Niqaab is not relevant to sexual harassment

Indigo Jo Blogs - 5 November, 2017 - 22:50

A picture of two women in niqaab, one a dark purple scarf with matching face veil and one a navy blue scarf and veil, both wearing jackets over a long black abaya with visible leather shoes. Two women are facing them, one of them holding a large TV camera with two large grey microphones. The scene is a shopping street with an "Arke" shop behind them.What will women gain from squawking about sex pests? Niqab | Daily Mail Online

This piece appeared in today’s Daily Mail and has been widely derided by both Muslims and feminists on Twitter, and for the most part rightly so. It peddles the old cliché that ‘feminists’ who demand that men cease propositioning or touching up their female colleagues at work, or people who interview them or otherwise do business with them, are “Victorian prudes” whose demands will lead to women having to cover up every inch of flesh by wearing something like the Muslim woman’s niqaab (as a Twitter pal has noted, at least he didn’t call it a burka). This is a spurious argument.

Hitchens says that Fallon is one of the worst defence secretaries of recent years, his policies having left the army a “skeleton” and the Navy “dead in the water, largely motionless and stripped of its most basic capacities”, but lost his job not for this but “because he is alleged not to be safe in mixed company”. I’m not sure the criticism is valid as the policies he implemented were the government’s; it was the government that dictated that spending on the Armed Forces had to be cut to the bone and this meant they could not build or buy the aircraft carriers, etc., they demanded. He also tells us that we “have lost all touch with reality” and that we ignore major failings and lash out over trivial indiscretions:

The country is in the midst of its biggest constitutional crisis for a century, and wobbling on the precipice of bankruptcy.

The welfare system is about to melt down. And you think the most important thing in your lives is a hunt for long-ago cases of wandering hands, or tellers of coarse jokes? Yes, you do.

However, much of this was justified by the previous (Cameron; I include the pre- and post-2015 governments in this) government in order to reduce the deficit and then on ideological grounds (as when members of the Cabinet were questioned about the impacts of welfare cuts on disabled people in particular). The country’s threatened bankruptcy is the result of Brexit, which Hitchens supports (though he advocates the Norway option as a ‘quick and easy’ Brexit option). I do not see the ‘constitutional crisis’; Scottish independence is well and truly on the back burner, while Brexit does not really count as that; we will still be a Parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy and an outdated electoral system in or out of the EU. The people voted for all this, Brexit by a narrow margin and the government in as much as the rules allow.

Hitchens attributes some opinions to feminists in general that, for the most part, they don’t have, or at least most don’t. They don’t believe in a “feminised society”; many of them regard gender itself as a set of stereotypes that fosters male violence and oppresses women. They don’t advocate that women change their dress (or any other aspect of their behaviour) to avoid male harassment, although some disagree, especially as regards drink. The idea that objecting to powerful men making unwanted advances to women in less powerful positions (which is always the case; we never hear of this happening when the woman is the boss) makes them allies of “militant Islam” is laughable.

And the dress codes (which for most women do not include niqaab which, by the way, are not always black, despite the paucity of pictures online of any other version) and separation of the sexes in Islam is not even suggested as a preventive for sexual harassment, let alone rape; it’s to prevent temptation, desire for what one can’t have and dissatisfaction with one’s spouse, if one is married, and sin. There actually is a concept of chivalry and honour in Islam, and not touching a woman who isn’t lawful to you — your wife or close family member — is part of it, not least because it protects the woman from any suggestion of impropriety. In many Muslim countries, the sexual harassment problem is just as bad as it is here if not worse, particularly in the streets, for a whole host of reasons — youth unemployment (meaning a lot of young men hanging around with nothing to do), marriage customs that result in men being unmarried until their 30s and pornography among them, but the most important being the same reason we have here: people will always blame the woman for being too sexy, too showy or just there and not the man for not keeping his hands to himself. No amount of modesty and propriety can protect a woman from a man who is a lawless aggressor, be he a manager or a priest.

It may be true that some of the accusations are of things that happened a long time ago, and aren’t of the most serious nature, but as the comedian (and former mental health nurse) Jo Brand (very nicely) pointed out on Have I Got News for You last Friday, many women have to put up with a lot of these incidents; any of them may have been the umpteenth that day for that woman, or may have come after a more threatening encounter on the way to work, or whatever. It’s no bad thing that we are finally having a conversation about the way powerful men — and it is mostly men — use sex to intimidate those less powerful than themselves, whether they be in politics or in the world of entertainment, and it is no surprise that friends of some of the guilty men are squealing.

