City of Brass

City of Brass


The original mosque at Ground Zero

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I really don’t have anything left to say about Park51, barring any new developments (pun intended). But the repeated phrase “mosque at Ground Zero” was ringing familiar to me for some reason, and I just realized why – this old article from December 2001 in Slate, about the architecture of the World Trade Center, and how architect Minoru Yamasaki drew his design inspirations from Islamic sources:

Yamasaki received the World Trade Center commission the year after the Dhahran Airport was completed. Yamasaki described its plaza as “a mecca, a great relief from the narrow streets and sidewalks of the surrounding Wall Street area.” True to his word, Yamasaki replicated the plan of Mecca’s courtyard by creating a vast delineated square, isolated from the city’s bustle by low colonnaded structures and capped by two enormous, perfectly square towers-minarets, really. Yamasaki’s courtyard mimicked Mecca’s assemblage of holy sites-the Qa’ba (a cube) containing the sacred stone, what some believe is the burial site of Hagar and Ishmael, and the holy spring-by including several sculptural features, including a fountain, and he anchored the composition in a radial circular pattern, similar to Mecca’s.

At the base of the towers, Yamasaki used implied pointed arches-derived from the characteristically pointed arches of Islam-as a transition between the wide column spacing below and the dense structural mesh above. (Europe imported pointed arches from Islam during the Middle Ages, and so non-Muslims have come to think of them as innovations of the Gothic period.) Above soared the pure geometry of the towers, swathed in a shimmering skin, which doubled as a structural web-a giant truss. Here Yamasaki was following the Islamic tradition of wrapping a powerful geometric form in a dense filigree, as in the inlaid marble pattern work of the Taj Mahal or the ornate carvings of the courtyard and domes of the Alhambra.

Indeed, the WTC was a monument to the finanial Mecca of Wall Street, two great minarets as an abstract mosque to Commerce. They really were magnificent buildings, weren’t they?

World Trade Center Sculpture

And it’s a travesty that nine years later, Ground Zero is still a construction site.

photo from user berkessel on Flickr



  • John S

    Steve Emerson has unearthed 13 hours of audio tape of Imam Rauf. Emerson and his team of investigators has spent the past four weeks going through the newly found material. Rauf is a “radical extremist cleric who cloaks himself in sheep’s clothing.”
    Among the shocking revelations Emerson’s team will reveal next week — they found Rauf:
    Defending wahhabism – a puritanical version of Islam that governs Saudi Arabia
    Calling for the elimination of Israel by claiming a one-nation state, meaning no more Jewish State.
    Defending Bin Laden’s violence

  • Henrietta22

    Interesting article Aziz, didn’t know about the architectual style of the World Trade Center. Didn’t know a thing about Steve Emerson, so looked him up on Bing. Doesn’t seem to have a great track record on being right according to a couple of articles there. Recently read an article about Rauf, Imam, said he works with the FBI, tours on behalf of our State Dept., dennounces terrorism, defends the US Constitution in an Arabic exchange with radicals from Hizb of Tahrir, has good relationship with NYC rabbis, and preaches on behalf of women’s rights, is on the side of the USA. ????

