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The Muslims who fought for Britain in the first world war

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 August, 2014 - 00:56
Presentation at Living Islam festival points up role of 400,000 from pre-partition India who fought on Britain's side

Muslim civic leaders are hoping to draw on the little-known role played by almost half a million Muslims in Britain's first world war effort to help improve community relations during the conflict's centenary.

The experience of 400,000 Muslim soldiers who fought for Britain is one of the war's least-known stories, according to research released on Saturday, as leading Muslim civic groups involved in a major festival bringing together their communities this week set out why they will be taking part in the centenary as a moment of national reflection and shared commemoration.

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'Muslim Glastonbury' challenges perceptions of Islam in Britain

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 August, 2014 - 19:59
Talks about extremism, religion and sex alongside music and food at four-day celebration of Eid in Lincolnshire

Ranging from sectarianism to sex, a four-day event nicknamed the "Muslim Glastonbury" is setting out to challenge perceptions of Islam in Britain.

Living Islam, which began on Thursday at Lincolnshire Showground and continues over the weekend, is a celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which was marked by Muslims around the world this week at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. But the festival, perhaps more akin to a Muslim Hay-on-Wye than the music festival it has been compared to, also represents an opportunity for the expected 4,500 attendees to discuss the issues pertinent to them in contemporary Britain.

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Veiled Mona Lisa, Missiles over Big Ben: Israeli War Propaganda Hits New Lows

Loon Watch - 1 August, 2014 - 19:04

Israeli-embassy-Twitter-images

(h/t: Shawn)

Veiled Mona Lisa, Missiles over Big Ben: Israeli War Propaganda Hits New Lows

By Lior Sternfeld (Informed Comment)

It has been a month since the current war in Gaza started. The number of casualties is beyond our ability to comprehend. Every Israeli or Palestinian that dies breaks not only the heart but also any chance for rapprochement in the foreseeable future. While both sides are attempting to shape public perceptions (and some pro-Palestinian sites err in descending into anti-Semitism or making fruitless analogies to Syria), I want here to make some points about what is distinctive in this war about Israeli “Hasbara” or propaganda.

On the pro-Israel side, the publicity effort crossed a previous red line: outsourcing of the Israeli ‘Hasbara’ (propaganda). Following the spirit that overflowed Israel in the recent decades, the time has come to outsource the propaganda machine. Fox News has never been more popular in Israel, and memes taken from substandard newscasts pop up everywhere on the social media. Organizations such as “Stand with US” and “We Stand with Israel” disseminate false information that serves only to incite people around the world to make a stand against the Palestinians.

The Facebook page of “We Stand with Israel” still shows a picture from a public school in an Arab town in Israel of kids celebrating the miraculous night journey of prophet Mohammad, the caption however takes the photo completely out of context and explain that the kids were actually “rooting” for Hamas. The photo was taken two months before the war erupted and presented as if taken during the fighting. Even after the Israeli Ministry of Education clarified that the caption was taken out of context, this meme was still posted as “revealing the real nature of the Palestinians,” even those live in Israel.

Another active actor is “Ask Dr. Brown.” In the propaganda war, all means are legitimate. This map also went viral on the social media, asking, in English of course: “how did you sleep?” Asking Americans or Europeans how they slept might be addressing the wrong crowd. I would very much like to know how the people in Gaza slept the same night. Make no mistake, being at the risk of having rocket targeting your home is the gravest of all. One who never experienced it will never know. However, can someone really compare the risk of living anywhere in Israel, to the risk of living anywhere in Gaza?

The appeal to a common “Judeo-Christian civilization” became prominent in other media outlets as well. A usually highly professional source, such as NPR interviews on a daily basis speakers for both Palestine and Israel. The Israelis on air are usually U.S. born Israeli diplomats, who speak polished American English, or rather Republican-American English. The Palestinian speakers, no matter how eloquent always have this accent, which in the American popular culture is identified with the villain, hence once again (and I really do not know how intentional it is) signaling the Israelis are just like us. The Palestinians– well, think about it. Dehumanization is a huge part of the problem here.

Yet another campaign portrays cities in the West (London, NY, Paris) attacked by rockets or surprised by tunnels, raising yet again the question: “what would you do?” Is there any way possible to ask this question out of context? Is England currently in territorial dispute with any nation whose land it occupies or shutters its economy? Has NY City imposed a blockade on the civilian population of New Jersey that merited digging tunnels into the city?

Another facet of this out-of-context campaign is showing recognized symbols like the Mona Lisa, or Lady Liberty veiled in an equally recognized Muslim symbols (kafiyeh, green robes, veil), in hopes of associating everyday items in Muslim life with some sort of vague threat. This kind of campaign is even more dangerous than those listed above. This one can be used to fuel Islamophobia and other sectarian tensions in already highly intense times.

The point of this propaganda is aligning the world (i.e. the West) with Israel. Make them understand that we, Israelis, are more like you, Westerners. We are peace-loving people, not like those “animals.” But of course, there are only humans in this conflict, and none are more equal than the others.

Lior Sternfeld has just successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation in History at the University of Texas, Austin

American Muslims, Gaza, and the White House Iftar: Do Protests Matter

Muslim Matters - 1 August, 2014 - 17:35

By Mobeen Vaid

More than any previous year, this past White House Iftar triggered considerable debate within the American Muslim community. Specifically, a growing segment of the Muslim community urged those invited to forego attending upon principle, particularly given the increasing list of domestic and foreign policy concerns that have not only gone unaddressed but appear to be getting systemically worse. This debate was further inflamed during the iftar itself as President Obama incorporated into his address an endorsement of the Israeli State and its “right to defend itself”, a talking point that has been repeated by Israel's defenders ad nauseam with remarkable resistance to any facts posited to the contrary. Obama's support for Israel was unsurprising given his previous track record on the topic, but his reaffirming of America's commitment to it that night was no doubt misplaced in front of a Muslim audience attending an iftar in the midst of one of the deadliest sieges of Gaza in recent history.

