/5′ (currently top). I strongly recommend you read it to get a true idea of the situation in Gaza and the West Bank.

The report was met with the usual moronic dismissal by the US and Israel. Despite the fact that it is Mr. Dugard’s explicit brief to investigate Israeli human rights violations, Israel envoy Itzhak Levanon noted:

“This report is characterised by errors of omission as well as distortions of both fact and law”.

Thus, the ‘omissions’ he was referring to, presumably Qassams, were not “errors”. The fact that all Israel can do when confronted with its own atrocities is point to the perceived crimes of others is very depressing.
And so on and so on. There is one thing that characterises all of the above - an Israeli disregard for international law and opinion, and an Israeli willingness to rely on violence to get its way. The support of the US is largely responsible for both of these ‘personality flaws’. The sad fact is that Israel can disregard international law and opinion, because it enjoys the unconditional support of the world’s veto-wielding superpower, and Israel can rely on force to perpetuate the occupation because, thanks to US (and, to a lesser extent, UK) military and financial assistance, it is the region’s military superpower.

So ignore Tony Blair’s professed desire to bring peace to the Middle East. He, just like his predecessors and just like Gordon Brown after him, will never put any weight on Israel to conform to the law. To expect him to do so is absurd - he is, after all, himself a war criminal. That doesn’t mean we should despair, it means that we cannot at the moment rely on our political “representatives” to stand up for what’s right. We, the public in a democracy, have the power to make them stand up for what’s right. Whenever Tony Blair pretends to want peace, the public must shout him down and demand real action. Whenever Condoleeza Rice pushes for sanctions against Syria, the public must shout her down and demand sanctions against Israel. For at the moment, all of us have the blood of innocent Lebanese and Palestinians on our hands.

Not an internal Palestinian matter

AMIRA HASS
Ha'aretz, 4 October 2006


The experiment was a success: The Palestinians are killing each other. They are behaving as expected at the end of the extended experiment called "what happens when you imprison 1.3 million human beings in an enclosed space like battery hens."
These are the steps in the experiment: Imprison (since 1991); remove the prisoners' usual means of livelihood; seal off all outlets to the outside world, nearly hermetically; destroy existing means of livelihood by preventing the entry of raw materials and the marketing of goods and produce; prevent the regular entry of medicines and hospital supplies; do not bring in fresh food for weeks on end; prevent, for years, the entry of relatives, professionals, friends and others, and allow thousands of people - the sick, heads of families, professionals, children - to be stuck for weeks at the locked gates of the Gaza Strip's only entry/exit.
Steal hundreds of millions of dollars (customs and tax revenues collected by Israel that belong to the Palestinian treasury), so as to force the nonpayment of the already low salaries of most government employees for months; present the firing of homemade Qassam rockets as a strategic threat that can only be stopped by harming women, children and the old; fire on crowded residential neighborhoods from the air and the ground; destroy orchards, groves and fields.
Dispatch planes to frighten the population with sonic booms; destroy the new power plant and force the residents of the closed-off Strip to live without electricity for most of the day for a period of four months, which will most likely turn into a full year - in other words, a year without refrigeration, electric fans, television, lights to study and read by; force them to get by without a regular supply of water, which is dependent on the electricity supply.
It is the good old Israeli experiment called "put them into a pressure cooker and see what happens," and this is one of the reasons why this is not an internal Palestinian matter.
The success of the experiment can be seen in the miasma of desperation that hangs over the Gaza Strip, and in the clan feuding that erupts almost daily there, even more than in the battles between Fatah and Hamas militants. One can only wonder that the feuding is not more frequent, and that some bonds of internal solidarity have been maintained, which saves people from hunger.
In contrast to the feuding between clans, Sunday's battles in Gaza and campaigns of destruction and intimidation, mainly in West Bank cities, were not the result of a momentary loss of control. They are generally viewed as battles between two militias, each of which represents one half of the population, but they were initiated by groups within Fatah to put a few more nails into the coffin of the elected leadership.
The security forces of the Palestinian Authority - in other words, of Fatah, or in still other words, the ones that Mahmoud Abbas is in charge of - are hiding behind the genuine distress and protests of public employees who have not been receiving regular salaries. And they are doing so despite the fact that everyone knows that the failure to pay salaries is not a managerial failure, but is above all due to Israeli policy. These forces were dispatched in order to sow organized anarchy, as taught in the school of Yasser Arafat.
And why is this, too, an Israeli matter? Because those who dispatched these militants have a shared interest with Israel in regressing to a situation in which the Palestinian leadership collaborates with the appearance of holding peace talks, while Israel continues its occupation and the international community sends hush money in the form of salaries for the Palestinian public sector.
And there is another reason why this is also an internal Israeli issue: Whatever the outcome, the Palestinian feuding and the risk of civil war directly affect about 20 percent of Israeli citizens, the Arabs. They affect the Arabs, and also those segments of the Israeli public that have not forgotten that Israel will remain the occupying and ruling force over the Palestinians as long as the goal of establishing a Palestinian state in all of the territories occupied in 1967 is not realized.

Who's Arming Israel?

Frida Berrigan and William D. Hartung
July 26, 2006
Editor: John Feffer, IRC
Foreign Policy In Focus


Much has been made in the U.S. media of the Syrian- and Iranian-origin weaponry used by Hezbollah in the escalating violence in Israel and Lebanon. There has been no parallel discussion of the origin of Israel's weaponry, the vast bulk of which is from the United States.
The United States is the primary source of Israel's far superior arsenal. For more than 30 years, Israel had been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance and since 1985 Jerusalem has received about $3 billion in military and economic aid each year from Washington. U.S. aid accounts for more than 20% of Israel's total defense budget.
Over the past decade, the United States has transferred more than $17 billion in military aid to this country of just under 7 million people.
Israel is one of the United States' largest arms importers. Between 1996 and 2005 (the last year for which full data is available), Israel took delivery of $10.19 billion in U.S. weaponry and military equipment, including more than $8.58 billion through the Foreign Military Sales program, and another $1.61 billion in Direct Commercial Sales
During the Bush administration, from 2001 to 2005, Israel received $10.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing—the Pentagon's biggest military aid program—and $6.3 billion in U.S. arms deliveries. The aid figure is larger than the arms transfer figure because it includes financing for major arms agreements for which the equipment has yet to be fully delivered. The most prominent of these deals is a $4.5 billion sale of 102 Lockheed Martin F-16s to Israel.
Given the billions of dollars of aid it provides to Israel every year and the central role of U.S.-supplied weaponry in the Israeli arsenal, the United States has considerable leverage that it could use to promote a cease fire in the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah before more Israeli and Lebanese civilians are killed and displaced. President Bush needs to go beyond vague calls for “restraint” to demands for a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, bringing in other key actors in the region, including Iran and Syria.
Click here for the full World Policy Institute report.

A Slip of the Tongue: Israeli Nukes?

In a press conference Ehud Olmert, Israel's Prime Minister, identified Israel as having nuclear weapons. This slip contrasted with their policy of neither denying nor affirming having nuclear weapons.
The New York Times and other news sites are carrying news of the apparent 'slip' in which he says:
"Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons as America, France, Israel, Russia?"
This may be a move in the direction of an explicit affirmation of Israel's possession of a nuclear arsenal in the face of escalating tensions in the region over Iran's nuclear program and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 's recent statement about wiping out Israel.

