Bloodthirsty terrorists and duplicitous spies: does TV have a Muslim problem?

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 February, 2016 - 16:57

President Obama has called for Muslim characters who aren’t related to national security, so where are they and why can’t US television seem to get it right?

In a speech at a mosque in Baltimore, Maryland, yesterday, President Obama declared that “our TV shows should have Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security”. As with anything that Obama says about Muslims that’s not related to vaporizing them with a drone strike, it didn’t go over too well with conservatives. That wasn’t much of a surprise, as any show of compassion or empathy from the president is seen by the rightwing as cowardice or worse, treason. What was surprising, however, was that Obama would point to television as a means of easing cultural and religious tension, when it’s often used for exactly the opposite purpose.

One could point to instances in which TV was the harbinger of a more just, equal society. Star Trek featured a landmark interracial kiss between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols in the late 1960s on NBC primetime. Sitcoms like Family Matters, Martin and The Cosby Show transmitted black culture across the country, into the homes of people who might not have ever met a black family otherwise. But TV can also be used to reinforce stereotypes just as often. NBC’s short-lived sitcom Outsourced got nuked by critics for its reliance on cliched characterizations of Indian people working in a call center. And every time a person of color pops up on an otherwise white show to play a criminal or cannon fodder for the bad guy, it further cements the idea that brown and black people are crooks or extraneous.

Related: 'Homeland is racist': artists sneak subversive graffiti on to TV show

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We welcome President Obama's words in his mosque visit. Now we need actions | Imam Khalid Latif and Linda Sarsour

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 February, 2016 - 12:15

American Muslims need meaningful reform to rebuild broken bridges. This can start with ending racial profiling and surveillance of Muslim communities

The majority of Americans have never stepped foot inside a mosque. Now, after seven years in office, Barack Obama has finally visited one on US soil. We hope others will follow suit. And we hope, most importantly, that the president’s words will be followed by actions.

Both of us are proud New Yorkers, parents, non-profit leaders and Muslims. On Wednesday we drove down to Maryland to participate in the president’s mosque visit. Obama has been absent from the Muslim community for many years. On the way down, we wondered what, if anything, he could do to make up for this and alleviate our concerns.

Related: Rubio criticizes Obama mosque speech for implying 'US discriminates against Muslims'

Related: Barack Obama uses mosque visit to call for rounded Muslim characters on TV

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Join us or die: the birth of Boko Haram | Andrew Walker

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 February, 2016 - 06:00
How the tattered remnants of an Islamist sect transformed into a relentless terrorist army that Nigeria cannot defeat

In February 2009, I was at a motor park in Maraba, a satellite of the Nigerian capital Abuja, looking for motorcyclists wearing dried vegetables on their heads. The Nigerian Police Force had recently tightened laws requiring drivers and passengers of motorcycles to wear helmets. In the case of motorcycle taxis – known as achabas in northern Nigeria – drivers would now have to provide helmets for their passengers. There was an uproar. Everyone knew that taking a trip on an achaba could be a dangerous thing; the drivers had a reputation for recklessness. But many Nigerians did not like the new rules.

Above all, the law gave the police an opportunity for extortion. One motorcycle taxi driver told me it was going to cost him 10,000 naira (around £40) to buy two helmets. As he made between 300 and 400 naira per day (less than £2), there was no way he could afford to obey the new law. Everyone knew what would happen. The police would set up flying checkpoints, near markets, motor parks and busy thoroughfares. They would swoop down on motorcyclists, flailing sticks and canes as the riders madly accelerated out of their traps.

In one part of the country this cat-and-mouse game between police and Nigerian motorists would have serious consequences

Related: Nigerian army storms Islamist sect's base

Related: Muhammadu Buhari: reformed dictator returns to power in democratic Nigeria

Related: Nigeria: Religious tensions put taxi drivers in Jos at a deadly crossroads

Questions still hang over the speed with which Yusuf was dispatched, and who exactly was served by his silencing

They said now I knew what they were and who they were, either I did what they wanted or they would kill me

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Why I Let My Child Quit The Quran

Muslim Matters - 4 February, 2016 - 05:54

By Hooyo Said (a pseudonym)

I write this on the evening that I told my daughter's Qur'an teacher that I wanted my child to quit memorising the Qur'an. That's right, quit.

