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VOL 45 NO. 1 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016  visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET

COVER STORY 26 28 29 31 33

The Syrian Refugee Crisis Searching for Hope The Death of Humanity in Syria Immigration Crisis The Naturalization Process


25 Ahmed Husein Sakr


36 The Bilal Initiative


38 Islam, the American Dream and a Boy with a Clock 40 Sisters Read 41 Let Them Play



42 Splash Covered 44 Away from Recidivism 46 Inmate Support


48 Halal Investing



50  The Law That Defends Builders of Religious Structures 51 Interfaith Begins to Pay Dividends 54 Own Your Vote 56 Handwritten letter by Malcolm X 58 Palestine Alive


6 8 12 61

DEPARTMENTS Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters New Releases

59 More than a Landmark Moment

DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Jay Willoughby. 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.




Humanity Withers


uring his 2013 visit to Beirut, renowned linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky told the Al-Akhbar newspaper that “the Sykes-Picot agreement is falling apart, which is an interesting phenomenon. That is a century. But, the Sykes-Picot agreement was just an imperial imposition that has no legitimacy; there is no reason for any of these borders — except the interests of the imperial powers.” The secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, negotiated between November 1915 and March 1916, was officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement. In it, London and Paris, with Moscow’s assent, mapped out their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East if the Ottoman Empire was defeated. As a result, the Empire’s Arab provinces outside the Arabian Peninsula were divided into areas of future British and French control or influence, and Palestine was placed under an “international administration.” The newly created USSR exposed this arrangement three weeks after the Balfour Declaration. These imperial machinations have caused great misery and suffering for Muslims across the world. In this issue, Hatem Bazian’s Immigration Crisis: The Collapse of the Postcolonial State, reveals how their corrupt indigenous elites have enslaved Muslims to their former colonial masters. Instead of reducing these countries’ dependency, the IMF and World Bank deepened it in order to make themselves the real powers behind the thrones by imposing their Structural Adjustment Policies. The colonial masters were awful, but their indigenous successors were even worse. Reza Shah Pahlavi and his son Mohammad devastated Iran. Iraq


became a victim of Saddam’s lust for power, and the oildoms’ rulers never failed to kowtow to the West. Père et fils Assad spent billions defending their thrones, while simultaneously devastating countless Syrians’ lives and futures. And yet for some reason neither of them ever really spoke up about the Golan Heights, which the père lost in 1967. Apparently only some land is sacred. While the Shah and Saddam did not live to see their sons sit on their thrones, the Assads are into the second generation. In the oildoms, this has been going on for generations. The ongoing spike of global violence is being blamed on Muslims. But didn’t the Taliban spring from Reagan’s Afghan adventure? And who has forgotten Ivy Ziedrich, the 19-yearold University of Nevada student who told Jeb Bush, “Your brother [George W.] created ISIS” and then explained how the latter had utterly mismanaged the unjustifiable Iraq war. Even more players may become involved in the Syrian quagmire. Its former Soviet and now Russian ally has recently entered the fray. The United States and its partners, as well as the Russians, continue to bomb those whom they have proclaimed to be “rebels,” totally unconcerned about how their game is destroying the lives and futures of those Syrians who somehow survived the atrocities inflicted upon them by the Assads since 1970. One does not hold out much hope that any of the “hallowed” international organizations or countries will make a realistic effort to stop this massive death and destruction. One can only wonder how sanity will return, given that the main players only care about money and power. 


PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Azhar Azeez SECRETARY GENERAL Hazem Bata EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Faryal M Khatri EDITORIAL BOARD Parvez Ahmed (Interim Chair), Julie Belz, Iqbal Unus, Ingrid Mattson, M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Hazem Bata, Edgar Hopida. ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2016 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 POSTMASTER Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual, domestic – $24 Canada – US$30 Overseas airmail – US$60 TO SUBSCRIBE Contact Islamic Horizons at (317) 839‑8157 / (317) 839‑1811 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108,, Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distribution) Sales Agreement No. 0666300 CORRESPONDENCE Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email:

ISNA MATTERS SERVING THE NEEDY ISNA Secretary General Hazem Bata joined the Islamic Center of Central Missouri (ICCM) in Columbia, Miss., on Sept. 20, 2015, for a Stop Hunger Now food-packaging event that yielded 20,000 packages. The event was sponsored by ICCM, ISNA, Islamic Relief and Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief agency that has been working to end hunger for more than 15 years. Participants packaged rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix, including 21 essential vitamins and minerals, into small meal packets. Stop Hunger Now distributes these packages to children and families worldwide. Afterwards, Bata talked about the importance of social justice and civic activism: “Islam teaches us to be civically active. Civic engagement is an important part of the seerah (the Prophet’s life [salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam]). This is what


Islam teaches us and it is an important part of the seerah. Prophet Muhammad was an activist... He addressed more than the theological and spiritual needs of the community. It was his activism and efforts to restore socioeconomic justice that attracted people to Islam.” 


ISNA-Canada congratulated Canada’s Liberal Party and its leader Justin Trudeau for their historic and well-deserved victory in the Oct. 19, 2015, election. Addressing a message on behalf of all Muslim Canadians, ISNA-Cana8

da President Syed Imtiaz Ahmed and Executive Director Sheikh Abdalla Idris Ali extended a warm welcome to the newly elected members of Parliament and their best wishes for this new chapter in the country’s future. Their statement said, “Our great country is symbolic for its tradition of creating a beautiful mosaic of cultures, religions and people of all ethnic origins and backgrounds. This election saw a big turnout in numbers from all communities across Canada. It is testament to the passion that we all hold for putting emphasis on good leadership. “The Liberal Party of Canada had the courage to take a stand for bringing prosperity to Canada, by aiming to restore long honored Canadian values and regain our respect and dignity among the countries and nations of the world. We are excited to see the emergence of the visionary leadership of Justin Trudeau and what lies ahead!” Muslim Canadians went through a decade of being hounded by the ultra-Islamophobic Stephen Harper regime. 

On Oct. 3, 2015, ISNA secretary general Hazem Bata participated in Zionsville United Methodist Church’s (ZUMC) “Living Our Faith in a World of Faiths” interfaith series. The program was part of this northern Indianapolis, Ind., suburban church’s effort to help its members to get to know their neighbors and learn through dialogue. Bata related a short story of three football players who played for the same team in the same position but in different years to illustrate that the Abrahamic faith traditions have more in common than they do differences. And yet our tendency to focus on the differences often leads to conflict. He emphasized the need to move away from the “us and them” mindset and toward a shared understanding of one human family. Using a visual map of the Middle East, Bata highlighted the fact that all of the Abrahamic prophets’ birthplaces, including that of Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), are located within a 500 mile radius. This visual helped the audience see the similarity in the history and beginnings of the three faiths. He then spoke about the diversity of the global Muslim community as well as that within the Muslim American community, and sought to debunk several myths and stereotypes. Bata concluded by saying that “Programs like this provide an opportunity for us to combat the divisiveness that separates our community. Through dialogue and experiencing each other’s faiths, we come to understand our similarities and build bridges.” 


ISNA HOSTS STOP THE HUNGER More than 120 volunteers packaged 25,000 meals on Nov. 14, 2015, during a Stop Hunger Now packaging event at its headquarters in Plainfield, Ind. This is one of the many ISNA-sponsored Stop Hunger Now projects. The event was co-sponsored by ISNA, Islamic Relief USA, Indian Muslim Relief & Charities, the North American Bangladeshi Islamic Community, Mercy-USA for Aid & Development, Al-Ilm Weekend School at Masjid al-Fajr and OBAT Helpers. Local neighbors and people of other faiths also participated. Their meal packaging process combines rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix, including 21 essential vitamins and minerals, into small meal packets. Each meal costs only 29 cents. The food stores easily, has a shelf-life of two years and can be transported quickly. Stop Hunger Now


ISNA took part in a seminar organized by Evangelical Pastor Bob Roberts and former ISNA President Imam Magid at the First Baptist Church in Glenarden, Md. This event, which inaugurated dialogue and friendship between the two groups, sought to provide a platform for learning how to relate to each other and build bridges of understanding and respect. Attendees included Ebrahim Rasool, former South African ambassador to the U.S., Ambassador-at-Large for Interna-


works with international and domestic partners to distribute meals. “God has given us an abundance of blessings. Opportunities like this allow us to show our gratitude by sharing our blessings with the less fortunate,” said ISNA secretary general Hazem Bata.  tional Religious Freedom David Saperstein and Pastor Chris Seiple. ​Leaders and attendees discussed such topics as the need to be honest with one another; to coexist; to think with the head and the hand; to think before they act and to shake hands; to accept the “Beyond Tolerance” event pledge signed at the National Cathedral; to build a bridge together so that imams and pastors can become friends; for majorities to look out for the religious minorities at home and abroad; and to be able to serve together worldwide. ISNA Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances Director Sayyid M. Syeed reflected, “​All religions are all places today like never before. It’s critical we learn [how] to relate to each other and build bridges of understanding and respect, or an uncertain and uneasy future of conflict awaits us all. “How the Christian majority in the U.S. treats [the] minority Muslims has a huge impact on how minority Christians are treated by majority Muslims in Muslim-majority nations.” 


On Oct. 23, 2105, ISNA board member Rizwan Jaka and former ISNA president Imam Magid represented ISNA at the “Beyond Tolerance” event hosted by its partners Shoulder-to-Shoulder in the Washington, D.C.’s National Cathedral. The event launched the Religious Freedom Pledge Initiative, in which religious leaders called for religious freedom and hopeful action. During the press conference, religious leaders urged elected officials to sign the pledge, which states: “I pledge and commit to the American people that I will uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals by rejecting and speaking out, without reservation, against bigotry, discrimination, harassment, and violence based on religion or belief.” Imam Magid addressed the press conference. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington and an ISNA supporter, addressed the initiative’s attendees. 

ISNA CONVENTION SESSIONS ON YOUTUBE Recorded sessions from ISNA’s 52nd Annual Convention are now available on the ISNA YouTube channel:


A DUE CLARIFICATION SHEEMA KHAN, PH.D. SYED IMTIAZ AHMAD, PH.D., PRESIDENT, ISNA-CANADA In the Nov./Dec. 2015 issue of the Islamic Horizons magazine that featured the Canadian Muslim community, ISNA-Canada provided a glowing tribute to its one-time director, Mohammad Ashraf, as the chief architect of the organization’s 30-year development. What the article failed to mention is that Mr. Ashraf was forced to retire in 2011 after a Toronto Star investigation revealed misappropriation of $600,000 in zakat-ul-fitr, based on an audit commissioned by the board of ISNA-Canada. Mr. Ashraf was central in the audit’s findings: “the practice of giving free perks to family members of a top official; the improper issuing of charitable tax receipts; and the diversion of charity money to private businesses.” In addition, ISNA-Canada placed Pakistani scholar Farhat Hashmi on its payroll, “despite her not actually working for ISNA, in a bid to help her immigrate to Canada.” Such a misappropriation is clearly illegal. Furthermore, in 2013, the Canada Revenue Agency (the Canadian equivalent of the IRS) revoked the charitable status of the ISNA Development Foundation (IDF), after an audit found that the IDF had sent $280,000 to a Kashmiri organization with suspected links to terrorism. The IDF could not provide necessary paperwork to account for the transfer. It also violated its stated aim of providing support to the poor and needy (indigent immigrant families in particular), community centres and places of worship throughout Canada, by sending more than half of the collected funds overseas. Mr. Ashraf was also the head of IDF; many of its business records are missing. In March 2013, ISNA-Canada sued Mr. Ashraf and two relatives, “alleging he misappropriated $400,000 from the organization and used the money to buy his daughter a house. He has filed a defence denying any wrongdoing.” Board members told the Toronto Star that he ran “the charities like his own fiefdom,


and…kept other directors in the dark until he was forced to retire in 2011.” The article was highly misleading by omitting the above information, for it made it seem as though there was nothing amiss. In addition, ISNA-Canada has been built by the contributions of many individuals, rather than the exclusive efforts of only one person. The CRA reminded ISNA-Canada that “turning a ‘blindeye’ or not exercising due diligence where a director is aware or ought to be aware of malfeasance on the part of another director . . . is not acceptable... All directors have a duty to investigate any suspicious circumstances that suggest a charity’s property has not been properly used.” ISNA-Canada is learning from this dark chapter by putting in place safeguards to ensure accountability and transparency. Finally, this article may be seen as means to pre-empt the court. The lawsuit has not been settled, and ISNA-Canada is still pursuing restitution against Mr. Ashraf.  Sources: • “Muslim charity squandered money for poor”, Toronto Star, January 20, 2011 • charity_squandered_money_for_poor.html • “Star Investigation: Federal audit raises concern that Canadian charity funded terror”, Toronto Star, July 25, 2013 • star_investigation_federal_audit_raises_concern_that_ canadian_charity_funded_terror.html • “The Canada Revenue Agency revokes the registration of the ISNA Development Foundation as a charity”, Canada Revenue Agency press release, September 20, 2013 • sj1D=&crtr.mnthndVl=5&mthd=advSrch&crtr. dpt1D=450&nid=773409&crtr.lc1D=&crtr.tp1D=&crtr. yrStrtVl=2007& aud1D=&crtr.mnthStrtVl=1& yrndVl=2014&crtr.dyndVl=28


Register and Reserve Hotel Rooms online at WWW.ISNA.NET Early Discounted Registration Deadline is: March 1, 2016 ($5.00 will be added to registration fee after this deadline)

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Conference Features:

Educational Sessions Pre-Conference training workshops on Friday/Saturday Bazaar Booths Award Presentation Networking session on Saturday morning Saturday banquet with keynote address Employment notice board

Conference Topics Include:

Using Data to Drive Instruction Thinking Strategies for Engaged Student Learning Becoming a Teachers’ Leader Best Practices in Differentiated Instruction Incorporating Islam in the School Environment Improving/Developing Group Dynamics for Better Teamwork ESL Strategies for Diverse Schools Conflict Resolution in School and Community Planning Curriculum for Global Minded Students Integrating Technology into Teaching

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1) 2) 3) 4)

Tarbiyah: Creating a School Climate with Islamic Values Grooming Teachers as Leaders Systemizing School Functions for Sustainability Staff and Educator Professional Development Roles and Responsibilities of School Boards Strategic Planning for Schools in a Global Society

Registration Fees:

Individual (With three meals included) $100 per person Individual (Without meals) $75 per person Group up to 4 people (With three meals included) (Per Individual) $95 Group of 5 and more (With three meals included) (Per Individual) $90 Childcare $45 per child for the entire conference

Pre-Conference Workshops: Workshop for Arabic Teachers $75 Nuraniyah Quran Workshop $50 Board Source Workshop $75 Weekend Schools Workshop $50

FO R Q U E S T I O N S: REGISTRATION & HOTEL: (317) 838-8129 or BAZAAR & SPONSORSHIPS: (317) 838-8131 or

COMMUNITY MATTERS Harvard Builds Sharia Online Resource

SHARIAsource, an online Islamic law resource founded and directed by Harvard Law School professor Intisar Rabb, its editor-in-chief, received a $425,000 development grant from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on Oct. 19, 2015. In 2014, the project received a $400,000 grant from the Henry R. Luce Foundation. Rabb, who is a Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, leads a team of legal experts, scholars and developers. Built on a model of broad collaboration, SHARIAsource draws on the resources of

Harvard Law School Library, other educational institutions and Islamic law scholars worldwide to build a research clearinghouse. Housed at Harvard Law School’s Islamic Legal Studies Program (ISLP), it operates in partnership with the university’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. The program is composed of these communities’ substantive and technical expertise with an “expert crowd-sourced model” with contributions from experts in Islamic law as well as scholars of comparative constitutional law, legal history and other related fields. “Professor Rabb’s vision and commitment

On Oct. 17, 2015, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) presented Hisham Yahya Talib, co-founder and finance director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), with the “2015 Lifetime Achievement Award” at its “Champions for Justice” 21st annual fundraising banquet in Washington, D.C. From 1975 to 1977 Altalib, who has doctorate in engineering, directed the training department of the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada (now MSA National). He has held numerous leadership positions, all with an emphasis on research-based development and education in the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations (IIFSO), SAAR Foundation, IIIT and other Islamic organizations. In addition to his “Training Guide for Islamic Workers,” which


are the driving force behind this important effort to share primary sources of Islamic law and expert commentary from around the world,” said Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School. “SHARIAsource is a flagship project for ILSP, and this superb grant will ensure its effective development.” The MacArthur grant enables the further facilitation of advanced scholarship and policy analysis relating to Islamic law and to grow its online repository of primary source material. SHARIAsource, now in an intensive growth and development phase, expects to go public in 2016. In addition to an online portal of resources and analysis on Islamic law, in cooperation with scholars of Islamic law and policy worldwide, this initiative seeks to be the go-to site for academics, policymakers and journalists, as well as generally interested readers, seeking to grasp Islamic law’s basics and complexities by collecting primary sources (e.g., court cases, legislation and fatwas) and offering scholarly analyses by recognized experts. All sources will be made available in their original languages, with summaries and robust search capabilities in English. SHARIAsource also plans to draw on the law school library’s century-old collection of resources, which offers the added values of curation, organization and dissemination of material through a platform that links the collation of Islamic law sources to a vehicle designed to share them and provide room for debate about them with a wider audience. 

has been translated into several languages, he has authored “Parent-Child Relations” and “The Da’wah Covenant of Honor.” Also honored were the Barakat and Abu-Salha families. Their children — “Our Three Winners” — Deah Shaddy Barakat, a dentistry student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, an incoming UNC dentistry student, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, a North Carolina State University architecture and environmental design student, were murdered in Chapel Hill early last year. The banquet was addressed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman, comedian and author Dean Obeidallah, the Bayyinah Institute’s Omar Suleiman, and teenager Ahmed Mohamed, “The Clockmaker.” 


Newark Displays Islamic Arts

Molded tile with calligraphic, floral and geometric motifs. Kashan, Iran, first half of the 13th century, late Abbasid Period (750-1258). White paste clay body with white, blue, turquoise and luster glazes. Newark Museum: gift of Herman A. E. Jaehne and Paul C. Jaehne, 1938 #38.242

ten in Arabic, Farsi, Nsibidi (an indigenous, symbolic southeastern Nigerian script), Turkish and Urdu. Hospitality: Fasting, Feasting and Fun celebrates the domestic arts. A mise-en-scène installation of a Moroccan feast will showcase a Rabat carpet, leather cushions, a wooden screen and metal table settings. Glorious ceramics, paintings and musical instruments from other regions will also be highlighted. Architecture and Its’ Offspring glories in the architectural legacies displayed in carpets, printed textiles, furniture, tile works and historic and contemporary photographs of India and Morocco. Body Beautiful: Costumes, Fashion and Faith positions silk, velvet and sequined clothing and textiles alongside fabulous jewelry fashioned from diamonds, pearls, emeralds, jade, gold and silver. 

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based Indian Muslim Relief & Charities (IMRC) has established three schools in Hyderabad for the underprivileged with the vision of “quality education accessible to all, reported M. R. Karim, Oct. 14, 2015. These schools, supported by concerned Indian expatriates, offer quality education at private-run schools closer to their homes. IMRC executive director Manzoor Ghori says, “On the face of it, there are a number of schools all over the city, including underprivileged inner city neighborhoods. However, many of them are substandard … The few schools that provide quality education charge exorbitant fees that make it unaffordable to the poor.” IMRC’s schools, which offer a quality education that even the

poorest families can afford, focus on book learning and take a holistic approach to the ABC’s of education: academics, behavior and character. Each school can accommodate over 400 students. The three schools together already have over 200 students, and management is confident that more students will enroll by next session. They plan to reach out to at least 40,000 students over the next five years. IMRC already runs an international-standard school in Hyderabad and colleges of media, engineering and management in Uttar Pradesh. For these schools’ logistics, infrastructure, process and organization, IMRC collaborated with Mustaffa Sheriff ’s Krishnaveni Talent Schools, which runs over 200 schools in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. 



The Newark Museum will display more than 100 works from Feb. 12 through May 15, 2016, in its Wondrous Worlds: Art & Islam through Time & Place exhibit. This collection will reflect aspects of Muslim faith, culture and everyday life worldwide and throughout the ages. Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the exhibition will feature carpets, clothing, jewelry, ceramics, glassware, metalwork, prints, paintings and photographs from the ninth century until today. Highlights include dazzling lusterware from Iran and Spain, delicate prayer rugs from Turkey and India, as well as Moroccan-American photographer Lalla Essaydi’s Harem #1. The majestic pair of early-20th-century 10’ x 6’ Egyptian applique tent hangings acquired by John Cotton Dana, the museum’s founding director and education pioneer, in Egypt during 1929 will also be displayed. Museum director and CEO Steven Kern said, “Through this exhibition, our audiences will gain a more nuanced understanding and appreciation for Islamic art along with other multicultural art forms they may encounter in the future.” The exhibition opens with a world map populated with select items that demonstrate the Islamic world’s intercontinental reach, which touches all continents except Antarctica. “Most Islamic art exhibitions focus on works from the Middle East, North Africa or South Asia, but this exhibition includes a much larger scope. We will showcase works from Southeast Asia, the Americas as well as East and West Africa,” said Katherine Anne Paul, curator of the Arts of Asia and lead curator of the exhibition. Wondrous Worlds opens with an introduction to the Five Pillars of Islam in order to provide context and a distinctive view into the displayed objects’ function, artistry and cultural history. It then expands upon five themes: Internationalisms—Then and Now highlights the long history of intercontinental trade and how the hajj promoted international interconnection. The export of Turkish textiles to Morocco, English and Dutch textiles inspired by Indonesian prints that were exported to Africa, as well as a ceramics traded between China, Iran and Turkey are featured. Quran, Calligraphy and Book Arts delves into the power of the written word through the Quran and the histories and poetry writ-



New Horizon School Wins Coveted Blue Ribbon The Orange County Register reported on Sept. 29, 2015, that New Horizon School, a private Islamic elementary school in Irvine, Calif., that opened in 2001 and has a sister campus in Pasadena, won the prestigious Blue Ribbon School of Excellence awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. “This honor recognizes your students’ accomplishments and the hard work and dedication that went into their success… Your schools are examples for your communities, your states and the nation… You represent excellence — in vision, in implementation and in results — and we want to learn as much as we can from you,” wrote Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education Secretary. New Horizon, one of only 50 private schools, was among the 335 schools nationwide designated by the U.S. Education Department as “exemplary high-performing

schools.” The National Blue Ribbon Program recognizes the academic excellence of schools. Only 420 campuses may be nominated per year by each state’s top education official. The number of nominees is based on its student population; California nominated 35 schools.

