Podcast: The Unfinished Business of Martin Luther King | Imam Zaid Shakir

Muslim Matters - 17 January, 2020 - 04:00

Our Muslim community is one whose existence, contrary to popular misconception, is predicated on the establishment of peace. I believe that we have been divinely prepared to take up the torch held aloft so courageously by Dr. King and dedicate ourselves to the completion of his work.Click To Tweet

– Imam Zaid Shakir

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Labour leadership, Antisemitism and Islamophobia

Indigo Jo Blogs - 16 January, 2020 - 23:53
Lisa Nandy

This past Monday the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a body elected by parts of the Jewish community (not all of it), launched their “ten pledges” campaign, a set of demands for candidates for the Labour leadership to “end the Antisemitism crisis”. A PDF of the full list can be found here although images of it have been circulated on social media (a straight HTML version would not go amiss; images are inaccessible and PDF files take a long time to load and often a separate application to display). They include bringing current and future ‘cases’ of antisemitism to “a swift conclusion under a fixed timescale”, access for Jewish community groups to “regular, detailed case updates”, suspension for anyone in the party who provides a platform for anyone suspended or expelled “in the wake of antisemitic incidents”, the IHRA definition of antisemitism to be accepted without qualification, education on the subject to be delivered with the involvement of the Jewish Labour Movement and, perhaps most controversially, that “Labour must engage with the Jewish community via its main representative groups, and not through fringe organisations and individuals”.

On Tuesday, in response to a thread from Shaista Aziz, a Labour activist in Nottingham, in which she reported that she had been invited to be interviewed on the subject of racism in the coverage of the Prince Harry and Meghan story (see last entry) and the interview request was withdrawn when she asked for clarification, I tweeted this:

Funny how a certain predominantly white minority is trusted to dictate what is and isn’t racism against them but POC [people of colour] aren’t, when it’s often very obvious to any sincere person.

I had a series of tweets from Eve Leigh, a London-based playwright, demanding to know exactly which minority I was referring to (as if it weren’t obvious), starting with this:

In a related story, why are you taking this moment to talk about Jews? Why are Jews…occupying your mind like this? Also, I have news for you, Jews are told that what we perceive as anti-semitism is just being whiny and oversensitive every damn day.

The first point I made will be obvious to anyone from any less-advantaged community who has tried to raise the issue of prejudice or privilege. To take the Harry and Meghan story, both the TV and newspapers were full of people claiming that the hostility to Meghan has nothing to do with her being Black, despite huge evidence of more hostile coverage of anything she does compared to anything Princess Kate, who is middle-class, white and British, does. I hear complaints to this effect from people in these communities all the time and anyone who follows enough Black or Asian women on Twitter or wherever will see the same; the denials and defensiveness does not come (only) from ordinary people but from people in the media: journalists and TV presenters. Shaista Aziz clarified this in her response to the interview request which she quoted in her Twitter thread: “I’m not interested in being part of YET another media discussion where a woman of colour is gaslighted and told that racism isn’t racism”.

Twice in the last couple of months a Jewish community institution has got substantial and sympathetic media coverage for opinions it puts forward about the situation in the Labour party. The first was the Chief Rabbi’s ‘intervention’, widely reported as if of great authority when he in fact heads one group of Orthodox synagogues, and actually not an ‘intervention’ but just an opinion. The second was this week’s ten demands. These statements have been reported uncritically and with enormous sympathy while people questioning them have faced accusations of anti-Semitism. Could anyone imagine the same response to a political statement by a Muslim organisation? Muslim (and other Asian) community leaders are generally portrayed as reactionary, sectarian dinosaurs; the Muslim Council of Britain has been dismissed as an ‘Islamist’ group and criticised, by both government and its sympathetic media, for being uncommitted to “British values” and equivocal on “extremism”. Any time a mainstream Muslim organisation fails to tell the media or politicians what they want to hear, they find a nobody on the fringe to speak for us, to pretend to be an imam (e.g. Taj Hargey) or ‘expert’ in whatever they think wrong with the Muslim community (Hargey, Amina Lone, Nimco Ali and the rest of the FGM industry) and confirm their prejudices. So, the effrontery of the BOD in demanding that Labour take their word on what is or is not anti-Semitism will be obvious to any Muslim reading it: we do not get the same privilege.

The bar for what constitutes anti-Semitism seems to be getting lower and lower. It’s now ‘established’ in the media that the belief that Jews have no right to a state in what they call Israel is anti-Semitic in itself, but claims are now being made on the basis of much less than that. In a widely-shared TV interview, Andrew Neil asked the Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy if she thought it anti-Semitic for Rachael Cousins (AKA Rachael Swindon) to call the BOD “Conservative backers” and asking them to disassociate themselves from the Tories and condemn “Israeli military atrocities in the West Bank”, Nandy replied “yes” without hesitation. If the BOD were purely a Jewish community representative body, that is something we could all agree on — it’s racist to expect every member of a community to answer for what any other does anywhere in the world — but the BOD acts partly as a lobby group for Israel. On its website you can find statements blaming Hamas for deaths inflicted by the Israeli army or police, opposing BDS and issuing statements condemning councils and other bodies that condemn Israeli military actions (most recently in Gwynedd: [1], [2]). It’s not racist to call them an Israeli lobbying effort: it is there in black and white.

Labour really must show some backbone and not give in to threats or blackmail. Labour have a strong minority ethnic vote which they cannot take for granted as they took the provincial working-class vote for generations. If Muslims see one candidate after another summarily expelled from the party for expressing anger about Israeli military or settler abuses in the West Bank or Gaza, they will not vote Labour; they might just not vote, rather than vote for anyone else, but it will still be a loss for Labour. If the Black community sees its long-standing activists expelled on the basis of spurious claims of anti-Semitism (e.g. Mark Wadsworth), they will know the party does not care for them either. Labour’s vote declined when it was in power because Blair, despite all the hope that accompanied his 1997 election victory and the progressive policies of his first term, drifted ever rightwards, disregarding civil liberties, launching wars that were not in the national interest to please George W Bush, locking people up who had long served their time because the press staged a campaign against “foreign criminals”, making a show of detaining asylum seekers and so much else. They have a record of cowardice in the face of power and of viciousness to those without. This craven refusal to stand up to bullies shows that this cowardly streak is alive and well in the Labour party.

Finally, as for the particular claim that “Jews are told that what we perceive as anti-semitism is just being whiny and oversensitive every damn day”, in all honesty it is difficult to tell what is oversensitivity and what is a matter of offence being feigned to score a political point. Claims of “anti-Semitic tropes” against Labour MPs and activists, including ones of Jewish origin who are “not quite Jewish enough”, are issued on a regular basis which are obviously baseless: to take an example from this week, a motion by two Jewish (though not “BOD type Jewish”) activists at an Ilford South area party meeting was condemned as denying that there was any problem with anti-Semitism in the party (it does not) and using “multiple antisemitic tropes” which is so far-fetched as to be ludicrous (if the motion referred to Jews generally as it does the BOD, it would be, but it refers to one specific organisation). If any other minority made claims of racism, Islamophobia, or anything similar with such regularity and with so little factual basis, they would be accused, quite rightly, of being at best snowflakes and at worst vexatious, manipulative and dishonest. Regardless of a few harsh words on Twitter and in Labour party meetings, the Jewish community gets a much easier ride in the media than Muslims or any other minority and the reason is obvious: because they are white, and because an easy way of slapping down uppity minorities is to make them the racists rather than address the problem in society generally.

Possibly Related Posts:

The Culture Debt of Islamic Institutions

Muslim Matters - 16 January, 2020 - 18:48

Our community institutions are in debt – cultural debt. And the bill is due.

There are major consequences when the bill comes due on a debt you owe. Personal debt can lead to bankruptcy or foreclosure and the loss of your home.

If paid off before the bill comes due, debt can be a tool. Many communities in North America have utilized the qardh hasanah (goodly loan) as a way to expedite construction projects and then pay people back over time. When businesses fail to pay debt back, they are forced to liquidate and go out of business to satisfy their creditors. In extreme cases, like the economic crisis of a few years ago, major institutions repeatedly utilizing debt as a tool became over-leveraged, creating a rippling collapse.

Financial debt is not the only type of debt an organization carries. Every decision made by an organization adds to a balance sheet of sorts. Other types of debt can be technical, or even cultural.

Consider a new company that keeps making the decision to cut corners with their technology infrastructure – creating ‘technical’ debt. At a certain point, the infrastructure will need to be replaced. If not properly planned for, the cost to fix it could cripple the company.

Put another way, impatience and short-term decision making create (non-financial) debts that can destroy an organization.

The cultural debt for an organization, especially Islamic organizations, can be the most devastating.

The cultural debt for an organization, especially Islamic organizations, can be the most devastating.Click To Tweet

These decisions may appear rational or well-intentioned compromises, but they come at a cost.

For example, if a community prioritizes money into a construction project instead of an imam or youth director, what is the cost of the compromise? A 5-year construction project means an entire segment of youth who will be aged anywhere between 13 and 18 risk being disconnected from the masjid.

What about the cost of marginalizing the one sister on the board multiple times such that other sisters become disenchanted and unengaged. Or what if the marginalized board member is a youth, or a convert, or a person of color? How is the collateral damage to those segments of the community assessed?

What about when the same 2 or 3 people (even without an official title) remain in charge of a masjid and aggressively push out people not in line with their agendas? Dedicated and hard-working volunteers will end up leaving and going to other communities.

What about when a few people are responsible for creating an environment so toxic and exhausting that volunteers don’t want to come to the masjid anymore? And they get so burned out that they refuse to get involved in a masjid again? Who is going to pay the bill for all the talent that’s been driven away?

What is the spiritual debt on a community that refuses to invest in an Imam or scholar for over 10 years? An entire generation will grow up in that masjid without a local resource to take guidance from. What is the impact on those kids when they grow up to get married and have their own children?

What is the cost of having overly-aggressive daily congregants who yell at people, make people feel uncomfortable, and ultimately make them want to stay away from the masjid?

What is the cost of having overly-aggressive daily congregants who yell at people, make people feel uncomfortable, and ultimately make them want to stay away from the masjid?Click To Tweet

Will the construction committee that decided to build a customized dome instead of a more adequate women’s prayer space ever make it up to them?

What is the cost on a community of building a massive albatross of a school that can’t cover its own overhead – and yet services less than 5% of a community’s children?

What is the cost on a congregation when the Friday khutbah becomes associated entirely with fundraising instead of spiritual development?

What is the cost on a congregation when the Friday khutbah becomes associated entirely with fundraising instead of spiritual development?Click To Tweet

Did anyone plan to repay this cultural debt when they were making decisions on behalf of the community? Who is paying attention to it?

Some communities are able to shift, and make strides. Some communities are able to recognize a larger vision for growing and developing a community spiritually.

For other communities, they are now over-leveraged. The culture debt is due. To continue the financial analogy, they’re at the point of declaring bankruptcy.

These are the masjids that are empty. These are the ones where, pardon the crassness, after a few people die off, the masjid will most likely die out as well because there is no community left to take over.

These are the communities that people avoid, where they refuse to volunteer, and eventually where people stop donating.

The culture debt of the community is that people no longer feel a part of the community, and therefore the infrastructure they worked so hard to build will crumble.

The culture debt of the community is that people no longer feel a part of the community, and therefore the infrastructure they worked so hard to build will crumble.Click To Tweet

Cultural bankruptcy is the loss of people.

Can the culture debt be repaid? Is there a way out? How do you undo the loss of people?

I was really hoping to have a nice and tidy 5-step action plan to fix this. The reality is, it’s not going to be easy. People don’t realize the collateral damage they’ve caused over the course of 10-20 years despite the good intentions they had.

How do you get them to accept responsibility, much less change?

It’s not going to happen. The change will be outside the masjid. This means there will be a continued rise in third spaces. Parents are using online tutors instead of Sunday schools, making their children even less attached to the masjid. There will be an increase in small groups of families getting together in their homes instead of the masjid to try and build a sense of community. There will be an entire generation of new adults who will not even desire an attachment to the masjid beyond the Friday and funeral prayers.

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them)

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them).Click To Tweet

We all see the masjids in our community that have been hit hardest by this culture debt. They’re the ones that used to be full and are now empty – while the same 2 or 3 people remain in charge for literally decades. They’re the ones that we fear will eventually close down or be sold off due to a lack of any real community – because the community was never invested in to begin with.

Those in positions of influence should seriously take account of the consequences of their actions on the community. Recognize the wrongs that were done and do your best to rectify them. At the least, seek forgiveness for the ramifications of your actions.

We can no longer make the excuse of having to do what we had to do in order to get institutions up and running from scratch. As the saying goes – what got you here won’t get you there. The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.

And now we see the consequences of those decisions. The culture debt is due, and we might not be able to pay it back.

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Death In A Valley Town, Part 3 – A Fighter And A Thief

Muslim Matters - 15 January, 2020 - 05:27

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories.

Previous Chapters of Death in a Valley Town1. Moving Day2. The Black Jesus


AxeZombies were overrunning the world. Yahya was trying to hold his own, but it was hard. Hitting them in the head, like in the movies, didn’t work. To kill them you had to hack at the base of their spines with an axe or ice pick. Hack attack. The pick trick. It was brutal, sickening work. To make matters worse, many of them retained their minds and personalities, so they would try to negotiate with you, or plead with you to stop, but if you stopped they would attack and devour you. Yahya did not know if he could exist in this new, merciless world.

But he had no choice. There were people he loved here, and he must protect them. That was what home was, wasn’t it? Being with the people you loved. Laughing and crying with them, fighting for them, dying for them. That was the only home that existed in this world, wasn’t it? And if they loved you back it was wonderful, but you couldn’t count on it, because orphans were unwanted. That was the essence of orphanhood: to be abandoned, to be alone.

No matter, no matter! He swung his axe, sweat flying from his face, zombie blood spraying. His sister Yusra possessed karate skills and had hardened her hand to the point that she could snap a zombie’s spine with a karate chop. She was cutting through the monsters like a harvester through wheat. His wife Samira was using her strict, motherly voice, commanding the zombies to “stop this horsing around.” That wasn’t working at all. A man’s voice came over the P.A., telling the zombies he would sue them for ten million dollars if they didn’t cease and desist…

* * *

His heart raced. But the smell in the air was not of blood, but of lemon disinfectant and laundered blankets. His twin sister Yusra was saying, “He’ll be fine, Samira. He’s been through much worse, trust me. He may not look it, but he’s as tough as they come.”

Was he still dreaming? What was his sister doing here?

His mouth and throat were as dry as moon dust, while his entire body ached as if he’d been tenderized with papaya juice and a mallet. He made an effort to open his eyes and immediately squinted, blinded by too-bright overhead lights. Blurred ceiling panels… everything white… This didn’t look like their little apartment in Fort Worth. Where was he? Oh, wait… that’s right, they’d moved to California. To… Alhambra. Alhambra! The memories rushed back in a flash flood. The cops, the beating, the jail. Did that really happen? Or was it a bad dream?

He tried to push up with his hands in order to sit up, and discovered that his left arm was encased in a black plastic splint and was cradled against his chest in a shoulder harness. Pain hit him like a matatu bus. His head hammered, his arm ached all the way to the bones, and the rest of him just generally hurt.

“Oh, ruh albi. Lie still.” Samira was there, sitting on the edge of the bed. She wore no makeup and, in his view, never needed it, since she was extraordinarily beautiful as is, as Allah made her. But her eyes were puffy, as if she’d been crying. Her long black hair was tucked away beneath a gauzy orange hijab. She loved wearing colorful clothing. She cupped his chin and kissed him with her full lips. Ouch, that hurt too! A sudden thought came to him and he blurted out, “The kids?” He was filled with an irrational fear. Had the kids been hurt? Had they been taken away?

“They’re fine.” Samira stroked his cheek. “I left them with Munirah. She’s been very kind.”

Munirah, he remembered, was a nurse who worked at ACH – Alhambra Community Hospital. Samira had met her on her first day at work, and they’d become instant friends.

“I had a crazy dream,” Yahya said slowly. His throat was so dry. “You were there, and Yusra too.” He rubbed his face, remembering. “You should have seen her. She fought like a machine.”

“Nice to know,” Yusra said. “That my talents are well regarded, even in your dreams.”

Yahya jerked in surprise and looked around the room for the first time. To his right a large window filled the wall from hip height to the ceiling. It had a wide sill on which one could sit and look outside. Someone had placed a profusion of flower vases there. His sister Yusra perched among them, looking sleek and sangfroid as always.

Yusra was his fraternal twin, and though shorter than him she still stood an imposing 5’10”. She was thin, her features chiseled and uncompromising, her hair straightened but short, Halle Berry style. She wore a navy women’s suit patterned with yellow flowers, and a yellow blouse that buttoned up to the neck. Knowing Yusra, that suit cost more than Yahya made in a month. No doubt it was made by Gucci or Armani, or some other designer whose name ended in a vowel. And no doubt it was either stolen, or paid for with the proceeds of something stolen. Though Yahya loved his sister, he was under no illusions as to what she was. She was a fighter and a thief, just as she’d been back when they were kids in foster care. Except that back then she fought and stole to protect and feed the two of them. Now, she just did it to do it. She was a lustrous, sinewy tiger with a taste for man-flesh, hunting for the savage joy of it. Thriller killer.

