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Warnings of Trojan horse complacency risk

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 May, 2015 - 07:30
Did the latest of six reports into Birmingham schools get to the bottom of events, or merely gloss over them?

Birmingham headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson makes a perhaps surprising admission about her first reaction to finding a copy of the now fabled Trojan horse letter on her desk in February last year. “I read it and said to my deputy, ‘yes, we know that goes on’ and I put it to one side, and almost disregarded it,” she says. “I’d witnessed all this behaviour. Everything in that document was familiar to me: ways of trying to discredit headteachers and senior leaders – it wasn’t shocking to me at all.”

After the letter emerged, with allegations of a plot to oust headteachers and replace them with people who would run schools on “strict Islamic principles”, the education secretary, then Michael Gove, sent in Peter Clarke, former head of the Met’s counterterrorism command, to investigate. Clarke found evidence of “coordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into some schools”. Ofsted put five schools, including three academies run by the Park View Educational Trust, into special measures. Anderton Park was not one of the 21 inspected.

Nicky Morgan has said we are on top of this now. I don't see how we can be

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Life in Prison: How Islam Can Save Aaron Hernandez

Muslim Matters - 11 May, 2015 - 21:43

Hernandez scored 20 touchdowns in three NFL seasons.

Hernandez scored 20 touchdowns in three NFL seasons.

When the gavel came down on Aaron Hernandez — the former New England Patriots and University of Florida football star convicted on April 15 of first-degree murder in the 2013 shooting death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd — a common narrative among traditional and social media was that two lives were now lost: That of the victim and that of his killer, because the mandatory life sentence given to Hernandez means his life is essentially over.

Before the murder case that turned his football fame into criminal infamy, Hernandez met almost every modern-day qualification for “having it all” in the dunya. He was young (23 at the time of his arrest), talented, rich and recognizable. He had won a college national championship at Florida and had played in Super Bowl XLVI with the Patriots, coming up just short of adding a pro football championship to his collection. He had an endorsement deal with sneaker and apparel company Puma, and a $40 million contract with the Patriots. Going into the 2013 season, Hernandez was ranked by NFL Network as one of the top 100 players in the league. He had a $1 million home with four stories and a pool. He had a fiancee and a baby girl.

That chapter of Hernandez's life has ended. There will be no more pro football, no more hefty paychecks, no more mansion, no more nightclubs. Hernandez's life sentence includes no possibility of parole, and on top of that, he's still facing another trial on murder charges stemming from a 2012 shooting in Boston that left two men dead.

Two days after his April 15 conviction for Lloyd's murder, it was being reported that Hernandez was on suicide watch at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution's Cedar Junction facility.

And why not? As many people have stated, Aaron Hernandez's life is already over.

Reality, however, makes it clear how far that statement is from the truth.

Prison, even in the form of a life sentence, is not itself a death sentence. Incarcerated individuals can and do contribute positively to society, whether it's writing books, performing community service, teaching and counseling and preaching to others inmates and youth groups.

More importantly, Islam teaches that even those prisoners doing life can still have a life. The purpose of our time in this world, in the dunya, is to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), The Originator and The Creator.

And that worship can be done just as effectively inside a jail cell as it can be done inside a $1 million mansion. It can be done in a prison yard just as successfully as it can be done on a football field.

In “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” the man known later as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz tells the story of his conversion to Islam as a young man in prison. Recounting one particularly powerful experience, he writes, “Then all the rest of that night, I prayed to Allah. I don't think anyone ever prayed more sincerely to Allah. I prayed for some kind of relief from my confusion.”

Malcolm X was not in front of the Ka'aba in the holy city of Mecca when he offered those life-altering prayers that night. He was not in a mosque, or in the home he would later make with his wife and children, or at one of the prestigious lecture halls or auditoriums he would later be invited to speak at as a representative of the Nation of Islam.

He offered those prayers behind bars in his cell at Norfolk Prison Colony — a facility in the same Massachusetts Correctional Institution system that now houses Aaron Hernandez.

The Holy Qur'an outlines one condition that so many men like Malcolm X, and so many men like Hernandez, have had to accept before the possibility of self-improvement is presented:

“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.” (13:11)

While serving a seven-year term for burglary, Malcolm X had to own the sins from the previous chapter of his life and be open to change before he Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would change his condition. Malcolm X wrote: “For evil to bend its knees, admitting its guilt, to implore the forgiveness of God, is the hardest thing in the world. It's easy for me to see and to say that now. But then, when I was the personification of evil, I was going through it. Again, again, I would force myself back down into the praying-to-Allah posture. When finally I was able to make myself stay down — I didn't know what to say to Allah.”

After that, once he did figure out what to say, he wrote: “You couldn't have gotten me out of books with a wedge. Between Mr. (Elijah) Muhammad's teachings, my correspondence, my visitors … and my reading of books, months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.”

To those who have made their purpose in life the pursuit of money, material things and other markers of “having it all” in the dunya, a lengthy prison sentence would be like the end of their life. Although, ironically enough, some of the most rich, famous and “free” individuals in our society have said that wealth and fame can feel like a prison.

To those who have made it their purpose in life to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), prison would not necessarily be a hindrance to reaching that goal.

The game has moved on without Hernandez. The Patriots just won another Super Bowl title without him, and the man that took the lion's share of his playing time, All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, has become arguably the best at his position in the NFL and a budding multi-media star.

It must be a hard pill for Hernandez to swallow, that feeling of not being needed. But he can still find purpose. The right purpose.

If I could speak to Hernandez, I'd tell him that much. I'd advise him to use his time to think and reflect about his history and his choices, to study his spirit and explore a different path. I'd remind him that while the glamorous part of his life is in the past, he could still have a glorious future ahead.

Perhaps that is why so many people have converted to Islam while in prison. Because when everyone else is telling you that your life is over, Islam is telling you that you still have a life worth living.

The post Life in Prison: How Islam Can Save Aaron Hernandez appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Lincoln County Chairman Carrol Mitchem: “Only Christian Prayers Welcome At Meetings”

Loon Watch - 11 May, 2015 - 20:52

Carrol_Mitchem_Christian

From the complete-incomprehension-of-the-US-Constitution/Kooky-RightWing-Evangelicalism-Files #324590408282:

By John Cominsky, Charlotte Observer

A Lincoln County commissioner says non-Christian prayer is not welcome in government meetings that he is a part of and that he plans on keeping it that way.

Lincoln County Board of Commissioners Chairman Carrol Mitchem told WBTV that any prayer from a “minority religion” would not be heard before county meetings if he has a say in the matter.

“Other religions, or whatever, are in the minority. The U.S. was founded on Christianity,” Mitchem said. “I don’t believe we need to be bowing to the minorities. The U.S. and the Constitution were founded on Christianity. This is what the majority of people believe in, and it’s what I’m standing up for.”

WBTV contacted Mitchem after a report was published in the Lincoln Times-News. In that report, Mitchem was asked about Rowan County, which was ordered earlier in the week by a federal court to stop opening meetings with a sectarian prayer. A federal judge ruled the Rowan County Board of Commissioners violated the Constitution when they held prayers before public meetings that were specific to one religion – Christianity.

“Changing rules on the way the United States was founded, Constitution was founded (I don’t like),” Mitchem told the paper. “I don’t need no Arab or Muslim or whoever telling me what to do or us here in the county what to do about praying. If they don’t like it, stay the hell away.”

