I applaud British Islam’s refusal to bow to the establishment | Giles Fraser: Loose canon

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 July, 2017 - 15:35
I’m not asked to demonstrate that I am not a radical, or prove that I am an asset to society. So why should Muslims be pressed to do so?

Back in May, at the Roundhouse Poetry Slam, the brilliant Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan took to the stage to denounce the importance of being one of those good Muslims, as opposed to one of the bad ones. I refuse to have to prove my humanity to you by cracking a smile, and saying how “I also cry at the end of Toy Story 3”, she said, her voice shaking with intensity and focus. I won’t try to tell you about “the complex inner worlds of Sumeahs and Aishas.” “No,” she insists, “this will not be a ‘Muslims are like us’ poem. I refuse to be respectable … Because if you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one that’s not human.”

I wholeheartedly applaud this refusal of respectability. I’m not asked to flaunt my moral or emotional credentials in order to be treated decently. I’m not asked to demonstrate that I am not a radical, or prove that I am an asset to society. Yet this is what immigrant communities, especially those that come with some “foreign” religion, are regularly pressed to do .

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What are they so afraid of? I’m just a young brown Muslim woman speaking my mind | Yassmin Abdel-Magied

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 July, 2017 - 04:08

By asserting my identity in a way that challenges my ‘place in the world’, I inadvertently challenge those who feel entitled to their privilege and status

Given that I am now the most publicly hated Muslim in Australia, people have been asking me how I am. What do I say? That life has been great and I can’t wait to start my new adventure in London? That I’ve been overwhelmed with messages of support? Or do I tell them that it’s been thoroughly rubbish? That it is humiliating to have almost 90,000 twisted words written about me in the three months since Anzac Day, words that are largely laced with hate.

Do I reveal that it’s infuriatingly frustrating to have worked for years as an engineer, only to have that erased from my public narrative? That it is surreal to be discussed in parliamentary question time and Senate estimates for volunteering to promote Australia through public diplomacy programs? That I get death threats on a daily basis, and I have to reassure my parents that I will be fine, when maybe I won’t be? That I’ve resorted to moving house, changing my phone number, deleting my social media apps. That journalists sneak into my events with schoolchildren to sensationally report on what I share. That I’ve been sent videos of beheadings, slayings and rapes from people suggesting the same should happen to me.

Ah, the worst that can happen is someone sending you an angry email. Just don’t read it, you will be fine. Don’t forget to take your vitamins. Have you checked your iron levels? You know your anaemia makes you tired.

Related: The Yassmin Abdel-Magied bash-a-thon is all part of the Anzac Day ritual | Richard Ackland

Related: Gillian Triggs tells of alarm over 'demonising' of Muslims in Australia

Related: As Lionel Shriver made light of identity, I had no choice but to walk out on her | Yassmin Abdel-Magied

‘Everyone’s entitled to their opinion’ … But if that opinion happens to be so ill thought-through, poorly argued, whiny, needy, constrictive, selfish, ugly, ignorant, flat out wrong and probably quite dangerous too, then they deserve to be called on it and relentlessly, mercilessly mocked till they never spout such unutterable bollocks ever again in their special snowflake lives.

The irony in all this, of course, is that I am no one very important

Related: Australia needs more feisty outspoken people like Yassmin Abdel-Magied | David Stephens

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Tories’ road fund is no revolution

Indigo Jo Blogs - 5 July, 2017 - 21:33

A two-lane carriageway of a main road (the other two-lane carriageway is mostly hidden behind plants in this photograph). There is a sign pointing straight ahead for "Lowestoft A12" and off to the left for "Framlingham B1116, Wickham Mkt and Orford B1078". A metallic dark blue Ford car is in the left-hand lane although it is partly in the right-hand lane, indicating that it is pulling in or pulling out. A yellow sign points off the road for "diverted traffic". There is a deep blue sky with a few small white clouds. There are trees along the left side of the road and fields and hedgerows in the background.This morning it was announced that the government was diverting just over a sixth of the £5.8bn assigned two years ago to the National Roads Fund (NRF) from trunk roads and motorways to regional main roads, particularly those removed from central government control under the Labour government (which the Times was eager to mention in their report) and transferred to local authority control. This has led to some stories in regional newspapers which eagerly reported that their local by-pass scheme was going to get funding; the Ipswich Star, for example, reported that this might include the Ipswich northern by-pass, a scheme which was under discussion in the early 90s when I was at school there, but (like the Kesgrave by-pass scheme which actually saw trees cut down before being abandoned) never went anywhere. The money is only going to be available from 2020 after ‘consultations’, but the announcement is less of a “revolution” than the press reports are making out.

