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SHARING TEACHING | NAVIGATING TEENAGE YEARS | CHANGING THE NARRATIVE
CO 51 NV S T EN AN TI NU ON A | L IS P N AG A E 31
Bring a New Reality to
VOL. 43 NO. 3 MAY/JUNE 2014 visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET
COVER STORY 16 Michigan Muslims Bring a New Reality to Metro Detroit
Detroit Muslims working in concert with ISNA to create a memorable experience for attendees of the 51st ISNA Annual Convention
16 MUSLIMS IN ACTION
26 Sharing Teaching 30 Standing out at the Oscars 36 Muslim Women Changing the Narrative 40 44 46 48 50 52
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Living the Spirit of Aligarh Step Up, Start Up, and Connect to a New Economy Soccer Gets Muslim Women Friendly Racism in the Community Hijab Appropriation or Appreciation? The Invisible Dimensions of Islamophobia
54 Challenges Divorced Muslim Mothers Face 56 Navigating the Teenage Years
58 Khalil Alawan
6 8 12 59 60
50 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
DEPARTMENTS Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters Reviews Food for the Spirit
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Madihah Krishnamurthy. The views expressed in Islamic Horizons are not necessarily the views of its editors nor of the Islamic Society of North America. Islamic Horizons does not accept unsolicitated articles or submissions. All references to the Quran made are from The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD.
A Resolve to Shine
ately, Detroit has been in the news, but not necessarily for the best reasons. No one would blame some people who may be wondering why ISNA chose Detroit as the venue of its 51st Annual Convention. Certainly, an explanation is due. Due to various reasons, Detroit has been experiencing difficulties; however, the choice of Detroit as an ISNA convention city is based on the need to stand up to the challenge and contribute toward overcoming such difficulties. ISNA conventions and conferences are not about the venue, but about people. And without doubt, Detroit has a Muslim community that is striving to surge forward and to support the city’s efforts to rebuild. The 51st ISNA Annual Convention may serve as a brick in this rebuilding. Within the Detroit Muslim community, intense activity is underway to welcome America and to play the best host possible. The decision to choose Detroit is also based on the past pleasant experiences that ISNA has had there. Among the outstanding events hosted by the Detroit Muslim community are the Diversity Conferences of 2011 and 2012. “Our goal is to use the convention to mobilize the community, and after ISNA [convention] leaves, to maintain that infrastructure,” said Muzammil Ahmed, chairman of the Michigan Muslim Community Council — an umbrella group encompassing the metro area’s 25 Islamic centers and organizations — explaining the niyah behind welcoming the ISNA family in an interview with Islamic Horizons. Throughout a half century of holding conventions and communityrelated events, MSA-National and
ISNA have served to inspire host communities to come together, bond, and to grow. A mover behind the idea to bring the ISNA convention to Detroit is Syed Mohiuddin, vice chair of the ISNA convention steering committee, who wanted to see the city revitalized. Mohiuddin, a Detroit resident since 2009 who served as chair of the Diversity Forum, like many, is saddened to see a downtown that looks like a ghost town. Just like any Detroit resident, he wants the city to repossess its spirit. A city often called “Motown” and “The Motor City,” priding itself on its automotive heritage, needs to get its wheels going again. The successful hosting of Diversity Forums, provides ISNA the confidence in the intense hospitality level possessed by the Detroit Muslim community. Stereotypes, if any, aside, the Detroit Muslim community is not just Arabs. The community is as diverse as any Muslim community in United States or Canada. The mix includes old Muslim communities such as the immigrants who moved from what was “Greater Syria” (Shaam) starting the late 1880s to the new immigrants that add to the Muslim African mix. The Nation of Islam — from which grew the great centripetal movement of Imam W.D. Mohammed — was founded in Detroit in 1930. Convention attendees are sure to experience hospitality and friendship in varying hues and nuances. In keeping with its duty, the ISNA team at its headquarters is working in close collaboration with the Steering Committee in Detroit to create a fulfilling and memorable convention — an event that inspires not just Muslim Americans, but also those who are striving to move Detroit forward.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRE SID ENT Mohamed Hagmagid Ali PRE SID ENT ' S A D MINISTR ATIV E LIAIS O N Iqbal Unus ED IT O R
Omer Bin Abdullah FE ATURE S EDITO R Deanna Othman D EPA RTMENT S EDITO R Aisha Kishta ED IT O RIA L A DVIS O RY B OA RD
Julie Belz (Chair); Imam Mohamed Magid; Iqbal Unus; Sohaib Sultan; Wafa Unus. ISL A MI C H O RIZO NS
is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2014 All rights reserved Reproduction, in whole or in part, of this material in mechanical or electronic form without written permission is strictly prohibited. Islamic Horizons magazine is available electronically on ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch, LexisNexis, and EBSCO Discovery Service, and is indexed by Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Please see your librarian for access. The name “Islamic Horizons” is protected through trademark registration ISSN 8756‑2367 P O S T M A S TER
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ISNA MATTERS ISNA FOUNDERS’ COMMITTEE GATHERS FOR RETREAT
The ISNA Founders’ Committee (IFC) had its annual retreat at ISNA headquarters Feb. 14. IFC Chairman Dr. Abdul Alim Khandekar and ISNA Development Foundation (IDF) Executive Director Ahmed ElHattab led the discussions. IFC is a dedicated group of ISNA supporters. The committee has provided a unique supportive role to ISNA and its Development Foundation for more than two
decades, and contributes to its financial stability. The committee’s first formal retreat was held in April 2005 in Chicago. IFC also participates in meetings and conference calls year-round to give its valuable feedback and guidance, which helps ISNA stay better connected to the grassroots level in communities nationwide. This annual retreat covered a wide
ISNA ENDORSED ACTIVE DUTY CHAPLAINS Chaplain Sgt. Mustapha Rahouchen, an enlisted soldier currently assigned to Fort Gordon, Ga., and Chaplain Capt. Rafael Lantigua, who was recently assigned as an active National Guard chaplain in Austin, Tex., have been selected to serve on active duty in the U.S. Army and Air Force, Feb 19. Mustapha Rahouchen Rafael Lantigua “It was more than clear both are eager and ready to serve God and country,” said Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, ISNA chaplain services director/Islamic endorsing agent. “May God bless our new chaplain candidates and their families as they prepare for new challenges and opportunities in the Army and Air Force Chaplain Corps.” Rahouchen will serve with the Army Chaplain Corps and Lantigua with the Air Force. While two other Muslim chaplains currently serve on active duty in the Air Force, Lantigua will be ISNA’s first Air Force chaplain on active duty. The U.S. Department of Defense has selected an ISNA endorsed chaplain for active duty after more than 15 years. Both chaplains could go through their respective chaplain officer basic courses during the same time frame, since the three chaplain branches currently train at the Department of Defense Joint Chaplain Training Center, Fort Jackson, S.C.
range of topics, including leaving a Founders’ legacy, the ISNA Development Foundation’s 2014 events and projects, and long-term initiatives that will impact the Muslim American community and society at large. More specifically, the Founders gave well-rounded advice about the organization’s financial endeavors, components of the ISNA annual convention, the Community Service Recognition Luncheon (CSRL) and community-based projects and field visits. In addition to Khandekar, IFC members include: Abdul Rauf Mir, Abdul Rashid Piracha, Abdul Wahab, Ahmad Adam, Ashraf Sufi, Farooq Selod, Ghaus Malik, Ghulam Nabi Mir, Husain Nagamia, Ihsan Ul Haque, Inayat Malik, Jukaku Tayeb, Khalid Bhatti, Laeeq Khan, Maseer Bade, Mohammed Al-Shroof, Mohammad Saleem Bajwa, Moien Butt, Muhammad Akram Dar, Muhamed Ashraf and Mubeena Balti, Naheed Rahman, Rashed Nizam, Sajid Peracha, Saiyid Masroor Shah, Sheikh Abdul Rahman, Tajuddin Ahmed, Talal Sunbulli, Tarek Hussein, Waheed Akbar, Yaqub Mirza and Tanveer Mirza.
CHAPLAINCY DIRECTOR DELIVERS KEYNOTE ADDRESS ISNA Director of Chaplain Services Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad delivered the keynote address at the sixth annual Muslim Mental Health Conference in Dearborn, Mich., April 24-26, on “Spiritual Care: An Integral Component to Total Health.” Muhammad discussed how the role of the hospital chaplain can be instrumental in increasing patient resiliency, through the use of spiritual and pastoral care services, thus reducing the tendency toward hopelessness, fear, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and potential suicide. He noted that the spiritual approach can foster a positive attitude even in the most heartrending situations. By focusing on both inner and external sources of strength, spiritual awareness encourages calm in place of anxiety and hope in place of despair.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
JOURNALISM STUDENTS GAIN INSIGHT
The ISNA Communications Director Edgar Hopida spoke to journalism students on “Covering Islam in the Media” at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., on Mar. 5. The presentation consisted of the basic beliefs and practices of Islam as well as common negative frames that journalists typically use when covering stories about Islam and Muslims. Hopida also provided alternative frames and stories that journalists can cover to accurately portray the diversity of the Muslim American community.
“Caricatures and unfair generalizations about Islam and Muslims have unfortunately dominated the media discourse,” said Hopida. “It is hoped with the future journalists who come out of institutions of higher learning, that a fair, more nuanced coverage of Islam and the Muslim community is reflected in their news stories.” This presentation was part of a series of guest speakers invited to speak at Professor David Sumner’s special reporting class to talk about how their religious tradition is covered in the news.
MUSLIM CHAPLAINS MEET AT CONFERENCE
EDUCATORS CONVENE AT ANNUAL FORUM ISNA held its 15th annual Education Forum April 18-20 in Rosemont, Ill. Each year, the forum gathers more than 700 educators, board members and principals from across the country, providing a unique opportunity for networking and enhancing their professional skills and training. This special annual conference identifies all components of Islamic schools to assist in enhancing Islamic education and developing outstanding educators. The forum featured educational sessions, training workshops, award presentations, banquet, employment notice board and a bazaar. Program topics included: integrating technology into teaching, differentiated instruction, Islamic integration and environment, character education, developing a global perspective in our children, principals’ and administrators’ professional development, and strategic planning. A highlight of the forum was the Saturday evening banquet with keynote speaker Imam Suhaib Webb who spoke on the forum’s theme, “An Islamic Worldview for Mastery in Education.” Entertainment also was provided by nasheed artist, Mohamed Hussein. The evening was a source of celebration and inspiration, as the award recipient Salwa Abd-Allah was honored for her significant contributions in the field of education.
ISNA Director of Chaplain Services Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad spoke at the Association of Muslim Chaplains (AMC) fourth annual Shura Conference for chaplains and other human service providers at Yale University, New Haven, Conn., on March 8. More than 100 professionals representing several institutions, including hospitals, correctional facilities, substance abuse clinics, universities, and the military were present. The group participated ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
in six different parallel sessions on chaplaincy throughout the day. Conference topics covered were “Countering Violent Extremism,” “Islamic Chaplaincy Renewing Our Purpose,” “Pastoral Care for Muslim Patients,” “Compassion Fatigue,” “Effective Prison Chaplaincy,” “Support the Muslim Family,” “Facing the Future of Islam in America,” “The Mosque in the American Context” and “A Practical Model of Healthcare Chaplaincy.”
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC LEADERS VISIT ISNA
From left, Imam Omar Kabine Lamaya and Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga
The Interreligious Platform of Central African Republic Leaders (IPCARL) visited the ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances (IOICA) March 21 to discuss ISNA’s work, particularly in the area of interreligious partnership and cooperation, that could help them in bringing peace to a turbulent Central African Republic (CAR). They also met with U.S. government officials, the U.N. Secretary General, religious leaders and members of civil society. The CAR delegation included Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the Archbishop of Bangui; Imam Omar Kabine Lamaya, president of the CAR Islamic Community; and pastor Nicholas Guerkoyame Gbangou, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Alliance of Evangelicals in CAR.
Others who joined the meeting included Dr. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches (ABC); Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC); and Ambassador Warren Clark, the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace. IPCARL appealed to ISNA and the NCC to visit Bangui and show the community the trust and brotherhood that exists between religious groups in the U.S. It suggested that ISNA leaders meet with imams and Muslim community leaders during their interreligious trip to CAR alongside U.S. government officials, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Finn Church Aid, and other religious organizations.
INFORMING MUSLIMS ABOUT HEALTH CARE LAW ISNA and the Health and Human Services Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships hosted a webinar and conference call about the new healthcare law on March 24 to highlight its importance and impact on families. Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, national director of ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, discussed the significance of health among Muslim families and communities, and enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Representatives from the White House, the American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) 10
and the HHS Partnership Center provided specific information on the health care law, how to enroll in health insurance and resources to share with others. There also was a Q&A session after the webinar for participants.
YOUTH SPRING INTO MYNA CAMPS MYNA spring camps focused on the one-onone conversation each Muslim has with God through the theme: “Keep Calm and Pray On.” The program aimed to remind and renew the significance of having a direct connection to God, as well as how to utilize this connection to its fullest potential. The lectures, workshops, and activities included topics and information regarding fiqh (knowledge about Islamic legal rulings), dua (supplication) and the spiritual aspects of turning to God as our Supreme Guide. The camps took place in Texas (March 7-9), Ohio (March 21-23), Indiana (April 4-6), and Chicago (April 18-20).
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ISNA 51ST CONVENTION SNEAK PEEK
The 51st Annual Convention Program Committee met at ISNA Headquarters on Feb. 15-16 to continue preparations for the convention. The meeting included discussions on the main sessions, special events and other programing details, including topics and speakers. The convention will be held at the Cobo Center in Detroit from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1. The committee will continue to meet several times leading up to the convention to finalize details and plan a variety of fun and fulfilling activities to offer attendees. ISNA is working closely with the Detroit Muslim community and the Steering Committee in Detroit to offer a fulfilling program. Planned activities include:
5K RIVERWALK FAMILY RUN The 5K Riverwalk Family Fun Run will be a memorable, riverside run that will commemorate ISNA’s commitment to fostering healthy living and family fun. ISNA is a partner in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign and a champion of health and wellness for the Muslim American community. The very ethos of our daily lives is the essence of this year’s convention. The route includes a scenic tour and cuts into the “Dequindre Cut Greenway” and Milliken State Park, with native deciduous trees and landscapes. This 5K run will allow attendees from across the country to tour the best of Detroit, enjoy the company of fellow Muslims, and have a great time.
GLIMPSE OF MAIN SESSIONS • ReMosqued will ask how we can change the culture of our mosques so that more people feel uplifted and embraced, and how to ultimately get Muslims back to the masjid. • Generations Rise will feature some of the most remarkable young Muslim leaders and activists who are elevating Muslim American culture in the new millenium. The conversations will focus on some of the ideas, opportunities and challenges shaping the future of Islam in America. • Positive Citizenship will bring together Muslims making positive social contributions and change in different spheres of society. Speakers will reflect upon the importance of cultivating a cultural paradigm in which wider social moral obligations are prioritized and met.
MYNA ATTRACTIONS Every year, youth attend the convention with their families and are eager to be a part of the bustling scene. The MYNA sessions will cover interesting topics for teenagers looking for events centered around their needs. Themed sessions will include: The Pursuit of Happiness, Prophets/Sahaba in their Teenage Years, How to Get Out of Spiritual Numbness, Importance of Prayer, Value of the Quran, Purifications of the Heart, Food for Thought: Confronting Mental Health, Contemporary Muslim Celebrities, Entertainment Night, How to Balance Life and Religion, Why I Believe in God, and Islam on Campus.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
WOMEN’S FASHION SHOW
A fashion show “for women and by women,” featuring leading fashion designers in the industry will be held Saturday, Aug. 30. The show will be limited to about 500 participants. Participants must pre-register. There has been an appreciable growth in the Muslim/Islamic fashion industry, particularly in clothing, footwear, accessories and headscarves. The focus of the show will be to highlight beautiful, functional, and modest attire, providing Muslim women with inspiring examples of stylish, yet appropriate fashion.
COMMUNITY MATTERS Southern California Shura Council Annual Conference
Dr. Maher Hathout
dedication and sacrifices for the good of others,” said ISCSC Chair Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi.
Theological Seminary Appoints First Muslim Scholar The presidents of Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College announced Feb. 12 the joint appointment of Celene Ayat Lizzio to serve as Scholar-inResidence for three years, through a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation beginning in the fall 2014 semester. Lizzio has been acknowledged as a “leading representative of the new generation of American Muslim thinkers and leaders.” The position includes teaching courses at both schools, developing programs in conjunction with their current interfaith efforts, and fostering further interaction between Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities.
Khan Academy Receives Award PHOTO CREDIT LAUREN GOODE/PENINSULA PRESS
The annual conference of THE Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC) was held March 1 under the theme, “The Quran’s Response to Modern Challenges.” The ISCSC recognized its former chairman, Dr. Maher Hathout, with its “2014 Lifetime Service” award. It was an occasion to celebrate Dr. Hathout’s lifelong body of work and to be inspired. Hathout has served the Islamic Center of Southern California and serves as Senior Advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “Dr. Hathout’s selfless service to the Muslim community and the society at large is a benchmark for everyone in public service. On behalf of the Islamic Shura Council and also on behalf of Muslim communities, I thank Dr. Hathout and his family for their
Lizzio, a past recipient of the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin TalalISNA Fellowship program, has a bachelor of arts degree from Princeton University, a master of divinity from Harvard Divinity School and is a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University. She is currently a lecturer at Merrimack College. Lizzio, while expressing her excitement and gratitude, said that Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College are at “the forefront of an interreligious leadership studies movement that is enhancing, in leaps and bounds, our collective capacity to be religious scholars and practitioners in a multireligious world.”
Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, speaks to the crowd at the Joint Venture Silicon Valley summit, after receiving the industry’s annual David Packard Award for entrepreneurial achievement.
Salman Khan of Khan Academy received the 2014 David Packard Award for Civic Entrepreneurship Feb. 7. The Packard Award is given by Joint Venture Silicon Valley, an organization which “brings together established and emerging leaders — from business, government, academia, labor and the broader community — to spotlight issues and work toward innovative solutions.” The Packard Award is its highest honor, presented annually to a person showing extraordinary commitment to the region. Khan created Khan Academy “with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” Lessons cover topics in mathematics, science, economics, finance and humanities, reaching 10 million students monthly in 200 countries.
