Late-night chai and covert flirting: why US Muslims flock to Yemeni cafes

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 February, 2024 - 15:00

Yemeni cafes are intergenerational gathering places where - controversially - some young people go to check each other out

“It’s straight up fitna, bro.”

This outrageous statement sounds like a joke. How could a coffee shop be causing strife? But Yusuf Saleh, the manager of Qamaria Yemeni Coffee Co, is half-serious as he hovers over a hot plate of cardamom-infused mufawaar coffee in Grand Blanc, Michigan. He’s referring to the gossip surrounding Dearborn’s Qahwah House, a competitor Yemeni cafe chain spreading rapidly across the United States.

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Inter Faith Network headed for closure as Gove ‘minded to withdraw’ funding

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 February, 2024 - 09:56

Row over religious cohesion charity’s appointment of trustee with links to Muslim Council of Britain

A charity that has worked for 37 years for greater cohesion between different UK faith communities is expected to close down next week after the government signalled it will scrap its funding.

The Inter Faith Network (IFN) is due to close after Michael Gove, the communities secretary, said he was “minded to withdraw” £155,000 of provisional funding over concerns about a trustee connected to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

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Day 131 roundtable

Electronic Intifada - 14 February, 2024 - 23:46

David Miller on employment tribunal victory (12:53); Activist Farrah Koutteineh and The Electronic Intifada’s David Cronin on protests against Sinn Fein in Ireland (45:10); Ali Abunimah on Hillary Clinton and Jeffrey Gettleman laundering fraudulent “mass rape” story at Columbia University (1:10:46); Jon Elmer on resistance in Gaza (1:34:52); and a news update (00:50).

Selma Blair apologises for Islamophobic comment on social media

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 February, 2024 - 10:17

Actor admits she ‘mistakenly and inadvertently conflated Muslims with radical Islamists and fundamentalists’ in a now-deleted post

Actor Selma Blair has apologised for an Islamophobic comment on social media, saying it “resulted in hurting countless people I never meant to, and I deeply regret this”.

Blair posted a lengthy statement on Instagram following a now-deleted comment on another post attacking state representatives Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib for voting against a bill banning Hamas members from the US. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Blair’s comment read in part: “Deport all these terrorist supporting goons. Islam has destroyed Muslim countries and then they come here and destroyed minds.”

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“Never such depravity”

Indigo Jo Blogs - 13 February, 2024 - 22:53
A picture of Hind Rajab, a six-year-old Palestinian girl wearing a school graduation outfit, standing in front of a table on which is a glass vase of tulips.Hind Rajab, the six-year-old girl murdered by the Israelis who also murdered the two paramedics sent to her rescue. (Source: Ehab Hamada, Instagram)

Last week I listened to the BBC’s File on 4 programme about the murder of Brianna Ghey last year in a village outside Warrington after the two teenagers responsible had been sentenced. Brianna was a 16-year-old who was transgender; her killers had pretended to be her friend, but in fact had her on a “kill list” because of her gender and because of trivial personal slights. One of them had been moved from another school to Brianna’s after giving another pupil ‘edibles’, or sweets laden with cannabis, resulting in her becoming very ill; after befriending Brianna she and her male accomplice added her to the “kill list” along with four other teenagers, first attempting to poison her with tablets and then, when that failed, luring her to a park and stabbing her 28 times. They played extracts from the girl’s writings to demonstrate how meticulously planned the murder was and interviewed police officers who investigated the murder, one of whom said she had never seen such depravity.

That was more than a year ago, and maybe she meant from teenagers or outside of a war situation, who knows. I’ve heard of murders in my time where the level of cruelty has equalled or surpassed this — that of Suzanne Capper in the early 90s springs to mind. Quite often ‘friends’ are capable of the worst kinds of cruelty, especially to people with learning disabilities. However, it shouldn’t be surprising that when armies of racist adults set their minds to exploiting or exterminating a whole population, they are capable of far worse than two teenagers. There have been three waves of genocide in living memory; the first, we learned about mostly after it had finished, through eyewitness accounts and physical evidence. The second, in the 1990s, we knew of from what we now call the “old media”, particularly radio broadcasts. This latest wave has been freely broadcast on social media, not only by its victims but by its perpetrators, who are clearly supremely confident of never facing any kind of accountability for what are plainly war crimes and senseless acts of destruction.

Over the past four months, we have seen some of the most appalling cruelty meted out to plainly innocent people, including children, who were just walking the streets of their own home towns or the places they had been displaced to by Israel’s bombing of where they lived before. A family was massacred in their car by an Israeli tank; a teenage girl called for help and was shot dead while still on the phone, leaving a six-year-old girl trapped in the car with her dead relatives. A Red Crescent ambulance was sent to rescue her, given permission by the Israeli army, which then proceeded to bomb it. The young girl died, of course. We’ve seen a woman shot dead in the street while holding a white flag in one hand and a young boy’s hand in the other, we’ve seen people shot at by snipers while attempting to rescue people already wounded by sniper fire, people dragging the victims’ bodies across the ground and transporting small quantities of water across a square, where there are bloodstains on the ground belonging to sniper victims, because going out to retrieve the bodies or taking the water across would result in further deaths from the snipers. We are hearing that people ran out of grain intended for human consumption and turned to making bread out of animal feed, which has now run out, meaning that the Palestinians left in northern Gaza are now starving; meanwhile, gangs of thugs camp outside border crossings attacking the trucks which were sent to deliver aid, and the Israeli army let them.

