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BEYOND CHARLOTTESVILLE: Fighting Prejudice with the Quranic Prophetic Paradigm


VOL. 47 NO. 1  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018 visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET

COVER STORY 26 Beyond Charlottesville: Fighting Prejudice with the Quranic Prophetic Paradigm 30 Embracing Diversity 32 Historically Black Colleges: A Refuge for Muslim Students of Diverse Backgrounds


40 How to Resolve the Empathy Deficit


Houston: A Welcoming City


Living Islam in Letter and Spirit

CONFERENCES 42 Hate is Beatable

54 Reflecting on the Language We Use

22 23 24

Seattle Savors the Power of Faith Memphis: Finding Faith Beyond the Quran The Power of Faith in Cincinnati

EDUCATION 34 36 44 45

Countering Racism in the Classroom Voices from the Past – Advice for the Future Karen’s Legacy IN MEMORIAM: Linda (Widad) Delgado

ISLAM IN AMERICA 46 Muslim American Women in Service. Really! 48 Muslim Puerto Ricans Search for Good after Hurricane María


Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters New Releases

50 Smart Cannot Always Be Really Smart 52 App Has Donors and Community Organizations Feeling Blessed 56 Neoliberalism: The Mind-Flayer


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.

The Tula Toli Massacre in Burma


Zia Hassan Abdul Hameed Dogar JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   5


Facta non Verba


n his epic poem Shikwa (The Complaint, “Bang-e-Dra,”105), the celebrated poet-philosopher Allama Mohammad Iqbal (1877-1938) complains to God about the Muslims’ condition, lists the feats they had rendered in His service and noted that they had worked hard to create a society along the following lines: Ek Hi Saf Mein Khare Ho Gaye Mahmood-o-Ayaz, No Koi Banda Raha Aur Na Koi Banda Nawaz Mahmood the king and Ayaz the slave, in line, as equals, stood arrayed, The lord was no more lord to the slave: while both to the One Master prayed. Banda-o-Sahib-o-Mauhtaaj-o-Ghani Aik Huwe Teri Sarkar Mein Pohanche To Sabhi Aik Huwe Slave or slave’s master, rich or poor, no sense of difference then felt, For each was a brother to each when, in Your Presence, O Lord, they knelt.

Yes, indeed, long-ago Muslims did all of these things. And yet today we are seen as lacking in so many areas, especially in terms of the kinship that Islam not only teaches and preaches but in fact demands of us. Each year, the parents of elementary school children see the special efforts to mark February as Black History Month. Its precursor was created in 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson (d. 1950) and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History designated the second week of February as “Negro History Week.” February needs to get out of the rut of being observed as a token of integration. Moreover, the acts of including, respecting and embracing each other should become part of the essentials of our lives, just like breathing. Muslims, however, have a great and God-ordained obligation to do more than just preach or make token efforts. Are we not commanded to establish inclusion and respect regardless our respective melanin counts and socioeconomic status? Does not the Quran proclaim: “O you who believe, stand out firmly for God, and [be] bearers of witness with justice!” (5:8) and “O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule

[another] people; perhaps they may be better than them ... And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames” (49:11). Inclusion and respect does not start and end with avoiding the “N” word and the like. Rather, they mean treating everyone as a family member because we are all the progeny of Adam and Eve (‘alayhum as-salam). Clearly, we have a long way to go in terms of making the ideal described by the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) a reality: “You see the believers in their mutual compassion, love and empathy like one body….” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 5665; “Sahih Muslim,” hadith no. 2586). With the exclusion of some stray examples of silliness, our mosques do not suffer from the syndrome pointed out by Martin Luther King Jr.: “Sunday is the most segregated time in America.” The Friday jum’ah prayer just might be the most integrated time in America. But we must go beyond merely guarding this gift by taking the higher ground and spreading it far beyond our own communities. And, we must never forget the Prophet’s admonition: “O people! Indeed, your Lord is one and your father [and mother] is one. Indeed, there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, nor of a non-Arab over an Arab, nor of a white over a black, nor of a black over a white, except in terms of taqwa (God consciousness)” (“Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal” Hadith no. 19774). It is this Facta non Verba (Deeds not Words) moment that calls upon Muslim Americans to move out of their various comfort zones and to act. Especially now, when we are confronted with a rather daunting set of realities, it is time for us to internalize the Prophet’s example of leading the fight against all types of injustice and behave accordingly: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not [the] hatred [that] others [direct toward] you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just, [for] that is next to piety, and fear God, for God is well-acquainted with all that you do” (5:8). ISNA, through its Masjid Development Initiative, is providing the resources for all Muslim American communities to make their mosques far more inclusive, welcoming and well run. It is up to the communities to decide whether or not they will make use of the available resources.  ih


PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Azhar Azeez INTERIM SECRETARY GENERAL Habibe Ali EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Faryal M Khatri EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed, Habibe Ali, Faryal Khatri ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2018 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:



Front row: Shaykha Zainab Alwani, Shaykha Deina Abdelkader, Ameer of FCNA, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Shaykh Adam El Shaikh, Imam Hasan Qazwini and Dr. Khalid Shaukat. Back row: Dr. Ihsan Bagby, Shaykh Omar Mustafa, Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, Imam Mohammad Qatanani, Shaykh Abdul Rahman Khan and the host, ISNA President Azhar Azeez.

The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), a national body of Islamic scholars and jurists, held its three-day meeting in Dallas. The event was co-hosted by ISNA and Islamic Relief USA. During the meeting, the group discussed organ donation, degrees for fajr/isha prayer times, the role of women in mosques, adoption vs. kafalah and LGBTQ issues. Dr. Jamal Badawi, Shaykh Jasser Auda and Shaykh Yasir Qadhi participated over the phone.  ih


On Nov. 6, 2017, Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances Director Colin Christopher joined faith leaders from Network Lobby and the Religious Action Center to discuss tax reform with Rep. James Rennaci’s (R-Ohio) office. Christopher and fellow faith partners emphasized the importance of tax reform focusing upon economic mobility for working- and middle-class families, their concern about discriminatory legislation prohibiting mixed-status families from receiving the Child Tax Credit, as well as the importance of fiscal responsibility.  ih

ISNA CO-SPONSORS HACKING RACISM, BIAS AND BIGOTRY EVENT On Oct. 20, 2017, Colin Christopher joined the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and other partnering organizations to facilitate a half-day event focused on devising creative solutions to confronting racism, bias and bigotry. Brown University students, staff and dozens of community leaders shared personal stories of being discriminated against and offered ideas on how historically disparate groups can better collaborate and help heal our country. This was the first in a series of Hacking Racism, Bias and Bigotry events that ISNA is co-hosting at universities around the country.  ih 8    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018


As of Dec. 1, 2017, Taha Ghayyur took charge as ISNA Canada’s new executive director. A community organizer, not-forprofit leader, writer, public speaker and khatib, he comes from a 12-year background of holding various leadership positions at Sound Vision, gradually becoming its director of communications. In addition, he was the executive director of Burma Task Force Canada and a volunteer on the board of directors at DawaNet and MuslimFest. He has been MuslimFest’s chairperson for several years. A writer and regular speaker on personal and community development issues, for the past 15 years he has dedicated himself to not-for-profit management and community development through events planning, public relations and leadership governance.  ih


ISNA partnered with Islam InSpanish ( to raise funds for relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Imam Wesley Lebron, Imam Daniel Abdullah Hernandez and Imam Yusuf Rios led relief efforts to help people rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. At the time of their visit, there was no electricity, numerous newly homeless families and people without food, water or access to medical treatment. ISNA continues to seek donations to its Hurricane Maria Relief Fund. All proceeds will go toward supporting Imam Wesley and his team’s efforts.  ih


•  On Oct. 26, 2017, Colin Christopher, director, ISNA Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, joined Christian faith leaders on a panel to discuss the role of religion in protecting the planet and communities. Speaking to over 150 business leaders, climate advocates and health care advocates, Christopher outlined the Muslims’ religious obligation to care for all of creation and climate change’s impact on communities worldwide. He also discussed the work of ISNA’s Green Masjid Task Force, Islamic Relief ’s climate resilience strategies, the large-scale solar

investment by the Moroccan government and how the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change has sparked a new wave of sustainable planning and practices in built environments. •  ISNA Green Masjid Task Force members Nana Firman and Saffet Catavoic, who is also ISNA Representative to COP 23 Negotiations, participated in the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, from Nov. 6-17, 2107. •  ISNA joined its interfaith partners in signing the Interfaith Statement on Sustainable Living. Saffet Catavoic recited the opening prayer during the opening session. Following the initial handover of the statement, in his capacity as part of a high level multi-faith religious delegation, Catavoic met for follow-up discussions with Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Director of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat. He presented the declaration, which has been signed by over 150 high-level world religious

leaders to date, on the delegation’s behalf and shared ISNA President Azhar Azeez and ISNA leadership’s message with Espinosa. “Addressing climate change by reducing our carbon footprint is a moral responsibility as khulafa al-ard — caretakers, stewards, and guardians of the earth. We must care for all of creation. Reshaping our patterns of consumption and conservation not only help preserve the planet for us and our future generations, but also improve overall public health and economic prosperity, particularly for the vulnerable amongst us who are most severely impacted by climate change.” In keeping with the environmental objectives, the declaration was carried on bicycle by Catovic, Nana Firman, Global Muslim Climate Network, Indonesia, Tomas Insua, Global Catholic Climate Movement, Rev. Henrik Grape, Church of Sweden and the World Council of Churches, Sister Jayanti, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Bishop Andrus of the Episcopal church and Gopal Patel, Bhumi Project.  ih

ISNA GRANTS FIRST HAJJA RAZIA SHARIF SHEIKH SCHOLARSHIP THE HAJJA RAZIA SHARIF SHEIKH SCHOLARSHIP, which is administered by ISNA, awarded its first scholarship for 2017-18. The recipient Sara Eddekkaki is a communications major at the University of South Florida. Eddekkaki, who now serves as president of her university's Taekwondo club, secured a second place Hajja Razia Sharif in national Taekwondo tournament in Fort Lauderdale, at the Amateur Athletic Union in 2013, garnered much praise from her instructor in training the young pupils in the art. Her instructor noted in her letter of recommendation, "She [Sara] constantly inspires everyone around her, especially as a Muslim-Arab female who outwardly displays her religious beliefs with her hijab. She’s been a great asset to the team for many years, and I believe she’ll be successful in any path she chooses to lead." She has successfully launched a professional freelance art business on her own.

Upon receiving the news of her award, Eddekkaki said, “I was the humble recipient of ISNA’s Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh scholarship, which enables me to continue my journey of self-growth at my university. I’m eternally grateful for this investment to my education, and I aspire to make every use of it Sara Eddekkaki to become a beacon of knowledge, hope, and light for American Muslim youth as I tell stories about all of the marginalized people whose voices aren’t heard.” Nida Saleem, M.P.H , M.P.A., ISNA Scholarship Development Manager, said that this academic year ISNA received 605 applications. Of these, 20 final candidates were reviewed by ISNA’s Scholarship Review Committee. In addition to the Hajja Razia scholarship, ISNA gave an additional 10 scholarships in the field of journalism.  ih

INTERFAITH CLERGY MEET IN INDIANAPOLIS PICO National Network, which started as the Pacific Institute for Community Organization (PICO) in Oakland, Calif., organized a three-day “Prophetic Resistance Summit” on Oct. 23-25, 2017, in Indianapolis. This event brought together over 300 clergy and faith leaders from across the nation to develop strategies for addressing social justice issues. A group of Muslim religious and community leaders met to discuss their current projects and strategies for mobilization. The Muslim Caucus included Saffet Catovic, member of the ISNA Green Masjid Task Force, Reza Nekumanesh, executive director at Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, Calif.,

Imam Ali Siddiqui, founding member of the Islamic Peoples Movement, and the founding director of the Orange County Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, Minister Nuri Muhammad, Nation of Islam, Imam Taha Hassane, imam/director of the Islamic Center of San Diego, Imam Hatim Hamidullah of Masjid Al-Haqq in Orlando, Hedab Tarifi, Chairwoman, Islamic Center of Southern California, Minister Rodney Muhammad, president of the NAACP in Philadelphia, and Faryal Khatri, ISNA Communications Coordinator. A panel of national activists and organizers, among them Linda Sarsour, Rev. Jin S. Kim, founding pastor of Church of All Nations

and founder of Underground Seminary, Rosa Alicia Clemente, a community organizer, independent journalist and hip-hop activist, Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, an author, documentary filmmaker, public intellectual, organizer, pastor and theologian, and Umi Selah, co-founder of the Dream Defenders, analyzed the connection between faith and the movement for justice.  ih



Chicago Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

Dr. Ragab El-Rashidy (center)

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) recognized Dilara Sayeed and Dr. Ragab El-Rashidy as Top Muslim Achievers of 2017 at its 25th Anniversary Dinner on Nov. 4, 2017. Executive Director G. Abdullah Mitchell stressed the importance of collaboration among all of our community’s members to overcome our challenges and accomplish our goals Keynote speaker Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, implored Muslim community leaders to reimagine Muslim spaces by becoming more inclusive and welcoming to women, youth and the underserved, noting that if “we are fragmented within our own mosques, it’s very hard to collaborate across Islamic organizations.” Sayeed, a product of the Chicago public school system and the Muslim Community Center, is as an educator, community activist and civic leader who has worked as a 5th and 8th grade teacher and administrator for over a decade at both public and faithbased schools. She has developed innovative professional learning programs and lectured at Harvard, Benedictine, and Northwestern universities. Along with advocating for the most vulnerable youth by working with the Children’s Defense Fund to disrupt cradle-to-prison pipelines, in her capacity as chief education officer at The Golden Apple Foundation (https://www.goldenapple. org), she recently led her team in training

Gaza of Hearts

Dilara Sayeed (left)

hundreds of educators to serve at schoolsof-need across the state. In addition, she is the founder of vPeer. com, a tech start-up that makes mentoring accessible to professionals worldwide who want to improve their practice and change their career trajectory, and a co-founder of the Mohammed Webb Foundation (www., a community organization at the forefront of developing a Muslim American identity through faith and service. El-Rashidy, founder and CEO of the pharmaceutical research and development company Genix, also founded Pentech Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Perrigo in 2012. He has 20+ patents for inventions of several pharmaceutical products and continues to combine his technical knowledge with his deep international network to develop complex products to help patients live their best lives. Over the last 25 years, he has raised $25 million to build various companies. C IO G C ’s 2 0 1 7 Hi g h S cho ol Valedictorians, representing various member schools, were recognized on stage for their academic achievements. Attendees included Pakistani Consul General Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, Turkish Consul General Fatih Yildiz, State Representative Theresa Mah, the Very Rev. Thomas Baima of the Catholic Archdiocese and representatives from the Catholic Theological Union and the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.  ih

Baltimore Approves Eid Holiday On Nov. 7, 2107, the Baltimore County school board voted to approve an academic calendar that shifts one professional development day, on which classes are not held, to June 5, 2018, in recognition of Eid al-Fitr. Baltimore County surgeon Bashar Pharoan, 10    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018

On Sept. 16, 2017, 312 women and 228 men of various ethnicities and faiths raised $123,000 for Gaza’s innocent children by participating in the annual Gaza 5K run. Held along Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, kaffiyahs and various mediums of the Palestinian flag were prominently displayed. This event, which is held in five major U.S. cities and sponsored by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) USA, raises funds for UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Program for Gaza’s children. The 60 teams ran against the backdrop of three major Israeli offensives that devastated Gaza and showed Tel Aviv’s ongoing blatant disregard for international law. Team Al-Hanooti included family members of the late Haifa, Palestine-born imam of Dar ul-Hijra, Muhammad Hanooti. On Sept. 24, 2017, Nadrat Siddique reported in The New Trend that the seven-member family team raised about $1,777. The nine members of the Jews for Gaza team raised $1,055. The team’s self-description was “Jews stand in solidarity with Palestinian refugees to support freedom and dignity for all.” The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights team, comprising many non-Muslim friends of the Palestinian cause, raised the most money — $4,875.  ih

who has campaigned since 2004 to have Muslim holidays recognized as equal to other holidays, said that board member Kathleen Causey’s amendment represents “a step forward.” He maintains that it is only fair to give the same consideration to Muslim observances that has been extended to their Jewish and Christian counterparts. “It is not equal, but nonetheless it is a positive step. We just want our children to feel included.”  ih

Ibtihaj Gets Her Own Barbie

California Enacts Religious Freedom

Sen. Ricardo Lara

Gov. Jerry Brown


California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed the California Religious Freedom Act (SB 31) on Oct. 15, 2017 — a momentous victory for civil rights organizations.

Ibtihaj Muhammad with her shero doll

Mattel made history with its first hijabi Barbie, modeled after Muslim American Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American hijabi to compete and medal in the Olympics. The shero — a term coined for female heroes — doll was unveiled at Glamour’s Women of the Year summit in New York City on Nov. 13, 2017. “Today I’m proud to know that little girls who wear a hijab, and just as powerfully, those that don’t, can play with a Barbie in a headscarf,” Ibtihaj told Teen Vogue. “As someone who grew up playing with Barbies, I know that the more diverse dolls offered, the many more inspiring stories girls will be able to tell.” “Ibtihaj Muhammad has challenged

every stereotype — which to me is the definition of a modern American woman,” stated Glamour’s editor-in-chief Cindi Leive. “Barbie is celebrating Ibtihaj not only for her accolades as an Olympian, but for embracing what makes her stand out,” Sejal Shal Miller, vice president of Global Marketing for Barbie, proclaimed in the press release. “Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented, and by honoring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything.” Not only has this Olympian inspired women, but she has also created the Louella clothing line, which offers a large selection of modest, fashion-forward clothes for them.  ih

Interfaith Efforts Build New Hampshire’s First Mosque Keene, N.H., is getting the state’s first full-time mosque, the Masjid al-Latiff and Interfaith Community Center (MALIC Center), thanks to an interfaith group that refurbished the remarkably ill-kept premises left by the previous tenants, reported, on Sept. 24, 2017. Among the cleanup volunteers were Keene mayoral candidate Bob Call and Jilletta Jarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2018. The MALIC Center created an interfaith community even before it officially opened its doors. It plans to operate a homeless warming center during the state’s colder months. This undertaking started when

Will Coley, the mosque’s imam and caretaker, approached the Shire Free Church, an interfaith peace church, about the availability of property for a mosque. In 2016, the organization hosted an iftar and a grand Eid meal to close out the year’s largest Libertarian event: the Porcupine Freedom Festival.  ih

CAIR-CA said bill SB 31, introduced by state Senator Ricardo Lara (D), meets four goals: it (1) provides critical protections to Californians of all faiths, (2) prevents local law enforcement’s participation in any federal registry based on religion, national origin and ethnicity, (3) prevents any state or local agency or public employee from participating in a federal program designed to create a database based on a person’s religious beliefs, practices or affiliations, national origin, or ethnicity, for law enforcement or immigration purposes, and (4) will prevent state and local law enforcement agencies from collecting information on an individual’s religious beliefs, practices or affiliations. In his 2017 State of the State address, Brown affirmed that “[i]t is that spirit of perseverance and courage which built our state from the beginning. And it is that spirit which will get us through the great uncertainty and the difficulties ahead.” Appreciating Brown’s commitment to preserving the civil liberties of all Californians, CAIR-CA Legislative and Government Affairs Coordinator Yannina Casillas declared: “With the signing of SB 31, Californians know that our great state will stand up to any federal policy that targets vulnerable communities.” CAIR-CA advocated for SB 31 at its 6th Annual Muslim Day at the Capitol, during which more than 700 Muslims from across California gathered in Sacramento to urge their legislators’ support.  ih



Long Island Hosts Interfaith Award

Diana Eck, third from left, with the board of trustees.

Dr. Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies, director of the Pluralism Project, faculty dean of Lowell House at Harvard and member of the Faculty of Divinity, received the Islamic Center of Long Island’s (ICLI) Interfaith Institute award on Oct. 1, 2017.

More than 300 area faith, community, business leaders and law enforcement officials attended this annual event, now in its second year. ICLI’s Interfaith Institute was established in October 2015 to further ICLI’s vision and mission. Prof. Faroque Ahmad Khan, MB, MACP, serves as its board chair of trustees.

Rabbi Leads NYC Muslim Parade as Grand Marshal

Eck was recognized for her seminal work in the field of religious pluralism in general and, in particular, for her work on the religious dimensions of America’s new Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Zoroastrian immigrants, as well as for the issues of religious pluralism and American civil society. In her remarks, she emphasized the need and importance for all faith groups to form grassroot networks and collaborative efforts. Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc., and co-chair of Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC), and Robert Silverman, MJAC’s national director, informed the attendees about MJAC and its current and future plans. This interfaith, bipartisan collaboration was convened by the American Jewish Committee and ISNA in 2016. Its 42 members are business, religious and political leaders from all over the U.S. MJAC, which focuses its public policy advocacy on reversing the rise in religion-based hate crimes, seeks to create “a coordinated strategy to address anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Semitism” and to “protect and expand the rights of religious minorities in the United States.”  ih “As the children of Abraham, we recognize that we both have a common faith and a common fate,” added Schneier. In 2013, they co-wrote “Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation About the Issues That Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims.”  ih

Winners in 2017 Elections

Rabbi Marc Schneier (center)

Rabbi Marc Schneier was an honorary grand marshal for New York City’s 32nd annual Muslim Day Parade. Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (, serves as the spiritual leader of the Long Island’s Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach. “This is a clear message to the world that we can be united despite our differences,”

said Imam Shamsi Ali, president of the Muslim Foundation of America, the umbrella group that organized the parade. “We have witnessed a real coming together of Muslims and Jews in America that serves as a paradigm for other nations,” he said, noting that many Jewish organizations have been at the forefront in opposing the Trump administration’s travel ban plans.