Baltimore Recognizes Muslim Community Leader Feb. 15, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Maryland General Assembly 41st Legislative District awarded Asma Hanif a certificate of recognition for her leadership and active community service. Hanif, executive director of Muslimat Al-Nisa, helped organize the Annual Chili Bowl Sunday for Muslims, which supports the homeless. Muslimat Al-Nisa, a nonprofit organiza12
tion, strives “to provide health, education, shelter and other social services to the underserved population in general, and to Muslim women and children, in particular.” In addition to the homeless shelter for Muslim women, Hanif, a nurse, manages a free health clinic, Al-Nisaa Holistic Health Center. She dedicates her time to helping those in need and enabling them to become self-sufficient.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
MPAC Commemoration The Washington, D.C., office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) partnered with the Religious Freedom Center of
the Newseum Institute in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, for hosting the forum, “Pioneers of Presence: The Legacies and Contributions of
PHOTO COPYRIGHT TO NICOLAS HOFFMAN
(Left to Right) Haris Tarin, Director, MPAC's Washington office, Dr. Ajile Rahman, Department Chair, Fulton County Board of Education, Atlanta, Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Aja Black and Antoine Samir Zamundu, the husband-and-wife hip hop duo The Reminders.
African American Muslims,” in celebration of Black History Month. The panel discussed topics, such as the cultural and religious influences, difficulties and contributions of the African American Muslim community in shaping American society. Haris Tarin, director of MPAC-D.C.’s office, moderated the panel, which included Dr. Ajile Rahman, teacher and Fulbright scholar, Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) and the musical duo, The ReMINDers. The discussion was followed by a Q&A segment, and was livestreamed to encourage others’ participation on social media using the hashtag #BlackLegacies. “We wanted to host this type of conversation because African Americans have played a defining role in establishing the presence of Islam in America. They definitely impacted the way we see Islam in America today, and without them our experience would not be the same,” said Riham Osman, a program assistant at MPAC-D.C. From Hind Makki
Archbishop Speaks of Building Faith Bridges Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Archdiocese of Miami emphasized the need for building bridges between faith communities in his address to the annual Community Appreciation Dinner of the Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations Feb. 8. He focused on dialog as an effective tool in working toward helping society and understanding one another. “As believers we acknowledge the God who created the human family,” Wenski said. “We should also acknowledge that he also created its diversity — not to divide us, but to enrich us. Sin divides, not religion; human pride divides, not faith. Thus, here in the U.S., people of diverse religions live, work, and often play together. This experience of living with each other can open up for all of us new possibilities, new opportunities for dialogue — and not only for dialogue. We also can and must cooperate with one another, especially in helping the poor.” Archbishop Wenski also mentioned the interfaith work of the United States Conference of Bishops’ Secretariat on Ecumenical ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
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and Interfaith Activities, such as collaborating with national Muslim organizations, ISNA and Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), to “produce documents on education, marriage, and cooperation in the public sphere.” They also participated in ISNA’s sponsored “Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign,” which is a national campaign of interfaith, faith-based and religious organizations dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment.
As little as $10 per month will help ISNA to serve the Muslim American community through effective leadership and state of the art training seminars for imams, Muslim chaplains and community leaders.
Sign up today to donate through EFT. WWW.ISNA.NET/DONATE
PHOTO CREDIT: INGRID ASCENCIO
MWA Celebrates Women Leadership NEWS BRIEFS
More than 600 women gathered for the Muslim Women’s Alliance (MWA) annual “Celebration of the Muslim Woman” event in Oak Brook, Ill., March 16. MWA is Chicago’s largest and most active women’s nonprofit organization in the Muslim community. Through monthly community service, philanthropy and personal development programming, MWA looks to empower women by giving them the tools to positively impact change. MWA recognized three Chicago trailblazers with the “2014 Inspiring Muslim Woman” award for spearheading groundbreaking initiatives in their local communities: Gihad Ali’s work in domestic violence prevention among youth, Laila El-Amin’s
years of service as an educator and mentoring the next generation of female leaders, and Dr. Shakeela Hassan’s decades of interfaith work. Author of “Reclaim Your Heart” and motivational speaker Yasmin Mogahed was the keynote speaker. Women of all ages listened intently as she discussed the importance of internal reflection and selfexamination. “The heart is the master. Whatever it is we love, will dictate the rest,” she said. MWA Executive Director Noor Hasan, outlined MWA’s vision for female empowerment in the upcoming year, which includes bi-monthly town hall discussions led by prominent female scholars Tamara Gray of Minnesota and Syeda Nejma Davis of California. MWA granted its first two scholarships to Illinois high school seniors, Hadeel AbdulKareem and Jenna Baker, as part of their inaugural “Aisha Scholarship Program.” MWA also hopes to continue to engage the entire community through youth mentorship and member-led community service projects. (From Khadija Husain)
On Feb. 24, Shia Rights Watch (http:// shiarightswatch.org) joined with the American University to honor the World Day of Social Justice. Abdul Aziz Said’s (American University) opening remarks were followed by papers on Shia communities in Kuwait and Bahrain (Kristin Diwan, American University) and Pakistan (Michael Kugelman, Wilson Center; Lisa Curtis, Heritage Foundation), the need for mutual respect and tolerance (Abdulaziz Sachedina, George Mason University), and human rights abuses against the Shia (T. Kumar, Amnesty International).
Dar Al Taqwa Masjid
10740 Route 108 • Ellicott City, MD 21042 Tel (410) 997-5711 • Fax (410) 381-0063 http://www.taqwa.net
EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY Dar Al-Taqwa Islamic Center has an opening for a full-time position of a “Resident Scholar/Religious Advisor.” Qualified applicants should possess a degree in Islamic studies from a University/Institution and be knowledgeable in the Quran, Sunnah, Hadith and the Arabic language. Fluency in conversational English is required. Prior work experience at comparable Islamic center is a plus. The candidate should also have strong inter-personal and communication skills. Compensation is commensurate with education and experience.
Dar Al-Taqwa is a private, full-time, Islamic center strategically located in Ellicott City, Md. The center serves the Muslims community in Howard County as well as the larger Muslim Community in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area. The administration is looking for a scholar who can teach, inspire and guide the growing youth population, to join our team. The selected candidate would also be expected to provide contemporary religious services, such as Jumuah Khutbah, Quran classes, Youth Halaqas, Counseling, and Interfaith Outreach. To apply, send curriculum vitae (C.V.) or resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org For further inquiries, please contact Dr. Maqbool Patel (443) 695-1791.
A self-described “passive Muslim boy from rural Cambodia,” Illyasak Hazan, 22, overcame financial issues, job insecurity, and the social norm — going home, early marriage, and a life of subsistence farming or immigration — to study agricultural economy and rural development at Cambodia’s Royal University of Agriculture. After graduating in 2013, he was selected to join New York’s DO School program (http://thedoschool.org). The DO School offers training, mentoring, and education for outstanding emerging social entrepreneurs to kickstart their own ventures all around the world. Adding this training to his three years of volunteering and working in professional youth empowerment programs, upon his return he plans to initiate a higher education mentoring project focused on career planning and scholarship orientation, securing international scholarships, and adjusting to university life.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
Michigan Muslims Brin
Convention attendees should take a c the Muslims who are tran BY AYSHA JAMALI
etroit is a city of stereotypes â€” from images of a city abandoned by its politicians to perceptions of it as one of the most dangerous places in America. But to the people who live here, metro Detroit is a city of innovative people who are putting it on the map in unconventional ways. Those planning to visit the area for the first time in August for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention may be surprised to learn about everything
ISLAMIC HORIZONSâ€ƒ MAY/JUNE 2014
ing a New Reality to
closer look at metro Detroit and ansforming the area. the southeast Michigan Muslim community has to offer. Here’s a taste of what to expect whether you’re planning your trip to Detroit this summer or next. To start with innovation, a new company that launched in Detroit is making its mission to support entrepreneurs and inventors in their quest for success in serving the Muslim community. LaunchGood — launched in fall 2013 — is a crowdfunding site that has supported more than 30 projects and raised $100,000 thus far. ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
Chris Abdur-Rahman Blauvelt, founder of LaunchGood, describes the site as a place to find projects to get passionate about and a spot for browsing the Muslim “marketplace.” “After getting involved in a variety of projects and variety of platforms, I realized there’s a lot of power in crowdfunding,” said Blauvelt, 29, of Detroit. Blauvelt said the Muslim community is notorious for fundraising, but sometimes doesn’t always think outside of the box. LaunchGood features projects that might not do well at a masjid fundraiser. One such project was Nadoona, a modest women’s workout program that was the first DVD involving hijab-wearing workout series in the whole world, he said. Another example of a successful campaign was one started by a group of young professionals in the Washington, D.C., area called “Books Behind Bars” with the goal of 18
THE IDEA TO BRING THE ISNA CONVENTION TO DETROIT CAME FROM SYED MOHIUDDIN, VICE CHAIR OF THE ISNA CONVENTION STEERING COMMITTEE, WHO WANTED TO SEE THE CITY REVITALIZED. providing literature on Islam in prisons. They reached their initial goal of $1,000 within hours and continued to increase the goal and exceeded expectations. “That project was interesting because people who never in their life will probably see prison, yet they’re really coming together to support this population that’s in need,” Blauvelt said. These kinds of projects are what Blauvelt hopes will add dynamism to Muslims. “InshaAllah, our generation of Mus-
lims has a much more holistic approach to what it means to be a Muslim community in America,” he said. LaunchGood supports projects by Muslims and non-Muslims, but they cater to the Muslim community. A Christian artist who loves the 99 names of Allah is seeking support for his glass sculptures of the Divine names. Another campaign features halal cooking wine powder, originally created by a Christian for his Muslim friend. “In general, Muslims do love charity,” ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
THE ARAB HEART IN MICHIGAN
Blauvelt said. “Even in the new generation, we’re still very sadaqa-oriented. The younger generation, they’re looking for ways to be more effective with their sadaqa.” All of the projects, whether they support artists, Muslim chaplains, organic farms, or businesses, provide tangible goals where people can see and track a group’s progress. That encourages participation, Blauvelt said. Although LaunchGood started in Detroit and continuously supports local ventures, such as projects with the University Islamic Center of Detroit, the Muslim Student Association at Detroit’s Wayne State University, and a local Muslim woman’s trip to an orphanage in Mexico, a majority of the projects are coming from outside of the state. However, Blauvelt said there is significance in LaunchGood beginning in Detroit. “There really is an old legacy that Islam has in Detroit. One of the things that I love ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
he city of Dearborn, less than a 20-minute drive from Detroit, gets national attention for its large concentration of Arab Americans. While many are familiar with the Middle Eastern restaurants and the business signs in Arabic lining Warren Avenue and Ford Road, most are unfamiliar with the story of how this came to be. The early Arab immigrants came to the United States around the time of World War I when much of the Middle East was under Ottoman rule. Arab Christians facing persecution in their homelands migrated, many from Syria and Lebanon, to the United States for religious freedom and equal opportunities. This was the first sizable wave of Arab immigrants who came to the United States between 1880 and 1924, according to the “Coming to America” exhibit at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. This was known as the Great Migration when approximately 95,000 people came from the region known as “Greater Syria,” which now includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. In many of these Arab cultures, the emphasis on “family work” was what assisted them in opening family-run businesses upon coming to the United States. Many of the early immigrants were single men who were interested in earning money to return to their homelands, like Lebanon. Eventually, they brought their wives and families to settle permanently in the United States, according to the chapter on Arab Americans in the book “Race and Ethnicity: the United States and the World.” Many of these early immigrants started as peddlers, which several years down the road led to their becoming small shop owners. Others were often industrial workers and farmers. Many came to work in the country’s growing industrial plants, like the auto industry facilities in Michigan. Particularly in areas like southeast Michigan, where the automotive industry was making itself known, the industrial boom was foundational for Arab Detroit and its image. In addition to peddling and store ownership, blue-collar work characterized much of Arab Detroit’s history, according to the book “Arab Detroit: from Margin to Mainstream.” Although the early immigrants were peddlers and shopkeepers and not industrial workers, by 1916, there were 555 Syrian men employed in Henry Ford’s factories alone, according to the book. By 1930, there were 9,000 Arabic-speaking Detroiters — almost 6,000 were Syrian, and the rest were a mix of Palestinians, Yemenis, and Iraqi Chaldeans. Despite the beginning of the diminishment of Detroit’s industrial sector in the 1970s, the Arab immigrant community continued to grow there. After World War II, the United States saw a different development in Arab immigration. Other countries in addition to “Greater Syria” were represented, such as Egypt, Iraq and Yemen, and the immigrants had new reasons for coming. This period of immigration in the 1960s was known as the “brain drain,” where a new and influential group of professional members arrived. It was known as a brain drain because the expertise of these individuals was lost to the countries in which they received their education. Also, changes in immigration law in the United States that favored family members and professionals increased immigration from developing countries, according to “Race and Ethnicity.”
about being Muslim in Michigan is the diversity. I think we do a pretty good job of mixing and that’s one of our hopes for LaunchGood,” he said.
UNIFIED IN COMMITMENT The Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC), formerly the Council of American Islamic Organizations and the Islamic Shura Council of Michigan and current
partner for the ISNA convention, demonstrates how the diverse community is coming together. MMCC has been serving the community for more than 25 years and was started by a group of pioneers whose intention was to bring the community together, said Muzammil Ahmed, organization chairman and board member of the Michiganbased Institute for Social Policy and
Understanding — the only Muslim think tank in the country. “Over the last few years it was felt that there were a lot of other community organizations that needed to be brought under the umbrella,” he said. Now as an umbrella organization, MMCC works to maintain unity and advocate for the values of the Muslim community in Michigan. Its 30 board of directors are picked from
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
among the communities’ leaders and are invited to join the board for three-year terms. “In our organization we have representatives of pretty much every ethnicity, every religious sect and every demographic in the Michigan community. We’re far from perfect, but we really make an effort to be sound in our representation,” he said. One way MMCC aims to properly represent and connect the community is through the Imams Council, a group of more than 25 imams representing Islamic centers in southeast Michigan. Imams meet regularly and learn about prevalent issues such as teenage drug use and mental health and hear concerns directly from Homeland Security and the FBI about radicalization in the community, Ahmed said. “They can then go back and really provide the proper leadership,” Ahmed said. During Black History Month, Ahmed said all of the imams went back to their communities to talk about racism, particularly against African Americans, and about not using derogatory racial slurs in any language. Many of these sermons are posted online and shared through social media. Ahmed said this coordination is a great way to reach the imams and the communities with a unified message. “We’re trying to be the conveners and the uniters of the community and work in conjunction with existing efforts,” he said. Ahmed said MMCC’s key initiatives also include Michigan Muslim Capitol Day, which MMCC took over from other organizations the last couple of years. Legislators and politicians at Michigan’s capitol meet on a day dedicated to hearing the voices of Michigan Muslims. The annual Unity banquet is another large undertaking by
A NEWLY RENOVATED VENUE
SNA-goers this year can look forward to an entirely revamped venue. Cobo Center, home of the North American International Auto Show, recently underwent renovations that added square footage, a new ballroom with an iconic view of the Detroit River and better parking facilities. The Cobo Center renovation is a $299 million, five-year, three-phase program that started in 2010 with planned completion in 2015. Completed renovations include an additional 23,000 square feet of exhibition space, parking garages updated with better lighting, security and spacing, a new food court and improved food concession spaces, such as the new 8,000-square-foot Cobo Center kitchen. A key feature of Cobo’s capital improvement project is the new 40,000-square-foot Grand Riverview Ballroom, overlooking the Detroit River, which was 80 percent complete at the end of 2013. Cobo Center, formerly known as Cobo Hall and Cobo Arena, is more than 50 years old and it is easy to find controversy when delving into the story behind it. Detroit’s move to hand Cobo over to a regional authority faced much criticism from its city council, including threats of a court battle, reported The Detroit News. However, the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority, a five-member regional authority, did eventually take charge of the convention center from Detroit in 2009. Amenities at Cobo Center go beyond free wi-fi and feature aspects such as direct access to the Detroit People Mover, a monorail transit system that has numerous stops throughout the downtown district. Cobo also is a Green Venues Michigan facility, so visitors can find recycling stations throughout the building. Cobo is also adjacent to the riverfront “campus,” which includes the Hart Plaza and the Detroit RiverWalk, and allows easy access to outdoor festivals or special events, like the ISNA 5K Riverside Run planned during the convention.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
MMCC. It’s a large gathering of all of the sectors of the Muslim community and interfaith leaders, Ahmed said, with notable attendees like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. “In terms of our access to Muslim people in the community, we reach probably anywhere between 5 and 10,000 Muslims in Michigan,” Ahmed said. “It’s a fairly large number, and we are constantly trying to expand the effort.” Metro Detroit is often misunderstood as a solely Arab haven what with the large numbers of Lebanese, Yemenis, Iraqis and Palestinians concentrated in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn. However, a visit to the greater metropolitan area will prove anyone harboring that misconception wrong. Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), said he often battles that illusion. “We have a very old community here as far as Muslims that come from the Balkan area, particularly from Albania and more recently from Turkey and Bosnia,” he said. The Muslim community in metro Detroit, which Walid said has been around for at least 80 years, also includes a large concentration of South Asians. Hamtramck, 22
a city about 10 minutes outside of Detroit, is the most densely populated area of Muslims in America, he said, and mostly comprises Bangladeshi Americans. Metro Detroit also has the oldest social expression of African American Muslims in America. “Duse Muhammad Ali, who was a Sudanese-Egyptian immigrant, came to preach Sunni Islam in Detroit in the 1920s. He was a colleague of Marcus Garvey [an inspirer of the Nation of Islam],” Walid said. In 1930, the Nation of Islam was founded in Detroit. Warith Deen Mohammed, a progressive African American Muslim leader, brought about change through a centripetal movement into Islam in the beginning of 1975, Walid said. “All of that originated here in Detroit,” he said. “Masjid Wali Muhammad in Detroit was the first masjid that Warith Deen Mohammed reclaimed from the old Nation of Islam temple structure that they used to have.” The Muslim community continues to expand adding to the area’s rich history. Walid said there is a growing population in metro Detroit of West African immigrants, predominately from Senegal, Nigeria, Gambia and the Ivory Coast.
