Sunday, March 29, 2009

ISLAM SHAPING A NEW EUROPE || In UK alone, 50,000 entering Islam every Year

New York, July 20th, 2008: In a recent interview with the BBC, British Home Secretary Jack Smith made some interesting observations about the rapid spread of Islam in Europe.

According to Smith, around 50,000 Britishers are converting to Islam each year and since 2001, four lakh Britishers have converted to Islam. He said the Muslim population in Britain has reached 20 lakh and followers of Islam are now the second 

biggest population in Britain after Christians. He even suggested setting up an Islamic University in Britain given the overwhelming population of the Muslims in that country.

The momentum and intensity with which Islam is spreading in the West has puzzled the policy makers, religious scholars, researchers and media there. The conversions have especially gained unimaginable momentum after 9/11. Most of the researchers believe that the fast erosion of the religious and cultural values in the Western societies is pushing its people towards Islam that offers a more comprehensive, well-knit and value-oriented cultural, social and family structure.

According to a recent report in the prestigious Time magazine, hundreds of new mosques are coming up in the West and most of the European cities now get to hear Azan (call for prayer) five times a day. In Rome a grand mosque is coming up at a whopping cost of $3 crore for which the land has been donated by the local government.

According to Dr Mehmood Siddiqi Saidi, Director, European Muslim Minority Board, while as per a recent UN report the Muslim population in Europe is 21 million, in actual it could be around 50 million. As per the data available at, in 2006 the Muslim population in Europe, including Russia, was around 50.70 million.

With the increase in Muslim population in Europe, the number of mosques and Islamic centers is also growing speedily. While in Britain there were only 13 mosques in 1963, at present there are 600 mosques and 1400 Islamic organizations in the country.

France, with a population of 60 lakh Muslims, has 1300 mosques and Islamic centers in addition to around 600 Islamic organizations. The Muslims in France have a 24-hour radio channel. The estimated population of Muslims in France would reach around 80 lakh during the next 15 years.

Italy has a population of 10 lakh Muslims with 450 mosques and Islamic centers. According to reputed Italian magazine The Journal, in next 200 years the European society would almost entirely accept Islam as the only religion.

Germany has a Muslim population of 40 lakh with 1400 mosques and Islamic centers. The Muslim population ration in Germany is around 4 per cent. In Canada the conversion rate to Islam has been almost 130 percent between 1991 and 2001. In Switzerland around 6000 Christians converted to Islam after 9/11.

According to San Diego University researcher Jan Wax, by 2020, out of every four persons in Europe, one would be a Muslim. The ratio of Muslim youth (between 45 and 50% of the Muslims) to EU youth is between 16 and 20%. In other words, in a few years Muslims will constitute 16 to 20% of the European workforce, and could therefore influence policies and decision-making.

Albania has proportionally the largest Muslim population in all of Europe, with the exception of Turkey, which is situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. According to the most recent census results, Albania’s Muslim population is estimated at 2.2 million, or 70% of the country’s total population. Although Albania was officially an atheist society during the Communist period, and all public expression of religious beliefs was banned, today most Albanians are practicing Muslims.

Following Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina has proportionally the second largest Muslim population in Europe, with 40% of Bosnians, or 1.5 million people, who practice Islam.

In Western Europe, France is followed by the Netherlands, which has over 945,000 Muslims, making up 5% of the population.

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Friday, March 27, 2009


By  Prof. Rodney Wilson

Durham University

The collapse of leading Wall Street institutions, notably Lehman Brothers and the subsequent global financial crisis and economic recession, are pushing economists world-wide to consider other alternative financial solutions by leaving interest based economy method which is a failure for global economy.

Attention has been focused on Islamic banking and finance as an alternative model. What lessons can be learnt, and how resilient have Islamic banks been during the current crisis?

Islamic Banking Principles And Sub-prime Lending

The religious teaching underpinning Islamic finance is concerned with justice in financial contracts to ensure that none of the parties is being exploited.

Riba( interest or usury) is one source of exploitation, especially, as in the case of sub-prime lending, the highest rates were charged to lower earners. Such discriminatory charging by conventional banks was justified as being a reflection of the risks involved. Those on lower incomes, with poorer prospects of finding new employment in the event of redundancy, were less likelyto be able to service their interest payments.

Islamic housing finance involves risk sharing between the bank and the client, rather than transferring all the risk to the latter. Under the most commonly used diminishing musharaka(partnership) contract, the bank and the client form a partnership, with the bank providing up to 90 percent of the purchase price, and the client at least 10 percent.

