Three Musts for Every Muslim College Student This Year

Muslim Matters - 4 August, 2015 - 12:52

By Meena Malik

A young Muslim graduates high school and goes off to college, and then discovers that she is indeed a Muslim and begins practicing Islam through self-motivation. Sound familiar? Did it happen to you? Well, it sure happened to me.

There's just a slight catch-22 that us newly-caring Muslims might face though—we benefit from having been raised in a Muslim family, but simultaneously feel as if we are fresh converts to Islam in some aspects of our faith. We might remember how to properly make wudu from Sunday School, but maybe forgot or never learned how to read Arabic. We might be familiar with what the Qur'an teaches about Prophet Jesus peace be upon him, but maybe never learned about mahram family relationships. Other than just plain ignorance of certain issues, we might also have years of misunderstandings and misconceptions of Islam that we learned from a young age to overcome as well.


At the time when I was experiencing this myself, I looked at the converts around me and found so much respect for them. I thought, they probably know how to pray better than I do, or look at how much time and effort they are putting into learning how to read Arabic, or wow, they are reading so many books about Islam. And then I decided—it's time that Muslims who go through an awakening and want to start practicing Islam welcome that kind of learning spirit and dedicated effort in their own lives.

Here is my advice on three things for young Muslims who find themselves in this situation to do over the next school year. The following three pieces of advice are great things to work on while you have a lot of free time, flexibility of planning your schedule, and have a group of Muslim students around you.

1. Relearn your daily prayers.

Many of us learned how to pray at a young age, and maybe we forgot how to do some of it, were taught incorrectly, or were not taught about prayer with all of its complexities. salah is a pillar of Islam and is one of the most vital acts of worship for believers. Pretend like you never learned how to pray, and completely relearn how to pray. Take a class or read a book about how to pray and all the rulings associated with different scenarios that can happen during prayer. Utilize local scholars, and also take advantage of the group dynamic you have in the MSA. Ask a brother or sister to help you, even if it is just testing you on one du'a related to prayer a week for the entire semester. I know, this sounds way too simple—but this is too important to skim over and ignore. By the end of your praying re-education, you should be able to correctly perform prayer without any doubt that it is one hundred percent legitimate.

2. Thoroughly Revise all of the Qur'an You Memorized as a Kid

How many of us learned how to rattle off surahs as kids to our parents or Qur'an teachers? It is so vital for us to thoroughly revise all of the Qur'an that we have memorized as kids, to make sure that we have memorized it correctly and recite it correctly. It is very likely that we have forgotten surahs that we knew as kids. How many of us memorized the last juz of the Qur'an, but now can't recite it fifteen years later? The Qur'an has a right over us, and we will be asked about all of the Qur'an we have forgotten. (Let's just hope you're not a hafidth, otherwise this will take ages!) You are so blessed to be around other Muslim students who probably also have a lot of time on their hands. Find a buddy or two and schedule your free time for memorizing together or testing one another.

3. Improve Your Ability to Read and Recite the Qur'an

If you were lucky as a kid, your parents took (in some cases, dragged) you to Arabic and Qur'an reading classes. If you are lucky, you still pretty much remember how to read Arabic and how to recite the Qur'an decently well. But there is a great likelihood that you forgot how to read Arabic, or never really learned how to pronounce a letter or two or all of the recitation rules. If you keep asking yourself, when I recite Surat al Fatiha, why doesn't it sound like the imam at the masjid?, then you know you are desperately in need of help. The validity of your prayer and your ability to revise your memorization heavily rely on your ability to read and recite Arabic correctly.

Get a local Qur'an teacher to test you and see what level you are at. You might be surprised to know that he or she has seven year old students who are at a much more advanced level than you! Then, identify your resources (local teachers, classes at nearby masjids, or other Muslim students who can help you improve) and get on it.

4. Wait—I know how to pray, got all my surahs down, and can read like Shaykh Sudais, what about me?­

Well, look at you, big shot on campus! How many people in your MSA can you help memorize the du'a for tashahhud or revise Surat Al asr? There you go, you've got all kinds of things to be busy with!

The Intercept: A Terrorism Expert’s Secret Relationship with the FBI

Loon Watch - 3 August, 2015 - 21:12


Trevor Aaronson, The Intercept

Evan Kohlmann is the U.S. government’s go-to expert witness in terrorism prosecutions. Since 2004, Kohlmann has been asked to testify as an expert about terrorist organizations, radicalization and homegrown threats in more than 30 trials.

It’s well-paying work — as much as $400 per hour. In all, the U.S. government has paid Kohlmann and his company at least $1.4 million for testifying in trials around the country, assisting with FBI investigations and consulting with agencies ranging from the Defense Department to the Internal Revenue Service.  He has also received another benefit, Uncle Sam’s mark of credibility, which has allowed him to work for NBC News and its cable sibling, MSNBC, for more than a decade as an on-air “terrorism analyst.”

Kohlmann’s claimed expertise is his ability to explore the dark corners of the Internet — the so-called deep web, which isn’t indexed by commercial search engines — and monitor what the Islamic State, al Qaeda and their sympathizers are saying, as well as network the relationships among these various actors. Kohlmann doesn’t speak Arabic, however, and aside from a few days each in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Dubai and Qatar, has hardly any experience in the Arab world. Kohlmann’s research is gleaned primarily from the Internet.

