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SYRIA

Issue: 46

January 2012

IN TURMOIL Syria ends 2011 with clashes, exactly a year on from the first Arab uprising. As US takes steps to Intervene Over 32 people have been reported killed during fresh protests against the Syrian government, as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators flooded streets across the country. Activists say they wanted to make it clear to visiting Arab League observers how desperate their situation is. The UK-based Syrian Human

Rights Observatory said more than half a million people turned out for the largest demonstrations in months. Members of the Obama Administration have confirmed that the National Security Council has been instructed to begin seeking options for US intervention in Syria, including what they call the “unlikely� option of setting up a no-fly zone.

2011 has seen tyrant leaders toppled by people power across the Arab world, as TV pictures beamed of revolution taking place, going through one country on to another it is still very much unfinished business for the people who look for change. 2012 could see more countries follow in similar fashion. passionislam.com

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I LOCAL & NATIONAL NEWS

Passion Islam

I January 2012

t h e P a s s i o n Senior Editor at the New Statesman Obama’s abysmal record on civil liberties

By Mehdi Hasan

Here we are. More than 10 years after the 9/11 attacks, more than six months since the killing of Osama bin Laden and less than a year away from the next presidential election, Barack Obama is about to sign into law the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA). It authorises the indefinite detention in military custody of US citizens who are suspected of having “substantially supported” al-Qaida, the Taliban or “associated forces” – and makes such detention mandatory for foreign nationals who are accused of having links to al-Qaida. In fact, say civil liberties lawyers and human rights groups, this pernicious and Orwellian piece of legislation doesn’t only enshrine in US law (in sections 1021 and 1022) indefinite military imprisonment without trial for terror suspects, but also makes it much easier for the government to transfer – or “render” – US citizens to foreign regimes for interrogation or incarceration, (also section 1021) and much more difficult to close the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay(sections 1023, 1026, 1027, and 1028). Obama and the Democrats have a great deal to answer for. This brazen militarisation of US civilian justice and law enforcement cannot just be laid at the door of dastardly Republicans in Congress. In the Senate, the bill was co-sponsored by a Democratic senator, Carl Levin; in the House of Representatives, it sailed through with the support of 93 Democrats, including the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi (despite being opposed by, among others, the directors of the FBI and the CIA, the attorney general and the defence secretary). The president has the power to veto the bill and, initially, his aides had suggested he would do so. However, citing vague “changes”

to the language of the bill, Obama – the most veto-shy president since James Garfield in the 1880s – made a U-turn this month and withdrew his veto threat in what a New York Times editorial called “a complete political cave-in, one that reinforces the impression of a fumbling presidency”. But this isn’t about the president’s political incompetence or abject weakness. It is, above all, yet another example of Obama’s refusal to stand up for civil liberties and the rule of law. Over the past three years, the former constitutional law professor has failed to close Guantánamo Bay, expanded the detention facility at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, defended the use of warrantless surveillance and military tribunals, and – shockingly – asserted the right to assassinate, via drone strike and without due process, US citizens he deems to be terrorists. As the leading US legal scholar Jonathan Turley has argued, “the election of Barack Obama may stand as one of the single most

devastating events in our history for civil liberties”. It is hard not to like or admire Obama as a person: the president is intelligent, reasonable, eloquent and witty. But presidents should be judged on their policies, not personalities; their records, not their rhetoric. Obama, however, has been handed a pass on indefinite military detention by the same liberals, progressives and Democrats who were so outraged and disgusted by the Bush administration’s much milder Patriot Act. Liberals have to ask themselves: do civil liberties and human rights only matter when a Republican is sitting in the Oval Office? A few weeks ago, at a private dinner, I was assailed by a senior state department official for echoing Turley’s critique of the president and for daring to compare Obama to his Republican predecessor. In fact, I now regret saying Obama was similar to Bush. When it comes to civil liberties, once he signs the NDAA into law, he will be worse.

Write to: Editor, Passion Islam, PO Box 159, Batley, West Yorkshire, WF17 1AD or email: info@passionislam.com - www.passionislam.com This Magazine contains Ayaat of the Qur’an and Hadith of the Prophet (SAW), please ensure you handle it with respect & care - Sukran -

Views expressed in the Passion column are of the contributers and not Necessarily of Passion Islam


Passion Islam

I January 2012

NEWS

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Letter tells of Israel lobby bids in UK

Leaked documents have revealed the clout of Israel’s hasbara stooge organizations within the British government as they have launched a scathing attack on anti-Zionist British Jews. Israel’s hasbara stooge organizations in the UK, which aim at justifying the criminal acts of the Tel Aviv regime, sent a letter to Britain’s Home Office, in which they severely criticized anti-Zionist Jews in Britain, and described them as “extreme groups.” Asa Winstanley, the investigative journalist who writes about Palestine, revealed the secret document showing how the Community Security Trust (CST) attacked anti-

Zionist British Jews in a letter to the Home Office that tries to transfer Palestinian civil rights leader Sheikh Raed Salah into the hands of Israeli regime’s secret police, the Shabak. The CST, an influential charity organization which claims to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community in the UK, has lost credibility in the eyes of many British Jews as it has described several “anti-Zionist British Jewish individuals and groups” as “unrepresentative of the vast majority of British jews.” The CST specifically targeted Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, secretary of Jews for Boycotting Israeli

Goods, and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK, as they expressed their condemnation of Salah’s arrest. Furthermore, the Board of Deputies of British Jews clearly stated that “We defend Israel’s right to exist in security, we celebrate its achievements and we work to make it an even better place” while it proclaimed to “represent the views of as wide a section of the community as possible.” The pro-Israel organizations’ attack on anti-Zionist British Jews comes as it is revealed that the Home Office arrested Salah based on fabricated evidence secretly provided by the CST and the Board of Deputies attributing anti-Semitism to Salah. The CST and the Board of Deputies claim to support all British Jews. Nevertheless, they just seem to be Israel’s stooge organizations exerting excessive influence over decisions made within the British establishment, as they try to justify the Israeli regime’s criminal acts.


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LOCAL & NATIONAL NEWS

Passion Islam

I January 2012

2nd Annual World Islamic Finance Conference in London 2012

Fleming Gulf plans to organize its much awaited 2nd Annual World Islamic Finance Conference to be held on 28 - 29 March 2012 in London. As world markets suffer under the weight of on-going global financial crisis, the principles of Islamic finance may represent a possible cure for ailing markets. Islamic Finance is an ‘Asset-based’ banking with profit sharing and equity participation principles. It is now vying, more than ever, with

the conventional banking system and trying to reform the future development of global finance. Current research estimates indicate that it will reach $1.85 trillion by 2013 and will continue to rise to an anticipated figure of around $2.8 trillion by 2015. Fleming Gulf conferences paves the way to its much awaited 2nd Annual World Islamic Finance Conference to be held on 28 - 29 March 2012 in London. By bringing

together bankers, consultants, regulators, scholars and solution providers to a common podium, this conference aims to look into Islamic trade and project finance with a sense of corporate responsibility keeping in view the current economic crisis. The advisory panel for 2nd Annual World Islamic Finance Conference 2012 has been diligently outlined to constitute industry stalwarts like Dr. Mohamad Akram Laldin who has been described in the Islamic Business & Finance magazine as - “The leading lights of the industry, a progressive advocate of the globalization of Islamic finance.” and many others. The conference will be endorsed by UK Islamic Finance Secretariat (UKIFS), UKIFS brings together government and industry to jointly promote UK as a global gateway for Islamic finance. With almost all of the big western banks entering this sector with strong expansion plans, this platform will see world renowned industry experts and business leaders who will share their expertise and knowledge on world Islamic Finance.

