Narcissism Has No Place in Activism #MyLifeMattersToo

Muslim Matters - 18 hours 42 min ago


“Don't allow yourself to be drawn into someone else's version of 'the cause.' No one can do it all, not even those saying you should do more. So do what you can, and bear in mind that God is Judge, not anyone else. And remember, your most basic responsibility in the face of injustice is to call people to the guidance of Allah. Too many of us forget that.”

—from the journal of Umm Zakiyyah


It was in my last year of college that I had to humbly accept that I could not do it all. I'd gotten married the summer before and was facing daily sickness, body weakness, and migraines due to pregnancy. Yet I was still working full-time as a student teacher and had projects, term papers, and presentations to prepare. I'd had to resign from my leadership position in the Muslim Student Association and forego the detailed research project required to receive my honors degree; and these two were very difficult for me to walk away from because they'd meant so much to me. But for the sake of my health, I had to.

Years later, when I made the decision to publish novels with spiritual themes, it was for two reasons: to stay focused on what would remind me of the Hereafter, and to inspire others to do the same. In all my years of studying Islam, focusing on the Hereafter was the common theme in every Qur'anic story and prophetic teaching. Whether in the context of ease or hardship, and whether combating injustice or establishing justice, no prophet or messenger deviated from this focus. And I decided to strive my level best to follow their example. But in even this, the lesson I'd learned in college stayed with me: Do your best, but know you cannot do it all.

We're All a Bit Narcissistic

It's human nature to see the world from only our vantage point. This is mainly because our own point of view is the only vantage point inherent within all of us. And no matter how much wisdom, life experience, and education we gain along the way, the tendency to see and judge the world according to our own narrow lens never goes away completely. Thus, we can all benefit from learning new perspectives now and then, and we can all benefit from reminders to take a step back and look at things from a different angle. In other words, being humble and amenable never gets old.

When I was in college and came to the realization that I couldn't do it all (no matter how much I wanted to), I was forced me to see the world from a different point of view. And this new perspective forced me to see not only myself differently, but also others as well.

“Its Your Responsibility”

When I became a well-known author and public figure, I was completely unprepared for being inundated with both private and public messages from Muslims (and occasionally non-Muslims) telling me what I had to write or speak about because “it's your responsibility.” They'd say what a shame it was that I wasn't doing such-and-such for a particular group of suffering people or important cause—even as they knew absolutely nothing about me aside from my books, public blogs, and social media posts.

What was most heartbreaking about this experience was that, at times, the harshest criticism and attacks came from fellow writers and da'wah workers, often based solely on what they'd seen of me online. Experiencing this on a personal level inspired this reflection that I posted on my Facebook page:

“Though it may be difficult for the social media generation to understand, some people do have lives outside Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. So before you criticize someone for not addressing or supporting a certain issue or cause, bear in mind that your eyes and knowledge are not those of the Lord of the Worlds. So your time is better spent asking yourself what you can do to help, instead of surveying what others are—or are not—doing during these difficult times.”

—from the journal of Umm Zakiyyah

His Other Wife novel

Emotional Manipulation Under the Guise of Activism

Some time ago, I attended a #BlackLivesMatter event organized by a local activist. I'd expected the speech and panel discussion to convey inspirational ways to help others understand the sacredness of black lives in light of the deaths of so many innocent black men, women, and youth. But instead, I sat through over an hour of the activist yelling at the audience for not being present at his other events (Never mind that we were present at this event).

This activist made no mention of the various other activities going on (which many of us had indeed attended), as he apparently felt that only events organized by him mattered. He even went as far as to mention something he'd organized for the following day then said to the men in the audience, “If you don't show up tomorrow, you're not a real man!”

Being exposed to his harsh words was deeply triggering for me, as I'd previously suffered my own share of emotional and spiritual abuse at the hands of people in leadership positions. Consequently, I began to avoid any events where this particular activist was speaking. However, because there were many programs he was doing that were helpful to minority youth, I continued to support him via social media whenever I could. But I eventually gave up even this distant support and reluctantly un-followed him after months of reading posts like, “Anyone who doesn't share this post or come to such-and-such event doesn't care about black lives! You're no different from the people murdering them!”

Public Harassment or Activism?

