Women Preachers, a First for Egypt

Cairo- Sheikh Jaber Tayei, head of religious department in the Egyptian Endowments Ministry General Bureau, said that the newly appointed women preachers will perform their tasks at the women oratories.

He added that two days per week will be allocated to giving lectures on women related topics.

Tayei told Asharq Al-Awsat that “144 preachers were appointed as a first step and there are more steps in the upcoming period to activate the women preaching work.”

Other sources from the Egyptian Endowments Ministry General Bureau said that this will contribute to renewing religious speech and spreading the right notions.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expressed earlier his annoyance from the pace of reforming religious speech and called on the official religious authority to combat the mental roots of extremist groups.

Some observers said that appointing women preachers in the mosques in the current time falls under Sisi’s calls for renewing the religious speech, especially among females who are being exploited by extremist groups in the oratories in order to spread hatred in the community.

The Egyptian Endowments Ministry General Bureau stated that the preachers will begin lecturing in prominent mosques in March to correct the misconceptions on the level of Islamic jurisprudence.

Observers see that extremist groups will try to prevent the women preachers from outreaching the Egyptian community, especially in the oratories.

There are approximately nine Islamic centers affiliated to the Egyptian Endowments Ministry General Bureau that teach women to become preachers.

In Dec. 2015, the government decided to shut down similar institutions that have not complied with Al-Azhar methodology.

“The government was keen to implement the decision but some associations manipulated it,” according to reliable sources.

Dutch Mosques Lock Their Doors During Prayer Times After Canada Attack

Four of the largest mosques in the Netherlands yesterday announced that they would lock their doors during prayer times after six people were killed in an attack on a mosque in the Canadian province of Quebec.

In a statement, the four mosques that include Masjid Al-Azraq in Amsterdam, Masid Al-Sunnah in the Hague, Masjid Al-Salam in Rotterdam and Masjid of Omar Al-Faruq in Utrecht said “We feel that we have to lock the doors of the mosque when prayers are taking place”. Many surveillance cameras have also been set up in the Al-Azraq mosque which is located in the south-western outskirts of the Dutch capital.

Thousands of worshippers take part in the prayers that are held in the four mosques daily. Saeed Bouhro, from the Dutch – Moroccan Council of Mosques told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the “barbaric acts such as the Quebec attack contribute to increasing the global hatred of Muslims”. He continued by saying that “the mosque is an open building that should be available at all times throughout the day for anyone looking for peace and tranquillity…But we must be cautious of such terrorist attacks. It is unfortunate that we are forced to take these strict safety procedures”. He also pointed out that the mosque leaders are in close contact with the Dutch National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism.

The Netherlands is preparing for parliamentary elections in March and anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders is leading in opinion polls. Wilders has promised to close all mosques and Islamic schools and ban the Quran if he becomes prime minister.

Hateful Letters Target Mosques in California

California- Hateful letters sent anonymously to three mosques in California with a warning that President-elect Donald Trump would “cleanse” the United States of Muslims have stirred fears among congregants, a Muslim community leader has told Reuters .

Executive Director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Hussam Ayloush said the letters were identical and were postmarked as being sent from Santa Clarita just north of Los Angeles.

Ayloush said his group is considering asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into the letters, which he believes were sent to other mosques aside from the three that received them earlier this week.

Civil rights groups have signaled alarm over attacks targeting minorities, including Muslims, since Republican Trump won the presidential election on Nov. 8.

The letters were sent earlier this week to the Islamic centers of Long Beach and Claremont in Southern California and to Evergreen Islamic Center in the Northern California city of San Jose, Ayloush said.

They were signed anonymously as “Americans for a Better Way” and said that Trump would “cleanse America and make it shine again” and would carry out genocide against Muslims.

“You Muslims would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge,” the letter said.

Ayloush said he has counselled the three mosques to work with their local police departments to have the letters investigated as hate crimes.

