Reporting while Muslim: how I covered the US presidential election | Sabrina Siddiqui

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 December, 2016 - 13:30

There were many chilling conversations with those who – not knowing my faith background – told me they wished for violence and concentration camps

“We should exterminate them.”

The words rolled off the voter’s tongue as though he was merely discussing a pest invasion in his home. He was talking about Muslims.

Related: Truth is evaporating before our eyes | Francine Prose

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Hashtag BlackMuslimFamily is Virally Gorgeous

Muslim Matters - 28 December, 2016 - 00:25

To be Muslim in America is to be a direct beneficiary of the gorgeous triumph of Black Muslims since the inception of the young nation. On December 26, 2016, the Muslim Wellness Foundation, led by its founder UPenn Chaplain Kameelah Rashad, headed up a symbolic initiative to get Black Muslims to share their photos, stories, and sentiments with #BlackMuslimFamily. It’s success is still barreling through cyberspaces reaching 3.5 Million people via Twitter alone. This weekend has been a controversial one in which endeared Scholar Hamza Yusuf came under fire after being asked about Muslim Solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the Muslim Brotherhood at the Reviving Islamic Spirit Convention “RIS2016” in Toronto. “We have between 15-18,000 homicides a year, 50 percent are black on black crime… There are twice as many whites that have been shot by police but nobody ever shows those videos. It’s the assumption that the police are racist and it’s not always the case” he said to interviewer Mehdi Hassan.

After receiving continued critique, he returned to the stage the next evening to apologize. In regards to his dismissal of the need to solidify the relationship between Muslims in the movement for Black Lives he cited,  “The most damage to Black people in America does not come from racism, but is from the breakdown of the Black family.” Many believed he only continued a false pathology about Black people, summarily erasing the strides of families all over the world.

#BlackMuslimFamily brutalized this misconception while celebrating the sheer elegance of Blackness in Islam. In these hard times ahead, we need to love each other. All of us. Our shuyookh, our families, our communities.

“One thing that I always think about is a quote from Elijah Muhammad where he said, “Don’t condemn a dirty glass, stand a clean glass next to it.” I thought about how much we took to refuting these stereotypes and realized we needed to put a clean glass next to it. Instead of laboring in condemning this perception we decided to celebrate ourselves. I use the word celebrate often because it isn’t merely pictures and words but a proactive way of finding beauty” Rashad offered. Rashad believes that what’s happened is part strength and  part beauty. She reflected “It was an acknowledgment of our hardships and the fact that we still seek joy. I believe that’s nothing short of miraculous.”

-Tariq Toure





Vibrant family photos were shared celebrating Black Muslim Families

4 generations of my #BlackMuslimFamily May Allah Protect us – Ameen

— PhillyDesertSwag (@TaifaSafiya) December 27, 2016

There were many powerful tweets of fatherhood

My Daddy said shine your light on the world!!! #BlackMuslimFamily


It was the Number 1 trending topic on Twitter in the United States

So, #BlackMuslimFamily was the no. 1 trending topic on Twitter last night.

because we’re so freakin beautiful #BlackMuslimFamily

“[M]y husband’s family is in Florence & Pamplico where they own the land of their great grand’s former white slave masters.” If this doesn’t make you weep – don’t know what will This heart breaking tweet offered a way to support a family going through the loss of the father.

Dear Non-Black Muslims: Your Silence is Not Peaceful

altmuslim - 26 December, 2016 - 23:43

Real peace will not come from shutting up about the oppression. It will not come from trying to shut up the oppressed who speak about their condition. And it will never come from refusing to work with the people fighting against that oppression. Islam does not say that the most religious people are the ones who sit on the sidelines and do and say nothing. Our faith and history teach that passivity is not the way to peace.

The post Dear Non-Black Muslims: Your Silence is Not Peaceful appeared first on altmuslim.