European Court questions hearsay evidence The European Court of Human Rights found that the use of hearsay evidence does not automatically prevent a fair trial. The Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Al-Khawaja and Tahery v UK held that while there had been a violation of article 6 – the right to a fair trial – in respect to Tahery, there had been no violation in Al Khawaja. The judgment in part overturns an earlier judgment by one of the Court’s chambers and follows the Supreme Court’s consideration of the same issue in the case of R v Horncastle. The two cases concerned convictions that had been based on statements from witnesses that could not be cross examined in court. The case of Tahery involved a stabbing during a gang fight. Those at the scene could not identify who the attacker was and neither could the victim.

Two days later, a witness made a statement to the police that Mr Tahery was the perpetrator. The witness, a fellow Iranian, feared reprisal from his community and would not give evidence in court – although there was no suggestion that the fear stemmed from Mr Tahery. He was convicted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Without the uncorroborated and unchallenged eye witness statement chances of conviction would have been slim. Mr Al-Khawaja was a consultant physician who was charged with two counts of indecent assault on two female patients who were under hypnosis. Before the trial but after making a statement to the police, one of the victims committed suicide. The statement was read out to

the jury although in his summing up the judge reiterated to the jury that they had not seen this evidence cross-examined. Mr Al-Khawaja was convicted by a unanimous verdict on both counts of indecent assault and sentenced to a 27-months imprisonment. James Welch, legal director for Liberty, said: “Strasbourg’s change of heart shows the importance of its dialogue with our Supreme Court. This is only possible because the Human Rights Act requires both courts to apply the same principles. Without the Human Rights Act we’d have been left with the earlier inflexible judgment. This common sense decision balances our common interest in convicting the guilty with a defendant’s right to question his accusers. It is in the best tradition of the fair trial values that Britain exported to the world.”


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Passion Islam

I January 2012

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New law to protect victims of forced marriage introduced in Scotland

Steps towards eradicating the practice of forced marriage in Scotland were made last month as the Forced Marriage (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011 came into force. The new legislation which gives Scottish courts the power to issue Forced Marriage Protection Orders, offers increased protection for both men and women who are affected by forced marriage. Courts can tailor the terms of the Protection Order according to the specific needs of the victim, for example, to ensure people are taken to a place of safety or help those in danger of being taken abroad for marriage. Urgent interim Orders can also be made in situations where someone is seen to be in immediate danger of being forced to marry. For the first time in the UK, the breach of a Protection Order will be a criminal offence which can lead to a two year prison sentence, a fine, or both. Existing powers to annul a forced marriage have also been clarified to make the process easier. Although marriage is a largely personal affair, being forced into one is a breach of human rights and can often involve abuse, violence and emotional manipulation. All major

religions condemn forced marriage and it is important to distinguish that forcing someone to marry is completely different from an arranged marriage where the choice of whether or not to marry remains with both parties. Figures released by the UK Forced Marriage Unit last year, revealed that they experienced 1735 instances of providing advice for people in a forced marriage or under the threat of one and it’s estimated the figure for Scotland is just under 3 per cent of that number. Evidence from support agencies in Scotland claim that this number is just the tip of the iceberg as most incidents go unreported. A spokesperson from Edinburghbased Muslim Women’s Group, Beyond the Veil, said: “Beyond the Veil welcomes the new legislation on forced marriages in Scotland and sees it as being informed by the values of the Muslim faith which over 1400 years ago also sought to emancipate vulnerable individuals caught in forced marriages scenarios. In light of this we will be fully supporting the new legislation as we see both the Scottish and Sharia legal traditions working together to eliminate a cultural practise that is claimed to be done in the name of religion. This legislation helps acknowledge that the problem exists and paves the way to bring to justice those guilty of forcing others into wedlock.” There are also a number of support organisations and charities that provide practical guidance and support for both male and female victims of forced marriage in Scotland. Support workers from organisations such as Shakti Women’s Aid or Hemat Gryffe Women’s Aid, with the permission of the court or local authorities acting as a relevant third party, can represent victims of forced marriage and apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order on their behalf if they are at

risk themselves. For more info on Forced Marriage legislation visit www.scotland.gov. uk/Topics/People/Equality/violencewomen/forcedmarriage

EDL member jailed for setting fire to mosque A member of English Defense League (EDL) and his friend have been jailed for 10 years after being revealed that they intentionally set fire to a mosque last year in Stokeon-Trent, Staffordshire. Simon Beech, EDL soldier and also a member of British National party, and his accomplice Garreth Foster set fire on the ground floor of the Regent Road mosque and ran a gas pipe from a nearby building into the mosque in order to blow it up. However, Beech, 23, and Foster, 29, rejected the plan to explode the mosque that suffered £50,000 damage following the fire. Meanwhile Staffordshire’s Chief Superintendent Bernie O’Rielly said that the two men undoubtedly wanted to explode the mosque. “Without doubt that would have caused hate in the community, division in the community and broken down all the cohesion and good work we do,” he said. “The community around this area have been an absolute credit. They’ve acted with such restraint and so dignified in the face of such provocation.” A mosque committee member said that it was thoroughly “difficult” to talk about the attack made by the racists. “It is a community project. They have put their soul into it. They have put their earnings into it and they [Beech and Foster] tried to destroy it. We are happy that it’s still standing,” he added.

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Israel launches fresh ad campaign in UK Passion Islam

I January 2012

The Israeli regime has launched a systematic attempt to redraw the map of the occupied Palestinian territories by advertising tourism maps in the UK newspapers. An Israeli tourism map appearing in the London-based newspaper The Guardian last weekend rendered occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories as part of “Israel”. The three-page advertising spread from the Israeli tourism ministry in the Guardian Weekend is part of what increasingly looks like

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a major new advertising campaign in the UK. On the map, the occupied West Bank is labeled “Judea” and “Samaria” (names from religious texts used by Israeli colonists). The West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights, are delineated only by a faint dotted line. Under international law, all three are occupied territories, which were invaded and occupied by the Israeli regime in 1967. Later in 2005, the occupying regime was forced to evacuate the Gaza Strip under international pressure. The Guardian issued a correction stating the ad “did not distinguish clearly between Israel” and the occupied Arab territories. In its letter of apology, the newspaper said: “they usually

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carefully check any potentially controversial adverts prior to publication, however in this instance we had a systems breakdown and did not do so”. The ad is part of what seems to be a major recent campaign in the UK. Large billboards have appeared in public spaces encouraging people to “Think Israel”. The website to this campaign contains an even more offensive and racist map. The West Bank appears even more solidly absorbed into “Israel proper” (without even a dotted line), with mysteriously empty pink and yellow blobs appearing where Palestinians live in built-up areas. There is no clue that the Golan is anything more than a part of “northern Israel”. The website’s home page also offers links to “Christian themes” and “Jewish themes” but no “Muslim themes”, wiping the Islamic heritage of Palestine off the map.