In the midst of the tragic events in Baltimore, I happened to read yet more disturbing words by a self-proclaimed Muslim activist. This time, the words were directed at me specifically. On a public post in which I was discussing the tumultuous events in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, this man said that religious people like me hid behind quotes about Allah and the Hereafter to avoid doing any real work for the community.

Ironically and unbeknown to him, at that very moment—while he was merely talking about coming to Baltimore to show his support—I was in Baltimore and was supporting efforts to provide donations to disadvantaged families who'd lost their homes due to fire and rioting. But because he couldn't see what I was doing, and because I hadn't taken pictures of myself or publicly posted all my efforts, he “called me out” for allegedly turning a blind eye to the suffering of African-American people.

What on earth is going on? I was left wondering. When did community activism become public interrogation and harassment?

Is This About Pleasing Allah, or You?

Fortunately, there are many community activists, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who are doing remarkable work to help suffering and disadvantaged people, both nationally and abroad. However, there remains a spiritually destructive culture that has found its way into the Muslim community: inciting public humiliation under the guise of activism and “supporting the cause.”

In this culture, satisfying the desires and demands of prominent activists and their supporters is the measuring stick of “doing your duty.” This mindset allows no room for what cannot be measured by public perception alone. It doesn't even leave room for the ghayb, that unseen reality known only to Allah.

Anyone viewed as not doing enough for “the cause” is both privately and publicly humiliated and criticized, sometimes in the form of social media hash tag campaigns. Though some of these campaigns start off as well-intentioned and are initially established for the purpose of encouraging a famous or influential person to use their fame or influence for a good cause, unfortunately, too often these campaigns quickly disintegrate into public humiliation and shaming.

Each time I see yet another blog, social media post, or hashtag campaign targeting a public figure for not doing such-and-such for “the cause” (whatever it may be at the moment), I cringe. I completely understand the need to hold people in certain positions accountable for doing their job, but I still grapple with why we believe that innocent actors, authors, athletes, and entertainers have a responsibility to do whatever we (or random activists) demand of them. Of course, there's nothing wrong with seeing a prime opportunity for someone to use their fame for good, but what's so wrong with utilizing kindness, compassion, and gentle words to invite them to our idea?

Islam itself, the religion that God himself requires of everyone on earth, allows believers to utilize only da'wah, an invitation, when calling others to their spiritual responsibility. Under no circumstances are we permitted to utilize humiliation, shaming, or compulsion in reminding our fellow brothers and sisters in humanity about their souls. Why then do we imagine it's okay to utilize these methods for our own ideas and causes, especially when singling out others by name?

When did it become evidence of injustice for someone to be a prominent actor, author, athlete, or entertainer guilty of no crime except not publicizing every good deed they do? Or not doing every activity that a random activist demands of you?

We are not Allah. We don't know the unseen. We don't know the ins and outs of someone's private (or even public) life. And we certainly don't know whether or not someone is fulfilling their duties regarding any cause, perhaps far beyond how we are fulfilling our own.

So be careful, O dear “good Muslim,” whose activist label makes you imagine that you're always on the side of good. And before you start yet another campaign publicly telling someone what they must do (or calling them out for what you think they didn't do), consider this as if coming from the heart of every fellow human being, no matter who they are to you: #MyLifeMattersToo.

And remember, goodness and standing up against injustice exists outside the realm of your perception and limited mortal judgment. So it behooves us to take a step back and reflect on a possible reality outside our inherently narrow vantage point. We are not the Master of the Day of Judgment, nor has He tasked us with recording humans' good and bad deeds. Thus, it's not for us to call any innocent person to account based on even our best intentions at encouraging good.

In other words, our narcissism has no place in activism.

Because, ultimately, doing what's good and necessary for any praiseworthy cause is about pleasing Allah, not you.

His Other Wife novel 

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy. Her latest novel His Other Wife is now available. Read HIS OTHER WIFE novel now: CLICK HERE.

To learn more about the author, visit or subscribe to her YouTube channel. 

Federal government revokes $19m funding for Sydney's Malek Fahd Islamic school

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 February, 2016 - 22:01

Education minister Simon Birmingham says the school failed to respond adequately to concerns about financial management and governance

The federal government has pulled funding to Australia’s largest Islamic school after the education department revoked its approval.