Who am I? A highly experienced educator mother who's taught excluded children in Pupil Referral Units, mentored Muslim youth and consoled and advised parents about the “plight'” of their troublesome teenagers. Dealing with the challenging behaviour of “problem” pupils has always been intuitive to me. I enjoy the mental gymnastics involved in getting the best out the toughest kids. My husband is a polymath, a multidisciplinary creative and dynamic educator who also happens to be studying for his PhD. So how then have we managed to mould a child who dislikes memorising Qur'an?

Our home is a loving environment rich in Qur'anic recitation and exegesis. Whilst my daughter was invitro, her father and I would affectionately recite the Qur'an aloud. As a baby, we'd engage her active listening skills by playing short surahs in the car and at home, reciting along so that Allah's book became less background noise, more immersive audio experience. We'd recite in bed whilst having a cuddle under the duvet. Or pitch a makeshift tent in the living room reciting Qur'an and sharing Islamic stories illuminated by strobe light (a torch) and cinematic sound effects! By the age of two and a half, and without any formal teaching, my daughter knew many short surahs and would eagerly “sing” the Qur'an. At that point, her Qur'anic journey has been entirely organic; absorption by osmosis.

If our daughter's induction into Qur'anic memorisation had started so well then why would we let her quit? I'm too “Tiger Mother,” too Dweckian to allow that to happen to my children. My husband and I share an outlook found amongst many Chinese communities in that success (in any domain) is inextricably linked to work ethic before talent (although talent certainly helps). Moreover, we believe in the value of loving to learn as an end itself. So then, how do I reconcile my daughter “quitting” whilst not becoming a “quitter?” Easily. My role as a parent (in my estimation) is to nurture the best out of my children, cultivating their strengths and addressing areas to improve. My husband and I do so by inculcating a reflective/reflexive methodology in our children; we learn from our inevitable faux pas! And this is where my daughter trips up. My girl is a six-year-old going on sixteen: driven yet doting (to her baby brother); creative yet competitive; sensible but sensitive. Hyper sensitive in fact; a highly volatile package!

With such an explosive combination of characteristics, I was cognizant that the Madrasah would be the wrong place for my daughter to learn the Qur'an. Distracted Ustadhs fiddling with phones, reading newspapers or even dozing off; even more distracted children, off-task with their studies, talking amongst themselves and seeking elopement from the “learning” environment at the first opportunity by taking prolonged trips to the toilet. My husband and I knew we could only entrust our child's Qur'anic journey with the right teacher. Alhamdulilah, after much du'a we found just the person. A young sister whose first language was Arabic and had teaching experience in state and faith settings at home and abroad. So we had a great teacher and a child with good tarbiyah a great success story right? Wrong!

My daughter's first official Qur'an lesson began well. She was excited, engaged and eager to flaunt her skills of recitation to impress her new teacher. However, as the weeks progressed, she grew more and more frustrated with her errors in memorisation and pronunciation. Time after time my daughter would stumble and trip over the same ayah, not a story to dissimilar to most other children one imagines. I made it clear to my daughter that learning the Qur'an can be a challenge and that experiencing difficulties during the process was okay, in fact Allah would be even more proud of her effort! Nevertheless, I could see that my six year old wasn't responding to the teaching methods employed by her Ustadah so like any good practitioners, my husband and I ran an “audit.” We switched things up.


