Ayaan Hirsi Ali says Australian opponents 'carrying water' for radical Islamists

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 April, 2017 - 08:19

Hirsi Ali hits back at group of Muslim women and tells Triple J’s Hack program that Islamophobia is a ‘manufactured’ term

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has hit back at a group of Australian Muslim women who accused her of being a “star” of Islamophobia and stirring up hatred.

The women took to Facebook on Monday when Hirsi Ali was due to arrive in Australia for a speaking tour that she cancelled at the last minute, citing concerns about security and the organisation of her trip.

Related: Ayaan Hirsi Ali cancels Australian tour citing security concerns

Related: Ayaan Hirsi Ali: freedom fighter or just a help for Hanson? | Gay Alcorn

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Four Marathons in Three Weeks: One Man is Running to Bring Clean Water to Senegal

Muslim Matters - 4 April, 2017 - 05:59

When Haroon Mota committed to running his first marathon in 2012, he admits he didn’t give it too much thought.

London was hosting the Summer Olympics that year. British distance runner Mo Farah was reaching the peak of his fame as a local and international sports hero. A lot of people in England were taking up recreational running and, well, it was just a popular thing to do to sign up for the London Marathon.

But by the time Mota began the 26.2-mile race, he had found a focus and a purpose.

In the months leading up to the London Marathon, he raised over £7000 ($8,715 US) in donations for the Teenage Cancer Fund.

Mota had done similar projects in the past, taking on mountain-climbing challenges while raising money for charities such as Islamic Relief’s Orphan Campaign. His athletic background included kickboxing, mixed martial arts and soccer.

But running was a new venture. The marathon was intended to be a one-time experience, but Mota soon made running a lifestyle. Since then, he has run over 20 half-marathons and completed the London Marathon three times, using the events as challenges to raise money for a variety of charitable causes.

Sometimes, Mota runs alone. Other times, he puts together teams of runners. The benefit there is two-fold: Not only to raise money for charities, but also to promote and encourage fitness and exercise to his peers in the Muslim community.

In 2015, Mota was featured on Ummah Sports and Muslim Matters leading up to that year’s London Marathon, for which he’d raised £10,000 ($14,786 US) for Teenage Cancer Trust.

This month, Mota is taking things to another level.

Haroon Mota (via Facebook)

The 31-year-old, who works as the fundraising manager for the non-profit humanitarian organization PennyAppeal, is aiming to run four marathons over the next three weeks: the Manchester Marathon on April 2, the Paris Marathon on April 9, the Boston Marathon on April 17, and concluding with the London Marathon on April 23.

The name of this challenge is #Running4Dad. Mota’s motivation is his father, Hafiz Kasim Mota, who died in a car accident in 2013.

Haroon’s goal is to raise £20,000 ($24,900 US) to build a solar water and power center in Senegal, in memory of his father.

CLICK HERE to donate to #Running4Dad and help bring clean water to Senegal.

Zaid Karim, Private Investigator, Part 9 – Stash House

Muslim Matters - 4 April, 2017 - 05:40

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories.

Previous chapters of this story: Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8

* * *

On the front porch I stumbled and almost fell when I stepped on something small and round. It was a white shotgun cartridge of a type I’d never seen before. I bent quickly to the big Samoan, who looked like a beached alien whale in his purple tracksuit, and pressed two fingers to the side of his neck. His eyes were closed and he made no movement.

His pulse was steady. Nor was there any sign of blood or injury on him. I found this baffling – I’d seen Jelly fire into his gut at point blank range – until I spotted a small white packet on the ground nearby.

Bean bag shotgun shells

Bean bag shells and rounds.

A beanbag. Badger and Jelly were firing beanbag rounds. I’d heard of these but had never seen one before. They were non-lethal, non-penetrating shotgun rounds. Supposedly just one was enough to drop a man where he stood. I guess that didn’t apply to Samoan giants.

A purple bandana poked its way out of the Samoan’s pocket. I took it, sniffed it – it smelled clean enough – and tied it around my face, covering my mouth and nose. I couldn’t risk any of these gangsters remembering my face.

Moving to the door, holding my gun in front of me in a two-handed grip, I glanced quickly inside and pulled back. There were bodies everywhere, most of them duct taped at wrists, ankles and mouth, just like the whale at the door. There must have been at least ten, all Samoans it seemed, some hugely muscular, most heavily tattooed. Why on earth would Badger and co attack such a well manned house?

Several of the men stirred and uttered muffled groans. One thrashed in place helplessly.

The house looked a hurricane had whipped through. Guns of all kinds were scattered everywhere. I saw a gold-plated machine pistol and a shotgun with a shimmering abalone stock. Cartridges and beanbag rounds littered the floor. Bills of various denominations plastered every surface in green. There was a mangled money-counting machine that looked like it had taken a direct hit, as well as shattered beer bottles, cigarette butts and fluffs of furniture stuffing still drifting through the air. The walls were half destroyed by gunfire.

One of the men on the ground began to grunt and strain, uselessly trying to break his bonds.

I pulled my head back when a burst of machine gun fire split the air in two. My heart galloped like a horse on the final stretch. I took a shuddering breath and glanced inside again. There was a small lobby just inside the door. It opened onto a living room on the left, with the kitchen beyond that. On the right there was an office, then a short corridor leading to a bedroom. Two or three bodies sprawled in the office, and many more in the living room.

A female voice moaned from the direction of the kitchen. It sounded like Jelly.

Suddenly Badger stuck his head up from behind a nearly demolished sofa that stood against the left wall of the living room. Seeing me, he pointed to the hallway on the other side of the office.

I nodded and began tiptoeing through the office, moving around two unconscious men and trying not to give myself away by stepping on any of the discarded ammunition cartridges. One of the men, who must have been faking unconsciousness, suddenly rolled his body into my legs, sending me tumbling to the ground.

The gangster – a muscular man wearing overalls, black gloves and no shirt, with his black hair tied in two long braids, glared silently at me and – like sea lions I’d seen on the beaches in the Big Sur – tried to belly crawl on top of me, where he could perhaps crush me with his weight. His wrists and ankles were bound, though, and he could not do much. I lashed out with the butt of my gun, striking him on the forehead, and he passed out. A nasty bruise swelled up on his forehead. I hoped that I had not done any lasting damage.

Badger began to shout. “Yo busta in the can! Give up, dude. All your homeboys is down. It’s just you left. You got no flex.”

He was answered by a two-second roar of machine gun fire. Undaunted, Badger continued to shout, alternately insulting the man and exhorting him to surrender, two strategies that seemed mutually conflicting to me.

I realized that Badger was giving me the location of the shooter – the bathroom – and providing cover to mask my approach. I stood and moved quickly through the office, rounded the corner and stepped through the bathroom door before I could second guess myself.

A hulking Samoan crouched against the wall of the bathroom. He was naked. The entire surface of his body was covered in gang tattoos. His chest bore a grinning skull wearing a cardinal’s hat, while the word “Samoa” was scrawled in gothic script across his belly. Traditional Samoan tribal patterns sleeved his bulging arms. Even his face was not immune to the spreading ink, with a sun symbol on one cheek and a leering face on the other. His black hair was long and kinky, and his mouth was full of gold teeth.

He cradled a gun that was smaller than the .50 caliber belt-fed monster I’d imagined. This compact, wide-barreled thing was only as long as the Samoan’s forearm.

The gangster shouted in surprise when I appeared, and began to pivot toward me. I lashed out with a vicious front kick, catching him on the corner of the jaw with the toe of my shoe. His head snapped back and he collapsed, unconscious.

“All clear in here, Badge,” I called out.

“Yo Jelly!” Badger called out. “Pinkie. Move out.”

“Gonna need some help,” Jelly called back in a strained voice.

