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Friday, December 5, 2008

OIC Statement: Islam, the Religion of Peace, Tolerance and Compassion

From the Organization of the Islamic Conference

Islam, the religion of peace, tolerance and compassion

Date: 02/12/2008

With the multiplicity of terrorist attacks perpetrated recently by deviant and fanatic individuals, the General Secretariat of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has noticed a tendency of a section of the media, to interpose the word "Islam" in reporting these incidences.

Islam, the religion of peace, tolerance and compassion, that sanctifies the human soul, and whose universal message is one of mutual peaceful coexistence among all the peoples of the world, regardless of their ethnicities, race, religions or languages, and which calls for kind reasoning and dialogue with all their fellow human beings, abhors and despises all such criminal acts and had enacted the utmost severe punishment for their perpetrators.

It is frustrating to see some circles, still, maliciously trying to establish conceptual link between such evil and wicked practices and Islam, the religion that condemns, scorns and outlaws them.

It is on the premise of this irrefutable fact that we, in the OIC, call upon all well-intentioned peoples of the world, not to give to these criminals any right to present Islam, a right that Islam itself denies them. Those who refer to the perpetrators, as acting on behalf of Islam, help them by offering them justification, anchor and premise that they don't have or deserve. On the other hand, the generalization of the guilt of a few aberrant misguided individuals, to engulf the adherents of a religion of 1.5 billion followers is an outrageous judgment and amounts to an illegal collective punishment on a global scale. Moreover, any attempt to implicate all Muslims in such a wicked and wanton acts goes contrary to the well established principles of international law.

It is therefore hoped that media will avoid resorting to any reference to Islam when narrating such events in order not to disseminate erroneous information that might jeopardize the basic human rights of Muslims, the world over.

Op-Ed from the Jakarta Post: Let's Bury Islamic Terrorism Forever

From the Jakarta Post - December 6, 2008

Let's bury Islamic terrorism forever

Bramantyo Prijosusilo, Ngawi, East Java

The BBC recently reported Indian Muslims have refused to bury the corpses of the Mumbai terrorists in their cemeteries because the terrorists' actions proved they were not Muslims.

In Indonesia, the exact reverse occurred when last month the unrepentant Bali bombers were executed. In West Java, a newly emerged hard-line organization managed to secure one hectare of land as a cemetery for those who die in jihad as a religious gift (wakaf), but luckily their attempt to get the three celebrity mujahideen as their first morbid tenants was foiled.

In Banten, crowds replete with Z-list celebrities chanted holy prayers as they received and buried the body of Imam Samudra. A kindergarten teacher took her class to visit the terrorist's mother, who led them to raise their tiny fists and shout the takbir, "God is Great," for the press. Crowds also gathered in Tenggulun, the village where Amrozi and Ali Gufron came from and ended in, to honor the terrorists as martyrs of Islam.

Pro-terror media such as the glossy Jihadmagz and its online version,, had for some time endeavored to prepare the atmosphere to bury the bombers as martyrs. The most unambiguous pro-jihad media here specializes in publishing pro-terror propaganda.

Alongside advertisements for cheap international jihad videos, they publish interviews with Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda operators. These pro-terror publications make it their business to glorify violent jihad and condemn countries which put their faith in democracy, such as this country, as worshipers of taghut, the evil usurper of God who leads its followers to the depths of Hell.

So while India, which has the second largest Muslim population in the world, has publicly taken a stance against Islamic terrorism in the wake of the Mumbai atrocities, pro-terror propaganda is freely disseminated in Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. In this country we are free to organize hatred against the state and the constitution.

However, it was not only the hardcore mujahideen here who welcomed the bombers as martyrs. Our mainstream media was no less instrumental in creating the image of the bombers as good Muslims who had been wronged by the state.

After the executions, the convicted criminal Rizieq Shihab, who poses as a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and scholar of Islam, was given space to opine that the bombers died as martyrs. Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, the elderly Muslim cleric from Solo, also received time to air his propaganda. The kindergarten children in Banten wanted to visit Imam Samudra's mother and shout the takbir there because they had seen his face so often on television.

It seems the world's Muslims who are not indifferent to the issue of Islamic terrorism are split into two camps; those who support the terrorists at least ideologically, and those who refuse to recognize terrorists as Muslims.

