Monday, September 22, 2008

Sheep or Wolf

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Woodward's 'The War Within'

I just read Angry Arab's review of Bob Woodward's book 'The War Within' and it seems interesting. Even though I probably won't read it myself as books like these usually don't add anything new to my perception of things and can cause me to vomit; but they are a good source for reference. You can read it below.

The War Within by Bob Woodward should be read by all those who want to understand the American war and occupation of Iraq. There are many things that have not been mentioned in the media reviews of the book. Woodward is unlike himself in this book: he has more cited sources and more (very brief and in passing) analytic conclusions than usual. You really are struck that none of the civilians who handle Iraq at the White House know the Middle East, or have studied the Middle East. Those who know the Middle East were in the military and were skeptical from the beginning. Gen. Abizaid for example drew the right conclusion early on: "We need to get the fuck out." (p. 5). You read that Ahmad Chalabi was seen by the US government as the future leader of Iraq--kid you not. Apparently, Chalabi had promised to show up in Iraq with 10,000 to take over the country. (p. 49) What is lacking in reviews of the book is the most damning conclusion: that the Bush administration was lying to the American public throughout: statements that were made in public were contradicted by classified reports that were read in private meetings. In fact, the best case scenario for Iraq was according to them a Mubarak-like dictator. In the words of Sen. McConnell: "I'd settle for Egypt."(p. 81) And you read about the pathetic sectarian figure: the puppet prime minister, Nuri Al-Maliki. The puppet is at pains to dismiss accounts of public opinion surveys that point to Iraqi public rejection of American occupation. He assures US officials: "We do not have public opinion polls in Iraq...There are definiately those who talk about the Americans leaving. But it is the top-level people who will decide, and we want you to stay." (p. 111) Some people spoke of "bringing Saddam back" as plan B for Iraq. (p. 123) And Gen. Moseley summed up his views on Israelis and Palestinians: "Pack of assholes on both sides."(p. 174) And it is quite amusing to see that Bush and Rice and other officials refer to Middle East leaders as their examples of Middle East public opinion. Bush was thus bragging that he is supported in Iraq by Musharraf, Karzai, and Saudi king. (p. 209). And you read that puppet Maliki was offended when ambassador Khalilzad would dictate orders to him. He wanted more respect as a puppet. (p. 210) And you really have to read Secretary Rice analyzing Arab public opinion. I mean, who can you blame such people: her chief adviser on Arab affairs is Elliott Abrams, for potato's sake. She insists that "Many of the Arabs see Iran now as more dangerous problem than Israel." (p. 220) Such is the quality of Middle East expertise at the White House. I remember that chief Middle East hand at Clinton's White House, Bruce Reidel telling Middle East Quarterly that Arab public opinion is not displeased with the sanctions that were imposed on Iraq in the 1990s. (He now advises Obama on the Middle East, I heard). You read how Gen. Petraeus orders another US puppet, Iyad `Allawi: "Get in the game." (p. 332). And Bush summs up his views of Iranians: "These are assholes." (p. 334) And you think that Sarah Palin is woefully ill-prepared to be president? When Bush is a two-term president? And you read about the Saudi King: how unhappy he is about the Iraq situation. He was expecting a replacement of Saddam by another Sunni dictator. He was angry with the Americans over that and would refuse to discuss the matter. And like Saudi media, he would refer to Shi`ites as "Safavids"--he is as ignorant as his media, not knowing about the glories of the Safavid dynasty.(p. 347) You read that Hadley at the White House decides where puppet Maliki should go and visit.(p. 354) And Hadley was handing out copies of a column by Thomas Friedman.(p. 420). If this is where they get their wisdom on the world, can you blame their ignorance? And Bush refer to the American imperial occupation in the Middle East as "freedom hegemony" when somebody told him to refrain from using the term "military hegemony."(p. 425). That is all folks.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

One reason why Islam bans interest

I was going to write a post defending the practice of not using interest and how had Islamic law been applied in Banks, properly, the current global credit crisis could have been averted. Of course being lazy and a bit tech savvy I found an article doing it for me, which I have pasted below. There is even another article describing the offering of sharia compliant banking services in Britain, Canada and Germany that some might find interesting. This last article also supports my opinion; but from an Islamic site, so opposers of sharia might find it too biased.

