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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

As Ramadan Ends, Muslim Students Reflect on Religion

For the past four weeks, Rashid M. Yasin ’12 has folded back his covers around 4:15 a.m., rising to make a meal comprised of protein, grain and dairy, which he washes down with plenty of water to sustain him throughout the day. He then heads to a faucet to do wudu, the Islamic procedure for purifying oneself in preparation for prayer. Once he has washed his hands, face, mouth, arms and feet, Yasin performs the first of five daily prayers. He praises God and asks for forgiveness, concluding his prayer with personal supplication.

“I tend to pray for guidance and forgiveness and success in this life and the next,” Yasin says. “I pray to be able to incorporate consciousness of God and His will in all I do.”

Yasin’s morning ritual ends when he slips back under his covers again, still in the dark. After suhoor, his early meal, he will not break his fast for approximately 15 hours, going without food or drink from sunrise to sunset.

Yasin, the president of the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS), is observing Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting that ends Monday. This year he is doing so in Cambridge, but this is not the case for many Harvard students. Ramadan’s date is determined by the lunar calendar, and this year, the month does not overlap with the academic year as it has in the past. So Muslim Harvard students are showing their devotion to their faith all over the world, from Minnesota to South Korea, Senegal to Palestine.


Although Fatoumata B. Fall ’14 started the summer in her home nation of Senegal, she plunged into Ramadan in Seoul, South Korea, as a student in Harvard’s six-week summer school program at Ewha Womans University. She maintained her fast through studies and a two-week internship with an international development institute.

During what she considers a blessed month, Fall alters her daily schedule to practice her faith. Rising early, she prays five times throughout the day and reads the Quran after work. When dusk descends, she prepares for iftar, the evening meal when Muslims break their fast. Following her fill, she prays, meets with friends, and spends time on the Internet until she sleeps “after the morning.”

“Let’s just say there is lots of sleeping in on the weekend,” quips Nima Y. Hassan ’14, a Somali-American who is observing Ramadan in Han Lake, Minnesota.

Like Hassan, Lena K. Awwad ’13, who observed Ramadan in Palestine this summer, also awakens to eat and pray before the sun rises.

For each student, pangs of hunger are a reality throughout the day. Awwad combats her cravings by avoiding salty foods and consuming enough water to “keep awake.” She fills her day with prayers until she breaks her fast with dates and cup of milk or water, which, she explains, was “how the Prophet used to do it.”


For Hassan, Ramadan is a dedicated time for believers to focus on getting closer to God. With constant demands on her time and the overwhelming presence of the Internet, she says it can be difficult to find the space and time to thank and praise God.

“We spend a lot of our time wired and moving onto the next activity,” Hassan says. “But in Ramadan, there’s a mindfulness that’s encouraged and expected of you which you don’t really make the time for otherwise. Ramadan is not just quieting the noise, but doing so with a purpose to hear God.”

Aside from being a religious and family-oriented month, Ramadan provides space for people to learn tolerance, Awwad says. She considers prayer on an empty stomach during Ramadan to be more reflective than prayer at any other time throughout the year.

“While fasting from sun-up to sun-down, it is important not to waste the day or the opportunity to get closer to your religion and the people around you,” Awwad says. “You see life as more than just in between the meals.”

Fall says that the most meaningful aspect of Ramadan to her is constantly evolving.

“We are young people and I’m restless. When Ramadan comes around I find a more peaceful side of myself,” Fall says. “As I grow, I enjoy getting more time and opportunity to practice my religion during Ramadan. This year, for instance, I did not devote a lot of time to my religion and spirituality with all the work at Harvard.”


Yasin was raised in Scituate, Mass., 20 miles south of Boston, a community where he knows no other Muslims. Raised by a Bangladeshi father and a white mother who converted to Islam, Yasin attributes his view of his faith as diverse—“not only comprised of Arabs or South Asians”—to his mixed background. While he expected to find diversity in the Harvard Islamic Society, he was unsure of what it would entail with respect to people’s practices.

“When I got to college, I would see the different cultural traditions that Arabs have and Caucasians have. It’s partially religious, partially cultural,” Yasin says. “I was oblivious to different trends and interpretations. I had an individualized non-communal background.”

Yasin says community-building happens most during Ramadan, the biggest event on the HIS calendar. Historically, the organization has celebrated the holy month with catered iftars daily in Ticknor Lounge, drawing more than 80 graduate and undergraduate students.

With fewer people in Cambridge this summer, the group held three iftars per week, but the society continued to draw a consistent group of people Yasin calls his “brothers and sisters.”

“As part of the only Muslim family in my town growing up in suburban Massachusetts, I missed having a strong Muslim community outside of my nuclear family and so I have really embraced HIS since coming to Harvard,” says Yasin.

Awwad fondly recalls Ramadan with HIS as the “perfect introduction” to the College, especially as a first-year international student searching for a niche. As classes began, the society co-sponsored interfaith dinners and dialogues with student groups. Dinners served as a forum to meet Muslims and non-Muslims, while sharing the traditions of Ramadan.

“We even held iftars with faculty and had the chance to meet people from different religions,” Awwad says. “The events helped me connect to home. HIS was helpful in ways I didn’t imagine.”


Shortly after Hassan was born in Saudi Arabia, her family bounced to the U.S. Midwest, ultimately landing in Minnesota. She moved to Han Lake, where she practiced Ramadan this summer. While she says there a sizable Muslim community concentrated in the Twin Cities, her town lacks a Muslim presence.

“There are Muslim communities within reach, but where we live there are few Muslims and people of color generally,” Hassan says.

Growing up in Fridley, Minn., in a community of largely first- and second-generation immigrants, Hassan recalls fasting with five other students in her grade. The school provided accommodations for observing students in a separate room.

“We didn’t want to go to lunchroom and watch everyone eat. Over 30 days, we grew close,” Hassan says.

Despite appreciating the individual attention accorded to her by the school administration, Hassan says there is a disconnect between the West and Muslim societies where most people fast.

By contrast, Fall has celebrated Ramadan in a Muslim-majority country, Senegal, where she was born. Despite hot and dry temperatures that mark Ramadan, inducing thirst early in the day, she says the Muslim community is strong. Radios announce the time for iftar, community prayers are held drawing hundreds, and skits are performed in honor of Eid, the Muslim holiday following the final day of Ramadan.

“Ninety-four percent of my country is Muslim so Ramadan is not just a small group celebrating their special holiday,” Fall says. “In Cambridge I felt more in an isolated world. In Senegal, after iftar we have community prayer. Everyone, I mean everyone, goes. Houses are empty.”

Observing Ramadan in South Korea this summer proved even more isolating. Instead of praying with a large community and family, she often led prayers alone.

“I can count the Muslims who live here,” Fall says, who noted Seoul has a community of predominantly Buddhists, Christians, and Agnostics. Her friend observed her pray once, she says, and noted it was the first time she had seen a Muslim pray.


For Hassan, fasting has taken on special significance in light of the drought in the Horn of Africa, which has struck her parents’ native Somalia, leaving millions with limited access to food or water.

“Somalia is a place where droughts happen with frequency, but this is unprecedented,” Hassan says. “When there’s so much hunger we need to be even more dedicated to our fast during Ramadan to be even more cognizant of what it’s like for many people around the world and act accordingly.”

But Hassan mentioned that some malnourished may continue to fast. She draws a distinction between her observance, which includes minimal physical activity during the day, and that of people who continue strenuous activity—such as working in the fields—while experiencing hunger.

“Building empathy through actual experience for people who go hungry is a beautiful thing about Ramadan,” Hassan says. “Whether you’re a king or a poor person, you observe the same. Having felt that, it’s a lot easier to imagine what it’s like for someone else to understand hunger and thirst.”

Hassan says that this empathy inspires charitable acts, making Ramadan known as a month of giving. Yasin connects empathy to spirituality, explaining that Ramadan provokes God-consciousness whereby he is reminded of his faith when he feels affected by the fast. He calls fasting “a spiritual refocusing” which facilitates remembrance of the interconnectedness of God in his life.

But hunger is only part of the experience of Ramadan. Iftar—breaking the fast—remains an important element. In Hassan’s family, it includes preparation of almost two hours, after which relatives gather for a countdown as the sun sets.

“We say ‘Three minutes! Two minutes! Time to eat!” she says.

While meals vary, one of Hassan’s favorites includes a rare Somali food, which resembles a donut, accompanied with a mango watermelon salad. The table is set with a cucumber and tomato salad, dates and milk.

“It’s pretty colorful, and I’m pretty thankful,” Hassan says.


For Fall, last year’s Eid—her first in the United States—was strange. In the early morning of the day after Ramadan’s end, she gathered with other students in Roxbury to pray.

“After that I came back and went to class,” Fall says. “This was shocking, because all my life I had Eid as a holiday.”

On Eid this year, Yasin will go to prayers, accompanied with his friends from HIS, but he plans to skip out on the first day of classes. He will visit his family and celebrate in a week or two with HIS members again in the evening for an Eid banquet.

“For Eid, I’ll be home with my family,” says Fall. But after spending half the holiday in her home, she will spend the other half on a plane, coming back to Harvard.

Source: The Harvard Crimson

Survey: Muslim Americans happier with conditions in US than broader public

The new Pew survey was sparked, in part, by a desire to know whether recent concerns about home-grown terrorism had led to increased alienation among Muslim Americans and support for extremism.

For the most part, Muslim Americans disavow Islamic extremism, are happy with the way things are going in the country and in their lives, and are about as religious and educated as the general American public.

