Yesterday you read my poetry,
As though as I was writing to you.
I know because midnight tasted different.
Like you had taken the bitter words,
Leaving my English tongue,
And written them in all of the languages,
That I’ve not yet spoken,
Because you whisper them,
Into the darkness too.
Hoping for light, always,
You reached for my roots from where,
Grief had stolen a woman’s name,
And you called me hope.
That’s my unborn daughters name
And still it rhymes with yours,
Amal, Amal, Amal.
Because she will have a rebellious face,
Quiet determined nature,
Her heart tender- soft will be just,
You spoke to the valleys,
Encrypted in my spine,
As if we were the children of a great nation,
Readying itself to stand.
And our voices echoed one another, always.
So I promised I would sit on the banks of this river,
Until your eyes finally meet mine.
And out beyond those peaks,
That we fell so in love with,
I will write you, always.
I will write you,
In the colours of the night sky,
As it tumbles into the day.
The blues and the crimsons,
Clutching at all of the midnight that makes us.
Painting the strong veins in your wrists,
That lie south of my ink stained finger tips.
Placing our burning palms between them,
Because that is where you and I learnt,
To cradle this ancient struggle of our people.
I will write you until the Jhelum is clear,
No more blood will be carried upon her back,
Instead she will reflect the night sky,
Illuminated by the stars she carries.
We will wash the flags of freedom,
On her banks,
But I must not forget to ask,
Will you write me back, always?
Dear Muslim girls, especially you teenagers,
I want to apologize to all of you on behalf of Muslim adults, Muslim parents and the Muslim community as a whole.
I am sorry that your struggles as females are often overlooked. I am sorry that your sensual temptations are always underestimated. I am sorry that your fitnah for the opposite gender is rarely ever addressed as if, for some miraculous reason, you are expected to have stronger control over your carnal desires.
We have failed to recognize Muslim women's, especially the female youth's, trials of their voluptuous desires. At the most we have made an effort to acknowledge your desires to interact with guys, to be around them, to talk to them, to laugh with them, to share with them the details of your day, to have a boy follow you around, if at all your trials are recognized. Your desires have been marginalized to simply some emotional need of getting attention from the opposite gender. Let me be brave enough to say: That is wrong. Women want more than just the attention.
I confess that the strength of carnal desires in females is almost always underestimated within our Muslim societies. I am not here to run a comparison between the needs of men and women, I am here to simply acknowledge, affirm and attest that sexual desires are no less a struggle for a girl than a boy. Let it be clear, Islam makes no distinction. Truly Allāh is the Most Just!
Allow me to say: I understand….
I understand that the opposite gender is a fitnah for you as much as you are a fitnah for the opposite gender.
I understand your battles and your struggles.
I understand that if you slip, on the surface or deeper, it's because you couldn't fight the strong inevitable desires coupled with the extreme hypersexual society we're raising you in.
I understand that it is wrong for our Muslim societies to have double standards, and I want you to know that no matter how many times you are reminded that you, as a female, should have a better control over your sexual desires than the guys, that you should be the one guarding your chastity more than the guys, that you are a girl and it is less likely for you to give into your carnal desires than the guys, please know that your religion makes no such distinction. Islam has prescribed the exact same punishment for the girls as for the guys.
I understand and my heart goes out to you, for all the trials of the opposite gender you are going through, for all the temptations you have to fight or you fail to fight.
I understand that if you slip and give into your voluptuous desires, it doesn't make you a whore. It simply makes you a human. Although, I truly admire those of you who have thus far kept your chastity, may Allāh azzwajal increase you in your strength and in your purity.
I understand, when I look at you teenage girls, especially those who are committed to their faith, trying their best to withhold their religious and moral values, modestly dressed yet can't help but fall into the trials of the opposite gender, I understand…
I understand that when that cute guy, or any guy that seems attractive whether because of his looks or his personality, asks for your number it is very hard to resist, when he calls in the middle of the night it is almost impossible not to pick up the phone. When he offers to pick you up from school, you just can't hold back, and when his hand runs through your hand the feeling is so amazing that you just can't stop him and when he leans in to kiss you the temptations can overtake your senses of right and wrong.[i]
I understand that although, without a shadow of doubt, these actions are wrong, the temptation of experiencing what you have been hearing about, watching, and observing since you were in kindergarten, every single day of your life, almost every minute, on TV, online, at school, at work, at the park, and especially what you've been reading in books, is simply too irresistible.
Do I feel for you? Absolutely! I feel for you if you couldn't hold yourself back from giving in to your very much existing and strong temptations of carnal desire.
I am sorry that we have not built a safer environment around you girls. And I am especially sorry, wholeheartedly, when we Muslims judge you and underestimate your bodily yearnings and cravings for the opposite gender, yet we give boys more benefit of doubts, more excuses for their temptations, for their fitnah than we offer you girls.
I am sorry that our societies only feel for boys, reinforcing again and again that girls are the biggest temptations for boys, but we almost never mention that boys are equally a temptation for girls, sexual temptation not just emotional temptation.
Although I might not be able to change the mindset of many Muslims out there, I promise you that I will not judge you inshā'Allāh. And that I will always be here to offer you an attentive ear and a shoulder to lean on should you need someone to talk to or understand your struggles.
Before I close my note, just remember two things as advice from me:
Firstly, if you fall, don't forget to repent and know that we fall so we can learn to pick ourselves up[ii].
Secondly, don't give up. Keep trying to fight your temptations even if you keep falling. If you didn't guard your chastity from the beginning, it doesn't mean you have lost your chance. Allāh's Mercy encompasses all, and He is always ready to envelope us in His Forgiveness and Mercy no matter how deep we fall in our sins. Chastity starts when you leash your carnal desires and wait for the halal alternatives. That's the beginning of your chastity!
(And Allāh knows best)
[i] For all those overzealous readers who are going to hold their guns at me, I am NOT endorsing these sins to be okay!
[ii] Quote from Batman Begins :)
The post Listen to Them and Understand their Sexual Struggles (of our Muslim female youth) appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.
There is video footage here of an incident on Edgeware Road, London, involving Anjem Choudary and his supporters. The Muslim Council Of Britain (MCB) has issued a statement condemning the attack and calling for unity against sectarian division. We have documented Choudary on his journey from useful clown for the islamophobic media to dangerous provocateur in our posts here.
(h/t:Alfred F.)In life and words, Muslim leader bridges cultures
By Lisa Wangsness (Boston Globe)
On a rainy afternoon in early April at Boston’s largest mosque, the sheikh in the seersucker suit was in his office, offering comfort and advice.
To a young student wondering if he should get engaged: “Aw, man, just go for it!”
To a middle-aged man agonizing over how to care for his dying father: “You should preserve life as best you can.”
To a sobbing young woman who told him about problems at home: “I have someone who can help you, a Muslim counselor. . . . Let’s talk about fixing it.”
Days later, bombs exploded on Boylston Street. And the unlikely face of the Muslim community in its time of crisis became this 6-foot-5-inch, blond-haired, blue-eyed former hip-hop DJ whose grandfather was a fundamentalist Christian preacher.
William Suhaib Webb, imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury, has been a target of conservative Muslims on the Internet, who call him a sellout, and of other critics who say he is an extremist.
He has tried, for better or for worse, to respond to all of it — in his sermons, on CNN, on Twitter. At the same time, he has endeavored to improve the mosque’s relationships with Jewish and Christian leaders in Boston.
“I’m just exhausted,” the 40-year-old Webb said, sipping a flask of coffee in his book-lined office overlooking the busy intersection of Tremont Street and Malcolm X Boulevard. “I don’t have days anymore. I just have . . . smears.”
Webb, who memorized the Koran while living with his parents in Oklahoma and became an advanced Islamic legal scholar after years of study in Cairo, has in recent years become among the most famous imams in America.
He has 34,000 Twitter followers and a “virtual mosque” website that gets some 13,000 page views a day. In his sermons and in social media, Webb — many followers call him “sheikh,” an honorific for a respected teacher — toggles effortlessly between English and Arabic, dropping words like “baller” and references to “The Walking Dead,” a television show about zombies, into exegeses of Sufi poetry.
When he came to the cultural center 18 months ago, he faced significant challenges. He had to connect with immigrants from all over the world, as well as their US-born children and converts from other faiths. He also had to be a bridge to the city’s other faith communities, someone who could help the city move beyond concerns, particularly among some Jewish leaders, that the mosque’s leadership had extremist ties.
Webb, for his part, had his own big plan — to establish one of the first Muslim seminaries in the country. He wanted to nurture a new generation of American imams and Muslim women scholars — orthodox, but culturally conversant and civically involved — and to educate more casual students about their faith.
The Marathon bombings cast Webb and his mission into a crucible. In the media, Islam was on trial again, and Webb was, too.
* * *
Webb grew up outside Oklahoma City. His grandfather, the preacher, was a strict conservative — no dancing, no shorts. His parents are what he calls “post-Woodstock Christians,” more accommodating of modernity.
He has positive memories of church, “fellowship with great, wonderful people.” But he could never get his head around Jesus. What color was the son of God? How could God choose a race for himself when he assumed human form?
By his late teens, Webb was popular figure in the Oklahoma City hip-hop scene, a pot-smoking DJ with a gang affiliation. Once, he says, he found himself in a car during a drive-by shooting.
Abdulsamad Frazier, a close friend from those days, remembers Webb as friendly and generous, though he kept dangerous company.
“If anybody in the neighborhood messed with him, he would hold his ground,” Frazier said. “He hung around with some major guys, guys who were real serious guys.”
But Webb was unhappy, searching. He began learning about Islam through friends in the hip-hop world. Curious, Webb checked a copy of the Koran out of the library.
To his surprise, it mentioned Jesus and Mary. But it resonated with him in a way the Gospels never had. It was 1992, the year of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.
“The idea that God is not a human being, God is not a color — that was what I was looking for my whole life,” he says now.
He was 20 years old, a college freshman at the University of Central Oklahoma about to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha, a historically African-American fraternity. He became an observant Muslim instead.
His parents — his mother worked in human resources, his father was a history professor — were greatly relieved that he had changed directions, but they found his new religious fervor baffling and unsettling.
“We were disappointed,” said his mother, Mary Lynne Webb, who is close with her son and proud of him now. “We felt like we were kind of failures, I guess.”
Webb finished a degree in education, devoting his free time to Islam. Four days a week, he traveled to Norman, Okla., to study with a Senegalese sheikh. It was a lonely period, though over the next several years, others from the music scene converted, too.