I turned away from the Samoan gangster to go in search of Jelly – and a metallic sound behind me froze my blood. It was the sound of shower curtain rings sliding on a metal rod. I turned in time to see a naked woman step out of the shower stall. I hadn’t thought to look there. She was a young white woman with red hair and freckles, no more than nineteen or twenty I thought. Her blue eyes were wide with terror. She screamed something I didn’t understand and raised a large blue handgun, a .357 from the looks of it.

I could not move. I could not bring myself to shoot this young woman. I saw my own death, standing there in that bathroom. I saw my body sprawled on the floor, a gaping hole in my forehead or chest. I saw the newspaper headlines – “local P.I. killed in drug robbery” – and the shame it would bring on my family.

The redhead pointed the gun at my face. As in a dream I saw her finger tighten on the trigger. My breath caught in my chest and my heart seemed to stop as I awaited my demise.

There was a terrible crack in my left ear and the redhead flew backward. Blood erupted from the center of her chest as she tumbled into the shower curtain, tearing it loose. She fell lifelessly into the shower, her eyes as wide and blue as a cloudless winter sky.

Pearl handled revolver.

Pearl handled revolver.

I turned to my left to see Pinkie standing there, the big pearl-handled revolver extended. She had a black eye and a cut on her scalp from which blood poured down the side of her head and neck. Her face was pink again – not with fear this time, but with excitement. She enjoyed this insanity.

The next few minutes will never be more than a hazy jumble. The four of us got out of that house and back to the car. Jelly had been shot in the calf, and Badger in the shoulder. My head rang from the shot Pinkie had fired. I took off the bandana and threw it out of the car.

I did not drive. Instead Pinkie took the wheel as I sat in the back seat, too stunned to speak. I had just killed a girl. I did not pull the trigger, but I was a part of it. I was responsible morally and legally.

Felony murder. I’d just committed felony murder. Under California law, a defendant could face a murder conviction even if he did not pull the trigger – in fact, even if the death was an accident – as long as the death occurred in the commission of a felony. Badger and crew went into the stash house to rob it; I went in to help; a murder resulted. Therefore we were all guilty of felony murder.

The penalty for felony murder in California was life in prison without parole, or the death penalty.

That frightened me only in the abstract. What rocked me, what put me on my heels and made me feel like I’d just fallen into an earthquake crevice, was the image of that young woman collapsing backward, the terror in her blue eyes frozen there as in ice. She might not have been a gangster. She could have been a prostitute or the girlfriend of the guy in the bathroom. She was someone’s daughter, maybe even some little kid’s mother.

* * *

Pinkie drove us to the T-Ball towing yard on the southern outskirts of town. It was a sprawling place with junked cars everywhere, some in stacks five high, and the entire yard surrounded by a wall topped with concertina wire. A tall black man wearing a blue jumpsuit and heavy black boots greeted Badger with a warm handshake. Badger and Pinkie pulled everything out of the yellow Corvette, Badger working with one arm only, still bleeding where he’d been shot in the shoulder. Jelly sat on the ground and began to bandage her calf, grimacing as she worked.

The junkyard operator, the eponymous T-Ball, climbed into a large tractor on caterpillar treads, with a huge claw-tipped arm. He expertly maneuvered the tractor up to the Corvette, and seized it with the claw hand, lifting it into the arm. He then wheeled the tractor over to a massive orange machine that looked like a dumpster on steroids. with a chute running out of each end. These chutes extended over smaller green dumpsters.

Car shredder.

Car shredder.

T-Ball dropped the Corvette into the top of the orange machine. Massive iron wheels with cogs the size of arms began to spin. They bored into the Corvette and pulled it deeper into the machine, grinding it inexorably into rubble.

It was like watching another death. The car groaned and squealed as the wheels gripped it. The noise was terrible. The car bounced and twisted as if trying to escape, but piece by piece it was sucked in, the metal twisting and crumpling, the glass shattering.

As the car was seized and ground into the machine, its remains began to pour down the chutes. There must have been a sorter of some kind inside, because larger fragments – by which I mean the size of a hand or a bread loaf – poured down one chute, while the other chute carried away rubble that had been pummeled to the size of gravel.

I watched with grim fascination, wincing at times, wanting to look away but unable. I felt as if I’d been crushed in the same way, my heart ground up and spat out.

“Dat’s phat, huh?” Badger was at my side, his face impassive, showing no sign of the pain he must be feeling. He indicated the car that was now almost fully obliterated. “Badger posse leave no trace. First rule of the game is don’t get caught.”

“I don’t get it,” I said dully. “Wasn’t that car worth a lot of money?”

Badger shrugged. “Maybe thirty g’s. Ain’t nothin’ compared to the cheese we took off them Samoans.”

T-Ball gave us an old Buick sedan. It was light brown and nondescript. Badger’s crew moved their belongings to this car and we all got in. I climbed into the backseat and we drove off.

* * *

Abandoned fruit processing factory.

Abandoned fruit processing factory.

Jelly pulled up to an abandoned fig factory a few miles southwest on 41. She unlocked the rusted front gate, drove straight up a ramp into the loading bay, unlocked a rollup door, and drove the car right into the factory itself.

Inside, I sat on a wooden packing crate as the three members of Badger’s robbery squad set to work tending each other’s wounds. In a corner of the warehouse they had a makeshift clinic already set up. It contained everything a regular doctor’s office might have: anesthetic, scalpels, suturing tools, bandages, even an IV pole. Badger drank from a bottle of whiskey as Pinkie dug a round out of his shoulder and stitched him up. Then it was Jelly’s turn.

Jelly’s messenger bag rested on a low coffee table. It bulged with whatever they had taken from the stash house: money or drugs, I didn’t know which.

Badger limped over to me and placed a hand on my shoulder. “You represented, brother. You saved our butts back there. Wasn’t s’posed to be so many of ‘em. We was told there’d be three. They musta been havin’ a war council or su’m.”

I stared into his eyes and saw no trace of concern for the dead woman. It was as if we’d just returned from a picnic at the park. He’d been doing this for so long that human life had become meaningless to him. Was there anything I could say that would reach him? I didn’t think so.

“Let’s go find our boy Tarek,” Badger said.

I shook my head lifelessly. “I don’t want anything from you. I should never have come to you.”

“What you mean, Stick? How come?” Badger looked genuinely hurt and confused.

I held my hands out. “We killed a woman back there, Badge. She was barely out of her teens. A human being who never did anything to you or me. I don’t even know her name.”

“Crab had it comin’,” Pinkie muttered as she tended to Jelly. “Come out of the shower like psycho, ank ank ank!”

I ignored her.

Badger’s eyes on the other hand, showed a touch of genuine regret. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s unfortunate. But you know, ain’t no mercy in the game. Just by bein’ where she was, with the people she was with, she on the grind. Don’t put yo’ foot in the game if you can’t handle the consequences. Did I tell that chica to be in a stash house? Naw, man. She woulda killed you, Stick. The game is the game.”

“Really? Then why were you using bean bags? Don’t tell me you don’t have a heart!” My voice had risen to a shout.

Badger’s expression grew hard. “The gangs murdered my father. You know that. I could have massacred every one of those savages and I’d still sleep like a drunken baby. I don’t give a damn about them. They can rot in whatever underworld Samoans are destined for.”

I’d noticed this about Badger, that unlike some people whose speech degraded when they were upset, Badger reverted to proper English and even waxed poetic. I stared at him. There was something about the way he said, “you know that” that seemed to imply a deeper knowledge on his part than what he was saying. Did he know about the role I’d played in his father’s death? That was impossible. Badger had slaughtered dozens of men to avenge his father’s murder. I surely would have suffered the same fate.

“Then why the bean bags?” I demanded.

