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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bank Sohar inaugurates second Islamic banking branch in Firq, Nizwa

Bank Sohar, the Sultanate's fastest growing Bank is delighted to announce the official opening of the second branch of their Islamic banking window - Sohar Islamic, at Firq in the Wilayat of Nizwa.

The Bank has been steadily growing the new wing of their business, emphasising on Islamic banking products in the holy month of Ramadan, and this announcement comes in line with the same commitment.

The opening was held at the new branch premises under the auspices of H.E. Shaikh Hamad bin Salim Al Aghbari, Wali of Nizwa in the presence of Bank Sohar's CEO, senior management, and other VIP citizens from the Wilayat.

On this occasion, Dr. Mohamed bin Abdulaziz Kalmoor, CEO of Bank Sohar mentioned, "It is a moment of great pride for us to inaugurate the second branch of Sohar Islamic in the holy month of Ramadan. We have ensured that the new branch is equipped with qualified staff and robust systems to offer a broad spectrum of shari'ah compliant products and services. Encouraged by the success of Sohar Islamic, we are also looking forward to progressively open more branches across the expanse of the Sultanate".

The existing branches of Sohar Islamic will offer five major products to retail customers across the Sultanate - automobile finance, term deposits, current accounts, housing finance and savings accounts. Sohar Islamic also provides corporate finance solutions consisting of asset finance, working capital finance, trade finance, treasury and investment products.

Commenting on the popularity of Bank Sohar's Islamic window, Mr. Mohammad Haris, Head of Sohar Islamic said "It gives us immense pleasure to be able to open the second branch dedicated to Islamic banking, less than a month apart from the inauguration of our first branch in Falaj Al Qabail. Sohar Islamic intends to adhere to the highest level of shari'ah compliance by meeting certain key conditions including: complete segregation of funds; stand alone and independent branches, separate sales staff, existence of a strong shari'ah supervisory board and shari'ah audit and compliance unit; committed management; the world's best Islamic banking software; and compliance with the standards of the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI)".

Bank Sohar currently has three functional Sohar Islamic Branches located in Falaj Al Qabail, Firq and Saada, with more expected to open before the end of the year.

Art & Culture : The Jameel Prize Brings Inspired Islamic-influenced Art to SAMA

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A
Courtesy photo
Babak Golkar, Negotiating the Space for Possible Coexistences No. 5, mixed media

When you encounter the word “Islamic” in this hemisphere, art is not what springs to mind in an era inflamed by religious terrorism. But London’s Victoria and Albert Museum recognizes the potent interaction between traditional Islamic arts and contemporary trends with the Jameel Prize under the patronage of avant-garde architect Zaha Hadid. More than 200 of the world’s leading curators, designers and artists were invited to nominate artists for the 2011 competition and the 10 finalists are featured in “The Jameel Prize: Art Inspired by the Islamic Tradition” at the San Antonio Museum of Art.
Working with nomadic tent-makers, Algerian artist Rachid Koraïchi won the top £25,000 prize for his large-scale, embroidered cloth banners The Invisible Masters. Based on numerology and brimming with mystic symbols such as pyramids, feathers, waves, hearts, stars and the mysterious hand-and-eye, the seven black-and-white banners explore the lives and legacies of the 14 great mystics of Islam, including influential Sufi (devoted to the mystical dimension of Islam) thinkers and poets such as Rumi and Ibn Arabi.
Repetitive, concentrated handwork, related to the Sufi meditative practices, is involved in the work of several of these artists, even though they straddle the influences of East and West.

Iranian-born Hadieh Shafie, who has lived in the United States since 1983, writes phrases taken from mystical Sufi poetry and incantations on strips of colored paper, which she rolls into circles of varying sizes to create whirling, cosmic patterns in 22500 pages and 26000 pages. Aisha Khalid of Pakistan used 300,000 gold-plated steel pins to create her Kashmiri Shawl decorated with a paisley design, the droplet-shaped vegetable motif that migrated from India to Scotland in the 18th century.

The youngest artist, Noor Ali Chagani, who studied Mughal painting or “Persian miniatures” at art school in Lahore, Pakistan, employs thousands of umber-colored miniature terracotta bricks to make his fantastic sculptures. Lifeline resembles a textured shawl crumpled on the floor, a reflection on shelter and refuge. Peering through the peephole in Infinity, you see an endless line of crumbling brick walls, a vivid metaphor for the obstacles and challenges of life.

Babak Golkar, an Iranian-American, projects the designs of Persian carpets upwards into three dimensions as the footprints for fanciful skyscrapers in Negotiating the Space for Possible Coexistences No. 5.

Religious restrictions discourage figures in Islamic art, but two artists use them for social and political commentary. The perilous plight of Iraqi exiles is the focus of Baghdad-born artist Hayv Kahraman’s wood-panel paintings based on the Waraq (playing cards) distributed to U.S. troops to help with identifying archaeological treasures. Soody Sharifi, an Iranian who works in Houston, caricatures contemporary oppression of women by contrasting nude female swimmers in the 14th century with head-to-toe-covered 21st-century sunbathers in her digital collage Frolicking Women.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Islamic clothes are now the growing trend in Kashmir


Over the past two and a half decades Kashmiri woman has changed drastically. She has started moving out in search of education and work. And to give more credit to her daily activities in a typically orthodox society now she has adorned an Islamic get-up .

With an increasing religious awareness and pro-hijab campaigns in the West, today more women in Kashmir are opting for a new and changed outfit in a bid to maintain and support their religious identity.

In Kashmir’s busiest market place, Shakil has been selling headscarves and gowns typical of Muslim identity, and for the last few years he’s witnessed a change in women preferences towards apparels that better suite their Muslim identity.

And now he imports these Islamic clothes for women from different countries as the demand for such getup increases.