Credit crisis gives Islamic finance a chance to shine
By Umesh Desai
Tuesday, August 19, 2008

HONG KONG: The global credit crisis presents the $1 trillion Islamic finance industry with an opportunity to expand its appeal beyond Muslim investors, as a haven from speculative excess.

The message may have particular resonance in the West after the crumbling of the U.S. mortgage market left banks holding hundreds of billions of dollars of nearly worthless credit instruments tied to home loans by a web of complex structures.

While conventional banks worldwide are nursing losses of more than $400 billion from the credit crisis, Islamic banks are virtually unscathed. And they are playing up the contrast to scalded shareholders, bondholders and borrowers and fearful depositors.

"It's very much a return to old-fashioned conservative lending," said David Testa, chief executive of Gatehouse Bank, which began operations in April as the fifth Islamic bank in Britain.

"The current global market condition has given Islamic finance a great opportunity to show what it can do - help to fill the liquidity gap," he said.

Investors traumatized by the credit crisis could seek comfort from the stricter rules imposed on lending by Islamic law, which bans some of the structures and financing methods that quickly unraveled during the U.S. mortgage crisis.

Testa said that Islamic finance practices were more fiscally conservative, with direct participation by investors in plans that do not involve parking assets in off-balance-sheet vehicles.

Islamic finance is based on Shariah, or Islamic law. It requires that gains be derived from ethical and socially responsible investments and discourages interest-based banking and investments in sectors like pork, gambling and pornography.

The Asian Development Bank estimates that Islamic assets globally have a combined value of about $1 trillion, with annual growth of 10 percent to 15 percent a year. Al-Rajhi Bank of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait Finance House are the two biggest Islamic banks in the Gulf region. In Malaysia, the largest Islamic lender is Maybank Islamic, a subsidiary of Malayan Banking.

The jump in popularity of Islamic finance is drawing the interest of companies outside the Middle East.

City Developments, one of the largest developers in Southeast Asia, said last week that it could issue Islamic debt and sell hotels to enhance its ability to make acquisitions.

The Islamic finance industry, which was nearly nonexistent 30 years ago, has certain distinguishing features that make it less risky, analysts say.

Islamic bonds, or sukuk, replace coupons with payments backed by the performance of tangible assets. Islamic law prohibits the payment of interest and requires transactions to be linked to assets, thus deterring the kind of complexities prevalent in conventional financing operations.

Debashis Dey, the Dubai-based head of capital markets at the law firm Clifford Chance, said that although the Islamic finance industry was adapting conventional products to make them compliant with Shariah, it was a long way from sophisticated products like collateralized debt obligations.

But while Islamic products are coming into favor, analysts say market commentators and intermediaries may be too zealous in promoting the merits of Islamic finance as a safe product.

Mohamed Damak of Standard & Poor's cited the case of the boom in real estate financing in the Gulf mainly by Islamic banks in the past three years, amid soaring property prices.

"A correction of the real estate sector would impact Islamic banks involved in this business line. Islamic finance is not immune from risk," he said.

Even as experts are weighing the degree of insularity that Islamic financing provides, there are differences in the way accounts are prepared and in how Shariah law is interpreted.

Banks in Britain differ in their accounting operations from banks in Bahrain, for example, which in turn differ from banks in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Dey, at Clifford Chance, said the lack of standardization posed a hurdle to growth, but others said that a cookie-cutter approach was not desirable and that regional differences would remain.

"Complete standardization may not happen - there will always be variants," said Raj Maiden, managing director at Five Pillars in Singapore, who added that it was more important to tailor products according to the needs of each market.

While the debate rages on whether Islamic finance provides a safer bet or is merely a potential source of irrational exuberance, most agree the industry should make the most of the attention it is now receiving.

"If Islamic banks step up to the mark, then they will gain traction," said Testa, of Gatehouse.

What does this mean

on-the-edge left this in her comment on the last post:

"And I would like to say this , going out on a limb to do so , at least these acts were fostered on the Libyan people by a foreign occupying government ."

I'm not sure about what she meant so could someone help me out here ?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Italians coming back ?

"There is a community which suffered an injustice, because it was expropriated of its properties and thrown out and which is asking today to go back to Libya. This is envisaged by the Treaty and it must be implemented immediately". Thus Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from the stage of the party of Azione Giovani, answered to those asking how the Italians who resided in Libya will be protected.