Upon hearing Obama's remarks that night a number of Muslims took to social media to express their disappointment with the night's attendees and their perceived acquiescence. Personally, I feel that reasonable people can differ concerning the utility of attending the White House Iftar, and no doubt there are arguments to be made for both sides. That said, the specifics of whether or not to boycott the White House Iftar has revealed a larger debate concerning the political philosophy considered most appropriate for the Muslim community to adopt.

Formal Engagement vs Oppositional Politics

Simplistically, the two ends of the spectrum are most broadly represented by those who view formal engagement through conventional channels as being the only path forward, and its alternative that generally acknowledges the utility of leveraging those channels selectively, but only as a corollary to adversarial politics.

A recent article by Shadi Hamid published in the Washington Post certainly represents an encouragement of formalized engagement vis-à-vis skilled advocacy and relationship building, and I think it's fair to say that his views are shared by many, especially those who work in advocacy and government outreach. Understanding this dynamic, I will attempt in this article to address one particular point that I found alarming and worth reconsidering, that being his disavowal of oppositional politics as having a place in contemporary American Muslim political discourse.

In discussing oppositional politics, Hamid cites a statement released by Keith Ellison in defense of attending the White House Iftar. In the statement, Ellison situates oppositional politics as being borne out of necessity in the civil rights era and as such, no longer necessary given the opportunities provided to engage directly with political authority. Hamid goes on to discuss conventional attitudes in the Muslim community towards Zionism, BDS, and the two-state solution and discusses why such attitudes are unlikely, in his view, to establish any meaningful policy change or build bridges with the Jewish Community.   Hamid concludes the article by conceding that “Muslims, like any other community, can, should and will have conflicting views on any number of issues,” but that engaging with policymakers is no doubt preferential to oppositional politics, the allure of which he fears is “growing ever more attractive.”

Ellison and Hamid both portray advocates of oppositional politics as insufficiently aware of modern political mechanics, and the allure of oppositional politics caste as death-knell for any substantive political reform in the Muslim communities favor.

The Politics of Protesting

Yet even a cursory assessment of recent protest movements reveals an image quite different from the one proffered by Hamid and Ellison.  The Gay Rights Movement has consistently leveraged rallies to advance its cause, as have environmentalists, pro-life and pro-choice advocates, and many, many others.  Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement have both employed oppositional politics in their favor, and although all of their objectives were not met, there's no question that both were effective at influencing and affecting the national discourse related to topics they brought to the fore: Senator Elizabeth Warren ran for office as a people's advocate, focusing her campaign almost entirely on financial regulation and litigating those deemed 'too big to jail', issues central to the occupy movement.

Eric Cantor, a Republican congressman and career politician in a largely red district, lost the Republican Nomination to little-known David Brat, a Tea Party favorite – Brat's victory made him the first primary challenger to oust a sitting House Majority Leader since the position's creation in 1899.  The Republican Party itself has divided significantly since the inception of the Tea Party, and core libertarian principles such as state-rights and smaller government have become concomitant with the modern Republican Party.

This doesn't even begin to take into account the impact of oppositional politics globally (Arab Spring).  With the prevalence of social media, oppositional politics mean more than they ever have before, and the efficacy of protests, demonstrations, and the like are no longer dependent on coverage by mainstream media outlets to draw attention to causes.  Indeed, some of the largest gains for American Muslims have been wrought via oppositional approaches, especially adversarial journalists who have uncovered significantcivil rights infringements against Muslims by the government (Jeremy Scahill, Glenn Greenwald, Rania Khalek). These individuals have been critical as alternative voices against an otherwise limited range of permissive discourse in mainstream media establishments, and the American Muslim community has much to owe their commitment to challenge existing narratives.

A case can be made that oppositional politics have their limits – despite record numbers, protests and demonstrations did little to prevent the Iraq War (Congress and the media obviously didn't help the cause).  That said, a complete dismissal of it is indicative of a larger philosophical framework, one that views insider access and the career advancement of a handful of well-placed lobbyists as being the key to influencing political policy going forward.

Though I am reticent to dismiss such efforts out of hand despite my misgivings of them, to posit such an approach against oppositional politics as an either/or proposition overlooks the critical role oppositional politics has played in advancing numerous causes such as the aforementioned examples.

The Avoidance of American Muslim Organizations

Furthermore, it speaks to a mentality that distinguishes between the political approaches of those with power against those without it.  In our well-trained social sensibilities, non-confrontational forms of political engagement are far more comfortable than radical politics, the affable encounters of interfaith dinners more effective than leveraging such coalitions for protest, and the AIPACs of the world more worthy of emulation and reverence than the ACLUs.

The lack of participation by many of the largest Muslim organizations in this space is palpable, and no doubt contributed to by a mentality that views it as ineffectual and frankly, at times uncomfortable. It is precisely because of this discomfort that Muslims should muster up the courage to be oppositional when warranted, as Chris Hedges writes in Death of the Liberal Class, “We have the moral capacity to say no, to refuse to cooperate. Any boycott or demonstration, any occupation or sit-in, any strike, any act of obstruction or sabotage, any refusal to pay taxes, any fast, any popular movement and any act of civil disobedience ignites the soul of the rebel and exposes the dead hand of authority.

“There is beauty and there are the humiliated,” Camus wrote. “Whatever difficulties the enterprise may present, I should like never to be unfaithful either to the second or the first.””

Of course this lack of participation is not universal. Insha'Allah this Saturday, August 2nd, there is a demonstration in Washington D.C. to protest the siege of Gaza organized by the Answer Coalition being co-sponsored by a number of Muslim organizations including American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), American Muslim Alliance (AMA), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim Legal Fund of America, and the MAS Immigrant Justice Center [and endorsed by Muslimmatters].

Despite the participation of these organizations, many of the larger Muslim organizations are not participating and seem to have eschewed oppositional politics, and one can only hope that they will embrace some degree of oppositional politics in both their discourse and approach going forward.