Mitchem echoed that sentiment to WBTV on Friday.

“I ain’t gonna have no new religion or pray to Allah or nothing like that,” Mitchem said. He added that anyone who doesn’t want to hear a Christian prayer can leave and “wait until we’re done praying.

“We’re fighting Muslims every day. I’m not saying they’re all bad,” Mitchem said. “They believe in a different God than I do. If that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. But, they don’t need to be telling us, as Christians, what we need to be doing. They don’t need to be rubbing our faces in it.”

Jibril Hough, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, said such attitudes go against the principles on which the country was founded. “If you don’t believe the rights of the minority are equal to the rights of the majority, then you are against what America stands for,” Hough said. “That’s why we live in a democratic republic.”

Muslims, he added, “pray to the God of Abraham, the same God Christians and Jews pray to.”

Read the entire article…

Taking the Heat Off Israel: Why The NYT Obsesses Over Campus Debates

Once again, The New York Times is taking up the issue of divestment debates on college campuses, subjecting readers to yet another discussion of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and how the boycott movement affects student feelings.

For the third time in as many months, the Times has published a prominently displayed article on the subject. The latest is titled “Campus Debates on Israel Drive a Wedge Between Jews and Minorities;” it appears on page 1 of the print edition and notes that many minority organizations are now supporting Palestinian rights and this “drives a wedge between many Jewish and minority students.”

It is difficult to understand why the Times gives such play to this story, which rehashes material from earlier ones centered on debates at UCLA and Stanford, but all the articles take aim at the divestment effort. The previous ones attempted to connect the boycott movement (known as BDS for boycott, divestment and sanctions) with anti-Semitism; this one tells us that the movement is divisive.

Each of the stories is notable for avoiding the substance of the campus debates. In the latest article, for instance, we learn only that students are objecting to “what they see as Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians” and that “they have cast the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a powerful force’s oppression of a displaced group.”

Readers would never know that students are motivated by the facts on the ground: the brutality of the occupation, the horrific attacks on Gaza, and a racist system that a South African jurist recently called “infinitely worse than those committed by the apartheid regime of South Africa.”

The Times obscures these facts in its daily reports from Israel and in its discussions of BDS, focusing instead on abstractions and political maneuverings. It attempts to change the subject from the very real Israeli oppression of Palestinians to talk of campus strife over the issue.

Meanwhile, it ignores another, more pernicious, BDS debate unfolding in the legislative bodies from Congress to state assemblies and senates. In these halls, Israel supporters are promoting attempts to outlaw and rein in BDS.

The U.S. House and Senate recently passed amendments authorizing negotiators for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership bill to push for efforts that would normalize trade with Israeli settlements on Palestinian land (even though these have been declared illegal under international law), effectively erase the boundaries between the West Bank and Israel and punish companies that resist collaboration with the occupation.

The House amendment openly identifies BDS as a target, saying that negotiators should discourage “politically motivated efforts to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel.” One observer has noted that some of the language in the amendments is identical to that in an Israeli bill adopted in 2011.

State legislatures, such as those in Tennessee and Indiana, are taking aim at BDS, with bills declaring that the movement is anti-Semitic and requiring state pension funds to withdraw money from companies that boycott Israel. The Tennessee bill (and the Congressional amendment) includes passages taken directly from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2014 speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

There is something askew here: The Times finds the BDS debate newsworthy when it takes place on college campuses but not worth mentioning when it shows up in legislative bodies, even at the federal level. It may be that such coverage would bring inconvenient facts to light—Israeli breaches of international law, for instance, and European restrictions on trade with settlements.

We can trace a link from Israel to lobbyists in the United States and from the lobbyists to the halls of Congress and state legislatures. It appears to connect also with The New York Times, where we find some of the familiar techniques for protecting Israel in play: avoidance and diversion.

Thus Times readers, uninformed about the full extent of Israeli atrocities in the occupied Palestinian territories (and within Israel proper), are directed away from the facts on the ground. They are sidetracked into discussions of anti-Semitism or divisiveness, all part of an effort to take the heat off Israel.

Barbara Erickson


Filed under: Campus BDS Tagged: Campus BDS, Israel, Israel Lobby, New York Times, Palestine, TTIP

Conservatives: How bad is it for Muslims?

Islamicate - 11 May, 2015 - 00:42

As with the rest of Europe, it seems the UK is also veering to the right. The re-appointment of the Conservatives isn’t exactly a shock nor are we in the dark about what they intend to do for the next five years, although it leaves a rather uncomfortable realisation that there are so many people who feel no regard for those visiting food banks or unable to meet the demands of the most basic living standards.

Yet dissonance with wider society means that the concerns of vocal Muslim commentators will return to those things that have no significant impact on the lives of ordinary British Muslims. The damaging obsession British Muslims have with foreign policy means that the reason and solution to everything is always predicated on it – even where the narrative of extremists such as ISIS has moved on and has nothing to do with British policies – it is this warped obsession that feeds into nearly everything we do or speak about in the political realm. In fact, it only makes sense if we assume that the only understanding of the role of the faithful is to completely disregard their own needs and what God might want from them and act as commissions for Muslims in other lands. Yet there is nothing in revelation or the prophetic life that would even remotely imply this, in fact everything is actually to the contrary. And after having set such a tone, to then appropriate the language of inclusion, commonality or citizenship with wider British society becomes farcical.

There are increasingly large numbers of Muslims who are quite jaded with the current state of affairs, whether it is our take on religion, politics or societal interaction. Our neglect of revelation and a deep commitment to unravel its layered and nuanced guidance rather than merely scream about its primacy has meant that we neglect divine providence: “And do not be like those who were given the book, a period of time passed so their hearts became hardened.” (Quran 57:16) Invariably, to neglect divine guidance will mean that our progress shall be hampered, our efforts fruitless, and our aspirations unfulfilled.

There are those who speak of the UK being an incredibly difficult place to practice one’s faith; such sentiment is ridiculous. For one who simply wishes to offer prayer, give charity, fast, recite the book of God, frequent the places of prayer, exhort righteousness and call to Abrahamic monotheism, earn a living and raise their children in peace then the UK is a gift from God. For those who pseudo religiously appropriate the language of power, who desire authority and dominance as some inherent right – living in a democracy as a minority means that if wider society doesn’t relate to your aspirations, then at some point you’ll despondently realise you won’t get very far.

From the diverse sorts of believers I meet these days there seems to be a sense of dejection amongst those politically active (or once active) in the religious community. It is understandable that many remain apathetic to political processes and politicians, often put down to the futility of engagement, which usually follows with a number of examples, from the case of Babar Ahmed, Schedule 7, the Prevent program to the relatively recent CTS (counter terrorism and security) bill. But this narrow focus portrays faith-based political engagement as extremely shallow and centred merely on matters of security. Politically, the needs of the Muslim community will be most likely be met where those needs somewhat mirror issues of concern with the majority of the country; so getting somewhere on a matter such as civil liberties would require a section of wider society also sharing that concern – and to think that it currently reflects the concerns, expectations and aspirations of even 1% of the wider population is wishful thinking. Whilst rhetoric mixed with religious terms might arouse the passions of some Muslims, the political naivety is worrying.

So engendered has this narrative become that many fail to even recognise when things have gone wrong often deeming those who highlight it as sellouts and menaces. This is the narrative that is driving current political activity, and even where our articulations are logically problematic we remain completely oblivious to the glaring problems they cause, from the way they position Muslims in society to the damaging way in which they betray the richness and profundity of the shari’ah.

