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MuslimKidsMatter | The Return of the Period

Muslim Matters - 19 June, 2016 - 17:00

Assalamualaikum and Ramadan Mubarak to all the kids and teens!  We hope you are having a great Ramadan so far.  This special Ramadan edition is written by Nura Fahzy from Texas.MKM YELLOW

The Return of the Period

By Nura Fahzy

I'm not ashamed when I say this, because it's real and both genders need to be aware of it.

Ready?

Periods are a literal pain in the gut during Ramadan.

You wanna know why I say that?

Alright, picture this. You're lounging on the sofa with your smartphone, constantly switching through apps and checking every few minutes to see if Maghrib has come in yet. “Just three minutes left,” you tell yourself. When there's one minute left, you keep your eyes focused on the clock, waiting for it to switch from 8:25 to 8:26. Your eyes cross from staring at the number 5 for too long. And then, all in one glorious second, the five switches to six, and the adhan blares off from your phone. You slam your phone down on the sofa and nearly trip over your feet as you stampede towards the table you have prepared with a bowl of dates and a glass of water. After reciting your du'a, you pick up three giant dates at once and stuff them into your mouth, followed by a gulp of water. Your body feels rejuvenated as the cold, refreshing liquid soothes your aching belly. After you've eaten just enough, you head to the bathroom to make wudu for Maghrib. Suddenly, you feel a sharp pain in your belly. It's definitely not a hunger pang, because you've already eaten. An expression of despair begins to overtake your expression as you slowly realize…

Your period has returned.

Immediately, your mind pounds with panicked thoughts.

I'm screwed, I'm screwed. It's Ramadan, and my period is back. It's probably been there for hours. My fast didn't count.

I know. I've experienced it. You've experienced it. We all have.

Except for dudes, of course.

Okay! This is where I come in. Listen up, guys and girls. Just because a girl's period prevents her from fasting in Ramadan, it does not mean she is stronger to perform several tasks for those who are fasting. Why? Because cramps exist, people! Cramps hurt even more than that empty belly of yours! A girl on her period is probably dealing with even more pain than those who are fasting! Girls, have you ever been told to clean the house, cook the food, and take care of the little ones just because you supposedly have more strength? Huh! Seems like it's a universal thing.

Oh, wait. Stop right there! Yes, I'm defending girls on their periods, but that doesn't mean they can lie on their beds eating huge bowls of chocolate ice cream while they whine about their cramps. (Lying down while eating is disliked, anyway.) You can still stay productive during Ramadan even with your cramps! Your period may prevent you from making salah, fasting, and touching the Qur'an, but you can defeat that little monster using the advice I shall provide for you.

  1. The Easiest Thing You Can Do Is Make du'a!!

Ah, yes. Du'a. You know, the beautiful thing about du'a is that you can make it anytime. You don't need to be in a state of wudu, you don't need to sit in a certain position, and, in some cases, you don't even need to speak! No du'a is ever wasted. And another great thing is, you can use du'a to ease your period pains. Oh, but don't just make du'a for yourself! Make du'a for your family and friends, and even those you dislike! When you make du'a for someone without them knowing, the angels will say, “Ameen, and for you as well.” What you give to others, you receive in return! Imagine how many great things can happen to you if you make du'a for more than one person. Just imagine…

  1. Can't Touch the Qur'aan? Put That Electronic Device to Work!

The one great thing I find about modern-day electronic devices which we all know as smartphones, tablets, and iPods, is that you can download a Qur'aan app and read the Qur'aan from there, even if you're on your period! And if you don't want to recite, you can just listen to your favorite surahs by your favorite qaris on shuffle. Don't make up excuses now. If you have a smartphone, use it for Qur'aan. And anyway, if you're at the point in your life where you already have your period, you're too old to make excuses.

  1. Be A Maid

I know what I said before. Period pains can prevent you from doing any housework. But in those days when your period is almost over and the cramps don't hurt as much, you can help out the fasting people in your house! You can clean the house, cook their iftaar and set the table, and entertain the little ones (if you have little ones). You can also play the Qur'aan for the others as they whine about their hunger (even though they're supposed to be reading Qur'aan).

  1. Do Something For Yourself!

Trying to ignore that exercising routine you made in 2011? Aching to put a new painting on your walls? Itching to try out that new cake recipe? Avoiding that book you're writing because you let writer's block overtake you? Well, procrastinate no further! Use these 30 days of blessings to feed your hobbies! It takes about 21 days to develop a habit, so if you train yourself every day to do something you love, you'll never have a minute to waste. I've included this in the list because since you'll be on your period, you'll be able to eat and have a lot more energy and strength to do what you love.

  1. Help Out the Community!

Do you live near a soup kitchen? Perhaps an animal shelter? Why not go and help out your community and earn more ajr by serving those in need? The Prophet (peace be upon him) told the sahabah that a person who feeds a fasting person gets the same reward as the fasting person. Imagine all the ajr you'll get from feeding others while you yourself cannot fast! The more people you feed, the more reward you get. Think about that for a moment. And you can also offer to babysit kids while their mothers pray taraweeh. When kids are left roaming around in the musalla during taraweeh prayer, things can get pretty crazy. Why not earn yourself some ajr by entertaining the young ones and letting the mothers pray in peace?