Those are a few of the lessons from a new report from the Pew Research Center that surveyed Muslim Americans and paints a detailed portrait of their demographics, experiences, opinions, and perceptions.

Pew’s last survey of this group was in 2007, and the current one was sparked, in part, by a desire to know whether recent concerns about home-grown terrorism and other pressures had led to increased alienation and anger among Muslim Americans and support for extremism, says Scott Keeter, Pew’s director of survey research and a coauthor of the study.

The result, he says, was the opposite. “There’s been no increase in favorable views of Al Qaeda, of suicide bombing, or Islamic extremism,” he says. And, “while a lot of Muslim Americans acknowledged that life is difficult and that they continue to face discrimination, they do not regard the American people as particularly unfriendly to them.”

In fact, Muslims surveyed for the report were happier with conditions in the United States than the broader American population. Some 56 percent of Muslims are satisfied with the way things are going in this country, compared with 23 percent of the general public. In 2007, those numbers were 38 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Similarly, Muslim Americans are far more satisfied with President Obama’s performance (76 percent) than the public at large (46 percent). In 2007, just 15 percent of Muslim Americans approved of President Bush’s performance. Moreover, 82 percent of Muslim Americans say they are happy with the way things are going in their own lives.

That overall satisfaction, says Mr. Keeter, “suggests many [Muslim Americans] may be defining their satisfaction with national conditions around the political leadership of the country rather than anything to do with economic conditions. And they’re as satisfied with Obama as president as they were dissatisfied with President Bush.”

The survey substantially probed Muslim Americans' feelings about terrorism, Islamic extremism, and Al Qaeda, with somewhat mixed findings.

Just 1 percent of American Muslims say that suicide bombing is often justified – with an additional 7 percent saying it is sometimes justified. And just 5 percent say they have a somewhat favorable opinion of Al Qaeda (with 70 percent saying they have a very negative opinion). That is far less support than either suicide bombing or Al Qaeda gets among Muslim communities in other parts of the world.

Still, a sizable percentage (21 percent) say there is at least a fair amount of support for extremism among Muslims in the US (compared with 40 percent of the general public), and 60 percent say they are at least somewhat concerned about the possible rise of Islamic extremism in the US, even though just 4 percent think that Muslim support for extremism is on the rise.

There are also disparities within the American Muslim community, with more native-born Muslims seeing support for Islamic extremism than foreign-born Muslims, for example. Native-born African-American Muslims are the least likely to say they have a very unfavorable view of Al Qaeda (56 percent, compared with 75 percent of foreign-born Muslims), but that number has increased from 2007, when just 39 percent of African-American Muslims had a very negative opinion of Al Qaeda.

“There are some unusual patterns in the data that suggest there is some concern among certain segments of the Muslim community about extremism, but it’s hard to know what the source of that is,” Keeter says. It’s not clear, for instance, whether those who say there is some support for extremism actually know people who hold those views or just hold vague perceptions.

Those surveyed also indicated that Muslim leaders in the US need to take a firmer stand in speaking out against extremism. Only a third of Muslim Americans say their leaders have spoken out enough, and nearly half say US Muslim leaders need to challenge extremists more.

The survey showed no increase in harassment or feelings of persecution since 2007, though a majority (55 percent) still say that being a Muslim in the US has gotten tougher since 9/11. A significant number of minorities say they have been looked at with suspicion (28 percent), been called offensive names (22 percent), and been singled out by airport security (21 percent).

The report gave particular attention to the controversy surrounding the mosque near ground zero. Although the clear majority (72 percent) of those aware of the controversy thought the mosque should be allowed, more than a third either believed it shouldn’t be allowed, or said it should be allowed but was a bad idea.

“This is a sensitive issue,” says Keeter, noting that considerable numbers of American Muslims say they have firsthand experience with vandalism or other controversies around mosques in their own communities.

The survey also tried to detail basic demographic data about the Muslim community in the US, including racial data, education and income levels, and household makeup, particularly since the US Census doesn’t ask about religious affiliation. Based on Pew’s estimates, there are about 1.8 million Muslim adults and 2.75 million Muslims of all ages living in the US today. Of those 18 and older, nearly two-thirds were born abroad, and 25 percent have arrived in the US since 2000.

Complete Repor-pdf

Russia: Muslims celebrate end of Ramadan

Photo: RIA Novosti
Thousands of Muslim faith followers headed to mosques in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia as today the Islamic world is celebrating the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, also known as Uraza Bairam.

On this day faithful Muslims traditionally give alms to the poor and care for their near and dear.

Source: The Voice of Russia

Somalia’s famine refugees celebrate end of Ramadan with meager food aid

As she celebrated the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr on Tuesday, Somali mother Quresho Mohmoud Dahir counted her blessings: all her children were alive. They had food. They were safe.

“We will eat very well today,” she said proudly, gesturing at the food rations she’d received that morning. Her 12-year-old daughter sat protectively atop the two sacks of corn and the beans her mother was going to prepare.

Dahir is one of hundreds of thousands of Somalis forced to flee their homes by war and famine. She and her six children, the youngest only three years old, walked 12 days to get to this United Nations-run camp on the Ethiopia-Somali border after her husband disappeared after some fighting in their area.

Some days they were so hungry they ate leaves from trees. At night, she agonized over lighting a fire; it would protect her children from hyenas but might attract criminals or militias. Finally — sick, starving and exhausted — they stumbled into Dolo, a wind-swept outpost of brushwood buildings scattered among the twisted thorn trees and red sand.

Now the seven of them live in a ragged shelter made of plastic scraps and torn clothing stretched over branches. They depend on donors for everything from cooking pots to sleeping mats to food.

Dahir remembers past years when she used to mark Eid by slaughtering her own goats, having a feast for friends and family and giving charity to her poorer neighbors. But she said this year she will cook her donated rations gladly, and give thanks for the kindness of the people that let her family survive a famine that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives.

“Thank Allah that we were welcomed here and given food and we are safe,” she said, squatting in their makeshift shelter. “We are blessed. So many people helped us along the way.”

Many times, her children were so weak she had to leave the younger ones under trees and go begging, she said. There was never much to give — parts of the region they walked through are suffering from the worst drought in 60 years — but impoverished families they passed spared a bottle of milk or a handful of millet, she said. It kept them alive until they reached Dolo three months ago.

She counted the other small improvements since they had arrived. Local families donated two battered pots so she could cook, plus a single torn foam mattress and sleeping mat to share. The Italian government and the U.N. provided food, vaccinations and malaria medicine. A local charity set up a blackboard under a tree to serve as a school. Most of all, they were safe from the militias that destroyed her life more thoroughly than the drought.

“My husband disappeared during the fighting,” she said. “I don’t know where he is.”

The U.N. estimates about 3.7 million Somalis currently need aid. Five regions in Somalia are suffering from famine and officials say that will increase in coming weeks.

There’s also widespread hunger in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti. Overall, more than 12 million people need help, according to the U.N. The situation is most dire in Somalia, where Islamist rebels fighting the weak U.N.-backed government have barred many aid agencies from their territory.

As Somali families in Dolo prepared their evening meal for Eid — porridge or rice for some, donated scraps of meat for a lucky few — many said the a holiday was especially poignant this year.

For Muslims, Eid is as important as Christmas is for Christians. It’s a time for families to gather and feast, and remember the less fortunate in their offerings and prayers. Most of the families here are more used to giving charity than receiving it.

“We used to give some of our harvest to the poor,” said 26-year-old Habiba Osman Ahmed, a former farmer.

Since then, Somalia’s 20-year civil war pushed the drought into famine. Everything has changed. Now she doesn’t even have a pot to cook in, and must share with another family. She will wait patiently while they finish their food before preparing her own.

“Solidarity with people in need is very much a part of today’s celebration,” said Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. “That solidarity should inspire first of all Somalis to allow access to those in need ... and should also inspire the international community to be more engaged.”

Freedom for aid agencies to move in and help and lack of funding were the two biggest problems they faced, he said. But on Tuesday those problems were eclipsed by other, more personal pains for many of those in Dolo.

“The last Eid I celebrated with all my children, in my own home,” Ahmed said. Since then, she’s lost two of her four children to the famine; one died in her home village and one on the agonizing walk toward help.

“They were gifts from God,” she said as her baby squirmed in her lap. “He gave them to me, and then he took them away.”

Source:  The Associated Press

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mosque visit preceded shots

A Somali community leader said that Naim Jama had been praying with others before he was slain.

A visitor from Ohio had just finished praying at a south Minneapolis mosque before dawn when he was shot and killed on a sidewalk, a Somali community leader said Tuesday.

The man slain early Sunday in the 2700 block of 13th Avenue S. was identified as Naim Jama, 23, who was visiting from the Columbus area, said Somali Justice Advocacy Center executive director Dahir Jibreel.

Jibreel said he met with family members of Jama who live in the Twin Cities, along with the dead man's mother, who arrived from Ohio after hearing of her son's death.

Jama was among several young men who had just left the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, Jibreel said. They were heading to a store for food, which they needed to eat before dawn. During the holy month of Ramadan, part of the observance includes fasting from sunrise to sunset.

Two men approached and subjected Jama and the others to insults "in some sort of gang language," Jibreel said. After one of them indicated that he had a gun, Jama's group started running. At least 12 shots were fired, Jibreel said.

Four of them made it back to the mosque and later found Jama face down outside, with a gunshot wound to the head, Jibreel said.

