Melody Moezzi: Islam, Women and Culture

Melody Meozzi is an inspirational Iranian writer, activist and attorney.

Melody’s first book, War on Error: Real Stories of American Muslims, brings together the stories of twelve young people, all vastly different but all American, and all Muslim.

Melody is a United Nations Global Expert with the UN Alliance of Civilizations and has worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reporting to the U.S. Congressional Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Melody shared her views on Islam, women and culture with Safe World founder, Chris Crowstaff.

INTERVIEW

There is a ‘western’ perception that Islam and women’s oppression inevitably go together. And may be especially Shia Islam. Is that a myth?

Melody-Moezzi4I think it’s a huge myth. Sharia law for example is not based as much on the Qur’an as it is on the Sunnah, which means that there is much more room for interpretation. Only the Qur’an is accepted as divine revelation. The Sunnah, on the other hand, are handed down by one person to the next via oral tradition, and as such, there have been many miscommunications. Furthermore, as a general rule, Shi’as don’t give as much weight to the Sunnah ans many Sunnis to.

“Human being are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you’ve no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain!”
Saadi

Obviously anybody can interpret anything the way that they want, to perpetuate misogyny or whatever else they want to perpetuate. And, throughout history, many all over the world, of all different religions and ethnicities, have done so. Definitely.

But the basis of Islamic law is that you can’t force it on anyone.

I think people assume that Shias are more radical in some way and, as a Shia, I fully disagree with that. We have saints that are women, for example. Shia Islam has a great deal of respect for women.

On top of that, there’s a notion of martyrdom and so forth. In a lot of Shia movements – there’s a real interest in the reinactment of the Battle of Karbala which established Shi’ism in a lot of ways. And there’s a strong degree of liberation theology that lies within Shi’ism, which doesn’t as much lie within Sunniism.

For me I consider myself very culturally Shia. But the Q’ran specifically teaches over and over not to separate your religion.
So that separation of Shi’ism and Sunniism is not a spiritual reality for me – it’s more historical and political and, as I say, cultural.

Islam is one faith. Whether you’re a Shia or you’re a Sunni or whatever sect you belong to, first and foremost you’re a Muslim. And nobody can judge whether somebody is Muslim except for God.

It’s very obvious that any religion can be used for oppression – and many religions have been used as tools of oppression throughout history.
Could you say a bit about Islam and women’s rights?

I think it’s really important that Muslims are willing to stand up and talk about Islam and women and women’s rights. I think it’s really important to shatter those myths and help raise awareness.

I think society and governments in particular will use whatever they can to perpetuate misogyny, to perpetuate sexism, and they’ve done so. If they didn’t have religion, they would have used – and they have used – political systems and political thought in order to do that.

People argue that, without religion, the world would be wonderful. There will be no war. I fully disagree. We’ll find reasons to disagree and divide ourselves, whether it’s based on religion or based on something else. And that has something to do with the human psyche and I don’t think, particularly, with religion.

Definitely people would find some tool to oppress people with.
But, as a women’s rights organisation particularly, we do get ‘how can you defend Islam because it oppresses women? Look at how the women have to live.‘

It’s very funny that you have this notion of oppression, even with people who are familiar with laws in so-called Muslim countries.

They see women who are covering their hair or their bodies and immediately the assumption is that there is some male figure that’s forcing this to happen. In many situations, that’s not the case. This is a choice by a Muslim woman or a Jewish woman to cover. And I think it can be very liberating in those cases.

I think in the US, in Europe in particular, you see a focus on women’s bodies that you don’t in some of these Muslim countries.
Being naked doesn’t make you free.

There is a presumption that ‘if I can where a bikini then I must be free’. And I agree. You need to be given that option.

But you also need to be given the option to wear whatever you want and to cover if that’s what you choose to do.

In a lot of these countries, we don’t have the same incidences of eating disorders, for example, and the same obsessions with extreme body weight, for example.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a level of superficiality. There is. But there isn’t the same level of obsession. In that sense, I would say, in the Middle East, we are freer in certain respects. This isn’t a black and white issue – it’s not as if women’s rights are sufficiently respected in the West either. It’s just again, there are different things oppressing us in the West – the media that sexualises girls as young as ten, the fashion industry airbrushing white, blond already-emaciated models and presenting them to us as the paragons of beauty, and of course our consumer-driven culture.

In Iran, it’s the government more than anything else that doles out the discrimination. Different mechanisms, but they all have the same goal of keeping women subjugated with irrational images and ideologies.

There’s also this image that the women are all shut away behind doors and the men are in charge and the women are not allowed to do anything and that’s all because of Islam.
But I wonder if this is patriarchy making its stamp on Islam? Are there examples which show that this does not actually represent Islam – that this is patriarchy?

You have to realise that Islam came about after Christianity and after Judaism. And you now have very reformed movements in those religions.

“The Prophet said that women hold dominion Over sages and over men of heart,
But that fools, again, hold the upper hand over women,
Because fools are violent and exceedingly froward.
They have no tenderness or gentleness or amity…”
Rumi

We have in Islam now more reforms, whatever you want to call it. Of course you had the Islamic Rennaisance.

When the prophet Mohammad came to Saudi Arabia – at the time, women were treated like property. Infant girls were buried alive. He stopped that from happening. You would say that’s so barbaric and of course he would stop it, but it took someone like him to do that. So he was dealing with a culture in a time that was very backwards.

I think what is a huge problem right now is that people are confusing culture for religion.

There are some cultures that really do oppress women of course. But those cultures aren’t Islam and they don’t represent Islam.

I think if you look to the Sufi poets, for example, and what they taught. Islam is a very personal thing, like any religion.

Rumi has a poem where he says ‘there are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground’. And I think we need to recognise the diversity within Islam and how beautiful that is and what that achieves.

In terms of the oppression of women, that’s one of the things that the Prophet Muhammad came to Arabia to stop. I think the idea that the Prophet Mohammed had when he came to Saudi Arabia was to improve the situation, not just with respect to women’s rights, but with respect to human rights in general in the area. It was a grim time so obviously there was more to be done and now we just need to continue moving forward.

As much as I support and look up to women who cover and wear Hijab – for whatever their reasoning is, as long as it’s a choice of their own – I think as time goes on, as we’ve seen with Christianity and Judaism as well, this won’t be something that defines Muslims. The garb alone won’t be something that defines Muslims so much, and people will better realise that what defines us as Muslims, or Christians, or Hindus, or Jews, isn’t our choice of attire or our public devotions, but rather, what defines a person of any faith is what lies in her heart, and NO ONE but God Himself can ever fully know that.

Do Muslims generally recognise Sufism as Islamic?

Sufism is a form of Islam – whirling dirvishes for example. It’s very much based on mysticism and that God is love and that the goal of life is to unite with the divine.

Iranians especially are very proud of Rumi. And Hafez is another sufi poet and the Divan of Hafez – his main collection of writings – is considered the best interpretation of the Qur’an by a lot of Iranian Muslims.

And some people put it side by side with the Qur’an, and see some of his poems as being direct interpretations of the Qur’an. For Iranians, Rumi, Hafez, Saadi, the poets, are how we understand Islam and if you want to know what Iranian Islam is like then you need to understand where Sufism and Sufi poetry comes from.

With regard to Iranian law – the Iranian constitution seems quite reasonable, until you read the clause in it relating to ‘Islamic Principles’, which seems very much open to interpretation.
What do you feel, as an attourney and as a Muslim, about this clause?

Many of the provisions, as you say, are reasonable, but are then followed by ‘unless it violates Islamic Principles’ and the truth is none of the things they’ve outlawed – under such clauses – truly violate Islamic principles.

What violates Islamic principles is the pseudo Islamic Republic – because to have a regime that isn’t secular and to have a regime that claims to represent Islam is anti-Islamic.