Last Year Was the “Year of Light” The UN observed 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL2015) to stimulate worldwide interest in light-related sciences and technologies. The year-long programs led to the creation of the “Ibn al Haytham” international working group (IWG), which is tasked with highlighting Arab contributions during the Islamic “golden age” (8th-13th centuries) to optics, particularly the works of Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040), which are preserved in his encyclopedic treatise Kitab al-Manazir (The Book of Optics). Optical scientist Azzedine Boudrioua is chair and coordinator of the IWG; Roshdi Rashed, the world-renowned mathematician, science historian and 2007 King Faisal International Prize Laureate, is honorary chair. UNESCO hosted the conference on Sept. 14-15, 2015, at its Paris headquarters. The event focused on the accomplishments of Islamic civilization during this period and the life and works of Ibn al-Haytham. The inaugural session included Irina Bokova (director-general of UNESCO), John Dudley (president of the IYL2015 steering committee), Mohamed Amr (ambassador, chairperson of the executive board of UNESCO), Ziad Aldrees (Saudi Permanent Delegate to UNESCO) and Sheikh Faisal bin Qasim 14

Al-Thani (founder and chairman of the Al Faisal without Borders Foundation, http:// The approximately 30 presentations discussed “History Guiding the Future: The Example of Ibn al-Haytham,” light-based technologies for the future, education and investment in science and technology, the legacy of the Ibn al-Haytham conference, the history of optics, the impact of light science and technology, and optics and photonics in the Arab and Islamic worlds. An exhibition showcased digital images of some of that period’s documents and works of scholars held by the Qatar Digital Library ( Also featured were a video presenting ancient manuscripts by contemporaneous scientists produced by the Qatar National Library; the opening of the Ibn al-Haytham exhibition; and an IWG white paper on optics and photonics outlining such suggestions as translating and digitalizing Ibn al-Haytham’s works and creating an Ibn al-Haytham international society. It was further suggested that this be done for other “golden age” luminaries. (Reported by: Sameen Ahmed Khan, Department of Mathematics and Sciences, Dhofar University, Salalah, Oman.) 

“We’re so excited,” said Dina Eletreby, head of school for New Horizon told the O.C. Register. “It is the culmination of all our efforts and the great work of our teachers and students.” Teachers and administrators said one thing that separates New Horizon from other schools is parental involvement. New Horizon, Orange County’s first independent Islamic school, has based itself upon the principles and ideology of the Islamic Center of Southern California. The nonprofit school focuses on general subjects (e.g., reading, math, current technology skills) and teaches religious studies. Eletreby and elementary school director Uzma Said received the award during special recognition ceremonies held in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 9 and 10, 2015. The school received a Blue Ribbon plaque and a flag, as well as the right to paint a Blue Ribbon flag on the side of their building — a public pronouncement of their achievement.  President Barack Obama announced his Sept. 24, 2015, appointments to the President’s third Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The appointees include Aziza Hasan, executive director of NewGround: Muslim Jewish Partnership for Change, an organization she helped co-found in 2006. She has also served as the Southern California and Government Relations Director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (2006-2012); a mental health worker at Prairie View Inc. (2001-2006); an AmeriCorps program manager at Interfaith Ministries (2005-2006); a team leader (2003-2005); and an event and project coordinator for the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (2000-2003). The President’s Advisory Council brings together religious and secular leaders, as well as scholars and experts in fields related to the work of faithbased and neighborhood organizations. It advises the government on how to reduce poverty and inequality and create opportunity for all, including changes in policies, programs and practices that affect the delivery of services by faith-based and community organizations and the needs of low-income and other underserved persons. 


Chicago Hosts Muslim Youth Expo

Some 400 — mostly youth from across Chicagoland — gathered at the University of Illinois-Chicago on Oct. 10, 2015, where the CIOGC hosted its first Muslim Youth Expo, to attend the resource and organization fair, career fair and art sale. There were a total of 60 booths. Participating institutions included youth groups, schools, Muslim Student Associations (MSAs), advocacy organizations, social services agencies and others, all of which showcased the community’s resources and talents and promoted youth activism and empowerment.

Interestingly enough, the Expo took place on the same day that over 20 anti-Muslim rallies were reportedly scheduled across the country. “American Muslims, especially youth, are dealing with very difficult challenges these days, such as mass media attacks on their faith, notorious surveillance of their communities and anti-Muslim bullying,” said Gihad Ali, director of CIOGC’s youth programs and the event’s main organizer. He added, “The Muslim Youth Expo was an opportunity to get together in a safe space,

A Victory for Personal Choice Zunera Ishaq, the Ontario, Canada, woman who won court battles affirming her right to wear a niqab while taking the citizenship oath, finally took part in the ceremony on Oct. 9, 2015, at a government building in Mississauga, Ont., reported CBC News “Thank you so much for honoring me here today,” she said. She told CBC News, that it meant a lot for her to finally acquire citizenship: “It actually confirmed my belief in the justice system … I was feeling pretty much that love which I already have within myself for Canada. And you know, the same feelings as I was feeling in the oath, that definitely this is the country to which I have to be loyal.” Ishaq, 29, who came from Pakistan in 2008 and gained permanent residency,

endured a long legal fight to secure this right. On Oct. 5, 2015, the Federal Court of Appeals dismissed a motion by the federal government to suspend a recent ruling that supported her legal fight. The federal government plans to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada; however, the Appeals Court ruling enabled her to wear


learn what our community has to offer and discuss issues that are of importance to us.” The Expo featured the diverse talents of Muslim youth through art, spoken word poetry, hip hop, nasheed and other skills. The show was hosted by Chicago’s own Khaled M, an internationally renowned hip-hop artist. Also featured were seven breakout sessions: Muslim Youth as Global Ambassadors, Know Your Rights with Law Enforcement and Social Media, Halal & Healthy Eating, Understanding DACA and Other Resources for Undocumented Youth, Muslims in Hip Hop, Youth Voices: What Pushes Us Away from the Community, and Calling All Causes: Youth Activism and Organizing Efforts. The sessions featured ten youth panelists who spoke about the various causes with which they are involved, such as #BlackLivesMatter, FBI surveillance in the community, raising awareness around mental and physical disabilities and many others. A group of Rohingya refugee attendees presented a brief program on their devastating experiences in Burma/Myanmar and their struggle to resettle in the United States. “We are proud to have organized this first-ever expo in Chicago at this time and know that it was a great learning and networking opportunity for our youth,” said CIOGC executive director Tabassum Haleem.  it while becoming a citizen and then to exercise her right to vote in the Oct. 19 general election. Ishaq, who has worn the niqab since she was 15, first challenged the government’s 2011 niqab policy when she was scheduled to take the oath last year. She agreed to remove it for the purposes of identification but not during the public ceremony, citing religious beliefs. The Mississauga resident, who is preparing for certification from the Ontario College of Teachers, affirmed that wearing it is her personal choice: “It is a religious duty of mine to cover my face in public at all times,” she told CBC on Oct. 8. At the core of opposition was Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s highly Islamophobic government, which wanted to examine whether public servants should be forbidden from wearing it. 



Chicago Recognizes Achievers

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle presented the 2015 Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) Top Muslims Achievers of Chicagoland at their 23rd annual dinner. The awardees are professionals who have excelled in their respective fields and have either achieved great success and/or been recognized for their excellence. This year’s Achievers were Mahmoud Ismail, professor of obstetrics/gynecology and co-director of the perinatal network at the University of Chicago, Asif Rahman, deputy commissioner at the City of Chicago Building Department and Al Jazeera America’s Ash-Har Quraishi. Ismail, a founder of Aqsa School, Bridgeview, Ill., has more than forty years of medical practice and has established outpatient clinics in the West Bank. Its diabetic clinic is one-of-a-kind. This caring philanthropist is a hero to the Palestinian patients. For his

expertise, dedication and achievements, Chicago Magazine named him one of the “Top Doctors in Chicago” and Best Doctors, Inc., named him among the “Best Doctors in America.” He is also a popular speaker and author. City of Chicago Building Department deputy commissioner Asif Rahman’s accomplishment is unique. Crain’s Chicago Business stated, “Asif Rahman gives bureaucrats a good name. Yes, you read that right. While city employees often are maligned, nearly 500 architects and developers signed a petition imploring Mayor Rahm Emanuel to bring back this 27-year City Hall veteran after he resigned recently from the Chicago Department of Buildings.” Being the Deputy Commissioner in charge of reviewing construction permits, some architects have christened him “the problem solver” for his ability to cut through technicalities and devise commonsense solutions to complicated building code issues. Known for his late-night and weekend emails, Rahman also wasn’t afraid to make decisions. As one architect puts it, “Rahman is the most knowledgeable and hardworking employee. He is a man of integrity and fairness.” He was persuaded to return for more public service. Quraishi, an award winning TV journal-

Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas teenager arrested after teachers mistook his homemade clock for a bomb, met Barack Obama at the White House on Oct. 19, 2015, at the annual astronomy night to honor science, space exploration and youthful endeavor. The student participants saw rock samples from the Moon and Mars, as well as various meteorites. The 14-year-old chatted with the president; however, the clock that had sparked so much media coverage was still police custody. “We have to watch for and cultivate and encourage those glimmers of curiosity and possibility, not suppress them, not

squelch them,” the science-loving Obama, also known as the geek-in-chief, told the audience of astronauts, scientists, students, and others. “Not only are the young people’s futures at stake, but our own is at stake.” Earlier, the teenager expressed gratitude for Obama’s support after he was handcuffed and arrested on suspicion of bringing a bomb to his high school. He was suspended for three days, but never charged. The president joined an international outpouring of support for the science-loving pupil, tweeting: “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.” Speaking before his encounter with the president, Mohamed, who took a selfie with John Grunsfeld, former astronaut and NASA’s associate administrator for the science mission directorate, informed reporters that the lesson of his experience was: “Don’t judge a person by the way they look. Always judge them by their heart.”


ist, currently with Al Jazeera America, is an Emmy Award-winning television journalist, photographer and filmmaker with more than a decade of international, investigative and long-form reporting experience. He is currently the station’s chief Midwest correspondent based in Chicago. He previously reported for WTTW’s flagship nightly news magazine show “Chicago Tonight.” In 2011 he co-produced the award-winning documentary “Fordson,” which documented the Arab-American experience in post 9/11 America. The acclaimed documentary premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and won major festival awards around the country. He has been honored with numerous awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, Investigative Reporters & Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Press Club of Atlantic City and the Chicago Headline Club. Among these are a CINE Golden Eagle Award, a Peter Lisagor Award and four National Headliners. In 2010 he was an IRE Award finalist. A five-time Emmy Award winner, he has also received five Edward R. Murrow Awards. In 2004 the Triangle Media Group named him one of the top 50 South Asian Global Achievers in Mass Media. He is the son of Rajaullah Quraishi, a former CIOGC executive committee member.  Mohamed hopes to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and become an engineer. The family has since moved to Qatar, where he has a secured a scholarship. They have also sued the mayor and school district for $15 million in damages.

Unity Productions Foundation received an award for service to the media at the second Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES), held in Dubai on Oct. 5-6, 2015. The award was presented to Michael Wolfe by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and


prime minister of UAE and ruler of Dubai. Over 2,000 policymakers, thinkers and business leaders attended the two-day event hosted by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre and Thomson Reuters. More than 60 international speakers addressed 15 sessions that discussed seven core “pillars” within an Islamic economy: Islamic finance, halal industry, family tourism, Islamic knowledge, Islamic arts and design, Islamic digital economy and Islamic standards.

Turkish (Kurdish)-American scientist Aziz Sancar, 69, Sweden’s Tomas Lindahl, 77, and American Paul Modrich, 69, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for “mechanistic studies of DNA repair.” The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated that the trio’s work “has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions” and that their findings have helped develop new cancer treatments, among other things. Sancar is a professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. Lindahl is an emeritus group leader at the Francis Crick Institute and emeritus director of Cancer Research UK at Clare Hall Laboratory in Britain. Modrich is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor at Duke University’s School of Medicine in Durham, N.C. The roughly $960,000 award was handed out along with the other Nobel Prizes on Dec. 10, 2015, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896. On Oct. 13, 2015, the Philadelphia Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a coalition of Muslim groups can pursue a civil rights lawsuit that accuses New York City police of conducting secret sur-

veillance on New Jersey’s Muslims without suspicion of criminal activity. This reversed a lower court’s decision that the plaintiffs had no legal standing to assert claims that the counter-terrorism program had violated their rights.

“We have learned from experience that it is often where the asserted interest appears most compelling that we must be most vigilant in protecting constitutional rights,” Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro wrote for a three-judge panel, invoking the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two. “At this stage, the issue is whether the NYPD [New York City Police Department] in fact surveilled individuals and businesses solely because they are Muslim, something the NYPD has never condoned,” spokesperson Nick Paolucci said. The program became public after the Associated Press reported that officers were infiltrating Muslim organizations throughout the New York region in the wake of 9/11. Mayor Bill de Blasio ended the program in April 2014. The plaintiffs in the case, including New Jersey imams, business-owners and students, sued in 2012, claiming that the surveillance subjected them to discrimination, threatened their careers and caused them to stop attending religious services. However, Newark District Judge William Martini dismissed the case in Feb. 2014, ruling that the city had persuasively argued that it was an anti-terrorism, not an anti-Muslim, program. Baher Azmy, legal director for the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which represents the plaintiffs along with Muslim Advocates, stressed, “There is no Muslim exception to the Constitution.” This case is one of several lawsuits filed against New York over the program. The New York Civil Liberties Union brought a similar claim in Brooklyn federal court during 2013. In addition, a group of civil rights lawyers filed papers in Manhattan


federal court claiming the surveillance ran afoul of a longstanding court order limiting how the police can monitor political activity. Both of those disputes have been settled in principle, according to court filings. The case is Hassan et al. v. The City of New York, 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-1688. Kissimmee, Fla., infectious diseases specialist Sajid Rashid Chaudhary has been elected president of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) to the 2016 Executive Committee. Texas anesthesiologist Dawood Nasir was returned as treasurer. Florida anesthesiologist Iqbal Zafar Hamid, who served as treasurer last year, was elected secretary. According to Hamid, “The membership will continue to need the hard work of our other candidates, Rizwan Khalid, Nasim Shekhani, Shahid Rashid and Tariq Shahab, to make APPNA a better organization, which they have already been doing.” For the first time in New York police history, a Pakistani-American named Waheed Akhtar has been appointed captain in New York Police Department (NYPD). A father of four, he migrated to the U.S. in 1998 and joined the NYPD in January 2005. After serving as a police officer in Transit District 34, he was promoted to sergeant in October 2010. He served in this supervisory position in the 77 Pct. and the Internal Affairs Bureau. Akhtar then attained the rank of lieutenant and served in the 83 Pct. He is currently assigned to the Organized Crime Control Bureau.

Halima Mahmoud, a 22-year-old hijabi senior at Newark’s Rutgers University, was crowned Ms. Rutgers in the 2015 pageant, reported Dina Sayedahmed in the online Muslim Girl magazine, Sept. 28, 2015. Mahmoud, of Ghanaian and Togolese background, is the first hijabi to win the homecoming pageant in Rutgers’ recent history, according to Tricia Defreitas, president 17

COMMUNITY MATTERS of the program board. As Ms. Rutgers, she is expected to attend several Rutgers events and games in her official capacity as representing the student body. Mahmoud is known among her peers for her spoken word poetry, social activism and engagement in religious activities. She explains that she was inspired to run because her earlier competitions had been nowhere near as large. Mahmoud, an active Black Lives Matter participant, emphasized that black women and hijabi women should strive to reach whatever goal they want to achieve. “I’m making a statement,” Mahmoud said. “Whatever any woman can do, black women and Muslim women can do it better. Despite all the rocks on my road, still, I rise.”

Isma Habib Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, N.Y., was an honoree at the 2015 Women Achievers Breakfast on October 8, 2015, which is hosted by the Women’s Fund of Long Island (WFLI). “My biggest challenge, which became the mission of my life, was to combat Islamophobia and to restore the distorted image of Muslim women,” said Chaudhry. She added, “I passionately believe in building bridges among different ethnicities, cultures and religious denominations with respect and beyond tolerance.” She urged the audience to ignore the stereotypical image of Islam and Muslimahs, an image based upon ignorance, cultural arrogance and political motivation, and to understand what the religion prescribes in terms of the respect, rights and status to which they are entitled. 18

Each year since 1995, the WFLI has hosted a committed, motivated and inspired audience of nearly 700 influential Long Islanders. A physician by profession, Chaudhry is an interfaith activist and a champion for Muslimah rights. She has been actively involved with the center for the past 20 years and, in 2015, was elected its first female president. During her more than three decades of volunteering, she has focused on youth development programs, building bridges, celebrating ethnic diversity and interfaith initiatives. This champion of women’s rights is dedicated to empowering women via programs that enhance academics and develop practical skills. One of the island’s most sought-after speakers on Islam, her lectures stress interfaith harmony and ethnic and cultural awareness in public, parochial and independent schools and elsewhere (e.g., libraries, community centers, houses of worship, colleges and governments). This mother of two has conducted programs in schools on the cultures of South Asia along with seminars and town hall meetings on Muslimah rights, sharia and civil liberties. She has also represented the Islamic perspective on art, architecture, sharia, women’s role in Islam and other topics on interfaith forums and panels. As if all of that were not enough, she is co-chair of the board of trustees for Long Island WINS, an immigration advocacy organization, a member of the Nassau County Anti-Bias Task Force, a member of the board of trustees of the Interfaith Alliance of Long Island and an advisor to the Nassau County Council for Asian Affairs.

The Oklahoma Conference of Churches (OCC) presented its 2015 OCC Interfaith Award to Adam Soltani, executive director of CAIR-OK, at its annual dinner on Nov. 12, 2015, reported the City Sentinel. Soltani, recognized for his outstanding

work in building bridges between the Islamic community and the community at large, serves as the chair of the Religions United Committee, which conducts an Interfaith Youth Tour. Last fall, almost 300 teenagers participated in this annual event designed to increase mutual understanding across religious and cultural divides. A member of the planning committee for OKC’s Jewish-Muslim Film Institute, Soltani is a former board member of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma and a former member of Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City Executive Committee. OCC executive director Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee noted, “Mr. Soltani has endless patience in helping people understand that they have nothing to fear from their Muslim neighbors, who, like all Oklahomans, seek to live peaceful and productive lives.” OCC is comprised of 16 denominations; 1,500 local congregations; ecumenical, Interfaith, and community partners totaling more than half a million Oklahomans. The Washington Post reported Oct. 9, 2015, that the federal Bureau of Prisons has removed bacon and other pork products, except for pork roast, from the national menu for 206,000 federal inmates. Pork roast was placed back on the prison menu after Senator Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, intervened. His committee oversees the federal prison system. The change started with the new fiscal year in Oct. 2105. The Bureau of Prisons, which is responsible for running 122 federal penitentiaries and feeding their inmates three meals a day, said the decision was based on a survey of prisoners’ food preferences: They just don’t like the taste of pork. Edmond Ross, a spokesman for the prison bureau, said, “Pork has been the lowest-rated food by inmates for several years.” Apparently, it also became more expensive for the government to buy. He did not provide specifics. The National Pork Producers Council, which represents the pork industry, is of course protesting. The prison system has long accommodated Muslims and Jews by providing halal and kosher foods. Tarrant County jail in Fort Worth, Tex., hasn’t served pork in years. Federal officials said that the pork ban was cost-related and not influenced by objections from Muslim inmates. But in line



with the current Islamophobia fervor, some Muslim organizations reported receiving angry e-mails and social media posting following the decision. “That this manufactured issue is even a controversy,” Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in an e-mailed statement, “is a clear indicator of the rise in Islamophobic conspiracy theories fueled by those who seek to demonize Islam and to marginalize American Muslims based on bigotry and misinformation.”

Hadiqa Bashir, 13, was honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award on Aug. 18, 2015, for her “conviction” to dedicate her young life to advocating for women’s and girl’s rights against forced child marriages in Pakistan. She was among the six young people, 30 years and younger, honored with an award for each of Muhammad Ali’s six core principles: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality. Bashir, the award’s youngest recipient, hails from Pakistan’s north-west province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat district, home of child activist Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousufzai.  The Third Annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards were presented in Louisville and sponsored by the Yum! Brands Foundation. These awards honor the greatness of people who are making a difference in their communities and beyond. Sports Illustrated magazine is renaming its Legacy Award the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award to honor the man whose lifetime of achievement forever changed the world. The award will recognize individuals whose dedication to the ideals of sportsmanship has spanned decades and whose careers in athletics have directly or indirectly impacted the world.

Muslims in the New Canadian Parliament A number Muslims figure in the new Canadian Parliament elected on Oct. 19, 2015. According to Zulf M. Khalfan, a Muslim community worker, writer and former Islamic Horizons editor, Alberta returned Ziad Aboultaif (Conservative) and Ontario returned Omar Alghabra, Ali Ehsassi, Ahmed Hussen, Maryam Monsef, Majid Jowhari, Iqra Khalid, Kamal Khera, Yasmin Ratansi, Marwan Tabarra, Arif Virani and Salma Zahid — all of whom are Liberal. Ahmed Hussen becomes the first Somali and Maryam Monsef, who migrated with her family at age 11, becomes the first Afghan to be elected. With the exception of Alghabra and Ratansi, who are returning Liberal MPs, the rest are all first-time members. 

The St. Clair-based Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City’s inaugurated its new community outreach center, a facility that used to house its Mercy School. About 275 people gathered on Oct. 9, 2015, for the grand opening and dedication of the Mercy Mission Building, which is adjacent to their mosque. Imad Enchassi, senior imam and the Islamic Society’s founder, said that the society paid $500,000 for the 10,000-square-foot structure, which will house the organization’s outreach offices, a food pantry in partnership with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, a free health clinic and a women’s resource center. “To give voice to the voiceless, to give hope to the hopeless, in God’s name, we dedicate this building to be a beacon to the


community,” Enchassi said during a brief ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony. Enchassi noted the Islamic Society already partners with many metro social service organizations and that the new center will likely be a multipurpose site so that those partnerships can thrive and expand. Bilal Piracha said that the Shifa Free Clinic will open in the new center, in partnership with Islamic Circle of North America Relief (ICNA Relief USA).