Indeed, Kohlmann is not a traditional expert. Much of his research is not peer-reviewed. Kohlmann’s key theory, to which he has testified several times on the witness stand, involves a series of indicators that he claims determine whether someone is likely a homegrown terrorist. Yet he has never tested the theory against a randomly selected control group to account for bias or coincidence.

For these and other reasons, Kohlmann’s critics describe him as a huckster.

Kohlmann’s works are “so biased, one-sided and contextually inaccurate that they do not provide a fair and balanced context for the specific evidence to be presented at a legal hearing,” said one terrorism researcher.

 Continue reading…

Navigating the College Experience: Nihal’s Narrative

Muslim Matters - 3 August, 2015 - 09:06
“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” ~E. O. Wilson
  College can be a stressful time for parents and children alike. There is much to be decided between what to major in, tuition costs, and family expectations. This article will discuss my personal journey through college, how I picked my major, what I took away, some points of reflection, situations I encountered, and advice for parents and students alike. It's going to be informal and more of a narrative than an academic piece, since it's my own reflection of the events that took place.   College Turbulence College did not come at an easy time in my life. I graduated with a low GPA in a subject which I do not feel much affinity towards now. Though I definitely advocate for getting good grades in college, my external and internal circumstances did not allow me to do so overall. In my freshman year I was searching for what I wanted to do in college like a typical first year student, but at the same time I had some personal issues that came up from the the start. I had family in and out of the hospital, I was dealing with the politics and poetics of working in the greater Muslim community as a paid employee, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. All of these issues compounded and I finished off my first year with a 2.0 GPA. The next year I took an alternative route by taking a year off to step away and reassess my educational priorities. I went to study Arabic and returned a year later. My sophomore year was spent in business school as I was told I have no other choice in my course of study since I did not want to pursue medicine, law, or engineering. In my third year I declared myself a Psychology major and also spent the year helping my family move to Atlanta from New Jersey, trying to find a place to live for myself, assisting in selling our home, and other personal issues I was going through which once again significantly affected my performance in college. To add, I ended up singlehandedly moving six times between 2013-2014 in New Jersey. In my senior year I was inundated with working multiple jobs to pay for my rent–delivering pizzas, teaching, private tutoring, selling used items, sales, and a short stint in prison chaplaincy, before I moved out of New Jersey. I was working thirty hours a week between three jobs while also taking fifteen credits a semester. I just had too much on my plate. At the end of college, I had worked eleven jobs over five years and graduated with a degree in Psychology and minor in Business, alhamdulillah.   Majors, Majors, and Majors Though I had a very strong leaning towards the humanities and liberal arts in subjects besides my major, initially I kept leaning towards teaching – and it was an advantage being enrolled in one of the top teaching colleges in New York and New Jersey. I ended up not doing that, but instead pursued Psychology with the condition that I pursue a PhD in the field to have a career for the long run as a psychologist. The reason I did not pursue teaching was solely because I was told by friends and elders alike that I would be broke, broke, and broke if I professionally pursued teaching. Sadly, our youth are told from a young age to completely abandon creativity and entrepreneurship in lieu of focusing on how we'll get our first job and not our sixth (as Fareed Zakaria brilliantly stated). We major (or are forced to major) in something STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) related – even if it is not our calling, and then think that is the only way to secure our future. Finally, in my last semester, I realized that I did not want to pursue graduate studies in Psychology as I really found the subject to be nothing more than a light hobby. Though I had already decided on pursuing Islamic Studies in India the year prior, I realized that I genuinely wanted to pursue law school when I returned. I took some practice LSAT exams, requested introductory info from various law schools, and spoke to several established attorneys who advised me. In my last semester in college, I took a class on Christian History and Theology. I was completely hooked. I was studying, researching, discussing, and taking notes like I'd never done before. I felt compelled to do extra readings, paralleling historical facts, and to constantly be in extracurricular discussions with my professor. Since it was too late in my college career for me to change my major, I decided to apply for my Master's degree in Religious Studies with a focus on Islam – and, to my surprise, I was accepted even with my low GPA. At this point I'd also received an invitation to pursue my PhD in the same field once I complete my Master's and 'Alimiyyah degrees. Skills Flourish Outside the University Honestly, I believe my written statement and in-person and phone meetings with the institution made all the difference in the world. But those writing and speaking skills did not come from college, instead they came from those eleven jobs and several peer mentors that helped prepare me to get into the Master's program. I did not gain skills in sales, counseling, teaching, public speaking, employee management, non-profit, tech support, telemarketing, project management, budget balancing, marketing, graphic design, professional media editing, curriculum development, fundraising, or local politics from college. That was all from hands-on experience. To add to the irony, at the end of my college career, teaching and counseling became the two skills I was being hired for before I had even graduated college – and these are two of the most important skills needed in the field I am pursuing now. I cannot stress how important reading, writing, and speaking skills have become in the work force today to help an employee climb the ladder of success in whatever they are doing, but sadly we see a large lack of those skills in the majority of college students. I realized that college will just about barely get your foot in the door to wherever you want to go. Presenting yourself with marketable skills and a large network is what will majorly determine your success in your long run career. And the greatest skill sets you can market yourself with is by showing how well read you are, how you are as an expressive writer, and the eloquence of your speech. Advice to Parents and Students I wrote this short post to give parents and current students some insight as to my own college experience. If you were to ask me for advice on what to major in, I would say it depends on a few things: what you are passionate about learning, what you are doing to formulate your life goals, and your financial situation. Personally I was passionate about the liberal arts and still am. If I could do it all again I think I would have double majored in History and Religious Studies and minored in Political Science. At the same time my financial situation did not make my family dependent upon me, so I did not need to pursue a major like computer science, finance, or engineering where I could quite easily find a job right out of school. Not to mention that math is not my strongest subject, but you get that point. But generally, I believe students entering college as eighteen year old freshmen do not have responsibilities requiring them to go to work right away for the most part in the Muslim community. To the beloved and respected parents: please understand that college is a time to learn for your child. It is when they will begin automating cognitive habits, learn how to think, and begin understanding how to learn. It is more than a place to just get a STEM degree. Let your child explore and figure out whatever he or she likes and help them become the best at whatever they wish to study. Mediocrity cannot be endorsed. Also, if your child wants to take time off from school because they do not find it beneficial, than let them figure things out if your family is not dependent upon him or her. I understand you worked hard and turned your knuckles purple in providing for your child and giving him or her the best life you could give them. Your desire for their success is the root of your heart's wishes. But please know that their happiness most likely rests in them finding what they're good at and can contribute with for the rest of their lives – even if their salary is not large (There's a link below the student section which you should read regarding salaries). To the students: the Muslim community is more in need of new ways of thinking, entrepreneurship, and creativity than ever before. Get out of your comfort zone and explore what academia has to offer your intellectual pursuits. Being part of a community means establishing yourself in a position where you can give back – and that doesn't just mean by organizing events at your MSA. It means providing unspoken high class service in whatever you do, to the masses, as a Muslim. It's assuring to see an etched path in medicine, law, computer science, or engineering – where you can say you'll be established in that field in an x number of years. If you're proficient and passionate about those areas, then go for it. If you're not (as I am) and instead prefer the liberal arts, than consider making your mark in whatever subject you're passionate about. Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook is “as much psychology and sociology as it is technology”, so don't think you'll be missing out if you decided to pursue a non-STEM major. Actually, the Association of American Colleges and Universities reports that liberal arts majors end up making more in the long run than STEM majors. Extra Resources: A must read for parents and students alike: In Defense of a Liberal Education by Fareed Zakaria: Starting the conversation on college majors with family: Dad, I'm Not Going to Medical School: Lessons I learned from working and traveling: 21 Things I Learned at 21 . Nihal graduated from Montclair State University in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Business. He currently lives in Lucknow, India where he is pursuing an 'Alimiyyah degree (BA equivalent in Islamic Law and Theology) from Nadwatul 'Ulama. He is also an MA candidate in Islamic Studies from the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut and also holds a diploma in Arabic from the Bayyinah Institute.

