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Muslimah Media Watch - 27 March, 2015 - 06:00
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, CEO of Muslimgirl.net, explains how Muslim women are ‘spoken over by the public’ and their voices ‘ignored.’ In a rare protest in Afghanistan’s male-dominated society, female rights activists in Kabul carry coffin of a woman beaten to death for allegedly burning Quran to graveyard. A Muslim [Read More...]

Keeping our Brothers and Sisters in Islam

Muslim Matters - 27 March, 2015 - 01:41

الحمد لله رب العالمين و الصلاة و السلام على اشرف المرسلين سيدنا محمد سيد الاولين و الاخرين و على اله و اصحابه و من دعا بدعوته و استن بسنته الى يوم الدين. ) سُبْحَانَكَ لَاعِلْمَ لَنَا إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمْتَنَا إِنَّكَأ َنْتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ(

 

All praises belong to Allāh. We send prayers and salutations on the most honorable among the Messengers, our leader Muḥammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the leader of the early ones and the later ones, as well as on his family, his companions, and those who call towards his message and adopt his Sunnah until the day of resurrection. “To You belongs all purity! We have no knowledge except what You have given us. Surely, You alone are the All-knowing, All-wise.”

The Practice of More or Less

This is an article meant to be a complement to two recent articles on the subject of practicing Islām. The intent here is to demonstrate how it is necessary for us, as Muslims, to bridge the gap between those who practice and those who practice less.

There is no denying that as Muslims, as a matter of fact, as human beings, we are bound to live as positive contributors to our social environment, through dignity and respect, despite our differences. One may use any word they wish: tolerance, open-mindedness, accepting diversity. All words refer to the ability the most honorable ones among us have in sincerely displaying a high standard of character when dealing with others.

The first matter to establish and agree on, is that there is a categorization among the Muslims which has been established by naṣṣ (textual evidence) of Qurʾān, and which will always exist until the end of times.

“Then We gave the Book as an inheritance to those whom We chose from among Our servants; among them is the one who wrongs himself, and among them is also the one who takes a middle course, and of them is the one who is foremost in virtuous deeds by Allāh's permission; this is the great excellence.” (s. al-Fāṭir,v. 32)

One wishing to see a full tafsīr of this verse, may consult this article.

Below are three statements on the tafsīr of this verse which are most relevant to our present discussion:

It has been narrated that while delivering a sermon, ʿUmar Ibn Al-Khaṭṭāb raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, after having read the above verse, that Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: 'Our foremost ones have gone ahead, our middle coursed ones are saved, and our wrongful ones are forgiven.'[1]

It has also been narrated through Abū Dardā, that Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: 'The foremost one will enter Paradise with no accounting; the middle coursed one will go through an easy reckoning and then enter Paradise; the wrongful one will be held, until he thinks he is doomed, at whichpoint, he will be overtaken by the mercy of Allāh and will enter Paradise.'[2] This is yet another glad-tiding for accepting Allāh's oneness, although one may be lacking in their observance of Allāh's commands. It is also a glad tiding for those who observe Allāh's commands, through being freed from a reckoning or going through an easy one.

Ibn-ʿAṭā explains: Allah Taʿālā has mentioned the wrongful ones first in the verse so they may not despair from His favor. It is also said that he has mentioned them first so they may know that their sins do not distance them from their Lord. It is also said that this order was set because, generally, one's initial spiritual state is that of disobedience, followed byrepentance [tawba] and then steadfastness [istiqāma].

According to Ibn-ʿAṭā's explanation, if this verse is directed at anyone, it is to those who practice least. Yet, those who practice their Islām more diligently can benefit from the order of spiritual progress explained by Ibn-ʿAṭā. If we accept that spiritual progress is a natural progress, as explained by Ibn-ʿAṭā, then we convince ourselves to give salām because we are sure they're good Muslims. It's only that they are at a spiritual stage which is less advanced. There is nothing wrong with greeting others with all due respect and consideration, and with no fear of being judged. If the fear of being judged is the only reason why we fail to do so, then we are running away from annoyance while forsaking an obligatory or commendable matter. It is one of the traits of Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to endure annoyance from others. Being judged is a light matter, especially from a person with whom we do not have regular dealings (spouse, sibling, co-worker etc…).

In fact, those who practice Islam diligently should greet the less diligent ones with even more warmth than they would normally do to ones similar in practice to themselves. This is so because if the diligent Muslims were to forsake greeting the less-practicing ones, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, then by what miracle will they be drawn towards their category? Guidance lies with Allāh, but Allāh has made means for everything in this world. The guidance of the first category of Muslims to the second category, or their capacity to remain within that first category is dependent on the dealings of those Muslims who have the fate of being in a higher category.

Why Keep Company?

Keeping company with one another has been encouraged in the Qurʾān by Allāh's affirmation that He has bestowed His bounty on the people of īmān by making them brothers.

“Remember the blessing of Allāh upon you: When you were enemies to each other, and He brought your hearts together, so that, you became brothers through His blessing.” (s. Āl-ʿImrān, v. 103).

The main objective of companionship is to assist one another and strengthen one another.

“He is the One who supported you with His aid and with the believers,and He united their hearts.” (s. al-Anfāl, v. 62-63). It is also narrated in ḥadīth, 'The relationship of the believer with another believer is like (the bricks of) a building, each strengthens the other.'[3]

There are even greater benefits in the ākhira (hereafter), such as the ability of those who are superior to intercede on behalf of those who are inferior, thus allowing them to gain forgiveness and high stations in Paradise (through that intercession).

This is critical to understand and practice upon. If those who practice less are deprived of the company of those who practice more, their practice will only worsen as they progress towards death. ʿAbdullāh Ibn-ʿAbbās  explains, 'Does anyone other than people corrupt people?”

