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Letter to My Future President From A Veteran

Muslim Matters - 3 November, 2016 - 21:10

To My Future President,

When you're sworn into office next January, the majority of Americans will wish you were someone else. You won't be popular — but you will have the power to decide whether our country continues down a road of global exploitation and endless war.

My hope is that you'll choose a different path.

My name is Ramon Mejia. I'm from Dallas, Texas. In 2001, I graduated from high school, had a newborn daughter, and, like many young people of color, no way to support my young family.

I ended up in the Marines.

In 2003, I was part of the first Marine Combat Service Support Unit deployed to Iraq. The next 7 months of my life would be spent in a country that we brutally invaded and occupied all under the guise of “national security.”

I was discharged from the military, like thousands of my fellow veterans, I was discharged due to health issues resulting from my service.

You never served in the military, nor have your children. You haven't seen war from the perspective of a combatant, or as a civilian whose country has been invaded. Yet you will have the authority to send young men and women to fight, commit atrocities, for the sake of corporate entities profiting from U.S. militarism.

Our national security policies must respect the sovereignty of nations to determine their course economically and politically and they must uphold the principle of non-interference and mutual benefit

But our national security has, so far, been self-serving:

We've militarized police departments. We've normalized mass surveillance. Civil liberties are an afterthought.

All of that plus all of our military endeavors  end up costing taxpayers a fortune, a fortune the majority of us, don't have.

Stop the fear mongering, stop the polarizing debates, stop saying what your base of support wants to hear. Speak sincerely and truthfully about the issues we need to confront as a nation. Don't speak about military threats to our national security while ignoring the ways our foreign policy has created these crises. Don't ignore the mothers raising children in refugee camps because of our policy decisions.

In addition, the US government can stop investing our taxpayer dollars in building and maintaining military installations overseas, and instead, choose to invest in education, housing, healthcare, transportation, and reparations. Bring back our industry, help us produce again – stop the dependency on the loan culture.

You never had to worry how your children would pay for college. My 15-year-old daughter is part of a generation likely unable to afford a home or find a stable job because of crippling student debt and rising education costs.

You have the ability to either continue exploiting national security fears for continued occupation of lands abroad, or stop.

I hope you choose to stop.

Ramon Mejia, Son of a Mexican Immigrant, Practicing Muslim, Marine Corps Veteran

The mind of Islamic State: more coherent and consistent than Nazism | Robert Manne

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 November, 2016 - 19:00

Political ideologies take decades to form. Islamic State’s is the latest iteration of one that has been developing for 50 years

In June 2014 the armed forces of the group that at the time called itself the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis or Isil) seized Mosul, the second or third most populous city of Iraq. The United States had invested, or perhaps wasted, according to one estimate US$25bn on the Iraqi army, which now fled in fear.

Already Isis had dissolved the border that divided Iraq and Syria since the end of world war one, which it derisively described as the fruit of the Anglo–French “Sykes–Picot” conspiracy. Shortly after, Isis shortened its name to the Islamic State and declared that the centuries-old caliphate abolished in 1924 by the Turkish president Kemal Atatürk was now reborn.

Related: Don’t underestimate Islamic State. More atrocities are on their way | Abdel Bari Atwan

Related: How Isis came to be

In 1996 Bin Laden set his sights on the destruction of the only remaining superpower, the United States

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Cover Girl names Muslim beauty blogger Nura Afia as newest ambassador

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 November, 2016 - 18:28

Afia, a practicing Muslim who posts beauty techniques to her YouTube channel, will appear in commercials and on Times Square billboard wearing a hijab

A hijab-wearing beauty blogger has joined the ranks of supermodels and pop stars as the latest person to be named as a brand ambassador for Cover Girl cosmetics.

Nura Afia, a practicing Muslim, will appear in commercials and on a billboard in New York City’s Times Square wearing a hijab while promoting one of the largest cosmetics companies in the US.

Hijab: @hautehijab Makeup Deets Coming soon!

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Deputy leader of Britain First guilty over verbal abuse of Muslim woman

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 November, 2016 - 17:19

Far-right group’s Jayda Fransen convicted of religiously aggravated harassment for shouting at woman wearing hijab

The deputy leader of far-right group Britain First has been found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment after hurling abuse at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab in front of her four young children.

Jayda Fransen, 30, was fined nearly £2,000 at Luton and South Bedfordshire magistrates court for wearing a political uniform and shouting at Sumayyah Sharpe during a “Christian patrol” of Bury Park in Luton on Saturday 23 January.