In an effort to foster a better understanding of the different faiths practiced by the island’s residents, on Oct. 25, 2015, the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI) launched the Interfaith Institute of the Islamic Center of Long Island. The board of trustees comprises men and women from all walks of life and faiths, including representation from the Diocese of Rockville Centre and leaders in higher education. Among them is Rev. Tom Goodhue, executive director of Long Island Council of Churches, who has worked with ICLI for more than a decade and says that ILCI has plans to work with school districts in Westbury, Hicksville, Herricks and Jericho to promote interfaith initiatives. This unique interfaith institute is operated under the auspices of the Islamic Center, said Faroque Ahmad Khan, chair of ICLI’s Long Term Planning Committee. It has received letters of support from Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., and New York State Comptroller Tom D’Napoli. Paterson, N.J.’s Jalalabad Jam-e Masjid, established during the late 1970s and run by the Islamic Foundation of New Jersey, celebrated the start of its $2 million renovation project on Oct. 9, 2015. The expansion plan, comprising two additional floors, will add 33,000 square feet to relieve the current overcrowding. It also includes the historic restoration of the original façade of the 1912 building: 19

COMMUNITY MATTERS the historic Orpheum Theatre, which closed during the Depression. Many predicted that the building would be torn down and turned into a parking lot. Martin Feitlowitz, a commissioner on the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, lauded the project, noting that the mosque is located on the border of the Downtown Historic District and the Great Falls Historic District. “I do have a question for you, mayor. I don’t know how a burlesque theater now becomes a religious congregation. I guess only in Paterson that could happen,” joked John Bleeker, principal of Bleeker Architectural Group, which is renovating the building. Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, who donated $1,000, praised the community’s moral standards and emphasized the importance of religion: “It’s been said many times there’s a separation between church and state. This mayor really believes there is no separation.” Torres cited the religious text — the Quran or the Bible — on which individuals must take their oath prior to assuming office. A portion of the street has been renamed Jalalabad Street in honor of the city’s growing Muslim, predominantly Bangladeshi-American, community.

Maryland has designated October as “Statewide Bullying Prevention Month.” Governor Larry Hogan’s representative presented a proclamation at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) AntiBullying Workshop on Sept. 30, 2015, at a newly-opened Islamic school in Howard County, Md. The proclamation reads in part: “Whereas, Maryland schools, students, parents, recreation programs, religious institutions and community organizations are urged to engage in a variety of awareness and prevention activities designed to make our communities safer for all children and adolescents.” CAIR requested that this proclamation be part of a multi-pronged response to faithbased bullying of Muslim students and used to encourage educators, parents and students to help raise awareness and eliminate bul20

lying of all children, regardless of faith and background. CAIR provides free anti-bullying workshops and offers “An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices” to help school officials provide a positive learning environment for Muslim students. “Islamophobia is rising to unprecedented levels in the United States, and Muslim children are too often experiencing it as bullying in public schools,” said CAIR Maryland outreach manager Zainab Chaudry. “We all have an obligation to provide a safe and comfortable learning environment for students. This measure is intended to help end bullying of children regardless of their faith or background.” Chicago-area mosques inaugurated the annual Open Mosque Day on Oct. 4, 2015. According to Tabassum Haleem, executive director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, this event “gives individuals who may not know a Muslim or have never been inside a mosque a chance to become familiar with what goes on.” Some of the mosques have hosted open houses in the past. The council’s additional coordination turned this into a larger, more unified effort. Visitors were greeted by volunteers who offered short tours. Mosques with attached schools or other meeting areas were also included. Many activities had been planned, among them informational tours, henna painting, Arabic calligraphy, snack bars, informational material and short presentations and Q&A sessions on Islam, mosques and Muslims. The guests were welcome to observe the zuhr prayer. Haleem said that she has heard many times that people often wait to be invited to a mosque, because they don’t feel comfortable calling and asking if they can visit. Such publicly announced open houses resolve such hesitancy. Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education has decided, by a 6-2 vote during the heated Nov. 10, 2015, hearing, to close schools on Eid al-Adha. The years-long effort to recognize Islamic holidays has been led by Muslim community leaders and activists. CAIR has provided written and oral testimony at numerous board hearings and met with board members to close schools on “Eid” due to the county’s growing Muslim population.

“We appreciate and applaud the school board’s decision to vote for Eid equality in Montgomery County Public Schools,” said CAIR Maryland Outreach Manager Zainab Chaudry. “This victory comes on the heels of years of advocacy by local Muslim leaders, CAIR and our interfaith allies, and it sends a strong message that all communities are worthy of equal and fair treatment.” Hamtramck, a historically Polish-Catholic enclave in Detroit, has achieved another distinction. More than a decade ago, its city council allowed a mosque to broadcast the adhan. On Nov. 4, 2015, this city of some 22,000 people elected a Muslim-majority city council — 4 of 6 council members — believed to be the first in the nation.

Imam Mohamed Magid, ISNA president emeritus, is included in “The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims,” a list compiled by the Jordanian think tank Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, co-founder of Berkeley’s Zaytuna College and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, were included once again. Other Americans include Muhammad Ali, U.S. Reps. André Carson and Keith Ellison, University of Notre Dame Islamic studies professor and scholar of contemporary Muslim thought Ebrahim Moosa, and Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, who is described as “an American-Palestinian award-winning human rights and social justice activist.” Also included is Farhana Khera, president of the legal advocacy organization Muslim Advocates, Moroccan-American Laila Lalami, whose “The Moor’s Account” was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in fiction, Afghan-American physician and novelist Khaled Hosseini, author of best-selling “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid


Suns,” CAIR co-founder and executive director Nihad Awad, and CNN “GPS” host Fareed Zakaria. Two young sisters whose hijabs were torn off by New York Police Department members received a $97,500 settlement from the city, reported New York Post on Oct. 7, 2015. The officers approached the girls, aged 12 and 14, in Mott Haven Park, a Bronx playground, at around 8 p.m. on an August day in 2013. According to a Manhattan federal court lawsuit filed by their mother, they immediately left the park when the policemen informed them that it was closed. According to their mother’s lawsuit, the officers attacked the children as they were walking out of the park, “violently grabbing them around their necks and forcing them to the ground.” As they crashed to the ground, the police pulled off their hijabs, which “was not only profoundly humiliating, but a violation of their deeply held religious beliefs.” The police also arrested the girls’ 15-yearold brother when he asked them what they were doing to his sisters, the suit said.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIRMN) welcomed Columbia Heights school board member Grant Nichols’ decision to resign, effective Oct. 13, 2015. Following a meeting with CAIR-MN, Muslim community leaders and local elected officials, Nichols expressed his intention and apologized for a comment disparaging Muslims posted on his Facebook page. Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento Council on American-Islamic Relations, was among the 11 persons named to serve on the Sacramento’s new Community Police Commission, the City Council announced Oct. 20, 2015. There were 54 applicants.

“Our vision is to make Sacramento the safest big city in California and a national model of community policing in the 21st century,” said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in a statement. The new commission will utilize the experience and knowledge of Sacramento residents to ensure bias-free policing and monitor the Officer Next Door initiative, Johnson said. Based on a Department of Justice model, it will advise city leaders and seek to strengthen the trust between citizens and police officers. Seattle, Cleveland and other cities are also creating commissions. The commission, which will meet at least eight times a year, is part of Sacramento’s Officer Next Door initiative. Other parts include adding 15 new police officers each fiscal year, a body camera pilot program and a gang prevention task force. “We need to bridge the gaps between law enforcement and the community, and this commission will be an important forum,” said Elkarra. “Sacramento is a tight-knit, solution-oriented city that is ready to tackle our challenges through community engagement, transparency and confidence building measures.” Muna Sharif has joined the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California as program coordinator of the Muslim Speakers Network (MSN), which responds to the growing demand from schools and colleges for Muslim speakers. MSN trains and equips Muslims with the necessary skills to present the basics of Islam and Muslims in an objective fashion in an academic setting. Sharif, a graduate student at California State University Long Beach, also directs the MSA-West’s Jibreel Project, which scrutinizes Islamophobic programs by private and public enterprises, such as the DHS’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. A native Californian of Palestinian heritage, she is a devoted advocate for justice in Palestine. Mohdudul Huq, senior planner for the City of Houston Planning and Development Department, was recognized for his 30 years of service with a Civil Service Award from the City of Houston and a service appreciation letter from the mayor. He is the first Muslim to receive such an award. The award was presented by Mayor Annise D. Parker and Patrick Walsh, director of Planning and Development Department.


Ever since 9/11, some Muslim Americans have suspected the FBI of targeting, profiling, and spying upon them in their mosques. To counteract this apprehension, W. Jay Abbott, Special Agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis Division, addressed the annual convention of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana on Nov. 14, 2015, in Indianapolis. During his “Build Trust via Communication, Understanding and Transparency” address, he explained the FBI’s various outreach and diversity programs and stated that the bureau has become a global security organization. (From: Endocrinologist Shahid Athar is founder and past president of the Interfaith Alliance of Indiana)  CORRIGENDUM Islamic Horizons magazine sincerely regrets missing the names of Shireen Hakim, RDN, MS, MPH, and author of “Gluten Free,” and Husnaa Vhora, who were members of the Convention Volunteer Reporters Committee that authored the ISNA Convention 2015 report. Excerpts from their articles were published in the Nov/Dec 2015 issue. Attorney Ismail Laher (202) 596-7863 (d)

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Opening Mosque Doors ISNA leads Muslim Americans toward best practices in mosques management BY FARYAL KHATRI




tors: primary (regular attendees), occasional (special occasion attendees) and potential visitors (new to the community). A robust front page that highlights the community’s diversity and services provided will make all of them feel that the mosque has a place for them.

he newest gem in metropolitan Washington, D.C. area’s mosques, the Turkish American Community Center in Lanham, Md., hosted the ISNA Masjid Forum on Nov. 7, 2015. Attended by leaders of the area’s mosques and communities, the event was introduced by Ihsan Bagby, chairman of ISNA’s Masjid Development Committee. The forum provides a platform for mosque and community leaders to learn best practices from leading experts in the field and to network and share experiences.

A WELCOMING ONLINE PRESENCE’s Rasheed Rabbi highlighted the importance of a mosque’s online presence by stating that its website often serves as the first entrance to the mosque. He mentioned there are three categories of visi-

Rafik Beekun, professor of management and strategy at the University of Nevada, discussed best practices in mosque structure and management. He provided attendees with practical tools and templates that they could use to establish good governance and strategy. Shariq Siddiqui, executive director of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, reinforced the importance of good leadership at the board level during his talk on servant leadership. Many of the community’s mosque leaders felt that improving the leadership and organizational structure development should be prioritized, given that both of them impact every aspect of the masjid. Architect Chris McCoy of McCoy Architects in Lexington, Ky., who has completed four mosques in the U.S. since 1998, discussed mosque construction and expansion. He provided a detailed booklet of tips and best practices on construction from planning to execution. In addition, he spoke about being women- and eco-friendly when designing the masjid as well as how to avoid common mistakes.

EMBRACING DIVERSITY The common thread throughout the daylong forum was the importance of embracing diversity rather than allowing it to be a source of division. Professor Jimmy Jones, member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), and Nadia Hassan from GlobalTalk spoke on the Bilal initiative and racial tensions within the masjid. A key message was the need to always speak up when a racist comment is made, for remaining silent and being complacent at such times only furthers the racial divide. Due emphasis was placed on including women in mosque operations. FCNA member Imam Muhammad Qatanani provided a deeper understanding of the Islamic context of ISNA’s Statement on the Inclusion of Women in Masajid. He explained the Quranic verses and hadith, as well as hisISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

torical examples from the time of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), that support the document. ISNA Task Force on the Women Friendly Masjid member Aisha al-Adawiya spoke on how various communities have worked hard to create women-friendly masajid as well as to involve them in the masjid and the community. Qadhi, who addressed the closing session, spoke on the importance of developing the mosque into a larger community center that meets its members’ needs, among them pastoral care provided by experts, given that imams are not trained in pastoral care. He called for establishing a seminary in the U.S. to train and ordain home-grown imams in order to produce Islamic scholars who understand the community, rather than having to import someone from overseas who may not connect with the community’s needs and culture.

Following the forum, ISNA hosted a celebration banquet to honor two mosques that have achieved a great deal of success in becoming “green” and including women. On behalf of the Islamic Center of Long Island, Sarah Saeed accepted the Women-Friendly Masjid of the Year award. Atiya Aftab, Arif Patel and Saffet Catovic accepted the Green Masjid of the Year award on behalf of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey. Banquet keynote speaker Dalia Mogahed, who discussed the mosque’s importance and relevance, emphasized the importance of opening the mosque to all members of the community: “Our mosques must be a place where saints go for affirmation and sinners go for redemption.” She also discussed how opening the masjid and reaching out to the community combats Islamophobia. Guest speaker Qadhi, who discussed the role of the mosque and diversity, explained how


the latter can strengthen the community if we do not let it divide us. Mogahed and Qadhi’s words resonated with and inspired the audience. The banquet closed with a performance by songwriter and musician Raef.  Faryal Khatri is editorial associate, Islamic Horizons.



ISNA at the Parliament of World’s Religions Conference ISNA hosted two sessions at the 6 th Parliament of World’s Religions Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, held Oct. 15-19, 2015. Some 10,000 people from all over the world attended. The first ISNA session, “Humanity at the Heart of Islam and in the Hearts of Muslims: Moving beyond the Dialogue,” focused on examples of social justice and activism from the prophetic era to today. ISNA Secretary General Hazem Bata spoke on how Muslims helped Jews during World War II. Maria Khani, senior chaplain with the Los Angeles Sheriff Department, discussed social justice during the Prophet’s (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) lifetime. Daisy Khan, founder and executive director, Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE), analyzed Muslim rule in Baghdad and Cordoba. The session’s final speaker, Hamid Slimi, imam, resident scholar and founder of Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, Ont., spoke on Muslims African Americans’ contributions to the U.S. Reflecting on the session, Bata said, “It is important to tell stories of Muslims living out their faith through service and acts of humanity. These stories form a narrative about Islam and Muslims that many would otherwise not know about. The public often get its narrative from media outlets and that’s not the real narrative of Muslims historically, or today.” The second session, “Clarifying Misconceptions about Islam and Muslims: One Step Towards Defeating ISIS,” explored the myths and misconceptions of Islam and Muslims via Quranic explorations and a problem-solving study of violent extremism. Khani, Imam Mohamad Bashir Arafat, founder of Civilizations Exchange & Cooperation Foundation and Al Basheer Seminary, and Daisy Khan addressed the audience. ISNA’s sessions provided a deeper understanding of Islam’s teachings as well as stories of past and present-day Muslims. Many left feeling better equipped to explain their faith and continue building bridges through interfaith dialogue in their communities. Nadia Hassan, the then ISNA program coordinator, spoke in various sessions and moderated both sessions. THE MUSLIM PRESENCE For the first time ever at the Parliament, the Grand Imam of Makka, Shaikh Salih Abdullah Humaid, delivered a Friday sermon and a keynote speech. The moving spirit behind the extraordinary Muslim presence and participation 24

(L-R) Daisy Khan, Nadia Hassan, Hazem Bata, Hamid Slimi and Maria Khani

were Parliament president Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, who is also president of Sound Vision and, since 2010, chair of the Parliament’s board of the trustees, as well as Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi, executive director of Sound Vision Foundation, who led the program committee, among the founding members of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations (WCMIR), currently serves as its treasurer and secretary general. Some of the prominent Muslim scholars and presenters were Tariq Ramadan, Oxford Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies, Omar Suleiman, Dawud Wharnsby, Mujahid, Eboo Patel, Janaan Hashim, Tamara Gray, Rami Nashashibi, Ahmadullah Siddiqi and Slimi. Influential leaders also attended, among them His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Karen Armstrong, Vandana Shiva, Marianne Williamson, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, His Holiness Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Jane Goodall, Mairead Maguire, Michael Bernard Beckwith, Rev. Jim Wallis, Karenna Gore, Saleh Abdullah bin Humaid, Kathryn Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University and founder of ATMOS Research, Chief Arvol Lookinghorse, and Vancouver’s young Ta’Kaiya Blaney from the Sliammon Nation. The topics addressed were climate change and care for creation, women’s dignity and human rights, income inequity and wasteful consumption, war, violence and hate speech, and indigenous communities. CALL FOR CONSUMING LESS & SHARING MORE “As more than 40 percent of America listens to pulpits every week, we must not only preach the gospel of sharing more and consuming less. But also, we must do our best to influence the guiding institutions to become more serious in urgently developing the relevant public policies,” proclaimed Mujahid. He concluded by remarking, “Better public policies and better consumer behavior both are needed. And this is a

major theme in the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions.” Suleiman said, “We can wish well for one another. We can pray for one another. We can try to make sure that everyone enjoys the rights that we want to enjoy. We can collectively try to offer to people meaning in this life because the most dangerous person in the world is someone who has nothing to live for.” Ramadan remarked, “We have to take peace seriously and when we speak about peace, it takes effort. This is a jihad, this is the right jihad. And I am calling every one of you to the jihad against poverty, to the jihad against hate.” WAR, VIOLENCE AND HATE SPEECH Ramadan appealed to the audience not to come to the Parliament filled with religious ideals while avoiding problems based upon economic and geostrategic interests, power and consumerism. His final word was a call for jihad — the right kind of jihad against poverty, racism and hate in the name of peace. “Get it right!” he urged people, “[for this is] the very essence of the Islamic message if you understand it rightly.” CLIMATE CHANGE Hayhoe illustrated how climate change impacts hunger, global health, gender equality and peaceful societies. After stressing that it must be the number one priority, she relayed the “good news”: “If we care, if we are to be known for our love, then we have all the values we need to care about climate change.” She urged everyone to connect with their values so they can work together to fix this problem in our broken and fractured system. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the U.N., called for shouldering the duty and responsibility of caring for our home, to face the one complex crisis that is both environmental and social — Integral Ecology — and to find solutions at the 2015 Parliament and the Paris climate talks. At the closing session, Mujahid announced that the “Parliament will be [held] every two years now.” He noted that this event energizes the interfaith movement, as well as Muslim leaders, to become active stewards of harmony, peace and justice by joining together with fellow religious leaders to celebrate their common vision for humanity. Founded in 1893, the Parliament of the World’s Religions is the oldest, largest and, as of 2015, the most inclusive gathering of people of all faiths and traditions worldwide. 



Ahmed Husein Sakr 1933 – 2015

Pioneer, Scholar and Guiding Light


oday, many people do not realize that ISNA is an offspring of MSA. Among the names that stand out in creating this unique organization is that of Ahmed Husein Sakr, who played a pivotal role in founding of the Muslim Students Association of the United States & Canada (now MSA-National), the precursor of ISNA, which formally came into being during January 1963. Sakr was one of those who arranged its founding meeting at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. At its August 1966 convention in Ann Arbor, Mich., he was elected its fourth president. From its very humble beginning — a handful of chapters and an annual budget of around $200 (in today’s money, $1,550) — it grew exponentially: 40 known chapters and a $20,000 budget by 1965. The new organization’s goal was to make Islam known to Muslim students and facilitate its practice on campus by coordinating the efforts of existing chapters and nurturing the growth of seedling MSAs on other campuses. During these early years, members traveled far and wide to introduce MSA to other campuses. After setting themselves up in the student union, they would try to persuade the local Muslim students to start up their own MSA chapters. One such milestone project was the Great Muslim American Bus Ride: Sakr, along with Totonji, Fazil Abadi, and Faisal al Muqawwi, made the approximately 70 hour journey from Washington D.C. to San Francisco for this very purpose. Lacking the modern-day conveniences or the financial resources enjoyed by today’s MSAs, members did whatever was necessary to spread the organization. By 1967, it had enough chapters to hold its first East Zone regional conference. Right from the start MSA consciously pursued a path of inclusiveness. It was founders like Sakr who brought in women. The late Shareefa Alkhateeb, a Temple University undergraduate, was one of the first two women to be welcomed. The late Ilyas Ba-Yunus, professor of sociology at the State University of New York,

Cortland, who served as MSA and ISNA president and on the ISNA Majlis ash-Shura, recalled, in his article for the 2003 issue of Islamic Horizons that celebrated MSA’s 40th anniversary, that “it was in this phase that people, including Dr. Ahmed H. Sakr, Dr. Ahmed Totonji, Abdul Mateen Chida, the late Shafi Balbale and many others, showed initiative and self-sacrifice; they started the utterly unassuming behind-the-scenes work that would make MSA a household name within its first ten years of existence. Sakr, Chida and Balbale, all, served as Internal Secretaries of the organization for many years, assuming, perhaps, the most time consuming and most under-recognized position in the organization. Their work paid off.” Sakr served as MSA president in 1966 and 1971, when MSA heads were elected yearly. After moving to Southern California in the late 1980s, he founded the Islamic Education Center, which offers counseling, books and other educational programs. He authored over 40 books and booklets as well as countless articles. A nutritionist and Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America board member, he wrote several books on food and halal food issues.

HONORING INITIATIVE The 2003 Convention’s exclusive Community Service Recognition Luncheon, hosted by the ISNA Development Foundation, honored Sakr. Every year during its annual convention, ISNA honors a member of the Muslim community with the Mahboob Khan Community Service Award — now the ISNA Pioneers Memorial Service Award.


