Yemen's western-backed president flees house arrest in Sana'a

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 February, 2015 - 22:31

Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi challenges Shia ‘coup’ after supporters stage diversion to help him escape house arrest and travel to Aden

Yemen’s beleaguered western-backed president escaped house arrest and fled the capital to friendly territory on Saturday, labelling as a coup the grab for power by the Shia militia that had held him.

An aide said presidential guards had sneaked Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of his residence in Sana’a, and that he later made it to the main southern city of Aden.

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Norway's Muslims and Jews link up to denounce extremist violence

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 February, 2015 - 20:41

Muslims attend peace vigil in Oslo in solidarity with Jews a week after fatal shootings in nearby Denmark

Norwegian Muslims organised a peace vigil in Oslo on Saturday in a show of solidarity with Jews a week after fatal shootings in Denmark targeted a synagogue and free-speech seminar.

As the mainly elderly Jewish congregation filed out of the synagogue after Shabbat prayers, a group of young Muslims, many of them teenage girls wearing headscarves, formed a symbolic ring outside the building to applause from a crowd of more than 1,000 people.

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Malcolm X assassination: 50 years on, mystery still clouds details of the case

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 February, 2015 - 18:43

Despite freedom of information act requests throughout the years, New York still will not release records to the public and claim files would endanger the safety of police officers and constitute unwarranted invasions of privacy

Fifty years on, questions surrounding Malcolm X’s assassination still contribute to the atmosphere of suspicion and distrust between law enforcement and the black community. And while the murders of John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, and Emmett Till have all been re-examined through federal intervention, Malcolm X’s assassination remains a blindspot in US jurisprudence and historical memory.

Malcolm X was a dangerous man. Not dangerous as the widely circulated image of him holding a rifle and peeking through the curtains in his home would suggest. Nor because he disagreed with the nonviolent wing of the civil rights movement and its assertion that racial integration was the primary objective of the black freedom struggle. By challenging integration as a primary goal, Malcolm X threatened to undermine the tenuous support that mainstream civil rights leaders were receiving from the government and white liberals. For many white people, Malcolm and the Nation of Islam embodied their greatest fears.

‘The investigation was botched’

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The Fiqh of Foodstagramming

Muslim Matters - 21 February, 2015 - 05:00

Once, while in college, I was hanging out with some friends in the masjid lobby. An uncle sat down and started talking to us. After a brief moment of silence, he dropped something on me that has stuck with me for life. And that's hard to do by the way, figuring out what makes an idea stick is a holy grail that everyone is after.

He sat next to me and said, “Let me explain you something.” Just kidding – although it would be much cooler if it started out that way. Here's what he really said, “Let me tell you something, everything in Islam orients around food.” I started laughing, indulging him politely. But this made him upset.

“This is not a joking matter, I'm serious.” I perked up, taken aback a bit. He then decided to wax philosophical on me by expounding his theory. Ramadan is a great example. We begin and end our fasts together – with food. When we want to increase the bonds of brotherhood, we can't go out partying or hanging out at bars – so we eat. When we need the community to pitch in and support the masjid, we have a fundraising dinner. When we want the community to come and socialize at the masjid, or even learn, we provide dinner or have a potluck. Some Muslims can't be bothered to pray Dhuhr on a weekday, but they'll drive 3 hours to get halal meat on the weekend. Food is the way in which diverse Muslim cultures show each other up. Eating is what we are most passionate about, and halal meat is what we fight about most passionately [Click here to tweet that].

Foodie culture in general has been on an uptick in past years. It's no surprise that the internet has been a major facilitator of that. We have access to millions of recipes from around the world along with accompanying photographs. We have online review sites where we can discuss food quality at various restaurants – or even provide amateur investigative journalism on where a halal restaurant really gets its meat. We share what we're eating with everyone. In fact, the oldest joke in the book about social media is, “Why do I need Twitter, no one cares what I ate for breakfast! ha ha ha!”

Food culture is clearly here to stay – and by extension networking around food. As the conversation takes place on social media, the medium will dictate the form of communication. Currency online is in likes, shares, retweets, and comments [please go ahead and share this article on Facebook].

A number of critical questions come up though. These are a few that I have had, and although I don't have answers, please leave your thoughts in the comments section:

  • Is food for sustenance only, or is it meant to be enjoyed? Are there any Islamic proofs giving credence to one side over the other?
  • What is the line between being thankful for the food and showing off?
  • Are there any limits to appreciating the artistic nature of food?
  • Are pictures of food really about food – or something else altogether?

As with all things social media, it boils down to intention. It doesn't seem like we will ever reach a codified answer of right and wrong. Rather, what is important is to understand why we are sharing a particular photo. I'll do this with my own Instagram feed. These are actually photos of food I have shared with my friends. Underneath each photo I will highlight a number of different intentions that one could have in posting such a photo. These are not necessarily my intentions, but instead of picking on someone else's photos, I'm using my own to prove how the same photo can be perceived in different ways.

Instagram Photo

This picture can show:

  • I'm such an amazing cook – everyone look at me
  • Hey I'm learning how to cook, here's a try, I want to connect with other friends who are doing the same
  • I'm an awesome husband

Instagram Photo

  • I'm such a hipster, I'm having something you've probably never tried before
  • If you're ever in Atlanta, this is a cool place to try
  • Forget the milkshake, I want the world to know my fiqh opinion on marshmallows

Instagram Photo

  • Everyone's been waiting to try this, I have, so ask me for my feedback
  • I'm more cultured than you because I tried this zabihah burger before you did

Instagram Photo

  • Attempt at humor
  • Cry for help, wife not home and hoping someone [my mom] sees this and brings food to my house
  • Please hit the like button to give me validation

Instagram Photo

This one is a little easier. Nothing is ever wrong with some Texas pride.

