Friday, October 27, 2006

Muslim Scholars Reach Out To Pope Benedict XVI With An Open Letter

The remarks of Pope Benedict XVI made during his lecture at the University of Regensburg on September 12, 2006, including quotes of a Byzantine emporer that were clearly contemptuous of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) pushed back the Christian-Muslim relationship a long way.

The lecture was picked up quickly by the mainstream media and was read by Muslims around the world much to their shock and dismay. (You can read its complete text here). Protests and calls for an apology by the Pope for being offensive to the beliefs of Muslims, specially as head of the world's largest religious community, followed. The Pope apologised. He said he was sorry (not for his words and thoughts but) for the way Muslims responded. The good part is that Muslims took this gesture as a positive sign.

What The Silent Muslim wondered all this time was: "Why aren't more Muslims coming forward to establish a dialogue and point out the obvious errors and misconceptions in the lecture - too easy to spot even for a lay Muslim?" An intellectual flaw needs intellectual correction.

Would not any intelligent person who read the Pope's comparative statements of Islam and Christianity be interested in knowing why Muslims feel so offended by a seemingly rational analysis? What exactly is Islam's position vis a vis reason and faith? And forced conversions? And 'holy' wars?

On October 12, 2006, thirty eight leading Muslim religious scholars and leaders from around the world took up the Pope's call to have a friendly dialogue and sent him an open letter stressing on their worship of a common God - the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad (peace be upon them all), the common values Muslims and Christians share, the good relations the Vatican has had in the past with the Muslim community.


"We share your desire for frank and sincere dialogue, and recognize its importance in an increasingly interconnected world. Upon this sincere and frank dialogue we hope to continue to build peaceful and friendly relationships based upon mutual respect, justice, and what is common in essence in our shared Abrahamic tradition..."
Excerpt of the Open Letter from Muslim Scholars
to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI


The letter also clarifies various issues the Pope had raised about Islam in his lecture. Errors and oversimplifications are pointed out and with direct Quranic references, it is explained how Islam forbids compulsion and persecution of anyone for his faith, there is no such thing as a 'holy war' in Islam, God is just and merciful and therefore can never be capricious, He invites us to use reason which is one of His signs, and many more pertinent points.

Among the scholars and religious personalities that have collectively prepared and signed this letter are:

  • Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Founder and Director, Zaytuna Institute, California, USA
  • Shaykh Al-Habib Ali Zain Al-Abideen Al-Jifri, Founder and Director, Taba Institute, UnitedArab Emirates
  • Professor Dr. Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Dean, International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), Malaysia
  • Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Senior Fellow of Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought (Jordan), U.S.A.
  • Shaykh Dr. Ahmad Kubaisi, Founder of the Ulema Organization, Iraq
  • H.E. Professor Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, University Professor of Islamic Studies, George Washington University, Washington D.C., U.S.A.
  • Dr. Muhammad Alwani Al-Sharif, Head of the European Academy of Islamic Culture and Sciences, Brussels, Belgium
  • Shaykh Dr. Tariq Sweidan, Director-General of the Risalah Satellite Channel
  • H.H. Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Uthmani, Vice President, DarAl-Ulum,Karachi, Pakistan
  • Shaykh Abd Al-Hakim Murad Winter, Director of the Muslim Academic Trust, U.K.
  • Grand Muftis of Egypt, Syria, Istanbul, Oman, Croatia, Slovenia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Uzbekistan and more.

The complete text of the open letter to the Pope can be read and downloaded through the website of Islamica magazine here at the link below:

Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI

For further information or interviews with Professor Tim Winter in the UK and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf in the USA regarding issues related to the open letter, you could contact Islamica Magazine in the USA on 213-291-7191, in the UK on +44 (0)20-7993-2966, Jordan on +962-6-464-1179 or +962 777 608 449 or email editor@islamicamagazine.com.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The official Danish website on cartoons & its FAQs

[Article Category: Islam & Media]

A search on Google for "cartoons" a few days back threw up 113 million results. And a little sponsored ad in the corner for the "Official Danish website about the drawing". That led to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Clever!

