Ben Lee: why a Jewish-raised Hindu musician is singing songs about Islam for kids

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 March, 2017 - 19:29

The singer and spiritual seeker says he is standing against Trump’s travel ban – and ‘standing up for ambiguity and poetry’

Protests about Donald Trump’s travel ban are taking many forms but perhaps one of the most unexpected is the release of a new album by Ben Lee, called Ben Lee Sings Songs About Islam for the Whole Family.

Yes, it’s a poppy, catchy album about Allah for kids, written by a Jewish-raised dude from Sydney.

Related: X Factor winner Isaiah Firebrace to represent Australia at 2017 Eurovision song contest

Related: Archie Roach on the healing power of song: 'Music was great therapy for me'

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‘I’d love a hijab that matches my trainers’: what Muslim athletes think of Nike’s new sportswear

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 March, 2017 - 16:43
The company is launching its first professional sports hijab – but how much difference will it make to Muslim competitors?

Air: endlessly available. Free. But worth so much when marketed by Nike. Back in the day, it was sold in the glass bubble of the much-coveted Air Max. Now, it’s breathability that Nike is keen to promote. Next year will see the introduction of the company’s first professional sports hijab. But do Muslim sportswomen think it will make a difference?

“Definitely,” says Alia Komsany, a professional rower from Oxford, who is pleased that the Pro Hijab is the latest addition to the sportswear range. “In rowing, your body’s moving back and forth, strenuously and at a fast rate – so my hijab slips back. It means I can’t focus. I’ve had a number of mishaps, so this is really important to me. This will help me to perform my best.

Related: Nike launches hijab for female Muslim athletes

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The beauty of art can counter Islamophobia – but it won't be easy

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 March, 2017 - 16:16

A Qatari-funded Arab and Islamic art museum is opening in New York to ‘challenge misconceptions’ – but has the US already made up its mind?

What kind of Islamic art has the power to open American hearts and minds, at a time when Donald Trump has relaunched his attempt to ban entry from several Muslim-majority nations?

In May, a new Institute of Arab and Islamic Art, set up by Qatar’s Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al-Thani, will open in downtown Manhattan. The timing is not accidental. Al-Thani is trying to humanise Islam and broaden perceptions of it in the US. He hopes the institute will “not only showcase the breadth of art and culture from the Arab and Islamic worlds, but also challenge certain stereotypes and misconceptions that hinder cross-cultural understanding”, he told the Art Newspaper.

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Nike's Pro Hijab: a great leap into modest sportswear, but they're not the first

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 March, 2017 - 14:57

Nike’s move to highlight the intensity and passion of veiled Muslim athletes speaks volumes in an age of renewed xenophobia, but it’s hardly groundbreaking

Two days before International Women’s Day, Nike unveiled its Pro Hijab and took a leap into modest sportswear. Nike, arguably the most influential sports company in the world, announced that the product, available in three colors, would be on sale in spring 2018.

The Pro Hijab is a collaboration between Muslim athletes in the Middle East – and the timing of Nike highlighting diversity in sport is impeccable. In an era where xenophobia seems to ring out as a norm, highlighting the intensity and passion of veiled Muslim athletes speaks volumes. But the modest sportswear industry is not a new one, and although the move is exciting, it’s hardly groundbreaking.

What will they say about you?
Maybe they'll say you showed them what's possible. #justdoit

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Shut down but not silenced: Isis play Homegrown demands to be staged

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 March, 2017 - 13:43

Cancelled in 2015, a play about the radicalisation of young Muslims has now been published. It’s challenging, gloriously authentic and prompts grownup debate. So who is brave enough to put it on?

In 2015, the National Youth Theatre asked writer Omar El-Khairy and director Nadia Latif to create a show with its members about the radicalisation of young Muslims. Rehearsals for Homegrown began that summer with a sprawling cast. Around 70% of the script was already written, with the rest to be created through contributions from the cast. But halfway through the rehearsals period the production was abruptly cancelled; the NYT’s artistic director Paul Roseby cited a lack of quality and the need to protect the young people involved in the project.

There was no sign of a lack of quality at Conway Hall in London on Monday evening when an extract of the play was performed as part of An Inconvenient Muslim, an event organised by Index on Censorship to mark the publication of Homegrown that included a panel debate around the issues of censorship and representation of Muslims in society and the arts. There was no sign either of young people in need of protection from either challenging ideas or provocative theatre. Many of the original cast have stayed with the project over the last 20 months, and their commitment to it was demonstrated by electrifying performances of some scenes.

Related: Drama in the age of Prevent: why can't we move beyond Good Muslim v Bad Muslim?

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Nike launches hijab for female Muslim athletes

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 March, 2017 - 01:06

US-based company becomes the first large sportswear brand to manufacture a performance hijab

Nike has taken another step into the lucrative Islamic clothing market by unveiling a hijab designed for female Muslim athletes.

The product, which has been in development for a year, was tested by athletes including figure skater Zahra Lari.

Related: Generation M: how young Muslim women are driving a modest fashion revolution

Nike is launching a hijab collection line for Muslim female athletes. This is the future

This is the most amazing thing!! Imagine how comfy it's gonna be - better than those other scarf things hijabis have to wear now.

Slightly torn- Sport hijabs have been around 4 awhile & I can't see anything special (expect the nike tick) about the design #NikeProHijab

Most patronising. I've been wearing a scarf and exercising fine for years, just as small businesses have BEEN making scarves for activewear.

But before Nike, there were companies doing this work. @Capsters @Resporton_Hijab and @friniggi + more who have been doing this A LONG time.

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Established Knowledge and the American Muslim Campaign Against It

Muslim Matters - 8 March, 2017 - 00:29

Recent social media conversations amongst American Muslims indicate that American Muslim laity have fallen victim to an anti-intellectual trend which has gripped American culture. Anti-intellectualism is the campaign against established knowledge and those who possess it. The average educated American, due to the influences of living in a Democratic political atmosphere (which, in essence values all voices as equal), mass educational policies and a cultural emphasis on individualism, has developed not only an ignorance, but an arrogant ignorance, that challenges established knowledge and its experts. I am concerned that this broader culture of anti-intellectualism is being mimicked by American Muslims.

“Walking the streets of America are millions of ordinary people who believe that they possess troves of knowledge, they feel they know more than the experts, they can critique their professors and they have more insight into everything than everyone else.”

The Quranic perspective on acquired knowledge is that no one person is an expert on everything[2], and society cannot function without a social division of labor[3] and a reliance on experts. The reason our society flourished in the past is because we communally relied on experts. The discomforting fact is that we are not all equal — just as we cannot all sing or draw, likewise we do not all have an equal propensity to see and recognize gaps in knowledge and illogical thinking. Perhaps the most unsettling fact surrounding this phenomenon is the growth of a narcissistic culture that finds it extremely intolerable to suggest inequality of any kind. This is precisely the reason why some may grumble with my usage of terms such as laity, commoners, or plebeians. I myself recognize that I am layman in many fields and respect the expertise in those fields.  As a society, we have gone from mere skepticism regarding established knowledge to outright war against it.  As Professor Tom Nichols puts it, “Any assertion of expertise from an actual expert,  meanwhile, produces an explosion of anger from certain quarters of the American public who immediately complain that such claims are nothing more than fallacious ‘appeals to authority,’ sure signs of dreadful elitism…”[4] Nichols’ point of view clearly shows that the constant push to free man from every kind of tyranny has led to an American culture which holds all opinions as equal and a belief that “everyone is as smart as everyone else.”