The Times noted in their report that the Labour government had transferred a number of A-roads from central to local government control, which is true. Some of these arguably should not have been transferred because, regardless of low traffic volumes, they were the main routes to whole areas of the country — the A16 from Peterborough up the east coast of Lincolnshire, for example — but others were old main roads whose main volume of traffic had been diverted onto a new or upgraded trunk road, such as the A40 from Oxford to Gloucester; traffic from London to Gloucester and Cheltenham is now expected to use the M4 and A419/A417 via Swindon. Some have actually been transferred the other way (like the A21 from Sevenoaks to Hastings) and some of the remaining trunk roads also have motorway alternatives (e.g. the Dunstable-Cannock stretch of the A5, the A46 south of Warwick) and can’t possibly be in regular use by long-distance traffic. The A5 in particular is too slow for that. Central government already funds road projects that are off trunk roads. The Norwich “northern distributor road”, for example, is partly funded by the Department of Transport, and in 2014 the government agreed funding for three schemes in Oxfordshire, all of them off the trunk road network.

Some of the main roads which are in the worst need for improvements or resurfacing were never trunk roads: the A31 between Guildford and Winchester, for example, had to be closed two weeks ago for emergency resurfacing after the surface of the westbound carriageway melted in the heat. This is a county road in Surrey; the quality of some stretches in Hampshire is pretty poor as well. Although parts of it are dual carriageway, it has not been upgraded much west of Alton; traffic to Southampton (and places west along the other bit of the A31, which is a trunk road) are expected to go north to Camberley and join the M3. This is, I suspect, the thinking behind the decisions to “de-trunk” a lot of old main roads: they don’t want long-distance traffic using them. They want them on the motorways and a smaller number of upgraded dual carriageways.

There are, in my opinion, good reasons why some of the bypass projects expected to benefit from this “new money” were shelved in the first place. Ipswich has a good enough road to take people up to the north-east side; the eastern by-pass was open while the A45 (now the A14 from the Midlands) still went through the suburbs of Ipswich as the western by-pass was the last stretch to open. The convenience of a road from north-west of Ipswich to places like Martlesham, Woodbridge and Wickham Market is not worth the environmental destruction, while Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth are already served by roads from the west and south-west including the A47, a trunk road, and the single-carriageway but fairly good quality A143. Furthermore, a northern by-pass will lead to pressure for further upgrades to the A12 between Wickham Market and Lowestoft. A better use of public money in Ipswich might be to improve the existing dual carriageway and the Copdock interchange where the A14 meets the A12 up from London.

And local authorities cannot always be blamed for failing to maintain main roads to the same extent as trunk roads are maintained, as they get their money from central government — they do not keep all of the council tax money they levy, and their rates are capped — and have to spend it on schools, social care, rubbish collection and so on. Central government has cut funding to local councils and those councils are legally obliged to spend it on certain things, an obligation reinforced by court judgements since the cuts started after the 2010 election. Government could simply return some of those roads to trunk road status and central government control, or it could legislate to reform the way local taxes are raised, or to ring-fence council spending for main roads. It’s a classic case of councils being set up to take the blame for decisions actually made by central government; the government has had seven years to put right the Labour government’s perceived mistake, if it wanted to, by new legislation or other means.

*Image source: Geograph, copyright David Dixon, licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.

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Michael Gove’s ‘brain flip’ poisoned schools extremism debate

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 July, 2017 - 07:15
Minister misrepresented and needlessly damaged the Trojan horse schools, says the barrister who defended staff

In 2014 the so-called Trojan horse scandal broke in Birmingham, when it was said that a group of hardline conservative Muslim governors and teachers had set out to systematically take over and “Islamify” state schools. At the heart of the lurid headlines was the Park View academy trust. For years, the school had effectively served a local Muslim community and successfully modelled an approach to education that had transformed academic attainment. It was so successful that it was encouraged to become an academy, take over nearby schools and extend its model, becoming responsible for three schools, with further expansion planned. Then, suddenly, instead of being lauded for its approach, it was condemned.

Over the past three years some of Park View’s teaching staff have faced allegations of unacceptable professional conduct before the teacher regulator and there has been a series of misconduct cases. As a barrister I represented some of those involved. What those of us who defended staff members sought to demonstrate was that all Park View did, including having a prayer club and, yes it’s true, playing a call to prayer on loudspeakers, was consistent with government guidance [pdf] and accepted practice. The same practices lauded in 2012 for engaging pupils were now being cited as evidence that something was badly wrong.