Amongst the problems is the incessant scaremongering Muslims are internally privy to which would have you believe the only matters of importance are those pertaining to civil liberties. There are many reasons for this, amongst them is that people who are scared make good supporters. So with the new parliament, it is inevitable that the scaremongering shall resume, either by concentrating on the Prevent strategy or a resurfacing Snoopers Charter. And even where vocal rhetoricians restrict issues of relevance to these two, their efforts are palpably pointless since Muslims effectively hold no political clout whatsoever, and when they attempt to do something it tends to make the situation worse. The most recent example is one that was so badly conceptualised that it made them look like extremist sympathisers; incongruously, in place of bringing the security services to account CAGE managed to provide the argument for harsher measures and rally the public to mandate them. For the wider Muslim community, there were ramifications with a greater impact: CAGE, speaking as a Muslim-cum-quasi-human rights organisation inadvertently made it look like Muslims were more concerned with the rights of extremists who’d eventually join ISIS than the security of the country and its citizens. In speaking as Muslims with a veneer of some form of representativeness, they discussed Emzawi not as the malign extremist he is according to orthodoxy theology and western sensibilities – both of which are important variables in the context – but with an empathetic undertone that inferred some sense of affinity. Awkwardly, the cultural dissonance went further awry by describing Emzawi as once ‘beautiful’ – really not the type of adjective one might, or should, use in the context. It was an unfortunate case of the type of insularity we’d rather not have seep into the public realm, an urban concoction of misapplied linguistic cultural capital and misplaced religiosity – “he was a beautiful akhi, you know.”

But beyond this example, there is an increasing trend for rights campaigners to represent Muslims in the public realm by veering into religion and becoming political spokespersons for a religious community. One of the main problems of such an affair is that by their nature rights activists tend to be adversarial, view things in a bleak way, and fail to consider wider political and social issues beyond infringements on human rights. Whilst there must be a group of Muslims who continue to challenge increasingly draconian laws, when that challenge takes on an ideological slant or where it is presented, even by implication, as being Muslim political sentiment we paint ourselves as being one-trick ponies. We have seen this time and again, most recently with advocacy groups such as MEND who infer that most of our political woes will be resolved by focusing on Islamophobia.

The reality is that Muslims are rather more in need of a robust NHS, decent state schooling, and an effective social welfare system. Given that the majority of Muslims come from working-class backgrounds with many exhibiting some sort of welfare dependency, how can we expect confident and vibrant expressions of faith and religious practice when the majority are facing public services being cut, the bedroom tax, possible cuts to child support and tax credits, and unaffordable housing?

If we’re to look at the next parliament objectively, there doesn’t seem to be a major threat to Islam – but there certainly is to the interests of the people. The vast majority of Britons are not bankers and city traders, Russian oligarchs and media tycoons, all of whom have been benefitting handsomely from the previous government, but normal people trying to earn a living and live out some sort of meaningful existence. Getting over the exaggerated depictions of the Tories as some sort of anti-Christ out to get Muslims, Labour’s Yvette Cooper would have treated the Muslim community no differently to Theresa May, in fact there are some indications she would have been rather more contemptuous. To the probable delight of many Muslims and advocacy groups, the Conservatives have said that Islamophobia will be made a reportable offence that is monitored by the police, and Cameron had pledged that zabiha slaughtering will be protected – something that will certainly please the many Muslims who absurdly reduce Islam to what they eat.

Despite the trepidation felt by some, a Conservative government does not warrant dejection or fear. For those of faith it should be exciting to think that there’s a lot of work to do, from organising ourselves more efficiently to asking pertinent questions about who leads us and represents the faithful. Who do we look to for our faith and the meaningful expressions we require to live in an increasingly sophisticated world? Just as Labour are now going back to the drawing board, we need to start at the beginning for a fresh and stimulating narrative that offers a politics of hope and not despair, one driven by faith that adds value rather than simply deprecates the status quo.

We must ask the glaring questions: are we simply a make up of various ethnic groups or Britons who care about our country and its future? The west versus Islam narrative flies in the face of Quranic theology: when Musaylamah the false prophet sought to make such a distinction of territory the Messenger of God nobly replied with the Quran, reflecting the sentiments of Moses: “The Earth belongs to God and He shall inherit it to whom he wills.” The Prophet’s application of the verse intimates that for the believer to turn away from a sense of commitment or obligation from the green lands of the British Islands to the sand dunes of Arabia is to assume that parts of the Earth actually belongs to specific people or that it is melanin that partially dictates belonging. The light of God is neither of East or West (see Quran 24:35), in fact “wherever you turn you shall find the face of God.” (Quran 2:115)

Not only must Muslims interrogate their sense of belonging and commitment to the people they live amongst, but more importantly, rather than assume things are bad for the faithful – of course there’s always room for improvement – God tells us: “Be thankful to God: whoever gives thanks benefits his own soul, and as for those who are thankless – God is self-sufficient, worthy of all praise.” (Quran 31:12) They must manifest rububiyyah (God as ultimate Lord) in its most simplest form by glorifying the Most High with hamd (praise) and shukr (thanks) for the liberty to live as believers, manifest their faith, offer prayer and invite others to godliness, piety, and a worshipful existence.

“If you are thankful, I shall give you more…” (Quran 14:7)

We are indeed in need of more. All praise is due to God, Lord of hosts.

Germany: Four Arrested Over Plot To Attack Muslims And Asylum Seekers

Loon Watch - 10 May, 2015 - 15:07

Germany_Polizei

BBC

Prosecutors said that three men and one woman were accused of founding a far-right group and procuring explosives.

They added that a previously unknown group, the “Old Schools Society”, had been planning to attack mosques and hostels for asylum seekers.

The suspects were arrested in raids across five German states involving some 250 investigators.

“In the search, pyrotechnics with large explosive power and further pieces of evidence were confiscated,” said the prosecutor’s office in a statement.

Read the entire article…

Picking up the pieces from Thursday’s disaster

Indigo Jo Blogs - 10 May, 2015 - 14:35

As anyone who reads the news will know, last Thursday there was a general election here and on Friday morning we learned that the Tories had gained an absolute majority of the seats, which means we have a Tory-only government without a Lib Dem coalition. The Lib Dems lost all but 8 of their seats (there is a full list of MPs who lost their seats at Wikipedia here); they are left with only one seat in London (Carshalton and Wallington) and none in their former south-western heartland. The Scottish National Party won all but three seats in Scotland, the Lib Dems, Labour and Tories being left with one seat each. The Tories now intend another £12m of public service cuts and have already earmarked the Access to Work scheme, which assists disabled people in finding work (so, it’s not an out-of-work benefit), for cuts; they also intend to press ahead with boundary changes which, according to the Telegraph, could “lock Labour out of power for a decades (sic)”, and to extending state surveillance powers, both of which they were unable to do while in coalition. They are also committed to a referendum on leaving the EU by 2017 and to abolishing the Human Rights Act. (More: Looking for Blue Sky, Lenin’s Tomb, Islamicate.)

