How the Israeli Army “Helps” Palestinians

It seems that the Israeli Defense Forces, far from repressing Palestinians under their control, are just trying to help. This is what we learn from a recent report by Isabel Kershner in The New York Times. In the occupied West Bank, she writes, the military is making an effort to provide Palestinians with “economic stability and revive the local economy.”

In “Israel’s Military Faces Delicate Balance in West Bank,” Kershner quotes an Israeli general who claims that the army has allowed freer movement of Palestinians in an effort to “offset the growing economic hardship.” This, says Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, is being done even though it involves “some security risks.”

Readers who pay even minimal attention to alternative media will sense serious dissonance here. This talk of easing the burden contrasts with accounts of some very different activities on the part of Israeli forces: the demolition of homes, the confiscation of equipment, the destruction of water systems, the uprooting of olive trees and other activities that directly threaten the livelihoods of Palestinians.

Just last week, for example, the army entered Khan al Ahmar, a Bedouin community outside Jerusalem, and removed a dozen solar panels. The panels had been donated by an organization that promotes sustainability and were the only source of electricity for the village and a school serving all the Bedouin communities in the area. B’Tselem, an Israeli rights organization, reported that the last of the panels had been put in place the same day the army arrived to take them away.

The following day Israeli officers uprooted and confiscated 120 olive trees near Salfit in the northern West Bank, claiming that the farmers who owned the trees had been told to evacuate their land. This came on top of a one-week period last month when the army destroyed 492 trees in three communities across the West Bank. The orchards, according to the army, had been declared “state land.”

The same week that Israeli forces were uprooting nearly 500 olive trees, officers confiscated water tanks in the northern Jordan Valley farming community of al Farisiyah, which is not connected to a water supply network. Another Jordan Valley community lost its water supply in late January when the army confiscated all its recently installed water pipes.

The IDF is responsible for all of this, whether in its role as the Civil Administration (a branch of the military) or as troops guarding the agency’s workers.

Yet Kershner reports in the Times that these same Israeli forces who are devastating homes, fields, solar panels and water tanks are trying to bolster the economy of the West Bank. Without a hint of irony she quotes General Alon as saying that the government has instructed his army to “maintain security, civilian and economic stability as much as we can.”

Kershner blames at least part of the West Bank’s economic problems on the Israeli government’s decision to withhold tax revenue from the Palestinian Authority, a punitive measure taken after Palestinians joined the International Criminal Court at the beginning of this year. There is no mention of the fact that army officials are tasked with destroying the most basic amenities in West Bank communities.

Nor is anything said about home demolitions, which have driven East Jerusalem families out of their neighborhoods and forced a number of West Bank Palestinians to take shelter in caves. Some 15 families in the village of Al Mafqara near Hebron are now living in mountainside caves after the army destroyed the homes they were building. The army raids also destroyed a generator, the only source of electricity for the village.

It would take only minimal efforts to alleviate the burdens of Palestinians who now live without electricity or piped water, but this is not part of the mitigation plan described by General Alon. Israel’s “effort to offset economic hardship” involves two policy changes: allowing Palestinians with permits to enter Israel simply by showing their identity cards and by lowering the age of permit applicants from 24 to 22.

Even this is a “risk,” according to Alon, but apparently it is seen as a safety valve, a way to prevent Palestinian unrest. Readers would never know from this story and others in the Times that Palestinians are the ones at constant risk of harassment, loss and damages.

Kershner writes that her interview with General Alon was a “rare” opportunity and came only as he was leaving his tour of duty as top commander in the West Bank. Here was a chance to ask some urgent questions concerning army abuses in the territory—the arrest, mistreatment and detention of Palestinian children, for instance, and the excessive use of deadly force during demonstrations, both well-documented by monitoring agencies.

But none of this was on Kershner’s radar. General Alon was allowed to hold forth on his efforts to “offset the economic hardship” in the West Bank, apparently without any unwelcome questions from the Times’ reporter. The result is a story with blinders on, one that turns away from the facts on the ground and gives voice to a claim that is ultimately absurd.

Barbara Erickson

Filed under: IDF Spin Tagged: B'Tselem, IDF, Israel, New York Times, Palestine, West Bank

Jews And Muslims: It’s Complicated (IV)

Loon Watch - 8 April, 2015 - 20:24


“Tinghir” where Muslim-Jewish coexistence flourished for many years.

Original guest post

By Mehdi

Read Part I, II and III in this series

The separation

After the creation of Israel, Arab populations were overwhelmingly opposed to any appeasement with the state, especially in the context of the massive eviction of two thirds of the Palestinian population (a proper ethnic cleansing as stated by Israeli historian Illan Pappe).

Many Arab Jews were also radically Anti-Zionist, such as the prominent political activist Henri Curiel. Curiel formed an important network to support the struggle of several liberation movements, including the Algerian FLN during the war of independence against the French. A recent documentary on Egyptian Jews mentions his unheeded warnings to Gamal Abdel-Nasser regarding the 1956 French-British-Israeli aggression. His murder in 1978 remains unresolved, though recent revelations suggest that he was the victim of a former French-Algeria nostalgic.

Other Anti-Zionist personalities included individuals such as Abraham Serfaty and Chehata Haroun, who refused to leave Egypt and had the following written on his grave:

“Every human being has several identities. I am a human being. I am Egyptian when Egyptians are suffering, I am black when blacks are suffering, I am Jewish when Jews are suffering and I am a Palestinian when Palestinians are suffering.”

Most Arab countries witnessed riots and unrest following the combination of the birth of Israel and the Nakba. These riots took place in a context of existing unrest, as most Arab countries were fighting for their independence. In Morocco, for instance, several riots targeted Jews after the 1948 events, but other riots and violent attacks also targeted French settlers during the same period.

While there were several dimensions to violence in Arab countries at the time, these events were still frightening to many Arab Jews who started thinking of leaving their countries. Israel also deployed several means to either convince or simply push Arab Jews to emigration; the law of return was enacted partly for that sake.

In Arab states, the Israeli Mossad deployed many operations, from financial arrangements, propaganda, to covert operations that included deliberate sabotage.

In parallel, the rise of Arab nationalist discourse pushing for independence, and strongly opposed to any Western imperialist interference did not build an inclusive discourse for minorities (whether Jewish, Armenian, Greek, or others), despite the initial efforts of leaders such as Habib Bourguiba in Tunisia, or King Mohammed 5 in Morocco.

The growing tensions within Arab countries, during the independence struggle (as in Algeria), or against Israel (as in the 1956 Suez aggression by Israel, France, and the UK against Egypt) put Jews in an uncomfortable situation, sometimes used as scapegoats, and sometimes pressed to loudly proclaim their allegiance and loyalty. The distance between Jews and their compatriots grew larger and many started to leave, either towards Israel or Western countries.