For its part, the San Jose Police Department said in a statement that, following a report about the letter, it sent officers to Evergreen Islamic Center on Thursday and that a unit that handles hate crime investigations will conduct the probe.

British Architect Designs Mosques without Minaret, Dome


London – Mosques are not just public places to practice religious rituals in Britain and they are often built on the expenses of the Muslim community – based on the initiative of the residents; these mosques have been used as centers for gatherings and celebrations; funds for food aid; and even as gyms. In 1990, mosques in Britain were around 400 but now they reached 1800. Thus, concerns might rise regarding the type of services which could be provided by these mosques and would they develop be in future.

Architect Shahed Saleem has worked on renewing the figure of British mosques; the architect nominated for the Aga Khan Award 2016 has been tasked by communities with designing Muslim places of worship up and down the country and has done away with traditional minarets and domes.

Saleem, a researcher at the Barlett UCL is currently finishing a book, an ambitious project on Muslim architecture in Britain – charting the evolution from the earliest buildings in the late 19th century to mosques being designed today.

The typology of the British mosque and what “English Islam” looks like is being discussed more and more in the wake of the Brexit vote.

For Saleem, architecture is a powerful marker of current exploration of what British Islam is; he considered that if migrants can use our architecture to explore the new identity in this country, which can be useful and futher represents more accurately their conditions and current circumstances. He added that he’s like all the Muslims of Diaspora who came from other countries to settle in Britain and recreate their culture.

It’s little wonder his designs are inspiring people to talk about what a mosque should or shouldn’t look like. He use material in bold ways and the unapologetic yet modern way he applies Islamic geometric design to his architecture is refreshing.

So far, his designs for mosques in U.K. cities don’t feature traditional onion-shaped arches but are sharper with clean outlines. They could even be seen as Cubist.

He says meshing new forms with the past is significant in his work, to maintain the connection with Islamic history, architecture, and culture, but by using it in a way that is contemporary. It’s about using it in a new way for its own purposes and situation.

Saleem, whose parents are from India, says he’s part of the first generation of British-born Muslims of migrant parents in postwar Britain, which puts him in a unique situation as someone designing places of worship now.

To date, he has seen the completion of the mosque he designed on Hackney Road in east London, has a mosque in Aberdeen underway, has received planning permission for a mosque design in Camberwell in south London, and has designs for a mosque in South Woodford in northeast London.

Saleem doesn’t hold back from critiquing mosque designs that add features such as minarets, traditionally used to deliver the call to prayer, when they are not functional in the U.K. He revealed that he faces difficulties when people want to just add minarets on – just because they think a mosque is a mosque, therefore it should have a minaret; he thought that this leads to slightly dishonest architecture.

Saleem talks about a mosque he is proud of, the Shahporan Masjid and Islamic Centre Trust on Hackney Road. At first, he says, the community wasn’t really sure about it, but they came to like it when they saw the designs.

Imams’ Mosques will not Apply Israeli Bill to Silence Calls to Prayer


Tel Aviv and Ramallah – Palestinian leaders and imams’ mosques denounced Israeli draft bill to silence call to prayer, saying it is racist and threatens Muslims’ right to freely practice their faith.

Sheikh Yusuf Baz, Imam of Lodd Mosque, said that this bill is wrong and came upon requests of people who claim they are annoyed by the call for prayers.

“The mosque has been there since before those annoyed citizens came and before Israel was established. Jews lived here before and they weren’t annoyed of the call for prayers,” said the sheikh.

He explained that every 15 minutes a plane flies over Lodd causing noise for everyone. He wondered why they are concentrating on the call for prayers which only last for two minutes.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation debated the bill prohibiting religious institutions from using outdoor amplification before authorizing it for a parliamentary vote. It is likely to be passed, since it has the backing of the country’s ruling coalition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support to the bill, saying that “citizens of all religions” have complained about excessive noise from call to prayers.