"This is a very sad story, very sad," Jibreel said. "I cannot imagine anything" Jama would have done to provoke the shooting.

"He was very straightforward, very calm and down-to-earth," Jibreel said. "I heard he was very, very responsible" and took seriously his role as the oldest among a large group of siblings.

No arrests have been made, police said Monday. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 612-692-8477.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

Source: The Star Tribune

A call to Somali leaders to prioritize the spirit of nationalism and leave aside their differences

“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” By Charles de Gaulle.

Somalia, a country with more potentials but fail to utilize it, the only homogenous nation on earth religiously, culturally and even ethnically, yet their homogeneity has not helped them to overcome their prolonged woe. The country was an economic and military power during in the early 1980s, but after the collapse of Somali national government led by Gen. Siyad Bare left everything destroyed in 1991. Even the Somalis community became socially and economically down.

The nation went through many political phases for last two decades facing tremendous challenges including prolonged civil war, deep rooted tribalism, the loss of nation-hood belonging, as well as the current famine crisis that claimed 29,000 children under the age of 5 to have died in the last 90 days in the country’s south alone. And those stories are what plunged the Somali society into this catastrophic situation that it is going through today.

Let me try to summarize the mega political dynamics in Somalia for the last decade, Every Somali transitional federal government built outside home had a challenge to face, but the biggest challenge after 1991 was The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) that defeated the warlords in the capital, restored peace to Mogadishu for the first time in 15 years, and brought most of southern Somalia under its ambit.

Consequently, the US and its Ethiopian ally claimed that these Islamists were terrorists and therefore an evil to the region. In contrast, the vast majority of Somalis supported the UIC and demanded the International Community to engage them peacefully. But the peace did not last. Ethiopian invasion begun in December 2006 and defeated the loyalists of UIC, the Ethiopian Invasion displaced more than a million people and many others lost their lives.

Another new political phase was emerged immediately known as Al-Shabaab, originally the youth wing of the UIC – declared its affiliation with al-Qaeda, and was identified as a terrorist group by the International Community, they lacked the support of both the local people as well as those in abroad because of their misrepresentation of Islam sending out a negative picture of Islam to non-Muslims as well as Muslims. Though, the group wants to establish an Islamic state but unfortunately, it failed to govern and put in place even the most fundamental Infrastructural facilities or provide the basic services needed by the local people.

My point here is that if we had gone through all the above mentioned tragedies’ I believe no more torture left for us, so What is the way forward, and how best the destroyed nation could be restored into normal. ? That is the most important question being asked in today’s Somalia’ politics. The political divisions among our Somali political stakeholders made us to be under the control of another people that humiliated our sovereignty and our great civilized religion. The actions and thoughts currently operating in Somalia are the same Arab actions, cultures and thoughts before Prophet Mohammed came with revelation of the Qur’an because at that time Arabs lacked a unifying religious system and they were known as (the barbarian generation).

It remains unknown the reason in which Somalis are turning away the traditions of great civilized religion to prefer to mired civil war, brutality killing in the name of Islam, in the name of clan, or political views, which resulted in massive killing, destruction, and attack on innocent lives, which brought the whole country into this unforgettable disaster, devastation, and manmade catastrophic, while rest of the World is developing in competitive ways.

I have been in east Africa for the last three years doing my academic project, but being in east Africa to me means a lot, making me to think differently at any level, personally, regionally and even at national level. This is one the main motives forced me to write these statements so that my fellow Somali brothers and sisters can understand with me the social, political, economic and psychological tragedies in which our nation is going through for so long up-to-date.

Our leaders should recognize one very crucial point which is leaving aside the political differences as well as clan differences and concentrate how the spirit of nationalism could be restored in to the hearts of Somali people. Such dream could be possible if you as a leader attain one character and that is to be as honesty as Hazrat Umar. The famous father of India Mahatma Gandhi once said that “if India has to improve, it should be ruled by a dictator as honest as upright as Hazrat Umar”. This clearly shows how justice is extremely important for any leadership to succeed. That is why Hazrat Omar got the title Al- faruuk (The person who differentiate the truth from falsehood.) He used to execute the justice even if it is against him. I understand that it is a bit hard to find such leader in today’s world but if you look at across countries with success stories, you find their leaders were somehow related to justice.

Therefore, I argue all Somali leaders to learn from history as well as the current global competiveness, especially in Africa, because history tells us that what we have been doing for Africa three decades ago is being done for us today, which I regard as a national disaster as far as national development is concern. I understand that due to the government’s failure to bring law and order in our country resulted every Somali national to despair from nation-hood belonging and the hope for peace, but let us not despair in life , we must always have the spirit of new Somali era That will overtake its peer group.

The reason of why I have to write this article is because I felt that a candle is coming out of dark, as AL- Shabaab is driven out of Mogadishu followed by the visit of respected and brilliant world leaders to Mogadishu for the first time in decades to see how much we suffered. I would like to send my deep appreciation to the prime minster of the republic of Turkey Mr. Erdogan who shown us how twin brothers we are, when no other leader in the world on his hierarchy have made the same; even those whom we claim as brothers of same origin.

Finally, our leaders must prevent recurrent political failures that ashamed our nation and destroyed our society too if the nation wants to move forward. The transitional federal government (TFG) should also put more emphasis on gaining the support of other political stakeholders within the country who are willing to be part of Somalia’s rebuilding process, especially the semi-autonomous region of Puntland without which would be very difficult to be attained a full functioning government. That is my massage to top Somali leaders and others interested in stabilizing Somalia. I feel disappointed when I see a Somalis going to another country and being discriminated throughout world airports, because of their lack of government, but I am waiting days to come when Somalis go another country and people will stand to respect him. I want see them talk and talk the good things of our country.

What is ultimately required is a national dialogue with the establishment of national government based on system of governance that is suitable for the country, by Somalis with the genuine assistance of others. Accountable leaders to their people are extremely important. And lastly such government is the best defense against famine, terrorism, imperialism and all other difficulty conditions existing in Somalia.

BY Omar Sheikh Hamid

The writer is development studies student of Kampala International University


Somali students to study in Turkey

The head of the Turkish religious affairs authority said on Monday that numerous Somali students would be given the opportunity to study in Turkey

The head of the Turkish religious affairs authority said on Monday that numerous Somali students would be given the opportunity to study in Turkey in the coming term.

Sharing impressions from his recent trip to Somalia in an interview with the AA, Turkey's Religious Affairs Director General Mehmet Gormez said his one-day visit to Somalia had lasted for 5 hours, but felt like a year.

"The pain in the faces of the people of Somalia and the heartache we felt during the couple of hours we spent there made us feel as if we stayed there for a year," he said.

Gormez said, as a human being, he had felt ashamed of the greed of the mankind during his trip to Somalia.

Expressing the importance of implementing lasting works in Somalia, Gormez noted that his authority planned activities that would invest in the people of this country.

Unveiling plans to bring Somali students to Turkey, Gormez said, "Our friends are choosing a number of Somali students at the moment. We have major projects concerning the education of Somali children and youngsters both in their country and in Turkey in the long term".

The Horn of Africa is currently suffering from its worst drought in the past 60 years. Studies reveal that the disaster has put nearly 12 million people at risk of starvation across the region.

Somalia is among the countries worst hit by the drought. Turkey has recently initiated an aid campaign and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan visited several refugee camps in the country.

Source: The World Bulletin

Bruised by war, Somalia's capital slowly reawakens

After four years of war, Mogadishu is rising from its ruins

Their life's belongings piled on donkeys, Somali families weave along alleys filled with the corpses of starved animals to return to their bullet-ridden homes.

After four years of war, Mogadishu bears the signs of a city slowly rising from the ruins of war.

Gunfire, bombs and mortars had punctured the coastal city almost everyday as Western-backed government forces and African Union troops fought an insurgency by the Islamist al Shabaab rebel group.

But earlier this month, the al-Qaida-inspired militants -- outgunned and divided -- withdrew nearly all their combatants from their bases in the capital and Somalis woke to what they say they hope will be an extended period of calm.

"I led a dog's life for the last two years," said Liban Abdulle who was forced to flee his home and shop in Abdiaziz, a once thriving Mogadishu district near the water-front.

Al Shabaab overran the neighborhood in 2008, as it did elsewhere in Mogadishu, turning it into a battlefield, digging tunnels and trenches and commandeering people's homes.

Abdulle fled to Elasha on the outskirts of Mogadishu, one of several towns where tens of thousands of displaced Somalis settled.

"I have now returned to my former home. The house was looted and destroyed. But I am happy, my cousin sent me $400 to revive my shop. Business is good and people have returned," he said.

Story: Hospitals shelled, ambulances shot up as health workers become targets of war across the world.

A local rights group said up to half a million people had returned to their dwellings in the last three weeks, in a city that numbered two million people before the insurgency.

Those with no homes to return to in Mogadishu, fill squalid, makeshift refugee camps where an influx of Somalis fleeing famine in the country's south have further swelled numbers.

AU tanks and Somali forces on pick-ups mounted with anti-aircraft guns patrol Mogadishu's streets, trying to maintain the lull in fighting, which over four years has killed more than 20,000 people according to U.N. estimates.

There are still some pockets of resistance by al Shabaab in the capital's northern districts. The militants have vowed to press the fight and resort to al-Qaida-style attacks.

But the threats have not deterred many families from returning, with their mattresses, pillows, buckets, rugs and tires piled high on carts and buses.