The limitations of time and ability make it almost impossible for one individual to become an expert in everything. By nature, we are inclined to find interest in different things. This usually led to a society that prospered because it benefited from its diverse spectrum of experts.

But what happens when people stop valuing expertise and specialization? Currently, the public square has been reduced to bad information and very poor reasoning by individuals who have mastered almost nothing at all. There was a time when one man would farm his own food, build his own house, and teach his own children all they needed to know. But we collectively realized that an expert house builder produced a better and safer house, the expert farmer yielded more produce and better crops for the entire community, and expert teachers were far more efficient than non-expert teachers.

America’s intense focus on the liberties of the individual holds sacred this resistance to intellectual authority. Alex de Tocqueville wrote that “in most of the operations of mind…each American appeals only to the individual effort of his own understanding.”

The Protestants, preaching sola scriptura[5] coupled with contemporary humanist conceptions of mankind, destroyed the authority of the church and replaced it with nothing but incoherence and what would eventually lead to hyper-pluralism and a “Kingdom of Whatever” per the Notre Dame historian Brad Gregory.[6] One of the most troubling aspects of the death of expertise is that it can lead to the eventual reversal of centuries of intellectual gains. As every Tom, Dick, and Harry assaults the authority of expertise based merely on their own opinion, the once strong edifice of established knowledge is replaced with “nothingness.” Nothingness is what Brad Gregory coined as the “Kingdom of Whatever”, where all opinions are equal and truth is extremely relative. All of this is a result of a hyper pluralistic culture.

“Anti-intellectualism is not a new phenomenon,” explained Jose Ortega y Gasset, the Spanish philosopher, in 1930. “Thus, in the intellectual life, which of its essence requires and presupposes qualification, one can note the progressive triumph of the pseudo-intellectual, unqualified, unqualifiable, and, by their very mental texture, disqualified.” Jose y Gasset’s words suggest that some people are simply “disqualified” from entering into certain discussions. This is a hard pill to swallow for some, but we must accept that some of us simply are not qualified to do certain things. For the betterment of the whole society and for the sake of not wasting people’s time, we must be straightforward regarding who is allowed to evaluate and judge expert opinions.

If you have spent any number of years mastering a field of knowledge and practice, you will have learned two things. Firstly, you will have gained an appreciation for any type of expertise. Secondly, you will have experienced unqualified objections from laypeople. Doctors, lawyers, and experts from all fields are now forced by the prevalent culture to prove years of established knowledge to people who have mastered nothing but Google searching.  As Nicholas states, “ignorance has become hip,  with some Americans now wearing their rejection of expert advice as a badge of cultural sophistication.” Hence, we see a trend to describe anything that goes over our heads or beyond our experiential knowledge as elitism.

American Muslims and Religious Expertise

The American Muslim community is currently suffering from the described epidemic. I personally feel that while challenging the established knowledge of medicine may result in loss of life, this is minute in comparison to the loss of faith and religious practice. We see not only an indifference to established religious scholarship, but a positive hostility toward them and their establishments. We are also witnessing as a result a growing number of public intellectuals who serve as simply translators of that knowledge and practice. Lastly, we see a “commodity” usage of religious scholarship in the Muslim community. Religious experts have been reduced to technicians, who we only go to for services like contracting marriages, leading prayers, and other technician type services. The appropriate usage of experts in a community — yes, religious experts included — is to allow their voices to be heard and to allow for real dialogue to exist between them and the larger community.

The Blame Also Lies on Religious Scholars

As a result of the environment described above, religious scholars – like other experts, have abandoned their duty to engage the public and prefer to interact with each other. This is because, for us this is where real discussions are taking place. This trend has led a growing number of  Islamic “public intellectuals.” The public intellectual plays a key role in a society like ours. They are often the translators of extremely dense and nuanced bodies of knowledge.

.  This point must be understood, that this very desire to be a part of an exclusive body of knowledge is actually not elitism but service to humanity.

When an individual decides to study and master a body of knowledge, he or she does so by foregoing expertise in other areas. This is, in fact, the best service to the community that can offer. In turn, we trust that other members in the community will also choose areas to master so that we may trust them in their perspective fields when the need arises.

Of course, the first step in rectifying a problem is to recognize it. The goal and objective of this article is to highlight and point out the dangerous culture that we have created. One possible solution to this problem is to encourage every individual in the entire community to develop expertise in some area. Experience has shown me that people who themselves are experts in any field tend to develop a deep respect for all other experts. When done collectively, humanity and civilization move forward, standing on the shoulders of the giants before them.


[1] Nichols, Tom. The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. Oxford University Press 2017.

[2] وَفَوْقَ كُلِّ ذِي عِلْمٍ عَلِيمٌ ﴾ [يوسف: 76] : “Above every knowledgeable person is someone more knowledgeable”

[3] Quran 43:32 in this verse Allah explains that in order to maintain the balance of this world there is a necessary separation of task and responsibilities and some are above others in various areas of life.

[4] Nichols, Tom. The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. Oxford University Press 2017.

[5] Martin Luther’s sola scriptura bears striking resemblance with pseudo orthodoxy calls to return to Quran and Sunnah.

[6] Gregory, Brad S. The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2012. Print.

A day to strike a blow for women’s rights | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 March, 2017 - 18:44

In the wake of the intensifying war against women internationally and the growing resistance to it, there is a call for an international women’s strike on International Women’s Day, 8 March. Inspired by the women’s strikes in Iceland and then in Poland last autumn in response to the attempts to further criminalise abortion, women in Argentina who are part of the #NiUnaMenos (Not one less) protests against femicide launched a call for an international strike to protest against all violence against women – including economic violence.

The magnificent women’s protests against Trump gave further impetus with the call being taken up in the US and more than 30 countries across the globe.

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The town that pioneered multiculturalism | Nadifa Mohamed

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 March, 2017 - 16:46
Long before the term for ethnic diversity had even been coined, Butetown in Cardiff was home to communities from all corners of the globe

I have become a stalker of old men. I seek them out in community centres, cafes and mosques, in their cluttered flats and in dark alleys. I don’t want anything nefarious with them, just to capture their memories.

My speciality is old Somali men, especially those in Cardiff. Having grown up in London, where it is anathema to turn up unannounced at a stranger’s door, it is always discombobulating to ring doorbells in Butetown and be met with a smile. This is a district built on the absorption of strangers, particularly sailors from all corners of the globe, and the resulting community is one of the most truly mixed I’ve ever seen. The area gave us Shirley Bassey,, but it also lost a quarter of its men in shipping disasters during the second world war and nurtured “multiculturalism” before the word even existed.

