Call For Newspaper To Apologize

The current conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza led to pro-Palestinian demonstrations across Europe. Some of these demonstrations included anti-Semitic chants, which prompted the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy to issue a joint statement from Brussels about 10 days ago condemning anti-semitic “acts and statements”. About a week later, an anti-Islamic comment piece was published in Bild am Sonntag, Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper. The piece was quickly condemned as racist and led to calls for the newspaper to apologize to the estimated 4.3 million Muslims in Germany.

The Racist Comments

The comment piece had been written by the tabloid newspaper’s vice-editor Nicolaus Fest. He had accused Islam of a “murderous contempt for women and homosexuals”, of being “a barrier to integration”, a point that should be considered in assessing claims for asylum and visa applications to Germany.  He also wrote, “I don’t believe in God, but at the same time Christianity, Judaism or Buddhism don’t bother me. Only Islam bothers me more and more”. The features that bothered Nicolaus Fest included the “disproportionate criminality of youths from Muslim backgrounds”, forced marriages, and honor killings. The piece was shared more than 9700 times overnight on social media.

The Newspaper’s Response

Bild am Sonntag’s editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann responded immediately with an editorial posted online saying that there was an “unshakeable dividing line between Islam as a world religion and the degrading ideology of Islamism”. He went on to explain, “That’s why in Bild and Axel Springer [the publishing house to which Bild belongs] there is no room for generalized, depreciating [sic] comments against Islam and the people who believe in Allah”. However, there was no outright apology for the vice-editor’s comments.

Race Relations In Germany

Anti-racist laws in Germany forbid incitement to racial hatred, and the German media had expressed shock at the tone of the anti-Israel chants at some of the demonstrations. However, by last week the spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference that “The chancellor and the government are happy to see the revival of Jewish life in Germany and will continue to campaign for the security of Jewish citizens”.

Think About It

Are negative comments about racial or religious groups a big factor in racial or religious discrimination and disharmony? Should negative comments of the type expressed in the commentary have been published? If not, was Bild’s response to the criticisms of racism adequate?

An Increasingly Negative Attitude

A poll based on an online survey of 1110 likely voters in the United States has shown that American opinion of Arabs and Muslims is getting increasingly negative. The poll, conducted during June 27-29 by Zogby Analytics, was commissioned by the Arab American Institute. Similar polls had been conducted in 2010 and 2012.

Key Findings

• Arabs and Muslims received the worst ratings among the groups covered.
• Only 27% of Americans had a favourable opinion of Muslims (compared with 35% in 2010), and 32% viewed Arabs favourably (compared with 43% in 2010).
• 42% of Americans support the use of profiling of Arab Americans and American Muslims by law-enforcement agencies. Republicans (50%, compared with 32% Democrats), older people (53% of those aged 65 or more compared with 32% aged 18-29), and whites (47% compared with 29% non-whites) were more likely to support profiling.
• A growing percentage of Americans (from 38% in 2012 to 42% in 2014) say that they lack confidence in individuals from Arab or Muslim communities to perform their duties as Americans should they be appointed to an important government position.
• Americans who said that they knew either Arabs or Muslims had significantly more favourable attitudes towards both communities (33% higher in both cases), and also greater confidence in the ability of these people to serve in important government positions
• Slightly more than half the Americans polled said that they did not feel they knew enough about Arab history and people (57%), or about Islam and Muslims (52%).

Implication Of Findings

Jim Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute, who is of Lebanese descent and brother of pollster John Zogby, said, “For me, the biggest concern in the poll is not just that people don’t like us, but what not liking us translates to”. He also said that attitudes towards profiling and the ability of Arabs and Muslims to serve in government positions “affect our ability to function as communities here”.

He attributed the worsening attitudes to negative news reports about Arabs and Muslims. He also noted that many Americans assume that most Arab Americans are Muslims, when less than a third are, and that most American Muslims are Arab, when less than a quarter are.

