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But it’s not Unix!

Indigo Jo Blogs - 21 March, 2017 - 22:04

Picture of Matt WeinbergerA friend recently posted on Facebook this video in which tech columnist Matt Weinberger explains, in a minute and a half or so, why he switched to a Surface Book laptop running Windows 10 and never looked back. The main reasons are more new games (many games don’t even make it onto the Mac or iOS) and such features as being able to highlight things with a stylus, which Apple only offers on the iPad Pro which does not run desktop applications. Towards the end, he concedes that, yes, it is Windows and he has experienced his fair share of glitches and bugs that require a restart. I’ve been a Mac user on and off since 2004 and mostly on since 2011 and the thing that stops me going back to Windows is really quite simple: it’s not Unix.

I’m less of a geek than I used to be. I mostly use my computers (I have two Macs and an iPad Pro) for blogging, web surfing, watching TV online and email, including filing timesheets for my work. I still maintain an application (and use it for most of the entries on this blog) but I have less time for that than I did ten years ago, let alone in 2003 when I started work on it as an abortive college project. Still, a Unix base is vital for cross-platform software development: the industry standard command line shells, the compilers, editors and so on are all written to run on Unix and the conventions all come from the Unix world. Microsoft is putting off a lot of developers with its proprietary OS and developer tools. Linux is still the best platform by far when it comes to managing the software on your computer: it all comes from a central archive, updated regularly, and if you want to publish your own, you can set up your own archive and users can set the software management tools to download from it. Both Mac and Windows have such archives available, but they’re much less well-developed. Linux is the ideal platform for development; you can download what tools you need from the archives, while on the Mac you have to download an entire DVD-sized package that covers iOS development as well, just to build software for your Mac. But both are better than Windows in that regard.

I have strong memories of Windows XP, which although its appearance was nice, was a nightmare for security, while anti-virus software was a dreadful resource hog at a time when the average computer had a single 32-bit processor running at less than 1Ghz, a stark contrast to today’s four-core 2.5Ghz processors. I’ve used Windows 7 and never installed anti-virus software and never had any problems, although I wouldn’t recommend that to everyone. In 2012 I bought an Acer laptop which came with Windows 7 and made the mistake of upgrading it to Windows 8, then attempting an upgrade to Windows 8.1. It made my laptop, which by then was only a year old (a fairly cheap Acer, though hardly bargain basement), unusable and I ended up reformatting my hard drive and installing Linux on the whole thing. The next year I bought a MacBook Pro (the one that I sold to my aunt last Christmas) and the Acer went back in the case and has hardly come out since. Some might argue that Windows 10 is the new Windows 7 and that I shouldn’t be prejudiced by the upgrade disaster, but all that tells me is that Microsoft has produced a decent Windows before and then ruined it, and will probably do the same again.

I have no problems with Windows’s user interface itself. It’s elegant enough that all the major Linux desktops for a while copied it to a greater or lesser extent; KDE in the mid-2000s had only one or two elements that weren’t copied from Windows and you could easily style it to look like Windows. My problem is the underpinnings. If Microsoft ever wants to tempt me back to Windows, it will have to produce a Unix-based version of it which runs Windows and Unix software. A bolt-on “Linux subsystem” featuring a command line and a few utilities is not good enough. Unix has 50 years of history, has run on mainframes, minicomputers, micros, laptops and mobile phones (both Android and iOS are Unix-type operating systems); its source, with the exception of some System V remnants, is open to scrutiny, unlike that of Windows which remains a secret. I can’t remember the last time any of my Macs crashed or required rebooting when running Mac OS, although some apps have crashed (Safari currently has serious reliability problems, but is easily replaceable).

I realise these details don’t bother a lot of users, and they might not even be aware of them. But for me, games and a stylus are not essential features; reliability, interoperability and industry-standard command-line and development tools are. The Mac has enough applications (including Microsoft Office) to be more than adequate for my needs; I’ve recently spent a lot of money on Mac and iOS gear and can’t justify just switching and probably won’t get a review copy for the purpose; Surface Pros and Surface Books cost between £750 and £2,650 in the UK, so are easily as expensive as a high-end iPad or MacBook, and as long as videos promoting Windows continue to say “oh yeah, it crashes and I have to reboot it from time to time”, I’ll stick with my Mac. (And as for the comment that “who knows what the Mac will look like in another year”: it still looks like itself after 15 years; every new major Windows release since Vista, except 7, has been unrecognisable from the last.)

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AIPAC Gave Islamophobe Frank Gaffney $60,000 Donation

Loon Watch - 21 March, 2017 - 16:39

AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee), has a long record of supporting Islamophobes and anti-Arab racists and bigots. It has now been revealed that they donated $60,000 to Frank Gaffney‘s Center For Security Policy (CSP). Gaffney, has made a career out of demonizing Islam and Muslims, and hyping so-called conspiracies, such as a “Muslim Brotherhood” plot to take over the US, and pushing deeply flawed poll “research” trying to paint Muslim Americans as violent fifth-columnist.

via. Haaretz

An organization operating under AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington, contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a right-wing think tank that has been accused of promoting a racist agenda against Muslims. The funds were donated to the Center for Security Policy in 2015, as part of the fight against the nuclear deal with Iran. The contribution was revealed Wednesday by the website Lobelog.

As part of its public fight against the nuclear deal, AIPAC set up in 2015 Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, an organization that invested close to $20 million in ads, publications and other initiatives meant to influence U.S. public opinion against the deal. Tax filings show that $60,000 of the group’s budget went to the controversial Center for Security Policy.
An AIPAC official told Haaretz that the money was used for ads against the nulcear deal, stressing that it was a relatively small amount out of the organization’s overall $20 million budget.

The CSP, headed by Frank Gaffney, has been accused by its critics of promoting anti-Muslim policies and conspiracy theories. Gaffney’s work was cited by U.S. President Donald Trump during the Republican primaries in December 2015, when Trump first began calling for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States. Gaffney later served as an adviser to Trump’s transition team, and was involved in the push by some of the president’s staff to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

Also Read: AIPAC fought for Islamophobia in the Republican Party

Rep. Steve King Fears A Brown Planet

Loon Watch - 21 March, 2017 - 16:16

Loonwatchers will be familiar with Christianist fanatic Rep. Steve King’s track record of racism against Blacks and Latinos, as well as his Islamophobia. The Iowa Congressman, who previously cast the sole vote against building a national memorial on slavery claimed: Obama’s “middle name matters” because Muslims and AlQaeda (yes, he conflates the two) will “be dancing in the streets” once he became president, supported the brutal Sisi regime coup against a democratically-elected government, called for undermining freedom of religion by instituting aggressive surveillance of mosques, invited Dutch fascist Geert Wilders, convicted of racist hate speech to address Congress, denied the existence of anti-Muslim discrimination, and last year claimed that “Western Civilization” (read: White people) basically contributed everything to humanity’s progress.

King continued his Islamophobic crusade and fangirl crush on Wilders last week. Quoting a Wilders tweet he commented that “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

A majority of Dutch seem to disagree, as Wilders did far worse than expected in recent elections, losing to Center-Right politician, Mark Rutte. Who is the “our” that King is referring to? Who built “our civilization?”

King, is simply propagating the false and ignorant talking points of White supremacy. What underlines all of these racist outbursts is a deep insecurity and fragility. The US is fast approaching a majority minority nation, power will shift from the dominant group who have profited from White privilege for years to minority communities at a greater rate. Rightwing content mill-generators such as the Daily Caller (where Paul Ryan is described as a “progressive”), and Breitbart are publishing defenses of King. Ilana Mercer, laments how,

“At their inception, the core, founding populations in these countries possessed the innate abilities and philosophical sensibilities to flourish mightily. Now they’re being taught—on pain of punishment—that populations are interchangeable.”

Did she miss the memo that these so-called “core, founding populations” not only taught but actually pursued a violent “interchange” of populations themselves?

Writing in Breitbart, former Congressman/wingnut Tom Tancredo, (who made his name as an anti-Mexico/anti-immigrant xenophobe), makes the wild claim that a cabal of “globalist assassins” (globalist is code for “Jews”) is targeting King and slandering him because he defends true “American values” and “culture.”

Zaid Karim, Private Investigator, Part 7 – How Did My Husband Die?

Muslim Matters - 21 March, 2017 - 04:37

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

Previous chapters of this story: Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6

Friday, February 5, 2010 – 9 am
Fresno, California

*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*

I patrol the city. Eons ago, I am told, there were billions of human beings on Earth, until they destroyed each other in the Eruption. Now, a huge supercomputer the size of a city runs the planet. Its name is Ai. My orders are issued by Ai each morning at 6 L.T., transmitted in image form to my retinal implant.

People are so difficult. They do not want to follow the rules regarding disposal of off-world materials. Too expensive, they say. They carry swords openly in the city limits. Hardly a day passes that I do not have to arrest someone. I find myself frustrated much of the time, and tired. Still, I try hard not to employ force. I do not want to become like some of the other Ai-garda, abusing people wherever they go.

Safaa rarely interacts with the humans. Mostly she watches from a distance. But one day she sees two men arguing. One is massively muscular, twice as wide as an earth-bred man. He is one of the chimeras genetically bred for high-g worlds. The other is me.

I am filled with rage because the chimera has tethered his android horse in the center of the city square, tying it to the statue commemorating Ai’s inception. It is inappropriate. I realize that my anger is disproportionate, but my frustration has reached an incineration point and I cannot seem to control myself.

Safaa sees this from her high perch and feels a surge of compassion for me, or so she tells me later. She alights and embraces me, and I feel the anger drain away like helium from a high-atmo township. When I calm down, I thank her, as I might have hurt the chimera.

I have heard of Safaa, of course, though her true nature is shrouded in myth. She is an angel, or so most people believe. She has wings and can fly. She is ancient, and may in fact be a construct. She may also be one of the original programmers, or one of the creators of the computer. It is said that she communicates with the computer on a purely machine level.

She tells me that she must create a child in order to continue her work, and wishes to marry me so that I may become the father.

I begin to weep. This is more than I could have hoped for, but I am afraid. “What if I have the disease?” I say. The Eruption left a legacy of genetic chaos. Most men are sterile.

“We all have a disease of one kind or another,” she says. “But I know you are pure.”

“How?”