UK Government demands return of Bagram prisoner Yunus Rahmatullah from US custody

The British Government has demanded the return of a prisoner originally detained by UK forces from the US-run Bagram prison in Afghanistan, where he has been held without charge or trial for nearly eight years. Yunus Rahmatallah was picked up by UK forces in Iraq in 2004, handed to the US and rendered to Afghanistan. Under a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ - designed to protect the British Government from complicity in war crimes - the UK retained the power to demand Mr Rahmatullah’s return to British custody at any time. In response to a order from the Court of Appeal that Mr Rahmatullah should effectively be either charged or released, the UK Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence have now written to the US Department of

Defense, to “request that the United States transfers Mr Rahmatullah to UK custody in order for him to be released.” Should the US fail to comply with the request, Britain risks being put in breach of the Geneva Conventions, and British officials could face prosecution for war crimes. Such a failure would also raise serious questions over how far Britain could trust the US in a range of other international agreements governing the transfer of prisoners – including the controversial extradition treaty between the two countries. Judges gave the British Government until 18 January 2012 to secure Mr Rahmatullah’s release from US custody. Reprieve’s Legal Director, Cori Crider said: “The only question left is: does the US keep the bargains

it makes with its closest ally? The Obama administration has said it wishes to restore US standing abroad and to bring the US back into line with the Geneva Conventions – well, there is no time like the present. Were the US not to hand over Mr Rahmatullah, they would expose British officials to war crimes charges. It is inconceivable that the US would behave this way. We look forward to seeing Yunus handed to British custody in January.”


Passion Islam

I January 2012

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UK troops stationed in Bahrain at start of uprising In Case You Missed It

More than 100 British troops were stationed in Bahrain at the start of renewed pro-democracy protests, the UK government has confirmed. “There were 130 military personnel stationed in Bahrain in March 2011, the majority in the UK Maritime Component Command,” Defence Minister Lord Astor said in a written parliamentary reply. “These numbers did not vary significantly between February and March 2011. The precise number of personnel fluctuates on a daily basis for a variety of reasons including mid-tour rest and recuperation, temporary absence for duty elsewhere or training, evacuation for medical reasons, the roulement of forces, visits and a range of other factors,” Astor said. Earlier the UK government admitted that members of the Saudi Arabian National Guard sent into

Bahrain may have received military training from the British Armed Forces. ‘It is possible that some members of the Saudi Arabian National Guard which were deployed in Bahrain may have undertaken some training provided by the British military mission,” Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said. Despite criticising human rights abuses in Bahrain, subsequent documents released under the

Freedom of Information Act have shown that Britain run regular course in Saudi Arabia, including public order enforcement measures and the use of sniper rifles. Concern about the UK supplying weaponry to Arab countries facing internal protests led the UK to hastily revoke scores of arms licences for Arab states, including 39 issued for Bahrain, although none are known to have been cancelled yet for Saudi Arabia


Pakistani Taliban confirm peace talks with Islamabad

Passion Islam

I January 2012

The deputy commander of the Pakistan Taliban, who have been waging a four-year war against the government in Islamabad, confirmed the two sides were in peace talks, a move that could further fray the U.S.Pakistan relationship. “Our talks are going in the right direction,” Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, the commander of the Pakistani Taliban in the Bajaur tribal agency and the No. 2 commander overall, told Reuters. “If negotiations succeed and we are able to sign a peace agreement in Bajaur, then the government and the Taliban of other areas such as Swat, Mohmand, Orakzai and South Waziristan tribal region will sign an

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agreement. Bajaur will be a role model for other areas.” At the end of September, Pakistan’s government pledged to “give peace a chance” and talk with its homegrown militants. There was no immediate comment from the administration on whether talks were actually taking place with the militants. Mohammad said Pakistan had released 145 members of the group as a gesture of goodwill, and the militants had pledged a cease-fire. He heads the TTP faction based in Bajaur, at the northeast end of the Pashtun belt along the border. He is known to be close to al-Qaeda. His men focused on attacking into

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Afghanistan until U.S. drones, hunting for al-Qaeda deputy Ayman al Zawahiri, began strikes in his area in early 2006. Mohammad was believed to have been behind several attacks on Pakistani security forces. The army launched an offensive in Bajaur in August last year and largely cleared the region after months of at times heavy fighting. In late November, the Taliban denied it had declared a ceasefire or entered into peace talks with the government, as it claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a police station in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan. Pakistan’s army and interior minister also denied reports of any negotiations. The United States, the source of billions of dollars of aid vital for Pakistan’s military and feeble economy, is unlikely to look kindly on peace talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which it has labeled a terrorist group. Past peace pacts with the TTP have failed to bring stability, and merely gave the umbrella group time and space to consolidate, launch fresh attacks and impose their austere version of Islam on segments of the population.

US poised to announce $29.4bn fighter jet deal to Saudi

The Obama administration is poised to announce the $29.4bn sale of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia as part of a previously reported package for as much as $60bn, it has been reported. The deal includes 84 new fighter jets and upgrades for 70 more

US officials told newswire AP on condition of anonymity. The US last year announced it would seek approval from Congress for a $60bn weapons sale to the Gulf state, the largest single US arms deal ever. The deal, which includes F-15s and helicopters as well as an array of missiles, bombs and delivery systems, had raised concerns particularly from pro-Israeli lawmakers. Gulf states are ramping up their investment in military equipment amid fears of a threat from Iran. The GCC is expected to spend as much as $100bn over the next few years buying military equipment.

The UAE in March was named the region’s largest arms importer and the sixth largest buyer of weapons worldwide by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Massachusetts-based Raytheon Company on Dec 9 received US Congressional and State Department approvals on a $1.7bn contract to upgrade Saudi Arabia’s Patriot air and missile defence system. The award, announced in June, includes ground-system hardware, a full training package, support equipment upgrades and an interoperability capability to support potential coalition operations. ab


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Passion Islam

I January 2012

Nobel Peace Prize winner blasts lack of support for Yemen uprising

The international community has not provided enough support for the uprising in Yemen, “Arab Spring” activist Tawakkul Karman commented after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. The activist who spent months camped out in Sana’a’s Change Square and helped push 33-yearruler Ali Abdullah Saleh to agree to step down early next year said the struggle for democracy in her country “did not get the international

understanding, support or attention of the other revolutions in the region. “This should haunt the world’s conscience,” said the 32-year-old mother of three in her speech after becoming the youngest person to ever win the Peace Prize and the first Arab woman to receive a Nobel in any category. An English translation of her speech given in Arabic called on the “democratic world, which has told us a lot about the virtues of democracy

and good governance,” to support people struggling for freedom. She hinted the West should not fear that the Arab Spring uprisings that have swept through the Middle East with demands for democracy will lead to instability and extremism, saying that “all of that is just hard labor during the birth of democracy which requires support and assistance, not fear and caution.” Her comments came as Yemen’s national unity government, led by the opposition, was sworn in to lead the country for a three-month transition period until Saleh formally steps down in February. Karman shared the 2011 honor with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Liberian “peace warrior” Leymah Gbowee for their “struggle for human rights in general and the struggle of women for equality and peace in particular,” in the words of Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland. They each received a gold medal, diploma and a third of the 10 million Swedish kronor in prize money.

