Navigating Healthcare In The US: A Muslim’s Guide To Advocacy

Muslim Matters - 12 hours 15 sec ago

My sister died from healthcare negligence. Here’s what I learned.

My sister had died due to negligence in a hospital in the US. In her full niqab and while pregnant, my sister was neglected in several ways that led to the loss of both her and her child. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

She was only recently married and we were all excited, days away from seeing our family’s first grandchild. However, despite her cheerful nature, beautiful personality, high education, and abundant generosity, she endured several negligent care provider decisions that led to the death of her and her unborn child. Decisions that could have been easily avoided.

The tragedy of losing my sister was mired by the discrimination that our family felt. Her death and the loss of her unborn child marked one of the most difficult periods of my life and sent me on my own difficult journey in my youth. My experience in non-Muslim environments where Islamophobia can brim just beneath the surface, has taught me valuable lessons on how to navigate the healthcare systems of the West and call for proactive advocacy for Muslims. I hope the following points help anyone fearing such discrimination.

Understanding the Challenge

For many Muslims, the healthcare environment can be fraught with the potential for bias, misunderstanding, and discrimination. Whether it’s due to visible symbols of faith like the hijab or niqab, or simply the cultural nuances that accompany our interactions, the impact on the quality of care and the dignity afforded to us can be profound. It’s essential that we, as a community, understand how to advocate effectively for ourselves and our loved ones, maintaining our moral agency and ensuring our rights are respected, especially during critical times of emergencies.

Here are some expanded strategies to help our communities step confidently into these often intimidating settings, ensuring that we can advocate for ourselves and our families effectively, and overcome biases.

  1. Ask the Right Questions

Engage actively with healthcare providers by asking detailed and far-reaching questions about treatments, preventative measures, and all possible outcomes. This not only demonstrates that you are intelligent and involved in the care process, but also establishes a precedent of accountability. Your questions should be persistent yet respectful, showcasing a professionalism that demands attention but also respects the expertise of the staff so as not to alienate them further.

  1. Learn to Speak Legalese

It’s crucial to convey an understanding of the legal implications of healthcare decisions.

Remember that Muslims navigate the world with Taqwa. We fear Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), while a non-Muslim typically fears liability. Healthcare professionals generally operate within a framework of liability; showing that you are knowledgeable about legal consequences can ensure more meticulous attention to the care provided. Familiarize yourself with relevant healthcare laws and patient rights. Do not hesitate to mention that you are documenting interactions and care processes, as this can often prompt more diligent responses.

  1. Smile, it’s Sunnah!

Maintain a positive demeanor! A smile can be a powerful social signal in disarming potentially defensive or biased healthcare staff. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminded us of the virtues of smiling, and patience in challenging circumstances. Use kindness and a positive demeanor as your driving energy in your interactions. This approach does not diminish the seriousness with which you treat the care of your loved ones; rather, it opens channels for more humane and considerate interaction.

  1. Know Provider Biases

Oftentimes, care providers demonstrate biases that are arguably rampant in the West where exorbitant educational loans required to attain medical degrees can lead to slanted decisions that are financially beneficial for doctors and hospitals, but may not necessarily prioritize or encompass patient needs.

Navigating healthcare

Navigating healthcare [PC: Towfiqu Barbhuiya (unsplash)]

For instance, more typically, a patient may require only simple preventative care and advice, whereas in the fee-for-service and value-based care models, patients can receive unneeded prescriptions and services that aren’t necessarily harmful, but at least maximize hospital revenue. In another example, in specialized care units, empty patient beds do not guarantee hospital income—meaning doctors and hospital administrators may decide to keep a patient in their care, to try their best, deciding to not transfer a patient to a better-equipped hospital where more crucial care instruments may be available to maximize care.

  1. Seek out Advocates

Patient advocacy networks are usually in place to help patients in decision-making.

Many hospitals offer Patient Advocacy services. Engaging with these advocates can provide an additional layer of support and oversight, particularly useful in navigating complex and stressful situations. Ask information desks about patient advocacy services and the role of patient advocates in assisting with navigating the healthcare system, including how to find advocates who are sensitive to or share the patient’s cultural and religious concerns.

It doesn’t hurt to get acquainted with hospital administrators either. Ask information desks about escalation pathways, what the accepted channels are, and how to reach administrators, especially in crucial emergency and intensive care matters.

  1. Tap into Local Community Support Systems

Leverage the support of local Muslim communities and religious organizations which often have resources and experience in dealing with similar situations. They can provide both emotional support and practical advice. Community leaders typically have contact with lawyers, doctors, and other impactful members who can give advice or further aid you in your critical situation. Hospitals also can have Muslim Chaplain services that can further your advocacy needs. In a robust and diverse Muslim community, no one must suffer their crises alone.

Remember that as famously generous as Muslims are in charitable causes, they too can be generous to individual community members, even if you have little reach or acquaintance with leaders or members. Feel free to contact an Imam with regard to your situation; you never know what help or solutions can come about. You can also look for legal support in dire situations from Muslim Advocacy Law Groups such as the Council for American Islamic Relations.


In conclusion, while the challenges are real and sometimes daunting, there is much that can be done to ensure that as Muslims, our interactions with the healthcare system are dignified, respectful, and just. By employing strategic advocacy, building robust support networks, and maintaining our composure and kindness, we can protect our rights and those of our loved ones effectively. In doing so, we uphold not only our individual dignity but also contribute to the broader struggle for fair and just healthcare.

