Saudi Arabia faces outcry over death sentence for Shia faith leader

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 October, 2014 - 19:01
Nimr Baqir al-Nimrs conviction for sedition adding to unrest and promoting sectarian hatred, says Human Rights Watch

Saudi Arabia is facing an international outcry and accusations of promoting sectarian hatred after a Shia Muslim religious leader from the countrys volatile eastern province was sentenced to death.

Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who led protests in Qatif at the height of the Arab spring in 2011, was convicted on Wednesday of sedition and other charges in a case that has been followed closely by Shias in the kingdom and neighbouring Bahrain.

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What’s The Matter? | Postpartum or More?

Muslim Matters - 16 October, 2014 - 05:00


I think I have postnatal depression as I've just had a baby 2 weeks ago and I'm extremely emotional, overwhelmed, teary and so lonely.

My husband does not understand and is getting cross that I'm not staying on top of my house chores and giving my other 2 children enough attention. He thinks I'm being lazy and when I try to explain I can't control my feelings and feel a emotional wreck he blames me for being too emotional and says this is just a 'modern day' mother excuse to be lazy.

I feel awful and his insensitive words are depressing me even more to the extent I'm questioning if its just me who needs to get a grip or this is actually a problem. I don't have anyone else to turn to except my husband and feel so let down.

Please help and advise me how I can get out of this dark pit and become mentally healthy and normal again. I have no on to talk to and I don't wish to talk to my husband as I end up feeling worse due to his insensitive response. I cry all day and at night and feel guilty… because I feel guilty and worry that maybe I'm being ungrateful for my blessings and these feelings are from shaitan. Is feeling so negative and down a sign of ungratefulness? Weak iman?

Right now I feel like a failure…a bad mother…a bad wife and a bad Muslim for being ungrateful and lazy.

Please help me clarify my thinking.

I'm so confused.

Jazaka Allahu Khair,

Postpartum or More?


Walaikum assalam wa Rahmatullah,

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) grant you strength and help you through this difficult time. Ameen.

You are so brave to reach out regarding this issue. So many mothers experience this but hesitate to seek help due to feelings of shame and guilt. You have nothing to feel guilty about and we are privileged to be able to offer a little bit of support at this difficult time.

Having a baby is life-changing- whether it is your first child or your tenth- and every birth is a different experience. It can be incredibly confusing to feel a sense that you “should be grateful” while still feeling miserable and being unable to push past these emotions. After taking the baby home, women often wonder, “How can I possibly take care of this tiny human being who is dependent on me for everything on top of all my other tasks? Plus, I hardly feel able to take care of myself right now!” It's incredibly overwhelming.

We often hear the birth of a child described in picturesque terms. New mothers expect to feel “complete” and to feel as though “everything is suddenly right in the world” once their new baby is placed in their arms. This concept is very misleading and it causes mothers who experience normal anxiety and stress to feel inadequate and as though they are ungrateful for their children.

As hormones shift drastically after delivery, it's absolutely normal to feel what is commonly known as the “baby blues” in the weeks following birth. Nearly 80% of women experience this within the first two weeks after giving birth. You may experience mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, crying, decreased concentration and trouble sleeping. If after two weeks you are continuing to struggle and this interferes with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks, you may be suffering from postpartum depression. One in eight women suffer from this. Some symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Lack of joy in life
  • Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Severe mood swings
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

(Via Mayo Clinic)

There are a lot of reasons that this happens and none of these reasons include being ungrateful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for blessing you with a child or suffering from weak iman. Depression, postpartum depression and baby blues are all issues that are impacted by a variety of factors and there is no reason to feel guilty for these emotions since they are beyond your control. There are many examples of very righteous people in the history of our faith, including Prophets, who experienced feelings of sadness. Prophet Yaqub grieved for his son until his, “eyes became white with sorrow, and he fell into silent melancholy.” {Qur'aan 12:84} After the death of his child, Ibrahim, our beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) held his son in his arms and said “The eyes send their tears and the heart is saddened, but we do not say anything except that which pleases our Lord. Indeed, O Ibrahim, we are bereaved by your departure from us.” This shows that feeling sadness does not mean that you are not strong in your faith in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) since the most righteous who ever walked this earth also experienced this emotion.

After childbirth, your body endures a drastic drop in the hormones estrogen and progesterone. When we go through hormonal changes, our emotions also change and this may contribute to postpartum depression. You are also very likely sleep deprived as you have a newborn who wakes up every couple of hours. Feeling overwhelmed, anxious about balancing all of these new tasks along with caring for your other children, and feeling a lack of control over your emotions can also contribute to postpartum depression.

I know that it must be so hard to feel unsupported by your husband, particularly because you feel as though there is no one else to turn to right now. Now, when you need support more than ever, it can make you feel so lonely not to get it from the man you love so much. Oftentimes, people struggle to understand what is going on for someone else internally. Depression is not as visible as a cut, burn or broken leg and, therefore, can be difficult for some to grasp. However, after birth you have not only experienced an intense physical change but also an emotional and mental one. Therefore, you need as much support as possible. Show your husband some articles (from a credible source) regarding the causes of postpartum depression. Simply because this is “invisible” to others does not mean it doesn't exist. It can be difficult for your husband to see you suffering like this and he may not know how to react. Perhaps denial that anything is wrong is the way he is currently coping with this change. Although he is currently struggling to be supportive, this does not mean he does not love you or care for you. Let him know that you understand that it is difficult for him to see you feeling emotional and give him concrete suggestions regarding ways that he can be supportive (i.e. make du'a for you, validate your emotions, give you a hug, do an activity with the kids while you nap, etc.).

Also, please make sure that you speak with your doctor about your symptoms. If you are still feeling this way, it is very likely you have postpartum depression, which can be treated. Medication as well as therapy may be prescribed. It can make a world of difference to get treatment early to prevent the depression from deepening insha'Allah. Therapy as a component in treatment can be very helpful to allow you the opportunity to talk about your emotions without feeling judged. This is particularly important in your situation since you mentioned that you do not have anyone to confide in. Postpartum Support International ( is also a great resource through which coordinators provide support, encouragement, and information about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders and can help you find resources in your community. If you experience the urge to hurt yourself or your baby (this can be a symptom of postpartum depression), make sure to place the baby in a safe spot and seek help immediately. You can call your local emergency services to ensure immediate assistance.

Remember that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) chose you to be the mother of your children and there's no one better for that role than you despite how you feel right now. Do not underestimate the power of du'a. When you feel as though there is no one to turn to, turn to Him and pour out your sorrows. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created human beings with difficult emotions and, although this is a very hard test, He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows how strong you are and will never give you more than you can handle. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) acknowledges the hardship mothers endure when He says, “And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months. [He grows] until, when he reaches maturity and reaches [the age of] forty years, he says, “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to work righteousness of which You will approve and make righteous for me my offspring. Indeed, I have repented to You, and indeed, I am of the Muslims.” (Surah al-Ahqaf: 15)

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) grant you a full recovery from this struggle and reward you tremendously for all that you do for your family. Ameen.


You can read about one sisters struggle here in Six Stories Down: When It's More Than Just The Baby Blues

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Sam Harris Gives Money To Quilliam Foundation, Doing A Book With Maajid Nawaz

Loon Watch - 15 October, 2014 - 23:11


By Garibaldi

After the CNN interview with Reza Aslan, in which Aslan criticized Bill Maher and Sam Harris, and the subsequent confrontation between Ben Affleck and the aforementioned atheist gurus, hundreds of: op-eds, blogs, vlogs, news segments and social media platforms/forums have debated the merits and demerits of both sides of the argument. New Atheists have largely been on the defensive, not taking kindly to criticism of their flawed logic and bold bigotry though they have received a lot of support from the far-right, including Fox News.

