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My Take: New Year’s resolution – don’t get murdered


Every Ahmadi Muslim, Shia Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Sikh, atheist, agnostic, pagan—and the list goes on—has that fundamental human right to religious freedom. Establishing that right creates the peace and mutual respect we all ostensibly want.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: CNN’s Belief Blog
By Qasim Rashid | January 5, 2013

(CNN)–My New Year’s resolution is to not die for my faith. I’d hoped that 2012 would bring a revolution among Muslims and Muslim-majority nations to free oppressed minds.

Yet I find myself still waiting to not die.  That’s the “curse” of being an Ahmadi Muslim in too much of the Muslim world.

Ahmadi Muslims believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) is the long awaited messiah and Mahdi the Prophet Mohammed foretold, sent to unite mankind and establish peace. But this isn’t an evangelical piece, so please, keep reading.

Instead of peace, 2012 brought increased persecution in which vigilante murder, unjust arrest and outright discrimination against Ahmadi Muslims continued. A new type of persecution also increased, from which even death is not an escape.

On December 3, armed extremists destroyed 120 graves belonging to Ahmadi Muslims at a cemetery in Lahore, Pakistan. When I condemned the attack on Twitter, the response from some was just as ignorant. “You’re an infidel! Stop calling yourself a Muslim!” “You’re causing Fitna (or chaos) stop with these infidel beliefs!” Across Pakistan, Europe, Indonesia—and yes, even here in America—this is reality for Ahmadi Muslims.

I get it.

Some Muslims aren’t thrilled that Ahmadi Muslims believe the messiah has come because they expect Jesus, son of Mary, to literally descend from heaven. Ahmadi Muslims believe the Quran is clear that Jesus died a natural death many years after surviving the crucifixion.

But this isn’t about persuading anyone to believe us. Instead, it is about confronting Fitna’s actual source and recognizing the biggest poison for Muslims worldwide: religious bigotry.

Sometimes that bigotry is peripheral. The other day I tweeted a quote from Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison praising the head and Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, “… under (your holiness’) leadership the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been a true blessing for us here in the United States.” Like clockwork I lost a dozen followers.

Sometimes that bigotry is disguised as a compliment. “You’d be such a good Muslim, if only you weren’t a Qadiani,” someone once told me in person. Qadiani is a pejorative for Ahmadi Muslims.  The “compliment” reeks of patronization, is actually an insult, and ignores the shocking possibility that perhaps I am a “good Muslim” because I am an Ahmadi Muslim.

Sometimes that bigotry is direct. “You Qadiani mother–er! You will burn in hell for your beliefs! You godd- Jewish agent I’ll kill you!”  No comment.

The above religious bigotry I can handle. When some of the above sometimes turns to death threats, I can only foolishly hope my wife doesn’t find out. (She has this funny thing where she doesn’t want her husband brutally murdered. I know I know, women!)

But sometimes that bigotry is full-blown state-sanctioned persecution and violence. Like in certain Arab states where Ahmadi Muslims are incarcerated and deported for the crime of being an Ahmadi Muslim. Or like in Pakistan where simply claiming Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the messiah is a criminal offense warranting capital punishment for the use of derogatory remarks in respect to the Prophet.

No exaggeration—as we lawyers like to say—that’s the black letter of the law. Fortunately, no Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan has been executed for this crime, yet. But is it anything less than an execution when the Taliban murders 86 Ahmadi Muslims in broad daylight and the police, who admitted to knowing of the attack beforehand, look on from afar?

Look, I’m not looking for special treatment. Nor do I want sympathy. But I do want one thing for the sake of humanity: That Muslims condemn all forms of religious bigotry—peripheral, patronizing, direct and violent. While this simple request is what’s right, some turn a deaf ear, despite Prophet Mohammed’s pluralistic example.

Mohammed championed religious equality in the Charter of Medina he signed with Jews. He assured protection of religious freedom in his letter to Christian monks at St. Catherine’s Monastery. He also afforded all Arabs carte blanche forgiveness when peacefully retaking Mecca—on the single condition that religious freedom reign free. Even Prophet Mohammed’s rules of war were specifically designed to protect, not persecute, religious freedom.