The post American Muslims, Gaza, and the White House Iftar: Do Protests Matter appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Gaza border at Rafah tightly controlled as Egypt remains hostile to Hamas

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 August, 2014 - 17:16
The new Egyptian regime is suspicious of political Islam and only 140 injured Gazans have gone to Egyptian hospitals since 8 July

As the death toll in Gaza passes 1,400, Egyptian hospitals have treated more than a hundred casualties of an Israeli military campaign drawing an otherwise muted response from Egypt, as its political establishment weighs humanitarian responsibilities against domestic politics.

Egypt's Rafah border crossing Gaza's only exit route not controlled by Israel has opened sporadically since Israel began Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. According to Egypt's health ministry, 140 people have entered the country for treatment since then.

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Weekly highlights: Eid al-Fitr, African cinema and young Londoners

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 August, 2014 - 15:02

Weve been getting such great contributions from our readers that we want to share them on our blog. Here are some of this weeks highlights

For the last few weeks we have been running two assignments on the Israel and Palestine conflict one for people living in Palestine and the other for those in Israel. We received so many heartfelt stories and testimonies that we decided to share a selection of them here. The common denominator in all the contributions is a desire for reconciliation and peace. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories and photos with us.

Muslims around the world have been celebrating Eid al-Fitr this week, and zuhrie shared this lovely photo with us of children in Malaysia receiving packets with money as part of tradition:

Children delightfully queued to receive packets filled with money which is a tradition in Malaysia during the celebration of Eid al-Fitr.

Sent via GuardianWitness

29 July 2014, 10:16

Sent via GuardianWitness

29 July 2014, 17:34

Great cinema in Avenida Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, Mozambique only now mainly used for Bollywood movies. Gil Vicente cinema is not too bad either.

This cake is moist, yet holds very well together with the help of the passion fruit syrup which is drizzled over the cake while it's still warm: the recipe can be found here: http://lovelorettaskitchen.com/2014/05/11/lemon-passion-fruit-polenta-cake/

Sent via GuardianWitness

31 July 2014, 19:05

At HPV the social and affordable housing buildings are not even named on the development map that the public see. The entrance that these residents are relegated to has a disabled access lift unfit for purpose and with an alarm that is not even connected to the security desk, sub-standard slippery stairs and threats of fob suspension if they use an incorrect entry point. These buildings are fenced and gated off from the rest of the development and this seclusion extends to the underground car park where even the parking bays for these properties are fenced off from those belonging to the rest of the site. Affordable housing residents were even denied access to the communal grounds during a 40 hour water outage last summer where working hose-pipes were located, instead they filled buckets from a water feature at the front of the development. We are the unseen inconvenience to the developers and some of the other residents of this "urban village" where architectural separation translates to prejudice.

Sent via GuardianWitness

29 July 2014, 13:50

Get Outta The Gang tackles gang culture, youth violence and surrounding issues, using innovative and creative, youth-led methods.

Sent via GuardianWitness

30 July 2014, 10:46

Many hands made a lot more work! In the end I spent most of the day with the kids in the park and my fella spent the day with his brothers and my mum... I felt quite guilty so tried to help with some of the unloading at the end of the day and caught my toe on a wall and broke it.

Sent via GuardianWitness

29 July 2014, 22:35

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Iraqis living under Isis rule in Mosul begin to show resistance

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 August, 2014 - 12:18
Despite military triumphs, Islamist militants are losing hearts, minds and obedience of residents who have had enough

Iraqis living under Isis rule in Iraq, where non-Sunni residents have been forced from their homes and tens of mosques have been deemed idolatrous and marked for destruction, have started to push back against the extreme interpretation of Islam being imposed on them.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has won significant territorial victories and declared an Islamic caliphate in swaths of land it has seized, from al-Bab in Syria to Falluja in Iraq. The US recently said Isis was worse than al-Qaida (pdf) and that it had a "full-blown army". It has subsequently increased reconnaissance flights over Mosul, from one flight a month just two months ago to 50 flights a day.

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Meriam Ibrahim, Christian threatened with execution, arrives in US

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 August, 2014 - 04:17

Christian woman once threatened with execution in Sudan lands in Philadelphia en route to new home in New Hampshire

A Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence arrived on Thursday in the United States, where she was welcomed first by the mayor of Philadelphia as a world freedom fighter and later by cheering supporters waving US flags in New Hampshire.

Meriam Ibrahim flew from Rome to Philadelphia with her husband and two children, en route to the New Hampshire city of Manchester where her husband has family and where they will make their new home. Her husband, Daniel Wani, his face streaked with tears, briefly thanked New Hampshires Sudanese community on his familys behalf and said he appreciated the outpouring of support.

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Virginia GOP Official Questions The Contributions Of Muslim Americans

Loon Watch - 31 July, 2014 - 22:32

Huffington Post

Bob FitzSimmonds, treasurer of the Virginia Republican Party, is coming under fire from local officials for some eyebrow-raising comments he made about Muslims on his Facebook page.

FitzSimmonds said the following in response to President Barack Obama’s statement on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr:

Bob_FitzSimmonds

Virginia Republicans are denouncing FitzSimmonds’ comments.

State Del. David Ramadan (R), whose family is Muslim, told The Washington Post that “if Bob digs deep enough into his roots, he will find his ancestors came to this country looking for religious freedom.”

“Yes, we should thank every loyal patriot American — Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus or any other religions — for their contributions to our United States, the greatest nation ever,” he added.

Del. William Howell (R), the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, told The Washington Post, “Mr. FitzSimmonds should resign. The comments are reprehensible and not reflective of the values of the commonwealth or its citizens.”

This isn’t the first time FitzSimmonds has made questionable statements.

In November 2012, FitzSimmonds posted on his Facebook page his view that “when Obama is 90 years old and he dies and goes to Hell, he is going to say ‘This is all Bush’s fault.’”

In February 2014, FitzSimmonds used the term “sexist twat” in a conversation about potential female GOP candidates for Congress. It took place, once again, on Facebook.

