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Anti-Muslim hate groups nearly triple in US since last year, report finds

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 February, 2017 - 21:00

Southern Poverty Law Center credited rise in racist and far-right groups to Donald Trump’s ‘incendiary rhetoric’ and his senior staff of ‘anti-Muslim ideologues’

The number of organized anti-Muslim hate groups in America nearly tripled last year, from 34 to more than 100, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-leaning non-profit that tracks extremist groups.

The center credited the “incendiary rhetoric” of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign with fueling the rise in anti-Muslim hate, along with anger over terror attacks like the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last June.

Related: Steve Bannon's Islamophobic film script just one example of anti-Muslim views

Related: How Richard Spencer's home town weathered a neo-Nazi 'troll storm'

Related: Wife and stepson charged in murder of Ku Klux Klan leader in Missouri

Continue reading...

On the “Muslim Luther” fallacy that won’t die

Indigo Jo Blogs - 15 February, 2017 - 19:58

TV still of Graeme Wood facing from the side, with the words "Many have called for a 'reformation in Islam'" at the bottom, and the BBC Newsnight logo in the top leftLast night on BBC’s Newsnight, there was a two-minute slot by a Canadian journalist called Graeme Wood, who claimed that the rise of the “Islamic State” was equivalent to the Christian Reformation spearheaded by Martin Luther. There is meant to be a counter-argument from Tariq Ramadan on tonight’s programme (BBC2, 10:30pm). He says:

It’s part of a convulsion within Islam no smaller than the Reformation was in Christianity. When historians write about what happened, they won’t see it as a narrow local movement but as a global intellectual movement that remade the Muslim world. In the 16th Century, Martin Luther’s Reformation harnessed the power of the printing press and rising literacy. He told Christians to read and interpret scriptures for themselves, without the mediation of a priestly class that was obedient to Rome. Today’s radical Islamic movements are telling their followers to read the Qur’an for themselves and to ignore the voices of mainstream clergy. The result is a movement of power to the people.

For these Islamic Protestants, the power of liberation is not the printing press but the Internet. They follow their new authorities on YouTube. These new authorities are less, not more, inclined to live harmoniously in the modern world. This isn’t new. Remember, Martin Luther was radical too and the Reformation he started was a bloodbath. Many have called for a “Reformation in Islam”, hoping to make it more compatible with Western norms. But these calls are at least a decade too late. The reformation is already here and it’s called the rise of the Islamic State.

His own theory comes at least a year too late, as the “Islamic State” has been losing territory for the past year or so and has been chased out of several of its former strongholds, especially in Iraq. But the Islamic State movement has no real parallel with Luther’s theologically-based reforms. Luther was not, at least initially, interested in statecraft; he already lived in a state (the Holy Roman Empire) which was Catholic in affiliation and which enforced Church doctrines, including trying and executing heretics. His protest (not initially intended as a schism) was against what he saw as corruption in the Church, particularly the sale of indulgences to fund construction projects, such as the Basilica in Rome. He never served in, much less led, an army in his life. Lutheran kingdoms emerged as German dukes adopted the new faith in order to challenge the power of the Holy Roman Emperor, leading to its loss of power in northern Germany.

ISIL does not lead a theological protest; its priority is establishing an Islamic state which cuts across the colonial boundaries. This aspect of it alone makes it appealing to many Muslims who had become disenchanted with al-Qa’ida whose tactics of terrorism had achieved nothing in 20 years; the idea of a Caliphate, of one political leader for the Muslims, can be found in any classical Islamic textbook even if there was rarely unity in reality, and has been a goal of Muslim activists of all stripes for decades. ISIL’s theological heritage is “salafi-jihadi”, the same as al-Qa’ida, yet it is well-known that the business of running a modern state was left to former Ba’athists; its leaders are known not to be scholars, even within the “salafi”, i.e. Wahhabi, movement they emerged from. There have been comparisons of this movement with Protestantism going back years, but even there the parallels are limited.

It is well-known that in the Mediaeval Catholic church, the Bible was not available in vernacular languages such as English or German. It was only available in Latin and ancient Greek, neither of which were spoken languages by Luther’s time. The average Catholic was not literate; religious learning was restricted to ‘religious’, who were celibate. This had never been the case in the Muslim world; Muslims were encouraged to read and memorise the Qur’an for themselves and to learn and memorise the sayings of the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), called Hadith, and this was the case before and after Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, and it is the case in Baghdad and the case in Raqqa. No Muslims regard it as acceptable for ordinary Muslims to simply read the Qur’an or whatever Hadith are available to them and derive a ruling about the Sacred Law from them, especially in regard to acts of worship where the rulings are already settled. The challenges to some such rulings that have come from Wahhabis are the work of scholars, not ordinary people. And neither movement moved “power to the people”; both led to the formation of absolute monarchies which in the case of Saudi Arabia still exist.

It’s true that for years, people have been insisting that Islam “needs a reformation”, when in fact the Christian reformation did not lead to modern secularism but to years of conflict (much of the bloodshed committed by the Catholics trying to maintain their power, and later expand it in Africa and South America), although it did make room for the expansion of literacy, including in the Catholic world where the church did come round to the idea of vernacular Bibles. And as for the suggestion that a reformation of Islam would make it more acceptable to Western norms — Luther was not looking to make Christianity more acceptable to anyone else; he was looking to reform Christian practice for the sake of truth to please God, much as any sincere Muslim who advocated any kind of reform would be.

All in all, I found his slot to be a rather uninformed and dated argument. The “Islamic State” has its roots in a puritanical reform movement, yes, but it is not that movement itself, and it is not similar to the early Lutheran reformation either in its aims or its behaviour.

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“Muslim-Free America” Signange On College Campuses

Loon Watch - 15 February, 2017 - 16:25

An organization calling itself “American Vanguard” is taking responsibility for genocidalist signage popping up around university campuses in the US.

A number of colleges across the United States have seen Islamophobic and white supremacist flyers posted across their campuses.

A picture of racist posters hung at Rutgers University in New Jersey were shared on Twitter by Muslimgirl.com writer Azmia, who explained that they’d been sent to her by a colleague. Continue reading…

So is this new “Vanguard” group just a bunch of embolden dolts who think that Trump’s victory is a green light to attempt to terrorize Muslims and undermine American plurality? Seems like it.

The Nazi Roots of the Word “Cultural Marxism”

Loon Watch - 15 February, 2017 - 13:48

Islamophobes often use the word “Cultural Marxism“. If you believe in the rights of Muslims or the rights of women, homosexuals or black people you are a cultural Marxist in the eyes of some.  The key thinkthank behind the Trump administration, Steve Bannons Breitbart, often use the word Cultural Marxism. But what is its origin? The word cultural marxism was invented by Adolf Hitler and the nazis in the early 1920s and the current islamophobes have just “borrowed” it from the antisemities and Nazis.

Breitbart views so called “Cultural Marxism”as the root of all evil. Cultural marxism destroys the language. Cultural Marxists wants to have equality between the sexes. they threaten the western civilization, and hate God and they love Muslims and Homosexuals too.

Yes, Cultural Marxists are behind Muslim” immigration to, they claim. It all started with talk about the rights of minorites in the 60s, as they write:

Under this “cultural Marxism,” progressives believed they would aid racial and sexual minorities — and now Islamic minorities — by transferring cultural power and status from ordinary Americans, especially from white working-class Americans and away from individualistic-minded Christian churches…

The present day cultural Marxists, inckluding former President Obama

are also encouraging the migration of devout Muslims and their theocratic political leaders into the United States.

And that leads to terrorism.

The resulting spike in jihad attacks…”

We are talking about REALLY scary things.

Whhat is the origin of this mysterious group of alleged Marxists? Andrew Breitbart, The founder of Breitbart, traced the roots of present day cultural marxists to something called the Frankfurt school.

