Decades of spying and repression: the anti-Palestinian origins of American Islamophobia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 May, 2024 - 13:00

It’s often assumed that Islamophobia is the driving force behind US anti-Palestinian bigotry. In fact, it’s the other way around

One evening last Thanksgiving weekend, three 20-year-old Palestinian college students were strolling around Burlington, Vermont, when they were suddenly gunned down by a stranger. One of the victims, Hisham Awartani, is now paralyzed from the waist down. Since they were wearing keffiyehs and speaking Arabic and English, speculation ran high that the young men had been victims of an Islamophobic attack.

The BBC noted that the attack “comes as the US deals with a surge in Islamophobia and antisemitism since the start of the Israel-Gaza war”. Vermont’s Middlebury College described the shooting as evidence of “a marked increase in Islamophobic acts on American campuses and beyond”. A White House statement mentioned how “far too many people live with the fear that they could be targeted and attacked based on their beliefs or who they are”.

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Iran President Ebrahim Raisi’s Controversial Career Ends In A Helicopter Crash

Muslim Matters - 22 May, 2024 - 00:53

Ibrahim Moiz

Iran has suffered a serious shock after an air crash killed its ruler Ebrahim Raisi and foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the highest-ranked Iranian leaders killed in decades. The crash, which occurred on a return trip from Azerbaijan, has forced Raisi`s second-in-command Mohammad Mokhber to replace him and prepare for a snap election. It marks the end of a tumultuous but energetic reign in which Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian sought to strengthen Iran`s ties with surrounding governments while maintaining a hostile posture toward Israel and the United States.

A Series of Unfortunate Events Former Iran President Ebrahim Raisi and the site of the helicopter crash.

Former Iran President Ebrahim Raisi and the site of the helicopter crash.

While shock deaths of political leaders, often via air crashes, were quite common through the twentieth century, revolutionary Iran has had more than its fair share. The year 1981, as the first Gulf war with Iraq was heating up, was particularly eventful with three consecutive months of senior deaths: in July defence minister Mostafa Chamran was killed in battle; in August president Ali Rajai and Javad Bahonar, who held the subsequently-scrapped prime minister’s post, were both assassinated allegedly by the dissident Mojahedin-e Khalgh organization; and in September an air crash killed leading military leaders – including defence minister Moussa Namjou, military commander Valiollah Falahi, airforce commander Javad Fakouri, and notable field commanders Youssef Kolahdoz and Ali Jahan-Ara.

Years after the war, army commander Sayad Shirazi was assassinated in 1999, and in early 2006 Ahmad Kazemi – founder and commander of Iran`s praetorian “Revolutionary Guard Corps” – was killed in a plane crash.

Perhaps the best-known case in recent years, of course, was the assassination by the United States of Ghassem Soleimani, the praetorian regional commander whose influence spanned, and directed Iranian policy toward, the entire region.

Raisi: a Long and Controversial Career

A senior magistrate before his long-expected victory at the 2021 election, Seyed Ebrahim Raisol-Sadati Raisi (2021-24) had been a controversial figure in Iranian politics. Born to a clerical family from the noted Shia city Mashhad, he studied law, but his exact clerical qualifications were always murky and a source of repeated conjecture. After the 1979 Iranian revolution brought in a hybrid regime – an officially democratic state far more inclusive than its monarchic predecessor, yet with enormous power invested in the clerical establishment – Raisi served as a prosecutor at several cities in turn.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian Foreign Minister, who also died in the crash.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian Foreign Minister, who also died in the crash.

With the revolutionary fervour of the day inflamed further by war and its rigours, Iran`s regime assumed an emergency posture and relied inordinately on several “hanging judges” to try suspected traitors, who were accused of waging war against Allah because they undermined the “Islamic revolution”. Raisi was one of these judges, and distinguished himself with his ferocity in prosecuting opponents of the revolution, a characteristic that brought him favour with Iran`s clerical leader Rohollah Khomenei.

The 1980s Gulf war ended in summer 1988 after one final surge from the exiled Mojahedin-e-Khalgh group backed by Iraq. In its aftermath, the Iranian regime set about purging thousands of opponents, with mass executions of several thousand political prisoners across the land. These provoked the disgust of Khomenei`s heir-apparent Hossein Montazeri, who accused Raisi and a handful of other magistrates as having played a key role. Having been at Khomenei`s right hand for a decade, Montazeri resigned and was replaced with military specialist Ali Khamenei, who then went on to succeed Khomenei a few months later and has remained the eminence grise of Iran`s regime since.