“What?” Yahya had so many questions crowding his mind, he didn’t know where to start. “What are you doing here? Where am I?”

“Be nice, honey.” Samira squeezed his hand. “You’re at ACH.”

“It’s wonderful to see you too,” Yusra said. “My little brother is arrested and nearly beaten to death. Of course I’m here. And I have news about Baba. I have a source-”

“Stop!” Yahya held up his right hand to silence her. The very last thing he wanted was to hear about her delusional, never-ending obsession with “finding” their dead father.

Yusra’s face went as hard as stone. He’d offended her. Whatever, he couldn’t worry about that. Arrested, she’d said… that’s right, he’d been arrested. This didn’t make sense. SubhanAllah, his throat was like the Mojave desert! “I need water, please.”

Samira poured him a cup of water from a pitcher that sat on a small table. He drank, then tried to get things straight. “Where am I? How did I get here? Why am I not in jail anymore?”

As he was speaking, the door opened and a tall, lean man entered. “I can answer that,” the man replied in a deep voice. He was clearly Arab, and GQ handsome. He wore a finely tailored charcoal suit and blue tie, and was clean shaven.

“As-salamu alaykum.̈” The man shook Yahya’s hand. “My name is Basim Al-Rubaiy. I’m an attorney with CAIR Sacramento. Initially you were charged with felony menacing, resisting arrest and burglary.”

“That’s nonsense,” Yahya commented.

“Of course. The night of your arrest – last night – the local news media aired a video showing the police beating you without justification. The police ROR’d you and transported you here. This morning I filed a motion to have the charges dropped, and posted bail. I’m currently drafting a lawsuit against the police department.”

“We’re going to sue them for ten million dollars,” Samira added.

“I don’t care about the money,” Yahya said reflexively.

Samira sighed. “I know you don’t, babe. You never do. But the money isn’t the point. The money is how we get their attention, make them take action against their officers.”

“She’s right Mr. Mtondo,” the CAIR lawyer added. “Lawsuits are the primary tool available to us to demand justice. Hit them in the pocketbook and they listen. Gives us leverage. We should also sue Chad Barber, the man who called the police on you for no reason.”

“Don’t worry about this Barber clown,” Yusra commented. “Point me in his direction and I’ll take him apart. He likes calling the cops? When I’m done his fingers will be pick-up sticks. Let’s see him call anyone then.”

“Yusra!” Samira exclaimed.

Yahya sighed heavily, already weary of his sister’s drama. Not that he didn’t take Yusra seriously. He knew she was quite capable of executing her threats. Violence triggered and excited her. But he needed facts. He looked to the lawyer. The man was confident, as if he’d been through this a thousand times before. Maybe he had. “Chad Barber. Is that the white boy across the street and two houses down? Twenty, twenty one years old?¨

“I don’t know, let me check.” The lawyer opened a briefcase that sat on a small table by the window. He looked through a file. “Chad Barber, 714 Minarets Avenue. I don’t have his age. And sister,” he added, addressing himself to Yusra, “I would caution you against illegal or precipitous action that could get you or your brother arrested, not to mention torpedo his legal case.”

Good, Yahya thought. Let someone else talk sense to her. 714 Minarets… Yup. That was the house. He was sure it was the young man who’d flipped him off. He pursed his lips. Filing a lawsuit – against anyone at all – didn’t feel right, but the lawyer was an expert in these matters, and Samira seemed adamant as well. “Fine. We’ll proceed with the suit against the city. But not the kid.”

Anger flashed on Samira’s face. “That man set this whole fiasco in motion. He endangered all of us, including our children. You could have been killed. And why? Because we’re Muslim. We can’t let him get away with it.”

“She has a point, Mr. Mtondo,” the lawyer added.

Yahya held up a hand to the lawyer, who was beginning to get on his nerves. The man seemed to take his point, and stopped talking. Yahya looked towards Samira. “I said no. The city I’ll go along with for now. But the kid, no.”

“But why not?”

Why not, indeed? Yahya’s eyes wandered around the room, taking in the line of flower vases and bouquets by the window. Who had brought those? Did they know that many people in Alhambra? “Do you know,” he said eventually, “about the Jewish woman, Zainab bint Al-Harith, who brought a poisoned lamb to the Prophet Muhammad as a gift?”

“He forgave her,” said Basim, the lawyer.

Yahya was impressed. “Yes. The woman tried to assassinate him, and he pardoned her.”

Samira gave an annoyed cluck of the tongue. “Are you the Prophet now?”

“Though he later ordered her executed,” Basim added.

“That’s because Bishr ibn Al-Baraa’ died. He was the first to eat of it. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) forgave the attempt on his own life, but he could not waive the punishment for the murder of someone else.”

Samira raised a finger. “Hold on. Don’t I remember reading that the Prophet suffered the effects of that poison for the rest of his life?”


“Aha!” She pinched his earlobe and glared. “You see what happens when you let bad people get away? We’re filing a lawsuit, not putting his head in a guillotine.”

Speaking of heads, his own head was pounding. Trying to escape this conversation, he said, “I’ll consult with Imam Saleh.”

Samira looked at him with eyes narrowed. “Okay, But you’re too soft on people, Yoyo. And look how they repay you.” She waved a hand at his ravaged body.

As if proving her point, he attempted to sit up and swing his legs over the side, only to find the world spinning like a merry go round. Without warning he bent over and vomited over the side of the bed. How embarrassing. In front of the lawyer and everything. Samira fussed over him, wiping his mouth and telling him not to worry about the mess. “Lie back down, baby.”

But he did not lie down. He insisted on checking out of the hospital, to his wife’s outrage. He didn’t want to leave the kids with strangers, or at least someone they were not familiar with.

Samira had brought a fresh set of clothing, since the lawyer, Basim, had taken the clothes he’d been wearing as evidence. They were little more than bloody rags, it seemed. A nurse brought a wheelchair. The attorney, Basim, shook Yahya’s hand, promising to check on him tomorrow. “By the way,” the lawyer added, “your shoes were not among the clothes the police turned over to me. They didn’t take them away, did they? If so I will add that into the lawsuit.”

“No. I gave them away.” From the corner of his eye he saw Samira’s sharp gaze, and knew he’d get an earful later.

* * *

Yahya sat in a wheelchair as Samira pushed him through the courtyard in front of the hospital, on the way to the parking garage. A woman in a hijab sat there, reciting Quran and tossing birdseed to a flock of tiny birds that hopped and flitted all around her. What a strange scene. And the sister looked so much like – wait a minute!

It was his older sister, Hafsa. Yahya was stunned. It was impossible for her to be here. Hafsa did not travel on airplanes. In fact she rarely left her small suburban home in Chicago. And she most certainly did not visit hospitals. She was terrified of germs. But here she was. Birds were gathered all around her. Yahya was no expert, but there were several of the tiny ones he believed were called sparrows, along with a finch – he recognized it because of the red scattered across its head and chest – and a bluejay that was trying to bully the rest. They hopped and flitted, trying to be the first to catch the seeds.

A handful of hospital workers – nurses and technicians – sat in the courtyard as well, eating or chatting, and many watched Hafsa curiously. Yahya had to smile. If this were a scene from a Turkish movie, he would think it cliched – the saintly hijabi, gathering the animals like some Sister Doolittle, charming them with the word of God. But it wasn’t a movie. It was just Hafsa. When she saw him she stood and rushed to him, then bent over to embrace him and kiss his cheek. She looked good. She’d always been chubby, but she’d lost a little weight.

“How did you get here?” Yahya wondered aloud. “I thought you didn’t do airplanes. Or hospitals.”

“Overnight flight. And for my little brother I’ll always make an exception. Actually I’m doing better with the phobias. Still couldn’t convince myself to go up to your room, though.”

The sun was going down, and Yahya shivered in the evening autumn air. “Come on, let’s go home. I’m excited for you to meet the kids.”

Try the Bak Bak

Chad’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw the silver Honda Accord pull up and the sand-chigger get out. Sitting on the porch, guzzling his sixth beer of the day – pretty much his everyday routine, he goggled at the scene, setting his beer down beside him. There were more Muzzies now! They were multiplying like rats. The Muzzie had his wife and kids with him, and also another Muzzie broad in a headscarf, and a tall, dark chick in a suit who was pretty hot, actually. I mean, Chad thought, she’s not white, but hey, a hot mama is a hot mama.

But that wasn’t the point, he reminded himself, renewing his sense of righteous indignation. Un-freakin-believable! Sure, he’d had seen the video that showed the rag-head getting his ass kicked. He was pretty sure Alan, the fairy schoolteacher, was the one who filmed it. And yeah, the liberal groups – like the NAACP, aka National Association for the Advancement of Commie People – were making the usual noises about police brutality. But so what? They were always squawking. They needed to have their heads cut off like the clucking chickens they were. But that was beside the point. The point was that he, Chad Barber, had helped to catch a rag-head terrorist here in his own town, and the cops had let the dude go! What the hell? In Trump’s America?

He watched the rag-head limp into the house with the wife helping him. The two little kids flanked them, one holding the mom’s hand and one the dad’s. Chad ground his teeth. Okay. The police had let the rag-head go. That was the reality. It was up to him now, Chad Barber, to make the next move. He knew exactly what he would do. He would get his friends together, and they would beat the truth out of the rag-head. It would be easy. Dude was an Uber driver, right? They’d call for an Uber to some remote location, like out in the country. When the rag-head showed up they´d lay into him with baseball bats. Break his arms and legs. By the time they were done he’s tell them all about his terrorist plots. He’d name names, give up the whole network. Then the cops would have to send him to Guantanamo for real.

A smile broke out on his face. He felt suddenly energized, like he wanted to jump up and run a mile. For the first time since he’d lost the Walmart job he felt filled with a sense of purpose. Damn, it was a good feeling!

The whole family went into the house, except the hot mama. She turned and stared at him from across the street. Chad sat up straight and sucked in his beer gut, trying to look manly. To his surprise, the woman began to cross the street, walking directly toward him. Her walk was athletic and poised, like a dancer. Damn she was hot. For a second Chad thought he’d lucked out. Maybe she wanted a beer. Maybe he could get some action going! But her stride was too rapid, too purposeful. Chad grew nervous. Then he saw her grim expression, and noticed that her hands were balled into fists. It occurred to him that her athletic, powerful walk was not that of a dancer, but a fighter.

“You little punk,” the woman growled. “I’m going to beat you bloody.”

Chad yelped and leaped to his feet, spilling his beer. The woman started up the steps and Chad turned and ran, dashing through the front door and locking it. Should he call the cops? But when he peered through the curtain the crazy bitch was crossing back to the rag-head’s house. She went inside, not looking back. Christ! What a psycho. What was her problem anyway?

Chad seethed. This was war. He considered. Who could he call? As he was puzzling over it, his little sister walked out of the house wearing slippers and pink pajamas that hung loose on her petite frame. Her mousy brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Carrying a plate of chocolate chip cookies balanced on one hand, she descended the crumbling porch steps and started across the lawn.

Chad stepped outside. “Where you goin’ with that? Can I have one?” Not that he always needed to know what Amelia was doing, but she was his younger sister after all, even if she was nineteen years old and technically an adult.

“Stuff it, you beer-blooded clownmeister.”

He grinned. Where did she come up with this stuff? She crossed the street, her slippers slapping the ground with every step. With a sudden sense of alarm, he watched as she made a beeline for the rag-head family’s house. “Amelia,” he called out, but she ignored him. She rang the doorbell. What the holy hell was she doing? Didn’t she know what had transpired yesterday? “Amelia!” he bellowed. “Get your skinny ass back here! That’s the enemy over there!”

He watched, stunned, as the rag-head wife opened the door, still wearing her stupid oppressed orange scarf. What, did she think her hair was some kind of holy relic that ordinary people couldn’t look at? Or did she imagine she was so stunningly beautiful – some kind of Muzzie supermodel – that her beauty would blind mere mortals? Morons.

Then, as he watched, Amelia entered the rag-head house! What was that pigeon-brained mouse turd doing? And was it his imagination or were those her slippers in front of the door? Why had she taken them off?

Chad paced the weatherbeaten porch, squeezing his forehead with one hand and ignoring the pool of spilled beer from earlier. He was going to knock his sister’s bowling ball of a head off her shoulders. She was consorting with the enemy. She was a traitor. She was-

She came out of the house. She was smiling – smiling! – and still carrying the plate, which looked like it still had food on it. Hah! They’d sent her and her infidel cookies packing. As she cut across the lawn, he lit into her, cursing her for consorting with the enemy.

Baklawa“I had to do something,” Amelia said, “to make up for that stupid stunt you pulled. Mama’s afraid they’ll sue us. She said we should try to make friends. Besides, look what they gave me.” She took a golden colored square from the plate and held it out to him. “It’s called baklawa. With a w, not a v. It’s delicious.¨

He knocked the small treat out of her hand, sending it flying onto the lawn. “Get that bak-bak crap out of my face. It’s probably poisoned.”

Amelia glared and held the plate with the remaining treats out of his reach. “If I had a lighter I’d set your stupid mustache on fire and watch you slap yourself to death, you rockwitted plague virus.” She stomped into the house, slamming the door behind her, at which point Chad heard their mother shouting at him – at him! – not to slam the door.

He sighed and smoothed his mustache. What had he been thinking about? Oh yeah, who to call. Why not his best friends, the guys he’d gone to high school with? His fellow track team members. Bram and Ames. Bram was very smart, which could be a problem at times. He didn’t believe in the separation of races like Chad did. Said it was “illogical and only the product of poverty-fueled desperation.” Idiot. Like those ten-dollar words actually meant anything. Just a lot of hot air. But in the end he was a follower, not a leader. A sheeple. He’d do whatever Chad said. Plus he was a big guy, not tall but thick and solid like a rhino. Could come in handy. On top of all that he was a pot dealer and always had money. The two of them got together all the time to smoke weed and play Call of Duty. Sometimes they went out to Rebel Saloon in Old Town – with Bram buying of course – and drank themselves off the stools.

Ames, though – he was a moron, but he was a karate guy. He went to tournaments and won trophies, the whole deal. He’d be a good one to have along. Kick that psycho hot mama’s skinny behind. Chad hadn’t seen him in a couple of years, and Ames might not be as down for the white race as Chad was, but surely he would understand the threat? This was about protecting the American way of life.

There was Mad Morry. They weren’t close anymore, since Morry seemed to spend more time in prison than out. But Chad was pretty sure his thuggish friend was out at the moment. Morry hung around with some scary dudes, and Chad was pretty sure Morry was tight with the Aryan Brotherhood. He would have no problem beating the blood out of a rag-head. Except… Morry scared him. Chad was pretty sure he had killed people, even women. He’d heard that Morry had been involved in the disappearance of a spook family in Oakhurst.

Jim might be down. He was three years older than Chad and had been a friend ever since Chad was eleven, when they’d been neighbors. Well, sort of a friend. Chad used to go over to Jim’s house to listen to music and lust after his busty older sister Cheri. Jim was a dope dealer and would give Chad free liquor, weed and pills. To be honest, Chad had never really wanted those things back then, but he’d taken them so he wouldn’t look like a pansy in Jim’s eyes. Jim was also a bully and a sadist. Once he burned Chad’s arm with a hot glue gun. Another time he used a nail gun to drive a nail through the back of Chad’s hand. But Chad never snitched on him, and as they got older and Chad filled out, the bullying mostly stopped, though it continued in verbal form, with Jim often calling him names.

No, forget Mad Morry and Jim. Screw them. Best to stick with Bram and Ames. Chad would be able to control them, and he’d be in charge. The boss of his own posse.

He tried Bram first, but got his voicemail, so he called Ames.

“Chad my man!̈”̈ Ames’s deep voice, midwestern accent – his family had moved here from Wisconsin – and enthusiastic manner made Chad smile. It was like nothing had changed and no time had gone by. Why had he and Ames fallen out of touch? The guy was always up for something fun. Chad explained to Ames about the rag-head, and how he wanted to lure the man to a remote location and beat him up. And maybe beat up the hot sister too.

“Dude, you been hittin’ the sauce or what? Let it go, brother. Live and let live. I’m a business owner now. I have my own dojo. I can’t risk my business over-”

“You have your own dojo?” Chad was amazed. He didn’t know anyone his own age who owned a business.

“Yeah, it’s on Second Avenue in Old Town. You should come by sometime.”

“Why do you have to call it a dojo? Isn’t that a Jap word? Why don’t you just say gym?”

Ames sighed. “I know it’s kooky but we’re traditional. We belong to a federation based in Japan. We take pride in maintaining the traditions of-”

Chad cut off the practiced sales pitch, realizing this was getting off track, and not really caring about this issue anyway. “Yeah, yeah, that’s fine. But you’re missing my point. The ragheads are in my freakin’ neighborhood. They gave my sister bak-bak. They might sue me. They-”

“Whoa, hold up. Your sister? They what? What’s bak-bak? You sayin’ they did something to little Amelia?”