InshaAllah, this guide serves as a beacon, empowering you to navigate these turbulent waters with confidence and faith. May it help you, and anyone else who might find themselves in similar circumstances. Ameen.

[Legal Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. The content in this article does not purport to offer legal or medical advice. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in this article. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.]



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Revealed: Meta approved political ads in India that incited violence

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 May, 2024 - 11:00

Exclusive: Ads containing AI-manipulated images were submitted to Facebook by civil and corporate accountability groups

The Facebook and Instagram owner Meta approved a series of AI-manipulated political adverts during India’s election that spread disinformation and incited religious violence, according to a report shared exclusively with the Guardian.

Facebook approved adverts containing known slurs towards Muslims in India, such as “let’s burn this vermin” and “Hindu blood is spilling, these invaders must be burned”, as well as Hindu supremacist language and disinformation about political leaders.

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‘We had to break the status quo’: UK campaign seeks to mobilise Muslim vote

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 May, 2024 - 07:00

The Muslim Vote aims to list candidates that align with it on foreign policy, NHS and education

A campaign group hoping to mobilise Muslim communities in the lead-up to the general election has said it wants to ensure their votes are “taken seriously” and it aims to produce a list of candidates they endorse later this year.

The Muslim Vote, a campaign group, is hoping to encourage as many of the 3.9 million Muslims in the UK to vote in the upcoming general election, focusing on constituencies where they can have the most impact.

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Don’t mention the genocide

Indigo Jo Blogs - 19 May, 2024 - 23:10
A demonstration in a street in central London, with banners featuring the Palestinian flag with slogans such as "Free Palestine" and "End Israeli State Terror"Nakba Day procession, London, May 2024. (Source: PSC)

The last couple of weeks I saw a few articles on the Gaza genocide by Zionists, as well as a series of social media posts by a Canadian Instagram influencer who (although it’s not the main focus of her content) is also a Zionist, which reflects two particular trends in how they write about the ongoing conflict and the genocide stage of it in particular. The first was by Hadley Freeman, a former Guardian fashion writer who switched to the Times and to the right-wing opinion website Unherd after falling out with “The Left” over Jeremy Corbyn and the trans issue, and it was an overlong treatise on how “the Left had failed since 7/10” and it rehashed a number of familiar arguments. The second appeared in last Thursday’s Guardian and was by Dave Rich, which made the claim that there has been a “record rise in the UK in antisemitic hate incidents that began the moment Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October” and headlined (though this may have come from the editor or sub-editor rather than the author) “the 7 October Hamas attack opened a space – and antisemitism filled it”. You will notice that in both cases, the 7th October attack is mentioned as the turning point, rather than the genocide for which it served as a pretext.

Zionists seem to have a code of silence, an omertà, about the oppressive nature of Israel’s regime in the West Bank in particular. At most, they wring hands about Netanyahu and the settlers, but insist that Israel is more than just these ‘extremists’ despite the obvious fact that Netanyahu keeps getting returned to power. Palestinians resist Israeli domination because Israel is a Jewish state, because they have an irrational hatred of Jews, not because they do not accept being dispossessed of most of their lands and being oppressed and harassed in the diminishing archipelago of lands they are permitted to still occupy. Their overseas supporters, similarly, can only be motivated by hatred of Jews; of course they aren’t upset at seeing the litany of oppressions Palestinians are subjected to because they never complain about oppression anywhere else (even if they do). The other major tendency is to deny or play down the influence they have and the voice they have in the popular media. This is where our Canadian influencer comes in: in a highlight series about antisemitism mostly posted in the middle of last October, she complained that the only Jewish voices people heard were anti-Zionist ones like Naomi Klein’s (she suggested we listen to Hen Mazzig instead). This is, of course, rot: the popular press carries articles from Jewish Zionists often. The Guardian in London, for example, has Jonathan Freedland writing the most prominent opinion column on Saturday. Last Sunday’s Observer had a piece about “fearful Jewish students” written by a regular columnist called Sonia Sodha, who is not Jewish but her sympathies are obvious. The voices of Jewish critics of Israel are given more prominence than non-Jewish, let alone Arab or Palestinian ones; the two critical letters in response to Dave Rich’s article that appeared in today’s edition, for example, are both from Jews. She also complained that Jews were forever accused of playing the victim, while doing just that herself.

Freeman complains that the Left did not care about Corbyn’s supposed antisemitism, that they backed him despite opinion polls that claimed that 86% of them regarded him as antisemitic; one unnamed ‘prominent’ person told her that it wasn’t as if the Labour party intended to bring back pogroms. “The Left doesn’t care about antisemitism if they deem it inconvenient to their cause,” she complains. No: the Left would object to antisemitism if it was real, if it bore the slightest resemblance to what would be called racism if any other group was alleging it: violence or the threat of it, suggestions that they do not belong in this country or that they stole someone’s house or job, the use of racial slurs, to name three common examples (antisemitism does have some particular forms, including a set of conspiracy theories, but Zionists commonly stretch the definitions through the needle’s eye to slap down critics of Israel or its overseas lobby). A great many of the accusations were about things that were not about British Jews, or Jews generally, at all, but about Israel; what started it off was a social media post by Naz Shah, the Muslim Labour MP for Bradford, consisting of a meme in which Israel was superimposed on the central United States with the suggestion that the latter country accommodates Israel’s Jews rather than supporting them to occupy Palestine. As is usual with such descriptions of Corbyn’s Labour party, Freeman completely obscures the context, which is that their opponent was a Conservative party which had rounded up elderly Black British people and imprisoned and expelled them from the country. The ‘antisemitism’ campaign was in aid of that party, not an anti-racist party.

