Aggregator

Price tags on medication: why it’s a stupid, callous idea

Indigo Jo Blogs - 3 July, 2015 - 16:02

 £522.89 at the 5-star Carlton Hotel in Osaka, Japan; £1,147.95 at John Lewis; £3,346 at Searcy's, which has several champagne bars across London; £624.88 in a store specialising in bar equipment and bottle openers; £1,382 at the Hotel Melia in Berlin, 'one of the best in Germany'; £788 at the Miramar luxury hotel and spa in Santa Monica, California; £542.68 in a store which rents out drills, shredders and other toolsYesterday the government announced that labels on drugs prescribed by the NHS in England that cost over £20 will have the cost printed on them along with the words “funded by the UK taxpayer”. According to the BBC report, the decision is part of an effort to reduce medication wastage — medicines prescribed but never used — which allegedly costs £300m a year. Quite a few of my friends online are chronically ill and rely on medications to keep them alive or at least to make some semblance of normal life possible. Personally, I’m on thyroid supplements daily, and have been since age 5, and get free prescriptions, which I suspect many of my friends don’t. The reasons this is a bad idea were obvious.

First, over the past few years there has actually been demand for the state to finance expensive new drugs, particularly for rare diseases and cancer. I have seen more than one petition over the past couple of weeks for a particular drug that is licensed for use on some conditions but not others to be made available for a young girl who has one of the conditions for which it is not licensed, but which evidence suggests could allow her to live a normal life. This week, for example, NHS England refused to license a new drug, Vimizin, which is available in several other countries, to treat Morquio’s syndrome, to people who had already been part of a clinical trial, while NICE investigates its “cost-effectiveness”. Media reports say that people who took the drug found their health improved dramatically and that they were able to work and school and undertake university courses which they would otherwise be unable to. So it is clear that the public is willing to have expensive medications available on the NHS if they work.

Second, the reason prescription charges are set as they are is that cheaper medications are used to partly fund the cost of more expensive ones, yet these cheaper medications would not be subject to these rules as it would be politically impossible, putting the prescription charge scheme in jeopardy.

Third, drugs have side effects and it has been known for drugs to kill rather than cure a patient (especially chemotherapy drugs) or to expose them to an infection that kills them. Admittedly, some of these are likely to be administered by staff rather than given to the patient to administer themselves, so they might not see the label unless the person administering it is obliged to read it out to them. But why lecture a patient about the cost of their medication (based on the assumption that they’re going to waste it) when, even though it may be relieving another health problem, it is destroying their immune system or causing osteoporosis or some other life-altering complaint which costs them an awful lot? And of course we will be reminding them of the cost of all the medication for the side effects as well.

Fourth, whether or not drugs to treat mental health conditions are to be exempted from this, mentally ill people get physically ill, some chronically ill people also have mental health problems and some conditions affect both. Reminding someone with depression that they are a burden on the taxpayer (something many are already keenly aware of) is cruel, and is going to make their condition worse, affecting their decisions about seeing doctors or accepting prescriptions. Some of this will cost ‘the taxpayer’ in treating their future health (perhaps requiring some patients who refuse medication to be sectioned), but the real cost will be to that person, and their family, in suffering and perhaps loss of life.

Fifth, some ‘wastage’ of medication is due to mistakes at the pharmacy, where medication is prescribed but not delivered (or when it cannot be delivered); even if unopened, it cannot be reused. Other ‘wastage’ is due to medication being prescribed on a PRN (pro re nata) basis, to use when necessary. If the necessity never arises, or does not arise enough to use all the medication, or the patient decides to go without, some of it will get poured down the toilet or returned to the pharmacy for disposal.

Picture of a red London brick, with the word "London" and the number 33 etched into itSixth, why the focus on drugs? They are not the only expense the NHS has to cover. Perhaps every nurse, doctor, cleaner, occupational therapist, healthcare assistant, receptionist and whoever else works in a clinic or hospital should carry a name badge saying “Hello, my name is [whoever] and I cost the taxpayer £50,000 a year (or however much) a year”. Perhaps we should price-tag every bit of furniture, every lift, every vehicle, every syringe, tube and cannula.

Seventh, the use of ‘the taxpayer’ makes it sound like a single individual is footing the bill. The whole point of a public health system is that the cost is shared between anyone who might have to use it, so that poor people do not die or suffer lifelong disability (and thus impoverishment) because of an illness which could easily be treated. The individual taxpayer does not feel the cost of any individual drug, let alone any individual prescription.

The fact is that running a good national health service costs money, and if it is going to be free at the point of need, some of it is going to be under-utilised; this has been cited as a reason for closing whole centres down, much to the detriment of the health of the people who needed it (see Beth’s story from the previous entry). I do not really think that reducing drug wastage is the real reason for labelling medications with cost; it is to make people routinely aware of the cost so as to soften us up for cutting public healthcare. As all the evidence shows that the public currently supports maintaining the NHS and providing drugs that improve or save lives, however much they cost, the issue of ‘wastage’ of supposedly expensive drugs is being used as a ‘wedge’ to gradually open up the possibility of restricting medication availability, particularly to people who might be portrayed as less than deserving. Yet it is more likely to reduce legitimate usage than wastage, adding to the cost of treating ongoing and future illness, worsening mental health problems and costing lives.

Possibly Related Posts:


The costs of Ramadan need to be counted

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 July, 2015 - 11:50

It is a sensitive subject but there needs to be serious analysis of the health and economic impacts of the Muslim fasting month

Islam is a demanding religion, requiring a considerable amount of time and effort on the part of believers to fulfil duties of worship. The core duties are known as the “five pillars of Islam”, the most burdensome of which is the fourth pillar, the injunction to fast during daylight hours (whereby no food, drink, smoking or sexual activity is permitted) during the lunar month of Ramadan, that is, 29 or 30 days. This is necessarily a debilitating requirement, whose health and economic impacts can be significant (children, the ill and elderly are exempted).

There is mounting evidence to show that fasting in the month of Ramadan has a negative effect on health which, in turn, can have an adverse impact on productivity and economic output. Naturally, the longer the period of fasting, the greater the effect – this is particularly so when Ramadan falls during the summer months in north European countries, as at present. The duration of the daily fast this year in Britain is about 19 hours.

Continue reading...

Tunisians Formed Human Shield To Protect Tourists

Loon Watch - 2 July, 2015 - 22:36

Tunisia_Gunaman

Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui can be seen wandering away from a group of local men who have formed a human chain to protect tourists on a neighbouring beach

Yet Islamophobes still ask what are Muslims doing to fight terrorism. Even the Daily Mail couldn’t hide this one.

A survivor of the massacre in Tunisia has revealed local hotel staff members formed a human shield on the beach in a heroic bid to protect tourists from the rampaging gunman.

John Yeoman, 46, said Muslim staff members from the Bellevue Hotel told the gunman he would have to kill them first as they formed a human barricade between the shooter and Western tourists.

The chain of bodies can be seen in images taken of killer Seifeddine Rezgui which emerged yesterday – about a dozen men stand side-by-side as the gunman, pictured in the foreground, marches away from them carrying his Kalashnikov.

It is just one of many incredible tales of survival to emerge in the aftermath of the deadly attack in which British survivors have described playing dead as Rezgui ‘executed’ wounded tourists.

He told MailOnline staff formed a shield and started yelling at the gunman: ‘You must kill us first.’

The gunman, who openly declared he was targeting Western tourists during the killing spree, was also told: ‘You will have to get past us, but we’re Muslim.

‘Basically, the staff put themselves in the way,’ he said. ‘The staff from the Bellevue were amazing, really good.’

Mr Yeoman said he was told what happened by another survivor at Manchester Airport after the two were among those repatriated yesterday.

Meanwhile, British survivors have described how they played dead in a desperate bid to avoid being ‘finished off’ by the gunman as he indiscriminately shot down dozens of tourists.

Continue reading …

Embrace the Ramadan Dysfunction

altmuslim - 2 July, 2015 - 19:05
This is Day 15 of Altmuslim’s #30Days30Writers series for Ramadan 2015. By Omar Usman Some of my fondest memories of past Ramadans are things many people might consider the negative or dysfunctional parts of the month. When I was younger, a lot of our family friends would get together anticipating the start of Ramadan. I [Read More...]

