Saturday, June 8, 2013

The smoothest way is full of stones (Poem)

Stay away from Anger.

It hurts only You and nobody else.
If you are right, then there is no need to get angry,
and if you are wrong then you don't have any right to get angry.

Patience with family is love,
Patience with others is respect,
Patience with self is confidence and
Patience with GOD is faith.

Never think hard about the past, it brings tears.
Don't think more about the future, it brings fear.
Live this moment with a Smile, it brings cheer.

Every test in our life makes us bitter or better,
Every problem comes to make us or break us,
The choice is ours whether we become victims or victorious.

Search for a beautiful heart not a beautiful face.
Beautiful things are not always good, but good things are always beautiful.

Do you know why God created gaps between fingers?
So that someone who is special to you comes
and fills those gaps by holding your hand forever.
Never forget this advice!

Happiness keeps You Sweet, Trials keep You Strong,
Success keeps You Glowing,
and But Only God keeps You Going!

When you don't give up, you cannot fail.

Author unknown 

One verse says so much

One thing I find most incredible about the Quran is that merely one verse can consist of so few words yet say so much. As one example, consider this short verse from Chapter 30 verse 40:

اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ ثُمَّ رَزَقَكُمْ ثُمَّ يُمِيتُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُحْيِيكُمْ ۖ هَلْ مِن شُرَكَائِكُم مَّن يَفْعَلُ مِن ذَ‌ٰلِكُم مِّن شَيْءٍ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ

"The One God created you
and gave you sustenance for life.
That same God will one day cause you to die,
and then will give you new life.
Can any of your partner-gods do such things?
Glory be to God who is exalted
above any partner-god that others associate with Him."

Incredibly, this short verse tells me 9 things about God:

1) God exists
2) God creates
3) God created me
4) God gives sustenance 
5) God causes us to die
6) God gives a new life after death
7) No one else can do what God does
8) God is exalted above all others
9) Worshiping other than God does not diminish His exalted position in the least. 

If I read this verse alone, and no other, it would pretty much summarize most of the Islamic faith. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Free online course on Hebrew Bible

I am currently following a free online Yale course titled "Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)" with Prof Christine Hayes. This course examines the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) as an expression of the religious life and thought of ancient Israel, and a foundational document of Western civilization. A wide range of methodologies, including source criticism and the historical-critical school, tradition criticism, redaction criticism, and literary and canonical approaches are applied to the study and interpretation of the Bible. Special emphasis is placed on the Bible against the backdrop of its historical and cultural setting in the Ancient Near East. 

Canadian Soccer Association says Quebec Soccer Federation must comply

Today, the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) has spoken out in opposition to the Quebec Soccer Federation’s (QSF) decision to restrict turban-wearing Sikhs from the pitch. An anonymous official from the CSA is quoted in the Canadian Press as saying, "(This) is the governing body for the sport in the country. The Quebec Soccer Federation falls under our supervision. So they would apply the regulations the way we mandate them to.” 

All other provincial soccer associations allow players with turbans, but the QSF has stated it is concerned about safety issues and further points out that the rules of the world governing body, FIFA, don’t specifically allow turbans. It should be noted, however, that FIFA’s rules don’t explicitly ban turbans either, as the governing body is silent on the issue. What the FIFA rules do state in Law 4 is that “a player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player.” The regulation classifies basic equipment as a jersey with sleeves, shorts, socks, shinguards and footwear. Other equipment may be used if it is inspected by a referee and determined not to be dangerous. 

Meanwhile, on June 4th, CAIR-CAN, a national Muslim civil liberties organization, issued a strongly worded statement by calling on the QSF to reverse what it refers to as its "discriminatory ban on Sikh turbans." 

“It’s disappointing that the Quebec Soccer Federation refuses to accept diversity on the soccer pitch, while the rest of the soccer world has moved on to become more inclusive. Clearly, the QSF is out of step and once again neglecting to respect the religious freedoms guaranteed to Canadians through various human rights codes,” says Ihsaan Gardee, CAIR.CAN’s Executive Director. 

I expect that the QSF will dig in its heels and not pay much attention to what the CSA has to say, but instead will await a specific ruling from FIFA on the matter. Hopefully FIFA will weigh in soon with a view to resolving this controversy. Personally, I feel the the QSF's argument that wearing a turban during a soccer match is dangerous to be quite ludicrous, and there is no evidence to back up such a claim. I tend to agree with Mélanie Dugré who, on June 6th, wrote an oped in La Presse in opposition to QSF's position by stating, "I think it [the QSF position] is mostly fueled by a pernicious, insidious and unfortunate form of intolerance."

