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VTB Group and Gazprombank are vying to become the first Russian borrowers to sell Islamic debt in a bid to attract Middle Eastern investment.

VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank, aims this year to raise about $200 million selling sukuk, debt that complies with Islam’s ban on interest, Herbert Moos, the lender’s deputy chairman, said in an interview Wednesday. Gazprombank, the lending arm of gas export monopoly Gazprom, is in talks with at least 10 Moscow-based companies on arranging a sale and will meet investors in the Persian Gulf in September, said Alexander Kazakov, director of structured and syndicated finance.

“We’ll probably see an issue in dollars, ranging from $100 million to $200 million” by the end of the year, Kazakov said in an interview this week. “We’ve been talking to Russian companies from various sectors, including metals, food, oil and gas.”

The banks join borrowers in neighboring Kazakhstan as well as Thailand and Senegal in seeking to tap the $4.9 billion global sukuk market, which is predominantly centered in the Middle East and Malaysia. Yields about 6 percent would lure demand, Sarah Al-Suhaimi, who helps manage more than $2 billion of assets, at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Jadwa Investment, said in an interview this week. Average sukuk yields are at about 4.2 percent, according to the HSBC/NASDAQ Dubai U.S. Dollar Sukuk Index.

The yield on VTB’s dollar bonds due in 2015 dropped one basis point to 4.54 percent Wednesday and has declined 80 basis points so far this year, touching a record-low 4.36 percent on April 6. The lender has $17.4 billion of total debt.

Gazprombank’s 2015 dollar bonds yielded 4.81 percent Wednesday, down 94 basis points in the year. The Moscow-based bank has $4.3 billion in debt.

Sukuk sales from outside Asia and the Gulf Cooperation Council region, which includes Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, will help develop the industry, Rafael Dalmau, head of sharia-compliant portfolio management at BNP Paribas Investment Partners in Singapore, said by e-mail April 26.

“Having new issuance from countries outside the GCC and Asia is extremely beneficial to the further development of the global sukuk market,” Dalmau said. “There is an imbalance in the supply-demand equation, with the market looking for more investment-grade issues and more geographical diversification.”

Russia is rated BBB by Standard & Poor’s, its second-lowest investment grade, while Malaysia is ranked two notches higher at A-. Moody’s Investors Service ranks Russia at Baa1, the third lowest investment-grade rating.

Global sales of sukuk have climbed 20 percent this year from $4.1 billion in the same period of 2010. Issuance from the six-member GCC dropped to $964 million from $2.3 billion a year ago.

In Malaysia, the largest sukuk market, offerings of Islamic bonds climbed to 10.9 billion ringgit ($3.7 billion) this year from 5.7 billion ringgit in the same period in 2010.

Shariah-compliant bonds returned 4 percent this year, according to the HSBC/NASDAQ Dubai U.S. Dollar Sukuk Index, while debt in developing markets gained 1.7 percent, JPMorgan Chase‘s EMBI Global Diversified Index shows.

The difference between the average yield for sukuk and the London Interbank Offer Rate, or Libor, narrowed three basis points to 238 on Wednesday, while average yields dropped two basis points to 4.22 percent, according to the HSBC/NASDAQ Dubai U.S. Dollar Sukuk Index.

The extra yield investors demand to hold the Dubai Department of Finance’s 2014 bonds rather than Malaysia’s sukuk due in 2015 fell three basis points to 241.

The Bloomberg-AIBIM-Bursa Malaysia Sovereign Shariah Index, which tracks the most traded ringgit-denominated bonds, climbed to 102.06 on April 26 and is up 1 percent this year.

Scholars argue that fatwas, or laws that deem whether Islamic products are sharia-compliant, differ around the world and a Russian sukuk would have to be vetted to ensure compliance for investors in the Middle East, said Jadwa Investment’s Al-Suhaimi.

While yields of about 6 percent on the Russian bank sukuk would be attractive, “the structure used would also have to be accepted by our sharia scholars because most of the structures used by Malaysian issuers are not accepted by our scholars,” Al-Suhaimi said.

Russia set up a five-member Islamic economics department in January, Rushan Abbyasov, head of administration at the Russia Muftis Council, or board of scholars, said in an interview in Jakarta on April 1. The country doesn’t have any laws restricting sukuk issuance, he said during a 10-day visit to study sharia-compliant banking operations and meet religious leaders in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim nation.

At least two or three companies have talked with Russia’s Islamic scholars to discuss the possibility of structuring sukuk, Abbyasov said. He declined to provide names.