There’s no doubting that this was a right-wing result: people keep repeating that the Tories ‘only’ won 36.9% of the vote, but forget that UKIP won 12.6% despite that translating only into one seat because of their wide distribution of votes. That’s a total of 49.5% of the vote, and that’s UK-wide — in England and Wales the figure would have been well over half (UKIP got around 10%, sometimes more, in several west Welsh seats although they won none). So, at least in England, there is now a clear democratic mandate for at least a referendum. David Cameron says he is in favour of remaining in a “reformed EU”, but we all know that the reforms are not going to happen. He is likely to pitch up with a series of “transitional demands” (meaning ludicrous ones) which he knows the other major EU states will reject, then go home and say “he tried but failed” to reform the EU. There are firm economic and social reasons for staying in, but supporters of the EU have a huge fight on their hands, especially given the numerical strength of UKIP, which could (depending on the credibility of its next leader, which could well be Douglas Carswell) attract more Tory defectors. Those demanding withdrawal must know that they will not have the consent of the people of Scotland or even Wales, however decisive the result in England.

The Tories won this with the help of major failings by both the Labour party and Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems’ failures I have already mentioned on here, as our local MP in Kingston and Surbiton was a Lib Dem until the last Parliament. Now, we have a Tory who was elected with 39.2% of the vote; Ed Davey’s result fell 15.3% to 34.5%. Not a total collapse, and the Tory (James Berry) gained by only 2.7%, but he won and the Lib Dems lost anyway. Labour’s vote went up 5.1% to 14.5% and the Greens also increased to nearly 4% from less than 1% last time. UKIP’s vote went up by 4.8% to 7.3%. This shows that the Lib Dems’ tactic of threatening voters “Labour cannot win here” does not work if their sitting MP has lost the trust of his voters. In some areas, like Cambridge and Norwich South, Labour took Lib Dem seats in middle-class provincial areas, which shows that they indeed can win if they make the effort. (In other areas, particularly in the south-west, there was a decisive rightward shift to both the Tories and UKIP, not a split progressive vote, which is perhaps a legacy of Cameron’s “we’re a rich country” response to the 2014 floods.)

As with before the election, the Lib Dems and their friends in the media claim they have no regrets and do not admit that they did anything wrong. For example, their former leader Menzies Campbell, who lost the seat of North East Fife to a Scottish Nationalist, said in a TV interview this morning that he did not regret going into the coalition “in the national interest” and mouthed the usual nonsense about clearing up the mess Labour made. Simon Hughes, who lost the seat in south-east London he had held since the 1980s, blamed the voters, saying “people were voting Labour because they wanted to get of a Tory government. They got rid of the MP, and ended up with a Tory government.” (In his case, however, they elected a Labour MP, as did two constituencies in north London.) Simon Hughes held an inner-city seat that should have been Labour for 30 years, and his is another case of years of hard work building up the trust of local people being thrown away for five years enjoying the privileges of office. They seem to think they made personal sacrifices, when what they sacrificed was public services and the needs of poor and disabled people.

As for Labour, it seems the timidity that has been their hallmark since the days of Kinnock has proven their undoing. Both in power and in opposition, Labour has always been cowardly when dealing with powerful actors, whether it’s the Tory media or an angry American president on the warpath. They only display a bit of muscle when there is a powerless, unpopular enemy on the floor to kick, often a recalcitrant left-winger in a local party somewhere. When the Daily Mail manufactured a scandal in 2006 about the low numbers of ‘foreign criminals’ being deported after completing their sentences, the Home Office put out a dragnet that caught many people who had lived in the UK a long time (often long enough to apply for citizenship) and who had already served their sentences, which were often for minor crimes. Labour had 13 years in office to reform the electoral system and ownership and control of the media. They did neither, because they were one of the two entrenched interests that benefited (sometimes) from First Past the Post, and because the Sun then supported them. This is why they ended up competing against an almost entirely hostile press and broadcast media in 2015.

I saw an article warning about the “delusions of the defeated”, one of which is to conclude that the party “isn’t left-wing enough”, harking back to the early 1980s Labour party which took away precisely this lesson from the defeat of 1979, and were defeated even more soundly (with a bit of help from the Social Democratic Party defectors) in 1983. The problem is that defending the last Labour government’s economic record or the public services they didn’t destroy is not left-wing; New Labour ran a mostly centre-right government. It’s not a question that they weren’t left-wing or right-wing enough; they were not courageous or forthright enough. They did not challenge the prevailing myth that Labour left the economy in a shambles; they allowed themselves to be strong-armed into accepting an economic strait-jacket; they dithered on the matter of a coalition with the SNP, which they could have resolved by insisting that there would be no referendum on independence in the next Parliament. (The SNP when in power in Scotland is not that left-wing, something they could also have stressed.) Exposing the lies peddled by the BNP, some of them given credence by the popular press, was key to sinking that party; the same must be done with UKIP’s tabloid-friendly lies. The next leader does not have to be a left-winger; he or she has to have a backbone.

An issue which has been given some attention since the election is that there may be another vote on whether fox hunting with hounds should be legalised. While I do not support re-legalising, it does not come close to the importance of preventing further welfare, disability or legal aid cuts, the privatising of the NHS, the abolition of the Human Rights Act, to name but a few threats we are now faced with. The Tories are not guaranteed to get this through Parliament as there were always Tory opponents of fox-hunting (e.g. Alan Clark) and there is a generation of young adults who do not remember when it was legal, and may be more concerned about the disruption hunts caused, as well as the danger to animals other than foxes (the turning point last time was when the hunt killed someone’s cat in an Essex village). So by all means write letters to your MP if he or she is a Tory (the others will most likely vote against), but don’t let it distract you from the big issues. Human beings, after all, aren’t vermin.

The Human Rights Act is something we have a fight on our hands to preserve. Again, this will not be a walk-over for the Tories as they have some MPs left who are not securocrats or Little Englanders, such as Dominic Grieve (former attorney general, member for Beaconsfield) and David Davis (for Haltemprice and Howden in east Yorkshire); they are likely to be the older, long-serving ones who associate the European project with keeping the peace in Europe. If we win this time, we can expect this to come back in the next, or next-but-one, Tory-dominated parliament as the old guard retire and the Tory party and press blame the HRA for everything they cannot do. (See earlier entry for why the HRA is important and why the arguments against it are unsound and heavily based on appeals to racism and white privilege, and this one on why the Magna Carta is no substitute. Abolishing it in Scotland would be a more complicated matter than in England.)

Why did the Tories win? Did years of campaigning against the Bedroom Tax, of highlighting the suffering caused to people, especially chronically ill and disabled people, by the coalition’s social security cuts, to say nothing of the young people who cannot find stable or meaningful work and cannot get housing, have no effect on people? The truth is it probably didn’t, partly because the public has been subjected to a drip-feed of propaganda about the billions lost through ‘fraud and error’, the need to ‘make savings’ to ‘fix Labour’s mess’, news reports and entire TV series about people living high on the hog on benefits (large families being housed in expensive London town-houses at public expense and so on, which would not be happening if the council houses had not been sold off), and this has been in the papers and on TV and the supposedly impartial BBC (fearing a licence fee cut) goes along with it rather than challenging it.

However, it seems the majority in Middle England really do not know (or think they don’t know) anyone affected by the cuts; their children aren’t the ones paying huge rents in tenancies that could end any time, or living in mouldy/damp/rat-infested properties and threatened with eviction if they complain (particularly outside London; there was more of a shift to Labour in the cities). And when you tell people that there is real suffering, they shrug: life isn’t fair; you only know one side of the story; it’s just the way of the world. The platitudes we all heard from adults when we were children when we said their decisions weren’t fair. The number of people who are doing OK, whether thanks to the coalition’s policies or not, clearly outweighs those who are suffering. However much we explain that living and working with disability costs money, most people will not ‘get it’ unless it affects them or their families directly, and in some cases (but not others) people’s generosity makes up for the lack of state support. And the threat of a “SNP chokehold” on a minority Labour government without the option of a Lib Dem coalition, however baseless that fear, may have driven many swing voters into the Tory camp.