And yet, our Tory government (whose politicians compete for who can be the meanest and nastiest) is fairly openly colluding with the forces of genocide. They threaten further limits on protests against it, accuse the participants of extremism or antisemitism, painting British Jews as the victims of a “rising tide of antisemitism” while prominent Jews, including their community leaders and representative bodies, cheer on the genocide and repeat unsubstantiated or long-debunked propaganda claims about the 7th October attacks. This week a rabbi named Zechariah Deutsch (very Middle Eastern name that) came back to the UK having spent time in the Israeli forces as they exterminate the Palestinians of Gaza, and faced no investigation whatsoever (bear in mind that British Muslims have been stripped of their citizenship for much less) and was allowed to walk straight back into a chaplain’s job for Jewish students in Leeds. Another Jewish organisation in north London, which caters to disadvantaged young men, was about to play host to a man who returned to the UK having filmed himself rifling through a Palestinian woman’s underwear drawer, though this invitation was withdrawn after protests; a London synagogue this past week played host to Douglas Murray, a long-standing Islamophobic rabble-rouser, after protests led to a London theatre pulling out on them. Last Sunday the MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, published a thread of 14 tweets on ‘X’ complaining of an “increase in antisemitic intimidation and threats that we’ve seen on campuses since October 7th” without acknowledging that Jews have been responsible for at least thirty times as many deaths of Palestinians since, and that’s not counting those unaccounted for as their bodies are trapped in rubble.

The Labour party are no better. It continues to tiptoe around the sensitivities of British Jews (and it’s amazing that a community that sanctions the above, and much more besides, can be quite so sensitive), making empty calls for restraint or respect for international or humanitarian law, while suppressing protests against it and punishing both MPs and members for speaking “out of turn” on the genocide as they had about the preceding decades of oppression and violence by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Kate Osamor was suspended from the party for merely mentioning the genocide in Gaza among other genocides including the Holocaust. Hilary Benn had to weigh in on the matter of the war criminal in Leeds, taking claims of death threats at face value and calling the protests antisemitic, claiming (as did Halfwit of Harlow) that Jewish students felt threatened and had the right not to. Well, other students, such as Muslims, especially Palestinians if there are any in Leeds (there certainly are in London), have the right to feel safe as well. The drumbeat campaign against ‘antisemitism’ in the Labour party during Corbyn’s leadership has resulted in a repressive atmosphere where everyone is expected to watch what they say about Israel or British Jewish complicity, that Jews (meaning the Jewish establishment and those allied with them, not dissenting Jews) dictate what does or doesn’t constitute antisemitism, regardless of what crimes the Jewish state they support are currently engaged in.

And this week, we have twice seen them cower in the face of corporate media and Zionist pressure and withdraw support from both their candidate in this week’s Rochdale by-election, Councillor Azhar Ali, after he was secretly recorded suggesting that Israel had prior knowledge of the Hamas attack and let it happen so as to engineer a pretext for its genocide, and then from Graham Jones, the former MP for Hyndburn in Lancashire who is standing again for the seat he lost in 2019, who called for British citizens who travel abroad to fight for the IDF to be “locked up” (a quite reasonable demand, given that British nationals who have participated in other military campaigns known for atrocities have been imprisoned). Azhar Ali’s claim itself is dubious, though it is no secret that elements within Israel favour the explusion of all Palestinians from the West Bank in particular, but yet again we see Labour policing what people can and can’t say about Israel — not Jews, let alone British Jews, but Israel — as Israel massacres Palestinian civilians in a “safe area” they had forced them into. Such opinions might have actually helped him in Rochdale if he had actually stuck to them rather than grovelled as soon as they were revealed, and by throwing Azhar Ali under the bus, Keir Starmer and his cronies may well have gifted the seat to the odious George Galloway. We should not have to watch what we say about Israel at a time like this, and being an MP or any other kind of public servant should not depend on loyalty to Israel or any other foreign country.

And finally, we have the feminists who are normally so vocal about women’s rights overseas when it’s Muslims violating them, yet entirely silent on the effects of the Israeli onslaught against the women of Gaza, everything from having to cut bits of cloth from their tents to use as sanitary protection to undergoing Caesarian sections (among other surgical procedures Gazans have had to undergo since Israel bombed their hospitals and cut the supply of medicines) with no anaesthesia. The worst offenders are those who have been railing against the acceptance of trans women for the past decade; many of them (not all, in fairness, but some of the more prominent of them) have been repeating Israeli propaganda stories about mass rape during the October Hamas attack which are unsubstantiated but repeated often to justify genocide, accompanied with slogans about “believing women”, as if believing a woman who comes forward to say she has been raped is the same thing as believing rumours and propaganda circulated by an army that is intent on genocide. “These sub-humans we’re slaughtering did this five months ago, and it’s taken us this long to get our stories sort of straight.” Yeah right.

Israeli lobby groups in the UK play a double game, on one hand demanding that we do not hold British Jews responsible for the acts of the state of Israel, and on the other, openly advocate for the state of Israel regardless of its oppressions and atrocities and demand that its opponents be silenced or punished while using the word ‘Jew’ or ‘Jewish’ in their names: the Jewish Labour Movement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Union of Jewish Students. They complain that, for example, the synagogue in Leeds which employed Rabbi Deutsch had “free Palestine” sprayed on it, which absolutely would be antisemitic if it was just any synagogue rather than one whose rabbi joined the IDF during a genocide. We are told again and again that Jews feel unsafe because of “rising antisemitism since 7th October”, and even because of the persistent protests against Israel’s genocide in Gaza and its ongoing oppression of natives of the West Bank, while these organisations and prominent Jewish columnists peddle the propaganda of Israel on a day-to-day basis. I am not suggesting for a minute that anyone be blamed for Israel’s actions merely because of their origins, but those who support Israel regardless of its disregard for humanitarian law and the cruelty and depravity of its thuggish soldiers and settlers by repeating propaganda, blaming victims, casting false doubts and demanding censorship and repression on Israel’s behalf absolutely should be held responsible. They are accessories to war crimes and genocide.

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Courtship Stories From The MSA: You Found “The One” In Your MSA [Part 5]

Muslim Matters - 13 February, 2024 - 17:10

You’ve been hanging onto the edge of your seats for this final installment in the “You Found ‘The One’ In Your MSA” series! This is when I share real-life MSA courtship stories and romances that I know of. These examples help me convince you to be very careful about how you move forward and consider the advice I’ve shared in this series with you!