Related: Spotlight: Butonia - small town, big city

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Melanie Phillips has her history wrong

Indigo Jo Blogs - 7 March, 2017 - 16:32

 How Britain is creating a terror state within". It has an image of four Muslim women in niqaab, one of them pushing a child's buggy, and another giving a V-sign to a journalist.There is an article in the Times today (paywalled) in which Melanie Phillips proclaims that the Scots and Northern Irish have no right to secede at the expense of the “authentic”, “ancient” British nation and that Brexit “expresses the desire for independent self-government by a sovereign state based on the history, institutions and cultural ties that constitute a nation”, while the EU, which “reduces nations to the status of provinces”, is attractive to “weak nations and provinces as a way of boosting their status and income”. She provides us with a history lesson as to why Britain is an authentic nation while Scottish and Irish nationalism are “rooted in romanticism and myth and hatred of the other”, i.e. the English or Protestants as in the case of Ireland. However, she makes a number of major errors in history, glossing over the linguistic and ethnic history of the UK in order to dismiss the rights of the Irish and Scots to call themselves nations.

I haven’t replied to a Phillips diatribe on this blog in a few years, so it’s worth reminding ourselves of Phillips’s agenda. She is a neo-conservative and an Israel-firster and her book Londonistan (reviewed here) has been described as a contribution to the “Eurabia” genre, i.e. a set of books that portray Europe as being at best weak or supine in the face of Muslim “aggression” and at worst in league with Arab dictatorships and in danger of being taken over by its Muslim minorities, while the “Anglosphere” alone defends Western civilisation. This was particularly attractive to Jewish Zionists during the 2000s when some European nations were highly critical of Israel’s policies while the USA in particular supported it with financial and military aid. Phillips’s articles and books were liberally and admiringly quoted on anti-Muslim hate sites such as Jihad Watch and her screeds on the supposedly dire state of European Jewry were lapped up by American Jewish right-wing audiences. She is sometimes referred to as “Mad Mel” and the Guardian’s profile in 2006 described her as hysterical, but I believe she was deliberately playing to an international pro-Israel, anti-Europe and anti-Muslim gallery, and this article serves the same purpose. Britain is good because, along with the USA, it serves the interests of Israel; Europe is bad, because it refuses to unconditionally support Israel; therefore, pro-European Scottish and Irish nationalism is bad.

Her claim that the EU allows “weak nations and provinces” to enhance their status and income is false. No nation within the EU, federal or not, has split up in its entire history; all the splits in federations in Europe (former Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the USSR, the former British and Irish UK) happened before any of them, or any part of them, joined or helped to form the EU or any of its predecessors. In fact, the threat of not being able to join the EU was a factor in deterring the pro-independence vote in 2014 because it was feared that Spain would veto Scotland’s joining so as to prevent the secession of Catalonia. Europe keeps large countries together by lowering the stakes, promoting human rights and allowing the free movement of people.

She then alleges:

Scottish nationalism and Irish republicanism are cultural phenomena rooted in romanticism and myth and hatred of the other in the form of the English or the Protestants.

However, Scotland was a country unto itself until 1707; it unified with England as a way of settling debts, but retained its own legal and education system. Scottish separatism was not popular until the late 20th century, in large part because, after the suppression of the Highland uprisings and the incorporation of some of its customs (some of them really of recent invention, such as clan tartans, kilts and bagpipes) into British military and royal tradition, the union made Scotland part of the home nation of the British empire, from which it profited enormously. Solidarity between the Scottish (and Welsh) working classes and those of England also kept separatism in abeyance for decades. When the Empire broke up, the benefits for Scotland decreased accordingly, and the use of Scottish oil revenues to fund tax cuts as well as the testing of the Poll Tax on Scotland before it was rolled out south of the border led Scots to believe the English establishment saw them as a colony, not a partner in a union.

As for Irish nationalism, the facts of the Irish language, a common heritage and Roman Catholicism serve as unifiers, but opposition to English Protestant rule was quite valid as England and its barons ran the place like a colony, oppressing the native Irish and reducing them to penury and in some cases starvation. England went through numerous periods of being a Protestant fundamentalist state, penalising those who refused to renounce the Pope and hunting down and killing Catholic priests. As late as the 19th century there were anti-Catholic riots in England that used the slogan “no popery”; similar slogans are still used by Unionists in Northern Ireland. Her claim that “Ireland itself has a tenuous claim to nationhood, having seceded from Britain as the Irish Free State only in 1922” (echoing the taunt of many an online Zionist: “who was the leader of the Palestinians before Arafat?”) is erroneous; the Kingdom of Ireland (albeit with the English king as head of state) had been in existence before the Acts of Union in 1800, although the majority Catholic population was denied the vote and the right to sit in the Irish Parliament. It is quite valid to criticise the tactics of the IRA and the politics of the Irish state after independence, but the desire of the Irish population to self-determination against an oppressive British state was well-founded.

Having swatted away the Scots’ and Irish people’s rights to nationhood, she proclaims:

The nation is not, however, artificial or imagined. It is solidly rooted in a group of people united by different things at different times: geography, language, law, religion, ethnicity, history, institutions, culture.

And furthermore:

Britain, by contrast, is an authentic unitary nation. It didn’t begin with the union with Scotland but as the British Isles, an island nation defending itself (or not) against invaders from across the seas. Throughout its history, it was beset by attempts at secession by tribes across Hadrian’s Wall and across the Irish Sea.

But it isn’t. The UK as we know it did begin with the union with Scotland. There just was no UK before that: the then king exchanged the crowns of England and Scotland for that of the United Kingdom. The ‘British’ state really begins with the Norman invasions, as it was this that produced one kingdom of England which conquered Wales, both of which formerly consisted of numerous small kingdoms, some of them remembered in the names of counties, particularly in the south-east of England and in Wales. There were two distinct groups of Celts, one consisting of the Cornish, Welsh, Bretons and other groups in Cumbria and the south-west of Scotland, and another in Ireland, western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man. There were also Germanic invaders from northern Europe, who brought the language that became English, but it was outsiders that ultimately forced a political union. As the Scottish singer Dick Gaughan wrote in one of his liner notes, “Sometimes we (Scots and Irish) forget that the first colony of the British empire was in fact England”.

She also claims:

Kingship matters because monarchs unify tribes into a nation. Wales was subsumed into the English legal system by Henry VIII and so lost its separate identity except for residual ties to the Welsh language.

Northern Ireland is different again. The Unionists hate this being said but they are not British. They’re the bit that got tacked on to Great Britain to make the UK.

This has proven true only in a minority of cases. The kings of the Holy Roman and later Austro-Hungarian empires did not unify their subjects into “one nation”, and the semblance of unity in Spain did not last long after absolutism ceased, so far for the last time, in 1975. Wales did not retain mere “residual ties to the Welsh language”; it remained the majority language until the 19th century everywhere except south Pembrokeshire and some of the eastern border regions. Northern Ireland is not Great Britain, but the Unionists (who are mostly Presbyterians of Scottish origin, settled from Scotland and England during the Ulster Plantation in the 17th century) are indeed British; the term means a UK citizen, as anyone who has ever applied for a British passport will know.

There really is nothing ancient about ‘Britain’ or the UK. The British Isles as a single political unit existed only from 1800 to 1922. Even the name Britain refers to the country’s Celtic past but only from the invading Norman French perspective — the greater land of the Britons (as opposed to Brittany), excluding the parts where forms of Gaelic were, and are, spoken. If any nation within the British Isles has the claim to be ancient, it is Ireland. Both England and Scotland are stronger for being one country instead of two, but the Scots have every right to resist being dragged into an isolated, inward-looking state by people influenced by the bigoted London commercial press for reasons largely irrelevant to them. The Irish do not have an obligation to tolerate the imposition of a border in their country for similar reasons. Being in the EU may well be the price the English have to pay to remain the biggest nation in a strong UK rather than a “rainy version of Dubai”, and if a strong UK is needed for a strong Israel, the likes of Melanie Phillips should accept that, rather than insult the Scots and Irish who prefer independence in Europe to isolation and dominance by England.

