EMIR ABDELKADIR: A HERO FOR HUMANITY
ED UC AT I PA ON 30 GE SE â€“ S CT 41 IO N
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019/1440 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET
MALCOLM X, MANHOOD AND THE MUSLIM AMERICAN COMMUNITY
ISLAMIC HORIZONS | VOL. 48 NO. 1 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019 | VISIT ISNA ONLINE AT: WWW.ISNA.NET
COVER STORY 20
A Hero for Humanity
The Global Connection
24 A Muslim Footprint in America’s Heartland 26 “Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader” as Added Value for Educators
CONFERENCE REPORT – CINCINNATI
34 Supporting Muslim Children in Public Schools
18 Trials and Tribulations: A Believer’s Response
AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY 28 Malcolm X, Manhood and the Muslim American Community
46 Young Minds and Hearts Working Together
30 32 36 38 40
What Has Gone Wrong in Our Schools Reorienting Our Islamic Schools Faith Literacy in Islamic Schools Countering Religious-Based Bullying Think, Push Back, Reject
INTERVIEW 42 Practicing Faith Amid Challenges
MUSLIMS IN ACTION 44 Listen Up!
56 riends Bond on a F Guys Trip and Include Salat in Their Journey
CIVIL RIGHTS 48 Secular and Religious Fanatics Have the Same Obsession
FOOD 50 Nature’s Sweetest Gift: Honey
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS 52 The Nuclear Exception
DEPARTMENTS 6 8 10 61
Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters New Releases
TRAVEL 54 Things to Remember When Traveling While Muslim
IN MEMORIAM 58 Sulayman Nyang 59 Elsayed Aly Orady
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.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 5
Stories of Courage Survive
he American Midwest has several towns named after famous Middle Eastern places: Mecca and Morocco (Ind.), Medina (Ohio and Texas), Teheran and Cairo (Ill.), Persia (Iowa), Egypt (Maine), Lebanon (N.H.) and Bagdad (Ariz). Why, there’s even an Arab (Ala.) and a Mohamet (Ill.). And yet one such town stands apart — Elkader, Iowa — so named to honor an example of personal courage that one of its founder’s thought should be immortalized. This small northeastern Iowa town has a very special story behind it. John Kiser’s “Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader” (2008) brought its story to light once again. In short, the story is as follows. In 1846 Timothy Davis, one of the three partners of a flourmill, was assigned the task of naming the settlement that they had established. Davis had been following the exploits of a “daring [Muslim] Arab chieftain” named Emir Abdelkader [Abdul Qadir] and cheering on his long struggle against the French colonization of what is now Algeria. Memories of the Americans own freedom struggle against British imperialism were so fresh in Davis’ mind that he regarded the emir as a freedom-fighting cousin. Combining his pioneer spirit and admiration for a resilient underdog, in 1846 this respected lawyer named the new settlement Elkader. But as history would show, this emir was far more than a freedom fighter. For one thing, Bishop Adolph-Antoine Dupuch of Algiers, the Dominican Sisters (who looked after his family while he was in a French prison) and several prominent Europeans were among this international role model’s greatest admirers. He was a friend of Free Masons and Saint Simonians, awarded the Legion of Honor, received gifts from President Abraham Lincoln and Pope Pius IX and was honored worldwide for his courageous defense of his homeland.
Muslims and Christians, along with believers and nonbelievers, praised his courageous humanity, which was grounded in the Sharia. Islamic Horizons highlights his struggle and concern for everyone, irrespective of their faith traditions. This story must be told because hatred, spite and fear toward the other — which should have withered away long ago — are flourishing once again. All citizens, regardless of how they worship (or not), should work toward amity. This is especially for Muslims, for: “Say: ‘Oh, you who disbelieve. I do not worship that which you worship, nor do you worship that which I worship. Nor will I worship that which you have been worshipping, [and] neither will you worship that which I worship. To you your religion, and to me mine’ (109:1-6). The name of an Algerian scholar borne proudly by an Iowa town proves that stories of courage don’t go unnoticed. May we all have the courage to stand for justice, equality and peace, thereby finally accepting that God made us in various shapes, sizes and colors. As this issue also honors Black History Month, we would like to mention Janet Reitman’s article “U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It,” which recently appeared in the New York Times (Nov. 3, 2018). She quotes Michael German, an author of the Brennan Center report and a former FBI agent: “There are relatively few Americans voicing their support for ISIS online. But there are millions of racists, anti-Semites, Islamophobes, homophobes and xenophobes who engage in eliminationist rhetoric about the communities of people they fear and hate every day on social media and radio talk shows.” On a more positive note, on Jan. 18-19 ISNA will be hosting its 8th annual West Coast Education Forum in Orange County, Calif., on “Teaching Values to Empower Students.” ih
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PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Sayyid Muhammad Syeed INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR 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 M. Khatri ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2019 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, Questia.com 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: email@example.com ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, www.isna.net 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: email@example.com
ISNA MATTERS ISNA BOARD OF DIRECTORS WELCOMES NEW MEMBERS
In October 2018, Drs. Mohamed Elsanousi, Iltefat Hamzavi and Shariq Siddiqui joined fellow board members Dr. Iqbal Unus, Lubabah Abdullah, Dr. Asra Ali, Dr. Julie Belz, Zeyn Patel and Sehrish Siddiqui. Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed (president), Safa Zarzoor (vice president-USA) and Mohammed Jalaluddin (vice president-Canada) lead the board. Elsanousi, executive director of the global Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers (https://www.
peacemakersnetwork.org), was director of ISNA’s Community Outreach and Interfaith Relations for 12 years. Hamzavi, a dermatologist, has served as a former president of Hidradenitis Suppurativa Foundation, co-chair of the Global Vitiligo Foundation, founding board chair emeritus of the Institute for Social Policy (ISPU; https://www.ispu.org), the board of Crescent Academy International as well as the Michigan Muslim Community Council. Siddiqui is also visiting director and assistant professor of the Muslim Philanthropy Initiative at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and executive director of Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action. ih
ISNA PRESIDENT RECOGNIZED The Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn, Mich., bestowed an award upon ISNA president Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed in recognition of his efforts to advance ShiaSunni cooperation and dialogue. Most recently, during the 2016 ISNA Interfaith and Government Forum, he hosted an intra-faith summit during which over two dozen Sunni and Shia leaders met to discuss intra-community building and how Sunnis
Dr. Syeed (front row; 5th right)
and Shias can work together harmoniously both at home and abroad. ih
ISNA PRESENTS ITS SURVEY AT THE PARLIAMENT OF WORLD RELIGIONS Colin Christopher, director of the ISNA Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances (IOICA), joined thousands of interested people at the Parliament of World Religions in Toronto to explore topics ranging from racial justice to climate solutions. The conference centered on indigenous perspectives and how their strong care for all of creation can help all other religious communities better understand the challenges we face. Christopher, joined by Imam Saffet Catovic (co-founder and chair, Green Muslims New Jersey and member of ISNA’s Green Masjid Initiative) and David Hales (Parliament trustee and renowned conservationist) spoke about ISNA’s recently released national survey on what Muslim Americans’ think about climate change. Audience participants noted ISNA's high
level of support for sustainable solutions. More than 50 percent of the respondents stated that they had taken relevant political action within the last year. During a session led by Professor Edward Maibach (director, the Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University), the IOICA announced plans to integrate targeted communications on climate change to encourage Muslims to engage with this issue from diverse perspectives. Noted by fellow participants as the first-of-its-kind survey and supported by ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow program (https://ecoamerica.org/faith), this document represents IOICA’s continued commitment to Islamic principles related to protecting the most vulnerable people and future generations. ih
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ISNA/IDB SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM EXPANDS In collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), ISNA has expanded its scholarship/ interest-free loan program. Online applications can be accessed at isna.awardspring. com and must be submitted by March 15, 2019. The designated fields of study include development-related disciplines in line with the IDB president’s new strategy to empower communities with a special focus on sustainability science. The scholarship is a grant, meaning that after the recipients graduate and start working, they must agree to cover either a new undergraduate student’s first year study fees or the fees of the first year of his/her Master’s degree. In the latter case, the IDB will cover the fees until he/she completes the degree. Applicants must have completed high school with good grades, secured admission or are already enrolled in a recognized university, are not currently receiving any other scholarship and are committed to community service after graduation. Selected applicants can pursue their undergraduate studies in (1) medicine: dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, medical laboratories, microbiology, public health, nutrition, health services management, biomedicine, medical technology, veterinary science, chemistry, biology, biotechnology and related fields; (2) engineering (civil, mechanical, chemical and electrical), surveying, urban planning, agriculture and forestry, industrial technologies, physics, geology and related fields, computer science, information technology, telecommunication, electronics and related fields, natural resources and marine sciences; (3) the social sciences (i.e., law, media and journalism, political science, entrepreneurship and related fields, economics, statistics, demography, econometrics, and social studies); and (4) education (i.e., psychology and learning, education policy and international development). ih
COMMUNITY MATTERS New York Mets Host First Muslim American Day The New York Mets hosted their first-ever Muslim American Day on Sept. 28, 2108, at their home stadium: Citi Field. The Mets vs. Florida Marlins baseball game began with a pre-game ceremony during which over 800 Muslims were escorted onto the field and received a free T-shirt and halal meal, courtesy of the Mets. It was also the first time that halal food was served, prayer space was provided for a
congregational prayer and the adhan was called in the stadium. Ammad Sheikh, founder of the South Asian Sports Network, organized this event in the hope that it would promote inclusion in the community — Muslim children are three times more likely to be bullied in school than others. He wanted to show the community that Muslims are just “average joes” with the same likes and dislikes as everyone else. ih
Azhar Azeez, the past ISNA president (top row; second left), led a delegation of Dallas-Ft. Worth area imams and community leaders to the Dallas Temple Shalom Synagogue to participate in interfaith prayer services as an expression of solidarity with Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue congregation.
Houston Builds Largest U.S. Cricket Complex Houston businessman Tanweer Ahmed is building a 90-acre, 10-field cricket complex off Highway 290 in Waller County — the nation’s largest cricket complex. Houston Cricket League President Iqra Farooqui told KBTX-TV on July 24, 2018, that the Prairie View complex will be a game changer. The Houston area has over 30 cricket teams, but there aren’t enough fields for them to play on. A Nielsen study found that the U.S. has more than 200,000 players and millions of fans. The Kalsoom Prairie View Cricket Association — Ahmed’s field of dreams — is
located next door to Prairie View A&M University campus, dedicated to his mother Kalsoom and intended to meet this particular need. He grew up in Pakistan loving the sport, but it took a back seat to his career when he moved to the U.S. In 2016, he picked it up again. ih
10 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019
Canadian Court Affirms Muslim Religious Expression
Quebec’s Court of Appeal unanimously ruled on Oct. 3, 2018, that Judge Eliana Marengo had violated Montreal resident Rania El-Alloul’s fundamental rights by scolding her for wearing a hijab in her court. The court decided that citizens who wear religious attire must not be denied access to justice. According to the three-judge appeal panel: “No party challenges that the courtrooms of the Court of Quebec — and for that matter all courtrooms in Quebec as throughout Canada — are spaces of religious neutrality.” The court added that the freedom of religious expression doesn’t stop at the courtroom door, noting that Marengo’s decision both failed to take into account El-Alloul’s constitutional rights and ignored the Supreme Court of Canada’s guidelines on religious clothing in the courtroom. The ruling stems from a 2015 courtroom incident, during which Marengo told El-Alloul to remove her hijab if she wanted a case involving her impounded car to proceed. El-Alloul refused, and her case was adjourned. In 2016, Quebec Superior Court denied El-Alloul’s request for a ruling declaring that Marengo had treated her unfairly. The Court of Appeal has set aside that ruling and quashed Marengo’s initial decision. Marengo now faces a hearing before Quebec’s judicial council over the matter. The ruling comes at a time when the Coalition Avenir Quebec government is planning to introduce legislation prohibiting public servants in positions of authority (e.g., judges, teachers, prosecutors and police officers) from wearing religious symbols. ih
San Francisco Museum Shows Modest Fashion The Islamic Society of Edmond’s mosque, which is located near the University of Central Oklahoma, completed its new fellowship hall on October 2018. Originally built in 1990, the city approved the construction in 2015 after the community agreed to reduce its size from 8,307 square feet to 1,100 square feet and give up its planned dome. The facility has 57 parking spaces. San Francisco’s de Young Museum exhibited “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” during Sept. 22, 2018-Jan. 6, 2019. The event, reported AP on Sept. 21, 2018, displayed about 80 modest dress attire ensembles designed by nearly 60 designers from the Middle East, Southeast Asia and other regions. The vibrant, elegant and playful clothes ranged from high-end couture to sassy streetwear. The people behind the installation, the first major museum exhibition of its kind, hope to spark a deeper understanding of
Muslimahs. Jill D’Alessandro, the curator in charge of costume and textile arts for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which includes the de Young Museum, told AP’s Janie Hair that the idea for the exhibition predated Trump’s election. This exhibit came amid conflicts in Western countries over Muslimah clothing. Modest fashion has become a $44 billion industry, with more Western fashion houses catering to Muslim consumers. The show has now moved to Frankfurt’s Museum Angewandte Kunst. ih
ShariaPortfolio, a 16-year-old boutique asset management firm specializing in Sharia-compliant investing, welcomed Hamid Abdollahi as the seventh member of its investment advisor representatives’ team on Nov. 7, 2018. Abdollahi, who formerly worked for Edward Jones as a financial advisor, holds an undergraduate degree from Boston University and a master’s degree in business management from Cambridge College. ih
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 11
LETTER TO THE EDITOR I am writing to correct a few factual errors in the article titled “ISNA #55” (IH, Nov/Dec. 2018, pages 14-18). Page 17 carries a photograph of Farooq Malik, erroneously describing him as the “cofounder” of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH). This error is repeated on page 18, where he is introduced as a cofounder. I seriously doubt that Dr. Malik would have claimed this title for himself. ISGH was established in 1968 with Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi (d. 2017) as president. He later became foreign minister in Imam Khomeni’s cabinet. I, Mazhar Qazi, was the founding general secretary — I later changed the spelling of my last name to Kazi. For example, the ISGH “Resolution of the Executive Committee” (Nov. 4, 1971) authorizing the purchase of the first ISGH center bears my signature as the founding general secretary. Farooq Malik is not mentioned in this document. Nor does he appear in the first group photo of the first ISGH Shura, which was published in the Houston Chronicle. Why? Because he joined ISGH much later, after the Islamic Center was purchased and remodeled by me in my capacity as its first supervisor. IH also erred in publishing my name as “Mazhar Kazi” instead of “Dr. Mazhar Kazi” and in not mentioning that the award was given in recognition of my community service. Furthermore, IH introduced me as the father of Yasir and Obaid, as if they are the reason why I received ISNA’s “Lifetime Achievement” award. Moreover, there was no mention of my numerous community services, such as founding general secretary of ISGH; founding member of ISNA and ICNA; writer of Islamic books published in five countries in four languages; conducting a weekly class for non-Muslims and new Muslims for 25 years; serving as Muslim chaplain for county, state (Texas) and federal prisons for over 20 years; being actively involved in mail daw’ah; distributing more than 52,000 copies of the Quran and 75,000 copies of Islamic books and so many other activities during the past 50 years. Dr. Mazhar Kazi [Editor’s note: IH offers its apology for the oversight.]
Yukon Opens Its Mosque The Sept. 28, 2018, opening of Yukon’s first mosque marked an important milestone for Canada. The next day Muhammad Javed, president of the Whitehorse-based Yukon Muslim Society, told CBC News that this is a “historic day for the Muslim community of Whitehorse … now there is at least one mosque in every province and territory in the country.” Among the attendees was Premier [chief executive] of Yukon Sidney Alexander “Sandy” Silver. Yukon commissioner Angelique Bernard congratulated them for “turning a [former] trucking warehouse into a mosque. Well done.” Javed noted that the community began looking for a home in 2005, when the Whitehorse United Church welcomed them to use its space to pray. In 2009 they rented a small apartment in the city. The area is now home to about 40 Muslim families.
President Muhammad Javed welcomes guests to the inauguration
“This completes the North. This completes the territories. I call it the Star Trek mosque,” said Hussein Guisti, from the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation (ZTF), which has helped found mosques in Inuvik (Northwest Territories), Iqaluit (Nunavut) and in Thompson (Manitoba) and financially supported the Yukon mosque. Besides the Can$150,000 from the ZTF, the mosque received Can$75,000 from the Yukon government community development fund. ih
Baltimore Muslims Continue to Build Collaborative Kansas City
Baltimore Muslims launch expansion project
The Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 28, 2018, to mark the commencement of its $2 million Phase 3 construction. This undertaking will be completed by August 2019 to coincide with the society’s 50th anniversary. Many of those gathered had been part of ISB’s conception in 1969 and witnessed the construction of Masjid Al-Rahmah, the first structure, from 1982-83. Phase 3 adds a library and expands the facility so that it can accommodate classrooms for both the Al-Rahmah School and the Al-Rahmah Sunday School. The expansion will also increase the space for Jumah and Eid prayers and move the Quran memorization program, which is now located in another building, closer. With the additional space, ISB also hopes to create a community-learning center that will offer more services to the community at large. Among the public officials in attendance were State Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D-Md.) and Baltimore County Executive-Elect John Olszewski. ih
12 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019
MYNA collaborated with the KC Scholar Series and MAS Youth to produce a citywide speaker event when the Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City hosted a community unifying event on Sept. 14, 2018. Its contribution was the KC Youth Jam, a small activity session featuring youth from all over Kansas City. The event started off with fun icebreakers led by MYNA and MAS volunteers and then spread into an exhilarating game of Jeopardy. The Youth Jam had close to 60 youth participants. The event featured a lecture by Seattle’s Mufti Hamzah Maqbul, who also teaches at the Rayyan Institute in California. More than 250 participants attended the “Self Imposed Myopia” session, which focused on the lens through which the Muslim youth look at the faith and life decisions they make every day. The biggest takeaway from this was the profound idea that our ummah is struggling with conflicting ideals brought on by modernism. To combat these, attendees were encouraged to pull themselves away from attachments to the material world and look at everything through Islam, the lens that God has tailored for all of us. ih
Muslims in Houses In the 2018 by-elections, more than 90 Muslim Americans, nearly all of them Democrats, ran for public office. Although more than 3.3 million Muslims live in the U.S., they hold just three of the 535 congressional seats. In 2016, a Pew poll stated that just 8 percent of Muslim Americans had voted for Donald Trump, whereas 78 percent had voted for Hillary Clinton. Besides Muslim Americans, several Arab Americans also secured victories. Lebanese-American Nadia Massad was elected mayor of Mankato, Minn. Several candidates were re-elected to their state houses, including Michigan House incumbents Abdullah Hammoud and Yousef Rabhi, who was elected in 2107, and Nader Sayegh, a newcomer to New York’s House of Representatives.
THE HOUSE NOW HAS THREE MUSLIMS
Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) joined André Carson (D-Ind.), who was reelected, in the House of Representatives. Omar, 36, a naturalized American citizen, won by a large margin. The first hijabi in the House, she succeeded Rep. Keith Ellison, who, in 2006, became the first Muslim elected to Congress. He stepped down to run for state attorney general. Two years ago, this Minneapolis resident, who ran on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party ticket, became the first Somali-American to win a seat in any state legislature. She served as assistant minority leader. Quite an accomplishment for someone who spent four years of her childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya due to Somalia’s civil war. In 2008, Tlaib, 42, became the first Muslimah elected to the Michigan legislature, where she was Democratic Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. The oldest of 14 children, she was born to a family of Palestinian immigrants in Detroit. Her father worked at a Ford Motor Co. plant. Tlaib, who was unopposed in the general election and ran on the Democratic Socialists of America ticket, is the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress. She earned a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2004.
Keith Ellison (DFL-Minn.), the first Muslim to enter Congress, gave up his House seat to run for the post of Minnesota attorney general. He won. Safiya Wazir (D-N.H.), 27, who arrived as child refugee from Afghanistan, won a seat in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives — the first former refugee to do so. She spent 10 years in a refugee camp in Uzbekistan, was resettled in Concord, Mass. in 2007, and learned English — studying the dictionary at night — while making her way through high school. Wazir, who defeated four-term incumbent Democratic State Rep. Dick Patten in the primary, is a member of the board of directors for Community Action Program of Belknap-Merrimack Counties and vice chair of the Head Start Policy Council. She campaigned on a platform that highlighted housing, school safety and educational improvements. Harris County (Texas) elected Democrat Rabeea Sultan-Collier to the post of 11th Civil District Court Judge. Houstonia Magazine noted that for six consecutive years Super Lawyers has bestowed upon her its “Rising Star” award as Top Lawyer in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 she was recognized as “America’s Most Honored Professionals – Top 10%.” She is a member of the Houston Bar Association, the Association of Women Attorneys, the Harris County Democratic Lawyers Association, the Asian American Bar Association and the South Asian Bar Association. In addition to serving as a board member of the Association of Women Attorneys (201115), she has also served on the Women in the Profession Committee of the State Bar of Texas, as a member of the SBOT Leadership Class of 2012-13, as a board member of the Harris County Democratic Lawyers’ Association (2013-15) and as a co-chair of the Solo Practitioners Section of the Houston Young Lawyers Association. She is a member of the NAACP’s Houston branch. Nationwide, 55 American Muslim candidates were elected to various offices. California • Sabina Zafar, a technology executive, was elected to the San Ramon City Council. • Aisha Wahab, a business information technology consultant, won one of two open seats on the Hayward City Council. • Maimona Afzal Berta, a special education teacher, was elected to the Franklin-McKinley School Board. • Cheryl Suddeth, a molecular biologist, won election to the West County Wastewater District Board.
• Attorney Javed Ellahie was elected to one of Santa Clara County’s three open seats on the Monte Sereno City Council. • Aziz Akbari was re-elected to the Alameda County Water District board of the directors. • Al Jabbar, the first Sri-Lankan-American elected official, was re-elected to the Anaheim Union High Board of Trustees. Originally elected in 2014, he was first appointed to the board in January 2013. Before securing this appointment, he had run (unsuccessfully) for a seat on the Anaheim City School District Board of Education in the 2012 at-large general election. He serves as a program supervisor for Orange County’s Correctional Health Services. New Jersey • Mussab Ali, 21, was re-elected to the Jersey City Board of Education. • Salim Patel, 40, who was elected to the Passaic City Council, served on the city school board for a decade before seeking this seat. • Mohammad Ramadan was elected to the Haledon Board of Education. • Al Abdelaziz was elected to the Paterson City Council. • Hazim Yassin was elected to the Red Bank Borough Council. • Assad Akhter was re-elected to the Passaic County Board of Freeholders. • Mariam Khan was elected to the Dennisville Board of Education. • Mohamed Khairullah, mayor of Prospect Park since 2006, was re-elected. • Alaa Matari was elected to the Prospect Park Borough Council. • Adam Chaabane was elected to the Woodland Park Board of Education. Georgia • State Senator Sheikh M. Rahman (D-Gwinnett County), who ran unopposed, is now Georgia’s first-ever Muslim lawmaker. A Bangladeshi-American, he is member of the ACLU and the NAACP. Virginia • Dr. Babur Lateef (D) was elected chair of the Education Board of Prince William County. Governor Ralph Northam (D-Va.) had appointed Lateef, a longtime advocate for quality education, as the interim school board chair in April 2018. North Carolina • Mujtaba A. Mohammed (D), an Indian-American lawyer, was elected state senator, securing nearly 82 percent of the vote. He ran on his three “E” platform: education, economy and equity. ih
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COMMUNITY MATTERS ACHIEVERS
Afeefa Syeed, founder and head of the Al Fatih Academy in Reston, Va., was recognized at the Centreville (Va.) Immigration Forum’s 4th annual awards ceremony, held on Sept. 21, 2018. Syeed, who ran for the Loudoun (Va.) County Board of Supervisors in 2003, previously served as the U.S. Agency for International Development’s senior advisor for culture and development and is currently a senior fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement. Every year, this nonprofit honors individuals with immigrant backgrounds for the contributions they have made to their local communities.
