SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Palestinian architect Naseer Arafat has dedicated much of his life and work to the restoration and preservation of buildings in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus. Last year, his extensive research and work came to fruition as Nablus, City of Civilizations, an impressive and extensive architectural and historical survey of the ancient city.
Through twelve detailed units, the book describes Nablus’ long history, from the Canaanite era to the second intifada, when many of its historical buildings were demolished or damaged during the Israeli invasion. Historical photographs, maps and building plans describe the many architectural treasures of the city. Beyond this, through oral stories, Arafat includes a social history that breathes life into the city as it exists today.
Published in Nablus by the Cultural Heritage Enrichment Center, the book is available in Arabic and English. Arafat recently spoke to The Electronic Intifada contributor Daryl Meador.
Daryl Meador: Can you speak a little bit about your history and relationship with Nablus and architecture?
Naseer Arafat: It’s the city where I live; I was born here. The relationship with architecture was built by the stories I got from my parents. They lived in a big house, 675 square meters, three floors; it was demolished by the British in 1938. So not only my parents, but my aunts and uncles from both sides were all living together in that house. My aunt, whenever the house was mentioned, she would sadly remember the moment when, with her hair wet, she was tossed out of the house into the street, and the British blew it up.
Also, my father’s uncle all the time spoke about the visitors who would come to the house because he was selling costumes and clothes out of it. Visitors would stay in the guest part of the house for three days, fed and hosted.
So that memory of the place, of the building, made me always imagine the size of the house and the situation of my family in it. I sadly connected this with loss, especially because where I live now is in a house that is in the garden of the old house. The old house is partially now a garden and partially a street where I used to walk every day. I would imagine which part of the house I was walking on. So that was the passion towards an ancient house and what it meant to my family.
I studied architecture at Birzeit, and volunteered to bring visitors to the university on tours in Nablus. After that I worked as an architect responsible for the national register of historical buildings in Palestine. This enabled me to discover Nablus as a treasured place with an urban fabric, with monuments. This was not known to me before. The more I worked in the city, walked through the alleys and streets, I discovered the richness of it.
Then as I worked, I decided I would write something about the city. I started collecting data and photographs, maps — whatever I could collect on the city.
DM: What kind of resources did you use?
NA: At that time I went to the Rockefeller museum in Jerusalem and saw documents and old photos of Nablus. Later I went to study restoration at York University and I visited what is called the Palestine Exploration Fund, which is a small association off Oxford Street in London. There I found huge old photographs of Nablus printed on glass.
I managed to collect unique photographs from the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, which is the French antiquities school. I managed to collect photos from Istanbul, the archive of the Sultan Abd al-Hamid II, from Berlin, the antiquities department and the Mandate Museum in London. At all these places I could find old photos of Nablus and use some for the book.
I also collected family photos. From some families you have photos of their houses and there was an Austrian researcher who came to Nablus in ‘96, and took photos of all of the houses in Nablus. So I managed to find some photos of houses destroyed by the Israelis in 2002. This was very emotional for the people whose houses were lost.
Two soap factories which were demolished, I managed to find photos of these as well. And by chance I was able to survey one factory before it was demolished, so its plan and façade are in the book.
DM: Does the book discuss the Israeli invasion and destruction?
NA: Yes it does. What the Israelis are doing to Nablus and the old city has been continuous since the occupation started. So the book is not just architectural; it starts with an architectural description, but also has social, political, economical, cultural interpretations of the buildings described. This is, I think, what makes the book special. I am an architect, so the starting point of my research and writing was architecture. But architecture is just a building, and it is a rigid description to just talk about the look and materials of a building. I felt that the richness of the building is the social life of the building, maybe the economical life of the market, also the cultural livelihood of the fabric.
So whenever there was a linked story to a building, I never hesitated to write it.
DM: And how did you find the stories?
NA: From people. Especially elderly people, I interviewed many of them. And they told me real stories.
DM: What are some examples of the personal stories linked to buildings?
NA: There are so many — one of them is about a mufti, he had the highest seat in Islam, who was from Nablus, appointed by the Ottomans. The British commander in Nablus wanted to meet the community leaders in Nablus. This man made an appointment to meet the sheikh. The reception is always downstairs and the house is above, all the time. So he gathered community leaders of Nablus to meet the guy, and when they were waiting, the mufti was nervously walking and not relaxed. People were asking what was wrong with him. All of the sudden, he went upstairs to his house.
The people were surprised because this is not the way you receive your guests, but they couldn’t have a word with him; he was upstairs in his house. The British commander came, they called upon the mufti and he came down and had a chat and the people left.
But the Nabulsis still didn’t understand, and they asked the mufti why he did that. He said, “Guys, if I was sitting and waiting for the guest, when he came I would have to stand up to respect and welcome him. But I went up, and when he came I came down to him, and he stood up for me. That’s how we should receive the occupier.”
Another story that is very nice is related to what we call in modern times, gender-sensitive issues. In one of the Turkish baths, if you look at the sides of the main hall there is a higher stage where people sit. When I surveyed this in 1992 — I was a student then — there used to be couches, fancy and relaxing seats, not like the stones on the other side. It indicated that this was a special place for people to sit.