Filling trenches, clearing bushes

On one Sinai street, bullet holes scar a row of one-story bricked houses, their metal sheet roofs in various stages of collapse.

"The rebels dug trenches, overgrown bushes crowd the house and the skeletons of our donkeys lie nearby," said Gele Culusow from the Karan district, where hastily constructed cemeteries mark the graves of those who dared remain to guard their houses.

"Some good traders helped us with tractors to fill the trenches and to level heaps. Everyone around here has an axe to clear bushes around their houses. It is do it yourself," he said.

After four years away, Habiba Osman returned to her home in Taleh, a neighborhood between the K-4 road junction and Somalia's main Bakara market, a former rebel base.

"Electricity cables, water pipes, the roof and some walls were ruined by shells. I understand al Shabaab were firing mortars from my house, prompting the AU's shells to land on it," said Osman who had to pay $4,000 to repair the damage.

"Now there is hope for living. I am home with my children."

Roads that once served as front lines in the fighting have re-opened. The booming parts of the capital are those which have been under government control for the last four years.

There, vehicles are out on the streets late into the night, businesses stay open later and older houses along well-lit streets are being torn down to make way for newer ones.

Living to see this day

Mogadishu has become a haven for Somalis fleeing the drought-hit, rebel-controlled parts of the country where al Shabaab imposed a ban on food aid agencies and tried to prevent Somalis from fleeing in search of food.

Although operating in Mogadishu is far from easy, relief groups say that more food aid is reaching refugee camps and sanitation conditions have improved since al Shabaab pulled out.

"I never thought my children and I would live to see this moment," said Samira Yasin who fled to the Korsan camp in Elasha from Mogadishu's Daynile district after her husband and son were killed in fighting four years ago.

Previously living under al Shabaab control, Yasin described a filthy, mosquito and flea-ridden camp where her children suffered from measles and malnourishment.

"Now at least life is better. There are no parasites and no al Shabaab. We get free food, medicine and water. I will work for my children and take them back to our house," she said.

"I believe God will not revive al Shabaab again, because he is merciful."
Many regional observers expect al Shabaab, who said their retreat was tactical, to reemerge in Mogadishu, this time as guerrilla fighters rather than a conventional fighting force.

Still, many residents are optimistic for the future.

On Tuesday, hundreds of men, traditional white cloth wrapped around their bodies, gathered in a football stadium and engaged in Shirib, poetic short verse composed by some Somali clans. They jumped to the rhythm of their chants: "Come out for peace. Mogadishu's wounds are healed. Come out for peace."

Source: Reuters

Underreported and Unchecked: Sexual Violence Against Somali Refugee Women

by Yifat Susskind, MADRE

Amal* left her village in Somalia when she realized that there was nothing left there for her. There was no food and no water. So she gathered her emaciated children and began the long trek to the refugee camps in northeastern Kenya. She thought that being forced to leave her home would be the worst thing to ever happen to her.

That was until she was attacked and raped by bandits on the way.

I recently returned from Kenya, where Somali women and families are seeking refuge by the thousands. I met with Hubbie Hussein Al-Haji of MADRE’s sister organization, Womankind Kenya, a grassroots women’s organization of Somali pastoralists. We talked about the most urgent needs for famine refugees—for food and water—and about how MADRE and Womankind Kenya can work together to provide for them.

And Hubbie told me about Amal and other women like her, who are arriving in northeastern Kenya traumatized not only from famine and displacement—but also from being raped along the trek.

Sexual Violence Rising in Famine-Struck East Africa

Women and girls seeking refuge at displacement camps must walk for days, along the long and dangerous routes to the Somalia-Kenya border. Bandits and Al-Shabaab militia patrol much of southern Somalia and have infiltrated deep into Kenya, often attacking women and their families to steal the few possessions they have. In Amal’s case, they took the only piece of gold jewelry she had ever owned. She had been hoping to trade it for food.

In these attacks, women have been raped. Even once they arrive at the displacement camps in Kenya, they are not safe. They need food and water, but there is not enough to go around. Many are turned away for lack of resources, relegated to the outskirts of the camps. There, local communities are struggling, not only to sustain themselves through drought and famine, but to offer aid to even harder hit famine refugees from Somalia. The women of Womankind Kenya come from these very communities and have long been mobilizing to confront this famine.

Even as refugees fight to survive, the threat of sexual violence persists. Women and girls are especially vulnerable when they venture out in search of firewood for cooking. As more refugees pour into the area, women must walk farther to find wood, putting them at greater risk of rape. In the area of Dadaab, now the biggest refugee camp in the world, violence against women and girls has quadrupled in the past six months.

Grassroots organizations like Womankind Kenya are a lifeline for rape survivors, especially those who have been turned away from the camps. These women are isolated and vulnerable, cut off from the communities of support they might once have had. Womankind Kenya can do more than meet their pressing needs for food and water. They can speak to women in their own language, breaking through their isolation to offer them care and a new source of support to lean on.

Looking Forward

We’ve seen this surge in sexual violence after disaster many times before. We saw it after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, after the massive flooding of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In each of these cases and many more, major disasters uproot communities and leave women and girls vulnerable to violence, including rape and sexual assault. In the chaos and loss of social cohesion that routinely follow disaster, women and girls in places as far afield as Somalia, Nicaragua or the United States are rendered more vulnerable to sexual attack.

To combat this rise in sexual violence, MADRE partners with local women’s organizations around the world that know well the gender-specific threats women and girls face after conflict and disaster – organizations like Womankind Kenya.

Now, Hubbie explained to me, Womankind Kenya is working to fill the gap in access to counseling services and medical care for rape survivors. MADRE is working with them to set up a mobile clinic to bring essential services to refugee women and their families. They will collaborate with local doctors and nurses, who they have worked with before, to reach out to women who need care. They will help women overcome fear of stigma by offering counseling and medical services that respect women’s privacy, and they will help women find their path to recovery.

When the women of Womankind Kenya reached out to Amal, she had all but given up hope. She had just arrived and was living at the edge of a camp. She had nothing, after having been robbed by her attackers. Womankind Kenya gave her emergency food and water, and what’s more, they listened to her story. It was only a first step but an essential one—for Amal and all of the refugee women and girls traumatized by rape.

*Not her real name


Eid ul-Fitr, Ramadan’s sweet ending

The end of Ramadan is in the neighborhood again. By observance of the new moon, Muslims all over the world mark the end of the fasting period through a celebratory feast named Eid ul-Fitr.

The feast also ushers in Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar.
For Muslims, it not only signals the breaking of the fast, but also signifies the attainment of religious virtue, characterized by sacrifice, self-discipline and acts of charity.

On the day of the celebration, a typical Muslim family gets up very early and attends special prayers held only for the occasion in big mosques, large open areas, stadiums or arenas where thousands of people can gather.

The festivities and merriment start after the prayers with visits to the homes of friends and relatives and thanking the Creator for all blessings.

Special sweets and special meal are prepared and shared and the phrase "Eid-e-Fetr Mubarak" is exchanged which means "Have a happy and blessed Eid".

However, it is an opportunity to come together as a community and to renew friendship and family ties. This is a time for peace for all Muslims in the world to devote to prayers and mutual well-being.

On this day fetrieh must be paid to the needy. It is money that every Muslim pays to the poor and is equal to the sum of the cost of a meal for every member of the family. In the time of the Holy Prophet Mohammad, fetrieh was used to free slaves from their masters. As slaves became free, they helped to free other slaves.

This year, Eid ul-Fitr in Iran coincides with the increase in the number of travels since the people have only some few weeks to the end of summer holidays.

Time of forgiveness

According to experts, fasting is not regarded as a means of calming God's wrath or paying for sins, the purpose of fasting is to train oneself self-discipline, self control, and obedience to God's commands.

On the other hand, Ramadan is not only the month of fasting but also the month of spiritual healing. The practice of fasting includes abstaining from all food, drink, tobacco, chewing gum throughout the duration of fasting. In addition, one refrains from arguing, fighting, lying, speaking ill of others, and restrains the tongue and temper.

This is a period to resolve past arguments, a time of forgiveness, and a time of giving to charity.

Fasting is the responsibility of all Muslims after puberty except; sick people, those who are traveling, children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, women during menstruation and up to forty days following childbirth, very old people, and the insane.

If one misses fasting during Ramadan because of their condition, one can make it up before the beginning of the next Ramadan. If fasting is hazardous to one's health permanently, one can instead give a total equivalent of one meal for each day to the poor. Old people and insane people are permanently exempt from fasting.

Ramadan throughout the seasons

The lunar calendar is used for observance of Ramadan. A lunar calendar utilizes the moon instead of the sun to find out when a new lunar month starts. All months are either twenty nine or thirty days long.

In a lunar calendar, any given date falls ten days earlier each year (eleven days in a leap year) than the previous year. Therefore, Ramadan as well as other months rotates throughout the seasons, year after year. In about thirty three years, the cycle of twelve months is completed so Ramadan falls during all the seasons.

Source: The Tehran Times

Monday, August 29, 2011

Eid Al-Fitr Starts Tuesday in Most Countries

The majority of Muslims worldwide will welcome `Eid Al-Fitr, which crowns the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, on Tuesday, August 30, while some Muslims will celebrate the occasion a day later.

Religious authorities in Saudi Arabia said that the new moon of Shawwal, the 10th month in the Islamic calendar, was sighted on Monday, August 29.

"Therefore, Monday, August 29, is the last day of Ramadan and Tuesday, August 30 will be the first day of Shawwal."