IDF Sniper David D. Ovadia Admits to Killing 13 Children in Gaza, Says, “Your Next Fucking Muslims”

Loon Watch - 31 July, 2014 - 22:23

These are real war crimes we are talking about people. Horrific:

David_Ovadia

Counter Current News

An Instagram post by an Israel Defense Forces sniper boasts of murdering 13 Gazan children in one day. An IDF Combat Engineering Corps Soldier, specifically, David D. Ovadia posed with a Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle.

Ovadia posted his comments on the Instagram account of Palestinian Sherrii ElKaderi.

The image was quickly screen captured in case Ovadia came to his senses and realized that he could be prosecuted for his admission of war crimes. It is unclear and perhaps unlikely that the Barrett was used in the commission of such crimes, as this weapon is usually reserved for the best of the best marksmen. In any event, Ovadia is in active deployment and openly confesses to killing Gazan civilian children. While not specifying what weapon he used, the posting of himself with the .50 caliber rifle was obviously meant to be visually intimidating to Palestinians.

In the mean time, while more information is gathered on Ovadia, the “hacktivist” group “Anonymous” took control of his Instagram account, deleting it entirely. For “good measure” Anonymous sources said that they hacked the websites of the Mossad intelligence agency in Israel “for the brave IDF Sniper”, in reference to Ovadia. By 11:30, they had taken down the Israeli Ministry of Defense as well, and similarly attributed it as a response to Ovadia’s confessions.

If you agree that Ovadia’s admission of war crimes against Gazan children needs to be FRONT PAGE NEWS, share this with someone you know who cares!

About Fame, a Personal Life, and Responsibility

Muslim Matters - 31 July, 2014 - 11:07

Assalamu Alaikum.  My name is Nouman. I am 36 years old, a father of six and very grateful for having a career that allows me to spend my time doing what I love.

Earlier in my life I developed a passion for the study of the Qur'an and, as a result, of the Arabic language. Now I am running an institute whose sole objective is to spread awareness and appreciation of the Qur'an.  This passion has kept me busy in one way or another for the last fourteen years.  Somewhere along this road, without my conscious realization, I became famous in some circles, notorious in others. I've been teaching and giving lectures a long time, but now, suddenly, there are people jumping over each other after a lecture to shake my hand, take a picture or tell me how I've changed their life. It's almost an out-of-body experience and, quite honestly, most of the time I feel like they're talking about someone else. This enhanced and continually growing public profile has forced me to think about the origins of my work and where it stands now. Actually, I should say it has made me think A LOT about the position in which I find myself. The thoughts I'm about to share with you are personal reflections and are only a commentary from me about me. They are purposely not applicable to any other public speaker, scholar, activist or leader.

Fame is Not a Curse

Nothing in life is; it's all a test.  I happen to think fame in my circumstance is also a part of my sustenance from Allah. I may not deserve this position, but I am in it, and should thus figure out the best way to leverage it to serve a good cause. That is what any of us must do with whatever gifts, circumstances and challenges Allah bestows upon us.

Fame has been a true blessing in some ways. For starters, it has allowed me access to incredible scholars and researchers the world over. Additionally, there are people doing remarkable work in the field of Qur'anic and Arabic studies but are virtually unknown, and they simply approach me with their research contributions.  Some of this work is so unique and so incredibly valuable that I can't think of what I would do without it, yet there is no way I would have even known of its existence had these researchers and scholars not approached me. It is my fame that motivated them to use me as a vehicle to bring their work to light, and I am deeply indebted to them for their consideration.  Fame has also allowed me the opportunity to serve as a link between people who are doing complementary work and are unaware of each other. Thus, great collaborations and synergy in this field are happening. This would not have happened through me, if not for my public profile.

Fame Can Be an Exercise in Humility, Especially Selfies

It's really a matter of perspective.  I consider myself socially dyslexic.  Whether I'm talking to fifteen people or fifty thousand, it doesn't really matter to me.  But since this explosion in popularity (relative to my own little world), I've had to learn the hard way that I can't just be conscious of my own perspective, but need to understand that of others as well.

When I first came across people who wanted an autograph or asked to take a picture I was (a) shocked and (b) disgusted. What rock star nonsense was this? Here I am trying to share a message that is the most serious endeavor of my entire life, and trying to help you appreciate its seriousness, and you're treating me like a performer?  This is not the way of the students of knowledge.  The great teachers and students of our noble past did not take selfies.

That was my perspective and it was wrong, self-righteous and insensitive. It had to change. It took me some time to internalize that I'm actually not reaching out to 'students of knowledge'.  I'm reaching out to the public, a huge chunk of which is slowly finding its way back to the faith. They, for some reason only Allah truly knows, find it easy to relate to me and appreciate that they can connect with the Qur'an in a personal way through some of my talks.  They haven't been brought up in a traditional environment where they've sat at the feet of a shaikh in a masjid. These are average people, much like me as a matter of fact. Before my own rediscovery of Islam, I, too, would have lined up to take a picture or grab an autograph of someone famous.

If I don't respect where people are coming from, I can come across as highly condescending and judgmental.  Somebody who asks for a picture may be someone who will appreciate the gesture and, as a result, might share some of my work with family and friends. Maybe this selfie business can actually lead to a good word spreading. You never know.  People may have listened to me for hundreds of hours and feel an emotional bond with me. They may even feel like Allah brought a transformation in their life through my talks. If that is the case, and they come up to me and ask for a picture, this small request might mean a huge deal to them. It may be a gesture of love and appreciation. Turning them down will do nothing to me, but could be extremely hurtful and disappointing to them. I've had to learn to think of this problem from the other side. Regardless, there will always be people who feel this entire endeavor is an exercise in narcissism. To them I say, “Whatever dude.”

