Thursday, 25 June 2015

Shaykh Abdur Rahman Sudais Meets with Muslim Leaders and Ulema

Shaykh Abdur Rahman Sudais Meets with
Muslim leaders and Ulema

Dr. Mozammel Haque

His Eminence Shaykh Abdur Rahman al-Sudais, Head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques came to the United Kingdom in the first week of June 2015 and he led Friday Jumah prayers and delivered Friday Khutba at the Regents’ Park Central London Mosque on Friday, the 5th of June and 12th of June 2015. His Eminence also met with the representatives of the Muslim communities in London at the Islamic Cultural Centre and Regents Park Central London Mosque.

Meeting with Muslim leaders and
Ulema of the Muslim communities
While welcoming Shaykh Abdur Rahman al-Sudais Head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, Dr. Ahmad Al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, said, “Islamic Cultural Centre was so happy to receive His Eminence Shaykh Abdur Rahman Al-Sudais the Head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques. I am also too happy to have all our brothers, representatives of the Muslim communities and organisations who come today to listen to Shaykh Abdur Rahman. Of course, communications among us Muslims is very very important.”

Dr. Al-Dubayan also mentioned, “I think one of the most important is now to see Shaykh Abdur Rahman to talk about the situations in the Two Holy Mosques and get some of the information about projects there and also bringing Muslim together spreading the brotherly feeling from one another. I would like to thank Shaykh Abdur Rahman for this chance and thank to all the brothers who were attending with us.”

Summary of Shaykh Abdur Rahman’s Speech
Shaykh Abdur Rahman addressed the Muslim leaders and Ulema at the Islamic Cultural Centre and it was translated into English by Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan. First of all, Shaykh al-Sudais welcomed everybody saying, he is so happy with this meeting and he is happy to see all the brothers who has gathered for the meeting from everywhere. He said, “Especially this meeting is very important nowadays particularly because Muslim communities and Muslims everywhere; our faith is facing lot of challenges, one of them is sectarianism and another one is extremism and we think going back to the Book of Allah the Almighty and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is always the security exit from all this Fitna everywhere in the world.”

Tawheed- the Main core of Islamic Faith
Shaykh Al-Sudais said, “I draw the attention of my brothers to give more care and special care for the Tawheed. Tawheed is the main core of the Islamic faith and every Muslim should actually give more attention and relate more and more to Tawheed, about the main faith of Islam.

Four Schools of Thought
While mentioning about different Madhayeb, Schools of Thought, Shaykh al-Sudais said, “Alhamdo lillah, we try our best from the Haramain to respect every Muslim to keep good relations and we also respect all scholars and we respect also all Madhabs and the four Imams of every four Madhabs and they were doing their best, of course, to explain religion for people. We know the differences, the small slight differences among the four Madhayeb is something very small and we should not give it that much important and we should ignore it and act together as one Ummah. The Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) themselves they had different opinions about many things happenings during their time but above all they had clean hearts, good hearts with each other and working together.”

You are Ambassadors of Islam here
Shaykh al-Sudais urged Muslims here to remember, “You are ambassadors and representatives of our faith, Islam. The way you deal with others, the good manners you have always taken, if we want or if we don’t want, as example of our faith, example of our Islam. So the good manners or the good behaviours should be our style; our habits or our duty with everybody, with Muslims and non-Muslims alike. We should be, in the United Kingdom, the best example of all people of our faith.”

Referring to the issues and problems within the Muslim communities in this country, Shaykh al-Sudais advised, “I would like to see that all the problems that you have;  I hope, the Muslim community can sit together with the spirit of dialogue, with the good intentions sit together to solve this problem. This sometimes happened in charity in some Muslim organisations. The Islamic Cultural Centre may give big help in this in solving problems; bringing all parties together, Insha Allah, with the spirit of Islam and with the spirit of Qur’an and Sunnah and to solve all these and to bring Muslims to be united and to be good members of the society.”

Expansion of the Two Holy Cities and Mosques
Shaykh al-Sudais said, “Dear brothers, there are something important I am coming here to give you actually to extend you the greetings of Saudi Arabia, the greetings from the land of Haramain, Makkah and Madinah, and the greetings from the holy sites and when we talk about holy sites we are talking about Makkah; we are talking about Qibla, the Ka’aba, where actually the hearts of all Muslims everywhere in the world are going and directing to when they pray; where all our hearts are attached to all the time and one of the graces which Allah the Almighty  has granted to Saudi Arabia and granted the opportunity to take care of Mosques, and of the Two Holy cities and the Two Holy sites and the expansion that is happening now in the Madinah and in Makkah never happened before in history. I would like to invite everybody, whenever you have a chance, Insha Allah, to see the expansion and the big leading projects happening especially in Makkah and Madinah.”

The Head of the Presidency of the Haramain also mentioned, “Alhamdo Lillah two weeks ago King Salman himself came to visit Makkah and Madinah and to see the projects and the progress of its expansion. This expansion, as I said to you, never happen all the history of the Haramain. Makkah Haram Sharif and Masjid al-Nabawi in Madinah are built and expanded; are monitored and refurbished for all Muslims. Why; because we and the government of Saudi Arabia has put a target that there would be a chance for every Muslim to come. When Muslims come in big numbers, in millions; there will be a capacity for all of them. If the Haramain, the Two Holy Mosques remain in the old building; it would be too difficult for everybody, for the next generation to be accommodated in Makkah and Madinah.”

While giving details of the third expansion, the Head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques said, “Now the third expansion from the days of King Abdullah (May Allah shower him with His mercy) is proceeding to the end. The capacity of the new expansion, the Third expansion, is 1.3 million square metres with the old capacity of the Haram 1.7 million square metres. Alhamdo lillah, the result will be 3 million square metres in the Haram in Makkah. That will be 3 million the capacity of the millions of prayers and people coming.”

Giving details of the expansion of Masaa and Mataf, Shaykh al-Sudais said, “Now in Masaa, the old capacity of 50,000 people in one hour; now the capacity of 80,000 per hour. The Mataf also in the third phase of the project of the Mataf, Insha Allah, will start in this Ramadan. Now the capacity of the Mataf is 45,000 per hour; it will be, after the completion of the project, 105 000 per hour.”