A Muslim mayor of London would 'send message to the haters', says Sadiq Khan

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 July, 2015 - 18:59

Electing Muslim mayor would ‘say something about our confidence as a city’, says prospective Labour candidate Sadiq Khan

A Muslim mayor of London would send a message to all “the haters in Iraq and in Syria” that the city is a beacon of tolerance and respect, Sadiq Khan, one of Labour candidates for the job, has said.

Khan, the first Muslim MP to be elected in London, set out his case for why it would be helpful for the capital to have a Muslim mayor just days after the terrorist attack on British tourists in Tunisia and ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings next week.

Continue reading...

Review: Kids in Crisis

Indigo Jo Blogs - 2 July, 2015 - 17:14

Picture of Oli, a young white boy with wavy blond hair which glistens in the sunKids in Crisis was a programme about children with severe mental health problems in the UK who are being transferred a long way from home, sometimes hundreds of miles, because there is no inpatient care anywhere near where they live. They focussed on four families (with one exception, the young people themselves did not appear in person), three of whose children were already in that situation and one who was displaying difficult behaviour including damaging property and self-harm, and who it was suggesetd might need inpatient care in the future, which was not available in his home area. While at least two of the young people have Asperger’s syndrome, this was about child and adolescent mental illness, not learning disability; similar cases involving children and young people with challenging behaivour stemming from severe autism (e.g. Josh Wills, who is expected to return to Cornwall from Birmingham after three years this month) were not featured. They also interviewed mental health support workers from the local NHS trust, who explained the difficulties they had in finding beds for young people during a mental health crisis. It was mentioned in the programme that the Royal College of Psychiatrists reported that nine out of ten psychiatrists surveyed said they had sent a patient a long way from home for treatment in the past year. (The programme can be viewed in the UK on the Channel 4 website for the next 29 days.)

Picture of Oli's motherThe four young people whose stories were featured were Oli, aged 13 and Chloe, aged 17, both from Cornwall, Beth, aged 15 from Hull, and Emily, aged 18 (although she was 16 when she was first admitted) from Belfast. Oli is currently living at home with his mother and sisters, and sometimes has long and violent meltdowns which stem from mental health difficulties and Asperger’s syndrome; he also has epilepsy, and is aware of and distressed by some of his seizures. He enjoys surfing (there is a local charity, the Wave Project, which uses surfing as therapy for young people with mental health difficulties) and music, and his mother describes him as a lovely boy when not in a meltdown. Currently his behaviour is controlled, where necessary, by temporary increases in medication, but it is feared that he might need to be admitted to hospital at some point, which would mean moving out of county, as the nearest children’s mental health inpatient facility is in Plymouth, and the next nearest is in Bristol. Oli’s mother said “I don’t know how children are expected to heal when they are separated from their family”; the reality for many is that they do not.

Chloe, also from Cornwall, is 17 and adopted. She was a happy child, did well at school and was keen on sport, especially cricket (she was described as someone who “made things happen” and could turn a game when she became involved), but when she reached adolescence anxieties that had already been present became more severe, and eventually she became violent, suffering hallucinations and wrecked her room. She was admitted to hospital and was moved several times, all of them close to London, before ending up in a secure unit near Orpington. Her parents have to travel the 300 miles to Orpington for a two-hour visit and then go straight home, saying they would “get into trouble” if the visit exceeded that time. While home leave is considered an important part of getting someone in inpatient mental health care back into the community, this is extremely difficult because of the distance — it would require two staff to travel with her, and back. There is talk of finding less secure accommodation in “the south-west”, but as her mother pointed out, that could mean Wiltshire, itself nearer to London than to Cornwall.

Picture of Kathy, Beth and Corey HopperBeth Hopper, whose case I have been aware of since it was reported anonymously in the local press in 2013, has Asperger’s syndrome and her problems also began with the transition to secondary school; although her mother, a nurse, had moved the family to their “dream home”, she became withdrawn and refused to come out of her room. Eventually, she had to be admitted to the local West End children’s unit where she made progress and was released and was able to go back to school. However, when she needed to be admitted again, West End had been closed because of “restructuring”, despite being a well-regarded unit. Beth has since been in some 14 hospitals, mostly in the north-west. At the start of the programme, she was looking forward to a transfer to another hospital in Liverpool which would allow her home leave, which she got; however, after some “violent incidents” with other patients, she was moved somewhere else (a very restrictive environment which does not allow home leave). The crisis meant that Kathy was unable to work full-time and it led to her home being repossessed. Beth is desperately homesick and her mother said she was losing hope that she would ever return home, but she has also picked up destructive behaviours from other mentally ill teenagers she has had to mix with. Her mother says she “tends to morph” into whoever she is with. The programme showed her and her son Corey trying to maintain family life with Beth gone, Kathy playing the games with him that Beth would have done if she was still around.

Emily, from Belfast, was admitted to a local eating disorders unit, but had to be transferred to the main hospital in Belfast because the ED unit lacked the expertise to fit naso-gastric tubes, which are essential in treating severe eating disorders. She was then transferred to an adolescent ED unit in London, requiring her parents to fly weekly to London to see her, and when she turned 18, she was abruptly moved to an adult ED unit, where the focus changed to encouraging her to “take responsibility” for her condition, while excluding her parents, who have never been allowed into her room. This exclusion of the parents of young adults from their care and treatment has been widely complained of in the learning disability field as well, when often families are well-placed to explain their relatives’ individual needs, triggers, likes and dislikes and so on, which do not suddenly change when someone reaches 18.

Picture of Corey Hopper, a young white boy, kissing a mobile phone which someone (off camera) is holding out to himNone of the three who are in units away from home featured in person in the programme. We did not hear Emily’s voice at all, but only saw pictures; we heard the voice of Chloe down the phone, talking about what she was going to be doing and what she wanted her parents to bring, and we heard most from Beth, whose letters were read out by her mother (and her local MP, in Parliament) and we also heard her talking on the phone to her mother and younger brother, Corey. It was not explained why Beth was not interviewed despite being on home leave during the making of the programme, although her mother told me that she was restricted in what she could say about Beth’s life while in hospital, but the Telegraph’s review noted that “their presence was felt in their absence, in letters and phone calls and empty bedrooms”, which strikes me as rather unnecessary when Beth was, in fact, present. One of the phone calls we heard was Beth talking to her brother about what he was doing at school and both saying they loved each other, before Corey hugged and kissed the phone as if it was Beth. Later on, we hear Beth crying that she wanted to come home and Kathy, her mother, tells her hug her pillow and imagine that it was her. Beth replied “but it’s not you” (from personal experience, I was not surprised that this did not comfort her much). This was certainly the most emotionally affecting part of the programme.

I do not think the programme asked deeper questions about why this is happening and why more was not being done to accommodate the parents. It has been known for some time that parents have to travel far to visit their children (and the same for relatives of adults in far-away hospitals), so why is there nowhere for them to stay so they can spend a weekend with their loved one rather than one or two hours in between eight or twelve hours’ travel? It did not ask why there is only one children’s mental health inpatient facilities south-west of Bristol, despite a fairly large population even if not in Cornwall. The reason in the case of Hull is obvious — it was shut down — but it may also have something to do with much of the capacity being in private hands; both Oakview, where Chloe is now, and Cheadle Royal, where Beth is, are run by private companies (Emily’s unit in London looked like it was as well; there was no NHS sign outside) and private companies go where the money is. If a private company will not invest in building a children’s mental health unit in Devon or Cornwall, the state needs to do it.

Picture of Chloe, a white teenage girl with blond hair, wearing a turcquoise sweatshirt with pink writing on it, wearing headphones and smilingThe lack of person-centredness of the care being provided was not examined either. It was clear, for example, that Beth benefited from home visits, but the unit she was in at the start of the programme and the one she is in now (I am not sure if they are the same place) do not allow them. If she is in a unit for reasons other than needing the particular type of care they provide, really there ought to be some flexibility rather than a “that’s how we do it here” attitude. (The same was true when Claire Dyer was sent to a medium-secure unit hundreds of miles from home last year; she was confined to the building for several weeks despite having been out almost every day for the past two years without incident. The care in these places is often centred around the needs of the institution, not the individual forced to live there.) And does a young girl who self-harms and trashes her room really need to be confined in a place with fences some four times the height of a man? Is she being confined with convicted offenders, as has been the case with autistic young people sent away? (The prospectus for Oakview [PDF] is careful not to show it, but it was there in the programme.) It has been understood for years that you should not mix young people with autistic spectrum disorders with disturbed, violent teenagers (something that was explained to me as an adult with regard to my own schooling), but the lesson seems to have been lost in mental health care, leading to enormous damage and lengthened time in institutions for the former. And as was seen last month in the case of Maisie Shaw, also from Hull, they have been known to discharge patients suddenly and inappropriately, without ensuring there is on-going support. An NHS hospital that doesn’t badly need to free up a bed would not do this.