Because in order to be a Muslim you have to form the proper intention. And you can’t form the proper pure, independent intention, in a regime that claims to be Islamic but isn’t – and is forcing its misinterpretations of Islam upon you.

So I think it’s sort of very difficult to be a Muslim inside of Iran – and to practice the way that you would practice as a Muslim and make your own independent choices, which is necessary in order to be a Muslim.

The Qur’an teaches specifically that there should be no coercion in religion.

In a theocratic state of any kind there’s coercion. Whether that’s in Iran, whether that’s in Israel, is irrelevant. If there’s a state that claims to be a state that follows a religion, I don’t think that state is a viable one currently in the world.

When they suddenly bring in these laws that you mustn’t wear make-up or you mustn’t show any hair under your scarf, is that actually written down in black and white or is it a bit vague?

There are laws that are written down that they don’t enforce and there are laws that are not written down that they do enforce – and of course there are laws written down that they also do enforce.

A lot of what goes on in the streets with respect to morality laws, they’re not very well enforced because you can’t enforce them on the entire population.

A lot of hijabs that the women where in Iran are pretty much like a headband at this point. It really doesn’t cover your hair. Their hair seems to fall out the front and back. You know they’re very consumed with the way they look and their Monteux, the jackets that the women wear, are becoming shorter and tighter and they’re really fighting in these very small ways against the regime.

And even the men are wearing tighter tee-shirts and there have been comments about men plucking their eyebrows – you know they’re really getting involved in this minutae.

My grandmother, when she lived in Iran, in the ‘80s and early ‘90s – she went around and refused to wear a Hijab and whenever somebody came up to her she would just say:
“I’m too old to be sexy – if you’re getting aroused by me there’s something wrong with you”.

So do morality rules apply to men as well? Do they also have restrictions on their clothing and appearance?

There are rules that apply to men as well.

Technically they shouldn’t even be wearing tee-shirts but they do and they seem to get away with that.

If they wear black tee-shirts they can usually get away with it more.

Sometimes people will get trouble. But it just becomes very difficult to enforce these kinds of dress codes. Particularly when such a large majority of the population is completely ignoring them.

(asafeworldforwomen.org / 23.05.2011)

Abbas: No Hamas or Fatah figures in new government

AMMAN, Jordan (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that Israel and the US had misinterpreted the unity deal as ushering in a government of Hamas and Fatah figures, as the new body would solely include non-partisan technocrats.

At a press conference in Amman following the president’s meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, Abbas also credited the royal with influencing US President Barack Obama’s Thursday statement in support of a Palestinian state on 1967 borders.

Abbas said Obama’s statement that the basis of the Palestinian borders were the armistice lines prior to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 was made “thanks to the efforts of King Abdullah II of Jordan during his latest visit to the US.”

But the president also reacted to recent comments by the US premier focusing on Hamas’ position towards Israel, saying the May deal between the movement and its rival Fatah had been misunderstood by Israel and the US as paving the way for both movements to dominate a new government.

“The government will be built of nonpartisan figures, and will not include affiliates of any Palestinian faction,” Abbas said.

Response to US, Israel ‘spat’ over 1967 borders

The day before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived for a trip to the US, Obama said in a speech reflecting on protests across the Arab world, “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”

Netanyahu immediately condemned Obama’s stance as leaving Israel “indefensible,” leading to an awkward meeting between the premiers on Friday.

However Obama also said in his Thursday speech that the unity deal between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas posed “profound and legitimate questions” for Israel.

“How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” he said, referring to international pressure on Hamas to formally state their recognition of Israel.

Israeli officials had slammed the unity agreement, with Netanyahu warning that Abbas must choose between “peace with Israel or peace with Hamas.”

But Abbas said Monday, “this is neither Hamas, nor Fatah government. It is my government and will follow my strategies,” he added.

Abbas and King Abdullah also discussed the agenda of the next meeting of the Arab follow up committee, the official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA said, as well as the new Palestinian government.

With government members yet to be announced following the unity deal, Abbas insisted that “reconciliation is at hand, and we are currently working on the technocrat government.”

(www.maannews.net / 23.01.2011)

Army builds fence around Izbat Al Tabib

This morning at about 9am the Israeli army entered the village of Izbat Al Tabib with construction vehicles and began to build a large barbed wire fence along the side of the village separating it from highway 55 which runs parallel. The International Solidarity Movement joined with men, women and children from the village in attempting to peacefully resist the construction but were violently beaten back by the army who used stun-grenades and pepper spray, resulting in the hospitalisation of one man and the arrest of another. Throughout the day more and more military and police arrived until by the afternoon demonstrators were outnumbered by a ratio of about 3:1. Despite the protest of the village, the army succeeded in building approximately 200 metres of fence, containing and isolating the village with an ugly and imposing wire structure and annexing their agricultural land. It is unclear at the moment whether the army will return to expand the fence further into the village land.

This is the second time this month that the Israeli military has violently entered Izbat Al Tabib, injuring and arresting those present. On 1st May the military entered the village with a bulldozer and other heavy machinery and began to level land for the fence. As the villagers and internationals protested the invasion, the army beat and arrested three ISM activists and threw a 60 year old woman from the Michigan Peace Teams to the ground, breaking both of her wrists and causing a head injury. The army then returned during the night a few days later and evicted internationals from a protest tent that the village had erected on the proposed site of the fence construction. They confiscated the tent and the property that was inside it and raided three houses in the village, detaining those inside and destroying property.

Izbat Al Tabib is located east of Qalqiliya in area C of the northern West Bank. It was built in the 1920s and is home to 247 inhabitants. Due to its location, Izbat Al Tabib is extremely isolated: it is the fifth poorest village in the West Bank and villagers have already lost 45% of their land to the illegal annexation wall. Farmers are forced to apply for permits to access areas of their land which are located near to the highway, however these are rarely given and when they are it is only to one farmer at a time.

The village was notified on 3rd April of the Israeli Civil Administration’s plan to build the fence under the pretext of preventing stones being thrown from the village onto passing cars. The village filed a compliant against this decision but it was rejected. The village Major Bayan Tabib says

“This was an arbitrary decision meant to isolate the village and part of the Israeli effort to take it over. Israeli forces have threatened more than once to displace our people.”

Soldiers construct fence
Soldiers construct fence
Ambulance arrives to treat the injured
Ambulance arrives to treat the injured
Soldier brandishes pepper spray
Soldier brandishes pepper spray

(palsolidarity.org / 23.05.2011)

Netanyahu and the one-state solution

Israel’s unwillingness to compromise on key issues might annul a two-state solution, making only power-sharing viable.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address US legislators on Tuesday. He will, no doubt, tell members of Congress that he supports a two-state solution, but his support will be predicated on four negative principles: no to Israel’s full withdrawal to the 1967 borders; no to the division of Jerusalem; no to the right of return for Palestinian refugees; and no to a Palestinian military presence in the new state.

The problem with Netanyahu’s approach is not so much that it is informed by a rejectionist worldview. The problem is not even Netanyahu’s distorted conception of Palestine’s future sovereignty, which Meron Benvenisti aptly described as “scattered, lacking any cohesive physical infrastructure, with no direct connection to the outside world, and limited to the height of its residential buildings and the depth of its graves. The airspace and the water resources will remain under Israeli control…”

Rather, the real problem is that Netanyahu’s outlook is totally detached from current political developments, particularly the changing power relations both in the Middle East and around the world. Indeed, his approach is totally anachronistic.

Netanyahu’s not-so-implicit threat that Israel will continue its colonial project if the Palestinians do not accept some kind of “Bantustan solution” no longer carries any weight. The two peoples have already passed this juncture.

The Palestinians have clearly declared that they will not bow down to such intimidations, and it is now clear that the conflict has reached an entirely new intersection.