“Because your actions reflect your inner state. I see that you strive for understanding.”

“But -”

She cuts me off with a gesture. “You must have faith in Allah.”

“In Ai, you mean?”

“No,” she says. “In Allah the Most High, Creator of all.”

As I am trying to decipher her meaning, the sun begins to grow brighter, until I must shade my eyes. What is happening? Still brighter it grows, until the light penetrates the flesh of my hand, shining pink into my closed eyes.

*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*

Sun through window blinds

“I awoke to a ray of sun slanting through the window blinds.”

I awoke to a ray of sun slanting through the window blinds, shining full on my face. I sat up on the cot in my office, groggy and disoriented, the world of the dream  dominating my mind. I was sore. My ribs were tender and throbbing, and I could feel my heartbeat in the bruise on the side of my head. Had I fought with the chimera after all?

I chided myself for being ridiculous. I wasn’t so far gone that I didn’t know the difference between dream and reality, at least not yet. Maybe I’d managed to read some of that sci-fi novel last night after all, and it had seeped into my dreams.

Gradually the real world reasserted itself. The physical pain I felt was a result of the fight I’d had with the two Asian gangsters, not some fictional conflict in a crazy dream world.

I had followed my usual routine of praying Fajr and going back to sleep. I was buoyed now by the knowledge that I could afford – finally – to eat and to pay my bills. Alhamdulillah. If you trust in Allah, he will feed you as he feeds the birds. Indeed, and again alhamdulillah.

I wasn’t worried about the events of last night coming back on me, nor did I feel any shame over cutting and stabbing those thugs. They attacked me without provocation. All things considered, I let them off easy.

I made wudu’ and prayed Salat ad-Duha. I rarely performed this prayer, but if there was ever a Duha moment, this was it. Hadn’t I walked through terrible darkness in my life? Hadn’t Allah found me lost and guided me? Hadn’t he found me poor and made me self-sufficient, at least for the moment? And now here I was, in the morning brightness – the Duha. To enter the fullness of the light, all I had to do was reunite with my wife and child, Insha’Allah.

It isn’t about me, I reminded myself. Before I became too giddy with my celebrations, I had someone else’s child to find. Anna.

I sent a text message to a friend named Ramzy, a fellow-Palestinian American who I’d met only a few years ago at the local Muslim community center. He was the middle child of six brothers and sisters. His father had been killed several years ago in a freak highway accident when the branch of a tree that overlooked the highway broke off and fell through his windshield. The family had been struggling ever since. Ramzy was trying to put himself through city college – studying geology – and was permanently broke.

“I have work for you,” my message read. “Two hundred cash for the day. Interested? I need you at my office ASAP.”

The response came back almost immediately. “Peeling rubber! On my way.” I shook my head. In his enthusiasm, the fool would have an accident on the way here.

Mexican food truck.

The burrito truck.

I peered out the window and saw that the burrito truck was already out there. Along with the usual assortment of passers by and workers from local businesses, I spotted a homeless man – not Ghost Rider from yesterday, but someone else – standing on the traffic island out on Belmont, holding up a sign that said something about being a veteran, and eyeing the food truck wistfully. I whistled loudly and beckoned him over.

He was a lean, middle-aged man with a watchcap pulled low over gray hair. His face was weatherbeaten and tired.

“You want something?” I asked, gesturing to the food truck. “It’s on me.” This was, after all, the other part of Surat ad-Duha. When Allah has found you, guided you and made you self-sufficient, then do not repel the orphan, and do not repel the petitioner. In other words, give. Be generous. That’s how you show your gratitude.

“Uh.. yeah. Can I.. Can I get a small burrito? Is that cool?”

“Order whatever you want. Don’t hold back.”

“Uh.. okay.” He stepped up to the window of the food truck and ordered a small breakfast burrito and a small coffee. I was sure he was hungrier than that, but he seemed afraid to infringe on my generosity.

I ordered myself a large burrito, a Mexican apple bread – like a turnover but smaller – and a large coffee, and paid for the homeless man and myself.

As I ate, I mentally catalogued all the things I had to do. Today was Jum’ah. I needed to speak to Tarek to see if he could tell me where Angie had gone. To find Tarek, I had to find Badger.

Badger robbed drug dealers for a living. Not the street dealers, but the stash houses, where large amounts of drugs and guns were stored. In fact the last time I saw him, he told me he’d put together a crew and robbed a distribution center – the single hub in the entire city where a particular gang kept their raw product – pure heroin or cocaine from South America – for distribution to the stash houses, as well as massive amounts of cash awaiting shipment back to L.A. or Mexico, or wherever the particular gang was headquartered.

Badger was also a charcoal-hearted killer. He probably had more murders to his name than half the gangsters in south Fresno combined. His name inspired terror among the entire criminal class. He was a wanted man, with bounties placed on his head by the gangs.

He was wanted by the police as well, but it wasn’t like they had a task force to go after him or anything. All of Badger’s victims had been drug dealers, pimps, sex traffickers, extortionists and the like. What the cops called “NHI” killings. No humans involved. Some cops even felt that Badger was doing their work for them. I knew this from Titus, my buddy and fellow Musketeer, who was now a detective for the FPD.

Titus, who was the most honest cop I ever knew, did not approve. “A killer is a killer,” he’d say. “One day he’ll mess up and gun down a civilian, and then the Hall will be falling over each other to cast blame.” He meant Mariposa Hall, where the FPD was headquartered.

What would Titus say, I wondered, if he knew Badger’s true identity? I was probably the only person in the world who knew that Badger our old friend and co-Musketeer, Amiri Sulawesi.

Titus would never learn this fact from me, that was sure. When it came to Badger, the old saying held true: “Them that knows don’t tell, and them that tells, don’t know.“ Anyone who started mouthing off about Badger – Muslim or not – was likely to wake up with the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun in his mouth. Would Badger do that to me if I spoke out of school? I didn’t know, and had no desire to find out.

I often wondered what Badger did with the bundles of cash he seized. It must have been millions. I knew he gave money to the poor and to neighborhood youth centers. He called it “redistribution of wealth from the criminal class, who are capitalist oppressors in disguise, to the proletariat.” That was his mother talking.

Even so, that would only account for a fraction of the money he’d stolen. I had no idea what he did with the rest.

The last time I saw him he asked me to join him. “You got nothing to lose but your self-imposed shackles, Stick,” he said, laughing through white teeth as he paraphrased Karl Marx. It was hard to know when Badger was serious. “Shed your past. It lies like a nightmare upon your present. Shed the heart of a heartless world.”

That was Badger. When he wasn’t talking like a street tough, he was spouting philosophy and quoting great thinkers and writers, from Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Kierkegaard.

Badger was nominally Muslim. His father had been a convert, and his mother too, though his mother was never really into it, I think. Not since childhood, however, had Badger performed any kind of Islamic ‘ibadah or worship – not a single salat, nor a fasted day.

“Ain’t no sense in that,” he’d say, slipping into ghetto speak as easily as putting on a pair of shades. “I’m out here rippin’ and runnin’, gunnin’ playas down, and I’m gonna pray? Nah. No need for hypocrisy.” Thumping his chest. “I’ma keep it real, between me and Allah. He can do with me how He do.”

I’d chosen to distance myself from Badger. I had not the slightest desire to get caught up in his one-man war against the gangs, and I certainly didn’t need to attract the attention of the police. Badger’s lifestyle was crazy and suicidal.

If anyone knew the ins and outs of the drug trade in Fresno, however, it was Badger. Even if he didn’t know where Tarek Anwar was, he could probably locate him easily.

***

To find Badger – he continually moved from place to place – I’d have to see his mother Chausiku. I had no idea where she lived, so to find her I’d need to see Imam Saleh at Masjid Madinah.

Aside from that, I had to check in with the Anwars, deposit money in my bank account, pay my overdue bills, and see Safaa.

The warm food in my belly was provision for a long journey, while the coffee was rocket fuel. I was ready to explore the galaxy and crack any aliens right on their green heads.

Yes, I needed a therapist.

Ramzy showed up just as I finished my burrito. He was a first year college student with a sunny disposition, except when he thought about his former girlfriend Cindy, at which point he would become morose and weepy. He’d fallen in love with a non-Muslim girl last year and had a brief love affair. She ultimately broke up with him because she couldn’t see herself marrying a Muslim. Of course everyone told him it was for the best, but when it came to that girl he couldn’t see straight.

Ramzy had a crewcut, green eyes and an athletic frame that had once been quite heavy. Last year he got serious about fitness and began running laps and leaping hurdles at state. His limbs had grown lean and strong, but his belly still bulged slightly, as if he carried a few loaves of Arabic bread in a belly pouch.

He smiled as he came through the door, but the corners of his mouth were turned down.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

He shrugged one shoulder. “Oh, you know. Just feeling down about Cindy.”

“Brother,” I began in irritation, before taking a breath and calming myself. “You have to put that aside. I have a lot for you to do today.”

He nodded, straightening his shoulders. “Okay.” He nodded again, seconding his own motion. “Okay.”

Envelope full of cashRemoving the envelope full of cash from my desk, I counted out two thousand dollars and gave it to him. He whistled, his eyes opening wide.

“First,” I instructed, “go to the bank and deposit a thousand in my account.” I handed him a slip of paper with the account number. “Then pay my bills. Go to the PG&E office in person and get my electricity turned on, then the phone company, then the waste management company. I want receipts for everything.” I handed him a stack of bills. “Then a grocery trip.” I handed him another paper, on which I’d listed a variety of foodstuffs, including snacks for Hajar when she visited next.

I had a thought. “Say, Ramzy. When’s the last time you saw Tarek Anwar?”

He frowned. “I mean, I know who he is. But we’re not friends. My mother wouldn’t like it, and anyway what do I need to hang around a junkie for?”

I didn’t like him calling Tarek a junkie. It settled heavily on my heart. “Your mother doesn’t like me either,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but you pay me. And she’s wrong about you.”

Once Ramzy was on his way, I packed up my stuff, locked the shop and headed out. Imam Saleh lived in a rented house a few blocks from Masjid Madinah, which itself was just across the street from Fresno City College. I called him first. I asked if I could come over and he said sure, he was reviewing his khutbah but could take a break.

Ten minutes later I parked in front of his home. This was an interesting neighborhood, with stately old homes that were among the first built in Fresno. Large trees shaded the streets. At the same time there was a thriving counterculture and no shortage of homeless people.

