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Old 14th February 2002, 22:10
AmiTumi AmiTumi is offline
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A Call To Muslims of the World
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Faith Freedom Foundation
Fwd By : "fatemolla
E mail : fatemolla@hotmail.com

"Wherever ye are, death will find you, even if ye are in Towers, built up strong and tall" (Quran 4:78)

Dear Friends,
The tragic incident of September 11 has shocked the world. It is unthinkable how anyone could be so full of hate as to commit such heinous act and kill so many innocent people. We people of Muslim origin are as much shaken as the rest of the world and yet we find ourselves looked upon with suspicion and distrust by our neighbors and fellow citizens. We want to cry out and announce that we are not terrorists, and those who perpetrate such despicable acts are murderers and are not part of us. But, in reality, because of our Muslim origin we just cannot erase the stigma of "Islamic Terrorists" from our identity!
What in general Muslims would say:
"Islam would never support killing innocent people. Allah of Holy Quran never advocated killings. This is all the work of a few misguided individuals at the fringe of the society. The real Islam is sanctified against violence. We denounce all violence. Islam means peace. Islam means tolerance."
What is the real truth:
This is what most Muslims think. But is it true? Does Islam really preach peace, tolerance and non-violence? Those Muslims who perpetrate crimes in the name of Allah think differently. They believe that what they do is a Jihad (holy war). They say that killing the unbelievers is mandatory for every Muslim. They do not kill because they break the laws of Islam but because they think this is what a true Muslim should do.
Those who blow up their own bodies to kill more innocent people do so because they think they will be rewarded in Paradise. They hope to be blessed by Allah, eat celestial food, drink pure wine and enjoy the company of divine consorts.
Are they completely misguided? Where did they get this distorted idea? How did they come to believe that killing innocent people pleases God? Or is it that we are misguided? Does Islam really preach violence? Does it call upon its believers to kill the "non-believers" ? We denounce those who commit acts of violence and call them extremists. But are they really extremists or do they think they are following what the Holy book of Quran tells them to do? What does the Quaran really teach? Have we read the Quran? Do we know what kind of teachings are there? Let us go through some of them and take a closer look at what Allah says.
What Qur'an Teaches Us:
Quran tells us to: "not to make friendship with Jews and Christians" (5:51), fight them "until they pay the Jizya (a penalty tax for the non-Muslims living under Islamic rules) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued" (9:29). "kill the disbelievers wherever we find them" (2:191), "murder them and treat them harshly" (9:123), "fight and slay the Pagans, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem" (9:5).
Quran says that all those who disbelieve in Islam will go to hell (5:10), they are najis (filthy, untouchable, impure) (9:28), and orders us to fight the unbelievers until no other religion except Islam is left (2:193). It prohibits a Muslim to befriend a non-believer even if that non-believer is the father or the brother of that Muslim (9:23), (3:28).
It says that the "non-believers will go to hell and will drink boiling water" (14:17). It asks the Muslims to "slay or crucify or cut the hands and feet of the unbelievers, that they be expelled from the land with disgrace and that they shall have great punishment in the world hereafter" (5:34). And tells us that "for them (the unbelievers) garments of fire shall be cut and there shall be poured over their heads boiling water whereby whatever is in their bowels and skin shall be dissolved and they will be punished with hooked iron rods" (22:19-22) and that they not only will have "disgrace in this life, on the Day of Judgment He shall make them taste the Penalty of burning (Fire)" (22:9).
Quran says that "those who invoke a god other than Allah not only should meet punishment in this world but the Penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled to them, and they will dwell therein in ignominy" (25:68). For those who "believe not in Allah and His Messenger, He has prepared, for those who reject Allah, a Blazing Fire!" (48:13).
As for him who does not believe in Islam the Prophet says that after he dies it will be announced with a "stern command": "Seize ye him, and bind ye him, And burn ye him in the Blazing Fire. Further, make him march in a chain, whereof the length is seventy cubits! This was he that would not believe in Allah Most High. And would not encourage the feeding of the indigent! So no friend hath he here this Day. Nor hath he any food except the corruption from the washing of wounds, Which none do eat but those in sin." (69:30-37)
The holy Prophet prescribes fighting for us and tells us that "it is good for us even if we dislike it" (2:216). Then he advises us to "strike off the heads of the disbelievers"; and after making a "wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives" (47:4). Our God has promised to "instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers" and has ordered us to "smite above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them" (8:12). and "to strike terror into (the hearts of the enemies" (8:60).
He has made the Jihad mandatory and warns us that "Unless we go forth, (for Jihad) He will punish us with a grievous penalty, and put others in our place" (9:39). Allah speaks to our Holy Prophet and says "O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be stern against them. Their abode is Hell,- an evil refuge indeed" (9:73).
He promises us that in the fight for His cause whether we slay or are slain we return to the garden of Paradise (9:111). In Paradise he will "wed us with Houris (celestial virgins) pure beautiful ones" (56:54), and unite us with large-eyed beautiful ones while we recline on our thrones set in lines (56:20). There we are promised to eat and drink pleasantly for what we did (56:19). And have sex with "boys like hidden pearls" (56:24) and "youth never altering in age like scattered pearls" (76:19)
As you see, Allah has promised all sorts of rewards, gluttony and unlimited sex to Muslim men who kill the unbelievers in his name, not forgetting even those with pedophilic inclinations. We will be admitted to Paradise where we shall find "goodly things, beautiful ones, pure ones confined to the pavilions that man has not touched them before nor jinni" (56:67-71).
In the West we enjoy freedom of belief but we are not supposed to give such freedom to anyone else because it is written "If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good) (3:85).
As for women, the book of Allah says that they are inferior to men and their husbands have the right to scourge them if they are found disobedient (4:34). It advises to "take a green branch and beat your wife", because a green branch is more flexible and hurts more. (38:44). It teaches that women will go to hell if they are disobedient to their husbands (66:10). It maintains that men have an advantage over the women (2:228). It not only denies the women's equal rights, it decrees that their witness is not admissible in the courts of law (2:282).
This means that a woman who is raped cannot accuse her rapist unless she can produce a male witness. Our Holy Prophet allows us to marry up to four wives and he licensed us to sleep with our slave maids and as many 'captive' women as we may have (4:3) even if those women are already married. He himself did just that.
[A word of warning for those who may find their version of Quran is translated differently from those appearing in this article: Almost all the translators of Quran have deliberately tried to soften the harsh verses of Quran. Yusufali especially goes out of his way to twists the meaning of the words and hide the harshness of Quran. For example he translates the verse (38:44) that says "take a green branch and beat your wife" as "take a little green grass and strike therewith". Or when he translates the verse (4:34) that says "beat your wife" he cannot help it but to add the word (lightly) in parenthesis which was obviously not in original Arabic.]
Dear fellow Muslims: Is this the Islam you believe in? Is this your Most Merciful, Most Compassionate Allah whom you worship daily? Could God incite us to kill other peoples? Please understand that there is no terrorist gene but there could be a terrorist mindset. That mindset finds its most fertile ground in the tenets of Islam.
Denying it and presenting Islam as a religion of peace similar to Buddhism to the lay public is suppression of truth. The history of Islam between 7th and 14th century is riddled with violence, fratricide and wars of aggression, starting right from the death of the Prophet and during the so-called 'pure' or orthodox caliphate. And Muhammad himself hoisted the standard of killing, looting, massacres and bloodshed. How can we deny the entire history?
The behavior of our Holy Prophet as recorded in authentic Islamic sources is quite questionable from a modern viewpoint. The Prophet was a charismatic man but he had few virtues. Imitating him in all aspects of life (following Sunnah) is firstly impossible and secondly dangerous in the 21st century. Why are we so helplessly in denial on this simple issue?
When the Prophet was in Mecca and he was still not powerful enough he called for tolerance. He said "To you be your religion, and to me my religion" 109:6). This famous quote is often misused to prove that the general principle of Quran is tolerance.