The Tories themselves, it has to be stressed, really don’t give a toss. In Saturday’s Daily Mail, Max Hastings brushed away the evidence of impoverishment. “Privately, especially after watching those awful TV debates — obsessed with food banks, welfare claimants and the NHS — I feared the worst.” (Later on, he does call for the party to “present themselves as standard-bearers for a fair and decent capitalism, not the smash-and-grab kind”, but that’s always tomorrow for the Tories, never today.) David Cameron especially does not care about disabled people who are survivors; he appears to resent them, and answers any plea about the impoverishment of disabled people and their families by reminding them of Ivan. Iain Duncan Smith answers such pleas with a snigger. Some are too wealthy to care, and for some it’s all a game.

The Tories have played the ‘England card’, with the help of a partly partisan and partly sycophantic or cowed media, and won. This means that, for the next five years at least, there will be no let-up on welfare or disability support cuts, no proportional representation and no reform of the housing market. Preventing the repeal of the HRA, exit from the EU and the re-legalisation of fox hunting remain possible; we must also be vigilant for voter suppression, a common tactic of the American right who know that making it difficult to vote benefits them, and support whatever makes voting easier in future, such as making election day a public holiday. The Tories are committed to maintaining the United Kingdom and some of them are committed to dragging us out of the EU; however, they must realise that they cannot do both, as Scotland will not consent to an exit from the EU and, likely, neither will Wales. Even the Mail on Sunday today conceded that most people in the UK do not in fact want to exit, although around 18% are undecided. However, an English vote to leave the EU followed by an illegal secession by Scotland could have dire and bloody consequences, something I believe that many Tories (and some others) would not go out of their way to avoid. Anyone thinking of moving to Scotland to get away from Tory rule should bear that in mind.

Image sources: Wikimedia. 2010 map public domain. 2015 map uploaded to Wikipedia by Italay90 and re-coloured by Cryptographic.2014, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike International 4.0 Licence.

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Digesting the General Election – A Muslim Perspective

Islamicate - 10 May, 2015 - 01:17

When David Cameron bullishly said that he was going for Conservative majority Government and nothing else, most of us thought that either this was his way of wriggling out of a discussion on who he might do a deal with, or that he was suffering from delusions of grandeur. As the result of the General Election finally begins to sink in, this is a timely reminder to all that even experts (who almost unanimously believed there would be another coalition) can sometimes get it woefully wrong.

On the topic of experts illustrating their fallibility, lets also not forget the spectacular success of the SNP. Whilst everyone knew they would put in a strong performance, the extent of their success came as a surprise to everyone, including Nicola Sturgeon herself. We all expected Labour to retain at least some support in Scotland, which historically has been Labour territory. Quite how Labour are going to recover from this annihilation remains a mystery, and given that Labour are the only realistic hope for left-wing voters to have their choice of Government, one can empathise with the gloom emanating from left-wing commentators.

Feelings of despair are also being felt amongst swathes of Muslims in Britain. They have five more years of Theresa May to look forward to, who now has an opportunity to implement her CTS Bill and suggest other draconian policies without any hindrance; five more years of Michael Gove who began his expedition in search of Trojan Horses that continued with Nicky Morgan, and now finds himself as justice secretary; five years of Boris Johnson, who suggested that Muslim children at risk of extremism ought to be taken into care; and of course, five more years of David Cameron leading the pack.

Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing, and perhaps now would be a timely point to digest attitudes of the Muslim community in the run-up to the general election, and what the prospect of a Tory Government means for Muslims in Britain. The most active organisation that aimed to galvanise Muslim voters was MEND, who went to the trouble of producing a ‘Muslim Manifesto’ and organising hustings in various constituencies with a significant Muslim population. Their efforts in reaching out to a minority community that historically has been difficult to engage in the democratic process ought to be congratulated by all supporters of the democratic process (even their staunchest opponents). However in retrospect there is perhaps a fundamental point to consider. The thrust of their campaign centered around the issue of Islamophobia, recognising and addressing it in various realms of public life. The Conservatives have taken this on board, and have pledged a requirement for police forces to record anti-Muslim crimes – a positive step. Therefore, can MEND really feel aggrieved at the result? Whilst Labour pledged to go further and ‘outlaw’ Islamophobia, quite how they would have trodden this muddy path remains a mystery and for all practical purposes they probably only would have managed the very same thing the Conservatives have pledged on the issue of anti-Muslim hate crime.

On face value, it might seem that this gives some credence to the anti-democracy, anti-voting brigade within the Muslim community, which once again manifested during this election, and whilst the majority of the British public were scrutinising which party they would vote for, many Muslims were still debating whether voting is at odds with their theology. Quite how placing a cross on a piece of paper for an individual that one believes will be most amenable to understanding their concerns as a citizen and advocating for them equates to polytheism is frankly perplexing. Being the keyboard warriors they are, this brigade took to social media to plaster the discussion boards on the dangers of ‘man made law’, pasting lists of names of scholars that very few Muslims have ever heard of who apparently support their view. Whilst providing a robust response to their sheer immaturity is beyond the scope of this piece (but something that will be addressed in the future) a particularly worrying trend amongst this group is the confidence with which they speak in matters that they have little knowledge of. They wish to advocate for the law of God, yet none of them have studied it or even made an effort to learn the Arabic language to try and understand the deeper meanings of God’s words. For all their talk of referring all matters back to God, they haven’t bothered to memorise anything significant of the Quran with the intention of having God’s word directly at hand, so they can think about what God truly wants from them – especially in the situation they find themselves in. This fact alone makes them a band of empty rhetoricians; and for all the internet trolls, ‘commentators’ and ‘spokesmen’ that exist within their band, perhaps they need to go back to basics and put the effort in to sit with Islamic scholars to learn the very fundamentals of their religion.

The principle question that has eluded most Muslims in the run up to the election is what do Muslims in Britain require in order to build a prosperous community that can continue to worship Allah and invite their neighbours to Abrahamic monotheism? The Muslim census statistics showed Muslims in Britain to be a deprived community with low levels of economic and educational achievement and poorer health outcomes. Do these factors really provide the foundations for building a strong community? How can we expect people to become devout worshippers of Allah if they have gross financial and social instability – which incidentally is one of the wisdoms of zakat? It continues to be surprising that issues such as the NHS, education and access to social welfare remain non-issues in Muslim political discourse. Instead, our activists would much rather have ill-informed, abstract discussions about fantasy caliphates, or whine to one another about counter-extremism strategies. The former is merely a massive distraction away from practically ameliorating the community, and whilst the latter most certainly deserves some attention, concentrating primarily on counter-extremism will not build that prosperous community of devout worshippers of God that we all hope for. Even on the issue of counter-extremism, until Muslims can genuinely take charge of the issue and illustrate that they have the capability to counter aberrant interpretations of scripture by directly challenging those who misrepresent the word of God, we can expect a continued muscular approach, driven by ardent secularists, from policy makers.