Dr. Muhammad Farooq Wahab, a research-engineering scientist in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Texas in Arlington, was named in the 2018 Power List of Analytical Scientists in the British magazine’s October 2018 issue. The list cites 40 young scientists from all over the world whose accomplishments have made waves in analytical sciences. Wahab, who earned his master’s in chemistry from the University of Karachi and a doctorate from the University of Alberta (Canada),
has been working at the University of Texas for several years. The citation said that Wahab had achieved the world’s fastest separations in 0.5-1 cm homemade columns and developed “peak processing” mathematics that allows chromatographers to operate columns above their peak-capacity, thereby reducing long separations to a few seconds with intact quantitative information even when peaks partially overlap. A Pakistani American, Wahab is the son of the late Dr. Abdul Wahab, former vice chancellor of the University of Karachi.
cost of Trump’s Muslim Ban. Al-Arian is also coauthor of “Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians.”
Malik Shakoor started as chaplain at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., on Oct. 8, 2018. He succeeds another Hartford Seminary graduate, Sami Aziz, who recently moved from Wesleyan to become the Spiritual Life Director at DePauw University in Indiana. Upon starting at his job, Shakoor met with MSA president Eunes Harun (‘20) to discuss the student body’s needs.
IMAM WANTED Aneelah Afzali received the “American Muslim of the Year” award at CAIR’s 24th annual banquet, “Faith Led, Justice Driven,” in Arlington, Va., on Oct. 20, 2018. In addition to being a community activist, interfaith leader and justice advocate, she is also the founder and executive director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN; https://www.facebook. com/AmericanMuslimEmpowermentNetwork), a new initiative of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (Wash.) (MAPS). CAIR’s award honors a Muslim American who has demonstrated “exemplary service to the country and the community” at the local or national level over the last year by “inspiring and empowering” others. Previous awardees include Linda Sarsour, Khizr Khan, Ahmed Mohamed, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and M.J. Khan. Laila Al-Arian, who received CAIR’s 2018 “Excellence in Media award,” is senior producer and investigative journalist for the award-winning Al Jazeera documentary current affairs series Fault Lines. She was part of the team of journalists who received a “News and Documentary Emmy” award at the 39th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards in New York on Oct. 2, 2018, for “The Ban,” which examined the human
14 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019
The Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown, OH, seeks FULL TIME IMAM
Required • Comprehensive knowledge of Islamic Aqeedah, Fiqh, Sunnah & Shariah • Bachelor’s Degree in Islamic Studies • Fluent in English & Arabic (spoken and written) • Ability to teach Qur’an (Tajweed) and Religion • A dynamic personality & motivational speaker • Experience in Interfaith outreach • Ability to teach and relate to youth • At least 2 years of experience as an • Imam or Assistant Imam. • Collaborative relationship with Shura • Authorized to work in the U.S. • Some administrative duties Email resume with 2 reference letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to: ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF GREATER YOUNGSTOWN PO BOX 1452 YOUNGSTOWN, OH 44502
Shakoor, an Alabama native with a Presbyterian father and an African Methodist mother, decided to pursue the chaplaincy after joining the Army shortly after his conversion at the age of 23 — a choice inspired by a cousin who had converted earlier. He eventually joined the U.S. Air Force as a chaplain and completed his training at Hartford Seminary.
Hillsboro High School graduate Rashed Fakhruddin was among the alumni of Metro Nashville Public Schools inducted into the Public Schools Hall of Fame as Distinguished Alumni Award honorees on Oct. 2, 2018. They were selected from nearly 100 community nominations. Fakhruddin, an engineering supervisor at Nashville Electric Service, is currently director of Community Partnerships for the Islamic Center of Nashville and serves on several community boards, including You Have the Power (www.yhtp.org) and the YWCA, where he is an ambassador for the AMEND Together initiative (https://www.amendtogether.org/ mission). In addition to being chairman of MNPS’ Engineering, Manufacturing and Industrial Technology Partnership Council, a past member of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Education Report Card, and member of the NPEF’s inaugural Citywide Parent Cabinet, Fakhruddin is also actively teaching professional skills to the district’s incoming freshmen. On Oct. 11, 2018, Fakhruddin (‘91) received Vanderbilt University’s Alumni Public Service Award for advocating ending domestic violence toward women. At Vanderbilt, he has served on the Religious Leaders Advisory Council and the Advisory Board for Diversity and Equity. The honorees were also recognized during the beginning of the second quarter of the Florida vs Vanderbilt football game played two days later.
Samar Ali (BS’03, JD’06) was honored with the “Young Alumni Professional Achievement” award by the Vanderbilt Alumni Association Board on Oct. 11, 2018. ESPN televised the ceremony during the Oct. 13 Florida vs Vanderbilt football game. The honorees include alumni who are recognized around the world for their professional achievements, service to communities at home and abroad, as well as the important role they play for Vanderbilt. Ali has received two highly competitive fellowships that recognize emerging global leaders: the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders and the Truman National Security Fellowship. In addition to her legal practice, Ali is a managing director of the Lodestone Advisory Group, a former White House Fellow and assistant commissioner for international affairs for the State of Tennessee. Her deep involvement with Vanderbilt includes serving on the Chancellor’s Dores of Distinction committee and the Law School’s Board of Advisors, being a (former) Alumni Association Board member, and acting as the Giving Day ambassador and Reunion volunteer for her undergraduate and Law School classes.
Kasar Abdulla, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at Valor Collegiate Academies, was among seven inspiring women and one area company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, inducted into the 2018 Academy for Women of Achievement (AWA; https://www.ywcanashville.com/ events/awa) on Oct. 11, 2018. The event
was presented by YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee (https://www.ywcanashville. com/) and the First Tennessee Bank. The AWA honors women whose excellence and leadership in their chosen fields have made them role models for other women. The academy was launched locally in 1992 by YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee. This year’s recipients were announced, for the 13th consecutive year by First Tennessee, and join 158 other women who hold this distinctive honor. The AWA judging committee, made up of business and community leaders and the YWCA executive committee, chose the individual and corporate honorees from an exceptional list of nominees.
Yassin’s Falafel House in Knoxville, Tenn., founded and run by Yassin Terou, a Syrian refugee, was awarded the 2108 Reader’s Digest “Nicest Place in America” accolade. The sign posted at the entrance to his restaurant reads: “All sizes, all colors, all ages, all sexes, all cultures, all religions, all types, all beliefs, all people, safe here at Yassin’s Falafel House.” Terou, now owner of two wildly popular falafel city restaurants, has become a local symbol of the American dream. Knoxville mayor Madeline Rogero told Good Morning America on Oct. 11, 2108, that she believes Terou has “really torn down people’s perceptions [of] refugees, of Muslims [in the] heart of Appalachia.”
Abd ou Kat tih, 44, president, Murfreesboro Muslim Youth, was among the twelve people named by Murfreesboro Magazine as being among its Most Beautiful
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 15
COMMUNITY MATTERS People. This recognition spotlights people who live with style and grace, give back to their community and are generous and kind to their friends, families and neighbors. Kattih, a Syrian-born pharmacist who now lives in Murfreesboro, Tenn., with his wife Hiba and their five children, is heavily involved in volunteering and enjoys electronic games and his stamp collection. “True beauty is to have a loving and kind heart, a selfless soul, and a body that acts and reflects that in its actions,” Kattih told the magazine. His believes that “amazing things happen when you trust in God and do not give up.” The gutsiest thing he’s ever done? He says it’s helping organize the Murfreesboro Loves event held during October 2017.
Abdul Hai Sheikh was among the recipients at the 35th “Annual Governor’s Service” award that celebrates Marylanders’ service to their communities. Sheikh, now an independent consultant for structural engineering and aging management of nuclear power plants, worked in the private sector for 25 years and for the last nine years at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. After retiring, he took a college course on writing memories and was inspired to start a program for seniors to write about their unique memories. Working with the Montgomery County Muslim Foundation (MCMF), this group now has 30 members of various ethnic and religious backgrounds. It provides weekly trips, yoga, health and safety lectures, as well as computer literacy classes, to its participants. Sheikh also serves as MCMF’s volunteer refugee coordinator for Syrian refugees. So far he has helped 80 refugee families settle down. He also has used his engineering background to serve as the volunteer construction manager for a future community center.
Sadiq Mohyuddin, MD, a pulmonologist in Godfrey, Ill., who is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, was presented with the “Gateway Globes Humanitarian of the Year” award Nov. 1, 2018, in St. Louis, Mo. The award honors those who have had a positive impact on global humanitarian needs. Mohyuddin, the citation said, has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in international health care, pulmonary med-
icine and human services. A philanthropist and social activist, he also serves as chairman of the World Affairs Council of St. Louis. The Rhodes Trust announced its Scholars-elect for 2019, Nov. 17, 2018. The list includes: • Hadeel Abdallah, the first Rhodes Scholar from the University of Kentucky since 1955. A Truman Scholar, she is a committed activist who has advanced educational opportunities for immigrant and refugee women in communities across the globe. Hadeel, who
Dr. Rami Nashashibi (standing, right), UP's student and faculty ambassadors, and IMAN's Green ReEntry program members
Rami Nashashibi of Chicago's Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), who was awarded the $1 million 2018 Opus Prize on Nov. 15, 2018, said he would use award to expand Green Re-entry, which provides life coaching, healing and construction job-training for former inmates. The Opus Prize, an annual faith-based humanitarian award that is awarded in partnership with Catholic universities, recognizes unsung heroes who are conquering the world's most persistent social problems. It is given not only to expand the humanitarian efforts of the recipient, but also to inspire others to pursue lives of service; the awardees are leaders who carry an unshakable faith, believing the problems they see around them not only can — but will be — resolved. Rami Nashashibi, Ph.D., is a community leader building bridges across racial, religious, and socioeconomic divides to confront the challenges of poverty and
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disinvestment in urban communities. His experience as a Palestinian-American Muslim, his training as a sociologist and his skills as a community organizer inform his role as executive director of the IMAN. IMAN is headquartered on Chicago's South Side, in the ethnically and religiously diverse working-class neighborhood of Marquette Park, which has struggled with high rates of foreclosure, unemployment and gang violence over the past several decades. Supporting IMAN's initiatives and services for vulnerable South Side residents is a unique coalition of typically disparate constituencies—most notably, African American Muslims and Muslim immigrant communities in both low-income urban areas and wealthier suburbs—that Nashashibi has unified around a shared focus on social justice. He served as a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on FaithBased and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2016. ih
Bambade Shakoor-Abdullah, PhD, was recognized with a “Lifetime Achievement” award at the 26th Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago’s Annual CommUnity Dinner, held on Nov. 17, 2018. Shakoor-Abdullah, who entered college at 16, was the first African American to earn a doctorate in public health from the University of Illinois, Chicago. She has worked as an adjunct psychology and sociology
served on the MYNA National Executive Committee, founded and directs the Bilal Scholarship Endowment, which provides scholarships to underrepresented Kentucky students. At Oxford, she will read for a MS in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and a MS in Global Governance and Diplomacy. • Rayan A. Alsemeiry from Arizona, an ISNA Scholarship recipient, is a senior at Yale University pursuing a BA in global affairs with a minor in human rights and economics. Rayan was the only undergraduate recognized by the Jefferson Awards Association and the Yale Alumni Association
• Laila Ujayli, a refugee from Syria, graduated from Ohio State University, majoring in international relations and English. She is currently a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at Win Without War in Washington, DC, where she advocates for conflict stabilization policies that prioritize development and diplomacy. At Oxford, Laila will pursue masters degrees in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and World Literatures. ih
professor in city colleges and universities and, during her academic career, wrote numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals on issues related to African Americans’ public health and well-being. Feeling called to help at-risk youth, in 1985 she formed and served as executive director for the Leadership Development Institute (http://www.leadershipdevelopmentinstitute.net), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for inner-city African American youth and their families. Her goal was for youth to become self-sufficient. ih
for “innovative, outstanding, and sustained contributions in service to the greater good.” He has interned at The World Bank, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Watch. On campus, he founded the Yale College First-Generation, LowIncome Ambassador Program. Against the odds, he excelled academically and graduated from a 4,000-person public school before arriving at Yale, with a desire to understand how government can best address poverty and social exclusion for its most vulnerable communities. At Oxford, he will pursue an M.Phil. in international relations.
knowledge of written and spoken Arabic, good recitation of the Qur’an, ability to motivate young Muslims and relate to their aspirations, ability to reach out and be able to get involved in interfaith activities within the context of living as a Muslim in the United States.
Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims
SALAM Seeks Religious & Social Director SALAM Islamic Center seeks a Religious and Social Director to meet the spiritual, youth, and social needs of its multi-ethnic community. Responsibilities primarily include leading prayers, Friday Khattab, youth activities, Khaterahs, Friday Family Night Program, Ramadan and Eid programs, religious counseling, and other related religious duties as needed. Qualifications include a 4-year college degree from an accredited university in Islamic studies or related fields, good communication skills, experience in dealing with religious affairs, mastery of the English language, strong
Candidates must be US citizens or Permanent Residents. Salary and fringe benefits are competitive, commensurate with qualifications and experience. Qualified candidates should send a letter of interest, a detailed resume, a recent photo, and three letters of recommendation, with at least one from recent employer if any, to the Chair of the Religious Director Search Committee: Dr. Metwalli Amer SALAM Islamic Center 4545 College Oak Dr. Sacramento, CA 95841-4515 You may e-mail the documents to: email@example.com 916-456-9148 www.salamcenter.org
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CONFERENCE REPORT – CINCINNATI
Trials and Tribulations: A Believer’s Response Cincinnati hosts ISNA’s annual Midwest Regional Conference BY FARYAL KHATRI
ISNA vice president-USA Safaa Zarzour offers his welcoming remarks
Dr. Mohammad Shamma (center) receives the award from ISNA vice president-USA Safaa Zarzour (left) and Dr. Inayat Malik (right)
his year, the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati of remaining firm and strong in one’s conviction and wholeheartedly (ICGC) once again hosted ISNA’s annual two-day Midwest believing in qadar (fate) to both prepare for such events and to work Regional Conference, “Trials and Tribulations: A Believer’s through them. Prime focused on the importance of worship as a Response,” on Oct. 26-27, 2018. way to fortify one’s heart so that one’s faith remains firm. The dual-track program offered something for the entire family The second day featured six sessions on both tracks. “We are — main sessions for the adults, MYNA able to get out of own beds, on our own two feet. We should be grateful to God sessions for the youth and programs THE ISNA because there are many who need help for the children two-day conference. doing that,” ICGC Imam Hossam Musa Renowned scholars, activists and comCONFERENCE IS munity leaders such as Dr. Yasir Qadhi, the audience while speakIMMENSELY BENEFI- reminded ing about shukr (gratitude) and sabr Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Ustadha Ieasha CIAL FOR OUR COMMUNITY. (patience). The attendees reflected on Prime, Imam Wazir Ali, Saba Syed and Habeeb Quadri were featured, along with NOT ONLY DOES IT PROVIDE and analyzed concepts such as good vs. ISNA vice president-USA Safaa Zarzour evil, human suffering and how to get SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT and local leaders and ISNA staff. through life’s problems. In the final session, keynote speaker On Friday, before the event’s official ..., BUT IT ALSO PROVIDES opening, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Imam Qadhi and attorney Syed explored taboos A PLATFORM TO PROMOTE Wazir Ali, Habeeb Quadri and ISNA and difficult-to-talk-about issues such as Development Foundation executive LGBTQ rights, social media and other LOCAL BUSINESSES.” — A director Ahmed ElHattab delivered Friday online content, as well as issues surCONFERENCE ATTENDEE sermons in area mosques across the city. rounding Islamophobia. The featured After Zarzour’s welcoming remarks, speakers also spoke about their personal the members of the conference steering committee shared their struggles and how they had handled them. In between sessions and during breaks, attendees could browse reflections on the theme. The program took attendees on a journey of understanding why we face trials and tribulations, how to cul- the bazaar in search of ethnic and Islamic clothing, jewelry and accestivate conviction and attain taqwa (God-consciousness), the tools sories or learn about the work of various local, national and global we can use to navigate them and the power of prayer. non-profit organizations. The bazaar helps support Muslim-owned The program then broke into two tracks: the main sessions and small businesses and organizations. There was also a matrimonial the youth sessions led by the Muslim Youth of North America event for single Muslims. (MYNA). On Friday, each track held two sessions. Imam Wazir, “The ISNA Conference is immensely beneficial for our commuSiraj Wahhaj and Ustadha Ieasha Prime helped the main session nity. Not only does it provide spiritual nourishment ..., but it also attendees acquire a better understanding of the purpose behind our provides a platform to promote local businesses,” one attendee noted. various trials and tribulations as they reflected on: “And We will The conference concluded with a celebration banquet honoring surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth Dr. Mohammad Shamma for his dedication to community service. and lives and fruits. But give good tidings to the patient” (2:155). Qadhi delivered a powerful keynote address, while Yasmin Elhady’s Imam Wazir spoke about mental health in the community and comedy filled the room with laughter. ih how the ongoing stigma attached to it often prevents Muslims from receiving the care they need. Siraj Wahhaj discussed the importance Faryal M. Khatri, assistant director of communications, ISNA. 18 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019
A Hero for Humanity Emir Abdelkader al-Jazairy — a great human being who inspired others with his words and deeds
BY JOHN KISER et’s begin with the name: Abdelkader [a name also spelt as Abdul Qadir]. Servant of [God] the Able, the Omnipotent. A challenging name for a man to carry. Nevertheless, Emir Abdelkader al-Jazairy came as close as anyone to fulfilling that implied calling. After protecting thousands of Christians in Damascus during the 1860 pogrom, Abdelkader responded to a letter of gratitude from French Bishop Louis Antoine Pavy, based in Algiers: “That which we did for the Christians we did to be faithful to Islamic Law, and out of respect for human rights… The Law places greatest importance on compassion and mercy and all that preserves social cohesion.” He ended with a still-relevant observation: “Those who belong to the religion of Muhammad [salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam] have corrupted it, which is why they are now like lost sheep.” His favorite accolade, however, came from fellow freedom fighter Emir Shamil, the Lion of the Caucasus (d. 1871). He too had finally surrendered, but to the Russians, and was living under house arrest in Moscow when he wrote: “May the laurels of distinction always bear fruit for you... you have put into practice the words of the Prophet (to protect the innocent and minorities) and set yourself apart from those who reject his example. May God protect us from those who transgress His law.” Of course, the idea of proposing a religiously devout individual, and a Muslim to boot, as an international role model is anathema to many secularists and probably not a few Christians. But why? Many of his greatest admirers were Christians: Bishop Adolph-Antoine Dupuch of Algiers, the Dominican Sisters who looked after his family while he was in prison, and others. He was a friend of Free Masons and Saint Simonians, awarded the Legion of Honor, received gifts from President Abraham Lincoln and Pope Pius IX, and was honored around the world for his courageous intervention. Muslims and Christians, along with believers and nonbelievers, praised his courageous humanity, grounded in the Sharia. Nevertheless, today in the U.S. and Europe, especially France, religion and religious talk can cause allergic reactions— a result of centuries of violence, persecution and interreligious warfare all in the name of Jesus [‘alayhi as salam]. Who are the real Muslims? Who are the heretics? The fratricidal killing of Muslims is sadly familiar to those Christians who know their own history. Looking back at the 20th century, one can also ask: Has secularism served Europe and the
world better? Have not our modern ideological fanaticisms become secular religions (communism, fascism, nationalism, capitalism, and Americanism) caused far more suffering? Is not Washington’s crusade to remake the world in its image a form of secular fanaticism? The emir’s behavior followed George Washington’s now forgotten foreign policy: “Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all…. Religion and morality require it.” He did not say “with democracies” or “with Christian countries” only. Perhaps he knew instinctively the wisdom of “If God willed, He could have made us all the same. Instead, God created different tribes and nations so they might learn to know one another and compete in good works” (5:48). Yes, both false religion and false patriotism can produce monsters. We read about such people every day, regardless of their nationality, race and religion. Deranged by anger, bitterness and false teaching, they can become ticking time bombs just waiting to be detonated. Abdelkader’s mother Zohra often told him that ritual purity is only half the faith, a reminder of the harder half— to purify one’s inner self. To be a true instrument of God’s will, one must be free of egotism, hatred, anger and revenge. So, just who was Abdelkader? First, he was a great human being who inspired others with his great physical endurance, moral courage on and off the battlefield, his love of knowledge and spiritual humility, all capped by a sense of empathy and restraint. Among the many sources of these traits were:
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THE EMIR’S BEHAVIOR FOLLOWED GEORGE WASHINGTON’S NOW FORGOTTEN FOREIGN POLICY: “OBSERVE GOOD FAITH AND JUSTICE TOWARD ALL NATIONS. CULTIVATE PEACE AND HARMONY WITH ALL…. RELIGION AND MORALITY REQUIRE IT.” • The traditions and teachings of Abdelkader al-Jilani (d. 1166) that inspired his Kaderiyyia [Qadiriyyah] Sufi tradition. Al-Jilani taught that Muslims were obliged to pray for all people’s well-being and to hold a place of special respect for Jesus. In this tradition, Jesus is set apart from other prophets by his power of love. • The teachings and influence of his learned parents, which emphasized the continuous pursuit of knowledge, purity of heart, patience and contempt of material riches. • His life as a Bedouin hunter and horseman, which taught him patience, endurance, courage and warrior skills. • Sincere piety and a strong moral compass rooted in the teachings of all the Abrahamic prophets. • A broad education that included, in addition to the Sharia, mathematics, history, astronomy, Greek philosophy, plant pharmacology, rhetoric and Quranic recitation. • His exposure to the wider world. His father took him on hajj at age twenty-four and then on a two-year journey to Tunis, Cairo, Damascus and Makka. Later in life he liked to say, “The forms of worship may change, but the Master is One. We differ only in how we address ourselves to him. Amen.” He believed that the continuous pursuit of knowledge was the highest good and life’s ultimate purpose, for it leads to right conduct. His was a world of hierarchy in terms of social relations and knowledge. In his once-famous Letter to the French, written at the request of the Asian Society of Paris in 1856, the emir explained what made human ISLAMIC HORIZONS 21
The Global Connection The inspiration that led to Abd ElKader leads back to his Qadiri lineage
he passion of Kadirians for Emir Abd el-Kader (1808-83) is admirable. However, his appeal extends far beyond them due to his recognition, as a leading military opponent of French colonialism, for what we now call human rights, especially for his Christian opponents — a practice that drew widespread admiration. In addition, his crucial intervention to prevent large numbers of the Christian community of Damascus from being massacred by the Druze in 1860 was both noted and praised. In later years he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur (France), the Grand Cross of the Redeemer (Greece), the Order of the Medjidie, First Class (Turkey) and the Order of Pius IX (the Vatican). Al-Jilani (also spelled as al-Gilani) was born in Gilan, northern Persia, migrated to
Baghdad at the age of 11, and settled there for the rest of his life. His father, the leader of the Qadiri Sufi order, initiated him into it. This order traces its origin to Shaikh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani (1077/78-1166), the founder of what has become a global order. His shrine attracts thousands of devotees each year from all over the world, is part of the city’s sense of pride and even now remains a popular spiritual resort. According to his lineage, Abd el-Kader is a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) through Idris ibn Abdullah, a great-grandson of the Prophet’s grandson Hasan (radi Allahu ‘anh) who traveled to Morocco and established the Idrissi dynasty there in 788. It later spread to al-Andalus. In 2017 NASA honored Muhammad
beings different from the rest of creation: their love of knowledge, pursuit of truths that transcend the senses (e.g., mathematics, geometry, philosophy and moral truths). However, the most important knowledge is political knowledge, because it affects how people live together. Humans are social animals and need to cooperate to survive, which is based upon living correctly in the polis and behaving justly with others. Such justice requires access to higher wisdom transmitted via the prophets, who are vessels that mediate God’s wisdom. All of them relay the same fundamental moral rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and message, “Glorify God and show compassion toward all His creatures.” Today, non-Muslims and their governments are trying to grapple with Islam. But with whose Islam, for there are many Islams? And yet we only read about violence in the name of Islam. Such publicity enhances the prestige of self-proclaimed Muslim terrorists and distorts Islam’s face for non-Muslims. This one-sided narrative effectively becomes an unholy alliance between a media culture that loves blood and the terrorists who shed it. Muslims are currently struggling for the soul of their faith. The Islam that was once
at the forefront of intellectual achievement was, like the emir, one that sought knowledge everywhere. There is no “pure” Islam, just as there is no “pure” Christianity or “pure” anything. The struggle today is over role models for young Muslims… and for that matter, youth everywhere. Abdelkader’s life story can act as an anti-radicalization medicine and positive role model for Muslims, as well as an anti-Islamophobia medicine for non-Muslims. High school students participating in the Abdelkader Global Leadership Essay must explain how his story is relevant today and for them personally. His impact has been notable upon non-Muslim and Muslim students alike. According to students from Elkader, Iowa: “The emir’s tolerance, patience, wisdom and devotion to his cause are qualities I would like to build into my own life” (Ben); “Reading about his life led me to see Arabs in a totally different light. I now want to share my new perspective with others” (Bob); and “Learning about Abdelkader’s life caused me to reflect on my own faith and try to imitate his devotion to serving God” (Julia). Abdelkader was a complex person. Each individual and religious tradition will interpret Abdelkader’s actions differently.
