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Confessions of a Muslim Skeptic

Muslim Matters - 20 October, 2014 - 05:30

Questioning Faith

The other day, a Muslim teen asked me the purpose of prayer. Why should we believe in God? Why do bad things happen to good people? As it turns out, this barrage of questions only represented the tip of a big, ominous iceberg.

There are a whole host of questions like this that are festering in our community and causing many crises of faith. The unfortunate reality is that Muslims are leaving Islam due to these unanswered questions, a trend that is exacerbated by the decreasing popularity of organized religion in society at large.

So Many Questions, So Few Answers

How do we address this challenge?

As someone who grew up as an American teenager in the 90s, the questions I had then, only 15 years ago, were mere child's play compared to the soul-swallowing issues that Muslim youth are struggling with today. Topics like gay rights, the war on terrorism, scientific proof for the existence of God, the value of modesty, the merits of sexual abstinence, human evolution, the importance of family, etc. — anything and everything is up for debate, analysis, and, ultimately, disavowal.

In sum, religion is seen as lacking any intellectual credibility. The only way to restore that credibility in the minds of the doubting masses is to address these questions head on.

Skepticism Defined

Whether in the academic or professional sphere, the most effective way to address complicated, controversial questions is to take a step back and pinpoint the hidden assumptions that underlie those questions. This way, one can problematize (or undermine) the question itself and, thus, proactively address it on one's own terms.

Traditionally, this tendency to problematize and undermine common beliefs has been associated with skepticism. In the sense I am using the term, a skeptic is someone who will pause to deconstruct and critique a thought system in order to judge its intellectual merit (not to be confused with philosophical skeptics, who question the possibility of knowledge entirely).

Oftentimes, it is religious beliefs that are the target of skeptical questioning: Why should we believe God exists? Why should we believe the Qur'an to be the word of God? Why should we believe Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was the messenger of God? Skeptical questioning of this nature originated with atheists and opponents of religion but, over time, has spread to all corners of the globe. Nowadays, even the faithful ask themselves these questions, and, when they cannot find answers, they either abandon the religion or ignore the questions entirely.

But there is another way.

themuslimskeptic

Intellectual Hypocrisy and Bill Maher

From my experience, skeptics of religion often are hypocrites in that they do not attack all thought systems equally. They save their most rabid lines of critique for religion, especially Islam, but give certain non-religious beliefs a free pass.

For example, someone like Bill Maher, a self-proclaimed liberal, has no shortage of animosity in critiquing Islam. But does he take that same critical, skeptical mindset to his evaluation of, say, liberalism? Has he spent any time on TV delving into the many different critiques and questions plaguing liberal thought? Has he dedicated any of his programming to contemplating the amount of violence and death modern liberalism has wrought?

Maher portrays himself as an objective, neutral analyst using the power of rational thought to discover the truth, but, in actuality, he is a propagandist, as detached from objectivity and rationality as the fervent Bible-thumpers he lampoons. The only difference is he proselytizes liberalism instead of Christianity.

The Muslim skeptic, then, is someone who gives such hypocrites a taste of their own medicine.  Why can't Muslims turn the tables by expressing skepticism about liberalism, the nation-state paradigm, scientism, humanism, progressivism, and the rest of the unquestioned modernist dogmas of our times?

Turning the Tables

Consider this small sample of “controversial” or “tough” questions:

  1. What is the scientific proof for the existence of Allah, angels, the afterlife, the soul, etc.?
  2. Why does Islamic Law require women to wear the hijab but not men?
  3. Why would an all-merciful God allow evil to exist?
  4. Do we have free-will to make our own choices?
  5. Why does Islamic Law prohibit homosexual acts?
  6. Why do many Muslims not accept the evolutionary theory of man's origins?

What we often fail to realize is that these questions do not arise in a vacuum. Most of these are not questions that troubled or even arose in the minds of Muslims 30, 40, or 500 years ago. These are questions that are characteristic of our time and intellectual culture in the 15th/21st century. As such, there are complex, deeply ingrained assumptions that underlie each of them. The only reason they may seem “tough” to address is that we are blind to those assumptions and take them for granted.

The Muslim skeptic must dig out these assumptions in order to scrutinize and interrogate them. In this way, rather than resolving such “tough” questions, the Muslim skeptic aims to dissolve them.

Given the number of such questions threatening the faith of our community, there is a pressing need for such a skeptical approach.

