How The NY Times Whitewashes the Scandal of Israel’s Child Prisoners

Dima al Wawi, 12, was released from an Israeli prison last week, and according to The New York Times, her experience there was not all that bad. She played shuffle ball and went to classes, and when she came home after more than two months, she remained her spunky self.

This is the tenor of a piece by Diaa Hadid that ran on page one recently under the headline, “As Attacks Surge, Boys and Girls Fill Israeli Jails.” The tone here is in stark contrast to other accounts. The Daily Mail, for instance, ran the story with this title: “Haunted face of a 12-year-old girl broken by jail.”

A YouTube video of Dima’s reunion with her family also reveals a stony-faced child with dull eyes, and her mother speaks of her dismay at seeing her like that: “It seems like she is living in another world, in shock, not aware of what is happening.” She adds, “It feels like our suffering has increased.”

But Hadid gives us nothing like this. Her piece opens with a description of a benign Israeli prison experience and ends with Dima talking back to her mother like a normal, spirited pre-teen. Only far into the story do readers learn that Dima was not allowed to have either her parents or a lawyer present when she was interrogated and that she was shackled when she appeared in court.

Also missing from Hadid’s article is a full account of Israel’s scandalous treatment of Palestinian children and its apartheid court system. She describes these euphemistically as “a debate over how Israel’s military justice system, which prosecutes Palestinians from the West Bank, differs from the courts that cover Israeli citizens…and especially how it handles very young offenders.”

In fact, this is more than a debate. It is an atrocity that monitoring organizations have been documenting and publicizing for years: Israel routinely abuses Palestinian children in custody, deprives them of access to their parents and lawyers and coerces them into confessions. (See list of sources below.)

In addition, Israel is the only country in the world that systematically tries children (but only Palestinian children) in military courts, and it has two distinct systems for Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank. The former are tried in civil court while Palestinians face military trials.

In the Times story, however, this scandalous state of affairs becomes little more than a bureaucratic matter, a problem that calls for bringing two separate justice systems “more in line with one another.”

Hadid writes that Israel is trying to correct this deficiency, and she lists some policy changes made since a 2013 UNICEF report outlined abuses, but she fails to clarify either the extent of these abuses or the consistent and widespread condemnations of Israeli practices.

It is not only UNICEF that has raised alarm over the scandal: Human Rights Watch, Defence for Children International, the Israeli monitoring group B’Tselem, Amnesty International, Military Court Watch, several members of the U.S. Congress, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child, Breaking the Silence (a group of former Israeli soldiers) and the U.S. State Department have done the same over several years.

It should also be noted that Israel, even as it claims it is correcting the problems, recently denied a delegation from the UK the right to witness child detainees in court. Additionally,  the DCI report, cited in Hadid’s article, states, “Despite repeated calls to end night arrests and ill treatment and torture of Palestinian children, Israel has persistently failed to implement practical changes to stop violence against child detainees.”

Missing from the Times story is a major abuse cited in the above quote: the arrest of young Palestinians during night raids. Israeli soldiers routinely invade Palestinian homes after midnight—terrorizing families and neighborhoods in the process—and haul away teenagers and children accused of throwing stones or other offenses.

After a drumbeat of criticism from rights groups, the military announced that it would try a pilot program to cut down on night raids by delivering summonses to suspects, demanding that they turn themselves to the authorities.

But as the online magazine 972 reported, little has changed. The program has affected only 5 percent of these arrests, the documents are often handwritten in Hebrew without translation and soldiers are delivering the summonses during night raids.

DCI noted in its report that Israel has an obvious interest in continuing the raids: “Arresting children from their homes in the middle of the night, ill-treating them during arrest and interrogation, and prosecuting them in military courts that lack basic fair trial guarantees, works to stifle dissent and control an occupied population.”

Hadid’s story makes no mention of the night raids nor of the possible Israeli strategic interest mentioned by DCI. We get glimpses of the hardships Dima’s family has faced, but overall the effect is to minimize the trauma Israel inflicts on Palestinian children.

As the Times tells it, the treatment of these young detainees is simply “different” from that of young Israelis who run afoul of the law. It’s a matter of making a few adjustments, not a matter of ingrained racism and a brutal occupation.

Online readers can get a more complete story by clicking on the links to the DCI and UNICEF reports, but in the Times itself only fragments of the truth are allowed into print. The result is to obscure the cruel reality of routine abuse in the cells and interrogation rooms of Israel’s crowded prisons.

Barbara Erickson

[To subscribe to TimesWarp, scroll to the bottom of this page for email, follow @TimesWarp on Twitter or like Times Warp on Facebook.]

Filed under: Abuse of child prisoners Tagged: Amnesty International, B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Defense for Children International, Dima al Wawi, Human Rights Watch, Israel, New York Times, UNICEF, West Bank

Candid Convertsations: Q&A with Imam Suhaib Webb

Muslim Matters - 3 May, 2016 - 14:47

Date: March 2016
Location: Madinah, KSA

Candid Convertsations (4)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the following article are solely those of the interviewee, and do not represent those of Muslimmatters in general. The following article discusses the intricacies and challenges of Fiqh with regards to convert Muslims. As always, we strongly advise to seek personal and religious direction from your local leadership and scholars.

Recently, I had the privilege of sitting with religious scholar and Snapchatter extraordinaire, imam Suhaib Webb during his most recent visit to the city of Madinah. We spoke in his hotel room about some of the challenges facing the convert community in America. The following is a transcription of that conversation. The content of the conversation has been edited for clarity and style.

Jameel Besada: So shaykh, just to give the readers a little bit of information about yourself, how long ago did you convert and what were some of the challenges you faced back then?

Imam Suhaib Webb: I converted when I was twenty, but I really made the decision when I was 17 or 18 years old. I think the challenges that we faced in the early 90's, 1992 specifically, were very different than they are now. There was no Islamophobia back then. Today, it's streamlined like a “Happy Meal”, it's packaged and ready to be served. Also, being Muslim back then was kind of cool. There was a movement within urban centers of America; you had people like Cat Stevens who had become Muslim. You also had a large Nation of Islam (NOI) movement within hip-hop. Plus, Malcolm X the movie came out, and artists like Lauryn Hill and Q-Tip were Muslim. And of course Mike Tyson, who was this massive iconic figure. So there was a sense of it being kind of a cool thing, which is not the case now. But then of course culturally, as a white American, it was definitely going against the grain. So I think my biggest challenge was my concern for my family, how they were going to respond. To top it off I was also in a gang, so I didn't know how they would respond as well as dealing with my own personal vices in general. So before I became Muslim I was like “I want to stop drinking,” for like 6 months. After that, then I'm going to stop smoking weed. So I kind of knew that I needed to clean-up. So I was able to clean-up a bit before my shahādah (personal declaration of faith and formal act of conversion). And I didn't even know about shahādah then, for me it was like “Oh, I'm Muslim, I don't eat pork” without my knowing anything else.

JB: So fast forward to 2016, what challenges do you see in the Muslim convert community today, how have they stayed the same, and how have they changed?