He waved this off. “Bodies bring investigations. That’s bad for business. Just playin’ the game, Stick.”

There was nothing else to say. I turned around and began to walk toward the door.

“Hold up.”

I looked over my shoulder at Badger, not turning my body.

“Su’m about yo’ case you ought to think on.”


“The cheese, man. Follow the money. Where’d the forty five large come from? Did Angie steal it? If so, who from? Or did someone give it to her? If so, why? Forty five g’s don’t just appear outta thin air.”

I walked to the door and opened it.

“Don’t you want a ride back to your hooptie?” Badger called after me. “What about the dope? You want your share?”

I walked through the door and closed it behind me.

* * *

I don’t know why the death of that woman hit me so hard. After all, I’d stabbed a man in the belly just the night before and thought little of it. Was it because the redhead was young, and had her whole life ahead of her? Was it because she was white, and if so was that an unconscious expression of racism on my part, thinking that a white life was somehow more important than an Asian one? Was it because she was a woman? Was it because she was naked and therefore vulnerable, and somehow childlike in her vulnerability?

All these things, perhaps. After all, the Asian man I’d stabbed would live – I was fairly sure – whereas this young woman was as dead as a winter night. And the Asian gangster had attacked me, whereas in this case we – Badger’s crew and myself – had been the aggressors.

There was no justification. I could not defend this young woman’s death before Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. I could not defend it on Yawm Al-Qiyamah. And I could not defend it in a court of law.

It took me over an hour to walk back to my car. I passed through rough neighborhoods, receiving hard looks and the occasional catcall. I paid no mind. I walked on autopilot, my feet reckoning the path while my brain cycled through guilt, blame and recrimination, again and again. I saw the shower curtain tearing free. Dead eyes as blue as a glacier. A spray of freckles and blood on white shoulders.

Had I pulled the trigger? I couldn’t recall. It felt like I had. My fingers twitched, remembering.

At some point I could not take any more self-castigation. Like fog hitting a prison wall, my mind drifted sideways. Walking mile after mile, I found myself thinking about Salman Al-Farisi’s journey. I had read the story many times, and knew it by heart:

After his father chained him up, Salman sent word to the Christians through an intermediary to notify him the next time a caravan was going south to Ash-Sham (Syria). They did so, and Salman freed himself from the chains and signed on. He was a mere child traveling into the unknown, driven by a burning need to find the truth about the Creator.

When Salman arrived in Ash-Sham, he asked for the most religious among the people. They pointed him to the bishop, and Salman became the bishop’s assistant.

He soon learned that the bishop was corrupt. The man had hoarded charity donations into seven jars of gold and silver. When the bishop died, Salman revealed his corruption to the people, who reacted by crucifying and stoning the bishop’s body.

The people replaced the bishop with another, who turned out to be sincere and righteous. Salman would later say that he never met a better non-Muslim than that man, nor a man more detached from the dunya – the material world – and attached to the afterlife, nor a man more devoted to righteous work. “I loved him more than anything I loved before,” Salman said.

When that bishop’s death approached, Salman asked him to refer him to someone else. The bishop complained that the people had altered the true religion of Allah. “I do not know of anyone who is still holding to what I follow except a man in Al-Moosil (Iraq),” the bishop said.

So Salman traveled to Iraq, whereupon he met that priest and served him until once again the holy man’s death approached. The priest recommended Salman to another in a city called Nasiyebeen. The story repeated itself. Salman found the man in Nasiyebeen and served him until he in turn was on his deathbed. Salman asked him where he should go. The man referred Salman to a teacher in Ammooriyyah, a city of the Eastern Roman Empire. Salman found the man in Ammoriyyah and served him, and again the man grew elderly and his death neared.

Now Salman’s path changed, for when he asked where he should go, the teacher said, ‘O son! I don’t know of anyone who is on the same (religion) as we are. However, the time of emergence of a Prophet will shade you. This Prophet is on the same religion of Ibraaheem.’

The teacher had a deep understanding of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and had seen within them the clear signs of the approach of a true Prophet.

“He comes from Arabia,” the teacher continued, “and migrates to a place located between landscapes of black stones. Palm trees spread between these stones. He has certain well known signs. He (accepts) and eats (from) a gift but does not eat from charity. The seal of Prophethood is between his shoulders. If you can move to that land, then do so.”

The holy man died. Salman stayed in Ammooriyyah until one day some merchants from the Arab tribe of Kalb passed by. Salman said, “Take me to Arabia and I will give you my cows and the only sheep I have.” The Arabs agreed. Salman gave them his possessions and they took him along. When they reached Wadee Al-Qura (close to Madinah), they betrayed him and sold him as a slave to a Jew.

Salman stayed with the Jew and worked as a slave, for he had seen the palm trees of Madinah and hoped this would be the place described by the holy man.

* * *

I thought about Salman’s willingness to completely sever himself from the misguided people of his past in order to serve Allah as purely as he could. Nothing motivated him but the truth. He traveled from one land to another, leaving behind whatever friends he had made, keeping no attachments to anything worldly, placing himself completely in Allah’s hands. When the time came he gave up everything he owned, all his animals, and consigned himself to an unknown fate, just to get closer to the Prophet he believed would soon appear.

Even when he was sold into slavery he did not rebel, did not run away, and why? Because he believed himself to be in the land of the coming Prophet, and that was all he cared about. The truth, the truth, the truth. That was his obsession and his dream, his mission and his sole care in this life.

I did not know how to apply the lessons of Salman’s life to my own. I did not know what I should do, or where I should go. I already had the truth that Salman had so desperately sought. I had the Quran and the Sunnah. I had Islam, and a good and kind-hearted teacher in Imam Saleh. So why was I such a mess? Why did I keep stumbling into these terrible situations? Why couldn’t I divorce myself from my misguided past as Salman had done?

I resolved to be done with Badger. Yes, I was responsible in a way for Malik Sulawesi’s death. Yes, Amiri was one of my oldest friends. But he was on an express highway to self-destruction – no rest stops and no detours – and I could not ride it with him, not if I hoped to stay sane. Not if I didn’t want to be altered into something I myself would not recognize.

Of course this was locking the hangar after the jet had taken off. A woman was dead. She was possibly innocent and possibly not, but she was dead and I had been a part of it.

Small Masjid

“I found myself in front of the masjid…”

Finally reaching my car, I drove. I wasn’t sure where I was going until I looked up to see that I had – completely without conscious thought – driven to Masjid Madinah. Furthermore, the parking lot was full.

Of course. Today was Jum’ah. I was late, but the salat was apparently not over. I parked a block away and walked to the masjid, where I weaved my way through the packed congregation. I was focused on finding an empty spot in the rear and was not yet paying attention to Imam Saleh’s khutbah, until a word penetrated my fogged brain and froze me in place as if I’d just stepped in cement. “Murder.”

I turned my head toward Imam Saleh, who stood atop a small minbar at the front of the masjid. I half expected him to be pointing at me in accusation. But he stood tall in a gray thobe and white kufi, his hands animated but not singling me out. He went on:

“Murder is wrong. Attributing such crimes to Islam is despicable. The slaughter of innocent people is barbaric.”

I was a marble statue. In my confusion and fear – and I was indeed afraid – even my breathing seemed to have stopped. Was Imam Saleh speaking directly to me? Did he somehow know what I had done? Was he exposing my sin to the world? Was everyone looking at me, and seeing the stain of blood on my hands? I took off my fedora and held it to my chest, as if I could use it to shield myself against his words.

“The Messenger of Allah” – the Imam continued – “peace and blessings of Allah upon him, said, ‘No one of you murders at the time that he murders and remains a believer. Therefore, beware, beware!’ Ibn Hibban, 5979. One version of this Hadith mentions, ‘Faith is stripped from him like his trousers. When he returns to faith, it returns to him.’ In other words, as long as he is engaged in murderous acts, he cannot claim to be a man of faith. If he were to die in such a condition, he would die a disbeliever.”