  • In Morocco, from 1948 until the country’s independence in 1956, Israel’s interest was not great and the French colonial authorities turned a blind eye. After the 1956 independence, King Mohamed 5 wanted to maintain Jewish presence in the country (he had taken several stands to protect Moroccan Jews against Vichy laws during WW2), and refused any type of cooperation with Israeli authorities; departures were then mostly clandestine. After his death in 1961, King Hassan 2 cooperated with the Mossad to push Moroccan Jews to expatriate, this was part of a large deal involving security arrangements, sales of weapons and exchange of intelligence labelled Operation Arche and confirmed by figures such as historian Yigal Bin-Nun. No expelling of Jews happened and many Moroccan Jews chose to go live in Canada and France, but the consequence is that the majority of the 300,000 Jews who lived in Morocco when the country became independent are now gone.
  • In Egypt, there were episodes of riots and violence against Jews, but the Lavon affair showed that the Israeli secret services also deliberately conducted sabotage operations (and not only in Egypt) to scare people into leaving. The attitude of the Egyptian authorities was mostly repressive (in a context where Nasser and the free officers had just reached power and were eager to demonstrate a strong stance towards British imperialism, before the 1956 Suez aggression). Minorities such as Greeks, Armenians, or Jews were targeted and smeared as Trojan horses for imperialism and Zionism and gradually became scapegoats and targets of aggressive rhetoric. These stances scared Egyptian Jews who felt they would not be sufficiently protected, and convinced most of them that they would be better off leaving.
  • In Iraq and Syria there had been episodes of violence during WW2, such as the horrible 1941 Baghdad pogrom (which happened in the context of a British intervention to topple the Iraqi government). In 1951, the Iraqi Government established a law that made the advocating of Zionism or belonging to a Zionist organization a crime and ordered the expulsion of Jews who refused to sign a statement of anti-Zionism, the implementation of such a law in an arbitrary dictatorial regime made it easy to target anyone and put Iraqi Jews under pressure. The combination of Mossad covert operations and incendiary nationalist discourse and violence (not only directed at Jews but also towards Shiites, Christians and other minorities) led most Jews to leave their country.
  • Countries like Algeria and Tunisia saw most Jews choosing to go live in France. The effects of the growing social divide resulting from the Crémieux decree in Algeria, the atmosphere of the fratricidal independence warfare made the situation dangerous for any person assumed as linked to French colonialism. It also forced most Muslim “harki” collaborationists to flee the country (while several others were massacred after being abandoned by the French army). Overall, the Jews’ departure in both these countries is part of the general emigration that took place at independence and not really the result of specific Anti-Jewish campaigns. On the other hand, the 1963 Algerian nationality code stated that a pre-condition for citizenship was having Muslim paternal fathers and grandfathers; Jews had to undergo a special process to request citizenship. Such a measure was not only insulting for the many Jews who had fought for independence, it sent a signal to most Jews that they had little to no room in the future of the country and convinced them to emigrate.
  • In Iran, while some emigration took place, many Jews still live there even after the 1979 revolution, they have the possibility to travel every year to visit their relatives in Israel, usually via. Turkey, with both Israeli and Iranian authorities choosing to turn a blind eye.

These examples do not offer a comprehensive outlook of Jewish emigrations from Arab and Middle Eastern countries (the Wikipedia page on this topic offers good context) but they give some perspective. Unlike in Palestine in 1948, there never was any organized campaign to expel Arab Jews, the failure of Arab nationalists in particular and state leaders in general is that they didn’t convince them to stay and failed to give them confidence about their place in the new nations.

The claims that Arab Jews were massively expelled has to be looked at as Israeli counter-propaganda to establish a moral equivalent with the fate of Palestinians in 1948.

Still, the sad fact is that by the end the 1960s, the overwhelming majority of Arab Jews had left their country, either moving to Israel or to Western countries such as the USA, Canada and France. They were now separated from their Muslim compatriots, which meant a loss to most Arab countries, whose diversity was an immense source of cultural wealth, and whose national narrative had now shifted to a chauvinistic narrow discourse.

On the other hand, Arab Jews did not receive a particularly great welcome in Israel, where they underwent significant discrimination by the Israeli authorities, mirroring a Western-Oriental divide between Israelis, where the establishment (symbolized by Askhenazi Europeans) discriminated against Arab-speaking immigrants.

The discrimination they suffered is still a bad memory for many “Oriental Jews” who created protest movements such as the Israeli Black Panthers and have overwhelmingly voted against the Labor party since. Wounds have begun to heal with the increasing integration of Arab Jews into Israeli society.

MizrahiThe 1967 war and the crushing of Arab armies by the Israeli offensive went one stage further in widening the gap and the nature of the conflict. On the Israeli side, it gave a morale boost to the religious right and helped them pressure the government to allow and fund massive settlement building in the occupied territories, thus increasing their political importance in the Israeli social-political landscape.

On the Arab side, the 1967 defeat was a massive blow to the Arab nationalist movement, which had many flaws, was authoritarian, but was still trying to build some form of Arab autonomy while trying to provide room for minorities. The defeat gave way to the rise of Muslim conservative and fundamentalist movements, whose discourse provided little to no room for minorities, especially Jews. In both cases, the results were disastrous for whoever favored coexistence.

Beside the increased divide, there was also the emergence of Anti-Semitism, often borrowed from Western Anti-Semitism. This discourse is punctuated by invitations and publicity for: holocaust deniers such as Roger Garaudy and Robert Faurrisson in Lebanon and Iran, successful sales of purely Anti-Semitic propaganda such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or even Mein Kampf in Lebanon and Egypt, conspiracy theories about 9/11 being a Jewish plot, several shameful talk shows or TV series such as the Egyptian “Horseless rider” (the plot stars a virtual horseman who slays the “Zionist dragon” and denounces a “Jewish conspiracy against Palestine” inspired by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion).

In Western societies there has also been a limited but real rise in Anti-Semitism among some Muslim communities. In the UK, it was acknowledged and condemned by Mehdi Hasan, and this tendency also exists in other European countries, as shown in the recent violent events in Sarcelles, following summer protests against the war on Gaza, the kosher market attack in Paris, or the attack on a synagogue in Copenhagen.

The scale of these events is subject to manipulation (Islamophobes tend to exaggerate their scale while a tendency for denial exists on the other end of the spectrum), but in any case they represent a very worrisome trend and regression. The increase in Anti-Semitism should be fought and condemned, as it was by prominent critics of Israeli policies, such as Lebanese writer Elias Khoury, or Beirut based reporter Robert Fisk, and the late Edward Said, whose words remain as relevant as ever.