  • Richard s

    Do the math. The 15 floors planned for the Ground Zero Mosque just don’t add up.
    What’s the goal? Maybe the Imam’s goal is not simply to force a provocative “insensitivity” about 9-11 on the American public, with the help of America’s elites. Maybe the Imam’s long-term goal is to force Shariah law on the American public – of course, again, with the help of America’s elites.
    Why don’t the 15 floors add up? How many floors does Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf need for the mosque portion of this triumphal Islamic command center planned for the two building sites at 45-47 Park Place in New York City? Think about it: maybe 2 floors for the mosque itself and related offices. A 3rd floor for the swimming pool, a 4th for the 500 seat auditorium, a 5th for the halal restaurant and halal culinary school, a 6th for the art studios, the childcare center and library, a 7th for the gym and basketball court. Add an 8th floor for miscellaneous storage and offices. And then add a 9th floor for the September 11 memorial, an after-thought that was recently added to the Imam’s plan, although that may in fact be more of a room off to one side than a whole floor.
    That leaves six mystery floors empty – or dedicated to other activities. Six floors – that’s a lot of offices, a lot of employees, maybe more than half of the 150 full-time and 500 part-time jobs the Imam says he’ll bring to Lower Manhattan. What are Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s plans for those six mystery floors?
    Follow the Shariah Index Project to solve the puzzle of the 6 mystery floors: We found two hidden websites with copiously deleted information, all about the Imam’s Cordoba Institute Shariah Index Project. For reference, here’s the Imam’s most recent hidden website (also available here as a pdf). And here’s the Imam’s earlier hidden website (also available here as a pdf). The information on those websites – information that the Imam tried to hide with a new whitewashed version – suggests that the six mystery floors of the Ground Zero Mosque will be dedicated to the Imam’s long-term goal: the Shariah Index Project, designed to benchmark Shariah compliance, to distribute Shariah propaganda, and to enforce Shariah law in America and worldwide.
    Drawing from those hidden webpages and other sites, we’ve constructed a timeline for the Shariah Index Project and a partial list of Rauf’s partners in the Project. In Part 2, we’ll reveal the disturbing background and views of those partners. And in Part 3, we’ll present the bottom line – how this all ties together as a historic Islamist effort to market and to enforce Shariah in America, starting from Ground Zero.
    Numbered Documents, for everyone’s convenience! Below, from the hidden websites, is the evidence Rauf tried to cover-up. We’ve even numbered the Shariah Index Project documents he mentioned, to make it easy for the Imam and his staff – for example, Courtney Erwin, attorney and director of the Shariah Index Project and corporate contact for the Cordoba Institute – to provide copies to the American public.
    Courtney Erwin could end the cover-up of these documents today, given her leading role in the Shariah Index Project since its inception. Erwin, by the way, has been working in Doha (Qatar, home of jihad-supporter Sheik Qaradawi, so admired by Imam Rauf) for the past three months. She states that her team includes a “Qatari legal researcher,” presumably for ongoing work on the Shariah Index Project. She may also be working with one of the core Shariah experts partnering in the Shariah Index Project, Dr. Jasser Auda, since January 2010 an Associate Professor in the Public Policy Program, Faculty of Islamic Studies, Qatar Foundation in Qatar. (Qatar is also one of the countries Imam Rauf is scheduled to visit on his State Department-funded trip this summer.) Look for much more on Erwin and Auda in Part 2.
    American citizens and their elected officials should ask Rauf, Erwin and their associates to end the Shariah Index Project cover-up, and to disclose all documents, meeting notes, emails and attendee lists from 2006 to the present day. You don’t ask, you don’t get.
    August 2006 – The Planning Meeting – Meeting #1
