Issues of the Day 2011

Within the past year the world has witnessed international political developments, environmental crises, destructions and revolutions. These are the key figures that have been exceedingly influential on these issues.


The Arab Spring

See Abdullah Schleifer’s ‘Introduction’ essay on page 4.



­ Europe & North America ‑

The ban on building minarets in Switzerland, and the ban on wearing niqabs in public places in France are just two examples of the growing Islamophobia in Europe. This increase in institutionalized suspicion of Muslims is matched by the increasing rate of attacks and abuse of Muslims in public. The same is happening in the USA where several states have moved to ban Shariah. There is also a burgeoning field of pseudo-scholars and analysts/ commentaters/pundits who fill cyberspace with distortions and hate-speech. Several sites are countering this by pointing out the inconsistency of this fearmongering with the values of the USA is perhaps the best of them.


Al Aqsa

­ Jordan ‑

Bin al Hussein, H.M. King Abdullah II (p. 30) H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in the city of Jerusalem. He maintains a unique prestige in the region. He has gone on record in March 2010 to condemn Israel’s inclusion of West Bank religious sites on its national heritage list. The Jordanian Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Ministry announced in 2010 a donation of over 2 million Jordanian Dinar from H.M. King Abdullah II for projects around the Al Aqsa compound.


Palestine UN Statehood Bid


Abbas, H.E. President Mahmoud (p. 79)

On Friday 23 September, 2011 at the UN headquarters in New York, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority submitted a request for formal recognition of a Palestinian state along pre-1967 lines. Although this move has the support of most members of the UN, the US have vowed to veto it. His statehood bid at the UN has not been met with approval by all. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, criticized him for accepting pre-1967 borders, and thus foregoing 80% of Palestinian land. The Israeli Prime Minister dismissed the whole process. Apart from these two reactions, most other responses have been overwhelmingly in favour of Abbas’ move, with an estimated 80% of countries supporting the bid.


Green Revolution (Iran)

­ Iran ‑

Mousavi, H.E. Mir-Hossein (p. 89)

“Where is my Vote?” became the slogan of the ‘Green Movement’ that gained speed in the aftermath of Mousavvi’s loss in the 2009 presidential campaign. The movement garnered international attention after millions of protesters went out to the streets to call for a recount and ignited a violent confrontation with the basij forces–under the Revolutionary Guard. The cause reaped global support, specifically in various social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. Mousavvi has since headed an NGO called the Green Path that comprises six main members and various other reformist movements to demand the implementation of the constitution and political reform in Iran.


U.S. Foreign Policy in the Muslim World

­ USA ‑

Hussain, Rashad (p. 107) and Pandith, Farah Since President Barack Obama’s appointment of Rashad Hussein and Farah Pandith as liaisons to the Muslim World, they have come to global attention. Although Muslim communities in the US and abroad receive the outreach with skepticism, positive feedback from Hussein and Pandith’s initial tasks could potentially lay the ground for improved relations between the US and the Muslim World. Hussein is Deputy Associate Counsel and US envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Pandith continues to serve as Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the US Department of State, since her appointment in 2009.


­ Palestine ‑

Omer, Mohammed

An award-winning journalist, Mohammed Omer has been credited with reporting on the crisis in Gaza for major media outlets. He was raised in Rafah refugee camp and despite calamities faced by his family–his father was imprisoned, his teenage brother was killed, his mother was injured in a demolition–he dedicates himself to journalism and reporting on the crisis. He is the recipient of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.



­ Global

The ‘A Common Word’ Group This group of 138 Islamic scholars and clerics is the catalyst behind a global bridge-building effort between Christians and Muslims. ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’ is an open letter issued from Muslim leaders to Christian leaders about the common ground between both religious communities, highlighting points of commonality found in the commandment to love God and one’s neighbor; (

King Abdullah II of Jordan in his address to the UNGA proposed designating the first week of February as a World Interfaith Harmony Week. A month later, the resolution was passed. Febraury 2011 was celebrated as the First UN World Interfaith Harmony Week [].