He advised his follower to speak good to their enemies (2: 83), exhorted them to be patient (20:103) and said that "there is no compulsion in religion" (2:256). But all that changed drastically when he came to power. Then killing and slaying the unbelievers was justified in innumerable verses with harshness and without mercy. The verses quoted to prove Islam's tolerance ignore many other verses that bear no trace of tolerance or forgiveness. Is it normal that a book revealed by God should have so many serious contradictions?
The Prophet himself set the example of unleashing violence by invading the Jewish settlements breaking the treaties he had signed with them and banished some of them after confiscating their belongings massacring others and taking their wives and children as slaves. He inspected the youngsters and massacred all those who had pubic hair along with the men and those who were younger he kept as slaves. He distributed the women captured in his raids among his soldiers keeping the prettiest for himself (33:50).
He made sexual advances on Safiyah a Jewish girl in the same day he captured her town, Kheibar, and killed her father, husband and many of her relatives. Reyhana was another Jewish girl of Bani Quriza whom he used as sex slave after killing all her male relatives. In the last ten years of his life he accumulated a score of wives, concubines and sex slaves including the 9 year old Ayesha.
These are not stories but records from authentic Islamic history and the Hadiths. It can be argued that these behaviors were not unknown or unusual for the conquerors and leaders of the mediaeval world but these are not the activities befitting of a peaceful saint and certainly not of someone who claimed to be the Mercy of God for all the creation.
There were known assassinations of adversaries during the Prophet's time, that took place at his behest. Among them there was a 120 year old man, Abu 'Afak whose only crime was to compose a lyric satirical of the Prophet. (Kitab al Tabaqat al Kabir, Volume 2, by Bin Sa'd, page 32) Then when a poetess, a mother of 5 small children, 'Asma' Bint Marwan, wrote a poetry cursing the Arabs for letting Muhammad assassinate an old man, our Holy Prophet ordered her to be assassinated too in the middle of the night, which was carried out while her youngest child was suckling from her breast. (Sirat Rasul Allah (A. Guilaume's translation "The Life of Muhammad") page 675, 676).
Dear conscientious Muslims: Question yourselves- isn't this compulsive dogma of following a man who lived 1400 years ago, leading us to doom in this changing world? Who are we deceiving? See how our Umma (people) have sunk into poverty and how we lag behind the rest of the world? Isn't it because we are following a religion that is outdated and impractical? In this crucial moment of history, when a great catastrophe has befallen us and a much bigger one is lying ahead, should not we wake up from our 1400 years of slumber and see where things have gone wrong?
The hatred has filled the air and the world is bracing itself for its doomsday. Should we not ask ourselves whether we have contributed, unwittingly, to this tragedy and whether we can stop the great disaster from happening?
Unfortunately the answer to the first question is yes. Yes, we have contributed to the rise of fundamentalism by merely claiming Islam is a religion of peace, by simply being a Muslim and by saying our shahada (testimony that Allah is the only God and Muhammad is his messenger). By our shahada we have recognized Muhammad as a true messenger of God and his book as the words of God. But as you saw, those words are anything but from God.
They call for killing, they are prescriptions for hate and they foment intolerance. And when the ignorant among us read those hate laden verses, they act on them and the result is the infamous September 11, the result is human bombs in Israel, massacres in East Timor and Bangladesh, kidnappings and killings in Philippines, slavery and genocide in Sudan, honor Killings in Pakistan and Jordan, torture in Iran, stoning and maiming in Afghanistan and Iran, violence in Algeria, terrorism in Palestine and misery and death in all Islamic countries. We are responsible because we endorsed Islam and hailed it as a religion of God. And we are as guilty as those who put into practice what Quran preaches and ironically we are the main victims too.
If we are not terrorists, if we love peace, if we cried with the rest of the world for what happened in NYC, then why are we supporting Quran that preaches killing, that advocates holy war, that calls for murder of non-Muslims? It is not the extremists who have misunderstood Islam. They do literally what Quran ask them to do. It is we who misunderstand Islam. We are the ones who are confused.
We are the ones who wrongly assume that Islam is the religion of peace. Islam is not a religion of peace. In its so-called pure form it can very well be interpreted as a doctrine of hate. Terrorists are simply doing that and we the intellectual apologists of Islam are justifying it.
We can stop this madness. Yes we can avert the disaster that is hovering over our heads. Yes we can denounce the doctrines that promote hate. Yes we can embrace the rest of humanity with love. Yes, we can become part of a united world, members of one human family, flowers of one garden. We can dump the claim of infallibility of our Book and the questionable legacy of our Prophet.
Dear friends, there is no time to waste. Let us put an end to this lie. Let us not fool ourselves. Islam is not a religion of peace, of tolerance, of equality or of unity of humankind. Let us read the Quran. Let us face the truth even if it is painful. As long as we keep this lie alive, as long as we hide our head in the sands of Arabia we are feeding terrorism. As long as you and I keep calling Quran the unchangeable book of God, we cannot blame those who follow the teachings therein. As long as we pay our Khums and Zakat our money goes to promote Islamic expansionism and that means terrorism, Jihad and war.
Islam divides the world in two parts: Darul Harb (land of war) and Darul Islam (land of Islam). Darul Harb is the and of the infidels, Muslims are required to infiltrate those lands, proselytize and procreate until their number increase and then start the war and fight and kill the people and impose the religion of Islam on them and convert that land into Darul Islam.
In all fairness we denounce this betrayal. This is an abuse of trust. How can we make war in the countries that have sheltered us? How can we kill those who have befriended us? Yet willingly or unwillingly we have become pawns in this Islamic Imperialism. If this sound to you abhorrent, we ask you how can you support a doctrine that is so deceiving, so cunning and so ruthless? Let us see what great Islamic scholars have to say in this respect.
Dr. M. Khan, the translator of Sahih Bukhari and the Quran into English wrote: "Allah revealed in Sura Bara'at (Repentance, IX) the order to discard (all) obligations (covenants, etc), and commanded the Muslims to fight against all the Pagans as well as against the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizia (a tax levied on the Jews and Christians) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued (as it is revealed in 9:29).
So the Muslims were not permitted to abandon "the fighting" against them (Pagans, Jews and Christians) and to reconcile with them and to suspend hostilities against them for an unlimited period while they are STRONG and have the ability to fight against them. So at first "the fighting" was forbidden, then it was permitted, and after that it was made obligatory "[Introduction to English translation of Sahih Bukhari, p.xxiv.]
Dr. Sobhy as-Saleh, a contemporary Islamic academician, quoted Imam Suyuti the author of Itqan Fi 'Ulum al- Qur'an who wrote: ?The command to fight the infidels was DELAYED UNTIL THE MUSLIMS BECOME STRONG, but when they were weak they were commanded to endure and be patient. [ Sobhy as_Saleh, Mabaheth Fi 'Ulum al- Qur'an, Dar al-'Ilm Lel-Malayeen, Beirut, 1983, p.269.]
Dr. Sobhy, in a footnote, commends the opinion of a scholar named Zarkashi who said: "Allah the most high and wise revealed to Mohammad in his weak condition what suited the situation, because of his mercy to him and his followers. For if He gave them the command to fight while they were weak it would have been embarrassing and most difficult, but when the most high made Islam victorious He commanded him with what suited the situation, that is asking the people of the Book to become Muslims or to pay the levied tax, and the infidels to become Muslims or face death. These two options, to fight or to have peace return according to the strength or the weakness of the Muslims." [ibid p. 270]
Other Islamic scholars (Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi, Ga'far ar-Razi, Rabi' Ibn 'Ons, 'Abil-'Aliyah, Abd ar-Rahman Ibn Zayd Ibn 'Aslam, etc.) agree that the verse "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them" (9:5) cancelled those few earlier verses that called for tolerance in Quran and were revealed when Islam was weak.
Can you still say that Islam is the religion of peace?
Conclusion:
We know too well that it is not easy to denounce our faith as it means denouncing a part of ourselves. We are a group of freethinkers and humanists with Islamic roots. Discovering the truth and leaving the religion of our fathers and forefathers was a painful experience. But after learning what Islam stands for, we had no choice but to leave it. After becoming familiar with the Quran, the choice became clear: it is either Islam or it is humanity. If Islam is to thrive, humanity has to die. We decided to side with humanity.