The Malek Fahd school in Greenacre in southwest Sydney has had $19m in federal funding revoked.

Related: Government accuses six Islamic schools of breaching Education Act

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A warm welcome at Woking’s Shah Jahan mosque | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 February, 2016 - 19:20

Your report “Mosques open doors for tours, talks and tea” (6 February) reminded me that when I was at school nearby decades ago I was told that the Shah Jahan mosque in Woking was our only mosque. Actually it was the only purpose-built one, built in 1889 by a Jew, Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, for visiting Muslims from India. Your report might suggest that the doors are not open at other times but when I visited one afternoon last year not only was I able to enter the beautiful mosque but was asked if I’d like some lunch.

The Liverpool mosque was opened a few months earlier, but in a converted house, by William Quilliam, a Liverpool solicitor from an Isle of Man family. He converted to Islam, took the name Abdullah and rose to some eminence as Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam Bey. He translated parts of the Qur’an into Manx Gaelic and while it is hard to imagine this flying off the shelves it is interesting to think of local interest in Islam so long ago. There were a number of prominent converts including the Right Hon Lt Col Lord Headley who became Shaikh Rahmatullah al-Farouq.

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To Know Black History is to Know Islamic History

altmuslim - 8 February, 2016 - 17:30
By Hakeem Muhammed True Black history has been obfuscated and replaced with nefarious Eurocentric myths. Africa is portrayed as a place without history: primitive, inferior and impoverished. The noble descendants of Africa are by extension portrayed as incompetent and inconsequential actors in world history. To counter these Eurocentric tall-tells that masquerade as objective history, Carter G. [Read More...]

The Occupation Goes Missing from The NY Times

The occupation went missing from The New York Times this past week. Palestinians were there, as victims and attackers, but the brutal military regime that controls their lives made no appearance.

The newspaper had plenty to say about Israeli Jewish life, however: two lengthy stories about prayer space at the Western Wall and one discussing Zionism. Each of these stories ran over a thousand words.

Two shorter news articles reported that the murderers of a Palestinian teen had been sentenced to prison and that a knife attack left one Israeli police officer dead, but nothing in either of these provided the context crucial to understanding events in the occupied territories.

Meanwhile, as the Times obsesses over Israeli identity and attitudes, the occupation grinds on, producing news that appears elsewhere. At the top of the list were two major stories: A Palestinian prisoner was near death after passing his 75th day on hunger strike, and Israeli forces carried out a massive demolition of over 20 homes, rendering more than 100 Palestinians homeless in the dead of winter.

The ordeal of Mohammed al-Qeeq, a journalist held without trial since Nov. 21 of last year, drew the attention of Israeli and international media outlets, which recounted his legal appeals, protests on his behalf and an Israeli Supreme Court decision which “froze” his detention but confined him to a hospital. (Al-Qeeq refused the offer and continued his fast.)

Al-Qeeq’s hunger strike was deemed unfit to print in the Times, perhaps because it would touch on Israel’s use of administrative detention, which holds prisoners without trial. Readers are not to know that as of last December 660 Palestinians were held in this limbo, nor were they to be informed that a number of human rights groups have protested Israel’s unsavory use of the practice.

And then there is the matter of two impoverished villages in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank, Khirbet Jenbah and Khirbet Al-Halawah, which were made even more destitute after Israeli army crews arrived last Tuesday and demolished 22 structures, displacing 110 people, including dozens of minors. The army also confiscated solar panels, which, like many of the homes, had been donated by aid organizations.

The military claimed that it destroyed Jenbah and Al-Halawah because they were located in a declared firing zone. The Israeli publication 972 Magazine, however, noted that “Jewish settlements within [the zone] have not been served with eviction orders.”

This was the largest mass demolition in a decade, and the plan to destroy villages within the firing zone has drawn international attention and a petition from world-renowned authors to spare the communities. None of this, however, was enough to draw the interest of the Times.

Instead, the Times considered it more urgent to examine the effects of a new prayer space at the Western Wall—not once, but twice—and to take a look at Zionism today. Villagers thrown out in the cold of winter and a prisoner on the brink of death took a back seat to these concerns.