Khutba Translation in seven languages
On the spot on the air directly
Shaykh al-Sudais also mentioned, “Alhamdo lillah, teaching in the Haramain are going and the Imams are doing their best in educating people about Hajj, about prayers. We have now a new project which is the translation of the Khutba (Friday Sermons), from the Haram directly on air and it is now the Khutba is translated in seven languages, We are going, Insha Allah, to increase the languages. Translations are happening on the spot on air directly. We want, Insha Allah, the government of Saudi Arabia want the Haramain to be the model of welfare and safety, of peace for everybody Insha Allah of the Muslims of everybody in the world.”

False news and rumours about Haramain
Head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques mentioned, “These projects are unfortunately sometimes targeted by some people who loves so much to create some confusion and fake news about the Saudi government, about Makkah and Madinah. For example, they say Saudi Arabia is destroying the holy sites; some people say: Saudi Arabia is decreasing the number of Hajjis and pilgrims. Saudi Arabia cannot do this at all. Sometimes this is a procedure just to for the project but Islamically, Muslim should not be prevented from coming to Makkah and Madinah.”

Every single project of the Haramain
Based on the Fatwa of scholars
Talking about every single project of the Haramain, Shaykh al-Sudais mentioned, “For your information, dear brothers, I would like to tell you that every single project, every step we do in the project of the Haramain is based on the Fatwa of scholars. We don’t do it like a project; we have to tell Mufti and scholars about what we are doing and they have to give us a Fatwa about. And we come back to the Supreme Council of Scholars of Saudi Arabia; we come back to the Council of Fiqh; the Council of Fiqh of the Rabita al-Alam al-Islami (Muslim World League) in Makkah; they have to check our project. They have to give a Fatwa before we start anything.”

Insha Allah, within three years,  maximum, everything will come back normal in the Haramain You will see Insha Allah, I am sure you will be happy with all this expansion and you will thank Allah the Almighty first and you will thank those brothers and the King who is behind all these projects,”mentioned Shaykh al-Sudais. .

Mataf floors will be increased to six
Shaykh al-Sudais also informed about the development of Mataf and the air-conditioning of the Haram. He said, “One of the projects coming, Insha Allah; we are going to increase the floors of Mataf. The Mataf will be in different floors. It would be like five to six floors. Another of the projects is to have the whole Haram air-conditioned, Insha Allah. And Insha Allah, there will be electronically umbrella outside, even in the courtyards.”

Some fake news, bad rumours about Haramain
“Unfortunately, some people, the enemy of the Haramain and some of those who would like to confuse Muslim communities and Muslims around the world always repeat some bad news, some bad rumours some fake news about the Haramain. One of them is: they destroy the Holy sites. We don’t destroy this. The Haram must expand; otherwise, the next generation will never find a chance for Hajj or for Umrah. And you yourself will not be happy when you will see how people will be on each other; killing themselves in Hajj, without the expansion of the Haramain,” mentioned Shaykh al-Sudais. .

He also mentioned, “One of the fake things really I wonder how Muslims could believe such things when some people in the media repeated Saudi Arabia is going to remove the grave of the Prophet (peace be upon him) about some months ago.. This is unbelievable and this is islamically not allowed because Prophets themselves buried where they passed away. We know actually the purpose of all these rumours and fake news is just to make Muslims confused and to make separations among Muslim themselves using the media, using the TV channels and using the social media also.”

Development in Haramain for 
everybody’s security and safety
The Head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques said, “I have to repeat again what I have just said to you that is: always everything is done in the Haramain could not be done without a Fatwa first. Those who envy us or envy Saudi Arabia they are attacking the Haramain. Of course, they will never be happy when we are successful everywhere. I want Muslims to be sure and to be really very comfortable to put in their hearts that is the main target the main objective for all of us is to work what we are doing in Haramain is, from King Salman and before, for security and safety for everybody there. Those who actually spread this rumour or this news are the one who really create danger for the Haramain and you have seen recently the news of what is happening in the Middle East and confusing Muslims killing, supporting some Muslims against other and this is really the real threat for the Haramain and not the projects we are doing.”

Shaykh al-Sudais urged UK Muslims to remember the Haramain is targeted by those who hate Islam. He said, “I belief Muslim communities in the UK is very very important. It is one of the leading communities in the West; so I have to mention this to you and I take advantage of to make clear to all of you. Unfortunately, some Muslims believe whatever is said in the media; whatever is written in the internet; please make sure, don’t forget Allah the Almighty ask us to make sure whenever we hear something we have to use our minds; we have to follow what Allah the Almighty said.  We have to make sure about the source of the news and not just to believe in anything. Always remember that the Haramain is targeted by those who hate Islam, or hate the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and those who would like to have Muslims kill each other and fight each other.”

“Allah the Almighty decide the safety and security of the Two Holy Mosques and these challenges Insha Allah soon will be removed and Insha Allah everybody will be even happy,” said Shaykh al-Sudais.

Shaikh Abdur Rahman al-Sudais also mentioned that he is ready to help in training and help in supporting Muslim communities for the benefit of the societies.

Concluding his speech, Shaykh Abdur Rahman al-Sudais thank everybody for giving him the chance, “this chance to speak to you and I also really get benefit from the comments you have made. May Allah accept our efforts, help us to be good models and good followers of our faith and our Prophet (peace be upon him,” he made supplication.

After the speech, there was Questions & Answers when Brother Sir Iqbal Sacranie suggested having a statement for the media and to all Masajid actually talking about this meeting about this special press release for the media and he said he is going to write it.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Ramadan Mubarak 1436AH and Ramadan Greetings 2015

Ramadan Mubarak 1436AH and
Ramadan Greetings 2015

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Ramadan Mubarak and Ramadan Greetings to all of you, especially to all the readers of Plain Truth and the Bangla Mirror Weekly: May this holy month bring barakah, and Allah's boundless mercy upon the believers and harmony and tolerance for the world.

