Good News from the Muslim Community

Welcome to Fresh Air, a Muslim community bulletin that brings you the good news you never seem to hear in the media.

We welcome stories of positive community engagement, humanitarian and voluntary work, responsible reporting and well researched publications, documentaries and other pieces.

We want to inspire you to do more by hearing about others’ example whether they be Muslim or Non-Muslim. We also want to put a smile on your face when you read about people striving to make the world a better place.Finally we are committed to centralising communication within the Muslim community so that you know about the good work of both Muslim and Non-Muslim organisations and can support them spiritually and financially.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

New Directions

Asalaamu alaikum all,

After an exciting talk and brainstorm at an OMA (Oxbridge Muslim Alumni) dinner event Fresh Air is moving in new directions. Considering the two year hiatus and that the dinner event was in September, it's high time it started moving. So, this is where I come in.

The blog has moved to (not too much of a change) and we're going to start adding some new features. One thing that came out of the dinner is the tunnel vision of chosen careers amongst Muslims; lawyer, doctor, pharmacist and dentist seem to be the only ones that exist in our world. So we are going to start a "Spotlight on..." feature about people, Muslims and otherwise, that have chosen different paths to give a taste of what is out there, how to get there, and what you'll be doing once you're there.

We'll continue bringing you the positive stories that you're used to and, once the audience is there, we'd love for you folks to forward the positive stories in your lives.

The ultimate aim is to provide a site you don't dread opening or leave feeling depressed, as is often my experience with news sites. We want a forum in which successes, however small, are celebrated and the beautiful variety of life is showcased to, slowly, chip away at the negativity I find surrounding us.

So here's to new directions. May Allah help us in this endeavour and keep our intentions pure.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Twins of Faith

It was the biggest and the best Islamic event of the year: Saturday 19th November marked Mercy Mission’s spectacular offering, the Twins of Faith conference at the Excel Centre in London.  With thousands in attendance, the auditorium were dazzled with heart-softening talks, nasheed performances and poetry.  Outside, the bazaar featured stalls on everything from Halal chicken sauce to Muslim Scouts, whilst a kidzone entertained with bouncy castle and face-painting.

Smiles and tears filled the room as international sheyukh took us through a journey of Love – love for the divine, love for the Prophet (pbuh) and ultimately love for the human family. 

Theming the conference around ‘Love’ was one of many intelligent decisions made by this events committee, who devised the term ‘Twins of Faith’ to denote the importance of Knowledge and Action intertwined. 
Talks were powerful and engaging by Sheyukh who knew exactly how to connect to their audience.  The transition between speeches and performances kept the space fresh and light.  Visuals and sound were appealing and smoothly executed so as to welcome speakers professionally to the podium.  What is even more remarkable is how modern and almost R n B the sound was, whilst remaining wholly within Halal boundaries by using the male voice to great effect.

Sheikh Tawfique Choudhury, founder and director inspired us with the story of the Mercy Mission vision, inviting us all to become a part of it.  Indeed Sheikh Alaa ElSayed, blew the roof off by raising £700,000 from the audience within the space of an hour towards the building of women’s hostels across the UK.   Ustadh Yahya Ibrahim exhorted us to put aside racial differences and focus on what unites us as children of Adam.  Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan gave his debut Mercy Mission performance on the theme of forgiveness, set forth by the Qur’an.

Meanwhile a host of fascinating workshops were fully booked on themes from Dawah to Halal food, Careers and Marriage.  Feedback from these was wholly positive, indeed the most frequent complaint was simply not having enough time to attend them all!

The bazaar proved a great way to shop for gifts, clothing and books.  Stands including Islamic wills and mortgages were educational as well as providing a fantastic boost to Muslim businesses.
Overall, a day of great value for money and time for all – we firmly look forwards to having it back next year!