Way back in early 90's a women's group launched a campaign for Islamic dress code in the region, but that failed. Now, this new wave of Islamic awakening and identity has attracted more women.

Kashmir is a Muslim-dominated region controlled by India and Pakistan in parts, struggling hard for becoming an independent state. For the last two and a half decades Kashmir has been the scene of increasing conflict between the two countries; while India wants Kashmir to retain its secular status, Pakistan is seeking to control Kashmir for its majority Muslims.

Observers believe the change in the Kashmiri women’s mindset to choose more Islamic outfits is the result of a sweeping wave of Islamic awakening. The influence remains a beacon of inspiration for the people across the Indian subcontinent. The valley is now home to Over eight million Muslims 

source :

Monday, July 29, 2013

U.S.-born Islamic scholar hopes to encourage Muslim youth in struggle for religious identity

Mohammed Al-Saadi 3.jpg
Mohammed Al-Saadi, the guest lecturer for the second half of Ramadan 2013 at the Alabama Islamic Education Center of Al-Zahra, lectures from the minbar of the prayer hall. The banner behind him spells the names of the Fourteen Infallibles, the daughter and sons and grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad. Shi'a Muslims honor the leadership of the natural lineage of Muhammad as the first authority on Islam, while Sunni Muslims honor the lineage of the elder of the Islamic community. Both denominations affirm the supreme importance of being Muslim, not being Shi'a or Sunni. (Kay Campbell /

Kay Campbell |  
By Kay Campbell |
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on July 28, 2013 at 6:36 AM, updated July 28, 2013 at 6:37 AM

Mohammed Al-Saadi 1.jpgMohammed Al-Saadi will be lecturing at the Alabama Islamic Education Center of Al-Zahra in Huntsville, Ala., through the end of Ramadan, which this year will be on Aug. 8 or 9, 2013. (Kay Campbell /

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – The month of Ramadan can be a month of self-revolution for Muslims, says Mohammed Al-Saadi, the visiting scholar for the remaining two weeks of the month of fasting and study at the Alabama Islamic Educational Center of Fatemeh Al Zahra, Huntsville’s Shi’a Muslim congregation.

Al-Saadi will lecture at the mosque, at 8200 Memorial Parkway S.W. in Huntsville, Fridays at 1 p.m. prayers and nightly at 7 p.m. The lectures are followed by question-and-answer discussions. Visitors are always welcome, he said.

Al-Saadi, 26, and his wife are studying Islamic studies at the Islamic seminary in Najaf, Iraq. Al-Saadi, who was born and raised in the United States, is the son of parents who emigrated from Iraq to the U.S. He said he felt drawn to study Islam more deeply because he found, as an active member of the mosques his family attended, that he was being asked to speak.

“I realized I had become too active too soon,” Al-Saadi said Friday, July 26, 2013, speaking the prayer hall of the center after Friday noon prayers and before the evening prayers. “I realized that to do a good job of representing the faith to youth, I needed to educate myself first before educating others.”

Shi’a youth find themselves twice a minority in the United States, Al-Saadi said. First, of course, Muslims are a religious minority in the U.S., and often viewed with some suspicion by people who don’t know them. Second, within the Muslim faith, Shi’a Muslims are a much smaller minority than the majority Sunni. Layer on top of that that many Muslim youth are first-generation American children of immigrants, and they are dealing with a lot, Al-Saadi said.

“I try to help the youth focus on the importance of developing their Muslim identity without the full-fledged assimilation into the secular culture,” Al-Saadi said. “They should preserve their identity, know who they are, and be a practicing Muslim, not just a Muslim in name.”

“But they also need to be patient with the struggle of all that and be quick to seek help and counsel when they feel torn between their faith and the culture,” Al-Saadi said. “Many of the youth are pretty much struggling. After all, they are in a society that rewards them for not being Muslim.”
His lectures during Ramadan for the entire congregation will include the etiquette of fasting and the importance of referring to experts, not just personal opinion, in studying the Quran other Islamic texts.

“Muslims can use the month of Ramadan for a revolution of the self,” Al-Saadi said. “They can become better Muslims and better human beings.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Islamic Isle

Tracing the Muslim roots of modern-day Sicily.

Aug 5, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 44 • By RICHARD TAD
San Giovanni degli Eremiti in Palermo (6th century)
San Giovanni degli Eremiti in Palermo (6th century): Christian, then Muslim, and Christian again
LatitudeStock / Dennis Stone / getty images
A band of Muslim raiders sacked Rome in 846 a.d., plundering the city’s churches and getting clean away with their loot. They had come from Palermo, in Sicily, which had been in Muslim hands for 15 years. Sicily was then on its way to becoming a predominantly Islamic and Arabic-speaking island, and it remained under Muslim rule for over two centuries, until the Normans conquered it in the late 11th century.
Expressions of astonishment that the land of cannoli and the Mafia was once part of the Islamic world may be forgiven, since this is the first detailed book on the period to be written in English. Leonard Chiarelli directs the Aziz S. Atiya Library for Middle East Studies at the University of Utah; among his scholarly achievements is detecting the presence of the heterodox Ibadite sect in Muslim Sicily. His book is comprehensive and reliable—if at times dry and lacking in eye-catching detail. This is due, in part, to his sources: There were Arab historians who focused on Sicily, but their works have not survived; thus it becomes necessary to cobble together references to Sicily from later Muslim historians whose primary interest was North Africa. The sole contemporary source is the Cambridge Chronicle (so-called because the first copy to be studied in modern times was held by Cambridge University), which tersely recounts events from 812 to 964. 

