July/August 2012/1433 | $4.00 | www.isna.net
Nadoona: Fit and Fabulous Tackling Racism among Muslims Jihadi Jew’s Interfaith Tweets
The New Jim Crow A look at the parallels between the War on Drugs and the War on Terror
Is Justice Just a Click Away?
Connecting with the needy in Ramadan Creating Eid traditions with non-Muslim family Balancing worship and motherhood
Re Annu gis al tra ISN pa tio A Co ge n n v 31 Fo en rm tion
Examining the effectiveness of “Clicktivism”
Vol. 41 No. 4 July/August 2012 visit isna online at: www.isna.net
Cover Story 20 This is Our Moment
The eerily similar War on Drugs and War on Terror have little to do with their implied targets. A closer look at the statistics and scenarios involved with both point to the need to create alliances across racial and religious lines to end unjust and illegal practices.
20 Convention Coverage
12 Empowering Future Leaders Today 13 ISNA Canada: A New Era Unfolds 15 ISNA’s DC Office at Work
Muslims in Action
26 Fitness with Flare 28 To Click or Not to Click? 35 Miami Muslim Clinic Cares
Politics and Society
36 Racism: We are all slaves of Allah 39 @JihadiJew: From India to Irvine 41 Latino Converts: Happily ever after? 43 45 46 47 48 50 52 54
Around the World
Closer to Home, Yet Farther Than Ever Hungry for Freedom The Arab Spring and You The Forgotten People
Going Beyond Fasting Creating Traditions and the Holiday Spirit Wife, Mom, Servant of God Keeping Fit while Fasting
48 6 8 16 56 60
Departments Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters Reviews Food for the Spirit
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Meha Ahmad. 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.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Secretary General calls you to D.C.
he echos of Muslims in the mosques across the nation reciting Quran during night prayers in Ramadan and their chants on Eid day, “Here I come, oh Allah, here I come” are beginning to fill my head, as is the case every year before Ramadan. But this year they are followed immediately by the thought, “The ISNA Convention is right around the corner!” It will begin right after Ramadan, and what a fortunate coincidence; we have the chance to extend that joyous feeling of being around so many Muslims to carry on the spirit of Ramadan and Eid just a bit longer. We will enter the Convention on the heels of Ramadan, feeling refreshed, renewed and ready for the upcoming November presidential elections. The lineup of the weekend promises to be extraordinary and inspiring. You will have the opportunity to engage in interesting dialogue and conversations in our various sessions. Our “Meet the Author” program this year promises to be a great one. I am sure the room will be filled to capacity when Tariq Ramadan debuts his new book, “The Arab Awakening: Islam and the New Middle East,” which will focus on the legacy of the Arab Spring. Be not only one of the first to own it, but get it signed by the author as well. With multiple submissions this year, this program will be a bookworm’s dream. After nourishing your mind and soul, take time to replenish your resources with some exquisite cuisine. You will have the option of eating amidst fellow Muslims at the buzzing food court, during one of our key special events, such as the Young Muslim Professionals Luncheon, or at a diverse array of eateries that surround the convention center. You will also have the chance to stock up on your favorite merchandise, not found anywhere else
but in our bazaar, the largest of its kind, housing 550 booths. Better yet, I encourage you to join us this year at one of the most anticipated events of the Convention, the Community Service Recognition Luncheon, which will conclude with a keynote from Karen Armstrong. We are honored to host her this year, and are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to bring her and other special guests and scholars together. Our speaker line up will include notable individuals such as Hamza Yusuf, John Esposito, Cardinal McCarrik, Ingrid Mattson, Jamal Badawi, Keith Ellison, Zainab Alwani, and many others. In fact, the ISNA convention brings together the largest number of renowned speakers, thinkers, academics, activists and politicians in the U.S. I am particularly excited to welcome Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the leader of Al Nahda party that has been at the forefront of the smoothest and most promising transition to democracy in the Arab World thus far. Also, make time to venture out into D.C. to see the sights that capture the history of our nation better than any other. What better place to take your children in their downtime from the Children’s Program, MYNA, or MSA? Let them experience our nation’s capital in action, so they feel a part of this year’s elections. As an educator, I can tell you, it’s a great teaching moment. Whether you’re an activist, bookworm, academic, foodie, or just a tourist, this year’s convention is bound to appeal to you. Registration is still open online. And when you are there be sure to come find me. I look forward to seeing you there!
Safaa Zarzour, ISNA Secretary General
Islamic Horizons March/April 2012
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRE SID ENT Mohamed Hagmagid Ali SECRE TA RY GENER A L Safaa Zarzour ED IT O R
Omer Bin Abdullah A ssistant Editor Deanna Othman ED IT O RIA L A DVIS O RY B OA RD
Susan Douglass (Chair); Dr. Jimmy Jones; Dr. Sulayman Nyang; Dr. Ingrid Mattson. ISL A MI C H O RIZO NS
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ISNA Joins in Highlighting Minority Rights ISNA joined Georgetown University’s Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) to host a Symposium on Religious Freedom and the Rights of Minorities in Islam in D.C. on May 18. ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid and ACMCU Assistant Director Dr. John Voll welcomed an audience of more than 100 representatives of faith organizations, academic institutions, think-tanks, and diplomatic missions. ISNA is working together with Muslim leaders worldwide to promote a mechanism for developing Islamic standards and protocols on religious freedom and the role of religious minorities in the Muslim-majority communities. Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah of Mauritania presented the background on the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) of the rights of religious minorities in Muslim-majority communities. The word “minorities” does not exist in Islamic thought, Sh. Bin Bayyah said, but rather multiple “religious groups.” He added, “Islam sees humanity as one unified group,” quoting the Quranic verse, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.” ISNA board member Dr. Jamal Badawi expanded upon the notion of plurality and diversity and connected it to the objectives of Shariah, which seek to provide goodness to everyone.
“Shariah is not what Muslims are doing and what they’ve done,” he said. Georgetown University’s Dr. Jonathan Brown provided practical examples of the treatment of religious minorities throughout history. In many examples, he said, “Religious minorities would pay their own taxes and this would ensure their protection.” This was the precedent established at the time of the Caliph Omar and was repeated numerous times. At the same time, however, he also provided examples where religious minorities have not been afforded this protection as mandated by Islam, and were instead used as scapegoats by certain individuals, highlighting how this was absolutely wrong behavior. College of William & Mary’s Dr. Tamara Sonn shared insights about the ideals of
ISNA Takes Message of Interfaith Harmony to Muslim World ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid and ISNA Director of Community Outreach Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi met with high-ranking religious authorities and scholars in Morocco and Tunisia to discuss the rights of religious minorities in Muslimmajority countries across the globe. Working in consultation with these authorities, they 8
presented the idea of developing Islamic standards and protocols to guarantee equal participation of various religious groups in Muslim-majority countries. During their visits, they met with Dr. Ahmed Toufiq, Moroccan minister of Islamic Affairs and Endowments; Dr. Noureddine Khadmi, Tunisian minister of Religious Affairs; and Dr. Abdul Aziz Othman al-Tuwaijri,
Islamic government, one of which being that in theory, the government should serve as a contract between the ruler and the ruled. The Quran provides guidance on equal rights and other areas, but the specifics are left to human beings to extract and apply. U.S. Institute of Peace Senior Program Officer Dr. Qamar-ul Huda spoke about the perspective of religious minorities with whom he works in Muslim-majority countries, particularly in the era post-Arab Spring. South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool shared his experiences as a Muslim minority struggling alongside the majority during apartheid. Muslims, he said, even though not more than 3 percent of the South African population, got nine cabinet posts when Nelson Mandela took office in 1994. He reminded: “What you demand as a minority, you have to give when you’re the majority. That’s the test of integrity when you fight Islamophobia, and when we speak to our fellow Muslims when they are the majorities.... The rights that you want as a Muslim, you must give to others, even if you detest their lifestyle.” He added, “Our achievement of our status in South Africa, despite our numbers, was because we understood fundamentally that before the Prophet was a messenger, he was the trustworthy, Al-Ameen.”
General Manager of the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) to stress the issue of the rights of religious minorities. Morocco has a history of harmonious coexistence between people of diverse religious backgrounds. Similarly, developments in Tunisia following the Arab Spring have re-energized a commitment to a pluralist democracy and to a guarantee of the rights of all people to wholly participate in government and society. ISNA is committed to religious freedom and seeks to promote it not only in the U.S., but also abroad. In the U.S., ISNA is partnering with Jews and Christians in running, “Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values” campaign.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
ISNA Reaches out to Baptists ISNA president Imam Magid, ISNA vice-president– U.S. Azhar Azeez, secretary general Safaa Zarzour, Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, national director, ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances (IOICA), and Dr. M. Elsanousi, outreach director, IOICA, visited the Carter Center in Atlanta, where they called upon former President Jimmy Carter, who was joined by Shoulder-to-Shoulder member Dr. Roy Medley in discussing strategies to strengthen collaborations between the Muslim American and Baptist communities to promote interfaith understanding. They discussed working to this end by collaborating on projects led by Carter at the Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity, among others, to advance the shared goals of promoting social justice, human rights, economic
empowerment, and peaceful transitions to democracy. ISNA has worked with Habitat for Humanity on a variety of projects, including virtual trainings on how to become an advocate for affordable housing, and looks forward to collaborating in projects led by Carter in the near future. Later, the ISNA team joined Dr. Gerald Durley of the Atlanta Providence
Opposing Indefinite Detention On April 20, ISNA joined other organizations issued a call Congress to support pending legislation which will put an end to indefinite detention. Since 2006, ISNA has worked with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) to end torture and indefinite detention. Late last year, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA) was signed into law, despite work by ISNA and other organizations to prevent this dangerous legislation from
passing Congress. In direct violation of the constitution and due process, NDAA authorizes the U.S. government to imprison
people indefinitely, including those captured on U.S. soil, without any charges brought against them or trial. The law also
Baptist Church to discuss strategies to develop local interfaith programs through the ISNA co-founded Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign. Dr. Durley helped found the Shoulderto-Shoulder campaign and has been actively involved in promoting interfaith dialogue and speaking against Islamophobia. ISNA and a variety of American Baptist organizations will also co-sponsor the 2nd Baptist-Muslim Dialogue this year. The ISNA team also met with the Atlanta Muslim community at two of the most well-established and flourishing Atlanta mosques, Masjid Al-Islam and Masjid Al-Mu’minun, to discuss how ISNA can help support the expansion of their many existing community programs, particularly the expansion of their Islamic schools. They also met with the Georgia Shura Council and several Islamic centers.
further inhibits efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. This year, Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Adam Smith introduced legislation that seeks to counteract these provisions and protect the constitutional right to due process for all. This legislation opposes indefinite detention and needs your support to pass Congress. NRCAT has prepared a model e-mail that you can use to e-mail members of Congress and ask them to stop indefinite detention by supporting this legislation.
ISNA Seeks Gun Control In response to the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, ISNA joined the interfaith coalition, Faiths United Against Gun Violence, in delivering a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on May 13, asking him to stop this legislation S. 2188 and S. 2213 from becoming law, which allows anyone with a permit from a state like Florida to carry a concealed weapon with them anywhere in the country, from New York City to Topeka, Kan., no matter what the local laws say. This legislation already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, and now it’s up to the Senate to stop it. ISNA is also a member of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which is comprised of both national and grassroots organizations.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Trayvon Martin 9
Weekend of Twinning
ISNA co-sponsored the Weekend of Twinning with the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) to host the first Mission of Latin American and Caribbean Muslim and Jewish Leaders in March. Fourteen imams and rabbis traveled to Washington, D.C. from across South America and the Caribbean islands. Two years ago, ISNA hosted a similar mission with leaders from across Europe and have since traveled to Europe to support their ongoing work. The mission leaders met with organizations in the U.S. to learn from successful grassroots initiatives to promote interfaith dialogue. This included a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum and visits from leadership at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) where they discussed strategies for improving
immigration policies in the U.S. for Latin American countries. ISNA and FFEU also arranged meetings for the mission leaders with interfaith members of Congress and senior officials at the White House and State Department. These U.S. officials shared with the group their strategies for maintaining religious pluralism in the
U.S. and successful government outreach programs to U.S. faith communities, especially minority faiths groups. Members of the mission signed a joint resolution which includes both short and long-term goals for ongoing local and national interfaith dialogue and programs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
On March 22, ISNA leaders joined a diverse group of national religious leaders in Washington D.C. for a press conference and meetings with members of Congress to present their comprehensive document for congressional consideration, “Priorities for a Faithful Federal Budget.” The Faithful Budget calls on Congress and the administration to follow the moral imperative of determining priorities based on the real needs of the people they must serve. The document presents an unprecedented effort by the faith community to join together to promote the compassionate budget principles on which we can all agree: To “protect the common good, values each individual and his or her livelihood, and helps lift the burden on the poor, rather than increasing it while
shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice.” The Faithful Budget is a continuation of the Faithful Budget Campaign, an effort launched by the religious community in July of 2011 to lift up faithful voices on behalf of the nation’s most vulnerable in order to encourage the administration and Congress to maintain a robust commitment to domestic and international poverty assistance programs. Since last July, ISNA and other members of the campaign have organized high-level meetings with policymakers, a Washington fly-in of top religious leaders, daily prayer vigils near the U.S. Capitol Building and White House to urge Congress to not reduce the deficit by placing an undue burden on the poor while shielding the wealthiest from additional sacrifice.
ISLAMIC SCHOOL OF SAN DIEGO
ISNA joined with other faith communities on April 25 to help to shine a light on malaria this April through a faith-based awareness campaign launched by ONE. ONE is a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that are saving lives.
Every 40 seconds, a child in subSaharan Africa dies of a bite from a mosquito carrying malaria. Unlike many of the challenges facing children living in poverty-stricken countries, preventing mosquito bites and malaria is relatively simple and inexpensive. Bed nets to protect against malaria cost $10 and medicines to cure malaria cost roughly $6-$10 per dose. 10
The only full-time, accredited K-8 Islamic school in San Diego County is accepting applications for full-time elementary, multiple subject teachers and part-time single subject teachers, especially history. Qualified candidates must possess: • Bachelor’s degree or higher • 1-2 years of full-time teaching experience • Single or Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential and at least 1-2 years of full-time teaching experience (strongly preferred) • Excellent instructional ability • Patient, caring attitude, excellent classroom management skills, and ability to work with children from a multicultural population • Possess strong technology skills and be computer literate • Exhibit an excellent ability to work in a team and collaborate with others • *Possess excellent English language communication skills • Please send resume to admin@ issdweb.org
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
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ElEctronic Funds transFEr is a good dEEd donE rEgularly. through EFt isna can rEcEivE your donation Each month automatically From your bank account or crEdit card saving you postagE and timE.
be the sOurce Of suppOrt tO isna’s lOng term financial stability and grOwth. benefits of the eft program include: Donor Convenience Less Administrative Cost and Time A Predictable Cash Flow for ISNA Ability to Stop at Any Time
To support ISNA please visit: www.isna.net or contact us at email@example.com
Empowering Future Leaders Today
Osman, spoke at a session on instructing Islamic Studies and Arabic teachers on how to make their classes the most beloved courses for students.
and productive leaders, as the history of the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayahi was sallam) has shown us. Yacoob explained the type of opportunities that teachers can create in the classroom for students to hone leadership skills. These opportunities would include developing student councils and student ambassador programs where students would lead tours and greet visitors and prospective students. Other suggestions include group projects, planning fundraising projects and the implementation of student-parent-teacher conferences as opposed to the traditional parent-teacher conference. This would provide students the opportunity to meet with both teacher and parent and discuss their grades along with achievements and breakdowns. This instills accountability and ownership, which are crucial elements to being a strong leader. Another leadership initiative Yacoob has implemented at his school is Student Leadership Day. This program allows students to take on a staff or faculty role for the day.