On Hamza Yusuf, BLM and Muslim participation

Indigo Jo Blogs - 26 December, 2016 - 23:22

Picture of Hamza YusufOn Friday evening Shaikh Hamza Yusuf, in an interview with the British journalist Mehdi Hasan at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) 2016 conference in Toronto, made some offensive and inaccurate remarks about racism both in American society and within the Muslim community. This has caused outrage online, with African-American Muslims particularly hurt and his traditional supporters closing ranks, claiming he said nothing wrong, disimissing it as social media gossip and emphasising his greatness compared to those criticising him. Although the video was initially deleted from the RIS website, two eight-minute clips of his interview were eventually posted on YouTube and there is no getting away from the offensive nature of some of his comments.

Just to clarify, I became Muslim in 1998 and the teachings of that group of English-speaking scholars and speakers formed the backbone of my Islamic education: Shaikh Nuh Keller, Abdul-Hakim Murad (also known as Timothy Winter; he has also used the pseudonym Kerim Fenari), Zaid Shakir, Abdullah Hakim Quick. Theologically I haven’t moved from that position. Politically, I’ve become more disenchanted by how conservative and pro-establishment the movement has become since 9/11 and especially since the Arab Spring, although not all the speakers mentioned are implicated. In the past I’ve defended Shaikh Hamza in particular from accusations that he was a sell-out and worse. I’ve noticed that the most eager to condemn him in this case were those who have hated him since 9/11 or even before that, when he was on the same side as Shaikh Nuh (during the “Literalism and the Attributes of Allah” period of the 90s) but not all of these people are particularly active in fighting social or racial injustice other than where it affects Muslims. A few of the attacks were personal, vulgar and appeared motivated by envy.

There were several fallacious aspects of Shaikh Hamza’s response to Mehdi Hasan’s questions. One was to compare unjust police shootings, mostly of unarmed Black people but of some others as well, with “black-on-black” crime. Regardless of the statistics, which others have addressed better than I can, the comparison isn’t valid because common crime isn’t committed, usually, by people paid by the public to keep the public safe. As they carry arms in public and may be called on to use them, they should be expected to be calm in the face of provocation. It’s true that not every police officer who shoots a Black person does so because he is a racist, but a disproportionate number of unjustified shootings or killings of unarmed Black people who were seen on camera not giving the officer any cause to use lethal force, followed by the officers invariably being let off by the law, has prompted widespread protests. It should be pointed out that other victims include disabled and mentally ill people; in one case, an officer shot a man during a crisis after declaring, “I don’t have time for this shit”. It’s well known that Black parents give their children, sons especially, a “talk” on what to do if they are accosted by aggressive police demanding to search them; families of the mentally ill are commonly advised never to call the police when their relatives have a crisis. Both of these are signs that the police are aggressive, out of control and unaccountable.

The comparison is rather like the observation that Muslims only demonstrate against wars against Muslim countries and not against terrorism; the simple answer is that those wars are perpetrated with public money, including taxes levied on Muslims, while terrorist attacks are not. We are not responsible for what al-Qa’ida or ISIS do as they finance their activities themselves, through donors (and, no doubt, criminal activity).

Shaikh Hamza also claimed that the US has some of the world’s best anti-discrimination laws, which has some truth to it (although some of these laws have been eaten away at both by legislation and by the Supreme Court), but it also has some of the most unjust criminal laws (e.g. mandating life sentences for sometimes trivial offences, making non-citizens liable for deportation, despite having family in the US and no remaining connections to their home country, often for misdemeanours committed long in the past), a judicial system in some states where “due process” is considered to be of greater importance than the facts, such that innocence is not enough to get someone released from prison, an education system which fast-tracks poor youth into the prison system from their teenage years and a constitution which has, among other things, twice in recent history handed the country’s, and the world’s, most powerful office to a moron despite his losing the popular vote, substantially in the most recent case. If you’re white and middle-class, you can generally expect rational and unprejudiced treatment from the law — as, for example, happened to a mother in Irvine, California, who had drugs planted in her car by a local couple with a grudge against her. A poor woman from a Black or Latino background might have had a very different experience. Shaikh Hamza can say this only because he comes from the race that is most favoured by the American political and judicial systems.