We gave the Qur'an teacher creative license to do whatever it took to engage our daughter. Some weeks that entailed warming up with a chat, other weeks playing with blocks of lego or drawing in her beloved sketchpad, all of this without even touching the mushaf. But my daughter was still stuck, trapped in a place where emotions consumed her. Fiercely competitive yet angry at not “winning,” our little competitor couldn't overcome her frustrations. Talking or laughing about it didn't help either. It only edified the emotional and psychological deadlock. So in my Amy Chua “manhaj,” I dug my heels in. Mademoiselle dug them in even further. Worst of all, it became disconcertingly apparent that my daughter's heart was no longer invested in learning the Book of Allah. In one lesson, she became so incensed that she flung the Qur'an across the room and stormed off! Calm and collected, I didn't react. I simply wrote my baby girl a note. It read: “When you're ready to talk, I'm ready to listen. Love Hooyo.” I later find an apology letter she had penned to Allah hidden beneath her story books.

In spite of all the ire and resistance, my daughter had made some progress, but in the process I was losing her; the child whose eyes lit up when we spoke of Allah were now stony cold. The child who would happily “sing” the Qur'an would rather remain mute. I couldn't shake that image from my mind. I -the self-proclaimed “expert” – had unwittingly excised the love of learning the Uncreated Speech of Allah from her heart. That's when my husband and I decided our daughter was going to take a hiatus from Qur'anic memorisation – for the time being. Instead, we'll continue to live and enjoy a halal lifestyle rooted in Islamic identity, aesthetics and ethics with the Qur'an a constant presence, albeit in the background. And, as adoring parents, we'll continue to support our daughter's development in “antifragility” (to quote Nasim Nicholas Taleb) so that we may return to learning the Qur'an when she's emotionally ready for the rigors of recitation and memorisation.

Ultimately, my daughter knows learning to read the Qur'an just like praying salah is non-negotiable but as a “stakeholder” in her spiritual development she will have considerable input in how Qur'an is officially reintroduced. As emotionally intelligent educators responsive to our “pupil's” needs, my husband and I have decided to address the root cause of our daughter's “insurrection” rather than resorting to extrinsic motivators – be they sugary snacks, sticker charts, high-fives and/or sycophancy – to instil (begrudging) obedience. By allowing our daughter to quit the Qur'an, a bold and somewhat unconventional move for a “practising” Muslim family, we have emotionally accepted that the process of memorisation will be interrupted in the short-term. However, looking forward to the future, we hope and pray that our daughter's relationship with the Qur'an will be edified, enriched and ultimately enduring. Moreover, it is even more paramount that we address her “combustible cocktail” of character traits, as our cold world does not care about her sweet sensibilities. I'm already planning and engineering scenarios where my daughter has to deal with loss and defeat so that she may learn to become more robust and resilient. My baby girl is a work in progress – aren't we all? With diligence, determination and du'a I'm confident my daughter will emerge from her chrysalis and blossom just like Austin's Butterfly.

























Rubio criticizes Obama mosque speech for implying 'US discriminates against Muslims'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 February, 2016 - 03:46

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said at New Hampshire event that there is ‘discrimination of every kind’ in the US

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio criticized Barack Obama on Wednesday for giving a speech at a mosque that focused on discrimination against Muslims.

“I’m tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president’s done,” Rubio, a senator from Florida, said at a town hall in New Hampshire. “Always pitting people against each other. Always.”

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Barack Obama uses mosque visit to call for rounded Muslim characters on TV

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 February, 2016 - 23:14

President decries anti-Muslim rhetoric in US election campaign and urges TV drama to present ‘some Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security’

Barack Obama used his first presidential visit to an American mosque on Wednesday to call for writers and producers to create more rounded Muslim characters on television.

Related: Anti-Islam group publishes addresses of Muslims and 'Muslim sympathisers'

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Obama thanks Muslims for keeping America ‘strong and united’ – video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 February, 2016 - 19:43

Barack Obama makes his first visit to an American mosque while in office on Wednesday and condemns the ‘inexcusable political rhetoric’ that has been targeted at Muslims in the US, saying it ‘has no place in our country’. Obama says that ‘too often’ people have conflated acts of terrorism ‘with the beliefs of an entire faith’, and extends his thanks to American Muslims for the role they play in the country

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Update: NY Times Hoaxers Come Forward

The authors of yesterday’s spoof edition of The New York Times have pulled back the veil and revealed their identities: the New York chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No!, organizations based in New York and dedicated to supporting the rights of Palestinians and Israelis.