In other words, either corruption or righteousness is a guaranteed effect of companionship. Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) also explains this through his saying, 'A person is on the religion of his friend, so let each one of you carefully consider whom they befriend.'[4]

Those Muslims who are less-practicing and yet love their Islām, should attempt to keep the company of those who practice more than them. Likewise, Muslims who practice more should attempt to befriend the Muslims who practice less so they may benefit from their companionship. The problem of forsaking the salām requires much more than a simple online discussion. It's a behavior that requires actively seeking Allāh's assistance to correct. In doing so, we hope to comply to Allāh's command in assisting one another towards righteousness and taqwā. It's just as important as, if not more, than dressing in accordance to the precepts of Islām.

There are numerous examples from Rasūlullāh r that exemplify adopting kindness when dealing with others. One such example is when he reprimanded ʿĀisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) for being harsh to a Jewish woman. He said, 'O ʿĀisha, adopt gentleness, because indeed Allāh-Taʿālā is gentle and He loves gentleness. He grants through gentleness that which He does not grant through harshness, and which He does not grant through anything else.'[5]

Afshush Salam

Greeting our fellow Muslims is the simplest form of social interaction. The salām is 'the greeting of the people of Paradise', and it is 'The word (they receive) from a Merciful Lord' (s. Yāsīn, v. 58). Regular salām through many weeks, months, years can go a long way in preserving a Muslim's Islām or taking them to the next category of piety. This is nobility of character. That is, for one to be able to maintain honorable dealings with those who fail to do so, or those whose demeanor is repulsive. It is mentioned in ḥadīth that, 'The believer will certainly reach, through his noble character, the rank of the one who pray during the hours of the night and fast abundantly.'[6] It is also mentioned that those who will sit the closest to Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) on the day of qiyāma are those whose character is the most noble[7]; the noble next to the noblest.

According to ʿUmar, the less diligent are 'forgiven' and according to Abū-Dardā's ḥadīth, 'will be overtaken by the mercy of Allah and will enter Paradise.' One may as well look at them as people of Paradise when dealing with them. Their road to Paradise is just different and we are responsible for contributing to better that journey.

It is narrated about ʿUmar Ibn al-Khaṭṭāb raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), that he once took someone as a brother for the sake of Allāh in Madīna-Munawwarah, and that the person eventually moved to Shām (Syria). ʿUmar later enquired about his state of affairs from someone coming from Shām. The person replied, 'That man is shayṭān's brother!' ʿUmar asked 'Why?' He replied, 'He indulges in major sins to the point that he even drinks liquor.' ʿUmar then said, 'Inform me prior to leaving for Shām'. He then wrote to his friend in Shām:

“Hā Mīm .This is revelation of the Book from Allāh, the Mighty, the All-Knowing, the One who forgives sins and accepts repentance, the One who is severe in punishment, the One who is the source of all power. There is no god but He. To Him is the ultimate return (of all).” (s. Ghāfir, v. 1-3)

Following the verse, Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) then reprimanded and rebuked him.

When the man came to read the letter, he wept, and said, 'Allāh has said the truth and ʿUmar has indeed discharged naṣīḥa (well-wishing advice).' He then repented and returned to his good ways.

It is worthy to note that ʿUmar's advice was received well and had the desired effect. This is because, rather than shunning the brother, he kept the man as his brother in Allāh, even after having been informed about his state of affairs. Finally, the advice was discharged through a letter privately (with wisdom).

The salām of the practicing Muslims to the less-practicing ones, taking them as brothers or sisters for the sake of Allāh and advising them when there is an opportunity to do so, will go a long way in improving their practice, in shā Allāh. Having dealings with them while living as a contributor to the betterment of society will have an even greater effect. Furthermore, doing all this for the sake of Allāh will guarantee that results are reached.

The above is a reminder to all our Muslim brethren. A reminder that Allāh has put us in the same verse insūra Fāṭir; our differing levels of practice are none but a source of strength for us. Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), whom we all profess to believe in, is our link to Allāh and his teachings and lifestyle should be our aim. Muslims who practice less should make a sustained effort to educate themselves about the Rasūl ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his practice of Islām. Those who follow that practice outwardly should make a sustained effort to learn how to take example on him inwardly, by adopting his noble character when dealing with others.

We ask Allāh to favor us all with an Islām that is granted acceptance, which constantly grows, and which we meet Allāh with.

Was-salāmu ʿalaykum wa raḥmatullāhi wa barakātuh.

[1] Al-Durr al-Manthūr, al-Suyūṭī

[2]MusnadImāmAḥmad, Mustadrak al-Ḥākim

[3] Al-Bukhārī and Muslim

[4]Abū-Dāwūd and Tirmidḥī

[5]Al-Bukhārī

[6]Abū-Dāwūd and Ibn-Ḥibbān

[7]Al-Tirmidhī

The post Keeping our Brothers and Sisters in Islam appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

A Reaction’s Potential

Muslim Matters - 27 March, 2015 - 01:09

Since moving to Flushing, NY 8 months ago, I have passed by the John Bowne House countless times. The sign outside of this historical monument reads: “Bowne House: A Shrine to Religious Freedom Since 1662”. In 1656, when the town of Flushing was part of the Dutch colony New Netherland, governor Peter Stuyvesant passed an ordinance prohibiting the practice of religions other than the Dutch Reformed Church. John Bowne defied this ban by allowing a group of Quakers to hold religious services in his home. When he refused to accept guilt for his actions, he was swiftly deported to Holland. Bowne successfully argued his case abroad and Stuyvesant was ordered to permit all faiths to worship freely, establishing the principle of religious freedom in New Netherland. [1]

It is ironic that I live a stone's throw from this beacon of justice, yet have felt apprehensive leaving my home of late due to my outward manifestation of my religious beliefs—a headscarf and ankle-length skirt. My work as a resident-physician entails that I leave my home in the early morning hours and often return after dark. It is soothing to know that Flushing is bustling at all hours and that a person contemplating a violent act against me would be deterred by the presence of bystanders. But it is troubling to know that I think in such a manner when this well-preserved “shrine to religious freedom” stands 4 blocks away.