I don't remember any Italians earning anything legitimately, they were no different from any other colonizers they kicked out the natives from the most fertile farm lands and out of the centers of the main cities using war and death. They only thing they have a right to is death, they were lucky to get out alive the first time around ! And any step that allows them to return, by anybody, will ultimately cost many lives on both sides.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Who Speaks for Islam: Part II

This is the second part of the series, again my highlights are in blue ;)

In this five-part series, carried every Friday during Ramadan, Gulf News excerpts the fascinating conclusions of the largest ever opinion survey of the world's Muslims, carried out by Gallup. Who speaks for Islam? by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed was published by Gallup Press.

What do the world's one billion Muslims really think? What does the silent majority of Muslims want for their lives, and in their politics? Why are the aspirations of the vast majority of Muslims in direct contrast to most of the world's impressions of Muslims?

Western confusion over Sharia

The majority of Muslims believe women should have the right to vote and hold jobs and leadership positions.

Sharia has been equated with stoning of adulterers, chopping off limbs for theft, imprisonment or death in blasphemy and apostasy cases, and limits on the rights of women and minorities. The range of differing perceptions about Sharia surfaced in Iraq when Shia leaders, such as Iraq's senior Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, called for an Islamic democracy, including Sharia as a basis of law in Iraq's new constitution. An Iraqi Christian member of the Iraqi constitution's drafting committee, Yonadam Kanna, said in summer 2005 that the consequences of making Sharia one of the main sources of law would be dire. "For women it would be a disaster." Nevertheless, more than
1,000 Iraqi women rallied in support of Sharia in the southern city of Basra in August 2005
in response to another rally opposing Sharia in Baghdad a week earlier.

Taking a stance on the debate regarding the role of Sharia in Iraq's new constitution, then-administrator L. Paul Bremer in 2004 said of the interim constitution, "Our position is clear. It can't be law until I sign it." Donald Rumsfeld, then-Secretary of Defence, warned in 2003 that the United States would not allow Iraq to become a theocracy like Iran, confusing the idea of including Sharia in Iraq's new constitution with creating a theocracy, or clerical rule.

Although in many quarters, Sharia has become the buzz-word for religious rule, responses to the Gallup Poll indicate that wanting Sharia does not automatically translate into wanting theocracy. Significant majorities in many countries say religious leaders should play no direct role in drafting a country's constitution, writing national legislation, drafting new laws, determining foreign policy and international relations, or deciding how women dress in public or what is televised or published in newspapers. Others who opt for a direct role tend to stipulate that religious leaders should only serve in an advisory capacity to government officials.

In the West, Sharia often evokes an image of a restrictive society where women are oppressed and denied basic human rights. Indeed, women have suffered under government-imposed Sharia regulations in Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Sudan, the Taliban's Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. However, those who want Sharia often charge that these regulations are un-Islamic interpretations.

Gallup Poll data show us that most respondents want women to have autonomy and equal rights. Majorities of respondents in most countries surveyed believe that women should have:

- the same legal rights as men (85 per cent in Iran; 90 per cent range in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Lebanon; 77 per cent in Pakistan; and 61 per cent in Saudi Arabia). Surprisingly, Egypt (57 per cent) and Jordan (57 per cent), which are generally seen as more liberal, lag behind Iran, Indonesia, and other countries.

- rights to vote: 80 per cent in Indonesia, 89 per cent in Iran, 67 per cent in Pakistan, 90 per cent in Bangladesh, 93 per cent in Turkey, 56 per ceaent in Saudi Arabia, and 76 per cent in Jordan say women should be able to vote without any influence or interference from family members.

- the right to hold any job for which they are qualified outside the home. Malaysia, Mauritania, and Lebanon have the highest percentage (90 per cent); Egypt (85 per cent), Turkey (86 per cent), and Morocco (82 per cent) score in the 80 per cent range, followed by Iran (79 per cent), Bangladesh (75 per cent), Saudi Arabia (69 cent), Pakistan (62 per cent), and Jordan (61 per cent).

- the right to hold leadership positions at cabinet and national council levels. While majorities among those surveyed support this statement, those in Saudi Arabia (40 per cent) and Egypt (50 per cent) are exceptions.