Why the Frankfurt School?  According to the myth cultural Marxism was created by marxists in Germany in the 1920s, the so called the Frankfurt School. They wanted to destroy western civilization, it is claimed by introducing amorality, collectivism and atheism. The persons behind it were people like Georg Lukács, Karl Korsch, Karl August Wittfogel, Friedrich Pollock, Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse.

But Breitbart does not tell you that Adolf Hitler invented this myth that the Frankurt school was behind much of the evil on this planet.

The nazis and “Cultural Bolsjevism”

The nazis needed an enemy that was both Jewish and Marxist and that could be blamed for both the “rise in homosexuality” and the “degeneration of the culture“. They found the enemy in the Frankfurt school. But they used the term “cultural Bolshevism”, not “cultural Marxisms”

In 1935 Germany banned jazz music in public, like on German radio. The Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet wrote in October 13 1935 that the nazis was clearing out “cultural Bolsjevism” from German culture.  “From this Saturday onwards all negroe-dancemusic is banned on German radio”.

If you read the Nazi propaganda and media from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s you often see the word “cultural Bolsjevism” and you can often see references to the “evil” Frankfurt School. The nazi bookburnings was a part of the campaign against “cultural Bolsjevism”, as well as the ban against jazzmusic, the “degenerated music” (“entartete musik”).

The nazis claimed that the culture was being destroyed by a Jewish conspiracy. In this conspiracy the Jewish Marxists in the University of Frankfurt played a crucial role, they said. The same myth that Breitbart and others still are spreading today, but with the claim that the present day followers of Frankfurt School Marxism are behind the “muslim invasion”.

The nazi press was filled with rederences to “cultural Bolsjevism”. Völkischer Beobachter, the main nazi paper, wrote about the hated jazz music in 1931. Here are two examples of how they used the word. First 17 december 1931… ”Culturalbolshevistic triumph in Thuringen” and the second December 18 1931 about “1931 that is about ”bourgeois-marxistic cultural Marxism”.

Many artists were kicked out of Germany by the Nazis in the first years of their reign. All of those where kicked out as a part of this campaign, citing “cultural Marxism” as the legal reason for it. Many artists where banned and not allowed to enter Germany. The Swedish Daily Dagens Nyheter reported april 17 1934 that the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok was blacklisted in Germany because he was viewed as a “cultural Bolshevist”

 

Adolf Hitler

The originator of this antisemitic myth is unknown, but is probably Adolf Hitler.

What we know is that he writes about this alleged Jewish-Marxist conspiracy to corrupt the moral and the culture in his book Mein Kampf. Especially chapter 10 in the first book of Mein Kampf, published 1925.

Der Bolschewismus der Kunst ist die einzig mögliche kulturelle Lebensform und geistige Äußerung des Bolschewismus überhaupt.”

Lets read some of it in english.

“Even before the turn of the century an element began to intrude into our art which up to that time could be regarded as entirely foreign and unknown. To be sure, even in earlier times there were occasional aberrations of taste, but such cases were rather artistic derailments, to which posterity could attribute at least a certain historical value, than products no longer of an artistic degeneration, but of a spiritual degeneration that had reached the point of destroying the spirit. In them the political collapse, which later became more visible, was culturally indicated.

Art Bolshevism is the only possible cultural form and spiritual expression of Bolshevism as a whole

Once we pass the development of our cultural life in the last twenty-five years in review from this standpoint, we shall be horrified to see how far we are already engaged in this regression. Everywhere we encounter seeds which represent the beginnings of parasitic growths which must sooner or later be the ruin of our culture. In them, too, we can recognize the symptoms of decay of a slowly rotting world. Woe to the peoples who can no longer master this disease!”

These bolsjevistic conspirators wanted to destroy the culture by cutting of its connection to the past, Hitler claimed. The cultural elite that allowed the introduction of this degenerated art was cowards and traitors to Germany.

“And from this effort to remove the past from the eyes of the present, the evil intent of the apostles of the future could clearly and distinctly be seen. By this it should have been recognized that these were no new, even if false, cultural conceptions, but a process of destroying all culture, paving the way for a stultification of healthy artistic feeling: the spiritual preparation of political Bolshevism. For if the age of Pericles seems embodied in the Parthenon, the Bolshevistic present is embodied in a cubist monstrosity.

In this connection we must also point to the cowardice which here again was manifest in the section of our people which on the basis of its education and position should have been obligated to resist this cultural disgrace. But from pure fear of the clamor raised by the apostles of Bolshevistic art, who furiously attacked anyone who didn’t want to recognize the crown of creation in them and pilloried him as a backward philistine, they renounced all serious resistance and reconciled themselves to what seemed after all inevitable.”

From Adolf Hitler to present day Breitbart

The concept survived among the nazis after World War 2. As the word Marxist became more popular, the word changed so that in the 60s the nazis talked about cultural Marxism instead. If you do some research you will find that it almost exclusively was the antisemites and nazis that spread this concept, just 20 years ago. People like Lyndon LaRouche William Lind used it too, but got it from Willis Carto that used it in already in the 70s. The nazi connections of Carto, like Francis Parker Yockey, are well documented.

Still today the internet is flooded with antisemitic propaganda that claims that “Jews” are behind mass immigration, gay rights, interracial marriage and the Muslim invasion. Antisemitism is still a threat, a big threat, to society…

 

The myth of cultural Marxism is connected to the idea that the Jews are behind the so called Muslim invasion that I wrote about recently.

 

About 15 years ago the concept was picked up by the islamophobes around the “counterjihad” movement. They claimed that they were not antisemites and downplayed critizism of the Jews (even if some, like Steve Bannon, still believes that “U.S. Jews” are a part of the grand conspiracy”).

The Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, that in 2011 murdered more than 80 people in an attempt to “stop the islamization of Europe”, used the concept often. Like he posted at Document.no in 2009.

“How Can a democracy work When 98% of Western European journalist openly sympathize with “cultural Marxism”? These Deliberate “media black-outs” are authoritarian in nature.”

***

“Ideology of multiculturalism (cultural Marxism) is an anti-European hatideologi whose purpose is to destroy European culture, identity and Christianity in general.”

Thus: today the Muslims are the main targets for the Myth about “cultural Marxism”. The myth is still exactly the same as in the 1920s. A global conspiracy. The attempt to destroy the culture, and morality by using “amoral” ideas like immigration, “Muslims”, homosexuals, free sex, democracy, civil rights, female rights, etc, etc. A claim that Marxists run this Conspiracy. The myths about the Frankfurt School.

The counterjihadists and islamophobes, like Breitbart, are spreading a myth that nazis created.

It is so sad to see that racist myths that until a few years ago only the nazis were spreading, are being more and accepted. As for Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart that now is the main adisor to President Trump. Well he too uses this word, to fight the Muslims and homosexuals and feminists that he believes are conspiring to destroy the Western civilization.

Is beer Halal according to Hanafi Fiqh?

Muslim Matters - 15 February, 2017 - 05:01

You might be forgiven for thinking so if you believed the recent viral posting of an Egyptian Sheikh (link) declaring that to be the case. Before you rush out to your local convenience store to celebrate, it is better to get the complete picture of the religious ruling, and that is the purpose of this article.

First of all, there are clear ahadith that suggest that all intoxicants are haram, regardless of how they are made: “All intoxicants are khamr, and all khamr is prohibited” (Agreed upon), and “whenever a large amount of an object intoxicates, a small amount of it is also prohibited.” (Tirmidhi)

So then, how did the Sheikh come to the conclusion about the ruling in Hanafi fiqh?

According to Hanafi fiqh, the legal definition of khamr is the juice of grapes or date syrup (nabeedh) that has been fermented to a point that the sugar turned to alcohol, thereby making it into an intoxicant.

Where did this definition come from?

The proof of this is in the decisive, unequivocal texts of the Qu’ran (see 5:90) and Noble Sunnah, as the narrations of the prohibition of khamr together comprise multiple-chain transmission (tawatur). Its prohibition is also confirmed by scholarly consensus. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) also said, “Intoxicants are from these two trees,” while pointing to grapevines and date-palms. [Sahih Muslim]. There is also a consensus of the companions regarding this type of alcohol.

