Monday, July 14, 2014

UAE’s TRA publishes Twitter White Paper

On Sunday (July 13), the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) launched a white paper regarding Twitter usage as part of "The UAE Social Media White Papers" collection.

The series of awareness documents are designed specifically to highlight the terms and conditions of the most popular social networks in use in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The latest release focuses on Twitter, which has around 360,000 users in the UAE who share around 2.5 million tweets per day…

The Twitter White Paper says: The laws of the UAE prohibit the publication of content which is contrary to public morals, the principles of Islam and the social and moral welfare of the UAE or any content that contains irreverence towards Islam and any other heavenly religions.

The content must also respect the UAE Government, its leadership, political institutions and ultimately the UAE’s cultural heritage and social norms and customs.

In reference to Twitter, the white paper highlights the following information as a priority for all respective subscribers:

Initially, users must not publish direct, specific threats of violence against mothers. This also includes hate speeches, and content that is threatening or contains graphic or gratuitous violence or any content that is offensive for a nation or its government. Users should think carefully about the content they are posting.

Users are responsible for the content they post and should bear this in mind if they are posting content which they do not own or which contains material that is subject to someone else’s rights.

Also, users must not publish other people’s private information without their consent.

The social networks included in “The UAE Social Media White Papers”’ collection are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Yahoo/Flickr, LinkedIn, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, Apple Store, Blackberry and Keek.

Full versions of the white papers and the corresponding infographics are accessible via the TRA’s official website:

Malala Day: Stand up for education

Today, July 14, is Malala Day. It is a day to stand up for education and say to the world: “We are stronger than the enemies of education and stronger than the forces that threaten girls, boys and women from leading happy and productive lives.”

It is a day for all children, everywhere, to raise their voices and be heard.

MalalaYousafzai is an advocate for universal education and girls' rights. The young Pakistani girl was targeted for her activism. In October 2012, the Taliban boarded her school bus and shot her and two other girls. But after recovering, Malala was back at school and continues to campaign for every child’s right to education.

Globally, one in five girls around the world is denied an education by the daily realities of poverty, discrimination and violence. Every day, young girls are missing from education, isolated from their friends, forced into marriage and subjected to violence.

Not only is this unjust, it is a waste of potential with serious global consequences. Supporting girls' education is one of the single best investments to help end poverty.

I believe in the power of education as a force for good in the world and the right for all children to get a good quality education, no matter where they are and what the circumstances.

I believe that the most precious gift you can give a child is the capability to read and write. There is magic in holding a book and reading a story.

I have seen firsthand how losing the ability to read and write is like giving up on life.

Millions of girls are being denied an education when it has the power to transform their lives and the world around them. Making it through both primary and secondary education is critical to girls being able to help break the cycle of poverty.

A girl who makes it through both high quality primary and secondary education is...
  • less likely to experience violence or marry and have children whilst she is still a child,
  • more likely to be literate, healthy and survive into adulthood, as are her children,
  • more likely to reinvest her income back into her family, community and country, and
  • more likely to understand her rights and be a force for change.

Last year, on July 12, 2013 Malala turned 16. To celebrate Malala Day, the global community came together to highlight the leading role youth can play in enabling all children to get an education.

Malala marked the day by giving her first public speech since the shooting dedicated to the importance of universal education at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

"The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born... I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I'm here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists," Malala said in her speech.

In support of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, international youth leaders convened at the UN and in cities around the world in support of reaching the goal of having all children, especially girls, in school and learning by 2015.

Malala also presented the UN chamber with a Youth Resolution of education demands written by Youth for Youth, in a process coordinated by the UN Global Education First Youth Advocacy Group, telling her audience:

"Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights."

The Youth Resolution: The Education We Want, is a call by young people for a response to the education emergency. It says:

* * *

Today, 61 million children and young people are denied the right to education.

If world leaders, governments, civil society and the global community do not take decisive action now, the result is clear: the largest generation of youth in human history will be exposed to unemployment, poor health, civil unrest and increased vulnerability. We firmly believe that education is the most effective solution to poverty.  We cannot afford to not educate the future generations of our planet -- education is a smart investment.