Hezbollah and Syria reject French accusations over attack on U.N

Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah denied on any role in an attack which wounded five French U.N. peacekeepers, a day after France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe blamed Syria and Hezbollah for the bombing. In a statement, Hezbollah urged Juppe to “correct his position and pay heed to the seriousness of such accusations which represent a great injustice, and which we completely reject”. “We condemn such statements which do not befit the foreign minister of an important country such as France,” the group said. The French foreign minister said he believes Damascus had probably ordered the attack in the coastal city of Tyre and that its ally Hezbollah had assisted in carrying it out. “We have strong reasons to think that this attack came from there,”

Juppe said, adding that he had no proof to back his claim. The incident marked the third such attack this year against members of the United National Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Syria also denied any involvement in the attack and criticized Juppe for pointing a finger at Damascus. “Syria has no link whatsoever with this act which we condemn,” foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi said in a statement. The attack on the French peacekeepers came amid heightened tension over the growing nine-month revolt in Syria, with politicians and diplomats warning the unrest could spill into Lebanon, whose government is dominated by Hezbollah. In his statement, Makdisi said that

“remarks by Mr. Juppe and others are within the framework of premeditated French accusations made to mask the reality concerning Syria.” No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the third this year on UNIFIL soldiers. France, alongside Britain, Germany and the United States, has led a push for the U.N. Human Rights Council to take up the issue of Syria again.


Passion Islam

I January 2012

NATO announces end of training mission in Iraq

NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that a mission to train Iraqi security forces will end at the turn of the year. “The North Atlantic Council has decided to undertake the permanent withdrawal of the NATO Training Mission-Iraq personnel from Iraq by 31 December 2011,” Rasmussen said in a statement. The news provided confirmation after Iraq’s top security adviser Falah al-Fayadh told AFP of the decision in an interview aboard a flight transporting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Washington. “Agreement on the extension of this successful program did not prove possible despite robust negotiations conducted over several weeks,” Rasmussen said. On November 29, Iraqi government spokesman Ali alDabbagh said Iraq was studying a contract to extend NATO’s presence in Iraq beyond year-end, but noted that such a deal would not grant its troops immunity from prosecution. The failure to agree on immunity

from prosecution closely mirrors Iraq’s refusal to grant U.S. soldiers similar protections earlier this year, sinking a potential deal between the two countries that means all American soldiers left in Iraq will leave by year-end. Started in 2004, Rasmussen said, the NATO mission had trained more than 5,000 military personnel and more than 10,000 police personnel in Iraq. Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Iraq has built up forces more than 900,000 strong, including an army that US and Iraqi officials reckon is capable of dealing with internal threats, despite the violence. Around 6,000 U.S. troops remain stationed in the country on three bases, down from peaks of nearly 170,000 soldiers and 505 bases. Security leaders roundly acknowledge, though, that the country is incapable of defending its borders, airspace and territorial waters.

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One in ten Afghan children die before age 5, survey shows

One Afghan child in ten will die before their fifth birthday, the Ministry of Public Health said, as it launched its first report into mortality in a country that after years of conflict has some of the world’s worst rates of early death. The Afghanistan Mortality Survey found the highest childhood mortality rates occurred in children born into poorer families in rural areas. Around half of deaths of underfives were caused by respiratory infections or infectious and parasitic diseases, the survey found. Nearly a quarter of city dwellers and half of the rural population do not have access to clean drinking water. Recent data from UNICEF showed Afghanistan had the second highest mortality rate for under-fives in the world. Average life expectancy for all Afghans was 62, but nearly half of Afghanistan’s population is under the age of 15. Among men, one-fifth of deaths were caused by injury, which caused around half of male deaths between the ages of 15-59. These were equally split between accidental injuries and wounds caused by war and violence, acting Minister of Health Suraya Dalil told a news conference to present the survey. Infections were the leading cause of death among women, causing around one third of fatalities, it found. Maternal mortality rates, which three years ago the World Health Organization found were the world’s worst, have improved, the survey found. It gave a maternal mortality ratio of 327 per 100,000 births, against a 2008 WHO figure of 1,400 per 100,000. However, the producers of the survey of just over 22,000 households conceded that its results were biased towards urban and more secure areas, while deaths of women and children remain under-reported. Many areas in southern provinces, which have seen heavy fighting in recent years, could not be surveyed.


I WORLD NEWS

I January 2012

Bahrain urges five Islamic banks to merge next year

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Dutch Senate opposed to ban on ritual slaughter

Bahrain’s central bank has urged five Islamic banks to merge in 2012 as it seeks to strengthen the banks’ capital bases, a senior official said. Under the plan, Al Salam Bank would merge with Bahrain Islamic Bank, while CAPIVEST, Elaf Bank and Capital Management House would merge with each other. Bahrain Islamic Bank and Al Salam announced in August that they were in merger talks to form Bahrain’s largest Islamic lender with assets of BD1.7bn ($4.5bn). “We pushed for that because it is positive, it will strengthen their capital and balance sheets,” Ahmed Abdul Aziz al-Bassam, director of licensing and policy at the central bank, told Reuters, referring to both mergers. The mergers are awaiting approvals by shareholders, he said, adding: “We expect it to take place in the first quarter 2012.” Bassam was speaking on the sidelines of an Arab Monetary Fund meeting on banking supervision in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Standard & Poor’s is reviewing credit ratings on 50 banks in the Middle East and North Africa under a new set of criteria, a senior S&P executive told Reuters. Last month,

the agency classified Bahrain’s banks as the riskiest in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Bassam also said Bahrain’s central bank had granted in-principle approvals for two Geneva-based investment houses as well as a Hanover-based reinsurance company to set up offices in the country, which was hit by political unrest earlier this year. He declined to name the companies before a formal announcement. “This indicates European financial institutions are willing to be in the Middle East looking for business,” he said. “Those financial institutions think long-term. What happened in Bahrain was only for a couple of months, what they call the Arab Spring.” Bahrain will soon set up an internal committee to study the readiness of banks to implement the Basel III global banking standards, Bassam said, adding that banks were unlikely to face problems as they were adequately capitalised. Asked about the main risks that Bahrain’s banking system was facing, he said: “The liquidity risk and also the capital. For us, what is happening in Europe is not that much of a problem.”

