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How Liberal Alliances Will Destroy Islam

Muslim Matters - 27 July, 2017 - 19:57

Muslims leaders in reaction to the Donald Trump effect have created alliances with far-left liberals. Post-modern world views intrinsically challenge the authority of revealed scripture and create a bubble of sacredness around human rights ground in public reason. Perhaps that most challenging feature of post-modernity is the fluid or liquid nature of truth due to extreme subjectivism of late modernity. Liquid modernity will give rise to liquid Muslim leaders thereby neutralizing the explosive nature of religion.  

Muslims’ Wager with Liberals

As a Christian child, I often read the Lord’s Prayer before going to sleep. It left a deep impression on my moral compass and its words seem to continually serve as a guide for humanity. After being blessed with Islam and maintain that this prayer still serves as a framework and paradigm for the Muslim mind and societal interaction.

“Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”

The words “Thy will done on earth as it is in heaven” seems to suggest that righteous attempt to replicate the order of the heavens above here on earth. They take that which is from heaven and apply here on earth. The source of Goodness being the heavens. The first major shift away from this ideal was to make man the source of good. As if to say, “Thy will be done in heaven as it is on earth.” Thus, shifting the sacredness and authority of revelation to man and his own will. While the two perspectives may agree occasionally on the standards of excellence themselves Muslims and Christians are anchored by revelation to a standard other than themselves. Postmodern trends shifted the standard of excellence to the human mind and the collective understanding of correctness. Thereafter the Late Modernity trends further alter the sacred message of the prayer. “My will be done on earth as it is in space.” Where man once looked up and saw something he named heavens, he now looks toward the same direction and sees nothingness. That space is random, blind and without purpose, so too is this poor soul that walks on earth. This is the reality of Late modernity which Zygmunt Bauman explains so eloquently.

In Modernity’s Wager Adam Seligman[1] explains a tradeoff that religious communities must make in a post-modern society. The wager as he calls it is a shift from the idea of revealed truth of a transcendent Being to that of “self-evident” truths of our collective society. According to public discourse narrative, these truths are self-evident and thus primarily rooted in and discovered by reason. As if God is only echoing what our minds already have the ability to reach. Seligman believes the touchstone of our contemporary morality is the primacy of individual rights rooted in reason. Individual rights rooted in reason has claimed sacredness for itself. This is the wager of the modern man. He has taken the crown of sacredness away from revelation and placed it upon his own head. All that he thinks, feels, says and expresses is sacred. In doing so he has made himself the ultimate authority above which there is none other. He explains, “If the self has a sacred locus, however, then it must be an authoritative one as well, for what is the sacred if not authoritative?”.

Walking on water: Liquid Modernity

Perhaps the hallmark attribute of the Late-Modern society is its liquidity and lack of definition. In the Late-Modern society form and definition are subject to perspective. Definitions are not objective and terms are defined by the mind of the one using them and not by an external source outside of the mind. Reason and logic are thrown out the window in the face of public opinion. A man or a woman is not a biological, objective, concrete thing but rather it is defined by the one using the term. Truth, justice, equality and freedom are also liquidated. These terms no longer become terms that judge people and civilization but rather they become words that though used regularly, lose any real meaning.  Those in control will consider themselves the standard for defining these terms. To say such and such nation is not free simply means such and such nation does not measure up to our definition of freedom. Any objective discussion on what freedom is remains left out of public discourse. This liquidation is a necessary step in the liberation of mankind. It frees man to act in accordance with his or her own definition of the world around them.

Suggesting appropriateness or inappropriateness of another person’s conduct becomes inappropriate or unacceptable in the liquid world. “Who are you to tell me what I am doing is wrong?” is a normal and plausible response if reality of the world around that person is defined by nothing other than my perspective and my freedoms. Speaking about the inappropriateness of actions and life styles are not attacks on individuals but rather their appropriation of center lifestyles and actions. The creation of “safe zones” (which are anything but safe) in essence creates a sphere in which truth and falsehood, or appropriateness and inappropriateness don’t exist and cannot be discussed. Simply do as you like.

Zygmunt Bauman’s has coined the term Liquid Modernity to define late modernity state. Liquids by nature assume the form of the vessel it is placed in. Religious tradition by nature does not wish to be liquid. But rather it desires to be the vessel which gives shape to the lives of human beings and society as a whole. Religion shapes and is not shaped. Zygmunt Bauman has written extensively on the incoherence of a liquid society that lacks definition. He introduced the idea of liquid modernity, and explained its characteristics are about the individual, namely increasing feelings of uncertainty and the privatization of ambivalence. It also people to shift from one social position to another in a fluid manner. My concern is the rise of liquid Muslim leaders who will become very valuable in the context we live in.

Professor and writer Peter J. Leithart[2] condemns Muslims to the same ill fate of her sister faiths, “We have no reason to believe that the path of privatization in Judaism or Islam would be similar to that of Christianity, because the very terms of communal membership and individual identity are so different in these religions from what they are in a secularized Christian polity”.[3]

If Leithart is correct, Muslims should be prepared for what I will call the “plasticity project”. The “plasticity project” is the organized effort by scholars and political activists to create an image of religious tradition that never contradicts the liberal trends of the broader society. Religious tradition, which was originally sent to be brought to the public square for dialogue will be muzzled and not allowed into public discourse. The “plasticity project” will reread and reinterpret the early positions of tradition in a way that harmonizes perfectly with the current discourse.

The project outwardly seeks to bring Muslims to the table of discourse but in reality, it only brings a neutered, toothless replica to that table.

While the hallmark feature of liberalism is the freedom of the self from the social constraints of family, community and religion, the ironic reality is that liberalist display a paradoxical intolerance when tradition wants its unfiltered, authentic voice at the table.  This is explained by Ross Douthat in is The New York Times piece titled The Challenge of Pluralism. He states in response to Emily Bazelon,

“If we take pluralism seriously, the whole point of the concept is to enable groups to “throw up a shield” against the pressure of consensus, and develop and promote alternatives that are rejected by the powerful, or by society as a whole. This is true when the consensus in question is old and rooted and traditional, but it’s also true when the consensus in question likes to describe itself as representing “modernity” (or “progress” or “enlightenment” or whatever loaded, whiggish word you prefer), because vanguard-of-history ideas no less than rooted-in-tradition ideas can turn out to be mistaken, misdirected, immoral, barbaric.”[4]

This is where the current liberalist agenda and tradition break apart. Anyone who speaks against the opinions of the progressive or enlightened opinion is demonized as extreme.

Of course, religious traditions such as Christianity and Islam are not opposed to liberty and freedom. Rather these traditions wish to maintain open discourse about the definitions of these jargon terms. Classical Islamic sources clearly convey a upon human beings the responsibility of maintaining and objective standard of morality which should shape and guide the moral values of society. The individual rights of man are not subjective to the whims of emotions and societal pressures. The very definition of freedom from the Islamic perspective is viewed ultimately as freedom from the self as opposed to freedom of the self. According to Taylor and MacIntyre the eventual failure of Liberalism lies in its definition of the self, community and morality.

عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: ” مَثَلُ القَائِمِ عَلَى حُدُودِ اللَّهِ وَالوَاقِعِ فِيهَا، كَمَثَلِ قَوْمٍ اسْتَهَمُوا عَلَى سَفِينَةٍ، فَأَصَابَ بَعْضُهُمْ أَعْلاَهَا وَبَعْضُهُمْ أَسْفَلَهَا، فَكَانَ الَّذِينَ فِي أَسْفَلِهَا إِذَا اسْتَقَوْا مِنَ المَاءِ مَرُّوا عَلَى مَنْ فَوْقَهُمْ، فَقَالُوا: لَوْ أَنَّا خَرَقْنَا فِي نَصِيبِنَا خَرْقًا وَلَمْ نُؤْذِ مَنْ فَوْقَنَا، فَإِنْ يَتْرُكُوهُمْ وَمَا أَرَادُوا هَلَكُوا جَمِيعًا، وَإِنْ أَخَذُوا عَلَى أَيْدِيهِمْ نَجَوْا، وَنَجَوْا جَمِيعًا
[5]

“The example of the one who understands and obeys the limitations set by Allah compared to the one who doesn’t understand and obey the limitations is like a group of people who boarded a ship. The people drew lots to determine where they would sit. Some of them sat below deck whereas others sat above deck. Whenever the people below the deck needed water they would have to pass by those above deck. The idea came to them that they should just put a hole in the bottom of the ship and take their water from there (to them this was more practical for them and the people above the deck if as well.) If the people above the deck allow the people below the deck to go through with idea they will all be destroyed. However, if they stop them, they will all be saved.”

Here lies a very important pronouncement on the concept of freedom which is in line with the communitarian understanding of community and the individual self. The saddest part of American Muslim dialogue is the fact that the academic discussions around terms like freedom which are still currently heavily debated and discussed are completely ignored. Regarding Freedom, Jean-Jacques Rousseau in “The Social Contract” said,

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are.”

This statement acknowledges a similar meaning as the Prophetic narrations which I have shared above. Absolute freedom is a mirage of the liberals and the actions of some will inevitably effect the entire community.

Islam defines liberation not as freedom of the self but rather freedom from the self. Explained by Patrick Dean[6], in a 2012 article titled Unsustainable Liberalism, “Liberalism instead understands liberty as the condition in which one can act freely within the sphere that is unconstrained by positive law.” He further concludes, “Liberalism rejects the ancient and preliberal conception of liberty as the learned capacity of human beings to govern their base and hedonistic desires.”  Dean highlights in this statement why liberalism is so dangerous to Islam. Central to Islam, Christianity and Judaism is the idea of a Law of God. A law that forces human beings to conform, control and remove unhealthy or dangerous impulses from one’s self and from the society. This is witnessed in the Quranic explanation of the three types of “nafs” or self. The delineation of these three types of seeks to encourage human beings to struggle against the evil, and unhealthy aspects of human nature and create within ones’ self a nature inclined to conformity with Gods law.  According to Dean, “Early-modern liberalism held the view that human nature was unchangeable—human beings were, by nature, self-interested creatures whose base impulses could be harnessed but not fundamentally altered.” If Dean is correct, the implications of this worldview on a religion that grants tradition authority are disastrous in that the law will be judge by the individual and not the individual by the law. Islam which literally means submission becomes the anti-Christ to liberalism. The objective of the liberalist revolutions was to create individual human spheres of unchecked activity for anyone striving for fulfillment. This is clearly unattainable and disastrous to the ship of humanity. As Taylor stated, “One is a self only among other selves. A self can never be described without reference to who surround it”[7]

Without a doubt, religion is a powerful global force. Although once considered to be opposed to reason, religion now serves as an appeal to reason more faithfully than the current post modernity trends. The “plasticity project” as defined appeals to our desire to be accepted. The project will strive to overlook traditional jurisprudence positions and marginalize those opinions as outdated. The project will, without a doubt, be forced to do academic backflips to make religion fit and they will, without a doubt, negate that there is a red line. Lastly the “plasticity project” prioritizes the black listing of anyone who does try to speak against the positions of those who they have allied themselves with.

However, the question must be asked is acceptance the ultimate objective which we should be striving for? Some may contend that we can and should aim higher than merely building alliances at gaining the political liberty to freely speak to our own concerns and from our own frame of references. Without a doubt, my views will be contested as anti-ijtihad and regressive. In America, I feel that by maintaining a strong sense of religious identity and allying ourselves with other faith based communities we can make America the “religious belt” of the world.

Recommendations:
  1. Based on the observations stated above it is essential for Muslims to look closely at politically involved Muslims who are perceived as the sum of American Muslim perspective. Their Islam should be placed to the side and their political alliances and opinions should be looked at objectively.
  2. Islamic educational programs such as Sunday schools and weekend schools which are attended by large segments of the community must give primacy to the explanation and deconstruction of ideologies that are detrimental to the core of the tradition. Courses that discuss the need for Shariah (sacred law) should be introduced and given primacy.
  3. Regarding Muslim think tanks: The Muslim community needs to become critical consumers of the papers and narratives formed by these think tanks. This means understanding the alliances and partnerships that have been established and also being open and encouraging alternative narrative discourse.

[1] Adam B. Seligman is associate professor of sociology at Boston University, fellow at its Institute for the Study of Economic Culture. Before that, he served in various capacities at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the University of Colorado.
[2] Peter J. Leithart is President of the Theopolis Institute, Birmingham, Alabama, and an adjunct Senior Fellow at New St. Andrews College. He is author, most recently, of Gratitude: An Intellectual History (Baylor).
[3] FirstThings | MODERNITY’S WAGER
[4] NY Times | The Challenge of Pluralism
[5] Sahih Bukhari
[6] Patrick Deneen is David A. Potenziani Memorial Associate Professor of Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
[7] Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press), p.  35.

Hollywood Harris and the Best Defence Money Can Buy

Loon Watch - 27 July, 2017 - 19:28

Guest post By Jonas Spooner & JB Stubbings

October 03, 2014, Los Angeles: A trembling Sam Harris sits head in hands in an otherwise empty and dark CBS changing room. His carefully crafted and hugely profitable brand was in peril. He had just been accused of racism on national television by Ben Affleck. Nobody was going to pay $35,000 for a racist to speak. It was time to react.

Dialling down on the nativism wasn’t an option. Sam knew it was part of his appeal. Yes, he could (and did) secretly scrub his website for his calls to “ethnically-profile” Muslims but he could only conceal so much. His rancid conspiracy theories of impending “ominous demographic trends”, of “barbarians (Muslim immigrants) at the gates” and “sensible speaking fascists” were a part of the public record. Sam knew he needed more to ride this storm and preserve his brand. If only he could throw money at this problem to make it go away! But maybe he could? Inspired by the IDF’s use of Palestinian human-shields in their latest onslaught of Gaza only months before, Sam committed to purchasing the loyalties of Muslims and ex Muslims alike to act as his attack dogs. How could he be racist if some of his best friends were brown?

While the above is fiction, it is consistent with the facts – facts which provide fertile ground for a Harris-esque “thought experiment”.

Sam Harris’ familial background isn’t academia, it isn’t even reality. It’s the superficial world of Hollywood where the Harris family are royalty. In the Harris family mansion Emmys sit beside Oscars on the mantelpiece. His mother Susan Harris is a legendary sitcom producer and creator of the Golden Girls, his father Berkley Harris was a Hollywood actor and his step-father Paul Junger-Witt is a successful movie producer. Harris was born into the gated-communities of white privilege. White supremacism and entitlement is his natural environment.

Samuel Harris: The Wandering Hippy Dropout With His Mother’s Blank Cheques   

The silver-screen provided a silver-spoon for the young Harris and he greedily grabbed it with both hands. His screenwriter mother couldn’t have created a more stereotypical spoiled brat character for her sitcom Mama’s Boy than Samuel.  Aged 19, Harris began experimenting with drugs and dropped out of college to jet around the world to meditate for an incredible eleven years – All of this was financed by his mother whom he dedicated his first book The End of Faith to in a act of gratitude.

He began writing it the day after 9/11 – The day history begins for people like Harris. It was originally rejected by fifteen publishers before Norton decided to cash-in on the emerging anti-Islam market as Americans were in mourning and demanding answers. The true motive for the attacks didn’t support the propaganda being pushed by the establishment media and the neoconservatives in the Bush administration who were lying their nation into an illegal war. Christopher Hitchens had found himself at the service of Bill Kristol and had begun regurgitating Dick Cheney’s lies about Al Qaeda in Iraq and yellowcake in Prague and was cultivating a receptive yet naive liberal audience.

