JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022/1443 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET
TAKING THE BATON FORWARD | FROM THE BACK OF THE BUS TO THE BACK OF THE CAMEL?
Hindutva Fascism Finds a Home in the U.S.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS | VOL. 51 NO. 1 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 | VISIT ISNA ONLINE AT: WWW.ISNA.NET
Muslims Living As Minorities
16 Hindutva Fascism Finds a Home in the U.S. 18 Indian Facebook Has Muslim Blood on its Hands 20 No End to the Kashmiris’ Resolve
42 China Owes Muslim Uyghurs Their Basic Human Rights
44 Nothing Can Erase the Palestinians’ Existence 46 Meet the al-Azeez Family
ISNA Matters 8
Taking the Baton Forward
22 From the Back of the Bus to the Back of the Camel? 24 Juneteenth Day is Day for All Americans 26 The University of North Carolina Acquires Omar ibn Said’s Manuscript
48 Poison Within our Water
33 Can Education Solve All Our Problems?
58 Harmonize Halal Certification Regulations
60 Mahmoud Ayoub 61 Fatima Baig
Islam in America
The Muslim World
40 The Long and Bumpy Road of Tunisian Democracy
56 Vlad the Impaler: From Monster to Tragic Hero
28 Learning with a Touch of Amber 30 How to Evaluate Books for Young Readers Teaching the Islamic Perspective of 31 Health to Muslim Youth 35 Funding Educational Waqf Endowments 36 Bosnians Completing the Muslim American Mosaic 38 Muslim Americans Get Dolled
52 Mosques and Financial Management 54 Three Signs of a Financially Abusive Marriage
50 S olar Energy Reduces Our Carbon Footprint
6 Editorial 10 Community Matters 62 New Releases
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz 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 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 5
When Wallet Concerns Override Human Concerns
nder the International Re ligious Freedom Act (IRFA; 1998), the U.S. President is required to annually review the status of re ligious freedom in every country and designate those whose governments have engaged in or tolerated “particularly se vere violations of religious freedom” as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
Secretary of State Blinken, who an nounced the CPC and Special Watch List on Nov. 15, 2021, choose to disregard the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) recommendation, covering calendar year 2020 (released in April 2021), that India should be added to it. This independent, bipartisan federal government commission was created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) to monitor the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad. Also last year, Freedom House downgraded India from “free” to “partly free,” slamming Modi’s government for everything from harassing journalists to attacking non-Hindus. Such actions point to an unmissable reality — wallet concerns overrides human concerns and little somethings like ethics and morality. Corporate America knows that apart from China, no other country can dangle the 1.5 billion market spread. President Biden is trying to elevate India, one of the “Quad” — the others are the U.S., Australia and Japan — to stand up to China. However, an anonymous U.S. official told Politico on Sept. 23, 2021: “We are repeating the Obama and Trump mistake of cozying up to India and Modi without demanding [that] Modi end his tilt towards authoritar ianism and start protecting human rights and religious freedom.” In fact, nearly a decade earlier Modi, at that time Gujarat’s chief minister, had been denied a U.S. visa on religious freedom grounds after being accused of tacitly sup porting extremist Hindu attacks – leading to mass killings — on the state’s Muslims. In 2016, however, his star had risen [via Obama] so much in Washington that he was allowed to address the U.S. Congress.
While the U.S. and especially its allies show righteous concern for China’s treat ment of the Uyghurs, similar candles of morality don’t light over India and Israel. Luke Peterson alerts us to fascist Hin dutva’s impact on the American academy, and Monia Mazigh asks if compromising with old corrupt rivals negatively impacted Ennahda’s efforts to govern Tunisia. Prof. Jimmy Jones contends that the many examples of born Muslims mistreating Muslim African Americans doesn’t rise to the level of an organized institutional effort to make them “second-class citizens.” He invites Muslims to “reform” not Islam, but ourselves, and to learn from the spiritual, intellectual and political acumen of our beloved Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), who brilliantly recalibrated Islam’s religious and social practice as he built an inclusive Islam-based community in Yathrib (renamed Makka after his hijra). Late last year, ISNA took a major step toward continuing past president Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed’s legacy of interfaith understand ing and cooperation by passing the baton to Imam Saffet Catovic. Bringing a rich MSA/ISNA inheritance from his parents, in addition to being a scholar in his own right, he not only promotes interfaith rela tions, but also environmental issues and youth activism such as running Boy Scout programs. ISNA remains committed to pro moting understanding among Americans of all modes. In this issue, we reach Bosnians in New York who sought refuge in the U.S. from the Serb-enforced holocaust and recalibrated their lives as practicing Muslims. They did so when they realized that losing their faith and Muslim ways didn’t matter when their tormentors thirsted for Muslim blood. We wish them success. This issue also introduces Robert D. Salim, whose “Omar and Malik Adventures” series presents a Muslim African American family living Islam in their daily lives and celebrates the life of the late Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub. ih
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PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Safaa Zarzour EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Basharat Saleem EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Saba Ali ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2022 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 https://isna.net/SubscribeToIH.html https://isna.net/islamic-horizons/ For inquiries: email@example.com ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, www.isna.net CORRESPONDENCE Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email: email@example.com
Taking the Baton Forward Saffet Catovic Revives ISNA's Washington DC Interfaith Program
ast October, ISNA appointed Imam Saffet Abid Catovic to head its Washington, D.C. Office for Interfaith, Community Alliances and Government Relations. In 1992, Catovic was working for a major New York-based corporation. When war broke out in Bosnia, his ancestral homeland, he left his job and helped found the Bosnia Task Force-USA, an alliance of ten Muslim American organizations that worked to stop the genocide. During it and the immedi ate postwar Dayton Agreement period, he served in several senior Bosnian government positions, among them minister counselor at the UN Bosnian Mission until 2001, and then as director for an international human itarian organization. While operating his own management consultancy for the next 20 years, he con tinued quest for knowledge and broaden ing his understanding led him to earn a Master’s in religion and the environment (Drew University ‘18). Now pursuing his Doctor of Ministry at Drew, he also works as an imam, chaplain and MSA advisor, sits on the Drew Religious Life Council and is its religious advisor on Islam and Muslims. In addition, he is one of the GreenFaith fellow ship program’s first two Muslim graduates. He serves this premier interfaith coalition for religious-environmental leadership as its senior Muslim advisor on Islam, Muslims and the environment. A popular speaker, he relates Islam’s teachings on the environment. But he does more than just talk. For example, he applied his GreenFaith training to launch Green Muslims of New Jersey, of which he is chair and co-founder. This organization went on to become the basis for ISNA America Green Initiatives (formerly Green Mosque Task Force). Among his other accomplishments are being inducted into the Parliament of the World’s Religions’ Climate Action Task Force (2017), serving as a member of its Religions Board of Trustees (2019), being named by ISPU–Muslims for American Progress an interfaith innovator for his work in the
greater New York area on the environment and environmental justice issues (2018) and receiving the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award for commitment as a faith leader for administering Muslim Scouting programs and environmental issues advo cacy (2019). A prolific writer, he has presented many papers at different venues and online about Bosnian Muslims, Islam and the Environment, Islamic Scouting and the Boy Scouts of America and other topics. He is also a regular khateeb in the greater New YorkNew Jersey-Pennsylvania metropolitan area. Currently, he is a member of the scholars’ drafting team of “Al-Mizan: Covenant for the Earth,” organized by the UN Environmental Program’s Faiths for Earth and the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. He has also been appointed to the Muslim Alliance in North America’s executive board. Islamic Horizons talked to him about his background, why he joined ISNA and what he hopes to accomplish in his new role. IH: What is your past involvement with ISNA? SAC: My parents were actively involved with ISNA ever since its inception as MSA. In fact, Dr. Syeed M. Syed (former president, ISNA) attributes much of ISNA’s founding leadership knowledge and benefits from the experiences of the Balkan Muslims to their many conversations and discussions with
8 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
my father. I miss the early MSA days when our family slept in the university dorms. I was involved with MSA national throughout my college years. During those years, my wife and I, along with other Muslim youth organizers from New Jersey, connected with others from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. We worked with Dawud Zwink (former vice president, ISNA) and established MYNA. My later work with ISNA’s Green Mosque Task Force team enabled me to help draft ISNA’s fossil-fuel divestment policy and rep resent it at COP22 during November 2016. There, I announced ISNA’s commitment to divest from fossil fuels, making it the world’s first national Muslim organization to join the global divest/reinvest campaign. I also represented ISNA at the COP23 as a member of a high-level interfaith delega tion that presented a multifaith statement on sustainable living: “Walk on Earth Gently,” which I also helped draft. I was a co-drafter, along with Jamal Badawi and Zwink, and driver of a fatwa on Fossil Fuel Divestment, which was adopted and put forth by the Fiqh Council of North America. The joint North American/UK delegation released this first-of-its-kind ruling, along with a similar statement by British Muslims, at Cape Town’s Financing the Future Summit (2019). Among my other writings are “Indeed the World is Green and Sweet, “Walk Softly on Earth,” “Towards an Islamic Energy Ethic and Praxis” and “Islam, Nature and Geoengineering.” I co-authored the webbased Muslim Green Worship Resources and have authored and edited other schol arly works on Islamic ecology and Islam’s teachings on the environment. And finally, I was a consultant to the Drafting Committee of the International Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change's “Istanbul Declaration” (2015) and a founding board member of the Global Muslim Climate Network, which was offi cially launched at the UN on Earth Day 2016. IH: What motivated you to take on this new leadership role? SAC: Initially, Basharat Saleem (execu tive director, ISNA) asked me to join ISNA and head up this office. My meetings with him and members of the ISNA Executive enabled me to see that I could make a dif ference. My experience and background, as well as my current involvement in intra-faith and interfaith work and passion for justice
and environmental issues, were also relevant. So, after supplicating to God and consulting my family, I accepted the position. IH: What do you hope to accomplish in your new position? SAC: This huge responsibility intersects with many sectors and oftentimes competing interests, constituencies and groups. Realizing that I can only do so much on my own, I plan to follow the Beatles’ advice and “get by with a little help from my friends.” By working closely with our DMV-area Muslim commu nity members, national D.C.-based Muslim organizations, our interfaith partners and the Headquarters’ team support, I hope to continue the proud legacy of ISNA’s pioneers. I hope to realize ISNA’s vision and mis sion here by expanding and deepening its engagement with the Muslim communities and cooperation with the DMV metropoli tan area’s national Muslim organizations to develop a more unified, robust and inclusive civic engagement. I plan to strengthen our existing interfaith alliances and programs and to include many others as we work for racial, economic, sociopolitical and envi ronmental justice, as well as immigrant and human rights. I truly believe in the words of Zain Bhikha’s song, “I am a Muslim and God
I praise …,” which my late father taught me and my siblings to sing at mawlids and on other occasions. After all, according to him, “Working together makes our hopes increase to live in a world full of love and peace.” IH: What are some of the joys and challenges of interfaith work and coalition building? SAC: The joys include learning about, understanding and appreciating how peo ple’s experience of God guides their way of being in the world. I firmly believe that only dialogue and working together on issues of justice and mutual concern will enable us to overcome the great challenges facing us; better understand our own faith, practice and way of being in the world; and become better sisters and brothers to one another as members of the human family. The challenges are to actualize and mani fest the golden rule, which our Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) says is to “love for your brother/sister (in faith and in human ity) what you love for yourself.” Through this process, we hopefully will come to realize that the other, the stranger, is our neighbor, with all their beautiful imperfections (not unlike my own), whom I should love and work to fulfill their rights and our duties toward them. IH: From where do you draw inspiration?
What individuals or books have influenced your worldview and public activism? SAC: In the first sense, from Islam’s teachings as found in the Quran and Sunna. Specific books outside of these primary source texts include Shaykh Muhammad Manzoor Nomani’s “Maariful Hadith” and Sheikh Muhammed Ghazali’s “Fiqh us Seerah.” Of course there are many others as well. IH: What advice would you give to others aspiring to get into your line of work? SAC: Simply do, for as God states: “Say (unto them): Act! God will behold your actions, and (so will) His messenger and the believers. You will be brought back to the Knower of the Invisible and the Visible, and He will tell you what you used to do” (9:105). And, follow the example of the best of examples by emulating the beautiful life example of the Prophet, who served God through loving service to others. Be a ser vant-leader, for our tarbiyya (training) is by doing and by doing consistently that which is routine and mundane as well as great and lauded. Do them with a cheer ful disposition and never forget, as my late father said and as the Prophet taught, “The best of you are those who are of the most benefit and uplift others.” ih
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 9
COMMUNITY MATTERS Hammoud Elected first Muslim American Dearborn Mayor
State Legislator Abdullah Hussein Hammoud (D), 31, has become Dearborn’s first Arab-descent Muslim mayor — 54.6% vs. 45.2%.
He declared, “There is a new era in Dear born,” adding “Allah has all the glory. He plans. He is the ultimate of planners.” Born to Lebanese immigrants, Ham moud grew up in a working-class envi ronment. His father was a truck driver; his mother had to drop out of high school when she had a child. But hard work enabled them to become successful small business owners who took good care of their five children. Hammoud, who studied biology and earned a Master’s degree in public health, has an MBA (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor) and worked as a health care consul tant. In 2016, aged 26, he was elected state representative. ih
Texas Mosque Establishes an Endowment
The Plano, Texas-based East Plano Islamic Center (EPIC), which formally opened its mosque in July 2015, launched its long-cherished endowment (Vision 2025) last September to serve as an in come generating property investment for its future. The endowment (waqf), a 1.62-acre lot with a built-up area of 7,694 sq. ft., is ready for leasing. The second lot, 1.205 acres located in Plano, fronts the major Presi dent George Bush Toll Road and Campbell Road. A future Amazon hub is planned
in the vicinity, and 1,400 apartments are located nearby. Aboobaker Ebrahim (founding member and former board member, Islamic Associ ation of North Texas) lauded the move as “a seed [that] has been planted, perhaps the first of its kind here in the U.S. done by an Islamic association.” EPIC’s current imam is Dallas-born Nadim Bashir. Its current resident scholar is Dr. Yasir Qadhi. The team also has Ustadh Mohammad Baajour, Sheikh Sajjad Gul and Morad Awad (youth director). ih
Ameer Haiderah Ghalib, a 42-year-old health care worker, defeated Hamtramck mayor Karen Majew ski: 68% vs. 31%. This marks the first time in
100 years that a non-Polish mayor will lead the city, about half of which is believed to be Muslim. Ghalib, a Yemeni immigrant and father of three, graduated from Wayne State Uni versity with a degree in biology. Khalil A. Refai, Amanda Jaczkowski and
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Adam Albarmaki’s victories in the elections for council seats means that the city’s entire six-member council is now Muslim. About one-quarter of the city has Yeme ni roots, and another one-quarter has Ban gladeshi roots. Both groups have been push ing for more representation in City Hall as the city faces pension and budget challenges. Tania Fernandes Anderson handily de feated perennial can didate Roy Owens, the unconventional Roxbury minister whose anti-Muslim rhetoric failed to sway voters. She now be comes the Boston City Council’s first Muslim American, first African immigrant and first formerly undocumented person. Cape Verde-born Anderson (John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Sci ence; Springfield College) is a single mother who, despite extreme poverty and home lessness, raised two sons, now aged 15 and 22. Having grown up in Roxbury’s public housing, she founded Noah’s Advocate to bring deeply needed trauma-informed and mental health services to her community. She received more votes than her rival, who had accused her of supporting Sharia. In her endorsement statement, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) said: “Tania is a trailblazer. She is an advocate. She is a community builder…” In her spare time, Anderson (executive director, Bowdoin Geneva Street Main Streets) supports and promotes the excel lent and eclectic small businesses that con tribute to her community. In 2019, her enjoyment of fashion design caused her to lead a masquerade band in Caribbean Car nival with the theme, “Children of Wakan da” — an artistic endeavor she hopes to repeat next year. Azrin Awal, who won almost 31% of the votes to become one of Duluth’s two city council at-large seats, is the city’s first Muslim and Asian American city councilmember. Awal and her family immigrated from Bangladesh in 1996, shortly after she was born. She attended the University of Min nesota Duluth. Intending to stay there for
only two years, she became so enamored of the port city that she’s been living there for six years. Given the city’s racial makeup — 88% white and 10% people of color — her grassroots campaign brought new voices into the political process. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 3% of Duluth residents are foreign-born. Awal’s campaign involved knocking on 19,000 doors and holding about 2,000 conversations — roughly half of them in University of Minnesota Duluth dorms, where she worked hard to ensure student input. She also faced hateful, Islamophobic memes on Facebook. She’s currently working at Life House, a nonprofit organization focused on serving homeless youth, and at Mentor North, a youth mentorship program. On weekends, Awal cooks healthy meals for Individual Nutrition, a community-based meal-delivery service. Shahana Hanif, the first woman and Muslima to represent Brooklyn’s 39th Dis trict in the City Council, secured almost 90% of the vote. This percentage is a combination of her votes on the Democratic Party and Working Families Party line. She appeared under both on the Nov. 2 ballot. The first Muslima elected to the city’s legislature, she was endorsed by 100+ women. “I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I’m the daughter of Ban gladeshi Muslim immigrants, a lupus survivor and an activist. I’m humbled to be the first Muslim woman elected to the New York City Council and the first woman to represent my district,” she tweeted after the results. At age 17, Hanif (B.A., Brooklyn College) was diagnosed with lupus, an incurable and potentially fatal autoimmune disease. She cited her experience with this chronic illness, which forced her to navigate the health care system for years despite having inad equate health insurance, as her first window into disability justice and community organizing. Shama Haider (D) won a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly — the House’s first Muslim. Haider, a lawyer, wears many hats: devel opment director of Arts Horizons, a non profit arts education organization serving 300,000+ children in the tri-state area; chair of the Democratic Party in Tenafly (N.J.); sits on Bergen County (N.J.) Commission on the Status of Women, Bergen County Human Services Advisory Council; and chairman of the Tenafly Business Development Committee. She is also a Trustee of LRBT America, a nonprofit that raises funds to fight blindness and provide free medical services to the needy. Akif-Nedra Patterson-Thompson was elected a City of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., coun cilmember. The first Muslim to occupy this position, she hopes to use her compassion and business skills to help the city move forward. A wife, mother, businesswoman and homeowner in her ward, she has spent almost JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 11
10th West Coast ISNA Education Forum
In collaboration with Aldeen Foundation and CISNA
January 15 – 16, 2022 RESILIENCY, HOPE, AND FAITH: STAYING COMMITTED TO MISSION The forum will cover topics on Arabic/Qur’an • Islamic Studies Curriculum & Instruction Leadership/Hot Topics More information coming soon! Register Free at isna.net (Registration required) For general event questions: firstname.lastname@example.org For programs: email@example.com For sponsorship & advertising: firstname.lastname@example.org
COMMUNITY MATTERS 20 years raising her children. Right now, she is helping to educate her grandchildren in the City of Poughkeepsie School District. She knows firsthand the challenges families face inside and outside the classroom. A champion of mental wellness, she advocates for prevention, early interven tion and cures for mental health problems. This Poughkeepsie resident brings busi ness savvy to managing her household and, as a common council member, will bring integrity to the stewardship of public funds. Her goals are to improve the city’s fiscal health, provide incentives for job-creating investment and build a path toward home ownership so more families can share in Poughkeepsie’s potential.
Former ISNA president Azhar Azeez (vice president, Islamic Relief USA) ad dressed the fourth annual summit of the Dallas Fort Worth Alliance for Religious Freedom. Held in Dallas on Oct. 29, 2021, this event focused on compromise, moder ation and unity. The alliance, which is dedicated to pro tecting the rights and liberties of the free exercise of religion, focused on human dignity and religious freedom during the event’s first general session. Azeez was part of the panel that discussed “Local Action Plan for Human Dignity and Religious Free dom,” which emphasized human dignity and religious freedom in their respective neighborhoods, reported Aboobaker Ebra him (a founding member and former vice president, the Islamic Association of North Texas [Richardson]).
Canadian Muslim News, a daily 15-min ute news and analysis show covering head
line news about Muslims and explaining Canadian Muslim communities to a wider audience, was launched last Fall. “We have been praised for our objective, calm reporting, while many contemporary TV news programs have become sensation alist,” said Katherine Bullock, the show’s anchor, a well-known Canadian Muslim who is a writer, university lecturer and publisher. “Canadian Muslim News is amplifying news stories about Muslims, covering stories that are not usually covered in the main stream media and bringing Muslim perspec tives to bear on issues facing Canada today. “ The show is a division of Sound Vision Foundation and part of its Muslim Network TV channel — a daily talk show that evolved from Radio Islam on WCEV 1450 AM Chi cago. Radio Islam was the only daily Muslim radio program in the U.S. at the time and ran for almost 20 years. The next chapter began with the launch of Muslim Network TV in 2020, which broad casts on traditional satellite in addition to Amazon Fire, Apple TV and Roku. It also streams live on YouTube, Facebook and: https://www.muslimnetwork.tv
Davidson College (Davidson, N.C.) in troduced halal meat to daily dining at three campus locations, reported The Davidsonian on Oct. 15, 2021. Elham Said (’25), the lead behind the change, said, “Davidson and [going to] North Carolina [was] my dream for five years. One hundred percent I was sure it was a college that accepts diversity and accepts people from all backgrounds, and this was the first thing that encouraged me to speak.” She received strong support from chap lain Rev. Rob Spach (’84), who acted as an intermediary between the Muslim students and dining services. According to him, “We have had halal meat previously at Davidson … but for some reason the distributors and things had changed during the Covid era. So going into this semester, there wasn’t anything available.”
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MSA president Rayed Hamid (’24) said, “So many students are now taking advantage,” adding that students have struggled in the past to voice their concerns about the lack of halal options. His freshman brother Rasikh (’22) had unsuccessfully tried to get some thing in the works when the dining service was doing a commemorative meal for Eid. The rapid reintegration of halal options on campus is a sign of student initiative and productive response by the administration.
After 10 months of negotiations, on Oct. 8, 2021, Naperville’s (Ill.) planning and zoning commission voted 6-1 to recommend approving the proposed Islamic Center of Naperville. The plan includes a mosque, school, mul tipurpose hall and gym to be built within a five-phase, 40-year process. The final struc ture will be a 121,000 square foot facility. Construction is expected to begin in 2024, if approved by the city council. Referring to the tough conditions man dated for the project, the center’s attorney Len Monson, remarked, “I think the condi tions were a result of almost over-scrutiny of our project.”
Community leaders gathered to cel ebrate a recent addition to Oklahoma City’s east side: the Clara Community Health Center, reported The Oklahoman on Oct. 3, 2021. This free clinic, attached to Masjid Mu’min and run by a team of volunteers, is an option for health care for those who might not otherwise be able to access it.
COMMUNITY MATTERS Dr. Naveed Ahmed, a volunteer car diologist and board of directors member, remarked, “They can walk in without having any kind of resources, and they can have one of the top-notch doctors taking care of them without any costs.” State Rep. Ajay Pittman (D), whose dis trict includes the clinic, applauded its leaders for their work to improve health care access. The clinic offers crucial health screenings and can refer patients to specialists if needed, said Dr. Noor Jihan Abdul-Haqq, chair of the clinic’s board of directors and its medical director. “It’s a small office, but big enough to serve three patients at a time, with more in the waiting area … it’s critical for people to have access to regular health screenings.” At her pediatrics clinics, she knows that some of her patients’ parents are uninsured and aren’t getting health care. According to her, people sometimes avoid health screen ings for fear of what they might find out. Dr. Asma Saleem-Ward, an Oklahoma City family medicine physician who volun teers at the clinic and is also a board member, hopes the clinic will fill a gap for people who don’t qualify for services like Medicaid. The clinic is not far from homages to its two namesakes: the Clara Luper Corridor is nearby, named for the Oklahoma civil rights leader, as is a mural that depicts Clara Mu hammad alongside her son and husband as well as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali.