Sicily in the early 9th century was a backwater province of the Byzantine Empire, with a majority Greek-speaking population. The overwhelming bulk of the Byzantine army was in Anatolia, facing the Arabs on the empire’s eastern frontier. Only about 1,000 Byzantine soldiers defended Sicily, with another 1,000 nearby in Calabria. The Byzantines lost Sicily through the treachery of their local naval commander, Euphemius. According to a Byzantine source, Euphemius had married a nun against both the law and her will; he rebelled in 826 when threatened with arrest. But Euphemius could not hold the capital of Syracuse against loyal Byzantine forces, and he made the fateful decision to sail to Islamic North Africa.

North Africa was then governed by the Aghlabid dynasty based at Kairouan, in modern Tunisia. Euphemius arrived at the court of the Aghlabid emir Ziyadat Allah I and asked for assistance in retaking Sicily, promising to pay tribute in return. After some hesitation, the emir approved an invasion—possibly in order to keep Muslim zealots in his realm occupied with an overseas adventure rather than have them stir up trouble at home. 

The invasion fleet landed at Sicily in June 827, and the Muslims quickly moved to besiege Syracuse in the southeast of the island. Syracuse, however, could be resupplied by sea, and the invaders were forced to lift the siege in 829. In that same year, Euphemius received his just deserts: When the Muslims sent him to negotiate with a Byzantine force in the inland stronghold of Enna, he was recognized as a traitor and stabbed to death. 

The arrival of reinforcements from Islamic Spain in 830 enabled the Muslims to rally and take Palermo, which was to become the Islamic capital of Sicily the next year. The Muslims firmly controlled western Sicily by 860, after suppressing a revolt there. But Syracuse did not fall until 878, which still left much of the northeastern corner of the island (closest to Byzantine Calabria) in Christian hands.

The Byzantines lacked a strong fleet in Italian waters, and the Muslims were quick to take advantage of the opportunity by launching naval raids on southern Italy. The independent maritime states of Naples, Amalfi, and Gaeta, feeling threatened by their expansionist Lombard neighbors, made alliances with the Muslims, enabling the invaders to establish bases along the southern Italian coast and strike inland. In 883, Muslim raiders sacked and destroyed the great monastery at Monte Cassino. Southern Italy seemed on the verge of falling to Islam. In 885, however, the Byzantines scraped together enough troops for an expeditionary force and sent it west. This reasserted the empire’s control over southern Italy, although Calabria continued to be the target of raids from Muslim Sicily. 

Sicily was transformed demographically by immigration from North Africa. Both Arabs and Berbers came to the island, with settlement heaviest in the western half, which had come earliest under Muslim control. A modern estimate has a half-million immigrants entering Sicily during the Islamic period. Their presence reinforced a process that began with the establishment of Muslim rule: the conversion of Sicilians to Islam. In the 10th century, western and southern Sicily appear to have been evenly balanced between Christians and Muslims; by the 11th century, both areas were majority Muslim.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Initiative to boost Islamic economy sector in UAE

Hamdan bin Mohammed launches Dubai Center for Islamic Banking and Finance

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nigeria: Ramadan - Islamic Group to Provide Foodstuff, Clothes to Orphans

An Islamic group, Jama'atu Izalatil Bidi'ah Wa Iqamatis Sunna, JIBWIS, says it will provide foodstuff and clothes to orphans in various states, in the spirit of Ramadan.

The national chairman of JIBWIS, Abdullahi Bala-Lau, who said this in Yola, the Adamawa capital, while speaking to journalists, said the gesture was aimed at putting smiles in faces of the downtrodden. He called on other well to do and corporate organizations to assist.

He said "the gesture was to show love and give the orphans a sense of belonging in the Holy Month.
"Bountiful rewards await those that assist, particularly to needy. As the saying goes givers never lack. We should all strive to assist less privileged not only the holy month of Ramadan."

The cleric said the group had directed all its preachers and members across the country to mobilize for the programme and ensure that at least 5000 orphans benefitted from the gesture in each state of the federation. He said the gesture is to be extended to prison inmates.

He said the group would also sponsor the enrollment of school age orphans into primary and secondary schools.

"Taking care of the needy is a big Jihad and that is why I want to appeal to all stakeholders including authorities in the north to do something about the growing numbers of destitute and the culture of begging in this part of the country.

"We need to address the problem to promote peace and prosperity", Mr. Bala-Lau said.
He said the association would visit prisons to give inmates words of encouragement saying "everybody is bound to make a mistake. Some people come out of prison and became scholars, clerics, presidents, governors. The difference between here and outside is just because
inmates are not privileged to go outside. Some Nigerians outside even experience harsher living conditions than you do."

The cleric further said that JIBWIS would soon set up vocational training centres in a move to complement government's empowerment programme.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Islamic Seach Engine

Al Arabiya
Putting the “beep” in all that’s un-Islamic, a new online search engine is providing a Muslim alternative to surfing the web.

Blocking web content deemed “haram,” or forbidden in Islam, the Halalgoogling site has its own custom filters.


Dubbed the “Haram Filtering System,” it claims to block content based on general category filtering and forbidden sites on a “black list.”

'Your search is haram'. (Photo courtesy: Halalgoogling)
It also sifts through links and a list of “haram keywords,” which cannot be used to search on the website.

When Al Arabiya English had a go at testing Halalgoogling’s “haram filter,” launched earlier this month, search terms such as “playboy” yielded no results.

Meanwhile, terms such as “pornography” yielded a list of dictionary definitions. The phrase “Resurrection of Jesus” also gave a list of dictionary definitions and Islamic religious websites.
According to the site, the “Haram Filtering System” features four components.

General category filtering – Overall search results filtering of different categories
Forbidden sites – Black List of websites that are not allowed to appear on the search results

Link filtering – Removal of only certain pages/links from a website, blog or forum
Haram Keywords – List of keywords that are not allowed to be searched or to search the entire web (only certain trusted sites).

Many Twitter users mocked the site or saw it as an example of censorship. (Photo courtesy: Twitter)
However, Halalgoogling admits that some haram content still escapes the filter.