The misled liberals had found their simplistic answers through Hitchens’ disinformation: ‘Muslims hate us for our freedoms’. Harris was to add a layer of misinformation onto the Bush-era war propaganda: ‘Muslims hate us for our freedoms because their evil God told them to’.  

Decades of western imperialist provocations in the Muslim world had been erased. All geopolitical and sociopolitical context was stripped away in the dual Washington-Media’s narrative. The half a million Iraqi children murdered by US sanctions was now not simply ‘worth it” but their lives had been erased from the pages of history. What remained was the war propaganda which scapegoated Islam. Emerging now was the birth-pangs of ‘liberal’ Islamophobia which was to typify the emerging ‘new atheist’ movement. It would soon become socially acceptable to demonise and dehumanise Muslims (exclusively) provided you’ve dressed it up as “criticising ideas”. The antisemitism and McCartyism of old was being dusted down and recast as Islamophobia. The first seeds of the anti-Muslim-centric Alt-Right and Trumpism were being laid and Sam Harris was a “gateway”.

The End of Faith was a commercial success but realistically didn’t qualify Harris to dine at atheism’s top table in 2008 as one quarter of the “Four Horsemen” – Yet the Hollywood scion got pushed to the front of the queue.  The other three ‘Horsemen” Hitchens, Dennett and Dawkins had all achieved successes in their respective fields over decades. Harris had a philosophy diploma, had  published just two books and hadn’t even obtained his PhD yet. But Sam was working on this.

Along with his wife and Jai Lakshman, Harris established The Reason Project (later renamed Project Reason). The Hollywood spring-board was in full effect as Project Reason took up a Los Angeles office in the same building as mother Susan Harris and her business partner Wayne Rogers of M*A*S’*H fame. In 2009 he was to be the beneficiary of Director Robert Zemeckis’s generosity with Project Reason receiving $5,000 from the Oscar winners foundation.  Zemeckis and Harris step-father Paul Junger-Witt are close – They sit on the same Advisory Boards, attend movie premieres together and curiously along with Susan Harris shared a $28,000-a-plate table at an Obama fundraiser prior to the Project Reason grant.

Regarding Harris’ PhD, online blog site ‘The Rhizzone’ acutely observes that:

“Sam had no history in neuroscience and he had never conducted an experiment in his life. It’s hard to imagine the UCLA neuroscience department accepting his PhD proposal”.

Further research at Shadowtolight documents how Harris’ maligned thesis project in 2009 was partially funded through Harris’ nonprofit, while tax forms confirm Project Reason ‘donated’ $10,000 to UCLA Board of Regents around this time. Coincidentally or not, Junger-Witt’s non-profit, the Environmental Defense Fund, also donated $40,000 to the UCLA Board of Regents that very same year. Coincidence? Hollywood money undoubtedly played a supporting role in Harris’ life, from funding his PhD to helping him purchase further credibility. Something to consider when Harris next castigates the Muslim world for it’s lack of academic successes.

Losing My Religion

Harris is to many the fearless hero, a white knight riding the horse of science and ‘reason’, slaying all religions in his wake, regardless of his unhealthy and agenda-exposing focus on Islam. Project Reason’s mission statement encapsulates this very theme:

Project Reason is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. The foundation draws on the talents of prominent and creative thinkers in a wide range of disciplines to encourage critical thinking and erode the influence of dogmatism, superstition, and bigotry in our world”

However, over the years, militant atheist Harris himself is listed as the secretary/treasurer for the Hanuman Foundation, another Non-Profit whose tax documents list it’s purpose as “Religious publishing activities; Other religious activities”. Further digging into Hanuman show that the Chairman is the same Jai Lakshman who is the trustee for Project Reason. Hanuman is a bizarre, mystical type foundation with it’s roots in hinduism and other spiritual leanings. The name Hanuman is based on “a divine monkey” as wikipedia elaborates;

Hanuman (/ˈhʌnʊˌmɑːn/; IAST: Hanumān)[3] is a divine monkey and an ardent devotee of Rama.[1] He is one of the central figures in the various versions of the epic Ramayana found in Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia…Hanuman is the son of Anjana and Kesari and is also son of the wind-god Pawan, who according to several stories, played a role in his birth…Beyond being a popular deity in Hinduism, Hanuman is also found in Jainism and Buddhism.

Hanuman’s founder, Ram Dass appears to have had quite the influence on the younger, hippy/drop-out version of Harris. Dass was also obsessed with psychedelics and LSD, even writing books about them. Dass “considered himself an atheist and did not profess any religion during his early life”, describing himself as “inured to religion. I didn’t have one whiff of God until I took psychedelics.” For Harris it appears, drugs had the opposite effect. These strange links appear to contradict the zero sum game Harris plays with his dismissal of the religions of others.   

Not only has Harris engaged and enveloped himself in his own forms of religion, Project Reason has used it’s atheist donor-solicited funds to financially support those pushing their own anti-secular agenda. In perhaps his most brazen act of agenda-exposing behaviour, Harris facilitated a $10,000 donation from Project Reason to Israeli intelligence-linked MEMRI, in 2014. Besides specialising in crafting its own propaganda, the pro-Israel organisation, as the Guardian reported, has it’s own vested interests::

Evidence from Memri’s website also casts doubt on its non-partisan status. Besides supporting liberal democracy, civil society, and the free market, the institute also emphasises “the continuing relevance of Zionism to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel”.

“IT’S GROSS, IT’S RACIST”

In fact, 2014 was a crucial period in the timeline of Harris’ public relations juggernaut. He made the best of a potentially career-defining situation whilst demonstrating true insight into the inner workings of the media and public opinion. It was a an exhibition of PR 101, undoubtedly assisted by his first hand experience of Hollywood politics and the power of the chequebook.

In early 2014, Sam Harris via Project Reason made a very wise investment, donating $10,000 to EXMNA. EXMNA or Ex Muslims of North America, are an organisation whose self described objectives are to “aim to reduce discrimination faced by those who leave Islam, advocate for acceptance of religious dissent, and promote secular values.”

In terms of Non-Profit Organisations, EXMNA is relatively small fry. Especially pre-2014. It did not have to complete tax filings or publicly release any financial data prior to 2014, as it’s stated annual income was ‘less than 25k’. Since crossing paths with Harris, funnily enough, IRS records show that EXMNA’s income has increased to ‘less than 50k’. It’s founders include Sarah Haider and Muhammad Syed, who up until this point, were relative unknowns. In 2014, EXMNA must have almost doubled their annual income by accepting Project Reason’s grant – would a time come when they felt the need to pay it back?

Then, in late September 2014, Harris’ good Hollywood friend and fellow Project Reason board member Bill Maher, found himself with his pant’s down thanks to a CNN demolition job by academic and author, Reza Aslan. Aslan called Maher out on his bigotry and corrected several misconceptions of Islam spewed forth by Maher on his chat show, Real Time. This CNN interview clip of Aslan went viral on Youtube and social media, gaining millions of views whilst leaving Maher red-faced and exposed for his superficial understanding of Islam. ‘New atheist’ podcasts, websites and chat shows were left reeling from the globally accessible take down of one of their ringleaders, and in typical fashion resorted to aggressive smear tactics and personal attacks against Aslan. Aslan was public enemy number one. Enter EXMNA.

Following Aslan’s embarrassment of Maher, the newly Sam Harris sponsored Haider and Syed wrote an online reply to Aslan’s comments, highlighting what they saw were factual errors in Aslan’s statements on that CNN clip. EXMNA, or perhaps more specifically, Haider and Syed, became overnight sensations with the Atheist fundamentalists as their post was devoured by the online mob, hungry for a point of reference to counter Aslan’s arguments. The cult popularity of EXMNA within inner ‘New Atheist’ circles was well and truly on the rise and in particular, Haider was on her path to becoming Harris’ new “hero”. Haider and Syed had surely repaid the ‘faith’ that Project Reason had shown in them, while needless to say Haider and Syed made no such post critiquing Maher’s views.