It is evident that the Michigan Muslim community is one with a diverse history and community. Yet, that diversity is not always united. Communities in metro Detroit are, however, segregated along ethnic and socioeconomic lines, Walid said. “Even younger generations of Muslims still tend to socialize in particular peer groups and that socialization is affected by socioeconomic class. In the broader society, race is tied to socioeconomic status. There is still not a whole lot of socialization going on between younger Muslims, if we’re talking about between African American Muslims and the children of immigrant Muslims,” he said. Although the segregation is neither deliberate nor malicious, Walid said these communities must implement ways to bridge the gaps. He said there needs to be continual discussion and reminders to the community. “It needs to be said more often (from) the pulpit by the imams as well as discussed in community forums,” he said. One of those needed efforts is chipping away at the divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims. The Islamic Center of America ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
(ICA) — its masjid now a landmark on Ford Road in Dearborn — is a prominent Shia community in southeast Michigan. Eide A. Alawan, who organizes interfaith outreach for ICA, said that they have been hosting group visits and interfaith activities continuously, since its founding in the 1960s, but particularly over the last 12 years. Since Sept. 11, 2001, he said more than 20,000 people, including school groups, business professionals, religious leaders of other faiths and individual visitors, have come into the mosque. Alawan said ICA has an obligation as the “Islamic center” of America to grow connections and push its people to take part in greater society. “America is the country we are in. We can still be Muslim. We can practice Islam. Muslims that stay in the mosque around their own kind are not doing what the Prophet said. They go to school, they work, but they don’t function outside of their community. We are responsible to the needs the community,” he said. However, Alawan said “intra-faith” work is just as great a need as interfaith work. “Coming together as Muslims is the biggest obstacle that Muslims have,” he said. ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
“Muslims are killing each other. I can’t do anything about the Middle East or the Muslim countries. It’s beyond me and my reach. But I think I can put a dent or a positive note and positive feeling of doing something here in the United States in bringing Shias and Sunnis together.” Changes to the colloquial language demonstrate movements toward unity. A “sushi” Muslim is known as someone who is a part of a Sunni-Shia family, or it’s sometimes used by those who describe themselves as nondenominational. “Our children are marrying each other. The ‘sushi’ Muslim was probably created right here in the metro Detroit Metropolitan area,” he said. Alawan said Muslims can be brothers the way the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) intended. Walid said the best way to achieve unity is to model his sunnah. “When the Prophet first migrated to Medina he paired off different companions and made them best friends,” he said. “Bilal the immigrant, who was an ex-slave, was made the brother of Abu Dardah, who was from Medina and a well-to-do businessman. They
weren’t patriarchal in nature. They were real brotherhood and sisterhood relationships.” People at the organizational level and everyone at the individual level needs the courage to check family and friends on their racism and prejudice, he said. “I believe it can transform our Muslim community and make it more inclusive like it did with our Sahabah,” he said. Walid and CAIR-MI are taking steps to transform the Michigan Muslim community in other ways. As a civil rights organization, CAIR-MI has stood up and served as a resource for the area since 2000 and for the past several years has had a 100 percent success rate with its cases. What makes CAIR-MI a little different from some of the other chapters throughout the country is its involvement in some civil rights issues that are non-Muslim specific, Walid said. “We fundamentally believe that the disease of Islamophobia is just a symptom of a broader issue of structural racism that has always affected America. We’re not naive to think that we can just advocate on behalf of Muslim-specific issues and ignore broader issues of racism and that 23
COVER STORY our Muslim problems as a community will be solved,” he said. On top of Muslim-specific cases — like the 2009 fatal shooting of Imam Luqman Abdullah by the FBI more than 20 times, a local municipality’s denial of expansion of an Islamic school, targeting of Muslims by border patrol upon returning from Canada — CAIR-MI also supports action on broader issues including the tragic shooting of a Detroit teenager who only stopped to seek help after experiencing car trouble. “We’ve gone from an organization that would just mediate cases or shame people into doing the right thing by media coverage to actually being a leading civil rights organization in Michigan in terms of not just advocacy but also litigation,” he said.
“The Headwrap Expo in particular serves as a spark,” Naeem said. “It’s something to motivate people. It’s something to whet people’s appetite for more. People are able to get more curious about others. When you have that spark of curiosity within you, you begin to seek out other opportunities to learn more about others. That’s where the respect comes in.” Naeem, who has a background in anthropology, said she sees head wrapping as more than a religious obligation. For her, it’s a global trend that embodies religion, spirituality, history and fashion. She said what often happens is people don’t realize the broad practice of head wrapping because people tend to stay in their own circles. “We think that we’re the only ones that
Going back to Walid’s ideas and passion about unifying the Muslim community, there are some unique efforts in place to reach across those divides and the ones between Muslims and non-Muslims. One such effort is spearheaded by Zarinah ElAmin Naeem, 34, of Detroit. She started a hijab and head-wrap movement in the area via her “Beautifully Wrapped” calendar featuring women wearing headwraps, and the first Headwrap Expo, both of which support women’s development in Sierra Leone. “‘Beautifully Wrapped’ was also founded with the intention of an interfaith project. It was always built to build respect and understanding between various religions and ethnic groups,” she said. The Headwrap Expo, which took place in the fall of 2013, goes beyond the calendar — issued in 2011, 2013 and 2014 — to create real-life connections, she said. There were 62 businesses and 400 attendees at the expo in November in Dearborn.
cover. But when you go outside of your circles you find that orthodox Jewish women also cover. Some of them wear wigs but many of them choose to cover with headwraps. Sikh men go out every single day and wear the turban, and we have Christian women who cover their hair every single day as well. They are a minority, but we have them, too,” she said. The event has been so successful that Naeem is planning a second Headwrap Expo in June and will be expanding to New York in the fall. Naeem said there’s great significance in this movement taking on an organized structure in metro Detroit. “I sometimes like to dub it the head wrapping capital of the world, or of America anyway,” she said, “because we have such a plethora of different religious groups here.” Like Walid, Naeem acknowledged that there is segregation among the diverse groups of people. People stay in their comfort zones, which creates a challenge, she said.
However, she sees projects like the Headwrap Expo as a great means to bring those groups together by offering equal representation. “Our goal is to make it as inclusive as possible. The diversity here is something we can lean on. We have a lot of interfaith organizations here in Detroit,” she said. “Even though we have some groups that we’re still working to pull in, we have a lot more collaboration and it’s easy to tap into those networks.” Religious illiteracy is rampant in this country, Naeem said. That often goes for what people don’t know about other religions as well as their own. While the Headwrap Expo serves the purpose of educating those on faiths outside of their own, another new organization in southeast Michigan serves the purpose of reconnecting Muslims to their own faith. The Beacon Foundation is a nonprofit started a couple of years ago by a group of young professionals in metro Detroit. The idea is to bring a scholar-in-residence into the community whose sole job is education and support of its spiritual needs, said Eram Uddin, co-founder and board member of the Beacon Foundation. That idea has been in the works for 10 years, she said. “We all came together with a collective agreement and just a general consensus that there was definitely something missing in Michigan. We all felt that this was a blessed community,” she said, “but the one thing that was missing was the spiritual component.” Imams’ roles are often spread thin, she said, so they were looking for someone who could devote himself to the community’s spirituality. Uddin said that, as far as she knows, she has not seen anything like this done anywhere else in the country. “Our primary goal was to bring about knowledge that was not only knowledgebased but knowledge that transformed one in their everyday lives. One of the key goals of the Beacon Foundation is transformative spiritual relevance,” she said. The idea, Uddin said, is to reinforce the key mission of the Prophet who stimulated character development, which empowered people to change themselves and as a result change the community around them. The other purpose is to serve as a resource for existing organizations. “We’re not here to reinvent the wheel. We’re here to provide imams and masjids and social-based organizations with resources to conduct their work, too,” she said. ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
The Beacon Foundation has reached hundreds of people in southeast Michigan. It’s email listserv, which updates the community on classes and events, includes more than 400 people. The Foundation reaches out via monthly intimate halaqas or educational gatherings, which Uddin describes as gateways to more serious learning and often reach more than 100 attendants. Many who attend the halaqas use them as stepping stones to attend weekly intensive classes. “The issue of being unmosqued and people not feeling a part of the mosque community is evident. The majority of our demographic are those people who are not part of the mosque community as well as those who are very involved in the mosques,” she said. “We’re not trying to take away populations from the mosques. We’re trying to be there as an avenue to basically serve everybody and eventually help them go back to the mosque.” The goal is to inspire, refine and empower people, while not alienating anyone and welcoming people at their level, she said. Another aspect that attracts attendees is that all Beacon Foundation classes and programs are free and supported by donations. Uddin said it was important to her and the six other board members that one should not be charged to seek knowledge. The Foundation is also flexible. Scholarin-residence Sheikh Abdul Karim Yahya, from California, was introduced to the community to see whether he was compatible and then chosen for the position in 2012. He serves extensively with the youth and new Muslims and works to train others who can continue to serve the community. He is the primary instructor now, but the organization is not defined by him, Uddin said. “He gives it direction, but it doesn’t equate to him. So, if he were to leave, our work would still continue,” she said. Ahmed said he has a similar hope for the ISNA convention. “Our goal is to use the convention to mobilize the community and after ISNA leaves to maintain that infrastructure,” he said.
SUPPORTING DETROIT The idea to bring the ISNA convention to Detroit came from Syed Mohiuddin, vice chair of the ISNA convention steering committee, who wanted to see the city revitalized. When he moved in 2009, Mohiuddin said Detroit, including its downtown, was a true ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
ghost town. As he sat on his balcony on a perfect summer day with the skyscrapers and Detroit River in view, he said, he noticed no one was outside. “I thought, ‘how can we change that?’ Then, I thought at least for a weekend we could change that if we brought the ISNA convention to Detroit,” he said. Mohiuddin said he approached ISNA about what it would take to bring the convention to Detroit and was told the city needed three things: a great partner organization, a history with the community to establish trust and integral logistics like a great airport, hotels and convention center. Coincidentally in that period, it was announced that the Cobo Center, the venue selected for this year’s ISNA convention, would go through a renovation. After reaching out to people in the community and connecting MMCC with ISNA, it was decided that the Michigan Muslim community needed to do a local event in Detroit to establish trust. “Our number one goal was to have an event to make our communities come together,” he said. With a proper plan in place detailing how the event was a roadmap to the ISNA convention, the organizing team launched plans for the inaugural ISNA Diversity Forum, held in 2011 and again in 2012. The forum brought Michigan Muslims together to discuss the racism and divisions within. It was the Michigan Muslim community’s chance to show that Detroit would be a great host for the ISNA convention, said Mohiuddin, chair of the Diversity Forum, but it also empowered them to strive for unity. “What started out as an effort to bring a convention here, frankly, turned into a personal journey to build community here,” he said. Hospitality was paramount at the ISNA Diversity Forums, Mohiuddin said, what with professional valet service for all of the out-of-town guests, gifts for local and national speakers and more. “It blew Imam Magid, the president of ISNA, away. He said this is the most hospitable community they have ever had,” he said. People were skeptical about Detroit and whether it could serve as a welcoming city, he said, but now ISNA knows and soon ISNA Convention attendees will know that Detroit will be a great host in 2014.
Aysha Jamali is a journalist who grew up in Michigan where she discovered her passion for writing.
The Islamic Center of Cleveland (ICC) is seeking a full-time Imam ICC serves the largest Muslim community in Northeast Ohio. Approximately 1000 Muslims attend the weekly Jumuaa prayer and more than 3000 Muslims are present for the Eid Prayers. Desired qualifications include: • Degree in Islamic Studies from a recognized Islamic institution and at least five years of experience as an Imam • Possess knowledge and general understanding of the four schools of thought • Memorized a significant portion of the Quran and be able to recite well (Hafidh al-Quran is desirable) • Significant Experience in da’wah (outreach) • Able to interact with the youth and understand challenges faced by them while living in a non-Muslim environment. • Experience in youth activities to provide for their spiritual growth through educational programs and other activities • Fluent in English and Arabic (written and spoken) and have excellent communication skills • Experience in conflict resolution • Be a bridge builder that does not discriminate against any Muslim on the basis of Islamic school of jurisprudence, gender, race, national or ethnic origin, citizenship or immigration status, political affiliation, class, or economic status • Legally eligible to work in USA Responsibilities of the position include but are not limited to: • Lead the daily prayers at the Masjid • Deliver Jumuaa and Eid Khutbah • Give lectures for the Islamic education of the community on a weekly basis • Be available as a resource for educational, da’wah, and youth programs • Provide matrimonial services as needed • Conduct funeral services and assist with body preparation and burial as needed • Provide counseling and guidance services as needed • Be able to initiate and promote outreach programs with other faiths Selected candidate will be offered a comprehensive salary depending on his experiences and qualifications. How to Apply Interested candidates are encouraged to apply by sending a resume, a cover letter and salary requirements to: email@example.com or IMAM SEARCH COMMITTEE Islamic Center of Cleveland 6055 West 130th Street Parma, Ohio 44130
MUSLIMS IN ACTION The number of Islamic schools was growing, but they lacked a national platform.
Sharing Teaching Can Muslim Americans follow the lead of the Islamic Schools League of America and utilize technology for similar service and advocacy organizations? BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
uring a telephone conversation, Judith Amri, parent of children in a northern Virginia Islamic school, and Karen Keyworth, founding principal of an Islamic school, agreed that there was a need for an organization that would help the schools organize themselves both internally and externally so they could provide students a higher quality educational experience. The idea for the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA) was born. Amri commends Ali Al-Shwaikhat and Ahmed Al-Wazir for helping with the incorporation process. Their children, like Amri’s children, attended the Saudi Islamic Academy. The three wanted to start a new school. “Judi knew me from an online group and asked me how to start a school,” Keyworth recalled. “I said why start a new school. Why not start an organization that would help all the schools and principals who were suffering like I was with the school I had helped found?” They found that no other groups were actively providing such a national platform. Amri did most of the work in incorporating ISLA in 1998 in the state of Virginia. The ISLA is a virtual organization with nonprofit 501c(3) status, dedicated to facilitating the work of full-time K-12 Islamic schools and Muslim educators. The ISLA vision strives for a day when Islamic schools will be the preferred centers for learning and leadership that nurture and encourage America’s youth to develop their innate creativity and inquisitive nature in the pursuance of academic excellence while
anchoring their hearts and souls in a moral framework of a God-centered life. Keyworth and her husband Fuad M. Al-Kabour of 35 years are parents of three daughters and a son. IH talked to Karen Keyworth (KK) about ISLA, its emergence and work. Keyworth said ISLA began its work with two main projects — creating a virtual community for educators in the schools and establishing and maintaining an accurate and current list of the full-time K-12 Islamic schools in the United States and Canada. The organization was run by volunteers, and these two projects consumed most of its limited resources for the first five years.
CREATING AN ONLINE COMMUNITY KK: The virtual community grew out of the need to connect Muslim educators across the nation. The largest concentration of fulltime Islamic schools is in the New York and New Jersey area and constitutes only 17.5 percent of all schools. The remaining schools are spread far and wide across cities and states, many the only Islamic school in their
Keyworth was interviewed for a Thai television documentary in September 2012.
city. ISLA took full advantage of the growing Internet and formed a listserv called the Islamic Educators Communication Network (IECN), which was and remains ISLA’s primary platform for its virtual community. Beginning with 30 members in 1998, today it connects almost 600 Islamic school educators across the U.S. and Canada. IECN was carefully crafted to provide a dynamic and safe place for Muslim educators to connect, learn, share, and grow. First, the list is “closed,” requiring prospective members to indicate their affiliation with either a U.S. or Canadian full-time Islamic school or
THE IECN WAS CAREFULLY CRAFTED TO PROVIDE A DYNAMIC AND SAFE PLACE FOR MUSLIM EDUCATORS TO CONNECT, LEARN, SHARE, AND GROW. ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
be a university student (planning a future in Islamic education) to be admitted. Second, the list is not moderated. Both these protocols were put in place for very important reasons that, in retrospect, have proven wise. In the late 1990s, most immigrant Muslim communities reflected the culture of their dominant immigrant group. Islamic schools, however, demanded talents that brought together people from various backgrounds, some conservative and some not. This situation resulted in strongly conformist religious people who were outside the field of education, attempting to impose the most restrictive interpretation of Islam on the budding Muslim education community that was far more open-minded than might have been assumed. This imposition from outside the education community threatened to stifle the growth of an independent and “home-grown” Islamic education milieu in the U.S. ISLA founders knew that to ensure the development of a grassroots American Islamic education community with its own ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
unique philosophy and authentic “voice,” such stifling elements would have to be kept at arm’s length while those working directly in education would be given an open forum to connect with one another, solve problems, and share ideas and resources. To accomplish this, membership in the IECN listserv was, and still is, strictly controlled, requiring applicants to fill out a form that is then vetted by ISLA. Furthermore, limiting the size and composition of the listserv to only educators, board members, and activist parents/community members in the schools and then allowing that group to impact one another without restraint accelerated development of the online community. The second protocol of having no moderator to monitor postings also contributed to the establishment of an authentic, bottom up development of a shared American Islamic educational philosophy. The goal in leaving posting as uncontrolled as possible was to allow educators to say what they wished without reservation, beyond being polite
and sticking to the topic. Whether a member expressed a highly conservative or liberal point of view, that post should be received with respect and tolerance. The critical objective was that the online community be able to establish an authentic voice, regardless of what that voice said. The new element that began to impact these discussions — and what had been missing from many religious listservs — was the introduction of critical thinking. Many religious listservs reflected the general behavior of the Muslim community, which was to defer fairly quickly to the most conservative religious interpretation or “fatwa” (a religious opinion or decree issued by a recognized Islamic scholar or authority). Because IECN membership was a mix of liberal and conservative, immigrant and U.S.-born, male and female, and an unusual number of “trailblazer” personalities willing to speak their minds, the listserv reflected a strong respect for critical thinking and a willingness on the part of members to hold other members accountable for statements made online. On other listservs in the late 1990s when IECN was established, one would commonly read statements reflecting dogmatic thinking. It quickly became clear, however, that such statements were neither influencing nor swaying opinions and were, in fact, being discounted. This was partly because educators had real problems, such as limited budgets and classroom space that could not be solved by a slavish adherence to fatwas formulated in other countries with other realities. Muslim educators in Islamic schools understood well the realities of running an Islamic school in the U.S., while others outside of the field simply did not know. Because IECN kept out those who did not know (but who would have tried to impose their views) and allowed only those who could prove a strong connection to an American (or Canadian) full-time Islamic school, the listserv offered (and still offers) a place where real solutions to real problems could be constructed within an Islamic framework bounded by critical thinking. The result has been that over the past decade and a half, a vibrant and independent professional community of Muslim educators has developed. The unfettered discussions in which ideas could be fully and critically explored have facilitated the development of an online Muslim education community and shared philosophy that is wholly Islamic, while uniquely American. 27
MUSLIMS IN ACTION COUNTING THE SCHOOLS KK: ISLA’s second main project was to establish an accurate and current list of the fulltime K-12 Islamic schools in the United States, and this was completed when the bulk of the schools were verified in 2004. Since then, the list is maintained by actively seeking out and adding new schools, culling out closed schools, and updating information as it changes. While this seems fairly straightforward, the initial work took several years to complete and proved a daunting task. ISLA now has the most accurate and complete listing of full-time Islamic schools ever compiled. As of 2006, there were 235 full-time Islamic schools in the U.S. serving roughly 32,000 students. While a new survey has not been conducted, there are 250 such schools today as some have closed, yet
with the new website was the introduction of on-site data collection. Making data collection more automated allows ISLA to do more work with fewer resources while still benefiting scholarly research. The website is designed to serve the schools by offering a wide range of resources, such as job openings, current research, research archives, shared school forms, best practices in both school management and instructional resources, school achievements, grant information, and reviewed reading lists for students. In 2006, ISLA partnered with National-Louis University to hold its first Leadership Conference, focused on school accreditation. The following year, ISLA partnered with Georgetown University and the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences to conduct Leadership Conference 2007 that
their size has increased and capital development in underway. Although not anticipated initially, this one accomplishment has become an important springboard for further research critical to Islamic education in the U.S.