In an October 12th news segment, Brian Stelter, the host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” program had Irshad Manji and Sam Harris on to debate questions such as are liberals afraid to face the truth about Islam?”

A debate that involves Manji against Harris automatically means that there is going to be a lot of wasted time jostling over the falacious dichotomy of the “Good Muslim vs. Bad Muslim”/”Moderate vs. Radical” that will do nothing to illuminate the real issues at stake in the debate. When Reza Aslan says “these types of debates aren’t being done in any legitimate way” he isn’t wrong.

One illuminating revelation in the course of the Manji-Harris debate was when Harris, in an attempt to bolster his “counter-extremism” bonafides and defend against the point that he gives succor to extremists by validating their ideologies as the “True Islam,” as opposed to helping “moderates,” states at the 5min 40s mark that he gives money to Quilliam Foundation,

“This is why I am doing a book with Maajid Nawaz, this is why I am giving money to his organization”

Doing a book with Maajid Nawaz? Now that should be interesting! Maybe Nawaz and Harris will discuss the best way to use drone attacks or nuclear strikes on those who hold “dangerous beliefs.” Perhaps Nawaz will tell Harris how much he appreciates the horrific apartheid wall that Israel has built. Who knows! So many possibilities! I predict Nawaz will end up agreeing with Harris on everything, the way he has with Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

In any case it’s revealing, though not surprising, that Nawaz receives money from an Islamophobe like Harris. Nawaz, after all is Bill Maher’s favorite Muzzie, to such an extent that when he had him on his show he even wanted to stick a medal on brave Nawaz. Maher and Harris are close friends and so there seems to be a weird incestuous element to this relationship between militant celebrity atheists and the accepted so-called “moderates” or “counter-extremism specialists” such as Nawaz; they all seem to hobnob in the same circles.

It’s also ironic considering Harris’ main thesis for years has been that “moderates” are a greater problem than extremists. While defending himself against the charge that he paints all Muslims with the same brush, exaggerates extremism and links causation for violence among Muslims all to Islam he has boxed himself into a corner: he is funding and co-operating with an organization, headed by an individual who claims to be a “moderate” and claims to resist extremism. So what gives?

Indeed there is no practical contradiction for Harris in funding Quilliam, since they agree to a large degree. In fact Quilliam is not an organization that actually counters extremism, it has no problem in working with warmongering Neo-Cons and Islamophobes as Jai Singh has copiously noted in his exhaustive expose report.

Female British Muslims as vulnerable to radicalisation as men, study shows

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 October, 2014 - 17:38
Research into early stages of process follows reports of girls and women travelling to Syria to join Isis fighters and have children

British Muslim women and girls are just as vulnerable to becoming radicalised as their male peers, according to the author of a study into the early stages of the process.

The news comes amid reports of girls as young as 14 travelling to Syria from the west, to marry Islamist fighters, bear their children and join their communities.

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US Muslim Jurists Resolution on Islamic Finance Companies

Muslim Matters - 15 October, 2014 - 17:37

The issue of purchasing a house through Islamic financing has been written about in detail by experts and intellectuals for the past decade or so. However, it appears that majority of American-Muslims are either in doubt or are misinformed about the validity of the actual practice (buying homes through 'halal mortgages' or loans). Many prospective home owners dismiss all Islamic home loans as problematic or interest based loans candy coated in Islamic terminology.

This led the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) to invite a group of 230 Imams from all over the United States to its annual Imams' Conference in Dallas, Texas in February 2014 to discuss current Islamic finance companies and their contracts from theoretical and practical perspectives (read about the conference here).

After discussing and debating various clauses of the contracts, AMJA announced that it will take a few months to further discuss their concerns with the named companies and then issue a final verdict with regards to their contracts. This declaration was released yesterday.

What is AMJA

AMJA stands for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America. It's a nonprofit established in 2002 with the goal of conducting research about contemporary issues facing Muslims in the West and issuing Islamic verdicts with the findings. This research is conducted and supervised by the Resident Fatwa committee (RFC), which comprises of scholars with Doctorates of Philosophy in various Islamic Sciences.

Their website finds a long list of publications and research papers (mainly in Arabic) covering various subjects including interfaith, youth, food and nutrition, careers and arbitration. Over the years this organization has built a reputation of scholarly work and has shown dedication to tradition and authenticity through their research. You can find more about their published research papers here.

The Findings

AMJA requested and received copies of the contracts of various Islamic home finance companies and studied them. Their conclusion was divided into two main categories: (a) three classes of Islamic home finance companies and (b) ruling on individual companies. I have included both below:

The Three Classes:

(1) Companies that use interest-based loans: AMJA's description of such companies is that they are using contracts that are an offshoot of traditional interest-based loans. AMJA's ruling with regards to these companies is that it is not allowed to deal with them.

(2) Companies whose contracts are in agreement with Islamic law. Generally speaking, these companies are of very little reach and are not supported by government-sponsored enterprises (such as Freddie Mac etc.). This means that they do not receive funds from such enterprises, which permits them the freedom to control their contracts without any restrictions or regulations from the government (loosely speaking- obviously there are government regulations but they are nowhere close to those imposed by Freddie Mac, for example). The downside of such companies is that they don't have enough funds to sustain a large operation when compared to those who have the support of government-sponsored enterprises.

(3) Companies that use contracts that avoid explicit Riba in their contracts, however their contracts contain some components that are forbidden from an Islamic prespective. The contracts offered by such companies usually utilize one of the following three modes of finance: Ijarah (Lease-to-purchase), Musharakah (Declining Balance co-Ownership) or Murabah (Cost plus profit). Within these contracts there might be some clauses that are in violation of the essence of Islamic rule, according to AMJA.

Some of the clauses that you might want to pay attention to include, but are not limited to, what happens when one defaults or is late in making their payments? Is the arrangement of paying taxes, maintenance and other costs considered fair (since the majority shareholder in any company is expected to pay according to their shares, the loaning company in a Musharakah contract should participate in such costs and not only the minority shareholder)? What happens in the case of eminent domain? Other examples of the components indicated above include invalid clauses, inequity, undue risk, unknown quantities and the like. For more information about the fiqhi debate as why such components are forbidden in Islam, please consult with your local imam or contact AMJA directly. It is highly encouraged that you request a copy of the contract before signing, read it and inquire about any unclear or ambiguous aspects of it. It's also highly recommended that you speak to your local imam/scholar or reach out to AMJA for more clarification.

The concept of “Need” and “Dire Need”

Although there are some violations in the aforementioned contracts, AMJA views owning houses to be a general need of the Muslim population in America. AMJA defines need as:

that which is desired by an individual or society to make things easier on them and remove constraints. If one is lacking what is determined to be a “need,” then the individuals or the society face hardships and difficulties that go above and beyond the customary efforts required of individuals by the Islamic Law. People may differ in estimating those hardships.

As for determining the level of need for specific individuals, this would depend on the availability of a substitute in the form of being able to rent without being caused harm.

What I found interesting about this definition is that although AMJA believes that there is a general need for Muslims to own a house, it leaves the determination of such need to the individual(s) interested in buying the house. This indicates that even though there is a general need that allows for using imperfect contracts, the individuals' situation is still a critical factor to decide the actual level of need.

Another interesting aspect of this definition is following statement:

…this would depend on the availability of a substitute in the form of being able to rent without being caused harm.