Muslims almost everywhere welcome the coming of the month of Ramadan on the same day, on Thursday, the 18th of June, 2015 this year. Saudi Arabia, the heartland of Islam, the country of the Two Holy Mosques, the birthplace of Prophet Peace be upon him, is performing Ramadan on Thursday. The Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday that Thursday (18 June 2015) will be the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan, the Royal Court said in a statement. “As no credible reports about sighting of the crescent of Ramadan was received on Tuesday evening, Wednesday will be the 30th day of Shaban and Thursday will be the first day of Ramadan according to the Umm Al Qura calendar,” the Supreme Court said after its meeting in Taif, the Saudi Press Agency reported. Earlier, Saudi Arabia in the mean time had asked its citizens to be on the look-out for the crescent moon starting Tuesday (16 June).

So the holy month of Ramadan begins Thursday, 18th of June, 2015. Most of the other Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait also announced that Ramadan fasting will start on Thursday

Europe, US, Australia, Africa and Asia will start the first day of fasting and the first day of Ramadan 2015 from 18 June. Canada has also started Ramadan on Thursday, the 18th of June, 2015. Mr friend and brother Mr. Tariq Ghazi informed me that In Toronto and other cities of Canada like Ottawa, Ramadan started on Thursday, 18 June.

So the first day of Ramadan will be Thursday (June 18) according to the Saudi Supreme Court. The announcement was made after there were no reports of the new moon on Tuesday evening. Other countries that will begin the fast on Thursday include Qatar, Jordan and Palestine. Taraweeh prayers will begin Wednesday night.

British Muslims welcome Ramadan: the month of discipline, compassion and solidarity on Thursday, 18th of June 2015. British Muslims join over a billion Muslims all over the world in a month of fasting, charity and solidarity.

The governments of many countries issued Ramadan Message to Muslims in their countries and around the world..

Ramadan Mubarak to you All
I welcome Ramadan, the month of Mercy and Repentance, the month of the Qur’an, of Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power) and of repentance and forgiveness. Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the Pillars of the Islamic faith. It was declared an obligatory duty (Fard) in the second year of the Hijrah upon each and every mukallaf (one capable of carrying out religious duties, i.e. a sane adult).

Allah the Almighty made Ramadan fasting compulsory for Muslims. Allah said, “O those who believe, the fasts have been enjoined upon you as were enjoined upon those before so that you be God-fearing.’ [Surah Baqarah, 183]. Literally, Sawm means ‘to abstain’. In the terminology of Islamic law, Sawm means ‘to abstain from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse: with the conditions that one abstains continuously from dawn to sunset, and that there is an intention to fast.’ Therefore, should one eat or drink anything even a minute before sunset, the fast will not be valid. Similarly, if one abstained from all these things throughout the day but made no intention to fast, there will be no fast here too.

Allah the Almighty said in the Qur’an “…And eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread…” (Al-Qur’an, 2:187) Literally defined, fasting means to abstain “completely” from foods, drinks, intimate intercourse and smoking, before the break of the dawn till sunset, during the entire month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year.

Fasting in Islam is based on the lunar calendar and is tied to the sightings of hilal, the crescent, or new moon. Allah the Almighty stated: “They ask you concerning the new moons. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time… (Al-Qur’an, 2:189). And the Traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Eat until you see the crescent and break not until you see the crescent. If it is cloudy calculate the period of the month.” (Muslim and others).

Fasting in Ramadan is compulsory upon every Muslim, male or female, who has these qualifications, e.g. mentally and physically fit, adult full of age which is normally fourteen and fairly certain that fasting is unlikely to cause any harm, physical or mental, other than the normal reactions to hunger, thirst etc.

The said qualifications exclude the following categories: children under the age of puberty and discretion; men and women who are too old and feeble to undertake the obligation of fast and bear its hardships; sick people whose health is likely to be severely affected by the observance of fast; travellers may break the fast temporarily during their travel;  pregnant women and women breast-feeding their children may also break their fast and women in the period of menstruation (of a maximum of ten days or of confinement (of a maximum of forty days. They must postpone the fast till recovery and then make up for it.

The holy month of Ramadan is the month of mercy, forgiveness, and seeking release from the Hell-fire. It is the month of repentance and acceptance of prayers. It is the month when the devils are chained, the gates of Hell are looked and the gates of Paradise are opened.  That’s why; Muslims welcome Ramadan each year with energy and happiness, and are saddened only when the month departs. Fasting is for the living, not for mourning.

Ramadan is a month of worship. Muslims should welcome the month with repentance and seeking Allah’s pardon. We should keep away from committing sins; worship Allah sincerely and spending the night and day in prayer, supplication and recitation of the Holy Qur’an.

Fasting is a shield which helps prevent many sins and with which Muslim protects himself from Hell-fire. Fasting is more than abstaining from food and drink. It also means to abstain from any falsehood in speech and action, from any ignorant and indecent speech, and from arguing and quarrelling. Therefore, fasting helps to develop good behaviour.

Fasting inculcates a sense of brotherhood and solidarity, as a Muslim feels and experiences what his needy and hungry brothers feel. This gives Muslim a new sense of togetherness and association.

Allah the Almighty said in the Qur’an: The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (between right and wrong). (Surah Al-Baqarah 2: 185) As Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an, every Muslim should prepare himself to welcome the blessed month of Ramadan by strengthening his relationship with the Qur’an. A Muslim is encouraged to complete one recitation of the Holy Qur’an during Ramadan.

We should engage more and more in the recitation of the Qur’an, in dhikr (remembrance of Allah), perform extra Salah (ritual prayers) at night and renew identity with one another in our obedience to Allah.

From Asian Continent
King Salman of Saudi Arabia Ramadan Message
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman on Wednesday, 17 June, 2015 greeted Muslims in Saudi Arabia and all over the world on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan.

In an address to the people of Saudi Arabia and Muslims around the world, King Salman reiterated his determination to safeguard the country and citizens from sedition, unrest and sectarian tensions.

“We emphasize our total rejection of sectarian divisions as we are aware of its dangers to national cohesion. We will not tolerate those who are negligent and we will hold accountable whoever compromises our security and our religious and national values,” the King said in the address, read out by Minister of Culture and Information Adel Al-Turaifi, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The King said: “The holy month of Ramadan, which is a month of goodness and blessings, brings for us mercy, forgiveness and emancipation from Hell, and teaches us the meanings of empathy and compassion. We receive this holy month with pleasure, following the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who used to congratulate his companions on the advent of the holy month that teaches us great lessons.”