ONGOING SERVICE TO THE SCHOOLS KK: ISLA serves schools through a variety of services and projects, some of which are articulated here. In 2002, ISLA launched its website www.4islamicschools.org. In 2011, as part of an ongoing effort to grow the organization and a specific effort to improve name recognition, ISLA changed its domain name to www.theisla.org. A critical change 28
explored Islamic spiritual curricula and discussed criteria for determining what serves the children’s spiritual education needs. In 2008, ISLA began a considerable research undertaking of a multi-year, in-depth, qualitative, and quantitative study of the schools that continues today.
DYNAMICS, CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES KK: Most people assume that being female in a Muslim immigrant community would present a problem when establishing an organization, and they would be right … and wrong. On a local level where people meet face-to-face, being a female has presented barriers to organizing. On the Internet, how-
ever, those barriers are removed, and ISLA was welcomed into the online community. Starting an organization is difficult from every angle. Therefore, it is complicated to tease apart the strands of difficulty — start up, gender, scope of mission, and finances. When ISLA first began, more men in leadership positions offered encouragement and a hand up than those who did not. The problem was more an issue of networking. In ISLA’s experience, if one could connect to the leadership on a personal/professional level, demonstrate the organization’s worth, and show an ability to grow, the leadership would accept the new organization. A major problem was connecting to the leadership because of geographical distance. Once physically in a room with the leaders of the major organizations, ISLA founders found an interested audience. That said, while men in other start-up organizations could move seamlessly into private spaces with male leaders, ISLA founders could not. Since the Muslim community is so small, personal relationships are important, and the barriers to establishing those relationships likely had a negative effect on ISLA’s development. On the positive side, being on the fringe helped ISLA avoid becoming distracted with fruitless organizational politics, and instead, focus on serving the community of educators in a concrete way. By being highly focused, ISLA progressed quickly. Although it is impossible to prove either way, gender barriers likely did not enter into ISLA’s struggle in a meaningful way at the national/macro level. However, both Judi and I were experienced professionals who had been in the American workplace for many years, and we projected confidence and abilities that others found reassuring. Perhaps, being outgoing and assertive women helped overcome barriers that other women found difficult to push through. At the micro/personal level, however, there were many conditions that pushed the ISLA toward establishing itself as a virtual/online organization: cost of an office, increasing use of the Internet, geographically dispersed locations of the schools, and the limited ability of women in the Muslim community to organize and use community space. At that time, it was a rare exception for a mosque in the U.S. to have women decision-makers or even women tokens on their boards. This was true, although to a lesser extent, for Muslim organizations. ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
Keyworth and Sommieh Flower at the ISLA Spiritual Retreat 2013.
Weighing this barrier against the unlimited freedom the Internet offered made being a virtual organization an attractive choice. FUNDING KK: Perhaps the most difficult problem that ISLA has faced and continues to face is funding. When ISLA first formed, it tackled the same funding problems as other start-ups, but it also dealt with an additional funding barrier of being a minority. For example, potentially everyone, including Muslims, can donate to causes, such as cancer research, but few, if any non-Muslims consider donating to Islamic organizations and causes. Therefore, as a minority nonprofit, ISLA was already drawing from a highly restricted pool of potential donors, as the Muslim population of approximately two to seven million comprises less than 2 percent of the U.S. population. In addition, although money from overseas donors was also a viable option at the time, ISLA did not seek or obtain such donations. Following Sept. 11, ISLA’s ability to raise funds was further restricted. ISLA’s ability ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
to support itself financially became and remains extremely difficult. ISLA continues to support Islamic education by working collaboratively with Muslim organizations, the U.S. Department of Education (data collection), universities, researchers, and other groups relevant to private education, such as AdvancEd. Islamic schools in America are ideally situated to strengthen the American Muslim community’s own blend of intel-
lect, modernity, and Islam as reflective of the reality in which Muslims live in the United States; ISLA intends to facilitate that, always keeping Islam as its spiritual and moral compass and servant-leadership as its philosophy.
(Editor’s Note: Material for the article was referenced from “Islamic Schools” — pp 254-257 in “The Praeger handbook of Religion and Education in the United States,” James Carper and Thomas C. Hunt (Eds.), Praeger, 2009)
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MUSLIMS IN ACTION
Standing out at the Oscars Can a University of Michigan hijab-clad undergraduate carry on her success beyond a rare public appearance? BY TASBEEH HERWEES
n the night of the 86th Academy Awards, Muslim Americans who were watching the broadcast may have reached for their smartphones, computers and DVRs to capture one particular image among the flocks of film stars. Not Cate Blanchett or Matthew McConaughey, but Zaineb Abdul-Nabi, a University of Michigan film major who was one of six awardees in a nationwide competition held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts. The competition, administered by the Ellen Degeneres Show, invited video essays asking contestants their plan to contribute to the future of cinema. In her submission, Abdul-Nabi expressed a desire to incorporate old film techniques into new digital mediums. With her film, Abdul-Nabi says she wants to “seize the richness of the every day” and “search for the infinite forms of strength and tenacity that make us all extraordinary human beings.” “The power of the image allows film to become a pulse for society,” she says in her video, “and with every beat I contribute I hope to highlight the beauty of the mundane, the dignity of surviving and the complexities of life from my perspective.” This statement was what won her a trip to Los Angeles to attend the Academy Awards as a guest and a participant. “I couldn’t believe it at first,” says AbdulNabi, “I thought I was going to wake up tomorrow and it was going to be gone because when I applied, I didn’t think I had much of a chance.” After a week of studio tours, dress fittings, and meetings with industry represen-
tatives, Abdul-Nabi finally made it to that legendary red carpet. With her hair tightly concealed under a jewel green hijab, AbdulNabi walked across the carpet among Oscar nominees like Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence and gave an interview to Good Morning America host Robin Roberts. Later in the evening, she appeared onstage to deliver an Oscar statuette to one of the winners. Abdul-Nabi’s hijab and long-sleeved sequined dress drew the spotlight directly to her — not by the Academy, but by Muslims watching at home. Soon enough, her
THE MUSLIM AMERICAN COMMUNITY’S ENTHUSIASM FOR ABDUL-NABI’S APPEARANCE IS A REACTION TO THE DEARTH OF POSITIVE MUSLIM NARRATIVES IN THE FILM INDUSTRY.
photo was circulating on social media networks. One Islamic website headlined her appearance thus: “Modest Muslim Attire Draws Attention At Oscars.” The headline of another Michigan-based publication declared: “Michigan varsity student in Muslim hijab earns a big applause at Oscars.” Muslim fashion blogs Instagrammed her photos and posted them to their fan sites. Abdul-Nabi appreciates the attention, but she also hopes Muslims and Americans of other faiths don’t profile or pigeonhole her as a “Muslim filmmaker.” She says the Muslim community needs to look beyond her hijab and assess her talents by their own merit. “Yes, I am a Muslim woman. And yes, I wear the hijab. But I got chosen for my talent more than anything,” says Abdul-Nabi. “It was really exciting for me to be on that stage and walk the red carpet, and along with two other Oscar winners. In that moment, I didn’t walk around thinking, I’m a Muslim or I’m a hijabi. I’m a filmmaker.” Abdul-Nabi says that it is nice that aspiring Muslim artists could draw inspiration from her awards appearance, but she also hopes that her work will be enjoyed by audiences larger than the Muslim community. “Hopefully, the more people recognize Muslim artists and filmmakers, the more we’ll also be able to recognize them for their ability to create stories and produce beautiful images,” says Abdul-Nabi. The Muslim American community’s enthusiasm for Abdul-Nabi’s appearance is a reaction to the dearth of positive Muslim narratives in the film industry. Muslim characters often appear in the Hollywood imagination as terrorists or oppressed individuals. Alternative roles are few and far between. Take, for example, two films nominated in last year’s Academy Awards: “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Argo.” Both films centered on a plot in which Americans were tasked with defeating Muslim militants. Part of the problem is a lack of Muslim perspectives within the film industry itself. Abdul-Nabi, however, says she doesn’t want to be boxed-in creatively by her religious or ethnic identity. “We [as Muslims] shouldn’t be tasked with correcting these images,” says AbdulNabi, “We should be free, just as any other artist is, to create any type of creative art. We shouldn’t be limited to focusing on creating a ‘positive image.’ We shouldn’t limit ourselves to those narratives.”
Tasbeeh Herwees is a Los Angeles-based journalist.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
51 ANNUAL ISNA CONVENTION ST
Elevating Muslim American Culture Register Online at WWW.ISNA.NET
1 Washington Blvd • Detroit, MI 48226
August 29 – September 1, 2014 CONVENTION HIGHLIGHTS Main Sessions (ISNA, MSA, MYNA) « More than 200 renowned speakers « Parallel Sessions Bazaar with 550 booths « Entertainment Program « Interfaith Reception Qira’at Competition « CSRL Luncheon « Matrimonial Banquets « Art Exhibit Islamic Film Festival « Health Fair « Meet the Author Program Photography Exhibit « Children’s Program « Babysitting CONTACT:
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MUSLIMS IN ACTION
Muslim Women Changing the Narrative
Can Muslim women utilize the avenues made available to them to change the prevailing discourse about themselves? BY SABINA KHAN-IBARRA
uslim women seem to be a hot topic of conversation for the world to comment on and criticize, yet they scarcely get to join the conversation themselves. A recent example of this can be seen in the January 2014 Pew Research Center study titled, “How People In Muslim Countries Prefer Women To Dress In Public.” There are problems with the way the study was conducted, but the ones relevant here are that the study asks people their opinions about women’s dress but it is unclear how many men versus women were approached. Other people, instead of Muslim women themselves, are being asked about how Muslim women should dress. The study also highlights the general obsession over how Muslim women dress. What it doesn’t address is that Muslim women want dialogue that transcends their exterior appearance; they would rather have conversations centered on the work they do, their complex ideas, and their nuanced and multifarious experiences as Muslim women. A 2008 Gallup poll found that Muslim American women were
one of the most highly educated female religious groups in the United States, second only to Jewish American women. Both Muslim women and men report similar monthly household incomes to their male counterparts, and Muslim women are equally as likely as men to say they attend the mosque at least once a week. However, Muslim women are still underrepresented compared to their male counterparts when it comes to telling their own stories, even at Muslim events. Muslim women like CAIR San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA) chapter Executive Director Zahra Billoo, author Jennifer Zobair, and Muslimah Media Watch founder Fatemeh Fakhraie are changing this dominant discourse by giving women the opportunity to participate in speaking engagements, creating space for women to tell their own narratives, and by providing safe media outlets solely for Muslim women. In 2012, Billoo put an end to the excuses for the lack of women voices in the Muslim community, especially when it came to speaking at events. With the help of her contacts through social media networks, she began compiling a list of Muslim female speakers. “I started the list because I was tired of hearing that there were no qualified women speakers, [or] that people did not know how ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
MUSLIM WOMEN ARE STILL UNDERREPRESENTED AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS WHEN IT COMES TO TELLING THEIR OWN STORIES, EVEN AT MUSLIM EVENTS. to contact Muslim women speakers,” Billoo said. She created the list with the hope of eliminating one of the most repeated reasons she has heard for the exclusion of women from Muslim community programs — that there are no Muslim women speakers available. “It is important to give Muslim women the space to teach and lead so that our young women have role models, and so that the ideas and teachings presented at our events are reflective of our entire community and not just part of it,” Billoo said. The rapidly growing list currently has about 300 women. Zobair, author of the debut novel, Painted Hands, and creator of the new website launched in 2014, Story and Chai, believes that “storytelling arts” have not always been as valued in the Muslim community. “There is power and empowerment in the telling of one’s own story, and doing so can change hearts and minds in beautiful ways. I hope Story and Chai is part of the important process of changing the narrative told about Muslims in this country, and I hope it allows people from different backgrounds to get to know each other in meaningful ways,” Zobair said. “After my novel [was] released last summer, Muslim women from all walks of life wrote to thank me for creating relatable, ‘normal’ female Muslim characters. It was that hunger to be portrayed as regular women, with hopes and dreams and struggles just like ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
anyone else, that inspired me to act. The stories told about Muslims — and especially Muslim women — in this country are so often based on stereotypes and clichés, and I believe we need to celebrate and promote the telling of our own narratives,” Zobair explained. Through storytelling, Zobair hopes to humanize Muslim women by conveying diversified voices. She hopes that her website serves as a place to promote books by and about Muslims, and to encourage new writers by providing inspiration and information about writing and publishing. In 2007, Fakhraie founded Muslimah Media Watch to serve as a feminist media analysis reference and also to allow other Muslim women a place to write and get recognized. “My proudest moments as MMW founder are when I see MMW alumni getting paid to write at larger outlets, or when I hear that our pieces are being used in textbooks and college classes,” she said. Fakhraie started MMW because she didn’t like the media portrayals of Muslim women, both by non-Muslim Western media outlets and by predominantly Muslim media outlets. “They portrayed Muslim women in ways that are reductionist and offensive, and I needed a place to complain about this,” she said. “Before I founded MMW in 2007, there wasn’t any real place for feminist media criticism of Muslim women’s images — feminist spaces weren’t welcoming enough for the faith aspect, and faith outlets weren’t welcoming enough for the feminist aspect. So I just made my own path.” Fakhraie feels it is important to give women their space to provide a deeper insight into the diversity of expression and perspectives. “It sounds so buzz-wordy, but to give ourselves a voice and a space that is just for us. That’s important because it’s a safe place to express ourselves and explore issues around media representation,” she said. By simply providing a platform for other Muslim women, Billoo, Zobair and Fakhraei are changing the dominant narrative of Muslim women providing avenues for other women to empower themselves by amplifying their voices. They challenge the prevailing discourse by creating a new generation of cross-cultural understanding that Muslim women’s empowerment is essential; these are women who have the ability, through their work, to empower women to truly speak for themselves.
Sabina Khan-Ibarra is a freelance writer and creator of Muslimah Montage, a website that provides a safe space for Muslim women to tell their own stories.
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MUSLIMS IN ACTION
Modest Fashion Sweeps the East Coast Can Muslim American fashion designers stamp the trade with modesty? BY HAKEEMAH CUMMINGS
his past winter, the East Coast was hot with fashion, centering around modesty. February began with the nation’s most popular fashion week, the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (Feb. 6-13) in New York City, which featured the world’s top designers’ Fall/Winter 2014 collections. There was a common thread of extended hemlines, draped silhouettes, and “abaya-esque” regality across most of fashion elite. Muslim women
Washington, DC Fashion Show 38
have been yearning for the rise of modest fashion for decades, and at last, the world seems to be listening. They have not waited to be handed modesty in fashion. Muslim women worldwide have long been creating careers in fashion, tailoring their talents to dress fellow Muslims. But in America, Muslim women have not brought this fashion to the forefront of any major fashion events — until now.
USA Islamic Fashion Week ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
DC FASHION WEEK Areej Fashions’ second “Haute and Modesty” showcase, held Feb. 21 as part of DC Fashion Week, was quite a treat for the modest fashionista. With fashion designers such as LiaWear Action and Tru Designs, and a debut stylist showcase from CMB by Hakeemah, it featured an array of modest attire, including designer hijabs, modest street style, active wear, formal wear, and even designer hijab pins and jewelry by New York jewelry designer, The Sultaness.
PHILADELPHIA FASHION WEEK Following suit after DC Fashion Week, Philadelphia Fashion Week debuted its modesty showcase on Feb.22 this year. It was a fabulous show featuring Muslim designers such as
Zainah’s Closet and M’Squared Fashions. Designers turned out edgy, hip, and modern modest fashion that was clearly inspired by the pulse of urban life as well as the sophistication befitting the modest woman.
USA ISLAMIC FASHION WEEK – WASHINGTON, D.C. Romana Muhammad and her organization, the Modesty Defined Islamic Fashion Council (MDIFC), created the first USA Islamic Fashion Week in February. The event showcased Islamic fashion from Muslim designers interested in establishing their brand in the broader fashion industry. The group defines Islamic fashion as made by and for Muslims, and at every step, from designing to sales, must follow authentic Islamic guidelines.