Aside from the tips I have provided, there are a few more things I need to say. Mostly to YOU, dudes!

Guys, I know you have no idea what it's like to have a period, but that doesn't mean you can bash your female relatives for doing nothing during their shark weeks. Don't tell her to do anything if her period has just started because that is where the pain is worst. Here's a note to keep to yourselves: NEVER get a girl on her period angry! Give her a few days, and then see if she is comfortable completing tasks for you. Don't think that just because she is able to eat, that she is stronger to do things that you can't do. The body needs food during this time.

Oh, and girls, one more thing to note. Don't treat your period as a hindrance during Ramadan. I know it's annoying how you have to make up your fasts after Ramadan is over, but periods are natural and you should expect them to pop up during this month. Besides, if they never came throughout the whole month, I'd start worrying, wouldn't you?

JazakumAllahu Khayran, dudes and dudettes, for taking the time to read this article! Girls, start working on your Ramadan productive schedule, alright? And dudes, please be respectful of girls on their shark weeks.

And that's all I have to say! May we all have a productive Ramadan this year, ameen!
Nura F. is a young Muslimah with a strong passion for writing. She is currently working to join the writing industry for Islamic literature. When she is not writing, Nura spends her time drawing, baking, blogging, and reading. She really enjoys editing her friends' pieces of writing as well. Nura currently resides in northern Texas.

Who is Being Excluded in Our Muslim Communities?

altmuslim - 18 June, 2016 - 22:14
This is Day 13 of the #30Days30Writers 2016 Ramadan series. By Charles M. Turner Every Ramadan, I open my Quran and begin the month-long task of reading it to completion. It feels routine at first, something I’ve come to expect. Yet, when I open to those first few pages, I’m struck with a sense of [Read More...]

Iftar at Kirribilli House: this is the Australia I'm proud to call home

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 June, 2016 - 06:25

The absence of such an event at the prime minister’s residence in the past said a lot about the implicit sentiment. Turnbull should be lauded for changing that

Hosting an Iftar at the prime minister’s residence can seem a very simply, purely symbolic gesture. Iftar (meaning “breaking fast”) is the first meal at the end of a day of fasting for Muslims observing Ramadan.

Related: Malcolm Turnbull uses Iftar dinner to warn against division after Orlando massacre

Related: Malcolm Turnbull regrets inviting homophobic sheikh to Iftar dinner

Continue reading...

Reporting From the Texas Democratic Convention

Muslim Matters - 17 June, 2016 - 22:21

TDC LogoI'm in San Antonio, Texas, for the Texas Democratic Convention which will last from Thursday evening through Saturday afternoon. I'm attending as a delegate for Hillary Clinton. I will be blogging about my experiences at the convention over the next few days.

I support Hillary for three reasons. Her candidacy brings the possibility that the United States will finally have a woman as president. She is more electable than Bernie Sanders.  And above all, I feel compelled to do whatever I can to keep Donald Trump away from the oval office.

Yesterday evening I gave a group of teenage girls a short talk about activism. When Trump's so-called Muslim ban came up, I asked the girls which of them had relatives overseas. About half of them raised their hands. The tragedy of Trumpism is that something as benign as a grandmother's visit could fall prey to the illogical demagoguery of Trump and his minions' blind support.

I became politically aware toward the end of Nixon's presidency, so cynicism colored my view. For these girls, politics is personal; they face the serious suggestion that they and their families have less value than non-Muslims.

Trump and other “outsiders,” including my state senator, former presidential candidate Ted Cruz, talk about rejecting political correctness and jettisoning “politics as usual.”

What some call politics as usual is actually democracy as usual. Our press gets to cover what goes on in our country, including presidential elections. Our laws prohibit religious discrimination. Political parties get to choose their nominees and their platform, and that is why I'm going to San Antonio. This year, being part of the democratic process is my stand against Trump and every fascist and bigoted and untrue thing he says. This year's presidential election is a fight for survival.

It takes a thick skin to walk out your door wearing a hijab or kufi in today's social climate. When I started blogging for the Houston Chronicle I was treated almost daily to comments that expressed hatred of my religion, my opinions, and even my face (a reader once said I should wear a niqab because I looked like a dog). I permitted many of the ugly comments; once in a while I threw a hissy fit but I tried to persevere because I was serving a mission: to share the experiences of an American Muslim in the hope that readers would become more familiar with Islam. I hoped to provide the one opportunity known to combat anti-Muslim bigotry: getting to know a Muslim.

It takes courage to stand for your beliefs. Trump is a coward who by his statements and actions, now and in the past, appears to be motivated only by relentless self-interest. In the end those who are guided by a belief in something greater than themselves, who are humble and compassionate, will win.

That is the kind of people I expect to meet at the convention. Stay tuned.

Finding My Ramadan High in Togetherness

altmuslim - 17 June, 2016 - 21:20
This is day 12 of the #30Days30Writers 2016 Ramadan series. By Edina Lekovic For me, Ramadan is a deep spiritual spring cleaning for the soul. Like many Muslims, I set goals each year even, as I dread its arrival and the disruption it causes. The lost sleep, the hunger pangs, the crankiness — challenges inside [Read More...]