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Zaid Karim, Private Investigator, Part 5 – The Chair

Muslim Matters - 7 March, 2017 - 11:55

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

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


February 4, 2010
San Francisco, California

There was no doubt. It was clearly Jamilah Al-Husayni. My cousin. I hadn’t seen her in three years, but I’d recognize that uncompromising, sharp-nosed visage anywhere. She looked tousled and weary, with a grease stain on one pants leg, and strands of hair sticking out wildly from beneath her hijab – something I’d never seen her wearing before. And was that dried bird poop on one arm of the chair?

And yet she seemed completely at ease. She crossed one leg over the other and sipped from a large cup of coffee, as if sitting in a chair in the middle of a busy San Francisco sidewalk was the most natural thing in the word. Her free hand gripped the seat post of a durable looking mountain bike that leaned against the side of the chair. Pedestrians stepped around her, mostly ignoring her.

What on earth? Had Jamilah lost her job and become homeless? No, that was impossible. Her family would never abandon her like that, nor would mine. Jamilah’s father, Yahya Al-Husayni, had been my father’s older brother. I say “had been” because he passed away when she was just a kid. After that my father made it a point to support Jamilah’s family. She, her brother and mother often visited our home, and even came on holiday trips with us a few times. I had fond childhood memories of riding bikes with Jamilah and Nabeel, visiting the park, and playing rummy and backgammon. Jamilah was a fierce competitor in everything, and always took it badly when she lost, which used to give me a perverse sort of delight.

Jamilah and her brother Nabeel had also been – along with Safaa and Aziz – one of the few who wrote to me when I was in prison. I would always be grateful to her for that.

Jamilah’s mother Sabra had been hospitalized recently, but I’d been out of state on an insurance job and unable to visit. I’d spoken to her on the phone, though.

I studied her as I approached. It was hard to tell with the hijab, but there seemed to be a lean muscularity to her that she hadn’t possessed before, and an air of confidence that – despite her tired eyes – made her almost intimidating.

When I stopped beside her, she thrust out a palm in a “stop” motion without even turning her head to look at me.

“No,” she pronounced loudly.

“No what?”

“No I’m not a hooker or a terrorist, no I won’t buy your drugs, and no I won’t marry you.”

“Jamilah, it’s me, Zaid.”

She sipped her coffee, still not looking at me. “Zaid who? Are you a friend of Hassan’s?”

“Zaid Karim Al-Husayni, you nitwit! Your cousin. What on earth are you doing out here?” I knew she wouldn’t take the insult personally. She and I had always been affectionately abrasive with each other.

Her mouth dropped open. “SubhanAllah!” she exclaimed, looking straight at me for the first time. “Zaid! I don’t believe it. Look at you, rocking that bowler hat like a thirties gangster.”

This was another new thing. I didn’t remember her ever using Islamic expressions like “subhanAllah” before. Not that I minded. Just the opposite. It was good to see her practicing Islam more.

“It’s a fedora, not a bowler,” I said lamely, as if anyone besides myself really cared. “But what are you doing here?”

“What do you mean what am I doing here? I live here, remember? What are you doing here?”

“I’m on a case. I’m looking for a missing girl.”

“Wow, ma-sha-Allah. Good for you, cuz.” She gazed at me admiringly. No one had looked at me with pride in a long time, and I reveled in it.

“So… you live on the sidewalk in a lime-green chair?”

“No, dummy. I bought the chair this morning. I’ve been trying all day long to get it to my apartment. I only have three blocks to go.”

“You paid money for this ugly thing?”

“Yes. And I will get it home, no matter what.”

“You didn’t have to work today?”

“Called in sick. I woke up with an awful headache. After I had breakfast and popped a few pain pills I felt better, so I decided to go furniture shopping.”

Hmm. I wasn’t about to leave my cousin sitting out on the sidewalk in this grotty neighborhood with night approaching. I shook my head and laughed. It was always something with this girl.

“Come on then,” I said.

Working together, we loaded the chair into the trunk of my car, and I strapped the chair and trunk lid down with bungee cords.

“I don’t know what to do about your bike,” I said. “It won’t fit.”

“No need to do anything. I’ll ride it. I live on Post at Leavenworth. It’s not far. Keep going up the hill to Post and turn right.”

“But where should I wait for you when I get there? There won’t be anyplace to park.” Parking anywhere in San Francisco required a minor miracle.

“Wait for me? I’ll be waiting for you, cuz.” Jamilah slipped a foot into one of her bike pedals, pushed off with the other foot, swung her leg over and took off. The bike swayed from side to side as she stood on the pedals, powering the bike up the hill, riding faster than I could have managed on flat ground.

Post Street at Leavenworth, San Francisco

Post Street at Leavenworth, San Francisco

Jamilah was indeed waiting on the sidewalk when I arrived. She’d locked her bike to a parking sign. I double parked, leaving my blinkers flashing and ignoring the cars that honked at me to move. She helped me unload the chair.

“I’ll help you take it up,” I volunteered. “What floor are you on?”

“No way. You can’t leave your car there. It’ll get towed in a San Francisco minute. That’s like ten seconds to the rest of the world. Thanks for your help, Zaid. I mean it.” She shook her head and chuckled. “You have no idea what a day it’s been.”

“You’ll have to tell me the story someday.”

She grinned. “You wouldn’t believe me if I did.”

I indicated the chair. “How will you get it upstairs?”

“The manager will help. He lives in the downstairs apartment. If not, my cousin Shamsi can help. She lives with me.” Shamsi was Jamilah’s cousin on her mother’s side, I recalled. No relation of mine.*** I’d met her a few times at parties at Jamilah’s house when I was young.

The thought of leaving before the job was done made me feel guilty. I hesitated.

“Go on,” Jamilah insisted. “Find your missing girl. And Zaid?”


“I believe in you. I always have. I want you to know that.”

“Wha…” I was speechless and on the edge of tears. How many times had I needed to hear such words? How many times had I been starving for someone – anyone – to show just a little bit of faith in me? Jamilah’s words were more precious than diamonds and rubies. I didn’t feel a romantic attraction to Jamilah – it had never been like that with me and her – but I was deeply grateful to her in that moment.

“Hey,” I said finally. “Who’s this Hassan you thought I was friends with? Are you behaving yourself here in San Francisco?” I was only half kidding. I wasn’t accusing her of anything. We outcasts had to watch out for each other, after all – otherwise, who would?

“Oh, just someone I work with. Hassan Amir. He’s a messenger like me. Interesting guy.”

Hassan Amir. Like a fireplace poker stirring up sparks, that name stirred a memory in me. I had heard of a brother named Hassan Amir when I was in prison. He was a legend in the federal prison system, a Muslim master warrior who singlehandedly took on the nasty white supremacist gang called the Aryan Brotherhood. He tore them to shreds, leaving bodies in his wake.

Nah. It couldn’t be the same Hassan Amir. There were undoubtedly many men with that name.