Imam Saleh answered the door right away. He was a tall, rangy African-American brother with skin so dark it was almost purple. He typically wore a long Arab shirt over blue jeans, and a colorful Kufi. He met me with a smile and shook my hand warmly.

We were so lucky to have Saleh here in Fresno. He was highly educated, with a degree in international relations from UCLA, and a masters in Islamic history from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. He was currently working on a PhD in Quranic exegesis (tafsir) through a distance program with the Islamic university in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I considered him a good friend, and I had tremendous admiration for what he had done with Masjid Madinah. He’d originally been hired by the board of the Fresno Islamic Center, the biggest in the city, to run their center and revive their flagging community. When he tried to implement reforms there, they decided he was too progressive and fired him.

Some of the community members supported what he’d been trying to do, and funded the creation of a new masjid, which became Masjid Madinah. At Masjid Madinah, Imam Saleh had created a community in which immigrants, African-Americans and other converts worked hand in hand. Half the board of directors were women, and women were active in planning events and programs. The masjid held regular “open house” days in which non-Muslims were invited for talks, meals and special events. It was a living community, full of enthusiastic young people. There was a sense that people were a part of something real, something that was changing lives.

Imam Saleh was not also not afraid to address contemporary issues. On the one hand he denounced terrorism unequivocally and described it as a plague upon the Muslim world, one that must be eradicated through education, spirituality and social and political reform in the Muslim world. On the other hand, he wasn’t afraid to call out the U.S. and other superpowers on their exploitation of the Muslim world and the disastrous consequences of their interventions and misadventures. Lastly, he took a public stand on social issues such as civil rights and violence against women.

The man was a hero to me.

Saleh invited me in for tea, but I told him I was on a tight schedule. “I’m here because I need to talk to Chausiku Sulawesi,” I explained. “I don’t have her contact info. Do you?”

He tipped his head to the side and regarded me. “I think,” he said, “you’d better come in for that tea after all.”

I shed my shoes at the door and took a seat in his living room, which was clean and sparsely decorated with family photos and a few Islamic wall hangings, along with a large framed photo of Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah.

Tea serving

The Imam went to the kitchen and came back a few minutes later with a tea serving on a platter. He poured my tea and his, and sat.

“You’re not on an insurance case this time, are you?” he asked. “It’s something more important.”

“Why do you say that?”

He raised his chin, studying me. “There’s a fire in your eyes I haven’t seen before. Whatever you’re pursuing, you’re committed. You remind me of Salman Al-Farisi on his search for the truth.”

His mention of Salman amazed me. The Persian sahabi had always been a personal hero of mine, which was why I’d called my summer camp kids the Salman Squad. I reviewed what I knew of Salman, trying to figure out why the Imam would say that.

Born in Persia to a doting father who was the town chief and a Zoroastrian priest, Salman was never satisfied with the fire worship of his people. One day he passed a Christian church and heard the sound of prayer. He was impressed, and told his father about it. His father, who considered his only son his greatest treasure in the world, locked him up inside the house to prevent him from learning about other religions.

Thinking of this, I said, “Salman’s father at least loved him.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them. It was a childish and petty thing to say.

Imam Saleh, however, took my words seriously. He nodded and sipped from his tea.

“Can that truly be called love?” he said eventually. “He chained his child in a room to prevent him from seeking the truth.”

“His father didn’t see Christianity as the truth. It was something foreign that he wanted to protect Salman from.”

“Perhaps. Or perhaps he was simply closed-minded. If you recall, what the father said to Salman was, ‘The religion of our father and forefathers is better.’ That is the classic fallback position of anyone who holds blindly to inherited falsehoods. And Salman, who up to that point had been an obedient and dutiful son, defied his father. He said, ‘No, By Allah, it (Christianity) is better than our religion.’ His thirst for the truth was such that he was willing to discard the traditions of his ancestors, challenge his father, and disrupt his entire life.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“Didn’t you tell me once that your father sent you books while you were in prison?”

“Yes,” I admitted.

“What kinds of books?”

“All kinds. The complete works of Dostoevsky. Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. Poetry anthologies by Palestinian poets, and by American poets like Langston Hughes and Carl Sandburg. Philosophy books, a translation of Al-Ghazali’s Ihya’ Ulum al-Din, Maudoodi’s tafsir of the Quran, mainstream novels. A lot.”

“Do you think your father read those books himself?”

I’d never considered this. “I doubt it.”

“Then why did he send them to you?”

I sat back in the chair, thinking. “I guess he picked books he thought would help me. Or someone picked them for him.”

“And did the books indeed help?”

I nodded grudgingly. “Yes. Tremendously, actually. The Gulag Archipelago made me realize that my suffering was miniscule. The Palestinian poetry gave me a language with which to frame my pain, and gave me perspective. Langston Hughes and Sandburg leavened my hardship with – what do you call it when you approach normally serious subjects with humor?”

“Irreverence?”

“Yes. Irreverence. And Al-Ghazali changed how I saw Islam and opened my heart.”

“So what I see,” Imam Saleh said, “is a father who is willing to venture outside his comfort zone, and to reach into a realm he does not personally understand, in order to help his son. Doesn’t that sound like love?”

“But they hardly talk to me anymore!”

“Maybe they don’t know how. It could be they don’t know what to say. Maybe they look at you and no longer see the son they knew, and that’s not entirely their fault, is it? Maybe the road life has taken you down lies too far afield for them to understand. Maybe they interpret your past actions as a rejection of their teachings and love, and that causes them pain. Maybe you have to be the one who makes the effort to bridge the gap. Perhaps that’s a part of your penance, or a lesson you must learn. Parents do not simply stop loving their children. Maybe they are hurting as much as you are.”

I sat back and covered my face with my hands. I was nearly overwhelmed by these words. For so long I’d been internally devastated by the certainty that my parents no longer loved me, and that I was nothing but a shame to them, someone best avoided and forgotten. I liked to pretend – even to myself – that this did not affect me, but it had been like an oil slick covering my heart, affecting everything I did.

I lowered my hands and took a shaky breath. “That may all be true,” I said finally. “I don’t know. But I don’t have time to contemplate it right now.”

“Why do you need to talk to sister Chausiku?” Saleh asked. “She’s a very private person. Reclusive, even. She wouldn’t appreciate me giving out her contact information.”

“It’s personal,” I replied. “You don’t have to give me her info. Call her and tell her that Zaid Al-Husayni needs to see her.”

He nodded slowly. Imam Saleh had come to Fresno when I was in prison. He wouldn’t know about my history here, like the fact that the Sulawesis had been a second family to me all through my childhood.

“Hold on.” He disappeared into another room and came back a minute later with a small notepad. He looked surprised. “She’s very excited to see you. Here’s her address.” He tore a sheet off the notepad and handed it to me.

“Before you leave,” Saleh added, “there’s something I need to talk to you about.”

“Sure.”

“Well.” He tapped the floor with one foot. “A brother showed up in our community about six months ago. Khalil Anderson. You may have met him.”

I looked up at the ceiling, thinking. “White guy? About thirty years old? Wears a thobe and a black kufi?”

“Yes. He’s been talking to some of the younger brothers about politics. That in itself is not a problem, but I heard from a few of the youth that Anderson’s been pushing this idea that the U.S. and Islam are waging an apocalyptic battle. I’m concerned that he’s radicalizing them. I want to know who he is. Where did he come from, where does he get his money? What’s his real agenda? If necessary I’ll go to the FBI, but first I want to know what I’m dealing with.”

“Have you asked him?”

“Of course. He says he’s from L.A. and that he converted to Islam five years ago. He says he gets SSI payments from the government because he injured his neck in a workplace accident, and he came to Fresno because his aunt died and left him a house.”

“But you don’t believe him.”

“I’m concerned. I’d like you to look into it. I’ll pay you of course.”

I shook my head. “I won’t take your money. Of course I’ll do it ya shaykh, but it will have to wait. I’m on a time-sensitive case.”

“Jazak Allah khayr ya akhi. When do you think you’ll be able to look into it?”

I stroked my beard. “Give me a week.”

***

Parking in a huge circular driveway, I stared at the house before me in amazement. This was Chausiku Sulawesi’s house? I doubled checked the address. Yup. It was a palatial home perched on the bluffs overlooking the San Joaquin river, at the far north edge of Fresno. The estate must have covered 15,000 square feet, with towering palm trees all about and wild grasses that grew right up to a stone footpath. Inside the footpath was a perfect expanse of green lawn.

The house itself was a massive modern style home, with stone walls supporting high slab roofs, and floor-to-ceiling picture windows. The path to the front door passed through a gap in a huge waterfall-style fountain, with a semi-opaque wall of water tumbling fifteen feet through the air.

I sat in the car, taking deep breaths. My hands were clammy on the steering wheel. I did not want to see Chausiku Sulawesi. Just thinking of it made my heart race with anxiety.

***

The last time I saw Chausiku was at her husband’s janazah twelve years ago, before I went to prison. The police had investigated Red’s death, of course. They never caught his killers.

I attended the janazah because I was expected to. I was practically a member of the family. The July sun drummed down onto the mourners gathered at the dusty expanse of the Madera Islamic Cemetery. We gathered beneath a green canopy as Red’s body was lowered into the grave. Amiri and another brother – AbdulWali, the one whose leg was torn off in an accident not long after – lowered the body into the grave and positioned it on its right side. I heard the rattling of the gravel as they arranged it to support the body.

Amiri was one of my best friends and one of the Five Musketeers. I tried to imagine what he must be feeling in that moment but I could not think past the dark, churning foam of guilt and shame that felt like it would squeeze its way out of my very pores and manifest as black ink on my skin.

Chausiku – who wore a long-sleeved black dress and a black turban – almost collapsed. A tall, strong-looking African-American sister whose name I did not know, caught her and held her up.

“Why?” Chausiku cried to the assembled mourners. “Someone tell me why. Someone here must know something. I want to know why my husband is dead!”