“Despite of our best efforts to make our service as secure as possible from haram content, there is still much work to be done, we still have several milestones to overcome, but with God willing
(Insha’Allah) and your help we will make Halalgoogling suitable for every Muslim brother and sister and achieve our common goal,” a statement on their blog says.

According to Pakistan’s Express Tribune, the “haram filter” has been developed by a worldwide team of “internet experts” to determine haram content and protect those Muslims who want to search without being exposed to it.

Halalgoogling is not the only “halal” search engine on the web, with online offerings such as and, but it hopes to outdo its competitors.

In addition to its “haram” filtering system, it has special search options, as well as providing a forum for Islamic discussion and providing educational Islamic features.

Commenters on Halalgoogling’s blog gave a positive response to site, praising the innovation.
However, Twitter responses was less enthusiastic, with many users mocking it or seeing it as an example of censorship.

Not only Muslims can benefit from a specially tailored search engine.
Similar websites exist for other faiths, such as Jewogle , a Google parody which “celebrates the Jewish contribution to civilization”, or, a Christian site which filters content to protect users from pages “attacking/denigrating” the Christian faith.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pakistan launches media campaign to boost Islamic finance

REUTERS - Pakistan's central bank has launched a mass media campaign to raise awareness and acceptance of Islamic finance among consumers in the world's second most populous Muslim country.

The campaign is part of an overhaul of Islamic finance activities in Pakistan, which also includes the establishment of a country-level sharia board and new rules for sharia-compliant financial products.
The central bank is rolling out a five-year plan for Pakistan's Islamic banking sector, which follows religious principles such as bans on interest and pure monetary speculation.

"There still prevails a significant population that is either unaware of Islamic banking or have confusions and misconceptions about its current paradigm," said central bank governor Yaseen Anwar at the launch of the campaign on Thursday.

The campaign, developed alongside local Islamic banks, would help the industry reach ambitious targets including a doubling of its branch network in five years and a 15 percent share of the banking system, Anwar added.

As of March, the industry held an 8.7 percent share of banking assets and 9.7 percent of deposits, central bank data shows.

The country's Islamic banking industry includes five fully-fledged Islamic banks and five takaful (Islamic insurance) firms, with an additional 12 conventional banks offering services through Islamic windows.

Anwar added the central bank is also at an "advanced stage" of issuing a detailed sharia governance framework, which would outline roles for directors, management and sharia boards.
Earlier this week, the central bank adopted a global standard for Islamic bonds, which could help issuers attract investors from the Gulf and elsewhere. [ID:nL6N0FN0LN] (Reporting by Bernardo Vizcaino; Editing by Eric Meijer and Michael Perry)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Firms in deal to develop Islamic finance training

MANAMA: Bahrain-based Deloitte Islamic Finance Knowledge Centre (IFKC) in the Middle East is partnering with the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI) to develop industry-based training.

Responding to calls from industry leaders and regulators, the two entities have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for developing competency-based programmes in different practice areas, Deloitte said.

"This initiative draws on the importance of collaboration among industry stakeholders to strengthen the knowledge-sharing process and address industry challenges and market practices," said Deloitte Middle East regional leader for Global FSI Joseph El Fadl.
"In particular, this collaboration aims to streamline professional education and capacity building in Islamic finance," he added.

IRTI considers IFKC as a strategic partner to inspire and deliver cutting edge research, and for capacity building and information services in Islamic economics, IRTI director general Professor Mohammad Azmi Omar said.

The training initiative compliments the Deloitte Islamic Finance Knowledge Centre's strategic associations with industry research and training institutions to deliver timely analytic insights and knowledge to market participants.

"This initiative with IRTI recognises the need for developing effective leadership programmes in Islamic finance, calibrated with knowledge into practice," IFKC director Dr Hatim El Tahir said.

"Our joint aim is to cultivate a culture of professional excellence among market participants.
"We hope our collaboration, leveraging on Deloitte's analytic insights and IRTI as a global knowledge centre for Islamic economics and finance, will help Islamic finance industry practitioners gain insights into global market practices, opportunities and industry challenges.
"This will greatly enhance the value we bring to our clients," he added.

The 2013 Stability report by the Islamic Finance Service Board (IFSB) states that "some of the remaining challenges to be overcome include the development of human capital which increases with the development of innovative Islamic financial products and services". IRTI is a member of the Islamic Development Bank Group.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Maybank’s Muzaffar Hisham wins Islamic Banker of the Year

KUALA LUMPUR: Muzaffar Hisham, chief executive officer of Maybank Islamic Berhad, has clinched the Islamic Banker of The Year Award at the Asset Triple A Islamic Finance Awards 2013.

His win was attributed to his outstanding contribution to developing Islamic finance regionally and the instrumental played in growing Maybank Group’s Islamic banking business.

Maybank Islamic Berhad cemented its leadership position as it posted robust double-digit growth rates in financing, deposits and in asset size, now standing above RM90bil.

Maybank Islamic also won two more awards – Best Islamic Retail Bank, Malaysia and Best Islamic Trade Finance Bank for the third consecutive year. In addition, the Maybank Group won the Best Islamic Equity Award, Best Islamic Equity Award (highly commended), Best Local Currency Sukuk Award (won by Maybank Investment Bank) and Best Islamic Project Finance Award.

Maybank Islamic is currently the leading Islamic Bank in Asean and the largest Islamic Bank in Malaysia securing a 26% domestic financing market share and accounting for 30.6% of the Maybank Group’s total domestic loans.