What this means is, that any other form of intoxicant that is not included in the above definitions (grapes and dates) cannot legally be called khamr,  and therefore the ruling would have to be based on scholarly legal judgments, known as ijtihaad,   or by analogy, which is known as qiyaas. Therefore, any type of intoxicating drink made of barley, honey, figs, or anything other than those things that are clearly mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah, requires some detail, and is subject to a difference of opinion.

Because of this seeming ambiguity, the ruling on this category of intoxicant is divided:

1- The majority of the Ulemaa of the Hijaz and the Muhadditheen have said that all of these types of alcohol are prohibited, whether in small or large amounts.

2- The Scholars of Iraq, Ibrahim Nakhi from the Tabieen , Sufyan Althawri, Ibn Abi Layla, Ibn Shubrumah, Imam Abu Haneefa, and the rest of the scholars of Kufa, and the majority of the scholars of Basra say that the prohibition in these products is the intoxication in the product, not the product itself. This is based upon the seemingly ambiguous and contradictory texts regarding the ruling of these products.

However, prominent scholars from the Hanafi school, like Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan Shaybaani have declared the above opinion to be incorrect, as mentioned in prominent Hanafi books like Ad-Durr-Ul-Mukhtar, “And Muhammad (Shaybaani) has declared the drinks extracted from honey, figs etc to be haram.”

It is mentioned in  Al-Mowsooatul Fiqhiyah  “As for the nabeedh of honey, figs, barley, and wheat, it is permissible according to Imams Abu Haneefa and Abu Yusuf, with the condition that it is not drunk with the intention of merry-making and mischief, and Imam Muhammad has opposed them in this opinion. The fatwa is given according to the opinion of Imam Muhammad in the Hanafi school of thought.”

The last line is the key in all of this discussion. Despite differences of opinion, the religious ruling (or the mufta-bihi qowl) is derived from the opinion of Imam Muhammad, and not the other Hanafi scholars.

In summary:

  • All intoxicants are prohibited in Hanafi fiqh
  • The leniency of the ruling according to some Hanafi scholars can be benefitted from in areas of extreme need, like alcohol in some medications.

Zaid Karim, Private Investigator, Part 2 – Private Defective

Muslim Matters - 14 February, 2017 - 15:12

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

Previous chapters of this story: Chapter 1

***

February 5, 2010
Fresno, California

After my earlier imaginings of various delicious foods, my stomach wouldn’t stop rumbling. I searched through my desk drawers again, pushing aside old cough drop wrappers and paper clips. Forget the burrito. Let me just find enough loose change to buy one pack of instant noodles, or a single piece of fruit.

I came up with twenty seven cents.

I thought about calling up one of my previous clients and asking for a loan, but dismissed the idea as ridiculously unprofessional.

I could visit my friend Saleem. He had always had food in his refrigerator, a smile on his face and good jokes to tell. But he’d be at work right now, in his job as program manager for a homeless shelter. Plus, ever since he’d gotten married I felt weird about visiting. His wife was extremely shy and would hide in the bedroom when I visited, making me feel like some Moorish invader who was only there to pillage their veggie samosas.

I looked in my own mini fridge, already knowing what I’d find: half a loaf of old, cracked Arabic bread, and a single slice of moldy cheddar cheese. I’d seen these yesterday but passed them up. Now I was hungry enough to eat them.

I put half a slice of cheese – mold and all – in a quarter loaf of bread, squirted in some ketchup from a packet that I found in the desk drawer, and proceeded to eat my makeshift sandwich. I would save the remainder of the moldy food for tomorrow. Did mold count as a vegetable?

I said bismillah then sat there chewing and grimacing at the taste, still thinking about the money that had walked out the door. Even though I’d only known that money for a minute, I missed it as if it were a friend who had abandoned me. I knew my mind was running on a single track that morning, but hunger and overdue bills will do that to a man.

No matter, I told myself. Allah would reward me in some other way. I kept thinking of a hadith in which the Prophet, sal-Allahu alayhi wa-sallam, said that if you trust in Allah, he will feed you as he feeds the birds. They go out every morning hungry, and return with their bellies full.

Blue jay on a branch

“If you trust in Allah, He will feed you as He feeds the birds…”

I first read that hadith as a teenager and it has been echoing in my head ever since, demanding that I pay attention and live my life accordingly. Give up your attachment to material things, it says. Stop obsessing over the accumulation of wealth. Stop thinking that anything you do provides true security, and understand that security comes only from Allah. That hadith reminds me of the Prophets and sahabah, because that’s how they lived. There might be people who came after the sahabah who prayed and fasted more than them. But there’s never been a generation who abandoned the dunya the way they did.

The thing is, it’s very difficult to trust so completely, and so I have always felt conflicted about it.

Thinking about these things, I ate the last bite of food and took out my address book. Time to call up some of my former insurance company clients and see what I could scare up. Allah helps those who help themselves.

***

The bread and butter of my practice was busting fake injury claims. It paid the bills, but just barely. Living on the edge of each billing cycle was wearing me down. And the work was tiresome. I couldn’t count how many nights I’d spent sitting in a dark car with a camera in my lap, waiting and watching, drinking one coffee after another to stay awake.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I had someone to come home to, or if I were earning enough to save for the future. “He will feed you as he feeds the birds”, my subconscious whispered. “Yes”, my stubborn heart answered, “but I live in this world.”

I was thirty years old and had little to show for my life. I’d purchased a mobile home for cash after completing a lucrative job two years ago. I rented it out and earned a profit of two hundred per month after costs. I had a dream of buying another one every six months and becoming the mobile home king of Fresno.

So far, though, the dream was turning out to be little more than a fantasy. I was running in place like a caged mouse on a wheel, exhausting myself to catch the bit of cheese that the world dangled in front of me.

I almost laughed when I thought this, since I was literally eating a bit of cheese. I supposed I was caged as well, though the cage was now the size of a planet and the length of this terse and transitory life.

I sighed. At least I had Hajar. If nothing else, my beautiful girl was a treasure beyond value.

***

Sometimes I imagined that the government needed volunteers for a space mission to a newly discovered planet. The volunteers would spend five hundred years in stasis and wake up to find themselves on a world light years away. Everyone they ever knew would be dead. A strange future lay ahead of them: pioneers on a new world. Life would be hard – they’d have to forge a community from the hardscrabble soil of an alien world – but it would also be full of promise and adventure. A man would have the opportunity to tame the wild frontier, to set foot in virgin forests and climb mountains never seen by the human eye.

We men needed that opportunity to challenge nature, to put our lives on the line and struggle for survival. It was a vital part of the male makeup, but it no longer had a place in modern life.

I would sign up for that mission in a heartbeat, if only I could take Hajar with me. Forget Safaa and her hard heart. I’d take my daughter and wake up to find everything changed, whether for good or bad I didn’t care, as long as it was different. As for my unforgiving wife, I would miss her, but she would be five hundred years gone – just a part of history.

Other times I had the same fantasy, but when the time came to board the spaceship I turned back, unable to imagine a life without Safaa, for her warmth was the sun toward which my face turned. I would trade half my life to hold her again. I would claim the nightmares in my head, the ghosts of my youth on Gettysburg Avenue, the chest-breaking loneliness of prison, the years in cold and hot cells, and the meaninglessness. I’d carry it all like a beast, if I could hold her for an hour, or a minute, one more time in my ragged life.

***

As I was thus pitying myself and harboring pointless fantasies, the bell on the front door jingled again and another white man – an odd enough fact in this neighborhood that was ninety five percent Hispanic and Asian – came strolling in. I knew immediately that he was a street person. If his appearance hadn’t alerted me, the smell would have. He wore torn jeans, sneakers without laces, and a dirty yellow sweatshirt two sizes too large. Dirt was smeared on his forehead and nose, and the grime under his fingernails and in the seamed skin of his hands looked as ancient as Mississippi mud. As for the smell, he might have gone on a tour of the world to find the dirtiest public toilet, miniaturized it and brought it in with him.