At this new intersection, there are two signs. The first points towards the west and reads “viable and just two-state solution”, while the second one points eastward and reads “power sharing”.

The first sign is informed by years of political negotiations (from the Madrid conference in 1991, through Oslo, Camp David, Taba, and Annapolis) alongside the publication of different initiatives (from the Geneva Initiative and the Saudi Plan to the Nussaiba and Ayalon Plan), all of which have clarified what it would take to reach a peace settlement based on the two-state solution. It entails three central components:

1. Israel’s full withdrawal to the 1967 border, with possible one-for-one land swaps so that ultimately the total amount of land that was occupied will be returned.

2. Jerusalem’s division according to the 1967 borders, with certain land swaps to guarantee that each side has control over its own religious sites and large neighbourhoods. Both these clauses entail the dismantlement of Israeli settlements and the return of the Jewish settlers to Israel.

3. The acknowledgement of the right of return of all Palestinians, but with the following stipulation: while all Palestinians will be able to return to the fledgling Palestinian state, only a limited number agreed upon by the two sides will be allowed to return to Israel; those who cannot exercise this right or, alternatively, choose not to, will receive full compensation.

Israel’s continued unwillingness to fully support these three components is rapidly leading to the annulment of the two-state option and, as a result, is leaving open only one possible future direction: power sharing.

The notion of power sharing would entail the preservation of the existing borders, from the Jordan valley to the Mediterranean Sea, and an agreed upon form of a power sharing government led by Israeli Jews and Palestinians, and based on the liberal democracy model of the separation of powers. It also entails a parity of esteem – namely, the idea that each side respects the other side’s identity and ethos, including language, culture and religion. This, to put it simply, is the bi-national one-state solution.

Many Palestinians have come to realise that even though they are currently under occupation, Israel’s rejectionist stance will unwittingly lead to the bi-national solution. And while Netanyahu is still miles behind the current juncture, it is high time for a Jewish Israeli and Jewish American Awakening, one that will force their respective leaders to support a viable democratic future for the Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. One that will bring an end to the violent conflict.

(english.aljazeera.ne / 23.05.2011)

Plea to our representatives – Free Gaza Movement and Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human

Greta Berlin:  We do love the letter. We wrote it!! It’s from Free Gaza Movement. This plea should be sent to all representatives from all countries. Please use..Translate it and send it out. We really appreciate it.. Thank you everyone.. Greta

Dear xxxx

On behalf of the Free Gaza Movement and Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human, I am writing to ask for your support for the flotilla to the occupied Gaza strip, set to sail in the second half of June.

This is the second large-scale citizen-to-citizen humanitarian and human rights initiative to be launched by international grassroots groups.

At least ten ships with dignitaries, doctors, professors, artists, journalists, and activists as well as construction supplies and humanitarian aid will sail from ports in Europe to Gaza in an act of non-violent civil disobedience to persuade the international community to fulfill its obligations towards the Palestinian people and end Israel’s four year illegal blockade of Gaza and overall policies of control of Palestinian lives throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.

On her recent visit to the Palestinian territories and Israel, Valerie Amos, OCHA’s Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator called for ending the blockade, however she did not offer any methods for doing so. While our flotilla may not provide a long-term solution, last year’s flotilla opened the subject of Gaza on the world stage and put considerable pressure on Israel to change its policy on Gaza – something the international community had failed to do for 3 years. While that change was welcome, it was not nearly enough, and the awful humanitarian situation persists, as does the illegal blockade – identified as such by the International Committee of the Red Cross following last year’s flotilla.

The Free Gaza Movement was established in late 2006. Since 2008, through the donations of thousands of supporters from around the world, we have sailed to Gaza nine times. Five times we succeeded in breaking Israel’s blockade and bringing internationals, including Palestinians and Israelis, into the besieged territory in solidarity with those trapped.

In May 2010, the first Freedom Flotilla sent seven vessels to Gaza carrying nearly 700 passengers from 36 different countries. Israeli commandos attacked the boats, shot and killed nine passengers, injured over 50 and imprisoned all aboard.

Undeterred, Freedom Flotilla II, including the Turkish-flagged vessel, Mavi Marmara, is returning. Organised by 14 national groups and international coalitions, and carrying approximately 1000 ‘freedom riders’ [1] we are determined to break Israel’s ongoing collectively punishing blockade.

• Amnesty International has called Israel’s closure of Gaza “a collective punishment and violation of international law” that has left four out of five Palestinians dependent on humanitarian aid. [2] The International Committee for the Red Cross and the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict have called the blockade a violation of Israel’s obligations as an occupying power towards the civilian population of Gaza.

• In May 2008, Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu denounced the Gaza blockade as an “abomination” and said that the international community’s “silence and complicity…shames us all.”

• As early as October 2006, Prof. John Dugard, then UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), stated: “Gaza is a prison and Israel seems to have thrown away the key”. Israel still controls Gaza by land, sea and air. However we believe that it is the international community, held to account by civil society that holds the key to ending the blockade. And, from previous experience, it is only when this issue is forced into international consciousness do any tangible results materialize.

Pages upon pages of reports have been researched and published. Countless statements have been made and calls issued. And yet, for 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, the reality remains the same. Israeli governments have proven time and again their willingness to ignore such diplomatic entreaties when there is no pressure involved; when there has been firm pressure, Israel has often yielded to the will of the international community. On Gaza, the consensus is clear, yet the pressure has not materialized, except in the wake of the first Freedom Flotilla. The next flotilla will generate even greater pressure around the world, and your support will help amplify not only the voices of Palestinians in Gaza, but also the human rights campaigners challenging a brutal blockade regime at sea.

We hope we can count on your support for our forthcoming mission and public advocacy for human rights and respect of international law.

Yours sincerely

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

[1] Human rights initiatives from Turkey, Spain, Greece, Norway, Sweden, France, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Denmark and the USA own vessels either singularly or in coalition with others

[2] Amnesty International Annual Report 2010

[3] The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, September 2009, p276 and ICRC release, ‘Gaza Closure: not another year!’, June 14th 2010

( http://www.freedomflotilla.eu/en/news/announcements/112-we-are-getting-ready-to-sail          / 23.04.2011)

Asking Obama to Protect Gaza Relief Ship

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who has signed on to participate in a new attempt to bring relief supplies to Palestinians living in Gaza, asks President Barack Obama to intercede with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow the ship, “The Audacity of Hope,” to reach its destination.

Open Letter to President Obama

By Ray McGovern (for the passengers and crew of “The Audacity of Hope” to Gaza)

May 19, 2011

Dear Mr. President:

Your speech on the Middle East earlier today emboldens me to claim your protection as we set out to put flesh on your rhetoric. Fifty of your fellow citizens will be sailing on “The Audacity of Hope” to Gaza next month.

You spoke eloquently today about “times in the course of history when the action of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has been building up for years.” And you lamented “failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people.”

We, the passengers and crew of “The Audacity of Hope,” sailing to Gaza in June together with the 2nd International Freedom Flotilla, represent ordinary Americans determined to speak to the aspirations of the 1.5 million ordinary Gazans yearning to be free.

We will be delivering thousands of letters of support and friendship from other ordinary Americans who are persuaded, as Dr. King put it, that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

I write you for assurance of your support and protection as we try to embody your rhetoric. You emphasized that “the United States supports a set of universal rights,” and that this U.S. support is “not a secondary interest.” It is, rather, “a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions.”

Bold words. With respect to the situation in Gaza, though, perhaps you will agree that it hardly suffices to bemoan the fate of one “Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza,” who, as you put it, has a “right to feel angry.”

That Palestinian and his dead daughters are four, but 1,400 Gazans were killed by Israeli forces in December 1998-January 1999 — and 1.5 million Gazans remain deprived of the universal rights of which you spoke.