    We know from the first hidden website that the Shariah Index Project (SIP) had its initial meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in August 2006. Attendees explored the idea of creating an “index” to measure the degree of Shariah governance for ALL nations, and deliverables from the meeting were (1) a “vision” statement and (2) a roadmap for the project. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf convened and chaired this meeting, which included “four scholars from India, Malaysia, and Pakistan.” From the second hidden website, we know that these first four participants Rauf recruited were international leaders affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood – and on key advisory boards in Shariah Compliant Finance:
    Professor Dr. Mahmood Ahmad Ghazi, Pakistan, (Chairman of the Shariah Board for the State Bank of Pakistan and former president of International Islamic University);
    Professor Dr. Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Malaysia (Dean of the International Institute of Islamic Thought & Civilization and Former Interim Chairman, Constitutional Review Committee, Afghanistan);
    Professor Dr. Tahir Mahmood, India (Founder/Chairman, Amity University Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, New Delhi, and former Dean of the Faculty of Law, Delhi University);
    Dato’ Abdul Hamid Mohamad, Malaysia (Judge, Federal Court of Malaysia … Malaysian Supreme Court). [Such a small world here at Big Peace - this is the same judge honored by Elena Kagan in the Al-Sanhuri lecture series at Harvard on November 11, 2008, as we reported here a couple weeks ago.]
    February, 2007 – Expanding the Core Group – Meeting #2
    The original five Shariah authorities (1 from Pakistan, 3 including Rauf from Malaysia, 1 from India) met again, adding five more members from Indonesia, Iran (to “represent the Shi’a perspective,” possibly Mohammad Javad Larijani – see Bayefsky’s research below for August 2008), Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia. This new Group of Ten Shariah Index Authorities created a new (3) Roadmap (2.0), and a new (4) Basis for Evaluation Document,which sets out an initial list of Islamic legal principles relating to governance. The group also distributed (5) Research Assignments, which would support the project and which they would present at the next meeting.
    May 2007 – The First Draft of the Shariah Index – Meeting #3
    This was a very productive session, involving the same ten Shariah experts. They refined the Basis for Evaluation document, resulting in the “creation of two new documents: (6) Essential Features of Shariah-Compliant Governance and the first iteration of the (7) Shariah Index (1.0), inclusive of seventy-four principles of Islamic governance derived from Islamic law.”
    “Additionally, the group developed a (8) Strategic Plan for the project, which highlighted key dates and tasks. They also identified a (9) short and long-list of scholars to approach for support.”
    October 2007 – Expansion and Operations Plans – Meeting #4
    The Core Group of Ten grew to at least 14 members, with new Shariah authorities from Bahrain, England (possibly Dr. Jasser Auda who may have been in the UK at the time?), Morocco, and Lebanon (to “include the Arab Shi’a perspective”). Interestingly, it also included three ratings experts – identified later as unnamed representatives from Gallup Organization, Pew Research Center, and Dr. Robert Rotberg of Harvard University. The meeting’s deliverables were closing in on the final product:
    “the group further refined the (10) Index [ie, Shariah Index 2.0], which they organized into four major sections—1)Normative Declarations, 2) Qualifications ofLeaders, 3) Governance, and 4) Maqasid al Shariah—with each of these sections broken down into a number of measurable principles derived from Shariah. “
    The group also revisited and refined their (11) strategic plan [2.0] and committed to (12) three detailed research and writing tasks: 1) long articles, 2) sourcing and citing principles, 3) proxy questions for each principle.
    November 2007 – July 2008 – Building the Shariah Index Apparatus – Individual Meetings #5
    Over the next eight months, the Cordoba Initiative staff worked with the 14 Shariah experts – and the 3 “ratings experts” from Gallup, Pew and Harvard – to write the (13) Preamble to the Project and “further refine the philosophy, overall structure, and organization of the (14) Index [ie, Shariah Index 3.0] as well as each of the principles.”