• Mazahir Salih, first Muslim American woman and immigrant on the Iowa City Council. • Fartun Ahmed, first Muslim American elected to Hopkins School Board in Hopkins, Minn. • Zak Idan, Muslim American elected to Tukwila City (Wash.) Council. • Abdi Warsame, first SomaliAmerican Muslim to serve in a municipal office, was reelected as a city council member to Minneapolis’ Ward 6. • Abdulkadir Hassan, a SomaliAmerican, won a seat on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.  ih

At the invitation of Rep. David Price (D., N.C.), on Oct. 4, 2017, Duke University chaplain Abdullah Antepli delivered the opening prayer for the U.S. House of Representatives. He asked God to guide all congresspersons and enable them to serve citizens and all of humanity regardless of their gender, ethnicity or religion. The Turkish-born Antepli, who joined Duke in July 2008, is one of only a handful of full-time Muslim chaplains at U.S. colleges and universities. In addition to being the founder and executive board member of the Association of Campus Muslim Chaplains, he is a member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains and serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Duke Divinity School and Duke Islamic Studies Center, where he teaches courses on Islam. He has been a partner in the Muslim Leadership Initiative at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.  ih

Mouhamadou Diagne

Bucknell University, located in Lewisburg, Penn., welcomed Mouhamadou Diagne as its first Muslim chaplain on Oct. 16, 2017. He joined the university’s Office of Chaplains & Religious Life after serving as Columbia University’s assistant university chaplain for two years. Born in Senegal, Diagne was 12 years old and spoke no English when his family moved to the U.S. However, he quickly distinguished himself academically and attended Minnesota’s Carleton College as a Posse scholar majoring in psychology and educational studies. He earned a master of divinity degree in Islam and African religions from Harvard Divinity School. Provost Barbara Altmann noted, “Bucknell is deeply committed to diversity in all its forms, including religious beliefs. Chaplain Diagne has a wonderful opportunity to ensure that our Muslim students feel supported in their faith and represented in University life. He brings strong professional experience and dedication to students, which will increase the vibrancy of campus culture in a way that benefits everyone.”  ih




Imam Antepli (2nd from left)


The University of Texas at Austin Gets a Muslim Sorority Mu Delta Alpha, the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’ first Muslim sorority, held its inaugural meeting during October 2107. It has letters and colors — teal, white and peach. President Maria Haseem stressed that the sorority is not a stereotypical Greek experience, for it is based upon strict adherence to Islamic rules. Somali-born founder Samira Maddox, who grew up in Canada and has been living in the U.S. for 10 years, started the sorority three years ago at UT Dallas because she was looking someplace to fit in and have a full college experience. One of the sorority’s main goals is to find successful Muslimahs and make them accessible to its members. They are working toward that goal via a speaker series. During 2017, the sorority launched two new chapters — one at UT-Austin and a joint

Oklahoma City’s Masjid Mu’min, believed to be the state’s oldest mosque, hosted a dedication ceremony during Nov. 2017 for the fellowship hall in its new addition. The new addition includes an expansive prayer room, a large fellowship hall and space for a free clinic. The clinic is run by the Oklahoma City chapter of ICNA Relief, the relief arm of the Islamic Circle of North America USA. Imam Arif Abdullah led the dedication of the fellowship hall to the late Jafar Farzaneh, a longtime supporter of the mosque’s community, and unveiled a plaque created in his honor.

Samira Maddox

chapter at the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University. Over 60 young women are calling themselves sisters of Mu Delta Alpha.  ih

Community Kinship mentioned that the dolls had been made in a home with cats and thanked Hasan for “being a wonderful person.”

•  A Milton, Ontario, resident anonymously gifted 25 handmade hijabi fabric dolls sporting a variety of colorful outfits to Sheza Hasan. Hasan, who is keeping one doll and gifting the rest to schools and libraries, told CBC News, on Sept. 24, 2017, that she was surprised to find a mysterious box left on her front porch. When she opened it up, she found 25 dolls. “I noticed,” the accompanying card said, “that dolls wearing hijabs seem hard to find. Not being part of the Muslim community myself, I’m not sure who to give them to, but I thought you might.” To warn about any possible allergy issues, the card

•  On Sept. 25, Ahsan Baseer, president of the Islamic Center of Corona-Norco, opened the center’s doors to evacuees of the Canyon fire to anyone who needed a place to stay as firefighters battled the wildfire. Several volunteers remained at the center all night. “That was the minimum we could do. It’s our duty to make sure the community and our neighbors are safe,” Baseer told the PressEnterprise Sept. 27, 2017. •  In just 15 minutes the Flint Islamic Center, based in Clayton Township, Mich., raised over $10,000 for hurricane victims in the U.S. and the Caribbean. The fundraising campaign was coordinated by Islamic Relief USA, reported 25News NBC, on Sept. 23, 2017.  ih


The $16 million, 43,000-square-foot Sanford, Fla. Masjid al-Hayy, distinguished by a 130-foot-tall minaret, was formally dedicated on Aug. 4, 2017. The nonprofit Husseini Islamic Center of Florida, founded in 1990, operates the mosque, and the family-run Jaffer Reachout Foundation built and supports it. The new mosque, which replaces a worship center located in a 5,000-square-foot former church nearby, indicates the growth of the area’s Muslim community. It is just one of the approximately 20 mosques in central Florida that, according to the U.S. Religion Census, serve a Muslim population that grew from 2,691 to 27,939 between 2000 and 2010.

The Shia Muslim Council of Southern California (SMC) elected its second-term board on Oct. 8, 2017: President Dr. Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini, Islamic Educational Center of Orange County, Vice President Hajj Khalil Dewji, Shia Ithnaasheri Islamic Jamaat of Los Angeles, Secretary Dr. Fatima Hakkak, Masjid Ahlulbayt, and Treasurer Mehdi Reza Hirji, Muslim Burial Organization of Los Angeles. Councilors are Sheikh Mujahid Abdul Karim, Masjid Al-Rasul, Asghar Rizvi, Zainabia Islamic Society, and Jawad Taheri, Masjid Az-Zahra. SMC is an umbrella organization that brings together several southern California

COMMUNITY MATTERS – ACHIEVERS Shia Islamic centers and mosques to collaborate and cooperate on issues pertinent to the community. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf delivered this year’s State of the City address on Nov. 2, 2017, at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California. This annual event, typically held at City Hall, allows the mayor to give residents a progress report on the city government’s projects and challenges. Among other issues, she spoke about plans to implement the city-sanctioned “Safe Haven” homeless encampment.

Maira Sheikh, J.D., took charge as executive director of the Austin, Tex., CAIR chapter on Oct. 19, 2017. Sheikh, who previously worked as a research fellow at a think tank focused on international law and human rights, spent five years in Pakistan drafting laws, policies and publications with domestic and multinational stakeholders. These efforts improved the state’s compliance with its responsibilities under various international law instruments. Her areas of expertise include international human rights law, the law of armed conflict and the reform of counterterrorism legislation. A co-author of one of the only comprehensive publications on preventive detention during counterterrorism operations available in Pakistan, she has traveled to the International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) Geneva headquarters and to the Pentagon to engage international experts on the legal issues surrounding the use of preventive detention in Pakistan. The Austin chapter, founded in early 2017, joins three other chapters operating in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio.  ih

Seminary’s Third Annual Walter Wink Scholar-Activist Award at the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting, held in Boston on Nov. 18-21, 2017.

Rami Nashashibi, co-founder and executive director of Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), was among the 24 winners of MacArthur Fellowships, or “genius grants.” for 2017. Each winner receives $625,000 (in quarterly installments) over the next five years. Given by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the fellowships enable recipients to pursue projects that otherwise may have been economically beyond their reach. There is no application procedure, for all candidates are screened and selected without their knowledge. Some of the recipients are working on the social issues of our time. For example, Jason De Leon documents the human toll of migrants from Mexico trying to reach the U.S., and Cristina Jimenez Moreta organizes young immigrants affected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Nashashibi, 45, is seeking to bridge race, religion and class in urban neighborhoods by running a community clinic, creating cultural events that encompass many traditions and providing a space where individuals can get help on legal, immigration and other matters. Through his nonprofit organization, Nashashibi is working with former prisoners so that they can regain their footing via income-based housing, job training, salaried positions and the tools to help them find their life’s purpose. He has helped convince corner stores located in low-income areas to transform themselves from places that primarily sell lottery tickets and liquor to outlets that provide fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy fare. In addition, he has brought a small medical clinic and mental health counselors to serve residents. Najeeba Syeed, associate professor of Interreligious Education at Claremont School of Theology, received Auburn

Rev. Dr. Christian Scharen, the seminary’s vice president of applied research and the Center for the Study of Theological Education, said, “Our [Walter Wink] awards selection committee keeps a list of nationally known scholar-activists, which is a somewhat rare hybrid. After reviewing this year’s possibilities, we unanimously choose Prof. Syeed, both on the strength of her long record of peace building, and also the importance of her voice at this critical moment in the history of our nation.” Accepting her award, she said, “I believe we are in a time where religion can actually be the biggest cause for peace instead of the reason for violence.” During her tenure as director of Claremont School of Theology’s Center for Global Peacebuilding, Syeed’s track record as a peacemaker and critical peace researcher has made her a much sought-after advisor. She has served as an on-the-ground peace interventionist in conflicts worldwide, and her peace and justice work has been the subject of numerous news reports and documentaries, including NBC’s broadcast of “Waging Peace: Muslim and Christian Alternatives.”

Mississauga, Ont., eye surgeon Dr. Iqbal K. Ahmed received the 2017 Eye Phy-


COMMUNITY MATTERS – ACHIEVERS sicians and Surgeons of Ontario Innovator of the Year award on Sept.14 in recognition of his groundbreaking work in diagnosing and surgically treating of highly complex eye diseases, Mississauga News reported. A fellowship-trained glaucoma, cataract and anterior segment surgeon, Ahmed is recognized as one of Canada’s top eye surgeons. He has been at the leading edge of novel treatments for micro-invasive glaucoma surgery and the latest designs in intraocular lens implants. In 2010, he was selected as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 — a prestigious national award that recognizes significant achievements at a young age. Ahmed has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers and numerous book chapters, won five film festival awards, six best papers of session, a poster award at the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), a European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ESCRS) first place video award, as well as an American Association of Ophthalmology (AAO) best of show award. He has delivered over 750 scientific presentations thus far, including 31 visiting professor’s lectures around the world. In 2014, Ahmed received ASCRS’ prestigious Binkhorst Medal for his revolutionary work on micro-invasive glaucoma surgery. He is currently an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Utah, director of research at the Kensington Eye Institute and director of the University of Toronto’s Glaucoma and Advanced Anterior Segment Surgery Fellowship.

Salima Suswell, CEO of Evolve Solutions, is the first Muslimah to serve on the two-year-old Pennsylvania Commission for Women. She was appointed to this volunteer post on Oct. 18, 2017, by Governor Tom Wolf (D). “I’m grateful. I feel like it’s a great

ON NOV. 19, 2017, INDIANAPOLIS PHYsician Dr. Shahid Athar was presented with a proclamation from Carmel (Ind.) mayor Jim Brainard as the “Interfaith Ambassador of the Year” for his 40 years plus of interfaith work. Carmel Interfaith Alliance president Jerry Zehr said that Dr. Athar is a “dynamic man.” In his proclamation of “Dr. Shahid Athar Day,” the mayor noted that Dr. Athar is founding member of the Interfaith Alliance of Indianapolis, member of the Center for Interfaith Cooperation in Indianapolis, and former president of the Islamic Society of Greater Indianapolis. His past affiliations include the Interfaith Council for World Affairs, Foreign Relations Committee. He hosted the Regional Islamic-Catholic dialogue in 1996-2002. Dr. Athar was nominated for the 1992 Jefferson Award and received the 2002 Bowen Award from the Indianapolis Society for Community Service. In 2015, Dr. Athar received the Golden Hoosier Award.  ih

time to have a Muslim woman, particularly an African-American Muslim woman, in a leadership role that affects change for women and girls in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” she said. Suswell says that she will not devote herself only to people who look like her, but that she will focus on women in general. Prior to her appointment, she consulted with the governor’s office on Muslim affairs and was an adviser to the planning team for the Eid-al-Adha dinner at the governor’s mansion for the past two years. She, along with other Muslim leaders and elected officials, convinced Mayor Jim Kenney and the School District of Philadelphia to recognize the Eid days by closing schools for all staff and students. They were also instrumental is getting the City Council to adopt a resolution in 2016 to recognize the holy days as official holidays. An executive committee member for CAIR-PA, in 2016 she served as the Democratic National Convention’s chair of the Muslim-American Host Committee, which coordinated events for Muslims nationwide. On Oct. 7, 2017, University of Kansas (KU) students Sana Cheema and Zoya Khan received the 27th Annual Excellence


in Community, Education and Leadership (Ex.C.E.L.) awards during the halftime events of the KU-Texas Tech football game marking KU’s 105th Homecoming celebration. Cheema, a senior majoring in biology, is vice president of the Pre-Medical Society and founder and president of KU Friends of Pakistan. A University Honors Scholar and historian for the Mortar Board honor society, she is a member of the student senate as well as vice president of membership for the Student Alumni Leadership Board. Khan, a senior majoring in political science and global and international studies with a minor in Middle Eastern studies, is a former MSA president. She chaired the Student Senate Multicultural Affairs Committee and has been a member of KU Students for Refugees, the Dole Institute Student Advisory Board and International Student Services. The Ex.C.E.L. Award provides an annual $250 scholarship to two students.

Ruaa Hassaballa, a University of Kansas School of Medicine KU-MPH Program student, was awarded the 2017 American Public Health Association (APHA) Council of Affiliates Outstanding Student of the Year award during the APHA Annual Meeting & Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. Hassaballa, association manager for the Kansas Public Health Association, was a Global Health Council Delegate to the World Health Organization’s 70th Annual Assembly in Geneva, also served as co-president of the KU-MPH Student Organization and acted as liaison for the Minority Association of Pre-Med Students at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. She has also made significant contributions through volunteer community service for several Kansas organizations.  ih

On Sept. 19, 2017, Rashed Fakhruddin, president of the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN), was recognized with the 2017 YWCA’s MacDonald/Negri (Man of the Year) Service award. PresentDr. Bashar Shala, executive director of the Memphis Friendship Foundation and a trustee at the Memphis Islamic Center, and Rev. Dr. Stone, former lead pastor at Heartsong Church, were jointly presented with the Roosevelt Institute’s Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom of Worship medal. The event was held on October 10, 2017, in New York City. Other recipients were Dan Rather, Cristina Jimenez Moreta, executive director and co-founder of United We Dream and a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s 2017 genius grants, Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Harry Belafonte, singer, songwriter, actor and social activist. Heartsong Church welcomed the Islamic center to Cordova, Tenn., as neighbors in a city where residents may not have been prepared for a cultural shift. A relationship that bore fruit in 2008 from this friendly, openhearted gesture, Stone and Shala made it a priority to foster friendship and solidarity among their congregations. The result can be seen in the planning of the eight-acre Friendship Park of Memphis. Awarding its first recipient in 1982, the Roosevelt Institute stands

ISLA Joins CAPE In November 2017, the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA; became the second Islamic member of the Council for American Private Education (CAPE;, a national body comprising over 20 member organizations. The first one was the Council of Islamic Schools of North America (CISNA; www., which joined in October 2016. Member organizations represent about 80 percent of the nation’s private school community of Catholic, Conservative Christian, Jewish, Montessori and Waldorf schools. They hold very different views on the teacher’s role, the student’s nature and different answers to life questions, such as why we are here and where we are going. Yet despite the challenges this diversity may pose, CAPE seeks full consensus on the

(L-R) Cristina Jimenez Moreta, Rev. Dr. Steve Stone, Ai-jen Poo, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Dan Rather, Dr. Bashar Shala

on the foundation and principles of the nation’s 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, in his 1941 State of the Union address, proposed the four essential human freedoms as comprising the freedom of speech and expression, freedom of every person to worship God, freedom from want and freedom from fear.  ih

issues that it takes up with the government. Therefore, the council’s voting structure gives each member, no matter how large or small, veto power. Also, great care is taken to do nothing that would violate any member’s core beliefs or values. CAPE was formed in 1971 with a very simple premise: “In unity there is strength.” As Executive Director Joe McTighe stated in an interview with ISLA, its membership helps the council ensure that it is truly representing the full spectrum of the country’s private schools. Recently, CAPE worked to guarantee that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; included benefits for private schools and students. The Trump administration has expressed support for school vouchers. One might imagine that this is welcome news to all private

schools. McTighe is cautious because with any government-funded assistance program, there is an element of regulation and control that follows. . He asserted, “We want to preserve the differences that exist between private schools... In this regard, we try to make sure government doesn’t take a heavy hand. We want schools to be able to fulfill their own mission, values, and be true to their own beliefs and who they are and why they were constituted as schools.” CAPE considers itself as the voice of America’s private schools. As member organizations, ISLA and CISNA can help advocate for the needs of Islamic schools. McTighe adds that as a member, “ISLA is involved in a forum for networking with other organizations that share common goals and purposes ... and has the opportunity to determine the direction that the private school community takes in public policy issues.”  ih



(L-R) Sharon Roberson, president & CEO of the YWCA, Rashed Fakhruddin and Janet Miller, chair of the YWCA board; president of the Islamic Center of Nashville

ed during the YWCA’s 2nd Annual AMEND Experience, over 400 educators, clergy, athletics, non-profits, law enforcement, businesses and other leading individuals were in attendance. The AMEND program seeks to end the epidemic of violence against women and girls by empowering young men and boys and community leaders to become catalysts for cultural change and to help prevent gender violence. Besides serving on the YWCA board, during 2016 this Nashville Electric Service engineering supervisor reached out to around 10,000 people by engaging with schools through his profession as well as through the ICN. “I would like to see these conversations on domestic violence (both physical and emotional) held more widespread in our Muslim communities and among leadership and imams,” he stated. “We are trying in our community, but would like to connect with the national organizations.” The 2016 awardee was NHL Nashville Predators CEO Sean Henry.  ih


Houston: A Welcoming City A truly unique as a Welcoming City to refugees and immigrant populations, Houston is a melting pot of cultures



s Houston is scheduled to host ISNA’s 55th Annual Convention next September, we are introducing a sixpart series that highlights the city’s uniqueness by interviewing extraordinary Houstonians and exploring various scenes in the country’s fourth largest city. This article, the second installment, focuses on the city’s refugee community. While there is great deal of political rhetoric swirling around the latest refugee crisis, many people are unaware of the resettlement process for refugees in America. The U.S. is a third-country resettlement destination, which means that those refugees who seek admittance must first flee their home country and then resettle in another country. For example, many Syrians resettle in Jordan or Turkey before they can apply to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) for relocation in

the U.S., Europe or Australia. The UNHCR only resettles 1 percent of refugees in a third country, and refugees often have no say as regards their final destination. On average, the processes of applying and being vetted (passing several background checks) and actual resettlement takes anywhere from 18 months to five years. Upon arrival, an American organization will help family members transition to their new lives (e.g., register for social security cards, enroll children in school and help adults find jobs) for the first six months. All states accept some refugees. However, 10 percent of them are sent primarily to Houston and the surrounding area. In recognition of its status as a hub that draws refugees and immigrants from across the globe, the city has been awarded the title of “Most Diverse City in America” for several straight years. The State Health Services


Department reports that nearly 40 percent of these refugees land in Harris County, meaning that this county alone welcomes about 30 of every 1,000 refugees settled by the U.N. If Houston were an independent country, it would rank fourth in the world for refugee resettlement. Houston is home to five resettlement agencies: Interfaith Ministries, Catholic Charities, Alliance, Refugee Services of Texas and the YMCA. They do incredible work in terms of introducing refugees to American society and culture; however, six months is often not enough time to fully integrate a family. That’s why organizations such as Amaanah Refugee Services (https://, Project TREE (Teaching Refugees Effective English) and the Refugee Health Project at Texas Children’s Hospital were formed — to fill in gaps that are often overlooked. Islamic Horizons spoke to Ghulam Kher, CEO and founding member of Amaanah Refugee Services, a Houston-based post-resettlement agency that focuses on tutoring refugee children and assisting single refugee mothers for an additional 10 months. Kher, a Los Angeles resident who attended the University of Houston, and a group of friends

August 31 – September 3, 2018

Houston, TX George R. Brown Convention Center 1001 Avenida De Las Americas • Houston, TX 77010


CONVENTION HIGHLIGHTS: ◉  More than 200 Renowned Speakers  ◉  Plenary Sessions  ◉  Main Sessions  ◉  Parallel Sessions ◉  Round Table Discussions  ◉  MSA & MYNA Sessions  ◉  Enlightening Entertainment ◉  Largest Muslim Bazaar in America (550 Booths)  ◉  Health Fair  ◉  Art Exhibit  ◉  Meet the Author ◉  Interfaith Reception  ◉  Film Festival  ◉  Photography Exhibit  ◉  Qira’at Competition ◉  Matrimonial Banquets  ◉  Community Service Recognition Luncheon (CSRL) ◉  Basketball Tournament  ◉  Children’s Program  ◉  Babysitting, and more




(317) 838-8129  ◉

(317) 838-8131  ◉


CONVENTION #55 became aware of the city’s large and growing refugee population and wanted to help. After conducting food and clothing drives, Kher decided he wanted to continue helping refugees in a more sustainable

assimilating and succeeding. Children were being exposed to English in the classroom, whereas adults were thrown into the workforce and thus left with little time to learn the language formally.