ISW: In addition to some of the social challenges converts face, there are also institutional challenges as well. Honestly, I think that we have a very serious lack of independent convert institutions; institutions that are ecumenical theologically and teach orthodoxy, and don't brand themselves in any way. We need institutions that are financially and administratively capable of addressing the religious, social, and economical needs of converts. I really think at this point that is our greatest challenge. I remember while I was in Boston we had about 2000 converts in three years. So as far as the main institution is concerned, it did a great job. However, institutions that are dealing primarily with non-convert communities, especially on the east coast, are dealing with a host of issues, such as immigrants trying to adjust to life in America, many don't speak any English, the FBI trying to speak to congregants. Therefore, you have many things that are stretching the capacity of this one institution. Realistically then, it can't be expected to look after the more nuanced needs of the converts. There was an instance where I had to go to the projects to talk to someone's parents and basically tell them, “Hey, we just want to let you know that your daughter is not a terrorist.” But then, as the imam of a mosque, how often can I go to the projects and do that? I can't. Because my capacity is being pulled and stretched thin in so many different directions.
So I think that we lack funding from within ourselves as a convert community. We have almost come to expect funding to be there for us. However, I think it is time we really need to start thinking about funding our own work, and putting ourselves on a firmer economic footing. Look at churches. They start with five people, and then they just work hard and have a lot of passion in the process. There's a book called Sticky Church by Larry Osborne where he talks about how this happens. Something similar to Dār al-Arqam during the time of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and then putting our own money back into our own institutions. People ask me all the time, “Why aren't you the imam in a convert community?”, and my response has been, “Because you couldn't survive in a convert community.” You could and should sacrifice in this line of work, but you can't kill yourself. And to be honest, I hate that because that's what I wish I could be doing. Furthermore, the administrative piece tends to not be there as well. So I think our biggest challenge at this moment is the lack of institutions that can really help; help people that are converting with mental illness, help those that are converting with abuse and substance abuse issues, and then again some people are even converting that are extremely successful. So the question then becomes, are we really able to glean the best of everyone and work together institutionally? I think that converts tend to compare institutions with churches, wherein churches may lack the spiritual guidance and information that we find in Islam, what they did give you however is a feeling of family. Mosques tend to have orthodoxy, tend to offer limitless classes, but people don't ever really experience family. Whenever we talk about converts the first thing we talk about is education, which is great because it's a core principal of their development, but there has to be more than just that. Dr. Sherman Jackson likes to say that when a person converts they commit social suicide sometimes, because they lose a tremendous amount of friends and family. However, I think that's all part of the testing process from Allah that we have to go through. Nonetheless, that doesn't mean that they have to go through that process alone. We should be there to support that process.

JB: So what would you then like to see from the convert community in 20 years?

ISW: I would like to see our own institutions that are really playing somewhat of a different role. Just to be clear, I think that we are all part of one community, so I'm not really an advocate for the whole immigrant/ indigenous terminology because I think it's unhealthy. Nonetheless, I think we have to be honest in our assessment of institutions. I believe that current Muslim institutions don't really speak to the core of America. They preserve certain cultural constructions for their own security and comfort, which I understand. They also look after the education of certain aspects of the community, which tend to be younger children or teens through the establishment of Islamic schools. They also do provide liturgy. But what I would like to see from convert communities and institutions is that if any non-Muslim were to just walk in, that they would be able to relate to the message for the most part, and not feel culturally threatened.
So I actually tried that when I was in Boston. I gave a series of sermons with that in mind just to see what would happen. So I gave a sermon based on the verse, “And we did not send any messenger except speaking in the language of his people.” (14:4) So I thought about how at that moment the whole country was focused on the popular TV show Breaking Bad. I personally had never seen it. I tried to watch it but I couldn't. Still, I decided that I was going to do what I would call “Breaking Your Bad”. I really wanted to know if it were possible for Muslim preacher in America to say something on the pulpit so profound that CNN would want to know what this person is talking about. So I started doing these types of topics,

“Breaking Bad” followed by “Fifty Shades of Gray”, the latter addressing the erosion of ethical clarity. And then that's what happened believe it or not, because as soon as we did it, we had non-Muslims calling the mosque asking, “Yo… what time is that sermon?” We even had Shī'ah brothers and sisters come and say, “We want to come to breaking bad too.” Shortly thereafter, CNN also covered it. Of course, all of that was just a red herring to grab attention, while dropping a deeper message. The point was just to be out there talking about pop culture. So I would like to see our institutions in a way that they are so powerful that they can speak directly to America, like almost jump right into the arteries of America and hit issues. I think that's extremely important. I think someone like Linda Sarsour does a great job of speaking to certain veins of the country. I think IMAN in Chicago (Inner-city Muslim Action Network) does great work, and Omar Suleiman's “Inspiration” series. He did one episode on drugs and got a tremendous response from non-Muslims.
So I believe that culturally we are uniquely positioned to speak to certain aspects of our society. Now, I'm not saying there is an American “us” and an American “them”, but what I am saying is that there's a certain part of the community that we can directly speak to. And it would be great to see more and more of that happening. Something similar to what the NOI did. They were so relevant that certain people found connections with the NOI immediately. So I would like to see something like that on a much larger scale.

JB: In your opinion, what should be the role of the born Muslim with regards to their interactions with converts?

ISW: Well on both sides I think that there needs to be more religious tolerance, and everyone needs to just give us a break and understand that we have to make certain calls for our convert community. Our attitudes are more relaxed than most post-colonial communities, our nuances and activism might be a little different than what that community is used to. There needs to be a level of mutual understanding and a sense of self-governance to a certain degree. Allow us to handle and tackle issues that we as converts are better equipped to handle.


JB: Do you ever see the convert/non-convert dichotomy every going away? Do you see converts ever being able to fully assimilate into the community without having that convert designation?

ISW: Yeah I think so, I mean people like Imam Zaid Shakir have done that really well. Dr. Umar Farooq Abdullah, Dr. Ingrid Mattson.

JB: So what is that one elusive variable that allows someone to transcend all of that?

ISW: Time. I think we have to realize something, which is that our communities are kind of like what we see in the film “Poverty Inc.” in that they tend to profit from the poor even though they are there to benefit the poor. Not all of charities and organizations of course, more so ones like the IMF (International Monetary Fund). But I do think that the community tends to benefit from the presence of converts. Converts are a constant reminder that Islam is still guiding people. And all that's great to a certain degree, and I mean it's great experience but you don't have to own it. If that person has converted then they have converted. You know, I really like when Imam Marc Manley says, “Conversion is a moment, and then Islam is the process.” You hear people talking saying things like, “Oh, meet this convert he has been Muslim for eight years now.” Why don't we ever refer to 'Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) as a convert, or even all of the companions? However, I don't think it's a negative from the non-convert community. I honestly just think that it reminds them of the greatness of Islam and they're happy to see it. They're genuinely overjoyed to see Islam permeating the bowels of disbelief and bringing people up to the light of guidance.
Therefore, I would encourage communities to have conversations. Imam Khalid Latif did this brilliantly in Manhattan. What he did was he had a panel of just converts speaking to this massive hall of non-converts, and I think what would be even better than that would be to turn this into mosque policy. I think converts should speak to people in institutions and then craft some sort of understanding about language and programming. That's when you create a real opportunity for cohesion. Unfortunately though, we are not talking to each other. We tend to think the worst of each other.

JB: Despite the fact the fact that male and female converts both share similar experiences upon conversion, there are undoubtedly certain issues that are specific to the sisters, such as finding a trustworthy wali (male guardian or representative), dressing modestly, and divorcing their non-Muslim husbands. How would you advise our sisters and the religious leadership to address some of these issues?

ISW: I think with initial converts we need to discover the rulings in Islam that allow new Muslims certain concessions when they are valid, even if it goes against a specific text. [I advise] don't divorce your non-Muslim husbands, at least not right away. I say that because those special and sacred non-negotiable texts didn't just come to the companions overnight. Like ḥijāb (the veil), it came 13 or 16 years later. I mean, I understand the verse “today I have completed your religion and completed my favor upon you” (5:3). I get it. But I also look at the prophetic statement “And whatever I have commanded of you, do the most that you can.” It's very difficult to expect a person to apply all the rulings of Islam in a short period of time. It's irresponsible and it's irrational. 

And what I've seen is people go in that way and then go out much quicker. I think that's why I said we have a need for independent institutions.
For example, I got a guy that comes to my ḥalaqah (study circle) right now high as a kite on weed. And I know he's high because I used to get high too. Nonetheless, he comes to the ḥalaqah. So hopefully he will slowly begin to open up, have conversations, and then find the spiritual motivation to struggle and overcome that vice. But if I just start going in on him about why he smokes, I may lose him. He may never come back to the ḥalaqah again. Ibn al-Qayyim talks about this when he poses the question, “Is it allowed for a person who has an infinite number of sins to just work on a few?” In other words, get those right and then move on to the next. And he says absolutely yes, because it's illogical to burden someone with all of that at once. So one of the challenges that we have, like you and I as sharī'ah students, and this is going to hurt you and I a little bit when I say this, but we have introduced a language of law to people when there are many other languages of Islam. First thing people are worried about is “Can I do this, can I do that?”, which is important no doubt. But there are other languages of Islam, like the language of love. And of course love is then tied into the rulings of law. There are so many different languages to our religion not just the language of law.