Why do we expect the world to believe our sufferings as Arabs if we cannot recognize the sufferings of others, even of our oppressors, and we cannot deal with facts that trouble simplistic ideas of the sort propagated by bien-pensants intellectuals who refuse to see the relationship between the holocaust and Israel. Again, let me repeat that I cannot accept the idea that the holocaust excuses Zionism for what it has done to Palestinians: far from it. I say exactly the opposite, that by recognizing the holocaust for the genocidal madness that it was, we can then demand from Israelis and Jews the right to link the holocaust to Zionist injustices towards the Palestinian, link and criticise the link for its hypocrisy and flawed moral logic.

But to support the efforts of Roger Garaudy and his holocaust-denying friends in the name of “freedom of opinion” is a silly ruse that discredits us more than we already are discredited in the world’s eyes for our incompetence, our failure to fight a decent battle, our radical misunderstanding of history and the world we live in. Why don’t we fight harder for freedom of opinions in our own societies, a freedom, no one needs to be told, that scarcely exists?

When I mentioned the holocaust in an article I wrote last November, I received more stupid vilification than I ever thought possible; one famous intellectual even accused me of trying to gain a certificate of good behaviour from the Zionist lobby. Of course, I support Garaudy’s right to say what he pleases and I oppose the wretched loi Gayssot under which he was prosecuted and condemned). But I also think that what he says is trivial and irresponsible, and when we endorse it, it allies us necessarily with Le Pen and all the retrograde right-wing fascist elements in French society.

No, our battle is for democracy and equal rights, for a secular commonwealth or state in which all the members are equal citizens, in which the concept underlying our goal is a secular notion of citizenship and belonging, not some mythological essence or an idea that derives its authority from the remote past, whether that past is Christian, Jewish or Muslim. As I said, the genius of Arab civilization at its height in, say, Andalusia was its multicultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic diversity. That is the ideal that should be moving our efforts now, in the wake of an embalmed, and dead Oslo, and an equally dead rejectionism. The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life, as the Bible says.

As a mirror effect, Islamophobia has also risen to the point of becoming common among political parties in many Western countries and in Israel. It has been promoted by many organizations, including several Zionist pro-Israeli support groups, who fully embrace the concept of the so-called “war on terror.”

Loonwatch has done thorough work debunking these Islamophobic campaigns, there is no need to list them. Nevertheless, the striking aspect is how organizations with different agendas and objectives, such as US and European pro-Israeli support groups, neoconservative intellectuals, European extreme right wing parties, and some personalities coming from the left wing all stand side by side on an ideological anti-Muslim crusade.

Historically, the horrors of the holocaust have positioned many Jewish intellectuals and political organizations at the forefront of Anti-racist and other universal struggles (such as the protection of Bosnian Muslims during the horrific ethnic cleansing and massacres in the 1990s). This history makes it sad to notice that several Jewish mainstream organizations (such as the French CRIF) have either kept silent if not actually supported Islamophobic campaigns.

In 2002, after Jean Marie Le Pen reached the second round of the French presidential election, the president of the CRIF (representative body for Jewish organizations in France) declared that this was a signal for Muslims to keep quiet, completely forgetting about the Anti-Semitic dimension of Le Pen’s party. In perspective, mirroring Anti-Semitic regression among Muslims, a regressive Islamophobic trend has also emerged among Jews, as many prominent intellectuals and organizations are so blinded by their unconditional support for any Israeli policy that they openly befriend populist parties that have a heavy Anti-Semitic past. One illustrative example of this paradox is when Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman received a delegation of extreme right wing parties in 2010, including personalities such as Geert Wilders, Belgian Philippe Dewinter, Swedish Kent Ekeroth, or representatives from the Danish people’s party.

It remains the case that contemporary politics in Israel and the Arab world are dominated by movements that are either not interested in promoting multi-faith coexistence (if they are not actively fighting it). This is the case for most Arab regimes, and both nationalist and Muslim conservative movements.

The outlook is similarly ugly for the Zionist spectrum, now strongly leaning to the right (if not the extreme right), where racist discourse has become mainstream. Discourse in favor of coexistence with the Israeli Arab minority and Palestinians in the occupied territories is largely only promoted by what is termed the “extreme left wing” and some prominent figures such as former Knesset chairman Avraham Burg, veteran peace activist Uri Avnery, journalists such as Amira Hass or Gideon Levy, and other pacifists.

For Muslims and Jews who had coexisted for years, the resulting situation and tensions we see today are purely depressing; this leaves the question of what to do.

What now?

As shown above, separation between Muslims and Jews in the Muslim world is now a fact and will be difficult to reverse. The wounds of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the post-9/11 atmosphere has created suspicion and distance. The relationship is not completely broken but a lot of work has to be done in order to fix things.

As explained in the introduction of this article series, my view of history is driven by my personal background and my family’s positive experiences. Obviously, my narrative is quite subjective. I am sure that many people will disagree, either with the overall perspective, or with some specific details, what I hope most people will agree with me is about the urgency of inventing new forms of coexistence.

While Jewish/Muslim relations are not monolithic, and are driven by local considerations, many points need to be highlighted. First of all, coexistence should be reinvented, the terms of coexistence that existed a few centuries ago are not applicable to the modern world; Jews and Muslims both expect equality. Coexistence will happen in different places from the past, while it existed mostly in Arab and Muslim lands before, it is now more likely to happen in Western countries and in Israel/Palestine, as these are the places where significant Jewish/Muslim communities tend to live side by side (for instance in France, the United States, Israel/Palestine, the United Kingdom or Netherlands).

Building a new model of coexistence also goes hand in hand with a common fight against bigotry. Jewish and Muslim anti-racist organizations should help each other more when Anti-Semitism or Islamophobia emerges, this already occurs, but it has to happen systematically. The sight of Jews supporting Islamophobia or Muslims supporting Anti-Semitism is a pure disgrace and at odds with history, this has to be fought fiercely.

Common Jewish/Muslim initiatives, whether involving history seminars, arts, sports, or any concrete project should be encouraged, people (especially the youth) should be given more opportunities to meet and talk. Bigotry and hostility towards others are less likely when they have a face, a name, and when they can be related to with an anecdote or joke. Creating sustainable relations between people is what helps solve problems.

Most of all, no long term solution can be considered if it does not include a fair and sustainable solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, a solution that addresses the plight and suffering of the Palestinians, whether the ones in the occupied territories, in Israel, or the refugees, and addresses their political rights to self-determination and independence.

Such solutions should also provide assurance to Jews that they can live safely and in peace with their neighbors. Arab Jews who want to live in Arab countries should also be given the opportunity to do so. Whether a solution involves a single state or a two-state solution is a different matter (the prospect of a two-state solution is more unlikely than ever).

Despite the legitimate criticism that can be made of Palestinian organizations such as Hamas, the Israeli government’s attitude, its unrestrained usage of violence and its settlement policy are the main hurdles.