Egypt's Mufti Ali Gomaa also confirmed the start of the Muslim feast on Tuesday, August 30.

Religious authorities in Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait also said Tuesday will be the first day of `Eid.

The first day of the Muslim feast will be on Tuesday, August 30 in Jordan, Yemen and the Palestinian territories.

`Eid Al-Fitr will also start on Tuesday in Syria, Sudan, Tunisia and Algeria.

Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Lebanon will also celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr on Tuesday, August 30.

The first day of `Eid Al-Fitr will also be on Tuesday, August 30, in North America, the Fiqh Council of North America has announced.

The Muslim feast will also start on Tuesday, August 30, in Europe, the European Council of Fatwa and Research has said.

The Muslim minority in China will also celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr on Tuesday, August 30.

`Eid Al-Fitr will also start Tuesday, August 30 in Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey.

Muslims in Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Albania and Slovenia will also celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr on Tuesday.

`Eid Al-Fitr is one the two main Islamic religious festivals along with `Eid Al-Adha.

During `Eid days, families and friends exchange visits to express well wishes and children, wearing new clothes bought especially for `Eid, enjoy going out in parks and open fields.

Day Later

Some Muslim countries, however, will celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr on Wednesday, August 31.

Religious authorities in Oman have announced that Wednesday, August 31, will be the first day of `Eid Al-Fitr.

The Shiites-majority Iran will also celebrate the Muslim feast on Wednesday, August 31.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and India will sight the moon of Shawwal on Tuesday, August 30.

Moon sighting have always been a controversial issue among Muslim countries, and even scholars seem at odds over the issue.

While one group of scholars sees that Muslims in other regions and countries are to follow the same moon sighting as long as these countries share one part of the night, another states that Muslims everywhere should abide by the lunar calendar of Saudi Arabia.

A third, however, disputes both views, arguing that the authority in charge of ascertaining the sighting of the moon in a given country announces the sighting of the new moon, then Muslims in the country should all abide by this.

This usually causes confusion among Muslims, particularly in the West, on observing the dawn-to-dusk fasting and celebrating the `Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of fasting.


Syrian troops fight defectors near Damascus — residents

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad fought gun battles overnight near a northeast Damascus suburb with army defectors who had refused to shoot at a pro-democracy protest, residents said on Sunday.

Six months into a popular uprising, Assad is under pressure from street protests, galvanized by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and from Arab foreign ministers who told Syria early on Sunday to work to end bloodshed “before it is too late.”

The Arab League decided to send its Secretary-General to Damascus to push for reforms. Turkey’s president said he had lost confidence in Syria.

Dozens of soldiers defected and fled into Al-Ghouta, an area of orchards and farmland, after pro-Assad forces fired at a large crowd of demonstrators near the Damascus suburb of Harasta to prevent them from marching on the capital, residents said.

“The army has been firing heavy machine guns throughout the night at Al-Ghouta and they were being met with response from smaller rifles,” a resident of Harasta told Reuters by phone.

It was the first reported defection around the capital, where Assad’s core forces are based.

Official denial

Syrian authorities have repeatedly denied any army defections have been taking place. They have expelled independent media since the uprising against Assad, from Syria’s minority Alawite sect, erupted in Mach.

Activists have been reporting increasing defections among the rank-and-file army, mostly drawn from Syria’s Sunni majority but dominated by an Alawite officer core effectively under the command of Assad’s brother Maher.

A statement published on the Internet by the Free Officers, a group that says it represents defectors, said “large defections” occurred in Harasta and security forces and shabbiha (militiamen) loyal to Assad were chasing the defectors.

The statement said that a colonel in Air Force Intelligence, who had been in charge of raids and arrests by the secret police, was hit by a bullet in his head in the nearby suburb of Saqba.

The escalation came after Syria’s Interior Ministry warned Damascus residents on Saturday against demonstrating after some of the most intense protests in the capital since the start of the uprising against Assad.

The Syrian Revolution Coordinating Union, an activist group, said thousands of people marched at the funerals of three protesters who were killed when Assad’s forces fired at demonstrators who tried to march from the northeastern suburbs to Damascus on Saturday.

President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, a former ally which has become increasingly critical of Syria, said the situation had reached a point where changes would be too little too late, Turkish state-run news agency Anatolian reported.

Gul told Anatolian in an interview: “We are really very sad. Incidents are said to be ‘finished’ and then another 17 people are dead. How many will it be today? Clearly we have reached a point where anything would be too little too late. We have lost our confidence.”

Assad’s closest ally, Shiite Iran, with which he has been strengthening ties to the disquiet of Syria’s Sunni majority, said Damascus must listen to the “legitimate demands” of its people. But Tehran also said that any change in Syria’s ruling system would be dangerous for the Middle East.

"Resort to reason"

In Cairo, the Arab League said in a statement after an extraordinary meeting that it was concerned “over the dangerous developments on the Syrian arena that had caused thousands of casualties” and “stresses the importance of ending bloodshed and to resort to reason before it is too late.”

It was the first official Arab League meeting on Syria since the start of the uprising, inspired by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt that sparked unrest across the Middle East and North Africa. The foreign ministers said Syria’s stability was crucial for the Arab world and the whole region.

The United Nations says 2,200 people have been killed since Assad sent in tanks and troops to crush months of street demonstrations calling for an end to his family’s 41-year rule.

Syrian authorities have blamed armed “terrorist groups” for the bloodshed and say 500 police and army have been killed.

The latest demonstrations in Damascus were partly sparked by an attack on Saturday by Assad’s forces on a popular cleric, Osama Al-Rifai. He was treated with several stitches to his head after they stormed Al-Rifai mosque complex in the Kfar Sousa district of the capital, home to the secret police headquarters, to prevent a protest from coming out of the mosque.

“Some of the ‘amn’ (security) went on the roof and began firing from their AK-47s to scare the crowd. Around 10 people were wounded, with two hit by bullets in the neck and chest,” a cleric who lives in the area told Reuters by phone.

Assad decreed on Sunday a new media law, the official state news agency said, maintaining previous bans on reports that “compromise national unity” or relating to the military or the security apparatus.

Source: The Arab News

Is Eid Tuesday or Wednesday?

By Tom Wright

The confusion about Eid-ul-Fitr, the day Muslims break their month-long Ramadan fast, is on again.

Some Muslims in North America, Europe and the Middle East say the holy day falls Tuesday. Others, including those in India, Pakistan and Southeast Asia, are likely to hold out until Wednesday.

The reason is an argument over how to determine the arrival of a new moon cycle which marks the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan and the arrival of the following month of Shawwal.

Islamic tradition states that a new lunar month begins with the physical sighting of a sliver of the new moon at sunset. (Islamic months begin at sundown.)

In the past, Muslims in different parts of the world would have seen this waxing crescent moon on different days due to geographical position, cloud cover and other meteorological factors. Without global connectivity, this hardly would have mattered.

But today, different Islamic authorities are keen that their interpretation of when Eid-ul-Fitr falls is taken up across the world so the faith’s 1.2 billion people can celebrate together.

Many countries take the lead from Saudi Arabia, which is home to Islam’s holiest mosque and the closest equivalent the Muslim world has to the Vatican. The Saudi Supreme Court, which typically makes a call on this based on the sightings of official astronomical committees, has not yet come down for Tuesday or Wednesday.

Tonight, those committees will be out at sunset, scanning the sky with the naked eye and telescopes. (Some traditionalists, though, eschew even telescopes.)

Generally, India and Pakistan celebrate a day later than Saudi Arabia, although Indians in Kerala, partly because of their cultural ties to Saudi Arabia, have often followed Riyadh.

The emergence of a school of thought that believes science, not physical sightings of the moon, should play a role has further complicated things.

The Fiqh Council of North America, a grouping of scholars, says that Islam should use precise astronomical data to mark the start of the lunar month.

Science can predict accurately when a new moon rises. A lunar month literally begins at the moment of “conjunction,” an astronomical term used to describe when the earth, moon and sun lie in the same plane. This year, conjunction marking the end of Ramadan occurred earlier today.

The Fiqh Council argues this means Eid-ul-Fitr falls tomorrow.

Another argument used by these “modernists” is that a physical sighting of the new moon anywhere in the world should be taken by all Muslims as a start of the lunar month. If you look at this map by the Islamic Crescents’ Observation Project, a Jordanian-backed attempt to share global moon sighting data, you’ll see the new moon should easily be spotted tonight in Patagonia and some other parts of South America but not in most parts of North America, Europe and Asia. The Fiqh Council says it also might be visible tonight in Hawaii using a telescope.

Saudi authorities are clearly uncomfortable with the idea that an astronomical calculation of a new moon or a sighting in Patagonia, part of Catholic-majority Argentina, could mark the start of Eid-ul-Fitr.

In other areas of Muslim life, standardization is now taken for granted. Most Muslims no longer rely on sightings of the sun to determine when to perform their five daily prayers but consult prayer times published by local Islamic authorities. (Even here there’s disagreements.)

But there’s a feeling that prayer times must differ, while Eid-ul-Fitr, a key Muslim holiday, should be celebrated by all on one day.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Eitiquette of Eid Al-Fitr

By Mohammed Aqil

Muslims throughout the world fast during the month of Ramadan, offer late night prayers, and indulge in all kinds of pious activities. At the end of a whole month of fasting, Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Fitr which falls on the first day of Shawwal.

The Eid prayers comprise two Rak’ahs led by the Imam, followed by a Khutba (sermon).