Muslim Basketball Players Design Own Outfits And You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

Muslimah Media Watch - 3 August, 2015 - 06:21
A community basketball team in Cedar-Riverside Minneapolis, consisting of young Somali girls, made the news recently. These players did not gain attention from media outlets for bashing stereotypes or fighting against the Islamic oppressive patriarchy. They were lauded and positively represented for creating a solution to challenges they faced with their basketball uniforms. Their long [Read More...]

The Problems With The ‘Dawah Business’

Islamicate - 3 August, 2015 - 01:59

Yawar Baig touches on the problem with the ‘Dawah Business’ as he refers to it; the issue of relatively young Muslim organisations in the West incorporating aspects from the Evangelical Christian and Corporate Business model in dictating their methodology as an organisation. He speaks particularly about how corporate culture is focused on businesses creating a brand for the principle purpose of making money, and killing any competition on the path to achieving the goal of monopoly in their line of business. He makes a very compelling point about how a model which concerns itself solely for the purposes of making profit in a cut-throat manner cannot be compatible within the work of calling people towards God and leading a life of spirituality. He is critical of the façade many of these Muslim organisations put forth on social media, and he is particularly scathing on the razzmatazz surrounding their Islamic Conferences, the Islamic version of the ‘Mega Church’, which he asserts are not really about calling people towards God, but more about organisations making money through selling tickets, advertising space and market stalls. These aren’t just wild accusations; Baig said he has been at post conference meetings of these organisations, where the first question asked was how much money they made. He argues that if they truly were interested in the spiritual welfare of attendees, they would find a way to measure it and this would be the central focus of post-conference meetings at the offices of these organisations.

Baig isn’t of course the only one to have raised concerns about the ‘corporate dawah culture’ that exists in the Western world; Zainab Ansari in a number of articles has been highly critical of the problems caused by the ‘Celebrity Sheikh’ status; a symptom of this culture. Furthermore, in his article on the popular American Blogsite ‘MuslimMatters’, Mobeen Vaid expands on Ansari’s sentiments, and raises concerns that how this culture is leading to a generation of youth who turn towards Islamic events as a means of seeking entertainment and passing time. This comes as no surprise; a model which wreaks of superficiality will only infuse superficiality amongst its consumers.

I’m glad that I’m not alone in feeling this way about ‘Corporate Dawah Culture’. I have raised my concerns privately with many Muslim activists in Britain, only to be told that I need to ‘get with the times’, and that if organisations don’t make money then they cannot be self-sustainable. I actually agree with both of these points; it is important that the way we put forward the message is relevant to the time and situation people find themselves in. I also agree that any organisation must be in a position where it can have the funds to run in an efficient manner. The problem of course arises when people within organisations become so obsessed with maintaining sustainability that they forget about their overall objectives. Is the corporate model really the only way an organisation can be sustainable?

