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Ipso reject inaccuaracy complaint by Cherie Blair's half-sister

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 June, 2016 - 16:13

Lauren Booth claimed there were numerous falsehoods in a Daily Mail article written about her life and conversion to Islam

A complaint by Cherie Blair’s half-sister over a Daily Mail article about her life after converting to Islam has been rejected by the newspaper’s regulator.

Lauren Booth claimed there were numerous inaccuracies in the January article headlined ‘How Cherie’s sister has become a cheerleader for Islamic zealots’.

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Ramadan SOS

Muslim Matters - 9 June, 2016 - 11:53

Candid Convertsations (4)

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it. But there it was, barely visible under the dull, pale glow of the street light; as if it had been put there for my eyes alone. It wasn't the place where you would normally find something like that, but nonetheless, there it was. Barely visible from the waves of people that had tread over it, like the embers of a dying beacon floating on top of a sea of black asphalt.

I picked it up and stared at it, dumbfounded at what I had come across. I wondered for weeks how I would find them or get in touch with them. But there it was. A flier taped to the ground outside the Revelle College dormitory buildings, the only one in sight. Had I taken a slightly different path, or even ignored the random piece of paper stuck to the ground like people normally do, I never would have come across it. I knew then that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had put it there just for me.

The black and white flier announced in the standard Times New Roman 12 point font that the Muslim Student Association on campus would have a table on Library Walk during the week and provided a phone number at the bottom of the page. I visited them the very next day. I signed up for the email list, met a couple of guys, and the rest is history.

The MSA provided me a space where I could grow and receive the support I needed as a one month old convert living in a new city and attending a new school. But despite the sense of community and brotherhood one feels when being active in their local MSA, it's still an organization run by college students. What do I mean by that? Well, picture your average college student. They have little to no money and seldom have jobs beyond working at the on campus bookstore. The population on campus often fluctuates in rhythm with the tide of long weekends and extended breaks as students leave to visit their families. So what does that mean for the brand-new college student convert? A lot of time spent alone.

Previously, I mentioned that there are usually two things a convert struggles with most shortly after entering Islam, specifically regarding their dealings with the local community. The first is well-intentioned, yet impractical advice from some members of the community and the second, loneliness that too often leads to depression.

Loneliness for a convert usually takes on one of two different forms. The first, the physical loneliness one feels when they are not around others that make them feel special and share their similar beliefs and traditions. The second, the mental and psychological loneliness one goes through when they're dealing with issues no one around them can understand. Every convert typically goes through one if not both of these types of loneliness at some point, as they navigate through the ebbs and flows of their spiritual growth.

Between 2003 and 2007, there were undoubtedly many instances where I felt one or the other. The one that sticks out to me most, and the one that is fueling my drive to write this at this very moment, is a random Friday night during the month of Ramadan in 2005.

dinner-for-one

Iftār during the month of Ramadan is a time when Muslims get together to break their fast, discuss some of the difficulties they experienced during the day, and spiritual lessons they learned. But more than that, it's a time where thousands of people regionally, and over a billion globally, share a common experience with one another. Most do so at home with their families, while others choose to do so with their friends or colleagues. But on that particular weekend I found myself alone, as most students went home to be with their families and the local mosque was only serving iftār a few nights a week. Therefore, having no brothers to spend the evening with and no opportunity to socialize at the mosque, I went to the local Subway, bought a foot-long sandwich, sat alone on my couch and broke my fast. It had to be the single most depressing and loneliest moment in my two years as a Muslim. I actually remember thinking to myself, “Being a convert sucks.”

There were plenty of nights like that during Ramadan that year, but for some reason, that night stands out from the rest. Now, you are probably thinking, “What's the big deal about eating alone? I do it all the time! I wish I could have a night to myself to eat and relax.”

However, the issue wasn't just the fact that I was eating alone. Looking back even now, more than ten years later, I still struggle to identify what it was exactly that caused me to feel that way. Perhaps on that night, for just a moment, I realized what was aching inside me, that I was never able to put a finger on. Maybe it was me coming to grips with the notion that this was how it was going to be from now on, or the fact that my reality as a convert contrasted greatly with the reality of born Muslims. Regardless, whatever I felt that night, I knew that prolonging that feeling was unhealthy and detrimental to my development as a Muslim.