The agency has also translated and published four standards from the Bahrain-based Accounting & Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions, he said. That organization, which has more than 200 members, sets standards that are used in Bahrain, the Dubai International Financial Center, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Sudan and Syria, according to its web site.

“There’s strong interest in Islamic finance in Russia,” Abbyasov said. “We’ve also conducted workshops to increase awareness.”

Al Sharms Capital, a Moscow-based investment company, established the first sharia-compliant private equity fund focused on the Commonwealth of Independent States in June last year, according to a statement on its web site. Kazakhstan, a predominantly Muslim former Soviet republic to the south of Russia, may sell $500 million of Islamic bonds, Deputy Finance Minister Berik Sholpankulov said in March, Interfax reported.

Russian banks are diversifying sources of funding as they expand overseas.

VEB, the state development bank, and VTB are issuing debt in Chinese yuan this year. VTB, which is Russia’s biggest bond underwriter, is also looking to borrow more than $100 million in notes denominated in Brazilian reais by July, chief executive Andrei Kostin said in January. Bank of Moscow, Russia’s fifth-biggest lender, raised $150 million issuing Singapore dollar notes in January.

“People will look at it, but Russia has to first introduce itself to the Islamic finance industry,” John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Riyadh-based Banque Saudi Fransi, said in an April 26 interview. “It will be competing with local regional companies, which are well known in the industry. It won’t be an easy sell.”

Source : The Moscow Times

Indonesian president warns Islamic radicalism rising
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Indonesia’s president on Thursday warned that the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country was confronting a rising tide of Islamic radicalism, after a spate of hate crimes and bombings.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the sprawling archipelago’s cherished reputation for tolerance and pluralism was under attack by extremists bent on turning the nation of 240 million people into an Islamic state.

The country — praised by US President Barack Obama in November as a “model” of tolerance for the world — has been shaken by bloody assaults on religious minorities and persistent attacks by homegrown terror groups.

“I have witnessed that there has been a radicalisation movement in this nation with religious and ideological motives,” Yudhoyono said in a speech at a national development conference in Jakarta.

“If we continue to let this happen, it will threaten the character of our nation and our people.”

He said radical extremists, who make up a small but very vocal section of Indonesia’s 200 million Muslims, were encouraging young Indonesians to “love violence” and reject the law of the diverse country.

“In the long term … if it continues, it will change the character of our communities which are tolerant and love harmony and peace.

“It must not happen, we should not be passive … We have to take responsibility to save this nation and save its people and its future.”

Thirty people were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque at a police compound during Friday prayers in Cirebon, West Java, earlier this month.

Police also foiled a plot to blow up a church in Jakarta over Easter, after a detainee told them the whereabouts of five bombs.

Indonesia has won praise for rounding up hundreds of Islamist militants since it became a key battlefield in the “war on terror” in 2002 when local radicals detonated bombs on Bali island, killing 202 people, mainly Westerners.

But analysts say religious intolerance has been growing during Yudhoyono’s rule and blame the authorities for tolerating and even cooperating with hardline elements who advocate Taliban-style Islamic laws.

Yudhoyono has allied himself with conservative Muslims in the government and rarely speaks out against extremist violence, which often goes unpunished.

Extremists convicted of serious crimes under the anti-terror law frequently receive lenient sentences and are allowed to preach jihad or “holy war” to other inmates in prison.


The Bank has maintained its strong liquidity position and continues to respect the regulatory ratios, as the advances to stable funds ratio improved to 86.8% at quarter end, while placing new emphasis on carefully managing the cost of funds by not building deposits at higher costs. In addition, strong year-on-year customer activity in both the Retail and Wholesale Banking units saw ADIB’s customer numbers increase by 17.2% since Q1 2010 to more than 427,000 customers.

Furthermore, the Bank continued its conservative approach to provisioning, in line with the prudent policy of taking collective and individual provisions it introduced in 2009, and thus ensuring a healthy non-performing asset coverage ratio.

A focus on the Bank’s strategy continues to drive growth

The first quarter of 2011 saw ADIB’s management continue to take a conservative approach to the recognition of non-performing credit exposures and investments. As a result, the Bank has taken an additional Dhs151.0m in credit provisions and impairments in Q1 2011, thereby increasing total credit provisions to Dhs2.43bn, which now amounts to 4.81% of gross customer financing and represents a pre-collateral non-performing coverage ratio of 64.5%. In addition a further Dhs8.6m in impairments was taken against the Real Estate subsidiary’s portfolio. The Real Estate subsidiary posted an Dhs37.8m loss for the Q1 2011, but notwithstanding this, net profit for the Group reached Dhs303.2m. This highlights the underlying strength of the core banking operations, where the Bank posted a 17.0% growth in net profit for the quarter to Dhs339.3m.