Image source: Roel Wijnants. Released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, version 2.0.

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'I miss them so much': Myanmar's lost Rohingya children plead for their parents

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 November, 2017 - 03:09

With half a million Rohingya refugees under the age of 18 in Bangladeshi camps, it has been labelled a ‘children’s crisis’

The lost boy wails. Tears stream down his face as he looks around, frantic.

“I found him by the main road, so I brought him here,” says a middle-aged Rohingya woman who cradles the toddler in her arms and gestures towards a shack made from wood and corrugated iron.

Related: Rohingya girls under 10 raped while fleeing Myanmar, charity says

Related: Rohingya crisis may be driving Aung San Suu Kyi closer to generals

Related: More than 300,000 Rohingya refugee children 'outcast and desperate', Unicef says

Continue reading... how the Yorkshire dating site transformed Muslim romance

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 November, 2017 - 00:05

It is one of the biggest dating sites in the world and after 17 years, it has has led to over 50,000 marriages. Last week, it hit the headlines as matchmaker to two terror suspects. Tim Adams meets its founders in Wakefield

The business books tell you to follow your heart. It is 17 years since Adeem Younis took that advice and set up He was 20 and a design student at Wakefield College in Yorkshire with a passion for IT. Besides a desire to be his own boss, there was a more urgentimperative.

“Quite literally I would go home and there would be a big photo of my first cousin in Pakistan on the mantelpiece,” he said. “Mum would tell me this cousin was great at making chapatis and all that. The idea was we would get married.”

Because is in effect a marriage site rather than a dating site, it also claims a high rate of success

People call it ‘halal dating’ and that’s fine. Halal means being wholesome and right in your faith subscribers pay £30 a month … Much of that money is invested in making the platform a safe space

Related: Single Muslim women on dating: 'I don't want to be a submissive wife'

Related: Why British Muslim women struggle to find a marriage partner | Syma Mohammed

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Following in Grandpa Phil’s footsteps

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 November, 2017 - 20:18

Prince William, a young white man with a head bald in the middle, wearing a light blue open shirt and light green pair of chinos with a brown leather belt, with his wife Kate, a young white woman with brown hair parted in the middle wearing a knee-length two-tone pink smock with black patterning on, walking through grassland with a baby elephant in the foregroundIt’s long been a cliché that Prince William represents a “new generation” of British royalty who are unencumbered by the prejudices and stifling customs of their grandparents in particular — the ones who got Prince Charles to marry a woman he did not love because Camilla Parker-Bowles, whom he did love, was unacceptable, for example. Prince Phillip has always been notorious for bluntly expressing racist and otherwise offensive attitudes in public and this sort of behaviour has always been indulged as him being the delightfully oddball character that he is (or as him being really not up to all this royal business, despite having chosen to marry a royal) rather than being an unpleasant, bigoted old man. Recently I heard of similar behaviour by Princess Margaret, the queen’s sister, which was similarly indulged. Prince Phillip’s pet cause was wildlife; he is a co-founder and “president emeritus” of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and has in the past held forth about the dangers of human overpopulation; in a foreword to a 1987 book he wrote that, were he to be reincarnated, “I must confess that I am tempted to ask for reincarnation as a particularly deadly virus”.

So it’s sad, but perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising, that Prince William has inherited some of his grandad’s attitudes, as demonstrated in a speech yesterday and reported in the Telegraph and Daily Mail (just so nobody can accuse me of citing news sources that are biased against the monarchy). At the Tusk gala dinner in London (the Tusk Trust being a charity whose patron is Prince William and which helps protect African wildlife, including elephants) on Thursday evening, he said the following:

In my lifetime, we have seen global wildlife populations decline by over half.

We are going to have to work much harder and think much deeper, if we are to ensure that human beings and the other species of animal with which we share this planet can continue to co-exist.

Africa’s rapidly growing human population is predicted to more than double by 2050, a staggering increase of three and a half million people per month.

There is no question that this increase puts wildlife and habitat under enormous pressure. Urbanisation, infrastructure development, cultivation—all good things in themselves, but they will have a terrible impact unless we begin to plan and to take measures now.

