Saturday, September 12, 2009

Islam and the West: A partnership for the future

Dr. Francis Lamand, president of the Paris-based "Islam and the West" nongovernmental organization, is a man on a mission - to promote understanding between Islam and the Western world. Since the organization's inception in 1980, the former French diplomat and international law expert has sought to develop cultural, social and economic relations between the Islamic and Western worlds, both in France and overseas.

"For the last 30 years my organization has been working vigorously in favor of rapprochement between Islam and the West in religious value as well as cultural, social and economic values," Lamand told Arab News in Jeddah. "I may add that when we established our association in February 1980 with the objective and mission of acting to better the understanding between the two worlds, the public opinion in Europe followed us with a mixture of curiosity and skepticism. We felt the need to establish bridges between the two parties rather than seeing Islam and the West confronting each other and viewing one another as a threat."

Lamand is busy preparing for the international conference and debate that his organization has planned for Nov. 10-12, 2009 in Brussels. The theme of the conference is "Islam and the West: a Partnership for the Future," which is being supported by the European Commission, the Pontifical Council for the Inter-religious Dialogue, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Muslim World League (MWL), the World Muslim Congress (Karachi), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the Islamic Institute of the Paris Mosque, the Al-Azhar University (Cairo), the Oxford Center of Islamic Studies and the Jeddah-based International Islamic Forum for Dialogue.

"This is not just another conventional forum but rather a valuable encounter that seeks to build a genuine partnership founded on common international, social, cultural and economic values that are shared or could be shared, with a view to generating real cooperation between Islam and the West," Lamand said of the upcoming conference. "In a world which is in the grip of the globalization- related hazards and turmoil, this encounter may be a gateway to a new era of mutual understanding, fellowship and solidarity."

Invitations for the conference have been extended to all those seeking a mutually beneficial rapprochement between the two worlds. "Come, let us join this debate on the future and participate in the construction of a great arch of reconciliation and exchange between Islam and the West, which aims to bring together in the same spirit of concord Jews, Christians and Muslims," he said.

It is an ambitious goal, but Lamand and his organization have accomplished much in the last three decades. During that time "Islam and the West" has played important roles in representing the interest of European mosques and creating an atmosphere in which the European Muslim community could have its own religious television programming. The organization also helped to organize the first tête-à-tête at the Vatican between Pope John Paul II and Dr Abdullah Omar Nasseef, secretary-general of the Muslim World League.

For more read here.

Fight terrorism jointly: Al-Sudais

MAKKAH/MADINAH: More than three million Muslim faithful attended juma, taraweeh and Qiyamullail prayers at the Two Holy Mosques on Friday as the imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah called for joint efforts to combat terrorism.

The Haram in Makkah overflowed with worshippers as tens of thousands of faithful had come to perform Umrah and attend special prayers seeking Lailat Al-Qadr, the night of power.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, accompanied by senior princes, ministers and officials, is in Makkah to spend the last 10 days of Ramadan in the vicinity of Haram.

The king has instructed government departments to mobilize their resources in the service of the guests of God who have come from different parts of the world to perform Umrah and spend the blessed days of Ramadan at the Two Holy Mosques.

Security and traffic departments have deployed more officers around the Two Holy Mosques to maintain law and order and ensure smooth flow of pilgrims. The Health Ministry has made precautionary measures to protect the health of pilgrims from contagious diseases such as swine flu. For more read here.

Should pregnant women fast in Ramadan?

The holy month of Ramadan may bring new challenges for pregnant women as they encounter a period of acute difficulty. According to the Islamic perspective, there is no obligation on pregnant women to fast in Ramadan. They can opt not to and make up the days missed later. However, if a woman is able and willing to fast - providing there is no harm to her unborn child - then she can do so.

From a purely medical perspective, doctors and health specialists believe that fasting offers physical benefits as it keeps body in a perfect state while helping to burn out unnecessary fats and additional calories.

Therefore, if a woman is healthy and there are no such complications, she can adhere to her daily routine of fasting.

In an interview with Saudi Gazette, Dr. Sumaiya Banu, a consultant gynecologist at Badr-As-Samah Clinic in Jeddah mirrored this opinion. “Fasting does not cause any problems to a child who is in the development stage of its growth and is not affected by the fast,” she said. “It all depends on how much the pregnant woman can endure; some can even fast the whole month.”

She added that those women who do plan on fasting, however, should consult their doctor before embarking as the doctor will review her general and obstetric health before approving.

“It is imperative that you consult your doctor as the doctor will monitor the growth of the baby, your weight, and only then give the green signal for fasting, considering there aren’t any complications,” she explained.

Another issue she highlighted was women in their first trimester (first three month of pregnancy) might find fasting much harder, as they will be dealing with morning sickness: nausea and excessive vomiting.

“Such women can fast on alternate days - if they are not suffering from any complications - or whenever they feel up to it. In this way, they will feel healthier and more refreshed,” she remarked.

The issue of fasting also needs to consider the pregnant woman’s built. Dr. Banu advised those women who have a slender built to not fast, as well as those who have high blood pressures, low levels of hemoglobin and suffer from epilepsy. The list also includes those who require regular medication, like insulin and vitamin injections. Pregnant women must also be aware of the risks of dehydration, which can lead to urinary tract infections, so they need to drink enough water. Dr. Banu advises the consumption of at least 2.5 liters of water to detoxify the digestive system and organs. Oily and spicy food must be avoided, like in normal days, as well as gram flour delicacies that are a regular feature at Iftars in Asian homes.

In those cases where there is a risk or possibility of premature labor, twin babies and severe morning sickness, fasting should be avoided altogether. However, any fasting woman who experiences symptoms like dizziness, blurred vision, palpitations, burning in the urinary tract or sever vomiting, should break her fast immediately and consult her doctor, advised Dr. Banu. - SG