The American Momin Park, located in southwest Springfield, Mo., hosted the groundbreaking ceremony for its 10,500-square-foot mosque on Oct. 23, 2021. Plans include a prayer hall, a fellowship hall, educational facilities and a cemetery set on 5.5 acres. Sultan Zahirsha, president and CEO of the mosque’s nonprofit board and project construction manager, hopes that it will be available for the Ozarks’ Muslim commu nity within 12 to 18 months. Zahirsha, who started American Dental Solutions in 2007 with his wife Dr. Mehjabeen Zahirsha, sold two of his properties to help buy land and
develop the project. Established in 2014, the projects first two phases are budgeted to cost $2 million, Civil rights advo cate Azka Mahmood has taken charge as CAIR-Georgia’s first deputy director. Mahmood, who joined the organiza Azka Mahmood tion in 2020, previ ously worked as out reach coordinator at CAIR-Florida and as a researcher and educator at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. CAIR-Georgia executive director Mur taza Khwaja said her faith and commit ment to the Georgia Muslim community has brought a fresh vision and strengthened community partnerships. Mahmood has served as a representative of CAIR-Geor gia and the Georgia Muslim community in meetings with lawmakers, coalition partners, key stakeholders and media. Khwaja stated that Mahmood will continue to work with the Georgia Muslim community in this new capacity as a trusted strategic partner. ih
ACHIEVERS Monia Mazigh, a Muslim Canadian novelist, essayist and academic, secured the Ottawa Book Awards 2021 Prize for her French-language PHOTO CREDIT: JONATHAN LORANGE-MILLETTE fiction “Farida” (Edi tions David), the story of a Tunisian woman’s struggle under that country’s patriarchal system. Originally from Tunisia, Mazigh’s writ ing has won several awards, including the Ottawa Book Award and the Trillium Book Award. In addition to being a passionate human rights advocate, she is a commentator on two Radio-Canada programs. Since 1985, the Ottawa Book Awards have recognized the top English- and French-lan guage books published during the previous year. Both languages have categories for fic tion and non-fiction. All shortlisted finalists receive Can$1,000, and each winner receives a prize of Can$7,500. Jury Statement for Farida: “Farida is an ambitious novel that recounts the life of a Tunisian woman who opens the door of
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Virginia County Approves Muslim Cemetery
The All Muslim Association of America Inc. (AMAA) accepted a $500,000 settlement payment from Stafford County, Va., thereby end ing a three-year legal battle and paving the way for constructing its much-needed second cemetery. Anticipating that its existing cem etery grounds were nearing capacity, they bought a parcel of land in Staf ford County zoned for cemetery use by-right. In response, the county’s board of supervisors hastily changed their cemetery ordinance to block AMAA’s plans. AMAA repeatedly tried to work out an arrangement with the county. After being continually blocked, Muslim Advocates stepped up to sup port AMAA and bring attention to what was going on. The Washington Post editorial board, who criticized the county, rallied behind AMAA. In June 2020 AMAA, represented by Milbank LLP, sued. The U.S. Department of Justice also filed a law suit against the county. In response, the county board repealed the dis criminatory cemetery ordinances in October 2020. Although this was a welcome development, AMAA con tinued its legal proceedings to ensure that the cemetery would be approved and to obtain compensation for the unnecessary legal costs. AMAA board member Mossadaq Chughtai, said, “Hopefully, we can put this whole ordeal behind us and begin construction, knowing that religious liberty has prevailed. We hope that our fight allows all people, regardless of their faith, to be able to do the same in Stafford County.” ih
freedom to those around her. With psycho logical finesse, this saga depicts a traditional and patriarchal world that is evolving into a new world through the actions and words of the people living it. Monia Mazigh’s flowing and elegant writing captures and holds our attention throughout the individual and col lective journeys she presents and the social and political transformations taking place in both Tunisia and Canada.” Mazigh (Ph.D., financial economics, McGill University) is a French-language instructor at the University of Ottawa. She is best known for her efforts to free her husband Maher Arar from a Syrian prison, to which the George W. Bush ad ministration had “rendered” him in 2002 and where he endured excruciating tor ture. In 2011, she endorsed the Canadian Boat to Gaza, part of the Freedom Flotil la 2 that sought to end Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, home to 1.6 million Palestinian civilians. Dr. Aisha El-Amin took charge as the University of Illi nois Chicago’s (UIC) inaugural associate vice chancellor for equity and belonging (AVCEB) Over the past decade, El-Amin (Ph.D., policy studies of urban education with research focused on Chicago’s African American Muslim community) has been associate dean of student affairs and, more recently, associate provost at the College of Education, where she also co-chaired the Student Success Initiative on African Amer ican Student Success at UIC. As the AVCEB, El-Amin will consult with the UIC community to develop pol icy and practice interventions that ensure an inclusive and supportive environment for Black/African Descent students, faculty and staff. She will also work closely to de velop creative solutions for the UIC Black/ African Descent community’s continuous and emerging needs. Yousef Manor, Fuadaldin Nadi, Yassen B’hat, Talha Murad, Razza Syed and Ab dallah Ahson were awarded Eagle status, scouting’s highest rank and honor. They completed their Eagle projects and board of review (BOR) during 2020-21, despite the Covid pandemic and its many restrictions,
UToledo Celebrates October Muslim Heritage Month
In celebration and recognition of Muslim Heritage Month, which runs through October, the University of To ledo’s Office of Multicultural Student Success and the MSA organized several events. Its “Ask A Muslim” session, held on Oct. 11, let students share their stories, answer questions and address common misconceptions about Islam. On Oct. 22, MSA hosted “Social Justice in the Muslim Community” to discuss the relevance of social justice and activ ism to Islam and how to make an impact. On Oct. 25, religious leaders from vari ous faiths discussed the commonalities challenges and difficulties, said Saffet Abid Catovic, Scout Master of Troop #114. Catovic saluted Ahmed Abdelfattah from the Troop’s leadership, as well as Paul Endler and the other Eagle Advisors from Monmouth Council who advised the Scouts and officiated at their Eagle BOR. Adil Syed from the Troop Committee also attended. They join the ranks of their predecessors and now soar with Troop #114’s Eagles: Ibraheem Catovic, Zain Haq, Atif Sala hudeen, Ismael Cat ovic, Aman Haq, Omer Syed, Noor Rostoum, Ali Tahir, Omar Shaban, Omar Qari, Ali Shamshad, Yousuf AbdelFatah, Zeeshan Chugtai,
and differences between their beliefs and practices. Oct. 29, MSA hosted “Bond”Fire, with a roaring fire as the backdrop. This three-hour event included games, music, pizza and s’mores. “October is a time for us to celebrate Muslim heritage, leadership and our community,” said MSA president Aylia Naqvi, adding, “I am incredibly proud of our team for putting these events together this month and making it accessible to all of our students. After a year of connecting with students solely from home, our events for 2021 allowed our students to meet with one another in person and virtually.” ih Mustafa Maner Khalid Alnadi, Ammaar Ahmed, Baasit Kazi, Faez Rehman, Arafat Ayub, Fawaz Tahir and Saud Tahir as the Eagle Scouts of Troop #114. Eagle Scout, or Eagle, is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Since its introduction in 1911, more than 2 million young men have earned this rank — an estimated less than 6% of all Scouts. This life-long title gave rise to the phrase “Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.” ih CORRIGENDUM In our “In Memoriam: Dr. AbdulHa mid AbuSulayman” (Nov.-Dec. 2021) article, we misidentified Dr. Fathi Malkawi’s affiliation. He represents the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Jordan.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 15
COVER STORY – INDIA: RISING FASCISM
Hindutva Fascism Finds a Home in the U.S. Hindutva has expanded far beyond South Asia BY LUKE PETERSON
he plague of right-wing ethnonationalism has gone global. From the UK’s British National Party to Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro to Donald Trump’s popularizing of the old American fascist slogan, “America First,” few corners of the globe seem to have escaped the politics of racism, essen tialism and economic privilege. In India, always touted as “the world’s largest democracy,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have excelled at the politics of division and shifted South Asia’s political playing field from policies focused on population growth, climate change and economic scarcity to a full-throated support of Hindu nationalism. This change has been concomitant with public calls to target and violently exclude India’s 12% Muslim minority, calls to action so common and brazen that they have sparked ethnic violence in the northeast. Indeed, Modi apparently hopes to ride a popular wave of anti-Islamic policy and discourse that will allow him to stay in power for the foreseeable future. Two million Muslims living in Assam province have already been officially disenfranchised. According to Modi and the BJP, these “Bangladeshi migrants” should be excluded from India’s democratic processes. But these Assam-born Indians, just as Indian as Modi himself, have been tarred with a catch-all phrase used by far-right Hindu nationalists in seats of power throughout the region to identify all South Asian Muslims. In the provinces of Bihar and Bengal, the latter of which shares a border with Bangladesh, anti-Muslim racism is also rife. Provincial (state) officials have called for citizens of both districts, home to more than 40 million Muslims, to undergo “citizenship verification processes,” a carefully crafted euphemism advocating that Muslim citizen take Orwellian loyalty oaths under threat of deportation, reeducation or worse. In effect, this process effectively otherizes India’s Muslims, classifying them as something less than the mainstream, acceptable Hindu-majority population. Being Muslim in India today, then, has become a life-threatening liability, as mob violence against them for actions as simple as herding cattle or being in the company of Hindu women can attest. In sum, thanks to Modi and the BJP’s unabashedly racist nationalism, the “construct of the Muslim [Indian] as the unwanted, dangerous outsider has been honed and mainstreamed” (https:// time.com/6103284/india-hindu-supremacy-extremism-genocide-bjp-modi/). The rampant ethno-nationalism at the heart of Modi’s vision has proven to have a surprisingly long reach as well, extending its Islamophobic aims as far afield as the American academy. In September 2021, a planned conference organized by researchers in the U.S. to examine the rise of Hindu nationalism and Modi’s Islamophobic policies was attacked by a targeted, online campaign. In all, more than a million emails threatening death, rape and/or bombs were sent to scholars and universities nationwide, as well as to the principal researchers behind the conference, should the event be convened. Some experts on South Asia were surprised by the sheer volume of these threats, but not by the fact that they were made. Several lecturers who speak on Hindu nationalism had long ago required security at their events. One scholar who travels 16 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
to India regularly told the Washington Post about the threat of violence looming over contemporary South Asian studies, only after the newspaper agreed to not to mention his/her name. Unsurprisingly, several prominent scholars cancelled their participation in the September 2021 event. Various law enforcement agencies are currently investigating some of the more violent threats made by proponents of the Modi regime. Universities with South Asian Studies depart ments remain in a compromised position vis-à-vis the study of Hindu nationalism. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and similar pressure groups moni tor their activities and challenge their faculty members
when unflattering reports about Modi and the rise of Hindu nationalism appear on university webpages. HAF has taken its agenda to the U.S. public school system as well, objecting to the language around lessons on the caste system and Hinduism’s origins. Still, the Indian diasporic community contributes mightily to university life in the U.S., with represen tation across all disciplines of study in virtually all regions of the country. Critiquing Modi and India’s sanctioned Islamophobia could jeopardize that rela tionship and, possibly more importantly from the view of administrators, jeopardize this large flow of funds into those departments.
Beyond the academy, elements of the Modi regime have also pursued a more direct method: seeking legitimacy within Washington’s highest ranks. During Donald Trump’s presidency, relations between the two heads of state were so cordial that Trump attended a September 2019 Modi rally sponsored by Houston’s Indian population. Even after the end of Trump’s term, elements of the Modi government have sought influence from within the much less ethnonationalist Biden administration as well. In one such occurrence, members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) came to Washington in 2021. This century-old paramilitary group, responsible for numerous acts of violence (including assassinating Gandhi), has indelible ties to Modi’s BJP. Their agenda included a meeting with Rep. David Trone (D-Md.). The RSS doesn’t hide its avowedly fascist origins, for its members continue to push the language and policy of ethnic exclusion that has become a stable trope under Modi. They are on record as opposing multiculturalism and speaking in glowing terms about Hitler’s THE OPERATIONS OF HINDU ETHNONATIONALISTS treatment of Europe’s Jews. Trone has stated IN THE U.S. ARE AS VARIED AS THEY ARE SAVVY. that he didn’t know who he had agreed to DENYING ACCUSATIONS THAT THEY SUPPORT meet with and sent a letter to Atul Keshap, the then U.S. acting ambassador to India, dis DISCRIMINATION AND ISLAMOPHOBIA IN INDIA, tancing himself from the paramilitary group’s GROUPS LIKE THE HAF USE THE LANGUAGE AND views. Ironically, this Indian American had no THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF MULTICULTURAL qualms about calling upon RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Sept. 8, 2021, and boasting of the AMERICA TO WAGE THEIR BATTLES. fact on Twitter. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, the first Hindu in Congress, is a strong HAF ally. A member of the House committees on foreign affairs and armed services, as well as co-chair of the India Caucus, she was a 2020 presidential hopeful. “Dozens of Gabbard’s donors,” wrote Soumya Shankar, “have either expressed strong sympathy with or have ties to the Sangh Parivar — a network of religious, polit ical, paramilitary, and student groups that subscribe to the Hindu supremacist, exclusionary ideology known as Hindutva, according to an Intercept analysis of Gabbard’s financial disclosures from 2011 until October 2018”. The operations of Hindu ethnonationalists in the U.S. are as varied as they are savvy. Denying accusations that they support discrimination and Islamophobia in India, groups like the HAF use the language and the infrastructure of multicultural America to wage their battles. They claim that accusations of bigotry are them selves anti-Hindu slights and suggest that those who make them are themselves trafficking in damaging stereotypes. Further, they are using the court system to sue scholars and speakers who criticize Modi, the RSS and the BJP for defamation. Incidentally, BJP’s American chapter is registered as the Overseas Friends of the BJP. Also, and very mouthwatering to American exporters, especially weapons makers, is the fact that India’s foreign exchange reserves top $640 billion. Much can be brushed under such sparkle. Robust as these efforts are, however, they only serve to further muddy India’s political waters, which are clearly overflowing with anti-Muslim violence and discrimination sponsored by the head of state, his political party and its more dangerous affiliates. Though efforts should be made to criticize specific policies and their supporters, an equally robust push must be launched by those in the know to ensure that violent ethno-nationalism is arrested on the Subcontinent. The situation has reached a critical juncture, and American scholars and jour nalists must do what they can to stop another genocide of a Muslim minority now, before they are tasked with writing moving elegies to its future victims. ih Luke Peterson, Ph.D. (The University of Cambridge [King’s College]), Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, investigates language, media and knowledge surrounding political conflict in the Middle East. He lives in Pittsburgh, where he regularly contributes articles to local, national and international media.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 17
COVER STORY – INDIA: RISING FASCISM
Indian Facebook Has Muslim Blood on its Hands Corporate responsibility, the social media behemoth and ethical conduct
BY SAFA AHMED
ith the number of lives that Facebook has claimed over the years, the social media conglom erate’s headquarters could easily be turned into a mausoleum. Some might call that an exaggeration. As the age-old adage claims, it’s sticks and stones — not words — that people need to defend themselves against because words, whether spoken or texted through WhatsApp (another Facebook company), can’t cause any real harm. But as whistleblower Frances Haugen has proven with her 2021 testimony on Capitol Hill, words don’t just have the power to hurt feelings, but also have the power to incite fear and hatred, lure everyday citizens down rabbit holes of extremist propaganda and turn groups of like-minded people into violent mobs who kill innocent people and upload videos of themselves doing it. Haugen has been very clear that in today’s climate, Facebook has blood on its hands. In markets all over the world, the company has consistently chosen profits over user safety (CBS, Oct. 3, 2021). “The result has been more division, more harm, more lies, more threats and more combat,” she said. “In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people.” In her testimony to Congress, Haugen stated that Indian Facebook is a minefield of “dehumanizing posts comparing Muslims to ‘pigs’ and ‘dogs’ and misinformation claiming the Quran calls for men to rape their female family members.” Other fake — yet viral — posts claim that Muslims were responsible for the spread of Covid-19, that Muslim men have an agenda to seduce and convert Hindu women and that Muslims
are generally anti-nationals who hate all Hindus. A common slogan bouncing around Facebook and WhatsApp is “Hindus are in danger” — words that have been used to rile up violent mobs. For India’s 200 million Muslims, this isn’t the sort of thing you can walk away from by turning off your computer. India, a nation strongly infected by Hindutva, the popu lar and violent brand of nationalism that appeals to Hindu Indians, has been existing in a climate of extremism. In simple terms, Hindutva preaches Hindu supremacy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is its modern poster child. Under his government, which assumed power in 2014, Hindutva has skyrocketed in popularity among the country’s 80% Hindu population. Haugen took note of this in her testimony. In particular, she called out the Rashtriya
EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATIONS SHOW THAT INDIAN FACEBOOK IS FULL OF VIRAL HATE CONTENT. LIVE POSTS WITH MILLIONS OF VIEWS, VIDEOS OF MOB BEATINGS AND IMAGES OF DEAD BODIES ARE CIRCULATED REGULARLY AND ENTHUSIASTICALLY.
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Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; estab. 1925), Hindutva’s umbrella organization. For those who aren’t familiar with the RSS, its founders modeled their supremacism on Hitler’s Nazism. In modern times, the RSS promotes “fear mongering” and “anti-Muslim narratives” on Facebook, targeting “pro-Hindu populations with V&I (violent and incendiary) intent” with its propaganda. A leaked document shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), now India’s ruling party, encourages a single user to have multiple accounts to help spread its propaganda. The Bajrang Dal, a BJP-linked Hindu extremist group, frequently posts anti-Muslim hate speech on the platform. If this all sounds familiar, that’s because Hindu nationalist groups and their sup porters are following in the footsteps of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, whose mil itary began rallying Buddhist extremists against the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority in 2016. According to an article appearing in The Diplomat on Aug. 25, 2020, Facebook higher-ups only recently admit ted that the platform was instrumental in leading to the violent slaughter of 10,000 Rohingya women, children and men. The content of these hateful posts echoes each other in almost eerie parallels. Islam is a threat to Buddhism (Myanmar) and Hinduism (India). Muslim men want to rape Buddhist women (Myanmar) and Hindu
women (India). Jihadis are actively attacking and planning to kill Buddhists (Myanmar) and Hindus (India). The entire world knows what ultimately happened to the Rohingya. Half a decade of spreading hatred, primarily through mil itary-run Facebook accounts, meant that there was almost no resistance when the hatred turned to bloodshed. As the New York Times reported on Oct. 15, 2018, social media led directly to mass murders, rapes and “the largest forced human migration in recent history.” On Sept. 11, 2017, UN High Commissioner of Human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” India’s Muslims fear a similar fate. Facebook’s largest market is India, with 340+ million people using the platform daily. WhatsApp has a staggering 487 million Indian users. Despite these numbers, only a fraction of Facebook’s budget is dedicated to monitoring fake news in other countries (New York Times, Oct. 23, 2021). Empirical investigations show that Indian Facebook is full of viral hate content. Live posts with millions of views, videos of mob beatings and images of dead bodies are cir culated regularly and enthusiastically (New York Times, Oct. 23, 2021). “In the world, places where Quran or Hadith are being taught should be shut down,” reads one post. “Hindu religion is above Congress ...
Today is the day to prove it,” reads a highly shared WhatsApp message. A popular video, reposted multiple times by different users, shows a snippet of a Hindu supremacist leader declaring “My only goal in life is to exterminate Islam and kill Muslims” to a crowd of onlookers. Disturbingly, most reactions to these posts are a rainbow of likes, hearts and laughing emojis. Even more disturbingly, Facebook rarely takes down such content, even when it’s reported as violating com munity guidelines. “[Facebook] is optimizing for content that gets engagement, or reaction,” Haugen said in her 60 Minutes [CBS] interview Oct. 4, 2021). “But its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing — it’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions.” According to the Wall Street Journal (Oct. 23, 2021), “inflammatory content on Facebook spiked 300% above previous levels at times during the months follow ing December 2019, a period in which reli gious protests swept India.” This upswell of hatred played a large role in inciting the Delhi pogroms, where the majority of the 53 people killed were Muslim, some of whom were still teenagers. During that event, Hindutva mobs of up to 50 people, armed with metal rods and cricket bats, roamed Delhi. They chanted, “Shoot the traitors to the nation!” — a phrase used openly by BJP politicians. The “traitors” in question were Muslims protesting the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act, a discriminatory bill that effectively excludes Muslims from being considered worthy of fast-tracked citizenship documen tation, unlike Hindus and other non-Muslim immigrants from neighboring countries. Peaceful student and female-led protests were met with teargas and police batons. Mosques were burned down. Muslim-owned shops and homes were destroyed. There are photographs of Muslim men being beaten, some of them to death, while their attackers taunt them, demanding that they chant “Jai Sri Ram” (glory to the Hindu god Ram) or sing the national anthem. During July 2019, 80+ Muslimas were unwittingly put up for “auction” by an app called Sulli Deals. The app, which functioned like eBay, allowed Hindu nationalist men to access the women’s photos and contact infor mation and then harass them anonymously over social media (BBC News).
Three months later, Indian cricket player Mohammed Shami was inundated with online accusations that he had delib erately thrown a match in favor of Pakistan. When team captain Virat Kohli condemned the vitriol, online trolls harassed him too. One man even threatened to assault Kohli’s 10-month-old daughter. According to the Human Rights Watch report issued on April 9, 2020, Muslims are lynched weekly, if not daily, and the police either do nothing or encourage the brutality. Videos of their murders are shared hundreds of thousands of times, and the murderers are applauded as heroes and garlanded with flowers. And then there are the indirect conse quences of this anti-Muslim hate. On Aug. 5, 2019, Kashmir, an UN-recog nized disputed (and illegally occupied ter ritory) that is India’s only Muslim-majority region, was stripped of its constitutionally mandated autonomy, subjected to internet blackouts and placed under a lockdown that saw a massive escalation of human rights abuses by the Indian occupation soldiers. Several states have either introduced or passed “Love Jihad” laws, which make marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women illegal — even if they are consensual [but Islamically prohibited]. More than one couple has been forcibly separated in Uttar Pradesh, with one woman being forced to abort while her husband was arrested. In Assam, nearly 2 million people — mainly Muslims — have been stripped of their citi zenship, forced to watch their homes being demolished and, after that, moved into ref ugee camps. Facebook looms over this slow walk toward genocide. Despite the exposés and public testimonies, it remains unclear how much will change internally. Even amidst this controversy, the conglomerate keeps putting out new ads for its upcoming ser vice, Meta. Bright colors and pop music, accompanied by graphics that look like a fever dream, are already working to obscure a very frightening reality. Facebook is the chessboard, and the innocent have become the pawns. Facebook is the mausoleum, and the number of Muslims who will be buried therein remains unclear. ih Safa Ahmed, an Indian-origin freelance writer and journalist, seeks to dismantle Islamophobia through media.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 19
COVER STORY – INDIA: RISING FASCISM
No End to the Kashmiris’ Resolve Cricket heartbreak exposes depth of Hindutva malignancy in India
ast October 24, all hell broke out for India’s Muslims, and the resi dents of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, when Pakistan trounced India in the first ICC Men’s T20 World Cup match — the international cricket champi onship for the shortest version of the game. For Pakistan, and indeed for Muslims in South Asia, where cricket is king, this was a major milestone: Pakistan had finally broken its ten-year losing streak against rival India. When Pakistan won, both the Kashmiris living in the occupied state and Muslims in parts of India celebrated this historic victory with unbounded fervor. The festive mood, however, was abruptly ended. The colonial Indian setup, addressing this as an expression of “anti-national” behavior, accused the Kashmiris of “sedition” to apply the feared Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) so many of them could be arrested and tortured. This draconian act enables New Delhi to designate any indi vidual as a terrorist and arrest people under the guise of “protecting” India’s sovereignty and interests. Meanwhile, Indians harassed and attacked Kashmiris, especially in the north ern state of Punjab. Kashmiri students nationwide feared for their lives as they faced threats, harassment and abuse from enraged Indians. Also noteworthy is that cricket is a big betting item. Thus, one can understand the rage when not only betting sites, but also India’s cricketing greats, had predicted an Indian triumph. This is not the first time that such violence has happened. In 2014, 60+ Kashmiri stu dents were arrested for supporting Pakistan in the Asia Cup One-Day [50 overs version] cricket tournament. On April 4, 2017, Kashmiri cricketers of the Baba Darya Ud Din club uploaded a video of them wear ing Pakistani jerseys and singing that coun try’s national anthem; the police promptly arrested them. The Indian Express headline of that day proclaimed “Defiance at play as Kashmiri cricket team sports Pakistan colours, starts match with anthem.” In 2016, Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri
BY HANA AHMED
Assamese News channel PragNews wants to know how much money Shami took from Pakistan. Calls him a Pakistani agent in the Indian team.
students at National Institute of Technology Srinagar clashed over India’s loss to West Indies in the World Twenty20 semi-final. Kashmiri students supported the West Indies, whereas Indians cheered for their home team (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-in dia-35984097). The federal government sent paramilitary forces and ordered the then Indian-installed Kashmir “chief minister” Mehbooba Mufti to ensure the Indian stu dents’ safety in the occupied state. This is the true nature of the Indian state and its people: A violent colonial entity that
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enforces oppressive controls through its state apparatus to justify the torture, harassment and killing of Kashmiris over the loss of a single cricket match. Hindutva, the reac tionary fascist version of Hinduism that propelled Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Parishad (BJP; Indian Peoples Party) to power, has resulted in the otherization of Indians Muslims and Kashmiri Muslims, and thereby allowing such horrendous violations of autonomy and political beliefs to occur. At the Bhai Guru Das Institute of Engineering and Technology in Sangrur,
Punjab, Kashmiri students were attacked and assaulted in their dorm rooms after India lost the Oct. 24 match. One of the stu dents live streamed the assault on Facebook as their attackers burst into their room and started beating them with rods and poles. Their rooms were ransacked and their win dows smashed while their attackers, iden tified as students from Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar, continuously shouted that they were “Pakistanis.”
governor Manoj Sinha and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath — a Hindu monk, to boot — to release them on humanitarian grounds. Four other Kashmiri students were charged in Agra as well. Following their arrest, many Kashmiri students fled back home fearing for their safety. As the arrested students’ families were too poor to pay for lawyers, Khuehami and his team arranged a lawyer so family members could meet their wards. The case is ongoing,
THIS IS THE TRUE NATURE OF THE INDIAN STATE AND ITS PEOPLE: A VIOLENT COLONIAL ENTITY THAT ENFORCES OPPRESSIVE CONTROLS THROUGH ITS STATE APPARATUS TO JUSTIFY THE TORTURE, HARASSMENT AND KILLING OF KASHMIRIS OVER THE LOSS OF A SINGLE CRICKET MATCH.