The wife of the judge in Nablus, which was the highest position in town, she wanted to have a bath here. The lady who looks after the guests told her “Madam, you can’t sit there, this is only for VIPs, you are not allowed to sit there.” The wife of the judge left angry and didn’t have a bath.
She told her husband, and as the story goes he slapped the table, and he said “I will show them.” What can we expect from the most powerful person in town? He built a special bath for his wife. And he built a tunnel in between his house and the bath so that the bath is only reserved for her, and so that no one can see her when she leaves.
DM: Does the bath still exist?
NA: Yes, and it’s called al-Qadi; it means “the Judge” bath. It is used as a sweets factory now, not as a bath.
DM: The book features poems that are inscribed on buildings in Nablus. Are those common on all historical buildings?
NA: Every monument in Nablus, and some of the houses, have a written inscription which most of the time is a poem. This poem is the most honest documentation of the building date. So I managed to read some, [and] copy what others have read from what were lost.
From the poems I could calculate when the building was built. In Arabic, every letter has a corresponding number — alif is one, ba is two, etc. So if you take the letters of the last phrase of the poem, and you find the equivalent number of each letter and sum them up, you get the year that each building was built. It is a brilliant way of writing a poem.
DM: And they are included in the book?
NA: All of the poems are included with a photo and a copy of the text of the poem.
DM: Can you say one final thing about why Nablus is unique, historically and architecturally?
NA: There is a lot to say about Nablus. I would say that Nablus, at the time that it was built as an Islamic city, during the Mamluk Ottoman period, it was the center of everything. It was the capital of trade. The city was well known for its powerful economy that attracted not only the plans for making the olive oil soap from Jordan, but also the costumes that were exported to Europe and exhibited during the Ottoman period.
The fields of Nablus were where olive trees and cotton plants were planted, because we have four water springs and cotton needs a lot of water.
Also, it was the center of science. Students from Azhar [University] in Egypt would come study in Nablus. There were four schools in the old city of Nablus.
In modern history, before Israeli occupation, there were four buses leaving Nablus every morning — one to Beirut, one to Damascus, one to Jerusalem, and one to Amman. Every morning. My father used to say he would arrive in Damascus before shops opened. The Hijaz train, which took pilgrims from Palestine, Jordan and Syria to Saudi Arabia, started from Nablus. So I could say simply, Nablus was the center of everything for the neighboring countries. You could say it is a unique city.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Hojatul-Islam Seyyed Hassan Khomeini continued by saying that the Fiqh (religious jurisprudence) exists because of the questions. The questions must be answered or should say ‘do not know’ which in itself is a big anomaly in Sunni Islam. The traditionalists (followers of ahle-hadith) believe it is not necessary to have an answer for any topic. They believe that one should not enter into the question and answer sessions regarding the traditions as this will lead to dispersion in Fiqh, so they say accept what it is and do not ask beyond it.
Seyyed Hassan Khomeini pointed to the fact that almost all Muslims accept that there are various Fiqhs within Islamic world. Meaning Sunnis can have different Fiqhs within limits and Shias who believe in a framework which allows research within that framework. The point that has not been accepted so far is that there are differences amongst denominations which also include the Fiqh. He believes a righteous and just person is the one, who does not commit sins on purpose but may make mistakes. However, infallibles (Ma’asomeen) do not make mistakes.
The Grandson of Imam Khomeini said to Shafaqna that he considers the Shia Fiqh as the analytical extent of the reality of the religion. He added that, by Shia he meant, Shia Athna Ashari (Shias who believe in 12 Imams). In his response to a question by Shafaqna regarding the ethics in web and internet space, he said: Unfortunately the internet and web space is not a polite and ethical one. Maybe this is due to the fact that the individuals are transformed into cyber personalities. Seyyed Hassan Khomeini said we should know that the bad and malicious acts will return to us. Therefore to combat the ethical problems in cyber space, more of the cyber identities should be replaced by real ones.
Fiqh is an attempt to find the jewel (origin, essence) of the religion / appearance of Fiqh is from the existence of questions
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – On its first anniversary, Shafaqna arranged an exclusive interview with Hojatul-Islam Seyyed Hassan Khomeini. The Grand Son of Imam Khomeini started his talk by describing the relation between Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and the religion. He said the relation is the same as other sciences like Physics, Chemistry, etc. have with the reality; Fiqh is also an attempt to find the religion. The religion and Allah’s instructions are realities which are analysed by various Fiqhs and based on these varying analysis, various Fiqhs are also formed. The analysis of Hanafi forms the Hanafi Fiqh.
Seyyed Hassan Khomeini says that the differences which exist between Fiqhs are like differences in other sciences and the difference lies in the methods of analysis. Therefore the Faqihs are trying to get to the reality which is called the religion and then explain this reality or jewel to the people. Various denominations have different routes to reach the jewel of the religion, Shia and Sunni have differences of opinion, Shia says Abu-Horaireh’s way is closed and we should follow the Ahlul Bait’s way. So when there are different ways in reporting the reality then there will be various denominations.