The King continued: “The month of Ramadan is not a month for rest and relaxation. There are many virtues in the holy month that motivate us to carry out good deeds such as fasting, praying and doing charity work. For Muslims, these include trying to achieve perfection in one’s work and dealing with others decently and benevolently.

“Our religion is the religion of love, compassion and tolerance; its message was revealed as a mercy to the people; its path is the path of goodness and construction; and its approach is that of moderation, dialogue and intimacy.

"Our religion unifies rather than separates, and it renounces violence and terrorism,” the King said, adding that "this holy month with its noble meanings does give us the commitment to abide by these noble ideals, values and objectives.”

King Salman noted that Saudi Arabia, whom Almighty Allah has honoured to serve the two holy mosques and their visitors, is always aware of its role, duties and responsibilities to protect this religion and serve the interests of Muslims everywhere.

“From this perspective, the Kingdom has been, since it was founded by the late King Abdulaziz, responsible for following moderation in religion, supporting the oppressed and bringing relief to the distressed in all parts of the world. This commitment emanates from our belief in the bonds of brotherhood and humanity,” the King said.

From European Continent
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s
Message for Ramadan
British Prime Minister David Cameron, MP, sent his “very best wishes to everyone observing the holy month of Ramadan.” He said, “It’s a hugely important time as Muslims in Britain and across the world mark the foundation of their faith. And as friends and families come together in contemplation and in fasting, we are reminded of those Muslim values – those British values – of community, family and charity.”

British Prime Minister also said, “you can see them today with British Muslims giving more to charity than any other faith group in Britain, fulfilling their sacred duty of Zakat by making a real difference to lives blighted by conflict and disaster, and with British Muslims at the top of every field – from our biggest businesses, to our precious health service to our Houses of Parliament, and yes – to the Cabinet I lead. I’ve talked a lot about one nation – about Britain being a country where everyone can get on – whatever their background and wherever they’re from. British Muslims embody that spirit.”

“Again this year government is supporting the Big Iftar programme with hundreds more communities, from Leeds to Luton, Woking to Manchester, throwing open their doors so that people of all faiths and none can break bread and get to know their neighbours,” Prime Minister Cameron said.

Prime Minister concluded, “So wherever you are this holy month, I wish you Ramadan Mubarak.”

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
Ramadan Message
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond sends his warmest wishes to Muslims in the UK and across the world at the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “To Muslims in the UK and around the world I wish ‘Ramadan Mubarak’.

“The UK is proud of our strong links in the Muslim world, through our partnerships overseas and through the vibrant and diverse Muslim communities in the UK. Our missions and staff across our diplomatic network will be joining together with the communities in which they live and work to celebrate and reflect on our shared values,” British Foreign Secretary said.

Foreign Secretary Hammond also said, “Ramadan is also a time for peaceful reflection and acts of compassion and charity. Many across the Muslim world will spend this Ramadan separated from their families and communities by conflict and poverty. The UK will continue to support those in need across the world through our generous humanitarian and development aid. And we will continue to work for a world that is peaceful, secure and prosperous for all.”

From American Continent
U.S. President Obama’s Ramadan
Message to Muslims
U.S. President Barack Obama has issued a message to American Muslims and Muslims around the world congratulating them on the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan as a time to remember the poor and the needy and to share responsibilities.

The United States President Barack Obama issued the following Message on the Occasion of Ramadan: “As the new crescent moon brings in the holy month of Ramadan, Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those observing the month of fasting in the United States and around the world.”

President Obama said, “Ramadan is a time in which families and communities come together for iftars and prayers in festive gatherings that demonstrate the rich and diverse traditions of Muslim societies and cultures.”

“It is also a deeply spiritual time of reflection and renewal meant to increase thankfulness and consciousness of God’s mercy. Muslims honor each day of Ramadan as a day of patient endurance through fasting, and each night as a night of gratitude through prayers,” President Obama mentioned.

US President also said, “It is a time to reinforce faith, compassion and forgiveness, and perseverance through adversity. In this month of giving, Muslims around the globe reach out to assist those afflicted by conflict, hunger, poverty and disease.”

Mentioning about America, President Obama said, “And here in the United States, American Muslims join their fellow citizens to serve the less fortunate, hosting inter-faith activities that build understanding and remind us that we stand together as one American family. The diversity and patriotism of America’s religious communities give strength to all of us, and our freedom to worship reminds us of the values we share.”

US President Obama concluded his Ramadan message by saying, “I once again look forward to welcoming American Muslims to the White House for our annual White House iftar dinner to honor the month of Ramadan and recognize the service of American Muslims from across the country. From my family to yours, Ramadan Kareem”

Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef
Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef, President of the Karachi-based World Muslim Congress (WMC) and Secretary General of the Cairo-based International Islamic Council for Dawah and Relief (IICDR) was passing through the United Kingdom. I talked to him on Tuesday, 16th of June, 2014 before he was flying back to Saudi Arabia. I was very much privileged to speak to him and find an opportune moment to request him his message to the Muslim community as well as to the Muslim Ummah about the importance and significance of the month of Ramadan, the month of fasting ordained by Allah the Almighty.

Dr. Nasseef, the former Secretary General of the Makkah-based Muslim World League, said, “We take the opportunity of this month of Ramadan like every year. This is the month which Allah the Almighty prescribed for us: fast; Taqwa is the safeguard of the society from going us astray from this way or other. That’s why it is important for us to remind our brothers and sisters around the world and globe that this occasion is not like other social gathering, social occasion. Socially you can achieve many things but spirituality it should change ourselves and our society and we should urge people to go back to Allah the Almighty and the Prophet (peace be upon him) in order to introduce the change.”

“Now we are witnessing this year a fitn all around the world; problems are happening everywhere; and no society is safe from this misery and problem. They have to realise that unless we go back to original Islam nothing will change. All kind of terrorists and radical people are telling to the societies that this is the way Islam should be the dominant but they are doing the wrong thing; they are causing Islam the problem and to Muslims all the confusion,” said Dr. Nasseef.