The perpetrators of the hoax told Ben Norton of Salon that the parody had been months in the making. They also said that their website domain and Twitter accounts had been suspended, but in a separate statement, Jewish Voice for Peace published links to views of these and to a PDF of the full parody.

The Times was quoted in several news accounts as saying, “We’re extremely protective of our brand and other intellectual property and object to this group (or any group’s) attempt to cloak their political views under the banner of The New York Times. We believe strongly that those advocating for political positions are best served by speaking openly, in their own voice.”

We can be sure that the Times would adopt a much less huffy tone if the spoof had not managed to hit a nerve by focusing on Israel-Palestine. Their icy response to a good joke reveals a defensive posture at work. Could there be a conscience lurking somewhere in the depths of the Times leadership? We can only hope.

Barbara Erickson

Filed under: Hoax edition of NY Times Tagged: Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No!, New York Times, NY Times hoax, Salon

Our Greatest Strength is our Diversity

Muslim Matters - 3 February, 2016 - 14:37

By Philip Murphy

We have always been a nation of contrasts – one at once built upon the backs of immigrants and suspicious of those who come from elsewhere.  Throughout our history, virtually every ethnic and religious group that came to our shores faced discrimination.

At one time, Catholics were prevented from living freely in Protestant colonial settlements, Jews were subject to admissions quotas, and Mormons were forced to flee for safety – to say nothing of the racial animosity directed at African-Americans, Japanese-Americans and others during difficult times in our nation's history.

Growing up Irish-Catholic in Boston, I can vividly recall stories about days when signs were hung outside work places that read “No Irish Need Apply.”  From a young age, I understood that these were shameful episodes that eventually forged a more inclusive nation. I also believed that they were far behind us, better left to history books as a tool to understand our path towards a more perfect union.

That is why I have watched with growing alarm as a new wave of xenophobia and discrimination has swept some quarters of our country, directed today at the millions of Muslim-Americans who have contributed so much to our nation and at Muslim refugees who are literally fleeing war and famine for their lives.

I recently visited Atif and Aisha Rehman in their home in Teaneck, who said that, for the first time, they are concerned for their sons' safety, simply because of their faith.  Their older son now attends a school attached to their local mosque and Atif and Aisha are worried about anti-Muslim bigotry their children will face as they grow older.  That is not the country where I grew up and that is not the country that my wife Tammy and I intend to leave for our four children.

When I served as our nation's ambassador to Germany, Tammy and I hosted annual Iftar dinners during Ramadan, which brought together not only representatives of Germany's several million Muslims but also leaders of other faiths. Together, we discussed how to create a better future for everyone, regardless of whether they prayed in a mosque, a church or a synagogue, or whether they chose not to pray at all.  Most importantly, we broke bread together as human beings who understood one another's struggles and sought common ways to lend one another a helping hand.

That is what this moment in our nation's history demands – not the demonization of any faith, which creates the disgraceful environment where young children feel that they are unwelcome in public schools or in their communities.

As an American, I find it unconscionable that the front-runner for the Republican nomination had said that he would consider mandating that Muslim-Americans register with the federal government or require them to carry identification cards denoting their faith.  These despicable, dehumanizing tactics are anathema to us as Americans. They run contrary to the belief that all of us are created equal and are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.

As a New Jerseyan, I find it tragic that our own governor would threaten to turn away toddlers who have been orphaned by the Syrian civil war – presumably because three-year old Muslim children pose more of a threat to the public safety than other children their age. As a father, I find his position more than troubling. It is reprehensible, prejudiced and wrong.  His words do not reflect the diversity of our state and they bring shame to every single one of its residents.