We are still Muslims culturally but we no more believe in Islam as the true religion of God. We are humanists. We love humanity. We endeavor for the unity of humankind. We work for equality between men and women. We strive for secularization of Islamic countries, for democracy and freedom of thoughts, beliefs and expressions We have decided not to live anymore in self-deception but to embrace humanity, enter into the new millennium hand in hand with people or other cultures and beliefs in amity and in peace.
We denounce the violence that is eulogized in Quran as holy war (Jihad). We condemn killing in the name of God. We believe in sacredness of human life, not in the inviolability of beliefs and religions. And we invite you to join us and the rest of the humanity and be part of the family of humankind with love, camaraderie and peace.

Regards,
On behalf of Faith Freedom Foundation
Ibn Warraq
Ali Sina
Taslima Nasrin
fatemolla
Abul Kasem
Aparthib
Khurshed Chowdhury
Syed Mirza
Hashan Chowdhury
R J Akash
Shabbir Ahmed
Robin Khundokar
Eshon Waheed
Shabnam Nadiya
Mohammad Nawaz Khan
Habib Sarwar
Adnan
S. Smith
H. B. Tharle (Audrey)
Kausik Sen
Avijit Roy
Sandip Dasverma
Paramanab
Bishnu Dey
If you would like to contact us, please send your query or response to:
Faith_freedom_foundation@yahoo.com

"Those who endorse "A Call to Muslims" do not necessarily agree with every provision in it. We do, however, accept its main principles and offer it in order to contribute to constructive dialogue".
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Old 14th February 2002, 23:26
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Lies or Deliberate Fabrication.