“[The children] are our contribution to a better future and humanity,” Maddah said. At the session, “Developing Student Leaders and Activists: Integrating Academics and Community Outreach,” Fawad M.S. Yacoob, a middle school social studies teacher for more than 10 years, stressed the importance of training young Muslim leaders. “It is an integral part of Islamic schools to develop leaders because that is what answers the question of who will be the next imams, teachers and principals,” he said. Yacoob emphasized that the best way to accomplish this is through the Islamic tradition of leadership. “When we talk about leadership, we need to make sure our students understand our history, Quran and Prophetic traditions,” Yacoob said. Making sure students begin to get to know themselves as leaders and what it means to be accountable is key when developing fair
Students are required to submit resumes and interview for positions of their choice. This provides students a chance to develop problem-solving skills and confidence. It also provides them with job training and interviewing experience. At the same session, S. Fatima Quadri presented on the Ensar Program, which is a leadership club at the middle school she teaches at. “What’s the purpose of producing leaders?” Quadri said at the beginning of the session. “We want them to be successful in their paths to God. That’s the ultimate goal.” In order to produce complete leaders, she said, it is important that students aren’t just great at giving speeches and planning events, but to also be totally sincere in their leadership, just as the Prophet and his companions. Quadri stressed the necessity of character education and development. Through the Ensar Program, students take on projects such as regularly visiting
ISNA Education Forum emphasizes developing new leaders. By Leen Jaber
f you asked people to reflect upon the meaning of Islamic education, most would respond with something related to Quran, sunnah or character. And although all of these would be great answers, one of the most overlooked aspects of Islamic education is leadership: the ability to lead effectively and the ability to move, touch and inspire others through making sound decisions, having accountability and exemplifying integrity.
equipped Muslim leaders. With one of the largest participant turn-outs since the Forum’s inception, nearly 700 educators and administrators from various states gathered to learn and implement Islamic educational practices in their respective Islamic full-time and weekend schools. With the theme “Islamic Schools: Engaging Learning Communities,” the sessions provided an array of topics ranging from school accreditation to eradicating Islamophobia to dealing with bullying. Highlighting the importance of creating Muslim leaders, most sessions stressed the essential link between Islamic education and leadership. “I asked myself, ‘How am I going to transform our students into the leaders of tomorrow?’ Because they will be the ones who will transfer our deen (religion) into the world,” said Sawsan Maddah, Arabic teacher at the Universal School of Buffalo, N.Y. Maddah, along with her colleague, Tamer 12
Photo by Mohamed Hamdouchi
Photo by Mohamed Hamdouchi
This year ISNA-CISNA hosted its 13th Annual Education Forum in Chicago. The Forum trained its participants in the essential building blocks of creating well-
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
nursing homes, cat shelters and soup kitchens. Students build relationships with those they service and also gain mercy toward all of God’s creations. Quadri emphasized that students be instilled with their responsibilities toward others without developing hero complexes or to feel superior to those they help. That type of ideology hinders affective leadership. Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of leadership is the ability to create an empowering context to eradicate Islamophobia. Many Muslims have accepted Islamophobia as “something to just put up with.” However, many would argue that Muslims in America are responsible for equipping our youth with the key components of leadership to not only extinguish the flames of Islamophobia, but to create “being Muslim” as a spectacular thing to be, even in the West. “Affective interventionism” is how Amina Shareef, a graduate student at Purdue University, explained the curriculum to be implemented in the Islamic School system as a part of molding strong Muslim leaders to combat Islamophobia. The public school system maintains the political order of the times. It reinforced a political agenda that has been put in place by policymakers and the media. This is why it is more important than ever to utilize the Islamic School system to teach young Muslims how to respond to Islamophobia and to even truly understand it. Not surprisingly, one of the greatest challenges to Muslims in the West is the lack of knowledge that the public has about Islam. “There is a miseducation in the West of Islam or the history of Islam,” said Shareef. “We must a build a bridge to a frame of understanding. The curriculum developed to minimize the presence of Islamophobia is created around this concept of understanding. “The forum has been great,” said Berthena Nabaa-McKinney, principal at Nashville International Academy, “The level of interaction has been helpful, and I learned a lot that I can take back to my community.” Ali Khan, Islamic Studies teacher at AlIlim Sunday School in Indianapolis felt that the Forum really responded to his sense of responsibility as a teacher. “It’s my job to find out what kids are watching and what they are doing. It’s my responsibility to nurture their lives as a whole.”
Leen Jaber is a freelance writer from Chicago.
A New Era Unfolds
ISNA Canada Convention seeks to traverse the road to rejuvenation. By Mariam Munawar
he 38th annual ISNA Canada Convention, held on the Victoria Day weekend in Mississauga, Ont., May 18-20, witnessed a major revival in form, breaking away from its standstill of a couple hundred attendees for the past few years, to almost 2,000 people. The spirit of excitement reverberated throughout the convention’s halls as hundreds of eager attendees poured into the rooms and grounds of the Islamic Centre of Canada (ICC). Seema Khan, ISNA Canada’s director of operations and the convention’s chair, attributed this sudden change to the efforts of community volunteers. With months of preparation and hard work, guided by Khan’s project management background and an unrelenting drive to transform volunteers into leaders, it was not unlikely that the convention would exhibit such a noticeable turnaround. Working alongside Imam Abdalla Idris Ali, the ISNA Canada secretary general, Shameem Mohammad, the ISNA Canada director of finance and accounting and Conventions Director Mohammad Khadim, the team aimed to create change. MD Khalid, an active ISNA Canada board member and a fervent proponent for youth
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
involvement, attributed this turnaround to youth, who “are our future; young people have new ideas that just work.” And indeed new ideas were used to launch ISNA Canada to a new level. Khan said that more than 90 percent of the convention’s marketing was done online and via social media channels, under the energy and enthusiasm of Shoaib Hassan, the convention’s marketing manager, a student currently studying toward a degree in marketing. Usman Siddiqui, one of the convention organizers and a university student, introduced the texting feature, suggested by his business partner Ammar Saeed, for the audience to provide live feedback while they attended various lectures and sessions. A warm sun bathed the center walls, and a pleasant breeze engulfed the attendees with the aroma of fresh BBQ sizzling in the bazaar, arranged on the center’s parking lot. Attendees mingled underneath a tent that housed vendors showcasing scarves and dresses, Arabic calligraphy and numerous items from around the world. Jumping bouncy castles and a highly-anticipated dunk tank set the scene for a bustling festival within the convention grounds—both were run by the Toronto chapter of the Muslim Youth 13
Convention Coverage of North America (MYNA) to raise funds too late”—that one can have a better start and help sponsor orphans in third world through sincerity and patience. The local focus aspect of the convention countries. The convention’s turnaround was care- dealt with issues affecting the surrounding fully engineered within its planning; from community, such as drug use and abuse, the its theme, a “New Era Unfolds,” to the con- halal meat industry, Islamic investments and vention colors of “spring water aqua” to youth and their relationship to the Quran, denote life and new beginnings, the 38th convention Islamic Center of Canada (ICC) indeed marked not only the birth of a new era for ISNA Canada, but was also one of ICC’s most remarkable events since its inception more than a decade ago. The convention was built upon a comprehensive multi-layered theme to holistically present current issues at four levels: individual, local, national and international. This year’s convention aimed at driving change uphill, to accelerate development of a healthy Sunnah and mosque. A highlight was the society. Program Director Zaynab Ahdab secretary general of ISNA Continental, Safaa and her team of youth volunteers, reached Zarzour, who instead of avoiding or ignoring out to the community via an online survey them, drew the youth’s attention to issues to understand their needs. This resulted in considered taboo. a balanced list of topics and presenters with In dealing with national matters, sesa unique blend of thoughts and ideas from sions focused on the importance and need local, national and international scholars, for inter- and intra-faith dialogue, the chalactivists and entertainers. The topics were lenge of marriage and the introduction of as varied as its presenters: from local issues morality in a hyper-sexualized society. dealing with the halal meat industry, national Another highlight was the ISNA President issues addressing interfaith and intra-faith Imam Mohamed Magid’s and Ali’s lecture dialogue, to discussions on mental health on seeking the other half, which highlighted and hyper-sexualization. the challenges of finding a suitable marriage Topics relating to the individual revolved partner. around friends and peer pressure, the power Finally, addressing global issues, the conof faith and its path to success. One of the vention featured presentations that affect us highlights was Imam Abdalla Idris Ali’s as world citizens: Islamophobia, extremlecture on Prophet Dawud’s life as a prince ism and racial profiling, as well as the chaland youth exemplar. He powerfully retold lenge of keeping our environment healthy. the story of one of God’s youngest proph- A highlight was Cat Criger (an Aboriginal ets, reminding the youth of a role model to elder who has been working as a traditional teacher and healer for more than 16 years) aspire toward. A welcome addition to the theme of the and Fazlun Khalid’s lecture on preserving individual, Yasmin Mogahed’s lecture on the environment, and the challenge of the “Allah’s Encompassing Mercy” focused on emerging order. Khalid, founder and directhe challenge of mending our past by break- tor of the UK-based Islamic Foundation for ing bad habits through seeking forgiveness Ecology and Environmental Science, has and cleansing one’s heart from negativity focused on Islam and environmental relaand resentment. tions for almost two decades. Mogahed, a writing instructor at CarA number of entertainment sessions were dinal Stritch University, a staff columnist dispersed throughout the convention profor the Islam section of InFocus News, and gram, featuring comedians, spoken-word an independent media consultant based poets and nasheed artists. The entertainin North Carolina, said that “it’s never ment session took off with a surprise skit 14
by children who registered for the ISNA Canada Convention’s children’s program. The children acted out the Prophetic advice on paying homage to elders and the need for children to take care of their parents and grandparents. Sunday morning’s much awaited business session was chaired by ISNA Canada President Mohamed Bekkari, and attended by several ISNA Canada board members together with Magid, Zarzour, and numerous members and well-wishers of ISNA Canada. The annual report for 2010-2011 was approved by members. At close, the convention’s organizers had one final surprise. After Isha prayer closed a beautiful weekend, and as attendees began to leave, fireworks in brilliant colors erupted in the sky—a jubilant finale. It was indeed a grand closing for an unforgettable event.
Mariam Munawar is a youth volunteer and media specialist for ISNA-Canada.
Imam Needed The Islamic Center of Greater Austin, TX (www.austinmosque.org) seeks an inspiring Community Leader/Imam to partner on youth development, community outreach and masjid activities. The candidate must provide credible Islamic education, be fluent in both English and Arabic language, posses excellent leadership and people interaction skills. Competitive compensation package and commensurate with qualifications and experience. Please submit your resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
ISNA’s DC Office at Work Home to this year’s convention, ISNA in D.C. works for a better America for all. By Maggie Siddiqi
n the fall of 2010, the media was highly charged with voices of prejudice toward American Muslims—voices like those of a rogue pastor named Terry Jones, who threatened to burn the Quran in Florida. While Muslims lamented the discrimination they were experiencing, Christians lamented the way in which extremists like Terry Jones were defining their faith. Many were appalled by hateful rhetoric which contradicted the American values we hold dearly. The Islamic Society of North America’s D.C. office immediately spurred into action. The result was the ISNA-led and financed interfaith campaign called “Shoulder-toShoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values” (www. shouldertoshouldercampaign.org). Like Shoulder-to-Shoulder, many such efforts have become a possibility because of the ongoing interfaith, government, and community relations work of ISNA’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances (IOICA). The IOICA runs numerous interfaith dialogue programs which help strengthen relationships between religious communities in the U.S. and abroad. These coalitions then work together in service of the common good, seeking to end hunger, increase access to better housing and health
care, protect human rights, and support peacemaking and conflict-resolution efforts. In order for this work to achieve its greatest impact, every one of us needs to get involved in our local communities. Given that Muslims represent only 1-2 percent of the American population, this presents us with an enormous challenge and an even greater responsibility. ISNA encourages everyone to take part in interfaith dialogue programs in their communities, like the Weekend of Twinning program, in which Jewish and Muslim communities pair up for dialogue and social action every November. We also share resources to provide communities with a tool kit for navigating often-challenging interfaith discussions. In addition, we work with Muslim community leaders to connect them with Baptist clergy, Catholic bishops, and others, in hopes that they might then share what they learn with their own communities. As an Islamic organization, we ensure that members of Congress know that the people who elect them are concerned about whether or not they make moral and just decisions—decisions that fund programs to alleviate poverty, that end indefinite detention and torture, and that put an end to human trafficking. One of our key interfaith coalitions is
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Fighting Poverty with Faith, a nationwide, interfaith movement to cut domestic poverty in half by 2020. This year, our theme is “Building Opportunity through Affordable Housing for All.” Find out how you can participate at fightingpovertywithfaith.com. ISNA is also a part of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), which we helped found in 2006 in order to end U.S.-sponsored torture. Through NRCAT, we hope to engage faith communities in calling for the closing of Guantanamo Bay, for an end to torturous practices such as solitary confinement, and for the eradication of prejudices that allow for public acceptance of torture. Find out how you can help put an end to torture by going to nrcat.org. To most Muslims in America, ISNA is synonymous with the annual ISNA Convention, and rightly so—as a four-day annual event drawing some of the best speakers on Islam in America and thousands of Muslims from across the country, the convention is an event that many of us look forward to each year. Not only is it a time to meet other Muslims and hear wonderfully inspiring messages, but it is a time that compels us to carry these messages back to our communities, connect with others who want to put these ideas into action, and gather the tools to make a difference. At this year’s convention, IOICA will offer sessions that provide a sampling of what we do and invite you to join us. You will hear from our close partners like Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, and Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Both are prominent leaders in their own faith communities, and have been outspoken voices in the executive committee of the Shoulderto-Shoulder campaign, and can help share the work that they have joined with ISNA to accomplish. ISNA’s goal is to serve as a national voice for American Muslims on numerous issues, but we are only that—we need your help to make sure that the positive voice of American Muslims is carried from community to community all across the nation. Find out how you can get involved by checking out our “Current Projects” at isna.net/interfaith and visit our interfaith and government sessions at the ISNA Convention at isna.net/ convention.
Maggie Siddiqi is the program coordinator for the ISNA Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances in D.C.
Community Matters MWB Launches First Project Downtown National Day
About seven years ago, eager Muslim students at the University of Miami started an initiative that would go on to create a positive impact nationwide: Project Downtown. It is an initiative launched by students dissatisfied with the plight of the homeless and needy in cities nationwide, dissatisfied with the blind eye that society has turned toward them, and dissatisfied to their own non-contribution to the betterment of their own communities. So they turned their dissatisfaction into action. Financial constraints, instead of restricting them, motivated them to act and specialize in
service to the homeless. Instead of the shortterm projects common with many homeless advocacy groups such as feeding, Project Downtown emphasizes one main principle: “We not only feed the stomach, we also feed the soul.” Students are encouraged to develop longterm relationships with those they serve every week. Behind every person holding a sign, there is a story that needs to be heard, and brought to attention. A sandwich will only satisfy someone for a few hours, but a conversation will last a lifetime. Having these conversations, break many of the misconceptions that society has placed on the homeless,
Shaping a Dream On March 24, a dream started taking shape when some 300 people participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Islamic Center of Fort Collins (ICFC), to serve the needs of Muslims in Northern Colorado. The land was purchased 20 years ago. The attendees included State Rep. John Kefalas, city council member Ben Manvel, the local police and fire chiefs, among other dignitaries. The neighborhood Plymouth Congregational Church, United Church of Christ has welcomed the start of construction and two facilities will share parking. ICFC serves the Fort Collins and the Northern Colorado area including the cities of Greeley, Windsor, Loveland, and Longmont. The new mosque will be the state’s second purpose-built mosque, serving the state’s second-largest Islamic community, after the Denver area. The new building is to be an 18,000 square-foot, two-story mosque set on 3.2 acres; with prayer areas for 350 men and 16
and in order to break free from the ignorance, steps must be taken to learn. In about seven years, they have more than 22 chapters of Project Downtown nationwide, with Florida leading with 10 chapters. On the weekend of April 13, Muslims without Borders, in coordination with Project Downtown chapters ranging from Florida to Washington, D.C., united under one banner: Project Downtown National Day. College and high school students hit the streets to feed and provide hygiene bags to the homeless. On that day, each participating chapter provided basic services to at least 100 homeless in their community. Hajja Kamara, president of Project Downtown-Tampa explains “organizations such as Project Downtown, gives every volunteer empowerment to help those around them directly. Volunteering your time every week opens your eyes to the abundance of blessings that surround you, and it fortifies that even something small such as giving a sandwich or having a conversation can go such a long way.” MWB continues to organize and develop students and leaders across America, recognizing initiatives such as Project Downtown need to be brought to spotlight for the continuous impact that they make.