    August 2008 – Final Publication Plans – Meeting #6
    Anne Bayefsky identified the Iranian participant in Shariah Index Project from this photo from the August 2008 meeting: Iranian Mohammad Javad Larijani, who has justified torture of Iranian dissidents as legal punishments under Shariah law. This August 2008 meeting planned the publication of the Shariah Index Project book – and associated polls done by Gallup and Pew – for March 2009:
    At the most recent meeting in August 2008, the scholars agreed that the index would be a Maqasid al Shariah Index [the influence of Jasser Auda who had possibly joined in October 2007], measuring a state’s Islamicity through both its governance and society. Representatives from the Gallup Organization governance index pioneer, Dr. Robert Rotberg, joined the discussion by phone on the second day. Following these conversations with rating and indexing specialists, the scholars worked to (15) finalize the index, including its methodology and measurable indicators [ie, Shariah Index 4.0]. The scholars also finalized preparations for the book to be published concurrently with the Index and findings. After the formal meetings concluded, Cordoba staff worked one-on-one with a number of the scholars, soliciting additional information requested by the ratings experts prior to their formal work on the Index as well about the Indexing methodology and the book, with significant work with Gallup and Dr. Rotberg as well as production of the book scheduled for the upcoming 6 months. The target date for the (16) Index results and book is March 2009, with the public launch to follow.
    November 21, 2008 – The Book Launch Celebration with the Muslim Brotherhood’s IIIT- Meeting #7
    The International Institute of Islamist Thought (IIIT), a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organization in Northern Virginia, met to launch the publication (pdf here) of an abridged edition of Rauf’s “What is Right with Islam is what is Right for America.” The meeting was chaired by IIIT Vice President Jamal Barzinji, and the publisher of the abridged edition is a group called American Muslims for Constructive Engagement (AMCE). Also promoted in that series of “Reader’s Digest Condensed Islamism”: Harvard’s Noah Feldman’s “Fall and Rise of the Islamic State,” “1) Who Speaks for Islam: By John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. Dalia Mogahed is head of the Gallup project on Muslim public opinion, the most likely contact at Gallup for the earlier meetings on the Shariah Index Project (more on that relationship, and on the AMCE and their U.S. government backers in Part 2).
    The book series, by the way, was funded by the Kingdom Foundation – as in the Alwaleed Bin Talal Kingdom Foundation of Saudi Arabia.
    December 19, 2008 – Final Coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood’s IIIT – Meeting #8
    Rauf met with Muslim Brotherhood’s IIIT leadership to discuss the Shariah Index Project (here as pdf). A key figure, Dr. Jasser Auda, met with Rauf at IIIT Headquarters in Northern Virginia. Auda has the background and the brains to be coordinating the Shariah Index Project behind the scenes from Qatar, making Rauf simply a U.S. salesman for an effort that may actually be directed by others. More on Auda in Part 2.
    Let’s Review. All those numbers begin to add up:
    The Ground Zero Mosque has at least 6 mystery floors. We suggest that they’ll be used by the Shariah Index Project.
    The Shariah Index Project was built by at least 14 Shariah experts. We have the identities probably of 7 of them, and Rauf should reveal the other 7 right away.
    The Shariah Index Project generated at least 16 documents and maybe a final book, and Rauf should release all of these – right away.
    The issues at stake in the Ground Zero Mosque and the Shariah Index Project are not about Americans supporting the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom. Americans support that protection.
    The issues at stake here are about Americans protecting the Constitution from Shariah-adherent groups using the protective guise of religious freedom to attack the Constitution itself – using a triumphal Ground Zero mosque as “the base” for a project to institutionalize Shariah in America.