To find out about True Islam ask those who have knowledge/integrity/qualities of honesty not those who are willing to write such falsehood.
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Old 14th February 2002, 23:32
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'Allah came knocking at my heart'
BY GILES WHITTELL
The Times - UK - 7/1/01


Anecdotal evidence suggests that there has been a surge in conversions to Islam since September 11, especially among affluent young white Britons

Six months ago Elizabeth L. — a graduate in political science, the daughter of affluent white British parents, an opponent of terrorism in all its forms — climbed Mount Sinai at night to watch the desert sunrise from its summit.
“It was the stillest, most peaceful place I’ve ever been,” she says. “I could hear my feelings come up from within me, and in one surreal moment it all seemed to come together.”

Last Friday, at 4.45pm, Elizabeth went to Regent’s Park Mosque in Central London and converted to Islam.

It wasn’t hard. She didn’t even have to wear a scarf. Witnessed by two Muslim men and nine other friends squeezed into the imam’s office, she pronounced, in Arabic learnt from a tape the night before, the words she will repeat like a mantra five times a day for the rest of her life: “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.” Afterwards there was a modest celebration at Al-Dar on the Edgware Road. Elizabeth and her well-wishers sipped mint tea and smoked apple-flavoured tobacco from a hookah. There was no booze, but she never drank much anyway.

Why has she done this? “I know it sounds clichéd, but Allah came knocking at my heart. That’s really how it feels. In many ways it is beyond articulating, rather like falling in love.”

It was, in other words, intensely personal. As she read the Koran and prepared for her conversion, the September attacks came and went and failed to derail her spiritual journey, despite their proven link to a fundamentalist Islamist terror network. In as far as they featured in her thinking, they even elicited some sympathy. All terrorism is cowardly, she says. “But I can see why people get fed up with the West. Capitalism is enormously oppressive.”

Elizabeth is not a freak, and she is certainly not alone. There is compelling anecdotal evidence of a surge in conversions to Islam since September 11, not just in Britain, but across Europe and America. One Dutch Islamic centre claims a tenfold increase, while the New Muslims Project, based in Leicester and run by a former Irish Roman Catholic housewife, reports a “steady stream” of new converts.

This fits a pattern set by recent history. Similar surges followed the outbreak of the Gulf War, the Bosnian conflict and the declaration of a fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Some of the newcomers doubtless do not share David Blunkett’s enthusiasm for overt espousals of Britishness. They may even have been caught on police videos flag-waving for the Taleban. But most will speak our language and support our football teams with roughly average fervour, and some — by all accounts a rapidly expanding minority — are white, more educated and more middle-class than the Home Secretary himself.

These are some of Islam’s more surprising converts. They have chosen their new creed over the world’s other great religions having had the privilege of choice, often confounding their own and their families’ prejudices in the process. They are highly articulate and tolerant to a degree. They’re People Like Us, only they’re not. They’re Muslims. They pray five times a day, fast during Ramadan and hope to go to Mecca before they die. They answer their mobiles with “salaam alaikum”.

Unlike Richard Reid, the would-be shoe bomber of American Airlines Flight 63, Britain’s pukka Muslim converts, as the label implies, tend to be over-privileged, not under. Unlike James McLintock, the Scots lecturer’s son being held in a Peshawar jail, the fighting in Afghanistan has dismayed rather than attracted them.

They are people like Elizabeth (who asked for her name to be changed because she has not told her parents yet); like Lucy Bushill-Matthews, a 30-year-old graduate of Newnham College, Cambridge, who flirted with Islam as a student in order to dismiss it, but found it “so simple and logical I couldn’t push it away”; like “Yahya”, whose father is a pillar of the Anglo Establishment and who feels that Islam “fits right into British tradition”; and like Joe Ahmed-Dobson, a son of the former Labour Minister Frank Dobson who believes that Islam transformed his spiritual life — and helped him to get a first at university.

If there is something familiar about these people’s startling choices, there should be. We have been here before, or at least Imperial Britain’s adventuring classes and their moneyed gap-year successors have.

T. E. Lawrence fell hard for the romance and otherness of Islam and came to embody them for succeeding generations even though he never converted. Gai Eaton, a former British diplomat now in his seventies, did convert. His influential work Islam and the Destiny of Man has become required reading for bright young Anglo-Saxons turning to his adopted faith, often as an expression of dissatisfaction with a Western culture that appeared to have offered them everything.

Matthew Wilkinson made headlines when he converted and changed his name to Tariq in 1993; he was a former Eton head boy. He and Nicholas Brandt, another Etonian and the son of an investment banker, swapped their destinies as scions of the Establishment for a Slough semi shared with four other Muslims.

Lord Birt’s son, Jonathan, forsook a fast track into the ranks of the great and the good by converting in 1997 and starting a PhD on British Islam. So did a son and a daughter of Lord Justice Scott, the scourge of Tory sleaze and the chairman of the Arms to Iraq inquiry.

And so did Jemima Khan. “My decision . . . was entirely my own choice and in no way hurried,” the 21-year-old daughter of the billionaire James Goldsmith declared angrily after suggestions that she had converted to marry Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricket captain. She noted accurately that the Koran allowed Imran to marry any Muslim, Jew or Christian (even though it bars Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men). She pointed out that Imran’s sisters, far from being oppressed by his brothers-in-law, were all educated professionals, and she insisted that she found the tunic and trousers she would henceforth have to wear “far more elegant and feminine than anything in my wardrobe”.

Her plea seemed hard to credit in the circumstances, but it is a common one from educated British women trying to persuade baffled non-Muslims that conversion did not mean surrendering their independence or their critical faculties.