Skepticism in Action

As a brief example, consider the question of God's existence. Some modern Muslim commentators concede that there is no objective evidence for the existence of God, and it all boils down to a “leap of faith.” The Muslim skeptic's approach, in contrast, would be to first investigate the word “objective.” (Yes, the concept of “objectivity” itself has a convoluted and interesting history that we cannot take for granted.) Then, the Muslim skeptic would reflect on widely accepted standards of evidence used to undermine belief in God, e.g., scientific evidence, and evaluate them for consistency. For example, if we are supposed to reject the existence of God due to an alleged lack of scientific evidence, should we also reject the existence of things like the passage of time, human consciousness, mathematical entities, etc., that similarly lack scientific or physical modalities? Clearly, most people are not extreme enough to deny such things that clearly have a reality, despite a lack of scientific evidence. And so on.

In this way, the Muslim skeptic is not afraid to question widely held, cherished beliefs, such as the authority of science, in order to unpack hidden assumptions that cloud the issue and confuse people.

Conclusion

To be sure, skepticism is a negative, deconstructive exercise. Its purpose is to use rational argumentation to topple false idols so that the light of Truth has a chance to shine through. One of the greatest Muslim skeptics then, in these terms, was Prophet Ibrahim [alyahis] who cleverly undermined the idolatry of his people, as related in the Qur'an (6: 75-80). By pointing to a star, the moon, and the sun, saying, “This is my lord,” Ibrahim imitated the discourse of his detractors in order to reveal the internal inconsistency of their beliefs.

Muslim intellectual history is full of Muslim skeptics who employed all manner of rational stratagem to evaluate, undermine, critique, and overturn philosophies they deemed dangerous or subversive. This is a lost art Muslims today should be keen to revive, especially given that we find ourselves in an intellectual climate that has proved time and again to be hostile to our worldview. As Sayyidina `Umar once asked, rhetorically, “Are we not on the Truth?” It is time for us to start acting like it.

 

Daniel Haqiqatjou was born in Houston, TX. He attended Harvard University where he majored in Physics and minored in Philosophy. He completed a Masters degree in Philosophy at Tufts University. Haqiqatjou also studies traditional Islamic sciences part-time. He writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims and Modernity as well as the intersection of western philosophical thought and Islamic intellectual history.

 

The post Confessions of a Muslim Skeptic appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Lega Nord marches against migrants and mosques

Loon Watch - 19 October, 2014 - 23:07

Lega-Nord-Milan-protest

via. IslamophobiaWatch

On Saturday some 40,000 supporters of the right-wing Lega Nord party took to the streets of Milan to protest against immigration, under the slogan “No to invasion”.

Lega Nord secretary Matteo Salvini, who headed the march, stopped the demonstration for several minutes outside the town hall to lead the protesters in chants against a plan to build a mosque in Milan.

The march was joined by a contingent of several hundred militants from the fascist organisation Casa Pound.

The Lega Nord demonstrators were confronted by an anti-racist counter-protest organised under the slogan “Those who love freedom hate racism. Stop Lega Nord”.

Milan protest against Lega Nord

'Burqa ban': Bronwyn Bishop backs down on parliament segregation

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 October, 2014 - 22:10

Speaker and Senate president reverse decision to force visitors wearing facial coverings to sit in separate area of public gallery

Backdown over parliament house burqa ban politics live

The presiding officers of Australias parliament house have backed down from a controversial decision to segregate Muslim women wearing facial coverings such as burqas or niqabs in the public galleries.

The speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, and the Senate president, Stephen Parry, met on Sunday to reconsider the interim access arrangements announced just over two weeks ago.

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Julie Bindel does not deserve a “no-platform” policy

Indigo Jo Blogs - 19 October, 2014 - 19:31

Julie BindelThis week Julie Bindel (right) is due to speak in a debate at Essex University about pornography. Bindel is a radical feminist best known for her work with Justice for Women, a group that fought to get women who killed violent husbands and partners out of prison starting with Sara Thornton in the early 90s; she has also written extensively on violence against women, on prostitution and people-trafficking, transgenderism and pornography. Someone has started a petition to get her dis-invited, however, and so far it has attracted 200 signatures, mostly from well away from the university. The event she is due to speak at next week is aimed at first year undergrads and is part of their “Think!” seminars, organised by the social sciences faculty. While other attempts to prevent Julie Bindel appearing at university events have been successful, at present she is still listed as attending the event. (I read about this campaign on the Edinburgh-based feminist Louise Pennington’s blog, but she does not accept comments from men anymore. She covered a previous attempt to exclude Julie Bindel, and I did comment on that.)