From beneath lowered brows I glanced at Imam Abdus-Samad, who had given the janazah khutbah and led the salat. He stood there like a paragon of leadership, a pillar of the community, supporting the widow in her grief. I hated him in that moment, as I hated myself. I was still overwhelmed – had never stopped being overwhelmed – by the memory of Malik Sulawesi dying in my arms. I remembered the heat of his blood as it soaked into my pants and shirt sleeves. I remembered the wheezing of his breath, the way it sounded like the whine of a failing machine at the end of every exhalation. I remembered the bits of black fuzz from his ski mask caught in his red hair, and the look of uncertainty in his wide green eyes, filled with the knowledge of his own death.

***

Would Chausiku see this memory in my eyes? Would she look through me, recognize my guilt, and know me for what I was – a liar and a hypocrite?

I passed a hand over my eyes and smoothed my beard. Jamilah’s words came back to me: “I believe in you. I always have.” Just the memory of those words made me sit up straighter and raise my chin. I could do this. No problem.

I got out of the car, walked up the driveway and through the fountain, and rang the doorbell.

The door was answered by a burly African-American man in a too-tight gray suit. He was maybe 6’3”, with a long head and an oversized jaw. He wore an earpiece, and his jacket bulged over what had to be a holstered gun. He looked ready to either give me a massage or break my back – whatever his employer commanded.

“Are you Zaid Al-Husayni?” he asked. When I said yes, he gestured to me to spread my arms. “Sorry chief,” he said. “Gotta search ya.” He patted me down and removed the knife clipped to my pocket. “You’ll get this back.” Then he removed my fedora, turned it upside down, ran a hand along the inside band, and placed it back on my head.

“Zaid, is that you?” Chausiku Sulawesi called from somewhere deeper inside the house.

“Yes ma’am,” I called back. “Just going through checkpoint charlie here.”

Chausiku strolled into view. She looked like she had not aged a day. Her milk chocolate skin appeared unlined. Her perfect, white teeth flashed as she smiled widely.

Aside from that, however, everything about her was different. She wore an olive pantsuit that looked like it cost more than I made in a month, and black high heels. Her hair, which in the past had always been combed out into a big Afro, was now straightened and cut into a short bob. All of this surprised me. The Chausiku I had known used to wear African dashikis exclusively, often paired with a turban, and used to preach at length about how black women should adopt natural hairstyles and not be ashamed of their heritage.

She came straight to me and threw her arms around me in a tight embrace. She smelled of floral perfume, and her arms were as strong as they’d always been. With her heels, she was exactly my height.

She pulled back and studied me. “Little Zaid Al-Husayni,” she said admiringly. “All grown up now. But still too thin! Are you getting enough to eat?”

I shrugged and began to formulate a reply, but she interrupted me.

“I know it’s early for lunch, but let’s get some food in you. Rosa!” she called out.

“Si señora,” someone replied from within the house.

“Bring lunch for two,” Chausiku called back. “Tuna sandwiches and whatnot. We’ll be on the back patio.”

Mrs. Sulawesi took my elbow and led me through an incredible home interior that included a soaring ceiling supported by square-cut timbers. In the main room, a series of ten-foot-tall paintings depicted birds in flight, and a stunning green leather sectional sofa that must have been twenty feet long wrapped around two walls.

The back patio, shaded by a slanted overhang, featured hardwood furniture arranged around a rectangular stone firepit. Beside the patio, a long, narrow swimming pool extended to the edge of the bluff, so that it gave the illusion of disappearing over the cliff. These were called, I knew, infinity pools. I’d seen photos of such pools in the Home and Garden magazines that Safaa subscribed to.

This was so strange. The Chausiku I recalled was a card-carrying member of the Communist party who used to espouse the principles of frugality. She’d converted to Islam nominally for the sake of her husband, but I’d never seen her pray, not even at Eid time, whereas I’d heard her quote Marx, Lenin and Mao a thousand times. She used to ridicule the acquisition of material luxuries as bourgeois corruption and capitalist waste.

Now here she was living in a virtual palace, and wearing costly designer clothes? Besides, how could she afford a home like this? She was a seamstress. She used to earn a meager income hand-sewing African outfits, doing alterations, and making prayer rugs that Amiri and Red would sell after Jum’ah prayer.

Malik, I corrected myself. Not Red. I must never refer to Chausiku’s late husband as Red, not even to myself. I’d gotten in the habit of calling him Red during our years on the robbery squad, but there was no valid reason for me to know that nickname. He must always be either Malik or Abu Amiri, as some of us used to call him when we were kids.

I was beginning to think that I now knew where much of Badger’s money had gone.

I sat on a chair and Chausiku sat opposite. The weather had warmed up a bit but was still cool. Goosebumps rose on my forearms.

She leaned forward with her elbows on her knees, studying me. “I’m so happy you’re here,” she said. “You should visit more often. How’s your family?”

I told her about my separation. I spoke about my daughter, describing her wit and penchant for arts and crafts. Chausiku listened, smiled, asked a few questions, but volunteered little about herself.

“So,” she said at length. “I hear you’re a private detective now, is that true?”

I shrugged and smiled. “It’s a living.”

“It’s so exciting.” She lowered her voice conspiratorially. “You’re not here on a case, are you? Investigating me, maybe?”

I lifted one eyebrow. What an odd question. “Should I be?” I replied jokingly. “No auntie, I’m not investigating you. But I am here on a case. I need to talk to Amiri, actually.”

She nodded. “I thought that might be the case. It will be a few minutes before lunch is ready.” She waved at the pool. “Why don’t you take a swim? I have this beautiful pool and hardly anyone uses it.”

“No thanks,” I said. “I’m pressed for time, and anyway I don’t have anything to wear.”

Chausiku sat back in her chair. Her expression became hard. “I insist. Amiri has some swimming trunks. Rosa will show you.” She called, and Rosa appeared immediately.

The maid was short and dark skinned, with chiseled cheekbones and straight black hair tied in a pony tail. She wore jeans, a white blouse and leather sandals that looked handmade. Chausiku spoke to her in fluent Spanish, and the maid escorted me into the house. She pulled a pair of neatly folded red and yellow swimming trunks from a hall closet, then led me to a huge bathroom that was perhaps three times the size of my office. Sunlight streamed in from a skylight. The bathroom contained a large, glassed-in shower, a jacuzzi, and a sofa that sat beside a window with a view of the San Joaquin River. A stand of bamboo trees in a massive stone planter towered against one wall.

When Rosa left I took off my clothes and folded them neatly, then put on the swimming shorts. Amiri was shorter than me and his swimming trunks only came halfway down to my knees. How could I go out in front of the women in this? I wrapped a large towel around my waist to cover myself.

Before leaving the bathroom I plucked a single hair from my head and set it carefully atop my folded clothes.

I knew what Chausiku was doing. She wanted to be sure I wasn’t wearing a wire. This precaution, along with the presence of the bodyguard, answered some questions and prompted others. It also stung. How could she think that I would betray her? She was like family to me. Why was there so little loyalty in this world? Why was I the only fool stumbling around, still believing in friendship, brotherhood and sisterhood, and love?

Chausiku laughed when I came out. “You going to swim with a towel around your waist?” Her eyes roamed up and down my body with what seemed like more than platonic appreciation. It made me want to cover myself with a sheet instead of a towel.

I dropped the towel at the edge of the pool and dove in. Thankfully the water was heated to perhaps 75 degrees of so. Still, the cool shock of it hit me and somehow washed away my anxiety. I swam hard, warming myself up and working the kinks out of my muscles. I completed a lap, somersaulted and pushed off the wall, and swam another. By the time I’d done ten laps my shoulders ached and I had a stitch in my side. I grabbed the edge of the pool and leaned my head against the tiled lip, gasping for breath.

“Come on out,” Chausiku called. “Lunch is ready.”

I climbed out, wrapped the towel around myself again, and squeezed the water out of my hair. Rosa had prepared tuna sandwiches with sliced carrots, pickles, potato salad and what looked like sweet potato chips, along with tall glasses of iced lemonade.

The cold water had revved up my appetite. I ate with gusto. It didn’t hurt that the food was delicious. Rosa knew what she was doing in the kitchen.

“So,” Chausiku said when I’d finished my sandwich. “Is it really Amiri you need to talk to, or is it Badger?”

I paused in the act of biting a pickle spear and stared at her, feeling like a rabbit in the beam of a powerful spotlight.

She tipped her head to one side. “Did you think I didn’t know, Zaid? My son tells me everything. Including the fact that you know his nom de guerre and what he does for a living.”

Nom de guerre? I thought. Was that was Chausiku told herself, that Badger was some kind of guerilla fighter? Everywhere I turned in life it seemed I was confronted by hypocrisy and self-deception. I was sick of it.

“What happened to you, auntie?” The words emerged from my mouth unbidden. “What happened to your principles? How many times did I hear you say that private property is based on the exploitation of the many by the few? That private ownership of the means of production represents the appropriation of the labor and wealth of the poor by the rich? And look at this.” I waved my pickle spear at the luxury surrounding me. My speech would not help me get the information I needed to solve the case, but the swim had energized me and washed away my restraint.

“Is this all from Badger?” I continued. “Where do you think that money comes from? From the poor. I know you know this. The drug industry sucks wealth out of the ghetto like a Hoover vacuum. It’s the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in history. And what do the rich do with it? They cycle it among themselves by purchasing expensive consumer goods, or lock it away in investments. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer. It’s against everything you stand for.”

“You don’t know what I stand for!” Chausiku snapped. “You don’t know anything about me. You want to be honest? You want to drop the pretense? Tell me how my husband died!” She slammed a palm onto the glass table top. The plates jumped. My sweet potato chips scattered, while Chausiku’s lemonade tipped over and poured across the tabletop, running over the side like a small waterfall.

I froze, staring at her. My tongue was a block of wood in my mouth.

“That’s right.” She glared as if her eyes could bore holes through my head. “My husband. Your uncle and teacher. Do you think I’m an idiot? His body is dumped on the sidewalk like a week old fish, and the police tell me they suspect he was part of a robbery crew. A year later you go to prison for robbery. You think I can’t put two and two together? And you come in here talking about hypocrisy and values, while you’re lying to my face?”

She sneered. “I can see it in your eyes right now. You’re wondering if I told Badger. If I had, you’d be floating in pieces down the San Joaquin River.” She made a motion with her hand like a fish swimming.

“I don’t -” I began, intending to deny everything, but she snapped her fingers to cut me off.

“Don’t even try. You want Badger’s help? And my silence? This is the price. Tell me how my husband died.” Her tone softened. “You owe me that much, Zaid. If you still care.”