Gaza is a sequestered, crowded open-air prison, in which Israel keeps “inmates” at a subsistence level of existence. This amounts to the kind of collective punishment banned by international law and is enforced by an equally illegal Israeli naval blockade.

Many Americans have long been puzzled that you choose to exempt Gazans from your concern about universal rights, and have tired of waiting for a cogent explanation. So we ask you to look upon our voyage to Gaza as our attempt to implement your rhetoric about what ordinary citizens can do — not only to “speak” but to act to meet the broader aspirations of the ordinary people of Gaza.

On May 20, you will have an opportunity to inform Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of our intention to sail to Gaza next month. You have probably already been briefed on Israel’s far-flung diplomatic and propaganda offensive to prevent our boat and the other boats of the international flotilla from embarking for Gaza.

Indeed, the Israelis may be emboldened by your lack of response to the killing of nine passengers, including an American citizen, on the 2010 relief flotilla and the wounding of dozens of other peaceful passengers. This year we expect you to speak up for us beforehand.

And please do not try to pretend that $3 billion of our taxes — our annual gift to Israel — cannot be translated into the kind of leverage that will spare “The Audacity of Hope” from harm at the hands of the “Israeli Defense Forces.”

Finally, allow me to suggest talking points not likely to be included in your briefing papers. These points transcend rhetoric and spring from a faith heritage you share with Netanyahu. They deal with the doing of justice, the preoccupation of the prophets of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Before your meeting, have a look at what Isaiah says about “proclaiming liberty to captives and release to prisoners” and how Jesus of Nazareth repeats that, word for word, eight centuries later. Think about it, and be prepared to put justice above politics.

Please let us – and the world – know how the discussion goes.

Yours truly,

Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern served as an Army infantry/intelligence officer in the early 1960s and then as a CIA analyst for 27 years. In the early 1980s, he prepared and presented, one-on-one, the President’s Daily Brief. He now works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.

(consortiumnews.com / 23.05.2011)

Golflanden schorsen bemiddeling Jemen

De regionale Samenwerkingsraad voor de Golf (GCC) heeft zondagavond laat besloten de pogingen om te bemiddelen tussen president Ali Abdullah Saleh en de oppositie in Jemen te staken. Dat gebeurde nadat Saleh voor de derde keer een overeenkomst niet wilde tekenen, terwijl hij dat wel had toegezegd.

De GCC maakte het besluit na een vergadering in de Saudische stad Riyad bekend. Volgens de raad zijn er ”onvoldoende werkzame voorwaarden overeengekomen”.

De oppositie had het voorstel zaterdag al getekend. Saleh was zondag aan de beurt, maar wilde op het laatste moment zijn handtekening niet zetten omdat de oppositie niet aanwezig was. In de overeenkomst stond onder meer dat Saleh binnen dertig dagen zou aftreden in ruil voor immuniteit.

(www.parool.nl / 22.05.2011)

Towards Understanding Islam

You’ve heard the word Islam but you don’t understand what it’s all about. You wanted to know what is Islam as you see Muslims all over the place yet most people don’t even know what Islam is. You find it ridiculously ironic that something is so prevalent yet so unknown to most people. You wanted to know exactly what Islam is and why Muslims claim that it is the only True Religion. But your question of why demands a rational answer. You just don’t accept something that doesn’t make any sense. The answer of why had to be logically sound, there had to be a rational behind it, something that is based on analyzing the patterns of reasoning by which a conclusion is properly drawn from a set of self-evident proofs thereby proving without a shadow of a doubt its undeniable truth.

Islam not only claims to be the only true way but it also presents a series of logical and clear evidences to back that claim. This article attempts to present Islam that would captivate our intellectual reasoning by analyzing its clear and rational proofs. In order to understand it intellectually, we need to establish a basis for our discussion which takes into account certain characteristics a True Religion must have which must be accepted at the outset. Otherwise, there can be no common ground between the one who poses the question and the one tries to answer it.

These characteristics are:

1. It must exist since the beginning of time. This is necessary because if it doesn’t, then we cannot claim a religion to be true if there are people who had lived and died before its existence simply because salvation would be impossible for them.

2. The object of worship must be the Creator, and not His creation. This is obvious. But false religions don’t do this, they worship God’s creation instead of God, the Creator.

3. It must be universally available everywhere and at any given point in time. The True Religion must not depend on to a particular person, restricted at a certain place, or limited at any given point in time.

Within the framework which these characteristics are established, we will find that the answer to the question as to why Islam is the only True Religion is an enlightening one. One that is truly an eye-opener if we would only open up our minds and set aside our prejudices.

The starting point of understanding Islam is to know the meaning of the word Islam itself. The word Islam is derived from the Arabic root word SLM, which literally means to surrender, to submit, to yield, or to give one’s self up. It also includes the meaning of peace – to achieve peace – because in Arabic, a word can have a variety of meaning depending on the context that is being intended. In Arabic morphology, or the study of linguistic patterns of word formation, there are a lot of words that can be formed out from the root word SLM. One such word is “SaLaM”, literally means peace. Another word is “aSLaMa”, which means a person who had submitted, or he resigned himself into something. Similarly, it uses the prefix mu to denote someone performing an action, when combine with this root word, it will turn out the word “muSLiM”, a person who is doing the act of submission, or an individual who gives himself up. And from this same root word, a noun from verb can be derived from it, and the word “iSLaM” is formed out. Notice how the three root letters SLM can come out in different words depending on what and how you want to use it in Arabic.

The word Islam has a two-fold meaning: submission and peace. This submission requires a fully conscious and willing effort to submit to the One God. Once we humble ourselves and submit totally to God – in faith and in action – we will surely find an inner peace in our lives. These two meanings are interrelated to one another in such a way that the natural consequence of this act of submission to God is that man achieves peace to his own self as the end result of his action. In short, Islam means peace acquired by submitting your will to God’s will.

So from the root word SLM, which carries the meanings of submission, to submit, peace and to achieve peace, the words ISLAM, SALAM, ASLAMA, and MUSLIM are deduced. iSLaM is the name of an action word indicating submission to the will of God, or an act of resignation to God. In the greetings among Muslims, the word SaLaM is there in “as salam mu alaykum”, which means peace be unto you. aSLaMa, the past tense of the verb, is the term used for a person who had accepted Islam, or somebody who had surrendered himself to the will of God. And a muSLiM is the active participle of the verb, somebody who is the doer of that action. He is someone who submits to the will of God and has achieved peace to himself.

Islam teaches that one must submit to the will of God and live according to the teachings of the prophets. A Muslim therefore believes in all the prophets starting with Adam and together with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, etc. He also believes that God had sent His prophets to all corners of the earth to preach only one religion and to guide man to the right path. But mankind not only strayed away from the right path again and again, they also lost or distorted the code of guidance that the prophets had brought. That is why prophets were sent to re-state the original message and guide man back to the right path. The message of God was brought to this world by a succession of prophets in different times of history until God sent down the last revelation to the last prophet.

