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, 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.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Solace this Ramadan

She is a revert, a mother and a victim of domestic abuse.  Separated now from the man who abused her and left her with a mountain of debt so big she was forced to go to work to repay it, who was there to support her?  The answer is Solace, an organisation specifically set up to support revert sisters in difficulty.  And this month, they have been working tirelessly on such cases.
I am pleased to announce that after only 2 days of campaigning on this sister’s behalf, the Muslim community had raised enough money to eradicate her debts completely.  She now continues to receive the counselling and support of Solace volunteers.
In another example, emails circulated in South London requesting volunteers for another single mother revert who was struggling to cope alone with her 4 children.  Solace put together a food rota, volunteers to come and play with her children and take them out to parks, do her food shopping and babysit her children while she could attend medical appointments.
A fantastic model that ought to be replicated nationally Solace, under the patronage of Sheikh Haitham Al Haddad, is always looking for volunteers and charitable donations.
For more information visit

Creating Terror

Are we really dealing with an epidemic of ‘homegrown terrorists’ or are terror plots ‘created’? This is a question on many people’s lips which has now been answered in a fascinating expose by the American ‘Mother Jones’ magazine.  The work, led by Trevor Aaronson, an investigative reporting fellow at the University of California, Berkeley describes the involvement of paid FBI informants in as many as half of American terror plots.  The article also claims that all except three of the high profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were FBI sting operations.   The informants are often illegal immigrants or criminals that the FBI can coerce into working against the Muslim community in return for protection from the law.  These individuals are incentivized with large sums of money to not only spy on the American Muslim community but in some cases honey trap individuals into planning acts of terror.  Informants have in some cases not only incited talk of violence but provided transportation, money and the means to commit deadly acts that were unlikely to have occurred otherwise.  Conversations are tapped and then relayed back to the FBI resulting in convictions. 
Whilst much of the financing of FBI investigations is said to play a preventative role in a post 9/11 world, it is argued that most of these cases would not otherwise have occurred and are simply FBI attempts to drive prosecution numbers upwards so it can be claimed that they are winning the ‘war on terror’.
For the full story visit or

Fasting Not Feasting

Fasting not feasting is a Ramadan campaign in advance of piety and against consumerism and gluttony.  As part of its ongoing community work, the group organise sporadic iftars for the homeless up and down the country.  The rules are simple – if you want to organise an Iftar, simply select a location, email the organisers and they will advertise the event and recruit volunteers through online social media.  This month has also seen events held in Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester and Cardiff.  So called ‘flashmob iftars’ have been reported in mainstream media including the BBC and The Guardian, providing the organisers with an opportunity to give Dawah about the broader community action that Islam inspires.
For more information on the campaign visit

Norway Survivor Converts

Just a fortnight ago, IERA, the Islamic Education and Research Academy travelled to Norway to attend the World Humanist Congress in Oslo.  Headed up by Hamza Tzortzis who was set to debate Dr Lars Gule, a leading Norwegian humanist, IERA made the trip in order to better educate the Norwegian public about Islam.
In a remarkable twist of fate following Anders Breivik’s right wing shooting spree last month, one of the Non-Muslim survivors from the Island made his way to the IERA dawah table.  Describing his story for the camera, he explained that he found himself praying to God as he hid fearfully from the bullets.  No sooner had he said Allahu Akbar, he felt at peace.  He took his Shahadah right there and then in front of the IERA brothers.
Ironic indeed that a right wing extremist who sought to eradicate the effects of Islam from Europe instead created the conditions for the opposite outcome completely.
‘They plot and plan, and Allah too plans; but the best of planners is Allah’ 8:30 –

Arabick Roots

Did you know that the Muslim world paved the way to the eradication of smallpox? Were you aware that scientists such as Boyle and Halley were heavily influenced by the work of Islamic scholars from the golden age?  Did you know that even the founding of the Royal Society itself, which has played host to scientists as influential as Newton, was inspired by the scientific method pioneered by Muslim scholars?
All this information and more can be found at the Royal Society’s ‘Arabick roots’ exhibition in London running until November this year.  The exhibition which is by prior appointment only, comes with a free colour guide book featuring a preface from Dr Salim Al-Hassani  from the award-winning 1001 Inventions exhibition previously held at the Science Museum.
‘Arabick roots’ is a wonderful acknowledgement of the long overdue debt of gratitude that Western Science owes the Islamic civilisation before it.  In the words of Dr Peter Collins, Director of the Royal Society Centre for the History of Science ‘No scientist works alone, and no scientist works without understanding and appreciating the work of those who have gone before…as Isaac Newton famously wrote ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’’
Whilst much of the Media would have us believe that scientific development has always been hampered by Religion and that the only rational people on this planet are Atheists, this exhibition stands up and opposes this misconception.  The exhibition explains that the scientific method was actually pioneered by Muslim scientists including Ibn Al Haytham (Al Hazen) and Chemist Jabir Ibn Hayyan (Geber) who were some of the first people in history to consistently test out their theories with experimentation.  This concept was resurrected in 1660 with the founding of the Royal Society by British Scientists and preserved in its motto ‘Nullius in verba’ – meaning ‘take nobody’s word’.
Displaying remarkable critical thinking the exhibition quotes the words of Ibn Al-Haytham himself, an underacknowledged giant in scientific history ‘thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side.  He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency’
May Allah allow us to tread in the footsteps of our ancestors in re-establishing such a lofty Muslim scientific legacy – Amen.
For more information on booking times and the exhibition in general visit

Ramadan TV

It’s back and it’s even better this year.  Ramadan TV, a project of Mercy Mission, returns to Sky and internet broadcasting for the second year running especially for the month of Ramadan.  Packed with uplifting quality talks from knowledgeable Al Kauthar instructors and Q+A every night from 7.30pm it is both informative and a great alternative to less halal television viewing.
The website boasts segments for especially for women, family and Urdu speakers as well, so no-one misses out.  Unlike other Islamic television channels, Mercy Mission’s long term goal is all round entertainment and so in future years we hope to see halal reality TV and all sorts of interesting viewing for the youth insha Allah.
The channel which broadcasts live from Central London, with a view out onto bustling London Bridge can be accessed at or on Sky Channel 843.  So if you are looking for something better to give your children, or want a passive fix of knowledge do flick on or log on now.

