JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020/1441 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET
IS ISLAMIC EDUCATION BEING DONE RIGHT? | PARENTING CHALLENGES
“Race” and the Future of Muslim American Leadership
ISLAMIC HORIZONS | VOL. 49 NO. 1 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 | VISIT ISNA ONLINE AT: WWW.ISNA.NET
18 “Race” and the Future of Muslim American Leadership 22 The Living Legacy of Malcolm X The American Criminal Justice 24 System and Muslim Inmates Latino Muslim Prisoners: An 26 Interview with Professor SpearIt Stories of Some of the 28 Early “Latino” Muslims
45 With Recalls Plaguing the Food Industry, It’s Time for Action
ISNA Matters 8
The Path to Change Within
Family Life 30 Parenting Challenges
Health 48 Practicing Clinical Bioethics: Reflections from the Bedside
Muslims Abroad 50 Toward Bringing Myanmar to Justice
40 Is Islamic Education Being Done Right?
The Peacemaker 52 Ethiopia’s First Nobel Laureate
Money 54 How to Make Your Cash Reserve Do More
Profiles in Achievement 32 Science Sisters Acts
Service to Humanity
56 The Decorated Word: Writing and Picturing in Islamic Calligraphy
34 Breaking the Cycle of Poverty 36 Lean on Me
Viewpoint 58 The Quranic View of Apostasy
Education 38 The Silent Epidemic 42 The Power and Potential of Coalitions for Islamic Schools 43 Better Leadership Skills
Departments 46 here May Be Petroleum and T More in Your Food
6 10 60 62
Editorial Community Matters Food for the Spirit New Releases
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 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 5
The Much-Needed Muslim American Rethink
t has become a sort of annual tradition for Prof. Jimmy Jones, a board and faculty member of The Islamic Seminary of America, to draw our readers’ attention to issues of civil rights and equality. In this issue, he questions the unwarranted “race” issue that confronts the Muslim American community. In his reminder, Jones warns that even self-proclaimed “Muslims” still cling to the scientifically refuted idea of “races” — subspecies of humanity. He cites Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), who, with God’s guidance, rejected his tribe’s self-identification via tribal affiliation and replaced it with loving his birthplace and its people. May we finally move beyond this outdated “races”-centered worldview. This issue also contains two important contributions about Latino Muslim Americans, especially the rising conversion rates among incarcerated Latinos. All Muslims must actually live by, instead of just pay lip service to, the Ansar-Muhajireen relationship the Prophet established after his hijra. Every new Muslim is a migrant, and like all other migrants they have often left friends, family and indeed an entire lifestyle behind to begin a new and more rewarding life. They have taken the first step, and now it is up to us modern-day Ansar — the born and even the “older” Muslims — to take the second step: put on our predecessors’ mantle and mentor these new Muhajireen through their period of transition. In the Q. 21:92, God reminds us that Muslims are a single community, and “I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore serve Me (and no other).” This reality needs to be acknowledged and supported, especially when those who converted while incarcerated are released back into society and have to construct yet another new life for themselves. On a more depressing note, the destruction of Muslim communities in Asia continues unabated. What has been happening recently to the indigenous Muslim-majority
Uyghurs of oil-rich East Turkestan (renamed “Xinjiang” [lit. “New Frontier” or “New Borderland”] by its Chinese occupiers) is becoming better known. The violators of Muslim rights there, as well as in Myanmar, Palestine, [Indian-occupied] Kashmir, Chechnya, and India, as well as those who amass wealth by trampling on their victims’ humanity, need to take heed of the past. The extreme brutality being imposed upon these Muslims remind us that men seldom learn from history. These individuals neither think about recent or past history nor what eventually happened to their predecessors. For example, the long-ago pharaohs who considered themselves gods and who were worshipped as such are now no more than desiccated mummies, objects of curiosity. The former Soviet Union, a once-mighty nuclear power that held over 70 million Muslims in abject bondage for more than seven decades, is today a second-rate power known as “Russia,” a country that has been stripped of much of its empire, economy, industrial base, social programs, pride and a substantial part of its population. About all that it has retained – interestingly though, not shared with others freed states — from its past is the former USSR’s U.N. Security Council seat and the Soviet nuclear arsenal. Worldly power has never been everlasting. Many of the dust particles we tread upon daily contain the remains of those once-arrogant, powerful, terrifying and self-proclaimed gods-on-Earth rulers and their allies. Of course God has ordained this, but, lest humanity forget, He has also stated, “(All) faces shall be humbled before (Him) — the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal. Hopeless indeed will be the one who carries iniquity (on his back).” (Q. 20:111). It is therefore imperative that Muslims stand united and fearless against all of those who perpetrate inequity against their fellow human beings, regardless of their religion (or lack thereof) and their supposed “race.” May we abandon such useless baggage and move forward on the straight path. ih
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PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Sayyid Muhammad Syeed EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2020 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) 204-0187 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, E-mail email@example.com, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Path to Change Within Participants in the Muslim Youth of North America’s Hira Initiative continue to reap lifelong benefits BY ALAA ABDELDAIEM
PHOTOGRAPHER: YASEEN NAJEEB
Sh. Omar Suleiman spending time with the students.
t’s been five years since she first stepped foot into the Hira Intensive dorms, housed on a biotechnology research campus in Flint, Mich., but Sana Khan still hasn’t forgotten. How could she? Khan, then 17, was about to enter her senior year of high school. She was anxious and lost, yearning for a stronger foundation in her Islamic education and determined to find focus. “I was at a point in my life where I knew Islam was the way I wanted to guide myself,” Khan said. “All of my Islamic knowledge and guidance at that point came from [Islamic] Sunday schools, various lectures, and Islamic events. But there was no structure, and that’s what I desired.” Now 22 and working in the medical field, Khan is grateful that she found what she sought in 2014 — that she was blessed with the opportunity to attend Hira Intensive. Named after the cave in which Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) received his first revelation, this three-week
residential summer program strives to provide an environment of learning and growth that will drive change within each student — one that the program hopes will lead them to work toward bettering mainstream society. Just as the Prophet retreated to Hira every year to reflect on his Creator,
his society and his self, Hira Intensive calls upon youth to first reflect, then to grow in their knowledge and practice by attaining a deeper understanding of their faith, and to set out to help build an environment based upon good character and habits. “Our goal is to connect youth with Allah and His Messenger,” says program director Sayeed Siddiqui. “Our religion is beautiful, and when our students experience it practiced holistically, with role models in [the form of] their teachers and mentors, they see that for themselves.” From June 28 to July 19, 2020, youth aged 15-19 will have a chance to do just that. The program returns to Flint this summer, exposing them to world-renowned scholars and community leaders who will provide a framework for a deeper understanding of the Islamic sciences. Academically, classes in aqida, fiqh, tazkiya (good character) and the sciences of the Quran and Hadith, along with the Prophet’s life and character, will help participants further their spiritual development. Outside of classes, they will engage in workshops, discussions, field trips and
HIRA INTENSIVE NOT ONLY GAVE ME THE STRUCTURE THAT I WAS LOOKING FOR, BUT IT ALSO PROVIDED ME WITH A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF MY FAITH,” KHAN RELATED. “I WAS GIVEN A SPACE TO ASK QUESTIONS TO PEOPLE WHO WERE ACTUALLY QUALIFIED TO ANSWER THEM. I LOVED THAT WE COULD CONTINUOUSLY ASK WHY AND NOT FEEL ASHAMED.”
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PHOTOGRAPHER: YASEEN NAJEEB
HIRA Students and Advisors
other activities designed in such a way that they can apply what they learn to reality, and to follow up their engagement with topics of social justice and community service with action. “Hira Intensive not only gave me the structure that I was looking for, but it also provided me with a deeper understanding of my faith,” Khan related. “I was given a space to ask questions to people who were actually qualified to answer them. I loved that we could continuously ask why and not feel ashamed. The scholars encouraged that we question things so that we could create a deeper level of understanding and in turn, love for Allah and His religion. I needed those three weeks to take me out of my daily life and struggles to remind me what it was all for.” Khan didn’t do it alone. With 30 to 50 students each year, Hira Intensive provides youth with an avenue to build long-lasting beneficial bonds, ones that former student Emaan Tauseef said shaped who she became. “We became a family,” Tauseef stressed. “We all knew each other so well because of all of the engaging debates and conversations we would have. The people I met at Hira became my best friends. That’s a special bond that no one can replace.” “It was truly a beautiful space because it
became a family of people from all different places,” Khan added. “I remember us all having very different personalities, but we were united with our intentions of being there. Our souls connected. We became the kind of people who can go without talking for years, but when we’re together again, we open up immediately.” The students weren’t the only ones to benefit from the intensive. Residential advisors (RAs) tasked with mentoring students also found themselves attached to Hira’s mission. Former RA Saad Hasan experienced it firsthand. Now two years removed from his Hira days, he still believes those three weeks in 2017 are “unmatched.” “Being an RA at Hira is a once-in-alifetime experience,” Hasan said. “You not only get to attend all of the incredible classes held by the top scholars, but you also get to serve as mentors to an incredible group of youth who are hungry for [spiritual] growth and knowledge. This, in turn, helps you with your own path, providing you with a new perspective on how to view our religion.” “And it couldn’t be offered at a better time,” Hasan added. For Muslim Americans, membership in this generation presents additional challenges. Young Muslims are distancing themselves from Islam in the
midst of perceptions that it is barbaric, outdated or simply irrelevant. Those who do remain connected to faith still face issues like social pressures, depression, drugs and more. While mosques and other institutions often find it difficult to meet these unique needs, Hira Intensive is designed specifically for them. “Hira is so important for youth because it provides what is so hard to find in America,” Hasan said, “and that’s a solid base of Islamic knowledge and incredible friendships with peers and mentors alike that they grow extremely close to in their time together.” “Oftentimes, in society, youth do not have the proper outlet to discuss socio-political issues and their faith simultaneously,” Tauseef added. “Hira, however, is the perfect place to do so, helping youth embrace what it truly means to be Muslim in America.” Together, these factors make Hira Intensive a program Tauseef would “definitely” attend all over again. Half a decade later, Khan still believes it was unforgettable. “Hira completely changed my life,” she says. “There’s honestly nothing else like it.” To learn more about this year’s threeweek intensive, visit www.myna.org/hira. ih Alaa Abdeldaiem is Marketing and Documentation Fellow, ISNA Youth Programs and Services Department.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 9
College Board Moves AP Exam for Eid
The College Board is expanding testing options for the Advanced Placement (AP) exam to accommodate Eid al-Fitr 2021. During a Nov. 5th Montgomery (Md.) County Board of Education meeting, Muslim students and community members asked for schools to be closed for this religious holiday out of concern that both events would occur on the same day — Thursday, May 13, 2021 — which could result in students either observing their faith or taking the AP exam.
Consequently, the board contacted The College Board National Office on their behalf and relayed their request. The College Board responded as follows: “To support students observing Eid-al-Fitr, we’ll be administering all exams planned for May 13, 2021, again on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The full 2020-21 Exam schedule will be posted in mid-December,” said College Board Media Relations Director Jerome White. ih
The Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research has created the Malcolm X Vanguards of Justice Scholarship (https://yaqeeninstitute.org/malcolm-x-vanguards-of-justice-scholarship) to recognize those who have made outstanding contributions to their local community through service initiatives inspired by the legacy of a champion of social justice: Al Hajj Malik Shabbaz. The honoree selected should be considered a role model for compassion, a person who is striving to establish social justice, working for positive change in the community and contributing his or her expertise where it is needed locally.
NJ Expands Halal Foods Service at Public Schools Paterson (N.J.) schools expanded the district’s self-operated halal food program to 10 more schools in the 201920 school year, said superintendent Eileen Shafer on Sept. 27, 2109. Schools 2, 7, 8, 9, 19, 27 and 28, along with the Don Bosco Technical Academy, International High School and the Hani Awadallah School, began offering halal food in September. “We are all very pleased by the success of the pilot Halal food program, and to see Halal food being made available at more schools throughout the district,” Superintendent Eileen Shafer told the Paterson Times. The halal lunch program, which the district piloted at John F. Kennedy High School and School 5 during 2018, remains ongoing.
School officials reported that Paterson, which has a large Muslim student popu-
lation, not to mention one of the nation’s largest populations overall, may be the state’s first school district to offer halal food. It will be offered at all district schools through a five-phase plan, according to the district. A majority of schools had started serving halal food by Thanksgiving. ih
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The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California inaugurated its $3.4 million office complex in Orange on Nov. 3, 2019, at a grand opening ceremony. The complex is an example of a unique fundraising and financing model. More than 150 community leaders and activists attended the meeting, which was addressed by board members Dr. Ahmed A. Soboh (chairman), Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi (former chairman), Shakeel Syed (former executive director) and Malek Bendelhoum (current executive director). Guests were given guided tours of the offices by board members, who explained the various projects and programs envisioned for the community. “This is actually the result of the work of everyone here. This is a huge, huge asset to our community. It belongs to the commu-
The Prince William County (Va.) Planning Commission approved the Muslim Association of Virginia’s Dar Al Noor mosque and community center expansion on Nov. 7, 2019, by a vote of 5-3. Growing from its present 12,000 square feet to 88,276 square feet, it will include a prayer hall, administrative offices, a multipurpose banquet hall, a youth and senior center, meeting rooms, play areas, childcare, a private K-8 school and an auditorium. In addition, the center might also open a medical clinic to support the mosque. Coles District Planning Commissioner Austin B. Haynes, Jr. proposed and Potomac District Planning Commissioner and Vice Chairman Rene M. Fry seconded the application. Washington, D.C. architect Ansar Hasan Burney designed the mosque’s expansion building. ih nity; it is for the community, by the community. So we urge each and every one of you to get involved,” said Vice-Chair Dr. Azeem Syed. Bushra Bangee, a new board member, noted, “One of the most important foundations of the community is the roots of the community. We pray, God willing, this building can be the roots and the foundation of the future of our community, and when we’re not even here that our children are able to benefit from this as well.” Baltimore's County Board of Education unanimously voted on Nov. 5, 2019, to close public schools on Eid holidays on the rare occasions when they share the same school day during the 2020-21 school year. This year, Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated on May 23. CAIR acknowledged student board member Omer Reshid and leaders Dr. Basher Pharoan and Muhammed Jamil for tirelessly championing this issue. The long-awaited move comes after 30+ years of advocacy and efforts to seek Eid equality, and on the heels of the county’s
first Muslim student board member being elected to serve in that capacity. This decision is “a step toward accomplishing religious parity in schools,” said Pharoan, who has long addressed the school board about religious holiday inequity.
At its 25th anniversary gala, CAIR proclaimed Edward Ahmed Mitchell (executive director, CAIR-Georgia) as its national deputy director. The event was held on Nov. 9, 2019, at the Muslim civil rights organization’s Capitol Hill headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Mitchell, an attorney and former journalist, had been the executive director of CAIR’s Georgia chapter since 2016. Before joining CAIR-Georgia, this graduate of Morehouse College and Georgetown University Law Center had worked as a criminal prosecutor for the City of Atlanta. Mitchell is also a former editor of Atlanta Muslim as well as a member of both the Georgia Association of Muslim Lawyers and the Islamic Community Center of Atlanta’s board of trustees. As the head of CAIR-Georgia, Mitchell opened the chapter’s first office and established its first staff, which included a civil rights attorney, a paralegal, an outreach director and a communications director. Since then, the organization has exposed and resolved dozens of incidents of anti-Muslim discrimination. CAIR-Georgia received CAIR’s 2016 Chapter of the Year award. “Over the past 25 years, CAIR has grown into one of our nation’s most diverse, respected and accomplished civil rights organizations,” said Mitchell. “I thank God for the opportunity to help serve the entire American Muslim community at this pivotal moment in our nation’s history.”
Hilal Ibrahim unveils her hijab collection
The Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minneapolis, Minn., has been working with Henna and Hijabs, an organization founded and run by Hilal Ibrahim, who started volunteering ten years ago when she was 14 years old. On Nov. 14, 2019, the hospital gift shop unveiled the first-of-its-kind partnership with her exclusively designed hijabs. “The hijab,” Ibrahim related, “is breathable and flexible, and holds [up] well in the hospital setting for both patients and employees.” The Minnesota-made hijabs come with a special partnership tag, explained HealthPartners Chief Human Resources Officer Anahita Cameron. Money raised from its sales will help fund health and education programs for the hospital’s staff and patients.
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COMMUNITY MATTERS Judge Robert Hinkle, who presides over the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee, ruled Oct. 2, 2019, that Durell Sims, a prison inmate who converted in 2007, could grow a “fistlength” beard. The K&L Gates law firm and attorneys Olivia Kelman, Paul Hancock and Joshua Carpenter successfully made the case for the inmates’ rights to grow beards and practice their faith freely. Judge Hinkle wrote in the conclusion of his decision, “He wishes to grow a beard in accordance with his religion and doing so would pose no security, misconduct or flight risk. The Department [of Corrections] has not shown that prohibiting him from growing a fist-length beard and trimming his moustache is the least restricted means of furthering a compelling government interest.” CAIR-Florida’s communications director Wilfredo Amr Ruiz stated: “As a civil rights organization, we celebrate this victory … Inmates should not be burdened with further deprivation of rights that violate constitutional freedoms in the name of security. Judge Hinkle’s decision was comprehensive and informed, and it is the embodiment of fair and balanced judicial oversight. We celebrate this important decision for the protection of the inmates’ religious beliefs.”
The Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA; https://www.cisnausa.org) participated in a panel at the National Summit on Religious Education on Sept. 27, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Executive Director Sufia Azmat, who spoke on “The Future of K-12 Religious Studies Education in American Schools,” stated that “One of the takeaways was the need to collaborate as coalitions of faith-based, public and independent schools bringing together students and parents to improve relationships which will lead to acceptance and inclusion.” ih
The Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) announced on Nov. 21, 2019, that Prof. Najeeba Syeed will be joining its faculty as associate professor in Muslim and Interreligious Studies effective July 1, 2020. She is currently an associate professor of Interreligious Education, as well as the director and founder of the Claremont School of Theology’s Center for Global Peacebuilding (https:// cst.edu/center-of-global-peacebuilding). A recognized leader in peacebuilding, she has twice received the Jon Anson Ford Award for reducing violence and was named the Southern California Mediation Association’s “Peacemaker of the Year” in 2007. Her scholarship focuses on the role of Muslim peacebuilding, interfaith just peacemaking and diplomacy, along with the Islamic spiritual formation for peacemaking. Syeed, a highly sought-after advisor for government initiatives, is a member of the advisory board for the Journal of Interreligious Studies, past co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Religion and Politics Section and has chaired national conferences on Muslim and Interfaith Peacebuilding. She has worked as a mediator, developed restorative justice programs for youth, launched mediation programs and works with mosques to educate their congregations about Muslim models of conflict resolution. In addition to teaching, Syeed will work closely with the InterReligious Institute at CTS on interfaith initiatives, advise masters and doctoral students and help develop
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partnership between CTS and the Bayan Chicago Islamic Graduate School. President Stephen Ray stated, “We are thrilled to have a scholar of Najeeba Syeed’s caliber join in our work at CTS and serve as an ambassador for the seminary in our efforts to grow our relationship with local, national, and global Muslim communities as we work towards endowing a chair in Muslim studies.” Syeed remarked, “I am delighted to be joining a seminary that is on the cutting edge of interreligious education and deeply grounded in the faith communities of Chicago. I look forward to building local, national and international partnership to further the goal of interreligious problem-solving mechanisms and scholarship to address the most dire issues and conflicts of our time.”
Astrobiologist Dr. Nozair Khawaja, a researcher at the Freie Universität Berlin, was awarded NASA’s 2019 Group Achievement Award for Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) on Sept. 15, 2019. He is also a recipient of the 2028 Horneck-Brack Award from the European Astrobiology Network Association. The Khawaja-led team of German and American scientists, which was conducting research on data gathered from Enceladus’ hydrothermal core by the NASA-operated Cassini spacecraft, discovered an organic molecule, understood to be a prerequisite for the existence of life, on one of Saturn’s 62 moons. The discovery, experts believe, make it a notable candidate for extraterrestrial life. Until the 1990s, liquid water was believed to exist only on Earth. Khawaja told Suhail Yusuf of The Express Tribune (Pakistan): “I have found a small but soluble and reactive organic compound pluming from the depths [ocean]
Umair Shah receives ICEHS Section Awards
Umair Shah receives Roemer
At the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual meeting and expo, held in Philadelphia on Nov. 2-6, 2019, Umair Shah, MD, MPH, received the Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health Work. Shah (executive director, Harris County [Texas] Public Health) was recognized for his leadership, partnerships and innovations in the face of public health challenges, in particular for having brought public health services into those neighborhoods most devastated by the Category 4 Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas and Louisiana during August 2017.
PHOTO: IAN MACLELLAN
PHOTO: EGAN JIMENEZ
of Enceladus. The compound from the ocean of Enceladus is already a known ingredient of amino acids found in the oceans of Earth.” The Cassini space probe — launched in 1997 — completed its research mission in 2017; however, scientists have yet to study all of the research material gathered. Khawaja stresses its data can reveal more bio-signatures in this subsurface ocean. The organic molecule found by Khawaja and his team is composed of oxygen and nitrogen and has been enveloped in ice grain. It can easily be dubbed a precursor of amino acid. Khawaja, who has a master’s degree in astronomy and space sciences (Punjab University) and a doctorate (geosciences, Heidelberg University), worked as a postdoctoral scholar at the latter university’s Institute of Earth Sciences. His work has appeared in prestigious scientific journals such as Nature, research journals and the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society and Science. Khawaja’s latest research on Enceladus was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Marwan Safar Jalani
Marwan Safar Jalani (Yale ‘20) and Ali Daher (MIT ‘19) have won the postgraduate Rhodes Scholarships reserved for the Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine (SJLP) region. Rhodes Scholars are chosen on the basis of intellectual achievement, strength of character, leadership potential and the ability to “push the frontiers of innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.” The scholarship for this region is made possible through a partnership among the Said Foundation, The Rhodes Trust and the University of Oxford. Damascus-born Jalani will pursue an M.Phil. in comparative government at Oxford, where he hopes to explore institutional design in war-torn and post-conflict contexts. He left Syria in 2012 due to the war, moved to Egypt and then Turkey before enrolling in the United World College in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. As an undergraduate, he worked with the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven and at the Bronx Defenders and Human Rights Watch in New York. He served on the United World College Syrian National Committee and as president of the Yale Refugee Project. He enjoys cycling, writing poetry and performing spoken word. Daher, from Amman, Jordan, graduated last fall with a BS in mechanical engineering with a concentration in biological engineering. He will head to APHA represents health professionals from across the nation (and globe). The award recognizes creativity and innovation in public health, and Roemer is one of APHA’s highest honors. Later that same evening, he received the APHA Service Award from the Injury/Emergency Health Section.
Oxford to pursue a degree in research engineering science with the Oxford Mechanobiology Group. At MIT, he worked on a predictive mathematical model for the aggressive brain tumor glioblastoma multiforme in the Multidisciplinary Simulation, Estimation and Assimilation Lab. Daher has held executive positions with the MIT Arab Student Organization and the MIT/Harvard Relay for Life, and has been an orientation leader for MIT International Science and Technology Initiative’s programs for students interning in Jordan and Morocco. In addition to being a teaching assistant at MIT, Daher has tutored students at Jordanian universities and volunteered with displaced populations through Caritas Jordan. He plays basketball with MIT’s intramural leagues and, during his high school years, was a member of the Jordanian national basketball youth team. He also rediscovered a love of reading through his concentration in literature at MIT, which inspired him to become a Burchard Scholar. As a research assistant in the Newman Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, Daher helped design a robotic medical device to help survivors of neurological injuries regain their gait and balance. Established in 1903, Rhodes Scholarships cover two years of study at Oxford University. ih The annual Roemer Prize, endowed by APHA members Milton Roemer, MD, and Ruth Roemer, JD, honors a public health worker engaged in outstanding innovative and creative public health service in their community. It is awarded to a local health officer of a county, city or other unit of local government in recognition.
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Yunus “Miley” Gardee was awarded the Presidential Order for Excellent Service for the fourth time during 2019. He has volunteered for the past 16 years as a Tourist Information Patrol Specialist, a uniformed unit in the Orange County’s Florida Sheriff ’s Office, driving a specially marked car to help visitors to the International Drive Area in Orlando, Fla. Gardee, who works as a real estate agent, also coordinates burials at the Muslim Cemetery of Central Florida, which has its own funeral director.