The programme exposes one scandalous fact — that children with mental health problems who are vulnerable are being sent hundreds of miles away from their families for treatment, which in some cases makes them worse — but really doesn’t look at the deeper issues besides the closure of West End, perhaps for lack of time. For one thing, there is the nature of secondary schooling, with its inappropriate 11-16 or 11-18 age ranges which present numerous problems of their own (bullying, sexual harassment), the lack of ASD bases in many schools and the closure of special schools, even day schools, often on ideological grounds. But the main reason is the public attitude to mental health and health care. For decades we have been closing local mental health provision, outsourcing it to private companies who can build glossy-looking “units” rather than refurbishing existing hospitals to provide modern conveniences and privacy. Some of these old hospitals were grim, but they were large (and so can accommodate the smaller number of inpatients we have now) and they were local. People were glad to see these places closed; there is a stigma surrounding both the patients and the institutions (there is distrust even for psychiatrists themselves) but do not think of where those who do need inpatient care will go. This does not just affect people in remote areas, either in mental health or learning disability; people from London and Essex have been moved to unsuitable units in Manchester, people from central Scotland to Middlesbrough.

Picture of Maisie Shaw, a young white girl with dyed green hair, a black suit and a T-shirt, standing next to Jane Asher, a middle-aged white woman with brown hair wearing a knee-length flowery dressWe must get back to having local inpatient mental health care and there must be some slack — there should be empty beds, so that those who need a bed locally can get one. We are not a poor country and we do not need to pinch pennies in an area of healthcare which is not glamorous, but can mean long-term illness or good health, or life or death, for a child.

There is still a petition to re-open the West End unit in Hull, so that young people like Beth and Maisie, who has featured on this blog previously, can receive appropriate treatment and have ample support from their families. There are now plans to re-open it, but it has not been decided for sure and there is still a long way to go before it does open. Maisie was released last month.

Possibly Related Posts:


Ramadan: A Celebration of Guidance

Muslim Matters - 2 July, 2015 - 05:00

By Abu Ibrahim

Introducing Ramadan: the month of fasting

This Ramadan 1436/2015, I thank Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for giving me this opportunity to share my reflections on the amazing verses that Allah revealed concerning Ramadan. In just five verses (2:183- 187), Allah talks about the reason for fasting, and the goal and objectives of fasting. Verses 184, 185 and 187 talk about the process of fasting: who, what, where, when and how. The scholars have elaborated on these extensively in different works over the last fourteen centuries. My focus in this article will be the reason, goal and objectives of fasting and how awesome and compelling these verses are in establishing the truth of Allah's words.

Reason and Purpose

In 2:183 Allah tells us:

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous”

in a way introducing fasting as something well known to previous generations of believers.

In 2:185, the reason and the purpose are explained:

“The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.”

Thus fasting in Ramadan is to commemorate the Guidance (Qur'an) that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) sent to mankind through Prophet Muhammed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), as the revelation commenced in the month of Ramadan. This is a paradigm shift as previous messengers/prophets were sent primarily to their respective nations but this final message (Qur'an) is guidance meant for all nations till the last day (10:47). Allah also promised to protect the Qur'an for later generations as opposed to previous messages which were lost in their pristine form (15:9).

It is noteworthy that Allah highlights clear proofs and criterion being sent along with the Guidance. What I really find amazing is Allah's succinct style as these three items – guidance, clear proofs of guidance, and criterion – are found in these verses establishing fasting in the religion of Islam.

Guidance

As guidance, fasting in Islam means abstaining from food, drink and sexual intercourse with your spouse from dawn to dusk, with the intention of pleasing Allah (Ibn Kathir). Thus starvation or other forms of fasting (e.g. prior to surgery etc.) or fasting without the intention of pleasing Allah is not included as fasting described within the limits of the Islamic or Quranic guidance.

To understand the value of guidance, we need to be able to conceptualize its purpose and appreciate the link between guidelines, standards and outcomes. For instance, like other guidelines such as aviation and financial guidelines, NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) practice guidelines provide recommendations for good practice, based on best available evidence with the aim of developing quality standards and improving (healthcare) outcomes (NICE).

After creating the world and humans, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) did not leave us without the guidance required to achieve a good life and the best outcomes. He states this categorically in Ayatul Kursi and Surah Al 'Ala:

“His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.” 2:255

“Exalt the name of your Lord, the Most High, Who created and proportioned, And Who destined and [then] guided” 87:1-3

Basically, our preservation as a species depends on following our Creator's guidance. The Qur'an asserts that guidance has been provided to humans since the creation of the first man, Adam, but not everyone utilizes it (2:38). The Qur'an confirms that this diversity about following the guidance or not is part of Allah's will.

“And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed – all of them entirely. Then, [O Muhammad], would you compel the people in order that they become believers?” 10.99

“There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” 2:256

We live in a world where the dominant contemporary philosophy is the pursuit of happiness, and this can be traced back to Greek philosophical ideas. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, taught that virtues (courage, temperance, generosity etc.) and prudence (practical intelligence) are prerequisites to achieving true happiness or living a good life (Nicomachean Ethics).

As stated above, the Qur'an confirms that every nation had a prophet to guide them, but as evidence suggests that Aristotle was secular in his thinking, the more correct view Islamically would be that his thoughts were based on the remnants of the teachings of prophet(s) sent to his nation. In 17:97, Allah talks about the good life:

“Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.”

In Islam, virtue (righteousness) means following the guidance of Allah (2:177) and not the mere doing of 'virtuous deeds'. Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) explained that 'the Good Life' means “satisfaction” (The Islamic Awakening). It suffices to say that Allah guided humanity but even if each person or group has a different take on guidance, there is unanimous agreement that guidelines with high standards lead to good outcomes including satisfaction.

Clear proofs of guidance

The first unassailable evidence (in the verses regarding fasting) that the Guidance (Qur'an) is from Allah is that fasting is a well-known ritual performed by different religious groups. This is apparent with the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism and Christianity) who can testify that fasting was prescribed for them. The similarity of the essence of the message (Oneness of Allah) which is in keeping with previous messages establishes continuity, and confirms that Allah revealed the Qur'an (2:1-5)

Another proof is what has been described above that Allah sent guidance to all nations of the world and the remnants of this guidance can be detected even in nations that turned secular or polytheistic. Contemporary proof from empiricism is the increasing evidence-base for the benefits fasting, spirituality and religiosity, with several studies showing strong associations between spirituality/religiosity and wellbeing, better recovery from illness after treatment (including cancer and mental illness) and satisfaction.

Many verses of the Qur'an are proofs of the existence of Allah, our Lord and creator, and that the Qur'an (guidance) is from Him.

Criterion

The Qur'an contains verses that distinguish between what is right and wrong. One such criterion between right and wrong is the verse defining righteousness (2:177). In the verses regarding fasting, the 'criterion verses' that helps in resolving ethical dilemmas (traveler, the ill, weak and elderly vs obligation and reward of fasting) are 2:184-185

“[Fasting for] a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey [during them] – then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess – it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.” 2:184

“So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” 2:185

Understanding and correctly applying the criterion in solving complex evolving problems in day-to-day life is vital for Muslims. An example is the dilemma faced by Muslims in the region of the Arctic Circle where 24 hour sunshine is expected. Although there may be a difference of opinion amongst scholars regarding the best solution (see http://islamqa.info/en/219806), the basic principle in verse 185 holds:

“Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship…”

Sheikh Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

“If fasting is too difficult on very long days, and is unbearably difficult, and there is the fear of physical harm or sickness as a result, then it is permissible to break the fast in that case, and to make it up on shorter days…”

Muslims should be rest assured that what is required of them is to perform religious tasks to the best of their abilities.