My Neighbours

 “Angel Gabriel kept on enjoining the good treatment of neighbours to the extent that I thought that he would include neighbours as heirs.” (Narrated by Muslim)
My Neighbours Project, launched last month, is a response by the Islamic Forum of Europe to this hadith.  Making full use of colourful, trendy graphics, MNP was launched seeking to create community awareness and promote the rights and responsibilities we all have as neighbours.
Did you know for example that a Muslim neighbour has a responsibility to initiate greetings and congratulate their neighbour at times of happiness? Did you know that the neighbour has a right (not just a privilege) to be visited when they fall sick? Did you know that safeguarding a neighbour’s privacy and being mindful of minimising noise that disturbs them is part of Islam?
The project which was launched on Monday  18thJuly in East London, featured a national program of interfaith talks, community clean-up projects, tea parties, mosque open days and even a soup kitchen.  Its work featured on ITV news, which aired images of Muslims dligently cleaning up their local park and talking to the elderly.  It also gained column inches in local press.
Just close your eyes for a moment and imagine a Britain where Muslims exemplified this Sunnah. Communities would feel safer, happier and more cohesive.  Islamophobia could be utterly eradicated and best of all, Muslims would be creating their place in heaven.  Let us revive this Sunnah and become the faith group that restores community to Britain.
For more information on the project and how to be a good neighbour visit

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Extreme Forgiveness

In a remarkable story of Islamically inspired forgiveness a Muslim man who was shot square in the face in a hate-attack following  9/11 has been campaigning to prevent the execution of the man responsible.
Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi Muslim, speaking to Democracy Now described how he had been working at a service station in America just a few days after the twin towers attack.  When Mark Stroman entered, held him at gunpoint and asked him where he was from, he realised that this was not your typical robbery.  Stroman who has said he lost his half sister on September 11th had already killed two other people, one of whom was Hindu, before he shot at and blinded Mr Bhuiyan.   Bhuiyan has described how Islam had motivated him to have mercy and not vengeance as he campaigned against Stroman’s execution on  America’s death row.
In a statement by Stroman ‘Not only do I have all my friends and supporters trying to save my life, but now I have the Islamic community joining in, spearheaded by one very remarkable man, named Rais Bhuiyan who is a survivor of my hate.  His deep Islamic beliefs have gave him the strength to forgive the unforgiveable.  That is truly inspiring to me and should be an example for us all.  The hate has to stop...we are all in this world together’
Despite Bhuiyan’s best attempts, Stroman was executed by lethal injection.

Telegraph Retracts Slander

On 23rd January 2010, The Telegraph ran a slanderous article on Yahya Ibrahim, a well known Islamic Chaplain in Australia and respected lecturer for weekend educational courses.  This Canadian-raised Egyptian Ustadh and Hafiz of the Qur’an has now received formal recognition of this slander and a settlement following its challenge.  On 24th July, The Telegraph published a short retraction apologising for and correcting their false allegation of anti-Semitism,  Islamism and the advocation of violence.
Ustadh Yahya Ibrahim, whose lectures are filled with calls for Interfaith Tolerance, Non-Judgement of others and the importance of respect for women, should be congratulated on his pursuit of Justice.  Recent articles, such as ‘Love Jesus/Isa – son of Mary’ can be found at

Month of Mercy

On Saturday 30th July, the Al Kauthar Institute delivered yet another outstanding course on the Fiqh and Spirituality of Ramadan.  Beautifully entitled ‘The Month of Mercy’ and led by the dynamic Sheikh Sajid Umar, we were educated and uplifted by Qur’anic recitation and teaching.
Whilst talks on Ramadan sometimes tend to blend into one, Sheikh Sajid Umar by the grace of Allah made this event a cut above the rest.  Interspersed with his hallmark wit he reminded us of the things we so often forget around Ramadan.  How do we lay the groundwork for this special month: have we sought forgiveness from those we have wronged?  Have we fasted some of Sha’ban in order to prepare our bodies? Have we increased our Ibadah before Ramadan starts so that we hit the ground running?  Whilst we sometimes get consumed by the ritual of Ramadan, do we stop to think, for example, whether our earnings are Halal before we enter it?
The course also looked at the Fiqh of Ramadan, clarifying for example that skin creams, pessaries and enemas are all acceptable in a state of fasting, as are non-nutritious IV injections.  We learned about the Fiqh of fasting and menstruation, pregnancy and breastfeeding amongst other subjects.  We also looked at the bounties of Lailat Al Qadr and the etiquette of Eid day.
Just when we thought that we had been given enough, the Sheikh finished with an Iman-boosting grand finale - beautiful Qur’an recitation intertwined with pearls of wisdom.  He reminded us to have a clear vision and set high goals for Ramadan.  He advised us to use Ramadan as a month of training by which we could elevate our status.  And on the subject of patience he delivered the most memorable soundbite of the whole day – to never forget that ‘Greatness is attained at the edge of destruction’ but that in the words of the Qur’an ‘Indeed the help of Allah is near’