Finally, he tries to divert discussion of American racism against Blacks by bringing up Muslim racism against Jews — the whites’ favourite ‘minority’ — and racism against Pakistanis or southern Indians in some Arab countries (and notably not Arab anti-Black attitudes which are rife throughout the Arab world and in the USA). He tells us that his shaikh, Abdullah bin Bayyah, has never said a bad word about Jews; the shaikh is from Mauritania, a country where Jewish settlers are not harassing native Arabs going about their daily business, building fences between them and their land, stealing their water and so on. Hostility to Jews is only to be expected in a population facing these abuses, or an immigrant population with a high percentage from that country or its neighbours, particularly where Jewish Americans are heavily involved in supporting Zionism, lobbying for military aid to Israel and punishment of anyone choosing not to do business with them, and agitating against Muslim (and particularly Arab) participation in society and in favour of wars against Muslims and attacks on Muslims’ civil rights. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the mainstream of Jewish society, both in the UK and the USA, is pro-Zionist; those Jews (or people of Jewish ancestry) who are sympathetic to Palestinian rights are a fringe group, many of them not religious.

He also mentions the racism (and appalling working conditions, etc) facing Pakistani and Indian workers in places like the United Arab Emirates. The fact is that, apart from watching Qatari TV news channels, most of us have no connection with the UAE, Qatar or any other Gulf country. Most of us don’t have the money to take holidays or attend Islamic conferences there. The UAE isn’t a democracy and doesn’t give permanent residency, much less citizenship, to other than its natives, so why on earth should Muslims with no right to live there, or even go there in some cases, be held responsible for what goes on there? Besides, Muslims (many of those in the UK are of Pakistani origin) talk about such things and share stories about it among themselves and on social media, but racism in the west, where we live, affects us, now.

He also made some remarks about whether racism or the breakdown of the Black American family was a greater contributor to the current status of African Americans. All I will say to that is: there is no record of the police asking questions about whether anyone’s parents are married or ever were before shooting them, and bullets do not discriminate on such grounds.

The US is not a country founded on justice. It’s a country with legislators and judges for whom injustice comes as naturally as mother’s milk, who hate anything most of us would think of as justice. Clive Stafford Smith, the British lawyer who worked for years getting people freed from Death Row in various southern states, said that the US is “a society that is so full of hatred of people” and blamed politicians, who constantly encourage Americans to hate and despise others. I’m not going to speculate on why he thought American Muslims should not be involved in a cause like Black Lives Matter, but Muslims of any ethnicity born in the USA are not going to turn a blind eye to injustice in the way that an Arab immigrant grateful for refuge from other oppression or poverty might do. He didn’t offer any reason why they shouldn’t — no Islamic critique of the ideas peddled on the BLM website, or call to concentrate on Islamic knowledge or their spiritual development — only a diversion onto things that are irrelevant to American Muslims. I’m not justifying anyone hating him; he’s a scholar who has invested years of his life in gaining and transmitting Islamic knowledge and his translations are of immense value — but these remarks are ignorant and damaging, and whether he changes his views in response to the community’s feedback or not, they needed challenging.

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UK's first Muslim astronaut aims to put focus on mental health

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 December, 2016 - 08:01

Contest winner Hussain Manawer says it was not an ambition to go to space, he just wanted to be taken more seriously

For most people who go into space it is a dream come true, but for the man set to be the UK’s first Muslim astronaut his priority is making the world a better place.

Hussain Manawer, 25, from Ilford, Essex, is due to blast off in 2018 after seeing off thousands of other entrants from more than 90 countries in a competition.

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CyanogenMod knocked on head

Indigo Jo Blogs - 25 December, 2016 - 00:00

A screenshot of an Android phone, showing an analogue clock and various app iconsAs if 2016 couldn’t get any worse, I read today that the Android distribution CyanogenMod was being closed down; the parent company, whose founder (and founder of CyanogenMod) has left, will be turning off the servers at the end of the month. The developers have renamed the project Lineage and are currently being hosted at GitHub, but that currently doesn’t appear to include binaries that you can install on a phone. This isn’t the disaster that losing Alan Rickman or Leonard Cohen was, but is a pretty sad development, as CyanogenMod brought a lot of old phones to life, especially those whose manufacturers refused to provide further Android updates for them.