A parking enforcer pulled up in a three-wheeled electric scooter and took out her ticket book. She was a short, heavyset African-American woman with a tension in her jaw that brooked no argument.

“Go!” Jamilah exclaimed.

“I’m leaving!” I called to the meter maid. She gave me a baleful look as I ran to my car, hopped in and sped off.


Bouquet of tulips

“I bought a colorful bouquet of tulips in a lovely glass vase…”

I made a quick stop at a flower shop on Hyde Street. I bought a colorful bouquet of tulips in a lovely glass vase – it cost me $60 – then drove to the Grace Cathedral garage, where I parked. The garage rate was $3 per 15 minutes, with a maximum of $33 per 24 hours. I could afford it now that I had a paying client. I would tack all these costs onto my expense report.

In the trunk of my car I kept a small suitcase full of neatly pressed t-shirts. They were company shirts with the logos of different businesses: air conditioning/heating, electrical, plumbing, Indian restaurant, etcetera. I’d purchased them all at thrift stores. I selected a green t-shirt with a yellow logo that read, “River View Flowers,” and put it on. I took the bouquet of flowers, grabbed a clipboard that I kept in the car as well, and set off on foot.

The Crest Royal was a twelve story apartment building at the corner of Jones and Clay. Rents here probably started at four thousand dollars per month for a one bedroom, and went up from there.

There was a doorman, of course. Buildings in neighborhoods like this always had doormen. The rotund middle-aged white man had pudgy hands like water balloons and a nose that had been broken at least once. He wore a black suit with a double-breasted jacket featuring big brass buttons, along with a black cap with yellow braiding above the bill.

“I have a flower delivery,” I announced. “For a -” I studied the clipboard which in reality featured an old telephone bill. “Alejandra Rodriguez.” I mispronounced the “j”, making it hard like in “jam.”

With a grunt, the doorman waved me in. I surveyed the wall of mailboxes in the lobby, each with its own little nameplate, and saw that Dr. Rodriguez was in apartment 1120. She must have quite a view.

As I entered an old-fashioned elevator with a metal gate that had to be manually opened and shut, the doorman called for me to wait. Uh-oh, I thought. But no, he simply wanted me to hold the elevator for an elderly woman in a white felt coat. She wheeled a suitcase into the elevator and pressed the button for the eighth floor.

“Thank you, young man,” she said. “What lovely flowers.”

‘I believe they’re for you, ma’am.” I handed her the bouquet. “From an anonymous admirer.”

Her face lit up like I’d just told her today was a second Christmas. “My goodness! I can’t imagine. But if these are for me, why are you going to the eleventh floor?”

“Oh.” I hadn’t thought of that. “I have a second delivery,” I extemporized. “A singing telegram.”

“Why, you must be so talented! You remind me of my grandson Sigmund. He plays tuba in his high school band, though he’s not very good. He was supposed to play a solo after an 84 bar rest. When it came time to play the solo, he stood there. When the conductor asked him later why he hadn’t come in, he said he hadn’t realized the 84 bars were over. The conductor said you should have counted. And do you know what my grandson said?”

“No, what?”

“That wouldn’t be much of a rest!” At this the old woman cackled so vigorously that I saw her false teeth. The elevator stopped and she wheeled her bag out, calling back, “Good luck with the singing!”

Once she was gone I took off the flower delivery shirt and turned it inside out. At Dr. Rodriguez’s door I rang the buzzer twice before someone spoke from the other side of the door. “What do you want?”

“I’m a private detective. I need to talk to you about your sister Angie.”

“Show me some ID.”

I took out my driver’s license and P.I. badge and held them up to the peephole.

“What about my sister?”

“She’s missing. I’ve been hired by Tarek’s parents, the Anwars, to find her. Can we please talk face to face?”

I heard the locks disengage. The door swung open about a foot. “I don’t know where Angie is,” Rodriguez said through the gap.

“Dr. Rodriguez, could I please come inside and talk to you? Technically it’s not Angie I was hired to find, but Anna. The Anwars are worried about their grandchild. She’s your niece. I think you should be worried too.”

“Say what you have to say.” She opened the door all the way but still did not invite me in. I saw that she was diminutive and apparently Afro-Latina, with dark brown skin, straight black hair that she wore very short, and large, gold-flecked brown eyes. She wore a neatly pressed pair of tennis shorts and a white tennis shirt, as if she were a model in a sports store window. In spite of her small size, she somehow managed to look down her nose at me.

“Your shirt is inside out,” she pointed out.

I looked at the seams on my shoulders as if surprised. “Oh yeah,” I chuckled. “I can be absent minded.”

“Not a good quality in a detective.”

“Yeah, right? Listen, can I get a glass of water? Climbing these San Francisco hills is a workout for a flatlander like me.” In my experience, most people will not turn down a request for water. Offering water to a visitor – friend or stranger – is ingrained in us as the minimum gesture of human hospitality, a sort of universally recognized obligation.

She nodded curtly. “Fine. Come in.” She led me into the living room and left me there.

As she went to get the water, I used the opportunity to survey the room. Like Dr. Rodriguez herself, the apartment was tastefully decorated and immaculately clean. She liked white. White shag carpet, white sofas, Renaissance-style wooden chairs with white cushions, a white marble coffee table and a white flower vase on a glass table, containing fresh cut irises. A slender white bookshelf stood in a niche on the back wall.

I was right about the view. A large picture window looked out over the city as it sprawled to the west. I could see Pacific Heights, the Panhandle, the Richmond, and in the far distance the sun-kissed blue of the Pacific Ocean. Incredible. What a city, perched on these hills like a queen on her throne, shining with elegance and exoticism from sea to bay.

But I wasn’t here for the view. I turned my attention back to the room itself. An assortment of framed family photos stood on a mantelpiece of white wood. I examined them. I recognized Dr. Rodriguez at a variety of ages. In many of the photos she stood with a slightly younger woman who looked strikingly similar. Angie, obviously.

In one photo, Alejandra and Angie posed with an older couple who were clearly their parents. There was a younger man in the picture as well, a Hispanic fellow with a shaved head, and jail tats on his hands and arms. He had an arm draped casually around Angie’s shoulders.

Dr. Rodriguez returned with the glass of water.

“That was the last time we were all together,” she said, indicated the family photo. “Our dad died the next year.”

I sipped the water and pointed to the thug in the photo. “Who’s this?”

Dr. Rodriguez made a sour face. “That’s Miko. He was Angie’s boyfriend.”

“You don’t like him?”

“He’s a leech.”

There was something about Angie in the photo. I bent close, studying her face and body. Yes. There was a slight chubbiness to her, a fullness to her cheeks and breasts, that wasn’t present in any of the other photos.

I turned to Dr. Rodriguez and pointed at the photo. “Is Angie pregnant here?”

She hesitated, then nodded once. “Yes.”

“With Anna?”

She said nothing.

On My Way to Paradise

“It had a strange cover…”

Sometimes when you’re interviewing a subject and hit a sticking point, it’s best to move on and come back to the point later. I strode to the bookshelf and perused the volumes there. There were medical journals, vegetarian cookbooks, collections of poetry by Neruda and Rumi, and a few novels.

The title of a novel caught my eye: “On My Way to Paradise.” I slid it out and held it up to Alejandra Rodriguez. It had a strange cover that featured a pair of aliens – or maybe men in armor – flying a craft across the surface of a planet.