Let me be clear:  the millions of Muslims living in the United States deserve the same respect as any other American. They are doctors who save lives, teachers who educate children and men and women who fight and die in our armed forces.

One day, I believe that we will look back at this period in our history and hang our head in shame at the rhetoric some of our purported leaders have used towards their fellow Americans.

But some day soon, with the help of well-meaning neighbors, we will no longer have a governor who demeans an entire class of children because of how they choose to worship. We will no longer allow demagogues to score political points at the expense of any one of us.

It should not, and will not, be up to the Muslim-American community to fight this prejudice alone. All of us – Christians, Jews, Hindus and atheists – will continue to fight alongside our neighbors to demand respect for our fellow men and women, regardless of whom and if they choose to worship.

As civil rights leaders have repeatedly said during difficult times in our nation's history, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I have always believed that to be true and history has proven that this creed resonates just as strongly today as it has since our nation's founding.


Philip D. Murphy is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany and the Chair of New Way for New Jersey.

Another victim of the great British mental health misery-go-round

Indigo Jo Blogs - 3 February, 2016 - 10:47

They first sent me to Windsor, and then to Stoke on Trent
In a holding cell in Liverpool three days and nights I spent
My solicitor can’t find me and my family don’t know
I keep telling them I’m innocent; they say “come on son, in you go”.
— Billy Bragg, “Rotting On Remand”, 1988

These words were written about the state of Britain’s prisons in the mid-1980s, when overcrowding was a problem and prisoners were moved frequently, including remand prisoners who were awaiting trial and thus often innocent. Much the same is still true of the treatment of some of our young people in Britain’s mental health system, where someone on section can be moved on the say-so of a consultant psychiatrist who believes that their behaviour has got a bit too much for his staff. This is what enabled the transfer of Claire Dyer, then aged 20, from Swansea to a private medium-secure unit near Brighton in 2014; she was released from there after less than three months. Many people with learning disabilities, particularly autism, and mentally-ill young people are not so lucky and face years in multiple locked or secure units because of lack of funding for home-based care or a community placement, or because the consultant in charge does not understand their condition.

A picture of Joshua, a young white boy with short hair and a black Superdry T-shirt with English and Japanese writing on it, being embraced by his mother, a white woman with brown hair, dark glasses on, a white jumper or cardigan and black track-suit bottoms.Lately I’ve been in contact with the mother of one of these young people. Joshua is a 13-year-old boy from south London who has autism and Tourette’s syndrome, and is prone to tic attacks which particularly (though not only) happen when he is stressed. He had been at a boarding school for children with various types of learning disabilities in Surrey, but was sectioned by CAMHS when his mother was at his father’s bedside following an accident that has left him paralysed, and sent to a unit in Manchester. He remained there for more than a year until he was transferred to a hospital in Birmingham, where his mother has been able to visit him more, take him out into the local area and where it was hoped he would remain until a placement was found in his home area.

However, last week, the consultant told his mother that they were looking at transferring him to a low-secure unit outside Norwich, following an incident in which he hit and later scratched a teacher during a tic (having warned people that this is what would happen if he had a tic at that time). It was claimed that the teacher had refused to continue to teach Joshua as a result, something the family doubt as she had made some effort to build up a rapport with him and his family and had been working with him quite happily in the time after. As a teacher in a children’s mental health unit, it is inconceivable that this was her first experience of this sort of behaviour (his mother believes that her “refusal to teach him” was the management’s invention). After that incident, staff decided to nurse Joshua in his room, claiming that he was free to leave his room any time (something which he would not do; at his previous unit he refused to come out for several months). They are having someone from the unit in Norfolk (run by the same company that runs the unit where Claire was held in 2014) this week.