We therefore call on all governments, individuals, and organizations responsible for policy, planning, financing, provision, management, delivery and implementation of education to work to:

1.    Pass a Security Council resolution that recognizes the global education crisis and take concrete steps to address education and security, particularly for girls and in situations of emergency.

2.    Get EVERY child in school
Work urgently to ensure all children have access to quality learning, including the 61 million excluded boys and girls.

Provide at least nine years of quality education to every child, where they are equipped with the resources, environment and professional support they require to learn and thrive.

3.     Address the special situation of girls and other marginalized groups
Guarantee gender equality by recognizing and respecting the rights and potential of all girls as equals of boys, and by taking real steps to enable and support all girls to become active, educated and productive citizens of their country and of the world.

 Place particular emphasis on education for marginalize children [including girls; poorer children; child laborers and slaves; those living in disadvantaged areas, in informal settlements or on the street; pregnant girls and girls with their own children; children with disabilities; indigenous children,  lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered young people and children and young people affected by emergencies and conflict] whose absence from the classroom has not yet been effectively addressed. Steps they take must tackle obstructions to their education and cater for their specific needs to guarantee their learning is worthwhile, fulfilling and contributes to their development.

4.    Ensure that we learn to prepare us for life and work
Support the availability and improvement of non-formal and vocational education and training. Governments must recognize the importance of practical training and how this can complement academic education and sustain existing industries. Governments must ensure that any vocational education that students receive matches the high standards expected of academic education, and that it is conducted safely and is properly documented.

Connect education more directly with the labor market to ensure that all children and young people can seek opportunities after completing their education through, for example, internships, volunteering and mentorships, as well as being able to gain the formal accreditation and qualifications they may require for their future. Effective career guidance and planning should allow children and young people to consider their ambitions and options, and give them direction on how they can pursue and achieve their goals for the future.

Develop and promote citizenship education as a way of educating children and young people on the important realities of life, to reduce extremism, to promote equality and respect, to ensure children are aware of their rights and responsibilities, to help them to realize their position as a citizen of the world and to enhance their emotional and physical well-being.

Recruit and rigorously train teachers who implement the highest standards of teaching, are in attendance and available to all of their students, and who protect the rights of every student.

5.     Increase education funding 
Donor countries should increase aid allocation to education. All governments should individually and justly target funding and resources to close spending gaps, which put children at a disadvantage because of the location of their school, conflict and other factors, and must prevent the leakage, wastage or misdirection of financial resources resulting from inefficiency or corruption.

6.     Guarantee our voice in shaping education
Meaningfully engage young people in shaping our own education by facilitating processes and installing structures which allow youth to contribute their opinions, to influence the direction of their own education and to have a say in the nature of the school and the curriculum. Students must have an avenue through which they can indicate concerns, report inappropriate or unprofessional behavior or seek a resolution to a grievance without prejudice and in confidence.

We firmly believe that education is the most effective solution to poverty. We want a world where children and young people are both in school and are engaging -- where we are both being taught, and are learning.
We are convinced that these steps will enhance access to and the quality of education systems, will ensure that no child is left behind and will make the world a fairer, more just, educated, productive and better place.

Our future cannot wait.

We have to deliver this promise.

Governments of the world have to deliver this promise.

* * *

With so many children out of school due to violence and wars all over the world -- most notably now in Syria and Palestine -- reaching the goal of having all children, especially girls, in school and learning by 2015 is quite a challenge. But it is one well worth trying to achieve.

Related posts and references:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Muslim Council of Britain denounces FGM

Ahead of "Cutting Season" and Girl Summit 2014, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) last week endorsed a landmark declaration making Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) unlawful and clarifying it is not supported by religious doctrine.

The UK’s most prominent Muslim organization on June 20 denounced FGM as contrary to Islam, adding that the traditional practice severely violates the human rights of women and girls.

The first Girl Summit, to be hosted by the UK and UNICEF on July 22, aims to mobilize domestic and international efforts to end FGM and child early and forced marriage (CEFM) within a generation.