Muzaffar joined Maybank Islamic in 2011 with over 10 years' experience in the industry.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sohar Islamic launches Auto Financing Program

Coinciding with the holy month of Ramadhan, Bank Sohar recently opened its first dedicated Sohar Islamic branch in Falaj Al Qabail, in order to provide unique, authentic and reliable Islamic Banking Products in compliance with the Islamic Shari'ah law. Following its official opening, the bank has now announced the launch of its Auto Finance program to meet the different financing needs of its customers to purchase cars.

This product is distinguished with its affordability and flexible terms which offer financing for up to 80% of the vehicle's price, with a repayment period of up to 84 months at very competitive rates and quick processing periods, for both new and used cars.

Commenting on the launch of its first Shari'ah compliant financing solution, Bank Sohar's CEO, Dr. Mohamed Bin Abdulaziz Kalmoor said, "This program is just the first in a series of products and solutions that the bank will launch over the course of the Ramadan period. Through these programs, our customers can experience comprehensive modern financing that is both compliant with Islamic Shari'a laws and in accordance with the highest international standards." He also added, "Our products and services are tailored specifically to meet our customer's demands and were developed through intensive research and carefully understanding their needs and requirements."

The Auto Finance program offers customers the luxury of choice by presenting them with a variety of options and the flexibility they desire in purchasing exactly the vehicle they want - be it a sports convertible or a SUV for the family. The program offers Shari'ah compliant auto financing solutions for new and used cars for up to 80% of their value; and does so without the need for salary transfers. Finance is available for a period of 84 months for new vehicles and 60 months for used and at very competitive rates. The program also prides itself on offering customer's quick processing times and higher financing limits and even offers customers the option of installment deferment.

This is one of the first financial products to be launched by Sohar Islamic from a comprehensive program of banking solutions covering a wide array of retail and corporate financing needs.

These products are being developed at the highest international banking standards which are Islamic Shari'ah compliant. They will include automobile finance, term deposits, housing finance, savings accounts and current accounts for the bank's retail customers. Sohar Islamic will also provide corporate financial solutions consisting of asset finance, working capital finance, trade finance, treasury and investment products. The bank has entered into an agreement with Dar Al Sharia Legal & Financial Consultancy of Dubai, to help it with all the important aspects of its Islamic Banking Window.

Bank Sohar currently has three functional Sohar Islamic Branches located in Falaj Al Qabail, Firq and Saada, with more expected to open before the end of the year.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Madinah has best Islamic urban planning

Saturday 13 July 2013

Last Update 13 July 2013 1:20 am
Millions of Muslims visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah every year, but very few know that Madinah Munawwarah, the City of Light, is not only the first settlement in Islam, but also a shining example of urban planning based on principles outlined in the Qur'an.

“The city of Madinah as built by the Prophet, peace be upon him, is a very good example of urban planning. The ultimate purpose of life, of worshipping God, provided guidance for the planning of Madinah (in the first year of the Hijra or 623 CE),” said Dr. Hisham Mortada, an architect and environmental expert.

Mortada said there are many principles found in the Prophet’s planning of Madinah that should be considered when building future Muslim dwellings.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, started by building a mosque in the center of his growing community. Then he distributed the quarters, properties and houses to the muhajireen, other immigrants, original tribes, the Ansar and other individuals. The urban characteristics of this settlement became the planning standard that was later followed in most traditional Islamic cities.

“We have to realize the beauty and relevance of Islam and also let it be known to non-Muslims what rich heritage we have based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah encompassing different levels from the individual to the Ummah,” said Mortada, who did his master’s degree in architecture at Penn State University in 1989, and went on to receive his PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1993.

He said Islam “is oriented towards community.” This leads to the concept of the Ummah, of which neighborliness is the backbone. The Islamic built environment takes into consideration all measures to strengthen good neighborliness, he said.

The proximity of houses makes it easier to keep in touch with each other, exchange visits, and help each other in time of need. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Nobody can be a true believer if his neighbors pass the night hungry while his (own) belly is full. He who is best to his neighbors will enjoy the neighborhood of God on the Day of Resurrection.”

Islam encourages strong family ties and the extended form of family so much so that a traditional Arab-Muslim house was never complete — as the family grew, so did the house. Yet, a degree of individuality was provided within the boundaries of social unity, equality and brotherhood.
The Islamic built environment encompasses various values including humility and wider social humanistic principles. Extravagant, vainglorious building is discouraged, so is building of tall structures because these hinder the flow of air and light toward smaller ones.
Islam encourages the use of natural and local materials. Traditional mud houses in Asir with wooden slates in the wall for structural purposes are an example of the use of indigenous material for sustainable living. So are those built from coral reefs, the main building material in Jeddah’s old quarter. Leaves and trunks from palm groves around the city were the major roofing materials in Riyadh.
“In origin and substance, Islam is an urban religion,” Mortada said. “The necessity of urban life in Islam is also indicated in the pillars of Islam such as prayer and fasting. The concentration on the performance of these pillars requires a fixed settlement or settled way of life,” he added.

Islamic ideals of town planning ask Muslim planners to gear their planning toward the achievement of this ultimate purpose by using Islamic ideals and commandments as their main guiding principles.
Mortada mentions these in his book “Traditional Islamic Principles of Built Environment” under various headings such as urban environment, methods, commercial, residential, educational and industrial.

“As the Qur’an and the Sunnah did more than 1,400 years ago, the contemporary movement of sustainable living asks for a balance in the consumption of resources so others can benefit from them in the future,” he said.

Many proponents of sustainability are showing interest in the traditional architecture of the hot, arid regions of the Middle East. “This has been exhibited in the growing research activities on vernacular architectural elements, such as courtyards and wind catchers, as well as in applying them, especially in areas such as Arizona, southern California and New Mexico, where a similar climate exists,” Mortada explained.

“Materials such as mud and straw bale are becoming popular among architects and residents in cities such as Santa Fe and Tucson. The purpose of using these techniques and materials is to reduce the reliance on energy and, in turn, oil,” he added.