Zerqa Abid received the 2019 Dispatch Media Group Everyday Hero Award on Oct. 1. She helped found a national network against domestic violence in Muslim families, the nonprofit My Project USA to provide soccer and other youth programming, a free food pantry that feeds an average of 120 families per week, and the My Deah’s thrift store. Twenty-five volunteers from Central Ohio were honored during a luncheon program at COSI, a science museum in downtown Columbus. A resolution sponsored by Democratic Reps. Adam Miller and Allison Russo in the Ohio House of Representatives recognized and lauded her many contributions to bringing about social change. “It wasn’t just me,” Abid relied, crediting volunteers, staff and board members, Columbus City Council member Elizabeth Brown and Franklin County Auditor Michael Stinziano for working with her along the way. “This award goes out to each and every one of them.” A Columbus resident since 2007, she was among the five finalists and 20 semifinalists recognized for their service to the central Ohio community. Abid has also worked with Columbus police and the City Council to provide help for the neighborhood and funding for the programs. Abid, who lamented that there are hundreds of children and adults whom she and her volunteers haven’t been able to help, despite their best efforts, established 36 years ago, recognizes Marylanders for their significant volunteer
Asma Inge-Hanif with Gov. Hogan
Asma Inge-Hanif, who heads the Inge Benevolent Ministries Programs (https:// mnisaashelter.org/programs), which runs Muslimat Al Nisaa Shelter, Refugee Resettlement Program, Love Thy Neighbor Humanitarian Services and Al Nisaa Healthy Solutions Wellness Center, was recognized with The [Maryland] Governor’s Service Awards in Annapolis on Oct. 21, 2019. Governor Lawrence (Larry) J. Hogan Jr. (R) presented the awards. Inge-Hanif was recognized as an outstanding Maryland volunteer. The Awards, 14 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
Zerqa Abid accepts congratulations from (left to right) Stephen White of COSI, Dan Sharpe of the Columbus Foundation, and Ray Paprocki of the Dispatch Media Group. She was named the 2019 Everyday Hero on Oct. 1, 2019 (Columbus Dispatch photo by Doral Chenoweth III. Used with permission).
said that the way to resolve this inability it to empower those who are out there trying to help. The other four Everyday Hero finalists were Imran Malik, an interfaith leader; Tracy Kronk, whose nonprofit serves children in rural Ohio; Chrisanne Gordon, a physician who treats veterans struggling with traumatic brain injury; and Austin Hill, who helps drug addicts. Abid received a $10,000 grant from the Columbus Foundation for a charity of her choice. The four finalists each received $7,500 in marketing services from the Dispatch Media Group for an organization of their choice. All semifinalists and finalists received a family membership from the Center of Science and Industry. ih contributions to the state and its citizens and their work to change Maryland for the better.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Dr. Anisa M. Ibrahim, University of Washington clinic assistant professor of pediatrics, was appointed medical director of Harborview Medical Center’s Pediatrics Clinic. In 1993, she — a six-year-old Somali refugee — and her siblings were treated there when they arrived in Seattle. Ibrahim, who attended the University of Washington’s School of Medicine and graduated in 2013, interned and did her residency at the UW Department of Pediatrics. Now she gets to care for and do outreach for immigrant and refugee populations, with a focus on those from East Africa.
Omer Ismail, 39, a partner at Goldman Sachs, was named in Fortune’s Most Influential Under 40 List for 2019. As an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, he didn’t take a finance course but focused on editing its student newspaper, The Dartmouth. Ismail, who grew up in Karachi, earned his MBA at Harvard Business School, after which he worked his way up to managing director on Goldman Sachs’ private equity investment team. In 2014, when the firm was considering venturing into consumer banking, Ismail
The Sept.-Oct. 2019 issue (p. 54) included Misbahuddin Mirza’s important and well-written article “Toward Revival of the Ottoman Language.” One of the unfortunate results of the Europeanization of the language was that historians have little access to authentic Ottoman sources. Dr. Mehmet Maksudoglu, among the few scholars today who can read and understand Ottoman Turkish, based his book “Osmanli History and Institutions” (Ensar Nesriyat, 2011; available on Amazon.com) on original Ottoman Turkish sources, writes that the Ottomans never called themselves an empire. Instead of being ruled by a dictator who made his own rules, the sultans sought to continue to rule by the Sharia. Sultan Suleiman, commonly referred to as the Lawgiver, is known as such because he revised the law in order to return to the original thinking of Muslim scholars. Unlike European empires, when the Ottomans absorbed other countries they improved the peoples’ living standards and built bridges, hospitals, schools and mosques. Even the not-so Muslim-friendly Bernard Lewis has admitted that the Ottomans left industry and trade in the hands of the locals, who continued to practice their inherited crafts. Dr. Freda Shamma Director of Curriculum at FADEL, Cincinnati, Ohio was picked to lead a strategy team. Later, he became that division’s first employee and chief operating officer of the personal banking arm Marcus by Goldman Sachs, which now has more than 4 million customers. He was also recognized as one of Business Insider’s 100 People Transforming Business, Crain’s 40 under 40 and Bank Innovation’s Innovators to Watch. Ismail lives in New York with his wife and two children
Zainab Chaudry, Maryland outreach manager for CAIR and vice-president of CAIR-Maryland, was recognized with the “Outstanding Community Service” award by the Baltimore County Muslim Council at its Health Fair 2019, held on Oct. 5.
Bushra Khan, Maine East High School senior, was elected Homecoming Queen during homecoming week, Sept. 16-21, 2019. Khan, whose win was announced during the homecoming assembly, was one of four senior girls vying for the title. She was introduced as a “future YouTube sensation and future president of America.” Khan said she plans to study business and art in college before moving to Los Angeles to promote her fashion brand of custom-painted clothing, which she currently sells via Instagram, and focus on her art. And down the line, she really does plan to run for president. In addition to an interest in politics, she’s also a member of the Maine East Speech Team, National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, Class Council and Student Council. ih
CORRIGENDUM We regret the following typos in the feature about Zulfiqar Malik published on pages 42-43 of the Nov.-Dec. 2019 issue. First, he has been active in the community for almost 50 years, and not 5, as mistyped. Also, he is one of the founding members, not the founding member, of the Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City.
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Muslim Candidates Win in 26 U.S. Polls
uslim candidates secured seats in several states in special elections held on Nov. 5, 2019.
In Virginia, Abrar Omeish (Yale ‘17), who is passionate about creating a school system that offers equity and inclusion in education for all students, won an at-large Fairfax County School (FCPS) board seat. At 24, she is the youngest woman to hold elected office in the state’s history. In 2010, the FCPS alum co-founded Growth and Inspiration through Volunteering and Education (GIVE; www. giveyouth.org) to promote civic engagement and giving back to the community. Having grown to over 20 centers nationwide, it pairs high school students with elementary school students to help develop relationships, thereby inspiring younger students and helping create continuity in their lives. Her enthusiasm for public service has taken her to the White House and Capitol Hill, the 9/11 Unity Walk and the National Cathedral 100th Anniversary Interfaith Service. The Daughters of the American
Revolution and the Washington Business Journal, among others organizations, have recognized her service, and she has been featured in TIME and other news outlets. In addition to serving as president of the FCPS Superintendent Student Advisory Council, the highest council position for a student in the county, she also launched the two-year “Bring it On” issue campaign through which she amended FCPS policies and measurably increased students’ political efficacy in the governance process. Several School Board members asked her to sit on county advisory committees, including those on advanced academics and student discipline. She is also chairwoman of the Fairfax County Government Student Human Rights Commission and a representative to the Fairfax County Youth Leadership Program, a bridge between the school system and the county government. In high school, she founded her school’s Young Dems Club. She served as a Virtual Foreign Students Officer at the U.S. Department of State. Abrar, an active Girl Scout, served as a board member of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital (GSCNC) and as a GSCNC National Delegate. She was awarded the President’s Award in Honor of Ethel G. Harvey (one out of 65,000) and earned the rank of a Gold Award Girl Scout. As a result of her work, Abrar was nominated to join the Interfaith Youth Action Group of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation that worked to foster dialogue and implement projects using the UN Millennium Development Goals as a platform. Democrats Ibraheem Samirah, a Palestinian American dentist from Herndon,
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PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER DILTS/FRIENDS OF GHAZALA HASHMI
Va., who was reelected, and Sam Rasoul, currently serve in Virginia’s General Assembly. Atif Qarni serves as Secretary of Education in Virginia Governor Northam’s cabinet.
Democrat Ghazala Hashmi defeated incumbent Sen. Glen Sturtevant (R) in the race for Virginia’s 10th Senate District in her first electoral contest. She is the first Muslimah elected to the state Senate. Her main issue has been education. After working for decades in the community college system, she “realized I had a choice. I could remain unheard, unseen, and unrepresented. Or, I could speak out, be visible, and dare to claim for myself and other marginalized communities the right to full participation in our democracy.” Hashmi, who immigrated to the U.S. as a child and earned a doctorate in English from Emory University, is the founding director of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Ghazala and her husband Azhar, who moved to the Richmond area in 1991, have two daughters.
Attorney Omar Tarazi (R) became the first Muslim public official in Ohio’s Hilliard County when he was elected to the Hilliard City Council. On March 18, he was selected (5:0) to complete former Council President Albert Iosue’s term, who had resigned after becoming the city’s service director.
Armed with an undergraduate degree from Franklin University, he graduated cum laude from Dayton Law School with honors. His major was dispute resolution. Now sitting on both the Ethics Committee and the Admissions Committee of the Columbus Bar Association, he had previously served on the Hilliard Board of Zoning Appeals. He is the author of “Allah’s Words in Plain English” (2012). His mother, Norma Tarazi, published “The Child in Islam: A Muslim Parent’s Handbook” in 1995.
Safiya Khalid, 23, became the first SomaliAmerican to be elected to the Lewiston City Council in Maine and also the youngest person to hold a seat on the council. Khalid also serves as vice chair of the party’s Lewiston chapter and has an executive seat on the state committee. Somalis fleeing war and famine began settling two decades ago in Maine’s second-largest city. Lewiston is now home to more than 5,000 Africans.
Nadia Mohamed, 23, secured more than 63 percent of the votes cast to become the first Muslimah and Somali-American elected to Minnesota’s St. Louis Park City Council. She sits on the St. Louis Park Multicultural
Advisory Committee, co-taught two community education classes, volunteered with St. Louis Park High School’s High Achievement Program, hosted community iftars and volunteered with St. Louis Park High School’s High Achievement Program. In March Nadia, who is pursuing a human resources management degree from Metropolitan State University, received the St. Louis Park Human Rights Award in recognition of her “continuous dedication, leadership in connecting and communicating across cultures and ability to find new ways to build relationships in the community.”
Harvard law graduate and former assistant law director in the City of Akron’s law department Shammas Malik, 28, won a seat in the Akron City Council, Ohio. He now works an associate at an area law firm. An Ohio native, he is also involved in a number of community organizations, including Torchbearers and the Akron Bar Association. Malik (Ohio State University ’13) studied political science and international studies. He was a student government undergraduate senator, president of the International Studies Honors Society and a member of the Undergraduate Political Science Organization, College Democrats and the MSA. He interned at the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, D.C., during the summer of 2011. Zahra Roach has clinched a seat on Pasco, Wash., city council. Other new or reelected Muslim public officials, listed by state, are as follows: Maine: Pious Ali — Portland City Council (reelection) • Safiya Khalid — Lewiston City Council. Maryland: Fazlul Kabir — College Park City Council (reelection). Massachusetts: Mehreen Butt — Wakefield Town Council (reelection) • Afroz
Khan — Newburyport City Council (reelection) • Sumbul Siddiqui — Cambridge City Council (reelection). Minnesota: Nadia Mohamed — St. Louis Park City Council • Abdisalam Adam — Fridley School Board (appointed in 2018 to fill a vacant seat; elected on Nov. 5). New Jersey: Jamillah Beasley — Irvington Municipal Council (reelection) • Mustafa Al-Mutazzim Brent — East Orange City Council (reelection) • Denise Sanders — Teaneck Board of Education (reelection) • Raghib Muhammad — Montgomery Township Board of Education • Adnan Zakaria — Prospect Park City Council (reelection) • Esllam Zakaria — Prospect Park Board of Education (reelection). Ohio: Omar Tarazi — Hilliard City Council. Pennsylvania: Omar Sabir — Phila delphia City Commission. Virginia: Buta Biberaj — Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney • Ghazala Hashmi — Senate District 10 • Babur Lateef —Prince William County School Board (reelection) • Harris Mahedavi —Loudoun County School Board • Abrar Omeish — Fairfax County School Board • Sam Rasoul — House of Delegates District 11 (reelection) • Ibraheem Samirah — House of Delegates District 86 (reelection) • Lisa Zargarpur — Prince William County School Board. Washington: Turan Kayaoglu — Puyallup School Board • Zahra Roach — Pasco City Council
CANADIAN MUSLIMS ELECTION WINS Eleven Muslims won seats in Canada’s House of Commons (general) elections on Oct. 21, 2019. They are Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen (Liberal, York South-Weston) • Federal Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef (Liberal, PeterboroughKawartha) • Yasmin Ratansi (Liberal, Don Valley East) — she was the first Muslimah elected to Parliament in 2004 • Omar Alghabra (Liberal, Mississauga Center, 2006-08 and in 2015-19) • Iqra Khalid (Liberal, Mississauga-Erin Mills) • Ziad Aboultaif (Conservative, Edmonton Manning, Ottawa) • Salma Zahid (Liberal, Scarborough Centre) • Ali Ehsassi (Liberal, Willowdale) • Majid Jowhari (Liberal, Richmond Hill) • Arif Virani (Liberal, Parkdale-High Park) • Sameer Zuberi (Liberal, Pierrefonds-Dollard) who were reelected to their respective seats. ih
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“Race” and the Future of Muslim American Leadership It’s long past time for Muslims to move beyond the false European colonial construct of “race” BY JAMES E. JONES
mericans Love “Race”: Let’s face it… Americans are infatuated with the idea of “race.” And so are Muslim Americans, despite what our Creator tells us — “O humanity, reverence your Guardian Lord, who created you from a single soul, created of like nature its mate, and from the two of them created countless men and women. Reverence God, through whom you demand your mutual [rights] and the wombs [that bore you], for God ever watches over you” (Q. 4:1). Elsewhere in the Quran, even those of us who call ourselves “Muslim” cling to the idea that there are subspecies of humanity known as “races.” This, although even assertively anti-religious atheists such as the famous English biologist Richard Dawkins agrees that all of humanity has one common ancestor!
Our collective American infatuation with “race” would not be so bad if it did not have such destructive consequences. We live in a technologically advanced world powered by the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Uber. And yet we still hold on to the old European colonialist-inspired notion that there are biologically distinct “races.” For those who cannot be bothered with reading the Quran or books like Richard Dawkins’ “River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life” (1996), please consider watching the PBS-produced three-part video series “Race — The Power of an Illusion” (2003) on https://www.kanopy.com/product/race. Each part teaches us, in a powerful and visual manner and via science and history, how we Americans came to be so enamored with this false idea. The first episode, “The Difference Between Us,” emphasizes what scientists now know about genes and DNA. The primary point made is that what we imagine as “race” has no biological basis. The second episode, “The Story We Tell,” traces the documented history of this relatively modern notion, which was a byproduct of Europe’s conquest of the New World. “The House We Live In,” the third and final episode,
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focuses on how U.S. institutions and policies have consistently provided advantages to one group (usually those deemed “white” at that particular point in time) over others, based on erroneous assumptions about “racial differences.” Moreover, this country’s racially based attitudes toward non-white “outsiders” are enshrined in the first naturalization law passed by Congress on March 26, 1790. The law began as follows: “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That any alien being a free white person [italics added], who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof on application to the satisfaction of such Court that he is a person of good character, and taking the oath or affirmation prescribed by law to support the Constitution of the United States…” As we can see, this country’s legal and institutional love affair with “race” was enshrined in its very first naturalization law! This erroneous construct has followed America throughout its federal judicial, legislative and regulatory history. Prime examples include the
MUSLIMS, REGRETTABLY, LIKE OTHER AMERICANS, ALSO LOVE THIS IDEA OF “RACE.” THE MOST COMMONLY CITED INDICATION OF THIS IS THE FREQUENCY WITH WHICH FAMILIES REJECT MARRIAGE PROPOSALS FOR THEIR DAUGHTERS SIMPLY BECAUSE THE SUITOR IS FROM ANOTHER CULTURAL/ETHNIC GROUP.
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COVER STORY Supreme Court’s Dred Scott v. Sanford ruling in 1857 that which famously stated “that they [the negro] had no rights which the white man was bound to respect,” Congress’ Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the 193468 U.S. Federal Housing Authority’s (FHA) regulations that supported housing segregation by imposing racially based “redlining” on housing markets nationwide. Undoubtedly, much of this country’s fixation on drawing legal and spatial racial boundaries has much to do with a phrase that Kenneth M. Stampp (Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley) famously used as the title for his book, “The Peculiar Institution” (1956). In it, he exposes Southern chattel slavery as the brutal and self-serving institution that it was. Even though the nexus of this inhumane practice was in the South, no section of the then-existing U.S. escaped its influence and economic benefit. This “peculiar institution” indelibly marked the history, economy and sociology of the U.S. during the 18th and 19th centuries. The 1860 U.S. Census indicated that the U.S., at that time comprising 33 states, 10 territories and 31 million inhabitants, had 3.9 million slaves. The abrupt post-Civil War “freedom” of 10 percent of America’s total population set the stage for the constant erection of legal and social barriers deliberately designed to deny the former slaves’ complete and actual emancipation. As a result, over time post-Reconstruction Jim Crow laws morphed into slightly less blatant activities like mass incarceration (see Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” 2010) nationwide and various thinly veiled voter suppression
schemes in some states. Also, the brutal terrorist lynchings of the 19th and 20th centuries have been replaced with frequent police-involved shootings of Black people on the streets. It is this toxic racialized context that has a strong negative impact both within and outside the Muslim American community.
MUSLIM AMERICANS MUST LOVE GOD MORE THAN “RACE” LEADERSHIP “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. They are the ones to attain felicity” (Q. 3:104). Muslims, regrettably, like other Americans, also love this idea of “race.” The most commonly cited indication of this is the frequency with which families reject marriage proposals for their daughters simply because the suitor is from another cultural/ethnic group. We also see it in the sometimes-blatant nativism in the African American Muslim community against “foreigners” (see Sherman Jackson’s “Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection,” 2011). At a time when this racially Balkanized country and Muslims need Quran-inspired input the most, we appear to be missing in action. The Quranic mandate is clear — we have a responsibility “to step up” when it comes to “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.” As usual, our beloved Prophet Muhammad’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) example is instructive in this regard. He was born after his father died, lost his mother at the age of 6 and his apparently doting grandfather two years later. His paternal uncle Abu Talib raised and protected him, even though he never embraced Islam. You would think that an orphan raised in a fiercely tribal society might have succumbed to the usual practice of making his tribal affiliation the center of his identity. And yet he did not. In fact, with God’s guidance, he steadfastly rejected his tribe’s ways while never stopping to love his birthplace and its people. The Makkan leaders, fully aware of this reality, reportedly used it as a tactic against him in their efforts to persuade him to abandon his mission. We can learn many things from his example, among them the following: There is no problem with loving one’s family and particular ethnic, racial or cultural group. The Quran supports and encourages this.
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However, we must draw the line when such love encourages us to forsake our broader mandate: to be a witness for humanity (Q. 22:78). The people of Yathrib, both Muslim and Jewish, sought out Prophet Muhammad as a person of good character (al-ameen, the trustworthy) because they believed that he could bring peace to their feuding factions. The Prophet’s community was multicultural and multiethnic from the beginning. We need to begin praying that we will follow this specific wisdom of our beloved Prophet in today’s racially charged atmosphere. May we strive to be among those who enjoin the right and forbid the wrong no matter who is involved in a dispute concerning justice. As God makes clear: “O you who believe, stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, your parents, your kin and whether it be (against) rich or poor, for God can best protect both. Do not follow the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and [be aware that] if you distort or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do” (Q. 4:135). ih Prof Jimmy E. Jones, DMin, is a board and faculty member of The Islamic Seminary of America (https://www.islamicseminary.us), located in Richardson, Texas, and a former chair and professor of African Studies and World Religions at Manhattanville College, Purchase, N.Y.
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The Living Legacy of Malcolm X
“For me the earth’s most explosive evil is racism, the inability of God’s creatures to live as One, especially in the West.” — Malcolm X, April 25, 1964, in Madinah BY EMIN POLJAREVIC
ifty-five years after the assassination of the 39-year-old Malcolm X, his life-story continues to fascinate people across the globe. Young Muslims in particular are taking his legacy seriously. Observable groups of both online and offline Muslims in Western and Islamicate societies are analyzing his message to learn how to engage with perceived and real injustices. Muslim youth organizations and groups from Muslim-majority and -minority societies are tapping into bits and pieces of his message through “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (written in collaboration with Alex Haley ; http://www.black-matters.com/books/autobiography-of-malcolm-x-pdf.pdf), associated song lyrics, movies, documentaries and YouTube soundbites, including selections of words and images surrounding his persona. In Haley’s words: “No man in our time aroused fear and hatred in the white man as did Malcolm, because in him the white man sensed an implacable foe who could not be had for any price — a man unreservedly committed to the cause of liberating the black man in American society rather than integrating the black man into that society” (p. ix). This recent revival of Malcolm X’s lifework can be understood in the light of increased levels of Islamophobia and racialization worldwide. Young Muslims are invoking popularized, recognizable and relatively familiar symbols of resistance to endure intense discrimination and oppression in a wide variety of places. For example, in Malaysia, Al Ghazali Sulaiman’s fictionalized version of Malcolm X represents a figure through which the author calls for social reformation (https://www.goodreads.com/book/ show/32673585-malcolm-x). Recep Şentürk’s
2009 Turkish translation of Malcolm X’s message emphasizes the dedication to the Islamic principles that erase racism (https:// sks.ihu.edu.tr/rektor-hocamiz-prof-dr-recep-senturk-malcolm-xi-anlatti). Alexander Osman from the Organization of Austrian Muslim Youth, who has actively fought anti-Muslim racism and anti-Semitism since the 1990s, continuously draws upon his message (Alexander Osman, “Mühlviertler Hasenjagd, Malcolm X und die Muslimische Jugend Österreich,” Muslimische Jugend Österreich [ed.]), ). In Turkey and Iran, his legacy is sometimes celebrated by naming streets and public spaces after him. In the U.K., a number of Muslim artists are using Malcolm X imagery and famous quotes to address racism and bigotry. In the wake of increased mobilization of Islamophobes and white supremacists in the U.S., the Islamic aspect of his religiosity has received more attention by both Blackamericans and other Muslim communities. Several underlying reasons may explain this transnational revivalism. First, the post
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9-11 Islamophobic discourses that had traditionally been confined to corners of Western civil societies have gone mainstream in the form of political programs and a well-funded hate-industry specifically designed to spread a negative, threatening image of Muslims and Islam via all media outlets. Second, the global resurgence of extreme nationalist sentiments among the powerful segments of the U.S., German, French, Indian, Chinese, Burmese and many other societies has resulted in growth of hostile and anti-Muslim political forces. Third, many states with small to relatively large Muslimminority populations have weaponized these existing negative sentiments by securitizing the issue of the “Muslim other” via the time-honored image of the hostile “other.” In this context of increasingly popular and state-sanctioned Islamophobia, together with the spread of more contentious politics, mass protests and public discontent, this former prisoner, who managed to transform himself from a small-time thug into a statesman-like leader with such a powerful and sophisticated intellect that he was invited to speak Harvard, Brown, Oxford and other leading universities, continues to represent a multilayered symbol of resistance for disenfranchised and racialized Muslim groups, especially in Muslim-minority contexts. English-speaking groups of young, socially and politically active Muslim minorities are seeking and discovering symbols of resistance to both structural and emerging acts of injustice and racism, many of which Malcolm X faced and conquered. Needless to say, they find his autobiography a major inspiration. Depending on the youth cohort, their fascination ranges from Malcolm X’s extraordinary process of redemption from petty criminal and drug addict to a disciplined leader who came to symbolize justice and resistance against oppression, as well as personal commitment to Islam and courage to continue to transform and excel. Each of his various names and nicknames mark a period in an extraordinary life-story — from his birth name of Malcolm Little, the hustler nickname “Detroit Red,” one of his prison soubriquets “Satan” to the celebrated letter “X,” a legacy of Nation of Islam’s tremendous impact upon him, to the honorary name “Omowale” (lit. “the child has returned”) bestowed by a Nigerian Muslim Student Society and finally the name engraved on his tomb in New York’s Ferncliff Cemetery, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz.