When Oklahoma City opened its first mosque a few years later, its community chose the 26-year-old convert as its imam. Imad Enchassi, then a mentor of Webb’s and now the senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said the decision was almost unanimous.
He said Webb instinctively related to young people, but he won over the older crowd, too.
“He would sit down with elders on the ground; some elders would eat with fingers, he would do the same thing,” Enchassi said.
But Webb, looking back, gives himself a grade of D-minus for his work as a young imam. “I was still finding myself spiritually,” he said. “I gave a lot of hot sermons. They probably weren’t very good. I didn’t have enough scholarship.”
The Bay Area chapter of the Muslim American Society, a national grass-roots religious and cultural group, spotting a rising star, offered to fix that by sending him to Al-Azhar University in Cairo, one of the world’s leading centers of Sunni Muslim learning. With his wife, Asmah Ayob, who was a Malaysian anthropology student when he met her in college, Webb moved to Cairo.
After a brief stint in California upon his return in 2010, he learned the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury was looking for an imam.
* * *
A dominant theme of Webb’s ministry is that Muslims can live faithful lives in contemporary America, and that they also have an obligation to participate — civically, culturally, and politically.
One of the first classes for the community at Webb’s fledgling educational institute is called Getting It Right. More than 200 people pack the Sunday night lectures, which emphasize balance, service, self-discipline, love.
Kamran Ahmed, a 24-year-old medical student, said Webb drew him to the mosque.
“It doesn’t become this abstract philosophical discussion,” he said. “It becomes this discussion of when this thing happened at work, or this thing happened at school, this is how the Prophet, peace be upon him, would have responded.”
The Ella Collins Institute — scheduled to begin training seminary students in the fall and named for Malcolm X’s older half-sister, an educator and civil rights activist who eventually became an orthodox Sunni — is Webb’s attempt to help answer a twofold problem facing America’s Muslim community. There are too few qualified imams, and those who are here tend to be immigrants trained overseas who have difficulty understanding the lives of American youth.
Amid teaching and ministering to the mosque community — 700 to 1,000 people show up for Friday prayers — Webb feeds content to his “virtual mosque” and tweets constantly.
The mosque has taken on new projects, like the development of a health care team, which assesses the needs of the congregation and the neighborhood around it, and offers screenings and referrals.
Webb also maintains a frantic pace on the speaking circuit; just before the bombings, he was the Muslim representative in a cordial interfaith discussion about American religion on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“You’re never here,” a teenager who came to his office hours one recent Friday lamented.
Home has offered little reprieve from the intensity. His wife and two school-age children are living in Malaysia for the next several years — in order, he says, to be closer to his in-laws and to expose the kids to Malaysian culture. Though they Skype twice a day, he is lonely without them.
The demands have been so great that, in early April, Webb said he thought he could last only about five years as an imam. After that, he said, he hoped to devote himself to the Ella Collins Institute.
And yet, in an interview on that quiet morning, Webb said he had fallen for Boston.
“My neighbors in Dorchester call me the eye-mamm,” he said, with a laugh. “I didn’t know about this whole, you have to move your car on Fridays [for street cleaning]. They come banging on my windows, ‘Eye-mamm, eye-mamm! You got to move your car!’ ”
“I feel it’s a cozy city,” he said. “It’s a cozy city.”
* * *
On Marathon Monday, Webb was in Detroit, where he had given a speech the night before. The text messages began — at first one or two, then “a waterfall.”
“Are you in Boston?” “Are you OK?” “Pray for Boston.”
“Im sad im not in Boston,” he tweeted that afternoon. “My heart is with you.”
And: “If any marathon runner needs a place to stay, my house is open.”
Flying home that night, Webb thought, along with so many other Boston Muslims: I hope it was not someone claiming to represent Islam.
The next day, the imam and his staff flew into action, planning a vigil, rallying volunteers, setting up trauma counseling. Upon learning later in the week that the bombing suspects were Muslims, Webb condemned the attacks, calling the suspects “criminals and enemies of society” and disassociating Islam from their acts.
At prayer times, Webb and his staff asked congregants to share with the FBI any information they had about the suspects and offered help with legal counsel if they needed it. Hate mail poured in — but so did letters of support, buoying Webb’s spirits.
Webb was disappointed, though, when, two days after the bombings, the governor’s office organized an interfaith service to be attended by President Obama. Webb says he was asked to speak, but he was removed from the program the night before.
The service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross featured the Roman Catholic archbishop, the Greek Orthodox hierarch, the rabbi of the city’s largest synagogue, and senior pastors of major African-American, Hispanic, and mainline Protestant churches.
Muslims were the only faith community not represented by a cleric. Instead, Nasser Weddady of the American Islamic Congress, a civil rights organization, offered a reflection. Webb was in the pews, as were several other prominent imams.
Webb said he was never given an explanation. The governor’s press office said, in an e-mail to the Globe, that organizers “were not able to accommodate everyone on the speaking program, but are proud of the speakers we had.”
Webb praised Weddady’s speech, but he was clearly stung. On Twitter, he told indignant community members to focus on honoring the victims; later, he said, the community could raise questions about the choice of speakers. He said the issue was not about him — there were other Muslim religious leaders, such as Imam Talal Eid, the widely respected Muslim chaplain at Brandeis University — who could have offered the reflection instead.
Meanwhile, Webb came under attack online; some Muslims asked why he would speak well of the president, whom they called a “war criminal.” Others questioned his quick condemnation of the bombing suspects, the Tsarnaev brothers.
After he said publicly he would not pray over the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, some Twitter followers reproached him for refusing to bury the suspected terrorist’s body — even though, as Webb tried to explain, that was a different issue and in any case the mosque has no graveyard.
“I find it odd that people who claim to be so religious have the time to attack those working hard under duress,” Webb tweeted April 22.
The heightened focus on Boston’s Muslim community offered an opportunity for Charles Jacobs, a longtime critic of the cultural center and its sister mosque in Cambridge (they are both owned by the Islamic Society of Boston but run separately), to revive his allegations — picked up by USA Today — that the mosques are breeding grounds for hatred and extremism.
Writing in his column in the Jewish Advocate newspaper and on his website, Jacobs suggested that Webb was disinvited from speaking at the interfaith service because organizers feared he was an extremist. He charged that Webb was surreptitiously teaching a curriculum promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood that “teaches vicious hatred and calls for young Muslims to engage in Jihad against non-Muslims in order to establish a global Islamic state.”
“We think he is being publicly dishonest,” Jacobs said of Webb in an interview.
To the imam, the notion was ridiculous.
“I don’t have any private classes . . . where we meet in some bat cave and we lay out blueprints of how to conquer America,” he said.
The charge made just as little sense to outside observers. Todd Helmus, a senior behavioral scientist with the RAND Corporation who has worked extensively on counterterrorism, said Webb’s virtual mosque is one of the more active and influential Muslim voices against radicalism in the country.
“The problem isn’t Suhaib Webb. The problem is there aren’t more imams like Suhaib Webb,” he said.
And Diana Eck, a Harvard professor who teaches a case study of the saga of Jacobs and Boston’s mosques, said Jacobs’s argument that Webb and other moderate Muslims are operating a “stealth jihad” movement belies logic and evidence.
“For years, they were asking, ‘Where are the moderate Muslim voices?’ ” she said of Jacobs and his allies. “Now, we have a lot of moderate Muslim voices, and they are saying that these are the most dangerous people because they are involved in civic society.”
But Webb, in an apparent effort to project both transparency and strength, soon found himself drawn into a back-and-forth on Twitter with Jacobs and the reporter who wrote the USA Today piece — an unusual situation for a major spiritual leader but one that Webb says reflects his populist impulses.
“@DrCharlesJacobs is one of the greatest islamophobes in America,” Webb tweeted. “No one should take anything he has to say seriously.”
Pontiff avoids word Islam and nature of deaths as he makes saints of 800 killed by Ottoman Turks in 1480 for not converting
Pope Francis has canonised more than 800 15th-century martyrs who were killed after refusing to convert to Islam – a delicate and arguably unwelcome ecclesiastical move he inherited from his predecessor Benedict.
The "martyrs of Otranto", whose identities are largely unknown, were killed on a hill outside the south-east Italian town by Ottoman Turk invaders in 1480.
Along with two Latin American nuns, the they became the first saints to be proclaimed during Pope Francis's fledgling pontificate on Sunday, in a ceremony watched by tens of thousands in St Peter's Square in Vatican City.
"As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain the many Christians who, today and in many parts of the world, now, still suffer from violence, and to give them the courage to be devout and to respond to evil with good," said the pope in a homily that made no mention of Islam.
In an apparent attempt to avoid the move being interpreted as provocative, the Vatican said the martyrdom should be understood in "the historical context of the wars that determined relations between Europe and the Ottoman empire for a long period of time".
But that did not prevent Il Giornale, the Italian newspaper owned by Silvio Berlusconi's brother, to describe the martyrs as "victims of Islam" in a headline.
In a speech to diplomats at the Vatican days after his election as pontiff, Francis made clear his intention to smooth away the tensions that had marred some of Benedict's time as the head of the Roman Catholic church, speaking of the need for greater interfaith dialogue, particularly with Islam.
He raised conservative eyebrows by including a Muslim woman in a foot-washing ritual on Maundy Thursday.
As he spoke of the new saints on Sunday, the pope focused on the Otranto martyrs' commitment to Christianity rather than their rejection of Islam or the nature of their deaths.
Little is known of the individuals who were executed when they refused to convert, but they are believed to have all been men aged over 15. They are grouped together as the "companions" of Antonio Primaldo, thought to have been the first to die when, once the town had fallen to the Ottoman forces commanded by Gedik Ahmed Pasha after a 15-day siege, the men were given the choice of conversion or execution.
According to Pope John Paul II, who visited Otranto in 1980 for the 500th anniversary of the massacre, Primaldo declared: "We believe in Jesus Christ, son of God, and for Jesus Christ we are ready to die."
The date of these canonisations was announced by Pope Benedict at the same gathering with cardinals in February at which he announced his resignation, the first pontiff to do so in almost 600 years. One of his final wishes, therefore, was left to his successor to enact.
"Dear friends, let us keep the faith which we have received and which is our true treasure; let us renew our devotion to the Lord even in the midst of obstacles and misunderstandings," said Francis on Sunday.
In 2007, his predecessor had issued a decree recognising that the Otranto martyrs had been killed "out of hatred for their faith". Pope Benedict appeared determined to push through their canonisation, in December authorising the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree attributing a miracle to the intercession of the men – a crucial step towards sainthood.