“This sounds good right about now,” I said with a smile. “I could use a little trip to Paradise.”

She wrinkled her nose. “I bought that book because I read on the cover that the character was from Panama. Turned out to be a weird sci fi war story. Too violent. Take it. Maybe you’ll like it.”

“Thank you. Why did the mention of Panama interest you?

“Because that’s where we’re from. We grew up in Colon, on the Caribbean side, but we left there when we were kids.”

“Do you miss it?”

She shrugged. “Colon was crowded, dirty, unsafe. I do miss the beach, the warm water, the sun. This city -” she waved a hand to indicate the gray February sky outside the windows -”I can feel the cold settling in my heart sometimes.”

I nodded, let a moment of silence pass. “So Anna is not Tarek’s child?”

She shook her head. “Miko broke up with Angie when she got pregnant. She met Tarek right after that. Fell in love. I wish she’d never met him.”

I considered the implications. Did Tarek know that Anna was not his? For sure, the Anwars did not know. I had no doubt of that. How would they react if I told them?

Dr. Rodriguez set down her glass of water on the marble coffee table. “So,” she said. “You have information about my sister?”

“The Anwars say she disappeared suddenly. Took all her things. Do you know where she might be?”

“I don’t know where she is now.” Her tone was flat. I had the feeling she was choosing her words carefully.

I continued to scan the living room, taking my time. My eye caught on something barely sticking out through the sofa cushions. I strode to the sofa and pulled the object out. I held it up to Dr. Rodriguez. It was a tiny doll, the kind with a plastic dress that clipped on and off. My daughter Hajar owned several of them. They were called Magic-Clip dolls.

Dr. Rodriguez stared at the doll for a second, then turned away and sat heavily on the sofa. I pulled up a chair and sat facing her.

“They were here,” she admitted. She spoke quickly, her Spanish accent coming stronger now that she was not filtering her words. “Four days ago. Angie was acting crazy. She had a backpack full of money. I counted it. Forty five thousand dollars. She wanted me to take Anna. She wanted to leave Anna with me, do you understand? I asked her where she would go, what she would do, she wouldn’t tell me. Where was the money from? She wouldn’t say. She was high as a kite. Track marks on her arms. She hardly seemed aware that Anna was there. I don’t know what to think, Mister – Karim, did you say?”

I nodded.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I’m afraid she stole the money. I’m afraid for my niece.”

“What about the child? How did Anna look?”

Rodriguez looked away. “Not good. She was hungry as a wolf. Ate half the food in my fridge. Also, her face was badly bruised. Angie said they stayed with a guy friend for a few nights and he became abusive. I think it might have been her dealer.”

I pursed my lips, feeling anger stir inside me, but trying not to show it. “I see. You said Angie asked you to take Anna. So where is she?”

“I can’t take care of a child,” she snapped. “I work sixteen hours a day. In two weeks I’m leaving for Kenya with Medecin Sans Frontieres. There’s simply no way. When I saw the condition Anna was in, I called Child Protective Services. Angie overheard me and took off before the social worker arrived.”

Unbelievable, I thought. “You would have seen Anna in foster care before taking her yourself?”

“Why not?” Her tone was bitter. “It was good enough for me. Mom put me in foster care for four years, starting when I was twelve. Said she couldn’t handle me. She kept Angie, though. I was the good girl. I studied hard, stayed out of trouble. Angie was the one hanging out with gangsters. But mom always loved her more.”

She made a classically Latin American dismissive gesture, flicking her fingers over her chest as if to wipe away dirt. I’d seen Mexicans in prison do the same thing many times.

“Anyway,” she added, “I’m a mandated reporter. I had to call CPS.”

“Where would Angie go?” I asked. “Would she go to your mom?”

Dr. Rodriguez shook her head. “No way. Miko, that boy who got Angie pregnant? He’s with our mom now. She stole him from Angie. He’s her boytoy. She spends her whole paycheck on him.”

I raised my eyebrows. Just when I thought I’d heard it all. There was some twisted emotional dynamic going on here that I couldn’t begin to understand. This family was messed up.

“Where then? Where would she go?”

She shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know. We have some family in Panama, but…” She shrugged again.

“What family do you have there?”

“Our father’s father is still alive. Abuelo Lenin. But he has dementia. We have an uncle, Tio Trotski. He’s my father’s older brother. Also some cousins. We don’t stay in touch.”

I filed all of this information away. I don’t take notes when I interview subjects. I’ve found that it takes my focus away from the subject’s body language and detracts from my environmental awareness. Also, people tend to choose their words more carefully when they see you writing things down, and I don’t want that. So I’ve trained myself to remember whatever information I’m given. It’s mostly a matter of taking a moment to contemplate the information. Sometimes I also use mnemonic devices, like assigning a picture to match a name.

“Why did you say you wish Angie never met Tarek?”

Her expression grew angry. “I’ll tell you something Mr. Karim, my sister was always a traviesa, but she never used drugs until she met that boy. Tarek got her hooked on heroin. He dragged her into that whole miserable lifestyle. Whatever trouble she’s in now is because of him.”

That was a very different picture than the Anwars had painted. Farah Anwar had insisted that was Angie who had corrupted Tarek. Of course Farah also insisted that I corrupted Tarek, so I was inclined to believe Alejandra’s version.

“Where did the money come from, Dr. Rodriguez? The forty five thousand.”

She pushed her palms toward me and shook her head. “I have no idea. Angie would not say. That’s nothing to do with me.”

“Is there anything else you can tell me?”

Alejandra Rodriguez stood and walked to the window. With her back to me, she said, “I want you to find Anna. I know I’m a terrible aunt, okay? I know Anna deserves better. But I can only give what I can give.”


I walked back to the car, carrying the book Alejandra Rodriguez had given me. On My Way to Paradise. Could I take that as a sign? As I walked I turned in a full circle every ten steps to survey my environment in 360 degrees, not breaking stride as I did so. This was a prison habit I’d never been able to shake.

I was dismayed at how everyone had failed this child. Her biological father never wanted her, her mother and adoptive father were drug addicts, and her aunt – the only responsible adult in the family – considered her career more important than helping her abused niece. The aunt’s hypocrisy and callousness made my blood boil.

So Anna was possibly being abused, and being dragged around by a drug addict mother. Where on earth could Angie have gotten her hands on forty five thousand dollars? What or who was she running from? Was it drug money that she’d stolen from her dealer?

I knew that I had an ethical obligation to tell my client – the Anwars – what I head learned – that Anna was most likely not their grandchild. Not just yet, however. I didn’t know how the Anwars would react. And I wanted to talk to Tarek first, to find out if there was any chance that I was wrong. Maybe the child was his after all.

Sitting in my car back at the Grace Cathedral parking garage, I took out my phone and called Safaa. It was just about Hajar’s bedtime, and I always liked to call and wish her goodnight. Safaa would expect my call though she wouldn’t talk to me herself, I knew. She’d answer and pass the phone to Hajar.

Sure enough, after three rings Hajar’s sweet voice came on the line. Her tone was artificially deep as she pretended to be someone else.

“Hi,” she said. “This is the President. I want to hire you for a detective job.” She tried to suppress a giggle but it squeaked out.