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al-Idrisi (1100-1165), the famous Andalusian cartographer, geographer, and Egyptologist who was born into the large Hammudid family of North Africa and al-Andalus that claimed descent from the dynasty, for his historical role in advancing geography as a science: It named the well-known Mountainous Shoreline of Sputnik Planum on Pluto “Al-Idrisi Montes.” Proponents of pre-Columbian Andalusian contacts with the Americas theories often cite his geographical text Kitāb
Some Muslims will reject him as a model of enlightened Islam for not having fought the French to the bitter end, he was too friendly with France, for being too openminded or too puritanical. Some secular American and European fundamentalists will reject any “religious” personality, even someone as rational and spiritually humble as Abdelkader. “No one of His creatures knows Him in His entirety; each knows Him in some ways and is ignorant of Him in others…Error does not exist in this world except in a relative manner" (Emir Abdelkader 1855). During Algeria’s independence struggle, another Abdelkader-like figure emerged: Catholic bishop Leon Etienne Duval, who was assigned to Constantine in 1954 to minister to the pieds noirs — people of European, mostly ethnic French, origin born in Frenchruled Algeria from 1830 to 1962. Bishop
Duval, who didn’t read Arabic and had no interest in interfaith dialogue, was nevertheless deeply committed to living the Gospels and believed in the transforming power of loving all of God’s creatures. Duval’s church doors were smeared with excrement. He received death threats and was called Mohammad the “Muslim Bishop.” His teachings were simple: without respect, there can be no love. Honor God by honoring His creatures, which included Arabs and Muslims. When Algeria achieved its independence in 1962, Duval and other like-minded priests were given citizenship. Catholic schools were very popular with Algerians. In her biography of Duval, MarieChristina Ray reports that on his deathbed in 1996, he predicted: “One day, Algeria will surprise the world.” After ten years of advocating and absorbing Abdelkader’s model of
SHAIKH ABDUL QADIR EMERGED AS A MODEL OF SPIRITUALITY, SCHOLARSHIP AND REFORM AT A TIME WHEN CRUSADER INVASIONS WERE CHALLENGING ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION. Abd el-Kader always remembered his origins, and his parents recognized Shaikh Abdul Qadir not only as a family ancestor, but also as their spiritual father. The name “Abdul Qadir (Abd el-Kader)” is in itself an evidence of his parents’ devotion to their ancestor. Shaikh Abdul Qadir emerged as a model of spirituality, scholarship and reform at a time when Crusader invasions were challenging Islamic civilization. He was 18 when Pope Urban II launched the first Crusade in 1095, the [never-ending] war against the Muslim world. Seeing despondency overtaking the populations around him, his effort to spiritually regenerate them restored some of the region’s former spiritual strength and moral courage. The great scholar/reformers of Islamic thought like al-Ghazali (1058-1111) came from that
generation and benefited from his invigorating message. The Qadiri order, now the world’s largest Sufi order, began in al-Andalus and continues to hold sway in North Africa, the Arab world, Central Asia, and South Asia. A look at the names of its branches in North Africa and Spain reveals that the names “Qadir” and “Elkadir” recur again and again, because Abdul Qadir al-Jilani became a continuous inspiration for generations who lived in Baghdad’s vast Abbasid Empire. There is a connection between the Elkadir and Abdul Qadir — both are part of the Prophetic lineage, and the later Elkadir was greatly inspired by the higher tradition of the Qadiri Sufi order. His family regarded this order, which was well known in his time and remains so today, as its own. ih
PHOTO (C) KATHY GARMS
nuzhat al-mushtāq fī ikhtirāq al-āfāq (reprint 1992. Institut für Geschichte der ArabischIslamischen Wissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main, Germany). Hasan ibn Hasan or “Hasan al-Muthana ibn Hasan ibn Ali," who is famously known as Hasan al-Muthana, was one of Hasan ibn Ali’s sons. His other grandson was Musa al-Joun. From his seventh generation came Abdul Qadir al-Jilani (c. 1077-1166) who flourished in Baghdad and is recognized as the founder of the global Gilani/Qadiri order.
Emir Abdelkader gravesite – Algiers
faith-based leadership, I have come to believe Abdelkader’s life is that surprise— indeed, a gift to the world. To my way of thinking, three elements of his character make him worthy of this: • Simultaneously “local” and “universal,” he was also deeply and authentically Muslim. He grew spiritually, especially during his French imprisonment, where he saw the goodness in France and experienced the
goodness of Christians and non-believers alike. His religion wasn’t a safety belt holding his identity together, but a platform for probing the meaning of God’s creation. His religious identity made him bigger, not smaller. • A unifier, Abdelkader saw the plurality of beliefs as a reflection of God’s infinite nature and the inexhaustible ways to praise Him. He saw no conflict among politics, religion and science. Politics should be governed by a desire to lead people to live together in harmony, religion should provide a common moral base of shared values and common origin and science should teach us to grasp humanity’s basic unity. • His life was virtue in action. True leadership requires the virtues that he exemplified: intellect, moral courage, just behavior and self-restraint— once known in the Christian world as the Cardinal Virtues. Let Muslims and non-Muslims alike honor the emir by reviving his example of learning, courage and decency and using him as the launch pad for a true Arab Spring, a Muslim Spring and a Spring for Humanity. ih John Kiser is author of numerous books (johnwkiser.com), most recently Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader (A Story of True Jihad), and co-founder of the Abdelkader Education Project (www.abdelkaderproject. org), based in Elkader, Iowa.
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A Muslim Footprint in America’s Heartland Northeast Iowa town named after a Muslim Arab hero BY KATHY GARMS
ocated in northeast Iowa, about two hours drive from the Eastern Iowa Regional Airport near Cedar Rapids and 30 minutes from the Mississippi River, a statuesque water tower welcomes visitors to Elkader. Who could imagine that a small rural town in America’s heartland — Elkader, Iowa — would be remembering a world-renowned
19th-century Muslim Arab hero? And yet, that has become a reality through the bonding of a tiny dot on a map and a book. Thanks to John Kiser’s Commander of the Faithful…The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader (18081883), a much-needed message of tolerance, civility and unity was delivered directly to our doorstep.
Why Elkader? What’s in a name? History reveals that Timothy Davis and two business partners from Dubuque, Iowa, found an ideal site for a flour mill on the banks of the Turkey River...a tributary upstream from Dubuque on the Mississippi River. They laid out a new town, and Davis was tasked with naming it. Thanks to Littell’s Living Age, a journal of the British and American international press, Davis had been following the exploits of a “daring Arab chieftain” named Emir Abdelkader. This publication had been cheering on the Muslim Arab sheikh in his long struggle against the French colonization of what is now Algeria. Memories of the American rebellion against British imperialism were fresh enough for Davis to see in the emir’s resistance, a freedom-fighting cousin. In 1846 Davis, a pioneer spirit, respected lawyer and admirer of this resilient underdog, named the new settlement Elkader.
A PERSONAL JOURNEY Being a product of Elkader, where everyone knows your name, I was afforded a safe and nurturing childhood. We were free to roam the hills and explore in a community where people cared about each other. Life’s lessons were learned from family and friends, at school and church and by trial and error, with a keen distinction being made between right and wrong. Recent years, however, have brought the complexity of a global society closer, showing us the need to acquire more knowledge about history, our world and the diversity of faiths and cultures in it. In 2008, I discovered the significance of my hometown’s namesake. Since then, promoting Abdelkader’s life story and example of moral courage, generosity, lifelong learning and open spirit has become a passion for me...because it makes sense. My journey of learning about Emir Abdelkader began with the 2008 Elkader launch of Commander of the Faithful... John Kiser’s well-documented biography of a warrior-scholar-statesman was so relevant for today’s troubled world that it needed to be shared. Together, we told the story and created the Abdelkader Essay Contest in Elkader so students would become familiar with their town’s namesake...an esteemed humanitarian and ethical leader whose life presents a different face of Islam. As the annual essay contest expanded across the nation over the years, we 24 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019
Plaque at Mascara Park honoring Elkader as the sister city of Mascara, Algeria
Kathy Garns at the huge Elkader sign with Algerian Ambassador Madjid Bouguerra
developed educational tools with curricula and broadened the Abdelkader Education Project (AEP) network to include additional components. Our efforts evolved into the non-profit AEP to revive awareness of Abdelkader’s legacy beyond northeast Iowa. Elkader’s founders had no way of knowing in 1846, when they named a new settlement after a widely admired Muslim Arab freedom fighter, that they were setting the stage for international learning experiences. Today, Elkader’s population is slightly more than 1,200 and is the Clayton County seat as well as the area’s economic hub. Some of the world’s best farmland can be found in the area, and major crops include corn and soybeans. Being located in the unique Driftless Area, the terrain is composed of hills, rivers, and forests, which draw people from near and far to enjoy all that nature provides. At the heart of Elkader, and within walking distance of almost everything, is the 1889 Keystone Bridge. In addition to shops, eateries, cinema, library, school, and churches, the historic district includes the 1878 Courthouse and the 1903 Opera House that continues to showcase live theatre and music. For seven years, the Opera House was the site of our AEP Forum. Another prominent feature is the 1855 Carter House Museum, which exhibits “The Sheik,” the 1915 Elkader High School senior class story about the emir. A collection of traditional items from Algeria are also on display. Mascara Park, named for Abdelkader’s birthplace and situated beside Elkader City Hall, features a locally made solar peace pole with Arabic, French and English inscriptions. An identical peace pole was sent to Mascara, where it is proudly displayed.
RECENT YEARS, HOWEVER, HAVE BROUGHT THE COMPLEXITY OF A GLOBAL SOCIETY CLOSER, SHOWING US THE NEED TO ACQUIRE MORE KNOWLEDGE ABOUT HISTORY, OUR WORLD AND THE DIVERSITY OF FAITHS AND CULTURES IN IT. Included in Mascara Park is a flagpole and a winding brick pathway. Bricks are sold and personalized to help maintain this pocket park. In 1984 a sister city program was established between Elkader and Mascara. In the early years, several exchanges were organized, Algerian ambassadors visited Elkader and the program had much success. Such activities, however, slowed after the 1990s. After reorganizing the sister city program in 2007, it was my pleasure to accept an invitation from Algeria’s Council of Nations (Parliament’s upper house) and the Abdelkader Foundation to present a paper at the May 2008 "Emir Abdelkader and Human Rights Seminar” in Algiers. It was an honor and a privilege to participate in the 200th anniversary of Abdelkader’s birth and to visit Mascara during the same
trip. It has now been 10 years and we continue to build positive relationships for the common good. Elkader suffered a devastating flood in June 2008. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika sent a personal message of condolence to the town’s citizens, along with a no-strings-attached gift of $150,000 to assist with flood recovery. AEP has brought energy back to relationships between Elkader and Mascara as well as between the U.S. and Algeria. Many Algerian ambassadors have visited Elkader and participated in annual AEP Forums. People around the world are now taking note of Emir Abdelkader, a leader in both war and peace who had an immense impact on his region and the world. In the words of a past essay winner Brandon Jennings of Iowa City: “AEP offers students a chance to engage with a narrative of history not often discussed in Western classrooms … In a time when mistrust, ignorance and violence dominate public consciousness, Abdelkader’s legacy of reconciliation, courage and compassion provides a useful model for us all.” It is very clear to me that we must all move forward to seek knowledge, wisdom and build relationships across the globe. Each of us has the capacity to ignite a spark to show the rest of the world how different cultures can live together in harmony. Building relationships based on respect and understanding result in collaborations for a better world. And just think … all of this began and has grown in impact because in the mid1800s Timothy Davis, who lived on one side of the world, recognized the greatness and goodness of Algeria’s own Emir Abdelkader, who lived on the other side. Now, that is a great international story! ih Kathy Garms is co-founder and executive director for the Abdelkader Education Project based in Elkader, Iowa. www. abdelkaderproject.org
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“COMMANDER OF THE FAITHFUL: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader” as Added Value for Educators
Learning, understanding and deep understanding are not the same thing BY BONNIE JAMES
y interest in the Abd el-Kader Project (www. abdelkaderproject.org) focuses on the work I do in curriculum development in the U.S. and internationally. I consult with school districts, often with classroom teachers and department chairs, sometimes with principals and superintendents and, rarely, with a country’s department of education. Most of my consulting is part of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero (www.pz.harvard.edu), which focuses on cognitive development, as it is nurtured by a curriculum design called Teaching for Understanding. Although Project Zero is based on the relationship of cognitive development to the arts, its research looks at the broad spectrum of disciplines as they relate to the value of structuring academic work with the strongest possible design to promote cognitive development (i.e., intellectual growth). I often search for materials that offer more than a limited view for academic pursuits, something that you might call “value added.” And this is what I think John Kiser’s “Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader” (2008) has to offer our students. This book has two important takeaways: The first is finding something relevant that one should know and that has a riveting appeal, as opposed to our schools’ usually didactic and boring material. Maybe it’s important, but its importance diminishes if nothing sustains the “hook” of understanding and remembering what has been learned. We can all give examples of curriculum that has remained part of our intellectual package. Perhaps it’s “Huckleberry Finn,” geography’s relationship to political
success or water’s boiling point. These kinds of things create the building blocks of intellect, for people use that which is relevant and important to tease out what they don’t comprehend, to connect themselves to new learning and understanding. The second is developing a deep understanding of the “stuff ” that is learned. Learning something is fine, but understanding it goes far beyond the multiple-choice questions of benchmark testing, for true understanding means using that information to inform the further concepts you may pursue. Thus teachers must seek to develop an understanding of what they teach to ensure that the time spent in academic pursuits is time well spent. The engagingly written “Commander of the Faithful” is neither an easy read nor
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beyond the understanding of solid students. What I find particularly appealing is its engagement with geography, history, the social sciences, physiology, philosophy, religion, linguistics and other disciplines, not to mention its many pathways of curriculum offered in a rich context. While searching for academic works that encourage deeper understanding, we should be looking for material that that takes our students into a realm of understanding beyond what is often conventionally offered. By combining these two takeaways, “Commander of the Faithful” offers multiple avenues for excellent curriculum as well as three compelling concepts: colonialism, culture and faith, and character. Colonialism is a big-ticket concept for understanding the history of our various cultures as well as our world’s ongoing economic colonialism. An inhabitant of French colonial Algeria, el-Kader has been dubbed the “George Washington of Algeria” — a powerful connection for American students and for students whose nations may have overseen those colonies. Written from an on-the-ground perspective, this book captivates the readers’ interest and pulls them into the pathos of what it means to live under a colonial power. Islam, like Christianity, has multiple facets. Therefore, rather than using the simple labels of “Muslim” or “Christian” lightly, Kiser explicates the tribes, sects, denominations and other nuances to tease out the mish-mash of cultures in the text, the footnotes and the chapter notes. The book’s structure enables teachers to examine how writers present an excellent story, while also providing the scholarly evidence that sufficient research has been carried out to present an accurate account. Each of us has a unique relationship to
PHOTO (C) LARRY STONE, USED WITH PERMISSION
The 1889 Keystone Bridge, Elkader, Iowa
COMMANDER OF THE FAITHFUL” CHRONICLES THE LIFE OF A MAN SHAPED BY HIS CIRCUMSTANCES, BUT ONE WHO ALSO SEEMED TO WORK TO UNDERSTAND HIMSELF AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH ALL PARTS OF HIS SURROUNDING ENVIRONMENT. character development in that we are evidence of our own. “Commander of the Faithful” chronicles the life of a man shaped by his circumstances, but one who also seemed to work to understand himself and his relationship
with all parts of his surrounding environment. The book offers many examples of his character development, often informed by the decisions he made. For example, Kiser states, “Anarchy gave birth to his power and anarchy
constantly developed in him” (p. 47). What a rich sentence for launching a discussion on every word of this sentence. The following page contains an example of the emir’s emerging character: Abd el-Kader becomes “Commander of the Faithful” because he turns down the title of “sultan,” thereby exhibiting humility and perspective. Again, the concept of character is powerfully presented. A good book, piece of scholarship or research can provide the metaphor for much of what needs to be learned in order to shape one’s academic or intellectual construct. Used thoughtfully, such material can also help students create deeper understandings of critical concepts. For most of us — and we are all students in one form or another — new challenges will arise and force us to devise new solutions or strategies. Deep engagement with a good piece of work helps us form the intellectual connections that are the basis for extended cognitive growth — and that’s what education should be all about. ih Bonnie Bickel James, a consultant in educational leadership and curriculum, consults at the Project Zero Summer Institute, Harvard Graduate School of Education and WIDE World, the school’s on-line platform that specializes in professional development for educators. She also speaks at professional development seminars for WIDE both at home and abroad. James has served as lower school principal at Milton Academy, Milton, Mass.; lower school director, National Cathedral School for Girls, Washington D.C.; and history/social studies department chair at The Foote School, New Haven, Conn., where she taught for fifteen years. (Condensed from comments by Bonnie James on the occasion of presenting the 4th annual Abdelkader essay prize awards in Elkader, Iowa)
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AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY [THIS IS DEDICATED TO MY DEAR FELLOW HAMPTON UNIVERSITY ALUMNI FRIEND OF OVER 50 YEARS, THE SCHOLAR AND PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL DR. SULAYMAN NYANG, WHO PASSED AWAY AS I WAS FINISHING THIS ARTICLE. MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON HIM AND US.]
Malcolm X, Manhood and the Muslim American Community We cannot allow culture, geography and time to freeze Islam’s message BY JIMMY E. JONES
n his paradigm-shifting paper on “Territoriality, Social and Gendered Revolutions in the Speeches of Malcolm X,” Professor James A. Tyner states “Malcolm X cast the Black Revolution in the United States in terms of masculine self-realization. In this respect, Malcolm X was not immune to the dominant ideologies of gender prevalent during his life. He, along with many Civil Rights leaders, largely relegated gender equality to a secondary concern, while placing racial equality foremost on the agenda” (Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, vol. 29, no. 3 (September 2004), 330-43). While many multicultural AfricanAmerican, Arab-American and AsianAmerican Islamic centers often disagree over
whether one’s iftar halal chicken dish should be fried, shawarma-ed or curried, they all tend to agree on one thing — most of them love Malcolm X (‘alayhi rahmat). Given Tyner’s assessment of the role of gender justice in this icon’s human rights activities, one wonders if our community also treats gender as a “back burner” issue. This short article attempts to explore this sensitive issue by focusing on patriarchy and power, gender and geography, and modesty and misogyny.
PATRIARCHY AND POWER Few Muslims seem to recall, and even fewer non-Muslims seem to know, that the Quran’s most frequently repeated story is the seminal confrontation between Prophet Moses (‘alayhi as-salam) and Pharaoh. Among the
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many things to learn from this epic encounter is the connection between patriarchy and power. This connection is a strong theme right from the beginning. As related similarly in the both the Torah/Old Testament and the Quran, Pharaoh orders the killing of male Israelite babies to calm his fear that one of them will eventually rise up and lead a revolt against his political authority. The underlying patriarchy/power nexus is clear. In fact, the events of Moses’ life in Egypt show, from his rescue from the Nile as an infant to the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, this connection between male authority and the power to lead. The point here is simply to state that the cultural context from which this powerfully resonant, enduring story comes: man-ruled families and political entities, in which authority was generally passed down through male bloodlines. Consequently, “manhood” was likely an important construct. Bearing all of this in mind, we can better understand actor and civil rights activist Ossie Davis’ famous words as he eulogized Malcolm X on Feb. 27, 1965: “Malcolm was our manhood, our living black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And we
will know him for what he was and is — a prince — our own Black shining prince who didn’t hesitate to die because he loved us so.”
GENDER AND GEOGRAPHY In her irreverent, thought-provoking article Women and the Advent of Islam, Leila Ahmed states: “Medinian women apparently were noticeably more assertive than Meccan women: ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab complainingly stated that before coming to Medina ‘we the people of Quraysh [Mecca] used to have the upper hand over our wives, but when we came among the Ansar [Medinians], we found that their women had the upper hand
centered Yathrib (later called Madinah), many details of their lives changed dramatically. For example, in Madinah Muslims were the ultimate political authority, as outlined in the “Constitution of Medina.” This immigrant community even adapted the local Jewish community’s practice of fasting on one of the holidays (the Day of Ashura). Therefore, it’s unfortunate that many Muslims cite “This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” (5:3) as a reason for freezing all of Islam’s practice-oriented guidelines into their traditional centuries-old forms.
