al-bayan Volume 18 | Issue 1
FALL 2015 The Muslim Student Publication at the University of California, Berkeley
letter from the
Dear reader, You and I, we have something in common. We both came from somewhere—though chances are, that somewhere isn’t the same place. Oddly, this similarity we share is what makes us different from one another. Some of us like to talk about it. Some of us like to listen. We here at Al-Bayan—we prefer to write about it. These writers are daring. They are spirited. They are the voice of our community. So what is their secret? It’s more than just writing well. It’s being openly vulnerable. Although it’s not easy, these writers execute it with grace and sophistication. From being exiled from one’s own home to having epiphanies about the complexity of life, from breaking down intersectionality to combatting ignorance towards the disabled—we all have stories to share. Let’s listen to, empathize with, and support them, for no one is willingly vulnerable without a purpose. Thank you in advance for your love and attention.
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF | FALL
table of contents 17
//features A Number Game / Noor Gaith / 5 The Impossibility of Mundanity / Anam Siddiqui / 7 Losing Touch: Islam and Tradition / Sarah Bellal / 9 My Ticket to Paradise / Muriam Choudhery / 11 Beauty in the Struggle / Salam Awwad / 13 No Shame Here / Faaria Hussain / 15 Intersectionality in the MSA / Khwaja Ahmed / 17 Rediscovering Love on the Internet / Harun Yahya / 19
11 Photos courtesy of: Manal Ahmed, Noor Gaith, Aamna Khan, Hamde AbuRahma
A Number Game by Noor Gaith
This is my Israeli-issued, Palestinian Authority ID number, a number that allows me to live in the West Bank, but denies me entrance to Jerusalem. For years, my American passport enabled me to enter Jerusalem to visit my maternal side, but last summer, I was forced to register under my father’s West Bank ID card. Since the year 2000, Israel has superimposed its restrictions on Palestinians from the West Bank who desire to enter Al-Quds (Jerusalem), Nazareth and other historical Palestinian cities. In 1997, my father moved my family from California to Palestine. We lived in the West Bank city of Al-Khalil (Hebron) and the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City for two years. My father had registered me with the newly created Palestinian Authority, optimistic that the process begun by the Oslo Accords would lead to greater freedom and stability for our family. Little did he know that this innocent act would later bar his children from returning to their Jerusalem home.
American Status in Palestine:
From 2000 to 2011, I was able to freely enter Jerusalem, since my American Passport provided an Israeli approved visa. Although I was in my homeland and exercising my right to access the Palestinian cultural and spiritual capital, I always felt guilty of my mobility, which all my cousins on my father’s side were denied. From San Francisco to Tel-Aviv, I crossed thousands of miles and bodies of oceans with the right to move freely in Jerusalem and to visit my maternal grandfather’s home—the one I grew up in. On the other hand, my paternal cousins just 10 miles south of Jerusalem in the West Bank couldn’t
even remember Jerusalem’s aroma of fresh bread and turkish coffee. Jerusalem was king. Jerusalem was freedom. Jerusalem was inconceivable... As of the summer of 2011, I am now considered a Palestinian resident of the West Bank, a status that somehow supersedes my U.S. citizenship/California birthplace and its contradictory power to granting me access to Jerusalem. While traveling there had never been easy—with airport inquisitions always lasting at least four hours upon arriving at Tel Aviv—I was always able to enter, eventually. Nowadays, I am denied entry into Israel (including illegally annexed East Jerusalem). Now, to enter Palestine—or, part of it, at least—I fly into Amman, Jordan and begin the excruciating process of dealing with Jordanian, Israeli and media-made, puppet Palestinian soldiers on my way to Al-Khalil.
Palestinian Status in Palestine:
That summer, everything changed. As an American-born Palestinian who unwillingly funds the apartheid state of Israel, I am now pinned to my father’s green ID card and not my mother’s much-desired blue—the color of privilege for Israeli Jews and even some Palestinians— Jerusalem ID card. There are no civilian airports within the West Bank, and the nearest airport is Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion, which I am not allowed to use. The Israeli government requires my brothers and I to fly to Amman, Jordan and enter first through the King Hussein bridge then get transferred via the Allenby Bridge border crossing, located near Areeha (Jericho) in the West Bank. As I sat there trying to analyze my new situation, I feared I would never return to the Old City thanks to #851594721. Between thoughts of exile and disillusion-
Photo courtesy of Noor Gaith
ment, I decided to let my new legal status sink in.
The Colors of Israeli Apartheid:
Israeli settlers amount to about half a million living illegally in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They carry blue-colored identification cards and drive yellow-plated cars, while West Bank ID cards are green and plates are white. Besides the fact that these settlers enjoy armed protection and the Israeli army caters to their every need, they are sometimes either secluded in their gated compounds topping a Palestinian village or, like in downtown Al-Khalil, they willfully force out Palestinian natives from their homes to create new ones. ‘Israeli Civil Law’ is applied to my Israeli-settler neighborhood. The Israeli police is in charge of dealing with their civil issues. As for the Palestinians, ‘Israeli Military Law’ is applied to me, and the military deals with any civil issues pertaining to my life. It is massively frustrating to witness the sheer division of laws and rules for each specific set of peoples. Two different groups of people, who live on the same land and breathe the same air, are governed by two different bodies of legal systems, hence the color-coded ID cards and license plates. Besides all this, Israeli settlers are allowed to enter any part of the West Bank or present day ‘Israel’, while I can’t. Even in downtown AlKhalil, there are certain roads which are exclusive to Israeli settlers. These methods of segregation are in fact similar to the ‘Pass Laws’ that crippled South African Blacks during South African Apartheid. The Pass Laws were a form of internal passport system designated to segregate the population and severely limit the movement of the Black African population. Fortunately, this ended in 1986 for South Africans. For West Bank Palestinians, this was not the case, and it persists till this day. Subsequently, I find it extremely ironic that Jews throughout Nazi-occupied Germany were forced to wear a badge in the form of a Yellow Star as a means of identification,
intended to humiliate Jews and to mark them more easily for segregation and discrimination purposes. Now, Palestinians have to carry a similar means of identification, which not only severely limits mobility and access, but also social status by other Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and citizens of ‘Israel.’