In a desperate attempt to save themselves from injury or possible death, many of the Kashmiri students locked themselves in their rooms; at least six were injured. They spoke with the college administration, which assured them that the incident would be investigated. Nasir Khuehami, spokes person for Jammu and Kashmir Student Association, told Free Press Kashmir that he received alarming calls from students across colleges in Punjab after India lost the match (Oct. 25, 2021, Mohsina Malik, “Kashmiri students attacked in Punjab as India loses cricket match to Pakistan”). In Agra (UP), Kashmiri students Arsheed Yusuf, Inayat Altaf Sheikh and Showkat Ahmad of the Raja Balwant Singh Engineering Technical College were arrested and suspended for allegedly uploading WhatsApp statuses in favor of the Pakistani team (https://freepress kashmir.news/, Oct. 28, 2021). According to the college authorities, however, they didn’t post any celebratory messages about Pakistan. They were charged with sedition after BJP members protested at the campus and filed a police complaint against them on Oct. 27. The teachers reportedly told the arrested students’ families that their wards were safe. Mohammad Shaban Ganie, the father of Showkat Ahmad Ganie, and Shabir Ahmad Sheikh, the uncle of Inayat Altaf Sheikh, appealed to Jammu and Kashmir lieutenant
but Khuehami told Free Press Kashmir that it might be moved to Mathura, as the situa tion in Agra is tense. He has requested Yogi Adityanath to drop the charges and revoke their suspension. Khuehami told Al Jazeera that at least 14 Kashmiri students were assaulted across India following the cricket loss, with seven suffering serious injuries (Oct. 25, 2021). Ironically, before the start of the IndiaPakistan T20 World Cup match in Dubai, the Indian team had taken a knee in solidar ity with the Black Lives Matter movement. On Oct. 25, dorm officers and students at the Srinagar Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) and Government Medical College (GMC) were charged after videos spread on social media of them cheering for Pakistan. Two cases were filed under UAPA in the Karan Nagar and Soura police stations. A police report filed in Soura stated that from Oct. 24-25, SKIMS stu dents had raised pro-Pakistan slogans and celebrated with fireworks. A similar report was lodged at Karan Nagar police station against GMC students. An anonymous female medical student at GMC stated, “Such doctors are a risk for humanity. How will they treat the sol diers posted in Kashmir only god knows!” Across Indian media outlets, defamation and slander of Kashmiris has been rampant and routine. Vikram Singh Randhawa, a Jammu BJP
leader, said that those who had commem orated Pakistan’s win should be skinned alive, their Indian “citizenship” revoked and be charged with sedition. He added that Pakistani blood runs in the Kashmiris’ veins and they should be beaten and skinned alive for it. He also moaned, “None of them cel ebrated Pakistan’s win against Afghanistan. Did their mother die that day? It is only a win against Kaafirs [disbelievers] they cel ebrate. These kathmullas (a Hindu deroga tory term for Muslims) give divorces on mobile. They should also pray namaaz on WhatsApp. Why do they occupy public spaces for it?” These abuses and unjust arrests are but an example of the deep fascism permeat ing India’s political consciousness and state apparatus. This horrific violence is not due solely to a few biased individuals, the BJP or the Congress Party. This is India in its true form, an Islamophobic nation that espouses the settler colonization and genocide of the Kashmiris since its 1947 invasion and occu pation of the state. ih Hana Ahmed is a U.S.-based student originally from Indian-occupied Kashmir.
SEEKING AN IMAM The Muslim Community Center of Tucson (MCCT) located in Tucson, Arizona, is looking for an active Imam. The candidate should have a bachelor degree in Islamic studies, be fluent in Arabic and English, U.S. citizen or legal resident and a minimum of two years’ experience as an Imam. MCCT, a nonprofit Islamic organization, is a center for the people of Sunnah and Jama’ah. Please send resumes to: fmswailem@gmail .com If you have questions, please call Dr. Swailem at (520) 404-7074 and leave a message.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 21
From the Back of the Bus to the Back of the Camel? Reimagining Muslim African American identity in 2022 BY JIMMY JONES
od has ordained: “O humanity! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (the one who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well-acquainted (with all things)” (49:13). I first met the erudite, acerbic Sherman Abdul Hakim Jackson (Distinguished Professor, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture; Professor, Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, Southern California University) when I was a struggling Arabic Intensive student at ISNA headquarters’ Islamic Teaching Center in the summer of 1991. As a rel atively new convert, this was also the first time I was participating in the powerful spiritually anchoring experience of living in a community that prayed the five daily prayers in congregation. I was immediately drawn to Jackson’s audacious personality because he was an
instant role model and “homeboy” for me, the new Muslim. I marveled at his ability to seamlessly “code switch” from the demand ing Arabic professor to an encouraging mentor (in colloquial Egyptian Arabic) to a recent Arab immigrant; to a well-informed public intellectual (in eloquent English) to “a brother from the block” who still easily identified with the struggles of being Black in the U.S.. The attraction was even stronger because we were both African Americans from eco nomically stressed East Coast inner cities that are only approximately 100 miles apart — him from Philadelphia, me from Baltimore. More importantly, we were both bibliophiles who loved the world of ideas and took pleasure in thinking deeply and enthu siastically about solving complex, daunting problems. Consequently, we often talked about how to use the sentiments expressed in 49:13, and elsewhere, to combat this coun try’s deadly, daunting race problem. And so I was surprised when I found out that we didn’t exactly agree on the framing of the U.S.’s original sin of racism,
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especially when it came to the plight of Muslim African Americans. Dr. Jackson’s groundbreaking book “Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection” (2011) was a bracing wake-up call Muslim African Americans and the broader Muslim American community. This characteristically nuanced, thoughtful tour-de-force provided not only a trenchant analysis of what’s ailing Muslim African Americans, but also practical, achievable ways to remedy it. Nevertheless, we differed about some of his book’s critical details. I recall a rather spirited back-and-forth via cellphone during a long layover between connecting flights somewhere in the American heartland. The crux of the disagreement focused on his witty assertion that by converting, African Americans, as a group, had gone “from the back of the bus to the back of the camel.” I demurred for several reasons. First, his assessment didn’t fit my expe rience as an African American revert to American Islam. As a person who grew up in 1950s Roanoke, Va., under the “back of
the bus” Jim Crow laws, I didn’t find the similarities between the two an apt com parison. Jim Crow laws were codified dis crimination backed up by the full force of Virginia’s public policy and law enforcement apparatus. While I am familiar with the many examples of born Muslims mistreat ing African Americans, this doesn’t rise to the level of an organized institutional effort to make us “second class citizens.” For me and many others, I had far more supportive than negative welcoming experiences as a new Muslim. Second, the “back of the camel” imagery
stop presenting ourselves primarily as vic tims and begin to lean toward imagining ourselves as the valuable contributors that we have been to this American project even before its inception. Finally, I didn’t think that such clever phrases as “from the back of the bus to the back of the camel” encourages the kind of healthy, honest and multifaceted cross-cul tural dialogue so sorely needed in our com munity today. As Muslim African Americans, we need to leave what appears to me to be a pre occupation with focusing on our “back of
WHILE I AM FAMILIAR WITH THE MANY EXAMPLES OF BORN MUSLIMS MISTREATING AFRICAN AMERICANS, THIS DOESN’T RISE TO THE LEVEL OF AN ORGANIZED INSTITUTIONAL EFFORT TO MAKE US “SECOND CLASS CITIZENS.” FOR ME AND MANY OTHERS, I HAD FAR MORE SUPPORTIVE THAN NEGATIVE WELCOMING EXPERIENCES AS A NEW MUSLIM. struck me as stereotyping and otherizing many non-African American Muslims. In seeking to solve one problem, we often use language in a way that creates yet another one. To me, “the back of the camel” belongs in the same obsolete dustbin as “camel jockey” and “towelheads,” which were par ticularly popular during the 1973 Arab oil embargo Third, once again, “from the back of the bus to the back of the camel” implies to me that African Americans’ primary identity is that of a “victim.” Today we African Americans, just like college stu dent victims, need “safe spaces” that pro tect us from “microaggressions.” In both instances, I would rather we emphasize the “value” we bring to the Muslim community and college campuses. If we concentrate and build upon that, I believe that Muslim Americans of African descent are ideally suited for assuming primary leadership roles in indigenizing Islam. I believe this is true because we’re more familiar with this country’s reli gious, social and political history than are most other immigrants. In addition, we’ve shown a strong consistent resistance to racism, as evidenced by the tenacity and resilience of people like Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X. In order to lead, we must
the bus”/“back of the camel” experiences. I would prefer that we put more of an empha sis on how we can Americanize the life-af firming, civilization-building prophetic par adigm here and now. History records the possibility of such a transformation, namely, the rapid positive transformation of Yathrib, the Arabian Peninsula and, ultimately, the then-civilized world. More specifically, I and my colleagues at the Islamic Seminary of America believe that engendering a power ful, positive “American Islam” that benefits all Americans, we must focus on the 3 Rs – reconnect, reclaim and recalibrate. By reconnect, we mean promoting the kind of foundational Islamic literacy that Jackson advocates in his 2011 book. Therefore, all of us Muslims should insist that our imams, chaplains, teachers and other leaders have, at a minimum, (1) complete Quranic literacy, defined as the ability to read and access the original Arabic text, and (2) a deep understanding of the prophetic theory and praxis, coupled with a strong understanding of the similarities and differences between the socio-cultural contexts of the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) time and contemporary North America. By reclaim, we mean to retake the moral high ground that led Yathrib’s non-Muslims
to accept Prophet Muhammad’s leadership. Additionally, we need to reclaim the intel lectual excellence found among the count less scholars, as well as the many libraries, academic and other institutions found in many Islamic lands, most notably al-Anda lus. European and many other lands’ scholars recognized these sites as centers of intellec tualism and flocked to them. For us, recalibrate doesn’t mean “reform ing” Islam, but reforming ourselves and learning from the spiritual, intellectual and political acumen of our beloved Prophet, who brilliantly recalibrated Islam’s religious and social practice as he sought to build an Islamic-based inclusive community in Yathrib (renamed Makka after his hijra). Over the years, my dear friend Sherman Abdul Hakim Jackson has given us much to ponder while helping to actualize his vision. He has done so by building and assisting institutions like the summer American Learning Institute for Muslims (ALIM). May we all strive to be as religiously and intellectually brave as he has been, while being verbally attacked from the left, right and center both inside and outside of Islam. May Allah preserve him and accept the good that he and all of us have done. ih Dr. Jimmy Jones, DMin, professor and executive vice president of the Islamic Seminary of America, is professor emeritus at Manhattanville College, Purchase, N.Y.
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PHOTO BY A. RICKETTS. PUBLISHED WITH PERMISSION GRANTED TO THE AUTHOR BY ROB RABENA, DIRECTOR OF VIDEO & PHOTOGRAPHY, VISIT PHILADELPHIA). HTTPS://WWW.VISITPHILLY.COM/ JUNETEENTH-IN-GREATER-PHILADELPHIA/
Juneteenth Day is Day for All Americans A celebration of freedom suitable for everyone BY IRSHAD ABDAL-HAQQ
omething phenomenal has occurred since last year’s observance of Black History Month. For the first time in nearly 40 years, a new national holiday was established when Congress passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on June 17, 2021. Juneteenth, called “a day of profound weight and power” by President Joe Biden, has been a longstanding holiday for celebrating freedom and equality for the nation’s African American descendants of slavery. Now it has become a day of observance for all Americans, regardless of ethnicity, race or religion. For Muslim Americans living in the post-9/11 U.S., embracing symbols of freedom and equality has never been more culturally relevant.
Upon signing this act into law, Biden immediately ordered all federal offices to close the following workday to commemorate an event that occurred in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865: U.S. Army Major General Gordon Granger publicly read his military directive entitled “General Order No. 3,” informing those in atten dance that Abraham Lincoln had abolished slavery years earlier. The relevant part states: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor” (https://www.archives.gov/news/articles/ juneteenth-original-document). He announced this act more than 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which had declared, as of January 1, 1863, the free dom of all slaves in states “in rebellion against the United States.” Texas was one such state. This significant delay is attributed to the fact that there was no way of enforcing Lincoln’s proclamation any earlier. Therefore, the slaveholders ignored it, even though the Confederacy had formally surrendered at Appomattox, Va., on April 9, 1865. It took years for Granger’s troops to reach Texas. But even after his general order, slavery didn’t end immediately throughout Texas and its eventual statewide enforcement didn’t end slavery nationwide. Many Texas slaveholders beyond Galveston withheld word of it until the end of the 1865 harvest season. Slavery within non-rebelling 24 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
Philadelphia’s all-inclusive 2018 Juneteenth celebration featured this Commission on African & Caribbean Immigrant Affairs parade float. (© Visit Philadelphia.)
states and Indian tribes was only abolished months later. In some cases, it persisted until the Thirteenth Amendment, ratified on Dec. 6, 1865, abolished it nationwide. In this respect, Granger’s Galveston directive should be regarded more as a symbol of freedom and abolition in that Texas was the last Confederate state to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
Soon after Granger issued his general order, Galveston’s ex-slaves or “freedmen” celebrated their freedom. In 1866, they organized the first of what would become now-annual Juneteenth Day celebrations. But other groups celebrated their own freedom as well. Though not always using “Juneteenth” — a blend of “June” and “nineteenth” — many African American communities across the U.S. (especially in the South) and even in northern Mexico, to which thousands of slaves had fled, have long celebrated their emancipation in one form or another. Sometimes called “Freedom Day,” “Jubilee Day” or “Emancipation Day,” versions of Juneteenth have been observed for many decades, though not always consistently. Oppressive racist laws (Jim Crow) prohibited large African American gatherings; oppressive working conditions and abject poverty (the Great Depression) prohibited time and resources for celebrations; and mass internal migration to northern industrial cities (the Great Migration) effectively snuffed out this and many other rural southern rituals and traditions. In recent decades, however, many African Americans have redis covered and embraced these cultural traditions and petitioned state and local governments to do the same. Juneteenth became an official Texas holiday in 1980. Since then, 45 other states and the District of Columbia have followed suit (https://crsreports. congress.gov, the “Juneteenth Fact Sheet,” report R44865). But it took a sustained decades-long effort by Opal Lee, popularly known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” and numerous other activists to get it recognized as an official federal holiday. It is worth noting, however, that an often-vocal minority of African Americans reject this celebration on the grounds that it rings hollow until the government formally apologizes for slavery, segregation and other racist legacies and commits to providing reparations.
OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY CHANDLER WEST
Significantly, prior to adopting Juneteenth Day, the last federal holiday established by Congress occurred in 1983: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, to honor the assassinated civil rights activist. His focus on serving others was so profound that this holiday has been enshrined as “A Day of Service,” on which millions of Americans engage in community service projects. Similarly, Juneteenth promises to epitomize a day upon which all Americans can celebrate freedom. And what two concepts of human purpose are more representative of Islam’s mission than service and freedom? For example, one hadith equates serving others with serving God (“Forty Hadith Qudsi: Selected and Translated by Ezzeddin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davis,” Hadith 18 ) and Quran 90:1-20, which oblige us to free bondsmen (slaves) and feed the indigent and orphans if we want to save our souls (“Al-Balad” and accompanying footnotes). Based on such inspired guidance, Muslim Americans should be more amenable to embracing the spirit of
President Joe Biden, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, lawmakers and guests, signs the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act Bill on June 17, 2021, in the East Room of the White House.
experience in America, tweeted support for the observance. Blogger and advocate for African American rights Jummanah IT IS WORTH NOTING, HOWEVER, THAT AN Abu Samra, aka “Muslim Girl,” endorsed OFTEN-VOCAL MINORITY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS the holiday as a further step toward rep arations. Blavity contributor aamalhi16, REJECT THIS CELEBRATION ON THE GROUNDS citing Surah 90, embraced Juneteenth and THAT IT RINGS HOLLOW UNTIL THE GOVERNMENT the abolition of slavery as morally elevating for the entire nation. FORMALLY APOLOGIZES FOR SLAVERY, Beyond Muslim African American SEGREGATION AND OTHER RACIST LEGACIES AND involvement and support, Muslim Americans can participate in a plethora COMMITS TO PROVIDING REPARATIONS. of Juneteenth activities. For example, last year CAIR hosted an online screening of a film exploring Muslim American reflections Juneteenth as an extension of its own purpose and mission than on racial injustice. Islamic Relief USA, Sound Vision, Muslim any other American community. Advocates, KARAMAH, and other American Muslim organiza Perhaps one of the most vocal proponents in this regard was tions also expressed support for or hosted Juneteenth activities. the late imam W. Deen Mohammed (d.2008). As early as 1992, Similarly, last year the New York Times hosted an online he encouraged his predominately African American association Juneteenth program that included a podcast interview of histo to embrace it as a day for celebrating the excellence of people of rian, Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, and a range of other activities. And African descent and as an opportunity to focus on the future, rather of course, everyone can participate in festivities planned for their than dwelling on the past. local area. Municipal governments and visitor centers typically Black History Month is celebrated each February. This month provide links to such opportunities. was initially chosen because it coincided with Abraham Lincoln’s Perhaps the largest and most inclusive Juneteenth program birthday (Feb. 12) and Frederick Douglass (d. Feb. 20, 1895), a slave occurs annually in Greater Philadelphia, which includes both who escaped from Maryland and became a national leader of the African and Caribbean immigrants. In 2021 it was held from June abolitionist movement on Feb. 14. 19 until July 4 and featured numerous parades, musical perfor Black communities had celebrated both dates together since the mances, festivals and other activities. In past years, community late-19th century. Imam W. Deen Mohammed argued that the date activists Luqman Abdul Haqq (aka Kenny Gamble), Dolores Lami focuses on the past, but that on Juneteenth Day the focus should Mohammed and Ali Salahuddin were instrumental in its produc be on the future. “We want more emphasis on the future than we tion. For details, visit https://www.visitphilly.com/ and http:// want on the past or present,” he said. “Our religion tells us, Al-Islam JuneteenthPhilly.org. For Muslim Americans, Juneteenth provides an opportunity to tells us dear people, Al-Islam tells us to live with a view on the future. That’s why it says that destiny is more important than the understand our country’s past more fully, and, in turn, honor the now” (“Imam W. Deen Mohammed Speaks-Juneteenth,” Muslim virtues of freedom and equality that we are obligated to pursue for ourselves and others. ih Journal, July 9, 2021, p.15). Other African American Muslims have also expressed support for observing Juneteenth Day. For example, Sapelo Square (sape Irshad Abdal-Haqq, the author of “Dash! Young Black Refugee and Migration Stories” (2020), writes losquare.com), an online platform focused on the Black Muslim intercultural fiction and nonfiction. Learn more at Abdal-Haqq.com. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 25
The University of North Carolina Acquires Omar ibn Said’s Manuscript The Louis Round Wilson Library has a gem of special significance to Muslim Americans
h e U n i v e r si t y of N ort h Carolina’s (UNC) acquisition is contributing to scholars’ under standing of the life of Omar ibn Said, a 19th-century enslaved Islamic scholar. Kidnapped from West Africa and enslaved in North Carolina, he was renowned for his Arabic writings.
Ambrotype photograph of Omar ibn Said (The Ambrotype Collection in the North Carolina Collection’s Photographic Archives)
The 1856 manuscript, addressed by Said to his enslaver James Owen, contains an Islamic blessing and two Biblical texts: Psalm 51 and the Lord’s Prayer. Eighteen examples of similar docu ments written by Said are currently known. According to John Blythe (assistant curator, the North Carolina Collection), this item is the first one to come to light in many years. The library has digitized the manuscript, now part of the North Carolina Collection at the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, and shared it online.
BY EMILY JACK* The document includes notations by other people who have handled it. According to Carl Ernst (William R. Kenan Jr., dis tinguished professor of religious studies, UNC-Chapel Hill), one of them appears to be Gen. George McClellan, who later became famous as a Union general during the Civil War. McClellan may have been given the document at a hot springs resort that the Owen family visited. The manuscript “shows the way in which religion and racism were deeply intertwined in the slavery institution in America,” says Ernst, co-author of a book about Said titled “I Cannot Write My Life”). Understanding
BUT OTHER FACTS OF HIS LIFE HAVE BEEN DISTORTED BY THE HISTORICAL RECORD. CONTEMPORARY NEWSPAPER ACCOUNTS HANDED DOWN A NARRATIVE THAT SCHOLARS NOW REJECT: SAID HAD NO DESIRE TO RETURN TO AFRICA, WAS CONTENT WITH HIS ENSLAVED STATUS AND HAD CONVERTED TO CHRISTIANITY.
26 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
the document and the context of its cre ation requires knowing something about Said’s life.
WHO WAS OMAR IBN SAID?
The biographical details of Omar ibn Said’s life are somewhat fragmentary, says Ernst, although he left behind a slim autobiography and was covered by newspapers during his lifetime. Scholars agree that Said studied Islam for 25 years in seminaries in what is now Senegal. According to Ernst, Said’s writings reveal an intimate familiarity with Arabic poetry, Islamic theological literature, law, grammar and other subjects. Said was kidnapped, shipped across the Atlantic and sold into slavery in 1807. He ended up enslaved by Owen, an eastern North Carolina politician and plantation owner. But other facts of his life have been dis torted by the historical record. Contemporary newspaper accounts handed down a narra tive that scholars now reject: Said had no desire to return to Africa, was content with his enslaved status and had converted to Christianity. The Biblical passages Said rendered in Arabic were once proffered as evidence of his conversion. According to Ernst, “This narrative was designed as a defense of slavery. It is false. We know that in his very first document that he wrote in 1819 he asks to return to Africa. And the repeated statement that he never wanted to do so is obviously false. So, what we are faced with is a situation where people wanted to take over the story of his life and use it for the defense of slavery.”
presence of Islam as a religion and Arabic as a language in the American South in the earliest part of American history. Said’s relationship to a prominent North Carolina family is also noteworthy: Owen’s brother John was a North Carolina governor and a UNC trustee for 20 years. And locally, Said’s story is part of our history, says Flodin-Ali. “It’s so direct. He’s in Fayetteville, he’s in Wilmington in parts of his life.”
SAID IN THE COLLECTIONS AND BEYOND
This document joins other materials related to Omar ibn Said in the Louis Round Wilson Library, including two photographs of him. Some of these materials were loaned to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2017 for its “Slavery and Freedom” exhibition. A guide created by North Carolina research and instruction librarian Sarah Carrier points to Said-related materials in the Louis Round Wilson Library, as well as those in other libraries. Taken together, the materials “broaden our picture of enslaved individuals,” says Blythe. ih [Editor’s note: * Reprinted (with edits) with per mission of The University Libraries, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.]
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A cropped image of one page of the document.
TEXT, MEANING AND “THE LIMITS OF THE ARCHIVE”
How should modern readers interpret this manuscript, which contains theological pas sages from two religions? Ernst theorizes that the Owen family often asked Said to write a Biblical text in Arabic as a curiosity for other members of the Southern elite. Said would oblige, sometimes including a Quranic text, possibly unbe knownst to his English-speaking company. Yasmine Flodin-Ali, a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill who studies race and Islam in the U.S., says these documents provoke questions: “Did Omar directly tell someone, hey, this is X, Y, Z? Or did people not really care what he was saying and just choose to interpret the documents as they wanted to?” Said was one of a few known enslaved Muslims from Africa who left documents. However, “ultimately it’s impossible to know”
what percent of the enslaved population in the U.S. were Muslim, says Flodin-Ali. “The fact is that their complex histories and back grounds were not of interest to slave owners.” Flodin-Ali points out that nearly all the records related to enslaved people survived because they were preserved by their enslav ers. As a result, our picture of their lives is incomplete. “There’s all this work that was written directly by [Said], so trying to ana lyze that and think about what are the limits of the archive, what can the archive tell us, has been really exciting.”