Robert Kinder Farris Charged With Hate Crime After Threatening Seattle Mosque

Loon Watch - 17 June, 2016 - 19:15

Idris_Mosque_Hate_Crime

By Caitlin Moran, via. The Seattle Times

The King County prosecutor has filed a hate-crime charge against Robert Kinder Farris, the Seattle man accused of threatening the Idris Mosque near Northgate earlier this week.

Farris, 37, was charged with one count of malicious harassment, Washington state’s hate-crime statute, and will be arraigned June 30. The felony is punishable by up to five years in prison.

He was arrested Tuesday afternoon at his Greenwood apartment after a brief standoff with police and remains in jail on $2 million bail.

According to charging documents, Farris began posting threatening comments about Muslims on his Facebook account Sunday and continued doing so until his arrest. One of his posts included a photo of the Idris Mosque in North Seattle from Google Street View with the comment, “Idriss [sic] Mosque in Seattle, too many targets to count.” He also vowed to “take revenge” against Muslims, an apparent reference to the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday.

Continue reading…

Istanbul authorities ban transgender and gay pride marches

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 June, 2016 - 15:16

Parades banned after ultra-nationalist youth group Alperen Hearths calls them immoral and threatens violence

Authorities in Istanbul have banned transgender and gay pride marches this month, citing security concerns after ultra-nationalists warned they would not allow the events to take place on Turkish soil.

A march in support of transgender people was planned for Sunday in the city centre, while an annual gay pride parade – described previously as the biggest in the Muslim world – had been due to take place a week later on 26 June.

Continue reading...

Baba, The Quran and Me

Muslim Matters - 17 June, 2016 - 11:00

Drama Mama
“When we were young, every Ramadan, we had to complete one recitation of the Qur'an because my dad made us. There was no question of not completing it. It's just what we did.”

Sitting together with my friend and our toddlers in a Mommy & Me art class, the words were barely out of my mouth before regret kicked in. I saw the surprised and disapproving frown forming on my friend's face. Forcing the Qur'an on a child? How politically incorrect. How backward. How unenlightened. One simply did not say these things in polite, modern, company. I could practically see her censuring thoughts and I felt dismay at my inability to explain myself. Thankfully, the conversation took a turn elsewhere, both of us wise enough not to go too deep into a potentially tricky topic.

Later that evening, after my kids were asleep and the blessed cover of the night slowly drifted over the city, I lay in the quiet, thinking. Remembering. And laughing over the realization that if I were to ever retell this story, I would probably begin the exact same, inappropriate way:

When we were young, every Ramadan, we had to complete one recitation the Qur'an because my dad made us. There was no question of not completing it. It's just what we did.

I think I must've been seven or eight when I first gained an understanding of this family tradition. My Baba, during the course of some of the most precious conversations of my life time, would often tell us, my brother, sister and I, stories from his childhood. What his life and his days spent with his eight brothers and sisters used to look like.

The Ramadan stories were particularly powerful to hear because he would speak of things that seemed so foreign, so unfamiliar – like abject poverty, splitting one bowl of food for Iftar amongst a family of eleven – that it was almost dream like.

The story we marveled over most was the amount of Qur'an that, as kids, he and his siblings read each Ramadan. “We would each try to be the one who finished it the most number of times. I usually reached four and gave up. One of my sisters did it seven times each year. No one could ever beat her.”, he would chuckle as he remembered. “But how did you guys find the time, Baba?!” we would gasp. And he would look equally amazed. “It was Ramadan. Once work is done, what else is there to do except read the Qur'an every single possible minute?” His genuine shock, that one could possibly, crazily, choose to spend their time in unessential worldly matters and how utterly unfathomable that was to him, seeped into our young, impressionable minds. We would pester him again and again for more nuances to this story and he would oblige. “Do you know every letter you recite during Ramadan has 70 times the regular reward? That means every letter, like saying Alif, gets you seven HUNDRED good deeds? Just do the math for reading the whole Qur'an! Go on! Now do the math for your aunt who reads it seven times!” Our minds properly boggled, we would be wide eyed trying to figure out the answer to this cosmic equation from the mathematics of the Divine.

And eventually, our amazement and interest in this particular competition led to the formation of our own internal, little family game. The rules were simple: The target was Eid, and, more specifically, Eidee, the cash gift that we received from Baba on Eid morning. Whoever finished one, just one, complete recitation of the Qur'an before the official declaration of Eid, would have their Eidee doubled.

When we first heard this wager, I think we each of us practically clapped in glee. Oooh, twice the amount of money! A parent-sanctioned chance to openly beat the siblings and earn bragging rights, and that too, not just in some vague, metaphorical way, but in actual, crisp, crackling, Saudi riyal note earnings! Oh Daddy, this game was on!!

And our glee was because, you see, the very first year, we operated from a place of total ignorance. We'd never actually attempted what was being asked and so we figured “Eh, how hard could it be? Those old aunts and uncles of ours, if they could do it up to seven times, what was ONE time? This should be a cakewalk.”

Well it wasn't. It wasn't the first year. And it still isn't 25 years later.