If I were to consider my newfound apprehension solely in the setting of my personal experiences, my fears would be vastly misplaced. Instances of prejudice directed toward me for my religious beliefs have been few and far-between. And when I have endured them, the reaction of those who may be of help has been swift and effective. I recall being openly demeaned as a sophomore in college by a visiting professor during class. When I received a C- for a subsequent assignment on which I had worked diligently, I could fathom no other motivation for the professor's behavior but prejudice. I still remember the words he used to explain my grade when I approached him 2 days later: “Your work was far below the level of your peers; your grade should actually have been closer to failing; that may have convinced you to drop this class since you clearly don't belong here.” Reliving that experience, now 7 years old, is still traumatic. But the rest of my memories connected with this incident are fuzzy; positive experiences are always harder to recall than the negative. I recall heading to my advisor's office in tears and explaining the situation. I recall speaking with the university's Muslim chaplain and trying to make sense of what had just happened. I recall over half of my classmates offering to speak in my defense when they heard of my grade. I recall digging out my father's 1980s tape recorder and hauling it to my next class, ready to store evidence. But neither my classmates nor my antiquated cassette tape were needed; within 2 days my assignment grade was changed to an A-. I learned soon after that my situation had been explained to the Dean, who had spoken with my professor. What I remember of the outcome of this incident is my well-deserved A in the class and my dean's assurance, citing my service activities within and outside the school, that my presence within his college was more valuable to him than one visiting professor's.

My dean judged me, and I am grateful to him for it. His judgment, based on my academic record and personal activities, taught me that it was safe to showcase my faith, as justice would be served should prejudice arise. I was the student who cited a Qur'anic verse in her medical school application essay as a motivation for my career choice. While a medical student at a historically Jewish institution, our annual Fast-a-Thon, organized by students of various faiths in commemoration of the charity encouraged during the Islamic month of Ramadan, was known to be a main source of funding for our student-run free clinic. I refused to hide my research on end-of-life care of Muslim patients in my residency application, and ended up matching into a top-tier institution in the deep South for the bulk of my training.

My experiences have taught me that I am safe and welcome in this country, that my rights will be upheld, and my judgment will be based on my character and the actions that I bring forth. But recent events have swayed this thinking. When it took the U.S. President over 2 days to condemn the brutal murder of 3 openly Muslim students in their home in North Carolina and begin an investigation into its motive, one starts to question how much such bright souls matter to our country's fabric. When all the news could talk about for days after the event was a parking dispute, inherently placing some blame on the victims for their own execution, one wonders how much their actions and character factor into their judgment. In my comparatively-insignificant incident of prejudice, the response of those with authority shaped my reaction to such hate into something exceedingly positive. Unfortunately, a tragedy which has affected millions of Muslim-Americans is not being moved along such a trajectory.

I thank the news networks that have since portrayed Deah, Yusor, and Razan as the giving souls filled with potential that they were. I don't listen to the bigots who, amidst this calamity, have called for more murders of Muslims and have told my community that we do not belong in the USA. I was taught 7 years ago how to judge my own worth and know that it has not dwindled. It is estimated that 10% of US physicians are Muslim [2]. Pursuant of a career path fueled by self-sacrifice, I wonder how we can be thought to not belong in the country whose fellow citizens we selflessly serve. To the zealots who claim so, will we belong here when your heart stops beating and we are the doctors who pump your chest to help bring it back? Or perhaps at a time of tragedy when it is a doctor wearing a headscarf who stabilizes your injured child?

I am an example of how the USA can uplift its minorities with a sense of belonging and thereby benefit from our potential. With my religion as a driving force behind my good actions, I believe there is much that I can give to my country and its citizens. It is said that John Bowne's Quaker home served as a part of the Underground Railroad and helped many slaves to freedom. Those who shared his faith are known to have played an instrumental role in abolishing slavery. Imagine an America where Governor Stuyvesant's ordinance against religious freedom was upheld, an America without a Quaker legacy. We cannot know the potential lost when a group of people is subdued and made to feel that its contribution is unwanted. Rather, we know that the possible input of a million people fueled by a spirit of giving to a country that upheld their rights and encouraged their advancement is infinite.

 

 

Works Cited

[1] “The Bowne Family Biographies.” Bowne House. Web. 14 Feb. 2015. <http://www.bownehouse.org/history_bowne_family.htm>.

[2] Karim, Talib. “Muslim Doctors Abundant, But Muslim Hospitals Non-Existent PDF.” The Muslim Link 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 15 Feb. 2015. <http://www.muslimlinkpaper.com/myjumla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1440:Muslim Doctors Abundant, But Muslim Hospitals Non-Existent&Itemid=17>.

The post A Reaction’s Potential appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Reconsidering Muslim Dating & Expectations

Muslimah Media Watch - 26 March, 2015 - 20:20
One of my very first projects at Muslimah Media Watch was to review dating sites. The experience of discussing how we use technology to find a mate (here, here, here and here) baffled me a little because of the gendered and racialized aspects that I found while doing research. Later on, I also discovered that the [Read More...]

Iranian big-budget film causes controversy by depicting Muhammad

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 March, 2015 - 12:37

Director Majid Majidi defends blockbuster Muhammad, Messenger of God claiming it is meant to ‘bring unity to the Muslim world’

A big-budget Iranian film about Muhammad’s childhood has courted controversy by including shots of the prophet’s back, among them a low-angle shot of a teenage Muhammad against the sky.