Previously in this series: Part 1 | Part 2| Part 3 |Part 4


College is a great opportunity to stay on the lookout for a spouse–no matter how much of a joke and stereotype that sounds like! You have some baseline compatibility: your level of education, your age, your religiosity, your volunteer efforts with the MSA, your alma mater, and geographical location. That’s a pretty good start, honestly. So, of course, there are so many stories of courtships and romances, on various points of the spectrums of happy and sad and halal and haram. All of these stories can act as valuable case studies to help you navigate your own courtships on the path to marriage.

MSA Courtship Gone Wrong  – Moving Forward Without Having The Marriage Talk With Your Parents First

One of my good friends in the MSA was approached by a brother for marriage. He had sent a proposal through a local shaykh that the sister’s family had a very good relationship with. Her parents met with the shaykh and this brother, and her parents were really happy with the suitor. The brother and sister started talking to get to know each other with the sister’s parent’s approval and she realized that they’d work out as a great couple. 

What happens next? Her parents want to meet with his family and get things official now that they hear their daughter is certain of her decision to marry this brother. When they’ve reached this stage in their courtship, the brother now approaches his parents telling them that he wants to get married and he’s found the perfect girl from his MSA. The brother and sister I speak of are from completely different ethnic backgrounds. The brother’s family had a strong preference that he marry someone from within his own ethnic background, and this became a huge problem. In the meantime, the sister’s family is waiting to hear from the brother’s family…but the brother is trying to convince his family to change their mind about this issue. Now he’s getting the shaykh involved, hoping he’ll have a successful intervention with his family. 

Finally, the brother’s parents agree to meet the sister and her family. While meeting with his family, this sister noticed that she and her family weren’t being respected and treated nicely. She made istikhaarah and she had a very bad feeling about moving forward. She told me it broke her heart to walk away from that courtship because she really believed that the two of them fit so well together. He was a great brother in so many ways and their lifestyles and family life expectations were in line…but she couldn’t overlook the disapproval from the brother’s family about her racial background. She told me, “When I thought of how they would treat my kids, seeing them so dark-skinned and looking so different from everyone else in their family, I couldn’t go forward with it.” She told me that it took her a long time to heal from that and move forward. 

By the way, she confided this all to me when I visited her at her home the day before she was getting married to someone else she was introduced to through family. She mentioned how she was so relieved to move out of state after getting married because the brother from the MSA had told his fiancé, another girl from the MSA, about their courtship and she was hostile towards my friend. Go figure! This brother’s poor judgment also extended insofar as telling his fiancé about the other women he pursued in the MSA…

Who is to blame for all of this heartbreak? You would be rash to accuse the brother’s parents, although it is tempting. I blame the brother. Had he just approached his parents like an adult and told them about his desire to get married, they could have had the conversations they needed then. He could have heard how vehemently they needed him to marry a girl “from our village.” If he disagreed, he could have worked on his parents on his own, trying to convince them otherwise. He could have called in support from the shaykh or friends or family who would be on his side and think the way he does–that ethnic heritage and racial background are tertiary matters when considering a potential spouse. 

But he wasn’t mature enough to face his parents and do the necessary work. How dare he drag a sister and her family into a courtship that he didn’t even know his parents would consider valid? 

Luckily for this brother and sister, they didn’t end up resorting to a haram relationship to wait out the storm his parents caused because her family was involved. They had a chaperone, the local imam, from the beginning and this kept them on course. But imagine if you don’t have the families or a chaperone involved at all? You might start making compromises you would have never expected yourself to make. 

 – Asking About Someone When You Know Your Parents Don’t Want You To Get Married

Hey, this story is about me! I mentioned briefly in Part 2 about a brother who asked a shaykh to inquire about me. This happened at an Ilm Summit I attended years ago (Ilm Summit marriages, college MSA marriages–same boat). I was still in undergrad but this guy was in professional school. I had made it a rule to never reject someone without talking to them at least once, taking the advice of my marriage-mentor friend. I had no clue who this brother was, so I asked one of my friends back home to stalk this guy online. That’s what good friends do for you! There were some strange things that came up about him, mostly shirtless pictures of him with scantily clad women on beaches all over his social media, and so I had a handful of reservations about him. 

I put those hesitations aside and called my mom to tell her about this. At this point in my life, my mom had already ambushed me six months before with a surprise rishta meet-up so “I was out” on the marriage market, to put it in Jane Austen terminology. She said the first step would be for the brother’s mom to get in touch with her directly. It turns out that our families grew up only 30 minutes away from each other and my mom knew of his family. So, I gave the shaykh my mom’s phone number, which he passed to the brother. In the meantime, my mom made inquiries about their family from mutual friends. My mom is waiting for a phone call, but no phone call comes. I check back in with the shaykh at my mom’s insistence, and also at my annoyance that I’m being stood up by some random bro. After a little back-and-forth, the shaykh lets me know that this brother’s family is not willing for him to get married until he finishes up his graduate studies. Imagine how annoyed my mom and I were.

To make things worse, being ghosted by him haunted me as I had unwittingly interacted with his female family members.  I met his mother shortly after this twice the next Ramadan. On one of these occasions, I spent over five minutes chatting with this brother’s mom. After the first instance, my mother told me who I was talking to and then pointed out that the brother was standing near us while I talked to his mom. I was simultaneously mortified and upset–what impression may I have given to the brother or his family? I swore to myself I would memorize her face and avoid her at all costs for the rest of Ramadan. A few years later, I went for Hajj with his sister without realizing who she was until later. It just put a sour taste in my mouth, do you know what I mean? It also made me wonder if something about me or my family wasn’t good enough in their family’s eyes. Being in the marriage market put me in a delicate, self-conscious state and it was too much to handle. It reminded me of a difficult and frustrating experience that I’d rather forget.  

 – Going Rogue With No Families Involved At All MSA courtship

PC: Asterfolio (unsplash)

Here’s one of many stories I’ve heard of a brother and sister in the MSA contacting each other for marriage and then they end up dating for years because they’re not ready to involve their parents. 

