Obama’s message of hope over hate is an example to us all | Anne Perkins

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 January, 2016 - 11:53

With migrants being blamed for attacks on women in Germany on New Year’s Eve, the US presidents message of moderation in his State of the Union address could not have been more timely

President Obama, greyer and jowlier but still sounding a little like the earnest community activist of a decade ago, has delivered his last State of the Union address.

His unflappable moderation always seems astonishing, in a man who has been dogged by the ravings of conspiracy theorists spreading pernicious untruths alleging that the first black president is in fact a secret Muslim, an impostor and not even a US citizen. When Obama speaks of the dangers of division, he knows what he’s talking about.

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I went to a Trump rally in my hijab. His supporters aren't just racist caricatures | Kaddie Abdul

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 January, 2016 - 11:45

It was interesting to hear Trump and his supporters’ viewpoints for more than just the few seconds offered by most soundbites, even though I disagreed

After Rose Hamid’s horrifying experience at Trump’s rally on Friday in South Carolina, many people might wonder how I survived a Trump rally wearing a bright-orange headscarf while holding a giant Qur’an – or why I went at all.

Related: Trump rallies: where supporters get their pumped-up kicks from his bellicosity

Related: Muslim woman ejected from Donald Trump rally after silent protest

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Access to Healthcare is a Muslim Issue

Muslim Matters - 12 January, 2016 - 22:34

by Namira Islam


My father was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in September 2014. His only symptom was a persistent mild cough and some weight loss. He was not a smoker. By December, his medical bills were well over $100,000.

My father was also an engineer for General Motors, a job he loved. He'd been a full-time salaried employee there for over 30 years when he was diagnosed. He had excellent health for all but the last ten months of his life. In good moments, we'd joke with him that he was taking care of a life's worth of doctor's appointments and hospital stays and surgeries and medications all at once.

While we worried about the steady stream of medical bills, the biggest issue with it for us was administrative: given volume and the multitude of ways to pay, it took an hour every couple weeks to sit and make sure every single bill was paid. I still thank God today that because of my dad's job and financial resources, the ability to pay his bills wasn't at the top of our list of concerns. It was something we just had to do, and were, alhamdulillah, able to do.

That's not always the case. As a former attorney for legal services, too many of my clients met federal poverty guidelines because of a lack of health insurance or being underinsured when illness hit. A sudden illness can mean both patient and caretakers can become unable to maintain employment due to hospital stays and steady doctor's appointments. Many who are low-income do not have reliable access to transportation or friends/family who can step in and provide resources in a pinch. When, for example, three months' worth of cancer treatment can result in bills over $100,000, a household that is paycheck-to-paycheck can simply drown in the bills.

According to Pew Research, 45% of American Muslims have a household income of less than $30,000. Federal poverty guidelines state that an income of $30,313 for a family of four means that the family is just above poverty. With nearly half of Muslims in the US qualifying as “poor”, it is vital for our communities to see access to healthcare as a “Muslim issue.”

Pundits, analysts, advocates, and others have written much about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Whatever its limitations, it is still the best opportunity now for people who were previously unable to get insurance to get coverage. While the standard picture of American Muslims are people who have full-time salaried employment as doctors, engineers, professors, or lawyers, many Muslims are either underemployed or in lines of work that do not provide adequate health insurance coverage. American Muslims drive taxis, work in retail, are line order cooks, and are migrant workers. 20% of American Muslims are self-employed, 29% are under-employed, and 17% are unemployed. Many of us from all backgrounds live paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings in place for hard times. One accident or illness can send any of us into a place where no amount of conferences or khutbahs on generosity or godliness can protect us from the ruthlessness of a life in poverty. We plan and Allah plans, and He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)is the best of planners.

We need to talk more about poverty and American Muslims. Usually, these topics are ones that we brush under the rug because we have our own versions of keeping up with the Joneses (or the Khans, as it may be for Muslims of South Asian background). Not only does this prevent Muslims in need from accessing some of the resources available from the state, but it also means that our communities do not prioritize making sure we have safety nets available for other Muslims. In practice, we end up shunning the poor – Muslims in our backyards here in the US – when in reality, we are putting our own akhirahs (Afterlife) in jeopardy by doing so.  

The deadline to apply for health insurance for 2016 is coming up on January 31st. I am working with a team of people at MuslimARC and AMPH to encourage and provide support to local communities to get the word out about enrolling for health insurance coverage during the National Muslim Enrollment Weekend January 15th-18th.