A Regional Shift

Hassan Rouhani, who defeated Ebrahimi in 2017.

Over the years Raisi climbed the Iranian judicial ladder, eventually rising to its apex court and becoming first prosecutor-general and then chief justice. In the 2017 election he challenged, and lost to, incumbent Hassan Rouhani (2013-21), another military cleric who had been attempting to secure Iranian interests by a rapprochement with the United States. Khamenei and Raisi, for their part, believed that such a reconciliation would backfire. Their views hardened when American ruler Donald Trump scrapped the 2015 Vienna Accord over Iranian nuclear facilities that Rouhani had stitched together.

American and European observers often characterize Iranian politics as split between “moderates” open to rapprochement with the “West”, and “hardliners” who oppose it. This is a severe oversimplification: even the consummate “hardliner” Khamenei, for instance, was not averse to tacitly helping the United States when he felt it served Iranian interests, such as the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iran`s old enemy Iraq in 2003. A frequently labelled “hardliner”, Rouhani`s populist predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13), would go on to castigate the 2021 election that Raisi won. Indeed, Raisi won that election against another oft-identified “hardliner”, the praetorian corps` founder Mohsen Rezai.

What distinguished Raisi`s subsequent regime from other “hardliners” such as Rezai was its focus on rapprochement with Iran`s neighbours: where Soleimani and Rezai had opted to aggressively confront countries such as Tehran`s archrival Saudi Arabia, Iran under Raisi`s rule made diplomatic outreaches to these countries. In cases such as the Taliban regime, which swept to power in Afghanistan at the same point as Raisi in late summer 2021, historical frictions were contained. China helped broker a developing reconciliation with Saudi Arabia, with the hope of weaning Riyadh off its traditional American dependency.

Key to these efforts was the clever foreign minister and career diplomat Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Like preceding diplomats, he had the cushion of Iran`s various militias in the region to exercise as leverage, but unlike them he maintained officially correct cordial links with surrounding regimes, often covering or containing otherwise traditionally provocative actions.

As a result, Iranian diplomacy was far more effective than it had been in the late 2010s. While Tehran maintained a hostile position toward Israel and the United States, Amir-Abdollahian was careful not to bite off more than he could chew: thus when Israel, seeking to escalate its genocide on Palestine into a regional war, attacked the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Amir-Abdollahian carefully choreographed Tehran`s military response to make a point rather than take the bait.

Now What?

With Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian`s deaths, the presidency moves in an interim capacity to Mokhber until the snap election. The fact that much of the Iranian state apparatus answers, directly or otherwise, to Khamenei means that Raisi`s removal does not necessarily entail a shift in the substance of Iranian policy. The pathway to how Tehran attempts to realize its aims, however, might indeed change – which might make neighbouring regimes quite nervous.

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Navigating Healthcare In The US: A Muslim’s Guide To Advocacy

Muslim Matters - 21 May, 2024 - 09:14

My sister died from healthcare negligence. Here’s what I learned.

My sister had died due to negligence in a hospital in the US. In her full niqab and while pregnant, my sister was neglected in several ways that led to the loss of both her and her child. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

She was only recently married and we were all excited, days away from seeing our family’s first grandchild. However, despite her cheerful nature, beautiful personality, high education, and abundant generosity, she endured several negligent care provider decisions that led to the death of her and her unborn child. Decisions that could have been easily avoided.

The tragedy of losing my sister was mired by the discrimination that our family felt. Her death and the loss of her unborn child marked one of the most difficult periods of my life and sent me on my own difficult journey in my youth. My experience in non-Muslim environments where Islamophobia can brim just beneath the surface, has taught me valuable lessons on how to navigate the healthcare systems of the West and call for proactive advocacy for Muslims. I hope the following points help anyone fearing such discrimination.

Understanding the Challenge

For many Muslims, the healthcare environment can be fraught with the potential for bias, misunderstanding, and discrimination. Whether it’s due to visible symbols of faith like the hijab or niqab, or simply the cultural nuances that accompany our interactions, the impact on the quality of care and the dignity afforded to us can be profound. It’s essential that we, as a community, understand how to advocate effectively for ourselves and our loved ones, maintaining our moral agency and ensuring our rights are respected, especially during critical times of emergencies.

