Review: The Left Behind

Indigo Jo Blogs - 23 July, 2019 - 22:20
Gethin, a young white man, sits on a sofa in a living room and a young woman sits on the arm looking at a mobile phone in his hand.Gethin shows his sister a video about a new housing development, in their old home before eviction

The Left Behind is an hour-long BBC Three drama in which a young man who is facing homelessness as a result of his family’s eviction and gets very rapidly groomed into racist violence, leading to a fatal attack on a halal butcher’s shop. The BBC’s blurb describes it as a “factual drama” and “a steel-tipped state of the nation drama based on deep research into the realities of life in ‘forgotten Britain’”; however, the drama, set in Cardiff, is fiction. There is an interview with the writer and director of the drama on the BBC’s website, in which they draw the connection between being stuck in the “gig economy” without secure housing and becoming involved in the Far Right. There is, however, a lot they left out about this process.

The central character is Gethin, who seems to be sleeping in his sister’s shed and using her bathroom, but they are being evicted as the landlord wants to put up the rent and are forced to move into a “family hostel”, which means they cannot take Gethin. Gethin is working in a halal fried chicken restaurant and has a Muslim female friend (who he may or may not imagine might become his girlfriend), but the council tell him they cannot house him as he is a single man with no dependents; they also tell his sister that they cannot house her family with him and that they should not consider him part of their family. There is a development being proposed in his area, but this turns out to be a private housing development at market rates where 30% is to be set aside for ‘affordable’ housing, which is clearly well beyond the means of most local people. At a meeting to discuss that development, a councillor pleads that she understands everyone’s predicament, which makes everyone more angry; as it progresses, people start to blame ‘others’, particularly Muslims, for the fact that they cannot get housed.

Gethin, a young white man wearing a black jacket and trousers and a red T-shirt sits on a red sofa in the street with a young South Asian woman who is wearing jeans and a yellow jacket. There is a concrete wall behind them, and a new red-brick house behind that.Gethin and his Asian friend, as her family move in

Gethin has a group of friends, two white men and one black woman (later revealed also to be gay; she accuses the Muslims of hating women and gays, meaning she would be ‘fucked’ on both counts) and is approached online by someone who accuses Muslims of “taking over”, of demanding Shari’ah law and various other things, and Gethin also hears a news report about a group of men convicted of grooming and abusing young girls. He gradually begins to use a lot of the same rhetoric with his friends and while meeting an officer at the housing office, he demands to know why ‘they’ are getting housed rather than him when this is “his town”. Eventually he gets together with three friends who don pig masks and attack a butcher’s shop and break windows. He is later recognised as one of the perpetrators and waylaid in the street at night by two Muslim men who beat him up and spit on him; he then gets together with three friends and they set fire to the butcher’s shop, resulting in the death of a man who was sleeping in the building at the time, unknown to them. At the end of the programme, he is being visited in prison by his sister, who begs to know whether he knew the man was in the shop.

I’m not a film critic and my critique of this drama will be about its core premise, not the quality of the acting or camera work, though I found the slow-motion filming of the attack on the butcher’s shop near the end to be confusing; I was not sure what Gethin was doing or where he was at any given time during that scene. I would have preferred that they just film it in “real time” as they did the rest of the programme. So, to come to my main issue with this programme: it gave too much weight to the idea that poverty breeds extremism and examined no other angles. Apart from the report about the grooming gang, the only other media we saw in the programme was a snippet of a BBC Question Time programme from Barking. We saw the ridiculous spectacle of someone going from having a Muslim best friend and really not exhibiting any racist tendencies to setting fire to a butcher’s shop after being approached by some unknown online, admittedly when he was at a difficult point in his life.

A South Asian man wearing white butcher's clothes, a red and white striped apron and blue plastic gloves tries to calm a man wearing a pig mask who is threatening him. An electronic scale and hanging cuts of meat are behind him.A halal butcher confronts one of his four attackers.

The role of the broadcast and print media in fomenting racist attitudes was not even acknowledged here; not a single front page in which Muslims were accused of demanding Shari’ah law or a ban on this or that, or news story in which a women wearing a veil gets a council house with a six-figure value, or indeed any reference to them. Neither did we hear any talk radio show about hijab in primary school or any other Muslim-related issue. These outlets have been sowing racist and otherwise bigoted attitudes among the population for decades, and not just among the desperate. It was, for example, the overblown media reporting of the tiny al-Muhajiroun protest in Luton in 2009 that led to the formation of the English Defence League and may have won it many more followers than it would otherwise have had; the protesters were referred to simply as ‘Muslims’ when they were the remnants of a group which was known for causing trouble, which had been dwindling for years and whose leaders were always being offered microphones because their statements would make good copy. The recruits for the EDL came from the football hooligan community, not from the ‘desperate’ or ‘left behind’.

This is not to say that poverty, family breakdown and housing insecurity have no role in fuelling the growth of racism or the Far Right, but these things feed on prejudices which have been built up over years by organisations that profit from doing so. Sadly, the links between the ‘respectable’ and the commercial tabloid media are strong and writers and editors will often move from one to the other or take jobs on both at the same time and the BBC itself has promoted this kind of journalism on some of its local stations — it hired Jon Gaunt to shout at its London listeners for several years on its morning phone-in show until 2005 when they replaced him with the equally insufferable (though for different reasons) Vanessa Feltz. But the media must face up to their role in fostering the growth of the Far Right rather than, as happens here, suggesting that it is purely the product of poverty or desperation. It is a big missed opportunity.

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The Day I Die | Imam Omar Suleiman

Muslim Matters - 22 July, 2019 - 18:21

Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (may Allah be pleased with him) in the midst of the torture he endured at the hands of his oppressors used to say: baynana wa baynahum aljanaa’iz, which means, “the difference between us and them will show in our funerals.” The man who instigated the ideological deviation that led to his torture was an appointed judge named Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad. At the moment of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal making those remarks, it appeared Imam Ahmad would die disgraced in a dungeon but Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad would have a state funeral with thousands of mourners. Instead, Imam Ahmad persevered through his struggle, was embraced by the people, and honored by Allah with the biggest Janazah ever known to the Arabs with millions of people pouring in from all over. Ahmad Ibn Abu Du’ad was cast aside and buried without anyone attending his janazah out of revulsion.

Now sometimes righteous people do die in isolation, and wicked people are given grand exits. There are people like Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) who was murdered by the people of fitnah, then buried at night far away from the people out of fear of the large numbers that would’ve poured out to his janazah and potentially mobilized against his oppressors. But it may be that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)  inspired Imam Ahmad with the vision to see his victory in this life before the next. To elaborate a bit on his statement though, allow me to reflect:

A wise man once said to me,

“Always put your funeral in front of you, and work backwards in constructing your life accordingly.” 

With the deaths of righteous people, that advice always advances to the front of my thoughts. When a person passes away, typically only good things will be said of them. But it’s important to pay attention to 2 aspects about those good things being said:

1. Is there congruence in the particular good quality being attested to about the deceased.

2. Are those good qualities being attested to actually truly of the deceased. 

The first one deals with consistency of character, the second one with sincerity of intention which is only known by the Creator and His servant. In regards to the first one, take our sister Hodan Nalayeh (may Allah have mercy on her) who was murdered tragically last week in a terrorist attack in Somalia. Everyone that spoke of her said practically the same thing about how she interacted with them and/or benefitted them. There is complete harmony with all of the testimonies about her. And in that case we all become the witnesses of our sister on the day of judgment, testifying to her good character.

For many that pass away, neither the deceased nor the community fully appreciates the way they benefitted others until that day. It was narrated that when Zainul Abideen Ali Ibn Al Husayn (may Allah be pleased with them), the great grandson of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passed away, he had marks on his shoulders from the bags he used to carry to the doorsteps of the poor at night when no one else was watching. The narrations state that the people of Madinah used to live off his charity not knowing the source of it until his death.

How many people will miss you when you die because of the joy you brought to their lives? How many of those that you comforted when they were abandoned by others? That you spent on when they were deprived by others? That you advocated for when they were oppressed by others? 

Will your family miss you because of an empty bed in the home or a deep void in their hearts? Will it be the loss of your spending only that grieves them, or the loss of your smile? Will it be the loss of the stability you provided them only, or the loss of your service and sacrifices for them?

But Zainul Abideen didn’t care for the recipients of his charity to know that he was the source of it, because He was fully in tune with it’s true Divine source. He didn’t want to be thanked in this world, but in the next. He didn’t want the eulogy, he wanted Eternity. 

He understood that if you become distracted by the allure of this world, you may merely become of it. Focus on bettering the future which you cannot escape, rather than the present that you cannot dictate. Focus on the interview with the One who needs no resume, rather than the judgments of those who are just as disposable as you. 