Islamic Psychology Conference

Did you know that our Muslim ancestors used to use architecture as part of the treatment for those with Psychological distress? Are you familiar with models of the self/Nafs as part of understanding what imbalances in mental illness?  Were you aware that Islamic Counselling is now increasingly available in Britain at competitive prices for those who would enjoy a faith-sensitive development process at times of difficulty?
If the answer to any of the above was no, then you may be pleased to find out that on Wednesday 27th July over 200 people gathered in London to discuss precisely these issues and more, at the second ever Islamic Psychology Conference.
Organised by Ethnic Health Initiative, this event brought together a range of health professionals and the lay public to explore this lesser known facet of Islamic Medicine.
The session opened with the reflections of Professor Rasjid Skinner, Consultant Clinical Psychologist who explored some of the drawbacks of mainstream ‘Western’ psychological therapies.  A brief video message from Professor Malik Badri, author of The Dilemma of Muslim Psychologists was screened, calling us to recognise the importance of worldview on public psychology.  Ayesha Aslam from Sakoon Muslim Counselling Service gave us an insight into the powerful work that Islamic Counselling can achieve in relieving the distress of community members with experiences deemed taboo by our community. The importance of a culturally sensitive ear, was emphasised by her case study of an individual who was falsely classified as Psychotic by a Non-Muslim counsellor before he sought their services, because he recited Arabic and rocked backwards and forwards when he prayed!  In another example, a Muslim with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder had been told by his Non-Muslim counsellor to abstain totally from prayer as part of the treatment process! Clearly, a role for Islamic Counselling is key here, as well as the wider education of Non-Muslim healthcare practitioners about Islam.
In the afternoon, Lynne Ali-Northcott, who works with substance addiction in the Bangladeshi community, presented her fascinating research into the effect of Ramadan on Muslim heroin users.  Year after year, she has consistently noticed that as soon as Ramadan hits, Muslim heroin users suddenly cease using drugs for 30 days and 30 nights.  She was intrigued  by their capacity to do this and constructed her own research project around it.  What she discovered was that Muslims who had been fasting throughout their childhood, somehow entered a different mode of being, in which all environmental triggers to drug abuse were no longer as potent.  She suggests that something about the intrinsic rituals within Islam, such as Prayer and Fasting, may be helping addicts to substitute their maladaptive habits, with healthier habits.  Indeed anecdotally she observes that those who embrace Islam most fully outside of their drug rehabilitation programme, are most likely to maintain their recovery.
Other speakers included Stephen Maynard, Stephen Weatherhead and Saiyyidah Zaidi who advocated new ways of dealing with old problems holistically, but most of all came the call for greater research into this under-prioritised area.
Our ancestors, such as Al Kindi (9th Century) and Al Ghazali (11th Century) did a lot of work on Pyschology – perhaps it is high time, in this world of imbalance, that our community carried the torch of research and development forwards.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Sisters Doing It for Themselves

Do Muslim women have a role in shaping our Ummah?  Are there issues affecting women in the Muslim community that we need to take more seriously?
Mercy Mission clearly think so and that is why on Saturday 16th July at a five star hotel in London, they organised the first ever Annual Sister’s conference, featuring a host of wonderful guests such as Lauren Booth (recent high profile convert to Islam), Naima B. Robert (editor of Sisters magazine), Fatima Barkatullah (journalist /lecturer for IERA) and Saiyyidah Zaidi (founder of Working Muslim).
Although somewhat sceptical at the notion of bathing in Oestrogen for a whole day and fearing this conference might yet be another exercise in rebutting Western stereotypes forced upon us, I was pleasantly surprised.
Sisters were articulate, passionate and reflective.  Talks ranged from Solace’s work in supporting New Muslims in difficulty, to attaining work-life balance and getting the most from Ramadan.  Lauren Booth’s keynote speech astonished us – as though this sister had converted many years ago it was informed, relevant and subtle.  Lauren reminded us of our roles as ambassadors of Islam and the Sunnah of smiling when we are out and about. She highlighted the need to support all converts, black and white, and the importance of women as active participants in all spheres, from motherhood to mosque events.
Sheikh Alaa El Syed entertained  and informed us on Ramadan before raising well over £75,000 in one sitting for a Mercy Mission refuge for homeless converts in India.
Yet the most exciting part seemed to come at the end, when the speakers sat for a brief panel discussion on what the role of the conference could represent to the future.  How can we facilitate each other in calling our husbands, sons and fathers closer to the Deen? Can we become confident educators of our children such that they owe as much to us as Imam Al-Bukhari did to his mother?  Are there real community issues, even if unpleasant that we can explore in next year’s forum?
This appeal to the community to engage themselves fully with the process I believe marks a new phase in British Islam.  Gone are the days of elders who close their mind to change, even if it brings us closer to the Sunnah.  If it is Qur’an and Sunnah, Mercy Mission are ready to go there.  Brothers, you had better up your game - the sisters want to race you to Jannah!

Urgent Crisis Somalia

Whilst the papers focus on the downfall of the Murdoch empire, there are much bigger crises unfolding in the Horn of Africa.  A major drought said to be the worst in 60 years is claiming the lives of innocent children every day.  How did this come about and how can you help save the lives of Muslim children?
The Horn of Africa is its East-most tip and includes the countries of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.  Just a short stretch of sea away from Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world, it is prone to drought by virtue of its geography.  In recent years this has been exacerbated by climate change, population growth and changes in agricultural practice.  Previous year’s droughts have led to the perishing of up to 67% of cattle due to starvation.  A lack of rain for 2 consecutive seasons has generated a humanitarian crisis with thousands of Somalians fleeing to neighbouring Ethiopia and refuge camps in Kenya.  The Infant mortality rate is 7 in 10,000 with many dying en route.  Refuge camps have been inundated beyond capacity and Measles is now spreading with risk of further infectious diseases.
UN humanitarian agencies have requested $1.6 billion to secure the crisis but have only reached half that amount.  Ummah Welfare Trust and DEC are both charities collecting for this crisis. Please give generously – lives depend upon it.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376