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Louis Smith’s ban is just a distraction from Britain's real race issues | Iman Amrani

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 November, 2016 - 08:00

Yes, the gymnast’s drunken antics were Islamophobic, but from Prevent to hate crimes there are far more serious issues facing British Muslims today

When I heard about Louis Smith being banned from gymnastics for two months for mocking Muslim prayer I thought of Toni Morrison, who once said that “the very serious function of racism is distraction”. There’s no doubt it was a stupid thing for Smith to do, and, yes, if you look at it for what it is, it is Islamophobic. But this story is a distraction.

It’s no secret that Islamophobia has been steadily on the rise in the UK, Europe and the US. There’s the relentless hounding of Muslims on the front pages of our national newspapers; Donald Trump has added a Muslim travel ban to his repertoire of racist ideas; and broadcaster Fatima Manji has been directly targeted for wearing a hijab by Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie, only to have the press regulator uphold his right to attack her.

I would rather be having a discussion about how we tackle violent hate crimes in the UK

Related: Louis Smith’s ban? British Gymnastics needs to get off its high horse

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Election 2016: Muslim Americans Stand On a Precipice

altmuslim - 2 November, 2016 - 21:51
By Imam Mansoor Sabree  Over the past couple of years, Muslim Americans have been experiencing a wave of Islamophobic abuse throughout the U.S. In a relatively short period of time, we have gone from isolated cases of Islamophobic attacks to the full blown mainstreaming of a nationwide Islamophobic discourse that threatens our social fabric. Islamophobic [Read More...]

Three women take their names off letter critical of sharia courts inquiries

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 November, 2016 - 15:04

Trustees of Henna Foundation charity say they now have ‘grave concerns about the divisive nature of discussions’

Three women who signed a letter saying that two government inquiries into sharia courts were sidelining Muslim voices have withdrawn their names from it.

Shahien Taj, Amina Lone and Rohema Miah, all trustees of the Henna Foundation charity, said they now had “grave concerns about the divisive nature of the discussions” that had followed the protest.

Related: MPs launch inquiry into sharia courts in UK

Related: Listening to Muslim women on sharia divorce could change it for the better | Shaista Gohir

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NYPD settlement on Muslim surveillance not 'sufficient', judge rules

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 November, 2016 - 19:13

Judge rejects Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to appoint civilian monitor in cases stemming from 2011 police targeting of Muslim communities

A judge has rejected the settlement of a lawsuit triggered by the New York City police department’s surveillance of Muslims, on the grounds that the terms did not go far enough.

The settlement ruled upon was a January resolution of two cases, which stem from 2011 revelations that the NYPD was conducting widespread surveillance of Muslims that plaintiffs argued had violated their rights.

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What is CVE (Countering Violent Extremism)?

altmuslim - 1 November, 2016 - 15:17
By Alejandro J. Beutel with Mimi Yu and Asma Shah The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) hosted a debate at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference over Labor Day weekend in September regarding the concept and practice of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) inside the United States, but one very basic question [Read More...]

Listening to Muslim women on sharia divorce could change it for the better | Shaista Gohir

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 November, 2016 - 11:29
Everyone else seems to know what is best for Muslim women. If changes were made to discriminatory divorce proceedings, Muslim women would be less reliant on sharia councils

Muslim women continue to be the focus of public debate and are constantly being spoken about and for, usually relating to their dress or integration. This time it is on their treatment by sharia councils. Not one, but two inquiries have been launched to investigate this issue. Although I welcome them and have already given evidence to the independent government review and will be speaking to the home affairs select committee today, I wonder if anyone is actually listening to what Muslim women have to say about the subject.

Related: Muslim women ‘used as political footballs in sharia court debate’

Related: MPs launch inquiry into sharia courts in UK

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Muslim women ‘used as political footballs in sharia court debate’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 November, 2016 - 08:18

Chair of UK’s largest Muslim women’s group says inquiries looking into sharia courts must ensure female voices are heard

Muslim women are being used as a political football in the debate about sharia courts, the head of the UK’s largest Muslim women’s group has said.

Writing in an open letter before a meeting of the home affairs select committee inquiry into sharia courts, Shaista Gohir, the chair of Muslim Women’s Network UK, argued that while some anti-faith activists conflate “misogyny and patriarchy with extremism”, religious conservatives falsely claim that discrimination does not take place within the sharia court system.