The namesake of the award was known for his devotion to oppressed Muslims, and Sakr was chosen that year for those same qualities. The then ISNA president Muhammad Nur Abdullah described Sakr as “a Muslim who has not only been a pioneer of Islamic work, but has been the founder of [successful] organizations.” Keynote speaker John Esposito, director of the Center for Muslim Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, offered advice on how Muslims can follow in Sakr’s footsteps. Remarking upon how far ISNA had come in only 40 years, as well as upon the continued need for volunteers to enable the community to progress, he said, “The fact is, challenges can be turned into opportunities. The Muslim couch potato is the one that talks about the issues … or writes the convenient check. One has to be willing to be stand up and be counted.” Kareem Irfan, former chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC), says that more than 30 years ago some people, among them Sakr, Asad Husain, Azmatullah Qadri and Kaiseruddin, felt the need for organized work and began planning the establishment of the Muslim Community Center. Sakr affiliated himself with many organizations during his life. For example, he was a founding member of the Makkah-based World Council of Mosques; the Muslim World League’s first director and representative to the U.N.; director of the Islamic Center of Beirut; a member of Operation Safe Community and the Walnut Interfaith Council in California; and acting president of Chicago’s American Islamic College. In addition, in 1973 he was selected as an Outstanding Educator of America and was recognized, in 1976-77, as a Community Leader and Noteworthy American. He received honorary citizenship from the Governor of Alabama and the “Golden Key” from the mayors of Mobile and Pritchard, Ala; was an administrator; and held numerous posts at various American universities. Born in Beirut, he attended the American University in Beirut and the University of Illinois, where he earned his Ph.D. He received his Islamic education through tutoring by the late Grand Mufti of Lebanon and from numerous regional Muslim scholars. His wife Zuhar; daughter Sara; sons Hussain, Basil and Jihad; and twelve grandchildren survive him.  25



The Syrian minority-run regime spares no horror to perpetuat BY LOUAY SAFI


he Syrian refugee crisis, one of the world’s worst post-WW2 humanitarian disasters, continues to cause tremendous pain and suffering for all Syrians and pose great hardship to neighboring countries. Over 12 million Syrians have fled because of the raging military conflict, which grew out of the peaceful March 2011 bid to achieve political reforms. To date, the UN Refugee Agency has officially registered and supports 4.2 million displaced Syrians; the rest remain in dire need. The enormity of this problem cannot be overstated, as more than half of all Syrians have been forced out of their homes. Moreover, the number is likely to increase if the international community does not somehow check this murderous regime. In early 2011, Syrians began taking to the streets in peaceful protests to demand an end to widespread corruption, democratic reforms and the end of the one-party system. Several months later the regime responded


with violence and live ammunition. Eventually, Assad unleashed his Alawite-dominated military forces. The subsequent use of heavy weapons, summary executions, kidnapping, rape and torture pushed a large number of military officers and soldiers to desert and form a revolutionary fighting force: the Free Syrian Army. The ensuing fighting quickly escalated into open warfare against the Syrian population as a whole, the majority of whom rejected Assad’s continued rule. The regime did not hesitate to deploy its taxpayer-paid-for heavy weaponry — tanks, jet fighters, ballistic missiles and even chemical weapons — against its unprotected citizens. Several nations, most notably Russia and Iran, support Assad and supply his military forces with the weapons and ammunitions they use to massacre the very people they pledged to protect. The West’s established democracies have abandoned Syria to its fate, despite the high casualty rate (over 250,000 dead according to the most conservative estimates) and an estimated 1 million injured and maimed civilians.



te its control over a hapless people.

no schooling for four years, for they have to work to help support their shattered families. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently reported that 2 to 3 million children are not attending school, stressing that the war has set them back by at least 10 years. Over 12,000 children have been killed, the overwhelming majority of them due to the regime’s bombing raids. Many more have sustained serious and disabling injuries. While around 4 million Syrians have fled government attacks on “rebel”-controlled areas, an equal number has been internally


This mass killing has led to an unprecedented exodus of 4 million refugees to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. However, these countries resources are under increased pressure, and the staggering number of refugees has disrupted their national lives. For instance, they now make up one-third of Lebanon’s population, which was already struggling economically. All in all, the refugees remain mired in misery. Many countries initially pitched in to provide relief; but after four years this support is waning. Thus many vulnerable Syrians decided to literally walk toward the more economically developed countries of Western Europe in search of temporary relief. During 2015, around 500,000 of them trekked primarily through the Balkans and Eastern Europe, took small boats to cross the Adriatic Sea to Greece, and then passed through Serbia and Austria — a long and

risky journey motivated by desperation and the hope of better support. Thousands of them arrived, but many more were held back along the way and put into refugee camps already ensnared in difficult conditions. More than 3,000 have died on the road, mainly drowning at sea due to small and overcrowded boats. Yet it was this very overriding desire for a safe and secure refuge, plus the corpses floating in the water or washing up on the Mediterranean’s shores, that eventually made the international community aware of their plight — especially the corpse of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian toddler whose photo went viral. The ongoing disaster is particularly hard on children. Half of the refugees living in makeshift camps are children, and most of them are malnourished, deprived and exploited. Millions of Syrian children have had


displaced by repeated air and rocket attacks. Another 4 million are trapped in neighborhoods and small villages by Assad’s supporters. In all cases, life has become a daily hell for all civilians still living in Syria. No one knows which homes, markets and schools have been targeted for attack. Even the relatively safe regime-controlled areas, such as Damascus and the coast, have their own challenges, among them intrusive security checks and arbitrary arrests. Food and basic needs are now beyond the reach of even the middle class, as inflation is running at 50 percent per annum. The country’s infrastructure and public services have collapsed, and the healthcare and education systems are in a dire situation. The Syrian people see no end to the suffering brought about by their dictator’s deliberate initiation of sectarian warfare to preserve his arbitrary rule. Several countries, among them the U.S., have provided humanitarian assistance to Syrians displaced by Assad’s murderous ongoing war of choice. What is needed right now is an end to the excessive killing and the indiscriminate attacks on civilians, as well as a genuine effort to help Syrians achieve their desired democratic reforms.  27



Searching for Hope Syrian refugees stand tall as they face sufferings and struggle. BY RAHAF SAFI


he transition from 2015 to HCR and international and local organiza2016 marked the start of the tions to provide their basic needs. However, sixth year of war in Syria. At funding issues prevent organizations from this point in time, the UN Ref- providing assistance to all vulnerable inugee Agency (UNHCR) has registered over dividuals. The lack of a monthly income, 4 million Syrian refugees across the Middle paired with a long list of expenses (e.g., East and North Africa, the vast majority of rent, bills, medical care, food, education, them in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The transportation and hygienic care), has led year 2015 also saw the mass exodus of Syr- to increased vulnerability and hardship. “We used to live in a nice house,” Amal ian and other refugees to Europe, hoping thereby to change their transient living situations. Since the war started on March 11, 2011, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have opened their doors. Each year the number of refugees increases, and yet the total amount of humanitarian assistance needed remains unreached. For example, the UNHCR reached only 45 percent of its 2015 funding appeal for Jordan. These refugees, unable to work legally, must rely on the UN- Zaher Sahloul (center) attends a young patient


(not her real name) shared. “I would stay at home and help my daughters with their homework after school, then spend the rest of the night playing with them. Now I only see my girls for two hours after I finish work. Two hours.” She now spends most of her time away from her family, looking for ways to pay for rent, food and education. When her family stopped receiving World Food Program (WFP) food vouchers in Sept. 2015, the pressure increased because her family could no longer get by. But the amount had been decreasing anyways, since the start of 2015, due to cutbacks. The parents’ inability to meet some of their children’s most basic needs fosters a sense of indignity, especially if their children remember life in Syria. “My youngest girl doesn’t remember Syria. When I come home from work feeling sad, she pulls me to her lap and brushes my hair, saying ‘Don’t be sad, mama.’ It should be the other way around — I should be comforting her.” Amal’s older daughter, who attends the evening shift at a public elementary school, is unhappy. She remembers her old home, feeling safe in school and having relatives nearby who would always visit. Amal was a law student and dreams of continuing her education to help others, instead of being helped by others. “All I do is work,


eat and sleep. My existence has become a nonexistence.” While working with a humanitarian organization in Jordan, I meet with Syrians like Amal in an attempt to understand and help them overcome the challenges they face. People can feel like their humanity is being stripped away, especially when they have to rely upon a third party to make the decisions that they used to make. “When you become a refugee, you lose control over everything. Your history is erased and your future is blocked.” While attempting to express how it feels to be a refugee, Jasim (not his real name) kept remarking, “I just don’t know what to say. I cannot explain what it feels like to have a broken leg, but if you broke your leg you would feel my pain. Being a refugee is the same way. I cannot explain it to you unless you know what it feels like to be a refugee.” Jasim, who fled to Jordan in 2012 after the terror in Deraa, lives in Amman with his nine children. “I came here because I wanted my children to have a childhood like mine. I want them to be able to go to school, run around and play with other kids having fun and enjoying life. Children are supposed to be children, not adults.” One of his sons has a mental disability. Prior to November 2014, Syrians used to receive free medical care; now they have to pay a modest rate. Theoretically that system could work, but only if one has a monthly income. Jasim and his wife worry that they have become “neglectful” parents because they cannot help him. “As a parent, all you worry about is your children. My wife and I could spend the rest of our lives living under a tree and be happy. Why do all my children have to lose their future?” These stories are just two of the hundreds I have heard since I started working with the refugees over a year ago. Their challenges continue to increase, and both international and local organizations are doing their best to help. But the limited funding and related obstacles block their access to some basic rights. The dread of a painfully cold winter and the start of the New Year are around the corner. It is imperative for us to reflect on what is happening in Syria and its neighbors and realize that each of us can help rebuild shattered lives.  Rahaf Safi is senior protection officer at an international nongovernmental organization in Jordan.

The Death of Humanity in Syria Why do those involved in the proxy war now destroying Syria care so little about its civilians? BY M. ZAHER SAHLOUL


hen a child in Aleppo was asked to draw a picture at school, he painted a world on fire: helicopters dropping bombs and a house collapsing into rubble. He drew himself crying on his knees, surrounded by his friends — dead, dismembered, decapitated and bleeding. Syrian children are traumatized, as are most of their parents. The country is facing the worst humanitarian crisis in its recent history; the world considers it the worst crisis since the Second World War. Actually, this ongoing crisis is the worst since the Mongol and Crusader conquests of the Middle Ages. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) has organized multiple volunteer medical missions to Syria and the neighboring countries. We witnessed the desperate situation facing the people in the ancient cities and villages of Aleppo, Der Alzour, Idlib, Homs, Hama and besieged Ghouta, around Damascus. We saw children shot in the head by snipers. We saw them burned, mutilated and dismembered by barrel bombs and mortar blasts. The whole Talib family died when a bomb filled with chlorine was dropped on their basement by a Syrian military helicopter in the small northwestern agricultural village of Sarmin. The parents, the grandmother and three young children, Sarah 3, Aisheh 2, and Mohammed 1, suffocated to death while asleep. The hospital that treated the victims was itself bombed by a Russian airstrike during October; two medical staff and 18 patients were killed. Every day SAMS volunteer doctors see innocent people suffering and dying in abysmal conditions. On the worst days there aren’t enough hospital beds. Indeed, the sheer number of patients lying on the floor often makes walking almost impossible. More than 560 children and adults died in besieged Ghouta from malnutrition and starvation due to Assad’s barbaric “Starve or Kneel” siege strategy. UN agencies and the Syrian Red Crescent have only been allowed into the area a few times in the past three years. According to the UN, only 12 out of 74 UN convoys were permitted to enter different

besieged areas during 2015. The people of Douma, Ghouta’s largest city, are now enduring their third year without electricity and of being bombed by the regime’s fighter jets. Scores of civilians were killed in the local market after it was bombed several times. All of these horrors represent the new normal for Syrian doctors and nurses. Those whom we met have become so accustomed to the ongoing slaughter and massacres that the latter are now simply accepted as a routine part of daily life. It all started with peaceful demonstrations by mostly young Syrians yearning to breathe free after 50 years of an oppressive and tyrannical regime’s continued human rights violations. Responding with extreme brutality, the Assad regime killed demonstrators, tortured tens of thousands to death and forced people to defend themselves. Other regional parties joined in, and Syria soon became the site of a proxy war between multiple states with different agendas. The regime, supported by Iran, Russia and Hezbollah, commits daily war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ongoing chaos created fertile ground for extremism and terrorism. For example, ISIS was created and established its own territory within Syria and Iraq. These horrors are driving large numbers of Syrians to flee for their lives. So far, 4.2 million of them have left, a number that is expected to increase, especially with Russia’s recent military intervention. More than half of the Syrian population is now displaced. At least 13.8 million of its pre-war population of 22 million needs humanitarian assistance, and 80 percent of all Syrians now live below the poverty line. The social safety net and public healthcare system have been almost completely destroyed. Furthermore, Syria is losing its future generation. More than 5.5 million children are affected by displace29

COVER STORY ment and thus have received no consistent education for the past three years. This “lost generation” will suffer deep psychological trauma due to what they have seen and the world’s apathy. The UN “reaction”? Treating the disaster as a bureaucratic inconvenience while voicing “concerns” using all of the known words in the diplomatic dictionary. The photos of children’s corpses, like that of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washing up on the shores of Turkey caused a huge public outcry throughout Europe. Germany, Sweden, Norway, Australia and even tiny Iceland opened their doors. Finland’s prime minister Juha Petri Sipilä went so far as to open his house to a Syrian family. In one year Germany received more than 800,000 refugees, and Sweden admitted 70,000. The Islamic countries and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are oddly silent. Some 4 million Syrians have fled to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and neighboring nations. Hundreds of thousands have set sail for Europe; many have not made it. More than 5,000 migrants have died in the attempt; others have suffered terrible hardships — which will only get worse with the onset of winter. And the United States? It has accepted about 1,500 refugees. The White House announced in September 2015 that it would agree to another 10,000 in the “coming fiscal year.” The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), a private group, proposes a larger target: 100,000 Syrian refugees by year-end 2016. That figure would not be out of line with previous refugee intakes. Besides taking in about 750,000 Vietnamese, the U.S. has taken in more than 1 million Cubans, including 125,000 in 1980 alone. More than 300,000 Soviet Jews came here after 1988. Today, most Americans hardly remember these influxes because they had no obvious ill effects. Syrians deserve similar treatment. Syrians have long been asking themselves: Are we not humans? Don’t we deserve our empathy? What does take for the world to react? Do we really need to see their children’s corpses floating in the Mediterranean and/ or washing up on the shores of Europe and Turkey before taking notice? Do we need to see 70 refugees suffocating in the back of truck before asking ourselves how we


MORE THAN HALF OF THE SYRIAN POPULATION IS NOW DISPLACED. AT LEAST 13.8 MILLION OF ITS PRE-WAR POPULATION OF 22 MILLION NEEDS HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE, AND 80 PERCENT OF 5 SYRIANS NOW LIVE BELOW THE POVERTY LINE. could have helped them? Do we need to see tens of thousands of Syrian refugees making the agonizing trip from Greece to Germany through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungry and Austria before applying pressure on our elected officials? What has happened to humanity? What has happened to morality? Why is it that the same faith groups that championed human rights and fought against genocide in Bosnia, Darfur and Rwanda are silent on Syria? Syrians have been pleading for protection against aerial attacks that target their hospitals, markets and schools; crying out for help to end their children’s suffocation via toxic gases; and appealing to end the siege of the hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens living a few miles from the UN headquarters in Damascus. They have been dreaming naively that everyone will rush to help them, thereby overcoming politics and national interests. Their dream has become more of a nightmare.

What does it take for First Lady Michelle Obama to tweet about Syrian children and refugees? She was vocal, and rightfully so, on the 300 Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. She encouraged the public to donate to Haiti following the earthquake. The American public responded, as usual, with an outpouring of sympathy and generosity. What does it take for President Obama to issue an executive order expediting the resettlement of Syrian refugees or helping our allies Jordan and Turkey to create No-Bombing Safe Zones to give Syrian civilians some sense of normalcy and protection? In a crisis characterized with international human rights violations ranging from sieges to targeting elementary schools, with mass atrocities and mass displacement, with civilians facing unprecedented and protracted suffering, one needs to ask: Why are their lives too politically sensitive to spur sympathy, outrage from the American and global public, and steps designed to protect civilians? In his article “Why Syrians Need an Earthquake,” Richard Stearns, president of World Vision US, tried to explain our indifference toward Syria (April 23, 2015): “As the war in Syria now drags on into its fifth year, I am distraught by the apathy of the American public. No modern crisis has created so much human suffering yet so little response by the American public. Had Syria been devastated by a sudden catastrophic earthquake, Americans might have responded more generously. But war has a way of turning our heads away from human suffering.” He blamed our indifference on what he called the three M’s: The Syrian crisis is Man-made, Mind-numbing and almost all of the victims are Muslim. “Americans feel more negatively about Muslims than they do any other religious group. Sweeping generalizations about the predominantly Muslim victims in Syria may help explain the politicization that civilians face in the media and in the minds of many Americans,” he said. I pray that his analysis is flawed. I hope that the American people will prove him wrong by doing what is right.  M. Zaher Sahloul, president, Syrian American Medical Society Editor’s Note: Various high-profile Republicans have been using the Nov. 17, 2015, Paris bombing to call for closing America’s doors to Syrian and other refugees and migrants.


Immigration Crisis: The Collapse of the Postcolonial State Do Muslims realize how deeply their corrupt elites have enslaved them to their former colonial masters?



common right-wing anti-immigrant harangue is: “You came here because the conditions in your (expletive deleted) country were intolerable.” Yes, but who made them so? At the start of the 20th century, almost 75 percent of the world’s land surface was subject to either direct colonization or some form of protected status. The European masters relegated millions of Africans and Asians to servitude, bondage and oppression, mere “beasts” of burden. The masters assigned to their colonial subjects the tasks of moving raw materials, rendering services and supplying cheap labor. The systematic, structured and total pillaging of the Southern hemisphere left nothing untouched, not even trees. All of Africa was colonized by the British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, German, Italian and Spanish. Only a few countries could exercise any type of independence, self-determination or freedom. Hardly compensated for the oppression endured and the sacrifice of their lands or lives, they were further forced to serve in European militaries — many of their contributions have yet to be recognized. In 2014,

the 100-year anniversary of WWI was commemorated, but did anyone remember that hundreds of thousands of colonial troops were recruited and then sacrificed to protect and defend the colonial powers from each other? Expected to fight for their oppressors against other victims of colonialism, they were not considered equal to a European or, in reality, even considered human. Additionally, while they were used as a fighting force, they were also displayed in the European human zoo spaces — the exotic “other.” The end of WWI brought no peace to the global South and certainly did not end the colonial project; rather, the newly formed League of Nations and the paternalistically crafted Mandate powers granted it further legitimacy. In reality, the colonial footprint expanded and incorporated a vast new swath of the Arab world. The region currently referred to as the Middle East was born and given borders that benefitted the colonial powers. During this period the colonial powers helped dispossess the Palestinians. Likewise, Africa and Asia witnessed further colonial entrenchment and a forced “voluntary” movement of populations across the globe. Furthermore, the intense demands for raw materials and labor to rebuild Europe ensured that colonialism continued to flourish.


One way to view the demise of Palestine is to think of it as the result of a process of forced removal of Jews from Europe and Arabs from Palestine facilitated by colonial logic and strategic planning. The Jews’ forced removal came during an intense period of anti-Semitism in Eastern and Western Europe. Britain and France, with the Dreyfus Affair (1894-1906) being a paradigmatic representation of the time, made Zionism a logical solution to escape the continent-consumed intensification of otherization, bigotry and racism. Britain and other European powers supported the creation of Israel for both strategic and racist considerations: as a buffer state to protect British possessions in Egypt and various trade routes, and as a way to remove Europe’s own undesirable Jewish presence. Thus the dislocation of both Jews and Palestinians, and setting them on a collision course with each other, served a larger colonial project at the heart of the newly re-colonized region. The Second World War witnessed a similar and just as massive forceful movement: the Final Solution to Europe’s permanent and persistent Jewish other. If one locates the centrality of racism directed at Jews for being Jews and goes back even to the period before the expulsion and Inquisition, the Holocaust represents a European norm. The actual war effort included moving colonial subjects, who belonged to the realms of non-being and sub-humans, onto the battlefields to defend the European powers from each other. The movement continued after the war ended, as many from the South were brought to the North to rebuild the destroyed cities and economies while having to contend with constant otherization, racism and xenophobia.

ANTI-COLONIAL STRUGGLES The anti-colonial liberation struggles, which took shape in the late 1950s and 1960s, resulted in most of the global South’s countries attaining political self-rule but not economic or epistemic self-determination and independence. Certainly they declared independence, created new flags and the trappings of imagined power, but their economies and resources remained in colonial hands or those of their selected and nurtured indigenous elites who served as middlemen and managers of the colonial subcontract. These post-colonial independent states acted more like franchises when it came to economic prosperity and wealth distribu31

COVER STORY tion. To ensure the northward flow of raw materials, the colonial powers left behind a whole set of constraints and controls and found new ways to expand the levels of structural dependency. The 1970s oil crisis created far bigger and deeper economic problems for these countries by unleashing a massive global inflation crisis that devalued currencies, raw materials and other segments of the economy. In addition, the rising oil prices rendered normal economic activities impossible and caused governments to either increase or institute massive fuel, electricity, food, healthcare and education subsidies. Certainly some of these subsidies already existed; nevertheless, the level of price supports and government expenditures increased to keep the lid on possible protests and prevent internal political opposition, ranging from exploiting economic weaknesses to pushing for radical change. A critical side effect of this phenomenon was the role played by the global North’s banking institutions in fomenting the global debt crisis to unload the massive liquidity deposited by the OPEC and the petroleum companies. As oil prices shot up and OPEC members continued making massive bank deposits, the banks faced a major crisis: They had to pay higher interest rates on deposits. Banks make money when they sell loans and obtain interest, rather than the other way around. When money is deposited, the bank enters it as a liability on their books; however, once loaned to others, it changes into an asset. Thus they went into overdrive and set in motion extremely aggressive global loan sales initiatives designed to unload billions of deposits and transform them into revenue-generating loans.

THE IMF AND WORLD BANK: DESTRUCTIVE ADJUSTMENT PROGRAMS The Third World remains a primary target for unloading these deposits. Burdening them with colossal debt enabled the IMF and the World Bank to achieve deeper levels of economic control and, coupled with the already corrupted elites, let them dismantle any prospects for freedom, dignity and a future with fair and just economic opportunities. Debt salespersons flooded the South to locate loan opportunities and look for funding big-ticket items and projects that would allow them to unload massive amounts of petrodollars as quickly as possible. 32

INSTEAD OF REDUCING DEPENDENCY, THE IMF AND WORLD BANK DEEPENED THE CRISIS AND EFFECTIVELY BECAME THE REAL POWER IN THOSE COUNTRIES PLACED UNDER THEIR STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT POLICIES. The banks, whose objective was to make someone else pay interest on the accumulated cash, cared neither for the project’s viability nor the debtor country’s capacity to undertake it. This flood of cash pleased the colonized elites, who gladly played along since it meant larger commissions or the opportunity to steal outright all but the few dollars spent on these unnecessary projects. In fact, the same loaning banks often helped these elites funnel the money back into secret offshore accounts while taking a cut for services rendered. The debt crisis of the 1970s and 1980s transformed the post-colonial states into an effective financial prisoner of the North’s banking and financial institutions. Consequently, they lost all control and were placed under the North’s financial system’s receivership. The strategy called for sending the IMF and World Bank, the global financial system’s bouncers and economic enforcers, to the South to ensure debt repayment while slashing all other internal services and subsidies. The IMF-mandated Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP) were the same tools utilized during the post-colonial period to impose maximum dependency and control on the global South’s economies.