Over a period of usually 10 to 25 years, the client buys out the ownership share of the bank which makes its profit from the rent paid by the client for the share the bank owns.

In the event of a rental or repayments default, the bank may advance the clients an interest-free loan (qard hassan in Arabic) to enable them to continue their payments during the recession in anticipation that they will pay in full when the economy rebounds.

The client retains their home rather than being faced with eviction— like the victims of the sub-prime crisis.

Of course Islamic banks have to appraise credit risk, and indeed are more cautious about who they should finance than conventional banks.

The banks in the United States charged high arrangement fees for sub-prime borrowers which were used to pay bonuses for those signing up new clients. As the mortgages were sold on to Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae, the arrangers were unconcerned that the sub-prime borrowers might be unable to meet their financial obligations. Indeed, gifts were provided to entice the feckless to sign up, and the mortgages often exceeded the value of the property. The banks in other words became mere booking agents, with no long term commitment to their clients.

The Islamic Banking Record


In contrast to conventional banks, no Islamic bank has failed and has needed government recapitalization which ultimately becomes a burden on hard pressed taxpayers.

All Islamic banks comply with the Basel II capital adequacy requirements and the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB)- the body which advises regulators with respect to Islamic finance- has produced de

tailed guidelines on compliance. The IFSB has an on-going relationship with the Bank for International Settlements- the institution which developed the Basel standards- and is certain to be consulted as Basel III guidelines are drafted for capital adequacy which are likely to be implemented globally in the coming decade.

The soundness of Islamic banks is accounted for by the fact that they use a classical banking model, with financing derived from deposits, rather than being funded by borrowings from wholesale markets.

Consequently when the credit crunch came and borrowing from wholesale markets was halted, Islamic banks were not exposed. However, Islamic banks are not immune from the effects of the global recession, and the fall in oil prices will inevitably have a negative impact on 2008 results of Gulf-based Islamic banks. The situation will become clearer from February once the audited financial statements start to appear.

Two Islamic housing financial institutions, Amlak and Tamweel are being merged, as both have faced problems given their exposure to the Dubai property market.

In Iran where all financial operations have been shariah-based since the Law on Usury Free Banking was introduced in 1983, banks have been relatively insulated from the financial crisis, ironically because United States sanctions meant they could not deal with institutions such as Lehman Brothers which were trying to place large amounts of toxic debt with Middle Eastern banks.

The sanctions therefore proved to be a blessing in disguise for Iran— although the Islamic banks there have been adversely affected recently by the fall in gas prices. Nevertheless being state owned, institutions such as Bank Melli, the largest Islamic bank in the world, are well placed to ride out the global financial storm. With assets of over $50 billion, and 2007 profits exceeding $540 million, it has more than adequate resources to cope.

Islamic Financial Stability


Islamic banks enjoy a built-in stabilizer to help them cope with economic downturns, as instead of paying interest to depositors, those with investment mudaraba accounts share in the banks profits.

Thus, if profitability declines in an economic downturn, depositors receive lower returns, but if profits rise they enjoy higher returns.

This profit sharing reduces risk for the banks and means they are less likely to become insolvent. However as the banks build up a profit equalization reserve, which can be used to finance pay-outs during difficult years, depositors benefit from some protection of their returns during economic downturns.

The last year has been difficult, if not disastrous, for equity investors, given the fall in stock market prices globally.

Investors in equities screened for shariah compliance have also suffered, but less than their conventional counterparts, because they have not invested in the shares of riba-based banks which have fared especially badly during the global financial turmoil.

Investors seeking Shariah compliance have portfolios which are more heavily weighted in sectors such as healthcare or utilities where revenue streams are maintained even during cyclical down-turns.

Prospects for Islamic Finance

Islamic banking provides a viable alternative to conventional banking and is less cycle prone. The spread of Islamic finance into western markets demonstrates that it now being treated seriously by regulators and finance ministries.

There are already five wholly Islamic banks in London, and the first Islamic bank will open in France in 2009. According to the conservative estimates of the Banker in October 2008, Islamic financial assets globally exceed $500 billion, a figure that could easily double over the coming decade.

The experience of Islamic banking in the United Kingdom has been extremely positive. Islamic Bank of Britain has been operating as a retail bank for over four years, and has attracted over 40,000 customers. HSBC Amanah, the Islamic finance subsidiary of HSBC, has been operating for ten years in London, focusing mainly on institutional clients and business finance.

Alburaq, the Islamic finance subsidiary of Arab Banking Corporation, has become the market leader for shariah compliant home finance in the United Kingdom. None of these institutions has been affected by the global financial crisis, and their resilience bodes well for the future.