Dr. Nasseef, the former President of the Jeddah-based King Abdulaziz University, mentioned, “I always say in my message that we lack proper knowledge; and fail to deliver proper education and proper understanding of Islam to our young people. People think many things when they fast in the holy month of Ramadan; when they pray salah, Taraweeh and all the Ibadah; it is enough.”

But Dr. Nasseef said, “it is not enough. We have to ponder on what is our problem and seek the solution from the Qur’an and Hadiths and this can be done by the people who are already aware and have the knowledge. They should also be verified that their opinions can make people going astray; trains their minds and their thinking and preaching.”

“So I appeal to Allah Subhanahu wa Taala to guide our Muslim brothers and sisters to choose the right path and to get education to introduce the changes which will affect the society deeply and change our Ummah and that will help us to overcome our crisis and miseries which we are witnessing today,” said Dr. Nasseef.

Dr. Nasseef hopes, “Insha Allah this Ramadan will be blessing month for the Muslims to be closer and closer to the teachings of Prophet (peace be upon him).”

Lord Sheikh on Muslims, Extremism and Islam

Lord Sheikh on Muslims, Extremism and Islam
At the House of Lords
Dr. Mozammel Haque

Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom delivered a speech in the House of Lords in which Her Majesty said that measures will be brought forward to promote social cohesion and protect people by tackling extremism. There was discussion and debate on this speech at the House of Lords. Lord Sheikh and Lord Ahmed among others participated in this debate and discussion. I had the opportunity to interview Lord Sheikh on Islam, Muslims and Extremism. Lord Sheikh from the Conservative Party focussed on several points about the Muslim community.

Positive aspects of the Muslim Community
Lord Sheikh first of all mentioned the positive aspects of the Muslim Community. He said, “There are more than 3 million Muslims in the United Kingdom, and they have contributed significantly to Britain in all walks of life. We must remember and respect the positive aspects of British Muslims. There are Muslim philanthropists and entrepreneurs, and we also have successful Muslims in the professions, politics, academia, in the media and on the sports field. Having said that, I realise that Muslims are going through a critical phase, and there are problems associated with some sections of the community.”

Criticism against Muslims based on misunderstandings
Lord Sheikh mentioned about some criticisms against the Muslim Community which are deliberate and based on misunderstandings. He said, “Muslims have been severely criticised in some quarters. Some of the criticism is not at all justified but is either deliberate or based on misunderstandings. We have been and are subjected to Islamophobia in some parts of the media and by a few politicians and organisations—I believe they have their own agenda. The attacks on us are now regular, and some people feel that it is fair game to have a go at Muslims.

Rise of Islamophobia
Speaking about Islamophobia, Lord Sheikh told me, “We are suffering weekly attacks. The problem is: there is a tiny minority; we accept that we are all painted with the same brush. Though Islamophobia is coming in different shapes and in different forms and we are all sufferings. Some of it is hate crime; some of it is discrimination, some of it is quite overt actions; somebody is wearing niqab or hijab or somebody in beard or skull cap; so this is happening.”

Lord Sheikh also mentioned, “Islamophobia can arise because of two reasons: It is deliberate, because people have their own agenda. Secondly it is misunderstanding. People do not understand the other religions. It is up to us to tell everybody what are our ideas regarding Jihad, about Suicide bombing; about rules of engagement in Islam. Islam does not permit forcible conversion; it is in the Qur’an and it is up to us to tell the world what Islam is all about. I am a Muslim leader and it is up to us, one of us to tell about Islamic principal values. Islam is a religion of peace and we need to tell.”

Muslims are integrating 
Lord Sheikh is a patron of six Muslim and non-Muslims organisations. He founded and chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum. He was approached by several Muslim leaders to look at the current problems affecting the Muslim Community. Lord Sheikh did some research and mentioned just three findings. He said, “Some 75% of Muslims believe that they are integrating into British society, whereas only 47% of British people opine that they are doing so. Muslims in Britain are overwhelmingly young, and the performance of some Muslims at schools is low. Some 46% of British Muslims live in the most deprived 10% of areas in the United Kingdom.”

Lord Sheikh told me, “70% Muslims believe that they are integrating into the main society. Yes, this is the statistics; they feel that they are integrating. There are quite a large number of Muslims who feel they are British; but on the other hand, the British don’t feel that we are integrating. I honestly believe; you can be a British and you can be a Muslim. Likewise, you can be a British and you can be a Jew. You can be a British and you can be a Buddhist. You can be a British and you can be Christian. So we can do that and the great thing about this country is this that this country allows to practice religion; there is no restriction on the women; they can do and wear whatever. But in certain other countries there are restrictions.”

Lord Sheikh identified five issues
Lord Sheikh have travelled recently to various parts of the country, identified a number of issues and prepared a report. He said, “Over the past year I have travelled to various parts of the country and talked to leaders of mosques, imams, heads of community centres and members of the community. About two weeks ago I was the keynote speaker at a gathering of more than 2,000 Muslims in Birmingham, many of whom spoke to me afterwards. I have now identified a number of issues, which total 23 points, and have prepared a report on them. I do not have time to mention them all today, but I will state five—radicalisation, education standards, lack of engagement with the young, deprivation, and the Prevent strategy not being effective.”

Muslims feel the Government have
not engaged with them
Lord Sheikh mentioned in his speech he have been asked by several Muslims to make it known to the Government that they have not engaged adequately with the community. He said, “I, too, feel that that has been lacking. We feel that the Government should do more to interact with the right people, look at the various problems and help the community to take positive actions.”

“In addressing the problems we need the involvement of the Muslim community, the Government, the police, schools, local authorities and the relevant agencies. We are trying to raise awareness that there is also an onus on the Muslim community to be honest and realise that there are problems, and to take positive actions to remedy the issues as part of a holistic approach in conjunction with others,” said Lord Sheikh.