Maher’s own image however, was still in need of a much more public rebuttal to Aslan’s comments, and so he reverted to Harris, who he knew he could count on to eloquently justify his bigotry. A week later then, and Harris appeared on Real Time, spouting his now infamous “Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas” comment, amongst all his usual talking points. Yet before Maher had a chance to bask in his redemption, another, much more famous guest on the show stole the limelight. Ben Affleck, condemned Harris’ comments in the now infamous spat as “Gross” and “Racist”. Even though this was not the first time the label ‘racist’ had been thrown at Harris, it was no doubt a hammer blow for a man who understood the PR influence that Affleck’s comments could have on his carefully constructed public image. Affleck was a household name thus, regardless if he was wrong or right, an amount of this mud was bound to stick. What Harris would do next, could determine just how much.  

Real Time’s clip of the Maher/Harris/Affleck confrontation was perhaps even more popular than Aslan’s CNN segment. Social media and Youtube were having a field day. Haider and Syed at this point, who were still being interviewed by various websites for their post on Aslan, were now asked to comment on this latest drama. During an interview with The Humanist Hour Podcast on October 15th, Haider and Syed both critiqued what they saw as Affleck’s reflexive dismissals and when asked whether they agreed with Harris’ “Mother lode of bad ideas” quote, both became squirmish and refused to condemn him for it.

The media was having a field day with the Real Time segment and Harris’ was now haemorrhaging credibility thanks to Affleck. He needed further reinforcements. Haider’s profile was on the rise and Harris more than understood the steadying influence that having Muslims and Ex Muslims on his side could provide to brand Harris. Relying on the ‘I’m friends with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’ routine was getting old and so Harris once again reverted to his default tactic of buying his way out of trouble. Less than a month later, Harris sent $20,000 to The Quilliam Foundation, a British organisation run by a new friend of his, a British Muslim he had been having some correspondence with by the name of Maajid Nawaz.

Harris and Nawaz would go on to consummate their coming together in the form of a book. Not your typical book, rather it was a published version of correspondence between the two, printed, bound and made available for a very reasonable price, of course. Such enlightening discussions are not available for free – they aren’t aimed at everybody. (No doubt this is the same result Harris was hoping to have with Noam Chomsky in 2015, when he first wrote to him hoping to have a similar ‘discussion’. Unfortunately Chomsky, who was not beholden to further publicity, slammed Harris’ ideas of making personal conversations public as a “strange form of exhibitionism”. I think we can guess what Chomsky would have said about going a step further and putting a price on it). But it is of course exhibitionism, which is the very lifeblood of ‘Hollywood Harris’, and thus it yields no surprise that this book is now morphing into a feature-length documentary film (featuring Hirsi Ali, of course), to be coming soon to all ‘strange’ and ‘exhibitionist’ cinemas near you. By the end of 2014, Harris was secure in the trenches, huddled in with a real life ‘Muslim Reformer’ on one side of him and EXMNA on the other. Harris had successfully doubled down on his tactic of purchasing his own army of PR credibility, helping to shield him from any future criticism.

This as stated earlier, was a successful tactic from Harris. He was able to somewhat restore his public image, with regards to criticising Islam, by referring to more ‘credible’ voices on the matter such as EXMNA or Quilliam/Nawaz, who were now on the Harris gravy train and happy to oblige. Harris has a lot invested in Haider’s loyalty especially, with Project Reason matching fundraising donations totaling up to $30,000 to EXMNA in 2015/2016. This pattern of Harris throwing his money at whomever he believes will boost and defend his image can be traced back further than 2014, however.

The Price of Loyalty

Public tax filings show in 2013, Harris’ Project Reason donated $10,000 to the AHA Foundation, an organisation set up by none other than Ayaan “Islam must be defeated” Hirsi Ali. Ali is an ex-muslim, she has her own backstory of escaping oppression in her homeland, had a public profile that at this time was on the rise and she was even referred to as the potential fifth horseman/horsewoman of the apocalypse. Needless to say, she fitted the bill for Harris. Like Nawaz, Ali enjoys a mutually beneficial arrangement with Harris which consists of boosting her own image (and her foundation’s bank account) in exchange for acting as the barrier to accusations of racism/white supremacism/chauvinism directed his way.

Hirsi Ali is a lost cause, firmly embedded within the Neoconservative Lobby. She considers fascist junta leader Sisi a “reformer” and racist war criminal Netanyahu a “man of peace”. Her AHA Foundation was set up with a mysterious $425,000 gift from an anonymous donor – which she promptly staffed with war-hungry neocons and Zionists. She has little-to-no interest in “reforming” Islam. Her preference is to “crush” it. The Islamophobic terrorist and mass-murderer Anders Breivik understood this well and he worshipped Hirsi Ali. From Breivik’s manifesto:

Because of her background she has made criticism of Islam acceptable to people who would otherwise find it difficult to digest the arguments she presents…She is an invaluable asset to the fight against global Jihad and as worthy of the Prize as any other living person

Similarly, between 2011 and 2013, Harris via Project Reason donated a total of fifteen thousand dollars to the Inârah Institute for Research on Early Islamic History, a German non-profit organisation supported by Saarland University. The Inârah institute is heavily entwined with anti-islam authors and scholars such as Ibn Warraq, who is named as one of the trustees. Like Ali, Warraq was raised as a practicing Muslim, and uses these experiences to claim superior insight into the inner workings of Islam. Warraq’s Wiki cites:

Fred Donner, a professor in Near Eastern studies, notes his lack of specialist training in Arabic studies, citing “inconsistent handling of Arabic materials,” and unoriginal arguments, and “heavy-handed favoritism” towards revisionist theories and “the compiler’s [i.e. Ibn Warraq’s] agenda, which is not scholarship, but anti-Islamic polemic.”

Warraq has been involved with the Robert Spencer run, Pamela Geller funded anti-Islamic hate group, Jihad Watch, which welcomed him with open arms onto their board in 2006 and have continued to promote his work ever since.  As well as using Harris’ funding to help promote his views, Warraq has also been provided a platform from Harris via his podcast, ‘Waking Up’. Warraq’s works have been a source of inspiration for another of Breivik’s idols, the online blogger and anti-islamic, hate-preaching (“Islam, and all those who practice it, must be totally and physically removed from the entire Western world”) Fjordman, who Breivik cited 110 times in his own manifesto.

As good a job as Ali et al do in forming the inner ring of public-relations security around the seemingly unflappable Harris, he has since increased his annual spending on defence even further. Harris has acquired his very own pack of online/social media guard dogs, frothing at the mouth and ready to pounce on any whisper of criticism of their moral/spiritual leader. Through his Patreon (website for harnessing the donations of fans and other ‘artists’) account, Harris has (financially) ‘supported’ fellow ‘New Atheist’ fanatics, helping reinforce the bonds of ideological alliance with additional, financial ones. Brand Harris, it appears, is now offering online banking. Harris-supported ‘Patreons’ include:

Stephen Knight  (aka Godless Spellchecker) – Perhaps the most relentless and loyal Knight at the round table of Lord Harris, Godless Spellchecker has been one of Harris’ longest lasting defenders and social media lap dogs. (Clueless?) Spellchecker uses his blog site to rush to the defence of his Patreon saint Harris and attack anybody who criticises him. The list of articles he has written condemning anybody who dares speak ill of his idol/sugar-daddy appears almost endless: Examples can be found here, here, here, here, here, here and also here.