For those of us looking to fill that spiritual void in our lives, the reality is that it is unlikely to be fulfilled at a glitzy Islamic conference. I remember attending a small gathering at Bayshore mosque in New York just over 10 years ago. It was near the time of Ramadan and my uncle told me that his teacher was going to be giving a short tafsir of the opening few pages of the Quran. Up to the minbar stepped up a young man who everyone referred to as Br Nouman. There were about 20 people in attendance, and we sat around him in a circle. We sat there for over an hour, as he went through the verses of Surah Fatihah and the the opening verses of Surah Baqarah, giving us nuggets of spirituality as he explained each word of each verse, and why Allah chose those particular words to articulate his message to mankind. It was perhaps one of the most enlightening religious experiences that I have ever had, and in many ways it was a catalyst for me on my personal spiritual journey. My uncle then introduced me to Br Nouman, and we sat down and we briefly discussed some points from his class in a little more detail, and then he went on to ask me about the environment for Muslims living in Britain. It was an example of a truly educational encounter between a student and his teacher.

For those of you who haven’t figured out the individual I met, it was Nouman Ali Khan, in the days before he became a phenomenon. Fast forward 10 years, and the next time I found myself in his company was in London; except it was different. He had been invited to give a lecture at a massive conference venue in the capital, with bright lights and gyrating cameras circling around him. People were pushing and shoving just so that they could get the best seat in the house. He came, gave his lecture, and left. If you were to ask me today what he spoke about on that day, I wouldn’t remember. I didn’t even get to spend any time with him afterwards, to sit and discuss some of the finer points he raised in his lecture, as he was mobbed by people in the marketplace at the conference wanting to get their autographs and selfies to prove that they had seen the man in flesh.

My point here isn’t to criticise those like Br Nouman who speak at these venues; ultimately, they are invited by event organisers to give a lecture and merely accept. My critique goes firstly to event organisers and those who run these corporate style Islamic organisations; a re-think in approach is clearly needed. If those in organisations still believe that glamorous conferences, bite sized youtube clips covered in their branding and cheesy social media posts are the answer to infusing spirituality amongst the masses then all the evidence suggests they are being naïve. If on the other hand they admit that all these are tools to raise money as an organisation so that they can continue to exist, then we find ourselves in a worrying situation where the rules of corporate culture have distracted them from their overall objectives.

Above all though, there is a lesson in all this for those of us looking to learn about God and his Messenger. To acquire any form of knowledge, it requires effort on the part of the individual looking for it. Zainab Ansari is right when she says that most of the true scholars of Islam shun the limelight, and opt to spend time teaching their dedicated students because the reality is that these small group sessions are far more beneficial than massive impersonal conferences. This is the reason why I probably benefitted more from Khan’s small class in New York than I ever would at one of his conference lectures. It is thus up to us to identify the scholars amongst us, and for us to seek them if we truly are serious about learning about God, and what He wants from us as His worshippers.

Yes, we do get rid of ‘hate preachers’

Indigo Jo Blogs - 2 August, 2015 - 22:26

A picture of a group of migrants or refugees standing or sitting on a ramp behind a metal fench, behind which are several lanes of queueing cars, approaching the Calais ferry port‘If you hate the migrants in Calais, you hate yourself’ | Nick Cohen (in today’s Observer)

People have been sharing this feature by Nick Cohen since it first appeared online yesterday (and I had a hard job getting to it on the Guardian’s website, eventually having to scroll through all the contributors with C surnames before finding his among the Cohens which weren’t in alphabetical order). Someone pointed out that Cohen has been publishing Islamophobic, warmongering posts for years, and people forget this as soon as he writes something “right-on”. But actually, there’s nothing much right-on about this piece. It follows a very typical pattern for him.

His technique, which I exposed in a previous entry, is to write a long article full of fairly uncontroversial, “right-on” lefty opinions, before getting a dig at one of his pet hates in towards the end. In this case, he fills the first two thirds of the article with righteous indignation at the racism directed at the migrants in Calais, the ugly language used by David Cameron (“swarms” etc) and the abandonment of the pretense that we accept genuine refugees but not economic migrants. However, towards the end he tells us why we’re shutting out real refugees:

Meanwhile – and I accept that this may be hard for readers to take – liberals ought to realise that the inability of the state to deport Islamist preachers and foreign criminals has made life immeasurably harder for refugees who threaten no one. In the past, there was no question that they could go. The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees states that a country could deport a refugee if “there are reasonable grounds for regarding [him] as a danger to security” or if a court found him guilty of “a particularly serious crime”.

Over the succeeding decades, judges and further treaties have watered down that unambiguous statement. They have often acted from the best of motives, to save people from torture most obviously.

But the road to hell is paved with human rights lawyers’ briefs, and the liberal attempt to stop the deportations of Islamists and common criminals has had the profoundly illiberal effect of destroying what public support there was for welcoming refugees.

First, he is referencing tabloid myths about criminals being allowed to stay because of their “family life” rights, when in fact these are often tabloid distortions. Second, he is suggesting (a common theme on the xenophobic “muscular” liberal right) that human rights only be applied to cuddly and friendly figures, not people whose opinions might cause offence or who don’t agree that you can always defeat tyranny by standing in front of a tank.