Seyyed Hassan says the doors are open to research of theological laws in Shia Islam but closed in Sunni Islam. He pointed to the time after the passing away of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) and said, the morning after his passing away, the questions started. For example, in Hajj ceremony where should we get Mohrem (to change to white robes)? Or if a Mohrem person goes in a shade what will happen? Or should we pray with closed hands or open hands? And many queries like these. It is not possible to answer all these question in the same way.
To be continued
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Syrian President Bashar al Assad has heavily criticised the British government, calling it "shallow and immature".
In an interview with The Sunday Times, he dismissed any suggestion that Britain could help to resolve the conflict saying: "We do not expect an arsonist to be a firefighter."
He said Britain was not trusted by many in the Middle East, saying its has been viewed as "unconstructive" in the region for centuries.
"There's no contact between Syria and Britain for a long time.
"You cannot separate the role from the credibility, and you cannot separate the credibility from the history of that country.
"To be frank, Britain has played famously in our region (an) unconstructive role in different issues, for decades, some say for centuries."
He added: "How can we expect to ask Britain to play a role while it's determined to militarise the problem?
"How can you ask them to play a role in making the situation better, more stable, how can we expect them to make the violence less when they want to send the military supply to the terrorist?
"I think they are working against us, and they are working against the interests of the UK itself.
"This Government is acting in a naïve, confused, and unrealistic manner. If they want to play a role they have to change this, they have to act in a more reasonable and responsible way."
Earlier this week the Syrian Government said it is ready for talks with its armed opponents.
However, Syrian rebel leader Selim Idris said there could be no negotiations unless Mr Assad stepped down and leaders of the army and security forces were put on the trial.
The UN estimates that around 70,000 people have been killed since fighting began in Syria almost two years ago.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The Pebble Smart watch is one of the best-known Kickstarter projects. A compact e-ink device designed to work with almost any smartphone, the Pebble grabbed attention when it hit $10 million and sold 85,000 watches after expecting to sell 5,000 .
Eric had to go from a tiny, one or two man operation to a company with 11 employees all dedicated to building the watch. While they expected originally to build the watches in California, they suddenly had to move to China to begin ramping up production.
Eric explained why the company missed its initial ship date – essentially because they suddenly had to make thousands more watches – and told us how it felt to move from a business with 0 orders to a powerhouse with 85,000 orders in a month.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- After months of searching, you’ve finally landed an interview for the job of your dreams. You’ve chosen your wardrobe, you've Googled the company so you can intelligently discuss the issues, and you've considered the questions you could be asked. That’s fine. But if you haven’t brushed up on the questions you want to ask the interviewer, you’re neglecting a key part of your preparation – the part that might win you the job.
Recruiters and executives who are actively hiring will tell you they get three types of questions: no questions, bad questions, and – very rarely – memorable questions. The candidates who ask the memorable ones often get the offers.
A recruiter for a well-known, fast-growing technology company told me: “You’d be surprised how many job candidates have absolutely no questions for me at all, or they ask dumb or boring questions like ‘So what do you do?'"
By asking questions – and not just any questions but memorable, thought-provoking ones – you come across as a cut above the average candidate.
It makes sense. After all, anyone can anticipate common interview questions and craft what they think are impressive answers ahead of time. But candidates who ask insightful, incisive questions prove they’re thinkers and connectors.
You can tell people all day long how qualified you are, how talented you are, and what a tremendous asset to the company you would be. But no statement ever has as much impact as a well-timed, well-executed question. In all situations, power questions help us connect and engage with others in meaningful ways.
You want a recruiter or executive who interviews you to tell a colleague afterward: “I had a great conversation with that candidate. He had really thought a lot about our business.” That’s what gets you the callback. And good questions are the way you create a thought-provoking, value-added conversation.
Avoid these types of questions in a job interview:
Don’t take up a manager’s time by asking “how much vacation will I get?” Get the basic information you need before you go in for an interview.
If someone can give a “yes” or “no” answer, it diminishes your prospects for having a good conversation.
An executive is interested in how you will add value to her organization and whether or not you’re a good fit. Skip questions like “I skydive every Saturday – so will I ever be asked to work weekends?”
The 10 questions you should ask in a job interview:
1. Credibility-building questions:
“As I think back to my experience in managing large sales forces, I’ve found there are typically three barriers to breakthrough sales performance: co-ordination of the sales function with marketing and manufacturing, customer selection, and product quality. In your case, do you think any of these factors are holding back your sales growth? What do you believe are your own greatest opportunities for increasing sales effectiveness?”
2. “Why?” questions:
“Why did you close down your parts business rather than try to find a buyer for it?” or “Why did you decide to move from a functional to a product-based organization structure?”
3. Personal understanding questions:
“I understand you joined the organization five years ago. With all the growth you’ve had, how do you find the experience of working here now compared to when you started?”
4. Passion questions:
“What do you love most about working here?”