She then devotes several paragraphs to a critique of “identity politics”, which she claims “divides the world into two racial categories: ‘white’ (defined as colonising oppressors) and ‘people of colour’ (the oppressed)” and Jews are perceived as “ultra-white and therefore oppressive”, hence the ‘thriving’ antisemitism on university campuses. Again, she totally ignores the context: over the past 500 years or so, whites have indeed been the principal colonisers in the world, and a major source of oppression both in their colonies, from the slave trade to the Jim Crow system and ongoing race-based oppression, and in terms of regimes they supported as hegemonic powers after the end of explicit colonialism, designed to keep their populations poor and powerless. Not all oppressors are white, but white powers have used oppression to enrich their own ruling classes and empower their countries while impoverishing the majorities in South America, Africa and Asia. Freeman mentions Mizrahi Jews in Israel (populations which migrated or were expelled from other Middle Eastern countries in the decades following the establishment of the state of Israel) so as to argue that “Jews aren’t white”, but the majority of Jews in the UK aren’t brown-skinned Mizrahim but white-skinned Ashkenazim.

‘Traditional’ post-war racial doctrines defined ‘white’ as excluding Jews. This definition should have been revisited long before now, as it’s stuck in the mid-20th century. It is true that the Far Right does not consider Jews to be ‘white’ as they consider themselves, but the Far Right we knew in the 20th century as represented by the likes of the National Front, the BNP and their splinter groups is a tiny and dwindling extremist minority. The mainstream Left and Right both in the UK, the US and the rest of the English-speaking world treat white Jews as no less white than other white people. Why were complaints about “antisemitism in the Labour party” never out of the headlines the entire period of Corbyn’s leadership? No other racialised group would get such indulgent treatment when complaining about racism whether in a political party or by the police or any other institution; no other group would see people expelled from a party for simply questioning whether the volume of claims reflected the reality, as an accusation came to be treated as proof in itself and to defend oneself was deemed to be a further offence. No other religious minority has its established, ‘mainstream’ bodies accepted as arbiters of who belongs and who does not, and what thought should be associated with that community and what should not; other minorities face prosecution for using language such as ‘coconut’ to refer to disloyal members, or are at least condemned for using such language as “house Muslims”, while dissenting Jews are treated the same as non-Jews, by non-Jews, for questioning the word of the established groups and, for example, expelled from the Labour party for disputing their word on Zionism or the Labour “antisemitism crisis”. I do not dispute that prejudice exists, but Jews do not constitute a racially oppressed group in modern western society precisely because modern western society thinks of race as colour. A folk memory of oppression, fostered by families and communal schools, does not constitute oppression itself.

Freeman tells us of her ‘struggles’ with the progressive Left about the transgender issue and compares women’s oppression with that of Jews. She writes:

When we explain why we might not want trans women in our single-sex spaces, referring to past experiences of male violence, we are accused of “weaponising our trauma”. When we talk about our fear of Hamas, because Jews have some experience when it comes to genocidal fascist groups, we’re accused of “weaponising the Holocaust”.

It’s a fact that Hamas have not struck beyond the borders of Palestine; they are a product of decades of Israeli brutality against Palestinians in their own country. British and American Jews (mostly descended from Jews who migrated from Russia when the Tsars were still in power, not from Holocaust survivors) have nothing to fear from Hamas unless they choose to join the occupier. In both cases they are often weaponising other people’s trauma, not their own, as there are plenty of female trans allies and they include survivors of rape and other kinds of male violence.

Women in general — like Jews — tend not to be believed when they describe violence committed against them; according to a recent annual report from the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, only 5% of reported rapes result in charges being brought, never mind convictions. So, when stories started to emerge fairly soon after October 7 that Hamas had committed horrific sexual violence during the pogrom, I knew the reaction would be bad.

That few reported rapes result in prosecution is not in dispute (the party that benefited from the “antisemitism crisis” has slashed funding to both police and the court system while they have been in power, resulting in reduced resources and increased delays, as well as prisoners released who are a danger to the public). As already discussed, the mainstream media and major party politicians readily believe Jewish claims of antisemitism, especially if it is against anyone on the Left (less so if the antisemite is a Tory). The reason many people were reluctant to believe the claims about atrocities committed by Hamas and Palestinian irregulars in October 2023 is because they were being made by an oppressive, racist state that was already openly preparing for genocide; there is no comparison between a woman coming forward to report rape and any claim made in wartime atrocity propaganda.

The Unherd article is an extract from an essay, Blindness, which appears in the most recent Jewish Quarterly in Australia, whose blurb brings us back to our opening theme: the silence on the Gaza genocide, on Israel’s oppression, on settler violence: 

This issue of The Jewish Quarterly explores the response of the left to the Hamas attacks in Israel of October 7 and the willingness of progressives to abandon values that they purport to represent. In this crucial essay, author and columnist Hadley Freeman examines the equivocations, contortions and hypocrisy displayed by elements of the left, including many who were unable to name, acknowledge or condemn the atrocities of Hamas. Freeman looks at the beliefs and mindsets that have swept across sectors such as universities, politics, media and the arts, and resulted in a fervour that blinds its adherents to the realities and complexities of history and justice.