Instagram Photo

  • I'm adding cooking to my array of awesome skills
  • I read a book and am using the hashtag to share my experience and connect with other readers of the book
  • Maybe this is a dish you'll enjoy so I'm just putting it out on the internets

Instagram Photo

  • Appreciating the artistry of the restaurant
  • Doing a public service by geo-tagging the photo so others considering this venue can see real photos
  • I'm a foodie and know all the cool places to eat at in Dallas

Instagram Photo

Again – Texas pride is practically fard.

Instagram Photo

  • Look at me, I like Pakola (i.e. I really am Desi).
  • I found a really cool local Muslim business everyone should support.
  • If you don't think a Pakola snow cone sounds appealing, then you're not a good person inside.

Instagram Photo

  • I want to show off who I was eating with
  • My friends think I talk about important things
  • Maybe I didn't want to post this, but because my friend did, I wanted to acknowledge it by re-sharing it
  • I appreciate well done latte art, but just don't want to be too in your face about it

Instagram Photo

  • I'm courageous enough to try foods you've never heard of
  • I'm cooler than you because I eat food like this
  • Step up to my instagram food photography skills

Instagram Photo

  • Look at me, I'm in California
  • Look at me, I'm so cool because I'm eating with Imran
  • I'm sophisticated because I can find cool foodie places that aren't touristy
  • Had a good time eating with a friend and wanted to document the experience

The hadith, “Actions are judged by their intention,” forms the foundation of how we view social media. Sharing photos of food can be an expression of yourself or part of your personality. It can be a service to others. It can be purely entertainment. It can be artistic appreciation. It might be a way of connecting with others around a common interest or shared experience.

When posting a photo, ask yourself what you're trying to get across. This doesn't mean that everything has to have some unique value to make the world a better place. Maybe it's just pure entertainment – that's ok, and there is room for that.

Food can also be a way of connecting with family – sharing photos from family dinners or parties, or reminiscing on something specific from a particular family member.

But food photos can also be self-serving, a sign of ingratitude, or for those who constantly post everything they eat – a sign of some serious issues. For some it can be a means of hoarding and attention – craving likes and shares at all costs.

Before you post that next food photo online, just slow down and ask why. Be comfortable with your answer and go from there. Just have limits – like standing on a chair at a restaurant to get a better shot. In that case, you're better off not documenting it and just enjoying the meal instead.

For more articles like this, and a free copy of the 40 Hadith on Social Media eBook, sign up for the Fiqh of Social Media email list

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Perspective Through the Lens of a Worshiper

Muslim Matters - 21 February, 2015 - 02:26

It's always a pleasure when Shaykh salah Al-Sawy comes to town. I try to make sure that I have no plans, and if I do have plans they get canceled! In this day and age being able to sit with a real deal, scholar, not student of knowledge, but actual scholar is a rarity indeed.

One of the reasons that I enjoy being in Shaykh salah's company is his being a trove of poetry. You never know when some incredible jewels will leave his lips, while sitting in the car, while walking or while eating even. This time one of the prized pieces was during a lecture on Saturday night. The shaykh was speaking about the importance of having a positive perspective and that in reality everyone will read into things, the same event even, with the perspective that they carry. They will see it through the shade of the spectacles that they wear. He then told a story that made the crowd roar…

Hundreds of years ago, there was a prince who built what we would call now a cinema. It was very rudimentary with some ghost like figures that would be dragged onto a stage hanging off of a rope. There was a man off stage that was the mover of the figures by a pulley. He would speed them at times as they traversed across the stage, and at times he would slow them down. The prince summoned a 'Abid, a known worshiper, to come and receive a private screening of his contraption. Upon the end of the show, the prince asked the worshiper what he thought. The worshiper then replied saying,


رأيت خيال الظلّ أكبر عبرة *** يلوح بها معنى الكلام لأحداقي


وفي كل موجودٍ على الحقّ آية *** لمن هو في علم الحقيقة راقي


شخوص وأشباحٌ تمرّ وتنقضي *** وليس لها ممّـا قضى من واق ِ


لها حركاتٌ ثمّ يبدو سكونها *** وتفنى جميعاً والمحرّك باقي


I saw the ghosts as the greatest lesson,

Summoning through them meanings before my eyes,

And in every present thing is a sign to the truth,

To those who regarding its reality are wise,

People and ghosts who pass through and then disappear

With no protection from where their destiny lies,

They have motions and then appear to be still,

Except for the mover, everyone dies.


As the saying goes, you can take the worshiper out of his worship, but you can't take the worship out of the worshiper!

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7 Luminous Black Companions of the Prophet

Muslim Matters - 21 February, 2015 - 02:17

By Dawud Walid

During Black History Month, I have the intention of writing brief summaries, not in depth biographies, of some of the early figures in Islamic history who were black.  My usage of the word black, for the sake of what I plan on writing, will not be restricted to Nubians and Abyssinians but also for Arabs who had black and brown colored skin in which in contemporary times would be perceived as black such as Sudanese who are both Arabs and blacks.

Umm Ayman: Mother After the Prophet's Mother

The first luminous figure in this series that was a companion is Barakah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) also known as Umm Ayman.  Umm Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was Abyssinian and a servant of Abdullah bin Abdil Muttalib, the father of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). When Aminah, the mother of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) died, Umm Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) took over as primary care-giver of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).  Umm Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was later emancipated at the time of the marriage of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to Sayyidah Khadijah bint Khuwaylid raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her).

Umm Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was one of the early adherents of Islam in Mecca and was one of those who faced persecution from Quraysh.  She raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was among those who migrated from Mecca to Al-Madinah.