Majority of senators in the upper house of the Dutch parliament (the Senate) are opposed to a ban on the ritual slaughter of animals, Dutch media reported. Senators of the Labour party have now changed their minds and oppose a ban. The ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Christian parties were already opposed to the ban . Last June, the lower house of the Dutch parliament voted in favour of a ban on ritual slaughter. Marianne Thieme, leader of an animal rights party, had introduced the ritual slaughter ban bill as animals are not stunned before they are killed. Jewish and Muslim groups had campaigned strongly against the ban, arguing that it would compromise freedom of religion and that there is no evidence animals suffer more than in ordinary abattoirs. Environment minister Henk Bleker has presented a draft text which would involve reaching a deal with Islamic and Kosher slaughter houses about how long an animal should remain alive after having its throat cut.

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I January 2012

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Saudi anti-terror law ‘may lead to abusive measures’

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Amnesty International described the state of freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia as dire, saying a proposed anti-terror law would make matters worse by reinforcing “draconian and abusive” measures. The measures, if adopted, could

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engender repression in the name of security, the rights group said in a report released. Amnesty said the draft law, a copy of which was leaked to the group, indicated peaceful acts of dissent could in future be prosecuted as a “terrorist crime”. Amnesty suggested the law would allow the kingdom to detain security suspects indefinitely and without trial. It criticised the kingdom’s “vague and broad” definitions of terrorism, ranging from “destabilising society” to “harming the reputation of the state”. “This opaqueness could be exploited to charge peaceful meetings of a group of people who make political demands or even engage in academic discussions

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with a ‘terrorist crime’ under this draft law,” it said. Calling on Saudi authorities to immediately release all prisoners of conscience, Amnesty denounced as “extremely weak” the kingdom’s institutional framework for protection of human rights. Amnesty said when cases were brought to trial, the proceedings were often held behind closed doors and failed to meet international standards of fairness and transparency. The rights watchdog also mentioned protests in the Eastern Province, but said it did not have enough details to conclude whether security forces had used excessive force in response to what appeared to be violent acts on the part of some.

EU anti-terror chief warns about left-wing extremism European governments need to be more vigilant about emerging security threats such as left-wing extremism or new incarnations of al Qaeda through better sharing of intelligence, the European Union’s counter-terrorism coordinator said. In a report prepared for a meeting of home affairs ministers of EU member states in Brussels, Gilles de Kerchove warned the bloc that the economic crisis in Europe and the Arab Spring gave rise to new threats. Left-wing violence was a particular concern at a time of fiscal austerity throughout Europe to counter mounting debt problems, he said. “We now need to be alive to the possibility that adverse economic conditions within Europe itself could... start to produce conditions conducive to the spread of violent left-wing or anarchist ideologies,” Kerchove said in the report, a copy of

which was obtained by Reuters. Security experts see Greece as a top target in Europe for such violence, given its history of anarchist militancy, and the threat of extremist action in Europe linked to the economic situation. A spate of immigrant murders and the discovery of a neo-Nazi group in Germany has already focused attention on right-wing extremism in Europe, as economic difficulties fuel protectionist attitudes and hostility to foreigners. Kerchove said EU governments need to be more aware of the diversity of security threats and should improve how they pool intelligence from government and police sources, as well as information from the private sector, to identify risks. “Recent events in Germany have again brought home the fact that the threat of terrorism does not come

from a single source,” he added. Addressing the Arab Spring, Kerchove said that although al Qaeda was now “a shadow” of the organization that launched the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, its branches have shown “great imagination” to exploit security gaps. He said the North African wing of the organization, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was openly seeking to build up its power base through an alliance with Boko Haram, a Nigerian Islamist sect. Algerian government officials flagged this alliance last month, citing intelligence reports. Boko Haram has killed dozens of people in Nigeria, an OPEC producer, and Western security experts say any link-up with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) could make it a more potent threat, especially to Nigeria’s energy sector.


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I January 2012

Pakistan to sustain NATO convoy ban BBC facing ban in Pakistan

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that Islamabad will continue its blocking of NATO convoys supplying goods to USled foreign forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Gilani also refused to rule out the closing of Pakistan’s airspace to all US flights. The US military and other NATO member countries with fighting forces in Afghanistan rely heavily

on the Pakistani supply route into the landlocked country, even more so now than previously with Taliban attacks on the rise. Pakistan decided to halt the supply convoys destined for USled foreign soldiers occupying Afghanistan in response to deadly US-led NATO airstrikes in November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two checkpoints on the Afghan border. passionislam.com

Pakistan’s prime minister pledged to “look into” the decision by the country’s cable operators to ban BBC World News service, the broadcaster said. The BBC said the decision was taken to block the BBC World News service in response to a two-part documentary the channel broadcast, entitled ‘Secret Pakistan’, which questioned Pakistan’s commitment to tackling Taliban militancy.

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Businessmen unveil plans for ‘Muslim Facebook’ in Turkey

A group of Muslim businessmen unveiled plans in Turkey for a Facebook-style social networking site with “healthy values” for a young, Islamic audience. A group of Muslim businessmen unveiled plans in Turkey for a Facebook-style social networking

site with “healthy values” for a young, Islamic audience. SalamWorld.com, which will make its internet debut next year, “will seek to unify the youth in a common vision and the healthy values of Islam while attempting to not diffuse any unhealthy information,” said Akhmed Azimov, the initiative’s vice-president. Based in Istanbul, with offices in Moscow and Cairo and coordinators in 30 countries, the site hopes to attract 50 million users within three years, Azimov told about 150 journalists from Muslim countries at the company’s luxurious Istanbul offices. “The heart of the project is to create a network without any content

that is prohibited by religion,” said Azimov, a Dagestan native. “To achieve this, we will have a big team of moderators and there will be filters. “We also count on users to moderate themselves and to filter the contents.” Azimov declined to discuss funding details but said “there’s no problem with that,” adding the investors were a group of businessmen from the Muslim world. Beyond user-generated content, the site will offer services such as theological consultations and city guides that list mosque locations and halal food stores. “We’re going to try to create an online encyclopedia, a sort of Islamic Wikipedia,” Azimov said.


Amnesty raps US arms sales to Egypt Passion Islam

I January 2012

Amnesty International has lashed out at the US government for selling arms to Egypt, despite the ruling Egyptian military’s using the weaponry against protesters. The human rights group called on the United States to stop dispatching shipments of tear gas and other munitions to Egypt, DPA reported. “US arms shipments to Egypt’s security forces must be stopped until there is certainty that tear gas and

WORLD NEWS

other munitions, weaponry or other equipment aren’t linked to bloodshed on Egyptian streets,” it said. Amnesty added that a US shipment of munitions to the Egyptian Interior Ministry, which arrived in the North African country on November 26, included at least seven tons of ‘ammunition smoke,’ namely chemical irritants and riot control agents. Shipping records also indicate

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that bullet cartridges and tear gas canisters were among the munitions sold to the Egyptian junta. According to the rights body, Washington had approved at least three shipments of US-made weapons to Egypt since January 2011. The licenses for the shipments were authorized during a period, when the Egyptian military rulers used excessive and often lethal force against protesters. Late in November, thousands of tear gas canisters were fired at Egyptian protesters in the downtown area in the capital Cairo as the country’s military launched a massive crackdown on demonstrators demanding that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) hand over power to a civilian government. Some 40 people were killed during the clashes. Egyptian military forces have repeatedly cracked down on protests since the ouster of former dictator Hosni Mubarak in a popular revolution in February.