His eight-year pontificate was not without interfaith frictions. In 2006 Benedict made a speech in Regensburg, Germany, that was interpreted by many as an attack on Islam. He said he had been misunderstood.Lizzy Davies
Last week Professor Stephen Hawking pulled out of a conference in Israel, reportedly as part of an academic boycott of Israeli institutions on the grounds of it operating an Apartheid-type regime against its Palestinian subjects. The decision prompted a number of Israeli sympathisers to reassess their views of Hawking from being a genius who triumphed over adversity to being a “stupid cripple” who should hurry up and die, or similar, but one Israeli law firm recommended that Hawking change the processor he uses in his tablet to communicate, namely the Intel Core i7 which is developed at an Intel base in Israel. There are a number of reasons why the demand represents the ignorance and bias of those making it.
The Intel Core i7 is a standard PC processor which runs standard PC software, and this chip architecture dominates the computer market except for most smartphones and tablets (which use ARM-designed chips) and some legacy server systems (which run on RISC chips designed by IBM, HP and others, now mostly defunct or taken over, in the 80s and 90s but which are largely being phased out). Its dominance is not due to its technical superiority but because of the dominance of the ‘Wintel’ hardware and software stack on the desktop from the 90s onwards, and the ‘Lintel’ stack in the server market. The last consumer computer maker to use other processors besides Intel’s (Apple) switched from IBM and Motorola PowerPC processors in the early 2000s to Intel, because IBM could not produce energy-efficient 64-bit processors for laptops. The latest major advance was in fact conducted by AMD in the early 2000s, which pioneered 64-bit PC technology before Intel, but Intel took that technology and ran with it and now makes the leading 64-bit PC processors.
I did a brief investigation of links between other chip makers and Israel in the early 2000s when looking into buying my Mac, after reading pro-boycott material that suggested using AMD processors which were, then, superior to Intel’s Pentium and discovered that AMD in fact also had investments in Israel. They invest there because it has a highly-educated population with a high proportion of immigrants from the USA and Europe who speak English or other European languages, and which has a substantial interest in developing high-tech security products. It’s virtually impossible to use any computer technology without using some that has links to Israel. This blog uses WordPress, which itself depends on PHP whose lead developer, Zeev Suraski, lives in Israel (although nobody has to pay to use it).
Of course, there are serious ethical objections to the political regimes in several of the other countries which contribute to the cheap technology we all enjoy, as well as the other cheap consumer goods — the lack of political freedom and rights to organise as workers in China, for example, and the minerals used in smartphones that come from war-ravaged parts of Africa, which often passes through the hands of armies which plunder and rape local populations. Some, like George Monbiot, will not use this technology for that reason, but George Monbiot is quite able to speak and to use his hands to type and write, and able to cycle so as to hand-deliver his missives if he so wishes — he is not almost completely paralysed like Hawking, or bedridden and unable to use a laptop or desktop computer and thus dependent on a smartphone or tablet as are some disabled people that I have read and written about here in the past.
Hawking has in fact visited Israel four times, and has visited a number of other countries with poor human rights records including China and Iran. Those countries are repressive across the board; Israel runs an Apartheid-type regime backed with a fair amount of dehumanising and racism which I have personally seen plenty of on pro-Israel blogs over the years. Its boycotting is entirely justified. This would not be the first time that such people have reminded critics of their racist policies of what they have done for them: I recall hearing a recording of Pik Botha, a minister under Apartheid in South Africa, telling the British that they had no business telling South Africans what to do with the natives there as South Africans had fought for them in the war. If Israel wants to be regarded as part of the “western club”, it should expect criticism of its open discrimination and brazen racism.
Image source: Wikipedia.
There’s a lot to say about how ideology and partisanship can prevent one from a fair analysis of events and contemporary issues.
It’s bizarre to see Charles Cooke telling Joy Reid that her point about slavery and by extension indentured servitude, Jim Crow (and much more) was a “cheap” point to make–he is just plain wrong that these “imperfections” were only 18th century problems.
I also wonder if Cooke recalls how European imperialism, including it’s British variant, conquered and colonized much of the world and did so with the Bible in one hand and a gun in the other?
On the “Arab Spring” and Islam Maher sounds like the neo-fascist Geert Wilders (maybe he agrees with his pal Sam Harris that ‘unfortunately the fascists speak most sensibly about Islam’) or the extremist Christian right-wing he is all too happy to berate as “intellectual inferiors.”
Where is the nuanced discussion regarding “Islamism?” Is Islamism the same in places such as Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt?
The show that Bill Maher himself produces, VICE, aired a segment showing the intense and daily opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) led government in Egypt by groups such as the “Black Bloc,” a group devoted to sabotaging what they view as the fascist right-wing MB, claiming as its adherents, “liberals, secularists and moderate Islamists.” The revolutionary situation is plainly more complicated than a simple Islamists vs. democrats dichotomy.
Finally, Glenn Greenwald came through as he usually does, not letting Bill Maher get away with his silly, blinkered boogeyman narrative that it’s all PC liberalism to not say Islam is an inherently and uniquely violent religion causing the most horror and violence in the world. Greenwald gave the example of the West Bank and the extremist Jewish settlers who justify land theft and persecution of Palestinians based on a perceived divine mandate. Greenwald also pointed towards the Crusade against Iraq that George W. Bush stated as having been the directive of God.
There are other examples that Greenwald could have added as well: the Serbian genocide against Bosnians, the intense Islamophobia of fundamentalist Hindu nationalism that accompanies the occupation of Kashmir and other areas of India, the horrific campaign against Burmese and Sri Lankan Muslims by Buddhists, etc.
It is an open question however if Greenwald will be asked to return to the show again. In the past when individuals have intelligently and effectively pushed back against Maher’s Islamophobia they usually haven’t been called back.
The HBO host has become a leading advocate of the view that Islam is uniquely violent and threatening. Does that hold up under critical scrutiny?
Last night I was on Bill Maher's HBO show "Real Time". There have always been numerous views of Maher's with which I agree. But he has become one of the most vocal and extreme advocates of the view that - while religion generally should be criticized - Islam is a uniquely threatening and destructive force and that Muslims are uniquely oppressive and violent, and that mentality has infected many of his policy views (see here and here for some comprehensive background; just two weeks ago, he had a fairly typical outburst on this topic). When I was scheduled to do the show, I was hoping that the opportunity would arise to debate these views (or that I could create the opportunity), and last night it did.
The resulting exchange, which was somewhat contentious and sustained for a show like this, can be seen on the recorder below. The segment begins at the 4:45 mark and our specific exchange begins a couple of minutes after that (the first segment on this video is a debate on whether Benghazi is now a "scandal" in light of newly released documents). Our exchange ends up, I believe, capturing the crux of this debate - which is essentially similar to the one I had recently with Sam Harris and friends - rather well:Glenn Greenwald
The decision by Professor Stephen Hawking to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel is a hugely courageous one and he deserves support for speaking out on the issue of Israeli apartheid – an issue on which too many people are afraid to speak out.
As Nick Davies observed in his splendid book about the UK media, Flat Earth News:
“…the most potent electric fence in the world is the one erected on behalf of the Israeli government.
“Journalists who write stories which offend the politics of the Israeli lobby are subjected to a campaign of formal complaints and pressure on their editors; most of all, they are inundated with letters and emails which can be extravagant in their hostility…
“The result is that some facts become dangerous: to report Palestinian casualties; to depict the Palestinians as victims of Israeli occupation; to refer to the historic ousting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes; to refer to the killing of Palestinian civilians by Zionist groups in the 1940s. The facts are there, but the electric fence will inflict pain on any reporter who selects them.”
Hawking has been in poor health for some time now. He is undoubtedly going to have pain inflicted on him as a result of breaking through the ‘electric fence’. The Times (where Daniel Finkelstein and the odious Oliver Kamm both hold senior editorial posts) yesterday published a disgraceful editorial belittling Hawking and describing his decision as ‘stupid’. Hawking will surely be remembered as someone who has done far more for improving our understanding of the world around us than either of those two little shits.
The best support we can give Hawking, is to join him in speaking out against Israel’s continuing racist and violent oppression of the occupied Palestinians. Just like South Africa, it’s apartheid policies will be it’s downfall.
Many of our politicians and much of our media may have been bought out by the Israel lobby. But they can’t buy all of us.
Hat-tip: Thanks to Jews Sans Frontieres for bringing my attention to the graphic which I nicked for this blog.
Counter-demonstrators attacked last year’s event marking the anniversary of the dispossession of Palestine
Anne Norton rejects the 'clash of civilisations' view of Islam and the west, but offers little to replace it
Anne Norton thinks that the "Muslim question" is, if anything, a question about non-Muslims. She is straightforward in denying the claim that Islam and the west are involved in a "clash of civilisations", castigating writers of various political persuasions who have, blatantly or inferentially, put forward this view. She thus criticises writers such as John Rawls (as well as those, such as Michael Walzer and Michael Ignatieff, who "have urged them on") for saying that Muslims constantly seek empire and territory, for stereotyping Muslims' political orientation as the antithesis of liberalism, and for promoting a false history that conceals liberalism's own failings. In an effort to find more common ground, she underwrites Derrida's assertion that Islam is "the other of democracy" because Muslim states could retain their distinctiveness while recognising Israel and promoting democratic values. And she surprisingly lauds Sayyid Qutb, the Islamic theorist executed by Nasser in Egypt, because "even this intolerant, fanatic man has something to teach us about human rights, human dignity, and equality", given his support for private property and women in the workplace.
In a series of chapters on sexuality, freedom of speech and democracy, Norton recognises that valid differences of orientation exist. But she does not always help her own case by making assertions that are variously vague, trivial or wrong. For example, she says that terrorism is the precursor to democracy (as if the course of the Arab spring was inevitable), that randomness is "terrifying" (so much for evolutionists), that "Germany has no neo-Nazis" (when they number upwards of 5,000), that the publishers of the Danish cartoons "intended to provoke" (and not just insult) Muslims, that the veil is "profoundly erotic" (for elderly women?), or that calling your sports team the Redskins "honours an old enemy" (tell that to Native Americans).