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْ خَيْرَ زَمَانِيْ آخِرَهُ، وَخَيْرَ عَمَلِيْ خَوَاتِمَهُ، وَخَيْرَ أَيَّامِيْ يِوْمَ أَلقَاكَ

“O Allah, let the best of my lifetime be its ending, and my best deed be that which I seal [my life with], and the best of my days the day I meet You.”

Which brings us to the second aspect of your funeral, the sincerity of the good you’re being praised for. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “increase your remembrance of the destroyer of pleasures.” Death only destroys the temporary pleasures of this world, not the pleasure of the Most Merciful in the next. Keeping that in perspective will help you work towards that without being distracted. If it is the praise of the people you seek, that is as temporary as the world that occupies both your worldly vehicle ie. your body, and your companions in this world who shall perish soon after you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned the one who passes away with the people lavishing praise on him that he is unworthy of. In a narration in Al Tirmidhi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No one dies and they stand over him crying and saying: ‘Oh what a great man he was! Oh how honored he was!’ except that two angels are appointed for him to poke him and say: Is that really you?”

But if it is Allah’s praise that you sought all along, the deeds that you put forth shall await you in your grave in the form of heavenly ornaments. Those that were known to the community, those that were known to only a select few, and those that were known by no one but Allah and you.

May Allah give us all a good ending, and an even better eternity.

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A New Eid Tradition: Secret Gift Exchange

Muslim Matters - 22 July, 2019 - 05:09

Gift exchanges–they’re common traditions for many gift-giving holidays in America. I’ve participated in gift exchanges in religious and secular contexts and I’ve loved being a member and even a host of them in the past! This past Eid al Adha and Eid al Fitr, I organized a secret gift exchange (we called it “Secret Bakra” from the Urdu “bakra” which means goat) with my siblings, cousins, and their respective spouses who live all over the US and it was one of the most memorable and fun things I have ever done for Eid in my life! The best part of a gift exchange like this is that I don’t have to feel the pressure of gifting 13 people gifts every Eid, but I feel as if I have!

Here’s a quick guide and some tips to help you and your family or friends organize an Eid gift exchange!

Gift Exchange Basics

A gift exchange requires: 

  • a group of 3 to 40 people
  • a budget range for the gift
  • deadlines for sending/receiving gifts
  • an organizational system to assign members who they will be giving gifts to

Optional parts of a gift exchange can be:

  •  some sort of exchange party (in-person or virtual)
  • gift recommendations/interests for each person to help nudge the gift-giver in the right direction)
  • an anonymous/secret exchange system with a reveal during the party/after everyone has gotten their gifts
Why a (Secret) Eid Gift Exchange? 

Following the Sunnah and Bringing People Together

The most important motivation anyone can have to organize or participate in a gift exchange is taken from a hadith of the Prophet (S) in which he says, “Mutual gift-giving increases the love between people.” This hadith can be taken as advice for a way to bring people closer together and with the intention of following the teachings of the Prophet (S). 

Celebrating Eid and Creating Meaningful Traditions

Another important motivation is to celebrate Eid, as the Prophet (S) has mentioned is a main annual holiday for Muslims, and to also make Eid special for you, your family, a group of friends coworkers, masjid volunteers, etc. Not only is it important for individuals and families to establish Eid traditions that everyone can look forward to (Eid shouldn’t just be fun for kids!), but it is particularly important in communities in which Muslims are a minority. I’ve always been a firm advocate for making fun, memorable Eids with exciting, wholesome Eid traditions and festivities. 

Manageable Way to Give Gifts within a Large Group of People

A gift exchange is a great way to give gifts in a large group of people without breaking the bank and without exhausting yourself trying to think of gifts for a bunch of people and then buying or making them. My cousins and I have gotten closer more recently due to an upswing in family weddings, and I really felt like giving all of them gifts last Eid.  But realistically, I didn’t have $200 to get all 9 people in this group a decent gift, or the time to make 9 gifts that were meaningful and special for each person, or the energy to come up with different gifts for all 9 individuals. A couple of years ago, my husband and I sent ice cream gift cards and personalized Eid cards to each one of our cousins (allocating $5 per cousin per family). It felt great to extend an “Eid ice cream on us” gesture, but for $45, it didn’t seem like we really got much of a bang for our buck. By doing a Secret Bakra Gift Exchange, we both spent under $30 total for our gifts, but it felt like more of a meaningful gift.  It also felt like each one of my siblings/cousins gave a gift to everyone in the group–and that’s the magic of gift exchanges! Although we didn’t give and receive 9 gifts on Eid, we all came together to celebrate our family ties and Eid in a special way and everyone felt like they scored on Eid. Lastly, if there’s a dedicated group of people that you always do a gift exchange with, such as extended family in my case, theoretically everyone will end up giving everyone else a gift when you consider probabilities if you do a gift exchange every Eid for enough years, right?  

Bridging the Gap: Togetherness Despite Age, Distance, Financial Means, etc.

One thing that was super magical for my cousins and I this past Eid was having the feeling that we celebrated Eid together. We’re always lamenting the fact that we seldom get together and rarely with all of us or talking about how if we were closer to each other then we’d do xyz awesome, fun things together all the time. This gift exchange wasn’t just about giving each other gifts–it was also about making time for a video call in which we all made it despite being strung across three different time zones and having work/school the next day to unwrap our gifts and wish each other a blessed and joyous Eid. It was also about creating a more tight-knit group and welcoming the newcomers to our extended family (we’ve had two weddings in one year and we’re all still getting to know the new spouses and vice versa). We’re all different in many ways–age, gender, religiosity, personality, etc.–and we may interact with each other (and even be fond of each other) at varying levels. Doing an anonymous gift exchange is a great way to force a person’s hand into making a greater effort to connect with another person in a wholesome, beautiful manner. Lastly, we considered our budget range to accommodate our financially-dependent younger cousins in high school, our unemployed bunch, our students, etc. No one felt burdened by the price tag for the gifts and everyone felt like they made a meaningful contribution no matter what their lifestyle or financial means allow. 

eid gift exchange

Tips on Making Your Secret Gift Exchange Easy, Fun, and…Did I Mention Easy?

With the business of worshipping in Ramadan and Dhul Hijjah on top of daily life struggles, who has the time to monkey around with extra nonsense like a gift exchange for Eid? Following these tips will help YOU pull off a great gift exchange with minimal time, effort, stress, and hiccups! (These tips will be particularly useful for people conducting a long-distance gift exchange.) 

  • Use a self-generating exchange system like “Elfster.” Have one person do it (it only takes 5 minutes to set it up) and send out the sign up link. You can even take turns every time you do a gift exchange. This way, nobody has to sit out the game because the website takes care of matching people in the group and can also let an administrator get in behind the scenes in case a problem arises (like someone doesn’t send their match a gift.) For the rest of the participants, signing up takes less than 5 minutes if you’re a first-time user and less than 2 minutes if you already have an account. The site draws names, notifies everyone of who they received, provides your match’s address, etc. It basically takes out all of the headache stuff that would discourage someone from wanting to organize one of these exchanges.  It can also allow for anonymous messaging, which can be handy for contacting your match to inquire about clothing sizes, color preferences, delivery options/issues, etc.
  • Set a budget range that’s friendly for the people of less financial means in mind. Think of the spread of your participating group members and make the exchange accessible to those who have the least means. Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful and you don’t want to set a $80 budget if someone in the group is struggling to make ends meet every month. My recommendation is to choose a budget range so that each person isn’t busting their brains to try to get a gift as close to $15.00 as possible, for example. Determine whether or not you’d like to include shipping costs inside this budget. If someone is making a gift, then estimate how much you’d buy whatever is made if you got it from the store (this is probably a bit harder than just buying something that has a price tag associated with it.) Give a $3-7 range around a price point everyone seems comfortable with. Our budget for the last exchange we did was $12-17. Most participants bought gifts at the $14-17 range (which I think is better.) Some good budget range recommendations I have are the following: $14-17, $15-18, $18-22, $20-24, $25-29. For a higher budget: $28-33, $38-42, $48-53. 
  • Set a strict deadline for receiving the gifts before Eid and keep in mind your gift exchange party date/time. Make sure everyone knows that they need to have the gift delivered on or by a certain a date. Don’t have a “send by” date, that doesn’t really make any sense, and don’t have a deadline that spreads across a couple of days because it’s too confusing. My personal recommendation for the deadline is to have the deadline at least one or two days before the earliest day anyone in your group might be celebrating Eid (#MoonWars). This way, everyone can take care of their gift before the Eid madness sets in which can make Eid more enjoyable because no one is stressed out about their gift being delivered on time, and it gives a little bit of a buffer if there are any complications with delivery or fulfilling an order/shipment. 
  • Virtual exchange party: set it before Eid prayer. Eid day is just too crazy because people have a lot of things going on. Now take into consideration the fact that people celebrate Eid on different days…exactly. If you set your virtual exchange party for the night before the earliest Eid’s prayer, you’re nearly guaranteed to be able to catch everyone because no one will have an Eid dinner invitation for that night. Additionally, it will feed into the excitement for Eid which will be on the next day or two. 
  • Alternative virtual exchange party. You can have everyone send a video recording of themselves opening their gift on whatever day the gift deadline is or whatever day you want to have your “party.” This way, everyone can participate despite schedule conflicts. If there are a handful of individuals who can’t make the actual party, you can also have them send videos beforehand instead of joining into the party on the video call. This might also be helpful if you’re doing an exchange party in-person if you can have the one or two people who can’t make it video-call in or send video recordings beforehand (if it’s before, then that person would need their gift before the party.)
  • Anonymous gift-sending and guessing who the gift-giver is. Make sure that the person giving the gift does not reveal their identity in any way, whether that’s putting gifts in a dark room before the party starts or making sure that their name is not on the package being sent at all. What we like to do is to have the person guess who they think gave them the gift after they’ve opened it. Our rule is that if the person guessed correctly, then the gift-giver should confirm it was indeed them that gave the gift. This is one of the most fun parts of the exchange party in my opinion.
  • Have a code word in your package to signify that it’s a gift from the Eid exchange.  Let’s face it–online shopping is convenient and becoming increasingly so. It’s more likely than not that you will order something from online during the gift exchange, so in order to prevent confusion, include a code word in the name of the person you’re sending the Eid gift to. We chose to write “Bakra” as the middle name, so it’d look like “Muhammad Bakra Ahmad” on whatever package was intended to be their gift for the Eid gift exchange.