Although these two groups do not always approve of the violence, they tend to stand as apologists for the terrorists. If circumstances changed they would not hesitate to employ violence as a means to express their beliefs. We have witnessed this proximity to violence in the hounding of the Ahmadiyah minority, the destruction of nightclubs and the attacks on and forceful closing of churches.

For these groups, true Islam requires the public stoning of rape victims and the beheading of apostates. The ideological support for terrorists is unacceptably high here.

Ironically, those who do not accept that these terrorists are Muslims actually share a trait with the terrorists, namely, the willingness to judge people as not being Muslim even though they call themselves Muslims.

The Prophet described the Muslim community as a human body which feels discomfort everywhere when it feels pain in one part. The global Muslim community is currently shivering with fever because of Islamic terror. These terrorists are Muslims, too. They do bad things, so they are bad Muslims, but that doesn't make them non-Muslims.

Denying we have a section of our community that is rotting with hatred will not help cure our malady. If the global Muslim community is serious about burying terror, it must acknowledge terrorists are Muslims who need God's love and forgiveness just as we all do. Only then can we hope to construct creative dialogue, the only rational way to meaningful peace.

Hard-line Muslims believe the only correct way to live as a Muslim is to follow the Koran literally, but this attitude essentially degrades the Holy Book, making it as rigid as a book of traffic regulations to be studied to sit a driving test.

The obligation to follow the Prophet strictly is expressed by copying outward expressions of 7th-century Arab culture instead of meditating on the way the Prophet thought and acted in the circumstances he found himself in as he strived for peace among humankind. The hard-line interpretation makes a mockery of his example.

The debate between these fundamentalists and other religious Muslims is a battle to place the spiritual over the material, the essence over the form. Because Islam is a blessing from God for the whole universe, the spirit will prevail.

Reliving 7th-century Arabia does not cultivate the spirit of Islam. Rather, the psychological, social, cultural and political tensions which emerge when it is attempted blinds the soul to the peace believers are urged to enter in to. Spiritual Muslims must embark on a personal jihad, and embrace literalist Muslims, to save humanity from their blindered arrogance and blinding materialism.

This can only be done by embracing the spirit of the Prophet inside while outwardly expressing the humanism and ecological awareness of the 21st century. This is the paradigm which will bury Islamic terrorism forever.

The writer is an artist and former journalist.

Jews, Muslims Plan Joint Memorial Tribute to Mumbai Victims (in NYC)

Wednesday December 3, 2008

NEW YORK (RNS) In an effort to continue interfaith cooperation and prevent backlash against Muslims, Jews and Muslims are coming together here to memorialize the Jewish victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.

Imam Mohammed Shamsi Ali and Rabbi Marc Schneier, who recently appeared together in Manhattan during November's national Jewish-Muslim "Weekend of Twinning," will each speak this Friday (Dec. 5) at New York City's Islamic Cultural Center.

On Saturday morning, the Consul General of India in New York, Ambassador Prabhu Dayal, will join them at the New York Synagogue for a second tribute.

"We don't allow the terrorists to divide us and we don't allow the terrorists to defeat us," Ali said. "Terrorism doesn't know God, terrorism doesn't have any religion. All religious people are united against these terrorist attacks because all religions are enemies of terrorism."

Mumbai's Chabad House, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community center directed by Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, was one of the targets in the attacks in late November. The Holtzbergs were among more than 170 people killed in the Indian metropolis over the three-day period.

Ali and Schneier say they hope the joint tributes will help prevent grieving Jews, Hindus and others targeted in the Mumbai attacks from turning their anger towards Muslims, a major concern for Muslim groups in India and the United States.

On Tuesday (Dec. 2), the Muslim Public Affairs Council sent a letter to the Bush administration and the Obama transition team, calling on them to promote a message of tolerance and to encourage India to take precautions against a possible backlash against its Muslim minority, about 13 percent of the country's population.

Schneier, who helped organize the recent Weekend of Twinning events involving more than 100 mosques and synagogues, said there have been several interfaith statements condemning the attacks, but he wasn't yet aware of any other Jewish-Muslim memorial events.

As a Muslim cleric, Ali said he felt compelled to explain that terrorists, despite calling themselves Muslims, do not represent his faith.

"It's very painful and sad to us whenever a Muslim commits terrorism and says it's in the name of religion," he said. "Terror and terrorism cannot be justified at all."