The situation is not quite as dire as with Claire, as the increased distance from home (Claire lived in a local unit in Swansea most of the period from 2012 to 2014) is not enormous, but it will mean a sudden change of scenery for Joshua and probably a much more confined existence, as he has been allowed out a lot in the local area with his family since moving to Birmingham (an important parallel with Claire Dyer, who had been allowed out with her family nearly every day and had spent weekends at home after being sectioned in 2013, unheard of for sectioned mental health patients) and he is unlikely to even be allowed outdoors for the first several weeks, as was the case with Claire. And all this over some fairly small incidents which the staff of a children’s psychiatric unit should be able to cope with.

A year ago this week, Thomas Rawnsley was on his death-bed from a heart attack following years of abuse and over-medication in various ‘homes’ and hospital units in Yorkshire. Young people and those with learning disabilities who are in the mental health system are still being sent miles from home, sometimes transferred several times in the space of a few months, still receiving dreadfully poor care and remaining stuck in the system for years because their rights and well-being are not paramount: the right of a person who is not a convicted criminal to a place near one’s family and to the least restrictive form of care possible seems not to be a priority, either for clinicians making decisions about patients’ lives or for the bosses who sell NHS local facilities to property developers. There is simply no excuse in a wealthy country for children to be sent out of large cities, especially a city with the population of a small country, for extended periods for mental health care; we do not do this for any other kind of healthcare other than highly specialised surgery. People have a right to family life under the European Convention on Human Rights; any forced separation from their family that is not necessary is an abuse in itself.

Joshua has his assessment for the unit in Norfolk this week. If they decide he is not suitable for them, other arrangements will be made, which could mean a worse unit even further from home. He and his family have no power to prevent this, because he is being held under section. This aspect of mental health law also needs urgent reform: the right of clinicians (not all of whom have a sound understanding of autism) to make huge decisions about a patient’s life, and for them to have no effective appeal and for the clinician to be unaccountable for the consequences. All of this must change. The rights and well-being of children and learning disabled people must come before the convenience of the staff.

Joshua’s mother asked us to share the page for her campaign; it can be found on Facebook here.

Possibly Related Posts:

Obama to make first presidential visit to American mosque

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 February, 2016 - 07:30

President will visit Baltimore mosque amid frustration from Muslim groups he has waited until his eighth and final year in power

With less than a year left in the White House, Barack Obama is still notching up firsts. On Wednesday he will make his first presidential visit to a mosque on American soil, a moment charged with symbolism but which many Muslims wanted far sooner.

Obama is to tour the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque, where he will meet community leaders and deliver remarks defending religious freedom and celebrating the contribution of Muslim Americans. The White House has described the visit as timely given anti-Islamic rhetoric that has infected this year’s election campaign.

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He Wants To Marry His Wife’s Best Friend?

Muslim Matters - 3 February, 2016 - 05:54

UZ Corner

When I first began writing what would eventually become the novel His Other Wife, it wasn't about marriage or polygamy, or even romantic relationships. It was about emotional and spiritual abuse, and it started off as a single narrative blog inspired by a toxic friendship that I'd recently broken off after having endured it for several years.

Amidst suffering from being slandered and ostracized by Muslims from my childhood community who were infuriated that I wouldn't follow their brand of Islam or give complete allegiance to their favored imam, I was in the company of a woman who couldn't keep quiet about any and every thing that grated her nerves. She prided herself in her straightforwardness and “honesty” in telling people “the truth,” but much of what she said sounded like downright cruelty to me.

Often she'd repeat what someone had said to her in confidence, revealing their identities and personal descriptions. Then she'd sit back with a smug grin on her face and say, “Can you believe it? You'd never guess it by looking at them.” Sometimes these people were her close friends, and other times they were respected imams and public figures who had trusted her with some of the most private details of their lives (She herself was pretty well-known for her inspirational work in helping others though she was not a professional counselor or life coach). Being in the presence of this destructive talk, I knew that I myself would be guilty of sin if I didn't speak up.

So I'd often remind her to avoid mentioning names or personal descriptions if she felt the need to vent. Otherwise, we're backbiting, I'd tell her. But she would roll her eyes and flip her hand dismissively at me. “There's nothing wrong with mentioning names,” she'd say irritably. “Nobody's backbiting.”