Physical depictions of Muhammad are taboo in many Muslim communities – particularly those adhering to the dominant Sunni tradition – but Shia Islam, practiced by 90-95% of Iranians, has a more liberal approach to the issue. However, mindful of religious sensibilities, the film-makers – led by director Majid Majidi – have not attempted to show Muhammad’s face.

Continue reading...

Saudi Arabia begins airstrikes against Houthi in Yemen

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 March, 2015 - 00:09

In rare news conference, Saudi ambassador announces that attacks have commenced on Shia rebels who drove Yemeni president out of country

The Saudi ambassador to the United States says his country has begun airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen who drove out the US-backed Yemeni president.

Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir says the operations began at 7 pm Eastern time. He says the Houthis, widely believed to be backed by Iran, “have always chosen the path of violence”. He declined to say whether the Saudi campaign involved US intelligence assistance.

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Is Living with Islamophobia the New Normal for Muslims?

altmuslim - 25 March, 2015 - 15:47
By Arzu Kaya-Uranli Honey, don’t get me wrong, but maybe it’s better if you remove these Arabic words from above your door for a while,” my 70-year-old neighbor softly advised me as she was leaving my house. I must have given her a puzzled look because she explained, “Crazy things are happening in the world, and [Read More...]

Behind the Afzal Amin row: fight over mosque at heart of community tensions

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 March, 2015 - 12:44

Amid furore over Tory’s alleged EDL dealings in Dudley, little has been said about the prayerhouse at its centre – a contentious issue simmering for years

Two bulbous white domes perch incongruously atop a draughty Grade II-listed former school across the hill from Dudley’s ruined castle, symbols of Islamic architecture bolted on to the old building that has for decades allowed the town’s growing Muslim population a space to pray.

Next door, inside the community centre, Amjid Raza, the mosque’s spokesman, explains how the political row that led to Afzal Amin’s resignation as Tory candidate for Dudley North on Monday was just the latest twist in a 15-year battle that has seen ugly and violent protests as the far-right has sought to inflame community tensions for their own ends.

Related: Afzal Amin quits as Tory candidate for Dudley North after EDL plot allegations

You can’t deceive your own community. I do feel let down.

Continue reading...

Raw Story: Georgia ‘patriot’ reportedly planted pipe bombs in park to sow fear of Muslims

Loon Watch - 24 March, 2015 - 22:34

Pipe-bomb-via-Shutterstock-800x430

By David Ferguson, Raw Story

A 67-year-old Marietta, Georgia man is accused of planting a backpack containing two pipe bombs in an Atlanta-area public park in order to frighten the public and sow fear of Islamic terrorism.

According to Atlanta’s Channel 2 News, conservative “patriot” Michael Sibley confessed to police that he was trying to educate people that terror strikes can happen anywhere and without warning when he planted the bombs last November.

The backpack contained two partially-constructed pipe bombs, a Koran and a list of “soft targets” for terrorist attacks — i.e., non-military, unguarded structures like hospitals and schools. Among the list of potential targets was an Atlanta Jewish center.

Channel 2 quoted Sibley’s arrest report, which reported that he “(s)tated that he is a ‘patriot’ and he felt no one was paying attention to what was going on the world. Sibley felt if he placed the package in a Roswell park then people would finally get that this type of activity could happen anywhere.”

Read the entire article…

Devout Christian Goes On Rampage At New Orleans Airport And You Didn’t Hear About It

Loon Watch - 24 March, 2015 - 19:35

via. Daily Beast

via. Daily Beast

What if they were Muslim?

By Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast

A Muslim American man carrying a duffel bag that holds six homemade explosives, a machete, and poison spray travels to a major U.S. airport. The man enters the airport, approaches the TSA security checkpoint, and then sprays two TSA officers with the poison. He then grabs his machete and chases another TSA officer with it.

This Muslim man is then shot and killed by the police. After the incident, a search of the attacker’s car by the police reveals it contained acetylene and oxygen tanks, two substances that, when mixed together, will yield a powerful explosive.

If this scenario occurred, there’s zero doubt that this would be called a terrorist attack. Zero. It would make headlines across the country and world, and we would see wall-to-wall cable news coverage for days. And, of course, certain right-wing media outlets, many conservative politicians, and Bill Maher would use this event as another excuse to stoke the flames of hate toward Muslims.

Well, last Friday night, this exact event took place at the New Orleans airport—that is, except for one factual difference: The attacker was not Muslim. Consequently, you might be reading about this brazen assault for the first time here, although this incident did receive a smattering of media coverage over the weekend.

The man who commited this attack was Richard White, a 63-year-old former Army serviceman who has long been retired and living on Social Security and disability checks. He was reportedly a devout Jehovah’s Witness.

Given the facts that a man armed with explosives and weapons traveled to an airport and only attacked federal officers, you would think that the word “terrorism” would at least come up as a possibility, right?  But it’s not even mentioned.

Instead, law enforcement was quick to chalk this incident up to the attacker’s alleged “mental health issues.” That was pretty amazing police work considering this conclusion came within hours of the attack. There was no mention by police that they had even explored whether White had issues with the federal government stemming from his military service, if there was any evidence he held anti-government views, etc.

Perhaps Mr. White truly was mentally ill. Interviews with his neighbors, however, don’t even give us a hint that he had mental problems. Rather they described White as a “meek” and “kind” man who a few had spoken to just days before the incident and everything seemed fine. You would think these neighbors would at least note that White had a history of mental illness if it was so apparent.

Read the entire article…

For A French Rabbi And His Muslim Team, There’s Work To Be Done

Loon Watch - 24 March, 2015 - 18:19

eleanor1_custom-247522227511a3ec1c2136ad3311eb7a6c3b85e9-s800-c85

By Eleanor Beadsley, NPR

Rabbi Michel Serfaty drives to his first appointment of the day, in a suburb south of Paris, just a couple miles from the notorious housing project where gunman Amedy Coulibaly grew up.