By Nicole Neroulias

Religion News Service

As Taboos Ease, Saudi Girl Group Dares to Rock

From the New York Times

Jidda Journal
As Taboos Ease, Saudi Girl Group Dares to Rock


Published: November 23, 2008

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — They cannot perform in public. They cannot pose for album cover photographs. Even their jam sessions are secret, for fear of offending the religious authorities in this ultraconservative kingdom.

But the members of Saudi Arabia's first all-girl rock band, the Accolade, are clearly not afraid of taboos.

The band's first single, "Pinocchio," has become an underground hit here, with hundreds of young Saudis downloading the song from the group's MySpace page. Now, the pioneering foursome, all of them college students, want to start playing regular gigs — inside private compounds, of course — and recording an album.

"In Saudi, yes, it's a challenge," said the group's lead singer, Lamia, who has piercings on her left eyebrow and beneath her bottom lip. (Like other band members, she gave only her first name.) "Maybe we're crazy. But we wanted to do something different."

In a country where women are not allowed to drive and rarely appear in public without their faces covered, the band is very different. The prospect of female rockers clutching guitars and belting out angry lyrics about a failed relationship — the theme of "Pinocchio" — would once have been unimaginable here.

But this country's harsh code of public morals has slowly thawed, especially in Jidda, by far the kingdom's most cosmopolitan city. A decade ago the cane-wielding religious police terrorized women who were not dressed according to their standards. Young men with long hair were sometimes bundled off to police stations to have their heads shaved, or worse.

Today, there is a growing rock scene with dozens of bands, some of them even selling tickets to their performances. Hip-hop is also popular. The religious police — strictly speaking, the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice — have largely retreated from the streets of Jidda and are somewhat less aggressive even in the kingdom's desert heartland.

The change has been especially noticeable since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when the Saudis confronted the effects of extremism both outside and inside the kingdom. More than 60 percent of Saudi Arabia's population is under 25, and many of the young are pressing for greater freedoms.

"The upcoming generation is different from the one before," said Dina, the Accolade's 21-year-old guitarist and founder. "Everything is changing. Maybe in 10 years it's going to be O.K. to have a band with live performances."

Dina said she first dreamed of starting a band three years ago. In September, she and her sister Dareen, 19, who plays bass, teamed up with Lamia and Amjad, the keyboardist.

They were already iconoclasts: Dina and Dareen wear their hair teased into thick manes and have pierced eyebrows. During an interview at a Starbucks here, they wore black abayas — the flowing gown that is standard attire for women — but the gowns were open, showing their jeans and T-shirts, and their hair and faces were uncovered. Women are more apt to go uncovered in Jidda than in most other parts of the country, though it is still uncommon.

"People always stare at us," Dareen said, giggling. She and her sister are also avid ice skaters, another unusual habit in Saudi Arabia's desert.

The band gets together to practice every weekend at the sisters' house, where their younger brother sometimes fills in on drums. In early November, Dina, who studies art at King Abdulaziz University, began writing a song based on one of her favorite paintings, "The Accolade," by the English pre-Raphaelite painter Edmund Blair Leighton. The painting depicts a long-haired noblewoman knighting a young warrior with a sword.

"I liked the painting because it shows a woman who is satisfied with a man," Dina said.

She had thought of writing a song based on "Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci but decided that doing so would be taking controversy too far. In Saudi Arabia, churches are not allowed, and Muslims who convert to Christianity can be executed.

Dina held out her cellphone to show a video of the band practicing at home. It looked like a garage-band jam session anywhere in the world, with the sisters hunching over their instruments, their brother blasting away at the drums and Lamia clutching a microphone.

"We're looking for a drummer," Lamia said. "Five guys have offered, but we really want the band to be all female."

Although they know they are doing something unusual, in person the band members seem more playful than provocative. Unlike some of the wealthier Saudi youth who have lived abroad and tasted Western life, they are middle class and have never left their country.

"What we're doing — it's not something wrong, it's art, and we're doing it in a good way," Dina said. "We respect our traditions."

All the members are quick to add that they disapprove of smoking, drinking and drugs.

"You destroy yourself with that," Lamia said.