Girls and women have the right to live free from violence and discrimination and achieve their potential, but some are being prevented from doing so by harmful practices such as FGM and CEFM, which are illegal in the UK, says a statement on the UK government site.

The summit wants to secure new commitments from the private sector, faith leaders, other civil society organizations and governments.

Child, early and forced marriage occurs in every part of the world, affecting millions of girls every year. One in three girls in developing countries is married by the age of 18, and one in nine by the age of 15. Some are as young as eight.

Girls who marry young have babies while still children, putting them at risk of death or suffering for the rest of their lives. They are more likely to be poor and stay poor. In the UK, hundreds of girls risk being forced into marriage, violating their human rights. Forced marriage victims can suffer physical, psychological, emotional, financial and sexual abuse.

FGM removes a girl’s right to have control over her own body. Traditionally considered essential for marriage and inclusion in the community, it is an extreme and violent way in which girls and women are controlled and disempowered. It can result in a lifetime of pain, psychological problems and difficulty in childbirth. Current trends suggest at least 30 million girls will be at risk over the next decade -- with more than 20,000 at risk in the United Kingdom every year, the UK government website adds.

MCB declaration

The religious and community leaders that signed the historic declaration condemning FGM noted, however, there are still barriers to ending the practice in the UK.

The MCB is one of the UK’s largest and most diverse Muslim umbrella organizations with over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organizations, mosques, charities and schools.

The Church of England and the Muslim Women’s Network UK were two of 160 groups who supported the announcement denouncing FGM as a form of violence against women and a denial of women’s human rights not supported by religious doctrine. The groups will sign a joint declaration condemning FGM -- currently a criminal offense in the UK -- during the Girl Summit.

The MCB will launch a campaign by distributing leaflets in mosques and community centers in Britain to support ending the barbaric practice.

It said it was “not true” mutilation was a Muslim requirement noting that one of the “basic principles” of Islam was not to harm oneself or others.

The MCB said FGM was bringing Islam “into disrepute” and could cause severe pain, bleeding, problems in pregnancy and even death, as well leaving some victims with lasting psychological problems.

The new leaflet states: “FGM is not an Islamic requirement. There is no reference to it in the Holy Quran that states girls must be circumcised. Nor is there any authentic reference to this in the Sunnah, the sayings or traditions of our Prophet. FGM is bringing the religion of Islam into disrepute.”

The document also warns there is “an increasingly high risk of being prosecuted” for carrying out mutilation, which has been illegal in the UK since 1985, and that perpetrators face up to 14 years in prison.

The MCB announcement follows a Home Office summit on June 19 at which other religious organizations, including the Shia al-Khoei Foundation and the Muslim Women’s Network UK, announced their support for a government declaration against FGM to be published at the Girl Summit.

Harmful practice

Three million girls and women are subjected to FGM worldwide each year. That's 8000 girls per day.

FGM is a harmful practice that is recognized worldwide as a human rights violation. The practice of FGM violates:
  • Right to physical and mental integrity
  • Right to highest attainable standard of health
  • Right to be free from all forms of discrimination against women (including violence against women)
  • Right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Rights of the child, and
  • In extreme cases, right to life
The European Parliament estimates 500,000 girls and women living in Europe are suffering with the lifelong consequences of FGM. It still affects up to 140 million women and girls worldwide, with an estimated 20,000 girls at risk in the UK.

Increasingly as migration becomes more common, diaspora communities arriving to Western nations continue the practice. FGM prevalence is therefore rising among migrant residents of Norway, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Britain and the United States. Migrant families, often traveling with their young daughters in summer vacations to their native countries, have the procedure performed at grave risk of infection bleeding and death when non-clinicians perform this procedure. School holidays become “The Cutting Season.”

FGM tradition

Also known as female circumcision or simply as “cutting,” FGM/C involves removing all or part of the clitoris, the surrounding labia (the outer part of the vagina) and sometimes the sewing up of the vagina, leaving only a small opening for urine and menstrual blood.

There are no medical benefits to this tradition. It is carried out for cultural reasons, often because it demonstrates a girl's virginity on her wedding night.

