Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gaddafi's all female bodyguards known as The Amazonian Guard


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The Amazonian Guard
Muammar al-Gaddafi maintains a 40 member group of women unofficially referred to as the Amazonian Guard as his personal bodyguards and protectors. Upon selection as a candidate for the group the ladies are put through a tough training regimen in firearms and martial arts. His body guards are killing machines. They are trained to protect him and die for him. They also take a vow of chastity and apparently many young women are dying to take on this role. The Amazonian guard dress in western style fatigues, can wear make up, western hair styles, high heels, and other clothing not deemed acceptable in the Muslim world. These women are supposedly all virgins.
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Qadhafi appears to rely heavily and reportedly cannot travel without his senior Ukrainian nurse, Galyna Kolotnytska, who has been described as a "voluptuous blonde." Most likely that is her : see picture below.
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Gaddafi's nurse - Glyna Kolotnytska


Galyna Kolotnytska (notice the cross) age 36
All the images belong to their respective owners

Tracing America’s Muslim connection

JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE
Kambiz GhaneaBassiri’s fascinating book traces the history of Muslims in the United States and their different waves of immigration and conversion across five centuries, through colonial and antebellum America, through world wars and civil rights struggles, to the contemporary eraKAMBIZ GhaneaBassiri is an associate professor of religion and humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Born in Tehran, Iran, Dr. GhaneaBassiri was educated at Claremont McKenna College and Harvard University. He is the author of “Competing Visions of Islam in the United States: A Study of Los Angeles” (Praeger, 1997), and “A History of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order” (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Congratulations on the publication of your new book “A History of Islam in America”. What inspired you to write it?
I had found that discussions of Islam in America, both within the academy and outside, primarily focused on questions of assimilation. There was a general assumption that Muslims are outsiders to American society. Historically, however, Muslims have had a very long presence in America dating back to colonial times. No one, however, had carefully examined how Muslims have participated in American society, how they have built American Muslim communities and institutions.
I wanted to examine this history to show how the phenomenon of American Islam demands of us to rethink the politicized dichotomy between Islam and the West, which has come to shape the way the relationship between Islam and modernity is imagined.

What has drawn Muslims from around the world to live in the United States?
The answer to that question varies depending on the time period. In colonial and antebellum times, Muslims were mainly brought to these shores as slaves. At the turn of the twentieth century, they came mainly in search of better economic opportunities. Some sought to escape inscription into the Ottoman army. In the latter half of the 20th century, they came not only for economic opportunities but also to go to universities or to escape from wars or political repression at home. Since the 1920s, the United States has also been home to a significant population of converts and to black nationalists movements that appropriated Islam symbolically to develop a distinct national identity through which they could escape the stigma of blackness and partaking in American progress.

Is it possible for the United States to evolve into a Judeo-Christian-Islamic society?
The Immigration Act of 1965 forever changed the religious landscape of the United States by getting rid of racist quotas that restricted immigration from Asia and Africa.
While some still see Christianity and Judaism as representing the established religions of American society, today, the religious landscape of America is colored not only by Muslims but also by Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, Baha’is and various other religions. I think America will not evolve into a Judeo-Christian-Islamic society but into a multi-religious society. The evolution will not be smooth, however. Religious pluralism is a founding ideal of the United States, but historically Americans have moved toward it kicking and screaming.

What are the challenges facing American Muslims today?
There is no doubt that there has been a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments in the US in recent years, but I don’t think this represents a threat to the prosperity of American Muslims.
Over the years, American Muslims have formed meaningful relations within their local communities, and thanks to civil rights legislation, they also have legal means through which they redress religious bigotry. Their biggest challenge is to construct institutions, communities, discourses, and relations that reflect their actual lives in the US so that they could protect the younger generation from feeling stigmatized or becoming radicalized by the negative stereotypes and anti-Muslim discourses that surround them.

Is homegrown leadership important for the future of the American Muslim community?
Because of the long history of Muslims in the United States and the presence of a large indigenous American Muslim population, the absence of homegrown leadership has not been a major issue for the American Muslim community. While there are some Muslim leaders who came from overseas, the majority of mosques in the United States are funded and administered by local communities. Most don’t have a paid Imam, which means that the duties of the Imam get rotated between members of the local community.

How can Muslims help America to become a more open, multicultural and tolerant society?
When faced with religious discrimination or bigotry, American Muslims could remind their compatriots of the nation’s founding ideal of religious freedom.
This is precisely what we saw in the summer of 2010 at the height of the controversy surrounding the proposed Park 51 Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. By defending their right to build an Islamic center near Ground Zero, American Muslims stepped onto the national stage and in their own voices defended America’s founding ideals of religious freedom and tolerance.

Are you optimistic about the future of Islam in America?
It’s perilous to try to predict the future based on the past. Nonetheless, I am cautiously optimistic. Despite all of the challenges that Muslims have faced and despite the US invasion of two Muslim-majority countries in recent years, most American Muslims interpret their post-9/11 context in term of civil rights struggles rather than a struggle against colonial hegemony.
This signals that they believe they could play a role in shaping the future of America by narrowing the gap between their lived experiences as American Muslims and the negative representation of Islam in the public square.

BBC Radio: British gay Muslims seek Islamic weddings

Activists at a London Pride event in 2005
There is growing visibility of gay Muslims in Britain, although not all are confident about coming out

British gay Muslims are joining the global fight for equality and seeking gay Islamic marriage. The BBC's 5 live Investigates speaks to one couple about their 'nikah' - a Muslim matrimonial contract - and asks how they balance their sexuality with the Islamic faith.

"We met about three years ago, at an iftar - a breaking of fast during Ramadan.

"I think a lot of Muslims find that time of year very spiritual and very enlightening, and so I think that's why our relationship developed, because we spoke about our faith."