Arms Sales To Israel Must Stop

Amnesty International today published an open letter from Irene Khan, Amnesty's Secretary General, to EU Heads of State and governments asking them to immediately halt sales or transfers of arms to all parties in the Israel/Palestine conflict. Israel, naturally, reacted negatively to the proposal. Mark Regev, spokesman for Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that an arms embargo "would leave every man woman and child in this country to face a multitude of hostile challenges that there are here. It ignores the real threats faced by the Jewish state and gives comfort to those who say Israel should be wiped off the map."
"Israel is a democracy where there is rule of law which puts the issue of human rights at the centre of civic life," Regev added. The reality is that Israel systematically and deliberately abuses the human rights of its perceived enemies. As Irene Khan has put it, "Most civilian deaths have been the result of deliberate and reckless shooting and artillery shelling or air strikes by Israeli forces carried out in densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip". A Human Rights Watch report on the Lebanon war earlier this year, entitled 'Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Against Civilians In Lebanon', describes how Israeli forces,
'consistently launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military gain but excessive civilian cost. In dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some cases, the timing and intensity of the attack, the absence of a military target, as well as return strikes on rescuers, suggest that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.'
The report concludes that 'a systematic failure by the IDF to distinguish between combatants and civilians' was the primary cause of the massive civilian suffering caused by the war.
An Amnesty International investigation into the same war, entitled 'Deliberate Destruction or "Collateral Damage"? Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure' reached similar conclusions:
'The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of public works, power systems, civilian homes and industry was deliberate and an integral part of the military strategy, rather than "collateral damage" - incidental damage to civilians or civilian property resulting from targeting military objectives.'
That report also noted that under international law, it is 'forbidden to use starvation as a method of warfare, or to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.' Israel has been using starvation as a method of controlling the Palestinian population ever since they elected the wrong people to power in January. After Hamas was elected to government, the Israeli government convened a meeting to decide how it should respond. Present were Dov Weisglass (advisor to the Prime Minister), the chief of staff of the IDF, the head of Shin Bet, a host of senior generals and officials and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livny. All concluded that an economic siege on the Palestinians was the way forward. Or, as Dov Weisglass expressed it, "It's like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won't die".
Since January 2006, the Palestinian people have been subject to economic sanctions - the first time, as UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Territories John Dugard has noted, that an occupied people has been so treated. Since Hamas' electoral victory, Israel has withheld some $500 million in tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA. The U.S. and the EU have also restricted aid to the Palestinians in a shocking display of contempt for democracy and human rights. Meanwhile Israel has continued its policy of cutting the West Bank into dozens of mini-cantons by increasing the number of military roadblocks by 40% in a year. David Shearer, head of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), described the effect these roadblocks have on the residents of the West Bank:
"Since [the height of the intifada] it's become much more systematic, much more sophisticated in terms of monitoring Palestinian movement and closing Palestinian movement...The West Bank, for example, is effectively being chopped up into three big areas... and there are pockets within those areas where people also can't move."
John Dugard, who was also a prominent anti-apartheid lawyer, writes that Israel system of roadblocks resembles, but in severity goes well beyond, apartheid South Africa's "pass system" and that, in general, ' Many aspects of Israel's occupation surpass those of the apartheid regime. Israel's large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, leveling of agricultural lands, military incursions and targeted assassinations of Palestinians far exceed any similar practices in apartheid South Africa.'
Meanwhile, the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip have suffered a brutal and relentless siege since June 25, when an Israeli soldier was captured by Palestinian militants. The Israeli government used the capture as an excuse to completely seal the Strip off from the outside world, arbitrarily closing borders vital to Palestinian trade for extended periods of time. The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt - ostensibly under EU control but in reality subject to Israel's wishes - has been closed more than it has been open. In November, the crossing was open for just 36 hours spread out over four days. In July, thousands of Palestinians were left stranded in the Sinai desert after Israel refused to open the border crossing to allow them to return to their homes in the Gaza Strip. Several people were reported to have died from heat exhaustion. The closure of the Rafah crossing truly is devastating to the Palestinians in Gaza. The Palestine Hospital in Cairo is an essential part of Gaza's health infrastructure, and many Palestinians who need to travel there for treatment are either not allowed to leave the Strip or are prevented from returning once they do.
Under the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) brokered by the United States a year ago, Israel agreed to leave the Rafah crossing open continuously regardless of threats to security unrelated to the crossing itself. Despite this, after the capture of Cpl. Shalit on June 25 Israel closed the border indefinitely. A recent UN report accuses Israel of violating every single one of its border crossing agreements, explaining that the Rafah crossing has been open for only 21 days since June 24. At the Karni crossing, which has been open only intermittently, an average of 12 lorries are allowed through each day, despite Israel's promise to raise that number to 400 by the end of this year. According to the report,
"The ability of Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip to access either the West Bank or the outside world remains extremely limited and the flow of commercial trade is negligible"
and, as a result, unemployment in the Strip has risen from 33.1% to 41.8% this year. A military document leaked to Ha'aretz confirmed that the closure of the Rafah crossing is intended to "apply pressure" to the Palestinian people - as journalist Amira Hass puts it, 'The experiment was a success: The Palestinians are killing each other.'
So, in summary, Regev is talking crap. Israel has no respect for Palestinian human rights, and Amnesty International is right to call for a ban on arms sales and transfers to it.
The request comes at a time when the Iraq Study Group report calls on the U.S. and the UK to settle the Israel/Palestine conflict to stabilise the wider region, specifically Iraq. The U.S. is the primary source of Israel's superior arsenal, and U.S. aid counts for 20% of Israel's defence budget. During the Bush administration, from 2001-2005, Israel received $10.5 billion in U.S. military aid and $6.3 billion in U.S. arms deliveries. This military dependency gives the U.S. considerable leverage over Israel, leverage that could be used to force a peace settlement. Sadly, the U.S. has chosen to be a force for violence rather than peace in the region. For example, in the summer the U.S. delivered shipments of 'bunker-busting' bombs to Israel before the Lebanon war was even over. This arming of the aggressor was accompanied by the unanimous Senate adoption of a resolution praising Israel's military campaign, neglecting even to include the obligatory reminders to avoid targeting civilians. Sadly, both the Democrats and the Republicans are on record as supporting Israeli war crimes.
In Britain there is a similar story. Despite Tony Blair's announcement in September that he will devote the last six months of his premiership to resolving the Israel/Palestine conflict, he is unlikely to abide by Amnesty's call to stop providing Israel with the tools it uses to oppress and to kill. The trouble, as I wrote at the time, is that,
'when Tony Blair talks about being "fair", "just", what he really means is conspiring with the US to block a resolution calling for an "immediate" ceasefire early on in the Lebanon conflict. When Blair talks about imparting "values" with an "even hand", what he really means is allowing US planes carrying bombs and missiles to Israel to re-fuel at British airports. That's right; Blair helped arm the aggressor before the war was even over, and he now has the nerve to talk about and bringing "peace" to the Middle East with an "even hand".'
In 2005 British arms sales to Israel doubled to £22.5 million. It is official British government policy that "no licence will be granted for arms exports if there is a clearly identifiable risk that the weapons could be used aggressively against another country or to assert, by force, a territorial claim". Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell was therefore right to call for an immediate cessation of arms sales to Israel in the light of 'disproportionate military action by Israel in Lebanon and Gaza'. After all, there can be no doubt that Israel uses combat helicopters and air-to-surface missiles - components for which are supplied by the UK - to commit war crimes against the Palestinians (and, this year, against the Lebanese). In 2002, Blair's government cleared the way to allow BAE Systems to sell components for F-16 jets supplied to Israel by the United States. Israel uses F-16s to carry out targeted assassinations - a policy declared by the UK Foreign Office to be "illegal under international law". For example, in July 2002 an Israeli F-16 dropped a one-tonne bomb on a crowded Gaza City apartment block with the official aim of assassinating the militant Salah Shehada. As well as Shehada, seven adults and nine children were killed in the attack, and 70 people were injured. There is ample proof that Israel cannot be trusted to use arms lawfully, so why does Britain continue to sell weapons to Israel, in violation of its own arms trade policies? For the answer, we can turn to ex-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who, in 2002, justified his government's decision to license the export of components used in F-16 jets destined for Israel thus:
"Any interruption to the supply of these components would have serious implications for the UK's defence relations with the United States."
Or, in other words, 'the commercial relationship between BAE Systems and US companies such as Lockheed Martin was judged more important than the lives of Palestinians.' The British government, like its American counterpart, is almost completely subservient to the military-industrial complex. So, despite Mr. Blair's professions of good intent towards the Palestinians, his unblemished record of supporting the occupation and facilitating Israeli war crimes is not going to be broken now. It's a pity, because the idea of giving aid instead of weapons and of facilitating diplomacy and peace as opposed to arms races and war is definitely one whose time has come.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