I didn’t hold any of that against him. Life was hard on the street. Without money, without washing machines and dryers, without handy toilet facilities and showers, without even running water or electricity, any man or woman would be reduced to the same state as this one. I knew that, and I thanked Allah for the roof over my head, however meager it was. Like the Quran says, “Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?”

The man wheeled in an old bicycle and set a bulging black plastic bag on the floor. It made a clanking noise when it hit the ground.

“Whoa!” I pointed at the door. “Beat it, Ghost Rider. I’m not buying. I have a bit of old bread and cheese in the fridge.” I indicated the mini fridge in the corner. “You can have it if you’re hungry.”

“Nah, I’m cool my man,” he said. “Just trying to sell some of these solar garden lamps I got. You wanna see?”

Two or three times a day junkies came through my door trying to sell stolen goods. They’d offer phones, cameras, bicycles, hubcaps, jewelry, musical instruments, vacuum cleaners – whatever they could get their hands on. One guy tried to sell me three ten-foot lengths of copper pipe.

My answer was always no. I didn’t buy stolen goods, both to stay out of trouble and because I didn’t need the bad karma.

Gesturing to indicate my small office, I said, “Not exactly the gardens of Versailles. I need solar lamps like I need a broken leg. Now if you don’t mind, this is a place of business. You can let yourself out.”

“Alright alright.” The man scanned the interior of my small office as if looking for booby traps or hidden surveillance bugs. “But listen here, my man. You a private defective, right?”

I considered correcting him, but on the whole the statement seemed accurate, so I let it stand. After all, what part of my life was not falling apart? I sometimes felt like a car running on bald tires and one cylinder.

“Right…. So?”

“So I got a preposition. You know the Powerball is way up there man, it’s like a billion smackers. You defeck the number, like how you do. What your system is. You gimme the number, and when I win I cut you in for ten percent. That’s a boatload of money, my man.”

I snorted. “If I could, uhh, defect the number, why would I give to you? Why wouldn’t I just win it myself and keep all the money?”

“Well, ‘cause that would be like one of them conflick a’ interest.”

“Not interested.” I pointed to the door with both hands, my fingers in the shapes of guns. “Adios.”

Still muttering about the Powerball, the guy let himself out, leaving behind a cloud of body odor like the emissions of a chemical factory.

***

The Powerball was one of the games of the California lottery, a state-sponsored racket that was supposed to funnel cash to the education system but didn’t do much except take food money out of poor people’s pockets as far as I could see. American kids were still failing on standardized tests, and our schools still ranked among the lowest in the developed world.

I had indeed read in the Fresno Bee – our local newspaper – that the Powerball had reached stratospheric levels. Apparently to win the Powerball you had to match six numbers exactly. If they drew the winning number and no one matched, it would run for another cycle, with the amount of the winnings continuing to increase.

The jackpot was so high that I’d even heard a few Muslims at the masjid talking about buying in. One brother said that he would donate half the winnings to help Muslims around the world. “Is that so bad?” he argued. “Take the money from the kuffar and use it for the Ummah.”

I’m no shaykh, but I know that the Quran describes intoxicants and gambling as abominations of Shaytan.

What does it mean, then, that American life is inundated with these ills? You can’t walk twenty meters down the street in this neighborhood without encountering an establishment that sells liquor and lottery tickets.

What does it mean that half of those stores are owned by Arabs? Instead of being representatives of Islam and agents of hope in these poverty stricken neighborhoods, we’ve become agents of despair, enriching ourselves by selling Shaytan’s goods. What hope is there for our future as Muslims, spiritually and as a community, if we pile on to the mountain of misery in poor neighborhoods?

Thinking these thoughts, I raised the window blinds, unlocked the padlock that secured the vertical steel bars on the window, and opened the window, wincing at the traffic noise that came washing through the screen. I usually kept my windows closed to keep out the dust and noise of the street, but I needed to air the place out after the homeless man’s visit.

Mexican food truck.

The burrito truck.

Standing there, looking out the window at the people who milled in front of the burrito truck, wolfing down breakfast burritos stuffed with scrambled eggs, potatoes and chiles, I asked myself what my plan was. I’d been a private investigator for two years, and it was hard going. I knew that I was getting better at it, slowly learning the tricks of the trade. My client base was growing. Still, the work was irregular. There were times when I was flush, and others when no work came in for weeks.

In the meantime, I had a duty to my family. Safaa had bills to pay, and Hajar was a growing child with all the needs that entailed. Though I loved being my own boss – after six years in prison it was liberating not to have anyone ordering me about – I asked myself for the thousandth time if it was time to get a straight job and give up this insecure and sometimes dangerous line of work. My status as an ex-convict limited my employment options, but maybe I could go back to driving a taxi, which was what I’d done for the first three years after getting out of the joint. The pay wasn’t great, and there was no future in it, but at least it was steady. Or maybe I could try working in retail, or at a fast food restaurant.

“Ya Allah,” I said out loud. “I really need a hand here.”

Speaking the words brought on a rush of emotion, like a speeding train pulling into a station. In my case the destination list on the front of the train read, “Desperation – Loneliness – Surrender.” My face grew hot and my eyes stung. “I can’t do this without you, Ya Allah. Please.”

Well, I thought. Allah helps those who help themselves. A man gets up in the morning and does the work, and Allah lends a hand.

I learned many things about myself in prison. One is that surrender is not in my nature. The entire world could tell me I’m worthless, I’m not needed or wanted, I’m a loser with no future, and the paths to success and happiness are closed to me. The world could tell me my race is inferior and – as they told the Prophet, sal-Allahu alayhi wa sallam – my religion is wrong. The world could tell me I’m all alone, without allies or friends, with no one who loves me and no reason to live.

The world could tell me all of this, and I would stand tall and reply without hesitation that I am a child of a noble race, for we carry the Quran and survive the sand and burning sun. I would say that dignity is the property of my heart and no one can take it away; that freedom is my birthright and happiness my destiny; that I have as much of a place in this universe as the trees and the stars; and that I have never been alone or friendless, not for one moment, because Allah has always been by my side, even in the darkest isolation cells.

As I was thinking this, the bell on the door chimed again, and the Anwars entered my office. Seeing the Anwars enter through my door, I could not have been more surprised if it had been Barack and Michelle Obama dressed in evening wear and top hats. That was the moment everything changed for me, for better and for worse, though I did not know it at the time.

***

Dr. Ehab Anwar and his wife Farah were old friends of my parents. I had not spoken to them in eleven years, since before I went to prison for robbery at the age of nineteen. More accurately, they had not spoken to me. In fact, Farah Anwar had been instrumental in ostracizing me from the local Palestinian-American community. She made sure everyone, including new arrivals, knew about my past, and made it clear that she considered me a bad influence on the community youth.

As a result I was never invited to community dinners, Eid picnics, barbecues at the park, or even the birthday parties of the children of my childhood friends.

I wasn’t whining. I couldn’t care less what these people thought of me.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t true. Maybe it hurt on some level. And it hurt that my parents continued their friendship with the Anwars, even occasionally hosting dinner parties to which I was not invited. It wounded me that even my mother bought into the communal judgment of my character. It hurt that they didn’t stand up for me.

Oh, I was welcome in my parents’ home when no one else was around, and they loved me in their way, but I knew that my mother in particular would never again trust me fully, no matter how much time passed. Her image of me as a sweet, intelligent and good-hearted boy had been shattered forever. I had shamed her before her friends, and for that I would never be forgiven.

Whatever. Let them all live in their sealed-off judgmental bubble. I had good friends, mostly Muslim converts to whom my past was irrelevant. There was also brother Saleem, and one or two Palestinian-Americans of my own generation – like Aziz – who continued their friendship with me privately, despite their parents’ disapproval. And my non-Muslim friends. Well, friend, really, since there was only one – my childhood buddy Titus, who was now a cop.