It seems the practice predates Christianity and Islam. There is mention made of Egyptian mummies that display characteristics of FGM/C. The historian Herodotus claims that in the fifth century BC the Phoenicians, Hittites and Ethiopians practiced circumcision. It is also reported circumcision rites were practiced in tropical zones of Africa, in the Philippines, by certain tribes in the Upper Amazon, and in Australia by women of the Arunta tribe. It also occurred among the early Romans and Arabs.

Many different peoples and societies have followed the FGM/C practice. It cuts across ages, continents, religions and is performed by Muslims, Christians, Ethiopian Jews and Copts among others.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to one of three types of female genital mutilation. Estimates based on the most recent prevalence data indicate that 91.5 million girls and women above the age of nine in Africa are currently living with the consequences of FGM. There are an estimated three million girls in Africa at risk of undergoing FGM every year.

WHO has identified four types of FGM/C:

Type 1: Excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of part or the entire clitoris.

Type 2: Excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora.

Type 3: Excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening (infibulation) -- sometimes referred to as pharaonic circumcision.

Type 4: Others, such as pricking, piercing or incising, stretching, burning of the clitoris, scraping of tissue surrounding the vaginal orifice, cutting of the vagina, introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina to cause bleeding or to tighten the opening.

The removal of, or damage to, healthy, normal genital tissue interferes with the natural functioning of the body and causes several immediate and long-term health consequences. For example, babies born to women who have undergone female genital mutilation suffer a higher rate of neonatal death; end in stillbirth or spontaneous abortion; and in a further 25%, the newborn has a low birth weight or serious infection, both of which are associated with an increased risk of perinatal death.

WHO says FGM/C is nearly always carried out on minors and is therefore a violation of the rights of the child. It also violates the rights to health, security and physical integrity of the person, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

In Egypt, 94% of women arrange for their daughters to undergo this “medicalized” form of FGM/C, 76% in Yemen, 65% in Mauritania, 48% in Côte d’Ivoire, and 46% in Kenya. This approach may reduce some of the immediate consequences of the procedure -- such as pain and bleeding -- but, WHO and UNICEF point out, it also tends to obscure its human rights aspect and could hinder the development of long-term solutions for ending the practice.

How many more generations will it take to eradicate FGM/C? Is the magic word “education”? Is FGM/C a practice too deep-rooted to overcome? Maybe only time will tell…

In the meantime, you can take a stand with me against FGM/C and child and forced marriage by signing the pledge  to show your support in ending these harmful practices forever. Our voices will be heard at the Girl Summit.

Related articles and references:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Syria: Children in battle

“At first I was so scared… then I got used to it,” said Ayman, who began fighting with an FSA brigade in Salqin when he was 15 years old.
“Maybe we’ll live, and maybe we’ll die,” said Omar, who began fighting at age 14 with Jabhat al-Nusra.
Non-state armed groups in Syria have used children as young as 15 to fight in battles, sometimes recruiting them under the guise of offering education, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Monday. The groups have used children as young as 14 in support roles. Extremist Islamist groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) have specifically recruited children through free schooling campaigns that include weapons training, and have given them dangerous tasks, including suicide bombing missions.

The 31-page report “‘Maybe We Live and Maybe We Die’: Recruitment and Use of Children by Armed Groups in Syria,” documents the experiences of 25 children and former child soldiers in Syria’s armed conflict. Human Rights Watch interviewed children who fought with the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front coalition, and the extremist groups ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, as well as the military and police forces in Kurdish-controlled areas. The report does not, for logistical and security reasons, cover all armed groups that allegedly have used children in Syria, in particular pro-government militias. Using children in armed conflict violates international law.

“Syrian armed groups shouldn’t prey on vulnerable children -- who have seen their relatives killed, schools shelled, and communities destroyed -- by enlisting them in their forces,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, Middle East children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The horrors of Syria’s armed conflict are only made worse by throwing children into the front lines.” 

The number of children fighting with armed groups in Syria is not known. By June 2014, the Violations Documenting Center, a Syrian monitoring group, had documented 194 deaths of “non-civilian” male children in Syria since September 2011.