I hope all of these tips were useful! If you end up doing this Eid gift exchange in your family, let us know what the best gifts were this time around! 

Here are the gifts that we had in our Eid al Fitr gift exchange this past June!

  • Juvia’s Masquerade Eyeshadow Palette
  • NASA Worm Logo Shirt + The Great Wave off Kanagawa Tapestry
  • Jade Roller for Face
  • Music Record
  • Nose Frida
  • Campfire Mug
  • DSLR Camera Remote
  • Llama String Art Kit
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** + Knife Sharpening Stone
  • Philadelphia Eagles Sun Hat
  • Golden State Warriors Mug

May Your Eid Be Blessed!

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We can’t blame ‘Wahhabis’ for everything

Indigo Jo Blogs - 21 July, 2019 - 19:43
A collection of modern skyscraper buildings, the biggest of them a huge office and clock tower with a cupola at the top and the name of Allah in Arabic above the clock face. The sacred mosque and two of its minarets are at the bottom of the image, dwarfed by the modern buildings behind it.Abraj al-Bait Towers in Mecca, with the clock tower towering over the minarets of the great mosque.

In response to Boris Johnson’s article from 2007 on what he regarded as being ‘wrong’ with the Muslim world, and how Islam itself was to blame for it, the Guardian printed an article yesterday by Jerry Brotton, a professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary, University of London, which answered a few of Johnson’s claims about the ‘backwardness’ of Ottoman Istanbul versus the record of Byzantine Constantinople of “keeping the flame of learning alight for a thousand years”, as well as the claim that printing presses were absent from the Ottoman empire for centuries, when in fact they appeared in the 1720s and had been resisted because the word was regarded as art. Towards the end, however, Brotton claims that today’s “fatal religious conservatism” is primarily down to Wahhabism, “the puritanical doctrine founded in the 18th century that is now the official state religion of Saudi Arabia, which condemns millions of Muslims – including Shias – as apostates and has inspired terrorist organisations such as Isis”; Johnson will not acknowledge this, he says, for fear of offending the Gulf oil sheikhs. This is a common line of reasoning when defending mainstream Islam and the Islamic cultural legacy, but it is misplaced.

To begin with, when he was editor of the Spectator, Boris Johnson did print an article which puts the blame for destructive political fundamentalism firmly on Wahhabism; it was by Stephen Schwartz and can be found on their archive site here. He claimed that what were then called “rogue states” such as Iraq, Libya and Syria were less important in radicalising the al-Qa’ida terrorists than Saudi Arabia itself and that, apart from the revolution in Iran, all the violent movements around the Muslim world were Wahhabi or, like the Taliban, practised a “variant of Wahhabism” (which in fact they did not). He claimed that they could be described as Islamofascists, a line he repeated in a number of other essays, most of them on American conservative opinion websites; in another of them he claimed that “the Wahhabi death cult represents naked Islamofascism”. The line that Saudi Arabia had an unaccounted-for responsibility for the 9/11 terrorist attacks was a popular one on right and left: Michael Moore made accusations like this a number of times, including claiming that the skills necessary to steer the two aeroplanes into the twin towers must have been learned in the air force, not a small flying school.

I am not a Wahhabi and have been critical of Wahhabism all the time I have been Muslim, including many times on this blog. There are, within Wahhabism, pro-establishment and extremist tendencies and so you will find Wahhabis condemning terrorism as well as those practising it. But its fundamental departure from the Islamic mainstream is in its theology, not in anything to do with politics (the very early Wahhabis displayed Kharijite behaviour, rebelling against the Ottoman sultan who at the time held the position of caliph, and killing Muslims who rejected their doctrines, but their descendants do not do this). It rejects the idea of allegorical interpretations of certain passages in the Qur’an that refer to the hands and eyes of Allah, for example; to them, these words mean exactly what they say, although they do not believe that His hands and eyes are like ours. Mainstream Islam suggests metaphorical interpretations, within the bounds of the classical Arabic language, while some scholars refrain from interpreting them entirely. They also reject a lot of the ‘cultural’ side of Sufism, such as the practices that resemble dancing during gatherings, and nowadays they reject the idea of Sufi ‘orders’ or ‘paths’ which have been the norm in the Muslim world for most of its history, although their popularity has declined. They were noted in the 1990s for being aggressive and argumentative in their dealings with other Muslims. But they are not solely to blame for everything that is wrong with the Muslims now.

Western conservatives tend to blame Islam itself for the politics of the various Muslim countries, and politics for ‘backwardness’ and lack of intellectual rigour (in particular, the poor state of the Muslim world’s universities which largely function as training schools for doctors, engineers and so on). The fact is that many of these regimes are secular and backed by either western powers or by Russia, and are opposed to there being any ‘religious’ influence on politics and in some cases to the practice of Islam itself. In many Muslim countries, particularly Arab countries outside the Gulf region, Muslim men are afraid to grow their beards, cannot wear traditional clothing and are afraid to attend mosques, especially for morning prayers, for fear of attracting the secret police’s attention. The teaching of religious knowledge has been suppressed and the traditional schools closed or converted into western-style universities, but even in such places, a police state is not a good environment for any intellectual flourish. It is the repressiveness of some of these regimes, accompanied by their suppression of mainstream religion (and the same policies under the colonial powers that preceded many of them), that drives some young people into the hands of the fanatics; the group that formed ISIS were men tortured in American prisons in occupied Iraq.

Some of Johnson’s claims are just plain ignorant; in the 2007 article he claimed that “virtually every global flashpoint you can think of – from Bosnia to Palestine to Iraq to Kashmir – involves some sense of Muslim grievance”. Bosnia had nothing to do with “Muslim grievance”; it was a genocide perpetrated by Serbian Christians against Muslims who, like the Croats and Slovenians before them, had tried to free themselves from the increasingly Serb-dominated Yugoslav federation. It was the Serbs who had tried to resurrect old hatreds, not the Muslims. Even without the printing press, the Muslim world had always been highly literate (including at times when the western world reserved literacy for celibate churchpeople) and there were professional copyists who manually copied out books; there have been numerous examples of slowness to automate or resistance to automation, often for the preservation of jobs, in western society much more recently. Johnson is an ignorant man with a deep-set hostility to Islam and Muslims and an over-developed sense of his intellectual prowess; no doubt a facet of the confidence that an English public school education gets you. But Wahhabism is not the only source of fanaticism in the Muslim world and it is not the only source of backwardness or conflict, and not all Wahhabis are fanatics or terrorists. “Blame Wahhabism” is an easy way to avoid western responsibility for the state of countries they colonised for much of the last century and the one before; it is not a great leap from “blame some Muslims” to “blame Muslims”.