I have nothing against getting rid of foreign criminals if they are people who came here for the purpose of committing a crime, or committed a serious crime without having built particularly strong family connections in the UK. The reason the deportation of foreign criminals has attracted significant human rights challenge is that some of the people affected had spouses and children in the UK and were not career criminals but had done one or two things wrong. In some cases (particularly after the tabloids made an issue of this in 2006), the convictions were years in the past and time had already been served. Besides, this country always objects when other countries (usually white Commonwealth countries) deports people who emigrated there as children and turned to crime (particularly sexual crime) as adults, then justifies such deportations on such grounds as that if a rapist had been deported to Poland, say, after his last crime, he would not have committed the latest one — a plainly false justification.

As for “Islamists”, the fact is that this country has deported several, in some cases despite lengthy human rights challenges. After Abdullah Faisal completed his sentence for inciting murder, he was deported, and was further deported from at least one other country (Nigeria). We also locked up and later deported Abu Hamza, Abu Qatada and others, and have refused entry to other preachers deemed to be ‘hate preachers’ including Louis Farrakhan, and there have been occasions where Cohen’s fans (and friends) at Harry’s Place have made a fuss because a Muslim preacher or imam they disapprove of because his opinions conflict with modish liberal values has been granted a visa, or a platform to speak somewhere, and it has been withdrawn. But also, ‘liberals’ tried to stop people being deported because the ‘evidence’ against them was obtained through torture, or because the supposed offences they had committed were carried out in this country, which has perfectly good laws under which they could have been prosecuted, but did not carry the wildly disproportionate sentences the same offences attracted in the USA.

I am not convinced that the supposed difficulty in getting rid of a few rabble-rousers is the reason it is difficult to accept more refugees, anyway. The public’s view of these issues, much as on so much else, is framed by how the commercial Tory press reports them, which in turn feeds into the “public opinion” found on radio phone-ins and below-line comments. The idea that policy on accepting genuine refugees should be formed on the basis of a handful of troublesome public figures is simply ludicrous; the blame should not be on those who did their jobs and fought for the human rights of those they were intended for, but those who make money or political capital out of stoking hostility towards the weakest in society, be they refugees, poor people, disabled people or whoever.

Image source: Calais Migrant Solidarity.

Possibly Related Posts:

Central African Republic: Muslims Being Forced To Convert To Christianity By Christian Militias

Loon Watch - 2 August, 2015 - 21:06


What if they were Muslim?


Muslims in the western part of Central African Republic are being forced to hide their religion or convert to Christianity under threat of death, Amnesty International said Friday.

Central African Republic has been rocked by violence since the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition toppled the longtime president in 2013.

Widespread human rights abuses committed by Seleka led to the formation of a Christian militia known as the anti-Balaka, who have targeted Muslims and sent tens of thousands fleeing to neighboring countries.

Muslims told Amnesty International they’ve been forced to convert or hide practices.

“We had no choice but to join the Catholic Church. The anti-balaka swore they’d kill us if we didn’t,” said a 23-year-old man in the Sangha-Mbaere prefecture, whose name was not given to protect his security.

A Muslim trader said it was effectively illegal to pray.

“We have to hide, do it quickly, and do it by ourselves,” he said.

Amnesty International said the bans are happening outside areas under the protection of United Nations peacekeepers and renewed efforts must be made to protect Muslims under threat and bring back those who have fled.

“Many of the tens of thousands of Muslim refugees who were expelled from the country in 2014 would one day like to return home, but are waiting until they can do so in a safe and sustainable manner,” the report said.

A transitional government was put into place in January 2014. Presidential and legislative elections are slated for Oct. 18.

Last Update: Friday, 31 July 2015 KSA 22:42 – GMT 19:42

Maajid Nawaz: how a former Islamist became David Cameron’s anti-extremism adviser

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 August, 2015 - 19:00

The Essex schoolboy who clashed with skinheads, joined an Islamist group and spent four years in jail seems an unlikely government ally – and he’s not short of critics

On 10 September 2001, a young British man stepped off a plane in Egypt, for a year abroad studying Arabic. When news of the most spectacular terrorist attack in history reached Maajid Nawaz the next day, he sensed it might play badly for the Islamist group of which he was a member. By April 2002, he had been picked up by the security services for his membership of Hizb-ut-Tahrir – the “Party of Liberation” – and ended up spending four years in an Egyptian jail. Since returning to Britain in 2006, though, Nawaz’s career has taken an improbable turn: he has set himself up as an expert on how to prevent radicalisation, and has even advised prime ministers and presidents, including David Cameron and George W Bush.

Nawaz likes to do things in style. In 2007, after dramatically leaving Hizb-ut-Tahrir, he decided to create an anti-extremism thinktank with his friend Ed Husain, another former Islamist. A snazzy agency was hired to design a “brand identity” for the Quilliam Foundation, named after the man who opened England’s first mosque. The logo they chose was a delicate, wispy “Q”, a calligraphic link between east and west. They picked the British Museum as a venue for its launch party; Jemima Goldsmith was among the attendees. All the more impressive given that the whole idea was hatched in the back of a clapped-out Renault Clio that had been doubling as Nawaz’s bedroom while he finally finished his degree. It’s testament to his chutzpah, but also his ability to persuade and convince, an ability that he’s been honing since he was a teenage radical, spreading Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s message.

Continue reading...