­ North America/ USA ‑

Nasr, Professor Dr Seyyed Hossein (p. 84)

Nasr has tackled issues regarding the environment from a scholarly perspective, leading a movement to use Islamic teachings to help in the fight against climate change. The term Nasr employs is ‘eco-theology’. His is an important figure in advocacy that promotes environmentalism underscored as a matter of religious duty.



United Arab Emirates ‑

Al Nahyan, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed (p. 103)

Al Nahyan is the president of one of the fastest-growing nations in the world, the United Arab Emirates. He is funding the construction of the world’s first eco-city, Masdar, with zero carbon emissions which will run mostly on renewable energy. The cost of Masdar is estimated between $15-30 billion.


 Asia/Maldives ‑

Nasheed, H.E. Mohamed

As the president of the Maldives, Nasheed is one of the most environmentally conscious state leaders in the world. In the earliest stages of his political career, Nasheed was imprisoned for his criticism of his country’s government and became an Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience. Today, Nasheed has managed to make the Maldives carbon-neutral within a decade by moving the country’s energy reliance to wind and solar power only. Time magazine named Nasheed #1 in the ‘Leaders & Visionaries’ category within its annual list of Heroes of the Environment in 2009.


A I D S / H I V

­ Southern Africa/South Africa ‑

Esack, Farid

Farid Esack runs a faith-based organization in the field of HIV/ AIDS. His organization, Positive Muslims, was established in 2000. It offers services from an Islamic perspective and encourages compassion, mercy and non-judgement towards all humankind. South Africa is one of the areas worst affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.


Asia/India ‑

Engineer, Asghar Ali (p. 96)

The Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN), of which Engineer is chairman, seeks to build awareness and capacity among Muslim communities in Asia so that they may effectively respond to the growing problem of HIV/AIDS.

Hijab Rights

­ Middle Ea st/ Kuwait ‑

Dashti, Dr Rola

Dr Rola Dashti was one of four women to be elected to the Kuwaiti parliament in 2009 after successfully lobbying for the rights of women to vote and run for parliamentary elections in 2005. She is actively engaged in leadership positions with numerous organizations, as chairperson of the Kuwait Economic Society, executive member of Young Arab Leaders (Kuwait), and founder of the Women Participation Organization, among others. Following her election, Dashti was noted as one of two MPs who refuse to wear the hijab to parliamentary meetings, protesting a stipulation that requires all MPs to strictly adhere to shari‘a law–a stipulation which is considered by some to be an unconstitutional oppression of religious freedom. Dashti continues to be vocal as a democratic and gender-equality activist.


Economic Development

­ Middle East/Qa tar ‑

Younis, Ahmed

Younis is the young former national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in the United States (MPAC). His current job is to create strategic partnerships at Silatech, an organization that recently started to push for greater youth employment in the Middle East and North Africa. These regions in particular have some of the world’s highest youth unemployment rates.


Asia/ Philippines ‑

Guiapal, Aleem Siddiqu

Guiapal is the project director of the Young Moro Professional Network (YMPN). This organization is made up of 200 Muslim scholars, students and professionals who are all using their unique skills to alleviate the plight of marginalized Muslim communities.


Uighur Chinese Relations

­ Asia/China ‑

Kadeer, Rebiya

Kadeer is the de facto leader of the movement for social justice for the 15-million-strong Uighur ethnic-population of China. She was formerly a successful businesswoman and philanthropist in China but was imprisoned in 2000 for leaking state secrets and now lives in exile in the United States. Before her arrest, Kadeer was running the 1,000 Families Mothers’ Project, which helped Uighur women start businesses. She now presides over both the World Uighur Congress and the Uighur American Association. She is wellknown for her work in Europe and North America publicizing the plight of the Uighur ethnic group, and is partially responsible for raising the issue’s status both in China and abroad. The Chinese government sees Kadeer as an agitator. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.