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Friday, 30 May 2008

Islam's holiest city set for 130-skyscraper redevelopment

Islam's holiest city set for 130-skyscraper redevelopment
Taken from
The Guardian, UK, Thursday May 29 2008
By Riazat Butt

The holiest city in Islam is to get a £6bn facelift, it was announced yesterday, with homes and hills being flattened to make way for hotels, apartments, shopping malls and transport facilities for pilgrims. Six development projects ordered by the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, will transform Mecca, which struggles to accommodate the millions of Muslims who pour into the city every year to perform hajj.

The biggest change will be to the courtyards of the Grand Mosque, which can hold at least 100,000 worshippers during prayer times. An ambitious expansion programme has led to the demolition of 1,000 properties in the immediate Shamiya area and Saudi authorities have set aside an estimated £80m to compensate the homeowners.

There will also be a new residential district to the south-west of the mosque. Construction firms have begun to level hills to create a 230,000 square metre area that will include high-rise apartments and air conditioned prayer facilities for up to 120,000.

A new ring road, four kilometres (2.5 miles) long and 80m wide, will ease congestion and link to the Jeddah highway, while a project to the south of the mosque will increase prayer space from 1,170 to 30,000 square metres and provide parking space for more than 1,000 cars.

But Irfan Al Alawi, the founder and former executive director the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, said: "It's the Manhattanisation of Mecca. The Saudis want to build skyscrapers.

The worry is that as they level hills and mountains they will destroy sites of cultural interest."

A report by the Saudi British Bank, one of the kingdom's biggest lenders, estimates that £15bn will be invested by local and foreign companies in construction and infrastructure in Mecca in the next four years. Up to 130 new skyscrapers are anticipated, including the Abraj Al Bait Towers, a seven-tower project that will be one of the largest buildings in the world, with a 2,000-room hotel, a 1,500-person convention centre, heliports and a four-storey mall that will house hundreds of outlets.

The pilgrims already have the opportunity to stop at Next, TopShop and Starbucks in between their religious rituals.

For developers, Mecca is a concrete business investment, with the guarantee of millions of visitors each year. The world's estimated 1.4 billion Muslims are obliged to complete hajj once in their lifetime if they have the means to do so. Last year up to 4 million people completed hajj, with millions more visiting during the rest of the year.

Next week Mecca - which is strictly off limits to non-Muslims - will host a three-day conference on the importance of dialogue with other religions. The event, to be opened by King Abdullah, will feature scholars and academics from the Islamic world.

For pictures of the redevelopment that is taking place click here
Pictures: Makkah redevelopment project

Further reading (from within this blog)
(1) The Kaba: It's Size and History

(2) The Prophets Mosque in Medina

(3) Masjid al-Aqsa - Palestine

Latina converts look for answers in Islam

Latina converts look for answers in Islam

from greatreporter.com
Written by Pilar Conci, Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Increasing numbers of Latinas are converting to Islam, for love, faith and, some say, a sense of respect. But some find acceptance from family and friends is harder to come by.

When Beatriz Kehdy was growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, she felt uncomfortable with the standards of beauty that she says were a part of the culture in which she was raised.

An emphasis on external beauty and the body, she says, became increasingly foreign to her own personal values.

Kehdy moved to New York City almost 10 years ago and eventually discovered a sense of place in Islam and in the hijab, or headscarf worn by women in the faith.

“When I wear the hijab, I feel more respected, people talk to me with respect,” she said.
The now 27-year-old architect converted from Catholicism to Islam four years ago, but didn’t tell her family until a few years later, in a letter.

“When I started wearing the hijab, there was a problem,” she said.

“My father didn’t want me to wear it in public in Brazil.”

Kehdy is one of many Latin American women in the US who have embraced the Islamic faith.
The American Muslim Council, based in Chicago, estimates that there are more than 200,000 Latino Muslims in the United States.

Women make up 60 percent of conversions to Islam, according to experts.

Mosques around the country have begun to offer special classes where women converts can learn about Islam.

The North Hudson Islamic Educational Center, in Union City, N.J., offers both English and Spanish Language classes.

Mariam Abassi, vice president of the Da’wah (outreach) program at the center, said about 500 members of the center are Latino converts.

There are between 4,000 and 5,000 members in total.

Many Latinas choose to accept Islam because they marry Muslims.

Others convert when they’re single, often because they feel unfulfilled by the religion in which they were raised.

For a large number of Latinas, that faith is Catholicism.

“Some of them really have doubt about the Trinity,” a central belief in Catholicism that says God exists in three beings, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; said Chernor Sa’ad Jallah, assistant Imam at the Islamic Cultural Center, in East Harlem, the largest mosque in New York City.

“They find it really confusing,” In his community of about 1,500 people, between 10 and 15 percent are Latinos.

Some said they were uncomfortable making confessions to a priest and feeling as though they had no direct relationship with God.

“I was raised as a Catholic but I didn’t like it.

I felt this emptiness,” said Mayeline Turbides, a 21-year-old Dominican student who lives in West New York, N.J.” I was never convinced.” She took the name Leila after she became a Muslim.

Before discovering Islam, Turbides had explored evangelical Christianity and Mormonism, which failed to draw her in.

About two years ago, her Muslim boss started talking to her about Islam.

“I used to go out, to drink.

I got drunk 500 times,” Turbides said in Spanish.

“But nothing made sense.

I wanted rules.”

When it comes to assimilating to a new faith, Islam appeals to Catholic Latinas for several reasons.

“There are many similarities between Catholicism and Islam,” said Ibrahim Hooper, Communications Director and spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C.

“Both have principles that need to be followed, regarding how you conduct yourself as person, how you operate in a community.”