“So fear Allah as much as you are able and listen and obey and spend [in the way of Allah]; it is better for your selves. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful.” 64:16

Correct application of the criterion is much needed for a quick resolution of the tragedies, trials and unrest facing people in the Muslim world today. Although many of these problems are complex, a large part is due to misapplication of the Guidance, which is bound to happen, for instance when militants (or individuals without Taqwa) become leaders of the Muslims instead of rightly guided scholars with strong moral grounding in Islamic ethics (criterion). Perhaps you can still find on the web the write-up regarding the jihadi disputing with Sheikh Nasiruddin al-Albaani (may Allah have mercy on him) about revolting against leaders, insisting that he knew more about the practicalities of jihad compared to the sheikh.

It is clear that failure to comply with the guidance of the Qur'an leads to bad outcomes.

Goal and objective

Interestingly Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) introduced fasting in verse 183 by stating its goal – Taqwa. Taqwa has been defined differently as 'fear, God-consciousness or –mindfulness). The Arabic triliteral root wāw qāf yā, occurs 258 times in the Qur'an in eight different forms, with the verb form waqina meaning save/protect us (Word by word Qur'an).

The vital link between Taqwa and Guidance is described in the early part of surah Al Baqarah.

“Alif, Lam, Meem. This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah -Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them, And who believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith]. Those are upon [right] guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful.” 2:1-5

Thus Taqwa is a prerequisite for benefiting from the guidance in the Qur'an which guarantees success. How the companions of the prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) understood the importance of Taqwa is portrayed in Ibn Masud's description of Taqwa. Ibn Masud raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said Taqwa of Allah is:

“That He is obeyed and not defied, remembered and not forgotten and appreciated and not unappreciated.” Al Hakim, Ibn Kathir

As demonstrated by Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), one of the objectives during fasting is to recite, understand and follow the Guidance in the Qur'an which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) revealed in Ramadan.

Essentially Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse with a view of being mindful of Allah (Taqwa), while focusing on worshipping Allah by studying His Guidance in order to be successful. This is depicted graphically below:

ramadan cycle

 

Ramadan fast is a mandatory annual training for believers comparable to training for those in the healthcare profession and many others who are required to attend Basic Life Support (resuscitation) training yearly, to keep their skills up-to-date in order to be effective in the field.

As Muslims feel the hunger pang and thirst, communal fasting in Ramadan inculcates in them important life skills, attributes and attitudes useful in day to day activities. These include patience, perseverance, self-control, honesty, empathy, tolerance, coping with pressure, planning, prioritization, and vigilance (of what may annul fasting).

This is for those that observe fasting the right way as there may be tendency for some people to focus on large meals at suhoor and Iftar. It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“There are people who fast and get nothing from their fast except hunger, and there are those who pray and get nothing from their prayer but a sleepless night.” (Ibn Majah)

Muslims are expected to use skills gained in Ramadan throughout the rest of year, otherwise it may be nothing more than a tick box exercise for them. May Allah protect us from this.

Conclusion

Fasting is prescribed for believers, the Qur'an is guidance for mankind and Ramadan is a public, global celebration designed to link these diverse groups and facilitate the presentation of the guidance with its clear proofs and criterion to those interested, so they can benefit from its wisdom, live successful lives and have good outcomes, in this life and the hereafter. It is really fascinating how the Qur'an does what it says on the till effortlessly. Reflection is required to identify these hidden gems and pearls. Allah says:

“Then do they not reflect upon the Qur'an, or are there locks upon [their] hearts?” 47:24

Ramadan checklist:

1. Taqwa: Start with the end (goal) in mind as Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) did, introducing the passage of fasting talking about taqwa first.

2. Devote time to studying (reading, listening, memorizing and reflecting) the Qur'an while identifying the different types of verses (guidance, clear proofs of guidance and criterion), with the intention of obeying Allah's commands.

3. Complete the fast with sincerity, glorify Allah for guiding you, and be grateful to Him.

4. Renew your contract with Allah by believing and obeying Him; then make du'a (supplicate for the Ummah) as He responds to the call of the supplicant.

5. Avoid major sins: Do not cross limits set by Allah.

6. Gain mastery of other checklists in the Qur'an to complete your training (Q23:1-11, 60:12, 17:23-41).

7. Aim to continue to apply the skills and attitudes you have gained after Ramadan, being aware that your behavior may invite or divert people from seeking Allah's Guidance.

May Allah grant you and me the Barakah (blessings) of this Ramadan and accept our deeds, making them pleasing to Him. Ameen

Abu Ibrahim is a medical doctor working in the UK, currently undertaking a masters degree in Medical Ethics and Law at a UK university, and BA in Islamic studies at Islamic Online University.

4 Eating Habits You Should Avoid This Ramadan

Muslim Matters - 2 July, 2015 - 02:13

By Zahra Osman

Ramadan is here and we're all excited. Some of you are excited because you can't wait for the seasonal Ramadan dishes. Some of you are excited because Ramadan can be a kickstart for your weight loss regime. And some of you are excited simply because its Ramadan. You're anticipating the rewards and benefits that come along with the challenges of this blessed month. Hopefully, most of you fall into the third category! But even if you're in this third group, it's possible that your eating habits in the nights of Ramadan are harming your performance throughout the entire month.

Ramadan is like a marathon; not eating during the race is the easy part. It is the other factors like focus, discipline, and strategizing your time and energy that help you win the race. And during training, what you eat and how you eat can make the race more difficult or it can put you ahead of the competition. In other words, your post-iftar eating habits can either help you make the most of Ramadan or it can lead to the laziness and sicknesses that prevent too many people from maximizing the potential rewards that await them. There are people who get so sick during Ramadan because of their eating choices that the doctor actually orders them to stop fasting! Now, if you don't want that happening to you, then pay close attention to these common practices that are cutting into our Ramadan performance power.

1. Breaking your fast with greasy foods

Somosas, springrolls, pakora, fried dumplings, fried chicken, french fries, wings, etc. The iftar meal is hardly ever missing one of these snacks. I know, they seem to taste so much better during Ramadan, but you're doing a huge disservice to your digestive system when you break your fast with such items. Eating greasy foods on an empty stomach can lead to indigestion, which is responsible for the stomach cramping and bloating that makes you want to skip out on taraweeh. It's also extremely counter-productive to your health and fitness goals.

To be honest, you're not entirely to blame for craving these foods at iftar time. Researchers using functional MRI brain scans found that, on an empty stomach, the body focuses on feeding itself high-calorie foods to try to get blood sugar levels back to normal. This is why, when you're hungry, you're almost willing to eat anything, especially fatty foods.

So what should I do?

Follow the sunnah. “The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to break his fast with fresh dates before he prayed. If he did not find fresh dates then he would use dried dates. If he did not find that also he drank a few sips of water”. [Ahmad and Abu Dawood]. Dates are extremely effective in raising blood sugars quickly because they're easily and quickly absorbed. This is a much healthier alternative than turning to fatty foods to normalize blood sugar.

Eat fruits. When you eat fruits on an empty stomach it does a much better job at detoxifying your system and supplying you with tons of energy, than if you were to eat it after your meal. Its a win-win situation because you get the health benefits of the fruits and you're well fuelled for the night of ibaadah ahead.

I can't tell you to completely abandon the samosas, so if you can't resist, then eat in moderation and limit the number. At least this way you won't put so much pressure on your digestive system. Or you may want to consider baking them like I do.

2. Eating too quickly

I know, you need to catch the salah. But slow down. Chew. Sit and enjoy. Your brain needs about 15-20 minutes before it signals to your stomach that you're full. This means that if you're eating faster than your brain can signal, you can end up eating a lot more than you need . One Japanese study found that eating too quickly was strongly associated with being overweight. Also, I don't have to tell you about the discomfort that comes with overeatting. Productive Muslim has a fantastic cartoon detailing that.

So What Should I do?

Converse while you eat. I don't mean to talk with your mouthful, but chat with your family members and those at the table with you. Conversing will help slow down your pace of eating, which should give you more time to chew as you listen, and breaks between bites as you speak. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would speak with his companions while he ate. For example, the ahaadith, “Mention the name of Allah and eat from that which is closest to you” and  “What a good condiment vinegar is” and many more were said by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) during a meal.