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PART OF OUR HISTORY
The newly acquired manuscript adds to the number of texts Omar quotes in his writings, thereby opening new avenues for scholarly analysis. But the document also holds les sons for non-specialists for several reasons, according to Ernst. For one, it illustrates the
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Masjid Al Qur’an turns honey harvesting into a learning experience BY SANDRA WHITEHEAD
ozens of people gathered on a sunny day last September in the backyard of Milwaukee’s Masjid Al Qur’an to witness its second honey harvest. They also came to meet special guest Dr. Muhammad bin Yahya Al-Ninowy, founder of the Atlanta-based Madina Institute, an Islamic seminary with campuses in South Africa, the U.K., Norway, Sudan and Malaysia. Al-Ninowy, a muhaddith (scholar of Hadith sciences), is listed in “The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims” in the “preachers and spiritual guides” category. Al Qur’an Foundation, one of Wisconsin’s oldest Islamic organizations, was established in 1992 as a religious, educational and charitable organization. Sitting Lead Beekeeper Abu Zakaria Shaimai Wu on 8 acres, it features Masjid Al Qur’an (est. 1997), 12 rental apartments, an office, a women’s prayer hall, a community center — and, to boot, beehives, a fruit LOOKING AT THE SCENE, SHAYKH AL-NINOWY orchard and a vegetable garden. According to imam and religious director Hafiz EXCLAIMED, “BEING HERE TODAY IS Muhammad Shafiq, the last three were developed SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL, IN UNITY WITH to create educational opportunities for Al Qur’an YOU AND IN THESE SURROUNDINGS, SEEING Academy’s students and the community. Masjid Al Qur’an is an affiliate of the Madina EVERYONE INVOLVED FROM LITTLE ONES TO Institute, which calls “Muslims to go back to the MEN AND WOMEN, AND ESPECIALLY SEEING basics of the religion: the Qur’an and the Authentic Sunnah, as well as tolerance, peace and compassion,” THE SMILES OF THE CHILDREN.” the institute’s website states. Shaykh Al-Ninowy and students from the institute, as well as Muslims from across Greater Milwaukee, honeycombs to ensure that every possible drop of joined the academy’s students to harvest the honey. the golden nectar flowed into the container. Looking at the scene, Shaykh Al-Ninowy exclaimed, COLLECTING THE HONEY “Being here today is something beautiful, in unity Al-Ninowy is also the teacher of Al Qur’an’s lead beekeeper Shaimai Wu, who with you and in these surroundings, seeing everyone prefers to be called Abu Zakaria in honor of his now 4-year-old son. Wu studies involved from little ones to men and women, and in the institute’s part-time Islamic studies program, offered in collaboration with especially seeing the smiles of the children.” Al Qur’an, which offers intensive courses in theology, spirituality and community building. UNITED IN THEIR INTEREST IN BEES Al-Ninowy and several students, all wearing broad caps with veils of netting Abu Zakaria grew up in a Muslim family in China, and heavy gloves, approached the hives. Abu Zakaria lined up the “smokers,” where his maternal family kept bees. “I spent a number volunteers who puff smoke out of small metal containers on short poles. “Smoke of summers at my grandparents’ place, witnessing calms bees,” he explained. “Then I’ll pull up the frames and we will use blowers beekeeping and the honey harvest, but I never kept to blow the bees off.” bees myself,” he stated. Today he works in the supply-chain field as direc “When you go there, say ‘Bismillah. Assalamu alaikum,’ Shaykh Al-Ninowy suggested. “And ask them for permission to take their honey. It’s their food.” tor of planning and purchasing for Design House “They are really generous and hard-working,” Imam Shafiq told the students. in Mequon. “About five years ago, I discovered a “They produce much more than they need, al-hamdu lillah.” beekeeping club in Milwaukee, and I thought, I can Student volunteers shaved off the honeycombs’ surface and put them in the pick up where I left off many years ago,” he said. Abu spinner. Some handed the sweet shavings to younger children, telling them Zakaria has been keeping bees on his own for the to “try this sweet candy.” A few women took turns at the crank, spinning the past five years. 28 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
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Learning with a Touch of Amber
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Imam Shafiq’s interest in bees has been growing ever since he participated in a beekeeping program in 1987 as a university student in Pakistan. “It was only a few weeks, but I learned a lot about beekeeping and bees,” he related. “Since then, I have been inspired to learn more about bees. I always love to go to talks about honey and bees. When I came to the U.S. I found out there are many people who do this,” he added. “There is a family about a 10-minute drive from here. I used to buy honey from them and talk to them. I learned a lot from them.” When the imam’s daughter Aiman was a high school junior, she did a project about how signals
emitted by cell phones cause a decline in the number of bees. In doing that proj ect, “we developed a closer connection with this family and we started learning more about that,” he remarked. Meanwhile, four years ago Abu Zakaria joined Al Qur’an’s Madina Program as a student,” Imam Shafiq said. He invited the imam to visit and see his beehives, which he did several times. Last year Imam Shafiq asked him if he thought the Al Qur’an community could keep its own bees. After considering the educational benefits for youth and the entire community, Imam Shafiq decided it would create “a hands-on learning opportunity.”
LEARNING BY DOING
Al Qur’an, after receiving permission from the City of Milwaukee for two hives, ordered a kit online that included a queen bee for each hive and 2 or 3 pounds of worker bees. The kit arrived just before Ramadan in mid-April. “We put the bees in the hive on April 13,” Abu Zakaria said. “The bees mostly do their own work from there.” However, he had to feed them until the spring flowers blossomed. He made a syrup of water, sugar and pollen patties that he bought online. That kept them happy until natural nectar and pollen were available. When Al Qur’an held its three-week summer camp in June, the students vis ited the hives and learned about bees. “At the same time, we started this garden,” Imam Shafiq said, pointing to a nearby vegetable patch. “We teach them how to plant the seeds and grow vegetables. Al-hamdu lillah, we see interest from some of our students.” Students also picked cherries from the orchard’s trees. “Last summer we had these trees full of cherries, and the summer school kids loved picking them,” he stated. “And last month we had our first honey harvest,” he added. “I was expecting eight or 10 jars of honey. Ma sha Allah, there were eight or 10 gallons, much more than I expected. “Students and the community participated and learned from it. We want them to spend some time away from their gadgets and do something productive that engages them mentally and physically. We can do more than this. We can get parents involved and bring people from the community to participate.” “We can learn so much from the bees,” said Dr. Fatima Hendricks (assistant professor of occupational therapy, Chicago State University), who attended the event. “Seeing how the bees collaborate and work together to create honey inspires me to think about what people could do if we put in a collective effort.” ih Sandra Whitehead is an author, journalist and long-time adjunct instructor of journalism and media studies in the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.
Dr. Muhammad bin Yahya Al-Ninowy gives a hand to a student
[Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in the Wisconsin Muslim Journal, a project of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition.]
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 29
How to Evaluate Books for Young Readers The five rules educators need to follow before evaluating and recommending YA books BY AMANI SALAHUDEEN
on what they are reading, which teaches them how to take notes while they read and helps them understand what they’re reading. Often, students will read a book relatively fast and then forget what they have read. Annotating with different colored tabs will help them recall a specific scene or chapter. Students who love to read experience abundant benefits. As educators, English literature teachers (or even homeroom teachers) should recommend books. While pursuing a Master’s in Education and gaining practical experience via substitute teaching, I’ve created a list of five essential rules that educa tors need to evaluate and recommend YA books to their students. Know your students’ comprehension level. This is critical, for some students read above their level and others read below it. The rest read at the standard level. There are multiple options for children who read at various levels. Incorporate your students’ interest. Do your students prefer audio books, graphic novels or phys ical books? Whichever one they prefer, encourage them to read and foster their love of reading. Get them involved in the classroom library by assigning them such tasks as stamping books out and check ing them out if your students are in middle or high school. The book’s format doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they discover their favorite books or read a new author. Doing so will cause their horizons to expand. Perhaps they will even discover a new favorite author. Diversify your shelves. As your students come
eading is one of the best forms of escapism. With Covid-19 still not off our backs, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER STUDENTS it’s a way for students to learn about different cultures, get off social media and increase LISTEN TO AUDIOBOOKS OR ACTUALLY READ one’s vocabulary and comprehension. Educators A BOOK, ALL READING IS VALID. THE MAIN should know what their students are already reading to understand them. Students who read frequently OBJECTIVE IS GETTING THEM TO READ have lower stress levels than students who do not AND TO BE ENGAGED WITH THE read. This activity also enables them to embrace their cultures and sometimes transport themselves to a MATERIAL WHILE READING IT. whole new world. It can be difficult to get students to exchange binge-watching the next Netflix episode of their favorite show with reading. Many shows are adapted from books, and thus from all backgrounds and cultures, remember to students can learn a lot more by reading than they can by watching. Binge- curate your classroom library appropriately. Ensure watching might be tempting, but it can neither improve their mental health that you have authors from different cultures and nor their communication skills. What teachers need to do is find a way to make religions so your students can learn to appreciate reading fun too. For example, if students complete X number of books, then one another’s differences. Students should learn to their class earns a pizza party or a homework pass. However, in the rewards embrace their identities and that being different is category, especially Islamic schools should be wary of corporate promotional not a bad thing. Educators who take the time to have sponsorship, which is usually aimed at drawing children toward their (often) a variety of books will help shape their students into well-rounded individuals. unhealthy processed foods. Regardless of whether students listen to audiobooks or actually read a book, Utilize the correct pedagogy. Pedagogy is the all reading is valid. The main objective is getting them to read and to be engaged practice of teaching an academic concept. In addi with the material while reading it. Annotating their books helps them keep tabs tion to fostering a love of reading, select books that 30 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
will keep your students engaged. Teach them how to determine what makes a book good literature. It’s not enough for students to just like reading; they should be taught how to critically analyze what they read. Did the book win any awards? This is another way to ensure that you’re providing your students with quality books. There are many such awards for YA fiction novels, among them the William C. Morris Award, Pura Belpre Award, Coretta Scott King Award, Alex Awards, Odyssey Award, Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature and the Carnegie Medal. For example, S.K. Ali’s “Saints and Misfits” won a Morris Award, the APALA Honor Award and the Middle East Book Honor Award. Furthermore, broaden your students’ horizons by stocking your classroom library with a variety of books. Get your students reading YA fiction involved by asking them to suggest books that should be acquired. Assign students on a rotating basis to be the classroom librarian. Make them part of the pro cess of deciding which books should be added or discarded. Perhaps the discarded book could be given to a student, after receiving his/her parents’ consent, or donated to a local library. A classroom library is essential to a student’s success in mastering the English language. Label the books alphabetically, have a suggestion box so students can request specific books and allow them (at the teacher’s discretion) to snack while reading. Letting students read outside of class helps them develop a love for reading and use their imagination. With the right guidance from a teacher, students can also learn how to analyze literature and write a report based on what they have read. Students who read are more likely to be able to focus longer than those who don’t read. They also have stronger memory skills, can remember what occurred in the book and can often better understand the world around them. Reading exposes students to other writing styles and voices, allows them to empa thize with others and can lower their blood pressure and heart rate. Reading has other benefits as well, among them relieving their depression, helping them become better writers and increasing their knowledge. Following these five rules ensures that students will become well-rounded individuals. If they read diverse material and authors, it would be impossible for them not to become better people. ih Amani Salahudeen, who is pursuing a Master’s in secondary English education, has a B.A. in journalism and professional writing from The College of New Jersey. Sources: Gregory, M. (2008). “Planning and Organizing,” from Creating a Classroom Library. Retrieved December 1, 2008, from http:// www.mandygregory.com/classroom_library1.htm. National Council of Teachers of English. (2006). Resolution on preparing and certifying teachers with knowledge of children’s and adolescent literature. Urbana, IL: NCTE.
Teaching the Islamic Perspective of Health to Muslim Youth Secular and Islamic approaches to health issues don’t always provide the same answers BY AMBER KHAN
earning about health is especially important for youth. Therefore, most public schools require such a class in order to address common youth-based topics like puberty, bullying, relationships, suicide, intoxicants, sexuality, body image, hygiene and fitness. Islamic institutions offer min imal aspects of health education, especially when it comes to sexual health. A survey, conducted in 2014 by Sobia Ali-Faisal, Ph.D., cofounder, MAC Research: Excavating Truth to Create Cultural Change, University of Windsor, revealed that 4.2% of Muslim youth reported receiving sex educa tion from their mosque, compared to 72.6% in school. Moreover, they reported that their greatest source was the media and their parents were the least likely source of such information. Most Muslim youth living in the West acquire this type of knowledge from secular resources.
Meriem Benlamri’s infographic, based on Sobia Faisal-Ali’s research (Chelby Daigle, The Muslim Link)
THE DRAWBACKS OF SECULAR HEALTH EDUCATION
I taught a health class at an Islamic school for several years using a medically accurate, age-appropriate and compre hensive public-school health textbook.
However, I found two major drawbacks to using only secular health resources. Muslim Youth Need Islamic Health Teachings. According to Muslims, religion and science are not mutually exclusive because Islam is congruent with all forms of knowledge, especially health. For example, reproductive and sexual health (e.g., menstruation, pub e r t y, hy g i e ne, no c tu r na l emissions, intimacy, family planning and consent) is one of the two most heavily discussed topics in Islamic jurisprudence. No other religion even comes close in this regard. Islamic health education encourages sexual responsibility by: ➤ Explaining intergender rela tions, instilling inner and outer mod esty, avoiding sexually explicit content, lowering one’s gaze and learning the physical, social, mental and spiritual risks of indulging in casual sex. ➤ Emphasizing that personal autonomy is based on our bodies being an amana (trust from God), unlike secular health, which often prioritizes personal autonomy based on self-in terest, and addresses cultural stigmas and discrimination (e.g., talking to a mental health professional) and social health issues (e.g., racism and mistreat ing women). ➤ Using tazkiya (spiritual purifica tion) to endure personal struggles such as coping with grief, divorce, abuse, body image and personality struggles (e.g., gossiping, anger or envy). ➤ Addressing Muslim youths’ unique health issues. A 2016 research study by the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), called “Meeting the Needs of
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EDUCATION Muslim Youth: Preventing and Treating Drug Use,” reports that all youth deal with the same challenges (e.g., sexual desire and substance use). However, Muslim youth have unique issues, among them anti-Islamic sen timent that leads to bullying, discrimination and racial profiling, as well as struggling to understand drug legalization, transgender and other contemporary issues). ISPU researcher Zeba Iqbal writes “If parents and community leaders wish to help young Muslims make sense of these issues in light of normative Islamic teachings, they must address these topics head on. Muslim educators are valuable in starting these con versations.” (“Meeting the Needs of Muslim Youth: Preventing and Treating Drug Use,” January 13, 2016). Health Concepts Don’t Always Align with Islamic Principles. In secular health classes and publications, health topics are often presented as American cultural issues, whereas Islam defines them as moral issues. This includes dating and pre-marital sex; the right to con sume alcohol, tobacco, or other substances after a certain age; viewing pornography and “adult material” as an acceptable form of exploration and enjoyment; and putting self-desire and individualism above God. Additionally, some health topics are pre sented as social justice issues, such as samesex attraction and gender dysphoria. Secular health resources promote these discussions as “identities” and as the only acceptable view. Islam has its own understanding, and Islamic health can provide that discussion. Subjectknowledge experts Mobeen Vaid and Waheed Jensen write, “Robust curricula must be devel oped for the teaching of an Islamic sexual and gender ethic, one that authentically draws on the Islamic legal, ethical, theological, and spiritual traditions … Much of this work has not even started and in other cases remains severely underdeveloped” (“And the Male Is Not like the Female: Sunni Islam and Gender Nonconformity,” Dec. 30, 2020).
The way health issues are taught to Muslim youth may lead to negative influences and con fusion. A 2001 research study by Dr. Sameera Ahmed (executive director, The Family & Youth Institute), found that 54% of Muslim American college students have engaged in premarital sex. A 2014 survey by Dr. Sobia AliFaisal reported that 67% of North American Muslims aged 17-35 have done so as well. Of the remaining, 50% had considered it.
indoctrinated into thinking that Islam is in the wrong or needs to be updated when its principles clash with common secular practices. Some of them even begin to doubt Islam’s truths to the extent that they leave it. A 2015 Pew Research study found that approximately 20% of those raised as Muslim do not identify as Muslim in adulthood. Just being Muslim or attending an Islamic school isn’t enough. Muslim youth deserve evidence-based answers when asking about the underlying wisdom behind Islamic rul ings. To date, no Islamic institutions teach a comprehensive health program with Islamic values. As parents, educators and commu nity members, we must become proactive and encourage Islamic institutions to offer such programs.
TEACHING HEALTH WITH ISLAM
The Family and Youth Institute’s infographic
JUST BEING MUSLIM OR ATTENDING AN ISLAMIC SCHOOL ISN’T ENOUGH. MUSLIM YOUTH DESERVE EVIDENCE-BASED ANSWERS WHEN ASKING ABOUT THE UNDERLYING WISDOM BEHIND ISLAMIC RULINGS. TO DATE, NO ISLAMIC INSTITUTIONS TEACH A COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH PROGRAM WITH ISLAMIC VALUES. Ahmed also found that Muslim American college students have consumed alcohol (46.2%), used illicit drugs (24.6%), smoked tobacco products (37.3%) and gambled (30.4%). Similarly, ISPU’s 2020 American Muslim Poll found that 37% of Muslim Americans know a fellow Muslim who is currently or has struggled with alcohol or other drug addictions. Muslim youth may not only feel enticed to engage in such practices, but some are
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The Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) Companions dealt with the same health issues as do today’s Muslim youth, and he offered them real answers and solutions. For instance, Zahir bin Haram struggled with his body image. The Prophet built up his confidence by telling him God valued him. He defended Al-Nuayman ibn Amr, who had an alcohol problem, by telling those who cursed him to hate the sin, not the sinner. Even the Prophet struggled during his year-long sadness, occasioned by the deaths of Khadija and Abu Talib, by relying on God and the community for emotional support. In addition, he taught the young Fadl ibn Al-‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib to take personal responsibility for controlling his sexual urges by lowering his gaze, and encouraged Madinan women to have no qualms about their strong personalities and inquisitive minds. Health education that centers the Muslim narrative is the basis of my book series, “Islamic Health,” the first of its kind to address our youth’s most common health questions. Written as a preventive inter vention — putting the Islamic way of life at the forefront of its answers — it teaches our youth to prioritize their overall well-being, for doing may make them more likely to practice Islam with confidence and thus less likely to engage in risky behavior. The series’ first book, “Islamic Health Book I: Ages 9 and Up,” deals with commu nity engagement and rights, puberty, men struation, hygiene, self-esteem, diet, fitness,
bullying, racism, online safety, gaming and other topics. It has been endorsed by The Family & Youth Institute (FYI), the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA), the Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA) and the Muslim American Society Youth Ministry (MASYM).
Can Education Solve All Our Problems?
Is the lack of reading culture in Muslim societies connected to the approaches to education? BY SAULAT PERVEZ
P Endorsements with Testimonials Photo
The series’ second book, “Islamic Health Book II: Ages 14 and Up,” covers common reproductive illnesses, controlling sexual desire, intoxicants, mental illness, sexual violence, women’s rights, the marital process, genderism, same-sex attraction, controlling one nafs (desires) and more. Both volumes were content edited by Duaa Haggag (LPC and FYI community edu cator). Dr. Waheed Jensen, a subject-knowl edge expert on same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria, content edited those two chapters, and Xhengis Aliu (creative director, The Islamic Medical Association of North America) created the graphics. “Islamic Health” can be taught in Islamic schools, weekend schools, youth study cir cles as well as by parents to their child at home. Both books include a teacher walkthrough section with pacing guides and chapter planning guides, section activities to fuel thinking and character development, as well as supplemental resources that elab orate upon key concepts. The series will be available early 2022. I hope this resource will open the door to having conversations with our youth that will not only put them in the driver’s seat, but will also provide them with evidence-based health answers that are appropriate to their continued development as both spiritual and moral beings. ih Amber Khan, D.O., is a health educator for Muslim communities. For updates on “Islamic Health,” follow @islamichealthseries on Instagram or contact her at IslamicHealthEducation@gmail.com.
eople often say that there is no reading culture in Muslim countries. You also frequently hear that education is the solution to all our problems. Yet, we hardly ever probe these catchphrases to understand the obstacles hampering read ing culture or what sort of education would resolve our dilemmas. Having lived and worked in Karachi, Pakistan, for more than a decade, as a parent and a teacher, gave me insight into some of the underlying issues impacting the lack of reading culture in Muslim societies and how education may be connected to it.
BUMPS ON THE ROAD TO READING
For me, reading has always been something very personal. My first experience of sharing my love for reading happened when I became a mother. There is immense satisfaction in enjoying a stack of books with your toddler and knowing that they care for neither toys nor cartoons in that given time! Or when you go upstairs after wrapping up housework and you find them quietly reading in bed before falling asleep! In contrast, when I took up teaching, I was not able to similarly inspire my students despite my zeal for reading. In fact, I was not prepared for a lot of my eighth and ninth grad ers’ rather apathetic and blasé attitude toward reading. What surprised me even more was when my daughter — who attended the same school — began to lose interest in reading. Yet, every day I witnessed teachers like myself diligently working to stimulate student interest in reading and literature through classroom instruction, extracurricular activities and library blocks — you name it. Many of my students fell behind on their reading and no amount of “extra help” enabled them to do well in class. Worse, they were unable to think critically and move beyond the shell of the written story. Those who excelled were the readers – they not only enjoyed the thinking exercises but also, at times, refined my understanding of the text. Clearly, these were my gifted and talented students. However, I became haunted by the ones for whom I couldn’t make a difference. I started researching about developing thinking skills in students from an early age
and began studying early childhood educa tional theories, only to realize the answers lay closer to home. When my daughter, a third grader, announced, “Mama, books are boring!” deep down I knew that if I didn’t help her now, she would go on to become just like one of my students who were disinterested in reading. I selected books that I wanted her to read and began reading them aloud to her and my son, who was only 15 months younger than her. Soon, bedtime became a breeze and eventually I saw that they would finish the book themselves. Gradually, my daughter got back on track with independent reading, and I did not have any trouble with my son’s reading trajectory. This experience made me wonder: if it worked for my children, what about others? Digging into research, I was amazed to find the importance of reading aloud through out the grades. Further, it wasn’t a coinci dence that my daughter found reading dif ficult in third grade. Research shows that third grade is when schoolwork becomes taxing and if students are not able to keep up with it, it leads to the “fourth-grade slump,” a decrease in reading scores (https:// www.ccf.ny.gov/files/9013/8262/2751/ AECFReporReadingGrade3.pdf). But here’s the thing: the fourth-grade slump mostly affects children of lower socioeconomic status. My daughter, like my students, hailed from the middle-class with plenty of privilege and access. After all, they attended private schools! What was going on here?