OUR COMMUNITY NEEDS TO ADMIT THAT ITS PORTRAYAL AND TREATMENT OF WOMEN HAVE LARGELY BEEN WRONG. THUS, WE SHOULD “MAN UP” AND “WOMAN UP” AND START READJUSTING OUR ATTITUDES AND ACTIONS TO REFLECT ISLAM’S CORE VALUES OF MODESTY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE. over their men, so our women also started learning the ways of the Ansari women.’ One Medinian woman is said to have offered herself in marriage to Mohamad — he accepted — then to have withdrawn her offer when her family, who disapproved, pointed out that she could never put up with co-wives” (Signs, vol. 11, no. 4 [Summer 1986], 665-91). Many Muslims don’t seem to understand that the details of people’s lives tend to change when they move. For instance, when my wife Matiniah and I were living in a one-bedroom apartment, we would walk up and down four flights of stairs to use the basement’s communal laundry room. Thus, we washed clothes much less frequently than we do now in our single-family house. In addition, we both frequent Masjid Al-Islam more because now it’s just a short walk around the corner, whereas in the past we used to drive — not always possible, given New England’s winter weather — to attend prayers and other activities. The obvious point here is that geography affects how we live our lives. When Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions emigrated from his beloved birthplace, the commercial trade-centered Makkah, to the agriculturally
The reality is that context does matter. Thus, there is a relationship between gender and geography — one that has been and remains clear to anyone who travels throughout the Muslim world. While Ahmed is sometimes criticized for relying too heavily on sources outside of mainstream Islam when discussing gender, in this case her primary source is the canonical “Sahih al-Bukhari” (vol. 7, book 62, hadith no. 119). As geography often impacts gender relations, what many Muslim Americans call “Islamic” in this regard is often shaped by the specific cultural context from which they come.
MODESTY AND MISOGYNY “The Prophet said, ‘Every religion has a character and the character of Islam is modesty’” (“Muwatta Imam Malik,” book 47, hadith no. 9). Unfortunately, many Muslim Americans confuse modesty’s praiseworthy characteristic with misogyny’s blameworthy characteristic. Throughout the Muslim world, women are mistreated and denied basic human rights in the name of “modesty.” Famously, the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai, a future Nobel Laureate, for advocating that girls be educated. This country’s Muslims are clearly not
seeking to emulate them in this regard. However, a cursory review of the prayer accommodations (or lack of thereof) for women in our Islamic centers reminds us that we have a good deal of work to do in the area of gender justice. While we should hold Malcolm X — the brave, fearless Muslim human rights activist — up as universal role model, we should also remember various statements in The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965) like: “All women, by their nature, are fragile and weak: they are attracted to the male in whom they see strength.” We should be careful not to reinforce a “manhood” that apparently puts gender justice on the back burner, one that doesn’t recognize women as leaders. Without the strong, extraordinary leadership of Aisha (radi Allahu ‘anh), Islam would likely not be as vibrant as it is today, because her work as a teacher provides us with a significant portion of the Prophet’s legacy that we try to emulate today. As Muslim Americans of all ethnicities look to Malcolm X as a role model, we must also remember him as a lifelong learner who admitted his major mistakes, the most famous one being what he called his “sweeping indictments” that “the white man is the devil” while serving as a Nation of Islam minister. On the issue of gender justice, Muslim Americans of all ethnicities need to admit that to a very large extent, we have been wrong about how we have portrayed and treated women. Consequently, we should “man up” and “woman up” and start to readjust our attitudes and actions to be more in line with the modesty and social justice values that are core principles in Islam. One good place to start would be to use the work of ISNA’s Masjid Development project aimed at “Creating the Women-Friendly Masjid” and ISPU’s “Reimagining Muslim Spaces” initiative that includes a toolkit focused on “Creating a More Welcoming Mosque for Women.” Further, we should try to adopt the attitude that Malcolm X so eloquently stated near the end of his life in his “Autobiography.” He wrote: “I’m for the truth, no matter who tells it. I am for justice, no matter for whom it is for or against. I am a human being first and foremost, and as such I am for whomever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” ih Dr. Jimmy E. Jones, DMin, is chair of World Religions and African Studies at Manhattanville College, board chair of the Islamic Seminary of America and national board member of the Council on American Islamic Relations
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What Has Gone Wrong in Our Schools Islamic schools need to be reoriented toward the Quranic model BY FREDA SHAMMA
hen we think of learning today, we think of institutions — classes, schools, and universities. However, the revelation of the Quran instituted a whole culture of learning, as described in Yedullah Kazmi’s “The Rise and Fall of Culture of Learning in Early Islam” (Islamabad: Islamic Research Institute, Occasional Papers no. 63, 2005). It began with the revelation’s very first word — “Read.” Although this word also means to recite, which, at least in English, implies rote memorization, it encouraged the first Muslims to engage in both activities. The result was that everyone, regardless of gender and social status, participated in learning. As Ziauddin Sardar says in the introduction to his “How We Know: Ilm and the Revival of Knowledge” (London: Grey Seal Books, 1991): “Indeed the flourishing classical Muslim civilization was totally obsessed with knowledge, with seeking it, acquiring it, talking and arguing about it, defining it, building institutions for dispensing it, writing about it, reading about it, collating it, disseminating it.” Prophet Muhammad
(salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) even freed some prisoners of war on the condition that they would teach Muslims how to read. Free classes were held in homes and in the mosques. The first Muslim to earn his living solely through his writing was al-Jahiz (776868), the son of poor ex-slaves. Muslims were the first ones to have large libraries containing tens of thousands of manuscripts, to build universities in the West and to establish purpose-built schools for secondary education. Seventh-century Europeans considered a large library to contain about 40 manuscripts. Historically, large empires guarded learning as the right of the most powerful. In Europe during the Dark Ages — a term commonly applied to the Middle Ages roughly between the fall of Rome (476) and the Renaissance — when the Catholic Church was society’s most powerful force, the poor, farmers, peasants and serfs were never given the opportunity to become literate. Even secular rulers like Charlemagne (742-814) were illiterate. As late as the mid1500s, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles
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V (1500-58) was only taught his subjects’ oral languages. Europeans only emerged from their dark, illiterate Middle Ages after the Crusaders invaded the Middle East. Impressed with the region’s amount of knowledge and the thriving civilization that came with it, some of them returned home with a new enthusiasm for learning. Europe’s first universities were located in al-Andalus, and the first non-Muslim university in Paris was made possible only after the Europeans defeated Muslim Toledo in 1085 and carted off its libraries. Fast forward to the 1700s in Prussia, a northern Europe military state that set up a boys-only school system to get them off the street, educated, and molded into obedient soldiers. Its focus was on nation-building, teaching blind obedience to political authority and reinforcing class and race prejudice. In 1840 the American Horace Mann was searching for a way to change “unruly” children into disciplined citizens who thought alike about major issues and were obedient workers. The Prussian system was ideal for his purposes and was quickly adopted by the U.S. (see John Taylor Gatto, “A Short Angry History of Compulsory Schooling,” https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_5h0aO8ZaE and G. Warder, “Horace Mann and the Creation of the Common School,” 2015). Among the ideas that the Prussian system enforced were the following: Student body: The school was for Prussian boys, defined as white and European. They were to be disciplined, regimented and learn to follow their leaders: teachers, generals and the monarch. All other people were excluded. Organization: The school was divided by age, ability and subject. For example, every science class was taught in exactly the same way and with exactly the same material. Science was further divided into “physical” and “natural.” Plants were divided into groups, and students had to memorize all of the ways a plant could be classified. As taught, plants had little or nothing to do with the unity of our ecosystem. As religion had no role in producing soldiers, it either was not taught or was an entirely separate subject so that soldiers and/or students would not question war’s morality. And finally, all students were expected to sit still and quietly in their assigned seats for the entire school day. Methodology: Teachers were the most important person, for it was their responsibility to tell the students what they needed
COMPARISON The Quran proclaims God’s unity and that of His creation. In other words, one’s connection to God is not separate from one’s bodily needs; mathematics is not separate from all other disciplines; and a plant is not separate from the soil in which it grows, the Sun and rain that fall upon it and the animals that feed upon it. The purpose of learning is to become more aware of these and other aspects of
Another way to learn
UNFORTUNATELY, DISCRIMINATION CONCERNING WHO CAN BE EDUCATED REMAINS, DESPITE THE REVELATION’S FIRST WORD — READ — AND THE PROPHET’S (SALLA ALLAHU ‘ALAYHI WA SALLAM) STATEMENT THAT EVERYONE, REGARDLESS OF GENDER, COLOR AND ORIGIN, IS OBLIGED TO STUDY. God’s creation so that one can somehow make life better for oneself and one’s family, as well as for one’s community and the environment that enables us to live and thrive. There is no place for claiming the isolated importance of one group over another. Is it really necessary to sit at a desk without moving or talking in order to learn? Outside of the West, learning takes place while students sit comfortably, like this class in Mauritania. Even the teacher is comfortable. But make no mistake — a great deal of learning is going on. Unfortunately, discrimination concerning who can be educated remains, despite the Revelation’s first word — Read — and the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) statement that everyone, regardless of gender, color and origin, is obliged to study. Those without funds were given not only free lessons, but also food and housing. Many involved with the American educational system may object that many of these points aren’t valid — girls receive the same education as boys, that legal racial segregation is long gone (but remains present due to economic realities) and so on. Yes, over time educators have tried to make improvements in many areas. However, when the system
isn’t right to start with, it takes too many patches to make it right. Girls, African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans and immigrants are included in schools — but upon closer look we find that most of the social studies classes are about what white men have done. Stories in reading texts are still mostly about white kids, and putting in an African American or a Native American is not enough to make Muslims a part of American history or culture. World literature classes in the upper grades feature books written mostly by white men and are more than 75 percent about whites of European or North American descent. To this day there is hardly any mention of Islam or Muslimmajority countries. At best, Islam is dealt with in one small chapter in one of the books in the K-12 curriculum, and stories included for the purpose of diversity still do not include Muslims. So, what can we do to align our schools closer to the Quranic model? ih Freda Shamma, EdD, is director of the Cincinnati-based Curriculum Development at FADEL (Foundation for the Advancement and Development of Education and Learning; www.muslimlit.com).
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PHOTO (C) DAR AL SALAM SCHOOL, MAURITANIA. WITH PERMISSION
to know. As discipline was to be maintained at all times, those who fidgeted or left their desks without permission were punished. In addition, students were duty-bound to remember everything the teacher told them and/or had them read out of a textbook to ensure that they all learned the same things at the same point in their schooling. Homework, especially worksheets, helped them accomplish this task. As competition was a very good way of getting them to study hard, spelling bees, science fairs, grades and grade point averages were — and remain – very common. Tangible awards such as candy, toys, certificates, trophies, gold ribbons and grades were also used to motivate them. Americans adopted this system in 1840. European colonizers naturally favored this system as well, for it ensured that only their ideas, culture, and languages were taught. We therefore need to examine the European influences both here and “back home.” Obviously flawed in many ways, Muslim teachers and governments have done their best to improve the schools. But having no divinely inspired guidelines to follow, these improvements have been random, with repeated cycles of making it kinder and more rigorous, academic and appealing to students, or suggestions that it follow the classical Greek model — separating religion from other aspects of life. Clearly, none of these ideas really change the basic model. While religion had no place in the Prussian system, Americans soon decided that it had no place in “academic subjects.” Anything to do with God had to be done in a separate, unimportant class that, although it may be required in a religious school, would not count toward the students’ grade point average. Several Supreme Court cases during the early 1960s prohibited the holding of prayers and other religious practices in public schools.
Reorienting Our Islamic Schools How to right what has gone wrong BY FREDA SHAMMA
erhaps the largest obstacle to developing a curriculum based on Islamic principles is our teachers’ educational background. While we acknowledge the importance of their being educated in their subject matter (leading to a degree in education from a Western college/ university), we neglect the fact that a history teacher without an equivalent education in Islam can only teach from a Western perspective. As a convert, I can personally relate to this problem — the first two curricula I worked on were rejected because they weren’t based on Islam. Only when I collaborated with knowledgeable Muslims and historians did I learn that developing such
a curriculum requires that one know what Islam teaches about teaching and learning. As Dr. AbdulHamid AbuSulayman writes in his “The Qur’anic Worldview: A Springboard for Cultural Reform” (Herndon, Va.: IIIT, 2011), p. 30): “The Qur’anic (or Islamic) worldview is an ethical, monotheistic, purposeful, positive perspective on the world and those in it which reflects the healthy, well-balanced human nature that God created within us. It follows of necessity, then, that it is a scientific, law-governed perspective that supports responsible stewardship of the earth and its riches.” Notice that it doesn’t say that one group or nation is intrinsically better than another
by birth alone or that all subjects should be studied according to human logic and investigation as the public school curriculum does. Rather, we need to focus our efforts on God’s unity and humanity’s role as the steward of creation, meaning ourselves, humanity, all creatures and the environment. We need to see all of creation as being a unified whole and understand how all of its elements are interconnected. The most important reason for changing our curriculum is to align it with what God wants for us. Another reason is that children need to be taught according to their own cultural/religious backgrounds. For example, a reading textbook that has no main characters or stories based on its young readers’ identity will have a negative impact on how quickly they master this skill and their feelings of self-worth. Muslim children too often drop Islam and its values as they try to assimilate into the white Eurocentric superiority they are being taught.
Table 1. A comparison between the two systems SUBJECT
History: This includes geography and economics, which are crucial to understanding human activity.
• 9-10 years of Western, especially American, history • Minimal geography or economics • Judge everything according to Western history and ideas.
• Global history, chronological order beginning with China, the Muslim world, Europe and the US when they were most relevant to the world • Discuss strengths, weaknesses and values.
• Western explorers were courageous men who • The European approach — “There is no trade discovered the rest of the world and brought without war” — led to invasion, conquest and killing Western benefits to all. • Muslims attacked defensively and improved their new subjects’ life when following Islam. They were wrong when they acted otherwise.
English: Reading Material
• All Eurocentric heroes are white • Darker- • The main characters of Islamic-based books colored, non-English speakers have less ability, are multi-cultured and multi-hued • What God less values and less everything. commands influences their laws, values and so on.
• Important to read Shakespeare and other white English authors. Other peoples are usually represented by fairy tales • Reading texts use popular American storybooks to teach reading. Mostly white characters • Independence from family and societal norms • From childhood onward, one’s best friend should be of the opposite gender, leading to romance.
• God didn’t create the world or the “laws of nature” • God created the world and everything in it to be • Depends on human logic and Mother Nature. mutually beneficial.
• Must know the parts of a plant and their role in • Learn from studying God’s world how ants eat the plant’s life. old plants to provide fertile ground for new plants, which provide food for animals and humans.
• Facts and figures are often seen as boring and • Enables people to further explore God’s creation. unnecessary.
SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO GO FORWARD • Begin with an Islamic worldview. Study what Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said and did in terms of education, what the early scholars wrote
about it and the educational background of those scholars who created such a brilliant knowledge-based civilization. • The main principle defining God’s creation is its overall unity and comprehensive interconnection.
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• Important to read some English/American authors. • Also important to read literature, poetry and essays by Muslims of different hues and cultures, and to read Chinese authors when studying China, etc. • Society is based on the family • After infancy, boys usually play with boys and girls with girls. No extramarital sex.
• Humanity’s role is to worship God by following His guidance and serving as the stewards of His creation. • Identify aspects of our current system that help and hinder our ability to do what God commands.
• Make a general outline can teach this approach to our of which practices need to be teachers. For example, Treasury improved and/or eliminated of Muslim Literature: The Golden (e.g., competition instead of Age 750-1250 CE , Freda Shamma, cooperation). (Beltsville, Md.: amana publica• Consider the school’s curtions, 2011) contains many genres; rent makeup. If many parents among them appropriate selecwant to continue with the Western tions for studying the literature system, what should be the first of that time, world history around steps to remake it? the year 1000, religious selections • Combine subjects: history related to the study of Islam and AN ISLAMIC SCHOOL SHOULD SEEK and English as one integrated class, selections that show the myriad TO EDUCATE BOTH ITS TEACHERS along with feed ins from Islamic methods that scholars employed in their studies. studies (e.g., evaluate historical AND ITS STUDENTS’ PARENTS IN A leaders in terms of their adherence • Develop media to support BETTER WAY — A WAY BASED ON to Islamic principles). For English, what we’re teaching. Najiyah ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES — SO THAT assign books of historical fiction or Dianna Maxfield “Sofia’s Journal,” material written by Muslims who a novel about a modern Muslim BOTH GROUPS WILL SUPPORT lived at that time and then grade girl who ends up in Kansas during WHAT THE NEW CURRICULUM IS the students’ writing skills based that state’s 1860 debates on whether TRYING TO DO. upon the ensuing book reports. to enter the Union as a free- or Use stories and books that show slave-state, is an excellent example. children carrying out their responUnity Productions Foundation has sibilities, such as helping their siblings and tools as often as possible to emphasize their produced several documentaries on variothers, asking their parents for guidance, ongoing importance. ous issues that we should be discussing in and respecting the environment. • Parents, being their children’s first and our schools. What we have is excellent, but • Design math classes to impart the nec- most important teachers, must be involved in we need authors and others to focus on the essary life skills and tools for studying the changing the curriculum. An Islamic school schools’ needs while being creative. An Islamically based integrated curricenvironment, like statistics. If geometry is should seek to educate both its teachers and still useful and relevant, include it as well, its students’ parents in a better way — a way ulum will provide our children with the based on Islamic principles — so that both means to a good life in this world and the showing its relevance. • Combine all types of science (e.g., phys- groups will support what the new curricu- next. They will be proud to be Muslims who ical and biological) to show the interconnect- lum is trying to do. have an important role to play in this life, • Develop a curriculum and books that and look forward to the next. ih edness of the universe. Use mathematical
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 33
ISLAMIC CENTER LEADERS SHOULD HIRE OR RECRUIT VOLUNTEERS OR PROFESSIONAL MUSLIM COUNSELORS TO WORK WITH THOSE OF OUR CHILDREN WHO ARE STRUGGLING WITH THEIR IDENTITY OR BEING BULLIED.
Supporting Muslim Children in Public Schools Muslim students have rights, but parents have to work with schools and education officials to assert them BY PATRICIA HANSON, SEEMA IMAM AND NOOR SAADEH
hile many Muslim American families send their children to private Islamic schools, the vast majority of PreK-5 through Grade 12 Muslim students attend public schools, where they face unique and varied challenges. Thus, parents and other potential
advocates should have a basic understanding of their schoolaged children’s rights. We suggest the following three-pronged strategy: Be your child’s strongest advocate, support local Muslim families with school-aged children and work together to educate local public school staff.
Be Your Child’s Strongest Advocate Religious Rights. Muslim students have the right to obtain accommodations for prayer, fasting and Islamic attire. Prayer: The U.S. government has recognized that public school students have the right to pray at school. The 1962 Supreme Court ruling (Engel v. Vitale) only prohibits school-led or school-sponsored prayer. If your child prays, you have the right to ask for a clean, secure area in which he or she can do so. Although public school employees may not lead or participate in these prayers, children can pray individually or organize themselves into a group.
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Fasting: If your child fasts during Ramadan, accommodations regarding gym class and lunch may be sought. Attire: Muslim children are entitled to accommodations in respect to attire, including allowances for headscarf/hijab or modest clothing in gym or swimming classes. Action Steps. When requesting a specific religious accommodation, such as being excused for a religious holiday, do so in writing whenever possible, for this requires the school to provide it (see Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/ statutes/titlevii.cfm).
Transportation: As these rules differ, many school districts offer several options depending upon the students’ age and location with respect to the school they attend. Contact your school about available transportation options. Action Steps. Find out from your child’s school if he or she qualifies for free or reduced-expense meals and, if they do, request the appropriate application. If you need the form in a language other than English, ask the school for help in obtaining it. Meals: Navigating school lunches can be rather challenging because public schools are not required to accommodate religious preferences in this regard. Action Steps. Work with the local school district to encourage an understanding of the Muslim diet and advocate that schools mark non-halal items on school menus. The website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the National School Lunch Program (https://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/national-school-lunch-programnslp), provides resources and information. Additional Educational Services: The law requires schools to provide additional services, such as English as a Second Language classes for non-native speakers and Special Education classes for children with disabilities. Action Steps. If you have concerns about your child’s learning abilities, request that he or she be tested. If you suspect that your child has a disability, work with the doctor and school staff. Make them aware of your concern in writing. Bullying, Other Forms of Discrimination or Islamophobia: Establish and keep an open line of communication with your children. As not every child is enthusiastic about school, parents must learn how recognize the warning signs that something is wrong at school. Action Steps. If you believe there is trouble, talk with your child
and his or her teacher. If the teacher is the source of the problem, speak with the principal or a school board member. Discipline Issue: If your child is accused of acting out in a way that violates the school’s disciplinary policies, take immediate action to determine what happened. Every parent and child should have a clear understanding of what is and is not viewed as acceptable behavior at the beginning of the school year. Action Steps. Request a copy of the school’s disciplinary rules and discuss them with your child. The 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act gives parents the right to view their child’s education records. If he or she faces suspension or expulsion, consider bringing a community advocate to the meeting, especially if you do not have a firm understanding of what is happening or what needs to be done. Get Involved: Participating in school community events, committees, the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and so on improves your child’s sense of belonging and helps you be a better advocate. Action Steps. Attend all parent information nights, conferences and other school events. Get to know your school board members during its Board of Education meetings. Vote for those who care about issues that are important to the school’s success and perhaps consider running for a seat on the school board yourself. Stay aware of dances and other extracurricular social events. If you are unable to advocate effectively, reach out to your local Muslim community. Be Your Child’s Best Advocate: No one loves or cares for your child as much as you do. While we would like to think that schools will provide their services lovingly and indiscriminately, there is no substitute for concerned and active parents. Action Steps. Become familiar with your state’s Department of Public Instruction website, as well as with the U.S. Department of Education website and resources, which can help guide your advocacy.
Support Local Muslim Families with School-Aged Children Action Steps. Local mosques and Islamic centers, organizations and volunteers should work with parents to establish ways to reach out to and support needy families with school-aged children. Our community leaders need to plan how they can help our children develop a strong Muslim identity. Basic assistance for struggling families includes providing help with enrollment, getting school supplies and liaising with school administration, teachers and school boards. Mosque organizations can provide opportunities for students
to meet and discuss their experiences in a safe and supportive environment. Islamic center leaders should hire or recruit volunteers or professional Muslim counselors to work with those of our children who are struggling with their identity or being bullied. Our community’s leaders need to speak out against Islamophobia so that disadvantaged students and families will feel more confident about themselves and their communities. And, local mosque leaders should create form letters for families who require help in asserting their children’s need for religious accommodations.
Work Together to Educate Local Public School Staff Action Steps. Parents and community advocates and leaders should work with their public school leaders to increase the school staff’s understanding of their children’s needs, basic beliefs and faith-related practices. Such an outreach will help the staff better understand why various accommodations are being requested; learn about these students’ diversity; realize how school structures can either support or perhaps unwittingly discriminate against them; and strive to make our children feel valued and cared for so that that they will feel safe, welcome and understood. Note: This article is a collaborative effort by Dr. Patricia Hanson, Dr. Seema Imam and Noor Saadeh, three American educators who have served the Muslim community for well over 30 years in the areas of curriculum
development, English Language teaching, school leadership and teacher education. ih Seema Imam, Ed.D., professor and co-chair, National College of Education.