Having sold loans to impoverished countries and facilitated wealth transfers for the elites who signed the documents, the banks then sent the IMF and World Bank to break the population’s metaphorical legs and extract payments by any means necessary. The SAP demanded that the South increase the export of raw materials to earn hard currency to pay off the debt; liberalize and privatize the economy; reduce or totally remove government regulations that prevent foreign control or ownership of assets; agree to currency devaluation while “recommending” connecting it to the dollar; encourage foreign investment in mines, raw materials, agribusiness and tourism; and, topping it off, cut governmental support for education, health care and price supports for food staples and social services. This adjustment policy was designed to further undermine the post-colonial populations’ ability to sustain a livelihood and a dignified life. The increased export of raw materials flooded the commodities market and thus collapsed prices and reduced their hopedfor foreign currency returns. Such a policy recommendation was intended to help the North reduce its raw material costs while increasing its exports to the post-colonial South. Furthermore, the privatization and liberalization policies enabled multinationals to devour what remained beyond their control and to buy out and/or disrupt any small and incipient existing economic base. These plans should be renamed the “Destructive Adjustment Programs,” for they were designed to reassert a deeper colonial control. One result of this policy has been another massive wave of immigration and dislocation. Instead of reducing dependency, the IMF and World Bank deepened the crisis and effectively became the real powers in those countries placed under SAP. Dependency on the North affected the entire economy, for the sole focus became debt repayment and enabling wealth transfers to the global North. What started during the colonial period now reached its pinnacle: The post-colonial independent countries were tasked with implementing policies that once again delivered their economies and societies to their former colonial masters. Again, the colonially trained elites colluded with their post-colonial overlords and were rewarded for plunging their countries into debt, managing privatization


and keeping the people in line. Protests and popular mobilizations were expected and prepared for with the IMF and World Bank as a way to destroy any challenge to or alteration of the recommended policies. The ensuing instability was used to extract even deeper concessions from the elites and bolster the military, which was supplied, trained and designed to protect the global North’s economic interests. Employing maximum violence, targeted assassination, and exiling activists and intellectuals, these elites crushed the opposition and enabled the North’s corporations and financial institutions to purchase further assets at even lower and heavily discounted prices. The bankers and colonial motherland policymakers then formulated an even more insidious plan: the Debt for Equity Swap (DES) framework, one of the most sophisticated and civilized international thievery strategies, which the global North’s faceless and nameless business executives produced, directed and forced upon the rest of the world. This effective “death for equity swap” squeezed out the populations’ last drops of hope and life by robbing them in broad daylight: Indebted countries were forced to surrender their gold mines, rain forests, natural resources, water and telephone companies, and vast agricultural lands to pay back their bad and “un-performing” loans. In other words, the South was recolonized. However, this time the focus was on tangible and fixed assets and thus did not require the dispatch of colonial troops. In fact, this new revolutionary and improved colonial project shifted this and other costs to the local managers, who are paid a contractual fee to, in effect, subsidize their own dispossession. As ownership of the assets moved to the North, all internal economic activities became even more regulated by the needs and demands of those multinational corporations running the global market. Direct colonialism is largely a thing of the past. But what we have now is a post-colonial structure that practices indirect control, exploitation, wealth transfer and dispossession. The effects are the same, but there is a major difference: The victims are blamed for their dispossession while the colonizer is celebrated as a savior.  Hatem Bazian, director, The Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, editor, Islamophobia Studies Journal, Dept. of Near Eastern Studies/Asian American Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

The Rough and Tumble of the Naturalization Process Irrational bureaucratic hurdles make it harder for Muslims to become naturalized citizens. BY MADIHA RIZVI


iving together in the U.S. as permanent residents for over 25 years, the Muhannas have yet to attain their citizenship. Originally from Palestine, they have been on a path filled with hurdles to naturalization. It’s the same for Ahmed Osman Hassan, who settled here in 2004 with the help of the U.N. Commission for Refugees, after spending his childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp. He has applied for permanent residency twice. And then there is Abrahim Mosavi, originally from Iran and a permanent resident since 1987, who applied for naturalization in 2000 and is still waiting. These cases have something in common: The Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP) has designated them “national security concerns.” CARRP is the result of an internal policy memorandum created by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2008 to help its officers determine “national security concerns.” Instead, its procedures unfairly discriminate against Muslims, who are classified as such because of the overly broad criteria, among them having traveled

to places of “known terrorist activity” even if they were born there. CARRP also denies applicants based on “false testimony” if they do not list all of the religious organizations with which they are “associated.” Additionally, they cannot contest any adverse testimony or this national security designation, both of which violate the principles of due process and equal protection.

PROCEDURE OF CARRP MEMORANDUM CARRP involves a four-part process: identification of a national security concern, internal vetting or eligibility assessment, external vetting and adjudication. The first stage examines the statute’s factors and considers such criteria as nationality, languages spoken and travel to areas of terrorist activity. The applicants are then sorted into two pools: “known or suspected terrorists” (KST) or “non-known or suspected terrorist” (non-KST). KST comprises those individuals who have been “nominated” and accepted for placement in the Terrorist Screening Da33

COVER STORY tabase, are on the Terrorist Watch List and have a specially coded lookout posted in the InterAgency Border Inspection System (IBIS) or the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS), as used by the Department of State. Non-KST covers all other applicants with national security concerns regardless of source, including being associates or unindicted co-conspirators, providing material support to terrorists or terrorist organizations and being agents of foreign governments. They may be identified through security checks (e.g., FBI name check), testimony elicited during an interview, leads from other government agencies, deconfliction (i.e., law enforcement agencies jointly gathering information) and other procedures. The second step is internal vetting, during which officers analyze the applicants’ record and see whether they are eligible for the benefit sought. Internal vetting may consist of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) open source or other system checks, file reviews, interviews and other research. These national security or law enforcement operations-based restrictions are often directly linked to protecting sensitive sources, methods, operations or other elements critical to national security. Access to this information is therefore limited to those with a direct need to know and, when applicable, appropriate security clearance. The third stage includes external vetting, where officers can go outside the record to other law enforcement agencies to gather more information. The Headquarters Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (HQFDNS), which is ultimately responsible for external vetting, identifies the facts and patterns necessary to determining the nature and relevance of the national security concern and information that may be relevant to determining eligibility. This stage is strewn with issues because it can potentially create inordinate delays. Even if the internal vetting is complete, the officer(s) involved must still reach out externally to other law enforcement authorities. The resulting time-consuming coordination can lead to indefinite delays and abeyances. The final step, adjudication, occurs when all of the information obtained translates into an eligibility determination. Upon completion of the required vetting, if the national security concern remains the officer must evaluate the procedure’s result and determine its relevance to ad34

judication, obtain any additional relevant information and determine eligibility for the benefit sought. Adjudication of a case with a national security concern focuses on thoroughly identifying and documenting the facts behind an eligibility determination and, when appropriate, removal, rescission,

naturalization applications in May 2007 and waited for six years for a decision. FBI Name Check results likely identified from FBI records from its investigation of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), a now-defunct Islamic charity, showed they donated to it before the government shut it down.

ALL ASPIRING AMERICANS EXPECT FAIRNESS AND NON-DISCRIMINATION FROM THE U.S. GOVERNMENT AND ITS POLICIES WHEN THEY APPLY FOR NATURALIZATION AND PERMANENT RESIDENCY. termination or revocation under CARRP. This is detailed in the 2013 ACLU report “Muslims Need Not Apply – How USCIS Secretly Mandates the Discriminatory Delay and Denial of Citizenship and Immigration Benefits to Aspiring Americans.” According to the Policy for Vetting and Adjudicating Cases with National Security Concerns, even when applicants go through these procedures an officer cannot approve any application in the adjudication phase without supervisory approval and concurrence from a senior level official. If this person does not concur with the officer’s recommendation to approve, then the latter may seek assistance from the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security unit at headquarters. Doing so entails a lengthy review process involving multiple USCIS sub-agencies tasked with finding a reason to deny the application and information to support that determination. As a conclusive step, CARRP further instructs officers to make every effort to complete national security concern applications within a reasonable amount of time by taking into consideration the nature of the concern and the facts of each case. In practical terms, this stage is meant to finalize eligibility within a “reasonable amount of time”; however, the length of time is not defined. Even if applicants are statutorily eligible, there are delays based on this CARRP internal policy.


Ahmed and Reem Muhanna The Muahannas are observant Muslim Palestinians settled in the U.S. since 1988. They met and married in the U.S. They filed their

“I’ve lived in the United States 25 years, more than I’ve lived in any other place. I feel the U.S. is my home. And now you are telling me that my citizenship is denied because I donated to this organization?” asked Reem Muhanna. “The lady in the interview was asking me ‘Reem, you are a smart lady. You have a master’s degree in engineering. How come you didn’t know at the time when you were giving money to this organization that it was going to end up being a terrorist organization?’ “I told her, ‘Well, I’m not smarter than the U.S. government. Why would you expect me to know that before the government itself found out?’” Their applications were rejected on the grounds that they could not establish the requisite good moral character needed to naturalize. USCIS alleged that their lawful donations prevented them from showing good moral character and that they did not disclose their membership and association with the foundation. This finding was made despite the couple’s disclosure that they made charitable donations, attended its fundraisers and knew some of its employees [while also making clear that that those activities did not make them members of the organization]. USCIS has presented no evidence to show that the Muhannas knew that that the charity was engaged in anything but lawful charitable work. USCIS denied their application for naturalization and threatened them with deportation on their denial letters. The Muhannas were taken off the routine adjudication track and placed on the CARRP track, where their application was delayed and finally denied.


USCIS has yet to issue a determination on their March 2012 appeal. Ahmed Osman Hassan Ahmed Osman Hassan, a Somali Muslim refugee, spent 14 years of his childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp before resettling in the U.S. in 2004 with the assistance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He fled his country fearing persecution from the Hawiye tribe. Hassan applied for his permanent residence in 2006, a year when police looking for a suspect with similar features mistakenly arrested him. Despite his release, the FBI file created in his name likely led to his application being sent to CARRP. This delayed the processing of his permanent resident application and caused the FBI to target him as a possible informant. From 2009 to 2010, the FBI questioned him about his religious practices and access to other Somalis in his community. They promised him and his family immigration assistance in exchange for information. Hassan, tired of the continuous anxiety-provoking calls and visits, exercised his right to decline additional questions. USCIS then denied his application and terminated his refugee status, stating that Hassan “may have” misrepresented himself as a Tuni clan member. The notices failed to provide any evidence or description to support USCIS’s claim. Hassan was notified that he had to leave the country or be subjected to removal proceedings. The FBI’s involvement and the USCIS’ consequent attempts to deny him permanent residency are CARRP related. Hassan requested asylum at the Canadian border while being held in detention by the Department of Homeland Security. An immigration judge terminated removal proceedings in 2013, finding no basis for USCIS’s claims that he was not a refugee. Hassan submitted a new application for permanent residency in November 2013, which is still pending. Abrahim Mosavi Iranian-born Abrahim Mosavi came to the U.S. as a student in the 1970s and lives in Beverly Hills. A permanent resident since 1987, he applied for naturalization in Nov. 2000. The USICS responded seven months later that even though he had passed the examination, his case was still under supervisory review. After that notice, Mosavi spent the

next decade waiting for any notices from USCIS. On Feb. 11, 2010, he learned that his naturalization application was denied because he allegedly failed to submit the requested information. Mosavi appealed the decision, asserting that he had submitted all of the requested information. USCIS did not act on his administrative appeal for two years. It then overturned its original decision but denied his application on another factually erroneous ground. Mosavi therefore moved to reopen his case on Sept. 26, 2012; USCIS agreed a month later. A year later, Mosavi attended a hearing and was promised a decision within 30 days. He has received nothing to date. Even though he meets all of the statutory requirements for naturalization, he has been subjected to CARRP and remains unapproved.


Hamdi v. USCIS Tarek Hamdi obtained his U.S. citizenship after nearly 25 years of living here as a lawful permanent resident. For a process that should take no more than six months by law, CARRP turned it into a grueling eleven-year ordeal that ultimately required two interventions by the federal courts. Hamdi, a natural born citizen of Egypt and civil engineer, entered the U.S. on a student visa. In 1987 he married Linda Carrie, a natural born citizen of the U.S.; they have four daughters. He applied for naturalization in 2001 and was approved by the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). In 2003, however, the USCIS notified him that his case had been reopened and scheduled a naturalization interview for March 10, 2006. He did not appear because of the lack of notification, and USCIS subsequently denied his petition. In February 2007, Hamdi re-filed his application. USCIS officers interviewed him and denied it because he had not disclosed his association with the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) before the government had shut it down. Hamdi stated that he was not associated with the foundation. He understood “to associate” meant that he had a formal membership, such as dues payment, regular meeting attendance or election to office. The District Court overruled USCIS and declared that it was reasonable for Hamdi to conclude that membership and association did not include donations or sporadic charitable volunteer work.


He had probably been taken off the routine adjudication track and put on the CARRP track, where his application was delayed and denied. He took his case to the District Court, out of USCIS purview, to the judicial system, which applied the legal statutory requirements. The District Court ultimately granted naturalization again in 2012, eleven years after the original decision. Currently applicants Ahmed and Reem Muhanna, Ahmed Osman Hassan, Abrahim Mosavi and a few others have formally filed complaints against USCIS in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California. All aspiring Americans expect fairness and non-discrimination in U.S. government and its policies when they apply for naturalization and permanent residency. These principles should not stay exclusively within the courts, and USCIS should ensure that its policies conform to the Constitution. When all citizens take an oath to protect and uphold this document’s principles, all agencies should uphold the same oath.  Madiha Rizvi, a JD from South Texas College of Law in Houston, is interested in human rights, immigration and constitutional law.


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The Bilal Initiative: The Power of Prejudice in the Muslim American Community BY ZAINAB CHAUDRY AND JIMMY E. JONES

Here are our reflections on the “Power of Prejudice” and its current impact upon the Muslim American community.


humanity, we created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, CHAUDRY’S REFLECTIONS that you may know each other (not that you may despise No one is born a racist. Even though studies each other). Verily, the most honored of you in the sight show that toddlers may exhibit bias toward of God is the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and people of their own race, these preferences form months after birth and can be attributis well-acquitted with all things. (Quran 49:13, A.Yusuf Ali) This well-known verse has been used in sermons, talks, lessons and academic presentations in the Muslim American and broader mainstream community to illustrate that Islam opposes racism and prejudice. The implication is clear: How can Muslims hold such views in light of this clear verse and Prophet Muhammad’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) famous last sermon, in which he is reported to have asserted that “an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black, nor a black any superiority over white, except by piety.” The reality of the situation in this country’s Muslim community is strikingly different from these high principles. Just like the early Muslims were impacted by their intensely patriarchal tribal society, the Muslim Americans sociocultural context affects their intragroup relationships. This racialized, gendered society, one in which what “race” you are and what gender you are, clearly and dramatically impact how you are perceived and treated. This situation is further complicated by the fact that, according to Harlon Dalton’s opening line of his book Racial Healing: Confronting the Fear between Blacks & Whites (1996), that we Americans are “loath to confront one another about race.” In other words, we find it hard to engage in authentic, honest and difficult conversations about race. Instead, we “talk” about it via hashtag wars and overthe-top radio, TV and Internet commentaries, all of which break rather than build cross-cultural cooperation. Given this contentious and complicated context, during the fall of 2014 the Islamic Seminary Foundation (ISF) reached out to


other national Muslim organizations to form the Bilal Initiative and thereby generate a frank, open discussion of these twin evils within our community. On Oct. 25, 2014, a meeting held at the national headquarters of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington, D.C., produced commitments to form a Bilal Initiative Task Force (BITF) and present workshops on racism and prejudice at national meetings of Muslim groups. The BITF, composed of representatives from ISF, CAIR, ISNA and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), has now conducted four workshops. In addition to the authors, speakers have included Roula Allouch, chair, CAIR National Board, ISNA USA vice president Altaf Husain, Imam Salahuddin Muhammad, president, Association of Muslim Chaplains, Nadia Hassan, then ISNA government relations and interfaith coordinator, Imam Dawud Walid, executive director, CAIR-Mich., and former ICNA president Zahid Bukhari. Based on the ensuing discussions and feedback, BITF has determined that racism and other forms of prejudice continue to be major ongoing issues within our community. This strong negative “Power of Prejudice” continues to exist within and among community subgroups despite the significant spike in Islamophobia during the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections. As BITF prepares to launch a nationwide series of town hall meetings among community members, we would like to share a sampling of our initial impressions. These reflections are those of the authors of this article: Jimmy E. Jones, a senior member of the Muslim American community, and Zainab Chaudry, a younger, second-generation immigrant member.

ed to a sense of familiarity. This sort of bias manifests most often in cases where babies have not been exposed to people of other races. Racism and prejudice connote hostility and are not generated in a vacuum. Rather, interpersonal experiences and our environment precipitate prejudiced behavior and shape racist ideologies. As a first-generation American born to Pakistani-American immigrant parents in Baltimore, my particular perception of these issues has been influenced by multiple, complex factors, not the least of which are cultural trends and personal observations. The influence of colonialism in South Asia, for example, is evidenced by a controversial legacy that mandates establishing beauty standards according to the color of one’s skin. Beauty products designed to bleach and make people appear fairer support a


multi-million dollar industry in India. In many circles in both India and neighboring Pakistan, light skin pigmentation has become the litmus test for power, social status and wealth. This particular now-global bias is, in part, cultural baggage that has undeniably accompanied many immigrants to America and continues to make a significant contribution to intra-Muslim racism and prejudice. During each Bilal Initiative workshop, participants reflected upon how they or someone they know had been adversely impacted by this discriminatory preference, most notably as it pertains to marriage prospects, inclusivity at Muslim gatherings and the organizational structuring of mosques and Islamic centers. Oftentimes, although not exclusively, such bias was observed among immigrant Muslims whose imported cultural baggage, as well as the all-American racial biases of their adopted homeland, have most likely strengthened their existing preferences and perceptions. In many cases, racism and prejudice have become so normalized and accepted that those who exhibit them are not self-aware. Consequently, as consciences across the American religious spectrum are awakening to injustices rooted in social ills, this is all the more reason why creating a safe space for frank, nuanced and respectful dialogue about intra-Muslim racism and prejudice is both timely and critical.

JONES’ REFLECTIONS Upon reviewing my notes from the Bilal

Initiative workshops to date, I have observed the “Power of Prejudice” in three important ways. First, we as Muslim Americans appear to be very disconnected from our multicultural, inclusive past. Participants have shared stories that indicate that our communities bear strong resemblance to America’s own racialized and gendered society. Many Muslim communities seem to readily adopt the same negative attitudes held by mainstream America. For instance, African-American Muslims have lived here for much longer than other ethnic Muslim groups, who began arriving mainly after the 1965 Immigration & Nationality Act radically changed our nation’s racially discriminatory immigration policies. In our workshops, many of them spoke about experiencing the disrespect and disregard directed toward them by many immigrant Muslims via racism and prejudiced behavior. Judging from this anecdotal evidence, many American mosques do not adhere to our founding Islamic principles and values: the unequivocal rejection of racism and its twin — classism — in all of its many forms. While this so-called “black/ immigrant divide” is by no means our community’s only form of prejudice and racism, one cannot understand and address this intra-Muslim bias without at least a rudimentary understanding of racism’s history and impact upon shaping perceptions within our communities. The second important point that I see in the collected data thus far is that religious platitudes are never a satisfactory substitute for honest, candid, authentic engagement of racism and prejudice. Although the majority of Muslims agree in theory that our religion strongly condemns bias, our data reaffirms that we too often fail to translate this important religious tenet into practical reality when it comes to building inclusive communities. In each workshop, many Muslims shared powerful reflections and personal stories of how racism and prejudice have negatively impacted them or someone they know. Some revealed that despite the many years of living with the “Power of Prejudice,” they had never been presented with opportunities to speak openly about their experiences. This pentup frustration reveals a communication weakness within our mosques and religious institutions, one that strongly reaffirms the need to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space to address these issues.


The final important takeaway that I see thus far is that while some common themes were observed in every workshop, individuals in each group had characteristics that appeared more specific to them. For example, the issue of cross-cultural marriage was raised in all sessions, whereas other relevant topics (e.g., the South Asian/Arab divide, sexism and ageism) were raised rather less frequently. It is important to note than in three of the four workshops, the conversation was contextually framed by individual panelists who were tasked with expanding on the following statements: In my view, when it comes to race and prejudice in U.S. Muslim communities, the reality is… In moving forward on issues of race and prejudice in U.S. Muslim communities, it is important that we don’t… In my view, the first steps we need to take to resolve issues surrounding race and prejudice in U.S. Muslim communities are… This framing no doubt influenced the trajectory of the ensuing discussion. At the conclusion of these workshops, the critical question we are left with is not whether the caustic diseases of racism and prejudice still plague our communities, but rather how can we treat them. It is not enough to superficially treat symptoms; we must collectively tackle the root and heart of the problem. Fires generated by the “Power of Prejudice” within Muslim American communities can be extinguished most effectively by amplifying the voices of impacted peoples in frank, respectful conversations and enhancing the true understanding of Islam — not as we understand it, but as it was meant to be understood. The cure to these diseases lies in determining how to perpetuate open, respectful, courageous and honest dialogue; diminish the impact of societal ills that contribute to racism and prejudice; and promote the journey toward healing painful wounds that have been festering for centuries. By expanding on these conversations through town hall style meetings in Muslim communities across our nation, the next phase of Bilal Initiative is designed to do just that.  Zainab Chaudry is a board member of Interfaith Action for Human Right and CAIR Md. Outreach Manager. Jimmy E. Jones is associate professor of World Religions and African Studies at Manhattanville College (Purchase, N.Y.), president of ISF and secretary, National CAIR Board



Islam, the American Dream and a Boy with a Clock Are Islamophobes struggling with the Founding Fathers’ objective to realize an American Dream in which all people are free to participate in society? BY LIZ JACKSON with African and Native origins were major targets; however, Irish Catholics, Jews and Asians also faced trials. Research shows how their trials often increased in times of national insecurity and war — notoriously for the Japanese Americans, for example, who were interned during the Second World War. Education can — and often has — played an ameliorative role here. By educating youth from diverse backgrounds [as it went then, minus slaves and certain other Americans] in common schools, the Founding Fathers hoped to realize the American Dream, one in which all people could freely participate in society, in an equal context regardless of religious belief or country of origin. They believed that this free participation was paramount to their new experiment in democracy. They dreamed of a form of government ruled by diverse people who could dialogue their way to solutions. This country’s form of government and its public education system have been exemplars for the world. And yet we know that these systems have been and still are imperfect and that we can do better. Today, our society faces a crisis related to public knowledge about Muslims and Islam. Despite President George W. Bush’s call after 9/11 to not confuse “our Muslim brothers and sisters” with the horrors of organiza-




any people around the world expressed shock and horror over the case of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-yearold Texas schoolboy who was arrested for making a clock that some educators mistook for a bomb. In such a multicultural and multiracial society as the U.S., the idea that one could be held suspect for simply “learning while Muslim” is rightly viewed with outrage. From an educational perspective, such stories are particularly sad because they suggest a hostile climate for youngsters in America who happen to have “exotic” names or darker skin. As President Obama tweeted soon after learning about the incident, innovative and creative youth should be celebrated in our schools regardless of their family background. Their education should not be interrupted due to personal characteristics. Yet sadly, this state of affairs is not far from being par for the course. Just as the U.S. has long been a beacon of scientific innovation and hope for “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” from “ancient lands” (as in Emma Lazarus’s famed American sonnet), it also has a history of xenophobia toward social and cultural groups deemed too different or suspicious to be welcomed and included in the society. In the past, those

tions like al-Qaeda and today’s terrifying ISIS, many Americans remain ignorant and prejudiced against the Muslim Americans in their communities and schools. Educators are in a very tricky situation here, for ever since 9/11 Muslims have faced competing pressures. Students want to know what is happening in the world around them. Yet some parents and educational administrators have forgotten that America is not simply a Christian nation,


but one that promises its citizens personal liberty, including freedom of belief. They have confused patriotism with being anti-Muslim. Yes, there may be a need to rally together against the threat of terrorism, but this does not make it patriotic to fear or discriminate against fellow Americans due to their name or skin color. It was no surprise that this event happened in Texas. Despite many Muslim Americans’ relative ease within this culturally conservative state, Texan educators have

played a leading role in shaping education across the nation in a way that harms Muslims. Although the overwhelming majority of the state’s schoolchildren are Christians who learn a thing or two about Christianity outside public schools, educational policymakers insist on “equal coverage” of Islam and Christianity in schools (resulting in little to no education about Islam). The Texas textbook debates, however, shape textbooks nationwide via the voices of partisan, non-academic ideologues who insist that

positive messages about white people and Christians in America are provided while protesting the “balanced” or critical coverage of the past and present experiences of nonwhite and non-Christian Americans. These processes have clearly had a negative impact when it comes to learning about Muslims and Islam today in American schools. Not only does this state of affairs harm youngsters like Ahmed Mohamed and many Muslims before him who have faced worse “homegrown terrorism” against their property, businesses and sense of identity in the so-called “land of the free,” but it is also dangerous to all Americans because they are not getting the full story. Instead, they learn only negative information about Muslims, nearly one-quarter of the world’s population, and Islam, a belief system that, like Christianity, takes nearly infinite shapes and orientations across different communities worldwide. Education has a crucial task: to equip young Americans to vote and make other decisions that can impact the world tomorrow. But to do this they need such tools as foundational information as well as the skills to keep learning and debating as situations change. In this context, teaching either through one’s actions or curriculum content that Islam is suspicious, and confusing the Islamic State with youth like Ahmed Mohamed, is wrongheaded. We cannot be “the land of the free” if some of our citizens are held suspect for “learning while Muslim.” One must not forget the foundations of democracy and liberty that have made this country a symbol of freedom and reason around the world. The value of toleration, regardless of skin color or creed, is paramount to actualizing freedom and educating future generations to keep America innovative and the American Dream alive. Taking concrete steps to ensure that Ahmed Mohamed does not become just another name on an endless list of victims of prejudice bred of ignorance, which is wrongheaded and unnecessary, should be seen as part and parcel of any future attempts to enhance what is best about the U.S. and the American Dream.  Liz Jackson is a professor of curriculum and policy studies at the University of Hong Kong. Her book, Muslims and Islam in US Education: Reconsidering Multiculturalism (Routledge, 2014) received the 2015 Philosophy of Education Society Book Award & the University of Hong Kong Research Output Prize.