So I think the issue with these sisters specifically and with converts in general is that we need to find the concessions that work for them when it is allowed. There will be times where we need to make fatāwah (personalized legal verdicts) for those people. We need to get across the fact that we understand what they are going through, that they are facing certain issues and that they have their own unique set of challenges. So when we speak to them, we make sure that we get across the fact that we are not telling them what they are doing is right, and that we are not encouraging them to continue, but rather tell them just like Chris Rock said in one of his standup routines, “I understand,” and we're here to try and help you.

Whenever Allah talks about a convert, He uses words like the word iḥyā' (revitalization), the word inshirāḥ (spreading out, opening), it's always a word about growth and resurrection, life and blossoming. So our job is to facilitate the process of blossoming. Allah is the one who plants the seeds, He's the one who causes people to blossom. So we should take to heart what the famous scholar Imām ash-Shāṭibi says in his work al-Muwāfaqāt. He says that the mufti (the legal jurist capable of issuing legal rulings) must treat people like a doctor. If you over medicate you poison their liver, but if you under medicate they die of an infection. So the goal for the muftī is to carry them on the middle path in order to stabilize that person.
I had a stripper convert. She was in my office and she's crying and she told me she met a Muslim guy at her work, what a story. We have to realize that her struggle, and people like her, is not like a “tomorrow I'm fixed” type of struggle, there's a ton of issues at play; psychological issues, abuse issues, their hatred of men. So the first thing I told her was to not tell anyone in the community what she does for a living, obviously because it's no one's business and secondly they may not like what they hear. I also asked her how she fell into that career because I wanted to learn. So she said, “My father is non-ambulatory, my brother is a drug addict, so there was no one in my home to earn money. I don't even have a GED.” She told me that she doesn't have the skill set to read and write properly, and this is in America! A white girl! She's told me that that line of work was the only thing she could do. She said she hated it because she was a Muslim doing this.
So the average person in our community cannot imagine what facing that type of challenge must be like. So my job at that moment is to find someone who can find her a job so she can begin to earn a ḥalāl (lawful) living, the answer is not to find her a husband. The answer is to find her a source of income. So that's what I meant by institutional and financial support. So I think with women in general, conversion needs to be explained. I think the statement, “There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah” needs to be explained very well, because it involves a form of divesting and investing. “There is no deity worthy of worship” is a person saying, I'm divesting from other than Allah, and the last portion, “except Allah” is a person saying, I'm investing completely in Allah. Both of those entail applying the rules and regulations of Islam, learning, and growing.
What I loved about the people from where I converted was this idea of constant change. You constantly uncover things about yourself that you need to address and fix. It wasn't like one day you wake up and you are 'Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him). So I think with these sisters, finding qualified scholarship, and trying our hardest to keep them offline. Oh my God, so much damage is being done to people with all these online fatwas. In Azhar and I'm sure here in Madinah, you are actually taught how to read a fatwa, how to criticize it. Is the language correct, is the logic right? Is it written in a way that is suitable and fits the person inquiring? And that's one of many challenges. But I think it would be great to see a tafsīr (an explanation of the Qur'an) for converts, or a book of fiqh (Islamic legal rulings) for converts. The Maliki school of thought in its books actually discusses all kinds of scenarios in the various chapters of fiqh, and they'll put a disclaimer at the end, “except for new Muslims.” Even fornication, drinking, wearing a cross, and I even think Imām Dasūqī says even if that person is walking to church. If they're a new Muslim you have to give that person a break. And that's not to say that the break is the goal, the break is a means to reach capacity.

So I think with a lot of these people we need to give them the idea that they are on a spiritual trajectory, they made a covenant with Allah, and it means that over time you will be changing. Our job is to facilitate that process; to help them grow, help them learn acquisition of actions and knowledge that will aid them in their growth as a Muslim and then deal with the rulings more in a step by step fashion. I mean if you are asking a woman to leave her husband, just think of the systemic outcome of that. It could be financial, it could cause her to give up her kids, she could very well end up homeless, it may subject her to scorn from her family. It could really lead to bigger problems. And that's why scholars say to not give a fatwā that leads to basically a bigger can of worms, to another thousand rulings. I mean, what if she lives in a place where Islamophobia is hot and the husband takes her to court and accuses her of being a terrorist and they take her kids? I mean all kinds of stuff. So I suggest we get to know each other first, build relationships, build a community, be nuanced, and then begin to kind of dissect these little issues.
I actually thought about my first week as a Muslim, there was probably like 7,000 new rulings. I'm serious, just the number of things I ran into. Like my mom has a dog, they eat pork at the table, they drink. I tried to go back and literally count them all. I was going to write a book about the things I faced in those first seven days. It was like 7000 new rulings, it was an infinite number. So I called this African-American brother I knew, Abdul Salaam, who taught me at that time. I told him, I have a girlfriend, I have this and that, I mean I was completely overwhelmed. He was like, “Brother…tawḥeed, ṭahārah, and ṣalāh (knowing Allah, purification, and prayer). For the first 8 months I just want you to learn how to pray.” I had one of those little books, with transliteration, and I just used to read that. Then he said he wanted me to read this book by Bilal Philips. After that, he wanted me to join this thing called a ḥalaqah. It was like a one year program. But now with the internet, and the sheer amount of information out there it complicates things. People say to me, “Oh, it must have been difficult back then”, but no it was easy because you were able to dose what you learn.
But I think it would be good to see some materials, study materials, written from the perspective of a convert, written in a way that speaks to some of the issue. I had a sister who converted and she was like 16 at the time. Her mother was an evangelical Christian, really hardcore. And this girl, may Allah bless her, said that she had to hide fasting from her mom. So she went out and bought these protein shakes and would keep them under her bed. She would have a protein shake for suḥūr (pre-dawn meal, eaten prior to the commencement of fasting) and one for ifṭār (post-fast meal, eaten after the sun has set). That's all she was having, and this was when the days were long. At ifṭār time, she said she would have to go to the restroom and pray in the restroom, drink her protein shake in the restroom. And when I mentioned that to some people they started attacking me, like how can you say someone can pray in the restroom? First, go back and read what the Maliki school has said about this issue, it's very clear. Secondly, that's a specific challenge that no one can understand. She even started to lose a lot of weight and her hair started falling out because she wasn't eating properly. So there has to be that understanding, it has to be as if you are wearing their clothes as my teacher would say. The muftī has to wear their clothes, they have to really know the depth of the issue, because the ultimate goal is to bring people to the obedience of Allah and to help them get to that point.

The British government has already forgotten the great dangers of propaganda | Piers Robinson

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 May, 2016 - 14:11
The covert counter-terrorism strategy targeting Muslim communities is a worrying development. Is it necessary and justified?

As titles go, the Research Information and Communication Unit (Ricu) seems bland enough to go unnoticed and innocuous not to raise alarm should it come to attention. The truth, however, seems less benign.

Revelations by the Guardian indicate that the Ricu, the Home Office’s “strategic communications” agency, has been involved in covertly supporting grassroots Muslim organisations in order to propagate “counter-narratives” designed to combat extremism. They also indicate that the British government has been involved in spreading propaganda aimed at bolstering the impression that there are “moderate armed opposition” groups in Syria.