Netanyahu said: “I can’t tell you how many times people have approached me, from all walks of Israeli society, crying out about the suffering that is caused by excessive noise reaching them from prayer house announcements.”

“Israel is committed to freedom for all religions, but is also responsible for protecting its citizens from noise,” the Israeli PM added.

Interior Minister and Shas party Chairman, Aryeh Deri, tried to postpone approval of the bill in an attempt to hold talks with Muslim religious leaders, but the right party refused to wait.

Members of the “Joint List” refused this bill unanimously. President of “Joint List” MP Ayman Awda said that bills like this one create hatred against Arabs. He added that there are laws for noise and disturbance which mosques comply with, so it is clear that this bill is targeting mosques by considering them a source of trouble.

Knesset member Haneen Zoabi said that those complaining of mosques are the ones who chose to live next to it, and just as they decided to settle there, they are welcomed to leave if they are suffering that much.

MP of Meretz Party Issawi described the bill as anti-sematic and asked the prime minister to remove it from the agenda. He added that if the noise was really the problem, there is a law for that. But the aim is to target Muslims just as anti-Semitism is targeting Jews in Europe.

Abraham Fund, and organization that works for co-existence between Arabs and Jews, also called on the ministers to reject the bill.

Leaders at the organization issued a statement saying: “Relations between Jews and Arabs in mixed areas and cities require dialogue and an inclusive policy and issues of friction cannot be gotten rid of by legislation that damages the fabric of ties between the groups. There are examples of local arrangements that have been achieved together with regard to the calls of the muezzin, as for example in Jaffa, where for more than a decade the loudspeaker system times and regulates the volume of the call – an arrangement also encouraged by the Arab inhabitants of the city.”

The statement added that the lawmakers behind the bill “are the first to defend the religious rights of Jews in Israel, even when these create hardships for other groups, for example, the lack of public transportation on Shabbat, but they do not hesitate to act in a bullying and destructive manner when it comes to the religious customs of Israel’s Muslim citizens.

“The recent Israeli measures are going to lead to catastrophe in the region,” said Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The Palestinian leadership will turn to the UN Security Council and all other international organizations to stop those Israeli measures,” Abu Rudeina confirmed.

“The bill is pure discrimination against Muslims,” Sheikh Yousef Edais, Minister for Waqf and Religious Affairs, adding that if passed, the entire region could plunge into religious war.

“This [bill] expresses racism that goes beyond politics and delves into religion,” he said.

“The approval of this bill will not change the religious reality, but rather will make us more committed to our holy sites and religious endowments that express our national and political identity,” stressed Sheikh Edais.

Kabul: Dozens Killed in Attacks on Mosques

Afghan citizens in Kabul criticised the government’s inability to guarantee the security of its people during the commemoration ceremony of Ashura after an attack on a mosque killed at least 14 people.

At least 14 people including a child died during the attack on a mosque and 36 people were injured. Many of them were women and girls and they were taken to the nearest hospital. A witness called Sayyid Sulaiman who wore a green shawl said “Everyone was screaming in horror, some of the men managed to escape but I did not see a single woman come out”.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Interior Siddiq Siddiqi said that the attacker threw two grenades before opening fire on the crowd and that he singlehandedly carried out the attack. He added that a second attack took place after a few hours in the same neighbourhood and targeted another Shiite mosque.

Siddiqi confirmed yesterday that “Two terrorists entered two mosques, one in Karte Sakhi and the second in Karte Char”, and told AFP that “the two attackers were killed at the hands of special forces”. The number of people killed in the second assault remains uncertain.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks at the time of writing. The Taliban, which is carrying out several attacks across the country, denied involvement in the attack. Its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted the following tweet: “We have nothing to do with the attack on the Karti Sakhi mosque. We are deeply saddened by this attack on civilians”.

The families of victims rushed to the hospital to stay by their relatives’ sides, and this includes a man who has been staying with his 6 year old daughter who is in a coma and whose head is injured.