How can rent be without causing harm? Financially, obviously those who choose to rent are not worried about property taxes or devalue of the property and more importantly aren't responsible for any major maintenance or insurance. However, renters do not take advantage of any equity or tax incentives. Moreover from a social perspective, owning a house may encourage home-owners to sustain long term relations with their neighbors, the Muslim community around them, and even the grocery stores in the area. Children in the family increase the chances of  having the same friends, attend the same schools and masjids which helps in cultivating a stable childhood.

AMJA also used the terms “need” and “dire need” in what appears to be an attempt to create a distinction between the contracts below with regards to how islamic their contracts are. There was no definition as to what a “dire need” constitutes. The natural consequence of such distinction is the advantage it lends to certain companies over others. This might be a way (a good way) of placing pressure on companies whose contracts have more violations than others. This also will decrease the competition between companies (given that people actually follow AMJA's recommendations), which might backfire with regards to consumer protection. Only time will tell.

Rulings with regards to the Individual Companies:

Disclaimer: It should be noted here that the opinion below is that of AMJA and that neither nor the author of this article have an opinion on this matter. The AMJA declaration can be found on their website here. It also should be noted that Guidance Residential advertises with MuslimsMatters, however they were not consulted with about the actual content of this article.

Before listing the rulings per each company and their contracts, AMJA highlighted the following two very important points:

– The current verdicts apply only to the version of the contracts that were presented at the time of issuance of the verdict as well as the manner of execution of the contract. This makes sense as such contacts are often edited and updated.
– AMJA requested more clarification from some of the below mentioned companies with regards to their relationship with federal financing institutions such as Freddie Mac and others. However a detailed clarification was not received.

Guidance Residential:

They are based on a diminishing partnership with rent to own ending in ownership model in their relationship to the purchaser. Their contract is sound in general. However, it contains some Shari'ah violations with respect to maintenance, taxes and insurance, as these expenses are not distributed in a just manner according to percentage of ownership.

The ruling of the RFC Committee concerning Guidance Residential is that it is permissible to deal with them in the face of need. The representatives of this company are advised to review those defective portions of their contract.

Ameen Housing:

They are based on a diminishing partnership with rent to own ending in ownership model in their relationship to the purchaser. Their contracts are not sold to the federal institutions [such as Freddie Mac]. They also avoid explicit interest in their transactions. However, their contract does contain some Shariah objections glitches, such as unfairness in the percentage that they discount in the rent to take care of basic maintenance, expenses that be more or less than that discounted amount. Additionally, they have just introduced a late payment fee [which is another violation of Shariah principles].

The ruling of the RFC Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this company in case of need, although one should do one's best to make one's payments on time in order to avoid the late payment fee. The Committee also encourages the company to abstain from those aspects pointed out by the Committee.

Devon Bank:

This company has two types of Islamic contracts:

The first contract is Murabahah a cost-plus purchase. This contract is surrounded by doubts concerning whether the bank truly owns the property before it is readied for sale. In addition, this contract also contains some defective or problematic conditions or aspects of great unfairness, such as with respect to (a) the bank having exclusive benefits from insurance payouts while requiring the purchaser to pay for the insurance, (b) the bank's right to freeze the purchaser's account simply on the suspicion that he will not be able to make his payments, (c) the bank's right to declare the purchaser in default if he does not use the property as a residence or due to his death although heirs have the right to continue the contract after his death, in fact the cost-plus purchase contract states that the heirs are bound by the contract.

The ruling of the Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this [Murabahah contract of] this company in the presence of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor. The Committee advises the Bank to correct these aspects and to affirm the ownership of the property before selling it and to avoid the other invalid conditions as much as possible.

The second contract is a rent to own contract. This also contains a number of Shariah violations and invalid conditions, including having two different contracts (sale and lease) at one time, about one item during one time period. Various Fiqh councils have ruled that this model is not permissible as the legal effects of the two types of contracts are contradictory. This may be corrected by separating the two contracts by making them independent of each other time-wise, such that the sale contract is done after the lease contract, which must be a true lease and not something meant to simply hide the sale. Or, they [may replace the sale] with a promise of handing over ownership at the end of the lease.

From among the defective or void stipulations that this contract embodies are the fact that the bank can evict the lessee upon default but the bank still holds him responsible for the rent until they can find a new renter, the fact that the bank does not pay for the basic maintenance of the property and the fact that the lessee is required to pay insurance while the bank retains the right of any payments from the insurance, allowing the bank to benefit while the lessee bears the cost.

The ruling of the Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this [rent to own contract of this] company when one is in a state of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor. The Committee emphasizes its recommendation to the bank to rectify the current model by separating between the two contracts and avoiding the defective or void stipulations as much as possible.

University Islamic Financial (UIF)

The same comments concerning their cost-plus model and lease-to-own models as were stated concerning Devon Bank can be repeated here. Thus, their models have the same rulings and the Committee offers them the same advice. There is an exemption to deal with this company only if one is in a state of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor.

Ijara Loan:

This company starts by directing the purchaser to get a standard interest-based [mortgage] loan and then creates a trust with the purchaser a partner in the trust, in order to borrow from the bank and then get ownership of the property. After that, the trust will sell the house to the purchaser with a rent-to-own contract. The purchaser is alone in getting the interest-based loan at the beginning and then shares in it at the end.

The ruling of the Committee is that it is not allowed to deal with this company as their model contains clear and explicit interest. We advise those in charge of this company to review and correct their model and to fulfill the trust that has been put in them by those who wish to avoid interest in their financial dealings.


The contract of this company does not differ from a traditional mortgage that interest-based banks provide. This is the overriding contract between this company and the purchaser and what they present as an Islamic form to it actually has no existence in reality and has no legal authority in case of dispute.

The ruling of the Committee is that it is not allowed to deal with this company as their model contains clear and explicit interest. We advise those in charge of this company to review and correct their model and to fulfill the trust that has been put in them by those who wish to avoid interest in their financial dealings.

In Conclusion

As one of the fortunate individuals who witnessed this journey of how this resolution transpired,  I have come to appreciate the amount of work it takes to build these contracts. It was inspiring for me to see that even though our scholars disagree with each other, they show respect and honor to each other. Observing scholars debate over some of the most detailed aspects of these contracts assured me that our Muslim faith is in good hands. It assured me that Allah has blessed us with scholars who differ in opinion but are united in their quest for the truth. I ask Allah to have mercy on our scholars, to cover and forgive their sins, and to make them amongst the people of paradise.



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South Africa’s Open Mosque : Media, Feminist Critiques and “Unopen” Mosques.

Muslimah Media Watch - 15 October, 2014 - 07:00
The past month has been controversy ridden for the South African Muslim community, as news of the inauguration of the ‘Open Mosque’ in Cape Town has forced Muslims to tackle issues of gender equality, sexual orientation and religious freedom. Community radio stations, national broadcasters, newspapers and social media have been abuzz with news of the [Read More...]

The Invitation

Muslim Matters - 15 October, 2014 - 05:00

By Umm Zakiyyah

a short story



I hugged my knees and concentrated my attention on the parking lot beyond my third-floor apartment window. It was all I could do to steady my trembling and think of something besides the torn envelope and embossed card next to me on the crumpled sheet of my bed.

I was upset. I knew that much. But there was something deeper knifing at my heart.

Your attendance is requested at the wedding celebration of

I gritted my teeth until my jaws hurt.

Betrayal. The feeling sliced through me so suddenly that for a moment I stopped shaking.


Fourteen Years Before

Life as I knew it ended a week after my ninth birthday. It was late May, right when a month of school felt like a year, and the days dragged on until the desire for summer drove everyone, even the teachers, to a mixture of madness and dejection. Schoolwork was no longer displayed on classroom walls. Decorations were slowly and surreptitiously removed from bulletin boards, and the hall monitors turned a blind eye to students lingering in the corridors without a pass. And even failing students held a flicker of optimism because teachers no longer had the energy or concern to hold students back.