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Standing Up To UK Government Extremism

Inayat's Corner - 20 July, 2019 - 12:24

Yesterday, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javed, gave a speech in London on “Confronting Extremism Together”. At a time when nationalist attitudes are on the rise in Europe and we have a US President whose open bigotry and stoking of white nationalism could quite conceivably lead to the assassination of Muslim Congresswomen such as Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, it is all the more crucial that all of us who seek a better and more tolerant future work together and challenge those who seek to undermine our freedoms and shared values.

Firstly though, how can we define extremism? The Home Secretary, offered the following definition:

“At its heart, extremism is a rejection of the shared values that make this country great: freedom, equality, democracy, free speech, respect for minorities, and the rule of law.”

That isn’t actually a bad definition and it is quite likely one that – hopefully – all decent minded people would be able to subscribe to.

The Home Secretary singled out two groups by name for criticism yesterday – both Muslim led organisations: CAGE and MEND. Are these groups really extremist? The Home Secretary did not say why he believed that they fall foul of the above definition of extremism. That was a very curious omission especially when he went to the length of specifically singling them out in his speech.

Both organisations have done some valuable work. MEND has focused on challenging anti-Muslim bigotry in the media and successfully campaigned to ensure that police forces throughout the country record incidents of anti-Muslim hatred, just as they were already recording incidents of anti-Jewish hatred. CAGE has done us all a service by shining a light on the area of government funding and creation of supposedly “community-led” Muslim groups. Quite a number of Muslim groups that have come into being in recent years try and portray themselves as being independent whereas they are actually creations of the Home Office and its secretive Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU). No doubt such disclosures are embarrassing to the Home Office and especially to the groups that are trying to portray themselves as being “independent”, but the government should not have tried to conceal this information from taxpayers in the first place. Sadly, honesty and transparency are qualities that quite a few people in government have issues with upholding.

This is not to say that CAGE and MEND are above criticism. I think both CAGE and MEND made a major mistake in failing to support the government’s counter-terrorism programme PREVENT. There is no question that mistakes have been made with PREVENT but that does not mean that the programme as a whole should be scrapped. No government facing a terror threat can afford not to have a counter-terrorism programme seeking to unify communities against the very real threat of violent extremists be they of the al-Qa’ida/ISIS or far-right variety.

Still, let’s get back to the government’s definition of extremism. Is it one that the government itself would pass? Let us take a look at some of the actions (not mere words) that we have seen in recent years from our government:

  • The government provides £13.4 million/year in funding to the Jewish Community Security Trust “to ensure the security of Jewish faith schools, synagogues and communal buildings following concerns raised by the Jewish community.” Which other minority faith group organisation receives this amount of funding? There are over ten times as many UK Muslims as Jews. Do you think that a UK Muslim group receives £134 million or even the same annual £13.4 million to ensure the security of Muslim schools and mosques etc? Of course not – and incidentally I would not want them (or the CST) to. We fund the police to ensure the necessary safety and security of all communities and the money should surely be given to them instead. See here for my previous blog on this issue. The government is clearly failing to treat minorities equally. Is the government therefore extremist by its own definition?
  • Is the government really a promoter of freedom and free speech? It has allied itself and maintains very friendly relations with highly repressive Arab regimes in the Middle East. Are the peoples of those countries not deserving of freedom and free speech? How would they regard our government’s policies in the region? As being extremist perhaps?
  • This week, David Lidington confirmed that the UK would not be establishing a judge-led inquiry to look into the UK’s involvement in the cases of rendition and torture that took place following 9/11. Amnesty International has branded the government’s failure as “disgraceful” and pointed out that a parliamentary committee had said ” it had been blocked by the Government from accessing all the necessary evidence and prevented from conducting a credible, thorough inquiry.” Bearing in mind that the overwhelming number of the victims of rendition and torture following 9/11 are Muslims, do the UK government’s actions demonstrate a “respect for minorities” and “the rule of law” as they require in their definition of extremism?

One of the foremost teachings of the Qur’an is that this life is ephemeral and a test and that the life Hereafter is the real home. It should enable Muslims to resist the allure of government positions and salaries at the expense of speaking the truth to power and seeking justice and fairness.

Boris Johnson’s take on Islam is historically illiterate | Jerry Brotton

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 July, 2019 - 06:00

No printing press until the 19th century? Wrong. But why let reality get in the way of a story that fires up his base?

“You mustn’t let facts get in the way of a good story,” Boris Johnson was reported to have once told the French journalist Jean Quatremer in the early 1990s. It is a claim that defined much of his journalistic career and also appears to shape his pronouncements on the Muslim faith. In an essay written by Johnson in 2007 and unearthed by the Guardian this week, he claims that the Muslim world is “centuries behind” the west, because of a “fatal religious conservatism” that prevented the development of liberal capitalism and democracy. According to Johnson “virtually every global flashpoint you can think of – from Bosnia to Palestine to Iraq and Kashmir” is defined by “some sense of Muslim grievance”. Echoing his hero Winston Churchill’s view that there was “no stronger retrograde force” than Islam, Johnson believes “that the real problem with the Islamic world is Islam”.

Related: I will quit if Boris Johnson becomes PM - Tory Muslim chairman

Related: Nearly half of Tory members would not want Muslim PM – poll

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Trump has made Ilhan Omar the face of his re-election strategy

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 July, 2019 - 20:29

In Omar, the president has at long last found a face to his stigmatization of Muslims – and so, too, have his allies

The chants of “send her back” reverberated across the rally of thousands on Wednesday as Donald Trump stood at the podium and attacked Representative Ilhan Omar, a naturalized US citizen who arrived in the country at the age of 12 after her family fled Somalia.

It was not the first time Trump had sought to vilify Omar, who in November became one of the first two Muslim women elected to the US Congress and has emerged as a key target of the president and Republicans.

Related: How Trump distorts facts to make Ilhan Omar seem like an enemy to the US

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‘Will Allah be OK with this?’: inside the BBC's first British-Muslim sketch show

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 July, 2019 - 14:28

They joke about airport security and overindulging over Ramadan. Meet the creators of Muzlamic, the trailblazing comedy exploring the contradictions of modern Muslim life

As Ali Shahalom and Aatif Nawaz scan the faces on the walls of the boardroom we’re in, their faces light up. “The BBC have put us in the brown room!” laughs Shahalom, gazing up at the cast of Goodness Gracious Me. It feels fateful that this is where we meet in Broadcasting House, given the impact the pioneering British-Asian sketch show had on these two comics. (“That was the first time I ever saw brown people on TV,” says Shahalom. “That did something to me.”) These days he and Nawaz are the trailblazers; they are about to launch Muzlamic – the first British-Muslim sketch show ever broadcast on the BBC.

From airport interrogations to a childrens’ author forced to answer extraneous questions while plugging a book called The Diary of a Friendly Squirrel (“Don’t you think it was insensitive to release it so soon after the anniversary of September 11?!”), the Muzlamic pilot is made up of bite-sized chunks that never outstay their welcome. In one sketch, which they refer to as “the whitest brown guy”, two feuding colleagues stalk one another around an office in Stevenage, playing top trumps with facts like “I’m so white I have a loyalty card at Greggs” and “I think a C is a really good grade.”

Shahalom and Nawaz often offer up a jester v straight man dynamic, with Shahalom playing loveable buffoons like Bethnal Green-based barber Mabz, while Nawaz is the dissatisfied customer who ends up with a hot towel shoved on his face (“the shaving foam went up my nose and I sneezed for 34 minutes straight,” he recalls of filming the sketch). But while far less polarised in person, their comedy backgrounds couldn’t be more different. British-Pakistani comic Nawaz, 34, took the tried-and-tested route of open mics and Edinburgh stints, followed by a glut of unsuccessful attempts to get scripts into production.

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The Turing test for those in the money | Brief letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 July, 2019 - 17:55
Wahhabi Islam | Boris Johnson | Alan Turing £50 note | Izal toilet paper

While I agree with the points made by your correspondents (Letters, 17 July) about the huge contribution Islam has made to the sum of human knowledge, the examples were all from the flowering of Islam in the middle ages. What Boris Johnson fails to make clear is that it is, sadly, present-day Saudi-led Wahhabi Islam which is sending some Muslims back to an illiberal version of the religion which would never have produced the contributions so rightly praised on your letters page.
Jane Ghosh

• Congratulations on your series: “What Kind of a Bastard is Boris?” by Anyone Who Ever Knew him. It is keeping me going until Monday, when I expect to lose the will to live.
Rose Meade
Faversham, Kent

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Corbyn and May trade blows over racism in their parties

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 July, 2019 - 13:37

Labour leader and PM each demand apologies over their handling of the issue

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have traded blows in the House of Commons over antisemitism and Islamophobia, each demanding an apology for racism in their respective parties.