Lack of Communications
Lord Sheikh told me in my interview with him, “Lack of communications with the Muslims is undoubtedly happened. Look; for example, they talk to some people; some people have got their own agenda. There is not enough interaction between the Government and the right people There are some very very good people; not the extremists; we are not extremists”

Community have to take the responsibility
Lord Sheikh also told me, “Yes, we have to take responsibility. For example, we must tell the youngsters what is Islam all about; we must interact with the young; and this is lacking in some sections and in some Mosques. I would like to have every Mosque at least to have one youngsters and one woman on the board so that we can interact with the young people. The Sermons, I believe, have to be in English wherever it is possible. I have been in Mosques where I don’t mind Imams speaking in Bengali; Gujarati or Urdu; but you could have another Imam who could speak in English. Khutba must cover what is happening in the world now and telling the Islamic point of view.”

While assessing radicalisation, Lord Sheikh mentioned in his speech at the House of Lords that it has been brought about partly by the actions of the West. He said, “In assessing radicalisation we must realise that this has been partly brought about by the actions of the West, including the United Kingdom, overseas. The action of a tiny minority of the young in being radicalised could be born out of frustration, but we must do what we can to allay these feelings.”

Lord Sheikh mentioned first about the invasion of Iraq. He said, “When the United Kingdom, together with the United States, decided unilaterally to invade Iraq, there was no adequate plan for action to be taken after Saddam Hussein was toppled. A vacuum was created that led subsequently to violence, death and destruction, and to al-Qaeda in Iraq taking root in the country. It also created a severe rift between the Sunnis and the Shias.”

Then, Lord Sheikh mentioned, as for example, about Libya and Afghanistan. He said, “We bombed Libya without an adequate plan to be implemented after Gaddafi was got rid of. We invaded Afghanistan without realising the consequences. In future, the United Kingdom must have an adequate plan and think of all the consequences and implications before glibly invading any territory.”

Double Standards in Gaza and Palestine
Speaking about the issues of Gaza and Palestine in the House of Lords, Lord Sheikh said the double standards. He said, “We also have double standards when looking at the issues of Gaza and Palestine, and this is causing disquiet among Muslims. We need a more balanced and equitable approach to these issues, and we could begin by recognising Palestine as an independent state.”

ISIS doings are not at all Islamic
Referring to the ISIS barbaric actions, Lord Sheikh mentioned those doings are not at all Islamic. He said in his speech at the House of Lords, “Over the last year we have seen the rise of ISIS—or Daesh, as I prefer to call them. What they are doing is not at all Islamic, and their interpretation of our glorious religion is totally wrong. It is imperative for the imams, Muslim leaders and parents, together with everyone in the community, to explain to the young the true values of Islam. In order to combat radicalisation, we must also use social media effectively to block information that unduly influences young people, and to convey the true message of Islam.”

Islam does not permit terrorism.
While talking about combating radicalisation, Lord Sheikh categorically declared that Islam does not permit terrorism. He said, “Both the media and politicians should not refer to terrorism as Islamic, because Islam does not permit terrorism. They must use appropriate language. The word jihad is misused, as jihad involves internal and external struggle to do one’s utmost for good.”

Extensive and balanced research
needed to combat extremism
While talking about measures to be undertaken to combat extremism, Lord Sheikh suggested an extensive and balanced research needed. He said, “In deciding on measures to combat extremism, we must undertake extensive and balanced research. The Government must understand the challenging issues facing the Muslim community. The Prevent agenda has created some problems and needs to be reappraised. Some have even described it as toxic. Sometimes, the Government are ill advised in taking action. For example, I was told that the letter written to mosques in January of this year by the right honourable Eric Pickles was not well received by some members of the community.”

The Government must win Muslims’ support
Lord Sheikh agreed with the government on counter-extremism measures and wanted the Government to win the support of the Muslim community. He said in his speech, “I agree that counter-extremism measures must be firm, but they should not be fierce and should not alienate the community. The Government must win the support of the Muslim community and must not be seen as the big brother wielding a stick. Otherwise, we will get a negative reaction.”

“We must also respect freedom of speech, as we in this country take pride in our democratic values. The Muslim community will listen and take appropriate action, as part of the holistic approach we need to implement,” said Lord Sheikh.

Undertake adequate research and
consultation with the community
“I understand that measures may be introduced such as banning orders, extremism disruption orders and powers to close premises,” said Lord Sheikh and suggested, “before any powers are approved and implemented, adequate research and consultation with the community should be undertaken. The community will co-operate if there is appropriate engagement. We need to be very careful before interfering or applying any form of restriction on the activities of Muslim charities, which do very valuable humanitarian work across the world.”

Looking at other issues: education of the young
Lord Sheikh also mentioned about the need of looking at other issues concerning the community, including the education of the young and deprivation. He said, “I will be taking part in the proceedings on the proposed legislation and will make suggestions where I feel that these are appropriate.”

Lord Sheikh elaborated to me what he meant by looking at other issues. He told me, “The situation is this that the 40% of Muslims live in areas in deprived areas. So what we want to do is to regenerate those areas. Create jobs for the Muslims. We can look at the deprived areas and see how we can generate by giving incentives and by encouraging people; by giving loans to people. This is what I like to say; I would like to see more regeneration. I said here some 40% of the British are living in most deprived areas.”

British Values are similar to our values
“I like parents; give the children well-rounded education; send them to schools; undoubtedly private education private tuition too and then teach them Islamic values; the two must go hand in hand,” Lord Sheikh told me in an interview and added, “To certain extent, British values are similar to our values. The thing is: the Muslim values don’t mean that our youngsters should go on Friday night and Saturday night get drunk; and start fighting. We should get to make sure that children behave properly; parents have got to make sure that.”

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Islam Middle East Peace and Japan - A European Perspective

Islam Middle East Peace and Japan -
A European Perspective

Dr. Mozammel Haque
 Lord Nazir Ahmed, one of the earliest Muslim members appointed to the Britain’s House of Lords, was invited by Universal Peace Forum (UPF)-Japan which conducted the fourth Japan-Europe Forum recently. Hundreds of citizens and experts in Kobe, Fukuoka and Tokyo listened Lord Ahmed discourse on Middle East Peace and Japan’s Role- A European Perspective.

A special leadership forum was also convened at the international conference hall affiliated to the Diet (Japan’s parliament). It was attended by some 80 individuals including a dozen Diet members, scholars, media personnel and religious figures. They heard Lord Ahmed's discourse on Islam, analysis on ISIS and the needs for the UN reform.