Following are some of rituals that one must carry out on Eid Al-Fitr

Adorn oneself according to Islamic rules.
Have a bath.
Use miswaak.
Wear the best of clothing which one may have.
Apply perfume.
Wake up very early in the morning.
Reach early at the place for Eid prayers.
Eat something sweet, such as dates, before going to the Eid prayers.
Give the Sadaqat Al-Fitr before going for Eid prayers
Offer Eid prayers in the place of Eid prayers. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Pray as you have seen me praying.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari.
Listen to the Eid Khutba
Return from the Eid praying place, taking a different route than the one that he had taken when going towards the Eid congregation.

Women can go and offer Eid prayers as well.
It is narrated that Umm ‘Atiyah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “We were commanded (and in one report it says, he commanded us – meaning the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to bring out for the Eid prayers the adolescent girls and the women in seclusion, and he commanded the menstruating women to avoid the prayer-place of the Muslims.” Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 1/93; Muslim, 890. According to another report: “We were commanded to come out and to bring out the adolescent girls and those in seclusion.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

According to a report narrated by Al-Tirmidhi: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to bring along the virgins, adolescent girls, women in seclusion and menstruating women on the occasion of both Eid ul-Fitr and Eid-ul Adha, but the menstruating women were to keep away from the prayer place and witness the gathering of the Muslims. One of them said, “Messenger of Allah, what if she does not have a jilbaab (garment)?” He said, “Then let her sister lend her one of her jilbaabs (garments).” __

Source: The Saudi Gazette

The Fiqh Council of North America Announces Clarifications on Eid: Eidul Fitr on Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Doubts have been raised by some about the decision of the Fiqh Council of North America and the European Council of Fatwa and Research about the date of Eidul Fitr this year on August 30, 2011. Following are some clarifications from the Fiqh Council of North America.

1 - The Fiqh Council of North America recognizes astronomical calculation as an acceptable Shar’i method for determining the beginning of Lunar months including the months of Ramadan and Shawwal. FCNA uses Makkah al-Mukarram as a conventional point and takes the position that the conjunction must take place before sunset in Makkah and moon must set after sunset in Makkah.

2 - The Astronomical New Moon is on August 29, 2011 (Monday) at 3:04 Universal Time (6:04 a.m. Makkah time). On Monday, August 29, sunset at Makkah is 6:40 p.m. local time, while moonset is at 6:44 pm local time.

3 - It is claimed that the new moon will not be visible on August 29 anywhere in the world. This information is not correct.

4 - In United States the birth of Astronomical new moon is on August 28, 2011 (Sunday) at 11:04 p.m. (New York), at 8:04 p.m. (California) and 5:04 p.m. (Hawaii).

5 - On Monday, August 29, the Crescent will set 13 minutes after sunset in San Diego, California and 28 minutes after sunset in Honolulu, Hawaii.

On Monday, August 29 the Crescent should be visible in Hawaii by binoculars and telescope and in South America by naked eye.

The Shawwal Crescent of Monday, August 29 is acceptable according to Shari’ah for those who recognize the Global sighting as it is also acceptable according to the criteria adopted by the Fiqh Council of North America.

Eidul Fitr is on Tuesday, August 30, 2011. Eid Mubarak and best wishes for a blessed Eid with peace and harmony among all.

Source: Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)

Ramadan chance for Muslims to be recognized in Brazil

Muslim communities in Brazil began establishing foundations centered around the mosques in the country 17 years ago.

Sao Paulo, where Muslims make up only a small percentage of the city's population of 20 million, is no İstanbul, which undergoes something that one can call "Ramadanization" during the Muslim holy month with iftar (fast-breaking) events and mahya illuminations at mosques, to name a few traditions.

Since there is only a small group of Muslims in the city, they are even more conscious of Ramadan than those living in predominantly Muslim countries. They gather under one roof for the occasion of Ramadan and work harder to seize the spirit of Ramadan and do good deeds. Muslims exert great efforts to be seen in Sao Paulo, especially during this holy month.

Muslim communities in Brazil began establishing foundations centered around the mosques in the country 17 years ago. These foundations currently hold joint activities under the roof of an organization called the Union of Islamic Institutions, which carries out activities to highlight the Islamic principle of helping those in need.

This year's Ramadan has seen Muslim communities come together to organize health programs that were conducted in the poorer regions of Brazil. Roughly 200 doctors -- a few of them Muslims -- volunteered in one such program I attended.

Jamel Ali el Bacha from the Union of Islamic Institutions, himself a doctor, said each weekend around 15,000 people living in the shanty towns of Sao Paolo were able to receive a health checkup from a doctor.

A 78-year-old woman living in one of the shanty towns, who had her cholesterol levels checked, said this was the first time she had seen such a service.

Organizers planned this voluntary service down to the smallest detail. Fully equipped open-air hospitals were set up for one day in which children were taken care of, given candy and areas to play in free of charge.

One of the doctors volunteering in the program said after he took part in the project that he had discovered Islam was not a "terrorist" religion. "I have begun to see its beauty," he added.

A poster providing information on Islam was hung in each tent built as part of the open-air hospitals, with one tent having been set up especially for people who are curious about the religion. Books on Islam's view on Jesus in Portuguese were also available to visitors. Everything takes place with maximum care and with love and not a single sign of insincerity can be seen.

Iftar meals were also organized by Muslim communities at mosques in Sao Paulo, where some hosted iftars every night and some only during the week.

Visiting the mosque, eating iftar and performing prayers are exclusive activities for Muslim families in the city during Ramadan. Since it is hard to find food that can be eaten by Muslims in Sao Paolo, iftars in mosques offer a good opportunity for those looking for a good place to break their fast.


FACTBOX-Ships held by Somali pirates

Somali pirates have freed a Greek-operated oil products tanker and its crew after holding them hostage for nearly 10 months, the vessel's manager said.

The MT Polar, a Liberian-owned Panama-flagged 72,825-tonne tanker was seized 580 miles east of Socotra last October with a crew of 24.

Here are details of ships still held by Somali pirates:

* SOCOTRA 1: Seized on Dec. 25, 2009, in the Gulf of Aden. The Yemeni-owned ship had six Yemeni crew.

* ICEBERG 1: Seized on March 29, 2010. Roll-on roll-off vessel captured 10 miles (16 km) from Aden. Crew of 24.

* Three Thai fishing vessels -- PRANTALAY 11, 12 and 14 -- hijacked on April 17-18. Total of 77 crew. Prantalay 12 remains in captivity. Prantalay 11 and 14 were freed by the Indian navy.

* OLIB G: Seized on Sept. 8. Maltese-flagged merchant vessel with 18 crew -- 15 Georgians, three Turks.

* CHOIZIL: Seized on Oct. 26. South African-owned yacht hijacked after leaving Dar es Salaam. European Union anti-piracy task force rescued one South African but two other crew members were taken ashore and held as hostages.

* ALBEDO: Seized on Nov. 26. Malaysian-owned cargo vessel was taken 900 miles off Somalia as it headed for Mombasa from UAE. Crew of 23 from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran.

* PANAMA: Seized on Dec. 10. Liberian-flagged container ship en route from Tanzania to Beira. Crew of 23 from Myanmar.
* ORNA: Seized on Dec. 20. The Panama-flagged bulk cargo vessel, 27,915 dwt, owned by the United Arab Emirates, was seized 400 miles northeast of the Seychelles.

* SHIUH FU NO 1: Seized Dec. 25. Somali pirates appeared to have seized the Taiwanese-owned fishing vessel near the northeast tip of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The vessel had a crew of 26 Taiwanese, Chinese and Vietnamese nationals.

* BLIDA: Seized on Jan. 1, 2011. The 20,586-tonne Algerian-flagged bulk carrier was seized about 150 miles southeast of Salalah, Oman. The ship, with 27 crew from Algeria, Ukraine and the Philippines, was heading to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from Salalah with a cargo of clinker.

* HOANG SON SUN: Seized on Jan. 19. The 22,835-tonne bulk carrier, which is Mongolian flagged and Vietnamese-owned and has a crew of 24 Vietnamese nationals, was seized about 520 nautical miles southeast of the port of Muscat.

* SAVINA CAYLYN: Seized on Feb. 8. The 104,255-dwt tanker, Italian-flagged and owned, was on passage to Malaysia from Sudan when it was attacked 670 miles east of Socotra Island. It had five Italians and 17 Indians on board.

* ALFARDOUS: Seized on Feb. 13. The Yemeni fishing vessel was believed to have been seized close to Socotra Island in the Gulf of Aden and has a crew of eight.

* DOVER: Seized on Feb. 28. It was taken about 260 nautical miles northeast of Salalah in Oman. The Panamanian flagged, Greek owned vessel was on its way to Saleef in Yemen from Port Quasim, Pakistan, when it was attacked. The crew consists of three Romanians, one Russian and 19 Filipinos.

* SINAR KINDUS: Seized on March 16. The Indonesian flagged and owned bulk cargo carrier was taken approximately 320 miles northeast of Socotra in the Somali Basin. The ship, with 20 crew, was quickly used to launch further attacks.

* ROSALIA D'AMATO: Seized on April 21. The Italian-owned bulk carrier was captured 350 miles (560 km) off the coast of Oman. The 74,500 tonne bulk carrier was on its way to Bandar Imam Khomeini in Iran from Brazil with a cargo of soya. The 21 crew consisted of six Italians and 15 Filipinos.
* GEMINI: Seized on April 30. The Singapore-flagged chemical tanker was seized off the Tanzanian coast, 115 miles east of Zanzibar. The 29,871 dwt vessel carried 28,000 tonnes of crude palm oil from Kuala Tanjung in Indonesia to Mombasa. The 25 crew consist of four from South Korea, 13 from Indonesia, three from Myanmar and five from China.