There have been years of starting and staying strong. Of planning from beforehand. Of thinking, okay, roughly 30 days, 30 juz. If I read a little more than one a day, I am on track. And in that same pattern, of sailing easily and comfortably to the finish line. Of standing, grinning on Eid morning, keeping my palm extended as first one 50 riyal note was laid on it and then, nodding proudly, yes I did complete my recitation, getting another 50. Of exulting over my father's proudly beaming face.

There have been years, in late tweens/early teens of total mismanagement. Of letting life take over a little too much and then realizing, aghast, that only five fasts were left and I still had eighteen juz to go. Of racing, helter skelter, through more than six juz on the very last day, squeaking past the finish line just minutes before what would be the last Maghrib prayer of Ramadan. Of encountering a slightly raised, fatherly eyebrow, “So you really did finish?” and of meekly nodding yes, deliberately neglecting to mention the particular speeds of recitation.

Later, once womanhood kicked in, there were years of getting unexpectedly overly long periods and that throwing my entire calculation off. Of feeling gnawing desperation around Day 21, 22. How will I complete it now? Of not giving up. Of, after ghusl, staying up all night and then continuing to stay awake after Fajr to complete the required reading, but now, with the sense of adulthood inside me, only reading in the most measured, dignified manner possible.

There were years when, long after the double-Eidee wager had faded away with other remnants of childhood, with all the impetuous, rebellion of youth, of spending my days in smoke-filled rooms, strategizing with socialist/activists, and my evenings protesting against the Iraq war on the frozen streets of Toronto. Of not praying at all, of not so much as glancing towards the dusty shelf where my Qur'an sat the entire year. But then, out of sheer habit, on the first of Ramadan, shamefaced from all the spiritual neglect of the past eleven months, taking it down, cleaning it and then getting to it. Of feeling, verse by verse, page by page, chapter by beautiful chapter, cleansed. Redeemed. Able to start over.

There was the first year of my marriage. When my brand new husband, sat back, astonished at this surprising wife of his. This wife who never even put her shoes in the right place when she got back home from somewhere. Whose phone was always misplaced. Whose closet always a disaster. “I never knew you could be so disciplined.”, he marveled as he witnessed my steady progression over the course of the month, the pages on the right of the bookmark growing and the pages on the left lessening.

There were subsequent years in which he figured if I could do it, he could too. Of motivating each other. Of gently teasing whoever was behind. Of eventually acknowledging, that his long office hours and unrelenting corporate job would get the best of him. Of consoling ,“Don't worry. I read it for both of us. Niyyah is what counts. You got it.”, and of vowing, “I'm going to do it next time for sure!”.

There was the year of expecting my firstborn – a boy who would later go on to have developmental delays and additional needs – when Ramadan was in the month just before his birth. Of, that year, with all the nervous excitement and joyful anticipation of a first time mother-to-be, completing the Qur'an three times. Of growing bigger and more uncomfortable, curling up on the couch and slowly working my way through the Book again and again, and one more time, to give myself a sense of purpose and calm. A steadying feeling that I was being a responsible mother and giving my very first baby his very first gift as a Muslim child.

And there have many, many more years. Of anxiety. Of scary financial strain. Of a turbulent marriage. A difficult son. Of sickness. Of fear. And of deep, deep grief.

In all of those years, those months and weeks of uncertainty, Ramadan and the accompanying habit of completing the Qur'an has stood like an immovable beacon.

In the early years, the prospect of either receiving doubled earnings on Eid or facing the disappointed expression on my father's face was the motivation. In the middling years, it was force of habit, a yearly ritual that I neither questioned nor pondered very much over. Completing the Qur'an was just another part of Ramadan for me, similar to fasting. I had to fast and so I had to finish the Qur'an. And in recent years, with the onset of maturity, the wisdom that has come in my thirties, the settling into the very bones of my life and my self, this yearly practice has become an identity and a gift. An eagerly anticipated reconnection. To Allah. To the Qur'an. To my childhood. To my father. To my self.

Ramadan1

The motivations behind this practice have shape shifted and blurred over the years. They have entered questionable realms and they have exited. They have wavered repeatedly, stretched unbelievably and sometimes disappeared completely. But, now, today and insha'Allah forever after, they are strong, solid and singular in focus. And so perhaps, a better way to start this story would have been:

Every year, in Ramadan, I have to complete the recitation of the Qur'an because this is who I am. There is no question of not completing it. It's just what I do.

I know, in writing this, that there will be dissenters. There will be those who strongly disagree with this idea – those who will be disgusted by the linking of monetary motivation to the Holy Qur'an. Those who will insist everyone should give weightage to spending more time understanding the Qur'an rather than rote reciting it. Those who will find my descriptions of “racing” through the Qur'an in my earlier years the exact raison d'etre for not setting unrealistic targets.

Perhaps, they are each right in their own way. But they, their reasons, their motivations, their goals are not right for me.

I cannot explain to them how I feel about my father and how the prospect of attaining his pleasure can compel me to move mountains. I cannot explain how this practice he has instilled in me has been my spiritual lifeline. I cannot explain to them the deep, intrinsic pleasure of reading that Book from cover to cover in a fixed time frame and that too, during the most blessed days of the year. I cannot explain because I am always far too busy trying to make sense of my own story.