Dave Rubin – Rubin’s love affair with this man appears to go further than simply a pay-for-say relationship as Rubin appears to wish he actually was Harris. Idolising his Jedi Master and praying at his feet, Rubin is one of Harris’ first Twitter bodyguards when the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Cenk Uygur criticise him. Harris not only compensates Rubin for his efforts, but has, like Ali, found a place for him in the upcoming documentary. Rubin has also repaid the favour by promoting Harris on his talk show, following in the footsteps of Maher.

Claire Lehman/Quillete – Lehman is the colleague of right-wing extremists at Rebel Media and founder and senior editor at Quillette, which is an online blogging site that will publish your views, as long as your ‘pitch’ is accepted by Lehman. Quillette’s site claims “At Quillette we respect ideas. Even dangerous ones. We feature writing from non-journalists and strive to give writers freedom to take risks and express controversial ideas” and is a self labelled “platform for free thought”. However, ironically, Quillette’s Patreon site proudly parades a review that promotes it as a site “without any Regressive Leftism”,  exposing its own agenda and casting doubt on any serious freedom of opinion it claims to advocate for. Lehmann ensures that her ‘platform for free thought’ has Harris’ back. All this ‘freedom’ for Lehman’s writers coincidentally results in (at the time of writing) exclusively pro-Harris articles such as the aptly named “In defence of Sam Harris” . See also here, here, here, here, and here.

Josh Zepps – Another fairly recent, in a long line of Harris recruits. It’s still early days for Zepps, however we can still see him here, putting himself in the line of fire.     

From leaving school to today, Harris has been blessed with the ability to throw money at any obstacle that comes his way. He is is only too aware of his own brand and it’s influence on his ever-expanding bank account. In a recent interview with Omer Aziz, where, ironically, Aziz accused him of acting foremost in the interest of brand Harris, Shadowtolight observes:

“At 33:40, he complains that accusations of him being racist are closing off other opportunities for him to make money, at 34:00 he clearly states that being called a bigot and racist isn’t good for his career (and his “career” is to sell books and get paid for speeches), at 38:30 he complains about the “cost” of dealing with this issue, from 38:40 to 39:30 he makes it clear accusations of racism/bigotry interfered with his ability to promote his meditation book, and at 43:15 he complains about the “reputational costs” associated with such accusations”.

Hollywood Harris and his carefully crafted image, are testament to what big money and big name contacts can help you achieve. When brand Harris was lacking in credibility, it was these factors that came to his rescue. Again, when Harris was under attack, out came the chequebook as the first line of defence. And as Harris explains, it’s the best defence money can buy:

“If racism and bigotry were my underlying motive, explain…my friendships with current and former Muslims who I do everything in my power to defend from slander and hate. People like Maajid Nawaz, Asra Nomani, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Or explain the solidarity I feel with freethinkers like Sarah Haider, Ali A. Rizvi, Faisal Saeed al Mutar, Ibn Warraq, and all the other Muslim and ex-Muslim authors…If I’m a bigot, I’m one of the most confused bigots who ever lived.”

Well Sam, we have to agree with you there.

*** Author Update *** –  Following the completion of this article, Harris has since announced that come September 2017, he will be withdrawing his Patreon account. Sighting the shutting down of Laura Southern’s account by the Patreon team, Harris has stated that although he believes in Patreon and what they are trying to achieve, he simply “cannot afford” the risks associated with receiving his crowdfunded income via third party regulation. If we are to take this explanation from Sam at face value, one must assume that he is doing what he does best – protecting his financial interests – and that he will continue to give financial support to those he supports via Patreon, using alternative channels. What is worth noting however, is that Patreon has recently launched a new ‘Patreon Relationship Manager’, or ‘PRM’ function, which Inc.com describes as:

“The PRM is reminiscent of a simplified version of Salesforce or a similar CRM. It allows creators to take notes on conversations with different supporters, view their pledge history and lifetime pledge amounts, and segment patrons based on various attributes. “It’s this huge sortable, filterable, searchable database with all your patron information in it,” Conte explained. This offering is head-and-shoulders above the relationship management and analytics capabilities that previously existed within Patreon.”

Basically, the PRM allows Patreon users or ‘creators’ to obtain a much more detailed account of the nature and specifics of each donations. A more sophisticated money trail, if you like. Food for thought.

Hajj Checklist and Packing Guide

Muslim Matters - 27 July, 2017 - 06:34

I went for Hajj last year and I had started packing three months before we left! I know it’s crazy, but I was really confused and took my time researching products and asking family and friends for suggestions on what I might need to make my journey easier. Here is a checklist (summary version, and then a set of explanations for some of the items below) as well as packing suggestions based off of my prep last year and the trip and Hajj itself.I hope these suggestions will help you feel adequately prepared, without going overboard or going empty-handed, insha’Allah.  When you’re packing and preparing for your trip, have two intentions. The first is that you are preparing and planning to allow yourself the ability to relax and focus on the important things on your trip (like Hajj and all of the worship, resting, not exposing yourself to sickness in the markets, etc.).  The second is that because you’re preparing for Hajj now, make the intention that this is an act of worship which will allow you to do your part for preparing the worldly means necessary to have a successful Hajj, while leaving the rest up to Allah.

I hope these suggestions will help you feel adequately prepared, without going overboard or going empty-handed, insha’Allah.  When you’re packing and preparing for your trip, have two intentions. The first is that you are preparing and planning to allow yourself the ability to relax and focus on the important things on your trip (like Hajj and all of the worship, resting, not exposing yourself to sickness in the markets, etc.).  The second is that because you’re preparing for Hajj now, make the intention that this is an act of worship which will allow you to do your part for preparing the worldly means necessary to have a successful Hajj, while leaving the rest up to Allah.

Last note–expect the unexpected and know that you will be unprepared for something or the other. But–do try to get yourself and your bags ready!

Hajj Checklist Summary

Note: All of the products linked are products that I bought. I do not have any official or unofficial endorsements to the products in this list.

Food

  • Collapsible reusable water bottle
  • Electrolyte tablets (hydration 2/days of your trip, hydration + daily vitamins 1/day of your trip)
  • Energy/marathon chews (get some with and without caffeine if you are caffeine dependent, 6/days of Hajj)
  • Granola bars (energy and/or protein, non-chocolate), 1/day of your trip
  • Dates
  • Nuts

Clothing & Shoes

  • Pair flip flops for bathrooms
  • Shoe covers for tawaf, 1 reusable or a few disposable
  • Comfortable walking sandals, 2 pairs
  • Tennis ball
  • Sweatshirt and sweatpants, 1 each
  • Pure cotton clothing, thin but not sheer (I used old shawar kameez), suggested 1 pair of clothing/every 2 days of your trip to minimize laundry problems

Heat Management Supplies

General Supplies

  • Door hook hanger for the bathroom, 2
  • Plastic bags, a few
  • Drawstring shoe bag (with pockets)
  • Neck pouch/necklace pouch for keeping money
  • Small towel
  • Sleeping “bag” liner (I made my own, here’s a DIY tutorial))
  • Small blanket (I cut a small throw in half so that it fit inside of my sleeping bag liner)
  • Yoga mat + carrying strap (not all of them at Bin Dawood had carrying straps, so I brought my own with me)
  • Zipper seal bags in different sizes, a handful of each size
  • Umbrella
  • Eye cover/sleeping mask (ask your Hajj leader if these will break ihram)
  • Ear plugs, 1 set/day of your trip
  • Sunglasses, 1 plus a backup
  • Clothesline and clothespins to keep up with laundry by handwashing, 8 ft. clothesline (I just used a rope) and 10 pins
  • Sewing kit
  • Inflatable airplane pillow/mini pillow
  • Extra collapsible large duffle bag (if you plan on shopping), 1 or 2 depending on your shopping list
  • D-clips for hanging stuff to your bag easily (like water bottle), 3
  • Suitcase (however many you need), suggestion: fit all of your things in 1 carry on or small check-in bag
  • Backpack or small duffle bag for the days of Hajj