Every Ahmadi Muslim, Shia Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Sikh, atheist, agnostic, pagan—and the list goes on—has that fundamental human right to religious freedom. Establishing that right creates the peace and mutual respect we all ostensibly want.

I say ostensibly, because when it comes to religious freedom in too much of the Muslim world, I’m still waiting to not die. I’ll continue to wait, alongside millions, until Muslims recognize religious bigotry for what it is—a cancer—and expel it from their midst. Yet, my in-box will reflect that this simple plea has, for some, fallen on deaf ears.

Well, I guess I better not slack on my New Year’s resolution.

CNN Editor’s Note: Qasim Rashid is a national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. Follow him on Twitter @MuslimIQ.



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Perspective: Prayers for the New Year


Let us pray that this year sows the seeds of peace within our communities and signals the end of disputes and wars. Let us begin to talk to each other about similarities instead of fighting over differences. 

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch |
Source/Credit: Your Humble News
By Saadia Faruqi | January 4, 2013

 Welcome to 2013… a brand new year, a chance for new beginnings. Like all Americans, I too want to live in peace, harmony and understanding with the rest of the world. Last year – like the preceding years – was especially tough on peace and prosperity for millions of people around the world and at home, with violence, wars, natural disasters, religious intolerance and so much more. But being human means we all share feelings of hope and optimism regardless of our faith, and so too wonder if this year will herald a change for the better.

As a reflection of these feelings, this year I have decided that instead of making new years’ resolutions (which I can never keep anyway), I’m going to offer some prayers. Prayers not just for myself, but for the world we all live in. Being Muslim, I take my inspiration from the Quran, but I’m sure the prayers in all holy books are similar. I invite readers to join me in praying for help from God, our Creator, Sustainer, Guardian and Protector in this new year.

“I am overcome, so come You to my help.” Chapter 54 Verse 11

“My Lord, then place me not with the wrongdoing people.” Chapter 23 Verse 95

“O Lord, I am a beggar of whatever good You may bestow upon me.” Chapter 28 Verse 25

“You are our Protector; forgive us then, and have mercy on us, for You are the Best of those who forgive.” Chapter 7 Verse 156

“Our Lord, bestow upon us mercy from Yourself, and provide us right guidance in our affairs.” Chapter 18 Verse 11

Let us pray that this year sows the seeds of peace within our communities and signals the end of disputes and wars. Let us begin to talk to each other about similarities instead of fighting over differences. Let us share with each other the teachings of love, tolerance, helpfulness and hope which are present in each of our scriptures. Let us forgive each other with the trust that God will also forgive us our transgressions. Let 2013 be better for us individually, nationally and internationally than any other year we have lived through. Amen.

—————-
Saadia Faruqi is the interfaith liaison for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and editor of a new blog Houston Interfaith.

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USA: Library of Congress has amassed 170 billion tweets


Librarians have been developing a system to preserve and organize the collection. Now the library is shifting its focus to handle the technical challenges of making such a massive archive available to researchers.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: Yahoo News | Associated Press
By Brett Zongker / AP | January 4, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Library of Congress says it’s amassed about 170 billion tweets since it began collecting an archive of all Twitter messages in 2010.

Twitter is donating its archive to the library, going back to the first one posted in 2006.

Library Director of Communications Gayle Osterberg wrote in a blog post Friday that the volume of tweets it receives has grown from 140 million daily in February 2011 to nearly half a billion tweets each day in late 2012.

Librarians have been developing a system to preserve and organize the collection. Now the library is shifting its focus to handle the technical challenges of making such a massive archive available to researchers.

The library may work with a private partner to provide access because its own search technology is slow.

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Old Greek Blasphemy Laws Stir Up Modern Drama


“I got a lot of postings and messages through the page. Most were against what I was doing, and I got threatened and called names. But some people said, ‘Bravo, we’re with you.’ “

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: NPR
By Joanna Kakissis | January 04, 2013

Listen to Audio Report

Before he died in 1994, a Greek monk named Elder Paisios told his compatriots to turn to faith in hard times.