Also, from his ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) sunnah is to eat with three fingers. This will help you take smaller portion bites. Or you may want to physically place your fork or spoon down between bites so that your stomach has more time to register the food coming in.

3. Not drinking enough fluids

Some of us barely drink enough water in a normal day, and with only about a 6 hour eating window, it's not surprising that we may be on the brink of dehydration. Water is important brothers and sisters, especially during this month. You're fasting and it's hot outside! Not drinking enough fluids can lead to dehydration, constipation and other digestive illnesses which can make the month of striving a month of medical intervention.

So What Should I do?

Simple; drink more fluids. If you're not much of a water drinker, try to have soups and eat fruits with large water content. Avoid sugary drinks and too much caffeine because they can inhibit water absorption.

4. Skipping Suhoor

Some people skip suhoor because they say it makes them hungrier?! And some people just want that extra bit of sleep. Its true that eating suhoor is a sunnah and so one has the choice, but when you skip it, not only are you missing out on major rewards, but you're also setting yourself up for failure. How? There are tons of studies showing that eating a healthy breakfast produces tremendous physical and mental benefits which leave you feeling good for most of the day.

Also, when you skip out on breakfast or suhoor, you are less likely to get the recommended servings of fibre, vitamins, and minerals which could be crucial in helping you achieve the optimal health necessary for surviving this month of jihad.

So What Should I do?

Simple. Eat suhoor! But don't make the mistake of eating just anything, like leftover pizza and samosas from iftar. Aim for foods rich in fiber and those that provide you with a good source of energy. You may want to try preparing suhoor before going to bed so that not much effort is required in the morning. Preparing in advance also comes in handy for those days you oversleep.

 

Ramadan is the month of the Qur'an, a month for striving to seek closeness with Allah. But we can't ignore the seasonal experience and beautiful atmosphere it brings along with it, and for many cultures and traditions food is part of that experience. In some homes, Ramadan may be the only time the entire family sits together for a meal. Also iftar parties help bring people together who are often too busy during the year to connect. So we can't downplay the role food plays during this blessed season. However, we must make the right choices so that we can combine pleasure with productivity!

There is so much to say and to add to this topic of good and bad eating habits during Ramadan. What are some traditions, habits and foods you eat during Ramadan that help you stay productive? I'd love to hear some of your tips and suggestions on how we can improve our eating habits for optimal health and fitness. Remember that all actions are by intentions. And so, if you intend to adjust your eating style to be stronger so that you can worship Allah better, then the reward is in that delicious meal!

Bio: Zahra Osman is a teacher and is currently pursing a masters in education with a focus on curriculum and pedagogy. She is passionate about empowering Muslims to be high achievers and building confidence in their Islamic identities. She maintains a blog at www.ummempowered.com, a personal development platform dedicated to inspiring and motivating Muslim moms to realize their full potential.

When You Need Help The Most

Muslim Matters - 2 July, 2015 - 02:06

In the name of Allah, The Most Merciful

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) described in the Qur'an the hardship and fear that takes place on the day of judgment where, for example, He said:

  • يَوْمًا يَجْعَلُ الْوِلْدَانَ شِيبًا
    • “…a day where the child's hair turns white” Ch: 73 V:17
  • And where the prophet –salla Allahu alayhe wa sallam- said: “‏ يُؤْتَى بِجَهَنَّمَ يَوْمَئِذٍ لَهَا سَبْعُونَ أَلْفَ زِمَامٍ مَعَ كُلِّ زِمَامٍ سَبْعُونَ أَلْفَ مَلَكٍ يَجُرُّونَهَا ‏”
    • that the hell fire would have attached to it 70,000 chains and every chain is being pulled by 70,000 angels which makes 4,900,000,000 angels involved in this process for how harsh and fierce the fire would be. May Allah protect you.
  • And He, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) said:
    • يَوْمَ تَرَوْنَهَا تَذْهَلُ كُلُّ مُرْضِعَةٍ عَمَّا أَرْضَعَتْ وَتَضَعُ كُلُّ ذَاتِ حَمْلٍ حَمْلَهَا وَتَرَى النَّاسَ سُكَارَىٰ وَمَا هُم بِسُكَارَىٰ وَلَـٰكِنَّ عَذَابَ اللَّـهِ شَدِيدٌ
      • “On that Day you see it distracting every nursing mother from that [child] she was nursing, and every pregnant woman will abort her pregnancy, and you will see the people [appearing] drunk while they are not drunk; but the punishment of Allah is severe.” Ch: 22 V: 2

With all that said and much more, wouldn't you want to be protected and helped on that day? Don't we say when we mention such things: “May Allah protect us from the punishment of the hell fire”?

Well brothers and sisters, there are several ways to get help and receive some support and intercession, by the will of Allah, on that difficult day. And the greatest of all means is the intercession of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The question is, how do we get the prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to intercede for us?

  • Narrated in Sahih Bukhari, Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:
    • “مَنْ قَالَ حِينَ يَسْمَعُ النِّدَاءَ
      • Whoever says at the end of hearing the athan
    • اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّ هَذِهِ الدَّعْوَةِ التَّامَّةِ وَالصَّلاَةِ الْقَائِمَةِ ‏”
      • “Allahumma rabba ha-thee-he-d-da'watit-taammah waS-Salaatel-qaa'emah”
      • O Allah! Lord of this perfect call (the call of la illaha illa Allah) and [the call] of the regular prayer which is going to be established
    • آتِ مُحَمَّدًا الْوَسِيلَةَ وَالْفَضِيلَةَ
      • “'aatee Muhammad-anel-wa-seelate wal-faDeelah”
      • give Muhammad The Waseela & The noble level which is a high rank in Jannah that is only applicable for one person
    • وَابْعَثْهُ مَقَامًا مَحْمُودًا الَّذِي وَعَدْتَهُ
      • “wab'ath-who maqaam-mahmouda-nel-lathee wa'adtah”
      • And resurrect him to the praised position that you have promised. Which is the position where he will intercede in order for the day of judgment to begin.
    • حَلَّتْ لَهُ شَفَاعَتِي يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ
      • (that person who says that) will be granted my intercession on the Day of Resurrection
      • So you would be a person who is deserving to go to hell fire but the prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) intercedes for you and therefore you don't enter it
      • You might be a person whose balance of good deeds and bad deeds are equal so the prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) intercedes for you and therefore your scale of good deeds outweigh the bad ones.
      • You might be a person who is in a certain level in Jannah so the prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) intercedes for you, but why if you were in Jannah already?, and therefore your status in Jannah is raised further, Allahu akbar.

So try coming a few minutes early to the masjid to hear the athan to gain that reward. Share this article so others can benefit. May Allah bless you and protect you in this life and after life.

How to Speak with Meaning – Art of Connection with Belal Khan

Muslim Matters - 2 July, 2015 - 01:58

Sometimes when Muslims talk, you can't really understand them.

I'm not talking about incoherence. But, the use of language in a way that isn't conducive when communicating with most other folks.

Homeland Security Seeking Clarity

One of my first blogs that I started way back consisted of me sharing reflections on verses of the Qur'an I had read each day.

Given the sociopolitical climate we've been in post 9/11 with Patriot Act, semi-police state, etc., turns out Homeland Security, or as I like to call them, the “homies” were also reading the blog.

One time one my way back to the US after having performed the Hajj, upon arrival I had a sit-down conversation with the suits about my blog.

They had my entire blog printed out and proceeded to ask me about it.

One of the suits posed a very interesting question.

If somebody is “new to the game” where they're not familiar with Islam, or if they're Muslim but haven't been for a long time, and they read something that could be potentially, maybe misunderstood if they read it without clear context or explanation, could you blame the person if they misunderstand it a take or apply it the wrong way?

It's a question that certainly should be given some thought.

In other words, the stuff we share online, is it contributing to better understanding Islam and the betterment of the lives of those who are “new to the game?”

The Curse of Knowledge

The state of Muslims today is that of ignorance.

Granted in the secular sciences, the immigrant Muslim population and their children tend to thrive. But, overall we're severely lacking in the area of spiritual religious sciences.

Some of us who do get the blessing of a little bit of knowledge get inspired and feel the urge to implement and share.

But, after a while we fall into what's known as the “curse of knowledge,” a concept brought forth by Chip and Dan Heath in their book “Made to Stick.”