Editor’s note: Ahmed Mohamed’s family moved to Qatar after the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) invited him to join its prestigious QF Young Innovators Program.







ronx, N.Y. Democratic Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner’s “Sisters Read” Summer Challenge was enthusiastically embraced at Brooklyn’s Masjid Nur al-Islam. Joyner’s first annual Summer Challenge, “Read-to-Succeed,” which focused on educational opportunity and increasing literacy, urged students to read on a regular basis during the summer and recognized those who read for 15 minutes or more per day for at least 40 days. Assembly woman Joyner and the girls. At the mosque, she patiently interacted with approximately 20 young girls, aged 2 to16, for a two-hour was elected to represent the 77th AsA younger reader at the masjid. spirited session. Exhibiting great joy and sembly District in the New York State compassion as she sat cross-legged on Assembly. She challenged the students, “Use reading to gain the confidence to the mosque floor, she encouraged them express yourself. Use your words to get to share the benefit of reading before they took turns reading aloud. This speyour point across and communicate with cial session, inspired by Joyner’s proother people.” She went on to inform gram, was timed to persuade a focused them, “I used to be shy, and now my return to school. job is to talk to people.” One by one the young participants Unique among politicians, she took the microphone to share why they reached out for a meeting so that she liked to read. Joyner introduced herself could personally hear the community’s and then read several paragraphs from concerns. And she didn’t come empty-handed — she brought books to set the stage for Sisters Read. Imam Amara Kenneh termed Sisters Read “a very beautiful WE MUST INSTILL THE NEED program that helps children improve their educational progress.” OF READING AND EDUCATION He said, “the masjid has a very beautiful relationship with Assemblywoman Joyner” and added that “she is doing her duty as a EARLY IN A CHILD’S LIFE. BY community leader; she is giving extra mileage.” DOING THIS, EDUCATION CAN AND Joyner’s passion for reading wasn’t lost on her assistant Isatou Kujabi, who set up Sisters Read. She shared her experience of WILL OFFER THE TOOLS NECESSARY coming to this country from Gambia in 2005, admitting that she FOR OUR CHILDREN TO PROGRESS cried the first time she was asked to read aloud. She also confessed, AS LEADERS IN SOCIETY.” “Anytime I knew that we had Reading, I would miss class to avoid reading. But once I started college, I had no choice but to face my —Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner fears and start reading.” Joyner closed the session by promising to take the students “The Lowdown on the High Bridge” — a fact-filled children’s book on a field trip — to the High Bridge, of course. For her, “the most about New York City’s longest standing bridge. The youngsters were memorable part of Sisters Read was having a two-year-old girl read very attentive and eager to participate. The High Bridge, which is a passage from her favorite book. It was an experience and memory located in the Bronx, began as an aqueduct in 1846. It reopened in that I will always hold onto because it serves as an inspiration to June 2015 after having been closed for more than 40 years. our youth, as they lead us into the future.” Attendee Laqoya Torre, 16 proclaimed, “I like to read because Her message to parents: “We must instill the need of reading it teaches you new experiences and helps you cope with certain and education early in a child’s life. By doing this, education can things that are happening around you.” and will offer the tools necessary for our children to progress as Mawata Kenneh, 11, remarked, “Reading will help me to become leaders in society.” Joyner also hosted a garden party celebration for young readers a doctor, because doctors read.” Seventh-grader Aicha Coulibaly stated, “Reading keeps me motivated and is interesting.” Her younger at the Target Bronx Community Garden, a New York Restoration sister, second-grader Mariame who also dreams of becoming a Project.  doctor, added, “Reading is interesting.” Joyner, previously a New York City Civil Court staff attorney, Ahmad Nurriddin is a community worker.



Let Them Play Can video games help children learn, focus and multitask? BY RABIA KHAN


hile driving my children to their soccer practice, the upcoming radio show caught my attention: Cognitive researcher Daphne Bavelier, a professor at the University of Geneva, would talk about how video games can help children learn, focus and multitask. I found this rather surprising, for it contradicted what I had learned about video games a decade ago when we bought our kids their first game console. It was one of those times when I sat in the van listening to the radio. But that wasn’t enough for me. For the next few days I researched this topic rather intensely via Google, YouTube and magazines. I even discussed it with my pediatrician, thinking that it might be time to update my mindset about video games. With the exponential growth of technology, it is difficult to keep children away from video games. Almost all of them own home video games (e.g., Wii, Xbox or PlayStation), hand-held games (e.g., Gameboy or Nintendo) or a mobile device (e.g., tablets and/or a smartphone). It is becoming rare to find a child who is either not playing a game or doesn’t have regular access to one. My findings made me realize that parents should be aware of the positives and negatives of video games as they endeavor to find a balance allowing or forbidding their children to play them. All of the cons I found matched those of my decade-old findings. They are still an addiction because they are designed to be addictive. Quick gratification, immediate rewards and starting over right after losing stimulates a feeling of pleasure and hooks players. But the time they spend playing video games means less time for physical activities and being with their friends, which causes obesity and anti-social behavior,

respectively. This is also linked to poorer school performance due to the fewer hours invested in studying and/or reading. But the harm of video games should not be allowed to outweigh their benefits, especially when it comes to cognitive functions. The first and foremost benefit is that video games induce quick thinking. According to Bavelier, gamers are more attuned to the environment and can navigate and track objects better, both of which help in everyday things like driving, because playing games “significantly reduce reaction times without sacrificing accuracy.” For this reason, the U.S. military uses warfare simulation games in training and flight performance. Gamers get used to multitasking as they juggle different objectives while simultaneously keeping track of the changing elements and connecting ideas. In order to achieve specific tasks in a game, a player has to develop and master such life skills as following directions, solving problems, strategic thinking, managing resources, mapping, pattern recognition, judging the situation, reading and making quantitative calculations. Thus the Federation of American Scientists urges children to play more video games so that they will



become more competitive in the job market. Moreover, the federation also reports that employers are seeking those very skills. While the brain is busy processing the information to achieve the goal, it coordinates with the hands to perform the action by means of a controller. This increased handeye coordination and fine motor skills can be applied to such real-world situations as surgical procedures. Games such as Wii Fit and Just Dance for Wii and Kinect for Xbox help players become physically active and exercise. According to Bavelier, studies show that gamers are better able to resolve shades of grey and attend to small details within a content of clutter. Throughout her talk, Bavelier stresses the phrase “reasonable doses of games.” This made me think of a hadith from Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) about doing things in moderation. This is one of the acts that, if done in moderation, will yield benefits. Although the line between a healthy and an excessive amount of gaming is very fine, it is the parents’ duty to monitor the amount spent playing them. There is, however, no agreed-upon definition for “reasonable doses of games.” If video games are taking over your child’s life, talk with him/her about the consequences of addiction and explore alternatives. As parents, we also need to monitor the kinds of games they play. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has devised a rating policy (, similar to that of the movie industry, based on the game’s content and other relevant information. The debate over video games remains ongoing. However, I believe that one should give his/her child “reasonable doses” of games that are age appropriate and foster learning.  Rabia Khan is IT Coordinator at ISNA headquarters.



Splash Covered Muslim women have increasing choices in modest swimwear and sportswear

Unfortunately, I have yet to find swimwear that has a long top, loose pants, and a comfortable swim hood, but is also really good for swimming laps. This is an area in which the industry could improve, despite its relatively challenging nature.



here aren’t very many excuses left about not finding modest Islamic swimwear or sportswear in the U.S. No longer do women have to wait for a friend coming back from a Muslim country or shop at the bazaar of one of the national Muslim conventions. Today, all one has to do is google “Islamic swimwear” to be inundated with websites, YouTube videos and links to Amazon. offers modest swimwear from Islamic companies. A variety of styles and fabrics are available (compare, for example,’s drawstring “board short” fabric pants with the pants sold by Ahiida™ or, as well as a wide price range from about $60 to $200. The problem now isn’t finding a modest swimsuit; it’s finding one that is right for you. While some women have found the “perfect” swim attire and a style they like, there are still problems. Maybe the fabric doesn’t hold up well. Or perhaps it doesn’t cling very much but the hood is too small. The sizing might be off (e.g., an XL really fits an M) or the waist is far too tight. And thus women often mix and match, wearing the pants of one brand and the top of another, or wearing one brand’s swimsuit but replacing its hood with a swim hood bought from another company. This reality doesn’t just involve companies catering to Muslimahs. Google “modest swimwear” and again a lot of hits come up. Many of the swimsuits advertised as “modest” resemble those worn in the U.S. during the 1920s and 1930s. While modest compared to today’s bikinis, they certainly do not cover her awrah. And although longer pants may be available, many appear to be like tights and are too form fitting. With a little searching, though, appropriate tops and bottoms can be found. Another good way is to goggle “sun safe” swimsuits, which are geared to women who


should or want to stay out of the sun. Longsleeved swim shirts are readily available, as are swim dresses that cover more of the leg. Coolibar® Sun Protective Clothing, which appears to be a leader in this regard, was the first company to receive The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation. With so many sellers, one should research the options, try the swimsuit on if possible, and get recommendations from other sisters.


Modest sportswear is a little different, for the clothing must be appropriate for the sport and its related activities. For example, one would not necessarily wear the same hijab while wearing a bike helmet or attending an all-women’s yoga class. Again, a quick goggle of “Islamic sportswear” yields numerous hits, including sites that offer sports hijabs exclusively, such as and Islamic sportswear that looks very much like a jilbab to obvious sports outfits is available. Similarly, a goggle search of “modest sportswear” yields many results; however, not all sellers and customers define “modest” the same way, and thus not all of their offerings are appropriate. With the exception of head coverings, more choices exist for Muslimahs with respect to modest active wear than swim attire, because women exercise all year round. For example, it is easy to find loose running pants and long-sleeved shirts made out of breathable Coolmax® fabric. Sportswear and

activewear can be found at discount retailers (e.g., Target) and at more expensive stores (e.g., lululemon athletica™). Athleta’s (part of Gap Inc. group) WickIt™ Wader Coverup is sold as a swim cover-up but can also be used as a sports top. It is long and loose, and the fabric is comfortable. Each year it seems that more and more clothing options become available, which makes it easier and more pleasurable for

en-only spaces that would allow Muslimahs to dress less modestly should they choose to do so. Most Muslimahs in the U.S. do not have ready access to all-women swimming pools or to sports and health facilities that are private enough for them to cover less. Sometimes there are designated “sister hours”; however, these periods are neither widely available nor do they provide adequate access. If you want to swim to keep

CLOTHING IS NO LONGER A BARRIER FOR MUSLIMAHS TO BE ACTIVE IN PUBLIC SPACES — AND THIS IS GOOD NEWS. Muslimahs to participate in sports and other athletic activities. And so clothing is no longer a barrier in these public spaces — and this is good news. But something remains missing: wom-

in shape, a couple hours once a week isn’t enough. And not all women-only gyms (e.g., Curves®) meet the needs of those who cannot afford or do not like working out in gyms. What Muslimahs need now are indoor and outdoor athletic facilities that offer privacy and are available on a regular basis. Such facilities would also be good for families, as exercise benefits everyone’s physical, emotional and spiritual health. So while we can appreciate and applaud advancements in the clothing industry, as a community we need to focus on improving the physical environment so that Muslimahs have more athletic opportunities to promote their health and overall wellbeing.  J. Samia Mair, author of five children’s books, is a staff writer for SISTERS Magazine and Discover as well as a blogger for International Islamic Publishing House.

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Away from Recidivism Are Muslim Americans doing enough to help reintegrate former prison inmates into society? BY JORDAN SCHNEIDER


hat are we, the ummah, doing for Muslim prisoners?” is a question that Chaplain Raqeeb Abduljabbar, the imam at the High Desert State Prison located in Susanville, Calif., ponders constantly and wants each of us to ask ourselves. “When it comes to Muslim prisoners, there is a disconnect between the inside of the prison and the outside community,” he laments. He reminds us that Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was sent as a mercy to humanity and thus all members of the ummah are supposed to be merciful to each other. And so “the Muslim community must set itself up to be a mercy,” he explains. But are we doing that? A 2006 report notes “there are approxi-

has many doctors and engineers. But there is also a need for Muslim-owned laundromats, cleaning services, grocery stores, restaurants and factories — in short, businesses that Muslims who have minimal education and felonies could apply to for employment.” The recidivism rate drops when there is outside support for parolees. The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons (April 2011), a report conducted by The Pew Charitable Trust, shows that (1) at the state level “more than $50 billion a year is spent on corrections, yet recidivism rates remain stubbornly

RECIDIVISM RATE DROPS WHEN THERE IS OUTSIDE SUPPORT FOR PAROLEES. mately 350,000 prisoners in the United States who claim Islam as their religion, comprising about one-third of all inmates” (African Journal of Criminology & Justice Studies; Volume 2, No. 2, Nov. 2006). However, according to a 2013 report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, Muslim prisoners are underserved: “There is 1 Muslim chaplain for every 900 Muslim inmates. When a Muslim chaplain is not available in a prison, Muslim inmates’ religious services are provided by Muslim volunteers, contractors, or inmates.” This dearth is underscored by the fact that at a recent conference for Muslim chaplains in California, it was confirmed that five of the twenty-three State positions were vacant. These statistics, which reflect only state correctional facilities, do not include federal prisons. “How many outreach programs are there out there to reincorporate Muslim prisoners?” Abduljabbar asks. “Our community 44

high” and (2) more than four in ten offenders nationwide return to state prisons within three years of their release despite a massive increase in state spending on prisons. The highest recidivism rate is among African American men aged between 20-29, the very population that already has difficulties finding steady employment that pays a living wage. The National Resource Reentry Center’s 2014 study, “Reducing Recidivism: States Deliver Results,” presents data from seven states proving that improved community supervision that provides greater support and access to services is critical to reducing recidivism. To answer Abduljabbar’s question on how many outreach programs focus on reincorporating Muslim prisoners into mainstream society, a goggle search revealed that displays a state-by-state listing of re-entry programs. Unfortunately, no Muslim re-entry program is listed among

the Christian ministries’ programs. It would appear that Abduljabbar’s question is steeped in validity. There are, however, programs for Muslim prisoners under administrative detention. For instance, Dar al-Hijrah in Falls Church, Va., provides visits to prisoners in both jails and prisons. The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California’s active Prison Outreach Program works with inmates who are interested in Islam, provides educational programs and services to Muslim prisoners and advocates for their religious rights. Southern California’s offers an extensive mentoring program through mail and visits that can include the Jumah prayer service, personal development


into prisons: abstinence from alcoholic beverages, drugs, and cigarettes, as well as sexual restrictions and dietary regulations, among others. These positive adjustments, in turn, contribute to a more stable prison environment,” the imam notes. He adds that Muslims do not steal, do drugs or drink alcohol; rather, they spend their days glorifying God by their actions. The vast majority of incarcerated Muslims are reverts who come to God through the deep self and spiritual analysis thrust upon them by their new environment. But they are “just as Muslim” as those who were born Muslim. Incarceration and tawba (repentance) are hard enough. Embracing Islam and living for God eases this burden, but does not dissolve it. As a community, Muslims should not increase the already existing burden upon those who leave the walls and confinement behind and attempt to reenter society. Every masjid and Islamic center should consider the chaplain’s question: “What are we doing for Muslim prisoners?”  Jordan Schneider is studying for her master’s in Islamic Studies at Al Huda University, under the Matari Foundation Scholarship.

workshops as well as religious lectures and classes. It also offers college-level correspondence courses through the College of Islamic Studies. However, it does not explain how an incarcerated person can apply to the college. The Islamic Online University’s (IOU) Prisoner Initiative Program offers a diploma in Islamic Studies. The courses are free. Mutahhir Sabree, director of U.S. operations, states “that to date the program has enrolled more than 600 inmates, two hundred of which are currently engaged in their studies.” Given IOU’s status as an internationally accredited university, students who register while incarcerated and complete their studies can go on to complete a BA or MA in Islamic Studies after their administrative

detention ends. Those enrolled in the BA or MA programs may — through several memorandums of understanding with other international universities — participate in exchange programs. Imam Abduljabbar has another question: “Where are the Muslim therapists? Why do we have to go outside of our community to take care of our community?” He reflects on the fact that the Prophet was a strategist. Whether it was a matter of war, tribe, or negotiations, he relied upon his Companions to find subject matter experts on the issue at hand. In the imam’s opinion, our community has roles that need to be filled. By virtue of its tenets from the Words of God, “Islam injects a dose of normativity



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Sitting left to right (Imam Ron el-Amin; Christina Fialho, Rev. Peter Laarman; Sgt. Juan Martinez, Steve Rohde) Standing left to right (Shakeel Syed, Imam Taha Hassane, Muzammil Siddiqi, Imam Abu Ishaq Abdul Hafiz)

Inmate Support BY SHAKEEL SYED


was incarcerated for my gang banging with CRIPS, the most infamous gang in Los Angeles. I went in as Lorraine Session and came out as Intesar Session, a proud Muslimah. This can happen only by the grace of God.” Session was one of the several formerly incarcerated who testified at the third annual symposium on the status of jails and Muslim inmates in California. Organized by the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, the Prison Outreach Program’s (POP) symposium brings together chaplains, volunteers, criminal justice and prison reform advocates and prison officials of all faiths. They work collaboratively to restore human dignity and serve as a helpful resource to the incarcerated. POP’s mandate is threefold: to educate and empower the incarcerated as well as advocate for their religious rights. The Islamic Shura Council launched its program in 2013 and continues to distribute thousands of copies of the Quran and a selection of books on Islamic practices to prisons within and outside the State of California. Its volunteers log hundreds of miles each week to teach, mentor and help the incarcerated strengthen their relationship with their Creator.


The 2015 symposium also drew key advocates of criminal and prison reform efforts in California, such as Rev. Peter Laarman of Justice Not Jails (, who said that “the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation should spend less on corrections and more on rehabilitation,” a situation, he continued, “that needs to be urgently corrected.” Other speakers included Christina Fialho, co-founder and director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), Steve Rohde, president of Death Penalty Focus and Sgt. Juan Martinez, who leads the Religious Services Department of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department Prisons. Imam Abu Ishaq Abdul Hafiz, a retired federal supervisory chaplain who now leads the POP, invited the community to volunteer few hours a month and make a world of difference in the lives of the incarcerated. He also highlighted the fact that the incarcerated are most eager to learn Islam and that they have the time to do so. “As a young Alejandro Curiel, I was lost in the wilderness of the world and the Most Merciful God helped me discover myself behind the bars, as Salah-ud-Deen Curiel. Our nation’s criminal justice system makes us criminals, but the community can help us become human. Please do not forget us,” Curiel testified at the symposium.

“The Islamic Shura Council urges Muslim communities to replicate its program and help people become whole,” said Council chairman Muzammil Siddiqui. For more information and to find out how you can start a program, email or visit  Shakeel Syed is executive director of Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.


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The world we live in is constantly evolving and ISNA is committed to being a positive driver of change. ISNA has long recognized the importance of engaging with other faith communities as a fundamental part of its mission, and therefore, we continuously host and participate in interfaith events, meetings and webinars to educate our friends, partners, officials and activists about Islam. These interreligious initiatives have helped break down barriers of misunderstanding, formed genuine partnerships of faith and ethics, and established a platform to advocate for social justice issues for the common good. We aim to work together to fight Islamophobia and share knowledge about the true teachings and understanding of our religion in all sectors. The gift of education has a ripple effect—it creates change locally, nationally and globally. Ignorance is our enemy, and with your support we can make a difference. Please donate to ISNA today.

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Halal Investing The availability of halal investment opportunities is good news for Muslim Americans BY M. YAQUB MIRZA


s a faith-based approach to investing, halal investing is often categorized as ethical or socially responsible. Many people mistakenly consider investing as a way to become wealthy. In fact, true wealth cannot be “purchased”; it is a state of mind. Your wealth consists not only of material items, but also of such less tangible things as your health, time, relationships (e.g., with family, loved ones, and the community), generosity and your heart. The sole purpose of investing is to generate income. The Quran severely condemns hoarding of wealth (Q. 102:1-6; 104:1-9) and says that once a reasonable amount of money has been saved, some of it should be invested. In our multicultural society, not all investment choices are created equal. Real estate, stocks, sukuk and mutual funds are acceptable avenues, but each has its unique considerations and risks. For example, Muslims who invest in real estate should try to ensure that the financing complies with the Shari’ah. Investors in stocks, sukuk and mutual funds have to consider such factors as risk, fees, expenses, tax implications and so on. Islamic principles require that investors share in the profit and loss, receive no interest (riba), and invest only in halal businesses. Before investing in a company, they must evaluate its activities and financial records to determine the source(s) of its primary revenue, how its income and expenditures are managed, and whether it meets the criteria of halal or haram. After all, why would God bless an investment that violates His laws? Interpretations of Islamic law as applied to business activities are nuanced, and thus halal investment guidelines can vary. Therefore, Muslim investors often rely on guidance from Islamic scholars to help them determine whether an investment is permissible. Shari’ah scholars have universally condemned investments in companies whose 48

primary business activities violate the faith’s core tenets, such as manufacturing or marketing alcohol, pork and pork products; gambling or gaming activities; conventional interest-based financial services; pornography; and weapons used for oppression or mass destruction. In addition, most of them advise against investing in tobacco companies. These experts have established financial guidelines to determine whether a certain business activity is a core source of revenue or not. For example, the 5 percent rule says that a “core business activity” accounts for more than 5 percent of a company’s revenue (gross income). Therefore, if such activities generate revenue in excess of this figure, investing in that particular company is not permitted. This reasoning also applies to business concerns that have interest-based income or holdings. It is often impossible to avoid haram business activities completely. Islamic law requires that any investment earnings that can be attributed to haram activities must be “purified” via zakat (charitable donations to acceptable charitable causes).