While Sharia is widely depicted as a rigid and oppressive legal system, Muslim women tend to have a more nuanced view of Sharia, viewing it as compatible with their aspirations for empowerment. For example, Jenan Al Ubaedy, one of 90 women who sat on Iraq's National Assembly in early 2005, told the Christian Science Monitor that she supported the implementation of Sharia. However, she said that as an assembly member, she would fight for women's right for equal pay, paid maternity leave, and reduced hours for pregnant women. She said she would also encourage women to wear hijab and focus on strengthening their families. To Ubaedy, female empowerment is consistent with Islamic values.


Most Muslims want a legal mixture

Both sexes alike across the Muslim world support some Sharia input.

Cutting across diverse Muslim countries, social classes, and gender differences, answers to our questions reveal a complex and surprising reality. Large majorities in nearly all nations surveyed (95 per cent in Burkina Faso, 94 per cent in Egypt, 93 per cent in Iran, and 9o per cent in Indonesia) say that if drafting a constitution for a new country, they would guarantee freedom of
speech, defined as "allowing all citizens to express their opinion on the political, social, and economic issues of the day."

However, while acknowledging and admiring many aspects of Western democracy, those surveyed do not favour wholesale adoption of Western models. Many appear to want their own democratic model that incorporates Sharia — and not one that is simply dependent on Western values. Actually, few respondents associate "adopting Western values" with Muslim political and economic progress. Abuses in the name of Sharia have not led to wholesale rejection of it.

In our data, the emphasis that those in substantially Muslim countries give to a new model of government — one that is democratic yet embraces religious values — helps to explain why majorities in most countries, with the exception of a handful of nations, want Sharia as at least "a" source of legislation.

In only a few countries did a majority say that Sharia should have no role in society; yet in most countries, only a minority want Sharia as "the only source" of law. In Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangla-desh, majorities want Sharia as the "only source" of legislation.

Most surprising is the absence of systemic differences in many countries between males and females in their support for Sharia as the only source of legislation.

For example, in Jordan, 54 per cent of men and 55 per cent of women want Sharia as the sole source of legislation. In Egypt, the percentages are 70 percent of men and 62 per cent of women; in Iran, 12 per cent of men and 14 per cent of women; and in Indonesia, 14 per cent of men and 14 per cent of women.

Ironically, we don't have to look far from home to find a significant number of people who want religion as a source of law. In the United States, a 2006 Gallup Poll indicates that a majority of Americans want the Bible as a source of legislation.

Forty-six per cent of Americans say the Bible should be "a" source, and 9 per cent believe it should be the "only" source of legislation.

Perhaps even more surprising, 42 per cent of Americans want religious leaders to have a direct role in writing a constitution, while 55 per cent want them to play no role at all. These numbers are almost identical to those in Iran.


The misconception of a religion

September 11 attacks have doubled fear of the faith in the US.

The failures of governments, the hijacking of Islam by rulers and by terrorists, as well as assassinations, suicide attacks and abuse of women and minorities have taken their toll on Muslim societies and on the image of Islam in the West.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll in 2006 found that nearly half of Americans — 46 per cent — have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than observed a few months after September 11, 2001. According to the poll, the proportion of Americans who believe that Islam helps stoke violence against non-Muslims has more than doubled since the 9/11 attacks, from 14 per cent in January 2002 to 33 per cent. Similarly, a Pew Research
Centre survey found that about a third of Americans (36 per cent) say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its followers.

In contrast, the majority in the Muslim world see Islam through different eyes — as a moderate, peaceful religion that is central to their self-understanding and their success. As we saw in the last chapter, overwhelming numbers of Muslims continue to identify religion as a primary marker of their identity, a source of guidance and strength, and crucial to their progress.With the exception of Kazakhstan, majorities of those surveyed in Gallup Polls of countries with substantial Muslim populations (as high as 98 per cent in Egypt, 96 per cent in Indonesia, and 86 per cent in Turkey) say that religion is an important part of their daily lives.

This compares with 68 per cent of respondents in the US and 28 per cent of respondents in the UK for whom religion is an important part of their daily lives. Yet democracy is among the most frequent responses given as a key to a more just society and to progress. When asked to describe aspects of life that are important to them, significant numbers cite having an enriched religious and spiritual life and a democratically elected government as at least very important.


Who's democracy is it anyway?

Many Muslims feel sceptical of America's intentions in encouraging such political systems across the globe.