Comedy Interlude

10 Signs you are at an Islamic talk

  1. The speaker arrives even later than the audience, following this up with a lengthy monologue on the failings of British public transport.
  2. The sisters are in a different room to the speaker, this can include a basement a few blocks away from the venue, just in case any ‘free-mixing’ could possibly occur.
  3. There are 5 microphones and yet none of them work.  The first half an hour of the talk is spent handing the speaker various devices, each of which result in auditory explosions, microphone feedback and intermittent pulses of words.  ‘Bismil...inalh...assalam...the title...shirk....bidah’
  4. The powerpoint is abandoned because the speaker has not figured out how to press F5 and the brothers in the front row are too busy sleeping to notice.
  5. Because the sisters are invisible to the speaker, he insists on addressing the congregation repeatedly as ‘Brothers...’
  6. Although this was an Islamic talk, about half of the air time is spent discussing middle east politics and berating the inactivity of the muslim community to do anything, ever (especially wear the hijab, or grow a beard).
  7. Gags the speaker is likely to use include references to : Biryani, chapattis or people’s wives. 
  8. The talk ends about an hour and half after the advertised finish time, forced to a close by the audibility of the adhan.
  9. The brothers get about 10 questions into the speaker before someone finally realises that there are sisters present as well.
  10. At this point a small child is dispatched from the sisters section having been stuffed full of scraps of folded up paper with a range of probing questions.  These most often include references to: Jinn, black magic and Bidah – irrespective of the title of the talk.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Sheraton Hotel Cancels Islamic Event

Following pressure from a gay activist group and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto has announced a cancellation of a scheduled Dawah event which was due to take place on 23rd October.  The event entitled ‘Calling the World back to Allah’, which was organised by IERA had come under pressure by an article published in the ‘Toronto Star’, Canada’s leading newspaper, on October 13th.  In what appears to be a poorly researched piece bearing a strong resemblance to another article written in the British paper ‘Pink News’ earlier this year, Daniel Dale, selectively quotes various members of IERA, alleging homophobia and anti-semitism.  The ‘Pink News’ article at the time was objecting to a London event, which went ahead as planned despite ‘Pink News’’ attempted smear campaign.   At the time, IERA issued a response, clarifying that the allegations were unfounded and that they welcomed the opportunity to dialogue with all people regardless of background or orientation.

The allegation of homophobia as a beating stick for the Muslim community is unacceptable and must not be allowed to continue.  IERA’s events are focused on Tauhid and the beauty of Islam and it is this that protestors are actually silencing, while advocating their own agendas. 
Gay rights groups are seeking to marginalise the Muslim community using opinions on homosexuality as the trendy pretext.  IERA is currently campaigning against the Sheraton’s position and requests letters of complaint addressed to the hotel management.  Until the hotel respond to the letters, it is questionable whether the Muslim community will continue to finance the Sheraton chain of hotels.

Non-Muslims Fight Islamophobia

Opposing Islamophobia and celebrating multiculturalism were the themes of a convention that took place on Saturday 15th October at the TUC centre in London.  The event co-organised by Unite Against Fascism and One Society Many Cultures featured a stimulating panel of guests from Myriam Francois Cerrah, Robert Lambert, Peter Oborne to Dr Abdul Bari and Farooq Murad of the MCB.

The day opened with a panel discussion on responding to the far right in Europe, with particular reference to Norway before breaking up for a variety of smaller workshops.  Topics were well chosen and included religious bans, the government’s Prevent strategy and institutional racism.  Afternoon workshops looked at the truth about immigration, student racism and how Muslim communities are working to combat Islamophobia.  Prominent themes of anger against government policy and the continuing wealth divide emerged.  There was much discussion over the association between economic crisis and discrimination.  Immigrants were recognised as having brought so much to British society in the past.

It was pleasing to see stalls that included the campaign for Babar Ahmad, commemorating National Holocaust day and there was even a book stall selling a range of relevant titles.  Of note was the high attendance by Non-Muslims including black, white, jewish and asian groups.  Indeed the Muslim community would benefit greatly from forging greater alliances with those who have known discrimination in the past.

9/11 Silver Lining?