Freeman and the editor of this publication write as if they have no idea of why people might not be that concerned about an atrocity that is alleged to have taken place seven months ago which is dwarfed both in numbers and in sheer brutality (documented both by the perpetrators and victims) by the genocide which followed. We would all be horrified if someone was raped and/or murdered in our neighbourhood, but if relatives of the victim then went on a killing spree against people of the same ethnic background as the attacker or who just live in his neighbourhood, we might well forget about the original crime quite quickly. Palestinians are an oppressed people who have been living under a jackboot since the 1970s, experiencing military and settler harassment, an unequal legal system consisting of military kangaroo courts and a regime of arbitrary imprisonment, unaccountable murders, capricious curfews and home invasions, water theft, crop vandalism and numerous other persecutions aimed at forcing them out of their country (and any Gaza Palestinian will remember all this from the period before 2005 when Gaza also had Jewish settlements). No middle-class white woman in the London or New York suburbs, Jewish or otherwise, least of all one with a cushy media job, who thinks they are ‘oppressed’ really knows the meaning of the word.

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An Interfaith Trojan Horse: Faithwashing Apartheid and Occupation

Muslim Matters - 19 May, 2024 - 11:00

Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in 2014 for the Islamic Monthly, and has been republished with permission from the author.

Interfaith work has the potential to create and sustain profound relationships across religions. 

But what happens when interfaith work becomes a trojan horse?

In this piece I explore the Muslim Leadership Initiative, a program which sends American Muslims leaders to Israel to study Judaism and Zionism and is funded by the Shalom Hartman Institute, a Zionist and anti-BDS organization.  I’ve broken down the narrative into five parts – the actual critique and deconstruction of the institute and program are towards the later part of the article.

The Background

Last week, Rabia Chaudry – a National Security fellow at the  Truman National Security Project and New America Foundation – published a piece on TIME magazine’s website, entitled “What an American Muslim Learned From Zionists“. In the article, Rabia reveals that two cohorts of young American Muslim leaders -their identities kept hidden because of the “risk” – over the past year have gone to Israel as part of an ‘interfaith’ program, called the Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI), organized by Duke Muslim Chaplain Imam Abdullah Antepli and Trinity College Assistant Professor of Religion Homayra Ziad; it was funded by the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI).

Chaudry’s piece was a follow up to a June 4th article written on her Patheos blog, which discussed the difficulty she, personally, faced in making the decision to accept the invitation. This was not, however, the first time Chaudry had discussed the trip. On November 17th, 2013, Chaudry gave a talk on her first of two trips to Israel, through the Shalom Hartman Institute, at Silver Spring’s Muslim Community Center. In the talk, she also mentioned that the participants reached out other Muslim American leaders and even shayukh  – who encouraged the trip. Up until last week’s TIME article, however, the institute behind the program had been left unnamed and other participants in the program have yet to be revealed (save those who have voiced their participation vis a vis social media).

The TIME article reduces the occupation to the displacement of “dialogue” and “both sides” (unsure if Chaudry means Palestinians and Israelis or Muslims and Jews) being unwilling to speak outside “their own bubbles”. Muslims, it essentially argues, misunderstand Zionism and thus misunderstand Jews and Israel. Therefore, to have healthy and holistic interfaith dialogue back in the United States, American Muslims must understand what Zionism means to Jews and what Israel means to Jews. At the  midway point of her piece, Chaudry even explains how  it was only after she finally met Palestinians, during her trip, that she understood that the “fear many Israeli Jews have [of ending the occupation] is not a figment of [their] imagination” as “the pressure cooker cannot hold indefinitely.”

Chaudry followed up her article – which elicited, albeit relatively isolated, an uproar of condemnation from many Palestinian Americans on Twitter as well as voices of support from other groups elsewhere on social media – with another, responding to criticisms about the Shalom Hartman Institute’s program and the participation of Muslim American ‘leaders.’ This blog post was, too, filled with deeply problematic and logically unsound arguments (see: ‘don’t single Israel out’, equivocating ‘jihad’ and Zionism; claiming not to speak for Palestinians while, actually, doing that with both words and actions). Additionally, it even mentioned that it was key to enable Muslim leaders “to use the language of Zionism to remind Jews of the ethical and moral callings of their faith.”

Because Muslims have a responsibility to make Judaism  inseparable from Zionism and tell believing and non-believing Jews what’s theologically up?

Criticisms of the articles themselves aside, the majority of the social media criticism was directed towards the existence of the program itself; the fact that Muslim American leaders would consider breaking, in effect, BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) by being sponsored, supported and funded by a Zionist institution seemed to knock the wind out of many. The inclusion of participants such as Wajahat Ali and Haroon Moghul – two well-respected and prolific Muslim names in US media – as opposed to the usual fringe-esque names we may be used to, set off a scurry of alarms and a tide of confusion.

What’s going on?