This last revelation is known as the Quran. It is a complete record of the exact words revealed by God to the last prophet. This revelation was memorized, recorded and passed on as is. The last prophet received the exact wording and passed it on to his followers. The Qur’an has been perfectly preserved since its revelation both orally and in writing. Even today, there are hundreds of thousands of Muslims from around the world who can recite the entire text of the Qur’an from memory, just as it was memorized in the time of the last prophet. Original copies of the manuscript still exist today and not one word of it has been changed over the centuries. It remains preserved and unchanged since the time of revelation in its original Arabic text over fourteen centuries ago. It is God and only God speaking in the Qur’an. There are no comments, passages or quotes from humans whatsoever in the Qur’an.
This Last Prophet is Muhammad, a name which may not sound like a prophet for those who are not Muslims, but when we try to look at the world’s most influential people that had lived in history, here is a man who has touched the lives of billions of people for the last 1400 years. Whose teachings are so simple that over the centuries had passed, people from all walks of life, from every nation on earth, and from every human race accepted Islam. His message is very clear and easy to understand – He called people to worship One God, as well as living by example of God’s message.
Thus, the Muslim’s beliefs are based on two sources, the Qur’an: the last divine message of God that He revealed to Muhammad, the last prophet, and the Sunnah: a collection of recorded words and actions of Prophet Muhammad, it helps explain and clarify the Qur’an and to present practical applications to its message. It is these two sources of guidance, which is now known as Islam: as revealed in the Qur’an and as exemplified by the last prophet. Because of the absolutely unique position he occupied as the recipient of revelations from God, every act and detail of his life was of the greatest interest to those around him. His life-example became a guide for Muslims in the understanding of the Qur’an and the practice of their religion.
For Muslims throughout the centuries, the message of the Qur’an and the life-example of Prophet Muhammad have constituted the formative and enduring foundation of faith and good deeds. They have served as the basic sources of principles and norms on which daily life is to be patterned. So Islam is not just a religion in of itself, but a complete way of life, providing guidelines in every aspect of a Muslim’s life. Muslims have a book of guidance, and a prophet who lived a life of guidance that was sent forth in the book. Prophet Muhammad’s life was the best example of the noble lessons and principles set forth in the Qur’an. Because of this, the last prophet’s teachings and practices have become a material source of Muslim creed alongside the Qur’an.
The Qur’an – the last divine revelation – exists in its original text, without a word or even a letter having been changed. And the Sunnah – the last prophet’s words and actions – is preserved with authenticity and accuracy. The accounts preserved in the books of Sunnah are a collection of authentic narrative stories about the prophet’s life. Muslims have carefully and in detail scrutinized the reliability of the transmitters of these narrations, and only those whose narrators are found to be completely reliable and sound are accepted. So not only do Muslims have the complete text of God’s message that was revealed to Muhammad, the Qur’an, but they have also preserved the entire record of his teachings and practices in what is called as the Sunnah. The Sunnah demonstrates how the Qur’an is to be implemented. The Qur’an is the manual, and the Sunnah is the practical demonstration of that manual. Prophet Muhammad conveyed not only the message of the Qur’an, but he also lived by example of its practical application. Thus, the Qur’an and the Life-example of the last prophet together became the beautiful way of life that we know today as Islam.
Prophet Muhammad is not the founder of Islam, as many people mistakenly think. He was only a human being commissioned by God to teach His commandments and lead an exemplary life. He stands as the best model for the Muslims in righteousness that is why his life served as an example in which a Muslim’s life is to be patterned. Islam did not begin with the prophethood of Muhammad nor was it founded by him. The real founder of Islam was no less than God Himself, and the date of the founding of Islam goes back at the time of Adam, the father of mankind. It was not Muhammad but Adam who first brought Islam to humanity. Then, each prophet and messenger came to teach their own people to a clear understanding of God’s commandments. They put forward teachings relevant on their time but the essence and core concept of their message was the same, and that is the worship of One God purely and submission to His will.
Prophet Muhammad himself makes it abundantly clear that Islam, the complete submission of man before God, is the one and only faith consistently revealed by God to mankind from the very beginning. Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus – prophets of the past who appeared at different times and places all brought the same message. They were each repeating the message of his predecessor. Thus, Islam has had existed in one form or another through a series of divine guidance that God had revealed to different prophets, on separate times and in various places. Prophets were sent to all nations of the earth to guide people to the straight path of worshiping One God. But, with the passage of time, people went astray and the teachings of the prophets were either changed or lost. That’s why prophets were sent again and again to all corners of the earth until the last prophet came.
For this reason, Islam is not a new religion with a new scripture brought by Prophet Muhammad, but rather to be a re-expression in its complete and final form of the true religion of God, as it was originally revealed to Adam and subsequent prophets. The Qur’an only represents the original message that was brought by prophets of the past. The Qur’an teaches that the message of God was brought to this world by a succession of prophets since the time of Adam. The essence of Islam, which is the worship of One God and sincere submission to His will, was revealed to Adam who passed it on to his descendants. All following revelations to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and finally Muhammad were in conformity with that message differing only according to the needs of the people to which they were sent. These prophets taught their people the same concept of religion of what is known today as Islam.
The most important teaching of Prophet Muhammad is faith in Tawheed, or the Oneness of God. In Arabic, the term Tawheed comes from the word waahid, literally means One, and it implies to make wahada, which means to make something one, or to assert the oneness of something. The word waahid is the opposite of plurality. So waahid is something that will continue to be singular and never become a partner of something else. However, in a religious context, the word Tawheed means to single out God with all forms of worship, so that you make all your worship for God alone. That is, to make wahada to worship, to assert the Oneness of God in all forms of worship, or to direct all forms of worship to someone who is waahid – the One (God).

Tawheed
, or the “Oneness of God” lies at the very heart of Islam. It strongly emphasize that there is only One True God and that He alone deserves to be worshiped. It asserts God’s oneness in its simplest, uncomplicated, most literal sense. That there is “One God” in the most basic, simple, and elementary meaning of the word. He has no son, no parents nor any similarity or equal. His nature as a Supreme Being does not resemble in anything, and such qualities as The Creator and Provider, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, All-Knowing, All-Hearing and Seeing, All-Powerful, etc. only belongs to Him and there’s absolutely no one like Him. Islam teaches that God has a unique nature and that He is free from gender, human weaknesses, and beyond anything which human beings can imagine. There is nothing like Him in this world because the Creator must be distinct and different from the things that He creates. He is above all defects and above any similarity to anything in creation.
And this Unique and Great God, who has the exclusive right to be worshiped by man, revealed His glorious name in the Qur’an as “Allah”, and describe Himself as the One and Only True God whom worship is due:

{“ Verily, I am Allah! There is no God but I, so worship Me alone”}
(Qur’an 20:14).
In Arabic, the word ilah means “one who is worshiped”. That is, a being which on account of its greatness and power is considered worthy to be worshiped. Anything or any being who possess powers that is so great that it controls the whole of creation is also called ilah. The concept of ilah also includes the sense that the whole creation is dependent on Him and He is not dependent on anyone else. He does not need anything. He does not need His creation. But the whole creation turns to Him for all that they need. Other languages also contain words with a similar meaning, and the word God in English have a similar connotation of the Arabic word ilah.

In the Arabic Grammar, if you want to make a common noun to proper, you add the definite article “al” to it. The prefix “al” is equivalent to the word “the” in English. So the definite article al is added to the word ilah to make it proper. Thus, the proper noun of ilah is the word Allah. The word “Allah” literally means “The God” – made up of the word al (the Arabic word for the) and the word ilah (the Arabic word for God). But a more accurate translation of the word Allah into English would be “The One and Only God”, or “The One True God”.

 
The name “Allah” is something that God Himself who informed us through divine revelation that this is His name. Muslims refer to God as “Allah” only because this name is what the Creator calls Himself in the Qur’an. It came from divine revelation and it is the name that God use to refer to Himself.
When Prophet Muhammad started to talk about Islam to his people, they asked him who is Allah. The answer didn’t came from the prophet. Allah revealed one chapter in the Qur’an in response to their question:
{“Say (tell them Oh Prophet Muhammad): He is Allah, the One and Unique (God). Allah, the Everlasting Self-Sufficient (whom all creatures need). He has not given birth and was not born. And no one is comparable to Him.”} (Qur’an 112: 1-4).
This is Allah Himself answering to the question of who He is. And there is no better answer. To Muslims, this four-verse definition of God serves as the touchstone of the study of divinity. Any man-made concept of God must be subjected to this acid test. False and erroneous concepts about God can easily be dismissed using these verses. These verses tell us that God is only One, not three-in-one. God has no needs and is self-sufficient, but the whole creation is dependent on Him for all that they need. God was not born, nor does He give birth. Thus, He does not have a son and share His divinity to others. And there is no creation that is like Him. He is the Creator and His being is distinct and separate from His creation. Therefore, He did not become a part of creation by becoming a man.
But Islam makes it very clear though, that the belief in Allah doesn’t only mean to simply believe that He is the One True God, but it does mean also, and this is the most important point that needs to be stressed: that the belief in Tawheed means much more than simply believing that there is “One God”, but it strongly emphasize that all kinds of worship should exclusively be devoted to Allah alone and that every care is taken to ensure that this is observed at all times.