 

Fame in the Muslim Community Comes With Unrealistic Expectations

At least it does in my experience.  I am the same person I was 14 years ago, when no one knew me. Sure, I have more experience now and understand some things better, but I'm not some elevated spiritual being just because I have half a million followers on Facebook. My work, my contribution, my area of expertise and my continued interest is overwhelmingly in one space.  And even within this space, I'm more a liaison between real scholarship and the larger public, rather than a scholar myself. That is just the fact of the matter, but I've learned that for a huge segment of our ummah, attitudes towards public figures manifest in a number of extremes. Here are some of those extremes as they apply to me personally.

On the extreme positives, I get:

a. “Ustadh Nouman! You are the only speaker I listen to! I don't need anyone else!”

What? Dude!  I ain't gonna teach ya how to pray, how to do hajj, the history of Islam, manners, fiqh, aqeedah, hadith and a WHOLE bunch of other stuff that you NEED to know. I appreciate the love but you've got to broaden your perspective homey!

b.  “Ustadh Nouman! How do I fix my marriage/ family life/ depression/drug addiction/suicidal tendencies/some other really serious issues?”

My beloved brother and sister, I am a teacher and a Qur'an student. Your personal problems are very serious and you need someone truly qualified in matters of counseling to help you with the situation. You might be convinced I will do you good, but I might end up doing more damage without either of us realizing it.

However, I do want to know about some of the troubles, problems and challenges you face because I want to address these issues to bring about awareness of the problems, and at least give some general counsel to benefit you and others. That has actually been my stance on this issue for some time now.  I read your emails and take note of issues that would be pertinent to a larger audience, and try to highlight them in my talks through the Qur'an. I get over a thousand emails a day. If I started answering each email, even if allotting a minute per email….you do the math. I wouldn't be doing anything else in my life.

c.  “Ustadh, only you can help me. No one else can answer this question.”

Again, my dear brother and sister, help comes from Allah, not from me. I can assure you I want to help, but I may not be able to. Recently I've done my best to pass specific types of concerns to other qualified individuals I consider good resources.

On the extreme negatives, I get:

a. “Why don't you talk about Iraq or Palestine you sellout?”

b. “Why don't you talk about Hadith you Hadith rejector?”

c. “Why don't you talk about Aqeedah you deviant?”

d. “Why don't you talk about Riba and Halal meet, you liberal?”

e. “Why don't you talk about women's rights you male chauvinist?”

f. “Why don't you talk about husbands' rights you feminist?”

g. “Since you didn't answer my email or acknowledge my speaking request, it is absolutely evident, without a shadow of doubt, you are a person of dunya who doesn't care about the ummah and its problems.”

h. “Why don't you visit our community? Because we are small? You only like big crowds right? I wish you cared about all Muslims, but I guess you don't.”

There aren't enough letters of the alphabet for the negatives, but I think you get the picture. I have come to learn that most Muslims either absolutely love their public figures or absolutely hate them. There is no in between.

Once you hear something in one of my talks that disappoints you, I may be written off for life. This, by the way, is a very unrealistic policy towards any relationship.  Imagine if you were written off by friends or family because of one thing you said.  We can disagree.  It's okay.  I still like you.  I can be wrong. That is okay too. It doesn't make me Shaitaan.  Chill OUT.  Perfection in human beings ended with Rasulullah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

On another note, no one person can deal with all the issues pertinent to the ummah and to Islam. That is unrealistic, unreasonable and even unhealthy.  Allah's messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) carried every burden of this ummah single-handedly.  What he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) carried alone is now distributed amongst an entire ummah.  There will always be something important I didn't talk about. There will always be a community I didn't get a chance to visit.

I was never asked to elaborate my position on every issue when I was teaching a small class of fifteen in a masjid in Queens, New York, because the people sitting in front of me didn't expect guidance from me as a mufti, political activist or theologian. I was just an Arabic and Qur'an teacher to them. With this new fame, the expectations seem to have changed. I realize that and feel compelled to at least try to explain why I don't speak on certain issues.

The truth is, the world used to be a lot more black and white when I was younger. I've learned, through the years, that a lot of my thoughts, opinions and conclusions about various Islamic sciences and international politics were over-simplistic and immature. I've learned to take a step back, be honest with myself and comfortably say I just don't know enough.  It would be irresponsible of me to casually express my opinions, using this platform, especially on issues I don't fully comprehend.

It often feels like the public expects me to be vocal about all things related to Islam and this ummah, and that I don't have the right to remain silent on what I don't fully understand. I am here to let you know that will not happen. Sorry to disappoint you, but I cannot use this position of great influence to speak on issues I truly don't know enough about.  I will donate to a cause in my personal life without telling you, be convinced of a position in fiqh without telling you and have a particular political inclination without telling you.  I don't want to tell you because I don't want any of you to ever think my stances on these issues have anything to do with my study of the Qur'an.  They may not. Religious leaders can have political opinions. That doesn't mean their opinion is a religious position.  This is why I feel responsible, and either choose to remain silent on these issues or relegate them to someone I consider a scholarly and sincere authority on the subject.  My opinions on certain matters were personal and not worth any Islamic weight 14 years ago, and half a million Facebook followers later, I'm glad to say, that hasn't changed.

 

Fame is not an Indication of Worth

I feel very blessed to be surrounded by friends and family who know me well, and knew me much before my days of fame.  These people are my rizq as they do not see me as a Youtube personality, or even a religious figure for that matter. I'm just Nouman to them. There are no formalities and no massively exaggerated impressions of what I am. Thank Allah for them.

Being around them constantly is really all the reality check I need.  They know all too well I am no miracle worker, that my talking to someone's fifteen-year-old isn't going to solve his issues or their family problems. I give them advice when asked, but mostly I am on the receiving end of their counsel. The awesome thing is they will put me in my place and advise me for the better whether I ask for it or not, and whether I like hearing it or not! Thank Allah for them.

I've come to learn the truest impression of who I am will not come from conferences, speeches or Youtube comments, but from that inner circle of genuine friends and loved ones who just tell it like it is. Thank Allah for them.