Later, I'd find myself wondering if my life would have turned out differently had my mother's energy or concern for my future mirrored the pity teachers had for hopeless students…

I came home aggravated as usual. I was tired of the rushed homework assignments that I had to cram into my schedule every night because yet another teacher wanted to finish the book before the year ended.

“Faith! Is that you?”

I threw my backpack on the tiled floor of the foyer and groaned as I shut the front door. Who else would it be? “Yeah, Mom!” I yelled back.

“Come here, sweetie.”

I groaned. I already knew something was wrong because my mother never called me “sweetie” unless there was bad news or she wanted me to do something I loathed, like clean the bathroom.

“Mo-om,” I whined before I even dragged myself into the den, where I was certain she was sitting in front of some stupid soap opera.

I was surprised to find her on the couch in front of a darkened television screen. She forced a smile when I entered, and I saw the thinly veiled sadness on her face. I kept my arms folded, and my face twisted only because it didn't make sense to change my stance or soften my pout. But I sensed my mom was trying to cheer me up to lighten the blow, and that's when a sick feeling came over me and I knew something was wrong. As awkward as it sounds, this was the first moment I actually saw my mother, I mean really saw her.

In retrospect, I should have known. I know I was only nine, but really, let's be frank here. My mom was a fiery redhead with blue eyes, and my dad, who shared my mom's eye color, was so blond that he was often mistaken for an albino. And they both shared that pale, colorless complexion that the sun blotched instead of tanned, not to mention their straight, limp hair that wouldn't curl even when it grew long. I, on the other hand, had dark brown eyes, kinky black hair that only braids and thick ponytail holders could keep in place. And my skin looked like latte with a generous portion of milk.

Yet stupidly, I'd thought nothing of how my playmate and neighbor, Paula, was often mistaken for my parents' daughter and I her best friend, instead of the other way around. It was something we'd laugh about. But in that moment before my mother spoke aloud what I should have known all along, I saw my parents for who they were: two middle-aged, White people who had everything they could want in life, except the hope of ever having a child of their own…


Five Years Before

“I'm so happy for you!” Paula squealed as she drew me into a brief hug as I stepped into the foyer of her parents' home. I wore a smug grin as I shrugged off my coat and stepped out of my muddy boots. I usually didn't bother taking off my shoes when I visited, but I didn't want to soil the plush carpet.

“But are you sure?” Paula said, drawing her eyebrows together as she regarded me.

I looped my arm through hers as we walked toward the stairs leading to her bedroom. “Mm hm,” I said, giddy as a kid who'd won a trip to Disney World. “Positive.”

“Oh my God,” she said as she hurried up the stairs, almost dragging me beside her. “You have to tell me everything! How are they?”

I laughed as she ushered me into her room and closed the door. “I don't know yet…” A tightness formed in my throat, and a twinge of sadness weakened me. What if my birth parents didn't want to meet me? Just because I was eighteen now and had a right to find them without my adopted parents knowing didn't mean my birth parents would want me to find them. But I had found them. Or at least the agency I'd paid with the money from my part-time job at the mall had found them. Now it was just a matter of waiting to see if they wanted to be found.

“But John is really supportive,” I offered, a smile plastered on my face as I sat down on the edge of her bed.

“That's good.” Paula's tone was distracted as she sat beside me, one leg folded between us. I hated the way she acted whenever I mentioned my boyfriend. He was the first boy I met that I really connected with, and although I'd only known him for a few months, I really felt like he was “the one.” I'd never felt like that with anyone else. Why couldn't she be happy for me? She knew how much anxiety I usually felt around guys. That's why I was still a virgin while most of my classmates debated whether or not “respectable girls” could have one-night stands.

Paula herself would often tease me about being so “compulsive” about intimacy with the opposite sex. She went through boyfriends like most girls went through lipstick. In a way, I envied her. I wanted to feel that freedom with myself and my body, but I just couldn't. Paula had all these radical ideas about feminism and women opposing patriarchal oppression, especially with regards to the female body, and to be honest, it sounded really convincing. But it just wasn't me. I wasn't sure if I was backwards or just old-fashioned. But if I gave myself to someone, it would have to be someone special, someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. And I was beginning to feel like John was that person…

“I'm sorry, Faith,” Paula said with a sigh. “I'm really happy for you and John. It's just…” Her voice trailed as her eyes stared at something beyond my head. “…I wish I could find someone too.”


Click below for the next page…

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ACT! For America Attempts Makeover But Can’t Shed Bigoted Ways

Loon Watch - 14 October, 2014 - 22:27


ACT! For America, otherwise known as Hate! For America.(h/t:Karen)


ACT!’s surface-level makeover

First of all, ACT!’s welcoming and “about us” pages takes a lighter tone than its previous site. ACT! says its goal for its chapters is to train “citizens to recognize and help prevent criminal activity and terrorism” in the U.S. “while preserving civil liberties protected by the United States Constitution.”

It adds ACT!’s members are interested “in keeping our homes, streets, towns, States and Nation safe and secure from harm.”

This a change of pace compared to ACT!’s previous welcoming page, one that steers away from tin-foil-hat territory. The previous version warned Muslim sleeper cells are seeking to influence various cultural institutions by way of “stealth jihad” in order to implement Shariah law.

But traces of this were not entirely excluded from the new site, but rather were rebranded under the page,  “Confronting Terrorism.” Here, ACT! provides materials purporting conspiracy theories that “jihadists” are seeking to establish an “Islamic government in North America.” The page also features a link to the “Thin Blue Line Project,” a biased online “anti-terrorism” training tool for law enforcement officials ACT! developed in collaboration with disgraced former FBI agent John Guandolo.

Another page on the new website is dedicated to showcase that ACT! is committed to “Preserving the Constitution.” A closer look at the page shows this is just a clever way of showcasing the anti-Muslim legislation ACT! seeks to pass, and in turn actually makes a mockery of the U.S. court system and legislative process. One of the featured bills is an “American Laws for American Courts” (ALAC) measure, a pointless law aimed at preventing state courts from recognizing Shariah law. The mastermind behind the bill, David Yerushalmi, even admitted that these bills are “heuristic” and serve to provoke ordinary people into regarding Muslims with suspicion.

The website’s new definition of ALAC laws also purposely omits any mention of Shariah, and instead carries a more neutral phrasing, “foreign law.” This more generic wording has been forced upon ACT! following a case in Oklahoma where a federal judge ruled specifically citing “Shariah” alone was unconstitutional.

ACT! incorporates ‘illegal immigration’ into platform

It came as no surprise that ACT! dedicated an entire page on its new website to immigration, calling it “Secure the Border.”  The nativist crossover between the organized anti-Muslim movement and the organized anti-immigrant movement has been well-documented here at Imagine 2050 and elsewhere. While ACT! has previously alluded to incorporating a ban on Muslim immigration into its framework, the new site revealed the group has made it an official plank in its agenda.

On the website, the group claims one of the “gravest threats” to the U.S. “stems from the illicit flow of illegal immigrants, terrorists, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” among other things.

Read the entire article…

Muslim families look after Kolkata synagogues

Loon Watch - 14 October, 2014 - 22:03


Kolkata, India - Generations of Muslim families have been taking care of the maintenance of three synagogues in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community.

The city’s Jewish population has dwindled over the decades to just about 20 as compared to 3,000 at its peak before the country became independent from British rule in 1947.

Khalil Khan, 71, has been working as caretaker of Beth El synagogue, one of the city’s three synagogues, for the past 55 years. His two sons – Anwar and Siraj – have chosen the same job.