There’s more to the Binladins than OBL

Indigo Jo Blogs - 1 August, 2015 - 17:32

The main building and control tower of Blackbushe AirportYesterday a light aircraft crashed when attempting to land at Blackbushe airfield near Farnborough. The airfield is a former RAF base which has also been a passenger airport, but these days is used for executive jets and for pilots’ training. More significantly, there is a big car auction site next to it, which has an auction house as well as acres and acres of car park used to store the goods (cars). The aircraft came down in the middle of one of these car lots and destroyed several cars. I’ve delivered there (during a three-week period driving cars to and from that site for British Car Auctions) and my first thought was that the plane might have hit the auction house, which would have caused far more casualties, but which it did not. Anyway, the three passengers all belonged to the Saudi Binladin family, a large and wealthy Saudi family which owns, among other things, a large construction company, but whose most famous member over here was Osama, who is better known for demolition.

You may notice that I have spelled “Binladin” differently to how the name is usually spelled in the media. That is how the family spells it when they write in English. Media reports about this crash, such as this one in the Guardian and this one in the Daily Mail, said that the four people killed were relatives of Osama bin Laden, giving their relation to him rather than to his father Mohammed, who had more than one wife (I am not sure how many) and plenty of descendants. Although many Saudis sympathised with (and helped finance) the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in which Osama bin Laden was active, after the Gulf War when the latter turned to terrorism and attacked western targets instead of Russian ones, both the Binladin family (who have substantial western connections and business interests) and the Saudi government turned against him. While any Google search for any of the Binladins will return lots of references to (and pictures of) Osama, the men are often shown in suits and ties and the women without hijab or with pretty floral headscarves, hardly a sign of a fanatically religious Muslim family, especially in Saudi Arabia.

Picture of Sana bin Laden, a middle-aged Arab woman in a floral headscarfOsama bin Laden is dead now, the organisation he ran is well-known to have lost so much ground to ISIS that its leaders are free men in some Arab countries. The other Binladins are not that well-known in the west but the fact that they are uninvolved in their late brother’s activities has been well-known for years. I don’t intend this as an advert for their corporation, which has been involved in all the religious building projects in Saudi Arabia (and the Saudis are notorious for demolishing historic buildings, including libraries, in the name of religious purism or to make way for vanity projects), though the woman killed in the crash (Sana, left) was a philanthropist known in Saudi as the “mother of orphans”, but it was not necessary to prominently report the relation of the dead in this crash to Osama bin Laden. It was newsworthy in itself that a passenger plane crashed near London with the loss of four lives, and in naming those killed, the fact that they were related to Osama bin Laden could have been mentioned in passing.

Possibly Related Posts:

Jewish, Muslim and LGBT communities oppose hate-crime hotline plans

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 August, 2015 - 15:43

Internal emails reveal Boris Johnson, mayor of London, intends to introduce single hotline for capital, but charities say plans will dilute community trust

London’s Jewish, Muslim and LGBT communities have joined forces to oppose plans by Boris Johnston for a hate-crime hotline, claiming it would dissuade victims from reporting antisemitic, Islamophobic and homophobic attacks at a time of rising attacks.

Not yet officially announced, internal emails from the mayor’s office for policing and crime, seen by the Guardian, reveal that Johnson is intending to introduce a one-number hotline for reporting hate crime throughout the capital.

Continue reading...

Obama's call to end female genital mutilation yet to reach Ethiopia's villages

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 August, 2015 - 12:00

While some Ethiopians praise the US president’s speech in Addis Ababa, other activists are concerned his message did not reach the people who needed to hear it the most in remote, traditional villages where circumcision continues

When she was a girl, Sadiya Aliye’s genitals were cut, as she was told tradition dictated. So when she became a mother to four daughters, she put all of them through the same agonising ritual.

But attitudes, and law enforcement, are changing in Ethiopia. Aliye was arrested all four times, spent two months in jail and paid $50 fines. “I was very angry,” she recalls. “They beat me.” Her husband, the midwife and those who held down the girls were also punished.

Related: Barack Obama in Kenya: 'no excuse' for treating women as second-class citizens

Continue reading...

A Discussion Between Two Muslims On Jeremy Corbyn

Islamicate - 1 August, 2015 - 11:15



Salaam Sameer

I wanted to write to you why I believe Jeremy Corbyn should be the next leader of the Labour Party. After the General Election, the Labour Party has seemed to shift towards the right. Tackling issues such as tax avoidance, food banks and zero-hour contracts are no longer issues that dominate the interests of the party. The Labour Party was founded as the political wing of organised labour to represent workers and promote social justice. Jeremy Corbyn is the only leader who is committed to these principles and believes in a fairer and more equal society where work pays, and aspiration is not defined as something of a middle-class value.



Wasalaam Rabbil

Thanks for your email. The current Labour leadership contest is pretty interesting in the context of British politics as a whole. I understand your point, and one of the criticisms of Labour is that it is increasingly shifting with the prevailing wind to the right of politics, as opposed to standing up for those fundamental principles the party was founded upon, and arguing the case for them.

Corbyn is of course old school Labour, and I believe the main reason for his rise in the leadership discussion is that he seems to be an honest, genuine person, and not the typical, manufactured, ‘plastic’ politician that we have all become accustomed to. With him, what you see is what you get. I wish more politicians would be as transparent as he seems to be.