Stop Islamophobia Week

From 8-14th July MPAC celebrated ‘Stop Islamophobia week’.  The schedule was packed with demonstrations, vigils and talks up and down the country to raise awareness of this increasing problem.
The week began on Friday 8th July on which Muslims were encouraged to contact their MP en masse to ask specifically what was being done to stop Islamophobia.
On 14th July there was a vigil outside the Bosnian embassy in commemoration of the Srebenica massacre in which over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered exactly 16 years ago in 1995.
On Saturday 16th July MPAC organised a demonstration outside 10 Downing Street in honour of all of the Muslims who have been attacked on the streets of Britain and in Masjids.
To access further information and advice including MPAC’s list of 7 things you can do to stop Islamophobia visit

Monday, 23 May 2011

Tea and Trading

If your idea of a Business woman is a smart blonde in a pinstriped power suit then think again.  Many Hijab and Niqab wearing women are working their way into the Business world with zeal.  Taking their values and their families with them, Business and life coach Farzana describes how aspiring sisters meet at her all female events, swapping tips on how to succeed financially, as well as spiritually ‘Sisters are incredibly supportive of one another and there is a really great atmosphere’.  From Hijabs and Jilbabs to Cake making and card decorating Farzana supports sisters in setting goals, product design and even website creation.  In itself a great business, Farzana’s life coaching service ‘The Muslim Coach’ grew under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammad Al Shareef (director of Al Maghrib institute).  Of course none of this should surprise us when we realise that a great Muslim female role model is none other than the Prophet’s (pbuh) wife Khadijah – a successful, intelligent and beautiful woman who ran her own business and took on the young Mohammad (pbuh) as her employee.  If you are a Muslimah wishing to combine money with morality and want to know more about such networking events then visit Farzana’s website at

Call of Duty

On Saturday 14th May, IERA, the Islamic Education and Research Academy, treated North London to an all day course on how to give Dawah.  Call of Duty which has been running up and down the country for a couple  of years now aims to establish a mass movement in Dawah and build networks of trained individuals across Britain.  Saturday’s course was hosted by the dynamic Hamza Tzortzis and took attendees through the infamous GORAP process – a tauhid based approach. 
Interjected with bursts of Hamza’s ‘Greek Humour’ we enjoyed pretend role plays with Non-Muslims and structured logic.  Hamza reminded us of the importance of empathy in engaging with Non-Muslims as well as sharing a few of his tips.  The Muslim Association of Britain were kind enough to provide lunch and the mosque venue was very comfortable and accessible.
Overall attendees were pleased to have picked up some new techniques and congratulate IERA on being the first organisation to have formalised and centrally supported the Dawah.  Of course though, this is only the beginning and the techniques will need testing out and reviewing. IERA’s approach is a step in the right direction and now depends on you, the reader, to put to work. Insha Allah – Practice Makes Perfect!

Witness to Guantanamo - Witness to Guantanamo

With the release of a number of Wiki-leaked documents on Guantanamo Bay recently providing evidence that the majority of detainees were innocent, statements had been extracted under torture and that children and the elderly with Dementia were amongst those held,  pressure on President Obama to close the facility once and for all is mounting. 
Witness to Guantanamo is another strike in the battle against injustice and is a must see for all Muslims and people interested in Guantanamo.
The website is part of a project founded by Professor Honigsberg, an American law professor who began teaching about the War on Terror shortly after September 11th.  The questions raised by the class led him to visit Guantanamo and he authored a number of articles and a book on the subject.  Following his experiences with inmates and prisoners at the facility and in response to the Public’s desire for information, Professor Honigsberg felt compelled to set up the Witness to Guantanamo project.  The model, based on Spielberg’s response to Holocaust denial in which accounts of Holocaust survivors were filmed, aims to create an archive of the prisoner’s accounts for wider research and teaching.
To log on and listen visit

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


I have been aware of the existence of MPAC for some time but it was only when I met a volunteer handing out leaflets in favour of the Alternative Vote that I was triggered to review their website.  MPAC or the Muslim Public Affairs Committee is a not-for-profit organisation set up to address the issue of Muslim under-representation in Politics.  Founded by the young outspoken Asghar Bukhari and with convert Catherine Heseltine as its CEO, MPAC  encourages British Muslims to make full use of lobbying, writing and voting to legitimately impact upon government policy.  As British Muslims, it is argued that we have as much right as anyone to allow our voices to be heard.  Asghar and Catherine on many an occasion have relieved the Muslim masses by appearing on BBC and ITV as eloquent representatives of the faith. 
Historically MPAC has focused on defending civil liberties, campaigning against Islamophobia and foreign policy and more recently against the Niqab ban.
Although the organisation’s work seems largely political rather than spiritual in orientation, and whether this is best is a matter for the scholarly debate, MPAC should be congratulated for having a proactive stance and believing that injustice is to be changed with one’s hand.
Provocative at times and willing to speak frankly to those who do not want to hear it, MPAC knows that sometimes you have to ruffle a few feathers in order to stand up for justice.
For more information visit

