January 26, 2005

Islamic Charity

Another good letter to the editor (no link available):

Muslims are Most Charitable – Without Fanfare, Public Recognition
The Desert Advocate, North Valley, Phoenix 01-19-05

I would like to address the question raised in the Jan 5th Desert Advocate opinion letter, "Where is Muslim support for victims?

Having lived in the Muslim Middle East for 17 years, I can tell you that Muslims are the most charitable and open-handed of peoples. They typically give without fanfare, without need for "tax credit" or public recognition.

Qatar is one of the "wealthy Muslim nations" and early entered the top-ten list of tsunami relief donors. Citizens of other Arabian Gulf nations are demanding a facility by which they can contribute to this overwhelming international need. For more traditional needs, banks and companies in Muslim countries operate sizeable charity funds as an integral part of their business ethic. Some Muslims give to charity funds not known internationally or to organizations not having name recognition as "Muslim" charities, such as the Red Cross (/Red Crescent). Furthermore, Western charities do not number their donors with separate counts for Muslims vs. non-Muslims.

Aside from a Muslim preference for anonymity in giving, there are other reasons why the American public has not been informed on Muslim charitable activities. One is that few English-speaking journalists are conversant in languages spoken by the Muslim world, where most Muslim charitable giving takes place - not even in Arabic, or Urdu (Pakistan/Afghanistan/India) -- both among the top-ten world languages. Regarding Muslims in North America, major Muslim name charities have been shut down by our Government, using secret evidence laws, due to general suspicion of possible or alleged terrorist links.

Not long ago, I heard the question asked, "Where are the Muslim Mother Teresa's -- have you ever heard of even one?" My answer: They are everywhere across the Muslim world, where voluntary charity is a regular part of daily life -- both institutional efforts and individual arrangements. Unlike in the West, their donors tend to be local and their publicity is typically word-of-mouth. Few would contemplate Western-style advertising, nor would they demean their aid recipients by exposing them to publicity and separation from the rest of society.

I once lived in a Middle East Muslim neighborhood where several of its men took it upon themselves to flyer the mailboxes, organize a register of families with funds/service needs, collect on-going pledges and carry out distribution of funds/services, all in a low-key operation. Charity is a "pillar" of Islam taken seriously by Muslims.

~ Dr. Linda Thayer, New River, AZ.

Personal Note: The question was raised of the existence of Muslim "Mother Teresa's," whether they even exist. The answer, of course, is an emphatic "yes!" In fact, there was an article in a local paper (Today) about a Muslim woman here in Singapore who could be considered a "Mother Teresa"-type. However, as Dr. Thayer also pointed out, Muslims are also discouraged by the Qur'an from openly discussing our acts of charity ("If ye disclose (acts of) charity, even so it is well, but if ye conceal them, and make them reach those (really) in need, that is best for you: It will remove from you some of your (stains of) evil. And Allah is well acquainted with what ye do." 2:271). That a person should ask (in what was, probably, a condescending way) whether Dr. Thayer should have ever heard of any Muslim "Mother Teresa" is a strong indicator (to me) of that person's ignorance of Islam.

Then again, what else is new?

January 24, 2005

Technical Note

As you may or may not have noticed, I'm trying to incorporate a menu system at the bottom of my blogs so that readers can visit my webpages as well (as I slowly bring them back to life). The links may or may not be working properly (they do with my computer at work; they don't with my home computer; go figure). In case the links don't work for you, go to this page, which will take you to my website (if you're interested).

Intern Daniel Pipes

Two Letters to the Editor in the Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Sunday, Jan. 23, 2005). Good letters, guys!

I read Daniel Pipes' Dec. 30 commentary supporting the internment of people who are threats to the American way of life, and I was especially taken by his effort to justify internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

At first, I didn't think much of his idea. But then I read the letters on his commentary, particularly those by R.H. Gruy and Harold Moore, who supported Pipes' proposal. (See Jan. 7 letters, "A debate on internment.")

I then realized that my objection to the idea of interning threats to America was based entirely on how Pipes proposed it, merely as an idea for discussion. Once I began to apply the idea to some real threats to America, it became clear how good it really is.

So in the interest of making the idea less theoretical and more concrete, let me provide a short, initial list of who should immediately be interned in order to protect the rest of us:

• Daniel Pipes.
• Gruy and Moore.
• The editor who authorized publishing Pipes' commentary.