In his book “Towards an Islamic Theory of Environment,” Ziauddin Sardar writes that within the traditional and intellectual heritage of Islam, reverence and respect for ecological principles is total.
The entire rationale of Islamic environmental ethics is based on the Qur’anic concept of khilafah. Man is the trustee who has the responsibility of looking after the vast panorama of God’s creation. Man can use the trust for his benefit but has no absolute right to anything. Man is accountable for the misuse of his trust and is liable to pay a price both in this world and the akhirah (Hereafter).

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tanzania: Islamic Banking Gaining Popularity

ISLAMIC banking has been cited as a vital financial instrument for promoting incomes of individuals and the nation.

This was said yesterday by Mr Seif Suleiman, the People Bank of Zanzibar (PBZ) Marketing Manager during the 37th Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF).

"Demand for Islamic banking has continuously grown even exceeding supplies thus calling for increased investments of the services," he said. He noted that the introduction of Islamic Banking in the Tanzanian market is aimed at ensuring that PBZ offers products which appeal to all Tanzanians regardless of their faith or background.

The service is being managed in line with the clear guidelines of Shari'ah laws on management of money, one of these guidelines being the absence of interest on current and savings accounts.
"The Shari'ah Law forbids the earning of interest, funds deposited in the accounts will be invested in businesses that are approved under Shari'ah Law," he insisted.

Mr Suleiman said although the service will mostly appeal to our Muslim clientele, it is completely open to everyone regardless of their faith. Islamic banking services will be available to all who choose an alternative to conventional banking. "Muslims and non-Muslims globally are choosing to make use of Islamic Banking," he added.

All investments made under Islamic banking are never associated with any of the traditional "in" industries, such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling or pornography; as a result the product stands on an individual's faith, ensuring not only financial security but also moral and mental satisfaction.

For example, PBZ provides interest free loans to business people for wholesale purchase of goods for retail selling and the bank adds certain amount as charges to the money lent. Wholly owned by the Zanzibar government, PBZ is one of the oldest commercial Banks in the country.

New Islamic satellite channels to air

 Satellite dishes

The Egyptian Satellite Company (Nile Sat) announced on Saturday the establishment of new Islamic channels, coinciding with the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  This step comes days after Egypt's military closed several conservative Islamic channels that supported ousted president Mohamed Morsy.

In a statement, the company said that the new channels will include Al-Fatah channel, which will offer recitations and interpretation of Quranic verses. It will officially launch at the beginning of Ramadan, expected to occur on Tuesday. The channel plans to offer translations in English and Turkish, channel director Ahmed Abdu Awad has said.
Dream3, another channel to be aired through Nile Sat, will run material about moderate Islamic perceptions and host scholars from al-Azhar, the highest religious institution in the Sunni Muslim world.

Several channels supporting ousted leader Mohamed Morsy were closed following Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s announcement on Wednesday that the president had been removed from power in response to wide-scale protests demanding early presidential elections.
The closed channels include the Muslim Brotherhood’s Misr 25, as well as Salafi-oriented channels al-Hafez, al-Nas, and al-Rahma. The measure has been criticized by Amnesty International and other rights groups.

Other Salafi channels, such as al-Nada and Amjad, were not taken off the air, but continued to operate with restrictions on material and guests.

Friday, July 5, 2013

UK to be first non-Muslim country to host Islamic Economic Forum


Aerial night view of Liverpool Street on August 6, 2007 in London
Britain has the largest Islamic banking sector outside the Middle East and Asia



London will host the ninth World Islamic Economic Forum in October, the first time that the event will be held outside of a Muslim country, as the British capital looks to become a global hub for Sharia finance. 

More than 1,500 delegates, including government and business leaders, as well as scholars, will descend on London for the three-day event, which sets out to boost trade partnerships between Islamic and European markets.
"Hosting this prestigious conference... presents huge opportunities to promote London as a world beating business hub, highlighting our status as a major centre of Islamic finance and as a compelling destination for foreign investors," Mayor of London Boris Johnson said in comments posted on the event's website.
Britain has the largest Islamic banking sector outside the Middle East and Asia, the website said.
The World Islamic Economic Forum is organised by the Kuala Lumpur-based WIEF Foundation - a not-for-profit organisation, AFP reported.
Previous forums have been held in Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Malaysia and Pakistan.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Plant would make Islamic food in Muncie

Halal Processing Solutions hopes to revive a former food processing plant and is seeking a tax abatement

 Halal Processing Solutions

MUNCIE — A group of Texas business partners hope to turn a former corn dog plant in Muncie into a top producer of Halal foods for Islamic customers.

Halal Processing Solutions is gearing up for operations in the former Monogram Comfort Foods facility in the 2100 block of East Willard Street. Monogram, successor to longtime pork fritter producer Al Pete Meats, went out of business this spring, ending the jobs of 87 workers.

But partners in Halal, a new start-up, have moved quickly to set up operations in the building. Halal president Tom Keim told members of Muncie City Council’s tax abatement committee this week that they’ve stripped out processing equipment formerly used by Monogram and replaced or rehabbed the building’s floors and walls.

The company’s plan? Produce Halal food like hot dogs, bologna and a bacon substitute, beef breakfast strips, for Islamic customers around the country.

“The Muslim population is growing in this country,” Keim said. In particular, Halal Processing Solutions wants to provide product for Halal hot dog carts in New York and other cities.

“We have a shot at putting this product in every hot dog cart in New York City,” Keim said.
Halal food — after which the company has been named — are products allowed under Islamic dietary practices. Halal never includes pork or pork products and focuses on the most humane slaughter of animals possible. Keim noted animals would not be slaughtered at the Willard Street facility but would be bought from Halal-certified suppliers.

The tax abatement committee approved Halal’s request for a five-year abatement on equipment at the plant. Muncie City Council will vote on the request on July 8.