Then and there I prayed to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and asked Him to spare me and other people like me from having to go through this type of loneliness during the most sacred of months. It had to be one of the most sincere and heartfelt supplications I had ever made. So leading up to Ramadan of 2006, I could not help but feel anxious and apprehensive about the possibility of spending another Ramadan alone, the feeling of that not too distant Friday night anchored deeply in my subconscious. Little did I know, much like Moses raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) when he supplicated to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) under the tree on the outskirts of Madyan, that my prayer was already being answered.

Amr, a San Diego native, lived at home with his family at the time and was not your typical Muslim college student. He was the only one I knew that was majoring in Ethnic Studies, which paired well with a Spanish Literature major such as me. We were two students with two very uncommon majors, swimming against the strong current of physical science and engineering majors typical of a collegiate MSA. We met my first quarter at UCSD but did not really become close until our junior year, so when Ramadan 2006 rolled around, I was looking forward to seeing if this Ramadan would play out differently than it had last year.

As it turned out, Amr's parents would be out of town for a good portion of the month, which led the way for Amr to invite me over to his house for iftār and dinner; not once, not twice, but for the entire month. I think I went over to his house 18 times that month. I remember the days that I did not go were because I had something else planned. Otherwise, as sure as the sun would rise from the east, I was having dinner at his place. It was the first time since I had converted that someone invited me over to their house for iftar. I will never forget that Ramadan, nor the generosity and hospitality he and his family afforded me.

Unfortunately, not every convert can say they have experienced something similar. Without a doubt there are plenty of converts, some who may have been Muslim for decades, who have not once been invited to another Muslim's house. This is a huge problem. To some, inviting someone to their house may not seem like a big deal, but in fact in the eyes of the convert, it's monumental. It's a sign of acceptance and a demonstration of love and empathy; a gesture that someone actually cares about you and wants to spend time with you. Breaking bread, especially in the month of Ramadan, brings the hearts of people together like nothing else can. Eating together at the same table is a way for us as Muslims to focus on and reinforce our social values, shared meanings and fulfill different attributes of our faith. Eating together is such a blessing and delight that it is actually mentioned in the Qur'an as one of the many forms of pleasure the believer will enjoy in Paradise. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will say to those who enter Paradise,

52_19

“Eat and drink in health and satisfaction as a reward for what you used to do.” (Qur'an, 52:19).

Therefore, we should not underestimate what an invitation to lunch or dinner might mean to someone. It can completely change their outlook on their religion, their community and themselves. With Ramadan on the horizon, there is an opportunity for you to get to know a convert from your local community. Spend time with them, break bread with them and genuinely try to be a source of comfort for that person. You do not have to discuss religion with them, give them fatwas about their personal lives, or dictate how they should practice their newly adopted faith. That should never be the basis of anyone's interaction with a convert. Instead, spend time with them because you actually care about them, want to get to know them for who they are, and make them feel like they have someone they can turn to. The relationship should be, “I'm always here, especially when you need me”, and not, “I'm only here when you need me.”

Islam is necessarily simple in certain respects, but can also be as wide and vast as the ocean in others. Upon their conversion, converts stand at the shores of this vast religion and ponder not only how best to navigate it, but how to even get off-shore in the first place. Few are blessed with being taught how to swim beforehand, while others are too often thrown overboard with no paddle and no compass. Like the ocean, Islam is a source of life for those living inside it, and an expression of divine beauty for those living outside of it. But for too many converts it can also be dark, deep, and empty with no signs of life. I was blessed to have a life jacket thrown my way when I needed one most, in the form of my friend Amr and his family. So I want to encourage converts and born Muslims alike to go out to your local MSA or mosque, find a recent convert to the community and be for them what Amr was for me. Go out there and answer someone's Ramadan SOS.

Five Steps to Help You Deeply Read the Quran this Ramadan

altmuslim - 9 June, 2016 - 00:04
This is Day Three of the #30Day30Writers 2016 Ramadan series. By Farouk A. Peru To be perfectly honest, as Muslims, we are meant to read the Quran deeply all year long. There is no specific time when we must read, just that we should maintain a close relationship with our holy book by reading and [Read More...]