Yet rock and roll itself is suspect in Saudi Arabia in part because of its association with decadent lifestyles. Most of the bands here play heavy metal, which has only added to the stigma because of the way some Western heavy metal bands use images linked to satanism or witchcraft. In Saudi Arabia, people are sometimes imprisoned and even executed on charges of practicing witchcraft.

The first rock bands appeared here about 20 years ago, according to Hassan Hatrash, 34, a journalist and bass player who was one of the pioneers, and their numbers gradually grew. Then in 1995, the police raided a performance in the basement of a restaurant in Jidda, hauling about 300 young men off to jail, including Mr. Hatrash. They were released a few days later without being charged. There is no actual law against playing rock music or performing publicly.

"After that, the scene kind of died," he said.

Mr. Hatrash, who has graying shoulder-length hair, recalled how the religious police used to harass young men who advertised their interest in rock and roll. He once had his head was shaved by the police.

In recent years, with the religious police on the defensive, bands have begun to play concerts, and a few have recorded albums. Occasionally young men bring their guitars and play outside the cafes on Tahlia Street in Jidda, where young people tend to congregate in the evenings.

Although the music is mostly familiar to heavy metal fans anywhere — thrashing guitars and howling vocals — some of the lyrics reflect the special challenges of life and love in this puritanical country.

"And I Don't Know Why," a song by Mr. Hatrash's band, Most of Us, has these lyrics:

Why is it always so hard to get to you

When it's something we both want to do

Every time we have to create an alibi

So that we can meet and love or at least try...

As the Saudi rock scene grew, Dina gathered the courage to start her own band. It plans to move slowly, she said, with "jams for ladies only" at first. The band members' parents support them, though they have asked them to keep things low-key. Eventually, Dina said, they hope to play real concerts, perhaps in Dubai.

"It's important for them to see what we're capable of," she said.

Gene Test Shows Spain's Jewish and Muslim Mix

From the New York Times

Gene Test Shows Spain's Jewish and Muslim Mix
Published: December 5, 2008

A study of genetic signatures has provided new evidence of the mass conversions of Sephardic Jews and Muslims to Catholicism in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Full article -

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Still With Taboos, Saudi Art Scene Grows

From the Associated Press - November 27, 2008

Still with taboos, Saudi art scene grows

Associated Press Writer

Saudis and foreigners crowded into a gallery at the French Embassy, checking out the paintings and sculptures of seven Saudi women artists, the latest opening in a growing art scene in the conservative kingdom.

One artist took advantage of the venue to hang an abstract painting of a woman, with one breast clearly depicted — a hint of nudity still taboo outside the diplomatic confines of the embassy, where Saudi Arabia's religious police cannot enter.

Saudis look at artwork during the opening of art exhibition featuring the work of seven Saudi female artists at the French Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The Wednesday night showing in a small hall was packed with expatriates and, more significantly Saudis, whose presence was a reflection of the surge of interest in the arts in the kingdom in the past few years. Local arts shows have been on the rise, more Saudi artists are participating in overseas exhibits, and more universities and schools are offering arts degrees.

The first non-governmental arts society was established a year ago, with four women on its 10-member board. Saudis have become more accepting of abstract art, which, only a few years ago, was the subject of ridicule. And in many Arab cities, Saudi collectors are snapping up works by local artists, some of whom get special orders from their rich clients.

In a sign of the government's attempts to support the arts, the Foreign Ministry and the tourism board held a kingdom-wide competition last year for the best works of art. Those chosen will be displayed in the kingdom's embassies.

The change is dramatic from a few years ago.

In 2001, when one of the artists in Wednesday's show, Manal al-Harbi, enrolled for her masters in sculpture, she was the only student in the only university that gave a degree in that major. The specialty was frowned upon by many because of a prevalent view that the depiction of human form violates Islamic law and that sculptures look like idols.

"They would bring me teachers from Egypt," recalled al-Harbi, whose sculptures depict Arabic calligraphy, not humans.

Despite the progress, there still are limitations in this conservative country, where men and women are strictly segregated. Artists say they keep works that depict nudity away from public shows and if they display them at all, it's only at embassies.

At the French Embassy, abstract paintings in bold yellows, reds and greens adorned the walls. Sculptures made of rocks from various areas in the kingdom rested on one stand.