Keim and Halal executive Paul Whitehair said the plant would also ultimately produce turkey and chicken products — everything except pork.

To ensure the purity of the Halal food made at the Willard Street plant, an imam — a Muslim religious leader — will have an office on the premises and certify the process. It’s a practice not unlike processors that have a rabbi on site to ensure kosher standards are met.

Keim said the company can be successful if it assures customers that it meets strict Halal food processing rules. He said some other companies don’t take all the necessary steps.

Al Pete Meats was founded in 1961 and operated for decades before it was sold to Tennessee-based Monogram in 2008. The company had plans for expansion but abruptly closed this spring.

At Monday’s tax abatement committee meeting, Muncie City Council President Jerry Dishman emphasized to Keim and Whitehair the importance of re-hiring former Monogram employees.

The company representatives said they employed about 15 people now — many of them former employees — and hope to add another 35 people to the workforce within six months. Keim said he believed Halal Processing Solutions would surpass the 80-some employee numbers of Monogram.
Keim said the owners of Halal Processing Solutions are Houston, Texas, partners Bilal Aquil, Firas Ali Brahim and Tom Johnson.

Contact business editor Keith Roysdon at 213-5828 and follow him on Twitter at @keithroysdon.

Iran's president signals softer line on web censorship and Islamic dress code


Two weeks after his sensational victory Iran's president-elect, Hassan Rouhani, has expressed relatively progressive views about civil liberties, freedom of expression and the internet.
Social networking sites such as Facebook were, he said, a welcome phenomenon.
In his most outspoken interview in the Iranian media, Rouhani told Chelcheragh – a popular youth magazine – that he is opposed to segregation of sexes in society, would work to minimise censorship and believes internet filtering is futile.

"In the age of digital revolution, one cannot live or govern in a quarantine," he said as he made clear he is opposed to the authorities' harsh crackdown on Iranians owning satellite dishes, which millions have installed on rooftops for access to foreign-based TV channels illegal in the country.
Rouhani, who has promised to put the Islamic republic back on the path of moderation after eight acrimonious years under the outgoing president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that citizens' rights had been neglected.

He said he stood in the June presidential election as a candidate critical of the current situation and also because he felt the country was at peril.

"Today the republican [nature] of our country is overshadowed by a specific interpretation of its Islamic [character]," he said.

Rouhani's reference to the republican character of Iran's ruling system is a hint that the Islamic republic's legitimacy is meant to come from the popular vote. Rouhani is scheduled to be sworn into office in early August.

"Some of the principles of our constitution have been emphasised while others were neglected and this is why we are facing an imbalance as a result," he said.

"The freedom and rights of people have been ignored but those of the rulers have been emphasised … Restricting [people's right] to criticise will only stifle and lead to inefficiency."

Of internet filtering, Rouhani said some of the measures taken by the authorities to restrict users' access online was not done in good faith and was instead politically motivated.

"There are political reasons. They have fears of the freedom people have in online atmosphere, this is why they seek to restrict information. But filtering is incapable of producing any [useful] results," he said.

"Supporters of internet filtering should explain whether they've successfully restricted access to information? Which important piece of news has filtering been able to black out in recent years?"
He added: "Filtering has not even stopped people from accessing unethical [a reference to pornographic] websites. Widespread online filtering will only increase distrust between people and the state."

Access to hundreds of thousands of websites is blocked in Iran, including Facebook and Twitter, but millions of Iranians use them via anti-filtering software or virtual private network (VPN) services.
Despite the filtering, Rouhani's campaign was active on both sites at election time.

"The virtual space is a tool and it can be an opportunity or a threat," said Rouhani.

"I remember that [former president] Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani once called social networking websites such as Facebook a welcome phenomenon. Indeed they are."

Since Rouhani's win, web users in Iran have reported a relative easing of online censorship and say revoked access to VPN accounts has been restored.

Rouhani also pledged to minimise censorship of artistic and cultural works and said the state – instead of interfering in the affairs of artists and cultural figures – should provide them with security.
"We should not tighten the red lines all the time, we should show that censorship is not our goal," he said.

On the question of women wearing the hijab, a contentious issue in a country with millions unhappy about the mandatory religious code, the president-elect said he was against the crackdown against women with loose clothing – but he stopped short of saying it should be left as voluntary.
Each summer, as the heat bears down and makes it difficult for women and men in Iran to stick to their forced Islamic dress code, the religious police go out on to the streets to watch out for loose hijabs, inappropriate dress or hairstyles.

"I'm certainly against these actions," said Rouhani, saying a women without a hijab is not necessarily without virtue.

"If a women or a man does not comply with our rules for clothing, his or her virtue should not come under question … In my view, many women in our society who do not respect our hijab laws are virtuous. Our emphasis should be on the virtue."

In his interview, Rouhani said he opposed segregation of men and women, including at universities, and criticised the politicians who are against allowing women to enter stadiums to watch football matches along with men.

Iran's state television, IRIB, the mouthpiece of the country's ruling system, also came under attack from Rouhani.

"A large population of our youth are ignoring the [state] television because in it they haven't seen the honesty, morality, justice that it merits," he said.

"When the state TV shows a programme about the birth of a panda in a Chinese zoo but doesn't broadcast anything about workers staging a protest because they haven't been paid for six months … it's obvious that people and the youth will ignore it. The solution is to have freedom of expression.
"If a day comes that our television shows more news coverage than foreign networks such as BBC, then people will reconcile with it."

Rouhani has previously criticised the IRIB. During his first post-election speech at the weekend, he said a country which receives its legitimacy from its people should not fear free media.