Malcolm X was martyred on February 21, 1965
What, then is the central content of his radical message and lifework? One answer to that question can also partially explain why so many non-African Americans find themselves inspired by Malcolm X, a man whose teachings remain just as relevant today as they were on that dark day of Feb. 21, 1965, when he was assassinated. These teachings are rooted in the Quran's universal values of justice, freedom and equality. His initial conceptualization of these values was based on the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s message of empowerment and “do for self ” to Blackamericans. But Malcolm X transcended the limitations of his teacher’s message while firmly maintaining his Muslim identity. According to Stephen Tuck’s “The Night Malcolm X Spoke at The Oxford Union,” (2014) — three months before his assassination — he stated that “Islam not only makes all the scattered pieces of my life, it glues them together” (p. 151). This is similar to what many young Muslims experience today. And yet, despite this proclamation of Islam’s centrality in his life, he never claimed to be a religious activist. In fact, he consciously avoided any explicit religious terminology that might alienate potential supporters of the liberation of Blackamericans. This approach shows that using a religious-based discourse is not necessary when one acts in accord with religiously anchored ethical principles. Actions express more than words. This last stage of his self-liberation was unlike all of the previous stages. He moved away from an insular theology of race toward personal and collective empowerment based on a more universal and altruistic vision. And yet his struggle for the radical liberation message of Blackamericans remained right at the center of his teachings and activities. During this final transition, the Quranic principle of justice never lost its meaning of fairness, the opposite of injustice and hypocrisy; freedom, much like before, still meant both the spiritual and political freedom of self-determination, the opposite of oppression; and equality was still defined as equity and independence, the opposite of unfairness and subjugation. The main axis of Malcolm X’s activism is a combination of his experiences of structural injustice together with the self-realization that injustice, regardless of its intensity or degree of social embeddedness, can be overcome. This sense of optimism and struggle for dignity is embedded in his autobiography and diary, making it relevant today.
ONE CAN EVEN SAY THAT OUR YOUTH’S COMMITMENT TO THESE SAME IDEALS HAVE REMOVED MALCOLM X’S LEGACY FROM THE ACADEMIC, AND EVEN BLACK NATIONALIST AND LEFTIST, ICE-BOXES IN WHICH IT HAS BEEN FROZEN FOR SO LONG. The intersection between sociopolitical pressure (i.e., repression) and transformation of his self-image and self-reliance serve as the basis of Malcolm X’s activism and redemption. The symbolic meaning of such activism is that contemporary observers can tap into the confidence that is born from negative experiences and the struggle to eventually to triumph over them. His martyrdom, widely recognized as such, has only strengthened the effects of that intersection. Many young Muslims today study Malcolm X to learn how to overcome the institutionalized forms of racism, prejudice, conspiracy theories and hatred that are all part of their daily existence, as seen in their discourses concerning self-empowerment. For instance, inspiration may be found in his fearlessness when confronting such materially superior adversaries as the FBI,
mainstream media outlets, political elites and, eventually, the Nation of Islam itself. His triumph over fear, his moral consistency in the face of severe adversity, as well as the temptations that he rejected, earned him the respect even of those who hated him. Malcolm X’s critical method and struggle for justice, freedom and equality inspires countless others even today because his Muslim identity, rhetorical dexterity and persistence have never lost their relevance. One can even say that some of the contemporary youth’s commitment to these same ideals have removed Malcolm X’s legacy from the academic, and even Black nationalist and leftist, ice-boxes in which it has been frozen for so long. Urban Muslim-minority youth worldwide are upholding him as their cosmopolitan model for resistance to the racism that seeks to suppress and eventually obliterate their Muslimness, their dignity and thereby their sense of agency. Many of those who choose to maintain their religious commitments retreat from the public sphere and focus on maintaining their individual spiritual practices and rituals. That is understandable; however, the prophetic model dictates active resistance to injustices. An increasing number of young people are following in the footsteps of Malcolm X. They continue to oppose repression and white nationalist racism, demand to be full-fledged citizens and, at the same time, maintain their Muslim identity, despite the derogatory terms hurled at them. The youth are increasingly echoing Malcolm X’s famous and defiant statement that he has the God-given right “to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary” (Malcolm X, George Breitman [ed.], “By Any Means Necessary” ). In short, Malcolm X remains and his opponents have seeped through the cracks of history — the true hallmark of intellectual significance and moral relevance for today’s opposition to racism and anti-Muslim bigotry. ih Emin Poljarevic is associate professor, Dept. of Theology at Uppsala University, Sweden. His publications about Malcolm X include “Malik al-Shabazz’s Practice of Self-Liberation” in “Malcolm X: From Political Eschatology to Religious Revolutionary” (2016) and “The Political Theology of Malcolm X” (forthcoming), Swedish Theological Quarterly (2020). His podcast lecture, “The Critical Method of Malcolm X,” can be heard on https://podtail.se/podcast/religion-och-teologi/ emin-poljarevic-the-critical-method-of-malcolm-x.
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The American Criminal Justice System and Muslim Inmates Perspectives on an ignored, overlooked and abandoned population BY RASHEED RABBI
praying inside the chapel, forced to pray outside in extreme weather or even prevented from praying in their own cells. For example, a Los Angeles prison denied them copies of the Quran and prayer schedules. The report confirmed that only 17 states specifically allow religious head coverings. Overall, many state prisons fail to respond to this population’s needs, which speaks both to the criminal justice system’s systematic inconsistency and the larger Muslim American communities’ ignorance of this issue.
ave you ever been interrogated on your Islamic knowledge merely to be served halal food? Los Angeles prisoner Joe Alfred Taylor III has been — several times. Between Feb. 2017 and late 2018, while enduring a 120-day hunger strike, he was denied access to halal food and ritual prayers with little explanation (L.A. Times, Aug. 27, 2019). A similar thing occurred in a North Dakota prison, which subjects converts to a “60-day sincerity test” before recognizing their religious rights. Have you ever heard of anyone’s last wish — to die in the presence of an imam — being denied? The Alabama state Supreme Court did so for Domineque Ray, although several liberal judges dissented (NPR, Aug. 2, 2019). Have you ever been barred from growing your beard or forced to strip by an administrative authority? Washington D.C. prisons have imposed such restrictions on Muslim inmates. Does the fact that they might have committed crimes justify depriving them of their basic First Amendment rights? Even worse, not only do they experience prejudice, but they also feel that the larger
Muslim American community has little, if any, interest in them. When one considers that Muslim Americans comprise just 1 percent of the U.S. population but 9 percent of all inmates and thus represent one of our community’s largest segments, their negative view of us is a serious indictment of our failure to meet their needs. Prejudices persist, although Congress has passed more than 200 laws or amendments to protect religious groups. The Muslim Advocates (https://muslimadvocates.org), which compiled 163 Muslim prisoner cases between Oct. 2017 and Jan. 2019, reports that their right to practice Islam is often severely violated. Nearly 40 percent of these incidents involved food, such as denying halal food for iftar during Ramadan and breakfast at other times. In May 2018, Newsweek reported that a prison in Alaska was accused of knowingly serving Muslim prisoners pork sandwiches and not providing enough calories during Ramadan. Some 35 percent of the issues are related to restricting one’s ability to pray or worship. At places, Muslim inmates were banned from
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According to Roy Walmsley, the U.S. houses the world’s largest prison population, well over 2 million (https://www.prisonstudies. org). Overall, 9 percent of them are Muslim. They are rather well represented in Maryland (27.4 percent) and Washington, D.C. (23.6 percent); 20 percent each in Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania; and 10 percent in Wisconsin, Missouri, Delaware and Arkansas. A decent part of this population is female — about 8 percent in Pennsylvania and Texas, and about 2.5 percent in Wisconsin. In Kansas, their number more than tripled in just eight years. Only seven states that share longitudinal data show an increasing proportion of Muslim inmates, including females, in their prisons. Almost 80 percent of Muslim inmates are African American or Latino converts (Pearson Education, Inc., 2007). The rest are Asian, Arab and other diverse ethnicities. During an NPR interview, Chaplain Tariq Aquil, who was credited with developing the halal meal program in California’s state prisons, says that almost 90 percent of these Muslims converted during their incarceration. The Pew Research Center surveyed 1,600 professional chaplains from 1,100 state and federal prisons in 2012, and 51percent of them reported this growth (https://www.pewresearch.org, “Religion in Prisons,” 2012). Additionally, 73 percent of them affirmed that Muslim inmates’ efforts to proselytize or convert others are very common. Thus, this growing population isn’t due to Muslim Americans committing more crimes, but because of conversion. C. Eric Lincoln (“The Black Muslims in America,” 1961) describes how Islam brings normativity to inmates’ lives through its restrictions on alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, sexual stipulations and dietary regulations. Many African American and Latino
inmates consider their reversion part Ramadan 2019, an inmate in the Alexandria, Va., detention center of a process that also enables them approached me to take shahada. to trace their ancestral links back to their ancestors’ glorious history. Robert Inspired by fellow converts, his desperDannin (“Black Pilgrimage Islam,” ation to reform the incarcerated life was 2005) further explains Islam’s power uplifting. Both the influence of Islam to transcend prison’s material and and the higher conversion rate became often brutally inhumane conditions. evident. However, their embarrassing He highlights that Islam is the religion deficit of Islamic knowledge was eye of choice in prison, which is a major opening. While I was excited to lead recruiting ground for Muslims, among the center’s first Eid prayer, one inmate them Malcom X (Malik Shabazz) and shared that he had never celebrated Eid Imam Jamil al-Amin (H. Rap Brown). before, even outside of prison — and MANY MOSQUES HAVE Importantly, Muslims have a lower he had reverted 20 years ago. I was recidivism rate. The current 67 percent dumbfounded. While non-practicing LARGE LIBRARIES, WHILE re-arrest and 52 percent re-incarceraMuslims the world over don’t miss this INMATES STRUGGLE TO FIND prayer, he had never had the opportution rates of former prisoners in general nity to be a part of this central festival! question the correctional system’s effiEVEN ONE COPY OF THE cacy (Pearson Education, Inc., 2007). Gradually, the lack of sufficient QURAN. EVERY COMMUNITY resources Research shows that Islam significantly and efforts to include them ASSIGNS LARGE became more visible than ever. Many improves inmates’ self-esteem, reformatory potential and reconviction mosques have large libraries, while BUDGETS FOR SUHUR, more than any other religious group inmates struggle to find even one copy IFTAR AND COMMUNITY (www.ispu.org, ISPU report, 2013). of the Quran. Every community assigns Importantly, conversion encomlarge budgets for suhur, iftar and comSOCIALIZATION, BUT passes a lifelong process of change. munity socialization, but barely anyBARELY ANYTHING FOR Particularly for inmates, it means thing for these inmates’ education and simultaneously adopting new beliefs THESE INMATES’ EDUCATION rehabilitation. Local mosques overflow and practices, abrogating former ones with volunteers during Ramadan, but AND REHABILITATION. and developing new rituals and sacred prisons struggle to find volunteers to spaces within the jailhouses’ estranged LOCAL MOSQUES OVERFLOW lead the jum‘a prayers. These inmates are housed with our environment. Their daily mundane WITH VOLUNTEERS DURING activities appear as a struggle to rectax dollars and hosted by the legislation RAMADAN, BUT PRISONS oncile themselves to the new belief. that our local, state and federal govAmidst alienation, isolation and under ernments have passed — we voted for STRUGGLE TO FIND lock and key, prisoners are forced to at it. Therefore, we are obliged to make VOLUNTEERS TO LEAD THE least ask about life’s purpose. the correctional system more consisTo find such answers and survive tent when it comes to accommodating JUM‘A PRAYERS. this transition, besides the Quran — our imprisoned brothers and sisters. often unavailable in many prisons — Muslim inmates need the greater comthey have hardly any supplementary munity to support them in practicing books. Every correctional system has a segregated population. Moreover, my initial Islam comprehensively and raise awareness huge shortage of Islamic literature, and meeting with them wasn’t warm enough to of how the correctional system continues only 7 percent of U.S. prison chaplains grasp the hidden gems among them. Several to violate their basic civil rights. Every day are Muslim. Despite the extensive help of hundred adherents gather for the jum‘a their needs are getting heavier, and thus Muslim volunteers, 55 percent of all prison prayer in a metro-area mosque, but barely we must hail any social, judicial and legal chaplains emphasize the need for more of one or two dozen do so in a correctional changes that are being made to streamline them. These deficiencies risk undermining system — after complying with security this specific community’s Muslim American the inmates’ well-being and ability to con- constraints. And yet most of them count identity and sustain Islam’s growth in this struct a proper Muslim identity. each day, just waiting for this service, which country overall. ih The fact that the larger Muslim American is sadly dependent on a volunteer’s availcommunity isn’t more engaged with them ability. Reserved and less expressive than Rasheed Rabbi, a full-time IT professional who earned an only shames us. any outside congregant, inwardly they are MA in religious studies (2016) and a graduate certificate in Islamic chaplaincy from Hartford Seminary, is also founder very hungry for such events because they of e-Dawah (www.edawah.net); secretary of the Association PERSONAL REORIENTATION WITH are committed to applying their significantly of Muslim Scientists, Engineers & Technology Professionals; limited religious knowledge both literally serves as a khateeb and leads the Friday prayers at ADAMS THE PROBLEM Center; and works as a chaplain at iNova Fairfax, iNova The lack of census and adequate analy- and immediately. Loudoun and Virginia’s Alexandria and Loudoun Adult ses obscure the unspoken nuance of this Within a few jum‘a services during Detention Centers. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 25
LATINO MUSLIM PRISONERS:
An Interview with Professor SpearIt
As more Latinos learn about the history of Muslim Spain and other cultural links, Islam’s impact will continue to grow BY JUAN GALVAN
slamic Horizons recently talked with Professor SpearIt, author of “American Prisons: A Critical Primer on Culture and Conversion to Islam” (2017) and professor of law at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He has taught for the Prison University Project at California’s death-row facility, San Quentin State Prison; taught corrections law at Saint Louis University School of Law; and serves on the advisory board of the Prison Program, which offers courses to both inmates and staff. He is currently active in the American Bar Association’s Corrections Committee and its work to restore Pell Grant Funding for prisoners. I.H. What can you tell us about Latino Muslims within the established Muslim prison communities? P.S. A number of sources contend that Islam is growing among incarcerated Latinos. There are no reliable statistics about their number or denominational affiliation. I assume that a majority of them gravitate toward Sunni Islam, as is the case on the outside. I haven’t heard of any Latino Muslim-majority community in any institution, which suggests that their numbers are relatively small and most likely fold into the African American Muslim community. I’ve heard of Mexican/Chicano gangs beating up converts for “betraying” the race. There are three factors at play here: (1) gang life often combines issues of race and religion; (2) their conversion is often accompanied by a cultural foray that provides direct insight into their cultural identity, including Arabic’s contribution to Spanish; and (3) a way to distance themselves from Christianity, especially Catholicism, and express their revulsion of its colonial legacy — including the penitentiary itself — in the Americas. Religion sometimes inspires inmates to
become educated and therefore better decisionmakers. Muslim prisoners have lower recidivism numbers than non-Muslims. One hopes that they will experience a similar success when transitioning back into their communities. Finally, we should start seeing more Latinos embrace the longstanding Muslim tradition of using the courts to sue prisons. Muslims generate the greatest number of religious complaints of any other religious group in prison. As more Latinos convert, I believe that we will see more Spanish surnames listed as the plaintiff. I.H. What do you think about CAIR’s lawsuit, filed on Aug. 26 last year, against the Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Department on behalf of three Muslim inmates — two of them Latinos — that alleges discrimination against Muslims in LA jails? P.S. This is just one more case in the long history of violating the equal protection
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laws. In short, Latino Muslims are being forced to prove themselves the way African American Muslims did in the 60s and 70s — not because they are Latino, but because prisons continue to discriminate against all Muslims. Case law reflects the fact that incarcerated Muslims have always had to struggle to enforce their rights. The 1st Amendment says what it says, but that doesn’t mean that Muslims enjoy full rights. Although Islam has been officially deemed a “genuine religion,” prisons still classify some Muslim groups as SGT (security group threats), which means that they are disenfranchised of these rights altogether. I.H. Are you familiar with the Latino Muslim Survey, which found that most Latino Muslims are female converts and that few Latinos embrace Islam in prison? Why do you think this is the case? P.S. I would venture to say that Latinos view this more as an issue of cultural apostasy. Islam in prison is still viewed as a “Black religion,” so the infrastructure isn’t there in the same way. There is a legacy of Black prison converts, but not so much for Latinos. It’s different on the outside, where actual Latino mosques offer the type of support, resources and infrastructure that prisoners lack. We’re now are at the beginning stages, but I suspect that the numbers will keep increasing. I.H. Do you think that African-American prisoners’ lack of da‘wah to Latinos is one reason why there aren’t many Latino Muslim prisoners? P.S. Honestly, I think it’s more of an issue of the cultural constraints coming from Latinos themselves. Based on my correspondence with them, it seems that Black prisoners welcomed them and that prison was the place where some of the lessons of the Five Percenters, also known as the Nation of Gods and Earths, were translated into Spanish. Being Mexicano runs deeps, and for some
this might seem to be incompatible with being Muslim. I.H. Do you have any thoughts about “prislam” and Latino Muslims? P.S. That term “prislam” denotes the meshing of prison culture, gang attitudes, structures and mores with Islamic ideas. The current lack of Muslim chaplains creates space for prisoners to give khutbas and provide other services. Unfortunately, this opportunity is often twisted to advance criminal or other subversive behavior in the name of Islam. This became more serious after 9/11, particularly because of the feds’ refusal to let chaplains enter prisons created a leadership vacuum. State-level prisons often don’t have enough resources to hire qualified Muslim chaplains and thus must rely on community volunteers or prisoners to lead the services. I have advocated that prisons work with seminaries to turn interested prison converts into authentic Muslim chaplains; however, progress in this regard has been very slow. I.H. Would more inmates convert if there were less prislam? Does the racial and ethnic segregation in prison result in fewer Latino Muslims converting? P.S. And very quickly, yes. Latinos lack the natural groups within the Black prison community, where Islam is a prominent part. In some states like California, which segregate living quarters by race, it is much harder for them to enter the Muslim fold. I think that your question is right on. I.H. Are there many White converts in prisons? If so, what’s their relationship with other Muslim prisoners? P.S. Some Whites do covert, but to what extent this occurs remains unclear. I’ve heard of Aukai Collins (1974-2016), an Irish-American also known as Aqil Collins, who converted some time ago and authored “My Jihad” (2002). More recently Gregory Holt, a White Sunni Muslim imprisoned in Arkansas, won a 2014 Supreme Court case to grow a beard. He’s also involved in another case that’s before a federal appeals court. He is arguing that it’s unconstitutional to make all Muslims worship together because the Nation of Islam and the Nation of Gods and Earths are so different from Sunni Islam that Sunnis need their own worship space. I.H. What kinds of resources are there for interested Latino prisoners? P.S. State and federal prisons typically have libraries, many of which contain the Quran, the writings of Islamic scholars and other traditional works. Moreover, prisons usually
IN SHORT, LATINO MUSLIMS ARE BEING FORCED TO PROVE THEMSELVES THE WAY AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSLIMS DID IN THE 60S AND 70S — NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE LATINO, BUT BECAUSE PRISONS CONTINUE TO DISCRIMINATE AGAINST ALL MUSLIMS. CASE LAW REFLECTS THE FACT THAT INCARCERATED MUSLIMS HAVE ALWAYS HAD TO STRUGGLE TO ENFORCE THEIR RIGHTS. have authorized distributors of religious materials — beads, oils and other items — that inmates can buy through authorized vendors. Prisons usually allow inmates to receive halal and other sharia-compliant foodstuffs from friends and family.
Schedules for formal religious services and other religious gatherings are usually posted. Some prisons insist that only Muslims can attend Muslim services, whereas others allow inmates to explore various faith traditions and attend multiple services during the week. In addition, all sorts of courses, including Islamic and Arabic courses, can be done by mail if the prisoner can pay the necessary fees. I don’t know of any Latino Muslim community outreach efforts that specifically target Latinos. I.H. What kind of resources would be beneficial? P.S. Well, that may depend upon the prison system. For example, federal prisons tend to house immigration violators, more of whom speak Spanish as their first language. Thus, they would benefit from having more Spanish-language cassettes, books, magazines and so on. Of course it would help if Congress reinstated Pell Grant funding for prisoners, for those funds could be used for vocational training and to train interested converts to become qualified chaplains and thereby fill in some of the leadership gaps both now and in the future. Having access to the Internet would be a huge benefit, given the current dearth of available Spanish-language or Latinodirected materials. Prisoners cannot easily hit up Google, for prisons remain governed by archaic ways — including no Internet. Also, prisons could become more proactive by hiring qualified Muslim chaplains rather than relying on volunteers. I.H. What would you like I.H. readers to know from your book? P.S. That American prisons are an important piece of American Islam. Although the total number of Muslims in this country is small, the impact of Islam behind bars is the stuff of legend. In fact, prisons are an important part of Islamic history in America. As more Latinos learn about the history of Muslim Spain and other cultural links, Islam’s impact will continue to grow. I believe that Latino Muslims, following in the footsteps of their African American forbearers, are slated to usher in an Islamic renaissance behind bars. ih Juan Galvan (latinomuslim.com), editor of “Latino Muslims: Our Journeys to Islam,” advocates for including Latino Muslim voices in the mainstream Muslim narrative. He encourages Muslims to learn more about this specific minority identity.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 27
Stories of Some of the Early “Latino” Muslims
Muslim Americans must chronicle their history to show future generations their multiple ethnicities BY DANNY “KHALIL” SALGADO
Some of the Alianza Islamica founding members in New York City. Founding director Yahya Figueroa (is on the far left)
Not only are the groups too numerous and dispersed, but most of the Muslims of varying national and sectarian backgrounds who came to the United States in this period did not participate in any organization or collectivity that left a historical footprint. This does not mean that they did not actively or collectively practice Islam. The just failed to leave us a verifiable record of their activities aside from a few national Muslim organizations.” Reading this passage from Kambiz GhaneaBassiri’s “History of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order” (Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 295.) kindled several thoughts. Why does this particular text resonate with me? Simply put, it sums up the unrecorded history of many Muslims in the U.S. How many of them have stories that we know nothing about — from Muslim slaves brought from Africa to the Muslims who began migrating to the U.S. from the late 19th century onward. How many stories
of early African-American, “Latino” and European-American converts’ stories will we never know about? Even though we know some stories about these individuals as well as their groups and movements, there is still so much more that remains unknown, or at least undocumented.