On one table stood the work of artist Eman Jibreen, expressing the dichotomy between a Saudi woman's public appearance and her inner self. A series of tall boxes were painted on the exterior with images of Saudi women swathed in the mandatory black cloak. Inside each box were pictures of Albert Einstein, a child, a kitchen — an expression of each woman's individuality that is masked by the cloaks.

A nearby caption read:

"We may look the same to you

"A scarf and a featureless black blob. ...

"But it is just a cover over our heads. Our faces maybe.

"But it has never been a cover for our brains."

Jibreen's uncle, Abdul-Rahman Jibreen, said he was overjoyed to see his niece's work displayed in public.

But he said he wished Jibreen, who did not attend the function because of another commitment, lived in "an environment that appreciates art more than here."

"In a place like Italy, France or England, she would've done miracles because she would've been exposed to more museums, art and other artists," he said.

Monday, December 1, 2008

They are Terrorists, Not Muslims

Full Article from the New Nation in Bangladesh.

Mumbai's Jewish and Muslim Heritage


Full Article from The Moderate Voice.

Editorial: Waging the War on Terror

From the Jakarta Post - Deember 1, 2008

Editorial: Waging the war on terror

Mon, 12/01/2008 11:00 AM  |  Opinion

The attacks in Mumbai last week send a loud and clear message to Indonesia and the rest of the world that when it comes to dealing with terrorism, there is no letting down your guard. The global "war on terror", to use the expression first coined by U.S. President George W. Bush, must be pursued by all countries to the end until the world really is safe.

Mumbai tells us this war is far from being concluded, more than seven years after the 9/11 suicide hijackings in the United States. The coordinated attack on 10 different targets in India's busiest city warns us once again that, lest we are vigilant, terrorists can hit any place at any time. We have seen it all before, in the beach resorts of Bali, in Jakarta, in London, in Madrid, as well as in New York and the Pentagon.

One thing that connects these attacks is their perpetrators' adoption of Islam as the cause. Jihad, the Islamic term for waging war against evil, has now become synonymous with suicide bombings. Whatever motivated these terrorists to launch their evil acts, they have been successful in one area: nurturing the growth of the ever-widening rift between Islam and the West and now, after Mumbai, probably between Islam and Hinduism, the dominant religion in India.

Thankfully, the world is still led largely by people wise enough not to take the bait, thus preventing full-scale religious wars from erupting across the globe.

Some of the responses in the global war on terror have been unfortunate, such as the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. Predictably, the United States and its allies are now stuck in two wars that they cannot seem to win, but they have left behind a sour aftertaste in the Islam/West divide.

By and large, however, we have enough leaders around the world who understand the situation much better and believe that the use of military force can only ever be a last resort in this kind of war.

Indonesia's own experience shows that other means -- better intelligence, stronger policing, strict law enforcement, dialogues and eradication of poverty -- have a much better chance of succeeding.

Indonesia, described as the second front line in the global war on terror, has significantly improved its intelligence and police to be able to defuse new terrorist threats.

They have yet to arrest the master terrorist, Malaysia's Noordin M. Top, but they have been able to keep him constantly on the run so that he has not had time to pause, recruit and train the next batch of suicide bombers. At this rate, it should be only a matter of time before Noordin is arrested.

Indonesia also leads the world in pursuing this war in accordance with international laws. There is no Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib here. Last month, Indonesia executed three terrorists after they had exhausted all legal channels for a stay of execution. Hundreds of other terrorists are now languishing in jail after being convicted in open trials. They had their due legal process and they have their just punishments.

Indonesia should also regard itself as being on the front line in waging a war against the violent ideology that is exploiting or hiding behind the name of Islam. As the country with the world's largest Muslim population, it is a task that Indonesia really should take on to help remove this violent streak from what should be a peaceful religion.

Various interfaith dialogues at the national and international levels, some of which are facilitated by the government, are Indonesia's main contribution to containing the global war on terror from widening into major religious conflicts.

The government must also continue with its efforts to usher in greater prosperity, as history tells us that violent ideology flourishes fastest among poor people.

We say our prayers and send our condolences to the victims of these latest terrorist attacks in Mumbai. But looking ahead, countries around the world must join hands in pursuing this war on terror and in preventing any consequent religious conflicts, which would only further the terrorists' interests. This war cannot be pursued individually. It has to be a concerted effort.