Part of me thinks he would be a good leader of the party, as he would actively challenge the Government and provide an alternative narrative, which is healthy for democracy; the other candidates just seem so weak and incapable of challenging them. However, part of me also has doubts. Would I really want Jeremy Corbyn to be prime minister? Whilst there is an appeal with some of the things he says, I can’t help but feel that he’d fail miserably in trying to implement many of his proposed policies. Take free university education as an example. Free university education sounds brilliant on paper. But how would you implement that? Where would the money come from? Lets not forget that tuition fees allows universities to undertake cutting edge research, which comes at a cost, and is vital in order to remain internationally competitive. I am yet to hear Corbyn provide a cogent argument for how we would do this.



Dear Sameer

I’m glad you agree Jeremy Corbyn is healthy for democracy. People’s voices are being heard and in an age where politicians seem too disconnected and cold, there is something genuinely warm and human about Corbyn that has energised the entire leadership contest.

Corbyn has argued that education is a human right that all should be entitled to. He has announced that funding the abolition of tuition fees will cost around £10bn and he will manage this either by slowing the pace of deficit reduction or slightly raising the corporation tax (we have one of the lowest corporate tax levels in the world) thereby injecting some fairness and equality into our society. It is worth remembering that we lose around £25bn a year to tax avoidance (although this is actually a conservative estimate) while recently it was revealed that the taxpayer props up businesses with £93bn a year. So it’s quite clear that if we tackle the corporate influence over our governments, we will find there is money there to provide for free education.



Dear Rabbil

The figures Corbyn quotes seem very crude, and that is what concerns me. Slowing the pace of deficit reduction? Most Britons are concerned about this deficit that we have, and Corbyn as of yet hasn’t articulated a clear strategy as to how he would reduce this. Raising money through corporation tax is also interesting; yes we have low levels of corporation tax, but that’s what attracts big businesses to trade in the UK, and that creates jobs for people like you and me. I worry that under a Corbyn government, he would clamp down so hard on businesses that they would eventually relocate, resulting in higher unemployment and more people being reliant on the state for support; its in everyone’s interest to have as few people relying on the state for handouts surely? I would also like to hear more about how Corbyn would strike the balance between getting big businesses to pay up, whilst leaving incentives for them to remain and even expand operations in the UK.

But what you and I both agree upon is that funding free university education would be a massive financial undertaking. How would we achieve that, alongside all the other financial burdens that we have, such as keeping the NHS afloat in increasingly demanding times as a healthcare system free at the point of access? If Corbyn wishes to convert the ‘Corbynmania’ we are seeing now into something more tangible, he needs to gain credibility from the masses, and he can only do that by cogently showing where the money for his policies will come from. I don’t think he has done that yet, which is why many in his party remain unconvinced.

I feel many Muslims would welcome the fact that Corbyn would probably take the issues of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred more seriously than the current Government, and signs suggest he is more likely to engage with the Muslim community on these issues. However, we are yet to hear his views on an alternative counter-radicalisation strategy. Has he thought of one? Does he even think we need one?

I think the most commendable thing from Corbyn’s campaign is how he has garnered the support of younger people in society. Many of his policies have struck a cord in their hearts which is why they seem to be flocking towards him, as they have been continually ignored by mainstream politics in recent history. If Corbyn were to become Labour leader, it would send a clear message to other political parties that the younger generation have a powerful political voice, and will prompt them to take the views of younger people more seriously, as their active involvement could have the potential to change the political landscape in Britain.



Dear Sameer

Raising corporation tax only slightly, as he put it, will not turn away large businesses. Nor will raising the top-rate tax back to 50% (hardly a left-wing figure either). In addition, Corbyn has already suggested that he will clamp down fiercely on tax avoidance and corporate welfare; this is a matter of fairness, in not serving corporations but extending opportunity to all. Most people are actually hugely supportive of Britain taking a strong fist approach against businesses. In regards to finding a balance between getting big businesses to pay up and leaving incentives, should Corbyn become leader and exact his policies, then Britain will see long-term growth through huge public investment which will create a prosperous consumer society. Surely big businesses can see the benefits in contributing their fair share to create that society? The current economic plan is creating a society so disastrously unequal that soon we will reach a point where millions in a consumer society cannot actually consume because they are too poor to spend.

In regards to funding free education, once again building up the tax revenue by raising top-rate tax, corporation tax and clamping down on tax avoidance would contribute. Similarly, raising the minimum wage to a living wage would boost tax revenue by ensuring millions are earning enough to pay tax. This was actually one of the crucial reasons as to why the Tories have failed miserably in cutting the deficit, because by attacking public services and enriching the richest only, they have created a society where wealth is so unevenly concentrated amongst the wealthy few who are desperate to keep hold of that wealth rather than help the country. We cannot underestimate how much easier it would be to fund public services once we stop subsidising corporations, be it through tax credits, corporate subsidies, bank bailouts. money lended to private healthcare companies for NHS contracts or rescuing the failing railway companies. At the moment, when the government says there is no money to spend they are right: it’s because we’ve given all of it to the big cats.

In regards to Corbyn’s stance on Muslims; the crucial thing is he will end the atmosphere of hostility and persecution greeting Muslims. At the moment as a minority community, Muslims feel besieged increasingly. Corbyn has correctly identified that a crucial step to halting radicalisation somewhat is by radically changing our foreign policy plan. Young British Muslims, vulnerable to radical ideas because of their anger, feel a massive sense of injustice at what happens in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Palestine and Syria. These are not always religiously literate Muslims, but rather politically motivated individuals who build a sense of solidarity and comradeship with their Muslim brethren in the Middle-East. Why does this happen? Islamophobia plays its part. Muslims in the UK are in an identity crisis, feeling alienated and hopeless, constantly being pounded on the ropes by the media. For many young Muslims, they see Muslims suffering in Iraq and other plays and believe that Islam all around is under attack. When they see Muslims being persecuted in UK and killed abroad, and the British government involved in some way, it feeds into the “us against them” narrative spouted by Muslim extremists who provide these young, vulnerable individuals with a sense of identity and acceptance in society that we could never provide.