Iowa Muslims Open New Mosque
150 women; highlighted by a 52-foot dome and 70-foot-tall minaret. It is designed to be a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient building, having radiant underground heat, touchfree faucets for water conservation and solar panels to heat water and melt ice at the men’s and women’s entries. The $5 million facility includes a full-time K-6 school. ICFC welcomes any donations for the project. For direct deposit or electronic transfer of funds: Wells Fargo Bank, Fort Collins, CO 80524, Routing Number: 102000076, Account Number: 2527581892, New Masjid Fund. By check through U.S. mail: Islamic Center of Fort Collins, New Masjid Fund, P. O. Box 273331, Fort Collins, CO, 80527-3331.
The Muslim Community of the Quad-Cities (of Illinois and Iowa) held an open house for the community May 5 at its new mosque. Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, as well as other city leaders attended. The new 1,400-square-foot structure is adjacent to its predecessor, a former home that was converted in 2000 to become the group’s original mosque. The Bettendorf, Ia., mosque built over the past 18 months, has 10 times as much space. The house also is where some of the Sunday school classes are held. St. Louisbased architect Salim Rangwala placed the mosque on the hill next to the existing building, which means it has entrances on two levels and can accommodate up to 1,000 people for prayer.
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Critical Role of Muslim Professionals in Muslim American Mosaic
More than 250 Muslim Americans from across the U.S. convened at the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals (CAMP) 5th annual leadership summit on April 21 in Plainsboro, N.J. The summit, “Emerging and Evolving as a Leader,” included workshops on effective networking, negotiations and communication strategies, and panels on the leadership mindset and the role of the Muslim American professional. Muslim American professional women and men working in academia, arts, business, engineering, information technology, law, politics, healthcare, and social sciences attended. Imran Eba, executive director of CAMP, said, “The annual meeting is a forum to celebrate Muslim-American contributions in areas such as business, civic engagement and philanthropy and to discuss workplace challenges, collaborate and develop solutions.”
Hosain Rahman, CEO and founder of Jawbone, a consumer electronics company specializing in mobile devices, and Hayat Sindi, a biotechnologist who co-founded Diagnostics for All, a nonprofit medical organization, were the keynote speakers. CAMP, founded in 1994, is an association of more than 10,000 mid- to senior-level Muslim professionals working to empower each other and the group to advance and excel, not only in their careers, but also their broader community and philanthropic efforts. CAMP currently has chapters in five locations — Chicago, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. and is increasing its online presence to reach members across the nation. For more information on upcoming events, to get involved or to form a chapter, visit: http://camp-online.org/. Follow @CAMPONLINE on Twitter or visit Facebook/CAMPONLINE.
Islamic Schools Win Gold
levels, they made a record of sorts with 47 students competing in 115 entries bagging 73 ribbons, which included 14 first and 12 second place winners. They entered the state finals with 29 entries in English, Math, Social and Science categories, winning seven medals. Offering 60 academic contests in Math, Science, Language Arts, Speech, Social Studies, and Fine Arts since 1998, PSIA remains the most comprehensive academic extracurricular program in America for students in grades 1 through 8 (http:// www.psiaacademics.org/). Texas private schools participate in these competitions. This year with an average participation of 800-1200 students at every district level, approximately 20,000-plus students took part in all the district levels.
Fifth grader Somia Owaidat brought home the gold medal for her school, Peace Academy, besting all Texas state’s private schools, in the Private Schools Interscholastic Association (PSIA). The Dallas, Tex., school’s other seven winners were Nadira Williams (6th grade; 3rd place), Hammad Siddiqui (6th grade; 3rd place), Muqaddas Amer (4th grade; 4th place), Yousuf Salem (8th grade; 4th place), Loufia Bellifa (4th grade; 5th place), Ameen Mohammed (7th grade; 5th place), and Mustafa Quraishi (5th grade; 6th place). Principal Shehriyar AbdulMalik said that in their first competitions at the district
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NEWS BRIEFS The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California recognized Imam Abdul Karim Hasan of Bilal Islamic Center with a Lifetime Service Award; Khadija Galedary of the Los Angeles Latino Muslim Association (LALMA) with the Outreach Award; and ACLU-Southern California with the Justice Award, at their 2012 banquet, attended by more than 400 guests including leaders of over 40 different organizations was a joy.
Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, the Shura Council Chairman said that this organization continues to thrive and is able to serve only because of consistent support from its member organizations and the community at large. A survey of Southern California mosques and the community commissioned by Shura Council, he said showed that the number of mosques in Southern California has grown by nearly 40 percent. Prof. Sherman Jackson, in his keynote talk on “The Mosques’ Role in the 21st Century,” invited the leadership to make mosques focus on being more inclusive and that community leaders must also work to create “third spaces” outside of the home and mosque where young Muslims feel comfortable being themselves and exploring their identity.
Noor Tagouri, 18 of Bowie, Md., delivered the student commencement address at the Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) graduation ceremony on May 23, reports Jenni Pompi of the Bowie Patch. A 4.0 grade point average, Tagouri, who has a long list of volunteer activities, numerous academic achievements, added one more: youngest graduate to deliver the student com17
Community Matters mencement address at PGCC. She plans to attend the University of Maryland in the fall where she will study broadcast journalism and international development and conflict resolution. Tagouri, who served as public relations representative for the MSA, and later its president, founded and served as president of Green N’ Fit. In addition to her academic achievements, Tagouri volunteered for Thrive DC, “United We Stand” Conference, Muslimat Al-Nisaa Homeless Shelter for Women and Children and the DC Stop Modern Slavery Walk. Tagouri is currently documenting the stories of Libyan freedom fighters for an upcoming book and working as an intern for the programming department at WPGC, 99.5 FM radio.
The Muslim Coalition of Connecticut was recognized for providing an understanding of Islam and Muslims through education and outreach, with the 2012 Living Spirit Award from the Spiritual Life Center. Aida Mansoor, president of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, accepted the award May 14 at the 10th Annual Living Spirit Awards Dinner. The Award honors individuals and organizations that demonstrate a witness of faith through their service to others, an openness to people of diverse backgrounds and a commitment to sharing spirituality with the larger community. Founded in 1982, the nonprofit, non-denominational West Hartford, Conn.-based Spiritual Life Center (www.SpiritLifeCtr.org) offers individual and group spiritual direction, training and ongoing education for spiritual directors as well as programs and seminars for personal growth.
S. Amjad Hussain, MD, was inducted into the Medical Mission Hall of Fame April 28 in Toledo, Oh. Hussain, one of three members of the Class of 2012 inductees, is one of 34 individuals from around the world who are now members of the Hall of Fame. The MMHOF, created in 2004, honors individuals and/or organizations that have made significant and substantial contributions to advancing the medical well-being of people throughout the world. Previous inductees include Albert Schweitzer and Dr. Sania 18
Nishtar, Pakistan’s first female cardiologist and founder of the health policy organization, Heartfile, which is recognized as a model for replication in developing nations.
A Pakistani American, Dr. Hussain has participated in medical and teaching missions for more than 40 years. He has traveled to the Dominican Republic, China, Libya, India and Pakistan, where he has taught a legion of medical students and doctors and has donated tons of supplies and equipment. Professor emeritus of thoracic cardiovascular surgery at the University of Toledo, he is a graduate of Khyber Medical College in Peshawar. Proclaimed by the Journal of Islamic Medical Association to be a renaissance Muslim, the writer, photographer and explorer has treated those in need in foreign countries while making surgical and travel arrangements for complex procedures to be performed in Toledo. A member of the University of Toledo Board of Trustees, Hussain has a professorship in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery named in his honor and also a visiting professorship in the history of medicine at the University. The inventor of two surgical devices — the pleuro-peritoneal shunt and a special endotracheal tube to supply oxygen during fiberoptic broncchoscopy in awake patients — he was recognized by Khyber Medical College with its first lifetime achievement award during its golden jubilee celebration in 2005. Hussain is the author of seven Urdu and six English books on diverse subjects including religion, culture, history and international relations.
Some members of the Hollywood, Fla., West Broward High flag football team, the Bobcats, took a stand and got a small taste of how difficult life can sometimes be for one of their own, reported Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (April 20).
Before taking the field for their regularseason finale, many of the Bobcats voluntarily donned a hijab as a sign of solidarity for their captain, Irum Khan, 17, who wears the hijab and who in middle school and early high school endured far more than the usual pre-teenage taunting. Senior Marilyn Solorzano said, “I understand now everything she went through and how hard it must have been. We just wore it for one day, and we noticed the difference. It was hard to keep on. It kept falling and our heads got really hot. You have to give her [credit] for wearing it every day.”
The idea to wear the hijab was over a year in the making, and had their coach Matt Garris’ support. Because rules regulate uniforms and accessories worn during games, the team’s tribute was limited to pre-game warm-ups. Khan, who starts at Florida International University this fall, advises: “There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. You can’t give up.”
The Sterling, VA.-BASED All-Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) retained its executive committee, where Farooq Syed (president), Syed Moktadir (vice president), Sanober Yacoob (treasurer), and Awais Sheikh (secretary) were re-elected unopposed for the 2012-13 term.
Musa Syeed’s film The Valley of Saints premiered at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. on May 13. The screening was sponsored by the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The film has won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize in addition to its nomination in Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic competition. The film, a lyrically beautiful slice-of-life production has strong
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performances and lush cinematography that paints an ethereal atmosphere throughout its compact running time.
Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina has been appointed to take the IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University. He is currently professor Religious Studies at Virgina University, Charolttesville. Prof Sachedina has done extensive research on classical Islamic sources and has written on contemporary issues such as human rights (Human Rights and the Conflicts of Culture, Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights), democracy (The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism), biomedical ethics (Islamic Biomedical Ethics).
Imad Hamad, regional director and senior national advisor of the AmericanArab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) — Michigan received the 2012 Fr. Kern Medallion Award on May 17.
The Father Clement H. Kern Foundation honors outstanding citizens who continue the work of Father Clement Kern, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Church in Southwest Detroit, in championing people and groups in need who fall through the cracks of society. Hamad said, “This honor also serves as a challenge to us all to continue to fight for those who have no voice and seek a truly just and equal America for our future.”
Sachedina has studied in India, Iraq, Iran, and Canada, and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He will arrive at GMU in January 2013.
Islam is among the fastest growing religions in America, while just over half of all Americans are unaffiliated with any denomination, according to a major census of the country’s religious congregations published May 2. The decennial census, released by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies in Chicago, found that the U.S. Muslim community had increased 160 percent from approximately 1 million in 2000 to 2.6 million in 2010, reported the Washington Times. At least one researcher questioned the methodology, saying the 2.6 million Muslim head count is too low. Albert Hickman, a researcher at the Center for the Study of World Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass., said his research better identifies people without formal affiliation with a church or mosque. He also said the number of Muslim Americans is closer to 4.7 million. Muslim sources, however, maintain that their numbers exceed 8 million.
Abdullah Antepli, Duke University’s Muslim chaplain, offered the opening prayer at the June 5 session of the North Carolina state senate. Antepli said: “I hope many more similar symbolic but very meaningful events will take place to foster our society’s commitment to diversity, pluralism and inclusivity.” In 2010, who Antepli delivered the opening prayer for a session of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington D.C., joined Duke in July 2008. He is one of only a handful of full-time Muslim chaplains at U.S. colleges and universities. He is the founder and executive board member of the Muslim Chaplains Association and a member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains. He also
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serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Duke Divinity School and Duke Islamic Studies Center, where he teaches courses on Islam.
Popular performing artist Dawud Wharnsby surprised Reston, Va.-based Al Fatih Academy students when he dropped by on May 30. Wharnsby led two schoolwide assemblies for students, teachers, and staff members, who presented him with enthusiasm, their love of song, and a demonstration of rhythm and rhyme. He presented the school with an autographed copy of his book of poetry.
Karen Danielson is now serving as the director of outreach at the Muslim American Society (MAS)-Chicago, brings a wealth of experience in outreach, da’wah, and public education. Danielson, who converted to Islam after independent reading of the Quran in 1984, as she was attending college while preparing to become a Christian missionary. She has a Masters degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Jordan’s Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Amman Jordan (2011). She has also taught Islamic Studies at Universal and Aqsa Schools. Prior to her studies in Amman, Karen was director of public education and outreach for MASChicago, 2002-06.
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Donate through EFT! www.isna.net/donate 19
This is Our Can Muslim Americans organize and work toward defeating the eerily similar wars on drugs and terror? By Shaz Kaiseruddin
r. Altaf Kaiseruddin, medical director of the Inner-city Muslim Action Network’s free medical clinic, entered the room where a new patient, an African American teenage girl, was waiting. The patient jumped a bit, startled. “I’m sorry, I knocked. Did I scare you?” Kaiseruddin says. “Oh, I just
didn’t expect all this,” the patient said, pointing to his beard and kufi. “Oh, see, you watch
too much TV,” he said. “When I watch too much TV, I get scared of people who look like you.” Her parents doubled over with laughter, and after she thought about it, she joined in. While humorous, this exchange brings to light how similar, and similarly tragic, and absurd the War on Drugs and the War on Terror are.
These wars are not about what you think The War on Drugs has little to do with drugs. Legal scholar Michelle Alexander points out that while crime rates have both risen and declined over the last few decades, rates of imprisonment have soared, quintupled in fact, primarily due to the War on Drugs. In fact, Ronald Reagan declared the War on Drugs when drug crime was declining. Likewise, the War on Terror has little to do with terrorism. The 20
Rand Corporation points out that terrorist activity in the U.S. was much greater in the 1970s, which saw 15 to 20 times more terrorist incidents that have occurred in most of the years since 9/11, even counting foiled plans. And more than five times the number killed by “jihadist” terrorists in the U.S. in about nine years after 9/11 were killed from 1970 to 1978.
Racism is the root—whether overt or hidden. Many still hold the belief encapsulated in Richard Nixon’s Chief of Staff ’s statement: “[T]he whole problem is really the blacks. Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
ur Moment The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.” Enter the War on Drugs and the “Tough on Crime” push, born through exploiting the vulnerabilities and racial resentments of working-class and poor whites. Many also hold the beliefs encapsulated in New York Republican Rep. Peter King’s bigoted statements, upon which he based the need for a Congressional hearing targeting Muslims, accusing them of large-scale radicalization: “85 percent” of the Muslim American community leaders are “an enemy living amongst us”; “We have too many mosques in this country”; “When a war begins, we’re all Americans. But in this case, this is not the situation,” implying that Muslim Americans are not true Americans. Such bigotry fuels the War on Terror, as well as “preemptive” action and extreme deference to the president, CIA, and FBI, born through exploiting the vulnerability of our nation after 9/11. Muslims are the only group you can be overtly racist toward in America now, while being anti-Black requires a more underhanded approach. The conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed during the 2008 election that Obama is not Black, but Arab, because, supposedly, he knew being Arab or Muslim could lose you the election. He never made clear whether Obama being Black was an issue for him. James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute, says, “After the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee embraced opposition to Park 51 as a campaign theme, it is hard to find a leading Republican who has not railed on some issue involving Islam or Muslims in the U.S.” Reps. Gary Miller (R-CA) and Ed Royce (R-CA) attended an Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
anti-Muslim rally in California where protesters shouted at attendees, including families with young children, of a fundraiser for women’s shelters, “You are stupid terrorists! Go home! Go home! Go home!” Villa Park, Ill.-Councilwoman Deborah Pauly said, on stage, “I know quite a few Marines who will be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise”—a death threat by a public official. Entire congressional hearings chaired by Rep. King targeted Muslim Americans, with baseless claims that they are being radicalized. About 74 percent of Republicans believe “Islam teaches hate,” 60 percent of Republicans believe that “Muslims tend to be religious fanatics,” and 34 percent of Democrats have an unfavorable view of Muslims.
Unfair targeting In some states, African Americans account for 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders who are imprisoned, although drugs are used and sold at equal rates across races, and where a difference is noted, it often points to higher rates in white communities. According to the FBI, only 6 percent of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil from 1980 to 2005 were committed by Muslims.