Anti-Muslim sentiment strong and widespread in Australian army, study shows

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 June, 2016 - 21:19

Defence force research finds 80% of participants believe Islam promotes violence – climbing to 91% if they have had sensitivity training

Anti-Muslim sentiment is “strong” and “probably quite widespread” among Australian defence force members and was higher among those who had undergone cultural sensitivity training, according to research commissioned by the army.

Soldiers from four special operations units based at Holsworthy army base were asked whether they believed “the Muslim religion promotes violence and terrorism”.

Related: Malcolm Turnbull calls for unity not 'machismo' in face of terrorism threat

Related: Navy's Islamic Twitter account shut down after anti-Islam group complains

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Ramadan without My Father

altmuslim - 7 June, 2016 - 19:42
This is Day Two of the #30Days30Writers Ramadan 2016 series. By Namira Islam My mother has a reputation for being the life of a party. She is a masterful, vivacious storyteller and sassy in multiple languages. My father was steady, quiet and a bookworm. His brand of humor consisted of dad jokes and teasing. He [Read More...]

Refugees seeking asylum on religious grounds quizzed on 'Bible trivia'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 June, 2016 - 19:03

‘When is Pentecost?’ among questions put to people fleeing persecution after converting to Christianity, MPs say

Refugees applying for asylum in the UK on the grounds of conversion to Christianity are being interrogated on “Bible trivia” by immigration officials, according to MPs.

Questions such as, “What are the 10 commandments?”, “When is Pentecost?” and “How many books are there in the Bible?”, are being put to asylum seekers in an attempt to test claims of religious conversion, says a report published by the all-party parliamentary group for international freedom of religion or belief. Refugees face the rejection of their applications if they do not answer correctly.

Related: How asylum seekers could help ease Finland's tech skills shortage

Related: Syria's most hated refugees find sanctuary in an Istanbul ghetto

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Trump thinks Muslim judges would be biased against him – but there are none

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 June, 2016 - 14:22

Donald Trump’s remarks heighten concerns that he could undo Obama’s efforts to diversify courts and besmirch the judiciary’s ‘fair’ reputation if elected

When Donald Trump remarked that “it’s possible” Muslim judges would be biased against him, he probably did not know how many Muslim judges there are in America’s federal courts. The number might surprise other people too. It is none.

This is despite a record-breaking push by Barack Obama to diversify a judiciary long dominated by straight white men. There are more female, black, Latino and gay judges than ever before, but the absolute absence of Muslims from the bench illustrates the scale of the deficit he inherited. And some observers fear that a Trump presidency could undo years of hard-won progress.

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When Nineveh Met Taif

Muslim Matters - 7 June, 2016 - 07:28

dua of yunus

It was a sad day in Ninevah. The Prophet Yunus, peace be upon him, was leaving.

Angry, frustrated, and unable to continue what felt like a hopeless endeavor, he boarded the first ship out of town, leaving his homeland behind. He had tried and tried and tried– but no matter how hard he argued or how sincerely he reasoned, his people were unwilling to see that reason. And he couldn't see himself staying there anymore, so he left.

The ship left the shore, and as it sailed towards the open sea his homeland grew smaller in the distance. He looked towards its shore and he could see the land, the trees, the sky above the place where he had been born and brought up. He could also see clouds- dark, angry rolling clouds gathering above. A storm was brewing.

Yunus assumed that the storm would be unleashed on his people, but it turns out that the people of Nineveh did something unusual when they saw the wrath of God coming- they actually repented. And Allah forgave them.

Wow. I know, right? All those other times people saw the wrath of God coming and thought, “Wow, those are some ominous-looking clouds. I bet it's going to be a lovely drizzle! It's not like God's angry at us or anything…” but the people of Nineveh got it right. So that storm never hit them. It hit Prophet Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) instead.

Back on the boat, there was chaos. The ocean waves had grown into rolling hills, and the ship scaled their heights before racing down their depths and into the danger of capsizing. People began throwing their belongings over- their life's possessions, their wares, their financial investments in the future- to save the reality of their present. It wasn't enough. That's when they threw Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) over instead.