5. Value-added advice questions:
“Have you considered creating an online platform for your top account executives, so that they can share success stories and collaborate better around key client opportunities? We implemented such a concept a year ago, and it’s been very successful.”
6. Future-oriented questions:
“You’ve achieved large increases in productivity over the last three years. Where do you believe future operational improvements will come from?”
7. Aspiration questions:
“As you look ahead to the next couple of years, what are the potential growth areas that people are most excited about in the company?”
8. Organizational culture questions:
“What are the most common reasons why new hires don’t work out here?” or “What kinds of people really thrive in your organization?”
9. Decision-making questions:
“If you were to arrive at two final candidates with equal experience and skills, how would you choose one over the other?”
10. Company strengths and weaknesses questions:
“Why do people come to work for you rather than a competitor? And why do you think they stay?”
In general, good questions prove you’ve done your homework. They show you’re not just concerned about yourself but that you’ve given some thought to the future of the company. They allow you to demonstrate your knowledge without sounding arrogant. And they greatly improve your chances that the interviewer will like you – and we tend to hire those we like. If you want to be noticed by recruiters, don’t talk more. Instead, ask better questions. You’ll soon find yourself answering the best question of all: How soon can you start?
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) --
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —BBC’s interview with Tony Blair the ex- Prime Minister of Britain on 16 September 2012 attracted negative reactions from the media and NGO’s in the UK. The Guardian newspaper published an article on 17 September asking “Why is the deluded, self-justifying Tony Blair given airtime? Guardian article believes that Blair's radio interview on the Islamic film protests shows exactly why millions distrust what he and his cronies have done. Whilst in a letter of protest, Ministry of Peace (MoP) a UK based NGO condemned the interview with Blair accusing BBC of “lending him undeserved publicity to excuse his crimes.”
This wide-ranging interview included Blair’s views on his own religious beliefs, Islam, Middle East the global economic crisis, the movement of power from Europe to Asia and the concept of liberal interventionism with regards Iraq and Afghanistan. Regarding his religion, Blair said: "you can't divorce your religious faith from how you are as a person. I've been going to mass for 25 years, my kids were brought up Catholic, my wife is Catholic so it just felt home to me." He admitted that as a Prime Minister his decisions were not based on religion by saying "You can't ask God what to do".
Regarding the Catholic Church and recent child abuse scandals, Blair said: “Of course there is that dark side that has to be dealt with but it shouldn’t obscure the immense good the Catholic Church does and people of religious faith do.” On the issue of the Middle East, he thinks there are two narratives to Islam; one is that Muslims are returning to their Islamic roots and the other, going towards modernisation.
Guardian’s article expresses amazement at BBC’s decision to interview Blair by saying: “It's a cruel and unusual punishment for any Monday morning, having to listen to Tony Blair on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Why the programme's editors chose to interview the former prime minister on the controversy over the anti-Islamic film that has triggered demonstrations throughout much of the world is beyond me. The man who has done more than most to contribute to anti-western feeling among Muslims in the Middle East and Asia is called upon to tell us why Muslims shouldn't be angry about anything.”
In his interview Blair claimed the anti-Islam film was "laughable". He also said those who reacted against it by demonstrating were "very dangerous and wrong". Guardian’s article asks “why are Muslims so sensitive on this question?” Then it answers “Maybe the answer comes not just from one crude and racist film, but from long years of hurt caused by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, imprisonment without trial by western-backed dictators, extraordinary rendition and torture, the burning of the Qur'an by US troops in Afghanistan, and the air strikes, barely acknowledged in the west, which this weekend alone killed eight women and girls.”
Blair told BBC that in his opinion the great debate in the world at the moment is between the open- minded and the closed-minded. In response Guardian’s article said: “As usual, here Blair casts himself in the role of decent liberal. But some of his closest allies in these wars have been the US neocons, known for their narrow conservatism. And Blair himself has refused to ever acknowledge that he has done anything wrong over the invasion of Iraq. His ‘open-mindedness’ never extended to taking on board public opinion, which from that time has been consistently anti-war.”
Blair said that most of the killings in Afghanistan and Iraq were the victims not of western intervention but of sectarian killings. Of course documents and evidences show that millions of innocent people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and millions have been displaced. Sectarian killings, destitute refugees pouring into neighboring countries such as Iran, are the result of war and occupation and the policies to divide the communities, a nasty imperialistic way of dominating other countries.
Guardian’s article concluded by saying “Millions in the Middle East and south Asia have suffered as a result of these wars. Hardly surprising therefore that they have reasons to dislike, distrust and oppose what Blair and his cronies have done – and what they are still doing. Blair is a great enthusiast for future wars, especially against Iran. He should be treated as the persistent offender that he actually is, not given primetime slots for yet more delusional self-justification.”
In another protest, Ministry of Peace published to the media, a letter they sent to the BBC’s Controller. The full content of that letter is presented below.
Asking Anthony Blair to comment on Middle East unrest is like asking a serial killer on the run to advise on appeasing his victims. It lends him undeserved publicity to excuse his crimes and further undermines the BBC's withering reputation for prejudicial handling of delicate issues abroad. Your interviewer on Today (16th Sept) challenged Blair on some of his defences but did not follow-up where they were wrong or deceptive. This needs to be redressed.