Chad realized that Ames had misunderstood him. “No, they-” He stopped himself, remembering that Ames had always had a crush on Amelia, God knows why. He could use this. “I mean, yeah. They did. They messed with her, man. She’s really upset.”

“What? What did they do?”

“You know. The rag-head tried to, you know, mess with her. Amelia barely got away. Had to take off her slippers to run.” Well… she did take off her slippers, right?

“Hold up, man, hold up.” Ames’s voice was angry now. “He tried to rape her? That’s what you’re saying, right?”

Chad felt a sense of unease creep over him. This white lie was going a bit further than he’d intended. But he was committed now. He couldn’t back up without losing all credibility.

“Yup. The guy’s a predator.”

“Did you call the cops?”

“Of course. They even arrested him.” That was true enough. “But the cops couldn’t do a thing. They let him out the next day. We have to do something.”

“Count me in, buddy. That sonofabitch won’t be able to walk when I’m done with him. I’m going to kick his nuts until they come out of his ears.” Ames’s voice held rage and firmness of purpose. Exactly what Chad wanted to hear.

When he was done with the call, Chad walked into the house, smiling to himself. Bram would be down too, he was sure. Dude was a sheep. Chad could manipulate him into anything. They would put such a beatdown on that rag-head. Chad considered… It would be cool to really crush the guy’s arms and legs, destroy them so he’d never walk right again. Stomp on his fingers too. And if he could get that hot mama psycho bitch alone, he could teach her a lesson too. Not rape her, just mess with her a bit. Show her how to respect the white race.

He spotted the tray of bak-bak on the kitchen counter. He was pretty hungry, actually. He took one and tried a tiny, testing nibble. Oh – my – God. It was delicious. The layers of pastry were crunchy and sweet, held together by honey it seemed like, with a dusting of crushed pistachios on top. Holy swastika. He devoured the little square pastry and grabbed another. As he ate, he considered. He’d need to make some notes and plan this thing right. It was finally coming together.

* * *

Next: Part 4 – The Psychology of Forgiveness

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

Wael Abdelgawad’s novels, Pieces of a Dream and Zaid Karim Private Investigator, are available on

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Prince Harry is just protecting his family

Indigo Jo Blogs - 13 January, 2020 - 19:52
A screenshot of a Daily Mail story featuring pictures of Meghan Markle with her hand under her baby bump, headlined "Why can't Meghan Markle keep her hands off her bump? Experts tackle the question that has got the nation talking: is it pride, vanity, acting -- or a new age bonding technique?".

Two things have always fascinated me about attitudes to the British royal family. The first is how protective many people are about the monarchy as an institution and how vindictive many people are against ‘dissenting’ minor royals or royal in-laws. The other, specific to the Muslim community, is how many Muslims (including some scholars) regard the royal family as somehow embodying Islamic values and being a bulwark against modernity, and take a similarly harsh view of dissenters or those exploited by its behaviour. The first was something we saw in bucketloads when Prince Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall, who was well-known to always have been his choice of bride even before he married Lady Diana; the second was directed at Diana herself. We have seen both in the reaction to Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s decision to step back from royal duties and attempt to become financially independent and not reliant on public money in their activities.

In reaction to their decision last week, there was a storm of outrage in both the sycophantic right-wing media (e.g. the Daily Telegraph) towards the couple who it turned out had not discussed the issue with the Queen (Harry’s grandmother) before making the announcement. Prince William was reported to have said that the two were from now on “separate entities” as if they had previously been joined at the hip. As examples of unequal media treatment of the mixed-race princess compared to Prince William’s white, middle-class princess Kate were being widely shared on social media, the TV presenter Eamonn Holmes told the nation on Talk Radio last week that though he had never met her, the mere look of her gave him the impression of an “awful, woke, weak, manipulative, spoilt” woman — ‘woke’ being African-American idiom for politically conscious, here used as a derogatory term meaning both politically correct and uppity. I read an article on the Daily Telegraph’s site about the National Trust planning to plant forests on much of the farmland it owns (meaning their tenant farmers will have to find somewhere else to graze their sheep), and they had five articles linked down the side to the effect that the royal family had done nothing wrong, that of course Meghan was not receiving racist treatment, that his ‘failure’ to consult the Queen was ‘unforgivable’, etc.

Harry was, of course, one of the two sons of Lady Diana who had to carry her coffin after she died in a car crash while being pursued by photographers on motorcycles in Paris in 1997. The blame for the crash is generally accepted to lie with the speeding driver, but the whole thing would not have happened but for the pursuing photographers hungry for a picture they could sell to a newspaper. I do not follow royal stories that closely but it is widely reported that Harry blames the press for his mother’s death and resents their continuing intrusion into his and his family’s lives and the often derogatory commentary on his wife’s appearance. I have seen someone on Facebook declare that of course Meghan has not had the same treatment as Diana; this is clear as she is still alive, and Harry understandably wants to keep her that way. Another social media ‘expert’ claimed that Meghan had exploited a ‘vulnerable’ young man and was now threatening to ‘steal’ him back to the USA or Canada. The fact is that Harry is a grown man and a former Army officer who can look after himself quite easily. Of course, losing his mother was traumatic but it was more than 20 years ago and it’s something that happens to a lot of people. Meghan has already given up her acting career to marry him, much as Grace Kelly did when she married the prince of Monaco (though hers was past its best). More egregiously, people openly call for the couple to divorce and speculate openly that this will happen soon. I have a hunch that some of the women saying this are envious of Meghan for marrying someone they might have had hopes, however unrealistic, of themselves marrying.

Screenshot of a Daily Mail story showing Princess Kate heavily pregnant, in one case with her hand below her bump, with the headline "Not long to go! Pregnant Kate tenderly cradles her baby bump while wrapping up her royal duties ahead of maternity leave -- and William confirms she's due 'any minute now'".

On Muslim social media, I saw a post by an imam which connected the “gradual disintegration of what seemed the impregnable House of Windsor ie the latest Prince Harry and Meghan drama etc” with “what is happening with what also seemed the impregnable ‘Islamic family’ concept”. This reminds me a lot of conservative Muslim authors in the 90s who praised the Windsor family (“staid but genuinely self-abnegating” according to Abdul-Hakim Murad) while suggesting that Lady Diana was not good enough for them; there was insistence that monarchy was a more Islamic form of government than representative democracy, and there were diatribes against republicanism and every modern ideology. The Turkish Sufi shaikh Muhammad Nazim was even quoted as claiming that Prince Charles was Muslim and that he would one day be king of America as well as Britain. On the contrary, the Windsors’ behaviour until recently was more in keeping with the worst stereotypes of Muslim family structures, treating marriage as a means to an end, i.e. producing heirs (preferably male), expecting heirs to enter loveless marriages if deemed necessary, and chewing brides up and spitting them out.

It is Harry, here, who is behaving more like a normal family man, acting to protect his wife and son from a predatory and prejudiced media, and the reaction of sections of the public have proved him right. He wants to become as self-sufficient as he can so that, not being dependent on public money, he and his family will not be considered public property. And of course he did not consult the Queen; most men in their 30s with a wife and children do not consult their grandmother before making major decisions about their families’ futures. He has given the public a big wedding spectacle at Windsor Castle but now wants future decisions about his family to be made by him and Meghan, not some committee at Buckingham Palace. He is not a direct heir to the throne; Prince William and all of his children would have to die (or renounce their claim to the throne) in the interim for him to become king, which is why he was allowed more leeway in whom he married and the name he gave his son than Wills would have been.

Personally, over the years I have moved from being firmly in favour of a republic to believing that the status quo, with some changes, is better; many republics in Europe cultivate founding myths and use them as excuses to oppress minorities, notably Muslims as in France whose every difference is held up as an incompatibility with the “values of the republic”. The problem now is that we are too deferential to wealth in this country; of our last five prime ministers, three were educated at elite private schools and the two that were not, governed for the shortest time. Any suggestion that this class has too much power is derided as the “politics of envy” while house prices and rents are allowed to spiral out of control to the benefit of existing owners (many of whom bought them cheaply in the post-war years) and financiers and the detriment of young people who cannot live anywhere near where they work. I have come to favour a figurehead republic similar to that of Germany or Ireland, where the president is elected but is not the executive in themselves. However, I forecast that this will not happen in the near future as the establishment moves to shore up the monarchy as the crown passes from Elizabeth II to Charles, who has nothing like the popular appeal and acceptance she does, so any hope of change is likely to have to wait until well after he succeeds her. However, the cruelty and intrusion of the press into the lives of younger royals in particular has long been cited as a major reason for reform, and the attitude of the popular press to Harry’s and Meghan’s decision last week will only strengthen that aspect of the case.

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The New Scramble For Africa

Muslim Matters - 13 January, 2020 - 05:53

Africa is a blessed continent with resources and biodiversity that would impress anyone. Africa’s history in Islam (while neglected) played a major role, it was home to the first country to welcome the Muslims and allow them to practice freely. After the spread of Islam trough traders, regions across Africa became hubs for knowledge and trade. The richest man in history hailed from Africa and was Muslim, and his name was Mansa Musa. The riches of Africa have always sought after. People from all over the world have aimed to to do business or exploit the blessed continent. Unfortunately, the history of Africa is filled with strife, bloodshed, slavery, and holocausts. This rings true till today. The purpose of this article is not to dwell on the past, be it Arab influence or colonization. The events going on today needs out attention, we have ignored the struggles of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Africa long enough. 

The first major scramble for Africa was in the 19th century, when Europe carved it up like it was their property. The second was during the cold war, when East and West seek allegiances of newly independent African states. We are witnessing a third scramble that is less obvious, and more behind the scenes with “investments” and “wars”. It can be described as a cold war between China and America. 

African mines

Some see the resources they have like oil, chocolate, rare earth minerals, diamonds, etc. as a blessing (investors mostly), but to the people living through this every day it is a curse. Oil or mineral dependent countries in Africa suffer from enclave industrialization, limited diversity in their economy, and vulnerability to price shock. While this is happening, they see decay in their agriculture, manufacturing, and other trades. The continent is still traumatized by five centuries of exploitation. It is no easy obstacle to overcome. What we are seeing will only get worse as oil production is expected to peak in 2025, world scarcity will increase, and we will see more wars around oil. For the last decade, China has been using “soft power,” basically using money for leverage. This comes in the form of aid, trade, infrastructure projects, and loans. This is a plot to make them a superpower in the region. America, on the other hand, is doing what it has been doing since 1776, it is confronting Africa as a “battlefield,” basically running operations or anti-terrorism projects in dozens of countries that the American public is unaware of. 

One example is South Sudan, and the American campaign to split the Muslim country of Sudan to two. Before the split, China reportedly had invested $20 billion in Sudan. With American interventions occurring, China watched the events unfold. After the split the newly inaugurated president of South Sudan flew to China to secure an $8 billion investment. By 2013, China controlled 40% of their largest crude oil producers and was importing 77% of the country’s output. After unrest and bloodshed occurring in Libya, Mali, Sudan, etc, China has established a stronger effort with peacekeeping officers to protect their oil interest. As one superpower implements one tactic, another superpower follows its traditional method. Last year in Niger, American soldiers, including two commandos, were killed. This was surprising to me as I was unaware of American military operation in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world with Muslims making 98% of its population.

We have seen a dangerous rise of commandos in Africa. In 2006, under Bush, 1% of deployed commandos were in Africa, by 2011 under Obama it had risen to 3%. It does not stop there, before stepping down from office, in 2016, 16.5% of American commandos deployed were deployed in Africa.

In 2006, only 70 special ops were deployed across the continent, in 2014 we have 700 deployed special ops in Africa. “None of these special operations forces are intended to be engaged in direct combat operations,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem. Despite this declaration, despite the deaths of soldiers in Niger, U.S. commandos keep finding themselves in situations that are indistinguishable from combat. 

In March of 2018, the New York Times released an article of 10 unreported attacks of American troops between 2015 and 2017. Despite these attacks and distrust towards the region, the Pentagon built a $100 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, regardless of the people’s concerns towards a base being built near their home. Our worldly desires is fueling this new scramble for Africa. Our need for resources, technology, and fuel comes at a cost. This cost manifests itself as the development of the rentier state (eventually developing into a kleptocracy across Africa, professional soldiers ruling the resource-rich lands or an expansion of the “war on terror”. 

Here are a few theoretical solutions, some are to be initiated by the government and some rely on people-power movements. The government needs to reduce corruption and that can be done through a menu of policies created to control and maintain corruption. Controlling corruption can be done through; changing the selections of national agents, modifying the rewards and punishments systems, and restructuring the relations between national agents and users to reduce monopolies. Another venue the government can explore is directly distributing resource revenues to the people. This is practiced in Alaska, and has been wildly successful. Finally, the government can invest the resource revenues in social development. Harnessing the revenues for human development to include education, healthcare, job training, and housing will lift up the urban and rural poor. 

The people can pressure the government to pursue any of those ideas mentioned. A power-people movement can look different depending on the need. One idea is that consumers in the West to boycott African minerals due to corruption and/or exploitation. This can develop into “smart boycotts” where we use internet hedge funds to attack corporations that exploit and feed into corruption. Developing campaigns like “blood diamonds” in the past have been proven effective to generate awareness and bring vital change. The same was done with the ivory, and now even China has laws making the product illegal.

People-power movements work and have helped locals rid of unwanted corporations in their region. Ken Saro-Wiwa, was a leader of the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta, he rallied against the abuses of the Nigerian military regime and the oil pollution created by multi-national companies, which resulted in a change of consciousness for the better. 

In his words: “Whether I live or die is immaterial. It is enough to know that there are people who commit time, money and energy to fight this one evil among so many others predominating worldwide. If they do not succeed today, they will succeed tomorrow.”

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Death in a Valley Town, Part 2 – The Black Jesus

Muslim Matters - 9 January, 2020 - 04:41

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories.

Previous Chapters of Death in a Valley Town1. Moving Day. Author’s note, 1-5-2020: It’s been a while since I posted Chapter 1. Please go back and re-read it, as I expanded it and added some important details. I also changed the title, which was formerly”To Kill a Muslim”.

The Slap

At first everything had gone beautifully. Seeing the raghead dropped like a buck in hunting season, that had been awesome! Chad cheered and laughed, shouting, “Pick it up, pick it up!” What his coach used to shout at him when he was jumping hurdles. He liked to shout it at random, exciting moments. It made him feel like an authority figure. He watched gleefully as the cops carted the miserable sand chigger away, probably to Guantanamo where he belonged.

Now it was going sideways. Angry neighbors surrounded him on the porch, arguing with him and each other. They’d seen the two officers questioning him and had figured out that it was he who called them. One of those stupid cops accused him of filing a false police report. He said detectives would be around later to question Chad further, and that “filing a false report of terrorism” was a federal crime! Unbelievable. He’d caught a terrorist on his own street and now he was the criminal?

“He was right to call them!” shouted Eggers, the short, chubby guy from four houses down who owned three pit bulls and wore a t-shirt that said, “You stomp on my flag, I stomp on your ass.” “We don’t want their kind on our street. We have to keep our kids safe.”

“You don’t have kids,” retorted the dark haired, wide-hipped lady who walked five miles every day. She was Armenian or some crap. Not as bad as camel huggers, but not really white either.

“Yes I do, just because they live with my ex, so what, my point stands.”

“It’s racist,” another woman interjected. That was the blond lesbian from the corner, the one whose grown daughter lived in a camper in front of the house. “Muslims have as much right to live here as anyone. We have freedom of religion in America.” She pointed an accusing finger at Chad. “You had no right to do that.”

“Shut up dy*e!” Jessica, the teenager from directly across the street, was red in the face, spit flying from her mouth. Chad knew she had a crush on him. Pimply-faced little nitwit was always trying to bum a beer off him. He’d seen her drinking with some stoners at Dry Creek Park once and had taken her into the bushes and made out with her, but she reeked of old sweat overlaid with strawberry perfume, and he had no desire to repeat the experience.

“Don’t talk to Chad that way,” Jessica went on. “At least he’s standing up for the white race.”

“I’m not racist,” Chad muttered. “I’m not against anyone. But coloreds should know their place and stick to their own kind. And Muzzies are different, they’re raghead terrorists. Not normal like us.”

“Oh my God,” Alan said. He was a married father who lived right next door to where the Muzzies were moving in. He taught school at Alhambra High. “This is sickening. Where are our youth getting these ideas?”

Chad snickered at Alan’s use of the word youth. What did the dork think this was, a PBS program? Fairy.

Alan addressed himself to Chad and Jessica. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. Do you know those words? That’s from our Declaration of Independence. Do you know what self-evident means? It means anyone with a mind and a heart can see that all human beings are the same, we’re all equal. That was written almost two hundred fifty years ago.”

“We don’t care about your stupid declaration,” Jessica retorted.

“All your opinions don’t mean squat,” Chad said. “‘Cause the cops agree with me. That’s why they arrested the raghead’s ass. Proves I’m right.”

“You’re not right,” Alan the teacher insisted. “I saw everything. The police’s actions were abusive and illegal, and I’m going to make sure everyone knows it, including the cops, the city council and the TV news. And you, Chad Barber, will be charged with filing a false police report, and you’ll be billed for the cost of the city services you wasted, which I’m guessing will be around one hundred thousand dollars.”