Man, first his own people rejected him. Now the people on the boat chucked him into the monstrous waves of a Wrath-level storm. It couldn't get any worse. Or maybe it did, because that's when an enormous whale swallowed Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and swam straight to the bottom of the ocean.

Yunus

Beneath the darkness of the storm lay the darkness of the water. Within the darkness of the water swam the darkness within the whale. And in the darkness of the whale, Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) thought he was dead.

He lay unmoving, unseeing, unsure of what-if anything- was to come. Then, in silence of the darkness he heard a tiny sound. He listened closer and realized he was hearing the pebbles on the ocean floor. They were making tasbih.

That is when Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) understood he was still alive. Grateful, ashamed, humbled – he began to turn his body. He squeezed and pushed against the crushing insides of the whale until he was lying on his stomach. Then he strained, he pulled, he fought until his knees were bent beneath him, and pulled his hands around to his face. There, in the belly of the whale, in the darkness within the darkness within the darkness- Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) made sujood.

He prayed.

لَّا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ La illaha illa Anta Subhanak, inni kuntu min adhdhalimeen 

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

He made this du'a over and over again, and he kept repeated it until the whale began to swim upwards, rising from the ocean's darkness to the shore's light, where he spat Yunus onto the shore.

Sunlight seared Yunus's raw, acid-burned skin. He screamed, and then turned that scream into prayer- GAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaathere is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned. There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

He kept praying until the pain subsided and the skin healed, and to make a long story short- it turns out the people that Yunus AS ran away from were looking for him. They wanted him to teach them the faith that they had earlier rejected. And here is where Nineveh meets Taif.

When the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was ten years into his mission, he was hit with terrible loss. His wife Khadijah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her)– who had been best friend, his wife, his first believer and his first supporter- died. In the same year, his Uncle Abu Taleb— who had been his protector and friend —also died. And not only did he die- he died without accepting Islam or becoming a Muslim.

In this state of grief, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had a big problem.

The chiefs of the Quraysh controlled who could live or stay in Mecca, and getting the chief's stamp was kind of like getting a visa or a greencard. No visa? No residence. Abu Talib had been stamping Muhammad's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) proverbial visa to this point, but when he died, his brother stood next in line to head the tribe of Bani Hashim.

You know Abu Talib's younger brother don't you? Abdul Uzza- aka- your jolly old uncle Abu Lahab?

Abu Lahab was one of the Prophet's most hateful opponents. Despite being related by blood, he was viciously opposed to his nephew's mission. His wife put thorns outside the Prophet's door, and Abu Lahab himself dumped camel guts there. Because when cursing, rejecting, and disowning your own family members isn't enough, the next logical step is guts.

Having lost his wife, his uncle, and the protection needed to stay in his hometown, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) went to Taif to see if the people there would be receptive to the message of Islam.

Contrary to pop-seerah, he didn't just walk in and then get pelted out with stones on the same day. He was there for weeks- talking, reasoning, calling people to the beauty of Islam and instead facing the ugliness of rejection.

“What, you? A messenger?” people spat in his direction.

He faced weeks of spite, arrogance, and verbal abuse. Finally, he was forced to leave the city, and on his way out, the children of Taif pelted him with stones until he bled all the way into his sandals.

In physical pain and emotional anguish, the Messenger of Allah slumped down against a palm tree outside a home at the outskirts of Taif, and covered in blood- he began to cry.

The owners of the home looked out their window and took pity on him, sending out a slave with a plate of grapes. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) accepted the grapes and before eating said, “Bismillah hir-Rahman nir-Raheem.”

Curious, the slave asked Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) what his name was. Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) introduced himself and asked the slave what his name was.   The slave's name was Addas.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) asked where he was from, as Addas was not a local name. Addas said he was from Nineveh.

“Nineveh?” The Prophet remarked, “You are of the people of Yunus.”

“What would you know about Yunus?” Addas challenged, surprised that some random bleeding Arab would have anything to say about his Christian homeland.

The Prophet said, “Yunus was a prophet, and I am a prophet, and the prophets are brothers.”

And there the story of Yunus intertwined with the story of Muhammad, and Addas— a Christian slave— became the only person to embrace both the Prophet and Islam in Taif that day.

And Allah is the Best of Planners.

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