my parents’ home country. Dawn was approaching when we reached the Old City of Jerusalem. As we entered Bab il-Amoud2, I imagined the path we were walking on was familiar to the high levels of traffic of Muslims, Jews, and Christians that visited it daily. I skated the sole of my shoe across the antiquated, natural, smooth stone rock steps. We were first in line for fresh kaa’k3 and shai4; our grandmother prepared for us scrambled eggs, a diced cucumber and tomato salad, gibneh5, and black tea topped with fresh mint leaves. We bought fresh kaa’k bread rings sprinkled with sesame seeds from vendors on the street who balanced the tray of loaves on their heads. The city began to fill as the mu’adhin6 made the call to jum’a7 prayer, which reverberated from the minaret8. Exhausted and grateful, we got dressed and proceeded through the Muslim Quarter to go make prayer in Al-Aqsa. Since we stifled our Palestinian identities and ID cards, we were seen as ‘visiting Americans to the Holy Land.’ For once, our American passports proposed an advantage, as they granted us entrance into Al-Aqsa—the surreal, ineffable experience then began. We made wudu9 and removed our shoes before entering one of the holiest sites of Islam in the Old City of Jerusalem. My eyes gazed attentively as the familiar, octagon-shaped, gleaming Dome of the Rock stood in front of me, adorned in ancient white Arabic Islamic inscriptions and a brilliant gold raiment. I was truly grateful to be able to pray with my brothers in Al-Aqsa, which encloses the same cave that stands above the rock where Prophet Muhammad (saw) once received revelations from the Angel Gabriel. Even #851594721 couldn’t stop me from returning home. Long Live the Resistance -
Trespassing in my own Territory:
The sun had not risen yet and the sky was dark when my brothers and I began our risky expedition. By the time the sun rose, we planned to be 15 miles away, kneeling in prayer at Jerusalem’s centuries-old Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest Muslim shrine. Since we didn’t have permission from the Israeli government to enter, we were forced to smuggle our way in, dodging army checkpoints, undercover special forces, and relentless patrols. To do so, my brothers and I knew that we would need to blend in—which was no problem for us given our privileged light skintones. We each wore a pair of multi-colored, sporty Nike Air Max 90s. I looked and acted American, and though I speak Arabic, it was easy to mask it under my Californian-English dialect. We proceeded to the Azariyeh (Bethany), a neighboring city amongst one of the largest and stringent checkpoints of Israel. We met with our coyote, Rami —exploiting his Israeli ID—who corralled us and several others into his nimble 4-cylinder Ford Focus hatchback. Because he was taking on a risky operation, we paid him 300 shekel1 before departing, and then we briefly parted ways for 15 minutes. Sidestepping barbed wire fences, my brothers and I found a loophole and jumped through an unfinished part of the barrier. We reconnected with the Rami and frantically hurdled in the Ford Focus. At last, we were in the city we lived in for two years, my mother’s hometown. As an immensely privileged American whose tax dollars were footing part of Israel’s discriminatory laws, it was almost laughable that I was sneaking into
shekel - Palestinian/Israeli curreny 7 jum’a - Muslims’ congregational Bab il-Amoud - Damascus Gate Friday prayer 3 8 kaa’k - Jerusalem bread rings minaret - tower from which call 4 shai - black Arabic tea to prayer is made 5 9 gibneh - white Arabic cheese wudu - washing preformed 6 mu’adhin - tower from which call before prayer to prayer is made 1
The Impossibility of Mundanity: T
he steady contraction and relaxation of your lungs, the imperceptible blinking of your eyes, the gentle lub-dub of your heartbeat: these are just a few of the crucial processes that comprise your existence. Like an effervescing fountain, these processes are constantly occurring just beneath the realm of your consciousness, mysteriously culminating in shrewd awareness of the world around you. It is striking how the combination of these systems results in life. On the face of a loved one, the mere ripple of movement across an eyelid or the flare of a nostril symbolize sparks of vitality that refuse to fade. On a cardiograph, a spike punctuating a flat line indicates a glimmer of reanimation. It is only in these tense scenarios, when the tilting precipice between life and death becomes painfully conspicuous, that the mechanisms of these processes are broken down to their roots. Once the roots are bared, we are able to recognize that our entire existence relies on their fragile stability. At conception, a baby is endowed with a blueprint that inscribes itself on her heart. This blueprint maps out her qadr1. Since our knowledge of the dunya2 is inherently limited, it can be taxing to comprehend the permanence of qadr. Therefore,
it is easier to cope by planning out our lives in fastidious detail, allowing ourselves to believe that we possess full sovereignty. It is no wonder why itâ€™s so difficult for us to maintain our footing; we often have one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow, leaving us sprawled in the present. Our human mishaps are striking compared to how the galaxies function in impeccable harmony. They persist in orchestrating their symphony, each following the composition of their specific divine blueprint. This is their qadr. The perfection of their existence hints towards the possibility that nothing is random. There is tawfiq3 in our qadr as well, although it may be more difficult to recognize. Constant introspection regarding our existence is the basis of iman4. I propose that tawakkul5 is the happy medium between fate and destiny. It is the process of developing sabr6 with your qadr (patent pending). In this way, even the most petty tribulations benefit you, for they have been curated specifically for you. Similar to a navigation app, your daily routine will throw you into circles, force you to endure numerous detours, and make you face unexpected delays. This constant rerouting can be inexplicably frustrating. Remarkably, these minor inconveniences may
by Anam Siddiqui
serve as a protection against more significant trials. Maybe Google Maps was looking out for you by forcing you to turn around right before rush hour traffic floods the freeway. On the other hand, there might be days in which it guides you directly to the epicenter of rush hour traffic, which strikes you as ridiculous, until you realize that there was an accident on the other route. During these frenetic lapses, our annoyance clouds our ability to recognize that maybe, just maybe, there is tawfiq hiding behind the convoluted, computerized instructions narrated by the GPS. After all, man-made technologies deserve 70 excuses too, folks. Like pieces of a puzzle, seconds and minutes combine to form months and years, which develop into a detailed tapestry of your life. The development of your identity, values, and passions are like threads that weave together, creating your legacy. Therefore, there is wisdom in recognizing how a mere smile from a passerby can hold so much weight in your life, although the interaction may last a fraction of a second. Every interaction has served some sort of specific purpose in your life, although you may not be able to consciously understand which piece it was and which pieces it connected. Such is the beauty of a completed puzzle:
when all the pieces are in harmony, it takes effort to see the lines that separate and distinguish them. Tawakkul can be a tough concept to tackle because many of us are conditioned to repudiate idealism. Idealism often manifests as an arduous obstacle that can prevent us from seeing the world as it is. The threat of idealism is hard to ignore, specifically because it challenges our ego. Although it involves constant rebuking of the nafs7, I contend that an appraisal of the seemingly mundane can lead to self-enlightenment. One special memory symbolizes the impossibility of mundanity in my life. In 2013 on the second day of my modest attempt at modesty (my not-so-clever way of describing my hijab journey), my friend and I had plans to hike Mission Peak. I hadn’t told anyone about my attempt at that point (my own parents wouldn’t find out until after I came back from the hike), so she was naturally surprised to see my new hairstyle (or, more accurately, lack thereof ). Her encouragement comforted me. After reaching the parking lot, we drove around in circles, frantically murmuring inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi raj’oon8 under our breath. In many Desi families, this du’a9 doubles as a sobering reminder of the fleeting nature of life and as a frantic plea to find parking. I was privately hoping that the noor10 of my newfound hijabization would manifest and beam up one of the many vans into the heavens, thus freeing up a spot for us. While we loitered, an African-American family passed by us, heading towards the trail. I noticed a few hijabis11 in the mix. A middle-aged man who I assumed to be the father looked curiously at us, and then, when he got closer, he started yelling, “Assalamu Alaikum, sisters! Assalamu Alaikum!” I remember chuckling and waving
awkwardly, not quite used to being publicly associated with my deen12. This unexpected and simple gesture quelled an insecurity that I had not consciously tackled yet, as I had yet to process the weight of my decision. Even though I’m approaching my third hijabiversary, I still think back to that moment. A moment that must have been so completely mundane for him utterly transformed my life. Sometimes, your most forgettable actions are the ones that others don’t forget. A seed can easily be crushed with the slightest pressure, and yet, it has been endowed with the ability to develop into a tree with branches and roots spanning in all directions. This ironic functionality is apparent in our lives as well. Without our awareness, seemingly mundane daily routines and interactions can differentiate into intertwining networks that build your legacy. Any moment has the capacity to become permanently inscribed into your memory. The honorable brother that greeted me with such warmth that fateful day will never know that those five words helped me keep my newly hijab-clad head held high. That greeting of peace opened the door to an invigorating sense of purpose and identity in my transformed appearance. Therein lies the two-fold power of our agency: a quality, be it restorative or destructive, that is at the crux of our humanity. If the itinerary of your life is mapped out before you leave the womb, why should you be held accountable when your engine sputters or when you veer off course? Our mishaps reroute us, bringing us back to the epitome of centrality: our Creator. The wisdom of recognizing our lack of knowledge of our qadr comes with a gift: du’a. The power of du’a is unfathomable; it is the only tool in the universe that can override qadr. But, when
the rickety framework of your life comes crashing down around you and it feels like your du’as are bouncing off the clouds, our tawakkul suffers a blow. During these times, recognize that a calamity is a hidden blessing only if one toils through it with patience, for the fruit of patience is incapable of rot. As long as you maintain sabr and iman, your qadr will reflect your best interests, granting you the gift to live and die with dignity. Reflecting upon your experiences, even the seemingly mundane ones, allows you to emphasize your agency. If a particular interaction appears to lack dimension, I urge you to regress into your memory and bridge the gap among your recollections through introspection. Above all, you are the protagonist of your narrative. We live proactively and learn retroactively. This iron(y) is in our blood. Capitalize on the power of du’a, which can override qadr. Capitalize upon your agency: in the book of your life, du’a grants you the power to rip out entire pages, insert PostIt notes here and there, and change the order of specific chapters. Looking at my palms, I see how the lines unmistakably coincide to form Arabic numerals: “81” on my left, and “18” on my right. Invoking the ninety-nine names of the One who controls my qadr represents my freedom from a lingering doubt, a doubt that becomes weaker with every whispered prayer. With that, I encourage you to remove the word “mundane” from your lexicon: the word “mundane” is undeserving of being associated with your narrative, when your existence in itself is a miracle born from a miracle. 8 qadr - fate inna lilahi... - we belong to Allah dunya - this world (temporary) and to Him we shall return. 3 9 tawfiq - success du’a - prayer 4 10 iman - faith hijabis - Muslim women who 5 tawakkul - trust in God’s plan wear hijab 6 11 sabr -patience tawakkul - trust in God’s plan 7 12 nafs - ego deen - religion 1
Losing Touch Islam & Tradition
by Sarah Bellal photograph courtesy of Tamara Farahat
I sat on a rock on the coast of Tamanar, Algeria. It was the summer before college, and my first visit home in three years. With my legs in the water of the Mediterranean, facing North, I pictured France nearly five hundred miles ahead and my motherland behind me. It seemed my people saw things the same way, only not so literally; Eurocentrism was the modern pursuit, and our own culture and traditions were falling by the wayside. As I got older and was exposed to increased diversity, I often felt very out of touch with my family’s cultural heritage. I wondered, what was my version of the Palestinian’s hatta1 and dabke2, of the Moroccan’s kaftan3, of the Yemeni’s jambiya4? I asked my mother if there were any good books I could read on our history. She responded that they were all in French. I took two years of high school French with a significant hatta - checkered scarf that has become the symbol of Palestinians 2 dabke - traditional dance 3 kaftan - long, flowy dress 4 jambiya - curved dagger 1
amount of resentment. I refused to sing the French national anthem, no matter how many dirty glances I received from Monsieur Wallace. He, in turn, refused to give me full credit on a single assignment. Walking around my hometown of Setif, Algeria was like witnessing a people trying to erase history; everyone I encountered was trying to be more “Western.” Clothing stores attempted to mimic French fashion. Restaurants marketed “fast food” and teenagers drenched their social media timelines with American slang phrases. It’s almost physically painful how problematic it was seeing a kid’s pink t-shirt printed with “Friends with Benefits” in blue, sparkly writing. The culture washing wasn’t even being fact checked. Perhaps the most frustrating part of this self-inflicted cultural cleansing was that there didn’t seem to be anyone trying to combat it. The voices of our grandmothers telling the youth to eat with the rest of the family and spend more time at the masjid faded into the background. It is diffi-
cult to explain to a generation that every movie, every talk show, and every textbook that told them that Algerian traditions were inferior to those of the rising West was lying to them. Brainwashing isn’t easily reversible, especially when it isn’t obvious to its victims. More so, this brainwashing was deeply rooted in the minds of young Algerians. Every source of culture and media made the typically Algerian action akin to savagery, while French customs were modern, civilized, and refined. French textbooks used in Algeria show pictures of Ahmed being disrespectful, unclean, and idiotic, while Pierre shows students the correct way to behave. I had a particularly heated argument with my uncle’s wife this past summer when I visited Setif. She refused to accept that we had racist beauty standards engrained in our social fabric. A word we use to describe beautiful people, “zine” or “zina,” literally means fair-skinned. My grandmother was always disappointed to see that I had come back from