Skilled parents or community leaders should develop programs or find ways to inform public schools about these issues. The Islamic Network Group (https://ing.org) trains individuals, parents and community leaders how to inform mainstream America about Islam and our community’s unique needs. In some cities, we can provide certified speakers to address your child’s classroom or community event as well as arrange workshops. However, please realize that you and any other layperson can learn how to address difficult questions and correct misconceptions. Noor Saadeh is co-owner of Noorart, a leading pioneer in Islamic multimedia and curriculum distribution that has served Muslim families and Islamic Schools for over 20 years. Noor's audio products for children are popular throughout the Muslim world.
Patricia Hanson earned her Ph.D. in urban education from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. She is interested in culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and has authored several articles on best practices.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 35
Faith Literacy in Islamic Schools Understanding other religions will help Muslim American youth succeed both in their Christian-majority country and in this multireligious world
BY SUFIA AZMAT
eligion plays a major role in today’s global community, for it forms much of the basis for our thoughts and actions. As much as some people would like to believe, it is a NOT a private matter and therefore separate from the “public” arena of politics and economics. Therefore, educators are obliged to provide their students with the background and awareness of the forces that determine decisions and policies throughout the world, for doing so will help diminish intolerance and prejudice and thereby increase empathy and understanding for others. Students in an Islamic school are often isolated from forming social relationships with their non-Muslim peers. Without a robust faith literacy program and an environment in which they can learn how to recognize and value personal religious identity, their respect for diversity, peaceful coexistence and cooperative endeavors are endangered. Modern societies consist of multicultural workplaces and public spheres that require informed, critical and engaged citizens. In 2014, the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS; https://www.socialstudies. org) reaffirmed its position that studying
religions should be an essential part of the social studies curriculum and emphasized that knowledge about them is not only a “characteristic of an educated person but is necessary for effective and engaged citizenship in an interconnected and diverse nation and world.” In fact, in the decision dealing with prayer in public schools, Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark wrote for the Court: “[I]t might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religions…” (Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 ). This judgment extended the First Amendment’s Establishment [of religion] Clause to prohibit readings from the Bible in public schools, even if individual students were allowed to “opt out.” Learning about religion is critically important for responsible citizenship in a diverse nation. In fact, the Qur’an proclaims: “O people! We have created you all out of a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another” (49:13); “Unto every one of you we have given a different law and a way of life. If God had so willed, He could have made you all one single community” (5:48) and “Cooperate in matters of righteousness and piety” (5:2). Parents and educators who oppose or are uncomfortable with teaching K-12 students
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about other religions or even allowing them to interact with non-Muslims argue that interfaith meetings increase the chance of them developing a preference for another religion. However, based on a 2017 PEW survey, 25 percent of Muslim Americans who were raised but no longer identify as Muslim said that the main reason they left Islam was due to “issues with religion in general,” while 16 percent cited having a “preference for other religion(s)” (Besheer Mohamed and Elizabeth Podrebarac Sciupac, “The share of Americans who leave Islam is offset by those who become Muslim,” Pew Research Center, 2018). This argument also ignores the fact that faith literacy is only one component of interfaith dialogue. Opponents ask what is spiritually beneficial in such conversations and if it will help strengthen a young Muslim student’s belief. But the purpose of interfaith activities is not necessarily to strengthen one’s own faith, although that is a probable and positive outcome. Rather, its purpose is for Muslims to engage meaningfully with others, to develop compassion and mutual respect for them and to come to a common ground: “O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God, that we associate no partner with Him, and that we should not appoint from among ourselves lords and patrons other than God” (3:64). Opponents propose that interfaith dialogue promotes skepticism about one’s religion by placing oneself in situations that challenge and question one’s faith, such as talking with others as opposed to spending time cultivating one’s faith in the company of those who affirm, nurture and solidify one’s beliefs. Parents will argue that they enrolled their children in an Islamic school to preserve their Islam. Conversely, a survey of Islamic school students and alumni revealed something rather remarkable: Respondents indicated that such interaction helped them talk about religion with non-Muslims and strengthened their iman (Sufia Azmat, “Interfaith Dialogue.” Questionnaire. Dec. 2016). In the face of increasing Islamophobia, Muslim youth must be able to answer questions about their beliefs and have a sound understanding of other faiths. After all, the existence of different religions is part of God’s will. Dozens of verses speak to this diversity and validate the stature of many prophets as God’s messengers: “Surely We have sent revelation to you, [just] as We sent
revelation to Noah and the Prophets after him. And We sent revelation to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and his children, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron and Solomon. We gave David a Book” (4:163). Muslims are required to believe in all of the Abrahamic prophets and the books they brought and to make no distinction between the former as far as their belief in them is concerned. This message creates a universal
freely, for knowledge of this vast historical record will show them how to interact with non-Muslims in respectful and civil ways. Muslim youth without a solid foundation in Islam may find interfaith discussions detrimental to their faith. As the primary purpose of such discussions is to learn about other faiths, interfaith activities and dialogue must be carefully selected and guided. Teachers must set boundaries, require respectful dia-
IN THE FACE OF INCREASING ISLAMOPHOBIA, MUSLIM YOUTH MUST BE ABLE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT THEIR BELIEFS AND HAVE A SOUND UNDERSTANDING OF OTHER FAITHS. AFTER ALL, THE EXISTENCE OF DIFFERENT RELIGIONS IS PART OF GOD’S WILL. unity of all faiths and lays the foundation of interfaith harmony. “Do not dispute with the People of the Book, except with means [that are] better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury). Rather say: ‘We believe in the revelation that has come down to us and in that which came down to you. Our God and your God is one, and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)’” (29:46). We would also do well to remember that our Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught us how to deal with these differences in a civil manner. How can we work and live together if we don’t understand each other? The information we gain and the observations we make concerning people’s emotional attachments to various aspects of their religion during interfaith programs can help us relate to them in our everyday life. Interfaith activities are more beneficial when they are properly practiced. Determining what type of activity to teach/conduct and how to teach/conduct it should be based on the students’ age level. Therefore, goals should be clearly defined. Students should be taught how religion has a strong basis in building relationships and fostering bonds with those who do not share their beliefs. Islamic schools should impart knowledge of how our pious predecessors interacted in the best of ways with non-Muslims, which eventually led some of them to embrace Islam. History is replete with such examples. Our youth should also be taught how Islamic jurisprudence protects the rights of non-Muslims in Muslim societies and allows them to practice and worship
logue among students to prevent any denigration of non-Muslim students and other religions and create a safe place where participants can ask honest questions. School leaders need to ensure the presence of an authentic Islamic studies program as well as of qualified teachers who are prepared to ensure that students have a solid background in Islam. In addition, they should both promote the study of other religions and provide opportunities for students to interact with their non-Muslim peers on such common social interests as protecting the environment, serving the community and promoting good health and exercise, thereby living out their own beliefs through action and character. An academic study of religion, or faith literacy, is a far cry from the indoctrination feared by those who oppose the study of religion in K-12 schools. This is a call for Islamic school leaders to review and assess the programs they have in place for the study of religions and for interfaith activities, not just for the study of Islam. Our future generations must be equipped with the tools they need to be effective and engaged citizens in an interconnected world. ih Sufia Azmat, a certified teacher, is executive director of the Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA; https://www.cisnausa.org), a student at Bayan Islamic Graduate School and a speaker at the Parliament of the World’s Religions 2018 in Toronto, Canada. [Ed. Note: The author includes contributions from Mubeen Husain, who has taught in various East Coast Islamic schools and is currently teaching social studies for middle grades at Al Iman School in Raleigh, N.C.]
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IMAM POSITION AT THE ISLAMIC CENTER OF ROCHESTER (NY) Minimum Required Qualifications: A degree in Islamic Studies or related field from an accredited educational institution. Fluency in both English and Arabic Adequate knowledge of Quran, Sunnah and Fiqh Hafiz or have memorized a good portion of the Quran. Ability to interact with and relate to youth. Effective speaking ability and dynamic leadership. Must be a U.S. Citizen or a Permanent Resident Remuneration commensurate with qualifications and experience. Duties and Responsibilities: Lead the Daily, Ju’ma, Janaza and Eid prayers. Conduct matrimonial and funeral services Offer family and youth counseling and guidance. Provide Qur’an and Hadith, Seerah and Fiqh lessons. Advise and teach at the Islamic schools. Participate in interfaith activities. Develop and implement educational and extracurricular programs for our youth. Provide direction to the Board of Directors on religious matters, community issues, and activities. Maintain regular and convenient office hours. Welcoming to all Muslims of different backgrounds, cultures & schools of thoughts. Additional information can be found at www.theicr.org If interested, please send résumé to firstname.lastname@example.org
Countering Religious-Based Bullying Insights on research and evidence-based best practices from the National Interfaith Anti-Bullying Summit BY NADIA ANSARY had impacted their mental wellbeing. Approximately 80 participants attended the plenary and small-group breakout sessions on this phenomenon’s most pressing issues. The presentations yielded valuable insights for educators, parents and students, as well as for the broader community. Accordingly, a series of concise anti-bullying recommendations garnered from the proceedings and co-authored with Dr. Rukhsana Chaudhry, director of Mental Health Programming at AMHP, are presented below, separated according to the individual’s role.
n our current sociopolitical climate, it has become commonplace to hear derogatory statements made in public spaces about Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Jews. News outlets and the cyberworld abound with accounts of harassment, intimidation and bullying of religious minorities in various everyday contexts. Such incidents are particularly troubling when they are directed against religious-minority youth in school settings. In a study conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU; https://www.ispu. org) on a nationally representative sample of American families, 42 percent of Muslims, 23 percent of Jews and 6 percent of Catholics reported that at least one of their children had been bullied in the past year because of their religion. Importantly, in 25 percent of the cases involving Muslim students, a teacher or a school administrator perpetrated the bullying (published Sept. 19, 2018). Other research supports the high prevalence rate of peer victimization among Muslim youth. A CAIR report found that 50 percent of their sample of California Muslims aged 11-18 reported being called mean/
insulting/derogatory names due to their religion. Given the prevalent rates and associated negative mental health outcomes, this must be considered a public health issue in need of prevention and intervention attention. Recognizing the severity of this issue, the American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP; www.amhp.us) and a group of interfaith partners that included Sikh Kid 2 Kid (http://sikhkid2kid.com) and Islamic Networks Group (ING; https:// ing.org) organized the first-ever National Interfaith Anti-Bullying Summit. Held in the nation’s capital on Dec. 2-3, 2017, it was entitled “Religious-Based Bullying: Insights on Research and Evidence-Based Best Practices from the National Interfaith Anti-Bullying Summit 5.” ISPU, which provided background research to participants prior to and during the event, captured its discussions through this brief. The summit gathered a multitude of experts on the issue, including advocates, researchers, teachers, parents, physicians, mental health practitioners and, most importantly, the targets of bullying, to share their stories and how the abuse
38 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019
• Implement prevention strategies that address a whole-school approach, a positive school climate and students’ social-emotional character development (SECD), including promoting upstanders; emphasize inclusion; identify clearly those protected groups in the school’s harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) policy; and provide teacher and staff training on how to prevent bullying, cultural sensitivity and support for minority students (e.g., faculty sponsorship for clubs or student groups and recognition of all religious holidays), religious literacy and addressing bias and inaccuracies in the curriculum. • Train and equip teachers to develop the necessary skills for implementing an anti-bullying program. • Manage bullying effectively every time it is reported. This entails complying with the school’s anti-bullying policy, including investigation and remedies that should be put in place to address the target’s safety if the criteria for bullying have been met. Beyond this, schools must focus on schoollevel cultural competency to address this issue as part of the assessment process. • Make sure to address the target and reassure him/her that he/she is wanted and should feel safe within the school. Counseling may also be needed, depending on the child’s well-being as well as the severity and persistence of the bullying.
• Make sure to address the child who bullies to understand what is compelling him/her to act aggressively and to see if counseling may be warranted. • Provide educators with the resources needed for professional development, addressing both cultural competency training and promoting religious literacy. Identity and self-exploration-based practices for teachers in which their own identity and cultural backgrounds are explored with colleagues are critical. This correlates to the idea that empathy and social-emotional learning occurs throughout the system and not just at the student level. • Incorporate anti-bullying initiatives into school-based learning of life skills. Ensuring a student’s ability to participate and thrive within the school community must include a focus on such work, with specific attention paid to religious-based bullying and challenging stereotypes. • Have teachers incentivize students to challenge biases (e.g., validation from adults regarding the reasonable risks and benefits to doing so). • Have K-12 teachers ask questions on their introductory surveys at the start of the school year about children’s likes and needs, as well as a faith celebration question. This allows parents to connect to the school culture and can — or should — lead them to collaborate or speak with students about their religious holidays. • Promote the inclusion of individuals with disabilities (e.g., providing a safe quiet space for the child to retreat to when distressed) by embracing each person’s uniqueness and contribution to the school community. Teachers play a critical role in managing perceptions of such individuals, including avoiding the use of labels (i.e., a “child with a disability” as opposed to a “disabled child”), working with their classes to manage misperceptions and stereotypes and, finally, addressing derogatory language immediately.
PARENTS AND CYBERSPACE • Since targets often feel shame about being victimized and therefore hesitate to discuss such instances, it is important to develop strong parent-child bonds characterized by honest dialogue. Furthermore, as adolescents explore facets of their identity that include their culture or religion or experiment with their appearance, they may be more vulnerable to being bullied. As such,
parents should attempt to keep the lines of communication open. • Parents also need to foster a relationship with the school and teachers, learn about the anti-bullying policy and be active in community organizations. • When bullying happens, parents are encouraged to meet with the school and then send a follow-up email documenting what was discussed in order to create a record that will enhance school accountability.
COMMUNITY MEMBERS AND ORGANIZATIONS • Community engagement is critical for young religious minorities and is not just for their parent’s generation. Islamic Networks Group and Sikh Kid 2 Kid have youth programs that train and certify young people to conduct workshops on Islam and Sikhism, respectively. • Organizations that bridge relationships among Muslim Arab, and South
UPSTANDERS” ARE PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT WHEN IT COMES TO ADDRESSING RELIGIOUS-BASED BULLYING, FOR THE SUMMIT’S PARTICIPANTS GENERALLY CONCLUDED THAT THOSE WHO OBSERVE MISPERCEPTIONS OR MISINFORMATION ABOUT A PARTICULAR RELIGIOUS BACKGROUND WITHOUT INTERVENING MAY ACTUALLY BELIEVE SUCH STATEMENTS ARE ACCURATE. • Given that parents are the gatekeepers, parental monitoring must be present (via technology) in the students’ daily lives. • Parents must be aware of their district’s laws and policies governing cyberbullying.
STUDENTS • Promote being an “upstander” and respond to bullying when it occurs. Instead of standing by and watching, which only promotes such behavior, upstanders either speak up or go find an adult who can stop it. After the incident, upstanders can provide support designed to help the bullied child feel safe again. “Upstanders” are particularly important when it comes to addressing religious-based bullying, for the summit’s participants generally concluded that those who observe misperceptions or misinformation about a particular religious background without intervening may actually believe such statements are accurate. • Report any harassment, intimidation or bullying to an adult. This does not mean that you are a “snitch.” • Ask teachers and/or guidance staff to place an anonymous submission box in a non-obvious place to report bullying in order to avoid any concern over retaliation.
Asian populations and the communities in which they live, such as the Brooklynbased Council of People’s Organization (COPO; https://copo.org), are important grassroots groups. • Social media companies, corporations, community-based organizations and other organizations that focus on youth must incorporate bias- and stereotype-challenging practices into their value system as they develop products and programs. Platforms must include language that demonstrates the importance of thinking critically about stereotypes in a social-emotional-based learning environment.
PRACTITIONERS • Practitioners should note that ongoing bullying due to the target’s faith or religion may be experienced as a form of abuse and has long-term mental health outcomes. In connection to mental health, social factors such as loneliness and social isolation at home and in the community should be explored for both the target and the bully. The full report is available at https://www. ispu.org. ih Nadia Ansary, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology at Rider University and a specialist in bullying in schools.
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Sherman Jackson (left) and Ustadh Ubaydallah Evans
Think, Push Back, Reject The American Learning Institute for Muslims grounds students in Islam while dealing with the contemporary realities of being American BY NORA ZAKI
dentity politics is nothing new. And, according to one of the scholars during the summer 2018 American Learning Institute for Muslims’ (ALIM; https://www.alimprogram.org) three-week program, it should be engaged with full force and understood. ALIM was started in 1998 by students and scholars who realized that for Muslim Americans to thrive in their unique communities and “American” culture, as opposed to only the cultures that came with first-generation immigrants, a scholastic program was necessary — one that would share Islam’s religious sciences while addressing on-theground living and being an American. Islam is about living fully and righteously, and ALIM’s intention is to educate Muslims about their faith while encouraging and guiding our communities to engage with American society and hold fast to our timeless principles when dealing with the challenges of the modern world. The July 2018 ALIM program was held at Benedictine University, a Catholic university located in the Chicago suburb of Lisle. In addition to covering the Quran, hadith and the seerah, students discussed sexuality, gender politics, feminism, domestic violence, the history of slavery in the Americas, bigotry and racism with such visiting scholars as Imam Zaid Shakir, and
former ISNA presidents, Dr. Ingrid Mattson and Imam Mohamed Hagmagid. Nothing was off limits. In fact, Drs. Muneer Fareed and Sherman Jackson emphasized that the participants ask all the “taboo” questions
TO CELEBRATE THE ORGANIZATION’S 20TH ANNIVERSARY, ALIM SCHOLARS MUNEER FAREED, SHERMAN JACKSON AND USTADH UBAYDALLAH EVANS ARE VISITING MAJOR U.S. CITIES FROM OCTOBER 2018 TO APRIL 2019 TO ADDRESS MAJOR ISSUES FACING THE U.S. FROM A PRINCIPLED, MUSLIM AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE.
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because the ALIM program provided a safe environment in which they could be discussed, critiqued, debated and, ultimately, given an intellectual grounding. During this summer’s program, students visited Chicago’s Islamic institutions, such as the Turkish American Cultural Alliance (http://www.tacaonline.org), the Ta’leef Collective (https://taleefcollective. org), the American Islamic College (www. aicusa.edu), the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN; https://www.imancentral.org) and Mosque Maryam (https:// www.facebook.com/pages/MosqueMaryam/111137778938608), one of the earliest Nation of Islam temples founded by the late Elijah Muhammad. Jose Acevedo, operations executive, said that his vision of ALIM and its success, namely, when ALIM has fulfilled its purpose and therefore is no longer needed, is “imagining a world where young, adult Muslims are firmly grounded in their religion and understand its relevance in its current cultural context.” To celebrate the organization’s 20th anniversary, ALIM scholars Muneer Fareed, Sherman Jackson and Ustadh Ubaydallah Evans are visiting major U.S. cities from October 2018 to April 2019 to address major issues facing the U.S. from a principled, Muslim American perspective. Their
first stop was Charlotte, N.C., where Evans, ALIM’s scholar in residence and executive director, addressed identity politics in the community. During his speech at one mosque, he reminded the 200+ attendees that as Muslims, we need to remember the prophetic hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah: “Islam began strange and will end strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers” (cited in “Sahih Muslim,” hadith no. 145). He talked about how Muslims (1) should participate in this country’s identity politics by injecting their own perspectives, being comfortable with themselves and reminding themselves of their greater human identity as servants of God; (2) should not worry about fitting in, no matter how hard it can be. This is not a call to be aloof from the greater American society, but rather to assert who they are in a beautiful and powerful way; and (3) need to do some internal housekeeping — work on our own issues of racism and colorism in mosques and community centers. Furthermore, Evans used Moses, Yusuf and Pharaoh’s magicians to make character similarities to the Muslims living in the U.S. today. Moses was born to Canaanite immigrants who had moved to Egypt to make better lives for themselves, akin to many Muslims who immigrate to the U.S. Yusuf was wrongly imprisoned in Egypt, a land in which he had no desire to be, but later on was given the opportunity to serve as its treasurer, one of the highest offices in the land. This is akin to the enslaved Africans brought over to the Americas, some of whose descendants achieved high political office after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Finally, the magicians were powerful and privileged individuals who eventually spoke out against Pharaoh and submitted to God. He compared them to white Muslim Americans or others who use what power and privilege they have to support the community. We live in an identity-addicted society. As Muslims, ALIM gives us a breath of fresh (and relevant) air for dealing with such an addiction and helping us to engage with it. Visit www.alimprogram.org/news/ national-tour-celebrating-20-years-of-alim to learn when the speakers will be in a city near you. ih Nora Zaki, who has a Master of Divinity, is a writing fellow for The Tempest, the women’s trailblazing digital media and technology company, and serves as an Arabic-English editor for the publishing company Fons Vitae.
The world we live in is constantly evolving and ISNA is committed to being a positive driver of change. ISNA has long recognized the importance of engaging with other faith communities as a fundamental part of its mission, and therefore, we continuously host and participate in interfaith events, meetings and webinars to educate our friends, partners, officials and activists about Islam. These interreligious initiatives have helped break down barriers of misunderstanding, formed genuine partnerships of faith and ethics, and established a platform to advocate for social justice issues for the common good. We aim to work together to fight Islamophobia and share knowledge about the true teachings and understanding of our religion in all sectors. The gift of education has a ripple effect—it creates change locally, nationally and globally. Ignorance is our enemy, and with your support we can make a difference. Please donate to ISNA today.
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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 41
Practicing Faith Amid Challenges Modern education, even in Muslim countries, has eliminated the divine from educational discourse and pedagogy BY RAZI SHAIKH
PHOTO CREDIT: (C) LEHIGH UNIVERSITY MUSLIM STUDENT LIFE
THE LOSS OF HUMAN ROOTEDNESS, BASED ON THE INVIOLABILITY OF THE SACRED, HAS LEFT HUMANITY ANXIOUS, DEPRESSED AND DESPERATE — SHAYKH WALEAD MOSAAD
haykh Walead Mohammed Mosaad is fulfilling several roles these days — a teacher and researcher of Islamic sciences, the director of Muslim Student Life at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn., as well as an adjunct professor of ethics there. He received his doctorate from the University of Exeter (U.K.) in Arab and Islamic Studies, was also classically trained at al-Azhar University, and earned other degrees from Rutgers University, the Fath Islamic Seminary in Damascus, and the University of Liverpool. In his capacity as a public speaker, he lectures on Muslims as minorities, interfaith understanding, the importance of purification and spirituality in addressing the human condition as well as other topics. In these excerpts from a much longer interview, he talks about the role of Muslim chaplains, the problems faced by reverts, the de-Islamization of the Muslim mind and so on. RS: You’ve earned degrees from both traditional seminaries and secular universities. Given the differences in their approaches, particularly in the theory of knowledge, how should seekers of knowledge orient themselves toward each one? WMM: The Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) encouraged Muslims to seek knowledge, even in faraway lands, so the variances in the theory’s foundations should not deter us. For instance, he is reported to have said: “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim” (“Sunan at-Tirmidhi,” hadith no. 74) and: “One who treads a path in search of knowledge has his path to Paradise made easy by God…” (“Riyadh us-Saleheen,” 245). However, we should be intimately aware of the beliefs upon which a particular knowledge system is based. Ideally, Muslim seekers should acquire a strong foundation in their own knowledge system before studying other ones. Unfortunately, as this is seldom the case, many Muslims are left confused and sometimes begin to doubt their faith when studying under non-Muslim knowledge systems. RS: I want to ask a related question. The Malaysian scholar Syed Muhammad al-Attas (b. 1931) speaks of the “deislamization of the Muslim mind.” Does the present-day method and practice of teaching, namely, neglecting the God-centered universe in favor of a human-centered one, pose a challenge to believers? WMM: Modern education, even in Muslim countries, has eliminated the divine from educational discourse and pedagogy. As a result, religion has been restricted to the private sphere and is rarely mentioned as a valid source of knowledge. Believers, therefore, are faced with actualizing their practice in a spiritually and intellectually hostile environment. Nevertheless, Islam does not need to be intellectually and spiritually dominant in order for it to function or even flourish. Weren’t the early Prophetic communities in Makka, Ethiopia, and Madina surrounded by polytheists and Jews who were opposed to Muslims’ ideals and principles? Education is our most important endeavor to counter this “deislamization,” which begins with establishing the Islamic worldview in society. RS: Imam A-Ghazali (d. 1111) maintained that theology should not be taught en masse and that pursuing it could cause untrained believers to doubt their faith.