Fame is Directly Proportional to Exaggeration, but I Don't Care

Allow me to explain a bit. There are people who love me so much they attribute levels of iman and Ihsan to me in ways that are just out right ridiculous. Then there are people who deem my intentions so sinister I am likened to the Dajjal.  Both of these have in common the flawed assumption that any human being has the ability to look inside the heart of another and tell where they stand in terms of sincerity.

In this beautiful faith, we give benefit of the doubt and assume the best about people without turning them into saints.  We don't entertain assumptions about corrupt intentions as our judgments of people are relegated entirely to the realm of actions. In other words, you and I can criticize each other's words or actions, but intentions are off limits. This, to me, is a principle that applies, regardless of public status, to all Muslims.  It is for this reason both of these exaggerations have no significance to me.

I don't google myself trying to find out what new allegations are being made about me, and I don't find validation in compliments and overly flowery words of praise.  I just have to do my best, strive to constantly improve and keep it real with the REAL people in my life (see above).  Let the trollosphere say what it will. I've got better things to do than pay mind to it.  Our dignity is protected by Allah and He grants us dignity so long as we dignify His deen.  If I am sincere in my work, my Lord will be enough to defend my integrity, so I don't have to worry about what isn't mine to protect.

Fame or No Fame, I am Honored to Serve

The fact that I get to spend my life studying and teaching whatever I can of Allah's book is a tremendous honor. The fact that so many have benefited from whatever little I have done isn't my own doing, but Allah's gift. I am not superior to the people I try to benefit. Rather, I see myself as their servant. I feel a sense of love and loyalty to our youth all over the world that is hard to put in words. You are my people, my family.

Even those who find me a deplorable existence are, at the end of the day, Muslims, and I pray Allah softens our hearts towards each other here and in the hereafter. You disagreeing with me makes you no less of a Muslim in my eyes, and I am no one to judge your worth before our Master. I just pray Allah overlooks my many flaws while trying to serve His flawless deen, and that He does the same for you.

What Will I Use My Fame For, Insha'Allah?

I believe Allah guides people in unique and beautiful ways with His Qur'an. Much like the same rain sprouts every color of flower and every flavor of fruit on this earth, the same revelation inspires every manner of good across different individuals. I will use whatever public profile I have to help spread an appreciation of this beautiful revelation, and expect Allah to reward me for the unique ways in which He will make you bloom.  What you will do with this message is up to you, but I can tell you, even though I don't know who you are, I am excited at the beautiful things Allah will bring into existence through you, as you become inspired and driven by His powerful words.

The post About Fame, a Personal Life, and Responsibility appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Oklahoma School Film Blames Muslims For Oklahoma City Bombing

Loon Watch - 31 July, 2014 - 02:42

Oklahoma_City

By Mooneye

Jenks Freshman Academy, an Oklahoma school, has shown students in history class a “History Channel” film titled “Conspiracy: Oklahoma City Bombing.” Adam Soltani, director of CAIR-Oklahoma, was tipped off to the showing by a concerned parent.

Soltani viewed the “documentary” which largely blames Muslims for the 1995 bombing perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, Soltani writes,

Unfortunately, the film that is an approved selection in Jenks schools’ media library was little more than a hate-filled video that goes to extreme lengths to drag the blame for one of the most tragic events in Oklahoma history onto Islam and Muslims.

The video in question is currently being reviewed by Jenks’ school officials, however, by not immediately pulling the video from their shelves, the school administration is missing the point.

There is no question that this video should be pulled from the shelves. What kind of school in its right mind would air shows from the “History Channel?” The History Channel is well-known to be light on actual history and heavy on hearsay, UFO abductions, Bible codes and all around goofy/faulty history-telling.

The idea that Muslims were the real masterminds behind the Oklahoma City Bombing mirrors what disgraced journalist turned “terror expert” Steven Emerson claimed at the time, when he infamously stated that it had “a Middle Eastern trait.” Since then conspiracies claiming Iraqi secret agents covertly sent by Saddam Hussein used the easily duped, poor little McVeigh and Nichols for the attack have infested Far-Right Tea Party sites, such as Accuracy in Media and the ironically named American Thinker.

In the recent past we have seen concerted campaigns by right-wing, Islamophobic organizations such as ACT! For America, The Eagle Forum and Charles Jacobs’s Americans for Peace and Tolerance attempt to challenge, expunge and or edit-in their prejudiced views of Islam and Muslims into history and social studies texts.

The case in Oklahoma, while not directly related to those campaigns, highlights what may be a serious problem and requires further investigation. What exactly are schools teaching their children about Islam and Muslims? How many are teaching them, as in this instance, that Muslims are nefarious evil-doers who are behind all acts of terrorism?

Hopefully this glaring issue is resolved quickly and children can learn real, solid history and not be indoctrinated by just another sensationalist History Channel documentary that doesn’t deserve the dignity of being watched in a school classroom.

One last note is that there is an actual conspiracy revolving around the Oklahoma City Bombings that has recently been in the news and it has to do with the possible cover-up of evidence by the FBI, leading some to believe others were involved,

A Salt Lake City attorney is arguing in a lawsuit that the FBI has video of the Oklahoma City bombing that shows a second person was involved.

The case is at the heart of Jesse Trentadue’s quest to explain his brother’s mysterious jail cell death 19 years ago, which has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others were involved in the deadly 1995 blast.

What some consider a far-flung conspiracy theory is at the forefront of his Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FBI that goes to trial Monday.

Trentadue says the agency won’t release security camera videos that show a second person was with Timothy McVeigh when he parked a truck outside the Oklahoma City federal building and detonated a bomb, killing 168 people. The government claims McVeigh was alone.

Unsatisfied by the FBI’s previous explanations, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups has ordered the agency to explain why it can’t find videos from the bombing that are mentioned in evidence logs, citing the public importance of the tapes.

Somewhat callously, the FBI has responded by saying it would be “burdensome” to search for the video,

The FBI says it can’t find anything to suggest the videos exist, and says it would be “unreasonably burdensome” to do a search that would take a single staff person more than 18 months to conduct.