the beach with a tan. Getting blonde highlights is an increasingly popular trend back home, seen as a symbol of beauty and youthfulness. A lot of what I observed about this cultural cleansing was confusing, probably because it was still in the process of happening. Remnants of tradition were still celebrated, although decreasingly so. My aunts and cousins always admired the color of my hair, saying it was “ekhel tout”— like blackberries. Then they proceeded to make me straighten out my curls for every family wedding. I found it astonishing how many people refused to identify with Africa. I heard someone refer to the Malian refugees that have been growing in number in Algeria as “those people who came from Africa.” It was as though there was an invisible border dividing North Africans from the rest of the continent, somehow establishing their false superiority as well. I myself found it difficult to pinpoint my place on either side of this cultural phenomenon. My American peers saw me as the “other” for as long I could remember, but it didn’t feel so bad because I thought there was still a place where I was normal, where I represented aspects of the default person: Algeria. I can honestly say that the most painful thing I experienced during my most recent visit was when my uncle’s wife referred to me as “guerre,” a term we use to refer to white foreigners. A term that I had only previously heard used in ridicule or when discussing politics. It was difficult to hide how offended I was; how could this woman, who has been part of this family for only a fraction of the time that I had, call me that? How could she call me that when Arabic was the first language I learned, even though I was born in the U.S.? How, when my whole life Americans referred to me as their own version of “guerre”? I was suddenly very confused as to what then constituted as “Algerian,” since I apparently did not. Wasn’t the American culture that I grew up with the one that they were all so actively pursuing? Whatever
made me guerria was what they aspired to. This begs the question, simply put: why? Why are Algerians choosing to wear GAP instead of gandouras5 and ditching faremsa6 for french fries? For one, the forced indoctrination of French culture by colonialism has its lasting effects. But also, the misperception of modernity in everything that’s made in the U.S.A. has very real consequences. From the other side of the Atlantic, everything here looks shiny and new. Sadly, mirages are nothing more than optical illusions. In short, the ever increasing influx of American and French influence distorts the Algerian identity. What we once took pride in is becoming shameful and embarrassing. Granted, this isn’t to say that every Algerian thinks this way; this is merely an observation of patterns and trends. These patterns are imprinted on more than just the cultural fabric; our faith, meant to be solidified and forever uniform, is witnessing people’s attempted imprints of change. Now more than ever, Muslims have to be cautious of societal standards that conflict with Islam, despite how rooted they may be in our surroundings. We must constantly ask ourselves as Muslims, particularly American ones: how are we allowing society’s ever-changing norms and traditions to warp our view of Islam and its teachings? Hearing Muslim millennials refer to Islamic teachings as dated is deeply troubling. What legitimacy do morals hold if they are not constant? If the way we decided what was right or wrong was based on where and when we lived, right versus wrong would become what we feel like doing versus what is inconvenient. Our actions would be based on the established norms of whoever happened to have the most influence at that point in time. So if standards and norms evolve with generations, what do we gandouras - traditional Algerian men’s clothing; also refers to women’s dresses in certain regions 6 faremsa - Algerian dish 5
choose as our frame of reference? Is there something out there that lays out standards for morality and justice that has never changed? This is when you expect me to answer my own question, but you already know the answer: Islam. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful things about this religion. A verse from Surat Al-Saba’ reads, “We have not sent thee but as a universal (Messenger) to people, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most people understand not,” (34:28). We regard Muhammad (saw) as a messenger for all humankind. No matter how far you go, geographically, forwards or backwards in time, the Qur’an and Sunnah will always be applicable. They will always be the truth. Winston Churchill postulated that, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride, but in the end, there it is.” There have been several malicious attempts in history to change the permanent language of the Qur’an, all of which were unsuccessful. Interestingly, the Arabic words “kafir” and “kufr” come from a root that literally means to hide. However, denying the existence of the truth has no metaphysical nor tangible consequence to it. The fact that “times are changing” doesn’t disprove the truth behind Islam. If anything, it proves how little we can rely on social practices formed by our fellow flawed human beings. A hundred years from now, people may decide that modesty is indeed important and that crocs are an acceptable form of footwear, and a century later they may once again go back on their word. The word of Allah, however, is immune to inconsistency. It is protected from plagiarism, and unbending in the face of untruth. It’s important to keep in mind that newer isn’t necessarily better, in both our culture and our faith. We are told they are backwards; what can be backwards about carrying tradition forward? In the case of Islam, newer definitely isn’t better. Not when we are blessed with the perfect book and the perfect teacher. Not now, not ever.
My Ticket to Paradise by Muriam Choudhery Dear reader,
am writing this letter to you on behalf of Iqra, my 14 yearold sister. She has a bright smile that makes my day— everyday, a happy personality that shines through every room, and big dreams of becoming an international pop star. Sadly, her great qualities are often overlooked because she has Down syndrome. As an older sister of someone who has a disability, naturally, I want to protect her. As a human who cares about all people and has seen terrible injustices done to people with disabilities, I want it to stop. Most importantly, I want
people with disabilities to be treated fairly and respectfully amongst classmates, family members, and friends. Growing up, I did not realize how lucky I was to have a younger sister with Down syndrome. As I grew older, I learned it was the best thing that had ever happened to me and my family. I’ve always felt obligated to tell people that Iqra has Down Syndrome. I remember distinctly when I was 15, someone asked me how many siblings I had, and I responded, “I have one older brother, and two older and two younger sisters, but my youngest sister has Down syndrome.” She was confused; why did I respond to her question like that? Iqra having Down syndrome has nothing to do with who she is as my sister, or more importantly, who she is as a person. Why did I choose to describe her by her disability when I had not described my other four siblings?