The curse of knowledge concept suggests that people forget what it was like to not know what they now know, thus find it difficult to communicate it effectively to the masses.

When sharing from a position of knowledge, we need to be mindful of whether or not the vocabulary and concepts we use is something that people will be able to receive well.

Essentially, speaking a language that people understand.

When delivering a Jumu‘ah khutbah or Friday sermons, or speeches at events, or simply sharing content online, are we doing it in a language that would be well received by people who are new to the game or even not yet in the game?

Arabic Words Don't Make You Religious

I get that when some folks get some spiritual knowledge they want to practice the Arabic language, which is the language of the Qur'an.

However, it's not necessary to sprinkle “Ya'ni,” “insha'Allah,” and “masha'Allah” countless times into the same sentence.

Overuse of certain words may lose its intended meaning and result in not being mindful when speaking.

For example, when we're asked if we're going somewhere, the typical response is “insha'Allah,” which means “if God wills”

I'm not saying we should change it to English.

When using it, consider saying it with meaning. “insha'Allah, yes” or “insha'Allah, no.”

Don't leave folks hanging.

At the same time, sprinkling your vocabulary with Arabic words doesn't make your more religious.

Focus on What's Important to Speak with Meaning

When speaking with people, speak in a language they understand. Media writing rule 101, write so that an eight grader can get it.

When it comes to your connection with your Creator, work to understand the words you're saying in prayer.

Those words are more important to understand. So that when you speak, it's not just coming off your tongue, but from deep within your heart.

Who Is Burning Black Churches? Who Will Stand Up and Give Support?

altmuslim - 1 July, 2015 - 23:33
By Zainab Chaudry Tuesday night, the Mount Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina became the eighth black church in America to burn to the ground within one week. At least three of these incidents were ruled arson, while one was ruled accidental and others remain under investigation. Authorities are investigating if lightning caused Mount Zion [Read More...]

OpEd: A Principled Critique of the Muslim Leadership Initiative

Muslim Matters - 1 July, 2015 - 22:32

Editor's Note: We welcome countering opinions on this subject

This is a public letter in criticism of the Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI), a program designed and funded by the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI) in Jerusalem. We are American Muslims who know and have worked with MLI's architect, imam Abdullah Antepli. We call for an end to this program that we consider a betrayal to the Palestinian people, and a betrayal of our own highest aspiration towards the loftiest ethics of justice for American Muslims. Furthermore, we call on the previous MLI cohort participants and those invited to take part in the upcoming third cohort to suspend their participation as a moral and courageous act of solidarity with the Palestinians, and also to chart a higher ethical path for American Islam.

We are profoundly disillusioned, saddened, disturbed and violated by the MLI program and by imam Antepli's continued promotion of it and his unwillingness to change it even in the aftermath of months of private conversation, through and after the brutal assault on Gaza. Our discontent is rooted in a deep love for our American Muslim communities and a deep love for the people of Palestine who continue to suffer under an ongoing brutal military occupation and dispossession as they have for decades. Over the past year, we have seen how this program has fractured American Muslim communities and institutions and has mobilized selective American Muslim leaders as tools to further conceal rather than challenge the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Imam Antepli insists his critics simply do not understand the program; however, we have either participated personally in the program or spent hours discussing it directly with the participants. We, the undersigned, fully understand MLI, its goals, and its apparatus. The entire MLI language of “engagement” with Zionist power structures is done in a way that is politically naïve (at best) and dangerous (at worst). All of us who sign this letter do so with a commitment to holistic justice for all the parties involved, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others in both Palestine/Israel and America. Our vision of justice calls for the recognition of suffering, prior to engagement. There is tremendous suffering in Palestine, both in the occupied West Bank and under siege Gaza and in Israel proper. Over 500 Palestinian children were killed in Gaza as a result of Israel's 2014 assault. While UN special envoy for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, referred to children's death as “unprecedented and unacceptable” and “raises grave concerns about Israel's compliance with international humanitarian law”, MLI's curriculum neither contains any reference to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza nor calls for engagement to understand and alleviate their suffering.

If a goal of MLI was to appeal to the conscience of SHI participants, the program utterly failed. We abhor the statements of Rabbi Donniel Hartman, President of SHI, who offered a most strident political and moral cover for the Israeli assault on Gaza, calling them justified under “Rabbinic” values:

“I know that we are strong in the rabbinic sense, as well, which measures strength through the ability to restrain oneself from using it……I know that our society is at its core a decent and moral one and that our Army is committed to the highest standards of ethics on the battlefield… I do know that Operation Protective Edge is a just war, and as such, needs to be fought.”

Hartman's response further denied the Palestinians even the space to mourn their dead children, merely categorizing them as “a public relations success.” imam Antepli has often justified MLI by calling it a bold process of changing hearts and minds of the Jewish community towards Muslims and thus reducing Islamophobia. If seeing the bodies of over 500 Palestinian children and a multi-year MLI “engagement” has not brought about the slightest change in this callous defense of Israeli operations, perhaps the participants and architect of MLI should pause to ponder the moral cost of collaboration with such a conversation partner. Perhaps it is time and past time to make sure that our ethical partnerships reflect our own highest aspirations.

Consider this analogy: Imagine an MLI-type program that was designed to address racial tensions and understanding of police violence in the United States. MLI is akin to going to Ferguson, but not meeting with Michael Brown's family, and instead devoting oneself to “engaging” the supporters of Officer Darren Wilson. At a time that we are seeing a proliferation of on the ground social justice Muslim efforts to sit with the suffering of our fellow human beings, MLI is oddly out of touch, bypassing the suffering of our own community at a time of their ongoing bombardment.

To engage the occupier without sitting down in solidarity with the occupied first is politically delusional, morally misguided, and ethically callous. So many Palestinians are unable to visit their own ancestral homeland, or to go back to the very homes of their grandparents, or to freely move between the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel proper. This extraordinary dispossession, restriction, humiliation, and subjugation is not some mere pretext to MLI's “engagement” project. It is the ongoing reality that continues to bring us pain. Yet the Palestinians continue to tell us the MLI program does not account for their suffering, reality, and experiences. Even the only Palestinian who participated in MLI saw no redemptive value in the current structure of MLI, attempted to reform it, and ultimately abandoned the organization.

Imam Antepli frequently affirmed that he will continue with this program “unless he sees any harm from it.” We are here to tell Abdullah that you are harming us. Make no mistake: the MLI is one initiative that we experience as an injury, a pain, and a betrayal. MLI is now fully a part of the Hasbara Israeli propaganda operation.

We continue to insist that fundamentally the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not a religious one, but a historic political land grab mired in the context of competing nationalisms exacerbated under the stench of oppressive colonialism. To “understand” Zionism one has to understand politics, history, and context then and now. That need not be done in Jerusalem, it must not done through bypassing the voice of the Palestinian community who is the primary victim of this historical event, and it need not be done through Zionist funding and agenda.

The language of “engagement”, and the “need to be engaging powerful Jewish institutions” also betrays a fundamental moral confusion about the role of power in Islamic consciousness. Power by itself is neither positive nor negative. Our Islamic values teach that power needs to be coupled to an unflinching concern for justice; otherwise it corrupts absolutely. Prophet Moses left the court of the Pharaoh, the center of power, to gain perspective, and speak truth to power. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was called out by Allah for merely ignoring and frowning in the face of a blind man who was interrupting his attempt to engage with the powerful chiefs of Mecca to win them over. If the prophets of God are held to this standard, are we to do any less for our own contemporaries today?

MLI betrays a concern with engaging power at the expense of justice. By seeking to understand the powerful and the occupier before they have expressed meaningful solidarity with the weak, marginalized, and the occupied the MLI program has essentially lost its moral credibility. The work that faces all of us, including combatting Islamophobia, is far too important to be handled without the strongest moral and ethical foundation.
The people of Palestine are suffering. Palestinian civil society has cried out in a show of unity, asking for a nonviolent boycott of institutional relations with Israeli institutions, including academic ones such as the Shalom Hartman Institute. In response, the Shalom Hartman Institute has stated that they have designed MLI to break this boycott. The MLI program is deliberately designed by Shalom Hartman to make Muslims more sympathetic to Zionism, and to present an anti-BDS perspective. The goal of SHI's Muslim Leadership Initiative “is to empower an elite group of emerging and religious and intellectual leaders—including university chaplains, journalists, academics, and cultural figures—to influence the North American Muslim community in reassessing its preconceived notions of Judaism and Israel.” We the undersigned are not confused about the preconceived notions of Judaism and Israel. We are opposed to injustice, to tyranny, to occupation, to land grab, to dispossession, to humiliation, to second-class citizenship. And we do not need or want Zionist funding to help us understand this.