The monk is said to have predicted the economic crisis — as well as a triumphant return of a Greek empire.

With unemployment now at Great Depression levels, many Greeks see him as a prophet.

But that bothers Philippos Loizos, a 27-year-old scientist. “It seems like every time there’s a crisis in Greece, there’s a search for saviors,” says Loizos. “We wait for a sign from God or an enlightened leader. Greeks haven’t figured out how to problem-solve, so we wait for someone else to save us.”

Loizos set up a Facebook page that criticized Elder Paisios as xenophobic and close-minded. He also mocked the monk’s name — Paisios became Pastitsios, like the Greek pasta dish. He even Photoshopped a slice of pastitsio on the monk’s face.

“I got a lot of postings and messages through the page,” he says. “Most were against what I was doing, and I got threatened and called names. But some people said, ‘Bravo, we’re with you.’ “

A Free Speech Issue

The police were not among Loizos’ supporters. They said they received thousands of complaints about his “Elder Pastitsios” Facebook page.

Last September, they arrested him and charged him with blasphemy, which carries up to six months in prison.

Many Greeks saw his case as a theocratic stifling of free speech. It was the first of two blasphemy arrests in recent months.

In the years before the crisis, Greece rarely invoked the law, though a version of it has been in the penal code since the 1850s.

Back then, many European countries had blasphemy laws because God was seen as determining the community’s destiny, says David Nash, a history professor at Oxford Brookes University in Britain. “If you go back to the origins of blasphemy laws in medieval times, they’re very much about protecting the community,” he says.

But in the 20th century, Nash adds, most European countries took action to separate church and state and phased out blasphemy laws.

In Greece, the Orthodox Church remains powerful, and its opinions about blasphemy hold sway. But the church does not get involved with the law, says Haris Konidaris, a spokesman for Archbishop Ieronymos of Greece.

Ultranationalists Organize Protest

Christian activists have pushed prosecutors to make arrests on blasphemy charges in the past.

And in the past year, the neofascist Golden Dawn party has also called for such arrests during speeches in the Parliament.

Yannis Ktistakis, a human-rights attorney, says the blasphemy laws fit into their agenda. “It’s the political agenda of nationalism,” he says. “They think that now is the time to call [on] Greeks to think about their ‘special’ identity.”

On the pretext of defending Greek identity and the Greek Orthodox faith, a Golden Dawn parliamentary deputy screamed obscenities as he led a mob that stormed a controversial play this October. The mob, which included priests, also threw rocks at those attending the Greek production of Corpus Christi, the Terrence McNally play that portrays Jesus and his apostles as gay men in modern-day Texas.

The director, Laertis Vassiliou, says it was like being attacked by a Christian Taliban.

“For two months they were threatening our lives,” he says. “Every day there were letters saying, ‘You will burn to hell.’ They said to my parents that, ‘We will bring your son in a box — cut in pieces and in a box.’ “

Archbishop Ieronymos strongly condemned the violence — though he says the play and the Facebook parody of Elder Paisios are blasphemous.

The state has charged Vassiliou and his cast under the blasphemy law but has dropped the charge against Loizos.

He still faces trial this year for the separate charge of insulting religion — which carries up to two years in prison.

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Pakistan accused of army massacre in Balochistan


Throughout the operational area, the military have laid siege to villages and imposed a 24/7 curfew, which prevents families leaving their homes to collect food and water and to tend their crops and livestock.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: MSN News | UK
By Peter Tatchell | January 3, 2013

Pakistan has been conducting a violent campaign against one of its indigenous ethnic populations, says human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell

Since Christmas Eve, Pakistan has launched a savage new military crackdown in annexed and occupied Balochistan.

Jet aircraft and helicopter gunships have bombarded pro-nationalist villages, resulting in the reported destruction of nearly 200 houses and the deaths of 50 civilians, including women and children.

The main military sweep took place in the Awaran, Panjur and Makran districts of Balochistan. It included a 70-truck convoy of army soldiers and Frontier Corps. Hundreds of villagers were rounded up and interrogated. Many have since disappeared. Some were later found dead, with their mutilated bodies showing signs of torture.