Think About It

What can be done to prevent attitudes becoming ever more negative? Should there be an increase in number of positive news reports about Arabs and Muslims? Are the negative news reports largely related to the activities of radical Muslims, who form only a minority of Muslims? If so, should the moderates speak out against such activities.

Al-Shabaab  Shot Dead Unveiled Woman

Making a stand can be deadly, as one Somali woman found out too late.  When al-Shabaab militants warned her to veil up, she did not do so.  So when the militants came back to check and found her unveiled, they shot her dead.

The Shooting

A Muslim woman by the name of Ruqiva Farah Yarow residing in the Somali town of Hosingow was caught by al-Shabaab militants for not wearing a veil.  She was given a warning to veil up. For some reasons, Ruqiva Farah Yarow did not take the warning seriously.  She remained unveiled.  That was a deadly mistake.  The militants returned to check on her, and found her still without a veil.  This time they shot her dead right outside her hut. Unnamed relatives said Ruqiva Farah Yarow was shot twice and she died instantly.

Ruqiva Farah Yarow left behind her husband and children.

The Denial

An al-Shabaab spokesman denied that they had killed Ruqiva Farah Yarow, giving the excuse that it does not fully control the area where Ruqiva Farah Yarow died.  The question being asked is why would al-Shabaab issue a denial?

Mary Harper, the BBC Somalia analyst offered 2 plausible reasons.  First, the denial may suggest that Ruqiva Farah Yarow was killed by rogue elements within the al-Shabaab group.  Alternatively, it may well be that al-Shabaab indeed was responsible for killing Ruqiva Farah Yarow, but the militant group has decided to distance itself from the shooting for fear of provoking a strong public backlash.

Think About It

The al-Shabaab group, linked to al-Qaeda, is described as a terrorist group by many countries.  Yet they claim to be Muslims.  Are they?  Do their action in killing Ruqiva Farah Yarow glorify Allah? What kind of justice is this when militants can simply be judge, jury and executioner on the streets?

Previous posts

Somalia – Is Al Shabaab Showing Contempt For Sharia?

Somali Women Suffer At Hands Of Al Shabaab
Somalia – Now Al Shabaab Executed 2 Girls By Firing Squad
Somalia – Woman Beheaded By Al-Shabaab
Somalia – Women’s Dress Code And Restrictions Imposed By Al-Shabaab

Calls For Apology

Glasgow 2014, the organizers of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow thought that they would do something special – they dressed up some 40 Scottie dogs (Terriers), one for each country contingent.  These dogs proved a hit as they led each marching contingent at the Opening Ceremony.  However over in Malaysia there are calls for the organizers to apologize to Malaysia and to Muslims for being insensitive to the fact that dogs are haram in Islam.

The Scottie Dog That Went On Strike

The Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony organizers had dressed up some 40 Scottie dogs in tartan coats. Embroidered with the team names, these dogs walked in front of the marching contingent from each country around the arena at Celtic Park.

But there was a problem with Jock, the dog assigned to lead the Malaysian marching contingent.  When the tartan coat was put on Jock, he went on strike, refusing to move.  Jock sat down and attempts to coax him to move failed.  Reacting to this, the Malaysian representative was forced to carry Jock during the march.

Reactions

Mohamad Sabu, deputy president of PAS (Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party) said: “This is just so disrespectful to Malaysia and Muslims – especially as it happened during Ramadan. Muslims are not allowed to touch dogs, so the organizer should have been more aware and sensitive on this issue.”  Then Mohammad Sabu added: “It is hoped this incident can teach other Western countries to be more respectful in the future”.

Ibrahim Ali, president of Malay supremacist group Perkasa seconded Mohamad Sabu’s views, saying: “I think it is unbecoming. The hosts have not been sensitive enough – especially in a so-called knowledgeable and civilised society like Britain. It is shameful and has offended not only Malaysia as a Muslim country, but Muslims around the world”.