Next Tuesday: Zaid Karim Private Investigator, Part 8: Badger

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

Why ‘Islamophobia’ Matters In Canadian Motion On Anti-Muslim Hate

Muslim Matters - 21 March, 2017 - 03:08

It has been a while since the xenophobic side of Canadian politics reared its ugly head. With Trudeau’s Liberals taking power in the Fall of 2015 and slowly executing their vision of a postnational state, we were starting to forget the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric that had become routine under former PM Stephen Harper. In case you were nostalgic for juicy politics, all that hysteria and Muslim-bashing has surfaced yet again.

This time it was triggered when MP Iqra Khalid, a Muslim member of the House, introduced a motion (which is neither a bill or law) calling for the government to condemn Islamophobia and to create a committee which will study ways of eliminating systematic racism in the country. The motion was a response to a petition started in light of the increase in hate crimes against Muslims which culminated in the brutal killing of six worshippers at a Quebec mosque; one would think that condemning such hate would be a no brainer. As is often the case in politics, personal interest took precedence over principle. Conservative MPs running for the party’s leadership race made this motion their election issue on grounds that it uses the term ‘Islamophobia’ – a term they don’t approve of. A war of words over use of the term has subsequently engulfed the nation over the last few weeks.

Supporters say the term is generally used to describe the racism, bigotry, and fear directed at Muslims. Like anti-Semitism singles out Jews, Islamophobia is supposed to be a term that highlights the hate and discrimination directed at Muslims. MP Iqra Khaled defined it as ‘the irrational hatred of Muslims that leads to discrimination’; the Oxford dictionary defines it as the ‘dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force’

Those opposing the motion state the term is ill-defined and problematic because it supposedly stifles any criticism of Islam and is an attack on free speech. They fear that anyone criticizing Islam would be declared an ‘Islamophobe’ and thus a hate-monger if this term gets normalized. Conservative MP Kellie Leitch, who is also running in the party’s leadership race, even started a campaign against the motion which centers on the idea that no religion should be given special treatment. Right wing outlets have gone as far to suggest that the symbolic motion is just a veiled attempt at establishing shariah and blasphemy laws in Canada.

Islamophobia is probably not the best word when it comes to identifying anti-Muslim hate. While the term does not etymologically focus on the human aspect of prejudice, in a way that ‘anti-semitism’ for example does, it is not an inaccurate way of describing anti-Muslim hate either. In addition to the widespread use of the term among academics, politicians, and media to describe a specific form of bigotry, the term also captures the unique role played by spreading fear about Islam when it comes to anti-Muslim hate.

Muslims are unique in that virtually all the hate and prejudice directed at them is justified based on some verse of their own scripture.The main tactic used by bigots over the past two decades to propagate hate against Muslims has been by spreading fear about Islam as a religion and painting it as a draconian ideology. Their line of thinking usually goes as follows: Muslims deserve to be feared because their religion preaches violence, they should be feared because the Quran promises them 72 virgins for blowing themselves up, they should be feared because they want to establish Shariah law by dismantling the constitution, the list of lies goes on. Perverting teachings of the faith and spreading misinformation about it have been at the heart of ostracizing Muslims. The mantra goes, ‘Muslims are dangerous because of their religion’; ‘Islamophobia’ is thus accurate in this regard as ‘Islam’ has been conflated with ‘Muslims’ when it comes to justifying hate against Muslims.

What about criticisms of Islam and free-speech? Interestingly enough, virtually every well-known bigot from Robert Spencer to Frank Gaffney to Bill Maher considers themselves to be a ‘critic of Islam’. Where they lie on the political spectrum and the intensity with which they are hateful varies, but they are united in their repulsion to the Islamic tradition. For them, aversion to the Islam as a religion translates to prejudice against those that adhere to that tradition. They’ve coupled their criticisms with active advocacy in the media where they preach to the masses that fear of Muslims is not irrational; in fact, it is only natural given the potential threat they all represent.

It is also interesting to note that these very people would have no qualms about using terms like ‘Islamic terrorism’ or ‘Islamist violence’ to describe the political violence carried out by Muslim extremists. These would not object to the former PM Stephen Harper who declared that ‘Islamicism is the biggest threat to Canada’. Associating ‘Islam’ with ugliness is warmly welcomed and described as ‘calling it what it is’; using the word in a way that could potentially help Muslims is only when the problem arises.

The right to criticize any religion is well protected under free speech laws; a symbolic motion has no impact on that. It is also important to take into account the political climate under which this discussion is taking place. If this innocuous motion was put forth 25 years ago, it would have probably been of no concern to anyone because neither the public nor politicians really cared about their right to be critical of Islam. However, in the current political climate where Muslims are seen a security concern and supposed carriers of a violent ideology, the public has become acutely concerned about being able to criticize the faith. Any perceived attempt to restrict this ability, especially by a Muslim in public office, leads to a public outrage as was witnessed in Canada in recent weeks.

The hysteria over this motion only confirms the prejudice and double standards that Canadian Muslims face; the heartbreaking hate mail received by MP Khalid should be enough to convince anyone. The Liberal party is correct in drafting a specific motion which condemns bigotry directed at Muslims. As PM Trudeau recently pointed out, this debate is needed as it highlights the fact that some people are not comfortable with the idea of condemning discrimination against Muslims; we need to expose this problem and deal with it as a society openly.

On Social Justice and being “Prophetic”

Muslim Matters - 20 March, 2017 - 04:01

Much ink has been spilt as of late on the topic of social justice. Though injustice is not a new phenomenon (indeed, much of human history has registered rather oppressive conflict), in the modern era it’s extermination has assumed a type of transcendent quality. That is, the elimination of conflict is not merely seen as a proximate cause that leads to God’s pleasure, but instead a type of absolute objective. A material religion, if you will, with androcentric beliefs worshiping at the altar of man. Consequently, the spiritual center that advocates neither for itself nor worldly retribution, but for the Sovereign of the World – the Omnipotent, Omnipresent Lord to Whom we will return, for Whom we live, and by Whose Grace we subsist – has long gone missing.

To what do we attribute this misalignment, and how can we seek to resolve it? Though the underlying pretext that informs this secular discursive is important, for the purpose of this brief article I wish to concentrate more pointedly on the latter question: How we, as a community ensconced in a spiritual crisis, can seek to remedy what ails our inner hearts. Though many paths are provided via divine instruction for improving one’s proximity to God, one of the principle means by which we are taught to seek and demonstrates love for God is by following His Messenger ﷺ. “Say, if you love God, follow me, God will love you…” (3: 31) The love of God’s Messenger is intimately and rather inextricably coupled with the love of God. Obey God and obey His Messenger ﷺ. It is in this divine obedience that one attains the “sweetness of faith” (halawat al-iman), the perfection of faith, and prophetic intercession in the next life.

This is because the Messenger of God ﷺ was not merely the receptacle of divine ordinance and the seal of prophethood (though that alone would have been sufficient to warrant reverence). He represented something far greater. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the supreme creation and the pinnacle of prophethood. His character was superlative. He possessed forbearance (hilm) in the face of insistent hostilities, and courage when confronted by enemies. Despite a life of persistent difficulty and trial, he would remark that “kindness (rifq) is never found in anything except that it beautifies it.”[1] He kept the company of the impoverished, enslaved, and socially disenfranchised. Often visitors would inquire, “which one of you is Muhammad?” unable to distinguish the Prophet’s ﷺ place among his companions in a gathering. But this did not depreciate from his place in God’s sight, nor did it derogate from his honor. Nay, it only increased it. Far from the superficial ostentation that often accompanies monetary affluence, spiritual affluence demands modesty. Anas, a man who served as the Messenger’s servant for over a decade, said that the Prophet ﷺ hated to see people stand upon his entrance, so the Companions would refrain from doing so, wary of making the Messenger of God ﷺ upset.[2] Perhaps this also explains why the Messenger ﷺ would say that one who finds pleasure in people standing for him in a gathering would find for himself a place in the Fire.[3]

But the Messenger ﷺ was not a meek, unassuming man. He ﷺ stood for truth at great personal expense. Driven from his home, God’s Messenger ﷺ did not equivocate when offered spiritual compromise. “If they place the sun in my right and the moon in my left, I will not cease [in spreading the message].” The Prophet ﷺ was a man of intense devotion. It is said that he prayed until his feet cracked,[4] and that the longevity of his prayer at each moment – whilst standing, bowing, and prostrating – was something that could only be marveled at.[5] Though women and perfume were made beloved to him, it was the prayer that he described as the “coolness of his eyes.”[6] This emphasis remained until his last days. In his final (physical) sickness, the Messenger ﷺ mustered up enough energy to attend prayer with his Companions. Upon seeing the prayer in progress, he smiled, exultant at the worship of God.[7] Of his last words were “The prayer! The prayer!” a solemn and everlasting testimony to the centrality of prayer in a believer’s life.

His honorific title was ‘abd, or slave. “Glorified be He Who carried His slave (‘abd) by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far distant place of worship the neighborhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our signs!” (17: 1) He was loved beyond compare. His disciples followed in his footsteps (at times, quite literally), hung on to every word of his commands, and relished his company. His presence was angelic, and his smile, contagious. Reproached for having frowned, it was the exceptional nature of the instance that drew this divine correction, for he was not seen “except that he was smiling.”[8] Smiling in the face of one’s brethren was designated an act of “charity (sadaqa).” He ﷺ possessed a truthful countenance. Al-Sadiq (the honest) and al-Amin (the trustworthy) were of his earliest pre-revelatory titles. None heard of him except that they grew enamored by his mention, and none met him except that they loved him. His arrival illuminated Yathrib, transforming it, by his blessed presence, into the enlightened city (al-Madinah al-Munawwarah). And at his death, no day was regarded as darker, more tumultuous, and full of fright. He would instruct the believers to reflect upon his death during times of difficulties as a means of maintaining perspective, for no calamity, no misfortune, no tribulation, no suffering, no pain, and no difficulty compares to the loss this ummah felt upon his earthly demise.[9]

It was this life that we are told to emulate. Living in the service of God, and in doing so, upholding God’s rights. The rights of God intersect the spiritual and mundane, the mosque and the market. These rights were brought to life and are understood functionally by the conduct of our beloved Messenger ﷺ. When wrongs occur, the believer is offended not out of self-assertion or righteous indignation, but prophetic zeal. Transgressions against God inspire action, for even the dichotomous “rights of God” (huquq Allah) and “rights of God’s slaves” (huquq al-‘ibad) operate under the presumptive basis that man’s rights are protected and confirmed by God. In other words, what constitutes oppression does so because God says it does, not because it subscribes to an amorphous contemporary notion of rights and wrongs. God loves not the oppressors, those who fail in their duty to God and in their duties to men. It is for this reason that associationism (shirk) is described as “colossal tyranny” (zulm azim). (31: 13) And of men, the Prophet ﷺ warned against the prayer of the afflicted, irrespective of religious affiliation.[10] It is this normative framework from which our beliefs, ideas about the world, and notions of right, wrong, justice, injustice, spirituality, and prophetic conduct emerge.