This all sounds suspicious and raises many questions but the conspiracy about Iraqi involvement is a concoction from the fevered imagination of the right that has no relationship to these facts.

Hate Crime Cops Investigating Anti-Muslim Fliers Distributed In Bath Beach Apartment Building

Loon Watch - 30 July, 2014 - 20:19

muslim-flier Hate Crime Cops Investigating Anti-Muslim Fliers Distributed In Bath Beach Apartment Building

(Bensonhurst Bean)

The NYPD’s Hate Crimes unit is looking to identify the person who distributed anti-Muslim fliers in at least one of the Shore Haven apartment buildings near Cropsey Avenue and 21st Avenue in Bath Beach, according to Councilman Mark Treyger’s office.

The fliers were found throughout the building this week, showing a hateful message calling Muslims “the second holocaust” and claims “USA hates you”. There is what appears to be a woman in a burka inside a “No” symbol, and there is also an abundance of exclamation points.

“I am disgusted and saddened to hear of this hateful act in our community. There is absolutely no place for this type of hatred, especially in a city and borough as diverse and tolerant as ours. My thanks to the 62nd Precinct for their quick response and thorough investigation of this heinous act,” said Treyger in a statement. “I will continue to work closely with the NYPD and entire community so those responsible for spreading hate will held accountable and I urge anyone with information to come forward. It is my belief that an act of hate against one group is an act of hate against our entire community. The bottom line is there is no room in this day and age for these attacks against any member of our community.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website, or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

The above photo was shared by Twitter user @TakeOnHate.

Who Were the Kharijis?

Lost Islamic History - 30 July, 2014 - 18:18

Throughout Islamic history, groups have arisen from time to time advocating radically new and divergent ways of thinking about the religion. One of the most radical and violent of these groups emerged during the political mayhem of ‘Ali’s caliphate, which lasted from 656 to 661. Known as the Kharijis, they emerged from a radical political position and went on to develop particularly extreme beliefs that put them at odds with most Muslims. While they never became a major political or religious force in the Muslim world, they had major impact on their own times and their ideology has been replicated numerous times by other fringe groups throughout the past 1400 years.

Background

In June of 656 CE (35 After Hijra), the caliph of the Muslim Empire, ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan was assassinated. The killers were a group of discontented Muslim Egyptian soldiers, who took issue with a ruling ‘Uthman made in a case between them and the governor of Egypt. Unlike the previous two caliphs, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, who left behind at least some guidance as to how to pick a new caliph (Abu Bakr simply appointed ‘Umar while ‘Umar appointed a council of six to choose one of their own), ‘Uthman had not left behind a framework to choose a new caliph.

The assassins, who now held effective control in the capital, Medina, wanted ‘Ali to be the new caliph. ‘Ali naturally resisted such an appointment by murderers. Accepting the nomination could be construed by others as his implicit approval of the rebels’ actions, which couldn’t be further from the truth considering that he sent his own sons to defend ‘Uthman when the rebels barricaded him in his house. But when some of the leading members of Medina’s community told ‘Ali that he was the Muslim nation’s best chance at peace and normalcy, especially considering his status as the Prophet’s ﷺ cousin and son-in-law, he reluctantly took on the title of fourth caliph of the Muslim Empire.

The extent of the Muslim world during the caliphate of 'Ali. The areas held by Mu'awiya are shaded in light green.

The extent of the Muslim world during the caliphate of ‘Ali. The areas held by Mu’awiya are shaded in light green.

He did, however, have some immediate opposition. Mu’awiya, the governor of Syria, was a cousin of ‘Uthman. He was ready to pledge allegiance to the new caliph so long as ‘Ali tried and punished the rebellious Egyptian soldiers who killed ‘Uthman. ‘Ali, however, did not believe doing so was in the interests of the Muslim nation. He certainly did not approve of the soldier’s actions, but punishing them could bring about an even bigger revolt, leading to more bloodshed and trials for the young Muslim Empire, which ‘Ali was keen to avoid.

Without Mu’awiya’s support, however, ‘Ali was left without one of the largest and most prosperous provinces of the empire. Mu’awiya was intensely popular in Syria. He had been the governor there since the caliphate of ‘Umar, and did a good job of prudently managing the relations between the region’s native Christian population and the newly introduced Arab Muslims. ‘Ali, in turn, had strong support in Iraq, particularly in the city of Kufa, where his supporters were incensed at Mu’awiya’s refusal to pledge allegiance.

In order to avoid an eventual civil war between Mu’awiya’s Syrian supporters and Ali’s Iraqi ones, the two men agreed to an arbitration. They figured allowing a third party to mediate the dispute and find a solution, and potentially a new caliph, would be a peaceful end to a perilous political divide.

But ‘Ali encountered an unforeseen problem with his arbitration. Some of his supporters were so convinced that he was right in his choice not to pursue justice for ‘Uthman’s murderers, that they were enraged at his choice to go to arbitration. To them, ‘Ali had committed a major sin by agreeing to deal with Mu’awiya. They seceded from ‘Ali’s camp and became known as the Kharijis (also known as the Khawarj or Kharijites), meaning “those who left”.

Khariji Ideas

The development of Khariji ideas is an interesting lesson in how political ideas can lead to new divergent ideas of Islam (a similar political to religious process would form Shi’ism in later years). The Khariji political position that ‘Ali made a mistake morphed into a belief that any and all people who commit sins are unfit to rule. This alone was a particularly extreme idea, but it didn’t end there.

Eventually, the Kharijis argued that sins themselves were a form of kufr (disbelief in God). They argued that if you commit a sin, you are in effect a disbeliever in God and thus could be fought and killed, even if you were a Companion of the Prophet ﷺ or a caliph. Furthermore, if you disagreed with their belief that sins are disbelief, you are by default a disbeliever and could be fought and killed.