“It takes a week to clean the entire structure, its furniture and artifacts. By Friday afternoon, the work has to be complete,” said Rabbul Khan, whose father and two uncles have also previously worked at the Maghen David synagogue.

“This is necessary for the namaaz [prayers] that they perform on Saturdays,” he told Al Jazeera.

However, there are no regular services conducted on Saturdays nowadays: only one person from the Jewish community visits each of the synagogues on Friday evenings – to light a candle.

Naseer Sheikh landed the job 56 years ago after his uncle left for his native village in neighbouring Odisha state, where all the caretakers come from. He is 80 years old and is still working, and is joined by his son Osim.

While Siraj, his father Khalil and Osim are entrusted with the work of cleaning and maintaining the synagogue, Naseer’s job is to collect the rent from about 100 shops in the vicinity, since the property still belongs to the Jewish community.

Kolkata’s Jewish heritage

Several large and landmark buildings, including the city’s synagogues, tell the story of Kolkata’s Jewish heritage. According to Jael Silliman, a Jewish resident of Kolkata who has put together a digital archive of the Jewish community in the city, the Maghen David synagogue is one of the largest in Asia.

Beth El, Neveh Shalome and Maghen David synagogues are each taken care of by four men whose forefathers have also had the job.

They have been provided quarters in the synagogue compound, and are expected to stay alert at all hours. Although the men have no illusions of themselves other than being the employees of the Jewish community, they feel that the reverence between them and the members of the Jewish community is mutual.

Read the rest…

Israeli Settlers Torch Palestinian Mosque in the Village of Aqraba

Loon Watch - 14 October, 2014 - 21:56


When it’s not the IDF destroying mosques in Gaza (203 were damaged, 73 completely destroyed in the recent “Protective Edge” operation), count on the Settlers to pick up where they left off and continue the destruction.

via. Haaretz

Vandals torched a mosque in the West Bank village of Aqraba early Tuesday morning, causing light damage to the structure.

Eyewitnesses said that Israeli settlers arrived at the Abu Bakr mosque compound after midnight, spray-painted graffiti using the words “price tag” and “Kahane” (referring to the late, ultra-right-wing Meir Kahane), then poured gasoline on the first floor of the mosque and set it on fire. That part of the mosque serves as the women’s prayer area.

In addition to the destruction from the fire, the mosque’s windows were shattered and its door was also damaged.

Ghassan Douglas, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of monitoring settlement activity in the northern West Bank, said some of the village residents had chased after the settlers, but they fled. Many residents arrived at the mosque to help extinguish the flames before they could spread to the rest of the structure.

As of Tuesday morning, Israeli police and army officials had yet to arrive at the mosque to gather evidence.

Douglas said Tuesday’s incident is part of a long line of settler attacks, driven by racism and hatred, against Palestinian property and houses of worship. He added that such attacks could spark violence and prevent a future peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Aqraba is situated in the Nablus district of the Palestinian Authority, not far from the Israeli settlement of Tapuah. There have been a number of confrontations between Palestinians and Tapuah settlers in the last two weeks.

Two settlers were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of attacking Palestinians.

Palestinian olive trees in the area have also been uprooted and graffiti scrawled nearby that referred to a West Bank settler who was indicted for torching a Palestinian-owned car.

Shia rebels seize control of port city and province in Yemen

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 October, 2014 - 13:56
Development suggests Houthis, who have overrun capital, may attempt to carve out mini-state within country

Shia rebels who recently overran Yemens capital seized control of a key port city on the Red Sea and a province south of Sanaa on Tuesday.

The development indicates that the rebels, known as the Houthis, may be determined to carve out a mini-state within Yemen, taking advantage of the weakness of the central government and the disarray in the army and security forces.

Continue reading...

The Role of a Step parent

Muslim Matters - 14 October, 2014 - 05:00

By Olivia Mounet


How do you define yourself?

A Muslim? A student? A brother or sister? Daughter or son? Mother or father? Typically how we define ourselves is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that we rarely take the time to think about who we are and what defines us. However, if you were to take a few moments to really think about what roles are important to you and where you fit in within these relationships, you'll realize just how important they are to you. If we dig a little deeper within ourselves we'll also realize that each of these relationships and definitions have key factors. For example, if you are an older sibling like myself, you might think of being an older sibling as being protective and caring of your younger brother or sister and your role in that relationship is clearly defined. The same goes for if you are a husband or a wife. Not every marriage is the same but we are aware of what we do within each of these relationships and what our responsibilities are.


The role of a mother

In the Hadith of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) we are taught that Jannah is at the feet of our mothers – “Your Heaven lies under the feet of your mother” (Ahmad, Nasai).. We are also taught that we should obey and respect our mothers and take care of them as they age Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: 'My Lord! bestow on them Thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood' “(17:23-24) .

If you are a mother, then you know how much you would give up just to see your child grow to be happy and healthy and to be a loyal servant of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). If you are not a mother, you can surely think of something you're your mother did to help you, regardless of how close you are to her or the type of relationship you have with her. This mother-child relationship is clearly defined both in our own minds and in the beauty of the Qur'an.


The role of a step parent

However, what about step parents? How can one define this role? After much thought and internal struggle the only way I can define my personal role as a step parent is: CHALLENGING. Now this isn't to say that being a biological parent is easy by any means, but the challenges are different. As a step parent the hardest thing to accept is that, no matter how much you love your spouse's child, they aren't your own and therefore the rules are different for you whether you like it or not.

First let me take the most “ideal” situation for step parents: you've married your spouse who has an infant child from a previous marriage and his or her ex-spouse is 100% out of the picture and your spouse views you as his or her child's mother. The child grows up viewing you as his or her rightful mother with all powers and responsibilities bestowed upon you as a mother and everyone lives happily ever after. This situation almost never happens.

Here's what really happens: you fall in love with your spouse for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and you convince yourself that it can't be that hard to take care of his or her child since at some point in life you want children of your own, (and you've taken care of your brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins etc.) so how hard can it be? Oh and that ex-spouse? Well he or she will move on and we'll all be friends and everything will be wonderful. Then, you and your spouse get married and you've spent lots of time with the child or children and in sha Allah they have accepted you into their family either because they are too young to understand what's happening or you've spent painstaking hours explaining to them that you could never replace their mother/father, even though very deep down within yourself, that's exactly what you want to do but you refuse to admit that to yourself.

Typically, at least within the western world, the child lives primarily with one parent while the other has visitation every other week or so. That means, that as a step parent, one week it's just you and your spouse living as a couple, and then the next week you're a mother or father….kind of. And then the next week you're not. And so on for the next 18 years of your life.


The different relationships that a step parent is face with

Now while mothers have that 1 relationship with their child, a stepmother or step father has 3 relationships to worry about; their relationship with the child, their relationship with their spouse regarding the child, and their relationship with their spouse's ex-husband or ex-wife.

  1. Relationship with the child

I'll start with the relationship with the child, which for me was the easiest. My husband's child was only 1 year old when we got married (he's almost 3 now alhamdulilah). This relationship was the easiest because I learned to love him quite quickly and he was too young to really understand why suddenly he has “2 mommies.” The key word here is I “LEARNED” to love him. As much as I wish I could say “and then I looked in his eyes and that unconditional love took over me,” I can't. I did not create this baby with my husband, I did not carry him for 9 months, I did not give birth to him, and I had not been around to see his first year of life. Furthermore, as much as I hated myself for thinking it, I really did not like having him around at first because he was a constant reminder that my husband had wanted to have him with someone else. These feelings continued for quite some time until the child began calling for me. Suddenly I was the only one who could put him to bed, make his food, or give him a bath. He didn't want his daddy to do it, he wanted me….his step-mother to do it. That's when I fell in love. When he needed me like a mother, I felt like a mother and suddenly thinks weren't as difficult. I knew my role with him and I could define it to myself and I stopped introducing him to people as “my husbands son” and started introducing him as “my step-son.”