Dems beat GOP at their own game The War on Drugs was started by Republicans, as a means of attracting white voters who resented affirmative action, desegregation, and the like, by using political appeals with racial undertones on crime-related issues. Democrats followed suit, and Clinton’s “tough on crime” policies resulted in the largest increase in prison inmates of any president in American history. 21
Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani, during the 2008 election, claimed that “the next election is about whether we go back on defense against terrorism... or are we going to go on offense.” And Democrats responded that they would also “go on offense.” All this competition took place to prove who would better go on offense, even though that Bush strategy had already failed, since, in fighting terrorism, the best defense is not a good offense but a smarter defense, as demonstrated by legal scholars Georgetown University’s David Cole and University of Pittsburgh’s Jules Lobel.
Media sensationalizes Moorhead State University sociologists Keith Kilty and Eric Swank have observed that wiping out “savages” is easier to reconcile than wiping out human beings. When Native Americans were deemed a growing impediment to white progress, the images of Native Americans promoted in various forms of media became increasingly negative. And history is repeating itself. To fuel the War on Drugs, Reagan hired staff specifically devoted to creating a media sensation around crack mothers, crack babies, and drug violence in inner-cities, which succeeded in dominating the news and promoted these negative stereotypes. The administration has also used media to fuel the War on Terror. “Many of the Administration’s most highly touted ‘terrorism’ cases have disintegrated after the Justice Department’s initial selfcongratulatory press conference announcing the indictment,” Cole and Lobel explain. The media’s inconsistent treatment of terrorism has likewise fueled the war on terror. Joseph Kony—leader of a radical Christian rebel group—has been terrorizing Central Africa for over 20 years believing he is the Messiah, chosen by God, and has a duty to cleanse his people and implement laws based on the Biblical 10 commandments. If such crimes had been committed by a Muslim, the media would surely categorize it as terrorism and would look to the Quran to find the justification even if the actor did not take the name of Islam, CAIR Chicago explains. But in Kony’s case, the “religious” motive is ignored, and the act is not called terrorism. In the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 2011 bombing and mass shooting in Oslo, the mainstream media initially accused Muslims. Once it was established that none of these attackers were Muslim, none were ever characterized by their religion or race. The mainstream media also initially reported the crashing of a plane into an IRS building as a possible terrorist attack and then later reported the incident as a criminal activity rather than an act of terrorism when the attacker was identified and was not Muslim. We have thus arrived to the point where “gangs” conjure up images of black men for many Americans, meanwhile “terrorists” 22
conjure up images of Muslim men. A man with cornrows or dreads is automatically associated with gangs, and a man with a beard or kufi is associated with terrorists.
Setting the trap Oftentimes drugs are planted on African Americans, and although innocent, instead of risking life in jail and losing custody of their children, they accept a plea bargain–-they say they are guilty in order to get parole and get back home to their kids, even though they never committed the crime. They, like other felons, will forever be denied public housing and food stamps, meanwhile employment discrimination against them is perfectly legal. Not to mention, as felons, they often can no longer vote or serve on juries to advocate for justice.
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Tarek Mehanna’s statement, read to the judge during his sentencing on April 12, tells a story of a tough decision far too many Muslims have had to make: “Exactly four years ago this month, I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The ‘easy’ way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so, I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard—and the government spent millions of tax dollars—to put me in that cell, keep me there, put
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me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.”
Absurd manner of waging war The War on Drugs is literally a war, Alexander explains, employing SWAT teams, bazookas, tanks, and grenade launchers, almost exclusively waged in poor communities of color, complete with sweeps of entire neighborhoods. These violent tactics are used in a war primarily focused on drug users and not the violent dealers or drug kingpins. The War on Terror has been carried out with highly coercive, preemptive measures. Some Muslims have been subjected to months of virtually non-stop questioning, waterboarding, sexual abuse, and injections with intravenous fluids until they urinate on themselves. Others have been rendered to countries known for torture to be interrogated. Still others have had their assets frozen and their records seized without even a charge of wrongdoing, let alone a finding, under the PATRIOT Act. Nearly 800 Muslims were rounded up, imprisoned, and tortured at Guantanamo Bay, and most were released without ever being charged with a crime. Close to 200 remain, despite Obama’s promises to close the prison by 2010. Muslims in the U.S. are tortured in solitary confinement before they are convicted or even given a trial. The government’s use of warrantless wiretapping, detention, coercive interrogation, and even war are based not on evidence of wrongdoing, but mere speculation of future threats, which trample this nation’s conviction that individuals must be held accountable only for their own actions, Cole and Lobel explain. After 9/11, we witnessed the largest campaign of ethnic profiling since the Japanese internment, targeting more than 80,000 Arabs and Muslims. As noted by Georgetown University’s Professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies, John Esposito, FBI agents said that the thousands of leads generated by the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program “were virtually all ‘dead ends.’” The FBI’s Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines sanction religious and racial profiling, the use of informants, surveillance, and the geo-mapping of racial and ethnic communities. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) secretly and unlawfully created prisons called Communication Management Units (CMUs), where over 65 percent of the inmates housed are Muslim, though Muslims only make up 6 percent of the general federal prison population, CCR explains. These inmates are placed there without explanation or an opportunity to challenge, banned from any physical contact with their wives and children, are subjected to a visitation policy that is four times more restrictive than that of the BOP’s notorious “supermax” prisons. Of the CMU inmates who are there because 23
Cover Story of a link to terrorism, attorney Meeropol says, “the vast majority… do not involve any violence or injury,” such as one who sponsored schools and social welfare programs in the Occupied Territories alleged by Washington to be controlled by Hamas. The Obamaera rule broadened the scope to “any inmate,” including “persons held as witnesses, detainees or otherwise.” The New York Police Department Michelle Alexander mapped out and spied on Muslims at schools, cafes, restaurants, and mosques, showed close to 1,500 officers a bigoted and inflammatory “training” video on American Muslims that was filled with explosions and executed children (and which Police Commissioner Ray Kelly helped produce), and conducted wholesale surveillance of New York’s Shi’a Muslim community. “Most tragically, more than 3,700 Americans and more than 70,000 Iraqi civilians have given their lives for the ‘preventive paradigm,’ which was used to justify going to war against a country that had not attacked us and posed no imminent threat of attack,” say Cole and Lobel.
Absurd laws are passed Congress and states passed mandatory minimum sentences, even for nonviolent, simple possession drug crimes, that exceeded punishments murderers received elsewhere. Democrats, competing for the same voters, passed laws denying felons the right to vote and serve on juries, access to education, public housing, and even food stamps, often for life, regardless of the crime. Employment discrimination against felons within both the public and private sectors is also legal in most states. After the PATRIOT Act was passed, FBI Director Robert Mueller directed each field office to count the Muslims, mosques, and Muslim charities in their regions. From 2001-2005 alone, the FBI interviewed 500,000 Arab and Muslim men, and as of 2011, the FBI had 15,000 spies and informants, targeting primarily the Muslim community, and as many as 45,000 “unofficial” informants, as pointed out by Muslim Advocates. The NDAA may be read to authorize, or even require, the indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens whenever the executive believes that they are “affiliated” with al Qaeda, even without allegations or charges, and can strip them of their constitutional rights, including a trial. Each of the chief national security agencies of the federal government, from the Department of Justice to the CIA, have categorically opposed the NDAA’s approach to military detention, as Muslim Advocates points out. Former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has called for “a federal law that says Sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States.” Thirteen states have considered the adoption of legislation forbidding Sharia, and even oconsidering making adherence to Sharia punishable by 15 years in prison.
And this is where we stand today For the African American community, “a new racial undercaste has been created in an astonishingly short period of time—a new Jim Crow system. Millions of people of color are now saddled with 24
criminal records and legally denied the very rights that their parents and grandparents fought for and, in some cases, died for,” wrote Michelle Alexander in a 2010 article, “The New Jim Crow,” in The Nation. As for the Muslim American community, it is “ironic that though they have borne much of the blame for the dastardly deeds of Sept. 11, 2001, this crime has affected no group in America as negatively as it has Muslim Americans. Not only did Muslim Americans die on that day, they have since suffered psychological and emotional trauma as no other group of Americans has. No other community has been more maligned, disrespected, misrepresented, harassed, intimidated, misunderstood or rendered suspect—not only by private citizens acting on their First Amendment rights, but by military personnel, public utilities, government officials and agencies, indeed, even presidential candidates, who either openly express anti-Muslim bigotry or display a conspicuously high tolerance for such,” says Dr. Sherman Jackson, professor at University of Southern California. Muslim Advocates’ Farhana Khera says, “Today we face government discrimination in our everyday lives — whether we enter a mosque to pray, get on a plane cross the border, or log onto the Internet. We worry that we will be interrogated by government agents, subjected to invasive searches at the border of their person and searches and seizures of our belongings, including electronic devices, without any individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. Our nation has not seen such widespread abuse, discrimination and harassment by federal law enforcement since the J. Edgar Hoover era.”
The task at hand Both wars have loosely defined targets (drugs and terror), neither of which may ever be eradicated, and both have managed to make their victims seem like the criminals, adding to the already enormous challenge of ending these wars. The shared experiences would make for a natural alliance between the two communities in taking on this enormous task. Even on the smallest levels—the two communities share their annoyance with Fox News and their hope, when one hears of a crime/terrorist attack: “Please don’t let it be a Black person/Muslim.” And indeed both wars are being waged against one population the communities have in common—African American Muslims—who are also the largest group of Muslim Americans. But there’s another point to be made. And to miss this is to miss the whole point. As Alexander says, “It is [the] failure to care, really care across color lines, that lies at the core of this system of control and every racial caste system that has existed in the U.S.or anywhere else in the world.” Everyone is responsible for these wars due to our complacency. And the only way to rectify this is for everyone to step up to the enormous task at hand of ending these wars and championing justice as our beloved Prophet did. This is our moment. And there is not a moment to waste.
Shaz Kaiseruddin is a Judge Leighton Prisoners’ Rights Fellow at John Marshall Law School.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Muslims in Action
Fitness with Flare A Muslim women’s group focuses on building healthy bodies and spirits. By Mariem Qamruzzaman
ith hundreds of excited replace her fast food-based diet by immerswomen and girls packed in ing herself in a nationally-advertised diet a ballroom, Nadine Abu- program. Jubara kicked off the ses“I did the whole thing for a week and sion with nutritional demos that led into $150 later, I didn’t lose any weight,” she says. a Zumba workout. It was the 2011 ISNA After achieving her goal weight on her Convention, and this was the first time such own, Abu-Jubara met Zainab Ismail, whom an event was included: a women’s-only fit- she calls the “sheikha of the health and fitness ness class. It was a hit. world.” Ismail, a certified personal trainer “We were listed in the ‘Top 10 Most Mem- with a slew of health awards behind her, was orable Moments at ISNA,’” says Abu-Jubara, visiting her father, a born-again Christian founder and executive director of Nadoona (nadoona.com)—an Islamically-oriented women’s fitness organization. She says the skeptical fathers were amazed by the rave reviews their daughters gave them. The convention was a special event for Abu-Jubara since she first conceived Nadoona when she attended the 2010 ISNA Conference called “Nurturing Compassionate Communities: Connecting Faith and Service.” By the time she returned in Nadine Abu-Jubara (left) 2011, the concept was not only a reality, but was also functioning at full- pastor, in Orlando. A recent convert, Ismail, throttle, having been featured in Runner’s trying to reach out to area Muslim women, World Magazine. Nadoona is now compet- connected with Abu-Jubara. Their immediing nationally in a video contest for First ately clicked. Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” iniWith a small group of women with tiative. Currently, the organization places similar health goals already in her orbit, fourth amongst 61 faith-based groups, being she added Ismail—with her professional the only Muslim group at the top. The winner experience in the field—to the team, and earns an invitation to the White House. the group’s popularity skyrocketed. The elevation to the national stage has “When you bring on elite trainers like been no small feat for an organization that is Zainab, they bring their expertise to the table slightly more than a year old and began with and they bring their ideas and thoughts,” Abuonly a handful of members in Orlando, Fla. Jubara says. “Alhamdulillah, it just grew.” Part of Nadoona’s success can be attribAbu-Jubara’s unique approach of prouted to Abu-Jubara’s intrepid personality. moting fitness in the framework of Islamic A few years ago, when she was struggling teachings has created a few Nadoona afiwith eating right and exercising regularly, cionados. she decided to embark on a mission to rally Chicagoan Asiya Um Sabiq, 32, joined women to get fit for the sake of God. Nadoona after seeing a flyer about a “ZumbaThe journey began when she decided to thon” at her local mosque. She attended and 26
immediately felt the difference between her workouts with her non-Muslim personal trainer and the Muslim-led Zumba class. “You have this diverse team of women, and they’re working to help you with your goal, and they’re purely doing this for the sake of God,” Um Sabiq says. “They charge us pennies compared to others in this industry.” Since joining Nadoona, Um Sabiq has succeeded in losing 25 pounds and has adopted a new outlook on eating habits. She says oftentimes she maintained a healthy food log in the beginning of the week, but her eating habits always slid downward by the end. Then, over the phone, Abu-Jubara presented a scenario that changed Um Sabiq’s perspective. “She said, ‘Imagine if you had no taste buds. Would you be eating because the food tastes good or would you be eating because your body needs it?’ So now I ask myself, ‘Why am I eating this?’ That really helped me, subhan’Allah.” Other members prefer Nadoona because of the sisterhood and camaraderie it builds in the community. “Even though Nadoona isn’t just for Muslim women, it’s comfortable because we break for prayer, and it’s good dawah for non-Muslim women, too,” says Stacey Tyler, 48, who joined the organization’s New York City chapter in January. Before Nadoona, Tyler’s diet consisted mostly of fried foods, but recently she said she tried zucchini for the first time in her life and loved it. She has lost 23 pounds through the program. Yet, for Abu-Jubara the ultimate goal isn’t weight loss. “The measure of success for me personally is intention, which is pleasing God,” she says. As Abu-Jubara’s fitness philosophy spreads through more Muslim communities, she said she hopes Nadoona will evolve to include more services to take care of the other half of the community. “One of the biggest goals for Nadoona is to set a similar program for the men,” Abu-Jubara says. “I never expected it to get to this point.”
Mariem Qamruzzaman is a freelance writer pursuing her Master’s degree in speech language pathology at the University of Texas-Austin.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
49th Annual ISNA Convention
13th Annual Community Service Recognition Luncheon Saturday, September 1, 2012 Washington DC Convention Center 801 Mount Vernon Place NW • Washington, DC 20001
EN B ER
LENT INDEED IS T
Karen Armstrong is a provocative, original thinker on the role of religion in the modern world.
HE HEREAFTER IS
TEOUS. TO THOSE W
IN S GOOD THIS WOR
k e y no t e sp e a k er :
The Mahboob Khan Community Service Award will be announced and presented To purchase tickets visit www.isna.net Tickets are $200 per seat and $2000 per table of 10 seats. Complimentary professional child care will be provided for children under 10.
Previous Award Recipients Jamal Badawi – 2000 | Ahmed Elkadi – 2001 | Moinuddin Siddiqui – 2002 | Ahmad Sakr – 2003 Sharifa Alkhateeb – 2004 | Muzammil Siddiqi – 2004 | Ilyas Ba Yunus – 2005 | Mohammad Cheema – 2006 Ahmed Tatonji – 2007 | Jamal Barzinji – 2008 | Mahmoud Rashdan – 2009 Siraj Wahhaj – 2010 | Hisham Altalib – 2011
Muslims in Action
To Click or Not to Click?