The children Human Rights Watch interviewed had fought in battles, acted as snipers, manned checkpoints, spied on hostile forces, treated the wounded on battlefields, and ferried ammunition and other supplies to front lines while fighting raged. They said they joined non-state armed groups for various reasons. Many followed their relatives or friends, while others lived in battle zones without schooling or other options. Some had participated in public protests that motivated them to do more, or had personally suffered at the hands of the government. While all those interviewed were boys, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) police force and armed wing, the People’s Protection Units, enlisted girls to guard checkpoints and conduct armed patrols in Kurdish-controlled areas.
Boys have joined armed opposition groups for various reasons. Many simply followed their relatives or friends. Others lived in battle zones without open schools, participated in public protests, or had personally suffered at the hands of the government. Islamist groups such as ISIS have more aggressively targeted children for recruitment, providing free lectures and schooling that included weapons and other military training.
“At first I was so scared…then I got used to it,” said Ayman, who began fighting with an FSA brigade in Salqin when he was 15 years old.
Others interviewed echoed his words. Few had plans or real hopes for their future beyond the next battle. “Maybe we’ll live, and maybe we’ll die,” said Omar, who began fighting at age 14 with Jabhat al-Nusra.
International humanitarian law (the laws of war) and international human rights law ban government forces and non-state armed groups from recruiting and using children as fighters and in other support roles. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Syria ratified in 2003, bans non-state armies from recruiting or using children under age 18 in direct hostilities. Conscripting or enlisting children under 15, including for support roles, is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Several of the children interviewed said they fought with two or three different armed groups fighting Syrian government forces. Some -- like Amr who said he received US$100 a month -- received monthly salaries of up to $135, while others said they participated without pay. Many attended training camps where they learned military tactics and had weapons training.
Children who wished to leave armed groups and resume a civilian life told Human Rights Watch they had few options to do so. Saleh, 17, said he fought with the Free Syrian Army at 15 after he was detained and tortured by government security forces. He later joined Ahrar al-Sham, then left to join the Jund al-Aqsa, an independent Islamist armed group. “I thought of leaving [the fighting] a lot,” he said. “I lost my studies, I lost my future, I lost everything. I looked for work, but there’s no work. This is the most difficult period for me.”
Some armed groups told Human Rights Watch that they prohibit child recruitment, or have taken preliminary steps to end the practice. In March 2014, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, a coalition of opposition groups supported by the Free Syrian Army, announced that it had implemented “new training for Free Syrian Army members in International Humanitarian Law to eliminate the recruitment and participation of children in armed conflict.”
If they have not already done so, armed groups operating in Syria should publicly commit to end recruitment and use of children under age 18, and should demobilize all fighters or others under 18 currently in their ranks, Human Rights Watch said in the report.
Those recruited under age 18 but now no longer children should be free to leave opposition forces. Armed groups should also work with international agencies specialized in child protection to rehabilitate and reintegrate these children into civilian life. Finally, they should ensure that all officers under their command understand the ban on recruiting or seeking assistance from children, and establish age-verification procedures they must follow to enforce it. Officers responsible for recruitment who continue to enlist children should be appropriately disciplined.
To address the practice of children joining armed groups in Syria, UN bodies should seek public commitments from armed groups not to recruit or enlist children under age 18 and use age-verification procedures to ensure that children do not join. The UN Security Council should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court to allow prosecution of war crimes, including the conscripting or enlisting of children under 15 into armed forces or non-state armed groups or their active participation in hostilities.
Governments providing aid to armed groups in Syria should review these groups’ policies on child recruitment, and should suspend all military sales and assistance, including technical training and services, to all forces credibly implicated in the widespread or systematic commission of serious abuses, including the use of child soldiers, until they stop committing these crimes and take appropriate disciplinary action against perpetrators. They should also restrict residents of their countries from providing military support to these groups.
Finally, humanitarian agencies operating in Syria or assisting refugees in neighboring countries should support efforts to provide secondary education opportunities for children, and address the particular needs and vulnerabilities of boys aged 13 to 18 in their child protection programming.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Miracle of Al-Isra’ wal Mi’raj night journey

Journey from the "Sacred Mosque" to the "Farthest Mosque"
Today, Sunday, is a public holiday in the UAE and most of the Gulf and Middle East.