All of these people apparently support the arbitrary and indefinite internment of people who are presumed to be threats to America, so I'm sure that we need only write to them and tell them where to report. It should be easy to administer, and America would be much safer without them on the streets.

As I say, the idea becomes much more interesting once some real people are considered.

Richard Brewer
Fort Worth


A plaque in front of the Manzanar camp (California Registered Historical Landmark No. 850) reads as follows:

"In the early part of WWII, 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were interned in relocation centers by Executive Order No. 9066, issued February 19, 1942. Manzanar was the first of ten such concentration camps. It was bounded by barbed wire and guard towers, confining 10,000 persons, the majority being American citizens. May the injustices and humiliation suffered here as a result of hysteria, racism and economic exploitation never emerge again."

Anyone who thinks that Daniel Pipes has a legitimate point of view should read firsthand accounts written by Japanese-Americans about their experiences of internment in the United States. And given that Pipes is talking about "registering" people based on religious affiliation, Night by Elie Wiesel is also a must-read.

Unless we safeguard the liberties of all our citizens, the Pledge of Allegiance and the Declaration of Independence mean about as much as a plastic flag bumper sticker.

Jaime Moore

January 20, 2005

The New Role of Muslim Chaplains

Good article on Brother Sohaib Nazeer Sultan, newly employed Muslim Chaplain at Trinity College of Hartford, Connecticut. Sultan is author of the book, The Koran for Dummies. Read the article here: The New Role of Muslim Chaplains, by The Christian Science Monitor (a very good newspaper to read, btw, if you're unfamiliar with it).

January 19, 2005


This from an article entitled: "Urgent Need for Muslim Bridge"

"...Dr. Mulack warned that there were also limits on how far Germany would compromise - after all, integration is a two way process.

"'Some German Muslims separate themselves from society ... this cannot be accepted," he said.

"'We have to be clear that in our system we also have limits as to how far we would go to accomodate,' Dr. Mulack said."

I found these comments to be interesting. I agree with all three segments. The focus of the article was on increasing the amount of dialogue between Arab Muslims and the EU (Germany in particular), although I think the dialogue needs to be worldwide, and not just limited to the EU or even the West.

What's really important to me is the phrase "integration is a two way process." I think this is often ignored by the majority in a given society. Nor does this process involve just the Muslims. There are frequent attempts in the United States (e.g., English Only ballot propositions) to integrate subcultures (e.g., Hispanics from Mexico) that aren't necessarily interested in integrating with the predominant Anglo culture. Now integration isn't necessarily bad, in my view, but I certainly understand the desire for subcultures to retain their heritage (language, religion, food, arts, sports, etc.). American Anglo culture in particular seems to be very focused on the idea that subcultures MUST fully integrate with them. Don't be different, conform. ("The Logical Song" by Supertramp has just come to mind. :) ) Indian schools may have disappeared from the landscape, but their spirit lives on (if only submerged a little deeper in the Anglo psyche).

What makes this topic important to me is mentioned in the third segment: "we also have limits as to how far we would go to accomodate." Christianity has, IMO, become rather diluted over the past 2000 years in its desire to accomodate to local societies. But Islam doesn't have that option. To remain in Islam, Muslims need to maintain their obediance to Allah (swt) and the Prophet (pbuh). This can't be done if you start to cherry-pick the parts you like and dislike. Western society needs to learn this if they are to successfully integrate with us.

January 17, 2005

More on "Tolerance?"

First, I'd like to thank "Anonymous" for his or her comments. Except for my wife (who occasionally reads my blog), I sometimes wonder if I'm just whistling in the dark. :)

I think that last night's comments deserve some more discussion. I can see that Anonymous and others could think that I'm condoning the murder of Theo Van Gogh. I'm not, nor would I condone the murders of any of the other "artists" I mentioned last night (Salman Rushdie, Elisabeth Ohlson, Andres Serrano, and Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti). The Moroccans who murdered Van Gogh should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Did Van Gogh deserve to die for making his film? No. Did he deserve to be punished for making his film? Absolutely. Van Gogh deserved censorship, jail time and caning, but not death.

The country I currently live in, Singapore, has a well-deserved reputation for being a nanny state. While I and other Singaporeans would like to see the laws here changed to loosen certain controls the government maintains over society, I think the government has some policies that are very good for the maintenance of this society. One is an emphasis on maintaining religious harmony to prevent civil unrest. Singapore has a lot of religions practiced here: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism, and so on. Such diversity in religions is a powderkeg, and could be easily ignited under the wrong circumstances. Singapore (and other governments in this region) clamp down hard to prevent society from erupting in religious rioting. I applaud these efforts.