ALL STATES ACCEPT SOME REFUGEES. HOWEVER, 10 PERCENT OF THEM ARE SENT PRIMARILY TO HOUSTON AND THE SURROUNDING AREA. IN RECOGNITION OF ITS STATUS AS A HUB THAT DRAWS REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE, THE CITY HAS BEEN AWARDED THE TITLE OF “MOST DIVERSE CITY IN AMERICA” FOR SEVERAL STRAIGHT YEARS. fashion. With this goal in mind, Amaanah was officially formed in 2008. “Initially we just distributed food,” he said. “I had no idea it [this initiative] would grow to be as successful as it is today.” Amaanah hired its first-full time members in 2011 and shortly thereafter implemented its two sustainable programs: Transformed (2014), which works with single refugee mothers, and the pilot Awesome Academy (2015), an after-school tutoring program at local schools to ensure that refugee children are up to par academically with their peers. Amaanah, which recently opened a branch office in Austin, has partnered with Austin Independent School District schools as well as with the University of Texas-Austin to pilot its Awesome Academy program. This year, it worked with 150 students in the Austin area. Kher has also formed relationships with Houston sports teams, including the Rockets, Astros, Texans and Dynamos. The Houston Rockets recently donated $1 million to sustain programs and provide funding for the organization’s expansion. An Amaanah-supported refugee family threw the first pitch at an Astros game earlier this season. Needless to say, Kher and Amaanah are doing amazing work in terms of providing better futures to the city’s refugees. Project TREE is a student-run effort housed through the Bonner Leaders Program ( at the University of Houston (UH). A group of five students — Matthew Joseph, Nour Haikal, Sabine Meyer-Hill, Saman Essa and Usayd Siddiqui — noticed that the language barrier was the largest obstacle blocking adult refugees from

The students met with several UH professors and leaders in the refugee resettlement community to determine what efforts were already in place to help refugees learn English. What they discovered was that the free classes offered by the city at ESL centers citywide were largely inaccessible due to the distance involved or the time — many refugees rely on public transportation and cannot take time off during the week. And so they set about devising an in-home adult tutoring program that not only eliminates the first obstacle, but also allows classes to be held when adults can attend them. Project TREE was selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University earlier this year in Boston, where its delegation met with former President Bill Clinton and with humanitarian leaders to work out kinks in their project and get advice. Project TREE will be collaborating with Houston’s Interfaith Ministries and plans to launch its program by December 2017. After hearing about the Refugee Health Project initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH), the nation’s number one pediatric hospital, I reached out to Nimrah Riaz, a Texas A&M graduate and current TCH intern. Her background in health education and nonprofit work led her to investigate the gaps in the healthcare system in relation to refugee and immigrant populations. A short while ago, Helping Hands for Relief and Development ( made it possible for Riaz to visit refugee camps in Jordan, a trip that changed her entire line of work. Knowing that she had to help refugees and immigrants in some


capacity, she educated herself on their issues. When she began interning at TCH, a number of physicians wanted to assist refugee and immigrant children — and thus the Refugee Health Project was born. TCH recently received a policy research grant, funded by the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute, to assess the experiences of refugee and immigrant minors in the U.S. The grant allows researchers to identify specific conditions and health risks so they can take effective actions to minimize health risks and eliminate gaps in healthcare. Riaz, who started her internship at TCH in September 2017, has been managing data for refugee and immigrant populations (including asylees and human trafficking victims who are minors), as there is minimal data on them. Data is needed to determine what these minors need. Work with any vulnerable population is difficult because individuals often open up about their past and itch to tell their survival story to someone. When I asked what kept her motivated to keep working for this cause, she told me the following story. TCH has a mobile clinic that goes out to impoverished communities, including the refugee community. One day she went along because she works directly with these people and wanted to see how they lived. Seeing the patients wrapped around the building twice brought on flashbacks of Jordan, where refugee children were treated day and night. She said it motivated her to work even harder, because the refugees she met that day were the ones who had managed to escape and now had a chance to make a better life for themselves and their children. However, they are stuck because of the holes in the system. The project she is working on seeks to enhance the resources at TCH and eventually create a specialty service devoted exclusively to meeting this population’s needs. Houston is truly unique as a Welcoming City to refugees and immigrant populations. It stands as an example to the rest of the nation and the world of what it means to be a melting pot of cultures, accepting people from near and far in order to help them create better futures. As a Houstonian, I could not be prouder of my city and those in it who are trying to make a difference in these people’s lives.  ih Saman Essa, who is majoring in psychology and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Houston, plans to become a psychologist with a focus on immigrant and refugee populations in the U.S.


Living Islam in Letter and Spirit It takes more than courage to forgive the killer of your own child


Dr. Sombat Jitmoud, the father of Salahuddin Jitmoud, hugs Trey Relford



hoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 6941, “Sahih Muslim,” hadith no. 2319). My Islamic school required my classmates and me to memorize this hadith while we were growing up. Showing mercy isn’t the easiest thing to do; at times, it may not even be expected of someone by his or her society’s standards. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful gesture of forgiveness, one of the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) habits and a characteristic that my school tried to ingrain in its students, says Dr. Abdul-Munim Sombat Jitmoud, who retired as principal of St. Louis’s Al-Salam Day School. The Prophet displayed this many times. For example, after losing his beloved wife Khadija (‘alayhi rahmat) and his protective uncle Abu Talib, he traveled to the neighboring town of Ta’if in the hope of spreading Islam to a new audience. Upon his arrival, however, the people tormented him to such a degree that his entire body bled. Even though he had done nothing wrong, they drove him out and showed him no mercy. When he reached a safe place, the Prophet made a powerful supplication to God, blamed his own weakness for the people’s harsh reaction to his efforts and stated that he only desired to please His Lord. This supplication reveals his extraordinary humbleness. Because Ta’if ’s inhabitants had caused him such harm, God could have permitted the angels to destroy them if the Prophet had so wished. But instead of seeking revenge, he let them be in the hope that just one of their

offspring would eventually accept Islam. In Ta’if today, everyone is Muslim. This is just one example of the immense amount of forgiveness that the Prophet had in his heart. Had anyone else been in his situation, it is hard to imagine what his or her reaction would have been. But there are some rare gems among us who practice that same level of forgiveness. One such gem is the man whose hug went viral. On April 19, 2015, Jitmoud’s son Salahuddin, who was working part-time as pizza deliveryman, was about to make his last stop of the night. Upon entering the Kentucky apartment complex, the 22-year-old was robbed and stabbed to death. During the court hearing in November 2017, Jitmoud shocked everyone by turning to Trey Alexander Relford, who was sentenced to 31 years in prison for his role in this crime, and stating that he forgave him. He even referred to this man as his “nephew.” “I want him to start a new chapter of life,”


Jitmoud said. “When he spends time in confinement, think about Allah. Then try to do righteous deeds when you come out and keep good friends. This is what I whispered to him.” Jitmoud said that according to court protocol, he wasn’t allowed to look at, talk to or even be near Relford. He thought that the judge would stop him, but even she had tears in her eyes during that emotional moment. The family planned to verbalize its forgiveness of Relford in court, but the subsequent embrace and genuine words of advice, Jitmoud said, was God’s plan. His 30-plus years of experience as an Islamic school principal and educator came out during the hearing. He had consoled many people in his office before, and so handing over a tissue and then comforting and embracing a remorseful Relford came very naturally. “It took us two years and seven months to come to this. I know I have a lot of pain and stress and despair and nightmares because of Salahuddin being murdered,” Jitmoud said. “But when I met the scholars, the learned Muslims, they said Salahuddin received the honor from Allah as a shaheed (martyr). People came to me. They saw the news and said, ‘Your son is a shaheed.’ They didn’t even know me, but they saw me in the clip of the news. These things brought comfort to my mind and to my sons.” After the hearing, Jitmoud explained why he showed mercy to the man who had caused his family such heartache, “God said in the Holy Quran … Allah, Almighty God, is the Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful (39:53). Now I say, my nephew, God is going to forgive you because He promised … provided I forgive you first. So I did forgive you. Now, it’s God’s turn to forgive you.” This retired principal’s concern for Relford’s well being is extremely moving. It is the present-day example of the forgiveness and care that Prophet showed after he left Ta’if with so much heartache. “Everyone needs Islam so badly, including ourselves. Hidaya (guidance) from Allah is so crucial,” Jitmoud said. “It is our duty after Rasul Allah — the Messenger of God — passed away that we carry the torch of taking the message forward in every possible way. Allah created us all, and everyone has a right to the perfect deen of Allah. It becomes your job and my job to convey [it] the best we can with the help of Allah.” Last year, Dr. Jitmoud was recognized at the 18th Annual ISNA Education Forum with a Lifetime Achievement award.  ih Habeeba Husain is a freelance journalist based in New York/ New Jersey. Currently, she contributes to SLAM Magazine, blogs for Why-Islam, and is a social media manager for WuduGear. Her work has also appeared on and MuslimGirl. com, among other online and print publications.


CONFERENCES ISNA Conference Report: Seattle

Seattle Savors the Power of Faith BY FARYAL KHATRI

Dr. Ann El-Moslimany delivers her acceptance speech


onference attendees in Seattle learned that besides a car, the initials “KIA” stand for “Knowledge, Intention and Action.” At the “Power of Faith” event, hosted by the Muslim Association of Puget Sounds (MAPS) and ISNA on Sept. 30, inspirational speaker Yasmin Mogahed, who crafted this acronym for faith, reflected on the importance of action and the avoidance of passivity. Basing her contention upon examples from the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) life and Quran 3:200 — “O you who believe, persevere in patience and constancy. Vie in such perseverance, strengthen each other and fear God that you may prosper" — she explained that having sabr (patience) requires action. She also cited Quran 3:186 as a formula for overcoming trials and tribulations: “Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil, then that will be a determining factor in all affairs..” Other speakers included Gold Star father Khizr Khan, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, ISNA

President Azhar Azeez and area leaders and activists. Azeez joined ISNA Executive Council West Zone Representative Ahmed Shaikh, MYNA Officer Shafee Syed-Quadri and MAPS President Mahmood Khadeer in making the opening remarks. The first half the conference began with an inspiring panel discussion on transformative personal change with Mogahed and Aneelah Afzali, founder and executive director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN; AmericanMuslimEmpowermentNetwork). Afzali related her personal story of how reading the Quran transformed her faith. In the youth session, Khan spoke about the importance of constantly learning and striving to achieve our aspirations. He related the trials and tribulations he had faced while becoming a lawyer and advised the attendees to remain true to Islamic principles (e.g., perseverance, patience and respect) in order to overcome their adversaries. The youth were inspired and felt empowered to achieve their life goals. Following dhuhr prayer, ISNA Director of Chaplaincy Services Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad led a workshop on chaplaincy and the accreditation services provided by


ISNA. He discussed what chaplaincy is, its various types and how ISNA can help chaplains throughout their journey. Colin Christopher, director, Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, led a workshop on faith-based advocacy. He focused on how Islam’s core teachings of justice, equity and humility are now more needed than ever in terms of addressing the myriad challenges our nation is facing. In addition to stressing the historical success of interfaith non-violent struggle, he encouraged the MAPS community to reflect upon the different possibilities offered through three related but distinct modes of civic engagement: elections, policy advocacy and community organizing. Analyzing the unique opportunities of this latter approach and the interfaith model employed by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF;, Sound Alliance Organizer Dorothy Gibson led a training and listening session with 25 community members. Participants pledged to continue building upon their relationship with Sound Alliance and exploring a more formal partnership. A bazaar with several vendors and a matrimonial networking event were also featured. Following the conference, ISNA held its banquet dinner, which honored veteran educator Dr. Ann El-Moslimany for her dedication to community service. Several pioneers and founders of the Seattle Muslim community were also recognized for their contributions and the impact they had made on the community. Khizr Khan delivered an inspiring talk, and Preacher Moss concluded the evening on a high note.  ih Faryal M Khatri is ISNA Communications Coordinator. Attorney Ismail Laher (202) 596-7863 (d) We help Doctors, Dentists & Health Care Providers Nationwide Medicare Audits, Compliance Revocations, Negotiations… Liles Parker, PLLC Washington DC (202) 298-8750

ISNA Conference Report: Memphis



hile addressing ISNA’s “Power of Faith” conference in Memphis on Oct. 7, Imam Anwar Arafat of Masjid Ar-Rahman, Memphis, and Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America, discussed finding faith beyond the Quran. Omar Al-Ani, program coordinator of the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis, moderated. The conference included such esteemed figures as writer, attorney and consultant Wajahat Ali, inspirational speaker Yasmin Mogahed, Sh. Yasir Qadhi, Dr. Ihsan Bagby, an associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky, and several area leaders and activists. “The starting point in our deen is faith,” Bagby said. “But faith is belief in action. We can’t actually divorce faith from action … powerful faith can lead to powerful action.”

Ali added that people “don’t realize that they do what they do because they are inspired by their faith and its values … a large part of that framing and thinking and rumination is directly tied to spirituality and faith.” “Well, to me the power of faith is like a beacon of light,” remarked Mogahed. “Faith is light. It gets you through darkness just like you’re in the middle of a storm and there is no light. So you look for a lighthouse, because its [beam of] light is what gets you through the storm. That’s what iman is.” The opening session was addressed by ISNA Conference Chair Sameer Mansour, one of the original founders of 901 Ummah and chairman of the Muslim Basketball League, ISNA Conference Youth Chair Safi Khan and Board Member attorney Sehrish Siddiqui, who introduced the conference and the various sessions.


In the second session, Bagby and Siddiqi spoke on “Envisioning the Prophetic Community: The Future of Masjids in America.” Cardiologist Bashar Shala moderated. Pleasant View School Principal Mohammad Malley, Mogahed and Qadhi discussed family, education and ego with Maryam Taysir, a Pleasant View School student, and Halla Mustafa, the event manager for Muslims in Memphis. “Faith is the most important element of success … research shows that character and faith and conscientiousness lead to success, even in material manners,” Malley related. During MYNA’s parallel youth track, Ali spoke about his life and how it has shaped who he has become. In the next session, Irem Khan and Sara Halim, both of whom serve as event coordinators for the Memphis Islamic Center, moderated. Bagby, Qadhi and Mogahed discussed loving God and making personal changes. “I liked the last session for the youth, about how to cope with the ego,” stated attendee Sufia Kalimah. “It was good when the school principal talked about the research aspect and gave us statistics, and when Yasir Qadhi spoke on the teen part … and when Yasmin Mogahed related how to open up your heart. Over all it was a good experience ... for the youth, teenagers and everyone.” The event concluded with Imam Abdullah Al-Hajj of Masjid Al-Salam, Imam Rashad Sharif of Masjid Al-Mu’minun, Memphis, Imam Anwar Arafat, Qadhi and Imam Hamzah Abdul-Malik of Midtown Mosque, Memphis, reflecting upon the importance of community outreach. Danish Siddiqui, a board member of the American Center for Outreach, moderated. “Faith is the idea that there is someone/ something greater than you or belief in someone/something that is unseen … So I think that when a congregation and/or community has faith and is entrenched in it, their members have the drive and the power to overcome obstacles that are weaker than that in which they believe,” Abdul-Malik said. The conference concluded with a celebration banquet to honor Imam Mohamed Zaghloul with the Community Service Recognition Award for his lifelong dedication to serving others. Ali gave the keynote address, after which Preacher Moss ended the event with his stand-up comedy routine.  ih Hira Qureshi, a University of Memphis journalism student, works for several area news outlets.


CONFERENCES ISNA Conference Report: Cincinnati

The Power of Faith in Cincinnati BY FARYAL KHATRI


incinnati was the final stop of ISNA’s 2017 Conference Tour. Hundreds filled the meeting rooms and hallways of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati (ICGC) for a Nov. 17-18, 2017, conference that featured renowned scholars, activist and community leaders such as Wajahat Ali, Yasmin Mogahed, Ubaydullah Evans, executive director of ALIM, Habeeb Quadri, principal of MCC’s full-time school in Morton Grove, Ill., Imam Sulaiman Hani, a lecturer and author from Michigan, (now former) ISNA Special Advisor Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, ISNA President Azhar Azeez and local leaders. The three-track program offered something for the entire family: MYNA (Muslim Youth of North America) sessions for school-aged youth, MSA sessions for high school and college students and the main track for all ages. Prior to the event’s official opening on Friday evening, Evans, ISNA Youth Department director Fiyyaz Jaat and Dr. Syeed delivered Friday sermons across Cincinnati. Their inspirational and thought-provoking words set the stage for the conference. Dr. Syeed and ICGC Imam Hossam Musa inaugurated the sessions by reflecting on the theme: “The Power of Faith: Transforming Self and Society.” Imam Musa cited various Quranic verses to highlight the importance of action by doing good deeds and lessons from the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) life as inspiration, motivation and examples of implementing our faith via civic engagement and community service. Dr. Syeed continued the conversation by pointing out the prophetic teaching that all of us are responsible for our society’s security and prosperity. The Prophet

laid out a framework for establishing a healthy society for all people, regardless of their faith or background. The responsibility of being actively involved in civic engagement and community development were common themes addressed by all of the speakers. During their sessions, Jaat, Evans, Hani and Mogahed offered spiritual approaches to these concepts. “Listening about lessons from the Quran and lives of the Prophet and his Companions has helped me understand how I can grow deeper in my faith and get closer to Allah. With more confidence in my faith, I feel like I can better put my beliefs into action,” commented one attendee as she reflected upon the conference. Azeez, Ali, and local leaders Shakila Ahmad, ICGC board chair and president, ICGC initiative leader Shabana Shakir-Ahmed, CAIRCincinnati staff attorney Sana Hassan and Afreen Asif of Rahma Community Services shared practical advice and examples of civic engagement and the transformational power of faith. From their own perspectives, each speaker dealt with reclaiming our narrative through civic engagement. Azeez stated, “If we don’t tell our story someone else will, and that story is not going to be an accurate reflection of

who we are.” He illustrated this point by talking about how the efforts undertaken the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) after Hurricane Harvey devastated the city impacted its inhabitants. “We are honored to have worked with ISGH and look forward to hosting the 2018 Annual Convention in Houston over Labor Day weekend,” Azeez added. Quadri, former MYNA president Alaa Abdeldaiem, Musa, Mogahed, Imam Hani and University of Cincinnati chaplain Amina Darwish addressed the MYNA sessions in terms of character development, building a relationship with God, and such other youth-related issues as identity and finding one’s role in one’s community. Attendees had a chance to break into small discussion groups in order to delve deeper into these topics and gain some hands-on experiential learning. Ali, Evans and Azeez addressed the MSA sessions geared toward high school and university students. Ali initiated an honest and candid conversation by creating a safe environment in which the attendees could ask him questions about any topic. In the second MSA session, Evans and Azeez discussed various relationships from an Islamic perspective and their impact upon our personal development and lives. In between the sessions and during breaks, attendees had the chance to shop for ethnic and Islamic clothing, jewelry and accessories at the bazaar, as well as to learn about the work of various non-profit organizations. The



bazaar helps support Muslim-owned small businesses and organizations.


MYNA hosted its own track — attended by more than 50 youth — with the program made for and by the youth, which featured speakers such as Jaat, Quadri, Musa, Abdeldaiem, Mogahed, and Hani. “It’s inspiring and really powerful to see youth step up and put a program like this together,” Abdeldaiem said during the program. “Being a Muslim youth in America today means you’re contributing to the changing portrait of Islam in America, and it’s amazing to see these local youth rise to the occasion.” Parents had the opportunity to be introduced to MYNA and its programming during the event as well. With six winter retreats on the horizon, Abdeldaiem believes it was an opportunity to see first-hand what an impact MYNA can have on their youth. “We talked collectively about the importance of being role models, about how to prepare ourselves to take the reigns and serve as leaders,” Abdeldaiem said. “The best of examples was our Prophet Muhammad, and we invited youth and parents alike to register for MYNA’s winter retreats and get the opportunity to follow in his footsteps and be the leader that he was. MYNA does what no other youth organization can do, and we’re excited to welcome this community into our MYNA family.”


The two-day conference concluded with a celebration banquet honoring Dr. Inayat Malik, ICGC’s Rahma Community Services, and Mustafa Koylu of Sultan’s Restaurant for their dedication to community service. Dr. Malik is a founding and pioneering member of the Cincinnati Muslim community and interfaith efforts. ICGC’s Rahma Community Services seeks to provide programs that benefit individuals, families and the community’s overall well-being by focusing on family sustainability, health and care support, counseling and domestic violence, as well as social support. ISNA recognized Koylu, who sponsored the evening’s dinner, as a successful Muslim social entrepreneur. Dr. Syeed and Azeez spoke on the importance of interfaith and civic engagement and ISNA’s role and services that address community development. Ali delivered a powerful keynote address in honor of the late Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh. The dinner was accentuated with a soulful performance by musical artist Raef.  ih Faryal M Khatri is ISNA Communications Coordinator.




Fighting Prejudice with the Q

Now is the time for all Muslim Americans to supp 26    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018


Quranic Prophetic Paradigm

port and/or join efforts to promote racial justice JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   27



etween 1952 and 1968, I attended segregated public schools in Roanoke, Va., only 120.5 miles from Charlottesville, Va. Consequently, the Aug. 11-12 “Unite the Right Rally” held in Charlottesville brought back bitter memories and reminded me of how much work this country still has to do despite the fact of having so recently elected an AfricanAmerican to two terms in the White House. The rally began on Friday night (Aug. 11) at the Thomas Jefferson-founded University of Virginia campus, when a torch-bearing group


Inexplicably, the national public discourse on race had changed so much that white supremacists and their allies now felt so shamelessly emboldened that they dispensed with the white robes and hoods worn by many of their predecessors to conceal their identities. Instead, many wore armytype camouflage outfits and brandished firearms (Virginia is one of the 45 of 50 “open carry” states). No matter how you feel about the underlying controversy — removing statues of Confederate heroes, like the one of Robert E. Lee that had stood in

of white nationalists marched through the campus shouting chilling slogans like “White lives matter!” and “Jews will not replace us!” As this widely publicized event had been scheduled in the wake of the July 8 KKK pro-Confederate statue rally there, it was hardly surprising that counterprotesters showed up the next day. As I watched videos of the rally and the killing of one and the injuring at least 19 other counterprotesters, I felt that I had somehow been forcibly transported back to the Jim Crow Virginia in which I had grown up.

Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park — it is clear that this country has a very, very serious racial prejudice problem. As Muslims who live in this country, we need to own up to two hard realities. First, our community has still not escaped this malignant social disease. From the apparent tense, long-standing divide that exists between the African American Muslim community and various “immigrant” communities (an essentializing term that we need to drop!) to the insistence by some Muslims that their “fair-skinned” daughters

CAIR’s New York chapter board member Sahar Alsahlani (2nd from right) joined clergy and faith leaders in Charlottesville Aug. 12, 2017 to show spiritual opposition to the racist rally.


only consider marriage proposals from “fairskinned” suitors — this disease has clearly afflicted us in some very debilitating ways. Second, as Muslim Americans we need to finally accept the fact that both the Quran and the life example of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) call upon us to be leaders in fighting all types of injustice: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not [the] hatred [that] others [direct toward] you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just, [for] that is next to piety, and

WITH THE QURAN AND THE PROPHET’S EXPLICIT WORDS AS BACKGROUND, IT IS HARD TO UNDERSTAND WHY ANY SERIOUS MUSLIM WOULD CHOOSE TO REMAIN UNINVOLVED IN SOME WAY IN THE FIGHT AGAINST RACIAL PREJUDICE. fear God, for God is well-acquainted with all that you do” (5:8). As this verse proclaims, being fair or just is intimately connected to one’s regard for and worship of God. Even when people discriminate against us, we are told to treat them with justice. In addition, few practicing Muslims are unaware of what the Prophet said during his last sermon: “From Abi Nadrah: Someone who heard the sermon of the Messenger of God in the middle of the days of at-Tashriq narrated to me that he said, ‘O people! Indeed, your Lord is one and your father is one. Indeed, there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, nor of a non-Arab over an Arab, nor of a white over a black, nor of a black over a white, except in terms of taqwa’” (“Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal”). With the Quran and the Prophet’s explicit words as background, it is hard to understand why any serious Muslim would choose to remain uninvolved in some way in the fight against racial prejudice. Such efforts would reduce the possibility of more Charlottesvilles and help heal the serious racial rifts in the broader American community in general and in the Muslim American community in particular. If we keep the following three basic points in mind, taking individual and collective action to fight this widespread social disease would likely be easier. First, constantly remind yourself (and others) that all of humanity is one. One way the Quran emphasizes this fact is apparent in the English rendering of 4:1: “O humanity, reverence your Guardian Lord who created you from a single person, created its mate of like nature, and from them scattered countless men and women. Fear God, through whom you demand your mutual (rights) and (reverence) the wombs that bore you, for God ever watches over you (4:1). In other words, given that all humans are descended from a common ancestor, there is only one human “race” or species. Even

anti-religious “new atheist” Darwinists like Richard Dawkins confirm this idea from a scientific perspective in books like his River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (HarperCollinsPublishers, 1996). Thus, both the atheists and the religious believe that race is “a biological fiction,” as Matthew Frye Jacobson persuasively pointed out in his book Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Harvard University Press, 1999). Consequently, we should individually and collectively avoid falling for the tired old racist stereotypes being perpetuated by the mainstream media, alt right and that mass media on steroids known as the Internet. A good way to begin detoxifying ourselves from these spurious notions about “race” is to watch the excellent, stereotype-shattering three-part California Newsreel-PBS video series entitled “Race: The Power of an Illusion,” available at com/watch?v=sqJv-gcQ_1Q. Second, get to know people who are apparently different from you. The Quran states: “O humanity! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is the one who is the most righteous of you. Truly, God is all-knowing and aware (49:13). Unfortunately, a significant (and vocal) segment of the Muslim American community believes that the best way to live in the U.S. is by being as insular as possible while making stridently negative critiques of all that is American through sermons and study circles. But how can we be about the business of supplying neighborly needs, as chapter 107 (“Al-Maun,” commonly translated as “Neighborly Needs”) emphatically encourages us unless we actively get to know our neighbors? Mosque open houses, which have recently become more popular, are a good place to start. Third, become civically engaged. A cursory review of the Prophet’s

sociopolitical life, as outlined in Akram Diya Al Umari’s Madinan Society at the Time of the Prophet: Its Characteristics and Organization (United Arab Bureau, 1989) is very instructive in this regard, for it clearly reflects the Prophet’s civically engaged model of behavior. The Prophet seemed fairly aware of and interactive with Makkah’s sociopolitical life, both before and during his prophethood. For instance, before his prophethood he opposed injustice and joined efforts like the Hilf al-Fudul, which defended the helpless. For such reasons, he was known as “al-Amin” (the trustworthy) before his prophethood. Further, he famously mediated a leadership dispute involving the replacing of the Black Stone in the newly rebuilt Ka’bah. After his call, he eventually established the first Islamic polity in Yathrib (later renamed Madinah) at the invitation of its Muslim, Jewish and polytheist inhabitants, all of whom hoped that he could help them end their contentious factionalism and usher in some much-desired social peace. As soon as he arrived in the strife-torn oasis, he set about implementing the positive justice-oriented civic engagement that Muslim Americans should seek to emulate. If we want to be part of the effort to avoid more Charlottesvilles in this country, now is the time to support and/or join efforts to promote racial justice. As the Quran reminds us: “Thus have We made of you an ummah justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over you…” (2:143). Remember, in order to reduce racial prejudice, be a witness by (1) constantly reminding yourself (and others) that all of humanity is one species, (2) getting to know people who are apparently different from you and (3) becoming civically engaged.  ih Jimmy E. Jones, DMin, is professor, Department Chair of World Religions and Coordinator of the African Studies Program at Manhattanville College (Purchase, N.Y.). He also serves as board chair of the Islamic Seminary Foundation (Islamic Seminary of America) and secretary of the national board of the Council on American Islamic Relations.



Embracing Diversity Our community’s diversity is a divine gift, so let’s make the most of it BY IHSAN BAGBY


uslims in the U.S. proudly point out that we are this nation’s most diverse faith community. As we proclaim Islam’s message of egalitarianism and anti-racism, we rightfully highlight our own racial diversity. In fact, our community’s diversity is only matched by the hajj. But are we living up to the promise of our diversity and ideals embedded in our deen? Yes, we are a community made up of many different groups — but have we ever come close to realizing the ideal described by the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “You see the believers in their mutual compassion, love and empathy like one body….” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 5665; “Sahih Muslim,” hadith no. 2586)? The sad answer is no — we are not living up to that ideal. Not only is our community’s diversity real, but it is also very compelling due to the significant presence of African American Muslims – the people who have largely converted. According to Pew, 20 percent of all Muslim Americans identify as black or African American. In the Council on American Islamic Relations’ 2011 “U.S. Mosque Study” ( images/pdf/The-American-Mosque-2011part-1.pdf), 24 percent of all mosque participants were African American. Moreover, they can be found in 81 percent of all mosques and constitute at least 10 percent of attendees in 59 percent of all mosques. The study also revealed the following ethnic breakdown: South Asian (33%), Arab (27%), African American (24%), African (sub-Saharan) (9%), European (Bosnian, etc.) (2%) and Other (5%). While it is still a truism that, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Sunday is the most segregated time in America,” the Friday jum’ah prayer might be the most integrated time in America.

However, how integrated are we in reality? How well do our first- and second-generation American brothers and sisters know and understand African American Muslims, and how well do our African American brothers and sisters know and understand immigrant Muslims? Most of us would agree that we don’t know one another very well. I remember working with an immigrant community on developing a mosque constitution. Someone wanted to insert a clause that elected officers should not have been convicted of a felony. When I told them


that many prominent African Americans in their mosque were felons, they responded sheepishly, “No.” One even used to be on death row; however, their stories of struggle were unknown. I remember a young adult and top Muslim leader accompanying me to the “hood” to meet some African American leaders. Embarrassed, he confided to me that he was nervous because he had lived all his life in the suburbs and had never really known any African Americans. But I also remember when a nationally known Muslim immigrant was attending an African American outdoor rally, and everyone had to pray on the ground. The organizers apologized profusely for putting him through such an inconvenience. The brother, who was Palestinian, turned to me and said, “I grew up in a refugee camp where my school had a dirt floor.” I remember listening to African American Muslims criticize a prominent immigrant leader for living the easy life — not knowing that the

brother had spent many hard years in an Indian jail for his political beliefs.

WE NEED TO HEAR ONE ANOTHER’S NARRATIVES Indeed, historically significant progress has been made in the relationship between African American Muslims and their immigrant kin. When I became Muslim in 1969, my clear sense was that we, as African American Muslims, lived a separate existence. Except for a few Tablighi Jamat members who didn’t speak English, I only met an immigrant Muslim for the first time several years later. In my own mind, the 1980s was a turning point as African American and immigrant Muslims started to interact more. The one event that impressed upon me the fact that we were entering a new era was when Imam Jamil Al-Amin (the former H. Rap Brown, an African American activist) visited ISNA headquarters and started a

OUR FUTURE AS A VIBRANT MUSLIM COMMUNITY IN THE U.S. REQUIRES US TO EMBRACE EACH OTHER’S NARRATIVES AND WORK TOGETHER TO ACHIEVE THE GOALS OF OUR VARIOUS ACTIVITIES AND PROJECTS. cooperative relation with it. The formation of local unity councils, also starting in the 1980s, was another clear sign of a maturing relationship between the two communities. Yes, we have slowly been moving closer, but we have not yet broken through the barriers that continue to divide our communities. Our future as a vibrant Muslim community in the U.S. requires us to embrace each other’s narratives and work together to achieve the goals of our various activities and projects. By doing so, we will all grow stronger and evolve into that envisaged one body — different parts working in organic harmony and thereby contributing to the body’s overall health.

EMBRACING BOTH NARRATIVES BENEFITS OUR COMMUNITY Incorporating the great contributions of the enslaved African Muslims, who were brought to these shores starting in the 1600s, into our Muslim American story will make it clear that Islam cannot be depicted as a “foreign” religion. Most of the African Muslims were from contemporary Senegal, Gambia, Guinea and parts of Mali, and it is these people who are credited with developing the blues, the banjo, popular folk stories, the technology of rice cultivation and many other aspects of American life. We, as Muslim Americans, should embrace and promote their brave story — a story that is largely glossed over and ignored in the telling of American history. The African Americans’ great legacy of struggle for dignity and freedom is very much tied to the story of Islam in this country. African Americans were drawn to Islam in the 1920s because Islam represented a vehicle for resistance to racism and for the upliftment of black people. Besides Martin Luther King Jr., the most important African American leader was undoubtedly Malcolm X. By all of us celebrating Malcolm’s memory, we place our community at the heart of the central issue in American history. We should all embrace Black History Month in general, and the legacy of Malcolm in particular.

Most African American mosques are involved in some type of community service in the inner-city. The Muslim American community’s most significant and immediate contribution to improving America can be realized by working with them on addressing inner-city issues. Joining hands with them will enable us to show the true face of a caring, concerned and activist community. Tying the African American Muslim story to that of immigrants reveals the clear connection of both narratives to colonialism and the struggle against global colonial domination. The same struggle for dignity and freedom has taken place throughout the world. Embracing the immigrant story also makes it clear that African Americans are citizens of the world. Especially since many of these immigrants are African, it allows African Americans to reconnect in a real way with their roots.

MOVING FORWARD How can we move forward? How do we speed up the process to become one body? Here are a few suggestions. • Masjids can be paired (“kinned”). As a start, their leaders should set a goal of socializing periodically so that they can get to know one another. This program can then be extended to mosque congregations by creating small groups. • Work together on Black History Month and a celebration of Malcolm. Each mosque should have its own program to maximize Malcolm’s exposure to their attendees. A larger citywide program could also be organized. • The zakah collected in suburban mosques should be shared with innercity mosques and then distributed among the various congregations. • Suburban mosques should involve themselves in inner-city community service projects.  ih Dr. Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic studies, University of Kentucky, is chair, ISNA’s Masjid Development Initiative.




A Refuge for Muslim Students of Diverse Backgrounds Why Muslim Americans should support Historically Black Colleges & Universities BY SARA SWETZOFF


n the weeks following Trump’s inauguration, Washington, D.C.’s Howard University students mobilized much like millions of other Americans did. The first Muslim ban was immediately met with teach-ins, protests and discussion groups. One memorable post by a Howard MSA member called upon women to gather for a solidarity conversation: “We spoke of how Trump’s election would have a big effect on Black women. Now that things are underway, let us shine light on our Black Muslim sisters… black women not only in Amerikkka, but also abroad... And let’s not forget: Power to the People.” As a white graduate student and convert to Islam muddling through the cause and implications of this ban, observing the student response at Howard brought much clarity to my own analysis. Regardless of which new travel restrictions would ultimately stick, every iteration of the ban was clearly an act of Islamophobia designed to stigmatize and criminalize Muslims writ large. And yet I was confronted with the reality that many of my non-Muslim Black peers felt more personally threatened by it than I did. We share a visceral understanding, one rooted in a larger, age-old racialized hierarchy of violence — what UC Berkeley’s Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project calls “the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure.” According to the definition of Islamophobia on the project’s website, this structure foments fear and prejudice in order to maintain and extend “existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations, while rationalizing the necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve ‘civilizational rehab’ of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise)” ( The MSA post quoted above illustrates the extent to which undergraduate students at the nation’s oldest Historically Black College-University (HBCU) intuitively evoke the interrelationship between racism and Islamophobia outlined by this definition. They show an automatic understanding that the ban’s context is far deeper than recent terrorism or immigration events. For

example, the use of “Amerikkka” asserts that white supremacy is written into this country’s sociopolitical DNA. By referencing the connection between anti-Black and anti-Muslim violence both within and beyond U.S. borders, students clearly identify the Muslim ban as a state expression of white power that has implications for anyone and everyone affected by other aspects of American white supremacy and state violence, from the expansion of AFRICOM (United States Africa Command) to the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border to the violent policing of Black neighborhoods here in Washington, D.C. In other words, a majority-Black campus populated with students steeped in a lived experience of white supremacy naturally possesses a heightened awareness of structural Islamophobia — even if the total percentage of Muslim students on campus is the same or lower than that at many predominantly white colleges. This is why Howard’s non-Muslim Black and/or African students seem just as likely as Muslim students to consider the ban an affront to their existence. For example, a teach-in organized in early February by a non-Muslim Afro-Austrian graduate student sought to “address the multifaceted social and political implications [of the current presidential executive order] as well as strategies of resistance from a global perspective.” The event skyped in Nigerian activist Rex Osa, a resident of Germany who advocates for a just asylum policy while simultaneously calling out European complicity in the violent circumstances forcing people to migrate. His work, organizing tours of German weapons manufacturers that export to the African and Middle Eastern markets, strikes at the core economic logic behind racist and Islamophobic state policies ( html?&L=1). While I was already making these types of connections among war, police violence and Islamophobia before coming to Howard for graduate school, the student discourse here exposed me to an everyday praxis of resistance. Awareness of injustice is far less selective on the HBCU campus, for it’s a constant hum in the background of every conversation, class discussion or student


critique of the administration. Here on campus, students of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds in the MSA understand that all Muslim Americans — not just African American Muslims — must mobilize to support the Black community’s struggle for justice. This praxis is intuitive, as we come to see our organizing against Islamophobia as entwined with the larger struggle against state and corporate violence. Based on what I’ve conveyed so far, I would like to suggest that we understand the HBCU as an “Islamicate” space on both the social and academic levels. Scholars use this term to describe something influenced by Islam but not directly produced by a Muslim. For example, the political thought of the Jewish

philosopher Maimonides (d. 1204) is considered Islamicate because it was heavily shaped by his interactions with contemporaneous Muslim intellectuals. Today, a group of Muslim academics are purposefully cultivating the Islamicate as a tool for rethinking all kinds of global questions tainted by the West’s hegemonic production of knowledge. Known as “critical Muslim studies,” the field “encourages a decolonial and non-orientalist approach to the analysis of the historical and contemporary political, socio-economic, and cultural processes constitutive of the Islamicate in its widest-ranging permutations” (https://www.criticalmuslimstudies. The HBCU is an Islamicate space on the social level because Islam has played such an important role in this country’s Black communities. Conversion (or reversion) to Islam became a spiritual refuge, a tool for retrieving family histories erased by slavery and a source of social resilience and political power. Islam profoundly shaped Black revolutionaries from Malcolm X to Amiri Baraka to Assata Shakur, even if they arguably left the faith (Baraka) or mostly

THE AMERICAN AND THE GLOBAL MUSLIM COMMUNITIES SHOULD CONSIDER HBCUs A TREASURE PRECISELY BECAUSE THEY REACH BEYOND THE PHYSICAL AND FIGURATIVE BORDERS OF AMERICANNESS AND ALLOW STUDENTS TO TRULY EXPLORE WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN. experienced it vicariously through the piety of a significant other (Shakur). In a recent session of the freshman seminar “Introduction to Contemporary Africa,” a Howard professor asked students to raise their hand if they were close with a Muslim (their own selves included). If my memory serves me correctly, every single student raised a hand. This simple example reflects the social reach and longevity of African American Muslims. In fact, a recent Pew Research Center study found that “among Muslims whose families have been in the U.S. for at least three generations, fully half are black” ( demographic-portrait-of-muslim-americans). As for the HBCUs being an Islamicate space on the academic level, I would argue that — in connection with the social landscape described above — the Civil Rights era, the Black Power movement and the Pan-African political tendencies of the 1960s brought about curricular reforms that opened up essential institutional space for non-Eurocentric work. These reforms also took place at non-HBCUs (San Francisco State and UC Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies programs emerged from that same era of protest); however, the HBCUs have arguably enacted and retained them to a greater degree. In addition, their unique emphasis on melding African, Africana, Black and Pan-African perspectives deconstructed Eurocentric notions of human geography in relation to some of Islam’s earliest regions of import. My own application to Howard’s African Studies program initially proposed to study historical Arabia as part of Africa — a topic that garnered little interest from other programs, despite the fact that the late, great African Muslim professor Ali Mazrui (d. 2014) published extensively on it. These are just a few examples of the special intellectual production relevant to Islam that takes place constantly at HBCUs, despite the fact that most of them (including Howard) lack programs in Middle East studies or Islamic studies. Additional examples similarly blur the line between the purely “academic” and the socially engaged. The Howard MSA and the Office of the Dean of the

Chapel organized an immensely successful and well-attended conference on Sept. 29-30, 2017, entitled “Islam and the BlackAmerican: From African Roots to American Fruit.” Likewise, in 2016 the Howard MSA hosted a student conference that brought together MSAs from HBCUs across the country. These notable contributions deserve greater recognition and financial support from the wider Muslim community. They can be supported not just at HBCU campuses, but also by ensuring the increased representation of African American Muslims (and particularly women) in Arabic/Quran classes, chaplaincy programs and Islamic organizations nationwide. In summary, the American and the global Muslim communities should consider HBCUs a treasure precisely because they reach beyond the physical and figurative borders of Americanness and allow students to truly explore what it means to be human. This global perspective is unthreatened by Islam’s transnationalism; on the contrary, each one thrives off the other’s universal mission. It may seem counterintuitive to think of colleges founded for black students before integration as “universal,” but the fact is that even during segregation HBCUs provided safe havens to people threatened by white supremacy. For example, German Jewish professors who escaped from Nazi Germany were offered jobs at HBCUs when mainstream white institutions shunned them (Feb. 19, 2017; http:// Considering that today’s anti-Muslim hysteria is often compared to historical anti-Semitism, HBCUs may increasingly provide a safe haven for all Muslim students as we work through these politically challenging times. In this sense, the “Blackness” of the HBCU is not just defined by the student population’s skin color, but also by a campus-wide commitment to opposing white supremacy — and its associated bigotries, such as Islamophobia — in all forms.  ih Sara Swetzoff is third year PhD student in the African Studies department at Howard University.



An Islamic Imperative: Countering Racism in the Classroom Are educators and Islamic schools doing enough to fight racism within the Muslim community? BY SHAZA KHAN AND MARYAM RAZVI PADELA


merican Muslims have embraced the call to organize and resist Islamophobia, but some of us remain disengaged when it comes to fighting racism on the grounds that it is not one of “our” issues. And yet it is, for why else would God command: “O you who believe, stand out firmly for God, and [be] bearers of witness with justice!” (5:8). When he was a young man, Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) joined the Makkan’s Hilf ul-Fudool pact, a transtribal and trans-religion pledge to enforce the rights of those who had been wronged. He adhered to this practice throughout his life, and told his followers to do likewise. Racists contend that individuals with certain physical traits are inherently less human, capable or worthy than they are. Racism in the U.S. runs deep and is connected to an ideology of white supremacy and power, as manifested in slavery and segregation, biased school disciplinary practices, corporate hiring practices, police tactics and the justice system.

CONFRONTING AN UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH Within our own communities, racism is more nuanced because it cannot be attributed to white supremacy. As this attitude is intertwined with privilege and power, we must ask where these realities lie. Partially as a function of the larger American political, economic and social structures, Arab and South Asian immigrant Muslims have been the primary beneficiaries of upward social and economic mobility. Having gained a certain degree of privilege and power, 34    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018

they need to recognize this situation and understand how it may contribute to intra-Muslim racism. Language, one of the most obvious markers, contains code words for darker-complexioned people. We frequently hear them in our mosques and family gatherings. Preference for “light-skinned” or “fair-complexioned” spouses is blatantly stated by parents and young adults alike. Our community also contains racially segregated mosques as well as seemingly “diverse” mosques that are actually composed of several ethnic and racial groups that pray and socialize among themselves. How many of us can confidently say that we are not perpetuating such attitudes in our institutions, particularly in our schools? Do we discipline darker-skinned students more than those with lighter skin? Are the consequences for Black students harsher than for white, Arab and/or Asian students? Do we offer financial scholarships more freely to Muslim refugees than to African American and native-born Muslims? Racism is likely festering in many areas of the Islamic school environment, unnoticed by many staff members, particularly among those of Arab and South Asian ancestry. This cannot be allowed to continue.

THE BATTLE BEGINS IN THE CLASSROOM From racist to silent Muslims to the 30 percent of our community’s members who face this negative reality every day, every one of us must fight racism. As educators, the battle begins in the classroom. To simplify matters, we present two categories: “The Minimum,” and “Do Better.” The Minimum is what we feel any educator should be able to do, given the existing time and energy constraints. Do Better is what we feel educators should do to counter racism more meaningfully.

CLASSROOM CONSIDERATIONS Before talking about racism, establish a safe space in which this discussion can occur. The Minimum: Create a Safe Space. Establish rules, especially as they relate to whole-class discussions, and then review them with the entire class and enforce them. The teacher must “play by the rules” to model the expected behavior. For younger students, illustrating what is NOT acceptable might help them understand what is acceptable. Possible rules: “One person speaks at a time,” “Ask questions if you don’t understand” and “Be respectful in your body language and your speech.” Do Better: Create a Classroom Constitution. This activity, which can be done at any grade level, will ensure a “safe” classroom and reinforce civic engagement and appropriate classroom conduct. Discuss the constitution’s purpose and components, clearly define “rights” and “responsibilities,” divide students into small groups to generate the contents in a timely manner and brainstorm over how to punish an offender. The Minimum: Define Racism in Developmentally Appropriate Terms. As younger students might not be able to grasp our definition, devise simpler ones, such as “Treating people differently because of how they look” or “Believing that one group of people is superior to another by birth.” To begin the conversation, consider asking them what they think racism is or state your own definition and ask them for examples of what this looks, sounds, and feels like. Do Better: Define Racism in the Context of Power, Privilege and Systems. Try to move students from simple understandings

to more complex ones. For example, start with “How would you feel if someone decided that he or she didn’t like you because of your eye color or gender?” to the more complex “How would you feel if you were told to play a sport according to a specific set of rules that would either help or hinder your chances of winning?” Framing the discussion in the context of “rules” allows students to latch onto concepts of fairness, privilege and systems. This sets the foundation for a more elaborate understanding of racism as being intertwined with privileging or oppressive social and governmental systems designed for specific groups. The Minimum: Envision Students as Allies. Explore with students how they can counter racism. For example, tell them they can do something, like creating a pact to help each other identify racist language and then point it out and work to eradicate it. Practice how they can help a person being bullied, show them how to physically move away from the situation and then talk with the victim about something else. This shows solidarity and often helps deflate the attacker’s assaults. Encourage students to tell a trusted teacher, counselor or administrator whenever they are the victim of racism. Do Better: Envision Students as Community Activists. For older (especially high school) students, adopt a multifaceted approach of calling out racist behavior and then working together to build bridges among their broader community’s diverse peoples. Encourage them to respond to racist discourse wherever they encounter it, as well as to challenge the usual “casual” racist expressions or phrases by asking the speaker to consider these words’ real meaning and impact. Urge students to step out of their comfort zones by volunteering (e.g., at soup kitchens), visiting nursing homes or joining a non-local sports team.