It is Al-Isra’ wal Mi'raj -- الإسراء والمعراج -- an important observance day in the Muslim calendar. It falls on 27 Rajab in the Hijri calendar, corresponding to May 25 this year.

It also marks the countdown to the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan, which falls on June 28 or 29.

Al-Isra’ wal Mi'raj marks the two parts of a physical and spiritual night journey that, according to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) took during a single night circa the year 621.

A brief sketch of the story comes in Sura 17 Al-Isra of the Holy Quran. Other details come from the hadiths or supplemental writings about the life of the Prophet.

Surat Al-Isra’ (The Night Journey), also called Surat Bani Isra'eel (Children of Israel), is the 17th chapter of the Quran with 111 verses.

According to the hadith, the journey goes like this:

The Prophet Muhammad travels on the steed Buraq to "the Farthest Mosque,” where he leads other prophets in prayer. He then ascends to Heaven where he speaks to God, who gives Muhammad instructions to take back to the faithful regarding the details of prayer.

The exact location of "the Farthest Mosque” is not specified, although the first verse refers to Muhammad being taken from the “Sacred Mosque” to the “Farthest Mosque”:

Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless -- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).

It is generally agreed the “Farthest Mosque” refers to al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the “Sacred Mosque” refers to al-Haram in Mecca.

The Sura was revealed in the last year before the Hijra. Its main theme is salat (daily prayers), whose number was fixed at five during the Mi’raj that it alludes to. The Sura also forbids adultery, calls for respect for father and mother and for patience and control in the face of the persecutions the Muslim community was facing at the time.

According to traditions, the journey is associated with Lailat al-Mi'raj, one of the most significant events in the Muslim calendar.

The Night Journey starts with the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel (who was bringing the revelation of the Quran). Gabriel leads Muhammad to a white mule with wings attached to its thighs. This mule had carried other prophets, including Abraham, and was the Buraq or spirit horse. Muhammad gets on and goes high into the sky.

He arrives at Jerusalem where he meets many prophets including Abraham, Moses and Jesus. The Prophet is quoted as saying Abraham “looked like no one else, but also no one did not look like him.” Moses was “tall, tanned, slim and with a hooked nose and curly hair.” Jesus was “red skinned of medium height with straight hair and many moles on his face.” He also looked like “he had come out of a bath. His hair looked wet although it was not wet.”

Muhammad is asked to lead them in prayer and did.

Three dishes are placed in front of Muhammad containing water, wine and milk. Muhammad said he knew of the prophecy that if he chose water the Muslim community would drown, if he chose wine they would leave the true path, and if he chose milk they would follow the true religion of the one God. He chose milk and drank from it. Gabriel confirmed the prophecy.

Then Muhammad lifts up to the first gate of Heaven guarded by the Angel Ishmael (first son of Abraham) who was in charge of 12,000 more and each of those had 12,000 of their own. All these 144,000,001 angels guarded the one gate. Ishmael asked Gabriel if Muhammad was the one sent to deliver God's message to humankind and Gabriel confirmed this, so Muhammad was let through.

Muhammad passes through seven heavenly realms.

In the First Heaven he sees Adam being shown the souls of his descendents both good and bad.

In the Second Heaven he sees Jesus and John, son of Zachariah.

In the Third Heaven he sees Joseph, son of Jacob.

In the Fourth Heaven he sees Idris, the prophet from before the flood.

In the Fifth Heaven he sees Moses' older brother, Harun, with his long white beard.

In the Sixth Heaven Muhammad meets a tall man with a hooked nose and Gabriel says it is Moses.

In the Seventh Heaven Muhammad sees an old man seated by the gate to Paradise where 70,000 angels pass through each day but do not return until Judgment Day. Gabriel identifies him as Abraham.

Gabriel then takes Muhammad into Paradise where he speaks to God who tells him the importance of regular prayers.