The recent horror of the Gaza massacre shows that this is not an even fight, just as peace was achieved in South Africa by addressing the suffering of the victims of apartheid, the focus should be about protecting the Palestinians and guaranteeing their rights. If this doesn’t change, no good can be expected, and things will keep going downhill for Jewish-Muslim relationships.

Prospects look dark for now, intellectuals who identify themselves as “Liberal Zionists” need to face the political and ideological contradictions that they have been evading regarding the peace framework that they want to establish, and their vision about how to guarantee Palestinians’ rights and end their suffering. As peace activist Uri Avnery had once put it in 2008:

… Something like this is now happening to the Revisionists themselves. They ask for three things: a Jewish State, a state that encompasses all of historic Palestine and a democratic state. That is too much even for God. So a Revisionist must choose two of the three: a Jewish and democratic state in only a part of the country, a Jewish state in all the country that will not be democratic, or a democratic state in all the country that will not be Jewish. This dilemma has not changed over the last 41 years.

6 years later, the dilemma is still as relevant as ever, but the first option (a Jewish and democratic state in one part of the country) which would guarantee two states is less likely, the points raised by Avnery still require an answer and cannot be evaded any longer.

Beside the Israeli-Palestinian front, more effort should be put on teaching common Jewish/Muslim history. In his book “Defeating Hitler”, former Knesset chairman Avraham Burg had suggested the Israeli education system to focus more on positive experiences such as Andalusia, to show children that Jewish history is not only made of tragedies.

Similarly, in Muslim countries, especially the ones that have a strong Jewish history, children should learn more about the multi-faith and multi-cultural dimension of their past. This does not mean that the negative moments and periods (explained above) should be evaded, quite the contrary, tensions begin and grow in the shadows when such topics are avoided.

These suggestions may sound naïve and insufficient to some, especially in light of the never ending tragedy unfolding in the holy land, but they are a positive, practical first step; it would be unforgivable not to try .


To conclude this overview, I would like to come back to two people who symbolize better than anyone else the profound sense of coexistence and tolerance.

The first person is named Yacout and appears in Kamal Hachkar’s movie “Tinghir Jerusalem” mentioned in the beginning of this article. This Jewish Amazigh lady was born in Kelaat Mgouna in south east of Morocco and grew in Casablanca, dressed like any Moroccan woman, she emigrated to Israel and made an unplanned but magnificent appearance in the movie. Speaking with emotion about her fond memories of her childhood in Morocco (sending virtual kisses whenever mentioning Muslims) and how well she remembers her Muslim neighbors (apologies, video is in Arabic/Hebrew with French subtitles), and simply expresses her despair about why land is subject to such hatred.

The second person is called Lahcen, a Moroccan Muslim Berber not far away from Tarudant in the south, who, in the 1950s made a promise to his Jewish friend, Moshe, on the point of emigrating to Israel. From then on, he would look after Moshe’s family’s graves, regularly buying paint to maintain Jewish scriptures and made a point of sticking to his promise.

These two wonderful people unfortunately passed away in 2014, they are anonymous people who witnessed the devastating effects that history can have on people’s lives. They weren’t prominent intellectuals or scholars who could speak at length about history, but they both had their own simple words, and humble way of practicing tolerance and the best of what our civilizations have produced.

Now that this generation is slowly leaving the stage, the challenge we face is to keep their message alive and reinvent it in the context of our time. In other words, the challenge is to renew and reinvent peace/shalom/salam.

The Guardian view on the Garissa assault: it will take time to contain al-Shabaab | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 April, 2015 - 20:09
Kenya has shown impressive resilience in the face of the an attack in which 148 died. It must deploy shrewd judgment in tackling this deadly opponent

As Kenyans mourn the scores of young lives cut short so brutally at Garissa last week, their horror is compounded by their belief that much of the carnage was preventable. Many are asking why security at the university was so light, given the established threat from Somalia-based al-Shabaab; others complain that authorities were too slow to end the country’s deadliest attack in 17 years. While security forces have been overhauled since their dismal performance at the Westgate shopping mall siege in Nairobi in 2013, in which 67 people died, the violence continued for 12 hours. It took eight hours for the commandos to reach the scene.

The difference between the blanket coverage that the Westgate attack received and the more cursory treatment in much of the media of the Garissa atrocity has been well noted. A social media campaign, #147notjustanumber (the death toll has since risen by one), has sought to personalise the victims. That the mall attack took place in the capital and played out live in the media over four days explains some of the discrepancy, though the involvement of westerners is at least as significant. But other attacks in the last year have passed almost ignored by the wider world. More than 60 people were killed in and around the small town of Mpeketoni last June; in November, gunmen shot dead 28 passengers on a bus near the border town of Mandera. In all cases, al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility.

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Nazir Afzal: ‘Young people are easily led. Our anti-radicalisation schemes need to be cleverer’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 April, 2015 - 17:57

This week, another two teenagers are thought to have fled to Syria. Is there any way to stop young people falling for Isis propaganda? Where is the government going wrong and what more can we do? Start with difficult conversations, says the former chief crown prosecutor

With all crimes, it is the criminal – not their community – who is responsible. In 1974, the IRA murdered my father’s cousin. He had been working with my father as a caterer for the British Army in Northern Ireland. They dragged him into a van and shot him in the head at close range in front of another cousin, who they released to send a message to my family that they should stop offering services to the army. Despite their horrific intentions, my family could not allow the terrorists’ plans to succeed; and my father stayed for another 10 years. But we never blamed Irish Catholics for the murder of our family member.

I kept this in mind when I prosecuted the sexual grooming cases in Rochdale in 2012. As chief crown prosecutor, I could not say what I wanted to about terrorism, but I stepped down last Tuesday because I would rather work for an organisation that prevents harm from happening in the first place. And I see parallels between radicalisation and sexual grooming.

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The Rise of the Far Right and Islam

Muslim Matters - 8 April, 2015 - 05:20



The Far Right is spreading throughout Europe and becoming an influential force within politics and wider society.[2] 2014 was the first time that three Far Right parties came first in the EU nation-wide elections, namely the Danish Freedom Party (DFP), the French National Front (FN) and UK Independence Party (UKIP).[3] Other European countries are also seeing a rise in their Far Right movements, such as the Jobbik in Hungary, which became the country's third largest party in 2010. Another example is the Swiss People's Party (SVP), Switzerland's largest political party since 1999 which peaked in 2007, which successfully launched a campaign in 2009 to ban building any new mosque minarets.[4]

Poster, with the slogan "To Create Security," derived from the SVP's 2007 proposal of a new law, which would authorize the deportation of criminal foreigners.[5]

Poster, with the slogan “To Create Security,” derived from the SVP's 2007 proposal of a new law, which would authorize the deportation of criminal foreigners.[5]