Propaganda can at times be justified, but it always comes at a price, sometimes a very high one

Related: Inside Ricu, the shadowy propaganda unit inspired by the cold war

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The Muslim vote: balancing faith and politics in a divisive election – video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 May, 2016 - 13:00

In an increasingly hostile election season in which many US Muslims have taken to the streets to rally against Donald Trump, Muslim Republican leaders have their work cut out for them to keep voters loyal. In this second episode of Who’s God’s Candidate?, BRIC-TV chief correspondent Brian Vines talks to Republican and Democratic Muslims alike and asks how their faith helps them determine their vote

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Decent Tories must speak out against their party’s Islamophobic mayoral campaign

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 May, 2016 - 11:48

As I condemned Ken Livingstone’s remarks, so Tories should take a stand against the repugnant anti-Muslim smears targeting Labour’s Sadiq Khan

Speak out now, decent Tories, or forever be damned for your complicity. Zac Goldsmith is gratuitously exploiting anti-Muslim prejudice in order to win this Thursday’s London mayoral election. His campaign has secured its place in the history books, joining a political hall of shame along with the Tories’ infamous racist 1964 Smethwick byelection and the homophobic Liberal Bermondsey byelection campaign in 1983. There are no excuses. Lifelong Conservative Peter Oborne has described Goldsmith’s campaign as “the most repulsive I have ever seen as a political reporter”. Former Conservative candidate Shazia Awan has denounced the campaign as “racist”. “This is not the Zac Goldsmith I know,” says Tory Baroness Warsi. “Are we Conservatives fighting to destroy Zac or fighting to win this election?” A number of erstwhile Conservative voters have contacted me to share their revulsion. For other Tories not to follow their lead leaves them sharing the blame.

Related: Zac Goldsmith denies 'dog-whistle' tactics in antisemitism row

Related: Zac Goldsmith deserves to lose the mayoral race – and be put out to pasture | Suzanne Moore

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New anti-extremism powers to be included in Queen's speech

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 May, 2016 - 09:07

Legislation expected to include measures to ban groups, close down premises and gag individuals

David Cameron is expected to announce plans to crack down on extremism in the Queen’s speech, including powers to ban organisations, close down premises and gag individuals.

The legislation follows publication of the government’s counter-extremism strategy which also promised a full investigation into the application of sharia law in the UK.

Related: Government hid fact it paid for 2012 Olympics film aimed at Muslims

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Saudi Arabia gives women the right to a copy of their marriage contract

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 May, 2016 - 07:38

Kingdom’s justice ministry announces move to ‘protect the rights of the woman’, ending practice of only supplying document to husbands

Saudi brides will now get a copy of their marriage contracts, a privilege that was previously exclusive to men in the ultra-conservative kingdom, the kingdom’s justice ministry has announced.

According to a directorate issued by the justice minister, Walid al-Samaani, clerics who register marriage contracts will now have to hand a copy to the bride “to ensure her awareness of her rights and the terms of the contract”.

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Jews, Muslims, the left and “anti-Semitism”

Indigo Jo Blogs - 2 May, 2016 - 16:06

Picture of Malia Bouattia, a young woman of North African appearance with long hair, a necklace with three leaf-like charms visible, and a black T-shirtSince I wrote my last piece on the left and claims of “anti-Semitism” against Labour students and the Left more generally, a spate of claims of anti-Semitism against various Labour politicians, two of them Muslims, have been made, resulting in the suspension from the Labour party of Ken Livingstone and the MP for Bradford West, Naseem “Naz” Shah. Also, following the election of Malia Bouattia as NUS President, a number of local student unions threatened to disaffiliate, claiming she was an anti-Semite and had refused to support a motion condemning ISIS and complaining that her election was undemocratic because it was carried out by conference delegates, not through a ballot of all students. While I agree that the remarks that got Ken Livingstone suspended were crass and historically inaccurate, I suspect they would not have resulted in suspension if said about any other minority or for that matter any other genocide. The row about Naz Shah’s remarks from 2014 fail to take into account the fact that most Muslims feel the same way, and that their stance is not a matter of racism but of being on the opposite side of a conflict.

Malia Bouattia

To take Malia Bouattia first, the complainers are simply bad losers. The election of an NUS President has always been at conference, by delegates (who have to vote as instructed by their unions, which are accountable to the students — at least, those who take an interest in the union) and we did not hear them complaining when right-wing Labour careerists such as Jim Murphy were elected as President for year after year in the 1990s. When I attended as a delegate from Aberystwyth in 1996, Labour students even had people sitting with visitors in the balcony telling delegates how to vote. If they want a directly-elected President, they need to make the case for that at conference rather than disaffiliating. The Union of Jewish Students was prominent then as now, and organised a main-hall speech by a Searchlight activist who insisted that anti-Semitism was the “one abiding hatred” among neo-Nazis and that all their other hatreds were as nothing compared to the “paranoid hatred” they had for “the Jew”. He specifically named anti-Zionism as a cover for “naked anti-Semitism”, comparing it to someone saying “I’ve nothing against the Irish or the Belgians, but I don’t think they deserve a state”, ignoring the fact that Ireland and Belgium are not settler states and that they do not displace and oppress a native population.

I read the motion that Malia Bouattia refused to support, and while the motion itself does not appear Islamophobic, it also did not condemn Islamophobia or the politics of suspicion against British Muslim students; it did not even mention Islam or Muslims other than in connection with the so-called Islamic State. So, Ms Bouattia resisted a demand to condemn on cue and was smeared as a result. In addition, what does it matter if the NUS does or doesn’t condemn ISIS? It will have no difference in the field. The NUS passes an awful lot of resolutions on things that have nothing to do with students in the UK and on which they have no power, perhaps rejoicing in the glory days when union buildings were named after Nelson Mandela and students were part of the (vast) international movement that brought down Apartheid.

In the controversy over her election, the president of Birmingham University’s Jewish society, Daniel Clemens, was quoted as saying:

I think that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are two and the same thing. Zionism is the belief that Jewish people should have a homeland to live in without threat of annihilation or war. This stems from a Jewish belief. So when someone attacks Zionism they’re indirectly attacking Judaism as a religion, because the two go hand in hand.

The problem is that the “Jewish belief” is in conflict with the right of the Arabs who are the native people of Palestine to live in their country without the same threats. There is simply no defence of this position or of the status quo that does not lend itself to racism or to blaming the victims of Israeli oppression, something that in a student union context would not be tolerated of any other kind of oppression or violence. Furthermore, Muslims have been convicted of inciting racial hatred in this country for quoting hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallm) which foretold a war with Jews, and the judge dismissed his defence by saying, “words created 1,400 years ago are equally capable of containing race hate as words created today”. So, if Islam is no defence, Judaism is no defence either.

Naz Shah

 Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0Moving on to Naz Shah, her remarks were made in 2014 and were made in the context of the Israeli bombings in Gaza, which as reported at the time, caused widespread civilian death and the destruction of homes, schools, hospitals etc. We don’t regard this as self-defence, regardless of its disproportionality compared to Hamas rocket attacks. It is murder and destruction in defence of injustice, namely the state of Israel, which as amply documented elsewhere, already oppresses the population of the West Bank through settlements, checkpoints, the wall, theft of water, arbitrary imprisonment of civilians for acts of resistance, and so on, while keeping the population of Gaza under seige (in collaboration with the dictatorship in Egypt). The fact that all this is deemed necessary to “maintain Israel’s security” (although the water theft is really to enable them to maintain a western lifestyle) is enough to demonstrate that the state of Israel is morally untenable.

Naz Shah shouldn’t have apologised. Most Muslims felt the same way she did. She should have stuck by her words rather than grovel to the Israel lobby’s smear and fake-outrage tactics. If the political classes can tolerate the Jewish community’s loyalty to a racist foreign state, it should be able to tolerate Muslims’ opposition to it and the odd intemperate remark, particularly when it is clearly aimed at the foreign power itself and not at everyone who shares their race and religion.

Ken Livingstone

As for Ken Livingstone, his foray into being an amateur historian made him look pretty stupid. It’s a fact that early Zionists (such as Vladimir AKA Ze’ev Jabotinski) collaborated with anti-Semites who, for example, would prefer to relocate Jews to Palestine rather than tolerate them at home, or accept a wave of Jewish immigration from eastern Europe. Hitler did indeed tolerate Zionism, and did make an agreement with the German Zionist Federation, but this doesn’t prove that Hitler and his associates did not have murder in mind when they took power; the Zionists misjudged his intentions, as their leader later acknowledged (note: that link does work), much as those who stayed in Germany (or returned in the early days of his regime, attracted by the restoration of order) did, believing the surge in anti-Semitism would “all blow over”. To suggest that he only massacred the Jews because he was thwarted in his intention to deport Jews to Palestine or Madagascar rather suggests that his hand was forced, when it was a deliberate decision. The Jews of Europe did not have to be expelled or killed.