The cause of the hostility is a series of articles Bindel wrote on transgenderism; she is known to be opposed to male-to-female transgenderism in particular, and is notorious for an article she wrote for the Guardian Weekend magazine in 2004. The article has since been deleted, but is available in image form here; it includes a number of nasty stereotypes of transsexuals such as “at least those women were women, and hadn’t gone to gender reassignment clinics to have their breasts sliced off and a penis made out of their beer bellies”, but the opinions are pretty typical of a certain type of lesbian radical feminist: that transgenderism is a reaction to homophobia, that it consists of reinforcing traditional gender roles rather than breaking them down, and that “a surgically constructed vagina and hormonally grown breasts [do not] make you a woman”. The latter is probably more widely shared outside the rad fem community than the first two, along with the notion that having been a man, and lived as a man, until middle age does not make one particularly well qualified to counsel (female) rape victims (it is possible that some will not mind, but others will).

This event is not about transgenderism, however; it’s about pornography, and radical feminists are well known to be opposed to the popularisation of pornography because it often depicts abuse (albeit of adults, not children) and because it depicts women appearing to enjoy sexual acts that are degrading to them. In addition, the widespread availability of this material means that children can also easily get hold of it, and it is known to have an effect on what boys expect from girls in a relationship and the way they treat them. Some feminists also cast doubt on the consent given to the acts they have to engage in when in pornography; while they may have signed a contract at the beginning, they may not have fully realised or been informed of what acts the ‘job’ would entail. The fact is that there are plenty of objections to pornography, and reasons why it should be restricted or kept away from children especially, and if they did not get a feminist to debate that side of the argument, they would have to get someone with a religious reason to be against pornography, and he would probably come across as not trying to sound too prudish or conservative and his (or her) arguments would not resonate very well, particularly with younger and non-religious students.

Having seen some of the ‘objections’ to Bindel’s appearance that are listed on the Change.org petition, it seems that much of it boils down to “she’s a TERF” (trans exclusionary radical feminist) and little else. The person who wrote the petition is a man, and is from Durham, which is a long way from Essex. Most of the signatories were not from the university, or the area, or even the UK. They all objected to her writings on transgenderism, suggesting that her mere presence would make the university an unsafe place for trans women, and did not even touch on her opinions on pornography or the sex trade (probably they do not know about her campaigning on violence against women). There is one comment (from someone in Hale, which is also a long way from Essex) that says:

It is one thing to tolerate the views of the hatefilled, it is quite another to invite them to toss vitriol into our faces

But having heard Julie Bindel talk about the sex trade (and discussing the idea of a legalised sex trade with a Nevada brothel owner on BBC Woman’s Hour), I can say that she doesn’t “toss vitriol” at anyone or indeed bring her work on other issues, whether it’s domestic violence or transgenderism, into her anti-sex-trade work. She sounded pretty calm and reasonable to me, and had clearly done her research, which is more than can be said for many of the signatories to this petition.

This is not the first time Bindel has faced efforts to prevent her speaking at a university event; sometimes they have involved appealing to the university or the venue concerned, and other times it has consisted of sending her death and rape threats. This reflects a sinister ‘creep’ of the no-platform policy from its original application to racists and fascists to pretty much anyone who has opinions that anyone considers bigoted, even if they are not being given a platform to express those particular opinions; there has been a wave of incidents in which conferences have been cancelled because they were to discuss views that were less than liberal on matters of sexuality, but were not violent, much less racist or fascist. It is right to ban racists and others whose presence on campus may cause violence or intimidate dissenting or minority students or staff; Julie Bindel is not a violent person, has no history of using political violence and is no threat to anyone. (And if you have ever joined in or supported an effort to get a Muslim speaker banned because he has expressed “anti-Semitic” or “homophobic” views at some point, or shared a platform with someone who has, you are participating in the same tendency of using censorship to defeat ideas you dislike.)