When I was a freshman in college, a junior had befriended me and was my MSA mentor. I loved talking to her and hanging out with her and I felt so cool having an upperclassman as a friend. Then one day, she sends me an IM (instant message) telling me she has a secret she wants to tell me about. Her secret? That she is “best friends” with one of the brothers from the MSA. I’m thinking to myself –what the flip does that mean?- and so I ask her. She tells me that they’re best friends waiting to get married. Still, I’m confused, so I probe further. Neither of them are ready to ask their parents if they can get married–he’s a sophomore and she’s a junior. So in the meantime, they’re just “best friends” waiting it out together.

BS! You’d call that boyfriend and girlfriend, not best friends! Even if they’re just in an emotionally intimate and committed relationship, it is still haram. For some reason, however, many dismiss these situationships very easily as not that bad because nothing gets physical–without acknowledging that emotional damage can be very devastating. 

So I told my friend that I didn’t approve of her secret best friend and thought they should end their mutual understanding. She told me she had tried to cut him off in the past, but it hadn’t worked. I asked her to try again and she said she wouldn’t. I ended my friendship with this sister. Why? I didn’t want to be dragged down into the secret MSA dating scene and I knew that being close to her would put me at the risk of falling into that sin myself. I was much more concerned about self-preservation than having friends who were bad company.

Thankfully I ended up making other friends and was spared from having to interact with her that much for the rest of the time I was in undergrad. I also knew what she was doing was something I was so staunchly against that I wouldn’t be able to be chill or friendly like before with her anymore, no matter how hard I tried. It would be better for me and better for us, no matter how I looked at it. 

But what happened to these best friends determined to get married? They broke up while they were in undergrad, I’m not sure why. Both brother and sister BFFs got together with other people in the MSA. One of these new spin-off couples dated openly, even around the MSA and at MSA events (I have a lot of feelings about that, but at least they weren’t totally hypocritical like the rest of the secret MSA couples). Interestingly both these new couples got married in the end. Looking at some wedding pictures, I was thinking to myself…isn’t it weird for the groom to be hugging his wife’s ex-boyfriend at his own wedding? Their problem, not mine.

 – Giving It Up And Getting Ghosted

Apparently, this is a story that played on repeat while I was in the MSA. A brother and sister become involved. It starts out as an emotional attachment. The brother reassures the sister they will get married as soon as he graduates from undergrad or gets into medical school. In the meantime, the relationship starts getting physical. The brother gradually begins to pressure the sister to have intercourse with him as they move further and further along. She’s caught feelings for this brother and believes they will get married soon enough. They finally have sex and continue to for some period of time and then he dumps her. Although both parties consent to some degree, the sister would not have gotten there without proper encouragement from the brother. 

This situation was common enough that the sophomore sisters in the MSA had an infamous meeting with the freshman girls and warned them against letting a brother talk them into giving it up on the pretense of getting married. There was a divorced sister in our MSA who also mentioned to me that multiple girls confided in her that they were in sexually active relationships with brothers in the MSA without having a clue how to prevent pregnancies or safeguard against STDs. She was the one who advised them to start taking birth control pills and insisted on using condoms every time. She also told me that these brothers and sisters ranged from the ones who came around the MSA occasionally to the ones who led prayers and were memorizing the Quran. She also told me of masjid parking lot hook-ups in cars. Needless to say, I was in tears when she told me all of these stories. 

The only advice I can give someone about a situation like this is to avoid getting into a relationship until you and your family are ready for you to be married. Some Muslim couples can box their covert relationships into an emotional plane and remain there until marriage. However, others cannot–at no fault to them. It is only natural for emotional feelings to be expressed in physical ways. Shaytan is always the third party when a man and woman, or any mutually attracted parties, are alone together. It is difficult to control and stifle strong feelings, so don’t put yourself in a testing position. If someone is promising you they will marry you, then save yourself until marriage. If you truly care about the other person, you should also care about their hereafter.

Courtship Stories From The MSA: When It Went Right!  – Going Directly To Her Dad

After I got married, I moved to a small college town with a tight-knit, very active Muslim community. There, one of my husband’s friends had approached him one night to ask him about a sister he had noticed at the masjid. My husband and this sister had worked together for the masjid’s Sunday school. Knowing that, this brother wanted my husband’s opinion of her. Within the next week, he had decided to move forward with a proposal of interest and he asked to meet the sister’s father. Bam! Engaged in a week! Look at that, mashaAllah. She was in undergrad at the time and he was in graduate school. They had a nikkah period and then had a bigger wedding later when they moved in together. Later on, this friend told me what a sensation it caused in her family for this young man to be so direct and ask for her hand. Mad props to that brother for diving in headfirst! 

 – A Missed Opportunity…Or A Match Destined in Heaven? MSA courtship

PC: Photos by Lanty (unsplash)

One of my good friends in undergrad was determined to be a matchmaker. Poor soul. She had shipped one of our friends and a brother in the MSA and was determined to get them married. She approached a local imam and asked him to inquire about the brother on our friend’s behalf without telling our friend first. This brother was not ready to get married–he knew he wanted to go to graduate school and that his finances wouldn’t allow him to take on the responsibility of having a wife in the picture. So he politely declined, telling the imam he wouldn’t be ready for a few years due to his finances while he was pursuing his career after graduating. 

When my friend found out about the Shakespearean plot they undertook behind her back, she was mad. It created an uncomfortable dynamic between the brother and my friend–the brother thinking that my friend was interested in him and then believing he had rejected her. 

Years later, my friend is at a family party and she meets a woman she totally loves. It turns out the feeling is mutual. This woman calls my friend’s aunt telling her that she’s looking for her nephew to get married and she thinks my friend and him would be a great match. Guess who it turned out to be? You’re sitting at your computer screen yelling, NO WAY! Yes. Yes way. It turned out to be this brother from the MSA that our friends had tried to set my friend up with years ago. It took a lot for my friend to come around after resenting the scheme that caused her so much embarrassment, but they got married in the end! They are such a good match for each other! I hadn’t heard about this whole drama in undergrad, but my friend spilled the tea when she called me to tell me she was engaged to this brother. 