Also, my cousins in Madera still talked to me. Nabeel and his hot-blooded older sister Jamilah, who was passionate about Palestinian causes and quick to anger when anyone disagreed, were good people. Nabeel was still in college, and Jamilah had recently moved to San Francisco and become a bike messenger, of all things. I loved her like a sister, but I was happy that at least someone in the family besides me was failing to live up to expectations. Just kidding about that. Sort of.

The Anwars themselves, however – they would, I’m sure, have been happier if I’d remained in prison, or settled somewhere else after my release.

All of which explained why I was so utterly surprised to find them standing before me.

Dr. Ehab Anwar was the eldest of my parents’ circle of friends, though you couldn’t tell it by looking at him. I knew his age because whenever I asked my mother why she accepted the Anwars’ shaming of me in the community, she would sidestep the question by saying, “Do you know Dr. Ehab is over eighty years old? Ma-sha-Allah he is like a man of sixty.”

Standing before me now, the man did indeed look younger than his age. He was thin and rather short at 5’6”, but stood with a straight back. His brown eyes were red-rimmed and haggard, but sharply intelligent. Though he wore an olive green flat cap, I knew that he still had most of his hair, and it wasn’t even all gray yet. He wore brown dress slacks, brown leather shoes, and a brown corduroy jacket to ward off the February chill. In one hand he held a brown leather satchel with a two outside pockets. It looked expensive.

He could afford it. He founded a pest control company fifty years ago, helping Valley farmers control and eradicate infestations of insects, mites and nematodes. I actually worked for his company as a teenager, which was why I knew that a nematode was a kind of microscopic worm, and not a frog named Nema. I spent two summers trudging up and down almond and orange groves, first hanging sticky traps on the branches of trees, then collecting them a week later and examining them under a magnifying glass to count and catalogue the insects stuck to the traps. I remember working in Ramadan one summer, and being so thirsty that the water running in the farm ditch looked as tasty as fresh lemonade.

In the 1970’s Dr. Ehab had the foresight to buy empty land to the north and west of Fresno. When the city expanded in that direction he sold some of the land to developers, and leased other lots to large retailers. I remembered hearing that one of his first leases had been to Walmart for $25,000 per month. He later become a developer himself, building three huge apartment complexes in north Fresno.

The pest control company still existed, but was run by his brother’s grandson, while the leases and apartments were handled by a real estate management company. I didn’t know exactly how much the Anwars were worth, but it had to be in the tens of millions.

None of which impressed me.

“As-salamu alaykum,” Dr. Ehab Anwar said. He did not offer to shake my hand.

His wife Farah waved her hand in front of her nose and glared at me, apparently thinking that I was the source of the unpleasant smell in the office.

“Wa alaykum as-salam,” I replied coolly, my tone making it clear that I was not happy to see them. I returned to my desk and sat.

Farah dug him in the ribs with an elbow and said in a strident voice, “The boy is no good. It is a mistake coming here.”

Farah Anwar was a piece of work. Shorter than her husband and fifteen years younger, her voice was as sharp and piercing as a prison shank. Her nose was hooked like a falcon’s beak, her skin was pale like ivory, and her green eyes were as hard as chips of emerald. Though she wore a long skirt, a loose blouse and a cream-colored hijab, and though she volunteered as a weekend Islamic studies teacher at the masjid, I found nothing sisterly in her demeanor, nor had I ever.

***

I had another reason to resent Farah Anwar. I was fairly sure she had played a key role in breaking up my marriage.

Six months ago I’d been driving north on highway 99, tailing a subject in an insurance case, when I saw an accident take place before my eyes. A big 18 wheeler began to drift toward oncoming traffic. At the last second the truck jerked in the other direction and tipped over, jackknifing and sliding across three lanes of fast-moving traffic. I managed to stop in time, but a young woman driving a red VW Beetle did not. She plowed into the semi, and a moment later flames began to erupt from under her hood.

Two other cars had collided as well, but I had to prioritize. I parked on the median and ran to the burning Beetle. The airbag had deployed and the young woman was unconscious. With a shock, I realized I knew her. She was one of Safaa’s cousins, a girl named Karima who was studying business at Fresno State, if I remembered correctly.

Her door was locked and jammed. The front windshield was shattered and I considered sliding in through it, but the flames coming from under the hood were growing. I could feel the heat scorching my skin. I looked around frantically for emergency workers, but none had arrived. Two other drivers, a man and a woman, exited their cars and stood nearby, filming with their phones. I realized no one was going to do anything. I had to get Karima out myself.

I drew my pocket knife, grasped it tightly in my fist, and struck the driver’s side window as hard as I could with the butt of the blade. The glass shattered. I used the knife to slice through Karima’s seatbelt, then leaned in, grasped her under the arms, and hauled her out through the window. At 5’9” and 160 pounds I’m solidly built but not imposing. In that moment, though, Karima felt as light as a loaf of bread.

She began to come to consciousness as I hauled her away from the burning car. I carried her well off the highway to the grassy embankment and set her down gently. Other drivers had stopped and were helping the other accident victims, so I stayed with Karima. By the time the ambulances and fire trucks arrived she was fully awake.

In the following days, Karima became obsessed with me. She’d text me at various times throughout the day. The texts were innocuous, just wishes for me to have a good day or updates on her daily life at school. I never replied, but my wife Safaa was understandably annoyed. It escalated to Karima dropping by my office every other day with homemade cookies or sandwiches. I kept telling her it was inappropriate. She said she understood that I was married, but wanted to show her gratitude. She sent me a Facebook friend request; I declined. She’d call, I’d see her name on the caller ID and let it go to voicemail.

It became a serious problem between myself and Safaa. My wife was not an especially suspicious or jealous sort, but Karima was a beautiful young woman, with round eyes, a wide smile and long, lustrous black hair. I mean, Safaa is beautiful too of course, but… I’ll stop there, as I can’t see any intelligent conclusion to that thought. The point is, Safaa grew increasingly angry. I felt like I was trapped in a giant spider web. No matter what I said, it didn’t matter.

Finally I texted Karima to arrange a meeting. I intended to tell her definitively that she had to leave me alone. I could not be her hero or her friend. Maybe if she saw my frustration she would realize the harm she was doing. If she would not stop, I would secure a restraining order against her. I had to save my marriage, no matter what.

We agreed to meet at a coffee shop in Clovis. I arrived, parked, and exited my car, and the next thing I knew, Karima – who had arrived early – rushed toward me, embraced me and kissed me. I pushed her away angrily and looked up to see a few of the coffee shop patrons watching. Among them were two Arab ladies – a middle-aged hijabi I did not know, and Farah Anwar. Farah was staring at the scene with eagle eyes and a trace of a smile.

I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. I didn’t even try talking to her. What was the point? I delivered my message to Karima, telling her to stay out of my life, and returned home to find Safaa already putting my belongings on the doorstep.

Safaa later told me that after she kicked me out of the house, Farah visited her and told her she’d done the right thing. Farah urged her to seek sole custody of the children and to sue me for alimony. Safaa told Farah to get lost. “You might be a good-for-nothing cheater,” Safaa informed me over the phone, “but that woman derives entirely too much pleasure from it.”

If Safaa could understand that, then why couldn’t she understand that Farah was misrepresenting the entire incident? And why did Farah Anwar hate me so viscerally? What had I ever done to her?

I couldn’t understand women at all.

***

Dr. Ehab cleared his throat. “We want to hire you.”

I stared, flabbergasted. I felt a strange sensation rising in my chest and didn’t recognize it for what it was – hilarity – until my mouth opened and laughter burst forth. I reclined in my chair, closed my eyes and put my hands on my belly, letting the guffaws burst out of me like sonic fireworks.

When my laughter finally ebbed, I opened my eyes to see Dr. Ehab watching me grimly, though I imagined I detected a sheepish cast to his gaze. Farah stood with her arms at her sides and her fists balled, nearly trembling with rage.

“I’m sorry,” I said, rubbing my cheek. “Really. That just came out. Anyway I’m not taking any new cases right now.” I gestured toward the door. ”You can show yourselves out.”