Greece to Build Athens Mosque

Lawmakers in Greece on Thursday approved the construction of a state-funded mosque near central Athens — a proposal that was not well received within the coalition government amid a heated public debate on how to manage the Syrian refugee crisis.

The proposal, approved by 206-24 votes in parliament, follows several abortive attempts to implement the project that had previously faced opposition from the country’s powerful Orthodox Church.

The governing left-wing Syriza party backed the 950,000-euro ($1 million) project, but it was opposed by its nationalist coalition partner, the Independent Greeks.

Tens of thousands of Muslim migrants live in greater Athens and use informal prayer rooms around the capital — many set up in basements and failed businesses in run-down neighborhoods.

Speaking at one prayer site, Syrian-born immigrant Ahmed Halez Hasan said he believed political opposition from previous governments had held up the project for more than a decade.

“This issue has come up before many times, repeatedly, and then it stops. It stops because of the government. But I think this government will help,” said Hasan, who has lived in Greece for more than 30 years.

The number of Muslims in Greece has increased following the refugee crisis last year, when the country was on Europe’s busiest transit route for people fleeing to the continent.

The proposed site of the new mosque is in a mainly industrial area on the outskirts of the city center, near a United Nations-run camp for refugees.

Speaking in support of the mosque, Education and Religious Affairs Minister Nikos Filis argued that Greece should avoid mistakes made by other European policymakers that left many migrant communities socially isolated and vulnerable to the influence of violent and extreme religious ideology.

“It is truly the elephant in room: Europe has not accepted that Islam is a reality,” he told parliament. “The existence of makeshift mosques (in Athens) is a disgrace for our country.”

Before Thursday’s vote, the extreme right Golden Dawn party said it would continue to oppose the mosque and back protests aimed at blocking its construction.

“We will not allow this to happen. Golden Dawn will do everything in its power to stop it,” party lawmaker Yiannis Lagos said.

French Muslims to Launch Foundation to Finance Mosques

In the wake of recent statements made by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on inhibiting foreign funding of mosque construction in France, a new foundation will be created to help finance the mosques and keep out radical benefactors, the head of the French Muslim Council said Monday.

Anouar Kbibech proposed the foundation would be used to fund the construction and running of mosques and would be financed by fees paid by actors in the halal food sector.

France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim community, is a secular state that prohibits the use of state money for places of worship.

Valls said on Sunday that he wants to put an end to the financing from abroad for the construction of mosques.

“Almost all Muslims of France are attached to a serene, open, tolerant Islam and they are fully respecting the values and laws of the Republic,” Kbibech said on LCI television.

After meeting Kbebich, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he wants the foundation to be launched in October.

The debate about the financing of mosques in France was revived by last week’s slaying of an elderly priest in a Normandy church by two Islamic extremists.

Some observers have suggested foreign influence over certain mosques and prayer rooms in France could encourage the radicalization of attendants.

Cazeneuve said 20 Muslim places of worship have been shut down in recent months due to radical views being exposed there.

Attack against Prophet’s Mosque…Revealing Indications

Prophet's Mosque

Incident that took place on the fourth of June and targeted people while praying near the Prophet’s Mosque (SAW) in Medina, and in mosques of Jeddah and Qatif on the Eid evening was a chance to unify the Saudis from all regions and sects, and a bloody evidence on the massive gap between terrorism and Islam, and between Saudi Arabia and terrorists.

Saudi Arabia has been the first target since Bin Laden speeches in 2003, which used to consider the Kingdom as a target while constantly ignored Iran.

Attacks against mosques, stores, and prayers have been a clear strategy adopted by ISIS in Saudi Arabia over the past years. This strategy emphasizes the crisis of the organization, which uses it as a mean to neglect the social and security awareness in the country that insists on terrorism’s eradication.