A company’s industry sector, or the economic sector to which it belongs, may not always tell you the whole story. For example, a computer software company may write programs used in gambling, a publisher of children’s books may also produce pornographic books and an agricultural producer might sell its crops exclusively to breweries. In other words, just because a company appears to be halal does not mean that it really is.

BENEFITS AND RISKS Investing according to Islamic principles can offer many benefits to all investors, for it

HALAL INVESTMENT SCREENING Halal investment screens help investors avoid haram investments. In general terms, they seek to eliminate bonds and other interest-based investments; stocks of highly indebted companies (sometimes referred to as “highly leveraged”); and securities of companies in industries that produce haram products (e.g., liquor, gambling, pornography, pork, weapons, insurance, banks, mutual funds, hedge funds or exchange-traded funds that have high turnover rates [Some Islamic scholars view frequent trading as gambling]). However, as halal investment screening is not always straightforward, one must look deeply into a company’s business activities to discover how it actually makes its money. ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016


requirements of Islamic screens facilitate a conservative approach that appeals to riskaverse investors. Mutual funds in particular offer investors greater diversification with a smaller amount of assets than they might be able achieve on their own. Halal investing also discourages shortterm speculation, because the low turnover required in such portfolios results in longer planned holding periods and close scrutiny of the company’s financial data. Low turnover also minimizes portfolio trading expenses, such as broker commissions, while increasing tax efficiency by avoiding the rapid buying and selling of securities, both of which can generate taxable capital gains. These limitations, however, also potentially create risk. For example, less than half of the securities researched by Saturna Capital for the Amana Funds pass the initial screens. Restricting investment choices to a smaller universe means that a halal portfolio may not be as diversified as others, which may increase the risk of loss. In addition, the returns from various market sectors rise and fall at different times. Islamic principles may limit opportunities to gain when such prohibited market sectors as financial services rally. Because Islamic principles preclude

interest-paying investments, cash reserves cannot be invested in traditional money market funds or deposited in an interestbearing bank account. Therefore, they do not earn income and may lower the overall return.

HALAL OPTIONS Several halal U.S.-based mutual funds, such as Amana Mutual Funds, Azzad Funds and Iman Fund, serve the needs of Muslim investors. A growing number of financial service providers, among them Saturna Capital, Sharia Portfolio, Noriba Investing and Falah Capital, are tailoring their practices to appeal to Muslims and even select advisors at more mainstream investment companies. Additionally, the growth of Islamic banking in the U.S. gives Muslims more choices for home financing. Such providers include University Islamic Financial, Guidance Financial, LARIBA American Finance House and Devon Bank. As the halal investing industry grows, so do the options available for Muslims seeking permissible ways to protect and generate wealth.  M. Yaqub Mirza, chairman, Amana Mutual Funds [Editor’s Note: Saturna Capital Corporation, advisor of Amana Mutual, also contributed to this article.]

ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFER — A good deed done regularly! You can make a significant impact on the quality of ISNA’s services by contributing through EFT. 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.




The Law That Defends Builders of Religious Structures Are Muslim Americans familiar with the little-known law that protects the freedom of building houses of worship?



an you imagine an American town in which people have no place to worship? If not for a little-known law that celebrated its 15th anniversary in September 2015, communities throughout this nation would be living that very reality. For nearly 225 years, one of the great hallmarks of this nation has been the freedom to gather and worship without governmental influence or interference. American almost lost that liberty in 1990, when a Supreme Court decision allowed local governments to block the construction of new churches, temples, mosques and synagogues. After this ruling, Congress began amassing evidence demonstrating the harm that this law had caused to Americans’ freedom of religion. After nine hearings that took place over a period of seven years, Congress deemed it necessary to pass an additional law to address those areas in which religious discrimination had become the most prevalent: laws governing institutionalized persons (i.e., prisoners and persons in mental institutions) and land use laws. To rectify this situation, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) was proposed and enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. President Clinton signed it into law on Sept. 22, 2000. Fifteen years later, we can say RLUIPA is one of the most significant laws ever passed by Congress, for it impacts people’s lives by


providing critical protections for religious freedom. Its land use provisions have allowed houses of worship across the nation to escape discriminatory or substantially burdensome land use restrictions. But right now, it’s being tested in the Detroit area as well as in towns and cities across the country. Religious organizations have the right to purchase land and erect structures deemed suitable to serve their members. This sounds like a fairly simple and straightforward concept. And yet this proposition is being tested by those municipalities and Islamophobes who want to keep religious, especially Islamic, organizations from building and expanding their local footprints. Most cities prefer not to have religious organizations because they do not pay property taxes. When it comes to zoning, most communities do not allow religious uses as a right and may allow them only as a conditional use in a small area of town that may


not be conducive. They would like to either eliminate them from a community or place them next to a factory or a place where you would not necessarily want to have a house of worship. This was not always the case. When zoning was first established, religious uses were the center of the community and residential and other uses were built around these houses of worship. But times have changed. Most cities reject a body of research that reveals the socioeconomic values of religious institutions to a community. They would rather have the tax base than the free social services provided by religious organizations. And houses of worship matter, for they quite literally bring us together and help us develop the relationships that create meaning in our lives. Such places are invaluable and desperately needed in a busy and often lonely world, one in which communication technologies from smartphones to Snapchat help us stay connected but also drive us further apart. This is why we see new churches or mosques fill up so quickly when they are built in busy areas like New York City and Los Angeles. Let’s celebrate religious freedom by remembering the hard-fought battles that ensure that all of this nation’s religious groups can worship freely. And let’s thank those who have the wisdom and the foresight to challenge local governments that discriminate against religious groups by precluding houses of worship.  Daniel P. Dalton, co-founder of Detroit-based Dalton & Tomich, PLC, is the author of “Litigating Religious Land Use Cases” (American Bar Association, 2014).



Interfaith Begins to Pay Dividends Hate fails to work as Muslim Americans continue to benefit from interfaith ties. BY RAMADAN ALIG

civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” Perhaps this slogan also depicted the belief that the goyim — gentiles — are non-human. The following year Israel’s deputy minister of defense, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, echoed her sentiments by asserting that “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human.”


he Oct. 9-10, 2015, “Global Rally for Humanity” protests, which targeted 23 mosques around the nation, including the ISNA headquarters in Plainfield, Ind., was just another manifestation of Islamophobia.

In the U.S., the 2009 rise of the Tea Party occurred right along with the rise in anti-Islam and anti-Muslim rhetoric. Defeated prime minister Harper of Canada, found a soul brother when he met with George W. Bush on March 30, 2006. He also committed his government to several wars overseas alongside the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” But on Oct. 19, 2015, his Conservative Party was defeated at the polls and he resigned his position as party leader.

In the U.S., the stars of this show are the Center for Security Policy, a far-right group led by anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney. A proud birther, Gaffney also specializes in claims that Obama is a secret Muslim intent on imposing the Sharia. Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin also continues to do her part.

One wonders what such people are thinking. One example is their oft-repeated charge that Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s chief aide, is a Muslim Brotherhood agent. Yet no one asks how an ultra-liberal could be a traditionalist group’s agent, given that Muslimahs cannot have a non-Muslim husband. Moreover, husband Anthony Weiner is a Jew. Some credit Gaffney with helping engineer this witch-hunt that has been taken up by several Republican members of Congress, including then-Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who, after her recent trip to Israel, has called upon all Jews to convert because “Jesus is coming soon.”

Another über-Islamophobe Pamela Geller apparently believes that demonizing Islam and Muslims furthers the cause of Palestine’s continued occupation. Her 2012 New York transport posters, after all, left nothing to the imagination: “In any war between the


The race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is hardly exempt in this regard. Donald Trump did not correct a New Hampshire audience member who called Obama a Muslim and accused him of being a non-American. Asked when America will get rid of the Muslim “training camps” on its soil, he bared his own Islamophobia: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

Not to be outdone, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson declared Muslims unfit to be president and later informed CNN that a Muslim would “have to reject the tenets of Islam” to be president. Interestingly, a June 2-7, 2015, Gallup poll updated the question — first asked in 1937 — about who they thought could be elected. Since then, Americans have become 51


significantly more accepting: 91 percent said they would vote for a Jew, which is higher than those who would vote for a Mormon (81 percent), an evangelical Christian (73 percent), a Muslim (60 percent) or an atheist (58 percent).

After Romney’s 2012 loss, the Republican National Committee released a scathing post-mortem saying that “many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.” Some Republican leaders, already fretting over

THE CONSERVATIVES HAVE MADE THE CHOICE FOR THE MORE THAN 2.77 MILLION MUSLIM AMERICANS: DON’T VOTE FOR HATERS. This particular White House hopeful breached a line that has existed since the 1940s: openly expressing prejudice by breaking with the timeworn tradition of using coded language to avert any political backlash. A 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that nearly two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants, a key group for the Seventh-day Adventist Carson, believe that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence. He stands little risk of harm in the primaries. In fact, on Sept. 23, 2015, he told Fox News that he saw a deluge of donations following his anti-Muslim remarks: “The money has been coming in so fast it’s hard to even keep up with it… I remember the day of the last debate, within 24 hours we raised $1 million. And it’s coming in at least at that rate if not quite a bit faster.” 52

Trump’s insults, fear that Carson’s denigration of Muslims will further damage their efforts to expand the party’s base beyond older conservative white voters. But then there is Fox TV and the likes of the Murdoch and the Moon media. Yet according to campaign manager Barry Bennett, just the fact that Carson is an African American “dramatically expands the appeal of the Republican Party.” The conservatives have made the choice for the more than 2.77 million Muslim Americans: Don’t vote for haters. Ironically, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University authored a study, published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Police Executive Research Forum in 2012,

that revealed that domestic terrorism and white supremacists are a far greater threat than radical Islam, despite the swelling of anti-Muslim sentiment and hate crimes in recent years. The fervent Second Amendment believers are prone to forget that the First Amendment states that that everyone in the country has the right to practice his or her own religion or no religion at all. Hind Jarrah of the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, talking to the Guardian (U.K.) on the eve of anti-Islam demonstrations Oct. 9, 2015, said, “I think it’s becoming difficult to be a Muslim anywhere. There is so much misunderstanding.” Similarly Glenn Katon, legal director of Muslim Advocates in Oakland, Calif., told the Christian Science Monitor on Oct. 16, 2015, “It’s actually a very scary time to be Muslim in America. “I think that it may be more true now than [at] any time before.”

INTERFAITH TIES WORK The five decades of interfaith work done by Muslims is beginning to pay off. ISNA, which has been an active interfaith partner since its founding as MSA, and other Muslim organizations have hosted many such bridge-building programs. The Internet-inspired series of armed anti-Muslim protests planned for the Oct. 9, 2015, weekend largely fizzled out. Although up to 35 Facebook pages were created in


support, according to the anti-bigotry group Center for New Community, the majority of these were deactivated in the days leading up to Friday. Besides alerting their interfaith partners, Muslims took to social media to inform and alert their own communities and friends. Faryal M. Khatri, ISNA’s communications assistant, asked Facebook to remove the hate rallies’ calls. Supporters rallied Online under the hashtags #HateUnchecked and #LoveYourNeighbor. The North American Islamic Trust, which holds many mosques and centers in trust, got in touch with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. Catherine Orsborn, campaign director of Shoulder to Shoulder, a coalition of 31 religious denominations and organizations committed to ending anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., said: “Thankfully these protests do not represent a majority of the American public; however they do represent a national rhetoric of anti-Muslim bigotry that has grown pernicious and widespread.”

Sayyid M. Syeed, national director of the ISNA Interfaith and Community Alliances, said, “In such situations we become more reassured and more encouraged by our allies, who have always been there to denounce this kind of Islam-bashing and intention to attack

Islamic places. There is a verse in the Qur’an that states that one should ‘respond to evil with utmost goodness. There is a possibility that those who show animosity to you may be transformed into your warmest friends’ (41:34).” He added, “We are proud of our allies from different faiths who have been our partners in dialogue over the years and stand with us against fear and hate.”

Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said, “The enemy we face is not Islam, but hatred and fear. I join my sisters and brothers in calling for gestures of solidarity with our American Muslim neighbors. Together we can witness to the world that God’s love will have the last word.” These protests are nothing new. For example, in May 2015 protesters, some of whom were armed with AK-47s, surrounded the Islamic Community Center mosque in Phoenix, spewing hate speech and intimidating worshipers. After the protest, Christian and Jewish religious leaders gathered at the center for a solidarity vigil to reject the message of hatred and build interfaith understanding. Neighborhood churches also provided a safe place for the congregation to pray until the hateful protests ended. On Oct. 9, 2015, some 80 protesters showed up, about one-third of them bearing arms rang-


ing from revolvers to assault rifles, only to face a set of counter-protesters. No one turned up to protest at the ISNA headquarters, but more than 20 non-Muslims did come to watch the Friday prayer. Kenneth Barger issued an invitation for a pre-Jumah solidarity rally at the ISNA headquarters, asking, “Please come and support the best we can be as Americans.” He declared, “We in Veterans for Peace know that hate violates all the basic ideals of America, and only produces violence.” Adam Soltani, with the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that no one protested at the Oklahoma City mosque, which was one of 20 mosques specifically targeted. He remarked that six or eight people protested at the Edmond conference, but kept their distance. About 20 counter-protesters came to show their support through signs like “God bless our Muslim neighbors,” he added. Imam John Ederer of the Islamic Society of Tulsa said there were “zero” protests in Tulsa and at the state’s other mosques, and only a few protesters at a Muslim conference held on Saturday at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. At the conference, attended by about 500 people, he remarked, “They left when it became apparent that no one was buying into this deal.” The Noor Islamic Centre in Dublin, Ohio, attracted just one protester, who later admitted that she was there against her pastor husband’s advice. A hijab-clad Muslimah, who offered to pose with her for a photo, informed her that, “I’m an American too.” The protester accepted an invitation to enter the mosque and meet its members, where they cheered her. In Maryland, CAIR outreach manager Zainab Chaudry said about 30 people of various faiths showed up at Dar-al-Taqwa Mosque in Howard County to support it. In Murfreesboro, Tenn., counter-protesters actually outnumbered protesters. The hate and gun totters need to refer to their own book, namely, the Bible, which states: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-32; King James Version)  Ramadan Alig is a freelance writer.



Own Your Vote

Are “well-intentioned” people marginalizing themselves by shunning the political process? BY AMANDA QURESHI


s the 2016 presidential election approaches, politics are being discussed with increasing frequency around dinner tables, at community events and on social media. You’re sure to hear statements from your Muslim friends and family like, “There aren’t any candidates who really represent me”; “The whole political system is corrupt, anyway”; and “My vote won’t really matter.” Many non-Muslim American voters feel the same way, and it’s not hard to see why: Partisan politics, especially at a national level, has got Americans down on our entire political process. An April 2015 Pew Research Center report shows that Congress has a 22 percent approval rating and that a full 10 percent of Americans have become political “bystanders”— those who have no interest in voting at all. For those of us who are passionate about politics and the democratic process, it’s painful to see so many people we care about giving up, especially for such a small community like ours. Right now, Muslim Americans are at the mercy of some of the worst political exploitation seen in decades. “Muslims” have become part of the campaign platforms for some very outspoken candidates who are happy to point fingers at a defenseless minority and stir up fear and support from their voters. Just last year, when Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson was asked if he thought a Muslim could become president, he declared, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” The idea that Muslims aren’t really “American enough” to lead in American politics is both false and dangerous. There’s only one way to ensure that Muslim Americans are represented politically in this country, and that’s by getting involved with the process. So before you give up completely on politics, there are a few things you may want to consider. 54

TALKING ABOUT POLITICS ISN’T POLITICS When people say they don’t like politics, they often mean, “I can’t stand the constant bickering and arguing that happens around politics.” Political zealots can be overwhelming, especially on social media, where they seem to have a never-ending barrage of memes and links that simultaneously glorify their side and vilify the other with an ever-increasing imbalance. As is true for most subjects, however, political talk is cheap. It’s easy to talk tough on the Internet and call people names if they don’t agree with you. But those who are really involved in the political process do not

usually engage in such tactics. You’ll find people who really care about politics doing things like organizing fundraisers, going door-to-door and asking their neighbors to vote, holding voter registration drives at the mosque and writing persuasive, reason-based editorials. Don’t allow yourself to be marginalized and cut off from the political process, even among your own circle of friends, just because of the attitudes of some zealots or polemicists. If you truly want to make a difference, there are many other proactive “real world” things you can do.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT IS MOST ACCESSIBLE It’s pretty fascinating how many Americans are obsessed with national politics but rarely turn out to vote in state or local elections, where their votes really matter. Sure, it’s important to vote in every election. But if you really want to have any influence over the things that affect your daily life (e.g., property taxes, school administration, transportation issues and city ordinances), you can have a huge impact by


voting in your city, state and county elections, many of which are won by notoriously small margins. In other words, a couple of hundred votes can mean the difference between who becomes a state representative or who sits on the school board. Joshua Houston, general counsel at the interfaith lobbying organization Texas Impact, advances the legislative agendas of Muslims and other faith communities. “In Texas, a state representative’s district contains about 170,000 people,” he states. “However, due to redistricting, the party’s primary is the only competitive race in 95 percent of those seats. Turnout in these races is abysmal. In a ‘highly competitive’ Democratic Party primary, only 1,131 voters chose the next state representative by a vote of 696 to 435. In a Republican primary, average voter participation is usually around 10,000, but the margin of victory is still in the hundreds. Muslims do not need majorities to discourage candidates from using religion divisively. A few hundred consistent voters is a large enough block to change the outcome.” “I’d encourage people to turn off the cable news networks and pay more attention to

their local races and state representatives,” Houston continues. “State legislatures and local government are where the policy is getting made. These so-called ‘down ballot’ races are where money matters the least and each vote matters the most. Those state and local leaders will often move on to higher office. Develop a relationship [with them] while they are still accessible.”

Joshua Houston and Texas Impact fought them with the help of the Muslim community, but also with strong testimony from the state’s Jewish and Catholic communities, both of which would have been affected by these shortsighted bills. Not everyone is going to fall in love with politics, but it’s important to understand how it affects our lives and learn how to engage

THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY TO ENSURE THAT MUSLIM AMERICANS ARE REPRESENTED POLITICALLY IN THIS COUNTRY, AND THAT’S BY GETTING INVOLVED WITH THE PROCESS. Indeed, local politicians often have higher political aspirations. Building a relationship with them right from the beginning can lay the foundation for a long-term relationship that will remain strong as their political career moves forward. “Politicians create the policies that affect our community,” says Tanzila Ahmed, a Los Angeles political organizer who has been working with Muslims to increase voter turnout and registration for years. “They usually pay attention to three things — money, media, votes. As a community we don’t have money or the ability to manipulate media, but we do have votes and that’s the power we should use.”

ISSUES, NOT CANDIDATES Finally, even if you can’t find a candidate with whom you are 100 percent ideologically aligned, you can find some who support the issues that are important to you and use them to guide your vote. Ahmed stresses that voting for specific candidates isn’t always the biggest priority for Muslims. “When voting becomes just about candidates, we forget that voting is about building power as a community,” she says. This means that we have to identify those issues that affect our communities and then figure out who in our local government supports us. The issues that concern Muslims often include things that reach across religious lines. As we immerse ourselves in the political process, we’ll make allies with members of other religious communities who can work with us to push the needle in our favor. For example, this year in Texas several pieces of anti-Shariah legislation were written under the auspices of “Anti-Foreign Law” bills. ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

with the process for our own benefit and protection. As members of a democratic society, we may not have the ultimate control over what happens, but we are also not completely without power. Learning how to use our individual and collective power as voters and activists is part of what it means to build a community in America. It is essential for us as Muslims to work for our own interests and for the sake of our children and grandchildren.  Amanda Quraishi is a writer, speaker, interfaith activist and technology professional based in Austin, Tex.

Central Florida Am Muslim Comm Ctr American Muslim Community Centers — based in Longwood, Central Florida — is hiring a Religious Director
 Selection Criteria: • Formally educated in Fiqh or recognized as Fiqh scholar by the Fiqh Committee of ISNA • Thorough understanding of issues that Muslims are facing in the United States • Experience as a religious director including counseling and teaching • Be able to relate to our youth • Able to demonstrate leadership ability • Able to communicate with Interfaith leaders and Media • Authorized to work in the US Submit an application via email



Handwritten letter by Malcolm X in 1964 urging white Americans to ‘convert to Islam to stop racism’ goes on sale for $1.25 million Mecca, Saudi Arabia – April 26th, 1964 ‘I have just completed my pilgrimage (Hajj) here to the Holy City of Mecca, the hollyiest City on earth, which is absolutely forbidden for non-Muslims to even rest their eyes upon. This pilgrimage is the most important event in the life of all Muslims, and there are over 226,000 who are here right now from outside of Arabia. From Turkey came the largest contagion, around 50,000 in over 600 buses. This refutes Westerner propaganda that Turkey is turning away from Islam. I know of only 2 others who have made the actual Hajj to Mecca from America, and both of them are West Indians who also converts to Islam. Mr. Elijah Muhammad, 2 of his sons, and a couple of his followers visited Mecca outside the Hajj season, and their visit is known as the ‘Omra’, or Lesser Pilgrimage. It is con(Page 2) -sidered a blessing in the Muslim World even to make the ‘Omra’. I very much doubt that 10 American citizens have ever visited Mecca, and I do believe that I might be the first American born Negro to make the actual Hajj itself. I’m not saying this to boast but only to point out what a wonderful accomplishment and blessing it is, and also to enable you to be in a better position intellectually to evaluate it in its proper light, and then your own intelligence can place it in its proper place.