Corbyn I believe understands these things. His fight for social justice is so we can all have a stake in this society, and that includes young Muslims.



Dear Rabbil. 

I am yet to be convinced that Corbyn has it within him to foster a meaningful relationship with big businesses. I also disagree that most people are supportive of taking ‘a strong fist against business’. Yes, many of us are concerned about the numerous loopholes many businesses use to avoid paying their taxes, and I do believe it is important to address this issue. But most of us also realise the important role businesses play in our society. I’m not sure taking a strong fist against the private sector is the answer to addressing the very real problem of inequality that we face.

Also I think some of the language you have used against the rich within society is on the opposite end of spectrum of certain bigoted individuals in the higher echelons of society who speak in a derogatory manner about the poor. Lets not forget that the rich amongst us pay a significant chunk of the tax bill already, and their contribution in keeping our public services in working order is too often ignored. Your tone in which you seem to be despising the rich, and stereotyping them to be greedy individuals who avoid paying tax is just as bad as those who look down upon the poorest in our society as lazy benefit scroungers. There are bad people in all spheres of society, and they must equally be addressed. In fact, it is this same tone from a number of Corbyn supporters that many people find concerning.

I agree with Corbyn that we must learn the lessons from our recent past in dictating our foreign policy, and I think he raises some particularly prudent points about IS on addressing the fundamental issue of their arms supply, and the income they generate from oil. However, I am not convinced that merely addressing foreign policy will somehow make the problem of radicalisation miraculously disappear from Britain. Its much more complicated than that. I also agree that many facets of British society are going through a process of re-calibrating their identity (the Scots are a good example), and the Muslim in Britain are going through a similar process. Whilst I agree it is important for us to have compassion and continue to raise awareness about the injustices that people face all over the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, I believe the focus of our concerns need to be for the troubles of the weakest and most vulnerable in our immediate vicinity. It is interesting that whilst many people agree that something like Zakat should be given locally, as we are supposed to ensure the needs of those amongst us are the ultimate priority before looking further afield, this sentiment doesn’t translate into the rest of our activism. This requires us to be more invested in wider society, and if Corbyn (or any other Government) was to help facilitate this process by working with Muslims, I believe it would go a long way in addressing many of the problems faced in the British Muslim community.

I think it has been very insightful to get your views, a young British Muslim, on this issue, and it will be interesting to see how events unfold in the next few months

Wasalaamu Alakum Wararhmatullahi Wa Barakatuh



Dear White Officials: Killing of Blacks is Made in the USA, Not the Middle East

Loon Watch - 1 August, 2015 - 00:04


(L) Killer cop: Ray Tensing. (R) Sam Dubose.

By  Mooneye

America is aflame due to systematic racism. Murders after murders of innocent Black Americans by authorities come to light daily. This isn’t a new phenomenon but one that is being highlighted because of the instant and quick distribution of videos caught by passerbys and/or body cameras.

Many Whites are in denial of this situation, in fact when such crimes and killings occur one often sees political officials downplay it, while right-wing sites and stations such as Fox run amok and do their utmost to blame the victims.

The recent video of University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing pulling over Sam Dubose and then killing him execution style has once again put in stark relief the inherent racism within the USA.

Interestingly, the Hamilton County Prosecutor, Joseph T. Deters, while noting the killing as “senseless and asinine” preceded to make his own asinine assertion, stating.:

“This doesn’t happen in the United States, OK?” he said. “This might happen in Afghanistan. People don’t get shot for a traffic stop.”

Excuse me?

Mr. Deters is supposed to be an intelligent individual, after all he is a prosecutor for the state! What explains his cognitive dissonance and bias? This DOES happen in the USA! This HAS been happening in the USA for a long, long time!

Projecting this onto other cultures with such implicit racist statements is completely ignorant and problematically feeds into the false notions of American exceptionalism and superiority over other cultures that are deemed “inferior.” What’s doubly problematic is that Afghanistan is a nation that we have invaded and occupied. Many of those killed in Afghanistan have been killed by US Army personnel!

Deters is not alone in this demeaning attitude. Recall that Sen. Lindsey Graham (a presidential hopeful), stated after the massacre of 9 Black Churchgoers in Charleston by the White supremacist terrorist, Dylann Roof, that,

“I don’t know how you can sit with somebody for an hour in a church and pray with them and get up and shoot them. That’s Mideast hate,” Graham said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “That’s something I didn’t think we had here, but apparently we do.”

No, Sen. Graham that is American Hate! This hate was born, bred and perpetrated in the good ‘ole USA. It’s time for you and others to admit and come to terms with it.

Friday Links

Muslimah Media Watch - 31 July, 2015 - 19:06
Seven Muslim women from around the world are bicycling across Iowa as a way of “promoting female sports participation as a fundamental right“. The 470-mile ride, featuring 8,500 cyclists, began July 19 and finished July 25.   In the last year and a half, as turmoil in Ukraine has dominated the news media’s attention, a [Read More...]


Subscribe to The Revival aggregator