So many times we think that if we don’t act now while we’re both in college, that person will slip through our fingers. But that’s not necessarily true. When Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has written for two people to be together, they will find each other in the end. Look at the years of a haram relationship they were saved from because the brother was simply mature enough to say, “This isn’t a responsibility I can manage for the next few years.” Masha’Allah. I love their whole story.

 – Getting Matched By A Community Member

Another good story coming out of my MSA was when a community member involved with the MSA matched two graduating seniors. The story goes that she thought they would be a great match, so she facilitated connecting them and their families to each other. I was so happy to hear that their story was such an innocent and beautiful one, because back then finding out people I respected were in haram MSA relationships really messed with my head.

 – Going Through A Shaykh

Remember that brother with a racist family who got a shaykh involved and then the sister was left heartbroken? Well, this same shaykh was approached by another brother in the MSA. He wanted to send a proposal to a sister in the MSA and so the shaykh facilitated it. Their families were connected and the brother and sister ended up getting married, alhamdulillah. The brother at the time was in graduate school and the sister was still in undergrad. This sister told me that her family was not even considering marriage for her and getting married would complicate how her college tuition would get paid for. There were some logistical hurdles they had to clear, but they figured them out. Even when a family may be hesitant for a child to get married due to how young they are or the fact that they still have to finish up college, coming honorably with a respected community leader can make a huge difference. Also, this brother is a very good guy and her father knew he would be foolish to stand in the way of a very good future for his daughter. Such a good ending!

Courtship Stories From The MSA: Somewhere In The Middle  – They Ended Up Married In The End…What’s The Big Deal?

Another woman I know wriggled her way into a relationship with a brother very early on in college. One of the individuals was in a very difficult position with their family, and so the move towards marriage took at least a few years. In the meantime, this couple had their haram relationship going–hanging on to the idea they’d get married one day. Things eventually worked out between the two of them and they got married! How exciting and what a relief, right? 

Well, their transition from an emotional relationship (mostly online) into a real-world relationship sharing the same space was not easy. This person mentioned being physically intimate was very difficult for them and after months of being married they still hadn’t managed to consummate the marriage. I’m not sure what compounding factors were making this aspect of their marriage so difficult, but maybe they were dealing with a lot of baggage from their years of enforcing the “halal gap” and had trouble bridging that gap after marriage. 

I know of another situation similar to that. This marriage ended due to a disconnect once the individuals finally got married. This couple had been secretly dating since high school, mostly contacting each other over the phone and messaging online. They finally got married after graduating from college. Having been together for almost a decade in a haram, mostly online relationship, these individuals had incredible difficulty with physical intimacy in addition to other defects in character they didn’t have a chance to uncover until after marriage. This one, sadly, ended in divorce.

There is a reason Islam has an “all-or-nothing” approach to romantic relationships. It’s unnatural to separate emotional intimacy and physical intimacy. Many times Muslims will be like celibate best friends when they’re in relationships they know they shouldn’t be in. Maybe there’s something that makes it incredibly difficult to turn off the guilt and reconnect all the layers of intimacy together once they finally get married.

 – Long Engagement And A Baby Soon After Marriage

Another couple from an academic program I was in has a story somewhere in the middle of a success and horror story because they were in an extended courtship that lasted for years before they married. Right after the program, a brother approaches a sister’s aunt to confide in her that he is interested in her niece for marriage and would like to speak to her to see if they are compatible. The aunt knows that the sister’s mother does not want her daughter to get married. Nevertheless, the aunt tells the brother to approach the sister and begin talking for marriage. The aunt gives them a period of time to get to know each other and decide to get married. The brother wasn’t on the sister’s radar at all, and so the sister wants to take her time. They end up talking to determine whether or not they want to get married for three years! Both had finished undergrad before they started speaking.

No doubt during these three years of determining their mutual compatibility, they’ve grown to become celibate boyfriend and girlfriend. In the meantime, the aunt has been slowly trying to get the mother to warm up to the idea that her daughter is ready for marriage. Sadly, the brother had not approached his family, either, and they did not consent to him getting married until after he finished graduate school. Eventually, both families agreed to let the two get engaged. A local imam had tried multiple times to reason with the families and allow the couple to have their nikkah at the engagement party so that they could operate their long-distance emotional relationship within halal boundaries. But no. Their engagement was also excruciatingly long and lasted for a few years. They finally got married after seven years, alhamdulillah. On the eve of their wedding, I was texting back and forth with the bride and she told me, “It’s been so long. I just want to finally give him a hug.” Shortly after their wedding, they had unexpectedly conceived their first child and were not thrilled about the timing. After being forced to wait so long to get married, they wanted some time to themselves before starting a family. This was the most heartbreaking moment for me to experience in their relationship. 

The mistakes here are many. The first is that the brother did not consult with his family before approaching the sister. The second is that the person he entrusted, the sister’s aunt, was not a worthy mediator who could take up the role of third-party messenger responsibly. The positives here are many. The brother approached a family member of the sister he was interested in. The couple began to talk about marriage as the intention out in the open, although there wasn’t enough oversight from a chaperone to help keep this period reasonably short. The couple got a local imam that both families knew and liked involved to help advocate on their behalf for a speedy marriage. The couple resisted physical temptations until they were married and didn’t have an issue moving to the physical after marriage. This situation is a mixed bag of good and bad and a great example to learn from. 

Final Thoughts

Navigating the marriage and courtship process can be overwhelming and confusing, so make sure you have a couple of trusted mentors to rely on to help guide you. Whatever the outcome may be with this particular MSA prospective, I pray you find your destined life partner sooner, rather than later. Most importantly, I wish you happiness with your spouse in this life and the next!



3 Steps To Safely Prepare For Your Halal Marriage – As Simple As ABC

Podcast: Sex, Marriage, and Mutual Obligations in Islam | Ustadh Mukhtar Ba

The post Courtship Stories From The MSA: You Found “The One” In Your MSA [Part 5] appeared first on

Over Five Decades On: Bangladesh’s Crisis Of Islam, Politics, And Justice

Muslim Matters - 13 February, 2024 - 10:56

As Bangladesh reflects on passing another Victory Day on December 16, the nation stands at a critical juncture, confronting some of the most challenging moments in its 52-year history. It is no exaggeration to claim that the country is grappling with almost insurmountable political, geostrategic, and human rights crises, compounded by recent elections held just last month that were marred by allegations of being neither free nor fair.