Corbyn opened May’s penultimate prime minister’s questions on Wednesday by attacking the government’s record on the climate emergency but May switched to criticise Labour over what she called a “failure to deal with racism”.

Related: Theresa May faces MPs for her penultimate PMQs – live news

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Tattoos, tans and techno: the photographers capturing the unseen Beirut

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 July, 2019 - 11:27

Ravers, semi-naked sun-worshippers, booming queer culture … we meet the photographers chronicling a new generation of Lebanese shaking off the trauma of civil war

‘Parties are a privileged place, a space for exploration, a time for fusion,” says photographer Cha Gonzalez. They’re also the focus of her series Abandon, which looks at the way some Lebanese people have used nightlife – and techno music in particular – as a release after the trauma of the country’s 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990. “I knew a lot of people who were either born during the war or in exile,” she says. “What was put aside during the day came to light – and their internal struggles surfaced.”

Abandon is a pertinent theme not only for Gonzalez, but for all of the 16 contributors to an exhibition in Paris called C’est Beyrouth (This Is Beirut), at the Institut des Cultures d’Islam. Gonzalez in particular seized on the city’s dance scene, and later continued the series in Paris, where she lives, because “there was something to say about countries that are very far from war as well. The war is inside us: how we feel useless, alone, bored, guilty, horny.”

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To Kill a Muslim – Part 1

Muslim Matters - 17 July, 2019 - 05:46
1. Ragheads

Rotting wooden porch steps

Nursing a warm beer, Chad sat on the ramshackle front porch with the rotting steps and peeling paint. His hand clenched tightly the beer can as he watched the filthy camel hugging family move in across the street. Liquid sloshed over his fist.

It was unbelievable. This was Alhambra, a white town in America. Trump’s America. Making America great again, putting the freaks and coloreds back in their places. Sure, there were wetbacks in Alhambra – you couldn’t escape them in California – but there were hardly any blacks, and there were certainly no terrorist camel huggers.

Until now. There they were across the street and two houses down, unloading a trailer hooked to a silver Honda Accord. It was a whole family of ragheads – a woman with her stupid oppressed scarf on her head, a little boy and girl, and the father. Chad studied the man with contempt. The guy was tall, maybe 6’1 or 6’2, and black. Well, maybe he was African or some such, ‘cause he wore one of those long, colorful African shirts. His skin was mud colored, and his hair was short under that stupid beanie. He was skinny though. Chad was pretty sure he could kick the guy’s ass. The man noticed Chad looking and waved. Chad flipped him the bird. The man frowned and went on moving his crap.

Chad spent a lot of time sitting on the porch nowadays, ever since he’d been fired from his loss prevention job at Walmart. That still made his jaw clench and his vision go red every time he thought about it. Some black dude – a gangbanger no doubt – had tried to shoplift box of tampons, of all things, and Chad stopped him. A scuffle ensued. Chad recovered the tampons, but the banger got away. And Walmart fired him. Said he’d violated the terms of service of his employment, which required no physical engagement of any kind. You were supposed to ask the thief to return the goods, but if they refused you were not supposed to stop them, follow them, or “engage” in any way, due to the liability to other customers if the encounter turned violent.

So the shade goes off scot-free, and Chad gets fired. A law abiding, hard working, white American gets fired for doing the right thing. It made him want to smash something. Actually it made him want to smash someone, ideally his Filipino woman boss at Walmart, but any foreigner would do.

So here he was, twenty two and unemployed, nothing but a high school diploma to his name, sitting on his mom’s porch. All his old high school friends had jobs and girlfriends. Some even had wives. A couple had gone to college.

It wasn’t right. His life wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. He’d been a track star in high school – hundred meters and hurdles – and was supposed to have gone to college on a scholarship, but he’d blown out his knee, and they’d all abandoned him. It was like, if you weren’t of use to people, they didn’t give a crap about you. You were disposable. Blood sucking leeches. They’d given his spot on the track team to a black kid, a sophomore. Kid probably couldn’t even read. Was that piece of crap out there now, living the life that should have been Chad’s? How could this happen in Trump’s America? That was the problem, that it hadn’t been Trump’s America back then. It had been Barack Hussein’s America, the Commie Muslim traitor, damn his terrorist soul.

He seethed with the unfairness of it. He was no genius, he knew that. But he’d been a good runner, talented. He’d had the opportunity to make something of himself, to be the first in his family to go to college. He could have been more than his parents. A teacher maybe, or even a lawyer. His mother survived on welfare and what she could beg, borrow or steal from her string of boyfriends.

As for his dad, sure, Chad admired him in some ways – the man had been a shot caller in the Aryan Nation prison gang, able to point a finger and have another man killed. He’d been looked up to and respected. And he’d taught Chad what it meant to be a proud white man, standing up for your race and not taking any crap from coloreds. But let’s face it, Dad had spent 90% of his adult life in prison, and in the end had died the way he lived, with a knife in his gut. That wasn’t what Chad wanted for himself.

Plus, if Chad was being honest, he’d evolved beyond this father’s way of thinking. His father always used to say that the coloreds – no matter the shade – were filthy and inferior and should all be eliminated, even if that meant a race war across the face of America. It was a certainty, according to him, that the race war was coming. RaHoWa, he used to call it – Racial Holy War. The coloreds were secretly plotting to wipe out white America. It was an assault on the white, Christian values that had built everything worldwide in the modern world.

But when Chad had worked at Walmart he’d been forced to work with people of all colors and even folks from other countries like Filipinos and Chinks. He´d asked a few of them about RaHoWa, trying to find out about their plans to destroy the white race, but they seemed genuinely clueless. Chad slowly realized that RaHoWa was a myth, and that the coloreds were ordinary people like himself. They liked the same sports teams he did, played the same video games, watched the same shows. Yeah, they ate some weird crap and some of them smelled different, and their music was garbage. And they weren’t as smart of course. That was a fact. White people were the smartest, they had invented everything. That was why they ran the world. But the point was that the coloreds weren’t evil.

He had come to the conclusion that what was needed was not a race war, but separation. Let the coloreds live in their own neighborhoods and go to their own schools. Let them marry their own women and breed their own brats. And Chad and the white people would do the same. Live and let live. Not the Filipino bitch who fired him of course, he still wanted to bust her head open. But the others, yeah.

But the Muzzies – the Islamics – that was a different story. They were terrorist, cult following traitors. Not normal people. Muzzies were evil and sick in the head. Everybody said so. Plus, they lied as part of their sicko religion. It was called takaya or some crap. What kind of twisted bullcrap was that? They beheaded people, for Christ’s sake. If you were Christian in their country they would cut off your head with a hunting knife. They were devil worshipers. They should all either be kicked out of the country or killed. Period. And then Mecca should be nuked, and that would be the end of it.

But instead of taking care of business, the government was letting them go around like normal people. Even Trump had wimped out. The evidence was right in front of Chad’s eyes. Ragheads in his neighborhood, on his street. It was insane. How could terrorists go around openly showing off their rags? Where was Homeland Security? That was a good idea, actually. See something, say something, right? He took his phone out of his pocket and called 911.

2. Moving Day

Yahya Mtondo noticed the young man across the street staring. He waved, and when the fellow gave him an obscene gesture in return he frowned. In the old days – that is to say, in his angry and lost years of his youth – he would have marched straight over there and punched the man in the face, and damn the consequences. But he wasn’t that man anymore. So here merely shook his head and turned back to the job of moving.

His wife Samira must have noticed his expression. “What’s wrong habibi?”

He forced a smile. “Nothing’s at all, mchumba wangu.” Usually he called her mpenzi wangu – my love. But when he wanted to tease her he called her mchumba wangu, my homemaker. It was actually a term of endearment in his native Kenya, or at least it was what his dad always used to call his mom, may Allah have mercy on them. But he knew it annoyed Samira. In any case, he wasn’t going to tell her about the young man across the street. Samira tended to worry – she even had anxiety attacks sometimes – and he didn’t want to give her anything more to stress over.

“Just tired from the fast,” he added. “But I love it. I feel so light and free. I’m a bird doing loop de loops. Oooh!” He spread his arms. “My feathers are as cool as ice.”

Samira rolled her eyes. “You’re such a nut.”

He had not been crazy about the idea of moving to this poor, mostly white enclave in Central California, about twenty miles northeast of Fresno. He knew from experience how deep racism often ran in such towns. And he had two strikes against him in these people’s eyes, since he was both African and Muslim. Not that he was ashamed. He was proud of his Kenyan heritage, and was grateful that Allah had guided him to Islam.