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But now anyone with an internet connection can access an abundance of both information and misinformation. Should scholars discourage laypeople from accessing the theological texts or try to teach them step-by-step? WMM: I think al-Ghazali addressed this issue, more or less, by stating that the suitability of teaching theological texts depends upon the time and circumstance. However, the internet has rendered his response almost obsolete. In addition, people can no longer claim to be unaffected by the doubts promoted by professional websites and pundits regarding Islam. Certainly, these traditional books should be taught to those Muslims who have the time, aptitude, and inclination. But a parallel education plan should be pursued for the vast majority — one that addresses the misinformation directly as well as provides an appropriate level of Islamic literacy to counter it. RS: In your experience, what are some of the key issues facing Muslim university students? WMM: Among the myriad of these challenges, the most significant ones are intellectual, spiritual and social isolation. As Western universities promote a worldview that often runs counter to Muslim consciousness, Muslims need to form communities to bolster their sense of Muslim consciousness. This is largely what we are attempting to do at Lehigh via the various social and religious programs that we offer. RS: Reverts are often celebrated. But how well are they treated and integrated into the larger community, which may often be organized along cultural/sectarian lines? WMM: It has almost become a cliché that such people are welcomed and celebrated upon reciting the shahada, but that the community’s enthusiasm tends to wane when it comes to addressing their needs. More often than not they are integrated along cultural lines, which often leads to an identity crisis or alienation when they feel pressured to abandon their indigenous culture. Integrating indigenous cultures with Islamic principles and values took centuries in Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia or Egypt, but has yet to fully materialize in the U.S. and those European countries with sizable Muslim minorities. In the meantime, converts should not be pressured to conform to a particular cultural identity or change their name; rather, they should be left enough space to navigate their own path toward forming a Muslim cultural identity that represents their own culture.
RS: A hadith states that “if anyone learns the first ten verses of Surah al-Kahf by heart, they will be protected from the Dajjal” (“Sahih Muslim,” vol. 4, hadith no. 1767). Here, I want to ask what makes this surah so important and should we understand Dajjal literally or as a wide range of reprehensible actions, institutions and behaviors that have crept into society? WMM: The Prophet emphasized this surah’s importance by urging us to read it every Friday. Scholars have commented that it contains four moral stories: the People of the Cave, the two companions of the gardens, Prophet Musa (‘alayhi as-salam) and al-Khidr, and the story of Dhu’l Qarnayn, each of which provides moral guidelines. As far as the Dajjal is concerned, this entity is a man who will appear at the appointed time by God. However, this will be preceded by “dajjalic” trends and manners in society, as well as minor “dajjals” who function as demagogues and lead humanity astray. RS: You’ve stated that these days “everything is up for criticism,” that there is no such thing as the sacred, which is “unassailable, which is of a high esteem.” Is this decentering and replacement of the sacred by the profane one of the reasons for the fitna we observe? WMM: Most certainly. The loss of human rootedness, based on the inviolability of the sacred, has left humanity anxious, depressed and desperate. As a result, many people engage in ever more odd and harmful behaviors as they search for the unassailable and the sacred. But they are looking in the wrong places, something that underscores our basic human spiritual need for the sacred. RS: In your course on Surah al-Kahf, you said, “What defines us as human beings are not the things we can create, but rather the actualization of those human attributes that reflect God’s attributes.” What are some practical ways to actualize these traits in our lives? WMM: First and foremost is the remembrance of God (dhikr). We can adopt the divine attributes of mercy to reach perfection in our character, while the divine attributes of majesty are for God alone. By actualizing the Prophet’s example, Muslims can find this way to a veritable [true/praiseworthy] character. RS: You’ve spoken of how social media distorts reality: “Once we lose our ability to recognize things, we lose ourselves.” As Muslims, how should we approach social media?
WMM: While maintaining the potential for much good, social media has unfortunately evolved into a platform for likeminded people to band together and vilify those who disagree with them. Rather than bringing people together, studies have consistently shown that the opposite usually occurs and that depression is directly proportional to social media use. My advice would be self-regulation and to use it as sparingly as possible. RS: You’ve emphasized the importance of compassion as a Prophetic virtue that we should strive to emulate. Given that compassion may not be reciprocal or easy on our part, how do we train ourselves in this regard? WMM: The noble character traits, as perfected in the Prophet’s person, were never based upon the principle of reciprocity. Rather, one’s relationship with others is actually a branch of one’s relationship with God, as He is the author of creation and all that it does. And thus we are expected to treat His creation in a way that pleases Him and as He commands, regardless of how others treat us. Ideally, this type of spiritual training requires mentors, guides and teachers, as one can rarely rid oneself of the ego’s impulses without a teacher (murabbi). ih Saad Razi Shaikh, a New Delhi, India-based freelance journalist, writes on citizens’ initiatives and popular culture, with particular focus on India’s Muslim community.
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MUSLIMS IN ACTION
Kevin Shakil (right) interviews nasheed artist Omar Esa
Long Islander Kevin Shakil launches America’s Islamic Radio, the first station of its kind, to amplify the voice of Muslims in the U.S. BY HABEEBA HUSAIN
t was a normal sunny afternoon over seven years ago when Long Island (N.Y.) native Kevin Shakil was on his way home from high school. He was behind the wheel of his BMW X5, when another vehicle ran a red light at 110 miles per hour and slammed into him. The impact nearly killed him, as both he and his car ended up facing the complete opposite direction from the one in which he had been driving. “I had an identification tag of Allah’s name hanging on the windshield, and I lost it about six months before the car accident,” Shakil says. “Firefighters opened the door asking, ‘Are you still alive?’ When I got home from the hospital, I found the Allah identification tag right in the seat.”
What Shakil thought he lost was actually with him the whole time — hiding in the seat of his car — even in this near-death experience that left the firefighters wondering how he could still be breathing. “That opened my eyes — Islam is true. Allah is true,” Shakil says. “I started learning about the religion and fell in love with it.” Although Shakil grew up in a Muslim household with his Pakistani father and Uruguayan mother, after that 2011 crash he looked at his religion in an entirely new way. In fact, he fell so deeply in love with it that today he shares the deen with anyone who will listen through America’s Islamic Radio, which he launched this past summer on Mixlr (http://mixlr.com), an
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online platform that lets users broadcast live audio streams. The idea took hold three years ago while Shakil and his wife Āsia were talking in the car. She expressed her desire for a Muslimspecific radio station that would broadcast the recitations of well-known Quran reciters, nasheeds and talk shows on topics relevant to Muslim Americans. A revert from Catholicism, she thought such a station would be a cool alternative to the many music stations already dominating the airwaves. Shakil shrugged off the idea, thinking it wasn’t feasible for their community. He relates that “I spoke to a lot of influential Muslim people, and they were just like, ‘No, it’s a waste of time. Don’t even think about it.’”
But in July 2018 he bumped into one of his future partners, Luis Mendez, a prominent figure in the Hispanic community whose web-based radio station runs out of Mineola, N.Y. He encouraged Shakil that starting a Muslim-centered one was worth a shot. The following month, with help from Mendez and another friend Jorge Guzman Jr. (two non-Muslims who, interestingly enough, believed in this idea more than many Muslims, as Shakil points out),
he and his team are testing the waters and receiving feedback every day. So far, so good. “Anytime I tell anybody about America’s Islamic Radio, you see the pride in their eyes. They’re just like, ‘Whoa! We have a radio station now? That’s so cool. How can I help? How can I be a part of it?’” he tells me. Getting involved is simple. First, download the app from http://mixlr.com, search “America” to access the station and then share and encourage others to do the same.
SHAKIL SHRUGGED OFF THE IDEA, THINKING IT WASN’T FEASIBLE FOR THEIR COMMUNITY. HE RELATES THAT “I SPOKE TO A LOT OF INFLUENTIAL MUSLIM PEOPLE, AND THEY WERE JUST LIKE, ‘NO, IT’S A WASTE OF TIME. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.’”
America’s Islamic Radio went live with an audio stream of the Quran. “The day that I actually launched on August 18, 2018, when I hit the play button for the Quran to start playing, I just broke down in tears,” Shakil says. “Let’s say this radio station doesn’t kick off at all, let’s say it all fails … at least the Quran is playing. Those are the words of Allah.” He hopes his station will serve as a sadaqah jariyah (ongoing charity) for him after he passes, and that the Quran will continue to play on this Mixlr app and eventually on other platforms as the audience grows. In addition to the recitations, Shakil and his team are working on talk shows that address topics relevant to the community for both Muslim and non-Muslim listeners. These include Quranic exegesis explained by learned local scholars, mental health, current events on both the local and global levels, interviews with prominent community figures and much more. “I want to give Muslims a voice in today’s society and tell non-Muslims, ‘Hey, we are here. We are Americans as well. We are just like you,’” Shakil says. He envisages his station as providing a voice for Muslim Americans on a totally new platform and educating listeners about Islam and Muslim Americans. Right now,
The question must be asked, however, why radio? In a world where, sadly, traditional media is dying out, why choose this method to broadcast such a station? Because, Shakil answers, “nobody has done it before.” While that may be true, he also plans to set up cameras in his Mineola recording studio and broadcast the radio talk shows live on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram so that listeners can enjoy them at their convenience. In a world of Netflix, accessible content 24/7 and personal instant gratification, one would be foolish to ignore this necessary route. America’s Islamic Radio already has some shows that loyal listeners can catch up with, among them sit-down interviews with prominent public figures like State Senator José Peralta (D-N.Y.) and the U.K. nasheed artist Omar Esa. As the station is in its early stages at the time of writing, exact programming schedules are still being finalized. Prerecorded shows are slowly being churned out so that listeners can get a taste of what America’s Islamic Radio is all about, and, on a larger scale, what Muslim Americans are all about. “We have a voice. We’re here. We’re the fastest growing religion in the world,” Shakil states. “It’s okay to be an American, and it’s okay to be Muslim. They go hand in hand.”
These two identities, contrary to the current rhetoric spewed out by many existing media outlets and public officials, are not mutually exclusive, and it’s how over 3 million people across the U.S. — including Shakil — identify. Who would have thought that a neardeath car crash back in 2011 would result in such a love for Islam and a desire to share it with others? This event in Shakil’s teenage years is a perfect example of something good coming out of an otherwise outwardly terrible event. As the hadith mentions, “How wonderful is the case of a believer? There is good for him [and her] in everything” (“Riyad as-Salihin,” The Book of Miscellany, book 1, hadith no. 27). And what can be a better result than conviction in one’s faith and in one’s Lord? Simple —taking that conviction and turning it into something that will benefit the entire community. That’s exactly what America’s Islamic Radio is. ih Habeeba Husain, a freelance journalist based in New York/ New Jersey, contributes to SLAM Magazine, blogs for WhyIslam and is a social media manager for WuduGear. Her work has also appeared on Narrative.ly and MuslimGirl.com, among other online and print publications.
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MUSLIMS IN ACTION
Young Minds and Hearts Working Together Helping Muslim Sudanese youth and their families fit into the American mainstream BY THE ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
man Gariballa has spent the last 20 years working with the SudaneseAmerican community, a lifelong endeavor that began with her serving as a founder, board member and later president of metropolitan Washington’s Sudanese American Community Development Organization (SACDO). During these years she has been actively involved in its activities, all of which are designed to provide social and cultural activities, academic and vocational training, community awareness classes, sports and other recreational activities to over 10,000 individuals Along the way, she began teaching SACDO’s Saturday School and helping youth and their families fit into the American
mainstream. Armed with the experiences and skills gained at SACDO, a graduate certificate in Imam and Muslim community leadership from Hartford Seminary, along with relevant supplemental course work, she founded the Youth Foundation for Networking & Fellowship (YFFNF; www. yffnf.com) in 2009 to help “diverse youths to reach their full potential and achieve the best quality of life possible.” This group of first-generation Americans from Sudan, ranging from elementary school to university students, meets every Sunday afternoon to discuss what’s on their minds, develop their leadership skills, increase their self-confidence and plan activities and events that draw them closer together and give
back to the community. But perhaps more importantly, it lets them meet youth just like themselves who come from the same background and have assimilated while retaining ethnic and religious identities. In other words, “You’re not alone. We’re here for you.” Several weeks ago, they met with Islamic Horizons staff to let us know of their opinions on Islamic schools — a topic that has long been close to ISNA’s heart — and being Black in American society. Currently, although none of them attend a full-time Islamic school, some had done so and then transferred to a public school. Several agreed that the Arabic-language teachers were serious about getting them to recite the Quran properly, but not so much with explaining what the verses meant. Here, Iman chimed in that “parents need to understand that it’s not just learning how to recite the Quran, but how to understand it so that they can apply it to their lives.” One of the university students noted that trying to understand Quranic Arabic was like trying to understand Shakespearean English, because the students only understood dialect. As regards bullying, most of the participants had never experienced it, because “only the obviously Middle Eastern students and the hijabis faced this problem.” Iman Gariballa and YFFNF group members selecting a Quranic passage to discuss
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They were just accepted as Americans. president for all Americans,” which none of the earlier presidents had Interestingly, one said that her friends were surprised to learn that she is done. “The Whites have idealized him,” Muslim — as if being Black, whether stated another. Some of the students African or American, was somehow follow what’s going on in the country, but wonder how anyone is ever going incompatible with being Muslim. The high school and university to change anything. Only one or two students discussed the second issue: thought that they might get involved being Black in American society. When in politics. But overall, they seemed to think that the future would be okay. asked if such icons as Malcolm X and As the meeting broke up, one stuMuhammad Ali are still relevant to their generation, the answer was a dent left us with a parting thought about Islamic schools: They are “all resounding “Yes!” One stated that “MLK, Malcolm X taught by people who didn’t grow up and Muhammad Ali are very much still here, and thus aren’t familiar with relevant! It was stated that Malcolm X what’s going on. It’s so easy just to reel actually influenced the Black Panther off everything that is haram. But we’re party with the concept of armed not back home. Here we have to discuss self-defense and in-house social work why and give reasons, not just follow and helped give rise to it following his the norms from back home.” In other assassination, despite MLK’s opposing words, both teachers and parents need method of nonviolent, borderline pasto deal with the real-life issues faced I THINK THAT BLACK sive. There is merit to both methods, their children — issues that they LIVES AND ALL OTHER by and each have had their own successes.” never had to face as children growing LIVES MATTER. EVERY up in Sudan. She also pointed out that “people are unaware of the government’s history of These Sunday afternoons aren’t just SINGLE ONE OF US OF EVERY infiltrating ‘black identity movements’ for serious discussions, however, but COLOR IS AN IMPORTANT … demonizing and squashing them also for going to the park and taking … COINTELPRO managed to squash small hiking trips and outings (e.g., PART OF THE GLOBAL these movements and yet the white to the National Harbor, Smithsonian COMMUNITY. ALSO, SPEAKING museums, and to Ocean City, Md.). nationalist movements like the KKK are still around? Interesting...” Other activities are designed to give OF GLOBAL COMMUNITY, When asked what they thought of back to the community: organizing PEOPLE LIKE MALCOM X, the Black Lives Matter movement, one talent shows (e.g., spoken word, art, responded “I think that black lives and acting and musical performances) and MUHAMMAD ALI, AND EVEN all other lives matter. Every single one showcases and visits to other BARACK OBAMA ARE KNOWN leadership of us of every color is an important part communities to engage in discussions WORLDWIDE AND THEY HAVE of mutual interest or perform skits on of the global community. Also, speaking of global community, people like MADE SIGNIFICANT CHANGES various topics. Malcom X, Muhammad Ali, and even A much-appreciated part of the AS WELL AS BUILDING A Barack Obama are known worldwide foundation’s various activities is the Mentor Development Program and they have made significant changes GOOD REPUTATION FOR (#Mentor2Mentor), which seeks to as well as building a good reputation THEMSELVES.” for themselves.” enable older youth to mentor younger Another one had clearly done quite ones by guiding them through their a bit of thinking about this: “I’m all for crucial developmental years. The the Black Lives Matter movement. It is resulting education, recreation and an intersectional movement, although illnesses are also life threatening, but that positive community experiences they for the most part it is well known for its at this moment in time we are focusing on receive will be shared with others to build fight against police brutality and the injustice breast cancer, not lupus, not prostate.” and then expand personal networks and system. We need to be careful when saying They had various opinions of Obama: enhance their leadership skills. This pro‘all lives matter’ or ‘other lives matter’ too, “He was for everyone, not just the Blacks,” gram is being sponsored by Islamic Relief because … [the first one] basically appro- “he was a more ‘legitimate’ president as USA (http://irusa.org). Other YFFNF propriated the BLM movement and … [the opposed to a celebrity” and “he saw everyone grams are cultural transitioning education, second one] is sort of silencing the voice as equal.” However, several pointed out that healthy lifestyle education and social skills of the movement. … One does not go to a he was a foreign policy disaster in terms of development. breast cancer fundraiser and mention other Yemen and Syria. One of them noted that Eshraqa Ahmed is the treasurer, and cancers because it is understood that other he actually fulfilled his promise “to be the Lyma Ahmed is the secretary of YFFNF. ih JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 47
Secular and Religious Fanatics Have the Same Obsession The never-ending drama of what women can and cannot wear BY FAISAL KUTTY
hat d o France, Quebec (Canada), Saudi Arabia and Iran have in common? Well, to help you along, consider the following. In two landmark decisions on Oct. 23, 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that France had violated the human rights of two French women by fining them for wearing the niqab, a fullbody Islamic veil. They had filed complaints after being convicted in 2012 under a 2010 law, which provides that “no one may, in a public space, wear any article of clothing intended to conceal the face.” The French government argued that the ban was legitimate, necessary and respected religious freedom. Eighteen human rights experts tasked with overseeing compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights disagreed. The panel members found that the ban disproportionately harmed women by preventing
them from manifesting their religious beliefs and may force some women to be confined to their homes and further marginalized. The rulings noted: “The committee was not persuaded by France’s claim that a ban on face covering was necessary and proportionate from a security standpoint or for attaining the goal of ‘living together’ in society.” Paris was given 180 days to report back about how it plans to remedy the situation. Although not mandatory, France has an international legal obligation to comply “in good faith.” Experts are not expecting much, given that both France’s constitutional court and the European Court of Human Rights, whose rulings are binding, have upheld the niqab ban on the grounds that it does not violate religious freedom. Shifting to Quebec, in their first news conference the day after winning the elections on October 2, 2018, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) announced as one of its priorities the banning of religious symbols from positions of authority. Provincial
48 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019
premier Francois Legault even threatened to use the “notwithstanding clause,” a controversial Canadian constitutional provision that allows a provincial legislature or the federal Parliament to override certain portions of the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms — specifically in this context, religious rights. The prime targets appear to be Muslimahs. Indeed, as if a few niqabis were an existential threat to the province, CAQ said on Oct. 24, 2018, that it would not only ban the hijab but also the chador (a loose flowing gown) and extend it to all public sector employees. In fact, provincial immigration minister Simon Jolin-Barrette told reporters that the government plans to “move quickly” to introduce just such a law. Ultimately, CAQ plans to pass a secular charter that would go further than the previous Liberal government’s so-called October 2017 religious neutrality law. That law, which requires people to show their face while receiving a government service, including municipal and public transit services (essentially aimed at the approximately 90 niqabis who live in the province) is the subject of an ongoing constitutional challenge, for this misnamed “neutrality” law fails to take into consideration the fundamental human rights concept of disparate impact discrimination.
Quebec has previously picked on Muslims, a reality that many had hoped would end with all of the inclusive rhetoric after Alexandre Bissonnette’s January 2017 terrorist assault on the Quebec City mosque: six people died and nineteen were injured. But as elections approached, the climate changed again. Sadly, even outside of Quebec, Canadians saw a Muslimah’s choice of attire become a national election issue in 2015. The then [federal] Prime Minister Stephen Harper played politics when Zunera Ishaq, 29, a Pakistani immigrant from the Toronto area, wanted to take the oath of citizenship while wearing the niqab. Thankfully, the courts put an end to that, but not until half-a-million tax dollars had been squandered on court costs. One can only hope that a similar fate befalls these new initiatives, because far from “liberating” or integrating these women, it will only further marginalize an already marginalized group. Proponents of these draconian laws claim that it will create social cohesion and protect women. Interestingly, this is what appears in the playbook in Saudi Arabia and Iran, among others, when the religious police enforce dress codes. This obsession with women’s attire takes me back to my honeymoon. As I was completing a lap in Istanbul’s Swissôtel swimming pool, I caught a glimpse of my wife being escorted out by a staff member. She had been lounging in the pool while, unbeknownst to us, some political drama was brewing. Someone had complained, and so the staff had asked my wife if she would leave. My wife, who by nature is passive, had obliged. I climbed out of the pool and rushed over to investigate, only to hear my wife say, “I am not dressed appropriately.” I took this up with the staff, who clearly did not want a confrontation. One of them sheepishly said that someone had an issue with my wife’s attire. Not one to back off, I asked for a copy of the pool regulations. Upon being advised that no official written policy existed, I asked for the manager. While waiting, we explained that the burkini (a “modest” swimsuit) was made for swimming. As we talked with the staff, we noticed two women eavesdropping. At one point, one of them interjected that a woman should wear a bikini, and not a burkini, when swimming. The “secular police” had spoken. It quickly became evident that they were the
complainants. Interestingly, none of the others (including Westerners) in the pool had any objections, and neither did we object to what they were wearing. However, these two Turkish women were clearly threatened by the extra bit of fabric. When I told them that her attire was none of their business and insisted that my wife be allowed to swim, the women became more aggressive and ordered the pool staff — obviously stuck in the middle — not to let her do so. They clearly had some clout and were trying to use it.