  1. Relationship with your spouse

The second relationship you have as a step parent is the one you have with your spouse regarding the child. This is very different that the relationship you have with your spouse as a husband or a wife. The hardest aspect of this relationship is trying to figure out how your spouse wants you to act toward their child. Alhamdulilah my husband was more than willing to step aside and let me handle bed time, meal time, and bath time and let me take the child out by myself or stay alone in the house with him. In time he even let me discipline his son when he was having a tantrum, as most 2 year olds do. However, this is not the case for many step-mommies or step-daddies. A type of power struggle typically evolves as a result of this complicated relationship. Some parents don't want their spouse to discipline their child or take over certain roles because they feel they are being pushed out. A normal human response to losing control is to fight back and try to take control of everything. It is not unusual for spouses to fight over their roles in the child's life and for the biological mother or father to tell the step parent that it's “not their job to do that” when it comes to a responsibility they feel is rightfully theirs as the biological parent. In this situation typically the step parent will withdraw completely and want nothing to do with the child because they don't want to upset their spouse. In addition, its mentally exhausting and emotionally draining to check yourself at every step and have to wonder “is this my responsibility or my husband's/wife's?” There is no outlined way in any psychology book or therapy manual to tell you how to resolve this issue. It normally takes an inordinate amount of patience from both sides and strong communication skills in order to overcome this challenge.

  1. Relationship with spouse's ex

The third and final relationship you have as a step parent is your relationship with your spouse's ex-husband or ex-wife. This can either be the most frustrating, enraging, and downright painful relationship you'll ever have, or it'll be the easiest. If, on the rare occasion, the divorce was amicable and both parties accepted that the relationship between them did not work and have both moved on and accepted that each will most likely remarry and their child will have two mothers and two fathers, then this relationship for the step parents is relatively simple. However, more likely than not, the divorce was not pleasant for either party and some hostile feelings remain. Since both parties are normally told by family and friends to ignore each other and just move on with their lives, those hostile feelings need to come down on someone. So why not the person that your ex-spouse marries and is trying to “move in on your child?” It's easy to understand the logic behind it: they're resentful of the fact that they will always be tied to the one person they don't want to remember, they're angry that their ex has moved on which makes them feel replaced, they don't have the typical nuclear family and often get uncomfortable or even rude comments from others in the community, and their child is calling someone else mama or dada. I can't say that I would feel or act any differently if the roles were reversed.

However, that justification gives little solace to step parents. Typically in our lives if there is someone we don't particularly care for, we can keep him or her at a distance and limit communication with them. This doesn't work in this scenario. The person that is taking their frustrations out on you is the mother or father of your stepchild for whom you care very deeply. In turn, you have to accept that the child loves this individual and you cannot let your own personal feelings for their mom or dad show in front of them. Furthermore, this ex-spouse is a constant, never-ending reminder that the man or woman you married and love did not choose you first. You are second. You might be the “right one” but you will never be the “first one.” You'll never be his or her first spouse or first mother or father of their child. Never. And their ex-spouse will always be there, either through that 6am angry text message or at pick-ups and drop-offs or when your spouse has to make that direct deposit into their ex's bank account for child support. They will never go away and you just have to accept it.


Other challenges

Besides these 3 relationships you'll have as a step parent, there's a whole host of other challenges. What do your parents say about you marrying someone who already has children? What does the community think? How do you comfort your spouse when they have to drop-off their child every other week to their ex-wife or ex-husband and they don't realize that it hurts you just as much? What do you say when someone asks you if you have children? What do you do when you disagree with something that the child's parents have decided to do? How do you reconcile having absolutely no legal authority over a child that you consider to be your own? How do you define being a step parent?

The hardest part for me about being a step parent is that no matter how much I love my step-son, no matter how supportive my husband is, and no matter how well I control my feelings towards his ex-wife, I will always have to put “step” before “parent” and that will never get any easier. I make du'a for all the step parents out there that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes it easier for you and that you achieve Jannah for everything you go through and everything you sacrifice as a step parent. May Allah swt bless all the step-moms and step-dads out there who work twice as hard for half the credit. Take solace in pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and turn to Him when it get's too hard.

If Allah helps you, none can overcome you; and if He forsakes you, who is there after Him that can help you? And in Allah (Alone) let believers put their trust. (Qur'an, Surah Aal-e-Imran 3:160)


Olivia Mounet spent her early childhood in Scotland and then London before moving to the United States. Upon graduating high school she moved to Germany where she completed her Bachelors degree in Integrated Social and Cognitive Psychology.  She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology for Children and Adolescence as well as her Certification in School Psychology. Upon graduating she is planning to work as a School Psychologist to assist students with learning disabilities. She currently works with The Building Blocks of NJ, a non-profit agency, to provide one-on-one counseling with sisters in the area. 



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Man Stormed Mosque, Threw Cement Bags and Threatened to Hit A Woman With A Chair

Loon Watch - 13 October, 2014 - 23:54


Australian Associated Press

A man has been charged after allegedly shouting offensive comments and throwing cement bags at a mosque in Sydney’s southwest.

Police say a 39-year-old man entered the mosque in Auburn at 1.30pm on Saturday and started to cause a disturbance.

A statement from NSW Police said: ‘the man began shouting offensive comments and throwing around cement bags that were inside the building.’

He then picked up a chair and threatened to hit a woman with it after she had approached him.

The man was arrested in a nearby laneway and taken to Auburn Police Station, where he was charged with common assault, intimidation and behave in an offensive manner in a public place.

He was granted strict conditional bail to appear before Burwood Local Court on October 28.

Read the entire article

So You Want To Go To Medical School? Demystifying the Journey

Muslim Matters - 13 October, 2014 - 17:28

By: Uzair Sarmast and Eman Rashed


This article is the first in a series intended to provide guidance to those who are interested in fulfilling every uncle and auntie's dream; namely, becoming a doctor. (that was a joke)

Before we begin we feel it is important to remind you to honestly decide if medicine is the right career for you (not your parents).  If you're already decided, then that's great. However, if you're on the fence, remember to carefully weigh the challenges of the career, namely the longevity of training, countless hours of work/studying, and the personal sacrifices that inevitably accompany such an undertaking, with the pros: the self-satisfaction of helping and treating people, working in a riveting and exciting career, etc. These aspects will all be addressed in detail in future articles.  For now, view this article as a road map clarifying all the major stops of the journey. Of course, there are multiple ways to get to each destination, each of which possess their own validity and will also be addressed subsequently in the series.

Additionally, it is our hope that this series will inspire people in other fields to write similar guides for their respective professions.  By serving as mentors for our communities, insha'Allah we can help people pursue fields that they will enjoy, and ultimately excel in, for it is rather difficult to excel in something you do not enjoy.

Road Map

4 years undergraduate/premed

4 years medical school

3-7 years residency

1-3 years fellowship (may or may not be required)

11-16 years of education/training


(4 years)

You often hear people saying, “I'm doing pre-med,” or, “My son/daughter is pre-med.”  What exactly is “pre-med?”  Pre-med in the simplest sense refers to a group of courses (i.e. Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, and their respective labs) that are pre-requisites for preparing for the MCAT, and for entering medical school.  “Pre-med” isn't a degree, nor does it mean you have been accepted to medical school.