He tried to define 'democracy' saying: "A test of democracy is how you treat minorities..." He has an appalling record in mistreating minorities: In Afghanistan and Iraq, which he is complicit in illegally invading, all 'minorities', especially those opposed to brutal occupation, still suffer death, destruction and economic deprivation under the forces of avaricious 'democracies'. Failed. His insensitivity to Muslim people's anti-Western feelings is exposed by his naive question: "How do they think it is justified to kill people over [the anti-Islam film]?
" An answer is that angry mobs in the Muslim world justifiably react against agents of the 'Axis of Evil', namely the Triumvirate (US, UK + Israel), after decades of anti-Islamic wars, orchestrated by the neo-Con Friends of Israel. How does he 'think it justified' to kill Palestinian children for throwing stones at Israeli tanks? How is it 'justified' to bomb Gaza with phosphor bombs, killing 1,400 civilians, because their legitimate resistance fighters lobbed a few rockets over the [illegal] wall? How does he 'justify' killing over 2.5 million Iraqis (including about a million who died as result of the 13-year siege) on false allegations about their stocks of wmd? And how does he 'justify' the untold deaths and destruction in Afghanistan over harbouring one or two people accused, on faulty evidence, of the '9-11' attacks?
Blair's general excuse was: "Once you lift the lid off a repressive dictatorship, there will be [tribal conflict]." But stories of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship were part of contrived war propaganda to defame and disarm Iraq as a perceived threat to Israel. If true, why did this violence not feature at his trial? He was hung for signing Judicial Warrants for executing assassins in 1984, not for 'atrocities' endlessly exaggerated by the media. If his regime was so 'repressive', how did Iraq top the UNESCO statistics for improving education, health, water and electricity distribution in the Middle East by 1990?Who is the dictator now?
An underlying cause of unrest in the Middle East is the artificial designation of Arab countries by the 'Allies' after WW11, for strategic and monopolistic interests, with little regard for ethnic or religious differences. They needed strong men to hold the peace and make progress. But as they each come to the aid of Palestine, so they have been defamed and destroyed. So the main cause of unrest in the Muslim world is the hostile creation of Israel in Palestine, where the minority Palestinian population was abandoned by the UK to oppression by the violent Zionist Apartheid regime.
This has cheated them out of their Human Rights, let alone their land, for six decades while the Triumvirate covers up its crimes, by false and prejudiced propaganda, by illegal trade in arms and produce and by subverting legal process. Syria is now similarly blackened by false accusations from dissident foreign rebels used by the Triumvirate war-mongers to foster de-stabilization,
bloodshed and destruction. All this helps Israel, in the event of its threatened attack on Iran, to keep Syria busy at home. Mr Blair's last ditch defence was that 'elements in the Middle East are resisting 'modernization''.
Unfortunately, the Triumvirate model of 'modernization' consists in repression; surveillance; injustice; illegal war; military violence; lawless occupation; rape of resources; dictatorship from afar; corruption of the UN by arm-twisting and vetoes; twisting facts via media and advertising; financial fraud; unbridled usury; moral degradation; sexual licentiousness and; intolerance of religious and ethnic traditions and disciplines which hold societies together. Mr Blair said 'Globalization' was a benefit of modernization. But this is usurped by a few oligarchs who control global corporations, over-ride local economies and suck in profits at the expense of small traders. They are a menace to the autonomy, peace, security, wealth and values of Humanity.
As you can hopefully see, Western media and governments' misrepresentation of the Middle East situation is so far out of kilter with reality that it risks a backlash much greater than the local unrest in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Sudan. It is to be hoped the BBC will restore its self-proclaimed duty to uphold the truth by airing a response to Blair or, better still, a full and fair public debate about it. The situation will be worsened if Andrew Marr's publicity for crude arch Islamophobe, Salman Rushdie, is broadcast. Your response is awaited.
Yours without prejudice
Dr James B Thring
The Ministry of Peace is a private initiative to foster peaceful solutions to conflict
 see Kagan, D (2000) 'Rebuilding America's Defences' Project for a New American Century, Washington.
 see Ostrovski, V (1996) 'The Other Side of Deception' Harper Collins.