Still I stood. Someone tapped me on the leg, no doubt because I was blocking his way. The Imam went on:

“The Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah upon him) mentioned, ‘A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand all of the people are safe.’ Ahmad, 6753; Tabarani, 3170. This hadith tells us that anyone who unleashes words of hate against people, or commits acts of violence against them, is not a true Muslim. Rather, such a person is a hypocrite, shaming himself through his actions.”

Again someone tugged on my pants leg. The pull seemed to draw the energy out of me, so that I suddenly felt weak and dizzy. My legs gave out, and I reached for the ground with one hand as I sank heavily. A middle aged brother with a black beard shuffled to the side with a grunt of displeasure. I managed not to fall right on him. I sat cross legged and covered my face in my hands, breathing hard. Someone touched my shoulder in concern but I paid no mind.

Imam Saleh continued to talk. At some point it dawned on me that he was not speaking specifically about me. He was referring to acts of terrorism committed by so-called Muslims.

“All of these narrations,” the Imam went on, “make it unequivocally clear that the depraved murderers who have embarked on a campaign of terror and war against their hosts, neighbors, fellow citizens, the innocent public, and against guiltless men, women and children, have joined the ranks of the devils and betrayed everything Islam stands for. Faith has died in their hearts. They have abandoned their religion and forfeited their humanity. They do not act in the name of Islam. They have no honor, and deserve only contempt.

“Confronting the rising scourge of terrorism is one of the great challenges of our age. To defeat it may require sweeping changes within the Muslim world – social changes, economic changes, political changes, and most of all spiritual changes. We must return to an understanding of Islam as a religion of compassion, kindness, and civil discourse. We must honor our relationship with the Creator, worshiping Him sincerely, and we must then extend that sincerity to our interactions with all people. May Allah give us the strength to complete this task.”

When the khutbah was over I stood and prayed mechanically with the congregation. I wanted to break down and plead with Allah for forgiveness, but I feared to release my emotions, for doing so might lead me to a complete breakdown.

When salat was over, I sat again, my eyes fixed on the heavy carpet as men shook hands, chatted and filed out of the masjid. A few brothers greeted me and tried to speak to me but I did not respond.

At some point it sank into my awareness that someone had been repeating my name insistently. I raised my eyes to find Aziz Al-Qudsi crouching in front of me, dressed in a beautiful gray suit and yellow tie. Like me, he had straight black hair, though he kept his very short. He was a handsome man whose appearance was marred only by the prominent bend in the bridge of his nose, from when Amiri had broken it in a sparring session when we were kids. Martial arts had never come naturally to Aziz, and he’d been the first of us to give it up, which he did when I moved to Qatar.

I was surprised to see him, since Aziz lived in Menlo Park, about a half hour south of San Francisco, and I had not seen him in at least a year. Taller than me at about six feet even, Aziz seemed to have it all. One year older than me, he was the eldest of the Five Musketeers and by far the most successful. In school he’d been the one student whose grades I could never beat. He’d gone on to earn an MBA from Stanford and at the age of twenty five had created a messaging app similar to Skype, which he later sold to Microsoft for a large sum of money. He then started his own venture capital fund. I had no doubt he was a multi-millionaire.

He was also an Islamic scholar in his own right. He’d become fascinated by traditional Islamic scholarship when we were still in high school. When the rest of us wanted to go to a movie, or ride our dirt bikes in the foothills, or practice Kali at Roeding Park, Aziz wanted to sit at the masjid and read 12th century Islamic texts in Arabic. Later, between earning his Bachelor’s degree and his MBA, he managed to earn a distance degree in Islamic studies from IIUM in Malaysia.

On top of everything else, he was happily married with three children.

He grasped my shoulder, his eyes wide with alarm. “Zaid! Shu feek? What’s wrong?”

I gave him a weak smile, but I think it must have looked ghastly, because the worry on his face increased.

“Marhaba, Aziz,” I said finally.

He let out a sigh of relief. “I’ve been saying your name for five minutes, man! What’s going on?”

“Nothing. What are you doing here?”

“I’m here for the FIA fundraiser tomorrow.”

Of course, I thought wryly. Aziz, myself and a sister named Kawthar had comprised the entire first graduating class of the Fresno Islamic Academy. Kawthar went on to earn simultaneous degrees in medicine and law. Unbelievable, right? Who does that? Aziz and Kawthar were both frequently invited to speak at FIA fundraisers. They were held up as shining success stories and proof of the school’s academic excellence.

I had never been invited to an FIA fundraiser. Not that I cared. I thought it was funny, actually. We’re not all success stories, folks! But never mind that, hand over your money and your gold…

“Are you sure you’re okay, Stick?”

“Don’t call me that,” I snapped. “I despise that name.”

He withdrew his hand from my shoulder. He looked dismayed. “I’m sorry, Zaid, I -”

“No, no,” I cut in. “I’m the one who’s sorry. I’m just tired. It’s good to see you Aziz, but I don’t feel like talking.”

I did not resent Aziz’s success. Truly, I was happy for him. But our lives had gone in such wildly divergent directions that he could never understand who I was now. How could I possibly tell him about the things I’d seen and done?

Aziz said something about me attending the fundraiser. I did not respond, and at some point he moved off. After a while the lights shut off in the masjid. My mind drifted. The shot that Pinkie had fired still echoed in my head. I saw the redhead falling, the look of disbelief in her wintry eyes, the freckles on her shoulders like a field of wheat… I kept thinking of the ayah from Surat Al-Baqarah where Allah says, “wa laa tulquw bi-aydeekum ilat-tahluka…” – and do not throw yourselves with your own hands into destruction… Again and again these words played in my head, as I saw myself being cast by two fierce and terrible hands – my own hands, magnified into clawed horrors – into the fires of Hell.

At some point my vision focused and I saw that Imam Saleh sat cross legged in front of me. He watched me, saying nothing. My fedora sat on the ground between us.

“I -” my voice came out in a croak. I cleared my throat and and tried again. “I’ve made bad choices. I have destroyed myself.”

The Imam was silent for some time. Finally he leaned forward and tapped my chest. “I believe in your heart, akh Zaid. I look at you and see a good man. If all the world were arrayed into three camps: the forces of good, the forces of evil, and those who merely stand and watch, I would look for you within the camp of the forces of good.”

“You wouldn’t find me there,” I said bitterly.

“Come now. If you approach Allah with repentance, He will come to you with forgiveness even greater than it, no matter what you have done. And you know what, akh Zaid?”


“I still behold that light in your eyes. You have not completed your work. You’re in pain, I see that. Spiritual pain is a wake up call. It is a motivator to change. It is not there to cripple you, but to drive you toward Allah, and to stimulate you to act. Replace a bad deed with a good one. That is the way forward. Call upon Allah, dig deep within yourself, be courageous as I know you are, and act. I know no one else like you brother, but I know that the world needs more such men.”

I didn’t know what to say. For the second time in as many days, here was someone expressing faith in me – first Jamilah, and now the Imam. In the past I’d gone years without hearing such words. But they didn’t know. They didn’t know how many terrible mistakes I had made.


“He rolled my fedora up his arm…”

Imam Saleh picked up my fedora, and, extending his arm, rolled it up his arm to his shoulder. It was just like a professional magic trick, and I was amazed that he could do that. Smiling, he placed the hat on my head and clapped me on the shoulder. “I’ll be in my office,” he said. “Stay as long as you need.” With that he departed.

I stood on shaky legs and prayed. I took my time, holding each position for long minutes and fighting not to break into tears, for though I was not ashamed to cry before Allah, I feared that if I allowed the tears to spring forth, they would never stop.