Photo: Maggie Osama

University Hijab Ban Lifted in Kazakhstan Officials at a university in northwestern Kazakhstan have lifted a hijab ban for students after eight female students threatened to sue the school, Kazakh news service reports. The students complained they had been unable to attend classes at Saqtaghan Baishev University because they were prevented at the school’s entrance was preventing them from entering the university because of their head scarves, or hijabs. The students received help on the issue from the Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights when its lawyer, Aghyzbek Tolegenov, met with university Rector Khalel Khusainov. Tolegenov told Khusainov that the university’s internal regulations

contradicted the Kazakh Constitution and reminded him that “our society should fight extremism, but not Islam.” Tolegenov said that he and other human rights experts from the nongovernmental organization Coalition for Defending Human Rights and Freedoms started a campaign on “lifting the hijab ban” at the university. The university’s deputy head, Bayan Orynbaeva, said the main problem was the color of the students’ head scarves and dresses. “They were all black, which is not a traditional color for Kazakhs to wear,”. However, one of the eight female students who made the initial complaint, Shynar Mantaiqyzy, told

RFE/RL that none of them ever wore either black dresses or black head scarves. “Kazakhs traditionally say, ‘Do not cover up in black,’ something that we all follow. Our clothes and head scarves were always of different colors,” she said. Another student, Perizat Moldasheva, said, “What we wear is not a hijab, what we wear is called a head scarf -- a traditional part of a Kazakh woman’s dress.” The Kazakh Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to practice any religion freely and without any restrictions. Amendments to the law on religions do not say anything regarding the head scarf or other religious dress


Pakistan appeals shifting of Davis Cup tie

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Pakistan has appealed to the International Tennis Federation following its decision to shift the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania group two tie against Lebanon away from Lahore due to security reasons. Pakistan were due to play Lebanon in Lahore in February but the ITF announced the tie had been moved to Lebanon due to security conditions in Pakistan. “We are very disappointed at the ITF decision,” Mumtaz Yousuf, secretary of the Pakistan Tennis Federation, told Reuters. “We have filed an appeal with them to reconsider as there is still time for the event.” Yousuf said Lebanon was ready to play in Pakistan but the ITF had expressed its reservations over security concerns. “The

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Lebanon tennis federation had accepted our invitation to play in Pakistan provided we guaranteed foolproof security for their players and we were doing that,” Yousuf said. Since 2010 Pakistan has been forced to play its home Davis Cup ties against Hong Kong, Philippines, Oman and New Zealand abroad because of the security situation in the country. The ITF moved the ties after the visiting teams refused to travel to Pakistan. The PTF has also filed compensation claims with the ITF after losing the right to host three of their Davis Cup ties. “We are disappointed because we were making proper arrangements for the event and we had also kept

I January 2012

the ITF informed about our security plans,” Yousuf said. “The ITF should have come to Pakistan to review the security situation and arrangements themselves,” he added. Pakistan’s top tennis player, Aisam-ul-Haq, said it would be difficult for Pakistan to qualify for the main rounds of the Davis Cup if they always had to play away from home. “It is not easy going and playing our home ties abroad, it kills our advantage and home support,” he said.

Leeds Rugby Lends Support to Pakistan Relief

Leeds Rugby Foundation’s Connecting Communities Manager Ikram Butt joined a list of high profile guests from the worlds of business, politics and the entertainment industry at the Natural History Museum in London, for HRH The Prince of Wales’s Pakistan Recovery Fund Gala Dinner. Sitting alongside the likes of entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den star James Caan, Lord Ahmed, and BBC News presenters Aleema Ahmed and Mishal Hussain, Butt was there as recognition for his fundraising work through the sport to help the Pakistan flood victims. He commented, ‘I was truly honoured to be asked to get involved by John O’Brien, the special representative to HRH The Prince of Wales’, and Chairman of the Fund,. I jumped at the opportunity and was excited and thrilled to be part of such a great team for such a noble cause.’ ‘The floods in Pakistan devastated families and communities on a huge scale. The events not only raises money to support those affected, it

maintains people’s awareness that more needs to be done. This was demonstrated by the interest taken and the support given by the rugby fraternity and political figures from across section of parties coming together for this vital cause.’ The first event, part-organized by Knighton White, was between BARA (British Asian Rugby Association) of which Butt was a founder and the ‘Political Animals’. It raised over £5,500, including a donation of £500 from the Parliamentarians for whom Leeds Rugby Foundation Vice President Greg Mulholland, skipper of the Animals, played a key role. At the home of rugby union, Rugby Legends – including Henry Paul, Alan Bateman, Andy Key, Steve Borthwick and Richard Hill – faced the ‘Legislators’ a mixture of Lords and MPs. Four schools took part in a curtain raiser, two from the north – the Grammar School at Leeds and Parkinson Primary from Halifax who both represented the Foundation - and two from the south, with over

£15,000 being raised. Butt continued, “During the reception I was fortunate to meet the Prince again who thanked me for our continued support towards his charities. We shared a joke when I asked him if he would be willing to put on his boots for our next event.” Paul Rowson, Chairman of the Leeds Rugby Foundation, commented, “The Foundation was delighted to support such a worthy cause and we are pleased to play our part and contribute in raising much needed funds.” “I have known John O’Brien for many years and he has great leadership qualities. Ikram has done a wonderful job in playing a leading role on both events and raising over £20,000 in the current climate is really good going.” The Pakistan Recovery Fund is a charitable initiative convened at the behest of its patron, HRH The Prince of Wales. The Fund seeks to raise money for flood-affected victims in Pakistan. www.pakistanrecovery.org


Passion Islam

I January 2012

Karim Benzema named French player of the year

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema was named French player of the year by France Football magazine. The France striker won 155 points in a vote of former winners of the award, beating Barcelona fullback Eric Abidal (110) and Olympique Lyon keeper Hugo Lloris (69), who finished third for the third year in succession. Benzema, who scored the quickest goal (23 seconds) in a Real Madrid v Barcelona clasico in his team’s 3-1 defeat last Saturday, has

been in impressive form this year as he finally made his mark at the Bernabeu. “I had the chance to be with a very good coach, Jose Mourinho. He put me back on the right path,” the 23-year-old told France Football. Rudi Garcia was named French coach of the year for leading Lille to their first French title since 1954, with the club’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard being awarded the best foreign player prize. passionislam.com

Liverpool eye Mesut Ozil Liverpool will monitor Mesut Ozil’s situation at Real Madrid after Jose Mourinho gave the midfielder a stark ultimatum. The inconsistent German star has been told by his manager that he will be on his way unless there is a marked improvement. Damien Comolli will keep an eye on developments and if Real signal they are willing to sell, then the Reds’ director of football will propose a deal.