 see Thring, J (2002) 'Peace with Iraq' Ministry of Peace— www.shafaqna.com/English
By Abbas Hamrang
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —Mr Adnan Oktar was born in Ankara, Turkey, in 1956. He grew up in Ankara, and lived there through his high school years where he studied the works of Islamic scholars like Say’yed Nursi, a Muslim scholar who wrote Risale-i Nur, an extensive Qur'anic commentary. [1,2] In 1979, Adnan Oktar came to Istanbul and entered Mimar Sinan University where he studied interior architecture. These years were marked with violence and repression which led to the installation of a military junta following the coup of September 1980. In the early 1980s, he gathered young students around him to share his views of Islam. In his teachings, he argued against Marxism, communism and materialistic philosophy. He attached special importance to refuting the Theory of Evolution and Darwinism  because he felt that it had been turned into an ideology used to promote materialism and atheism, and numerous derivative ideologies. In 1986 he entered the Philosophy Department of Istanbul University. Later that year he published a book titled Judaism and Freemasonry based on conspiracy theories that state offices, universities, political groups and media were influenced by a "hidden group". Oktar was arrested, charged with promoting a theocratic revolution for which he served 19 months, though he was never formally charged. In 1986, Oktar spent 10 months in a mental hospital, but he complained that he was not mentally ill but a political "prisoner" who was punished because of the publication of his book, Freemasonry and Judaism.[5,6] In 1990, he founded the Science Research Foundation to hold conferences for scientific activities to emphasize the causes of social and political conflicts which he described to be materialism and Darwinism. In 1995 Adnan Oktar founded Foundation for Protection of National Values. In September 1999 Adnan Oktar was arrested and charged with using threats for personal benefit and creating an organization with the intent to commit a crime.  After a court case lasting two years the charges were dismissed. After 11 September 2001 Oktar published a book called Islam Denounces Terrorism. He spoke more of interfaith dialogue saying Muslims, Christians and Jews should unite against the corrupting influence of Darwinism, which he held responsible for fascism, anti-Semitism and the holocaust. He has organized many conferences on creationism in Turkey, internationally and built a large publishing company with publications sold throughout the world. He has a television show which is viewed by many in the Arab world and he has been preaching about the “Turkish-Islamic Union”, which would bring peace to the entire Muslim world under the leadership of Turkey.
1."Harun Yahya or Adnan Oktar: the Promised Mahdi? By Edip Yüksel"; Web.archive.org. 21 February 2005.
2. "Risâle-i Nur Collection"; Nur.org.
3. “Turkish book traces terror’s origin to Darwin’s theory"; The Indian Express; 24 November 2006.
4. Life Story of Adnan Oktar''"; Web.archive.org. 9 November 2005.
5. Higgins, Andrew; "The Wall Street Journal; "An Islamic Creationist Stirs a New Kind of Darwinian Struggle"; 17 March 2009.
6. Riazat Butt; "Muslim creationist Adnan Oktar challenges scientists to prove evolution"; the Guardian; 22 December 2008.
7. Thomas Grove; "Turkish Islamic author given 3-year jail sentence"; Reuters; 9 May 2008.
The Interview with Mr Adnan Oktar (Harun Yahya)
The Following interview was carried out on behalf of Shafaqna International News Association / English Section by Dr Abbas Hamrang Shafaqna: Does religion play a role in today’s modern life?
Mr Oktar: Of course, religion has a huge influence on modern life. Religion is a fact that has influenced all of life in all periods of human history. And it still affects all of life today. The world’s politics, social thinking and social structure are all founded on religion. Indeed, life and religion are irretrievably bound up with one another. All worldly issues are shaped by religion. Art is based on religion, events are based on religion, science is based on religion; everything is based on religion. State administrations are also based on religion. For example, Turkey is a Muslim country and Islam is highly influential in its foreign policy. Israel is Jewish, and religion again influences its policies. In America, evangelical Christian belief dominates almost all of its foreign policy. Disorders inevitably appear in the spirits of individuals and communities that regard life and religion as independent entities, and life starts to collapse. That is because religion is life itself; and there can be no life where religion is not practiced. Individuals and societies can only find life when they are religious; otherwise, the result is always infertility and loss. Those who cannot reconcile modern life and religion are people who are unacquainted with religion, who are unaware that religion supports art and modern science and technology, and who are ignorant of the warmth and peaceable spirit of religion. Religion espouses modernity, beauty, joy, happiness, peace among societies and friendship. These are all values that give rise to modern life. Therefore, someone who lives by religion will truly discharge the requirements of modern life.
Shafaqna: Is there freedom of religion in the world, and particularly in Europe?
Mr Oktar: Everyone has freedom of belief and worship. It is very wrong to seek to obstruct people’s beliefs and worship. Yet there are countries today where believers cannot live freely by their beliefs. This is a disgrace, of course. Everyone has the right to live freely by his beliefs, whatever they may be. Anyone who wants to find a church must be free to do so, anyone wishing to found a synagogue must be free to do so, and anyone wishing to found a mosque must be free to do so. Freedom of religion, or freedom of belief to put it another way, is one of the basic concepts of the Qur’an. In the verses "There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned" and "You have your religion and I have my religion," Allah emphasizes the importance of freedom of religion. Therefore, there is always freedom of religion wherever the moral values of the Qur’an prevail. Indeed, freedom of thought, belief and expression are the heart of Qur’anic moral values. Therefore, true freedom of belief can prevail only when the moral values of the Qur’an are abided by. Islam is a religion that offers freedom of thought, worship and expression, protects people’s all kinds of rights and brings with it true freedom. Some people imagine that democracy entered into human history in Ancient Greece. But it is Allah Who teaches people democracy. Allah taught people democracy and freedom through the true religion. All the prophets since the Prophet Adam (pbuh) have been true representatives of liberty, free thinking and respect to ideas. All the concepts that come to people’s minds when democracy is mentioned, such as liberty, justice, nobody being oppressed, everyone being a first-class citizen, respect, trust and nobody being judged because of his ideas, exist at the heart of religious moral values. Throughout history, people have learned these through the true religions revealed by Allah, and have witnessed the finest examples of these in those times when people have lived by the true religions. When we look at those times when people were persecuted for their ideas, when people believing in different ideologies were oppressed, when members of different faiths were humiliated, when art, science and architecture died, when people lost the joy of living and literally turned into robots, when books were burned, times of killing, slaughter and genocide, we see the effects of either atheist, irreligious ideologies or else the false interpretations of religious moral values by a radical mindset that broke them away from their essence.