There is much I disagree with among Julie Bindel’s views, much as with a lot of other radical feminists, but these are things that can be debated, because they are not going to bring a bunch of thugs into the debate or to hang around the venue afterwards. In the case of feminists hostile to transgender people, one might make an exception for those who harassed them, outed them or tried to interfere in their education or medical treatment, but I have never heard of Julie Bindel doing this. The debate is about pornography and she is one of the best people to put the case against from a feminist point of view, as it is a genre that thrives on the exploitation of women (the other speaker that springs to mind is Gail Dines, who is also known to associate with the same group of radical feminists). I hope Essex University lets the debate go ahead and is not swayed by this small, noisy, self-selecting group of would-be censors.

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Humiliation replaces fear for the women kidnapped by Isis

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 October, 2014 - 18:32
Widow with child sold for marriage after raiding Isis militants shot her husband and took them into captivity

They sold Amsha for $12. Other girls and women went for more, much more. But Amsha had a small son and was pregnant with her second child. She had already seen Islamic State (Isis) militants execute her husband in front of her. Now the terror of that crime and the fear of captivity was to be replaced by the indignity and humiliation of being traded like cattle.

A 50-year-old man with a dark beard came to buy me, she recalls. From that day on, I didnt want to live any more.

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'Violent' Muslims? 'Amoral' atheists? It's time to stop shouting and start talking to each other | Reza Aslan and Chris Stedman

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 October, 2014 - 13:30

The logic of blanket statements falls apart when youre confronted with the diversity of the religious and nonreligious experience

Lost in the venomous arguments that have recently been flying back and forth between Muslims and atheists on HBO and on op-ed pages, in the United States and beyond is just how much these two marginalized, underrepresented groups have in common.

According to a Pew poll conducted this year, Muslims and atheists are the two least favorably viewed religious or ethical groups in the US. Both communities are severely underrepresented in the general population roughly 2% of Americans identify as atheists, compared to 1% for Muslims. Both face rising levels of animosity from the general public. And both tend to be defined by the loudest voices within their communities.

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The Lahore courts decision to uphold Asia Bibis death penalty is far from just | Samira Shackle

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 October, 2014 - 09:00
Unless influential people oppose Pakistans harsh blasphemy laws, theres no hope for her or many others facing execution

In November 2010, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death in Pakistan. Her crime was allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad during an argument with some Muslim neighbours. The case caused an international outcry; politicians and international human rights organisations took it up; lawyers appealed. Today, the Lahore high court upheld the death sentence.

Bibis case shone a spotlight on Pakistans harsh blasphemy laws. The existence of blasphemy laws is not itself unusual. All over the world, different countries restrict what citizens can say about religion; Britain had a blasphemy law until 2008. What is exceptional in Pakistan is the extremity of the penalties, and the light burden of proof. Blasphemy carries a maximum penalty of death, yet the law sets out no standards for evidence, no requirement to prove intent, no punishment for false allegations and, indeed, no guidance on what actually constitutes blasphemy.

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Pig’s Head, Hate Slogans at Athens Muslim Center

Loon Watch - 17 October, 2014 - 23:28

pig head_athens_mosque

Associated Press

Greek police say unknown attackers have placed a severed pig’s head and painted anti-Muslim slogans outside an Islamic studies center in Athens.

Nobody has been arrested over the pre-dawn attack Friday, at a building that also functions as a Muslim prayer center.

The attackers sprayed an obscene slogan against Islam on the sidewalk outside the building, daubed a Christian cross on the door and threw paint at the walls.

The attack was discovered by worshippers going to Friday prayers.

Bigotry targeting Jews and Muslims has increased in Greece in recent years, which also saw the meteoric rise of a Nazi-inspired far-right party. Golden Dawn entered Parliament in 2012, but all its lawmakers now face trial for running a criminal organization that used violence to spread and impose its beliefs.

Religious hate crimes up almost 50% In London

Loon Watch - 17 October, 2014 - 23:14

Lee_Rigby_Memorial

via. IslamophobiaWatch

Religious hate crimes have shot up almost 50% in London in the wake of Lee Rigby’s murder.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that there were 918 religious hate crimes in 2013/14, compared to just 634 the previous year. Nationally, there were 2,273 reported cases of a religious hate crime, up 700 on the previous year.

Statisticians believe the rise is driven by higher levels of hate crime in the wake of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.

Fusillier Rigby was murdered by Michael Adebalajo and Michael Adebowale outside Woolwich Barracks in May last year.