When You Are the Other

By Anthea Davis
Jan. 18, 2006


Do you sometimes feel left out? Do you sometimes feel that you do not belong? How did you get to be "the other"? Is it just a one-off thing or is it more complicated than that? Do people sometimes treat you like "the other" because of your belief in Islam?
There is nothing new about one group becoming dominant and the other groups being left to struggle and to be considered second best. There is a constant fluctuation of good and evil in this world and it has been so since the beginning of time. When evil dominates, good is pushed down; and when goodness dominates, evil is pushed down. We are therefore in a continuous state of struggle to raise the level of goodness wherever we are and let it dominate so that people get their rights and are secure, happy, and safe.
There is a good example of a group of people who were considered to be "the other" just because they adhered to piety and belief in Allah. This story is in the Qur'an, where Allah the Almighty mentioned the People of the Ditch in Surat Al-Buruj. They refused to give up their belief in Allah even if it meant death. They peacefully resisted and were firm. They were too outnumbered to even think of resisting. The leader of that area at the time sat with his evil followers and laughed and mocked while the believers (the "others") were cast into a pit of fire. But Allah in His mercy compared these strong and faithful believers to the stars in the sky likening their goodness and sincerity to the brightness, beauty, and wonder of the constellations.
These true believers have the company of others who, throughout the ages, have undergone all kinds of hardship for the sake of preserving their Islamic identity. These are people who do things like:

Continuing to pray even though it's difficult to find a place to do so

Continuing to wear hijab even though people stare at them, laugh, or ridicule them

Refusing to go to places where there are forbidden things like free mixing of the sexes, dancing, alcohol, drugs and such things — even though their peers pressure them to go

Being good to their families even though their families might be harsh and unfair

Refusing to steal or commit violent acts even though the people around them try to justify such actions

Continuing to be involved in their community doing volunteer work and serving mankind as the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered us to do

Striving to excel in studies and self development in order to give back to the world, even though the people around them say it's a waste of time

Refusing to stop loving and fearing Allah even though people around them turn away from religion and seek more and more material gain

These are just a few examples. Nowadays in some areas of the world, Muslims are still called upon to choose between belief and ridicule, intimidation, or even death.
In other places of the world there is pressure to conform, to be like everyone else, and that usually means giving up some parts of Islam. This is certainly a huge test. We also face the challenge of learning how to make the balance between backing off from society and isolating ourselves or giving up and becoming part of a non-Muslim society and giving up your Islam while doing so, or retaining our Islamic identity and steering a course of involvement, development, and positive change. This is no easy task.
The Confused Muslim Youth
On one hand, if you give up practicing Islam and give into the pressure of non-Muslim society it means not wearing hijab or dressing modestly, mixing freely with the opposite sex, not praying, and losing the spiritual quality of your life that brings you close to Allah and gives you peace. Many such young Muslims are likely to be pulled (by peer pressure) into the cycle of boyfriends or girlfriends as a way of life, drugs, joining a gang, being far from parents and family, and joining the realm of those Muslim youth who deep down know they're Muslim but feel guilty because they know they're doing something wrong. These bad feelings can be temporarily drowned out by smoking, drinking, using drugs, and so on but they'll keep coming back.
There are also Muslim youth who try to keep one foot in the Islamic arena and the other foot in worldly life. They might fast in Ramadan or join in Friday prayer but in every other aspect of life they are far from Islam, for example they

Speak to their parents disrespectfully

Become violent and destructive — perhaps joining gangs

Disrespect women and womanhood

Become careless about their education and ignore their future

Live off government money or take money from their parents without trying to be independent and to "give" (Some do this and still sit around on the streets grumbling about life.)

Then there are the Muslim youth who insist and persist on trying to live Islam but they think that in order to do so they have to isolate themselves.
But there is another alternative. It requires adopting the principle of "accept and respect" while mixing with others but maintaining your own identity. If you do so, you will have the chance to spread the beautiful message of Islam through kind words and a good example. You will have the chance to give advice whereas if you isolate yourself from others you will become like a dried up leaf; with no life, interest, or ambition and you will be depriving yourself and those around you of the many opportunities there are in life to live.
Especially in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and many more there are many opportunities to mix with the society in a positive way. Muslim youth can organize outings, conferences, sports activities, volunteer work, visits — anything! They have many forms of media to communicate what they are doing like the Internet, e-mails, e-groups, posters, radio broadcasts, TV, brochures, and so much more.
The point is that there are always groups within one society that differ with each other and may even oppose each other but there are still many other chances to give, to learn, to mix, to correct the negative image of Islam and live Islam in the form of spreading knowledge and doing good deeds. If all we think about is that "we are the other" and try to blend in and lose our Islamic identity, we will be losing everything.

Stop Labeling People

By Altaf Husain, MSW**

Warning: Reading this essay could be dangerous and corrupting to your mind if you have no previous knowledge of labels used to "brand" Muslims as following a certain type of Islam. If you have no previous knowledge of labels, it is recommended that you close this Web page and resume your browsing at the main homepage: www.islamonline.net. If you do have knowledge of such labels, then please do not leave this Web page before reading the entire article so that in sha' Allah you can refrain from branding and labeling other Muslims in the wrong manner. Proceed with caution.

I arrived at the car rental counter in the airport, Washington D.C. The customer service representative acknowledged my presence with a smile, and I noticed that he was of South Asian descent. He asked me where I was from and I said I am of Indian origin, And you? He said he was from Pakistan and had only been in the United States a few years. He asked how long I had been in the United States and I said since I was 10-years-old. He was surprised and said, "looking at you, I thought you just arrived." We had more small talk. He shared with me that he was studying and working. A busy life no doubt I said. How do you keep up with everything, like daily prayers? I try to pray as much as I can he said. Then, along the same lines as "I thought you just arrived," he said in a quite matter-of-fact tone, "with your beard, you look like a panch wakth namazi (person who prays five times a day)."

What just happened? It happens all the time these days. No longer are Muslims, and especially people of other faith, comfortable with referring to a Muslim person as just a Muslim. It seems almost a commonplace these days to add a descriptor, a qualifier, a label, to precede the word Muslim. What are some of the labels that you use?