* FAIRCHEM BOGEY: Seized on Aug. 20. The empty chemical oil tanker with its 21 crew was seized south of Salalah port in the Gulf of Oman. The 52,455 dwt Marshall Islands flagged tanker is managed by Mumbai-based Anglo-Eastern Ship Management.

Sources: Reuters/Ecoterra International/International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre/Lloyds List/ here (Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

Somali goats in demand

Soaring demand for relatively affordable Somali goats has all but ended the long-standing dominance of Australian livestock as the preferred source of fresh meat for the traditional Eid al Fitr family meal, thanks to the skyrocketing cost of imports from Down Under. According to local dealers, Australian sheep, which have long held sway over the livestock market in the Sultanate, have now given way to goats from the Horn of Africa, as well as some volumes of imported cattle.

Contributing in large part to the changed market dynamics is the escalating cost of Australian sheep, which currently retails at RO 85 per head, against a price of RO 65 exactly a year ago. The roughly 30 per cent increase — the steepest since imports from Australia began more than two decades ago — is attributed to a sharp rise in the value of the Australian dollar. Surging global demand has also buoyed prices of Australian sheep, it is learnt.

Unlike in past years when seasonal Ramadhan and Eid demand was typically met by a flurry of livestock consignments from Australia, Port Sultan Qaboos recorded only one shipment this time around. The shipment, destined for Al Batna Livestock — the Sultanate’s largest importer and distributor — comprised a mere 6,500 head of sheep, which was far lower than the numbers procured in previous years to meet the demands of the holy month and the festive Eid holiday.

According to a company representative, the steep cost was a key factor in limiting imports. “We settled for a smaller shipment because we didn’t want to be saddled with large numbers of unsold sheep procured at premium prices. Moreover, we’re seeing a shift in demand from pricier Australian sheep to less expensive goats from Somalia and Yemen, as well as cattle imports from the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. All of these supplies put together are helping ensure that the market is well-supplied ahead of the key Eid holiday.”

While livestock shipments to Oman are down to a trickle, supplies to other consuming countries of the GCC bloc continue to be strong as importers capitalise on subsidies offered by their governments on meat sales during the holy month. The subsidy, applicable to fresh meat sold on a retail basis, is an incentive for importers to augment supplies from Australia.

“Australian exporters are quite happy to supply Gulf countries that place large orders on their produce. There are better margins earned by both sides when the consignments are large.Consequently, preference is given to countries that import large quantities. And because of a sharp demand-supply imbalance, smaller importing countries are often given short-shrift in this situation,” a market dealer explained.

Also expected to weigh on margins earned by importers and distributors in the Sultanate is the price cap introduced by the Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP). On Saturday, the consumer watchdog announced a ceiling of RO 85 per head of Australian sheep sold in Muscat Governorate, and RO 90 on animals marketed in the regions of the country.
The price freeze does not apply to Somali goats, which according to livestock dealers, account for around 70 per cent of the domestic demand for live animals. Omani families typically purchase live animals whose meat is shared among relatives during Eid — a tradition that fuels the thriving livestock market in the Sultanate.
Of late, however, Somali goats have emerged as the market’s preferred choice — for cost reasons alone. At between RO 35-40 a head, they sell at roughly half the cost of a standard-sized Australian sheep, although in weight-terms, the latter is twice as heavy. Nevertheless, Somali goats are generally seen as affordable by a majority of families long accustomed to the purchase of a live animal for their Eid festive meal.
Unlike Australian livestock imports, which is an organised commercial activity, Somali goats find their way into the Omani market largely via a flourishing dhow trade centring on Salalah in the south. Some quantities of cattle from the Horn of Africa are also making their way into the Sultanate, catering to a segment of the population that finds fresh lamb far pricier than fresh beef.

Source: The Oman Daily Observer

SA man linked to Somali militia, drugs

A shadowy South African businessman has been named as the financier of a 220-strong private Somali militia and a bizarre scheme to cultivate opium, coca and dagga in the war-torn country.

In a damning report last month to the UN Security Council, UN ­investigators accused two South African-linked companies – Southern Ace Ltd and Saracen International – of "egregious violations" of the arms embargo on Somalia.

The report named Paul Calder le Roux, “also known as ­Bernard John Bowlins”, as a key ­figure in Southern Ace’s activities and stated that although he was a “silent partner” in the company, he was “believed by law enforcement officials” to be the “actual owner”.

Le Roux, believed to be based in the Philippine capital Manila, ­made headlines in 2008 when ­Media24 Investigations exposed his involvement in a bid to secure 99-year ­leases on farmland seized by the Zimbabwean government as part of its “land reform programme”.

According to the UN report, Southern Ace, which is based in Hong Kong, joined forces with a ­Somali businessman, Liban ­Mohamed Ahmed, also known as Ottavio, in January 2009 to establish operations in central Somalia in the self-proclaimed Galmudug state.

Documents seen by investigators showed that between March and June 2009, at least $500 000 (R3.5m) was wired via Dubai from Le Roux’s company in the Philippines, La Plata Trading, to cover “start-up costs”.

The report estimated that ­between 2009 and 2011, Le Roux and his associates spent $3m in Somalia, including “$1m in militia salaries and more than $150 000 on arms”.

Southern Ace recruited militia men from Ottavio’s subclan, ­paying them $300 a month and equipping them with Kalashnikov rifles and light machine guns.


Ottavio subsequently established another company that ­“began to experiment with the ­cultivation of hallucinogenic plants, including opium, coca and cannabis, initially at the Southern Ace compound”.

A former Southern Ace employee told investigators two Philippine nationals, a Zimbabwean and a South African maintenance technician advised on cultivation.

By early last year, according to confidential UN reports, Southern Ace “operated a well-equipped, 220-strong militia supervised by a ­dozen Zimbabweans... with the potential to change the balance of power in the area”.

The reports suggested that the Southern Ace force was involved in a number of battles, including fighting in November last year that raged for several days.

The report claimed that in March last year Le Roux planned to ­import 75kg of C4 explosives, 2000 landmines, a million rounds of 7.62mm ammunition and ­anti-tank missiles to the region.

The delivery never took place ­after a dispute between Le Roux and Ottavio, when “Le Roux ­realised he was paying his militiamen almost twice the market rate”.

Ottavio and three local Southern Ace employees were jailed for three weeks following the shooting of a Southern Ace employee earlier this year and the firm’s assets, including weapons, were divided among local militias.

Repeated attempts to contact Le Roux by phone and e-mail proved unsuccessful.

Saracen ­International

The report was also highly critical of the involvement of another ­South African-linked company, ­Saracen ­International, in the country, saying its operations represented a “significant violation of the general and complete arms embargo on Somalia” and “constituted a threat to peace and security”.

Backed by notorious Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Abu Dhabi officials, Saracen gained a foothold in the semi-autonomous Puntland in northern Somalia to train an anti-piracy marine force.

Key figures in Saracen included Bill Pelser, a former South African special forces soldier, and Lafras Luitingh, a former operative in the apartheid government’s notorious Civil Co-operation Bureau, and a founder member of the defunct mercenary firm Executive ­Outcomes.

South Africa’s permanent mission to the UN failed to respond to official requests for further information from investigators, and attempts to reach Saracen for comment were also fruitless.


Wida''a: bid farewell to Ramadan

We will soon leave the blessed month of Ramadan, its beautiful days and its fragrant nights. We will soon leave the month of the Holy Quran, the month of piety, patience, jihad, mercy, and forgiveness.

It would do us good if we asked ourselves some questions: Have we fulfilled the requirements of Taqwa (Allah consciousness) and graduated from the Ramadan school with a certificate of God-consciousness? Have we fought with our evil desires and defeated them, or have we been overtaken by them? Have we performed our deeds properly so we may be entitled to receive mercy and forgiveness?

What have we gained from Ramadan? Ramadan is a school where we recharge our spiritual batteries as provision for the rest of the year. When will one take lesson and change for the better if not in Ramadan? The noble month is a true school of transformation in which we change our actions, habits and manners that are in variance with the Law of Allah.

“Verily, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Quran, 13:11) If you were among those who benefited from Ramadan, fulfilled the requirements of Taqwa, truly fasted the month, prayed in it with truthfulness, and strove against your desires, then praise and thank Allah, and ask Him for steadfastness upon it until you meet your death. Do not be like a person who has sewn a shirt and then destroyed it.

What would people say about such a person? Or what would you say about a person who earns a fortune during the day and then when night comes, he throws away all that he earned, rial by rial? This is the condition of the one who returns to sinning and evildoing after Ramadan and leaves obedience and righteous actions.

So, after he was favoured with the blessing of obedience and the enjoyment of communicating with Allah, he returned to the blaze of sins and evil actions. This is not thankfulness for blessings and favours, nor is it the sign of acceptance of one’s deeds. This is instead being ungrateful to Allah’s favours. Returning back to sins after Ramadan are among signs that our deeds were not accepted – and Allah’s refuge is sought.

For, if our deeds were sincere, we will be better people after Ramadan. We will stay away from sins and do more good deeds. The righteous people of the past would ask Allah for acceptance of their deeds for six months after Ramadan. If you want to be thankful to Allah, then leave off committing sins.