See, I feel, to thrive in this Life, we each have to do what we can to try and make sense of the lot we've given. To try and comprehend our messy, marvelous stories and see them for the treasure they are.

When I look at my life, when I take the long view, I see two, exactly opposite, completely diametrical truths. I see that I have had, through the Will of Allah, so much turbulence. Such storms. Such darkness. And I also see that my father in the form of this and other traditions, gave me such stability, so many anchors. So many lifebuoys. In all the years of my life, when I was flailing and thrashing about in the uncertain seas of physically painful, fibromyalgia-filled school days, a rebellious university life, a tumultuous early marriage, a special needs child, difficult subsequent pregnancies, financial strain and unemployment, sickness, grief, this tradition was an always present marker on my horizon. A rope to grab on to every single year no matter how stormy and darkened the rest of the eleven months were. A steady, brightly shining lighthouse that by virtue of always being there, always brought me back to my center.

As another Ramadan approaches, I think of the ghosts of Ramadan past. The years flitter in my mind like a fast paced slide show and I see my recitation efforts stacked up on each other. Year after year after year of trying. Of working towards a challenging but clearly identified goal. Of honing my discipline and time management skills. Of experiencing the fear of failure and the dedication required in overcoming that fear. Of experiencing the high of personal achievement and the two-folded spiritual satisfaction of reconnecting to this glorious book of Allah and, in the process, beating down my inner demons of laziness and indiscipline, those lesser parts of me who, every year would rather give up but don't.

Sometimes, when I am feeling particularly lost as I look at my son, this boy who refuses to comply, whose anxiety levels are always so high, who doesn't speak like other kids his age, I clutch to my heart the memory of those hours and hours my pregnant self spent with the Qur'an, those three complete recitations he heard while he moved inside me.

Sometimes, when things seem excruciatingly lonely, I think of my ancestors and my aunts and uncles and my cousins. All those children of all those siblings of my father. I think of the dozens and dozens of my family members, all of whom carry on this tradition proudly today. Each and every one of the kids and adults in my dad's side of the family (and there are many!) completes the Qur'an every Ramadan. Because that is who they are. That is who we are. If they can do it, I can do it. I am reminded that I not alone. I am held aloft by a strong family, good values and faith-full traditions.

Sometimes, when life seems particularly overwhelming, too much work, not enough time, I think of all those years in which I took stock of the situation, ”Okay ten days left, 16 juz to go. How can I manage this?” and then slowly and diligently accomplished what initially felt to be an insurmountable task. I hold daily to my soul the knowledge that I am resilient. That I can overcome. That I have. That I will.

And sometimes, when my now sick and aging father is asleep, his gray hair glistening softly in the shadows, I lean down and press my cheek to his. I put my lips to his ear. And I whisper things. I whisper how the kids made me laugh today and cry simultaneously. I whisper that Ramadan is coming and he better get my double-Eidee ready. I whisper my love and my prayers and my hopes. I whisper how afraid I am of the future. How much I already miss him. But most of all, I whisper my gratitude. Gratitude for gifting me so freely all the things, all the lessons, all the beliefs, all the forces of habit and inspiring stories and abiding, enriching traditions that have blessed my life. For giving me an identity and an anchor. For always being my lighthouse when he was able, and whenever the time came that he wasn't, to make sure to leave my life with enough Light to see me through.

Rabbir humhuma kama rabbayaani sagheera
Rabbir humhuma kama rabbayaani sagheera
Rabbir humhuma kama rabbayaani sagheera

 – – –

Hiba Masood is a writer, storyteller and speaker. You can find more of her and her work daily on the Facebook page www.facebook.com/etdramamama

Malcolm Turnbull regrets inviting homophobic sheikh to Iftar dinner

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 June, 2016 - 03:10

Prime minister condemns views of Islamic leader Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, who has on YouTube blamed homosexuality for ‘spreading diseases’

Malcolm Turnbull has said he condemns the views of, and regrets inviting to his Iftar dinner, a sheikh who has delivered homophobic sermons claiming gay people spread disease.

On Thursday, Turnbull warned against the community being divided by acts of terrorism at an Iftar dinner to break the Ramadan fast at Kirribilli House. It was the first such dinner hosted by a prime minister.

Related: Malcolm Turnbull uses Iftar dinner to warn against division after Orlando massacre

Related: I've studied radicalization – and Islamophobia often plants the seed | Sarah Lyons-Padilla

Continue reading...

An Open Letter to the Muslim Community in Light of the Orlando Shooting

Muslim Matters - 16 June, 2016 - 16:30

Dear Leaders, Activists, and Community Members,

Assalamu `alaykum,

The Orlando massacre has thrust the Muslim community once again into the national spotlight and this time the American people demand to know what Islam has to say about homosexuality and the “LGBT liberation” movement. We need to be open, unambiguous, and principled in answering these questions now, speaking with a Prophetic voice in times of great confusion.