For Lucy Bushill-Matthews, it meant the reverse. “When I went to Cambridge I joined the Christian and Islamic societies and all three political parties,” she says. “I wanted to explore all the possibilities in order to dismiss them.”

She thinks of herself as pragmatic and not all that spiritual, and as such she found Islam irresistible. “It made sense of all the world’s faiths. It was a clear, simple way to believe in God.” She claims that it has even helped her to land good jobs by marking her out as a free thinker. Her husband is a Muslim of English and Iranian descent whom she married after converting.

Yahya, too, chose Islam from the broadest possible religious gamut. He was raised in a high-profile London family that, because of his father’s position, could not be seen to favour one faith over another. He then took a degree in comparative religion — the theological equivalent of a blind wine tasting — and Islam, quite simply, won.

“It’s pure monotheism,” he says. “It has a clear moral system and an intact tradition of religious scholarship. No scripture expresses its message of the oneness of God as clearly as the Koran. It also has a remarkably rich mysticism, which may be what appeals to middle-class white Brits like me.”

Yahya converted five years ago. Now 33, he is at Oxford writing a PhD on British Islam and is dismayed not just by last September’s attacks, but also by the mauling he says his religion has suffered since in the media, even — or especially — at the hands of would-be sympathisers. “It’s very painful for all of us to be associated with such sickening barbarism (of the attacks),” he says. “That’s not what we signed up for. And now we can’t portray our religion in undiluted form. It’s always mediated by someone else. It’s incredibly frustrating to have Polly Toynbee trying to save you from yourself.”

So does this wry and thoughtful soul share the credo of al-Qaeda? Of course not. But the belief system in which he and the terrorists co-exist has a serious and often lethal public relations problem. The parallel that comes to mind is with the environmental movement, boasting tens of millions of members paying dues to the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Sierra Club, and a handful bent on burning down ski lodges in the Rockies.

Well before September 11, well-heeled defectors from Anglicanism to Islam proved so unsettling to traditionalists that the Cold War author and journalist Philip Knightley branded them “the new Philbys”. They were running from privilege, he suggested, driven as much by a sense of guilt at what they had as wonder at the mysteries of Islam. The fact that Kim Philby’s father happens to have converted to Islam was taken to support the accusation. Levelled at Joe Ahmed-Dobson, it quickly seems ridiculous. The son of the former Health Secretary is a child of new Labour and the opposite of a rebel. He works on inner city regeneration, finds spiritual satisfaction in Islam’s “constant impetus to do the right thing”, and credits his first-class degree to the structure his faith has brought to his life.

All those I spoke to agreed that Christianity claims to answer the same yearnings for meaning and guidance. All had rejected it on intellectual grounds. Why grapple with mental puzzles such as the Holy Trinity and Original Sin, they asked, when the alternative, asserting neither, proved to them so much more satisfying?It was this clarity that won over Batool Al-Toma, the former Catholic who offers guidance to converts at the New Muslims Project. She tells them they need not change their names, advises women to dress modestly but not alienate their families with radical wardrobe changes and checks they have converted freely. Islam is not generally a missionary faith, she says. At one billion and counting, history shows it doesn’t need to be.


Famous converts

Gérard Depardieu: The 54-year-old French film star converted to Islam, but later converted back. He also experimented with Buddhism and the Russian Orthodox Church but says he has now found happiness in his vineyard in Anjou. “I work and keep quiet,” he told French Vogue.


Jemima Goldsmith: The daughter of Sir James, the late financier, she converted “of her own conviction” in preparation for her marriage to Imran Khan in 1995. “It would seem that a Western woman’s happiness hinges largely on her access to nightclubs, alcohol and revealing clothes,” she said. “However, as we all know, such superficialities have very little to do with true happiness.”



Eleasha Elphinstone: The wife of the boxing star Prince Naseem Hamed switched faiths in 1998 before marrying. The previous year the wedding plans had been abandoned when Eleasha had a change of heart and refused to convert.



Malcolm X: A former street hustler, Malcolm Little converted to Islam in jail, where he was serving time for burglary. He joined the Nation of Islam, was later expelled and assassinated by Nation members in 1965.



Muhammad Ali: The 59-year-old boxer previously known as Cassius Clay became an international role model, revered as much for his political stance over Vietnam and adherence to his faith, as for his showmanship in the ring.



Cat Stevens: Born Steven Georgiou, the singer dropped his nom-de-plume to become Yusuf Islam in 1977. His moment of enlightenment had come the previous year, when his brother gave him a copy of the Koran. From being a superstar at the age of 19 when Matthew and Son became a hit, Yusuf married a Muslim woman from central Asia called Fawzia, and became a high-profile spokesman for the British Muslim community.


Mike Tyson: The former world heavyweight champion was sentenced to three years in jail for raping a teenager. He converted to Islam before returning to the ring in 1995. He told visitors that he had spent his time studying the Koran, Machiavelli, Voltaire, Dumas “and a lot of Communist literature”.




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Old 14th February 2002, 23:34
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This an article is from AMERICAN newspaper.
New Muslims


The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have served as a catalyst to conversion for some Americans attracted by Islam's 'mysticism and clear theology'

Marina Jiménez

National Post

http://www.nationalpost.com

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Like all Americans, Debra Portmann felt overcome with grief after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and mourned for the slaughter of her countrymen.

But she also felt something else: a lingering sadness for Islam itself, a faith she felt had been grossly abused by the terrorists to justify their actions.

Ms. Portmann, a Boston native whose Christian ancestors arrived here in 1649, wrote a note of sympathy and slipped it under the door of the Islamic students' group at the University of Massachusetts, where she studies classical music.

Less than a month later, the 46-year-old liberal converted to Islam, in the basement of the Islamic Society of Boston's Sunni mosque. It was a simple ceremony that took only moments. She said the shahadah (There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger) in Arabic, a simple testimony of faith she will repeat five times a day for the rest of her life.