But if the clash-of-civilisations approach is false, what options exist for addressing the differences presented by a Muslim minority in a western country? One could defer to their distinctiveness, at least on a wide variety of issues (diet, religious schooling). Alternatively, the majority could try to nudge "them" in the direction of being more like "us" (learn our language, lower the height of minarets). Or one could try to move "us" closer to "them", perhaps by pointing out similarities of history, practice, or belief ("Arab scholars preserved western texts," "we all share Abrahamic faiths"). Having dismissed many of the arguments of western intellectuals about Islam, Norton indicates that neither outright assimilation nor distant toleration is to be preferred: rather she chooses the third option, moving "us" closer to "them". Indeed, she seems to regard this as already having happened. She speaks of "ordinary" non-Muslims eating falafel and couscous and using Arabic greetings. True, some issues may be resolving themselves internally: many Muslim women have found common sartorial ground, older ones having given up the full veil, younger ones the miniskirt, both adopting a simple head scarf. And once we eliminate the clash-of-civilisations notion from our vocabulary, the mutual accommodations that already exist at the local level may only increase.
But a common meeting ground is not always easily achieved. Examples abound. Would Norton refuse arranged marriages, as the Danes have, until a waiting period to which others are not subjected has expired? When a Seattle hospital reached an accord with the local Somali community so parents could bring a daughter for the most minor nicking of the clitoris as the requisite "female circumcision", would Norton have been among those whose protests stopped the agreement, notwithstanding the far more invasive, perfectly legal practice of male circumcision? Would she allow a suit for group defamation when an imam publicly recites the Quranic passages calling Jews dogs and pigs, but not object when a church's evensong prayer is clearly antisemitic? Would she allow church bells to disturb a neighbour's sleep but forbid a loudspeaker to call the faithful Muslim to prayer? And if there were another terrorist attack, would she be any less prone than most to send government agents into a Finsbury Park mosque, or have the New York Police Department's programme on surveillance of Muslims continue spying on college campuses and religious organisations? Norton faces none of these issues and, as a result, her approach, once she has dismissed the "clash of civilisations" pundits, may seem no more profound than trusting that, left alone, ordinary folks can get along quite well.
Such a position may, however, come at the price of not really attending to the distinctiveness of the "other". Norton knows little about Muslims: she gets her few references to Arabic wrong and never discusses the scholarship on Islam and Muslim cultures. In the absence of any understanding of Muslims in their own terms, moving closer to them risks being yet another exercise in self-congratulation: it yields few insights about us and none about them, and thus lacks both genuine understanding and real moral bite.
Or is it possible that Norton could be right after all? Perhaps if we just pretend to be receptive to our Muslim neighbours and no outsiders come along to disrupt our mutual inattention, we can all go about our separate lives, blissfully ignorant of our actual differences. Perhaps we really can trust to our own basic liberalism and absorption of other peoples, even if, as a British visitor once said of the American experience, the melting pot is set over a very slow flame indeed. If, as Norton seems to believe, non-Muslims have already melded with Muslims, perhaps, in the name of her undefined notion of "dignity" and a world where she believes democrats are by nature "not afraid of difference: they embrace it; they make love to it", we can trust that all troublesome distinctiveness will cheerfully drop out of the equation. But anyone who has travelled the streets of Dearborn or Bradford will suspect that this is neither the most likely nor even the most desirable outcome.
Muslims, like every minority, appreciate the need for camouflage in the face of muted suspicion, even if that need has diminished somewhat in the years since 9/11 and 7/7. But living as a chameleon may be harder now that we all notice each other noticing each other. Under such circumstances, anonymity, for many Muslims, may stifle their sense of valid difference and deprive non-Muslims of really seeing their neighbours. If that happens, we may avoid the "clash", but it may come at the cost of an arrangement neither community should be eager to call "civilisation".
• Lawrence Rosen is the author of Varieties of Muslim Experience and The Culture of Islam.
Lecture by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Zara T.[The following is the video and transcript of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi's khutbah "Making Families Work." The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity.]
The khutbah can be viewed here.
My dear brothers and sisters in Islam, in today's khutbah inshā'Allāh ta'ala we will talk about the importance of parents and some of the Islamic principles and tips that we as parents need to know when we deal with our children.
We all know, my dear brothers and sisters in Islam, that children are of the greatest blessings of life. Allāh tells us in the Qurʾān “Al maalu wal banuuna zeenatul hayatid dunya”. Money and children, that's what makes life beautiful for us. What makes life worth living even for those who don't believe in a God – for us, of course we have the akhirah but even for those who don't have any īmān, what makes life sweet? Al maalu wal banuun. And Allāh mentions this as a blessing for us, as a blessing that He has given us. Allāh says in the Qurʾān, Allāh is the One who has given you, He has aided you, He has helped you , He has blessed you with money and with children and that is why having children, this is a natural desire in every human being. It's ingrained in us. Allāh says in the Qurʾān “It is pleasing to men, it is alluring to men that they desire women and they desire children.” Every single person, and of course the āyah is directed to men that they want women, and of course women as well want husbands, women as well they have the same desire, they want a loving spouse, they want a healthy relationship and they want children as well.
And in the Qurʾān we have so many stories of those who did not have children and they want to have children, so much so that they will even adopt in order to have a child. The famous story of Imra'atul Aziz in the Qurʾān, Yusuf, the story of Yusuf and the family that adopts him, they did not have a child. What does the wife say? And in fact the exact same phrase that this woman says, another woman also says in the Qurʾān; and that is the wife of Firawn. Firawn and Aziz, two different people in two different time places, they both did not have children. When Asiya the wife of Firawn sees this child and when the wife of Aziz, when Aziz brings home Yusuf, they both say the exact same thing: “This child, hopefully he will benefit us and we will adopt him as a son, we will take him as a son.”
You see, parents, they want children that when they grow older, these children will benefit them. That when they grow older, somebody will take care of them. Parents, they have it inside of them to see their children flourish, to see their children grow. It is an amazing psychological reality that no human being on the face of this earth wants to see another human better than him except for the father when it comes to his son or the mother when it comes to her daughter. You don't want to see your cousin richer than you, or your uncle smarter than you, even if you accept it grudgingly. But you're not happy to see another person richer than you. You're not supportive to see another person with a better job than you. You will accept it as a reality of life, okay there are people that are above, there are people that are below. But the only time that you will feel happy that someone is better than you is your own son or daughter.
You will genuinely feel proud. That's my boy, that's my daughter, he's done this he's done that. no jealousy at all, 100% support. And this is an amazing psychological reality that Allāh created in every one of us. And that is why, as I said, it's a natural desire to have children.
Ibrahim [as], he doesn't have a son or child, he makes duaa to Allāh. So Allāh sends him an angel to tell him yes you're going to have a child, you and Sarah will have a child and after this child you'll even have a grandchild. And Zakariya [as], he's making duaa to Allāh, that beautiful, that poetic duaa. He makes duaa to Allāh in a language that is so beautiful that we cannot even translate it into English, but he makes duaa that he wants a child, that I want a child that shall inherit from me, that shall carry my progeny on, and therefore it is indeed a sign of mercy from Allāh that He has allowed us to have children and that we take care of these children. And taking care of children as well is a human emotion. It transcends religion and culture. Muslim and kafir, we all love our children.
The famous story of the bedouin who came to the Prophet and he saw the Prophet kissing Hasan and Hussain, playing with them, throwing them up in the air -and this is his grandson. can you imagine what he would have done with his own children. We don't have any stories of how he raised Fatimah and Umme Kulthoom when they were babies because this was pre-Islam. But we have stories of Hasan and Hussain, that he would kiss them and he would play with them and he would allow them to come on his back when he was in sajdah, the most humbling and the most religious position. But when Hasan is on his back, crawling, he allows Hasan to play even if this is kind of interfering with ṣalāh, but that love that he has for his grandson, it allows him to remain in sajdah longer so that Hasan is not harmed when he stands up. So he's playing with his grandchildren, and he kisses them, and this Bedouin, he's amazed, he's astonished, and he says, “Do you kiss your children?” because in their culture, it was considered unmanly to show this love. It was considered a sign of weakness to show love to your children. Do you kiss your child like this? “By Allāh, I have ten children and I've never once kissed one of them.” He's trying to boast that he is so manly, he's so macho that he's never kissed any of his children. And the prophet [saws], even though he was the gentle rahmatal lil alameen and he had the height of adab, when he saw such callousness he could not help but give a callous response back. Because sometimes you have to be harsh and sometimes you have to be strict. This man is boasting that he is not merciful to his children. And he's swearing by Allāh, wallahi, and he's using Allāh's name to feel a sense of pride that I'm so detached from my kids.
And what did the Prophet say? Do I have any control over your attitude, that Allāh has snatched away rahmah from your heart? Is it my fault that you have no rahmah, that you're boasting that you don't kiss your own children? And this is a harsh response, this is a verbal slap on the face to this man, but sometimes harshness requires harshness. And this boast, it required a firm response back to it. That, are you boasting that you've never kissed your children, and then you expect me to sympathize or have mercy? Its not my fault, he said, that Allāh has stripped your heart of any mercy. And this clearly shows us, brothers and sisters, that in our religion, to have a loving attitude towards your children, this is a sign that Allāh has blessed you. It's a sign that you have rahmah in your heart.
As we said last week, that it is not the sign of a man to mistreat his woman. Now we say in this khutbah, it is not the sign of a man or a woman, it is not the sign of a loving parent to mistreat their own children, to always be harsh, to always be strict on their children.
And indeed as Allāh has blessed us with children, with every blessing comes responsibilities. With every blessing comes responsibilities. There is no blessing that comes with no strings attached. Children are one of the biggest blessings of life. In fact they are really what makes life worth living for everyone amongst us who does not even, as we said, even people without any religion, children will make their life worth living. How about us who have īmān? Of course children make our life much better living. So, with that blessing comes responsibility, and the primary responsibility that muslim parents have is to raise their children to be righteous muslims, to be good muslims.
Allāh says in the Qurʾān “Oh you who believe, it is your responsibility to protect yourselves and your families from the punishment of Allāh ”. And our Prophet said “Every one of you is a shepherd and you are responsible for your flock.” And number one, he said, the father is responsible for his flock and the mother is also responsible for her flock. The father and the mother, he mentioned the both of them in this hadith. They are both responsible for their flock and their flock is but one because their children are the same. Both mother and father are responsible for the same flock. They're responsible for the same set of sheep if you like. And both of them will be asked by Allāh about how they dealt with their flock, with their responsibility.
And therefore in today's short khutbah, I wanted to remind myself and some of you of some practical advice about tarbiyah, about raising children. And today's khutbah is primarily directed at the parents. Today's khutbah, the emphasis is on the parents, so those who are parents, pay heed. Those who are not yet parents, pay extra heed; because every one of us, Allāh blesses and tests and tries through the issue of children.