We cannot assume that the Muslims we know – even in our suburban mosque communities – are insured. As an attorney and executive director of a fledgling organization, I was uninsured for months for the first time in my life once I left my salaried position last year. I was able to use the Marketplace through to finally get coverage. The process took longer than it should have because my information was changing quickly and because I was overwhelmed with work and family obligations. The delay to get covered made me anxious knowing that I didn't have a doctor to go to yet and that if I needed urgent medical care, I might be looking at hundreds or even thousands of dollars in medical bills, which was income that I personally was no longer generating. However, I didn't have trouble understanding what I needed to do, and I knew that I had resources through my family. And when needed, I was able to make the phone calls and get questions answered. Not everyone in our communities are able to do so due to language barriers and other reasons and it's important that our masajid and other organizations focus on providing assistance these last weeks before the enrollment period ends for 2016.

For more information on the National Enrollment Weekend, please go to We hope that announcements after jumuah prayer on January 15th can help get at least some people much needed coverage in each of our local communities.


The Emerging Islamophobe Coalition

Loon Watch - 12 January, 2016 - 19:40


PEGIDA, anti-Muslim group in Germany.

Part 3 of 6 of an original series. See: part I and II.

By Umar Lee

It is no secret Islamophobia is on the rise. Hate for Muslims is manifested every day on social media, FOX News, talk-radio and other formats.  Most often this hate is relegated to only words. However, on occasion Islamophobia will manifest itself through violence or acts of physical intimidation.

Behind the random Twitter accounts and talk-radio hosts an Islamophobia industry exists.  There are those who see Islam as a threat for religious, political and nationalistic reasons.  These groups form a coalition of institutional and grassroots support for Islamophobia.  Other writers have looked at the financing of the Islamophobia industry.  I want to look at who is supporting Islamophobia from the grassroots.

Christian Right

The Christian-Right in America is the group perhaps most associated with anti-Muslim bigotry. This is the result of numerous articles and sermons by Evangelicals attacking Islam and Islamophobia becoming a staple of the Christian-right media along with issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

In years past there have been positive relations at times between the two groups. During the pre-9/11 years a significant portion of the American-Muslim community viewed the Christian-Right and the Republican Party as a natural ally as the two often shared conservative views on social issues and favored lower taxation.

Post-9/11 the Christian-Right has positioned itself not only as the defenders of America against a Muslim onslaught; but has aggressively attacked Islam theologically.

While the Christian-Right may share some concerns with other groups in the coalition what distinguishes them is theology.  With the proliferation of mosques in the United States and conversions to Islam the Muslim community is viewed as theological and spiritual competition.  Therefore, the more influence the Muslim community has in America, the less influence the Christian-Right has.

A cottage-industry has emerged within the Christian-Right for proselytizing to Muslims similar to what developed in previous eras when Jews, Mormons, and Catholics were viewed (and still are) as theological competition.

Hindu Nationalism

Ignored by many Muslim writers is the increased calls for unity between Christians, Jews and Hindus against the “global jihad”. This is an idea promoted by the Hindu-nationalist RSS in India and the BJP political party. As organizations affiliated with the RSS control a large portion of Hindu temples, summer camps, cultural institutions, and are politically active in America they’re using this influence often to promote Islamophobia.  Their Islamophobic position is rooted in political opposition to Pakistan and the search for allies on that front.  In the racial context of America Islamophobia can also help “scrub the brown away” as writer Arsalan Iftikhar said referring to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (a raised Hindu converted to Christianity).


I don’t generally like to write about Zionism or Jews because I know this will open the doors in the comments section to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Illuminati, the Rothschild family controls the world and a variety of other Jew-centric hair-brained conspiracy many, (including Muslims) seem to go for.

However,  there is no denial that there is a large, vocal and well-financed group(s) dedicated to Islamophobia within the Jewish community in America.

These Jewish Islamophobic groups range from right-wing Republican Likud supporters such as Sheldon Adelson to Orthodox Jewish groups associated with Israeli settler movements.  For these groups on the right of the political spectrum engaging in the promotion of Islamophobia in America and militarism abroad directed at Muslims is not ideologically problematic.

On the Jewish-left there is a more problematic ideological problem.  Having traditionally been at the frontlines of promoting civil-rights and equality in America, it is hard for many American-Jews on the left to take an outright hostile position towards Islam and Muslims.

Thus, a nuanced approach has emerged within the liberal-Jewish establishment to combating the emergence of a strong American-Muslim community in America.  Dissatisfied with the leadership of the American-Muslim community and the religious,  political and social norms within the community there has been an attempt to prop up an artificial leadership in a colonial-like fashion.  The greatest manifestation of this is the Shalom Hartmann Institute which has managed to cultivate a group of C, D, and F list Muslim writers, chaplains and others and try to establish them as the new Muslim thought leaders of America (with very little success).

From left to right the rationale for Islamophobia is clear within elements of the American-Jewish community; support for Israel.  A growing American-Muslim community is a community that brings a different perspective to the Arab-Israeli conflict, works to increase support for the Palestinian cause, and erodes media bias on the topic. For those not attached to Jewish groups that are either anti-Zionist or promoting peaceful co-existence, there is a great need to counter what they see as the Muslim threat in America.

