28 October 2009

Zionists target Westerford School

Westerford High School in Cape Town came first in the Sunday Times's Top 100 Schools project. The school achieved a 100% matric pass rate last year with 166 of its 168 candidates qualifying for university admission. Its a fair assumption that many future South African leaders will come from this school.

The school recently hosted a group of Israeli youth, the Shministim - Israeli high school students who have been imprisoned for refusing to serve in an army that occupies and terrorizes Palestinians. The South African Zionist Federation has since been invited to present "the alternative view" to the pupils.

What follows is my email exchange with the school. The school can be contacted on: admin@whs.wcape.school.za

Dear Principal Rob le Roux

I am writing to you with great concern.

Your school is a shining example of all that is right in this country, and this has been recently noticed by the Sunday Times recognising Westerford High School as the top state school in South Africa.

It is my understanding that the school recently hosted a group ofIsraeli youth, the Shministim, Israeli high school students who have been imprisoned for refusing to serve in an army that occupies and terrorizes Palestinians. Hosting this group was very much in line with your schools ethos of "respect, respect for oneself, respect forothers (including other beliefs and customs) and respect for possessions and property". The Zionists have absolutely no respect forthe lives, property or well-being of millions of Palestinians.

The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) now seeks to discredit theimportant work that the Shministim have done. Prominent South African Jews, such as Ronnie Kasrils, have been outspoken against Zionism as a form of racism. The SAZF supports a state that Desmond Tutu says is"practising apartheid-style policies". Rabbi Weiss from the USrecently told South African audiences that, "Zionism is blatant racismand against true Jewish values".

Westerford hosting the SAZF is akin to the school hosting the Apartheid government to justify their rascist policies, during the dark days of Apartheid. I hope that the school decides not to host this racist organisation. If this has been the decision already taken, I apologise for sending this email out of turn.

His reply:

Dear Mr Randeree

Thank you for your email of concern and for your kind words about the school.

I firmly believe that one of the reasons for the success of the school is that we have fully integrated in all aspects and provide our children with a balanced education going way beyond the confines of the classroom. We encourage questioning and debate particularly with respect to current affairs.

Our HCA (History and Current Affairs Society) have been given the freedom (with educator intervention obviously) to choose whom they would like to invite to speak to the students.

When they requested to invite the Shministim group it was permitted as long as the
alternative view was also aired, hence the invitation to SAZF.

We do realise that it is bound to be controversial but we believe this is the
essential part of education that makes this such a great school.

Once again than you for taking the time to respond, I hope I have satisfied you that
we have matters under control.

Yours sincerely

R le Roux
Westerford High School

My reply:
Dear Mr R le Roux

Thank you for you prompt response.

I understand your perspective and it is indeed a difficult situation that the school now faces in dealing with this racist organisation. I am sure the pupils at your school are astute and knowledgeable enough to see through the lies that the Zionist Federation will undoubtedly try to express to them.

However, in terms of the Palestine-Israeli issue, both the Shministim and the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) both reflect only one side of the debate: the Israeli side. Their debate and differences are an internal Israeli debate and presenting both these views to your students, is essentially giving them an incomplete picture - the Palestinian side is being ignored.

If the SAZF is indeed permitted to address the pupils at Westerford, then I hope that the school will also be willing, in the interests of listening to all sides - to host a Palestinian or a Palestinian solidarity activist as well.

There are many activists in Cape Town (Ronnie Kasrils for example) that will be more than willing to present the other side of the Palestine-Israeli issue. Please feel free to contact me for the details of any of these people.

I look forward to your response in this regard,

Yours sincerely

Bilal Randeree
Independant freelance
South Africa

21 October 2009

Pink Hijab Day

Support a good cause by wearing a pink scarf on Global Pink Hijab Day 2009. The day focuses on the importance of being conscious of breast health.

The Muslim Professionals Network and ABSA Islamic Bank are running a campaign this year in South Africa - are you a sister (or brother) in the workplace that will like to get involved? Please let me know asap!!

The aim is to raise awareness of breast cancer nationally and women across all cultures are invited to participate. Please join Pink Hijab Day 2009 in South Africa and around the world....
Click here for more information..

15 October 2009

African continent united for the environment

Africans have come together to demand that wealthy countries take responsibility for messing up the planet. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that Africa demands equal partner status at the global climate summit to be held in Copenhagen this December.

“Africa will not be there warming the chairs or making token statements,” Zenawi said. Africa has contributed the least to global warming but is potentially its’ worst victim. Burkina Faso's environment minister, Salifou Sawadogo, said that $65billion dollars in reparations are needed to just deal with the effects of climate change. “We are all on the same planet so there is a duty of solidarity to help the most vulnerable countries, like we are, implement policies to adapt to climate change," he added.

The reparations need to be paid by the G-8 countries which comprise of the seven major industrialised nations and Russia. These countries make up about 14 % of world population, but are responsible for more than 65% of the world’s economic output, and the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions.