MDIFC works with industry professionals to showcase the works of talented Muslim fashion designers and develop impactful careers in fashion. USA Islamic Fashion Week showcased design labels such as A. K. Designs and La Merveille, and also held private networking events to help grow Muslim fashion brands. The International Muslimah Fashion Week (March 20-23) united top modest fashion designers, style bloggers, and fashion enthusiasts from around the world together in Hershey, Pa. for a fashion event. It included fashion shows, shopping, workshops, and featured household names in modest fashion such as Amenakin, Dina Tokio, and Basma K.
Hakeemah Cummings is a Washington, D.C.,-based modest fashion blogger and stylist.
Philadelphia Fashion Show ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
POLITICS AND SOCIETY Alumni honor the founder on the second Sir Syed Day in Phoenix.
Living the Spirit of Aligarh Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Associations of America showing a way where alums honoring their alma mater give back to uplift others. BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
orty years ago, an idea that had simmered in many hearts and minds was brought into fruition by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah in Washington, D.C. — the founding of the first Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association (popularly known as The Aligarh Alumni Association Washington, D.C.). This epoch-making came about 100 years after the establishment of Madarsa in Aligarh by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. The seed that we sow today may grow up into a mighty tree and its branches like the banyan of the soil may send forth fresh saplings, and its alumni may spread through the length and breadth of the country preaching the gospel of truth, honesty, piety and largehearted tolerance, said Sir Syed Ahmed Khan on the occasion of the foundation stonelaying ceremony of MAO college by Lord Lytton, the British viceroy to India, in 1875. Abdullah, a scientist, Urdu poet and
former chairman, is a charter member of AMUAA, member of the board of trustees and founding president of The Federation of Aligarh Alumni Associations (FAAA). He noted that the Washington, D.C., AMUAA was the first footprint of Aligarh Movement on North American soil. Today, besides Washington, D.C., there are alumni associations in Atlanta, Cleveland, New York City, Boston, Albany, N.Y., Denver, Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Austin, Texas, Detroit, and Phoenix, and in Toronto and Montreal in Canada. “Our first challenge was developing a sense of community, bringing together
people of South Asia [irrespective of their faiths or ethnicities],” Abdullah said. “We established the mushaira tradition [in North America] to achieve this goal. This mushaira has become our annual event around Sir Syed Day. Our audiences ranges from 600 to 1,200 people at every event.” “Mushaira” — poetry recitation — has a strong tradition in South Asia. Recently, ISNA conventions also have started featuring mushaira evenings. Abdullah said through the mushaira event group leaders were able to organize Aligarh Alumni Associations in many cities. “Almost all major poets of Urdu have participated in our mushaira,” he said. “The list of our distinguished guests is extensive and impressive.” AMUAA’s major thrust has been to empower the community through education. The group has set up a scholarship
CONTINUING THE ALIGARH MUSLIM UNIVERSITY TRADITION OF EMPOWERMENT THROUGH EDUCATION, MANY OF THE AMU ALUMNI ASSOCIATIONS FOCUS ON VARIOUS EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS IN INDIA AND AMERICA. ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
program that not only benefits needy and meritorious students at AMU but students outside AMU through its “feeder” program. These scholarships, Abdullah stressed, are awarded from income of investment (not interest) of an endowment fund. Each year, AMUAA hosts a fundraising event during Ramadan that raises between $60,000 to $100,000 for this fund. The Washington, D.C., example lighted the Aligarh spirit across the North American continent and worldwide. Abdullah said all these member associations took “inspiration from our scholarship program and have started various types of scholarship programs.” Since around the mid-1970s, the U.S.based alumni of AMU in India had established associations all across the United States. In 2001, the founding AMUAA in Washington, D.C., called a convention in Washington to form a global network of associations — the Federation of the Aligarh Alumni Associations. Each association functions completely independently focusing on issues important to their respective members and communities. But, they all share a common goal, inspired by AMU’s founder more than a century ago, of supporting and promoting access to education.
EMPOWERING INDIA’S MUSLIM COMMUNITY At a time when India was under British
Dr. A. Abdullah
colonial rule and the Muslim minority community lagged behind economically, socially and politically, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817–1898), a civil servant, was a pioneer in believing that knowledge of the modern sciences was imperative to uplift the Muslim community. “He saw that sooner or later India will become an independent country … and he wanted Muslims to have a fair share in that country, and the only way he thought it will be possible [is if] they are at par with other communities as far as education is concerned,” said Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Ph.D, an AMU alumni, professor and journalism program director at Western Illinois University. “‘I have created Aligarh so that students can have Quran in one hand and science in other hand, and understand the world through the wisdom of Quran and the knowl-
edge of science,’” Siddiqi said quoting Sir Syed. “So that was his vision of the educational system that he established at Aligarh.” In 1875, Sir Syed founded the Madrasatul Uloom Musalmanan-e-Hind, which later became the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College (MAO College) that finally evolved into the Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. He envisioned creating a secular institution modeled after the top British universities at the time, but infused with Islamic values. AMU currently garners both regional and international recognition, offering various degree programs, residential halls, and a religiously and culturally diverse student body. AMU has graduated presidents and prime ministers of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Maldives. “I saw and experienced integration in every respect at Aligarh. There were Hindus, there were Muslims, there were Buddhist from Thailand and other parts of the world,” said Siddiqi who spent about 15 years at AMU pursuing his undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies in physics before pursuing his interest in media.
HELPING EDUCATE THE NEXT GENERATION OF STUDENTS IN INDIA Continuing the AMU tradition of empowerment through education, many of the AMU alumni associations focus on various edu-
A Foundation for the Ummah
n the aftermath of the 1857 War of Independence that attempted to dislodge the British occupation of India, the Muslims lost. The last Muslim ruler of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled and imprisoned in Burma, but before that, the heads of his sons were cut off and brought to him as if he was being served food. Subsequently, tens of thousands of Muslims, high or low, were killed by the British victors, usually executed publicly by being hung from trees. However, the Hindus, who had fought alongside the Muslims, were soon co-opted by the Muslims. To complete the Muslims’ annihilation from power, the official language, Persian, was scrapped in favor of English. It was in such a distraught situation that Syed Ahmad Khan, later Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, considering that it was important for Muslims to gain education and become involved in the public life and government services in India, decided to set up the Madrasatul Uloom Musalmanan-eHind (School of Learning for the Muslims of India). The school later became the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College (MAO College) — patterned after Oxford and Cambridge
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
universities which Sir Syed had visited — that finally evolved into Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. A school for girls was established in 1907. In 1927, a school for the blind was added, and the following year, a medical school was founded. By the late 1930s, the university had developed an engineering faculty. After 1939, the Muslim political sentiment shifted toward support for a Muslim freedom movement. AMU students and faculty mobilized behind Mohamed Ali Jinnah — who later became the founder of Pakistan — and AMU became an epicenter of the Pakistan Movement that led to the creation of the Islamic republic. AMU has raised generations of highly qualified social scientists, scientists, lawyers, engineers and physicians, not only for India, but also for many Muslim communities living in Africa and Southeast Asia. Today, AMU has more than 30,000 students, about 1,400 faculty members, and roughly 6,000 non-teaching staff members, with 12 faculties in 95 departments, five institutions and 13 centers.
POLITICS AND SOCIETY cational programs in India and America. The AMU Alumni Association of Northern California runs a scholarship program that provides financial assistance to deserving students in India. According to Shaheer Khan, Ph.D., a founding member of the Northern California association, it has provided scholarships to about 1,700 students since its start in 1996. “Aligarh movement was never meant to be confined to Aligarh. It was supposed to have a broader scope,” Khan said. With this in mind, the Aligarh Education Endowment Fund was created in 2005 to serve underprivileged communities in India. The endowment activities span all education levels, and also include vocational training and career mentorship programs. Funds for education projects or the scholarship program are partly raised by the various associations through their own means, such as through an annual program that honors the founder, Sir Syed, and various fundraising events such as the mushaira, where popular Urdu poets from the U.S., Canada, Pakistan and India gather to recite their works. The Washington, D.C., AMUAA has been holding mushairas for more than 39 years. The mushaira has been a staple of U.S.-based AMU alumni associations since their inception and serves as a cultural and social event, while also creating awareness of the AMU’s mission. In Northern California, Khan said the event attracts about 400 to 500 people from all religious and ethnic backgrounds. “It really serves a big purpose of bringing all the communities under one roof,” Khan said. The scholarship program continues to grow. The first event helped support 10 scholarships; and the 2013 program provided 229 scholarships. Last year, the Greater Washington, D.C., area alum raised more than $55,000, reported Dr. Aftab Ansari, chairman of Scholarship Committee. In 2012, Washington, D.C., AMUAA’s “feeder” 42
program provided aid to 340 students from 17 high schools and 590 students in seven coaching centers in India, said Dr Razi Raziuddin, who oversees the program and is president of the D.C. AMUAA. Aligarh Muslim University maintains an exchange program with George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Tufail Ahmed, who has served as chairman of the board of trustees of the Muslim Community Center in Maryland, served as founding president of the AMUAA in the Greater Washington, D.C., area in 1975. “Although the seminal role of Aligarians in organizing mushaira in Northern America was initiated as early as the 1960s in Canada, [Dr.] Abdullah organized the first mushaira in Washington, D.C., under the auspicious of AMUAA in 1975,” said Afzal Usmani. “His efforts made the event as an integral part of Sir Syed Day celebration program.” Masood Haider (AMU 1959), who did his Ph.D. from the University of California, said it is Dr. who embarked on establishing “real” mushairas — likely the first effort of this kind in North America — and devoted
himself wholeheartedly to the development and growth of AMUAA in Washington D.C. For the past seven years, AMUAA, in order to bring people of two sister languages closer, has been organizing a combined Kavi Sammelan/Mushaira around Pakistan’s and India’s independence days, under the leadership of Dr. Zafar Iqbal — a non-Aligarian. The Association has instituted Allama Iqbal Lecture award for the Western scholars who have made distinguished contributions toward better understanding of Indo-Islamic civilization. The AMU Alumni Association of Greater Chicago (AMUAA-GC), founded in 1986 as a charitable educational and cultural organization, is governed transparently by democratic principles. In addition to fulfilling its social and cultural goals, since 2005, AMUAA-GC, has added a new and vital focus on modern education of young girls in deserving communities in India, anticipating that the seed of learning in the "future mothers" would benefit this and the future generations. Toward this end, the AMUAA-GC has supported more than 15 educational projects, including building schools, classrooms, computer centers, science lab, and a library in primary and secondary schools. AMUAAGC does fundraising through annual events, such as a music program, celebration of Sir Syed Day, sponsorships, and donations.
SPREADING THE AMU SPIRIT TO YOUNG MUSLIM AMERICANS AMU alumni associations are also bringing the message of education to local communities in the United States. Last year the alumni association of D.C. started arranging internship seminars for young adults in the area and plans to continue this focus into the future, along with career development workshops, a mentorship program, and soon a scholarship program for students in the United States.
(Editor’s Note: Zahra Cheema, a freelance writer based in Maryland, contributed to this report).
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Step Up, Start Up, and Connect to a New Economy Muslim Americans adapt methods to address a rise in entrepreneurial dynamism. BY SUSAN LABADI
t was April 2013 in Southern California, and no one wanted to leave the secret venue in which gathered entrepreneurs, investors, and other business people who would serve as mentors. The air was charged with mutual admiration as more than $200,000 was secured by some people who had presented their business plans for a mere six minutes. Afterward, networking gave critical connections, solutions and encouragement to several attendees who traveled from all over the nation. This was a solution to resolve an economy in a tailspin — a breakthrough to mend something long broken. Income inequality in the U.S. was minimal in the 1970s, as Harvard economist Larry Katz described, “Americans grew together.” Since then a worldwide growing disparity has shifted, fueled by globalization, to affect U.S. wealth distribution, whereby in 2011 Michael Norton and Dan Ariely of Harvard Business School noted that the top 20 percent own 84 percent of total wealth. Following the 2008 financial crisis, The Great Recession saw nine million American jobs eliminated. Income recovery of 2.3 percent was reported for 2009-10, however, economist Emmanuel Saez corrected that perception by revealing that for 99 percent of Americans, there really was no recovery at all. Most people’s incomes rose a meager 0.2 percent, while the upper crust — the 1 percent — experienced a recovery of 11.6 percent, as discussed in Chrystia Freeland’s “Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else” (Penguin, 2013). Freeland writes about Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) who in his 2011 address, “The
American Idea,” at the Heritage Foundation said, “[the] true sources of inequality in our country [are] corporate welfare that enriches the powerful and empty promises that betray the powerless.” He disparages, “a class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society.” The 2008-09 recession left an estimated 24 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, and a lethargic economic threatening a global scale collapse, which can only theoretically be avoided if our mindset is refocused toward entrepreneurship, new business. Gone are the days when one could aspire to a protected job with benefits and a comfortable pension. Education — initially conceived to prepare disciplined Prussian soldiers and then corporate workers — has broadened its scope to embrace innovators, creative designers and problem solvers across a range of integrated disciplines capable of working collaboratively, and willing to pursue lifelong knowledge and skills acquisition. It is the new reality, as massive challenges such as global warming, fresh water shortages, nuclear waste and world hunger call upon us to offer solutions for survival. A crippled economy greatly contracts conventional practices, and ambitious initiatives are required. Luigi Zingales, author of “A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Last Genius of American Prosperity” (2012), wrote, “When the pilgrims planned their trip, they did not ask the government for money; they asked private investors. When Abraham Lincoln’s family left Kentucky in
GONE ARE THE DAYS WHEN ONE COULD ASPIRE TO A PROTECTED JOB WITH BENEFITS AND COMFORTABLE PENSION. 44
search of new pastures in Illinois, they did not ask the government for money. When more than 300,000 people rushed to California in search of gold, they were not subsidized by the government.” The reality is that we can only rely on God’s guidance and need to step up, take responsibility, and help each other toward prosperity and protection for the common good. An entrepreneurial dynamism is rising and adaptability is the order. John Dearie and Courtney Geduldig, authors of “Where the Jobs Are: Entrepreneurship and the Soul of the American Economy” (2013), met more than 200 of America’s entrepreneurs one summer on a cross-country road trip, and they found that, although not always stable, new businesses could expand employment rapidly; their policy needs are different from established, larger corporations; and that they need help, which policies could provide as nurturance to startups. This spirit is fueling a trend which holds much promise for economic recovery, hopefully of a sustainable sort. Known to many fans as Baba Ali from Ummahfilms.com, Ali Ardekani loved watching “Shark Tank” on television, and he had gone to family and friends to fund his idea to create a boxed game product for Muslims. It was successful on a small scale, and he enjoyed meeting new people and making connections. Ultimately, Ardekani decided that he could leverage his growing popularity to help other budding entrepreneurs. And so, the California meeting was promoted through a YouTube video by ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
Ardekani using his style of video production and ebullient personality. On the operational side of Ardekani’s celebrated gathering was Victoria Caldwell, an international online marketing consultant and founder of Barakah Biz Network, who promoted, organized, and supported this event (http://youtu.be/MXhtogWhsX0), and continues to do so around the country in order to help people make resourceful connections that can take their businesses to the next level. Ardekani and Caldwell explain that often times once businesses have a successful start, they run short of resources, both financial and experiential. It becomes imperative to have guidance and to access connectors who have the capacity to make their businesses grow in an ever changing global landscape. What Ardekani and Caldwell cultivate comes down to a climate of trust. By providing opportunity for people who are seriously seeking mentors, connections and investment, they help fuel the growth of an economic shift to self-sufficiency, the type that brings true wealth building and greater employment. Ardekani says many people don’t know how to brand their businesses and need advice on legal aspects. They also need help with online marketing and use of media. When asked about what types of businesses usually receive funding, he explained, “Whatever makes money; ideas that are novel are not as likely.” Successful models that are already functional that need growth revenue are mostly selected for investment. ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
Terms of funding are not overseen by the event organizers, as they are privately arranged between parties, but they could provide an opportunity for Islamic financial instruments to be a guide for the design of those terms. Rather than eroding the foundations of equity through charging interest (riba), a prospect of shared ownership with shared risk can be created to cement investor support to those businesses seeking funding and mentorship. On a larger scale, another system proposed for economic robustness is evolving from LaunchPosse. Known for his founding success at Zabihah.com, Shahed Amanullah and his Georgetown University colleague, Richard Ambrose, are partnering to create a model that can leverage social networks to provide resources for knowledge, money, and even moral support. It is necessity that propelled its inception. Amanullah explained, “From this point on, there will never be enough jobs for people. How do we as a society address this issue? Either we accept the new reality of a permanent underclass, or we try to get people to start their own businesses, to employ themselves.” He refined his vision, “From those thoughts came the initial concept of LaunchPosse, which will be a platform where ordinary people can take an idea and leverage their social network to turn it into a functioning business or social enterprise.” Meeting the global perspective of investors and entrepreneurs of the day, Amanullah is thinking big. When asked if there was a relative age category or demographic he seeks to work with, he said, “We’re hoping to launch our new venture globally — we see no distinction between new businesses here, or in places like Egypt, Honduras, Uganda, or Bangladesh. We are designing LaunchPosse to appeal to any age, class, or educational background. We are tired of seeing the benefits of technology roll solely to the digital elites.” Regarding mentors in his system, Amanullah has met quite a few through his entrepreneurial and international work with the state department. “We’ve found the ones that really motivate you, keep you on track, make you believe in yourself are the most important stakeholders in your success,” he said. “The number one thing most budding entrepreneurs lack is confidence.” A believer that aspirations can become reality, Amanullah expounds energy and a convincing argument.
“We wanted to build a platform that everyday, ordinary people could use to make their dreams come true,” he said. “Entrepreneurship is a right that all people should enjoy, and we intend to make a successful business catering to the 99 percent of those who are not being pursued by VCs (venture capitalists) and incubators.” Many people are familiar with Robert Kiyosaki’s bestseller “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” which references a quadrant model that suggests the way to get out of the “rat race” and achieve financial independence is through business ownership or investment. Given the current economics, these networking models may be effective strategies to maintain a decent standard of living. If we continue to slide toward increasing unemployment, we will have to adapt to preserve stability and hope to thrive. Never before have common people had such access to the world; the question is how quickly can we prepare and serve it?