Tiffany Motschenbacher, an extroverted theatre major from Michigan with curly brown hair, converted a few days later, sitting on the floor of the society's cultural centre with a group of sisters, celebrating the occasion later over pizza and soda.

"I said the testimony and, poof, I was a Muslim. I was shaking and weeping," recalls Ms. Motschenbacher, 30, with a laugh. "I really felt that this religion was the truth and what I'd been looking for my whole life. I used to feel something was wrong with me because I couldn't grasp the concept of God. Now I finally had peace of heart."

The terrorist attacks perpetrated by fundamentalist Islamists served as a kind of a catalyst for both of these women and at least four others in their class of New Muslims, propelling them forward on a long and sometimes hesitant spiritual journey toward conversion.

"Instead of running away, I felt myself running toward Islam. My heart had already opened to the religion and I knew that what had happened [in New York and Washington] was not Islam at all," Ms. Motschenbacher said.

Adds Ms. Portmann, who wears a shalwar kameez -- baggy trousers and a loose tunic -- and covers her red hair with a pink hijab, or head covering: "When 9/11 happened, it gave Islam a black eye. But I knew the terrorist act was nothing Islam would ever sanction. I knew the terrorists' idea of jihad was wrong."

These women are part of a curious trend: a surge in conversions since Sept. 11 both in the United States and in Europe. It is a pattern that has replicated itself throughout recent history; there were many converts during the Bosnian conflict. During the Gulf War, the Saudis claimed to have welcomed 5,000 new Muslims into the fold.

"Americans have bought more flags since 9/11, but they've also bought more Korans," says Imam Siraj Wahhaj, who runs the al-Taqwah mosque in Brooklyn, N.Y. "I've had more converts since 9/11 and I've spoken in so many different forums and inter-faith meetings."

At Harvard's Islamic Society, attendance at the annual Ramadan dinner nearly doubled this year, while several open houses at the Islamic Society of Boston attracted so many people they spilled over into the parking lot.

In New York, Sheik Ishaq Abdul Malik-ul-Mulk, a convert who also goes by his Puerto Rican name Luis Alejandro, says that every week, someone takes shahadah at the Long Island mosque where he worships. "The more controversial something is, the more people it attracts," he says. "But attraction is just the first step. After that, you have to believe, and the message of Islam is so simple, without any of the Holy Trinity mysteries. You can practise it on your own."

One Dutch Islamic centre claims a tenfold increase while the New Muslims Project, based in Leicester, England, reports a steady stream of new converts.

In a videotape released by the Pentagon last month, Osama bin Laden himself remarked on the phenomenon to his al-Qaeda lieutenants. "In Holland, the number of people who accepted Islam during the days that followed the operations were more than the people who accepted Islam in the last 11 years. I heard someone on Islamic radio who owns a school in America say: 'We don't have time to keep up with the demands of those who are asking about Islamic books to learn about Islam.' This event made people think [about true Islam], which benefitted Islam greatly."

Some of the high-profile Western converts who have captured the public limelight have been those drawn to the terrorist cause espoused by radical Islamists. According to the FBI, John Walker, a 20-year-old California man, took up arms with the Taliban and even met bin Laden and knew he had ordered the attacks.

Richard Reid is alleged to have packed plastic explosives into the heels of his black suede high-tops in an attempt to bomb American Airlines Flight 63 last month. In the mid-1990s, he came out of prison and joined a Brixton mosque in London, where he met Zacarias Moussaoui, the "20th" terrorist who engineered the hijacking of the planes that crashed into New York's World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon in Washington.

However, many American and European converts are similar to those in the New Muslim class for converts run by the Islamic Society of Boston. They do not support terrorism, nor share the al-Qaeda credo. They are well-educated, articulate, former Christians; some are even Jewish and Hindu.

These new Muslims, like the approximately 25,000 Hispanic converts in New York and California, are surprise converts to a religion that is the fastest growing in the United States. There are now six million adherents across the country, and more than 30% of mosque attendees are converts, according to a recent survey by four Muslim-American groups.

Some had studied Buddhism, flirted with Roman Catholicism or spent time with Quakers, but ultimately found them lacking.

Conversion is an intensely personal journey. But the influx of new Muslims prompts a number of questions. Why would people choose to embrace the faith at this time in history, when it suffers from such a public relations problem that Muslims can be spit on for wearing a hijab, called rag-heads and taunted in the street? And, a more fundamental question: What can a religion that segregates genders, bans dancing and drinking and requires women to cover up not just their hair, but their elbows and knees, offer to liberated American women?

- - -

"Asalam Alaikum!" the New Muslims sisters call out to one another as they arrive at the Old Country Buffet in a suburban mall to celebrate Eid, the end of Ramadan. The class is marking the occasion a few weeks late, to accommodate the Christmas holidays, which many of the new converts observed with their families.

Some are dressed in jeans and running shoes, their long blond hair shiny and loose; others are in shalwar kameez, their hair completely covered by embroidered hijabs.

Laughing boisterously, they tuck into plates of baked potatoes, roast beef and ice cream sundaes. A few have brought along their young children, who race around the restaurant.

Around the table are Ms. Motschenbacher and Ms. Portmann, as well as two "closet converts": Laura, a 21-year-old Harvard medical student in a V-necked sweater and T-shirt, and Lisa, a 36-year-old sales manager with blue eyes and honey-coloured hair, looking as all-American as a Gap ad.

The evening might be mistaken for a women's book club meeting, or a girls' night out, albeit one with lemonade instead of wine.

The conversation flows from social niceties, such as plans for a class member's upcoming engagement party, to where to buy halal meat, and purchase a hijab online.