Speaking to the Man Behind the Curtain

To those who know him Imam Abdullah Antepli, the visionary behind the Muslim Leadership Initiative, is a a “beautiful man” with a passion for interfaith dialogue. In February of this past year, his interfaith efforts at Duke were featured in a Haaretz article chronicling the growing challenges of interfaith dialogue on US campuses with the growth of student-led BDS movements. I had the opportunity to speak with Imam Antepli last Thursday; like many others who had caught wind of the program and trip, I was livid, saddened and at a loss for words to see what I and so many others felt was a normalization of Zionism and Israel within our community through some of our most well regarded public leaders.

In our conversation, Imam Antepli stressed that the purpose of the program was to educate Muslim American leaders – those at the forefront of being in touch with young Muslims especially – about Judaism so as to better approach the question of Zionism and Israel that is otherwise made into the elephant in any and all interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims. This was, he said, just a pilot run of the program; he, along with the participants and the Hartman Institute were unsure of what exactly to expect from one another and from the experience. Nevertheless, Imam Antepli trusted the Shalom Hartman Institute, which he had visited for three years straight prior as a participant at the institute’s multifaith, interdisciplinary International Theological Conference (ITC). The program consisted of curriculum by the Hartman institute, of which the majority was originally created for American Rabbis.

The institute, founded by American Progressive Orthodox Rabbi Dr. David Hartman, is dedicated to being “a center of transformative thinking and teaching that addresses the major challenges” faced by the world’s Jewry. Following a progressive Orthodox Judaism, the institute also promotes Jewish pluralism, both for religious and secular Jews, and multi-faith conversation (e.g. ITC). In particular, it is also interested in looking at the relationship that diaspora Jews have with Israel.

Because of Imam Antepli’s own experience with the institute and belief in its principles and the sort of space it has cultivated for itself within the American Jewish community as well, he felt that the institute would be best suited to house the program. The line, for him, would be groups like the ADL and AIPAC.

He admitted, however, that there were shortcomings – most glaringly (and a central criticism waged against the program) the absence of Palestinian and Arab-Americans from the cohorts. Imam Antepli explained that in the original cohorts, there were a few Arab-Americans poised to go on the trip, but due to logistics and unforeseen events they had to leave, leading the cohorts consisting primarily of South Asians, a few Turks and one Black American. When I asked him the selection process for the MLI participants, he emphasized repeatedly that his goal was to have the proportional representations of members of the American Muslim community present in the program. Thus, because there are more South Asian Muslims than Arab American Muslims there would be more South Asian Muslims present in the program. Additionally, he continued, it was of dire importance to him that the participants be half men and half women – this was something he was completely unwilling, he said, to compromise on. In addition to these representations, Imam Antepli stated that he wished that there had been a more pluralistic Muslim representation, as all those who went on the trip were representatives of the Sunni community.

The Imam also explained how he had plans for a JLI – Jewish Leadership Initiative – which would bring Israeli Jewish leaders to the United States to speak with American Muslims and learn about Islam. This would be, of course, a plan for the distant future as opposed to anything in the next near while.

When I pushed about the crossing of the BDS line by this program, the answers seemed to be less than satisfactory. Imam Antepli did not deny the deplorable conditions of the Palestinian people or the ‘disgusting’ nature of segregated Israeli society; he minced no words in condemning the occupation and treatment of Palestinians as well as the Israeli attitudes towards both. Yet on BDS, he provided anecdotes of how during his conversations with Palestinians while they agreed with the importance and strength of BDS they also believed in the importance of Muslims, from around the world, coming to see for themselves the occupation.

Faithwashing Apartheid and Occupation

It is hard to ignore the obvious; it is hard to ignore that despite whatever good intentions and explanations there were and will be, a group of Muslim American leaders – many in the very public eye and with a great deal of social authority – went to Jerusalem through a program, albeit organized by an Imam, funded and supported by an institution that is unabashedly Zionist. That a group of Muslim American leaders traveled to Israel to learn about what ‘Zionism means to Jews’ to better understand Jewish connection to Israel and thus bridges, interfaith, dialogue and other such nouns.

And yet nothing about this is, unfortunately, surprising.

One of the most common tactics of Zionist lobby groups and organizations has been sanitizing the occupation and apartheid and displacing the actual cause and reason for the conflict. Zionist groups have courted Black college students and Latino leaders (with pushback), for instance, in an attempt to, as independent journalist Rania Khalek describes it, “neutralize the brown electorate.” She explains how in an attempt to thwart identification or solidarity Latino, Asian and Black Americans may have with the Palestinian struggle there is a necessity to, quoting former US Ambassador to the European Union Stuart Eizenstat, show how the conflict “..“is not a civil rights issue. It’s rather a very different conflict in which violence is being used and Israel’s right to be a state is questioned.”

This is, in its essence, what washing the occupation and apartheid clean actually is: to sanitize the narrative in which the oppressor becomes the oppressed or, at the very least, a relatable oppressor.

And this where what I will refer to as ‘Faithwashing’ comes in. Faithwashing is about changing the cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or, rather, Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine) from a mid-20th century Euro-American settler-colonialist project (that brought anti-semitism to the Muslim world) to a non-existent centuries long enmity between Jews and Muslims.