Related: Listening to Muslim women on sharia divorce could change it for the better | Shaista Gohir

Related: MPs launch inquiry into sharia courts in UK

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A Spiritual Disease in American Muslims Making Them gods above God

Muslim Matters - 1 November, 2016 - 02:28

By Mikaeel Ahmed Smith

Over the last two years, Muslim bloggers and writers have published countless articles that challenge or outright reject the traditionally normative Islamic view on social issues and Muslim life. Often, one reading the article is left wondering if the author realized that many of the premises upon which their opinions are based are in direct opposition to Quranic and/or Prophetic teachings. MSAs, masjids, and other Muslim organizations across the nation have felt the need to redefine Islam as they re-contextualize it. My contention is not only regarding their attempt to redefine essential aspects of Islam, but rather the methods and premises upon which their arguments are based. Islam over the last 1400 years has encountered many cultures and it has always managed to maintain a distinguished and recognizable form, while also adjusting to the natural differences in people.

As of late, attempts have been made to redefine Islam's position on gender interaction, hijab, homosexuality and even premarital sex not based on authoritative evidence but rather based on two philosophical notions: an appeal to public reason for conflict resolution[1] and a rejection of any authority other than one's own intellect (anti-heteronomy).

The combination of public reason and anti-heteronymic thought has created Muslim demi-gods who feel empowered by Kantianism to challenge God and empowered by Rawls to feel that only public reason can solve conflicts and not religion.

It seems the Muslim bloggers and writers of the day have learned how to deconstruct Islam, but have failed to deconstruct their own thinking.

Regarding autonomy, Kantianism[2] teaches that all claims to authority must be challenged by one's own intellect. If it be truth, it must first be destroyed and then rebuilt by the individual. The Western Muslim is thus empowered to challenge God's revelation with nothing more than their opinion, along with extensive appeals to the ethos of their readers. What then remains of religion? What then remains of the idea of revelation?

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The Source of the Problem: Islamic illiteracy

Over the last twenty years the American Muslim community has been incapable of creating an Islamic educational system that promotes and produces individuals with a fundamental religious education. Much of this generation's religious education was gained in poorly organized weekend or Sunday schools in their adolescent years, which is well below the scope of true Islamic intellectualism. Completion of Sunday school leaves a student with a false sense of a monumental educational accomplishment. The theological masterpieces of intellectual giants like Al-Ghazali, al-Razi and Taftazani are never mentioned or referenced. In fact, one would be surprised to even hear their names. This Sunday school education is followed by an occasional knowledge retreat or conference as young adults, which often is more edutainment than education and does little to rebuild the original Islamic culture of constant religious study throughout one's life. This has led to a generation of young Muslims who are highly educated in almost every other field but possess a fifth grade level of Islamic education.

Challenging God

In Islam (and by Islam I am referring to firstly the Qur'an, secondly the Sunnah and lastly 1400 hundred years of scholarly work.) there are things called musalimaat or givens. These are aspects of Islam which were normally not debated and considered general knowledge. That is of course when religious education was a continuous part of life. Though there are sources for these givens, the traditionally high level of religious knowledge held by the general public made these aspects of religion “common sense”. This “common sense” nature of these givens led to a more simplistic transfer of these things without constant verification by the average muslim. Things such as fornication being wrong, hijab being an obligation from the Qur'an, homosexuality being forbidden, alcohol being a vice and the communal responsibility to maintain ideals are a few examples of musalimaat. The word “given” is perhaps the most appropriate word for these musalimaat, because it infers to an external source or authority. Meaning these musalimaat were literally given to you from the previous members of the community.

Why do we see Islam going through such a drastic change right before our eyes? Every other day, poorly educated Muslims are changing and challenging the givens of Islam thinking that they can define or redefine Islam. A benign cancer of anti-heteronomy has taken over the minds of those who submit. Articles are written which challenge or outright reject very clear Qur'anic verses or prophetic statements based simply on the authors opinion or public reason. These articles are often over saturated by an appeal to the ethos of the reader and actual authoritative proof is marginal.

Public Reason and Muslims

Some political theorist deem public reason is an ideal tool for conflict resolution in a pluralistic society. John Rawls[3] felt that public reason gave members of society common ground upon which to debate and resolve problems. Without public reason Rawls felt that differences could never be resolved. The current trend by young Muslims to use public reason as an authority for problem solving and community interactions is strange. Public reason is even being used to define the ideal piety. Liberalists appeal to public reason, in reality, directly challenges the notion that God is the source of ultimate value. Masjid conflicts, MSA decisions and many other Muslim social issues are being solved by public reason. After a decision is reached through public reason, leaders search for the mufti, scholar, or religious authority to support the agreed upon position. Anyone who does not capitulate is labeled as backward, uneducated, or not cool, or even worse, an example of how religion is incapable of functioning practically in a pluralistic society. The liberals have now defined what is and isn't normative Islam. As Dr. Sherman Jackson so eloquently points out,