Brigadier General Hossein Sajedi Nia, the force targets “noise pollution, unsafe driving, disturbing girls and incorrect hijab.” The 7,000-strong force is mostly undercover and has powers to enforce dress codes and even impound cars if their occupants are not sufficiently covered. While the religious police in Muslim lands are busy enforcing the “proper” dress codes, the secular police clearly don’t want to be outdone. Quebec now joins the ranks of Denmark, France, Belgium and Austria in banning Muslim religious attire. Sometimes
RADICAL SECULAR FANATICS APPEAR TO POSIT THAT THE ONLY RATIONAL OR “CORRECT” CHOICE IS THE LIBERAL ONE. THIS MIRRORS THOSE RELIGIOUS FANATICS WHO ESPOUSE THE VIEW THAT THEIR “TRUTH” IS THE ULTIMATE STANDARD. INDEED, SECULAR FANATICS CAN BE JUST AS INTIMIDATING AND COERCIVE AS RELIGIOUS FANATICS. When the manager arrived, we informed her that we would escalate this if my wife was denied the use of the pool. The burkini was deemed acceptable in pools throughout the U.S. and Canada, so why not in Turkey? The manager relented and apologized. Furious, one of the complainants turned to her and retorted, “These people are changing our country.” The year was 2011, and she was alluding to “Islamists” because, of course, an Islamicleaning party was in power. Unfortunately, I lost my cool and delivered some of the choicest un-Islamic words — clearly establishing that I was not an Islamist — and went back to the pool with my wife. These two secular fanatics had gone out of their way to dictate what other women can wear out of fear of “Islamists.” Ironically, this is exactly what Islamic fanatics do in their jurisdictions. Indeed, this was not my first encounter with the haram police. They are active all over the world. In fact, a few years before this incident I was in Saudi Arabia and noticed the mutawwi‘un (religious police) forcing people to pray and harassing women to cover up. Meanwhile in Iran, the Gasht-e Ershad (morality police) do similar work. According to the commander of Tehran Police Force
the hypocrisy is outrageously blatant. A few years ago K. De Sousa, a 16-year-old Catholic girl who converted to Islam, was banned from a Paris school because her skirt was too long. The head teacher informed her that its length made it an “ostentatious religious symbol” — prohibited in state schools since 2004. Interestingly, long skirts worn as a fashion statement are fine, but wearing them out of religious conviction apparently threatens secularism. Radical secular fanatics appear to posit that the only rational or “correct” choice is the liberal one. This mirrors those religious fanatics who espouse the view that their “truth” is the ultimate standard. Indeed, secular fanatics can be just as intimidating and coercive as religious fanatics. As I left the pool after my ruckus, two pool staff members approached me and thanked me for standing up for the right of a woman to cover in a Muslim country. Secular or religious, neither group should have the right to dictate what is in the wardrobes of women. ih Faisal Kutty, J.D., LL.M., Ph.D. (Cand.), is a lawyer and law professor teaching at Valparaiso University Law School in Indiana and Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto. He tweets @faisalkutty.
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Nature’s Sweetest Gift: Honey Honey, like all other products for sale, has been consciously tailored to meet your personal preferences and requirements. spins the frames, forcing honey out of the comb.” Although the U.S. has about 4,000 species of native bees, the vast majority of them don’t make honey.
BY ASMA JARRAD
oney is one of the few foods mentioned in the Quran for its nutritional and medicinal benefits. In addition, it is nature’s sweetest treat enjoyed by Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). However, given the varieties of honey available, a few questions arise: What is the distinction between native wild bees and domesticated honeybees? Is there a difference between raw and organic honey? How do we get flavored honey?
THE CRUCIAL ROLE OF BEES If there were no bees, there would be no honey. But did you know that they play a considerable role in producing vegetables and fruits via pollination, as well as the food eaten by the animals that we end up eating? There are two broad categories of bees: wild native and domesticated. The first group are wild bees native to the specific location. According to Cornell University entomology professor Bryan Danforth,
however, these bees “are mostly pollen collectors [that take it] back to their nests.” Domesticated honey bees, on the other hand, move from farm to farm depending on where they are needed to pollinate. For example, he remarks that honeybees are critical in pollinating California’s almond fields during February when there are no native bees around. However, their mobility exposes them to a wide variety of pathogens and stresses, which likely contribute to “colony collapse disorder.” Domesticated honeybees, the main source of honey production, are social and live in colonies year-round. A standard supermarket jar of honey requires bees to make a million flower visits. A colony might produce 50 to 100 such jars per year. According to the National Honey Board, “On average, a hive will produce about 65 pounds of surplus honey each year. Beekeepers harvest it by collecting the honeycomb frames and scraping off the wax cap that bees make to seal off honey in each cell. Once the caps are removed, the frames are placed in an extractor, a centrifuge that
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Besides “Raw” and “Organic,” you may notice many other labels on bottles. According to the National Honey Board, raw honey is “honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling, or straining without adding heat.” The Honey Jar, a small-town Utah beekeeping company, defines their raw honey as “honey that has not been heated over 105 degrees. Raw unfiltered honey contains beeswax, pollen, and the occasional bee part. Raw unfiltered honey is better for you than processed commercial honey because it contains the beeswax, pollen, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes typically removed or destroyed during commercial processing.” Organic honey is nutritionally rich and beneficial as well, albeit in a less crude form, since the extracted honey is often heated, filtered, processed and pasteurized. Labeling honey as “organic” (i.e., using no fertilizers, pesticides, dyes or solvents during the manufacturing cycle) can be tricky, as the Sleeping Bear Farms of Michigan states, “The reality is that we cannot be 100% sure that every flower a bee visits has not been treated in some way, and therefore we don’t want to mislead anyone. So while we don’t treat the flowers, we can’t be sure that someone in the area hasn’t.” Thus, if the label doesn’t say “Raw” and/or “Organic,” the bees were likely exposed to harsh chemicals, including pesticides. Moreover, the honey may have been contaminated with sugar and other sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup and subjected to high heat pasteurization, which kills off most of its nutritional benefits. Alex Wild, curator of entomology at the University of Texas at Austin, writing in the Aug. 11, 2011 issue of “Scientific American” (“Organic Honey is a Sweet Illusion”) notes, “Because bees are furry, statically attractive little animals (useful for pollen collection), their bodies readily
gather all sorts of environmental particles. Any agrochemical applied anywhere within a colony’s extensive reach can end up back in the hive. Since beekeepers don’t own the tens of thousands of acres surrounding their hives, they have no control over what their bees are bringing home.” Organic honey isn’t impossible; its just beyond the ability of most beekeepers.
able to easily replicate that on the way back to the hive” (https://www.scienceabc.com).
PRICE DIFFERENCE If you want quality honey, you will have to pay more. Just like the different hues and flavors, the honey’s quality depends upon the nectar’s source and subsequent processing. “Regular” honey is most likely imported
HONEY COMES IN A VARIETY OF COLORS, FLAVORS AND, SOMETIMES, AROMAS. THE FINAL PRODUCT DEPENDS PRIMARILY UPON THE FLORAL SOURCES THE HONEYBEES VISIT, FOR THEY SIMPLY GO TO THE CLOSEST, FRESHEST FLOWERING SOURCE AVAILABLE AND CONTINUE TRAVELING UNTIL THEIR WORK IS COMPLETE. FLAVORED HONEY Honey comes in a variety of colors, flavors and, sometimes, aromas. The final product depends primarily upon the floral sources the honeybees visit, for they simply go to the closest, freshest flowering source available and continue traveling until their work is complete. For example, beekeepers who want blueberry honey move their beehives close to blueberry fields, and those who want orange-flavored honey move their hives close to orange blossom fields. In areas where many plants bloom at the same time, honeybees have a variety to select from (e.g., dandelions, clover and black locust), which produces wildflower honey. Artificially flavored honey is usually presented as real honey but labeled as a “honey-flavored” product — a combination of diluted honey, synthetic sugars and chemically manufactured flavors. Bees, who may travel up to seven miles in search of food, are among the animal kingdom’s most extraordinary navigators. Scientists have discovered that they use the direction of the sunlight, mental maps, and surrounding geography to find their way home. John Staughton, a writer with integrative biology degrees, writes, “Once [bees] locate a source of nectar or pollen, they collect the bounty, turn tail, and head back the same way they came, keeping the sun at the same angle once again. If a bee maintains a strict angle between the angle of flight and the angle of the sun, it should be
from countries where the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not closely monitor production. According to Food Safety News (https://www.foodsafetynews.com), “More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly what the bees produce… Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey — some containing illegal antibiotics — on the U.S. market for years.” Quality honey, on the other hand, is undeniably natural, pure, raw, organic and more expensive. Unlike “regular” honey, it is single-sourced through skilled, ethical beekeepers. If you want to be absolutely sure, you will have to visit, observe the production process and then buy the product directly from a local beekeeper. This is not always possible, however, for some flowering nectar sources are located overseas. For example Manuka honey, known for its antibacterial and healing qualities since ancient times, is unique to New Zealand and Australia and costs about $100 per pound — far more than buying honey from a beekeeper (about $8 per pound) and “regular” honey from a local grocery store (about $5 per pound).
BEES AND HONEY IN THE QURAN AND SUNNAH When it comes to food, the Quran directs us to what is beneficial. God mentions bees directly in the Chapter of the Bee: “And your Lord inspired to the bee, ‘Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and [in] that which they construct.’ Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you]. There emerges from their [bees] bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed, in that is a sign for a people who think” (16:68-69). Aisha narrates that the Prophet “used to like sweet edible things and honey” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” vol. 7, book 71, hadith no. 586). Asim b. Umar b. Qatada narrated that the Prophet once suggested honey as a remedy for a wound (“Sahih Muslim,” book 39, hadith no. 97). Honey is rich in vitamins C and B6; the minerals thiamin, calcium, iron and copper; and antioxidants. It also has antibacterial properties. Among honey’s many benefits are its immune-boosting properties and its ability to counteract acid indigestion, attract and absorb moisture to soothe minor burns and prevent scarring, improve the function of the intestines and the kidneys, regulate blood circulation, help one recover from athletic activities and fatigue, as well as relieve hypertension and insomnia. Moreover, adding raw and organic honey to our foods and drinks is a much healthier alternative to processed sugar. ih Asma Jarad is a freelance writer and editor. She also has a YouTube channel, Sami & Amro Reading Time, to promote literacy for children of all backgrounds.
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A group of 104 German rocket scientists in 1946 (aerospace engineers) at Fort Bliss, Texas.
The Nuclear Exception Can the spread of nuclear weapons really be seen as a political issue? BY LUKE M. PETERSON
nsurprisingly, perhaps, the 20th-century race to develop nuclear weapons was won by history’s largest and most conspicuous military-industrial complex: that of the U.S. But it did have some help — Washington’s decision to grant safe passage and de facto pardons to more than 1,600 disgraced Nazi scientists toward the end of World War II enabled the country to race past its competitors in pursuit of the atom bomb. Operation Paperclip, as this effort came to be known, was an unprecedented success that led directly to a surge in U.S. military and technical prowess. The Truman Administration, which lionized the former Nazi scientists as “heroes of the new age,” set a precedent for 20th-century foreign policy by freeing itself from the inconvenient burdens of international legality or basic morality in international policy: “The legacy of Paperclip … speaks to the triumph of pragmatism and self-interest above unthinkable atrocity” (Maureen Callahan, New York Post, Feb. 1, 2014, “Behind the secret plan to bring Nazi scientists to US”). Following Paperclip’s success, the U.S. announced the dawn of the nuclear age with the Trinity Test at the Alamogordo Bombing Range, located in the appropriately named Jornada del Muerto (Death Day) Desert in central New Mexico, at 5:29 a.m. on July
16, 1945. After the Soviet Union conducted a successful nuclear test on Aug. 29, 1949, Cold War geopolitics played a central role in nuclear proliferation during the 1950s, which saw the pernicious technology spread to Britain, France and China by 1960. However, not all nuclear powers were created equal. In collusion with French engineers as part of the Protocol of Sevres, Israel offered front line forces to help the French and British invade the Suez Canal Zone and dispossess Gamal Abdel Nasser of his most valuable regional trump card: the
AS WITH ISRAEL’S PREVIOUS POTENTIAL NUCLEAR DEALS WITH SOUTH AFRICA AND IRAN, ITS OFFER OF NUCLEAR WEAPONRY TO SAUDI ARABIA HAS RECEIVED SCANT COMMENTARY, LET ALONE CRITICISM, FROM WASHINGTON’S POLICY-MAKING CIRCLES.
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control of shipping from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. In exchange, the French provided Israel with a blueprint for constructing a nuclear weapons program. The Negev Desert facility, known as Dimona, currently houses somewhere between 200 and 400 thermonuclear warheads (The Guardian, Julian Borger, “The truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal,” Jan. 15, 2014). Officially, Israel still denies the existence of this program and these weapons. Nevertheless, Israel’s nuclear capacity has become an open secret in Middle Eastern politics. Moreover, this continued denial allows the country to avoid international inspections of its weapons of mass destruction. In addition, Tel Aviv gladly allows knowledge of this program to leak into the international intelligence community so as to put enemies and allies alike on notice of its military potential. Among these allies, of course, is the U.S. that, while publicly promoting nuclear containment ever since signing a draft nuclear disarmament agreement with the Soviet Union in 1968, continues to willfully ignore the Israeli program. For its part, Israel has viewed this turning of a blind eye as an unequivocal green light from its backers in Washington and has sought to spread nuclear technology with scant interest in its real or prospective customers’ human rights record, moral philosophy, or political ideology.
For example, the year 1975 saw high ranking Israeli officials, including then Defense Minister Shimon Peres, engage in closed-door meetings with their South African counterparts, among them P.W. Botha, a chief architect of apartheid and avowed white supremacist to his dying day (Chris McGreal, The Guardian, May 24, 2010, “Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons”). That the Israeli officials involved in these clandestine discussions more than 40 years ago now deny their nuclear nature is hardly surprising, given the ongoing secrecy surrounding Dimona. In actual fact, however, these apartheid-era negotiations lay bare the unchecked potential for nuclear proliferation originating in Tel Aviv. Furthermore, given the silent treatment that this potential nuclear relationship has always received from American policymakers, international observers can be forgiven for taking official U.S. claims of championing non-proliferation with a grain of salt. When the South Africa discussions fell through, Israel began talking with Iran’s Reza Shah Pahlavi in the hope of emboldening a fellow ethnic minority state within the largely Arab Middle East. As it happened, both of these states were openly regarded as U.S. allies and were, throughout the 1970s, major recipients of conventional American military aid and material — the Israelis still are. That potential deal, just like the one with South Africa, merited no censure or even a comment from Washington. Nor did Washington weigh in on either Israel or Iran’s egregious violations of numerous human rights statutes as a means of touting restraint in arms distribution. All the while, Israel’s ongoing military occupation and disenfranchisement of millions of Palestinians was, by the 1970s, stretching into a decades-long policy that still shows no sign of abating anytime soon. For his part, as his popularity waned and unrest stirred throughout the Iranian countryside, the Shah oversaw the notoriously brutal CIA-backed SAVAK secret police’s arrest and extrajudicial punishment and/ or murder of thousands of political opponents. Yet both states remained — as Israel still remains — favored nations within Washington’s political and economic purview and unsanctioned for their pursuit of, or indeed their possession of, nuclear materials and/or weapons. When the 1979 revolution brought down the Shah’s government, another potential
nuclear client for Israel was eliminated. But in Iran today, the U.S. view has been entirely reversed. Following a brief warming of relations under Obama, the Trump Administration is now following a strictly bellicose policy, one that decries a potential nuclear program in that country (the International Atomic Energy Agency says that there isn’t one) while simultaneously reneging on U.S. commitments made in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which placed the Iranian program under a verifiable inspections regime. Israel’s desire to see nuclear weapons proliferate, along with the lack of any concerted U.S. policy to contain them, doesn’t end with the 1970s. Today, Israeli nuclear technology is on offer to Saudi Arabia as part of a robust military alliance designed to isolate, intimidate and potentially exterminate Iran, their erstwhile ally (Whitney Web, June 4, 2018, “Israel Aiding Saudi Arabia in Developing Nuclear Weapons,” https://www. mintpressnews.com/Israel-saudi-arabianuclear-weapons/243256). As with Israel’s previous potential nuclear deals with South Africa and Iran, its offer of nuclear weaponry to Saudi Arabia has received scant commentary, let alone criticism, from Washington’s policy-making circles. And yet the same laissez faire attitudes about the spread of nuclear power cannot be said to be distributed evenly around the globe. Between India and Pakistan, for example, the keystone concept of the current administration’s self-proclaimed “South Asia Strategy” is the de-escalation of both countries’ nuclear capabilities (Press Trust of India, Aug. 25, 2017, “US worried Pakistan’s Nuclear-weapons could land up in terrorists’ hands: Official,” https://indianexpress.com). India and Pakistan went nuclear in 1974 and 1998, respectively.
Nor has the blame for that simmering political conflict fallen equally on the shoulders of both international actors. Pakistan’s nuclear program has been called out with much greater alarm than India’s, given official warnings of the potential for its weapons to “fall into the wrong hands” (Ibid). And while the Indian program is not viewed with outright favor in Washington, there are those who would seek to use its nuclear capacity to serve American interests, possibly even trading tactical nuclear strikes with China in the event of a doomsday scenario among Asia’s geopolitical actors. A pattern emerges. Israel’s nuclear program is quite okay, despite Tel Avia’s penchant for distributing this technology to others. India’s program is not ideal, but it may prove useful against the U.S. rival to the east: China. Pakistan’s program is reckless — a given. Iran’s program cannot be allowed to exist. The Saudis may soon have a program, thanks to their newfound friends in Tel Aviv and given that both countries are set to receive billions in U.S. military aid over the next decade. Given all of that, such a transaction can be allowed to pass unnoticed. It seems that the chief lesson of Middle Eastern politics and dynamics, then, is that U.S. client status allows for a great deal of leniency with regard to international sanctions, up to and including a policy of non-intervention when the pursuit, possession and/ or distribution of the world’s most heinous weapons are on the line. 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” was released in the Fall 2017 volume of The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences.
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Things to Remember When Traveling While Muslim Leaving your comfort zone behind can open up a whole new world BY K.T. LYNN
n my ten years as a Muslim, I’ve visited 13 countries and counting. Some of my airport experiences were good — “Welcome to Toronto.” Some were bad — “You wouldn’t happen to be carrying any pig’s blood would you?” in Washington, D.C. And some of them were downright ugly — “Ma’am, I’m going to need you to come with us” — in Frankfurt, where I was strip-searched. They even combed through my hair! Even though some of my experiences have been uncomfortable, I’m even more encouraged to travel and share my experiences with others. Note the Quranic statement of “Say, [O Muhammad], ‘Travel through the land and observe how He began creation. Then God will produce the final creation…” (29:20). During my first trip abroad, I learned three things about traveling while Muslim. If you remember them, it will make any
journey of yours much easier: always be prepared, we are all connected and traveling is a great way to connect with God.
ALWAYS BE PREPARED What is the most important thing to prepare before traveling while Muslim? If you guessed suitcase, travel shatafah [portable/ foldable water container] and prayer mat, along with hotel and flight information, you would be wrong on all counts. But why? It’s extremely important to prepare your luggage and travel arrangements. And traveling without a pocket shatafah is pure madness. But in fact, the most important thing is to prepare your heart. How do you do this? By making du’a, because you never know what you’ll encounter on your journey and it’s important to be in the best state to face it. For instance, take my first trip abroad was to make umrah. And that point I had been
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Muslim for two years and had absolutely no idea of what to expect from a country like Saudi Arabia. When I landed in Jeddah, I had to use the bathroom. But, worried that I would lose my group if I did so, I figured that I would use it when we got to the hotel. Thirty minutes into the journey, one of the ladies next to me on the bus mentioned that it would take four hours to get to the hotel. I scrambled through the two-decker bus looking for the bathroom, only to discover that it was out of order. After another thirty minutes of discomfort, really torture, I swallowed my embarrassment and spoke to our tour director. After speaking to the bus driver, he revealed that there wouldn’t be anywhere to stop for another hour. Trying to help, the driver floored it. When the bumps in the road became too much to handle, I stood up. Upon reaching a mosque 45 minutes
later, I ran from the bus into the mosque and burst through the doors only to find that the bathroom was flooded! I waded through three inches of water to the stalls, pushed open the doors, and what did I find? A hole in the ground! In all my months of research, which included books, videos and interviews, no one had ever mentioned the “squatty potty” to me or the lack of public restrooms on the kingdom’s highways. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t been prepared for the journey at all. It isn’t about knowing everything, since that’s impossible, but about steadying yourself for the unknown. In the grand scheme of things, an awkward bathroom situation isn’t anything more than a slight inconvenience. But at the time, it was embarrassing, awkward, shocking and a terrible start to what should have been an epic journey. Making du’a and reflecting on the journey’s purpose would have made things a lot less stressful.
of a unified goal took over, and I became nestled within. I let go. For the first time in my life I belonged to something large enough to shape history, to define lives and to last forever. I submitted. Although I didn’t know a single person in the crowd, I knew that
WE ARE ALL CONNECTED
TRAVELING IS A GREAT WAY TO CONNECT WITH GOD
When I first began learning about Islam, the concept of “ummah” never really meant much to me. And why would it? Growing up in an individualistic society such as the U.S., feeling connected to nearly 2 billion strangers is a foreign concept. However, it was this very journey that opened my eyes to what it meant to belong. After spending four days in Madinah, we traveled to Makkah to perform umrah. Armed with books and prayers scribbled on pages stuffed in my small travel bag, I was ready to worship! As you already know, my heart was unprepared. The air was heavy with moisture. Sweat dripped down my back. Hordes of people bumped and shuffled beside me. I was cranky, sweating and ungrateful. I wish that I could say that all my dis comfort fell away once I laid eyes on the Ka‘ba, but I couldn’t shake my discomfort. When we began to make tawaaf, I tried to focus on my prayers. The cacophony of languages and assortment of people surrounding me drew my focus outward. I repeatedly tried to retreat inward, but my senses were overwhelmed. It was then that I realized that I had become separated from the group. It was also then that I began to cry. Too tired to even wipe my cheeks, I let the tears flow. No longer needing to keep pace with the group, I stopped fighting the crowd. The flow
“We’re from Algeria, four sisters, four brothers and my mother.” Her face clouded over. “Please pray for my sister. She’s been married two years and no baby. We’re all here for her.”
GROWING UP IN AN INDIVIDUALISTIC SOCIETY SUCH AS THE U.S., FEELING CONNECTED TO NEARLY 2 BILLION STRANGERS IS A FOREIGN CONCEPT. HOWEVER, IT WAS THAT SAME JOURNEY THAT OPENED MY EYES TO WHAT IT MEANT TO BELONG. our lives intersected at that moment and that meant something. We were unified in one purpose and in one act of worship for one God alone.
Most of us think of traveling as a break from “everything.” We detach from work, school and other responsibilities in our life. What I’ve discovered is that traveling while Muslim can open opportunities to connect with others and draw closer to God. After I finished my umrah, I was exhausted. Unsure of what to do or where to go, I sat down near a bunch of women. An elderly lady sat near me, so I tried to ask here where the hotel was. Her response blew me away. Without saying a word, she wrapped her arms around me and drew me into her lap. At twenty-four, this felt quite intimate for an interaction with a stranger, but I figured God had gotten me this far so I might as well humor the woman and let her “pet” me. She began to rub my head and hum. I closed my eyes, willing myself not to cry or laugh. How in the heck was I going to get out of this? English words pierced my reverie. “My mom likes you.” A round moon face and large blue eyes hovered above me. “I guess so. Would you tell her to like me a little less?” Her mother began to speak in a language I couldn’t place. “She’s asking if you are Iraqi.” “No.” I replied softly. “Jordan?” I shook my head, even though her mother still had it in a sort of “death” grip. “American.” She began to laugh.