Tawheed is the belief that Allah is:

1. One without partner in His Dominion and Actions

2. One without similarity in His Essence and Attributes
3. One without rival in His Divinity and Worship
This is the core of the matter in Islam: that Allah is One without partner in His Dominion and Actions – He alone is the One who has the absolute control over creation, He alone has the power over all things; He is  One without similarity in His Essence and Attributes – no other entity can in any way have the attributes of the Creator, He is far beyond our imagination and bears no resemblance to any of His creation; And He is One without rival in His Divinity and Worship – to single out the Creator alone for all worship, and not to worship anything along with Him.
The absence of any of the above aspects of Tawheed is referred to as Shirk, literally means sharing. It refers to the worship of others instead of Allah or along with Allah. It is an act of assigning partners to Allah in whatever form it may take. In Islam, the main objective is to ensure the Oneness of God. It is not enough that people believe that “God is One”, but they must follow up this belief by worshiping that One God alone. This simple concept of Tawheed has to be explained in detail because for some people, even though they believe in “One God”, do not direct all of their worship and prayers to Him alone. They call on numerous saints for every specific need, in statues made of stone, etc. Their argument is that they are not actually worshiping the stone image or the statue, but God who is present within it. They claim that the stone idols and carved images are only the focal point for God’s essence and is not in itself God. They try devising a “rational excuse” for their actions. But obviously, this is faulty reasoning. This is not from God – this is idolatry. This is the worst sin that a man can commit.
The belief in Tawheed means to deny all forms of association of partners with Allah. It rejects the use of all intermediaries between God and man, and stresses that people approach God directly and reserve all worship for Him alone. If someone faces an idol or to a stone image and prays, he has associated a partner with Allah, because worship is being shared between Allah and His creation. Likewise if someone prays to a prophet, to so-called saints asking for help from Allah thru them, has also committed shirk. Shirk can take many forms: facing to idols or statues while praying, calling upon saints for help, believing that God became man, etc. All forms of shirk must be avoided, no matter what shape, form, or name. Shirk simply means an act of worship for other than Allah, or along with Allah. In other words, it is an act of calling, supplicating, and praying to created beings instead of the Creator. The greatest sin in Islam is to engage in practices which contradict or compromise Tawheed. This direct or indirect association of partners with Allah is referred to as Shirk.
Allah created humans to worship Him, that’s why Shirk represents the greatest act of rebellion against God because it contradicts the purpose of our creation, and is thus the ultimate sin. It is a sin so great that it virtually cancels out all good a person may do and guarantees its perpetrator eternal in Hell if he does not give it up before his death:
{“If you were to join other gods with Allah, (then) surely (all) your deeds will be in vain, and you will surely be among the losers (in the hereafter)”} (Qur’an 39:65).
Of course, if a person does give up this sin of idolatry before his death, then he is safe from such eternal punishment in Hell fire. Islam’s greatest commandment is to worship Allah alone, and its strictest prohibition is worshiping others besides Him or along with Him.

Man-made religions in one way or the other invite their followers to the worship of creation. Some people are called upon to pray to a man, a prophet named Jesus, whom they have claimed to have been the “son of God”. They also pray to Mary as the “mother of God”, as well as human saints, etc. They made a god out of Jesus and directed their prayer to him and his mother. They have saints for every occasion to whom they direct their prayers in the belief that these saints can directly influence the affairs of this world. They also use their priests as intercessors between themselves and God, in the mistaken belief that the priests are closer to God due to their celibacy and piety, and thus more likely to be listened to by God.

Since the greatest sin in God’s sight is the worship of others besides Him or along with Him, and everything besides Him is creation, the principles of Islam are all either directly or indirectly opposed to the worship of creation. The fundamental tenets of Islam make a very clear distinction between the Creator and what He has created. The Creator and the created are separate and distinct. The Creator is invisible in this life. No one can see Him in this earthly life. Thus, He is not manifested or incarnated in any other life forms. Therefore, the commandments in Islam concerning worship clearly indicate that Allah is not to be found in created beings, He is totally separate from them, and thus any worship in His creation or thru His creation is the greatest of sins:
{“Joining others in worship with Allah is indeed the greatest sin”} (Qur’an 31:13).
The concept of Oneness of God is the single most important concept in Islam. This is the most fundamental principle, it is this concept of Tawheed which is at the core of Islam. It calls humanity away from the worship of any part of creation to the worship of The One and Only True God, The Creator.
Some religions claim that God cannot forgive man directly therefore He sends His so-called “only begotten son” to save mankind from their sins. Others interpret this concept that God came down to earth and became a human being to save mankind’s sins. By claiming that God cannot forgive humans directly, people turn to false gods for help. These false gods come in different forms, and anyone who is in his right mind can tell that these so-called gods are indeed false because these are created beings like him.
False religions either claim that God became man, or that God may be worshiped in the form of His creation thru carved-images of different idols. But as has been revealed in the Qur’an, God was not born nor does He give birth, and His being is distinct and separate from His creation. Therefore, He did not become a part of creation by becoming a human being.
Islam strongly stresses that God did not became man nor did He sent a so-called “only begotten son” to save the sins of the world because He can forgive man directly anyway. There is no need to shed blood to an innocent person just to save mankind from its sins because God is perfectly capable of bestowing His infinite Mercy and Forgiveness to whomever He chooses.

Islam teaches that God should be approached directly without any intermediaries. That is because the Most Merciful, All-Knowing God is completely in control of everything that exists, and that He can bestow His forgiveness and mercy on His creatures as He pleases. Islam commands Man to pray to God directly seeking mercy and forgiveness only to Him. It also forbids man to worship something created because the One True God has to be the Creator and not a part of creation that He creates.

Even though other religious sects have claimed to believe in One God, over time, some man-made ideas entered into their beliefs and practices leading them away from the pure teachings of the prophets. They carved different images and statues and worshiped them, despite the fact that they know that they are the ones who made these things. They worship something that they made by their own hands that cannot hear or answer them. Some even believed that their prophet were the manifestations of God, or “Son of God”. All of these misconceptions lead to the worship of created beings instead of the Creator. But divine revelation makes it very clear that:
{“Allah has not taken to Himself any son, nor is there any god with Him.”} (Qur’an 23:91).
This means that Allah does not have a son nor share his divinity with others. By neglecting the true teachings of the prophets and mixing them with man-made ideas, other religions have distorted and nullified the pure belief of “One God” even though they claim that they believe in such. Tawheed is not just simply believing that God is One, but it further emphasize to worship that One God alone.
Some people say that they pray to and worship others besides God only to get closer to Him. They often approach God through an intermediary, such as a saint, an angel, a human being like Virgin Mary or to a prophet like Jesus – obviously, these are all God’s creation. In Islam, there is a clear distinction between the Creator and the created. The Creator of everything must be different from and greater than the things that He creates. There is no confusion in divinity. Anything that is created is not deserving of worship, and only the Creator is worthy of being worshiped. It is made clear that there is nothing divine or worthy of being worshiped except the One True God, the Creator. Or to put it in one simple statement, “Worship the Creator and not His Creations”.