SCHOOL-WIDE APPROACHES Islamic schools are not immune from racist language and ideology. Recognizing this reality, certain policies and procedures should be in place. The Minimum: Have Clearly Communicated Policies. Racist attitudes, language and behaviors are often symptomatic of a culture that allows biases and prejudice to survive or flourish. This should be impossible in an Islamic school. If this is not the case, consider implementing the following steps. Inform students of Q. 49:11: “O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them... And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames.” Articulate and publicize clear policies against racist language and hate-speech. Appoint only those staff members who really understand the historical roots of American racism and its multiple manifestations today to deal with these incidents. They should have separate conversations with the involved parties, follow-up discussions with the person engaging in racist behavior and then implement the appropriate disciplinary action based upon the incident’s severity. Do Better: Have a Holistic Approach. Try to create a holistic, inclusive environment by seeking out and embracing the larger community’s diversity. Get inclusion and diversity into your mission statement or school-wide goals. Hire staff from different racial, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. Offer scholarships and financial aid to all needy students. Ensure that the school doesn’t exclude certain peoples’ histories

or perpetuate dominant narratives. Encourage teachers to highlight multiple perspectives whenever possible. Host or attend professional development seminars that help staff navigate difficult conversations with their students. This will come in handy when discussing racism, sectarianism and modern-day politics, as well as such hot topics as gender identity and homosexuality.

FROM RACIST TO SILENT MUSLIMS TO THE 30 PERCENT OF OUR COMMUNITY’S MEMBERS WHO FACE THIS NEGATIVE REALITY EVERY DAY, EVERY ONE OF US MUST FIGHT RACISM. AS EDUCATORS, THE BATTLE BEGINS IN THE CLASSROOM. LOOK INWARD: CHANGE STARTS WITH YOU As discussions about racism and standing for justice only go so far, all educators must do their best to become role models for their students. The Minimum: Interrogate Yourself. Who are my friends? Are they all from the same cultural and racial background? If so, why and how can I widen my circle of friends? If I have stereotypical beliefs, what are they, where did they come from and how can I overcome them? Do I tend to call on some students more than others? Keep track of this for a couple of days, record yourself teaching, or ask a colleague to observe you with this point in mind. Do Better: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. Go to another mosque and greet and talk with the congregants. At your own mosque, say salaam to one new person each week. Make a concerted effort to have friends from other backgrounds and races. Invite them to your home and go to theirs, and celebrate important occasions together. Stop people in your own social circles from using racist language and phrases. Ask them if they fully realize what they are saying and to consider its impact upon oneself and others. Be sure to use open-ended questions when trying to initiate a civil and educational dialogue. Learn more about this country’s history of race relations and its connection to modern-day inequities. Watch the movies "13th" or "Selma" or read Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” (Nation Books, 2016) and similar books.

NO MATTER WHAT, DO SOMETHING These are just some suggestions, for there are many valid approaches. Seek out those that are most conducive to your students and subject area. And no matter how small, be sure to oppose injustice whenever you see it, for God has commanded us to do so.  ih Maryam Razvi Padela is an EdD candidate in teaching and curriculum at the University of Rochester. Shaza Khan, PhD, is interim executive director, Islamic Schools League of America.



On Islamic Education: Voices from the Past – Advice for the Future BY SUFIA AZMAT


ll parents are obliged to ensure that their children are educated in a way that enables them to excel both academically and morally. Education has historically been rooted in faith. For example, the university, as an autonomous self-governing institution, originated in the Islamic world. The oldest continuously operating degree-granting institution, Morocco’s University of Al-Karaouine, was founded by Fatima al-Fihri (800-880), the educated daughter of a wealthy merchant, in 859. Faith was the driving force in that case, just as it was for establishing Harvard University in 1636 to help educate ministers. Today’s Islamic schools need to continue teaching students how to live as God’s vicegerents. This involves creating appropriate pedagogical approaches, removing barriers to academic and moral education, supporting and empowering school leaders to realize this and other goals, as well as clearly explaining the difference between knowledge (which may come from instruction) and wisdom (morals and values that are deepened and strengthened through faith) to all stakeholders.

THE AIMS OF EDUCATION The aims of education were debated long before a public education system even existed. Ibn Sina (d. 1037) stated that education seeks “the overall growth of the individual: physical, mental and moral; followed by preparing of this individual to live in society through a chosen trade according to his aptitudes.” Abu Nasr al-Farabi (d. 951) considered its goal to be to “lead the individual to perfection since the human being was created for this purpose, and the goal of humanity’s existence in this world is to attain happiness, which is the highest perfection — the absolute good.” To him, perfection combined knowledge and virtuous behavior, which can be summed up as one’s acquisition of values, knowledge and practical skills within a particular period and a particular culture. Al-Ghazali (d. 1111) defined it as “cultivat[ing] man so that he abides by the teachings of religion, and is hence assured of salvation and happiness in the eternal life hereafter.” While acknowledging the usefulness of secular sciences and society’s need of them, he considered religious sciences


superior because they were the path to salvation. Alfred North Whitehead (d. 1947), in his 1916 presidential address — “The Aims of Education” — to the Mathematical Association of England, stated, “We can be content with no less than the old summary of educational ideal which has been current at any time from the dawn of our civilization. The essence of education is that it be religious.” Amjad M. Hussain writes in A Social History of Education in the Muslim World (2013), that “[t]he aim of Islamic education is the ‘cultivation’ of the individual so that he abides by and lives by the teachings of Islam.” All of these definitions have elements in common. William Rainey Harper (d. 1906), the first president of the University of Chicago, once stated that the university is an “institution of the people.” In order for a school to succeed, the entire school community (i.e., parents and students, staff and administration, and community members to alumni) must be involved in developing and reviewing its mission and vision statements. The needs of contemporary society primarily drive the philosophy and purpose of education. Reviewing mission and vision statements forces stakeholders to assess whether the given institution’s original goals are still relevant. My review of the mission and vision statements of over 50 Islamic schools in the U.S. reveals that constructing and then preserving their students’ religious identity are among these schools’ aims. Many schools loosely define Islamic identity as ensuring that students learn the basics of the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) life and can read the Qur’an as well as understand and follow Islam’s five pillars. This is sometimes referred to as “checklist Islam.” Another commonality is the development of good character and provision of an excellent academic education. Unfortunately, there is often a disconnect between what parents say they want versus what their words and actions reveal. And that is when the blame game and shifting of responsibility begin.

GOVERNANCE AND OVERSIGHT Persons charged with managing an organization’s affairs need to consult with each other (shura), as stated in Q. 42:38. And yet this critical tool is often misunderstood or inaccurately utilized. Consultation is neither

consensus nor majority rule, but rather the presentation of multiple perspectives, empowering and increasing self-worth in others and nurturing the type of leadership that allows organizations to grow. This approach has the added benefits of ensuring transparency, accountability, collective responsibility and unity of purpose. Areas that require significant improvement are the decision-making process and the development of oversight and well-defined conflict resolution procedures. The Council of Islamic Schools (CISNA; www. often receives requests for help with such issues that many times would never have arisen if better communication and professionalism had been in place. A strong principal-board relationship, along with a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities as well as a process to safeguard employer-employee rights, are imperative to sustained and successful growth.

THE TEACHER AND TEACHING METHODOLOGY A study of the educational philosophies of noted Muslim scholars reveals the great importance they attached to the teacher’s character and pedagogy. For example,

A STUDY OF THE EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHIES OF NOTED MUSLIM SCHOLARS REVEALS THE GREAT IMPORTANCE THEY ATTACHED TO THE TEACHER’S CHARACTER AND PEDAGOGY. Al-Ghazali attached great importance to the institution’s climate, the various types of teacher-student relationships, and the teacher’s role as both a model and an example, as opposed to merely an instructor of knowledge. Ibn Sina stressed that teachers need to be virtuous, kind, intelligent, honorable

and should use punishment sparingly: “The teacher’s role in educating young people goes beyond presenting them with facts, for students acquire from their teachers a great many habits, ideas and values.” He also required that the teacher be “an excellent person, discerning the values of society and moral virtues so that the students will follow him as a guide and model.” In today’s schools, teachers must be certified and qualified, as well as appropriate role models. In sum, the institution must find a way to meet their professional development and spiritual needs. The aforementioned Muslim scholars also laid out teaching methodologies based on the pedagogical tradition of the Qur’an and Sunnah — a small study circle in which students and adults could interact directly with their teacher in order to acquire both knowledge and wisdom. Modern educators expound upon Harkness Learning, giving partial credit to the Socratic method of dialogue — a method that Muslim philosophers were employing in the early years of Islam. Shaykh ‘Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah’s book Prophet Muhammad (SAW): The Teacher (Zam Zam Publishers; 2003) is an excellent resource in this regard.


EDUCATION Long before “differentiated instruction” became popular in educational nomenclature, al-Ghazali wrote that teachers should take into account the pupils different characters and abilities “and deal with each one of them appropriately. The teachers should not push the pupils beyond their capacity, nor attempt to bring them to a level of knowledge that they cannot absorb.” Islamic school educators can draw upon the theories of Islamic scholars to address the needs of all students. They should base their teaching methodologies on Islamic principles and use contemporary educational tools.

CURRICULUM Al-Farabi encouraged an integrated curriculum comprised of language, mathematics, science, art and music — with philosophy being the highest form of learning. Ibn Sina held that the students’ preferences and abilities must be considered when defining their future, course of studies and choice of profession, for “young people should not have any kind of study or work forced on them that does not correspond to their abilities

and inclinations.” Al-Ghazali went into great detail in classifying the sciences and dividing them into levels. Today, a variety of standards lay out what students are expected to know in a given subject, and the curriculum (e.g., textbooks, software applications and the pedagogy for delivering those materials) provides an instructional guide for teachers to help their students meet the stated expectations. However, educators need guidance on how to teach the curriculum, manage the pacing and provide feedback to their students. A critical and contextual study of the Qur’an and Sunnah needs to be taught by qualified educators who know both the content and how to teach it effectively. One way to achieve this goal is to develop mentoring and coaching programs and resources. Muslims have a communal obligation to support Islamic schools and Islamic education. Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal, founder and president of the Centre for Islam and Science in Canada, states that “having Islamic schools with … integrated, holistic educational resources, trained teachers … rooted in Islam’s … intellectual and


spiritual traditions, and of course an atmosphere permeated by the remembrance of Allah … falls in the category of fard kifayah, and hence non-fulfillment carries serious consequences for the entire community.” By looking to the past for inspiration and having faith in Islam’s ability to guide us in the future and adapt to new circumstances, we can transcend the religious-secular education divide by integrating them so that they are like the two sides of the same coin. The Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School and organizations like CISNA are striving to realize the goals outlined above. Bayan is working in the areas of academic and spiritual development for staff and administrators, and CISNA is postulating standards and best practices. We strongly urge all community and Islamic school leaders to avail themselves of the opportunities provided by these organizations to strengthen school curricula and guide the expansion and improvement of management practices.  ih Sufia Azmat, executive director of CISNA, is a student in the Department of Islamic Education and Leadership, Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School, Claremont, Calif.


How to Resolve the Empathy Deficit Empathy is a learned, not an inherent, skill BY SAMAH ABDALLAH


arack Obama noted in 2013 that the “empathy deficit” was far worse than the federal deficit. The situation has not changed. Peer victimization among children and adolescents is associated with higher rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts (JAMA Pediatrics, 2014). Research suggests that being bullied has similar and, in some cases, worse long-term adverse effects on young adults’ mental health than being maltreated (see Suzet Tanya Lereya, William E. Copeland,


E. Jane Costello, Dieter Wolke in thelancet. com/psychiatry, Vol. 2, June 2015). There is a great disconnect in today’s society in terms of recognizing, understanding and sharing another person’s feelings. Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) informed us that, “None of you will have faith until he wishes for his brother what he likes for himself ” (Al-Bukhari, vol. 1, book 2, hadith no. 13). This all-inclusive hadith, which not only relates to material items but to all aspects of life, means that

Muslims will only see the fruits of their faith if they are sincere, empathetic and truly able to put themselves in another individual’s position. God repeatedly praises the Prophet for putting other people’s needs before his own. The Prophet also stressed empathy’s importance and effects on society, “The believers are like one body in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds with wakefulness and fever” (Al-Bukhari, book 1, hadith no. 224). In other words, we should “feel” the pain of those who suffer. The Prophet extended this even to animals. Not only does Islam encourage empathy, but it’s also an essential part of a Muslim’s character and conduct. Webster’s defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person” due to having had a similar experience or being able to envision themselves in that specific situation. Empathy is not sympathy, which means that one is sorry about another’s grief or misfortune and hopes that things will eventually get better. Empathy fuels connections, whereas sympathy drives disconnection. Despite its necessity for a beneficial and harmonious community and society, a University of Michigan study found that 40 percent of students today are less empathetic than they were ten years ago (U-M Institute for Social Research, 2010). Consequently, there is a natural inference that the significant increase in bullying and other harassments in schools is a result of its absence and a desire to make oneself happy, whether because of disregard for or at the expense of others. A 2008 survey asked students to identify their most important goal — more than 64% said “to get rich”; only 30%

wanted to help those in need (2011 National Survey of School Counselors Counseling at a Crossroads, The College Board National Office for School Counselor Advocacy). Paul Lewis, The Guardian West Coast’s correspondent, noted, “There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called ‘continuous partial attention’, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ” (Oct. 6, 2017). He added, “It is revealing that many of these younger technologists are weaning themselves off their own products, sending their children to elite Silicon Valley schools where iPhones, iPads and even laptops are banned.” This generation has become self-centered and self-serving. Long gone are the days when Americans were proud to take up the challenge of President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Many students now ask what they can do to benefit themselves or make themselves look better. With so much time being spent in front of screens and on social media platforms and the “likes” they can generate, people today have less empathetic interactions with each other. Thus, bullying in schools is becoming increasingly common. Studies have shown that students who lack empathy are less likely to relate to a student in distress. A 2006 University of Cambridge study states that the presence of empathy facilitates pro-social behavior and inhibits anti-social behavior (Darrick Jolliffe and David P. Farrington, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge in Aggressive Behavior Jrnl., vol. 32, p. 540-550). Bullies usually do not relate with their victim. To overcome bullying and the lack of empathy, school administrators need to prioritize school climate initiatives. Teachers, principals, and administrators must work together to develop spaces where students feel a sense of community and happiness and that their worries and concerns are understood.

EMPATHY IS TEACHABLE Empathy is a skill that can — and needs to — be taught in classrooms. When we build it in schools and homes, students will experience fewer bullying incidents and/or will try to prevent them from occurring. Empathetic students are more connected to their school and classmates, which ultimately have positive social, emotional and

academic outcomes. The more empathetic a student is, the less likely he or she is to bully others or allow others to be bullied. These are the students who blossom into well-rounded individuals. Here are five ways to create a more empathetic environment: Step 1: Watch and Listen: What is the other person saying? What is his/her body language? How does he/she feel? How can you tell? Pay attention! Step 2: Remember: When did you feel the same way? When did something like this happen to you? Personalizing, whether from direct experience or imagining your own reaction, helps you connect with others. Step 3: Imagine: How might you feel in the same situation? Validate the wide range of emotions that come up: being sad, mad, upset and so on. Have them explain these emotions in detail, because this helps set up what they think would help or what they feel they would want to happen in the same situation. Step 4: Inquiry: Get the person to talk about how he/she is feeling to draw out his/ her deeper emotions and thoughts. Step 5: Show You Care through Your Words and Actions: This lets them know that they are not alone. Even if you are not part of the solution, it reinforces and gives them the support and strength to face such challenges. And parents, remember to always be a role model. When your children see you interact with others in a kind, respectful and caring way, they will learn the true meaning of empathy. It’s not just enough to listen and discuss, for actually showing affection is a big part of empathy. Hug them and tell them you are there for them. Teaching children this important life skill in school will both solve the “empathy deficit” and foster a well-rounded generation that can connect with others and contribute to society in both tangible and intangible ways. Parents and teachers have many options in terms of books (e.g., “Noor Kids”), videos and websites (e.g., Project Happiness []). A detailed lesson plan is available at www. Following these steps and serving as role models for our children will enable us to raise a more empathetic generation.  ih Samah Abdallah is a certified teacher at Noor Ul Iman School with more than 17 years of experience.





Hate is Beatable

Both Islamic and public school students need to be taught how to correct the stereotypes that plague their classrooms and communities BY MONA ABDALA


he horrific hate crimes in Charlottesville remind one of “Good deeds are not equal to evil ones. Repel others’ evil deeds with your good deeds, and you will see that your enemy will become as if he were your close friend” (Q. 41:34). Muslims in America are now being tested in an entirely new way, as the last presidential election cycle has emboldened racists. “Half of Muslim Americans say it has become harder to be Muslim in the U.S. in recent years. And 48% say they have experienced at least one incident of discrimination in the past 12 months.” These statements come from the Pew Research Center’s “Muslims and Islam: Key findings


in the U.S. and around the world,” a compilation of answers to some key questions drawn from several of their recent reports and published on Aug. 9, 2017. Hate is spreading against minorities in this country, especially against Muslims, and the communal steadfastness that they have to show to combat it has materialized into action. These days, both Muslims and non-Muslims are tackling Islamophobia head-on. Islamic outreach groups such as chapters of Islamic Networks Groups (ING;, which trains speakers how to present Islam to the general public, are growing rapidly due to the imperative to counter the increasing amount of misinformation. Founder Maha Elgenaidi started this

organization in 1993 in the San Francisco Bay area to provide accurate information and develop relationships with their non-Muslim neighbors. During these years, Muslims enjoyed relative peace and the non-existence of the extreme negativity that floods the news channels today. Post-9/11, Americans’ negative attitude toward Muslims have matched their attitude toward atheists, despite the fact that Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion. According to Pew Research, if current demographic trends continue, “the number of Muslims is expected to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century.” Much work needs to be done to combat these negative stereotypes that continue to proliferate despite the growing numbers of Muslims.

“ethnic,” for there was not a large community of people who were like us. Thus some parents sent their children to Islamic schools, hoping that they would feel safe enough to cultivate a strong Muslim identity and have a community of adult Muslims to look up to. As wonderful as it was to grow up in this model, there was one main drawback: the lack of regular daily interaction with non-Muslims. In order to offset this problem, interfaith events with other religious schools began sprouting up, and more INGYouth training sessions were held.


A good place to start introducing Islam to mainstream America and dispelling stereotypes is the classroom, for that is where many young people first learn about the religion. Muslim students are very important in this regard. Both Islamic and public school students need to be taught how to correct the stereotypes that plague their classrooms and communities. One way that Islamic school students and public school students who attend weekend Islamic schools can grow their confidence and knowledge base on how to speak about their religion is to attend mini-speaker training sessions. This is what the INGYouth program seeks to achieve.

Islamic schools have tried to overcome their students’ lack of exposure to non-Muslims during the school day by engaging in interfaith relations. Some of them have even partnered with other religious schools. For example, Noor-Ul-Iman School, Monmouth Junction, N.J., has implemented many interfaith initiatives at all levels via mutual visits to each other’s schools. One of these initiatives, its partnership with the Quaker Princeton Friends School, is now in its fifteenth year. According to this school’s website, the Head of School at PFS has stated: “For the past fifteen years, and especially in these times, this partnership between our two schools is perhaps the most important thing we have done in preparing students for the world they are inheriting.”



While growing up during the 1980s in the U.S., there was less of a need for interfaith and Islamic education activities for several reasons. One, few people knew enough about Islam to have anything more than a general bias against people who were “different.” Life in my small New Jersey hometown, for example, was similar to that of other minority people. Instead of today’s fear and mistrust, we faced prejudice and ignorance. I remember one black family who was run out of town by the constant harassment, as well as a Chinese family who left after their car was graffitied. Another reason was that Muslims had no choice but to be immersed in the fabric of American society, which had both benefits and pitfalls. Some Muslims, myself included, faced great discrimination in their schools and towns. Many Muslims born in the U.S. during the 1970s and 1980s may have grown up feeling that they didn’t belong, or sat on the fence as being neither “American” nor

For Muslims in public schools, the difference between now and the 1980s is that instead of misinformation, people had no information at all. The lack of information is a far easier problem to solve. ING tries to counter misinformation by training speakers to speak in classrooms as well as at teacher training sessions. The New Jersey chapter, NJ-ING, has run several of these, which focus on presenting and talking to social studies teachers about how to present Islam accurately and as part of their professional development. These sessions have been very well received. One teacher who attended an Islam 101 training workshop run by this affiliate remarked, “I understand now how to refer to the teachings in conversations with my Muslim students. Speakers are wonderfully knowledgeable and approachable.” Another said, “I appreciated your discussion of beliefs and debunking stereotypes. ISIS is politically driven. I will share [this] with my students.”


ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIMS Finally, all Muslims are being encouraged to join a new ING grassroots effort to get to know their neighbors. Individuals and organizations are being urged to connect with others in the community, in informal and formal gatherings, and asked to use social media to publicize these events with hashtags #IAmYourNeighbor, #HateEndsWithMe and #knowYourNeighbor.

JOINING OTHER FAITH GROUPS Muslims should be aware that non-Muslims are realizing the need for unity with their fellow partners in faith. We should work with and fully support them. One example is the One America Movement (https://werepair. org/oneamerica). Director Andrew Hanauer wrote the following in his May 10 op-ed piece, “Isolation Won’t Save Us,” on www. “Our goal is to build that movement, and to start by living it — by bringing people together across religious, racial, and political divides to participate in community service projects together and then sit down and have a meal and a conversation together. To talk with each other respectfully. To learn from each other. To listen to each other.” On July 30, 2017 at Cherry Hill High School West, this movement held an event during which bookbags were filled for local students in need. Many local mosques and Muslim organizations donated supplies, and their members attended alongside an African-American church, an Evangelical church and a synagogue. There’s important work to be done whether you’re Muslim living among non-Muslims or have children in Islamic or public schools. It is work that we, as American Muslims, don’t have the luxury of ignoring anymore, as we were able to do when the general public didn’t have much information about Islam. We need to do our part to ensure that our community’s future generations fare much better in a country that is less hostile than it is now. We can’t depend on our growing numbers to make tomorrow better for our children. Our determination to take our Muslim American narrative into our own hands through education and grassroots movements, as well as “return evil with that which is better” (Q. 41:34), will shape the future and have a lasting impact on tomorrow.  ih Mona Abdala is teacher/head of art department at Noor ul Iman School.