Emphasizing importance of the Forum, President of the UPF-Japan, Dr. Eiji Tokuno, explained that peace and stability of the Middle East constitutes Japan's vital national interest, as nearly 90 per cent of the country's energy supplies come from that tension-filled region.

Appreciating decade-long support of Lord Ahmed for the UPF projects in Britain, Europe and the world including the Middle East Peace Initiative, Dr. Yong Cheon Song, Chairman of UPF's Japan Region, introduced Lord Ahmed as a Muslim with European perspectives.

Lord Ahmed on Islam
Lord Ahmed explained that Islamic teaching forbids the killing of the innocent including children and women, even in a war situation. He said that Qur’an advises "Make peace among brothers!", indicating mediation between conflicting parties and peacemaking as essential duties of Islam. Quoting a Qur’anic verse "There should be no compulsion in religion!" he suggested not to argue on faith but respect others' belief.

Given these Islamic tenets, ISIS which threatens the world with its rampant atrocities has nothing to do with Islam, he declared. He even pointed out that ISIS abuses religious sentiments and dogma to justify their political objectives.

Genesis of ISIS
Speaking about the ISIS, Lord Ahmed mentioned, “You have the ISIS that had actually started in Syria, gaining small victories and taking over certain areas and tribes. These ruthless people have nothing to do with Islam nor Muslims. I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of one and a half billion Muslims do not endorse the ISIS. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, set out rules of engagement in a war. The worriors cannot touch women or children nor can they kill innocent persons. You cannot even cut trees!”
“These terrorists kill people. In Peshawar of Pakistan, for example, 143 children without any weapons in their hands were attacked by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Some said they had come from the Tribal Area near the border. Wherever they came from, these people killed the innocent children. Just this Friday in Peshawar, they went into a mosque and killed Shia Muslims who were praying,” Lord Ahmed mentioned.

Radicalism in religions
Lord Ahmed said religion was used as a pretext of their oppression and domination. He asked the questions, “Who on earth could think, even if they claim they are Muslims, that they would go into a mosque where people were praying, cold-bloodedly murdering or shooting or blowing them up? Likewise, who would even think of killing these innocent Coptic Christians, who had come from Egypt for jobs in Libya? The ISIS does not yet control Libya, but this shows a sort of mental condition of these twisted people, who use religion as a pretext of their oppression and domination.”

They capture these minorities, these poor people from Egypt. The cold-blooded murder took place yesterday and they played its video on internet of slaughtering them and cutting their throats!

Lord Ahmed said, “These are evil people. I want great Japanese people to understand that Islam does not condone this type of horrific, or any type of terrorist attacks, for that matter. The Qur’an is very clear on this. A Qur’anic verse says: “There is no compulsion in religion.” Another verse says: “You are to your religion, I am to mine”, meaning I have to respect you, whether you are a Buddhist, a Christian, a Jewish or a Hindu. Whatever religion you have, I have to respect you.”

“You see, because of the lack of knowledge, when two innocent Japanese men were slaughtered by the evil ISIS, Japanese people may think whether this religion of Islam had motivated the evil people to kill.” Lord Ahmed mentioned.

Lord Ahmed also said, “I do not blame the religion of Christianity, which is a great, beautiful religion. Nor do I blame Judaism, Buddhism or Islam. It is the perverted minds of certain individuals who want to control people by force and violence.”

“Whether it is Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS or the Lord's Army in Africa, they are not Muslims in truth. Some people say this is a new challenge of terrorism. Well, ask the Ukraine Prime Minister, and he will tell you that those who are fighting in the eastern region of Ukraine are ‘terrorists’. Are they Christian terrorists? Are these people politically motivated?” Lord Ahmed maintained.

Lord Ahmed also expressed his sympathy, thoughts and prayers for the families of the two victims of the ISIS. He mentioned, “I do not think a nation should change its policy just because of the murder incidents. Those evil people responsible for doing that should be punished and, I am sure, they will be punished.”

Middle East Peace
This was the first actual visit of Lord Ahmed to Japan. While he travelled around the world; Africa, Asia or elsewhere, Lord Ahmed mentioned that he saw “numerous Japanese products such as deluxe cars, superb televisions and excellent electronics. As I am now in your beautiful country, sometimes I found even trains stations cleaner than some hospitals or schools I had visited. The virtues of cleanliness and order are essential in my religion of Islam, too.”

Lord Ahmed said, “I could come to Japan at the invitation of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). Its Chairman of Japanese Chapter, Dr. Song has already briefed about their great works for peace, most notably in the Middle East.”

Palestinian issue and the Japan’s
peace efforts in the Middle East
Lord Ahmd begin’s his discourse by saying about the Palestinian issue and the conflicts in the Middle East. While dealing with Palestinian issue, Lord Ahmed mentioned his meeting with late Chairman Yasser Arafat together with Dr. Song. “We had the pleasure of visiting the Israeli Knesset (national parliament) and talking with its Speaker. We also spent time in Gaza and at the refugee centers there,” he said.

Concerning Japan's roles for world peace, Lord Ahmed highly appreciated Japan's three-pronged peace initiatives: promoting political dialogue, building confidence and financial and economic assistances for Palestinian people. "Post-war Japan has shown remarkable achievements in helping the developing countries around the world without its own geopolitical interests or military ambition. Japan is thus well qualified to apply its proactive peace-making capacity”, he encouraged the attending Ambassadors for Peace.

On this issue, beginning with thanks to the Japanese government for its efforts, Lord Ahmed said, “Japan has granted the Palestinian people with about 1.4 billion dollars over many years in accordance with its three-pronged policy: political dialogue, confidence-building and economic assistance to the Palestinians. Japan recognizes that a solution can be achieved through the two-state solution with neither side imposing its will upon the other. It also recognizes the rights of refugees to return, declaring the Jewish settlements as illegal on the basis of the 1967 borders.”

“It supports the Arab Peace Initiative. These initiatives are supported internationally, by the masses and by our parliament, which has passed a resolution with a huge majority, as well as by many European countries through resolutions for the Palestinian State.,” Lord Ahmed said.