We have vested interests in the successful conclusion of this war, not only for the sake of global peace, but more importantly for peace and prosperity in pluralist and multireligious Indonesia.

Terror Attacks Disturb Muslim Psyche (in India)

From the Times of India - November 30, 2008

Terror attacks disturb Muslim psyche

30 Nov 2008, 2244 hrs IST, Faizan Ahmad, TNN

PATNA: For a majority of Indian Muslims, the terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Indian Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jehad, Al-Badr, Deccan Mujahideen
may be alien but because of these elusive organisations, the community is being seen with suspicion.

The series of terror attacks in recent past has definitely left an adverse impact on the psyche of Muslims, particularly the youth who have developed a sense of insecurity. "The frustration among them is leading them to nowhere," said Prof Shamim Ahmad Munami.

Mohammad Afzal said he is upset. "My friends have started looking at me with suspicion," said the 22-year-old science student living in one of the private lodges in dingy lanes in Sabzibagh. "Like me several others are being ignored and sidelined for no fault of us. Our friends look at us as if we are responsible for the Mumbai terror," lamented a visibly shaken youth.

"Muslims are indeed suffering from fear psychosis due to the misdeeds of a few," said Syed Akbar Ali, a retired professor of psychology. "Terrorists may be Muslim by birth but they are actually radical Muslims who have fully deviated from Islamic ethos. Islam preaches peace and compassion and those indulging in violence are only defaming the religion," he asserted.

However, prominent surgeon Dr A A Hai disagreed. "I don't think Muslims are feeling guilty. Some may be feeling shaky while some ashamed but majority of Muslims feel whatever is happening is wrong and they condemn it," he said. "If a person, identified as Muslim, is killing innocents then he cannot be a Muslim," he added.

"The entire community cannot be blamed for the misdeeds of a few people nor can terrorism be seen through any religious angle," said Advantage Media managing director Khurshid Ahmad. Tagging violence to religion will be counter-productive, he added.

Maulana Anisur Rahman Quasmi of Imarat Shariah was critical of the tendency to link religion with terror. "This is very harmful for the country and it is badly affecting the psyche of youths of all religions," he said.

All India Muslim Personal Law Board general secretary Maulana Syed Nizamuddin refused to share the perception that only Muslims are involved in terrorism. "The Mumbai attack was a well planned conspiracy and it cannot be a handiwork of a handful of Muslims. Everything should be seen in totality whether it is the Batla House encounter or Malegaon blasts," the cleric said.

Muslims Condemn Mumbai Attacks, Worry About Image

From the Associated Press - November 30, 2008

Muslims condemn Mumbai attacks, worry about image

By KARIN LAUB – Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Muslims from the Middle East to Britain and Austria condemned Sunday the Mumbai shooting rampage by suspected Islamic militants as senseless terrorism, but also found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed linked to their religion.

Intellectuals and community leaders called for greater efforts to combat religious fanaticism.

Indian police said Sunday that the only surviving gunman told them he belongs to the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The group is seen as a creation of Pakistani intelligence to help fight India in the disputed Kashmir region. Another group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, has also operated in Kashmir. Both are reported to be linked to al-Qaida.

Ten gunmen attacked 10 targets in the three-day assault including a Jewish community center and luxury hotels in India's commercial hub. More than 170 people were killed.

Many Muslims said they are worried such carnage is besmirching their religion.

"The occupation of the synagogue and killing people in hotels tarnishes the Muslim faith," said Kazim al-Muqdadi, a political science lecturer at Baghdad University. "Anyone who slaughters people and screams `Allahu Akbar' (God is Great) is sick and ignorant."

In Britain, home to nearly two million Muslims, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, Inayat Bunglawala, said that "a handful of terrorists like this bring the entire faith into disrepute."

A previously unknown Muslim group, Deccan Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the attacks. The name suggests origins in India.

Pakistan has denied involvement and demanding that India provide proof. In Pakistan, Jamaat-ud Dawa, an Islamist group believed to have ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba, denounced the killing of civilians.

In Islamic extremist Web forums, some praised the Mumbai attacks, including the targeting of Jews.

A man identified as Sheik Youssef al-Ayeri said the killings are in line with Islam.

"It's all right for Muslims to set the infidels' castles on fire, drown them with water .... and take some of them as prisoners, whether young or old, women or men, because it is one of many ways to beat them," he wrote in the al-Fallujah forum.

