FaithWorld

Islamic finance’s reputation as “safe” is a myth: Qatar regulator

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Traders at the Saudi Investment Bank in Riyadh, 8 Oct 2008/Fahad Shadeed

It’s a myth to assume Islamic finance products are safer than conventional products and underlying risks should be studied more carefully, Qatar’s top regulator said at the Davos World Economic Forum meeting on Wednesday. Despite being billed as a safer alternative to traditional banking because assets must underpin deals, Islamic bondholders have found they may not have any more legal safeguards than conventional counterparts in the event of default.

Such issues were highlighted after sukuk — or Islamic bonds — had the first ever defaults last year.  Sukuk, one of the flagship products in the $1 trillion Islamic finance industry, are structured as profit-sharing or rental agreements and returns are derived from underlying assets because Islamic laws prohibits paying or earning interest.

“There is some assumption that some of it is cosmetically more comforting, but when so many Islamic instruments are now trying to mimic the effect of conventional products, you need to examine if they carry the same risk profile,” Philip Thorpe, chief executive of Qatar Financial Center Regulatory Authority, told Reuters.

“It’s a myth for anyone to assume anything about financial products, including Islamic finance,” he said.

Read the whole story here.

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Muslim Brotherhood to Egypt: Don’t squeeze out moderates

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Mohamed Badie in an interview with Reuters in Cairo, 26 Jan/Asmaa Waguih

The new leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has said that  government efforts to squeeze Egypt’s biggest opposition group out of politics would only spur on “deviant” and potentially violent Islamic movements.  Mohamed Badie, 66, told Marwa Awad and Edmund Blair of the Reuters Cairo bureau the group would campaign in this year’s parliamentary election, but a state crackdown would likely prevent a repeat of its success in 2005 when it secured a fifth of the seats.

“The Muslim Brotherhood, which carries the banner of moderate Islam, must be given the chance to teach Egyptian society to benefit the nation and its people,” said Badie, picked as the group’s new leader this month.  “When we were prevented from playing the role of spreading moderate Islam, thorns sprouted in Egypt’s soil and so did terrorism,” he said, adding he rejected “deviant and ‘takfiri’ ideology”, referring to groups that declared people infidels.

Read the whole story here.

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GUESTVIEW: Wearing a burqa will now be a crime?

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Veiled woman in Kabul, 10 Dec 2009/ Omar Sobhani

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Asghar Ali Engineer, a leading Indian Muslim intellectual and activist, is head of the Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai, where he works to promote peace and understanding among religious and ethnic communities.

By Asghar Ali Engineer

The French parliament is preparing to pass a resolution to denounce the wearing of burqas in France. It aims to pass a law afterwards that will actually outlaw the garment. This is  the first time that women would be penalised for wearing a burqa. In 2004, France banned Muslim girls wearing the hijab in schools. It argued that these religious symbols interfere with its commitment to secularism and its secular culture.

In fact, nothing happens without political ideology being behind it. This measure is being championed by right-wing politicians who are exploiting anti-Islam feelings in France among a section of people under the cover of secularism. However, the socialists are opposed to any ban on the burqa, though they are also not in favour of women wearing burqas. They feel women should be discouraged rather than banning the burqa covering the face.

Mauritanian Muslim imams initiate rare ban on female circumcision

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Women meeting in western Senegal to discuss eradicating female genital mutilation, 10 Sept 2007/Finbarr O'Reilly

Human rights campaigners who have been struggling for years to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM) in West Africa got a boost this week as news emerged that a group of Muslim clerics and scholars in Mauritania had declared a fatwa, or religious decree, against the practice.

“Are there texts in the Koran that clearly require that thing? They do not exist,” asked the secretary general of the Forum of Islamic Thought in Mauritania, Cheikh Ould Zein. “On the contrary, Islam is clearly against any action that has negative effects on health. Now that doctors in Mauritania unanimously say that this practice threatens health, it is therefore clear that Islam is against it.”

Q+A-The Muslim Brotherhood’s influence on Egyptian politics

badeea Mohamed Badeea at news conference in Cairo 16 Jan 2010/Asmaa Waguih

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s oldest Islamist political group, has named a conservative as its new leader, suggesting that the country’s biggest opposition group may lower its political profile and focus on a social agenda.