  • Randy

    Imam Feisal Rauf, “founder and visionary” of the Cordoba Initiative, apparently sees the construction of a triumphal mosque within the 9/11 World Trade Center attack’s zone of destruction as a fulfillment of his vision for Islam in America. As Rauf stated in his 2004 What’s Right with Islam, a work limited to treacly Islamic propaganda:
    For many centuries, Islam inspired a civilization that was particularly tolerant and pluralistic. … Great philosophers such as Maimonides were free to create their historic works within the pluralistic culture of Islam.
    Rauf envisions this invented past as a model for the future “Sharia-compliant” America he desires.
    Self-proclaimed “contrarian” Christopher Hitchens asserted his distaste for those in charge of the Cordoba Initiative, especially Rauf, characterizing the imam’s utterances about the 9/11 atrocities as “shady and creepy.” Yet even Hitchens upheld the Andalusian myth of Cordoba, calling it:
    The site of an astonishing cultural synthesis, best associated with the names of Averroes ibn-Rushd and Moses Maimonides …
    Hitchens gleaned this, apparently, from his reading of the pseudo-academic apologetics of María Rosa Menocal’s The Ornament of the World, which he insisted was “the finest recent book on the subject.”
    Pace Hitchens’ uninformed praise, Menocal’s superficial hagiography ignores the mid-20th century studies of Evariste Levi-Provencal and Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq, and more recently Jane Gerber’s focused 1994 analysis debunking the “Golden Age” myth in Muslim Spain as:
    [The] aristocratic bearing of a select class of courtiers and poets, [which consisted only of] garishly packaged … gilded moments.
    Whitney Bodman, associate professor of comparative religion at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has provided the most egregious misrepresentation of “Cordoban ecumenism.” He invoked it specifically to defend Imam Rauf’s GZM project and to condemn its opponents –who now represent 70% of both the U.S. and New York populations — for failing to understand “ … the difference between the Muslims of al-Qaeda and the Muslims of Cordoba.” Professor Bodman’s warped narrative was punctuated by the utterly ahistorical claim that the purported idyllic interfaith relations and glorious cultural symbiosis of Cordoba were abruptly terminated by the Spanish Catholic Inquisition:
    The name “Cordoba House” is significant. It is named after the famed medieval Spanish city of Cordoba where philosophers, mystics, artisans and poets — Muslim, Christian, and Jewish — lived and shared together. … Its libraries were vast, and the translations of Arabic works into Latin changed Europe and Christianity forever. Among the resident luminaries were Maimonides, a noted Jewish intellectual, the poet Ibn Hazm, and Averroes, the Muslim philosopher and mystic. … With the coming of the Inquisition and Christian exclusivism, the brilliance of Cordoba faded, but its significance endures as a vibrant, inter-religious community.
    Reinhart Dozy (1820-1883), the great Orientalist scholar and Islamophile, wrote a four volume magnum opus (published in 1861 and translated into English by Francis Griffin Stokes in 1913) titled Histoire des Musselmans d’Espagne (A History of the Muslims in Spain). Here is Dozy’s historical account of the mid-8th century “conversion” of a Cordoban cathedral to a mosque:
    All the churches in that city [Cordoba] had been destroyed except the cathedral, dedicated to Saint Vincent, but the possession of this fane [church or temple] had been guaranteed by treaty. For several years the treaty was observed; but when the population of Cordova was increased by the arrival of Syrian Arabs [i.e., Muslims], the mosques did not provide sufficient accommodation for the newcomers, and the Syrians considered it would be well for them to adopt the plan which had been carried out at Damascus, Emesa [Homs], and other towns in their own country, of appropriating half of the cathedral and using it as a mosque. The [Muslim] Government having approved of the scheme, the Christians were compelled to hand over half of the edifice. This was clearly an act of spoliation, as well as an infraction of the treaty. Some years later, Abd-er Rahman I requested the Christians to sell him the other half. This they firmly refused to do, pointing out that if they did so they would not possess a single place of worship. Abd-er Rahman, however, insisted, and a bargain was struck by which the Christians ceded their cathedral.
    Indeed by the end of the eighth century, the brutal Muslim jihad conquest of North Africa and of Andalusia had imposed rigorous Maliki jurisprudence (one of the four main Sunni schools of Islamic law) as the predominant school of Muslim law. Thus, as Evariste Lévi-Provençal (1894-1956) — the greatest modern scholar of Muslim Spain, whose Histoire de l’Espagne Musulmane remains a defining work — observed 75 years ago:
    The Muslim Andalusian state thus appears from its earliest origins as the defender and champion of a jealous orthodoxy, more and more ossified in a blind respect for a rigid doctrine, suspecting and condemning in advance the least effort of rational speculation.
    For example, the contemporary scholar J.M. Safran discusses an early codification of the rules of the marketplace (where Muslims and non-Muslims would be most likely to interact) written by al-Kinani (d. 901), a student of the Cordovan jurist Ibn Habib (d. 853) — “known as the scholar of Spain par excellence,” who was also one of the most ardent proponents of Maliki doctrine in Muslim Spain:
    [The] problem arises of “the Jew or Christian who is discovered trying to blend with the Muslims by not wearing the riq? [cloth patch, which might be required to have an emblem of an ape for a Jew, or a pig for a Christian] or zunn?r [belt].” Kinani’s insistence that Jews and Christians wear the distinguishing piece of cloth or belt required of them is an instance of a legally defined sartorial differentiation being reconfirmed. … His insistence may have had as much to do with concerns for ritual purity and food prohibitions as for the visible representation of social and political hierarchy, and it reinforced limits of intercommunal relations.
    Notwithstanding Professor Bodman’s allusion, Ibn Hazm (d. 1064) was hardly just a Muslim “poet,” nor was he a paragon of ecumenism.
    He was a viciously anti-Semitic Muslim theologian whose inflammatory writings helped incite the massive pogrom against the Jews of Granada which killed 4000, destroying the entire community in 1066. And Averroes — despite his “philosophical studies” — was also a traditionally bigoted Maliki jurist who rendered strong anti-infidel Sharia rulings and endorsed classical jihadism for the very same Almohads who eventually turned upon him.
    Moreover, what Maimonides escaped in the 12th century — disguised as a Muslim — was nothing less than a full-blown Muslim Inquisition under the Muslim Almohads.
    The jihad depredations of the Almohads (1130-1232) wreaked enormous destruction on both the Jewish and Christian populations in Spain and North Africa. This devastation — massacre, captivity, and forced conversion — was described by the Jewish chronicler Abraham Ibn Daud and the poet Abraham Ibn Ezra. Suspicious of the sincerity of the Jewish converts to Islam, Muslim “inquisitors” (antedating their Christian Spanish counterparts by three centuries) removed the children from such families, placing them in the care of Muslim educators.
    Ibn Aqnin (1150-1220), a renowned philosopher and commentator born in Barcelona, also fled the Almohad persecutions with his family. He escaped, like Maimonides, to Fez. Living there as a crypto-Jew, he met Maimonides, and recorded his own poignant writings about the sufferings of the Jews under Almohad rule.
    Ibn Aqnin wrote during the reign of Abu Yusuf al-Mansur (r. 1184-1199), four decades after the onset of the Almohad persecutions in 1140. Thus the Jews forcibly converted to Islam were already third-generation Muslims. Despite this, al-Mansur continued to impose restrictions upon them, which Ibn Aqnin chronicles.
    Expanding upon Jane Gerber’s thesis about the “garish” myth of a “Golden Age,” the late Richard Fletcher (in his Moorish Spain) offered a fair assessment of interfaith relationships in Muslim Spain and his view of additional contemporary currents responsible for obfuscating that history:
    The witness of those who lived through the horrors of the Berber conquest, of the Andalusian fitnah in the early eleventh century, of the Almoravid invasion — to mention only a few disruptive episodes — must give it [i.e., the roseate view of Muslim Spain] the lie.
    The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was of tranquility. … Tolerance? Ask the Jews of Granada who were massacred in 1066, or the Christians who were deported by the Almoravids to Morocco in 1126 (like the Moriscos five centuries later). … In the second half of the twentieth century a new agent of obfuscation makes its appearance: the guilt of the liberal conscience, which sees the evils of colonialism — assumed rather than demonstrated — foreshadowed in the Christian conquest of al-Andalus and the persecution of the Moriscos (but not, oddly, in the Moorish conquest and colonization). Stir the mix well together and issue it free to credulous academics and media persons throughout the western world. Then pour it generously over the truth … in the cultural conditions that prevail in the west today the past has to be marketed, and to be successfully marketed it has to be attractively packaged. Medieval Spain in a state of nature lacks wide appeal. Self-indulgent fantasies of glamour … do wonders for sharpening up its image. But Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.
    But far more alarming than the corrosive apologetics about medieval Muslim Spain are the expressed ideas and tangible behaviors of “moderate” Muslims actively promoting modern Spain’s re-Islamization.
    For example, events surrounding the completion of the new Granada mosque were marked by celebratory announcements on July 10, 2003, of a “return of Islam to Spain.” At a conference entitled “Islam in Europe” that accompanied the opening of the mosque, disconcerting statements were made by European Muslim leaders. Specifically, the keynote speaker at this conference, Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, a Spanish Muslim leader, encouraged Muslims to cause an economic collapse of Western economies (by ceasing to use Western currencies and switching to gold dinars). The German Muslim leader Abu Bakr Rieger told Muslim attendees to avoid adapting their Islamic religious practices to accommodate European (i.e., Western Enlightenment?) values.
    Writing in the immediate aftermath of the Madrid 2004 train bombings, Islamic scholar Mordechai Nisan discussed the contention by the “moderate” founder of the Institute of Islamic Education, M. Amir Ali, that medieval Spain had actually been “liberated” by Muslim forces, who “deposed its tyrants.” Nisan extrapolated this ahistorical narrative line, and pondered:
    Reflecting on March 11 [2004] as Muslim terrorism killed 200 and wounded 1,400 in Madrid, one wonders whether one day this event will also not be commemorated as a liberating moment.
    We must also ponder whether Imam Feisal Rauf, whose 2004 What’s Right with Islam was published and marketed in Muslim Malaysia as A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Da’wah [Proselytization] From the Heart of America Post-9/11, considers the cataclysmic acts of jihad terrorism on 9/11 a similarly “liberating” occasion.

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