A certain type of western ‘environmentalist’ has long regarded the wildlife of places like Africa as being more important than its people; they are fixated on cute or magnificent large animals such as antelopes, wildebeest, elephants and the mega-predators like lions and tigers. Some of these animals used to be found in Europe — leopards, for example — but they were exterminated in antiquity, for the very good reason that they are a threat to humans and livestock. We hunted wolves to extinction in much of Europe and any plans for reintroduction face stiff opposition; it still has not happened in the UK, for example. The royal family themselves participate in fox hunts, routinely justified as a means of keeping old foxes (more likely to prey on livestock rather than wildlife) under control, despite the fact that they occur only a few times a year and have been known to kill other animals which are not vermin, such as cats. By and large, the taming of the natural environment is seen as a mark of civilisation - the draining of the English fens to plant wheat, the reclamation of the former South Sea by the Dutch, the Zionist boast of making the desert bloom - yet when Africans do the same, we condemn them for destroying the habitat of animals we like watching.

There is a term for these large animals: “charismatic megafauna”. They are not regarded as quite so charismatic by those who have to live near them, and raise livestock or crops in areas they live in or pass through. We like to watch wildlife programmes on TV featuring the migration of wildebeest or gazelles and there are videos of these animals crossing huge rivers and some of them getting snapped up by crocodiles. We don’t ask “where are the people?”, the simple answer to which is that they have been cleared off to make way for the wildlife: in some African countries, governments have cleared native people off whole tracts of land they have occupied for millennia to make way for ‘game’ reserves for tourists. We have westerners go down to Africa to ‘educate’ the locals on how to live with the elephants or hyaenas when we ourselves would not even think of letting these animals loose in our backyard, or our farmland. We complain when they build roads across their own countries, when we have covered acres and acres of our best land in asphalt, wildlife be damned.

And Prince William has the effrontery to claim that a growing African human population is a threat to wildlife! For the most part, Africans have less impact on the environment than we Europeans, and others who enjoy the same lifestyle we do: they do not use electricity all day, every day for heating or air conditioning, and rarely if ever travel by car. It is not as simple as to say that “white people” or “westerners” are more damaging to the environment than others; it is mass heavy industry, much of it outsourced to China and increasingly India, and the modern lifestyle which ceaselessly consume energy and produce huge amounts of waste, and people all over the world enjoy that lifestyle, but African subsistence farmers are the last people who can be blamed for the destruction of the environment and the threat to biodiversity and cutting their birth rate will make not cut the human race’s carbon footprint by much (though as already seen in China, aggressive population size control does not prevent environmental damage if the nation industrialises).

Finally, we shouldn’t be casting human beings as the enemy of the environment. We need the environment and we need to preserve it for our sake, not that of lions and elephants. There are benefits to people, women especially, of having access to safe birth control methods. In the UK it has been suggested that our country faces being a “lifeboat region” relatively unscathed by the ravages of climate change, although the sea threatens to engulf a lot of our low-lying farmland and cities and storms and floods get more severe year after year, but it gives yet more scope for racism as we imagine ourselves besieged by the world’s “teeming millions” who are only people like us looking for shelter from environmental destruction largely of our making, as Britain and northern Europe have been churning out smoke and carbon dioxide for much longer than India or China. Blaming third-world overpopulation is a way of getting ourselves off the hook for refusing to change our lifestyle, despite having had decades’ warning of the consequences. We do not need this racist, colonial, animal-centred conservationism peddled by the aristocracy; we need an environmentalism that puts human survival and dignity first.

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Did The Evening Standard Libel MEND Today?

Inayat's Corner - 3 November, 2017 - 19:13

There are a number of articles in today’s papers condemning the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for refusing to attend a dinner tonight with the right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The dinner is to celebrate (!) the 100th anniversary of the tragic Balfour Declaration (which led directly to the displacement and disenfranchisement of millions of native Palestinians, but let’s whitewash that). Corbyn is weirdly being condemned for having the guts  to stand up and refuse to endorse such a colonial disaster, and is also condemned for agreeing to speak at an event marking the launch of Islamophobia Awareness Month, hosted by the organisation MEND.

Such mendacity on the part of the anti-left media should come as no surprise. They, of course, do not criticise the Prime Minister Theresa May for attending a dinner with Netanyahu to celebrate the racist Balfour Declaration and the calamity it has caused ever since for the Palestinians.