"Eventually we went on a date."

Asra recalls the first time she met her partner, Sarah, three years ago. The gay couple, who are also Muslim, are one of a growing number of gay, British Muslims who have cemented their relationship with marriage - Islamic marriage.

Asra fondly remembers the moment Sarah proposed to her.

"After the first date, which was about an hour, Sarah casually asked me to marry her."

Sarah interjects.

"I think it was more like four hours, after dinner, coffee and walking. I didn't really plan it, but it just really seemed like the way it was between us, I should try and keep it as pure as possible.

"That may sound strange being lesbians, but it felt like we should do it the most honourable way we could."

It's still very difficult for me to tell my family about my life being a lesbian. They know I am a believer, they know I am religious, but going as far as saying I am a lesbian is quite hard”

End Quote Asra, gay Muslim


The Muslim way

Asra and Sarah decided upon a 'nikah' - a Muslim matrimonial contract. Whilst nikahs have traditionally been the reserve of heterosexual Muslims, Asra and Sarah were aware that other gay Muslims had followed this route and the couple decided to investigate further.

"A few friends said you don't really have to have an official Imam, but you need someone who is knowledgeable enough about the Qur'an to do it. Fortunately, one of our friends was, and she offered to do it. She's a lesbian herself, and she said we could do it in her home."

Three months after the proposal, the big day came. Asra wore a white shalwar kameez - a traditional Pakistani outfit - and Sarah a pink dress.

"I wanted to wear leather, but Asra wouldn't let me," she sighs.

"We got rings from Camden market, and we drew up contracts - we got a blueprint off the internet of a heterosexual contract and we both looked at it separately, to see if there were things we wanted to change."

"I remember I put about the dog - that if we broke up, Asra wouldn't steal the dog."

Asra rolls her eyes and adds "we also did a dowry, of £5. It was a symbolic thing and we've still got those £5 notes."

In attendance were six friends, who also acted as witnesses - "and a cat," says Sarah.

Imam Daayiee Abdullah

By not allowing same-sex couples to wed, there is a direct attack on the Qur'an's message that each person has a mate who is their 'comfort and their cloak'”

Imam Daayiee Abdullah

The short ceremony was conducted in Arabic, and additional duas - prayers - were read and the marriage was essentially no different from the nikahs performed for straight Muslim couples all over the world.

But the Islamic faith vehemently rejects homosexuality, and the fact this nikah was for a gay couple is highly offensive to the majority of Muslims - including Asra's own parents.

"It's still very difficult for me to tell my family about my life being a lesbian. They know I am a believer, they know I am religious, but going as far as saying I am a lesbian is quite hard," Asra says.

"I remember thinking this is the only time I am going to get married, and my family weren't there.

"That was constantly going through my mind - I am having an Islamic nikah, doing as much as I can through my faith, but my family weren't there."

However, Sarah's relationship with her family is quite different.

"Because I wasn't born a Muslim - I converted five years ago - I think my family is quite accepting of my sexuality. But sometimes it seems like they are waiting for me to grow out of being a Muslim."

Gay Muslim voices

Sarah and Asra know their marriage is unorthodox, and the idea of a gay nikah would be rejected by the majority of Muslim scholars, but Sarah says it is nobody's business.

"It is between me and God, and when we got married it was not ideal, but we were doing our best."

However, there is a small but growing voice within the Muslim community representing gay people, with the emergence of British gay Muslim support groups such as Imaan and Safra Project.

One of the key advocates of Muslim gay marriage is the American Imam, Daayiee Abdullah - who himself is gay. He has performed a number of gay nikahs in America and has also advised gay British Muslim couples on how to perform the ceremony.

He reasons that to deny gay Muslim couples the right to a religious union, goes against teachings in the Koran.

Speaking to 5 live Investigates, he says: "Since Islamic legal precedence does not allow same sexes to wed, Muslim societies make it a legal impossibility within Islam [but] by not allowing same-sex couples to wed, there is a direct attack on the Koran's message that each person has a mate who is their 'comfort and their cloak'."

It is not just within the Muslim community that gay Muslim couples such as Sarah and Asra have encountered hostility.

"I feel there's Islamaphobia within the gay community. It's something that really worries me," says Sarah.

Asra recalls a particularly unsavoury incident.

"There was an occasion at gay pride once where one of the marchers turned around and quite crudely said 'we didn't know pride was allowing suicide bombers on the march' - it was really shocking to hear it from a fellow gay marcher."

But according to Sarah, it's not just Muslims who are rejected by the gay community.

"I think there's a deep-rooted assumption in the secular queer community that you can't be gay and believe in anything, apart from yourself or materialism."

Acceptance

However, gay unions are being integrated into wider British society even more - and the government recently announced plans to allow churches in England and Wales to host civil partnership ceremonies.

Ministers have pledged greater equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but said no religious group would be forced to host the ceremonies.

The Church of England has said it will not do so. Quakers have welcomed the plans, with support also expected from Unitarians and Liberal Jews. But what about the Muslim community?

"Homosexuality is not considered a halal way of living at the moment, so of course there's going to be an extreme reaction to a gay nikah. So, as a community we have to get tolerance before we can even attempt acceptance of marriage," says Asra.

But she is hopeful for the future.

"I certainly know younger gay Muslims that are out to their families and their families are absolutely fine with it.

"Same-sex nikahs are still a contentious issue, but all I can say is I have done it, and I am completely comfortable and content with my faith and hopefully people will think 'well, let me try and get to that place'.

You can hear the full report on 5 live Investigates on Sunday, 20 February at 2100 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live.

You can also listen again on the BBC iPlayer or by downloading the 5 live Investigates podcast.