If democracy is a desired goal for many Muslims and for US foreign policy, do Muslims believe the West has any role to play? To answer this question, we need to look at some sobering realities. There are a number of challenges in the plan to win the minds and hearts of Muslims; feedback to multiple questions in the Gallup Poll reflects criticisms and scepticism about US foreign policies and actions. Although there was widespread desire for democracy, which many Muslims view as necessary for their progress, with the exception of 10 countries surveyed, majorities disagree with the statement that "the US is serious about encouraging the establishment of democratic systems of government in this region."

Muslim attitudes toward the United States have been affected by what is perceived as America's — and to a great extent Europe's — "double standard" in promoting democracy: its long track record of supporting authoritarian regimes and failure to promote democracy in the Muslim world as it did in other areas and countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.

In a major policy address in 2002, Ambassador Richard Haass, a former senior State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, remarked that before the invasion of Iraq, both Democratic and Republican administrations practised "democratic exceptionalism" in the Muslim world, subordinating democracy to other national interests such as accessing oil, containing the Soviet Union, and grappling with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

More recently, Muslim cynicism about the United States promoting democracy has grown for a number of reasons: the use of "creating democracy" as a retroactive rationale for invading Iraq only after weapons of mass destruction in that country didn't materialise; the impression that the United States was orchestrating an "acceptable" American version of democracy in Iraq with its own hand-picked "George Washington," Ahmad Chalabi; and the trail of human rights abuses from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib. US and European refusal to recognise the democratically elected Hamas government in Palestine further reinforces such impressions.

"They (US officials) are all for democracy as long as they like the results," Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch, told The Financial Times. Roth believes that America's mission to promote democracy has become equated with "regime change" and has lost credibility in the Muslim world. "Its push for democracy is over now," he said.In The Washington Post, Salameh Nematt, a Jordanian analyst and former Washington bureau chief for the Arabic-language newspaper Al Hayat, echoed Roth's pessimism: It's a success story for Al Qaida, a success story for autocratic Arab regimes that made democracy look ugly in their people's eyes. They can say to their people: "Look at the democracy that the Americans want to bring to you. Democracy is trouble. You may as well forget about what the Americans promise you. They promise you death."

Worldwide Muslim opinions have been influenced by the explosion in mass communications that has swept across much of the Muslim world and outstripped the control of governments.

Who speaks for Islam: Part I

I found this series of interesting articles, published by Gulfnews, on The Emirates Economist's blog and thought they are worth sharing and republishing for reference as the Gulfnews isn't known for archiving it articles. I have highlighted some aspects of the article that I thought stood out in blue.

Original Link

09/11/2008 10:50 PM | By John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed

In this five-part series, carried every Friday during Ramadan, Gulf News publishes excerpts from the fascinating conclusions of the largest ever opinion survey of the world's Muslims, carried out by Gallup. Who speaks for Islam by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed was published by Gallup Press.

What do the world's one billion Muslims really think? What does the silent majority of Muslims want for their lives, and in their politics? Why are the aspirations of the vast majority of Muslims in direct contrast to most of the world's impressions of Muslims?

Islam's silenced majority

New book makes a case for democratising the debate about 9/11 and its after-effects.

What many saw as an ongoing conflict between the United States and parts of the Muslim world intensified dramatically after the horrific events of 9/11. Violence has grown exponentially as Muslims and non-Muslims alike continue to be victims of global terrorism. Terrorist attacks have occurred from Morocco to Indonesia and from Madrid to London, and wars in Afghanis-tan and Iraq rage on. War and terrorism have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives since 9/11, the vast majority of victims being civilians.

As we cope with savage actions in a world that seems ever more dangerous and out of control, we are inundated with analysis from terrorism experts and pundits who blame the religion of Islam for global terrorism. At the same time, terrorist groups such as Al Qaida beam messages throughout the world that demonise the West as the enemy of Islam and hold it responsible for all the ills of the Muslim world.

Amid the rhetoric of hate and growing violence, manifest in both anti-Americanism in the Muslim world and in Islamophobia in the West, discrimination against, or hostility toward, Islam or Muslims has massively increased. In the aftermath of 9/11, President George W. Bush emphasised that America was waging a war against terrorism, not against Islam. However, the continued acts of a terrorist minority, statements by preachers of hate (Muslim and Christian alike), anti-Muslim and anti-West talk show hosts, and political commentators have inflamed emotions and distorted views.