Dogs are seen as unclean according to some hadiths and dog trading or owning one as a pet can be considered haram. Many Muslims refuse to have direct contact with dogs, which are considered by some to be “unclean” in Islamic culture.

Responding to these statements,  a Glasgow 2014 spokesman said: “Glasgow 2014 have received no complaints from the Commonwealth Games Associations of the competing nations and territories following the Opening Ceremony”.

Think About It

So was Glasgow 2014, the organizers of the Opening Ceremony of this year’s Commonwealth Games insensitive to use the Scottie dogs?  How come no Muslim country has lodged a complaint over these dogs?  Should sports and religion mix?

Burial Place Destroyed

Remember what the Taliban did to the two 1,700 year-old sandstone Buddha statues that were carved into a cliff in the Bamiyan Valley in the Hindu Kush mountains of central Afghanistan? When anti-aircraft and tank fire failed to destroy these giant statues (one of them standing at 165 feet tall), the Taliban resorted to dynamite charges to finally destroy them.  Fast forward to 2014, and jihadists from the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had just done a similar act, only this time the target is not a Buddha statue, but the tomb of a prophet named Yunus (aka Jonah).

About Prophet Yunus (Jonah)

Wikipedia has this to say about Jonah:

The Quran describes Jonah as a righteous preacher of the message of God but a messenger who, one day, fled from his mission because of its overwhelming difficulty. The Quran says that Jonah made it onto a ship but, because of the powerfully stormy weather, the men aboard the ship suggested casting lots to throw off the individual responsible. When the lots were cast three times and Jonah’s name came out each time, he was thrown into the open ocean that night. A gigantic fish came and swallowed him, and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish repenting and glorifying God. As the Quran says:

So also was Jonah among those sent (by Us).
When he ran away (like a slave from captivity) to the ship (fully) laden,
He (agreed to) cast lots, and he was condemned:
Then the big Fish did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame.
Had it not been that he (repented and) glorified Allah,
He would certainly have remained inside the Fish till the Day of Resurrection.

—Quran, chapter 37 (As-Saaffat), verse 139–144

God forgave Jonah out of His mercy and kindness for the man, and because he knew that Jonah was, at heart, one of the best of men. Therefore, the fish cast Jonah out onto dry land, with Jonah in a state of sickness. God caused a plant to grow where Jonah was lying to provide shade and comfort for him. After Jonah got up, fresh and well, God told him to go back and preach in his land. As the Quran says:

But We cast him forth on the naked shore in a state of sickness,
And We caused to grow, over him, a spreading plant of the gourd kind.
And We sent him (on a mission) to a hundred thousand (men) or more.
And they believed; so We permitted them to enjoy (their life) for a while.

—Quran, chapter 37 (As-Saaffat), verse 145–148

The Destruction

Iraq-based al-Sumaria News reported recently that the tomb (shrine) of Prophet Yunus located in the eastern part of Mosul city which fell to ISIS was destroyed with explosives.  An unnamed security source said: “The militants closed all of the mosque doors and prevented worshipers from entering to pray”.

Another unnamed witness said that ISIS militants “first stopped people from praying in it, they fixed explosive charges around and inside it and then blew it up in front of a large gathering of people”.  The whole process took an hour and the eighth century shrine reportedly turned to dust after the explosion. He said that the ISIS militants had destroyed or damaged 30 shrines, as well as 15 husseiniyas and mosques in and around Mosul. Then he added: “But the worst destruction was of Nabi Yunus, which has been turned to dust”.

The tomb is located inside the Mosque of the Prophet Yunus, a Sunni-held facility.  ISIS is part of a puritanical strain of Islam that considers all religious shrines – Islamic, Christian, Jewish, etc. – idolatrous.

Think About It

What can be said about the destruction of historic monuments by the likes of the Taliban and the ISIS militants?  And what about the mosques that were destroyed by them as well?  What does the ISIS militants hope to achieve by such destruction?  That they are more Islamic than others?  By destroying mosques?