Umm Ayman's raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) first marriage was to Ubayd bin Zayd raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who was from Bani Khazraj, a prominent tribe in the Hijaz.  According to ibn Kathir in Al-Bidayah wa An-Nihayah and others, Ubayd (RA) himself was black in color or Al-Habashi though his lineage was from Bani Khazraj, a prominent Arab tribe in the Hijaz.  Umm Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and Ubayd raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) bore a son named Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who was also black.  Ubayd raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was martyred at Ghazwah Khaybar, and Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was martyred at Ghazwah Hunayn.  Umm Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) participated in Ghazwah Uhud and Ghazwah Khaybar.

After Ubayd's raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) martyrdom, it's reported by Ibn Sa'ad in At-Tabaqat Al-Kubra that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to the companions that if anyone wanted to marry a lady from the People of Paradise then marry Umm Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her).  Zayd bin Harithah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), the man who the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) emancipated and raised like a son, was then married to Umm Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her).  Though Zayd raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was Arab and there are some conflicting descriptions about his physical appearance, Tanwir Al-Ghabash min Fadl Al-Sudan wa Al-Habash by ibn Al-Jawzi and others states that Zayd raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was short with a flat nose and had dark skin.

Umm Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) had a particularly close relationship to Ahl al-Bayt, the Household of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).  She shared intimate moments with Ahl al-Bayt such as being present at the marriage that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) conducted between his daughter Sayyidah Fatimah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and imam Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him).  At the time of the passing of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), she grieved alongside Ahl al-Bayt.

There are conflicting narrations about Umm Ayman's raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) passing.

Usamah bin Zayd: Teenager General of the Prophet

Usamah bin Zayd raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was one of the beloved companions of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Both of Usamah's raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) parents, Zayd bin Harithah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who was Arab and Umm Ayman raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who was Ethiopian, were freed from slavery by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). He was born in Mecca seven years prior to hijrah and is described as having black skin.

Much of Usamah's upbringing was done in the house of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in the same time-frame as the rearing of the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) grandson Al-Hasan bin 'Ali 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him).

Usamah was later married by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to Fatimah bint Qays, who was Arab and from Quraysh. It is narrated that this marriage took place when Usamah was at the age of 15 years old and that on his ring was etched at the time of the wedding “Love of the Messenger of Allah.”

While a teenager, Usamah was elected by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to be a general of an expedition against the Romans in Syria. Some of the companions became extremely angry at Usamah being appointed as general over older companions from Quraysh. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said after praising and thanking Allah (SWT), “Oh People! Word has come to me that some of you mad that I appointed Usamah bin Zayd. I swear by Allah that surely your obeying Usamah is certainly your obeying me just as obeying his father before him.”

Usamah passed in 61 A.H. in Al-Madinah during the government of Mu'awiyah bin Abi Sufyan.

Sa'ad Al-Aswad: Internally Oppressed to Martyrdom

One of the black companions of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was Sa'ad Al-Aswad As-Sulami (RA).
Sa'ad was from the Ansar and suffered discrimination in Al-Madinah.

Due to an inferiority complex, Sa'ad asked the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) if he too could enter into Jannah because of his low position among the Muslims. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) replied to him that he was entitled to the same reward as other believers. Sa'ad then inquired that if he was an equal believer then why would none of the Arabs allow him to marry one of their daughters.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)then told Sa'ad to go to the home of 'Amr bin Wahb to ask him for his daughter for marriage. When Sa'ad told ibn Wahb that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) sent him to request for his daughter for marriage, Ibn Wahb became angry at the proposal. Ibn Wahb also stated to him that didn't he know that his daughter is known for her beauty! When Ibn Wahb's daughter heard this, she told her father that she could not turn down a proposal that came at the suggestion of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)!

Sa'ad was later martyred in a battle in which it is narrated that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) wept over him while holding him in his lap.

One of the helpers of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who is mentioned in a number of texts is the companion known as Julaybib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him).

Julaybib accepted Islam in Al-Madinah, thus is described as one of the men from the Ansar. His lineage was unknown among the Arabs which made him an outcast. According to ibn Al-Jawzi in Tanwir Al-Ghabash, he was described as black (aswad). The companion Abu Barzah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) according to ibn Al-Athir also described him as short (qasir) and ugly (damim).

Being that Julaybib had no tribal and family connections in Al-Madinah as well as no wife, he spent more time in the company of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) than many of the other Ansar. In fact, the People of Al-Madinah used to ridicule Julaybib and would not befriend him.

In narrations that are deemed sound, the Prophet (SAWS) proceeded to find a wife for the honorable Julaybib. When he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) went to the home of one of the Ansar, a father opened the door in which the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told him that he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) came to him for a marriage proposal. The father immediately said yes thinking that his daughter would get the honor of being one of the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) wives. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told him that he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did not come for himself but was asking on behalf of Julaybib. The father then said that he was going to defer the decision to his wife.

When the wife of the Ansari came, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told her that he had a marriage proposal. The wife also became happy and said yes. Then the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told her that he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) came on behalf of Julaybib. The wife then replied that she would not allow her daughter to marry a man like Julaybib!

Upon hearing noise, the daughter of the two came out and asked the reason for the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) coming to their home. The mother told the daughter that he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) came on behalf of Julaybib but that she was not accepting for her to marry him! The daughter replied, how can we turn down a proposal coming from the Messenger of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)? She said to send Julaybib to her, for surely he will not bring ruin to her!

In Al-Asabah by ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, it is mentioned in reference to this event the application of Surah 33, ayah 36, “It is not fitting for a believing man or woman that when Allah and His messenger decree a matter that they should have an opinion about it from their matter. And whoever disobeys Allah and His messenger surely is in clear error.” It is mentioned in several texts including Al-Musannaf by ibn Abi Shaybah in the Chapter of Compatibility in Marriage that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then performed the marriage between Julaybib and the lady.