As the mainstream media, relive the ten year anniversary of 9/11 by replaying the agony, ripping open old wounds again, how do we summon up the best of a seemingly bleak situation?  In a decade that has seen unjustified suffering and bloodshed, at levels beyond rational comprehension, how can we derive anything constructive to take us forwards from the rubble?
As the Prophet (pbuh) said ‘Curious is the affair of the believer, There is good for him in everything and that is for no one but the believer. If good times come his way, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way, he endures it patiently and that is better for him.” Muslim
Interestingly it could be argued that both good and bad has come our way in the last ten years.  The bad is obvious – Genocide, Torture, Detention without charge, the erosion of civil liberties, widespread Islamophobia and so on.  We pray that Allah grants Jannah in exchange for the suffering of our brothers and sisters and lightens their load on the day of Judgement.  How often though, do we notice all the visible good?
Since 9/11, more people have embraced Islam than ever in living memory as supported by a recent Faith Matters report which estimated converts had nearly doubled in the last decade.  We have seen a tide of interest by our own community, in our own religion.  Hijabs, beards and Halal shops have popped up everywhere, even in Muslim countries.  Mosques, Islamic centres and educational establishments have become packed to the rafters.  Yet this is not just an interest in religiosity – seminars on kindness, tolerance and good treatment of others are on the increase as our authentic knowledge of the Prophet ‘s life (pbuh) has improved.  Initiatives like soup kitchens, community clean-up projects and neighbourhood gift giving are on the rise.
Muslims are also beginning to learn how to work together, instead of against one another to combat prejudice.  Egos are being forced to take second place and a curious enthusiasm to help in any way towards the effort has seized even the most disinterested of individuals. 
Since 9/11, the world has shifted from apathy about Islam to active interest.  Conversations all round the country are gradually replacing ignorance with knowledge – ignorance that we might not have realised existed before.  Non-Muslims and their organisations have stepped forwards in solidarity with Muslims.  We have also seen the establishment of centralised funded Dawah and support for new converts, with the founding of organisations like IERA. 
Linked with this, muslims are learning how to articulate themselves, both verbally and on paper.  Articulate muslim scholars like Hamza Yusuf and journalists like Rageh Omar and Mehdi Hasan have now stepped forwards to represent us on a public platform and ia will continue to do so, to cover all spectrums of thought. 
Yes, we have experienced fear and loss of wealth, but we have also gained humanity and self-convinction.  The past decade has been both the best of times and the worst of times and for both we have lived between Sabr and Shukr.  May Allah increase us in knowledge, faith and good action and let good triumph over bad, knowledge over ignorance and compassion over prejudice, through our work and that of the generations ahead – Amin.

Turkish Prime Minister Visits Somalia

The first visit by a non-African leader in two decades, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been visiting refugee camps and hospitals in Somalia to pay his respects.
Accompanied by his wife and family, the iconic images of her in tasteful cream Muslim dress send out clear messages to the wider world that Turkey has moved towards inspirational leadership.
"Prime minister Erdogan's visit tells us the Turkish people are closer to us than any other Muslim nation on earth," explained one Somalian resident, Abdirashid Ali Omar. "The Turkish people are here to share with us in our time of need. It is momentous."
Erdogan, who describes the Somalian crisis as a ‘litmus test’ for humanity, now sets himself up as a trendsetter among Middle Eastern rulers, at a time when dictatorship is fast falling out of fashion.  With his popularity set to rise due to his confidence with Israel, the future could see other leaders struggling to keep up with the man who has improved Turkey in almost every way over the past 17 years since he was first elected as Mayor of Istanbul.  Over just 4 years from 1994-1998 he dealt with Istanbul’s pollution, traffic and the sale of alcohol.  He also reduced the city’s debts.  His success and popularity got him elected as Prime Minister in 2003 since which he has continued to build the country’s economy, reducing unemployment and Turkey’s IMF debts by three quarters.
May Allah preserve him, increase him in Iman and Taqwa and inspire great leadership all over the Muslim world, Amin.