This was foolish of me, I knew. I needed the money desperately, and unlike the casino case there would be nothing haram in working for the Anwars. But these people looked upon me with contempt. I would rather be reduced to eating grass than work for them.

Farah snatched the leather satchel out of her husband’s hands, withdrew from it a thick manila envelope, and threw it onto my desk. It made a dull thud like a rare steak – again. Why did all the money have to sound like steaks today?

“There is ten thousand dollars,” she said with a sneer. “Does that change your mind?”

“Farah…” Dr Ehab said, putting a restraining hand on her arm. “This is not the way.”

SubhanAllah, I thought. This was crazy. Just a little while ago I’d turned down an envelope containing five thousand dollars, and placed my trust in Allah to give me something better. I just didn’t think it would happen as fast as a pizza delivery. Now here was twice the amount I’d turned away. What was going on today? Was Allah sending me a message? Was this a test?

I didn’t have the answers to those questions, but even were I a destitute beggar, I would not take money thrown at me in derision. To work for these two would be to surrender my dignity and self-respect.

If you’re thinking that I’m too proud and stubborn for my own good, and that I probably deserve to be broke and hungry, I don’t deny it. But if you’re thinking that I’m too proud and stubborn for someone with my background – that, considering my past, I should be meek and humble and apologetic – then you have the wrong guy. I don’t do meek and ashamed. The meek might inherit the earth, but I am who I am. I made the mistakes I made, and they are in the past. My sins are between me and Allah. Anyone who wants to deal with me can do so based on who I am now, in this moment.

Okay, maybe I have a chip on my shoulder. But it’s my chip, and I’ll enjoy it with guacamole dip, California style.

Here’s the thing. If I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that a man is nothing without his dignity. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and not cringe at what you see. Didn’t the Messenger of Allah, sal-Allahu-alayhi-wa-sallam, say, “The religion is sincerity”? What is sincerity if not respect – respect for Allah, for people, and for oneself? How could I take the Anwars’ money and still respect myself?

“I wouldn’t work for you if my life depended on it,” I said.

“You are a cruel boy!” Farah shouted. She tugged on her husband’s arm. “Let’s go. I told you this is a waste of time. There is no need for any of this. The girl will show up later or sooner.”

Dr. Ehab took the envelope. “Will you not hear what we need?”

“Nah. No point. Whatever you need, there are plenty of other P.I.s in town. Chris Rockland is quite good. His office is at Shaw and First.”

Farah stepped in front of her husband and jabbed her finger at my face. “You are a shame on the community! I don’t know how your poor parents put up with you. You are worthless. You deserve to lose your family and never see them again. This is all your fault in the beginning!” Spittle flew from her mouth as she ranted.

I felt like I was watching a rabid dog. Would she leap over the desk and bite me?

“How is it my fault?” I didn’t know what she was talking about and shouldn’t have taken the bait, but I couldn’t help it.

“You corrupted Tarek! If not for you, he would not have associated with that dirty girl.”

I was baffled. Was that why she hated me so much? She thought that I was somehow responsible for her son’s train wreck of a life? Huh. The truth was just the opposite. Tarek, who was a year younger than me, had always been shiftless, even when we were kids. His eyes always wandered here and there, seeking a distraction or an answer to a question he hadn’t yet formulated. Some days we’d walk to school together and he would decide on the spot to skip classes. I’d try to convince him otherwise, but he’d wander off – I never knew to where. After he dropped out in eleventh grade, we didn’t see much of each other.

I could see, though, how a distraught mother, looking for someone to blame for her son’s mistakes, might latch on to me. I’d been her son’s friend and I’d gone to prison, so I must have – one might reason – influenced Tarek in some way.

Actually, Tarek was clueless about my illegal activities back then. On the surface, I’d been a model college student and Muslim. And yes, I know how hypocritical that makes me sound.

Dr. Ehab pulled his wife aside and spoke sternly. “Farah, be quiet. Let me talk to him.”

“No. Let’s leave this good-for-nothing to his smelly office.”

Dr. Ehab glared at his wife and raised his voice, biting off each word. “Be – quiet!”

Farah blanched in shock. I was pretty surprised too. I’d never seen Dr. Ehab angry before. The man I remembered from my teenage years was a milquetoast, so soft spoken that I’d had to strain to make out his words.

When I was younger and first started working for the pest control company I made a serious mistake. When we hung traps we always mapped the farm first and assigned every tree a number, so that when we collected the traps later we knew precisely which tree each trap had come from. The first time I was assigned to collect the traps, I gathered all the traps from a ten acre grove without noting the tree numbers, which meant that a week’s worth of data was lost. Even then Dr. Ehab did not get angry. He merely patted my shoulder and said, “Next time, don’t rush. Patience is silver.”

Now, when he stood before me nearly shouting at his wife, I was taken aback. She gaped at him, then stalked off, slamming the door hard enough to rattle the door frame.

Dr. Ehab turned to me. “This matter is important to us. We need someone with a personal connection. Someone we can trust.”

My mouth fell open in astonishment. “Someone you can trust? Have you treated me like someone you could trust?” I put up my hands. “I don’t – I don’t even know what to say.”

“I know you should hate us,” Ehab said. “If the need was for me, I would not ask.” He ran a hand across his forehead, closing his eyes. Then he reached into his jacket pocket, took out a 4” by 6” photo and handed it to me.

“She has been kidnapped,” he said. “We need you to find her. Please, I beg you. The ten thousand is only an advance. I will pay fifty thousand if you get her home.”

I recognized the girl in the photo right away. Her name was Anna. She was the Anwars’ granddaughter. My friend Tarek’s daughter.

I had told the Anwars that I would not work for them if my life depended on it. This was someone else’s life, however. That changed everything.

Next Tuesday: Zaid Karim P.I., Part 3: $40 in the Hand

Jakarta governor election a 'litmus test' of Indonesian Islam

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 February, 2017 - 06:00

Incumbent Ahok, a Christian from the ethnic Chinese minority, fights to retain office after a campaign charged with racial and religious intolerance

Millions of Jakarta residents will go to the polls on Wednesday in a vote that is being seen as a “litmus test” of Indonesian Islam.

In the capital of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, the incumbent Jakarta governor Basuki Purnama Tjahaja, better known as Ahok, is battling to retain his seat.

Related: Battle for Indonesia's largest city: all you need to know about elections in Jakarta

Related: Jakarta's violent identity crisis: behind the vilification of Chinese-Indonesians

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MiddleEastEye: Iraqi Christian Militia Threatens To “Dispose” Sunnis

Loon Watch - 13 February, 2017 - 20:17

Christian militia fighters from the Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU) show four men, allegedly members of the Islamic State (IS) group that were found inside a tunnel in Mosul, as they sit blindfolded in the back of a pick-up truck in Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), some 30 kilometres east of IS’s last remaining stronghold in Iraq, on December 20, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / JM Lopez

While ISIS’ barbarity grabs the attention of the worldwide community, there is little understanding of how complex the situation actually is in Iraq. Persecution and violence is not simply perpetrated by Sunnis against Shias, Yazidis and Christians, as the narrative often goes in the press. In fact, Iraqi mobilization forces have been documented to commit grave human rights abuses as terrible as those committed by ISIS. Many might not even know that there are Christian militias that are operating in theater. A recent report by Middle East Eye documents one such instance in which a militia threatens a whole Sunni village.

A leader of an Iraqi Christian militia reportedly threatened last week to “dispose of” Sunni Arab tribes in the northern town of Tel Kayf near the war-ravaged city of Mosul if they did not leave the area, according to the Middle East Monitor (MEMO).

Salman Esso Habba of the ‘Christian Mobilisation’ militia, a faction within the mainly Shia Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), warned the town’s Sunni Arabs to vacate by last Friday, asserting that Tel Kayf’s homes belonged exclusively to Christians, MEMO reported on Wednesday.