Karen’s Legacy An Interview with Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA) co-founder Judi Amri BY FAWZIA TUNG & SHAZA KHAN


t all started when Judi Amri, the mother of two students attending Islamic schools in Virginia, became increasingly concerned about the state of Islamic schools in North America. “I put a notice out asking if anyone had an interest in doing research on Islamic schools or private schools,” she recalls. After posting the message to the MSA listserv, the only one she knew of specifically for Muslims in the U.S., she received just one reply — from a lady in Michigan named Karen Keyworth (d. 2017). After first communicating by phone and email, they decided to meet up. In an era now saturated with GPS and smartphones,

their initial meeting seemed like a scene from an old film. Both were so excited at the prospect of finally seeing each other that they forgot to exchange information about what they looked like or what car they were driving. But these oversights didn’t matter as they met by the roadside at the appointed time in that pivotal moment reminiscent of “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Actually, it was “Karen?” — “Judi?” In the late 1990s, when they were planting the seeds of ISLA (, Islamic schools existed in isolation from each other and were reinventing the wheel on their own. They lacked not just the history, but also the parochial organization


Karen Keyworth was recognized by ISNA with a lifetime service award

and professionalism of similar private religious schools. The most obvious and urgent need was to draw up a comprehensive listing of Islamic schools. If a Muslim parent wanted to find a school, the only option

was word of mouth. Karen and Judi thus decided to prioritize the creation of a conduit to connect the schools. But the more they looked into it, the more challenges they encountered. Over the course of a year, the two women gathered information and made numerous calls — often meeting suspicion and resistance from the schools’ authorities, who may have found their inquiries unusual or unnecessary. Finally, after enlisting the help of their children and friends, they managed to put togther a list of about 30 full-time, solid and viable Islamic schools on a plain old Excel worksheet. Two other families were involved in the preliminary discussions and helped finance ISLA, which allowed them to set it up and register it as a nonprofit organization in the State of Virginia. Judi took care of the administrative side, and Karen took care of the educational aspects. Having established ISLA, they now had to find someone


Linda (Widad) Delgado A Pioneer in Muslim Children’s Literature 1947-2017

Judy Amri

KAREN BELIEVED IN ISLAMIC EDUCATION. SHE WAS A STEADFAST WORKER AND WAS DETERMINED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR ISLAMIC SCHOOLS. SHE HAD MANY GRAND IDEAS. THE ONLY THING THAT STOPPED HER WAS THE LACK OF RESOURCES. WHERE MANY PEOPLE WOULD HAVE WALKED AWAY, SHE PERSISTED. AND THAT IS KAREN’S LEGACY.” —Judi Amri willing to help create a website and online listserv, which they would eventually name IECN (Islamic Educators’ Communication Network). God’s help comes in many ways. A community member named Abdul Rashid stepped up to the plate. Eventually ISLA, which had gained some strong supporters and volunteers along the way, started doing more than just connecting schools and providing resources online. The first leadership conference for Islamic schools took place in 2008. ISLA now offers other services, including professional development seminars, annual leadership retreats and a selective mentorship program for principals under the banner of “ISLA Leadership Academy.” Judi Amri, now a grandmother who enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, sighs and says, “I still feel as if it’s a bad dream and I’m going to wake up any time. Karen was so young, not quite 60. Karen believed in Islamic education. She was a steadfast worker and was determined to make a difference for Islamic schools. She had many grand ideas. The only thing that stopped her was the lack of resources. Where many people would have walked away, she persisted. And that is Karen’s legacy.”  ih Dr. Fawzia Mai Tung, board member, ISLA; board member and presenter, Consultants for Islamic Schools Excellence Shaza Khan, PhD, interim executive director, ISLA


he search for a religion — the truth — remained ongoing for Linda (Widad) Delgado until she received a query about housing two Saudi police officers who had come to the U.S. to learn English and attend a police academy in Arizona. This interaction with Muslims led her to Islam at the age of 54. Delgado, who retired after 24 years as a police officer, passed away on Sept. 27, not even six months after her son Anthony T. Tedla. At the suggestion of her granddaughter, she started and eventually wrote six books in her “Islamic Rose Books” series about Islam and her family’s experience with it. A University of Phoenix graduate, she founded the Islamic Writers Alliance ( in 2004, with which she published four books, and Muslim Writers Publishing (, which was designed to give dozens of young aspiring authors a chance to publish their books. She worked hard to ensure that no less than 25 percent of the proceeds of every book signing went to local charities in the Phoenix and Tempe area. In addition, she was a regular business and private donor to Islamic schools across the North America and the UK, as well as a local philanthropist. In 2005, she received the American Muslim Women’s Alliance “Excellence in Media, Literary Art” award for her Islamic Rose Books series. As if all of that wasn’t enough, somehow she managed to find the time to publish countless short stories on crime, children’s books and cookbooks. As a police officer, Delgado was solely responsible for creating the Peer Program for Troopers and their families, which also helped the families of troopers killed in the line of duty. She held fundraisers relentlessly to ensure that these people were taken care of. The program was such a success that she was asked to travel around the country to help other state troopers develop their own Peer Program. Her efforts earned her several awards and the respect and love of all. She is survived by her husband of more than 45 years, Raymond N. Delgado, a retired police officer, daughter Ramona (Tedla) Vazquez, grandsons Edward, Michael and Christopher Vazquez, and granddaughter Cassandra Tedla.  ih JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   45


Muslim American Women in Service. Really! Pointing out that Muslimahs serve in the military helps challenge the stereotypes of passive Muslimahs BY EDWARD E. CURTIS IV


n this past Veterans Day, November 11, how many Americans honored the thousands of female Muslim Americans who have served in the U.S. armed forces? They certainly don’t fit any sort of Hollywood stereotype. First, in the imagination of many Americans, Muslims generally fight for the other side. Second, the idea that Muslimahs — especially hijabis — would wish to fight at all starkly challenges the stereotype of the meek Muslimah. But anyone who has studied the early days of Islam knows that this stereotype is untrue. Muslimahs such as Nusayba bint Ka’ab and Khawla bint Azwar (‘alayhum rahma), known for weaponizing tent poles, were fierce fighters. But very few Muslims or non-Muslims likely know the stories of female Muslim American warriors who have followed in their footsteps. When most Americans remember the sacrifice of Muslims who have served in the U.S. military, they probably think of male soldiers such as Capt. Humayun Khan, killed in action in 2004 in Iraq. It is true

that most Muslims in the U.S. military are men — perhaps 90 percent of the 4,000 or so Muslims who currently register their religious preference with the Department of Defense. But that leaves hundreds of activeduty Muslimahs in uniform, too. Muslims have been serving the U.S. military since the Revolutionary War, though it is not yet clear when Muslimahs began to do so. Did some African American Muslimahs, like hundreds of their male counterparts, volunteer for some sort of duty during the Civil War? What about World War I, when thousands of Muslims fought for the American Expeditionary Forces? By World War II, there is no doubt that Muslimahs were part of the military, often serving as nurses. Remembering these service members would go a long way toward challenging stereotypes of the passive Muslimah. No reasonable person could view veterans such as U. S. Army Lt. Col. Shareda Hosein in that light. The daughter of Muslim immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago, Hosein joined the U.S. Air Force right out of high school. For over 35 years she served both


active duty and in the reserves. Hosein, who traces to her ethnic roots to India, was part of a transportation logistics unit that was at one time posted to Kuwait. She became a cultural engagement officer at U.S. Special Operations Command. She also earned a master’s of divinity degree and dreamed of becoming the first Muslimah chaplain in the armed forces. The senior and first Muslim military chaplain, Lt. Col. Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad (now retired), supported her application; however, the Pentagon’s top brass had their doubts. They pointed to the prohibition of women leading mixed gender prayers. The military doesn’t have female Roman Catholic priests either, they said. Several Muslim American leaders, including Hosein, tried to explain the differences between a priest and a Muslim chaplain, such as there being no ordination in Sunni Islam and no sacraments to administer. She could be a religious teacher and spiritual adviser without leading the congregational prayers. Any qualified male could do that, she argued. In the end, however, the U.S. Army held to their position. Their refusal to budge raised questions about why the military took such a conservative position on Muslim religious affairs. Hosein’s story reminds us that military life is not easy for any woman. One of the greatest challenges of military life for all female service members, Muslim or not, is sexual harassment, as illustrated by the case of U.S. Navy PO First Class Fatima Ahmed. Originally from Egypt, Ahmed saw the military as a path toward both Americanization and self-actualization. Rebelliousness, a quality of youth more generally, can sometimes be found in the daughters of Muslim immigrants who have enlisted in the armed services. Ahmed joined in the late 1990s partly because she wanted to be a woman warrior like the character played by Demi Moore in the movie “GI Jane.” She was inspired by the “portrayal of a strong and fearless woman in the military,” Ahmed told me in an interview. “I wanted to see what I was capable of mentally and physically. I knew there was a chance it could break me, but I felt like it was something that I had to do.” But the harassment was almost more than she could bear. Men made “lewd comments and propositions, and there were consequences for rejecting them.” Ahmed had to wear a

MUSLIMS HAVE BEEN SERVING THE U.S. MILITARY SINCE THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR, THOUGH IT IS NOT YET CLEAR WHEN MUSLIMAHS BEGAN TO DO SO. DID SOME AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSLIMAHS, LIKE HUNDREDS OF THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS, VOLUNTEER FOR SOME SORT OF DUTY DURING THE CIVIL WAR? WHAT ABOUT WORLD WAR I, WHEN THOUSANDS OF MUSLIMS FOUGHT FOR THE AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES? BY WORLD WAR II, THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT MUSLIMAHS WERE PART OF THE MILITARY, OFTEN SERVING AS NURSES. swimsuit in front of men for the first time in her life — it was the Navy and everyone had to pass a swim test. Many fellow sailors, even those underage, consumed alcohol and tried to get her to drink, too. “I often felt conflicted, uncomfortable and out of place,” Ahmed recalled. “But I also drew strength from my faith, which helped stabilize my world.” When 9/11 occurred, Ahmed feared that her fellow sailors would distrust her, and she did face some negative comments. But her commanding officer was supportive and made sure that there was no serious backlash against her. She served from 1998 to 2009 and was eventually awarded Direct Report Sailor of the Year status, a remarkable achievement for any sailor. She worked as a space systems operator, a career skill that has been useful after life in the Navy — which, despite its challenges, Ahmed still misses. Muslimah veterans have made other historic contributions. For example, U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Ruthie Ayesha Muhammad helped reconcile the military to some of its fiercest domestic critics. From World War II through the Vietnam War, many African American Muslims from Elijah Muhammad to Muhammad Ali refused military service because of their opposition to domestic racism and the country’s foreign wars. Ali was deeply admired by Muslims and others around the world for his principled stance, which led to his conviction for draft evasion and being stripped of his heavyweight crown. But only a few years later President Gerald R. Ford was welcoming him to the White House to congratulate him on his victory against George Foreman in 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire. The next year,

Shareeda Hossein

Ali’s spiritual leader, Imam W. D. Mohammed, reversed his father’s ban on military service and encouraged Muslims to join up. Lt. Cdr. Muhammad, one of eleven children from a North Carolina family, took up W. D. Mohammed’s call to defend the flag. Enlisting in 1979, she quickly transitioned to the officer corps and served for decades. By the time she retired, she had been awarded the Navy Commendation Medal, the Achievement Medal (three times), the Joint Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Navy Recruiting Gold Wreath (five times). Today, Muslim American women from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds follow in her footsteps. And in the past several years they have gained new rights to practice their Islamic faith more freely. Just a few years ago, it was unusual for female service members to be permitted to wear a headscarf as part of their uniform. Some base commanders allowed the practice, although their orders applied only in certain circumstances.

For example, Master Sergeant Laura Magee of the 152nd Airlift Wing in Reno, Nev., was given permission in 2014 to wear it when she was indoors. Magee was thrilled. “Religious accommodation,” she wrote, praising her commanding officer’s decision, “is not a force divider; it is a force multiplier!” A fifteen-year veteran of the Air National Guard, she became a chaplain assistant and helped organize religious activities for people of all faiths on base. More recently, the Department of Defense has begun to allow greater accommodation of headgear and beards for Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and others. Magee speculated that such freedom would boost recruitment among Muslims, although a variety of factors — from fears of hazing to better career opportunities and opposition to wars in Muslim lands — seems to have dampened their interest. Acknowledging the challenges facing U.S. Muslim military personnel does not prevent us from admiring the women — and the men — who have served. The legacy of Muslimah veterans is one of personal bravery, loyal service and professional accomplishment. Their legacy is also highly symbolic. The act of remembering them pushes us to be more inclusive. It invites the whole country to widen its idea of who belongs, who serves and who they — Muslim women — actually are. For some of us, it may even inspire a dream that Muslim Americans can oppose the wars in which their family members and friends have fought, but still honor and respect those who have served in their name.  ih Edward E. Curtis IV, Millennium Chair of the Liberal Arts and professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, is author of “Muslim Americans in the Military: Centuries of Service” (Indiana University Press, 2016).



La Mezquita de Vega Alta (the Vega Alta Mosque) before the two hurricanes hit.

Muslim Puerto Ricans Search for Good after Hurricane María A devastated U.S. territory sets out on the long road to recovery BY WENDY DÍAZ


a Mezquita de Vega Alta (the Vega Alta Mosque), an iconic site for Puerto Rican Muslims, is nestled on a mountaintop surrounded by broad palm branches and lush greenery. This territory’s largest mosque, also known as Masjid Al Farooq, is visible from Route 2 in Vega Alta. Some have described it as resembling a castle, for its dome and minaret tower over the rectangular structure with arched windows. Like other local buildings and residences, its cement walls have been painted and repainted in bright color patterns, and more recently a rusty orange with blue accents. Although Puerto Rico’s total population of over 3.4 million is only about 0.2 percent Muslim, the island has nine mosques. This beautiful mirage was shattered by Hurricanes Irma and María, the island’s greatest catastrophe since the early 20th century. Tareq Majed, an immigrant Palestinian board member and the mosque’s facility manager, estimates that it will cost

somewhere around $80,000 to rebuild and restore electricity and running water. “This storm has set the country back about 50 to 60 years,” he remarked. “There is a lot of destruction. Currently we have not received help from anyone. We are doing everything on our own. Most of the community members are Arabs, and I understand that there are those who want to leave because the recovery is slow, [which] can provoke violence. And there is no work for the people.” Despite this, the mosque remains open for prayers, powered by a generator and lanterns, and constantly refilling its 1,200-gallon water reserve for wudu. Members have cleaned up most of the debris and began rebroadcasting the Friday prayers live on Nov. 3. Other mosques were not as fortunate. Montehiedra Mosque, which also houses An-Noor School, was about 50 percent destroyed, according to Wesley “Abu Sumayyah” Lebrón, who visited the center while on a humanitarian mission with the


Three Puerto Rican Imams Project. Lebrón visited two other centers, received accounts from local Muslims, and reported on the heavily damaged mosques in Hatillo and Ponce. The latter might not receive aid or reopen. The Montehiedra Mosque, however, is providing community members with a place to pray and share food, even if it is outside.

THE THREE PUERTO RICAN IMAMS Hurricane María triggered a tidal wave of emotions among islanders living on and off the island. For the former, like the New Jersey-based Lebrón, this sentiment is twofold: Muslims are duty-bound to provide relief, and yet they and their families have been directly affected. Lebrón lost a cousin to illness caused by the ensuing unsanitary conditions. Imam Yusuf Rios, a Puerto Rican chaplain and director of Cleveland’s Shaukani Institute for the Study of Islamic Sciences, Arabic Language and Leadership, followed the news related to Hurricane Irma, but only after Hurricane María did he feel really desperate. “This hurricane has created a sense of responsibility in me so that the anxiety over the wellbeing of my relatives and others is being channeled into working to alleviate the conditions of hardship that many are experiencing.” Along with Lebrón and Imam Abdullah Daniel Hernández of the Pearland (Tex.) Islamic Center, Rios created the Three Puerto Rican Imams Project (https://www. After raising close to $100,000, they went to the island to deliver relief supplies. During Rios’

first trip, he teamed up with ICNA Relief to assess the damage, strategize and check on his family. Some of his relatives reside in the most affected areas, where the Category 5 hurricane entered the island: the towns of Yabucoa, Humacao, and Anasco on the western coast. The lack of communication — Puerto Rico’s power grid was destroyed — caused great stress for everyone. Rios has made two return trips to distribute food, water, cash assistance and other supplies on behalf of the Imams Project. Like many others, he believes that the most effective way to help is to take matters into his own hands. For the first time, a U.S. territory that does not house “typical Americans” has been devastated. The island’s the main spoken language is Spanish, and its culture is a mixture of indigenous Taíno, Spanish, North and West African and even Italian. A tropical archipelago with summer temperatures yearround, Puerto Rico houses North America’s only rainforest, with rolling hills of greenery on which brightly colored flowers abound against a horizon of a vast blue ocean. And yet Puerto Ricans are often forced to leave in search of better jobs and living conditions because the problematic laws and oppressive policies related to its century-plus political status as an American colony or commonwealth prevent it from fully prospering as an American state or a sovereign nation. The aftermath of this unprecedented disaster has finally revealed the complexities of this relationship. “What ... needs to be communicated is that Puerto Rico is in serious trouble on a number of levels,” Rios stated. “The problem [requires] long-term solutions and [an] immediate response to deal with the immediate need. The demands go back to systemic issues in economy and politics. In any case, people are suffering and dying [and need] immediate aid, especially the elderly and the chronically ill.”

Washington, which largely ignored a recent local referendum on statehood, was also slow to recognize the emerging state of emergency. Cruz accused Washington of placing hurdles in the way of the relief process (e.g., unnecessary paperwork and a lack of organization) and pleaded on national television that these hurdles be removed in the interest of helping to save lives. Two weeks after Hurricane María, President Trump briefly visited the island, praised relief efforts and congratulated Governor Ricardo Roselló for the progress made. He was, however, widely criticized for comparing this disaster to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas in 2005. Trump cited the official figure of 16 dead; it doubled before the day ended.


So far, only limited communications have been restored. In the disaster’s immediate aftermath, thousands browsed social media outlets, posted pictures of missing persons and downloaded walkie-talkie apps to learn what happened to their family members. One Puerto Rican Muslimah described her experience in end-of-the-world terms. She and her two daughters spent the night in their bathroom as nearby windows were shattering, roofs were flying away and structures were collapsing. Her final Facebook

The American news media declares that “Puerto Rico has been destroyed,” and yet the people’s spirit remains unbroken. While the world watched and waited, they slowly began to rebuild their shattered communities. It was now up to the U.S. to come to its territory’s aid, and so all eyes turned to the White House. Puerto Rican activists, celebrities and politicians, including San Juan’s mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, have opined that

post was “Ar Rahman ar Raheem” (The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful). It is during such moments that people realize the fragility of life and their lack of control over their own existence. God reassures us that with hardship comes ease. Puerto Ricans say No hay mal que por bien no venga (No evil occurs without bringing about some good). Hurricane María brought with it a great deal of wisdom. Imam Yunus Fasasi, Masjid Al Farooq’s religious director, feels that this tragedy has opened more opportunities for dialogue between Muslims and their neighbors. “We have always had an open-door policy and a good relationship with the universities, local government and neighbors,” he remarked. “The situation got even better

GOD REASSURES US THAT WITH HARDSHIP COMES EASE. PUERTO RICANS SAY NO HAY MAL QUE POR BIEN NO VENGA (NO EVIL OCCURS WITHOUT BRINGING ABOUT SOME GOOD). HURRICANE MARÍA BROUGHT WITH IT A GREAT DEAL OF WISDOM. The official death toll is 55, but over 900 deaths have been reported. But the causes of their death cannot be confirmed because the corpses have been cremated. According to a CNN study released on Nov. 20, 499 deaths were due to or directly related to Hurricane María. Yet two months later, less than half of the island has electricity, and some people have received no aid, food or water, and remain unable to communicate with family members. They are literally on the verge of starvation — in America’s own backyard.


after the hurricane, with all of us [Muslims and non-Muslims] helping each other to rebuild. There has been stronger interaction, and a relief organization hosted a health fair which brought many people in to get to know the mosque more.” Despite the absence of electricity and running water, the number of worshippers at the Vega Alta Mosque is steadily increasing. This disaster has also awakened the Puerto Ricans’ fighting spirit and unity by strengthening bonds of kinship and solidarity regardless of where they live. Moreover, it brought attention to the implications of island’s long-standing political situation and status. In the island’s mosques, on the mountains, near the shores, in the barrios and on the streets, all Puerto Rican voices have one message: Puerto Rico se levanta! (Puerto Rico will rise again!). The island will rebuild, and it will be even stronger and more magnificent on the foundation of unity and peace.  ih Wendy Díaz is the co-founder and director of Hablamos Islam (We Speak Islam), a program dedicated to producing educational resources about Islam in the Spanish language.



Smart Cannot Always Be Really Smart Smartphones are not geared to handle the entire spectrum of photography BY RABIA KHAN


ast September, Apple announced its newest model: the iPhone X. Among the many new features, one of the most notable is its camera, which boasts a 12mp sensor, telephoto capabilities and higher pixels than ever before. It goes so far as to claim to be able to produce lighting styles that one would typically find in a professional photography studio. With all of these shifts and ever-advancing technology, it has become increasingly difficult to sustain a career as a photographer. The commonality of having a smartphone leads people to view themselves as “photographers,” thereby making what used to be a rare art a commonality. The market is now on its way to becoming oversaturated, and, as such, people don’t feel as inclined to hire professional photographers to cover an event. Since access to high quality cameras in greater than it has ever been, most people are less likely to invest in a service they feel that anyone can do.

As a working photographer, this has made a major difference when shooting events. In recent years, several well-known organizations have reached out to me to photograph their conferences, which are usually attended by a wide variety of people. Despite this need for photographic services, the extent to which they value photographers becomes clear when they request that I “volunteer” my time. Over the years I have established somewhat of a system, and in certain situations I will certainly work for free or negotiate a lower rate than I typically charge. These cases pertain to nonprofits asking for help, mosque events, or startup companies that don’t have the resources or finances to pay me. Be that as it may, in terms of a long-sustaining career I can’t extend this courtesy to everyone. Given this, it is discouraging when an established organization contacts me and, despite clearly having the budget to support a photographer, chooses not to. Luckily, some institutions, such as ISNA, appreciate the art behind photography and understand the challenge of working an event that attracts such a large number of people.