Others find a new religion to be an escape from the confines of machismo, or chauvinism.

“I feel more protected,” Turbides said.

“Men used to shout things at me when I was walking down the street.

They would honk their horns.

When I wear the hijab, nobody says anything.”

For New Yorker Yuri Lara, the 23-year-old daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, understanding the role of women in Islam, and dispelling what she considers to be stereotypes, was one of her biggest concerns when she was studying the religion.

“We have rights, we have a voice, it’s all in the Quran,” said Lara, who studied psychology at SUNY Albany.

But for many Latina converts to Islam, conversion brings with it the challenge of gaining acceptance from their own families and other non-Muslims, a process that takes time.

“At first my family was unhappy,” said Demaris Tapanes, 32, who was born and raised in Union City, N.J., to a Puerto Rican mother and a Cuban father.

“'Why do you have to cover?'" she said of her family’s objection to the hijab.

“One of my brothers told me he didn’t want me to cover because after 9/11, people resented Muslims,” she said “He was concerned for my security.”

Wearing the hijab presents other challenges, as Turbides found out when she wore the head covering to the grocery store where she works.

“People would ignore me,” Turbides said.

“My boss is a Muslim, but they’re nice to him because he is an Arab.

Since I am Latina, they tell me that I’m pulling away from my religion.

I felt very bad that day.”

Despite the obstacles they face to practice their adopted faith, many women converts say Islam changed their lives.

“I’m a better version of myself now,” said Lara.

“I’m closer to my family than I ever was.

I think more about others, as opposed to me, me, me.

I think about what I’m going to eat before I take the last bite left.”

Estela Ramon, who attends the class at the North Hudson Islamic Educational Center, in Union City, became interested in Islam after her husband, Delfino, who was born in Mexico, converted to Islam four years ago.

“At first I asked him if he was crazy,” said Ramon, who is also from Mexico and was raised a Catholic.

Ramon, 34, says that her husband changed for the better when he turned to Islam.

“He used to drink and get angry,” she said.

“Now he is more confident in himself, he is more responsible.

And he doesn’t drink anymore.”

Ramon is reading a Spanish translation of the Quran and is thinking of converting too.

Although she says she is drawn to the lifestyle that Islam proscribes, Ramon says she is not ready to accept the faith.

“My time to say yes has not come," she said.

“When God wants me to, I will accept it.”

Read stories from other Reverts (from within this blog)
(1) Mum, I've decided to follow Allah
(2) Why British women turn to Islam
(3) A woman on a mission
(4) Women converts to Islam after 911
(5) Turning Muslim in Texas, USA
(6) Turning Muslim in Australia!
(7) The boys call me beardo - I'll live with it!

Monday, 26 May 2008

A' Is For Allah (alif Is For Allah)

A' Is For Allah

This is a beautiful song written for children by Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens). The musician used the song as a vehicle to teach his daughter, Hasanah, the 28-letter Arabic alphabet. For more info about the artist and where to buy his albums visit yusufislam.com.

The Video:

The Lyrics:

A' is for Allah, nothing but Allah;
Ba is the beginning of Bismillah;
Ta is for Taqwa, bewaring of Allah;
and Tha is for Thawab, a reward;
Ja is for Janna, the Garden of Paradise;
Ha is for Hajj, the blessed pilgrimage;
Kha is for Khaatem, the seal of the prophethood given to the Prophet, Muhammed (SAW);
Da is for Deen, Al-Islam, religion with Allah since time began;
Dha is for dhikr, remembering Allah;
and Ra is for the month of Ramadhan, ohh Ramadhan;
Za is for Zakat to pure our greed, when we give our money to those in need;
Sa is for Salamu alaikum, peace be with you wa'alaikum assalam;
Sha is for shams, the shining sun, which Allah placed for everyone;
and Sua is for salat, for when we pray facing him, everyday, facing him, till we meet ourlord;

Allah there's only one God and Muhammed is his Messenger.
Allah, La ilaha illa'allah;

Dua is for duha, the morning light, the sun has turned from red to white;
Tua is for tareeq, the path to walk upon;
and Dhua is for dhil, a shadow;
and Aa is for ilm, the thing to know, to make our knowledge grow, in Islam;
Gha is for ghaib, a world unseen and that we know is not a dream;
Fa is for, the Opening, Al-Fatiha;
and Qua for the Qur'an, the book of God;
and Ka is for kalima, a word we're taught to teach us what is good and what is not;
and La is for the beginning of La ilaha illa'allah;
Ma is for the Messenger Muhammed-ur-Rasoolillah.
La ilaha illa'allah, Muhammed-ur-Rasulilllah;

Allah, there's only one God and Muhammed is his Messenger.
Allah, la ilaha illa'allah;

Na is for nawm, the sleep God gave to give us rest after the day;
Ha is for the Hijra, the journey that, the Prophet made;
and Wa for wudu before we pray to help us wash our sins away;
and Ya for Yawm-mid-Deen;

Allah, there's only one God and Muhammed is his Messenger.
Allah, La ilaha illa'allah;
Allah, there's only one God and Jesus was his Messenger.
Allah, La ilaha illa'allah;
Allah, there's only one God and Moses was his Messenger.
Allah, La ilaha illa'allah;
Allah, there's only one God and Abraham was his Messenger.
Allah, La ilaha illa'allah;
Allah, there's only one God and Noah was his Messenger.
Allah, La ilaha illa'allah;
Allah, there's only one God and he created Adam, and we are the children of Adam.
Allah,La ilaha illa'allah;
Allah, there's only one God and Muhammed is his Messenger.
Allah, La ilaha illa'allah.