Related: Trojan horse affair: five lessons we must learn

Related: Trojan horse school case based on misinformation, tribunal told

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New To The Faith? 10 Pieces Of Advice For Converts To Islam And To Those Discovering Their Faith

Muslim Matters - 4 July, 2017 - 02:11
۞ قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ آمَنَّا ۖ قُلْ لَمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَٰكِنْ قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ تُطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ لَا يَلِتْكُمْ مِنْ أَعْمَالِكُمْ شَيْئًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ Al-Quran 49:14

The Bedouin say, “We have attained to faith.” Say [unto them, O Muhammad]: “You have not [yet] attained to faith; you should [rather] say, ‘We have [outwardly] surrendered’ – for [true] faith has not yet entered your hearts.1 But if you [truly] pay heed unto God and His Apostle, He will not let the least of your deeds2 go to waste: for, behold, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.”
–Translation by Muhammad Asad

So, you are full of zeal and excitement. Everybody wants you to pray for them because your slate has just been wiped clean. This is your rebirth, your new start.  It is not just a new chapter, but a new book, and in fact a new series. Now the community has a vested interest in your success. You have just crossed a bridge to find that you are not only in a new land, but a new world and possibly an alternate universe.   This faith has so many layers and oceans so deep that you feel you can implode from all the pressure.  There are the prayers, the rules, the regulations, the language, the culture,  the disciplines to master,  the 1400 years of scholarship to study. Everyone is telling you this or that and you’re trying to figure it all out. You feel like you’re in a vacuum. It is all mind blowing.

My advice is to take your time, because you have a long road ahead.  I’ve seen some converts full of anxiety because of all the things they needed to learn. You’ll cross some bridges when you get to them. And some of us were once full of zeal,  so super excited to discover this tradition, and  so excited to proclaim that we believe. But the verse quoted above is to point out that like the Bedouin, we should rather accept that developing faith is a difficult journey. Rather, we should say that we submit to God’s will. By obeying God and the guidance given to His Messenger (s.a.w.), faith can enter our hearts. In some ways, this is bringing us back to a certain humility about our relationship with our Lord. In this stage of newness and zeal, we can be easily mislead into some destructive things. Remember, many people are misguided and will capitalize on your naiveté in their own misadventures. I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes and the mistakes that others have made. I’m still learning.

So here is a brief list of some pitfalls to avoid. The  list is in no particular order.

 1.Keep your name.

Your parents have known you for nearly two decades  or more by one name. Do not force them to call you by your new ‘Muslim’ name, especially one they cannot pronounce. It will weird them out.

2. If you are in college, stay in college.

Do not drop out of school, travel to some dusty village to learn the basics of your faith. You can learn a lot of stuff by reputable online classes and institutions or by attending a class at your local Muslim community center. Complete school. Do not listen to somebody who is slanging oils on the street corner or a privileged kid who has had his college bankrolled by affluent parents tell you to drop out because of student loans. Those same people will not be able to support you when you are unemployed.

3. If you have a job, do not quit.

Unless  you are a stripper or bartender, but even then, you probably need to make a gradual transition to halal gains. But if you work in corporate America, do not let some zealot make you feel guilty because you work for “the man.”

4. Don’t dress like you’re going to a costume party.

Even if you choose to wear hijab (which has nothing to do with Middle Eastern culture), you may want to start out with western-style modest clothes. But if you  wear shalwar kameezes or long all black chador as a woman  or pajama outfits or what appears to be man gowns as a guy, your parents will think you’ve joined some commune or have gone all Lawrence of Arabia on them.

5. Don’t act like you’ve joined a cult.

Maintain ties with your non-Muslim friends and family. It may also be a good idea to keep saying praises and thanks to God in English. If you get all weird and stop talking to people, your family may want to send a specialist to deprogram you.

6. Don’t take it all on.

Pace your learning so that your practice matches your knowledge.  This is not a race. Don’t know or feel like you have to memorize the Quran and become a muhaddith tomorrow. Look for creative ways to contribute to your community that doesn’t overburden you, but gives you a sense of place.

7. Avoid hypercritical analysis of everything around you.

Just because you found God, doesn’t mean that the whole world has gone to pot. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that people’s faith ebbs and flows. Just because you’re on a spiritual high now and willing to give up all your material possessions and become a dervish, doesn’t mean that in 15 years all you’ll be thinking about is how you’ll finance your kids’ braces.