Years later, I came to the realization that I did not consciously describe Iqra that way; I was used to everyone around me focusing on her disability. They failed to look past it, at who she was as a person, and I began to do the same. It started the day she was born. Although I was only eight years old, I remember everything clearly. Upon hearing the news, my grandmother sat in my parents’ room and cried so loud we could hear her sobbing all the way from the other side of the house. To her, a huge burden had been placed on her son; not only did my mother “give” him another daughter, but she “gave” him a daughter with Down syndrome. It is not surprising, then, that Iqra has been treated differently by our extended family throughout her entire life. Sometimes the treatment is favorable, and sometimes not so much. Yes, she has gotten more love from aunts and uncles, who show enthusiasm in her interests and talk to her about things she loves. But our younger cousins don’t understand why she’s different and they exclude her from activities by saying things like, “We don’t want to play with Iqra.” Our own grandparents will not show her the same tenderness and compassion they show the rest of us, even though she is more willing to sit down and talk to them. Just like any other child, Iqra can feel the disconnect. She can tell when she is wanted, and when she is not, so the problem only gets worse at school. When Iqra first began Photograph courtesy of Aamna Khan
attending school, she and her peers with special needs were separated from the rest of the school population. Her class had its own playground and separate lunch and recess times, causing little to no interaction with the rest of the student body. This obviously caused her to have different social skills. When she switched to a school with more inclusion, where they had half “normal” classes and half “special” classes, it was difficult for her to navigate herself, and to put up with the name-calling and bullying. Children in school are unfortunately not always taught to respect people with special needs, and this severely affects children with disabilities, because they feel that they will never get along with their peers. I want to protect Iqra and her feelings. I do not want her to feel excluded or unwanted. But no matter how hard I try, or how hard my family tries, we cannot control her interactions with everyone. All we can do is show people how to give individuals with special needs the same respect, and love as everyone else. Another thing that concerns me is the way people with special needs are treated in developing countries. I have an uncle in Pakistan who also has a disability. Uncle Amir can understand everything, but he is unable to form words that people can understand, walking is extremely painful for him, and his motor skills are very weak. He is the only son in his family, and his father passed away, so he is the only means of income for his elderly mother, and the sister who never got married to help take care of him
and their parents. Amir works at his late father’s candy store located right next to their house, and although he works everyday from dawn to dusk, he does not make much. But this is not because he does not sell anything. The neighborhood kids steal the candy right from his hands, throw rocks at him, and call him names. This happens in a Muslim country, in a neighborhood that prides itself for being religious, but are the children of this community acting upon their religion when they treat people with special needs so terribly? Islam teaches us to help the disabled; one of the best forms of
ing in disguise; Iqra has been the greatest and most precious thing I have been blessed with. She has taught me so much about myself and the world around me. She gives and loves more than anyone I know. Although sometimes we cannot understand her, we know Allah can, and so does she. When we are not there to protect her, she knows that Allah is, and she tells us, “don’t worry, Allah protect me.” And she is right, because Allah does. As Shaykh Hisham Kabbani says so beautifully, “[A person with special needs] is the blessed one. The area he lives in will be safe because of him. The family benefits because of him and he also benefits because the [blessings] come first on him. Through Allah’s wisdom, there are many children like him; they are blocked from speaking, they only make sounds that bring out spiritual rays that reach everyone in the area. Such people are the baraka1 of the house and the community.” Every time you see an individual with special needs, smile at him or her. That one smile may be your ticket to paradise.
“I want to protect Iqra and her feelings. I do not want her to feel excluded or unwanted. worship is to be merciful to people with special needs and to help whoever amongst us needs help. Sheikh Muhammad al-’Arifi tells a story in one of his lectures: “One of the companions came to our Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked him ‘Guide me to the ways of good.’ The Prophet replied by giving him a variety of ways until he said help a laborer or the mentally challenged.” The Prophet counted this to be one of the best ways to get closer to Allah. Although the Prophet spoke of a great reward for those who take care of and help people with special needs, some people look at individuals with a disability and think they are such a burden to their families. The reality is that they are a bless-
baraka - blessings
Beauty in the Struggle by Salam Awwad
Photo courtesy of Hamde AbuRahma
shield my eyes from the sun that is scorching everyone beneath it. It is another day of the heat wave that has hit Palestine. After over a week of temperatures easily above 100 degrees—most places void of air conditioners and fans—my body becomes accustomed to the heat and I learn to endure it just as the locals do. I squint, trying to catch a better view of what was happening in the valley far ahead of me. I can make out the colors of the Palestinian flag—the red, green, black, and white dancing through the air as the hot wind flirted with them. I can hear the cries of protest ringing in the distance as the group of a hundred individuals—Palestinians, internationals, and even some Israelis—diligently march toward the other side of the village. We are in Bil’in, a small farming village on the outskirts of Ramallah located in the West Bank. For the past 10 years, every single Friday after jum’a1 prayer, the people of the village march to jum’a - congregation prayer performed every Friday amongst Muslims 1
the “forbidden” end of the village. Here, the apartheid wall cuts through their farmland splitting their village. My friend Hamde, a local to the village, would often tell me stories about grazing his father’s sheep on the hills of Bil’in as a young boy—hills that could no longer be seen as they have been razed, and in their place stand illegal Israeli settlements. Every Friday these people march to defy the rules and restrictions that are enforced upon them on their own land. I stand back that Friday, not joining in the march due to my swollen ankle. Having hurt it the day before while walking down make-shift roads of the village, I know I won’t be able to run on it to escape danger if it comes, so I watch from a distance. Before the protesters even near the wall, I can see three Israeli tanks set up at the end, each manned with at least six soldiers. I continue to stare, anticipating what I know will come, having experienced it the week before. My focus is suddenly disrupted by a little Palestinian boy who notices the improvised
wrap on my ankle and asks me if I would like to have the EMTs in the ambulance wrap it properly. I walk with him to the ambulance nearby; every Friday, this ambulance stays out here to treat any injuries that may ensue from the protest. I climb inside and am greeted by two EMTs, who are also eagerly watching the demonstration. One of them moves to the back and sits in front of me; I take my sock and shoe off as he lifts my leg up next to him. As he wraps my ankle, he asks how it got hurt. When I explain to him that I hurt it the day before, he jokingly says in Arabic: “If you hurt it yesterday that means it is not my responsibility to treat it! I only treat people who get hurt in the demonstration.” After exchanging laughs and answering the same questions I get from everyone in Palestine: “What village are you from?”, “From what family are you?”, “How long have you lived in America?”, the mood in the ambulance shifts from light-hearted conversation to seriousness. I see the clouds of white tear gas start to fill the air around us as the EMT sitting in the front
seat tells me to quickly shut the door before any gas gets in. It begins. I hear the pounding footsteps in the distance, accompanied by rubber bullets and the blast of tear gas canisters being launched from the tanks. My thoughts go back to the week before, recalling how I had been caught in it, desperately trying to run back up the hill on an unpaved road as the tanks continued to drive closer and closer while increasing the amount of tear gas canisters they launched. The tanks and soldiers had gotten so close that multiple canisters had started to land at my feet, tear gas spraying straight into my face—the canisters not more than an inch away from hitting me. I had forced myself to keep moving, knowing that if one of the canisters were to hit me from a close distance, it could be the end of my life. It would burn right through my skin and into my body, just like it did to Hamde’s cousin a few years earlier, burning hole in his chest and killing him. Here I was today, sitting in the ambulance and hoping that everyone was safe—or as safe as they could be, at least. The ambulance needs to drive down into the demonstration, in case anyone is hurt and can’t make their way up, but I tell them I want to get out first. After a few minutes, the gas clears and the EMT says I can open the door. I get out as they drive away, leaving me standing there, now surrounded by a dozen or so people who had run all the way up from the dip of the valley. Most were doubled over, coughing from gas inhalation, trying to catch their breath. Before I could even think to help anyone,
the familiar sound starts to fill the air again; more gas was being launched, and the tanks had driven closer than any of us had noticed. They start launching the canisters in a direction so that the wind will carry the gas towards us, and within seconds I find my-
front seat and turns with a big smile on his face, hand extended towards me: he is holding an ice cream cone. He nudges with his head for me to take it, still keeping the smile on his face. I stare at him before gradually taking it from his hand; I can’t help but to burst out in laughter. In that moment, as our laughter fills the car, I am reminded that Allah’s beauty has no boundaries. Here I was in what seems like one of life’s ugliest moments, under apartheid and occupation, surrounded by people that are abused and mistreated, who have every justification to resent the world they live in that ignores their plight. Here I was sitting in a car with a kid who has lived every year of his entire life surrounded by violence and hatred from his oppressors, and he is smiling. He is laughing. He is caring and compassionate, despite the environment of hatred and racism that he is forced to live and grow up in. I am reminded that even in what seem like the ugliest moments of life, beauty blooms: Allah’s beauty manifests. In that moment, with my ankle swollen and throbbing, my clothes covered in dirt and dust, my eyes and nose still burning, and my throat partly closed from inhaling teargas, struggling to breathe as I sit in a random car where outside the window Palestinian flags wave through the thick, white clouds of gas filling the air, with a rainbow ice cream cone in my hand and a 15 year-old boy smiling and urging me to eat it, I find myself in one of the most beautiful moments of my entire life, and no amount of teargas sting could ever make me regret being there.