Activism via social media spreads awareness, but does it excuse people from hands-on participation? By Sami Kishawi
ecently, a woman in Kenya lost her cow. She tracked it down soon after with the help of government officials and, believe it or not, Twitter. Although this story, reported first by Al Jazeera just this spring, isn’t the best example of traditional activism, it does show how powerful the Internet has become in mobilizing entire communities for a common purpose. But will it ever have the capacity to overpower physical activism or on-theground campaigning? Is “clicktivism” an acceptable substitute for activist movements? These are questions worth asking, especially after witnessing the rise and fall of Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign two months ago. For millions around the world, Kony 2012—most commonly identified by its crisply-edited video and an action pack of brightly colored collectibles—birthed a new-found interest in humanity, or at least in bringing indicted war criminal Joseph Kony to justice by the end of the year. But the infectious interest, the “likes” and the shares and the retweets, disappeared as fast as it emerged. Such is the finicky power of the Internet. And so is one of this decade’s most glaring
examples of “clicktivism,” defined by the term’s coiner Micah White as “the pollution of activism with the logic of consumerism, marketing, and computer science.” Many social activists are avid Twitter users. It’s where they get their news; it’s also how civilians in Libya monitored the shrinking boundaries of Muammar Gaddafi’s political reign; how activists in Egypt shared links to personal narratives and uncensored footage of police brutality; how Syrian activists today defy the government’s media blackout. In mid-December 2011, Khader Adnan, a Palestinian baker and father, embarked on a 66-day hunger strike to challenge his administrative detention by Israel without charge. It began as a quiet and single-handed effort, but much to the chagrin of his captors, Adnan’s story went global.
“It started out by simply relaying information about Adnan’s case and asking people to join in demanding his release,” says Yasir Tineh, a Kuwait-based Palestinian student who played a large but subtle role in Adnan’s eventual release. “Our efforts were amplified as we began to understand Twitter dynamics, specifically in creating several ‘trending’ hashtags that introduced Adnan’s hunger strike to millions of users around the world.” He and his colleagues’ efforts were “worth it,” Tineh says. For hours at a time, Adnan was Twitter’s most pressing topic. He could no longer be ignored. BBC and CNN were among the first major outlets to pick the story up and the Guardian quickly published two exposés on Israel’s detention of Palestinian minors, featuring archived footage from human rights agency B’Tselem and testimony from prisoners and affected family members.
By mid-February, coverage of Adnan’s ordeal had put so much pressure on Israel’s government that it agreed to a deal and released him from confinement days later. But his release didn’t stop the scrutiny and the awareness campaigns kept growing. Farah Erzouki, who participated in the Twitter campaigns for Adnan, also helped lead a campaign for the release of Hana Al-Shalabi, another Palestinian hunger striker who could have remained largely ignored and indefinitely detained had activists not brought the story to the doorsteps, or computer screens, of news outlets all around the world. To Erzouki, an Iraqi American student, social media has become a tool that allows everyday people with everyday goals to permeate the global discourse like never before. These are the kinds of contributions that bring attention to social justice campaigns. Clicktivism, then, has the potential to produce great results. Tineh and Erzouki acknowledge a slight
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
hesitancy in depending too much on online activism. Others, however, are much more vocal in their disapproval. For them, the costs outweigh the benefits. Malaysian copy editor Syazwina Saw has seen it all. Her work revolves around a computer and the Internet and she distinctly remembers when Facebook first became a “thing.” All too quickly, she realized, Facebook became a natural extension of solidarity activism. “During the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2008, Facebook was how most people found out about the solidarity rally organized in Melbourne”—where Saw was studying at the time—“and that was the first time I really saw how widespread social media activism had become.” Today is no different, she says. “We saw how Twitter mobilized an entire generation during the Bersi 2.0 and 3.0 rallies in Malaysia, which urged for fair elections.” Saw recounts a story in which one activist, after being tear gassed in one demonstration, used his mobile phone’s Internet access to find the next planned demonstration. With red-rimmed eyes, he and his two friends made their way across town. “Let’s go join them,” the young men said. But clicktivism can be overrated. A few clicks here and there might direct you to the nearest protest, but online activism also involves an overload of “like” buttons that, to Saw, don’t necessarily lead to concrete change. “I used to do that for a while. It was just another way for me to excuse myself from actual participation.” When Kony 2012 debuted, it garnered support from millions in only a matter of hours. Hashtags like #StopKony and #KONY2012 trended spontaneously on Twitter. Profile pictures changed into images of elephants hugging donkeys emblazoned on bright red grungy backgrounds. It was the talk of the day for over a week as a new generation of humanitarians marked April 20 as a day of mass postering. April 20 arrived but the millions of supporters didn’t. The scene in dozens of cities outside of Invisible Children’s home state of California proved the wariness many had regarding this strategy. “A click of a button might help at the beginning, but it loses its shine fast,” Saw says. This desensitization might actually be
the most obvious consequence of clicktivism. According to journalist and political analyst Roqayah Chamseddine, clicktivist campaigns oftentimes breed reactionary feelings and these emotions are in no way stable enough to produce “the same level of care one would see when witnessing direct, on-the-ground activist work.”
A few clicks here and there might direct you to the nearest protest but online activism also involves an overload of ‘like’ buttons that don’t necessarily lead to concrete change. Like Saw, Chamseddine does not find clicktivism to be a suitable replacement for any form of physical, hands-on activism, especially as it relates to engaging with communities or directly confronting forces of oppression. At the end of the day, activism truly represents the power of the people and if the power is relegating to fleeting online interests, the very concept of solidarity activism is undermined. According to Micah White’s definition of “clicktivism,” its sensationalism and almost immediate de-sensationalism is capable of polluting activist movements, but what about “the logic of consumerism, marketing, and computer science?” Clicktivism taints meaningful work by regularly “injecting a high level of marketing and consumerism into the mix,” according
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
to Chamseddine. What the world is left with, then, is a campaign endorsed by corporate logos. It loses its human element and is pitched not as a humanitarian endeavor but as the trendy thing to do. For years now, petitions have circulated the Internet with the most robust headlines. In just a few keystrokes, you can add your name to a growing list of concerned individuals. But does your electronic signature bear the weight of your individual agency? The answer is very simply no. Internet advocacy, particularly through e-petitions, lacks verifiability. A signature becomes a vague statistic in the same way a “Like” does. Because individual agency does not necessarily carry over in efforts such as these, there is little to no basis for accountability. What remains is a collection of unattributed names that comprise the backbone of a petition that carries no value until it reaches its required number of signatures. And in order to reach this number, it must be marketed properly. It is possible to argue that clicktivism’s success mostly stems from the fact that people just can’t be all over the world at any given time. It is impractical to attend a rally for free speech in Olympia if you’re just coming home from work in Boston. It is also impossible for others, given their unique circumstances, to join protesters in Bahrain marching through the streets of Manama as they are pelted with rocks, tear gas canisters, and live ammunition. In cases like these, the Internet is really the only avenue for participation. But as Chamseddine reminds us, clicktivism is not a substitute for physical activism. Tineh’s actions on Twitter’s frontlines showed us that online activism is more than capable of raising awareness, mobilizing communities, and directing the spread of information toward the general direction of news producers and media outlets. But it is also prone to encouraging a feel-good feeling that would make all but the most dedicated individuals complacent or, over time, desensitized. Saw provides an interesting yet slightly more abstract visual image. Clicktivism turns things into black and white, temporarily leaving out the ever-so-important shades of gray. This is where physical activism must navigate its course. Social media has its place. The Internet has undoubtedly become an impending and overarching force. But even stronger is the grasp of a human hand.
Sami Kishawi, a student at the University of Chicago, maintains a blog, Sixteen Minutes to Palestine, at smpalestine.com.
49th Annual ISNA Convention August 31 – September 3, 2012 One Nation Under God: Striving for the Common Good Washington DC Convention Center 801 Mount Vernon Place NW • Washington, DC 20001
Ev ents Include: • Main Sessions (ISNA, MSA, MYNA) • Break-Out Sessions • Bazaar with more than 550 booths • Islamic Entertainment • Qira’at Competition • Meet the Author • Community Service Recognition Luncheon (CSRL) • Matrimonial Banquets • Art Exhibit • Islamic Film Festival • Basketball Tournament • Children’s Program • Babysitting • and much more… Early Registration Deadline July 10, 2012 We encourage you to register now as the hotel rooms are being booked quickly F or R e g is t r at ion & Hot e l R e se rvat ions : visit: WWW.ISNA.NET or call: (317) 838-8129 or email email@example.com F or B a z a a r B o ot h s & Sp ons or sh i ps : visit: WWW.ISNA.NET or call: (317) 838-8131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org C on v e n t ion Pro g r a m: email: email@example.com or call: (317) 839-8157 ext 231
R egis t r at ion For m We encourage you to register online at www.isna.net. This will ensure accuracy and instant confirmation for registration as well as hotel rooms. Early Registr ation Deadline is July 10, 2012. Print Ne atly
Street Address City
E-mail Address (required)
Spouse’s First Name
Spouse’s Last Name
Dependents (please list in order by age)
We are committed to providing a safe environment for all convention attendees. To ensure this, ISNA holds the right to ask the responsible person or group to leave the convention center. By registering for this convention I agree that if a member of my group causes any disturbance, I or that member will leave the convention center on the order of ISNA official(s). The judgment of term “disturbance” will be determined solely by ISNA officials. Your email will be included in ISNA Listserv for Newsletter.
Registr ation Fees (US $) Adult (19+ years)
$ 97 X __________ = $__________
Husband and Wife
$ 187 X __________ = $__________
University Students/MSA (Provide Copy of I.D.) $ 85 X __________ = $__________ Student/MYNA (12 – 18 years)
$ 59 X __________ = $__________
Group of 5 or More (per person)
$ 80 X __________ = $__________
Children’s Program (6 – 12 years) Each Child
$ 47 X __________ = $__________
Babysitting Program ($77 per child for the entire convention)
$ 77 X __________ = $__________
Method of Pay ment (US $) Registration Fee $_________________ Donation to Registration Fund $_________________ Membership Fees $_____________ Saturday Community Service Recognition Luncheon $_____________ ($200 per Individual and $2000 per table) Total Due $_________________ Check (Payable to ISNA) #_______________ Amount $_________________
Timing for Children’s Program and Babysitting
Charge to the following Card: MasterCard Visa AMEX
Card #_____________________________________ Exp. Date________
3:00 PM – 10:30 PM
Printed Name as it Appears on Credit Card:
Saturday & Sunday
9:00 AM – 10:30 PM
TOTAL: $ ______________
Hot e l R e se rvat ion Early Registr ation Deadline is July 10, 2012.
How to Reserv e Your Room August 31 – September 3, 2012 1.
Hotel reservations must be made either online or on this form and sent along with the registration form. Based on hotel availability, you will receive your confirmation within 3 weeks. Confirmation for online reservations will be sent by e-mail immediately. Rooms are assigned on a first-come first-serve and availability basis. If the hotel of your choice is full, you will be assigned to the next alternative. Bed type is not guaranteed & is subject to availability. There may be an extra charge for rollaway beds. (You will be notified at check in.) Since there are a limited number of rooms with two double beds, and in consideration for those with families, please only request rooms with 2 beds if it is absolutely necessary.
4. CANCELLATION: You will receive your confirmation directly from the hotel. If you do not cancel 3-weeks prior to your arrival date, your deposit will be forfeited. Cancellations will be done only by ISNA. Fax your written request to 317-839-1822. 5.
If you need to make a change or cancellation after you receive your confirmation, please follow the instructions on your confirmation form.
Hotel Information Rates do not include state or local taxes.
R ates Per Night
Renaissance DC Hotel (Across from the convention center)
$109 per night
Grand Hyatt (Half mile, Shuttle will be provided)
$109 per night
Marriott Metro (Half mile, Shuttle will be provided)
$109 per night
Hotels and Room Types are assigned based on the availability at the time your registration is received.
Room T y pe Check One:
1 Bed in room
2 Beds in room
Number of Rooms Required: ____________ Name of person #2
Please review your confirmation letter.
Name of person #3 First Name
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* Recommended Dates: Arrive August 31, 2012
Depart September 3, 2012
Method of Pay ment for Hotel (US $) City
To guarantee your hotel reservation, a credit card deposit for the first night is required.
Deposits can only be made by credit card.
You can cancel your hotel reservation 3 weeks prior to conference date. For a no-show, one day room rate will be charged.
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Please list any special needs
Mail or fax this form with your completed registration form. Housing forms will not be processed without registration forms and payment.
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I n for m at ion Early Registr ation Deadline is July 10, 2012.
Please complete fully, neatly, accurately. Send prior to registration deadline. You can take advantage of the on-line registration process and receive your confirmation immediately.
Individual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $40
Student . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20
All fees are in US$. If you are organizing a large group to attend the convention, please call us for special discounts.
Husband & Wife . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $50
• Right to Vote during ISNA Elections
All children must be enrolled in either Children’s Program or MYNA Programs. Any family member over 18 must pay regular or student fees.
• Free Islamic Horizons Magazine • Hijrah Calendar • ... and much more
To qualify for the student registration rates (University or School), fax a copy of your student ID to (317) 839-1822.
Community Serv ice Recognition Luncheon (CSRL)
Literature & Materials:
Distribution of unapproved literature or other materials or solicitation of any kind during the convention is strictly prohibited. Registration Deadline, Confirmations, Cancellations & Refunds:
• Early registration deadline is July 10, 2012. • Full Registration Fees Refund will be issued for cancellations before July 10, 2012. Written cancellation request must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to (317) 839-1822. No refunds will be issued after July 10, 2012. • There will be no refund of membership fees.
The Community Service Recognition Luncheon is a formal luncheon hosted by the ISNA Founders’ Committee (IFC) to recognize an outstanding leader in the North American Muslim community. Cost:
$200 per person or
$2000 per table (max. 10 persons)
• Purchase tickets online at www.isna.net • Children under 12 will not be permitted to attend • Complimentary babysitting provided
Avoi d De l ay s • Pr i n t N e at ly • Use on e m e t hod on ly to r e t u r n for m s
Send Registration Forms to: Fax: (317) 839-1822 Mail: ISNA Convention Registration P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168
For Information and Status Check CALL ISNA AT: (317) 838-8129
Don’t Forget • Make a copy for your own records and for additional registrants. • Make sure to enclose the completed form and payment. • The housing form and the registration form must be received at the same time.
Miami Muslim Clinic Cares Patients are afforded free and caring quality medical care. By Tasnim Shamma
s a new medical school with only a couple of years under its belt, Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine does not have its own hospital. It has largely partnered with local hospitals and clinics to give students practical experience through rotations. Every three weeks, three students and a professor from FlU’s medical school work at the Universal Heritage Institute Community Care Medical Clinic as part of their family medicine rotation. They have access to a classroom with a whiteboard and laptops at the clinic where they can discuss and review cases. The clinic, founded in 2008 by Miami’s Pakistani-American community, took years of planning and fundraising at mosques and community centers before they were able to get it off the ground. “We are here to provide care for the people who need [it],” says Sadrul Fasihi, the clinic’s president. “We don’t care whether you are legal, illegal, white, black.” Fasihi, a retired South Miami computer analyst, works at the UHI clinic in Miami
Gardens five days a week. Like most of the clinic’s staff, Fasihi is a volunteer. He also serves as the plumber, painter and general handyman. At first, the clinic was open two days a week. And to this community, it was a new idea. He says when he was first telling residents in Miami Gardens about the free medical clinic, they laughed in his face. Fasihi says the common reaction was, “Sir, there’s no free thing in this country.” Today, the community-funded clinic is open six days a week. It has one paid fulltime physician, two paid full-time medical assistants, and 35 volunteer doctors—about half a dozen of whom are specialists. The clinic is open to people whose incomes fall below the federal poverty level guidelines and who don’t have any other type of health insurance. It does not ask for a social security number. “Our whole idea is that when poor people come, we don’t want them to feel bad that they have got this run-down clinic because we are poor and we can’t afford it,” Fasihi said. The clinic is far from run-down. It has four exam rooms, which are clean and bright
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
and there’s an electronic medical record system—something many doctor’s offices and some hospitals still don’t have. Fasihi, who sits on the executive board of the Florida Association for Free Clinics, says he and another volunteer came up with the idea to partner with FIU’s medical school. When Dr. Pedro Jose Greer, assistant dean of academic affairs at FIU’s medical school, visited the clinic, Fasihi said Greer was very impressed. “It was mutually beneficial to both of us that now we have doctors and [the] medical school has a place that they can bring the students here and rotate,” Fasihi says. Rebecca Arana, a third-year medical student doing her family medicine rotation at both this and another clinic, says the Universal Heritage Institute CommunityCare Medical Clinic is different. She says it provides a lot of attention to patients. “They know they don’t have to wait too long and we can spend as much time as we can with [the patients],” Arana says. Clinic president Fasihi says as word of the free clinic has spread over the last several years, the number of patients has increased. He said UHI hopes to build a larger clinic to accommodate even more students and patients. Nursing students from FIU will also be rotating through the clinic soon.