Remember, the Lord of Ramadan is also the Lord of other months. If you want to continue enjoying the spirit of fasting and worship, then there remains voluntary fasting that you can do throughout the year. If praying at night during Ramadan was so spiritually uplifting, then you can continue praying Tahajjud throughout the year.

Likewise charity and feeding the poor is not limited to Ramadan. And reciting and contemplating over the holy Quran is not only for Ramadan, rather it is for all times.

Righteous actions are for all times and all places, so strive – O my brother and sister – and beware of laziness. And do not fall into forbidden actions. Be steadfast and upright upon the Deen of Allah at all times, for you do not know when you’ll meet the Angel of Death. Beware of him taking your soul while you are in a state of sin. May Allah accept our fasting, our prayers and all righteous deeds. Ameen.

Source: The Times of Oman

Somali Exodus Slows in Horn of Africa But Grows in Yemen

The number of people fleeing their homes in Somalia on a daily basis has been falling this month, but a growing number of Somalis have been risking the high seas to reach Yemen.

In Somalia, figures compiled by a network of UNHCR partners show a significant drop in the number of people arriving in Mogadishu. UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva on Friday that the influx of internally displaced people into the Somali capital had peaked in July, when nearly 28,000 fled to the city in search of humanitarian help after fleeing famine, drought and conflict in the countryside.

"However, since the beginning of this month, just over 5,000 displacements into the city have been recorded. The average daily arrival rate in the city dropped from more than 1,000 per day last month to an estimated 200 in August," Edwards said.

Due to insecurity, almost no movements or returns were recorded in districts of Mogadishu held by the Al Shabaab militia until earlier this month. Furthermore, there are no livelihood opportunities and most of these areas were destroyed by previous fighting. African Union peacekeepers have also imposed restrictions on civilian movement or return to previously Al Shabaab-controlled areas.

"We are also seeing reports of Al Shabaab continuing to place restrictions on movement in areas under its control, particularly movements of men - most notably in the Lower Shabelle and Bay regions in the wake of the Al Shabaab withdrawal from the capital on August 6. This has prevented large population movements, especially from Lower Shabelle, into Mogadishu," Edwards said.

Meanwhile, donations from the Somali diaspora and mobilization by local and host communities in July and August to assist the affected populations during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan may have enabled people to remain where they were.

"Furthermore, international and local organizations, including UNHCR, have been better placed to deliver aid to famine-affected populations in Bay, Gedo, south Bakool and Hiraan regions, particularly in areas along the Kenya and Ethiopia borders," Edwards said. "This has helped to reduce the pressure on Mogadishu as a destination to seek aid," he added.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Domestic violence and our bystander culture

By Qudsia Jafree, August 24, 2011

Last August, a woman was gunned down outside my agency’s headquarters in New Jersey. She was shot 16 times through the back, in front of her two young children. Inevitably, it was established that she was a victim of domestic violence. At the time, she had attempted to do all the right things to leave her violent home for a place of safety – she had a restraining order against her abuser, was in the process of obtaining a divorce and even enrolled in nursing school to ensure financial independence. However, all this was ultimately not enough to save her life.

The bullet holes that remain on our front door serve as a grim reminder that one in three women globally are victims of domestic violence and sometimes, as in this case, such abuse can be fatal.

We can examine this woman’s story through the lens of individual institutional failures – failures of the justice system, failures of law enforcement or the shortcomings of social service and child protective services. But at the end of the day each of these institutions failed this woman. They failed her children. And they failed every other victim of domestic violence who will consider this woman’s murder, despite her numerous attempts to seek safety, as evidence of a failed system and reason enough to remain silent and endure an abusive relationship.

Perhaps the most overlooked institutional failure, however, is our bystander culture, which accepts silence towards gender-based violence. As is often seen in cases of domestic violence or sexual assault, there is a general fixation on the victim’s character and judgment. For example, a woman is often considered weak if she stays in an abusive situation or blamed for ‘encouraging’ a perpetrator to rape her in cases of sexual assault because of her choice of clothing or demeanor. Neither assumption can be regarded as truth, and both highlight our insistence as a society to focus on the victims instead of the perpetrators. We avoid holding perpetrators of violence accountable for their actions by constantly focusing on what the victim could have done to avoid being harmed. What we fail to realize is that by doing so we end up becoming bystanders to abuse. Instead of criticizing women for the decisions they make to essentially negotiate their personal safety and the safety of their children, we should take a closer look at whether we hold our respective communities accountable as healthy systems of support in order to connect victims with education and resources on domestic violence.

Recently, Naazish Noorani, a 27-year-old mother of two children, was murdered in her hometown of Boonton, New Jersey, blocks away from her sister’s home. The most recent reports of the murder allege that her husband is being held for her murder. Reports indicate that her husband was abusive. Neighbors recalled instances of the police frequenting the couple’s Boston apartment for domestic disturbance calls as a result of heated exchanges between the couple. In an affidavit released last week, Noorani’s family revealed that they were aware of several instances of physical abuse, as well as Pervaiz’s extramarital affairs. Another report reveals that another woman filed assault charges against Pervaiz in February after he allegedly pushed and smacked her. The charges were later dropped because the victim failed to cooperate with the prosecutor’s office – an occurrence that is actually quite common for victims of domestic violence.

A month ago, Noorani sent a chilling text message to her brother:

“Can’t talk to him cuz he abuses me ... I’m so tired of this. ... Someday U will find me dead, but it’s cuz of Kashi ... he wants to kill me.”

If Noorani’s life could be played back, how many additional telltale signs would we be able to identify as warning signs of abuse? How many times did she reach out to someone for help? How many red flag instances would we be able to spot where friends, neighbors and family members considered intervening because of something her husband said or did, but then stepped back after convincing them that it was a matter between a man and his wife? How many Naazish Noorani’s have we come across in our lives – and how often do we opt to rationalize violent behavior by convincing ourselves that the sanctity of marriage is far more important than the physical well being of our daughters, sisters, and mothers?

It is important to note here that some women will never seek out support or additional services. In fact, some may even turn down support from community or family members, which seems to be what many relatives of Noorani claim was the case when they tried to help. What is critical to understand is that in order to provide adequate support to victims of abuse, we must: 1) be educated on the complex dynamics of domestic violence, 2) learn to become active and empathetic listeners and 3) be able to connect victims with local social service agencies that can provide them with professional assistance as they navigate the social service, legal, and justice systems to seek safety.

Before we can do any of that we have to be able to own up, as a community, to the fact that domestic violence is a problem that gravely impacts our community just as any other. Domestic violence, by definition, is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that includes physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. It can entail intimidation and manipulation that manifests itself in many ways aside from physical abuse – by threatening to take away children, threatening to have a woman deported or ‘shamed’ by being sent back home to her parents or isolating her from her family and friends to strategically cut her off from her support networks. As abusers often engage in a pattern of behavior, also called the cycle of violence, many women mistake apologies or peaceful times at home as indications that things will get better at home. This lack of awareness about what domestic violence, as well as the cyclical and often escalating dynamics of domestic violence, lead many women to feel trapped and unsure of what to do. Without adequate intervention some of these women, as in the case of Noorani, end up paying with their lives.

As mentioned earlier, one in three women will face some form of abuse in her lifetime. Statistically, these women will consider leaving their abusive partners seven to fourteen times before actually leaving – if they even try. The reasons for this seeming indecision is not what is generally perceived as a woman’s inability to make decisions sans emotion – it is actually just the opposite. Financial dependence, a lack of awareness about resources and laws that protect them, the desire to provide a two-parent home for their children and a lack of awareness about the cyclical dynamics of abuse all end up being reasons women often internally negotiate with themselves to stay in their abusive situations.

A fear of homelessness is another factor that many women consider when choosing to stay. The fear is very real considering a recent survey conducted by the National Coalition for the Homeless revealed that sixty-three percent of women in homeless situations are actually victims of domestic violence. This not only illustrates the grim reality of the consequences of leaving abusive homes, but also the inability of social service and government housing programs to provide adequate alternatives for women fleeing violent partners.

Now consider compounding the process of a woman constantly negotiating her safety in a domestic violence situation with cultural and religious stigmas prevalent in many Muslim and immigrant communities. The lack of awareness about the dynamics of abuse, silence and indifference from community members, friends and family can be detrimental to a woman’s decision to seek help. If a woman is unable to find adequate support to leave her abuser, she is unlikely to leave at all.

Domestic violence is not an issue where you can afford to be a neutral and uniformed bystander. The lives of our daughters, sisters, mothers and friends are far too precious to gamble away by such indifference. So what can you do?

Become informed. The best kind of bystander is an informed one. Find your local domestic violence agency and sign up to become a volunteer. Learn about the dynamics of domestic violence and about the resources available for victims in your local area.

Listen. 1 in 3 women are subject to some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. It is very likely that you have or will come across several women in similar situations. If you do come across such a woman in your life, listen to her. Validate her experience and serve as a source of non-judgmental support. Always present her with options and never with frustration over why she may not be ready to leave.

Be the resource. Connect her with local domestic violence agencies so that she may receive additional support and much needed services ranging from 24 hour hotlines, emergency shelter, crisis counseling, child care, job readiness, legal advocacy and transitional housing.

Qudsia Jafree is a domestic violence counselor at the YWCA-Eastern Union County, NJ. For more information on getting involved with the YWCA, contact:

If you suspect that you are in an abusive relationship and would like to learn more about seeking help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Source: The Altmuslimah