ISIS Now Into Tour Business

The Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS) has expanded into tourism, taking jihadist couples and other civilians on honeymoon to visit other parts of its caliphate. Tours are run twice a week, from Raqa in Syria to Anbar in Iraq. The group’s black flag is flown on vehicles and jihadist songs are played throughout the journey.

About ISIS

According to Wkipedia, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), alternately translated as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (referring to Greater Syria; Arabic: الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام‎ al-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-ʻIrāq wa-al-Shām), also known by the Arabic acronym DAESH (Arabic: داعش‎ Dāʻesh), is now called simply the Islamic State

Married But Still Separated

Chechen jihadist Abu Adel Rahman al-Shishani (26) was one of ISIS’s first clients. He took his new Syrian wife on honeymoon to Anbar. However, they were not allowed to sit together as women had to sit at the back while men sat in the front.

ISIS recently proclaimed a caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria and the tours came into operation immediately after. Passports are not required to cross the border and passengers may alight wherever they want. The company operates for profit and the price of the tour varies, depending on how far the travel.

Most people who use the buses are foreign jihadists who communicate in English and wear Afghan-style clothing, says Syrian rebel Abu Quteiba al-Okaidi. There is a translator on the bus, who guides them on their tour as with a normal tour bus. The men on the bus are not armed, but there are accompanying vehicles carrying arms.

Most customers use the buses to visit family across Syria and Iraq, while some use the bus to do business and some take the bus to get away from Syria’s war.

Think about it

Why have ISIS started a tour bus business? Why would people take the tour bus on honeymoon if husbands and wives have to sit separately? If they do not require passports will this cause a security issue? Is that a good idea with the war going on?

Safe To Be Consumed By Muslims

Barely 2 months ago, Cadbury had its halal certificate suspended after a Health Ministry test  on 2 chocolate products taken off the shelves of retailers showed traces of porcine.  But the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) said its own tests based on factory samples showed no traces of porcine.  The National Fatwa Council said the 2 chocolate products are still halal, but Jakim nevertheless withdrew its halal certificate from these products. But now the president of the Islamic Scholars and Preachers Union has inspected the Cadbury plant and he declared that Cadbury products are safe for consumption by Muslims.

Tour Of Cadbury Plant

The Cadbury Confectionery Malaysia Sdn Bhd factory at Persiaran Raja Muda in Shah Alam played host recently to Dr Zaharuddin Abd Rahman, president of the Islamic Scholars and Preachers Union, Datuk Nooh Gadut, Johor State Islamic Council adviser and Mohd Shukri Ali, former Religious Official to the Terengganu Palace.

These VIPs were invited to tour the Cadbury plant to witness its commitment to its halal food processing.

The Verdict

So what is the verdict after the tour?  Dr Zaharuddin Abd Rahman said: “All of the basic ingredients of the chocolate including butter, sugar or lactose have the halal certificate from the suppliers which was confirmed by the authoritative body including all the exported ingredients”.

Referring to the highly automated and sophisticated machinery, Dr Zaharuddin Abd Rahman said: “For this reason, the percentage of contamination in the plant is so low because the process is done by machines without too much human intervention”.

Regarding Cadbury staff, Dr Zaharuddin Abd Rahman said: “We were also informed that 80% of the staff at the manufacturing plant are Muslims and some of them have been working in the factory for more than 20 years and all of them are well trained”. He added that the plant is practising efficient and professional operating procedures, including using proper clothing and sanitization.

And the verdict? Simply this – that Muslims can safely consume Cadbury chocolate products, including the Cadbury Dairy Milk Hazelnut and Cadbury Dairy Milk Roast Almond, both of which were at the center of the recent porcine scare.