In Islam, there is no such thing as an intercessor or intermediary in all forms of worship. You don’t need to seek help on anyone such as patron saints, or to call upon to so-called “son of God”, or to seek mercy to the supposed “mother of God”, or to go to a priest to confess your sins and ask for forgiveness, or to face an idol made of wood and stones when you pray, etc. It is only in Islam that a person is required to pray only to God, direct and without any intermediary. There is no need to call on anyone whether it be a saint, an idol made of wood and stones, or someone who is believed to be the “son of God”, because clearly all these are created beings like us.

We can easily determine if a religion is false by looking at the object of their worship. If they worship anything or anyone besides the Creator, then it must be false. It just makes sense to us that the only one who deserves to be worshiped is the One who created us, and not His creations. By using the principle of identifying the object of worship, we can easily detect false religions and the man-made nature of their origin. False religions teach the greatest evil – the worship of creation. For example, Prophet Jesus invited his followers to worship God, but those who claim to be his followers today call people to worship Jesus, claiming that he was God, which is the exact opposite of what Jesus said. Jesus did not claim to be God, nor did he told his followers that he be an object of worship. Yet today most people who claim to be his followers have taken him to be God and pray to images and idols made in their perception of his likeness.
The message of Islam, as brought by the prophets of God, is to worship only the Creator and to avoid the worship of His creation either directly or indirectly. It is a clear call to the worship of the Creator and the rejection of creation-worship in any form. The objective of Islam is to call people away from the worship of creation and to direct them toward the worship of the Creator alone.
The belief in only One Creator is not all there is to a proper belief in God. Throughout history, it has been the case that some people stopped at this clear premise and deemed that such was all there was to the belief in God. This belief is definitely necessary but not sufficient. This belief must be followed up with the rejection of worshiping others instead of God, or along with Him. Then, and only then that a person will be fulfilling what it truly means to believe in One God. The most important message that God revealed to mankind is that there is nothing divine or worthy of being worshiped except Him. This is the very essence of the divine message brought by all the prophets, and it is what Islam really is all about – to worship One God alone.
Islam’s concept of Oneness of God that is Tawheed is very simple and clear, and leaves no room for any type of misconceptions which often lead to the worship of creation that is Shirk. Thus, a person who truly believes in the Oneness of God has to worship Him alone and refrain from associating any partner with Him of any kind. Islam strongly emphasizes the worship of Allah alone without ascribing to Him any partner.

The basic and most fundamental teaching of Islam invites man to worship only its Creator and to avoid the worship of creation in any way shape or form.

In Islam, there is no such thing as “Trinity” because Allah has no partners with Him being God, and He does not share His perfect attributes to anyone. Understanding that Allah is the only Supreme Being means denying the existence of any other god. The concept of Tawheed is straightforward, clear and easy to understand. It is free from irrational, mysterious or confusing ideas. That there is only One God – not in a Trinity or a multitude of gods – is something that even a small child can understand without difficulty.
Thus, simply believing in “One God” is not enough to become a Muslim because other religions also have this belief. This belief in “One God” needs to be supported with practice by worshiping that “One God” alone and no one else. For a Muslim, the belief of “One God” is in its purest, absolute meaning of the word. He refrains from worshiping anything or anyone besides the “One God”.
In Islam, the worst possible sin is to worship anything or anyone other than God, even if the worshiper intends to draw nearer to God by offering devotions to another being. So even though other religions also claim to believe in One God, they fall short and violate this belief by worshiping others alongside Him, which is, as all of the prophets taught, the greatest sin.

Prophet Muhammad was instructed by Allah to tell people what is really forbidden to them:

{“Say (tell them Oh Prophet Muhammad): Come, I will recite to you what Allah has really forbidden to you: Do not setup anything (in worship) with Him”} (Qur’an 6:151).
Because of this, Islam considers associating any god or personality with Allah as a deadly sin that He will never forgive, despite the fact that He may forgive all other sins. The act of associating others in worship with Allah is the most sinful act that Prophet Muhammad has informed us.
In the Qur’an, Prophet Jesus also told his people regarding this very important matter:
{“But the Messiah (Jesus) said: Oh children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Verily, whosoever sets up partners (in worship) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden Paradise to him, and the Fire will be his abode”} (Qur’an 5:72).
Prophet Jesus called his people to worship Allah without partners. He never claimed divinity for himself, nor did he ever ask to be worshiped. Jesus never claimed to be God, or asked his people to worship him. In fact, Jesus told his followers to pray to God as he himself did. And our logic would tell us that someone who prays to God cannot possibly be God himself. The two has to be separate entities – one is the worshiper and the other is the object of worship.
Tawheed is the true understanding of One God, it is a very simple belief, free from complicated concepts. The message of which God has sent mankind in all ages through His prophets. It was this message with which, in the beginning, Adam was sent down to earth. It was the same message that was revealed to Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. It was the message which Muhammad brought to mankind. It is a message of pure and absolute, without the least shade of false concepts and irrational beliefs. Man became guilty of Shirk only because he turned away from the teachings of the prophets and depended on his own faulty reasoning, wrong perceptions and erroneous interpretations. Prophets are there to explain God’s message to man. If man turns away from a prophet, he is bound to fall into error. That is why in God’s last divine revelation, the Qur’an, we have a perfect example on how it is to be lived by following the Sunnah of the last prophet. We don’t need to delve into long discussion as to how to practice God’s message because we have a prophet who explained the message and showed us how to apply it in our lives.

This principle of Tawheed has not change through the passage of time. It is the same as the number one commandment in the Ten Commandments of Prophet Moses, the same faith that Prophet Abraham taught to his descendants, the same teaching that Prophet Jesus conveyed to his people, and was also the same warning that Prophet Noah called his people so that they may be save from the big flood of water. All prophets gave the same message, they all taught that God is One, free from sharing His divinity with anyone, and that same message that all the prophets have brought is what we call today as Islam. Prophet Muhammad did not bring something new. Islam is not a new religion. It is, in essence, the same eternal message revealed through the ages to all of God’s prophets and messengers.

Prophet Muhammad only brought the same message of pure monotheism that was taught by the messengers that came before him:

{“And We never sent any messenger before you (Prophet Muhammad), except that We revealed to him that there is no god but Me. Therefore worship Me (alone)”} (Qur’an 21:25).
Prophets were sent to every nation who had strayed away from the right path of Tawheed, to guide them back to it. This principle of Tawheed was the same throughout time: to reject all objects of worship, and to direct all worship without exception to God alone. This is the essence of the true religion and it has been so since the time of Adam. Prophets were sent to particular nations for a certain period of time. But this is not the case of Prophet Muhammad. Since he is the last prophet, his message is for all humanity and will last until the end of time. The teachings of the Qur’an comprise a universal scripture addressed to all of mankind and not to any particular people, or for a specific time period. The message that it brings is nothing new but the same message of all prophets: to worship the One God purely, and submit to God’s will as taught by the prophets.
Thus, it is man’s duty to follow the way of the prophets. And it really does not matter in what place and period of time a person is born because this pure, simple practice of faith has been in existence since Adam’s time. All the different nations and people of the earth from the time of Adam up to the time of Muhammad’s prophethood were given one same message:
{“And verily, We have sent among every nation a messenger (proclaiming): Worship Allah (alone) and avoid false gods”} (Qur’an 16:36).
The message of Islam is a continuation of the clear and profound message of pure monotheism revealed by God throughout history to all of His prophets in every place on earth. Anyone, born in any place, and at any period of time, can become a Muslim because Islam is what the prophets had been teaching ever since the time of Adam. All people who followed one of the many prophets, who believe in One True God without partners, and submit themselves to Him are called Muslims – a person who submits his will to the will of God according to the teachings of the prophets.
The true religion of God cannot be confined to any one person, place, or period of time. If we were to claim that a certain religion is true, then it has to be accessible at any period of time, anywhere. Because if it doesnt, then how can a person attain salvation and follow a religion claimed to be true if he was born and died before the religion even exists? The test of its universality then is the hallmark of a true religion, because for it to be true, a religion has to be accessible to mankind at all times under all circumstances. And within the central principle of Islam and its definition (the surrender of one’s will to God) lie the roots of Islam’s universality – the religion that man can practice from the time of Adam until the end of time.
With its universality, Islam is attainable by all mankind at all times by rejecting the worship of creation and worshiping One God purely. In every age of human history, and in every place on earth, all people who have believed and followed their prophets had lived this simple practice of faith. They were all Muslims, irrespective of whether they called Islam with a different name in their language. It is not necessary that the name of the religion is Islam. People who followed their prophet from different parts of the world in separate periods of time have variety of ways to express the term man’s submission to the will of God. People from different places have their own distinct languages, and prophets that were sent to them brought Islam in the language that they understand, and so it is only natural that they call Islam with a different name in their language.