Electronics

  • Portable phone charger
  • Old phone
  • Extension cord with multiple outlets
  • International power adapter)

Personal Hygiene

  • Unscented soap (small pieces in a Tupperware)
  • Unscented deodorant
  • Unscented lotion or oil
  • Unscented Vaseline
  • Gloves, a few pairs
  • Unscented hand sanitizer, 2 small bottles
  • Unscented wipes, 1 pack split up into convenient zipper seal mini packs
  • Disinfecting spray
  • Unscented laundry detergent
  • Unscented sunscreen
  • Portable lota (Wudu Pal) to help with travel
  • Toilet paper roll (mini roll will do, if you’re used to using toilet paper)

Spiritual Supplies

  • Notebook
  • Pens, 2
  • Dua book or app
  • Personal traveling prayer mat
  • Quran that you’re comfortable with, preferably small
  • Budgetized, itemized shopping list
  • Tawaf counter

Medication

  • Basic mini drugs kit (allergy, pain relief, anti-diarrheal/digestive problems)
  • Antibiotics, get them from a pharmacy there (no prescription needed, just consult with a doctor in your Hajj group) if you end up needing them
  • Ginger essential oil (to help with nausea/motion sickness, simply put a few drops in a tissue and breathe deeply)
  • Paper bags/diaper bags for throwing up and other unexpected problem
  • Sore throat and cough supplies (numbing lozenges and cough drops)
  • Cold medicines of choice (you can get them in Saudi, but you might not find exactly what you’re used to)
  • Topical pain reliever for sore muscles/aches and pains (try to get unscented)

Documents

  • Extra copies of passport and visas, 2
  • Will/power of attorney forms, 2
  • Permanent marker/Masking, packing, or duct tape

*Buy in Saudi Arabia

  • yoga mat
  • dates
  • nuts
  • antibiotics, if needed
  • ihram
Hajj Checklist Suggestions Explained

Food

  • Collapsible reusable water bottle
    • These came in handy for filling ZamZam. If you’re already a reusable water bottle user, then you will probably be able to easily deal with a non-collapsible one. The collapsible ones are super portable and convenient, however.)
  • Electrolyte tablets
    • I used Nuun tablets and loved them.  They break into half and therefore fit easily into a water bottle (people are always handing you water bottles.) They also don’t have a huge hit of sugar like sports drinks powders so your energy levels aren’t dictated by sugar surges in your blood stream. I suggest getting both types, the ones with the daily vitamins (get enough for one for each morning) and the regular hydration tablets without the added vitamins (get three tablets for each day).
  • Energy/marathon chews
    • These are convenient for the days of Hajj when you need something to run on but don’t want to use the bathroom as often as you normally do.
    • I got Cliff ones with and without caffeine, because my husband and I are pretty used to drinking caffeine daily. I would suggest making sure whatever caffeinated food items you get have caffeine from natural sources (like tea or coffee).
  • Granola bars (energy and/or protein)
    • Just bring enough for one a day for each day of your planned trip. Don’t get the ones with chocolate in them, they’ll melt all over.
  • Dates
    • These work like energy bars but quite honestly are way better because of their slow releasing and stabilizing sugars and the huge amounts of potassium which helps with hydration. They’re ancient energy bars + hydration tablets in one.
    • I bought dates in Madinah.
  • Nuts
    • I also bought nuts from Bin Dawud (a store you’ll find everywhere in Saudi) for a protein-rich snack on the go. They were perfect for when I didn’t want to eat something sweet, like a date, or when I was really hungry but doing okay on energy.

Clothing & Shoes

  • Random flip flops
    • These will be great for using in public restrooms or even in the shower in your hotel/building, or for coming in and out of the tent easily in Mina.
  • Shoe covers for tawaf
    • I ordered these shoe covers online, but you can also get disposable ones.  A good pair of shoes will be helpful for anyone, regardless of foot and other health issues, for walking activities within the Haram (tawaf and sa’i). I needed to wear shoes per my physical therapist’s recommendation in the recovery of a foot injury I had sustained in March. I wear a size 6/5 in (US) Women’s and I think XS would have fit ideal for me.
    • I also had a pair of Haram/indoor walking sandals, just so that I could be more certain I didn’t have any ritual impurities on my shoes. I would change my shoes outside of the Haram/Masjid al Nabawi (in front of the guards) and then put on my shoe covers over them.
    • Shoe covers or socks? I say shoe covers. I would not want to keep socks on my feet in that heat.
  • Comfortable walking sandals
    • Make sure you have two solid pairs in case one gets lost or broken.
      • I didn’t bring sneakers, but some people in my group did.  I actually have no idea how they would wear sneakers in such heat. If you get really good walking sandals, they’ll have the same soles as sneakers and you won’t need sneakers.
    • According to Shaykh Omar Suleiman, for men, make sure there isn’t a strap at the back of the ankle. For women, I believe there were little to no limitations on clothing.
  • Tennis ball
    • This is something that I did multiple times a day based off of my physical therapist’s recommendation because of my fallen arches. After a long walk, you just roll the tennis ball under your foot and it’s like a foot massage. I also did this in Europe (and so did my sister) after long days of walking.
  • Sweatshirt and sweat pants
    • This is unexpected. But bring your sweat-shirt to Mina, especially if you have air conditioned tents. The AC is out of control and runs without a thermostat to stop it. I was freezing in my tent and I thought I was getting sick because I felt so cold and was going from 60 degrees inside to 110 degrees outside if I had to step out of the tent.
  • Pure cotton clothing, thin but not sheer
    • My family is from Pakistan, and this is where traditional clothing came to save the day. Because of my skin’s allergy to the heat, I can only wear pure cotton clothing above 50 degree temperatures as it is, so the prospect of surviving in Saudi Arabia with 100 degree nights was very scary for me.  I took shalwars (traditional pants) and long kamizes/calf-length maxis (longer shirts without slits that were six inches above the ankle.)
    • My mother-in-law is a bit taller than me and had some old shalwar kamiz outfits that she wanted to get rid of because they were getting worn out.  What she did is sew the slits on the side shut, so they were basically really thin, pure cotton abayas that were far enough above the ground to not get dusty or compromised in the bathroom, but below my knee enough to make me feel comfortable wearing them in the holiest places on earth.
    • My husband pretty much wore kurta shalwars the whole time, too, because of the looseness of the clothing and the quality of the cloth which made the heat bearable. He buys most of his clothes from Junaid Jamshed.