When I was done I stood and walked out of the masjid. No answers had spontaneously manifested in my heart. No voice whispered to me, no vision appeared. Had my prayer been answered? Was I forgiven? I did not know.

What I did know was that there was a child out there who was afraid and abused. I had been hired to find her, and that was exactly what I would do Insha’Allah. Come burning sun or raging river, bad men or or bad blood, I would find this child. I could not resurrect the redhead who’d been shot in the shower. I could not change what had happened to Malik Sulawesi ten years ago. I could not save any of the millions around the world suffering from tyranny, torture, starvation, disease or drought. But I could find one child, God help me.

Find Tarek, I told myself. Find the father first, then the daughter.

Thinking of Anna brought to mind my daughter Hajar. School at the FIA ended after Jum’ah prayer on Fridays, so Hajar would be home now. In the car, I took out my phone and called, only to get Safaa’s voicemail. Most likely she didn’t want to answer. Probably thought I was going to pester her again about our marriage. I texted her: “Please have Hajar call me when she’s free.

I drove down to Jamestown Street. Like I’d told Badger, I did not know this area. No matter. I would use my eyes, ears and shoe leather, like any gumshoe. I parked in a shaded spot and watched the life on the street through the binoculars. There were homeless people everywhere in this neighborhood, standing about in groups, wandering singly with shopping carts piled high with belongings, or coming and going. Men who were clearly drug dealers stood on the corners, selling their wares with impunity. I observed the patterns of movement, noting the buildings that attracted the most traffic.

I noted a shuttered four-story building a block from my location. It was a weathered wooden structure that might once have been painted red but was now a drab grayish-pink. Some windows were boarded up, while others simply gaped open, the glass long vanished. A faded sign painted on the side announced, “Sheya Gardens Hotel.” Piles of litter were strewn about on all sides. I’d seen many people slipping through a gap in a loose board that covered the door.

I locked up my car, walked to the Sheya Gardens Hotel, and squeezed my way through the boarded up doorway. What I found inside was a world unlike anything I’d ever imagined.


The next chapter, titled, “Finding Tarek“, will be published on the first Tuesday of June, which would be June 6th – Insha’Allah. I apologize for the delay. This is as far as I’ve written, and I have a few pressing projects demanding my attention. The novel-length version of Pieces of a Dream is being published in the next few weeks and will be available on Amazon soon. I am also publishing a sci-fi novel called The Repeaters. I’ve been invited to speak about writing at the ICNA convention in Baltimore on April 15th. And I haven’t done my taxes yet! Lol.

It’s springtime. Get outside, experience nature, get some sun, and I’ll see you in June Insha’Allah. – Wael

Tunisian nightclub shut down over Muslim call to prayer remix

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 April, 2017 - 19:37

Owner held and English DJ apologises after playing recording at Orbit festival in north-east of country

Tunisian authorities have shut down a nightclub and begun an investigation after a DJ played a remix recording of the Muslim call to prayer, an official has said.

A video, widely shared online since Sunday, shows clubbers dancing to music that includes the call to prayer at the club in the north-east town of Nabeul.

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Brexit: Back to the 16th Century?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 3 April, 2017 - 17:12

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth ILast Tuesday, there was a programme on BBC Radio 4 in which Jonathan Freedland, a Guardian columnist who was a strong Remain supporter, compared the present Brexit situation with the Elizabethan era, in which a Papal Bull basically slapped a trading embargo on England as a result of the separation of the English church from the Catholic one. As a result, British merchants were frozen out of trading centres on the Continent such as Antwerp, and as a result England turned to the Muslim world, selling metal recovered from dissolved monasteries to the Arabs and Turks who then used them to make arms to fight Catholic powers such as Spain. Eventually, the distance became too much of a disadvantage, and England made peace with Spain and began trading on the Continent again. Freedland was comparing that with the present situation of Britain exiting a large trading bloc on its doorstep and potentially having to cut deals with other countries much further away. But there was an obvious difference.

The situation of the Elizabethan era was forced on us: the Pope formally excommunicated the Queen with the Papal bull, Regnans in Excelsis (Reigning On High) in 1570, at a time when a number of powerful Catholics, including the king of Spain and the Duke of Norfolk, wanted to see Elizabeth overthrown and a rebellion was underway in Ireland, with foreign support. Europe was not a continent of parliamentary democracies but of kingdoms whose rulers all swore allegiance to the Pope. Britain today has chosen to take itself out of a union of parliamentary democracies, run mostly along the same lines as a parliamentary democracy. England then chose to trade with the enemy of its enemies when it could not trade with the countries on its doorstep. It also planted a colony in North America, initially named Virginia (after Elizabeth, the “virgin queen”) although parts of it are now the Carolinas and Bermuda. Today, the north African countries Britain traded with in the 16th century are clients of France, while those Britain favoured for trade before joining the EEC now have trade agreements with their neighbours. There are, of course, no new frontiers as there were then. There is one thing in common between the British approach to trade then and now: the sale of assets, in this case the metal from the dissolved monasteries, of which there was only so much.

Of course, England could not trade primarily with the Muslim world indefinitely, as the distance to Turkey in particular was prohibitive. While modern transport makes bringing manufactured goods from across the world easier than in Elizabethan times — for now — there is no guarantee that either the supply of oil (or its availability to us) or the openness of the seas, politically, will last; these things are a product of peace, the very thing the EU and its predecessors were set up to preserve. Having access to a ready supply of manufactured goods from across the world and having people across the world who speak the same language is no substitute for being able to trade on friendly terms with one’s neighbours, particularly when those neighbours are the source for most of our heavy equipment, such as vehicles (even those with Japanese and Korean brands are wholly or partly built in Europe). And while we import food from all over the world, we also import a lot of our fruit and vegetables from Europe. We are already seeing prices of those things increase as the Pound loses value; having a tariff imposed on them will make that problem a lot worse.

So, there really is no comparison between the situation now and that of the 16th century. Then, England faced a trade embargo intended to force it back into the Catholic fold and traded with those that were willing to trade with us. Now, we are of our own accord leaving an economic union that is of huge benefit to us in favour of international isolation, and against a backdrop of 70 years of peace, Tory politicians have been threatening war to a supposed ally, a war which will isolate us from the rest of Europe, which is likely to take Spain’s side, which will not be quick, whichever side wins, and will have huge ramifications for global trade, including ours (it will cut access to the Suez Canal from the Atlantic for the duration, for example). We cannot compare past adventures that were the product of necessity with the folly of Brexit and its consequences.

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Towards a Social Justice Platform

Muslim Matters - 3 April, 2017 - 17:00

There must always be a remedy for wrong and injustice if we only know how to find it.  Ida B. Wells Journalist, suffragette,  and anti-lynching activist   (1862-1931)

Tariq ibn Shihab reported: A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, “What is the best sacred struggle (jihad)?” The Prophet said, “A word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler ” (Musnad Aḥmad 18449).

Celebrating Malcolm

We celebrate figures like Malcolm X  who spoke truth to power. Award winning journalist and author, Ta-Nehisi Coates  discusses Malcolm X’s honesty in Between the World and Me (2015). A month before his assassination on New Year’s eve 1964, Malcolm X gave a speech to a delegation of  thirty-seven teenagers from McComb, Mississippi. They had come to New York City on a trip sponsored by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Malcolm X offered these words to the youth who were at the heart of Civil Rights struggle:

One of the first things I think young people, especially nowadays, should learn is how to see for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself.

You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.

I am neither a fanatic nor a dreamer. I am a Black man who loves peace and justice and loves his people.

Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression.

We have to keep in mind at all times that we are not fighting for integration, nor are we fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition as free humans in this society….

