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Prevent isn’t making anyone safer. It is demonising Muslims and damaging the fabric of trust in society | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 February, 2016 - 19:18

We welcome the call for an independent review into Prevent made by the independent reviewer of the UK’s anti-terrorism laws, David Anderson QC, last week (Report, 3 February). One year ago the Prevent duty became statutory through the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015. This imposed a duty on public bodies to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.

As a wide cross-section of Muslim community activists, academics, lawyers and politicians warned, the duty has in practice charged teachers, doctors and other professionals with monitoring people’s religious and political views. This is undermining the very ethos and relationships of mutual trust and openness that are fundamental to education and our public services while endangering other legal rights and protections. It is eroding civil liberties and deepening discrimination against Muslims.

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Science Not Art: Problems with our Islamic History

Muslim Matters - 10 February, 2016 - 05:48

Let me introduce you to Hassan. He is an artist with an imagination that runs wild with more creativity in his little finger than most of us have in our whole lives. He spends his spare time in art galleries and exhibitions. He enjoys experimenting with different pantones to find the right shade of green for his latest artwork. So far, he's your typical artist, except for the small fact that he's a medical student.

Like many children of first generation immigrants, Hassan was prodded towards a stable career in healthcare rather than the decidedly less secure world of being an artist. His innate artistry is out of place in the sterile world of Medicine, but he accepts this trade-off for the security that a career in medicine brings.

The-Art-Science-of-Content-Marketing

Much like Hassan, I contend that Islamic history is art trapped in the world of sciences.

Every civilization and culture views history through a different lens. While the Europeans classically treated History as a category within literature and the Hindus as indistinguishable from mythology – Muslims took an entirely different approach. When it comes to fields of Islamic studies, we tend to classify the most important as sciences. Tafsir, Ilm al hadeeth, Tajweed and Fiqh are all researched and taught with the same precision and accuracy as physics or maths. There is relatively little room for artistic license or experimentation.

science vs art

This is a strength especially when it comes to the studies that make up the bedrock of the faith and are used to decide the rules and regulations. However, problems arise when subjects that don't naturally fit into the scientific category are reclassified as such. One such example is Islamic history. Our history has often been subjected to the same rigorous standards as those applied to other Islamic sciences. Anything that doesn't meet the highest standards of verification and authentication can potentially be downplayed or treated as suspect.

This view of history was pioneered by none other than the father of historiography Ibn Khaldun, who was frustrated by the “uncritical acceptance of historical data.” It comes as no surprise to find out that Ibn Khaldun was a jurist before he found fame in later life as a historian. However, history is not merely data to be proven or interpreted in a narrow set of ways. History is the art of putting together bits of information from the past and weaving together a narrative that gives us an insight into the motivations and actions of those that preceded us.

quiz art vs science

Translation: Artists tend to see boats first, scientists tend to see arches.

For instance, History as science will tell us that the Moghul Empire finally collapsed due to a range of socio-economic factors afflicting the corrupt Moghul state combined with the overwhelming military superiority of the British. While that may technically be accurate, History as art would explain the fall as the tragic but unexpected outcome of an aging Emperor's affections for his ambitious and treacherous young wife Zeenat Mahal. The former view is based on concrete evidence but wholly uninspiring and devoid of the human touch, while the latter is pieced together based on some facts, some extrapolations and based on the characters of the personalities involved.

zeenat mahal

Worth sinking an Empire over?

Skeptics from the scientific school of thought will read the above and fear that this is a call to legitimise superstition and fairytales. It is not. The reality is that the majority of our history, or any history for that matter, will fail to pass the benchmarks that we must necessarily use for our sciences. The result of this is that there are swathes of our history that are simply looked upon as second class and therefore not prominent.

There needs to be a paradigm shift in how we see and classify Islamic history. Islamic historians should feel comfortable in the freedom to discuss and teach aspects of our history that may not be 100% verifiable, but that fit within the broad construct of our traditions. We need to explore and cultivate the vast fertile expanses between irrefutable evidence based facts and pure fiction. Should we do so, we will reap a rich harvest of engaged and inspired Muslims who can take lessons and inspiration from our past and use it to guide our future. That's hopefully something that even the most dedicated scientist would find it difficult to argue against.

Narcissism Has No Place in Activism #MyLifeMattersToo

Muslim Matters - 9 February, 2016 - 03:46

 

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

—from the journal of Umm Zakiyyah

~

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

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

We're All a Bit Narcissistic

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

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

“Its Your Responsibility”

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

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

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

—from the journal of Umm Zakiyyah

His Other Wife novel

Emotional Manipulation Under the Guise of Activism

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

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

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

Public Harassment or Activism?

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

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

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

Is This About Pleasing Allah, or You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Other Wife novel 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: Government accuses six Islamic schools of breaching Education Act

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

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

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

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

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To Know Black History is to Know Islamic History

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

The Occupation Goes Missing from The NY Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara Erickson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Visit My Mosque day: questions from prayers to beards answered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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