It seems these days that in our haste to alleviate the pain of the allegedly aggrieved, how numerous they may be, we are willing to sacrifice the rights of God and stray from the model of His Prophet. This, in turn, becomes another aggression, far weightier than the first.

For believers, spirituality forms our center. It is the fuel that gives us energy, and the nourishment that gives life to our soul. It inspires us in profound and altogether transcendent ways, and causes us to relinquish much that is otherwise desirable. Though our spiritual states ebb and flow, it is through the life of the Messenger ﷺ that we are taught how to recover our better selves. This, for us, is what it means to live “prophetically.” In its absence, we stand to gain little and assume the pathetic purchase of a “constricted life.” (20: 124) A paltry sum in this (lesser) life, and nothing in the (permanent) life to come.

“O you who believe! Shall I show you a commerce that will save you from a torturous punishment? That you believe in God and His messenger, that you strive in the cause of God with your wealth and your lives. That is better for you, if you but knew. He will forgive you your sins and admit you into Gardens beneath which rivers flow, and pleasant dwellings in Gardens of Eden. That is the supreme triumph. And [you will obtain] another [favor] that you love – victory from God and an imminent conquest; and give good tidings to the believers.” (61: 10-13)

“Indeed, God and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O you who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation.” (33: 56)

Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad – O Allah, send your prayers upon Muhammad ﷺ.

And Allah Knows Best.

[1] http://sunnah.com/abudawud/43/36
[2] http://sunnah.com/urn/629720
[3] http://sunnah.com/urn/629730
[4] http://sunnah.com/urn/45160
[5] http://sunnah.com/urn/45160
[6] http://sunnah.com/nasai/36/1
[7] http://sunnah.com/bukhari/64/468
[8] https://sunnah.com/urn/637060
[9] http://sunnah.com/urn/1289490
[10] http://sunnah.com/bukhari/46/9

The Guardian view on a key poll: victory for anti-Muslim bigotry | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 March, 2017 - 19:41
In India there is increasing concern that minorities are being told they exist merely on the goodwill of the majority. For some of India’s 140 million Muslims it is enough to debate withdrawing from public life

The world breathed a sigh of relief last week as the Islamophobe populist Geert Wilders failed to become the head of the biggest party in Holland. The respite from elected bigotry did not last long. On Sunday an even more stridently anti-Muslim extremist took power in the biggest election of this year. Uttar Pradesh, with a population of more than 200 million, is not an independent nation. It is India’s biggest and most important state. UP, as it is known, by itself would be the world’s fourth biggest democracy – behind the rest of India, the United States, and Indonesia. In a stunning victory, the ruling Bharatiya Janata party swept the state elections, winning, along with its allies, 80% of the seats. Elections here are the most significant in India. UP sends 80 MPs to India’s national parliament of 545 seats. Regardless of party, they pay careful attention to the mood of UP’s electorate. If the nation’s governing parties do well in UP, parliamentarians feel they ought to stay in line. If opposition parties do well in UP, then gridlock rules in Delhi.

The man chosen by the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, to lead UP, home of Hinduism’s holy Ganges river and the Moghul tomb of Taj Mahal, is a fellow Hindu nationalist, Yogi Adityanath. Mr Adityanath is a Hindu priest who, while elected five times from his temple’s town, has been shown repeatedly to be contemptuous of democratic norms. He has been accused of attempted murder, criminal intimidation and rioting. He says young Muslim men had launched a “love jihad” to entrap and convert Hindu women. Mother Teresa, he claimed, wanted to Christianise India. He backs a Donald Trump-style travel ban to stop “terrorists” coming to India. On the campaign trail, Mr Adityanath warned: “If [Muslims] kill one Hindu man, then we will kill 100 Muslim men”. This cannot be dismissed as mere rhetoric. The argument that once in power the BJP would become more reasonable does not wash. There’s little sign India’s constitutional protections would enable the BJP to continue in power while the dynamics of its wider movement are kept in check. Mr Adityanath, now a powerful figure, is signalling that in India minorities exist merely on the goodwill of the majority. Step out of line and there will be blood. For some of India’s 140 million Muslims the threat is enough to see them debate withdrawing from public life to avoid further polarisation.

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What Stands for Liberation?

Muslim Matters - 18 March, 2017 - 16:17

I grew up like a neglected weed, – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it. Then I was not happy or contented.”

Harriet Tubman to Benjamin Drew, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, 1855 

I’m not a theologian, nor am I an Islamic scholar in the traditional sense. That was not the path that the Creator had chosen for me. Becoming a traditionally trained Muslim scholar is not easy for women, especially a convert who grew up in a Black working class single parent home. Even with the best intentions, I might not have been the best candidate, given my rebellious streak, my touch of ratchetness and irreverent humor. But there are amazing women whose graceful character, unfaltering faith and impeccable scholarship guide us in Islamic devotional life, to name a few are erudite Black Muslim women like Zaynab Ansari, Iesha Prime, and Rukayat Modupe Yakub. There are also devout academics like Professor Intisar Rabb and Professor Aminah McCloud whose credentials and contributions in their fields are unmatched. Many of these scholars have been trained in Western academies and Islamic seminaries, with a deep commitment to their faith, inquiry, and social change.

The Harriet Ross Tubman memorial Image by John Blanding from the Boston Globe

After ten years towards earning my undergraduate degree, for four years I found a place in the academy and while in graduate school I became trained as a historian of Muslim societies, race, and Islamic education.  I spent hours in colonial archives to gather documents and texts to understand transformations in Islamic education, religious consciousness, racial formations,  and resistance. I studied classical Arabic and hadith in Fez with a teacher from al-Qarawayin, sifted through colonial texts at the Sudan Archives in Durham England, sat in a Diwaniyya in Kuwait with the sheikh from Abu Noor, interviewed a Tijani sheikh and African students studying at al-Azhar, and parsed through rare texts that I scanned and photocopied or purchased in bookstores. While I left the academy short of a Ph.D., I have truly been blessed by the learning opportunities graduate school gave me and am forever imprinted. It informs my current work in anti-racism research and teaching. Over the years, I have met amazing scholars, western trained, traditionally trained, and those who bridge both, who have said we need a big picture of what a principled life entails. We need a Liberation Theology —an Islamic Liberation Theology—one that reflects our souls as a people and our role in repairing a broken world.

Muslim Americans must have a vision for collective liberation. Targeted by the criminal justice system, national security system, and immigration system, Muslims in America of all stripes are often overwhelmed by the onslaught and fail to make the connections with other vulnerable communities. While Muslim Americans of all backgrounds evoke Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali as examples of leadership, the language we hear today among our leaders is in stark contrast to the Holy protest of  the Black Liberation movements they are part of. The legacy of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali highlight how our struggle must not be domesticated. Black consciousness shaped my Islam, as well as the Black radical tradition and the Pan Africanism of Malcolm X. Malcolm X said:

I might point out here that colonialism or imperialism, as the slave system of the West is called, is not something that is just confined to England or France or the United States. The interests in this country are in cahoots with the interests in France and the interests in Britain. It’s one huge complex or combine, and it creates what’s known not as the American power structure or the French power structure, but an international power structure. This international power structure is used to suppress the masses of dark-skinned people all over the world and exploit them of their natural resources.

Black Muslim communities are at the fulcrum of White supremacy. Affected by the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, Black Muslims have always addressed oppressive domestic politics and imperialistic foreign policies. We often serve as the conscience for American Muslim communities to remind them of the moral perils of assimilation into whiteness, as well as the conscience for America as we highlight the inequities in this country and the ways in which our foreign policy target people of color globally. This is why Malcolm X still speaks to us today.   

Anti-Black racism, settler colonialism, xenophobia, securitization and criminalization rob us our ability to reach our full potential. In February 2014, we began organizing Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) online to locate other educators, community leaders, scholars, and activists to create a network of anti-racist Muslims. Three years later, we refined our mission and our  work is focused on building capacity for anti-racism in Muslim communities and training allies about how Muslims in America are racialized. We train leaders from communities who are in the cross hairs of xenophobia, anti-Black racism, settler colonialism, and Islamophobia.

I advocate to increase representation of Black, Latino, and Indigenous Muslims who are are left out of conversations about national policy, media representation, and organizational infrastructure development. As Muslims, we are to stand for the oppressed and that is what should drive American Muslim public policy.

In the Qur’an,  Allah tells us:

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. (4:135)

What does it mean to stand persistently? This means we advance justice constantly, consistently, and not just when it affects us.  For decades, many Muslim national advocacy groups have focused on issues that were seen as unique to the Muslim community, such as Islamophobic legislation, religious profiling, and foreign policy. But there is a growing shift, as Muslim Americans take stronger stances towards social justice. Muslim led initiatives and service providers such as UMMAH clinic work to benefit people of all faiths.

I am also blessed to work with Faith Rooted Organizing, including Zachary Hoover and Sarah Jawaid of LA Voice. In the PICO National Network training I was allowed to bring my full self as a Black Muslim woman and share my pain, my fears, and my dreams with over a hundred faith leaders.

We need Muslim faith leaders, imams, teachers, scholars to join priests, rabbis, and clergy to articulate our Liberation Theology.

We need one that does not fall into American exceptionalism.

We need a Liberation Theology that is not appropriated by Empire. We need a Liberation theology that does not just ask for a seat at the Emperor’s table, but one of freedom.