“Wonderful, Mr. President! I’m not sure why you’re at this number though. I was calling my daughter.”

“Yes, I was visiting your daughter because she is the bestest kid.”

“Oh, great. Could you put her on?”

“Hi Baba!” In her normal voice now. “I want a real live dinosaur for my birthday.”

“Oh, I would do that for you but the dinosaurs are all gone.”

“But why? Where did they go?”

I explained, in the simplest language I could, how the dinosaurs became extinct as a result of a meteor impact.

There was a pause, then Hajar began to cry. Oh, great going, I berated myself. You get to talk to your daughter once a day, and you made her cry.

“I’m sorry sweetie,” I said. “It’s sad when something amazing disappears from the world, right?” I thought of true love, my own personal dinosaur, struggling on the verge of extinction.

“Uh-huh,” she managed through her sobs.

“But even if the dinosaurs are gone,” I told her, “we can still remember them and draw them and play with dino toys. We can keep them alive in our imaginations. So in a way they are still here.”

Hajar sniffed. “Maybe,” she said hopefully, “the dinosaurs will come back one day and this time that thing will not bump the world and the dinosaurs will not died again.”

I smiled. “Insha’Allah.” In Jannah, I thought, where all things are possible. Or in some parallel universe. “Are you ready for bed?”

“Yes, Baba.”

“Okay. Say your goodnight dua’.”

“Bismik Allahumma amootu wa ahya. Allahumma qinaa athaabaka yawma tub’athu ‘ibaadak. In your name oh Allah, I die and I live. O Allah, have mercy on us on the day when you raise up your servants.”

It had taken her only a week to learn this dua’. Young children have such amazing brains.

“Goodnight sweetie. I love you forever and always. You’re my number one kiddo.”

“I love you forever and always Baba.”

I ended the call and wiped a tear from my eye. Being separated from my child made my chest ache and my throat tighten. It was an ailment no medicine could treat. Safaa, Safaa, why couldn’t you trust me? Why couldn’t you love me as you promised to do?


I looked up the number for Valley Rehab in Visalia. I didn’t find anything with that exact name, but I found a Valley Recovery Home, and called them.

“Valley Recovery, how may I direct your call?” The woman had an Asian accent and a soft, feminine voice that made me think of a strawberry smoothie. I was hungry again, I realized.

“This is Zaid Anwar,” I lied. “I need to speak to my brother Tarek Anwar.”

“Just a moment sir.” I heard keyboard keys clacking. “Sir, you are not on the approved contact list.”

“I know. But we have a family emergency. “Our father is seriously ill, and our mother is keeping vigil by his bedside. It’s vital that I speak to my brother.”

“I see. One moment.” I listened to muzak as I waited on hold. A moment later the operator returned. “I’m sorry, sir. Mr. Anwar checked out without authorization four days ago.”

“But he hasn’t returned home. Did he leave a forwarding address?”

“No sir, he did not.”

I thanked the lady and hung up. Presumably Dr. Ehab had been paying the bill for his son’s stay. Surely he would have been notified that Tarek had bailed. Yet he’d lied to my face with that story about a job in Palm Springs.

Did Tarek’s escape from rehab have anything to do with Angie’s disappearance? I wouldn’t know until I found him and talked to him.


Interstate 5 and the California Aqueduct

Interstate 5 and the California Aqueduct

I took 580 east to Interstate 5 south where I stopped at a rest area, made wudu’ and prayed Maghreb and Isha, shivering as the water on my skin evaporated in the cool night air. In spite of the cold I enjoyed the feeling of praying on green grass. I resumed my drive south, cruising along the edge of the foothills, sensing if not quite seeing the sweep of agricultural land down and away to the east. The lights of distant towns twinkled like embers. The California Aqueduct paralleled the highway, the water glimmering like a sequined black ribbon in the darkness.

What a thing it was to be free. To be able to travel the world unobstructed, seeing the signs of Allah all around me, reveling in the knowledge that I was not a slave to any human being, and that my destiny – insofar as Allah allowed – was in my own hands.

Yes, my family life was a mess. And yes, I was worried about the girl I’d been hired to find. At the same time, though, I knew that I was blessed to have an awareness of my blessings, the mindset to look for solutions, and the will to make things right.

At one point I glanced in the rear view mirror and found two California Highway Patrol vehicles following me, one behind the other. My feeling of freedom and well-being evaporated in an instant. My breathing quickened and my jaw tightened as I was overtaken by nervousness bordering on panic. I’d been out of prison five years, yet every time I saw a cop car I was convinced this was it, they were coming to drag me back to my cell. Why? Who knew? Maybe they realized they’d made a mistake. Maybe someone set me up for something. Maybe the government would trump up a terrorism charge against me.

I knew it wasn’t rational, but I couldn’t help it. I felt like prison was a huge, ferocious lion that I had barely escaped from. I’d been in the beast’s mouth, its teeth about to crush my bones, claws piercing my skin, drawing blood, yet somehow I’d gotten free. But the lion would not forget. It would pursue me, and one day it would seize me and consume my flesh and soul as it had always meant to do. It was only a matter of time.

That was why I trained in martial arts daily, why I practiced my stick and knife techniques obsessively, why I went to the gym and lifted weights as often as I could. I had to be ready so that I could survive when the lion dragged me back to its den.

The police cars moved into the left lane and sped up, passing me. I let out a loud sigh of relief and rolled my shoulders, working out the tension.


It was almost eleven when I arrived in Fresno. My next stop was a place I really didn’t want to go: Masjid Al-Haramain, commonly known as the Butler Avenue mosque. If I wanted to find Tarek, however, then I had no choice, as that was the masjid he frequented when he wasn’t drunk or high. Also, it was possible he was sleeping there. The Butler Avenue mosque was located in south Fresno, on the far side of downtown, amid the projects and homeless shelters. Many of the brothers who attended there were poor, and some were in fact homeless. A few were freshly paroled from prison.

The homeless brothers were ahl-us-suffa. They lived in the masjid, slept in the backroom, and survived on food donations. There was always a good sized coterie of residents there – at least a dozen. It was the place for Fresno Muslims to go when there was nowhere else to go.

I did not mind the neighborhood, and I had friends among the ahl-us-suffa. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was Imam Abdus-Samad.

I had a secret that I kept chained in a dungeon in my heart. It was a secret I had not shared even with my wife. I never spoke of it, not even to myself. Only one other person knew the secret – that person being Imam Abdus-Samad.


*** Footnote: Discerning readers may have noted that in Ouroboros, Jamilah’s cousin Shamsiyyah also had the last name Al-Husayni, while here she is referred to as Jamilah’s cousin on her mother’s side. This is a change I recently made. I’ll go back to the previous stories and give Shamsi a different last name, Insha’Allah.

Next Tuesday: Zaid Karim, Private Investigator, Part 6 – The Secret

(Your comments and constructive criticism are a big part of why I publish here, so please do comment, thank you!)

Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the new McCarthyism

Loon Watch - 7 March, 2017 - 07:58

“McCarthyism – the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.”

— McCarthyism,

Have you heard about Senator Joe McCarthy? President Donald Trump and Steve Bannon surely has. Joe McCarthy led a witchhunt against Communists in the 1950s. Many were falsely accused of being Soviet agents by him. What is scary is that the main advisor to the president, Steve Bannon believes McCarthy was righ and a good guyt. And as for Trump, he used to have Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s chief counsel, as his lawyer and mentor in the 1970s.