The latest bombings came as a response to the Kingdoms’ rejection of this group’s ideology, its participation in the international alliance to combat terrorism, and its strong strategy in adopting proactive security operations, in addition to its social strategy to eradicate the vicious roots of terrorism through the Center for Advice, Counseling and Care and the Sakina campaign.

In May, Riyadh also succeeded in eliminating cells of communication and coordination among ISIS’s members in the region, like Oqab al-Otaibi’s cell, which operated as an intermediate for the organization’s operations against the Kingdom over the two past years.

These integrated security strategies adopted by the Kingdom may be the main reason behind ISIS’s recent attacks against mosques and religious centers in its five operations in mosques of Qatif, Dammam, and Dalwa during 2014, trying to use sectarian discord to increase hatred.

The terrorist organization also worked on targeting familial links in the Kingdom, like in the incident of 24 of June, when a teenager killed his parents, and on intimidating scholars and preacher through statements of threat and takfir published in ISIS’s magazine “Dabik” in January.

From May 2015 to May 2016, Saudi Arabia witnessed around 30 terrorist operations, an average of one operation every 12 days. It also witnessed 124 operations since the attacks of Osama bin Laden in March 2003, which killed tens of civilians and security members, and wounded hundreds others. From 2003 till 2011, 98 terrorist attacks took place in the Kingdom and killed 90 people including members from security forces.

Amidst a drop in the attraction rate to extremism, official statements note that Saudi fighters in Syria and Iraq are around 3,000, and that 760 out of them have returned in 2015.
A lot of clear evidences emphasize the independence of Saudi Arabia from terrorism. The speeches of Osama bin Laden note that Saudi Arabia is ranked first among its enemies. Recently, “Al Ghuraba Media” (“the foreigners”) published a small letter for Osama al-Gharib in which he considers Mecca as a house of disbelief.

In spite of all the above mentioned information, Saudi Arabia faces calumniating and random accusations from Iran and Bashar al-Assad’s regime, in which they link between the Kingdom and terrorists.
Many calumniators say that the crimes committed by terrorists and suicide bombers are inspired by Saudi religious schools and scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah.

However, the Kingdom long and bloody history in combating terrorism, and the targeting of its people in mosques reveal how fake these allegations are. It also emphasizes the deep gap between the spread extremism in its ideologies and theories and the heritage of Muslims and their countries.

Terrorists don’t respect dates or places, as they targeted people on the holy month of Ramadan while praying in mosques. They launched their war against the whole world including Saudi Arabia, which combats them and insists on eradicating them.

Terrorists Involved in Bombing Saudi Mosques Killed in Security Operation

The Saudi Ministry of Interior revealed yesterday that an operation carried out by security forces in the Makkah region resulted in two terrorists being killed and two others blowing themselves up. It has become clear that the four terrorists were part of a cell involved in the bombing of five mosques in eastern and southern Arabia.

Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour Al-Turki explained that the security services swooped on and besieged the terrorist cell’s hideout which was located in Wadi Noman between the holy city of Makkah and the city of Taif in the Makkah province. This led to two terrorists being killed and two others blowing themselves up with suicide belts. After searching the cell’s hideout, special security forces defused 15 explosive devices that were found there, and seized four guns, two pistols, safes and a wide range of ammunition.

Informed sources that Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to suggested that previous operations carried out by security forces revealed the existence of a cluster of cells that ISIS is preparing. This is contrary to the “lone wolves” who have previously operated in the region.

Meanwhile, the Makkah Region Police announced the “martyrdom” of one of its employees who used to work at the Al-Qaree police station in the province of Taif. Corporal Khalaf bin Lafi Al-Harithi was killed whilst he was working at the police station on Thursday night, and police said that he was shot at by an unknown source which resulted in his “martyrdom”. Police did not disclose whether the murder was a criminal act or a terrorist one that targeted security officials after they swooped on the terrorist cell hideout in Wadi Noman.