The problem is, Western society - in the name of free speech - allows "artists" to denigrate religions if they so choose. A government like Singapore's would have prevented each of the "artists" named above from publishing or displaying their "art" in public. Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" was banned not only in Muslim Malaysia (as one might expect), but also by secular Singapore (it's still banned here). I suspect that any of the above "artists" (or others who help to publish or display their work here) would have been jailed and caned, in addition to being censored, if they had tried to make their "art" public in Singapore. This is one of the reasons why I was happy to see the other article on Egypt, in which both Muslim and Christian officials are able to censor the "poison" of anti-religious "art."

Theo Van Gogh was an idiot, and I don't mourn his death at all. He strikes me as the type of person who should appear in the "Darwin Awards." Islam wasn't the only religion he had publicly criticized in his "art," but he found out the hard way that Muslims take their religion a little more seriously than, say, the Christians whom he had criticized. Even so, he isn't entirely to be blamed for his death: Western society and government (the Dutch government in particular) bears some of the blame as well. Western society needs to reconsider its position regarding censorship and religious tolerance. Because tolerance in the name of free speech is going to continue to lead to the deaths of stupid "artists" who are intolerant of the religions of others.

Addendum to the Previous Post

In a quasi-related story, the Egyptian government is going to require television dramas to be subject to review by a panel of religious censors (both Muslim and Christian).

"The media cannot be transformed into instruments to distil poison under the pretext of artistic license," said Information Minister Mamduh Al Beltagi. [Source: AFP]

That's exactly what I think the works of Bhatti, Rushdie, Van Gogh, et al are: POISON! Good for the Egyptians!


I'm sure my view will be considered extreme. :)

Ms. Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti and her family have been receiving threats and hate mail because of her play Behzti, or Dishonour. Ms. Bhatti's play is set in a Gurdwara, or Sikh temple, and included scenes of murder and rape. The Birmingham (UK) Repertory Theatre closed the play after windows were smashed and its doors stormed by some Sikhs who said the play insulted their religion. Ms. Bhatti says that she "wholeheartedly" stands by the play, adding that the threats and hate mail have "stirred only tolerance and courage within me." [Source: AFP]

First, let me say that I agree with Ms. Bhatti that her family should be left alone. However, that's about all I can agree with. I think this woman deserves all the @$$ kicking she gets. Good for the Sikhs! I'm getting very tired of the attitude that artists can denigrate a religion (someone else's or their own) for the sake of "art." IMO, you've got to be really stupid to use religious symbols or text in a derogatory way. People take their religion seriously; don't these artists understand that? Ms. Bhatti claims that the threats and hate mail have increased her tolerance. What a joke! Lady, your play - by its very nature - shows that you are intolerant of your own religion. If you were really tolerant, you'd have recognized that your work is inflammatory and burned the story before it saw the light of day.

As far as I'm concerned:
* Salman Rushdie didn't get all the @$$ kicking he deserved.
* Elisabeth Ohlson didn't get all the @$$ kicking she deserved.
* Andres Serrano didn't get all the @$$ kicking he deserved.
* Theo Van Gogh did get the @$$ kicking he deserved.

You want tolerance? Praise Allah (swt) in whatever name you address HIM. Respect the religions of other people, including their religious symbols, texts, and beliefs. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

January 11, 2005

"Corrupt Capitalist" Long Hair

This was also amusing. From "Today," a Singaporean daily:

"Stalinist North Korea has stepped up its campaign against long hair and untidy attire which the state media said represented a 'corrupt capitalist' lifestyle, according to BBC. The state also said long hair was not just unkempt and unhygienic, it was also detrimental to intellect, as it 'consumed a great deal of nutrition,' robbing the brain of energy.

So that must explain why guys are smarter than women. ;)

Excerpt from a Bangkok Post Editorial

"Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Indonesian extremism, had no word of sympathy for his countrymen. There is no 'Jemaah Islamiyah Hospice' among the internationally-funded refugee camps of Aceh. No 'Osama bin Laden Child Care Station' has appeared in Sri Lanka or India... How much more credible their grievances would sound if they were helping people in their most desperate need instead of recruiting for future violence."