Throughout the operational area, the military have laid siege to villages and imposed a 24/7 curfew, which prevents families leaving their homes to collect food and water and to tend their crops and livestock.

Full details cannot yet be verified because the Pakistani security forces are refusing to allow anyone to leave or enter the area. In particular, human rights investigators, aid workers and journalists are barred. Doctors who attempted to treat the injured were turned away by Pakistani soldiers.

Information about the massacre comes from the Asian Human Rights Commission and the Baloch Human Rights Council (UK).

Freedom or insurgency?

Zaffar Baloch, President of the Baloch Human Rights Council in Canada, condemned the army’s operation, saying it is “part of a broader plan of action to curtail the freedom struggle of the Baloch nation… and inflict a slow-motion genocide on the Baloch people.”

Pakistan’s military justifies the attacks by claiming they were hunting for the Baloch liberation guerrilla leader, Dr Allah Nazar, who they allege was hiding in local villages. They say the dead are insurgents from the Balochistan Liberation Front. This is disputed by human rights defenders, who point to children aged one, two and four who were among those killed.

International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate, disproportionate military attacks that are likely to endanger innocent civilians; making the army’s action a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

‘Dirty secret war’

Balochistan has been torn apart by a six-decades-long insurgency, which rejects forcible incorporation into Pakistan in 1948 and demands self-rule.

Guardian reporter Declan Walsh has described the conflict as “Pakistan’s dirty secret war”.

In protest at the Christmas massacre and other long-standing human rights abuses by the Pakistani security forces, the President of the Balochistan National Party, Akhtar Mengal, has written to Senator John Kerry, nominated by President Obama as the new US Secretary of State, urging the suspension of American aid to Pakistan.

In his letter, Mengal, a former Chief Minister of Balochistan, advises Kerry: “It is very clear that Pakistan’s civilian government has lost ‘effective control and oversight’ over a military that is committing widespread atrocities and war crimes inside Balochistan.”

Human rights abuses

The current killings are merely the latest of many indiscriminate attacks and violent human rights abuses against the Baloch people by the security forces of Pakistan. They have taken place with the de facto collusion of the government in Islamabad.

Amnesty International has previously condemned what it calls the ‘kill and dump’ terror methods of the Pakistani security forces.

These on-going abuses are corroborated by Human Rights Watch.

The US administration is accused of complicity. It supplies Pakistan with F-16 fighter jets and Cobra attack helicopters that were designated for the fight against the Taliban but which are frequently diverted for use in military operations in Balochistan.

Critics accuse government and military chiefs in Islamabad of giving the Taliban free rein in Balochistan. allowing them to act as a proxy second force against the more moderate, secular Baloch national movement.

Armed resistance to Pakistan’s ‘neo-colonial’ rule has widespread and growing popular support. Nationalists say that 64 years of military occupation and human rights abuses has strengthened the desire for the restoration of full independence.

________________________________________________________________________________

We contacted the Pakistan high commission in London about this story.

A spokesman said:

“The claims made in the article are baseless and appear to be aimed at defaming Pakistan’s army/security agencies. The Army and the FC have returned to the barracks since long. Any law and order situation or counter-terrorism activity is carried out by the Police and NOT the ARMY or the FC. “

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Malta: Integration | Don’t let us be misunderstood


“Back home, Ramadan is shared by the whole community whereas here, of course, it is not and we miss the atmosphere at that time of year. Life is not without its sacrifices and when I dedicated my life to the community, I knew I would have to make sacrifices”

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l.Desk
Source/Credit: “M” Magazine | issue 38
By Sandy Calleja Portelli | December 2012

For centuries, foreigners have landed on our shores looking to build a new life. Whether they arrived here by choice or chance, their presence impacts our community in ways we seldom stop to ponder.

As a nation, we pride ourselves on being hospitable, which means foreigners must find it easy to settle down in Malta – but do they?

LAIQ AHMED ATIF is President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta and has been living here in that capacity since coming to Malta in 2007 after a short posting in Germany.

“Living in Germany was a positive experience but coming to Malta was completely different – I felt at home as soon as I landed. The fact that English is so widely spoken here makes it easy to settle down – moreover, people are very friendly.