Using religion to whitewash Israeli crimes and dilute the occupation is nothing new. It’s relatively well known that Christian (Evangelical and others) often travel to Israel to visit holy sites as well as pledge support for the state of Israel – although not really in the interest of the world’s Jewry. What’s not as well known is that these trips are often, albeit not always, funded by Zionist groups interested in propping up support for Zionism and Israeli policies.

Now it seems that the attention has been turned towards mainstream Muslim American leaders who are anti-Islamophobia activists and well regarded within their communities. In the case of MLI – it seems as though good intentions have been turned into an opportunity for a liberal Zionist educational institution – Shalom Hartman Institute – to further its anti-BDS agenda.

The decision by these community members and leaders to go to Israel vis a vis a Zionist, anti-BDS institution is incredibly shameful and dangerous. Good intentions matter, but actions make the real difference. The bottom line becomes that this program should not have happened and should not continue as it undercuts the plight of Palestinians and normalizes Zionism – a racist ideology and institution that is antithetical to our own Islamic traditions of social justice –  within our communities.

BDS matters. Ignoring BDS is Ignoring Palestinians.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society released a statement making a call for the international community to commit to the Boycotting, Divesting and Sanctioning of Israel (similar to the one issued against Apartheid South Africa) until it complied with international law. Part of supporting BDS, beyond divestment from corporations and groups that directly exploit the occupation and Palestinians, is not enabling the very institutions that both directly and indirectly support the occupation, the status quo; that support Zionism, a secular ideology that co-opted religious narratives for nationalist aims, propagated by European colonial officers who supported the export of the so-called ‘Jewish problem’.

When an individual, who claims to be committed to the Palestinian Cause™, makes the decision to be associated with and use the support of a Zionist organization – however good the cause – they are, without any grey, breaking the BDS line and are normalizing Zionism. And there should be no mistake about what Zionism is and what it isn’t.

The Shalom Hartman Institute is actively dedicated to and engaged in anti-BDS campaigns.
It is hard to imagine that not a single participant in the MLI checked out the Shalom Hartman Institute’s website before accepting the invitation to the program. It only takes a few minutes to discover some alarming facts and associations – facts and associations that point to an institute that is actively engaged in fighting BDS on campuses and faithwashing the existing and emerging narratives on Israel.*

In 2010, SHI launched the ”Engaging Israel Project” or, IEngage – a project which has partnered with AIPAC. The goal of the project “is to respond to growing feelings of disenchantment and disinterest toward Israel among an ever-increasing number of Jews worldwide by creating a new narrative regarding the significance of Israel for Jewish life.” It does this by  “addressing core questions pertaining to the necessity and significance of the Jewish national enterprise; how a Jewish state should exercise power; why a Jew who lives outside of Israel should care about Israel; and what the State of Israel can offer the world.”

In other, less euphemistic words: IEngage is about saving Zionism and ensuring Israel’s support, as a Jewish state, both at home and abroad.

One of IEngage’s faculty is McGill Professor of History, Gil Troy who has been at the forefront of fighting BDS. In 2009, he and Dr. Mitchell Bard presented a position paper at the  Working Group on Delegitimization at the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism (seriously, click that link and read it). Tasked with the responsibility to “respond” to the challenges that would arise from the growing BDS movement, they emphasized that the fight against BDS was an “educational one” and outlined a three-pronged vision for fighting BDS:

  1. Israel Being a Cause to Celebrate
  2. Humanize Israel
  3. Driving a Wedge between Soft Critics and Hard Delegitimizers

The Hartman website  even features an article highlighting Troy’s efforts to fight BDS on campus, in which he said to have said “the Shalom Hartman Institute iEngage Project has been working for four years to shift the negative and doctrinaire conversation about Israel toward one that is constructive, thoughtful, and educational.” SHI president Rabbi Donniel Hartman is also quoted in the article in emphasizing how the campaign against BDS must be a campaign of ideas. Elsewhere on the website, Rabbi Hartman also discusses how BDS is “repulsive” and that it must be, once again, defeated through ideas, education  and, essentially, reclaiming Zionism amongst the world Jewry.

A key program of the IEngage project is the CLI: Christian Leadership Initiative, which preceded the Muslim

Leadership Initiative. The program, however, was not initiated by SHI but, rather, AJC – the Global Jewish Advocacy group that is also unabashedly and openly committed to fighting BDS. In May of this past year, the AJC discussed on its website that in an attempt to thwart any American Christian movement away from  supporting Israel it had established the CLI in a partnership with SHI.

CLI is a mirror program of the MLI – beyond just sharing a name. In fact, the description of the MLI program (co-directed by Yossi Klein HaLevi, who is a former follower of Meir Kahane and member of the JDL) on the SHI website makes it abundantly clear that the purpose of the program is not to teach Muslim leaders about Judaism (at least solely) but to educate them on Zionism and the centrality of Israel to the world’s Jewry. The curriculum for the Muslim leaders was, in fact, entitled “Encountering Israel: Independence, Peoplehood, and Power.”

Until Saturday, SHI’s 2013 Annual Report included the MLI under the IEngage project. When I brought this concern up with Imam Abdullah Antepli, he said that the MLI was not a part of the IEngage project and that he would, immediately, speak with SHI staff to have it removed. And within less that twenty-four hours, it was.

Thank goodness for printscreen:

While Imam Antepli was adamant that MLI had nothing to do with the IEngage project, it is incredibly telling that it is modeled after AJC’s Christian Leadership Initiative and that SHI included it under its IEngage project section in its 2013 annual report.