Above all, Muslims need to be pragmatic and realise that whilst a majority Tory Government probably isn’t what most of them had hoped for, it is highly unlikely that the Government would veer to extremes where, for example, a school is allowed to dismiss a Muslim girl for wearing a long black skirt out of modesty, as was the case in France. However, if we are to be taken seriously, we need to show ourselves to be mature in our thought processes, which should then seep into our activity. If our activism lacks method and becomes a means of confirming some of the inaccurate stereotypes painted in the mainstream media about Muslims, then something clearly is not right, and a re-think is required. Indeed, attaining such levels of maturity will perhaps be our biggest challenge for the next five years.

Single mothers in UAE will shoulder the blame after most divorces

Single Muslim Mums - 9 May, 2015 - 21:46

Since she separated from her husband, Fatma Salim has been through a tough journey that started on the very first day after the divorce. First and most importantly, she faced obstacles as she fought over the custody of her son.

Her 10-year-old would often beg her to move back in with him and his father so that the three of them could live together as they once did. And so she had to convince her son that it was better for him – and for her and her former husband – for them to live apart. It reached a point where the son knew that the only way he would be able to live with his mother again was for his father to pass away. It was a heartbreaking realisation.

Being a single mother is a challenge for any woman, regardless of which country she lives in. Under any circumstances, parenting is an enormous challenge that requires consistent effort and sacrifice. But in some societies, including in the UAE, social stigma adds another dimension to a single mother’s struggle.

Ms Salim is just one example of a woman who lost custody of her child, after authorities found in favour of the father. But then she had to fight another battle against the society that surrounds her. Unlike many others, however, she wanted to tell her story, and she told me that many people blamed her for leaving her husband. She also has to tolerate constant questions about the reasons why she divorced, and not-so-subtle suggestions that she should have stayed with her ex-husband regardless.

Her son was the one who paid the price for the divorce, but that did not mean that his mother was guilty of some sort of dereliction of parenthood – in her marriage, divorce seemed like the only solution.

Ms Salim also told me that she felt that many women looked at her as a bad role model for their young daughters. And men who want to get to know her with a view to marriage always change their minds when they find out that she has a child, even though her son does not live with her all the time.

Her case is somewhat rare among divorcees in the UAE, as women are generally awarded custody of their children until they reach majority, as long as the women meet specific conditions and do not remarry. And so many divorced mothers will not even consider getting married again given the risk that they might lose custody of their children, especially if they are very young.

This sometimes means that single mothers will have to take the entire responsibility for their children, as the breadwinner as well as the caregiver, when their ex-husbands start new lives and new families. In this society, men typically have more opportunities to start over than women do.

According to the letter of the law, fathers are required to continue to financially support children and provide a residence. But in practice, many fathers abandon this responsibility and provide very little assistance – “deadbeat dads”, they are called in the United States – and so many cases end up in court.

A friend told me about her mother, who has four children and faced many difficulties after she left her husband because he chose to marry someone else. Without my friend’s grandmother, the family would not have been able to survive financially. Many newly single women have never held a job in their lives.

In that case, the children were lucky to have a grandmother around to lend support. In other cases, single mothers rely on family members for support, but are seen as a burden, and treated poorly as a result.

Divorce rates are increasing in the UAE. According to a survey by Euromonitor International, the total number of single-parent households more than doubled between 2006 and 2011, to more than 110,000. There are some single fathers, but most of these households are headed by single mothers.

These women face so much pressure from society, which in most cases blames women more than men. That adds to their emotional burden as many of them are made to feel that they are the reason that their children live without fathers, even if divorce or separation wasn’t their decision.

As many of these women face difficulties starting new lives and finding new husbands, if they so choose, many of them have to fight the perception among some men that they are “easy”. And some men do try to take advantage of their situation.

Single mothers – separated, divorced or widowed – all need community support. Blaming divorced mothers for not holding their families together, as if it was their fault alone, achieves nothing. Sometimes divorce, even if it is unfortunate, is the only solution. Single mothers deserve another chance to start new lives, and need respect from society to do so.

Ms Salim’s family respected her decision and her right to choose what she thought was best for her and for her child. But so many women in our society struggle to fight a negative social stigma and mistreatment, sometimes coming from their very own families.

aalmazrouei@thenational.ae

On Twitter: @AyeshaAlMazroui

Original Source: http://www.thenational.ae


Carl Sagan and the Pale Blue Dot

Inayat's Corner - 9 May, 2015 - 16:01

solar_system

The above image is taken from a presentation that the American astronomer Carl Sagan gave during the Gifford Lectures in October 1985 at Edinburgh University. That collection of lectures is available in book format as The Varieties of Scientific Experience. Let Carl himself explain the point he was making by including this in his presentation:

CS_solar_system

Carl Sagan achieved global fame with his immensely popular thirteen-part series Cosmos broadcast in 1980. Over the past year I have been catching up with several of his books including Cosmos, Billions and Billions, The Demon-Haunted World and, of course, The Varieties of Scientific Experience. His science writing is an absolute joy to read and he succeeds so well in instilling in the reader an immense sense of awe and wonder at our own place in the universe.

Before he died prematurely in 1996, he published “Pale Blue Dot“. It contains perhaps the most well known passage from his writings. Carl Sagan was involved in many NASA missions, and in February 1990 he made a suggestion to NASA. The Voyager 1 spacecraft had come to the end of its mission of photographing some of the outer planets and was now past Neptune and was six billion kilometres from the Earth (over 40 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun). Carl asked NASA to programme Voyager 1 to turn its camera around and point it towards the Earth for one final picture.

CS_pale_blue_dot

And below you can hear Carl  Sagan narrate that beautiful passage himself.


Friday Links

Muslimah Media Watch - 8 May, 2015 - 21:34
England’s first women-only mosque will open in Bradford, a 19th-century industrial boomtown and one of the most heavily Muslim-populated cities in the U.K., the Muslim Women’s Council announced. House of Fraser is now selling sports hijabs that are designed for women to wear while doing exercise, including swimming. According to the Daily Mail, It follows [Read More...]

Artist draws controversy turning church into Venice's first mosque

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 May, 2015 - 15:59

Local authorities and biennale organisers don’t want the project in their city, says the curator who wants to save Muslims the hour-long trip to the current mosque

In a tranquil corner of Venice’s Cannaregio district stands a handsome church with an icing sugar white baroque facade. Its origins stretch back to the 10th century, but the last mass was celebrated here in 1967, since when, deconsecrated and in private hands, it has stood silent and unused.

On 9 May, however, as the 56th Venice Biennale opens, Santa Maria della Misericordia will become a religious and public space once more: reborn as a mosque, the first in the city’s long history. Venetian Muslims, as well as Muslim visitors to the city, will now be able to walk to Friday prayers instead of taking an hour-long trip to the nearest mosque, in the industrial heartlands of the Veneto mainland. Behind the venerable doors of the church is now a recognisable mosque, complete with wudu area to wash in, prayer carpet, mihrab – indicating the direction of Mecca – and calligraphic cartouches.

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Tajikistan debates ban on Arabic names as part of crackdown on Islam

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 May, 2015 - 09:00

Authorities prepare list of acceptable alternatives for parents amid warning that ‘unsuitable’ names will not be registered. Eurasianet.org reports

Tajikistan is debating legislation to ban Arabic names as part of an ongoing campaign against Islam that has seen men being forced to shave their beards and women in hijab being labelled prostitutes.