Sukuk Are Real Assets


In addition to banking, Islamic sukuk security issuance has enormous potential. Unlike conventional bonds and notes, sukuk are backed by real assets, which provides assurance to investors.

Although global sukuk markets were adversely affected by the global recession in 2008, longer term prospects look promising, with the United Kingdom authorities promoting London as an international centre for sukuk issuance to rival Bahrain, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian ringgit sukuk market has been largely unaffected by the global turmoil in securities markets, and issuers such as the Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corporation, one of the world’s largest petrochemical producers, view sukuk as a desirable instruments to raise funding for plant expansion.

There can be no doubt that Islamic finance has an exciting future, and the quest for a financial system based on moral values rather than greed and fear, is bound to enhance its position in the global system.


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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Woman blinded by Acid wants ISLAMIC SHARIA LAW " EYE FOR AN EYE "

Ameneh Bahrami is certain that one day she'll meet someone, fall in love and get married. But when her wedding day comes, her husband won't see her eyes, and she won't see her husband. Bahrami is blind, the victim of an acid attack by a spurned suitor.

If she gets her way, her attacker will suffer the same fate. The 31-year-old Iranian is demanding the SHARIA punishment of "an eye for an eye," and, in accordance with Islamic law, she wants to blind Majid Movahedi, the man who blinded her.

"I don't want to blind him for revenge," Bahrami said in her parents' Tehran apartment. "I'm doing this to prevent it from happening to someone else."


Bahrami says she first crossed paths with Movahedi in 2002, when they attended the same university, She was a 24-year-old electronics student. He was 19. She never noticed him until they shared a class. He sat next to her one day and brushed up against her. Bahrami says she knew it wasn't an accident.

"I moved away from him," she said, "but he brushed up against me again."

When Bahrami stood up in class and screamed for him to stop, Movahedi just looked at her in stunned silence. He wouldn't stay silent for long.

Bahrami said that over the next two years, Movahedi kept harassing her and making threats, even as he asked her to marry him. "He told me he would kill me. He said, 'You have to say yes.' "

On a November afternoon in 2004, Movahedi's threats turned to violence, that day at 4:30 p.m., Bahrami left the medical engineering company where she worked. As she walked to the bus stop, she remembers sensing someone behind her. She turned around and was startled to see Movahedi. A moment later came the agonizing pain. Movahedi had thrown something over her. What felt like fire on her face was acid searing through her skin.

 "I was just yelling, 'I'm burning! I'm burning! For God's sake, somebody help me!' "

The acid seeped into Bahrami's eyes and streamed down her face and into her mouth. When she covered her face with her hands, streaks of acid ran down her fingers and onto her forearms.

Two weeks after the attack, Movahedi turned himself in to police and confessed in court. He was convicted in 2005 and has been behind bars all along.

Bahrami's lawyer, Ali Sarrafi, said Movahedi had never shown any remorse. "He says he did it because he loved her," Sarrafi said.

Attack victims in Iran usually accept "blood money": a fine in lieu of harsh punishment. With no insurance and mounting medical bills, Bahrami could've used the cash, but she said no.

"I told the judge I want an eye for an eye," Bahrami said. "People like him should be made to feel my suffering." Implementing the Islamic law ( SHARIA LAW)

Bahrami's demand has outraged some human rights activists. Criticizing acid-attack victims is almost unheard of, but some Internet bloggers have condemned Bahrami's decision.

"We cannot condone such cruel punishment," wrote one blogger. "To willingly inflict the same treatment on a person under court order is a violation of human rights."

Late last year, an Iranian court gave Bahrami what she asked for. It sentenced Movahedi to be blinded with drops of acid in each eye. This month, the courts rejected Movahedi's appeal.

Bahrami's lawyer, Sarrafi, said the sentencing might be carried out in a matter of weeks. He said he doesn't think Bahrami will change her mind. Neither does Bahrami.

"If I don't do this and there is another acid attack, I will never forgive myself for as long as I live," she said.

Bahrami is largely self-sufficient despite not being able to see. She can make a salad, prepare tea and walk up the five flights of stairs that lead to her parents' apartment. 

She has undergone more than a dozen surgeries on her badly scarred face, but she says there are many more to come. She can't afford to pay for her medical care, so she's using the Internet to raise money.

She's lost her big brown eyes, but she likes to smile, especially when she imagines her wedding day.

"I always see myself as someone who can see and sometimes see myself in a beautiful wedding gown, and why not?"

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