We struggle to speak truth even as others seek fragment our conscience and  lull us into a sunken place. We can not worship false idols to gain a sense of acceptance. As Muslims, we must have the courage to express ourselves as faith-full people, that we seek to please our Creator and our conduct should bear witness to our belief in love, justice, and mercy. This is why more than ever, we need a Liberation Theology to speak to the most enduring problems today, poverty, racism, and violence. That Liberation Theology should be composed by our  theologians, our organic intellectuals, our artists, our teachers, our healers, our researchers, every day people, and our most affected. Together, we can create a multilayered composition, a symphony of freedom. We need a Liberation Theology that brings us into  harmony and whose pounding rhythm synchronizes our steps during our march to freedom.  

That’s what Liberation sounds like. Who stands for Liberation? I invite you to share with me what stands for Liberation.

 

I see the blackness of winter
I see death lurking in the trees
Yeah, I see the blackness of winter
And I see death lurking in the trees
I see the blackness of my people
You know they’re calling for freedom everywhere
I’ve seen the blackness of my people
And all you got to do,
Brothers and sisters, reach out your hands,
We’re gonna take you there
Black stands for liberation, yeah, aah

Liberation Song (Red, Black, and Green) Gil Scott-Heron

 

In memory of Ben Keita

 

Consigning “Blasphemy” to History

Inayat's Corner - 18 March, 2017 - 15:24

This week, the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, signalled that he intended to crackdown on allegedly blasphemous content on the internet, calling it an “unpardonable offence.”

We have been here several times before, of course, most notably during the Satanic Verses affair in 1989 and the Dutch cartoons in 2006. It is understandable, though gravely misguided, to seek to protect the holding of one’s cherished beliefs from insult or ridicule.

Looking back on the controversy over Salman Rushdie’s book I have previously said that it simply did not occur to many of us who were marching against the book just how preposterous our position really was. Not only were we protesting against the book, we also wanted the Satanic Verses to be pulped/banned – thereby seeking to prevent others from reading it too. It was an incredibly damaging episode for Muslims and left an indelible impression on how Islam is viewed around the world by non-Muslims. Regrettably, the issue of blasphemy still remains today a clear example of how so many Muslims are having problems adapting their understanding of faith to the modern world.

If we don’t like what someone is saying then there is no obligation to listen to them. In a world with many faiths and very different beliefs it is the only way we can peacefully live together without constantly treading on each others toes. I regard the Christian belief in the Trinity as a relic of paganism and I am horrified at the disgusting racism and genocide preached in parts of the Jewish Old Testament. And I am immensely grateful to be living in a society where the state will not punish me for holding these views and stating them publicly.

This is not to say that many Muslims alone are thin skinned when it comes to attempting to try and protect their beliefs or opinions from ridicule and/or scrutiny. However, for a community that seeks to aspire to the Qur’an’s description (3:10) of being the “best community” raised for humankind, we should be willing to be more critical of ourselves and seek continuous improvement.

Over twenty-five years ago, after being forced into hiding due to the very real – and deeply shameful – threats against his life, Salman Rushdie remarked “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”

Rushdie -who sadly remains widely reviled amongst Muslims – was actually way ahead of many of us in recognising the real value of a secular state and the repressive dangers posed by any kind of religious state.

So, I will end this little blog with a quote from the man himself who has been much misunderstood. Maybe it will encourage more people to purchase his books and to perhaps reconsider some of their views:

“Literature is the one place in any society where, within the secrecy of our own heads, we can hear voices talking about everything in every possible way. The reason for ensuring that that privileged arena is preserved is not that writers want the absolute freedom to say and do whatever they please. It is that we, all of us, readers and writers and citizens and generals and godmen, need that little, unimportant-looking room. We do not need to call it sacred, but we do need to remember that it is necessary.
‘Everybody knows,’ wrote Saul Bellow in The Adventures of Augie March, ‘there is no fineness or accuracy of suppression. If you hold down one thing, you hold down the adjoining.’
Wherever in the world the little room of literature has been closed, sooner or later the walls have come tumbling down.”
Salman Rushdie, Is Nothing Sacred, 1990, (Essay contained in Imaginary Homelands)


Sinterklaas, Zwarte Piet and the EU decision on the headscarf

Loon Watch - 18 March, 2017 - 09:15

Islamic headscarves may under certain conditions be banned in workplaces, and this ban does not neccessarily constitute “direct discrimination”, the European Court of Justice ruled last Tuesday (March 14th). Many Muslims are worried about this decision. In an increasingly hostile environment for Muslims, this ruling might lead to bans against “islamic headscarfs” in companies all across Europe. But the court has violated its own principles. G4S and Micropole, the companes that fired the Muslim women carrying the headscarf are NOT neutral to religions, as both the companies, and the court claims.”

The ruling is based on two cases. One has to do with a Muslim woman that worked at G4S Secure Solutions in Belgium, an international Company.  The other has to do with Micropole, a French company. I will focus on G4S.

G4S Secure Solution

The court writes in its press release that the policy of G4S allegedly is to have a strict religious neutrality. Especially in its external contact with its customers.:

“the management of G4S informed her that the wearing of the headscarf would not be tolerated because the visible wearing of political, philosophical or religious signs was contrary to the position of neutrality G4S adopted in its contacts with its customers”

“The court agrees with G4S that they can ban the headscarf, as long as they pursue this neutrality in a “genuinly… consistent and systematic manner”, as it writes in its formal judgement:

As regards, in the first place, the condition relating to the existence of a legitimate aim, it should be stated that the desire to display, in relations with both public and private sector customers, a policy of political, philosophical or religious neutrality must be considered legitimate.

An employer’s wish to project an image of neutrality towards customers relates to the freedom to conduct a business that is recognised in Article 16 of the Charter and is, in principle, legitimate, notably where the employer involves in its pursuit of that aim only those workers who are required to come into contact with the employer’s customers…

it must be held that the fact that workers are prohibited from visibly wearing signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs is appropriate for the purpose of ensuring that a policy of neutrality is properly applied, provided that that policy is genuinely pursued in a consistent and systematic manner

But when looking at the case one can easily find that someone has done a sloppy job. I dont know if the lawyers representing the woman or the court has been sloppy, but someone has made a really lousy work.

G4S is NOT neutral.

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

G4S celebrates Christmas in Europe and all over the world. As can be seen on their international twitter and Facebook pages. You can even find some cute animated Holiday greetings sent out to the customers: CLICK HERE!

I have to remind the reader that Christmas is defined as a religious holiday. The french word NOEL, Christmas, is defined as a “religious holiday” by Cambridge dictionary. Christ is by the way the name of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Dutch and Belgian celebrations is even more directly connected to Christian faith. Two years after the woman was fired from G4S, the company posted this holiday celebration on their Facebookpage:

This is a regional Christmas celebrationm and an old Dutch tradition.

Santa Claus is called Saint Nicholas, or in Dutch Sinterklaas, potraited as a bishop and a Christian Saint. Next to him we have Zwarte Piet that traditionally is the companion of the saint. Zwarte Piet is a blackface figure, i.e.a white person that is painted black. Zwarte Piet is said to be black because he is a Moor, i.e. a Muslim, from Spain. Zwarte Piet was earlier seen as a “servant” or “slave” of the white bishop and saint.

Zwarte Piet is a local tradition that many view as racist. However, that is not the subject of my article today. However, G4S is clearly not neutral, Sinterklaas and his servant the Muslim is a CHRISTIAN tradition.

Holiday celebrations

Lets continue to look at the G4S on social media. Here are some examples. Keep in mind the words of the court:

“provided that that policy is genuinely pursued in a consistent and systematic manner”

G4S regulary wishes Happy Holidays during Christmas. It is a part of their externally oriented PR to send Christmas Greetings and decorate its office when it is Christmas.

Two days earlier you could see this post on Facebook. Belgium once again.

Internationally G4S is not neutral either.  We have already seen the animated Holiday Celebration.


Here are some examples that shows that G4S celebrates Christian Holidays, like Christmas and Eastern Holidays.

 

Micropole

The other company is a French one: Micropole SA. It is not neutral either.

 

The Hijab

The ruling by the court can be critizised in many ways. But the the matter is a complex one. Two principles collide, the principle of private ownership and the principle about religios freedom. However. In an environment filled with racism and hatred against Muslims it is very important that the courts act consistent when dealing with cases like these.

“Besides the question of the alleged neutrality of the companies in question, there is another problem that I wish to focus on. The court does not make a clear definition of religiously neutral clothes. Some Muslims consider wearing the hijab as an important part of their faith. It is a part of what is sometimes called “islamic dresscode”. Besides from the hijab, that means covering the arms and legs. But trousers are not considered religious clothes. The hijab is, according to the. What kind of clothing can, and can not be defined as religious?”

The court decided that the ban against headscarf is legal “provided that that policy is genuinely pursued in a consistent and systematic manner” The EU court and have clearly not even used Google to try to find out of G4S IS constently neutral. Nowehere in the documents about the case against Micropole or G4S is even their Christmas celebrations mentioned.

The decision is not a consistent one, it is one that is will result in arbitrary decisions by  emplyers. It will be up to the EMPLOYER to decide what they define as religious or not. In an environment with much hatred against Muslims, as well as Jews (I should add), this is very dangerous.

Article 6 in the European Convention stipulates that every individual has the right to a fair trial at court. “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. ” In this case the EU court has clearly violated the European Convention by a trial that was not even close to fair.

 

 

 

 

Should we ban harmful bequests?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 17 March, 2017 - 22:21

Image of two donkeys, both wearing saddles and a turquoise-coloured harness with the names Dixie and Noddy above their noses, on a sandy beach.This week, a woman who had been cut out of her late mother’s will in favour of three animal welfare charities lost her legal battle to claim a large share of the estate. The Supreme Court reversed a Court of Appeal ruling that Heather Ilott, in her 50s with five children, should be entitled to some £160,000 of the estate which is worth around £500K such that she could purchase a house; this ruling reinstates a County Court ruling that she should receive only around £50K. The mother, Melita Jackson, had severed ties with her daughter when she left home to be with her boyfriend, whom she later married and to whom she remains married; attempts to reconcile the pair all failed, with both blaming the other. There is a longer article on the legal aspects of the case, written after the 2015 Court of Appeal ruling, here.