In a battle after the marriage, Julaybib achieved martyrdom. When the Prophet (SAWS) saw the martyred Julaybib, he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said twice, “This [man] is from me, and I am from him.” An-Nanawi said in his commentary of Sahih Muslim that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used exaggeration (mubalaghah) showing the importance of Julaybib as if Julaybib was a member of his ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) own klan such as when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said about Salman [ranua], who was Persian, “Salman is from us, the People of the Household (Ahl al-Bayt).”

It is also narrated that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) personally dug the grave of Julaybib and placed him in the grave without washing him, signifying his status as a martyr.

'Ammar bin Yasir: the Man who the Prophet Predicted his Martyrdom

One of the companions who has several narrated merits pertaining to his faith, personality and resilience is 'Ammar bin Yasir raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him).

'Ammar is described in Al-Mustadarak 'ala As-Sahihayn by Al-Hakim and authenticated by Adh-Dhahabi as being tall in stature, black in skin color and having kinky hair. His father Yasir raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was Arab.

'Ammar was one of the earliest Muslims to accept Islam and was regularly tortured along with his family. Once while being severely tortured, he unwillingly recanted Islam. He later came to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in a state of tears saying that he verbally recanted Islam but did not mean it, in which the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) wiped away his tears and recited Surah 16, ayah 106, “Whoever disbelieves in Allah after belief except who is forced and whose heart is still content with faith…”

After much persecution, 'Ammar with other companions migrated to Abyssinia finding protection under a just Christian king though ibn Ishaq disputes that he was one of those companions in Abyssinia. He later migrated with other companions to Al-Madinah making him within a select group of companions that made two migrations for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

'Ammar later participated in the major campaigns to protect the Muslim community including Badr and Uhud. He also was a witness to the Farewell Pilgrimage and the event of Ghadir Khumm.

Prior to the death of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), he told 'Ammar, “You will be killed by a group of transgressors.” This hadith is sahih and mutawatir, meaning narrated so widely by many sound people that it is beyond doubt.

During the government of 'Umar bin Al-Khattab, 'Ammar was nominated to be the governor of Kufah in Iraq to be later removed from his position when 'Umar consolidated the governorship of Kufah with Basrah under Abu Musa Al-Ashari.

During the government of 'Ali bin Abi Talib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), 'Ammar accompanied imam Ali's army at the Battle of Jamal and defended him against the Khawarij movement, the original takfiris. 'Ammar later achieved martyrdom at the Battle of Siffin by being killed by a man from the army of Mu'awiyah bin Abi Sufyan.

Mihja': One of the Best of the Blacks

One of the famed companions of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is Mihja' bin Salih (RA). Mihja' raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was one of the early adherents of Islam in Mecca, and one of those who migrated for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to Al-Madinah.

According to At-Tabaqat Al-Kubra of ibn Sa'ad, Mihja's raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) lineage traces back to Yemen. He's described as has having black skin (aswad al-lawn) and Arab. He was enslaved in the Hijaz and suffered as other enslaved (wo)men did. He was later emancipated by Umar bin al-Khattab.

In Mecca, Quraysh used to mock the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) because he used to sit and keep company with his poor followers who were formerly enslaved. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) told the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)in Surah 6, ayah 52, “Do not repel those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening seeking His face.” According to Abdullah bin Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) in Zad Al-Masir fi 'ilm At-Tafsir by ibn Al-Jawzi, those people that Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was referring to were Bilal, Suhayb, Khabbab, 'Ammar, Mihja', Salman, 'Amir bin Quhayrah and Salim, who was freed by Abu Hudhayfah.

After migration according to At-Tabari and others, Mihja' raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was the first to be martyred at Ghazwah Badr.

It is narrated by Al-Hakim in Al-Mustadrak 'ala As-Sahihayn and authenticated as sahih by As-Suyuti in Al-Jami' As-Saghir that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The best of the blacks are three: Bilal, Luqman [who is mentioned in the Qur'an] and Mihja'.”

Abu Dharr: Man of Moral Courage

One of the honorable companions, who is known for his faithfulness and concern for the poor was Abu Dharr raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her).
Abu Dharr's full name was Jundab bin Junadah from the Tribe of Ghifar. He was described by ibn Sa'ad in At-Tabaqat Al-Kubra and others as being tall with brown (asmar) skin.

In the Era of Ignorance, the Ghifari tribe was known for banditry and alcohol consumption besides worshiping idols. Abu Dharr, however, turned away from these tribal norms even before embracing Islam.

When a man from his tribe informed his people that he saw a man in Mecca, meaning the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), who he saw enjoining good and forbidding evil, Abu Dharr set off for Mecca. After meeting the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Abu Dharr swiftly accepted Islam. He went to the Ka'bah to publicly declare his faith in which Quraysh proceeded to beat him. He went the following day to proclaim his faith again in which he was beaten again. After days of doing this and facing beatings, the Prophet (SAWS) told him to go back to his tribe, so he could declare his message to them.

He later migrated to Al-Madinah and participated in Ghazwah Badr and other expeditions with the companions.
During the government of 'Uthman, Abu Dharr was one of the outspoken companions against the lavish lifestyle and large amounts of money which particular Muslims were receiving from the treasury. After conflict between Abu Dharr and Marwan in Al-Hakam, a cousin of 'Uthman, over a payment that he received of 500,000 dirhams, Abu Dharr was sent away from Al-Madinah to Damascus. While in Damascus, Abu Dharr continued to speak out against luxuries and neglect of the poor which brought him into conflict with the Governor of Damascus, Mu'awiyah bin Abi Sufyan, who was also a cousin of 'Uthman.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) predicted to Abu Dharr, “You will live alone, die alone, rise from the dead alone, and enter Jannah alone.” This prediction of his living and dying manifested itself. Due to the circumstances of the time, Abu Dharr left Damascus for Ar-Rabathah desert with virtual no possessions in which he eventually died alone.