“even in what seem like the ugliest moments of life, beauty blooms” self gasping for air. The heat and dryness of the air make the tear gas even worse. I can hardly see as my eyes blur and my skin starts to burn from the contact with the gas. The gas fills my lungs and burns my chest. My insides feel like they are ablaze and as I eagerly try to suck in air, I am met with suffocation. I can’t move. Through the thick white clouds of gas that surround me, a hand reaches out and grabs mine. AbdelKhaliq, a 15 year-old local that I befriended on my previous visits to Bil’in holds tight to my hand, running, leading me to safety. He pulls me into a car, closing the door behind me as he gets into the front seat. He turns with a worried look on his face, asking me if I’m okay. I try to answer that I am fine, but can’t make a sound as the words are trapped in my burning throat and my concentration is focused on getting myself to breathe. He stares at me for a few moments before getting out of the car. I can still hear the sound of tear gas canisters being launched as I sit in the car that, although filled with hot and thick air, was free from any gas. A few minutes pass when I see AbdelKhaliq walking back towards the car. He sits once again in the
P NO SHAME HERE by Faaria Hussain by Faaria Hussain
ressure seems to incessantly loom over our shoulders. The pressure to do well in school, be good Muslims and citizens, conduct ourselves in a certain manner, please our parents, friends, teachers, and hundreds of other variations flood our minds every day. We carefully monitor what we do and say in order to keep ourselves from slipping and publicly accepting our issues. This pressure often forces many Muslims to remain silent about their mental health issues and and live with the constant fear of breaking down. Robert W. Levenson from the UC Berkeley Department of Psychology claims that about 50% of people will suffer some form of mental illness at some point in their lives. Mental illness can be considered a taboo subject in many communities, especially amongst Muslims; many Muslims often ignore their own mental health issues or do not consider them to be significant problems. They disregard the weight of such problems and suppress them until they are no longer able to keep them hidden. In any given year, about one in four adults will suffer through some mental illness according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and we cannot just pretend that this doesn’t occur amongst Muslims too. Despite the fact that Muslims stigmatize and ignore mental illnesses, it is apparent that many suffer with problems like depression, anx-
iety, schizophrenia, dementia, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder. Muslims, like anyone else, are often reluctant to reach out for help, medication, or therapy because they do not want to be perceived as weak or burdensome, and they choose to suffer through these illnesses in silence, alone. While practicing a religion that glorifies endurance, honor, and resilience, Muslims do not seem to find room for mental illnesses or help treating them. Mental illness is viewed as a sign of weakness, and in many Muslims’ eyes, admitting this weakness is failure or an indication of abandoning their faith. They are embarrassed to acknowledge, treat, or look for help in matters of mental health. Some individuals do not want to acknowledge the prevalence of such problems in the Muslim community because they believe that Muslims should be free from such issues and are “too strong” to admit to mental health problems. The shame and stigmas that surround mental illnesses force individuals to stay quiet about their issues and and become ostracized from their community and religion. Others often excuse mental illness as unreal or something imaginary. Parents, elders, friends, and many others claim “it’s all just in their head,” or “you get to choose whether or not you are mentally ill.” These people feel that the individuals who claim to have mental issues
are simply seeking attention that they don’t want to provide them with. Others blame mental issues on supernatural forces, such as jinns. Many people do not believe in psychotherapy and often do not allow their family to seek counseling. Suffering in silence is perceived as the only route to deal with such issues. This silence can take an immense toll on the individuals and continues to fuel their mental health issues. It forces them to deal with everything alone and very privately. Some even go as far to deem mental illnesses as punishments or tests from God. They feel that if they have a mental illness, then they have wronged God or Islam in some manner and are being punished for it. The social stigma with mental health issues remains strong amongst Muslims, not just for the individuals, but also for their families. Disclosure of mental illnesses concerns family social standing and the family’s honor. Men and women often fear sharing their mental health issues and seeking help because of the fear that other community members would no longer be willing to marry into their families, losing marital prospects, or even destroying their marriages. Young Muslim girls are sometimes even prohibited from reaching out for help. Maha, a 13 year-old Palestinian girl living in Gaza, suffered from men-
tal illnesses and epilepsy. When she visited the doctor to receive treatment for her problems, her doctor told her not to come back in order to prevent her or her family’s reputation from being tarnished. It is shocking that at such a young age, girls are taught to worry about what others may think as a priority to getting help and treating their illnesses. If people continue to associate such damaging stigmas with real problems, then young girls and boys like Maha will never be able to openly accept and treat their issues. It is narrated in Sahih Muslim that the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) was approached by a mentally ill woman who wanted to speak to him. The Prophet said to her, “O mother of so n’ so, I am at your service, just choose where you would like to talk,” and he spoke with her in a private location until she was done expressing herself and found solace. The Prophet took time to talk to this woman and let her voice be heard. We should follow his example and listen to the voices of our community that may need our help. It is our responsibility to aid our ummah in all aspects, which includes matters of mental illnesses. If people both inside and outside of our community are suffering, we must make it a priority to provide assistance and the necessary resources to them. Even lending an open ear to someone
can alleviate their problems. We must work toward eliminating the stigma that is put on mental illnesses and supply the proper services to those that require mental health care. Staying silent and enduring the issues alone does not benefit the people with issues or our society as a whole. It is imperative that we provide a supportive and accessible system to those that need help. If we do not give assistance to those who need it, we only damage our own community and our future. The silence that comes with mental illnesses must be permanently exterminated and be replaced with a supportive and accepting atmosphere. We should attempt to increase our knowledge about mental illnesses and how to deal with them in order to support ourselves and the community around us. It is imperative that we make ourselves aware of different resources and remember to reach out for help when it is needed. There need to be treatment options and open discussions about the reality of such issues. A supportive atmosphere can only be established if people are educated, encouraging, and willing to remove stigmas and misconceptions within our community. We cannot afford to stay silent or be embarrassed about such matters.