You probably have heard the rumours that “islamists” and “the Muslim Brotherhood” has infiltrated the US government.

If you look at those that spread the rumours, like Breitbart, you can see that they almost never have any evidence for that claim. The accusations are based on what sometimes is called “connectos”.  That is: someone was a member of X that collaborated with Y that was a member of Z that had a founder that liked the Muslim Brotherhood. Loose links and connections between people and groups are important tools in journalistic and intelligence investigations, but has to be comfirmed by other kinds of evidence.

The lack of normal procedures to  verify the claims and hypothesis makes it possible to blame ANY muslim, and any defender of Muslim rights, of being inflitrators and extremists.

The accusations that “The Muslim Brotherhood” is infiltrating the government and the islamists do so, is a witchhunt. Real radical islamists and innocent Muslims are lumped together as one, and accused without substantial proof.

That is McCarthyism!

Steve Bannon

CNN recently reveled that Steve Bannon defended Joe McCarty in 2013. He compared the “Communist threat” in the 1950s to the “Muslim threat” today, citing the need for similar methods as Joe McCarthy used.

While interviewing the conservative author Diane West Steve Bannon critizised the idea that Joe McCarthy,and the House Un-American Activities (that led the investigation about Communists) were traitors.

“Today in modern pop culture, you know they call Ted Cruz the Joe McCarthy — if you want to think of who devils are it’s Ronald Reagan and those who name-names at the House Un-American Activities, the Hollywood Ten are heroes right?” Bannon said. “Alger Hiss is a hero, right? Richard Nixon’s a villain? Joe McCarthy is a villain. Your book makes very plain that these guys were right. The place was infested with either traitors that were on the direct payroll of Soviet military intelligence or fellow-travelers who were kind of compliant in helping these guys get along. I mean, there’s absolutely no question of it. How has pop culture so changed it that white is black and black is white?”
Steve Bannon linked the defence of Joe McCarthy to the alleged “Muslim” threat today as CNN revealed. He
refered to The Muslim Brotherhood as an example of “infiltration” of USA today, similar to “Communist” infiltration.
“…dramatic influence campaign going around with the Muslim Brotherhood”
And Bannon and West both claimed that the Muslims are trying to conquer the USA,
“Our diminution, our stunted mentality, actually makes us perfect candidates for being conquered by jihad, conquered by Islam, made into dhimmi, which is of course the people who live, Christians and Jews who live under Islamic law,” West said. “We are silent.” “Under the religion of peace,” Bannon replied. “Under the religion of peace,” West agreed.
This should come as no surprise to anyone. Breitbart, that Bannon headed for a long time, has defended Joe McCarthy several times. McCarthyism

The problem with Joe McCarthy, and his collaborators in the 1940s and 1950s , like his sidekick Roy Cohn, were NOT that they wanted to stop Soviet Communism, or that they percieved Communism as a threat. That was understandable. The Soviet union and Commumism surely was a threat. tens of millions of people had been slaughtered inside the Soviet empire and they were aggressively recruiting spies and agents inside the USA. The problem was HOW they did it.

The “McCarthyists” defined any Americans that they did not like as “probable Communists” or so called “useful idiots”, that means: Communist sympathisers. They did not only target members of the Communist party, they targets critics of American politics, social reformists, antiracists, socialists, homosexuals and Atheists too. They were all a part of the “plot”.

McCarthy and Roy Cohn, as well as the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, are the most known public figure that promoted this kind of witchhunts. But they were not alone.

“It’s a Wonderful Life”, one of the most beloved movies of all times, that is aired on the networks every christmas, was regarded as “Atheist and Communist propaganda”. Actors like Charlie Chaplin were publicly accused of being unamerican Communists and had to flee the USA due to the persecution. And the accusers did never present real evidences to the public. The “evidence”against Charlie Chaplin was that he had been critical to aspects of the American system in his films.

“The FBI worried that Chaplin’s Tramp films functioned as anti-Capitalist agitprop. When Chaplin in Modern Times depicts the dehumanizing zaniness of the assembly line, into which the Tramp himself falls like a helpless waste product, is he not making a pointed criticism of American industry? Chaplin added fuel to the fire when he vocally criticized a return to free market principles after the recovery of the Great Depression: “I don’t want the old rugged individualism…rugged for a few, ragged for many.”

McCarthy once publicly talked about a list of 209 Communists at the State department. But he did not provide any evidences for the accusations.

“Speaking before the Ohio County Women’s Republican Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, Senator McCarthy waved before his audience a piece of paper. According to the only published newspaper account of the speech, McCarthy said that, “I have here in my hand a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.” In the next few weeks, the number fluctuated wildly, with McCarthy stating at various times that there were 57, or 81, or 10 communists in the Department of State. In fact, McCarthy never produced any solid evidence that there was even one communist in the State Department.

Despite McCarthy’s inconsistency, his refusal to provide any of the names of the “known communists,” and his inability to produce any coherent or reasonable evidence, his charges struck a chord with the American people. The months leading up to his February speech had been trying ones for America’s Cold War policies. China had fallen to a communist revolution. The Soviets had detonated an atomic device. McCarthy’s wild charges provided a ready explanation for these foreign policy disasters: communist subversives were working within the very bowels of the American government.”

On another occasion there was a trial against  a lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve, Milo Radulovich, in which the evidences against Milo was presented in a sealed envelope. Neither Milo nor hos lawyer were allowed to look at these hard core “facts”, and “evidences”. Instead the court viewed the fact that Milo, an immigrant from Yugoslavia, read Serbian papers, as “proof” of him being an agent of the Soviets.

If you were critical to McCarthy you were accused of being a Communist too, like Edward R. Murrow experienced. He was a journalist that 1953 investigated the trial against Radulovich and critizised it. That made Murrow a “Communist” too in the eyes of McCarthy and the Mccarthysists.

To this Murrow answered:

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.[28]

Those that defend McCarthy and McCarthyism today say that they DID hunt down some hundred Soviet agents and claim that that was a good thing. Yes they did. But destroyed the lives of thousands of innocent people in that process.

The end does NEVER justify the means.

 Donald and Steve

Not only Steve Bannon has connections to McCarthy and McCarthyism. Donald Trump once had the main advisor of Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn, as his own advisor, mentor and lawyer in the 1970s.

With that in mind we should look out. McCarthyism is on the rise again.

Radical islamism, like ISIS and Al Qaeda is a real threat. And there are activities by radical islamist fundamentalists, outside their ranks, that are too. But the end does not justify the means. It never does!

Scare stories are spread globally about “islamists” that inflitrate the governments, and “The Muslim Brotherhood” is almost always cited as the “source” of this infiltration. But if you look at the claims there are almost never anything that even remotedly resembles evidence about this “plot”. And even when someone tried to give evidence for the “plot” the evidences are always vague. Someone wore a hijab, someone pointed with a shahada finger, someone is a member of an organization that someone claimed is a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, someone is a Muslim and a political activist…

That, my dear readers, is McCarthyism. It is “fake news”, islamophobia, and the methods of Joe McCarthy. Please remember the words of the late Edward R. Murrow: We must remember always that accusation is not proof…”








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