Ayman: The Brave Shepherd

One of the faithful companions of the Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was Ayman bin 'Ubayd raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him).

Ayman's roots were Abyssinian through his mother. He was born through the union of his mother Barakah, a woman who was eventually freed from slavery by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his father 'Ubayd bin Zayd who was from the tribe of Harith bin Khazraj; their marriage took place in Mecca in the Era of Al-Jahiliyyah. Ayman was also born in Mecca.

Ayman embraced Islam in Mecca and made migration for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to Al-Madinah. He was a shepherd and was entrusted by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to look after his goats.

Ayman was a participant in the campaigns to defend Islam. At Ghazwah Hunayn when some of the Muslims became panicked, Ayman was one of eight Muslims who stood by the Prophet (SAWS) and defended him. The Muslims ended up winning the battle. In the process, Ayman achieved martyrdom.

After his martyrdom, Al-Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), one of the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)uncles who was one of those eight that stood firmly with Ayman to defend the Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), composed a poem praising the steadfastness and bravery of Ayman.

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Sponsored: Achieve Your New Year Resolution of Buying a Home

Muslim Matters - 21 February, 2015 - 01:49

Taking a resolution is a great way to start a year. And it can be even more exciting when it is about buying a new home, especially when it is the first. It boosts your spirit and gets you geared for an abode of joy that will last for years to come. But as most of us know, all the inspiration and excitement around a resolution could run out faster than the first month, if it is pursued without a plan. To help you stick to your New Year resolution, here are a few ideas.   Workout the finances Before you set out on the purchase process, it's important to have an idea of the financial requirements. Make use of an online mortgage calculator to estimate how much financing you would qualify for and get a clear understanding of the numbers involved. If you're considering a riba-free mortgage, get a clear orientation from your Islamic home finance provider and understand how it differs from the conventional mortgage system. Once you have the financial picture in place, you're halfway through with your resolution.   Choose the right type of home The options are plenty: Traditional single-family homes, townhouses, condos, etc. Each will have its own pros and cons. Let's say your schedule allows you to spend minimal time in the upkeep of your home or its surroundings. A condo or a townhouse would be the best option, as maintenance and repairs will be taken care by the community board or association. Therefore depending on your home ownership expectations, you can settle for the one that suits you best.

Take help from an agent Professionals can be of great help throughout the process, especially when dealing with elaborate paperwork, document reviewing and inspections. Their experience in the industry comes in very handy, especially while negotiating prices or during the inspection process. And with an agent who's really good at the job, you can be sure of a hassle-free home buying experience.

Strike a balance between facts & feelings It would be great to supplement the assistance of an agent with user reviews from the internet. But besides relying on advice from others, you should consider your and your family's emotional connect and expectations. A stroll by the house could trigger a sense of belonging within you – a feeling like your name is written all over it. Spend some time with your agent and a lot more with your family on the options you have in mind and assess them carefully. Of course, they say 'the home is where the heart is' for a reason.      Make a timeline Most importantly, doing all of the above in an organized manner will make the entire process as smooth as it can get. A timeline based task list, which can be reviewed on a daily basis will keep you motivated throughout the process. Do this with intent and you would feel like you're a step closer to your own home, day after day.  Making your resolution of home buying come true can definitely be a wonderful experience. From the moment of sketching a dream home in your mind, getting the process done and finally stepping into your own home with your family – the feeling is priceless. To top it all, it becomes all the more delightful when you get it done riba-free, with assistance of an Islamic home finance company. A great feeling of achievement, a contented heart and a beautiful home can all be yours. Wishing you the best.   Guidance Residential is a company that helps Muslim-Americans realize their dreams of owning a home by providing a Sharia compliant, Declining Balance Co-ownership Program. With a commitment to provide the best quality and by adhering to Sharia principles, we have financed $3.3 billion and have become the #1 U.S. Islamic Home Financing company.   To learn more about how our Declining Balance Co-ownership Program differs from a conventional mortgage loan, click here.


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Norwegian Muslims will form a human shield around an Oslo synagogue

Loon Watch - 20 February, 2015 - 22:39

Hundreds of people gather for a vigil Feb. 16, 2015, in Copenhagen after a gunman killed two people and shot up a synagogue. (Michael Probst/Associated Press)

Norwegian Muslims will form a human shield around an Oslo synagogue

By Ishaan Tharoor February 18 at 12:40 PM

The headlines have been grim. Europe’s Jews face “rising anti-Semitism“; in some countries, many are leaving in “record numbers.” In separate incidents in recent months, gunmen have targeted Jews and Jewish institutions in Paris and Copenhagen. Even the Jewish dead have not been left in peace, with reports of graves being desecrated.

But the future of tolerance and multiculturalism in Europe is far from bleak. The bigotry on view has been carried out by a fringe minority, cast all the more in the shade by the huge peace marches and vigils that followed the deadly attacks. And some communities are trying to build solidarity in their home towns and cities.

One group of Muslims in Norway plans to form a “ring of peace” around a synagogue in Oslo on Saturday. On a Facebook page promoting the event, the group explained its motivations. Here’s a translated version of the invite:

Islam is about protecting our brothers and sisters, regardless of which religion they belong to. Islam is about rising above hate and never sinking to the same level as the haters. Islam is about defending each other. Muslims want to show that we deeply deplore all types of hatred of Jews, and that we are there to support them. We will therefore create a human ring around the synagogue on Saturday 21 February. Encourage everyone to come!