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Trying to gather even a strand of the overall story represents a vast undertaking in and of itself, and much more will be left out than will be preserved. In the Puerto Rican/“Latino” group, much still lives on, but only in the memory of the few elder converts. Only a very few still know about the Bani Saqr from Newark, N.J., which may have been the very first “Latino” Muslim organization. The Bani Saqr began in the early 1970s, and many of its early members were former members of the Young Lords Party (YLP), a Puerto Rican radical group that started as The New York City Young Lords Organization in 1969 on the “El Barrio” [East Harlem, New York City] streets). A product of their times, the surrounding radicalness encouraged some to make a “radical” move on the religious front: embracing Islam. Islam was not viewed just as religion, but as a viable answer to society’s problems. In 1975, not too far away in “El Barrio,” a group of young Puerto Ricans would also come together to form the group Alianza Islamica. Many of them, like their counterparts across the Hudson River, were former YLP members. Indeed, both groups envisioned themselves as “movements” that would bring a positive change among “Latinos.” Many of them viewed Islam in terms of a liberation theology. Only recently are their stories beginning to be preserved. There are a few whose stories have yet to be published. Imam Hajj Ibrahim Benjamin Perez Mahomah (d. 2009. IH, March/April 2010, p. 57), a Mexican-American of native ancestry from Oakland, Calif., was one the first “Latinos” to accept Islam. Upon his passing, many people were asking who he was. I was asked to write about him, but I had only met him once and thus I could only say so much. Presenting what I could of his life in my article, I recall him saying that he had first joined the Nation of Islam (a Mexican pioneer of the Nation, Brother Benjamin X Perez) and then moved on to Sunni Islam. Very little is known about the Bani Saqr founders outside of its members. One of them, Puerto Rico-born Karima Kayyam, who was raised in Newark, N.J., and now lives in Brooklyn, and her husband Yahya Garcia were members of the Newark YLP chapter. Having embraced Islam in 1973, they helped start Bani Saqr. Garcia served as the chapter’s education minister, and Karima’s family members spent their early years reaping the benefits of a motivated
(The late) Imam Benjamin Perez
and unified convert community before relocating to Puerto Rico. After her husband’s demise while their children were still young, Kayyam remarried and raised her child as a Muslim. More information can be found at http://alianzaislamica. org/a-historical-review-of-bani-saqr. Another “Latino” of Puerto Rican ancestry who is credited with being one of the firsts in New York is Abdullahi Rodriguez. He told me how he had heard about the “Black Muslims” (Nation of Islam) on the radio and wanted to join. He did so, and moved on to Sunni Islam. Considered an elder to the founders of Alianza Islamica, he was also a member. He currently lives in Boston. Ibrahim Gonzalez (d. 2013) is another New York City Puerto Rican/“Latino” who accepted Islam in the early 1970s. At the time, the YLP was plagued with infighting, and this may have prompted him to look at Islam as a viable option. In 2002, he stated, “The culture was becoming more commercial. We didn’t want to give up the struggle, so we looked in different places. Islam represented a place for us to be part of a larger community.” One of Alianza Islamica’s founders, he didn’t abandon the activism of his YLP days when he became a Muslim. He, along with other founders, helped ensure that activism would be an integral part of the organization. Gonzalez infused this activist spirit into all of his work. He worked at New York’s Pacifica station WBAI. In the early 1990s, I recall hearing him tell stories about the connections of “Latinos” and Islam, how Islam existed in Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain and Portugal) for over 500 years and of the first “Latinos” to accept Islam in places like
celebrated their adherence to Islam. After retiring as a merchant marine, he settled in Mobile, Ala (Juan Galvan, ed., “Latino Muslims: Our Journeys to Islam,” 2017). These are just some of the stories of the many Puerto Rican and other “Latino” pioneers who were the first generation of “Latino” Muslims. There was a time when some community members kept their stories to themselves because they didn’t know what those who did not have their best interest at heart might do with this information. Indeed, knowledge is power. Many of them lived through COINTELPRO — the portmanteau derived from COunter INTELligence PROgram) (1956-1971) — a series of covert and sometimes illegal surveillance conducted by the J. Edgar Hooverled FBI. It helped bring down organizations like the YLP and the Black Panther Party. However, times are changing. I remember a mentor of mine, a former YLP member, telling me how the post-YLP generation was looking for information about the organization and how almost nothing had been preserved. I have always feared that the same thing would happen with the stories of Puerto Rican and other “Latino” Muslims. Fortunately, Imam Maisonet’s book, Juan Galvan’s Latino “Muslims: Our Journey to Islam” (2019), and the Alianza Islamica’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook. com/AlianzaIslamica) and webpage (http:// alianzaislamica.org) are starting to fill in some of the gaps and this community’s little-known history. ih
THERE WAS A TIME WHEN SOME COMMUNITY MEMBER KEPT THEIR STORIES TO THEMSELVES BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THOSE WHO DID NOT HAVE THEIR BEST INTEREST AT HEART MIGHT DO WITH THIS INFORMATION. INDEED, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. New York. He also spoke about Muslims, mainly Arab immigrants or their children, living in Latin America. Not only was he a local historian, but he was also a well-known conga player. In his 2019 autobiography “From Harlem to Mecca: A Latino’s Journey to Islam,” Imam Yusef Maisonet, who accepted Islam in 1967 in Brooklyn, stated how the poetry of the Last Poets — one of the groups of poets and musicians who arose in the late 1960s African-American civil rights movement’s black nationalism — inspired him to become Muslim. Some credit this poetry group with being the forerunner to the poetical style of rapping. What some do not realize is that most of the Last Poets were Muslim and
Imam Danny “Khalil” Salgado, who is enrolled in the Islamic Chaplaincy Program at Hartford Seminary, works in da‘wa for WhyIslam and is a prison chaplain in New Jersey. He completed a two-year Arabic program at Saudi Arabia’s Umm ul-Qura University and has received high ijazas from around the world.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 29
Parenting Challenges Your children quite literally inhabit a different world than you did at their age BY KHALID IQBAL
abrina (not her real name) still remembers the day when she found a syringe with white powder and a small butter knife in their college sophomore daughter’s room. She was shocked! Sabrina and her husband Ahmed (not his real name) had recently attended a session in their mosque to hear a police officer speak on drugs and the addiction crisis among teenagers. This looked like the cocaine sample he had presented. In a panic, she called her husband and asked him to rush home. She was crying when he arrived. They had raised their children the best they could — dedicating their time, energy and resources to giving them a bright future; constructing a balanced lifestyle around the mosque, with Sunday school, youth groups, Islamic conferences and even sports; and building what they believed was an open and trusting relationship with their children. But now they were scared, confused and distraught, for they had never confronted such a situation before and had no idea of what to do. Should they tell anyone and risk
the very real possibility that some community members might start gossiping about their daughter? Should they confiscate what they had found, hide it or leave it untouched? And then there was the core question: How should they confront their daughter? They wanted answers, but didn’t want to address it in the wrong way. Aware that time was of essence and immediate action was needed, they decided to address the issue with wisdom without losing their child or having a negative effect on the younger siblings. Ahmed sought advice from a few of his school friends who lived “back home,” thinking that he could keep everything within the family and still get the advice. The first friend confided that they were also stressed out because they had raised their children quite liberally. Now they have relationships with the opposite sex and go to parties where drugs are involved. He and his wife just try to contain the rumors as best that they can. The second friend had raised his children quite differently, coming from what
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they thought was an extremely conservative background that didn’t tolerate such activities. But because they had been strict, their children had hidden things from them, fearing that they might be thrown out of the house if their activities became known. They would rather lie and deny everything than discuss it with their parents. After getting advice from a professional counselor, Ahmed and Sabrina decided to do it their own way. They sat their daughter down, told her what they had found and asked if it was hers. They spoke of their love for her and wanted to know if she needed help. Because they initiated the conversation with love and respect, they started a rational dialogue instead of an emotional monologue based on anger. The daughter replied that she thought a friend who had visited her that day had left it there. She told them that she had thrown it in the trashcan when she noticed it on her desk. She even showed it to them. Then they openly discussed the legality of possessing it and the drug’s effect on the user’s mind and body. After a fair discussion, the daughter suggested that she needs to be careful about the company she keeps and avoid those who are involved in such activities. She assured them that she was capable of making her own decisions about what is right for her and understands that she needs to set a good example for her younger siblings.
Muslim teens face so many challenges in high school and college, among them sex, drugs, bullying, violence and porn. Children who come from a good and healthy home environment and have a strong upbringing face the challenges better. Even if they do slip up, they come back with the help of good parental guidance and support. Ali ibn al-Talib (‘alayhi rahmat) taught us a wonderful parenting lesson about how
I tell parents to adopt the way of Prophet Muhammad (‘salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions and trust their instincts. While every child is different and often requires different rules and guidelines, as a parent you know your child best and what is appropriate or inappropriate. However, here are a few general guidelines: • Your children are an amanah (trust) from God, so you are responsible for raising
WITH TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT, OUR WORLD HAS BECOME MORE COMPLEX FOR EVERYONE. CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS HAVE SO MANY MORE CHOICES THAN THEIR PARENTS DID OR COULD EVEN IMAGINE WHEN THEY WERE GROWING UP. INFORMATION IS NOW AT THEIR FINGERTIPS, AND SOCIAL MEDIA IS CHANGING HOW THEY THINK AND ACT. to discuss issues with your teenagers as a friend. Parent’s firmness and sternness with their children should end by the age of 12 or 13. Those who show anger and demand change in their teenage child have lost the opportunity — and sometimes their child. With technological advancement, our world has become more complex for everyone. Children and teenagers have so many more choices than their parents did or could even imagine when they were growing up. Information is now at their fingertips, and social media is changing how they think and act. Peer pressure has taken on a new dimension. There was a time when whatever had happened at school, where our children spend most of their time, could be left behind until the next day. But now, thanks to smartphones, they continue long after school has closed for the day and sometimes during the night as well. Such realities have made it harder to be a teenager as well as a parent. Parents are always asking me what is appropriate or if they’re being too strict at home. I also have teenagers who complain that their parents don’t understand today’s world and put unnecessary restrictions upon them. Parents are in a very difficult position — trying to do what is best for their children but not always knowing what the best options are.
them with the tools and knowledge that will enable them to become role models and have a positive impact upon humanity. • No matter what mistake they make, you are their parent. Be there for them. Analyze how Prophet Jacob (‘alayhi as salam) dealt with his sons after he learned that they had sold their younger brother Joseph (‘alayhi as salam) into slavery to a passing merchant. • If children are raised with good teachings and iman from the beginning, they will be ready to own up to their mistakes and return to the right track soon after the mistake. • Be ready to discuss all aspects of life, no matter how controversial, with your children. Teach them about gender differences and sexual relations, rather than letting them learn such things from the Internet, their friends or by other means. • Encourage them to talk freely to you about their issues, aspirations and desires. Refer to the story when God talks about Joseph relating his dream to his father Jacob. • Both parents should agree on how to handle issues dealing with ethics, electronic gadgets, house chores, curfew times and so on at an early age and enforce them consistently. Restrictions don’t work if they are implemented sporadically or introduced at a later stage of life. • When discussing serious matters, chose the right time, place and approach
to emphasize their seriousness. Discuss it with your teenagers as friends and with love and respect. Don’t interrupt when they want to explain or tell you something. • Avoid judging your children, even if you think they are wrong. • All issues, no matter how serious or bad, have solutions. You just need to find the most appropriate one. Spend time together with your children to find the best solution. • Empower children to make the right decision for themselves on whatever issue they may face. Encourage them to take risks and responsibility or their own decisions. I want to share the advice my (late) father gave when I was traveling to the U.S.: “Khalid, you’ll come across many new things, some good and some bad. Don’t get mesmerized by the bright lights or shiny things or succumb to your temptations. Keep good company and never leave your prayers, as that is one thing that will always protect you.” ih Khalid Iqbal, ISNA vice-president from 1990-2000, is a community activist whose passion is family development. The author of “Anger and Domestic Violence Prevention Guide for Muslims,” he conducts an anger management course based on the Quran and Sunna and has developed an eight-hour premarital course for Muslim couples. He is the founder and director of the nonprofit Rahmaa Institute (www.rahmaa.org) and has been involved with local and national nonprofit and service organizations. He can be reached at Rahmaa.Institute@gmail.com.
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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 31
PROFILES IN ACHIEVEMENT
Science Sisters Acts Two Muslim sisters who dared and are winning BY NOSHIN BOKTH
orth Carolinan sisters Afreen and Arsheen Allam, who made the 2019 Forbes “30 Under 30” list, are changing the world and people’s lives. Unapologetic in their faith, they are doing what they can to ameliorate the sufferings of others in two divergent scientific fields. Afreen is the founder and CEO of SiNON Therapeutics (http://sinontp. com/backup_site), a biotechnology company working to improve the lives of those with debilitating neurological diseases. And Arsheen is the founder of GoLeafe (http://goleafe.com/), which produces novel graphene-based technologies for use in the clean water and clean energy sectors. It’s inspiring to watch them thrive in competitive fields that seek to lessen the perils of life. With support from parents who are in tune with the Islamic values of education and compassion, the beginning of their success can be traced back to a household that emphasized individuality, faith and knowledge.
AFREEN ALLAM: CHANGING THE WAY WE TREAT NEUROLOGICAL DISEASES Afreen’s SiNON Therapeutics focuses on the innovative Carbon Dot, a nano-particle that will act as a delivery agent for medicines, genetic markers and various treatments through the Afreen at work blood-brain barrier. Her work is an avant-garde feat of biotechnology due to the Initially, she was simply exploring her mediunsettling fact that only 2 percent of drugs cal school options. Although she almost quit, and treatments for neurological diseases can she soon formed a bond with her patients permeate the blood-brain barrier, a nearly and spent seven years at the center. In her impervious membrane barrier that separates cancer patients, she discovered an eagerness the brain’s circulating blood and the central within herself to quickly change any harmful nervous system’s extracellular fluid. As of habits regardless of their situation. It was this late, the Carbon Dot has been promoted to hope that urged her look for ways to make the animal testing stage. chemotherapy bearable and alleviate other The Carbon Dot’s inception follows neurological conditions. Afreen back to high school, where she After graduating from North Carolina volunteered at the Duke Cancer Center. State with a double major in microbiology 32 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
and biochemistry, she studied at one of the world’s prestigious engineering schools, the Indian Institute of Technology’s Kanpur campus. It was here that her Carbon Dot research began. Her father, who also holds a degree in organic chemistry, recognized the novelty of her research and encouraged her to apply for a patent, which she received in 2013 at the age of twenty. This success led her to apply to the business school in the hopes of running her own biotechnology company. She obtained an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, where she won the 16th annual Duke Startup Challenge, which carried a $50,000 award. Shortly thereafter, she received the North Carolina IDEA grant. Thus, by bridging her science and business backgrounds, SiNON Therapeutics emerged. Afreen describes her daily life as having no set schedule and being inundated with meetings, lab work, events and so on. She describes her reality as “being on a rollercoaster with multiple highs and multiple lows.” With her four-person research team, Afreen divides her time between the U.S. and India, where the bulk of the research is taking place. She has no qualms about discussing the challenges she has endured as a minority in her field or work. With inspiring candor, she mentions how she is often met with ambivalence due to her lack of a doctorate, in addition to her overt Muslimness. Despite this, she allows her work, passion, demeanor and extensive knowledge to speak for itself. Moreover, as a Muslimah, her incentives are adjusted toward her life in both this world and the hereafter. She says that it is imperative that she “focuses on things in this life and the next life by impacting people and helping their families,” delineating it as a noble cause. She invariably asks herself, “Why am I doing this? For who?” Her answers transcend monetary opulence; rather, she seeks to contribute to humanity during her transient life and to please her Lord. She advises young ambitious Muslimahs to tune out those who seek to put them down and to be truly cognizant of their talents and passions. “Always ask yourself,” she advises them, “Why am I doing this?”
ARSHEEN ALLAM: MAKING CLEAN WATER MORE ACCESSIBLE Since childhood, Arsheen aspired to be an engineer. She knew that all she wanted to do was to invent things that helped others. Her childhood dreams led her to becoming a materials scientist and engineer. She would later co-found CNanoz.inc, which propelled her into her present position as the founder and CEO of GoLeafe. Growing up, she traveled the world with her family, in particular to her parents’ birthlands of India and Pakistan. What she saw while spending summers in either country would follow her for the rest of her life. As a wide-eyed young child, she was perplexed by the lives of impoverished people who lacked access to basic needs like clean water and efficient energy and why such basic rights weren’t enjoyed by everyone. As an adult, she considers this reality a failure of humanity. Hoping to one day create low-cost, attainable solutions for global use, Arsheen, armed with a degree in material science and engineering, obtained a masters in global innovation management from North Carolina State University, as well as an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. During her undergraduate studies, she conducted a research project on affordable water filters. She soon learned that the world’s existing carbon filters were the only viable options for groundwater and river water, despite that fact that 97 percent of Earth’s water is found in the oceans. This led her to launch her first startup, CNanoz, which focused on developing nanotechnology-based water purification systems. A resolute Arsheen later saw a research paper by Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, an associate professor of physics at MIT who had received the 2018 Physics World’s Breakthrough of the Year award for his leadership role in the discovery that graphene sheets can act as an insulator or a superconductor when rotated at a “magic angle.” But graphene, despite being an atomic carbon and the world’s thinnest and most conductive material, is also one of the most expensive materials due to the exorbitant manufacturing costs and health and environmental risks associated with it. This paper inspirited Arsheen and led her to found GoLeafe, where her team worked to develop an economically viable way to produce graphene. Eventually they developed an innovative manufacturing approach that avoids harsh chemicals and expensive equipment. Existing products include a
Arsheen at work
FROM ACCOMPANYING HER TO THE OFFICE TO HOME-COOKED MEALS TO BEING HER TOUGHEST CRITIC, HER MOTHER ENCOMPASSES IT ALL. HER FATHER, WHO NEVER SUBSCRIBED TO SOCIETAL EXPECTATIONS FOR HIS DAUGHTERS, TAUGHT THEM TO CONSIDER THEIR MINDS THEIR MOST SUBSTANTIAL ASSETS AND TO CULTIVATE KNOWLEDGE INTERMINABLY.
graphene-based supercapacitor that outcompetes traditional energy storage devices in terms of efficiency and eco-friendliness. Her company is currently prototyping a desalination membrane and energy-storage devices.
Arsheen’s day begins early, since most of the manufacturing takes place in India and this is the time when she can take calls and emails. However, her mornings are also periods of introspection via prayer, reading the Quran and exercising — a total mind-body rejuvenation. Her faith and parents are her supporting pillars, allowing her to find purpose and fortitude in her work. Her mom, she says, “can do anything.” From accompanying her to the office to home-cooked meals to being her toughest critic, her mother encompasses it all. Her father, who never subscribed to societal expectations for his daughters, taught them to consider their minds their most substantial assets and to cultivate knowledge interminably. It’s no surprise that faith is so interwoven into her life. From the Islamic injunctions of seeking knowledge to the Islamic principles of magnanimity and empathy, Arsheen believes that her faith grounds her. In fact, she considers her motivation to be her firm belief that the act of making clean water more accessible is an act of charity. She manages to coalesce faith into every situation, finding solace in it, even when colleagues tend to underestimate her due to her Muslim identity. Arsheen says the fallacy that Muslimahs are reticent and uneducated prevails, but that once she begins to speak, there is a conspicuous change in other people’s attitudes toward her. She considers this a form of da‘wa, representing her faith irrespective of others’ notions. Taking this into account, the young scientist advises aspiring Muslimah professionals to “generate a thick skin, for people will always discourage you. But don’t allow them to penetrate you and ensure that you’re working toward something you have a passion for.”
FINDING INSPIRATION Some will continue to perpetuate the belief that Islam subjugates its women. But the Allam sisters are the incandescent lights that repudiate such beliefs, for they continue to embody the prophetic injunction “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim” and the Quranic mandates for ceaseless benevolence, “The reward of goodness is nothing but goodness” (Q. 55:61). Their work and values are reminders that faith can seamlessly enter into our worldly ambitions and direct our purpose toward infinite rewards. ih Noshin Bokth is a freelance writer and content editor.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 33
SERVICE TO HUMANITY
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Najah Bazzy is changing the lives of millions through Zaman International BY SHAZIYA BARKAT
Najah Bazzy, Zaman’s Founder and CEO
n 1996 Najah Bazzy was working as a registered nurse at a hospital in Dearborn, where she was providing care to a three-month-old Iraqi American baby in critical condition. Doctors had determined that no interventions could save the child and advised the family to withdraw the ventilator and feeding support. The patient’s family, however, refused. Bazzy stepped in to aid this family, who had already suffered the loss of another child. With a background in transcultural and end-of-life care, she not only provided the patient’s family cultural and spiritual support, but also became their advocate. In an ethics hearing, she arranged, via negotiations, for the baby to go home with the ventilator and feeding support. When Bazzy first visited the family in their home, she was stunned by just how poverty-stricken they were — the bare carpet they used to sleep on, their limited food supply, the portable propane stove for cooking and
a picnic cooler filled with the baby’s formula instead of a refrigerator. The crib was a laundry basket filled with towels — only the hospital’s blanket was keeping him warm. “It was rough, but at the same time it showed me their resilience,” states Bazzy. “They were so proud that they had even built a crib for this baby. That’s when I gathered my children and called my mom … we furnished the entire house.” When the infant passed away, Bazzy provided him with a proper burial by raising funds from the community. Inspired by these devastating circumstances, she asked the community to donate furniture, food and clothing. She and her family rented trucks to deliver donations to needy families in the metro Detroit area. “We began with refugee resettlements … we spent about 15 years working out of the back of my van,” she recalls. This initiative quickly gained momentum and, in 2014, led to the formation of Zaman International (www.zamaninternational.org), a nonprofit
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organization devoted to helping impoverished women and children. “Zaman is such a beautiful word and well suited for this organization,” reflects Bazzy, now its executive director. “It means ‘time’ in four different languages. It represents the past, the present and the future. At Zaman, it’s about how we spend our time in the stewardship of others who need us most.” When asked about how her upbringing plays a role in her work today, she replies, “I come from a family that was always involved in humanitarian work … I grew up with people sleeping at our home.” Bazzy also has a brother with muscular dystrophy, which “really helped me to develop that sense of humanity.” Although the federal poverty threshold is $24,600, most of Zaman International’s four-membered families live on an annual income of $10,000. “It seems quite natural that everyone would have the undeniable right to basic human needs such as food,
clean water, clothing, shelter, education, transportation, healthcare, safety and the employment needed to live a dignified life,” Bazzy states. “This, however, is not the case for many women, children, orphans, ill and elderly you help us serve right here in Southeast Michigan.” When asked how faith drives her work with Zaman, Bazzy reflects, “I feel that we are representatives for one another and of the divine good. I know that I’m term limited, and I want to make sure that I am using my
Other milestones followed: (1) In 2009 Zaman International acquired 230 burial plots in Westland, Mich., and formed Plots for Tots, which provides free burial plot and bereavement services for the infants they may have lost and (2) it celebrated the opening of the Culinary Arts Training Center, which offers culinary classes as well as catering services and hot meals for clients. Today, Zaman International has spread its mission to more than 20 countries. International relief campaigns include
WHEN ASKED HOW FAITH DRIVES HER WORK WITH ZAMAN, BAZZY REFLECTS, “I FEEL THAT WE ARE REPRESENTATIVES FOR ONE ANOTHER AND OF THE DIVINE GOOD. I KNOW THAT I’M TERM LIMITED, AND I WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT I AM USING MY BREATH IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE AND THAT IT’S AS PLEASING TO GOD AS IT COULD POSSIBLY BE.” breath in the best way possible and that it’s as pleasing to God as it could possibly be.” Having grown exponentially, this organization is now helping nearly 1.9 million people worldwide. One of its initiatives, the Bayt Al-Zahra Urgent Needs Program, provides food, shelter, clothing and other resources to those who need them. Arya, a 46-year-old woman newly separated from her husband, was struggling to pay her home bills. She went to Bayt Al-Zahra for aid with a shut-off notice. There, the social workers enrolled her in the Shut-Off Protection Plan and resolved her challenges with debt collectors. Zaman International offers several other core services. Among them are (1) a client-choice food pantry that lets families choose healthy, culturally appropriate food each month; (2) a Meet Up & Eat Up Program that provides healthy meals to children from low-income families during the summer; and (3) (Building Opportunities through Skills Training), established in 2007 to offer tuition-free classes in literacy, sewing, and entrepreneurship and other skills to help women enter the job market and break the cycle of poverty. “A lot of it is not only skillset, but empowerment,” states Bazzy. “We teach them to believe in themselves.”
the Sips of Hope Water Wells program in Ethiopia that, in collaboration with International Medical Corps, brings potable water to more than 3,255 people in Gey Talt village. Its Orphan Hope International program helps support the basic needs, health and education for orphans in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Its Famine Relief program, in partnership with International Medical Corps, supplies 44 health care facilities in Yemen with life-saving medicine. The approach followed, known as the Integrated Famine Risk Reduction approach, provides food for over 280,000 individuals, including high-risk patients such as nursing mothers and young children. In 2018, Zaman International served approximately 1.9 million individuals globally. Out of every donated dollar, 91 percent directly supports its programs. These efforts have helped distribute 170,452 pounds of food and nearly $70,000 in clothing and household goods. More than 13,000 free meals were provided to children through its Summer Food program, and a total of 7,943 hours of vocational training was given to students through B.O.O.S.T. “I feel that Zaman has created an awareness and a movement across the world about
a better way to be,” reflects Bazzy. “I’m so thankful to Allah to allow us to show the better side of humanity and to care for one another … there’s still a long way to, and it’s never enough.” When asked her organization’s about future goals, Bazzy states, “I want to be able to have an industrial service center that can take contracts so that I can employ the women. I can graduate them from the classroom, and actually have workforce development there.” There are many ways to partake in Zaman International’s efforts. You can also offer support via funding or volunteering in one of the above-mentioned initiatives. “Look for the gaps,” Bazzy advises those who are looking to make a difference in their community. “Don’t replicate and duplicate what other organizations are already doing, because then we are wasting funding, time, and energy. Either synergize and find your role in an organization that is doing what you are passionate about, or find a gap in the community. And if it matches your passion, then create something new.” ih Shaziya Barkat is a poet, writer and author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller, “Knowing You.” Aside from writing, she works as a pharmacist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 35
Lean on Me
The Giving Foundation supports refugee and needy families for long-term success in the U.S. BY HABEEBA HUSAIN
he first refugee with whom Khalid Sattar and his wife met in their local DMV (Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area gave them goosebumps when she told them her story. “She described to us literally how the bombs came, and she watched her whole family die,” Sattar says. “And then in the next breath, she says, ‘Alhamdulillah ala kulli haal’ … and she means it.” That supplication translates to “praise be to God in every circumstance” — even if that circumstance is watching your family die and your home being destroyed due to bombs raining down from above.
“I get goosebumps when I think about that because living in America, we have a certain sense of security, freedom, economic prosperity,” Sattar says. “I, myself, have not been tested in many of the ways these people have, but … their faith is so strong.” For decades, the U.S. welcomed more refugees than all other countries combined, according to the Pew Research Center. Since Donald Trump became president, however, this number has reached record lows. For fiscal year 2020, President Trump capped their number at 18,000 — the lowest since 1980. If the refugees pass the extreme U.S.
36 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
vetting, they face yet another challenge of reestablishing their lives in a completely foreign land. Sattar says that he meets many Somali, Syrian and Afghani refugee families in his area. While numerous organizations are helping them settle into their new home, he relates that a lot of the existing focus is short-term. Realizing that “These families needed more support than they were getting,” he and his family initially did what they could out of their Maryland home to meet these families’ long-term assistance needs so that they could stand on their feet and become self-sufficient. Fully aware that “I was limited to what I could do as an individual or what I could commit my kids to doing,” Sattar reflects, he thought that “If we do an organization … it increases our collecting power.” And so in 2018 he launched and registered a nonprofit organization — The Giving Foundation (https://www.givingfoundationcharity. org) — and began soliciting donations from family, friends and the greater community.