8. Don’t adopt delusions of grandeur.

Chances are, you are not the Mahdi or savior for all Muslims. There were a lot of people who came before you and many  who will come after you that wanted to challenge the established order. It is not your job to start the Caliphate. In fact, you may find yourself frustrated by dealing the board of your local masjid and your own break away group will probably run our of funds before you can kick start your movement. But,  you can do your part to help make the world a better place, by being a good person with a moral compass.

9. Avoid rushing into marital decisions.

Nothing will freak out your parents more than a stranger marriage. But above all, it can be very damaging to you as a new Muslim. Some people will rush to marry a new shahadah because you don’t know anything.  Take your time to develop yourself both as a Muslim and as a human being. You should be prepared to take on all the religious and real world responsibilities of being a Muslim partner. Also, you should make sure that your potential partner knows his/her responsibilities and is willing to be a supportive partner.  You want this decision to be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make and it will determine the course and direction that your Islam will take. Even if you became Muslim through the process of marriage, you need to take ownership of your faith and your religious development.

10. Refrain from religion wars.

Don’t start debating your family members and chastising them about their “mushrik,” “kafir” faith. It is better to live by example and if they have questions answer them to the best of your ability. But maintain respect for your family ties.

Well, that is my list of ten. I am sure there are many others. Feel free to offer your advice in the comments.

Some more articles on New Muslim issues:

7 Things I Didn’t Expect When I Converted to Islam

For Me is My Religion: Tales of Conversion part 1

Four Convert Marriage FAILS (and how to avoid them)

A Convert’s Story

Prevent strategy stigmatising Muslim pupils, say teachers

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 July, 2017 - 15:42

School and college staff question effectiveness of anti-radicalisation drive and say it undermines inclusion efforts

Teachers fear Muslim pupils are being increasingly stigmatised as a result of the government’s Prevent strategy in schools and colleges, potentially making them reluctant to share concerns about extremism, according to research.

School and college staff who were surveyed for the study by Coventry, Durham and Huddersfield universities also raised concerns about the effectiveness of the strategy, warning that genuine cases of students being drawn into terrorism were unlikely to be picked up.

Related: What Britain needs to fight terrorism is evidence – not ideology | Sayeeda Warsi

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UK mosques should appoint British-born imams, says report

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 July, 2017 - 11:01

Call follows 18-month inquiry in hope it will help leaders be better equipped to deal with challenges facing British Muslims

Mosques in the UK should hire British-born imams on a living wage who are better equipped than foreign religious leaders to understand the challenges faced by British Muslims, a report has recommended.

The Missing Muslims: Unlocking British Muslim Potential for the Benefit of All is the outcome of an 18-month inquiry established by campaigning group Citizens UK and chaired by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve. Its chief task was to examine how the participation of Muslims in public and community life might be improved.

Related: Prevent is failing. Any effective strategy must include Muslim communities | Miqdaad Versi

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Eight wounded in shooting near French mosque – reports

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 July, 2017 - 00:49

Police consider attack to be a settling of scores rather than terror-related

Eight people were wounded in a shooting in front of a mosque in the southern French city of Avignon in an incident police consider to be a settling of scores rather than terror-related, a source close to the investigation said on Monday.

Two of the eight wounded were hospitalised after the incident, according to the source, who also said worshippers leaving the mosque had not been the intended target.

Related: Man tries to drive car into crowd in front of French mosque, police say

#BREAKING Police say this was a fight between young people or gangs, not necessarily targeting the mosque/Muslims.

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Joint Statement: Muslim Leaders Condemn US Airstrike

Muslim Matters - 2 July, 2017 - 03:56

The below is a non-partisan open statement signed by Muslim Imams, scholars and activists from various schools of thought and organisations in predominantly English-speaking countries to condemn the killing of hundreds of innocent men, women and children in Iraq due to US coalition-led airstrikes in March.

References to airstrikes in mainstream media:

Coalition says it hit Mosul site where civilians died

U.S. military confirms airstrike on Mosul area ‘corresponding’ to reports of civilian casualties

US military investigating if airstrikes caused nearly 300 civilian deaths






The statement is as follows:

On behalf of the Muslim community in Canada, UK, USA and elsewhere, we, the undersigned, want to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends involved in the U.S. airstrikes on Iraqi civilians which resulted in the massacre of hundreds of innocent men, women, and children in Iraq.

We unequivocally say that such acts of state terror only worsen the situation and fuel tensions. As Muslims, we believe that all human beings have the right to safety and security and that each and every human life is inviolable.

We encourage all people to learn more about Islam, specifically the Qur’an and the way and life of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), as education is a vital part of developing peace, guidance, and understanding in our world today.