The first advice to myself and all of you, and really the most important advice, the best way to raise one's children is to be a role model yourself in their lives. If you yourself are not of good character, there is no way your children will have a good character after you. And this is the ultimate reality. Brothers and sisters wallahi the media is to blame a lot, television is to blame a lot, internet is to blame a lot, society is to blame a lot. But the number one blame for a disrupted family, the number one blame for a broken family is the parents themselves. This is the number one blame. And before any of us, and I speak to myself before I speak to any of you, before any of us is ready to point our finger anywhere else, be prepared to take a solid look in the mirror. Because the number one guilty person in any broken family, in any broken relationship is the person you're looking at in the mirror. If you have not been a role model to your son or daughter, if you have not lived up to the ideals that you should live up to, then how can you blame your own child for failing to live up to those responsibilities?
And there are two elements here by the way. When it comes to being a role model, there are two elements here. There's a worldly element and there's a religious element. There's a deeni and there's a dunyawi. There's a psychological and there's also a spiritual. When it comes to psychological, when it comes to the worldly element, there's a simple common sense here; that as you do, it shall be done unto you. It's not a coincidence, brothers and sisters, there are thousands of surveys done, it's not a coincidence that children who grow up with parents who are smoking are much more predisposed to smoking. Children who grow up in abusive households, abusive relationships, when the husband is beating the wife, that these children will also beat their spouses when they grow up. It's not something that takes rocket science. As you do in your family, your children will do when they grow up. This is the reality. This is the fact of science, of psychology, and it doesn't take rocket science.
And the fact of the matter, husbands, if you're mistreating your wife, if you're abusing your wife, are you going to blame your son when he grows up and he also then starts abusing his wife? If all you do is scream and shout at your wife, ask yourself, do you want your daughter to have a husband like you? Ask yourself this. Do you want your daughter to be treated the way you treat your own wife, the mother of your daughter? So, relationships begin in the house. Relationships begin with oneself. As you do unto others, your child will learn to do unto others. And this is wallahi the fact that scientists, psychologists, everyone can tell you and it doesn't take a genius to figure this out. So the first way to have good children is to be a good man or a good woman yourself. The first way to have children who are polite, children who are respectful, is to be polite and respectful in your own life to others.
And I have seen with my own eyes, brothers and sisters, I am now of middle age and I have grown up here. I'm of that generation that is of the first generation to immigrant parents here in America. And I have seen plenty of horror stories and plenty of good stories of the children of my generation that are now young adults, that are now reaching their maturities and primes. I have seen with my own eyes, brothers and sisters, that every time a husband and wife, a couple, had good Islamic values in their life, the child eventually returns to Islam. Eventually. Yes I have seen some times children go away, especially in the teenage years, especially in the young twenties. But if the husband and wife raised them with an atmosphere of love, with an atmosphere of Islam, then when the child comes of age, when the child becomes twenty five or thirty, becomes a married adult, automatically they revert back to the only memory they have of living like a family, and that's the memory of their parents. And I have seen with my own eyes so many of my friends go through rebellious teenage years, go through a lot of evil, dating, womanizing, drugs, alcohol, then they grow into young men and women, they get married, they start their careers, and all of a sudden, they turn over a new leaf.
And why is this the case? Because when they are blessed with children, when these children have children of their own as young men and women, and they realize, you know what, I can't afford to let my son or daughter go. They have to change their own lives around. And how do they change it around? As I said, to the one memory that they have, the one role model that they grew up with, and that is their parents. And I have yet to see one example of a young man or woman who has grown up in a religious environment who permanently leaves that religious environment. I have yet to see one example in my own extended relatives and family and extended acquaintances that I knew growing up, this is the reality that I have experienced and of course there might be one or two exceptions, but the general rule of thumb: as the family is, so too when this child grows up, he will replicate that family in his own family.
And so, you want to have good children, start with yourself. Start with your own relationship with your spouse. This is the human level. There's a spiritual level as well. And the spiritual level, I've spoken about it here on this mimbar many times. And the best example is the story of Khidr and the young boy that he killed. Why did Allāh spare those two parents from this boy? Why did Allāh give them another boy that was better for them? Allāh says in the Qurʾān, the parents were righteous, the mother and father were good people, they were believers in Allāh , so Allāh did not want to test them with a rebellious, with an evil child. Allāh wanted to give them a good child, a respectful child. And so Allāh blessed them with another child that would be good to them, that would be righteous. Because they were righteous, Allāh gave them righteous children. So you want to have good children, you have to start with yourself. You have to start at home. You have to start with your relationship with your spouse. This is number one and this is something that religion tells us, science tells us, psychology tells us, every single doctor, every single person who knows anything about sociology, humanities, will tell us. This is the way of the world. As you do unto others, it shall be done unto you.
The second advice to myself and all of you: As ṣalāh, as ṣalāh, as ṣalāh. This cannot be overemphasized. We need to make sure that our children grow up praying on time.
Why? Not just because ṣalāh is important in our religion. Of course that is a big issue which we can get into, but we don't have time for this. Not just because our Prophet said, make sure that your children are praying at the age of seven and then force them to do so at the age of ten. Not just because we're required to do so, not just because Allāh says in the Qurʾān, “command your family to pray and be persistent in that command”. Not just because all of this, no. There's also a selfish reason that every one of us should want our children to pray. When our children pray regularly, we are teaching them that there is an authority higher even than their parents. There is an authority that must be obeyed even more important than the authority of the parents. And you see brothers and sisters, the one real authority to keep children in check when it comes to their parents is not the parents themselves, this is circular logic . The parent cannot force the child to respect the parent simply because it's a parent. This is a circular logic. You have to go to a higher authority, and that higher authority is only Allāh .
So when your child knows there is Allāh, and Allāh is watching me, and I believe in Allāh; when your child is praying regularly, when you child has that relationship with Allāh, and then he learns Allāh has told me to be good to my parents, our Prophet has said my mother, then my mother, then my mother, then my father. Our Prophet has said that jannah is underneath the feet of the mother. Now he learns the Qurʾān and Sunnah. It has an impact on him. Why? Because you have taught him to believe in Allāh . You've made him a good Muslim, you've given him those values. He knows who is his lord, he's praying on time, and now when his lord tells him “be good to your parents,” he will listen to his lord because this is not circular logic.
The mother cannot say “be good, I am your mother.” This is circular, right, this is going back to her. The father cannot say “you have to respect me, I am your father.” These are going to fall on flat ear-sand by the time the kid is a teenager, khalas he wont care anymore. But when the child believes in Allāh , when the child is regularly praying five times a day, and he knows who is his lord, now you tell him, now he learns, now he hears in the khutbah, now he understands it is not my mother and father telling me to respect them. It is the Creator of my mother and father. It is my Creator, it is my Prophet, it is my book that is telling me this. Now all of a sudden the whole paradigm shifts, the whole reality shifts. And therefore, brothers and sisters, ṣalāh is of the utmost important element to make sure that your children are respectful, are good. And of course there's a whole other set of issues with ṣalāh in terms of routine, in terms of punctuality, in terms of responsibility, in terms of habits. All of this we can talk about in a different khutbah. But the person who prays regularly, all types of blessings open up, including the blessings of having good children, and this again goes back to my first point. If you're not praying five times a day, how do you expect your child to be praying five times a day? If you're not living the life of the Muslim, how do you expect your child to do this?
And realize in the advice of Luqman [as], that famous advice of Luqman, which is the most comprehensive passage in the Qurʾān about parent and child relationships and parent and child advice and perhaps in one khutbah, that's another khutbah to be done, the advice of Luqman; what does Luqman say to his son? Of the first things that he tells his son, my dear son, make sure you pray regularly. Establish the prayer on time. This is in the top three pieces of advice he gives: Believe in Allāh, worship Allāh, then right then and there, right on the top of page, “ya bunaya aqimis ṣalāh”. Oh my son, make sure you're doing your ṣalāh. and therefore brothers and sisters, the second piece of advice to myself and all of you: the ṣalāh, the ṣalāh, the ṣalāh. if you're not praying, make sure you start praying and then have your family pray as well.
The third piece of advice: Make duaa for your children. Regularly, sincerely, make duaa for you children. Let me ask you, and ask yourselves this: When was the last time you raised your hands up to Allāh and asked Allāh to make sure your children are good, asked Allāh to guide your children, asked Allāh to protect your children from the evils of society? Wallahi brothers and sisters, ask yourself this. If you're not asking Allāh for it, why do you think you're going to get it? How do you think you're going to get it? if you're not asking Allāh for good children, if you're not asking Allāh to protect your children, frankly, where is your love for your children? Wallahi one of the most important duaas you should always be making, the Qurʾān tells you to make this duaa, its in the Qurʾān, pick it up. “Rabbana hablana min azwajina wa dhurriyaatina qurrata 'ayun wajalana lil mutaqeena imama”. Allāh tells you in the Qurʾān..make this duaa that “Oh Allāh bless us with good wives and good children , those that give us coolness of the eye” (i.e they make our lives easy, they don't make our lives difficult). Min azwajina wa dhurriyaatina qurrata 'ayunin. This should be our regular duaa.
And our Prophet said that the duaa of the father for his son, meaning the parent for the child, the duaa that the parent has for the child, Allāh never rejects that duaa. Allāh always accepts it. SubḥānAllāh one of the most acceptable duaas, one of the most highest chances of a duaa being accepted, the duaa of the parent for the child. When was the last time you made duaa? How often do you make duaa for your children? From now on, almost every duaa that you raise your hands up to Allāh, include something about your children. Make sure you ask Allāh, oh Allāh protect my children from this environment, protect my children from the evils. Oh Allāh, make them good Muslims. Oh Allāh, guide them and guide others through them. Make that duaa from the heart and you know what, once again there's religious and psychological effects. Religiously, Allāh will bless them. Psychologically, when you're always asking Allāh, then when you see an opportunity to protect your children from evil, you will do it. When you see an opportunity to help your children religiously, you will do it. Because its on your mind all the time. If you don't even ask Allāh, then how will it come? If you don't even ask Allāh, you yourself will forget about it and you're not going to take advantage of every opportunity.