The first Android phone I installed CyanogenMod on was my second Android phone, a Samsung Galaxy S (the original from back in 2010 or so). Samsung only maintained that phone up to Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and its version of Android was customised and contained a lot of junk. I discovered that there was a working version of CyanogenMod based on Android 4.0 and, though it was a bit of a struggle, installed it. It’s no exaggeration to say that it brought the phone back to life, in particular running a lot faster than the old Android, though it consumed battery juice very quickly when mobile data was switched on, which was easily fixed as CyanogenMod allowed you to easily customise the pull-down settings so you could turn off mobile data, or switch it to 2G or 3G, with a flick and a touch. Another feature I found really useful was the configurable ‘buttons’ at the bottom of the screen — I always set it up so that it always showed a search button, which early Android phones came with as standard. When I bought a Galaxy Nexus, which came with stock Android, I was underwhelmed at the lack of these sorts of features.

I put CyanogenMod on the two further Nexus phones I bought (a Nexus 4 and 5), and then in early 2015 moved to iPhone. Despite the added speed and stability, I very much missed the configurability of Android which CyanogenMod took to the max (keep in mind, iOS had only just allowed the use of third-party keypads such as SwiftKey; Android had had these from the beginning). I moved back to Android with a Nexus 5X in mid-2016 and have been using the stock Android it came with. It doesn’t look like there will be a version of CyanogenMod based on the latest Android (Nougat) now.

I don’t know if I’ll try out LineageOS, if it ever gets a Nougat ROM for my handset out. As CyanogenMod was an open-source project, perhaps Google could implement some of its features in stock Android, even if you have to turn them on. Perhaps they could be made available as a sort of ‘advanced’ version of standard Android, but some of these features, like the configurable buttons, surely wouldn’t bamboozle most non-techie users.

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Crowds pack out Australian cathedral at centre of alleged terrorist plot

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 December, 2016 - 22:56

Worshippers fill the midnight service, the Melbourne church’s dean says, forcing latecomers into the forecourt

Crowds have packed out Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral despite it being the target of an alleged Christmas Day bombing plot.

The dean of St Paul’s, Dr Andreas Loewe, who led the midnight service, said 1,500 churchgoers had filled the cathedral, forcing latecomers into the forecourt.

Related: One man released and four charged in Melbourne terror plot case

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Imagined Q&A on Hemlines and Hijabs

altmuslim - 23 December, 2016 - 23:13

here is the difference: Israeli women (and men) protested outside the Knesset, loud and clear. It may not turn the ship, but they raised their voices. Saudi women have chosen to go along, some by choice and conviction, and others by choosing the path most travelled. But one day, they too will exercise their right to choose. I lived amongst them; I have seen the spark in their eyes. It’s only a matter of time. Just wait and see.

The post Imagined Q&A on Hemlines and Hijabs appeared first on altmuslim.

Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are suffering. The world mustn’t look away | Rushanara Ali

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 December, 2016 - 12:10
Aung San Suu Kyi’s election into office brought fresh hope for the virtually stateless minority. But if anything, their treatment has got worse since then

Two sets of high-definition images of Myanmar taken from outer space: both are shot in the morning, both show the same villages populated by Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine state. The first set, collected from 2014, displays a small collection of homes where the virtually stateless minority has settled. The buildings, lying between trees and set back from dirt roads, number more than 100. In the second set of images, taken in the past two months, the homes have vanished, and all that remains is square patches of burnt earth.

Provided by Human Rights Watch, the images reveal 430 buildings that have been destroyed in three different villages, and support the claim from a United Nations official that Myanmar is seeking the “ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya” from its territory.

In Rakhine state, the camps where Rohingya Muslims had been forced into living were horrific

Related: Myanmar's Rohingya campaign 'may be crime against humanity'

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Regarding Brandon Reid

Indigo Jo Blogs - 22 December, 2016 - 23:14

A still from a video of Brandon Reid, a young white boy with dark hair with a black waistcoat and trousers and a yellow T-shirt with black writing on underneath, beign escorted down the hallway out of his house by two male police officers.Brandon Reid is a 16-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome whose family home is in Sheffield. He was in the news in November when a local paper and then the Daily Mail reported that the local police had turned up and used excessive force to remove him from his home and force him to go back to his care home in Stoke on Trent after he refused to go back after a family visit. A campaign has been launched to “get Brandon home for Christmas” as well as a petition and a Facebook page in which they encourage supporters to email the head of Sheffield children’s services, but the local authorities concerned are refusing to allow him a Christmas trip home, apparently insisting that his mother come to see him instead and stay in a hotel (perhaps because they fear he will refuse to come back, with similar results to what happened in November). However, there are inconsistencies in the family’s story as represented by the two articles about the case that have appeared in the media.