That was when Chad’s mom appeared, hungover and red-eyed, hair plastered to one side of her face, shielding her eyes from the light. It took her a minute to understand what had transpired, at which point she turned to Chad and slapped him hard across the cheek. “You little moron,” she growled, her upper lip curling in disgust. “We don’t have money to pay any damn fines! If they bill us a single red cent I’ll take it out of your hide, I swear to God. I thought I was free of your dad’s racist garbage. But you’re an idiot just like he was.”

Chad thought he was beyond caring what his drunken slut of a mother thought, but her words pierced his heart. He hardly cared about the slap – that was nothing – but hearing her insult him in front of all these people make him shrink up inside like a wounded child. He threw his beer can on the grass and stomped into the house.

“And fix this damned-to-hell porch!” his mother screamed after him.

They were all against him, but he didn’t care. He’d show them he was right. If that raghead got out of jail, Chad would beat the truth out of him. Pick it up, pick it up. Then people would realize that Chad was a hero for standing up for his race. As for his mother, she would get hers when RaHoWa came, that was for sure. Especially since one of her boyfriends was black. Wait, Chad thought. I don’t believe in RaHoWa, do I? It was confusing sometimes, trying to remember what was true and what wasn’t. The Muzzies were evil though, that much was sure, and Chad intended to make a lesson out of this new neighborhood raghead, no matter what it took.


Sword and sheath

Yahya ran up a forest path. He was muscular, his calves and thighs as hard as iron, his bare feet calloused. He wore furs, and his beard was long and full. In each hand he carried a sword, one as long as his arm and the other half that length. The swords’ surfaces were engraved with writings that detailed all he had seen and learned in life. There was a lot of it, for he had traveled far and fought many evil men and vicious beasts.

He must get north. The tribes were not expecting him, but he carried a message that must get through. The path became rocky, with stone outcroppings on either side. Soon a sheer cliff face loomed, blocking his way. He’d known this would happen, for this formation ran for thousands of miles, dividing the southern lowlands from the northern highlands. But he’d heard rumors of a cave system that ran beneath the mountains and emerged on the northern side. He prowled the base of the cliff until he found a sinkhole. Dropping into it, he discovered a cave opening. He entered, and the darkness swallowed him like the throat of a dragon. How would he proceed in this sightless void?

His swords began to glow. This did not surprise him, for they were objects of power. By their light he ran, squeezing through fissures and occasionally strapping the swords to his back in order to climb. Relying on his internal sense of direction, which was extraordinary, he found a tunnel that ran north. It was so large that the light of the swords did not reach the roof. Soon he began to sense movement above. Things scurrying, creeping. He raised the swords and shouted, “Mwanga!” and the blades blazed with brightness like tiny suns.

Leathery creatures with bright fangs seethed across the roof of the cave, covering it. Their eyes were dead black, and their winged bodies long and serpentine. They crawled and slithered over and under each other, so that the entire ceiling appeared alive. When the light hit them they shrieked. For a moment they froze, only their obsidian eyes moving, tracking him. Their muscles bunched. They attacked.

Yahya spun, wielding both swords simultaneously. He ducked, rolled, and leaped as the weapons blazed. Battling without thought, operating purely on instinct and sanguinary experience, he cleaved monstrous heads from leathery bodies, severed scaly torsos, and littered the cave floor with wings and limbs. Even as he fought he never stopped moving north, driving his way through, the swords slicing, spinning, chopping. The creatures bit his shoulders, arms and legs, even his face. They slashed with claws and clubbed with tails. The air was coppery and hot with blood.

Finally, daunted by Yahya’s prowess and his terrible, frightening swords, the creatures retreated. Leaving bloody footsteps, Yahya ran on.

After what seemed like days of running and might indeed have been so, the tunnel narrowed and the roof came down to his head. Abruptly the tunnel ended in a stone door. It glittered with inlaid gems arrayed in mystical patterns, and was carved with the words ni wenye haki tu. Only the righteous. Yahya knocked and waited, then louder. Nothing. He pushed with his shoulder, but the door would not budge. He took a deep breath. His entire body pulsed and burned with the pain of myriad cuts, bite wounds and bruises. He gathered the last of his energy, took a deep breath, invoked the name of God silently and touched the door with the tip of his right index finger.

The door swung open. Bright sunlight flooded in, making Yahya squint. When his vision adjusted he saw a land of green grass and tall trees, and a great blue river that wound in the distance. Two women stood before him. They wore long multicolored robes and scarves on their heads, and their mahogany faces were serious.

“What do you bring?” one asked.

“A message.”


What else did he have of value? Only his swords. He held them up, crossing the blades. But they were books, one large and one small, the covers glinting with inlaid gold lettering. On one cover shone the words, “You were on the edge of a pit of fire,” while the other said, “He saved you from it.”

The women stepped aside. “Welcome home,” one said.

“No,” Yahya replied. “I have no home. I’m an orphan. No center, cave, clan or tribe. No one, nothing, nowhere.”

* * *

Something jostled him and he opened his eyes. Were the creatures attacking again? No… that was a dream. But reality was just as strange. He was lying on the back seat of a car with his hands restrained behind his back. And – pain. It hit him like a train with no brakes, making his breath catch in his throat. His entire body ached, including his head. His lips were swollen and split.

Two men were talking in the front seat as the car jounced over a potholed road. A metal screen separated the back seat from the front, and Yahya realized he was in a police car. He tasted blood, and there was a wetness on the side of his head and neck that might be yet more blood. His left arm in particular was on fire. His kufi was gone and one of his pant legs was torn from the knee to the ankle, exposing a lacerated and bloody shin. Then he remembered… They’d Tased and beaten him. For no reason at all. No warning. He was about to speak up and protest when the words of the officers in the front seat pierced his mind’s fog.

“You know that was wrong, Jay,” said the cop in the passenger seat. “We messed up. The guy did nothing wrong. We need to take him to the hospital, not to booking.”

“Shut up,” the driver said. “You don’t say another word. We responded to a report of suspicious activity. We ordered this son of a bitch to lie down, but he resisted arrest. For all we knew he had a weapon or an explosive vest. We acted to protect the citizens of this town.”

“That’s B.S. and you know it,” the passenger said, but the certainty had gone out of his voice.

“Don’t tell me what I know, you boneheaded rookie. You say exactly what I told you to say, or it’s your job and mine and maybe worse, you understand?”

“Yeah,” the passenger cop muttered. “I understand, sarge.”

The conversation died. A fresh wave of agony hit Yahya like a cricket bat. Beating him like a bat. Rat-a-tat-tat. He gritted his teeth, then spoke. “Officers, I need medical attention. I think my arm is broken.”

The two cops looked back in surprise. The passenger was the young red haired cop who’d Tased him. The other – the sergeant – was a middle-aged cop with a beer belly and a thick head of salt and pepper hair. “Shut up,” the sergeant growled. “You don’t speak unless you’re spoken to. One more word and I’ll stop this car and kick your ass again.”

“Why?̈” Yahya did not fear the man’s threats. Let them do what they would. La ilaha il-Allah.

The sergeant turned and shot Yahya a quizzical look. “What do you mean why? Because I can, that’s why.”

“But why would you want to hurt me? Your job is to protect and to serve. I’m a citizen of this town like any other.”

“Can you believe this freaking guy?” the sergeant said to his fellow cop. Then, addressing Yahya again, “You’re no citizen, you’re a criminal.”

“What crime? What am I charged with?”

“Trespassing for starters. Menacing, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, assault on a police officer. You’re going down, douche.”

“Trespassing? That’s my house you arrested me at. I’m a rideshare driver. My wife is a doctor at Alhambra Community Hospital.” He saw the two men exchange looks. They hadn’t known any of that.

“I told you to shut up,” the sergeant repeated. Yahya realized nothing he said would make a difference. Maybe someone at the station would listen.

They did not.

The Black Jesus

Jail holding tank

He was led into the station limping and bloody, where he was fingerprinted and photographed, then deposited in a cube-shaped and locked booking room that contained a steel toilet, a molded concrete bench that extruded from the wall, and a payphone. The numbers of various bail bonds agents were written in ink on the wall beside the phone.

Thank goodness, Yahya thought. I can call Samira and let her know I’m alive. He wondered if it was time to break his fast. There was no clock on the wall. How much time had passed? He couldn’t think clearly. The pain in his arm was like a red sea whose waves broke over him again and again, pounding, carrying away his rational mind.

He took a few steps toward the phone and stopped. A massively muscular, brown-skinned man with numerous tattoos on his chest and arms sat huddled on the concrete bench, pressed into one corner of the square room. He wore no shirt or shoes, and his thick arms were wrapped around his torso as he shivered. His eyes were red slits. He was like a suffering mountain, so powerful and solid but mined and clear-cut, and reduced to a naked, frigid mass.

This was all so familiar, like a recurring nightmare. Scenes of his youth came back to him. Living as a foster child, doing his best to survive in facilities not unlike this one. He would make it through this, just as he had survived that. Hadn’t he been passed around from one uncaring family to another? Hadn’t he come through it all as strong inside as a baobab tree? Hadn’t Allah brought him to the deen, showing him a place where he would always be welcomed and loved, by God if none other? He would get through this. Be patient, he told himself. Be patient and trust Allah.

In spite of his own considerable pain, Yahya felt a wave of sympathy for the shirtless man. No matter how bad one’s situation, there was always someone who had it worse. He considered. He could not give the man his shirt, because then he’d be the one shivering. But he could give his shoes. He took them off and approached the man.

“You need these more than me,” Yahya offered, but the man did not respond. Yahya gently touched one rock-hard, tattooed arm. The shirtless man jerked in surprise, his eyes opening wide. He brought his hands up in fists and bared his teeth.

Yahya looked at the man’s light. It was a gift he had, something he discovered at the age of thirteen, when trying to tame a feral cat that lived in the buses near the foster home. He looked past the exterior and into the soul, at the same time relaxing his own chest and arms and exposing himself on a spiritual level. He saw the souls of others as thin, translucent sheets of color. Sometimes their faces displayed colors as well, often in swirls that changed and pulsed. Occasionally he saw auras of color surrounding the person’s entire body.

Whether he could truly see this or only imagined it, he did not know. No one knew about it except his twin sister Yusra. Even Hafsa didn’t know. Yusra was skeptical, and had been imploring him to see a doctor since they were young. He never told her that he had in fact gone to see a doctor when he was twenty and worked at the bottling plant. Six months after he got that job and completed the probationary period, his medical benefits kicked in. First he saw a GP, who referred him to a neurologist. The man diagnosed him with a condition called synesthesia, in which the senses became crossed, so that stimulation of one cognitive pathway carried over into another pathway. In some people, letters and numbers took on color. Others saw colored shapes or even fireworks when they heard ordinary environmental noises like car horns or vacuum cleaners. Still others saw music as three dimensional lines that moved through space.

There was no treatment, since synesthesia was not considered an illness, but simply a difference in perceptual experience.

Yahya rejected the entire diagnosis. This so-called explanation could not account for what happened when he looked at someone’s light. Often he gained deep insights into the person’s history and character – insights that were proven true as he learned more about the person. And there was something else. The mere act of looking at someone’s light seemed to trigger a response in that person. Angry people softened, becoming, if not friendly, at least relaxed. Violent people calmed down and seemed to forget what had provoked them. It was not something Yahya could do at will, however. It took time and focus, and sometimes left him feeling physically and emotionally drained.

He relaxed now, focusing on this man’s light, and opening himself. This man’s soul was a deep, rich brown, but with thin streaks of angry red and washed-out yellow. Black and red swirled over his face, indicating confusion and pain.

As Yahya studied the man’s light, he sent a mental message to it: “Be calm. Be at peace.” The living mountain uncurled his fists and lowered his hands. His jaw relaxed and he stared at Yahya dumbly.

“Take these shoes,” Yahya repeated. His limbs were suddenly weak. The shoes felt heavy in his hand.


The man did not speak English. Yahya drew upon his mediocre Spanish. “Zapatos. Para ti. Gratis. Free.”

He knew, from his own experience in such situations, that the man might suspect an ulterior motive. But Yahya had none. He wasn’t trying to buy the man’s protection against other inmates, nor store up a marker for a future favor. Nor was he calling upon God with a quid pro quo: God, accept this act of charity and free me from this trouble. He did not believe in such things. One did not make deals with God.

No, it was just… There was a hadith he’d learned, a narration of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that was always in his mind: “On every person’s joints or small bones, there is (the obligation of) sadaqah (charity) every day the sun rises. Doing justice between two people is sadaqah; assisting a man to mount his animal, or lifting up his belongings onto it is sadaqah; a good word is sadaqah; every step you take towards prayer is sadaqah; and removing harmful things from pathways is sadaqah.”

Yahya often thought that many Muslims did not realize the profundity of this statement. It wasn’t just an admonition to do some miniscule good deed every day. It described a radical way of approaching the world. The small bones of which the hadith spoke were the bones of the hand, or so Yahya had read. The hand was the instrument of creation. A man’s hands built, shaped, struck. They were symbols of power. It seemed to Yahya, therefore, that this hadith represented a declaration that kindness and charity were powerful forces of the universe, like gravity and combustion. Removing a harmful thing from the road, as the hadith suggested, could mean picking up a discarded beer bottle, sweeping up broken glass, or even scooping up animal excrement. This might be seen by some as degrading. It was the work of a janitor or a street sweeper, people who in some societies would be untouchables of the lowest caste. Lifting a man onto his mount was the work of a servant. Speaking a good word was something even a child could do. It required neither position nor power.

Yet in the sight of God such acts were not expressions of lowness but of personal and elemental righteousness. They drew one close to God, and that could only be a good thing. Yahya knew that these thoughts would probably make no sense to anyone else. But they drove nearly all his personal interactions.

He extended the shoes toward the man, nodding his head in a way that said, “Here, take them, please.”

The living mountain took the shoes with shaking hands. His gaze traveled up and down, taking in Yahya’s dark skin, black beard and bloodied head. His eyes opened wide. “El Jesus Negro!” he breathed. “Dios mio!” At which point he fell to his knees before Yahya and pressed his palms together in supplication. “Ayuda me! No cuestiono su plan, señor. Por favor, dile a nuestro padre que soy un siervo agradecido.”

What on earth? If Yahya understood correctly, the man had just called him “the black Jesus.” Clearly the poor fellow was delusional or drugged.

He turned toward the phone and was suddenly overcome by a wave of dizziness. He stumbled and put a hand on the wall. He put a hand to his forehead. His skin was cold and clammy. He had been badly beaten and was in terrible pain already. Looking at the man’s light had drained the last of his energy. His heart was beating so fast you could play a Kenyan benga song to it. Boom-cha-cha-boom cha-cha-boom. Like the Joseph Kamaru song. Wendo wa cebe cebe. The motion of the cube, but the cube was this room. His eyelids came down like a winter sunset, and he was only vaguely aware that he was falling.

He heard shouting in Spanish. His eyes were half open but he saw nothing, or if he did he could make no sense of it. He was aware only of the brightness of the overhead light, which conversely seemed to provide no warmth, actually sucking heat away, as if its function had been reversed. The concrete was freezing against his cheek. The cold deepened, becoming a sphere or tunnel that narrowed around him, tightening like the tunnel he’d been in earlier. Or had that been a dream? He couldn’t remember anymore.

* * *

Next: Part 3 – A Fighter and a Thief

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

Wael Abdelgawad’s novels, Pieces of a Dream and Zaid Karim Private Investigator, are available on

The post Death in a Valley Town, Part 2 – The Black Jesus appeared first on

Not a religion of platitudes

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 January, 2020 - 23:51

Earlier this week ‘Ed’ Husain, author of a biographical book called The Islamist, a former member of Hizb-ut-Tahreer (from when the group that became al-Muhajiroun was using the name in the UK) and co-founder of the Quilliam group, posted a tweet for the new year that tells us the ‘wisdom’ he believes Islam lacks that Christianity offers:

Muslims responded to this original tweet and he argued back, though Ed’s part in these exchanges has all been deleted; one of his responses was that “hadith is not scripture”. As I was brought up in Christianity, I have a perspective to offer on these quotations besides pointing out some of the obvious factual errors.

First, although the hadith are not scripture in the sense that the Qur’an is, we Muslims do regard them as a kind of revelation — the meaning, not the words themselves — as long as they are authentic. This matters, as there are in fact numerous sayings in the hadith literature which have a similar import to all three of the quotes Ed gives us. The four gospels are tellings of the life and mission of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) from the perspective of four individuals who are all identified only by their first names; the hadith all have chains of transmission and the biographies and reputations of the narrators are studied as well as what they reported. They are thus more comparable to the hadith literature than to the Qur’an which is the revealed word itself; the Qur’an has no extant equivalent in Christianity whatever.

The third of these quotes has a few close equivalents in the hadith, most famously the hadith in the Bukhari and Muslim collections: “None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself”. There are plenty of hadith like this that enjoin kindness, the maintenance of friendship and family ties, giving people the benefit of the doubt, not backbiting or gossiping, guarding against envy and resentment where one hates another’s good fortune. There is not a mere command to “love one another”; there are details on how to foster love and harmony between people who do not always see eye to eye.