Think About It

Does this verdict by Dr Zaharuddin Abd Rahman solve anything?  What happened to the police report lodged by a group of Malay NGOs led by Pertubuhan Martabat Jalinan Muhibbah against both the Health Ministry and Jakim for causing confusion with their conflicting statements on this matter?  And who leaked the preliminary test result done by the Health Ministry showing traces of porcine in 2 Cadbury products?  And should tests be done from samples off the shelves of retailers, or taken directly at the factory?

Previous posts

Malaysia – So Are Cadbury Chocolates Halal Or Not?
Malaysia – Now Jakim Says Cadbury Products Do Not Have Porcine DNA After New Tests
Malaysia – National Fatwa Council Says 2 Cadbury Products Tainted by Presence Of Porcine DNA Still Halal
Malaysia – Muslim NGOs Declaring Jihad Against Cadbury

Tesco Flip Flops

Miss Cottle, 43, from Neasden, north-west London complained to the manager at Tesco that the checkout worker refused to sell her ham because it was the holy month of Ramadan and he was fasting. He said that he would not touch the items as Islam forbids them and directed her to use the self-service tills instead. The manager backed the worker’s right to refuse to serve Miss Cottle but later apologised to her and said that the worker had been spoken to.

Furious

Miss Cottle is furious at the way she has been treated, saying that “he should be able to do his job properly” and that “if he is refusing to do his job he shouldn’t be there”. She even said she was disgusted. She had gone into Tesco Express to get two packets of ham for her children’s lunches. She also purchased three bottles of wine. When she demanded to see the manager, the temporary manager told her she had to use the self-service till. She complained to Tesco customer service to complain. Tesco sided with the manager but later apologised saying that ‘they don’t have a specific policy and take a pragmatic approach if a colleague raises concerns about a job they have been asked to do’.

Think About it

While the UK allows freedom of religion and does not discriminate on that basis, should Muslims not be allowed to work during Ramadan if it means that they are unable to do their jobs properly? Or perhaps they should look for jobs that they can actually do? Are Muslims being given special treatment and overly accommodated, allowing them to bypass laws and norms that others are subject to? Why are they given special treatment? Is it just to be politically correct? If the employee had not been a Muslim and refused to serve a customer, would he have been dealt with differently? Is this incident giving Muslims a right to use their religion as an excuse not to do their jobs? Or is Miss Cottle making a fuss over a small thing when she could have easily used the self-checkout.

Be Punished Or Becoming Instrument Of Punishment

Smoking cigarettes is bad for health, so says health authorities everywhere.  It is also haram to smoke cigarettes for Muslim, yet cigarettes have become a method of punishment in Iran.

Denigrating Ramadan

This week a Bahraini man was caught smoking a cigarette while driving his car.  The police caught him red handed with a cigarette on one hand and a juice can on the other.  It was just too bad that he was caught doing these during Ramadan.  Bahrain prohibits smoking, drinking and eating in public in the daylight hours during the holy month of Ramadan.

Police immediately referred the man to the Lower Criminal Court where he was indicted for the offenses, and he was remanded in custody for 7 days, pending an investigation.

Earlier this month, another person was arrested for smoking in public during daylight hours.  An Egyptian woman leaving Bahrain International Airport was questioned by a Custom officer.  As she was being escorted to a room, the Egyptian woman tried to avoid having her bags checked.  She claimed that she was late for her flight.

That excuse apparently cut no ice with the Custom officer.  The Egyptian woman then insulted the Custom officer.  She allegedly knocked his hat off.  And then, as if in defiance, she lit a cigarette in the office of the Custom officer.

The arrested woman then claimed that she was entitled to smoke a cigarette as she was not fasting.  And that she accidentally knocked the hat off the Custom officer’s head while waving her hand to explain that she was late for her flight.

Burning Lips

Over in Iran, the cigarette is now an instrument used to punish those who eat during Ramadan.  An Iranian man was caught eating during Ramadan.  The man protested that he is not a Muslim, and therefore not obliged to fast during Ramadan.  In fact, he declared himself a Christian.