White Nationalists

The presidential campaign of Donald Trump isn’t about Christian Conservatism it’s about White Nationalism. Trump and his supporters have identified two groups which threaten the racial-dominance of the white race in America;  Latino immigrants and Muslim immigrants.

This support for Islamophobia is rooted in both race and Civilization with roots as far back as the Crusades and as recent as the Minuteman standing guard at the border.

White Secular Left

The white secular-left at this time for the most part is seen as an ally for Muslims in America and for the most part it is. Look at the stances Democratic governors and presidential candidates have taken towards Syrian refugees as opposed to Republicans.  Look who is standing against Islamophobia on the ground and supporting refugees and it is most often the left, secular or religious, black or white.  In Europe this isn’t the case.  There are deep roots of Islamophobia within the European left based on cultural nationalism, belief in the supremacy of Western thought and values, and an extreme secularism. This strand of Islamophobia on the left isn’t absent in America (see The New Republic); but is certainly on the fringes at this time.

Taqwa Through Anti-Bias Education

Muslim Matters - 12 January, 2016 - 04:36

Margari Hill

My first taste of racism occurred in kindergarten, where my classmates barred me from drinking out of the water fountains. When I was in fourth grade, a  sixth grader in the neighborhood took her rage out on me, called me a N—- and pulled out a plug of my waist length hair. The trauma I experienced and the humiliations I endured from my classmates remain some of the most vivid memories of my childhood. These experiences left a little girl with a damaged self image.

Becoming Muslim was a significant part of my journey to recovering from the racism that I internalized. But as a Muslim, my heart was broken when I learned of racial bullying in our Islamic schools, weekend, and after-school programs. Sadly, parents and adults can contribute to racism and colorism in obvious and subtle ways. Some of the obvious ways include people I have lived and worked with. One Palestinian student told her Black teacher that her father reminded her that she was the prettiest girl in her class because she was White. Arab families criticized their children for not excelling above a mixed-race Black and Arab student in Qur'an class. Some of the comments I have heard about my light-skinned child are deeply problematic. While the obvious ways in which we reinforce racial bias and colorism can easily be addressed, the subtle ways we reinforce both include our failure to address race and racism pre-emptively.  In order to uproot racism in our communities, parents must  embrace their role as their children's first anti-bias multicultural teachers.

Children have the right to be raised as responsible adults who can function in a complex multi-ethnic society, and it is our duty to equip our children with the knowledge and skills to live dignified and ethical lives. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Every one of your (people) is responsible, and everyone is responsible for whatever falls under his responsibility. A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them.” [Bukhari and Muslim] Part of our responsibility is to teach our children to love themselves and others, something that is so important in a society that dehumanizes them just for being Muslim. Inequality in our society feeds off of people divided. We  must teach our children to not oppress their peers, and to instead begin to cultivate a sense of justice and duty to right wrongs they see before them. The Qur'an reminds us:


“O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.” [Tahrim 66:6]

Although pre-pubescent children are not morally responsible for what they do, we as parents will be held accountable. and we must be aware of the seeds that are being planted in our children. Uprooting bias and teaching our children racial equity begins at an early age and we must address the root causes in age-appropriate conversations and teachable moments. When we fail to cultivate the values of racial equity in our children, we run the risk of them becoming adults with racial bias thoroughly ingrained in their psyche.

It is never too early to begin the process of teaching our children to see the beauty in all of Adam's 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) children. We don't have to worry merely about children biting and hitting each other when it has been proven that in their social lives children as early as four can socially isolate one another. One heart breaking video of a four year old girl crying because her classmates didn't like her because she was Black went viral. Derald Sue, professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, points out that children recognize racial and ethnic difference between ages three and five. Some studies have even shown that infants demonstrate a preference for members of their own race. When I was a little girl, I would only go to women who looked like my light-skinned, African-American mother.  I would even tell people my mother was white and father was Black, much to her mortification. At three years old, my own daughter asked me why was I so brown when she and  and her daddy are beige. I don't use white because my husband is a light-skinned, African-American, as is my daughter. At four, she is too young to understand racial identities. 

From an early age, children will absorb negative messages about race and identity and that includes our own discomfort with the topic. While we may decry racist parents teaching their children to discriminate, sometimes we pass on subtle messages about race that cause them to treat others less. This is why it is important to address our own implicit bias and aversions towards some individuals. If we don't interrupt our own patterns, our children may take subtle cues and replicate them in harmful ways.

Derald Sue explains:

Many parents talk to their children about embracing difference, but in subtle, covert ways, they communicate something very different. For example, when approaching a group of black youngsters, a mother may unconsciously pull the child nearer to her. Also, many white parents often talk to kids about the evils of prejudice and discrimination, yet in their owns lives they have few friends or neighbors of color with whom they regularly socialize. These implicit communications are more powerful than any intentional efforts on the part of parents.