Syrian refugees

It is sad to see the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria. According to UN reports, the number of Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries is expected to reach 3.45 million by the end of this year, over double the current 1.6 million. Close to 93,00 Syrians have perished in the past two years and the slaughter continues on a daily basis. The country itself lies in ruins with massive destruction everywhere, and it is estimated that 4.25 million people have been displaced inside the country.

Today, at an international conference in Geneva, the UN has launched an international appeal to raise $5 billion to fund relief operations in Syria through to the end of the year. This figure is up from the $3 billion the UN initially estimated was needed, but due to the worsening situation on the ground that figure had to be significantly increased. So far, only $1.4 billion has been pledged, not nearly enough to meet the needs of the ever increasing number of refugees. 

This is creating a lot of strain on neighboring countries also. For example, the tiny nation of Jordan has taken in nearly half a million Syrian refugees with some 130,000 finding refuge at the Zaatari camp, dubbed by the UN as the he world's second largest refugee camp, near the border. And, according to U.N. refugee representative Andrew Harper, "It is only going to get bigger." Note, half the population at the Zaatari refugee camp are children

For live updates on the camp please click here

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Danish Supermarket Chain Reverses Hijab Ban Policy

Three weeks ago, Danish Muslim activists Inaam Abou-Khadra and Alaa Abdol-Hamid started a campaign to support a Muslim woman who was denied a position working in Netto, a Danish supermarket. Netto is part of a larger supermarket chain, all of which banned women who wear hijab from working in public positions. This time, the rejection created a media furor after a Muslim lawyer, Safia Aoade, wrote an article to express her discontent with the situation, which catalyzed Safia, Inaam, Alaa, and their colleagues to protest the policy. READ MORE.....

Gay Muslims

On August 16th, 2012, Michael Sinan Thomsen (photo above) was crowned Mr. Gay Denmark during Pride week in Copenhagen. The 34 year old also revealed that he chose to adopt the Muslim faith.  Thomsen said that he, "participated in the Mr. Gay competition because I wanted to show to gay and straight people that gay Muslims exist, and that I am proud to be one of them." 

There are, in fact, many gay Muslims but they are generally marginalized and discriminated against in the Muslim community. There is still a widely held belief among Muslims that people choose their sexual orientation, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. For example, in 2003 the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2004 stated the following: "The mechanisms for the development of a particular sexual orientation remain unclear, but the current literature and most scholars in the field state that one's sexual orientation is not a choice; that is, individuals do not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual. A variety of theories about the influences on sexual orientation have been proposed. Sexual orientation probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences. In recent decades, biologically based theories have been favored by experts. Although there continues to be controversy and uncertainty as to the genesis of the variety of human sexual orientations, there is no scientific evidence that abnormal parenting, sexual abuse, or other adverse life events influence sexual orientation. Current knowledge suggests that sexual orientation is usually established during early childhood."

 Mainstream Muslim opinion on this topic is quite strict, and frowns upon those who are gay, insisting they must repent and change their sexual orientation. One group which openly supports gay Muslims, however, is Muslims for Progressive Values. The group states on its website that, "We must all speak out against the injustices suffered by Muslim Queers everywhere. Liberal interpretations of our scriptures tell us that Allah loves us all and that rape is a sin, but homosexuality is not. We invite everyone, Muslim and non Muslim, gay and straight, to speak out, in support of Muslim Queers."

Altmuslim recently published two viewpoints on homosexuality in Islam and thoughts about equality in marriage. The first, which argues that homosexuality and marriage for homosexuals should be accepted in Islam, is from Pamela Taylor. The second, which argues that homosexuality is a sin in Islam, is from Gareth Bryant. Readers may also wish to reference the article "Islamic Texts: A Source for Acceptance of Queer Individuals into Mainstream Muslim Society" by Imam Muhsin Hendricks who is the Director of the Inner Circle, a queer Muslim organisation based in Cape Town, South Africa. 

What do you think? What evidence do you use to support your position? 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Surah Al-Rad - Quran Chapter 13 - recited by Mishary Rashid Al-fasi


Organ Donation Confusion

On Tuesday, University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine honored those people who donated their bodies to medical science

I am not an Islamic scholar but, what I have gleaned from the material I have read, Islamic jurists have diverse views on donating one's entire body and specific organs, ranging from total denial of its permissibly to absolute approval due to the fact that organ donation helps preserve human life. The Quran says, ""Whosoever saves the life of one person it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind." (5:32) I wrote one scholar about donating one's body and he responded by writing that "Jurists permit it on the following conditions: 1- The body is respectfully used for science etc. 2- The Person leaves a written consent to use his/her body. 3- The family permits it." See also this ruling. And this ruling. Here is quite a comprehensive ruling on the subject. I have read that in Iran and most of Shia scholars, the leading scholars have issued rulings that explicitly allow cadaver and organ donation. 

