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, 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.