“The more I came to know Malta, the more I realised that there are many similarities between the Maltese and Pakistani people. The social and legal structures are very different of course, but I find that morally the people are very similar. The ethics of friendliness, generosity, and care for one’s neighbours are the same in both countries and this makes me feel very welcome.”

Atif’s first task on arriving here was to acquaint himself with the island and learn Maltese. Five years on, he speaks and writes Maltese fluently, an accomplishment he is justifiably proud of.

Atif and his wife – who joined him here 18 months after his arrival – have made a lot of Maltese friends. “We have more Maltese friends than from Asia or Pakistan,” they say.

The couple has two children – their son Nauman is the eldest and has just started primary school while two-year-old Muskan will start kindergarten in a couple of years.

    “My wife and I want our children to grow up here feeling that this is their home. At the moment they only know Malta and we tell them that this is our country and that we have a duty to serve this country and its people.”

Pakistan is slightly more than a quick flight away and I wonder what Atif and his wife miss from home.

“We can freely follow our beliefs and culture unhindered but, apart from our families, we miss being home during Ramadan. Back home, Ramadan is shared by the whole community whereas here, of course, it is not and we miss the atmosphere at that time of year. Life is not without its sacrifices and when I dedicated my life to the community, I knew I would have to make sacrifices.”

“An important point about integration is that I believe that each party – both migrant and host country – should consider their responsibility and obligation before their rights. Migrants who come here should respect the laws, people, religion and customs of the country that has welcomed them, while seeking to give a valid contribution to society. The host nation, on the other hand, should respect the migrant’s religion, customs, positive behaviour and contribution. Such mutual respect and cooperation improves both the economy and security of the country.”

Laiq Ahmed Atif’s interview was published in ‘M’ Magazine.

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Pakistan: Salmaan Taseer’s fight against blasphemy laws is slowly fading


Today is the second death anniversary of Mr Taseer and I am ashamed to say that his party abandoned his mission and there is scant chance of its revival now.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: The Express Tribune Blog
By Abdul Majeed | January 4, 2013

Intellectual hegemony is a concept introduced by Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci. In simple words, it means an ideology that is so prevalent and widespread in society that it is considered the ultimate truth or “common sense” and any other ideology that is different from that particular dominant ideology is considered heretical. In this way, status quo is maintained.

Let me explain this in Pakistan’s context. A few years ago, speaking out about the blasphemy law – originally instituted by the British and made stricter by Zia and Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) – was not considered life threatening.

After the assassination of Mr Salmaan Taseer, the space for debate on the law has narrowed down exponentially. Today, no one is talking about the brutalities committed in the name of that law (dozens of extra judicial killings) anymore.

I find it tragic that his mission has not been carried forth by his supporters.

I was never a big fan of Mr Taseer’s politics but I admire him for his courageous stand on the blasphemy issue. Numerous friends of his state said that he was foolhardy to pursue a hopeless cause. But don’t all worthy causes look like lost ones?

A pertinent quote from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird glares at us today:

    “Just because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.”

In my eyes, Salman Taseer was a hopeless romantic, and that for me is the best kind of romantic.

The idea that whatever is written in the blasphemy law is final and can’t be amended at any cost is a symptom of intellectual hegemony. Any action taken under the umbrella of blasphemy is legitimised in the eyes of the general public — like the recent open and shut case with YouTube.

Similarly, there is a version of history that has been propagated by revisionist textbooks and reinforced on daily basis by vernacular press is considered as absolute truth. Anyone who dares challenge or criticise that version is a traitor and an enemy agent.

This version would not let you know that Pakistan was the instigator in almost all wars against India, that our esteemed Jihadis had little role in the breakup of the mighty USSR, that Taliban were created by Pakistan’s deep state, and that India awarded us status of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) in 1995. It won’t tell you that Pakistan has got the maximum number of Fulbright scholars studying in the US on US taxpayer money, that Osama changed several houses before settling in at his last abode and many of such truths because they contravene the intellectual hegemony.