SERVICE TO HUMANITY In addition to the bigger pool of funds, its Sattar remarks. “We’re there to help them get inviting them to play basketball when your nonprofit status allowed him to present an through that. We can help them cover that group of friends is already going. But along opportunity to volunteers. car repair and unexpected medical expense.” with the simple needs are also some rather At the start of the 2019-20 school year, While many of these seem like issues that complicated situations as well. The Sattars run The Giving Foundation the foundation held a backpack drive in its adults have to face, children also need to locality. In addition to donations to get all acclimatize to their new schools and neigh- from their home, but try not to hand out the supplies, pack the bags, and deliver them, bors. This process often includes bullying, their address. Realistically speaking, they Sattar needed volunteers. cannot use their personal home to accommodate a Much of that help came from high school students looking to family of twelve who may be log community service hours. facing eviction. “I think that’s “Now that we are a foundathe hardest thing for me … tion, there’s reciprocity,” Sattar knowing what you’re doing is says. “These are things we to help them, but still having were doing before. But when certain bounds,” Sattar’s wife we started the foundation, it says. “I want to adopt everygives it a different feeling. It body. I think for us, that’s a broadens the resources availreally hard thing, striking that balance.” able to us, and it broadens our ability to help. It’s not just us Of course, it’s hard for a — it’s a community of people single family to take on each working together.” need of each refugee family. More people helping means But with the whole commumore people being helped. The nity at work, it becomes poschallenges for refugee famisible. After all, we have seen lies can come in many forms. YES THERE ARE FINANCIAL ISSUES, a successful model of doing Yes there are financial issues, that in our communiBUT THERE ARE ALSO ISSUES WITH exactly ty’s own history — the arrival but there are also issues with learning how to live in the LEARNING HOW TO LIVE IN THE U.S. of Makka’s Muslims in Yathrib U.S. Many refugees are unfatheir adoption by that city’s MANY REFUGEES ARE UNFAMILIAR and miliar with the language and Muslims. don’t know how to deal with “What I feel like we really WITH THE LANGUAGE AND DON’T insurance plans, paying bills, need to do — and this is what KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH making doctor appointments, The Giving Foundation’s big enrolling children in school, picture thing is – [is to] have INSURANCE PLANS, PAYING BILLS, securing transportation ... the this idea like the Ansar and the MAKING DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS, list goes on and on. Muhajireen,” Sattar emphaThese systems are second sizes. “You have these people ENROLLING CHILDREN IN SCHOOL, nature to those who live in that migrated, and you have SECURING TRANSPORTATION ... THE somebody who’s willing to take the U.S., but they can be overwhelming for these new arrivthem in and provide for them LIST GOES ON AND ON. from A to Z.” als. To have a guide for a few months can lift an immense Their needs, which may burden and teach valuable be financial, physical or emoskills that will help a family tional, should be taken care of stand on its feet in the long term. because making friends in a new school is by the Ansar, namely, those members of the “A lot of their needs are simple, [like] not easy even for those who know the lan- community who have already established guiding them so that they’re not taken guage and the system. themselves. advantage of and so that they don’t make In addition, refugee children also take If Sattar’s plans for The Giving Foundation the small mistakes because we know and on a lot of responsibility for their families, can model the welcome and assistance given we’ve been here,” says Sattar. because they often are the first to learn by the Ansar, it seems the Muslim commuEven self-sustainable families aren’t English. “When I’m trying to talk to the nity here, refugees and all, has a bright future immune to the occasional curveball. From parents, I’m not talking to the dad. I’m ahead. ih emergency medical care to a death in the talking to the oldest child, who is acting as family, any disruption in the day-to-day a translator,” he notes. “There’s a huge level Habeeba Husain, a freelance journalist based in New York/ routine can present an overwhelming dif- of responsibility, and sometimes those kids New Jersey, contributes to SLAM Magazine, blogs for WhyIslam and is social media manager for WuduGear. Her ficulty. “For a family that’s going month-to- just need to feel like kids.” work has also appeared in Narrative.ly and MuslimGirl. month, $2,000 is difficult — it’s impossible,” Again, this need can be as simple as com, among other online and print publications. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 37
The Silent Epidemic Our teaching methods are failing our children, especially our sons BY FAWZIA MAI TUNG
still remember Ahmad — a bright, happy and active toddler who made friends easily in preschool and kindergarten. In elementary school, academics seem to come easily to him — maybe even too easily, for he didn’t seem challenged enough. By 4th grade, he was getting lower grades, even the occasional “D” or “F,” which could be traced to missing homework. His mother started tracking his grades closely to make sure that he stayed on track, but the weeks before the semester ended were now spent catching up with homework and retesting. Somehow Ahmad made it to high school and managed to shine in at least one of his favorite subjects. However, a new reality soon joined his academic troubles, namely, an ongoing struggle with his parents. Resenting the pressure for performing well, his teenage rebellion now turned into a full-time occupation. Loud (and sometime physical) quarrels became a weekly occurrence at home. At their wit’s end, his parents began worrying that their son might
not graduate, let alone go into medicine, engineering or law. Does this story sound familiar? Twenty years ago it was quite rare, but today it is very common. If you are an educator, you might have seen a few children reenacting it in your own classroom on various levels. In fact, there seems to be an epidemic going on. The affected patient is often a boy who closely resembles Ahmad. Depending on his level of activity and the amount of school resources, these boys might be labeled ADD or ADHD by the time they are in elementary school. If they are lucky, they avoid the label and the medications. But what causes their slow descent into struggle, and why do there always seem to be more of them? And most importantly, how can we prevent them and bring them to happy a conclusion? Starting with the causes: Generally, boys tend to be more physically active and thus have a more kinetic style of learning. But this is nothing new, so what has changed? One tends to point at the obvious culprits:
38 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
smartphones and other electronic devices. Parents and teachers have long noticed the shortened attention spans resulting from prolonged videogame playing. But even worse, more studies have been linking smartphone use to depression and suicide among teens, and even poor physical health. Brian Resnick (May 16, 2019; Vox.com) asks, “Have smartphones really destroyed a generation?” The fact that boys seem to be more affected has also started showing up as a gender gap in college admissions and graduations. Since 1991, more women have graduated than men. In 1967, 57 percent of male high school graduates enrolled in college after high school; by 2015, 72.5 percent of women were enrolling in college. Even SAT scores have declined over the past two decades or two (bar the last three years due to a thorough overhaul of the SAT content); however, there is no gender-based breakdown of data. The knee-jerk reaction is to restrict screen time or remove smartphones from children. However, this may not be the ideal response because technology always marches forward. Even small pockets of antichange populations such as the Amish and the small Arab tribe in Abha that holed up in a valley to resist Saudi Arabia’s unification and modernization, finally had to surrender to it. One cannot defeat technology’s advancement, and depriving children of
their smartphones and tablets only results in high levels of lying, cheating and acting — obvious sign of addiction. How, we should be asking, do smartphones, video games and other electronic devices keep young people’s attention? Let’s face it; they do learn something from games, texting, online surfing and so on. And why, we educators should be asking, are our classrooms full of bored, inattentive and nonmotivated students?
be delighted if their child used social media to share classical literature! More often than not, however, electronic social interactions become an uncensored vortex of anonymous users who unleash their baser selves in the form of words and expressions not normally allowed at home or at school. Some become bullies; others turn into victims. What can a teacher or parent do to offer a similar level of interaction, but in a healthy
HOW, WE SHOULD BE ASKING, DO SMARTPHONES, VIDEO GAMES AND OTHER ELECTRONIC DEVICES KEEP YOUNG PEOPLE’S ATTENTION? LET’S FACE IT; THEY DO LEARN SOMETHING FROM GAMES, TEXTING, ONLINE SURFING AND SO ON. AND WHY, WE EDUCATORS SHOULD BE ASKING, ARE OUR CLASSROOMS FULL OF BORED, INATTENTIVE AND NONMOTIVATED STUDENTS? As of this writing, very few researchers have sought to answer these and other related questions. One interesting development has been the “gaming” style of teaching — essentially attract children’s attention by turning the classroom into a game. In fact, Classcraft (https://www.classcraft.com) and other online “games” featuring incremental rewards have been developed specifically for educators. Having implemented it in my classroom for the past three years, I have noticed that some students, generally boys, are absolutely into it whereas others are only mildly interested. But eventually the novelty wears off, and very few students remain motivated to score higher. Of course there are other reasons for becoming attached to one’s smartphone. Many games today are played with virtual partners and the ensuing social interaction. Texting or using various social media also provide social interaction and groupings of like-minded people. In a typical classroom of 20-24 students, what are the chances for a child to meet more than five other likeminded children? If your child loves classical literature, building model airplanes or any other uncommon interests and hobbies, how likely is it that s/he would find a classmate to share it with? Of course, a parent would
way? This is, of course, a purely rhetorical question. There is no answer — at least, not yet. Moreover, although educators are trained in the concepts of multiple intelligences and emotional quotient, how many teachers test their students at the start of the year to figure out their learning styles and/or tailor their teaching methodology accordingly? The problem has become even more serious because video games and online interactions tend to shorten a child’s attention span even further. A seemingly very bright boy might understand the first minute of a teacher’s explanation, but become totally blank in the remaining 19 minutes, unable to absorb more than a small byte of information. At such times teachers automatically think, “Oh, they’re not getting it. Let me explain it further.” Instead, they should stop talking and introduce an activity that will enable the children to discover the answer through a step-by-step process. Even better, let them score some rewards at every step along the way. After all, this is the formula that video games use. They’ve been incredibly successful, so why shouldn’t we copy it? The only problem of doing so is that we would be encouraging a shorter attention span instead of training the child to increase
it. Is this a better trait or a worse one? Again, there is no answer. This is yet another great question to pursue and research. Another important yet overlooked factor is the content of online interactions. In video games, children deal with countries at war, building cities, devising strategies and developing skills. In the classroom, they have to spend weeks reading a slow-moving novel about a remote Native American tribe or plowing through the intricacies of transforming a parabolic curve. Some teachers have tried to compete by using more exciting novels, such as Frankenstein. But alas, Frankenstein’s monster cannot possibly compete with today’s CGI monsters. The highly intelligent toddler has now morphed into an angry, anxious teenager who cannot see the point of what s/he is taught. And then there’s the added problem of integrating their religious and cultural values with their daily life. The result is anxiety, depression, an erosion of family ties, anger and sometimes attempted suicide. The job looming in front of us is complex. We need more research on the effects of online interactions, more development of teaching methodologies designed to meet the real needs of today’s children, along with better oversight of their mental health. But our teachers are already so overworked with their existing duties. Our principals are some of the most overworked professionals. These people are serving on the frontline of the ongoing epidemic without the appropriate tools. Every industry has an R&D department — but not education, a 200-year-old system that has been somewhat modified along the way. This system needs to be completely overhauled if we are to prepare our children for financial and personal success. The end result might not be a classroom, grade levels or standardized tests. We are in a unique position today, for we have a wide variety of choice in the format of education: public, private or charter schools; homeschooling and online learning; and two or more of them merged together in various percentages. We also have completely new tools, due to technology and virtual-social interaction. The time has come to jump out of the box and learn how to really educate our children for success. ih Dr. Fawzia Mai Tung, founder of Tung Education Resources (www.tungeducation.com), is a board member of the Islamic Schools League of America (https://theisla.org) and board member and presenter of Consultants for Islamic Schools Excellence (https://www.facebook.com/GoCISE/).
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Is Islamic Education Being Done Right? Perhaps it’s time for a different approach BY NOOR SAADEH
ow often do we hear the lament that there are millions of Muslims but so little Islam? What is missing? How can parents and educators better prepare students to worship God as if they see Him (taqwa), understand the meaning of the Quran and enact the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) sunna while sharing the true meaning of Islam in the West? Historically, people embraced Islam in far greater numbers due to the Muslim travelers and merchants’ moral and ethical behavior than did those who watched them perform Islam’s various rituals. Yet it is these very rituals that we tend to concentrate on in our Islamic studies programs. Muslims are taught these obligatory rites repeatedly from grades K-12, along with basic halal and haram rulings. Little is done to connect them to God and the Quran — with the exception of memorizing it without comprehension — in an age-appropriate manner or with life relevancy. The Prophet’s sira is limited to the various milestones of his life and prophethood, an approach that neglects his exemplary life lessons, character building and behavior, all of which forms the basis for of our actions. We are taught to be functioning Muslims — pray, fast and give charity — but not necessarily so in our words and deeds. Additionally Islam, the religion of peace and mercy, has been reduced to a set of rules and regulations. Taqwa is repeatedly defined as “fear” rather than “an abiding awareness of God’s knowledge of our actions and intentions.” In a society of ever greater permissiveness, young adults are fleeing all that they consider to be ridiculously restrictive and irrelevant (see Michael Shermer, “The Number of Americans with No Religious Affiliation Is Rising,” April 1, 2018, Scientific American; Selin Girit, “The young Turks rejecting Islam,” May 10, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/). The failure to connect children positively at a very young age to their Creator, His mercy,
His abilities and life-sustaining gifts, is creating a spiritual vacuum. A case in point is the large numbers of young women who remove their hijab once they leave the home and their Islamic school. They haven’t made that all-important connection to God or understood its purpose. Once these connections are strongly made in the younger grades, it will be all the easier for them to enact the various pillars voluntarily and with understanding when they reach the age of accountability.
THE FAILURE TO CONNECT CHILDREN POSITIVELY AT A VERY YOUNG AGE TO THEIR CREATOR, HIS MERCY, HIS ABILITIES AND LIFE-SUSTAINING GIFTS, IS CREATING A VACUUM. ATHEISM AND FANATICISM American society is seeking moral direction and ethical leadership. Scores are leaving the faith of their birth, including Muslims, and seeking answers elsewhere — everywhere but in Islam. How do we shift this currently reality so that instead of indoctrinating our youth we enable them to not only walk the talk but also share their faith with others? The rise of fanaticism among the disenfranchised young is also due to a cursory knowledge of Islam’s rules and regulations and scant knowledge of God and His attributes, as well as general ignorance about the Prophet’s merciful and wise character. In the U.S., Muslims still enjoy more
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freedom to practice their religion than anywhere else in the world. Islamic educators can essentially teach their charges whatever and however they want. As educators and parents, we must teach and prepare our students to be Muslim Americans, instead of raising them according to the false cultural traditions and baggage that plague our birthlands. A new and fresh approach to Islamic education is needed — one that focuses not merely on the pillars of faith and action, but also on building the individual’s Islamic character and personality. At the 2017 Islamic School League conference, guest speaker Dr. Nadia Katrangi, chairwoman of Good Tree Institute (https://goodtreeinstitute.com) Tempe, Ariz., asked an insightful question during her topic “Reorienting Our Hearts and Minds: A Paradigm Shift in Leading Islamic Schools”: What is deen? Her impactful reply was: “Deen is the intersection of God and others.” For even the most pious, only 5-10 minutes is spent five times daily connecting intimately with God via prayer. Consider, then, where and with whom do we spend the remaining 18 hours, give or take 6-8 hours of sleep, of our time? Fellow Muslims, neighbors, colleagues and friends aren’t likely to observe our
As parents and educators, we must role model the deen by prioritizing our voluntary obedience to God and His commands over the mercurial whims and opinions of others, no longer preferring non-Islamic cultural mandates. Instead of “fear of God,” taqwa should be taught as “awareness of God,” His timeless and relevant message of mercy in the Quran and offering abundant gratitude for His gifts. Muslim American educators and parents must return to the Quran and seek to instruct our children in the truest of Islamic practices, beginning with forming connections to the world that God has created and our place within it — how to be active and contributing citizens for the greater good, as well as treating everyone with respect and dignity. Only then will we be able to develop better, more balanced Muslims who love God and exemplify the Prophet, who is a beacon of light for everyone. ih Noor Saadeh is the co-founder and co-creator of Noorart. Formerly, she held a prestigious position as a classical musician, performing at the height of the classical music scene in New York and abroad. After becoming Muslim, she channeled her energies and talent toward working with children in Islamic schools throughout the U.S.
prayers, fasting or acts of charity; however, they do observe and are impacted by our ethics: honesty, integrity, justice, fair play and the ability to seek forgiveness and offer it when needed. Yet if parents and educators don’t acknowledge the very crucial component of our interaction with others as a viable and equally necessary act of worship, then how can we move forward? Although the umma’s current state cannot be blamed entirely on colonization, “there is much evidence throughout of the effects of the conqueror ... almost every Muslim country on the planet was conquered and colonized by Europeans or Russians ... colonization has cast a long, dark shadow” (https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/ lawfaculty/833). A steady decline in applying the Quran, limiting it to rituals, adhering less to Islamic character and focusing on fear and hellfire replacing mercy (rahma), repentance (tawba) and forgiveness (‘afuu) — these and other negative phenomena are clearly visible in our community today. This has had a negative effect on Muslim identity and self-esteem. Karen Armstrong opines that “Muslims were exposed to the contempt of the colonialists, who were so thoroughly imbued with the modern ethos that they were often appalled by what they
could only see as the backwardness, inefficiency, fatalism and corruption of Muslim society. They often took it for granted that Westerners were inherently and racially superior to ‘Orientals’” ( “Interpreting Women in Islam — Procedures For Teachers,” Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, https://www.pbs.org). All of this trickles down to our current condition today and, more importantly, is shared either consciously or unconsciously as we teach our children.
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SOLUTIONS Surely it is time to introduce our youngest children to the qualities of al-Rahman (The Merciful), al-Wadud (The Loving) and al-Razzaq (the generous Provider and Creator). As children aren’t held accountable until the age of puberty, these early years are the prime time to acquaint them with God and His attributes of mercy rather than His punishment for sins yet to be committed. The pillars of Islam and faith are key elements in any Muslim’s life, but without acknowledging and knowing God and His Prophet first and foremost as the cornerstone, those very rituals become nothing more than that — acts that must be carried out without thought, conviction or understanding.
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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 41
The Power and Potential of Coalitions for Islamic Schools Joining effective coalitions multiplies your chances for success BY SHAZA KHAN
Matthew Moes from ISLA and Sufia Azmat from CISNA at the National School Leadership Summit in D.C.
he Treaty of Hudaybiyya didn’t automatically bring success to the young Muslim community. Actually, the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) ability to build a coalition enabled them to preach without fearing retribution or rebuke, a reality that, in turn, made it possible for the largest conversion surge in Islam’s short history. This success would be experienced over and over again during the subsequent years. Most Muslims have been informed that this particular treaty was a turning point in the Prophet’s unceasing campaign to call his people to the Truth. We learn it in our Sunday School classes and Friday khutbahs. And yet it seems that the community still hasn’t internalized this event’s lesson, for we continue to not invest the time, energy and money required to form such coalitions so that we can experience this same type of success.
TODAY’S CHALLENGE The Council for Islamic Schools of North America (CISNA; https://www.cisnausa.org) and the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA; https://theisla.org) have long known that they must have a seat at the national table, along with their Catholic, Methodist and Hassidic counterparts, in order to acquire enough support to ensure that full-time
Islamic schools gain and then ensure equitable access to the available resources enjoyed by other private religious schools. But finding the funding and support to do so has been difficult. These coalition organizations often come with a hefty annual price tag, insofar as membership dues are concerned, given the small budgets from which they operate. Our schools have been working on shoestring budgets and appointing parttime executive directors to assume the hefty responsibility of supporting over 350 full-time Islamic schools. For the past five years, ISLA, CISNA and similar professional organizations have creatively pieced together funds so they could be part of this conversation. For me, as ISLA’s new executive director, the experience has been transformative. I will admit that, yes, at first I was a skeptic. When I took on the role as interim executive director after our co-founder Karen Keyworth’s passing — may God have mercy upon her — in January 2017, and then as executive director in January 2019, I questioned why we were investing so much in membership dues and travel for an organization that advocates for private schools at the national level. Why? What challenges would Islamic schools solve by joining such an organization? I also wondered if we were doing so out of fear that our schools might face a future attack from the government or the public. Or was it out of peer-pressure in order to legitimize ourselves to the outside world as an authentic professional organization? Or was this genuinely based on a vision for the future of our community’s schools, one grounded in a historical understanding of what works? In some ways, the answer was “yes” to all of these questions. Yes, we were afraid. We didn’t know if the government would at some point challenge Islamic schools’ right to exist. There certainly
PRIVATE SCHOOLS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THE SPACE WITHIN WHICH INNOVATION TAKES PLACE WHEN IT COMES TO CURRICULUM, SCHOOL CULTURE, EDUCATIONAL/ ENRICHMENT OPPORTUNITIES, REAL-LIFE JOB SKILLS PREP, ENGAGEMENT WITH FAMILY AND COMMUNITY AND SO ON.
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Better Leadership Skills BY MATTHEW MOES
See the tree inside the seed. — Dr. Adolph Brown III, author, speaker and teacher
he Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA; https://theisla. org) was represented by its board member Matthew Moes, who is also the principal of the full-time IANT Quranic Academy in Richardson, Texas, at the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education’s National School Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 13-14, 2019, where approximately 100 education leaders shared best practices and examined capacity in striving for equity-based and culturally responsive teaching and learning environments. This theme was communicated over multiple sessions that varied from an inspiring keynote presentation to discussions designed to make participants examine biases and develop strategic plans by using logic models on common “problems of practice.” Panels were also held on “cultivating a community of care and support,” social and emotional learning (to be addressed at ISLA’s upcoming leadership retreat) and ways of “engaging families and communities meaningfully as partners.” The event elicited several provocative questions that will help us self-assess some of the existing age-old assumptions about equity and inclusiveness in our community’s schools. To start with: Is it really legitimate to assume that just because our values dictate racial/ethnic equality that our schools actually model this?
Do we record and track the achievements of gender, ethnic, social-economic and other special categories to ensure the lack of any performance gaps among them? Have we trained our staff members to recognize their implicit biases and to actively look for ways to become more sensitive and inclusive of all of their students and families in terms of the categories mentioned above? Are our financial aid policies sensitive to the needs of lower-income families? Do they reach a proportionate number of such families? Have we made a reasonable effort to assess and accommodate learning differences? Do we simply ignore, underserve or dismiss special learning needs because our schools don’t have the resources? Is this a legitimate stance? Do we have a procedure in place for students and/or families to report (or simply talk with someone they trust) about their feelings of being isolated, bullied or not fully included due to perceived differences? Is there a qualified school counselor who can help address issues of identity, feelings of isolation, depression, bullying and so on among students while mobilizing the administration’s attention and resources? Honest reflections and dialogues on such questions are just the first step toward examining some of our long-held assumptions about Islamic schools. The ensuing answers will help us initiate new strategies and approaches tailored to better meet the needs and expectations of the whole community. As an ISLA board member, Moes left the gathering hoping that his organization could help move such conversations forward on a larger scale, such as through its professional development workshops or annual leadership retreats. After all, these are among the issues that all American educators are grappling with in their schools. The summit also enabled peers and colleagues to network and develop new relationships that can be used to sustain ongoing professional growth and support. Moes came away with novel approaches and resources that he had acquired during such interactions. Organizations like ISLA and the Council for Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA; https:// www.cisnausa.org), represented by its executive director Sufia Azmat, invest time and money in such conferences to ensure that the leaders of Islamic schools are always represented and can make their voices heard. ih Matthew Moes is the principal of IANT Quranic Academy in Richardson, Texas, and an Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA) board member.
was a precedent for that — soon after WWI, Catholic schools launched a case that made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the parents’ right to choose private education for their children. Even more recently, in early 2019 Hassidic schools were subjected to attacks in New York City when the New York State Commissioner of Education imposed regulations that had, at worst, the potential to shut down droves of private schools or, at the very least, cause them to compromise their mission. Yes, we were joining an organization to which all other major religious (and, increasingly, secular) private school organizations belonged because if other faith-based school
organizations were at the table, the advocacy and lobbying done by the coalition groups could overlook our unique concerns. Such a development could potentially result in Islamic schools — and by extension the Muslim American community — having the available funding or access funneled away from them. Or, at the very least, it would mean that our education professionals would be less aware of the opportunities that could benefit our schools and community. And YES, we were joining because we knew that being part of a coalition is the way to improve our ability to do the work we need to do ... to have a system of support in the good times and the bad times ... to
learn from others’ history of establishing private religious-based schools in the U.S. Yes. Yes. And Yes. But even after all of the discussions, I was sure only after attending a national meeting of such a coalition myself.
CAPE 2019 Last October, I attended the meetings of the Council for American Private Education (CAPE; http://capenet.org) and the Private School Leadership Conference hosted by the US Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE; https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ ed/non-public-education/index.html) in Washington, D.C.