The little ad does not pop up now if one searches for "cartoons", and that content has now moved to http://www.drawings.um.dk/en.

What I enjoyed reading most on these PR pages some of which have Arabic translation side by side, is the Questions and Answers section. Some useful excerpts:


Q. Is it possible to prosecute the newspaper that published the 12
drawings of the Prophet Muhammad?

A. Yes, that is possible. In the matter of the 12 drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, a violation of section 140 of the Criminal Code has been reported to the police. Section 140 lays down that ”Any person who, in public, ridicules or insults the dogmas or worship of any lawfully existing religious community in this country shall be liable to imprisonment for any term not exceeding four months or, in mitigating circumstances, to a fine.” The matter is at present being considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Furthermore, section 266B of the Criminal Code criminalizes ”the dissemination of statements or other information by which a group of people are threatened, insulted or degraded on account of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual inclination.”


Q. In Denmark, there is freedom of expression, what does that mean?

A. Freedom of expression means that all citizens in Denmark have the right to express their views in speech and in writing.

Freedom of expression is safeguarded in Denmark through section 77 of
the Danish Constitution which lays down that ”Any person shall be entitled to publish his thoughts in printing, in writing, and in speech, provided that he may be held answerable in a court of justice.”

Whether a statement is lawful, can only be decided by the Danish Courts of Law, or by the European Court of Human Rights if the matter is brought before it.
You can read the entire Questions and Answers list here.

Well, I think it's a good attempt by the Danish authorities to clarify its position.

What we would like to see, however, is whether the legal recourse will amount to anything significant and serve as a deterrent to avoid future provocations like this one. Or would a trial simply lead to a petty fine at most.

Would it be a good precedent if after being found guilty under section 140 and 266B, the Danish editors and cartoonists involved are asked to pay the Danish corporations and the Danish government the financial losses incurred as a consequence of the publication of the cartoons and the resultant boycott and protests worldwide?

It was surely no fault of the Danish businesses and brands that have suffered, day after day, and may continue to pay a high price for a crime they did not commit. Should these businesses take the lead and sue the people who got them in this mess in the first place - the journalists who failed to judge where the use of freedom becomes its abuse?

Whatever happens, steps need to be taken to ensure such needless provocation does not happen again - not against Muslims, not against Christians, not against Jews, not against atheists even.

If there are issues to be addressed with any given community or immigrant population, they would best be addressed by sitting with them and talking it out rather than mocking them, their faith and what they hold dear on the front page of local newspapers.

The Silent Muslim favours conciliation, not confrontation. Peace, not provocation.

Modest Clothes: What many Muslim, Christian and Jewish women have in common


[Article Category: Islam & Women]

There's an interesting website catering to women of many cultures and creeds looking for modest clothes. It's quite simply called modestclothes.com and it's a huge directory with links to retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers of such clothes.

You can look up your desired item by styles: Western, African, South Asian, South East Asian, Middle Eastern and Period Inspired styles.

Or, you can browse the directory by creeds: Islamic, Jewish, Latter Day Saints, Plain Communities, Simple Dressed Christians, and Catholic styles.

The site is managed by Dara Becker, from Minnesota.

Jill Fellow of Daily Herald quotes Dara in his article "Modest clothing ...: For those who want to grin, but not bare it":

"I started finding modest clothing for many different faiths and cultures," she said. "I figured all modest women, no matter what religion, were struggling like me."

"We want to be modest," she said. "We want to have strong homes and raise good children. ... When it comes to our everyday lives, we are the same."

Shopping, clothes, fashion - now that's a creative way to unite the women of the world.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Guest Column: The Danish Cartoon Controversy

The Danish cartoons and the Muslim response: As seen by a student from Russia

[Article Category: Islam & Media, Islam & Terrorism, Islam & Violence]

"I live in Russia and I can say that the only things which are shown here by TV are those ones which express aggression of believers [Muslims]. It makes very painful impressions.