It is rather confusing when reading these various rulings on organ and body donation as they don't seem to be consistent. I am not the only one who is confused. On August 18, 2010, the Vancouver Sun reported that, "Of all religious groups, Muslims are the most resistant to organ donation — largely because they’re confused about whether it’s permitted within their faith, a British medical expert told delegates to an international transplantation conference in Vancouver." But, as a final word on this, I quote Y.I.M. El-Shahat, who in the the journal Transplantation Proceedings, Vol. 31, 3271–3274 (1999), wrote that there is a, "rapid acceptance in the Muslim world of organ transplantation as a new modality of treatment that saves many lives. Islamic teachings and Fatwas permit all types of organ transplantation if the required conditions are fulfilled. As-Sadlan, one of the most conservative Saudi Islamic scholars, has stated, “The Shariaa (the legal system of Islam) is eternal and appropriate for all ages. It was established to benefit people, so how could it have ever forbidden organ transplantation?”

Regarding blood donation, however, Islamic scholars generally see this as an extremely meritorious and rewarding act of charity in Islam and highly recommend it if one can.

LISTEN: The ban on turban-wearing soccer players in Quebec

In every other province in Canada, kids being raised in the Sikh religion can wear turbans on the soccer pitch while playing with their provincial associations. In Quebec, they cannot. At a time when the province embroiled in parallel debates on secularism and religious accommodation, Quebec has plans to introduce a law to enshrine what are termed Quebec Values. Today, CBC Radio's Anna Maria Tremonti asks what this says about Quebec's own identity.

Also, High court Judge Kevin Feeney in Ireland dismissed the appeal by Ravinder Singh Oberoi to be allowed to wear the turban while on duty for the Garda Reserve, a volunteer group formed to assist the police force of Ireland. Garda Reserve comprises around 1,000 volunteers.

In addition, a 107 year old Catholic school in Jammu and Kashmir recently banned the turban and excluded some 40 Sikh students from classes for wearing the turban.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Kite of Life: From intergenerational conflict to intergenerational alliance

This short video gives an overview of the 'Kite of Life' approach to working with intergenerational conflict, especially in migrant and refugee communities. Here's a great video about the project: 

To read more about the Kite of Life methodology, see the recent publication Kite of Life: From intergenerational conflict to intergenerational alliance This publication also details nine key principles which can help in building intergenerational alliances.

For information about training in the Kite of Life, click here.

Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?

The Quran, chapter 13 verses 15-17, reads:

وَلِلَّهِ يَسْجُدُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ طَوْعًا وَكَرْهًا وَظِلَالُهُم بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ

قُلْ مَن رَّبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ قُلِ اللَّهُ ۚ قُلْ أَفَاتَّخَذْتُم مِّن دُونِهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ لِأَنفُسِهِمْ نَفْعًا وَلَا ضَرًّا ۚ قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الْأَعْمَىٰ وَالْبَصِيرُ أَمْ هَلْ تَسْتَوِي الظُّلُمَاتُ وَالنُّورُ ۗ أَمْ جَعَلُوا لِلَّهِ شُرَكَاءَ خَلَقُوا كَخَلْقِهِ فَتَشَابَهَ الْخَلْقُ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ قُلِ اللَّهُ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ

أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَّابِيًا ۚ وَمِمَّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِي النَّارِ ابْتِغَاءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَاعٍ زَبَدٌ مِّثْلُهُ ۚ كَذَ‌ٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ ۚ فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ كَذَ‌ٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ

Everything and everyone in the heavens and on earth
submits to God, willingly or unwillingly;
even their shadows in morning and afternoon.

Therefore, [O Muhammad], ask
‘Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?’
Reply, [if they do not], ‘God is,’ then ask,
‘Why then, do you acknowledge and worship
other helpers and protectors besides Him,
although they have no power to do benefit
or to harm themselves?’

Then, [to get their attention,] ask
‘Do you think a blind person
is the same as one who can see?
Or that darkness is the same as light?
Or that some invented partners of God
made similar creations to that of God’s
and both look similar?’
Say, ‘God, alone, created everything that exists.
He is the One, the Most Supreme.’