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EDUCATION Shaza Khan (left) and Sufia Azmat
communication, programs, academics, assessment, community engagement and so on.
I quickly realized that by networking with Catholic, Christian, Episcopalian, Quaker, Jewish, Montessori, Waldorf and similar schools that Islamic schools are not too far behind the private school sector in terms of professionalism and growth — even though they are the newest kids on the block. This demolished my prior assumption that our schools weren’t as professional as other private religious schools were. In addition, researchers presented data on the successes of private schools in the country and provided insights into how our nation’s educational system, given the presence of public, private and charter schools, contrasts with those in the rest of the developed world. Importantly, many other countries that enjoy high standards of economic prosperity and quality-of-life indicators provide “school choice” as a matter of policy, such as Denmark. I was most moved by how CAPE, the coalition body, was able to provide support to the private religious schools in New York that were currently facing scrutiny from the New York State Commissioner of Education. My top five takeaways from the Washington, DC meetings included the following points: Political Engagement a Must. Islamic schools are currently focused on increasing enrollment numbers and designing the best curriculums, but are not engaged in political activism. This must change at the state level so that they can secure more resources, such as technology and/or transportation grants. At the district level, their investment in developing relationships with
the local educational associations can lead to a more seamless access to financial resources. Alliances. Political and cultural change requires networks, institutions and interest groups, as well as strategy and alliance building. Membership in organizations like ISLA and CISNA, both of which belong to organizations such as CAPE, in turn strengthen our ability to advocate for all Islamic schools. This effort can potentially result in garnering more financial resources and strengthening our schools against current or future threats to their very existence. Opportunities for Innovation. Schools must look at their current challenges and find ways to turn them into opportunities. Private schools have always been the space within which innovation takes place when it comes to curriculum, school culture, educational/enrichment opportunities, reallife job skills prep, engagement with family and community and so on. These schools should continue to function as innovation labs in which creative responses to threats lead to programs and approaches that result in the school’s better overall health and prospects of their students’ holistic success (viz., academic, social-emotional and spiritual). Remembering Our “Why.” Schools with a strong and unique culture are the ones that do best as far as alumni outcomes are concerned. Discover and identify your school’s “why” and then align everything around it — hiring, discipline,
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The Data is Out There. There is a great deal of data that Islamic schools can utilize to inform their own strategies and methods for all kinds of problems and topics. Cardus (https://www.cardus. ca), a Canadian research and educational institution, and the National Center for Educational Statistics (https://nces.ed.gov) are just two examples of these rich resources. Even though Islamic schools are often not distinctly represented in these studies, the knowledge and understandings contained within those data/studies are transferable. Finally, we must do a better job of positioning ourselves as Islamic schools so that we will one day be represented in these studies and will be able to undertake our own studies by collecting the contact information of current students and alumni. As a professional organization that has been working to support full-time Islamic schools in the U.S. for the past 20 years, ISLA is committed to joining coalitions that help us advocate for Islamic schools and Muslim families to have a choice in terms of how they educate their students and in receiving federal equitable resources and services to do so. The more we can build these coalitions, the better informed we will be about current data on the state of education around the nation, and the more empowered we will be to work with partners from different faiths to engage in national and state-level campaigns that have an immediate impact on our schools and our communities. ih Shaza Khan, PhD, is executive director of The Islamic Schools League of America.
With Recalls Plaguing the Food Industry, It’s Time for Action Are halal-labeled food products afforded the same safety and truthful labeling standards that are routine for conventional products? BY MOHAMMAD ABDULLAH
orth America’s food supplies are among the world’s safest. But according to a 2018 report, meat and poultry recalls increased by twothirds from 2013 to 2018 (“Food recalls are increasing, from romaine lettuce to beef,” USA Today, Jan. 17, 2018). Although time-consuming and expensive, such recalls are required, when necessary, because each year one in six Americans get sick from eating contaminated food, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses. So what is the recall process for conventional as well as halal meat and poultry products? Before retiring, I worked in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA, FSIS) in various capacities. Among the positions I held was that of a program review officer, which involved conducting slaughter and processing plants reviews nationwide. I visited Canadian plants that exported their products to the U.S. As a deputy district manager, I also served as the recall officer. Food manufacturers or distributors initiate recalls to protect consumers from products that may cause health problems or are defective. Particular attention is placed upon Class I recalls with a high risk to human health. Given the different levels of product distribution — wholesale, retail, HRI (Hotels, Restaurants and Institutions) and consumer — recalls can vary in depth. A recall is accomplished by removing the batches of products or the entire production of those products from stores, after which they are returned to the manufacturer or distributor for proper disposition. Consumer complaints, routine testing by the company, epidemiological evidence and government lab testing are considered in determining the need to initiate such a procedure. In the U.S., meat and poultry products are recalled for a variety of reasons, such as possible microbiological contamination, mislabeling, undeclared allergen, contamination
with chemicals and foreign bodies and so on. Bacterial contaminants, mislabeling and undeclared allergens are among the main reasons for recalls. The complexity of the global meat industry plays a role in all of this. For example, all raw edible parts of the animals are sourced
ALTHOUGH A SYSTEM OF RECALLING CONVENTIONAL MEAT AND POULTRY PRODUCTS IS CLEARLY IN PLACE, THIS IS NOT THE CASE AT THE GLOBAL LEVEL FOR RECALLING A PRODUCT THAT MAY HAVE BEEN FALSELY LABELED “HALAL” OR WHEN, THROUGH DNA TESTING, A HALAL PRODUCT IS FOUND TO BE CONTAMINATED WITH NON-HALAL INGREDIENTS.
from slaughter and processing plants, located either within a country or abroad, and are used to produce different types of processed products. As meat processing is a multi-step process, there are many opportunities to engage in substitution, mislabeling and other types of food fraud. However, the increased number of recalls isn’t necessarily an indication that the food contaminants have increased; rather, it’s a proof that the ability to detect them has improved. A survey on food fraud found that 63 percent of Canadians are concerned about it and that 40 percent feel that they have been victims (The Globe and Mail, Feb. 21, 2017). Food fraud can be the result of the desire for economic gain, human error and negligence. This problem is also nothing new. For example, during the 13th and 14th centuries the Italian city of Florence imposed some controls on its meat supply by prohibiting such fraudulent practices as misrepresentation and substitution (Libby’s Meat Hygiene, 1975). A more contemporary example is the 2013 horsemeat scandal in Ireland, when DNA tests on foods advertised as containing beef only were found to contain undeclared horsemeat. In fact, this scandal is a good example of the breakdown of traceability, defined as the ability (1) to determine where a food product comes from, what it is made of and by whom and (2) to track the product through its various stages of production, inspection, halal certification, storage, transportation and distribution by maintaining verifiable records. Such scandals are also increasing awareness among consumers as to what they should and should not eat. Thus, consumers are now demanding more transparency about their food — what exactly is in it and how the processor determined that this product is traceable. Once a company initiates a recall, FSIS immediately issues a press release to notify the public, posts it on its website and provides information to all stakeholders. At the conclusion of the recall, FSIS conducts an effectiveness check to determine whether the retrieved product was disposed of properly. I have coordinated several recalls, including the FSIS Recall #030-2004, a Class I product recall that involved frozen ground beef patties prompted by epidemiological evidence that linked these patties with two illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 and three illnesses by lab testing.
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FOOD In my capacity as the recall officer, I contacted the district managers of those states to which the recalled product had been distributed and requested their assistance in conducting recall effectiveness checks and product disposition verification at consignees in their districts. The initial consignees provided by the recalling company, in addition to Nebraska, where the product was manufactured, were Wal-Mart distribution centers located in eleven states. Although a system of recalling conventional meat and poultry products is clearly in place in North America, this is not the case at the global level for recalling a product that may have been falsely labeled “halal” or when, through DNA testing, a halal product is found to be contaminated with non-halal ingredients. This means that the producing plants have to handle those situations. But there is no entity with enforcement authority or a database showing that such inspections are being conducted. The regulatory agencies’ primary foci are reducing foodborne illnesses, improving food quality and transparency. In 2017, the University of Guelph (Ontario) conducted a sausage mislabeling study for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The research team found mislabeling and cross-species contamination in 20 percent of the sausage samples selected from grocery stores nationwide. According to the lead researcher, “this study was done with the purpose of determining the baseline that can be used when working with meat processors to have a high quality and transparent food supply” (https://news.uoguelph. ca/2017/08/smislabelling). Due to the regulatory agencies’ interest in working with meat processors to improve food quality and transparency, there is a good chance that some plants may decide, on their own, to invest in new technologies such as block-chain and replacing antiquated record keeping systems with electronic systems. Halal meat consumers across the globe hope that when any of these plants, especially those that are halal-accredited and engaged in the lucrative business of exporting fresh, frozen and ready-to-eat halal meat and poultry products to the Middle East, makes such changes, that they do so for both conventional and halal products. This is because most of the latter products are produced in the same plants where non-halal meat and poultry products are routinely produced. Implementing such measures won’t solve all of the problems, but it will help improve traceability, prevent cross-contamination and support a company’s claim that its product has been produced in accordance with Islamic requirements and thereby mitigate expensive recalls. ih Dr. Mohammad Abdullah retired after serving for 29 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA, FSIS), which regulates the meat industry. He is the author of “A Closer Look at Halal Meat from Farm to Fork” (2016), which is available at Amazon.com.
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There May Be Petroleum and More in Your Food Do we always know what we’re eating? BY ASMA JARAD
es, you read that right. There is petroleum in many of the foods that you eat. Chances are that you probably ate some petroleum today and will do so every day for the rest of your life. Are you comfortable with that? Probably not, but that’s the reality — unless you wise up and do something about it. Most people like you and me naively assume that petroleum is limited to gasoline, heating oil, jet fuel, wax, asphalt and other such products. While your cars are guzzling a bit of ethanol, a fuel alternative produced from corn, you are eating petroleum products! The truth is somewhat different, for petroleum derivatives are regularly used in the common foods we eat every day under safe-sounding pseudonyms such as “mineral oil.” Packaged foods often contain petroleum to extend their shelf life. For example, we all know that flour, water, eggs, milk, and sugar combinations go rancid quickly, so adding mineral oil extends their prime for weeks. Another reason for adding petroleum is because we’re not satisfied with having only good tasting food, for we also want good looking food. As a result, food producers use a variety of laboratory-made petroleum-derived additives to make our food look attractive, thus increasing sales, expanding our waistlines and weakening our health.
CAUSES FOR CONCERN TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone) is a petroleum-derived additive found in hundreds of products from McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and Red Baron pizza to Wheat Thins and Keebler Cookies. Similar to other food additives, it helps foods remain fresh longer on grocery store shelves and thus delays the onset of
mold, staleness and discoloration. One negative side effect, according to the National Library of Medicine (https://www.nlm.nih.gov), is vision problems, which have been reported in humans who consume TBHQ. In addition, a government study commissioned by the Centers for Science in the Public Interest (https://cspinet. org) found that TBHQ increased the prevalence of tumors in lab animals. The U.S. National Library of Medicine also cites studies that revealed that TBHQ causes liver enlargement, neurotoxic effects, convulsions and paralysis in laboratory animals. Registered Dietitian Katherine Marengo, LDN, RD, says, “TBHQ, like many questionable food preservatives, is found in processed foods meant to withstand a long shelf life. Avoiding these packaged foods and opting for fresh ingredients is a surefire way to limit it in your diet” (https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/ potential-tbhq-dangers). Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are two other petroleum-derived antioxidant chemicals added to oil-containing foods as preservatives. They are most commonly found in snack foods such as crackers, cereals, dried meats, and other foods with added fats. According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, all of these petroleum additives are considered possible human carcinogens. In chocolate, petroleum is labeled as “Olestra,” an indigestible plastic disguised as a fake fat in fat-free foods. Despite the objections of food researchers — Olestra inhibits the body’s ability to absorb healthy vitamins from fruits and vegetables — the FDA approved this zero-calorie fat substitute for use in snack foods
years ago. Even in low doses, this fake fat is widely known to cause gastrointestinal problems such as anal leakage. When it first debuted in 1996, the FDA required foods containing Olestra to carry a warning label; however, the FDA later claimed, “Most consumers were aware of the risks associated with Olestra and new data showed only a minor increase in digestive problems” (“Olestra Label Not Required, F.D.A. Says”, New York Times, Aug. 2, 2003) The article also stated, “Consumer groups opposed the move, contending the FDA had failed in its mission to protect the public from harmful food additives.” Artificial flavoring, another common petroleum derivative, is a sweeping term that refers to hundreds of laboratory chemicals designed to take the place of natural flavors. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (https://www.eia.gov), an independent statistics and analysis group, “Some imitation vanilla flavorings are made from petroleum or paper-mill waste. In fact, a single artificial flavoring can be created from hundreds of individual chemicals. New studies suggest [that] artificial-flavoring additives can cause changes in behavior.” Your food could also have many additives that are not only haram, but also qabih (abhorrent). Consider castoreum, a flavor enhancer or modifier that is a secretion produced in male or female beavers native to Alaska, Canada and Siberia, with the latter being less valuable commercially. Every beaver has a pair of pouch-like sacs, called “castor sacs,” between the kidneys and bladder, located on top of the base of the tail, just above the cloaca (vent), its only excretory opening (The Truth About Raspberry or Strawberry Flavor from Beaver Glands, Nov. 8, 2013; https://culinarylore.com). Bone char — often referred to as natural carbon — is widely used by the sugar industry as a decolorizing filter, which allows the sugar cane to achieve its desirable white color. However, beet sugar does not require
this process (“ Your Sugar Might Be Made With Animal Bones. Sorry, Vegans.” Kate Bratskeir, Huffpost.com, Dec. 7, 2107). PETA offers a list of sugars that don’t use bone char (https://www.peta.org/aboutpeta/faq/are-animal-ingredients-included-in-white-sugar/). Keep in mind that the chemicals used to flavor foods are a group of highly reactive molecules that may interact with DNA and increase mutation or cell transformation. It’s best to read labels and avoid these harmful additives as much as possible. Registered dietitian and nutrition and food communications expert Christy Brissette, MS, RD, advises us to “Focus on including healthful, whole foods. If you’re avoiding artificially flavored cookies and chips in exchange for naturally flavored cookies and chips, you’re not necessarily doing yourself any health favors. When you minimize highly processed foods and cook whole foods at home, you consequently avoid artificial flavors.” Other foods to avoid include any type that has added food colorings. These can be anything from fresh fruits and vegetables to juice and chips. Other places you may find these additives include medications and vitamins, which contain acetylsalicylic acid, the active ingredient in a multitude of over-thecounter painkillers such as aspirin. Finally, canned products are a particular concern, as we know that they usually sit on shelves longer than any other food product, and thus their manufacturers use petroleum to extend their lives until shoppers eventually purchase them.
TAKE ACTION If you decide to take action, begin to carefully examine the labels on all of your foods. After that, consider avoiding foods that list more than five or six ingredients or ingredients that are longer than three syllables. Finally, choose foods that contain such natural additives as fruits and vegetables. Pay close attention to
the following food products: candy, laxatives, snack foods, packaged baked goods, mints and products containing Olestra. Petroleum is a fossil fuel that forms after millions of years of intense heat and pressure. The fossils transform into carbon-rich substances that we rely on as raw materials for fuel and a wide variety of products. Moreover, it’s one of the cheapest sources of energy. Yes … but it’s not food. It’s not healthy and has been linked to short- and long-term negative effects on our minds and bodies. Questionable food preservatives found in processed foods meant to withstand a long shelf life should be avoided. Numerous studies have found that petroleum-based additives affect human behavior. This belief has landed these foods on the “do not consume” list of many diet plans, including the Feingold diet — a dietary approach to managing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Advocates say that those who struggle with their behavior should avoid petroleum-based additives. Consumers are becoming more aware of their health and are taking charge to avoid unnecessary ingredients. Unfortunately, a lot of our foods contain petroleum and other ingredients we should avoid. The bright side is that most of the ingredients are listed on food products, so it’s just a matter of reading and deciding not to purchase items that contain suspicious ingredients. You don’t have to live in a cave or only eat nuts and berries to avoid eating harmful products such as petroleum. Knowledge is power, and we have to take action by choosing not to support companies that place profit over health. In addition, we must make our voices heard by our public officials. We already know that the federal government allows petroleum to be added to foods, sometimes without even labeling it as such! This is unacceptable. While food manufacturers maintain that petroleum-derived ingredients are perfectly safe, some health scientists insist that they are hugely dangerous. Links to cancer, ADHD, and a plethora of other health problems are commonly found. At the end of the day, the oil that runs our vehicles, lubricates machinery and gets made into clothes and computers should not be on our dinner plates. ih Asma Jarad, who works for ICNA Relief, has published across multiple forums and ranges in topic from health and food trends to Islam in America.
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Practicing Clinical Bioethics: Reflections from the Bedside We as a community can no longer remain complacent about accepting well-meaning but misinformed people giving inappropriate and dangerous religious and medical advice in the name of Islam.
PHOTO (C) DR. ASMA MOBIN-UDDIN
BY ASMA MOBIN-UDDIN
iomedical dilemmas are becoming more complex as medical technologies continue to advance. As a practicing clinical bioethicist, I work with medical staff, patients and families confronted by ethical issues that arise during medical treatment. Hospital ethics consultants may be called to assist with questions such as how to proceed with end-of-life decision-making, whether to aggressively treat severely compromised newborns or whether or not curable patients can refuse treatment.
ETHICS CONSULTS INVOLVING MUSLIM PATIENTS The vast majority of requests for ethics consultations in our hospital do not involve Muslim patients. For those consults that are
related to Muslims, however, I have noted some recurring challenges. Muslim patients often turn to their faith to help them make medical decisions. In their attempts to avoid what is religiously impermissible, they often ask local imams, community leaders or Muslim physicians for advice. But these groups typically lack the scholarship and training needed to appropriately apply Islamic concepts to the medical dilemmas we commonly face in American hospitals today. As a result, patients and families often receive rigid advice given in the name of Islam but without a sufficient degree of engagement, attention to context or understanding of the clinical situation. For example, a Muslim woman had suffered permanent brain damage due to lack
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of oxygen during a cardiac arrest. She was permanently dependent on a ventilator connected via a tracheostomy tube in her neck for her ability to breathe. Her kidneys had failed. The family knew and accepted that she would never wake up, be aware of her surroundings or be able to communicate. Despite the grim prognosis, her family told the medical team that it was their Islamic religious obligation to continue all aggressive medical care because, since only God could decide when she would die, they had no right to make any decisions or limit any therapies that might result in her death. An overseas sheikh, who was dispensing advice by phone, had told them that disconnecting any life support equipment was absolutely haram, regardless of the circumstances, and that they would incur the sin associated with murder if they stopped the current treatments. One of my main concerns in such cases isn’t that a family might choose to continue aggressive care when there is no medically predictable chance of recovery, but, more specifically, that they feel obliged to do so because of the religious advice they have received in the name of Islam. They feel that they have no choice, despite their own assessment of the situation or their doctors’ recommendations. I interviewed Dr. Hatem Al-Haj, a national fiqh council scholar, about this issue. He is a member of the Permanent Fatwa Committee of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, which focuses on issues pertaining to Muslim minorities in the West, as well as a practicing physician in the U.S. and board-certified in pediatrics. Dr. Al-Haj said that the above-mentioned advice that this family and others commonly receive in similar situations is neither backed up by traditional Islamic jurisprudence nor the view of the majority of modern Muslim scholars. He clarified Muslim scholars’ views on medical treatment, both in classical fiqh and in contemporary Islamic law, citing work done with the International Islamic Fiqh Organization, which is part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. He noted that in classical fiqh, seeking medical treatment was never considered a general obligation in any of the four major Sunni schools of thought. At best, it was considered as recommended by some and as sometimes obligatory in certain specific circumstances (e.g., emergency situations or when contagious diseases threaten societal health and safety). He then stated that
contemporary scholars’ views have changed, perhaps due to the more effective nature of medical treatments today, such that some of them are warming up to the concept of obligatory treatment. However, Dr. Al-Haj pointed out that even with regard to contemporary Islamic scholarship, accepting medical treatment would only be considered obligatory if certain conditions are met, among them that the disease is harmful, the medication is curative, the medication is safe and the burden of the medical treatment is not worse than
who wish to engage with such questions should first get the appropriate religious and clinical training. We as a community can no longer remain complacent about accepting well-meaning but misinformed people giving inappropriate and dangerous religious and medical advice in the name of Islam. This sloppy approach causes harm that can last for generations, as the accompanying emotional stress, draining of financial resources and spiritual guilt take their toll on both the patients and their families.
HOWEVER, DR. AL-HAJ POINTED OUT THAT EVEN WITH REGARD TO CONTEMPORARY ISLAMIC SCHOLARSHIP, ACCEPTING MEDICAL TREATMENT WOULD ONLY BE CONSIDERED OBLIGATORY IF CERTAIN CONDITIONS ARE MET, AMONG THEM THAT THE DISEASE IS HARMFUL, THE MEDICATION IS CURATIVE, THE MEDICATION IS SAFE AND THE BURDEN OF THE MEDICAL TREATMENT IS NOT WORSE THAN THE DISEASE ITSELF. the disease itself. Thus, medical treatment is not required for an incurable disease. If there is any ambiguity about the possible outcome, then one should side with hope. However, he emphasized that it must be a “reasonable” hope based on current scientific knowledge. As to whether a patient has to continue treatment because God could perform a miracle, Dr. Al-Haj answered, “Medical intervention needs to be based on the knowledge of the doctors, not on the knowledge of God … If God wants to override the decision with a miracle, He doesn’t need our help with this.”
CURRENT CHALLENGES AND NEEDS The more I talk with people, the more I am convinced that in too many cases Muslim patients are being given completely inappropriate advice that is not based on sound Islamic scholarship — a great injustice that leads to immense suffering. Patients and families need to be aware of existing differences in Islamic opinions on medical issues and that there may be more Islamically sanctioned options than many people are being led to believe. Advisors who have no clinical training and/or religious scholarship in this area should step back and refer these questions to appropriate scholars, professionals or referral centers. Those
SUGGESTIONS FOR A PATH FORWARD We have to approach biomedical dilemmas with more urgency and attention to clinical practicality. We have to develop means of support for biomedical dilemmas that are accessible, timely and clinically useful in American hospitals. Our resources must be strongly grounded in the Islamic tradition as well as responsive, adaptable and nimble. Technology is changing rapidly, and our scholarship needs to adapt to the pace at which our world is moving. As specialized knowledge is needed, we should build upon the current process of bringing together the expertise of Islamic scholars and the clinical knowledge of medical professionals so that they can address bioethical issues together. The more connections that Islamic scholars have with clinical medicine, the better they will understand the context in which clinicians make decisions and the effects that these decisions have. Interested scholars can increase their clinical awareness in ways such as participating in programs arranged through a hospital’s pastoral care or chaplaincy department, volunteering at health care facilities or serving on their local hospital’s ethics committee. Scholars are working on bioethical issues; however, their work is often neither
accessible nor searchable by Muslim medical professionals or community members. Attention to improving access to and the dissemination of educational materials about common ethical dilemmas would also help the community greatly. Many Muslim healthcare professionals want to increase their understanding of Islamic bioethical principles and how to apply them in basic clinical situations. Therefore, educational initiatives and training programs devised to help them think through common clinical scenarios using Islamic principles would be very useful. The development of practical and clinically relevant tools to assist Muslim families with Islamic perspectives on medical decision-making, such as decision charts, informational materials and online resources, would also be helpful. Another crucial element is to develop relationships, trust and better communication between medical professionals and Islamic scholars. An extremely useful service would be scholars making themselves available via Islamic bioethics hotlines to provide timely advice and support to clinicians, patients and families. Educational initiatives to encourage family members to think about and discuss common bioethical issues (e.g., end-of-life issues) would also greatly ease the burden for families and medical teams making such decisions at a patient’s bedside. At the present time, we are not meeting our community’s needs for guidance and support for biomedical dilemmas. By intensifying our efforts to merge excellence in religious scholarship with excellence in clinical understanding and then disseminating this information more effectively, we can better help patients and families navigate the religiously sanctioned options in their particular circumstances. The American Muslim community must make this field of study a priority. ih Asma Mobin-Uddin, MD, FAAP, is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Bioethics in the Division of Bioethics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and works as a clinical bioethicist in the Center for Bioethics at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. In addition, she is a pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, also in Columbus. Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt with some modifications from the author’s TISA article “Practicing Clinical Bioethics: Reflections from the Bedside,” which originally appeared in the Journal of Islamic Faith and Practice, vol. 2, no. 1, 2019. It is reprinted with permission. For the full version, please refer to http://journals.iupui.edu/index.php/ JIFP/article/view/23275.