What caught my eyes earlier today was one particular allegation made against MEND by the Evening Standard claiming that it had been allegedly condemned by the large umbrella body the Muslim Council of Britain for “organising boycotts of Holocaust Memorial Day.”

I was a spokesperson at the MCB for a number of years and am well aware of the controversy surrounding HMD, but I don’t ever recall the MCB making such a nonsensical and almost certainly libellous claim. So, why would the Evening Standard print such a thing?

Well, as it happens, later editions of the same Evening Standard story appeared without the offending paragraph. Could it be that the Evening Standard had belatedly realised that this was perhaps one lie too many?

In any case, I had already captured the original article which bore a time stamp of 07:43 AM.

I very much hope that MEND will seek immediate legal advice regarding the publication of what appears to be a very serious libel indeed.

Highs and Lows of Parenting

Muslim Matters - 3 November, 2017 - 16:43

I currently live in Qatar. I have four kids. My elder two are moving back to US next summer, inshaAllah. My daughter will start her Masters degree and my son will pursue his undergrad, while my husband and I with our younger two kids will stay back in the Middle East. That’s the plan we have and Allah is the Best of the Planners.

At the moment, I am parenting a twenty year old, a seventeen year old, an eleven year old and a two year old. Sometimes, I handle an adult-child’s crisis, teenage drama, pre-teen breakdowns, and toddler tantrums, all in a single day. Some days, I get to enjoy pleasant intellectual conversations with eldest two, go on a crazy slime-supply shopping with my pre-teen and play hide and go seek with my two year old, all on the same day too. Sometimes, it’s fun and sometimes, it’s taxing to choose which age group’s crisis I would rather face.

Parents of younger kids often can’t wait until their kids are older, and I’ve also heard the parents whose kids are now adults, reminiscing how they wish their kids were younger again. I have all age groups at home at the same time!

There are no sureties. It’s not like my two older ones have come out of “kid’s zone”, and the younger two always act immature. Twenty year old or two year old, as long as they have parents they will act like children. My twenty year old, who is a final year Sharee’ah student at Qatar University and studied her undergrad completely in the Arabic language, and my seventeen year old who is loaded up with IB and Advanced Placement classes, still fight over ‘who called the shotgun first’, and God forbid if they both have to sit in the back seat, there is always a war over who is occupying more space on the seat.

That’s when my younger two seem more mature, quietly settled in their assigned seats, observing their mother decide if their older brother has a legitimate argument about him being larger in size hence needing more space on the seat than his older sister, who is demanding more space just because she’s older than him!  

It’s been twenty years since I used the bathroom in peace, and I don’t think I ever will because, even now, when I go to the bathroom it’s not only my younger two who gets these instructions from me, but especially the older two that, “Do NOT knock at the bathroom door unless it’s a life threatening emergency or there’s a bad guy in the house.”

And then there are those days when my eleven year old is having a meltdown because I “forgot” to give her attention, it is my older two who come to my rescue and one will walk me out of the room while the other sits with their sister and resolves all her complaints against me.

There are some days I can’t understand why my twenty year old still argues over curfews. She claims she’s an adult and she shouldn’t be given any time restrictions. Yet when I asked her to go to her doctor’s appointment by herself she cries that she wasn’t “old enough” to go to the doctor by herself!

And then there are those days when my elder two claim to understand the world better than their parents and their “mom-you-are-too-old-fashioned” attitude makes me wish it was next summer already. It’s in those moments when peace is around the younger two, in their innocent naive world where “mama-knows-it-all”!

Still there are days when my seventeen year old reaches out to me for advice on how to handle an issue between him and his friends because, in his words, “Mom, you are the best therapist for me.”

There are days when my kids make me want to run away from my home, and some days I want to quit being a parent. But no matter how much they push me to my wits end, my children are the four parts of my heart. They are my pride and they make me smile from the bottom of my heart. And no matter how much they drive me crazy, I don’t think I am ready to let them go.

Don’t get me wrong. Those who know me, know well that I am not a clingy mom and I raised my children to be quite independent. I take plenty of breaks from them, and they travel without me too. They do their own things and I have my own activities. And even when I do force family times on them, they complain an earful before they “bless” their parents with their time and company.

I feel I can never fully prepare myself for next summer. But, ready or not, time will come and they will leave. They will move away to the other side of the world, thousands of miles away, continents and oceans apart.