Tasnim Shamma is an NPR Kroc Fellow in D.C. and is currently doing a member station rotation at WLRN MiamiHerald News.
Politics and Society
We Are All Slaves of Allah Racism & discrimination within the Muslim community By Aruba Mahmud
any Muslims are often quick to condemn acts of prejudice, whether it be the individual acts of Islamophobia and intolerance faced by Muslims in the West, particularly after 9/11, or more large scale, institutionalized forms of racial and religious discrimination—such as the NYPD’s monitoring, religious profiling, surveillance, and numerous other practices targeting Muslims. It is heartening to see Muslim individuals and organizations mobilizing against mistreatment, and it is a religious obligation to fight oppression and stand for justice. However, we as Muslims tend to overlook the unfortunate reality that discrimination, racism, prejudice, and nationalism are not only present, but prevalent within our own communities. While many are quick to condemn acts of prejudice committed by others, the issue of discrimination within the Muslim community is one which is largely ignored, or considered to be less important than other concerns facing Muslims in today’s society. Many Muslims, particularly those who are second-generation North Americans, are well aware that discrimination exists, and
that these attitudes of prejudice and cultural superiority are also by no means isolated to one community, masjid, or religious or cultural group. While the issue may not be given due attention, it is not uncommon for many Muslims, even those of us who would never consider ourselves to be racist or prejudice, to look down on our fellow brothers and sisters in Islam due to their racial or cultural background, their nationality, or hold the opinion that no matter how much Fair & Lovely they use, they will never be light-skinned enough to be marriageable material.
Racism: What does Islam have to say about it? Following the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February—a shooting many believe to be racially motivated—Imam Suhaib Webb expressed solidarity with Martin and those like him, saying, “before we…talk about oppression and wrong doing, we should always start with ourselves first.” He then cited a verse in the Quran, in which Allah says that we must stand for justice, even if it is against ourselves, or those close to us: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor:
T-shirts and wristbands are from Hakeemah Cummings’s line. 36
for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do” (4:135). Imam Jamal Taleb, of London Muslim Mosque in London, Ontario, also stresses the fact that racial and cultural prejudice is completely forbidden in Islam, and says that just as discrimination coming from outside the Muslim community is problematic, so too is the fact that some Muslims believe that simply belonging to a certain nationality or racial/cultural background makes them superior in comparison to others. He speaks of this problem in his own congregation, and says that it is “absolutely wrong” and that Islam does not “allow such thinking to exist.” Addressing tribalism and individuals who prefer to associate with only those from the same background, Taleb says that while there is nothing wrong with simply seeking those who share common cultural traditions, he is clear that it is wrong when done out of arrogance or prejudice against others. He, like Webb, cites from the Quran, when Allah commands, “O People who believe! Men must not ridicule other men for it could be that the ridiculed are better than the mockers, nor must the women ridicule other women for the ridiculed women may be better than the mockers; and do not insult one another, nor assign evil nicknames; how base it is to be called a sinner after being Muslim! And whoever does not repent, then it is they who are unjust” (49:11). The above are only two examples of many in the Quran which urge Muslims to be just, kind, respectful, and tolerant with others. Perhaps one of the most well-known messages of unity and racial equality in Islam though, is that delivered by the Prophet in his beautiful last sermon, in which he shares: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.”
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
What is being done? Based on a number of blogs, khutbahs, articles, the issue of racism and prejudice amongst the Muslim community is gradually being acknowledged and addressed as a major concern. This is especially true of the younger generation of Muslims in the West who are now growing up in North America and studying, living, and working in religiously and culturally diverse environments. While many of the individuals interviewed acknowledge and take pride in their cultural background, they also identify with the North American society in which they have grown up or now reside in. Many of these youth have friends and acquaintances from a number of different racial, religious, and cultural backgrounds, and they are much more open to associating with, and marrying into, different cultural and religious backgrounds than their parents’ generation. Unfortunately, even amongst the younger generation, racism and discrimination do exist, and a troubling incident of racism, which took place at a Chicago-area Islamic school, motivated two young women from Illinois, Hakeemah Cummings and Hind Makki, to tackle the issue head on. As Cummings explains, the incident, which took place at the school that both she and Makki used to attend, involved one student using a racial slur against another. Makki writes of the incident, “the n-word” was used against a girl of African descent and the girl who instigated the trouble was suspended.” Believing that this negative incident could be turned into a positive teaching moment for students, Cummings approached the principal of the school to ask whether something could be done at the school to address and discuss racism, stereotypes, and treating people differently due to nationalistic pride. The principal was enthusiastic about the idea, and she, a group of teachers, and Cummings and her mother worked together to organize a diversity event at the school. Leading up to the event, Cummings put together worksheets for the school’s students with a number of different images, multiple choice, true and false, and other questions and statements in order to allow students to honestly and anonymously share their views, opinions, and perceptions of a number of different racial, religious, and cultural groups.
Cummings then tallied up the results, some of which were startling—in one question, where an image of a young Barack Obama with a cigarette was placed beside an image of the Unibomber, wearing a suit and smiling pleasantly, 83 percent of the students rated the Unibomber as “more safe.” The findings of the surveys and questionnaires were presented at the Diversity Event on March 2, 2012. The event, attended by the entire student body, also featured a panel discussion involving Muslim women from diverse backgrounds, all with the intention of bringing awareness to, and eradicating, racism and discrimination. While the event was considered to be highly successful, Cummings knew that more had to be done in order to truly address the issue of internal racism. Cummings explains how, particularly as a Black student, prejudice had existed for several years before the incident mentioned above, dating back to when she was a student at the school. She shares how it was, and still is, common amongst many of the school’s (majority Arab) students to refer to black individuals, whether students or otherwise, as “abeed,” “abd,” or “abdah” which mean “slave,” or “slaves” in Arabic. With younger sisters now at the school, Cummings says that she does not want them to suffer from the same sort of discrimination and preju-
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
dice, and to grow up thinking that the use of derogatory terms and labels are acceptable. Cummings was inspired to create an anti-racism clothing and apparel campaign called “We are all ‘Abeed of Allah,” which can be found on Facebook. On the page, she writes that the use of the word “abeed,” as it has become synonymous with black individuals, is “a horrible racial slur that degrades a group of people based on a hurtful past of systematic and heart-breaking enslavement.” “On the other hand,” Cummings says, “the word ‘abeed’ is used beautifully in the Quran by Allah to refer to His worshippers. In Chapter 50, verse 29, Allah says: ‘...and I am not unjust to My slaves.’ This word ‘abeed’ is a term that encompasses all of those who strive to worship Allah, an honorable way of life. Instead, some use this word to marginalize and insult others, stripping the word of its beauty and dignity.” Through the Facebook page for “We are all ‘Abeed of Allah,” Cummings sells shirts, wristbands, hijabs and kuffiyyehs, all to support her mission to “end the use of the word ‘abeed’ in reference to the black race.” Cummings’s page already has 900 likes (as of June 2012) and she has found that the majority of her sales are overseas. Many well-known Muslim media bloggers and personalities have also endorsed her campaign, including fashion designer Dina Tokio and “Imaan & Beauty.” Cummings has also been vending and promoting her campaign at different Islamic venues and she’s noted that while the response overall has been encouraging, particularly based on the overseas response and orders that she has received, she does hope for more local support for the campaign in the future. “Allah refers to us all in the Quran as His abeed, and He says that He is not unjust to us (50:29) so we should not be unjust towards one another by degrading slurs,” Cummings says. “We are all abeed of Allah. So it sends a message that being an ‘abd(ah) is not shameful, its honorable because we all aspire to be an obedient slave or worshipper of Allah.” Hind Makki, a friend of Cummings, was also inspired to act. Makki has long been aware of the fact that many Muslims engage in racist and discriminatory behavior and harbor prejudice toward certain groups, and had discussed the issue amongst friends and community members, but she recently 37
Politics and Society decided to address the issue publicly, The Future through her blog, Hindtrospectives The initiatives and steps taken by Cummings and Makki are a positive and pro(hindtrospectives.wordpress.com). On May 2, Makki wrote the first of active approach to challenging the widewhat she plans to be a series of posts and spread issue of racism and discrimination articles addressing the issue of internal amongst the Muslim community. Both racism in the Muslim community. Like women have helped to raise awareness of Cummings, she was motivated by the the issue, and in turn, have inspired disincident of racism at her former school, cussion, debate, and acknowledgement and wanted to build on the progress which of a problem which is often unfortunately had been made at the diversity event. As ignored or overlooked in our commushe notes, after the event she, along with nity. Makki says that more large scale the others involved, wanted the campaign Hind Makki events, such as ISNA’s upcoming Diveragainst internal racism to “grow bigger,” sity Forum, “Strength through Diversity,” even to a national scale. She notes how her identity and overcome racial and cultural are a positive step forward in addressing this critical issue within our community. friends face discrimination within the Muslim divisions. It is time for Muslims to take heed of the community, and how the issue of “intra-faith ”Eradicating internal racism must relationships” are of utmost importance, and become a priority of all American Muslims words of Malcolm X, who inspired millions must be addressed in order to create unity — leaders and laity, parents and children, with his messages of tolerance, unity, and amongst Muslim Americans. educators and academics,” Makki writes on overcoming ignorance and discrimination: “There is no reason to be racist,” Makki her blog. “We must learn to see ourselves “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for says. in the stories of all our sisters and broth- justice, no matter who it’s for or against. I’m She believes that in order for progress ers. Otherwise, the second-most segregated a human being first and foremost, and as to be made in any other areas, whether it hour in the United States may well become such I am for whoever and whatever benefits be challenging Islamophobia or building on Friday at 1 p.m.” humanity as a whole.” interfaith relationships and coalitions, if there is not unity and equality amongst the ICGT MASJID ZAKARIYYAH Muslim community, then these efforts will FULL TIME IMAM NEEDED IMMEDIATELY be greatly hindered. 4699 Calder Ave, Beaumont, TX 77707 “It’s kind of a bold statement to say that Roles and Responsibilities: it’s the most critical issue facing American • Provide counsel and guidance in making ICGT a first class learning institution Muslims, but I think it is,” says Makki. • Conduct on-time daily prayers. Develop attractive programs to improve prayer participation “Because I don’t think that we could move • Deliver motivating and thought provoking Jum’a khutba and sermons. Must be fluent in English. anywhere—you know, the Islamophobia, • Concise and effective education of adults in Quran and Hadith or political enfranchisement, or anything, • Leadership of weekday and weekend Islamic school programs. Teamwork with teachers and lead role in building a culture of philanthropy—I don’t administration. think we could do any of that if we’re still • Active involvement in the local community, organizing youth programs: community dinners, picnics, stuck with racial cleavages and issues.” da’wah, interactions with non-Muslim groups, shelters She has found that a number of other Qualifications/Skills Requirements: Muslims, even those who are the children • Friendly, “people’s person” with a natural inclination to attract young Muslims. of immigrant parents, are oblivious to the • Formal Islamic education and training from a recognized institution issue, and even individuals who may not Send your resume to: participate in such behavior themselves do Tahir Ashrafi (409) 284-5309 • email@example.com nothing, or very little, to speak out against racism, or address the larger issue of prejudice and perceived racial and cultural supeElectronic Funds Transfer — riority. This is partially due to the fact that, A good deed done regularly! at least in the case of discrimination against Blacks, Makki believes that “one of the main You can make a significant impact on the quality of challenges is that a lot of immigrant origin ISNA’s services by contributing through EFT. Muslims really don’t see their narratives and As little as $10 per month will help ISNA to serve really don’t see their story in the story of the Muslim American community through effective African Americans, not just Muslims, but communication to media organizations, government and civic agencies on African Americans.” behalf of all Muslim Americans. She notes that as a result, there is a great need for Muslims to “organize and mobilize” Sign up today to donate through EFT. and improve relationships and mobilize in www.isna.net/donate order to build a common, shared, American
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
From India to Irvine The Man Behind Twitter’s @JihadiJew By Tasbeeh Herwees
“That was Germany in 1933,” he says, referring to the protest. “That was not why my family came here to America.” He crossed the barrier to stand at the doorway of the community center, greeting every Muslim family who passed.
Jihadi Jew On Twitter, his 9,000-plus followers know him as JihadiJew. His black-and-white display photo depicts his bearded, beaming, bespectacled face. Weissman’s tweets are 140-character nuggets of wisdom, infused with concepts from the Jewish, Islamic, Christian and even Hindu traditions. “In the inner jihad, apathy is really the enemy within your ranks, quietly weakening the heart for the battle,” reads one of his tweets.
ne year ago, Lee Weissman found himself jostled in the throngs of hundreds of people at a protest at the Yorba Linda Community Center in California, where, inside, several hundred Muslims were gathering for a fundraiser. Weissman had received notice of the protest from a local rabbi. One of the fundraiser’s slated speakers, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, had been accused of making statements in support of Hezbollah. A contingent of the local community, including members of the Republican Party of Orange County, had planned a demonstration. Weissman, already familiar with the historically tense relations between Orange County’s growing Muslim population and their Republican counterparts, decided to go. But he brought a sign along with him: “I’m here to talk, not to protest.” “I had no idea what I was walking into,” remembers Weissman with a heavy sigh. He arrived at the community center to find hundreds of people gathered along the street carrying signs emblazoned with slogans like “No Sharia Law!” and “God Bless America.” Others had gathered on the front lawn yelling “Go back home!” to Muslim families arriving to the event. “I bet your husband beats you!” they shouted at Muslim women.
“Terrorist!” “And they’re directing these at women and children,” Weissman says. “There was a priest who was just yellLee Weissman, who you can follow on Twitter, @JihadiJew. ing, ‘Muhammed was a child molester!’ into the kids’ faces.” “The Torah says ‘love your NEIGHBOR’ To arriving families and the angry pro- because loving someone far away is often so testers, it appeared Weissman was part of the much easier,” he writes in another. angry mob. Weismann wears the peyos, long He started the Twitter account a year curls of hair on both side of his head, that or so ago, at the insistence of his students mark him as an observant Orthodox Jew. at the Tarbut V’Torah Jewish Community “Part of it was comical,” he says. “You School in Irvine. know there was a guy behind me yelling, “I’d say things in class and they’d be writ‘Bacon! We need some bacon!’ And he would ing them down feverishly,” he says. turn around to me and say, ‘Sorry, rabbi.’” When he sat down to choose a Twitter Weissman is not a rabbi. But he could handle, he already knew what he wanted. not believe the level of vitriol on display He had a blog already called “Jihadi Yehudi,” that night. which translates from Arabic directly to “Jihadi Jew,” where he wrote reflections on Jewish and Islamic theology. “[Jihad] was a word and an idea that I tell people had becomes so demonized,” he says of the I’m the Arabic word for struggle, most often used to connote militancy. The word, however, is only Jewish layered, used to describe a spiritual struggle person I know who as well. “I wanted to bring out that concept was made Jewish because I think [that] what we most share by a Muslim,” says is that idea of the struggle with the self to Weissman. become better people,” Weissman says. “If I wanted Muslims and Jews to be able to
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Politics and Society relate to each other, that’s the area I would want them to relate to.” Weissman became familiar with Islam more than 20 years ago, when he was studying in India. He grew up in a secular household in Philadelphia; his encounters with Judaism up until then had been largely cultural. “When I was in high school, I became very hostile to it because the kind of Judaism I was raised with ... was really pretty impoverished,” he says. “It was a little bit of Israeli nationalism mixed with some vague ethnic identity and a couple of rituals people didn’t really understand very well.” In high school, he became interested in Indian philosophy. Years later, his curiosity would bring him to Madras, India, where he was studying for a doctoral degree in Sanskrit and Tamil Languages. He spent his nights dissecting religious texts with a Muslim Sufi sheikh who doubled as a physics professor during the day. “We’re sitting late one night and he says to me, ‘What are you doing here? What do you do with your life?’” Weissman says. “So I said, ‘Well, I’m here doing research.’ And he said, ‘What do you research?’ And I said, ‘I research religion.’ And he said, ‘What do you do for fun?’” Weissman found himself giving the same answer. “Has it ever occurred to you that what you really want is your own ibaadat Allah, your own service of God?” the sheikh asked. The lights came on, and Weissman knew the answer was yes. “Start praying,” the sheikh told him.