Supplies

  • Mini squirt bottle
    • Sometimes you are walking or in really cramped spaces and the mist will help revive you.
  • Mini electric fan necklace, or a manual fan
    • I liked having this electric fan necklace on. It was a little heavy, but I loved using it especially in Masjid Nabawi because everyone would sit so cramped in there and it was too stuffy to breathe.
  • Cooling towel (you can find one that runners use)
  • Door hook hanger for the bathroom
    • I got mine from the Dollar Tree. They’re really handy because you go into the stalls in Mina or Arafat and there aren’t any door hooks. You can easily hang up your bag or your towel/change of clothes without being worried about them getting wet or dirty
  • Plastic bags
    • Bring a couple grocery-sized bags, they’ll come in handy for anything and everything. Designate one specifically for bathroom trips during the days of Hajj to protect your clothes from getting wet in the bathroom.
  • Drawstring shoe bag
    • Although your Hajj package might give you one to match your group, I’m a little torn on their efficiency. The size of the drawstring bags are perfect, but the quality can be dubious (mine broke twice) and there aren’t smaller pockets for additional organization. I can’t tell you how many times I was digging in my bag to find a tiny object and how inconvenient it was.  My suggestion is to buy a small backpack or drawstring bag with additional internal/external pockets.  If your Hajj group provides a bag, simply cut out the logo from the bag and just safety-pin (or sew like I did, or hot glue even) it onto your bag. The reason why I mention this is because the same bags really do help in easily spotting your group and can be very useful to help you not get lost.
  • Neck pouch/necklace pouch for keeping money
  • Small towel (you’ll find yourself doing wudu in random places and you might want to dry off)
  • Sleeping “bag” liner
    • I made mine out of an old sheet that I bought from the thrift store (you can easily make your own, too, here’s how!) I saw one or two options available at the camping store, but the fabric was a synthetic blend that was not breathable. I decided to buy a pure cotton sheet from the thrift store (because I am relatively newly married, I don’t own any random old sheets) and then proceeded to hand-sew mine and my husband’s. Hand-sewing took forever and was a miserably long process, but I loved the end product and it really was truly so convenient and perfect for sleeping outside in Muzdalifah and even for sleeping in our building in Makkah and the tents in Mina (I wasn’t sure how clean the sheets and blankets were that they were giving us.) My husband said that in the tents in Mina, it is very easy for men to accidentally expose themselves due to their ihram clothing. He hung out in the tent inside his sleeping bag the whole time to avoid that problem. My suggestion is to find a masjid aunty who knows how to sew and ask her to help you, she’ll want the good deeds :)
  • Yoga mat
    • The yoga mat serves as the padding, which I suggest buying from Bin Dawood (a big store that you’ll find everywhere) when you get to Saudi so that you don’t have to lug a yoga mat around with you from the US.
    • I looked into sleeping bag pads from the camping store as well, but they were much heftier and more expensive, so it seemed like a waste to me because I only planned on using the yoga mat for one night and we were told that if we left them in a pile in the morning someone would pick them up and reuse them. Also, the woman at the camping store told me that she uses a yoga mat every time she goes camping and that camping pads and yoga mats are essentially the same.
  • Zipper seal bags in different sizes
    • These will come in handy for creating small medicine packs for traveling on the actual days of Hajj, storing dates and nuts in, and so much more. If you have smaller to larger sizes then it will be easy for you store various items in.
    • Garment-sized zipper seal bags can also be very useful for keeping your clothes together in “packs” (per outfit or two). My suggestion is be organized and it will help you not waste time, get stressed out for no reason, and have everything you need.
  • Portable phone charger
    • You never know what the deal is with the outlets and power supply when you’re in the days of Hajj, so it’s a great idea to charge up a portable charger and have that as back-up. This is also easy because if you’re in Mina and you only have one power outlet with 10 slots for the whole tent, you’ll be able to hook up your charger whenever there’s a free outlet and you can charge as you need to. I got a Gorilla charger as a gift, and although I didn’t take it with me to Hajj, I should have! One thing to keep in mind is that you probably won’t zip through your phone’s battery as often as you do because you won’t really be on your phone during Hajj.
  • Old phone
    • If you want to risk losing your expensive smart phone, go ahead and take it. I brought an old phone (unlocked because I wanted to buy a SIM in Saudi) and my everyday smart phone to use coming in and out of the US. I left my smartphone in my building over the days of Hajj.
    • Another thing, it helps to use an old phone to unplug from the connectivity our smartphones allow us. Don’t link up your email and other social media accounts/apps. If you do, make sure you delete them before the days of Hajj start. You will be surprised at how little you will care about knowing how the rest of the world is getting on.
  • Extension cord with multiple outlets
    • Useful for everyone due to lack of outlets.
  • International power adapter
  • Umbrella
    • Useful to shield from the sun, which is intense.
  • Eye covers/sleeping mask
    • If you’re a light sleeper, these will particularly come in handy. I don’t think I slept more than 5 hours at one time the whole duration of my trip and I would take naps at every time of the day and night so the eye covers helped me sleep.
  • Ear plugs
    • You will have no control over the people around you, especially in your tent in Mina. Do yourself a favor and bring ear plugs.
  • Sunglasses
  • Bag with compartments in it
  • Clothesline and clothespins
    • You never know when you will need to wash something, and this will help you quickly tackle any laundry whenever you have it.
  • Sewing kit
  • Inflatable airplane pillow/mini pillow
  • Extra collapsible large duffle bag (if you plan on shopping)
  • D-clips for hanging stuff to your bag easily (like water bottle)

Personal Hygiene

  • Unscented soap (small pieces in a Tupperware)
    • Just use the soap as shampoo, and even for washing clothes if necessary.
  • Unscented deodorant
  • Unscented lotion or oil
    • You may get sunburned or have severe reactions to the dry heat.
  • Unscented Vaseline
    • Especially helpful for men to prevent chafing due to ihram.
  • Gloves
  • Unscented hand sanitizer
  • Unscented wipes
    • I packed these in smaller zipper seal bags and rolled the wipes to fit easily inside.
  • Disinfecting spray
    • I made my own with tea tree essential oil, rubbing alcohol, and water in a spray bottle. I brought the tea tree essential oil in a small dropper bottle and put the rubbing alcohol in the spray bottle to easily pass through airport restrictions. Once I got to my hotel, I finished making the solution there. In a 4 oz. Bottle, I put 1 ounce of rubbing alcohol, 20 drops of essential oil, and filled the rest with water.
    • Spray bottles I bought are here (safe to use with essential oils).
  • Unscented laundry detergent
    • I made my own unscented laundry concentrate, which was convenient because a tiny amount went a long way. You can buy some here:
  • Unscented sunscreen
  • Portable lota (Wudu Pal: https://shop.withaspin.com/products/wudu-pal)
  • Razors/hair removal tools
  • Other personal care products that you enjoy using and would normally use if traveling for any other trip (these might be especially nice once you are finished with Hajj and take your first shower using the products you’re used to)

Spiritual Supplies

  • Notebook
  • Pens
    • Impossible to find in Madinah, for some odd reason.
  • Dua book or app
    • like Accepted Whispers for example
    • Hard copy or electronic copy? My suggestion is to stay off of digital devices as much as possible. Hard copies are generally more reliable and less likely to “run out of battery” or “break” etc.
  • Personal traveling prayer mat
    • I bought mine in Madinah (I went to Madinah first) as a sort of souvenir. I would suggest always taking your prayer mat with you so that you can avoid getting sick—people are sneezing and coughing all over the ground during prayer.
  • Quran that you’re comfortable with, preferably small
  • Budgetized, itemized shopping list
    • You’ll be surprised to find this under spiritual supplies, but it is very easy to get distracted with shopping during your Hajj trip. Make a list of what you want to buy from there and what gifts you will be buying and for who. The more prepared you are, the less time you will waste in the marketplace.
  • Tawaf counter (I didn’t need one because I planned a dua list for each round in Tawaf/pass in Sa’i. For example, dua for myself in the first, for my parents in the second, for my spouse in the third, etc.)