THE MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION
In some parts of the Muslim world, they are called international schools. But in Pakistan, due to the rapid deterioration of public schools, a crop of (commercially-run) pri vate schools began flourishing in the 1990s. Catering to a predominantly middle-class
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EDUCATION clientele, these schools mainly adopted the British educational system and English as the medium of instruction. They worked diligently to provide the necessary elements for their students’ academic success, such as proper infrastructure, committed teachers, involved parents, school libraries and regular extracurricular activities. This model was already functioning effec tively in elite schools, where we can find a thriving literary culture. However, there is one glitch. Unlike their cosmopolitan elite counterparts, middle-class families do not largely speak in English at home. Indeed, middle-class students in Karachi attend English-medium private schools during the day and come home to an environment where they — like my daughter — predominantly speak in Urdu or their regional language. Without proper support, students fall through
Reading for pleasure, unfortunately, falls by the wayside. The formation of creative and critical thinking skills also become stunted in this exam-centric educational system. This dichotomy between home and school languages exists in the low fee private schools as well as the public school system. In fact, illiteracy in Pakistan is related to the core problem of medium of instruction too: when a child speaks one language at home and is taught in another at school, with hardly any support at home together with a lack of resources, research shows that the result is either in-school children with little to no learning or steep dropout rates. Instruction in a multilingual context is a complicated issue. For many, English may be a third or fourth language; for instance, Urdu is not the first language for most Pakistanis. While educators prefer the stability of a tried-
MIDDLE-TIER PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN KARACHI — AND OF COURSE, IN MANY POST-COLONIAL URBAN CENTERS ACROSS THE WORLD — HAVE TRIED AND FAILED FOR DECADES TO ACHIEVE SCHOOLWIDE READING CULTURE DESPITE ALL THE PERKS! ONE OF THE REASONS IS THAT DEVELOPING COUNTRIES HAVE BEEN TAKING RESEARCH FROM WESTERN, MONOLINGUAL COUNTRIES AND APPLYING IT WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THE BILINGUAL AND MULTILINGUAL CONTEXT. the cracks because at one point achieving grade-level bilingual literacy is not enough. Neither are committed teachers, engaged parents, quality infrastructure or access to books, apparently. Middle-tier private schools in Karachi — and, of course, in many post-colonial urban centers across the world — have tried and failed for decades to achieve schoolwide read ing culture despite all the perks! One of the reasons is that developing countries have been taking research from Western, monolingual countries and applying it without understand ing the bilingual and multilingual context. Although students in these middle-tier schools gain early bilingual literacy (English and Urdu), too many students eventually lose interest in reading in either language, except for a gifted minority. As the texts become more complicated, basic proficiency in the English language is no longer adequate and the constant translation in the head becomes quite a chore. Due to their privilege, mid dle-class students have access to private tutors and tuition centers whose assistance enables them to successfully enter higher education.
and-tested (colonial) educational system, par ents also see English as a ticket for their child’s bright future. However, language is intimately connected with a nation’s reading, writing and thinking cultures. When we produce individ uals who achieve only basic competency in English, Urdu/native language, etc., we are sacrificing deep learning, analytical skills and writing proficiency. These are the ingredients that bring progress, not just learning how to read and write. And yet, for too long policymakers have been creating a perfect arc between literacy and development when the reality is that we need to focus on important mediators such as how to nurture society-wide reading culture, idea generation and knowledge production for the country to advance. Examining the challenges encountered by the literacy-rich and resourcerich middle class in the attainment of reading culture will give vital clues to fully understand ing and resolving this conundrum. ih Saulat Pervez, a writer, educator and researcher, delivered a shorter version of this article in a presentation at the 2019 World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Doha, Qatar. Email: email@example.com
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Funding Educ Endowments
Can zakat be used to support end BY JASSER AUDA
ne commonly asked question is who is eligible to receive zakat? Among the many options available there are waqf (endowments), where the return on investment goes to an Islamic education program or college. In other words, can the zakat fund become a waqf fund? Quran 9:60 (trans. Muhammad Asad) states: “The offerings given for the sake of God are [meant] only for the poor and the needy, and those who are in charge thereof, and those whose hearts are to be won over, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage, and [for] those who are over burdened with debts, and [for every struggle] in God’s cause, and [for] the wayfarer: [this is] an ordinance from God — and God is all-knowing, wise.” Thus, spending zakat funds on buildings, books, teachers, students, computers and related expenses also comes under the cate gory of legitimate zakat receivers, specifically under the category of “in God’s cause.” There is no significant difference of opinion about this among contemporary scholars, even if the students receiving the scholarship or the books aren’t poor or if the teachers who receive compensation or computers aren’t needy. It is a condition, however, that the college receiving it be trustworthy and have a mission of advancing true Islamic education and knowledge. On the other hand, setting up an endow ment is a highly rewarded charitable act, and especially important when it comes to support ing Islamic education. Abu Hurayra narrated that the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “When a man dies, his good deeds come to an end except three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, and righteous offspring who will pray for him” (“Muslim”). Commenting on this hadith, Imam An-Nawawi said, “The scholars said, the meaning of this hadith is that the deeds of the deceased come to an end as soon as he or she dies, and the renewal of reward ceases for him or her, except in these three cases because he or she is the cause of them: his or her off spring is counted among his or her earnings; the knowledge that he or she leaves behind through teaching or writing; ongoing charity, i.e., a waqf (Islamic endowment).” In my view, establishing such endow ments is required (wajib) because these are the only means we have to protect another
dowments for Islamic education?
But can a zakat fund be transformed into an investment or a waqf fund? Why not? The Sharia says nothing about giving one’s zakat to an endow ment that achieves the same objectives and intents (maqasid) of the zakat and benefits the same cate gory of recipients in the best way. However, several objections must be addressed here. First, zakat must be given to the receivers themselves so they can own it immediately (tamalluk fawri). This rules out its being received by an organization or an investment firm. Several notable contemporary scholars, among them Sheikhs Wahba al-Zuhayli, Abdullah Alwan, Mohammad Taqi Uthmani and others agree with this ruling. However, Sheikhs Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Mustafa al-Zarqa, Abdul-Fattah Abu-Ghuddah, Abdul-Aziz al-Khayyat, Abdussalam al-Abbadi, Mohammad Faruq Nabhan and many other nota ble contemporary scholars oppose it (Islamic Fiqh Academy, Third Council, Amman, October 1986). After much debate, the council finally issued an official decision allowing it. That fatwa contained two conditions: (1) The urgent needs of the poor and the needy must
WITH ALL DUE RESPECT TO THE SCHOLARS, I SEE THE QUESTION HERE AS: IS THE DONATED PROPERTY OR FUND’S PRE-OWNERSHIP A DEFINITE CONDITION (SHART), OR DO WE HAVE PRECEDENTS OF ENDOWMENTS THAT WERE NOT OWNED BY A SPECIFIC WAQIF (DONOR)? THE ANSWER IS “YES, WE DO.” wajib (obligation), namely, academic freedom. Such an endowment supports the academic activities of an Islamic education institute, and its board of directors (or equivalent body) will make sincere and independent decisions on how to spend its return on this type of education. Without such an endowment, with support coming only from individuals, organizations or governments, the recipients will normally be subject to stated or unstated conditions and con straints, meaning to the donors’ interests. We see this today in many Islamic institutions, especially in Muslim-majority countries where many histor ically renowned Islamic institutes no longer enjoy academic freedom and scholarly integrity due to sponsor-imposed conditions and government pressure, even to extent of issuing certain fatwas. But if the funds go to a truly independent endowment and the board’s decision is also independent, then the educational process can be sincere only to God, Islam and the umma’s best interests. As only endowments can guarantee such freedom, donating to one that funds Islamic edu cation becomes obligatory (wajib) or, more accu rately, a collective obligation (wajib kifaya). In other words, several believers must fulfill this obligation or else all believers will be called to account.
not be compromised and (2) precautions must be taken so that the zakat funds are not lost in the investment process. The first condition only applies only to awqaf and investments for the poor and the needy — the fi sabil Allah category, not the al-fuqara’ wal-masakin category. On the other hand, the second condition could be achieved when zakat funds are given to educational awqaf institutions with proper planning, investing, accounting and auditing. Similarly, a waqf’s managers are the delegates (wukala’) of the community, which is the ultimate receiver of these funds in any case. Another related question addresses the maqasid (intents) of the above transactions: If the purpose of investing zakat funds is to achieve the funds’ growth and sustainability, then these purposes are achieved in an even better way with a waqf investment — far better than a charitable organization purchasing a small business or an investment property. If these two conditions are met, then zakat funds can be received, invested and then spent on the same causes and categories for which they were given. Another objection to investing zakat funds in an endowment is the ruling of many scholars that
one of the conditions (shurut) for an endowment is that a specific donor (waqif) must actually own the donated property or fund and then transfer its ownership to a waqf. However, the zakat’s donor doesn’t actually own the fund, nor does the recip ient organization – at least so goes the objection. That is why several scholars who allowed zakat to be invested, among them Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, excluded waqf from such investments. With all due respect to the scholars, I see the question here as: Is the donated property or fund’s pre-ownership a definite condition (shart), or do we have precedents of endowments that were not owned by a specific waqif (donor)? The answer is “Yes, we do.” For example, ‘Umar ibn al-Khat tab and ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan (‘alayhum rahmat) transformed some of the “conquered land” into “endowed land” (waqf, habs) by governmental authority and without owning such land them selves. That is why scholars have always consid ered the Palestinian land endowed by ‘Umar to be awqaf that cannot be sold or changed. However, jurists differ about whether waqf al-imam (an endowment initiated by a ruler) or waqf al-irsaad (a trust initiated by a gover nor) is a legitimate waqf. They debated whether an analogy (qiyas) with ‘Umar and ‘Uthman’s decisions is a correct one. Some jurists ruled that an irsad is not a proper waqf because the governor doesn’t actually own the trust before designating it, while others say that a governor is a legitimate delegate (wakil) for the umma, which is the ultimate owner of the public funds, and therefore has the authority to initiate a waqf. I find the latter opinion to be more correct as, along with them, I consider it to be closer to the public interest (maslaha). Similarly, a waqf’s directors are the delegates (wukala’) of the community, which is the ultimate receiver of these funds in any case. Therefore, they have the authority to initiate awqaf from the zakat funds they manage for the recipients’ best interests. Zakat can be used to support a trustworthy Islamic education institute and given to a waqf endowment that supports such an institute. Setting up an endowment for Islamic education is a collective obligation (wajib kifa’i) to ensure academic integrity and freedom. However, the following conditions apply: (1) No conditions shall be attached that compromise the integrity and freedom of Islamic education and research; (2) precautions shall be taken to invest the funds efficiently to ensure the accuracy of all related planning, accounting and auditing; (3) donors shall be informed of the waqf investment of their zakat, and that its managing authority is delegated to act on behalf of the zakat recipients and in their best interest. ih (NOTE: * This fatwa its author’s opinion and does not necessarily represent the opinion of institutions or fatwa academies of which he is a member.) Jasser Auda is president of Maqasid Institute, www.maqasid.org
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ISLAM IN AMERICA
Bosnians Completing the Muslim American Mosaic The amazing story of the Bosnian American Muslims who safeguarded their faith despite a century of systematic and horrifying persecution— BY MISBAHUDDIN MIRZA
Imam Idriz Budimlic
he leaves on the trees around the pretty Bosnian mosque in Queens, N.Y., had turned a bright claret hue, as if they wanted to join the ongoing cel ebrations within. The mosque was all lit up and brimming with a festive mood. People dressed up in fine clothes were streaming in, as were huge trays of food. Giggling children were chasing each other. Tonight, New York’s Bosnian Muslims were celebrating two events — the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) birthday and the mosque’s tenth anniversary. Girls in matching bright, crimson satin hijabs and flowing jilbabs glittering with sequins sang naats and sent duroods and salaams on the Prophet. The imam and guest speakers spoke of the Prophet’s life in Bosnian. A sumptuous dinner followed. Local Bosnian Muslims purchased this mosque for $850,000 in cash, thereby avoid ing interest. Real-estate values have since almost doubled in this area. To date, Bosnian Muslims have established nine mosques in New York and 55 nationwide. What makes these spectacular successes in such a short
A student ensemble recites the Milad
time so mindboggling is that these Bosnians not only survived Tito’s highly repressive communist regime, but also the only UN recognized post-WW2 genocide in Europe. Even after a century of sheer horror, they have maintained strong ties to Islam and the rest of the umma. This community has also started making a difference on the American political scene. Anesa Kajtazovic, born in Bihac, Bosnia, relocated to the U.S. when she was ten. Thirteen years later, she became the youngest woman ever elected to the Iowa legislature to represent her district (2011-15). She also ran, unsuccessfully, for a Congressional seat in the June 2014 primaries. Dr. Harun Karčić, editor and host of a foreign affairs show on Al Jazeera’s Balkan-language channel, made a short YouTube documentary for Georgetown University’s Berkley Centre for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. He explained in the movie’s discussion webinar that under Tito, Muslims were prevented from practicing Islam to such an extent that even the nikah was banned. This
36 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
reportedly caused many Bosnian Muslims to leave Islamic practices — alcohol, pork consumption and interreligious marriages became common. When the Serbs started killing the Muslims, the nonpracticing Muslims realized that they were being targeted because of their names. In Karčić’s movie, Dr. Zuhdija Adilović said he had just completed his Master’s degree in Saudi Arabia when the war broke out in Bosnia. According to him, the “great est advantage was, if we can call it as such, was that the war broke out under intense media attention, which managed to unite the entire umma for the first time, and Muslims from around the world who had never heard of Bosnia wanted to know how they could help.” Islamic Horizons spoke with Imam Idriz Budimlić and Vahid Durmic, a Bosnian sol dier who served in the war and is one of the Queens (N.Y.) masjid’s past presidents. Imam Budimlic served as imam, khatib and mu’alim for 14 years at MIZ Zenica, and pro fessor of Islamic studies in ZE-DO Canton, both in Bosnia. He holds a master’s degree
A Milad gathering at the mosque
BOSNIAN MUSLIMS SUCH AS IMAM BUDIMLIĆ AND DURMIC STRONGLY FEEL THAT THE DAYTON AGREEMENT SHOULD BE IMMEDIATELY REPLACED OR REFORMED SO THE BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT, FINALLY FREED FROM SERBIAN INTERFERENCE, CAN DEVELOP THE COUNTRY’S INFRASTRUCTURE AND ECONOMY. THIS, THEY CONTEND, WOULD STEM THE MASS EMIGRATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE AND, HOPEFULLY, ALLOW THE COUNTRY TO SURVIVE AND PROSPER. from Zenica’s Pedagogical Faculty. For the last six years he has been the imam, khatib and mu’alim of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Islamic Center in New York. Bosnia, a mountainous country in southeastern Europe with the Dinaric Alps stretching along its western border, is slightly smaller than West Virginia. Half of the coun try is covered by forests, and natural springs and wildlife are present everywhere. It has a small 15-mile-wide panhandle access to the Adriatic Sea. The Bosnians embraced Islam while under Ottoman rule. Nineteen-year-old Vahid Durmic was finishing his year of mandatory military service in the Yugoslav army when war broke out. Just before the war, Belgrade ordered all hunting rifles to be deposited
at the police stations under the pretext of routine inspections. Durmic joined the Bosnian army to defend the Muslims being attacked by the Yugoslav army-backed Serbian paramilitary forces. Finding themselves unarmed and under vicious attack, the Bosnians scoured their attics and found a few vintage World War I guns and a few single bullet M-48 rifles, with which they started resisting the heav ily equipped Serbian units. Soon they were approached by Serbian middlemen who sold them AK-47 assault rifle(s) in exchange for cow(s) or the equivalent of $1,000 cash per AK-47 rifle along with a box of 200 bullets. With these weapons, the Bosnian Muslims fought better and gradually started capturing enemy equipment.
Once the Bosnians realized that the West would not come to their rescue, they turned to Muslim countries for help. Regrettably, Iraq and Libya were helping the Serbs. Only Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey helped Bosnia. Saudi Arabia provided money for food and arms purchases and Iran supplied the much-needed heavy weapons to fight back. Turkey’s then-secular government, however, dragged its feet in sending any meaningful help. When the Bosnian Muslims, now armed with modern weapons, took the fight to the oppressors and quickly started making rapid gains on the ground, the West imposed the lopsided Dayton Agreement. The war-related deaths and mass migra tion caused a huge decline in the country’s population. Balkaninsight.com’s “Bosnia Powerless to Halt Demographic Decline” pro vides the graph, shown below, and explains, “According to the United Nations, unless something changes, Bosnia’s population could shrivel to 3.05 million by 2050, which would be some 29 per cent less than just before the war.” Bosnia’ fertility rate fell from 2.8 births/ woman in 1971 to 1.2 births/woman in 2020, thereby exacerbating the problem. This 1.2 rate is also one of the world’s lowest. “Assuming zero emigration, for the population in any area to remain stable, an overall fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman is required. However, depending on the rate of emigration, this figure could be reached much sooner.” This rapidly declining population has now become an existential threat. Durmic stated that the present governmental struc ture of three simultaneous presidents is caus ing massive emigration and low birthrates, for the Serbs stonewall all plans to create jobs for Bosnian Muslims. Bosnian Muslims such as Imam Budimlić and Durmic strongly feel that the Dayton Agreement should be immedi ately replaced or reformed so the Bosnian government, finally freed from Serbian interference, can develop the country’s infrastructure and economy. This, they contend, would stem the mass emigration of young people and, hopefully, allow the country to survive and prosper. ih Misbahuddin Mirza, M.S., P.E., is a licensed professional engineer, registered in the states of 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. He is the author of the iBook “Illustrated Muslim Travel Guide to Jerusalem” and has written for major U.S. and Indian publications.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 37
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Muslim Americans Get Dolled Are children affected by playing with toys that don’t look like them? BY SARAH PERVEZ
rowing up in Pakistan, I played with As an exasperated Canadian Pakistani mother once said, “My 4-year-old daugh dolls that looked nothing like me. They had ter wants blue eyes just like Elsa from Frozen. And I don’t know how to make her blonde hair, blue eyes and porcelain white understand that her brown eyes are just as beautiful, if not more.” skin. I had black hair, which I covered with a hijab when I grew up, brown eyes and coffee-col PUSHING BACK ored skin. Nothing about Barbie resembled my life, Yasmina Blackburn is an activist, doll collector and mother of a girl who loved from the doll itself to her miniskirts to the lifestyle the American Girl doll collection. A little over a decade ago, the Chicago promoted in her books and movies. Her life was a resident wrote a letter to the then American Girl Doll president asking fantasy for a little girl growing up in the suburbs the company to include Muslim American representation in their lineup. Blackburn didn’t want her 8-year-old, who is now 20, to feel left out. of Karachi. American Girl wrote back saying they weren’t planning to introduce a Some 30 years later, I now live on the other side of the world in a country described as a melting pot doll with religious values, despite having one with a Jewish background. of cultures and identities. Here, the evolution of toy Undeterred, Blackburn began advocating in other ways, among them shelves has been painfully slow and we finally have a speaking to various doll owners and building an online community few POC representations. But sometimes, the cultural that kept demanding that companies diversify their products. representations, however well-intended, are so off the Blackburn believes that a company as big as Mattel — the world’s mark and stereotypical that one wonders why they second largest toy maker in terms of revenue — plays a role in influ even bothered. encing and shaping the behavior of society and how non-main So, Mattel’s American Girl’s stream identities are perceived. Seeing Eid al-Fitr celebration outfit different cultural representations on was a bit of a surprise. The outfit the shelves helps to normalize those designed for their 18-inch doll images in homes, classrooms and SEEING DIFFERENT comprises a turquoise abaya, on the playground. If we’ve learned anything dark blue leggings, gold sandals CULTURAL and a bright pink hijab. And over the last few years, it’s REPRESENTATIONS ON that racism and ignorance she even carries an Eidi (cash gift) envelope — a thoughtful continue to break down and THE SHELVES HELPS touch — along with a booklet rip apart this country’s won highlighting the holiday. The TO NORMALIZE THOSE derfully diverse fabric. outfit may have hit its target To counter the growing animosity, IMAGES IN HOMES, audience. companies came together and founded CEO The roughly $8 billion toy CLASSROOMS AND ON ACTION For Diversity and Inclusion, based on a belief that diversity, equity and inclusion company introduced its first THE PLAYGROUND. Muslim Barbie in 2017 to are societal, as opposed to competitive, issues. honor Olympic fencer Ibtihaj These business and marketing leaders saw Muhammad. However, it took that by collaborating and taking bold action — especially at the CEO level — they could a little bit longer for Mattel’s American Girl brand to acknowledge the growing drive change at a large scale. More than 2,000 CEOs, including Muslim market — this $36 outfit was only introduced Mattel, pledged to work on this inclusion. early last year. The high-profile brand already has a American Girl introduced their first doll of color in 2017, the collection of dolls representing dozens of cultures and same year that Mattel launched their Muslim fencer Barbie. As much races with names such as Nanea, Makena and Maritza as this act was celebrated, it was not enough for Blackburn, who told me, The optimist in me believes the American Girl “I could’ve started a petition, but that has such a negative connotation Eid outfit may be a much-awaited step for a society to it. I believe we do better when we build relationships with businesses that celebrates diversity, especially at a time when for the good of the broader community.” we are divided. But can a doll really help us bridge Two years ago, she read a letter addressed to American Girl general the growing gap of differences? And should a young manager Jamie Cygeilman on her podcast, reminding her of Mattel’s girl’s identity be encapsulated by no more than one CEO action pledge and inviting her to have a conversation about a Muslim outfit and a few accessories? American Girl doll. 38 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
That letter set the ball rolling. Not only was she informed that American Girl would be designing a Muslim celebration outfit, but the company wanted her to help design it and ensure that it was culturally appropriate and respectful of Muslim beliefs. Blackburn, a Muslim American of European heritage, understands that Muslims come in all colors, backgrounds and cultures. American Girl is planning to expand the collection by introducing a new Eid outfit representing the many different Muslim cultural representations each year. And while the cost of an American Girl Doll can be expensive at over $100, “You can buy any 18-inch doll from Walmart or Target and put this outfit on her to give your girls the feeling of being represented. She can wear the whole thing or just the hijab on a top and jeans to look like any Muslim American girl out there,” Blackburn said.
GROWING UP IN COLOR
My mother will be the first person to say that not having a doll that resembled me or my lifestyle didn’t really affect me or my self-confidence as I grew up. I would agree with her. But I also grew up in a country surrounded by brown skin and Muslim values. I saw myself everywhere, from catalogues to classrooms. I wasn’t an anomaly and never had to explain my identity. However, I can also see how white Barbies have impacted the subconscious of my brown society. Companies like Unilever profit off the backs of brown people with fairness cream products, instilling the message through their ridicu lous advertising of “you can only be successful if your skin is whiter.” Such advertising is appalling, and the subversive messaging continues to this day in South Asian communities where even a hint of dark is looked down upon. Nanika Coor, a clinical psychologist and respected parenting therapist and consultant at Brooklyn Parent Therapy, says the toys our children play with help shape their view of the world and that racial diversity in toys is extremely important. Toys can assist children navigate emotions, help them have social awareness and learn compassionate values. Toys that are not inclusive can send faulty ideas about race and diversity. Racially diverse toys equip children with a sense of self and a message that they are valued. By having these toys and seeing them on toy shelves, children are told they don’t have to assimilate into white society. Consequently, white children should also see our differences, accept them and have toys that represent the reality in which they live.
as afros or long brown or wavy blond hair. They come in a range of skin tones and wear jeans or dresses. They’re culturally diverse, loveable, fun and incredibly motivated girls who just happen to be Muslim. Their hijabs are rearrangeable, and they aim to inspire young Muslimas to take pride in their faith, be comfortable with their roots and become community leaders. “We want young girls who don’t often see their cul tural identities and faith represented in a relatable way to know that they can be proud of their backgrounds,” says Ansarullah Ridwan Mohammad, co-founder of Zilheej. “We want them to see that all of who they are is uniquely beautiful — even when it sounds like the world is telling them that they don’t have the perfect hair, or skin color, or size, or religion.” The Salam Sisters represent various racial and ethnic backgrounds thereby showcasing the incred ible global diversity of the world’s roughly 1.8 billion Muslims. The dolls were given a wide range of interests and aspirations, including journalism, astronomy, art, history, sports and social leadership. This type of representation needs to be encouraged. We may look different and have varying traditions, but we are also just mothers, daughters and wives with hopes, dreams and aspirations. And we deserve to realize them. And perhaps Muslim parents will be able to recognize and support a budding entrepre neur in their homes, one who demands and dreams of filling those gaps left by mainstream companies, just like Zilheej did. ih Sarah Pervez, a storyteller, avid reader, spirituality seeker and published author, loves telling simple stories, finding meaningful lessons in life and looking at things through other people’s perspectives. After years of reading whitewashed literature, she is slowly building a bookshelf full of color and loving it.
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IDENTITY AS AN ACCESSORY
Maybe what little Muslim girls want is a doll whose identity isn’t only wrapped up in a headscarf and ethnic dress. Since the hijab isn’t required at a young age, these young Muslimas may want a doll who dons a hijab on special occasions but also has other facets to her story. Enter Salam Sisters (https://salam sisters.com/). Salam Sisters Dolls were introduced in 2018 by a Dubai-based company called Zilheej. Founder Peter Gould, a Muslim Australian, cre ated five 18-inch dolls loosely inspired by real-life Muslim women. While they all come with headscarves, they also sport fantastic hairstyles such
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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 39
THE MUSLIM WORLD The Long and Bumpy Road of Tunisian Democracy Did coalescing with old corrupt rivals compromise Ennahda’s governing experience? BY MONIA MAZIGH
President Kais Saied meets with Prime Minister Najla Bouden Romdhane at the Carthage Palace (© Tunis Afrique Presse)
n December 2010, I stood on the pavement across the Tunisian embassy in Ottawa. Neither freezing Ottawa nor fear of the brutal Tunisian regime dis suaded us, a handful of Tunisian Canadians, from showing our solidarity with the protest movement that took down Ben Ali’s govern ment and swept the country. It was the start of the “Arab Spring,” born in Sidi Bouzid, a town of people known for their indomitable, revolutionary spirit and unmitigated marginalization by Tunis. Having left for graduate studies in Canada in 1991, I never lost interest in Tunisia’s politics. A small country known for centuries as a crossroads of civilizations, it is nestled between the geographic and economic powers of Algeria and Libya and the northern Mediterranean. As such, the country remains a staple in the Maghreb and Mediterranean basins’ politics.