He did. “I tell people I’m the only Jewish person I know who was made Jewish by a Muslim,” says Weissman.
From India to Irvine Eventually, Weissman made it to Irvine, Calif., where he remarried his current wife, Laura, and lives with his daughter, Sara. His involvement in the Muslim community began after 9/11, when anti-Muslim hysteria was at its peak. “There was a part of me that said, you can’t let that happen to somebody else,” he says. “America can’t turn into Germany 1933. I decided people like me need to be on the vanguard.” The Yorba Linda protest was not the first, nor the last, incident of its kind. In the last couple of years, Orange County has been notorious as a battleground for fervent right-wingers, Zionist organizations, Muslim student organizations and pro-Palestinian groups. The UC Irvine campus, in particular, has been a hotbed of nasty conflicts between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist groups. The Muslim Student Union, which counts itself as among the latter, has been placed squarely in the center of these conflicts, causing much uproar by organizing events like Anti-Zionism week. Weissman became familiar with the event through the Jewish community. “All I heard was ‘Jihad was beginning in Irvine, California,’” he remembers. He decided to go to an event himself. “I
was half-expecting that everything I heard was true,” he says. “ But these were the nicest kids.” Weissman began a relationship with the Muslim Student Union, and they began inviting him to events. He’s lead halaqas— spiritual discussions—and given talks to MSUs all over California, most recently at UC Davis. He doesn’t agree with some of what they do—“My feelings on anti-Zionism Week continue to be mixed,” he says—but Weissman prefers to engage in discussion with them. When some students—dubbed the “Irvine 11”—were put on trial for disrupting the speech of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, Weissman even served as a character witness for one of the defendants. “In my opinion, [disrupting speeches] causes more problems than it solves,” he says. “But I thought it was a little embarrassing that the DA felt they had to prosecute.” Weissman has recently received flack for his involvement with the Muslim Student Union—he’s often the recipient of inconspicuous jabs for his “Arab friends” and unmasked disapproval from some congregants of a local synagogue. But he’s happy to ignore it, because— from both sides— feedback of his work, on Twitter and off, has been largely supportive and he believes the only way to bridge the gap is get each side talking to each other. “We have very similar lifestyles,” Weissman says. “All I wish is that we know each other.”
Tasbeeh Herwees is a Libyan American journalist living in Southern California.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Eduardo Lopez Curiel
Happily Ever After?
The necessity of following up with new Muslims. By Kiran Ansari
s Melinda faced the crowd on a bright, warm afternoon in June 2010, she knew she would remember this day forever. It was literally and figuratively the first day of a new chapter in her life—the day she accepted Islam. After taking the shahadah, scores of women came and hugged her. Some were crying. It was a little overwhelming, but Melinda felt special and her heart testified that she had made the best decision of her life. It was after the hugs and handshakes came to an end, that reality began sinking in. While her heart was throbbing with excitement, her head was exploding with questions. She continued to come to the mosque as often as she could but the zeal with which everyone had welcomed her the first day was hard to find. Yes, women would answer questions if Melinda asked, but she had no friends, no one to confide in, and no one to call or go out for lunch with. Melinda’s story is not unique. Scores of
converts feel that “born-Muslims” are guilty of not following up as well as they can with their new sisters and brothers who take such a giant leap of faith. “It is a sad reality that we get excited when someone takes the shahadah but the enthusiasm dissipates and the new converts are often not provided with half as much support as they need,” says Dr. Sabeel Ahmed, director of GainPeace. To help alleviate this issue, GainPeace initiated a structured mentorship program in 2006 that has helped thousands of new Muslims connect with God other Muslims and the community. Their “Welcome to Islam Package” includes a copy of the Quran in Arabic, English and Spanish, How to Pray DVD, a hijab or kufi and other basic information to inform but not overwhelm the new Muslim. Then, they are paired with a Reem Saenz
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
trained mentor for 100 days to help with the fundamentals and basic Quranic chapters. They are also encouraged to join classes specifically designed for reverts — whether in-person or online. Registration is open at www.gainpeace.com. Ahmed suggests that when someone takes the shahadah, the imam should appeal to the community to take responsibility of staying connected with the new Muslims by exchanging telephone numbers, meeting them at least once a week and introducing them to their social network.
Facebook to the rescue For those who do not live close to a mosque or are hesitant to introduce themselves as new Muslims, Facebook has become a good resource. Reem Saenz, a Latino convert herself, felt that there was a void in information about Islam in Spanish. She felt the available material was too complicated for reverts. So, she created a Facebook group called “No Perfectos Sino Musulmanes Conversos” which means “We are not perfect, just Muslim converts.” The group is moderated by four administrators and was formed on the prem41
Politics and Society ise of encouraging people to ask questions without being judged. At press time, they had 150 active members, most of them new Muslims and others who have questions about Islam and are considering converting. Zulayka Martinez Catalina Cordova, 19, from Arizona, says she “felt very a member of this group, first heard about alone” during her Islam when she saw some Muslims at her first two Ramadans. workplace. However, they were very shy to talk about their faith so Cordova turned to Whether she talks about wearing the hijab the Internet for answers. She had her “Aha!” backwards or reading an Arabic book the moment when she had a dream that she was other way around, she talks to the viewers in a classroom wearing hijab and everyone at their level, and this is what appeals to was waiting for her to read the Quran. She them the most. started digging deeper and, a few all-nighters “When people have issues with hijab with later, she felt happy inside. their family I tell them to remember that “I love this Facebook group since Reem the biggest symbol for Mexicans is Virgin and the other Admins don’t complicate Mary and she is always seen covered in every stuff,” Cordova says. “They don’t copy and depiction of her,” Saenz says. paste from other websites and inundate their answers with Arabic terms. They explain with Islam across the border the support of Hadith but keep it simple.” Eduardo Lopez Curiel, another adminisBy winter of 2011, Cordova took the sha- trator of this group, a biologist, grew up hadah. While it is easier for younger reverts thinking science and faith were two separate to get used to certain things like praying things. While his parents were Catholic, he or learning a new language as compared to never felt truly Catholic in his heart. Once he those who accept Islam later in life, it comes read, “Bible, Science and the Quran,” he felt with its own challenges. Since she still lives at peace knowing that religion and science with her parents, it saddens her to know that can be in sync. He felt “spiritually complete.” her mother is not happy with her decision. Curiel lives in Mexico City and began his “My mother doesn’t let me cover my hair quest on the Internet when he didn’t find and tells me that I am wasting my time,” Cor- good books about Islam in Spanish. That’s dova says. “However, my mom does notice when he found Saenz’s YouTube video which that I don’t party at night any longer and is a light-hearted attempt to humanize Islam try my best not to fight with my parents.” and not make it into an alien faith. “Sometimes I used to feel like I am the When the Web works only Muslim in Mexico,” Curiel says. “But since I have found this group, I feel like I for you Saenz finds it interesting to note how people am not alone. Many of my old friends made stumble upon her group. They could be look- fun of me. But now I have found a group of ing for a recipe for Arabic food and they land ‘rookie Muslims’ trying to help one another.” on her YouTube video or Facebook page and find a simple introduction to Islam — minus Tying the knot the jargon. When it comes to finding suitable spouses “Random curiosity can lead you to for their children, many parents overlook the something that you are meant to see,” Saenz New Muslims citing cultural and language says. “Islam sometimes seems mystical, like preferences. However, Islam advocates marsomething out of the Aladdin movie, but rying on the basis of piety and many a time then it can also be confusing if one is not marrying a revert can strengthen one’s own properly guided. Most videos about Islam faith as he or she becomes more conscious of start with ‘Asalaamu alaikum’ and lots of setting a good example. Mentors can inforArabic words that can immediately throw mally help with matchmaking too as marriage is considered half of a Muslim’s faith. off non-Muslims.” Since there are very few Hispanic role “We spend so much time and money models that have converted to Islam, Saenz trying to bring people to Islam; however, created humorous skits to encourage viewers we need to understand that these people to learn more about her new-found faith. have no families, no brothers or sisters in 42
Islam to celebrate Eid or guide them about Ramadan,” Saenz says. “We often become more of a judge than a sincere friend. We encourage them to covert but when the converts wish to resume their new life and wish to keep studying and get married like every other Muslim, we forget that our sons and daughters could marry them, too. We deprive our children from those who embraced Islam.” When someone does marry a revert, it is crucial for his family and friends to support his decision. Otherwise, hurtful comments can leave deep scars. Salma Gamal (not her real name) converted to Islam when she married her Egyptian husband. She has learned how to pray and read the Quran in Arabic and is always looking for ways to understand the message of the Quran. That might be more than what some Muslims that are born into the faith do. However, six years down the road, she still hears the occasional, “One doesn’t become a Muslim just by getting a Muslim name,” “What will she teach her kids when she doesn’t know anything herself?” and “I don’t want to associate with people that don’t pray five times a day.”
The work has just begun Ahmed feels the rapid rate at which people are converting to Islam means the increased need for trainers and training. With more Latinos converting. it is necessary for more mentors learn Spanish or have more Hispanic converts train to become mentors. He feels the challenge is more pronounced when it comes to reaching out to the men to attend new Muslim classes as compared to women. He also hopes that there is a healthy exchange of dawah (outreach) resources on a national and regional level so that individual mosques need not replicate efforts already established by other groups. Work together on enhancing the curriculum and then sharing it vastly so it is more accessible to people all across the nation. There will always be roadblocks at every major intersection of life. But Cordova sums it up beautifully. “I did not convert to Islam to make others happy,” she says. “I might have troubles now, but I will never give up and only ask Allah for help.”
Kiran Ansari is a freelance writer who lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her family. Reach her at kiran@ kiranansari.com
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Around the World
Closer to Home, Yet Farther Than Ever
A college student travels to aid Syrian refugees in Turkey. By Eman Sahloul
t was by sheer luck that I had the honor of travelling to Turkey this past March. With the unrelenting government-driven crackdown on Syrian citizens this past year and a half, I have made it a duty of mine, just as many in this community, to serve this movement for freedom. I went with close friend, Rahma Bayrakdar, and my father, a refugee of 32 years and a full-time employee of this revolution. He had traveled to Turkey in late 2011 to work more closely with organizers in Istanbul, and with the escalated violence in Syria and the thousands of families seeking protection in Turkey, more work needed to be done. My intentions for Turkey were to simply visit, help and share the stories of the 25,000 Syrian refugees residing there at the time (the number has escalated since). For months, I was not satisfied with the idea of sitting comfortably in my home with parents, food, warmth and clothes, regardless of the fact that I, as well as many others, have spent
sleepless nights planning, organizing, watching, waiting. I wanted to be there, under the shelling, with my family. Traveling to Turkey was the closest, and ironically the furthest, chance I had to attain that feeling of solidarity. Close in distance and even more so when it came to attaining that extra motivation to work harder. However, when I spoke to refugees, Syrians who had seen death in front of them, Syrians who had witnessed the destruction or occupation of their own home, Syrians who had lost their ability to walk, see, smile; that was when I felt the most foreign and the most helpless. I had nothing to offer them; comforting words felt too empty, tears too weak, and reassurances of better days too vague. This sense of helplessness was most prominent when visiting the injured in the hospitals in Antakya. We walked into hospital rooms filled with men, some with casts, some with missing limbs, some who
Noor Al-Huda, a member of the family from Baba Amr, recited a four-page prayer from memory. She is only eight years old.
Islamic Horizonsâ€ƒ July/August 2012
were completely covered in white sheets, and all of whom looked starved, bruised and broken inside. I could do nothing about it. I avoided their eyes and tried not to look at any of the injuries they had sustained. My father would make small talk, ask if they needed anything, write down lists of every single manâ€™s needs (which were very few), and leave. It was like that for three hospitals, for three straight days. When my dad asked if I wanted to go to the fourth, I declined, not because of the images I had seen and that now are imprinted in my mind, but because I hated walking into a room and walking out accomplishing nothing. Antakya, a city directly bordering Syria, and the main site of all registered refugees in Turkey, was also the site of the worst injuries we had seen simply because there was no possible way anyone would have traveled very far with such injuries. Men streamed into the hospital with blood still flowing from their legs, patches of skin missing because of some nameless explosive, while others covered their injuries to save us the sight of their mangled body. The worst part was knowing that these people were the lucky ones. Back in Istanbul, the people we visited were not registered as refugees and were actually fortunate enough to live in small apartments. We stayed with a family of 11 from the most bombarded neighborhood in Syria: Baba Amr in Homs for two full days. Their sense of resilience and faith could not be shattered, and their contribution to the revolution and other refugees was relentless. Rahma Bayrakdar (right) and Noor Al-Huda (center).
Around the World
A mix of both Turkish and Syrian men protesting for Syria in Istanbul at Sultan Mosque.
As they ate dinner in their closet-sized bedroom, they expressed the same exact feeling of helplessness that I and many others had felt, on a much larger magnitude of course. They wanted to defend what was left of their homeland, their brothers who still remain in Syria, their history, their dreams, their future. But they left for the safety of the children. And they continued to thank God for the fortune they had in comparison to this still in Syria.
There are several ways to aid these refugees. A campaign, “Text 4 Syria” was recently launched in an effort to fundraise. Simply text “Syria” to 80077 and send a $10 donation to help Syrian refugees in both Turkey and Lebanon. Ten dollars will be added to your phone bill and sent to Mercy-USA for Aid and Development. Mercy-USA has been helping Syrian refugees since June 2011. The Red Cross and Give Foundation were able to raise $32 million with this same text
system for Haiti during the earthquake that ravaged their country. Consider yourself in the place of one of these refugees. Imagine leaving your home, your family, your past, your future, your dreams with the possibility of never returning again. Imagine and then do your part as a Muslim American.
Eman Sahloul is a student at Benedictine University studying biochemistry and global affairs.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Hungry for Freedom
Palestinians in the West Bank city of Ramallah call for the release of Palestinians prisoners.
Photo by Issam Rimawi, APA Images.
Palestinian prisoners end record-breaking hunger strike protesting administrative detention. By Kristin Szremski
n May 15, almost a full month after they began, some 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners ended their hunger strike after the Israeli Prison Service agreed to several demands that have united not only the 4,800 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, but Palestinians and their supporters worldwide. Though unified, this group of 2,000 detainees was not alone. In fact, they began their fast in solidarity with five other men, whose refusal of food reached historical proportions. The hunger strike of Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, who were being imprisoned without charge or trial, reached 77 days — the longest in Palestinian history. They ended their strike at the same time, when Israeli authorities also agreed to release them on June 5. At issue for these prisoners—as well as Khader Adnan and Hanan Shalabi, who were the first successful Palestinian hunger strikers earlier this year—is Israel’s use of administrative detention; disproportionate use of solitary confinement; the prohibition of family visits; night raids and harassment; and the confiscation of personal items. All of these issues, which the Israeli Prison Service employs regularly, violate international law. The Palestinians, imprisoned in detention centers within Israel itself, is also a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits transferring occupied persons outside their country. Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer also cited a lack of access to university education and denial of family visits, particularly for Palestinians from Gaza, as reasons behind the strike. Israel agreed to move prisoners in solitary confinement into the general prison population, will not issue new administrative detention orders and will allow for family
visits, according to news reports. Some prisoners have been in isolation for 10 years, Addameer wrote in a statement. But perhaps the biggest issue facing Palestinian political prisoners is Israel’s use of administrative detention, which means Palestinians are held on “secret evidence” they never see. They are not charged with a crime nor do they stand trial. Their detention orders can be extended six months at a time indefinitely. The European Union, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon condemned Israel for its use of administrative detention, and called on Israel to release those detained without charge or trial or allow them to stand trial, according to Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. While Jews in the Holy Land are protected by Israeli domestic law and are under the jurisdiction of a civil court system, Palestinians—even children 12 years old and younger—are subjected to a military court system. Each year, the Israeli military arrests and detains about 700 Palestinian children; and about 700,000 Palestinians—close to 20 percent of the population in the West Bank and Gaza—have been imprisoned at some time since 1967, according to Swiss-based Defence for Children International — Palestine Section. Israel’s use of a dual judicial system is one sign that it has implemented an apartheid system, according to a 2009 report Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa. It found ample evidence in the Israeli Prison Service of tactics that meet the criteria for apartheid policies, such as the use of torture, arresting children in the middle of the night, indefinite detention without charge and the use of military courts for a civilian population.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
On May 15, the same day, the prisoners’ hunger strike ended, Dame Joan Ruddock apprised the British Parliament about the state of Palestinian children in Israel’s military court system. In the course of her fact-finding mission in Palestine, she saw Israeli military officials interrogating children without their parents or lawyers present; children being intimidated into making false confessions; and some children being taken from their homes in the middle of the night, Ruddock sought her parliamentary colleagues’ intervention on behalf of the Palestinians. “But whether they are guilty or not, the issue is one of justice,” she said. “Israel is in breach of several international conventions in the actions it is taking.” She went on to speak about the hunger strike as well. “Around 4,800 Palestinians are in prison today. Until yesterday, more than a third were on hunger strike. The mass protest began on 17 April. Two prisoners had been refusing food for 77 days and there were fears for their lives,” Ruddock said. “A hunger strike is the most extreme form of non-violent protest. It is a clear sign of desperation and the all-pervasive sense that the occupation will never end and that Palestinians will never determine their own destiny.” Addameer, other NGOs and the prisoners committee that organized the mass hunger strike, are calling upon the international community to hold Israel accountable to ensure it carries through with the concessions it made.