Why Freedom Makes You Miserable

If you are sick to the back teeth of debates against Muslims being won on the point of how important it is to be ‘free’ and how great it is to have ‘lifestyle choices’ - If you have heard enough times the statement ‘I can do whatever I like as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone ’ and you know that all of the above is empty rhetoric but you just cannot prove or articulate why I have just the thing for you.
Barry Schwarz, American Psychologist and author of ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less’ challenges what he calls ‘the official dogma of all Western societies’ – This is the idea that if we want to maximise the welfare of all citizens, the way to do so is to maximise individual freedom and thus choice.  He argues that this is an appealing concept because it gives individuals the licence to choose as they please and in so doing make themselves happier.  But he has found evidence that it actually makes people miserable.
Firstly studies have demonstrated that when you give people more choices, they are less likely to bother choosing at all.  This means that they miss out on great opportunities.  Secondly once people have chosen they are less likely to be satisfied with their choice as the grass will always seem greener with greater options.  Thirdly having so many ways to spend our time leaves us very busy mentally and it becomes harder to switch off e.g. enjoy a relaxing walk when we could have been playing computer games.  Finally, whereas in the olden days when there were fewer choices, if we were not satisfied with our product, we could simply blame the world.  Nowadays if we are dissatisfied with our choice, given that we were the ones who chose it, we tend to blame ourselves.  Schwarz interestingly goes on to make the point that this could account for some of the rising levels of depression and suicidality in society despite the improvements of quality of life.
To hear more from Schwarz you can search for his talks on You Tube.


Avaaz, the online lobbying and campaigning group, has this week released news on a number of success stories it has had, many of which directly affect the Muslim community.  Standing strong with 8.2 million members online Avaaz campaigns against injustice and oppression worldwide.  Through use of petitioning, fundraising and advertising campaigns Avaaz has successfully frozen Mubarak’s looted millions and equipped Libyans, Yemenis and Syrians with high tech phones and satellite communications to bypass state censorship.  Avaaz has also delayed Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB and lobbied for an end to Bradley Manning’s torture (Wikileaks reported source), which has resulted in his movement to a medium security prison.  The organisation is active in many countries and speaks many languages.  It represents a real change in the way that democracy now works in the modern age.  A fantastic model that the Muslims would do well to emulate

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

National Zakat Foundation

A veiled woman huddles on the roadside, arms outstretched, shivering with cold.  Her last meal was lucky, a few scraps of bread taken from a roadside dustbin.  Nothing surprising about this scenario perhaps except that this took place in Britain.  There are Muslim men and women who live in this kind of poverty in England, unable to claim benefits, some having been kicked out of their homes upon conversion to Islam.  We have all heard stories of converts in hardship and yet how many of us continue to give our Zakat abroad?
To combat this problem Mercy Mission have formed the National Zakat Foundation, an organisation which seeks to create self-sufficiency in the Muslim community and empower the poor.  Following an assessment, applications may either receive short-term emergency funds or longer term assistance towards sustainable employment.  Mercy Mission are currently recruiting energetic male volunteers to adopt their local masjid and raise awareness of this project.  For more information or to donate visit

An Epic Journey

Heart-moving Qur’an recitation and thought provoking Tafsir were how 400 students chose to spend the weekend of 9th and 10th April at Al Kauthar’s Surah Yusuf course.  Few noticed the sunshine and the ambient temperature outside as we basked enraptured in what Allah terms the ‘best of stories’.  Interestingly Surah Yusuf was revealed to Mohammad (pbuh) in response to a test by the people of the time who asked him about Joseph in order to prove that he was a true Prophet.  Allah responded by sending forth these wonderful verses, with information previously unknown to the Prophet.  Its timing was also critical at a point when the early Muslims were being severely tested and needed to be soothed with a story of joy after adversity.
The witty Sheikh Sajid Umar captained the journey as we navigated Fiqh, Arabic language and Tafsir dipping in and out of analysis.  Students enjoyed his melodious recitation as we were transported from a prison cell to a palace with the handsome Yusuf who patiently bore test after test, turning to Allah with every step.  We learnt of the anguish of his father Yacob who was told Yusuf had been eaten by wolves.  Tips on parenting, giving dawah, teaching and even marriage were given before the final happy ending.  Allah concludes the chapter with ‘In their histories, there is certainly a lesson for men of understanding’.  Indeed, in the words of Sheikh Umar ‘this chapter is itself a madrassah of learning’ – will you be amongst those who understand?

The Death of Pakistan’s Honour

On Wednesday 30th March gatherers mourned the death of Pakistan’s Honour and US Justice in a mock funeral procession terminating at the US Embassy.  This poignant event marked the 8th anniversary of the abduction of Dr Aafia Siddiqui a mother of three who is reported to have endured torture and humiliation during her time in prison.  Initially taken hostage in 2003 with her three children on her way to the airport in Pakistan it is suspected she was tortured in Bagram – Afghanistan, before finally being transferred to the US following a trial which had her given an 86 year prison term for allegedly firing a loaded weapon under custody.  The fact that the only person injured was herself, there were no fingerprints on the gun and the eyewitness statements all contradicted was overlooked by the trial and Aafia remains in prison in the US to this day.

The event, organised by Justice for Aafia Coalition, featured powerful speeches by a human rights lawyer, a representative from the IHRC, Adnan Rashid and supportive proxy statements by Lauren Booth and MPs. One thing is clear, JFAC will not allow us to forget Aafia this year nor any other year ia – this violation will not be forgotten.

Mosque Open Day

Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd April saw Tooting Islamic Centre throw its doors open to the public in a free exhibition on Islam.  Hosted by Sheikh Suliman Gani and featuring guests including IERA’s Hamza Tzortzis, attendees included MP Sadiq Khan and representatives from the Police and local council.  There were live nasheeds, talks on Islam and also on the role of education in Islam as exemplified by the success of the local Islamic schools that Balham and Tooting mosques are connected to.
Exhibits were set up professionally and there was food and drink, ushers available to answer questions and free copies of the Qur’an.  The event was well attended and although Non-Muslims were a minority initially street stewards did an excellent job of welcoming people in and directing them through.
Overall, the open day was an excellent idea that demonstrates TIC’s open culture and readiness to welcome people in.  This was rewarded by a sister taking her Shahadah at the event.  What I might hope to see more of in the future is the self-confidence to represent Islam through beautiful Qur’an recitation in preference to nasheed performance and ingenious initiatives to encourage Non-Muslim attendance – then an event like this could really have maximum impact.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Think Muslim, Breathe Muslim, Read Muslim