Susan Labadi is project coordinator of the American Halal Association, president of Genius School, Inc., a professional development company, consultant for the ISNA Education Forum, and VP of ActionNet Trade, Inc.
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POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Soccer Gets Muslim Women Friendly Can Muslim perseverance pay off with positive outcomes just as it worked with getting hijab legalized for playing soccer?
BY SHIREEN AHMED
n March 13, when Samah Aidah was prohibited by soccer referees in Aurora, Colo., from playing in a game due to her hijab, her teammates on the Overland High School girls soccer team turned out in hijabs. Immediately after, her school submitted an application for an accommodation to the team uniform and she was allowed to compete. The scenario is changing for Muslims desiring to participate in the mainstream while maintaining traditional Islamic attire. FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke announced rescinding the ban on March 1. The amendment also favors Sikh males who wear turbans. The judgment also could be interpreted to include goalkeepers who choose to wear protective headgear.
The wearing of head cover had been banned until 2012, with FIFA saying that they posed too great a risk of injury to the head or neck. However, FIFA’s governing body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), then allowed them to be tested out over a two-year period following a request from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), a trial which proved to be successful. The law banning hijab was officially implemented in 2007. The hijabi footballer’s case was taken up more than five years ago by Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, a FIFA executive committee member. This campaign was supported by numerous online campaigns, United Nations Special Advisor on Sport Support Initiative and advocates of women’s sports, the Asian Football Confederation, and the West Asian Football Federation. It also came after numerous Muslim women were denied a chance to play and
THE EFFORT FOR THE UNIVERSAL APPLICATION OF RULES HAS TO CONTINUE. UNTIL THE FIFA DECISION IS NOT IMPLEMENTED BY OTHER NATIONAL AND REGIONAL SOCCER ASSOCIATIONS, SOME YOUNG PLAYERS MAY BE TURNED AWAY FROM THE GAME. THE KEY IS INCLUSION, NOT ACCOMODATION. 46
national teams were ejected from various international tournaments for their choice to wear hijab while playing. For many athletes, this is not a moment of celebration but of sheer relief. Unsurprisingly, hijab being banned from the pitch has been a highly politicized issue. Some countries (such as France and the Canadian province of Quebec) had planned to continue to ban hijab despite this law being declared outdated and unfair. Many ethnic communities rallied around the women being excluded creating a league for players and women. In Mississauga, a city in the Canadian province of Ontario, the Muslim Youth Soccer League that boasts more than 800 players, including a women’s division, created an inclusive and challenging way to engage in the game. It has been an outlet for Muslim women who, otherwise, would have no access to play a sport they loved. Montreal-based Muslim designer Elham Sayed Javed, who created a velcro-lined prototype that met IFAB safety standards, was a huge advocate of the campaign to allow hijab on the pitch. In November 2012, her Resport-ON design for a hijab was accepted on a trial basis by IFAB requirements (velcro fastenings and easily removable). Fast forward two years and to much relief, IFAB approved hijab-clad women — just in time for the Women’s World Cup 2015 to be held in Canada. As important as it is for women to be included, it should be ensured that FIFA rules are applied not just for international competition but also that regional and local clubs adopt the changes. Otherwise, varying levels of players might not be able to participate. As yet, the National Federation of High School Athletics, which oversees state associations of all sport in schools, has not sanctioned hijabs. The effort for the universal application of rules has to continue. Until the FIFA decision is not implemented by other national and regional soccer associations, some young players may be turned away from the game. The key is inclusion, not accomodation.
Shireen Ahmed, a writer and advocate focusing on Muslim women in sports, is an athlete, community organizer, and works with Youth of Colour on empowerment projects and is a sports coach and mentor. She contributes to Muslimah Media Watch, a Global Sports Correspondent for Safe World For Women and works on the Muslim Women in Sports website.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Racism in the Community BY SAMANA SIDDIQUI
t started, as it often does nowadays, on social media. Imam Dawud Walid was following a Facebook discussion about an incident in Dearborn, Mich., last fall. It was an altercation between an Arab store owner and an African American woman. One of the people who posted used a derogatory Arabic word to describe black people: “abeed” or slaves. “In that thread, I saw some of the people on there who are Muslims were referring to the black woman in racial terms, [saying things] like ‘you know how those abeed are,’ so I made a comment in the thread quoting a hadith that is narrated in Bukhari that none of you should call anyone ‘abdi’ (my slave in Arabic),” Walid said. That led Walid to write about the experience in the local newspaper The Arab-American News. Walid, executive director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), also decided to search Twitter to see how often the term was used. “I was stunned at the amount of tweets that I saw using, not just the term itself, but the derogatory context that went along with the use of the term,” Walid said. According to a March 2014 report by the British think tank Demos, about seven racist and derogatory messages are posted on Twitter every minute, at a rate of about 10,000 tweets per day. Walid’s Facebook discussion, and his discovery of the widespread use of the word “abeed” on Twitter, has resulted in a national movement to root out the slur among Muslims. More broadly, it has accelerated efforts to fight racism within the Muslim American community, coalescing into the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), launched in January.
WHAT’S IN A NAME? ANTI-BLACK RACISM FROM MADINAH TO MICHIGAN The Quran recognizes diversity as a positive value in human relations (49:13), and in his last sermon, Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) emphasized that, “[...] an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; also, a white [person] has no superiority over a black [person], nor does a black [person] have any superiority over a white [person] — except by piety and good action.” As well, one of the Prophet’s most esteemed Companions is an African, Bilal ibn Rabah (‘alayhi rahmat). Muslims the world over laud, learn of, and teach about his perseverance and strength of faith from a young age. But he is probably not the person who comes to mind when Arabic-speakers use “abeed.” Like the man outside the Prophet’s Masjid in Madinah who told Walid, an African American fluent in Arabic, “Come abeed, come.” Or, in another incident he witnessed, a member of the Saudi Arabian religious police going to the Prophet’s 48
Imam Dawud Walid
grave calling an African man “abdi” (my slave). It was probably not Bilal on the minds of those tweeters who called Walid the very word he was protesting. They also used the “N-word,” cursed him, and defended their usage of the Arabic slur, “as if it was a fundamental part of their identity,” he said. “This term is used from gas stations to our masjids,” he added. It’s something with which Hind Makki, a spokesperson for MuslimARC and a Sudanese-American raised in Chicago, also is familiar. Growing up, she attended a full-time Islamic school where she caught Arabic-speaking classmates using the derogatory word regularly, despite the school’s zero-tolerance policy for it. “I remember I told girls they could not use that word. Their response would be ‘Oh we don’t mean you, we mean the [African] Americans,’” she said. Although Makki found that being Sudanese gave her some advantage because she spoke Arabic, “there was enough racism that I was very aware that I was darker-skinned. We spoke the language of the slurs that were being used.” Makki also faced stereotypes about black Muslims in the American context. People asked her when her parents converted to Islam, assuming that all Muslims who are of African background are new Muslims. Others wondered how she could speak Arabic so well. When her sister was accepted into Yale, some students commented that she was accepted only because of Affirmative Action, and not because of her stellar grades and hard work. “The community I grew up in was very insular,” she said. “My peers and their mothers, and maybe their fathers, were just not exposed to people who were different from them.”
SEGREGATION IN THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY ADDS TO PERPETUATION OF THE “A-WORD” Muslims are the most diverse religious group in the U.S., according to the Gallup Organization’s survey, “Muslim Americans: A National Portrait” (2009). Yet, social segregation based on race remains in the community, reinforcing racist attitudes. “America has a racial hierarchy and people learn this,” Walid said, adding that it is “reinforced by lack of socialization. Arabs predominantly deal with black people as transactional relations, owning a liquor store, or in the inner-city, and that’s the context many people have with blacks, unless they are on the university campus or in the corporate world.” This lack of positive exposure facilitates seeing all Africans and African Americans as “the other.” ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
“I want the mentality to shift [toward] how the word ‘abeed’ is used,” Walid said. “It’s used to ‘otherize’ people or not even view people as actual humans. That’s the bigger issue in my mind, not just the word. The word is just a symptom.”
THE SLAVERY CONNECTION Walid and Makki both concede that other Muslim cultures also use derogatory words to describe Africans and African-Americans. However, what is especially disturbing about the Arabic “a-word,” as Makki described it, is its connection to slavery. “I am a descendant of enslaved Africans and there is a lot more pain that we carry in terms of slavery and the structural, institutionalized racism that African Americans face to this day,” Walid said. “To hear Muslims use this term makes it more painful.” “‘Abeed’ is a term that dehumanizes people, trying to strip someone of their human dignity,” he said. “It’s more than a slur about someone’s color.”
COMMUNITY RESPONSES One of MuslimARC’s first campaigns was encouraging imams and khateebs across the country to devote their Friday sermons on Feb. 21 to the topic of racism. The response was encouraging. “Many Imams were already using Black History Month to talk about racism, and a lot were very happy to talk about anti-racism,” Makki said. “Several Imams sent SoundCloud files, texts, and videos of their khutbahs.” She added that there is widespread support for MuslimARC from Muslims across ideological and generational lines. “Our uncles are very supportive,” she said. Although some Muslims did contact Walid saying, “Imam you’re making the Muslims look bad by retweeting all this racist stuff.” He said others have responded differently. “Since I started this campaign, I have had a number of Arab Americans contact me in solidarity and have extended an invitation to take leadership in their localities regarding this issue,” he said. “Some people said they honestly didn’t know what the word ‘abeed’ meant and that, in their families, it was used for black. Those people showed remorse.” This is also reflected in the March 2014 Demos study of racism on Twitter, which found of the 10,000 racist tweets sent per day, more than 70 percent were sent in a fashion not intended to be derogatory or abusive. “My bigger hope is that we do some real work in our community about cultivating human respect among various Muslims and doing anti-racism work,” he emphasizes. “At the end of the day, if we replace ‘abeed’ with ‘sood’ (the Arabic word for black), we are still talking down to black people, the shift in terms has done nothing.” Please visit www.MuslimARC.org for more information.
Samana Siddiqui, content manager of Sound Vision Foundation’s website (www.soundvision.com), is a writer for “Chicago Crescent.” References: 1. “Anti-Social Media: Study Finds Racist Tweets Are Sent This Many Times a Day” http://www.diversityinc.com/news/anti-social-media-studyfinds-racist-tweets-sent-many-times-day/?utm_source=SailThru&utm_ campaign=newsletterLuke&utm_medium=DI&utm_content=2014-0310&utm_term=newsc 2. “Muslim Americans: A National Portrait” http://www.gallup.com/strategicconsulting/153572/report-muslim-americans-national-portrait.aspx
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Hijab Appropriation or Appreciation? Can Muslim American women serve their own cause without leaning on others? BY LEEN R. JABER
he World Hijab Day, celebrated each year on Feb. 1, is an initiative created by Nazma Khan asking other faiths and traditions, and Muslim women who don’t normally wear hijab, to wear hijab for a day to be in solidarity with Muslims who wear hijab all over the world. Khan, a victim of discrimination and assault growing up in New York City’s borough of Bronx after emigrating from Bangladesh, was inspired to empower other Muslim women and to spread awareness about hijab worldwide. Ultimately, the goal is to eradicate racism and discrimination against Muslim women who wear hijab and to eliminate the misnomer that hijab is a symbol of oppression and subjugation, but rather a symbol of power and freedom. Khan explains her reasoning behind the creation of World Hijab Day on her official website. “Growing up in the Bronx, I experienced a great deal of discrimination,” she wrote. “In middle school, I was ‘Batman’ or
Students take up the challenge on World Hijab Day 50
‘ninja’. When I entered University after 9/11, I was called Osama bin Laden or terrorist. It was awful. I figured the only way to end discrimination is if we ask our fellow sisters to experience hijab themselves.” Women of other faiths donned their veils on the second annual World Hijab Day, while conducting their daily activities. Some Muslim women took to social media to voice their concerns about the premise behind World Hijab Day. While praising Khan’s intentions as noble, many Muslim women found the day to be not only ineffective, but also possibly damaging to Muslim women in the West. But more importantly, it sparked a conversation amongst Muslim women about their identities, which surpasses the discussion of World Hijab Day itself. While racism and discrimination do exist, many women think that there are better ways for people to understand this than wearing a headcovering for a day. Perhaps an alternative could be for Muslim women to speak up, sharing their stories with the world. “It is flawed to think that one must experience or walk in one’s shoes to understand their challenges and struggles. I don’t think
anyone needs to experience injustice or discrimination to realize how wrong and awful it is,” explains Ainee Fatima, a Chicago social activist and blogger published in MuslimGirl.net and Brown Girl Magazine. The objective behind hijab carries a lot more weight than a simple piece of cloth or just a style of dress, many assert that the experience of hijab cannot be gained through wearing it as a non-hijabi. “I realized that those who participate in World Hijab Day don’t understand what the implications of hijab are, nor will they ever know what it feels like to be a Muslim woman just by wearing it for one day,” Fatima added. Laila Alawa, social media associate in Washington, D.C., echoes this sentiment. “Bigots aren’t affected by this,” she said. “Most people participating are already invested one way or another. Hijab is a dangerous thing to appropriate because it has so many social and political implications.” Hijab appropriation has become a hot button topic. Appropriating any culture or faith devalues that culture and chisels it down to a symbol or trending fad. The idea that the experience, lifestyle and richness of a Muslim woman’s identity can be “tried on” by another person is viewed as offensive. It leaves many women feeling misunderstood as the Muslim woman narrative is not a homogeneous one. It is in fact complex and unique to each individual Muslim, and one act of worship, such as wearing hijab, cannot sum up all of one’s faith. “It must be emphasized that we are not all the same, nor do we all wear hijabs,” Fatima said. “I don’t even wear mine all the time. ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
I take it off when I go home or if I’m only around women in a private space. Does that mean I am no longer a Muslim woman? Has my faith been removed?’” Alawa added, “we are stripping the voice of women who choose to wear [hijab] and putting attention on those who are wearing it for fun.” Seeking people of other faiths to be the voice of Muslims in the West has been problematic for years and has now taken a new form in the appropriation of hijab. Because the Muslim woman narrative is intricate and constantly changing, every woman has their own story to tell about faith, love, struggles and triumph. Many Muslim women feel that their stories are being hijacked by others. Speaking to this, Alawa explained that the
of the strongest areas to be involved in that can reach the most people. Creating a divide between those who don the headcover or not, also has become a concern for many Muslim women. With World Hijab Day concentrating so heavily on hijab, many other Muslim women who do not practice hijab feel as though their faiths and voices are not of any value, eventually causing them to feel marginalized. This is because much of our conversation about Muslim women focuses around hijab. “Hijab is one of the most talked about issues within the Muslim community and non-Muslim communities. It’s becoming quite cyclical and we need to branch out of the hijab topic,” Fatima said. “There is more to our identities than just the hijab; we don’t
LOOKING TO PEOPLE OF OTHER FAITHS TO BE THE VOICE OF MUSLIMS IN THE WEST HAS BEEN PROBLEMATIC FOR YEARS AND HAS NOW TAKEN A NEW FORM IN THE APPROPRIATION OF HIJAB. problem of being misunderstood is not going to be fixed by others, but rather by the storytelling movement that has already begun. “The best way to build bridges is on the grounds of commonality,” she said. Others will begin to understand Muslim women when they begin to see themselves in the tales that Muslim women have to tell. In line with this movement, Alawa started her own project titled, Coming of Faith, a website with a collection of stories written by Muslim women. Another issue stemming from this conversation is the reinforcement of the herovictim dynamic being perpetuated by Muslims. It creates a reality where Muslims have been broken down and looking for others to save them. It is a problem when Muslims act as though being Muslim is not enough until it is accepted by others and can somehow be the catalyst to success in other areas of their lives, Alawa said. This will ultimately devalue the Muslim experience. “We’ll succeed once we accept our identities as who we are and not as an impetus for success,” she said. Becoming involved in all parts of society speaks louder than any other form of dialogue. Media and entertainment are some ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
see this focus on Muslim men who also have their own hijab. Much of the conversation has an underlying misogynistic tone when it is not being controlled by women.” Reducing women to what they wear or do not wear has dominated the minds of Muslim communities, making hijab and faith synonymous and making people of other faiths more intrigued with this particular act more than any other aspect that exists within the vastness of Islam. Furthermore, women are becoming the “ambassadors” of Islam, Alawa said. And because of this, Muslim women are afraid to speak openly and honestly about themselves and their lives because their narratives aren’t perfect, and they are fearful of how this may reflect on Islam as a whole. “We have a construct where women have to be the voice of Islam when that voice is not being given within our own faith communities,” Alawa said. Issues of not having adequate women’s prayer spaces in mosques, abuse, and women struggling for leadership roles in the Muslim community show an unwillingness to allow women to be heard. And yet, these same women are given the responsibility of representing Islam in the best way possible.
In that same vein, Muslims have a tendency to applaud and praise allies from other faiths when they support Muslim causes or fast in Ramadan, but then fail to support and recognize new Muslim converts struggling with fasting or prayer. The focus is taken away from the development, progression, and empowerment of the Muslim community and put on others, Alawa said. And it is not only the Muslim community that is highlighting the non-Muslim interpretation of the Muslim experience, but the media also is looking to people of other faiths to learn about the experience of Muslims, and they, in turn, are getting book tours and movie deals, while Muslims remain silent but resentful that their voices are not being heard. As the narratives of Muslim American women grow and change, the conversation around their identities also will grow. Inevitably, it will be the voices of these women that will need to be heard, which can only bring progress to Muslims in the West.
Leen Jaber is a writer and musician from Chicago. She also works as a media and publications associate with the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA).