  • AbdulAziz Rasoul, i3 institute, Canada
  • Abdullah Andalusi, Muslim Debate Initiative, UK
  • Abdullah Ayaz Mullanee, Mathabah Institute, Canada
  • Abdullah Hakim Quick, Islamic Institute of Toronto, Canada
  • Abdullah Hatia, Halton Islamic Association, Canada
  • AbdulMalik Mohammad, Ilmster Seminars, Canada
  • Abdul Wahid, Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, UK
  • Abu Eesa Niamatullah, 1st Ethnical, UK
  • Adnan Rashid, Hittin Institute, UK
  • Akbar Khoja, Rethinking Ismailism, Canada
  • Alaa ElSayed, ISNA, Canada
  • Aly Hindy, Salaheddin Centre, Canada
  • Anwar Chowdhury, Documenting Corruption and Oppression Against Muslims, Canada
  • Asim Khan, Sabeel Institute, UK
  • Azad Ali, MEND, UK
  • Basil Amjad Khan, Akhirah Cirles, Canada
  • Bassam Zawadi, Call To Monotheism, Canada
  • Bilal Ismail, Imam Developent Project, South Africa
  • Daniel Haqiqatjou, MuslimMatters, USA
  • Dilly Hussain, 5 Pillars, UK
  • Ehsaan Ansari, Khadija Centre, Canada
  • El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan, The Aafia Foundation, USA
  • Farina Siddiqui, Muslim Moms Network, Canada
  • Farooq Khan, North American Muslim Foundation, Canada
  • Feras Marish, Dar Foundation, Canada
  • Hacene Chebbani, Islamic Information Society of Calgary, Canada
  • Haitham Al-Haddad, Islamic Council of Europe, UK
  • Ibrahim Fayaz, Baitil Jannah Islamic Centre, Canada
  • Ibrahim Hindy, Dar Al-Tawheed, Canada
  • Iqbal Al-Nadvi, ICNA, Canada
  • Jalil Popalzai, Subhan Masjid, Canada
  • Kamil Ahmad, IOU, Canada
  • Kosser Abu Zahra, Newham Community Activist UK
  • Malik Datardina, AwareMuslim, Canada
  • Mamoun Hassan, Islamic Centre of Clarington, Canada
  • Mazin AbdulAdhim, Hizbut Tahrir, Canada
  • Moazzam Begg, Cage, UK
  • Mohamad Osta, i3 institute, Canada
  • Mohammad Auwal, CSU Communication Studies, USA
  • Muhammad Mu’adham, Sydney, Australia
  • Musleh Khan, Islamic Institute of Toronto, Canada
  • Nouman Ali Khan, QuranWeekly, USA
  • Omar Hajaj, Yaseen Youth
  • Omar Subedar, Mathabah Institute, Canada
  • Omar Suleiman, Yaqeen Institute, USA
  • Raza Nadim, MPAC, UK
  • Sadat Anwar, Muslim Debate Initiative, Canada
  • Salman Butt, Islam21C, UK
  • Sarfraaz Ahmed, Standard Bearers, India
  • Shady AlSulaiman, Australian National Imams Council, Australia
  • Shakeel Begg, Lewisham Islamic Centre, UK
  • Sharif Abu Laith, HT Britain, UK
  • Sheharyar Shaikh, Kingston Masjid, Canada
  • Suliman Gani, Al Khaleel Institute, UK
  • Suwed Stephen, Isizwe Islamic Centre, South Africa
  • Syed Iqbal, NYM INK, Canada
  • Tabasum Hussain, Muslim Debate Initiative, Canada
  • Taji Mustafa, Hizbut Tahrir, UK
  • Uthman Lateef, Hittin Institute, UK
  • Yasir Qadhi, MuslimMatters, USA
  • Yawar Baig, Standard Bearers, India
  • Younus Kathrada, Muslim Youth of Victoria, Canada
  • Yusuf Badat, Mathabah Institute, Canada
  • Zahid Akhtar, Documenting Oppression Against Muslims (DOAM), UK
  • Zahir Mahmood, As-Suffa Institute, UK



This statement is independent of any one organisation, has published it for information purposes. All are free to replicate it faithfully and disseminate elsewhere.

The statement purposely mirrors the language of a joint statement condemning the Orlando shooting which got widespread coverage last year, giving Muslim leaders and representatives an opportunity to speak out against bad decisions made by their own governments in an open and non-controversial way.

The names are listed in alphabetical order with the otherwise deserved titles and prefixes (Shaikh, Imam, Dr, and so on) of many of the esteemed scholars omitted so as to maintain independence and non-partisanship as much as possible.