The campaign page claims that Brandon’s social work team are refusing to allow him home as he is “not ready”. There is no explanation as to why, so it is possible that it pertains to behaviour problems that stem from being in an unfamiliar ‘home’, i.e. an institution. It is not unknown for authorities to claim that such behaviour is a reason for keeping someone in the institution (such was argued in the case of Steven Neary, for example), and if this is the case, the family should be arguing this in any care proceedings. Social services are not allowed to give their side of the story, but the police gave a statement that said that threats of violence were made to the police, that all efforts were made to reason with Brandon and his mother but as “a resolution could not be reached […] a decision was made use police protection legislation to place the boy back into the care of Social Services”. They said Brandon had caused minor injuries to police officers. (A video the family has released, and which appeared on YouTube and on the Daily Mail website, showed him walking calmly out of the house accompanied by two policemen.)

The media reports contradict each other regarding how Brandon ended up in care. The local paper, the Star, reported on 14th November that he had been admitted ‘voluntarily’ in May as his sister had just had a baby and there were doubts as to how he would respond to the situation, but as he proved to behave “fine” with the baby and his sister had moved out, the care arrangement was no longer needed. However, the Daily Mail reported a week later that he had in fact been placed in care a year earlier, in May 2015, after his school placement broke down (we are not told how or why, or whether this was a day or boarding school) and his mother began suffering with depression. He was the subject of a section 31 care order as of June 2015, admitted to a home in Manchester, but his mother brought him home as she said he was ill-treated. She claimed the local authority allowed Brandon to live at home with his mother until 8th August 2016, when he was moved to his current placement in Stoke. There are pictures of him on visits out with his family (e.g. to Chester Zoo), and he has posted to Facebook during this period, so the home does not appear to be a secure unit.

This story does not make much sense. A section 31 care order (referring to section 31 of the 1989 Children Act) is not the same as being in care voluntarily; it is a court order given when the court is satisfied that a child is at risk of harm or out of control. He could have been admitted initially voluntarily and the order issued later, of course. Second, it is odd that he would have been allowed to live at home for nearly a year after being withdrawn from care (and surely, he could not have been withdrawn from care unilaterally by the mother if he was under a section 31 order), and then re-admitted unless a new, serious situation had emerged. Care home placements cost money; they would not put someone into a care home in such circumstances just because a new placement had been found. However, if the care order was somehow still in force and had been acted on at the mother’s request because of the sister’s baby, it is no surprise that the authorities are not willing to allow him to just go home to his mother four months later, because if you elbow a disabled child aside for the sake of an able-bodied adult relative, it does give the impression that the disabled child is not your top priority.

The case appears on the surface to have similarities to other cases where autistic people have been kept in hospital or residential care against their will or their families’, although the usual methods for doing this are the Mental Health Act or the Mental Capacity Act. I’m well aware that social workers, doctors and others overstep the mark and, as with the police, a lot of them are ill-trained in dealing with people with autism. However, I’ve previously tried to help someone in a similar position with an autistic daughter in foster care who had an emotive and seemingly consistent story to begin with, yet as more was revealed about the ongoing legal process, it appeared that there was much more to the story than the mother originally let on, and I pulled out (the daughter was not released from care for more than a year after that). I get the impression that Brandon’s case is not as straightforward as the family and their sympathisers are letting on.

Anyway, their campaign to get Brandon home for Christmas has failed. The local authority and the care home should be trying to help the family spend Christmas with Brandon, even if he cannot go home, rather than expecting them to pay hotel bills. This has been a problem for many families of people with autism who are detained or housed a long way from home. But we do not know the full reason why the local authority believe Brandon needs to be in residential care, and the family’s story and the story given in the sympathetic media coverage are inconsistent. I will not be signing their petition and I urge anyone thinking of signing to think very carefully.

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