Because she was involved in so much charitable work and could talk for hours about the importance of prayer and staying connected to the Qur'an, it was easy to make excuses for her. I sometimes even forgot her faults altogether and just focused on the good. But her harshness and brutal character assassinations eventually became too much for me to bear. My final straw was a culmination of repeated disrespect toward me and my family, as I once shared regarding this experience:

For me, one of the many “light bulb moments” was when a toxic friend found out my daughter's paternal grandmother was an immigrant. She laughed out loud as if it was the biggest “Aha!” moment of her life. She slapped her forehead and was like, “NOW it makes sense.” I was genuinely confused because I had no idea what she was talking about. For a moment, I figured she'd had some sort of epiphany completely unrelated to our conversation. “THAT's why she's so well-behaved and intelligent, maashaAllah,” she said to me. “This whole time I couldn't figure it out.” She grinned, obviously pleased with herself for this remarkable discovery. “She has that 'good blood' in her,” she said. …Meaning, she doesn't have only [my] Black American genes.

Snap Judgments and Sins of the Tongue

In addition to trying to wriggle out of an obviously toxic friendship, I was battling my own personal demons. As I began to honestly face the emotional pain I'd suffered due to enduring slander, public humiliation, and abandonment by Muslims I'd looked up to and trusted from childhood, I found myself making snap judgments of people myself. I'd hear about a situation someone was involved in or a troublesome statement someone had made, and I'd vent to my husband about how I vehemently disagreed with so-and-so. Till today, I'm not sure when venting in private to get advice and perspective crosses into sins of the tongue, but I remain afraid that a lot of my venting won't be counted on my scale of good deeds.

This deeply personal struggle ultimately led me to explore a wider human struggle that I witnessed so many friends and loved ones facing: We know that labeling someone's point of view or life choice as right and wrong is a prerogative that belongs only to Allah. Yet we still talk incessantly about how something is right or wrong according to our own personal convictions. And this was a tendency that I myself battled.

And I didn't like it.

So it was with this honest self-reflection that I began writing a story about men and women suffering the repercussions of others' snap judgments.

His Other Wife novel

Judging By the Cover: More on Snap Judgments

As an author, I'm used to snap judgments. In fact, on a professional level, I've been consistently taught to embrace them. “We're told not to judge a book by its cover,” writing advisors say. “But when it comes to publishing, that's pretty much the only way your book will be judged.” Though it's something I continue to work on, this lesson is one I strive to embrace with each book I release. But I admit, there remain moments that I'm taken aback by just how far these snap judgments go.

When I chose the title His Other Wife for my short story series (and now novel) and based the premise on a man wanting to marry his wife's best friend, I expected some raised eyebrows. I expected some curiosity, and I even expected some heated debates. After all, that's what a story of this nature (real or hypothetical) incites. But what I wasn't prepared for were the attacks on me.

“Why are Muslims so disrespectful?” a friend asked me once. She'd converted to Islam after living years as a Christian entrepreneur and had dissolved her business to cater to the Muslim market. But she kept hitting a dead wall. From public criticism of her clothes when she was at a speaking engagement to Muslims grumbling about paying anything to buy her products or attend her events, she was at her wit's end.

It was something she hadn't experienced professionally prior to accepting Islam. Yes, she'd encountered disrespect, as this was inevitable, but she was unaccustomed to an entire culture of disrespect. Things had gotten so bad that she began questioning whether or not it had been wise to focus on the Muslim market at all. Her business decision was costing her so much (literally) that she found herself wondering if she'd be able to even pay her bills. Meanwhile, the Muslim market remained quite lucrative in the non-Muslim business world.

“What is wrong with us?” she vented.

I had mixed feelings when she asked me this. But I couldn't deny she had a point.