However, it is important not to be sensationalist when discussing these issues. As Mudde argues, provocative headlines – such as the far right are “sweeping” Europe and causing an “earthquake” in politics – need to be carefully assessed.[6] It is true the Far Right is gaining ground but its success is varied across the EU. For example, the increase in Far Right members in the European elections will make little difference unless they unite – a rare possibility.[7] Far Right parties have not enjoyed the same level of success in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Even in Switzerland, the popular SVP lost a few seats in the 2011 election.[8] On a social level, Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) formed in Dresden initially drew crowds of 25,000, but the movement has now dwindled; recent marches now only gathered 2,000 people. Their first march in the UK was dwarfed by a counter-protest four times larger.[9]

Far Right Discourse

There are variations within Far Right parties,[10] however, broadly speaking, they have three distinct features:

  • Populism (plain-speaking, anti-elite, anti-establishment)
  • Authoritarianism
  • “Nativism” – combination of nationalism and xenophobia based on national superiority.[11]

Far Right parties portray themselves as representing the 'man on the street' against the elite, who have 'betrayed the purity of the nation' by opening its borders. Despite some common overarching features, each Far Right party is a product of its own environment and narrative of history. For example, anti-Semitism is a significant feature in the Baltic States (Bulgaria and Romania), Hungary and Poland. These states were not part of the post-war Western European process of remembering the Holocaust and the horrors of aggressive nationalism. (This is one of the reasons why the Charlie Hebdo magazine in France could not print anti-Semitic images with impunity. Also, Geert Wilders takes a pro-Israel stance to avoid being classified as anti-Semitic.) Anti-Roma sentiment is also strong in Bulgaria, Italy, France and Czech Republic, and is particularly violent in Hungary.[12] Homophobia is also a salient feature in more conservative Eastern European countries.[13]

Another common feature particular to this time is the rejection of the EU. Anti-EU sentiment is linked to the idea of a powerful sovereign nation against the tide of opening the borders for Europeanisation and Globalisation. But while the economic crisis is a factor in the success of Far Right parties, many argue that it is not a direct correlation. These parties were gaining popularity before the crisis, and even some prosperous countries – such as Austria, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland – still see a rise in the Far Right. Although the majority of Far Right supporters come from working-class backgrounds, the educated middle-class are now also joining the ranks, driven less by economic factors and more about preservation of national identity.[14]

The Far Right and Islam

Immigration has always been a central issue in Far Right discourse. Immigrants are seen as threats, as they drain state resources and are a sign of decay that is undermine the national fabric. However, as Betz claims, the discussion has shifted its focus to the meaning of integration and the type of immigrant. Now they claim that certain groups are inherently incompatible to modern liberal values and therefore can never integrate. Far Right groups, Ignazi points out, have borrowed elements of liberal thought as a tool against Muslims. To this end, we see Geert Wilders claiming that he is not an Islamaphobe, but rather Muslims are in fact the source of intolerance.[15] This feeds into the 'moderate Muslim vs. radical Muslim' discourse where the 'good Muslim' is integrated (read 'assimilated') and the 'bad Muslim' should be targeted. Framing the argument in this way is a tactic to deflect the label of racism.

It is clear that Islam is now the new enemy and that, as Jean Yves-Camus states, “racist rhetoric today [has] an undeniable Islamaphobic dimension.”[16] The Forum of Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO) report outlines six different arguments posed by Far Right groups against Islam:[17]


One of the by-products of Far Right Islamaphobic discourse is the growing relevance of Christian narratives and motifs. Jose Pedro Zuquete argues this is directly related to the increased perception of Muslims and Islam as a threat. It is the narrative of embattled 'Christian Europe' under attack by Islamic Shariah Law, and the high birth rate of Muslims. Demonstrations against mosques and minarets throughout Europe are about preserving the 'Christian heritage' of the country. At a protest against the burqa, a European MP for the Northern League declared that 'Islam is a dangerous virus, and we must stop it from spreading, because Padania must remain Christian.'[18] In 2006, the Far Right party in Austria released a political advertisement showing the cross on top of the oldest church in the country being replaced by an Islamic crescent.[19] Probably one of the most thought-provoking comments is by a member of the Far Right Flemish Party Vlaams Belang who said, “Many of us are not 'believers' in the religious meaning of the word, but we share the moral values of Christianity. They are the foundation of European civilization.[20] More recently, at the PEGIDA protest, people held up the German flag in the shape of a cross.

PEGIDA protest December 2014.[21]

PEGIDA protest December 2014.[21]

Strategies Against The Far Right

The Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany analysed strategies against the Far Right in eleven European countries. Also Professor Guibernau –

one of the leading academics in this area – similarly concludes the following:[22]

  • Mainstream parties have ignored the Far Right casting them aside as extreme. But they must take these issues seriously and tackle the public's fears about the concerns they raise surrounding immigration, the economy, labour market competition and cultural diversity. An alternative positive narrative needs to be created and substantiated.
  • The public's confidence must be boosted in mainstream politics with less bureaucracy and more transparency.
  • There must be zero tolerance for racism and xenophobia; it should lead directly to a ban from important political positions. Hate crimes must also be reported and given greater awareness and a strong response.
  • The media should be encouraged to play a role in exposing the extreme views of the Far Right.




[2] To see a detailed list of Far Right success throughout Europe, please see Robin Wilson and Paul Hainsworth. 2012. Far Right Parties And Discourse In Europe: A Challenge For Our Times. Brussels: European Network Against Racism (ENAR). pp. 6-7.





[7] Academics note the fragmentation between different Far Right parties across Europe. While they are all clear on what they reject, they lack a coherent plan for the future. One such example is point 7:

[8] Robin Wilson and Paul Hainsworth. 2012. Far Right Parties And Discourse In Europe: A Challenge For Our Times. Brussels: European Network Against Racism (ENAR). p. 7.


[10] Carter divides Far Right groups in five categories: neo-Nazi, neo-fascist, authoritarian xenophobic, neo-liberal xenophobic and neo-liberal populist. The latter three are the most successful. Carter, Elisabeth (2005), The Extreme Right in Western Europe: Success or Failure? (Manchester: Manchester University Press) p. 13 – 63.

[11] Robin Wilson and Paul Hainsworth. 2012. Far Right Parties And Discourse In Europe: A Challenge For Our Times. Brussels: European Network Against Racism (ENAR). p. 3.


[13] For more detail about the differences between the parties see Robin Wilson and Paul Hainsworth. 2012. Far Right Parties And Discourse In Europe: A Challenge For Our Times. Brussels: European Network Against Racism (ENAR). pp. 11-14.


[15] Robin Wilson and Paul Hainsworth. 2012. Far Right Parties And Discourse In Europe: A Challenge For Our Times. Brussels: European Network Against Racism (ENAR). p. 12.