According to the Times of Israel, Ervin Kohn, a leader of Oslo’s small Jewish community, had agreed to allowing the event on the condition that more than 30 people show up — a small gathering would make the effort look “counter-productive,” Kohn said. Close to 1,000 people have indicated on Facebook that they will attend.

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Push and pull of escape and belonging lures western women into arms of Isis

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 February, 2015 - 19:55

Although Isis propaganda sometimes suggests women will have an active role, in reality they are heavily controlled once they arrive

As the numbers of western women travelling to join Isis in Syria and Iraq have grown – recent estimates suggest there are up to 550 from around the world – so has the understanding of their motivations and what analysts term the push and pull factors behind their actions.

Battles over personal identity have long been thought to have persuaded some Muslim teenagers to subscribe to the utopian goals of radical Islamists. Evidence from a slew of former radical recruiters suggests that they seek to free their targets from being caught between the traditionalist strictures their parents impose and the more mainstream liberal expectations of schoolfriends. The recruiters offer a third way, a sense of belonging to a global cause in which the young radical is free to join the caravan of war wherever it may be in the world.

Related: UK police launch hunt for London schoolgirls feared to have fled to Syria

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The experts at Obama's anti-extremism summit wanted to 'get moms talking' | Naureen Shah

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 February, 2015 - 12:00

The US is poised to deploy its global influence and hundreds of millions of dollars to ‘counter violent extremism’ with few workable ideas

One of the most painful moments of this week’s White House summit on countering violent extremism was when Ori Brafman – who was identified only as a “best-selling author” – asked the assembled policymakers, community leaders, law enforcement officers and foreign officials to each jot on a notecard one idea for countering extremism, and told us to vote for the ideas we thought could be implemented.

One of the big winners? “Empower youth… social media to amplify.” Another? “Get moms talking.”

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Australia's most senior Muslim says it was a mistake to vote for Tony Abbott

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 February, 2015 - 08:04

Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed urges PM to ‘work in any field other than politics’ amid breakdown in relations between Coalition and Islamic community

Australia’s most senior Muslim leader has said he won’t “repeat the mistake” of voting for Tony Abbott, and publicly advised the prime minister to “work in any field other than politics”.

The strong comments by the Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed come amid other signs of a serious breakdown in relations between the Abbott government and large elements of Australia’s Muslim communities, ahead of the expected announcement of new security legislation on Monday.

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Hizb ut-Tahrir insists it rejects violence following Abbott's 'desperate' accusation

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 February, 2015 - 04:16

Nearly one 100 Muslim activists, clerics, performers and scholars sign a protest petition after prime minister announces a plan to target ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir and others who nurture extremism in our suburbs’

Hizb ut-Tahrir has made clear its opposition to violent political change and distanced itself from the militia group Islamic State in a public meeting ahead of an anticipated crackdown by the Abbott government.

A spokesman for the Sydney-based Islamic organisation, Wassim Doureihi, accused Tony Abbott of using Hizb ut-Tahrir to distract from his domestic political problems and a “desperate act by a desperate man that reeks of insecurity”.

Related: Hizb ut-Tahrir braces ahead of Abbott's promised security clampdown

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Israel Under Existential Threat—From Rock Throwers

Four-year-old Adele Biton, an Israeli girl, died this week, two years after she was injured in a car crash that took place during a stone throwing assault. Although her death was not directly tied to the trauma she suffered then, The New York Times saw fit to report the event in a recent news piece.

The story, by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, is titled “Israeli Girl Injured in Palestinian Rock Throwing Attack in 2013 Dies.” It includes quotes from a settler leader and government official who mourned her passing; it also adds that she had become a “potent national symbol of the dangers that stones can cause.”

We can contrast her death with that of Methad Rada, 31, a disabled man who died in Gaza this month, six months after he was injured during a missile attack on a United Nations school in Rafah. His death, said to be caused by complications from the injury, brought the death toll in that assault to 13 and raised the total killed in Gaza during the summer’s conflict to 2,220.

The New York Times has had nothing to say about Rada’s death. He was injured by a weapon far more dangerous than rocks, and he was one of many to be maimed or killed under the Israeli assault, but neither Rada nor any of the other thousands left crippled by Israel’s sophisticated armory has received serious notice in the Times.

The Times appears oblivious to its own unthinking bias, which is mirrored in another recent story about desperate youths trying to escape the blockaded enclave of Gaza. Although the article cries out for a hard look at just what is driving this young men to leave their homes, the Times has made no attempt to do this.

The story, also by Rudoren, dismisses this fundamental question in a few terse words: The youths are leaving, she writes, to escape “poverty, death and destruction.” No fuller explanation is offered.

Instead, she devotes a good portion of the piece to Israeli fears. “The crossings,” she writes, “have shaken residents on Israel’s side of the fence still psychologically scarred from the series of tunnel invasions by Palestinian militants that punctuated last summer’s conflict.”

She omits the fact that no tunnel attacks targeted Israeli civilians or led to any injuries of civilians. They were used only for military operations.

Likewise, the present influx of fence jumpers has led to no assaults on civilians, and army officials confirmed that the crossings are “less about terrorism than desperation.” But this does not prevent Rudoren from hyping the fear factor.

She interviews residents of two kibbutzim near the border, where some have taken to carrying pistols, and she notes that “reports of each illegal crossing are jittery reminders of last summer.”

Life in Gaza takes a back seat in her story. Israeli fear is placed front and center.

Adele Biton’s death may or may not have been due to the car accident caused by a rock throwing incident two years ago, but the event provided one more opportunity to highlight the claims of Israeli victimhood. The death of Rada has no place in this opportunistic narrative, and it therefore finds no mention in the Times.