On the second, despite the lack of this oft-quoted phrase “render unto Caesar”, there is ample instruction to obey rulers who uphold the Shari’ah even when they are unjust or oppressive as long as they do not expect us to do something forbidden such as neglect prayers or inform on people for things that are not crimes and thereby put them in danger. Scholars make qualifications to this for such circumstances as where a command from a ruler is made purely in their personal interests, but generally, obedience is enjoined and open rebellion or incitement to it by people who do not have the means to carry it through are forbidden.

As for the first, which was said in the context of a public stoning: that punishment is still legislated in Islam much as it was in the Jewish law, though the standard of evidence in the case of adultery is very high and will be fulfilled only rarely. There is, in fact, a hadith in which the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) intervened to make sure that a woman from a powerful tribe convicted of theft was subjected to the punishment (amputation) when a particular companion suggested that she not be. The words quoted may have been said in a particular context, perhaps so as to expose the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who had brought the woman to him (perhaps that they were so corrupt as to be unfit to sit in judgement on anyone), but it has come to mean “never judge anyone” and interpreted in a way that resembles the “tu quoque” fallacy.

I was brought up in the Catholic church and attended Catholic schools for seven of the first eight years of my schooling. Really, these statements are just empty platitudes when you look at the way many Christians who have power other people’s lives behave. All the western Christian churches have a long history of being very harsh, uncharitable, uncaring and unloving towards those who stepped out of line or caused embarrassment, of putting dogma before human life or welfare, of putting clerical reputations before the needs of the children and other vulnerable people they were supposed to be caring for. Europe did not have public stonings, but it had public executions, almost invariably by slow and painful methods, right into the 20th century in some places. Throughout most of its history, the Christian church has been in the pockets of kings, emperors and tsars; it is no surprise that they quote Jesus, peace be upon him, as saying “render unto Caesar…” given that the religion was official in the Roman and later Byzantine empires, as well as the German Holy Roman Empire whose leader was called a Kaiser (an obvious derivative of Caesar). Even in recent times, people thought of as living saints, such as Mother Teresa, hobnobbed with the rich and powerful and when ordinary people were oppressed, she lectured them on forgiveness.

Islam has detailed and nuanced guidance for how to live life, how to deal with and think of other people, how to deal with power, and that this guidance is to be found in the Qur’an, the hadith and the vast body of Islamic scholarly literature, most of which is available for any Arabic-speaker to read in numerous libraries and bookshops and some of which is available in English translation. It is not a weakness but a strength of Islam that it is not defined or represented by the empty platitudes Ed Husain quotes.

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CAA – NRC Row: Why There Is More To It Than An Attack On Secular Ethos

Muslim Matters - 4 January, 2020 - 01:13

‘Indian Muslims have nothing to fear. No one knows what CAA/NRC is all about. They are simply protesting because they are misled’, thus proclaimed a former classmate of mine who himself left India for brighter prospects during PM Narendra Modi’s regime but continues to believe in his promise of ‘acche din’ (good days).

Today the whole of India is divided over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which is to be followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Thousands of students from India’s premier institutions like Jamia Milia Islamia, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, IITs and IIMs are thronging the streets to protest against the bigoted law.

The ripple effect has even reached top educational institutions across the world including Harvard, Oxford, Yale and MIT. From lawyers to celebrities to academicians, people across the world, belonging to different religions are raising their dissent against the law which is deemed to be against the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution.

What is this law all about?

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) provides an accelerated path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities from three countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an official record of all those who are legal Indian citizens. So far, such a database has only been created for the northeastern state of Assam which has been struggling with the issue of illegal immigration for a long time. In Assam 1.9 million people were effectively rendered stateless after NRC and were put into detention centers. Out of these 1.9 million, around 0.6 million are Muslim.

On November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country.

Why the uproar?

At first glance the CAA seems to be a harmless law, which the government claims was made to help those who are facing religious persecution. However, the question arises why only those suffering religious persecution? Millions of people are suffering persecution in the name of race, region or language in India’s neighboring countries.

Even if we talk about just religious persecution, why does the law only accommodate those from three neighboring countries? Rohingyas are suffering brutal persecution in Myanmar. Christians are suffering in Sri Lanka. Tibetans have been persecuted because of their beliefs.

Many people opine that the CAA is not problematic in itself. It becomes problematic when it’s seen in conjunction with NRC. When NRC is implemented, millions of people will be declared illegal due to lack of documents in a country where the masses live in villages and documentation is a complicated bureaucratic process with a high error rate. According Professor Shruti Rajagopalan, the State Of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 by IDinsight, covering 2,947 households, found that 8.8% of Aadhaar holders reported errors in their name, age, address or other information in their Aadhaar letter (Aadhaar is the identity number issued to Indian residents). In the NRC, a spelling mistake can deprive one of citizenship and 8.8% affects over 120 million people.

They will be rendered stateless and sent to detention centers with inhumane conditions. Out of these ‘illegals’, everyone but Muslims can seek accelerated citizenship under CAA.

The fact is that even if we view CAA alone, the very act of offering citizenship on the basis of religion goes against the fundamentals of secularism and equality as mentioned in the Indian constitution.

UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has termed the CAA as “fundamentally discriminatory”.

In this context, it’s also relevant to understand the revolt that is happening in the north eastern state of Assam. While the rest of India is against CAA and NRC for exclusion of Muslims, the people of Assam are protesting against the inclusion of 1.3 million undocumented Non-Muslims, as identified in the NCR. According to them, if these foreigners are granted citizenship under CAA, they pose a threat to the language and culture of Assam.

Police brutality against protesters

Student fraternity across the world was shocked when students of Jamia Milia Islamia who were peacefully protesting against the CAA were brutally attacked by police forces. Police accused students of destroying public property and fired tear gas shells, beat them up mercilessly and even open fired at them. They barged into the library, mosque and even the women’s hostels without authorization.

Video footage shot by students and reviewed by Reuters show students, including women, hiding beneath desks in the library, cowering in restrooms, jumping over broken furniture in an attempt to flee. It was later verified that none of the students had anything to do with some of the buses that were set ablaze outside the campus.

Reports of even more horrific police brutality surfaced from Aligarh Muslim University. A student’s hand had to be amputated after a tear gas shell hit him and exploded. Hundreds of students were severely injured.

Section 144 of the Criminal Code which prohibits any gathering of 5 or more people has been imposed across the entire state of UP. Internet has been shut down in several parts.

Videos showing police destroying properties of innocent Muslims in UP have surfaced which the ‘Godi media’, a term coined for PM Modi’s lapdog media, refuses to acknowledge. Innocent youth are being dragged out of their homes and their properties are being seized on the accusation of destruction of public property. Death toll has crossed 22. Thousands are in custody.

It’s not surprising that Narendra Modi is being compared to Adolf Hitler.

India’s secular ethos

Religion based politics is nothing new in India, the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue and Gujarat riots being two of the most glaring examples.

However, in day to day life ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, Aapas mein sab bhai bhai’ (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians are all brothers) has not just been a slogan but a way of life.

Muslims in India have held prominent positions in every sphere of life, be it arts, literature, sports or leadership and have been admired by Hindus and Muslims alike.

The current BJP government aims to change all of that with its RSS-inspired fascist ideology of Hindutva – Hindu nationalism andHindu rashtra’ (nation).

India’s faltering economy and dejected youth

One of the heartening aspects of the CAA/NRC uprising is that it is not being seen as just a Muslim struggle. It is rightly being seen as a struggle to uphold the secular ethos of the Constitution of India. However, there is more to this struggle which is being led by the youth of the country.

Underlying the CAA-NRC struggles is the country’s deep disappointment with PM Modi’s lofty promises of ‘acche din’ (good days) which gave the country a new hope . Among other things he promised to make India an economic superpower. Today the nation’s economy is in doldrums which has led to frustration and dejection in the youth.

IMF’s last forecast for India was 6.1% growth in 2019. This has slumped to 4.9%. Unemployment is at a 45-year high and industrial growth rate is negative.

One of the major reasons for the economic slowdown has been the government’s radical decision of demonetization in 2016 which sent the entire country in a turmoil and failed to achieve any of its stated objectives. Small businesses took a further hit with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

At a time when the government’s primary concern should have been the faltering economy, the government diverted the country’s attention to the Babri Masjid -Ram Janmabhoomi issue. As soon as that ended it announced the CAA and NRC, continuing its propaganda of Hindu nationalism as opposed to real issues faced by the nation.

At this critical junction the economy can be expected to take a further hit by the cost of the implementation of the CAA and NRC exercise.By conservative estimates, nationwide NRC will cost Indians a whopping 500 billion rupees in admin expenses alone. Add to it the massive cost of building and maintaining detention centers across the country and the nation looks set for an economic and logistical nightmare.

Today the educated youth of the country is voicing its frustration at the price the country has been paying due to the government’s fascist ideologies. They no longer want the world to know India for its age old mandir-masjid disputes, mob lynchings, communal riots, human rights violations, poverty or illiteracy.

The current uprising is not just against one particular law.The people, especially the youth of India are protesting for their rights to work together as one nation to take the country towards being an exemplary democracy and an economic superpower.

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Imprisoned by his disability?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 2 January, 2020 - 23:27
A picture of a man wearing dark glasses, black trousers and a dark blue and black striped shirt being led by a guide dog through a shopping centre.A blind man (not Nellies) with his guide dog in a shopping centre in Brazil.

Today a blind man in the UK who has been convicted of sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl some years ago in Cheshire was sentenced to seven years behind bars and told he could not take his guide dog into prison with him; the dog will instead be trained to guide someone else. Neil Nellies’s lawyer asked the judge to suspend any prison sentence (i.e. release him on condition that if he offends again, his sentence will be activated on top of any additional sentence) as he is already ‘imprisoned’ by his visual impairment and that “prison for him will have a devastating impact”. However, the judge refused.

I have a few friends who are blind and follow a few more on various online platforms (YouTube, Instagram etc). They get married, have children, write, travel, cook, work … all the things you can’t do if you are in prison, so it’s a bit insulting and inaccurate to suggest that his disability is already such a ‘prison’ that it makes sending him to a real one if he committed a serious crime unnecessary. It’s possible that this man was sighted (or less severely impaired) when he committed the crimes, but so what? Over the years I have heard of too many men and women who abused children when they were young or middle-aged and strong, and were only caught when they were old and infirm and their age and infirmity was used to plead for mercy they did not show to the children in their care when they were in their prime. It’s wrong, and it is good that the judge saw through it in this case. Don’t commit the crime if you cannot do the time.

A prison is really no place for a guide dog; there are too many people in the prison who would harm it. Some of them are there because of domestic cruelty or other violent crime that also included cruelty to animals. Unless a prison officer walks the dog, it will not get the exercise it needs to remain healthy. As Nellies has been sentenced to seven years, he is likely to be released in three and a half years at the earliest, by which time the guide dog will be near the end of its working life as it has already been working for five years according to this report. I know of a young lady who was able to take her guide dog into a psychiatric unit when hospitalised in her teens, but that was only for a year and she was able to go out with the dog again within months, which does not happen in a prison sentence this long. It’s only right that the dog will go to someone who will benefit from having it.

Image source: Antonio Cruz/Abr - Agência Brasil, via Wikimedia. Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil licence.

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Disaster waiting to happen

Indigo Jo Blogs - 1 January, 2020 - 18:37
A white Mercedes articulated lorry with the "dnata" logo in blue on the side curtain. Its cab is in a stream and being pulled out by a red mobile crane during the night.The DNATA truck being recovered from the Longford River, 31st Dec 2019.

Yesterday a car and a truck collided on a road I’ve travelled along a lot while doing air freight work around Heathrow airport, namely the Bedfont Road south of the Longford and Duke of Northumberland Rivers which form the southern boundary of the airport, resulting in the death of three of the passengers in the car (all British Airways employees) and injury to a fourth (the truck driver, as might be expected, was much less seriously injured but was taken to hospital as a precaution). The truck belonged to DNATA, a Dubai-owned company which operates three big cargo sheds off that road, serving numerous major and minor airlines including Emirates, Qatar, El Al, Virgin Atlantic, Turkish Airlines and many others (it happened outside another shed which they do not own). Cargo sheds, for anyone who isn’t aware, are big warehouses where cargo is dropped off to be screened before being put on an aeroplane; alternatively, it can be screened elsewhere, or held securely after manufacture and delivered as “known” or “secure cargo”. (See earlier post for details about the congestion at the Heathrow cargo centre which led to those sheds being built there.)

Bedfont Road is a busy road. It’s also a narrow road, just wide enough for two vehicles to pass with care in places, and has numerous blind bends and a 40mph speed limit, and comes off a dual carriageway which links the A30 with the Heathrow perimeter road (also both dual carriageways). All the alternative routes have weight and/or width limits. Of course, if everyone drives carefully, accidents like this won’t happen but roads cannot be designed on the presumption that everyone will and driver distraction is a fact of life. It seems to have been built well before the cargo sheds when it was just the road from Bedfont to Stanwell village, which has a 7.5-tonne weight limit, but it now carries vehicles which are just too big for the road space. It needs to be widened and the blind bends straightened out, and possibly the speed limit reduced given the large number of side turnings used by large articulated trucks. I expect, however, that only the last of these will be put in place as it will be both the cheapest and least disruptive, but a car which hits a 44-tonne truck at 30mph does not stand much more chance than it stands at 40mph.

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Evliya Celebi at the Sulaymaniyyah Mosque in Istanbul

Inayat's Corner - 1 January, 2020 - 12:58

As a new year begins, I am grateful that I was able to once again visit Istanbul last year. A few years ago, I purchased An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya Celebi. Celebi lived in 17th Century (1611 – c. 1685) and spent his adult life travelling extensively both inside and outside the Ottoman domains including the Caucasus, Crete, Azerbaijan, Syria, Palestine, Armenia, Rumelia, Eastern Anatolia, Iraq, Iran, Russia, the Balkans, the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria, Crimea, Greece, the Arab Peninsula, Sudan and Egypt. Today he would be described as a travel writer. His observations were published as a ten-volume manuscript, the Seyahatname or the Book of Travels. An Ottoman Traveller is a selection of extracts from the Book of Travels.

Evliya Celebi’s the Book of Travels is described by the translators/editors Robert Dankoff and Sooyong Kim in the introduction as:

“…probably the longest and most ambitious travel account by any writer in any language, and a key text for all aspects of the Ottoman Empire at the time of its greatest extension in the seventeenth century. It is also the product of an unusual personality – a cultured Ottoman gentleman, pious yet unconventional, observant and inquisitive, curious about everything, obsessive about travelling, determined to leave a complete record of his travels.”

My highlight of visiting Istanbul is always going to the Sulaymaniyyah mosque built (1543-57) on the orders of the Ottoman Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent (ruled 1520 – 1566). Below are some extracts from Evliya’s Celebi’s observations about the Sulaymaniyyah mosque in Istanbul taken from An Ottoman Traveller. I have added pictures taken from the internet to illustrate some of the Celebi’s passages. I have also added the original Arabic of the Qur’an to the translated passages for those who like to decipher the calligraphy.

= = = = =

Description of the Mosque of Sultan Sulayman

It was begun in the year 1543 and finished in the year 1557, and is an exemplary mosque beyond description. The learned men who compose histories, and thus strike the dye on marble, have confessed the inability and failure of the best chroniclers to celebrate this unequalled mosque. Now, this humble Evliya ventures to write down in praises in as much as I am able.

First, this mosque divides in half the ground of old palace the Conqueror had earlier built. On top of the high hill, Sulayman Khan built a unique mosque overlooking the sea. How many thousands of master architects, builders, labourers, stonecutters and marble cutters from all the Ottoman dominions had he gathered! And for three whole years 3000 galley slaves, foot-bound in chains, would lay the foundation deep into the ground, so deep that the world-bearing bull at the bottom of the earth could hear the sound of their pickaxes. They dug until they had reached the deepest part, and in three years, by erecting a platform, the foundation was built up to the surface.

…The bowl of the indigo-coloured dome of this great mosque, up to its lofty summit, is more spherical than that of Aya Sofya, and is seven royal cubits in height.

Apart from the square piers supporting this incomparable dome, there are four porphyry columns on the right and left sides of the mosque, each one worth ten Egyptian treasures. These columns were from Egypt, transported along the Nile to Alexandria. From there Karinca Kapudan loaded them onto rafts and, with favourable wind, brought them to Unkapanu in Istanbul and then to Vefa Square…These four columns of red porphyry are each fifty cubits high. God knows, there is nothing like them in the four corners of the world.

The multi-coloured stained windows above the prayer-niche and the pulpit are the work of Sarhos Ibrahim. Mere men are too impotent to praise them. At noon, when these windows let in the rays of the world-illuming sun, the mosque interior shines with light, dazzling the eyes of the congregation. Each pane contains a myriad of varicoloured glass bits, in designs of flowers and of the beautiful names of God in calligraphy. They are celebrated by travellers on land and sea as a sight not matched in the heavens.

The prayer-niche and pulpit and the muezzin’s gallery are made of pure white marble…the lofty pulpit is made of raw marble and has a crown-like canopy, matched only by the pulpit in the Sinop mosque. And the prayer-niche could be that of Solomon himself. Above the niche, gold on azure by the hand of Karahisari, is inscribed the verse, Whenever Zacharias visited her in the Niche (3:37).