The eldest class member, Karen Courtenay, a 61-year-old linguist who said the shahadah over the telephone last May, sums up how many of the converts feel about what she calls Islam's rich mysticism and clear theology and rules, which include fasting during Ramadan, praying five times a day and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

"Many Christians express dismay about the Trinity, about the tri-partite God. With Islam, there are no miracles and things you can't understand. Also, the congregational prayer, where everyone prays in a certain way in Arabic and in ritual positions is very powerful. Then there's the social aspect: If you come from a cold, WASP New England culture, the hugging and hospitality you get from Arab sisters is just wonderful."

Laura, who was raised as a secular Christian, says she converted by herself in her room a year ago. "The Koran really touched my heart and I liked the inner logic of the religion. It can be seen as un-American, but it is one of the great religions of the world and applies to all places and times," she says.

Courtesy: Green_World: http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/mb/...nt&msg=13072.1


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Old 14th February 2002, 23:35
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From a Western Minaret

By Michael Wolfe,7 January 2002

Islam: The Next American Religion?
(reprinted from beliefnet.com)


The U.S. began as a haven for Christian outcasts. But what religion fits our current zeitgeist? The answer may be Islam.

Americans tend to think of their country as, at the very least, a nominally Christian nation. Didn't the Pilgrims come here for freedom to practice their Christian religion? Don't Christian values of righteousness under God, and freedom, reinforce America's democratic, capitalist ideals?

True enough. But there's a new religion on the block now, one that fits the current zeitgeist nicely. It's Islam.

Islam is the third-largest and fastest growing religious community in the United States. This is not just because of immigration. More than 50% of America's six million Muslims were born here. Statistics like these imply some basic agreement between core American values and the beliefs that Muslims hold. Americans who make the effort to look beyond popular stereotypes to learn the truth of Islam are surprised to find themselves on familiar ground.

Is America a Muslim nation? Here are seven reasons the answer may be yes.

Islam is monotheistic. Muslims worship the same God as Jews and Christians. They also revere the same prophets as Judaism and Christianity, from Abraham, the first monotheist, to Moses, the law giver and messenger of God, to Jesus--not leaving out Noah, Job, or Isaiah along the way. The concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition only came to the fore in the 1940s in America. Now, as a nation, we may be transcending it, turning to a more inclusive "Abrahamic" view.

In January, President Bush grouped mosques with churches and synagogues in his inaugural address. A few days later, when he posed for photographers at a meeting of several dozen religious figures, the Shi'ite imam Muhammad Qazwini, of Orange County, Calif., stood directly behind Bush's chair like a presiding angel, dressed in the robes and turban of his south Iraqi youth.

Islam is democratic in spirit. Islam advocates the right to vote and educate yourself and pursue a profession. The Qur'an, on which Islamic law is based, enjoins Muslims to govern themselves by discussion and consensus. In mosques, there is no particular priestly hierarchy. With Islam, each individual is responsible for the condition of her or his own soul. Everyone stands equal before God.


Americans, who mostly associate Islamic government with a handful of tyrants, may find this independent spirit surprising, supposing that Muslims are somehow predisposed to passive submission. Nothing could be further from the truth. The dictators reigning today in the Middle East are not the result of Islamic principles. They are more a result of global economics and the aftermath of European colonialism. Meanwhile, like everyone else, average Muslims the world over want a larger say in what goes on in the countries where they live. Those in America may actually succeed in it. In this way, America is closer in spirit to Islam than many Arab countries.

Islam contains an attractive mystical tradition. Mysticism is grounded in the individual search for God. Where better to do that than in America, land of individualists and spiritual seekers? And who might better benefit than Americans from the centuries-long tradition of teachers and students that characterize Islam. Surprising as it may seem, America's best-selling poet du jour is a Muslim mystic named Rumi, the 800-year-old Persian bard and founder of the Mevlevi Path, known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. Even book packagers are now rushing him into print to meet and profit from mainstream demand for this visionary. Translators as various as Robert Bly, Coleman Barks, and Kabir and Camille Helminski have produced dozens of books of Rumi's verse and have only begun to bring his enormous output before the English-speaking world. This is a concrete poetry of ecstasy, where physical reality and the longing for God are joined by flashes of metaphor and insight that continue to speak across the centuries.

Islam is egalitarian. From New York to California, the only houses of worship that are routinely integrated today are the approximately 4,000 Muslim mosques. That is because Islam is predicated on a level playing field, especially when it comes to standing before God. The Pledge of Allegiance (one nation, "under God") and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (all people are "created equal") express themes that are also basic to Islam.

Islam is often viewed as an aggressive faith because of the concept of jihad, but this is actually a misunderstood term. Because Muslims believe that God wants a just world, they tend to be activists, and they emphasize that people are equal before God. These are two reasons why African Americans have been drawn in such large numbers to Islam. They now comprise about one-third of all Muslims in America.

Meanwhile, this egalitarian streak also plays itself out in relations between the sexes. Muhammad, Islam's prophet, actually was a reformer in his day. Following the Qur'an, he limited the number of wives a man could have and strongly recommended against polygamy. The Qur'an laid out a set of marriage laws that guarantees married women their family names, their own possessions and capital, the right to agree upon whom they will marry, and the right to initiate divorce. In Islam's early period, women were professionals and property owners, as increasingly they are today. None of this may seem obvious to most Americans because of cultural overlays that at times make Islam appear to be a repressive faith toward women--but if you look more closely, you can see the egalitarian streak preserved in the Qur'an finding expression in contemporary terms. In today's Iran, for example, more women than men attend university, and in recent local elections there, 5,000 women ran for public office.

Islam shares America's new interest in food purity and diet. Muslims conduct a monthlong fast during the holy month of Ramadan, a practice that many Americans admire and even seek to emulate. I happened to spend quite a bit of time with a non-Muslim friend during Ramadan this year. After a month of being exposed to a practice that brings some annual control to human consumption, my friend let me know, in January, that he was "doing a little Ramadan" of his own. I asked what he meant. "Well, I'm not drinking anything or smoking anything for at least a month, and I'm going off coffee." Given this friend's normal intake of coffee, I could not believe my ears.