Current Middle East complexities
Lord Ahmed lamented, “Sadly, while we tried to find a solution for the Palestinian issue, the Arab Spring started in Tunisia on 18th December 2010, then in Libya, Egypt and Yemen. Furthermore, we have seen chaos out of the civil strife in Syria, Bahrain and Iraq. There are numerous issues to be discussed.”

“Everybody wants to find out what is the ISIS. Where did they come? How do they recruit young people? Where are they getting financial and logistic supports? Who is providing arms and ammunitions? Whether has the ISIS the ability to get chemical, biological or nuclear weapons?” Lord Ahmed raised these questions and added, “Internationally, the expectation from the United Nation’s Security Council was much higher than what they had actually delivered on Afghanistan and Iraq. To be honest, the UN has not delivered much for Afghanistan and Iraq. The most powerful military might of the ISAF consisting of 42 countries of the world could not really defeat the Taliban, which still operates in the area. Even the most sophisticated arms of the United States and the NATO could not finish off the problems! And, that was more or less similar in Iraq.”

Speaking about Afghanistan, Lord Ahmed said, “In the case of Afghanistan, you have at least a working government, enjoying popular supports from all sides. Though external politics affected the presidential elections, an agreement has been reached between President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.”

Iraq’s sectarian politics
About Iraq, Lord Ahmed observed that Iraq is much more complicated. He mentioned, “You have the Kurdish region in the north, whose interest is represented by the president of the republic. The majority of the population belongs to Shia sect of Islam and is represented by the Prime Minister, formerly Mr. Al-Maliki, recently replaced by a new prime minister. The Sunni Muslims are represented by the Speaker of the Parliament. Such a breakdown of leadership between the Sunnis, the Shias and the Kurds is responsible for what is happening today in Iraq. Of course, in Syria you have the similar problem.”

Lord Ahmed touched upon three things: He mentioned, “One is the overall divide in the Muslim world between Shia and Sunni sects of Islam, right from Afghanistan, Pakistan to Lebanon through Syria, Iraq, Iran and Yemen. There is a real issue of poverty and youth unemployment, which is over 50% under the age of 30. That is one of the core issues motivating the uprising with the cry for change owing to the failures of dictatorship, the sheikdom or the kingdom in solving those problems. You see the acute divide between the super-rich and the poor in these countries.”

“Second, resources in this region are another issue. Of course, I am talking about oil. Those countries which have oil have billions or trillions of dollars in cash, which could not provide jobs, though. In Libya, whilst late Colonel Gaddafi spent 20 billion dollars 15 years ago in the biggest man-made river project, bringing water through deserts into Tripoli, Misurata and other areas, he could not provide jobs nor prosperity for his people. Thus, resentment and frustration prevailed within his country,” Lord Ahmed mentioned.
Lord Ahmed continued, “Third point is the regional conflict over borders. No matter whether they are natural frontiers or the legacy from the Ottoman rule or demarcations made by the western colonial powers; whether it was right or not, fabricating some of these areas and putting them together by force, these borders are not working effectively today.”

Crisis in Syria
Speaking about Syrian crisis, Lord Ahmed said, “When the uprising started, a lot of people in the west very simplistically thought that, by supporting Al-Nusra Front or the Syrian Resistance Army or other opposition groups, you can overthrow the Assad regime fairly easily. Unfortunately, it did not happen, because the international players themselves played politics. Russia has a vital military base in this region. Their naval fleet would not be able to operate if the current Syrian regime falls. China had played politics, too. Had you seen some measure of unity at the UN Security Council, things would have been different. But, it was too weak to be effective. Since the problems of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Security Council became weak because the real decisions were taken outside this international body.”

UN reform a must
As for an international response, Lord Ahmed expressed hope for the United Nations as a viable mediator between various parties of conflict in the Middle East. However, the five, nuclear-powered permanent members of its Security Council abuse their veto powers, making this international body paralyzed. "The UN has become so outdated that its reform is indispensable. If the UN advocates democracy to its member states, why doesn’t it apply democracy in its own system?” he said.

Lord Ahmed argued in favour of UN reform. He said, “the so-called P5, namely; the five permanent members of the Security Council including my country of UK, needs to be reformed. I think the basis of just having nuclear weapons back from 60 years before should not be the basis of the Security Council today. Otherwise, the nuclear club should include India and Pakistan as these two nations have nuclear weapons. Also, it could include Iran and South Africa.”

“Japan does not possess a nuclear weapon but retains the nuclear technology. Why not Japan, which is the third strongest economy in the world? Why cannot Japan have a permanent seat at the Security Council?” Lord Ahmed questioned.

Lord Ahmed also maintained, “there are many arguments you can adopt to reform the Security Council. More importantly, even the UN’s General Assembly and the role of the UN itself, in terms of policing some of these horrible conflicts, need to be reformed. In connection with my country of birth, the issue of Kashmir needs to be resolved. While the UN maintains the oldest observers along the separation between India and Pakistan, it has not been able to resolve the issue.”

Lord Ahmed also argued, “There are many other disputes on which the UN could facilitate dialogues and discussions between countries concerned. I have been involved in such discussions at the highest level. Even the UN’s Deputy Secretary General visited the parliament very recently, and I discussed in a very open forum. He said that, in order to bring two sides to a table, you need two sides to agree on something.”

Lord Ahmed observed, “In case we have a powerful Security Council which would not veto on the Palestinian issue, or would not veto because of their own interests, even on Syria, then you could have a better outcome through a fair and equitable way of dealing with these problems. The failure at the Security Council in finding solutions for some of these problems, as well as disintegration of the states concerned, are very big factors.”

Japan’s roles in peace-building
Referring to peace-building role of Japan, Lord Ahmed said, “I think, Japan has a very important role in building peace around the world, playing an important role in peace-building in the Middle East, just like the UPF doing an important work at the United Nations in bringing interfaith communities together, whether it is in London or New York.”

Lord Ahmed concluded by saying, “I guess Japan is trusted around the world. I believe the main ingredient for any peace-making efforts is trust. People trust those who are doing something to build peace. I love American people, but I have to say that I do not think many people could actually trust the US administration in peace-building.”