In the true story above, in a brief, less than three minute encounter, this young man had measured me against his own preconceived notions on two points: First, that having stayed in America, an immigrant has to look American, and this young man believed clearly that with my Nehru style shirt and "one-fist length" beard, I must have just arrived to the United States. Second, that having a beard meant that I observed all five daily obligatory prayers-to the Urdu speaking readers, "a panch wakth namazi"-as compared, I suppose, to the "part-time" Muslim or the "once-in-a-while" Muslim, who prays only sometimes or whenever he or she "feels like it". Do you ever stop to think about what it means to be a Muslim?

In fact, what it means to be a Muslim is quite simple: One who submits voluntarily to Allah, accepts the last and final Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and lives his or her life according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Sounds very straightforward right? It is straightforward until we introduce our own biases and begin to classify one another. And this process of classification becomes sinister when motivated by a desire to marginalize, denigrate, or pejorate. What's worse, both Muslims and people of other faiths are using labels nowadays to "brand" Muslims, to make fun of them and laugh at them. The Qur'an instructs us about such behavior:

[O ye who believe! Let not a folk deride a folk who may be better than they (are), not let women (deride) women who may be better than they are; neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith. And whoso turneth not in repentance, such are evil-doers] (Al-Hujuraat 49:11).

Let us take for example the common notion of referring to Muslims by the particular madhab (school of thought) that they follow: Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, or Shafi`i. While it is critical for a person to have a thorough and practical understanding of the particular schools of thought he or she chooses to study, neither the founders of these schools of thought nor their best students ever taught others to refer to themselves by the name of the particular school of thought they follow. What does it mean to be a Hanafi? Or a Shafi`i? For all intents and purposes, referring to someone as a "Hanafi," for example, implies that the person is a Muslim, and follows the school of thought known for its founder, Imam Abu Hanifa. But in reality, one would be hard-pressed to find any reputable Islamic scholar ever refer to a contemporary by the school of thought he or she follows simply to denigrate that scholar. It is just not a known practice, and in reality such a label serves no immediate purpose in everyday life. However, in scholarly discussions it seems almost imperative to know the madhab of the respective scholars so that one can appreciate better the basis of his or her reasoning on a particular issue of fiqh. When you and I engage in labeling people by madhab we ought to be careful that we are not doing so to put them down, to make fun of them, or to consider ourselves better than them.

Another kind of labeling involves referring to Muslims by the particular movement that they follow: Ikhwani (The Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan ul Muslimoon), Jamati (Jamat-e-Islami or The Islamic Group), Tablighi (Tabligh Jamat or The Group Conveying he Message), Salafi (follower of our predecessors, or the Salaf as-salih), and a Wahhabi (Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab) among others. The assumption with the use of all these movement labels is that the person is Muslim and happens to be a member of a particular movement. What does it mean then to refer to someone by the movement they follow? Why make the distinction in daily conversation? One reason could be, within the context of a scholarly discussion, to distinguish the strategy or outlook that a movement espouses on a particular issue facing the Muslims. A person could, for example, rightly desire to examine the views of the Muslim Brotherhood on political participation and in doing so, ask a member of that movement: "You are an Ikhwani, help us understand your movement's views on political participation." However, the labeling or the self-labeling should never be used to marginalize people of a particular movement or to deride them or ridicule them for their stance on any aspect of daily life.

Another kind of labeling by Muslims, and also people of other faiths, is by the level of adherence to Islamic beliefs and practices that a particular Muslim is perceived to have. You might have heard for example, references to an fundamentalist Muslim, a conservative Muslim, a liberal Muslim, or a progressive Muslim. What each of these labels means is really defined by the person using them. To date, there is no agreed upon definition of these particular labels precisely, because the breadth and depth of the definition are constricted by the personal insecurities, biases, and prejudices of the person using the labels. After all, who determines what makes a person a fundamentalist, a conservative, a liberal or a progressive? For the people of other faiths, each of these labels has a meaning and is applied to connote a level of practice and a particular personal perspective on various issues in life. Muslims should never be tempted to characterize individuals based on their personal perspectives but rather on their adherence to the teachings of the Qur'an and sunnah. It is possible that individual scholars might vary in their interpretation of Islamic teachings but we should resist the temptation to characterize this variance as 'conservative' or 'liberal.' It is more preferable for us to gauge the variance among the scholars with reference to our pious predecessors such as ibn 'Umar and ibn Abbas radhi allahu anhuma. Both of these beloved companions of the Prophet Muhammad sal allahu alayhi wasallam are known as established scholars, with unparalleled contributions in the fields of tafsir, for example. It is known however, that the stance of these two scholars differed on various issues and most often, the result was that people felt ibn 'Umar's interpreted along the letter of the law and ibn Abbas interpreted along the spirit of the same law. Both feared Allah and exercised great restraint in proffering their interpretations so we should not trivialize their efforts by using commonplace terms to say that ibn 'Umar was conservative and ibn Abbas was liberal. Similarly we should not use those same labels for contemporary scholars whose interpretations are aligned with either ibn 'Umar or ibn Abbas radhi allahu anhuma. And as for those who call themselves or others 'progressive,' let them also remember that Islam is a complete and comprehensive religion for all people for all times. There is no need for the religion to be made more 'progressive,' but rather all efforts should be dedicated at restoring and reviving the practice of Islam based on the most authentic sources. In addition, more energy needs to be exerted on the resolution of contemporary issues while keeping in line with established centuries-old methodology to analyze and interpret Islamic teachings. Notwithstanding the self-imposed stagnation of the past few centuries for Muslims all over the world, no one would deny nor will deny that no religion desires progress more than Islam, and no adherents of a religion are more progressive than the Muslims.

Finally, think twice before resorting to the use of a label to refer to family members, friends, community leaders, scholars, etc. What does it mean to be a Muslim? As we noted at the outset, that question is simple and straightforward to answer. It is you and I who complicate our religion and trivialize and marginalize legitimate differences within the rich and deep-rooted Islamic tradition. When we use labels such as some of those mentioned in this essay, we risk hurting people and displeasing Allah. Stop using labels and fight the temptation to make fun of others, to put down others, to humiliate others, to marginalize others and worst of all to think of oneself as better than others. Remember that scholars use certain labels but also remember that a true scholar fears Allah and thus would never use a label in the same manner as a person who is not a scholar. Stop branding and labeling people, since we know that a Muslim is a Muslim and that's that.

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** Altaf Husain is a licensed social worker in the United States and has been a contributing writer to IslamOnline since its inception. He can be contacted at youth_campaign@iolteam.com.

Halal Evening

By VERLYN KLINKENBORG

Let me catch this moment. I am making a pilgrimage to the late-night halal food stand at the corner of 53rd and Sixth. It is Nov. 30, and the temperature at 8 p.m. is 66 degrees. I used to walk right past the halal food stands on Sixth Avenue, wondering at the long lines waiting along the curb. I always slowed a little in the curried air, imagining a cartoonlike tendril of scent beckoning with a crooked finger. Now I join the lines, and I know that at certain times of day the world boils down to some very simple questions: lamb or chicken, pita or rice, white sauce or red sauce.

December will begin in a few hours, and it is 66 degrees. The temperature feels permissive. At least that is how some of the Midtown crowd reads it, as though this were a pleasant late summer’s night or a release from the clutches of a season that hasn’t clutched us yet. The streets are filled with people in sartorial confusion, in the undress of summer, the overdress of winter and everything in between. Times Square is jammed with tourists seized for the instant in the flash of their digital cameras. There is no reason to go inside. The whole city seems to have poured into the streets. Only a few faces show the nagging dread this warmth carries with it. “If this is November ...” some of them are thinking.