On the way back Moses asks how many prayers have been commanded and Muhammad says 50 a day. Moses tells him to go back to God and get the number cut. God reduces the number to 10 a day but Moses again says this is too many. Muhammad returns to God and they are reduced to five times a day. Moses says this is still too many, but Muhammad tells Moses he is too embarrassed to return to God again.

The Prophet is also shown Sidrat al-Muntaha (a Lote Tree of the utmost boundary [Quran 53:14]). He says, “I saw its Nabk fruits which resembled the clay jugs of Hajr (near Medina) and its leaves were like the ears of elephants and four rivers originated at its root -- two of them were apparent and two were hidden. I asked Gabriel about those rivers and he said, 'The two hidden rivers are in Paradise and the apparent ones are the Nile and the Euphrates’.”

Sidrat al-Muntaha marks the end of the Seventh Heaven, the boundary where no creation can pass, according to Muslim beliefs.

Muhammad then returns to Mecca.

When he describes his journey to followers, many don’t believe he had gone to Jerusalem in one night, seen the Seven Heavens and had spoken with God.

Some of the disbelievers went to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (one of the senior companions -- Sahabi --  father-in-law of Muhammad and the first Muslim Caliph following Muhammad's death).

Abu Bakr asked the Prophet to describe Jerusalem. He did and Abu Bakr declared all the details were accurate and so Muhammad must have been there.

Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing. Quran, Chapter 17 (Al-Isra), Verse 1

So today, we celebrate the miracle of Al-Isra’ wal Mi’raj, the night journey and ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Have a wonderful day.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mr. Green Bin takes over Dubai

The new bins outside my villa
This Thursday morning sees the launch of the latest “My City… My Environment” campaign by the waste management department at Dubai Municipality.

Everyone must have noticed the two plastic bins, one green and one black, in front of all the villas, whether residential or commercial, in Jumeirah 1, 2, 3; Al Safa 1, 2; Umm Suqueim 1, 2, 3; Al Manara, Umm Al Sheif and Al Barsha 2, 3 areas.

Over the past two weeks, the “Mr. Green Bin,” leaflets were widely circulated, informing us that starting May 15, SITA Trashco will be distributing the bins.

Dubai Municipality’s campaign aims to focus on the collection and segregation of waste at source to reduce waste to landfill.

Hussein Nasser Lootah told Emirates 24/7 and most media outlets the campaign “aims at introducing the best practices for cleanliness and making Dubai a greener city. It also emphasizes Dubai Municipality’s continuous efforts on high quality services to keep the city clean.”

“This door-to-door waste collection and recycling service for all the residents is a unique initiative that will educate the public and allow them to help Dubai Municipality in recycling the household waste in an efficient manner,” he added.

The leaflet
Dubai Municipality has chosen Dulsco, Averda and Trashco as its strategic partners for this “My City… My Environment” initiative.

The two green and black 240-liter bins have clear instructions to help residents separate the waste.

The black bins will be collected every day and the green ones three days a week on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. The leaflet clearly indicates what should go in each bin.

The green bins are for recyclables such as plastic containers, cardboard boxes (flattened out), newspapers, magazines, books, papers, empty water glass and plastic bottles, aluminum and metal cans as well as milk and juice bottles and cartons.

The black bins are for all other types of general waste such as leftover food, vegetable and fruit skins, meat, dairy products, fish waste, food contaminated boxes, disposable cups, trays, containers, paper towels, napkins, eggshells, nutshells, waste generated while sweeping etc…

Unfortunately, along with this project, our friendly municipality street cleaner will no longer operate in the 12 areas designated for the door-to-door collection and recycling campaign.

The street cleaner in my area had become a friend over the past eight years and came to my rescue a couple of months ago while I was walking the dog with my late friend. I will always be thankful to him for that.

Cleaners from private companies Dulsco, Averda and Trashco will now take over the complete waste management tasks from workers of Dubai Municipality which is privatizing street cleaning services for the first time in the emirate.

The municipality will also discontinue the use of large waste skips on the roads in these areas.

Now it remains to be seen if and how residents and businesses respond to the campaign and how the private companies will maintain cleanliness on our streets and the regular collection of the bins.