This speech,  now known as the “Advice to the Youth of Mississippi” still speaks to us today. It especially resonates for Muslim Americans who have been marginalized out of civic life.  Muslim American scholars, devotional leaders, and  civil society leaders all wrestle with the question: What is Justice?  When we are speaking about injustice, we must think about what does justice look like. Striving This is important to think about as we are encouraged to enjoin  what is established right in the verse revealed in the Qur’an:

Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded. (Qur’an 16:90)

Another verse states:

And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful. (Quran 3:104)

In Forbidding the Wrong (2003), Michael Cook highlights how even quietist Abu Hanifa (699 — 767 CE) could not deny the political implications during the Umayyad dynasty of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong (pg. 10). 1400 years later, faith leader Reverend Dr. William J. Barber III calls for a Moral Revival for justice, social change, and movement building . In multifaith organizing, faith leaders bring their deep moral values to bear as they seek to build a multiracial multifaith community. As a faith community, what do Muslims propose to counter the policies and legislation that cause so much suffering?  Many of us have focused on countering dominant narratives and stereotypes by reclaiming our narratives. We counter the collateral damage of domestic and foreign policy with humanitarian aid. But institutionalized Islamophobia has attempted to undermine our attempts at authentic engagement in civil society.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X meet March 26, 1964

Like Ida B. Wells a century ago, Muslims American thought leaders are writing about our most enduring social problems. Before the presidential election the  US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) convened to discuss a Muslim platform, leading to a deep discourse amongst Muslimmatters writers. Another important development is that Muslim Americans are beginning to build power through organizing. Mohammad Khan of MPower Change kickstarted an important conversation in the lead up to the election. A group of us, including  Faatimah Knight, Imam Bilal Ansari, Linda Sarsour, Sheikh Hasib Noor, Layla Abdullah-Poulos, Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, and Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, continued that conversation through email and a shared document.  To help facilitate the process of consensus, I reached out to prominent scholars and leaders to give feedback on the principles using a survey form. It was a truly a collaborative and exciting experience to bring together our mutually agreed upon ideas about what does justice look like. This was especially important, as Muslim Americans are asserting their political will. We are endorsing legislation, running for office, and backing candidates.Together, we developed the following principles as a starting point for articulating Muslim faith inspired social justice principles in how we vote and what groups we align with, based upon shared vision as a community:

We are a people who vote according to our values and principles and draw the strength of our convictions from an Unlimited Source not determined by party affiliation or partisan politics. We are a people who believe that every resident of the United States of America deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and live in their full humanity and dignity. We stand up for truth in the continuum of the struggle in the spirit and legacy of those who came before us. We strive to empower the powerless through allyship and organizing to establish justice with balance.  Utilizing the tools of civil society and participatory democracy to promote public welfare and the general well being of society, we will advocate legislation and representatives who will advance our society in a moral order.

Our Platform

Our platform is Constitutional, consistent with our values as Muslim Americans, promotes the economic well-being of all residents, and works towards the sustainability of our society for generations to come. Drawing our Faith and Constitutional values, we aim to promote these values:

  •  Establishing Justice and Balance

    Truly establishing justice and equality for all, by addressing the inequalities in the criminal system that disproportionately affect black, brown, indigenous and poor white people. We will advocate for the decriminalization of mental illness, substance disorders, and homelessness. We will advocate for fostering and supporting non-carceral solutions that have shown to be effective, such as restorative justice and other forms of intervention that are lead by community members rather than law enforcement. We will advocate for increased substance abuse and mental health services, gun control to reduce the proliferation of guns and violence, and the overall decriminalization of poor communities and communities of color.

  •  Safeguarding the Sanctity of Life

    We respect the inviolability of life, that healthcare is a fundamental human right,importance of the preserving the quality of life, and uphold:

    • That health is the state of physical, mental, and social well-being, not only absence of illness and disease. That every person has the right to healthcare that is easily accessible, affordable and respects their dignity. All residents have a right to equal access to health care in a universal, transparent, and equitable healthcare system that allows residents to buy into the Affordable Care Act exchanges, regardless of immigration status.  
    • That we must rectify the social, environmental, and economic conditions that lead to health disparities among marginalized groups
    • That we must preserve and promote women’s health and children’s healthcare so that they may reach their full health and fundamental potential
    • That we must address unjust foreign policies that undermine our moral standing as a Nation due to warmongering
    • That we must address domestic issues such as militarization of our police force and use of deadly force against communities of color, poor people, and the mentally ill.
  • Protecting Freedom of Conscience and Religion

    We are committed to freedom religion and conscience for all and the ending of religious bigotry and policies that discriminate against or target people for their perceived religion or ethnic identity. We support drafting legislation that ends racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials and the censuring of legislators who build their political platforms on anti-Muslim bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. We respect voting rights, women’s rights, labor rights, immigrant rights and the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law.

  • Fostering Intellectual Development

    We nurture individual intellectual and cultural development and the acquiring of meaningful trade skills through educational opportunities. We advocate for early childhood education beginning and equal access to quality K-12 public school and removing economic barriers to higher education by securing equitable funding. We advocate for opportunity and affordable college education and are against predatory lending practices that put millions of students in debt. We recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion as well as a culturally-relevant approach to learning that appreciates the multiple perspectives.

  • Promoting Economic Justice and Equity

    We endorse economic initiatives that aim to build an economy that works for all people. We advocate for living wages and value the protection of workers from exploitation and the loss of their rights. We support fair housing and connect homeownership to opportunity; such as mortgage interest to offered by private entities as equity partners and promote economic development in low-income areas. We appreciate the importance of establishing the fair redistribution of wealth with equitable tax codes that do not favor the wealthy over the poor. We encourage fair and equitable international trade agreements that reflect these values outside the US as well.

  • Sustaining the Environment and Maintaining the Rights of Posterity

     We encourage working towards environmental and climate justice at the intersections of environmental degradation and the racial, economic and social inequities it perpetuates. We support community-led solutions led by Indigenous People and the poor who are most adversely affected by environmental crisis. We demand that our government abides by its treaties with sovereign Nations/Native Americans, to protect their land and water rights. We champion the implementation and extension of smart pollution and efficiency standards and investing in clean energy, infrastructure and innovation. We support environmental safety through responsible energy production. With our interconnected world, our environmental justice and climate justice at home and abroad. We advocate for abiding by and establishing international protections for the environment and vulnerable populations

What is our vision for a multifaith multiracial society? In a 2015 training, Rami Nashishibi and Shemar Hemphill of  Inner City Action Muslim Network (IMAN) asked us to envision a world that could be. In many ways, these policy principles try to move us to creating a world we want to see. Some people may feel that these principles are not radical enough. Others, are concerned that the principles may create openings for alignment with communities who do not share Islamic moral values. We have to struggle to articulate who we are as a community, our shared definition of self, our foundational faith values, that we bring to the table in uplifting all people.

We must be part of the remedy to our society’s most enduring problems and we can find it in our collective visioning. I invite others to join in this important conversation and become part of the solution.


Met police investigating Muslim man's wrongful arrest over terrorism

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 April, 2017 - 16:39

Innocent youth worker calls on force to apologise after he was detained at Luton airport on way to family holiday in Turkey

The Metropolitan police are investigating how an innocent Muslim youth worker was wrongly arrested and detained on suspicion of terrorist activity while on his way to a family holiday in Turkey.

The 35-year-old man from Luton, who has asked not to be named in order to protect his five young children aged between nine months and 11 years, has called on the Met to apologise for their actions.