The Times claims that it gives readers “the complete, unvarnished truth as best as we can learn it,” and it insists that the newspaper’s overriding goal is to “cover the news as impartially as possible.” Readers who never stray to other sources of information may actually believe this.

Barbara Erickson

Filed under: Abuse of child prisoners, Israeli Bias in the New York Times Tagged: Firing zone 918, Israel, Mohammed al-Qeeq, New York Times, Palestine, West Bank

London mayor race: fibs, fur and fantasies fly as Zac Goldsmith awakes

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 February, 2016 - 08:25

Labour’s Sadiq Khan has been making the running but his Tory rival may now be picking up the pace

Who kissed Sleeping Beauty? After months of campaign slumber Zac Goldsmith, Conservative mayoral candidate and organic Dish of the Day, finally woke up late last week in a London television studio. Until then, his main rival for City Hall, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, had been outrunning, outflanking and generally outdoing him on every front. But when, for the first time, Goldsmith engaged Khan directly, face to face, on ITV London’s Late Debate, he at last looked switched on and more like the electoral Prince Charming his party hopes he is. Confident and calm, he called Khan’s bluff a few times. He also talked plenty of trash. Both men are now bullshitting freely. Wellies on. Let’s wade in.

The risk with Khan’s campaign is that he over-promises or, to be exact, seems to be doing so. This gives Goldsmith an opportunity to depict him as an untrustworthy, dreamworld lefty, which is the top and bottom of his strategy. The Tory has been assisted by an internal Transport for London (TfL) briefing note which found its way to BBC London. According to this document, Khan has hugely underestimated the cost to TfL of his proposed four-year freeze on public transport fares. Goldsmith recited an entire paragraph from the Lynton Crosby red scare manual he’s clearly been diligently cramming. I quote:

This transport stuff we are hearing from Sadiq Khan is fantasy nonsense, it’s Corbyn madness. It simply does not add up and if you were to create the kind of efficiencies in TfL you [Sadiq] are talking about it would require you to take on the very unions that are backing, running and controlling your campaign.

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'Speed-dating' with a twist: got questions for Muslim women? Here's where to go

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 February, 2016 - 23:50

Hana Assifiri invites ‘generous and brilliant’ women to her Morroccan deli in Melbourne every fortnight for those who want to ‘ask a Muslim anything’ in a bid to create a more cohesive society, one conversation at a time

Hana Assafiri knows how to harness the power of women. When she opened the now renowned Moroccan Soup Bar in North Fitzroy, Victoria, more than 15 years ago, she employed impoverished women struggling to break free from a cycle of poverty and domestic violence, teaching them the skills to provide affordable and nourishing food to their communities.

Having recently opened an off-shoot of the vegetarian restaurant in Brunswick East, called Moroccan Deli-Cacy, Assafiri has once again surrounded herself with women, this time in a bid to dispel myths around Muslims and to create a more cohesive society, one conversation at a time.

Related: A testing year for Australia's social cohesion as multiculturalism debate grows louder

I wondered whether Muslim women wearing a hijab ... compromised feminism. And what I’ve learned is of course it doesn’t

Related: Sydney Muslims feel at home despite very high racism exposure, survey finds

The Muslim women here ... are generous and brilliant, and sadly they haven’t been in the limelight

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Visit My Mosque day: questions from prayers to beards answered

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 February, 2016 - 17:47

More than 250 non-muslims visit East London Mosque as it invites public inside to find out more about Islam’s teachings

The beard issue came up early. One of the first questions fielded by Juber Hussain at East London Mosque’s open day was from a young man in a leather jacket sporting a Motörhead logo, who wanted to know why Muslim men grew facial hair.

Smiling, and running a hand over his own impressive growth, Hussain observed that everyone seemed to be at it these days, not just Muslims – including his questioner. But he said that for Muslims it was a way of emulating the prophet Muhammad, who was believed to have worn a beard.