كُلَّمَا دَخَلَ عَلَيْهَا زَكَرِيَّا الْمِحْرَابَ

…There has never been to this day, nor will there ever be, any calligraphy like that of Ahmad Karahisari both inside and outside this mosque. The Creator granted him success in this field. First, in the centre of the big dome, is inscribed the verse: God is the light of the heavens and earth. His light may be compared to a niche that enshrines a lamp, the lamp within a crystal of star-like brilliance (24:35). He has truly displayed his skill in rendering this Light Verse.

…This mosque has five doors…Written over the left side door is: Peace be to you for all that you have steadfastly endured. Blessed is the recompense of paradise (13:24).

سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ بِمَا صَبَرْتُمْ ۚ فَنِعْمَ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ

Because Sulayman Khan is the conqueror of the seven climes, his name is mentioned not only here but in Friday sermons. And in all the lands of Islam, there is no building stronger and more solid than the Sulaymaniyyah. All architectural experts agree on this, and also that nowhere on earth has such an enamel dome been seen.

Within and outside this mosque the foundation is firm, the buildings elegant, and every piece of ornamentation the work of wondrous magic of extreme perfection. When the construction ended, the Grand Architect Sinan said, “My Padishah, I have built for you a mosque so solid that on Judgement Day, when the mountains are carded like cotton, the dome of this mosque will roll like a polo ball before the carder’s bow string of Hallaj Mansur.”

…Once this humble one observed ten Frankish infidels with expert knowledge of geometry and architecture who were touring this light-filled mosque. The gatekeepers had let them in, and the caretakers had given them special shoes so they could walk around and see it. Wherever they looked, they put finger to mouth and bit it in astonishment. But when they say the doors inlaid with Indian mother-of-pearl, they shook their head and bit two fingers each. And when they saw the enamel dome, they threw off their Frankish hats and cried out in awe, ‘Maria, Maria!’

…This humble one requested their interpreter to ask them how they liked this building. One of them turned out to be capable of speech. He said, ‘All things, whether created beings or man-made structures, are beautiful either on the inside or on the outside. Rarely are the two beauties found together. But both the interior and exterior of this mosque were constructed with such grace and refinement. In all of Frengistan we have not seen an edifice built to such perfection as this.’

Editor’s Choice: Top 10 Articles Of 2019

Muslim Matters - 31 December, 2019 - 06:42

MuslimMatters is grateful to Allah for our readers and our writers for collaborating to build the Muslim Internet’s most widely read online magazine. It is an honor to publish every article that goes up on the site. Here are the editor’s choices from the top most read articles of 2019.

10. Reflections on Muslim Approaches to the Abortion Debate: The Problem of Narrow Conceptualization | Sh Salman Younas

This comprehensive scholarly essay, published in August, was nuanced and forces the reader to take a step back and holistically look at the issue of abortion. Shaykh Salman, a traditional trained scholar, is completing his PhD at Oxford University on early Hanafi fiqh.

American Muslims must go beyond simplistic and emotionally-charged approaches to the abortion question. This issue, like many others, cannot be properly addressed through a narrowly defined law, politics, or clash of ideologies narrative, especially at the level of individual fatwā, communal irshād, or political activism, advocacy, and legislation.Click To Tweet 9. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf And The Question of Rebellion In The Islamic Tradition | Dr Usaama al-Azami

In this September piece, which predated many controversies, Dr Azami, a Departmental Lecturer in Contemporary Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford argues against Shaykh Hamza’s contention that the Islamic tradition has uniformly called for rendering obedience to tyrannical rule.

8. What Fasting Demands From Us | Mufti Taqi Uthmani

This article was a Ramadan treat, a translation of the work by the esteemed South Asian scholar.

It is, however, important when there is the temptation, the heart desires it, and the environment encourages it, and then in submission to the command of Allah one says, “مَعَاذَ الله” “I seek refuge of Allah” (Surah Yūsuf, 12:24). This is the worship that Allah has created mankind.Click To Tweet

Ramaḍān is commonly viewed as only a month of fasting and tarāwīḥ, and that there is no other significance to it. Without a doubt, the fasting and the tarāwīḥ prayers are two major acts of worship in this month. However, the reality is that the blessed month of Ramaḍān demands more from us.

7. When Faith Hurts | Zeba Khan

This piece by our Director of Development and regular writer, Zeba Khan, hit a nerve with many readers. It went deep into recognizing that faith is not a protection from pain, and pain is not the absence of faith.

Our spiritual education is broken. In order to fix it, we have to be upfront with each other. We have to admit that we can be happy with Allah and still find ourselves devastated by the tests He puts before us, because faith is not a protection from struggle.Click To Tweet 6. Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change | Imam Mikaeel Smith

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) displayed perfection in both moral intelligence and interpersonal understanding and the author, Imam Mikaeel Smith encapsulates this in his book on Prophetic emotional intelligence.

Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to othersClick To Tweet

Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior.

5. Sri Lankan Muslims To Fast In Solidarity With Fellow Christians | Raashid Riza

Mainstream Muslims have in fact been at the forefront not just locally, but also internationally in the fight against extremism within Muslim communities. Sri Lankan Muslims, a numerical minority, though a well-integrated native community in Sri Lanka’s colourful social fabric, seek to take lead in helping to alleviate the suffering currently plaguing our nation. This article is on this list not just because it was an excellent read but because of the positive effect it had on repairing divides causes by the attacks.

4. Loving Muslim Marriage Episode #2: Do Women Desire Sex? | Saba Syed, Zeba Khan

In this episode, the Loving Muslim Marriage team asks an obvious question with what seems like an obvious answer – do women need sex? Obviously, yes. If that’s the case though, then why is expressing a sexual need, or seeking help for sexual issues such a taboo in Muslim cultures? Obviously many people wanted to learn more.

3. Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family? | Mona Islam

The article is a curriculum for young Muslims with real life examples that parents, teachers and youth groups can use. Expert curriculum designer, Mona Islam, emphasizes on the need for this education in middle and high school.

In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection.Click To Tweet 2. The Day I Die | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar’s column never fails to uplift readers. This was his most poignant post.

A wise man once said to me, “Always put your funeral in front of you, and work backwards in constructing your life accordingly.” With the deaths of righteous people, that advice always advances to the front of my thoughts.Click To Tweet 1.  Few Can Build Many Can Destroy | Sh Mohammad ElShinawy 

With so many internal and external forces bent on crushing our souls. this article compels us to adopt the Quranic formula for returning the ummah to health; focus on developing the good, more than destroying the evil.

The Quran also nurtured in its reader’s spirit the magnificence of God, far more than it illustrated the futility of idol-worship, all because deepening your understanding of who Allah is will always outperform identifying who Allah is not, and because the second will naturally happen once the first has been secured.Click To Tweet

InshaAllah, we will publish lesser read pieces that were gems that readers may  have missed. 

The post Editor’s Choice: Top 10 Articles Of 2019 appeared first on

Why did they stay in the Labour Party?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 30 December, 2019 - 22:50
Picture of two white men in their 30s standing against a blue-grey background.Douglas Murray and Andrew Doyle

Last week Douglas Murray, a self-proclaimed neo-con best known for a speech in which he called for life for Muslims to be made more difficult across the board in the wake of the terrorist attacks of the early 2000s, was then a director of the Henry Jackson Society, wrote a book called The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam and more recently has announced a tour of the UK offering “an evening with” him and Andrew Doyle (of Titania McGrath fame) with a routine focussed on attacking ‘woke’ culture, published a piece on the website Unherd in which he suggested that Labour would have difficulty recovering from the “toxic mess” of the Corbyn years. He suggested that whoever succeeds Corbyn should be expected to answer for why they remained in the party when it became, on the authority of Chuka Umunna (who left the party this year, helped to form the Independents’ Group, since dissolved, then defected again to the Lib Dems, stood in Westminster instead of his old Streatham seat and lost), an “institutionally racist” party.

In my opinion it’s a little hypocritical for a man who called for life for a minority to be made difficult and who has started to make a living out of attacking the so-called woke police, meaning people who stand up against displays of racism in the media and academia, to be complaining of “institutional racism” just because the minority suffering is a different one to those he has been attacking, or are on the receiving end of racism more generally in society. Previously the best-known institution to be accused officially of institutional racism, by the Macpherson Report, was none other than the Metropolitan Police, and this was after a young Black man was murdered in London by five racist white youths, only two of whom have been convicted and then more than 20 years later; the police bungled the investigation, preferring to harass the victim’s friend rather than investigate the murder. Perhaps Douglas Murray plans to interview serving police officers and ask them why they remained in an organisation condemned as institutionally racist in an official inquiry report.

Nobody has suggested that Corbyn adopted policies that threatened Jewish life or property in the UK, or advocated or defended discrimination against them, or advocated their deportation. It’s often used against Labour that it’s only the second party to be investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the previous one being the British National Party, but the BNP was founded by Nazis from the old National Front, had a policy of repatriation and did not allow non-whites to be members. None of this is true of the Labour party. The claims against the Labour party are of an entirely different order to the BNP and for that matter the Metropolitan Police: that some Jewish members feel uncomfortable (though others do not), some have said they were bullied, that “anti-Semitic tropes” have been used by some Labour figures (and some of these claims are plainly spurious, often based on straining the definition through the needle’s eye) and that others have expressed hostility to Israel, including suggesting that it should not exist. Very many of the utterances which have been exposed were said years ago, often well before they were involved in the Labour party, and were sometimes on private forums, or were discovered as a result of a trawl through someone’s social media accounts.

As for why people remained, there are numerous reasons. Jess Phillips, one of the MPs Murray suggests should be interrogated, was always critical of Corbyn and contemptuous of some of his allies; Kier Starmer was personally untainted by the scandal and is also known not to be in agreement with Corbyn on very much and has been touted as a moderate successor to Corbyn. Many of them will have known that the Labour party was by far the most likely party other than the Tories to form the next government — our system makes forming new parties notoriously difficult — and believed that removing the Tories was essential to save what is left of the welfare-oriented British state, including the health system, and to revitalise the education system which is currently being starved of funds as normally happens during a Tory government. They also believed that there was a need to save the country from the Tories’ ruinous and divisive approach to Brexit. The Lib Dems previously colluded with the Tories in bringing much of this about; the Independent Group included several former Tories who had held cabinet posts under Cameron. Corbyn was popular with the membership, largely because of the mistakes of Ed Miliband between 2010 and 2015 and of his moderate rivals in 2015.

But many of them would also have been committed to the idea of the Labour Party as just that: a Labour party. Unless any new party could secure the backing of some of the trade unions, it would end up as another Lib Dem party or at best, a kind of mirror to the US Democratic Party which is largely dependent on donations from wealthy individuals, some of whom also contribute to Republican campaigns (so as to buy favours from both sides) and some of whom are of a decidedly reactionary character. Labour’s biggest single donation in the 2019 election campaign was from the Unite union which represents a very broad swathe of British organised labour. It is funded by ordinary people’s donation and gives those ordinary people a voice, should they choose to avail themselves of it (the political levy, the part of one’s union fees that go to the Labour party, is optional). There is already one party in this country which is funded by the wealthy and largely champions their interests, albeit making the necessary appeals to people of average income. We do not really need another.

But … maybe some of them really did not believe that Labour was “institutionally racist”; they knew that many of the accusations were spurious and that the campaign was a right-wing, pro-imperialist witch hunt often targeted at Black and Asian candidates and activists, including dissenting Jews. It was not an anti-racist campaign but a racist one, but had enough media traction that they may have believed it wiser to let it blow over than stand up to it. Cowardly this may have been, and facilitated by white privilege, but not anti-Semitic.

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7 Powerful Techniques For Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Muslim Matters - 30 December, 2019 - 05:38

It’s the end of the year, and I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking – after wondering if New Year’s is halal to celebrate, you probably want to lose some weight, make more money, talk to family more, or be a better Muslim in some way.  The New Year for many of us is a moment to turn a fresh page and re-imagine a better self. We make resolutions and hope despite the statistics we’ll be the outliers that don’t fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions.

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health. Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks.

Given such a high failure rate, let’s talk about how you can be among the few who set and achieve your goals successfully.

1. Be Thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Allah Gives You More if You’re Thankful

You’ve been successful this past year in a number of areas. Think of your worship, career, relationships, personality, education, health (physical, mental, social, and spiritual), and finances. Take a moment to reflect on where you’ve succeeded, no matter how trivial, even if it’s just maintaining the status quo, and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for those successes.

When you’re thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), He increases you in blessings.  Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you give thanks (by accepting faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My blessings); but if you are thankless (i.e. disbelievers), verily, My punishment is indeed severe’” [14:7] 

In recent years, there’s been more discussion on the benefits of practicing gratitude, though oftentimes it’s not clear to whom or what you’re to be grateful towards. We, of course, know that we’re not grateful simply to the great unconscious cosmos, but to our Creator.

Despite this difference, there exist interesting studies on how the practice of gratitude affect us. Some of the benefits include:

  • Better relationships with those thanked
  • Improved physical health
  • Improved psychological health
  • Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression
  • Better sleep
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved mental strength

Building on Your Successes

In addition to being thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), reflect on why you were successful in those areas.  What was it you did day in and day out to succeed? Analyze it carefully and think of how you can either build on top of those present successes, or how you can transport the lessons from those successes to new areas of your life to succeed there as well.

In the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath, they note that we have a tendency to try to solve big problems with big solutions, but a better technique that has actual real-world success in solving complex problems is to instead focus on bright spots and build on those bright spots instead. You have bright spots in how you’ve worked and operated, so reflect on your successes and try to build on top of them.

2. Pick One Powerful, Impactful Goal

Oftentimes when we want to change, we try to change too many areas.  This can lead to failure quickly because change in one area is not easy, and attempting to do it in multiple areas simultaneously will simply accelerate failure.

Instead, pick one goal – a goal that you are strongly motivated to fulfill, and one that you know if you were to make that goal, it would have a profoundly positive impact on your life as well as on others whom you are responsible to.

In making the case based on scientific studies, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes:

Research has shown that you are 2x to 3x more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”

Further down, he states:

“However (and this is crucial to understand) follow-up research has discovered implementation intentions only work when you focus on one thing at a time.”

When setting your goal, be sure to set a SMART goal, one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound.  “I want to lose weight” is not a SMART goal.  “I want to achieve 10% bodyfat at 200 lbs in 9 months” is specific (you know the metrics to achieve), measurable (you can check if you hit those metrics), achievable (according to health experts, it can be done, realistic (it’s something you can do), and time-bound (9 months).

3. Repeatedly Make Du’a with Specificity

Once you lock onto your goal, you should ask for success in your goal every day, multiple times a day.  Increasing in your du’a and asking Allah for success not only brings you the help of the Most High in getting to your goal, it also ensures it remains top of mind consistently.

A few of the best ways to increase the chances of a supplication being accepted:

  • Increase the frequency of raising your hands after salah and asking for your intended outcome.
  • Asking while you are in sujood during prayers.
  • Praying and supplicating in the last 3rd of the night during qiyam ul-layl.

When you make your du’a, be specific in what you ask for, and in turn, you will have a specific rather than a vague goal at the forefront of your mind which is important because one of the major causes of failure for resolutions themselves is lacking specificity.

4. Schedule Your Goal for Consistency

The most powerful impact on the accomplishment of any goal isn’t in having the optimal technique to achieve the goal – it is rather how consistent you are in trying to achieve it.  The time and frequency given to achievement regularly establishes habits that move from struggle to lifestyle. As mentioned in the previous section, day, time, and place were all important to getting the goal, habit, or task accomplished.

In order to be consistent, schedule it in your calendar of choice. When you schedule it, make sure you:

  • Pick the time you’re most energetic and likely to do it.
  • Work out with family, friends, and work that that time is blocked out and shouldn’t be interrupted.
  • Show up even if you’re tired and unmotivated – do something tiny, just to make sure you maintain the habit.

A Word on Automation

Much continues to be written about jobs lost to automation, but there are jobs we should love losing to automation, namely, work that we do that can be done freely or very cheaply by a program.  For example, I use Mint to capture all my accounts (bank, credit card, investments, etc) and rather than the old method of gathering receipts and tracking transactions, all of it is captured online and easily accessible from any device.

Let’s say you wanted to give to charity, and you wanted to give a recurring donation of $5 a month to keep MuslimMatters free – all you have to do is set up an automated recurring donation at the link and you’re done.

Likewise, if you’re saving money for a goal, you can easily do so by automating a specific amount of money coming out of your bank account into another account via the online banking tools your bank provides.  You can automate bill payments and other tasks to clear your schedule, achieve your goals, and keep you focused on working the most important items.

5. Focus on Behaviors, Not Outcomes

We’re often told we should set up SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.  However, one way to quickly fail a goal is by defining success according to outcomes, which aren’t necessarily in your hand.  For example, you might say as above:

“I want to be at 10% body fat in 9 months at 200 lbs.”