Related: UK counter-terrorism strategy back in focus after London attack

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The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain by Sayeeda Warsi – review

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 April, 2017 - 09:00

The first Muslim woman in the cabinet offers a unique perspective on British multiculturalism

In 2014, I was approached by a respectable source with close ties to the government, with what seemed a sensational story. He claimed a member of the cabinet was an undercover fundamentalist, secretly co-opted by Muslim extremists to penetrate the heart of government. Her name was Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. It didn’t take much investigating to establish that the claim had no basis in fact, and would have been laughable if it wasn’t so serious. But the episode left me fascinated; not by anything Warsi had said or done, but by how she managed to come by such determined enemies.

Warsi’s new book, The Enemy Within, provides an answer of sorts. Here, the former Foreign Office minister – the first ever Muslim woman to hold a cabinet position in the UK – reveals her unique perspective: as a British Muslim of Pakistani heritage, intimately connected to her faith and her community, and part of a government whose domestic and foreign policies were accused of alienating Muslims.

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Barcelona, Tom Brady and the Future of the Muslims

Muslim Matters - 3 April, 2017 - 06:19

The players fell to their knees. The fans jeered. The press and everyone else laughed. The mighty Barcelona Football club had just been totally and utterly humiliated by Paris St Germain 4-0 in the first leg of their Champions League knockout match.

The defeat in the first leg (or play-off for our North American readers) was all the more excruciating because Barcelona were used to dishing out beatings like this on other teams, never actually getting a taste of their own medicine. This was a club that had a proud history of winning championships and winning them in style. This was a team of World Cup winners like Iniesta and superstars like Messi and Neymar Jr. All these players were obviously past their prime.

They were supposed to hide their faces out of humiliation. They were supposed to quietly slink away into the trashcan of history. They were supposed to give up.

It seems someone forgot to send the Barcelona team the memo.

Instead, Barcelona trained hard and talked about their “strategy” for defeating Paris St. Germain in the next match. They would score 5 goals to win the next match and go into the next round.

Crazy talk.

Journalists rolled their eyes. In the history of the Champions league, no one had ever reversed a 4-0 deficit. For our North American readers, it would be like being down 25 points midway through the 3rd quarter of the Super Bowl and talking about how you were going to win.

Like I said – crazy talk.

But Barcelona were not being crazy. They were being deadly serious. They were planning, preparing and training not just to make the final score a little more honourable in defeat. A 4-2 or 5-3 loss would not be so bad, but they had no intention of being heroic failures. They were in it to win it.

The match started and it started happening. Goal! Barcelona was ahead. A few minutes later another goal scored by Barcelona. People were getting interested. Then Barcelona scored a 3rd goal. 4-3. Wow, they were serious. People couldn’t believe it. They started calling their friends. “Are you watching this???” Social media started lighting up like firecrackers on Chinese New Years. #Barca started trending worldwide.

Then it all fell apart.

Just as hope was rising up and people were starting to think that the impossible was possible, Paris St Germain scored an away goal. The dream was over. It was time to wake up. Everyone slumped like Floyd Mayweather just punched them in the gut.

Everyone except the 11 men on the pitch wearing the Barcelona shirt.

They picked themselves up and just kept going as if nothing happened. In fact, Barcelona had planned for this. When Luis Enrique (their coach) said that their deceptively simple strategy for the match was to score 5 goals, an incredulous reporter asked what Barcelona would do if Paris scored too.

His reply? We’ll score 6 goals.

And with 10 minutes to go, that is exactly what they did. Barcelona had gone from 4-0 down to 5-3 down to somehow score 3 goals in 10 minutes including the winner in the very last few seconds. They had achieved the impossible.

It is easy to see what this has to do with Tom Brady and his New England Patriots. Their heroics in the last Super Bowl were just awe-inspiring even to people like me who don’t get American football.

But what has this got to do with the future of the Muslims?

Today the Muslim world finds itself in the same situation as Barcelona found itself in when they were 4-0 down or the Patriots were 24 points down. We find ourselves the owners of a proud legacy and past glories, but these count for little in the present. We find ourselves with a hugely talented team, but unable to make them work together in any coherent manner. We find ourselves not being given a snowballs chance in hell by any pundit or commentator. We find ourselves totally, utterly and humiliatingly defeated.

Worst of all, we find ourselves without hope.

And like Barcelona or the Patriots, we find ourselves with a choice.

Are we going to give up, walk away, complain and make excuses? Or are we going to pick ourselves up, work harder than we have ever done before and come together as a team?

Are we going to educate ourselves so that we can lead a new golden age of discovery and invention? Are we going to reform our systems so that we can be models of good governance rather than bywords for corruption and nepotism? Are we going to remove the cancers of racism, sexism, hyper-nationalism and sectarianism so that we can go back to being a net positive on the world? Are we going to prevent oppression and violence against others and ourselves without resorting to either?

Most importantly, are we going to believe in our hearts that we will rise again from our current depths while remaining true to our faith?

This isn’t just about having hope or being positive. It is about changing the narrative from fear, persecution and hopelessness to one of success.

In essence, do we believe that we can win 5-4?

The fate of the world depends on what we do next.

Game on.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali cancels Australian tour citing security concerns

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 April, 2017 - 01:44

Spokeswoman for event organiser expresses disappointment at decision: ‘We’re a little bit crushed’

The controversial speaker and vocal critic of Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali has cancelled her speaking tour of Australia “at the last minute” citing security concerns.

The news of Hirsi Ali’s cancellation was publicised on Twitter by the ABC’s Q&A, on which she was due to be a panellist on Monday night.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali cancelled her tour to Australia at the last minute and will not be appearing on tonight's #qanda. #staytuned

Related: Ayaan Hirsi Ali: freedom fighter or just a help for Hanson? | Gay Alcorn

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali: freedom fighter or just a help for Hanson? | Gay Alcorn

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 April, 2017 - 21:09

Interview: The author condemns radical Islam – and accuses liberals and the left of helping it flourish. Her critics say her views are simplistic and straight out of the One Nation playbook

• Ayaan Hirsi Ali cancels Australian tour citing security concerns

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has visited Australia at least five times as far as she can remember. But this time, her lecture tour starting this week to discuss the dangers of what she calls radical Islam, or political Islam, is receiving far more scrutiny. A group of prominent Muslim women, from playwrights to human rights campaigners, from conservative Muslims to the most progressive, don’t want this tour to proceed unchallenged.

They have organised a petition expressing their “utmost disappointment” that Hirsi Ali was invited by Think Inc to Australia, due to what they say is the “hatemongering and bigotry” she espouses. Her views, they argue, serve to “increase hostility and hatred towards Muslims”, and ignore the day-to-day work of many to improve social cohesion and to champion women’s rights within their faith.

I see radical Islam as an ideology that is hostile to individual freedom

Related: The Islamic Enlightenment by Christopher de Bellaigue – review

There is no clash between western democracy and Islam, and Muslim women do not need to be liberated from their Islam

Related: The 712-page Google doc that proves Muslims do condemn terrorism

Related: Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali – review

The lack of nuance that Ayaan showed in the first 10 or 15 years she is now struggling to overcome

Related: Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Q&A: the west must stop seeing Muslims only as victims

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As a Muslim woman, I'm expected to detest Jacqui Lambie. I don't | Yusra Metwally

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 April, 2017 - 21:00

Despite her misinformed views on Islam, the senator’s strong stance on social issues is commendable. Parliament needs her

She can be thoughtless, xenophobic and illogical. Due to the inflammatory and unfiltered views she expresses against Islam and “sharia law”, as a Muslim woman, I am expected to detest Jacqui Lambie.

Notwithstanding her strong opposition to my faith, however, I have few malevolent feelings towards Jacqui Lambie. Like many Australians, I found Lambie’s misinformed views towards Islam frustrating. I then progressed to finding her failure to define sharia law on ABC’s Insiders program quite laughable and her paranoia in relation to the use of suicide agents infected by Ebola absurd. But dare I say, I now have a soft spot for Lambie on a personal level.