Related: How Moscow’s migrant workers are being recruited to Isis

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Texas attack: FBI alerted police that Elton Simpson may go to prophet cartoon event

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 May, 2015 - 02:22

FBI director says investigators found out three hours before the event that Simpson could be heading to Garland, and passed information to local police

Federal investigators learned several hours before a “draw the prophet” cartoon contest in Texas that a man under investigation for extremist activities might show up, the FBI’s director, James Comey, said on Thursday.

They alerted local authorities there but had no indication that he planned to attack the event, he said.

Related: Texas attack: Garland Muslims caught between two 'outsider' groups

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Taliban fears over young recruits attracted to Isis in Afghanistan

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 May, 2015 - 12:17

Generous resources and a powerful brand lure would-be jihadis to group

Foreign fighters who claim allegiance to Islamic State are gathering dozens of recruits in eastern Afghanistan, luring would-be jihadis with generous resources and the group’s powerful brand, according to a Taliban fighter who has met several of their commanders.

The rapid and dramatic victories clocked up by Isis in Iraq, Syria and Libya have attracted some young men with specific grievances against government or foreign forces, who simply want the strongest possible allies.

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The Divorced Muslimah

Single Muslim Mums - 7 May, 2015 - 09:45

Assalamu’alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

Dear readers,

I would like to introduce myself. I am one of the hundreds and thousands of divorced Muslimahs around the world.  I am also one of the many women you come across daily and think of as a successful, strong and ambitious woman or I am one of the women that you think of as pitiful, weak and miserable. We, divorced Muslimahs come in all shapes, sizes and made.  As a matter of fact, at this particular moment, one of us could be sitting right next to you. Beware or be aware!

You must be wondering what is all the fuss about divorced Muslim women. Well, that is the issue, there is no fuss, and maybe there should be. I will leave it for you to decide; I am not going to tell you my story about how I got divorced, nor the story of others like me, and how and why we are divorced. Let’s just say we all have our reasons and Allah is knower of all the reasons.

I am sure many of you ladies think that when a woman has her ‘talaq’ or divorce, this is the end of her story, of her torment, like a heroine in a novel, she has finally broken free of the shackles of the man who held her imprison. Truly, such is the case in many a situation, especially when domestic violence is involved. You can probably visualise her standing on top of a cliff, the breeze gently caressing her face, the wind twirling with her hijab, and her eyes are closed, she’s only contemplating this moment; the gentle caress of the wind on her face, the soft murmur of the waves breaking against the cliff and how amazing she feels right then, she has finally made it to safety and she’s awaiting a new beginning, one which actually end with ‘she lives happily ever after.’

SubhanAllah, isn’t that a beautiful depiction of a woman! A woman who stood for herself against the wrongdoer, against all odds; a woman who kept going even when there was nowhere to go. All this sounds really nice, but let’s trying zooming out the picture, let’s stand a bit further and see what else we can see. Here! Now, we get a better picture.

Oh she’s right there on the cliff, wearing her black silky abaya, how shiny that looks! And her headscarf blowing on her face, blocking her view, she tries to move it away from her face but the wind keeps blowing it back. The wind is actually really strong that day, and she struggles to stay in place, she’s really on the edge of the cliff, and a wrong move could be quite fatal. It is starting to get dark; the sun is setting; she really shouldn’t be out that late, it’s maghrib time almost, she tries to move back, and a few pebbles fall off the cliff. She cannot see properly, darkness is falling, and her hijab would not stop smacking her in the face, she needs to see, to understand better where she’s going. She tries turning back, but suddenly she stops; where to go? She cannot go back, and there’s no way ahead of the cliff.

This is the story we are never told: The New beginning! Or is it?

This is the part of the story where you can join in and make a difference. Remember this is the story of a divorced Muslimah, but it could very well be the story of any lonely Muslimah; married, divorced, single etc.  With your permission, I would like to now include you in the story and give you a pivotal role in the new story of The Divorced Muslimah.

So, there she stands on the cliff, trying to fight the wind and her unrelenting hijab. She sees a bird flying towards her, and tries to dodge it; she quickly moves to her right but instead loses her balance and steps forward. It all happens in a split of second; she closes her eyes and reads her shahadah. Suddenly, something swiftly grabs her arm and spins her around.

“Are you ok?” asks a voice.

“Hmm Hmm,” she muffles.

She tries to regain control of the situation and finally manages to move her hijab away and looks up.

“You sure?” asks the same voice.

“Yes,” she answers softly.

Now, I don’t want to leave you in suspense anymore. You are surely wondering who that voice is, is it the hero? Or the prince in his shining armour coming to help a damsel in distress, you may ask. No, it isn’t any of that, remember this is a true story, and in true stories there’s no prince, but there’s Allah’s servants who He puts in your way to help you out. It was someone she hasn’t seen before, someone she hasn’t met before or even heard before. It was somebody who had been watching her from afar for a while, she didn’t notice that person before, but this person did notice her. Well, without further ado; this individual is: You!

 

You!

Who are you?

You, my dear readers are as important as the Divorced Muslimah in this story; You represent the life that this divorced Muslimah can lead; You are the society she lives in, You are the (potential) friends and family she can have; You are her support network; but most importantly, You are the Ummah who Allah has entrusted a vital role to. You, my beloved readers are the one now that has to protect this divorced Muslimah! You are but the guardian of Her!

Remember where the divorced Muslimah was standing just a few before. Had it not been for you grabbing her arm, what do you think would have happened? I dare not say, I dare not think of it; but remember many a time there isn’t anyone to grab her arm right on time, and sometimes it’s left for too late.

“Are you sure? You seem a bit pale,” says the Voice.

“Yes, I am fine. I just lost my balance.”

The Voice wasn’t convinced. This girl certainly doesn’t look ok, she thought. Her eyes are all red and puffy, and she seems completely drained.

“Can I help you get home or something?” asks the Voice.

“No, thank you. I live nearby.”

“Oh ok, well you take care then,” the Voice says hesitantly, still not sure whether to stay or go.

Finally, the Voice decided to make a move and started moving away. But something isn’t quite right, thought the voice. Maybe I should just stick around a little while, until the girl/woman walks back home. A woman shouldn’t after all be outside at this time for no particular reason.

The Divorced Muslimah, not too sure what to do next, decides to leave it to Allah, her creator. This is all she has left now, her unyielding faith in Allah, the One who has never wronged her and who has always shown her mercy.

She got onto her knees on the arid soil, pressing her forehead and palms on the ground, if anyone can show her the way now, it will be Him. She sobbed quietly to  As-Samad, the Satisfier of all needs; only He can safeguard her now. And As -Sami (The Hearer of All) never ignores the requests of His servants.  He is after all also, Al- ‘Alim (the Knower of All).

There is a reason as to why the Voice was still hanging around, Allah knew that His servant would need help, and through His other servants He passes on that help.

The Voice was right in staying back; this girl/woman isn’t going back home; she probably had nowhere to go. The Voice makes it way back to her.

“Listen I know you need help, please let me help you In sha Allah,” says the voice.

The Divorced Muslimah looks up, her face was now stained with mud, the barren soil was now all moist where she had laid her head down, the soil had turned muddy-like and was sticking to her face, and even her palms which must have been sweaty.

The Divorced Muslimah was not sure what to make of this. The people she trusted, the very people that were meant to protect her and love her had forced her into this position, can she trust a complete stranger? Can she share her problems and burden with this unknown person. But then, that’s exactly what she had just asked Allah, her Protector, maybe then she has to put her trust in this stranger and take it as an answer to her prayers.