This is a SMART goal, and it’s what you should aim for, but when you assess success, you shouldn’t focus on the result as it’s somewhat outside the scope of your control. What you can do is focus on behaviors that help you achieve that goal, or get close to it, and then reset success around whether you’re completing your behaviors.  As an example:

“I want to complete the P90X workout and diet in 90 days.”

Here, you’re focused on generally accepted notions on behaviors that will get you close to your goal.  Why? Because you control your behaviors, but you can’t really control the outcomes. Reward yourself when you follow through on your behavior goals, and the day-to-day commitments you make.  If you find that compliance is good, and you’re getting closer to your goal, keep at it.

Read the following if you want to really understand the difference in depth.

6. Set Realistic Expectations – Plan to Fail, and Strategize Recovery

After too many failures, most people give up and fall off the wagon.  You will fail – we all do. Think of a time you’ve failed – what should you have done to get back on your goal and complete it?  Now reflect on the upcoming goal – reflect on the obstacles that will come your way and cause you to fail, and how when you do fail, you’ll get right back on it.

Once you fail, ask yourself, was it because of internal motivation, an external circumstance, a relationship where expectations weren’t made clear, poor estimation of effort – be honest, own what you can do better, and set about attempting to circumvent the obstacle and try again.

7. Assess Your Progress at Realistic Intervals

Once you’re tracking behaviors, simply mark down in an app or tracker that you completed the behavior.  Once you see you’re consistent in your behaviors over the long-term, you’ll have the ability to meaingfully review your plan and assess goal progress.

This is important because as you attempt to perform the work necessary to accomplish the goal, you’ll find that your initial assessments for completion could be wrong. Maybe you need more time, maybe you need a different time. Maybe you need a different process for accomplishing your goals. Assess your success at both weekly and monthly intervals, and ask yourself:

  • How often was I able to fulfill accomplish my required behaviors?  How often did I miss?
  • What was the reason for those misses?
  • Can I improve what I’m doing incrementally and change those failures to successes?  Or is the whole thing wrong and not working?

Don’t make changes when motivation dies after a few days.  Don’t make big changes on a weekly basis. Set an appointment on a weekly basis simply to review successes and challenges, making small tweaks while maintaining the overall plan. Set a monthly appointment with yourself to review and decide what you’ll change, if anything, in how you operate.

Be something of a Tiger mom about it – aim for 90% completion of behaviors, or an A grade, when assessing whether you’ve done well or not.  Anything below 90% is a failing grade.

(ok, so Tiger Moms want 100% or more, but let’s assume this is a somewhat forgiving Tiger Mom)

Putting it All Together

Set ‘Em Up

  • First, take a moment to reflect and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for what you’ve achieved, and reflect on what it is you’ve accomplished and what you’ve done in the way you worked and operated that helped you succeed.
  • Next, pick one goal and one goal alone to achieve, and use the SMART goal methodology to be clear about what it is.
  • Once this is done, make du’a with strong specificity on a regular basis during all times, and especially during the times when du’as are most likely to be accepted.

Knock ‘Em Down

  • Schedule your goal into a calendar, making sure you clear the time with any individuals who will be impacted by your changed routines and habits.
  • On a daily basis, focus on completing behaviors, not the outcomes you’re aiming for – the behaviors get you to the outcomes.
  • Plan on failing occasionally, especially a week after motivation disappears, and plan for how you’ll bounce back immediately and recover from it.
  • Finally, on a daily and weekly basis, assess yourself to see if you’re keeping on track with your behaviors and make adjustments to do better. On a monthly basis, assess how much closer you are to your goal, and if you’re making good progress, or if you’re not making good progress, and try to understand why and what adjustments you’ll make.

What goals do you plan to achieve in the coming year?

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I Encountered A Predator On Instagram

Muslim Matters - 29 December, 2019 - 23:31

It was a Wednesday night in April and as I was getting ready to go to bed, a direct message popped up in my Instagram inbox. A little background; my personal  account on Instagram is private and it is rare that I let anyone, whom I do not know, follow me. But seeing that this was a grown “woman” with a baby and I had at least seven mutual friends, I let her follow me. 

I will say, I was definitely in the wrong to respond to someone I didn’t personally know. Somehow I thought her 105K followers gave her credibility. 

I was gravely mistaken. 

I opened the direct message. 

She had sent me a message complimenting me. This wasn’t new to me because I often get messages with compliments about my appearance from friends — we are teenagers. However, the stark difference was that I didn’t know this person at all. (I came to learn that these types of messages can go under the category of grooming). After complimenting me, she asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company. 

Many young women are targeted by predators on Instagram. Here is my story. 'After complimenting me, 'she' asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.'Click To Tweet

I replied, saying that if I had more details I’d consult with my parents and give her an answer the next morning; to which she responded demanding she must have an answer the same night as she had other offers to make. 

I then went to ask my mother. Mama was sick with the flu, quite woozy, but despite her state she said,

“this sounds like a scam to me…”.

I decided to play along with it and test her. 

I told @samahnation to tell me more and how I could verify her and her company. She then sent me numerous copied and pasted answers —hecka long— about how I could trust her; how the company would pay me and how they will still make money in the meantime. 

hijab modeling scam

Thankfully, I was apprehensive during the entire ordeal, but as you can see, this type of manipulation is so real and possible for young women and girls to fall prey. This experience was honestly quite scary and jarring for me. I was so easily distracted by what she was portraying herself as on her profile. She had a GoFundMe for a masjid in her bio and posts of photos depicting her love for her baby.

I began to do some research. I stumbled upon an article about a ‘Hijab House’ model scam. Using the title of ‘consultant director’ for a well-known hijab company, Hijab House, predators were allegedly preying on young girls in Australia. Hijab House has denied any link to this scam. 

Hijab House model scam


The predator went as far as to blackmail and pressure their victims into sending nude photos, or doing crazy things like smelling shoes! Eerily enough, @samahnation’s Instagram bio stated that she was based in Melbourne, Australia.

The more I engaged with this predator, the more ludicrous their responses and questions got. And this happened within the span of 24 hours. 

She went as far as to ask me if I would answer questions for a survey, saying all that mattered was honesty and that the purpose of the survey was to make me uncomfortable to see if I “won’t fall under pressure.”

Clearly, this last statement about being a speech analysis specialist was a complete fabrication. Again, may I reiterate that even older people can fall prey. You don’t have to be young and impressionable, these manipulative perpetrators will do anything to get what they want.

As shown below, the situation reached an obscene level of ridiculousness. You can see clear attempts to gaslight me and pressure me into answering or changing my stance on my replies.

This was the last thing I said to the predator before I blocked and reported them in an attempt to get them caught. Observe how as soon as I called this person out they immediately became defensive and tried to manipulate me into thinking that what they were doing and asking me was completely normal- that I was the crazy one for asking for proof. 

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They had asked me questions I found too lewd to even answer or take screenshots of.

This bizarre encounter was honestly astonishing. I do not even know if I was talking to a man or a woman.

Alhamdullilah, I am so glad because even if I was a little bit gullible, I was aware enough about predatory behavior that I didn’t fall victim to this perpetrator. I am especially grateful for my mother, who has educated me about predators like this from a very young age; whom even in her drowsy state was able to tell me it was a preposterous scam.

I could have been blackmailed.

Talk to your parents or a trusted adult

I am grateful for having an open channel of communication, that my relationship with my mother is based on trust and I could go to her when this occurred. This is a reminder and a learning opportunity for all of us how these scary things can happen to anyone. We must learn how to take caution and protect ourselves and our (underage) loved ones against such situations.

Sis, please talk to your parents. They love you and will be your first line of defense.


Grooming is a very common tactic online predators use to gain the trust of their victim. According to InternetSafety101, young people put themselves at great risk by communicating online with individuals they do not know on a personal level. “Internet predators intentionally access sites that children commonly visit and can even search for potential victims by location or interest.

If a predator is already communicating with a child, he or she can piece together clues from what the child mentions while online, including parents’ names, where the child goes to school, and how far away the child lives from a certain landmark, store, or other location.
Online grooming is a process which can take place in a short time or over an extended period of time. Initial conversations online can appear innocent, but often involve some level of deception. As the predator (usually an adult) attempts to establish a relationship to gain a child’s trust, he may initially lie about his age or may never reveal his real age to the child, even after forming an established online relationship. Often, the groomer will know popular music artists, clothing trends, sports team information, or another activity or hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate it to the child.”

These tactics lead children and teens to believe that no one else can understand them or their situation like the groomer. After the child’s trust develops, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex. Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior.

They also flatter and compliment the child excessively and manipulate a child’s trust by relating to emotions and insecurities and affirming the child’s feelings and choices.

Predators will:

* Prey on teen’s desire for romance, adventure, and sexual information.
* Develop trust and secrecy: manipulate child by listening to and sympathizing with child’s problems and insecurities.
* Affirm feelings and choices of child.
* Exploit natural sexual curiosities of child.
* Ease inhibitions by gradually introducing sex into conversations or exposing them to pornography.
* Flatter and compliment the child excessively, send gifts, and invest time, money, and energy to groom the child.
* Develop an online relationship that is romantic, controlling, and upon which the child becomes dependent.
* Drive a wedge between the child and his/her parents and friends.
* Make promises of an exciting, stress-free life, tailored to the youth’s desire.
* Make threats, and often will use child pornography featuring their victims to blackmail them into silence.”


Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? 

According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. “Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind,” writes Dr Stephanie Sarkis. 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? Click To Tweet

Recognizing signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting:

Second guessing. Are you constantly second guessing yourself when talking to this person or questioning your own morals that you wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise? For example, when this person popped up in my inbox I wouldn’t have thought twice about blocking or just deleting the message if it was a man but, since it seemed to be a woman I was duped into thinking that it was more acceptable or I could trust them more.

Feeling as if you are being too sensitive. Again I cannot emphasize this enough that you must trust your instincts, if you are feeling uncomfortable and your internal alarm bells are ringing- listen to them! Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting or manipulation. 

Feeling constantly confused. Another sign that you may be falling victim to gas lighting is when you are constantly confused and second guessing your thoughts and opinions.

Three takeaways:

1. Trust your instincts (I’m going to reiterate this, always trust your gut feeling, if you feel like you are uncomfortable whether it’s a situation you are in or if you don’t have a good feeling while talking to a certain person I advise you exit the chat or don’t answer in the first place.)
2. Never answer to someone whom you don’t know. I will say this was my first and biggest mistake that I have made: allowing this person’s messages into my inbox, and replying to their ridiculous claims and questions. Now that I think about it I don’t even know if this was a woman or not.
3. Set your boundaries! This is probably the most important tip to take away from this article. Setting up your boundaries from the beginning is so important. Whether it is a friend, partner or colleague, if you do not set your boundaries from the beginning of your interaction or relationship with that person; people will not respect your limits and choices later on. Especially if your boundaries have to do with religion, moral compasses, or even specific pet peeves you have. I cannot emphasize how much boundaries matter when it comes to any daily interaction you may have in your daily life.

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National parks should be inclusive; that does not mean destruction

Indigo Jo Blogs - 29 December, 2019 - 19:00
A view from near the summit of a mountain down a valley to a small lake. At the bottom of the valley is a small area of green fields; a small stream runs down the valley to the lake.Wast Water, from Great Gable, in the English Lake District.

Sky News today reported that the chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority had claimed that the park was geared too much towards the needs of older, able-bodied, white tourists and was not inclusive enough of disabled people and ethnic minorities. This has obviously led to the usual outcry from ‘conservationists’, Nimbys and reactionaries who have accused him of seeking to dumb down the park, among them the deputy mayor of Keswick (an important service town in the northern part of the park) who has condemned the construction of a tarmac path near Keswick and said that if people do not like the environment as it is, muddy paths and all, they should go elsewhere. The article quotes a report (PDF) by the government’s rural affairs department DEFRA which says that the National Parks are in danger of becoming “an exclusive, mainly white, mainly middle‑class club, with rules only members understand and much too little done to encourage first time visitors”.

There are 12 National Parks in the UK (two in Scotland, three in Wales and the rest in England) and all are large rural areas of particular natural beauty or geological spectacle. They are not parks in the sense that an urban municipal park is, but are working landscapes where tourism is encouraged, including by facilitating access to uncultivated land, and unsympathetic development discouraged or banned altogether. Until quite recently all of the English parks were in the north or south-west; three were added in the south and East Anglia this century (the South Downs, New Forest and Broads). There are other levels of protection for nature and landscapes such as the Green Belt system, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) but the national parks are the best known and probably best funded system and the most geared towards the needs of visitors. They originated after the Second World War and were intended to ensure that there were areas where city dwellers could escape to unspoiled, unpolluted areas, enjoy places of natural beauty and benefit from clean air; their establishment was the result of a popular movement which included protests against people being shut out of uncultivated land by landowners who were using them as grouse moors and the like, one of which was celebrated in the song The Manchester Rambler by Ewan MacColl.

In the comments to the Sky News piece and the tweets in response to it, people have reacted with a mean-spirited parody of what the chief executive was saying, with one reply suggesting that a dual carriageway be built up Scafell Pike and a MacDonald’s be built at the summit, and numerous other suggestions that hills be levelled because they’re ‘exclusionary’ to disabled people. While the majority of people can cope with a muddy path, a paved path away from the road allows a wheelchair user or other disabled person to enjoy the landscape as short of carrying them on a stretcher, there is no way many disabled people could enjoy walking in the hills when the paths are steep, muddy and punctuated by walls and fences that have to be crossed by stiles. Climbing hills and abseiling down cliff faces are all very well if you can, but if you are not physically able to, you should not be shut out of the country’s premier outdoor holiday destinations. When the national parks were established, many disabled and long-term sick people were still living in institutions which were in the country for a reason — because clean air was healthier and might aid their recovery or prevent deterioration. Of course, you didn’t get to appreciate the landscape much if you were shut behind walls, but the principle was understood when these places were first built. (The “£8m tarmac trail” that is the focus of the deputy mayor’s complaint is actually along an old railway line, like many long-distance walks and cycle routes the country over, and the project is to restore it after sections of it were destroyed by floods in a major storm in 2015.)

Cities are nowadays less polluted than they used to be, although traffic fumes have eroded some of the benefits brought by cleaner fuels and reduced “smoke stack” manufacturing, but access to nature and natural beauty is still good for the spirit and access to rugged landscapes where one can climb, abseil and do other activities that build up physical strength and survival skills is good for one’s general health. I spent many holidays as a child and much time as a student exploring and appreciating some of Britain’s national parks — the Lake District and Snowdonia in particular — and I agree that it is important that everyone have a way of enjoying it, not just the physically most able, those with a car and the money to run it, and those who fit into a mostly white, provincial English county. They are called national parks for a reason; they are supported by all of us and we all have a right to enjoy them however we can.

Image source: Doug Sim, via Wikimedia. Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA) 4.0 licence.

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Was it Corbyn? Was it Brexit?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 20 December, 2019 - 23:51
BBC Map showing the seats which changed hands during the 2019 election.

So, just over a week ago the Labour Party crashed to one of its worst defeats in its history, gaining only 30% of the vote (down from over 40% in 2017) in a general election which gave Boris Johnson’s Conservatives a majority of more than 80 seats (on the back of about 43% of the popular vote). While it held or gained some unlikely seats in London and the south (Canterbury, Putney), it lost large numbers of seats in what used to be its northern heartlands including, for example, much of outer Tyneside, Bolsover (represented for decades by Dennis Skinner), north-east Wales and all of Stoke on Trent, all of which went Tory, often for the first time in decades or ever. Significantly, this election had a very high turnout (usually a good sign for Labour) despite being, unusually, in December when the hours of daylight are short. Within the Labour party, people are generally blaming the loss on Labour’s decision to back a “People’s Vote” on Brexit while others blame Corbyn’s leadership and the numerous question marks over his past associations (the IRA, various Middle Eastern terrorist groups) and the perception that he was unpatriotic. Others are suggesting that it was really because Corbyn sided with his student and ethnic-minority supporters and neglected his ‘traditional’ (i.e. white) working-class base, often with the implication that the party should really take a sharp turn in the other direction.

I was never happy with Corbyn — he was proposed late in the day during the 2015 post-election leadership campaign and it was always understood that he had never held ministerial office while Labour were in power (indeed, he briefly defected to the Liberal Democrats during the Iraq war) but all of a sudden this was an asset rather than a liability. Labour MPs openly displayed their contempt for him from the beginning and the fact that he was “always a rebel” during the Blair and Brown years was taken to mean they could do the same when he was leader. The reason he was suggested was the uninspiring offers of the three leadership contenders then, one of whom (Andy Burnham) I called on this blog a “shop-minder”, i.e. a would-be Labour PM who treats 10 Downing Street as a Tory property in which he is a guest, just minding the shop for them. While still running for leadership, he made a speech at Ernst & Young in London praising financiers as “wealth creators” and lecturing against the “politics of envy”, Tory talking-points of the time. So, somebody was needed who could change the record but it should never have been Corbyn.