John Flatley, from the Office for National Statistics, said: “We’ve seen a small rise in both racial and religiously motivated hate crime in the wake of the Lee Rigby murder. It is a backlash effect where people are being victimised possibly because of their Muslim origin.”

Speaking to LBC, people at the Brick Lane Mosque believes media coverage of ISIL is to blame. They said: “I am not surprised, with so much time given to Muslim extremist groups that you may get a reaction or a backlash which may result in increased attacks on Muslims.”

LBC, 16 October 2014

The actions of ISIS would not in fact have had much impact on the figures, which are for the financial year ending in April 2014. The first of the horrific beheadings of westerners by ISIS, which has prompted intensive media coverage of the movement, was of James Foley in August this year.

Together we can conquer hatred | @guardianletters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 October, 2014 - 18:59

Tomorrow afternoon a memorial service will be held for David Haines, one of the three Britons kidnapped by Isis in Syria. David and Alan Henning travelled to Syria to help their fellow man by delivering vital humanitarian support to those who needed it most. Their desire to help was not driven by their religion, race or politics, but by their humanity. David and Alan were never more alive than when helping to alleviate the suffering of others. They gave their lives to this cause and we are incredibly proud of them.

We are writing this letter because we will not allow the actions of a few people to undermine the unity of people of all faiths in our society. How we react to this threat is also about all of us. Together we have the power to defeat the most hateful acts. Acts of unity from us all will in turn make us stronger and those who wish to divide us weaker. David and Alans killers want to hurt all of us and stop us from believing in the very things which took them into conflict zones charity and human kindness. We condemn those who seek to drive us apart and spread hatred by attempting to place blame on Muslims or on the Islamic faith for the actions of these terrorists.

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As Ebola epidemic tightens grip, west Africa turns to religion for succour

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 October, 2014 - 18:48
Fears evangelical churches that hold thousands and services promising healing could ignite new chains of transmission

Every Sunday since she can remember, Annette Sanoh has attended church in Susans Bay, a slum of crowded tin-roofed homes in Freetown. Now as the Ebola epidemic mushrooms in the capital of Sierra Leone, Sanoh has started going to church services almost every night.

I believe we are all in Gods hands now. Business is bad because of this Ebola problem, so rather than sit at home, I prefer to go to church and pray because I dont know what else we can do, said Sanoh, a market trader. At the church she attends, a small building jammed between a hairdressers and two homes, she first washes her hands in a bucket of chlorinated water before joining hands with fellow church members as they pray together.

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Friday Links | October 17, 2014

Muslimah Media Watch - 17 October, 2014 - 07:00
Last week the intense battle against ISIS in the Syrian town of Kobane made headlines everywhere. Mayssa Abdo, a female Kurdish fighter, is said to lead the battle of the Kurdish troops against the Islamic State. Another Kurdish fighter, Rehana, is said to have killed over a hundred ISIS fighters single handedly in Kobane. Kurdish Shirine [Read More...]

How One Man Refused to Spy on Fellow Muslims for the FBI—and Then Lost Everything

Loon Watch - 16 October, 2014 - 20:59

fbi_badge_gun_cc_img_0

An absolutely devastating, must read:

By Arun Kundnani, The Nation

On the night of December 9, 2011, Siham Stewart called her husband, Ayyub Abdul-Alim, as he closed down his corner store, Nature’s Garden, in Springfield, Massachusetts. She asked him to bring home a gallon of milk. A few minutes later, she watched from the window of their second-floor apartment as he was seized in the street and handcuffed by two police officers.

Forty-eight hours after Abdul-Alim’s arrest, FBI agent James Hisgen and Springfield police officer Ronald Sheehan offered him the chance to walk away free of charges if he agreed to become an informant on the Muslim community. He refused the deal and is now held at the Cedar Junction maximum-security prison in Massachusetts, facing up to sixteen years behind bars.

While awaiting trial, Abdul-Alim discovered that his wife received cash payments from the FBI totaling at least $11,949. The receipts were signed by Sheehan and Hisgen. Stewart testified against Abdul-Alim in court and admitted to working as an informant. This past April, Abdul-Alim was found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm that he alleges the officers planted on him as part of their attempt to pressure him to work for the FBI.

Abdul-Alim, 36, grew up in New York City in a family of African-American and Puerto Rican heritage. Prior to his arrest, he founded and ran the Quran and Sunnah Community Center in Springfield, which offered free meals and prayer services, and Connections Transportation, which transported people to visit their loved ones in prison. He was also a small business owner, an apartment complex manager, a husband, and a father figure to Stewart’s son.