The people of what was once East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, endured significant persecution and discrimination from the rulers in West Pakistan, both politically and economically. The oppressive policies, language disparities, and neglect of East Pakistani needs led to widespread discontent and a push for autonomy. The refusal to acknowledge the Awami League’s electoral victory under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1970, sparked an intense yearning for independence. The war in 1971 saw countless civilians killed, injured, sexually assaulted, and displaced in a spate of brutal violence by the Pakistan armed forces. Bangladesh emerged from these events, founded on the core principles of democracy, freedom of expression, and self-determination – principles that resonate with the tenets of justice and equality. However, under the Hasina regime, the nation’s trajectory seems to diverge sharply from the aspirations championed by her father.

Internal Election Issues and External Impact

The historical context of Bangladesh has firmly rooted the principle of ‘consent of the governed’ as a central value for its people. Yet, a stark discrepancy emerges when examining the electoral processes in Bangladesh since Sheikh Hasina’s ascendancy. Every election conducted under the Awami League regime, such as those in 2014, 2018, and 2024, has been widely perceived as biased, manipulated, and flawed. Despite being founded on democratic ideals, these consistent electoral irregularities highlight a troubling reality: politicians maintain power without a genuine mandate from a significant portion of the populace.

As Bangladesh has now concluded its 2024 election and the United States intensified pressure on the government for a free and fair electoral process, the role of India in Bangladesh’s politics has resurfaced in discussions. Following the U.S.’s announcement of a new visa policy in May 2023 to support democracy in Bangladesh, some Indian commentators have argued that it is ‘not the right time’ for such support and there is necessity for Delhi to ensure Hasina remains in power

Just prior to the election, GM Quader and Mujibul Haque Chunnu, the chairman and general secretary of the Jatiya Party respectively, met with Rajesh Kumar Agnihotri, the Minister at the High Commission of India in Bangladesh. Intriguingly, Agnihotri and seven other Indian embassy staff were accused of espionage and terrorism by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For almost the whole year, the Jatiya Party (JP), the primary opposition in parliament against the ruling Awami League, was ambivalent about participating in the election. However, on November 22, Chunnu unexpectedly announced on Quader’s behalf that the Jatiya Party would contest in nearly all 300 constituencies. Acting as controlled opposition, this resulted in JP winning 11 seats that were not contested by the Awami League, and 62 independent candidates winning seats, with 58 of them being ruling party leaders.

This sudden shift had raised questions, especially considering Quader’s previous public statements about the likelihood of Western sanctions if the election proceeds under the current conditions. The only conceivable explanation seems to be intense coercion by external forces, possibly RAW (India’s foreign intelligence agency) agents, to lend a façade of legitimacy to this lopsided election by ensuring the Jatiya Party’s enthusiastic participation.

These recent electoral maneuvers are symptomatic of a broader pattern of policies that underscore Bangladesh’s subservience to Indian government interests, often at the expense of its own people.

Indo-Bangladesh Relations: A Tilted Scale Bangladesh Hasina

[Prime Minister’s office/Handout via Reuters]

Concerns among Bangladeshi analysts are growing over what appears to be an increasingly lopsided relationship favoring India under the Hasina regime. Bangladesh has extended significant support to India, including efforts to combat insurgency in its Northeastern region, providing transit access, granting India permanent use of key Bay of Bengal ports, and entering into a costly energy deal. Additionally, Bangladesh has agreed to a surveillance system installation in the Bay of Bengal and a water-sharing deal giving India control over the Kushiyara River, alongside deepening defense cooperation.

In stark contrast, Bangladesh’s interests have often been sidelined. The long-standing request for a Teesta River water-sharing agreement remains unaddressed; the India-Bangladesh border witnesses the Indian Border Security Force killing innocent Bangladeshis; the trade imbalance increasingly tilts in India’s favor; and Bangladesh has not garnered Indian support in handling the Rohingya refugee crisis.

In 2018, Sheikh Hasina, responding to a query about reciprocity from India, remarked that India would forever remember Bangladesh’s contributions. This comment reflects the ongoing imbalance in bilateral relations, sustained largely by India’s unwavering support for the Hasina government. Notably, in the wake of the controversial 2014 elections, India’s Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh reportedly pressured the Jatiya Party, led by General H.M. Ershad, to participate in the election boycotted by opposition parties. In 2018, despite clear signs of the Awami League’s erosion of democratic norms and institutions, India’s support has remained steadfast. 

These actions have fueled perceptions in Bangladesh that India’s backing is crucial for the Hasina government’s survival, raising questions about the true independence of Bangladesh’s internal affairs and the origin of skewed foreign policy. 

Exploring Bangladesh’s Ummatic Identity

The 1971 Liberation War fostered an alliance between Bangladesh and India, with expectations that India’s support would extend its influence over Bangladesh’s policies and counteract Pakistan and Islam’s influence in the subcontinent.

December 16, 1971, marked Bangladesh’s emergence as a sovereign nation, followed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s initiation of trials against local collaborators and accused Pakistanis. Although Rahman established seventy-three special tribunals, a general amnesty led to the release of most prisoners and convicted individuals.

The Awami League’s 2008 electoral victory reactivated the dormant ICT Act, leading to the establishment of two tribunals in 2010 and 2012. Notably, leaders of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, an entity representing moderate Islamism and a political rival of the Awami League, were mostly charged, echoing Geoffrey Robertson’s critique of ‘victor’s justice’ and selective amnesty applications.

These trials, however, have been marred by political motivations, procedural irregularities, and lack of due process. The verdicts often relied on circumstantial evidence and hearsay, undermining their credibility. The infamous Skype scandal, involving inappropriate communication between a judge and a prosecution witness, further tainted the trials. Changes in the composition of the bench during critical trials, including those of Nizami and Azam, raised questions about the fairness of the verdicts, as judges who delivered final judgments were not privy to all the evidence.