While many students planning/hoping to attend medical school will often major in a science related field (i.e. Biology), by no means is it a requirement.  You can major in any field you desire (i.e. business, humanities, etc), and still get in and excel in medical school.  It is essential that you maintain a competitive GPA, which would be greater than a 3.6 (based on the schools you are applying to it may be higher). Keep that in mind as you choose your major and select courses. Your ability to excel in undergraduate classes will be used as a barometer of your future performance in medical school.


MCAT stands for Medical College Admissions Test. Depending on your timeline of application, the MCAT can be taken whenever you complete your required prerequisite pre-med classes. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the MCAT is, “a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee's problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.” [i]

The MCAT, in addition to other factors which we'll discuss elsewhere, is an integral part of your medical school application.  Generally speaking, like any admissions test, a higher MCAT score will garner your application higher consideration.  In fact, there are certain scores below which some schools may not even review your application.

You can learn more about the MCAT (and its changes for 2015) here:

Medical School

(4 years)

Medical school is a 4-year program which consists of 2 years of coursework (“basic sciences”), and subsequently 2 years of clinical rotations (“rotations,” “clinicals,” or “clerkships”).  The basic sciences curriculum is a rigorous study of Anatomy, Histology, Biochemistry, Immunology, Physiology, Microbiology, Behavioral Sciences, Pathology, Pharmacology, and Genetics.  After the completion of these courses, you will then take the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE Step 1).

The next two years of medical school will be comprised of clinical rotations which include Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Surgery, as well as elective rotations in specialties which you are interested in learning more about or are considering pursuing beyond medical school.  After completing the aforementioned core rotations, you will take the USMLE Step 2, usually in your fourth year of medical school. Clinical rotations are designed to introduce you to the practical application of the basic sciences knowledge which you learned during the first two years.  Completing rotations, however, does not make one proficient in the practice of medicine; that is part of the next stage.  By your fourth year will have selected a specialty and will spend the majority of fourth year taking electives in your chosen field. You will complete a 1 month Acting Internship where you will act as an Intern in the field you have chosen and will be afforded more responsibility and entrusted with more patient care matters. During the first half of your fourth year, you will focus on collecting letters of recommendation, writing a personal statement, and applying/interviewing for your residency of choice.


(length varies by specialty; generally 3-7 years)

While medical school provides a general overview of medical theory and a limited experience in its clinical application, residency provides in-depth training in a specific specialty (i.e. Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Surgery, etc) with extensive experience in the practice of medicine in a hospital and/or outpatient clinic setting.  You can think of residency like “on-the-job training.”

Residency is by no means guaranteed; rather it requires a dedicated application/interviewing process (“the match”), a large part of which is dependent upon your medical school performance and USMLE performance. Your letters of recommendation and any research experience you may have will also play a role in the selection process. Programs that are interested in you as a potential resident at their program will select you for an interview. Many desirable specialties are among the most competitive to get into, therefore, simply your desire to pursue a certain specialty will not be sufficient if you're academic performance does not meet the field's standards.

View a complete list of specialties & sub-specialties here:


(length varies by program; generally 1-3 years)

Fellowship is additional, optional training (on-the-job) to further specialize within a specialty (i.e. sub-specialize).  You will focus on becoming particularly knowledgeable/experienced in a specific aspect of your specialty.  For example, a Cardiology fellow trains in matters of the heart.  Or a Neuroradiology fellow trains in advanced imaging/procedures related to the nervous system.

Similar to medical school and residency, fellowship also requires an application process and is reserved for qualified candidates.


That brings us to the conclusion of this overview article outlining the stages of becoming a physician.  In subsequent articles, we will discuss each stage in detail, such as specifics with regards to MCAT & USMLE preparation/scores, extracurricular activities, research, away rotations, interviewing, and more.

In the meantime, we invite you to speak with someone who's already gotten into or completed medical school, residency, or fellowship through IMANA Connect, a free community mentorship initiative under the Islamic Medical Association of North America.  If you're anywhere along this journey and would like to help guide others, I encourage you to register as a mentor.



Uzair works with the IMANA Student/Resident Committee and is someone who believes in sharing resources to empower one another. In his words, “Given the plethora of healthcare professionals in our community, not a single person should have to stumble around in the dark on their journey to a career in medicine. No matter what your situation is, there's someone who's already been there, done that, and can guide you.” This belief is what inspired the development of IMANA Connect.


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Are British Muslims facing the same fate as the Irish in Britain once did?

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 October, 2014 - 14:35

Remember the Birmingham Six, the Maguire Seven, the Guildford Four and Judith Ward? Behind the campaigning numbers were 18 innocent people who collectively spent scores of years in British jails after being falsely convicted of terrorism offences.

Their sin was to be Irish (or, in Ward's case, to have spent time in Ireland) during that 1970s period when the Provisional IRA was bombing targets in the UK.

"Some past high-profile terror arrests have been based on intelligence that turned out to be inaccurate, and have led to accusations that police and MI5 have ramped up the nature of possible plots".

"Muslims have to prove their British credentials with a display of loyalty that their Britishness is not taken for granted until they do so. You are a shady Muslim first, and a citizen second...

It is a way to sneak into plain sight an increasingly popular view that Muslims are an enemy within, and, as Islamic State allegedly reaches British shores, the idea that British Muslims are their allies."

Continue reading...

A Muslim Thanksgiving?

Muslimah Media Watch - 13 October, 2014 - 07:00
In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated the second Monday of October. Coming from Mexico, Thanksgiving has never meant very much to me. In fact, it tends to be a reminder of how complex and honestly messed up settler-Indigenous-immigrant relationships are in Canada. Whereas some Canadians have tried to differentiate themselves from Americans by tracking the history [Read More...]

From Clegg to Clacton

Indigo Jo Blogs - 12 October, 2014 - 23:21

Douglas CarswellThe other night I was driving home (I had a long drive from Diss, Norfolk to west London, which takes three hours by any reasonable route in an 18-tonne lorry) and listening to reports on Nick Clegg’s speech at the (now forgotten, I think) Lib Dem party conference. In that speech, he told everyone off for looking for someone to blame for the current crisis, be it big business, immigrants or Europe. He also reminded everyone how he’d toned down the Tories’ worst instincts during his four years cosying up to them, and promised that he’d never repeat the mistake of caving in on increasing student tuition fees. Then on Friday morning, we woke to find that UKIP had gained the seat of Clacton in Essex in a by-election in which the sitting (former Tory) MP, Douglas Carswell (right), had defected and put himself up for re-election. In a 51% turnout, Carswell won 60% of the vote, more than double the nearest rival (a Conservative). In another by-election in Heywood and Middleton in Greater Manchester, Labour held the seat and increased its share of the vote by 1%, but UKIP came second with only about 600 fewer votes.

To deal with the Lib Dem conference first, Clegg and other Lib Dems are deluding themselves if they think his voters’ sense of betrayal is purely down to the tuition fees issue. He caved in on so many other issues, including the Tories’ welfare reform programme and the cuts to legal aid, which leave some very vulnerable people without legal representation (e.g. mothers trying to secure custody of their children, when their husbands often have better ability to afford a lawyer). Last Monday (before the speech), Sue Marsh posted an entry in which she described Clegg and Danny Alexander at the time of the formation of the coalition as “eager as 6th formers convinced they are ready to play men’s games”, and this sums up my impression of why they gave so much away: they were just too eager for the privileges and prestige of “office”. Nor can it be said that they have tempered the Conservatives’ wilder instincts as these elements are snapping at the leadership’s heels as we speak. They have an established group within the party that wants to take Britain out of the EU and the European Convention on Human Rights; some of them are defecting to UKIP and their press are egging both groups on. They did not accept a coalition and blame the Lib Dems for everything that they were unable to do if they had been a “Tory government”, apparently ignorant of the fact that they did not, in fact, win the election. The Lib Dems have not gained as a party from coalition with the Tories; only their ministers have gained, and only personally. Their values are treated as if they are on the fringes of current thinking, with the two major parties (and there are only two now, and if there is a third, it is not the Lib Dems) competing to be ‘tough’ on right-wing media issues such as immigration and Europe.