Liverpool’s hand will be stronger if they qualify for the Champions League, although failure would not rule them out of the running for the 23-yearold. Real paid Werder Bremen £12.4million for Ozil after he starred in the 2010 World Cup. Another impressive tournament in Poland and Ukraine could see his value raise further still – with Real seeking around £18m after Euro 2012

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US promoter projects Khan as Muslim ‘ambassador’ Britain’s Amir Khan could play an important role in combating antiMuslim prejudice, according to his US promoter. “He has the character and the background to unite the cultures very well,” said Golden Boy Promotions chief executive officer Richard Schaefer. “He has what it takes to be that ambassador, to unify countries and people.” Khan 25, visited the US capital in September as a special guest of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During that visit, the Englishman of Pakistani heritage took part in a dinner paying tribute to Muslim athletes to celebrate Eid Al Fitr. “It was a big thing to be invited by the secretary of state,” Khan said. Khan says the political urge has not hit him. “I’m a normal guy. I’m going to stay away from politics,” Khan said. “There is a lot of stuff happening in the Middle East and Pakistan, but I don’t want to get into it too much. I like helping people, doing charitable work, making things better.” Khan has given to charity, helping raise $125,000 for “Islam Help” in September to bring food, water and medicine to needy areas in drought-stricken East Africa.


I SPECIAL FEATURE

I January 2012

“Your SELLING Plan”

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to market? – The routes to market as listed in response to above question, should be explored objectively and in the best interest of increasing awareness of the product/ service to potentially maximise turnover and profit. 3. Who is my audience? – Identifying the audience for your product/service is crucial to ensure the ‘marketing’ activities undertaken (whether these be through social media marketing or more traditional marketing methods) are accurately delivered.

Over the last few months, we have addressed whether launching a business is right for you, what business entity type best suits your needs, and how to write a relevant and concise business plan. This month, our topic is your ‘Selling Plan’ often referred to as a Marketing Plan. The Selling Plan itself can be as complicated as you wish to make it, however the simpler the plan, the easier to implement. Simple, however, does not mean skipping or ignoring any crucial steps. It is worthwhile noting that a Selling Plan is not the same as a Business Plan. The Business Plan lays out the process of business whereas the Selling Plan includes the route to market for the product or service. I prefer using the term Selling Plan as it says exactly what it is meant to do. In short, it allows you to carve the path to be taken to get your product/service to your target customer. A robust Selling Plan is a must from the very beginning. A clear plan will help you remain focused and allow for quick decisions to be made, should the plan need to be tweaked according to your business needs and the volatile economy we live in today. As such it is important to conduct a SWOT and PEST analysis to help you identify not only the various strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for your product/service, but also any external factors that may affect your product/ service. I would like to emphasize that creating a ‘Selling Plan’ should never be ignored and left to chance, as is often the case. If you do, I am afraid you have laid the foundations for failure of your business. The five most important questions to ask yourself, when writing your selling plan are: 1. How do I wish to bring my product/service to market? – It is important to identify routes you feel are suitable. At this stage, you may have a number of possible routes in mind, based on the research conducted whilst compiling the Business Plan, so list all. 2. What is the best method to bring my product/service

4. Where do I find this audience? - This question helps you answer if your target market is local, regional, national, or in fact even International. It may be wise to conduct various test launches to confirm the best location and response of your audience. 5. How do I successfully publicise my product/service, in most cost efficient and effective manner thereby guaranteeing exposure and familiarity and potential sales? – Today businesses have a choice of adopting various traditional or social media marketing methods. In order to keep costs low, in the current economic situation, most businesses are opting to use social media. When adopting social media, it is imperative to have continuity of interaction to establish trust. In addition, networking opportunities are great sources of making new contacts and market your product/service personally as well the opportunity to explore potential strategic partnerships. The selling process involves identifying the most suitable and cost efficient distribution channels and ensure an effective ‘sales’ strategy is in place. Once you have conducted necessary research/test launches and are sufficiently armed with relevant data, your selling plan becomes your second ‘reference manual’ (after your Business Plan). Every business is different therefore no two selling plans will ever be the same. Even amongst competitors, differentiating the route to market can assist in attaining/retaining competitive advantage. Stay tuned for next month’s article discussing the value of strategic partnerships for your business and how to best maximise these relationships to your advantage. About the Author Passion Islam Business Articles series as published since October 2011, have been submitted by Aisha Ejaz, Director, Noor Business Services Limited. For further information, Aisha can be contacted at Aisha@noorbizservices.co.uk Islamic Disclaimer Islamically, it is every Muslim’s duty to ensure that their income is halal and is obtained through halal means.


The Expansion of the Universe

Passion Islam

I January 2012

SPECIAL FEATURE

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Science “discovered” in the 20th century what the Qur’an had revelaed 1400 years ago about the expanding universe.

In 1929, in the California Mount Wilson observatory, an American astronomer by the name of Edwin Hubble made one of the greatest discoveries in the history of astronomy. While he observed the stars with a giant telescope, he found out that the light fromthem was shifted to the red end of the spectrum and that this shift was more pronounced the further a star was from the earth. This discovery had an electrifying effect in the world of science, because according to the recognised rules of physics, the spectra of light beams travelling towards the point of observation tend towards violet while the spectra of the light beams moving away from the point of observation tend towards red. During Hubble’s observations, the light from stars was discovered to tend towards red. This meant that they were constantly moving away from us. Before long, Hubble made another very important discovery: Stars and galaxies moved away not only from us, but also from one another. The only conclusion that could be derived from a universe where everything moves away from everything else is that the universe constantly ‘expands’. To better understand, the universe can be thought of as the surface of a balloon being blown up. Just as the points on the surface of a balloon move apart from each other as the balloon is inflated, so do the objects in space move apart from each other as the universe keeps expanding. The expansion of the universe is one of the most important pieces

of evidence that the universe was created out of nothing. In fact, this had been theoretically discovered even earlier. Albert Einstein, who is considered the greatest scientist of the century, had concluded after the calculations he made in theoretical physics that the universe could not be static. However, he had laid his discovery to rest simply not to conflict with the widely recognised static universe model of his time. Later on, Einstein was to identify his act as ‘the greatest mistake of his career’. Subsequently, it became definite by Hubble’s observations that the universe expands. What importance, then, did the fact that the universe expands have on the existence of the universe? The expansion of the universe implied that if it could travel backwards in time, the universe would prove to have originated from a single point. The calculations showed that this ‘single point’ that harboured all the matter of the universe should have ‘zero volume’ and ‘infinite density’. The universe had come about by the explosion of this single point with zero volume. This great explosion that marked the beginning of the universe was named the ‘Big Bang’ and the theory started to be so called. It has to be stated that ‘zero volume’ is a theoretical expression used for descriptive purposes. Science can define the concept of ‘nothingness’, which is beyond the limits of human comprehension, only by expressing it as’a point with zero volume’. In truth, ‘a point with no volume’ means ‘nothingness’. The

universe has come into being from nothingness. In other words, it was created. The Big Bang theory showed that in the beginning all the objects in the universe were of one piece and then were parted. This fact, which was revealed by the Big Bang theory was stated in the Qur’an 14 centuries ago, when people had a very limited knowledge about the universe: “Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?” [Al-Anbiyaa 21:30] As stated in the verse, everything, even the ‘heavens and the earth’ that were not yet created, were created with a Big Bang out of a single point, and shaped the present universe by being parted from each other. When we compare the statements in the verse with the Big Bang theory, we see that they fully agree with each other. However, the Big Bang was introduced as a scientific theory only in the 20th century. The expansion of the universe is one of the most important pieces of evidence that the universe was created out of nothing. Although this fact was not discovered by science until the 20th century, Allah has informed us of this reality in the Qur’an revealed 1,400 years ago: “It is We who have built the universe with (Our creative) power, and, verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it.” [Az-Zariyat 51:47]. By Harun Yahya