Khariji beliefs did not have much basis in actual Islamic theology. Takfir (declaring people disbelievers) is in fact a very specific and rare thing in mainstream Muslim belief, with the majority opinion, as stated in the ‘Aqida of Imam al-Tahawi, being that the only thing that invalidates someone’s status as a Muslim is openly declaring that they do not believe that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad ﷺ is His messenger. Thus most of the Kharijis were not educated people well versed in the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet. The majority were desert Bedouin raiders who made up for their lack of understanding of Islam with a strong zeal for Khariji beliefs, no matter how intellectually shallow they were.

Khariji ideas never took hold with the general population. Besides being a distortion of the Prophet’s teachings, Khariji beliefs were simply too extreme for most people to be on board with. But that didn’t stop the small group of Kharijis from having a major impact on the Muslim world.

In line with their beliefs, Kharijis attempted to assassinate all the political leaders who took part in the arbitration that led to their establishment. They failed in their attempts to kill Mu’awiya and ‘Amr ibn al-’As, who supported Mu’awiya and ruled Egypt in his name. But in 661 they succeeded in killing the caliph, ‘Ali, in Kufa. The assassination of the Prophet’s cousin and son in law brought about the end of the Rashidun era of the caliphate and the beginning of the Umayyad Caliphate, led by Mu’awiya.

The Kharijis continued to be a nuisance for the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates for centuries. They never came to hold major cities in their numerous rebellions, but would use their familiarity with the deserts to roam throughout the Muslim world, harassing and terrorizing populations that did not accept their beliefs. In North Africa, they managed to get some support for their cause from groups of indigenous Berbers by playing off of the tensions between them and the ruling Arabs.

Eventually, the Khariji movement would die out slowly, a victim of its own extremism that prevented it from ever being accepted by most Muslims. One strand of them managed to moderate to some extent and developed into the Ibadi sect, which today forms the majority of Oman’s population. But while the Khariji movement itself did not last, their concept of takfir of sinners has been resurrected from time to time by numerous extremist groups, even being echoed by some modern political movements.

Bibliography:

Hodgson, Marshall G. S. The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1974.

Ibn Khaldūn. The Muqaddimah, An Introduction To History. Bollingen, 1969. 230.

Saunders, John J. A History of Medieval Islam. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980.

HSBC shuts accounts of Muslim organisations, including Finsbury Park mosque

The Guardian World news: Islam - 30 July, 2014 - 18:17
The organisations all received near-identical letters from HSBC saying their services fell 'outside of our risk appetite'

Three Muslim organisations, including the Finsbury Park mosque, are demanding answers from HSBC after being told by the bank that their accounts were being shut down.

The organisations, also including the Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT) and the Cordoba Foundation thinktank, all received near-identical letters from HSBC dated 22 July giving them two months notice and saying their services fell "outside of our risk appetite".

Continue reading...

HSBC: the bank that likes to say no to Muslim accounts | Giles Fraser

The Guardian World news: Islam - 30 July, 2014 - 11:08
Finsbury Park mosque and other Islamic groups have been told they no longer satisfy HSBCs risk appetite. How will the bank brand this one?

It is the worlds local bank or so it tells us. With advertising dominating the departure lounges of international airports, HSBC styles itself as global in reach and personal in service. But recent letters to a number of Muslim organisations and individuals informing them, without any intelligible reason, that the bank no longer wants their business, raises questions about both claims.

On 22 July, the Finsbury Park mosque, in north London of Abu Hamza fame got a letter out of the blue telling it that the bank was going to close its account because it was no longer within its risk appetite, whatever that is supposed to mean. It is absolutely not based on race or religion the bank insists, though no reason other than the Orwellian risk appetite comment is given for the move and no contact was made by the bank before the letter dropped through the mosques letterbox.

Continue reading...

Army rabbi exhorted “God’s army” before they massacred Palestinians in Shujaiya

Loon Watch - 30 July, 2014 - 05:33

Rontzki Army rabbi exhorted “God’s army” before they massacred Palestinians in Shujaiya

By Ben White (Electronic Intifada)

Prominent settler and former Israeli army chief rabbi Avichai Rontzki delivered a “messianic, fiery speech” to Israeli forces prior to the devastating massacre of the Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiya, it was revealed today.

An account of the speech appears in a new piece by Nahum Barnea, a prominent journalist at Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, and is based on remarks made by a soldier present at the time.

The soldier related that before their invasion of Shujaiya, troops were gathered to “listen to the words” of Rontzki, who “praised the miracle of God’s army.” According to an article last week in Kipa, a religious-Zionist oriented news site, Rontzki has been performing reserve duty and “encouraging the combatants on the ground.”

The Electronic Intifada has already reported on the phenomenon of groups of Jewish mystics offering support to the Israeli forces currently shelling Gaza, as well as the Israeli army commander who declared “holy war” on Palestinians.

“Damned”

The anonymous soldier in Barnea’s article also recounts a similar event prior to the Shujaiya massacre:

We got close to Kibbutz Nahal Oz and then they gathered us together. You know how it is in the army – when told to gather, you gather. Waiting for us was a bunch of Breslev Hasidic Jews singing “Messiah, Messiah,” dancing and bouncing around. We formed a circle around them, and a bunch of fighters danced with them in ecstasy

Israel’s ground assault on the Gaza Strip began late on Thursday 17 July, with tanks receiving orders “to open fire at anything that moved.”  Over the next few days, the Shujaiya district of Gaza City was subjected to intense and indiscriminate bombardment, including 600 shells fired by an artillery battalion and 100 one-ton bombs dropped from the air.

Rontzki’s speech to Israeli soldiers recalls his time as Israeli army chief rabbi, when, in 2009, he told religious students that troops who “show mercy” towards the enemy in wartime will be “damned.” During Israel’s so-called “Operation Cast Lead” massacre in 2008-09, the army rabbinate under his leadership distributed inflammatory publications that referred to the massacre as “a war on murderers.”

Rontzki was one of the founding members of Itamar, a fanatical Israeli settlement colony near Nablus, where has also led a yeshiva, or religious seminary.

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