Since then, our demonstrations have become marches to support Tunisia’s nascent democracy. In January 2011, about 100 of us walked from Parliament in Ottawa to the Human Rights Monument via the prime minister’s offices, singing the now popu lar slogan Ash-sha‘b yurid isqat an-nidham (The people want regime change). Quickly becoming the Arabic world’s slogan, it’s been chanted in the streets of Cairo, Daraa, Sanaa, Tripoli and elsewhere. The nidham (regime) was a dictatorship, a police state in which arbitrary arrests of political opponents, nepotism, corrup tion and violations of civil liberties were commonplace. After President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s flight, angry crowds gathered across from the Ministry of the Interior, the terrifying building in which many Tunisians had been tortured or humiliated, and chanted “degage
40 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
… degage” (game over). They dared to dream of building a free, dignified and prosperous country. Thus began the era that lasted from 2011 until today. Last July 25, which marks the birth of the first independent Tunisian republic (est. 1956), President Kais Saied, elected in 2019, froze Parliament’s work, removed the prime minister and seized executive power. The ensuing shock waves, still being felt, caused some to take to the deserted streets to express solidarity with this “courageous and timely” decision; others cautiously called it a “coup de force,” avoiding what many defiantly called a “coup d’état.” Beyond the images of euphoria and between the extreme views of “supporters” and “opponents” lay several shades of anal yses and reflections. I remain skeptical, to say the least, about the current situation. The populist excesses taking democracies by storm have become a little too familiar: President Trump, who communicated directly to his base via tweets, speaking and thereby flouting democratic laws and institutions, and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, a former army officer whose populist decisions and disregard for science endangered thousands of lives. Tunisia is neither the U.S. nor Brazil, but its burgeon ing democracy isn’t immune to its leaders’ populist aspirations to reign unopposed. The question arises: How did Tunisia reach this state? The Covid-19 pandemic exposed the county’s poor management of the health crisis, precarious health infrastructure, incompetent politicians, almost nonexistent communication with citizens, some of whom remained skeptical about the vaccination’s importance, and social media outlets, which circulated conspiracy theories that height ened the populace’s fears. It is, above all, a crisis of confidence between the financially strapped popula tion and the political class, which continues playing political cards instead of improving their constituents’ lives. The Economic Crisis. Tunisia never recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis. Its economy is dominated by old and archaic tourism, a mining industry vulnerable to world markets and a cum bersome, bureaucratic administration that has neither modernized nor offered tax advantages to international investors, as Tunis did during the 1970s. In short, the
post-revolution internal wars among the politicians and the pervasive corruption killed the sclerotic economy that survived relatively well under Ben Ali. Tunisians had little knowledge of their country’s hybrid and complicated electoral and political system. From 1956 (indepen dence) until 2014 (the adoption of a new constitution and the emergence of a parlia mentary system), Tunisia had been governed by a presidential system: “the strongman of Carthage” (the presidential palace). In the popular mentality, the nation’s “savior” is always Mr. President, who takes the “right” decisions to get us out of succes sive crises. Only very rarely did the institu
in supporting legislation that amnestied the former regime’s corrupt businessmen and politicians. Thus, some old names and practices reappeared. The fragmented and weak Parliament became a circus, and many Tunisians began arguing that Ennahda, the real power holder, had betrayed the revo lution’s essence. On July 25, 2021, the current “man from Carthage,” relying on popular disgust and disillusion with the political class, defied and attacked the institutions that had brought him to power. But this power grab, along with his freezing of Parliament and later era sure of a large portion of the Constitution, solved nothing.
AFTER PRESIDENT ZINE EL-ABIDINE BEN ALI’S FLIGHT, ANGRY CROWDS GATHERED ACROSS FROM THE MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR, THE TERRIFYING BUILDING IN WHICH MANY TUNISIANS HAD BEEN TORTURED OR HUMILIATED, AND CHANTED “DEGAGE … DEGAGE” (GAME OVER). THEY DARED TO DREAM OF BUILDING A FREE, DIGNIFIED AND PROSPEROUS COUNTRY. tions have the upper hand, as happened in 2010. Nevertheless, between 2011-21 the new politicians’ incompetence made their parties the country’s most hated groups. Many, particularly from Ennahda, came into power as “survivors.” Under presidents Habib Bourguiba (1957-87) and Ben Ali (1987-2011), the Islamic opposition was prevented from being the de facto oppo sition. Continuously persecuted at home and abroad, they developed no sophisti cated socio-economic programs. Trapped in this mindset, they therefore spent their time shuffling and reshuffling political cards, neglecting economic reforms and focusing on staying in power. The Counterrevolutionary Forces. Since 2014, the long-reigning and sole party, Rassemblement Constitutionel Démocratique (RCD; Democratic Constitutional Assembly), has regained power under a new political formation and name. Some Gulf countries, disturbed by the emerging democratic model, gave the new political formation financial and media support. Not only did Ennahda build an alliance with it to govern, but it was also instrumental
In October Saied appointed Najla Bouden prime minister but retained legislative and executive authority. Despite being a great and symbolic moment of pride for many Tunisian and Arab feminists, many saw this appointment as another attempt to return “state feminism” to the political arena. The secularist Bourguiba had played the women’s emancipation card along with his Western partners and inside with his con servative opponents. Ben Ali controlled and used the “feminist” discourse as a proof of social progress. For instance, he used the Union National des Femmes Tunisiennes, one of the country’s oldest women’s organi zations, to perpetuate the state propaganda of improving the state of women, despite the many women being harassed, raped and imprisoned for voicing their political opinions (https://www.e-ir.info/2020/07/27/ state-feminism-and-the-islamist-secular ist-binary-womens-rights-in-tunisia/). Today Bouden, the head of government, appears on state TV seated quietly and nod ding while Saied delivers another bizarre and long monologue. While it is still too early to assess her work, in all fairness it would
be difficult to do so because her mandate remains obscure and solely within his hands. The economic issues are still per sistent, if not worse. Negotiations with the International Monetary Fund about a rescue package and new loans timidly restarted in November, after a long pause due to the ongoing political crisis. After several down grades by international credit agencies due to the economy’s large debt and political instability, the country faces huge challenges to put its economy back on track. Since the 1970s, the economy has fol lowed a liberal economic model tied primar ily to its Western partners’ priorities. During the 1990s, Tunisia embraced the neo-lib eral models imposed by IMF’s Structural Adjustment Program. As a result, it gradu ally transitioned from an agriculture-based economy to a service economy. Generations of young people grew up attracted to the jobs available in Europe. Even the tourism sector, the sacred cow that had brought in so much foreign currency since 1970s, lost its lustre. An aging infrastructure, poorly trained hotel workers, two terrible terrorist attacks in 2015, continuous political instability and the Covid-19 pandemic put the last nails in tourism’s coffin. Today, Tunisia is at the crossroads. Both of its important economic and security part ners, American and European politicians, have criticized this power grab severely. Not yet calling it a coup, they continue demanding that it return to constitutional legitimacy and formulate a roadmap for the future. Until now, Saied is appealing to his base through speeches and Facebook postings and rejects all calls for dialogue and restoring Parliament and democratic institutions. In 2015, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, composed of the two powerful unions for workers and for bosses, respec tively, a human rights organization and the order of lawyers, received the Peace Nobel Prize for their laudable efforts to find com promises and work toward democratization. Will they or other Tunisian organizations be able to reproduce this same strategy? One can only hope so. ih Monia Mazigh, PhD, an academic, author and human rights activist, is an adjunct professor at Carleton University (Ontario). She has published “Hope and Despair: My Struggle to Free My Husband, Maher Arar” (2008) and three novels, “Mirrors and Mirages” (2015), “Hope Has Two Daughters”(2017) and “Farida”(2020), which won the 2021 Ottawa Book Award prize for French-language fiction. She is currently working on a collection of essays about gendered Islamophobia.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 41
MUSLIMS LIVING AS MINORITIES
China Owes Muslim Uyghurs Their Basic Human Rights Settler-colonial states must stand up for oppressed religious minorities, even if their own historical legacy is far from laudable. BY LUKE PETERSON
Id Kah Mosque, Kashgar, Xinjiang, China
ast September, a large public photo exhibition opened in Geneva, Switzerland. It was deliberately set to coincide with the UN Human Rights Council’s meeting, scheduled for that month in the famously neutral European state. Entitled “The Wall of the Disappeared,” it prominently displayed the names and photos of dozens of Uyghurs whom Beijing has dis appeared during its campaign to ethnically cleanse western China of its Islamic pres ence. This long-running project has seques tered and restricted this minority for the better part of a decade simply because of their ethnic and/or religious identification. In the 1930s, pre-communist Peking first defined this ethnic minority, which has always lived in Xinjiang, now China’s western-most province, as “oasis-dwelling
Muslims of Xinjiang’s Tarim Basin.” Today, applying policies eerily reminiscent of Nazi population control, state officials’ efforts to eliminate the Uyghurs have been planned and executed at the highest levels of govern ment, among them surveillance, video mon itoring, movement restriction, civil policing, satellite image forgery, facial recognition software and many other human rights vio lations. The over 12 million Uyghurs are now effectively a captive population subjected to a differentiated set of laws and restrictions in their homeland, which they prefer to call Uyghurstan (East Turkestan). Worse still, at the time of this writing, at least 2 million Uyghurs languish in staterun “reeducation” camps, euphemistically named prison camps, where entire fami lies of Muslims (alongside some Chinese
42 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
Christians) are being inculcated with prostate propaganda and tested on their devo tion to the state, their love for the Communist party and the extent to which they have truly rejected Islam. Officially, these camps are state-run “vocational training centers” designed to eliminate local “religious extrem ism.” In practice, these camps are catch-all detention centers imprisoning men, women and children alike, regardless of the fact that only a handful of Uyghurs have ever been involved in extremist political or religious activities beyond China’s borders. The photo display in Switzerland was one of many international efforts intended to draw global attention to the Uyghurs’ situation. More specifically, activists in Switzerland and elsewhere hope to put the apartheid treatment of the Uyghurs at the
forefront of various governments’ agendas to pressure China through economic sanc tions or trade restrictions. This would be a particularly useful ploy as it concerns the U.S., which remains among this economic behemoth’s primary trading partners. And for a brief moment in September, it appeared that the marriage of U.S policy and concern for Uyghur rights had been successfully arranged. Alongside the Geneva exhibit, a large placard placed just above the official gov ernment seal read, in part, “In partnership
might be found in the responses of other settler-colonial governments vis-à-vis the indigenous populations they have dis placed, removed or, as is more often the case, eliminated. In Australia, for example, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd initiated a National Day of Apology in 2008 to the Aboriginal peoples to acknowledge Canberra’ child removal policies and forced indigenous assimilation. In New Zealand, in 2020 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern formally apologized to Pacific Islanders for the
THE OVER 12 MILLION UYGHURS ARE NOW EFFECTIVELY A CAPTIVE POPULATION SUBJECTED TO A DIFFERENTIATED SET OF LAWS AND RESTRICTIONS IN THEIR HOMELAND, WHICH THEY PREFER TO CALL UYGHURSTAN (EAST TURKESTAN). with the U.S. Mission.” As it turns out, some of the exhibit’s financial backing came from official U.S. sources. According to Reuters, this exhibit shedding light on the Uyghur minority’s suffering was also displayed at a U.S. diplomatic reception in September. Washington’s overt support for it predictably drew Beijing’s ire, very nearly provoking an international incident. Commenting on this connection, Jiang Duan, the Chinese ambassador to Washington, pointed out the obvious hypoc risy inherent in any American castigation of another state’s policies toward ethnic minori ties. He reminded audiences of Washington’s settler-colonial genocide against the new country’s indigenous populations, as well as the ongoing and systemic racism against minority groups — a fact all too painfully visible in communities from Ferguson, Mo., to Kenosha, Wisc. Offering a weak retort, Benjamin Moeling, the American ambassador to Beijing, sug gested that, “There is a difference between countries that have confronted immoral acts in the past, and sought to improve, and countries that are committing crimes against humanity in the present.” So, who’s right, Mr. Duan or Mr. Moeling? Does the U.S. have any ground to stand on when it comes to assessing international human rights violations? Has it, as Moeling reports, “confronted [the] immoral acts” in our past? Are we global leaders in human rights or not? Answers to these questions
so-called Dawn Raids that attempted to force the deportation of thousands of New Zealand’s indigenous peoples. Canada has officially apologized for creating the Indian Residential Schools that removed thousands of indigenous children to white Canadian schools and kept them in miserable con ditions. Recently discovered mass graves connected to these “schools,” in which the Canadian authorities interred hundreds of abused and murdered indigenous children, have made headlines worldwide. Each of these formal apologies has been instituted by state governments in recogni tion of past “immoral acts,” to use ambas sador Moeling’s language. They have begun officially sanctioned conversations of recon ciliation between white settler communities and their displaced and dispossessed native inhabitants. Naturally, these apologies don’t undo the policies that have destroyed lives and perma nently changed hundreds of communities’ cultural and historical landscapes. But at least the governments have acknowledged past wrongdoings, guilt has been publicly admitted and a national shame at what was done has been revealed. But here in the U.S., as Ambassador Moeling well knows, no such thing has ever happened. Indeed, no American president or administration has uttered such a national apology or admitted any guilt for destroy ing this country’s native peoples. Rather, those who survived the genocidal campaigns
unleashed against them throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Native Americans were sequestered on some of the country’s worst land, offered a pittance of public assistance and were asked, in so many words, “to kindly go away so we can get on with the business of running the world.” The U.S. character is partly defined by this blasé attitude toward its numerous doc umented crimes of the past. We do nothing to acknowledge them and are frequently irate when reminded of them. In sum, the U.S. has become expert at leaving its past in the past and has no qualms about burying it crimes like the many dead and buried natives killed at Bear River (1863), Sand Creek (1864) and Wounded Knee (1890). So, does our criminal legacy against mil lions of Native Americans prevent us from commenting on human rights violations committed elsewhere? The definitive answer to this question must be “No. While clearly much work remains to be done before beginning a process of reconciliation with the Native Americans scattered throughout this coun try’s decrepit reservation system (and no, proceeds from legalized gambling do not equate to apology or reconciliation), we nev ertheless must reserve the right to point out disgusting displays of inhumanity from Gaza to Xinjiang and all points in between. The weight of Washington’s criminal past — and present — cannot mean that we close our eyes to crimes committed elsewhere. Doing so with our allies, namely, Israel and Saudi Arabia, only heaps further shame upon our already stained national legacy. Occasionally, though, we do get it right. Such is the case with Washington’s criti cism of Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghur minority. If anything, we should urge Moeling to be more robust in his criticism and to begin bringing the weight of the American government and economy to bear upon Beijing until it remedies these apartheid policies. It may not please Duan or Xi Jinping to hear it, but this issue must be addressed and ultimately come to an end. Human rights must be observed; interna tional law must be brought to bear. In this case, it cannot matter that the judge’s robes are also stained in blood. ih Luke Peterson, Ph.D. (The University of Cambridge [King’s College]), Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, investigates language, media and knowledge surrounding political conflict in the Middle East. He lives in Pittsburgh, where he regularly contributes articles to local, national and international media.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 43
Nothing Can Erase the Palestinians’ Existence
completely heroic, but people forced into a life of catastro phe and forced to do battle to simply exist. This novel is narrated by Nahr, its central character. Her arduous life is chron icled through a series of introspective vignettes from “The Cube,” an Israeli sol itary-confinement prison BY NOSHIN BOKHT cell. Pulled between past and present, we grad ually clarify the puzzle or far too long, the asymmet and understand how she rical struggle for justice being waged by the Palestinians has been falsely got there. A woman with termed a “conflict,” which implies four names and diverging equitable contenders. lives, her life begins in the We are inundated with headlines that Kuwaiti neighborhood of obscure facts and criminalize resistance Hawalli, the daughter of fighters, along with school curriculums refugees. After being dis that distort history. Mainstream American placed once again from and Western media fail to highlight the their makeshift homes to Palestinians’ authentic voices and the won Jordan, she eventually returns to her derfully idiosyncratic ways these individu ancestral homeland. als are responding to their daily realities. The novel evokes sensations of utter rest One thing remains unambiguous: This lessness and only after finishing it does one egregious generations-long miscarriage of realize that this was deliberate. Like Nahr justice by yet another colonial power has and her family, the reader is left feeling con become a layered, multifaceted narrative stantly unsettled. While these sensations that Palestinians continue to resist through leave the reader at the story’s end, they are art and other means. the unfortunate reality for all refugees. Nahr is only gradually connected to her We see an exquisite response to the Israeli Susan Abulhawa occupation in Susan Abulhawa’s novels, more Palestinian identity, for her entire being has been fractured by the implications wrought notably in her most recent one: “Against the Loveless World” (2020). from an exiled life and a patriarchal soci A Palestinian-American novelist, ety. Born in Kuwait, she grapples with poet and activist, her two previous her angst-ridden relationship with her novels are “Mornings in Jenin” (2010), mother, her Palestinian grandmother ONE THING REMAINS an international bestseller with rights and her beloved younger brother. She UNAMBIGUOUS: THIS sold in 26 languages, and “The Blue marries — and is abandoned — in Against Sky and Water” (2015), a best EGREGIOUS GENERATIONS- Kuwait. With no father, Nahr becomes seller translated into 20 languages. She Yaqoot, the family’s designated bread LONG MISCARRIAGE OF has also published “My Voice Sought winner. To finance her brother’s educa the Wind” (poetry, 2013) and several tion, she inadvertently gets stuck in a JUSTICE BY YET ANOTHER anthologies. cycle of sexual exploitation and abuse. COLONIAL POWER HAS All her works, though fiction, docu Along the way, she forges a strange rela ment the Palestinian struggle. She is the tionship with Um Buraq, her simultane BECOME A LAYERED, founder of Playgrounds for Palestine ous female pimp and protector. MULTIFACETED NARRATIVE (playgroundsforpalestine.org), which She becomes entrenched in her THAT PALESTINIANS upholds Palestinian children’s right Palestinian roots when the U.S. invades to play. Iraqi-occupied Kuwait, which forces her CONTINUE TO RESIST As always, “Against the Loveless family to resettle in Jordan. Palestine THROUGH ART AND OTHER World” is incandescently breathtaking. becomes inextricably linked to Nahr’s Her words are electrifying as we’re thrust consciousness when her younger MEANS. brother joins the resistance and gets into her characters’ nuanced and com plex lives. Notably, they are often diffi arrested. cult to decipher — neither villainous nor From Kuwait to Jordan, Nahr finally
Palestinian writers and artists continue to look Israeli colonialism in the face
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finds herself in Palestine. Her story begins to unravel in the backdrop of the Oslo accords. She meets her estranged husband’s brother, Bilal, who introduces her to love, the Palestinian resistance and tradition. Israeli state-sanctioned violence on Palestine’s people and Palestinian land is vividly brought to life through Nahr’s musings and conversations with various visitors to The Cube. With Bilal and his friends, she is transformed through Palestine. Her divergent identities begin to blur and coalesce to create an ironclad and tender-hearted woman. Her entire life is marked by colonialism, imperialism, vio lence, hypocrisy, occupation and class warfare. And yet, moments of simple bliss find their way in between. The entire story juxtaposes the realities of colonial violence and the innate nature of occupied people forging memories of hope. This is most profoundly reflected in Nahr and Bilal’s “honeymoon,” which occurs during the curfew of spring 2002 while Israel pillages Jenin — they read to each other in a moment of emotional intimacy and reflect over a James Baldwin quote which the book takes its title from. In an essay, a letter to his nephew Big James, Baldwin writes, describing Big James’ birth: “Here you were: to be loved. To be loved, baby, hard, at once, and forever, to strengthen you against the loveless world.” N a h r ’s strength and resilience in a world that truly appears loveless is central to the story. She is the protagonist; however, it can be argued that Palestine herself is another protagonist. Abulhawa does an extraordinary job of animating the prominence of land and agriculture to Palestinian life. Israel, in line with its colonial values, seeks to uproot Palestinian existence in all its form, including its very trees and land. And yet its innumerable bulldozers and bombs fail to flatten the spirit emanating from mother nature. There is a salient scene in which the newlyweds plan to divert water from the settlements back to his family’s almond trees. Bilal also takes Nahr on long walks and teaches her about various plants and the folklore associated with them. Then there is the harvesting season in the family’s olive grove. This time in particular invites Israeli settler attacks but despite this, families and neighbors continue their traditions in acts of glorious defiance. Eventually, we are back in The Cube with Nahr. Sentenced to solitary confine ment, she relates her story speaking only to the occasional visitor, a sympathetic guard, and the walls of her cell. Just as Israel seeks to oppress and colonize the Palestinians, The Cube attempts to repress Nahr and her story. Yet both fail in their violence. An Israeli court unsurprisingly charges her with terrorism. But these depraved forces that thrive off power cannot wholly succeed, because the tenacity that is intrinsic to human nature cannot be crushed. Nahr herself says, “I colonized the colonizer’s space of authority. I made myself free in chains and held that courtroom captive to my freedom.” Abulhawa paints the Palestinians’ story in a way that is rarely seen — with the skillfulness of an engineer, punctiliously weaving together the wires of the human mind and experience. Their unique trauma and resilience, often obscured under the discourse of bureaucratic endeavors and policies, become lost, desensitizing the global audience. Nahr’s story is ultimately a tribute to the Palestinians, their fecund land and an act of defiance to the colonizers’ “authority.” Entities like the fictitious Cube and Israel’s ongoing effort to erase Palestinian existence cannot fully succeed, because Nahr herself says, “I know I am alone here. I’m not delusional. But the way memory animates the past is more real than the present.” ih Noshin Bokht is a freelance writer and content editor.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 45
The world we live in is constantly evolving and ISNA is committed to being a positive driver of change. ISNA has long recognized the importance of engaging with other faith communities as a fundamental part of its mission, and therefore, we continuously host and participate in interfaith events, meetings and webinars to educate our friends, partners, officials and activists about Islam. These interreligious initiatives have helped break down barriers of misunderstanding, formed genuine partnerships of faith and ethics, and established a platform to advocate for social justice issues for the common good. We aim to work together to fight Islamophobia and share knowledge about the true teachings and understanding of our religion in all sectors. The gift of education has a ripple effect—it creates change locally, nationally and globally. Ignorance is our enemy, and with your support we can make a difference. Please donate to ISNA today.
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Meet the al-Azeez Family “Move over Dick and Jane. Omar and Malik are on the block now.” BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
obert D. Salim, a resident of Northern Virginia, has seven chil dren and fourteen grandchildren. A long-time revert to Islam, several years ago this now-retired professional firefighter and train conductor noticed a void in children’s literature — the lack of African American families — and decided to do something about it. His “Omar and Malik Adventures” series displays the lives of Muslim parents and elementary school chil dren living their lives while interacting with a wide range of people and social situations. Islamic Horizons talked to him about his efforts to fill this gap. IH: What led you to start writing? RDS: I’ve always been a writer. I began taking a more nuanced interest in it during high school, when my English teacher encouraged me to take a creative writing college course. This summer class benefitted me tremendously in terms of creativity and learning about various writing techniques and styes. IH: Who is your intended audience, and why? RDS: My stories are directed toward beginning readers, primarily first through third graders. One thing that I learned during my school and college years is that reading is the core skill that propels people toward success in life’s endeavors. My books are directed toward everyone who loves reading: avid readers seeking to increase their knowledge, parents doing what they can to prepare their children for life and those who want to watch an Muslim African American family adhering to their faith while living a wholesome life that everyone can admire. IH: Are these stories based upon your experiences? RDS: The Omar and Malik stories mirror my developing nature of practicing Islam’s tenets and injunctions, all of which are concerned with the people’s common interests: worship none but Allah, be good to your parents and relatives, as well as the
Robert D. Salim
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orphan and poor, speak kindly to people, establish the prayer and give the prescribed charity. My stories incorporate all of these vir tues and more. I look at myself as a person who wants to contribute to building a better society. An African proverb states that “It takes a village to raise a child,” and one can plainly see that Omar and Malik’s parents are raising them to be good and devout Muslims. IH: Do you have any future projects in mind? RDS: Yes! I have two projects in the works. Once is a seven-book series for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and the other is two novels for adults. Writing for adults seems harder than I thought, however, for it involves coming out of my comfort zone. Time will tell whenever they get released. Who knows, one of them might be the next great American novel [he says with a broad smile]. IH: Can you explain your creative process?
RDS: Sure. I’d say it comes in four forms: First, my vivid imagination causes stories to just come to me and unfold before my mind’s eye, story line and all. Storytelling is an art, and, having told hun dreds of stories, all I can say is that Allah blesses whom He wills. Second, dreams play a major role. I dream in color, as if I’m in the story myself. A lot of times I’ll wake up and write down what I remember and experience so that I won’t lose
Pushkin’s technique in mind. This novelist, considered by many to be Russia’s greatest poet, used very few words and came right to the point. This is only proper, for children become bored if the stories are too long. Style and technique working together make for good stories. Hemingway and Pushkin taught me word usage, placement and conciseness. IH: What makes your children’s books stand out from other ones?