Negative perceptions

The religion of Islam and the mainstream Muslim majority have been conflated with the beliefs and actions of an extremist minority. For example, a 2006 USA Today/Gallup poll found that substantial minorities of Americans admit to harbouring at least some prejudice against Muslims and favouring heightened security measures for Muslims as a way to help prevent terrorism. The same poll found 44 per cent of Americans saying that Muslims are too extreme in their religious beliefs.

Nearly one-quarter of Americans, 22 per cent, say they would not want a Muslim as a neighbour; less than half believe US Muslims are loyal to the United States.

Are the negative perceptions and growing violence on all sides only a prelude to an inevitable all-out war between the West and 1.3 billion Muslims? The vital missing piece among the many voices weighing in on this question is the actual views of everyday Muslims. With all that is at stake for the West and Muslim societies - indeed for the world's future - it is time to democratise the debate.

Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think is about this silenced majority. This book is the product of a mammoth, multi-year Gallup research study. Between 2001 and 2007, Gallup conducted tens of thousands of face-to-face interviews with residents of more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have substantial Muslim populations. The sample represents residents young and old, educated and illiterate, female and male, and from urban and rural settings. With the random sampling method that Gallup used, results are statistically valid within a plus or minus 3-point margin of error. In totality, a sample representing more than 90 per cent of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims was surveyed, making this the most comprehensive study of contemporary Muslims ever done.

Surprising conclusions

The study revealed far more than what could possibly be covered in one book. The most significant, and at times, surprising conclusions have been listed below.

Here are just some of those counter-intuitive discoveries:

- Who speaks for the West?: Muslims around the world do not see the West as monolithic. They criticise or celebrate countries based on their politics, not based on their culture or religion.

- Dream jobs: When asked to describe their dreams for the future, Muslims don't mention fighting in a jihad, but rather getting a better job.

- Radical rejection: Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustified.

- Religious moderates: Those who condone acts of terrorism are a minority and are no more likely to be religious than the rest of the population.

- Admiration of the West: What Muslims around the world say they most admire about the West is its technology and its democracy — the same two top responses given by Americans when asked the same question.

- Critique of the West: What Muslims around the world say they least admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values — the same responses given by Americans when posed the same question.

- Gender justice: Muslim women want equal rights and religion in their societies.

- R.E.S.P.E.C.T.: Muslims around the world say that the one thing the West can do to improve relations with their societies is to moderate their views toward Muslims and respect Islam.

- Clerics and constitutions: The majority of those surveyed want religious leaders to have no direct role in crafting a constitution, yet favour religious law as a source of legislation.


Global view: Does one size fit all?

While many people commonly speak of Islam and Muslims in broad, all-encompassing terms, there are many interpretations of Islam and many different Muslims.

Muslims come from diverse nationalities, ethnic and tribal groups, and cultures; speak many languages; and practice distinct customs. The majority of the world's Muslims live in Asia and Africa, not the Arab world. Only about one in five of the world's Muslims are Arabs.

The largest Muslim communities are in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria rather than Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Iran. And millions of Muslims live in Europe, the United States, and Canada, where they represent the second and third largest religion (second largest in Europe and Canada and third largest in the United States).

Because of globalisation and emigration, today the major cities where Muslims live are not only exotic-sounding places such as Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, Makkah, Islamabad, and Kuala Lumpur, but also London, Paris, Marseilles, Brussels, New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles.

Religiously, culturally, economically, and politically, there are multiple images and realities of Islam and of Muslims.

Religiously, Muslims are Sunni (85%), who are the majority in most Muslim countries, or Shia (15%) who are a majority in Iran.

Further adding to the diversity, Shia Islam later split into three main divisions: the Zaydis, the Ismailis, whose leader today is the Harvard-educated Aga Khan; and the Ithna Ashari, who are majorities in Iran and Iraq.

Different theologies

Like other religions, Islam also has different, and sometimes contending, theologies, law schools, and Sufi (mystic) orders. Finally, Muslims, whether Sunni or Shia, can be observant or non-observant, conservative, fundamentalist, reformist, secular, mainstream, or religious extremist.

The world's 1.3 billion Muslims live in some 57 countries with substantial or majority Muslim populations in Europe, North America, and across the world.