If you are an Imam, scholar or activist and would like to sign the petition, please email with your name or kunya you would like displayed.



Qatar rejects deadline demands, saying it does not fear military action

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 July, 2017 - 01:59

Foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani rejects demands from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates

Qatar said on Saturday it does not fear any military retaliation for refusing to meet a Monday deadline to comply with a list of demands from four Arab states that have imposed a de-facto blockade on the Gulf nation.

During a visit to Rome, foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani again rejected the demands as an infringement on Qatar’s sovereignty. He said any country is free to raise grievances with Qatar, provided they have proof, but said any such conflicts should be worked out through negotiation, not by imposing ultimatums.

Related: Al-Jazeera, insurgent TV station that divides the Arab world, faces closure

Related: Qatar diplomatic crisis – what you need to know

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Al-Jazeera, insurgent TV station that divides the Arab world, faces closure

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 July, 2017 - 00:16
The network has raised political awareness across the Middle East. No wonder Qatar’s conservative enemies want it shut down

On Monday a bold and controversial experiment in Middle Eastern media and politics may be abruptly brought to an end. Al-Jazeera – once heralded as the beacon of free Arab media that broke the hegemony of the western networks and reversed the flow of information from east to west for the first time since the middle ages – faces closing its doors for good.

On 23 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt subjected Qatar to unprecedented diplomatic and economic sanctions, followed by an aggressive blockade and threats of further action if Qatar fails to meet a list of 13 demands, one of which is to shut down the al-Jazeera network.

Related: The Guardian view on al-Jazeera: muzzling journalism | Editorial

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10 Things Hasan Minhaj’s Homecoming King Invites Us To Do

Muslim Matters - 30 June, 2017 - 08:28

Hasan Minhaj’s comedy special on Netflix, Homecoming King, is simply amazing.  His honesty, talent for telling stories and jokes, and integrity to himself create an important space for dialogue and action. I felt inspired by Homecoming King to do the following 10 things in my own life and hope that all of us will participate and allow this piece of art and culture to have a larger impact than just an hour’s worth of entertainment.

*Short disclaimer: The comedy show includes many profanities and some vulgarities. This is also not a family-friendly show due to the abundance of profanity and some sexual innuendo.

   1. Explore our own identity development and create our own stories about it.

All the laughs aside, the stories that Hasan Minhaj narrates about growing up and becoming the person he is today are deeply vulnerable and painfully honest.  He invites the audience into some of the most intimate moments of his existence, letting us relive his confusion, joy, anger, and hurt. It may be hard to notice, but the story that Hasan Minhaj tells is rooted in his socio-cultural autobiography. He’s not just talking about funny or strange things that happened to him as a kid, he’s talking about critical incidents in his life related to his understanding of race, ethnicity, language, socio-economic class, and religion.  

Here are a few examples of that.  

  • The first time Minhaj realized that his skin was not white was when his elementary school crush yelled at him, “‘your skin is the color of poop!’”
  • He discusses who his parents were and what values he grew up with from childhood to adolescence, like his dad’s common sayings of  “‘no fun, no friends, no girlfriends’” and “‘log kya kehenge?’”  
  • A moment of ridicule from culturally ignorant “Ryan Lochtes” at school making fun of his sister calling him “‘Hasan Bhai.’”  
  • Falling in love with his “white princess,” the traumatizing rejection from her family, and his long road towards healing from that and better understanding race politics and good versus bad people.    

While watching this, I felt as if this story was mine in so many ways and that I could relate to it on so many levels.  But that’s where Homecoming King might make fools of us all—this is not my story, this is not your story. Let’s not force the burden of representation on Hasan Minhaj and make him carry all of our stories on his back.  Let’s explore our own identity developments and create our own socio-cultural autobiographies.  The gist of doing this is to find critical moments from your childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood that shaped who you are today in relation to one of your identities (black, second-generation Pakistani, poor, etc.)  Here’s a resource that explains how to do this.

You’re probably thinking, this is going to take a lot of time, and you’re right.  You’re also probably thinking, some of the stuff that Hasan Minhaj talked about was brutal to recall, and you’re right.  But what he also invites us to do is to laugh at ourselves, to cry with our past selves, and to truly relive our emotions.  I actually had to write a socio-cultural autobiography for an educational psychology class I took last semester and although I already knew many of the bits and pieces of how my identity formed as a kid, the assignment helped me understand all of the pieces together. I also discovered a new identity (that I started identifying with other racial minorities as “brown” in college).

