WISDOM Newsletter – July 2012 Special

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Some July Happenings!!


The Documentary “The Light in Her Eyes” will broadcast nationally on Thursday, July 19th at 10pm on POV.

Below is the link for the toolkit for this film:




Houda al-Habash, the subject of the new documentary The Light in Her Eyes, challenges many stereotypes about Muslims. In Damascus, the diverse and cosmopolitan capital of Syria – roiled now by uprisings – Habash is a religiously observant wife and mother who wears the hijab head covering. Yet she is also the woman who, going against tradition in her conservative culture, decided to become an Islamic preacher at the precocious age of 17 by opening a Qur’an school for girls in a downtown mosque.


Her persistence over 30 years in teaching the Qur’an to young girls challenges conservative male clerics, some of whom preach that “regarding women’s prayers . . . the Prophet said, ‘Their homes are better for them.'” However, Habash believes Islam demands that women be educated in all areas and insists that education is itself a form of worship.


Filmed on the eve of Syria’s “Arab Spring” protests, The Light in Her Eyes is a look at a popular movement that claims space for women in the mosque and calls for greater freedom for Muslim women. It is also a fascinating picture of modern Muslim society in the midst of a dramatic social transition–which does not always sit easily with Western ideas of progress. But throughout the Middle East, Muslim women are increasingly making the choice to be religious and live modern lives. 

Houda al-Habash embodies these contradictions with remarkable ease. Warm, outgoing and articulate, she leads with a steely sense of purpose, and doesn’t fit the mold of an oppressed woman. The Light in Her Eyes constructs her portrait through vérité sequences of her teaching classes, counseling students and giving her fellow teachers pep talks at the girls’ summer school she has run since 1982. At home, she speaks freely about her ideas, especially with her 20-year-old daughter, Enas al-Khaldi, who is studying abroad. Says Khaldi, “I can see that I can serve Islam better if I study politics or if I study economics or media.” These sequences are supplemented by commentary from Habash’s husband and colleagues, punctuated by public denunciations of women’s education by male clerics.

“Before, a woman was a prisoner in her own home,” one student asserts. “There is a saying that a woman only goes two places–to her husband’s house, and then to her grave. This was a really dangerous thing. If a mother never learns, how can she teach the next generation? A woman is a school. If you teach her, you teach a generation.”


Habash takes great pains to make clear that she does not fundamentally disagree with the conservative Muslim view that a woman’s primary responsibilities are as a wife and mother. At home with her husband and children, she is every bit the observant and dutiful housewife. She just doesn’t believe these Islamic values are incompatible with women seeking education, jobs and the right to public lives. And she backs up this belief with teachings from the Qur’an and the argument that restrictions on women’s freedoms are cultural rather than Islamic.


The Light in Her Eyes is a fascinating portrait of an unconventional Muslim woman that also becomes an enlightening story for Westerners. Habash represents the new face of women’s leadership in Islam. Women like her are an indication that, if and when political freedom comes to places like Syria, the local definition of freedom will likely differ dramatically from its definition in the West.


The following information comes from ReadtheSpirit.com



Fast begins in daylight hours, Friday July 20 or Saturday July 21.

The actual beginning of the fast depends on many factors: Does one follow the lunar cycles with scientific instruments? Or does one start the fast only with eye-sight confirmation of the moon? What do leading imams in your region decide for the larger community? Is there an official schedule for your nation? News media reports across the Middle East and Asia are pointing toward July 21 for some regions, based on reporting by the Islamic Crescents’ Observation Project. Across most of the U.S., the first fast is set for July 20: The Fiqh Council of North America is led by Muslim authorities across the U.S. from a wide range of ethnic groups and both the Sunni and Shi’a sects. The Council accepts calculation of the new crescent moon, marking Ramadan, by using scientific instruments. So, the Fiqh Council declares for the U.S.: “The first day of Ramadan is Friday, July 20, insha’Allah.” (That final phrase means, “God willing.”) Then, the fasting month ends with a huge celebration (the “Eid u-Fitr“), marked by a new lunar crescent that starts a new month. The Fiqh Council declares: “Eid ul-Fitr is Sunday, August 19, insha’Allah.”



The world’s billion-plus Muslims certainly eat and drink less during daylight hours, but during the evenings-and, in some cultures and communities, all night long-Muslims enjoy a festive Thanksgiving-like relationship with their food and drink. This is a time of family gatherings; friends spend time together at mosques and in cafes; family matriarchs pull out all the stops in making favorite dishes.

How much extra food? The oldest English-language newspaper in the Middle East, the Egyptian Gazatte, reports that Egyptians are anxious about food prices as each Ramadan rolls around. A July 4 Gazette report explained to readers: “People eat 70 per cent more during Ramadan, according to a study conducted by the Chamber of Foodstuffs. Consumption of sugar and pastry increases even by 100 per cent, meat and poultry by 50 per cent and diary products by 60 per cent. The consumption of rice and wheat increases only by 25 per cent.”

Price gouging and price supports? In such a month, price gouging can be a problem and one UAE news publication reports: “Ministry of Economy’s office in the Emirates has intensified price checks to ensure that all outlets, including super markets, groceries, salons and maintenance service shops, are not increasing prices.” Recognizing the huge importance of Ramadan, the government of Pakistan actually provides national subsidies to needy families through thousands of regional food stores. The program provides bundles of typical foods families need to provide night-time meals, bought in mass quantities by the government, bundled into “Ramadan Packs,” then sold at a deep discount to low-income families.




The Muslim calendar is based on lunar cycles. So, observances like Ramadan “move forward” through the world’s standard calendar. In 2011, Ramadan was entirely in August. In 2012, the start of fasting moves into mid-July and that’s a crisis for Muslim athletes competing in the 2012 Olympics.

In their Ramadan reporting, the Times of India and Reuters are citing a university study that, in a typical summer soccer match, an athlete loses 2 liters of body fluids. Fasting under such conditions seems impossible-but Islam traditionally exempts travelers from fasting as well as anyone for whom fasting poses a health risk. Olympic competitors might claim either exemption; and Muslim scholars are suggesting a range of other ideas from “making up” the fast later to donating funds for feeding hungry families.


Across the UK, non-Muslims are suddenly well aware of Ramadan in a positive way. Muslim athletes suddenly are talking about the depth of their faith-and their commitment to peacemaking and helping the poor during Ramadan. And there’s more! Muslim organizations in areas around the Olympic venues are welcoming both Muslim and non-Muslim visitors for Iftars (breaking-the-fast dinners after the sun sets). The UK grocery giant Tesco has set up a Ramadan portal within its website, already declaring: “Ramadan Mubarak.” Among the featured Tesco items are dates, traditionally the first bite each night as the fast is broken.



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phone: 248-978-6664

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