They were here because his wife had just completed her medical residency in Fort Worth, Texas, where they’d moved from, and Alhambra Community Hospital had unexpectedly offered her a fellowship in her specialty of oncology. The salary was not spectacular, but it was better than she’d earned as a resident. Between that and his income as a rideshare driver, plus the low property values here in Alhambra, they’d been able to buy a house for the first time, alhamdulillah – thanks to God for all His blessings.

Craftsman bungalow cottage

The best part of all was that there was no ribaa involved. No interest. They’d gone through a group called Central Valley Islamic Finance, which helped qualified Muslims to buy cars and homes without interest. Yahya was deeply relieved about that. He ́d made plenty of mistakes in life, but so far he’d managed to avoid the sin of ribaa, sometimes making great sacrifices in the process.

It felt like an achievement. He could see himself on Yawm Al-Qiyamah – the Day of Resurrection – standing before some great angel who held in his hand a parchment listing Yahya´s sins, each with a small checked box: anger, resentment, cursing, jealousy, ingratitude, and more. But then Yahya ́s eyes would settle on the one little unchecked box – Ribaa. He would point to it excitedly, saying, ̈Look, look!̈ And he ́d hope that it might perhaps, offer him a chance for safety on that Day.

It was pretty sad, he knew, when avoiding a major sin was your last chance for salvation. Welcome to the 21st century. Or maybe that was a cop-out. He sighed.

̈Come on babe, tell me. What is it?̈ His sweaty-faced wife touched his cheek. She was always so alert to any sign of inner turbulence on his part.

He smiled. ¨Nothing.¨

She slid her arm through his. ̈Look at our house. Our house. SubhanAllah.¨

He set down the box he had tucked under one arm and studied the house. 701 Minarets Avenue. They had taken the street name as a sign. Their own little homestead, their own piece of earth – of course it all belonged to Allah, but it was theirs to care for. He would import a few elephants and a lion and call it Little House on the Serengeti. He chuckled at his own joke.

The house was small for a family of four – only 1,100 square feet. But it was cute – a little Craftsman bungalow built in 1901, painted teal with white trim, and featuring a small covered veranda to relax on when the weather go too hot, as it often did here in Central California. The yard was planted with wildflowers and native shrubs, while an immense magnolia tree grew in the front yard, casting shade over most of the house, its thick, waxy leaves glowing deep emerald in the morning sun. Some sort of songbird trilled from deep in the tree, praising God in its own language. Yahya loved it.

As an added bonus, Samira’s family lived in Los Angeles, only a four hour drive from here.

Allah the Most High had opened a door for them, and they’d walked through, taking the path that the Most Wise chose for them. Yahya knew in his heart that there would be good in this path, or Allah would not have set them upon it. That was trust, tawakkul. Doing your best, then putting your life in Allah’s hands and trusting Him to bring you through whatever obstacles you faced. Tawakkul was not, as some thought, naivete. Yahya had not lived an easy life. He ́d experienced terrible tragedies, and had walked through trench and terror, metaphorically speaking, just to stay alive. No, tawakkul was a choice and a mindset. It was faith.

As for the young man across the street, Yahya would make an effort to reach out to the neighbors, get to know them. Weren’t Muslims commanded to be kind to their neighbors? Only through kindness could an enemy become a friend.

He kissed his wife on the temple and bent down wearily to pick up the box.This was Ramadan, and Yahya’s energy level was at rock bottom. He hadn’t taken any food or water in many hours. Fortunately, all the family’s possessions fit into a small U-Haul trailer, and the moving was nearly done. That was one advantage of being poor, he thought wryly. It made moving easier.

Ten minutes later, hefting a 6-foot bookshelf and turning, he almost tripped over Sulayman, his four-year-old son, who had picked up a table fan by the cord. Yahya resisted the temptation to chide the boy. The irritability he felt was a byproduct of his hunger and weariness from the fast. Part of the challenge of Ramadan was to overcome that irritability and replace it with compassion. Instead of anger, to give love. Instead of resentment, to exercise generosity. Instead of self-absorption, to expand your sphere of concern to include your family, neighbors, the community, the Muslim ummah, and finally the world. That was Ramadan, and that was Islam.

Sulayman and his three-year-old sister Amirah were only trying to help in their little way. But yeah, they were getting underfoot. He was about to suggest they go play inside the house when he heard sirens approaching. It sounded like there were a lot of them, and they were close. Curious, he set the bookshelf down in the driveway. The sirens kept getting louder, and a moment later a black-and-white Alhambra police cruiser careened around the corner, then another right behind it, tires squealing. Yahya didn’t know what was going on – a burglary in the neighborhood, or a domestic dispute maybe? – but he wanted his family out of harm’s way.

“Samira,” he said urgently. “Take the kids into the house, please. Right away.” His wife had also paused to see the source of the commotion. She stood near the front door of the house, her hands gripping tightly on the box of dinnerware she was carrying. Like him, she was tall – about 5’10” to his 6’1” – and though she was Palestinian, her skin was a beautiful shade of brown that fell somewhere between copper and mahogany. Her purple hijab concealed long black hair that she typically wore loose beneath her scarf.

While Yahya was quiet and contemplative, Samira could be loud. She had a laugh that rang out, and a smile that stretched a mile wide. People were drawn to her brash and bubbly personality. Only those who knew her best understood the insecurities and worries that she hid beneath that bright and happy laugh.

As the wailing sirens mounted Samira dropped the box. Whatever was inside shattered when it hit the ground. She scooped up the kids, lifting them bodily off the ground, and disappeared inside the house.

Cop with gun drawn

What on earth? What had gotten into her? Yahya was about to go after her when the police cars skidded to a halt in the street in front of his own home. Doors were thrown open, and officers kneeled behind them, pointing their guns at his house. Yahya looked around in confusion. Was a fugitive hiding in his yard?

“Put your hands on your head,” someone bellowed through a loudspeaker, “and get down on your knees!”

Again Yahya looked around. Surely they did not mean him?

“You with the hat and the beard! Put your hands on your head and get down on your knees! This is your last warning!”

SubhanAllah, they did mean him! He considered protesting or at least asking for clarification. Then he looked at the barrels of the firearms pointing at him, one of which was bright yellow for some reason – some kind of phaser pistol? he thought crazily – and realized this was not the time for anything less than obedience. Moving slowly so as not to alarm the cops, he put his hands on his head and went down to his knees. Two offers charged forward, their weapons trained on Yahya’s chest. One pulled his hands behind his back and handcuffed him, then shoved him forward. He fell, turning his face to the side at the last second and striking his cheek on the driveway. The impact made him grunt in pain. He thought he heard the muffled cries of his wife or children from inside the house. They were probably watching through the window.

This was not something he would have ever wanted them to see. He struggled to rise up, to say to the officers, “Come on now, what’s this all about?” He was not personally afraid. It was never his way to be afraid of people or the things people did. He was good with God and trusted in the path. He just didn’t want his children to see their father being treated this way.

The cops tased him. He didn’t understand at that moment what was happening. Every muscle in his body seized in a terrible cramp. His limbs thrashed uncontrollably and his torso flopped like a dying fish on the floor of a boat. His vision went red as agonizing pain blasted his consciousness. He still heard his family screaming, and in the distance he heard laughter as well – triumphant, mocking laughter. The agony seemed to go on forever, then vanished without a trace, leaving no remainder of pain.

He regained control of himself and turned his head to look at the officers. The one who’d tased him stood rigid, his arms in a classic firing pose, his muscles quivering. He was young and slender, pasty white with red hair and a prematurely receding hairline. What Yahya noticed most of all, however, was that the man was petrified. His eyes were wide with fear. SubhanAllah, what was he so afraid of? He was staring as if Yahya were some mythical monster laying in the driveway, like an abominable snowman. Except he wasn’t an abominable snowman. He was an abominable Muslim, apparently.

“Hey,” Yahya said in what he hoped was a soothing tone. “It’s alright. I’m not-”

“Shut up, faggot!” one of the officers bellowed, and once again the electricity coursed through him. He spasmed and fell hard, striking his mouth this time. Then he felt hard objects hitting him, striking his legs and back. A hammering blow clapped the side of his head, and darkness descended upon his mind.

* * *

Next: Part 2 – The Black Jesus

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

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

Wael Abdelgawad’s novel, Pieces of a Dream, is available on

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Western civilisation’s immense debt to Islam | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 July, 2019 - 17:41
Readers take issue with Boris Johnson’s view that Islam kept the Muslim world centuries behind the west

Boris Johnson is painfully ignorant of the immense cultural, economic, and scientific contributions of Muslims (Islam kept Muslim world centuries behind the west, Johnson claimed, 16 July). Western civilisation owes an immense debt to Islam, whether in the form of algebra, the saving of ancient Greek heritage or the free-market economics of Ibn Khaldun.