Medication

  • Mini drugs kit (allergy, Tylenol, anti-diarrheal)
  • Antibiotics, get them from there if you end up needing them
  • Ginger essential oil (to help with nausea/motion sickness, simply put a few drops in a tissue and breathe deeply)
  • Paper bags/diaper bags for throwing up
  • Sore throat and cough supplies
  • Cold medicines of choice (you can get them in Saudi, but you might not find exactly what you’re used to, like Robitussin or something)
  • Topical pain reliever for sore muscles/aches and pains

Documents

  • Extra copies of passport and visas
  • Will/power of attorney
  • Permanent marker

Hajj Packing Suggestions

  1. Order and gather all of your supplies NOW. Make sure everything is ready to go at least one week before your departure. Just a word of caution–your Hajj trip is precious. Do not waste your time by leaving toothpaste at home and needing to buy it in Saudi Arabia. Don’t have time? Send someone to the store with a list for you or just sit down on your computer and knock out your list in an hour or two, leaving enough time for delivery/shipping.
  2. Print out the Hajj Checklist, add whatever else you need to, and use it to make sure you have bought everything. Print out another clean copy and check off the items as you pack them. If you want to be very organized, make a note of where your items are packed.
  3. How much clothing should you take? You really don’t want to run out of clothes. I always pack light in terms of clothing but you really don’t want to, not for Hajj. Women, make sure you at least have 5 outfits (one for each day of Hajj) and men, make sure you have your ihram and a backup ihram (our Hajj leader suggested to buy the thicker ihrams that look like towels). Other than the days of Hajj, make sure you have at least 1 set of clothes for every 2 days of your trip. (If you’re a woman on a 12-day trip, for example, I would suggest taking 8 outfits.)  Men should also check if/when they can change out of their ihram with the Hajj leader. You will have to keep up with your laundry by hand washing it yourself. My suggestion is to hand wash your laundry every other day until the day of Hajj so that you don’t have any problems.
  4. Packing clothing in sets inside large zipper seal bags is very easy. Make sure you have your Hajj sets laundered, packed, and ready to go 2 days before the days of Hajj begin. Make sure each set is self-contained, you don’t want to be rummaging around for a missing something or the other in the tent in Mina and realize you forgot it at your hotel.
  5. Make sure you have a backpack or separate bag for the days of Hajj. Keep it light and easy to carry and walk with, you never know what is going to happen.
  6. Subpackage all of your things in groups. Make a medication baggie, make a shoe baggie, make a documents baggie, etc. I used cloth drawstring bags to put different groups of items together.
  7. Don’t freak out–you will be going with a group and it is likely you can borrow or take something from someone in your group if you don’t have it. You can always go to stores like Bin Dawood and get the things you need if you forgot something or something is broken.

Hajj Mabroor

Muslim and Jewish Communities Join to Combat Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism

altmuslim - 26 July, 2017 - 22:36
The anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry of our current political leadership represent a methodical and ideological shift away from pluralism as a shared ideal. Trump is, quite overtly, asserting himself as the leader of a far-right white nationalist movement, as is evidenced by the violence and censure aimed at people of color who showed up at Trump rallies.

Face veils and respect for British culture | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 July, 2017 - 19:36
We all need to respect the culture in which we live, says Fatima Mirza, while Jenny Bushell argues that the face veil is a 12th-century custom that discriminates against women

As a Muslim woman, the case of Rachida Serroukh (Mother sues daughter’s school over face veil ban, 21 July) fills me with dismay. It has been widely documented that there is no religious obligation, in the Qur’an, for a woman to wear a face veil, burqa or niqab, but simply to dress modestly.

I wonder if she thought the staff at the school (or the children) would look at her suggestively. I very much doubt they would. The face veil can be intimidating and frightening for children. Ironically, the countries that encourage women to wear a burqa or niqab are those where women’s education is thought to be unnecessary and dangerous.

Related: Muslim mother takes legal action against school over face veil ban

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Muslim feminist plans to open liberal mosque in Britain

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 July, 2017 - 12:20

Seyran Ates, a Turkish-born lawyer and human rights campaigner, visits London to investigate potential sites for new venture

A Muslim feminist who founded a liberal mosque in Berlin, triggering death threats and fatwas, is planning to open an inclusive place of worship in the UK, saying a revolution in Islam is under way.

Seyran Ates, a Turkish-born lawyer and human rights campaigner, visited London this week to investigate potential sites for a liberal mosque open to men, women and LGBT Muslims on an equal basis, and people from all strands of Islam.

Related: Liberal Berlin mosque to stay open despite fatwa from Egypt

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More than 100 hardline Jewish settlers occupy house in Hebron

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 July, 2017 - 10:22

Occupation may complicate issues after reports in Israeli media that Netanyahu had asked security forces to hold off clearing it

About 120 hardline Jewish settlers have occupied a house in the old city of Hebron, citing Israel’s handling of the crisis over the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem that has sparked days of violence.

The settlers broke into the building, which is located close to a religious site in the southern West Bank city – the Ibrahimi mosque and Tomb of the Patriarchs – a location that rivals the Jerusalem holy site for sensitivity.

Related: Muslim worshippers to continue boycott of al-Aqsa mosque compound

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Why Muslim supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid are powerful weapons against Trump

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 July, 2017 - 17:08
For a new generation, the names ‘Hadid’ and ‘Malik’ bring to mind a heart emoji and not ‘Ugh, terrorist’. In her weekly advice column, our style expert suggests this can only be a good thing. Plus, are shorts acceptable in the office?

I keep reading about the Hadid sisters. I’ve only just got up to speed with the Kardashians – is this another set of siblings I need to care about?

Josie, by email

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Blaming the colonials for everything

Indigo Jo Blogs - 24 July, 2017 - 12:13

Fatimah Ouaziz, holding her school textbook and grade certificateOver the weekend I saw a touching story about an elderly Moroccan lady who completed the first grade of her country’s school system after having been illiterate all her life and having spent three years, in her 80s, studying for it. She is a mother of six who has made two pilgrimages to Mecca in the nine years since the death of her husband, described as a “kind, caring and compassionate man” despite being twice divorced and marrying his wife in her early teens, thanks to his origins:

As a traditional Middle Atlas Berber, he had never absorbed Arabic cultural influences in matters of gender relations. He was more matriarchal than he was patriarchal.

Besides this racist aside about Arabs, this story blames the French for Fatimah Ouaziz’s illiteracy, which is not tenable.

The author, John A. Morrow, claims:

Born in the tiny town of Tazoughart in the Middle Atlas of Morocco, Fatimah Ouaziz suffered through the famine provoked by the secular French occupiers during the French “Protectorate.”

From an Amazigh family, she grew up speaking Tamazight. Like most Moroccans of the time, the lively little girl was deprived of even a basic education.

Since the traditional Islamic school system was dismantled by the French, and mosques could no longer operate as a medium of literacy teaching, Fatimah, like millions of others, became part of a lost generation that mastered neither French nor Classical Arabic. While Moroccans could speak Berber languages and Darija, the Moroccan Colloquial Arabic dialect, they could neither read nor write them.

The problem is that Morocco gained its independence from France in 1956, when this lady was 22. France may have interfered in the country’s affairs since, but I don’t believe it was they who dictated that much of the country’s rural and poor population should remain illiterate for more than 50 years. That can only be blamed on the country’s three kings in the post-independence era: Mohammed V, Hassan II and the present incumbent, Mohammed VI, and their responsibility for this is nowhere mentioned in Morrow’s article. The present king is generally regarded as a reformer (despite his Arabic origin!), but has been on the throne since 2000 and I’m sure Fatimah Ouaziz is not the only adult in Morocco who has been illiterate all that time. Only a couple of years ago, a young girl was forced into marriage with a man who had raped her, resulting in her suicide; this sort of thing can still happen in Morocco despite the much-vaunted reforms in personal law and education.

The destruction of traditional Islamic learning did not end with the departure of the French; Hamza Yusuf mentioned in a lecture about the elimination of such places of learning that the last one fell (i.e. closed or was converted to a modern university) in Marrakesh in 1962, six years after independence. This is not to belittle Fatimah Ouaziz’s achievement, but it’s ridiculous to blame a long-departed colonial powers for the failures of three autocratic kings to ensure that their subjects are educated and the sight of westerners (Muslim or otherwise) hymning such rulers for such trivial achievements is just as ridiculous. On top of this, adult learners should not be sitting classes designed for five- or six-year-old children; they should receive tuition aimed at equipping them for the modern adult world now. When children start school late in England because of, say, having arrived as a refugee from a country where there is war, they do not go into reception if they are older than four or five; they take the same classes as those of the same age.

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