Last year, at the 54th ISNA convention in Chicago, I worked more than 12-hour days over the course of the weekend with little to no breaks to eat, drink or even sit down. On average I walked about seven miles a day between sessions and carried around 20 lbs. of photography equipment. In terms of post-processing, I stayed awake until 3 a.m. every night to upload thousands of photos and edit these images so that they could be sent out for any necessary press content the next day. I have attended the last three ISNA conventions — first as a volunteer (I had no event experience), then as the recipient of airfare and hotel accommodations, and, this last year, as a lead photographer, along with transportation and hotel benefits and a fee. I definitely enjoyed documenting the weekend as it unfolded and capturing moments I would never have experienced otherwise. In the past few years that I have covered the event, I have been fortunate enough to be in the presence of extraordinary people, such as activist Linda Sarsour, Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan and Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman. When an organization understands my needs as a photographer, it alleviates the added stress of booking flights and spending my own money on living arrangements so that I can focus solely on the job at hand. And yet this luxury is only infrequently granted to photographers, as this work is accorded less value than ever before. Although smartphones have changed the market for photographers, it should also be mentioned that events have largely benefitted from their efficiency. At big conferences, such as ISNA, there is a social media team whose purpose is to attend different sessions, snap images of the speakers and upload these pictures immediately onto social media platforms. This team is definitely necessary, as having a strong, active online presence, one that keeps people up-to-date on what is occurring during this fast-paced weekend, is essential. For media purposes, it makes the most sense to rely on smartphones to get the job done. A professional digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera is totally unsuitable for this task for the simple fact that uploading, editing and posting take a substantially longer amount of time. While cell phone cameras don’t provide the best quality photos, for convenience sake this is the most productive route — It is instantaneous and keeps

DSLR Photo

an audience informed almost at live speed. There is little to no post-production, whereas professional photographers devote hours to editing and retouching pictures — iPhone users have a series of apps that can lay a filter over an image to give it an artistic look. A magazine editor, who is most welcoming of community activities reports, relates his frustrations with the photographs sent along with the reports. Most are low quality, lack depth and composition and tell no story. In other words, they fail to capture the event’s spirit. Now there is undoubtedly a time and place for smartphone technology, but when it comes to anything other than posting on social media, there is a noticeable difference between iPhone quality and a DSLR camera. This vast contrast is almost irrelevant when posting on quick feeds like Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram, as these platforms often compress photos if they are too large. Moreover, their primary objectives are to keep viewers interested, rather than showcasing high-quality art. More often than not, those photographs have a shelf life of about 15 minutes before they are forgotten, as users are constantly uploading images. Cleary, fine artistic work isn’t needed, for on these social platforms it’s more about staying relevant. Quantity over quality helps people build and sustain a following. However, the exception to cellphone images being just as appreciated as DSLR images changes when it comes to printed publications. In the case of magazines, quality levels are quite apparent. Printed content shows any grain, blur or imperfection, more than photos posted on a screen, which is far more forgiving. Pixels become apparent, and the crisp aperture of a DSLR is far superior to that of a cell phone camera, which is why most magazine submissions and staff photographers only call for raw images. Even so, newspapers and magazines have been impacted by the technology age as well. Society has been gravitating toward online content more than printed material. With

Smartphone Photo

NOW THERE IS UNDOUBTEDLY A TIME AND PLACE FOR SMARTPHONE TECHNOLOGY, BUT WHEN IT COMES TO ANYTHING OTHER THAN POSTING ON SOCIAL MEDIA, THERE IS A NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IPHONE QUALITY AND A DSLR CAMERA. these publications losing their power, the requirements for DSLR cameras have begun to decrease. The sad truth is that people would rather choose the accessibility of reading articles and viewing images online rather than receiving this information in a tangible publication. One of the greatest factors that DSLR cameras shoot exceedingly better would be in a low-light situation. Conferences normally lack natural light; however, sessions are often conducted in rooms that have low fluorescent lighting. In these circumstances, shooting with an on-camera flash provides enough additional light to illuminate a shot. While this works for DSLRs, there wouldn’t be any comparison with an iPhone camera. Another example is close-up shots. The ability of a telephoto lens to zero in on the speaker and audience members to quickly capture any moments of action cannot be replicated by an iPhone even in a well-lit

conference room, for its zoom feature compromises the photo’s quality. In addition, an iPhone can’t capture still moments when a subject is moving. DSLR users have the option to adjust their shutter speed, making it easy to take a photo of a speaker using hand gestures or a recipient walking on stage to accept an award. Cell phone shots of these same scenarios often look messy and blurred, as there is a set speed for pictures to be taken. For photographers, it’s not just a matter of their work losing value with cell phones; there comes an extension of competing with this technology when shooting a job. Throughout an event, as I get candid shots of the crowd or even sometimes photos of a famous presenter on stage, it is difficult to capture a scene without someone being on their phone. In regards to actually photographing, cell phones are a huge distraction. This applies to covering weddings as well. At any event, I take it upon myself to capture the action and document what is occurring. The trouble is that everyone who has a camera phone feels that this is also their job. It’s very hard to capture the impact of a moment when people are standing in front of me in order to get the best angle! Seeing as how these are usually family members who have the best of intentions, I often ask them to take their shot at a different location so that both of us can walk away with memories to share with the bride and groom. Regardless of the event I am working (e.g., a weddings, portrait or conference), I consistently try to further my education of lighting techniques, matters of composition and understanding my DSLR settings better. Of course I still have a lot to learn, so I often travel to attend classes and workshops. By no means am I alone in this venture; professional photographers commit years of schooling to refine their art. Their practice goes far beyond using a camera; they are tested on additional equipment, such as reflectors, umbrellas, off-camera flashes, and diffusers, to name a few. But these are sadly turning into wasted efforts, as photography is a skill that people are losing interest in because it is available in so many different sources. People don’t value the art, which translates into them not valuing the individual.  ih Rabia Khan, a professional photographer from California, mostly attends to freelance work. However, her humanitarian efforts have recently taken her to Guatemala with Photographers Without Borders to document the lives of malnourished children.



App Has Donors and Community Organizations Feeling Blessed

technological power for communities seeking to leverage the power of technology and support an innovative and convenient way of donating.

Can donating possibly be made any easier than this?




s we all fast-forward into the future at breakneck speed, Muslim communities are adopting and utilizing technology in innovative ways to reach their funding and fundraising goals. These technological advantages are profoundly impacting organizations and individuals, especially in North America. One application in particular, the Feeling Blessed app (, is changing how Muslims donate. Developed in 2014, the app makes regular donations easier, more efficient and more profitable for organizations — as well as benefits its users in this life and the hereafter.

FEELING BLESSED’S ORIGINS It was during the fall of 2013 that founder Tauseef Rab first started talking about his idea for a new Islamic FinTech app that would streamline local donations and make donating easier and more efficient. Work on the app began during January 2014 by a two-man team: Tauseef Rab (B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in computer engineering, UT Austin) and Asim Rab (degrees from UT Austin, Stanford and UC Berkeley). Fast forward three years, and this app has now collectively raised around $130,000 from only 400 downloads and regular users. Ummah Wide named it one of the 21 Most Innovative Global Muslim Apps of 2017.

Most of the roughly 50 organizations using it are based in and around Austin; a few others are scattered across the country. Tauseef is eagerly looking ahead to a time when community organizations nationwide will download and benefit from the app. The ever-growing list of partner organizations includes ISNA, one of the first organizations to see the app’s inherent


Keeping the app free for organizations and individuals has been key to its impressive success. “I feel that the overhead on a donation should be kept to a minimum wherever possible,” Tauseef remarks, for “charging a fee to use the app will only deter people from using it. This will, in turn, translate to fewer people donating more regularly, resulting in a lower impact on the needy.” He aims to encourage the app’s primary goal: to nurture a culture of consistent giving. “We all know that God looks upon consistency favorably. Our goal with the app is to create as many active and consistent donors as possible.” The app has been a blessing to those who were using manual systems of donation collection. “I truly believe in this app, for it has certainly made life convenient for me. I used to have a box for sadaqa and zakat where I would collect funds (cash), and it was a hassle to send the funds to Pakistan,” a user named Danish shares. “With the Feeling Blessed app, I donate every morning after fajr as sadaqa before starting my day. Alhamdulillah, this has become part

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of a daily routine for me. It takes less than 15 seconds, but it makes me feel satisfied and blessed.”

A NEW WAY TO FUNDRAISE The Feeling Blessed app fits right into a typical well-rounded fundraising strategy for any Islamic organization. Tauseef relates that one of its more effective uses is to send push notifications and updates to help organizations reach their financial goals. Such information also keeps donors engaged and aware of what the organizations are doing. The app’s essential aim — to create more frequent and active donors — is achieved by simplifying the donation process. As Tauseef says, “By removing the hurdles, we have seen that people donate more. Lots of the organizations on the app have seen healthy monthly donations ever since they joined. Even if it’s a few dollars a day, they add up.” Fundraisers are also encouraging event attendees to download the Feeling Blessed app right before the campaign begins and to give their support through it. According to Tauseef, “This works great, as a lot of people may not have cash, checkbooks, etc. on them. Encouraging the app download and connection at the beginning of a campaign is wonderful because the donor donates to the org right then. The additional benefit is that end users then have a tool allowing them to make fast and easy donations to the organization during future events, or from home, work, etc., in less than 15 seconds.” This ease and convenience was the reason why he created the app in the first place — to make it easier for his mother to donate to the local organizations she regularly supports from the comfort of her home.

consistently get close to a thousand dollars a month for their operations fund. This is enough for them to pay their utilities, Internet and more.” A user named Kamil shares that the app “has made it extremely easy for me and my family to give charitable donations to local organizations. The ease has also allowed us to donate more frequently and to a wider range of organizations. Before, I had to wait until I visited a local mosque to give donations. Now ... I can give donations to local mosques no matter where I am. And at the end of the year I can generate a quick summary of all donations ... for filing taxes.”


FACILITATING COMMUNITY PROJECTS To date, some of the most memorable app-funded projects include the Nueces Mosque’s “Austin for Harvey,” as well as the North Austin Muslim Community Center’s (NAMCC) initiative to build a boundary fence. But the Feeling Blessed app is far more than just a fundraiser; it also excels as a platform by creating opportunities for the consistent small donations that help fund local masjids, Islamic schools and other organizations. “For example,” Tauseef explains, “My alma mater mosque, Nueces Mosque, mostly has regular student attendees. They

A lot of hard work goes into maintaining and updating an app with new user-requested features. The team is rising to the challenge, for, as Tauseef notes, “We believe in constant improvement and innovation.” Right now, one ingenious feature allows donors to cover payment processor fees, which ensures that non-profits receive larger donations. Additionally, the team is working on improving the social sharing of causes and creating a branded “donate” button for use on third-party websites. “One of my favorite features, coming up soon actually, is the sadaqa-e-jaria feature,”

Tauseef told me. “As the name suggests, it will allow a user to donate on behalf of someone else. As we know from a sound hadith, once a person dies only three things will be of lasting benefit, one of which is an ongoing sadaqa.” The app also has cross-community potential, for its map feature makes it easy to donate to local organizations and Islamic centers while traveling.

STREAMLINING OPERATIONAL PROCESSES The Feeling Blessed app not only offers incredible convenience to the donor, but also provides great benefits to charities and non-profits. The NAMCC Executive Committee states: “We have noticed an upward tick in our donations since we started using it. We are also pleased with the customer service and the back-end technology, which we use for our internal accounting. We see the potential of Feeling Blessed and intend to promote it further within our community.” Eligible organizations can sign up for free, gain exposure, provide a mobile platform for their donors and begin receiving funds immediately. There are no hidden fees, long-term contracts or monthly minimums. Moreover, Feeling Blessed offers the lowest processing fees. Akber Mohammed, treasurer of Austin’s Renaissance Education Foundation, reports that after using the app for over two years, the foundation has seen an improved donations inflow. “Instant communication and online donation records are helpful in bookkeeping. The customer services have been excellent.” “We’re constantly asking for feedback from organizations and improving our already very user-friendly dashboard for their reporting and donation management,” says Tauseef. “We’re also in the process of offering solutions that would improve pledge management and recovery for the organizations, insha’ Allah.” The Feeling Blessed app can be downloaded for free from the app store. Learn more about the organization and app at or email with questions about how to enroll yourself or your organization.  ih Janet Kozak, a content strategy consultant, helps businesses craft content and digital marketing strategies for their growing brands. She is also the community manager for Noor Kids and founder of The Resolute Muslim. Originally from California, she has lived in Pakistan for the last four years with her husband and daughter.



Reflecting on the Language We Use The word mutilation turns any question on female genital procedures into a non-starter and stigmatizes doctors, women and faith communities

2017 for performing genital procedures on two minor girls at a Detroit outpatient clinic ( She maintains that this procedure is a religious ritual that involves the superficial removal of tissue from female genitalia. Over the past months, other girls she reportedly performed the procedure upon have been identified. Many individuals and organizations, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have condemned the practice in the media, and state legislators in Michigan and Minnesota have passed stricter laws against it.


After several months of researching the topic, its bioethical implications and religious connotations, I now advocate that the public media, academicians and Muslim community leaders discard this loaded term to describe all such procedures. Many scholars from various disciplines have argued their case before me, and several terms have been proposed: female genital cutting (FGC), female genital surgery (FGS), female genital alteration (FGA), and others. But before you choose your favorite term, let me tell you why. First, there are many types of female genital surgeries, some of which have no credible evidence to support the assertion of longterm physical harm. The ritual nicking of the clitoral hood, which Dr. Nagarwala most likely performed, is one of them (Committee on Bioethics. “Policy Statement: Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors.” Am Acad Pediatr. 2010;125(5)). Second, and this may seem counter-intuitive, some women are active proponents of various procedures on the grounds that they find meaning in the associated religious or cultural rituals or support its BY ROSIE DUIVENBODE continuation for aesthetic reasons. In some local languages, the relevant icture a young Muslim woman flying to the U.S. to procedures are referred to as “genital cleaning” or “genital beautification” attend an Islamic bioethics program at a time when the country (The Public Policy Advisory Network on Female Genital Surgeries is facing its first-ever federal female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa. “Seven Things to Know about Female Genital Surgeries in case. Interesting? Now, add to this that the physician charged in Africa.” Hastings Cent Rep. 2012;(6):19-27). For some women, the this case is a Muslim. Well, I was that woman flying to the U.S., and suggestion that their bodies are mutilated is a real stigma (F.S. Ahmadu the summer of 2017 proved to be a potent catalyst for changing my and R.A. Shweder. “Disputing the Myth of the Sexual Dysfunction of perspectives on FGM and some deep learning. Circumcised Women.” Anthropol Today. 2009;25(6):14-19). Third, the recent rise in plastic surgeries done on female genitalia, While many of my previous convictions have been challenged, let’s start with the two that I feel are the which demonstrate considerable similarity most important to share. First, before this to some of the religio-cultural rituals clasOUR SLOGAN OF “ISLAM HAS case came up, I had considered any form of sified as mutilation, brings up the question cutting done to the female genitals as “mutiof why we use that word to refer to one and NOTHING TO DO WITH FGC” IS lation.” No doubt, many of you can relate. not the other (J. Boddy. “The Normal and ARGUABLY CAUSING CONFUSION Second, I had wholeheartedly adopted the the Aberrant in Female Genital Cutting: slogan “Islam has nothing to do with FGM Shifting Paradigms.” HAU J Ethnogr Theory. AMONG MUSLIMS AND NON— it’s a cultural practice” and then gave it 2006;6(2):41-69). MUSLIMS ALIKE. IN ADDITION, no further thought. In sum, the language we use is importIT INHIBITS CRITICAL MORAL As I expect this to be an uncomfortant. The word mutilation turns any question able read for most, I want to emphatically on female genital procedures into a nonREFLECTION WITHIN OUR state that I neither endorse nor consider starter and stigmatizes doctors, women COMMUNITY. IF WE WANT TO these procedures harmless. That said, my and faith communities. If we want to have REFORM OUR TRADITION, WE CAN’T an open dialogue and listen to those who research findings led me to reexamine my previously held attitude and beliefs about accept these practices, then we need to use START BY ALIENATING SEGMENTS their place within our tradition. What neutral words. Therefore, I will now refer to OF OUR COMMUNITY OR WHOLLY follows is intended to spur an informed, all such procedures as female genital cutting constructive conversation about female (FGC). The term FGM will come up only DISCREDITING TRADITIONAL circumcision within our community. when I refer to the position of others who ISLAMIC LEGAL SCHOLARSHIP do use this term.



Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, an emergency medicine physician from the small (Shi’a) Dawoodi Bohra sect, was arrested in April



than male circumcision, is performed in

many countries and communities. Both the nature of the modification and the age at which it takes place can differ greatly. Procedures are generally classified according to one of the four types described by the WHO (see table 1) and are performed from infancy until late adolescence. According to the above-mentioned Public Policy Advisory Network on Female Genital Surgeries in Africa, an estimated 90 percent of these procedures would be considered type I or type II, with infibulation making up only 10 percent. Table 1: WHO classification of FGC ( Type I (clitoridectomy)

Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (clitoral hood).

Type II (excision)

Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without the labia majora.

Type III (infibulation)

Narrowing the vaginal orifice by appositioning the labia minora and/ or the labia majora, with or without the removal of the clitoris.

Type IV

All other procedures on the female genitalia such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

The most recent UNICEF estimates contend that 200 million women have undergone FGC worldwide ( uploads/2016/04/FGMC-2016-brochure_250.pdf). It is practiced in several African countries, as well as in Asia, the Middle East and their respective migrant communities in the West. The rationale for it can differ greatly. For example, aesthetic considerations and notions of gender identity underlie many African traditions. Some procedures are performed to ensure chastity. Yet other communities, the majority of which are Muslim, view it as having religious roots.


Most surprisingly, my experience ended my adopted slogan that “Islam has nothing to do with female genital procedures.” In contrast to popular Muslim belief, both in the West and in many Muslim-majority countries, FGC is not entirely foreign to Muslims or Islam. Many Muslims in the U.S. have been asserting “FGM” has nothing to do with our religion, and under no circumstance do Islamic scholars allow mutilation. Upon closer inspection, however, a specific form of FGC can be found in our legal tradition, and our co-religionists practice several forms out of religious conviction. Let’s take the current Dawoodi Bohra case as an example. Their members perform a form of circumcision on both boys and girls for ritual purity. Often referred to as khatna, it consists of making a cut or a tiny excision in the prepuce (the anatomical equivalence of a boy’s foreskin). This community sources the procedure (similar to male circumcision) within Islamic scripture, an interpretation they support by referring to various hadiths and the traditional stances of both Sunni legal schools and Shi’a scholars who seem to have permitted it. Several legal manuals and classical scholars from all four Sunni legal schools refer to female circumcision and generally allow or recommend it (N.H.M. Keller, “Reliance of the Traveller, Ahmad Ibn Naqib Al-Misri.” 1997 and M. Munir, Dissecting the Claims of Legitimization for the Ritual of Female Circumcision or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Int Rev Law. 2014;6). What they describe as female circumcision seems to be limited to a type 1 procedure, often specifying the removal of the prepuce only (V. Risplet-Chaim, Circumcision. In

“Islamic Medical Ethics in the Twentieth Century.” 1993:84-93). These positions are supported by several hadiths, which are located right at the center of debate and criticism by modern scholars and activists (K. Ali, “Reduce But Do Not Destroy”: Female “Circumcision” in Islamic Sources. In “Sexual Ethics & Islam.” 2006:97-111). Moving from scripture to practice, consider this: More than half of the estimated 200 million women who have undergone FGC live in Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia. In many countries where FGC is practiced, its prevalence is highest among Muslims (United Nations, G.R. Gupta. “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Statistical Overview and Exploration of the Dynamics of Change.” Reprod Health Matters. 2013;21(42):184-190). In fact, it is frequently posited the majority of these women are Muslim (S.A. Aldeed Abu-Salieh. Muslims’ Genitalia in the Hand of the Clergy, Religious Arguments about Male and Female Circumcision. In: Denniston, ed. “Male and Female Circumcision.” Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers; 1999:131-171). Given these statistics and our scholars’ traditional position, can we confidently say that all of these people have completely misunderstood their faith, or is the relationship between FGC and Islam more complex than that? My research seems to suggest that one form of FGC — albeit a minimal procedure with no established long-term physical harm — is sourced within our tradition and is observed by many contemporary Muslims. Unfortunately, many of us neglect this inconvenient truth and thereby risk marginalizing classical scholars and stigmatizing groups within the community. Truth be told, perhaps this is one path to eradicating FGC within the “house of Islam.” But is it the most appropriate and candid one? Our slogan of “Islam has nothing to do with FGC” is arguably causing confusion among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In addition, it inhibits critical moral reflection within our community. If we want to reform our tradition, we can’t start by alienating segments of our community or wholly discrediting traditional Islamic legal scholarship as “un-Islamic” without a carefully reasoned re-analysis of scripture and tradition. Just as the word mutilation silences any informed debate on the harmfulness of the various types of genital surgeries, proclaiming that Islam has “nothing to do with FGC” closes all doors for deliberation and debate over this controversial practice’s legitimacy within our religion.


Being constantly under attack in an increasingly hostile Islamophobic society does not leave much space for critical reflection and makes researching such controversial topics difficult. While the pressure to deny any link between Islam and FGC is understandable, it might not be the best approach for us to take. What we need most of all is honest and open intracommunity dialogue and systematic research into this practice’s history and religious roots, as well as how we should reform Muslim practices and Islamic legal scholarship authentically. As a prerequisite to beginning any such discourse, however, we need to use neutral terminology so as not to alienate and marginalize anyone. We also have to be open-minded and willing to have our pre-existing beliefs challenged as regards what these procedures mean to people and what their links with Islam are. I think it’s valuable for our community to engage in this admittedly difficult endeavor. Hopefully, we will be given enough time and space to do so. The current federal FGM case proves that this conversation is not just relevant for the global public health agenda, but also for Muslims living in Western countries. Dr. Nagarwala’s trial, initially scheduled to start on Oct. 10, 2017, has been postponed until further notice.  ih Rosie Duivenbode, MD MSc., is a Dutch Muslim physician and clinical researcher currently residing in the UK. She is interested in Muslim patient care and Islamic bioethics.