Related: Visit My Mosque day: British Muslims offer tours and tea to public

Related: Tea, Citizen Khan and other good reasons to visit your local mosque | Remona Aly

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Christian college professor to step down after saying Muslims worship same god

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 February, 2016 - 14:38

Tenured political science professor Larycia Hawkins to ‘part ways’ with Wheaton College following a confidential agreement, says joint statement

A professor at an evangelical university near Chicago who got into trouble after saying Muslims and Christians worship the same god will leave the school, according to a joint statement released by Wheaton College on Saturday night.

Related: Christian college moves to fire professor who said Muslims worship same god

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Pegida's 'costly hate rallies' have no place in Birmingham, say MPs

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 February, 2016 - 12:29

Anti-Islam group’s protests waste police time and attract little support, say politicians and community leaders

“Costly hate rallies” have no place in Birmingham, MPs from the city have said, after the founder of the anti-Islam group Pegida UK pledged to stage a protest in the city on the first Saturday of every month.

Approximately 200 demonstrators gathered for the inaugural Pegida rally at Birmingham International rail station on Saturday – half as many as police expected.

Related: 'Like a poison': how anti-immigrant Pegida is dividing Dresden

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What's it like being a Muslim during the US presidential elections?

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 February, 2016 - 19:33

Are you a Muslim living in the US? Share your experiences with us, and tell us how you think the presidential candidates are handing issues that matter to you

Barack Obama used his first presidential visit to an American mosque on Wednesday to call for writers and producers to create more rounded Muslim characters on television.

If you’re a Muslim living in America, we want to know what you think of Obama’s comments, what it’s like living in the US, and what you think of the presidential candidates’ views of Islam.

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Pegida UK supporters stage anti-Islam silent march in Birmingham

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 February, 2016 - 18:38

Low turnout as 200 protesters gather at industrial estate as similar rallies take place across Europe

Supporters of the anti-Islam group Pegida staged a silent march in Birmingham standing against what they called “the most dreadful, subversive, violent ideology” as clashes broke out at twin rallies in France and the

About 200 demonstrators gathered for the inaugural Pegida rally in the UK – half as many as expected by police – which took place on an industrial estate miles from the city centre.

Related: Pegida: what does the German far-right movement actually stand for?

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Moving Beyond the Single Narrative- The POTUS Visit to an American Mosque

Muslim Matters - 6 February, 2016 - 00:00

Oped by Khadija Gurnah

Khadija Gurnah is the Founder of Project Ejaba and a White House Champion of Change. She is a public health professional and an advocate for youth who has channeled her passions into Project Ejaba – a platform for Muslim young adults that provides resources and programming, including programming to promote social change, a national campaign to raise awareness on mental health issues and an interfaith program for Muslim artists across the country.

I am honored and humbled to be one of the participants at a roundtable discussion with President Obama when he visited a Baltimore-area masjid. It was a historic moment as it was the first time in his presidency to visit a mosque in the United States. It was also a personally significant moment to have the opportunity to meet and welcome the President to the mosque where I met my husband 14 years ago.


Baltimore was the first place I came to in the United States and I still consider it my home base. My friends in Baltimore are apolitical, but all of them were deeply moved by the President's visit to their community mosque. My dear friend and her daughter were up at 7 am helping me pin my hijab, as I'm the worst when it comes to making sure my hijabs stay in place. I'm usually in a perpetual bad hijab day. My friends were not amongst those attending the President's speech, so that morning felt very much like what I imagine prom would be, they made sure my hijab was on point, took photos and dropped me off with hugs and well wishes. As I left Baltimore that day, my friend texted me to say the President's speech had been electrifying and she was thankful for the whole experience.

I'm keenly aware that not everyone in the Muslim community has the same kind of enthusiasm for the mosque visit as my friends and the community members in the mosque. Many of the critiques of the President's mosque visit say that it was mere symbolism, a political photo opportunity that is too little too late. The Muslim community has a complicated relationship with the President, on one hand he has high approval ratings in the American Muslim community, on the other hand, Muslim activists are deeply critical of the national security framework as it applies to Muslims, particularly of surveillance and the government's Countering Violent Extremism programs.

I have not had any experience with either of these issues as my work is in the space of domestic public health policy such as healthcare reform, childhood poverty, and obesity prevention and most recently on environmental justice with the current man made disaster in Flint. In my domestic policy organizing, the White House's work has not only aligned with my goals, but any opportunity I've had to partner with them has elevated the quality of my work. The White House staff I work with had been incredibly gracious and has guided me in becoming a more effective community organizer. The Office of Public Engagement at the White House has a diverse staff that has come from grassroots organizing and my work has benefitted from knowing them.