The fourth piece of advice, and I speak as somebody who straddles both cultures of the east and the west, as somebody who has lived for long periods of time in the east, and was born and raised in the west. As somebody who was born as the first generation, basically the first born generation here of my parents who came and I speak very frankly, that oh parents amongst us who have come from different cultures to America, realize that we now live at a different time and a different place and a different society and a different culture. Frankly, you cannot raise your children with the same rules and relationships that your parents had back home with you. It's not going to work any more. It's a different reality. It's not just times that have changed. You have literally uprooted yourself from one culture and planted yourself in a completely different culture. The techniques and tactics that your parents used with you, you cannot replicate them for this generation in this land. And therefore, you are the ones that need to learn, not the other way around. It's not your children's fault that they were born and raised here. Frankly, it's yours. You came here, not them. You're the ones who decided to come to this land. They were born in this land, they're looking at the society, they're absorbing the culture, then you're going to get angry at them, “how can you do this, how can you do that?” think about it brothers and sisters, who brought them here? Who's raising them here? You are. So cut them some slack and realize you are going to have to learn more than they will. This is their culture, it's not your culture. And in order for you to have an effective parent, you will need to broaden your horizons. You will need to develop a new type of relationship with your children and that is a topic that is far beyond the khutbah This is a life long experience, but I just want to point out certain elements here.
No doubt, and wallahi there's no question the media, and television and the internet, but you know this khutbah is not about blaming them and blaming those things. That's a reality. It's a reality I cannot change, you cannot change. What can we change? Well, what we do at home. How we filter those things out. I can't change the internet or Nickelodeon or whatever, the music videos they're watching. This is the reality of the world we are living in. So instead of just blaming everything on that -and it might be true, there's a lot of blame there- instead of blaming everyone else, ask yourself proactively, what can I do to better the situation? Yes the music videos are there, yes the evil stuff on the internet is there, yes drugs are everywhere, but instead of just cursing and slandering and blaming, ask yourself: what can I do to protect my son and daughter?
This is the proactive mentality. Instead of just every pointing finger, see what is reality. See what is the best way to raise your child, and I have some basic points of advice here. First and foremost,within this area of changing cultural paradigms, do realize, brothers and sisters that our children, they do have a sense of know it all, a sense of I know better than my parents . Understand this. And they get this sense because of many facts of life. I mean, lets be realistic here. Our children know better than we do about technology. Our children know better than we do about the latest gadgets, about the latest this and that. And I will tell you, I grew up here. I thought that I knew this society and culture. Now that Allāh has blessed me with children of my own, believe me I don't know the difference between this and that and sometimes my kid comes and tells me oh you need to get the iphone 5 because this has this and this has that and I don't know these things anymore, because now I'm getting out of touch. Even though when I was growing up, and I grew up in a western environment, I felt this way about my own father, that I'm more technologically advanced, that I'm in tune with everything. But this is a reality that when we reach a certain age, our children are more in tune with technology.
Now let me ask you, put yourself in the shoes of that 10 year old, that 12 year old. When he knows his father does not know how to operate a computer as well as he does, when he knows every single gadget on the market, he is more aware than his father, isn't it natural for this 10 year old to think I know about life and reality and culture and society and people better than my father does? Put yourself in his shoes. Do you blame him? And then it is true: the media also, television also, it gives the sense that the parents are backward and the child is know it all and the child is right. Yes it is true we can blame the media, but lets also sympathize a little bit. Is it really this child's fault now, to think this way? It's our job to educate the child: you know what? You don't know everything. You might know the iPod or the iTouch or the I this better than I do, but you don't know human society. You don't know interactions. You haven't tested humanity the way that I have. You haven't lived amongst people the way that we have. And that's your job in a gentle manner to teach the child.
And one of the best ways to do this brothers and sisters, and this is very difficult for those amongst us who have been raised in a different society and culture. We need to learn, there's a common expression in America here that parents have to be friends with their kids. You know perhaps that's not going to happen, let's also be realistic, but let me tell you one thing frankly. Perhaps you're not going to be friends with your kids, but you will have to learn to have conversations with them that are beyond just rebuking or ordering or commanding. You're going to have to learn to talk to them and not at them. Look now, examine your own life. When you talk to to your children, what is it about? Is it always “do this” “don't do that” “how could you have done this”? if this is your whole relationship with your son or daughter, frankly you're setting yourself up for failure .When is the last time you actually had a conversation that was not rebuking, not commanding, not derisive, not sarcastic? Yes they deserve a little bit of harshness every once in a while but if that's the only thing you can show them, what do you think their attitude will be towards you? Especially when they grow older, especially when they hit the teenage years, especially when they get their car and they get their first taste of freedom. I agree perhaps in our culture you can't be a friend to the child, okay. But you must be friendly with them. You must have some positive relationship that is above and beyond just rebuking and always getting angry at them. Have a conversation “what's happening?” “what's going on?” “what did you learn in school?”
Take them out, spend some quality time with them. And this is one of the biggest differences maybe between the previous generation and our generation. That perhaps for many of us, our fathers didn't really go out and play soccer and play basketball with us, with our friends. Perhaps. And you know I'm not criticizing them, maybe that works back there, I don't know. But over here, in this land, over here where we are, you have to have some type of friendly relationship with your own son or daughter. Let me put it this way, let me be really frank here. If your son or daughter does not feel comfortable coming to you for a problem that they're facing because of a mistake they might have done, then wallahi this is a very big problem. If your son or daughter has committed a mistake, and lets be honest, they're all going to commit mistakes because that's a part of growing up. Did you also not commit some mistakes when you were teenagers? Let's be honest here. If your son or daughter commits a mistake and then they don't want to come to you for help to clear that mistake up, well then honestly how are you being a good parent there? You need to have the doors of communication open. If your son or daughter is going through a standard problem of the teenage years, when they reach 13, 14, hormones are going to kick in, they're going to want to be interested in someone of the opposite gender, they're surrounded by drugs, pornography is everywhere. If you're not going to open up the channels of communication, if your son or daughter feels awkward coming to you, well then they're going to go to another teenager, they're going to go to the internet, they're going to go somewhere else for help.
No doubt maybe our parents could never have spoken to us about these issues. But I am telling you as somebody who straddles both generations, we need to be frank with our children. We need to tell them about things and honestly they probably know about these things before you mention them. But the very fact that you open up the topic, the very fact you take your 13 year old son and you tell him about the problems of internet pornography -and believe me every 13 year old knows about pornography, believe me every single teenager knows about this- if you're not going to open up the door, if you're going to be so taboo oh I cant do this, well then how do you expect him to come for help to you if something happens that he needs some help about. There has to be open channel of communication. Mothers, talk to your daughters about the realities of this world. Talk to your daughters about basic biological facts. Let them know that you'll listen if they need any help, I'm here for you. Just give a generic statement like this. “If you need anything, come to me first, I will help you out”. Just generic statements like this so that they know that their parents are there to help them in case they need that help.
Few more points, point number six in our list here, the Qurʾān tells us -to basically summarize- the Qurʾān is saying test your children with responsibilities. Test the orphans in this case they're being raised in the family, give them responsibility and see how intelligent they are. So a part and parcel of raising children is to stop treating them like kids when they're no longer kids. As our children grow up to become young men and women, and when do they become young men and women? According to Islamic shariah, when they hit puberty. And what that means at the age of 13, 14, 15 max, but usually 13, 14, Islamically speaking, these young children are now fully grown adults, according to the shariah; which means they are legally responsible for their sins, for their personal lives, for their ṣalāh, for their relationships, when they hit puberty they are young men and women according to the shariah.
And I have said this many times before, one of the biggest complaints that I have about modern culture is this period of adolescence, of teenage years where children are treated like children even though intellectually, biologically, they're adults. Personally I don't believe in this. You start treating a 13 year old like a young man or woman because they are, at this stage, a young man or woman. You give them responsibilities, now obviously not all at once, you test them bit by bit. As the Qurʾān says, the verse is about an orphan, when do you return the money, but again it applies to our own children. Give them responsibility. And our scholars of fiqh explain this and they say so you give some money to the child and you say, when he's in the marketplace, “go buy this” and then see does he buy the right item or not. And then you increase that responsibility. This is a part of our culture. You cannot pamper your kids until they're 18 years old, it's not going to work that way. Our children are going to face the real world, so we have to prepare them with responsibilities at home. And yes, you can quote me on this to your children: chores as well. It's a very important part of growing up. They're not always going to have their mother to clean after them. You have to have children learn to become self sufficient. This is a reality for their own good. You need to wash your dishes, you need to take care of your room, clean your room, do your clothes. This is a part of the responsibility to grow up. If you're going to treat them like kids, well then don't complain when they're 18 and they're still acting like kids. You need to start treating them like young men and women.
And the final point -time is of the essence here, there was much more but time is of the essence- the final point that I have for today's khutbah: A good environment, Islamic environment, the masjid, Islamic classes, Sunday schools, and I put this the last because many of you put it number one and they don't realize this is in fact the very last issue. Number one is yourself. Number one is your own house. Number one is the family environment. If that is in order, everything else is secondary. But many families, they literally think of Sunday school or the masjid one hour a week to be the magic cure. They drop their kids off, then they pick them up in an hour, and then they complain and they say “Sheikh, my kid is rude to me.” And that's the only exposure they have to Islam is that one hour of Sunday school. No, this is the very last thing but it is also important.
Come regularly to the masjid. Let them see what is Islam. Let them see the Muslims. Let them interact with other Muslim children. And that's why here we are very eager about not just building a masjid, we want to build a family center. We want to build a place where our youth, they are pushing us to come and go; they're interested to come to chill out, to play basketball, to just socialize because we want them to be in this environment. Islam is not just about the ṣalāh, it's about living your life and that's what we want over here as well. So yes it is important, but I put this right at the end of the list because the most important is at the home. The most important is you and your wife, then everything else is secondary but outside of the house what can you do? No doubt outside of the house the most important thing is to have a good environment for your children, to make sure that their friends are also Muslim children, that you go to the masjid as frequently as possible.
And realize brothers and sisters, a khutbah or two is not going to solve the problem. It is a change in my lifestyle and your lifestyle and the final point of the first khutbah: realize that subḥānAllāh there is no magic cure, there is no solution to all of this. Even if you follow all of these guidelines, it is indeed possible that Allāh tests people with calamities and difficulties. Look at the prophet Nuh [as] and his son and what happened with his son. And Nuh [as] is a prophet. And Nuh did all of these things and much more than these things but Allāh chose to test him in a certain manner. So, do realize that there is no magic cure. It's a learning process, it's an ongoing process and we do what we can with duaa to Allāh, with help from Allāh ,with our own akhlaq and manners, and we put our trust in Allāh .