When we are not conscious of the films we watch and the books we read, we may reinforce racism. Even if our children do watch something that has a racist message, we can have conversations with our children about the portrayal.  

Although young children tend to not have racial conflict, elementary school aged children begin to pick up racist cues from family members, media, and their peers. Some of the oppressive behaviors I've seen in Muslim environments include:

  1.     Stereotyping
  2.     Making racist jokes
  3.     Using racial slurs in speech
  4.     Denying peers their rights, such as greetings or turns in line
  5.     Social isolation

We have to remind our children about our tradition.  Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated: “The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: 'A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He neither oppresses him nor humiliates him nor looks down upon him. The piety is here,' (and while saying so) he pointed towards his chest thrice. It is a serious evil for a Muslim that he should look down upon his brother Muslim. All things of a Muslim are inviolable for his brother in faith; his blood, his wealth and his honor.” [Sahih Muslim; 6219]

Administrators and program organizers often deal with the situations without context of how their family life may reinforce or challenge the bias that they are learning from their peers, media, and greater society.

As parents, we have to be aware that our children are being shaped by dominant narratives. Media bias, which  portrays racial, ethnic, and religious  minorities in a negative light, deeply impact the way they understand themselves and others. Our children can internalize dominant narratives and develop intense self-hatred, and other times they may project those narratives in how they treat other groups. Who are the characters of their stories? Are they watching films that portray characters of color in a negative light? Are all the characters who are considered beautiful and good, light-skinned and with blond hair? If so, we run the risk of teaching our children to only value Eurocentric physical traits.


There are many things that we can do to begin the important work, starting with the literature and toys we bring in to our houses, and the words we use to describe others. We can begin teaching our children by purchasing diverse books that portray people of all shades and walks of life. I first looked for dolls that looked more like my daughter, and then purchased dolls of all different backgrounds.  I notice positive things in others, describe skin tones and hair textures in ways that affirm their beauty, their uniqueness, and similarities. MuslimARC's Executive Director wrote an article on “The Power of language.” Now I too am careful to interrupt language that is harmful, such as calling my daughter fair-skinned, because of the implications. We love our friends with coils, locks, and flowing hair. We read books that describe our hues and tones in beautiful ways. I look for books that describe how other children live around the world, focusing on the similarities. But in truth, we don't have to go too far. American Muslim communities are microcosms of their world.


“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” [Al Hujurat;13]

In “The Islamic way to Raise the Children” imam Mohamed Baianonie encourages parents to build a strong Muslim identity. He writes: “Encouraging the child's sense of belonging to the Muslim nation, by teaching him of the brotherhood between Muslims, teaching him to care for Muslims in any land, and that he is part of the Muslim body, to feel joy when Muslims are joyous, to feel sad for Muslims' sadness, and to do best to achieve the Muslim nation's goals.”  imam Mohamed Baianonie encourages parents do the following things to teach children these values:

  1. Take children to the mosque and introduce fellows muslims as brothers and sisters regardless of ethnicity or racial background
  2. Teach children the seerah and Stories of the Prophets
  3. Teach Muslim children empathy for those who are disadvantaged
  4. Build ties between children of the same age by taking part in celebrations and festivals

Learning from each other, our children can develop empathy, which in turn teaches humility and generosity.  How we treat each is part of our character and and how we relate vis a vis the other, is also part of building taqwa (God-consciousness). Part of anti-bias work means addressing how our privileges may blind us from seeing another person's reality. The advantages and privileges we work so hard to pass on to our children can inadvertently  contribute to arrogance. Studies have shown that privilege and power breeds lack of empathy.

It was narrated from 'Abd-Allah Bin Mas'ood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “No one who has an atom's-weight of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.” A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, what if a man likes his clothes and his shoes to look good?” He said, “Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people.”[Sahih Muslim]. In order to avoid this, we have to think about what we value most in our children. Do we build our children up by telling them they are the most beautiful or  the smartest?  We teach them that Allah only cares about their character, not where they were born, their wealth, or what they look like.

It is important that we teach our children to develop positive self conceptions and develop empathy for others.  And begin to engage in conversations about cultural pluralism in the Muslim community and the society in which they live.  Anti-bias multicultural education is necessary at all levels of learning, from pre-school, in full time programs, after-school and even in summer camps. Because of the world we live in and our society, we must teach our children to respect each other, to not bully, to not make fun of, to not look down upon Allah's slaves.  We have to teach our children to appreciate each other so that they can be brothers and sisters and love being amongst the Muslims.  Allah made us different and this can be an important lesson in raising our children to have taqwa, to be amongst the mutaqeen.  


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