His life began to change in 2010 after he returned from a three-week religious trip to Mecca. Abdul-Alim reports that he began to receive calls from James Hisgen, an agent at the FBI’s Springfield field office, who asked him questions such as, “Do you love America?” and told him to call back if he was interested in working as an informant.

In early 2011, Hisgen showed up at Abdul-Alim’s mosque, Masjid Al Tawheed, with two other agents. According to the Imam, Dr. Ishmael Ali, Hisgen claimed he was from the Springfield Building Department and demanded to search the mosque. Dr. Ali turned him away because he did not have a warrant. Dr. Ali recalled that in the two years leading up to his arrest, Abdul-Alim continually sought advice on how to get the FBI agents to leave him alone.

Since 9/11, a key element in the FBI’s counter-terrorism tactics has been the aggressive recruitment and deployment of large numbers of informants among Muslim communities in the United States. Part of the purpose is to gather information on political or community activism, which the FBI frames as a precursor to extremist violence. But the tactics also fit a familiar pattern—one that harkens back to the FBI’s history of targeting the civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s, when it was likewise asserted that extremist ideologues were fueling violence.

At that time, FBI agents were each expected to hire at least one informant to report on the goings-on of black people. African-Americans were watched by FBI informants everywhere they congregated: churches, bookstores, bars, restaurants, college classrooms and other gathering spots. In addition to providing information on activist leaders, the informants served as “listening posts” for blanket information on black communities.

The FBI believed that the civil rights movement was a front for Communist subversion and that the urban rebellions of black youth were instigated by Communist agitators. Systematic spying, it was thought, would help prevent riots but ultimately the purpose was to disable the growing radicalism of black America. Black Muslims—branded the “extremists” of the day—were seen as especially politicized, and prominent community figures such as Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X were placed on NSA and FBI watch lists. Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad had been on the FBI’s radar since World War II; in 1942, agents had arrested him on charges of draft evasion.

The best-known FBI initiative directed at the black liberation movement was COINTELPRO—short for Counterintelligence Program. It was launched in 1956 to infiltrate the Communist Party but shortly afterwards was expanded to include the ongoing surveillance of black activists. Disinformation campaigns, arrests on trumped-up charges, faked evidence, and assassinations were used to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” black movements, according to the FBI’s own documents. But COINTELPRO was just one initiative within the FBI’s wider surveillance and criminalization of black organizations.

Abdul-Alim’s parents were themselves caught up in these longer histories of FBI surveillance. His father was active with the Black Panther Party in New York and his mother was a member of the Young Lords, the radical Puerto Rican youth group that was, like the Panthers, targeted by the FBI. Both parents were involved in the Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood, a Harlem-based Muslim congregation founded by an associate of Malcolm X and whose attendees have faced decades of surveillance.

Read the rest…

Saudi Arabia faces outcry over death sentence for Shia faith leader

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

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

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

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What’s The Matter? | Postpartum or More?

Muslim Matters - 16 October, 2014 - 05:00

Question:

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

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

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

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

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

Please help me clarify my thinking.

I'm so confused.

Jazaka Allahu Khair,

Postpartum or More?

Answer:

Walaikum assalam wa Rahmatullah,

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Via Mayo Clinic)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The post What’s The Matter? | Postpartum or More? appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

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

Loon Watch - 15 October, 2014 - 23:11

Sam_Harris_Maajid_Nawaz

By Garibaldi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading...

US Muslim Jurists Resolution on Islamic Finance Companies

Muslim Matters - 15 October, 2014 - 17:37

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

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

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

What is AMJA

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

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

The Findings

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

The Three Classes:

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

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

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

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

The concept of “Need” and “Dire Need”

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

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

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

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

Another interesting aspect of this definition is following statement:

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

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

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

Rulings with regards to the Individual Companies:

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

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

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

Guidance Residential:

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

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

Ameen Housing:

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

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

Devon Bank:

This company has two types of Islamic contracts:

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

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

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

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

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

University Islamic Financial (UIF)

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

Ijara Loan:

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

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

LaRiba:

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

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

In Conclusion

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

Ameen.

 

The post US Muslim Jurists Resolution on Islamic Finance Companies appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

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