The Times strives to portray Israel, with its sophisticated military might, as under threat from rock throwers and impoverished job seekers. That it does so without a hint of irony testifies to the blind depths of this ingrained bias.

Barbara Erickson

Filed under: Pro-Israel Bias in NY Times Tagged: Gaza, Israel, Media Bias, NY Times, Palestine

All Signs Point to Hate Crime in Chapel Hill Murders (and Beyond)

altmuslim - 19 February, 2015 - 19:30
By Sahar Aziz Not just anyone has the capacity for cold-blooded murder. The perpetrator would have to be either a malicious criminal or severely mentally ill. In the tragic murder of three Muslim students (one at UNC-Chapel Hill, two at NC State), the perpetrator was a criminal whose motives reveal a strong bias against all religions, with particular [Read More...]

Islamism has many faces. We must learn to read them all | HA Hellyer

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 February, 2015 - 19:23

If we are to understand the role Islamists play around the world we need to move beyond generalisation

Four years after the Arab spring, the region and the world are still grappling with the aftermath, including the rise – and fall – of different Islamist movements. On Wednesday, in the midst of a summit on extremism, Barack Obama said: “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.” After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, said his country was engaged in a war “against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islamism”.

But while western leaders have been very clear they are not at war with “Islam” – the religion of more than a billion people – there has been far less clarity about what “Islamism”, let alone “radical Islamism”, actually means.

The forces of Bashar al-Assad have taken far more lives than all the Islamists combined

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Rudy Giuliani on Barack Obama: 'I do not believe the president loves America'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 February, 2015 - 14:44

The former New York City mayor opines on the president, the 2016 Republican field and the Crusades in a speech to prominent conservatives

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has confessed he does not believe Barack Obama loves America, while sharing at a private dinner his convictions about the president, 2016 and the Crusades.

According to Politico, at the dinner in a “former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan” the 70-year-old was speaking to an audience of around 60 prominent conservatives that included possible 2016 contender Scott Walker.

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Conflating Laïcité with Free Speech: The French Are Making a Mistake about Charlie Hebdo

Muslim Matters - 19 February, 2015 - 12:09

by James D. Le Sueur

The Charlie Hebdo and anti-Semitic terrorist attacks in France have propelled the French culture wars back into action.  Old but re-vivified identity debates abound as pro-integration forces rally their troops in defense of “laïcité” (read: separation of Church and State). And once again, French Muslims – indeed Muslims world-wide – find themselves placed under a cultural microscope.  Like clockwork, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right party, the Front National (FN), seized the opportunity to use Islam as the wedge issue to advance her vigorous, anti-immigration platform within France.  Now, from the Élysée Palace to the streets of Paris, the French seem to be united more than ever behind the common chants of “laïcité!” and “Je suis Charlie!” These two phrases are becoming synonymous.

But these cries for laïcité in the aftermath of the most important terrorist attack in recent French history are misplaced. In fact they are illogical. Why? Because it doesn't make any sense to connect the Charlie Hebdo attacks or artwork (if one wants to call it that) to the idea of laïcité; free speech and laïcité do not mean the same thing – in France or anywhere else. Something has been lost in translation, not just between France and the rest of the world, but also within France and among the French themselves. It's almost as if the French, gripped by fear and the sudden realization that this is real, have lost historical consciousness.

But, let's be clear on what we are talking about. France has had more than its share of identity crises and has consequently wallowed in much political chaos during the past 200 years, with some 17 different constitutions/re-writes, 5 republics, 2 empires (Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and Emperor Napoleon III), and a couple of restorations thrown in to boot. During the fabled and often unexamined Third Republic, which lasted from 1870 to 1940 (and ended by the Nazi Occupation and Vichy's collaborationist government), France formulated what came to be known as its laïcité laws culminating in its now oft-cited 1905 laws of separation. The 1905 laws were anti-Clerical and severed the educational ties between the Catholic Church and French state. The Vatican, however, denounced these laws, ordered Catholics not to comply, and excommunicated the French deputies who voted for them.

France's current republic (the Fifth Republic) was initiated during a military coup d'état emanating from the French generals stationed in Algiers who were embroiled in a long, blood-soaked war to suppress Algerian nationalists (which the French lost). These French generals in Algeria, who had already taken control of the French administration in Algiers, threatened that if Charles de Gaulle were not put in high office, they would unleash the French paratroopers on France to seize control of the French metropolitan government. And the generals were not bluffing. Inconceivable to Canadians, Americans, the British, and most Western countries after 1945, this is exactly what the French did, and this is how de Gaulle became president of France in 1958. But the point here is that Article 1 of the French constitution of 1958 enshrines the concept of laïcité in this way: “La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale” (France is an indivisible secular, democratic, and social Republic.) After nearly 200 years of struggle to resolve this issue, France and the Church had finally come to terms with laïcité. But, just as the dust settled on the long anti-Clerical debate, laïcité resurfaced with a vengeance.

The match that re-ignited the laïcité fire was struck by the “Head Scarf Affair,” when in September 1989, three French Muslim girls were expelled from a middle school in the northern city of Criel for refusing to remove their “hijab” (Muslim head scarf). By 1989, France had serious immigration problems in part because most of its nearly 5 million Muslims who had origins in North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) were living in overcrowded housing areas (banlieues) created in the 1960s and 70s. A product of 19th Century urban planners, they were akin to the “projects” and were built to accommodate a growing immigrant population. The many unofficial and illegal shantytowns that peppered the urban landscape in Paris, Lyon, and Marseille were destroyed by the French, and their inhabitants – the migrants and immigrants – were transferred to the banlieues.