My suggestion is to definitely include these markers in your life:

  •         When did you first realize your skin was a certain color?
  •         What was your earliest birthday memory?
  •         What are your early memories of what Islam is? (Going to the masjid, Ramadan, Eid, etc.)
  •         What are the “cards” that you played with your parents?

2. Explore our parents’ histories and appreciate their life trajectories.

Part of the socio-cultural autobiography is to also explore the impacts of immediate family members in our lives.  But Hasan Minhaj goes beyond that and actually discusses his parents’ histories.  In a charmingly critical “arranged marriage” versus Tinder example, Minhaj manages to contextualize his parents’ marriage to examples of dating in mainstream American culture. Exploring our parents’ histories will give us much needed context as well as appreciation for their sacrifices to us and friendship founded on knowing a person.

I actually started a recording project of my eldest aunt telling me the history of her grandparents (my great-grandparents) earlier this summer and I hope to continue the project over the next few years.  

Talk to your parents and find out who they are.  Hear their stories.

   3. Challenge our paradigms and viewpoints with those of our parents’.

One of the things that knowing and understanding our parents’ histories allows us to do is to challenge our paradigms with their paradigms.  Hasan Minhaj admits to not knowing who is right about an issue, his “zen brown Mr. Miagi” father or himself.  Should Minhaj put his head down and become a doctor and live in the suburbs and let racism slide off his back, or should he have the “audacity of equality?”  Should he forgive an old friend from high school, or should he hold on to that grudge?  When we get to know our parents, we can understand how to contextualize their paradigms and values.  When we humble ourselves and admit that we are not always right, we are able to see that our parents have been alive for 20 to 30 years longer than we have, and if they’ve made it that far they must have survived somehow.

Check your paradigm and values. Be open to others’ viewpoints, especially your parents, who may have not gotten a fair chance from you in the past.

4. Accept wisdoms/advice from our parents.

It’s only when we have humbled ourselves enough to challenge our own perspectives that we will have the ability to be open to accepting the wisdom and advice our parents have. Minhaj tells us how he internalized a piece of advice that his father gave him and how that changed his life.

What advice have your parents given you in the past that you ignored? In your life right now, what do you need advice on?

5. Talk about identity development and share our stories with others.

When Hasan Minhaj talks about “us,” it feels like a hit of dopamine each time to me. That’s right, us, born-and-raised in California to Muslim immigrant parents from the Indian Subcontinent. That’s me!  That’s us!  I felt as if I belonged to a community as I watched the comedy special, and can only imagine how desis in the audience must have felt a special camaraderie with Minhaj and each other.  What Homecoming King invites us to do is to share our stories with others, especially others who come from a similar background.  Although Minhaj did translate most of the Hindi/Urdu he used, some of the things he said simply rang more true to people from a similar background.  “Isn’t life like biryani, where you move the good [stuff] towards you and push the weird [stuff] to the side?”  That saying probably makes a lot more sense to me than it would the average American, simply because I grew up eating biryani.  

I think it is incredibly important to share with people from different backgrounds from ourselves to build cultural humility, but perhaps unseasoned story-tellers have to work their way there.  In my class last semester, I managed to not cry for the first time when I told the story of how my white best friend told me she couldn’t be my friend anymore on September 12th, 2001.  I admitted to my professor and classmates that this was the first time I was able to get through the story without becoming emotionally overwhelmed, and my professor remarked that sharing the story about a traumatic experience can be a powerful way to heal and that each time a person tells the same story it gets easier to tell.  I guess it took the twentieth time to finally master my emotions enough to get through the story with dry eyes.

Let’s make this more tangible!  Eid ul Fitr may be over but Eid ul Adha is just around the corner, inshaAllah.  Send this article to a friend you know you will see during Eid.  Encourage that person to start thinking about their own socio-cultural autobriography.  At an Eid get-together, pull that close friend or family member to the side and invite them to listen to your stories and share their stories with you.

6. Appreciate the unsung heroes in our lives.

The only moment when it looks like Minhaj can’t keep it together is after telling us about his relationship with his sister, Ayesha.  He tracks their relationship from the moment a “fob in a frock” showed up in his home to the moment when she laid down “one of her cards” for him so that he could get married to a Hindu woman. Minhaj finally turns his back to the camera and pauses for a few moments after admitting he would never have got married to his wife if it weren’t for his sister’s intervention.  I don’t know if he’s just taking a break at that point, but to me it appeared as if he was overcome with very raw emotions and was unable to speak.  Although he goes after his sister, and even his father, in parts of his show, Minhaj does appreciate them for being heroes in their own ways in his life.