What has almost 8,000 Facebook members, is multi-award winning and features the writings of the acclaimed Yasir Qadhi, Tawfique Chowdhury and Yahya Ibrahim all in one?
I’ll give you a clue – it is reported to be the most visited Western Muslim website ever.  No idea?
The answer is and it has been going since 1997.  It was first set up by a number of bloggers and sheyukh in order to draw attention to Muslim issues in the West through the innovative medium of the internet.  Muslim Matters strives to be the leading Muslim multimedia platform for the articulation of orthodoxy and I think is some way to achieving it.
With sections on Politics, News, The Arts and Society, Muslim Matters is a little bit like a cross between a newspaper and a magazine.  The added advantage of being a facebook member is that the user receives updates whenever there is new material and can click on anything of interest.
Recent pieces have included ‘Make Your Deen Green’ an article with tips on how to make environmental consciousness part of worship, ‘What do you love about your spouse?’ a section for readers to comment and ‘Of Wa-hubbies and Conspiracy’ reflections on the role of the conspiracy theory.
If you want to be informed and better connected for free, you might want to check this one out!

Redbridge Pensioners stave off Racists

On Thursday 24th March at about 7.45pm 6 to 7 young men attacked Redbridge Islamic Centre, shouting racist and islamophobic abuse.   Several elderly worshippers were terrified as the group smashed their way through the front door, causing criminal damage to windows of the mosque and causing minor injuries to those present including the Imam.
Yet the Muslim community can be proud of its pensioners who led the way in self-defenc e fighting off the attackers in a bid to prevent further damage to the mosque and local cars and houses.  Upon hearing the noise, younger community members also came to the rescue of the elderly men chasing the attackers until they could safely turn them over the Police.
Thanks to the heroism of the community and their measured response 6 men were arrested and an investigation is underway.
An announcement of the event was made to concerned Friday prayer worshippers the day after and the Police and local councillors were in attendance to reassure the community of their support.
The Redbridge Islamic Centre immediately issued an official press release with the correct version of events and are clear that such cowardly attacks will not deter their community work and timetable of enriching educational events.  In fact RIC plan to work harder to engage with the local community and counter Islamophobia.  Congratulations to Redbridge Islamic Centre and the local community for their organisation and bravery!

Friday, 25 March 2011

App of the Week

If you are a curious person with a love of quirky learning TED might be just what you are looking for.  Originally conceived in 1984 as a conference that would bridge Technology, Entertainment and Design, TED with its Ideas Worth Spreading slogan entered the online world in 1997.  Experts and inspirational speakers are invited to the stage to give the best 20 minute speech of their life on any subject.  New, original ideas are pitched to an audience on everything from food to office management.
Past speakers have included Jamie Oliver on why kids need to be educated about food through to Lesley Hazleton on Reading the Koran.  Speeches are accessible via YouTube and TED online or the TED iPhone app and might just make up for all the classes you slept through at school.  An inspiring model that all can learn from as to how to make the world a better place.

Here to Stay

Wednesday 9th March saw George Galloway, children’s writer Michael Rosen and a host of other prominent speakers stand with Unite Against Fascism in defence of Multicultural Britain.  The event which was organised in response to David Cameron’s controversial ‘Muscular Liberalism’ speech drew together a host of passionate articulate individuals from all walks of life and religious orientations. Muslims joined Jews, Christians and Atheists to stand firm against discrimination ever again on Britain’s shores.
The speech drew great criticism with lamentations over Cameron’s hypocrisy in cutting funding to inner city libraries whilst expecting Muslims to magically improve English language skills.  It was pointed out that the alleged 7/7 bombers were some of the most ‘integrated’ Muslims about yet the tragic events still occurred. The utter dependence of the NHS on dedicated Muslim health professionals was raised and Cameron’s flawed logic in equating Multiculturalism with violence was criticised as divisive and dangerous in a Europe that is increasingly moving towards the Right.
Multiculturalism was celebrated through powerful poetry by Michael Rosen, Zita Holbourne and Avaes Mohammad all three of whom represent a cultural blend.
The message loud and clear – Multiculturalism and Muslims are here to stay.

How to engage with the Media

‘Nobody can tell your story better than you’ –These were the take home words of Ade Daramy, Muslim Journalist and Broadcaster at WAMY’s media engagement conference last Sunday.  As a Muslim in mainstream media, he emphasised the need for Muslims to stand up and vocalise concerns, impose themselves in Media if necessary and to be persistent.  These were the lessons those of colour had learnt through racism and the lessons the Muslim community need to learn now.
The media conference, held at Regents Park mosque, was the third of four planned dawah training sessions, which aim to equip young Muslims with the tools to self-confidently represent the faith to others.
WAMY, the World Association of Muslim Youth, posed the question - how in this day and age can Muslims best use the Media to convey their message?
Leading the discussion were Noureddine Miladi, lecturer in Media studies and Sociology and Ade Daramy of Colourful Radio who shared their experiences of the Media, offering tidbits of advice.  Attendees enjoyed discussion groups on why Islam has been misrepresented and how to become a proactive citizen. The afternoon featured video analyses of a number of television interviews with prominent Muslim representatives.  Attendees were invited to comment on successful and unsuccessful techniques used.  The day rounded off with reflections on new social media such as Twitter and Facebook and their emerging role in the future.
WAMY have successfully hit the nail on the head, in discussing such a relevant subject area.  Attendees were passionate and motivated and pleased to be involved.   The question to be seen is whether conferences like these can catalyse young people’s energies into action.  For the sake of a more tolerant world, we hope so.