In his speech Habba is also reported to have said that Christians’ homes and rights would no longer be usurped, which he alleged had occurred following the US-led invasion that ousted former President Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Christian communities in Iraq have already distanced themselves from armed Christian militias, recognising that their actions could endanger their fragile peaceful coexistence with Iraq’s other religious communities.

In a statement released last year, the Patriarchate of the Chaldean Church stated that they have “no near or far relations with the Babylonian Brigades [a Christian militia] or any other armed Christian factions,” according to MEMO.

Last month, Amnesty International reported that Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) were engaged in a “systematic pattern of violations,” including enforced disappearances, torture and unlawful killings targeting the Sunni community.

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Q&A: Jacqui Lambie and Yassmin Abdel-Magied in heated clash over Islam and sharia law

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 February, 2017 - 20:10

Host Tony Jones intervenes in argument over Donald Trump-style ban on Muslim immigration

Jacqui Lambie told a Muslim youth leader to “stop playing the victim” in a heated clash on Q&A over the Tasmanian senator’s backing of a Donald Trump-style ban on Muslim immigration.

Lambie’s exchange with Youth Without Borders founder and Sudanese-born engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied descended into a shouting match on Monday night, prompting the host of the ABC talk show, Tony Jones, to intervene.

Related: Malcolm Turnbull refuses to denounce Trump's travel ban

.@JacquiLambie think ditching The Nationals will bite them. @yassmin_a says One Nation policies are unbelievable #QandA pic.twitter.com/VADB7zS6EP

Related: Malcolm Turnbull says Australia must put 'safety first' when asked about burqa ban

Related: Cory Bernardi and George Christensen to speak at $150-a-head dinner for anti-Islam group

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Is Ghusl Obligatory Upon The New Muslim? | Abdullah Hasan

Muslim Matters - 13 February, 2017 - 18:41
Q. When non-Muslims embrace Islam, is ghusl (bathing) obligatory upon them?

The process of becoming a Muslim is very straightforward and undemanding. Allah desires ease for people and does not want to place difficulty on them. If a person has firm yaqeen (conviction) and iman (belief) that Islam is the truth, it is sufficient for that person to declare the two testimonies of faith:

“I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is the final messenger of Allah.”

As soon as the person pronounces these words, believing in them to be true, he or she becomes a Muslim. This is known by necessity in Islam (al-ma’lum min addin bid dharurat) and is agreed upon by all Muslim scholars. The validity of the testimony of faith is not reliant on the individual thereafter performing ghusl (bathing).

Concerning the specific action of ghusl after declaring the testimony of faith, the fuqahaa (jurists) have expressed different opinions which will be discussed below.

There are two main hadiths (traditions) reported from the Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) pertaining to this issue.

  1. Abu Hurairah reported that Thumamah al-Hanafi was captured. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), passed by him and said, “What do you have to say for yourself, O Thumamah?” He said, “If you kill me, you would be killing a relative. If you give me a bounty (set me free), I would be thankful. If you want wealth (as a ransom), we can give you what you wish.” The companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) preferred the ransom and said, “What would we get if we killed him?” One time when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) passed by him, he finally embraced Islam. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), untied him and told him to go to the garden of Abu Talhah and perform ghusl. He performed ghusl and prayed two rak’ah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Indeed, your brother became a fine Muslim.”[1]
  2. On the authority of Qays b. `Asim he said that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered him to perform ghusl using water mixed with the leaves of the lote tree when he embraced Islam.[2]

From these two hadiths (traditions) the fuqahaa (jurists) are divided into three main groups with regards to the ruling of performing ghusl (bathing) after embracing Islam:

A. Ghusl is obligatory – whether the person was a non-Muslim in their origin or relapsed faith and embraced Islam again.

This is the view of the Malikiyyah,[3] the Hanabilah,[4] Abu Thawr,[5] Ibn al-Mundhir,[6] and al-Khattabi.[7]

Ibn Qudama wrote: “If a non Muslim embraces Islam ghusl becomes obligatory upon him, whether he was a non-Muslim in origin or a murtad (the one who relapsed faith), or whether he bathed before or after embracing Islam, and whether – during the period of his non Muslim condition – that which necessitates ghusl was present or not.[8]

Thereafter he cited the hadith (tradition) of Qays b. `Asim in which the Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) ordered him to perform ghusl after embracing Islam.

An-Nawawi objected to relying on the above traditions to assert that ghusl is obligatory by explaining: “The reply as regards to these two hadiths (traditions) are from two perspectives:

Firstly, the hadiths (traditions) should be understood and interpreted to purport the istihbab (desirability – not obligation) of ghusl by reconciling the various evidence. This is supported by the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered Qays to bathe with water and (also) sidr (lote tree leaves) and we have agreed that using sidr (to bathe) is not an obligation.

Secondly, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had knowledge that both of them were in a state of janabah (major ritual impurity) because they both had children, and so it was due to that reason he ordered them to perform ghusl, not because they (simply) embraced Islam.”[9]

B. Ghusl is not obligatory – whether he embraced Islam while in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity) or not.

This is the view of the Ahnaaf,[10] and the view of Abu Sai’d al-Istakhri,[11] a muhaqqiq (verifier) of the Shafi’i school of thought.

Ibn al-Humam wrote: “If he (non Muslim) embraces Islam while in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity) there is a disagreement: it is said that it is not obligatory because they are not obliged to fulfil the subsidiary matters of the religion (furu’), and after embracing Islam janabah is not present.”[12]

Al-Mawardi transmitted from Abi Sai’d al-Istakhri that it is not obligatory, which is the view of Abu Hanifah, due to the saying of Allah:

Say to those who have disbelieved [that] if they cease, what has previously occurred will be forgiven for them.’’[13]

And because the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stated: “Islam cancels out what came before it (of sins).[14]” Furthermore, if ghusl were a condition for adopting Islam, there would have been numerous reported citations about it, owed by the great number of people who embraced Islam. Moreover, when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was about to send Mu‘adh Ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) to Yemen, he ordered him to call the people of Yemen to testify that none is worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. Had ghusl been obligatory, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have certainly mentioned that.

However, An-Nawawi disapproved of this justification by stating:

“This reasoning is not justified because there is no disagreement that wudhu  is obligatory upon him. Therefore there is no difference in him urinating then embracing Islam or being in the state of janabah then embracing Islam.

As for the verse and the hadith, their meaning is related to the forgiveness of sins; they (scholars) have agreed that if a dhimmi (non-Muslim living in Islamic state) has an unpaid debt or qisas (laws of retaliation are upon him), embracing Islam does not release him from paying them.

Furthermore, the obligation of ghusl is not made liable by that which necessitates ghusl during the period of disbelief; it is a required condition of the validity of salah (prayer) in Islam. His condition is the state of janabah and salah is not valid in that state. His embracing of Islam does not remove his situation of being in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity).

The answer to the query that they were not ordered to perform ghusl after embracing Islam is that this was something known to them, in the same manner that they were not ordered to perform wudhu because that too was known to them.”[15]

C. The ruling depends on whether the person embracing Islam is in the state of janabah or not.

This group of fuqaha (jurists) affirm that it is obligatory for him to perform ghusl after embracing Islam if he has done so while in the state of janabah. However, if he embraced Islam without being in that state it would be mustahabb (desirable) for him to perform ghusl.

This is the relied upon view in both the Hanafi[16] and the Shafi’i[17] schools of thought.

Ibn al-Humam explained: “Ghusl that is recommended (mustahabb) is the ghusl of a non-Muslim embracing Islam without being in the state of janabah.

If he (non-Muslim) embraces Islam while in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity) there is a disagreement: it is said that it is not obligatory because they are not obliged to fulfil the subsidiary matters of the religion (furu’), and after embracing Islam janabah is not present.

However, the correct view is that it is obligatory because the sifat (properties) of janabah remain after embracing Islam. Therefore, since he is not able to perform that which is obligatory except when it (state of janabah) is removed, performing ghusl becomes obligatory.[18]

An-Nawawi elaborates: “If a non Muslim becomes sexually defiled (janabah) then – before ghusl – he embraces Islam, ghusl becomes obligatory upon him. This is opined by al-Shafi’i which the majority of the school has agreed upon.