Who are the heroes in our lives?  Who are the people that we never appreciated but owe so much to?  In so many ways, this comedy show is a huge message of apology, thanks, and love to his sister and father. Who do we owe a sorry, a thank you, and some overdue love to?

7. Question how much we’ve stuck to “following our dreams” or “promises to ourselves.”

Minhaj takes us through the gruelling journey he experienced in following his dream of being a comedian.  From exposing himself to ridicule over his Pizza Hut sliders commercial to admitting that he nearly ruined his “Daily Show” audition, we got a taste of what it was like for Minhaj to reject a traditional career and follow his dreams. Towards the end of the show, he says, “This is new brown America, the dream is for you to take—so take [it]! Stop blaming it on other people.”  Although I think this statement could do with a little bit of nuance, like systemic racism perhaps, Minhaj himself is probably justified in saying this because he’s made it as far as he has in one of the most anti-diverse fields.

What promises did we make ourselves as kids and throughout high school?  Have we managed to follow our dreams in some way?  Did we give up on our dreams?  

8. Come face to face with the demons in our past in a self-critical way.

Minhaj speaks of his father’s disappointment when he hears the prom story from him.  But his disappointment is for the lack of forgiveness that Minhaj has exhibited towards Bethany Reed, which Minhaj also equates with realizing that love is greater than fear.  Minhaj meets up with Bethany Reed to talk about prom and is humbled to hear her side of the story.  Minhaj admits that he just wanted the white “co-sign,” and that it wasn’t really about Bethany Reed and prom after all.

What demons do we have in our past that we need to tackle?  Is it limited to the experience or person, or does that experience or person represent something greater that we need to overcome?   

9. Look past the differences of “tribes.”

Homecoming King also invites us to look past the differences in race, class, color, and creed that divide us into “tribes.”  Hasan challenges us to not just talk about overcoming these differences “behind closed doors,” but to truly take action whenever life presents us with an opportunity to prove ourselves.  “For every Treyvon Martin or Ahmed the Clock Kid, there’s shades of bigotry that happen every day between all of us because we’re too afraid of letting go of this idea of ‘the other’.”

Another great benefit of undertaking the socio-cultural autobiography project is that in knowing ourselves, we are equipped to understand others.  Once we are self-aware of our own identities and how they were shaped, we can detect biases and prejudices that we may have and need to tackle.

How far do I have to go before I can be a member of my own “tribe” and still be open, tolerant, and accepting of people from other “tribes?

10. Look for the greater context of race problems in this country, and globally.

Lastly, Minhaj invites us to grapple with the race problems in this country, and globally by extension.  Although Minhaj does speak about his hardships and the idea of the “immigrant tax,” he does admit that it takes the loss of life for us to wake up the reality of a race problem existing in the United States.  One of the statements that personally touched me the most was when he talked about consoling himself and contextualizing paying his own taxes to Uncle Sam. “At least your spine isn’t getting shattered in the back of a police wagon,” Minhaj is telling himself, “the way that it’s happening to my African American brothers and sisters in this country to this day, so if this is the tax you have to pay for being here…Uncle Sam—take it!”

After re-watching Homecoming King for the third time, my husband got pulled over by a cop while I was on the phone with him.  He had to hang up, and I was overcome with fear and anxiety for his safety.  My feelings in that moment really tied together for me what it means to explore our stories while placing them in the context of the race problem in this country.  Although our stories make us all different from each other, we are tied together by the fact that we come from minority and marginalized groups.  The minority-on-minority prejudice and racism needs to end.  

What are you doing in your life now that help combat racism and other forms of discrimination against others? What are we doing as a community?


Destruction of Mosul's Great Mosque holds a heritage lesson for Australia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 30 June, 2017 - 04:05

Cultural icons such as the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Indigenous sacred sites could and should be protected in possible conflicts

The senseless destruction of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul last week is not only a monumental loss for the people of Iraq but for all humanity. The 12th century place of worship and its famed leaning minaret were landmarks in the Old City and featured on local currency.

Attacks on cultural property – also demonstrated by the recent destruction of ancient Roman ruins in Palmyra, Syria, the oldest Christian monastery in Mosul, Iraq, along with mausoleums and shrines in Timbuktu, Mali – reveal a worrying and unacceptable trend in modern armed conflict.

Related: Destroying Great Mosque of al-Nuri 'is Isis declaring defeat'

Related: Iraqi forces enter Mosul mosque where Isis declared caliphate

Related: Kurds see chance to advance their cause in ruins of Islamic State

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