He sends down water from the skies, and the channels flow, each according to its measure: But the torrent bears away to foam that mounts up to the surface. Even so, from that (ore) which they heat in the fire, to make ornaments or utensils therewith, there is a scum likewise. Thus doth Allah (by parables) show forth Truth and Vanity. For the scum disappears like forth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth. Thus doth Allah set forth parables.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Doug Saunders in Globe and Mail: Turkey is not having another Arab Spring, but something more democratic

The Globe and Mail

Monday, Jun. 03 2013, 

This weekend, Istanbul’s central Taksim Square came to resemble Cairo’s Tahrir Square at the peak of the Egyptian uprising: tear gas, fires, crowds denouncing the country’s leader, running battles between police and protesters,

But this shouldn’t be mistaken for a “Turkish spring.” Turkey, in the midst of an economic boom and already robustly democratic, does not take lessons from the Arab countries to its south.

Rather than the Arab Spring creeping northward to Istanbul, this weekend’s violence is best understood as a European protest – with its disaffected youth, its anger at tired old elected governments, its hunger for freedoms – transported eastward to Istanbul. Or as something distinctly Turkish.

It started quietly on Wednesday, as a few hundred protesters defending one of the city’s few clusters of trees against bulldozers. City authorities planned to turn the park into what many believed would be a shopping mall (other officials said it would be a museum). And then the police responded brutally, as Turkish police so often do, hosing down the protesters with pepper spray and beating many of them into hospitalization. The whole world saw a photo of police pepper-spraying a yound, un-headscarved woman in a red dress.

When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appearted on TV on Saturday, he outraged many moderate Turks with his dismissive tone. He defended the police violence and repeatedly denounced the protesters as “anti-democratic.” He taunted the protesters as political lightweights: “Don’t compete with us,” he said, declaring that if the protesters brought 100,000 people to the square, his party would bring a million of its conservative supporters.

For many secular moderates who were becoming frustrated with the petty humiliations meted out by Mr. Erdogan’s Peace and Justice Party (AKP) government – including last week’s ban on alcohol sales between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am, this was the last straw.

As Tulin Daloglu wrote in the Middle East newsletter Al-Monitor, “[t]his protest likely spread to other cities because of police brutality and the AKP government’s bad management. Period… Something as innocent as people demanding to preserve their park is becoming all out civil disobedience against the AKP rule. Thousands across the country are pouring onto the streets.”

The Turkish media, oddly silent on the protests to this point, suddenly united in denunciation of Mr. Erdogan’s hostile message. Even the Islamist dailies, which support his religious and socially conservative AKP, spoke out against him: “How can the political authority allow things to get to this point?,” asked the normally staunchly pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak. “Why is it being stubborn? Why does it act so brutally and react so violently?”

At this point, the protests escalated into a wider anti-Erdogan action. This seemed to take many observers by surprise: After all, Mr. Erdogan has won three successive electoral victories, most recently with more than 50 per cent of the vote, and is popular enough that even some of his opponents have called him a successor to Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey.

But his behaviour has become increasingly alienating to those who aren’t part of his religious-conservative circle of support: secularists unhappy with the alcohol ban, members of the Alevi minority angry that the third bridge over the Bosporous will be named after a Sultan who murdered their people en masse, and Kurds and their supporters unhappy with the pace and nature of peace talks with rebels.

“The apprehension has little to do with the economy,” wrote Yavuz Baydar, a columnist with Today’s Zaman. “The negative energy emanating from Syria has a partial impact. The jitters in public sentiment stem essentially from increasingly pronounced links between politics and religion, interventions in lifestyles and the demands of various social groups going unheeded.”

This is not, despite the words of some protesters, a democratic revolution. But it is very much about democracy – about the fine grain of democracy, the gestures that shape a government between elections. As the Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol and the Arab scholar H.A. Hellyer wrote on Monday in a joint article for the Toronto-based Mideast site Tahrir Squared:

“The Arab uprisings were – and are – revolts against dictatorships that responded to protests with iron fists leading to hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of deaths. Entire generations of Egyptians in Tahrir Square in 2011 had never known free and fair elections… While very different and much further along its democratic experiment as compared to Egypt, participatory democracy is sorely lacking in Turkey as well. Erdogan certainly enjoys electoral legitimacy – that cannot be doubted – but a disturbing pattern is emerging from his rule. He is becoming intolerant towards criticism, particularly from the media, and he has been increasingly rejectionist of any participation from other camps for major political decisions.”

Mr. Erdogan is likely correct that he could create his own rallies of hijab-wearing, non-drinking AKP supporters that would be even larger in number. But that misses the point: In doing so, he is polarizing a Turkish society that he began his prime ministership, a dozen years ago, trying to unite.