Let me start by reiterating what many Muslims have been saying. I sympathize with those who have lost loved ones in this killing spree. Furthermore, gunning down people, whether they are at a school, a church, or a gay club, is a grave crime as far as Islam is concerned. I understand that some Americans will never believe such assurances, but there is little that we could say to convince such naysayers. After all, if the veritable freight train of cultural capital known as Muhammad Ali could not, in life or in death, convince the American public that Islam is not a murderous ideology of hate, what hope do the rest of us have?

Spurred by this shooting and the Muslim community's subsequent condemnations, the public has been asking, Does Islam support LGBT rights? This has put tremendous pressure on imams and community leaders to respond in a way that is true to Islamic teachings but is also sympathetic to the recent tragedy and, even more importantly, is conversant with the wider cultural discourse on the LGBT identity and lifestyle.

Given the circumstances, the question itself is unfair. The implicit binary is that either Muslims are fully in support of the LGBT movement or they are no different from Omar Mateen, i.e., bloodthirsty bigots on the verge of gunning down the nearest gay bar. But there is a third option.

A Question of Affirmation

In my past writing on this topic, I have been clear that bullying, assaulting, or indiscriminately killing people merely because they self-identify as or are presumed to be gay is something Muslims around the world should oppose according to their religious principles and traditions. For example, if a Muslim were to come upon a person being attacked in the street for “being gay,” it would be that Muslim's Islamic duty to intervene and help the victim.

That being said, I maintain that Muslims cannot uncritically and unconditionally endorse the LGBT rights movement without simultaneously violating basic principles of Islam.

27403401140_8d052ff471_zIt would be easy to portray this lack of endorsement as “homophobia” or a callous indifference to people for who they are. But let me emphatically dispel such a simplistic and reductive portrayal. In actuality, I do care about those who consider themselves gay, lesbian, or transgender, whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims. In fact, I deeply care and I believe other Muslims should care as well.

But that care does not translate into support for much of what the LGBT rights movement stands for. As Muslims, we do not have grounds to believe that the assumptions and goals of that movement benefit in the short or long term those individuals who self-identify as LGBT. Rather, this movement and the lifestyle it assumes and enables is harmful to the very people it purports to liberate — harmful in the physical and metaphysical senses. So, how could I or any other Muslim lend support?

Along these same lines, if “standing with the LGBT community” means supporting the LGBT movement  in all its implications and demands and, hence, enabling those identifications and those lifestyle choices that I, as a Muslim, believe to be incorrect, immoral, and, ultimately, harmful, then clearly I do not and cannot take such a stand. But again, that does not mean that I do not care for the well-being, happiness, and success of my fellow human beings. In fact, from my perspective, I care a great deal more than others who are eager to enable and normalize what I and my religion maintain are self-destructive behaviors.

Of course, others will vehemently disagree on the destructiveness of same-sex sexual behavior, but that is beside the point. Truth be told, all religions and life philosophies commit their adherents to a certain moral outlook when it comes to sex. Even secular humanism has its do's and don'ts when it comes to people's sex lives. (Simply consider the severe taboos and laws against incest, pedophilia, and so forth. Or consider the inherent normativity implicit in modern psychiatry's extensive categorization of sexual “dysfunctions” and “paraphilias.”) Be that as it may, in present day America, one specific, idiosyncratic kind of sexual morality is the dominant view, a view that is increasingly being established in federal and state law. It just so happens that that view conflicts with Islamic sexual morality on the question of same-sex intimacy.

Sure, we can have a conversation about which of these systems is the right one, which is more compelling, more just, etc. I am more than willing to discuss that (and have written to this effect elsewhere). But, at the end of the day, Muslims' most deeply held beliefs on this issue do not allow them in good conscience to support, let alone “celebrate,” the LGBT movement.

A Question of Reconciliation

Now, the question is, Do Muslims have a right to their beliefs, or will they be bullied and silenced into a position that is fundamentally opposed to their deepest ethical and theological commitments?

The claim that secular democracy makes is that it can accommodate a diversity of beliefs, even conflicting beliefs. And if liberal secular democracy is truly tolerant of a diversity of beliefs, then my religious beliefs ought to be meaningfully allowed and protected. If liberal secular democracy is what it claims to be, especially regarding its treatment of religious plurality, then it ought not to force Muslims (or other religious groups) to accept something that is so contrary to their faith.

Yet, how can liberal secularism claim to tolerate religious belief if it requires certain groups essentially to abandon their faith? If tomorrow laws are passed that, for example, require Muslim institutions not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, require Muslim leaders to refrain from calling same-sex behavior a sin, require Muslim communities to abide by homonormative speech guidelines, require Muslim businesses to serve same-sex weddings, require Islamic schools and mosques not to discriminate on the basis of professed sexual ethical commitments in their hiring practices, etc., etc., then how can this be called tolerance when all of these things would, from our perspective, destroy the moral fabric of our communities and radically undermine our faith and autonomy?

The point is that the issue of reconciling “freedom of faith” and “gay rights” is not a problem for Muslims to solve. This is a problem for liberal secularism to solve since it is the one that claims to be able to reconcile diverse communities and divergent belief systems under one legal system and one government. If liberal secular states, like the U.S., force Muslims to accept something antithetical to their religion, then this proves that the liberal secular vision of universal tolerance, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, etc., are a mirage and that such states are not unlike any other authoritarian or theocratic regime that imposes beliefs on its populace by force of law.