Much of the work I do within the Muslim community is in finding pathways to move beyond the single narrative of having to either condemn or be the targets of terrorism. I am working at creating programming and resources to assist young Muslim adults in transcending this single narrative and being able to live authentically. The conversations surrounding the President's visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore remind me of the single narrative paradigm. I do understand that for some Muslims this is a complicated time to engage with the President, however we are not homogenous and neither is our work nor our needs.

obama roundtable

For many American Muslims, particularly young adults who have grown up in the shadows of 9/11, the mosque visit was much needed and welcomed. On December 15, 2015, senior administration officials had a listening session asking Muslim leaders what they can do to help address the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country. Several leaders specifically asked the President to visit a mosque, reiterating a request that had been made before and speaking to the importance of it happening at this time. Just weeks later we were in Baltimore, welcoming the President to the home grown Islamic Society of Baltimore.

At the December meeting, I spoke of creating spaces where young Muslims can transcend the single narratives they wake up to every day. To give them the bandwidth to create art, to work on social justice issues, to live well with compassion and authenticity. At the roundtable, the President spoke of his commitment to the Muslim community beyond his presidency; of making sure he amplified our stories and engaged our work. I hear that in his speeches, in his recognition of diverse groups of Muslims, from champion fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad to the work of Rami Nashashibi.

At the December 15 meeting with senior administration staff, many of us, myself included, spoke of the danger of the single narrative, the importance of recognizing the diversity of the American Muslim community and we asked for engagement outside of the parameters of national security. The roundtable at the mosque was responsive to all these points. It was a diverse group, both in terms of race and experiences. It was made up of many people doing great work on policy issues such as climate change and criminal justice reform, who were able to connect to the administration staff working on those issues.

As the President acknowledged yesterday, problems that were created over decades cannot be easily resolved. I do hear the voices of those who would like to see more resolutions from the administration. What I would like to ask is that we give each other the bandwidth to work on issues that matter to us and ensure we are not creating a single narrative. For those who wanted the mosque visit, for our children and young adults who benefited from hearing messages of inclusion from their President yesterday, for those of us who work on policy issues with the administration, the visit yesterday was not symbolic—it was needed and appreciated.



President Obama’s Speech at Mosque Missed American Families Victimized by State Violence

Muslim Matters - 5 February, 2016 - 22:56

Oped By Mariam Abu-Ali

Mariam Abu-Ali was born and raised in Northern VA. She graduated from Georgetown University with a major in Government and a minor in Arabic. After graduating, she worked as a Communications Manager at ICNA Council for Social Justice, where she helped manage projects countering Islamophobia. She is currently the Director of the Prisoners and Families Committee at the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms. Mariam's involvement in civil and human rights is very personal. She has been advocating on behalf of her brother Ahmed Abu-Ali, a victim of torture and extraordinary rendition and a US political prisoner for over a decade.

I was at the airport with my friend Reem when an older woman stopped me in the restroom.

“I'm sorry for what's happening to Muslims in America.” she said, “I'm glad that President Obama visited a mosque yesterday. I just want you to know there are people on your side.”

I was shocked and touched by her words of solidarity with the American Muslim community. I embraced her and thanked her for her kindness.

Yesterday, I watched as President Obama delivered his speech at his first ever trip to a mosque. There is no doubt that his speech was a powerful one, and the content of his message is one that I hope reached Americans across the country. President Obama talked about the concern and fear that the Muslim community has faced in the wave of hateful rhetoric by politicians and growing anti-Muslim sentiment. He talked about the bullying and harassment that American Muslims have experienced, as well as the vandalism of mosques across the nation. He spoke about the long history of Muslim presence in this country, dating back to the slave trade, and stressed and affirmed the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

What Obama did not talk about, however, were his administration's policies which directly contribute to the hateful, discriminatory environment American Muslims have and continue to endure till this day. The reality of the matter is that our President's rhetoric is at complete odds with his policies. And his policies are a significant reason why American Muslims have been seen and treated as second class citizens.