Niche Hero

How do successful Muslims tap into the Muslim market? On 21st to 26th February budding Muslim entrepreneurs of the future were treated to a once in a lifetime opportunity by the widely acclaimed Mohammad AlShareef of the Al Maghrib Institute. Niche Hero, an Islamic leadership course specifically set up to equip the next generation of leaders took attendees on a journey of self-discovery down his beaten path of success.  Combining evidence-based research with practical know-how, Shaykh AlShareef encouraged his students to cross the bridge between theory and practice. 

The Canadian born Hafiz, graduated from the University of Madinah in 1999.  He went on to found the popular Al Maghrib Institute before branching out to focus on leadership some years ago.

Since then, many have been inspired by AlShareef.  Niche Hero, originally run in Canada caught the eye of Sayyidah Zaidi, a British Architect, who had been leading school construction projects for some time.   Following a life changing road accident some years prior which had forced her to re-evaluate her role in life, the opportunity to attend was exactly what she needed.  A burning desire to bring her skill base from the secular to the Muslim sector propelled her to book her tickets for Canada six months ago where she met AlShareef for the first time.  She describes it as ‘the best 6 days of her life, second only to Hajj’. 

The course inspired her so much that she set up Working Muslim, an online resource which redefines work and enables women to balance their responsibilities towards faith, family and society. When Saiyyidah heard that the course was coming to London, she booked again despite the significant course fees, and this time took her filming equipment with her.  Powerful, needed and highly effective – Niche Hero delivered once again. You can find out more about Saiyyidah's NicheHero journey at

Murdoch Challenged

Can we prevent mass media shifting to the right? This week Avaaz, an internet movement, set its sights on Rupert Murdoch.  Avaaz is an online international campaigning body which uses people power to lobby government.  With an online membership of over 7 million people, it seeks to uphold democracy by informing policy makers of opinion through email, telephone and media campaigns.
As media mogul Murdoch moves in to add BSkyB to his portfolio, extending his control of nearly half of the British media, Avaaz have asked its people to make a stand.  At the time of writing around 50,000 people had written to government in opposition to Murdoch’s expansion on the grounds that it is undemocratic for any one person to own nearly half the media, let alone someone of Murdoch’s political influence.
Avaaz further encouraged campaigners to follow up letters with individual telephone calls to the House of Commons on 2nd March and a protest was arranged in London on 3rd March.  The final outcome of the bid is eagerly awaited.


While Arab countries have seen great change in recent weeks, it sometimes feels that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a permanent blight in the Middle East landscape.
Yet small changes have been occurring in the United Kingdom that we must not disregard.  Just a few weeks ago in the House of Commons an exhibition entitled ‘Everyday Life in the Occupied Territories’ took place.  Organised by EAPPI, the Eccumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, the exhibition collected real life photographs by the children of Yanoun, giving a distant conflict a personal touch.  Also in attendance were representatives of ICAHD.
ICAHD also known as the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is a non-violent organisation established in 1997 to resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories.  It encourages Palestinians, Israelis and international supporters to work side by side in resisting demolitions, informing the Israeli public of government activities and co-operating internationally with other human rights groups and peace activists.  In the words of director Jeff Halper, an Israeli Anthropologist and 2006 Nobel Peace prize nominee ‘Governments will not do the right thing unless they are pushed by the people.  Since this conflict destabilises the entire Middle East and impacts directly on the security... of people in Britian we call on you to join in our efforts’.  Other patrons include John Pilger, Clare Short and Professor Avi Schlaim. 
ICAHD has organised summer rebuilding camps in which international and Israeli volunteers join Palestinians in rebuilding a demolished home.  They also welcome people to sign up to their newsletter, invite one of their speakers and even organise a viewing of their documentary on the conflict.
The world is changing and each of us can be a part of justice.  For more information or to get involved visit

Silent No More

‘Silent No More’ is an American Congressman’s homage to the Muslim community and the pursuit of interfaith understanding.  Written in 2001 by Paul Findlay, a man whose youth had distanced him from Islam through Sunday school and whose adult years had reconfirmed misconceptions through the Media, the book sets out to push forward greater understanding of Muslims and their religion at a time when it is most needed.  Findlay describes the fateful business trip to Yemen which opened his eyes to a whole new experience .  He learns from his Yemeni tour guide that women are respected, prayers are protected and the Qur’an is respected through recitation and memorisation.  He is astonished to discover how similar Judaism, Christianity and Islam are and goes on to argue that the term Judaeo-Christian should be extended to Judaeo-Christian-Islamic to reflect reality.  He comes to realise that prayer, patience, generosity and kindness are common themes to all and that actually Islamic history probably has one of the better track records in terms of interfaith tolerance and acceptance.
Yet he concludes with advice for the Muslim reader that change cannot occur in so long as we remain silent.  He sets forth the following suggestions to improve societal misconceptions of Islam.  Firstly that Muslims identify themselves publically with Islam, looking for ways to present it to Non-Muslims through good behaviour.  The hijab, skull cap, rings or pins are all ways to manifest one’s ‘Muslimness’ and failure to do so out of desire to keep a low profile is ‘unfortunate and harmful, because it does nothing to eradicate false images’.  He proposes offering to speak at Churches and Synagogues, giving neighbours leaflets and public advertisement as forms of education.  Secondly he cites the need for public condemnation of crimes alleged to be connected to Islam.  Finally he suggests that Muslims join political processes seeking to change and educate. 
Findlay has excelled in writing a respectful, considered account of the world as he views it, a feat which few Muslims themselves have achieved.  Though his research is generally sound, on occasion he errs, but certainly not enough to compromise the intention of the book.  A mature analysis, gratefully received and recommended to all to read.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Muslim and Green