Mohamed Badeea’s appointment on Saturday followed a heated debate between conservatives wary of stepping up political activities that have already triggered repression from the state and many from a younger generation seeking more political activism.

The Brotherhood, which seeks to introduce Islamic rule by democratic means, is officially banned but grudgingly tolerated by the state, and took about a fifth of the seats in parliament in 2005 by fielding candidates as independents.

from Africa News blog:

Was Nigerian bomber a one-off?

SECURITY-AIRLINE/TRANSITQuite apart from the Nigerian would-be plane bomber’s lack of success, there are other reasons why Africa’s most populous nation cannot be expected to produce a rash of similar cases.

As this Reuters story from Sahabi Yahaya in the bomber’s home town of Funtua points out, it is Umar Abdulmutallab’s foreign education rather than his background in Muslim northern Nigeria that is seen as having radicalised him.

The relatively affluent upbringing is not too dissimilar to that of some of the Sept. 11 attackers or Al Qaeda recruits for other attacks, but makes him a particular exception in Nigeria. Most people live on less than $2 a day and many would give almost anything just to have got aboard the plane he tried to blow up. Every year, tens of thousands of Abdulmutallab’s compatriots brave deserts, oceans and unsympathetic immigration police to try to get to the West for just a taste of the chances he had and to take whatever work they can get to better themselves and their families.

Support lower for Muslim-backed U.N. text on defamation of religion

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United Nations General Assembly, 24 Sept 2009/Ray Stubblebine

The U.N. General Assembly condemned defamation of religion for the fifth year running on Friday but support continued to erode for a resolution Western countries say threatens freedom of speech.

The assembly passed the Islamic-sponsored resolution with 80 votes in favor, 61 against and 42 abstentions. That compared with 86 votes to 53 against with 42 abstentions for a similar text last year and figures of 108-51-25 in 2007, the last time the measure commanded an absolute majority of U.N. members.

The nonbinding resolution has gone through every year since it was prompted in 2005 by a row over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in a Danish newspaper, sparking bloody protests by Muslims around the world.  The only religion the resolution specifically names as a target of defamation is Islam.

Pew measures global religious restrictions

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has come out with a new report that tries to measure, country by country on a global level, government and social restrictions on religion. You can see our coverage of the report here and here and can download the whole report here.

The report, which Pew says is the first major quantitative study of the subject on a global level, ranks countries under two indices — one measures government restrictions on religion, the other social hostilities or curbs on religion that stem from violence or intimidation by private individuals or groups. NIGERIA RELIGION

A damaged mosque in Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria

The Government Restrictions Index is based on 20 questions used by the Pew Forum to assess state curbs on religion at the national, provincial and local levels.

Muslim revival brings polygamy, camels to Chechnya

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Main mosque in Grozny, capital of Chechnya, 17 May 2008/Said Tsarnayev

Adam, 52, keeps his three wives in different towns to stop them squabbling, but the white-bearded Chechen adds he might soon take a fourth.  “Chechnya is Muslim, so this is our right as men. They (the wives) spend time together, but do not always see eye to eye,” said the soft-spoken pensioner, who only gave his first name.

Though polygamy is illegal in Russia, the southern Muslim region of Chechnya encourages the practice, arguing it is allowed by sharia law and the Koran, Islam’s holiest book.

Hardline Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov is vying with insurgents for authority in a land ravaged by two secessionist wars with Moscow. Each side is claiming Islam as its flag of legitimacy, each reviles the other as criminal and blasphemous.

Most U.S. Protestant pastors see Islam as dangerous – survey

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American Muslims at the Atlanta Masjid of al-Islam mosque, 9 Feb 2007/Tami Chappell

Here’s an interesting survey that was released on Monday by LifeWay Research, which is the number crunching arm of the South Baptist Convention, America’s largest evangelical group.

It says that two-thirds of Protestant pastors in America regard Islam as a dangerous religion. You can see their press release here. The full survey has not been posted on their site.