Immigrants were initially welcomed because France needed cheap labor to fuel its post-1945 economic boom. However, after the 1973 oil embargo, France halted immigration from North Africa and then tried to reverse the demographic trends by repatriating North Africans.  Repatriation failed, and conditions within the banlieues quickly deteriorated. Crime, poverty, insufficient public transportation, inadequate schools, and complex social problems took hold. And, because of the ethnic look of the neighborhoods, and the fact that the neighborhoods had been separated – by design – from urban centers, many French commentators, especially on the extreme right, began to fear the rise of communitarianism.

In the 1970s and 1980s, fears of communitarianism (ethnic based politics and society) increased exponentially. By this time, the second generation of North Africans (known as “Beur”) had emerged from these banlieues and were active on the political stage. The word Beur was originally a self-identifying one created by these younger North Africans in order to cast off the more pejorative identifier, “Arab.” The Beurs wanted France to address discrimination, racism, but above all, they wanted to have access to the same possibility of socio-economic upward mobility that their Gallic compatriots enjoyed. Many of these Beur were in fact more in tune with French society and secularism than their parents were, but they lagged far behind their non-immigrant peers on key indicators such as education, class, and jobs.

The Head Scarf Affair wove the various threads of identity politics in France – concern over communitarianism and immigration, and anxiety about Islam's perceived inability to integrate into French national values – into a tapestry of actions by the French State intended to hold firm on laïcité.  By the end of 1989, the French Minister of Education, Lionel Jospin, skirted the issue with a vague statement giving each educator the right to rule on Islamic head scarves as s/he saw fit.  Finally, in 2004, under the Chirac government, the French passed a definitive ban on the wearing of all “ostentatious” religious articles (for Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others).

As for the issue of free speech, it must be remembered that the French do not have something like the First Amendment. In fact, the French legal system does not brook total freedom of speech. For example, through a series recent legal actions (starting in 1990), French law now places limits on speech involving racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, anti-gay remarks, and more recently, the advocacy of terrorism. This factors into sentencing in cases of violence and can in themselves trigger prosecution and jail-time.  And, it should be remembered that throughout history, the various French governments have often placed great limits on free speech, causing, at times, great writers like Victor Hugo to flee France and live for decades in exile for his criticisms of Napoleon III. Even the Fifth Republic censored the press repeatedly during the French-Algerian War (1954-62). The most famous example is a book about torture republished as a new English edition in 2006, The Question, by the late Henri Alleg. Alleg's book was banned by the French state after it was published in 1958.  Even the Academy Award nominated The Battle of Algiers (1965), the famous film about the French-Algerian War directed by the Italian Gilles Pontecorvo, was banned in France until 1971. In other words, the Fifth Republic has often had censorship and does not have what Americans would call free speech in a legally protected sense.

So why have many of the French commentators in the post-Charlie Hebdo moment insisted on defending free speech (the right to depict the Prophet Muhammad or anyone or anything else) with statements that inevitably evoke this issue of laïcité? Why are they conflating laïcité (separation of Church and state) with free speech? To answer that, I'd like to turn to a point made by renowned French scholar of Islam, Oliver Roy. As he put it in Secularism Confronts Islam (2007): “In particular, the debate on laïcité, now as in 1905, makes it possible to obscure the social question: if the banlieue is primarily a problem of Islam, then there is no social problem. This is, in fact, an old tradition of French social democracy: to use laïcité to evade a debate on the economy.” Thus, by conflating the discussions about Charlie Hebdo with the issue of laïcité, the French are once again evading the tougher debate about how to address the problems of the distressed banlieue.

Coming at a time when the French are seeking to address the root causes for radicalization within France, this age-old evasive thinking will only serve to further alienate the restless and alienated young Muslim populations who might be prey to these 'jihadi' [Ed. This term historically surfaces from the Indo-Pakistan conflict] groups now recruiting for al Qaeda and ISIS within France. This is why French Prime Minister Manuel Valls's recent correction to all this is so important. Rather than fall into the trap of the same old laïcité debates, Valls re-iterated the statements he made in 2005 (during a period of severe unrest and rioting within the banlieues) that the French suffer from “territorial, economic, and ethnic apartheid,” and that France must come to terms with the nature of its crisis. Valls's approach, which is to recognize the nature of the separation between the banlieues and the rest of France, is a significant step in the right direction. I say this because after decades of studying radical Islam and terrorism in France and elsewhere, it is clear that the most common factor connecting all the young 'jihadi' recruits is alienation, and this alienation has important socio-economic roots that cannot be ignored by simply focusing on ideas and identity debates. And, if the French continue to avoid the tough debate and to hit the theme of laïcité in these public discussions, France can expect even greater problems with its young alienated Muslims in the banlieues.

That much is certain.

James D. Le Sueur, one of the leading American scholars of decolonization. He is a professor of History at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and Senior Associate Member of the Middle East Centre at St. Antony's College, Oxford and the author of several books on France and Algeria. This article is based on a talk given on Jan. 22 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC at an event called: “Muslims Respond to Charlie Hebdo: Roots of Radicalization.”  







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Obama tells Muslims: don't let Isis hijack your religion and identity

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 February, 2015 - 07:07

Islamic State does not speak for you and ‘we are not at war with Islam’, declares US president at counter-extremism summit

Muslims in the US and around the world have a responsibility to fight the idea that terrorist groups like Islamic State speak for them, Barack Obama has declared in his most direct remarks yet about any link between Islam and violent extremism.

“We are not at war with Islam,” Obama said. “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Related: Obama wants to 'counter violent extremism'. He should look beyond Muslims | Deepa Iyer and Linda Sarsour

Related: Chapel Hill 'hate crime' response criticised by Muslim lawmaker

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