Shafaqna: Does religious phobia exist, particularly in Western countries? If so, what are the
Mr Oktar: It is of course a fact that in Western countries in particular there is a distance from religion left over from former times. But this was much greater in the past. There has been a positive change in people’s attitudes toward religion in recent years. The Western world used to regard keeping away from religion as a sign of modernity. Western people imagined that irreligion was the basic rule of modernity. They thought they could only be modern so long as they lived without religion, and they therefore believed that they had to develop a materialist viewpoint. But that false idea has been weakened in recent time and is still in decline. People seeing that materialist philosophy brings with it nothing but destruction and unhappiness have begun turning to Allah. This turning to religion is increasing by the day. Societies that believe in Allah and accept the fact of Creation have begun forming. This return that beganparticularly at the end of the last century has now widely involved the whole world. A fear of religion that still persists in some circles actually stems from complete ignorance.These people do not investigate the religion in its original source. They seek to define religion in the light of the dark worlds of a few bigots they see as its practitioners. But the fact is that one must look at the Holy Book, the true origin of religion, to understand it. They look at religion in the light of the personal characteristics devoid of any love, affection or compassion of a number of bigots, without looking at the origin of the faith, and therefore imagine that “so religion commands this kind of life.” And they therefore turn away from it. But religion actually condemns the hostile attitudes of the bigots, their hate-filled natures devoid of peace and brotherhood. It curses such people. It is impossible for the faith to support cruelty and wickedness. At the heart of the faith is a deep love for all creation, affection, compassion,respect, sincerity, peace and solidarity. These are features that never exist in the world of the bigot. Westerners influenced by irreligious bigots and who therefore fear religion will see the true facts if they investigate the religion in its real source. Indeed, Westerners are free-thinking people with broad horizons. Their ideas will change in a positive direction when they see the facts. There are also many opportunities for doing that today. Formerly, people’s means of doing research were limited. But we are now in the information age; one can access all kinds of true information about religion online. We must not forget that hostile attitudes are a thing of the past. People today want love, peace and brotherhood. And we are now happily entering the Golden Age when the whole world will live together as brothers in peace and happiness. The Golden Age when peace and security, happiness, love and respect, justice and equality will prevail across the world, and when wickedness will be eliminated, will soon begin and, may Allah grant us long lives, we will witness these things for ourselves, insha’Allah (Allah/God Willing).
Shafaqna: Does extremism exist in religions? How do extremists use religion for their own purposes?
Mr Oktar: Extremism is not something that religion encourages in any way. Extremism has nothing to do with religion. Extremism, or bigotry to give it another name, is the system of Satan itself, the system of the dajjal. It is the dajjal’s sharpest sword against religion because it aims to strike religion from inside. A great many details are provided in the Qur’an about the characteristics of bigots and the bigot mindset is strongly criticized. Many verses speak of the prophets’ struggle against bigotry as well as their struggle against idolaters and unbelievers. This mindset is still around today. These are people who have no fear or love of Allah in their hearts. Their hearts are therefore closed to His Word. They reject the faith in the form it is described by Allah and add on a great many elements that make it difficult. These people, who seek to turn the faith away from its essentials and who resort to all means to stop people living by it, can be seen right through history. Because of their own fanatical practices that have nothing to do with the faith, they have both turned away from the religion themselves and caused others to do so. They reject the fact that religion is easy and everyone can practice it. But what Allah reveals in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Prophet (saas) teach us that it is very easy to live by the faith. In one hadith our Prophet (saas) says: “Beware of excessiveness in religion. Indeed excessiveness in religion caused those [nations] before you to perish.” (Recorded by Ahmad and an-Nassai) Bigotry can today be found among the members of all three faiths. There are Christian bigots, Jewish bigots and irreligious bigots. They ruin the world and engage in terrible wickedness. And there are also Muslim bigots. For example, when Muslims are mentioned in Europe and America, what comes to mind is a bloodthirsty, savage institution spreading hatred all around. Or rather, it used to. We have done away with that perspective and shown the modern face of the Muslim. We have taught the world that Muslims are the best quality and most perfect people in the world. In that way, there has been a positive change in Westerners’ views of Islam.
Shafaqna: Do you think Islam is really understood in Western societies?