Brothers and sisters, the rewards of raising a good family, a righteous family, are too many to mention. And the losses for not doing so are also too great. I conclude this khutbah by simply reminding us of one āyah that talks about the blessings and one āyah that talks about the opposite of that. As for the blessings, Allāh says, “those people who believed and their children after them, they followed them in that belief, we shall join those children with their parents up in jannah”. And Ibn Kathir comments and other scholars comment and they say what this means is that if the parents lived a good life and they tried to have their children follow in that life, then even if the children didn't reach that high standard, Allāh will bless them and upgrade them to be with their parents as they were like one family in this dunya they shall be like that family in the akhirah. And what a beautiful blessing that is. What a beautiful blessing that is. That Allāh will bless parents through their children and children through their parents but if one or two of them was insufficient, was weak, then Allāh will over look that because of the family. This is what the āyah is saying. That if the general family, they were upon a righteous mentality, they were good people, one or two of them fall short, we'll raise them up, we'll bring them back to the whole family. As they were in this life, they shall be in the next life. What a beautiful blessing is that.
And what is the opposite of this? If you don't live up to this, Allāh says in the Qurʾān that, who is the worst loser, Allāh says, “the worst loser is the one who's lost himself and his family on yawmul qiyamah”. Neither did they benefit themselves, nor did they benefit their families because they had this materialistic, nihilistic, completely dunyawi lifestyle, not caring about Allāh and His Messenger not having anything of Islam. They might have enjoyed this life but then in the akhirah they lost themselves, they lost their families, they lost everything. That is the ultimate loss. May Allāh protect us from ever facing that loss.
The post Making FamiliesWork – Tips for Muslim Parenting | Yasir Qadhi appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.
Many moderates are concerned that Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi is allowed to run for office despite allegations of terror offences
Throwing money around in mosques is not usually the done thing at Friday prayers, Islam's weekly holy day.
But when Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi exhorts the 1,500 followers that cram into the mosque that towers over the back alleys of Jhang city to put their hands in their pockets to help his election campaign, the faithful immediately begin tossing crumpled banknotes in the direction of their leader.
"Do you truly love the Caliphs of Islam?" he shouts at the crowd. "Stand up and sacrifice your money like showers of rain!"
There are strict rules banning all campaigning in mosques, but it's doubtful there will ever be consequences. Ludhianvi's critics say he is getting away with far worse because the police, the courts and the election authorities are too scared to touch him.
Many are troubled that a man who has been in and out of prison on suspicion of terrorism and inciting hatred against Pakistan's minority Shias should be allowed to run at all.
Ludhianvi is one of dozens of hardline Islamist candidates running in Saturday's elections whose names have been lodged under a clause in the country's anti-terrorism law that allows police to keep close tabs on anyone suspected of involvement in terrorism and sectarian violence.
In theory Ludhianvi is meant to report to a police station each day, but he never does, he says.
"He's a proclaimed offender, he should be arrested rather than allowed to contest elections," said Waqas Akram, the former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) occupant of the Jhang seat who is now masterminding the extremely close-fought campaign for another candidate, his father.
Akram says Ludhianvi could have been banned from standing on other grounds, including failure to declare a number of court cases pending against him. "He didn't mention a single case against him but none of the courts will hear our petition," he told the Guardian at a meeting of party workers in a campaign headquarters complete with a mobile cage containing a snoozing lion – the big cat being the PML-N's symbol.
Ludhianvi was one of the leaders of the banned Sunni sectarian group called Sipah-e-Sabah Pakistan (SSP) that has been linked to hundreds of murders of Shias, a minority sect of Islam in Pakistan. In recent years gunmen have hauled Shias off buses on remote mountain roads and suicide bombers have brought carnage to major cities.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a spin-off organisation from SSP, is one of Pakistan's most deadly terrorist organisations. Although SSP was banned more than a decade ago, the organisation simply changed its name to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ), which Ludhianvi heads. ASWJ says it is fielding more candidates for the national and provincial assemblies than ever before.
The prospect of Ludhianvi winning a place in parliament will be taken as a sign that Pakistan is failing to tackle one of the country's most serious security threats.
Ludhianvi, who came second in 2008, looks well placed to win the seat he is contesting in Jhang city, a ramshackle town that was the source of violent sectarianism in the 1980s. Activists claim the anti-Shia sentiment arose in response to economic hardships among rural workers who revolted against their Shia landlords. However, there are plenty of Sunni landlords in Jhang, a vast area comprising several national assembly seats.
Ludhianvi's followers, all of whom wear little ladders – the electoral symbol of the alliance of religious parties ASWJ belongs to – have been going door to door in an impressive effort to get out the vote.
Speaking to the Guardian after prayers in the bedroom of the mosque's guesthouse, Ludhianvi said that should be no bar to him standing, saying he had never been convicted. "It is against the most basic fundamental rights to have to go to a police station each day, to be put in a cell without a trial," he complained.
Indeed, a common complaint of Pakistan's approach to extremists is that while they get arrested from time to time, they are eventually released when the controversy has blown over.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, a security analyst, said candidates like Ludhianvi are also being protected by the political clout they demonstrate at election time.
He said: "These groups are using democracy to assure their survival. They are creating the space that enables them to go around and pursue their extremist agendas and resort to violence. The government then finds it very difficult to control them."
For weeks Ludhianvi has been cruising around his constituency in a four wheel-drive vehicle, holding stump speeches and generally presenting himself as regular politician.
"I have no anti-Shia agenda, I want to bring peace," he says. "We just demand that sharia law is fully impended."
He said his main effort if he gets into parliament will be to sponsor a bill that would further tighten the country's much-criticised blasphemy laws and introduce sanctions such as hand amputations for thieves.
But his followers freely speak of their deep revulsion towards Shias. Mohammad Anwar Saeed, a Ludhianvi aide, said other clauses of the hoped for bill would include a ban on Shias conducting any religious events outside their own places of worship.
Traditionally during the month of Muharram members of the Shia community process through the streets engaging in public acts of mourning, and even self-flagellation, that hardline Sunnis abhor.
Another worker, when asked why they the party does not canvas among the town's shias, laughed at the idea. "The Shias are like dogs, we cannot ask them to vote for us," he said.
Some counter-terror experts argue that groups like ASWJ should be encouraged to take part in the political process. They hope that they will concentrate on broadly legal activities, such as preaching and running welfare organisations, rather than perpetrating acts of violence and terrorism.
Others are not so sure. "When they were doing politics last time in Jhang they were killing more people," said Akram, the former national assembly member for Jhang. "There was more terrorism, more crime and more attacks on the Shia."
It's a view echoed by Jhang's alarmed Shia community, who remember all too well the last time an SSP leader held the seat in 2002. "I was only a child, but a remember seeing bodies in the street and curfews every night," said Sadar Farrukh, a young English teacher and member of the Shia community. "We don't want to go back to those times."Jason Burke
The fishing village of Baga is a smouldering wreck after the deadliest violence since the Islamic insurgency began
The road to Baga is littered with burnt-out cars, winding through terrain that has proved fertile ground for radical ideologies to take root. On the cusp of the Sahara, it traces a route through the former ancient Islamic kingdom of Bornu, a thriving sultanate that grew rich on trans-desert trade. Now known as Borno state, today it is home to some of Africa's most impoverished communities.
Boko Haram, Islamist insurgents whose bombs are responsible for the carcasses of cars on the roadside, have thrived by tapping into a yearning for ancient glory amid crippling poverty.
Now the residents of Baga, a remote fishing settlement on the shores of Lake Chad, have a new reason to be angry. Last month the village was the scene of one of Nigeria's most deadly incidents since the Islamist insurgency began in 2009, with locals saying 185 of their kin died, most of them civilians and most of them burned to death. That figure has been disputed by the military, who told the Guardian that only 37 people were killed, most of whom were Boko Haram fighters. The Guardian was the first international newspaper to gain access to Baga since the killings.
The afternoon before it happened, Ali, a white-haired village chief, overheard a conversation that turned his stomach. Just outside his mud-walled home, two men in military uniforms were talking heatedly: one wanted to set fire to Ali's neighbour's house; the other was trying to stop him. That morning a Nigerian corporal, known as Kia, had been killed after being ambushed by fighters from Boko Haram.
"One of the men said, 'we must avenge his death, we must set a house on fire'; the other one said no, he wanted no part of this," Ali said, sitting on an orange raffia straw mat at a meeting convened by village elders.
"After that," he continued "I don't know what happened." Ali looked nervously at the dozens of men in flowing robes packed under the thatched-roof shelter for the meeting, many of them young and unemployed, a key source of support for Boko Haram.
When the morning of 17 April dawned, much of this fishing village was a smouldering wreck. Black carcasses of houses and skeletal trees stood out starkly against the expanse of fine pale sand. The devastation wrought here highlights how Boko Haram is turning to cross-border raids with deadly consequences.
Members of the violent jihadist movement have infiltrated this town along the dozens of sandy footpaths leading to their hideouts across the Sahara desert. Their attack on the Nigerian corporal, using a sophisticated rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), was so violent that Kia's head had to be sewn back on before his body could be returned to his family for burial, officials said.
After the decapitation, the insurgents fled deep into the desert, another Baga village elder said, leaving the civilian population to face the wrath of the army. The military denies that, saying the militants were hiding in Baga and were extremely well armed.
"There was a firefight, which lasted four hours after reinforcements were brought in. The terrorists used IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and rocket-propelled grenades, which caused the thatch-roof houses to catch fire," Brigadier General Austin Edokpaye, head of the Joint Task Force stationed in Baga, told a delegation of senators investigating the incident this week.
Tellingly, the mission stationed in Baga includes soldiers from Niger and Chad, as west African forces increasingly share concerns about growing links between jihadist groups.
Outside the bleak Baga military outpost, Edokpaye showed an array of weapons, including sophisticated machine guns and RPGs, which he said had been captured from the fighters. "When you hear the sound of some of these weapons – these were not any weapons from Nigeria," he said.
Amid the swirling accusations and counter-accusations, the incident has thrown the spotlight on to the Nigerian military's often brutal tactics in its fight to root out an enemy that easily dissolves into the civilian population, many of whom support Boko Haram out of fear as much as out of hatred of the security forces.
Bolstered by arms from Libya and Mali, Boko Haram appears to be able to penetrate vulnerable outposts along Nigeria's porous borders before retreating into the vast Sahara. Officials and residents in both Nigeria and Mali said members of the group had trained in Mali after a coup threw the country into disarray last year.
"The last Boko Haram member we captured here was about two weeks ago. He had boarded a bus to [Mali's capital] Bamako, he was carrying a lot of cash, a lot of weapons," a Malian security official in the town of Gao said.
With hundreds of unguarded footpaths leading to neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon, parts of Nigeria's remote Borno and Yobe states have been all but taken over by the shadowy sect. A French family taken hostage in Cameroon were held undetected for two months in a town less than 20 miles from Baga, Cameroonian and Nigerian security officials said.