In the Gaza Strip, the territory's Islamic militant Hamas rulers declined comment. Hamas has carried out scores of suicide attacks in Israel, killing hundreds of civilians in recent years. However, Hamas has said it does not want to get involved in conflicts elsewhere.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad referred to the attacks as terrorism, but added that the violence is rooted in "unjust policies" aimed at destabilizing the region. He did not elaborate.

India is seen by many in the Arab and Muslim world as a Western ally. For example, Israel has become an important arms supplier to India, angering Muslim Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia said in a statement carried earlier this week by the Saudi Press Agency that it "strongly condemns and denounces this criminal act." An editorial Friday in Saudi's English-language Arab News said that "no civilized person ... can be anything but revolted and sickened by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai."

However, Jonathan Fighel, an Israeli counterterrorism expert, said Saudi organizations have been funneling money to Muslim militants in Kashmir.

"This demonstrates exactly the double game and, I would say, the hypocrisy of the Saudi regime," said Fighel of the Israel-based International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

Throughout the Muslim world, the attacks set off soul-searching.

"I think that Muslims should raise their voice against such actions. They should forge a coalition to fight such phenomena, because it harms them and damages their image," said Ali Abdel Muhsen, 22, a Muslim engineering student in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Muslims and Arabs must confront the violence "that is taking place in our name and in the name of our (Islamic) tenets," wrote Khaled al-Jenfawi, a columnist for Kuwait's Al-Seyassah daily.

"Unfortunately, we have yet to see a distinguished popular condemnation in the traditional Arab or Muslim communities that strongly rejects what is happening in the name of Islam or Arab nationalism," wrote al-Jenfawi.

Reporters across the Middle East and Europe contributed to this report.

Mumbai Attacks Stun South Asian; North American Muslim Organizations Condemn Terror Attacks

From the Daily Times of Pakistan - November 30, 2008

Mumbai attacks stun South Asia

* Civic bodies condemn attacks, demand swift justice
* Denounce terrorism, term attacks crime against humanity

By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: While the Mumbai terrorist attacks have stunned the large South Asian population living in the capital and its adjoining areas, a number of Pakistani-American organisations have issued strong condemnations of the outrage and expressed sympathy for those who lost their lives.

The Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA) denounced the brutal attacks that ended in the loss of innocent human lives. The group said it believes that no cause justifies indiscriminate attacks against civilians and no religion endorses terrorism.

The APPNA said it views these despicable acts in the context of global terrorism and considers them a vicious effort to further destabilise the region. While offering its deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and the wounded and expressing its solidarity with the people of India, APPNA urged Indo-Pak physicians living in North America to join hands and work towards bringing peace and prosperity to South Asia.

Expressing its profound sense of grief over the loss of precious lives in Mumbai, the American Muslim Alliance has condemned the co-ordinated terror attacks on India's premier city. The group said, "We urge the authorities to bring the culprits to justice. We also urge all concerned communities and countries to help restore calm and work for the eradication of the root causes of this violence."

The Islamic Medical Association of North America also condemned the terror strikes in Mumbai in the 'strongest possible terms', while expressing solidarity with the families of the victims.

Terrorism: Dr Hafeezur Rehman, president of the association, said, "No religion breeds terrorism and terrorism serves no good cause. Such heinous acts are crimes against humanity and they should be countered with the most severe response. Those responsible for these crimes against humanity must be brought to justice swiftly. Islam considers the use of terrorism for any purpose totally unacceptable."

The Pakistani American Leadership Centre strongly condemned the Mumbai attacks, which have left nearly 200 dead and close to 370 wounded. "Our immediate thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and their loved ones," it said in a statement. The group said it is encouraged by the immediate repudiation of the attacks by the Pakistani government and notes that Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had just concluded talks in India with his Indian counterpart on terrorism, trade, and the loosening of visa restrictions between the two countries.

The statement hoped that discussions aimed at normalising Pakistan-India relations would continue, demonstrating the resolve of both nations to achieve sustainable peace for the benefit of the citizens of both countries and the world.

"Faced with the indiscriminate violence of terrorism, we must find our common humanity and unite to act as one against such acts to bring peace, prosperity, and stability to the region," the group said.