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POLITICS AND SOCIETY
The Invisible Dimensions of Islamophobia Watch out for Islamophobia promoted by the “liberal left” as vehemently as the far right wing. BY IMRAAN SIDDIQI
ou may be thinking to yourself, “I know what Islamophobia is. It’s a tool of the right-wing to spread fear of Islam.” You’re only partially right. Yes, it is true that the vast majority of institutional antiIslamic activity is funded and enacted by farright groups — as evidenced in the Center for American Progress’ 2011 report, “Fear Inc.,” and CAIR’s 2013 report, “Legislating Fear.” The CAIR report, released late last year, highlighted the network, funding and tactics of what has become a huge industry with more than $113 million directly being spent on spreading anti-Islam sentiment in the last few years.
When you think Islamophobia, the names Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Steven Emerson, among other far-right names usually come to mind. However, a closer look reveals the issue of using anti-Muslim sentiment for political gain is much more complicated and nuanced. While there is a marginalization of these extreme right voices spreading lies and misinformation, there is a growing trend of anti-Islam sentiment being espoused from what is traditionally labeled “the left.” This latent anti-Muslim sentiment has reared its head in mainstream media circles, and has had legislative public perception implications as well.
THE NEW ATHEISTS’ FAVORITE TARGET In recent years, the Muslim community has undergone a massive political shift to the left, 52
in response to the rising tide of intolerance, xenophobia and support for imperialistic wars on the right. During the Bush Administration years, critical media voices such as Bill Maher rose in stature due to his outright criticism of the ongoing wars, specifically the start of the Iraq war under false pretenses. As his profile as a spokesperson for the left rose, Maher also upped his staunch criticism of all things religious. As part of the “newatheist” movement, Maher continuously jokes about religion as a whole. However, he puts special emphasis on saying nasty things about Islam. During an interview a few years back, Maher was interviewing a person who is seemingly a political ally in the progressive Muslim Congressman from Minnesota, Keith
Ellison. Maher is a huge supporter of the Democratic Party, even donating $1 million to President Obama’s re-election Super-PAC in 2012. During this specific interview, Maher took a special opportunity to attack Ellison’s religious affiliation and Islamic tenets, calling the Quran a “hate-filled holy book.” As Ellison adeptly defended these attacks, Maher persisted mocking and scoffing at any defense the congressman put up. In other episodes, Maher has mocked Muslim countries by juxtaposing a bombed out destitute Muslim neighborhood then posing the question: “If Allah is so ‘Akbar,’ then why do most Muslim countries look like this?” Rather than being met with horror, bits like these are met with rousing applause from the audience. Maher is an acolyte of world-renowned scientist Richard Dawkins, who along with neuroscientist Sam Harris make up the
celebrity core of the “new atheist movement.” This new genre of atheist has gained notoriety for a more militant, gloves-off approach at religion and all its adherents. Case in point, the umbrella organization American Atheists buying billboards in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods in places like Paterson, N.J. These tasteless billboards read, “Allah — You know it’s a myth…and you have a choice.” The new approach of this movement is to provoke and mock religion, by any means necessary. Contrast this with many atheists who are highly involved with bridge building through interfaith and outreach, rather than attempting to shame people of faith out of their religion. Put aside the lowly tactics and rhetoric used by Maher, Dawkins, Harris and the rest of the movement, and you will see an utter lack of substance. Although Dawkins has claimed that Islam is inherently violent, and that the Quran is a hate filled book, he has admittedly “never read the Quran.” Think about that for a second — an individual who is considered to be one of the so-called brightest minds in the field of science has made it his personal journey to deconstruct and mock a religion practiced
by one in four people globally. However, he has not even bothered to read the source document for the religion and persists on hearsay and his own personal bigotry. As a rebuttal to this critique, Dawkins said, “I don’t need to read ‘Mein Kampf ’ to know that it was a hate-filled book.” Stay classy, Richard. As you can see, the substance behind the Islamophobia emanating from the left is unfounded, yet the audience that these individuals reach to spew their hate is in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions in the case of Maher. Their legions of fans in online communities such as Reddit and Twitter, though politically liberal, are prone to spewing massive levels of anti-Islam bile on a daily basis. However overt these guys are, the spread of anti-Islam sentiment can be much more subtle as well. ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
FEAR THE MUSLIM CAB-DRIVER As evidenced by the money spent in the past few years according to the CAIR report, Islamophobia as a tactic has proven to be a useful resource in achieving political means. We’ve seen it influence legislative circles in which mostly right leaning states have introduced anti-Sharia legislation, covering more than 30 states and eighty local legislatures. A key example occurred recently in Arizona over the introduction of a controversial legislation, SB 1062 or the ominously titled, “religious liberty bill.” Arizona is known as a hotbed of controversial legislation and rightwing activity, as evidenced by bills such as
Apparently, all Muslims are discriminatory cab drivers. “What if a Muslim cab driver refused to transport a single, female passenger?” “What if a Muslim baker refused to make a bacon cake?” Bacon cake? Really? At least they moved on from the cab driver scenario and let us open a bakery. Such scenarios began being plastered on news media networks nationwide, including “left-center” CNN. Although Muslims, let alone Arizona Muslims (less than 1 percent of the population), had absolutely nothing to do with the introduction of this ludicrous,
ALTHOUGH MANY OF THE OVERT FORMS OF BIGOTRY ARE COMING FROM THE FAR RIGHT, THE FACT IS THAT LATENT FORMS OF BIAS ARE JUST AS DANGEROUS. SB 1070 (which would have allowed police to racially profile those perceived to be undocumented immigrants) and HB 2352 (the “anti-sharia bill” which passed in 2011). SB 1062 brought Arizona national attention in a negative light. Although the law was being framed as a religious liberty bill, the focus of the proposed legislation would have allowed a business owner to refuse service to homosexuals. Arizona’s legislative nightmares have made the state a laughing stock in the news media. As the national conversation clearly highlighted the discriminatory nature of this bill, and the wrongheadedness of introducing such legislation, it became clear to many of the sponsors (all white conservative Christians) that this bill would have negative impact on the state. When you become a laughing stock, it is less likely that people will want to come to your state and spend money. In Arizona’s case, this meant the possibility of losing the Super Bowl next year, along with major companies, such as Apple withdrawing its planned expansion in the state. Lawmakers were in a state of panic and needed an out. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the doomsday scenario started being posed by media outlets — left and right alike. “What if a Muslim cab driver decided they would not transport a customer with a dog?” “What if a Muslim cab driver refused to transport a passenger to a Hindu temple?” ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
discriminatory bill, we found ourselves at the epicenter of the reasoning as to why the bill was wrong. The discussion got so out of hand, Slate covered the silliness making the claim that, “if you want to defeat a piece of legislation, then just find a way to introduce Muslims into the scenario.” The Slate article also pointed out that the original source of this Islamophobic meme didn’t emanate from right-wing talk radio or some fringe blogger. It started with the “socially progressive,” but hawkish, foreign policy-wise, Anti-Defamation League. The group, which prides itself in fighting hate, testified in front of the Arizona legislature to defeat the bill, which should be commended. However, they used the “Muslim cab driver” scenario in their testimony, which was reprehensible because it painted Muslims as abusers of “religious freedom” in this country. After CAIR released a statement condemning the ADL for its ludicrous usage of Islamophobia to achieve political means, many media outlets responded with similar disgust. One of the interesting responses, however, came from a writer from the left leaning Phoenix New Times. The reporter, who was an opponent of the “religious freedom bill,” was taken aback that CAIR had the audacity to criticize the ADL for its testimony. The reporter decided to berate this author, saying, “well, at least the tactic worked in helping shoot down
the bill.” In essence, he was saying that the introduction of the Islamophobic meme was a means to an end, and it worked. So much for “journalistic integrity.”
WAIT, YOU’RE SPYING ON US TOO? Examine the case of the New York Police Department’s blanket surveillance of the Muslim community, including mosques, Muslim-owned restaurants and various student groups. In the direct aftermath of these revelations, the Muslim community was rightfully up in arms at the clear violation of civil rights. That did not tell the story about the perceptions of this program in the rest of the country — a Quinnipiac Poll showed most Americans favored this blanket surveillance program. This reflected a cognitive dissonance, allowing a group of Americans to be singled out because they are perceived as being an overall threat. That was in 2011. Now fast forward to 2014. In the aftermath of the Edward Snowden revelations that the NSA was conducting blanket surveillance and collecting data of all Americans. The poll numbers have now shifted drastically. Now, nearly three-quarters of Americans oppose blanket surveillance, according to a recent Pew study. The perceptions of these violations clearly changed when the respondents felt as though their rights were being affected as well, rather than that of only Muslims. In fact, “progressive” elected officials, such as Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), were staunch supporters of the blanket surveillance and collection of data before finding out that even Feinstein was targeted by the program. These scenarios clearly highlight that eradicating anti-Islam sentiment or feelings is a long term issue. Although many of the overt forms of bigotry are coming from the far right, the fact is that latent forms of bias are just as dangerous. These feelings have a tendency to permeate a wider segment of society, as opposed to the fringe nature of “traditional Islamophobia.” While there is slight improvement in marginalizing far-right hate, there is still a massive challenge in curtailing the quieter, more normalized version.
Imraan Siddiqi, a writer, entrepreneur and chairman of CAIRArizona, has been featured on SuhaibWebb.com, Patheos, CounterPunch, Dallas Morning News and The Oregonian. He also writes the blog Stop Islamophobia Now.
Challenges Divorced Muslim Mothers Face Can Muslim American leaders and scholars shepherd the community to a better understanding, approach toward divorced, single women?
Hanifah Ashry and her son
BY AYA KHALIL
anifah Ashry has noted that some women in certain Muslim communities stare at her with a sympathetic, yet puzzled look for being a single mother. Ashry, 26, has been a single mother for little more than a year and has a 19-monthold son. “The women may stare at me ... look at my fingers searching for a ring and/or sometimes even talk about me a few feet away amongst each other, trying to figure out my situation,” she said. Ashry, a fashion consultant from North Carolina, said that in many cultures, divorce is looked down upon. “I think the fact that I am divorced with a very young child seems to make people very uncomfortable, [or] upset sometimes, too,” she said. “The assumption may sometimes be that I didn’t try to make the marriage work for the sake of the child.” “I believe that many people think that women should stay married, no matter how unhealthy the marriage may be,” Ashry said. Maryam Khadr, a 22-year-old single mother from Toronto, agreed. “I’ve noticed Muslims in general kind of look down at single moms because, to them, you didn’t try hard enough to maintain your
married status and instead opted for divorce,” she said. “I have been told plenty of times to get back with my child’s father, or even to get married again as soon as possible.” Khadr said tradition and culture has spun a stigma around divorced, single Muslim mothers. “Since divorce in Islam is the most makruh (disliked) halal, they tend to take that as we shouldn’t practice it because it’s hated,” Khadr said. “In those situations, knowledge of the [religion] is most important because even though divorce is very hated, it is still halal and Allah allowed it for a good reason.” Julie Macfarlane of the faculty of law at the University of Windsor, in her book titled, “Islamic Divorce in North America: A Shari’a Path in a Secular Society” (2012), said she does not have statistics on divorce in the Muslim communities in North America since her study was a qualitative study. “However, every imam and community leader and professional I interviewed believed that the divorce rate among American Muslims was rising,” she added. Macfarlane said it’s common for Muslims to formalize divorce through an imam in their communities. “Having the sanction of one’s religious [leader] is an important part of closure in divorce, even for those who are relatively
secular in their lifestyle. For many of the study respondents, it was important that having used a nikaah or contract to formalize their marriage, as well as a civil process, they wished to “undo” the marriage Islamically as well as in law,” she said. “A religious sanction was not sought as a substitute for a civil divorce, but (rather) in addition. Moreover, many study respondents used the courts to settle contentious issues in the ending of their marriage, adopting the common law principles just like any other American couple. Ashry said some of the challenges faced by single divorced Muslim mothers “may be having to fulfill the roles of both mother and father simultaneously to make sure that the children are getting what they need and/or even everyday things like getting the garbage out or groceries unloaded with kids in tow.” “Dealing with the emotional fallout from a divorce while still having to take care of your child and responsibilities can be very difficult. I have to give myself pep talks and remind myself that everything comes from God and everything happens for a reason,” she said. “We are given these challenges because God knows we can handle it, and it will hopefully help us grow into stronger individuals.” Khadr, who has a nearly two-year-old daughter, said finance is another challenge of being a single mother. “There’s always the challenge of being ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
able to afford being a single mom. The mother will either end up on [welfare] or have to put her child in daycare while she slaves her days working,” she said. “Also, there is the challenge of the influence of this society and how your [children] will deal with this influence.” Khadr believes it’s often hard for single mothers to get re-married. “You’ll most likely be pressured to marry an older man who also has kids since you’re not single, and therefore shouldn’t be picky. Second, it’s more stressful for the child to have to adjust to a new parent in the picture. Third, younger guys, who would fall in my age group, are either turned off by the idea of raising someone else’s child or just themselves not be mentally mature enough to handle the responsibility of raising a child,” Khadr said. “I don’t think the Muslim community can do any more than they are now. It’ll always be a preference that can’t be changed by community involvement.”
and especially the women, who feel afraid to reach out for help.” Last year, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) released a study, “Effective Models for Preventing Divorce and Promoting Healthy Marriages in the American Muslim Community.” ISPU Executive Director Farhan Latif said the study, which took about a year and a half to complete, involved interviews with imams, Muslim counselors, married couples, and divorcees. “Divorce is neither forbidden (haram) or an act that should be stigmatized. Many circumstances occur in which marital conflicts are unresolvable and divorce is necessary. We certainly do not support the idea that divorce should be avoided at all costs, especially when the safety and security of a spouse or child is in jeopardy,” Latif said. Latif said some divorces could have been prevented, if couples had attended premarital counseling. Most married couples and
Divorce is neither forbidden (haram) or an act that should be stigmatized. Many circumstances occur in which marital conflicts are unresolvable and divorce is necessary.” — Farhan Latif, executive director, The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding Macfarlane believes the Muslim community should not look down on divorcees. “Divorce remains taboo in some American Muslim families and communities. This appears to be especially the case in South Asian communities, where many women respondents described to me their fear that ending their marriages would lead to them being excluded from or stigmatized within their communities,” Macfarlane said. “While attitudes are changing, it is important that there is less judgment about marital problems and even the ending of a marriage. For example, some respondents described violence or abuse that made it imperative for them to leave their marriage and seek safety. Ironically, the judgment that still exists in some quarters about marital problems, such as adultery, mismatched expectations, and strife with in-laws probably leads to a higher rate of eventual marital breakdown because it silences the parties, ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
divorcees interviewed did not attend premarital counseling, although most of the imams in the study mandated them. “All couples will face conflict; however, serious marital discord may be avoided, if people have a healthy approach to resolving conflicts,” he said. “As we know from our and others’ research, communication and conflict resolution skills can be learned, and we believe the American Muslim couples may benefit from learning these skills.” Latif recommended ways for the Muslim community to support single mothers. “As a community, we need to be very supportive of single Muslim mothers,” he said. “Formal community programs such as supporting day cares, support groups, and ensuring they have the material resources to help raise healthy Muslim kids is important. Furthermore, informal support and ensuring that single mothers are included and participating in community events and
connected to the community in general is extremely important.” Muslim leaders and community members can host an event inviting ISPU to present its results by going to the group’s website, www.ispu.org. Shaza Ahmad — an assumed name — a single mother for four years who has an 11-year-old son, recommends other single mothers to be around positive people. “Organizing regular talks within a sisters’ circle with a sister Muslim leader can help boost your faith. This is important because our faith is the first thing that drops when we are stressed or facing hardship and it’s crucial that we bring our faith levels back up so [Satan] is not able to influence us,” Ahmad said. “This all counts as a form of [charity], which helps to strengthen our ummah and the mothers of our future generation and gives them the hope and support that they desperately need.” Ashry said it can be difficult coping with the family unit not being the same anymore, “you may feel like something is missing. But, life goes on and and there is always a chance for a new beginning.”
Aya Khalil is a freelance journalist and educator. She can be contacted at www.ayakhalil.blogspot.com
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Navigating the Teenage Years
Seven solutions for common teenage problems BY KIRAN ANSARI
t is merely a feel-good assumption that parenting gets easier when the children are older. Yes, it is physically easier, with no more lugging a diaper bag around town or getting up for 3 a.m. feeding, but mentally, it is exhausting. The tween/teen years and middle school mayhem can be particularly taxing. Nearly overnight the son that used to snuggle with you for a bedtime story doesn’t even want you to drop him to the school bus. The daughter who used to squeal with delight at any accessory you got for her, now rolls her eyes at everything you buy. Where did your kids go? And how can you keep them rooted in their faith and raise well-rounded individuals with this smarter-than-thou attitude?
SOME OF THE ISSUES Add technology to the mix and the issues get muddier. A 14-year-old boy who’s too shy to talk to a girl finds it easier to text or Snapchat. In middle school, having a boyfriend or girlfriend becomes commonplace. Such issues become especially hard if this is the first public middle school experience for Muslim parents. They might have gone to school in another country; they might have attended Islamic school or a single-gender school. This is not to say that these issues do not arise in other settings, but they may not be as openly accepted. Nadiah Mohajir is the co-founder and executive director for HEART Women & Girls, which provides health education
programming to Muslim women and girls regarding sexual and reproductive health, media literacy, fitness and nutrition. “Unfortunately, what I’ve noticed with Muslim youth today, particularly children of immigrants, is that they don’t feel safe coming to their parents with questions, out of fear that their parents will be angry,” Mohajir said. “As a result, our young people are learning to turn to their peers, or Google for guidance. They are learning how to hide information and leading duplicitous lives.” So as parents how can we avoid these pitfalls and raise a generation of which we can be proud?