It is still early, so the line is short at the halal food stand. The culinary dialect here is not the same as the one at the halal stand I call home, and I get the wrong order. It makes no difference. If it were 28 degrees, as it should be, the scent from the grill would seem tightly bounded by the night, everyone huddling a little closer as if they could get warm in the smell of curried chicken. But not tonight. There is an urgency close in, where change is being made and food handed over in saffron plastic bags, but that is all the urgency there is.
For some reason the word civilization is floating in my mind. Not the honorific use of the word but a use that might be analogous to “ecosystem.” What put the word there isn’t the crowds — so diffuse in their purposes — or the everyday ironic familiarity of eating halal food in the beating heart of the Christmas rush. What puts the word there is the warmth. It makes the strangeness, the self-containment of this city life, more palpable than it has ever seemed before. It raises a corner of the carpet on which we are all standing.

US Congressman taking an oath on the Quran

12/2/2006 - Political - Article Ref: IV0612-3178
By: Dr. Aslam Abdullah


The newly elected first Muslim congressman Keith Ellison must not be allowed to take an oath on the Quran, says Dennis Prager, a radio talk show host in Southern California. Why? It would destroy the foundation of American culture.

Really! If the culture is so fragile that it would disintegrate by a simple act of swearing in on the Quran, then it deserves to be analyzed carefully.

Even though the first amendment guarantees freedom of religion, and the constitution does not require people to talk an oath of allegiance on the Bible, the issue goes beyond the realm of legalities. It is a debate about the future of this country and a discussion on changing demographic, intellectual and social realities.

Changes in the demography indicate that America has become home of various religious communities that were considered insignificant a few decades ago. Muslims with over six million, Hindus with more than three million, Buddhists with about two million, Bhais with over a million and of course Jews with about seven million as well as Sikhs, Jains, Pagans, atheists and agnostics make up about 15 percent of the population. With the exception of Jews who accept the Old Testament and reject the New Testament, none view the Bible as their Holy Scripture. Muslims acknowledge the divine origin of Torah (Old Testament) and Injeel, (New Testament), but question its authenticity. Hindus have a polytheistic perspective and Buddhist don't believe in the concept of one God. Bahais view all religions equal and add that their leader was the last of the exponent of the divine message. Fifteen-percent of the population is not an insignificant number. Its religious identity cannot be ignored
and certainly commentators like Dennis Prager, himself a Jew, have failed to recognize it's existence.

Socially, these communities have their own religious institutions and many of them are actively involved in the political arena as well. To expect them to show allegiance to a Book that they don't accept as a guiding principle in their every day life is meaningless. Those who demand such an act either do not understand the significance of an oath or do not take the act seriously. They are either reacting on the basis of their chauvinistic tendencies or religious bigotry.

However, it is at the intellectual level that debate about using a book other than the Bible assumes much significance, because it is this discussion that is going to have its impact on the future of the country.

There are four different dimensions of the debate on the issue. Some tend to believe that the country is founded on Judeo-Christian traditions and the inclusion of any other religious tradition would corrupt the ideological foundations of the state. Then there are those that believe Judeo-Christian traditions are incomplete without the inclusion of Islam. Hence they argue that America should recognize it as a country guided by Judeo-Christian-Islamic values. The third group argues that in a secular polity, no religious book should be required for an oath of allegiance and the fourth group believes that everyone should be given the freedom to choose whatever book, he or she chooses to take an oath of any office.

Those who believe in the supremacy of the Judeo-Christian traditions of the country comprise three perspectives. The first one include a great majority of Americans who sincerely believe that the country is essentially Christian and the constitutional freedoms primarily refer to guarantees given to various Christian denominations. They don't view other religions worthy of impacting the social and cultural life of Americans. They believe that others can enjoy freedom of religion as long as they accept the supremacy of the Bible. The proponents of the second perspective argue that Judeo-Christian traditions of America are crucial to maintain the current political system and practices. Most of them realize that there is nothing Judeo-Christian in their theology. Jews, for instance do not recognize the New Testament and consider Jesus as a false Messiah. However, they accept the supremacy of Judeo-Christian tradition for political purposes. They view Muslims as the most vocal
opponents of their political policies and practices. In their view, Israel occupies a central status in the so called divine politics and America is seen as a country doing the divine work by ensuring that Israel fulfills the divine prophecy in years to come.

They tend to believe that the acceptance of anything else other than the Bible would erode the political support for the state of Israel as other perspectives will gain legitimacy, thus, neutralizing or softening the stand of Americans on its continued one sided support for the state of Israel. It is this paranoia that has driven commentators like Dennis Prager to express their opinion on the issue of taking oath on the Quran.

The third perspective within the Judeo-Christian traditions sincerely believes that the Quran has no place within the socio-political structure of the country. They believe that through their tireless tirade against Islam, they would intimidate Muslims to renounce Islam or at least change those portions of the Quran they don't approve. They view the Quran as a book contrary to their conservatism or liberalism promoting hatred and violence. They don't want to see the Quran finding its place in the corridors of power.

When Dennis Prager wrote his piece, he apparently had in mind the support that he would gather from the three proponents of the Judeo-Christian traditions.

And sure he did. The initial response to what he wrote came from right wing conservatives, political Zionists and extremist right wing groups. Prager knows that he would not be able to stop Ellison from taking an oath on the Quran, but he would spark a debate about the Quran raising doubts in the mind of average Americans about its relevance to America.

How should Muslims respond to the debate? From a Quranic perspective, the Muslims can take either of the two following positions. Either they line up with those who believe that no book other than the constitution should be used for an oath of allegiance or all books should be permitted for that purpose. Some Muslims will argue that the sovereignty belongs to God and by showing allegiance to the constitution they would be transferring the powers to the people who are considered the ultimate power in determining the legislative directions of the country.

However, the outcome of the debate would also be determined on the basis of Muslim's outreach in explaining to others including their opponents what the Quran is and what is its relevance to America. If they fail in this attempt, they would not become marginalized, but would become irrelevant to America as well.

Muslims have to realize that some amongst us have distorted the message of the Quran for their own political gains, some have misused it for their personal interests, and some have ignored the call of the Quran for justice and peace.

Through their behavior and constant references of the Quran they have created negative feelings about the Quran among many non-Muslims. It is this outreach that will help most Americans overcome their fears about the Quran.


Dr. Aslam Abdullah is the director of the Islamic Society of Nevada, acting chairman of the Muslim Council of America as well as the editor-in-Chief of the weekly Muslim Observer.