Liquidity

ADIB maintained its position as one of the most liquid banks in the UAE with customer deposits of Dhs51.9bn (Dhs49.9bn at 31 March 2010) and a net interbank position of Dhs10.1bn. Net customer financing grew to Dhs48.1bn (Dhs42.0bn as at 31 March 2010) and the Bank ended the quarter with a customer financing to deposits ratio of 92.7% and advances to stable funds ratio of 86.8%, which is significantly better that the regulatory threshold of 100%. The quarter saw an increased focus on lowering the cost of funds on the back of ADIB’s successful benchmark $750m 3.745% profit rate sukuk issue in Q4 2010 and in support of the UAE Central Bank’s goal of lowering the interbank rate in the UAE. In this regard the current and savings accounts grew by 5.2% for the quarter to Dhs22.7bn.

Capital strength

The Bank’s capital position remains strong. Total capital resources, including both Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital, as at 31 March 2011 improved to Dhs15.7bn vs. Dhs12.6bn at 31 March 2010 (Dhs15.8bn at 31 December 2010). The Capital Adequacy ratio remained strong at 15.3% under Basel II principles (16.0% at 31 December 2010), with the Basel II Tier 1 capital ratio stable at 12.4% (13.0% at 31 December 2010).

Cost management

A focus on cost management saw operating expenses decline by 9.5% to Dhs344.7m for Q1 2011 vs. Dhs381.0m for Q4 2010. However, the investment in 11 new branches in the past 12 months, related infrastructure and human capital saw the Group’s operating expenses increase by 22.2% year-on-year, with the Group cost to income ratio increasing to 42.7%. More importantly, the Bank’s cost to income ratio was 39.8% for Q1 2011 vs. 42.7% in Q4 2010. ADIB expects the Bank’s cost to income ratio to stabilize in 2011 as the continued investment in growth is matched by further revenue increases.

Human resources

The Bank’s headcount now stands at 1,667. Furthermore, ADIB is particularly proud of the fact that by the end of Q1 2011 the Bank’s Emiratisation ratio had moved above 44%. The focus on training and enhancing the professional qualifications of staff to better serve customers is proving itself as customer satisfaction levels continue to rise, as recognized by ADIB’s award as the most improved bank for customer service in the UAE in 2010 and its top three rating in the banking sector.

Management comment

On behalf of the Board of Directors and the management team, ADIB’s CEO, Tirad Mahmoud, said, “The first quarter of 2011 has seen us maintain our strategic momentum, enabling us to post a Group net profit of Dhs303.2m for Q1 2011. More importantly, our banking operations delivered a record quarterly net profit of Dhs339.3m. The foundations of our growth remain customer service excellence, best practice risk management and qualified staff led by an experienced management team. This, when combined with our outstanding capital and liquidity position, means that our growth is sustainable and ADIB’s strategy to become a top tier UAE bank and global Islamic bank remains on track despite the continued global economic challenges and events closer to home.”

“The Bank has maintained its strong liquidity position and continues to respect the regulatory ratios, as the advances to stable funds ratio improved to 86.8% at quarter end, while also placing new emphasis on carefully managing the cost of funds by not building deposits at higher costs. We are fully supportive of the efforts of the regulatory authorities to reduce the costs of banking in the UAE while simultaneously encouraging the responsible use of credit by consumers. As a major bank in this country we have decided to take a leading role in this regard, including the launch of our Smart Money initiative. Smart Money is a step-by-step guide to a balanced financial life and look forward to providing the community at large with ways in which they can increase their savings and spend wisely,” Tirad Mahmoud said.

“In regard to provisioning, ADIB is now acknowledged as being in line with best practice when it comes to our recognition of non-performing accounts and providing against these, having preempted the UAE Central Bank guidelines. We have therefore continued to be prudent and take appropriate individual provisions on the impaired portfolio in line with our 90 days past due and conservative collateral recognition approach, adding a further Dhs126.2m in Q1 2011 versus Dhs58.7m in the corresponding quarter last year. Since the new management team took over early in 2008, total credit provisions and impairments have increased to Dhs3,007m from Dhs404m at the end of 2007. The two remedial management units we established in 2009 are now very active as we continue to work with those customers who are in genuine difficulty, and actively engage with us, to assist them in the sustainable restructuring of their financing,” he added.