That the Lib Dem vote has collapsed is evident from both of last week’s by-elections: in Clacton, they received only 483 votes, a loss of 12%, and lost their deposit, coming fifth after the Greens; in Heywood and Middleton, they lost 18% of the vote and received only 1,457, coming fourth. While the Clacton result can be explained partly by there being a popular local MP who would have won whichever party he represented, in Heywood the Labour party gained only 1% of the vote while UKIP gained 36%. I’ve seen blog posts and a diagram (since deleted, it seems) suggesting that this was not hugely significant because Labour held its vote while the Tories’ and Lib Dems’ votes were transferred to UKIP. The problem is that the Lib Dems appealed to an entirely different demographic to UKIP, which expects to take votes from people who are swayed by the right-wing press rather than progressive, well-educated voters who actually think about what they are voting for. The Lib Dems also benefited from a large number of left-wing votes during the New Labour era, and from left-wing voters in mostly affluent areas where they were the main opposition to the Tories. It is inconceivable that these voters will vote UKIP in large numbers. The only possible explanation is that Labour (and the Tories) lost voters to UKIP while gaining them from the Lib Dems (although the Greens, who also increased their share of the vote in Heywood, may have gained from both). A possible reason why UKIP gained such a large share of the vote was the low turnout, which demonstrates the danger of not turning out to vote because you believe you live in a ‘safe’ seat and because it’s “only a by-election”.

The success of UKIP also shows that being wealthy and having a background in the financial sector is no bar to winning votes among impoverished and poorly-educated voters. In theory, it shouldn’t be, on its own, but Farage, like a lot of American right-wing politicians, affects a ‘common touch’ that disguises policies that benefit only his own class, while exploiting people’s fears and resentments, however ill-founded they may be. Thomas Frank exposed this tendency in American politics in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? (America, in the UK version): that white voters across the USA, except in the big cities, the university towns and coastal metropolitan areas, had taken to voting for Republican candidates whose economic policies were against their interests, largely for reasons of morality (e.g., opposition to abortion) or because it was not acceptable to draw attention to their wealth and background; that was the “politics of envy” and wealthy men are winners. The same rhetoric can be seen creeping into British politics, along with the same dishonesty, the same fake common touch, the blunt talking, the hostility to experts and intellectuals. The deception is perpetrated on the BBC and in papers which are meant to be a bit more balanced: the Observer, for example, portrayed him taking a beer (a common theme in the American version of this deceit as well - they can’t be shown sipping a latte) in his “village pub in Kent” when it was actually in an exclusive and expensive London suburb.

I’ve found the media’s coverage of these by-elections disappointing, but perhaps I shouldn’t as they have been talking up UKIP for years. On Friday morning I followed a link which appeared to be to a story about the Heywood result, but it turned out to be mostly about Clacton and contain mostly chatter by various politicians, as if that was the news. There were no statistics — no tables of the candidates and their votes and percentages, nor of the changes since 2010 (after I complained to the BBC myself, graphs showing these details appeared). This result is disturbing: it’s a victory for apathy, unthinkingness, fear and resentment, stoked by the commercial right-wing press and recklessly fed by the BBC, and is in no way comparable to the “protest votes” cast while the Liberal Democrats seemed the only principled party during the New Labour era (let alone to tactical votes for the Lib Dems cast in constituencies where Labour could not win). It used to be said that people vote with their pockets, hence the recurrent victories for the Tories in the 1980s and 90s, but now it seems people will vote against their interests on the vague notion that a party “says what they are thinking” or “are on their side”, even though a cursory investigation will prove that they are in fact firmly part of the establishment and playing a trick. The BNP were brought to earth when their incompetence, lies and criminality were exposed; will anyone expose the deceptions of UKIP? Or do people just not care?

Image source: Wikipedia.

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MuslimKidsMatter | In Sacrifice is Abundance

Muslim Matters - 12 October, 2014 - 12:46

by Sheikh Rehmatullah

Sacrifice is a motif for many people in this world. It is recurrent, an almost indispensable part of their lives in which progress is preceded and many times succeeded by sacrificing things that one holds closely to the heart. A father quelling dreams in favor of his child is common, as is the selfless sacrifice of a mother who goes through the 9 month ordeal to deliver a new life.

While pursuing education in one's land is difficult, more difficult is the choice of leaving the comforts of a house. The knowledge of benefits is not hidden, but the fruits are still not ripe for a mind to comprehend. The benefits of a sacrifice are the fruits, but only the best of men have the courage to sow the seeds.

Verily, one of the best of those men was Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). He did not agree to sacrifice seeking the material benefit of a fruit, rather he was the obedient creation who did what was asked of him by his creator. His agreeing to give up Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) at the command of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is one of the greatest testaments to the literal test of faith – submission to the Almighty.

It was not a test that merely entailed trivial jubilation from the father, but the eventual slaughter of a sheep in place of Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) is where the blessing for the whole Ummah lies – the celebration of Eid al-Adha, which recently came upon us.

In sacrifice there has been abundance, not just for the valiant father and son in Islam, but for every Muslim who testifies the Shahadah and takes cognizance of its meaning in full. Very few of us on even fewer occasions understand the context and story behind the feast that fills our dining tables on the blessed day of Eid.

It is not something to be ashamed of anymore if we stop for a moment and try to understand the stories of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and the ones who came before and after him. It's certainly not embarrassing if we devour delicious Eid meals until our hands have extended out to the poor with the meat of sacrificed animal.


The first 10 days of the month of Dhul Hijjah have been blessed. The events that fill these days are witnessed by the entire world, the most significant of them being the pilgrimage of Hajj. The pilgrimage is not a sacrifice any less. Many Muslims wait for their turn in for years and often save every penny from scratch to finance this journey to Mecca. The sacrifice of hair is just one of them in the wider scheme of sacrifices – leaving the comforts of their abodes, the luxuries of personal life to interact with the communal congregation and sacrificing the certainties of travel for a greater journey of the spirit and heart.

Yet, this too is not a sacrifice in vain. It is a sacrifice that adds another pillar to one's faith, that propels the believer to the soil of Madinah and the hills of Arafat so that his prayers are responded to, that transports him to the largest congregation in this world where the rich and poor brush against each other to defeat the devil of racial differences. In this sacrifice, as we see again, is abundance.

While the Hujaaj sweat it out in Mecca for the eternal musk of blessings, we too did our part even from the comforts of our homes. Increasing our remembrance of Allah [SWT] through dhikr, recitation of the Qur'an and fasting on the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah were a few of the sacrifices we attempted to make. Another method was offering the Tahajjud prayer in the depths of the night.

While we made the lesser sacrifice of sleep to prostrate to our creator, we hoped to seek a fraction of the blessing that Prophet Ibrahim (AS) received that night. That night, when he woke up from sleep to sacrifice something far more beloved than sleep, that night when Allah willed something else to be sacrificed so that in it we find our abundance.

Beyond the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, we should continue to turn to Allah through sacrifice in abundance.

 (Attention, writers!  Muslim Kids Matter is a regular feature at Muslim Matters.  New articles for kids are posted every other Sunday.  You're welcome to send in your entries to

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