Blood Donations: Islamic Guidelines

The information below may be used as background information for a Friday sermon, or as a hand-out in your campaign.

a.. Islam carries for humanity all goodness and welfare. Muslims are commanded to keep good relations with, and be generous to, all peoples. Therefore, a Muslim is allowed to donate blood to a non-Muslim.

b.. Donating blood is an act of charity. It might save the life of a person who is in desperate need of it. Referring to this, Allah, the Almighty says: ". and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind." (Al-Ma'dah: 32)

c.. Muslims should precede others in morality, kindness, generosity, and cooperation in goodness. Allah says, "But help you one another unto righteousness and pious duty. Help not one another unto sin and transgression, but keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is severe in punishment. " (Al-Ma'idah: 2).

d.. Contemporary Muslim jurists unanimously agree that blood transfusion for medical purposes is permissible. A Muslim is allowed to receive and donate blood for medical reasons. However, there should be no danger to the donor's life or health. In Muslim countries it is very common nowadays to find that religious scholars and Imams are asked to urge people to make blood donations to hospitals for public welfare. These matters are related to human life. Islam teaches us to feed the hungry, to take care of the sick and to save people's lives.

e.. The best place where one can donate blood is a blood bank or health care institutions that are able to take care of it, store it, and classify it in a professional way.

f.. Muslims in the West should show others how Islam cares about the welfare of humanity. Blood donation, if organized and called to by Islamic centers and Imams, will serve the cause of Da`wah and draw others' attention to the glittering aspects of Islam.

g.. During international campaigns for blood donation, Muslims should be so active that all peoples would have the opportunity to know more about Islam. Muslim relief organizations are encouraged to play a vital role in these humanitarian campaigns.

h.. Muslims, who are unable to donate blood due to health or medical reasons, can play an important role by calling and encouraging other members of the Muslim community to donate blood. In shaa' Allah, they will receive great reward from Allah for their efforts in guiding others for what is good.

i.. It is not permissible to sell one's blood or to pay the blood donor. However, if one is desperate for blood (to save his life) and the only means to obtain it is to purchase it, then it is permissible to pay for the blood.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Britain Expands Litvinenko Inquiry

By Simon Saradzhyan
Staff Writer

AP - Mario Scaramella


The investigation into the poisoning death of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko is taking British police to the United States and Russia and will continue expand to wherever "the police take it," a senior British official said Sunday.

Doctors, meanwhile, said they had found a "significant quantity" of polonium-210 -- the radioactive element suspected of killing Litvinenko -- in the body of Italian researcher Mario Scaramella, who met Litvinenko the day he fell ill.

Investigators over the weekend cleared airplanes suspected of being contaminated with polonium-210 and allowed them to resume flights.

British Home Secretary John Reid said Sunday that the inquiry into Litvinenko's Nov. 23 death was expanding and would go wherever "the police take it."


"Over the next few days, I think all of these things I think will widen out a little from the circle just being here in Britain," Reid said on Sky News television.

British law enforcement officials visited the United States last week to interview former KGB officer Yury Shvets, who claims to have passed information to Litvinenko on links between the Kremlin and Yukos. British authorities also have asked the FBI for assistance.
British investigators were preparing Sunday to leave London for Moscow to interview several people, including KGB veteran Andrei Lugovoi, who also met Litvinenko on the day he fell ill, an unidentified British police official told The Associated Press. Itar-Tass said nine investigators would arrive Monday.

Lugovoi, who denies any role in the poisoning, has said Moscow doctors found no traces of polonium-210 in his body. He and a Russian associate, Dmitry Kovtun, met Litvinenko at the Millennium Hotel on Nov. 1. A senior British government source told London's Daily Telegraph in Friday's issue that polonium-210 had been dropped on the floor of the hotel. Industrially produced polonium is usually encased in capsules.

Matthew Bunn of Harvard University's Managing the Atom Project said that if a "patch of contamination" was found on the floor of the hotel, the handler might have dropped the polonium-210 while transferring it from a capsule into a dispensable form that could be used to poison someone. This "suggests the level of the incompetence" of the killers, he said.

Lugovoi has said he traveled to London with his wife, children and a group of Russian soccer fans to watch a game between CSKA Moscow and London's Arsenal. British police visited Arsenal's Emirates stadium Friday.

Earlier on Nov. 1, Litvinenko met Scaramella at a sushi restaurant in central London.

London's University College Hospital said Sunday that the 36-year-old researcher had been exposed to a "significant quantity" of polonium-210 but was not showing any poisoning symptoms. Scaramella, the Italian researcher, was hospitalized and "feeling well," the hospital said in statement.

Investigators have found traces of polonium-210 at the restaurant.

Doctors said insignificant traces of the poison had been found in Litvinenko's widow.

Litvinenko, who blamed President Vladimir Putin for the poisoning in a deathbed statement, was convinced that he had been poisoned at one of the two meetings, but he did not know which, said a friend, Alex Goldfarb. Putin has strongly denied any involvement.
At the sushi restaurant, Scaramella gave Litvinenko a memo written by Yevgeny Limarev, whose father served with the KGB in the 1970s and now lives in Switzerland, researching security, the Daily Telegraph reported Saturday, citing a copy of the memo.

The memo claimed that Russian security service officers and an organization called Dignity and Honor, headed by Colonel Valentin Velichko, were trying to kill Litvinenko and his patron, self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, the newspaper said. The memo was a purported hit list that also included Scaramella and journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in an apparent contract killing last month. Human rights activist and novelist Vladimir Bukovsky is also on the list, British tabloid News of the World reported.

A man also named Valentin Velichko -- who headed the Club of Veterans of State Security after retiring from foreign intelligence with the rank of a colonel -- played an important role in securing the release of Medecins Sans Frontieres' Dutch doctor Arjan Erkel in 2004. Erkel was kidnapped in Dagestan in 2002.

Former Dutch Ambassador Tiddo Hofstee has said he gave 1 million euros to Velichko and that Velichko collaborated with Federal Security Service officers to chart a plane to Dagestan on April 9, 2004, and win Erkel's release three days later.
Velichko has denied accepting any money.

An organization called Club Dignity and Honor/Regional Public Organization of Veterans of Special Services and Law Enforcement Agencies is registered at 15/2 Novy Arbat. Calls to this organization went unanswered Sunday. A security guard told an Ekho Moskvy reporter who visited the building over the weekend that no organization by that name operated there.
A team of three pathologists in protective gear conducted a postmortem exam on Litvinenko's body Friday. Full results are not expected to be announced for several days. The BBC reported that because of fears of radiation, Litvinenko's remains would have to be buried in a specially sealed casket.

Julia Svetlichnaja, an academic from the University of Westminster, wrote in a comment published in The Observer on Sunday that Litvinenko had told her of plans to blackmail prominent Russians. She said Litvinenko claimed access to Russian intelligence documents with information about people and companies on a Kremlin blacklist.

"He told me he was going to blackmail or sell sensitive information about all kinds of powerful people, including oligarchs, corrupt officials and sources in the Kremlin," Svetlichnaja wrote.

Svetlichnaja wrote that she "almost regretted" giving Litvinenko her e-mail, as he began feeding her information "with such gusto that in the weeks before his death I had started deleting most of his messages without opening them."
Svetlichnaja did not respond to an e-mail for comment Sunday.

The Observer reported that Litvinenko had claimed in the weeks before his death that he had a file with damaging revelations about the Kremlin and its relationship with Yukos. The file was complied by Shvets, the former KGB agent who until recently lived in Virginia, an associate of Shvets told the Observer.

Shvets said by telephone last week that he had what he believed was a credible lead in the case, but he declined to elaborate. He said he was now in hiding.


Mikhail Trepashkin, an imprisoned former FSB officer, said in a letter released Friday that he had warned Litvinenko several years ago that the FSB had formed a unit to kill him, Berezovsky and other Kremlin foes. Trepashkin said he was invited to join the unit in 2002.
Trepashkin, who like Litvinenko accused the FSB of being behind the 1999 apartment bombings, received a four-year prison sentence on May 19 after being convicted of revealing state secrets and illegally carrying a pistol in his car.

Trepashkin said in his letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Moscow Times, that authorities had put him in a cell contaminated with poisonous chemicals and threatened to kill him after his arrest.

"Litvinenko and I aren't the last in this chain of victims of persecution," he wrote. Maybe Litvinenko's death "could make you believe in what he was saying."

It was unclear whether scientists had determined the origin of the polonium-210. The Guardian has speculated that the polonium could have come from "the principal plant" in the Krasnoyarsk region.