Muslims also observe dietary laws that restrict the kind of meat they can eat. These laws require that the permitted, or halal, meat is prepared in a manner that emphasizes cleanliness and a humane treatment of animals. These laws ride on the same trends that have made organic foods so popular.

Islam is tolerant of other faiths. Like America, Islam has a history of respecting other religions. In Muhammad's day, Christians, Sabeans, and Jews in Muslim lands retained their own courts and enjoyed considerable autonomy. As Islam spread east toward India and China, it came to view Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and Buddhism as valid paths to salvation. As Islam spread north and west, Judaism especially benefited. The return of the Jews to Jerusalem, after centuries as outcasts, only came about after Muslims took the city in 638. The first thing the Muslims did there was to rescue the Temple Mount, which by then had been turned into a garbage heap.

Today, of course, the long discord between Israel and Palestine has acquired harsh religious overtones. Yet the fact remains that this is a battle for real estate, not a war between two faiths. Islam and Judaism revere the same prophetic lineage, back to Abraham, and no amount of bullets or barbed wire can change that. As The New York Times recently reported, while Muslim/Jewish tensions sometimes flare on university campuses, lately these same students have found ways to forge common links. For one thing, the two religions share similar dietary laws, including ritual slaughter and a prohibition on pork. Joining forces at Dartmouth this fall, the first kosher/halal dining hall is scheduled to open its doors this autumn. That isn't all: They're already planning a joint Thanksgiving dinner, with birds dressed at a nearby farm by a rabbi and an imam. If the American Pilgrims were watching now, they'd be rubbing their eyes with amazement. And, because they came here fleeing religious persecution, they might also understand.

Islam encourages the pursuit of religious freedom. The Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock is not the world's first story of religious emigration. Muhammad and his little band of 100 followers fled religious persecution, too, from Mecca in the year 622. They only survived by going to Madinah, an oasis a few hundred miles north, where they established a new community based on a religion they could only practice secretly back home. No wonder then that, in our own day, many Muslims have come here as pilgrims from oppression, leaving places like Kashmir, Bosnia, and Kosovo, where being a Muslim may radically shorten your life span. When the 20th century's list of emigrant exiles is added up, it will prove to be heavy with Muslims, that's for sure.

All in all, there seems to be a deep resonance between Islam and the United States. Although one is a world religion and the other is a sovereign nation, both are traditionally very strong on individual responsibility. Like New Hampshire's motto, "Live Free or Die," America is wedded to individual liberty and an ethic based on right action. For a Muslim, spiritual salvation depends on these. This is best expressed in a popular saying: Even when you think God isn't watching you, act as if he is.

Who knows? Perhaps it won't be long now before words like salat (Muslim prayer) and Ramadan join karma and Nirvana in Webster's Dictionary, and Muslims take their place in America's mainstream
============================================================
Michael Wolfe is the author of books of poetry, fiction, travel, and history. His most recent works are a pair of books from Grove Press on the pilgrimage to Mecca: "The Hajj" (1993), a first-person travel account, and "One Thousand Roads to Mecca" (1997), an anthology of 10 centuries of travelers writing about the Muslim pilgrimage. In April 1997, he hosted a televised account of the Hajj from Mecca for Ted Koppel's "Nightline" on ABC. He is currently at work on a four-hour television documentary on the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad.
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Old 14th February 2002, 23:37
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Islam - The next American Religion
Proving true on many NA campuses.
Here's an article about Concordia's new Muslims.


Concordia students tell of their conversion to Islam

by Sobia Virk on Tuesday February 05





Walking serenely on her way to class, dressed in blue jeans and a sweater, blond hair tucked behind her ears, Kim Glithero does not stand out as a visible Muslim. Most of her friends are unaware of her conversion to Islam three months ago, and the second-year human relations student does not fit the typical notion of what a Muslim looks like.

Glithero is one of the several newly-converted Muslims at Concordia. She recited shahada, a declaration of faith, in November 2001.


"I was nervous before saying it," she said. "I wanted to for a long time but was too shy. I finally declared faith and felt completely overwhelmed. Islam gave the concept of one God. It was easy to convert, I found a religion that fit what I already believed."

Her family took the news relatively well, she said, though her mother was upset and thus Glithero does not wear a hijab.

"I gave her Carol Anway's book, Daughters of Another Path and it helped," she said. The book tells the story of a mother's reaction to her daughter becoming a Muslim.

Islam, the fastest growing religion in the world, has 1.2 billion adherents worldwide. At Concordia, nine students have converted to Islam over the past four months.

In January 2002, a shy woman who wished to be identified only as "Ayesha" quietly embraced Islam. She has yet to reveal her faith to her family.

"I want to tell them about my decision slowly, but surely," the Mathematics student said. Only close friends know of her conversion, though her lifestyle has changed significantly. Ayesha has given up alcohol, eats Halal food and prays five times a day. She did not always believe in God, and feels to have been "given a second chance," she said. "I am in peace, and have no reason to worry."

Ewen Jones, a British-born Biology student who was once an atheist, echoed those sentiments. "I felt very much guided from the heart," he said. "I am a changed person."

Paola Ortiz, an International student from Colombia, read the Qu'ran at age 15.

"The Qu'ran speaks of embryonic development, cloud formations, and other recent scientific knowledge. It made sense," she said. The Psychology student became Muslim two weeks ago. "I felt very happy and at peace, but knew of the repercussions I would face in my family."

Ortiz comes from a Catholic background, but she struggled with the concept of Trinity. After becoming Muslim, she encountered dissent from her family.

"Spiritually I am different, but not in my day-to-day life," she said. "I am coming into the religion gradually." Prayer was a surprise to Ortiz.

"I went from going to church once a week to praying five times a day," she said. She does not envision herself wearing hijab though.

"Here, my culture influences my choice," said Ortiz.
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