Johnson is correct that many Muslim-majority nations are beset by social and political problems. Yet the same holds true for numerous Christian-majority nations such as Russia, Honduras, Haiti and South Africa. He also makes a “false equivalence” argument in comparing stable western democracies to war-ravaged countries like Bosnia, seemingly blaming Muslims there for being attacked. Curiously, Muslim extremists promote the same arguments as Johnson, albeit for different aims. Neither depiction is true nor helpful.

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British Museum to explore Islamic world's impact on western art

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 July, 2019 - 17:09

Major exhibition aims to show Orientalism in a different light and its legacy today

An art tradition sometimes dismissed as perpetuating lazy stereotypes about the east will soon – the British Museum hopes – be seen in a different light thanks to a major exhibition exploring how western artists have been inspired by the Islamic world.

The museum has announced details of a show that will have the tradition of Orientalism at its core.

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How To Be Positive In Hard Times

Muslim Matters - 16 July, 2019 - 13:17

We all know that we should be grateful. And we definitely know that we should be certain that whatever happens is good for us as believers. However, when we are tested -as we inevitably are-, many of us crumble. Why is that? Why are we not able to ‘pass’ these tests, so to speak? Many of us after a tragedy become hapless, sad, depressed, angry, or bitter.

The essence lies in knowledge that is beneficial, and the best form of knowledge is that which an individual can apply to their day-to-day life on their own. Here are a few tips to increase your patience in hard times. Like building muscle at the gym, it takes time to exercise this habit, but becomes easier over time:

Manage Stress:

Unfortunately, stressful events are abundant in our lives. People under stress can find themselves falling into thinking errors. These thinking errors include -but are not limited to-: black and white thinking, mind-reading, self-criticism, negative filtering and catastrophizing. Together this can affect how we perceive reality. Next time you are tempted to make a catastrophe out of a situation, stop and ask your self two questions:

  • Is this really a big deal in the larger scheme of things?
  • Are there any positives in this situation?
Have a Realistic Perspective of Qadr:

Although it is part of our creed to believe in divine destiny, personal responsibility is still of importance and we cannot simply resign ourselves to fate; especially if we have some sort of influence over a situation.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Quran:

لَهُ مُعَقِّبَاتٌ مِّن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ يَحْفَظُونَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ ۗ وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلَا مَرَدَّ لَهُ ۚ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَالٍ 

For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron. [Surah Ar-Ra’d;11]

This puts the responsibility on us to change ourselves. Notice the word, themselves. We are not responsible for events beyond our control. These events include the behavior of our spouses, the affinity of our children to the religion, the love in the hearts of people, the weather, the gender of our child (or how many we have), or even the amount of money we will earn in a lifetime -to name a few. Often we become stuck and focus on our conditions, rather than focusing on our own behavior.

Nourish Positive Thinking:

How to Be PositiveIn order to be able to have a wise and calculated response to life’s events, we must learn to interpret these events in a way that assign positive meaning to all. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is after all, how we perceive Him to be. Shaytan interferes with this process through waswaas (interjecting thoughts that are based on negativity and falsehood). His goal is for the Muslim to despair in Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy. The goal is not to be happy all the time; this is unrealistic. The goal is to think well of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as consistently as possible.

  • Create a list of what you are grateful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for daily.
  • Remind yourself everyday of the positive aspects of situations when your mind falls to default negative thinking. Self-criticism will will only encourage you to take full responsibility for negative life events and become depressed, or at the opposite end take no responsibility whatsoever; either mind-set does not help us improve our self.
Remind yourself as well as others of the benefits of Positivity:
  •  On an individual level, once we begin to think positive about ourselves and our life, we become optimistic. This positivity will then also effect our perception of others. We become more forgiving, over-looking, and patient with others when we can see the positives in any situation.
  • Increased rizk and feelings of well-being
  • Reduced likelihood of reacting in a negative way to life’s events; increased patience.
  • Increased likelihood of finding good opportunities in work, relationships and lifestyle.
  • Higher energy levels and motivation to take on acts of khayr and benefit.

10 Steps to Happiness!

Practice self-care as a daily routine:

Our bodies have rights on us. Our souls have rights on us. Our family has rights on us. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has rights on us. Often, when there is an imbalance in one area, our whole being can sense it. This creates anger and resentment towards those around us and life in general.

  • Take care of your body, feed it well and in moderation and exercise in a way that makes you feel relaxed.
  • Pray your prayers, read the Quran, maintain the rights Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and your own soul have on you.
  • Take care of your tongue by avoiding back-biting and complaining.
  • Take regular showers, comb your hair, brush your teeth, and wear clean clothes; even if you are at home.
  • Take care of your mind by doing dhikr as much as possible and letting go consciously of ruminating on situations.

A Powerful Dua for Happiness

Do not over-rely on your emotions:

Our emotions are a product of our thoughts. Our thoughts can be affected by slight changes in the environment such as the weather, or even whether or not we have eaten or slept well.


كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ 

“And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” [Surah Al-Baqarah;216]

How To be PositiveUltimately, our perception can be manipulated by our thoughts, shaytan, and other factors. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is not limited in His perceptions due to stress, emotions, or circumstances and moods. Therefore, we should be humble to defer our judgements to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) ever-lasting judgement. Far from naval gazing, the more we are aware of our internal perceptions, emotions, and motives, the more able we are to practice Islam in its full essence. Our forefathers understood this deeply, and would regularly engage in self-assessment which gives you a sense of understanding and control of your own thoughts, emotions and actions.

The Art of Overcoming Negativity

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The Guardian view on atheism: good without God | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 July, 2019 - 18:37
If organised mainstream Christianity is on the way out, what will replace it?

The latest British Social Attitudes survey paints a picture of organised religion’s continued decline; the more organised it tries to be, the faster it slips. The Church of England, which is established in the sense that it has a formal constitutional role, now claims the allegiance of just 1% of people under 24. Even among the over-75s, only a third identify as Anglican. More than half of British people now say that they have no religion; about two-fifths are Christians of one sort of another; 9% are Muslims.

Across Europe and North America there is a steady rise in the number of “Nones” – people who do not identify with any religion at all. The Pew Global Forum suggests there will be 1.3 billion of them worldwide by 2060, but this figure nonetheless represents a relative decline. The great majority of the present-day Nones are found in east Asia, and especially China, where Christianity and traditional religion are both experiencing phenomenal growth. Meanwhile, demographic growth among Christians and Muslims in the global south suggest that Nones in the world will decline from 16% to 13%.

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Muslim community shuns women released from prison, says report

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 July, 2019 - 17:18

There is a ‘much more forgiving attitude’ towards Muslim male offenders, say former convicts

The Muslim community in Britain shuns women who have been to prison while forgiving convicted men, “no matter what they’ve done”, according to a report.

Female former prisoners told researchers, Muslim experts in the criminal justice system, that they suffered a “conspiracy of silence” after being released from jail, having to hide or move away in order to not bring shame on their families.

Related: Most UK news coverage of Muslims is negative, major study finds

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Boris Johnson claimed Islam put Muslim world 'centuries behind'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 July, 2019 - 16:00

Anger as 2007 essay lamenting ‘no spread of democracy’ in Islamic world comes to light

Boris Johnson has been strongly criticised for arguing Islam has caused the Muslim world to be “literally centuries behind” the west, in an essay unearthed by the Guardian.

Writing about the rise of the religion in an appendix added to a later edition of The Dream of Rome, his 2006 book about the Roman empire, Johnson said there was something about Islam that hindered development in parts of the globe and, as a result, “Muslim grievance” was a factor in virtually every conflict.

The real Boris Johnson

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The Spirituality Of Gratitude

Muslim Matters - 15 July, 2019 - 15:02

The Quran tells the reader of the importance of gratitude in two ways. First, worship, which is the essence of the relationship between man and the Creator, is conditional to gratitude “and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” (2:172). The verse suggests that in order for an individual to truly worship Allah then they must express gratitude to Allah and that an ungrateful individual cannot be a worshiper of Allah. The second verse states the following “And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me” (2:152). The Arabic word used, translated here as ‘deny,’ is kufr which linguistically means to cover up. The word was adopted by the Quran to refer to someone who rejects Allah after learning of Him. Both the linguistic and Quranic definitions are possibly meant in this verse and both arrive at the same conclusion. That is, the absence of gratitude is an indicator of one’s rejection of Allah; the question is how and why?

What Does Shukr Mean?