Whatever its name was, it signified submission to God’s will and therefore it is Islam and nothing but Islam. Islam’s accessibility to all mankind at all times convincingly support Islam’s claim that from the beginning of time, in whichever place it was taught, and whatever language it was expressed, Islam alone is, and always has been, the universal religion preached by all the prophets of God. Its appeal is for the whole of humanity, and anyone, born at any place, and at any point in time can become a Muslim because Islam was already been in existence since the time of Adam.

All prophets who have appeared from time to time brought the message of Islam. They were born on separate periods of time and came with different forms of commandments sent by God to guide and govern people, but the essence of their teachings were the same – the surrender of one’s will to God. Allah had sent us prophets who all taught the same religion:
{“He (Allah) has ordained for you the same religion (Islam) which He ordained for Noah, and that which We revealed to you (Muhammad), and that which We ordained for Abraham, Moses, and Jesus”} (Qur’an 42:13).
After the creation of the first man – Adam, only one message has been repeatedly delivered to mankind throughout the history of humanity. Thus, to remind people about it and bring them back on track, prophets and messengers including Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and finally Muhammad were sent to convey only one message, the message of submitting oneself to the will of God, which is translated in Arabic as Islam. The pure essence of the beliefs and teachings that were revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad are the same as God taught to all the other prophets of the past.
Islam – the pure submission to and worship of God alone – was the religion of all prophets since the time of Adam. However, after the coming of Prophet Muhammad, there is a further distinction that needs to be made. Before the time of Prophet Muhammad, one could say that they were many “Islam”. That is, each nation had their prophet, followed their teachings and was on the right path of Islam. But at the same time, if a new prophet would come to them, they will have to follow that new prophet. God sends a new prophet to either reveal new commandments applicable to the people, or to bring them back to the right path after they had deviated from the teachings of the previous prophet over the passage of time. Thus, after the time of Prophet Muhammad, since he is the last of the prophets, there is only one acceptable manner of worshiping and submitting to God.
All the Prophets, from the first to the last brought the same message: to worship Allah alone without partners. In our time, this message still remains, in the form of the Qur’an and the life-example of the last prophet. This is the only path that today can truly be called submitting oneself to the will of God as taught by prophets of the past. Today, the only option left to be on the path of Islam and follow the way of all the earlier prophets is by following Prophet Muhammad.
God’s messengers had been raised among every people, and that they all conveyed essentially that same religion which Prophet Muhammad brought. Muhammad was the last in the series of prophets since the time of Adam. All the prophets of God – from Adam to Muhammad – have brought one and the same religion of Islam. Although the Divine Message that Allah revealed to each prophet differed in form to suit the needs of the community to which he was sent, but the identifying nature of the religion is the same – the principle of Tawheed. The only thing that distinguishes Prophet Muhammad from all other prophets is that the prophets of the past came with the Divine message of Islam in its different forms that suits to a particular people in a certain place and for a specific periods of time, whereas the Last Prophet brought the Divine Message of Islam in its Last Form for the whole of humanity and for all time to come.
Prophet Muhammad did not bring something new, he only brought the same message that was also brought by the prophets that came before him. And a person can become a Muslim and follow Islam even before Prophet Muhammad’s time because Islam was already been in existence since the time of Adam. Islam has had existed since Adam’s time. A Muslim doesn’t necessarily mean a follower of Prophet Muhammad, the reality is that there are people who were true believers in God and His message even before the time of Muhammad, and each and every one of them is labeled a Muslim – a person who submits his will to the will of God according to the teachings of the prophets.
Prophet Muhammad’s message was the same as that was conveyed by prophets of the past in different periods of time. All of them came with one message – the message of Islam. The word Islam is the name of the central principle of the religion, and that is submission of man’s will to the will of God. And anyone who does so is a Muslim, regardless of whether he had or she had lived in the time of Noah, David, Solomon, Jacob, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, or Adam. Whoever submits their will to God according to the teachings of the prophets – as they originally taught them – then that person is a Muslim.

(www.towards-understanding-islam.com / 22.05.2011)

Netanyahu is bad for Israel

Netanyahu’s claim regarding the non-defensible 1967 borders was true prior to 1967, it is nothing but hogwash today.  In the 1960’s when Israel was a young state without the military might that it has today an argument could be made that there was in fact an existential threat to Israel from its neighbors who refused to recognize Israel, negotiate or make peace.  The narrow neck of Israel 14 miles wide between Tulkarm and Netanya was a point where the country could have been cut in half.  There was a formidable Jordanian army with an air force and artillery.  The Jordanians put their army under the command of the UAR of Egypt and Syria in 1967.

But after Israel won the 1967 six days war and decimated the armies and air forces of Egypt and Syria and conquered the West Bank, the threat was no longer there.

Since then Israel has amassed the most powerful military might in the region.  Israel is at peace with Jordan.  The future Palestinian state will be a non-militarized state.  The Palestinians will have no air force and no artillery.  What kind of military threat will Israel face that make the 1967 borders non-defensible?  Will the Palestinians cut Israel in half with John Deere tractors?  Will they throw cucumbers at the Israeli soldiers?  What force is supposed to be used that will divide Israel in  half?  Netanyahu must have also forgotten that Israel has peace with Jordan. Israel has full satellite imagery of the West Bank.  The Israeli air force has 100% control of the skies above and the ability to deliver a fully armed combat fighter from any place in Israel (and Palestine) to any place in Israel (and Palestine) within 2 minutes.  So who is he fooling?

The real problem is that since 1967 Israel has put 500,000 Israelis over the green line. The issue is a “land grab” and  not “defensible borders”.  But since Netanyahu cannot sell a land grab to the international community to enable settlers which are viewed illegal by international law to be able to remain under Israeli sovereignty, he has invented the defensible border idea.  What reasonable country would oppose the idea of Israel having defensible borders?

Netanyahu is lying and he must be called on his lies.  Enough of these stupid reasons for not making peace.

Netanyahu is endangering the future of Israel.  Netanyahu is bad for the Jews!

(Facebook / 22.05.2011)

Italy: First Italian food halal supplier

Italy: First Italian food halal supplier


Via AKI:

Italy’s first-ever ‘halal’ supplier has opened for business in Italy’s northern city of Bologna, selling meals prepared according to Islamic principles to restaurants and canteens in Italy and abroad.

“Integration is also being able to eat as one should and to be at peace with God,” Hamza Piccardo, told Adnkronos International (AKI).

Piccardo, an Italian convert to Islam, is the director of the ‘Tre Alfieri Halal‘, which is based in Bologna, a renowned gastronomic centre.

“Our new company wants to be a triumph of integration: to combine Italy’s great cuisine and Islam’s rules without losing the flavours of the former and the spiritual rigour of the latter,” he said.

(islamineurope.blogspot.com / 22.05.2011)