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Toward Bringing Myanmar to Justice The first-ever legal forum of its kind dedicated exclusively to the Rohingyas is up and running
BY JAY WILLOUGHBY
he Rohingya Legal Forum project, established on Nov. 1, 2019, by the Center for Global Policy (www. cgpolicy.org), comprises a group of scholars and jurists who are experts on the “slow-burning genocide” of Myanmar’s Muslim-minority population. Among its purposes are “to coordinate types of research initiatives [and] innovative mechanisms by which to try to push forward the legal process of bringing some sort of closure to that issue,” as well as to “coordinate some of the top legal experts in the world, just to provide a platform for them to share their research … [we do not provide] any legal prosecution.” Founding members include Prof. David Scheffer, first U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes; Sareta Ashraph, a former chief legal analyst on the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria; Prof. Allan Rock, former attorney general of Canada and ambassador to the U.N.; and Djaouida Siaci, international lawyer and vice president of the Rohingya Support Group. The group is chaired by CGP Director Dr. Azeem Ibrahim and convened by Prof. John Packer. On Nov. 4, 2019, it held the following
event to introduce itself to the world. The speakers were Azeem Ibrahim, John Packer, Djaouida Siaci, Sareta Ashraph and David Scheffer. Azeem Ibrahim, winner of The International Association of Genocide Scholars’ 2019 Engaged Scholar Prize, opened the event by stating: “I have met policy makers from all over the globe who tell me that, ‘Look, what’s happening to the Rohingya is absolutely terrible, but we cannot put too much pressure on Myanmar because it’s a fragile democracy. It’s fragile, it’s flawed, yes, but it’s moving in the right direction. And what we don’t want to do is to upset that balance.’” He then pointed out other reasons for Washington’s silence: (1) Myanmar, formerly one of the world’s most closed societies, is now opening up and being vigorously courted by China. If this effort succeeds, China will gain easy access to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean and (2) the lack of political will to admit what is really going on. He stressed that this can be seen in the terminology being used: “hallmark of a genocide,” “genocidal action” and “ethnic cleansing,” for identifying something as a “genocide” obliges the international community to take certain concrete steps.
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Ibrahim is the author of “Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Genocide” (2016) and director of the Center for Global Policy’s Displacement and Migration program. Professor John Packer, professor of law and director of Ottawa University’s Human Rights Research and Education Center, noted that he “has been involved in the situation of human rights in Burma/Myanmar since 1992, when I was appointed as the first assistant to the first Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma.” He termed this a “preventable genocide,” for this is a “slow-burning genocide that goes back basically a half a century.” And he should know, given that he’s also a highly experienced practitioner with more than 20 years of working with and under intergovernmental organizations, including the U.N. Commission for Refugees and the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights. And yet despite the widespread knowledge of this genocidal policy, the international community does nothing but observe. Packer noted the international inaction, even among some of the leading human rights organizations, who “refuse to invoke the term [genocide] or the [Genocide] Convention [of 1948], astoundingly, even when they are identifying precise violations of the Convention.” He stressed that only a state can engage in such a crime, because individuals such as Hitler of Stalin cannot do it on their own. He suggested one specific legal approach that could work. Myanmar is not a party to the Rome Statute (https://legal.un.org/icc/statute/romefra.htm); however, it became a party to the Genocide Convention shortly after it joined the UN in 1948, ratified it in 1956, and currently has no reservations with regard to its consent. Thus, the Convention and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) can be applied, and Myanmar is legally obliged to respond. If a state raises this case, a public and wider process must be opened. If successful at the ICJ, “there are the possibilities of significant orders, including substantial, meaningful reparations, so the political effects and consequences will be considerable.” On Nov. 11, 2019, The Gambia filed a
case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice for violating the Genocide Convention. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC; https://www.oic-oci.org) has also encouraged its 57 members to bring Myanmar before the court. Djaouida Siaci, an international lawyer and vice president of the Rohingya Support Group (http://therohingyasupportgroup. org), spoke on the relatively new field of “sexual violence as an essential component of genocide.” She stated that “sexual violence — rape as sexual violence — has been a prominent feature, indeed a central component” of Myanmar’s genocidal policy “planned and implemented by the highest level of government.” However, she noted that this particular practice is not unique to Myanmar. And, because the soldiers were acting under the state’s direct orders, the trials cannot be limited to individual rapists. She said that what is going on in Myanmar is “very reminiscent” of Rwanda and is “close” to Bosnia. In Rwanda, it was called “condition of life” genocide, meaning that the ultimate goal was to destroy a specific group. She cited the example of the Hutu-majority government's conscious decision to release thousands of AIDS patients from hospitals, form them into battalions and then unleash them against the women of the Tutsi and other minority populations. Moderator Ibrahim noted that the two divisions entrusted with carrying out these atrocities, the 33rd and the 99th — the so-called tip of the spear — are being deployed to the north to deal with other minority populations. Sareta Ashraph, the next speaker, is the former chief legal analyst on the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria (2012-16) and was responsible for the investigation and drafting of the Commission’s June 2016
AND YET DESPITE THE WIDESPREAD KNOWLEDGE OF THIS GENOCIDAL POLICY, THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY DOES NOTHING BUT OBSERVE. PACKER NOTED THE INTERNATIONAL INACTION, EVEN AMONG SOME OF THE LEADING HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS, WHO “REFUSE TO INVOKE THE TERM [GENOCIDE] OR THE [GENOCIDE] CONVENTION [OF 1948], ASTOUNDINGLY, EVEN WHEN THEY ARE IDENTIFYING PRECISE VIOLATIONS OF THE CONVENTION.” report “They Came to Destroy: ISIS’s Crimes Against the Yazidis,” which found that ISIS was committing the crime of genocide. Her presentation focused on the “gendered commission and impact of genocide as it relates to the Rohingya’s case.” She pointed out that when confronted with a genocide, people usually think of images of mass killings, as
opposed to the fact that men and women experience genocide in very distinct ways. According to her, men are often murdered quickly to deprive the targeted community of its heads of households, community leaders, dominant social figures and undermine its resilience, whereas women and girls are subjected to longer-term abuse, sexual violence and mutilation of the sexual organs and are sometimes brutally stabbed to death with the same knives used to kill animals. After all, as mothers and daughters (i.e., future mothers), they are symbols of community life and the bearers of future generations. In other words, the goal here is “to destroy the community first through the women and then the community itself.” She also noted the common assumption that the only “victims” of a genocide are those who were killed and the survivors are just “witnesses to genocide,” an attitude with which she clearly disagrees. Ambassador David Scheffer, the last speaker, was the first ambassador-at-large for war crimes and the architect of the Yugoslav Tribunal. On Jan. 18, 2012, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed him as the U.N. Special Expert to advise on that body’s assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials. He currently teaches at the Northwestern University School of Law, where he directs the Center for International Human Rights. He spoke about his own experience and expertise with setting up the tribunal, his critical role in establishing the International Criminal Court and discussed issues surrounding genocidal and war crimes. He based his argument on the following contention: A state cannot force a million people into a neighboring state and expect to get away with it, as was the case 25 years ago. Thus, the guilty state cannot demand non-interference in its domestic affairs, for such actions demands an international response and specific actions. One of these actions, and the ideal one according to him, to secure justice for the Rohingya is to pursue Myanmar’s military and political leadership in the national court, for that is where jurisdiction resides. Although this option is “improbable in the short term,” it could become more likely if, over the years, an unspecified series of changes were to take place in the country. The event was followed by a short Q&A session. ih Jay Willoughby is an author and freelance copy editor.
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(C) U.S. EMBASSY ETHIOPIA JULY, 28, 2018
Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and Vice President Mike Pence meet at the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa
Ethiopia’s First Nobel Laureate
International recognition for a person who actually works for peace between and within nations BY DAGEM TEFERRA
ailing sirens pierce the evening quiet. Rebels are advancing toward Addis Ababa, the capital, demanding democratic elections and equality among ethnic groups. Armed with rocks and sticks, they march on, chanting in unison. It’s only a matter of time before they arrive in my neighborhood, located in a quiet suburb just a few miles from Addis. Terrified, I cannot sleep, recalling whispered conversations on the minibus home about an impending civil war. Then, the impossible happens. On Feb. 15, 2018, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn abruptly resigns, signifying the first time in modern Ethiopian politics that a leader voluntarily relinquishes power. Following that event, Dr. Abiy Ahmed was declared his successor. In early 2018, upon becoming chairman of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, he had resigned his government positions.
In Ethiopia, the incoming party chairman is the next prime minister — provided that he is also a member of Parliament. At first I am skeptical, because this seems like a meaningless concession. His inaugural address, however, leaves me stunned. He begins with a heartfelt apology on behalf of the government for its years of persecuting civilians for exercising their freedom of speech. To demonstrate his commitment to open dialogue, he releases all political prisoners. Previously banned media sources are allowed to function legally, and opposition leaders who have fled abroad are invited back — he personally welcomes them. In just a couple of months, the same rebels who had been set on destroying the capital swarm it to attend his first public appearance. The most influential move of Abiy’s administration came when he took a series of actions to end the long war with neighboring Eritrea, which had flared up in May
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1998 due to border conflicts and continued until June 2000, with the final peace only agreed to in 2018, 20 years after the initial confrontation. Under Italian occupation, Eritrea was forcibly joined to Ethiopia and fought a decades-long war to free itself. This latest war ended when the former army intelligence officer declared, “There is no longer a border between Eritrea and Ethiopia because a bridge of love has destroyed it.” Ethiopians received this news with pure joy. Open borders meant that thousands could now reconnect with family members they hadn’t seen since the war had broken out. Just like that, Eritrean flags were posted on taxis and store windows all across Addis Ababa. Thousands came out, including myself, to cheer as Abiy and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afeworki drove from the airport to the National Palace for a reconciliation ceremony. In addition to opening borders, the two countries agreed to engage in political and economic cooperation — Eritrea would allow Ethiopia to use its ports of Massawa and Asseb, and Ethiopia would advocate for Eritrea in international organizations. The countries transformed themselves from being sworn enemies to close allies, with Abiy using rhetoric like “brother” and “family” when describing his Eritrean counterpart. It was becoming evident that the new prime minister was a uniquely forward-thinking leader that the Ethiopians had hoped for but had never really expected to come to power. What struck me most was his humility and resolve. While his predecessors had suppressed the freedom of speech, he worked to earn the people’s trust and encouraged government transparency at all levels. Where they had insisted on 20 years of sustained hostility with Eritrea, he signed a peace agreement within a few months of beginning his term. He was not just preaching peace and unity — he was actually implementing it. His conflict resolution did not stop at Eritrea. Under the guidance of the African Union, an institution founded by the late Libyan president Muammar al-Gaddafi in 1999, Abiy mediated the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, meeting with President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar.
HIS INAUGURAL ADDRESS, HOWEVER, LEAVES ME STUNNED. HE BEGINS WITH A HEARTFELT APOLOGY ON BEHALF OF THE GOVERNMENT FOR ITS YEARS OF PERSECUTING CIVILIANS FOR EXERCISING THEIR FREEDOM OF SPEECH. TO DEMONSTRATE HIS COMMITMENT TO OPEN DIALOGUE, HE RELEASES ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS. PREVIOUSLY BANNED MEDIA SOURCES ARE ALLOWED TO FUNCTION LEGALLY, AND OPPOSITION LEADERS WHO HAVE FLED ABROAD ARE INVITED BACK — HE PERSONALLY WELCOMES THEM. A peace agreement was finally signed in September 2018, and ever since many positive signs have been seen in the country. When the transitional military government in Sudan was responding with violence to civilian protests, it was Abiy who stepped in to lead the mediation talks. Although these talks proved to be ineffective, the effort made was more tangible than what organizations like the UN had done. All of his efforts to stop ethnic-based violence within Ethiopia and maintain peace and security in neighboring countries culminated in his being nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. The nominees included the fierce teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and fellow prime ministers Jacinda Arden of New Zealand, Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia as well as former prime minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras. At the end of the section process, it was Abiy who was chosen and thus became the first Ethiopian ever to receive the honor. This news garnered much attention worldwide, and congratulations streamed in from various world leaders. Within Ethiopia, except for a few, the majority considers the citation as a source of pride. The main critique of Abiy’s rule so far has
been how he has dealt with the flurries of interethnic violence in many of the nation’s regional areas. Even though he has repeatedly spoken on the need to unite and make individual concessions for the betterment of the whole, he hasn’t been able to completely stop these disputes. Upon assuming power, he immediately sought to diversify Ethiopia’s political sphere by increasing the representation of the previously oppressed ethnic groups of the Oromo and the Amhara. Being an Oromo married to an Amhara, Abiy was able to ease the demands of the Oromos, the main instigators of the unrest that got him elected. However, as time has gone by opposition leaders have started demanding more of him, and the Oromo haven’t been shy about manifesting their dissatisfaction. Not all Oromo oppose Abiy, however, and many of them showed their gratitude and support of him after hearing of the honor that had been bestowed upon him. While his critics appreciate his intentions, they question his administration’s inaction when it comes to quelling these conflicts. An example was the October 2109 unrest in the Oromo region that led to the death of 80 people just a couple of weeks after the award
was bestowed upon Abiy. In this case, a very prominent Oromo opposition leader named Jawar Mohammed had called for his supporters’ help, claiming that the government was trying to assassinate him. Hundreds of his followers responded by camping outside his villa in Addis Ababa; others engaged in violent acts that caused many deaths. As this was happening, Abiy was unusually quiet. In fact, it took him a couple of days to organize a press release condemning the events and providing details about the victims. This gave rise to many reporters and commentators calling for Abiy to implement tangible responses. By his lack of direct action, it seems like the prime minister doesn’t want to antagonize the Oromo, the country’s majority tribal group. Using force to stop the violence without picking the right time and place would lead to very harsh consequences. And with a country that had been on the brink of an ethnic-based civil war just a couple of years ago, it would be smart of him to make measured moves, which he is trying to do. Opposition figures like Jawar Mohammed, on the other hand, don’t care about the weight of their words, as long as it gets them into power. Mohammed’s reckless approach has undermined Abiy’s power in many people’s eyes; however, it is clear that the prime minister, being wary of the consequences for the future of Ethiopia, is treading the careful path. In spite of the “forces of hate,” as he calls them, Abiy remains determined to achieve socio-economic prosperity for all Ethiopians as well. He has articulated a vision for how each sector of society can work toward improving the country. By joining young volunteers to rebuild and renovate the low-income peoples’ homes, he has called upon the country’s youth to continue the much-needed work of helping the less privileged, showing by example how easy it is to make a positive difference in our community. Just three months ago he pioneered a highly successful national campaign that led to a record-breaking number of trees being planted in 24 hours. As unlikely as his ascension to power is, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s progressive policies promise to lead Ethiopia into a future where ethnic demands make way for reconciliation and our immense diversity spurs us toward advancement. ih Dagem T. Teferra is a student at Howard University.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 53
How to Make Your Cash Reserve Do More Are Islamic organizations optimizing their cash reserves? BY SADIA QURESHI
ood cash management is good donor stewardship. It begins with a smart investment strategy built into the organization’s vision. Year-end is the right time to evaluate your institution’s financial position and cash reserves. The organization’s board members or management must understand that accumulating a lot of cash for an extended period at the expense of valuable investment income is not the best strategy. While it is prudent to maintain appropriate reserves in order to meet the payroll, expenses and cover any emergencies, many Islamic centers and nonprofits routinely hold too much cash in money market and checking accounts, which neither benefit them nor the communities they serve. Idle cash is like unplanted seeds wasting away. Management should also have a yearly cash flow projection that indicates the presumed cash requirements. An accountant or a treasurer can easily do this; even a properly trained office manager can prepare such projections. Appropriate cash flow projections are an integral part of good cash management.
There seems to be a hesitation and a lack of understanding among mosque leaderships about good cash and financial management. They tend to limit it to traditional fundraising, budgeting and, sometimes, savings. Traditional fundraising is definitely important; however, maximizing the use of those funds is just as important. Good cash management means making the best possible use of your available funds minus any liabilities. This means keeping most, if not all, of the savings invested, minimizing borrowing, working hard to collect revenues promptly and controlling disbursements.
With the rising number of Islamic centers and mosques across the U.S., donor fatigue is inevitable. Donor retention has become increasingly challenging, and many centers are already experiencing it. Therefore, it is unwise and, in fact, risky. If your center has surplus cash idling in money market or checking accounts, in some cases even earning riba, it enables banks to use it in non-Sharia-compliant investments. Also, it reflects to the donor that you don’t have an effective and sustainable financial strategy in place, which often results in donor lapse. Not investing means that you give up revenues and lose purchasing power due to inflation. Imagine that an organization has held $400,000 in its savings accounts for seven years awaiting expansion. Over time, assuming a 2 percent inflation rate, the account would lose $56,000 of its value. It’s important for your center to consider ways of multiplying the donated funds, such as by investing excess cash in Islamically permissible funds and letting them grow in value over time. This is the only way to sustain and grow services if the fund development goals aren’t met in a given year. Weaving a calculated investment plan into the organization’s vision and objectives makes it easier to implement development projects. Since most Islamic centers generally run low on financial resources or even savings, the hesitation and fear of investing scarce funds and then having to explain any potential decline are fairly understandable. But what is not understandable is the failure to take advantage of obviously safe investment options that are available through welltrusted Islamic organizations. Until an institution manages to develop revenue-generating projects that could help defray operating costs, it would be opportune to look for low or no-risk investment avenues. One of such currently available options is the Islamic Centers’ Cooperative Fund
IF YOUR CENTER HAS SURPLUS CASH IDLING IN MONEY MARKET OR CHECKING ACCOUNTS, IN SOME CASES EVEN EARNING RIBA, IT ENABLES BANKS TO USE IT IN NON-SHARIACOMPLIANT INVESTMENTS.
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(ICCF) offered by North American Islamic Trust (NAIT; www.islamicbookservice.org). NAIT executive director Salah Obeidallah says, “We always encourage our member organizations to find a vehicle to invest their savings. Whatever suits their needs and is beneficial. Just don’t let savings sit there. It’s a loss for the community, for the organization. I fully understand their anxiety over losing valuable funds to market fluctuation, but what if you have a fund that is specifically designed to offer growth on investment while minimizing risk of principal loss or loss of accumulated earnings?” Explaining how the risk is minimized, he states, “ICCF is designed to control risk by retaining a portion of the profit — in profitable years — to create a reserve that protects against losses in a non-profitable year, thus guaranteeing no risk of losing principal.” “For example,” Obeidallah continues, “there were years in which a yield of 10.2 percent was declared, which balanced out the years in which no yield was declared.” While explaining this further, he mentioned that the S&P 500 had averaged a 7.15 percent annual yield over the past 20 years. During those years, it had seen a one-year decline of 37 percent. “We all know that such declines in the equity market can happen suddenly and unpredictably. However, ICCF [has] managed to protect investors’ principal savings or earnings in the last 39 years,” notes Obeidallah. “It is unfortunate that despite such performance and safety, Islamic organizations still haven’t fully taken advantage of this investment option, which also offers 100 percent liquidity with access to funds within a few hours if an emergent need arises. There is absolutely nothing to lose.” Obeidallah offers, “Let’s suppose [the following]. If your organization saved $5 million over a period of seven years and you invested that in the ICCF or any other suitable halal manner, it would have earned approximately $2,035,000 in growth during those seven years. Why deprive the community of that halal money, which could help address so many more needs?” Muslim Americans must adopt creative ways to maximize the value of an institution’s savings. Hoarding cash is not an option. Ask yourself: Is your institution being smart in its cash management? ih Sadia Qureshi is a communications consultant for nonprofit organizations.
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.
P.O. Box 808 • Plainfield, IN 46168 • (317) 839-8157 www.isna.net •
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 55
The Decorated Word: Writing and Picturing in Islamic Calligraphy The New York Metropolitan Museum displays selections from its spectacular collection BY MISBAHUDDIN MIRZA
e w Yo r k C i t y ’ s i c o n i c Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met; https://www.metmuseum.org) hosted an awesome “The Decorated Word: Writing and Picturing in Islamic Calligraphy” exhibition from April 8 to Nov. 3, 2019. It was curated by Maryam Ekhtiar, associate curator, Department of Islamic Art. The thematically organized exhibition, drawn from the museum’s holdings of more than 15,000 objects ranging from the seventh to the 21st century, displayed the development and variations of the Arabic script, the art of the Quran, chancellery scripts and the decorative and abstract scripts that illustrate the triumph of form over content. The presentation ended with a selection of modern and contemporary works by artists from Iran and Pakistan who use the written word as their primary mode of artistic expression. Those who missed the dedicated exhibition can view some of this collection on their visits there. At the exhibition entrance, on the left was a 3’x2’ frame containing a fragment from the gigantic, almost half-ton 7-foot tall 1,500-page Quran prepared for Emir Timur (Tamerlane, d. 1405), founder of the Timurid dynasty. Produced in the elegant muhaqqaqah script, the calligrapher reportedly created it after Timur disapproved of his miniature Quran, which had employed the ghubar (i.e., dust-like) script that could fit under the socket of a signet ring. A miniature Quran in this script is also on display in a rear glass case. Although the Met acquired some seals and jewelry from Islamic countries as early as 1874 and a number of Turkish textiles in 1879, it received its first major group of Islamic objects in 1891 as a bequest of Edward C. Moore (1827-91), an American silversmith and art collector. Since then, the collection has grown through gifts, bequests and purchases, as well as through museum-sponsored excavations at Nishapur, Iran, during 1935-39 and 1947.
Bifolium from the “Nurse's Quran" (Mushaf al-Hadina), ca. A.H. 410/ A.D. 1019–20.
Folio from the "Blue Quran,” second half 9th–mid-10th century.
The Department of Decorative Arts oversaw these objects until 1932, when the Department of Near Eastern Art was established. By 1963, the collection had increased to such an extent that an official departmental division between its ancient Near Eastern and Islamic portions became
necessary. Thus, the Department of Islamic Art was founded. In 2011, after an extensive renovation, the Met opened fifteen dramatic new Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia. Calligraphy, a key achievement of Islamic civilization and arguably the most characteristic expression of its spirit, embellishes the surfaces of objects large and small — from architecture to items of daily use — with styles that range from the elegant, refined and eminently readable to the decorative, abstract and barely legible. This exhibition, which examined the interplay between writing and picturing, explored the inherent tension among textual design, decoration, readability and verbal clarity in some four dozen examples from the Met’s collection. These works, created between the ninth century and the present, include works on paper and parchment, ceramics, metalwork and coins and a carpet. The importance of the written word and the prominence of Arabic script are intimately connected with the transmission of the revelation to Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and its recording in the Quran. Islamic calligraphy is remarkable for its pervasive use as a mode of ornament on architecture and objects in an array of media. As such, the calligraphic art form reaches far beyond its fundamental function as a vehicle for written communication. Indeed, no other culture has explored the decorative and creative possibilities of the written word as extensively.
EARLY QURANS The Arabic alphabet consists of 18 primary letterforms (rasm), mostly consonants and long vowels, that, with the help of dots (i‘jam)
CALLIGRAPHY, A KEY ACHIEVEMENT OF ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION AND ARGUABLY THE MOST CHARACTERISTIC EXPRESSION OF ITS SPIRIT, EMBELLISHES THE SURFACES OF OBJECTS LARGE AND SMALL — FROM ARCHITECTURE TO ITEMS OF DAILY USE — WITH STYLES THAT RANGE FROM THE ELEGANT, REFINED AND EMINENTLY READABLE TO THE DECORATIVE, ABSTRACT AND BARELY LEGIBLE.
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Tughra (Insignia) of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520–66), ca. 1555–60.
Folio from a Quran Manuscript, ca. 1180.
use led to the development of new, more readable scripts. The “new Abbasid style” (or “new style”) is characterized by the extreme verticality of the letters’ shafts, sharp angular forms, a contrast between thick and thin strokes and the consistent application of diacritical and vocalization marks. Copying and embellishing the physical manifestation of God’s message, which consists of 114 chapters and can be further divided into various parts, is considered an act of devotion. The Quranic text’s structure, divisions and phonetic requirements offer calligraphers and illuminators endless opportunities for demonstrating their talent and inventiveness.
PROPORTIONAL AND REGIONAL SCRIPTS
Folio from a Quran Manuscript, dated AH 531/CE11370.
and diacritical marks, express 28 phonetic sounds. Early Quranic manuscripts were written with a reed pen on parchment and generally penned in kufic, a script known for its thick, angular and minimal forms, as well as its clarity and the horizontal extension of letters along the baseline. Many early Qurans were devoid of both i‘jams, which phonetically distinguish letters of similar shape and the short vowel marks that aid pronunciation. As the text was often memorized, not read word for word, such copies served as memory aids for oral recitation. The introduction of paper from China in the eighth century and its widespread
The 10th-century Abbasid vizier and calligrapher Abu ‘Ali Muhammad ibn Muqla developed a proportional writing system of calibrated letters. Basing his system on two geometric shapes — a circle with the diameter of the letter alif and the rhomboid dot created by the stroke of the nib of a reed pen (see diagram) — he canonized the six classical cursive scripts known as naskh, thuluth, muhaqqaq, rayhan, tawqi‘ and riqa‘. Each script was suited to a particular purpose. For instance, naskh was ideal for copying books and small Qurans, whereas thuluth and muhaqqaq were appropriate for large Qurans, objects and architectural surfaces. Some scripts remained tied to a particular region. For example, maghribi was exclusive to Spain and North Africa, whereas nasta‘liq, an elegant and lyrical script that originated in Iran and Central Asia, spread eastward to Mughal India and westward to Ottoman Turkey.
