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.

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.