Pakistanis didn’t believe that 9/11 occurred. We didn’t believed that Osama bin Laden was killed in the Abbotabad operation, that Taliban are sworn enemies of Pakistan and its state, that Malala was attacked by Fazlullah’s men or that Bashir Bilour was assassinated by Taliban.

All these assumptions exist because it doesn’t fit the narrative that has been fed to the public day and night by rabid TV anchors, the vernacular media and conspiracy theorists.

Someone on the internet explained the situation very well;

    “[…] When Malala was attacked, Taliban accepted responsibility. Girls in her van told what had happened, heads of state, parliament and army visited her in the hospital, but people still believed it to be a drama. On the other hand, we readily believed in the water kit. This is our calibre as a nation.”

I couldn’t have said it any better about the national confusion than Mr Feisal Naqvi when he wrote;

    “We killed BB; they blamed Musharraf. We shot Malala; they blamed the US. We beheaded an SHO in Peshawar and I thought people would compare us to Grendel; we didn’t even make the front pages! We attacked the Peshawar airport and people worried about tattoos. We killed polio workers and even a Harvard-educated lady senator thought it could have been a conspiracy. I swear the next time this happens, I’m going to set someone on fire outside the Islamabad Press Club! Maybe that way we’ll finally get some respect.”

In the last year, we have experienced countrywide shutdowns leading to a ban on YouTube, disruption during concerts, violent attacks on polio workers, desecration of Ahmadi graves, blockage of mobile services on special days and painting exhibitions getting cancelled.

There has been no national outrage. There has not even a debate about all this. That is intellectual hegemony at work. A few years ago, there was some discontent due to excessive loudspeaker usage; even the government took action then. With time, the writ of state has eroded and, like other things, there is no stopping the incessant din of loudspeakers from mosques of different denominations. Voices of dissent are few and far between.

The few dozen ‘liberals’ left in Pakistan have been rendered redundant as they don’t reach out to the local language newspapers. If that wasn’t enough, they have yet to properly organise themselves for a more ‘grassroots’ approach to problem solving. Instead, all they do is complain without really getting into the nitty gritty of things which our ‘right wing’ actually does a lot.

YouTube is not coming back anytime soon, and I am afraid, neither is sanity.

Our liberal intelligentsia has its own intellectual hegemony in place. Recently, there was a blog piece against the ruling party published by The Express Tribune. The outrage that it evoked on Twitter and discussion forums about ‘attacks on democracy’ was a vivid reflection of that hegemony. Why have certain things become so important to us that we can’t even tolerate discussion about them?

Today is the second death anniversary of Mr Taseer and I am ashamed to say that his party abandoned his mission and there is scant chance of its revival now.

Read original post here: Salmaan Taseer’s fight against blasphemy laws is slowly fading

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Afghanistan: Jewish community once thrived here, ancient manuscripts indicate


“We’ve had many historical sources on Jewish settlements in that area. This is the first time that we have a large collection of manuscripts that represents the culture of the Jews that lived there. Until today we had nothing of this.”

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch |
Source/Credit: CBS News
By CBS / AP | Januray 4, 2012

JERUSALEMA trove of ancient manuscripts in Hebrew characters rescued from caves in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan is providing the first physical evidence of a Jewish community that thrived there a thousand years ago.

On Thursday Israel’s National Library unveiled the cache of recently purchased documents that run the gamut of life experiences, including biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records.

Researchers say the “Afghan Genizah” marks the greatest such archive found since the “Cairo Genizah” was discovered in an Egyptian synagogue more than 100 years ago, a vast depository of medieval manuscripts considered to be among the most valuable collections of historical documents ever found.

Genizah, a Hebrew term that loosely translates as “storage,” refers to a storeroom adjacent to a synagogue or Jewish cemetery where Hebrew-language books and papers are kept. Under Jewish law, it is forbidden to throw away writings containing the formal names of God, so they are either buried or stashed away.

The Afghan collection gives an unprecedented look into the lives of Jews in ancient Persia in the 11th century. The paper manuscripts, preserved over the centuries by the dry, shady conditions of the caves, include writings in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judea-Arabic and the unique Judeo-Persian language from that era, which was written in Hebrew letters.