He also said: "Injustice is an injustice … it's a double standard to call an injustice in an unfriendly country as an injustice but to label the same thing in a friendly country as not … human rights is same in any place around the world."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Swat Summer Festival to promote tourism: Khetran

KALAM - Managing Director of Pakistan Tourism Development Cooperation (PTDC) Mir Shahjahan Khetran has said that Swat Summer Festival would help promote tourism and project soft image of the country. "Holding of such events would create a positive impression about Pakistan that would be carried forward by the tourists, particularly those coming from abroad," he said this addressing a ceremony to reopen Kalam Motel.  

The summer festival was organised by the Pakistan Army in collaboration with the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and PTDC.

However, he said, while celebrating the event, the people of Swat have not forgotten the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan army to restore peace in the area.

He also urged the tourists from across the country to come to the scenic valley and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere and scenic beauty of the area. Appreciating the holding of Swat Summer Festival the MD said, "our cultural heritage is matchless and this mega event indeed offers highly attractive and interesting features of it

He added that for the past two years, Swat Valley was peaceful and with the local administration and security agencies' efforts, life in Swat has returned to normal.

To a question he said that despite the international media's projection of a negative image of Pakistan, the PTDC achieved its targets to promote domestic tourism.

Tourist traffic to Murree, Galiat, Ayubia, Kaghan and Swat valley considerably increased during 2011 and 2012, while Pakistani tourists are now visiting new destinations like Gilgit, Hunza, Fairy Meadows, Rama Lake, Chitral, Kalash and Shandur valleys, he said.

He said PTDC has launched its summer tour packages again and announced special rates for its hotels, motels and resorts situated in the most attractive tourist destinations in the country.
"To promote Pakistan's tourism industry and create a positive image of the country internationally, PTDC participated in the United Nations World Trade Organisation (UNWTO) Conference, World Islamic Tourism Mart in Malaysia, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Tour Operators Conclave in India and the SAARC Travel and Tourism Mart in Bangladesh" he informed.

The PTDC MD announced a 30% discount on accommodation in its Ayubia and Naran Resorts during the holy month of Ramadan. Further, around 50% discount is being offered on accommodation during Ramadan in PTDC Motels at Saidu Sharif, Miandam, Chitral, Bamburet (Kalash Valley), Mastuj, Phandar, Gupis, Gilgit, Hunza, Sost (Pak-China border), Rama Lake, Skardu, Khaplu and Besham.

The valley's improved law and order situation has positively affected the tourism industry and Pakistani tourists are now rediscovering the beauty of Swat.

To a question he expressed hope that new government would focus on the promotion of tourism in the country. However, he appealed the government to bring constitutional amendment to keep tourism ministry with the centre as across the globe tourism ministry is being run by the federation.

Answering another query, he said the PTDC was facing financial crunch and urged the government to allocate funds to help this organization to become self-reliance. He said two month salary has been paid to employees while efforts were underway to pay remaining eight month salary. About the strike being observed by the employees of Naran, Balakot hotels, he said, two month salary would be paid soon to these employees.   

The summer festival comprises the adventurous sports including parajumps and air shows, acrobatics by SSG, tent pegging tournaments, paragliding, motorised gliding, hand gliding, remote control flying, bungee jumping, rock climbing, repelling and water sports, including water scooter and jet boat riding, and archery. Activities also included archery, bike races, dirt bike rally, jeep rally from Kalam to Mahudand Lake, marathon for environmental protection, wall net climbing, cross country, cycling and canoeing.

It also featured a musical concert by local artists, fireworks, kiteflying boating, fishing, trained dog shows, Punjab Rangers drill show, dance with fire, Mil Band display, comedy shows and horse riding.

In order to give the event a traditional touch, there were Khattak and Chitral dances on display, and all regional dances of Pakistan, including Luddi, Torwali and Makrani were also put on show.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sharjah Islamic Bank named 'Best Sukuk Structuring House in UAE'

SIB receiving the award at London Sukuk Summit 2013

Sharjah, 1 July 2013, Sharjah Islamic Bank ( SIB ), a leading Shariah compliant bank in the UAE, was honoured with an Award of Excellence for Best Sukuk Structuring House in UAE at the recently held London Sukuk Summit.

The award follows the successful establishment of a USD 1.5 billion Sukuk programme in record time and issuance of a benchmark USD 500 million Sukuk at a very attractive pricing of 2.95% for a five-year paper. The Sukuk due in 2018 was oversubscribed by 6.4x and was well received by a wide array of investors from Middle East, Asia and Europe.

HE Mohamed Abdalla, CEO of Sharjah Islamic Bank commented, "This award is recognition of SIB 's activity in the Sukuk space wherein we have tapped the global sukuk markets at appropriate times in 2006, 2011 and 2013 to meet with our funding needs for expansion. Moreover, SIB has also been an active investor in issuances of USD Sukuk coming from issuers globally."

The 7th annual London Sukuk Summit took place in June of this year at the Jumeirah Carlton in London. The London Sukuk Summit prides itself on being industry led and industry focused and over the years has established itself as the foremost gathering based on its ability to bring together the leading industry experts and institutions to explore the key issues impacting the sector and its future development. Despite the continued global economic crises, global Sukuk markets have been going from strength to strength. On the evening of the first day of the Summit, ICG-Events held the annual Sukuk Summit Awards during the event's Gala Dinner Ceremony. The Awards celebrated outstanding achievement in Islamic Capital Markets as well as Islamic Finance in general and have become the premier accolades in the sector.

Since its inception in 1975, Sharjah Islamic Bank has gone from strength to strength. Today, the bank has a rapidly expanding network of 26 branches throughout the UAE supported by a growing number of ATM's and CDM's.

Sharjah Islamic Bank has gained its recognized reputation and continual success over the years through offering the highest levels of unmatched service, which helped it increase its customers' loyalty and succeed in adopting clear and proactive strategy and policies within risk management and expenses control throughout all of the bank's operations.