Coulibaly is the self-proclaimed Islamist radical who killed a police officer and later four people in a Kosher market in Paris terrorist attacks in January.

France has Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities. For the last decade Serfaty and his team have been working in bleak places like this, trying to promote understanding between the two populations.

Serfaty is still going to the same places since the attacks, but there’s now a team of undercover police officers who accompany him everywhere. Still, The rabbi says he’s more determined than ever.

“These are difficult times for France and especially for French Jews,” he says. “But if anything, we realize our work is even more important.”

The rabbi makes his way into a community center where his French Jewish Muslim Friendship Association has a stand at a local job fair. Serfaty hopes to recruit several more young people to help with community outreach in the largely Muslim, immigrant communities where most people have never even met a Jewish person.

A poster for the French Jewish Muslim Friendship Association, which works in many poor, immigrant neighborhoods.

A poster for the French Jewish Muslim Friendship Association, which works in many poor, immigrant neighborhoods.

Eleanor Beardsley/NPR

“In these places they often have specific ideas about Jews,” says Serfaty. “And if they’re negative, we bring arguments and try to open people’s eyes to what are prejudices and negative stereotypes. We try to show children, mothers and teenagers that being Muslim is great, but if they don’t know any Jews, well this is how they are, and they’re also respectable citizens.”

Serfaty says people need to realize they must all work together to build France’s future.

The rabbi takes advantage of funding from a government program that helps youths without work experience find their first job. Serfaty takes them on for a period of three years, giving them valuable training in mediation and community relations. Serfaty’s recruits also study Judaism and Islam. And he takes them on a trip to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp.

The rabbi takes advantage of funding from a government program that helps youths without work experience find their first job. Serfaty takes them on for a period of three years, giving them valuable training in mediation and community relations. Serfaty’s recruits also study Judaism and Islam. And he takes them on a trip to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp.

Serfaty is looking to hire three or four new people. With his affable manner and easy laugh, the job interviews are more like a friendly conversation. He needs Muslim employees for his work, but French laws on secularism forbid him from asking applicants about their religion. So Serfaty draws out the candidates’ views and beliefs in discussion — and through provocative questions.

Read the entire article...

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Intimacy for Muslim Couples

Muslim Matters - 24 March, 2015 - 14:50

Intimacy Matters with Haleh Banani, Saba Syed and Hena Zuberi: Introduction

For mature audience only:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Intimacy between spouses is a beautiful act of worship. A divine experience that has been mired by anxieties fueled by hypersexualized media, Hollywood movies, many cultural beliefs from the East and misinformed 18th century notions rooted in the West.

It took a year of contemplation for us to publicly address this topic in a broadcast, but the need amongst Muslim couples was so great that we had to put aside our hesitations. The Prophet, sallallahu alihi wasalam and the sahaba and sahabiyaat were not shy to discuss these matters.

Usually when sexual intimacy is discussed in public it is not from a female lens, hence we want to collaborate with our male Shuyukh by providing the female perspective, so we can all contribute to healthy marriages.

If we look at intimacy as both a physical and spiritual act and climaxing as the epitome of pleasure that Allah has gifted us, it is easier to understand why it is meant to be a source of Divine Love for both men and women.

As you will hear today that intimacy has become a serious problem in many marriages—  there are many guilt and shame based misconceptions that cause problems between spouses often leading to divorce. Our main motive is to foster healthy marriages, Allah says he loves those who foster purity and marriage is the best way to guard our desires.

We don't want to generalize because generalization can hurt a relationship and each relationship is as different as the people involved in it. Let's not play the blame game after listening to this. We want couples to listen together in hopes of understanding and bettering their marriage.

Men Complain:

-“My wife doesn't want to have intercourse”

-Frequency is mainly a concern amongst men

-“My wife doesn't actively participate in intimacy, or never initiates”

Women Complain:

-Quality of intimacy

-Lack of foreplay

-Most common complaints: “He fails to give me a climax.”

How To Score BIG With Women: An Islamic and Psychological Approach for Men Why is there a Difference between Men's and Women's Complaints about Intimacy?

Different needs but BOTH men and women are sensual beings and they BOTH need sensual fulfillment.

Top needs for men include:

-#1 Need: Mutual satisfaction (contrary to popular belief that men only want their own sexual satisfaction they, naturally, want to satisfy their wives too)

-Responsiveness of their spouse – men want their wives engaged during the act: mentally, emotionally and physically

-Men desire initiation by their wife —they long to feel wanted, desired and affirmed

-Men also want to be complimented

Generally, men see intimacy as an escape or release of tension.  They need the intimate act to open up emotionally.

Unfortunately, women continue to be restricted sexually by:

-Shame

-Guilt

-Social and society influence

-Religiously perceived notions

-Family taboos

Sex masha'Allah: Vignettes on Female Sexuality Women have sexual needs:

Instead of being able to fully express their sensual nature, women are restricted to being “emotional” only and ripped apart from their “sexual” side.

A woman can be as sensual as she is spiritual, as erotic as she is intellectual and as climatic as she is emotional.

There is a common ground in the complaints—of both men and women— and it is “intimacy”, but:

-Men want intimacy and they want their wives' participation, and more frequently

-Women have complaints about the quality of intimacy

Many men not only have a huge misunderstanding about women's sexuality, shockingly many still wonder whether or not a woman is able to reach her climax. Yet, many confuse pleasing a woman in bed as equivalent to fondling only and not making her experience a climax.

Majority of married Muslim women complain about “satisfaction” during intimacy.

The word “satisfaction” is often confused with fondling or fore-playing only. The truth is that if and when explicitly asked, these women explicitly complain about not being able to reach their climax.

SO while men complain about lack of participation of frequency of intimacy, women lose interest because they don't want to be intimate if they can't reach their climax. It's a cycle and unless men understand women's need of sexuality, women will continue to lose interest that can lead to dangerous consequences.