“It was the Yiddish of Persian Jews,” said Haggai Ben-Shammai, the library’s academic director.

Holding the documents, protected by a laminated sheath, Ben-Shammai said they included mentions of distinctly Jewish names and evidence of their commercial activities along the “Silk road” connecting Europe and the East. The obscure Judeo-Persian language, along with carbon dating technology, helped verify the authenticity of the collection, he said.

“We’ve had many historical sources on Jewish settlements in that area,” he said. “This is the first time that we have a large collection of manuscripts that represents the culture of the Jews that lived there. Until today we had nothing of this.”

CBS News’ Jere van Dyk reports it will most probably show, if the dates are true, that Jews and Muslims once lived together in harmony in Afghanistan, as they did at one point in the modern era. If the manuscripts can be shown to be older than 1,000 years or make references to previous centuries, then this will change many perspectives; Islam has only existed for 1,500 years.

There is a famous Pakistani Pashtun quote: “I am a Pakistani for 50 years, a Muslim for 1,500 years and a Pashtun for 5,000 years.”

There is a fascinating amount of writing out there on the theory that the Pashtuns are descended from a lost tribe of Israel. Kabul is mentioned in the Old Testament.

This discovery will put pressure on the Taliban who, while not anti-Jewish, are political and thus, like their mothers and fathers in the Mujahideen, are pro-Palestinian. They have adopted some of the anti-Israeli sentiment that comes from the Arabs who have been there, and are now in Pakistan, since the 1980s.

The documents are believed to have come from caves in the northeast region of modern-day Afghanistan, once at the outer reaches of the Persian empire. In recent years, the same caves have served as hideouts for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

It remains unclear how the ancient manuscripts emerged. Ben-Shammai said the library was contacted by various antiquities dealers who got their hands on them.

Last month, the library purchased 29 out of hundreds of the documents believed to be floating around the world, after long negotiations with antiquities dealers. The library refused to say how much it paid for the collection, adding that it hoped to purchase more in the future and didn’t want to drive up prices. The documents arrived in Israel last week.

Comparisons with the other find in Egypt are inevitable.

The Cairo Genizah was discovered in the late 1800s in Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue, built in the ninth century. It included thousands of documents Jews stored there for more than 1,000 years.

Ben-Shammai said it was too early to compare the two, and it would take a long time to sift through the findings from Afghanistan. He said they were already significant since no other Hebrew writings had even been found so far from the Holy Land.

He said the Jewish community in the region at the time lived largely like others in the Muslim world, as a “tolerated minority” that was treated better than under Christian rule. Afghanistan’s Jewish community numbered as many as 40,000 in the late 19th century, after Persian Jews fled forced conversion.

By the mid-20th century, only about 5,000 remained, and most emigrated after Israel’s creation in 1948. A lone Jewish man remains in Afghanistan, while 25,000 Jews live in neighboring Iran — Israel’s bitter enemy.

The library promises the finds will be digitized and uploaded to its website for all to see.

Aviad Stollman, curator of the library’s Judaica collection, said much more would be gleaned after intense research on the papers, but already it tells a story of a previously little known community.

“First we can verify that they actually existed — that is the most important point,” he said. “And of course their interests. They were not interested only in commerce and liturgy; they were interested also in the Talmud and the Bible,” he said.

“They were Jews living a thousand years ago in this place. I think that is the most exciting part.”

Read original post here: Ancient manuscripts indicate Jewish community once thrived in Afghanistan

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India: After spree of hate speeches, finally police cases against Owaisi


A court on Thursday ordered a third case to be filed against the politician on the basis of a complaint by a citizen who said he saw one of Mr Owaisi’s speeches on TV.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: NDTV | India
By  Uma Sudhir / Ashish Mukherjee | January 03, 2013

Hyderabad: It’s been a season of hate speeches for Andhra Pradesh politician Akbaruddin Owaisi, who belongs to the MIM or Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.

And after months of appearing to get away with it, Mr Owaisi is finally being held accountable. He is reportedly in London.