Neoliberalism: The Mind-Flayer Even after the fall of Europe’s imperial projects, the West’s on-going desire to enrich itself by creating and then exploiting private markets through occupation and war continues BY LUKE MATHEW PETERSON


n the second season of the hit Netflix show Stranger Things, the teenaged protagonists are forced to confront a supernatural villain with relentless scope and power. Residing in an underworld, a photo-negative of 1980s Indiana known simply as the “Upside-Down,” this shadowy, tentacled creature, a faceless cloud of smoke and darkness, stretches its spindly appendages into the heart of small-town America. It is a terrifying monster — the “Mind Flayer” — with a ubiquitous reach, malevolent intent and insatiable appetite to destroy our youthful heroes’ goodness and innocence. And even worse, as the season’s final episode fades to credits, the screenshot of the tranquil and pure junior high dance spins on, revealing to the audience that the Mind Flayer has survived and remains spread out in the Upside-Down, invisible but everpresent and driven to extend its reach into, its influence upon, and its control of life as we know it. Written before the series became a hit, British columnist, commentator and activist George Monbiot’s “Neoliberalism: The Ideology at the Root of All of our Problems,” (The Guardian, Apr. 15, 2016) described what he sees as the actual scourge of our times — neoliberalism, an economic and political force and unrelenting ideology that now governs nearly all public and private human relationships. He contends that virtually all institutions upon which humanity depends have been privatized and that all of their services or systems have been placed within profit-driven parameters. Neoliberalism is privatization unrestrained, “a new phase in the evolution of capitalism” remaking the public good according to parameters dictated by the unrestricted free market wherein the all-important price point dictates precisely how much can be charged for a given service no matter how essential it might be to human survival. Through this process, “competition [becomes] the defining characteristic of human relations. It [defines] citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency” (Gerard Duménil and Dominique Lévy, The Crisis of Neoliberalism [Harvard

A British colonial officer with his Indian minions

University Press, 2011], p. 5). Or perhaps, instead of restructuring it, neoliberalism might be obliterating society altogether since it is through neoliberalism that, according to Margaret Thatcher, “there is no society, only individuals.” In any case, neoliberalism is presently in the process of reordering the contours of our world, just as the unseen Mind Flayer stretches its elongated tentacles from the Upside-Down into everyday life in Hawkins, Indiana. Monbiot is hardly a voice in the wilderness. Among others raising similar concerns are the Canadian award-winning author and commentator Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine [Knopf Canada, 2007]; No Is Not Enough [Haymarket Books, 2017]) and the stalwart American academic and leftist critic Noam Chomsky (Profit over People [Seven Stories Press: 1999]). Collectively, these and other voices warn of the consequences of allowing unchecked private corporate power within ostensibly representative democracies. As well, these critics reveal the danger of neoliberalism set loose within the international system where warfare, invasion, and occupation reveal themselves to be attractive market opportunities rather than necessary international police measures the architects of these policies would have us believe. In fact, neoliberalism takes full advantage of war by using it to create market space


for private Western industries engaged in rebuilding and reconstruction before the fighting even stops. The textbook example of this marriage of war and privatization is the 2003 U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, a military campaign that destroyed millions of Iraqi lives, killed or wounded thousands of young Americans, and saw billions upon billions of federal dollars doled out to private American concerns. The Iraq war also saw insult added upon injury as Iraqi firms were all but ignored in the privatized, post-war reconstruction boom that sent public money into the hands of American businesses in order to repair the damage done by the U.S. invasion. According to Khalid Mustafa Medani, The deals aimed at rebuilding Iraq’s oil, water and electricity infrastructure were given to American firms—such as Parsons, Fluor, Bechtel and Halliburton— not to Iraqi businessmen with firsthand experience rebuilding the country after the 1991 Gulf war. For US contractors, “reconstruction” has been a bonanza. In April 2004, the most notorious of the Iraq war profiteers, the oil services corporation Halliburton, announced that its Iraq contracts made up $2.1 billion of the company’s first-quarter revenues of $5.5 billion. ( state-rebuilding-reverse, pp. 28-35)

This event has come to stand as the most blatant diversion of public funds into private hands ostensibly in the service of a public good — the elimination of Saddam Hussein and the destruction of his government — in order to move public wealth into private hands. It was, in the analysis of one George W. Bush

proving ground for neoliberal policies. Market advantage is gained by corporate entities that specialize in selling the implements of surveillance and forcible control. With so many of these for-profit business and public institutions (local and federal police departments) benefitting from this

IN FACT, NEOLIBERALISM TAKES FULL ADVANTAGE OF WAR BY USING IT TO CREATE MARKET SPACE FOR PRIVATE WESTERN INDUSTRIES ENGAGED IN REBUILDING AND RECONSTRUCTION BEFORE THE FIGHTING EVEN STOPS. Administration official, privatization “of the ultimate public function: war” ( com/2016/03/29/we_are_the_death_merchant_of_the_world_ex_ bush_official_lawrence_wilkerson_condemns_military_industrial_complex). It was a deep cut, one that created an ongoing process of destruction caused by the phantasmagoric creature in the Upside-Down. But it is far from the only such example of modern-day war-for-profit. Another military conflict-cum-market relationship can be seen in Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine, a half-century-long military and police action that has been substantially co-opted by non-local actors. These actors — corporate executives, political lobbyists, and members of governments across the Global North — use the militarization of historic Palestine to create their own market-based advantage in terms of selling their wares and/or improving their inventory via their political relationships with the occupying power. The other, and more substantial market advantage, is enjoyed by American, British and French defense contractors and weapons manufactures through research and exchange with Israeli military and police personnel ( us-breaks-ground-for-new-permanent-basein-israel). These relationships allow police departments and militaries to improve their own surveillance, control and assault tactics by borrowing Israeli know-how gleaned from experienced Israeli occupiers (Sari Horowitz, “Israeli Experts Teach Police On Terrorism,” The Washington Post, June 12, 2007; Mark LeVine, “Ferguson is Not Gaza ... Yet,” Al-Jazeera America, Aug. 18, 2014; Hira Mahmoud and Wafa Azari, “Police Training Exchange Compounds US, Israeli Racism,” The San Francisco Bay View, May 6, 2011). In short, Occupied Palestine is the perfect

political relationship with Israel, it is no wonder that a lasting peace agreement has yet to develop in that region. Occupation, then, can be seen as another taut appendage reaching out from the great beast; another arena of human agency co-opted by market expansion and for-profit war. However, the full picture of this relationship can only be substantially clarified by applying a wide historical lens. For instance, the political and economic relationships inherent in imperial Europe’s colonial projects in the Middle East provide a remarkably clear and well-established precedent for their contemporary neoliberal counterparts. The Mandate System engineered by the victorious powers in Paris after the First World War soon revealed itself to be nothing more than a way to legitimate the British and French theft of resources by treating huge tracts of Middle Eastern land as extensions of existing imperial holdings. Such arrangements, undertaken unilaterally by European states, were now officially sanctioned by the international community over and above the stated objections of the indigenous populations of these vast areas. That the British Mandate of Iraq included three major oil-producing regions identified previous to the British occupation was not a coincidence. Nor was it happenstance that British holdings after World War I included Palestine and a ready-made Mediterranean port at Haifa which the British intended to use as the terminus of a major pipeline taking Iraqi oil to the Palestinian coast and then onto London via Mediterranean ship channels (D. K. Fieldhouse, Western Imperialism in the Middle East, 1914-1958 [Oxford University Press, 2006]). British possession of Palestine further underscored Britain’s intent in Suez, a militarized region of inestimable import to its imperial designs. A robust political and military presence in Palestine also meant nearby

reinforcements to British officials in Suez. London’s post-war redoubling of its control of the Suez Canal Zone after the First World War meant further security for British commercial and military shipping between the Mother Country and ports on the way to the empire’s crown jewel: India. Given free rein to design Middle Eastern societies as they desired, the full scope of British exploitation there would likely have been even more blatant. But indigenous nationalist movements in both Palestine and Iraq, coupled with the revelations of London’s duplicitous wartime promises to Arab political leaders, Jewish nationalists and partners in the imperial enterprise gave London pause in its grandiose resource grab. In any case, it is clear that European imperialism was, in essence, an economic project: a massive political commitment to extract the resources (natural, human and otherwise) from African, Asian and Middle Eastern societies in order to enrich their own capitals and their burgeoning classes of economic and political elites. The story of today’s neoliberalism, the monster’s outstretched hand, begins in the annals of global history: “neoliberalism is inseparable from imperialism and globalization” (Alfredo SaadFilho and Deborah Johnston, Neoliberalism, A Critical Reader ([Pluto Press, 2005), p. 2]). This brief accounting has focused on contemporary neoliberalism in the international realm: the global drive to create and then exploit private markets through occupation and war after the fall of Europe’s imperial projects. To be sure, these established and influential facets of the neoliberal project design strikingly resemble the elongated and powerful tentacles emanating from the Upside-Down. But today’s neoliberalism informs no less as to the capacity of rampant privatization to weaken the state’s ability to provide domestic services. Through unchecked privatization at home, policies crafted by political and economic elites serve to further entrench the power of private markets and expand the wealth of the few at the expense of public welfare and areas of human concern. It will be to those aspects of the neoliberal system, to domestic policies expanding the private sphere, the free market, and the ever-tightening grip of the ubiquitous but invisible Mind Flayer in our lived and shared present, that a subsequent work on contemporary neoliberalism will return.  ih Luke Mathew Peterson (Ph.D., Middle Eastern studies, University of Cambridge) is a professor of Arabic, history and politics in Pittsburgh. His book Palestine-Israel in the Print News Media: Contending Discourses (London and New York: Routledge, 2015) is available on Amazon, and his piece “Palestine-Israel and the Neoliberal Ideal” has just been released in the fall 2017 volume of The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences.


Tasmia, a 13-year old rape victim, is illiterate as Rohingya are not allowed to go to school. Her mother and brother were killed; but later her father found her. She earns her living sewing on a machine gifted by the Burma Task Force.

The Tula Toli Massacre in Burma As related by its survivors BY ABDUL MALIK MUJAHID


n the morning of Aug. 30, 2017, Shahidul Amin was already in the forest cutting wood when, around 8 o’clock, his wife Hasina Begum saw Burmese military helicopters landing. This was the beginning of the massacre of Tula Toli, a peaceful village set in a beautiful lush green hilly area and surrounded on three sides by a rapidly flowing mountain river. Badiur Rahman, former chair of the village council, told me that until that fateful day the village had been home to more than 4,000 Rohingya Muslims, primarily subsistence rice and chili pepper farmers. The village also housed about 300 Buddhist Rakhin. Today only the Buddhists remain, for about 1,700 of their fellow Muslim villagers were slaughtered and those who survived spent the next four to five days making their way to Bangladesh. All that remains of their homes, shops and mosque are ashes, the signs of which can be seen in satellite images. Along with most of her fellow villagers,

Hasina Begum, the 20-year-old wife of Shahidul Amin, a 25-year-old agricultural worker, fled south toward the river to escape the Burmese soldiers, who were attacking from the north. This was their only escape route. Unfortunately, the rapidly flowing river is not easy to cross and many of those who jumped in drowned. Some of the soldiers, who separated the captured men and women, began killing the men while others told the women to stand in a stream with only their heads showing. I asked one survivor, Mohammad Suleiman, why he did not try to defend himself. He responded that “they had guns and we had nothing.” Hasina was one of the women standing in the river. Around 3 or 4 p.m., the soldiers were through burning everything in the village that belonged to the Muslims. After killing most of the men and throwing their corpses into a fire pit — even those who were still alive — the soldiers came for the women. Five soldiers at a time dragged five of them, including Hasina, to a hut. One snatched away her 16-month-old child and threw it into the


fire. As they began ripping her clothes off to rape her, she resisted them and was hit and thrown into a hut, which was then set ablaze. But she remembers only one blow, saying that she did not feel the ones that damaged her jaw. Finding a small opening in the burning hut, she managed to escape and hide in a vegetable patch for the rest of the evening. Late at night and without any clothing, she made her way to a nearby forest where other survivors gave her some clothes. Hasina’s mother-in-law, father-in-law and one sister-in-law were killed. At that time, she did not know that her husband Shahid had survived, for he had not been in the village with the soldiers had attacked. He came to know about the loss of his child, parents and sister only after he managed to find Hasina via the Internet. The Rohingya are familiar with technology. Many have cell phones, and some carry two SIM cards: one to talk with relatives in Burma and another one to communicate with those in the Bangladeshi camp. As a matter of fact, I saw more solar panels in the refugee camps than in my Chicago neighborhood. A small solar panel serves almost every 200 huts, allowing refugees to charge their cell phones.



Someone uploaded a video of Hasina’s tragedy to an Internet group. Her husband, at that time still in Burma, saw it and began looking for her in various clusters of people traveling through Burma’s jungles and mountains. After finding her, a generous Rohingya lent him enough money to reach Bangladesh and seek treatment for his wife. Based on the 30 testimonies that our team received and that I recorded from Tula Toli survivors, the timeline of events suggests a planned military operation. The military had been attacking people weeks before the alleged Aug. 25 attacks. Ten days before the Aug. 30 massacre, the soldiers had searched the villagers’ homes and confiscated their valuables. The village council had held meetings beforehand to ensure the presence of the

84,000 men have been murdered, since some of them may have been detained by the military or be either alive (in hiding) or lost, as was Hasina’s husband. Only a thorough survey of the population casualties can determine the actual number of casualties. The Burma Task Force (, which will have three teams documenting personal and property losses through the survivors’ recorded testimonies, has asked the Bangladesh Human Right Commission to take up this project. This documentation project will be guided by legal scholars of genocide and will be helpful when the lawsuits and claims are filed. I saw women everywhere. Almost all were hijabis dressed in Burmese-style clothing as opposed to Bangladeshi-style clothing. Many

SOME OF THE SOLDIERS, WHO SEPARATED THE CAPTURED MEN AND WOMEN, BEGAN KILLING THE MEN WHILE OTHERS TOLD THE WOMEN TO STAND IN A STREAM WITH ONLY THEIR HEADS SHOWING. households’ male members, purportedly for national verification card registration purposes. But no such registration took place. The current village chair had actually assured the villagers that although the soldiers might burn their houses, they would not kill anyone. The villagers, however, believed that they had been marked for extermination. As I went up and down the hills where these latest refugees now live in plastic and bamboo huts, I kept meeting survivors of one massacre or another. Whenever I started talking to a person, others would gather and eventually turn a one-on-one conversation into a meeting. And so I started asking one standard question: How many of them had seen someone being killed? Almost always, 40 percent of the crowd raised their hands. No one knows the actual number of people killed so far in this genocide. The Burmese government, not known for its truthfulness, maintains that only 400 Rohingya have been killed. The people of Tula Toli, however, insist that at least 1,700 — more than half — of their fellow villagers have died. An approximate estimate could be based on a recent UN survey, which states that 14 percent of the refugees are single mothers who are holding their families together with little support. That would put single mothers among the recent arrivals to 84,000. One cannot say with certainty that at least

were niqabis. As I neared the area where the Rohingya camps are, I began noticing cluster of families, mostly women and children, standing silently on each side of the road; some were literally sitting in mud. As I moved nearer, I saw crowds of people on both sides of the road. I asked one family why they were standing there. They told me that they had just arrived and didn’t know where to go. I developed a very high degree of respect for both the Rohingya and the Bangladeshis. The former seem to be the embodiment of patience and endurance, for despite being subject to genocide they almost never raise their voices or fight among themselves in the crowded camps. They are gentle souls. There are Buddhist temples all around their camps. Some of these areas actually have a Buddhist majority, and yet there is not one single case of the Rohingya ever attacking even one of them. I saw Bangladeshis driving vehicles of all sizes, shapes and ages — all full of aid for the refugees. And yet many times the traffic came to a standstill, because only a single, narrow one-lane road serves this area of Cox’s Bazar, a tiny strip of land in the remotest part of Bangladesh that ends in the Bay of Bengal. Well-meaning Bangladeshi Muslims are bringing supplies from all corners of the country. The government, the army, various UN agencies, and all legal and not-so-legal foreigners trying to help must use this sole

road. Logistics, not the absence of love, care and resources, is causing hunger and malnutrition in the camps. Just as helicopters became lifesavers in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake, Bangladesh needs helicopters to speed up the distribution of supplies. One million poor but nevertheless self-reliant people have now been forced to depend upon others. Forbidden to work or leave the camp, all they can do is wait for someone to give them food, medicine and shelter. This is where Washington can help, as it has done in so many disaster zones around the world. One of the Burma Task Force’s major requests is that Washington send helicopters to Bangladesh. That is coming, but it might be too late if the helicopters cannot improve distribution quickly enough to save lives, including those of 85,000 pregnant women who do not have enough to eat.  ih Abdul Malik Mujahid, president of Sound Vision and chair of Burma Task Force, visited Bangladesh in September and late November 2017.

RELIGIOUS COORDINATOR WANTED The Islamic Center of Yuma (AZ) is seeking applications for a part-time or full-time religious coordinator to serve its growing diverse Muslim community. Qualifications: •• A Bachelor’s or equivalent degree in Islamic Studies from an accredited Islamic higher education institution. •• Must be fluent in English and Arabic. •• Must be a U.S. citizen or a Permanent Resident. •• Duties include but are not limited to: leading prayers, giving Jumma Khutba, and providing Islamic guidance to the community. •• References required. Interested candidates apply at: Islamic Center of Yuma 200 West 24th Street Yuma, AZ 85364 Or through the “Contact Us” form at:




n October 29, 2017, Chicago’s Muslim community lost two of its pioneers: Dr. Zia Hasan and Abdul Hameed Dogar. Both were the founding board of trustees of the Islamic Foundation and oversaw its growth from a small weekend school into one of the nation’s largest Islamic centers. These close friends, who worked together tirelessly to serve the Muslim community, were laid to rest on Oct. 30 in Chicago. In his statement, ISNA President Azhar Azeez said that they “were founding fathers of our community. We will deeply miss them both. We ask Allah to grant them the highest station of paradise and grant their families and communities patience during this difficult period.”

Zia Hassan

Abdul Hameed Dogar




r. Zia Hassan, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1956, received his BS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Punjab in Pakistan before receiving his MS (1958) and Ph.D. (1965) in industrial engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago. Hassan began his career at IIT as a lecturer in the early 1960s and worked his way up the academic ladder until he became dean of the Stuart School of Business and, finally, dean emeritus. During his 54-year career, he taught business policy and quality management, researched effective organizations and quality issues within organizations, and published more than 30 papers. In addition, he co-authored “Basic Programs for Production and Operations Management” and wrote the chapter “Design of Interrelated Manufacturing and Quality Systems” in “Manufacturing High Technology Handbook.” In his capacity as a graduate school representative to the IIT Alumni Association, in 2008, received the Association’s highest honor: the IIT Alumni Medal. He was a fellow of the American Society for Quality and was named to the Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award. Upon his retirement, IIT established the M. Zia Hasan Endowed Chair of Business. The $2 million endowment hired its first professor, and the investiture ceremony was held on Nov. 20, 2017. Hassan’s great passion for community work led him to become a founding member and the first chairman of Board of Trustees for the Islamic Foundation, Villa Park, Ill, and its chairman for over 40 years. During his tenure, he oversaw the foundation’s formation and growth from a small weekend religious school to one of the country’s biggest Islamic centers with a large mosque, a full-time school (Pre-K to 12), and four weekend programs. K. Rizwan Kadir, director, Sabeel Center, noted that just about every Chicago-area Muslim organization over the last 40 plus years has had a direct or indirect origin in Hasan’s basement. His wife Dr. Shakeela Hassan, a retired professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, and his three daughters, and five grandchildren survive him.  ih 60    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018


bdul Hameed Dogar, another founder of Villa Park’s Islamic Foundation, served as its director for over 40 years. He was also one of the MSA of U.S. and Canada’s pioneers during the 1960s. He fulfilled his vision to establish Islamic education in Chicago by establishing the Islamic Foundation Mosque and School. A licensed professional civil and structural engineer, he worked for the Illinois Department of Transportation (I-DOT) from 1963 until his retirement in 1991. He designed I-55 and some of the bridges in I-355. Dogar, who studied civil engineering at India’s Aligarh Muslim University and migrated to the U.S. in March 1962, dedicated his entire life to the Chicago community. After retiring, Dogar made the Islamic Foundation his full-time job, focusing on members’ marriages, family counseling, funerals, study and prayer. A voracious reader and scholar, he published “Islam: God’s Final Message to Mankind” (Villa Park, Ill.: Islamic Foundation, 2009) and several other books. “Other than his family, the Islamic Foundation was his family,” said Moon Khan, a longtime member of DuPage County’s Islamic community and a former trustee for York Township. “He was a spiritual engineer who combined his actual job of engineering with a religious passion.” His legacy lives on in the halls of IFS and all hearts. His wife of 64 years, Masooda Dogar, sons Haroon and Jahangeer, daughters Kishwar Khalid and Qaisra Haider, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, brothers Abdul Jabbar and Abdul Haleem and sister Khalida survive him.  ih

NEW RELEASES Speaking Quran: An American Scripture Timur R. Yuskaev 2017. Pp. 192. HB. $44.99 University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, S.C. uskaev, who examines how Muslim Americans have been participating in their country’s cultural, social, religious and political life, illustrates this process with four major case studies that highlight dialogues between Muslim American public intellectuals and their audiences. In chronological order, he discusses the work of Fazlur Rahman (d. 1988); contemplates the application of contemporary concepts of gender to renditions of the Quran alongside Amina Wadud’s discourses; demonstrates how the Quran becomes a text of redemption in W. D. Mohammed’s oral interpretation of it as speaking directly to the African American experience; and shows how, both before and after 9/11, Hamza Yusuf invoked it as a guide to the political life of Muslim Americans. An associate professor of contemporary Islam at Hartford Seminary, Yuskaev focuses on the Quran as a spoken scripture. He also argues that the process of its becoming an American sacred text is ongoing and that the Quran comes to life when it is spoken and embodied by those Americans who believe in it.  ih

The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History Cemil Aydin 2017. Pp. 304. HB. $20.20 Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. emil Aydin argues that one cannot consider the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims as constituting a single religio-political entity. In this book, he offers the intellectual origins of that mistaken notion and explains its enduring allure for non-Muslims and Muslims alike. He also reveals the role of Muslim intellectuals in envisioning and essentializing an idealized pan-Islamic society, one that refuted all claims of the Muslim world’s racial and civilizational inferiority. After playing a key role in Ottoman-era politics, Aydin details how the idea of such an entity survived decolonization and the Cold War and took on a new life in the late twentieth century. Standing at the center of both Islamophobic and pan-Islamic ideologies, he says the idea of “the Muslim world” continues to hold the global imagination in a grip that will need to be loosened in order to begin a more fruitful discussion about politics in Muslim societies today.  ih



Displaced and Forgotten: Memoires of Refugees Raudah M. Yunus and M. Mahmudul Hasan, eds. 2017. Pp. 171. PB. $5.90 Iman Publication, Selangor, Malaysia ales of refugees having nowhere to go. The authors interview refugees from many areas and record their heart-breaking tales of persecution, forced migration, separation, exploitation and nostalgia. These personal stories also contain many anecdotes of courage, resilience, faith and hope. The stories shared here are meant to satisfy readers’ curiosity about what refugeehood is all about and to bring the plight of refugees closer to our hearts, for the world needs to hear their heart-wrenching stories, arduous journeys and struggles as they search for a new home. After all, many of the world’s refugees are Muslim.  ih

Textiles of the Middle East and Central Asia: The Fabric of Life Fahmida Suleman 2017. Pp. 232. Illus. 269. HB. $40.00 Thames & Hudson, New York, N.Y. n her beautifully illustrated presentation of the textile traditions of a culturally diverse region, Suleman investigates the significance and beauty of textiles from the late eighteenth century to the present day from across the Middle East, Turkey, and Central Asia. Her book features works from the extraordinary textile collection housed at the British Museum. This vast region has been the focus of population movements, exploration and trade for thousands of years. It is also home to a wealth of textile traditions. In addition to these historical textiles, the book includes contemporary works that grapple with modern political issues. The textiles displayed include male and female garments, accessories, rugs and felts, children’s clothing, dolls, tent hangings, amulets and animal harnesses. The book will be of interest to anyone interested in this vast region’s textiles and cultures.  ih




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