The reports do not state the reason why Melita Jackson disapproved of her daughter’s fiancé, Nicholas Ilott, although some reports suggest that the “final straw” was Mrs Ilott’s decision to give one of her daughters the same name as her mother’s sister-in-law, whom she disliked. None of them give information on who Nicholas Ilott is (there are a photographer and an Oxford scientist by that name, although the latter is clearly too young to be Mrs Ilott’s husband), but they do say that his work brought in little income (his former line of work is no longer available to him because of a back problem [PDF]), that at the time of Jackson’s death and the subsequent legal claims they were dependant on state benefits, that the house they lived in was owned by a housing association and that Heather Ilott had no pension. Melita Jackson had never even supported the three charities she named in the will, but left her money to them out of spite. Of course, the five grandchildren, who were not born when the dispute began, also lose out from this decision.

I’m a Muslim and in Islamic law, you cannot simply disinherit a child; there are fixed shares and although they are not equal, nobody closely related to the deceased is left out. You can only bequeath up to a third of your estate to people outside the group entitled to benefit from estate division, including charities. There is also a hadeeth (a saying of the Prophet, sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) that if someone lived a righteous life for 60 years but behaved unjustly when leaving their will, they would be consigned to the Fire (there are two versions, one also mentioning a woman who does the same). While I don’t suggest that Islamic law on this subject should be adopted lock, stock and barrel in Britain right now, some aspects of it could be adopted to end injustices like this case.

I believe it should not be allowed to disinherit a child altogether without good reason, such as that the child caused injury or damage to their parents, rather than mere disapproval of their lifestyle or life choices or that their behaviour caused injury to another heir resulting in permanent disability. There are other circumstances which might allow that the heir not inherit major assets, such as a business or country estate, on the grounds that their lifestyle (or lack of interest or prior involvement) might mean they were not competent to run it, but these do not justify disinheriting them entirely. And I believe that charities should not be able to receive most of an estate while the children of the deceased are dependent on state benefits.

While at present, an heir can challenge a will if they believe that the testator (the person whose will it is) had not in fact written it, or had been manipulated into doing so while lacking mental capacity, they cannot challenge a will on the basis of simple injustice, spite or caprice on the part of the testator. This should change. We should not be seeing people left in poverty because their parents took exception to the person they loved, much less innocent grandchildren punished for the behaviour of a parent years ago; charities, especially those that do not work for the betterment of people, should not receive legacies intended as insults while the state remains responsible for the upkeep of those left out. Such displays of sheer spite should be ended.

Image source: Wikipedia, contributed by SleafordSue under the GNU Free Documentation Licence.

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In Search of Muslim Foster Families

altmuslim - 17 March, 2017 - 18:02
There are lists of Muslim foster children, domestic and abroad, that are currently waiting for licensed foster homes to welcome them. It is our communal responsibility to care for these children and ensure their deen is nurtured.

Understanding Donald J. Trump’s Psychological Warfare | Mohamed Elibiary

Muslim Matters - 17 March, 2017 - 16:11

It’s hard for non-Americans to reconcile the perception of our power as the globe’s only real superpower and our public’s political naiveté at times. However, truth be told we Americans are a very reluctant empire with the domestic political sophistication of a teenager. Why and how come the rest of the world wonders aloud, but, truth be told again, we, unlike any other nation-state on the planet, can afford to be reckless and self-centered.

Geopolitical experts of all stripes rave about our advantages as Americans, from the enviable security provided by two oceans to the possession of about half of the navigable internal waterways on the planet. Having a stable political system for about a quarter of a millennium and geopolitically weaker neighbors didn’t hurt matters either. Our country is so rich, spread out and demographically diverse that it doesn’t do revolutions and makes up existential alien invader movies from outer space just to challenge ourselves a bit, though we kick their butt too by the end of the movie.

For all American history, until a skinny Kenyan-Hawaiian-Muslim-y guy named Barack Hussein Obama came around, we had one single demographic dominate the presidential election’s voter pool. That demographic was White (racially), Male (sexually) and working-class (socio-economically). As the United States continues its historic demographic transformation from a pasty 80% White country in 1950 of 150 million into a very diverse demographic country of 438 million in 20501, naturally the previously dominant subculture, that I like to call Bubba, is grumpy.

Last time Bubba encountered a knight in shining armor he could champion was the Saint of my Republican Party known as Ronald Reagan. So, when the “blue-collar billionaire” Donald Trump came around, Bubba was eager to propel him into office. For full disclosure, this white-collar writer got his rear-end beat by Bubba from one end of the 2016 Republican presidential primary to the other, but Bubba and I are cool now. Having grown up in Republican circles over the past quarter century, it was easy for me to understand Bubba and foretell on Muslimmatters2 during the George W. Bush administration how nationalism was Bubba’s kryptonite.

One need only go to YouTube and listen to the Charlie Daniels Band classic “What the World needs is a few more Rednecks”3 to understand Bubba and hear Trump’s political platform outlined. Bubba might have a social media account and a smart phone today, but he’s fundamentally not all that more sophisticated today to the complexities of the modern era. Bubba defaults to nationalism, simply because his image of America is all he’s got. As Charlie Daniels says, all America needs is a “little more respect for the Lord, the law and the working man.”

 

Educated Americans, like prominent political scientist Ian Bremmer brilliantly outlined in his most recent book “Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World,”4 can intellectualize America’s role in the world. White-collar Republicans, like myself, went hoarse during the 2016 presidential primary trying to explain to Bubba how the liberal global order needed an indispensable America or at least a money-ball America, but Bubba was dead set on nationalism’s independent America. Similarly, and until now, Bubba could not be persuaded by white-collar Republicans during the primary that automation and artificial intelligence were the real forces causing his economic disruption, and not some globalist elite favoring Mexicans and the Chinese to blame for the loss of his manufacturing job.

As J.D. Vance brilliantly outlined in “Hillbilly Elegy,”5 what I call Bubba might be a socio-economic basket case but he does have his pride so he must look down upon somebody else. And that’s where xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, etc. all come into play. It’s not that Bubba has a well thought through strategy of how he’s going to reverse any of the macro trends changing his reality since 1950, and frankly elevating different demographics than his own out to 2050 and beyond. It is that Bubba just wants to vent, elect one of his own as president, and go back to numbing his socio-cultural reality with drugs and alcohol.

Ronald Reagan understood Bubba’s psychology, but he also understood that America was greater than just Bubba and thrived upon the new energy of immigrants. Reagan also understood the psychology of southern white evangelicals. Reagan understood that conservative evangelicals are a constituency to be mobilized, not empowered by delivering on the government imposed theocratic order they seek. Donald J. Trump, much like Reagan, is a TV personality and has so far played the same script Reagan played.

During the recently concluded presidential election, Donald Trump passed what I call Bubba’s Charlie Daniels litmus test, but this time added globalization and free trade to the cocktail mix of “others” to blame. Similarly, with conservative Evangelicals, Trump has tried to give them the “Radical Islam” ideological foe to reorient their “spiritual warfare” towards. Trump correctly understands, as a New Yorker, that conservative Evangelicalism today is simply a regional oppositional subculture and must therefore have a villain to play the role of spiritual hero against to maintain its own fracturing base. Trump throws conservative Evangelicals the rhetorical “Radical Islam” red meat, because, truth be told, he has no interest in delivering for them their longtime bread and butter social issues of abortion and gay marriage.

Some conservative Evangelical leaders have looked back upon the Reagan era and rightly concluded they achieved nothing strategic for their decades of “moral majority” Christian-Nationalism, aka Christianist, activism in politics. Bubba also looks back upon the Reagan era, and sees that millions of undocumented immigrants were granted citizenship further expediting the demographic and socio-economic transformation of America begun in the 1950s.

As Stephen Prothero explained in “Why Liberals Win (Even When They Lose Elections): How America’s Raucous, Nasty, and Mean “Culture Wars” Make for a More Inclusive Nation,”6 we Americans, culturally speaking, are a loud and frankly unsophisticated bunch. There’s a pattern to our madness that goes back over two full centuries. Islam has featured prominently in 18th, 19th, 20th and now 21st culture wars. Donald J. Trump is simply the latest standard bearer for a minority sub-culture that occasionally achieves plurality status during elections.

Trump was a minority candidate during the Republican presidential primary with simply a plurality support, and in the general election won the electoral college but lost the popular vote. Today in 2017, President Trump governs as a minority president with declining public support desperately trying to keep his own base from fragmenting further in the current political environment. 2017 is already off on a very rocky start for President Trump with multiple courts halting his executive orders and a Republican Party moving in three different directions on his initial legislative agenda, the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

The history of the Donald J. Trump administration is not fully written yet, but more than half-way through his first 100 days he can’t give Bubba today what he promised him yesterday.

 

 

References:

 

  1. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2008/02/11/us-population-projections-2005-2050/
  2. http://muslimmatters.org/2008/01/06/bubba-responds-to-possible-honor-killing-in-dallas/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Au6qBLgk1A
  4. https://www.amazon.com/Superpower-Three-Choices-Americas-World/dp/0143109707
  5. https://www.amazon.com/Hillbilly-Elegy-Memoir-Family-Culture/dp/0062300547/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489620832&sr=1-1&keywords=hillbilly+elegy
  6. https://www.amazon.com/Liberals-Even-When-They-Elections/dp/0061571318/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489620888&sr=1-1&keywords=why+liberals+win+the+culture+wars+even+when+they+lose+elections

 

American courts are tackling Islamophobia – why won’t Europeans? | Muneer I Ahmed

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 March, 2017 - 14:20

US courts and civil society have robustly defended Muslims from blatant discrimination. The same cannot be said of their European counterparts

On both sides of the Atlantic, courts this week have addressed the relationship of Islam to the west, but with radically different approaches and outcomes. In the US, federal courts in Hawaii and Maryland have halted Donald Trump’s second attempt at a Muslim ban. Meanwhile, the European court of justice, Europe’s highest court, has upheld the right of private employers to ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves.

Related: The hijab ruling is a ban on Muslim women | Iman Amrani

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Pakistan asks Facebook and Twitter to help identify blasphemers

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 March, 2017 - 09:50

Companies approached in effort to locate Pakistanis at home or abroad so they can be prosecuted or potentially extradited

Pakistan has asked Facebook and Twitter to help identify Pakistanis suspected of blasphemy so it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

Under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, anyone found to have insulted Islam or the prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.

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