In an ironic turn, the trials intended to serve as a beacon of justice for the atrocities of the 1971 war have, through their politicization, unfairness, and corruption, instead revealed a profound desecration of the very ideals once fought for by Sheikh Hasina and her regime. This effectively amounts to standing on the graves of innocent Bengali civilians, a betrayal of the memories of those who perished due to injustice and oppression.

The repression of Jamaat and BNP by the autocratic Hasina regime poses a serious threat to the stability and security of Bangladesh as it undermines the prospects for peace and fuels extremism. The West’s Islamophobia, which brands “brown” communities as “terrorists,” and Bangladesh’s tendency to associate “extremism” with anything Islamic in the public sphere, demonstrate the impact of colonialism and Indian influence on the political landscape.

In fact, Muslim-majority Bangladesh has experienced an increase in terrorist attacks on religious minorities, secularist and atheist writers, and bloggers because of exacerbating the problem by fueling extremism rather than effectively addressing concerns of legitimate political opponents. Following 7/16, Hasina rightly criticized these acts because of them maligning the name of Islam, and her allies and other politicians looped in BNP to say they were behind the attacks to destabilize Hasina’s rule.

Interestingly, when Bangladesh expresses concerns about the rise of Islamist or Shariah influence within the Republic, their apprehensions evidently extend beyond groups like Ansarullah Bangla Team, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, or ISIS. Rather, they are often more focused on moderate Islamist and reformist movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, and their allies operating in Bangladesh. These movements seek to employ political participation and activism to advance their objectives, which center around upholding religious principles, stewardship of the Earth, and the establishment of justice and prosperity—an agenda that challenges the stability of the South Asian political order, particularly when backed by public opinion.

Historically, India has demonstrated a tendency to suppress these movements through intervention in South Asia. Notable instances include Indian suppression of Kashmiri resistance, Indian involvement in influencing the 2013 ICT, and the development of state-sponsored Hindutva extremism across the subcontinent.

Conversely, terrorist attacks perpetrated by groups like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and ISIS have often provided Bangladesh with the pretext to redefine free speech laws, impose censorship, suppress certain groups, mischaracterize others, and expand terrorist watchlists. Consequently, within the framework of liberal democratic Bangladesh secular societies, the concept of freedom of speech has become an instrument measured by its capacity to maintain a superficial sense of social order of the Hasina regime, primarily benefiting Awami League elites and their associates.

Since these events, thousands of mosques have operated under the direct authority of the Islamic Foundation, with government-funded imams and employees overseeing their operations. Even mosques not overseen by the Islamic Foundation are subject to oversight from governing committees dominated by local ruling party politicians and administration.

Imams across the country have reported continued government influence in their appointment and removal, as well as guidance on the content of their sermons. Government-issued written instructions often highlight certain Quran verses and hadith with the goal of ensuring sermons align with government policy and avoid contradicting it.

Furthermore, Bangladesh has set a concerning precedent by banning moderate preachers based on accusations of hate speech. One notable example is the banning of Peace TV, a channel associated with renowned da’ee Zakir Naik, following an unfounded link between his speeches and the events of 7/16.

In 2020, the Bangladesh government took further steps by banning Mizanur Rahman Azhari, one of the country’s most popular speakers, from preaching at congregations due to his perceived anti-government sentiment. These actions are purportedly justified under the guise of counter-terrorism efforts, but they ultimately serve to suppress powerful orators who advocate for justice and speak truths that contradict the government’s policies and agenda.

The Rohingya Crisis and Hasina’s Failures Bangladesh - Rohingya

[Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun]

The Rohingya crisis, perpetuated by the longstanding persecution in Myanmar, has reached catastrophic proportions under Prime Minister Hasina’s watch in Bangladesh. For generations, Myanmar’s Buddhist majority and military have ruthlessly targeted the Rohingya minority, initiating what can only be described as a genocide to achieve a “Muslim-free” state. The systematic rape and massacre of Muslim women and children in Arakan and Rakhine states exemplify the extreme brutality endured by the Rohingya community.

Despite the harrowing conditions faced by the Rohingya, the international response has been grossly inadequate. Organizations tasked with protecting human rights have failed to take effective action, allowing the crisis to escalate to unprecedented levels. The mass exodus of Rohingya to Bangladesh has resulted in the establishment of Kutupalong refugee camp, now the largest of its kind in the world, near the Myanmar border.

Critically, Prime Minister Hasina’s administration must be held accountable for its role in exacerbating the Rohingya plight. While attempting to portray itself as a savior for Rohingya refugees since other South Asian countries did not assist, the government’s actions belie a different reality. Hasina’s alignment with India and its anti-Muslim agenda directly undermines any genuine efforts to address the crisis.

India’s reluctance to provide refuge to Rohingya from Burma, despite their shared border, is compounded by their internal policies that actively suppress Muslims, exemplified by the Citizenship Amendment Law (CAB). The primary objective of the CAB is to delegitimize Muslim citizenship, thus exacerbating the plight of persecuted minorities like the Rohingya. Myanmar’s exclusion from the list of nations specified in the bill, despite its geographical proximity to India, highlights the deliberate omission aimed at avoiding granting amnesty to Rohingyas. This decision contradicts the bill’s purported emphasis on providing refuge to religious minorities in India’s neighborhood, underscoring the discriminatory nature of India’s approach to the Rohingya crisis.

Under Hasina’s leadership, Bangladesh has failed to provide meaningful solutions to the Rohingya crisis. Despite hosting nearly a million refugees, the government has taken a passive stance, offering no initiatives to facilitate legal entry, prevent illegal immigration, or ensure the well-being of Rohingya within its borders.

