The weekend is almost over, and that means another installment of the roundup. This week it’s the local-muslim-next-door edition. We’ve got a K-town local does good, a TO local does bad, a hippy and non-Muslims south of the border pining for the prairies.
- We missed each other by just a few years, but Katherine Bullock and I both went to the same University, took our shahada at the same mosque, settled with our families in the same region, and now consistently bump into each other at weddings and conferences. After successfully launching her Mosque One project, an in-depth look at Toronto’s first mosque, Katherine has published a series of children’s books on Islam. The At the Masjid Learning Series is aimed at 2-5 year olds and combines basic early learning concepts such as numbers and colours with Islamic themes and scenery.
“I yearned for board books of similar quality in English about things to do with Islam,” said Bullock, who converted to Islam in 1994, a couple of years after her marriage to a Muslim man. “I wanted [my son] to grow up in Canada loving the masjid, and so I thought of a book that would bring these two wishes together: a book about a masjid and a first book about numbers. The idea grew in my mind into a whole series, and churned away through the birth of my second and third children.
An audit has revealed that the Islamic Society of North America-Canada has mismanaged charitable funds intended for zakat and fitra — finding that out of $810,777, the local charity only gave $196,460 to aid the poor. President Mohammad Ashraf is at the center of the scandal, who is well known in the community for his enthusiastic, captive-audience, fund raising techniques every night of Ramadaan. Charitable funds were apparently shuffled through ISNA’s affiliated services (possibly the bookstore, halaal meat certification agency, and travel agency) — and went toward beefing up security around the mosque and health benefits for Ashraf’s daughters. The audit also found several instances of improper issuing of charitable tax receipts, and that a non citizen was on ISNA’s payroll in order to help her immigrate to Canada.
A note on Facebook recounts this past Friday’s khutbah at the mosque where some of the accusations were addressed, questions The Star’s appreciation of the situation and is asking for the community to withhold judgment before spreading gossip and dishonoring “an honorable man and an honorable institution.”
- The BBC has a nice piece on “The Imam of Peace” — John Butt, the only Westerner to have graduated from the Darul-Uloom Deoband, South Asia’s largest Muslim seminary. He arrived in the late 60’s as a pot-smoking hippy and:
was hooked from the moment he saw Swat, describing to me snow-capped mountains, rivers like flowing jewels, forests and alpine pastures. It was, he says, “like Tolkien’s Middle-earth, magical and other worldly” inhabited by tribal people who were “very pleasant, big-hearted, tolerant, easy-going and welcoming”.
When his fellow hippies grew up and went home to become accountants and lawyers, John stayed on – becoming fluent in the Pashto language and studying Islam. But John’s world changed in the late 1980s, with the arrival of jihadists, who came to the border areas from all over the world to fight the war against the Russians in Afghanistan.
“I saw the rural, religious Pashtun way of life I had come to love so much being diluted, contaminated and poisoned, in particular by Arabs from the Middle East,” he says. “The way they practise Islam is very different to the tribal areas, but they used money and influence to impose their own set of values.”
So he decided to fight for his adopted culture.
He seems really, really sweet, dedicated and sincere — and he mentions Tolkien. Hooray!
- Finally, much to the ire of right-wing, conservative, American commentators, Katie Couric has suggested that the US could benefit from a Muslim version of the Cosby Show. Bring on Little Mosque!