Major Muslim communities today are not only in Dakar, Khartoum, Cairo, Damascus, Riyadh, Tehran, Islamabad, and Kuala Lumpur, but also in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, New York, and Washington, D.C. Muslims speak not only Arabic, but also Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Swahili, Bahasa Indonesia, and Chinese, as well as English, French, German, Danish and Spanish.

Muslim women's dress, educational and professional opportunities, and participation in society vary significantly too.

Women in some Muslim societies cannot drive cars and are sexually segregated, but women in many other parts of the Muslim world drive cars, ride motorcycles, and even fly planes.

Some Muslim women are required by law to fully cover themselves in public, while others are prohibited from displaying the Muslim headscarf.

A growing number of Muslim women are choosing to cover their heads, while others do not.

Women majority

In the United Arab Emirates and Iran, women make up the majority of university students.

In other parts of the world, women lag behind men in even basic literacy.

Women serve in government in parliaments and cabinets and have headed governments in Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, while in other Muslim countries, women are struggling for the right to vote and run for office.

Muslim women may wear a sari, pantsuit, blue jeans, dress, or skirt, just as Muslim men may wear long flowing robes, blue jeans, pullover sweaters, or three-piece business suits and may be bearded or clean-shaven.

Perhaps the most striking examples of diversity in the Muslim world are in economic and political development.

Economically, the oil-rich and rapidly developing Gulf states such as Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia are worlds apart from poor, struggling, underdeveloped countries such as Mali and Yemen.

And politically, Islamic governments in Iran, Sudan and the Taliban's Afghanistan stand in sharp contrast with the more secular-oriented governments of Egypt, Syria, Turkey and Indonesia.

In Turkey, Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen, Pakistan, and Malaysia, Islamic activists have emerged as an "alternative elite" in mainstream society. Members or former members of Islamic organisations have been elected to parliaments and served in cabinets and as prime ministers and presidents of countries such as Turkey, Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Islamic associations

Islamic associations provide social services and inexpensive and efficient educational, legal, and medical services in the slums and many lower middle-class neighbourhoods of Cairo, Algiers, Beirut, Mindanao, the West Bank, and Gaza.

All the while, and in stark contrast, some militant groups have terrorised Muslim societies in the name of Islam; attacked New York's World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. in the US and set off bombs in Madrid, Spain and London in the UK.

They reflect a radicalism that threatens the Muslim and Western worlds.

The vast diversity of Islam and of mainstream moderate Muslims has been overshadowed and obscured by a deadly minority of political (or ideological) extremists.

In a monolithic "us" and "them" world, Islam - not just Muslims who are radical - is seen as a threat, and those who believe in an impending clash of civilisations are not only the Bin Ladens of the world, but also many of us.


One God and many prophets: Basic beliefs

Islam means "a strong commitment to God" and shares the same Arabic root as the word for peace, or salaam. Jesus' mother, Mary, is mentioned by name more times in the Quran than in the New Testament.

Because faith is central to the lives of so many Muslims around the world, a basic understanding of Islam is necessary to fully grasp much of what is to follow. This section, which discusses the basic tenets of Islam, will be particularly useful to readers who are less familiar, or not familiar at all, with Islam.

Islam means "a strong commitment to God" and shares the same Arabic root as the word for peace, or salaam.

Some Muslim theologians define Islam as attaining peace through commitment to God's will.


This general definition is significant because Muslims regard anyone who meets these criteria at any time in history to have been a "Muslim". And therefore, the first Muslim was not the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), but Adam, the first man and prophet of God. Islam asserts that all nations were sent prophets and apostles (Quran 35:24) who all taught the same basic message of belief in one unique God, and in this regard, all the prophets are believed to have been "Muslims."

"We believe in God and what has been revealed to us; in what was revealed to Abraham and Esmail, to Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord. We do not make a distinction between any of them [the prophets]. For we submit to God." (Quran 3:84).

Like Jesus and Moses, the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) (AD570-632) was born and taught his message in the Middle East, where Islam quickly spread.

Muslims worship the God of Abraham as do Christians and Jews.

Rather than a new religion, Muslims believe Islam is a continuation of the Abrahamic tradition. Thus, just as it is widely acknowledged that the current meaning of Judeo-Christian tradition was forged during World War II, today there is growing recognition of the existence of a Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, embracing all the children of Abraham.