Surprisingly, the Iranian judged found the Christian man guilty.  But even more surprising was the punishment meted out to this man.  He was sentenced to have his lips burnt with a cigarette.  This sentence was carried out in public in the city square of Kermanshah.

At the same time, 5 Muslim men were also indicted for not fasting during Ramadan.  This was confirmed by deputy governor Ali Ashraf Karami. However the sentence meted out to the 5 Muslim men differ from that meted out to the Christian man.  They were each given 70 lashes, with the flogging done in public.

Think About It

If smoking a cigarette is haram, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, then how is it not haram to use a cigarette to punish someone for eating during Ramadan?  Is this method of using a cigarette to burn the offender’s lips an approved sentencing option for the judge?  Moreover, can the judge punish a non-Muslim for not fasting during Ramadan?  And can the judge mete out different sentences for Muslim and non-Muslim offenders for the same offense of eating during Ramadan?

Punished By Allah Or Martyrs?

By now we have all heard about the tragedy involving Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH17.  The ill-fated Boeing 777-200ER plane was on a routine Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight on July 17, 2014 when it was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile over Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, approximately 50 km from the Ukraine-Russia border.  A total of 283 passengers and 15 crew on board lost their lives in the sky over rebel-controlled territory. But over in Malaysia there are conflicting views on how Muslims should treat the dead passengers who are Muslims.  Should they be treated as being punished by Allah, or are they martyrs?

PAS On Punishment By Allah

Malaysian were outraged after a recent comment by the leader of the youth arm of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) concerning the dead victims of MH17.  Tarmizi Sulaiman, the information chief at Kedah PAS Youth reportedly said that this MH17 crash (and the earlier MH370 flight that disappeared into the Indian Ocean without trace) are punishment from Allah.

Tarmizi Sulaiman allegedly said that the flouting of Islamic rules by Malaysia Airlines has incurred the wrath of “Allah in the bellies of the planes”. Tarmizi Sulaiman cited as examples, the serving of alcohol on Malaysia Airlines flights and the outfits of flight attendants.

While sympathetic to the dead victims and their families, Tarmizi Sulaiman said that the senior management of Malaysia Airlines should “view the problems besetting MAS from the most basic of issues, the element of God and his creation”. Tarmizi Sulaiman added: “Flying in a MAS plane does not give passengers the feeling of an airline operated by a country which organises the annual Quran recital competition and in fact, even winning the competition”.

Reaction

Tee Hooi Ling, spokesman for the MCA Youth said: “It is disgraceful that there are insensitive quarters who are out to gain cheap publicity from the deaths of 298 people aboard MAS Flight MH17.  It is disgraceful that he is insinuating that this tragedy is a punishment from God against MAS for serving alcohol and allowing its crew to wear Malaysia’s traditional costume which he deems as indecent dressing”.

Martyrs

Kedah Mufti Datuk Paduka Syeikh Muhamad Baderudin said that Muslims who died on MH17 should be categorized as “syahid akhirat”, which translated into English means “afterlife martyrs”.  Explaining what this term means, Datuk Paduka Syeikh Muhamad Baderudin said: “Afterlife martyrs mean if we can identify the dead, we have to go through the funeral rites like any other deaths. We pray, shroud and bathe them, but in the afterlife they will be rewarded by Allah like martyrs”.

There is another kind of martyrs, called “life martyrs”. Those in the afterlife martyrs category has to go through the usual Islamic funeral rites.  Those in the life martyrs category will be rewarded in the afterlife.

Those who die fighting for Islam belong to both categories, but those who died fighting for material and personal glory only belong to afterlife martyrs.

Think About It

So are the Muslim dead of MH17 being punished by Allah “in the bellies of the planes”?  If so, were they then simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time?  After all, if Allah is punishing MAS for serving alcohol on board and for improper dressing of the cabin crew, then why kill innocent passengers? On the other hand, if they are martyrs, what exactly did they do to be called by that name?