However, people calling him to be suspended or expelled from the Labour party overestimate the effect this would have on him. He probably does not care; he is 70 years old and has no intention of becoming an MP or running for mayor of London again, and it should be remembered that he has in the past beaten a Labour candidate as an independent.

What is anti-Semitism, and who gets to define it?

There have been a few stupid articles about this in the media. There are plenty of “sky is falling” articles by authors of Jewish origin: this one by Nick Cohen (complete with a shockingly ignorant remark about false rape accusations — in fact, attempts to talk about rape often are diverted onto talk of false accusations) and this one by Stephen Pollard, for example. But there are two others that make claims that I want to examine in more detail. One is by Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian last Friday, and the other is by Jonathan Freedland in last Saturday’s Guardian. They deserve closer examination because they compare the situation of Israel and related anti-Semitism or claims thereof to other tyrannies, and other minorities.

Hinsliff concludes:

Here’s a clue, for those confused about how to champion Palestinian rights or condemn an oppressive regime without overstepping the line: just treat Israel as you would any other country guilty of human rights abuses.

There’s nothing inherently antisemitic about seeking economic sanctions against Israel, supporting an oppressed minority’s right to self determination, condemning a government, or anything else you’d do if this was Burma.

But calling for its people to be swept into the sea, or forcibly transplanted somewhere else, or in any other way denying Israel’s right to exist, is crossing a line because that simply doesn’t happen to other countries no matter how oppressive their regime. No other nation state on the planet is constantly asked to prove itself morally worthy merely of being allowed to exist.

The thing is that this isn’t Burma. Burma was until recently, and to some minds still is, a country which is ruled by an oppressive military élite which controlled the economy and ruined the country’s education system, among other things. It also persecutes some minorities, particularly the Muslim Rohingya whom no other government in the region wants to admit. It is, therefore, a straightforward tyranny in which the population as a whole are oppressed by a powerful class. We do not always support sanctions against tyrannical régimes; many people did in the case of Burma, because tourism would have benefited only the military élite which exploited the general population, not the people. Israel’s tyranny presents itself as democracy, and it is commonly justified as the “only democracy in the region”, and the army which perpetrates the abuses is drawn from the dominant population — the Jews, the vast majority of whose ancestors did not live in the country until at least the late 19th century and most of them much more recently — and there is every sign that this dominant population supports the status quo, given that it elects hardline parties and the likes of the war criminal Ariel Sharon to govern them. So, the problem with Israel is not an elite, but the population.

The comments about how it’s OK to support “an oppressed minority’s right to self-determination” reflect the usual naivety of the white liberal about this situation. Israel is not willing to tolerate self-determination because it wants to provide scope for settlement expansion, to hold onto religiously significant sites and to provide a western lifestyle for Israelis and especially those relocated from the developed world. It cannot do this by allowing the native people equal access to resources and to control over their homeland. The reason we usually do not say of a tyranny that the state and its people should be driven into the sea is because the population is the victim (sometimes of land-grabs by members of the elite, as has become common in East Africa in recent years) rather than the perpetrator. The situation is more like that of Apartheid or of American segregation, where the state was of one section of the population and the enemy of another. (Nick Cohen talks of a ‘darkness’ where the police guard synagogues and Jewish schools here while ‘fascistic reactionaries’ attack them in France; real persecution is where the police and the fascistic reactionaries are one and the same, or at least, the police look the other way, as in the case of Kristallnacht or when Muslims were attacked in Gujarat in 2002. Of course, the governor whose police looked the other way now shares a platform with the Prime Minister and is feted by MPs of both main parties.)

In her penultimate paragraph, she alleges:

We don’t argue that the civilian population of Syria, or 1930s Germany for that matter, should have been forcibly removed from their homes and their nation states obliterated because of abuses committed by governments and condoned by some if not all of their citizens.

In fact, in the 1940s, millions of Germans were deported from the former eastern territories of Germany so that Russia could keep the parts of Poland it had occupied in 1939 and compensate Poland while resettling Poles from the east to the territories vacated by the Germans. In the same decade, millions of Hindus and Muslims in northern India had to leave their homes as a result of Partition. These were not recent settlers, unlike the Jews of Israel.

Freedland compares the left’s attitude to Israel to committed anti-racists hating a hypothetical country that is the only Black-ruled state in the world. In fact, one African country has a history much like that of Israel, namely Liberia, a country ‘founded’ by resettled freed slaves from the USA, who for a century dominated the country’s politics despite making up only 2.5% of the population. According to Wikipedia (which cites the US State Department for this):

The Americo-Liberian settlers did not identify with the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those in communities of the more isolated “bush.” They knew nothing of their cultures, languages or animist religion. Encounters with tribal Africans in the bush often developed as violent confrontations. The colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo people from their inland chiefdoms. Because of feeling set apart and superior by their culture and education to the indigenous peoples, the Americo-Liberians developed as a small elite that held on to political power. It excluded the indigenous tribesmen from birthright citizenship in their own lands until 1904, in a repetition of the United States’ treatment of Native Americans. Because of the cultural gap between the groups and assumption of superiority of western culture, the Americo-Liberians envisioned creating a western-style state to which the tribesmen should assimilate. They encouraged religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the indigenous peoples … Their passage of the 1865 Ports of Entry Act prohibited foreign commerce with the inland tribes, ostensibly to “encourage the growth of civilized values” before such trade was allowed.

I should add that, although many Black-ruled countries nowadays exist, there is no state for Black British or African-Americans specifically, despite the many decades of racism and discrimination they have suffered. There are many minorities, with or without an acknowledged land of their own, who do not have a state. Nobody is suggesting they get one at another people’s expense. Nor is anyone suggesting, even those who would open the doors to all the refugees from Syria, that there should be a bit of England that is forever Syria.

He concludes by demanding that Jews be allowed to define what constitutes anti-Semitism, much as other minorites are ‘usually’ allowed to, without being told “they’re wrong, that they are exaggerating or lying or using it as a decoy tactic [and then treated] to a long lecture on what anti-Jewish racism really is”. But racism against every other minority is normally directed at them, not at a group of people of the same religion who are the dominant class in another country. And most minorities are not White, powerful and prosperous, and cannot kick up a storm in the media (or rely on others to do so) any time a politician makes a disparaging remark about them, or their friends abroad. It’s dangerous to allow such a minority a free rein to allege racism for things that bear no relation to the racism or discrimination other minorities suffer, and be indulged; they will use it to silence or smear critics, as they are already doing. Additionally, spurious accusations of ‘mansplaining’ to mean a man telling a woman something she doesn’t want to hear are pretty common in my observation, and even some feminists warn that it can be used as a simple ad hominem attack.


Picture of Sadiq Khan, a clean-shaven South Asian man with short, grey hair, wearing a pink shirt and red tie with a dark grey jacket.I do believe that this scandal has been orchestrated so as to damage the Labour party’s prospects in the coming local elections, perhaps because the Tories feared that the now-forgotten smears against Sadiq Khan had failed to do so. There is a group of embittered Blairites who really would rather the Tories won than even a moderate mayoral candidate, so as to give them a pretext to remove Jeremy Corbyn from the leadership. That doesn’t excuse Livingstone’s crass remarks about Hitler, but the truth is that this “anti-Semitism” controversy started with a witch hunt against prominent Muslims, starting with Malia Bouattia, moving on to Sadiq Khan and finally Naz Shah, and that over something she posted before she became an MP. In the Guardian last week Iman Amrani noted that Muslims come under special scrutiny when running for public office; they are judged not only everything they have ever said but also everyone they have ever come into contact with, as we have seen also with Sadiq Khan.