Understanding a Quranic concept begins with understanding the word chosen by the Quran. The word shukr is used throughout the Quran and is commonly translated as gratitude. From a purely linguistic definition, shukr is “the effect food has on the body of an animal” (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 200). What is meant here is that when an animal eats food it becomes heavier which has a clear and visible effect on the animal. Therefore, shukr is the manifestation of a blessing or blessings on the entirety of a person. From here, spiritualists understood the goal of shukr and added an extra element to the definition and that is the acknowledgment that those blessings are from Allah. Thus, the definition of shukr as an Islamic spiritual concept is “the manifestation of Allah’s blessings verbally through praise and acknowledgment; emotionally on the heart through witnessing the blessings and loving Allah; and physically through submission and servitude” (Ibid).

Based on this definition, the goal of shukr can be broken into five categories. First, gratitude that brings about the submission of the individual to his benefactor. In order for an act to be worthy of gratitude, the beneficiary must conclude that the benefactor’s action was done for the sake of the beneficiary – thus making the benefactor benevolent. In other words, the benefactor is not benefiting in the least (Emmons et al 2004 p. 62). When the individual recognizes his benefactor, Allah, as being completely independent of the individual and perfect in of himself, one concludes that the actions of the benefactor are purely in the best interest of the beneficiary resulting in the building of trust in Allah. The Quran utilizes this point multiple times explicitly stating that Allah has nothing to gain from the creations servitude nor does he lose anything from because of their disobedience (Q 2:255, 4:133, 35:15, 47:38). Through shukr, a person’s spirituality increases by recognizing Allah’s perfection and their own imperfection thus building the feeling of need for Allah and trust in him (Emmons et al 2002 p. 463).

Gratitude in Knowing That Allah Loves Us

The second category is love for the benefactor. Similar to the previous category, by identifying the motive of the benefactor one can better appreciate their favors. “Gratitude is fundamentally a moral affect with empathy at its foundation: In order to acknowledge the cost of the gift, the recipient must identity with the psychological state of the one who has provided it” (Emmons 2002 p. 461).[1] That is, by recognizing Allah’s perfection one concludes that his blessings are entirely in the best interest of the beneficiary despite not bringing any return to Him. Thus, the Quran utilizes this concept repeatedly and to list a few, the Quran reminds the human reader that he created the human species directly with his two hands (38:75), he created them in the best physical and mental form (95:4), gave him nobility (17:70), commanded the angels to prostrate to him out of reverence (38:72-3), made him unique by giving him knowledge and language (2:31), exiled Satan who refused to revere him (7:13), allowed him into Paradise (7:19), forgave his mistake (2:37), designated angels to protect each individual (13:11) and supplicate Allah to forgive the believers (40:7-9), created an entire world that caters to his needs (2:29), among plenty of other blessings which express Allah’s love, care, and compassion of the human.

The remaining three categories revolve around the individual acting upon their gratitude by acknowledging them, praising Allah for them and using them in a manner acceptable to Allah. In order for gratitude to play a role in spirituality the blessings one enjoys must be utilized in a manner that connects them with Allah. Initially, one must acknowledge that all blessings are from him thus establishing a connection between the self and Allah. This is then elevated to where the individual views these blessings as more than inanimate objects but entities that serve a purpose. By doing this one begins to see and appreciate the wisdoms behind these created entities enlightening the individual to the Creators abilities and qualities. Finally, after recognizing the general and specific wisdoms behind each creation, one feels a greater sense of purpose, responsibility, and loyalty. That is, engaging the previous five categories establishes love for the benefactor (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 203). Observing the care and compassion of the benefactor for his creation establishes the feeling of loyalty towards the one who has cared for us as well as responsibility since He created everything with purpose.

Blessings Even in Hardship

One may interject by referring to the many individuals and societies that are plagued with hardships and do not have blessings to appreciate. No doubt this is a reality and the Quran address this indirectly. Upon analysis, one finds that the blessings which the Quran references and encourages the reader to appreciate are not wealth or health; rather, it is the sun, the moon, trees, and the natural world in general. Perhaps the reason for this is what shukr seeks to drive us towards. There are two things all these objects have in common (1) they are gifts given by Allah to all humans and all individuals enjoy them and (2) humans are dependent upon them. Everyone has access to the sun, no one can take it away, and we are critically dependent upon it. When the Quran draws our attention to these blessings, the reader should begin to appreciate the natural world at a different level and Surah an Nahl does precisely that. This chapter was likely revealed during the time of hijrah (immigration); a time when the companions lost everything – their homes, wealth, and tribes. The chapter works to counsel them by teaching them that the true blessings a person enjoys is all around them and no matter how much was taken from them, no one can take away the greater blessings of Allah.

In sum, these verses bring light to the crucial role shukr plays in faith. It serves as a means to better know Allah which can be achieved through a series of phases. First, the individual must search for the blessings which then leads to a shift in perspective from focusing on the wants to focusing on what is available. This leads to greater appreciation and recognition of the positives in one’s life allowing the person more optimism. Second, the person must link those blessings to the benefactor – Allah – which reveals many elements of who He is and His concern for His creation. Once this is internalized in the person’s hearts, its benefits begin to manifest itself on the person’s heart, mind, and body; it manifests itself in the form of love for Allah and submission to him. Shukr ultimately reveals the extent of Allah’s love and concern for the individual which therein strengthens the trust and love of the individual for Allah and ultimately their submission to Him.

Allah knows best.

Emmons, Robert A., and Charles M. Shelton. “Gratitude and the science of positive psychology.” Handbook of positive psychology 18 (2002): 459-471.

Emmons, Robert A., and Michael E. McCullough, eds. The psychology of gratitude. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Jawziyyah, Ibn Qayyim. madārij al-sālikīn bayn manāzil iyyāka naʿbud wa iyyāka nastaʿīn مدارج السالكين بين منازل إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين [The Levels of Spirituality between the Dynamics of “It is You Alone we Worship and it is You Alone we Seek Help From]. Cario: Hadith Publications, 2005.

[1] Islamically speaking, it is not befitting to claim that Allah has a psyche or that he can be analyzed psychologically.

Download a longer version of this article here: The Sprituality of Gratitude

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Public interest?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 14 July, 2019 - 22:46
 as tensions mount in the Gulf, what the British ambassador told London about the President's act of 'diplomatic vandalism'". At the top, in white on a small red patch, are the words "Fighting for free speech") with quotes from Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson defending the right of the paper to publish the material.

So, last week the British ambassador to the USA resigned after Donald Trump wrote tweets denouncing him after his emails were leaked, thought to have been done by a Brexiteer mole who is out to destroy senior civil servants he sees as standing in the way of Brexit. Yesterday (Saturday) morning, the police were threatening to prosecute editors who published any new leaked material and they urged them to send it all back. This led to an outcry, with both MPs and various editors denouncing the threat as an attack on a “free society” and proclaiming such things as “this isn’t Russia”. The Mail on Sunday today (under a banner “Fighting for free speech”) published more material from the leaks, among them the opinion of Kim Darroch, the ambassador at the centre of the leaks, expressed in the leaked emails that Donald Trump only scrapped the nuclear deal with Iran to spite former president Barack Obama.

I was surprised to hear Tories pontificate about the importance of a “free society” when the matter at hand was the leaking of confidential material which is covered under the Official Secrets Act. In the past, Tory governments have prosecuted civil servants who leaked papers that proved that what the government had been telling the Commons was false (e.g. about the direction of the Belgrano, the Argentinian warship sank during the Falklands war), and passed tougher legislation to remove defences, such as “public interest”, used by whistle-blowers. We are even seeing Tory politicians threaten to suspend Parliament itself if it gets in the way of leaving the EU this coming October, and politicians and the media defend this in the name of “the people’s will” as expressed more than three years ago now — so much for their love of democracy; we regularly see people have to hide under blankets to avoid press photographers who decide they have a ‘right’ to a story; so much for their love of freedom. In this case, it is alleged that the leaks were not motivated by any desire to hold the powerful to account or expose malpractice but simply to further Brexit by intimidating other civil servants and possibly politicians who are not committed to Brexit. The newspapers or websites which might be motivated to publish such material are the ones committed to Brexit themselves. This material might be of interest to the public but there is no pretence of it being in the public interest; it is malicious.

As for the material published today (which was also linked to the demand to “hand back papers”), this is of lesser importance as the damage had already been done in terms of forcing the former ambassador’s resignation. But publishing confidential material is illegal, and it is illegal for a reason, and whatever the rights and wrongs of doing so to expose wrongdoing, to do this to further your own political agenda, in collaboration with powerful factions in society that share that agenda, is simply dishonest and treacherous and is not supported by free speech laws anywhere. It is only right that any new leaks be met with the full force of the law, and the same for anyone publishing them.

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