And if he embraced Islam without being in the state of janabah, it is desirable for him to bathe, it is not obligatory upon him to bathe without any disagreement amongst us (the Shafi’is). This is the same ruling for a non-Muslim in origin, a murtad (one who relapses faith), a dhimmi (non-Muslim living in Islamic state), and a harbi (non-Muslim combatant).”[19]

The position I personally advocate is the opinion propounded by the Hanafi (in the sound view) and the Shafi’i schools; that if a non-Muslim embraces Islam without being in the state of janabah, it is recommended for him to bathe, though not obligatory. However, if he embraced Islam in the sexually defiled state (janabah) it is obligatory for him to bathe.

This is closest to the general purport of the texts and the maqsad (purpose) of ease and facilitation which the Shar’iah has come to establish. We should not place too much burden upon the new Muslim to bathe as it is not a requirement as clarified above.

Allah knows best.

[1] Musnad Ahmad

[2] Musnad Ahmad, Sunan Abî Dâwûd, Sunan al-Tirmidhi.

[3] Sharh al-Kabir, Hashiyat Dasuqi, 1/130-131

[4] Al-Mughni. 1/174

[5] Ibid, 1/275

[6] Ibid

[7] Al-majmu’, 2/175, Ma’alim al-Sunan, 1/96

[8] Al-Mughbi, 1/275-276, Ma’alim al-Sunan, 1/96

[9] Al-majmu’, 2/175

[10] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[11] Al-Hawi, 1/265, al-Majmu’, 2/173

[12] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[13] Anfal:38

[14] Muslim

[15] Al-Majmu’, 2/174

[16] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[17] Al-Majmu’, 2/173-174

[18] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[19] Al-Majmu’, 2/173-174

How prevalent is FGM in the UK really?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 13 February, 2017 - 14:02

A poster showing a young white girl with a black sweatshirt with a red and orange triangle badge, saying "Wear the Red Triangle, Help End FGM. We are the generation to end FGM, Forced Marriage, Dishonour Based Violence".Last Monday was apparently FGM Awareness Day, and that means there were a lot of FGM stories in the media with vain attempts to interpret figures in a new way to make a story out of them despite their lack of statistical significance. This year it was the ‘news’ that a charity revealed that FGM victims present to the medical services every hour, or rather that a case of FGM was either discovered or needed treatment 8,656 times between April 2015 and March 2016. The BBC headlined this as “FGM victims need medical attention ‘every hour’ says charity”, when in fact the figures do not indicate that at all. The BBC mentions that no successful prosecutions for FGM have ever occurred in the UK, which the Home Affairs Select Committee (a parliamentary committee) has called “a national disgrace” in a report last October, but nobody appears to be considering why this might be the case.

To take the statistics mentioned in last Monday’s reports, the figures state that “there were 8,656 times when women or girls attended doctors’ surgeries or hospitals and the problem was assessed”, according to ITV News, and a new case is recorded on average every 92 minutes. However, this simply means that a woman who has undergone FGM needed any medical treatment and the fact of genital alteration was observed; it did not mean she had a complication specifically arising from FGM. News reports, which all seem to be rewrites of the same press release or wire copy, do not mention what type of medical treatment the women had sought or whether the treatment would have been ramified by the FGM or whether a doctor had asked as a matter of routine (e.g. when a woman or girl registered at a doctor’s practice). A new case being discovered does not mean it happened in the UK, of course; the cutting would have been done years earlier, most likely in the woman’s home country. It is possible that the figures include multiple presentations by the same woman.

As for the lack of any prosecutions in the UK, it is always assumed that there is some sort of conspiracy not to prosecute, the usual claim being that teachers, social workers and other professionals are afraid of being branded racist. I find this difficult to believe in 2017 given that it is a stereotype of Somalis, even though it is found across east and west Africa among Muslims and others, and since 9/11 there has been a barrage of material in the media identifying Muslims as problems, as people who will not integrate, and attacking multiculturalism as the cause of backwardness and terrorism. FGM is not a taboo subject; it has been in the news every few months, at least, since the 1980s. If there is a lack of aggression in reporting suspected cases of FGM, it may well be because it may lead to the break-up of settled families where no other abuse is taking place and the necessity of taking some of the children into care when the care system does not have good outcomes and its places are needed by children whose parents cannot look after them or those who are in further danger. FGM can only be carried out on the same victim once; other forms of abuse can be repeated.

I have always been sceptical that FGM is prevalent in the UK. Rumours abound of girls going on holidays to places like Kenya during the summer break and show signs of FGM afterwards (e.g. always spending a long time in the toilet), but the zero conviction rate is significant. When one considers other forms of abuse, it is widely acknowledged that the conviction rate is a fraction of the total incidence, but nonetheless there is that fraction. There are good reasons why the conviction rate is different; other forms of abuse are carried out for the perpetrator’s gratification, while FGM is thought to be beneficial, at least socially within their cultures; the family members who arranged for it may still be providing for the victims, even paying to put them through university; the children who had been mutilated still love them. However, surely there should be at least a few cases where none of these things is the case, where someone who arranged FGM for their daughter or niece was otherwise abusive, where someone had become estranged from their family and had no difficulty reporting them. Given the large diasporas of people from the regions where FGM is or has been the norm, if there were enough cases of it that were traceable to the UK, surely some cases could have been brought.

Last year, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) published statistics on the 5,700 newly recorded cases from April 2015 to March 2016. They said that they could identify 43 cases (self-reported) in which the victim was born in the UK, and 18 cases where the cutting took place in the UK, and roughly ten of these consisted of genital piercings rather than cuttings. Such figures are available for only a minority of the total, but it does not indicate that the instance of FGM among girls born in the UK is that high, and crucially it is not high enough to overcome the impediments to successful prosecutions. People point to other factors indicative of the practice remaining part of people’s cultures, such as women coming to shelters with their daughters or of FGM Prevention Orders being taken out, but even where there was genuine risk of FGM and not mere suspicion (or other motives for seeking the order), it indicates prevention, not actual FGM. Avon and Somerset Police have applied for 10 such orders in the 18 months since they were introduced, in an area with a high Somali population; hardly a sign that all the Somali families are looking into this for their daughters.

It’s significant that a clinic in west London for women who have experienced FGM, offering trauma support and deinfibulation (re-opening of a closed vulva) is being closed as a result of the local council withdrawing funding (local councils have had their funding cut for all services over recent years; pressure on social care is the best-known consequence). FGM is a gift that keeps on giving for politicians; they can use it as a stick to beat immigrants with, persistently exaggerating the incidence and communities’ devotion to it, raising alarming but spurious statistics every few months, while knowing they cannot stop it all because the actions necessary would cause more harm than good, yet they withdraw help from actual victims.

I find the media coverage of FGM thoroughly unsatisfactory also, even in papers like the Guardian. It is prurient, sensationalist, often borderline racist, too willing to believe the worst of the communities involved and impervious to facts that contradict their cultural biases — continuing to claim, for example, that FGM is demanded by men, when all evidence is that it is older women who carry it out, often against the wishes of the girls’ parents; in west Africa, FGM is the ritual for initiation to the “Bondo society” which consists entirely of women; the practices and the societies are generally accepted and openly defended; the western media never contemplate reasons for FGM’s decline other than western influence (e.g. in the case of Muslims, contact with other Muslims from regions where FGM is not practised and never has been), and habitually quote out-of-date statistics which, if still true, would mean that all their campaigning had had no effect. FGM seems to give white liberals a chance to exercise their inner racist, to feel superior, to make assumptions about others they would not otherwise make and adopt a “white man’s burden” attitude that has otherwise gone out of fashion. Until someone brings hard evidence (rather than rumours and hearsay) of British girls being subjected to this on a significant scale, I will continue to treat the scare stories and massaged statistics about FGM in the British media as foreigner-bashing.

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