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS 1. Instill a firm belief system. One way to make it through turbulent times is to instill a firm belief system in the child. This doesn’t happen by having a talk the night before they start middle school, it happens from even before the child is born. By praying to God for a righteous child, you are setting up a protective barrier around him/her even before you meet your child. However, even the most righteous parents can have not-so-perfect children. Prophets Noah and Lot (‘alayhi as salam) are examples, or pious parents can have a few good children like Prophet Jacob (‘alayhi as salam). So while a pious child isn’t guaranteed to even the prophets, instilling a Higher accountability in the child from a young age is vital. However, the accountability shouldn’t be laced with punishment. Children shouldn’t be afraid of God, or given
IF YOU PUT IN TIME AND EFFORT TO PLAY WITH YOUR CHILDREN AND TRAIN THEM WELL, GOD WILLING, WHEN THEY ARE TEENAGERS THEY WILL BE YOUR BEST FRIENDS. 56
descriptions of punishment all the time. Rather, they should love Him so deeply that they wouldn’t do anything to displease Him. “Our children need to understand their family’s value system, not just adopt it blindly,” said Salim Patel, commissioner on the board of education in Passaic County, N.J., formerly the board president and the first Muslim to hold this position in the state. “They need to know why. And in an age where they can get answers with a few taps, it’s better they get information from you. Those on the edge will stumble, but parents need to provide avenues that, if they fail, they still have their family where they can land safely.” 2. Be tech savvy “Pocket devices with internet are not necessary for kids or teens,” said Aisha Ahmad, mother to three sons, ages eight through 15 years old. “But it’s difficult to say no when 90 percent of their peers have them — even though I still believe that, that is not strong enough a reason to succumb.” In this age of hyper communication and over-sharing, she believes that if parents do ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
children feel no shame to seek our counsel in navigating natural emotions.” Ahmad believes it is a grave mistake to leave sex education to health class in school. There is no harm in learning from a teacher, but only after you have discussed it at home. She feels that in a world where exposure to sexuality is through graphically-engineered images, dirty jokes, or worse yet, pornography, it becomes important that parents make themselves the primary resource for this information. “Our children should understand the sacredness of love and intimacy in the sight of God, when lawfully expressed. I also talk about steering away from the slippery slope of zina (fornication). Dating is obviously one, but so is the lingering gaze, being alone with a person of the opposite gender and physical contact, such as that all too casual hug that Disney sitcoms teach so well.”
give their kids devices, they should learn the capabilities of these gadgets and set parental controls. Patel believes banning digital devices in schools is ineffective as children will have access to them after school. In his school district, teachers train students to become responsible “net citizens” before they are given a laptop. They are taught that online activity can be picked up by colleges, law enforcement and employers. Add to that accountability to God, and students should be cognizant of what they put out there. “Instead of banning technology, parents should talk to youth about media messaging such as the power of Photoshop in promoting unattainable ideals,” Mohajir added. “It is not by coincidence that nearly 60 percent of young girls are dieting by age 10, and that 81 percent of 11 to 12 year olds feel that pressure to ‘fit in.’” 3. Avoid the “back home” or “in my time” preface Caliph Ali (‘alayhi rahmat) is reported to have said: “Do not raise your children the ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
way your parents raised you; for they were created for a time other than your time.” You may have walked two miles to school in the snow, and education may have been a privilege for your parents, but avoid such comparisons. Sharing stories of your childhood is great, but always telling your children how easy they have it can widen the gap. They may anyway feel you belong on another planet because you can’t upload a Vine; don’t alienate them further. They might not have the same struggles as you do, but this is one of the most difficult times of their life.
5. Choosing a school Living in an area with “good schools” has become cliché, but a good school cannot be evaluated on test scores. A good school can mean different things to different families. Ahmad’s boys go to a small, private, but secular school and even though it is expensive, she is happy with her decision. If you cannot choose the “best school” for whatever reason, you need to get involved. Volunteer and get to know the teachers and administration. Children whose parents are active in the school feel there are more eyes on them and may think twice before doing anything inappropriate. The wealthiest neighborhoods with the fanciest schools are not the easy answer. Affluent student body brings with it different concerns such as drug use. “Heroin use is huge in high schools in wealthier neighborhoods,” Patel warns. “The downside of living in an affluent area is that peer pressure takes a different form.”
4. Listen and listen some more Build a relationship where you truly listen to your kids, while perhaps not always offering a solution. “Families need to create open channels of communication early on,” Ahmad said. “Just as we are conscious of our kids’ academic, Islamic and nutritious development, we also need to be deliberate about their emotional and sexual development. Without compromising basic standards of hayaa’ (modesty), we must make sure our
6. Provide alternatives You can’t ask your middle schooler to stop playing video games while you are glued to Candy Crush. You shouldn’t be the “haram police” always telling them they can’t do this and that. Before every no, provide them with a halal alternative. If you don’t want them to go to the prom, open your kitchen for a baking extravaganza and have all her friends over or drive them to a basketball game with their friends so they aren’t sulking alone while scrolling through prom pics on Instagram. 57
What would you do?
Muslim American Pioneer
BY KIRAN ANSARI
1930 – 2014
isha Ahmad believes parents have to be accepting with their children making mistakes. Instead of panicking, they can keep their cool when their teens make mistakes, they will find that these incidents provide the best teachable moments. “My 13-year-old son came back from a five-day-long school camping trip where they stayed with students from other schools,” she said. “Apparently everyone had a girl/boyfriend, young love was in the air, and the adults all thought it was so cute!” “When I picked him up he immediately told me that he had ‘met someone,’ that it was true love, and that we had to urgently sit down and talk through it because he’s not sure how Islamic this was or how I was going to feel about it. “At first, I was shocked, terrified, and felt like kicking myself for being so naive to send him to this camp in the first place. But I kept a cool front, and let him process his experience with me. And whenever he’d pause and hesitate to continue, I reminded him there is no shame in discussing these matters and that his feelings were natural. I gave him my best listening ear, and put everything else on hold. Not a detail did he leave out, all of which were thankfully quite innocent (sigh of relief, Alhamdulillah) — though he seemed to think otherwise. “After what seemed an endless gush of vacillating emotions, some logical reasoning, and a few tears in between, he independently resolved to never date before marriage, that it was displeasing to His Creator, and not something he wanted to do. He genuinely chose Islam from within. “It was only after listening without judgment that we proceeded to evaluate his behavior and what he could have done to avoid falling in this situation. He now, more than ever, understands the detriments of the second gaze, unnecessary conversational charm and physical contact, even in the form of a simple high five that may turn into holding hands. And what started off as a gray-hair-causing conversation, ended up being perhaps the best teachable moment he’ll take with him as he transitions into the high school years. But, it wouldn’t have happened without that pre-established safe and open communication.”
“Parents need to be authentically connected to their kids,” Patel said. “Get involved in the masjid to make it more welcoming for the youth. Have the masjid speak the language of the youth and deliver message in media they like.” 7. Surround them with positive role models Scout out older teens and “cool” uncles and aunts who can be great role models so your kids get to meet a variety of people whom you have filtered already. Weekend schools can provide access to Muslim peers, but three hours a week cannot transform your child into the perfect human. Like regular schools, choose a Sunday/week58
end school that best suits your family — not just with its location, but the kind of families that send their children there. “Having an open and nurtured relationship with your child isn’t a job that ever ends. You can never ‘clock out,’” Patel said. Islamic tradition teaches that parents should play with their children for the first seven years, train them the next seven years, and be their friend in the next seven. If you put in time and effort to play with them and train them well, God willing, when they are teenagers they will be your best friends.
Kiran Ansari is a writer in the suburbs of Chicago and a first-time mom to a middle schooler.
halil Alawan, known to the community as “Chuck,” died on Feb. 26 at the age of 83, after a long struggle with various health issues. Alawan was one of the co-founders of the Islamic Center of America, located in Dearborn, Mich. He shaped certain aspects of the center, such as including English translations for any Arabic language signs inside, and served in a variety of roles there — Sunday school teacher, lecturer and member of the board of trustees. He was considered a pioneer in the development of Muslim life in the metro Detroit area. As an active and longtime interfaith leader, he helped eliminate barriers, stereotypes and misconceptions about Muslims and Islam with other faith groups. Alawan was born in Detroit to a Syrian father and a mother of French-Canadian of Lebanese descent. Alawan attended Northwestern High School in Detroit, American University of Beirut in Lebanon, and graduated with an engineering degree from Wayne State University. He served in the U.S. Army in the 1950s. He worked in manufacturing, construction and property management. He retired after working as the vice president of sales for the consulting firm Fayz Enterprises. He also served as a Muslim chaplain for the Detroit Area Council. Alawan received several awards during his lifetime, including the Keep the Dream Alive for Interfaith and Race Relations Work Award, the Islamic Merit Award, and the State of Michigan’s Minuteman Governor’s Award for Meritorious Service to the Community. He also was honored by the Boy Scouts of America and the National Committee for Community and Justice for his contributions. Alawan is survived by his wife, Camille, his son, Scott, daughter, Leslie Wilkinson, his brothers, Haider and Eide, sister, Mariam Eastman, his grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
REVIEWS A MUSLIM WOMAN’S VIEW
Never Wholly Other: A Muslima Theology of Religious Pluralism Jerusha Tanner Lamptey 2014. Pp. 352. HB. $74 Oxford University Press, USA
The Redefinition of Time Time in Early Modern Islam: Calendar, Ceremony, and Chronology in the Safavid, Mughal, and Ottoman Empires Stephen P. Blake 2013. Pp. 209. HB. $90 Cambridge University Press, New York, N.Y. Dr. Stephen Blake highlights the involvement of Muslim scientists as key players in conceptualizing the redefinition of time. He discusses the fundamental beginnings and the necessity for structure of time based around the five prayers, as well as other religious events. Time evolved from being centered on the heavenly bodies, as thought of by the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians, to detailed studies in astronomy, astrology and mathematics among Judeo-Christian and Muslim intellectuals. These studies developed throughout the centuries of Islamic history and contributed to the science behind modern time. Blake expertly weaves the eras of the most notable Muslim empires, includes names of various rulers of the three dynasties, and provides their set of beliefs, claims, celebrations and chronology that ultimately aided in the influences upon Western thought. (Reviewer: Zaynah Qutubuddin)
erusha Tanner Lamptey, assistant professor of Islam and Ministry at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, sets out to deal with the question of how Muslim American women interpret the Quran and construct a theology of religious pluralism. She offers an introduction to both Muslim women’s theology, and women who have developed and shaped it by interpreting the Quran for a modern, Western context. Lamptey contends that the Quranic discourse on hierarchical religious difference is characterized by dynamism, ambiguous boundaries, and relational complexity. She argues for the necessity of re-envisioning the Quranic discourse as provocative guidance rather than as taxonomy of difference. She offers a Muslim female approach to the study of diversity and pluralism within a theological framework. Her book is a notable addition to that important conversation.
Five Pillars of Prosperity: Essentials of Faith-Based Wealth Building M. Yaqub Mirza 2014. Pp. 152. PB. $15.95 White Cloud Press, Ashland, Ore.
r. Yaqub Mirza, who has more than three decades of involvement in Islamic finance, shares his personal and family experiences and draws upon Islamic teachings while showing how these Islamic values are the essence of all religion. This practical guide, which should be helpful in making the right financial decisions, shows how wealth and prosperity can be attained by following five key activities: earning, saving, investing, spending, and giving. He offers crucial advice to build an estate and start investing early, adding, “The sooner you invest, the sooner your money can start to grow. Mirza’s presentation on financial planning, investment strategies and management advice is clear and accessible to a general reader. His understanding of Islamic mores of finance, which he shares, should help those who seek halal ways to save, invest and grow. He provides a useful list of resources and extensive bibliography.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
Towards a Jewish-Christian-Muslim Theology David B. Burrell 2014. Pp. 224. PB. $44.95 Wiley-Blackwell, Malden, Mass. David Burrell discusses the ways that Christianity, Islam, and the Jewish tradition have moved toward each other over time and points to new pathways for contemporary theological work. The author advances the discussion at a period of intense interfaith dialogue. The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror Arun Kundnani 2014. Pp. 336. HB. $24.95 Verso Book, Brooklyn, N.Y. Arun Kundnani, examining the ideologies and law enforcement strategies directing the domestic War on Terror, finds practices that have had painful consequences for Muslims’ rights and liberties and constitutional protections in the U.S. and Britain. He points out the negligence toward the far more dangerous right wing terror. Islamic Finance: Principles and Practice (2nd Revised Edition) Hans Visser 2014. pp. 256. HB. $120 Edward Elgar Publishers, Northampton, Mass. Professor Hans Visser’s revised edition, which builds on his acclaimed 2009 volume on Islamic finance, presents research into new developments in Islamic finance, furnishing a much more detailed treatment of the subject. The book will be welcomed by students taking Islamic finance courses, and by professionals in the field. Islam Plain and Simple Tariq Jalil 2014. Pp. 144. PB. $9.95 Quinn Press, Santa Monica, Calif. Tariq Jalil, the son of an East Indian father and an American mother, a film producer and not a scholar, says that he “had a unique education about Islam from the inside but still had a distinctly American point of view.” In this brief book, in whose preparation he consulted several scholars besides authoritative books, he sets to offer a special perspective that will allow Americans to understand a scholarly religion that is not widely taught.
FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT
The Door to Paradise Ibn ’Abbas once said that he knew of no deed more beloved to God than doing good to one’s mother. BY IMAM MAGID WITH SAMUEL ROSS
hen we think about our mothers there’s usually one memory that stands out. Perhaps, it’s her reading us stories, the smells of her cooking, or the daily conversations we had that shaped our minds and taught us right from wrong. For many of us, these memories come from our childhood, which speaks to the powerful role of a mother in a child’s life. But God, in His wisdom, has given most of us many more years to be an active part of each other’s lives. Indeed, for most of us, our childhood is but a small fraction — perhaps just a third — of our lifelong relationship with our mothers. So what does this mean for our relationships? Unfortunately, as we age, we don’t always fully appreciate what God intended for us in this long-lasting and extraordinary bond. We can get stuck in a rut, thinking about and relating to our mothers only in terms of long-past years. How can we embrace the full potential of this amazing relationship that God has created? The best place to begin of course is with the guidance of the One who created the relationship in the first place, God the AllWise, the All-Merciful. The foundation of our relationship with 60
our mothers must be gratitude. In the Quran, God amazingly joins Himself with parents using the conjunction ‘and’: “Be thankful to Me and to your parents” (31:14). Moreover, while there are many words for parents in Arabic, such as abawayn and walidayn, this verse employs a word that connotes the feminine aspect of parentage, walidayn, which etymologically is related to wilada, or childbirth. Why has God linked himself to our parents, and the feminine aspect of parenting in particular? Perhaps, one reason is that God, in His wisdom, has made our relationship with our parents, and especially our mothers, a training ground for our relationship with Him. There are after all many similarities in their worldly actions. Our mothers brought us into the world. They nurtured us, fed us, and protected us. They guided us, punished us, and rewarded us. Indeed in Arabic, the word for Lord, rabb, is related etymologically to the word for child-rearing (tarbiya). Our mothers’ expenditures for our sake were, and often continue to remain before our eyes. We remember our mothers exhausted after a long day’s work, yet still summoning the strength to care for us. We remember their generously reaching into their purses to purchase things for us with hard-earned
income. As we age, our mothers continue to contribute to our lives but in new ways. When we get married and leave the house they continue to teach us, this time about being a spouse and cultivating a marriage. When we have children, they support us, advise us, and guide us in balancing work with family obligations. As they grow into old age, they remind us what really matters in life and help us to focus on those things of everlasting importance. If we cannot be thankful for the innumerable gifts and sacrifices our mothers gave us and continue to give us that are right before our eyes, how will we ever be thankful to God whose continuous mercy and support are often invisible to us due to their omnipresence, like life-giving water to a fish? If we cannot thank those we see for what we see, how will we ever thank the One we don’t see? How can we extend kindness and gratitude to our mothers? There are many ways of extending them. As we do so, let us also keep in mind the tremendous station of our mothers. Ibn ’Abbas once said that he knew of no deed more beloved to God than doing good to one’s mother. (Al-Bukhari, Al-Adab al-Mufrad). First, we can only be grateful, if we know for what to be grateful. Often times, we don’t appreciate how much our mothers struggled to raise us. Our childhoods may have felt idyllic but that doesn’t mean our mothers’ experiences were carefree. Find out from your mother what sacrifices she made to raise you. In what ways did she try ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
to make your childhood better than the one she experienced? Second, we can help our mothers to see how their sacrifices improved our lives. Which of our own successes did they contribute toward? Let her know that we see the connections and thank her for helping to make them possible. Third, many of our mothers, by the time we are grown, have already acquired the physical things they need. Instead of giving her gifts of more stuff, let us give her the gift of our time. We should try to stay in regular touch via visits, email and phone. Share our ideas, dreams, and feelings with them. Seek their advice. Moreover, often when we spend time with our parents, we do so in large family gatherings. Give her the gift of one-on-one time. Fourth, when we are young, our mothers are often synonymous with the care-taking jobs they perform: teacher, counselor, chef, nurse, etc. But as we mature, we realize who our mothers are, independent from their job as caregiver — they are people with their own stories, struggles, accomplishments, and dreams. Who is our mother outside
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MAY/JUNE 2014
WHAT SPIRITUAL TOPICS MATTER MOST TO YOU? Please help “Food for the Spirit” better meet your needs by completing a two-minute survey at: www.isna.net/foodforthespiritsurvey of her mothering role? Ask her what circumstances formed her life. What was her childhood like? In the time she has left, what does she hope to accomplish? Think of ways to help her reach her goals. Fifth, after raising children, mothers often feel responsible for everything. Perform some of her tasks for her in a timely fashion, to her specifications, so that she can relax. Sixth, and most important of course, ask her what expressions of gratitude and kindness are most meaningful to her. Of course, it goes without saying that our treatment of our mothers should always be suffused with tenderness, deference and love. Let us ask ourselves the following questions:
Do we do what she asks us to do as long as it is not contrary to the sharia? Do we uphold our promises to her? Do we ever get impatient in her presence? Do we ever raise our voices or speak in a belittling manner? Do we ever make her feel embarrassed about the state of her mind, memory, or health? If our mothers are deceased, we can still honor them by including them in our prayers and trying to practice what they taught us, for if someone dies, “all one’s actions are cut off except an endowment that continues to give charity, knowledge that is benefited from, and a righteous child that supplicates for one” (Sahih Muslim). As long as our mothers are alive, they are a tremendous blessing in our lives. Let us strive to do everything in our power to honor them before they depart from this world. Once an early Muslim’s mother died and he began to cry. He was asked, “Why do you cry?” He replied, “I used to have two gates open to Paradise, now one of them is closed.” May God help us to honor our mothers. Ameen.
Editor’s Note: This article is a modified version of one of the authors’ past columns.
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