by Khwaja Ahmed
Muslim caucus was held for the first time at the Students of Color Conference this past November. The conference has been held by the UC system for 27 years. It acts as a powerful tool for different minorities to come together, share stories and begin the move towards social change on a UC-wide level. What makes this specific year so ground-breaking is that it held its first caucus, specifically geared towards Muslim minorities. The caucuses discuss issues pertinent to the community at hand, usually as a collective group, and then split off into smaller groups for more personalized takes on the issues. The overarching theme that was examined by the Muslim caucus was the role of intersectionality in Muslim Student Association(s)—more specifically, the dilemma of not properly understanding the importance of intersectionality in an MSA space. Before proceeding, it is important to understand the meaning of the word intersectionality. As tends to happen in Berkeley, sometimes foreign terminology is adopted without a true grasp of the nature of the word—I do this as well. To avoid the cliché of Berkeley intellectual culture, intersectionality is when two different spheres of viewing the world come together to combine a mixed outlook, with the default being a white, male perspective. One example of this is being Muslim and also being American; these identities do not contradict one another, but rather influence each other. This is the default for humanity; we are all made up of varying identities, but only until around the Civil Rights Era has this been adopted into the academic realm. The term brings with it a pull of popularity by being able to address people in a more nuanced sense by respecting backgrounds that are usually lumped together by the larger demarcation of identity. Something the caucus members recognized was that the Muslim community across campuses fails to do this at a very fundamental level. Throughout the room, the resounding feeling was that each member had faced exclusion or had known someone who was pushed to the perimeter unfairly. Muslims throughout the UC-system shared similar stories on not
feeling included within their regional MSAs. The exclusion took many forms, but the two most common were about wearing hijab and difference in skin tones. Some women spoke of being judged for not practicing physical hijab, and Muslims of African descent discussed being treated poorly based on pigmentation of their skin. Not being from either group, I personally cannot claim to understand this struggle, nor speak on their behalf as to personal afflictions caused by this. I have never been judged for my attire by the Muslim community, nor has my skin tone been a factor in my treatment, making it inappropriate for me to act as their voice on the issue. But this does not disclude me from realizing why this is a problem at an individual and a group level, along with it being a perversion of the practice of Islam as an institutional body. Intersectionality is not a production of modern thought— though classifications may be—and has existed in humanity from the time of the Prophet. The issue is not the diversity of backgrounds that coexist in MSAs, but it is the recognition of these backgrounds and responses to them. I am also not here to propagate the ‘don’t judge me’ culture, which many times acts as a baseless justification for an unwillingness to change. Rather, this medium is to discuss the problems associated with pushing people out of the MSA space and potential solutions to this problem. Starting first with the intersection of women and Islam, the common theme that arose was judging women on the physical hijab as outlined by the Qur’an. This runs both ways, as some women undergo discrimination based off of not adhering to guidelines, while others are pushed away for adhering too strictly. This interesting yet contradictory dichotomy exists because of a lack of firm understanding of Islam and its implementation. On one hand, women are being told their faith is incomplete for not abiding by the rules laid out to them, while others are criticized for abiding by them. The issue can be traced many times to practicing Islam as a culture rather than a religion. Culture many times plays identity politics, making an ‘us vs. them’ paradigm for the people to adopt. Islam does not preach an all-or-nothing view; it allows for growth, disagreement and conversation. With
culture, a critical lens is not applied as liberally. There is more stagnation in a culture towards understanding foreign concepts. This delay makes space uncomfortable for those who do not ascribe to the dominant lifestyle. Islam was not taught like this; the Prophet (PBUH) made sure to include those Muslims who varied in levels of practicing the guidelines that were spelled out for them. The masjid, which was the main form institutions took at the time, was open to all believers who walked in. The intersectionality of women and Islam balances on notions of morality as dictated by culture rather than Islam itself. This sort of intersectionality is more so limited in an insular way to the MSA, while the intersection of race and Islam influences the outside community as well. The second issue that arises from not properly addressing intersectionality is the treatment of African American Muslims in Muslim spaces. What makes this unique from the discrimination of women is the origination of why this exists, along with the implications. The intersectionality of women and Islam is not properly understood due to a mixture of Qur’anic perversion and cultural preferences. Anti-black racism and colorism that exists in Muslim spaces is rooted nowhere in the Qur’an, and rises from the historical developments of colonialism and racist views held even prior to European invasions. It can mostly be attributed to jahilliyah1, which implants the notion of bigotry in the hearts of Muslims. This corrupts not only individual Muslims, but also the institutions that are set up by Muslims.
Anti-black sentiment also pours beyond the boundaries of these institutes and affects the relations Muslims have with other groups. But first and foremost, those affected by this sort of mentality are the Black Muslims in these spaces. Long ago, Muslims of lighter skin looked down on their African American brethren based solely on how they looked; these views, many times stemming from jahilliyah, were deeply mixed in with the culture of the of people who held these attitudes. This is still present now, where Black Muslims are either outside the folds or uncomfortably in the corners of Muslim institutions. Already many times a minority in the organization, now they are an unwanted demographic. This ideology does more than burn internal bridges; it influences external politics of the MSA. When issues of race arise where African Americans are robbed of their rights, it should be the Muslims who take an active role in reaffirming the rights of the oppressed. Yet, so many times, it is the Muslims who are silent on these issues. Here, one should, again, look at the life of the Prophet to deal with these issues. The treatment of Bilal (PBUH) by the Prophet was one of high esteem; he gave him the rank of mu’adhin2 of the ka’ba3. The other important development to notice is the influence of Malcolm X into the psyche of the modern American Muslim identity. His role is so central to the creation of our identity in countless regards, and yet so many Muslims push away others because they share the same skin tone as Malcolm. Lastly, it should be noticed that other Muslims who are not of Afri-
can descent but share dark skin colors are also incorporated into this bigotry. The irrationality of this is so ironic—it punishes those who follow this paradigm, yet look the same as those they demean. These were the dominating conversations in the brief meeting at the Muslim caucus. It is clear that as a community across the UCs, Muslims are very much unincorporating of those who don’t fit into their idea of a Muslim. From women who don’t practice hijab to Muslims with darker complexions, there is a complete lack of understanding of these groups of Muslims. This undersight arises from the poor understanding of backgrounds that exists in the minds of many Muslims. Notice, the Prophet never bent Islam itself to allow it to make those around him comfortable. Instead, he softened the institutions and hearts of other believers to make a space for those who were not fully practicing or were rejected by larger society. Accepting them on the basis of their religion and potential for growth, our Prophet never excluded those who accepted his message, and only helped them grow. Now, it is up the Muslims across the UCs to help elevate their fellow Muslims as the Prophet of Islam did.