“Turning to our collective provisioning, our policy has been refined to recognize both the UAE Central Bank guidelines and best practice accounting standards and our provisions in this regard increased by Dhs27.5m in Q1 2011, to stand at Dhs602.9m,” he said.

Other ADIB Group companies

ADIB Securities:

Commenting on the performance of other Group companies besides the core banking business, Tirad said, “ADIB’s stock brokerage subsidiary has had a challenging quarter given the low volumes, lack of new offerings and general uncertainty that continues to impact the equity markets. It is therefore a credit to the management team at ADIB Securities that they managed to post a profit of Dhs1.3m for the quarter and grow their market share to over 7%.

Burooj Properties:

“Burooj, the Group’s real estate subsidiary, continues to be operated independently from the banking and financial services business. Burooj posted a loss of Dhs37.8m for the Q1 2011, including a further Dhs8.6m in impairments, compared to the profit of Dhs2.1m in the Q1 2010. We expect Burooj to sustain further losses in 2011 and we will continue to manage costs and focus its business model until there is a meaningful and sustained change in the real-estate market.

Outlook for 2011

“Providing guidance on the Bank’s direction for rest of 2011, Tirad said, “While we expect 2011 to be another year of muted global economic activity, we are closely monitoring what is happening in the broader region and its follow-on impact on some of our customers and operations. We are also aware of the increasingly competitive environment in which we operate in the UAE and the increased regulatory oversight that is being brought to bear on the market as a whole, all of which makes the year ahead a challenging one and we therefore expect single digit growth in both assets and liabilities. Furthermore, while the brunt of the legacy portfolio’s cost of credit was absorbed in 2009, and we took further action in 2010, we expect to continue to take prudent measures as necessary for both the Bank and Burooj portfolios during the course of the year. However, despite these realities, ADIB remains on a clear growth trajectory and we will continue to focus on building our banking and financial services businesses both in the UAE and abroad as opportunities present themselves.”

Gratitude

The Board of Directors, executive management and members of ADIB staff wish to extend their sincere appreciation and gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to the UAE Central Bank and to the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority, our shareholders and our clients for their continued trust in and support of ADIB.



AYE ISHQ E NABI MERE DIL MEIN BHI SAMA JANA
MUJHKO BHI MUHAMMAD(SA)KA DEEWANA BANA JANA
======================================
US WAKT JO ROOMI(RA)PE JO RANG CHARAYA THA
US RANG KI KUCH RANGAT MUJH PE BHI CHARA JANA
MUJHKO BHI MUHAMMAD(SA)KA DEEWANA BANA JANA
======================================
QUDRAT KI NIGAHEIN BHI JIS CHEHREY KO TAKTI THI
US CHEHRA E ANWAR KA DEEDAR KARA JANA
AYE ISHQ E NABI MERE DIL MEIN BHI SAMA JANA
======================================
JIS KHWAB MEIN HOJAEY DEEDAR E NABI HAASIL
AYE ISHQ KABHI MUJH KO NEEND AISI SULA JANA
MUJHKO BHI MUHAMMAD(SA)KA DEEWANA BANA JANA
======================================
DEEDAR E MUHAMMAD(SA)KI HASRAT TO RAHI BAAKI
JUZ ISKE HAR EK HASRAT IS DIL SE MITA JANA
AYE ISHQ E NABI MERE DIL MEIN BHI SAMA JANA
======================================
DUNYA SE JAB HO TUMKO BAQI KI TARAF JANA
DAGH E GHAM E AHMED SEY SEENEY KO SAJA JANA
AYE ISHQ NABI MERE DIL MEIN BHI SAMA JANA
MUJHKO BHI MUHAMMAD(SA)KA DEEWANA BANA JANA
======================================
SHAMIM REHMAN


The Rev. Terry Jones is to file an appeal today in Wayne County Circuit Court over a Dearborn court’s decision against him last week that thwarted his plans to protest outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, an attorney said Monday.

“It was a clear violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, which is representing Jones.

Jones, the Florida pastor who ordered the burning of a Quran last month, was to protest Friday outside the mosque in Dearborn, but Wayne County prosecutors filed an unusual complaint against him, saying he would breach the peace if he rallied.