“Erdogan seems genuinely to believe that mass protests have no place in a country administered by a strong, stable, and economically successful government,” writes Sinan Ulgen, the head of Istanbul think tank EDAM. “He emphasizes the ballot box as the venue for social and political stakeholders to show their disaffection with the government… But with its maturing and increasingly pluralistic civil society, Turkey has moved beyond thismore limited definition of democratic freedoms. The Turkish political leadership, including the parliamentary opposition, have to readjust their outlook. Otherwise with the newly found sense of empowerment of its citizenry, public turbulence in Turkey will become much more common.”

See also: Q&A: A look at the protests sweeping Turkey

Excerpt from Man's Search for Himself by Rollo May (existential psychologist; 1909-1994)


"It may sound surprising when I say, on the basis of my own clinical practice as well as that of my psychological and psychiatric colleagues, that the chief problem of people in the middle decade of the twentieth century is EMPTINESS. By that I mean not only that many people do not know what they want; they often do not have any clear idea of what they feel." (p. 3-4)

"The experience of emptiness generally comes from people's feeling that they are POWERLESS to do anything effective about their lives or the world they live in." (p. 11)

"The human being cannot live in a condition of emptiness for very long: if he is not growing TOWARD something, he does not merely stagnate; the pent-up potentialities turn into morbidity and despair, and eventually into destructive activities." (p. 11) 

"The feelings of emptiness and loneliness go together." (p. 13)

"Other readers may be raising another question: "It may be true that people who come for psychological help feel empty and hollow, but aren't those neurotic problems, and not necessarily true for the majority of people?" To be sure, we would answer, the persons who get to the consulting rooms of psychotherapists and psychoanalysts are not a cross-section of the population. By and large they are the ones for whom the conventional pretenses and defenses of the society no longer work. Very often they are the more sensitive and gifted members of the society; they need to get help, broadly speaking, because they are less successful at rationalizing than the "well-adjusted" citizen who is able for the time being to cover up his underlying conflicts." (p. 6)

What's Going On

What's Going On is the eleventh studio album by soul musician Marvin Gaye, released May 21, 1971, on the Motown-subsidiary label Tamla Records. The album received high critical acclaim. Click here to listen to the full LP. Here is the album's cover song:

What's Going On Lyrics

by Marvin Gaye. 

Mother, mother

There's too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother
There's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today - Ya

Father, father
We don't need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what's going on
What's going on
Ya, what's going on
Ah, what's going on

In the mean time
Right on, baby
Right on
Right on

Father, father, everybody thinks we're wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply because our hair is long
Oh, you know we've got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
What's going on
Ya, what's going on
Tell me what's going on
I'll tell you what's going on - Uh
Right on baby
Right on baby

Canada: A People's History

A few years back CBC produced an excellent 17 part  32 hour panorama of Canada's history. The series first aired on CBC Television from October 2000 to November 2001. It should be required viewing by every student of Canadian history as well as newcomers to this country. In this documentary, you will become aware of some of the struggles and the heartbreaks which gave shape to Canada's history.  I watched it a few years back, and it is now on youtube: 

African American History

Prof Jonathan Holloway
I am currently following a free video course on "African American History: From Emancipation to the Present" by Jonathan Holloway of Yale University. The course, recorded in spring 2010, examines the African American experience in the United States from 1863 to the present. Prominent themes include the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction; African Americans’ urbanization experiences; the development of the modern civil rights movement and its aftermath; and the thought and leadership of Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X.

The course syllabus, which includes a detailed reading list, can be found here:

And the lectures, 25 in total, can be found here:

Islam and human rights: Beyond the zero-sum game

Today posted an article by Emory University Law Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im titled "Islam and human rights: Beyond the zero-sum game." He writes: 

In view of the history and current realities of Islamic societies around the world, we should expect to see - and in fact do see - a significant range of views about human rights, rather than any kind of uniformity that might follow from preconceived notions of Islam and Muslims.

Profound political and theological differences have divided Muslims from the beginning in the Arabia of the seventh century, leading to civil wars over issues of political power within a few decades of the Prophet's death. What came to be known as Shari'a gradually evolved during the first three centuries of Islam through human interpretations of the Qur'an and Sunna of the Prophet. That process was characterized by diversity of opinion among various schools of Islamic jurisprudence (madhahib) of the Sunni and Shi'a traditions, each according to its own methodology of usul al-fiqh (the science of sources or foundations of Islamic jurisprudence).