My chest nearly caved in from the pain — the pain of this woman and her family, but also my own. This woman had an entire family making du’a for her, and I had come to Makkah alone. After we said our goodbyes, I began to walk back through the mosque to the other side. The crowd stopped short and I bumped into the woman in front of me. English cut through the crowd. I moved toward it, thinking it was a member of my group. A few sentences later, I realized it was a British accent. “Do you know where the Safwah hotel is?” “Sure, we’re staying near there. Let’s just wait for my sister.” We began chatting and then I revealed that I had become a Muslim only two years before. Arms wrapped around my waist and squeezed. I looked down to find a squat old woman holding me tight. “Let me guess, your mother?” “How did you know?” “I had a hunch.” “She’s just really happy for you.” “For me?” “Yeah, out of all the people on the planet, He chose you.” And I would never be alone again. The lessons of my first journey will never leave me, nor those that came after and those to come. I encourage you to leave home and travel while Muslim. Your unknown blessings await. ih K.T. Lynn, a Muslim American living in Shanghai, is a media manager by day and a novelist by night. She seeks to promote cross-cultural understanding through her work, which has been featured in SISTERS, Blue Abaya, DIYMFA, Saudi Life, Toastmasters International Magazine and Productive Muslim. She blogs at ktlynn.com.
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Friends Bond on a Guys Trip and Include Salat in Their Journey A group getaway offers time to recharge from everyday life and connect spiritually BY AMAL OMER
owadays, most major cities have a line of halal food trucks during lunch hour and a mosque or a makeshift mosque for jum‘ah prayer. It turns out that even in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik, this setting isn’t much of a stretch. When Imran Baig, a project manager from Laurel, Md., and his friends landed in the city for a guys’ trip this past summer, they came to find that the Airbnb they had booked was just a five-minute walk from The Grand Mosque of Iceland. The masjid also neighbors the local halal restaurants. The group, consisting of three of Baig’s childhood friends and one friend’s cousin and brother-in-law, traveled from Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts and California to celebrate their friend’s 40th birthday. Reasonably priced airfare and the promise of adventure led them to pick Iceland as their destination. Known as the hiker’s paradise, the island is famous for its stunning landscapes of waterfalls, mountains and caves. It’s
also home to some of the world’s most active volcanoes and Europe’s largest glaciers. Planning the trip to Iceland — a population of approximately 330,000 people — required some coordination between the group’s work and family schedules. Baig notes that not all the friends invited were able to join the excursion. He says that the running joke on the trip was that they were unable to get a permission slip signed from their significant others. His wife Ambreen, who has taken girls trips with her friends, and the other wives supported their husbands’ going away. Baig jokingly says that their wives are plotting a payback trip for next year. A first-generation Pakistani-American, Baig, 43, feels that though such trips are rare in Muslim cultures, they are starting to become more of a norm for his generation whom were mostly raised in the U.S. He says that it’s important to make time for such getaways because it’s an opportunity for men and women to bond.
The group with their tour guides at Solheimajokull Glacier. From left, Row 1: Hamzah El-Falah; Row 2: Eyhab Aejaz, Hayder Qaadri, Baig (to the left of guide) and Yasir Hashmi; Row 3: Omar Hashmi and Kashef Qaadri with guides (far right). 56 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019
“Being so geographically dispersed, we don’t often get to enjoy the company of friends except during weddings and funerals. In a similar vein, it’s important for women to take girls trips. These trips can help reset or recharge us and can have a positive influence upon returning to one’s family.” Timing the three-and-half-day getaway to mostly fall over a weekend eased traveling for the parents in the group, since it made less of an impact on their families’ schedules. Baig, who has a 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, says that they are all also fortunate to have their families nearby to help with babysitting and camp pickups and drop-offs. On the trip, the men took advantage of being removed from their usual surroundings and mostly opted for adventure. They began their days early with most of the attractions being a distance from where they were staying and soaked in the sights, including visiting the Seljalandsfoss and Gljufrabui waterfalls; Reynisfjara, a beach on Iceland’s southern coast famous for its black sand; the 330-feet-deep Fjaðrárgljúfur canyons; and the Great Geysir, a natural phenomenon that sporadically shoots superheated water almost 300 feet into the air.
TRAVELING IN AUGUST, THEY EXPERIENCED ICELAND’S SUMMER DAYS, MEANING ALMOST 24 HOURS OF SUNSHINE. BAIG SAYS, “SUNSET WAS VERY LATE AND FAJR WAS VERY EARLY IN ICELAND, SO WE OFTEN CAME HOME FROM OUR LONG DAY, PRAYED MAGHRIB AND ISHA TOGETHER AND THEN STAYED UP AN EXTRA HOUR OR TWO TO PRAY FAJR BEFORE SLEEPING.”
The group of friends visited Gljufrabui, where a waterfall is hidden inside a canyon, in southern Iceland.
They also did a guided tour of the Solheimajokull Glacier. Led by professional guides and equipped with glacier gear from the company, the group hiked the mass of ice, which sits between two volcanoes. They even stopped to drink fresh glacier water. Along with the unreal scenery they took in, they learned how climate change is causing the glacier to melt. The friends also ventured off the rugged terrain to take in the local culture. They explored downtown Reykjavik and went to see the stunning architecture of the Harpa Hall, a performance center, and the Hallgrímskirkja Church, designed to look like the shapes that form when lava cools into basalt rock. As they toured the city and adventured the island’s peaks and climbs, they would stop to perform zuhr and asr. Baig and his friends found the locals to be helpful in their efforts to say their prayers. During their visit to Thingvellir National Park, a park employee provided them with a private room to pray when they asked for an area to say salat. “Being a popular tourist spot, we didn’t feel uneasy or find it difficult to pray even in public,” Baig says. He adds that everyone in the group is “salat conscious” and that there was positive peer pressure to pray on time and in jamaat. They prayed together when it was possible and broke into smaller
The friends indulged in being away from their usual surroundings and wandered the Icelandic countryside.
groups when necessary. Baig says that the permission for travelers to combine their prayers made it easier for them to say salat. Traveling in August, they experienced Iceland’s summer days, meaning almost 24 hours of sunshine. Baig says that “sunset was very late and fajr was very early in Iceland, so we often came home from our long day, prayed maghrib and isha together and then stayed up an extra hour or two to pray fajr before sleeping.” And though the group was on the same page about making salat, they had respectful differences when it came to eating zabiha. In the island nation, where according to the Muslim Association of Iceland there are nearly 2,000 Muslims, fresh fish is a staple in the cuisine. This meant there were always options for the zabiha observers when the group ate out. There were also three halal restaurants close to their Airbnb. “One in particular was a favorite of ours. It had halal shawarmas and other wraps. But more importantly, it was open until 3 a.m., which was convenient on our late-night returns,” says Baig. The opportunity to take a break from his everyday reality was refreshing for Baig. He appreciated the time with his friends, who he says are like family, and counts witnessing Iceland’s breathtaking scenery as one of his most memorable experiences. With the
wanderlust that hits many after a fulfilling vacation, Baig says that he would like to come back with his family next time so that they can also experience the awe of the Iceland’s majestic sights. ih Amal Omer is a writer based in Washington, D.C.
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Muslim African-American Thinker, Academic and Friend 1944-2018
BY MUHAMMAD FRASER-RAHIM
n Nov. 12, 2018, our friend, mentor and teacher Dr. Sulayman Nyang transcended this earthly realm and joined the ranks of the scholars of old to be in the presence of the divine after battling a long illness. For those who have never heard of him, Nyang was one of the most influential Muslim African-American academics as well as a pioneer in developing and adding to the understanding of Islam in the U.S., Africa and the broader Middle East. Perhaps no other figure since Fazlur Rahman (1919-88) has so clearly transcended the role of academic professor, public intellectual and the sage qualities of time-honored traditional Islamic teachers — all while being a genuine and down-to-earth human being. Nyang retired from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 2016 after a long career as a professor and former chairman of the African Studies Department. He had joined its faculty shortly after obtaining his PhD in government (the University of Virginia, 1974), after a stint as a diplomat in Saudi Arabia representing his home country: The Republic of the Gambia. His career in academia, local, national and international service, and activism spanned more than 37 years. At Howard, he designed, developed and taught courses on various topics in African and Diaspora Studies, particularly Islam, politics and philosophy. In this capacity, he mentored and supervised the work of more than 200 graduate students and many more undergraduates, both at Howard and other institutions of higher learning abroad. His numerous publications on Islamic thought, African 58 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019
Islam, African-American Islam and African political affairs, along with Middle Eastern and international affairs topics, made him a formidable expert, both domestically and internationally, in his areas of expertise. This role as a scholar also included 11 books and more than 70 articles and monographs, among them: “Islam in the United States of America” (1999); “A Line in the Sand: Saudi Arabia’s Role in the Gulf War,” co-authored with Evan Hendricks (1995); “Religious Plurality in Africa: Essays in Honor of John S. Mbiti,” co-authored with Jacob Olupona (1993); “Islam: Its Relevance Today,” co-edited with Henry Thompson (1990); “Islam, Christianity and African Identity” (1984); “Reflections on the Human Condition” (1984); and “Ali A. Mazrui: The Man and His Works” (1981). Beginning in 2001, he became a regular contributor of articles, thinks and opinion pieces to the Washington Post’s “On Faith” online forum. One of his most significant efforts in this regard was his “What near Death Taught Me about Life,” a reflection on his miraculous recovery from a serious cardiac arrest on May 31, 2004. As of all of this weren’t enough, Nyang also found the time to serve on numerous domestic and foreign boards and provide expert accounts to institutions, courts and multinational organizations. One of his most exciting contributions, and of which he was certainly proud, was his role as a board member of the America’s Islamic Heritage Museum & Cultural Center (www.aihmuseum. org) in southeast Washington, D.C. This museum, the only one of its kind in the nation’s capital, preserves and archives the history of Muslim Americans from the republic’s inception and catalogues the diverse ethnic, ideological and cultural milieu that represents the American Muslim identity. This particular contribution also builds on Nyang’s close relationship with the African-American Muslim community in particular, as he was one of the leading experts in documenting the accounts of African-American Islam. Starting with numerous articles and personal interviews, Nyang forged close relationships with the various Sunni, Shia, Sufi and other ideological African-American Islamic groups and documented their stories and successes. If he had not engaged with their stories, and those of Elijah Muhammad (d. 1975), Imam W.D. Mohammed (d. 2008) and other early AfricanAmerican Islamic leaders, perhaps their lives would have remained undocumented and unshared with the broader Muslim American community and those Arab and Southeast Asian Muslim leaders who have benefited from the African-American Islamic experience. A strong supporter of interfaith and intra-faith dialogue, Nyang worked with numerous communities to promote a healthy and balanced American and global community. He often told his students, myself among them, in formal and informal settings that stories are critical and must be preserved to document the important contributions these people made during their lifetime. In his own words, “we must always move from being footnotes and move to the main text.” This oft-mentioned mantra is one of those famous sayings with which any of his students would be familiar, not to mention his ongoing encouragement to preserve the African-American Islamic experience and other stories in history. Although Nyang faced serious medical challenges until his recent death, he remained positive and had a healthy outlook on life, thanking his creator for all he accomplished. On Feb.15, 2017, Howard University’s famous Blackburn Auditorium hosted the inaugural event for the new “The Sulayman Nyang Lecture Series on Islam
yang served the Muslim American community in many capacities: a co-principal investigator of the Project MAPS; a consultant to several national and international agencies; and a board member of the African Studies Association, the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies, America’s Islamic Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, and the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS, now the North American Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies); an advising scholar for the award-winning PBS-broadcast documentaries “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet” (2002) and “Prince Among Slaves” (2007), both produced by Unity Productions Foundation (https://www.upf.tv); and an advisor and Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) scholar. He was a recipient of numerous awards: the Howard University Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his outstanding career (2011); the CAIR Lifetime Achievement Award (2017); the ISPU Lifetime Achievement award (2014); and The International Institute of Islamic Thought Distinguished Scholar Award, in recognition of his outstanding scholarly achievements and community service (2013). In addition to being a member of IIIT’s Council of Scholars, he was the founding editor of the American Journal of Islamic Studies (now the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences) and a founding member and president of AMSS. His wife Eucharia Mbachu, daughter Edna Nyang and son Sulayman Nyang, Jr. survive him.
in Africa” — an event that he attended and during which we celebrated his life. This man, who had more than nine lives, provided nearly meticulous accounts of current events, and, although he talked softly, his photographic memory never missed a beat. In fact, it transferred all of us back to his classes at the Howard Center, which hosted most of his department’s classes. At this event, the newly appointed chair of the African Studies Department announced that a formal scholarship fund had been established in his honor and that the soon-to-be professor emeritus would be properly honored for future generations. Nyang’s legacy continues to affect the generations of students impacted by his humility, humanity and patience. Like so many other scholars, his tradition of spreading the message of religious pluralism and cross-cultural understanding, as well as preserving sacred knowledge from Africa,
the Middle East and elsewhere, was vital to his life mission. Through his pursuits and students, who now live all over the world, he cultivated the tradition of preserving the reflective and thoughtful intellect of all individuals, regardless of their social status, religion or worldview. Moreover, he always sought to keep alive the continued use and addition of positive and uplifting ideas to our “mental furniture,” to use his own words. By preserving this global view, all of us can carry on our friend’s tradition and take his body of knowledge along with us into the future. ih Dr. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, assistant professor at the Citadel in Charleston, S.C., is an expert on violent extremism issues and a scholar on Africa. He is also a security fellow at the Truman National Security Project and a board member of the America’s Islamic Heritage Museum in Washington, D.C. [Updated by the author from his article on Dr. Sulayman’s Nyang’s life and legacyhttps://www.themaydan.com/2018/11/dr-sulayman-nyang-dean-islamic-thought-america-intellectual]
Elsayed Aly Orady An Icon of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering 1946-2018
devoted Muslim and distinguished academic, Dr. Elsayed Aly Orady passed away on Nov. 4, 2018 in California, where he was living with his family during a medical leave from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Born in Egypt, he completed his B.Sc. (Hons) (1969) and M.Sc. (1973), both in mechanical engineering, from Cairo University. While serving as a faculty member there beginning in 1969, he was offered a graduate studies scholarship to study in Canada. He moved there with his wife and earned an MS (1977) and a Ph.D. (1982) degree in manufacturing from McMaster University. He then joined the University of Michigan in the Department Industrial and Manufacturing in Systems Engineering, where he taught for over thirty years as a professor. Forced to take a medical leave in 2016 to battle difficult illnesses, he endured them with great patience until his passing. An accomplished researcher, his research was funded by the prestigious National Science Foundation, the leading professional organization in his field, the Society
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IN MEMORIAM of Mechanical Engineering (SME) and various companies. He published extensively in several reputable professional journals, was a member of the University of Michigan Senate for three years and was instrumental in proposing and approving the university’s Ph.D. program in industrial and systems engineering. In addition to these academic accomplishments, Orady served several terms as president of the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers (AMSE), functioned as associate editor-in-chief and editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Science and Technology and organized several highly successful engineering conferences in Michigan and AMSE sessions at the ISNA annual conventions. In his capacity as an AMSE member, he
represented this constituent organization on the ISNA Board (Majlis ash Shura). His passionate enthusiasm for ISNA’s emergence as an overarching umbrella organization for Muslims in North America was reflected in his continuous support for its activities. He was very positive about blending the North American experience by strengthening it with the Islamic roots in order to advance a vibrant ummah. Dr. Orady was very active as both an academic and a professional consultant within the U.S. and internationally. For example, he was part of the consulting team that established the International Islamic University of Malaysia’s graduate school engineering programs and worked as a visiting professor at King Saud University and University of Technology Malaysia.
Professor Armen Zakarian, chair of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering, said, “In academia, progress doesn’t happen overnight, and I think things that happened 20 or 30 years ago — this is what creates progress. We would not have new buildings, new research opportunities, 80 faculty and Ph.D. programs without people making those critical transformations along the way. Orady was one of those people. I’m sure in meetings we will now be talking about Orady the way he talked about the people he revered who came before him.” He leaves behind his wife Dr. Soraya Orady, daughter Dr. Mona Orady, son Aly E. Orady, and daughter-in-law Marina Khattak as well as two brothers, two sisters and 18 nieces and nephews in Egypt. ih
NEW RELEASES Islamophobia, Race, and Global Politics Nazia Kazi 2018. Pp. 168. HB. $32.00 Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Md. slamophobia, Race, and Global Politics” offers a powerful introduction to the scope of Islamophobia in the U.S. Kazi, drawing on examples such as Barack Obama’s legacy, the mainstream media’s portrayal of Muslims and the justifications given for some of Washington’s most recent military endeavors, highlights its vast impact and connects it to this country’s long history of racism. She shows how both phenomena are simultaneously domestic and global. Using Islamophobia as a unique case study, Kazi asks readers to consider how war and empire-building relate to racism. She discusses the Muslim Americans’ diverse experiences, especially how they have experienced Islamophobia, and confronts some of the misguided attempts by both Muslims and non-Muslims to tackle Islamophobia. A good example is chapter 6: US Empire’s Muslim Cheerleaders.
Finding Peace in the Holy Land: A British Muslim Memoir Lauren Booth 2018. Pp. 256. HB. $26.95 PB. $17.95. Kindle $11.99 Kube Publishing Ltd., Markfield, U.K. he daughter of a Jewish model and the troubled TV star Lauren Booth survived a house fire, lived through the excesses of the 1990s as an aspiring actress, welcomed Tony Blair into her family and twice put her life as a parent at risk to report on Palestine. She found faith in a mosque in Iran — unsure before she entered of what would happen — and then sobered up, started praying and became a Sunni and a hajji. A passionately written account of her journey into Islam, Booth’s memoir bears witness that things happen for a purpose — her travel to Palestine sparked off a personal quest for justice, peace and truth. It is also a testimony of why we should thank God for whatever we experience. Her account also offers a look into the ravages of alcohol, that some people and the entire industry dismiss as matters of wrong choices.
Research Handbook on Islamic Law and Society Nadirsyah Hosen, ed. 2018. Pp. 488. HB. $225.00 Edward Elgar Publishing, Northampton, Mass. he Research Handbook on Islamic Law and Society,” which presents an understanding Islamic law in practice, examines its role in Muslim and non-Muslim societies through legislation, fatwas, court cases, sermons, media and scholarly debate. Focusing on 18 contemporary case studies, the handbook contextualizes the Sharia as a versatile, rather than an unchanging, set of seventh-century Arab laws and works to demystify it. In addition to illuminating the intersection of social, political, economic and cultural factors informing Islamic law across several jurisdictions, chapters evaluate when and how people and institutions in Muslim (and sometimes Western) societies have turned to it to address their problems.
Islamic International Law: Historical Foundations and AlShaybani’s Siyar Khaled Ramadan Bashir 2018. Pp. 320. HB. $113.52 Edward Elgar Publishing, Northampton, Mass. ashir’s analysis of al-Shaybani’s “al-Siyar al-Kabir” offers a unique insight into the classic Islamic perspective on international law. This work, which fills in the gap of Englishlanguage attention on this seminal work, helps widen the reader’s understanding of this field. The author’s use of contemporary international law vocabulary, which enables readers to consider al-Shaybani’s writing in a modern context, will be a useful and unique resource for scholars of international Islamic law. Bashir brings together and translates various historical sources to form one accessible and coherent text. Scholars researching the origins of such public international law topics as international humanitarian law, just war, international dispute resolution, asylum and diplomacy will find this an interesting and valuable text.
The Great Exegesis: al-Tafsir al-Kabir: The Fatiha Fakhr al-Din Razi (trans. Sohaib Saeed) 2018. Pp. 470. PB. $35.87 Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, U.K. his first-ever English translation of Fakhr al-Din Razi’s “The Great Exegesis” (Mafātih al-Ghayb) focuses on the Fatihah. One of the great classics of Arabic and Islamic scholarship, this 12th-century commentary remains an indispensable reference work. Not only is it a compendium of Quranic sciences and meanings, but also of Arabic linguistics, comparative jurisprudence, Aristotelian and Islamic philosophy, dialectic theology and Sufi spirituality.
This scholarly yet accessible work gives readers a thorough understanding of the Quran’s most commonly recited chapter and opens a window into the thought and practice of one of Islam’s greatest theologians. Modern Muslim Theology: Engaging God and the World with Faith and Imagination Martin Nguyen 2018. Pp. 224. HB. $90.00. PB $32.00 Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Md. his book seeks to bring Muslim theology into the present day. Focused on the human-divine relationship and that of faith to righteousness, the book presents a new theological vision rooted in the practice of the religious imagination. Rather than a purely academic pursuit, Nguyen argues that theology is a creative process and discusses how the Islamic tradition can help contemporary practitioners negotiate their relationships with God, each other, and the rest of creation. The author reconceptualizes key religious ideas, symbols and rites — like revelation, tradition and prayer — in order to develop an engaged approach that simultaneously fosters faith and enacts righteousness. The theological framework draws widely from Islam’s intellectual and spiritual traditions. Striving to make the work of theology accessible to all, the author employs vivid narratives and evocative images of famous religious figures, sacred sites and aspects of everyday life to explore and define concepts that are central for a theology of engagement.
Divine Words, Female Voices: Muslima Explorations in Comparative Feminist Theology Jerusha Tanner Lamptey 2018. Pp. 312. HB. $74.00. Kindle. $58.39 Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y. ampety argues that the Islam-feminism relationship is complex. This book is the follow-up to her “Never Wholly Other” (2014), in which she introduced and applied the idea of “Muslima” theology to religious diversity. Here, the author contends that interreligious feminist engagement is both a theologically valid endeavor and a vital resource for Muslima scholars. She introduces comparative feminist theology as a way to overcome challenges associated with interreligious feminist engagement, reorients comparative discussions to focus on the two “Divine Words” (the Quran and Jesus) and feminist theology, and uses this reorientation to examine the intersections, discontinuities and insights related to diverse theological topics. This book is distinctive in its responsiveness to calls for new approaches in Islamic feminist theology, its employment of comparative theology, its focus on Muslim and Christian feminist theology in comparative analysis, as well as its constructive articulation of Muslima theological perspectives.
Being Muslim: A Cultural History of Women of Color in American Islam Sylvia Chan-Malik 2018. Pp. 284. PB. $29.00 New York University Press, New York, N.Y. ylvia Chan-Malik brings to readers an insight into the resistance that all Muslimahs must engage in in the post9/11 U.S. Her exploration of 20th- and 21st-century Muslim American womanhood centers on the lived experience of women of color. She demonstrates the diversity and similarities among Black, Arab, South Asian, Latina and multiracial Muslimahs and how American understandings of Islam have shifted due to the evolution of white nationalism over the past century. By borrowing from the lineages of Black and women-of-color feminism, the author offers a new vocabulary for Muslim American feminism, one that is as conscious of race, gender, sexuality and nation as it is of region and religion.
Political Islam in Tunisia: The History of Ennahda Anne Wolf 2018. Pp. 304. HB. $40.11. PB. $22.11 C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd., London, U.K. olf relates the history of Tunisia’s main Islamic movement, Ennahda, from its origins in the 1960s to the present — and its being banned until the popular uprisings of 2010-11 and the overthrow of President Ben Ali’s dictatorship. Drawing on more than four years of field research, over 400 interviews and access to private archives, Wolf both relates the evolution of Ennahda’s ideological and strategic orientations within changing political contexts and explores the challenges it faces from both secularists and Salafis. This contribution to the literature on Tunisia, Islamic movements and political Islam in the Arab world will be of interest to those who want to understand the forces driving a key player in the country most hopeful of pursuing a post-Arab Spring democratic trajectory. ih
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