Is this a matter of thirteen months of miscommunication?

The program description in the annual report also reiterates – contrary to the claims of those who participated – that the interfaith initiative “is not a dialogue” but rather to help “Muslims to experience how Jews understand Israel and themselves.”And, perhaps most tellingly, also claims that it aims to “change attitudes in the North American Muslim community and in Muslim-Jewish discourse in communities and on campuses across North America.”

Emphasis added. 

The Shalom Hartman Institute’s interests lie not in fostering better Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations for the sake of interfaith, but rather in fostering relationships with key leaders within these communities – specifically in the United States – who have access to the youth in their communities and can help normalize Zionism, legitimize Israel and thus delegitimize BDS.

The Need to Reject The Zionist Narrative

There are more questions than answers.

One of the first things that struck me about the program, after I learned that it was associated and funded by the Shalom Hartman Institute, was that there actually isn’t any reason for Muslim American leaders to travel to Israel to study Judaism for the sake of interfaith. Was there really a dearth of resources in the United States? Or are Rabbinical studies only possible in Israel? Just as Qur’anic studies would only be possible in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, India, Jordan? Morocco has one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the world; why not go there, where interfaith between Muslims and Jews isn’t obstructed by apartheid walls and laws? Not only would it not cross the BDS line but it would also shift the focus from Ashkenazi-centric Jewish narratives to Sephardic.

Does it make sense for American Muslim leaders to work with an institution where, by the participants own admittance, the instructors claimed they had never interacted with Muslims despite living in a country where the majority within a decade or so will be Muslim? Does it make sense to speak of bringing Israeli Jewish leaders to the US to learn about Islam when their neighbours are, in fact, Muslim?

And are we now accepting, after years of rejecting, the equivalence of Judaism and Zionism? Are we actually sidelining anti-Zionist Jewish voices that reject the modern state of Israel as an integral part of Judaism, of their Jewishness (secular or religious)? Where do we get the authority to do that? 

Palestine is central to the hearts of Muslims all around the world, but that does not mean we try to re-write the narrative of the occupation on our own terms. There is a real need for interfaith understanding and work between Jews and Muslims and if Israel is a part of that work, then so be it. But we must not, in the process, allow ourselves, our communities and our leaders to be on the wrong sides of history and justice by normalizing and accepting what was and remains unjust.  

Right now is a critical moment for our communities to have an actual conversation – not a shouting match. There are concerted efforts to drive wedges between members of communities that may and do stand up against Zionism and the oppression of Palestinians. I earnestly hope we do not allow those efforts to succeed and I encourage others to write responses and engage on this topic. Let’s keep the conversation going.

*An important note: the Chair of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America is Angelica Berrie, who is the president of the Russell Berrie Foundation. In a 2011 report for ThinkProgress entitled Fear Inc., MLI participant Wajahat Ali revealed a network of organizations creating and feeding the Islamophobia industry in the United States. Amongst the foundations mentioned, the Russell Berrie Foundation was, too, included. According to the report, the foundation “contributed $3,109,016 between 2001 and 2009 to organizations engaging in anti-Muslim work”. Some of the anti-Muslim groups who received funding included “Counterterrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation, receiving $2,736,000; the Investigative Project on Terrorism ($100,000); and the Middle East Forum ($273,016.22).”


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At western Sydney’s Brotherhood Boxn, young Muslim men find purpose ‘whether in the ring or in life’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 May, 2024 - 21:00

Boys and men from ‘broken homes’ come to Muhummad Alyatim’s Greenacre gym to train, be heard, and to pray

As two boys spar, sweat spraying the mat, a coach leans over the boxing ring to give them advice.

“Remember your basics,” he says calmly as the boys pummel each other.

Continue reading...

Whispers Of Gratitude: Which Of The Blessings Of Your Lord Will You Deny?

Muslim Matters - 17 May, 2024 - 15:04

A cascade of sunlight flooded in as I pulled back the blinds. The sun’s gentle caress felt like a comforting break. The vibrant, “pretty in pink” color of bougainvillea flowers in our front yard peeking through the window creates a cheerful scene contrasting with the cold weather and breathes a sigh of relief. After months of being around people, I found solace in my room filled with amber hues, which held a stillness that resonated with my introverted nature. Busy crowds and the noise of life often leave me feeling drained, and reflecting is my usual way to recharge.

There are times when we need to slow down, reflect, and find ways to be grateful in our busy world. This is to prevent drifting through life without purpose. That search may seem more difficult when things get rough. We often look for peace and solitude and guidance from different sources when we need to make sense of it all. The Quran, a divine revelation, serves as a source of wisdom and a universal guide for humanity, offering deep insight and comfort to help us stay grounded and focused through life’s ups and downs. 

Aside from its religious significance, several scientific studies have shown the potential health benefits associated with the Quran recitation. The holistic impact of the Quran on individuals is evident. As stated in the Quran,

“And if We had made it a non-Arabic Qur’an, they would have said, “Why are its verses not explained in detail [in our language]? Is it a foreign [recitation] and an Arab [messenger]?” Say, “It is, for those who believe, a guidance and cure.” And those who do not believe – in their ears is deafness, and it is upon them blindness. Those are being called from a distant place.” [Surah Fussilat: 41;44] 

The oft-repeated ayah (verse) in Surah Ar-Rahman echoed in my mind: “Which of the blessings of your Lord will you deny?” This question had settled deep within my head, patiently waiting for moments like these – when the world faded away, and introspection took over.