It will be galling to many Muslims that their support for Palestinians’ rights to their own land, control of their lives and freedom from harassment and oppression is branded anti-Semitic by a privileged minority and their media friends here at the same time as an openly Islamophobic campaign is being run in support of a Tory mayoral candidate named Goldsmith. Muslims will know that however integrated they are, and whatever compromises they make to appear integrated, they will still be held under suspicion because of whom they know or (as in Sadiq Khan’s case) simply for doing their job. We also know that the reason “the Left” is considered tainted with anti-Semitism is not because of Ken Livingstone but because of us. Whether they like it or not, the Labour Party depends in large parts of London not on Jewish votes but on non-white ethnic votes, including Muslims’, and demonising Muslims over spurious claims of anti-Semitism will lose them votes — whole seats in places like east London and Bradford. Labour has to accommodate both, and should not let itself be dictated to by a group that can make a lot of noise but is much smaller in number, heavily concentrated in a few areas, for socio-economic reasons less likely to vote Labour anyway and does not even represent much of the ethnic group it claims to speak for.

Image sources: Media Diversified, via Wikipedia, National Archives via Wikipedia.

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'There was nobody to help me stop my son joining Isis'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 May, 2016 - 06:00

Families of foreign jihadis killed in Syria are helping a deradicalisation programme to bring young men back from the brink

Scrolling through photos on her mobile phone, Saliha Ben Ali stops at a picture of her son, Sabri, as a three-year-old sitting on Father Christmas’s lap. Santa’s white-gloved hands envelope Sabri’s small torso and that of the little boy sitting to his right. Both lads stare straight ahead, looking slightly bewildered. “To think, they were the only guys who were scared of Santa Claus that day,” Ben Ali recalls. “Now both of them are dead.”

Sabri died in Syria aged 19, fighting for Isis, sometime between August 2013 and 8 December that year, when an unknown man telephoned Ben Ali’s husband to tell them he had been killed. She is still haunted by the 10-second phone call in which the man said “congratulations, your son is a martyr”.

Related: Mothers of Isis recruits find healing and resolve through support network

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BADD 2016: Break the silence

Indigo Jo Blogs - 1 May, 2016 - 19:19

An image featuring the words "Blogging Against Disablism", with a variety of stick figures of different colours on different coloured backgrounds, one holding a stick, and a wheelchair in one of the spaces.This post is part of Blogging Against Disablism Day 2016.

Last month we saw the Seven Days of Action campaign, to highlight the cases of people with learning disabilities, mostly autism, who are being held for prolonged periods in Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) when they could or should be at home, or in a care home environment near their family. For last year’s BADD I also blogged on this issue; some of the people I mentioned are still trapped; Josh Wills has been happily resettled (after many bureaucratic hurdles) in his own home in Cornwall, Claire Dyer is still free, while Thomas Rawnsley’s inquest has yet to begin (a pre-inquest hearing was adjourned last week at the request of the “other parties”). I decided to link this year’s BADD post to Seven Days of Action so as to attract the wider disability activist community’s attention.

Here’s a run-down of the cases featured during the Seven Days. One story had to be changed, as although the young man had recently been discharged from an ATU into a local placement similar to Josh Wills’s, the placement had “hit some snags” and the local authority were talking of putting him back in the ATU.

Kara from Who By Fire wrote an excellent post in conclusion, summarising the issues which had been raised by the seven stories. Mark Neary is expected to post an entry tomorrow about some developments which have followed from this event: one young lad (Robert) was approved for funding for a placement in a local care home, but others have faced retaliation, including parents threatened with a gagging order, extended detention and even one assault.

There are a number of petitions addressed to various local authorities, demanding that they secure placements for the young people (mostly boys and men) who are trapped in these units. In one case (Robert’s), the ATU staff even signed the petitions themselves. However, some of them have had to be closed down when staff warned the parents that they were monitoring their online activities and that they could affect their loved ones’ treatment or keep them detained for longer. This is obviously a dreadful abuse of power, and it’s a power they would not have if psychiatrists were not able to detain people under the Mental Health Act when they are not mentally ill but rather are displaying distress behaviour which is normal for their learning disability when they are simply anxious, or struggling to deal with a sudden change in their life, or with uncertainty (as has been observed elsewhere, such crises often happen at age 17 or 18 when school ends and a well-established routine suddenly ends). However, some of the same behaviour is provoked by the treatment they receive once in, as such units often make no attempt to fit the needs of the individual patients and the staff may have no clue how to address them. (There are reports of such behaviour being provoked deliberately, as well.)

Psychiatrists have too much power. They are not fully accountable. They can make decisions that affect the quality of people’s lives, everything from suspending someone’s driving licence without notice to sectioning someone and then transferring them to another unit, perhaps hundreds of miles away, without their or their family’s consent and without any serious opportunity to challenge. Add the ability to threaten or intimidate families into silence and you have the potential for an awful lot of abuse.

Silence is often justified in terms of protecting vulnerable people; this is particularly so when children in care are concerned; parents are prohibited from disclosing what went on in a family court session, for example. In some cases, not naming a child involved in care proceedings or who has been a victim of a sexual assault is entirely appropriate for their protection (and I have defended it on one previous occasion, where Panorama were forbidden from naming a boy who had been taken into care after, among other things, setting fire to his room, after a legal challenge from the local authority). However, it can also undermine a parent’s position and their child’s trust in them — I read an article recently by a mother who had had to lie to her daughter so as to conceal the fact that her parents were in the family courts, which ordered that she not disclose the fact to her daughter. But worst of all, it can stop a parent or relative seeking advice in a semi-public forum such as Facebook or MumsNet about dangers their relative is facing, let alone taking it to the media. This is likely to be the case if someone is in a care home under the orders of the Court of Protection, for example (as Thomas Rawnsley was at the end of his life).

However, injustice, abuse and cruelty thrive when people cannot talk about it. So many victims of sexual abuse reported that their abusers told them not to tell as it would break up their family, break their mother’s hearts, or they wouldn’t be believed (and they were often right on the last of these things). We talk about justice being done and seen to be done; we have the Freedom of Information Act so that government departments cannot conceal waste or corruption. Publicity is vital for ensuring that people who have power over others’ lives cannot abuse it with impunity. I believe that the fact that Claire Dyer’s case was known locally in South Wales and was being widely discussed in the disability blogging community, including on this site, and that the commercially-run unit which took her despite not being equipped to do so knew this, was a major factor in ensuring that she was released early. The family of Robert Stillman, whose placement was approved days after his story was highlighted on Seven Days of Action, are convinced that this is what made the difference.

We cannot discuss the reasons why ATUs and the Mental Health Act they rely on to detain people are inadequate, sometimes lethally so, if the lives of the people affected are shrouded in secrecy. We must campaign to end the secrecy of the Court of Protection where it is not necessary (the judiciary is already moving in this direction). Trusts and corporations must know that their names will become public knowledge if a disabled person dies or is seriously injured in their care. Secrecy benefits nobody except the abusers, the foot-draggers and the companies that profit from disabled people’s misery and their families’ grief. It must be fought at every turn.

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Podcast 1- Self Love/self awareness – SoundCloud

Single Muslim Mums - 25 February, 2016 - 19:32

Please tune in to our Podcast where founder of Single Muslim Mums – Misbah Akhtar talks about overcoming hurdles and achieving self love as a single mother.


Listen to Podcast 1- Self Love/self awareness by single muslim mums #np on #SoundCloud

9 Tips For A Happy And Healthy Pregnancy

Single Muslim Mums - 21 August, 2015 - 00:12


Mostly, when we think of divorced or widowed mums we think of those left behind with children in their care. However, what we forget is that sometimes these women become single mothers whilst still pregnant; imagine how tough that must be subhanallah! At a time when one perhaps needs their partner the most, to suddenly realise you have no-one there must be quite overwhelming; especially when it took two of you to become pregnant. Does this then mean that these women should not enjoy their pregnancies and that no positivity can be derived from this? Should they hide away and not celebrate this wondrous occasion?! I don’t think so! Remember, the situation you now face has already been decreed 50,000 years before the Earth was created by Allah swt in ‘The Preserved Tablet’ where everything that will come to pass has been recorded. Why then should women feel negative about something that was bound to happen anyway, especially if they were not to blame?!

Still, it’s not easy when all you see around you are ‘happy’ couples excitedly awaiting the arrival of their little bundles of joy. I know I felt left out and once again like I couldn’t relate to those around me. In that moment I was determined to enjoy what could well be my last pregnancy in a way I had previously not done so, by cherishing each and every moment – both the ups and the downs. I have compiled a list of tips that make for a healthy but also happy pregnancy in the hope that anyone who  is alone during pregnancy need not feel like they are the only ones to find themselves in such a situation. In sha Allah, this eases the anxiety for a mum out there and gives her something to hold on to in her time of need.