ONE THING THAT I LEARNED DURING MY SCHOOL AND COLLEGE YEARS IS THAT READING IS THE CORE SKILL THAT PROPELS PEOPLE TOWARD SUCCESS IN LIFE’S ENDEAVORS. RDS: They represent valuable contribu tions to children’s literature written from an Islamic perspective. The stories mirror chil dren’s adventures in many settings, including visits with their neighbors, grandparents, various professionals and friends. All of my stories reflect the love between the children and their parents. Written in a clear and easy-to-read style, they are pre sented in a way that makes children want to read them, or have someone read to them, over and over again. My books will be a welcome addition
SPACE DONATED BY THE ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA
my narrative or train of thought. The note book and pen on my nightstand are exten sions of my dreams, sleep and remembrance. Third, I try to imitate Ernest Hem mingway’s style, which is very descriptive. When writing for children, setting the story’s scene means providing interesting details of time, place and content. For example: “The sun was shining through the trees as the boys were riding their bikes along the bike trail.” Children are attracted to color, objects and wording. Fourth, I always keep Alexander
to classroom and family libraries. Their characters will captivate young readers’ attention and make them think about their own possible adventures. This series, now comprising ten volumes, contains hundreds of enjoyable stories. IH: What do you want children to remember after reading your stories? RDS: Their childhood and family’s happy memories, which are often forgot ten. I want my stories to leave affirming, positive images and messages that inspire young African American children. IH: Please tell our readers something about yourself. RDS: I am a writer, author and lecturer on African American history and children’s stories. I view myself as a striving Muslim and short-time traveler in this world. Islam states that at the time of death, all deeds end except for three: a continuing char ity, beneficial knowledge and a child who prays for you. This series highlights Islamic family life in a wholesome and loveable way, showing and educating non-Muslims the beauty of adhering to Allah and the Sunna of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). My stories directly portray Islamic values and religious obligations like Ramadan, jumah, aqeeqah, the good man and many more stories to provide beneficial knowledge to everyone seeking to reinforce their under standing of how to live in this world. ih
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ear One of the BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] Young Adults Faithful Climate Action Fellowship ended on Nov. 18, 2021. This collaborative project, com posed of the Creation Justice Ministries, GreenFaith, Interfaith Power & Light, United Methodist Women and Wisconsin Green Muslims, is made possible by a U.S. Climate Action Network Collaborative Grant. The fellowship’s 19 young adult Muslims and Christians (ages 18-26) from the Midwest and Southeast,
learned quite a lot from a host of guest speakers. Among the wide range of topics and their intersections with climate change are environmental justice, food systems, public health, faith and climate, transit equity, federal climate landscape, public lands and global climate. The fellowship application for 2022 is available on http://www.faithfulclimateaction.org/. Huda Alkaff, founder and director, Wisconsin Green Muslims
Poison Within our Water Water, the violated community resource BY FAATIMAH AL-MUJAAHID
he environment isn’t just some thing that affects us on the outside — it includes our neighborhoods and land, as well as the infrastructure and the people residing within it. But have you ever thought that the very environment in which you’re living is slowly but surely killing you? Poisoning you? Imagine this. Imagine that you reside in northern Milwaukee. In Milwaukee, the pipes that carry water to the people’s homes are made of lead, a toxin that can cause irreparable harm — especially in children — like developmen tal delay, learning difficulties, irritability, seizures and more. Here’s the textbook definition of lead. I encourage you to read or listen to this slowly to take it all in: “Lead is a heavy, bluish-gray, soft, ductile metal, the chemical element of atomic number 82. It has been used in roofing, plumbing, ammunition, storage batteries, radiation shields, etc., and its com pounds have been used in crystal glass, as an antiknock agent in gasoline, and (formerly) in paints” (https://dictionarylist.com). Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine this if you’re living in Milwaukee. An esti mated 12 million Americans get their water from lead pipes, and Wisconsin has one of the nation’s highest rates of lead service lines. We might be consuming this chemical element, which is used for roofing, plumbing and ammunition, every single day by drinking the water coming out of our kitchen faucet. The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill Congress sent to President Biden on Nov. 5, 2021, includes funds to remove lead pipes
countrywide. Rep. Alexandria OcasioCortez (D-N.Y.) said on Nov. 7 that it will cost $45-60 billion to replace every lead pipe in the country; however, it sets aside only $15 billion to do so (https://twitter.com/AOC). She added that without passing Build Back Better, many communities that have histor ically been denied clean water will continue to be denied, although the program covers disadvantaged communities. I don’t have to imagine this because my family experienced it.* My younger brother, a victim of lead poi soning for at least five years, was born healthy and raised in a comfortable home. But when he was six months old, he experienced his first seizure – I was an eyewitness. Being so young at the time, I didn’t know that seizures could happen while a person was sleeping. My parents took the right protocol and had him examined immediately. Although its cause was never determined, as the years continued it became clear that something was going on. When he was five years old, he still wasn’t forming complete sentences. He spoke in phrases and didn’t act like the normal healthy boy that he should have been. A test for lead poisoning revealed that the level of lead in his blood was 11.4 percent! There is no safe level of lead poisoning. The home we were living in at the time was built in 1927. Homes built before 1975 often used lead-based paint. But because of lead’s dangerous effects, federal law requires that before being obligated under contract to buy the desired housing, including most buildings built before 1978, buyers must
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receive from the seller an EPA-approved information pamphlet on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards. So, what does this mean for us? We were unknowingly poisoned in our own home, our safe space. For years, day after day, we ingested water and had a basement fully painted with lead. But that’s not all. You don’t have to ingest lead poisoning just to get it. Something as simple as breathing it in daily can poison you.
WE WERE UNKNOWINGLY POISONED IN OUR OWN HOME, OUR SAFE SPACE. FOR YEARS, DAY AFTER DAY, WE INGESTED WATER AND HAD A BASEMENT FULLY PAINTED WITH LEAD. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. YOU DON’T HAVE TO INGEST LEAD POISONING JUST TO GET IT. SOMETHING AS SIMPLE AS BREATHING IT IN DAILY CAN POISON YOU. Lead poisoning delayed the development of my brother’s brain. The government’s neg ligence delayed his ability to think, because those in positions of power choose not to change it because we are Black and a part of a minority. No family should have to drink water from tainted pipes. People should advo cate against the poisoning of our water
and educate themselves on the systemic racism gripping our country. After all, what else could have brought this water to Milwaukee and to the 40% of black and brown neighborhoods? Does that sound like a coincidence to you? Don’t be part of the majority that is unaware of how our day-to-day life is dictated by people we don’t know and
who seek to control our lives without our knowledge. Educate yourselves about the system that dictates who looks “disabled” to them and who looks “abled.” Educate yourselves so you don’t fall victim to a system that doesn’t care about you. Educate yourselves because the system needs you to remain ignorant so that your silence about such issues will ensure that they are never resolved. No one should ever have to feel that they aren’t secure in their own homes. I encourage all of you to call out the system that is oppressing us. Otherwise, we will never progress toward the equality and basic human rights to which we are entitled, as stated in the following hadith: “Water is a commu nity resource and a right for all human kind. Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) highlights this: ‘Muslims have common share in three things: grass [pasture], water, and fire [fuel]’” (“Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal,” vol. 2, book 22). ih Faatimah Al-Mujaahid was a 2021 BIPOC Faithful Climate Action Fellow. * Born in Milwaukee, Wisc., she and her family had unknowingly ingested lead water for several years. It was only in 2018 that it was discovered that had lead within their blood. This inspired her to speak up for her community on getting new, lead-free water pipes.
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Solar Energy Reduces Our Carbon Footprint Mosques can do their part in preserving the environment — and economically too BY ISNA GREEN INITIATIVE TEAM
s President Biden said at the COP26, “Climate change is an existential threat to our planet.” We are witnessing the damage and destruc tion from back-to-back unprecedented and powerful hurricanes, floods and vast fires on the West coast. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average temperature of 2021’s meteorological summer — June, July and August — was 2.6°F (1.45°C) above the 20th century’s average, a troubling sign as global temperatures continue to increase faster than previously thought (https://www. ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/202108). The last seven years have been the warmest years on record. Nineteen of the 20 warmest years have occurred since 2000. More than 18% of the contiguous U.S. experienced record heat this summer. California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon and several other states had their hottest tem peratures on record; no state reported below-average temperatures. This record heat coincided with extreme weather nationwide, including extreme heat, wild fires, drought and flooding. Scientific studies continuously draw our attention to the perils of global warm ing. One example is the rapid global decline in forests, pastures, cropland and fisheries, which means that these renewable resources are becoming ever harder to replenish. Human prog THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF USING FOSSIL ress and growth are inevitable; however, the resulting potential harm can be minimized if protecting the FUELS — EXCESS CARBON DIOXIDE, environment is kept in sight. The fast pace of climate INCREASING TEMPERATURES, RISING change and the uncontrolled consumption of dimin SEA LEVELS AND OTHERS — ARE GLOBAL ishing nonrenewable resources demands that we be proactive and take care of our planet. IN NATURE. IN ADDITION, THE ENSUING UN Secretary General António Guterres told the PRODUCTION OF UNWANTED BYPRODUCTS COP26 Conference on November 1, 2021, “We are fast approaching tipping points that will trigger escalating CREATE AIR AND WATER POLLUTION AND feedback loops of global heating. But investing in the RELEASE HUGE AMOUNTS OF GREENHOUSE net zero, climate resilient economy will create feedback loops of its own — virtuous circles of sustainable GASES INTO THE ATMOSPHERE. growth, jobs and opportunity.” Although wealthy nations made optimistic announcements and pledges about providing financial support to mitigate such especially those undertaken by the most-polluting impacts, there is genuine skepticism about whether they will ever be fulfilled. countries as well as wealthy countries investing in As former President Obama said at COP26, most counties have not honored reducing fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions. their past pledges. Promoting and adapting solar and wind energy is The adverse effects of using fossil fuels — excess carbon dioxide, increasing a critical component of all such efforts. However, temperatures, rising sea levels and others — are global in nature. In addition, the our communities must also demand that all of our ensuing production of unwanted byproducts create air and water pollution and elected representatives recognize and eliminate the release huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. harm climate change does to vulnerable communities. These catastrophic effects can only be controlled by joint governmental efforts, We must strive to ensure a brighter future for the 50 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
The Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Ill., became the nation’s first solar mosque, thanks to a grant provided from the nonprofit organization Faith in Place.
coming generations, as God has made us Earth’s caretakers and protectors. The ISNA Green Initiative team’s mission is to get all Muslims, mosques and so on to adopt environmentally friendly practices both because they are needed and a religious obligation. Even small steps can conserve energy, lower our energy bill and reduce our carbon footprint. Improving insulation, as well as using LED bulbs, lights with sensors, energy efficient heating/cooling systems and appliances, and smart thermostats also help conserve energy. Above all, Muslims can install solar panels, which absorb sunlight with photovoltaic cells, generate direct current (DC) and then convert it to usable alternating current (AC) via inverter technology. These panels, which create no waste or emissions, produce clean, renewable energy from a source that requires no locating, excavation, transportation or combustion: “And He subjected for you the Sun and the Moon, continuous in orbit, and subjected for you the night and day” (14:33). The Sun, a mercy from God, is critical for all life on this planet. Imagine if it didn’t move in its prescribed orbit. Its energy is utilized in numerous ways and doesn’t cost a cent, for it’s the divine gift of life. Solar panels are also cost efficient, now that their cost has dropped significantly. With a moderate upfront investment, solar energy can reduce one’s electric bill significantly and, in many cases, generate a profit, protect against rising energy costs and reduce carbon emissions. Normally, they last for 25 years and require hardly any maintenance. Best estimates are that the cost of installation is recovered within 15 years and with considerable savings for future operating costs. As most mosques/Islamic centers operate on a limited budget, funds for solar panels might have to be raised. However, once installed, the savings on
energy bills can be used to benefit the community. Many states offer renewable energy grants to help nonprofits partially cover the costs; such information is readily available. In 2008, the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Ill., became the nation’s first solar mosque, thanks to a grant provided from the nonprofit orga nization Faith in Place. Each community needs to develop its own fund raising approach. For example, the Islamic Center in Evansville, Ind., requested each family to make a one-year pledge of $1,000 with the option of forming a group of families to do so. Realizing the project’s environmental good, the community enthusiastically donated more money than required. Other ways are to pledge the cost of one or more panels; engage in crowdfunding; form a for-profit company, purchase the solar assets and sell the elec tricity to the congregation for a profit; solar lease financing (the installation company pays for the installation and maintenance, and the congregation pays a fixed monthly price over the course of the lease); and power purchase agreements (the solar power company installs and maintains the panels, and the congregation agrees to buy the electricity at an agreed-upon monthly rate). Before installing solar panels, however, evaluate the process thoroughly. The best place to install the panels is the building’s south or southwest roof, without any trees blocking the sunlight. The other alternative is to install them at the ground level facing south or southwest. The number needed can be determined by knowing the monthly electric bill for a year and using a solar installation calculator available on Google or other search engines. One must carefully compare the quotations given by different vendors. Most vendors offer various types of inverters with their solar panels. Therefore, the prices might be a comparison between oranges and apples. Moreover, as there is a considerable price variation in the vendors’ quotations even for the same type of inverters, get at least two or three quotations. Normally, the panels’ warranty is for 25 years, and 10-15 years for inverters and service. It would be prudent to negotiate a 25-year warranty for the whole system. Over time, solar panels will reduce fossil fuel con sumption and one’s carbon footprint, as well as help the environment and free up money for other useful projects. But most importantly, doing so helps us partially fulfill our religious obligation. If you decide to install solar panels, the ISNA Green Initiative Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) will appreciate it and be glad to help out. ih ISNA Green Initiative Team members: Huda Alkaff, Saffet Catovic, Nana Firman, Uzma Mirza and Saiyid Masroor Shah (chair).
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 51
Mosques and Financial Management Establishing internal controls helps prevent fraud BY NAIT STAFF
ll assets of an Islamic center/mosque are traditionally considered a trust (amana), and the staff handling them bear a great responsibility: “Verily! God commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they are due; and that when you judge between people, you judge with justice. Verily, how excellent is the teaching which He (God) gives you! Truly, God is Ever All-Hearer, All-Seer” (4:58). Such structures should be built and managed on the foundations of honesty, integrity, loyalty and mutual trust. However, anyone can fall prey to temptation and misguidance (1:6-7) and engage in unethical practices or apparently harmless mistakes that may damage the center’s financial standing.
WHAT ARE INTERNAL CONTROLS?
Organizations must have specific policies and procedures in place to prevent fraud, mistakes or manipulation. These can also help improve the efficiency, accuracy and timeliness of financial reporting. These specific policies and procedures are called internal controls. Internal controls are either preventive or detective. While there are several kinds of internal controls, the most common are preventive and detective. Preventive controls are policies and procedures that help deter, decrease or stop the chance of errors and fraud before they occur (e.g., restricted access through passwords, approvals, verifications, reconciliations, policies and procedures). Detective controls are designed to uncover errors or irregularities that may already have occurred (e.g., monthly accounts and bank statement reconcili ations, independent review of activities and balances, ongoing monitoring of expenses vs. budget and regular manual cash or inventory count in addition to the electronic one).
IMPLEMENTING PREVENTIVE CONTROLS
Preventive controls have a specific structure, as outlined below. Your Islamic center or nonprofit can implement those that fit their organizational structure and size. ■ Assess the risk. Identify and analyze relevant risks and how they should be managed. For example, conduct monthly meetings to review risks and internal audits and perform thorough background and criminal checks before hiring. ■ Control environment. The organizational culture influences the employees’ control consciousness. This may include formulating proper direction and clear policies, especially those that deal with financial affairs; emphasizing account ability at all levels; training employees how to notice and identify discrepancies or suspicious activity, as well as how to avoid risky and apparently harmless mistakes that can cause serious problem; devising clear policies on how to respond when issues arise, who to inform and what to expect; and protecting the whistleblower’s anonymity. ■ Control-activities. This includes establishing and enforcing clear policies regarding purchasing limits, approvals, authorizations, verifications, reconcil iations, reviews of operating performance, physical and online safeguards and security of assets. See the Best Practices article below for detailed activities. ■ Separate duties. Divide financial responsibilities so that no one person controls financial activities such as check signing, accounts receivables, record 52 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
keeping, reconciliation and custody of assets. This also reduces the risk of error or inappropriate actions. The Best Practices section offers details. ■ Communicate information. Make sure that communication, which is key to a good internal control system, flows easily. This can be accom plished by devising a broader system that defines expectations and policies, and clearly outlines the steps to follow when any suspicious activity or fraud is encountered. ■ Monitor and report. Formulate and then imple ment ongoing evaluations to ensure that the internal controls are functioning well. To achieve these goals, conduct monthly reviews of performance reports and internal audits, report serious matters to management and alert the board to any internal control deficiencies or need for additional corrective measures.
systems; restrict access to bank accounts and financial software via passwords and authentication systems to authorized personnel; select strong passwords, change them regularly and don’t repeat them; don’t save access information on documents or in places that others may have access to; and periodically count all financial assets, cash and check stocks kept in lock on-site and compare this data with control records. Manually counting assets is crucial because fraud can occur off the books to bypass financial report audits. ■ Separate duties. Divide the authorization, recording and custody of assets among employees; the person reconciling bank statements or conducting audits shouldn’t be an authorized check signer; ensure that records are routinely reviewed and reconciled by someone other than the preparer or transactor; the person opening the mail should have nothing to do with the accounting records; in case the center doesn’t have enough employees, peer reviews can serve a similar function.
ORGANIZATIONS MUST HAVE SPECIFIC POLICIES AND PROCEDURES IN PLACE TO PREVENT FRAUD, MISTAKES OR MANIPULATION. THESE CAN ALSO HELP IMPROVE THE EFFICIENCY, ACCURACY AND TIMELINESS OF FINANCIAL REPORTING.
IMPLEMENTING DETECTIVE CONTROLS
This type of internal controls has two benefits: In addition to indicating whether preventive controls are operating as intended, it also offers a chance to detect loopholes and irregularities. It may include conducting detective audits, for example, surprise or random cash counts, which can help keep employees stay honest and focused on performing with integrity.
As each Islamic center is operated uniquely, the fol lowing best practices can be tailored to meet your center’s needs and management style. ■ Develop access controls and physical safeguards. For example, put locks on doors, cabinets, drawers and the safe in which you keep cash and/or checks; regularly back up all financial files on cloud-based
■ Bank accounts. Set transactional, purchasing and withdrawal limits and require dual signatures for all cash disbursements over a certain limit. If the center’s bank doesn’t honor this system, maintain a cash flow system to track the monthly expenditures; maintain a restricted account that only certain board members can monitor; keep the number of bank accounts to a minimum: one for payroll, one for operating expenses, and maybe another one for a large capital project; all check numbers — in sequence — should be accounted for; examine paid checks for date, name and endorsement with a cash disbursements journal; compare details of bank deposits to cash receipts records; and follow up on old outstanding checks. It is advisable to invest extra cash or savings in a halal manner, such as The North American Islamic Trust’s (NAIT; nait.net) Islamic Centers’ Cooperative Fund (ICCF) (https://www.nait.net/index.php/islamic-centers-cooperative) instead of keeping them in checking or savings accounts. Investing will place the cash beyond the easy reach of those taking care of financial affairs. This not only provides safety, but also offers growth over cash long term and is integral to gain financial sustainability in modern times ■ Cash receipts. Issue pre-numbered receipts to individuals who bring money to the office. These should contain the date, name, amount and purpose of funds, and be signed by the person who received them. No less than two unrelated indi viduals should count these funds, and counting team members should be rotated. ■ Cash disbursements. All non-petty cash disbursements should be made by pre-numbered checks; bills should be approved and evidenced in writing; blank checks should never be signed and kept for later use; all paid bills must accompany a vendor invoice and marked as “paid” to avoid double payment; voided checks should be marked VOID and retained; give the check signer all supporting documents to review before signing it; prohibit all “CASH” checks; and clearly state the specific expenditure on each check. ih Sources: Investopedia, UCSF Audit and Advisory Services, Washington State Office of Financial Management’s guide to internal control and auditing. [Editor’s note: Reprinted with permission from the North American Islamic Trust]
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 53
Three Signs of a Financially Abusive Marriage Everyone should be financially literate BY MANAL FOUZ
inancial abuse, like emotional abuse, is far too common in many relationships. It’s not unique to any generation, culture or faith. Seldom discussed, it can make its victims feel anxious, powerless and resentful. I guarantee that you know at least one couple currently experiencing it. Financial abuse can occur when one spouse exerts complete control over the other’s access to financial resources. In the case of a married couple, the husband is almost always the guilty party, for the wife’s ability to be financially self-sufficient is greatly reduced. This reality, an unfair power dynamic slanted in the husband’s favor, can result in the loss of trust and emotional intimacy within the marriage. The good news is that, unlike other forms of abuse, couples have a high chance of overcoming it with just a few changes. Here are three signs of financial abuse in a marriage and some things you can do about it: ➤ Denying access. When one spouse controls all the money (income, credit cards, investments, etc.) in an unhealthy and manipulative way, that’s financial abuse. When you deny your spouse access to marital assets, it’s a power play. And usually, when you’re trying to assert your dominance, it means you don’t view them as an equal. Consider how unprecedented this verse must have been to the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) contemporaries: “And do not covet that by which God has made some of you excel others; men shall have the benefit of what they earn, and women shall have the benefit of what they earn” (4:32). WHEN ONE SPOUSE CONTROLS ALL THE MONEY Husbands who give their wives an allow (INCOME, CREDIT CARDS, INVESTMENTS, ETC.) ance need to tread carefully. An allowance can be healthy if both spouses share access to IN AN UNHEALTHY AND MANIPULATIVE WAY, the family’s marital assets. Consider depos THAT’S FINANCIAL ABUSE. iting most of the family’s income into a joint bank account. Each spouse can set up an individual bank account for this allowance and then spend it with no questions asked. ➤ They feverishly monitor your Abusive spouses aren’t always cheap. In fact, they spending, but forbid you question theirs. Setting up a household budget is will sometimes make a large purchase with your joint important for a family’s financial success. However, it’s unhealthy for one spouse money after you’ve purchased something for yourself. to make all the spending decisions or react angrily whenever money is spent. A massive, unexpected purchase after an argument A spouse who vigorously tracks every purchase and gives just enough money can be a symptom of financial abuse. Remember, it’s all about control. to complete a task has major control issues. There can also be a fine line between being cheap and inflicting financial abuse. ➤ Keeping you in the dark. A husband who For instance, if a wife spends money on herself for clothing, entertainment, food maintains secret financial accounts is committing and other needs and her husband goes nuclear, that’s financial abuse. If he refuses financial abuse. Hiding something important from to spend money on her medical or dental needs, that’s financial abuse. As 4:34 one’s spouse, such as debt, investment losses or even states, “Men are the caretakers of women, as men have been provisioned by God large purchases, is sometimes referred to as “finan over women and tasked with supporting them financially.” cial infidelity.” They may use their spouse’s credit 54 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them. And He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily, in that are signs for those who reflect” (30:21). Note: If you’re experiencing financial abuse as part of an even more serious phys ical or emotional abuse, please seek imme diate professional help. ih Manal Fouz is chief compliance officer, Azzad Asset Management.