Mr Oktar: Because of the influence of the bigots, people in Western countries had a very false impression of what it is to be a Muslim. They equated the dark world, enmity, wickedness, lovelessness, ruthlessness and unkindness of people with not the least thing to do with Islam, totally lacking in its beauties, with the faith and the Qur’an. People imagined that bigotry was Islam. So an enmity toward Islam naturally began in the West. But the real Islam is the Islam people lived by in the Age of Bliss, based on the Qur’an and the life of our Prophet (saas). Islam is based on love, on brotherhood, on peace between communities, unity and solidarity. Our Prophet (saas) was very affectionate and loving toward everyone, and very protective. Had he lived today, he would have been the noblest, kindest, the most affectionate and loving person in the world. What we must do is to show the true Islam to people in the West, to tell them, patiently and kindly, that the bloody, bigoted mindset that appears in the name of Islam has nothing to do with the real Islam, and is even a lifestyle diametrically opposed to it.
Shafaqna: What are the best ways to attract people to religion?
Mr Oktar: There is actually a predisposition to religion in every person’s conscience. The human soul has a great need to believe in Allah. But some people do not heed the voiceof their consciences and take pains to live failing to think that the existence of Allah is an absolute reality and ignoring all the proofs of Creation. The important thing at this point is to be able to address people’s consciences when preaching, and to bring them face to face with their own consciences. In doing this, in preaching the faith, what people will need most of all is sincerity. Sincerity means people being the same on the inside as on the outside, reflecting what they feel in their hearts, being honest, open and transparent. It is essential for people describing the faith to be as sincere as possible. The natural, heartfelt speech and behavior of a sincere person produces a positive and profound effect in people. Therefore, someone who wishes to describe the beauties of Allah’s religion must first possess those beauties in himself, possess the moral values commanded by Allah, and only then describe the beauty that he himself enjoys to others. Only then can he have a positive effect on others. And only then can the other person feel that the person doing the preaching experiences this himself and be positively influenced by his sincere, honest and trust-inspiring words.
Shafaqna would like to thank Mr Oktar for taking part in the above interview.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — It was not an expected setting in which Neil Armstrong found himself when giving his final interview earlier this year. But perhaps that was appropriate, given his achievements. In May, the Certified Practicing Accountants of Australia secured almost an hour of the former astronaut's time to discuss his 1969 expedition to the moon.
Chief executive Alex Malley masterminded the scoop by appealing to Armstrong's family background – his father Stephen worked as an auditor for the Ohio state government.
Armstrong, who rarely gave interviews, regaled his audience with news of how he thought Apollo 11, which carried him, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon, only had a "50-50 chance" of landing safely on its surface and a 90% chance of returning home.
He said it was "sad" that the current US government's ambitions for Nasa were so reduced compared with the achievements of the 1960s.
"Nasa has been one of the most successful public investments in motivating students to do well and achieve all they can achieve," said Armstrong. "It's sad that we are turning the programme in a direction where it will reduce the amount of motivation and stimulation it provides to young people."
He said the short-term nature of decision-making was doing a disservice to the agency, adding: "I'm substantially concerned about the policy directions of the space agency. We have a situation in the US where the White House and Congress are at odds over what the future direction should be. They're sort of playing a game and Nasa is the shuttlecock that they're hitting back and forth."
Armstrong had opened up about his parents, his boyhood fascination with flight and his experiences of flying fighter planes in the Korean war.
He also expressed a sense of fate about his work as a test pilot and astronaut, refusing to worry about future tasks because he thought something would go wrong first and he'd be otherwise engaged firing the ejection seat or scrambling to repair a valve.
As the launch day approached, Armstrong said preparations were on schedule. "A month before the launch of Apollo 11, we decided that we were confident enough we could try and attempt … a descent to the surface."
Armstrong remembered the moment when he got the call to ask him if the rest of the crew of Apollo 11 were ready to land on the moon.
"The bosses asked, 'Do you think you and your guys are ready?' I said it'd be nice to have another month, but we're in a race here and we had to take the opportunity when we had it. I had to say we are ready, we are ready to go."
He described the crew's harrowing 12-minute descent to the moon, when he realised that the Eagle lunar module's auto-pilot was preparing to land the crew on the slope of a huge moon crater. "The computer showed us where it intended to land, and it was a very bad location, on the side of a large crater about 100-150m in diameter with very steep slopes covered with very large boulders – not a good place to land at all," he said.
Armstrong took over the craft manually and managed to land it like a helicopter in a smoother area to the west with just 20 seconds of fuel left.
As for "that's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind," Armstrong says he didn't think of those words until after they'd landed safely.
Of his time on the moon's surface, he said: "It was special and memorable but it was only instantaneous because there was work to do. We weren't there to meditate. We were there to get things done. So we got on with it."
Armstrong even had time to respond to the conspiracy theorists' favourite question: Was the moon landing faked?
"People love conspiracy theories," he replied. "I mean, they are very attractive. But it was never a concern to me because I know one day, somebody is going to go fly back up there and pick up that camera I left."—www.shafaqna.com/English