[16] Cited in José Pedro Zúquete (2008) The European extreme-right and Islam: New directions?, Journal of Political Ideologies, 13:3. p. 322. [It is important to note that this is not an entirely recent phenomenon. In 1990 the French National Front magazine dedicated an issue to the 'incompatibility' of Islam with European culture and 'a danger for Europe.']

[17] A. EASAT-DAAS and S. OUNISSI. 2013. European Muslim Youth and the Rise of the Far-Right Anti-Muslim Narrative. Brussels: Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO). p. 14.

[18] José Pedro Zúquete (2008) The European extreme-right and Islam: New directions?, Journal of Political Ideologies, 13:3. pp. 324-7.


[20] José Pedro Zúquete (2008) The European extreme-right and Islam: New directions?, Journal of Political Ideologies, 13:3. pp. 324-7.


[22] L Bjurwald. 2010. Paper 6: The 
Europe. Policy Papers. FORES. pp. 28-31.


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Fox Guest: Rand Paul Must Prove He’d Nuke a Muslim Country if We Needed

Loon Watch - 7 April, 2015 - 22:36

Fox Guest: Rand Paul Must Prove He’d Nuke a Muslim Country if We Needed

by Andrew Kirell | 11:33 am, April 7th, 2015

On Monday morning, Fox & Friends held a lively debate between Brad and Dallas Woodhouse, the modern (and very much bloodless) political equivalent of Civil War “brother against brother” battles.

Brad is a Democratic consultant and the head of American Bridge PAC; Dallas is a Republican strategist and founder of Carolina Rising. The siblings once reached minor fame when they were interrupted by a phone call from their mother during their dramatic C-SPAN battle.

For their joint Monday morning Fox appearance, the pair debated this very Fox & Friendsian question: “Which GOP contender has the Democrats most afraid?” And when the subject turned to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) — seen by GOP foreign policy hawks as too non-interventionist — here’s what Republican Woodhouse had to say:

[Paul’s] sort of worldview may not be fitting the world as a lot of people see it right now. He’s got to prove — in my opinion, Rand Paul’s got to prove that he will nuke a Muslim country if we have to. I’m not saying we should. But I’m saying we will do that if it takes saving America and that there’s no doubt that he will do what it takes to protect America.

“Thank God you’re not running for president,” Democratic Woodhouse said in response.

Continue reading….

<strong>Naomi Wolf:</strong> The fastest way to spread extremism is with the censor’s boot

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 April, 2015 - 19:50
The Charlie Hebdo killings have prompted a clampdown. But history teaches that openness and debate are the most effective weapons in the battle of ideas

After the Charlie Hebdo shootings, heads of state marched abreast in Paris in symbolic defence of France’s long tradition of freedom of speech. This seemed reassuring. But that image was what political consultants call optics – for democracies around the world have recently seen a striking wave of anti-speech legislation.

Amid national mourning over the deaths of the Charlie Hebdo staff – including five cartoonists – four French police officers arrested the cartoonist Zeon for “incitement”, identifying as the cause of arrest anti-Zionist or antisemitic cartoons.

Related: The NDAA: a clear and present danger to American liberty | Naomi Wolf

The censoring of Ulysses and Lady Chatterley’s Lover turned these serious texts into runaway bestsellers

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Nigel Farage: Larger mosques are 'not necessarily a great idea'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 April, 2015 - 18:55

Ukip leader speaks during a visit Dudley, where the EDL has recently demonstrated against plans to build a mosque

Nigel Farage argued that large mosques are “not necessarily a great idea”, as he toured a West Midlands town where the English Defence League has demonstrated against plans to build one with an 18-metre high minaret.

The Ukip leader was speaking in Dudley North, a constituency where tensions over the mosque appeared to be at the heart of an alleged plot by former Tory candidate Afzal Amin to get the EDL to organise an anti-mosque march that he would then take credit for stopping. The scandal led to Amin’s resignation last month.

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Zayn Malik and the pains of being a Muslim pop star

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 April, 2015 - 16:39

Either Bill Maher is comparing him the Boston bomber, or conservative clergy are criticising him for not being devout enough. Only One Direction fans seem to realise that it’s possible to be both Muslim and a pop star

Bill Maher’s rants against Islam are nothing new. But in the case of his latest smear campaign, the reaction is. The unwitting target this time was not an entire 1.6 billion population, but rather one person: former One Direction member Zayn Malik – a British pop star who just happens to be Muslim.

But, like Maher’s smear campaign against Islam, there is nothing new about the scrutiny that targets Malik. In 2012, rightwing American blogger Debbie Schlussel accused him of “boyband jihad” and “pimping Islam,” claiming that the only reason why he was chosen to join One Direction was because “Islam sells in Britain”, making him the “Islamic face” of the band. That same year, internet trolls and racially abusive messages led him to temporarily disable his Twitter account. In 2013, American rapper Rucka Rucka Ali released the track Zayn Did 9/11, with art that superimposed Malik’s silhouette over an image of the burning Twin Towers, and lyrics that blamed him for the September 11 attacks. Yet perhaps the worst outlash against him occurred last year, when he was singled out with death threats for tweeting #FreePalestine.

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Brother of UK’s youngest convicted terrorist feared to have joined Isis

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 April, 2015 - 15:35

Hassan Munshi – brother of Hammad Munshi, who was convicted in 2008 – and friend are believed to have ran away from Dewsbury to join Islamic State in Syria

The teenage brother of Britain’s youngest convicted terrorist is feared to have travelled to Syria to join Islamic State militants.

Hassan Munshi and his friend Talha Asmal secretly left their homes in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, last week and caught a flight from Manchester airport to Turkey.

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American Crime Episode 5 Recap

Muslimah Media Watch - 7 April, 2015 - 11:00
Azra continues her review of the TV show American Crime. Read her earlier review here.  (Spoiler alerts ahead!) It was a quiet show for Aliyah this week, where she shared only one scene with her brother, Carter. She sets him up with an apartment in Modesto, and has a job lined up for him at [Read More...]

Islamist hackers seize control of Defra's air-quality website

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 April, 2015 - 09:26

Group calling itself Moroccan Islamic Union-Mail posts picture of Saddam Hussein and criticises Britain for its role in invasion of Iraq

Islamist hackers seized control of the government’s official air-quality website to post a message criticising Britain for its role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Visitors on Tuesday morning to the UK-Air website, part of the Department of Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs, were greeted with a black background with a a large portrait of the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

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'Reclaiming Australia' from Islam is really about reclaiming whiteness

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 April, 2015 - 06:12

Reclaim Australia’s rallies weren’t a reaction to a real ‘threat’ from Islam. On the contrary, Islamism gives racists a convenient vocabulary for their grievances

There are no Islamic courts, no practice of its jurisprudence, no laws from the Quran, and yet on Saturday we saw Reclaim Australia rally violently, their placards demanding the country say “No to Sharia!”