Being parents is such a strange thing. When our kids are small, we become overwhelmed because life seems difficult with sleepless nights and restless days, but before we know it these kids are ready to leave and we ask ourselves, “How did the time fly away so fast?!”.

It is normal to be that way.

Why did I write this piece? To share with all the parents out there my highs and lows of parenting and to remind them to enjoy their kids while they are with them. Enjoy every stage of their life because every stage has its own drama and pleasure, and because very soon they will be ready to leave the nest.


Anti-Catholic prejudice? Really?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 2 November, 2017 - 19:37

A picture of Tom Cullen, a white man with short hair and a thickish moustache and beard, with a bloodied face, in a mediaeval church400 years on from Guy Fawkes, Britain’s Catholics still face prejudice | Catherine Pepinster, the Guardian

Currently on the BBC there’s a serial about the Gunpowder Plot, in which a group of Catholics in 17th-century England tried to kill the Protestant king by blowing up Parliament. It failed and the plotters who were caught were shot or hanged, drawn and quartered, and the early November bonfire and firework nights (which can be quite a spectacle, the one in Lewes, East Sussex being particularly elaborate) are a lasting legacy of that. The plot came at a time when Catholics were being persecuted in England, where it was a crime (punishable by hefty fines) to not attend the Protestant church and where priests worked at risk of arrest and execution, and often had to hide in tiny “priest holes” in people’s houses. Catholics did not have the right to vote until the 19th century, and the law enabling this was very widely opposed, attracting the biggest petition effort in British history.

The above article is in today’s Guardian and claims that anti-Catholic prejudice is still prevalent, but rather than Protestants being the main source of it, it is coming mainly from secularists:

If there is any prejudice left against them in the UK, any suspicion of popery, it comes from those who are avowedly secular. It was apparent in the protests during Pope Benedict XVI’s state visit in 2010. Hideous caricatures of the pope appeared on the streets, of the German pope carrying a swastika, rather than a crucifix. Catholicism seems fair game.

(This was because Joseph Ratzinger actually was a Hitler Youth as a young man.)

Antipathy to Catholic schools is evident too, an echo of the “Rome on the rates” loathing when they first appeared in the 19th century. But this is not merely a small secular protest: governments of various stripes have sought to forcibly limit the number of places these schools offer to Catholics. Catholic schools do educate non-Catholics, but headteachers, supported by parents and priests, want to decide for themselves, rather than have the policy thrust upon them.

I was brought up Catholic, and went to Catholic schools for most of my time at primary school and my first year at secondary school. There was a strong Catholic community in Croydon where I was growing up, and there were large Catholic primary and secondary schools, some of which were clearly of “secondary modern” heritage, including the secondary schools I and my sister went to (although Croydon had gone comprehensive) and there were two (one for boys, one for girls) that had the air of grammar schools and were over-subscribed. As I’ve said before on here, the schools had a racially very mixed intake as the borough had families from all over the Catholic world, including Ireland, parts of southern Europe and places like Goa and some African countries. There were children from fairly well-to-do areas and children from council estates. We all wore recognisable school uniforms, people knew which schools were Catholic and which were not, and I never remember receiving abuse on the bus or in the street on the way to or from school. This was in the 1980s and so the Irish Troubles were still happening. I never once heard abusive language such as Taig, Papist or similar in public, nor did I hear of a single incident of violence in which religion was a factor. I was aware of the situation in Northern Ireland, of course, but that wasn’t discussed at school and it did not affect us.

The article complains that Catholic schools are losing privileges and this is her main piece of evidence that Catholics still “face prejudice”. It reminds me of the saying of anti-racist activists that when you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression. It also rather reminds me of Melanie Phillips who has accused secularists of being the major source of anti-Semitism because it was the Jews who are the origin of Christianity’s moral codes, despite the fact that when Europe really was Christian, ghettoisation was the order of the day and pogroms were a frequent occurrence. Catholic schools are expected to admit and teach non-Catholics because they are subsidised by the taxpayer. It is only right that they be expected to serve the whole community in which they operate rather than run on a “we only serve our own” basis. She alleges that “headteachers, supported by parents and priests, want to decide for themselves, rather than have the policy thrust upon them”, although I wonder where her evidence for that comes from; I don’t believe my mother minded that either I or my sister might be rubbing shoulders with non-Catholics at school, as we all did at home. But other religious schools have to deal with “policies thrust upon them”; all schools have to deal with bureaucracy, testing, changing curriculums and so on, while Muslim schools have to deal with scrutiny over matters such as sex segregation. No other community whose institutions are funded by public money gets to “decide for themselves”; why should Catholics?