Mumbai: Behind the Attacks Lies a Story of Youth Twisted by Hate

From the Guardian - November 30, 2008

Mumbai: Behind the attacks lies a story of youth twisted by hate

The intense poverty and extreme religious culture of the southern Punjab have made the region a hotbed for Islamist terror groups. It is, claim the Indian media, the seedbed of last week's slaughter in Mumbai. Jason Burke travelled to the twin towns of Bahawalpur and Multan, home of alleged killer Mohammad Ajmal Mohammad Amin Kasab, to discover what impels young men to unleash carnage.

Article continued from the Guardian.

Struggle for Identity Fuels Battle of Civilisations

From the Sydney Morning Herald

Struggle for identity fuels battle of civilisations

Tanveer Ahmed
December 1, 2008

I was born a Bangladeshi-Muslim and, despite growing up in Australia, have seen religion seeping through all people derived from the subcontinent. The grandmother of a Hindu-Indian friend refused to eat food cooked in our kitchen, given its Muslim owners. She saw it not as rude but a natural response to her past: Indian partition was the defining event of her life.

My inner struggle to balance an Islamic background while living in the modern West, and an ancient Bengali identity with the secular, frontier attitude of modern Australia, mirrors the wider struggles within India, and the world. Narrow, fixed identities are at the core of many struggles; the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks invoke being Muslim at the expense of all other aspects of their identity.

Determining our identities is part of modernity, and a key contributor to conflict. It will continue to be a defining issue of the 21st century. Mass migration and mixed marriages help stir the melting pot but the tension between a longing for the tribalism of nation and race, against the newer, more fluid forms of identity will be one of the key conflicts of the modern psyche.

Barack Obama's election to the US presidency has been called a post-racial event. According to this narrative, his biography transcends the normal categories of identity, for it intermingles race, religion and class. He was raised by a white mother but still identified as a black man; he was born poor but graduated from Harvard; he is a practising Christian but was exposed to Islam through his early schooling in a Javanese primary school. The questions Obama has thought about all his life dominate the world today.

Obama's rise symbolically brings to a close a century where narrow identities defined human conflict, from fierce nationalism to class warfare to religious bigotry. Its intellectual articulation was perhaps Samuel Huntington's 1996 book, The Clash Of Civilisations And The Remaking Of The World Order. He categorised conflict in civilisational terms, contrasting Western civilisation with "Muslim civilisation" and "Hindu civilisation", underlining the narrow characterisation of human groups.

But while Obama's story is significant, it has many similarities with that of the father of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. As with Obama speaking of his several worlds, Nehru spoke of being caught between the East and the West and not belonging to either. Just as Nehru tried to explain why he would never forget his duty to the Muslims, however divisive, Obama tries to communicate why he would never abandon Jeremiah Wright, his controversial black pastor.

Nehru appealed to the Brahmins to share power with the lower castes, as well as interpret the anger of the untouchables. Obama tries to give voice to the underclass by appealing to the higher consciousness of whites and blacks alike, as well as explain to whites the anger of blacks.

India is a prime example of how ancient identities and conflicts rising from them can be reinterpreted for modern conditions. The conflict in India has outwardly been between Muslims and Hindus but last week's attacks saw a new global twist.

It is unclear whether the attacks had any links with al-Qaeda but it has a unique mix of pre-modern ideas about social norms with a modern sense of globalism that taps into the longing for belonging. It is particularly attractive to those unable to find an identity in the usual categories of nation or race.

Instead, the idea of the umma, a global community of Muslims, becomes attractive. It appeals to the well-educated and the disenchanted, offering a system for regulating behaviour in any situation. Its failing is resorting to a narrow singular definition of the essence of the human self, in this case through religion.

There are many questions unanswered about Mumbai. But clearly, one of the key contributors was a yearning for a collective identity expressed in very narrow terms by perpetrators who elevated being Muslim at the expense of all else.

These narrow definitions not only diminish us as humans, but make the world much more flammable. In India, there is a particular danger of a mass uprising by Hindu fundamentalists.

Achieving harmony in our troubled world lies in the plurality of our identities, which are allowed to remain fluid as resources to be used in different situations, and as bulwarks against drives to categorise us as narrow, single entities.

Tanveer Ahmed is a psychiatry registrar.

Valentine's Day Across the Muslim World (2012)