Two different cases have been filed against him by the police on Wednesday night. The first is based on a speech made in Nizamabad on December 8. The second relates to a speech on December 24 in Adilabad, which has gone viral with thousands of views on YouTube.

A court on Thursday ordered a third case to be filed against the politician on the basis of a complaint by a citizen who said he saw one of Mr Owaisi’s speeches on TV.

Another complaint filed by a BJP lawyer accusing Mr Owaisi of attempting to spread communal hatred was heard by a court on Thursday. The next hearing has been fixed for January 7.

The 42-year-old heads the MIM in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly; his older brother, Asaduddin, is a Member of Parliament. He said he did not want to comment on the controversy since it is now being heard in court.

Observers say the MIM has been aggressively asserting its religious identity since the party ended its alliance with the Congress in November.

Over the last few weeks, the government has been criticised for not initiating any action against the leader for his inflammatory speeches.  “Who said it is taking long?” retaliated chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy.  “When such statements are made, usually the public prosecutor’s opinion is taken and then cases are registered; so that legally it is strong when they go to the court.”

The opposition BJP has been demanding criminal action against Mr Owaisi, and says he must be disqualified by the Election Commission from contesting polls in the future.

Read original post here: India: After spree of hate speeches, finally police cases against Owaisi

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Gambia: Ahmadiyya Youth Hold Annual Convention


Baba F. Trawally, the Amir of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at The Gambia, told the gathering that the holy prophet Mumammed Mustafa (SAW) possesses great qualities because he was perfect in his relationship with Allah.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: The Point (Banjul)
By Malamin LM Coneth | January 3, 2012

The Youth Wing of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at The Gambia, known as Khuddamul Ahmadiyya, recently held its 29th annual convention also known as (Ijtema).

The convention took place at the Nasir Ahmadiyya Muslim Senior Secondary School in Basse in the Upper River Region.

The ceremony was graced by the Regional Governor of URR, deputy governor CRR, Regional Police Commissioner, National Assembly member for Basse and other local dignitaries.

Baba F. Trawally, the Amir of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at The Gambia, told the gathering that the holy prophet Mumammed Mustafa (SAW) possesses great qualities because he was perfect in his relationship with Allah.

The Amir added that every moment of the life of the prophet was spent in the cause of Allah the Almighty, which was why God instructed him to announce to mankind that his worship, sacrifices, life and death were all for Allah the Almighty alone.

Amir Trawally added that his morals are beyond reproach and he is the professor of all excellent morals.

He noted that the prophet was humble that he could not sometimes be distinguished from his companions, because he would deprive himself of food to satisfy the hunger of others.

“For the sake of the oppressed he was ready to fight until the last drop of water remained in the ocean. He liberated women from the servitude of dark age,” said the Amir.

He further advised the Kuddam that they should live like the youths of the early days of Islam who sacrificed their lives on the path of Allah the Almighty and his messenger (SAW).

According to him, the Kuddams are the green branches of the tree of the holy prophet, stating that in the centenary of the Khilafat, they have all pledged to ensure that the flag of Islam and the honour of the holy prophet Muhammed (SAW) is established in every corner of the earth.

Omar Khan, governor of URR, saluted all the cyclists who cycled from Barra to Basse, within three days to participate in the convention.

He said the youth are the future leaders of any nation, he said, advising them to be disciplined that they cannot archive anything in the absence of discipline and hard work.

Addressing the gathering in his opening and closing remarks, the Sadr (President) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Male Youth Association emphasised the need for obedience to the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

He said success, peace and tranquility are dependent on obedience to him. The Prophet (saw) is the link between mankind and Allah the Almighty.

According to him, Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an that if mankind desires to attain His love and pleasure, they must manifest unconditional obedience to the Prophet (saw).

“If he is not obeyed then the burden of disobedience shall lie on us because he had fulfilled his duty of the plain and clear delivery of the Message of Allah the Almighty,” he stressed.

He exhorted the Ahmadi youths to be scions of righteousness, reminding them of the instruction of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at.

He said the path to God is an uphill journey and man must never be satisfied with his achievements.

Read original post here: Gambia: Ahmadiyya Youth Hold Annual Convention

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