A jury agreed with prosecutors and Jones was briefly jailed, then released after posting a $1 bond. He was banned from the mosque and adjacent property for three years.

“This is America, not a banana republic,” Thompson said Monday. “We still revere the Constitution. … We have to protect Terry Jones and anyone else who has a right to free speech rather than throw them in jail.”

This is the latest effort by the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian group, to fight what it sees as the growth of radical Islam in the U.S.

The center also filed a lawsuit this year on behalf of four Christian missionaries arrested in Dearborn and against the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation bus system after it refused to run ads critics said were anti-Islam.

Dearborn officials and Wayne County prosecutors have said that if Jones protested at the mosque, it might lead to possible violence because of Jones’ past actions.

Source : Detroit Free Press

Christian leader sorry for Anzac tweets
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The head of the Australian Christian Lobby and former special forces soldier Jim Wallace has “unreservedly” apologised for commenting against gay marriage and Muslims on Anzac Day.

Jim Wallace, the managing director of ACL, wrote on Twitter this morning: “Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!”

“What they fought for was freedom from prejudice and persecution. For all Australians!” one user said in reply, while another wrote: “Perhaps you need to remember that many gay servicemen and women also fought and died for Australia.”

Mr Wallace later apologised for his tweet, writing that “this was the wrong context to raise these issues”.

“ANZACs mean to much to me to demean this day, not intended.”

Mr Wallace, a former Special Air Service (SAS) commander from January 1988 and December 1990, told smh.com.au he had never intended to politicise Anzac Day and the responses were a “misrepresentation” of his comments.

“I apologise – I would never want to politicise Anzac day – never my intention,” Mr Wallace said.

“The interpretation that is being made of this – that I am saying that Australians didn’t fight for everybody – is totally wrong.

“I was a soldier. I know full well how soldiers feel and think. Anyone defending Australia or serving in the defence force is doing it for every Australian. … Even in the time of Anzacs, there were not only gays but Afghans in Australia.

“But I think the Judeo-Christian heritage that framed the nature of Australia that these fellows fought for is very important. We should be trying to preserve it.”

Mr Wallace said he was spending time with his father when he wrote the first tweet.

“The context of it was that I was sitting there beside my father, who was a 96-year-old veteran of Tobruk and Milne Bay and he was lamenting how he couldn’t recognise the Australia he fought for.

“And my ill-timed Twitter was just reflecting the nature of Australia that people fought for is different and I think it’s being redefined all the time. ”

Source : Sydney Morning Herald

Gadhafi backed efforts against al-Qaida: DND reports
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Western politicians have labeled Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi a despot and a brutal dictator but Defence Department reports portray him in another way — as a staunch ally in the war against al-Qaida and Islamic extremism.

Gadhafi’s efforts against al-Qaida-backed forces and his co-operation with the U.S. in providing information on terrorist networks are highlighted in a number of DND reports from 2002, 2003 and 2006, and obtained by the Ottawa Citizen under the Access to Information law.

Those, combined with other reports that Britain and France — two of the most vocal nations in pushing for Gadhafi’s removal — had recently tried to sell him new warplanes, show how quickly international alliances can shift.

British special forces, who just two years ago trained Gadhafi’s troops, are now being prepared to go into Libya to train rebels who are trying to overthrow him. That effort is underway even though there are concerns some rebel fighters are linked to al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.

When asked about the al-Qaida link to the rebels, NATO commander Adm. James Stavridis pointed out the leadership of the opposition forces is made up of “responsible men and women.”

But he added: “We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al-Qaida, Hezbollah.”

Stavridis noted however he didn’t have enough information to determine whether there is a significant al-Qaida presence among the rebels.

For more than two decades, Gadhafi’s regime had been associated with terrorism, having provided the IRA with weapons as well as being linked to the murder of 270 people killed in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988.

But his image among western countries appears to have been rehabilitated because of his decision to pay compensation to the families of the Pan Am victims and his efforts against al-Qaida, suggest the DND reports.

“Libya has taken a strong stand against terrorism since 11 September,” noted one of the studies, adding that Libya provided the U.S. with intelligence on al-Qaida affiliates in the Philippines.

The Defence Department reports pointed out that Gadhafi’s forces were successful in attacking terrorist training camps in parts of the country and seriously weakening a rebel group associated with al-Qaida. That group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, set up in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, had tried to assassinate Gadhafi on several occasions.

A June 2003 DND report noted the Libyan regime “perceives radical Islam as its mortal enemy.”