Mosque Lamp for the Mausoleum of Amir Aydakin al-'Ala'i al-Bunduqdar, shortly after 1285.
THE TRIUMPH OF FORM OVER CONTENT The abstraction of these calligraphic scripts occurred well before the advent of 20th-century Western modernism. For centuries, calligraphers and artists straddled the boundary between text and image, thereby revealing their inextricable intertwinement. The calligram — in which letters, words and phrases are shaped into forms ranging from animals and humans to ships and swords — epitomizes the fusion of writing and picturing. In the mid-1950s, the global phenomenon of modernism, in tandem with widespread postcolonial nationalism, triggered the development of a new chapter in calligraphic abstraction that continues to this day. The art of writing became an instrument of protest, a means of reclaiming national identity and heritage, and a vehicle for voicing sociopolitical and economic concerns as well as issues of personal identity and gender. A publication, “How to Read Islamic Calligraphy,” by Maryam Ekhtiar, accompanies the exhibition. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, the book is available in The Met Store ($25, paperback). ih Misbahuddin Mirza, M.S., P.E., is a licensed professional engineer registered in New York and New Jersey. He served as the regional quality control engineer for the New York State Department of Transportation’s New York City Region, authored the iBook “Illustrated Muslim Travel Guide to Jerusalem” and has written for major U.S. and Indian publications.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 57
The Quranic View of Apostasy The Sharia isn’t divine, so why are so many contemporary Muslims opposed to reinterpreting it? BY M. BASHEER AHMED
slam, which stresses the freedoms of choice and expression, along with the protection of human dignity and life, emphasizes that killing one person unjustly is tantamount to killing humanity as a whole (5:32). The Sharia’s goal is to create a society that protects Islamic values and establishes justice. The resulting fiqh-based laws are based on the Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s (salla Allahu ‘alayi wa sallam) sayings and actions, as well as analogical reasoning and general consensus. Thus its laws are no more than the rulings of scholars influenced by their cultural and political milieus. Unfortunately, as these man-made laws achieved the status of divine laws for many Muslims during the 11th century, they didn’t evolve along with human societies. Jurisprudents sought to deal with this reality by adding social practices (‘urf) that didn’t violate Islamic principles to their methods of resolving the new issues that continued to arise as Islam spread further afield. This reality is still true today, for our
rapidly changing societies are confronting issues that the early and classical scholars and jurisprudents couldn’t even imagine. In other words, just as these previous experts provided realistic and practical answers designed to meet their own societies’ needs, we need qualified scholars and jurisprudents to perform the same function today. Al-Suyuti (d. 1505) emphasized that every generation of jurisprudents is obligated to reinterpret the Sharia to address new realities. Shah Waliullah (d. 1762), who criticized the Sharia’s classical structure, preferred the Quran rather than the hadiths in contentious jurisprudential matters and rejected taqlid and uncritical adherence to the early-era scholars’ (ulama) opinions (Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, April 24, 2015; www.newageislam.com). Ali A. Mazrui (d. 2014) argued that the Sharia-prescribed hudud punishments were only appropriate within their socio-historical context, namely, seventh-century Arabia. “Since then,” he wrote, “God has taught us
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more about crime, its causes, the methods of investigation, the limits of guilt, and the much wider range of possible punishments” (“Liberal Islam versus Moderate Islam,” AJISS 22, no. 3, 2005). Laws that call for executing apostates must be reviewed and repealed, especially when their application soils Islam’s name and causes it to be labeled as a religion hostile to the West’s highest value: the freedom of choice. The renowned faqih Taha J. Alalwani (d. 2016) wrote, “It would be impossible for the Qur’an to affirm human beings’ freedom of choice in more than two hundred verses, then punish those who exercise this freedom so sternly, particularly when they have done nothing to hurt anyone but themselves” (“Apostasy in Islam” [IIIT, 2012]). Islam prohibits forced conversion (2:256) and assures the Prophet that he is responsible only for conveying His message (e.g., 10:99, 17:70, 42:48). Thus, choosing a religion is a personal choice made in a coercion-free environment and based on sincere belief. Today, apostasy (ridda) is commonly defined as a Muslim’s conscious abandonment of Islam. Some Muslim-majority countries consider this decision as the Muslim signing his or her own death warrant. But the Quran says something else. For instance, apostasy is punished only in the afterlife (2:217, 3:90-91, 4:137), a person who chooses this option is accountable only to God on the Day of Judgment (3:20, 3:177, 5:54, 9:74, 16:106-109, 22:11, 31:23-24, 47:32) and that whether a person believed or not was up to God’s will (6:107, 10:99). Those who favor capital punishment for apostasy cite: “They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper” (4:89).
However, this verse addresses hypocrites of the Prophet’s time who were regarded as enemies of Islam because they helped the Muslims’ enemies — an act of treason for which punishment in this world is prescribed.
thus came to color the Muslim juristic mindset. The positions advocated by many Muslim jurists contain allusions to interests relating to the security of the state and society. Add to this, the trend to separate the Quran and the Sunnah from jurisprudence; as well as a tendency to view the writings of THE PROPHET AND THE APOSTATES the founding imams (Abu Hanifa, Ahmed bin Hanbal, Shafi One example is ‘Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh, a Muslim who migrated and Imam Malik as though they were on a par with the words to Abyssinia and later converted to Christianity. He wasn’t addressed to us by the Lawgiver (Allah) Himself.” Irfan Ahmad Khan, a scholar and Quranic exegete, argues: executed, but in fact remained close to the Muslims. Nevertheless, most pro-execution Muslim scholars quote “Freedom of faith and religion is meaningless without the the hadith: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him” (“Sahih freedom to change one’s faith.” Maududi quoted only two verses supporting capital punal-Bukhari,” al-Fath, no. 3017). And yet the Prophet only killed apostates when they were also guilty of another crime that ishment for apostates who are hypocrites and causing fitna. He demanded the death sentence, such as treason. failed to quote such verses as 4:137 and 42:48. He recounted that the Prophet sent Abu Musa to govern Yemen and Mu‘adh ibn Jabal as his assistant. One day, Mu‘adh was presented with a Jew who ALALWANI STATES THAT DEMANDING THE had become a Muslim and then returned to APOSTATE’S DEATH IS ACTUALLY THE RESULT OF Judaism. Mu‘adh said, “I will not sit unless this person is executed. This is the judgement of God “A SOLITARY HADITH WHICH WAS CONSIDERED and His Messenger.” The apostate was killed. It TO BE INCOMPLETELY TRANSMITTED” AND was an unjustified killing, as the Quran calls for GOES ON TO CITE HADITHS RELATING THAT THE the execution of only those apostates adjudged guilty of causing fitna. There was no mention PROPHET EXECUTED SUCH PEOPLE ONLY IF that the apostate was causing fitna (sedition, THEY SUBSEQUENTLY PARTICIPATED IN WAR civil strife). Maududi’s statement is of concern: “Let us CRIMES AGAINST THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY OR suppose the commandment (for execution of MURDERED MUSLIMS. an apostate) is not found in the Quran. Still, the large number of hadith, the decisions of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs (Caliph Omar disagreed While the legal schools may differ on various aspects of with Abu Baker on the matter of killing apostates) and the apostasy-related issues, there is a consensus among Sunni united opinions of the Fuqaha’ suffice fully to establish this and Shia jurists that apostates must be executed. Apostasy commandment” (“The Punishment of the Apostate”). laws continue to gain strength due to certain contemporary theologians, among them Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi (d. 1979; CAN THE RULINGS OF IMAMS AND QUESTIONABLE see his “The Punishment of the Apostate according to Islamic AHADITH OVERRULE THE QURAN? Law,” [trans.], [Islamic Publications Ltd., Lahore, 1963]). Maududi argued that while people cannot be forced to embrace On April 13, 2009, Yusuf al-Qaradawi clarified that capital Islam, once they do so they cannot reject it. But this argument punishment applies only to those ex-Muslims who preach is inconsistent with the many verses regarding the freedom against Islam and cause disorder (fitna), which can be regarded of religion, which is, above all, an inner feeling of acceptance and conviction. The Quran forbids coercion and contains no as treason (https://www.islamicity.org). In his above-mentioned “Apostasy in Islam,” Alalwani states conclusive evidence that all apostates should be killed. In fact, that demanding the apostate’s death is actually the result of it is the definitive, clear authority for protecting a person’s right “a solitary hadith, which was considered to be incompletely to self-expression by adhering to a specific faith community. transmitted” and goes on to cite hadiths relating that the Prophet Thus, executing a Muslim who freely decides to leave Islam executed such people only if they subsequently participated contradicts the Quran. in war crimes against the Muslim community or murdered Do we really need to be concerned about apostates today? I Muslims. have quoted nine verses that support the freedom of choice in He goes on to argue that the classical scholars’ contention religion and five verses that recommend no worldly punishment that the Companions had reached consensus on this practice because God will punish them in the afterlife. was the result of jurisprudents prioritizing hadiths over the Are Muslim scholars and believers in killing apostates really Quran’s verses, thereby making the former equal to the latter. As ready to tell converts that they will be executed if they leave a result, “Confusion between ‘political’ treason and ‘religious’ Islam? Capital punishment for apostates is not applicable in apostasy arose in a culture that was prevalent in the Hejazi today’s world and must be abolished before another human environment. This was influenced by the Jewish culture of being is killed in the “name of Islam.” ih oral tradition, which viewed it necessary to kill anyone who M. Basheer Ahmed, former professor of psychiatry, Southwestern Medical School, left Judaism. These laws, regulations, customs and cultures Dallas, is chairman emeritus, MCC for Human Services in Dallas. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 59
FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT
Taking Interfaith Discussions to a New Level To make our beliefs clear, we sometimes have to go beyond political correctness BY SAEED MAGHRIBI
he Muslim Students Association Mazzen Shalaby, a UVA MSA member, of the United States and Canada (now related that “Islam Awareness initiatives stylized to MSA National), established give us the chance to show others firsthand in 1963, stated in its manifesto that what Islam is and to foster understanding members were responsible for sharing Islam and tolerance, a mission that is unfortunately with their neighbors — not proselytizing, but familiarizing them with Islam’s core beliefs and traditional Muslim practices. To put it succinctly, letting everyone know that not everyone celebrates Christmas and Easter and still remains human! This tradition seems to carry on even as the current interfaith behemoth continues to roll over the most important part of this responsibility: telling others exactly who we are, why we are what we are, what Islam teaches, what it means to be Muslim and how we live Islam alongside our Prophet Muhammad's letter to the emperors and kings Abrahamic cousins and more. It is encouraging to see that MSA chapters increasingly important in light of the bigotry still hold their Islam Awareness Month. For and harmful rhetoric directed at Muslims instance, MSA president Al Ahmed said in an around the world” [emphasis added]. email to The Cavalier Daily, “Every year the Interfaith and Open Mosque Day events MSA at UVA [University of Virginia] hosts do have a role to play, but during this period Islam Awareness Month to engage with the of heightened Islamophobia Muslims must larger UVA community. We hope that this also recognize their duty to zero in on edumonth and our efforts make an impact on the cating others about Islam and its tenets. community and that anyone who attends our Islamophobia is not a post-9/11 pheevents enjoys them, grows, and comes away nomenon. In fact, it sprouted the moment with a different more informed perspective” Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi [emphasis added] (April 17, 2019). wa sallam) proclaimed his mission. It 60 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
was Islamophobia that led to Bilal (‘alayhi rahmat) being tortured so horrendously, certainly more intensely than the contemporary methods of torture selectively condemned by some governments and international agencies. It was also Islamophobia that obliged some Makkan Muslims to seek refuge in Christian Abyssinia. The Prophet responded to this negative reality through dialog, but with an added clarion call that there is only one God who created everyone and is worthy of worship. Unlike today’s interfaith dialogs, he did not hesitate to distinguish between tawhid and shirk. After all, God informed him that he was only responsible for informing people that he was the final link in the prophetic chain of Noah, Moses, Jesus (‘alayhi as salam ajma‘een) and the other messengers sent to remind humanity of His word. Immediately after his return from Hudabiya, he sent letters of invitation to Islam (that he had dictated to his scribes) with emissaries to heads of the then six powers (Muharram/ May 628): Negus Asham, King of Abyssinia, Chosroes II (Parvez), the Sasanian king (shah) of Iran, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, the Ghassanid king Harith ibn abi Shimr (in Damascus), the Byzantine Empire’s Governor General of Egypt, Muqawqis (Jurayj ibn Mina) and the chief of the Banu Hanafi in Yamama, Hawdha ibn ‘Ali. In keeping with the diplomatic norms, he had them sealed but with a stamp that read “Muhammad, the Messenger of God.” Given this reality, Muslims must remain true to the Prophetic model and uphold God’s decree: “Say, “O disbelievers, I do not worship what you worship. Nor are you worshippers of what I worship. Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship. Nor will you be worshippers of what I worship. For you is your religion, and for me is my religion” (109:1-6).
Therefore, we are to share what we worship with others — God alone. And the statement “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion” affirms that religions other than Islam cannot be described correctly if Muslims remain confined within the usual politically correct terminology. Rather than engaging in feel-good superficial discussions, we must present reasonable and accurate arguments as to why we don’t accept Christianity’s core belief, namely, that Jesus is both God and His “only begotten Son” (John 3:16).
makes for fascinating reading in this regard. Certainly many Christians in the West are totally unaware of just how varied the beliefs held by their fellow believers, both past and present, are. Moreover, Jesus, at least what we know of him through the New Testament, never taught it. In fact, it was Paul who laid out the doctrine of Original Sin in Romans 5. This was the same man, a great persecutor of Christians, who had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:6–11) and who was in frequent doctrinal conflict with
RATHER THAN ENGAGING IN FEEL-GOOD SUPERFICIAL DISCUSSIONS, WE MUST PRESENT REASONABLE AND ACCURATE ARGUMENTS AS TO WHY WE DON’T ACCEPT CHRISTIANITY’S CORE BELIEF, NAMELY, THAT JESUS IS BOTH GOD AND HIS “ONLY BEGOTTEN SON” (JOHN 3:16). One way to do this is to point out that Islam has no concept of Original Sin, since Adam repented and was forgiven (Q. 2:37) and no one can bear the sins of another (Q. 35:18). This accords with the Biblical verses that state, “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself ” (Ezekiel 18:20) and “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16). Even though these are Old Testament verses and therefore “Jewish” as opposed to “Christian,” the Old Testament remains part of the Bible, for “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35) and “‘But the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:25). One might also point out, after doing the necessary research, of course, that Eastern Christianity — early Christianity missionaries went in both directions, after all — also has no concept of Original Sin. Philip Jenkins’ “The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—and How It Died” (HarperOne, 2008)
the church in Jerusalem. This can be seen in a close reading of the New Testament books that he wrote. In addition, Paul never met or talked with Jesus in the flesh as the leaders of the church in Jerusalem had, having spent the three years of Jesus’ short ministry traveling with him and learning from him directly. Thus these men and women were able to ask for clarification and/or question whatever he was teaching. Paul had no such access, which explains the above-mentioned conflicts. After the future Roman emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, as well its church and leaders, in 70 ce, all such conflicts ended.
THERE IS MORE TO OUTREACH THAN JUST TALKING Once you begin to compare and contrast Islam’s teachings with these who follow other faith traditions, your responsibilities increase, especially toward those who migrate into Islam. They are in fact the Muhajirun (migrants), and those who are already in Islam are their Ansar (helpers). Just as many of us rush to our mosques and Islamic centers with life’s essentials when refugees arrive, it’s just as important to help new Muslims deepen their Islamic knowledge and faith and how it differs from their previous belief system. This goes handin-hand with providing the fellowship and
friendships that many of them lose after migrating. One revert told me that after he left Christianity, all of his former “Christian” friends left him. Another revert related his [funny] situation, where his family and friends could not fathom why he was abstaining from some “Christian” wedding traditions. The usual expressions of welcome — hugs of affection and shared joy — can’t possibly replace such a loss. How were the original Muhajirun welcomed when they arrived in Yathrib, a city that would soon be renamed Madina al-Munawarra in the Prophet’s honor? History records that upon their arrival, the Ansar became their family and friends and even shared their housing and belongings, land and business knowledge, with them. As opposed to what so often happens today, and rather importantly, there was no confusion of the faith with the “old” Muslims’ cultural baggage. Today, this Ansarian spirit must extend beyond the confines of mosques, centers and communities so that it can reach a specific sub-community, namely, those who migrate into Islam while incarcerated. Our outreach to them cannot just be limited to occasional visits with gifts of books and pamphlets, for incarceration impacts the entire family, especially when he/she is the family’s sole earner. Social welfare laws enable some families to access government programs, but these programs don’t cover the costs associated with travelling, boarding and lodging to visit loved ones. In fact, there are instances when women have spent very cold nights with their small children sitting on benches in draughty bus and train stations waiting for the assigned meeting time. It is admirable that mosques and Muslims have begun to allocate modest resources to support spiritual education programs for the incarcerated. But now it is time to take the next step — allocating additional resources to transform this occasional assistance into long-term support for this specific sub-community. There is a need for clarity in our dialog with our Abrahamic cousins, particularly Christians, and a coherent coordination in embracing those who are relatively new to Islam. This is not a this-or-that situation, for both are equally important and critically essential for presenting and preserving Islam’s core tenets and ethics. ih Saeed Maghribi is a freelance writer.
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NEW RELEASES A Model for Islamic Development: An Approach in Islamic Moral Economy Shafiullah Jan and Mehmet Asutay 2019. Pp. 240. HB. $125.00 Edward Elgar Publishers, Northampton, Mass. an and Asutey explore and analyze economic development within the Islamic Moral Economy (IME) as an alternative socio-economic system to capitalism and socialism. IME is based on Islam’s substantive morality via micro dynamics expressed through a framework of spiritual development. They argue that an authentic Islamic development framework, as opposed to existing Eurocentric theory and policy making, and its corresponding value system will enable Muslim-majority countries to provide economic and social justice to their people. They also provide a critical examination and evaluation of the progress of Islamic banking and finance institutions in relation to their aspirations as identified by IME. Students of Islamic economics and finance, as well as those seeking to align public policies with Islam’s ethical and moral frameworks, will find this book useful because it focuses on the intersection between Islamic development and the moral economy.
Seggerman argues that there is a “constellational modernism” for the emerging field of global modernism. Her illustrated book presents a compelling argument for the importance of Muslim networks to global modernism.
Islamic Empires: The Cities that Shaped Civilization from Mecca to Dubai Justin Marozzi 2020. Pp. 464+16 pages of color photos. HB. $35.00, Kindle $16.99 Pegasus Books, New York, N.Y. rom a succession of glittering, cosmopolitan capitals, Islamic empires lorded it over the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and swathes of the Indian subcontinent. For centuries the caliphate was both ascendant on the battlefield and triumphant in the battle of ideas, its cities unrivaled powerhouses of artistic grandeur, commercial power, spiritual sanctity and forward-looking thinking — in which nothing was off limits. Marozzi offers a history of this rich and diverse civilization told through its greatest cities over the fifteen centuries of Islam — from 7th-century Makka to the astonishing rise of 21st-century Doha. He connects the defining moments in Islamic history: from Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) receiving the divine revelation and the First Crusade (1099) to the conquest of Constantinople (1453) and the phenomenal creation of the merchant republic of Beirut in the 19th century and how this world continues to change. This book will interest scholars, students and those who want to know more about the great cities they visit.
This Ain’t My Life: One Man’s Journey to Finding His Destiny Bilal Alaji 2019. Pp. 327. PB. $19.95, HB. $25.95, Kindle $9.95 Bookstand Publishing, Morgan Hill, Calif. laji, an African-American Muslim immigrant, relates how he was raised and how that affected the trajectory of his journey. He also concentrates on his victories as a result of his positive outlook on life. Through his experiences, he seeks to inform readers about the positives and the negatives of Islamic culture, shares that he is proud to be Muslim but has also experienced pain from the community and condemns those who used Islamic teachings in a corrupt way. He stresses that Islam is not bad, but that some people make it bad.
The Postnormal Times Reader Ziauddin Sardar, ed. 2019. Pp. 394. PB. $24.95, Kindle $9.95 The International Institute of Islamic Thought, Herndon, Va. he postnormal times theory attempts to make sense of a rapidly changing world, one in which uncertainty is the dominant theme and ignorance has become a valuable community. Published in cooperation with the Centre for Postnormal Policy and Futures Studies (U.K.), this pioneering anthology of writings on the contradictory, complex and chaotic nature of our era covers the origins, theory and methods of postnormal times. It also examines issues ranging from climate change, governance and the Middle East to religion and science, from the perspective of postnormal times. By mapping some of the key local and global issues of our transnational age, the contributors suggest a way of navigating our time, best defined as “an in-between period where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have yet to be born, and very few things seem to make sense.”
The Philosopher Responds: An Intellectual Correspondence from the Tenth Century (Vols. 1 & 2: Arabic/English) Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi and Abu ‘Ali Miskawayh Bilal Orfali and Maurice A. Pomerantz (eds.), Sophia Vasalou and James E. Montgomery (trans.) 2019. Pp. 336 and 372. HB. $40.00 (each vol.) Nork York University Press, New York, N.Y. hese volumes record the questions put by the litterateur al-Tawhidi to the philosopher and historian Miskawayh, the foremost contributors to the remarkable flowering of cultural and intellectual life that took place in the south and western parts of Iran and over Iraq under the Shia Iranian Buyid dynasty during the fourth/tenth century. This correspondence holds up a mirror to many of the debates and preoccupations and reflects the spirit of rationalistic inquiry that animated their era. It also provides insight into the intellectual outlooks of two thinkers who were divided as much by their distinctive temperaments as by the very different trajectories of their careers.
The Princess and the Prophet: The Secret History of Magic, Race, and Moorish Muslims in America Jacob S. Dorman 2020. Pp. 304. HB. $28.95, Kindle $17.99 Beacon Press, Boston, Mass. orman argues that beyond the customary narratives of Gilded Age America lies a world of circuses, Wild West shows and midways populated by Arabian acrobats and equestrians, “Hindoo” magicians, Muslim fakirs, Oriental hootchie-cootchie dancers and the African Americans who took on these exotic identities. He relates the story of the man who, amidst the cultural ferment of this little-known world, discovered a greater measure of freedom and dignity, as well as a rebuttal to the racism and parochialism of White America, in Islam. Renaming himself “Prophet Noble Drew Ali,” he founded the Moorish Science Temple of America, the predecessor of the Nation of Islam, in 1925. After outgrowing the role as Broadway’s first Black child star, he took the name “Armmah Sotanki” and performed as a “Hindoo magician.” His wife, “Princess Sotanki,” was a famous dancer and a multitalented entertainer in her own right. With an array of profitable businesses, their “Moors” built a nationwide following of at least 7,000 dues-paying members, swung Chicago elections and embedded themselves in Chicago’s dominant Republican political machine at the height of Prohibition racketeering, only to see their sect descend into infighting in 1929 that likely claimed the prophet’s life. Dorman explains why some Blacks came to see Islam as a global antiracist movement uniquely suited to people of African descent in an era of lynching, segregation, European imperialism and race riots.
Modernism on the Nile: Art in Egypt between the Islamic and the Contemporary Alex Dika Seggerman 2019. Pp. 296 + 24 color plates and 74 halftones. HB. $34.95, Kindle $25.69 The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, N.C. eggerman’s analysis of the modernist art movement that arose in Cairo and Alexandria from the late 19th century through the 1960s shows how the visual arts were part of a multifaceted transnational modernism. She argues that while the work of this era’s diverse, major Egyptian artists may have appeared to be secular, they nevertheless reflected Islam’s essential influence as a faith, history and lived experience in the overarching development of Middle Eastern modernity. Challenging typical views of modernism in art history as solely EuroAmerican and expanding the conventional periodization of Islamic art history,
Olive Harvest in Palestine: A Story of Childhood Memories Wafa Shami 2019. Pp. 36 PB. $9.99 http://www.bowker.com/ hami’s story about Palestinian farmers’ centuries-long harvest traditions enables readers to imagine how olives are picked, pressed into oil, bottled and finally arrive in the consumer’s hands. Through a child’s eyes, she opens a window into this festive working atmosphere filled with singing, eating, love and laughter. The book, which should delight all lovers of olives, speaks loudly of a culture and traditions that will never die of despair or disappear. In addition, it brings back some of the few peaceful memories and moments lived as a child in a decidedly un-peaceful place. Available at amazon.com. ih
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