For years, I made no profit in my own business while I dealt with constant criticism of everything from the covers of my book (which many Muslims deemed “inappropriate” or haraam) to the characters and stories themselves (which also were sometimes deemed “inappropriate” or haraam). Then I'd encounter Muslims who liked my books but refused to buy them because “they're too pricey” (though I was often making very little to nothing with each sale, sometimes even taking a loss for the sake of the customer after the high costs of printing, distribution, and marketing).

Yes, there were always those gentle souls who'd insist on supporting my work, no matter what; and they wouldn't even accept a standard discount, wanting to make sure I was compensated greatly for what I did. But these experiences and people were (and remain) very, very rare.

So I settled on telling my friend the truth: “I understand what you mean, and it hurts. I wish things were different. But they're not. So I just try to focus on doing what I can to make my books and events worth whatever they cost.”

He Wants To Marry His Wife's Best Friend?

“What kind of foolishness is this?!” This is often the response I get to the plot of the novel His Other Wife: Jacob and Deanna are a power couple. Aliyah is Deanna's best friend…whom Jacob wants to marry.

Without reading the book themselves, many Muslims declare it's sinful or a waste of time to read novels like this. Or they demand to know why a respectable Muslim author would delve into such an “inappropriate” topic. But by far, the strongest objections are to the concept of polygamy being presented at all.

Ironically, the book isn't about polygamy so much as it is about Muslim men and women struggling with the long term effects of having faced emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse at some point in their lives. And the context of Jacob's interest in his wife's friend brings a lot of uncomfortable and painful realities to light for each character. As is the case in real life, complicated and painful situations often force us to face personal demons that would have otherwise been left festering, and dangerously so.

However, I do find it profound that our tendency to judge fiction books and plots so harshly (often without even reading them) mirrors our tendency to do the same with actual people we encounter in life. We hear one troublesome statement or controversial scenario from their lives, and we immediately pass judgment and assume the worst. Ironically, it is this very tendency that the story sheds light on.

But for those who are sincerely dedicated to continual self-improvement, what better context to examine our judgmental tendencies than in one of the most difficult scenarios to not judge harshly? A man seeking to marry his wife's best friend.

 His Other Wife novel

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy. Her latest novel His Other Wife is now available. Read HIS OTHER WIFE novel now: CLICK HERE.

To learn more about the author, visit or subscribe to her YouTube channel.


A Change of Heart at The NY Times!

Someone else is watching The New York Times’ coverage of Palestine and Israel with a keen eye. Today a spoof edition of the paper, using heavy doses of irony, points up the obvious bias in its news reporting of this critical topic.

Everything is changing at the Times, according to this wonderful parody: The paper met with representatives from both sides of the conflict and issued a mea culpa, saying that they have protected Israel and trashed Palestine, and now that is going to end.

This news appears on a fake website and was handed out in a print edition at venues across New York City this morning, including Grand Central Station, Times Square subway stations and outside corporate offices.

The entire edition is devoted Israel-Palestine, and it reports that as the Times goes, so goes Congress and even presidential candidates. Hilary Clinton is dropping out to run a women’s coop with headquarters in Ramallah, Palestine, among other places. Congress is actually debating the issue of military aid to Israel.

The letters to the editor, editorials and news stories all take up the same theme, and some reports come to us under bylines that carry a familiar ring: Peter Quaker (for Peter Baker, the presumptive new Jerusalem bureau chief), Laila Said (suggestive of Diaa Hadid, a frequent contributor) and Imogen Lerner (rhyming with Isabel Kershner, a longtime Jerusalem bureau staff writer).

Who did it? Democracy Now and others speculate that it was The Yes Men, a group that did a similar Times spoof in 2008. Now it appears that they have been reading the paper closely and noting the infinite variety of ways it shields Israel and betrays its obligation to readers.

Our thanks and congratulations go out to the authors of this insightful hoax. Please give us more!

Barbara Erickson


Filed under: Change of Heart at NY Times Tagged: Change of Heart, Israel, NY Times, Palestine, The Yes Men


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