It is mass media which creates public opinion. Of course, actions of such a kind [caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him] which we could see in some European countries are reprehensible. To my mind, it was an evident manifestation of lack of culture and knowledge in the questions of religion.

It was not demonstration of freedom of speech, it was demonstration of not understanding of good and bad.

I think that those people, who did this, need compassion more than punishment. They do not know, do not understand what they do.

Muhammad (peace be upon him) forgave those who persecuted him. Is not it a lesson for us?

I look with great regret at responses of some Muslims who threaten citizens of those countries where caricatures were published with violence and persecution. If one begins doing something in such a way, he unintentionally chooses the same way which his offenders have chosen. It is a wrong way.

Abusing of a flag, for example, can not be compared with abusing of spiritual wealth, but it is an act of vandalism as well. So, in such a case is there any difference between those who do these actions?

It is important to remember the laws from Allah which are based on love, understanding and not condemnation."

Sent in by Anna, a recent revert to Islam studying at St. Petersburg University, Russia

Friday, February 10, 2006

Muslims Against Terrorism

Everywhere Except In The News

[Article Category: Islam & Media, Islam & Terrorism]

An old journalism maxim says that when a dog bites a man it's not news, but when a man bites a dog it is.

Same way, when a billion Muslims go about their daily lives like any peaceloving Christian, Jew, Buddhist, or atheist, all over the world, it's not news. But when a band of perverted criminals commits a crime in the name of Islam (even though Islam forbids it), it's primetime, headline material.

What I have posted on peace and tolerance earlier is how the educated, peaceloving, silent majority of Muslims feels, the majority that is busy earning their daily bread and looking after their children and families and trying to live a normal life like everyone else.

One can easily check up the authentic Islamic texts and take a stand on the teachings of Islam.

A very good collection of Islamic texts with search facility is available online here at the University of Southern California-Muslim Students Association (USC-MSA).

Many non-Muslims choose to research Islam only on anti-Islamic sites but then, that's not where one would go for a fair and unbiased evaluation.

For those who ask why Muslims don't speak up against the crimes committed in the name of Islam, look again. You are reading one. The Silent Muslim!

One's not enough?

Key in "Muslims Against Terrorism" in Google and browse through 45,000+ links it would gladly bring up.

It's all there for anyone to see - but if one chooses not to look, the view becomes conjecture, not fact. Everyone is entitled to stick to their 'truth as we know it'.

The Silent Muslim says, let's build bridges.

Let's push back the hate and have some love between our communities.

Let's look for reasons to be nice to each other.

Our arms are open... and we're not wearing an ammunition belt.

Editor - The Silent Muslim

God wants us to be kind to each other.

[Article Category: Islam & Media, Islam & Christianity, Islam & Prophet Mohammad]

Jesus (peace be upon him) prayed for those who wronged him. The Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) did the same.

It's when money, power, and politics get into the religious sphere that differences rather than similarities start being highlighted.

If each of us truly understood the teachings of our respective faiths, things would work out just fine.

Editor - The Silent Muslim

Offend Christians? No way. Defame Islam? No problem!

[Article Category: Islam & Media, Islam & Christianity, Islam & Prophet Mohammad]

The very same Danish newspaper which had no hesitation in 'inviting' the submission and subsequent publication of cartoons of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) which have offended Muslim sensibilities across the world, had conscience pangs publishing cartoons making fun of Jesus (peace be upon him) because "they will provoke an outcry".

Read The Guardian's report here.

If these double standards are "freedom of speech", what is hypocrisy?

Editor - The Silent Muslim

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Factfile: The Silent Muslim Majority Vs. The Deviant Violent Minority

[Article Category: Islam & Media, Islam & Violence]

There's a simple and unbiased way to figure out which path the silent MAJORITY of Muslims is choosing - violence or peace.