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I SPECIAL FEATURE

Passion Islam

I January 2012

The Earth: A Living Planet The earth is a living planet where many complex systems run perfectly without stopping at all. When compared to other planets, it is evident that in all its aspects the earth is specially designed for human life. Built on delicate balances, life prevails in every spot of this planet, from the atmosphere to the depths of the earth. Exploring only a few of the millions of these delicate balances would be sufficient to show that the world we live in is specially designed for us. One of the most important balances in our planet is revealed in the atmosphere that surrounds us. The atmosphere of the earth holds the most appropriate gasses in the most appropriate ratio needed for the survival not only of human beings, but also of all the living beings on the earth. The 77% of nitrogen, 21% of oxygen and 1% of carbon dioxide as well as other gasses readily available in the atmosphere represent the ideal figures necessary for the survival of living beings. Oxygen, a gas that is vital for living beings, helps food to be burned and converted into energy in our bodies. If the oxygen percentage in the atmosphere were greater than 21%, the cells in our body would soon start to suffer great damages. The vegetation and hydrocarbon molecules needed for life would also be destroyed. If this percentage were any less, this would cause difficulties in our respiration, and the food we eat would not be converted into energy. Therefore, the 21% of oxygen in the atmosphere is the most ideal quantity determined for life. The conditions essential for life are too complicated to have been formed “on their own” No less than oxygen, other gasses like nitrogen and carbon dioxide are also arranged in the ideal quantity for the needs of living beings and the continuity of life. The amount of nitrogen in the atmosphere has the ideal ratio to balance the harmful and burning effects of oxygen. This ratio represents the most appropriate value required for photosynthesis,

which is essential for life’s energy supply on the earth. Moreover, the amount of carbon dioxide has the most appropriate value that is needed to maintain the stability of the surface temperature of the earth and to prevent heat loss especially at night time. This gas, comprising 1% of the atmosphere, covers the earth like a quilt and prevents the loss of heat to space. If this amount were greater, the temperature of the earth would increase excessively, causing climatic instability and posing a serious threat against living beings. These proportions remain constant, thanks to a perfect system. The vegetation covering the earth converts carbon dioxide to oxygen, producing 190 billion tons of oxygen every day. The proportion of other gasses is always kept constant on the earth by the help of interconnected complex systems. Life is thus sustained. In addition to the establishment of the ideal gas mixture required for life on the earth, the mechanisms needed to preserve and maintain this order are created alongside with it. Any break in the balance, though instantaneous, or any change in the ratios even for a very short time period, would mean the total destruction of life. Yet, this does not happen. The formation of these gasses in the atmosphere just in the amount people need, and the constant preservation of these ratios indicate a planned creation. At the same time, the earth has the ideal size in terms of magnitude to possess an atmosphere. If the mass of the earth were a little less, then its gravitational force would be insufficient and the atmosphere would be dispersed in space. If its mass were a little greater, then the gravitational force would be too much and the earth would absorb all gasses in the atmosphere. There is an incredibly high number of conditions required for the formation

of an atmosphere such as the one our world currently has and all of these conditions should exist altogether to be able to talk of life. The creation of these delicate proportions and balances in the sky is mentioned in the 7th verse of Surat ar-Rahman: “He erected heaven and established the balance.” [ArRahman 55:7] The majority of people spend their lives without being aware of the delicate balances and subtle adjustments in the gas composition of the atmosphere, the


Passion Islam

I January 2012

distance of the world to the sun or the movements of planets. They are ignorant of the great significance of these balances and adjustments to their own lives. However, even a minor deviation in any one of these arrangements would create very severe problems regarding the existence and survival of humankind. There are many other balances established on earth for the continuity of life: For instance, if the surface gravity were stronger than its current value, the atmosphere would retain too much ammonia and methane gasses, which would mean the end of life. If it were

SPECIAL FEATURE

weaker, the planet’s atmosphere would lose too much water, and life on earth would be impossible. The thickness of the earth’s crust constitutes another one of the delicate balances in the earth. If the earth’s crust were thicker, too much oxygen would be transferred from the atmosphere to the crust and this would have severe effects on human life. If the opposite were true, that is, if the earth’s crust were thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would be too great to permit life on earth. Another crucial balance for human life is the ozone level in the atmosphere. If it were greater than its current value, the surface temperatures would be too low. If it were less, surface temperatures would be too high, and there would be too much ultraviolet radiation at the surface. In fact, the absence of even a single of these balances would set the end to life on earth. However, God has created the universe with infinite wisdom and power and designed the earth specially for human life. Despite this fact, the majority of people lead their lives in total ignorance of these events. In the Qur’an, God reminds people of His blessings in the 13th verse of Surat al-Fatir: “(God) makes night merge into day and day merge into night, and He has made the sun and moon subservient, each one running until a specified time. That is God, your Lord. The Kingdom is His. Those you call on besides Him have no power over even the smallest speck.” [Al-Fatir 35:13]

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It is sufficient look at millions of dead planets in space in order to understand that the delicate balances required for life on earth is not a result of random coincidences. The conditions essential for life are too complicated to have been formed “on their own” and at random, and these conditions are specially created for life alone. These balances we have briefly described so far are only a few of the millions of intricate, interrelated balances and orders established so that people can live in peace and safety on the earth. God has created the universe with infinite wisdom and power and designed the earth specially for human life. Examining only a part of the balances and harmony on the earth is enough to comprehend the superior being of God and grasp the existence of a planned creation in every detail of the universe. It is no doubt impossible for a person or any other living being to build such an enormous balance and order. Nor are the components of this order such as atoms, elements, molecules, and gasses capable of establishing an order based on such intricate and extremely delicate calculations and measurements, and such fine tunings. This is because activities like planning, ordering, arranging, calculating, and proportioning can only be realized by beings that possess wisdom, knowledge and power. The Exalted Being Who orders, plans and balances the entire universe to be fit for life of human beings on a planet like earth and Who sustains it with dramatically delicate measures and balances is God, Who has Infinite Wisdom, Knowledge and Power. In the Qur’an, it is stated that those people who are able to realize these facts are only “people with intelligence”: “In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are Signs for people with intelligence: those who remember God, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.” [Al-i-’Imran 3:190-191] - By Harun Yahya


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