Related: We can't just talk about growth. Equity needs a look-in, too | Katharine Murphy

Related: Too many veterans take their own lives. People who defended Australia deserve better | Van Badham

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A Walk Around Westminster After The Attack

Inayat's Corner - 2 April, 2017 - 20:50


After completing some upgrades of networking kit earlier today, I went for a walk around Westminster. I wanted to see what effect the terrorist attack eleven days ago had had on the area.

I saw additional bollard-type barriers on the pavement on Westminster Bridge which I don’t recall seeing previously. Presumably these were added almost immediately after the attack on the pedestrians on the Bridge that tragic day.

However, as can be seen from the pics above, the Bridge was thankfully just as busy as ever with tourists and visitors. If it wasn’t for the flowers and bouquets you would never know that this was the scene of a horrific attack less than two weeks ago.

It was lovely to see that normality had returned. There were many hijabis in the area – just as you would expect in an incredibly diverse city and tourist-magnet such as London.

I did get into a discussion with a Moroccan guy who gave his name as “Anis” who said that the UK’s democracy was fake. He said he knew someone close to him who was in Belmarsh prison without charge for a number of years now and had developed serious mental health issues as a result. Over a decade ago, the Blair government did introduce what was in effect indefinite detention without trial for those non-British nationals who were suspected of involvement in terrorism. It was an incredibly draconian and illiberal piece of legislation which has now been replaced by TPIMs. I told him that the UK had many failings – and the fact that Blair and his shameless cheerleaders in the UK press had not paid a price for the travesty that was the Iraq invasion was clearly high on that list – it was still a wonderful place to live. It is true that recent months have seen a rise in tensions as far right elements seek to exploit the nasty anti-immigrant and racist sentiment that accompanied the Brexit vote, but this remains a strongly functioning liberal democracy and that should be a cause for hope, not despondency.

Whatever happened in the San Serriffendum? | Brief letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 April, 2017 - 19:10
Aung San Suu Kyi | HSBC’s gender neutral titles | Classifying exercise | Bristol University | April Fools’ Day

Aung San, father of Suu Kyi, recognised the divergent aspirations of the Shans, Mons, Karens, Chins, Burmans and a myriad of other national groups, including those like the Muslim Rohingyas who arrived and settled more recently (Report, 31 March). Independence from British rule was not just that, it was a challenge to form an inclusive Burmese identity not dominated by the majority Buddhist Burmans. Aung San Suu Kyi has never shown an understanding of the need to channel the contested idea of Myanmar identity into a constructive force. Instead, her view of Myanmar politics has been shaped by a single-minded focus on replacing the military rulers by elected rulers.
SP Chakravarty
Bangor, Gwynedd

• Why the retrograde step (HSBC to offer customers choice of gender-neutral titles, 31 March)? My current bank cards from HSBC carry no title, nor do letters in the Guardian. Unless it truly is optional, of course, and people wish to use such titles. Just please don’t say “the computer needs it”. I changed one bank account after it refused to accept creation of an account without a title.
Hilary Grime

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What sort of judge weighs the victim and not the crime? | Catherine Bennett

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 April, 2017 - 00:05
Men who inflict terrible violence on their partners are walking free from courts that treat their crimes lightly

Following the proliferation of sharia councils, and with them, disturbing reports of systematic discrimination against women by all-male tribunals, the government finally set up an inquiry.

A deeply compromised inquiry, admittedly; one with feeble terms of reference and presided over by interested theological parties, but still, a public acknowledgement that some sharia councils may be working, as the government said, in a “discriminatory and unacceptable” way.

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On the problem of proving hate

Indigo Jo Blogs - 1 April, 2017 - 17:15

A picture of Bijan EbrahimiYesterday I saw a post on the Disability Hate Crime Network group on Facebook about a crime in which a ‘vulnerable’ man was kept captive and tortured for more than a week by a gang of six males and one female who falsely accused him of being a paedophile. Last month all pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and occasioning grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent and were sentenced to between 10 and 13 years each (one of the males, a juvenile, received four years’ detention). The ringleader, Stephanie Titley, had offered the victim, who is still alive and cannot be named, a place to stay but became abusive when rumours were spread that he was a paedophile; the gang punched and kicked him, used knives and a machete and burned him with cigarettes, leaving him with a broken jaw and ribs. The Facebook post by Stephen Brookes notes that recorded evidence suggests that the gang were motivated not by hatred towards a real or perceived disability but by the false belief that the victim had engaged in sexual acts with children, thus it did not fit the definition of a disability hate crime. To me, this strengthens my view that proof of hate towards disability should not be required in cases of violence towards a disabled person, especially a person with a learning disability.

The press reports describe the man as ‘vulnerable’ and he has not been named; the latter is not usual in cases of people accused of sex crimes (which he formally was not, but rumours were spread to that effect), so the assumption is that he had learning difficulties. False accusations of such crimes are a common feature of violence against people with learning disabilities (as in the case of Bijan Ebrahimi, pictured, from 2013), even though false accusations of rape generally are quite rare. Why? I suspect the reason is that people associate ‘weirdness’ with ‘perverts’: we commonly refer to them as weirdos, and we tell children to be careful when outside (or keep them inside) because of “all the weirdos out there”. At the same time, people with learning difficulties also often exhibit ‘weird’ behaviour such as talking to themselves (which is quite often a nervous habit linked to past bullying) and may dress unfashionably and have such habits as carrying their belongings in a carrier bag rather than a ‘proper’ rucksack or sports bag. So, it’s easy for people to believe that someone with ‘weird’ habits is the type of weirdo that might molest a child, especially if he had been seen talking to a child he wasn’t related to, or had annoyed a woman (on purpose or otherwise).

When I was at boarding school, there was a boy in my form who was bullied for the whole time he was there, chiefly because he was fat. Towards the end, because of this and other problems (such as with his family), he took to drink and was a nightmare to live with, but was expelled for attacking a female former teacher (not sexually). Years later, I heard that the boy had spent time in prison, and another old boy I spoke to said that he was a “disgusting little boy” and as for his time in prison, he had “probably raped somebody”. Yet I didn’t believe he would have done something like that, and wasn’t convinced he was capable of overpowering an adult for that purpose. The logic ran, “he was a shit, rapists are shits, therefore he was probably a rapist”. This is the same sort of logic that would convince a group of ruffians that a ‘weird’ man who was ‘a bit slow’ might also be a child molester the moment someone even suggested it.

Of course, the majority of rapists and child-molesters are not weirdos in ill-fitting clothes; they are often respectable or admired people such as clergymen, teachers, pop stars, TV presenters and so on, or members of their victim’s family, but this does not occur to a lot of people. While it appears that the recordings of these thugs indicated that they were motivated more by the belief that he had molested a child than by his impairment, I would like to know if they contained any indication of awareness of his impairment — references to him being a “bit slow” or derogatory versions of the same, for example. As I have said in response to previous disability hate crimes, I believe that it should not be necessary to prove outright hostility to someone on disability grounds to aggravate assaults on disabled people into hate crimes, or crimes “aggravated by disability”; the culprits should have to be only aware of it, and there be no personal insult or grudge involved. This way, when a group of people abuse someone who is disabled because they thought the absolute worst of them because they acted weird, it would attract suitable punishment from the law.

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Boko Haram kidnaps 22 girls and women in north-east Nigeria

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 April, 2017 - 02:16

Attackers loyal to faction headed by Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, son of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf

Boko Haram Islamists have abducted 22 girls and women in two separate raids in north-east Nigeria, residents and vigilantes said.

In the first attack on Thursday, the jihadists raided the village of Pulka near the border with Cameroon where they kidnapped 18 girls.

Related: Nigeria: Chibok families reunited with 21 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram

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