On Tuesday, Boko Haram members staged an audacious raid in Borno state, mounting a co-ordinated attack against a prison and army barracks in the town of Bama that left 47 dead and freed more than 100 prisoners. "They used lorries mounted with anti-aircraft guns," a senior security official said. "These are weapons from Libya." The attack prompted Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, to cut short a trip to Namibia.
Kashim Shettima, governor of Borno state, said poverty was at the root of the problem. "Unless, and until, we address some of these fundamental issues [of poverty], believe me, the future is very bleak for all of us," he said.
Mohammed, an unemployed youth languishing on his bike, explained the militants' appeal. "If a man gives me 20,000 naira [£80] today, then I will work with him for life. That is what I hear Boko Haram are doing. What else is there for us to earn money here?"
Beyond the remains of camels half-sunk into the sandy roadside, turbaned men on horses ride past children sitting under neem trees with chalkboards. Almajiri, or Qur'anic schools, flourish here, in stark contrast to weed-covered signposts marking the entrance to abandoned government schools.
In Baga, every government school has been shut since August 2012, when leaflets appeared on school walls threatening to kill anyone attending, residents said.
But in trying to root out Boko Haram, which means "western education is forbidden", from a population trapped in the middle, the human cost has been unbearably high to many. In Usman's mud home, jewel-coloured cloths had been bought and mounds of fish smoked to prepare for his daughter's wedding.
Instead, on the big day, his household was muted with grief as they mourned the loss of 13 family members killed in the town. "I wonder what we have done wrong in Allah's eyes for this to happen," the grandfather said, crying softly.
Senator Abdul Ahmed Ningi, speaking during the government delegation's visit to the town, said: "Not every soldier is an enemy to the people here. That's exactly why the person responsible [for the Baga killings] must be bought to book. Unless the Nigerian military can start winning hearts and minds, the situation is going to become even worse."
Civilians caught in the crossfire can only hope for better days. "Imagine it is night, we are inside our homes, then suddenly our homes were on fire," said one villager in Baga, standing in front of his charred mud home. Looking over to the bright green grasses on the shores of Lake Chad in the distance, he added: "We are simple fishermen here. We just want peace."Monica Mark
The Associated Press
RALEIGH - Sgt. 1st Class Naida Hosan is not a Muslim – she’s a Catholic. But her name sounded Islamic to fellow U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and they would taunt her, calling her “Sgt. Hussein” and asking what God she prayed to.
So before deploying to Afghanistan last year for her second war tour, she legally changed her name, to Naida Christian Nova.
This did not solve her problems, she says.
Instead, matters escalated. Nova complained to her superiors about constant anti-Muslim slurs and jokes. She says they responded with a series of reprisals intended to drive her out of the Army, leading her to consider suicide.
“My complaints fell on deaf ears every time,” said Nova, 41, a member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg. “Any time I would say something about it, I was treated like I didn’t know what I was talking about or that I’m an idiot or that I was a Muslim sympathizer. It was just a very lonely feeling.”
Determined to remain in the service for at least eight years, until she is eligible for retirement, Nova recently re-enlisted. But she agreed to tell her story to The Associated Press because, she said, “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else if I can help it. It’s horrible to feel like people are against you when you are supposed to be on the same team.”
Fort Bragg spokeswoman Sheri L. Crowe said the Army would not comment on the case and referred questions to the U.S. Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina, assigned to defend the Army, also declined comment.
But her account is supported by an affidavit filed by an old friend, Sharon Deborah Sheetz, who said that Nova had confided in her about the harassment she suffered. Nova told Sheetz that she was so unhappy that she no longer wanted to live.
A Farsi linguist who works in military intelligence, Nova’s multicultural background exemplifies the kind of soldier Army recruiters prize – U.S. citizens with ethnic ties to a part of the world that many Americans can’t find on a map.
Nova’s father, Roy Hosein, was born into a Muslim family on the Caribbean island of Trinadad, where his parents had emigrated from India. He converted to Christianity after meeting Nova’s mother, a Catholic from the Philippines, and became a U.S. citizen shortly after his daughter was born in New York. He changed the spelling of his family name to Hosan in the hope his children would avoid discrimination.
“He Americanized it,” his daughter explained. “He got Hosan from Hosanna. He kept hearing it in church.”
Nova reported for basic training two months after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Before 9/11, my last name never raised an eyebrow,” she said. “But after 9/11, I felt compelled to tell people I am a Christian and felt I had to prove I was loyal to the United States.”
Her first deployment was to Iraq in 2005. She said other soldiers, including her supervisors, mocked her family name and made crude jokes.
“I was called ‘Sgt. Hussein,’ as in Saddam Hussein,” she said. “Even when I would correct them on the pronunciation of my name, I was still called Sgt. Hussein. I was asked what God I pray to. And there were a lot of references to hajjis, used as a derogatory term.”
Hajjis are Muslims who have made the pilgrimage to the Saudi Arabian birthplace of the prophet Muhammad. But Nova said she regularly heard U.S. troops use the word as racist slang for enemy, terrorist or suicide bomber.
“My uncle is a hajji, because he made the pilgrimage to Mecca in 2005,” Nova said. “I would stand up for what I thought was right and say, ‘Not all terrorists are Muslims and not all Muslims are terrorists.’ That just opened the door for more harassment,” she said.
Mikey Weinstein, a former U.S. Air Force officer who founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said Nova’s experience is not uncommon. Military personnel who are Muslim or perceived to be of Middle Eastern descent are often targets for discrimination, he said.
“When a Muslim soldier, sailor or airman stands up for themselves, they are the subject of vicious reprisal and retribution,” said Weinstein, who is Jewish. “What (Sgt. Nova) has gone through is horrible, but it is typical.”
In 2007, while serving in Harrogate, England, Nova said a co-worker told her and others a racist joke about Muslims. When she objected, Nova said, a supervisor warned her to stop making trouble. Instead, she filed a complaint with the Army’s Equal Opportunity Branch, the program charged with ensuring the military provides an environment “free of unlawful discrimination and offensive behavior.”
Within days, Nova said she was removed from her job and ordered to take a “command directed” mental health evaluation.
“In writing, the referral said my values were not in line with mission,” she said. “They considered me a ‘Muslim sympathizer,’ that I was too loyal to Muslims.”
Rather than address her complaint, Nova said, the Army transferred her to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg. Though she hoped to make a fresh start with her new unit, word of her complaint followed her to North Carolina.
The treatment worsened after a November 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas. Maj. Nidal Hasan, a Muslim, is charged with killing 13 people. His name sounds a lot like her family name.
Nova changed her name shortly before deploying to Afghanistan last year. She arrived just after worn copies of the Quran were found to have been burned with trash from a U.S.-run prison outside the capital of Kabul, a widely reported incident that triggered violent protests.
The Army responded by initiating a training program on the proper handling and disposal of Islamic materials. But Nova said she discovered that her unit trashed and burned documents collected through intelligence gathering that contained what could be considered sacred writings.
Nova conferred with an on-base military chaplain and suggested designating a special box for Islamic materials so they could be disposed of in a more appropriate manner.
“When I brought this up, I was told, ‘Sgt. Nova, you can’t bring your religion to work,’ ” she recalled. “I changed my name, but that didn’t change other people’s ignorance.”
After just two months in Afghanistan, she said her commanders removed her from her job and ordered her back to Fort Bragg.
With the help of Fayetteville lawyer Mark Waple, she filed a formal complaint with the Army’s inspector general in October seeking a voluntary discharge due to being subjected to “adverse treatment and negative, prejudicial remarks … concerning the Muslim faith.”
Nova said she grew so depressed that she considered suicide. She checked herself into an on-base hospital for treatment, staying for about a week before returning to duty.
After learning of her IG complaint and hospitalization, Nova’s commanders at Fort Bragg responded by filing paperwork to involuntarily end her military career and bar her from re-enlistment for “ineffective leadership.”
Nova’s Army performance review from a few months earlier, a copy of which she provided to AP, shows her meeting expectations in all categories, with her senior commander rating her potential for promotion and increased responsibility as “superior.”
After exhausting her administrative options for fighting her case, Waple helped Nova filed a complaint in federal court alleging discriminatory treatment and asking a judge to prevent her discharge.
Rather than fight the case in court, the Army retreated. Shortly before a key hearing before the judge, Waple says, he got a call from Army lawyers informing him that the disciplinary action against Nova was “completely off the table.” She, in turn, agreed to drop the lawsuit.
Nova re-enlisted in the Army on April 8. She recently married and is preparing to ship out next month to attend a senior leadership course, then report to a new assignment in Germany.
“I want to put all this behind me. I want to move on to my next duty assignment,” said Nova. “My beliefs aren’t any different from what the Army states as its beliefs and values. I would like to be treated fairly.”
An employee describes the claims on a promotional video by the fizzy drink firm as “lies.”
Violence in Borno state is latest example of how the Islamist sect has unleashed chaos in northern Nigeria
The violence in Borno state is the latest bloody example of how the Islamist sect Boko Haram has unleashed chaos in northern Nigeria.
The group – whose official Arabic name translates as "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad" – says it is fighting to overthrow Nigeria's government and establish an Islamic state. Dubbed Boko Haram or "western education is sinful" by locals for its rejection of European values, the sect was founded in the early 2000s by cleric Mohammed Yusuf and gained a steady following in the northern city of Maiduguri, preaching against secular values in a nation which is split between large Muslim and Christian populations.
Yusuf, who was killed by Nigerian security forces in 2009, retained support by providing meals and economic schemes, including a youth empowerment programme and support for trading. He also arranged cheap marriages between sect members.
The provision of economic and social support by Boko Haram has led some to ascribe the group's growth to a failure of governance in Nigeria. The sect began using violence against government and police in 2003. Its first large attacks came in Bauchi and Maiduguri in July 2009, with more than 700 people killed in a five-day uprising. The death of Yusuf days later did little to stem the violence.
Since then the group has become increasingly sophisticated in its operations. In 2010 it freed hundreds of prisoners from Bauchi jail, and then went on to launch bombings in Jos and New Year's eve attacks in federal capital city Abuja. A sustained campaign of deadly church bombings has left hundreds dead, while attacks on telecommunications and infrastructure have caused millions worth of damage. Boko Haram is also believed to have advanced its operations in recent months by attracting funding and support from other terrorist groups such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Shabaab, and joining forces with militant groups waging war in northern Mali.Afua Hirsch