Let the numbers speak for themselves:

Take the total number of violent demonstrators in a given country (100? 1000? 10000?). Take the total number of Muslims in that given country (100,000? 1,000,000?). Using this data, check the percentage of Muslims who are choosing to STAY AWAY from violent protests.

On a global level, take the total number of suicide bombings reported in a year. (5? 10? 15? 50?)Take the total number of Muslims in the world in that year (1,000,000,000+). Check the percentage of Muslims who choose NOT TO TAKE this route of violence.

Now, how many newspapers choose to publish the views of numerous Muslim clerics and public organisations that are publicly condemning violent protests and trying to calm down the situation?

On the other hand how many choose to republish the offending cartoons, carry on trampling Muslim sensibilities and cause further provocation?

Which group many publications in the media choose to highlight, to quote, to publish pictures of and to draw cartoons about?

The mainstream Muslim majority or the deviant minority?

Just watching, contemplating, in silence and with concern.

Editor - The Silent Muslim

Monday, February 06, 2006

Protests Against Danish Cartoons Get Violent

Not what the Prophet of Islam taught

Derogatory caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) published in European newspapers have led to waves of indignation and protests worldwide by Muslims who see this an an act of blasphemy and gross disrespect for the person who their faith requires to love more than their own selves.

The Muslim faith does not allow pictures of prophets because it may lead to hero-worship or idolatry, which Islam forbids as a monotheistic faith. This plus the fact that many of the caricatures in question were clearly derogatory and stereotypical depictions of the Prophet of Islam has offended not just Muslims but shocked many non-Muslims too who see it as unnecessary provocation that could have been avoided with simple journalistic integrity. The American media has taken an admiringly mature stand against publishing the provocative cartoons.

Although the Danish newspaper that initially published the cartoons issued a public apology after causing widespread hurt and indignation among Muslims and millions of dollars in losses to the Danish economy as a result of the boycott, many newspapers in the European press reprinted the cartoons on the pretext of supporting freedom of speech, further adding to the growing irritation in Muslim communities across the globe.

Sadly, as the cartoons are recycled and reprinted, what had started as peaceful condemnation by Muslims of the pictorial and negative depiction of their most revered personality through worldwide rallies and a boycott of Danish goods has taken a violent turn in the recent days. In Syria, the buildings housing the Danish and Norwegian embassy were set ablaze by protestors on 4 February. The very next day, the Danish consulate in Lebanon was torched.

In the light of these events, all of which focus on Muhammad (peace be upon him), the revered Prophet of Islam, whose life is taken to be the best example to emulate by his followers, The Silent Muslim finds it appropriate to review his life for instances of a similar nature.

What would Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Prophet of Islam, have done if he was insulted or hurt? What were the lessons he left behind for his followers?

During the initial phase of his mission of preaching the unity of God, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers were severely persecuted and tortured by the polytheists.

When his companions asked him to put a curse on the oppressors, the Prophet replied: "I have not been sent to curse men but to be a blessing to them."

The Holy Quran calls Muhammad (peace be upon him) "Mercy for the Worlds". His life demonstrates these virtues at every turn.

On his preaching mission to the polytheists in Taif, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not just humiliated and rejected verbally but chased out of the town by street urchins who stoned him till he bled profusely.

Yet, all he had to give back to this stone-hearted community was a wish and prayer that God may guide their offspring, if not them, to the path of righteousness. His prayer was subsequently answered with many of his illustrious followers tracing their roots to the city that had once chased him away.

The Prophet Muhammad's life is filled with heart-touching examples of patience, forbearance and forgiveness. He has been known to have never sought revenge on his own behalf, even once in his lifetime.

Those who truly love the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) need to react as he would have reacted in the situation Muslims find themselves in today. Peaceful dialogue and advocacy befits the Prophet's noble mission more than angry emotional outbursts, flag-burning and thoughtless violence in the name of Islam.

Because it was the Prophet Muhammad who taught that one should either speak good or be silent. And his teaching is binding on every one who believes in him.

Written by The Editor - The Silent Muslim