Related: Reclaim Australia rallies 'hurtful' to new migrants and refugees

Racism is rarely about the reality of the other.

Related: Fighting hatred with hatred at Reclaim Australia rallies is a failure of progressive politics | Brad Chilcott

Continue reading...

FearBusters: Fear of Loss of Love

Muslim Matters - 7 April, 2015 - 05:42

See Previous parts: FearBusters: Conquering our Fears, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Part 4: Fear of Loss of Love

To address this fear I'm going to share with you something extremely personal, which I have never truly shared with anyone. The reason I am choosing to do this is because it is the best example that I know of overcoming the fear of loss of love.

Many years ago I was married to a wonderful God-conscious woman who loved me very dearly and whom I loved very dearly. We had our rough patches during our marriage, mainly because of outside influences and not being able to manage them properly, but throughout it all we maintained our love and affection for one another. It was a kind of love that you see in movies, it is the kind of love that still lingers in our hearts years after we have gone our separate ways.

Unfortunately, I did not know how to manage the outside forces that caused negativity in our marriage and we ended up getting a divorce. Immediately following the divorce, I think we were both devastated but I forced myself to become very busy and tried not to think about things too much. She also kept busy and coped with the situation as well as anyone I've ever seen cope with a “tragic” loss of love.

Why I'm mentioning all of this is that we have spoken from time to time throughout the years after our divorce, and what amazes me about my ex-wife and has been a great lesson for me is the strength of her faith. I took her love for granted and recognize now that her love for me was special and unconditional; however it pales in comparison to her greatest love, which is her love for Allah. This is the reason why she has always remained happy and, to this day, lives with the great positive spirit and energy that she has always had.

For many people (women in particular) the fear of losing love is completely debilitating. This fear is oftentimes based on more of a sense of comfort and belonging than anything else. When you're married to the same person for a long time, it becomes like a part of your being, and to lose that would be to lose a part of your own self, a part of your own heart. This fear seems quite normal at first, but when you really dig deep you realize that it is a state of reliance on the other person that may become so powerful and overwhelming that it supersedes your reliance on Al-Wakeel (The One Who is Relied Upon or The Caretaker).  Oftentimes, this fear is so strong that people stay in toxic relationships only because they are debilitated by the fear of what might happen if they choose to walk away from the relationship. In cases of abusive relationships this fear becomes even more profound, because the spirit of the individual being abused has been damage and oppressed. Their self-belief and internal strength becomes weakened through the abuse, so this fear becomes even more pronounced.

Principle to Overcome this Fear: Make the greatest love of your life the love of Allah

I cannot overstate how incredibly important this principle is. Like the example of my ex-wife, when the greatest love that you have in your heart is the love of Allah, then you can deal with any and all tests that come your way. When Allah is the One you cry to, the One you pour your heart out to on a daily basis, then the fear that you have is removed. I will end this article by reminding you again of what Allah says in the Qur'an:


Indeed, those who have said, 'Our Lord is Allah' and then remained on a right course – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.” (46:13)

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Islam as Burden in a World of Short Shorts |The Muslim Skeptic

Muslim Matters - 7 April, 2015 - 00:23

Why are so many of our youth experiencing Islam as an unbearable hardship?

Why are so many of our youth experiencing promiscuity, drinking, and drugs as liberation?

The recent “Practicing Islam in Short Shorts” is yet another entry in a long line of literature that characterizes traditional Islam as “inflexible and fossilized” and departure from traditional Islam as liberating and rational.

The responses to the “Short Shorts” confession have also been typical. On one side, commentators cheer the “brave” voice daring to “transcend hollow religiosity” and throw off the “chains of organized religion.” On the other side, the response has focused on defending orthodoxy, essentially conceding that Islam is inflexible and monolithic, but abiding by that restrictiveness is worth it in the end.

What both approaches have in common is that they assume that the burden is on Islam — and traditional religion at large — to satisfactorily defend itself against the litany of accusations made against it. As for Islam, it is guilty until proven innocent, and “practicing” “traditional” Muslims have been only too eager play the role of public defender.

In contrast to this, my question is: Why should the “other side” — promiscuity, drinking, drugs, “sexy” clothes, and all the activities, choices, and values that Muslims opt for when flouting Islamic ethics — get a free pass? Why shouldn't the burden be on these things to prove themselves to the rational mind as a clear alternative? Is life according to the standards of the Western monoculture really as liberating and autonomous as we are made to believe, or is there an unnoticed rigidity and discipline inherent to that system much akin to the most draconian religious traditions?

I address these questions and more in this brief video:

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Nana Asma’u Leader Of Women’s rights in Islam and West Africa

Loon Watch - 7 April, 2015 - 00:04

Nana Asma’u

Original guest post

by Razainc

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs only to those who prepare for it today.”-El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

I intended to write this article for International Women’s Day earlier this month but time did not permit. This article is a short profile of Nana Asma’u’s pivotal role as Muslim leader in the 19th century. Nana’s father, Usman Dan Fodiyo, like his daughter is famous in his own right and I plan to write an article on him in the near future. Usman Dan Fodiyo was the first ruler of the Sokoto state and was succeeded by his son Muhammad Bello who was also a half-brother to Nana Asma’u.

There are a few things I wanted to mention about the Qadirriyya Sufi order before I delve into Nana Asma’u’s life. The Qadirriyya order was a decentralized order. Unlike some Sufi orders which focus exclusively on the spiritual dimension and break from traditional Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), the Qadirriyya order in Dan Fodiyo’s region focused on the Sunnah (saying and traditions of The Prophet Mohammed (SAW).

Education was important to the Qadirriyya order. “The Qadirriyya order sought to serve by teaching, preaching, and practical work while rejecting materialism.” The goal was not to consume yourself in the material world to the point where you forget about the spiritual dimension but live in the world while staying connected to spirituality.

Joining the Qadirriyya order was as simple as a hand shake and saying Ziker (liturgy) in remembrance of the eponym of the order, Abdul Qadir Jilani, after whose teachings the order was modeled. This made it very easy for locals in Dan Fodio’s region to join. It did however demand a certain level of spiritual discipline like praying, fasting and general asceticism (1). In practical terms Dan Fodiyo sought a balance where Fiqh would develop virtuous outward behavior, Tawhid (realizing the unity/Oneness of God) would be the basis of beliefs and Sufism would develop the spiritual dimension. While a few royals joined his ranks many of Dan Fodiyo’s followers were commoners.

Nana Asma’u

Usman Dan Fodiyo’s teachings came into conflict with the ruling authorities, whom he felt were not properly practicing Islam, this lead to his followers being threatened. Thus Dan Fodiyo and his followers made hijra (migration) and eventually strengthened their numbers which infuriated the authorities (2), thus began what is known as the “Sokoto Jihad.” This is the context in which his daughter Nana Asma’u(1793-1864) grew up.