Here are some expanded strategies to help our communities step confidently into these often intimidating settings, ensuring that we can advocate for ourselves and our families effectively, and overcome biases.

  1. Ask the Right Questions

Engage actively with healthcare providers by asking detailed and far-reaching questions about treatments, preventative measures, and all possible outcomes. This not only demonstrates that you are intelligent and involved in the care process, but also establishes a precedent of accountability. Your questions should be persistent yet respectful, showcasing a professionalism that demands attention but also respects the expertise of the staff so as not to alienate them further.

  1. Learn to Speak Legalese

It’s crucial to convey an understanding of the legal implications of healthcare decisions.

Remember that Muslims navigate the world with Taqwa. We fear Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), while a non-Muslim typically fears liability. Healthcare professionals generally operate within a framework of liability; showing that you are knowledgeable about legal consequences can ensure more meticulous attention to the care provided. Familiarize yourself with relevant healthcare laws and patient rights. Do not hesitate to mention that you are documenting interactions and care processes, as this can often prompt more diligent responses.

  1. Smile, it’s Sunnah!

Maintain a positive demeanor! A smile can be a powerful social signal in disarming potentially defensive or biased healthcare staff. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminded us of the virtues of smiling, and patience in challenging circumstances. Use kindness and a positive demeanor as your driving energy in your interactions. This approach does not diminish the seriousness with which you treat the care of your loved ones; rather, it opens channels for more humane and considerate interaction.

  1. Know Provider Biases

Oftentimes, care providers demonstrate biases that are arguably rampant in the West where exorbitant educational loans required to attain medical degrees can lead to slanted decisions that are financially beneficial for doctors and hospitals, but may not necessarily prioritize or encompass patient needs.

Navigating healthcare

Navigating healthcare [PC: Towfiqu Barbhuiya (unsplash)]

For instance, more typically, a patient may require only simple preventative care and advice, whereas in the fee-for-service and value-based care models, patients can receive unneeded prescriptions and services that aren’t necessarily harmful, but at least maximize hospital revenue. In another example, in specialized care units, empty patient beds do not guarantee hospital income—meaning doctors and hospital administrators may decide to keep a patient in their care, to try their best, deciding to not transfer a patient to a better-equipped hospital where more crucial care instruments may be available to maximize care.

  1. Seek out Advocates

Patient advocacy networks are usually in place to help patients in decision-making.

Many hospitals offer Patient Advocacy services. Engaging with these advocates can provide an additional layer of support and oversight, particularly useful in navigating complex and stressful situations. Ask information desks about patient advocacy services and the role of patient advocates in assisting with navigating the healthcare system, including how to find advocates who are sensitive to or share the patient’s cultural and religious concerns.

It doesn’t hurt to get acquainted with hospital administrators either. Ask information desks about escalation pathways, what the accepted channels are, and how to reach administrators, especially in crucial emergency and intensive care matters.

  1. Tap into Local Community Support Systems

Leverage the support of local Muslim communities and religious organizations which often have resources and experience in dealing with similar situations. They can provide both emotional support and practical advice. Community leaders typically have contact with lawyers, doctors, and other impactful members who can give advice or further aid you in your critical situation. Hospitals also can have Muslim Chaplain services that can further your advocacy needs. In a robust and diverse Muslim community, no one must suffer their crises alone.

Remember that as famously generous as Muslims are in charitable causes, they too can be generous to individual community members, even if you have little reach or acquaintance with leaders or members. Feel free to contact an Imam with regard to your situation; you never know what help or solutions can come about. You can also look for legal support in dire situations from Muslim Advocacy Law Groups such as the Council for American Islamic Relations.


In conclusion, while the challenges are real and sometimes daunting, there is much that can be done to ensure that as Muslims, our interactions with the healthcare system are dignified, respectful, and just. By employing strategic advocacy, building robust support networks, and maintaining our composure and kindness, we can protect our rights and those of our loved ones effectively. In doing so, we uphold not only our individual dignity but also contribute to the broader struggle for fair and just healthcare.

InshaAllah, this guide serves as a beacon, empowering you to navigate these turbulent waters with confidence and faith. May it help you, and anyone else who might find themselves in similar circumstances. Ameen.

[Legal Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. The content in this article does not purport to offer legal or medical advice. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in this article. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.]



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