In exchange for information on al-Qaida, the U.S. State Department put the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group on its list of terrorist groups.

Just last week, Libyan forces killed Abdel-Moneim Mokhtar, who was a leading members of the NATO-backed rebels now trying to overthrow Gadhafi. But Mokhtar had also been a top commander in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

A Canadian intelligence report written in late 2009 also described the anti-Gadhafi stronghold of eastern Libya an “epicentre of Islamist extremism” and said “extremist cells” operated in the region. That is the region now being defended by a Canadian-led NATO coalition.

The report by the government’s Integrated Threat Assessment Centre said “several Islamist insurgent groups” were based in eastern Libya and mosques in Benghazi were urging followers to fight in Iraq.

But extremists operating in eastern Libya were not the only forces Gadhafi had to deal with.

DND’s report notes that in 2004 Libyan troops found a training camp in the country’s southern desert that had been used by an Algerian terrorist group that would later change its name to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM.

That group was behind the 2008 kidnapping of Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay.

There have also been reports that surface to air missiles and other equipment looted from Libyan ammunition dumps in rebel-controlled territory have made their way into the hands of AQIM.

But Canadian Forces spokesman Brig.-Gen. Richard Blanchette says he has no solid information about the missiles.

“This is always a very fluid situation on the ground where there is an attack on an area where full control is not established,” he explained. “We do not have troops on the ground, therefore the assessment we can make on this situation is limited to what is available through our intelligence services trying to gather as much information as possible.”

Still other reports have come to light about Islamic extremists in rebel ranks. The Wall Street Journal reported that Sufyan Ben Qumu, a Libyan army veteran who worked for Osama bin Laden’s holding company in Sudan and later for an al-Qaida-linked charity in Afghanistan, is training rebel recruits.

He spent six years at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay.

Abdel Hakim al-Hasady, an influential Islamic preacher who spent five years at a training camp in eastern Afghanistan, also oversees recruitment and training for some rebels.

The Libyan rebels have denied any links to al-Qaida.

Source : Vancouver Sun

Clergy united in their mission to protest rally by Florida pastor
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Some members of the interfaith clergy — Muslims, Christians and Jews — stood hand in hand, others were linked arm in arm, silently surrounding the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn in solidarity Thursday afternoon.

With them stood about 700 people, members of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, members of the clergies’ congregations and supporters.

Their mission was to protest Florida Pastor Terry Jones’ plan to hold a rally today outside the Islamic Center mosque.

Jones, known for burning a copy of the Quran — the Muslim holy book — a month ago as a protest against Islam was nearby at a Dearborn courthouse as Wayne County prosecutors and Dearborn police argued to make Jones pay a bond to cover the cost of security for the Dearborn rally.

The vigil began at 5:15 p.m. and ended five minutes later. As it came to a close, Islamic Center Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini said the Muslim community was “indebted to our Christian friends who have showed us absolute support.”

“Terry Jones, he is not representative of the Christian community. … Terry Jones is speaking for himself only,” Al-Qazwini said. “This is bigotry, and we condemn his bigotry.”

Al-Qazwini and other Islamic Center officials also directed the Muslim community to attend a peaceful protest at 4 p.m. today at the Dearborn Civic Center, away from the mosque “so as to avoid any confrontation.”

Before the vigil, the InterFaith Leadership Council hosted a nearly one-hour “Vigil for the Beloved Community” program inside the Islamic Center.

A sign outside the large banquet hall read: “Pastor Terry Jones Does Not Speak on Behalf of Christians.”

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly Jr. and U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat, attended the event, along with the heads of Islamic, Christian and Jewish organizations.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Archdiocese of Detroit also attended the event.

“We have an opportunity to show the nation and the world that it is possible for peoples of many different faiths to respect one another and to foster mutual understanding,” said Vigneron, who also spoke at the program.

The various speakers received frequent rounds of applause and standing ovations as they spoke in support of the Muslim community.

The Rev. Ron Griffin of the Rose of Sharon Church of God in Christ in Detroit attended the program and vigil, and said the event was important.

“We’ve got to stop allowing fringe individuals to come and divide us,” he said. “We need to send a message that we’re not going to allow that.”

The large crowd quickly dispersed after the vigil, but Islamic Center officials and members continued to hold a meeting to discuss the protest and counter-protests.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Jones has brought the various faith communities together for a purpose.

“Now that the bridges are built, we need to cross those bridges,” he said.

Source : Detroit Free Press

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