What Obama did not address was the fact that Guantanamo remains open and that it has only housed Muslim men. Until today, 93 detainees remain at Guantanamo.  Not only has Obama not fulfilled his promise of shutting it down, but he has kept Guantanamo open for longer than Bush did.

What Obama did not address was the surveillance of our communities, the incarceration of innocent men convicted under the guise of national security, and the informants who target our youth and houses of worship.

I watched as Obama gave examples of young American Muslims teens who wrote to him, troubled by the way they are treated in their schools and confused about their place in the world. And all I could think about was how our government, the U.S. government, tore my family apart when I myself was only a fourteen-year-old. It also tore apart Reem's family when she was fourteen years old. Two Muslim men stolen from their families —my brother Ahmed Abu-Ali was 21 when he was illegally detained and tortured in Saudi Arabia at the behest of the US. He was convicted using the false confession obtained through torture,  and he continues to be held in solitary confinement with severe restrictions on communication with the outside world.

Ahmed Abu-Ali

Kifah Jayyousi, Reem's father, who once proudly served in the U.S Navy, has suffered a similar fate being detained in solitary confinement without charges for an entire year, then  held at a Communications Management Unit on false charges of material support for terrorism. He continues to be unjustly incarcerated because he did what every American strives to do, which is to help the global human community through charity.

In both cases, being good patriotic Americans didn't shield them from the wrath of a government that has sought to fundamentally criminalize the Muslim identity. Therefore, when President Obama remarked in his speech that our community is both Muslim and American, we recoiled. After all, how did being American protect us?

Reem and I are both only two of countless victims of state violence, and for too long, the world has tried to silence us. The Muslim community has tried to sweep us under the rug, afraid that our stories will prove to be barriers on their journey to be accepted as “good Americans.” But we will never be silenced, and we will remain steadfast in this fight for justice.


Ultimately, my frustration lies with the American Muslim community. It is us who refuse to face the reality behind a recurring cycle of violence that is buttressed by deep-seated Islamophobia [1]. We continue to frantically put a band-aid on a problem that stems not from lack of interfaith efforts or outreach, but which stems directly from a set of policies under the guise of the War on Terror that distinctly and specifically targets Muslims.

Islamophobia [1] is systemic and institutional; that's why my brother is in one of the most notorious prisons, the Supermax in Colorado.

That's why it's been 13 years of living without my brother in a country that heralds itself as being a beacon of human rights.

That's why I write this today.

[1] The University of California Berkeley's Center of Race and Gender defines the term Islamophobia explaining the reasons behind the fear:  Islamophobia is a contrived fear or prejudice fomented by the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure.  It is directed at a perceived or real Muslim threat through the maintenance and extension of existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations, while rationalizing the necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve “civilizational rehab” of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise).  Islamophobia reintroduces and reaffirms a global racial structure through which resource distribution disparities are maintained and extended.


Germany: Hand Grenade Thrown At Refugee Shelter in Latest Attack On Asylum Seekers

Loon Watch - 5 February, 2016 - 21:20

Police officers of the crime scene investigation unit examine a refugee shelter in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany, 29 January 2016. EPA


Asylum seekers were asleep in the building at the time and police said it was just ‘luck’ that the grenade did not detonate By Lizzie Dearden, The Independent

A hand grenade was thrown into a refugee shelter in Germany overnight as officials said attacks against asylum seekers in the country hit a new level of “hate and violence”.

Police in the southern town of Villingen-Schwenningen said it was “just luck” that the device did not explode when it landed at 1.15am.

Around 20 asylum seekers were sleeping inside the building at the time and were evacuated while a bomb squad destroyed it in a controlled explosion.

Refugee-centre-attack2.jpg Andreas Stenger, of State Office of Criminal Investigation shows a model hand grenade after an attack on a refugee shelter January 29, 2016 in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany.

Heiko Maas, the German justice minister, said the attack represented a new level of “hate and violence” that must be addressed by local and federal authorities.

“Grenades are already being thrown at refugee homes – we can’t wait until there is someone dead,” he added.

“We need to do everything we can to ensure xenophobic crimes are more rapidly solved and punished more severely.”

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