The BDS movement is a global peace movement, made up in large part by peace-loving American Jews critical of Israeli policies, and it has been so successful in creating support for the Palestinian cause on American campuses that American Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson just donated 50 million dollars to undermine it on US campuses. The MLI program is precisely the kind of programming that Zionist far right extremists in the US and Israel want to fund in order to stop the BDS movement from making any further gains. This itself should give imam Antepli pause and we call him to retract his public statements in which he has referred to American Muslim and American Jewish BDS peace activists as part of a “fringe” movement.

The MLI program dangerously confuses Zionism for Judaism. MLI is set up as a Muslim/Jewish program at the same time that they insist it is not an “interfaith” program. The equation of Zionism with Judaism plays into the hands of those who want to silence the ever-increasing voices from within the Jewish community (Jewish Voices for Peace, Tikkun, Open Hillel, BDS etc.) who no longer wish to be silent about the atrocities of the Israeli regime, beginning with the Occupation. It pains us to hear MLI participants parrot the talking points of AIPAC and some of the most conservative, militant, and hardline Zionist organizations when these American Muslims say that peaceful Jewish voices are irrelevant and unworthy of serious engagement. We have already seen how eager national media is to depict the MLI as making Muslims more ambiguous, and more sympathetic, towards Zionism. What the world needs is not Muslims who are more ambiguous towards Zionism, but Muslims who deeply and passionately see the suffering of Palestinians, and insist on connecting the full humanity of Palestinians with the full humanity of Israeli Jews, insisting on a paradigm that guarantees equal rights and dignity for each and every single citizen of Palestine/Israel.

Writing from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King once said “there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love.” He also said. “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.” Our hope is that imam Antepli will finally come to see that if his own close friends and colleagues are critiquing him in public, that it is time to finally stop this program and the injury it continues to cause so many Palestinians and people of conscience who support their just cause. Imam Abdullah must pause and ponder why so many people whom he claims to admire disagree with him so passionately, and why the institution that he works for (Duke University) insists that it has absolutely no association whatsoever with MLI.

Palestinian scholar, Professor Mustafa Abu Sway, whom Abdullah Antepli has met with explicitly declared MLI a violation of BDS and an Israeli attempt to “normalize” relations. Professor Abu Sway added that if he ever receives MLI participants, it is part of his hospitality as an Arab Muslim Palestinian, and does not indicate his approval of this program. Abu Sway has also called for freezing MLI until the on the ground realities change.

Any small good that has come out of MLI could have been achieved using alternate, more morally sound, principles of solidarity that did not involve trampling on the dignity of Palestinians. It takes courage to pause, evaluate, and make amends. By ceasing with this program, you acknowledge and honor the suffering, humanity, and hopes of those who are most in pain in this ongoing tragedy, rather than marking the anniversary of the Gaza war with the trip of the third MLI cohort. We call imam Abdullah Antepli and all MLI participants to heed the call of Palestinian civil society and be in solidarity with their call for boycott, divest and sanctions to hold Israel accountable until it complies with international law, and, at the very least, ad'af al-iman, to stop actively undermining the peaceful efforts of Palestinians.

May all of us be participants in restoring a peace that mingles with justice in this conflict, both in Palestine/Israel, and here in the US.

Signed:

Laila El-Haddad
Kamal Abu Shamsieh
Omid Safi
Laila Al-Maryati
Zareena Grewal
Hatem Bazian

You can sign the petition here

 

 

Further reading Muslim Leadership Initiative: Finding a Way Forward

OpEd: A Principled Critique of the Muslim Leadership Initiative ‪#‎MLI‬

Muslim Matters - 1 July, 2015 - 21:57

Editor's Note: We welcome countering opinions on this subject

This is a public letter in criticism of the Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI), a program designed and funded by the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI) in Jerusalem. We are American Muslims who know and have worked with MLI's architect, imam Abdullah Antepli. We call for an end to this program that we consider a betrayal to the Palestinian people, and a betrayal of our own highest aspiration towards the loftiest ethics of justice for American Muslims. Furthermore, we call on the previous MLI cohort participants and those invited to take part in the upcoming third cohort to suspend their participation as a moral and courageous act of solidarity with the Palestinians, and also to chart a higher ethical path for American Islam.

We are profoundly disillusioned, saddened, disturbed and violated by the MLI program and by imam Antepli's continued promotion of it and his unwillingness to change it even in the aftermath of months of private conversation, through and after the brutal assault on Gaza. Our discontent is rooted in a deep love for our American Muslim communities and a deep love for the people of Palestine who continue to suffer under an ongoing brutal military occupation and dispossession as they have for decades. Over the past year, we have seen how this program has fractured American Muslim communities and institutions and has mobilized selective American Muslim leaders as tools to further conceal rather than challenge the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Imam Antepli insists his critics simply do not understand the program; however, we have either participated personally in the program or spent hours discussing it directly with the participants. We, the undersigned, fully understand MLI, its goals, and its apparatus. The entire MLI language of “engagement” with Zionist power structures is done in a way that is politically naïve (at best) and dangerous (at worst). All of us who sign this letter do so with a commitment to holistic justice for all the parties involved, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others in both Palestine/Israel and America. Our vision of justice calls for the recognition of suffering, prior to engagement. There is tremendous suffering in Palestine, both in the occupied West Bank and under siege Gaza and in Israel proper. Over 500 Palestinian children were killed in Gaza as a result of Israel's 2014 assault. While UN special envoy for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, referred to children's death as “unprecedented and unacceptable” and “raises grave concerns about Israel's compliance with international humanitarian law”, MLI's curriculum neither contains any reference to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza nor calls for engagement to understand and alleviate their suffering.

If a goal of MLI was to appeal to the conscience of SHI participants, the program utterly failed. We abhor the statements of Rabbi Donniel Hartman, President of SHI, who offered a most strident political and moral cover for the Israeli assault on Gaza, calling them justified under “Rabbinic” values:

“I know that we are strong in the rabbinic sense, as well, which measures strength through the ability to restrain oneself from using it……I know that our society is at its core a decent and moral one and that our Army is committed to the highest standards of ethics on the battlefield… I do know that Operation Protective Edge is a just war, and as such, needs to be fought.”

Hartman's response further denied the Palestinians even the space to mourn their dead children, merely categorizing them as “a public relations success.” imam Antepli has often justified MLI by calling it a bold process of changing hearts and minds of the Jewish community towards Muslims and thus reducing Islamophobia. If seeing the bodies of over 500 Palestinian children and a multi-year MLI “engagement” has not brought about the slightest change in this callous defense of Israeli operations, perhaps the participants and architect of MLI should pause to ponder the moral cost of collaboration with such a conversation partner. Perhaps it is time and past time to make sure that our ethical partnerships reflect our own highest aspirations.

Consider this analogy: Imagine an MLI-type program that was designed to address racial tensions and understanding of police violence in the United States. MLI is akin to going to Ferguson, but not meeting with Michael Brown's family, and instead devoting oneself to “engaging” the supporters of Officer Darren Wilson. At a time that we are seeing a proliferation of on the ground social justice Muslim efforts to sit with the suffering of our fellow human beings, MLI is oddly out of touch, bypassing the suffering of our own community at a time of their ongoing bombardment.

To engage the occupier without sitting down in solidarity with the occupied first is politically delusional, morally misguided, and ethically callous. So many Palestinians are unable to visit their own ancestral homeland, or to go back to the very homes of their grandparents, or to freely move between the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel proper. This extraordinary dispossession, restriction, humiliation, and subjugation is not some mere pretext to MLI's “engagement” project. It is the ongoing reality that continues to bring us pain. Yet the Palestinians continue to tell us the MLI program does not account for their suffering, reality, and experiences. Even the only Palestinian who participated in MLI saw no redemptive value in the current structure of MLI, attempted to reform it, and ultimately abandoned the organization.