jahilliyah - ignorance mu’adhin - person who makes the call to prayer 3 ka’ba - holiest shrine and site of pilgrimage for Muslims 1
Photo courtesy of ASUC Student Union
by Harun Yahya
he Internet today has become the new media where millions of people, especially teenagers, spend hours exploring, digging, and learning. While spending time behind a computer was considered a rather eccentric hobby in the early 1980s, it is now the most effective communication method among young people, enabling us to connect even with the farthest parts of the world. Social media, especially a big part of the Internet with a massive amount of users (Facebook has 1.3 billion users and Twitter 307 million active users), can easily shape national policies, determine international headlines, affect individual lives and set worldwide trends. These unique tools specific to the modern age are capable of doing immense good, but they also have the potential to inflict serious damage. Disinformation is one of these major issues, which the growing influence of the Internet is bringing to light. The countless number of people on the Internet, and more importantly on social media, are constantly producing massive amounts of information. Some is useful, some mundane, and some intentionally wrong. Wrong information. Why and how? Disinformation is usually defined as false information given to people in order to make them believe something or to hide the truth, and it’s sometimes used as
a psychological warfare method in the media, politics, economy, sports, and military. At a time when most people get their information from the Internet, how safe are we in terms of what we learn, considering that a major part of the data found on the Internet is not entirely reliable? The Gezi Park protests in Turkey, which were notoriously fueled by social media postings mainly by the youth who joined the protests, is a good example. According to the Social Media Track System, on March 31st, 2013 alone, 15,247,000 Tweets were posted and five million of them were provocative information. Among these fallacious posts, there was a photo showing people who participated in the Eurasia Marathon; they were presented as ‘a march from the Bosporus Bridge to Taksim as a part of the Gezi protest.’ The United States, home to the highest number of Internet users, is naturally not immune to this peril and greatly suffers from its effects. For instance, even though all the detected patients in the U.S. tested negative for the Ebola virus, people Tweeted as if the disease was spreading rapidly in cities, and it could infect others through air, water or food—all of which was grotesquely distorted information. These and countless other examples are enough to demonstrate that the Internet might be manipulated for ill intentions as
much as for good. So what can be done to counter this dangerous phenomenon? One of the most powerful methods to counteract this is circulating accurate information through individual social accounts. On a broader level, world governments and Internet regulatory bodies can take swift action and adopt stricter measures to at least curb this trend to some extent. Furthermore, people should not think that a piece of information is accurate just because it is on social media. It is imperative that we be aware that some people might have malevolent intentions and look to stir up conflict, instigate hatred and even misdirect the responsible parties of a crisis by smearing opponents. The difference taking these steps can make is stunning. We also have to realize that social media gives regular people immense power and if it is harnessed the right way, it can be one of the most powerful instruments in the world. Remember when Michelle Obama started a campaign to bring back 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based terrorist organization, in April 2014? The whole world rose up: politicians discussed the subject and commentators wrote about it in their columns; people used social media day and night in an effort to have the girls returned. Regrettably, it was a short-lived zeal and the incident was quickly forgotten,
and the girls remained in captivity. The same thing can be said for the violence targeting innocent people, including children in the Central African Republic, the Rohingya of Myanmar-one of the world’s most persecuted people-and the Bangladeshi administration executing the elderly. All these subjects rightfully drew the world’s attention at one point through the Internet, but were later forgotten. Yet, the tragedy continues. But it is possible to take action on an individual basis. These campaigns that started something so blessed can be easily continued until an effective solution is reached. We should not forget that as human beings, we are responsible for our fellow humans, regardless of faith, background, race, ethnicity, or language. And considering that we have this amazing tool at our disposal, why not put it to a greater use by keeping these crucial problems on the world’s agenda and play our part in helping people in need? As of right now, it seems that the Internet has become a platform of hate mongering instead. Everyone agrees that hatred has spread
far and wide now that some users try to pit people against each other. Can our poor world afford any more of that? It is clear that social media is supposed to be a platform where people share verified and accurate information based on reliable
have played a part in all the wickedness caused by the spread of dishonest and sometimes inflammatory information. Therefore, to counter this fast spreading disease of hatred, let’s do what we need to do and respond to the haters with a language of pure love. In a world where words like love, compassion and mercy are mostly forgotten, let’s use the power of the Internet for good, and rediscover these most beautiful blessings in the world. Let’s be trailblazers in love, and make everyone remember that it is the reason we live; love is the one thing that every one’s soul needs, and with a little bit of effort, we can bring it back to life.
“social media is supposed to be a platform . . . where messages of love and friendship prevail” sources, where messages of love and friendship prevail instead of hateful Tweets about faith, race, or gender but most of the time this is not the case. The answer once again lies with us. If people turn to their conscience before they Tweet something hateful, misleading, or offensive, the effect would be immediate and create a chain effect of love. Otherwise, they should remember that they will
Harun Yayha is a Turkish writer who has written for the likes of Huffington Post, Moscow Times, Saudi Gazette, Arab News, and more. He dedicates his life to spreading knowledge and Islamic values.
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Board: Hana Ghanim Editor-in-Chief Saba Tauqir Managing Editor Sarah Alsamman Co-Layout Editor Alaa Elshahawi Co-Layout Editor Aamna Khan Photo Editor and Finance Manager Zain Amro Web Manager Muriam Choudhery External Affairs Staff: Noor Gaith Alia Anwar Anam Siddiqui Sarah Bellal Salam Awwad Faaria Hussain Iffat Junaid Ismat Junaid Sana Alsamman Huda Abushanab Tamara Farhat Dania Barakat Guest Contributors: Harun Yahya Khwaja Ahmed Manal Ahmed
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