Asma’u was a West African princess, scholar, Sufi mystic, poet, teacher, educator, wife, mother, and actively involved in politics and social reform. Asma’u was born a twin, the custom was to name twins after Hassan and Hussein the Prophet’s grandsons. Dan Fodiyo however decided break from tradition and named her after Abu Bakr’s daughter Asmā’ bint Abu Bakr suggesting that he had spiritual intuition that she would be special.

Asma’u was tutored as a child in various subjects from fiqh and tawhid to Islamic philosophy and mysticism. Her poetry focused on getting people to live a righteous life and turning back to God. Her poetry and writings also focused on war, as well as women and their roles in the community. She tried to lead people on the Prophetic path.

She married Gidado Dan Laima with whom she had six sons, their first born died as an infant. Laima later became chief adviser to the Sokoto Caliphate under Muhammed Bello. Asma’u would help organize the Muslim community under the Sokoto Caliphate.

By forty Asma’u would be called Uwargari (Mother of the People). She was also fluent in several languages: Arabic, Fulfulde, Hausa, and Tamacheq Arabic. She was also “Erudite and well versed in Arabic, Greek, and Latin classics.” She liked rare books which she avidly collected and would also use to teach her students.

In her poetry, in addition to dealing with the political issues of her time, she also took time to praise the good deeds of everyday people regardless of their status. Take for example excerpts from two elegies she wrote.

Her elegy for Na’Inna, her uncle who was an average citizen who held no official position.

Elegy for Na’Inna:

He was cheerful, loved his family to visit him. Acted likewise with his neighbors. He told them many things. He did not concern him self with worldly happenings May God forgive his sins.

Or an Elegy for her neighbor Halima.

Elegy for Halima:

She was a fine woman with lots of common sense. She loved children and adults treating them fittingly with respect. She was religious and kept close relationships in good repair. Acting always with never ending patience.

Many of Nana Asma’u’s poems can be found reprinted in Educating Muslim Women: The West African Legacy of Nana Asma’u 1793-1864 by Beverley Mack and Jean Boyd.

First one The Path of Truth:

For there is [in Paradise] no illness, no ageing, no poverty, no death: we remain for ever. Forever in enjoyment, relaxation and pleasant talk We walk in Paradise, we have seen Muhammada… The houses are made of gold, the clothes of silk We drink from fragrant rivers of Salsabil with Ahmada. The bodies of people are as beautiful as rubies or red coral, Their ornaments are jewels and topaz. They feel no sadness of heart and do not think sad thoughts They are forever in Paradise together with Muhammada.

“If anyone asks who composed this song, say That it is Nana, daughter of the Shehu, who loves Muhammada. You should firmly resolve, friends, to follow her And thus you will follow exactly the Sunna of Muhammada.”

Also here is an elegy Asama’u wrote for Dan Fodiyo’s friend Umaru al-Kammu’s daughter Aisha. Umaru’s children married Dan Fodiyo’s children, one those marriages was that of Umaru’s daughter Aisha who married Muhammad Bello.

“The death of the beloved Aisha reminded me of those who have passed away from among wise and pious sisters. My sorrows, my loneliness, and my melancholy increase the flow of tears on my cheeks into torrents. At the loss of the noble Aisha. Oh, what a woman! She had all the virtues Of pious women, humble to their Lord; Of the women who have memorized the Qur’an by heart and who do extra In prayers, alms-giving, then recitation of the Qur’an, defending the unjustly treated, carrying the burdens of many responsibilities. She was a guardian of orphans and widows, a pillar of the community, ensuring harmony. I am desolate over losing her, for she was my bosom friend, my confidante, from our earliest days. This is no surprise; the love we had for each other came to us from our fathers before us; it was not short-lived. God in Heaven, judge her with pure forgiveness and make room for a grave in perpetual light. On the Day of Judgement preserve her from all that is feared, from everything terrifying on that day. And place her in Paradise with our Shaykh, her father and her husband in the heavenly abodes.”

She was also not one to bite her tongue even to her own allies for their behavior. Take the case of Dan Yali “the son of the Fulani patriarch, Muhammad Moyijo who had offered a safe haven to the Shehu after the Community was forced to leave Gudu in 1803.” Dan Yali was known for his strange behavior which initially was generosity but eventually changed into him squandering his wealth and being very gullible and easily tricked into giving his wealth .

“The new caliph, Ahmad Rufai ɗan Shehu, dismissed him,” Asma’u praised his dismissal writing :

“Thanks be to God who empowered us to overthrow ɗan Yalli Who has caused so much trouble. He behaved unlawfully, he did wanton harm And caused hardship… We can ourselves testify to the Robberies and extortion in the markets, on the Highways and at the city gateways.”

Asma’u was and is a role model for many women in West Africa. Asma’u was also a writer of battles she witnessed particularly in the battles that came to be known as the Sokoto Jihad (1804-1830). Asma’u didn’t only teach students (both men and women) in her own community but she also was part of a network of women teachers whom she trained to teach women in the rural areas.

Amina of Zaria

Asma’u was following in the footsteps of the Prophet’s wife Aisha who was a general, scholar and teacher. West Africa is also not alien to empowered Muslim women, take for example the General Amina of Zaria mentioned by Muhammad Bello in chapter seven of his text Ifaq al-Maysur (The Wages of the Fortunate) which covers much of the history of West Africa, talking about Husana history.

Amina of Zaria was said to have been a brilliant military tactician and general and credited as being the first person to establish a government over all seven of the Husana regions. She also developed fortified walls “Amina was also responsible for the development of well-fortified walls around the city of Zazzau … called ganuwar Amina, or Amina’s walls.”

In popular discourse you have pundits and journalists regularly talking and writing about how Boko Haram and ISIS represent Islam’s discourse on women and education. However, two centuries ago you had Asma’u’s famous call,“In Islam, it is a religious duty to seek knowledge. Women may leave their homes freely for this.”

Saheela Ibraheem

When we think of Islam and the role of women or Islam and the African diaspora Nigerian-American’s like Saheela Ibraheem one of the world’s smartest teenagers should come to mind. Lets also recall scholars, educators and leaders like Nana Asma’u and Amina of Zaria, they more closely represent Islam than Boko Haram or ISIS ever did or ever will.

Nana Asma’u’s story is a riposte to the orientalist image of Muslim women in history that marks them as invisible and oppressed beings. Nana, is a role model for many, one who reminds us today that it is possible to be devout in faith, an artist, a just leader and a mystic–at the same time.  Nana’s empowerment and support of women’s education is far removed from the bellicosity and anti-education ideology of group’s such as Boko Haram, in contradistinction to them she was a life long learner and teacher who truly valued education.

Note unless otherwise sated most of this information is referenced from Nana Asma’u One Woman’s Jihad Scholar and Scribe by Beverly Mack and Jean Boyd


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