Imam Antepli frequently affirmed that he will continue with this program “unless he sees any harm from it.” We are here to tell Abdullah that you are harming us. Make no mistake: the MLI is one initiative that we experience as an injury, a pain, and a betrayal. MLI is now fully a part of the Hasbara Israeli propaganda operation.

We continue to insist that fundamentally the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not a religious one, but a historic political land grab mired in the context of competing nationalisms exacerbated under the stench of oppressive colonialism. To “understand” Zionism one has to understand politics, history, and context then and now. That need not be done in Jerusalem, it must not done through bypassing the voice of the Palestinian community who is the primary victim of this historical event, and it need not be done through Zionist funding and agenda.

The language of “engagement”, and the “need to be engaging powerful Jewish institutions” also betrays a fundamental moral confusion about the role of power in Islamic consciousness. Power by itself is neither positive nor negative. Our Islamic values teach that power needs to be coupled to an unflinching concern for justice; otherwise it corrupts absolutely. Prophet Moses left the court of the Pharaoh, the center of power, to gain perspective, and speak truth to power. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was called out by Allah for merely ignoring and frowning in the face of a blind man who was interrupting his attempt to engage with the powerful chiefs of Mecca to win them over. If the prophets of God are held to this standard, are we to do any less for our own contemporaries today?

MLI betrays a concern with engaging power at the expense of justice. By seeking to understand the powerful and the occupier before they have expressed meaningful solidarity with the weak, marginalized, and the occupied the MLI program has essentially lost its moral credibility. The work that faces all of us, including combatting Islamophobia, is far too important to be handled without the strongest moral and ethical foundation.
The people of Palestine are suffering. Palestinian civil society has cried out in a show of unity, asking for a nonviolent boycott of institutional relations with Israeli institutions, including academic ones such as the Shalom Hartman Institute. In response, the Shalom Hartman Institute has stated that they have designed MLI to break this boycott. The MLI program is deliberately designed by Shalom Hartman to make Muslims more sympathetic to Zionism, and to present an anti-BDS perspective. The goal of SHI's Muslim Leadership Initiative “is to empower an elite group of emerging and religious and intellectual leaders—including university chaplains, journalists, academics, and cultural figures—to influence the North American Muslim community in reassessing its preconceived notions of Judaism and Israel.” We the undersigned are not confused about the preconceived notions of Judaism and Israel. We are opposed to injustice, to tyranny, to occupation, to land grab, to dispossession, to humiliation, to second-class citizenship. And we do not need or want Zionist funding to help us understand this.

The BDS movement is a global peace movement, made up in large part by peace-loving American Jews critical of Israeli policies, and it has been so successful in creating support for the Palestinian cause on American campuses that American Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson just donated 50 million dollars to undermine it on US campuses. The MLI program is precisely the kind of programming that Zionist far right extremists in the US and Israel want to fund in order to stop the BDS movement from making any further gains. This itself should give imam Antepli pause and we call him to retract his public statements in which he has referred to American Muslim and American Jewish BDS peace activists as part of a “fringe” movement.

The MLI program dangerously confuses Zionism for Judaism. MLI is set up as a Muslim/Jewish program at the same time that they insist it is not an “interfaith” program. The equation of Zionism with Judaism plays into the hands of those who want to silence the ever-increasing voices from within the Jewish community (Jewish Voices for Peace, Tikkun, Open Hillel, BDS etc.) who no longer wish to be silent about the atrocities of the Israeli regime, beginning with the Occupation. It pains us to hear MLI participants parrot the talking points of AIPAC and some of the most conservative, militant, and hardline Zionist organizations when these American Muslims say that peaceful Jewish voices are irrelevant and unworthy of serious engagement. We have already seen how eager national media is to depict the MLI as making Muslims more ambiguous, and more sympathetic, towards Zionism. What the world needs is not Muslims who are more ambiguous towards Zionism, but Muslims who deeply and passionately see the suffering of Palestinians, and insist on connecting the full humanity of Palestinians with the full humanity of Israeli Jews, insisting on a paradigm that guarantees equal rights and dignity for each and every single citizen of Palestine/Israel.

Writing from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King once said “there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love.” He also said. “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.” Our hope is that imam Antepli will finally come to see that if his own close friends and colleagues are critiquing him in public, that it is time to finally stop this program and the injury it continues to cause so many Palestinians and people of conscience who support their just cause. Imam Abdullah must pause and ponder why so many people whom he claims to admire disagree with him so passionately, and why the institution that he works for (Duke University) insists that it has absolutely no association whatsoever with MLI.

Palestinian scholar, Professor Mustafa Abu Sway, whom Abdullah Antepli has met with explicitly declared MLI a violation of BDS and an Israeli attempt to “normalize” relations. Professor Abu Sway added that if he ever receives MLI participants, it is part of his hospitality as an Arab Muslim Palestinian, and does not indicate his approval of this program. Abu Sway has also called for freezing MLI until the on the ground realities change.

Any small good that has come out of MLI could have been achieved using alternate, more morally sound, principles of solidarity that did not involve trampling on the dignity of Palestinians. It takes courage to pause, evaluate, and make amends. By ceasing with this program, you acknowledge and honor the suffering, humanity, and hopes of those who are most in pain in this ongoing tragedy, rather than marking the anniversary of the Gaza war with the trip of the third MLI cohort. We call imam Abdullah Antepli and all MLI participants to heed the call of Palestinian civil society and be in solidarity with their call for boycott, divest and sanctions to hold Israel accountable until it complies with international law, and, at the very least, ad'af al-iman, to stop actively undermining the peaceful efforts of Palestinians.

May all of us be participants in restoring a peace that mingles with justice in this conflict, both in Palestine/Israel, and here in the US.

Signed:

Laila El-Haddad
Kamal Abu Shamsieh
Omid Safi
Laila Al-Maryati
Zareena Grewal
Hatem Bazian

 

 

Further reading Muslim Leadership Initiative: Finding a Way Forward

Why, My Brother? On Terror in Ramadan

Muslimah Media Watch - 1 July, 2015 - 10:12
I was breaking my twenty hour fast when I saw the footage from Sousse for the first time, a video taken by one of the hotel workers who is heard saying, repeatedly: “aleish, aleish tugtel fil naas?” (Why, why are you killing people?). The familiar accent, and the bewildered tone of the man speaking, brought [Read More...]

Government policy will seal the mouths of Muslim pupils | Owen Jones

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 July, 2015 - 08:00

Legislation to tackle radicalisation runs the risk of silencing and alienating children in our classrooms

If you care about children’s development and combating extremism, this is a story that should alarm you. A teacher at a London state school largely catering for Muslim girls runs an activity each week: pupils suggest items in the news to talk about, and the class has a discussion. But a week after the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, nobody brought it up. When the teacher spoke to students, she found out why: “Our mothers told us, ‘Don’t talk about that – they’ll put us on a register.’”

The teacher in the story didn’t think any of her students would have said they supported the terrorists, but thought some students might have said drawing the prophet Muhammad should be illegal; others might have felt less strongly. But the opportunity to have the discussion was lost because these pupils thought they would be criminalised.

Once again the British state is helping build the sort of extremism it is publicly combating

Related: Teaching proper Islamic principles will help stem extremism | Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri

Continue reading...

Uniqlo teams up with UK-based designer for 'modest' fashion range

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 July, 2015 - 00:28

Stylish hijabs, long dresses and rayon blouses among collection designed by Hana Tajima on sale online and in Singapore

Clothing retailer Uniqlo has teamed up with a UK-based fashion designer to launch a new “modest wear” collection, including a range of hijabs.

The range, designed by Hana Tajima, features stylish hijabs in a variety of colours and prints, headbands, long dresses and rayon blouses which aims to “cater to ladies who embrace modest fashion” as well as being “carefully designed to suit contemporary tastes”. The items will go on sale on Friday from the store’s website and outlet in Singapore.

Continue reading...

A Ramadan of Remembrance – Memories of Dr. Maher Hathout

altmuslim - 1 July, 2015 - 00:05
This is Day 13 of Altmuslim’s #30Days30Writers series for Ramadan 2015. By Ahmed Younis For my community, this is a difficult Ramadan. It is our first without Dr. Maher Hathout. The Man Maher Hathout was our father, our brother, our leader and to many of us, our best friend. For more than 45 years he [Read More...]

Pages

Subscribe to The Revival aggregator