World, when one accepts Islam and ceases to be white or Negro, Islam recognizes all men as Men because the people here in Arabia believe that God is One, they believe that all people are also One, and that all our brothers and sisters is One Human Family. I have never before witnessed such sincere hospitality and the practice of true brotherhood as I have seen it here in Arabia. In fact all I have seen and experienced on this pilgrimage has forced me to ‘re-arrange’ much of thoughts pattern and to toss aside some (Page 4) of my previous conclusions. This ‘adjustment to reality’ wasn’t to difficult for me to undergo, because despite my firm conviction in whatever I believe, I have always tried to keep an open mind, which is absolutely necessary to reflect the flexibility that must go hand in hand with anyone with intelligent quest for truth never comes to an end.

This pilgrimage to the Holliest of Cities has been a unique experience for me, but one which has made me the recipient of numerous unexpected blessings beyond my wildest dreams. Shortly after my arrival in Jeddah, I was met by Prince Muhammed Faisal who informed me that his illustrious father, his Excellency Crowned Prince Faisal had decret that I be The ruler of Arabia’s Guest. What has happened since then would take several books to describe, but through the ***** of his Excellency I have since stayed in ***** hotels in Jeddah, Mecca, Mina — with a private car, a driver, a religious guide, and many servants at my disposal. (Page 3) Never have I been so highly honored and never had such honor and respect made me feel more humble and unworthy. Who would believe that such blessing could be heaped upon an American Negro!!! (But) in the Muslim 56


There are Muslims here of all colors and from every part of this earth. During the past days here in Mecca (Jeddah, Mina, and Mustaliph) while understanding the rituals of the Hajj, I have eaten. From the same plate, drank from the same glass and slept on the same bed or rug – with Kings, potentates and other forms of rulers – ******* with fellow Muslims whose skin was the whitest of white, whose eyes was the bluest of blue, and whose hair was the blondest of blond – I could look into their blue eyes and see that they regarded me as the same (Brothers), because their faith in One God (Allah) had actually removed ‘white’ from their mind, which automatically changed their attitude and their behavior (towards) people of other colors. Their beliefs in the Oneness has made them so different from American whites that their colors played no part in my mind in my dealing with them. Their sincere (Page 5)To One God and their acceptance of all people as equals makes them (so called ‘Whites’) also accepted as equals into the brotherhood of Islam along with the non-whites. If white Americans could accept the religion of Islam, if they could accept the Oneness of God (Allah) they too could then sincerely accept the Oneness of Men, and cease to measure others always in terms of their ‘difference in color’. And with racism now plaguing in America like an incurable cancer all thinking Americans should be more respective to Islam as an already proven solution to the race problem. ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

The American Negro could never be blamed for his racial ‘animosities’ because his are only reaction or defense mechanism which is subconscious intelligence has forced him to react (Page 6) against the conscious racism practiced (initiated against Negroes in America) by American Whites. But as America’s insane obsession with racism leads her up the suicidal path, nearer to the precipice that leads to the bottomless pits below, I do believe that Whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, through their own young, less hampered intellects will see the ‘Handwriting on the Wall’ and turn for spiritual salvation to the religion of Islam, and force the older generation to turn with them— This is the only way white America can worn off the inevitable disaster that racism always leads to, and Hitler’s Nazi Germany was best proof of this. Now that I have visited Mecca and gotten my own personal spiritual path adjusted to where I can better understand the depth of my religion (Islam), I shall be living in a couple days to continue my journey into our African Fatherland. Allah willing, by May 20th before my return to New York, I shall have visited Sudan, Kenya, Tanguanyika, Zanzibar, Nigeria, Ghana, and Algeria.You may use this letter in anyway you desire, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabbazz(Malcolm X) Source: Moments in Time 



Palestine Alive

for American Muslims for Palestine, and not for Arab Muslims for Palestine. ISNA stands with AMP in all its endeavors.” The conference offered sessions on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005 against Israel to make it comply with international law and human rights. Although BDS has been making huge strides worldwide, it has taken root in the United States only during the last few years. The Muslim community is beginning to learn about BY CONFERENCE REPORTING COMMITTEE this movement and how Islam’s tenets of justice are compatible with using this peaceful tactic to effect change. Thanksgiving tradition has developed: the Speakers talked about the current threats to the al-Aqsa mosque annual conference of American Muslims for Palestine sanctuary, Tel Aviv’s official order to use live ammunition against (AMP). This year, the AMP held its eighth annual Palestinian children accused of allegedly throwing stones, the siege conference in Chicago during Nov. 26-28, 2015. The and attacks on Gaza, the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners overall theme of this three-day event, “Reclaiming Our Narra- and the overall de-development of the Palestinian economy and tive,” focused on the Palestinian narrative and Islamic heritage society — all of which are the direct results of the notorious Balfour in Palestine. Declaration, written by Lord Arthur Balfour on behalf of the British More than 4,000 people attended lectures and panel discussions Zionist Federation, on Nov. 2, 1917. This small document effectively addressed by such renowned speakers as Mohamed Al-Moncef turned Palestine over to Zionist colonization, which culminated Al-Marzouki, former presiin the forcible eviction of 750,000 Palestinians from dent of Tunisia, Sheikh Abtheir ancestral homes and delfattah Mourou, founder of Tunisia’s Ennada Party, Ahthe destruction of more than mad Tibi, one of ten deputy 500 of their villages. Britain speakers of the Knesset and gave away something that it had no right to give away — leader of the Arab Moveanother people’s land. ment for Change, Abdallah Marouf, International FacBecause AMP dedicates a ulty of Islamic and Religious large portion of its budget to Studies, 29 Mayis University campus activism, conference (Istanbul), Phyllis Bennis, organizers invited the leaders director of the Institute for of state and regional Muslim Policy Studies’ New InterStudent Association counnationalism Project and cils. Representatives from a co-founder of the U.S. ISNA president Azhar Azeez (second from right) spoke at the conference. MSA National, the Lonestar MSA Council and the MSA Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Rania Khalek, of Connecticut were present. independent journalist and MSA West sent its proxy vote FOR A GOOD REASON AMP Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, with AMP campus coordifounder of nator Taher Herzallah. ColSTANDS FOR AMERICAN lectively, they voted to adopt The speakers also includMUSLIMS FOR PALESTINE, ed ISNA President Azhar BDS as a platform for MSA Azeez, Nihad Awad, execwork and pledged to end all AND NOT FOR ARAB MUSLIMS FOR utive director and founder “normalizing” activities and PALESTINE. ISNA STANDS WITH of the Council on Amerievents designed by Zionist can-Islamic Relations, Osastudent organizations to keep AMP IN ALL ITS ENDEAVORS.” ma Abuirshaid, AMP board Muslim and Arab students —ISNA President Azhar Azeez member and founder/editor silent. of the Arabic-language Al AMP also introduced peoMeezan newspaper, AMP ple to its latest project: purchairman Hatem Bazian and Oussama Jammal, Secretary Gener- chasing a new office suite in the Washington, D.C., area. In January al of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations. 2014, AMP sent its media director Kristin Szremski from Bridgeview, “AMP is the only organization dedicating 100 percent of its time, Ill., to the nation’s capital to determine the viability of establishing energy and resources to the issue of Palestine,” said Bazian. “These a local presence. Ten months later, AMP is quickly becoming an conferences are an important way to not only educate people and established entity in national coalition building, legislative advocacy disseminate information, but also to ensure that Muslims under- and national media work. The new suite has a large conference room, stand our connection to Palestine.” six offices and a reception area. The organization also plans to hire Azeez reminded the audience, “For a good reason AMP stands more staff in the coming months. 

A conference that celebrates Palestinian heritage and culture





More than a Landmark Moment A land that persecuted observant Muslims celebrates the opening of a grand mosque. BY RAMADAN ALIG


id al-Adha 2015 will remain a special and memorable moment for all Russian, especially Muscovite, Muslims, for on Sept. 23, 2015, President Vladimir Putin formally inaugurated Moscow’s Central Mosque (aka the Moscow Cathedral Mosque and the Moscow Jum’ah Mosque). Accompanying him were Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other world leaders, as well as Chechen Republic President Ramzan Kadyrov, Ingush President Yunus-bek Yevkurov and Dagestan President Ramazan Gadzhimuradovich. This moment reminded Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, national director, ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, who represented ISNA, of his visit to the former Soviet Union some thirty years ago. He reflected upon how sad he had been to see that many mosques had been converted into communist party offices and clubs. In addition, he recalled that this particular institution had been in disrepair and had hardly twenty worshipers, all of them middle-aged and closely watched by the Soviet intelligence agency. At that time, Syeed had managed to take in a few copies of the shirt-pocket-sized Quran undetected, which were discreetly and gratefully received and of course with

due apprehension, as it was a proscribed possession then. How times have changed. “What impressed me most was the number of worshippers in every mosque, and all below thirty and fifty years old, and even school students,” said Syeed. At the opening ceremony, Muslim students volunteered to serve as translators and assistants. He met with interesting young Muslims, among them Russian revert Nasima Bokova, editor of the beautiful Muslimah magazine Musulmanika. Muslim social service organizations are run and staffed by hijab-wearing women. Moscow Times, available free in hotels and other places, is run by Dagestani Muslim Nabi Abdullaev, who is critical of Russian support for Assad. Under the Soviet rulers, atheistic schooling was compulsory and any public expression of Islam was against the law. Upon his return to the U.S., Syeed helped establish Americans for Soviet Muslim Rights (ASMR), which had modest goals like educating Muslims and lawmakers in the U.S. about the plight of Muslims in the Soviet Union and asking for such rights as being allowed to go for hajj. Issa Smith served as its president. The organization also distributed a newsletter. “However, in our wildest dreams we could not visualize that the evil empire would crumble and the laws keeping religions


under brutal control would cease,” Syeed remarked. “We know that they need more rights and more freedom. But it is clear that they are on a road where they will get more rather than less of those rights and freedom.” Syeed gave Putin’s staff a humanitarian appeal from U.S.-based Syrian organizations — endorsed by ISNA — asking him not to support Assad. Rushan Abbyasov, the first deputy chairman of the Russian Council of Muftis, told the Vestnik Kavkaza website that the Moscow Cathedral Mosque’s opening was a bright indicator of their “spiritual revival.” The Turkish Diyanet Foundation, an agency of Turkey’s religious affairs directorate, helped with the mosque’s interior design. Dagestan-born billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, who barely surviving a car crash in France in 2007, gave the largest donation: $100 million. The donor-funded $170 million mosque, 59

rebuilt to replace the one built in 1904, can accommodate 10,000 congregants and, at 204,500 sq. ft., is some twenty times larger than its predecessor. The six-floor prayer area covers 62,300 sq. ft. and contains video screens that broadcast the prayers. “This is the only place of worship which was opened in Moscow even in the most difficult times of the Soviet period. There were attempts to destroy this mosque before the Olympic Games in 1980. But the government made the right decision and kept our current cathedral mosque,” Rushan Abbyasov, first deputy chairman of the Russian Council of Muftis, told the Vestnik Kavkaza website. Abbyasov, who described the renovated gold leaf-covered mosque’s unique architecture, said that it complements the architecture of golden-domed Moscow: “The minarets reflect the towers of the Moscow and the Kazan Kremlins. They look like the Spasskaya Tower of the Moscow Kremlin and also the Syuyumbike Tower, which is located on the territory of the Kazan Kremlin. It is our unique Russian project based on our architectural traditions. The interior is also rendered in the national colors and national decorations of those Muslim peoples who live in our country.” Moscow, home to an estimated two

population, making it one of the world’s largest Muslim-minority populations.

ISLAM IN THE POST-SOVIET ERA The perceived global growth of political Islam and Islamist extremism has recently led to a rethinking of foreign policy in many Western countries. Russia is no exception. As is the case elsewhere, Islam is at the forefront of its foreign policy making. There is one difference, however: Negative stereotypes are less visible in both politics and the media. Karina Fayzullina, a Russian researcher

WHAT IMPRESSED ME MOST WAS THE NUMBER OF WORSHIPPERS IN EVERY MOSQUE, AND ALL BELOW THIRTY AND FIFTY YEARS OLD, AND EVEN SCHOOL STUDENTS.” —Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, national director, ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances million Muslims, is served by only four mosques. “The opening of the mosque will only slightly improve the situation during [religious] holidays,” Abbyasov said. “They pray in winter, in the cold and in the rain. Believe me, it is really uncomfortable when you have to kneel in a puddle of water.” Islam is the country’s second-largest religion; the first one is Russian Orthodoxy. The Russian Federation’s approximately 23 million Muslims are concentrated in the northern Caucasus and represent roughly 15 percent of the country total population of 145 million. However, there is no recent census to verify this figure. According to Russia Today, experts say that by 2050 Muslims will make up about half of Russia’s 60

specializing in international relations, wrote in a Aljazeera Center for Studies report entitled “Interpreting Russian Foreign Policy and Islam” (Sept. 28, 2014), that Islam has been integrated into the country’s national and political identity. Fayzullina notes, “It is only recently that Islam in Russia has found itself less ‘chained’ by the restrictions that had previously shackled it for centuries, before and during the founding of the former Soviet Union. This government policy trend has turned out to be really encouraging. Russian leaders and politicians repeatedly stress the significance of Islam as integral to the political fabric of statehood, historically and in the contemporary era.

“For instance, President Putin generally does not shy away from expressing religious sentiment and support and is forthright in his respect for Islam. Putin remarked: ‘… Islam is rightly claimed an inalienable part of today’s religious, social and cultural life of Russia. Its traditions are based on eternal values of goodness, mercy and justice…’” (RIA Novosti 2012 — an official domestic Russian-language news agency). The policy of the 2000s, along with the government’s policy of improving Russia’s image in the Muslim world, seems to have yielded encouraging results, adds Fayzullina. In terms of mass consciousness, Russia is seeking to present itself as an Islam- and Muslim-friendly country by cultivating the image of an alternative to the belligerent U.S. Neocons who constantly set themselves against the Muslim world via their persistent yet fruitless attempts to spread Western political values and promote “democracy.” Russia, on the other hand, does not seek to spread communism. Fayzullina notes that Russia’s transition to a fully-fledged democracy is still awaited. Presently, civil society remains largely apathetic when it comes to the participation and civic responsibility required to begin and then pursue a thorough process of state and nation building. Whether civil society can become a cohesive and conscious force with a say in issues related to state and nation building will depend on the ability of the liberal elites and voices to work toward empowerment. Only in this way can the Russian people attain a wide and deep inclusiveness in the public sphere. Should this trend gain momentum, Islam’s role can be expected to grow. If Russian Muslims, both the elites and the people, become legitimate and solid stakeholders in governmental affairs and are integrated into existing political forces, the country’s foreign and domestic politics would be moved toward constructive engagement with the Muslim world. The benefits of such a scenario would be a certain win-win for all. Russia has a foundation upon which it can design policies that allow for strong relations with its own Muslims and with Muslim countries, notes Fayzullina. In fact, and rather surprisingly, Russia has the highest ratio of Muslims residing within its borders of all of the United Nations Security Council’s permanent members.  Ramadan Alig is a freelance writer.


NEW RELEASES Doubt in Islamic Law: A History of Legal Maxims, Interpretation and Islamic Criminal Law Intisar A. Rabb 2015. Pp. 432. HB. $115.00 Cambridge University Press, West Nyack, N.Y. abb considers an important and largely neglected area of Islamic law by exploring how medieval Muslim jurists resolved criminal cases that could not be proven beyond a doubt. She questions a controversial contemporary popular notion — that Islamic law is a divine legal tradition that leaves little room for discretion or doubt, particularly in criminal law. Despite its contemporary popularity, this notion turns out to have been far outside the mainstream of Islamic law for most of its history. Instead of rejecting doubt, medieval Muslim scholars largely embraced it and actually used it to expand their own power and construct criminal law itself. Through a close examination of legal, historical and theological sources and a range of illustrative case studies, Rabb shows that Muslim jurists developed a highly sophisticated and regulated system for dealing with Islam’s unique concept of doubt, which evolved from the seventh to the sixteenth century. 


To Be a European Muslim Tariq Ramadan 2015. Pp. 289. PB. $22.00 Islamic Foundation, Markfield, Leics., U.K. his new edition of the original 1999 book addresses some of the fundamental issues facing Europe’s several million Muslims. Based on a thorough study of Islamic sources, it seeks to answer basic questions about their social, political, cultural and legal integration. Although the title says “European Muslim,” the book offers valuable insights for Muslim Americans/Canadians and any Muslims living as “minorities” (only in number, of course, not in status). Ramadan argues that Islam can protect immigrants’ children and grandchildren if it is lived affirmatively and proactively with a broad, universal vision of the world and humanity. The author places himself between assimilation and rejectionism by asserting that Islam’s methodology is as useful and valid as ever. 


Islam and Democracy after the Arab Spring John L. Esposito, Tamara Sonn and John O. Voll 2015. Pp. 320. HB. $29.95 Oxford University Press, USA n late 2010, the Arab Spring stunned the world as dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were overthrown, and the ruling regimes of Bahrain, Syria and Yemen brutally suppressed their own revolutions. The Islamic political parties of Tunisia and Egypt attracted particular attention for their success in the national elections following the overthrow of their respective regimes. Similar electoral success were seen in Morocco and predicted throughout the Arab world and beyond. Each movement raised questions regarding equality, economic justice, democratic participation and the relationship between Islam and democracy. Esposito, Sonn and Voll examine these uprisings and the democratic process in the Muslim world as well as the larger relationship between Islam and politics. 


Islamic Education in Britain: New Pluralist Paradigms Alison Scott-Baumann and Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor 2015. pp. 240. HB. $112.00 Bloomsbury Academic, London he West often fears many aspects of Islam without the knowledge needed to move forward. On the other hand, there are sustained and complex debates within Islam about how to live in the modern world with faith. The authors propose solutions to both dilemmas, with a particular emphasis on the role of women. Challenging existing beliefs about Islam in Britain, this book offers a paradigm shift based on research conducted over 15 years. Reaching beyond the meta-narratives of secularization and Orientalism, they seek to demonstrate the importance of teaching and learning about classical Islamic studies in order to promote reasoned dialogue, interfaith and intercultural understanding in pluralist British society. 



The Athaan in the Bull City: Building Durham’s Islamic Community Nazeeh Z. Abdul-Hakeem 2015. Pp. 158. PB. $15.95 Lulu Publishing Services, Raleigh, N.C. he Athaan in the Bull City tells the little-known story of the growth of a North Carolina Islamic community. Drawing upon the founding and development of Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman, principal founder Abdul-Hakeem draws together personal recollections and the details of Durham’s major Islamic organization to tell about its burgeoning Islamic community. Other pioneers and communities need to emulate Abdul-Hakeem’s effort because it is important that Muslims tell their own story. 


The Miraculous Language of the Qur’an: Evidence of Divine Origin Bassam Saeh 2015. pp. 104. PB. $8.95 International Institute of Islamic Thought, Wash., D.C. aeh illustrates why the Qur’an’s language is miraculous, unique and evidence of divine authority. The author compares its language with that of pre-Islamic poetry and the Hadith, as well as with the language of the Arabs both past and present, to show that although the Qur’an was revealed in Arabic, it was nevertheless an entirely new Arabic. Saeh works to present the Qur’an to readers as if they are hearing it for the first time in order to bring to life some of this wonder. In addition, he guides them in such a way that they will be able to appreciate its beauty, become more immersed in it, and acquire a clearer understanding of its structure and flow. 


Arts of the Hellenized East: Precious Metalwork and Gems of the Pre-Islamic Era Martha L. Carter  2015. Pp. 424; 350+ color illustrations. HB. $75.00 Thames & Hudson, New York his book, sixth in the series exploring Kuwait’s al-Sabah Collection, is devoted to rare and important objects items from the Hellenistic East, many of which have never before been seen in print. Their decorative patterns, which include classical subjects and animal motifs combined with floral and vegetal designs, testify both to their producers’ skills and the complex interconnected cultural histories of Greece, Iran, and Central Asia. 


The Qur’an and Normative Religious Pluralism: A Thematic Study of the Quran Arif Kemil Abdullah 2014. pp. 316. PB. $18.95 International Institute of Islamic Thought, Wash., D.C. hose who are not very informed about Islam regard this religion as both dogmatic and exclusivist. The Quran, however, is a great and worthy example of how to live in diversity based upon powerful scriptural tenets that lend themselves to engagement with those of other faiths. As such, Islam has much to add to the debate on religious pluralism. In reality, the Quran calls for freedom of faith and peaceful coexistence and condemns oppression, religious persecution and those who initiate hostilities. In this way it not only invokes human dignity, but also restores it after it has been violated. 


Persophilia Persian Culture on the Global Scene Hamid Dabashi 2015. Pp. 250. HB. $35.00 Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. rom the Biblical period and Classical Antiquity to the rise of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, aspects of Persian culture have been integral to European history. Hamid Dabashi explains how Persians responded when they saw themselves reflected in western mirrors by tracing the formation of its civic discursive space, which he sees as a prime example of a modern nation-state emerging from an ancient civilization in the context of European colonialism. The author argues that the modern Iranian public sphere cannot be understood apart from this dynamic interaction. He offers a reading of world history that dismantles normative historiography and alters our understanding of postcolonial nations. 



ROAD MAP TO IMPROVE THE IMAGE OF MUSLIMS/ISLAM in USA   Your mosque can do it, but you can do it by yourself  Today, the image of Muslims is under attack. However, we should not forget, that it is our responsibility to correct it collectively and individually: it is every Muslim’s responsibility. YES, if we do it seriously we can see positive results emerging in a few years. Muslims, who are spread out across the United States, should place this ad. in their local newspapers and magazines. Below is a sample text for the ad. that you can use:

Islam is a religion of inclusion. Muslims believe in all the Prophets of Old & New Testaments. Read Quran — The Original, unchanged word of God as His Last and Final testament to humankind. More information is available on following sites: •  Or 877whyIslam • Such ads are already running in many newspapers in the United States but may not be in your area of residence yet. Placing these ads can be a continuous reward (sadqa-e-jaria) for yourself, your children, your loved deceased ones and with the prayer for a sick person that Allah make life easy here and in the Hereafter. Please Google the list of newspapers in your state and contact their advertising departments. Such ads are not expensive. They range for around $20 to $50 per slot and are cheaper if run for a longer time. Call your local newspaper and ask how many print copies they distribute, and run it for a longer period of time to get cheaper rates. Don’t forget that DAWAH works on the same principles as that of advertisement, BULK AND REPEATED EXPOSURE CREATES ACCEPTANCE. Printing continuously for a long period of time is better than printing one big advertisement for only once. Let your advertisement run for a longer time even if it is as small as a business card. NOTE: If you are living East of Chicago, choose in the ad 877-whyIslam, but also please call 877-WHYISLAM before putting the ad and check if someone is already running an advertisement in the same newspaper as yours. If that is the case choose another newspaper. And if you are living West of Chicago, choose and also call before putting your ad. Also, after the ad appears, please send a clipping to the respective organization. If you have any questions, or want copies of the ads that others have already placed in their area newspapers/ magazines, please contact me, Muhammad Khan at: so that I can guide you better. You can also contact 1-877-why-Islam or

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168-0038


Islamic Horizons Jan/Feb 2016  
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