Does Islam lead to the betterment of society?  Last week Tooting Sisters held an enriching Islamic education circle on ‘Love for the World around You’.  As the regular Monday evening circle draws its ‘Love’ season wistfully to a close, this was a powerful reminder of the Islamic position on the environment and how each of us as vicegerents on the earth have a responsibility to use the world’s resources carefully and respectfully.
Muslims of course follow the example of the Prophet Mohammad, a man who once stopped a whole army of men when he heard a mother bird complaining that her young had been taken from her.  When she told him that one of his men had taken them, the Prophet immediately issued instructions to return her children to her and relieve her of this distress.    The Prophet has also been reported to have advised his community that if the Day of Judgement seems close ahead and a person holds a seedling in their hand, that they should plant it.  Indeed the sanctity of trees is so significant in Islam, that the Prophet did not allow them to be cut down, even if a mosque was to be built.
Sisters were reminded of all the fruits mentioned in the Qur’an and how perhaps we might remember our creator with gratitude when we eat them.  Tips were offered on how to reduce unnecessary waste, such as recycling carrier bags, using draft excluders, composting and re-using containers.  Finally resources such as IFEES and Green Deen were recommended both of which deal with Green issues from a muslim perspective.
A number of muslim women were pleasantly surprised to have these issues brought to their attention in a religious context and many left the talk with a firm resolution to be greener in the future.

Converts in Difficulty

With all its new delights, conversion to Islam can sometimes bring with it its share of daunting challenges.  Finally now, help is on its way.
Solace is a new voluntary organisation specifically set up to support revert sisters in difficulty.  Under the patronage of Sheikh Haitham Al Haddad, Solace aims to provide pastoral and practical support through voluntary donations of time and community money.
Aims include a listening service offered by trained volunteers, counselling and life coaching, household help, parenting workshops, coffee mornings and day trips.
It already features a comprehensive website with links to You Tube videos, useful websites, helpline numbers to call and regularly updated events listings for London.   For converts with doubts or questions about the faith, a helpline number has been made available.
Solace currently needs both publicity and support so please visit to volunteer or donate.

Non-Muslims for Justice

If you have ever felt hopeless about the Israel-Palestine situation believing it only to be a ‘Muslim problem’ then think again.  EAPPI, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel takes a very active interest in promoting peace and justice in the region.  A non-religious organisation, it regularly recruits volunteers to travel to the West Bank, witness events first hand, monitor human rights violations and upon return campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict.  Once back, volunteers commit themselves to giving 10 presentations each, largely to western audiences.  These raise awareness of the conflict and offer practical steps towards media and government engagement.  Originally created in response to cries for help from Christian Palestinians, EAPPI has been active since 2002.  For more information on their work or to donate or volunteer visit

Monday, 21 February 2011

Lifting the Veil

Do you know any Non-Muslim women who are curious about Islam?  IERA, the Islamic Education and Research Academy has successfully raised enough money through community donations to put on a one day special event with lunch and refreshments on Sunday 6th March.  Attendees will be given the opportunity to ask questions in a relaxed all female environment and have a chance to share experiences with real Muslims!
In a world where so much debate takes place on issues of hijab and niqab, muslim marriages and female employment, open discussion is becoming more and more important in order to qwell misinformation.  This is an open door to education, organised by a dedicated team so please support it wholeheartedly if you wish to live in a more tolerant world.
The event takes place at Ramada Encore London West, Gypsy Corner W3 6RT from 10am to 5.30pm
You can register by emailing

Raid of the Mongols

Once again the popular Al Kauthar Institute delivered a powerful and inspirational 2 day conference on 12th and 13th February. 'Raid of the Mongols' was a relevant history lesson attendees should never forget.

Charismatic Sheikh Isam Rajab took students on a gripping tour from 13th century Afghanistan through to the toppling of the Abbasid caliphate and the destruction of Baghdad in 1258AD.  The Ummah was confounded as its corrupt leaders fled, cities stormed and its books of scholarship discarded into the rivers of the city by the violent Mongols who now controlled most of the Muslim world.  Muslims lost faith, believing that the end of the world was nigh.
Yet a message of hope came from all the destruction.  Mahmoud ibn Mamdoud, named Qutuz or ‘ferocious dog’ by Mongols, lead a key turning point in history when he squared up to the Mongols at ‘Ayn Jalut.  He prepared his strategy, invested in people, listened to scholars and formed alliances with the Christians.  Most of all, he lead by the Sunnah and was humble before Allah on the battle field.  Victory was granted and from that point on, Muslims turned back to their forgotten faith and principles, ousting the Mongols from the Muslim world.  In an unusual twist of history, some occupying Mongols actually converted to Islam and gradually the situation calmed and the Ottoman empire was formed.

A wonderfully pertainent course in which parallels with the modern world and the disparate state of the community were drawn.  Students were advised on the need for self-discipline, hard work and reliance on Allah to have success as our ancestors did in promoting a world of progress, education and civilisation.

Cambridge call to non-muslims

This week Cambridge University’s Islamic society opens its doors to the general public in its much awaited Experience Islam Week.  Known affectionately by its organisers as EIW, this year’s programme features the conversion story of a Roman Catholic priest on Monday, Islamic Art on Tuesday, Interfaith scripture reading on Wednesday and a controversial Question Time format on Saturday which will discuss issues around women and jihad.
The week usually culminates in a cultural festival of food and poetry which this year will be Persian themed.  All events take place in the beautiful city of Cambridge .
EIW has been running for many years and seeks to invite all including Non-Muslims to a safe environment where they can learn more about the faith, ask questions and meet their Muslim neighbours.
This year’s publicity video ‘See things differently’ follows last year’s incredibly fresh and innovative style tailored for the Non-Muslim viewer.
For more information on event listings and to view the trailer visit