“Finally, to the extent that “public reason” becomes basis upon which Muslims expect to negotiate differences, the concrete and specific dictates of the Qur'ān, Sunnah and recognized

tradition will likely strike them as oppressive or as unfairly tipping the balance in favor of those

who can claim greater knowledge of the religion.”[4]

Public reasons authority has been challenged in the Qur'an, almost explicitly,

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“And it is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when God and His Messenger have decreed a matter, to have a choice regarding the matter”[5]

The definition of right and wrong, the ideal lifestyle, and the definition of piety is not given by your Kantian influenced mind or minds. It is Allah and His Prophet ﷺ. So let us begin our discussion on Islamic issues from there.

Autonomy: A Rejection of Authority outside of yourself i.e. Self-law

Heteronomy is an acceptance of authority outside of oneself. Kant's plea for man to be autonomous and think for himself was a direct challenge to the establishment of the church. “Be one who gives oneself one's own law.[6] Blind acceptance of anything other than oneself was to betray the gift of the mind, given to us by the Almighty. One must deconstruct everything and thereafter build it again. There are no givens in Kant's world other than that which each individual has constructed. For the Muslim who claims to believe in a God who has ordained and prescribed a way of life, who has given man a law by which to live the relative morality of the liberalist becomes drastically more absolute. In fact, present day academics have accurately pointed out the hypocrisy that lies in relative morality, a discussion well beyond the scope of this article.

The Qur'an displays the gross extent to which a rejection of heteronomy will lead a people. When confronted by Musa (A.S.) Pharaoh responded by completely rejecting any authority other than himself. “I know no God other myself!” He made himself his God.

A society of people who reject heteronomy is a living Hell, consisting of millions of demi-gods. Each believing that their own opinions should be held as authoritative as Allah's law. Inna lilllahi wa inna ilaih rajioon. The Prophet ﷺ prophesized such a trend.

ائتمروا بالمعروف، وتناهوا عن المنكر، حتى إذا رأيت شحاً مطاعاً، وهوىً متبعاً، ودنيا مؤثرةً، وإعجاب كل ذي رأيٍ برأيه، فعليك بخاصة نفسك ودع عنك أمر العامة فإن مِن ورائكم أياماً الصبر فيهن مثل القبض على الجمر، للعامل فيهن مثل أجر خمسين رجلاً يعملون مثل عملكم، قيل يا رسول الله: أجر خمسين منا أو منهم؟ قال: بل أجر خمسين منكم

“Ordain the good and become and obstruction to evil until you see greed being obeyed, desires being followed, preference being given to the worldly life, and every person being impressed with their own opinion. When these things occur then busy yourself with your own affairs.”[7]

The solution to this problem is, of course, not an easy one. Many young Muslims have spent decades learning how and what to think. This short article is a simple attempt to deconstruct two premises which many of the articles written over the last three years assume. It is hoped that Islamic education will become the serious past time it once was in the Muslim world. Islamic institutions which focus on higher level Islamic intellectualism must create deep thinking scholars who are courageous and not polemist or conformist. Such institutions have already begun to emerge, This will, Allah willing, produce a generation which provides deeper insight to the assumptions of much of today's discourse.

 

[1] John Rawls is considered the most celebrated political philosopher of our time. Wrote in favor of public reason. However deeper investigation shows that Rawls never truly felt that something called reason could solve our problems. Only state coercion held that ability.

Smith, Steven D. “Chapter 1.” The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2010. 11. Print.

[2] Moral autonomy, usually traced back to Kant, is the capacity to deliberate and to give oneself the moral law, rather than merely heeding the injunctions of others. Personal autonomy is the capacity to decide for oneself and pursue a course of action in one's life, often regardless of any particular moral content. Political autonomy is the property of having one's decisions respected, honored, and heeded within a political context. http://www.iep.utm.edu/autonomy/

[3] John Rawls (b. 1921, d. 2002) was an American political philosopher in the liberal tradition. One of the most celebrated political theorist of our time. Public reason, in the Rawlsian sense, involves justifying a particular position by way of reasons that people of different moral or political backgrounds could accept.

[4] The Impact of Liberalism, secularism, and atheism on the American mosque.   https://www.alimprogram.org/articles/impact-of-liberalism-secularism-atheism-on-american-mosque/

[5] Qur'an, Al-ahzab, 36

[6] Nagel, Saskia K. “Autonomy—A Genuinely Gradual Phenomenon.” AJOB Neuroscience 4.4 (2013): 60-61. Web.

[7] Narrated by Al-tirmidhi, Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah

 

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