Next video will be up soon.

 

 

 

The post Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Intimacy for Muslim Couples appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Trojan horse school in Birmingham to be renamed

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 March, 2015 - 12:37

Park View, which was at centre of alleged plot by Muslim extremists to take over state schools in city, to rebrand as Ofsted praises progress

Park View academy, the Birmingham school at the centre of the Trojan horse allegations of religious infiltration, is to rebrand itself in an attempt to improve its image, as the school celebrates the first signs of official approval for its overhaul.

Adrian Packer, the school’s new executive principal, has told parents that a new name for the school is to be voted on by parents and pupils, after the academy’s governing body, the Park View educational trust, decided to rename itself the Core education trust.

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FearBusters: Fear of Criticism

Muslim Matters - 24 March, 2015 - 04:00

See Introduction: FearBusters: Conquering our Fears

See Part 1: Fear of Poverty

Part 2: Fear of Criticism

Let me describe a scenario to you and you tell me if it sounds familiar to you or not.

You have a big decision to make in life and in you're certain that in your heart you know what the right thing to do is. However, the voices and the opinions of others around you seem to ring louder than the sound of your own heart. So you make the critical mistake of listening to others opinions and the recommendation of others, rather than listen to your own heart.

Sound familiar?

I have seen this situation played out time and time again to the detriment of the individual who has either: 1) Been listening to others for so long that they don't even know how to listen to and trust their own hearts or 2) They have chosen to ignore their hearts and follow the opinions of others instead.

Why does this happen? Oftentimes, people will point to some obvious reasons for this phenomenon occurring, however I think the underlying reason is the fear of criticism or what others will say and think. As a matter of fact, having been born to a South Asian family, one of the staples of every argument in every desi household is “Don't do that…what will people say (or think) about you if you wear that outfit? Or if you chose to marry that girl/guy? or if you live in that neighborhood?”

I'm just pointing out the South Asian culture because that's my background but this type of conversation happens all the time in cultures throughout the world. And I'm not here to say that everyone else's suggestions and opinions are always wrong and ours is always right. The point is that you need to dig deep and really understand if whether or not you're listening to them because you really feel that what they're suggesting is a better route for you and feels right in your heart, or you're just doing it because you're succumbing to pressure out of fear of being criticized for making your own choices in life. This is the question that you need to look deep inside of yourself and answer.

Am I living out other peoples' lives based on their wishes for me, or am I living out my own? Always listening to other people out of the fear of what criticism may arise by not listening to them, is in essence giving away your God-given freedom to make your own choices in life.

Not only are you giving away your God-given freedoms but you're giving them away to a group of people who most probably will never be satisfied with you no matter what you do! That's the reality of people who often criticize you and others. They're bitter and unhappy people who you will not be able to please no matter what you do. So why in the world would you give away the power to direct and lead your life based on what your own heart tells you just to please a people who will never be pleased in the first place?!?!?!

Sounds ridiculous right? The sad reality is that millions upon millions do this every single day.

Here are 3 deeper sides to this issue:

  1. Many of the people who criticize you and you are afraid of their criticism will be family members who you can't just 'get rid of'. But that's a topic for another article altogether.
  2. By always worrying and fearing what others think, you take attention away from focusing on pleasing the only One who you really have to answer to…Allah.
  3. Successful people are not people who always have to rely on what others think and suggest for them. Successful people are confident and self-assured in their actions.
Principle to overcome this Fear: Learn to trust and listen to the voice of your own heart

This is a very simple, yet powerful principle. The prophet himself advised a companion to consult his own heart on a particular matter. We must learn to listen to our own hearts while consulting the Most High in decisions both big and small. Our gut feeling and instinct is very powerful and is developed through our life experiences and we must learn to listen to it and get in the habit of looking inside for answers rather than outside.

The post FearBusters: Fear of Criticism appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Blaming the Victims: An Art Form in The NY Times

Now that the Israeli election has faded from prominence on the front pages of The New York Times, readers may recall that a new entity sprang up during the 2015 campaign, a coalition party called the Joint List. It represents the Palestinian (Arab) citizens of Israel, and it managed to take third place in the number of seats in parliament.

The Times gave space to this new phenomenon. The party was duly mentioned in overviews of the race, and stories out of the Israeli Arab cities of Nazareth and Ibillin looked at its candidates and the concerns of Palestinians who support its platform.

At first glance, this is all to the good—the Times often overlooks the presence of Arabs and other minorities within Israel—but a closer look shows that even here we find the usual effort to shield Israel from serious scrutiny.

The Times stories (“Arab Alliance Rises as Force in Israeli Elections” and “Voters in Nazareth Cheer Gains by Arab Alliance”) note that Palestinian citizens of Israel are poorer and less educated than their Jewish counterparts and that they live in more crowded conditions, but the articles say nothing about the Israeli policies and laws that create this inequality in the first place.

On the contrary, the stories imply that the fault is with Israeli Arab leaders. Reporter Diaa Hadid quotes a Palestinian resident of the Galilee who says Arab politicians have done nothing for them so far. “We have no space here,” the man adds, apparently blaming this fact on the Palestinian representatives.

Hadid then describes the town as “crowded with boxy concrete homes on narrow streets” with “billboards blighting the view.” The “densely packed” Arab towns, she writes, “are in stark contrast to the leafy, well-planned Jewish communities that often sit nearby.”

There is no mention of the fact that 93 percent of the land in Israel is owned by the state for the benefit of Jews only and it is Israeli policies that prevent Arabs from expanding their crowded towns. Nazareth, for instance, has been encircled by the Jewish community of Nazareth Illit, which sits on hilltops surrounding the city. It was built specifically to block any efforts to develop Nazareth beyond its present boundaries.