  1. Look after number one! I know this may sound silly, but all too often we are caught up in the daily running of our lives: be it kids, work or something else. Throw in a break-up into the mix and you have chaos threatening to ensue if you can’t keep it together; making time for your wellness gives you a break from it all and helps you to regain focus. I let myself go in my pregnancy and I was the one who suffered. During pregnancy I suffered from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, this was caused by too much fluid being inside my veins especially in the Carpal Tunnel which is located inside your hand. As a result my fingers would go numb and tingly and often be accompanied by severe pain, bad enough that it kept me awake in tears at night. I never bothered getting it checked out as I never made time for myself. By the time I did, I had been suffering alone for months. Had I seen my GP earlier I could have saved myself a lot of trouble! Various exercises, a splint and drinking plenty of water eased my conditions thankfully!
  2. Listen to your body! By becoming attuned to your body you can save yourself so much headache in the long run. Rest when you need to rest and don’t try to push yourself too hard. I would get so sleepy during my first trimester and I would nap for long periods of time. With my other children I hadn’t had the chance to nap much when pregnant as there was only a year’s gap between them. I always sought to do housework over sleeping as I was worried I would be labelled as lazy but the absence of a man in my last pregnancy meant there was no-one to complain about a dirty house! My children were also 10 years older so they were in school and old enough to look after themselves if I needed a nap. Guilt free napping is a rare gift!
  3. Put your feet up with a cuppa! Some women suffer miserably with swollen feet and ankles; thankfully I didn’t suffer from this. I like to think that part of the reason why is that I always had my feet up when sitting down. I really miss my recliner now, but anything that raises your feet can be used to make a makeshift footrest if  you don’t have one. Alternatively, I would also soak my feet a lot to refresh them. I love tea tree oil products – they make your feet feel rejuvenated and re-energized!
  4. Embrace your situation, don’t fight it! I always imagined that one of the toughest aspects of being a single mum during pregnancy would be those dreaded hospital appointments alone. Like with most things, if you change the way you look at something you change the way it affects you. Instead of being miserable that I didn’t have my husband at my scans I embraced being able to savour this sacred moment all to myself – just me and peanut. In an ideal world it would be great to have a gushing husband declare how amazing seeing your baby for the first time is whilst he caresses your hand and then whispers how much he loves you. From experience I can tell you most men are NOT like that. The moment with a man is more often than not an anti-climax where they watch on awkwardly, not understanding how you can be so moved to tears by a blob on a screen. Experiencing this moment with a friend can actually be more of a moving experience than with a man; or better yet alone! Don’t lose sight of the big picture: you are going to be a mummy to a beautiful darling baby who will only have to look at you to melt your heart. Allah swt has showered you with such a precious gift that not all are fortunate to receive! When you have your little baby in your arms, you wont even remember the hospital visits!
  5. Go natural! Allah swt says in the Glorious Qur’an that man has been created impatient and we see examples of this all the time when it comes to having patience with ailments and problems. Instead of reaching for prescription or over the counter medicines to alleviate morning sickness such as Zofran (which is not FDA approved to treat morning sickness and is linked to an increase in birth defects such as heart defects) stick to healthier and safer natural remedies. Ginger biscuits or any plain dry biscuits are great when nausea strikes. Tea can also work wonders especially herbal and watermelon is another one that did wonders for me. If you do decide that you require medication to manage your nausea, then please make sure you research it properly first including side effects. It’s a small price to pay for your baby’s health and well-being.
  6. Fresh air and walking is vital!! I was very lazy in my pregnancy and I paid the price big time! I wish I had been so much more active but I fell into bad habits subhanallah. Allah swt has given us an amazing free cure with simple fresh air – it lifts your mood, provides you with a clear supply of oxygen and is a massive aid during labor. The more you walk, the easier it will be in sha Allah. It will also make it easier for you to get back into shape after having the baby. Listen to something soothing as you walk or even a lecture, I listened to the Qur’an recitation a lot before bed and the effects when the baby was born were amazing mashallah! It used to calm her right down!
  7. Stay Positive! A healthy mind and heart leads to a healthy and happy pregnancy! We have so many blessings to be grateful for in our lives: our sight, our hearing, our limbs, our health, our minds. Even if this was all that we were given then it is still more than so many have and we should be thankful to Allah swt because it could have been so much worse. Look to those worse off to see just how much you have been blessed with. Focus on acts of worship a lot to bring you closer to Allah swt which will lighten the heart too. Remember, Allah swt says in the Qur’an that we are not burdened with more than we can handle. Allah swt gave us these challenges unique to us because He knew we would get through it and could handle it. Allah swt believes in you, do you believe in yourself?!
  8. Eat and drink yourself healthy! It’s never too late to start! drinking plenty of water flushes out toxins and makes your skin smooth and supple; it maintains your youth for so much longer. I suffered from bad cramps and gas when pregnant, so to avoid this and heartburn I cut out all the fizzy drinks and fried, greasy foods. I ate smaller portions of healthier snacks often – especially during my first trimester when all I seemed to do was graze on food! I also tried to eat dinner early to give me enough time to digest it before bed.
  9. Laugh and smile daily! A recent study found that laughing for 15 minutes a day can burn up to 40 calories! It lifts your mood, makes you more beautiful and compliments your pregnancy glow. It will also help you to feel more positive and more confident and shows your gratitude to Allah swt as you try to be content with His decree.

This world and everything in it is temporal. This message is stated throughout the Qur’an. From this we learn that nothing stays constant and eternally in this life – our worries; sadness; and problems included. This life is so short and is a gift to us; none of us know when we may pass from this world; do you really want to waste precious moments crying over what was not meant to be in your life rather than welcoming that which is? Pregnancy is a gift bestowed upon us from the One Who Created us all, let’s make the most of it and enjoy every moment that we can:)

Khulla, the right of women or men?

Single Muslim Mums - 23 June, 2015 - 13:56

“And it is not lawful for you (men) to take back (from your wives) any of your Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) which you have given them, except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allaah (e.g. to deal with each other on a fair basis). Then if you fear that they would not be able to keep the limits ordained by Allaah, then there is no sin on either of them if she gives back (the Mahr or a part of it) for her Al-Khul‘ (divorce)”
[al-Baqarah 2:229]

The Khulla is the right of the woman in Islam to ask for an annulment of her marriage in order to dissolve it. “Khula’ means the separation of the wife in return for a payment; the husband takes the payment and lets his wife go, whether this payment is the mahr which he gave to her, or more or less than that” (Islam qa).

Why is it then that a khulla appears to be the right of a man because he ascertains whether she can have an annulment or not?  The argument here is not as to whether the wife has justification to end her marriage or not, but whether she has the means.

Subhanallah, I have had many sisters come up to me and complain that they cannot afford the cost of a khulla and what is already a hard time is made tougher by sharia councils with no heart or compassion. Many women are therefore forced to stay in miserable marriages, some of which are abusive because their voice once again is not heard. For an Ummah that prides itself on stating how women have a high status in Islam we sure have a hard time following suit.
I decided to investigate these complaints and put it to the test. There was no way, I reasoned; that these appointed judges could NOT have mercy upon desperate women. I mean, these are scholars we are talking about!! Surely they would have more fear of Allah swt than the common man! They are revered and respected because they should obviously be fair, Muslim men of good character. Allah swt has honoured them with a high status allahumma barakh lahum! I Googled ‘Sharia council London’ and got two main results. The first place I called was

I am fairly certain the brother who answered is a well known scholar but as I am not 100% sure I won’t divulge any names. He was soft spoken. I told him I wanted a khulla. I said I had checked the website and saw the prices were fairly steep (think it was about £250) but I couldn’t afford it as I don’t work and receive benefits and am a single mother. He said if I show proof of receipt of benefit he would reduce it from £400 to £300. £400?!! Subhanallah, that’s more than I originally thought it was!! I said it was still too high and he said I could pay in installments and I again said I could not. He then said I could go to the National Zakaat Foundation and they could pay as they had done for other sisters. Maybe it’s just me, but I consider that money and money from charities to be for the poor and those who can’t make ends meet. It isn’t that I don’t have the money in my account, it’s that is my savings for my kids.