In this solitude, I reflected on many blessings that are sometimes forgotten in the rush of existence. With my hands cupped around the steaming cup of native coffee, I inhaled its delightful aroma. The soft glow of the sun shining through my favorite book, makes the words look beautiful.

Each breath: a gift. Each heartbeat: a reminder.

فَبِأَيِّ آلَاءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ

“Which of the favors of your Lord will either of you deny?” is a verse in the 55th chapter of Surah Ar-Rahman of the Quran. It is a rhetorical question repeated 31 times posed both to humanity and Jinn, asking us to reflect on the countless blessings and signs of Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Mercy and Power that are evident all around us. The repetition of the verse is a reminder to continually evaluate our gratitude towards the Creator’s favors.

Nur Ghanim Qadduri al-Hamad analyzes various scholars’ views on the Qur’an’s repetitive elements in “The Purposes of Repetition in the Qur’an According to the Risale-i.” Some excerpts from his paper:

Ibn Qutayba explains that the verse “Then which of the favors of your Sustainer will you deny?” is repeated in the Quran to make believers reflect on and remember the many blessings God has given them. By placing this verse amidst the recounting of His bounties, it serves as a reminder of God’s generosity and power, ensuring that the significance of these gifts remains firmly in the minds of the readers (Ibn Qutayba, Ta’wil Mushkil al-Qur’an, p. 239).

Many scholars have suggested various reasons for the repetition 31 times of the verse, “Then which of the favors of your Sustainer will you deny?” (See, al-Khatib al-Iskafi, Durrat al-Tanzil, 463; al-Kirmani, Asrar al-Takrar fi’l-Qur’an, 198; al-Nasafi, Madarik al-Tanzil, iv, 214.) 

However, Fakh al-Din al-Razi (d. 604H) says that such interpretations are based on nothing authentic. He points out these repetitions are revelations, and man cannot penetrate their mysteries with his mind. It is best therefore for man not to make exaggerated interpretations of God’s Word. (al-Fakhr al-Razi, Muhammad ibn ‘Umar, al-Tafsir al-Kabir (famous as Mafatih al-Ghayb) (Dar al-Fikr, 1405/1985) xxix, 97.)

The verse, in all its depth, encourages us to take a moment to contemplate the many ways we are nurtured and sustained by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The verse does more than just remind us of our blessings. It challenges us to deepen our understanding of gratitude. 


In Islamic teachings, gratitude for Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Blessings is deeply connected with empathy towards others. The Quran speaks against ingratitude and harm (Surah Al-Baqarah: 2;205), while it commends caring for the oppressed (Surah Al-Ma’un: 107;1-3). Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is noted for his empathy, as Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) describes him as deeply affected by others’ suffering and kind to believers (Surah At-Tawbah: 9;128). He ﷺ also taught that believers should empathize with each other like a single body feeling pain (Bukhari). These principles underscore the significance of empathy and justice as responses to divine blessings.

Gratefulness goes beyond acknowledging our blessings but also the struggles and sufferings of others. Unfortunately, we don’t often see other people’s pain. Tragedies, loss, destruction, and other sad news stories seem to pop up every day, but they can only ironically make us blind from the pain that people are going through, both at home and abroad.

Once we realize the blessings Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) asks, “Then which of your Lord’s blessings will either of you deny?” It’s crystal clear that when we look around, we’ll find countless reasons to be grateful for the favors of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Blessings of your Lord

Bound by duty [PC: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona (unsplash)]

This verse becomes even more meaningful when seen through the lens of the Palestinians today. The ongoing war has produced horrifying images of the current situation in Palestine. I am unable to express even a small fraction of their suffering or put it into words. The situation is deplorable for war victims, but they have demonstrated unwavering faith. Thinking about the verse in light of the Palestinian struggles forces us to confront the uncomfortable truths about privilege, power, and responsibility. Not everyone has the same shot at opportunities and freedoms we often overlook. It’s on us to acknowledge this reality and our faith calls us to stand in solidarity with those who are facing hardships, including nations facing atrocities and other grave injustices.

Having said this, true empathy requires more than just sentiment. It demands action and accountability such as requiring us to educate ourselves about the root causes of injustice, challenging oppressive systems, and supporting grassroots movements for change. 

Moreover, the verse challenges us to examine our complicity in systems of oppression and injustice. It requires us to recognize how our actions or inactions may cause others pain and take real action to fix them. This reminds us that true gratitude is not passive, but is expressed through action – through speaking out against discrimination and oppression in all its forms. 

The verse urges us to open our eyes and hearts. History bears witness to humanity’s tendency to favor worldly pursuits over spiritual progress. From ancient times to the present, the quest for power has often overshadowed the path of righteousness. Grand empires rose and fell, driven by ambition rather than divine guidance. In this age of technology marvels and material wealth, worldly distractions persistently draw us away from our spiritual core. As we journey through life, let’s listen for the inner voice that guides us back to our true purpose.

Then, which of the blessings of your Lord will you deny?


And so, I write, and I contemplate, and I offer my heart’s whispered response: “None, Ya Allah Ya Rahman, none!”



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