The story also fails to note that 600 Israeli Jewish towns have been built since 1948 while the state has yet to recognize a single new Arab community. In fact, many towns that predated the establishment of Israel by centuries are “unrecognized” by the state and thus denied normal services, such as water, schools and transportation.

Most of these unrecognized villages are Bedouin communities in the Negev (Naqab in Arabic). Israel plans to force nearly all of their residents into townships, destroying their traditional livelihoods of herding and agriculture.

During the recent elections, residents of these villages were forced to travel long distances to reach polling places. The authorities refused to set up polls in their communities and even cut back the number of voting sites that had existed before.

Yet, none of this appeared in the pages of the Times, even in the stories directly concerned with Arab voters. Nothing is said of the more than 50 laws that privilege Jewish over minority residents of Israel. Instead, readers were provided with a vague reference to inequality in “land allocation” and demeaning comparisons between Palestinian and Jewish communities.

In a third story concerning the Joint List, the Times acknowledges the prejudice and ridicule directed at Arab members within parliament, but overall the paper fails to provide the context for Arab struggles within Israel, beginning with the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 and continuing even now with the confiscation of homes and land. (See, for instance, “Arab village of Dahmash fears being wiped off Israel’s map.”)

As Israeli Palestinians continue to cling to their homeland, squeezed into constricted spaces and denied the benefits of the majority community, they deserve recognition of their narrative. The Times, however, prefers to protect Israel, falling back on that ancient tactic of blaming the victim.

Barbara Erickson


Filed under: NY Times Censorship Tagged: Adalah, Ibillin, Israeli Arabs, Israeli elections, Israeli Palestinians, Nazareth

Jews And Muslims: It’s Complicated (III)

Loon Watch - 23 March, 2015 - 23:49

Algeria_Jewish_Quarter

Original Guest post by Mehdi

Read part I and II in this series

The revolutions that swept across Europe: the French revolution, the Napoleonic wars and the 1830-1848 revolutions had a tremendous effect on the lives of people in the Muslim majority world:

  • Economically: as the industrial revolution radically changed world economics, increasing the importance of industry and manufacturing, it also reduced the importance of economic centers such as China, India and the Ottoman empire. Increased effectiveness in navy and train freight transportation fed the needs of the new European industrial elite, particularly hungry for natural resources.
  • Militarily: European powers acquired military experience and technology during their wars that gave them a decisive edge over potential opponents elsewhere in the world. This would prove decisive when they conquered nations and carved out their colonial empires, in the process destroying any resistance.
  • Politically and strategically: the wave of revolutions radically changed European politics and the structure of political systems. It also resulted in rivalries and competition that drove them to radicalizing their modern imperialist projects, which started to impact the rest of the word.

These changes are all well-known (documented by the late British historian Eric Hobsbawm), but most historical analysis focuses less on an important aspect: the impact of enlightenment ideas and modernity, especially on Arab minorities, including Arab Jews.

As explained in the last article, Jews (and Christians) lived under the Dhimma status, which provided a framework for protection and collective rights. The major paradigm shift was about the term “collective,” as this new era of modernity advanced the role of the individual and the importance of his/her rights.

Arab minorities were gradually exposed to these ideas, often via. European imperialist powers whose motives were less than noble. The imperialist powers carried out “divide and conquer” policies, using missionaries, trade delegations, military expeditions and specific legal arrangements known as capitulations.

European powers also declared themselves the protectors of so-called repressed minorities, such as the Druze or Maronite in Lebanon; a cynical move which sought to manipulate groups in order to increase their influence.

While the Enlightenment ideas were clearly instrumentalized for ulterior motives,  they were still attractive to minorities who aspired to a better status than second class citizenship. It should be noted however that there was also great tumult when changes were put into place, many minorities did not desire change to the status quo.

The decline of the Ottoman empire and other Muslim states led to a situation where they were incapable of addressing new challenges brought by modernity, they could not re-invent a legal system that worked for centuries but required adjustments or reforms in a new context. There were attempts to do so but they did not stir massive support, and were inaudible in the context of European aggressions.

European colonial powers also enacted laws and decrees that were clear “divide and conquer” measures, such as the Crémieux decree in Algeria (named after Jewish French politician Adolphe Crémieux), which allowed for native Jews to become French citizens while Muslim Arabs and Berbers were excluded and remained under the second-class ‘indigenous’ status outlined in the “Code de l’Indigénat.”

CremieuxThere were many other examples, (such as the French promotion of Berber separatism in Algeria and Morocco to no avail), and while the previous example is specific to Algeria, it shows the impact of colonialism on coexistence between Algerian Jews and Muslims.  As their lifestyles changed, they started naming their children differently (moving from typical Arabic Jewish names such as Mardochee or Haim to French names such as Raymond, Maurice or Marcel), living in different neighborhoods and studying under different educational systems (if they ever went to school at all, since the indigenous populations were globally excluded from any education).

The Impact of European Anti-Semitism

Historically, while some limited collaborations existed, the lives of European and Arab Jews was quite different. It is impossible to list all of these differences, but it is important to highlight that the condition of European Jews, and the persecutions they were subjected to (pogroms in Eastern Europe, discrimination in central Europe, Anti-Semitic public campaigns such as the Dreyfus affair in France) ended up impacting the Muslim world.