So I asked him what if they refused to give me the money, did that then mean that I would have to forgo my right to a khulla? How was this fair or from the sunnah? He asked why I couldn’t go to the charities and ask. I knew he wanted to get me off the phone and I was offended at how cold he sounded and his lack of sympathy. I didn’t feel I could continue this conversation further or that he welcomed me to speak my mind. I felt belittled subhanallah and unheard. I thanked him, gave him salaam and hung up.

The next number I found was for This time I thought about what I wanted to say and prepared my speech… The brother who answered was an older Pakistani (us Pakistanis can recognize each other even by our voices!). I think he was probably in his 50-60’s. This council was only charging £175. I again explained my situation and told him I couldn’t pay and he said he could knock £50 off. I said that that was still too much and he said he didn’t have the authority to offer more of a discount. I asked who did have that authority and he said the chairman wasn’t here as he was on holiday in Egypt till September. He also said he didn’t think the man would go any lower. I then asked who was second-in-command and he said no-one. I said there must be someone but he maintained there was no-one else. I then launched my speech.

I told the brother that whilst I understood they had offices to run and bills and salaries to pay I was sure they understood risq comes from Allah swt. I told him who I was and about my organisation and how many sisters come to me desperate because they can’t get a khulla as they can’t afford it. I told him charities are for the poor and I didn’t feel it was right to use the money for issues like this. I said the khulla was the right of the woman; it wasn’t fair that this was in the hands of a man, because he determined whether she even got heard, because of cost. I pointed out that this wasn’t from the sunnah. I said some women want to escape abusive marriages where they are beaten and raped and now they couldn’t because the judge who is a scholar (and therefore should know better that risq is in the hands of Allah swt) wouldn’t even hear them out. I asked why men who are oppressors and abusive in their marriage couldn’t be made to pay the fee. I asked why the fee couldn’t be wavered fi sabillilah and given as sadqa (because don’t these shayukh give sadqa?!!).

I said that I couldn’t talk for the scholars but that this brother knew that today a sister came to him asking for his help; that he had been blessed with a higher status Islamically than me and was in charge of my safety and well being. I said to the brother that he wouldn’t be able to say on Yaum-al-Qiyamah to Allah swt that he did not know this sister was in need, asking for her freedom. That she came to him for his help and that he told her he could not help as she could not afford to pay. I asked if he was willing to give up gaining barakah for helping someone just for money?!! I also said any good deeds done in this month were worth so much more alhamdulillah. Finally, I said that whilst I knew he said he couldn’t make any decisions, I wanted to give him something to think about in the month of Ramadan; we all have rights over one another, scholar or not. He said he would pass on my thoughts and feelings to the chairman.

I put it to you all: is this really fair? In a country where legal aid is available and where concessions are made for those who cannot afford full college courses or marriage counseling, are you telling me that the sharia council is so rigid that their main goal is money and they cannot budge from their fee or offer a low rate?!! How is this proving to others that Islam is the best, most fair, religion? Is this from the sunnah?!! I personally have come across rakhi’s  and sisters who do hijama who either say ‘give what you can’ or do it for free when you say you have no money. Do they then fear Allah swt more than these brothers?!! Women go to these men who they look up to, and leave feeling even more humiliated and degraded. Asking for a khulla is not a matter of pride, us divorcees know the stigma we face because of divorce. It’s not easy to tell someone our marriage has failed, knowing we might be judged. Is it fair these judges belittle us and make us feel inferior?

Who will stand up for us and voice our concerns, complaints and rights?

The wife of Thaabit ibn Qays ibn Shammaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, “O Messenger of Allaah, I do not find any fault with Thaabit ibn Qays in his character or his religious commitment, but I do not want to commit any act of kufr after becoming a Muslim.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to her, “Will you give back his garden?” Because he had given her a garden as her mahr. She said, “Yes.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to Thaabit: “Take back your garden, and divorce her.”(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5273).


Where in this hadith is payment referred to? Where does it say that the sister in question had to pay admin fees, that her rights had a price attached to them made payable to a judge?!! How can we claim to follow the sunnah when we ignore and forget this?!!

I ask you to support our sisters by sharing this with everyone you know. I am considering starting a petition so the councils know how many women feel the same way I do and how many are not willing to accept this injustice. Please keep our sisters in your dua. Barakhallahu feekum.

Single mothers in UAE will shoulder the blame after most divorces

Single Muslim Mums - 9 May, 2015 - 21:46

Since she separated from her husband, Fatma Salim has been through a tough journey that started on the very first day after the divorce. First and most importantly, she faced obstacles as she fought over the custody of her son.

Her 10-year-old would often beg her to move back in with him and his father so that the three of them could live together as they once did. And so she had to convince her son that it was better for him – and for her and her former husband – for them to live apart. It reached a point where the son knew that the only way he would be able to live with his mother again was for his father to pass away. It was a heartbreaking realisation.

Being a single mother is a challenge for any woman, regardless of which country she lives in. Under any circumstances, parenting is an enormous challenge that requires consistent effort and sacrifice. But in some societies, including in the UAE, social stigma adds another dimension to a single mother’s struggle.

Ms Salim is just one example of a woman who lost custody of her child, after authorities found in favour of the father. But then she had to fight another battle against the society that surrounds her. Unlike many others, however, she wanted to tell her story, and she told me that many people blamed her for leaving her husband. She also has to tolerate constant questions about the reasons why she divorced, and not-so-subtle suggestions that she should have stayed with her ex-husband regardless.

Her son was the one who paid the price for the divorce, but that did not mean that his mother was guilty of some sort of dereliction of parenthood – in her marriage, divorce seemed like the only solution.

Ms Salim also told me that she felt that many women looked at her as a bad role model for their young daughters. And men who want to get to know her with a view to marriage always change their minds when they find out that she has a child, even though her son does not live with her all the time.

Her case is somewhat rare among divorcees in the UAE, as women are generally awarded custody of their children until they reach majority, as long as the women meet specific conditions and do not remarry. And so many divorced mothers will not even consider getting married again given the risk that they might lose custody of their children, especially if they are very young.

This sometimes means that single mothers will have to take the entire responsibility for their children, as the breadwinner as well as the caregiver, when their ex-husbands start new lives and new families. In this society, men typically have more opportunities to start over than women do.

According to the letter of the law, fathers are required to continue to financially support children and provide a residence. But in practice, many fathers abandon this responsibility and provide very little assistance – “deadbeat dads”, they are called in the United States – and so many cases end up in court.

A friend told me about her mother, who has four children and faced many difficulties after she left her husband because he chose to marry someone else. Without my friend’s grandmother, the family would not have been able to survive financially. Many newly single women have never held a job in their lives.

In that case, the children were lucky to have a grandmother around to lend support. In other cases, single mothers rely on family members for support, but are seen as a burden, and treated poorly as a result.

Divorce rates are increasing in the UAE. According to a survey by Euromonitor International, the total number of single-parent households more than doubled between 2006 and 2011, to more than 110,000. There are some single fathers, but most of these households are headed by single mothers.

These women face so much pressure from society, which in most cases blames women more than men. That adds to their emotional burden as many of them are made to feel that they are the reason that their children live without fathers, even if divorce or separation wasn’t their decision.

As many of these women face difficulties starting new lives and finding new husbands, if they so choose, many of them have to fight the perception among some men that they are “easy”. And some men do try to take advantage of their situation.

Single mothers – separated, divorced or widowed – all need community support. Blaming divorced mothers for not holding their families together, as if it was their fault alone, achieves nothing. Sometimes divorce, even if it is unfortunate, is the only solution. Single mothers deserve another chance to start new lives, and need respect from society to do so.

Ms Salim’s family respected her decision and her right to choose what she thought was best for her and for her child. But so many women in our society struggle to fight a negative social stigma and mistreatment, sometimes coming from their very own families.

On Twitter: @AyeshaAlMazroui

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