The developing world could suffer 80% of the damage due to climate change reported the World Bank. The African Union reports that the entire African continent only accounts for about 3.8% of global economic output, while the USA on its own is responsible for over 26%. Reason enough for President Obama to carry his shiny new Nobel medal to Copenhagen – these facts might remind him that the prize equals justice.

Oxfam reports that over 23 million people across East Africa are facing critical shortages of food and water following successive years of failed rains and worsening drought. Experts also report that sub-Saharan Africa is one of the worlds regions most affected by global warming.

While Africans remain committed and optimistic, Saudi Arabia has wacky ideas of its own. The Saudi’s are trying to convince other oil-producing countries to demand compensation from wealthy countries that intend to reduce their oil consumption. Yes, you heard right. The Saudis want other countries to PAY THEM if they decide to stop killing the planet.

“It is like the tobacco industry asking for compensation for lost revenues as a part of a settlement to address the health risks of smoking,” said one expert. Oil prices peaked last year, swelling the Saudi’s oil revenue by 37 percent to $281 billion. That is more than 4 times the amount of reparations that Africa needs.

“If needs be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent,” said Zenawi.

15 October 2009 was Blog Action Day

02 October 2009

A basic guide to Islamic finance

Q & A - FINANCE - Faith-based lending - A guide to the growing Islamic finance industry - Islamic financial institutions are those that comply with Sharia, a set of laws from the Islamic faith.

Conventional financial products that charge, pay or have any element of interest are generally excluded, but Islamic banks are able to structure various Sharia-compliant contracts to offer a range of products that closely mirror those of conventional finance. A commonly used mode of Islamic finance is Murabaha, which is cost plus financing. This is commonly used for vehicle and home financing.

Simply, the bank buys the item, adds a profit and then sells it to the buyer with fixed instalments over a fixed period.

For home financing, a common mode is Musharakah, which is a partnership between the bank and the client. The house is bought together, and the buyer pays rent for that portion of the home value that the bank still owns. Over time, the buyer pays out the bank and in doing so continuously reduces the rental amount due.

While Sharia-compliant finance is a tiny percentage of conventional finance, interest in the field continues to grow globally. The collapse of many conventional financial institutions has prompted economists to consider alternative financial solutions and new approaches to banking.

A report by Asian Banker states that despite the financial crises, Islamic banks’ assets climbed by 66% last year and according to ratings agency Moody’s, the sector is worth US$700bn. International consulting firm Oliver Wyman estimates that by 2012, these assets will reach 1,6 trillion. Professor Habib Ahmed from Durham University in the UK said that the sector has grown by 15% to 20% per year for the past few years.

“There is a lot of interest at the moment. People are looking for alternatives after the economic crisis,” he added. Professor Rodney Wilson, also from Durham, claims that no Islamic bank failed during the financial crises and none have needed government funds to save them from collapsing.

Islamic finance products are available globally from Islamic financial institutions, but many conventional banks also offer Sharia-compliant products. Al Baraka Bank in SA is an Islamic bank and conventional banks, including ABSA, First National Bank and Stanlib offer Sharia-compliant products. Globally, Lloyds TSB, HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Citibank all offer Sharia-compliant products.

The fundamental difference between Islamic and conventional banking practices is that Islamic banks do not charge interest. Rather than borrowers and lenders, the system is supposed to be based on buyers and sellers. Business lines prohibited in Sharia include conventional finance, alcohol, pork-related products, gambling, pornography and weapons manufacturing.

“Conventional banking is biased to the seller,” said Islamic finance scholar Aly Khorshid. “People think the Islamic system is based on faith, but it’s based on justice for the two parties. How you get to the justice is extracted from Islamic faith,” he said.

Though the Financial Times cites evidence that suggests “what happens in the world of conventional finance affects the Islamic financial world with a time lag”, popular opinion is to the contrary. Daud Abdullah at Deloitte expects double digit growth in global Islamic finance in the next few years.

But the growth of Islamic finance has brought its own problems.

“Islamic banks are also driven by profit and sometimes that can dominate the ethics,” said Ahmed. Critics say some banks use Islamic finance to package what are essentially conventional products. Industry commentators Tarek el-Diwany and Haitham al-Haddad argue that it is partially just a soft version of the conventional system.

These allegations raise serious questions around Islamic finance’s ability to be a viable alternative. Besides the fact that Islamic investment funds tend to invest in better performing companies by avoiding investing in companies that are heavily indebted with interest-based loans, a close look at the industry explains the reasons the industry is better performing. Islamic banking, primarily in the Gulf where it’s predominantly based, benefits from the cash inflows of oil revenue, and is relatively smaller than its interest-based counterpart.

These characteristics allow the industry to deal with problems quicker and without huge public bailout packages. According to El-Diwany and Al-Haddad, if the industry continues to develop the way it has, it will suffer from the same systemic problems as the conventional system.

They call for a total reconsideration of the objectives, frameworks and methodologies of the modern Islamic finance industry before it is presented as a viable alternative.

This article first appeared in FM campus: http://www.fmcampus.co.za/features/article.aspx?id=1069264