The history of Anti-Semitism is complex, and should be differentiated depending on the European countries and regions, but their concrete effects resulted in European Jews debating the best ways of addressing them, choosing between different strategies:

  • Assimilation: many European Jews believed in their capacity to be accepted by succeeding in public life, whether economically, politically (e.g. Benjamin Disraeli), or by simply supporting the emancipating ideals of enlightenment or modernity. Many prominent Jews chose a more radical approach by being involved in anarchist or communist revolutionary movements. It is interesting to note that several examples of Jewish success stories resulted in backlashes and more Anti-Semitic delirium (as a side note, contemporary racist rants in the USA after the election of President Obama or in Europe against Muslim or Black ministers parallel this delirium).
  • Emigration: chosen mostly by Eastern European Jews, especially after several waves of pogroms. The preferred destination was usually the USA, until restrictions were applied through the 1924 immigration act.
  • Zionism: promoting a separate Jewish homeland. The movement was initiated by Theodor Herzl after the Dreyfus affair convinced him that Jews had no future in Europe.
  • Bundism: mostly based in Eastern Europe, promoting national-cultural autonomy but clearly in conflict with Zionism. Bundism was depicted as an escapist doctrine with critics stating it served the agenda of Anti-Semites who wanted Jews out of Europe. Bundists defended Jewish communities in Eastern Europe until WW2. Famous Polish hero Marek Hedelman was one of its main figures, refusing to leave Poland and was also a prominent critic of Israeli policies until his passing. The Nazi holocaust, terror policies and repression ended up destroying the Bund movement.

BundThese directions are not a comprehensive outlook and strategies were not as clear cut, but this shows the different strategies that Jews had when facing European Anti-Semitism. The objective of this article is not to qualify which strategy is the best, nor to draw any political equivalence between such approaches. I am myself extremely opposed to Zionism but my criticism is not the topic of this article, the intent is to examine what happened and the resulting consequences.

Overall, the majority of European Jews either chose assimilation or immigration to the USA until 1924. The rise of Nazism in Germany and anti-immigration laws in the US aimed at European Jews changed the situation drastically and made the Zionist project an alternative in the 1930s and after WW2.

The Zionist movement started organizing departures of European Jews towards Palestine for settlement. The Balfour declaration provided the movement with political cover for departures, leaving the British in a situation where they had to balance their promises toward Zionist leaders with the promises of independence they made to Arab leaders. The British never established a clear strategy in the face of the arrival of Jewish settlers which led to more tensions and increased conflict such as the 1929 Hebron massacre.

While they were incapable of addressing the demands of both communities, the actions of the British strengthened the Zionist movement at the expense of Palestinian society and its leadership. For instance when they militarily crushed the 1936-39 Palestinian intifada and also simultaneously trained Zionist settlers, including many future Israeli army leaders within their ranks, such as Moshe Dayan. The events in the 1920s-30s gradually led the Zionist movement to become stronger, more militarized and tempted to implement an expulsion of the Arab population.

Intifada-36The outcome of the 1947-49 war was made predictable by the combined: crushing of the 1936-39 Palestinian insurgency (leaving the Palestinians with most of their political leadership either dead, in prison or in exile, crushed militarily, and with hardly any organized militia), the acquired military experience and weaponry by Jewish Hagganah and Irgun movements (during the Intifada and WW2), and the moral outrage following the horrific WW2 holocaust, which drew sympathy to the Zionist cause from the European and American public.

Joseph Stalin provided unexpected support to the Zionists first by allowing several tens of thousands of Polish Jews to emigrate to Palestine, including trained soldiers who had participated in resistance movements during the war, and by providing an important weapon shipment via. Czechoslovakia that David Ben Gurion later acknowledged to be decisive.

Ironically Joseph Stalin provided this decisive support to Zionists while conducting anti-Semitic campaigns in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

On the field, despite the intervention of Arab armies, the Hagana/Irgun and other militias outnumbered them, most estimates range between about 60,000 troops on the Israeli side versus less than 30,000 on the Arab side. The only army that was a potential threat to the Zionist militias was the Jordanian Arab legion, which never entered the battle due to a secret agreement between Golda Meir and King Abdallah, where the latter agreed to stay away from the conflict while being allowed to annex the West bank.

The war itself is subject to a lot of controversies, regarding the different strategies undertaken by the belligerents, the factors that led to the Israeli victory and the intentionality behind the mass expulsion of the Palestinians. The narrative of an Israeli “David” fighting heroically for its survival against superior Arab “Goliath” armies and winning against the odds has been the mainstream story for decades on the Israeli and Western side.

This view has started to erode since the 1980’s with the emergence of Israel’s “new historians”, the picture is now more nuanced, showing that the odds for an Israeli victory were even, if not overwhelmingly in its favor.

Nearly 80% of the Palestinian population living within the new state of Israel were expelled in what is known as the Nakba, most of them became refugees even before David Ben Gurion declared independence. (As often is the case in such tragedies, estimates are subject to speculation, the official figure is 711,000 Palestinians while 10,000 Jews were forced to evacuate their homes from Arab dominated parts of former Mandatory Palestine).

This was clearly shown and documented by the generation of “new historians,” who accessed the Israeli archives in the 1980s, confirming that the Palestinians were forced out massively and violently. There is a debate among the historians as to whether the expulsion was planned in advance (Benny Morris claims that it wasn’t whereas other historians such as Avi Shlaim or Illan Pappé conclude the opposite), but they all confirm that Palestinians were forced to leave their home. After the war, they would never be given any possibility to return to their lands, despite Israel signing UN resolution 194 that allowed such a return.

nakba

The irony is that Zionism, which presented itself as a liberation movement for Jews, became a colonization and expansionist movement for Arabs. That dilemma is still there, especially after the 1967 six-day war which saw the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and Golan heights (an occupation that still goes on except for the Sinai peninsula).

While the narratives continue to be debated, two points are indisputable:

  • The 1947-49 war resulted in the Nakba and saw the beginning of the Palestinian tragedy: causing moral outrage for Arabs and Muslims and a state of constant tensions and wars with the state of Israel, which presents itself as the representatives of Jews around the world.
  • Arab Jews were left in an uncomfortable situation, not clear whether to join the new state or stay in their countries.

The next and final article in this series will cover the separation between Arab Jews and Muslims, its reasons and effects and what we can and must do now.

 

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