Bangladesh has historically served as a temporary safe haven for millions of Rohingya refugees, with waves of migration occurring in the late 1970s and after 1991. However, despite this influx, the government has failed to implement significant initiatives to address the crisis effectively. As of September 2023, nearly a million Rohingya refugees have been registered and documented jointly by the Government of Bangladesh and UNHCR. Yet, under the Awami League’s leadership, Bangladesh has taken a passive role in defusing tensions along the Myanmar frontier. There have been no substantial efforts to facilitate the legal entrance of Rohingya, prevent illegal immigration, provide adequate assistance while they reside in Bangladesh, or create safer conditions for their potential return to Myanmar. Regrettably, Prime Minister Hasina has shown no inclination to engage in developing or contributing to either temporary or permanent solutions to the Rohingya crisis, leaving the plight of these refugees in a state of prolonged uncertainty and neglect.

Prime Minister Hasina’s track record regarding assistance for Rohingya refugees entering Bangladesh is marred by a lack of genuine interest in their plight. Instead of prioritizing humanitarian concerns, Hasina appears more preoccupied with safeguarding the country’s international image. This indifference has translated into minimal efforts to provide meaningful support for Rohingya seeking refuge, reflecting a disturbing lack of empathy and responsibility towards a vulnerable population in dire need of assistance.

Furthermore, the Hasina government’s failure to effectively address illegal immigration and ensure national security along the Myanmar border has had devastating consequences. Despite the recurring exchange of bullets, mortar shells, and rocket launcher explosions between Myanmar’s armed forces and insurgent groups, resulting in the loss of Bangladeshi lives, Hasina’s administration has remained conspicuously inactive. The absence of any substantive response from the government underscores a glaring negligence towards protecting its citizens and securing the nation’s borders, exposing a critical lapse in governance and leadership.

The Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have faced inadequate care under the Awami League administration, particularly in the realm of education and economic empowerment. Although schooling is provided with the permission of Prime Minister Hasina, it is taught in Burmese in anticipation of their eventual return. However, this approach is flawed as Burmese is not widely understood among the Rohingya population, who predominantly speak a non-written language. Additionally, finding teachers proficient in Burmese poses a challenge. It would be more beneficial for Rohingya students to receive education in Bengali or English, languages that offer broader communication opportunities and access to global resources. Furthermore, Hasina’s administration has been reluctant to support initiatives for Rohingya to generate their own income or engage in livelihood projects. This dependency on humanitarian aid is unsustainable, especially considering the dwindling funding for such assistance. Moreover, Bangladesh’s decision to block high-speed internet access for Rohingya refugees in 2021 further isolates them from the outside world, hindering their ability to communicate and share information about their circumstances.

In terms of efforts towards repatriation, Bangladesh’s role in diplomatic engagement has been underscored by the international community, urging Prime Minister Hasina’s administration to engage in discussions with Myanmar and international partners. However, it is apparent that Bangladesh’s actions amount to mere lip service to the Rohingya cause, as Hasina’s government maintains close ties with India, which holds an agenda against Muslim minorities across South Asia that they are unwilling to jeopardize. Additionally, Hasina’s government maintains a strict stance regarding armed conflict in Myanmar, citing adherence to international law, particularly Article 3 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which prohibits direct or indirect intervention in non-international armed conflicts in other states. Despite this, Hasina proposed the establishment of safe zones for Rohingyas in Myanmar under United Nations supervision. However, this proposal has been met with skepticism and criticism, with concerns raised about its potential harm and the historical failures of UN-supervised safe zones in regions such as Bosnia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and Iraq.

The Rohingya crisis, a glaring testament to the collective failure of both the Awami League and the international community, has devolved into a human rights catastrophe with no effective resolution in sight. Prime Minister Hasina’s administration, by prioritizing political alliances and national image over humanitarian obligations, has perpetuated the plight of nearly a million refugees, leaving them mired in a state of vulnerability and neglect, and underscoring the urgent need for a concerted, global response to address and rectify the ongoing genocide and displacement.

A Call for True Sovereignty Bangladesh - victory day

PC: Indiapost. com

As Bangladesh approaches yet another Victory Day, we find ourselves grappling with a paradox. The very ideals that drove our struggle for independence—democratic governance and the right to self-determination—are being suppressed under Sheikh Hasina’s regime. The degeneration of free and fair elections stands as a stark contradiction to the principles that fueled the liberation movement in 1971. The era since Hasina’s ascendancy has been marked by an alarming trend of forced disappearances, targeting not only political opponents but also ordinary citizens who dared to voice dissent. This chilling atmosphere has effectively stifled freedom of speech, a cornerstone of any democratic society.

With the upcoming election, little change seems imminent. However, it is imperative for Bangladeshis to assert our discontent with the current state of affairs. The undue influence of India in Bangladesh’s political landscape has transformed the country into a puppet state, undermining our sovereignty. The power to choose leaders, a fundamental right of the people, appears compromised by external interventions.

The true spirit of Victory Day will only resonate when Bangladesh acts in its own best interest, free from external domination. The day when Bangladeshis can freely elect their leaders without foreign interference will mark the actualization of the dreams and sacrifices of 1971. Moving forward, it is crucial for us to reclaim their agency and ensure our voices are heard and respected. Only then can our nation experience a true victory—a victory for democracy, freedom, and independence.



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My symbolic act of resistance to Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam stance | Brief letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 February, 2024 - 18:28

Learning Arabic | Breadmaking and needlepoint | Pen friends | Idle thoughts | Modelling niksen

The possibility of Geert Wilders’ party heading the new government (Report, 8 February) was sufficient reason for me to take up Arabic. The Duolingo app is of great help in this act of symbolic resistance against Wilders’ anti-Islam stance. Learning Arabic is far from easy, but I am making good progress (in itself extremely gratifying for someone in her late 60s). I shall do my utmost to achieve my goal: better communication with Arabic-speaking compatriots and, indeed, non-compatriots beyond the borders of the Netherlands.
Hetty ter Haar
The Hague, Netherlands

• I hate to disabuse Stuart Harrington (Letters, 4 February), but both domestic breadmaking and needlepoint are alive and well. Our bread machine chunters away daily, and my son regularly makes sourdough. And there’s a subversive exhibition of needlepoint by me and my sister on in August in London.
Polly Mortimer

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