The report was denied by the largest nuclear facility in the region, the Zheleznogorsk Mining and Chemical Combine. A plant manager, Viktor Ovsyannikov, said the plant had no polonium, the VolgaPolitInfo news agency reported. An official in the plant director's office declined to comment on the issue Friday.

The plant stores spent nuclear fuel and has a reactor designed to produce weapons-grade plutonium, according to the web site of Bellona, a Norwegian-based environmental watchdog.

Alexander Koldobsky, professor with the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, confirmed that it would be "more or less" possible to trace the nuclear reactor that produced the polonium-210. Polonium is usually produced from bismuth in a reactor.
Traces of polonium have been found at more than a dozen locations across London, including Litvinenko's home and Berezovsky's office. British authorities last week also found radiation on three British Airways planes that flew between London and Moscow. After being checked, the planes were been allowed to resume flights.


Russian authorities delayed a Finnair flight in Moscow on Saturday in a radiation scare. No radiation was found.

British authorities also have cleared two easyJet planes that Scaramella flew to Britain to meet Litvinenko and back to Italy.

Bunn, the Harvard specialist, expressed bewilderment by the discovery of radiation at so many locations. He said that while Litvinenko might have left traces of polonium through his sweat after he was poisoned, it was a mystery how the substances entered the planes.

He said the two most logical explanations were that the person carrying the polonium had been contaminated himself or that investigators were confusing low concentrations of the substance that occur naturally with the poison in the Litvinenko case.

Staff Writers Kevin O'Flynn and Carl Schreck contributed to this report.

New Trojan Blocks Porn Sites

CAIRO, September 8

A new program that is making the rounds in the Internet appears to be on a moral mission by blocking porn Web sites, security research firm Sophos said on its Web site.

Instead of snooping for sensitive financial information or secretly taking control of an infected computer, the new program, called Yusufali-A, monitors Web surfing habits.

It watches which Web sites Windows users visit by examining the browser's title bar.

If it detects a word such as "xxx" or "sex" it minimizes the activated window and pops up a message with a verse from the Noble Qur'an in Arabic, English and Persian.

If the offending site is not closed, a button labeled "For Exit Click Here" will appear.

Moving the mouse to that box will lock it in and the program displays a message reading "Oh! NO i'm in the Cage" and force the computer to log-out.

Sophos, a world leader in computer security for 20 years, said it first detected the new program in Iran on September 4, 2005.

Moral Mission

Other than chastising adult Web site surfers, Yusufali-A appears to cause no serious harm to infected systems.

While Yusufali-A is unremarkable from a technical perspective, its moral tone sets it apart from other malicious software.

"Unlike other malware, it appears this Trojan horse isn't trying to steal money or confidential information, but acting as a moral guardian instead - blocking viewing of websites it determines are unsavory," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos.

"This Trojan horse may have been written as a joke, or as a serious attempt to clean-up the habits of internet users," he added.

"Of course, it's possible for the Trojan horse to make mistakes and block sites which are not pornographic - such as medical sites, or social sites designed for teenagers."

Unlike viruses, Trojan horse programs do not try to spread to other computers once installed.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Settling of Scores on The Day Of Resurrection

When the Day of Resurrection comes, a man's wealth and capital will be his Hasanaat (good deeds). If he had done wrong to any people, they will take from his hasanaat to the extent that he mistreated them. If he does not have any hasanaat, or if his hasanaat run out, then some of their sayi`aat (bad deeds) will be taken and added to his burden.

Bukhari narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) said:

"Whoever wronged his brother with regard to his honor or any other matter, should seek his forgiveness today, before there are no longer any Dinars, or Dirhams; and if he has any righteous deeds, they will be taken from him, in accordance with the wrong he did; and if he has no hasanaat, some of the sayi`aat of his counterpart will be taken and added to his burden:" (Bukhari: Kitaab al-Mazaalim, Baab man kaanat lahu mazlamah 'inda rajul, Fath al-Baari, 5/101)

This person whose Hasanaat (good deeds) are taken from him by the people, and then has their Sayi'aat (bad or evil deeds) placed on his own back, is the one who is bankrupt, as the Messenger (p.b.u.h.) called him. Muslim narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h - peace be upon him) said:

"Do you know who is the one who is bankrupt?" They said, 'The bankrupt is the one who has no money and no possessions.' He said, 'Among my Ummah (Islamic Community/Nation), the one who is bankrupt is the one who will come on the Day of Resurrection with prayer and fasting and Zakah (to his credit), but he will come having insulted this one, slandered that one, consumed the wealth of this one and shed the blood of that one, and beaten that one. So they will all be given some of his hasanaat, and when his hasanaat run out, before judgment is passed, some of their sins will be taken and cast onto him, then he will be cast into the Fire.'" (Muslim: 4/1998, Hadith no. 2581)

If a debtor died when he still owed money to people, they will take from his Hasanaat whatever is in accordance with what he owes them. It is narrated with that Ibn Umar (ra -May Allah be pleased with him) stated: The Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) said:

"Whoever dies owing a Dinar or a Dirham, it will be paid from his Hasanaat, for then there will be no Dinars or Dirhams." (Saheeh al-Jaami as-Sagheer, 5/537, Hadith no. 6432)

If people wronged one another, the score will be settled between them. If they mistreated one another equally, then there will be no score to settle. If one of them is still owed something by the other, he will take what he is entitled to.

It is narrated that Aisha (ra - may Allah be pleased with her) said: "A man came and sat in front of the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.), and said, 'O Messenger of Allah, I have two slaves who tell me lies, betray and disobey me, and I insult them and beat them. What is my position with regard to them?' The Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) said:

'On the Day of Resurrection, their betrayal, disobedience and lying will be measured against your punishment of them. If your punishment is commensurate with their wrongs, then there will be no score to settle. If your punishment of them was less than their sins deserved, then this will count in your favour. If your punishment of them was more than their sins deserved, then the score will be settled against you.' The man turned away and started to weep. The Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) said to him, 'Have you not read the words of Allah?''"

"And We shall set up Balances of justice on the Day of Resurrection, then none will be dealt with unjustly in anything. And if there be the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it. And Sufficient are We to take account." (Quran 21: 47).'" (Mishkaat al-Masaabeeh, 3/66, Hadith no. 5561) It is also narrated in Saheeh al-Jaami`, 6/327, Hadith no. 7895, where it attributed to Ahmad and Tirmidhi.)

Because Zulm (oppression) is such a serious matter, it is better for those who fear that Day to give up oppression and avoid it. The Messenger (p.b.u.h.) has told us that oppression will be darkness on the Day of Resurrection. Bukhari and Muslim narrated from Abdullah Ibn Umar that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said:

"Oppression (Zulm) will be darkness (Zulumaat) on the Day of Resurrection." (Bukhari: Kitaab al-Mazaalim, Baab az-Zulm Zulumaat Yawm al-Qiyaamah, Fath al-Baari, 51100; Muslim, 4/1969, Hadith no. 2579)

Muslim narrated from Jaabir ibn Abdullah (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) said:

"Beware of oppression (Zulm), for oppression will be darkness (Zulumaat) on the Day of Resurrection." (Muslim: 4/1969, Hadith no. 2578)

By: Dr. Umar Al-Ashqar

Assassin of the Prophet (saw) to an Upright Believer

Umayr ibn Wahb al-Jumahi returned safely from the Battle of Badr. His son, Wahb, was left behind, a prisoner in the hands of the Muslims. Umayr feared that the Muslims would punish the youth severely because of the persecution he himself had meted out to the Prophet (saw- may the peaace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the torture he had inflicted on his companions (ra - may Allah be pleased with them all).