In fact, Catholic schools have been more sinning than sinned against when it comes to fostering prejudice and discrimination. The junior school I went to was put in special measures in 2015 for poor teaching quality and academic achievement (although OFSTED did note that attendance and care were good, that children “played together peaceably” and felt valued and that there was hardly any bullying); when I was there, bullying was common (though rarely physical), with most of the boys’ part of the playground dominated by football and anyone who didn’t like that trapped against the fence; teachers were mostly dour and the work boring. Although boys and girls sat in class together, in all other aspects were kept entirely separate — a practice which is now routinely condemned when found in Muslim secondary schools. Whether this changed after I left (in 1987) I don’t know, although the headteacher who followed from the one who ran the school when I was there left because she was unable to improve the teaching methods, which she said were condemning children to “slow death by worksheet”. The more desirable Catholic girls’ school was notorious for discriminating against girls from mixed marriages and on one occasion turned a girl away because she had cerebral palsy and walked on crutches, using as an excuse the claim that she would be unable to manage the crowded corridors between classes.

Friends told me that their families had encountered discrimination in the past, such as believing they were being kept down the council house waiting list or facing hostility at a checkpoint because of Irish surnames, but the first was in the 1940s and the second in the 1970s and the prejudice in question was anti-Irish, not anti-Catholic as such. The nearest thing to religious prejudice I ever encountered as a Catholic was a group of boys chanting “your dad’s a vicar” at me in the playground, and as you may have guessed, this was not anti-Catholic prejudice. The Church has been exposed as the facilitator of child abuse and profiteer of slave labour in many countries, including Ireland, Australia and (to a lesser extent, as its power was less) the UK, and its much vaunted “saint” Mother Theresa exposed for not actually treating the sick while hob-nobbing with dictators, yet this has not resulted in the lives of ordinary Catholics in this country being made difficult.

So, it’s ridiculous to claim that Catholics “still face prejudice”. The church that inspired the persecution of Catholics in England is now weaker than the Catholic Church itself, despite retaining established status in England. At a time when there are groups in society that are facing real prejudice and some of this is being incited by the mass media, it is distasteful to claim that a powerful church that has access to public money having some of its privileges questioned and cut back is evidence of prejudice.

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Inquiry rejects press claims about 'Christian' girl fostered by Muslims

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 November, 2017 - 17:11

Social worker finds no evidence to support allegations which caused a media furore in August about five-year-old’s care

Allegations made in the national press about a girl placed with Muslim foster carers have been roundly rejected in the findings of an official investigation seen by the Guardian.

In August, claims that the five-year-old, described as a “white Christian”, had been left distressed after being placed in a Muslim household became the focus of a political and media furore. The allegations emerged from a family court case over the future of the child’s custody.

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How Will You Impact 40?

Muslim Matters - 1 November, 2017 - 13:00

I should probably offer to help.  But then again, sitting in my car and watching this guy who looks like a professional wrestler try to tie a king size mattress to the top of a mini cooper on what the weatherman described as the windiest day of the year is about as entertaining as it gets.

My wife and I were just leaving IKEA and the halal pepperoni pizza we just ordered wasn’t going to be ready for another 20 minutes.  And as much as it would have been nice to spend those next 20 minutes watching this whole thing go down until the man decided to toss the mattress and go home, I thought about how much I would have loved an extra hand if I was in his shoes.  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Do not belittle any good deed, even meeting your brother with a cheerful face.” [Muslim]

“I think I’m going to stop and help that guy,” I told my wife. She agreed. So I drove up to him and got out of the car and offered to help.  There was a sigh of relief in his eyes that made me feel good about helping him.  We didn’t speak a whole lot, but we made a great team. First, I ran back into IKEA and got some twine. And over the next 20 minutes in the freezing cold, we engineered the best mattress to car connection this IKEA parking lot has ever seen. Not even a tornado would be able to knock this thing off.

As we worked on tying the mattress to the car, I was doing some thinking on my own. I thought about the bad rap that Muslims get in the media. I thought about how it was my Islamic faith that made me want to help this man. I even thought about the example of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and how quick he was to help others. Then I thought to myself, maybe there’s a way to let this man know that I’m Muslim. And that Muslims aren’t such bad people like I’ve been hearing about all over the media.