Muslims recognise the biblical prophets and God's revelation to Moses (Torah) and Jesus (Gospels).

Indeed, Mousa (Moses), Eisa (Jesus), and Maryam (Mary) are common Muslim names.

Jews, Christians and Muslims trace their biblical lineage to Abraham. Muslims learn many of the same Old and New Testament stories and figures that Jews and Christians study (Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, the Ten Commandments, David and Solomon, Mary and Jesus), sometimes with differing interpretations.

For example, in the Quran, Adam and Eve disobey God and eat the apple together, and this disobedience does not impose "original sin" on future generations.

Also, Jesus' mother, Mary, is mentioned by name more times in the Quran than in the New Testament. The Quran describes Mary's virgin birth of Jesus, who is venerated as one of the great prophets in Islam but not considered divine. According to the Quran, diversity in belief, cultures, and traditions is part of God's intended creation and a sign of his wisdom:

"If God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has given you. Race one another then in doing good works!" (Quran 5:48).

"Among His signs is the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, and the diversity of your languages and colours. Surely there are signs for those who reflect." (Quran 30:22).

Egalitarian ideals

"O humankind, We have created you male and female, and made you nations and tribes for you to get to know one another. Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware." (Quran 49:13).

Though no society is free from racial prejudice, Muslims take great pride in what they regard as Islam's egalitarian ideals.

For example, a Moroccan World Poll respondent says what he admires most about the Muslim world is Islam's message of racial equality. "I have a high regard for Islam's values and teachings and the non-racial attitudes of Muslim people." The Quran emphasises the unity of believers around a shared faith, regardless of ethnicity or tribe.

What are the core Muslim beliefs that unite this diverse, worldwide population? As Christians look to Jesus and the New Testament and Jews to Moses and the Torah, Muslims regard the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the Quran, God's messenger and message, as the final, perfect, and complete revelation.

And, because of the remarkable success of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the early Muslim community in spreading Islam and its rule, Sunni Muslims look to an ideal portrait of "the first generation" of Muslims (called the companions of the Prophet) as their model - a common reference point by which to measure, judge, and reform society.

Key Points

- The many languages, customs, and ethnicities of the Muslim world illustrate its vast diversity. There are 57 countries around the world that are majority Muslim or have significant Muslim minorities — Arabs make up only roughly 20% of the global Muslim population.

- Faith and family are core values in Muslims' lives, and Muslims regard them as their societies' greatest assets.

- Muslims, like Christians and Jews, believe in the God of Ebrahim and recognise biblical prophets such as Ebrahim, Moses, and Jesus.

- Jihad has many meanings. It is a "struggle for God", which includes a struggle of the soul as well as the sword. The Islamic war ethic prohibits attacking civilians.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Man Rules

I just found this on Jad's thoughts and even though I don't agree with all of it, it is funny :

1. Men are NOT mind readers.

1. Learn to work the toilet seat.
You’re a big girl. If it’s up, put it down.
We need it up, you need it down.
You don’t hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sports It’s like the full moon
or the changing of the tides.
Let it be.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want.
Let us be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work!
Strong hints do not work!
Obvious! hints do not work!
Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That’s what we do.
Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument.
In fact, all comments become Null and void after 7 Days.

1. If you think you’re fat, you probably are.
Don’t ask us.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one

1. You can either ask us to do something Or tell us how you want it done.
Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, Please say whatever you have to say during commercials..

1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default setting!
Peach, for example, is a fruit, not A color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched.
We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say ‘nothing,’ We will act like nothing’s wrong.
We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

1. If you ask a question you don’t want an answer to, Expect an answer you don’t want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine… Really .

1. Don’t ask us what we’re thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball
or golf.

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!

1. Thank you for reading this.

Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight;

But did you know men really don’t mind that? It’s like camping.

Monday, September 1, 2008

He kissed his hands

I knew Berlusconi was the pathetic opportunist type of capitalist; but really how hypocritical and pathetic can one get .............. he actually kissed the hands of Omar Al-Mukhtars son ???
All for some Oil contracts !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For those of you who watch what you eat

For those of you who watch what you eat, here’s the final word on nutrition and health. It’s a relief to know the truth after all thos conflicting nutritional studies.

* The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
* The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
* The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
* The French drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
* The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.


Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

I got this from An American in Jordan's Blog.