A Question of Reciprocation

What is often brought up in these discussions is the fact that numerous LGBT groups and individuals have bravely stood with Muslims in advocating for Muslim rights, whether protesting Guantanamo Bay, or pushing back against anti-Muslim bigots who want to shut down mosques, or opposing aggressive U.S. foreign policy that has resulted in wars, occupation, and the loss of millions of innocent lives across numerous Muslim countries. If LGBT activists are willing to stand for Muslim rights, then shouldn't Muslims return the favor and stand for LGBT rights? Isn't it hypocritical for American Muslims to demand rights for themselves but withhold support when it comes to the rights of gays, lesbians, and transgendered people? The question is, How can Muslims insist on fair treatment in the Western context while also opposing, or at least not actively endorsing, the LGBT movement?

This question requires an in-depth response that I have provided elsewhere. Suffice it to say, however, that the same liberal dilemma applies. Why are Muslims required to compromise central parts of their faith – by accepting and normalizing same-sex intimacy, something they consider impermissible according to their faith – in order to secure their basic religious rights in the West, religious rights which one would think are guaranteed by the US Constitution in the first place? Why are Muslims placed in this lose-lose situation? Is this something unique to Muslims or are other groups challenged with analogous requirements? Is this conundrum inescapable in liberal secular societies?

A Question of Imposition

Another misconception that I would like to address is the contentious issue of Muslim democratic participation on the basis of Islamic ethics. Can I as a Muslim living in a Western democracy support public policy positions on the basis of my religious values? For example, if, prior to the Supreme Court decision, the question of gay marriage was on the ballot, should I take my religious beliefs into account in voting against it? Or would this be nothing more than illegitimately “imposing my beliefs upon others”?

Recently, a large number of American Muslim community leaders signed a joint statement condemning the Orlando shooting and also testifying to the “cherished political right” of “individuals [who] are at liberty to pursue happiness as each sees fit,” and that Muslims have no right to “impose” their views on non-Muslims since, as we read in the Qur'an, “There is (absolutely) no compulsion in religion.” The joint statement leaves it open to interpretation whether this “freedom from imposition” applies equally to Muslim societies overseas, the majority of which have laws against homosexuality that reflect Islamic notions of sexual morality. Also ambiguous is whether those “individuals who are at liberty to pursue happiness” in loud and proud same-sex relationships will be welcome, right here in the United States, to teach at the Islamic colleges, schools, and institutes of the signatories or to lead prayers at their mosques. Given that the entire thrust of the statement is to express condolences for the death of LGBT community members and to emphasize the importance of “inclusivity, tolerance, and respect for all,” it would not be a stretch to assume that many will interpret the statement in a “pro-LGBT” light as typically understood in contemporary American society (including full endorsement of the moral neutrality of same-sex behavior).

pulse2The fact that the statement, in places, uses the very language of the LGBT rights movement only adds to that impression. It is LGBT activists, after all, who claim that all they really want is “equality before the law” and “the liberty to pursue happiness as they see fit.” If the signatories did not intend the statement to be interpreted thus, I am afraid they have inadvertently opened the doors to accusations of hypocrisy from LGBT activists, who could easily and very publicly cite the statement in putting pressure on their Islamic schools, businesses, mosques, and other organizations in demanding space, resources, and institutional support for their movement. It is not clear that most American Muslim institutions could hold up against such pressure. Potential confusion could have been avoided entirely had the statement stuck to condolences and condemnation of wanton murder and not wandered into an acknowledgement of the irrational liberal secular paranoia regarding the “religious imposition of belief on the non-believing masses.” Well, how ought one address this paranoia?

In a liberal secular democracy, the theory is that citizens are expected to participate according to their values and beliefs. All citizens are expected to want to “impose” their political views – i.e., to see them implemented by force of law – whether those citizens are Democrats, Republicans, Trump supporters, libertarians, socialists, vegans, etc. They can register their views through the electoral process and other democratic avenues.

Now, if this theory is truly coherent, then by definition everyone is striving to make such “impositions” upon everyone else. And those “impositions” are based on one's most cherished personal values and beliefs, whether they be formally religious or not. Some people have deep moralistic beliefs about firearms and will participate in the democratic process on that basis. Others have deep moralistic beliefs about the environment, about poverty, about corporate greed, etc., and will vote, lobby, speak, and organize accordingly. This is just what democratic participation amounts to.

Yet, all of these views are no less “moralistic,” or “deeply held,” or “personal” than any particular religious value. (In fact, some people are downright religious when it comes to their views on certain social issues.) Thus, it follows that if I believe certain sexual practices to be immoral, I have a prerogative to publicly denounce them and to politically participate in democracy on the basis of my beliefs; that is simply what political participation means. And if I am not allowed to participate politically on the basis of my moral values in this way, then in what sense can it be said that I am meaningfully participating in democracy, as a citizen, at all?