I have a question for you my readers, how many of you would stop by to check on that girl, how many of you would come back even after being told everything is ok?

We humans are full of pride, and also do not like to show our emotions as it is considered to be a sign of weakness. A lot of people will not open up to strangers or even friends and family, but Allah has made us responsible for them as we are part of the Ummah.

The Ummah is the one and only community we all belong to, no matter what race we are from, what language/s we speak, what skin colour we have, what continent we were born on, what caste/tribe we belong to. As part of this community, we should take time to help people who might be in need in our Ummah, and this help should apply to anyone, not only to people who share similar traits with us. If we do not stop to make time for such people, then we need to look at ourselves and our responsibilities as a Muslims.

 

To be continued….

 

 

Submitted by

Proud_Mum

proud.ummsafia@gmail.com

 

Original Source:   http://www.projecteve.org.uk

 


Teaching Children

Single Muslim Mums - 7 May, 2015 - 08:36
A friend was recently talking to me and asking how do I go about teaching Islam to my kids. I actually never thought that Muslims parents would find it hard to find a starting point. Going back to my friend, she’s a revert and as her husband is not around a lot, she does all the teaching. Being born in a Muslim household, I was taught Islam from the beginning so never really considered it as something my parents were teaching or inculcating me with. It just was a natural thing that I used to observe around myself and other family members.

Anyway, I thought maybe I should blog about this for those who are finding it hard to introduce their children to Islam. A good starting point would be to teach your kids about Islamic morals and etiquette, big words yet the easiest thing to work on. The prophet (peace be upon him) was a gentle and respectable man who never failed to show manners and respect even in the worst of situations. So, little things you can do is remind your child to say things like thank you or jazakhallah khairan; as my children are multilingual, I used to repeat ‘thank you’ in English, French/Creole and Arabic. So they actually know they all stand for the same thing, and now that they are older, they use each of them and choose to thank me in whatever language it please them. Sometimes we remind our kids of saying thank you to outsiders for the good action they have done, but we don’t remind them to say thank you for the actions we are carrying out for them as parents. IF we want this to be automatic thing for them, then we need to start it from home. Also, we need to get ourselves in the habit of thanking our children for their good actions. Sometimes I am so busy and my kids would help with something and I’ll forget to say thank you, and they’ll be like ‘Mummy, what do you say?’ or sometimes I am talking to them and I will say  ‘oh tomorrow we are going bla bla bla.’ And then they will answer ‘In sha Allah Mummy.’ It makes me feel stupid that I have forgotten my Islamic etiquettes and my children have to remind me of it, but at the same time I feel so proud of them. Get yourself as a parent in the habit of saying your du’as loud whether you are carrying the action, or the kids are. You will find eventually you won’t even need to tell your kids to make the dua before eating etc as they will just do it automatically. But along with the du’as, translate it into children’s language so they know what they are saying. For example when my kids finish their dinner, we say Alhumdulillah, and thank you Allah for giving us such yummy food and making our belly so full. By this, your children won’t just be puppets or parrots, they are actually learning the why they are thanking Allah/God. What you can also do is teach them about how everything you have comes from Allah and we need to thank Allah for everything he gives us, as he loves so much. I got an anecdote for that. I used to teach my kids about how Allah gives us this and that etc. When we went to my friend, and my friend gave us some dinner, my youngest went: ‘Allah gave us dinner’ LOL. Made me and my friend laugh, but it was nice to see she connected the too. I told her yes Allah gave us dinner, but aunty cooked it for us, so we have to thank Aunty as well. If possible tell your kids stories about Allah’s creations, the prophets and Islamic stories so they start getting familiar with Islamic values. Also something I mentioned before, on top of reading the 4 quls and some of al-baqarah at nighttime, get them into the habit of repeating it anytime during the day. We normally do it in the car after reading our du’a for travelling but it’s good to get them in the habit of saying it so they can memorise it quickly. Finally but most importantly, lead by example! Children will copy people around them, they will copy and imitate your actions, so make positive Islamic changes in your own life so they can follow you. When you are praying, include them, yes it’s very distracting, but at the end of the day in sha Allah you will be rewarded for this distraction! When you are reading Qur’an, read it aloud so they can hear. Make it melodious with tajweed so they find it more interesting. My kids love to sit around when I read Qur’an and sometimes, they would pick up my Qur’an or their Arabic books and pretend they are reading and make up their own Arabic words! Practise what you preach and all will be easier. Submitted by Proud_Mum  proud.ummsafia@gmail.com

Original Source: http://www.projecteve.org.uk

 


Just A Mum?!

Single Muslim Mums - 7 May, 2015 - 08:21
I have come across many mothers who have lost their self worth, their sense of self, under all the nappy changes, cooking, feeding and cleaning. Sleep deprived, attending to the needs of all in the household as well as the house itself they seem to forget the mass contribution they are making in our Ummah. Not only are some women wives and have the rewards with Allah in contributing to their marriages, they are also bringing up the next generation! Building towards a righteous society in sha Allah. They are the first imaams to their children! bringing them up, nurturing the minds, souls and hearts of the future men and women of society whom can make amazing contributions in sha Allah.

Look at our role model ‘Aaishah (radiallaahu ‘anhaa) and her great effect. Since even the great Sahaabah (Companions) used to take knowledge of Hadeeth from her, and many of the Sahaabiyaat (female Companions) learnt the various rulings pertaining to women’s issues from her. You too dear sister and mother can also contribute to this ummah. Different women have been blessed with different capabilities and can contribute in different ways. Mothers can have a tremendous effect upon children in encouraging them to implement our perfect deen. In a house in which there is kindness, gentleness, love and care, along with the correct Islamic tarbiyah (education and cultivation) can greatly affect the men and women of tomorrow so they will become, if Allah wills, successful in their affairs and in any matter, whether it be seeking knowledge, trading, earning a living, or other than this. Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer verily to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter). – Surah AnNahl (16/97) You are apart of righteous works dear sister and mother. Do not lose who you are, you are a contributer to righteous works. Each and everyone of you has been blessed with different skills, talents and knowledge that you can pass on to the next generations in sha Allah. Let’s take a look at the vital role Imam Ahmad’s mother played. When Imam Ahmad was still young, his father died. He would tell his students of the work his mother went through in raising him, and he would pray for her. In the cold Baghdad nights, she would wake long before him to warm the water so that her son Ahmad could make wudu for Fajr. Then she would wrap him in blankets, herself cloaked in her Jilbaab, and guide him through the dark, cold alleys to reach the main Masjid, long before Fajr so that her son could get a good seat in class. Her son Ahmad, at that age in grade 2 or 3 – would sit all day long studying Qur’an and Sunnah, and she would wait for him to finish so that she could drop him home safely. At the age of 16, she prepared money and food for him and told him, “Travel for your search of knowledge.” He left for Makkah and Madinah and many other places and met many great scholars. She raised Ahmad to become one of the four greatest Imams in Islam! You too can play a vital role!

 

You too dear sister, mother can also have an effect on your sons and daughters in sha Allah. Don’t forget how blessed you are to have this opportunity, don’t forget how valuable you are, don’t forget that you are a walking, talking role model 24/7 and this could be your way to make great contributions to the Ummah. Know your worth!

Submitted by

Helping Heartstrings

HelpingHeartstrings@gmail.com

Original source: http://www.projecteve.org.uk/


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