As someone on the fringes of the Left, having been involved in the anti-cuts and disability rights movement since 2010, the cult-like mentality of the Corbynistas was very, very noticeable. He could do no wrong for them. Often these were long-standing Labour activists who saw him, somehow, as a “great hope” despite evidence. But they acted as if, if you talked about victory enough, it would come. They presented trivial advances, such as Labour wins in civil parish council by-elections, as great victories and actual losses as wins. While the party was still clinging to the “respect the referendum” policy in late 2018, I saw people who had voted for Remain come out with the line that the advantages to ordinary people of being in the EU benefited only the middle class while real working-class people were crying out for jobs. (If we were to properly fund the education system rather than just the bare minimum, we could fund school exchanges and decent language tuition; British people are among the worst in Europe for learning other languages, and British school language tuition is some of the worst in Europe. It’s an ignorant attitude typical of the British mentality towards Europe.) It’s no wonder that when Labour lost the election, Labour Brexiteers rushed to blame it on the shift towards a People’s Vote, even though many people who canvassed door-to-door in the North say that in the houses they visited, people gave numerous reasons for turning away from Labour, more of them to do with Corbyn’s leadership. It rather reflects the usual far-left reaction to defeat: to assume that it was not because they were too extreme but because they were not extreme enough. 

It was the right thing to do to back a People’s Vote. Nobody who supported Brexit had anything to fear from it; if it remained the will of the people, it would have gained approval again. The landscape had changed since 2016, more was known about the realities of leaving the EU and the Tories had not come up with a decent withdrawal agreement that would suit any majority. Before the referendum, the most talked-about ‘solution’ was to rejoin EFTA and have a relationship with the EU similar to Norway’s; after, this was dismissed (including by some in the Labour party such as Chuka Umunna) as it would not allow us to refuse free movement, i.e. to close the doors to east European workers. It’s also known that mixed British-European families are being split up or leaving, that NHS workers have been leaving because of uncertainty or because of racist abuse by patients, that companies are declining to invest here, that the situation in Northern Ireland depends on there being no border to speak of for British or Irish citizens, that there is a substantial majority for Remaining in Scotland and that it is fuelling calls for another independence referendum which, if it goes ahead, might win. Twice we have seen signs on motorways warning of “changes to paperwork” for anyone travelling to the EU after a certain date; we are seeing preparations for long queues near to ports in Kent, which would not be needed if we simply remained in the EU. Yet the Tories will not admit, nor tell the people, that they are wrong, nor give the population the right to change their minds, as had many Tories now known as Brexiteers since the early 2010s when some of them said it was ridiculous, madness, folly to leave.

I mostly defended Corbyn on the anti-Semitism issue. Actually, for me this was not about Corbyn so much as about the principle of free speech on the issues surrounding it, including the rights of the Palestinians to live in peace and dignity in their own country and the rights of their supporters to support them. Many (not all, but many) of those targeted were Muslims who were expressing points of view that are common currency in the Muslim community and which do not include any suggestion of violence towards Jews just because they are Jews and some of those expressions were made years before they were in the running to be MPs. There has been a deliberate attempt to weed out and exclude Muslims from public life and it has claimed a number of casualties during this election campaign and indeed during the whole of Corbyn’s leadership and, whatever the criticisms from the Jewish mainstream that the party does not leap when they say ‘jump’, the party has been too timid in defending them. It is atrocious, quite simply, that anti-racist mechanisms and doctrines should be used to defend a foreign country which has nuclear weapons, whose founders and several of whose leaders were terrorists, which has used international terrorism — kidnappings and murders — to eliminate and silence its enemies, which oppresses the non-Jewish native population of the territory it claims, from criticism or condemnation.

Equally sickening was the spectacle of privileged, middle-class white people — some of them working for a newspaper with a history of witch hunts against Muslims, including the notorious foster care story from 2017, and some sharing their stories on a regular basis — affecting the air of a persecuted minority, complaining that Corbyn did not show them empathy, accusing Corbyn of ‘gaslighting’ them by not accepting their claims at face value. We hear continual reminders of their past persecutions and how strongly British Jews remember them despite the fact that none of them were in this country, not under governments of left nor right. Jews are not an oppressed minority in this country and should not be treated as one; they are well-represented in the political classes and in the media (in both of which they also have a lot of powerful friends), are not visible by skin colour and are not recent arrivals whose right to live here is in question at all.

It’s ironic also that people are criticising the Labour party for concentrating too much on middle-class voters and too little on the ‘traditional’ working class, while others criticise it for ignoring or belittling ‘conservative’, nativist sentiment among that working class. Most of the examples of ‘anti-Semitism’ which gave rise to the scandal would not have struck most people as racist; they were classed as such according to an ideological interpretation of racism, and lost the party votes because they caused dissension and division in the parliamentary party. I cannot imagine that most of working-class Britain would be greatly exercised about most of these particular incidents, certainly not to the extent that (we hope!) they would be about a politician or party that advocated racial violence or explicitly discriminatory policies or used “go home” rhetoric — bothered enough by them not to vote them into power. But, of course, we know that not to be the case. This was a dogma that was bought hook, line and sinker by the Labour Right and their sympathetic media, long enough to use it against Corbyn.

This election and the government it puts into power will be a chapter in the downfall of modern democracy. Like so many British governments of recent history, they have a false majority: some 43% of the vote which translates into more than half of the seats, yet is treated as an absolute mandate just because it gives them unfettered power. The matter of Brexit is now deemed to be ‘settled’ (I saw a Tory MP lecture Jeremy Corbyn about this in Parliament this morning, reminding him that he is supposed to be a democrat), yet the Tories and Brexit Party between them received only 45.6% of the vote while Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens — all committed to remaining in or holding a further referendum — received 47.1%. The population is as divided as ever; only the make-up of Parliament has changed. Of course, the Labour Right has only itself to blame: they were in power themselves for 13 years, yet opposed electoral reform all the way. Winners don’t change the rules, after all.

As for who should succeed Corbyn: obviously it has to be a unifying figure, not someone implacably wedded to Corbyn’s vision but neither a throwback to the Blairite past. Blair’s time was 20 years ago, things have changed and nobody entitled to vote for the first time in the most recent election was born when Blair came to power (they were only seven years old when he left office — if there is no election until 2024, they will have been two). His mistakes are a large part of the reason for the mess we are in now. While they will not be in a position to stall Brexit, they need to be open to the possibility of rejoining if that is in Britain’s national interest (especially if Brexit is a disaster); they should be committed to as close a relationship as possible and to maintaining the rights of cross-border families. They should also have a plan to regenerate the areas neglected by Thatcher-Blairism with real industry, not handouts, infrastructure projects (which, by nature, do not last) and service-sector jobs. They must not capitulate to any demands to pursue nativism or anti-intellectualism as a means of ‘reconnecting’ with people who get their ideas from tabloids; Labour cannot win elections without a broad appeal and this includes to the young, well-educated and ethnic minorities. If Labour goes down that road, all Boris Johnson has to do to win a sizeable chunk of the ethnic vote in 2024 is keep a lid on the worst excesses of racism; his term in office has to just not be an obvious disaster, as was the case with his mayoralty (I emphasise obvious). Finally, Labour really has to be committed to electoral reform, as we must never again see a situation where a leader committed to a ruinous policy and with an aversion to the concept of rights is gifted a majority because of the vagaries of the voting system and his main opponent’s shortcomings. 

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Book Review: A Very British Muslim Activist

Inayat's Corner - 15 December, 2019 - 19:58

What an incredible journey Ghayasuddin Siddiqui has been on. Arriving in Sheffield as an impoverished Chemistry PhD student from Pakistan in the early 1960s, he would be heavily involved in the earliest UK student Islamic societies. It would be a natural progression for the young Ghayasuddin who back home had been an activist with the Jamaat-i-Islami, a leading Pakistani Islamic movement. As a teenager in the early 1950s he had made a long cross-country trek from Karachi to a prison in Multan to visit the charismatic founder and leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Mawlana Mawdudi. However, it is the UK that would become home to Ghayasuddin. Following a meeting with another charismatic figure, Kalim Siddiqui, the two would go on to found the Muslim Institute for Research and Planning in the early 1970s. The Muslim Institute would focus on trying to understand the reasons for the poor state of the Muslim world and would dedicate itself to searching for answers to the predicament of the Muslim ummah. An answer would come in the form of the 1978/79 Islamic revolution in Iran. “Kalim bhai, I think something is happening in Iran,” the book records Ghayasuddin as understatedly saying at the time (p85). In Imam Khomeini’s revolutionary Muslim masses, Kalim and Ghayasuddin would come to see a genuinely home grown movement that was explicitly anti-colonial and fully determined that their country Iran should not be yet another submissive US client state in the oil-rich Middle East. At a time when quite a few Muslim organisations were seeking and being granted funding from the fantastically corrupt Saudi regime (as indeed the Muslim Institute had also done up until then), this would mark a clear break for the Muslim Institute from a number of other UK Muslim organisations. This rivalry between Saudi and Iranian supported Muslim organisations continues right up to the present day of course. Ghayasuddin would be granted an audience with Imam Khomeini in person and when in 1989 the Imam issued his fatwa (legal opinion) regarding the Satanic Verses affair, Kalim Siddiqui – as Director of the Muslim Institute and the UK’s foremost supporter of the fatwa would get huge publicity and become a household name in UK Muslim communities. Dr Kalim was a clever strategist and saw that the energies unleashed during the many marches and demonstrations against Salman Rushdie’s book could perhaps be utilised for a more constructive purpose: that of helping UK Muslims become better organised and empowered. In 1990, the Muslim Institute published the Muslim Manifesto, a document that called for the formation of a Muslim Parliament in the UK. It was during this time that I – a student at the time – first came to meet Dr Kalim Siddiqui and Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui (no relation). I was impressed by how the two Siddiquis refused to be intimidated by the UK establishment and were prepared to speak out at what was clearly unfair treatment by the then Conservative government. It was only anti-Muslim bigotry surely that allowed the government to fund over twenty Jewish schools for the much smaller Jewish community, yet refuse to fund a single Muslim school. We should not forget that the Tories would make repeated excuses for refusing to fund Muslim schools and this would only change in 1997 following the election of the Labour party into power. The early 1990s would see the break up of formerly communist Yugoslavia into a number of independent republics, but when the Bosnians declared independence, they were immediately attacked by Serbian and Croat forces. The Muslim Bosniaks were being slaughtered by their own former countrymen that had Serb and Croat heritage. Today’s generation should be reminded in schools that the last genocide that occurred in Europe was not that of the Jews over 70 years ago at the hands of the Nazis, but of Muslims in Srebrenica less than twenty five years ago. And outrageously, the main European powers had imposed an arms embargo on Bosnia, so while the Serbs and Croats would continue to be armed by their neighbouring republics of Serbia and Croatia, the democratically elected government of Bosnia could not legally purchase arms to defend its beleaguered and surrounded population. To many British Muslims, it appeared that the European Christian powers were more than happy to turn a blind eye to the eradication of a Muslim population and culture in Europe. So much for “Never again.” To this day it grates to recall the pompous and superior tones with which the then UK Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd would justify the enforcing of the arms embargo. The book, I think correctly, identifies the tragedy in Bosnia (and later in Chechnya) as signifying the beginning of the radicalisation of some UK Muslim youth. The Muslim Parliament would defy the Tory government and openly raise funds throughout the UK for the jihad in Bosnia to defend its Muslim population. In 1996, Dr Kalim Siddiqui would pass away and the leadership of the Muslim Parliament and the Muslim Institute would be invested in Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui. Within a year I had become aware of  serious trouble at these bodies when I received an odd letter at home. It said – from memory – that Dr Ghayasuddin had betrayed the ideals of the Islamic revolution in Iran and it was forbidden to send funds (sahm-i-Imam) to him and the organisations he headed. Sahm-i-Imam is a Shi’a term and I am not a Shi’a so I did at the time wonder why I was sent that letter. Anyway, some familiar figures from the Muslim Parliament that I had known for several years soon left and distanced themselves from Dr Ghayasuddin. The book does not name names and only says “Several members were revealed to have been under the bankroll of the Iranian government and were rapidly relieved of their positions,” (p180). This biography is not a warts and all story. You have to join the dots yourself. Since 1996, Dr Ghayasuddin appears to have become rather less enamoured with the Islamic revolution in Iran and has changed a number of his views. He would later even go on to join the board of the British Muslims for Secular Democracy. That is something I cannot imagine the late Dr Kalim Siddiqui ever doing. He would also become a committed champion of the rights of Muslim women and would campaign to ensure that those who married under the Islamic Nikah ritual in the UK were properly protected by law. The book describes him as a Muslim feminist. After challenging the behaviour of the UK government Dr Ghayasuddin also began to challenge the unjust behaviour of many within the UK Muslim community.  It is a fascinating and courageous transformation and yet this book does not explore the reasoning behind the dramatic changes in so many of his former views from being a committed advocate of Islamic revolutions to becoming a secular democrat. I think that is an opportunity missed as I think Dr Ghayasuddin has plenty of valuable life lessons to pass on to today’s newer generation of UK Muslims. Today, the UK government continues to treat Muslims disdainfully. We have a Prime Minister who openly mocks the religious attire of some Muslim women as resembling “letterboxes”. Propagating Islamophobia day in and day out is a staple of much of the UK’s media. The UK government does not treat all forms of xenophobia as equally abhorrent. In particular, its funding of the Jewish Community Security Trust (£13.4 million a year) dwarfs the funding it provides to challenge bigotry against the much larger UK Muslim community. The UK government enthusiastically supported the US invasion and bombing campaign of Iraq despite the invasion being declared illegal according to international law. Yet the UK government refuses to contemplate any punitive action or sanctions – let alone any serious action – against Israel for its continued illegal occupation and settlement building in Palestine. The campaign to ensure that the UK government acts more justly continues. At the same time it must be admitted that UK Muslims also need to look much more critically at themselves and their own role and actions in the UK. As this book demonstrates, for almost the whole of his adult life Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui actively threw himself into these campaigns and for that he surely deserves to be honoured.

Don’t be fooled about the Tories’ “values”

Indigo Jo Blogs - 11 December, 2019 - 23:54
A polling station in a hall at the back of an English church; an old lady is walking through the door. A plastic chair sits in front of a sign saying "polling station".

Tomorrow (or today, depending on when you read this) there is a general election in the UK. We have a prime minister who is a notorious dilettante, a racist, a serial liar and a man whose diplomatic performance has been so miserable that it has led to a British national having an Iranian prison term extended, who proposes himself to negotiate a trade agreement with not only the EU but also the rest of the world following a departure from the EU next month and whose party and its supportive press seems to see no wrong in him. In the past I’ve been hugely critical of Jeremy Corbyn, the main opposition leader, particularly because he was weak on Brexit before the party adopted the policy of supporting a further referendum on Brexit and on any withdrawal deal, and partly because of the cowardice the party as a whole have shown in the face of which hunts against long-standing members, including Muslims, but right now I am supporting tactical voting for the best-placed candidate to deny Boris Johnson a majority in the Commons.

I’ve come across Muslims who put an undue faith in Corbyn and others who say they will not support him no matter what, in some cases because Labour are against Muslims’ values and in others because he and some of his front bench are pro-Assad. In my opinion it would be a huge folly to trust the Tories because of these two issues. Boris Johnson is no friend of the Syrian people or of freedom or democracy anywhere, and if British citizens are in trouble in Syria, he will drop them in it with his loose tongue while Corbyn might use his contacts to help them. Tories and their allies have been talking for years about the importance of ‘stability’ and suggesting that Assad might be the “least worst option”, although this talk has died down a bit since ISIS were largely defeated. We saw how international support for the “Arab Spring” has given way to acceptance of the dictators that took over after the initial flowering, particularly in Egypt.

As for the ‘values’ question: the Tories are a majoritarian party whose power base is the white suburban and provincial middle class. Their culture comes from the Tory think-tanks that emerged during Blair’s years in power, such as Policy Exchange, which regard Islam, active Muslims or anything that sets Muslims apart as threats and this appeals to the provincial tabloid reader who does not know any Muslims and anything they ‘know’ about us, they read in the papers or saw it on the news. They don’t give a stuff what you think of homosexuality, gender identity or any issue along those lines. Tories stopped campaigning on “family values” in the 1990s when the sex scandals of the Major years, as well as changing times and values (slurs on single mothers are less of a vote winner when everyone knows at least one), made the slogan a political liability. Nowadays, they lecture about “British values” and every school and childcare facility has to teach children about these mythical values which nobody talks about except politicians.

Twice in recent history, Muslims in a western country have voted for the political Right (in the US with GW Bush and in France with Jacques Chirac) and both times we were knifed in the back once the election was over and we were no longer politically convenient. The same will happen if Boris Johnson wins this election, with or without Muslim support. If Brexit goes wrong, which there is a strong chance that it will, stories involving Muslims will make an easy distraction when people are angry about losing jobs or when food becomes scarce or expensive. On Unherd this week, Mutaz Ahmed advises the Tories to appeal to the older immigrant Labour voter, the African and Caribbean grandmothers, yet these are the voters that bore the brunt of the “hostile environment” policy and best remember the 60s and 70s when a Tory could win an election on the slogan that if people want one of them for a neighbour, they should vote Labour. Generations of socially conservative ethnic minority voters have voted Labour because they knew the Tories wanted to keep Britain white more than they cared about “the family”. Muslims should not forget this, least of all at a time like this.

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