I know! Maybe I should ask my wife to come over as we put the finishing touches on our project and ask her to help tie this last part down with me, so he sees that she’s wearing hijab. Nah. I changed my mind.  I remembered the time that the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) came rushing back to Khadijah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) after he received the first revelation and she told him that it could never be something evil because he is good to his kin, he feeds the poor, and he cares for the needy. He wasn’t doing that just so he could tell them all he was Muslim. He was doing that because he felt it was the right of humanity upon him. I remembered that the prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that he was a mercy to all mankind, and I realized that he wasn’t a mercy to mankind just so he could tell them he was Muslim. And I thought of the story of the time that the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saw a woman who was struggling and then helped her carry her belongings and on the way learned that she was leaving Madina to escape a man named Muhammad, while he did not say a word about who he was until she was so thankful by all he had done for her and asked his name, and he had to break it to her that he was the one she had been complaining about and trying to escape from. Yes, I thought about all of this that freezing night while we worked on tying that mattress down.

We were finally done. We would part ways never to speak to each other again. He would never know that I was Muslim, but at least I helped someone in need. I knew that my reward was with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and I felt good about it.

As we were about to head our separate ways, I went to shake his hand and found that he had quickly grabbed a $20 bill from his pocket and tried to put it in my hand as we shook hands. I didn’t plan what I was about to say next, but the first words that came out of my mouth were: “Absolutely not.  But if anyone ever says something about a Muslim, tell him a Muslim helped me out one time.” A huge smile came to his face. “Alright!  You got it man.  You got it!”

As Muslims living in the United States, we have some work to do. While we’re making progress in getting out there, becoming more involved, and changing the perception of Muslims in America, we still have a ways to go. The good news is that a new Pew Research Center poll shows that in recent years, Americans have expressed an increase in warm feelings toward religious groups in general, including towards Muslims, which has one of the largest increase in perception over the last three years.

I’m not so naïve as to believe that there aren’t people out there who won’t have a strong dislike of Muslims no matter what we do. However, there are plenty of people who are more rational than that; people whose fears are based on what they’ve actually seen and heard in the media – be it logical or not. One thing is for certain though, the majority of these rational people with negative feelings towards Muslims have one thing in common: they’ve never met a Muslim before. A recent YouGov poll showed that hostility toward Muslims in America exists alongside a lack of familiarity with Muslims. The poll shows that there is a direct correlation between the percentage of respondents who say they know members of the faith and the percentage who say they have favorable attitudes towards members of that faith.

This all got me thinking. Approximately one out of every 40 people in the United States is a Muslim. What if every Muslim could have a positive impact on 40 people around them? What if every Muslim could touch 40 lives?  Perhaps they are great friends and coworkers to others. Maybe they bring a small gift to their neighbor. Perhaps they make sure they’re always approachable so they can answer questions about Islam to their classmates. Or maybe they help someone tie a mattress on his car. Let’s encourage each other to do good. A friend once told me he once brought muffins into work on Eid and sent an email out to his coworkers saying that it’s Eid so he put muffins in the break room. Then he went on to tell me all of the great and interesting conversations his coworkers had with him about Islam and the things going on in the world after grabbing a muffin. I thought to myself that sounds pretty simple. I’ll have to try that next Eid.

Go out there and have a positive impact on at least 40 people. And don’t just do it because of the bad rap that Muslims get these days. Do it because the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that he was sent as a mercy to all mankind. Impact 40. Here is the Facebook event, please join the social media campaign and share how you spread positivity.

Make sure you leave a comment about how you touched somebody’s life today – no matter how insignificant you think it may have been. Who knows how many people will follow your lead and add good deeds on your scale.

Muslim teaching assistant wins unfair dismissal case over 9/11 footage

The Guardian World news: Islam - 31 October, 2017 - 18:21

Suriyah Bi was sacked after she objected to a teacher showing children footage of people jumping from the Twin Towers after the terror attack

A Muslim teaching assistant who was sacked for objecting to 11-year-olds being shown graphic footage of the 9/11 attacks has won an unfair dismissal case against her former school.

Suriyah Bi, 25, was dismissed from the Heartlands Academy in Birmingham in 2015 after raising concerns about a year seven class with special needs being played a YouTube video that showed people jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center.

Related: Trojan horse: the real story behind the fake 'Islamic plot' to take over schools

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