One morning Umayr went to the Sacred Mosque to make tawaf (circumambulation) around the Kabah and worship his idols. He found Safwan ibn Umayyah sitting near the Kabah, he went up to him and said:

Im Sabahan (Good Morning), Quraysh chieftain."

"Im Sabahan, Ibn Wahb," replied Safwan. "Let us talk for some time. Time only goes by with conversation."

Umayr sat next to him. The two men began to recall Badr, the great defeat they had suffered and they counted the prisoners who had fallen into the hands of Muhammad and his companions. They became deeply distressed at the number of great Quraysh men who had been killed by the swords of the Muslims and who lay buried in the mass grave at al-Qalib in Badr.

Safwan ibn Umayyah shook his head and sighed, "By God, there can be no better after them."

"You are right," declared Umayr. He remained silent for a while and then said, "By the God of the Kabah, if I had no debts and no family whose loss I fear after me, I would go to Muhammad (saw) and kill him, finish off his mission and check his evil." He went on in a faint, subdued voice, "And as my son Wahb is among them, my going to Yathrib would be beyond doubt."

Safwan ibn Umayyah listened intently to the words of Umayr and did not wish this opportunity to pass. He turned to him and said:

"Umayr, place all your debt in my hands and I will discharge it for you whatever the amount. As for your family, I shall take them as my own family and give them whatever they need. I have enough wealth to guarantee them a comfortable living."

"Agreed," said Umayr. "But keep this conversation of ours secret and do not divulge any of it to anyone."

"That shall be so," said Safwan.

Umayr left the Masjid al-Haram with the fire of hatred against Muhammad (saw) blazing in his heart. He began to count what he needed for the task he had set himself. He knew that he had the full support and confidence of the Quraysh who had members of their families held prisoner in Madinah .

Umayr had his sword sharpened and coated with poison. His camel was prepared and brought to him. He mounted the beast and rode in the direction of Madinah with evil in his heart.

Umayr reached Madinah and went directly towards the mosque looking for the Prophet (saw). Near the door of the mosque, he alighted and tethered his camel.

At that time, Umayr was sitting with some of the Sahabah (ra) near the door of the Mosque, reminiscing about Badr, the number of prisoners that had been taken and the number of Quraysh killed. They also recalled the acts of heroism shown by the Muslims, both the Muhajirun (Emigrators) and the Ansar (Helpers) gave thanks to God for the great victory He had given them.

At that very moment Umar (ra - may Allah be pleased with him) turned around and saw Umayr ibn Wahb alighting from his camel and going towards the Mosque brandishing his sword. Alarmed, he jumped up and shouted. "This is the dog, the enemy of God, Umayr ibn Wahb. By God, he has only come to do evil. He led the Mushrikeen (pagans) against us in Makkah and he was a spy for them against us shortly before Badr. Go to the Messenger of God (saw), stand around him and warn him that this dirty traitor is after him."

Umar (ra - may Allah be pleased with him) himself hastened to the Prophet (saw) and said, "O Rasulullah (Messenger of Allah), this enemy of God, Umayr ibn Wahb, has come brandishing his sword and I think that he could only be up to something evil." "Let him come in," said the Prophet (saw).

Umar (ra - may Allah be pleased with him) approached Umayr, took hold of him by the tails of his robes, pressed the back of his sword against his neck and took him to the Prophet (saw).

When the Prophet (saw) saw Umayr in this condition he said to Umar (ra - may Allah be pleased with him): "Release him.' He then turned to Umayr and said: "Come closer." Umayr came closer and said, "Im Sabaha" (the Arab greeting in the days of Jahiliyyah)."

"God has granted us a greeting better than this, Umayr," said the Prophet (saw). "God has granted us the greeting of Peace--it is the greeting of the people of Paradise ie. As-salaamu A'laykum Wa Rahmatuallah Wa Barakaatuh - may the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you." "What have you come for?" continued the Prophet (saw).

"I came here hoping to have the prisoner in your hands released, so please oblige me." "And what is this sword around your neck for?" quizzed the Prophet (saw). "Tell me the truth. What have you come for, Umayr?" prodded the Prophet. "I have only come to have the prisoner released," insisted Umar.

"No. You and Safwan ibn Umayyah sat near the Kabah recalling your companions who lie buried at al-Qalib and then you said, 'If I had no debt or no family to look after, I would certainly go out to kill Muhammad.' Safwan took over your debt and promised to look after your family in return for your agreeing to kill me. But God is a barrier between you and your achieving your aim."

Umayr stood stupefied for a moment, then said: "I bear witness that you are the messenger of God." "O messenger of' God." he continued, "we used to reject whatever good you had brought and whatever revelation came to you. But my conversation with Safwan ibn Umayyah was not known to anyone else. By God, I am certain that only God could have made this known to you. Praise be to God Who has led me to you that He may guide me to Islam.' He then testified that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah and became a Muslim. Thereupon, the Prophet instructed his companions: "instruct your brother in his religion. Teach him the Quran and set free his prisoner."

The Muslims were extremely happy with Umayr's (ra - may Allah be pleased with him) acceptance of Islam. Even Umar (ra) who once said of him, "A pig is certainly dearer to me than Umayr ibn Wahb" came up to the Prophet (saw) and exclaimed "Today, he is dearer to me than some of my own children."

Thereafter Umayr (ra) spent much time increasing his knowledge of Islam and filling his heart with the light of the Quran. There, in Madinah, he spent the sweetest and richest days of his life away from what he had known in Makkah .

Back in Makkah, Safwan was filled with hope and would say to the Quraysh, "I will soon give you some great news that would make you forget the events of Badr." Safwan waited for a long time and then gradually became more and more anxious. Greatly agitated, he would go out and ask travelers what news they had of Umayr ibn Wahb (ra) but no one was able to give him a satisfactory reply. Eventually a rider came and said "Umayr (ra) has become a Muslim."

The news hit Safwan like a thunderbolt. He was certain that Umayr (ra) would never become a Muslim and if he ever did then everyone on the face of the earth would become Muslim also. "Never shall I speak to him and never shall I do anything for him," he said.

Umayr meanwhile kept on striving to gain a good understanding of his religion and memorize whatever he could of the words of God. When he felt he had achieved a certain degree of confidence, he went to the Prophet (saw) and said:

"O Rasulullah (saw), much time has passed since I used to try to put out the light of God and severely tortured whoever was on the path of Islam. Now, I desire that you should give me permission to go to Makkah and invite the Quraysh to God and His Messenger (saw). If they accept it from me, that will be good. And if they oppose me, I shall harass them as I used to harass the companions (ra - may Allah be pleased with them all) of the Prophet (saw)."

The Prophet (saw) gave his consent and Umayr (ra) left for Makkah. He went straight to the house of Safwan ibn Umayyah and said: "Safwan, you are one of the chieftains of Makkah and one of the most intelligent of the Quraysh. Do you really think that these stones you are worshiping and making sacrifice to, deserve to be the basis of a religion? As for myself, I declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (saw) is the Messenger of Allah." At Umayr's (ra) hands, many Makkans became Muslims, but Safwan did not.

Later, during the liberation of Makkah, Safwan ibn Umayyah attempted to flee from the Muslim forces. Umayr (ra), however, obtained an amnesty from the Prophet (saw) for him and he too became a Muslim and distinguished himself in the service of Islam.

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