DONATE BLOOD, AND MAYBE YOU WILL SAVE A LIFE As a public service, every healthy Muslim can donate a unit of blood every six months. Doing so is a win-win situation. The body replaces the donated blood with fresh blood within two months, which helps the immune system prevent diabetes, high blood pressure and various kinds of cancers. Donate your blood, even if you have had Covid-19, because it will have antibodies. information to open these accounts and then ruin their credit history by running up charges and not paying the bills. The unassuming spouse can develop a false sense of security. When financial infi delity is discovered, a deep sense of betrayal is inevitable. Honesty and open commu nication are vital to maintaining a healthy marriage. This includes communicating about money issues. So, what can you do if you feel you’re being abused? Talk to your spouse. If he/she vehe mently disagrees with your characteriza tion, be firm. Consider counseling, whether it’s individual or marital, with a therapist who specializes in financial abuse. Such a person can help you feel more empowered by showing you how to self-advocate and set healthy boundaries. Hopefully, your spouse is willing to make some changes. Demand that he/she start by sharing and reviewing with you all
bank accounts, investments, credit cards, and other relevant financial accounts. Demand access to formerly off-limit or secret accounts and that your name appears as a joint owner. Password management appli cations like LastPass are a great way to store joint access information securely. Next, consider starting a financial plan for a complete picture of your finances. Doing so will help organize your lia bilities (expenses) and assets all in one place, as well as make decisions on how to spend your marital assets. After this, make it a rule to meet with your finan cial advisor (e.g., accountant, financial planner or banker) as a couple rather than individually. Lastly, change your mindset. Marriage is a union, a partnership. Try to do every thing you can to foster that partnership. A caring and compassionate spouse will remember God’s words, “And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates
The Quran tells us: “Whoever saves a life, it is as though he [or she] had saved the lives of all humanity” (5:32). Remember that blood donation is an easy and wonderful way to spread Islam’s message. In many cases, just as American Muslims benefit from the blood and organs donated by others, we are obliged to reciprocate this generosity. Moreover, the blood donated by practicing Muslims is sure to be free of alcohol and drug residue. Space donated by: Dr. S.A. Rehman
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 55
Vlad the Impaler: From Monster to Tragic Hero The real Dracula was a sadistic warlord BY MISBAHUDDIN MIRZA
ram Stoker could never have imagined that his 1897 Gothic horror novel “Dracula” would continue to be such a record-breaking bestseller even after more than a century. His novel also made its main protagonist, the demonic Count Dracula, the world’s most famous fic tional vampire. Stoker’s book, still a bestseller after 124 years, has been adapted numerous times as movies, TV series and other forms of broadcasting. To keep the audience interested and engaged, movie producers have kept modifying Dracula’s character while claiming to remain true to the original character. However, it appears that this all changed after Prof. Radu Florescu, the Romanian-born historian and director of Boston University’s Eastern European Research Center co-authored with Raymond T. McNally the famous “In Search of Dracula” (1972). By linking the fictional Count Dracula to the 15th-century Romanian warlord Vlad the Impaler, they caused movie producers to make dramatic changes to Dracula’s character. They romanticized him, changing him from the original repulsive and repugnant monster to a debonair gentleman and then finally, keeping up with the latest trend, threw Islamophobia into the mix. The Dracula of later movie adaptations bears little if any resemblance to Stoker’s 1897 Dracula. Sarah L. Peters’ paper “Repulsive to Romantic: The Evolution of 56 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
Bram Stoker’s Dracula” describes how Dracula’s char acter kept changing in each movie reincarnation. To make her point, she cites three movies that claim to be based directly on Stoker’s novel: German direc tor F. W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film “Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie des Grauens,” and two American films, Tod Browning’s “Dracula” (1931) and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992). “Stoker’s Dracula is pure evil, repulsive and ter rifying. He needs to take life, to end it or pervert it, and his foes are those who wish to preserve life. The roles in the story are rigid and clear-cut with definite lines between good and evil, echoing the Victorian ‘concern for purity, for the reduction of ambiguity and the preservation of boundaries’” (Spencer, Kathleen L. “Purity and Danger: Dracula, The Urban Gothic, and the Late Victorian Degeneracy Crisis.” English Literary History 59.1 (1992): 197-226. 203). Like the band of men deter mined to destroy him, the reader has no sympathy for the monster that destroys lives without remorse. In an entry of her journal, Mina says, “I suppose anyone ought to pity anything so hunted as is the Count. That is just it: this Thing is not human — not even beast. To read Dr. Seward’s account of poor Lucy’s death, and what followed, is enough to dry up the springs of pity in one’s heart” (Stoker, Bram. Dracula. The Essential Dracula. Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu. New York: Mayflower, 1979. 35-277. 186). Forty-one years before Florescu’s book was pub lished, Tod Browning’s “Dracula” came up with a variation that removed much of the hideous, ani malistic quality so important to the count’s previ ous versions. While no love story is involved, Count Dracula was now presented as an attractive, sophis ticated aristocrat who moves about easily in polite society. Yet, “Both of these earlier Draculas had to move at night, hiding in shadows, while sleeping in coffins throughout the day, never making casual con tact with humans beyond the meeting with Harker in Dracula’s own home. However, any sympathy the viewer may have for Browning’s Dracula based on his attractive looks, is soon replaced by revulsion at Dracula’s blood thirstiness (Corbin, Carol, and Robert A. Campbell. “Postmodern Iconography and Perspective in Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Journal of Popular Film and Television, 27.2 (Summer 1999): 40-49). Ninety-five years after Stoker’s book was released, and 22 years after Florescu’s book linking Dracula to Vlad the Impaler, Coppola takes Dracula’s character to a completely different level. “In an extended prologue to the film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, however, Coppola presents an origin that refers to Vald Dracul, or Vlad the Impaler, the historical figure to which Dracula’s legend is attributed (Corbin and Campbell. 49). Dracula is seen as a fearless warrior who joins the Crusades to defend Christianity, praying for
the protection of his beloved wife Elisabetha while he is gone. After defeating the Turks and impaling his enemies on long spikes, Vlad returns to discover that Elisabetha has killed herself after hearing the false news of his death. Enraged, he renounces God and pledges his life to the devil. Dracula’s motivation throughout the film is the pursuit of his lost love, reincarnated in Mina Harker, and the traditional theme of the pursuit of blood is subordinated. “The vulnerable, loving character of Coppola’s Dracula stirs the view er’s sympathy more than previous versions. The vile, untouchable crea ture has become the tragic demon lover. Dracula’s death, then, is not a victory for the good force that has
on to become Vlad the Impaler — the progenitor of the Dracula vampire myth. The neighboring Kingdom of Hungary overthrew Vlad II. So, Vlad II sought the Ottoman sultan’s help to regain his Wallachian throne and willingly offered two of his sons, Vlad Tepes Dracula (Vlad III) and Radu cel Frumos (Radu the handsome), to be raised by the sultan as collateral. The sultan sent an army to fight off Vlad II’s enemies and reinstall him on the Wallachian throne. Vlad III and Radu were sent to learn the Quran, literature, logic, Turkish and Persian. Radu soon became a friend of Sultan Murad II’s son Mehmed II, the future conqueror of Constantinople. Radu, later known as Radu Bey, became a brilliant general and served in several battles, including the one that captured Constantinople. In 1447 John Hunyadi, regent-governor of Hungary, invaded Wallachia and killed Vlad II. Mircea, Vlad II’s elder son, was tortured, blinded and buried alive. The sultan’s army went back and installed Vlad III on Wallachia’s throne. Is it possible that the way his father BY LINKING THE FICTIONAL COUNT DRACULA TO and brother were tortured and killed caused TH Vlad III to turn into the vicious psychopathic THE 15 -CENTURY ROMANIAN WARLORD VLAD THE mass-murderer that he later became? IMPALER, THEY CAUSED MOVIE PRODUCERS TO MAKE Vlad III the Impaler soon turned on DRAMATIC CHANGES TO DRACULA’S CHARACTER. the Ottoman armies that had installed him on Wallachia’s throne. Having been raised THEY ROMANTICIZED HIM, CHANGING HIM FROM THE among Muslims, he spoke Turkish fluently ORIGINAL REPULSIVE AND REPUGNANT MONSTER and was intimately familiar with the empire’s TO A DEBONAIR GENTLEMAN AND THEN FINALLY, war techniques. His soldiers dressed in Ottoman uniforms during guerilla oper KEEPING UP WITH THE LATEST TREND, THREW ations. He killed indiscriminately — men, ISLAMOPHOBIA INTO THE MIX. women, children, Turks and Bulgarians. In one incident he impaled 23,884 Turks and Bulgarians. rid the earth of a terrible evil; it is, instead, an act History.com states, “As the ruler of Walachia (now part of Romania), Vlad of love by Mina’s hand (similar to Nosferatu, but a Tepes became notorious for the brutal tactics he employed against his enemies, contrast to Stoker’s and Browning’s Draculas who are including torture, mutilation and mass murder. Though he didn’t shy away from killed by men protecting Mina) that released the soul disembowelment, decapitation or boiling alive, his preferred method was impale of the damned lover so that he may rest peacefully.” ment, or driving a wooden stake through their bodies and leaving them to die of Gary Shore’s 2014 movie “Dracula Untold” goes exposure. During his campaign against Ottoman invaders in 1462, Vlad reportedly a step further and adds the Islamophobia element had as many as 20,000 victims impaled on the banks of the Danube.” The total to keep up with today’s climate of hate. Vlad the number of his victims numbered over 80,000. Impaler’s character is humanized, and he is shown In response to this brutality, Sultan Mehmed II personally marched to Wallachia as making a massive sacrifice by becoming a demon and installed Radu Bey as its new ruler. Vlad Tepes the Impaler fled to Hungary. (i.e., Dracula) to protect his subjects and kingdom The sultan ordered Radu Bey to pursue his evil brother to stamp out this heinous depravity from the face of this planet. Vlad the Impaler was killed and his head from the Ottoman sultan. The true story of Vlad Tepes Dracula, or Vlad was sent to the sultan, where it hung from the gates of Constantinople for about the Impaler, differs from the one portrayed in the three months as a deterrence to the world’s wicked. Coppola and Shore movies. Vlad II Dracul was Elest Ali, in his New Statesman’s movie review of “Dracula Untold,” succinctly the ruler (Voivode) of Wallachia, a principality concludes: “Today, vilification of Islam has reached such heights, that even when south of Transylvania. He was granted the sur the Sultan is cast opposite history’s bloodiest-psycho-tyrant, it’s Dracula who name “Dracul” (Dragon) upon his induction into emerges as the tragic hero.” ih the Order of the Dragon — a Christian military Misbahuddin Mirza, M.S., P.E., is a licensed professional engineer, registered in the States of New York and New Jersey, served order sustained by the Holy Roman emperor. He as the regional quality control engineer for the New York State Department of Transportation’s New York City Region. He is had four sons, including Vlad Tepes, who would go the author of the iBook “Illustrated Muslim Travel Guide to Jerusalem.” He has written for major U.S. and Indian publications. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 57
Harmonize Halal Certification Regulations Muslims need established standards to secure their right to halal food BY MOHAMMAD ABDULLAH
report by the International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group (IMARC Group), valued the global halal market at $1.9 trillion in 2020 and expects it to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 11.3% during 2021-26. This is good news, but even better news would have been data showing a trend that Muslim corporations are overcoming decades of inertia and advancing toward self-sufficiency by owning and modern izing food-related industries to compete in the complex and competitive global food market. Some Muslims are concerned that the lack of uniform halal standards enables global corporations to take advantage of the ensuing confusion among food producers and consumers. The race to
produce cheap food products, complex food processing methods and fragmented, unregulated halal certification system used by food traders in the non-Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries takes the essence out of the halal logo.
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Considering these factors, the report can only be described as winning the battle but losing the war. Over 100 halal certification organiza tions exist worldwide. They have varied halal standards and no overall enforcement authority to establish uniform standards or hold a plant accountable when its products are determined to be contaminated with non-halal ingredients or to be falsely labeled as halal. Consumers wonder who is watching these global corporations to determine if their meat products are really halal or not. According to Ab Talib et al., “most of the companies implement halal certifica tion for the competition with their rivals, not for the motivation of the assurance of halal food authenticity. Therefore, a clear understanding of halal certification system is needed” (British Food Journal 117(11), Oct. 2015, 2664-2705). Wael Hallaq states, “Globalization is a regulatory force that global institutions rely upon for further expansion of markets, both within its borders and outside them. There is no question that the balance of power has shifted and continues to shift in favor of the global market and away from the State” (“The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament,” Columbia University Press , 142).
Globalization’s impacts are becoming evi dent on the smaller-scale halal meat industry, which cannot compete with the corporate conventional meat industry because large size translates into lower costs and greater efficiencies. So, whether willingly or not, the former has been slowly adopting the ways of the latter. The 2011 UK Food Standards Agency figures note that 84% of cattle, 81% of sheep and 88% of chickens slaughtered for
10-year plan that aims for uniformity in standardization, metrology, and accred itation activities. The OIC/SMIIC will promote its new standards and will help its member states in implementing them through trainings and so on” (“Explained: The Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries’ new ten-year plan, Aug. 2, 2021). As the OIC/SMIIC promotes its new standards, it is worth mentioning that
TODAY, THIS PRACTICE OF STUNNING ANIMALS BEFORE SLAUGHTERING THEM IS THE “ONLY LEVERAGE” THE HALAL MEAT INDUSTRY HAS LEFT OVER OTHER KINDS OF MEATS.
halal meat were stunned before they died. Supermarkets selling halal meat say they follow this practice. Tesco states that the only difference between its halal meat and other meat is that the animal was blessed as it was being killed (What is halal meat?, BBC NEWS, May 12, 2014). According to a report, “the OIC/SMIIC [Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries] has now published a
“In general, international halal standards claim to protect Muslim consumers, but if they are read carefully, it can be seen that these standards mainly aim to protect the interests of the industries producing food and non-food items for Muslims under the umbrella of halal” (Halal Certification and International Halal Standards, “The Halal Food Handbook,” 2020). Several earlier attempts have been under taken to harmonize existing standards; however, all of them have failed. The latest “strategic plan” was a five-year plan for 2016 to 2020. Given that the community has been unwilling to do anything about this, many Muslims have started to think of it as a sec ondary — or even an unresolvable — issue. Halal certification organizations are allowing animals to be stunned prior to being slaughtered, on the grounds that it’s reversible. In other words, these animals stay alive. This looks good in theory, but in reality, it’s impractical to determine if this was the case in plants that slaughter about 400 or so cattle per hour, as well as 140-175 chickens per minute. Stunning animals before slaughter ing them is mandatory (9 C.F.R. 313.1 313.90, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Department of Agriculture). However, many countries have granted a “religious exemption” for those who slaughter animals according to the halal and shechita (kosher) methods. Lately, however, some countries have either already abolished this exemp tion or are in the process of doing so on the
basis that it is cruel (Abdullah, “Religious Exemption is No Bar to Animal Welfare,” Islamic Horizons (pp.38-39), March/April 2018). Today, this practice of stunning ani mals before slaughtering them is the “only leverage” the halal meat industry has left over other kinds of meats. What would the halal-meat merchants, distributors and others affiliated with this industry tell others about why halal-meat is so special and why its demand continues to increase as the 2020 Global Halal Food Market Report asserts? There is no need to sweep this decadesold issue under the halal logo umbrella, because sooner or later there will be new halal-related issues — issues that we will have to face. As a society, Muslims are perfectly capable of deciding together how to address the challenges. However, this requires trans parency, accountability in terms of develop ing and implementing the new standards, as well as explaining the entire process to the public in a clear and concise manner. ih Dr. Mohammad Abdullah, who retired after serving 29 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the agency that regulates the meat industry, is the author of “A Closer Look at Halal Meat from Farm to Fork” (2016).
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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 59
IN MEMORIAM Mahmoud Ayoub 1935 -2021
A Humble Intellectual Giant
In 2012, Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub (first right) received the Distinguished Scholar Award, presented by (now late) Dr. Jamal al-Barzinji, vice president of International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and also former board member of the Hartford Seminary (center), and Dr. Abubaker al-Shingieti, former IIIT executive director.
he scores of international Muslim graduates from Temple University’s Department of Religion have now been orphaned twice: first when Prof. Ismail al Faruqi passed away in 1986 and now, with Prof. Mahmoud Ayoub’s death on Oct. 31, 2021, in Montreal. Ayoub, who hailed from the mixed Muslim–Christian town of Ain Qana, South Lebanon, was born blind. As a special needs child, he attended a British Presbyterian mis sionary school for the blind. His intelligent mind and desire to learn, know the world and seek education left him unsatisfied with the education his school offered. He described his early learning experience as “the school authorities did not really have an educa tional program for us, what they wanted to do mainly was to make us Christians …” As a young zealous Christian, he later joined an American Southern Baptist Church to reach others with the Gospel. All of this created great tension with his family, espe cially his devout Muslim father, but also gave him a unique insight into Christianity and
Muslim-Christian relations, a field of study and research to which he made a lasting and unique contribution. Ayoub reverted to Islam during his university studies.
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His gentle soul, kindheartedness and concern for his family and students’ well-be ing made him a friend, father and teacher. He enjoyed international recognition and left behind an ever-lasting legacy in the field of Islam and comparative religion. His holis tic scholarship, which plumbed the depths of the Quran, Christian theology, the study of world religions and other areas, was char acterized by its critical, integrated, rational and pluralistic approaches. Before beginning his academic career, Ayoub spent years becoming credentialed – B.A. (philosophy, American University of Beirut, 1964); M.A. (religious thought, University of Pennsylvania, 1966) and Ph.D. (history of religion, Harvard University, 1975). His doctoral advisor was Prof. Annemarie Schimmel, and his published dissertation, “Redemptive Suffering in Islam: A Study of the Devotional Aspects of Ashura’ in Twelver Shiism in the Middle Ages,” is considered a classic in the field. From 1988 to 2008, he was professor and director of Islamic studies in Temple University’s Department of Religion, an adjunct professor at Hartford Seminary’s Duncan Black Macdonald Center, a research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Middle East Center and the Tolson visit ing professor at Berkeley’s Pacific School of Religion. In 1998, Ayoub helped devise and launch a graduate master’s-level program in MuslimChristian relations and comparative religion at the University of Balamand’s (Lebanon) Center for Christian-Muslim Studies. Before coming to Temple University, he taught at San Diego State University, the University of Toronto and McGill University. In 1999, he played a central role in establishing Yogyakarta’s (Indonesia) Temple-Gadjah Mada University’s Comparative Religion Program and lectured there each summer. After retiring from Temple University, Ayoub was appointed faculty associate of Hartford Seminary’s Shi’ite Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations and co-director of Georgetown University’s Duncan Black MacDonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. In 2016, he was the force behind estab lishing the Imam Ali Chair for the Study of Shi’i Islam and Dialogue Among Islamic Legal School at the Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, the first academic chair in North America dedicated to Shi’i studies.
Throughout his academic career, Ayoub received awards and scholarships, including the Kent Doctoral Fellowship and the Canada Council Fellowship. He also participated in the Fulbright Exchange of Scholars program for Malaysia and researched Christian-Muslim relations in Egypt and Lebanon, also on a Fulbright scholarship. Among his publications are “Redemptive Suffering in Islam” (1978), “The Qur’an and Its Interpreters”: vol. I (1984) and vol. II (1992); “ “Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations” (in Arabic) 2 vols. (2000), “Islam: Faith and History” (2005), “A Muslim View of Christianity: Essays on Dialogue” (2007) and “The Crisis of Muslim History: Religion and Politics in Early Islam” (2014). For him, the heart of Islam is its moral system, which is based on “No one of you will be a true believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself ” (“Sunan Ibn Majah,” vol. 1, book 1, hadith 66). This intra-Muslim pluralist described himself as “a very peaceful person, I don’t like to dispute with anybody.” Born into a Shia family, he would lead his Sunni stu dents in the Sunni way of prayer! A reli gious pluralist, he respected all religions by adhering to the Quranic teaching of the best approach to interreligious relations is to “compete with one another in doing good works” (2:148). Dr. Ayoub and his wife Dasmalina (Lina) are remembered by all who knew them for their warm hospitality and kindness. His two children, Firas and Sommayyeh, sur vive him. ih (Contributed by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Imtiyaz Yusuf, coordinator, Islamization of Human Knowledge, and coordinator, Islam and Buddhism Program, International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation, [ISTAC-IIUM] Kuala Lumpur).
Leaving behind a most admirable legacy
atima Baig, 28, who had val iantly faced adversity since being diagnosed with a chronic autoim mune disease at 11, passed away in Toronto on Oct. 31, 2021. She also had Crohn’s disease. Born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents, Fatima and her family emigrated to Mississauga, Ont., Canada in 1996. The youngest of four children, she lived with primary sclerosing chol angitis, a rare autoim mune disease that attacks the bile ducts and eventu ally leads to liver failure. It’s extremely rare in chil dren, as it usually impacts adults aged between 30 and 40. In 2013, she launched her organ donation cam paign and sought to raise awareness about organ donation’s impor tance among Canadian Muslims and South Asian communities. She made connections with other families affected by liver disease and spoke at various events, sometimes at the invitation of politicians. Taha Ghayyur, a host at Muslim Network TV and vice president at SoundVision, remembers, “Fatima and her beloved mother would go to various events setting up tables and doing presentations on this neglected issue.” Reflecting on Fatima’s demise, Gayyur summed up her legacy: “You may be faced with adversity, but you can choose to respond with a positive attitude. You may have a disability, but you can choose to not let it define you and confine you. You may be tested with pain and health challenges, but you can choose to share your story to ease others’ pain. You may have a life-threat ening disease, but you can choose to bring life to others through education, organizing, and advocacy. And, you can choose to leave behind a legacy whose impact outlives you.” Sarah Hurtado, writing in Humber News, a campus publication (Nov. 12, 2021),
reminisced, “But her impact went beyond her illness. Her light and heart were massive, all fit in a small, 4-foot 7-inch body.”
Baig also volunteered with Operation SMILE, writing stories for children with dis abilities. Her memoir, “Fatima’s Journey” (2017), details her journey as a two-time liver transplant recipient. She talks about how she came to spread awareness of organ donation; share her story through social and other media outlets and public speaking; and became part of a community of transplant patients, donor families, and those with chronic illness, all of whom united together in diversity through struggles. “Every year Baig celebrated her two trans plant anniversaries — Oct. 19 and Sep. 23 — along with her birthday — Aug. 27,” wrote Toronto Star’s Angelyn Francis. Upon graduation in 2020 with a journal ism major, Baig started working for Muslim Sources (https://muslimsources.org/), which helps mainstream journalists find credible Muslim experts. Her father Mirza Fawad Baig, mother Afia Baig, two sisters and a brother survive her. ih Source: “‘Leave a legacy whose impact outlives you’: Journalist and two-time organ transplant recipient Fatima Baig dies at 28,”Toronto Star, Angelyn Francis, Equity and Inequality Reporter. Nov. 11, 2021
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NEW RELEASES Praying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas Omar Mouallem 2021. Pp. 384. HB. $27.00. Kindle. $12.99 Simon & Schuster, Toronto, ON, Canada ouallem explores how Islam has sur vived and thrived in the Americas from indus trialization to politics and states that there may be a place for it in his own life, particularly as a father, even if he will never be a true believer.
Medicine and Shariah: A Dialogue in Islamic Bioethics Aasim I. Padela (ed.) 2021. Pp. 266. HB. $75.00. Kindle. $59.99 University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Ind. adela’s foundational compilation fur nishes the necessary concepts and terms and concludes by offering a multidisciplinary model for ethical deliberation. Various analytic, empirical and normative lenses examine the interaction between biomedical knowledge (represented by physicians) and Islamic law (represented by jurists) in Islamic bioethical deliberations.
Why Muslims Lagged Behind and Others Progressed Nadeem M. Qureshi (trans.) 2021. Pp. 126. HB. $15.34. PB. $11.24. Kindle. $4.50 Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd., London, U.K. ureshi offers a new English translation of Shakib Arslan’s 1930 book, which evolved out of his responses to Mohammad Basyuni Imran’s (the Imam of Java) 1928 request to explain and suggest how Muslims can overcome their backwardness. Arslan discusses advanced nations that retained their religious beliefs, several relevant studies and how earlier Muslims managed to achieve so many things.
Islam through Objects Anna Bigelow (ed.) 2021. Pp. 264. HB. $78.00. PB. $32.28. Kindle. $31.45 Bloomsbury Academic, London, U.K. ontending that Islam’s aversion to the material aspects of religion is a myth, each chap ter focuses on a single object in daily use. It then describes and analyzes each object’s provenance, materials, uses and history, as well as its broader history, variety and uses. Temporal, regional and sectarian variations in style, use and theological perspective are also considered.
Sisters in the Mirror: A History of Muslim Women and the Global Politics of Feminism Elora Shehabuddin 2021. Pp. 416. HB. $29.95. Kindle. $20.99 University of California Press, Oakland, Calif. hehabuddin presents feminism’s history as one of colonial and postcolonial interactions. Although their world has often been on the losing
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side, Muslims have long constructed their own ideas about women’s and men’s lives in the West. The author shows how changes in women’s lives and feminist strategies reflect wider changes in national and global politics and economics. Whose Islam?: The Western University and Modern Islamic Thought in Indonesia Megan Brankley Abbas 2021. Pp. 280. HB. $79.00. PB. $ 28.00. Kindle. $26.60 Stanford University Press, Palo Alto, Calif. bbas argues that top Indonesian Muslim leaders used to be educated in the Middle East or Indonesia. Starting in the mid-20th century, however, they flocked to Western universities and thereby forged powerful new transnational networks and disrupted prevailing modes of authority. This raises such issues as whether and how to protect the Islamic tradition from Western encroachment. For Western aca demics, these connections raise pressing ethical questions about their role in the global politics of development and Islamic reli gious reform.
Re-envisioning Islamic Scholarship: Maqasid Methodology as a New Approach Jasser Auda 2021. Pp. 284. PB. $20.00 Claritas Books, Swansea, U.K. uda integrates scholarship to show the connectivity of human thought and action within a purposeful universe of infinite possibilities. The maqasid (objectives of revelational guidance) manifest themselves through a process of emergence premised on deep understandings of all that shapes our understandings and helps us re-envision research agendas, educational institutes and organi zational strategies.
Traditional Islamic Ethics: The Concept of Virtue and its Implications for Contemporary Human Rights Irfaan Jaffer 2021. Pp. 184. HB. $49.00 Vernon Press, Wilmington, Del. affer contends that the current under standing and implementation of international human rights needs to be more flexible and inclusive, for “The Universal Declaration” and its offshoots remain based on secular-liberal prin ciples and thus at odds with other cultural traditions. Focusing on the liberal, progressive, traditional and fundamentalist responses offered, he concludes that the Western and Islamic traditions aren’t mutually exclusive.
Rapunzel: An Islamic Tale Fawzia Gilani (illus. Sarah Nesti Willard) 2021. Pp. 44. HB. $14.00 Kube Publishing Ltd., Leicestershire, U.K. hard-hearted old woman takes a wood cutter and his wife’s baby daughter in payment for a few rapunzel leaves. Although not a cruel woman, she renames the girl Rapunzel so her parents can’t find her. In time, Rapunzel grows into a young, inquisitive, kind and generous lady. But will she ever be reunited with her parents? ih
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