A Question of Discrimination

As it turns out, American Muslims have long been living in a society that does not share many Islamic sexual values, whether it comes to the licitness of premarital sex, adultery, casual sex, “hooking up,” and any number of other practices. Presumably, if there ever were a referendum or policy initiative against these practices, Muslims would have to vote according to their conscience. But the question of homosexuality, in comparison to these other practices, is very different politically and legally. For example, there is no question that an Islamic college or Catholic university would be within its legally-defined prerogative to deny, say, a professorship to a person who openly and unabashedly promoted adultery, or anything else that conflicted with that institution's code of ethics. But when it comes to the promotion of another sexual behavior – namely, same-sex sexuality – then to deny a professorship could be seen as discrimination. But why?

Sure, according to the dominant sexual mores, one's sexual orientation is conceived as constituting a person's essential identity and, as such, it would be immoral and even illegal to discriminate on the basis of that identity. But Muslims and other religious groups do not necessarily share these beliefs. From an Islamic perspective, it could be conceded that something like sexual orientation exists and is immutable – i.e., that some people simply are attracted to the same or opposite sex. Yet conceding this does not compel one to maintain that this sexual orientation should be regarded as the core of people's identity, i.e., defining who they are, who they see themselves as, and how others are required to treat them. There are, for example, Muslims and Christians who experience same-sex attraction, but they do not self-identify as “gay Muslims” or “gay Christians” – they simply consider themselves as Muslims and Christians who happen to have certain kinds of sexual desires.

To understand the significance of this, consider the following. Recent scientific research claims that people's inclinations or disinclinations to commit infidelity are biologically hardwired. Given this, we could say that the tendency to be unfaithful constitutes a portion of people's inherent, immutable sexual orientation. Based on this, would there be a need to categorize people into identity groups or communities based on that? For example, would those with a greater pull to cheat self-identify as “extrasexuals” with everyone else identifying as “intrasexuals”? Would there be “extrasexual pride parades” and an “extrasexual rights movement” that would demand that Islamic and Catholic schools make space for “alternative (read, 'adulterous') lifestyles” and give voice to loud and proud cheaters? Would refusal by these institutions then be stigmatized as “extraphobia”?

We can duplicate this maneuver for any given sexual behavior or inclination and thereby dictate to and control religious institutions accordingly, all on the basis of “anti-discrimination.” In fact, in recent times, groups like the Virtuous Pedophiles have argued along these exact lines, which goes to show how contingent and subjective the appeals to recognize and accommodate LGBT identities really are.

A Question of Compassion

Finally, the notion of “hate the sin, not the sinner” is important to note. There are a lot of Muslims today around the world who struggle with same-sex desires and inclinations. They do not want to have these desires but they are there and they are struggling to abide by Islamic moral norms and refrain from prohibited sexual behavior. We need to support these brothers and sisters, not by encouraging them to cave in to their desires, but to provide a shoulder to lean on and an ear to hear their concerns, to support them in their resistance to engaging in forbidden behaviors without shaming them. This is the same support that should be provided to other Muslims struggling with opposite sex attraction who feel strong desires for premarital or extramarital sex. After all, from the Islamic perspective, sexual desires (shahawat) are treated equally, whether those desires are fixated on the same or the opposite sex.

Furthermore, mosques should always be open to these community members and faith-based counseling should be facilitated to help them manage their desires and find ethical solutions for them. Yes, I understand that such a suggestion is considered highly offensive and taboo to the dominant discourse, which considers it oppressive to discourage a person from acting out according to their sexual orientation and identity. But, again, Muslims do not share these particular assumptions.

I understand that those who consider themselves part of the LGBT community (and its allies) will adamantly disagree with and take offense at much of what I have expressed here. Ultimately, my aim was to address the most common questions and challenges that are posed to Muslims in light of the LGBT movement so that we can be prepared to provide reasonable, compelling answers that are fully concordant with Islamic principles. Even if these arguments are not convincing to others, my hope is that at least we can avoid the accusation that Muslims' public positions on the LGBT movement are backwards, irrational, inconsistent, repressive, and unmerciful.

WaAllahu ta`ala a`lam.

Image Credit: The All-Nite Images

Malcolm Turnbull uses Iftar dinner to warn against division after Orlando massacre

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 June, 2016 - 09:30

Prime minister says hatred ‘must not prevail’ while praising contribution of Muslim community to Australia

Malcolm Turnbull has warned against the community being divided by acts of terrorism such as the Orlando massacre and “extremist, nihilistic interpretations of religion”.

Speaking at an Iftar dinner to break the Ramadan fast at Kirribilli House in Sydney, Turnbull praised the contribution of the Muslim community to Australia.

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Clinton slams Trump’s response to Orlando attack: ‘He wouldn’t have saved anyone’ – video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 June, 2016 - 02:35

The Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, calls for more controls on the sale of guns in the US as she criticises Donald Trump for his response to the terrorist attack which took place in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday. Telling the gathered audience that ‘not one of Donald Trump’s reckless ideas would have saved a single life in Orlando’, Clinton points to his plans for a ban on Muslims entering the country as ‘more evidence that he’s temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be commander-in-chief’

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Divesting from fossil fuel: open letter from religious leaders in full

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 June, 2016 - 21:22

Letter seeks to draw attention to ‘the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef ... principally due to global warming’

To those in public office or aspiring to it:

As leaders in a range of faith traditions, we draw attention to the wake-up call which the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef provides.

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