Kristin Szremski is the director of media and communications for the American Muslims for Palestine.
Around the World
The Arab Spring and You ISPU event explores the role of international actors and repercussions in the U.S. By Hiba Haque
freedom” and the economic challenges they would encounter from the military’s grip over the economy. Radwan Ziadeh, an ISPU fellow, is spokesperson for the Syrian National Council, the main opposition group in Syria. Looking to Syria, Ziadeh noted the blatant erosion of the rule of law as government forces continued brutal assault on civilians, attacking hospitals and preventing treatment for the injured, leaving more than 9,000 dead and over 200,000 displaced from Homs.
Photo by Nafeh AbuNab
eading foreign policy analysts and experts convened at Wayne State Law School in Detroit on April 14 to discuss issues surrounding the revolutionary wave of protests that erupted across the Arab world in the past year. “A Year in Tahrir: The Future of the Arab Spring and Its Implications in the U.S.” offered critical insight into the foundations of the Arab reform movement, its transitional elements and persisting challenges, the role of international actors in the region, and its impact on the socio-political landscape of the U.S. The event was cosponsored by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), National Security Network and Wayne State Law School. Panelists laid out the major challenges facing the Arab nations undergoing transition, pointing to the lack of political solidarity in the case of Egypt. Political forces fragmented soon after the regime’s fall, and as Michael Hanna, fellow at the Century Foundation indicated, the Muslim Brotherhood’s earlier reluctance in political involvement along with the interim military junta (SCAF)’s failure to dictate only intensified the unrest. However, the panelists agreed that it was crucial to prioritize constitutional reform in the region, and the exclusive focus on elections and politics in Egypt, as Khaled Elgindy, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, had curbed progress on very serious economic issues, the security situation, and legal judicial reforms in the nation. A deeper underlying threat to reform within Egyptian culture, Elgindy said, was the fact that authoritative power rested in volatile informal institutions—such as the ruling member of one’s neighborhood— rather than formal institutions that upheld the constitution. He also indicated that the public lacked awareness of the connection between their personal “dignity and
Initial protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria had, in each case, he said, erupted as a response to the civilian oppression by national security forces. According to Ziadeh, the national armies “determined the transition” in these countries, pointing to Tunisia as the optimal model, where the military “backed the institutions which allowed for political parties to manage the transition.” The schism between military and civilian interests prove to be detrimental in other countries. Panelists agreed that genuine regime change so far occurred only in Libya, while Tunisia was progressing toward reform, focusing its efforts on constitution-making. Leila Hilal, co-director of the New America Foundation, pointed out that transitioning countries could draw lessons from the parts of Africa, Asia and Europe that had shifted from autocratic to democratic rule in the past three decades.
Looking beyond what is happening in the countries in transition, the conference was designed to explore the role of international actors and the repercussions in the U.S. To Marc Lynch, associate professor at George Washington University, the objective of U.S. intervention in the region was not for “promoting democracy” but rather for maintaining stable alliances that would preserve existing foreign policies of American interest, such as the security of Israel, the containment of Iran, and the cheap flow of oil to the U.S. Co-panelist Mark Leon Goldberg, editor of the United Nations and global affairs blog, “UN Dispatch,” outlined some of the factors that led to the quick response by the UN to the Libyan crisis in contrast with the UN resolution on Syria, which surfaced after 13 months of violence. The early reaction to the Libyan crisis by regional bodies such as the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council sped up the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. Goldberg also noted that “Libya experienced a degree of international isolation that is unprecedented.” In addition to this, high-profile Libyan diplomats, including the deputy Libyan ambassador to the UN, defected from the regime soon after the upheaval, leading to rapid reform in Libya. Transitioning to the impact on American culture and politics, Saeed Khan, founding member of ISPU and lecturer at Wayne State, noted the visible impact on political awareness and activism in the U.S., but questioned how long this rejuvenated spirit in youth would last if their issues remained unaddressed by the leadership. With regards to the racial profiling faced by Arabs and Muslims post-9/11, Imad Hamad, regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said, “I don’t think the Arab Spring has changed much about this, but the American society is dealing with it.” Hamad also addressed the growing importance of local elections to the Arab and Muslim community. “I see the light in the political area,” Hamad said. “We have hundreds of youth getting people out to vote and ready to move forward.”
Hiba Haque is the program assistant for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
The Forgotten People
40 Years, 3 Generations, 300,000 people By Saima Hassan
ime has stood still for the Urdu-speaking people in the camps in Bangladesh (commonly known as Biharis or Stranded Pakistanis) for the past four decades. The story of their sufferings goes back to the partition of India in 1947. During the partition, they migrated from various parts of India, mostly from the province of Bihar to East Pakistan. In December 1971, India invaded East Pakistan to create the independent state of Bangladesh. In the commotion of war and disorder, the Urdu-speaking people were compelled to move into 66 temporary camps awaiting repatriation to Pakistan. Of the half a million or so who registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Pakistan accepted the repatriation of approximately 173,000 people. The rest
remained unclaimed and have languished in slums where they were granted temporary shelter. Currently about 300,000 people live in around 66 camps dispersed across Bangladesh. In 2004, Anwar Khan, a Pakistani American, decided to visit Bangladesh with the intention of adopting a family. Upon returning to his home in Indianapolis, he set to do something to take them out of their misery. Today, his nonprofit organization OBAT Helpers—the only such U.S. organization—is pursuing to provide relief to the Stranded Pakistanis. Khan, the organization president, yearly visits the camps in Bangladesh, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of OBAT’s programs.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
The organization now runs seven schools, health clinics, tutoring and computer training centers, self-empowerment programs, camp improvement projects, water and sewage facilities etc. OBAT also provides assistance to needy families as well as disaster relief for cases such as floods, fires, etc. Altogether, these programs have improved the lives of thousands of people—all sparked by a simple act of humanity. You can read more about OBAT Helpers’ projects and how to get involved by visiting www.obathelpers.org or contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Going Beyond Fasting As Muslims use fasting as a way to feel with the needy, there are other ways of engaging with the hungry this Ramadan. By Meha Ahmad
hrough fasting, Muslims attempt to connect with those who go without—particularly the hungry. Abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset can help the one who fasts empathize with those without food and help them relate to the needy, in a way. But where does that brief and sample-like connection go from there? What other actions than simply not eating are there to connect with the hungry? What other ways than writing a check for the local mosque’s zakat box can one pursue to engage with the hungry and those in need? One way, perhaps, is to actually talk to someone in-need. On the streets of D.C., just a stone’s throw from the White House, Matt Bremmer stands on the pavement at the corner of Connecticut and K Street, playing a selection of Beethoven’s “Violin Romance.” At his feet, with a whopping $14—give or take a few cents—in bills and change in it, is a black, beat-up violin case, which must have seen better days. His hair is mostly gray and white with bits of lighter brown, a sharp contrast to his face, a dark tan from playing his violin in the sun for hours a day. Though Bremmer insists he
is not homeless—as many may first assume when they pass him, in his torn jeans and way-passed-their-expiration-date combat boots—he does not delve into where he lives. But the change he makes is his only source of income. And most days, he doesn’t get enough to eat. “Sometimes, I make enough to get a good meal,” Bremmer says. “Not always, though.
We shouldn’t make them have to beg, we shouldn’t give them our discards and we shouldn’t treat them as discards of society.” — Asma Hanif, founder of Muslimaat Al-Nisaa
The worst thing, for me, is being hungry and having that empty feeling and there’s nothing you can do about it. You just go to sleep and try to forget it.” Bremmer says that his falling on hard times is a more recent development, in the last 15 months or so, rather than a lifelong condition. “People think that, if you’re poor, you’ve always been poor. I wasn’t always playing music on the street. I used to work; I used to work full time,” he says. But when he lost his job in early 2011, he said it was hard to start over. He eventually landed a cashier job on the weekends, but has nothing to fill his week but playing music on his violin for D.C. commuters. “I sent out resumes to anything I was qualified for, but never got a call back. Then I couldn’t afford my phone for anyone to call back even if they wanted,” Bremmer says. “Now I am just waiting for anything good to happen.” Bremmer says one of the worst things of his current situation—besides not knowing where his next meal is coming from—is the shift in how he is perceived and treated by those around him. “People pass by, try hard not to make eye contact,” Bremmer says. “Because then they’d have to acknowledge that I’m real. I’m not just some lazy guy who has always been poor. I’m just like them, just with less money, and I’m asking for a little bit of help.” Not every hungry person is homeless, according to Halil Demir, executive director of Zakat Foundation, a Chicago-based Muslim nonprofit charity. According to Demir, Bremmer would be classified under the “working poor.” “The working poor work but the pay is so small, they can barely make ends meet,” Demir says. “And this is a problem in our communities. I know from firsthand experience that there are families who work but cannot provide food for their families. They cannot feed their kids. They are not homeless, but very poor.” One of the best ways Muslims can reach out and engage with the working poor this Ramadan is to identify who they are and share provisions, or even share a meal, with them. “[The problem of hunger] in our neighborhoods can be easily fixed by the Muslim community by sharing food,” Demir says. Sharing food with those in need means identifying who those people are, which can be more important than writing a check to a local charity or mosque and hoping it gets in the right hands.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
“There are Muslim families who are sometimes shy to ask for supplies and food, and it’s up to the Muslim community to identify these families and deliver food in a quiet and respectful manner,” Demir says. It is also essential, according to Asma Hanif, founder of Muslimaat Nisaa, a Muslim women’s shelter in the D.C. metropolitan area, for Muslims to not just give food to those in need, but to help them maintain their dignity. “Fasting helps us identify with those who are less fortunate, but I’ve also come to realize how we as a community do not treat these individuals in these situations as we should,” Hanif says. “Treat them as if they do matter; it is actually more crucial to them than the food that we give them or the clothing or the spending of time.” The first step, Hanif says, is to give those in need what one wants for one’s self, not just their hand-me-downs. She says a big theme of Ramadan is to want for one’s brother or sister what they want for themselves, but in the donations she often sees dropped off at Muslimat Nisaa—a shelter that welcomes Muslim women nationwide—many people are demonstrating the opposite idea and donating exactly what they don’t want anymore. “People treat shelters as a dumping ground and think they’re doing a good deed,” she says. “They go to their cabinets and get the canned foods that they don’t want. Then they give the used clothing that they’re getting rid of—again, it’s their discards. So they’re treating these human beings—Allah’s creations, our Muslims brothers and sisters—like they too are discards and that’s all they’re deserving of. And it’s the month of Ramadan! And if you’re talking about wanting a reward for something, I can’t see that it’s going be looked at as giving up anything, because it’s what you didn’t want anyway.” Hanif says her work with the shelter has taught her that Ramadan’s lesson of engaging with the hungry and needy means more than just feeding the hungry; it’s also about helping them maintain their dignity, self respect and self esteem. “They already feel bad, and know they are forced into a humbled situation,” Hanif says. “So we shouldn’t make them have to beg, we shouldn’t give them our discards and we shouldn’t treat them as discards of society.” A way more people should seek to engage with and help the hungry is to reach out first to organizations with experience and seek help themselves. “Our communities must be proactive
in helping the hungry,” Zakat Foundation’s Demir says. “And if they need help, ask organizations like Zakat Foundation how you can start a soup kitchen, do community service, take part in social services, father information, and even help financially.” Individuals can also turn to their local social services for help in connecting with the poor this Ramadan (and year-round, too).
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Al-Haaj Ghazi Y. Khankan A pioneer in Muslim American civic engagement 1935-2012
l-Haaj Ghazi Y. Khankan, a respected and long-serving New York Muslim community leader and activist, died on Long Island, N.Y. on April 26, a few days after suffering a stroke. He was 77. He was laid to rest in New Jersey. Khankan, who had lived in the U.S. since 1954 — migrating at 19, was director of interfaith affairs and communications at the Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury, N.Y. ICLI president, Eric Hamza Byas, said, Khankan “was a selfless individual. He loved his community much and worked tirelessly for the well-being not only of the ummah, but for humanity in general. We will miss him dearly” Dr. Faroque A. Khan, an ICLI board member, called him “a stalwart who put Muslims on the agenda and took some heat for that.” He had served as the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations - New York office. He was past president of the National Council on Islamic Affairs, which in 1999 merged with the American Muslim Alliance. In order to end stereotypes and misconceptions about, he had lectured across the U.S. and produced radio and television programs dealing with the various aspects of Islam. Khankan had studied at the Lycee Francais, at Aleppo College in Syria, and at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, completed his education at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles in the fields of business administration and international relations (1954-60).
“Every city has social services, and these social services, by discussing with them what you want to do and how you want to help, will tell you how to move forward. City hall will tell you what steps to take, what you need, how to find these people and identify the poor,” Demir says.
Meha Ahmad is the copy editor of Islamic Horizons.
During 1960-64, he was the director of the Organization of Arab Students in the U.S. and Canada. He was a member of the Islamic-Roman Catholic Dialogue, American Muslims and Jews in Dialogue, the Jewish-Christian-Islamic Commission of the National Conference of Community and Justice, The Long Island Multi-Faith Forum, the Long Beach Clergy Association, the Long Island Majlis Ash-Shura, Islamic Leadership Council of New York, and several other inter-faith groups. As director of “The Voice of Al-Islam Broadcasting” in New York for more than 25 years, Al-Haaj Khankan met with and interviewed many Muslim and Arab leaders during his travels throughout the Middle East and the U.S. He is a regular guest on Long Island Cablevision Channel 25’s TeLIcare programs, “Father Tom and Religious Leaders” and “Circle of Faith.” He served on the N.Y. State Advisory Committee of the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights, Washington, D.C. and in Nov. 1996 was designated by Nassau County Executive, Thomas S. Gulotta, to serve as his coordinator with the Muslim community on Long Island. In 1998, he became advisor on Islamic affairs at the Long Island University, C. W. Post campus, Long Island, N.Y. He volunteered as a Muslim advisor at North Shore University Hospital, Glen Cove, N.Y. and at the Nassau County Medical Center, East Meadow, N.Y. Khankan’s services and achievements were recognized by many awards and citations, such as CAIR N.Y.’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2005), American Muslim Alliance’s “Dr. M. T. Mehdi Lifetime Achievement Award” for his pioneering teamwork with the late Dr. Mehdi in building the foundation of immigrant Muslim participations in mainstream politics (2006), and ICLI’s lifetime achievements ward (2011). He is survived by Tania, his wife of more than 40 years; a daughter, Dahlia, a son, Yahya, and six grandchildren.
Creating Traditions and the Holiday Spirit How Two Converts to Islam Celebrate Eid By Zahra Cheema
hen seven-year-old Abdullah wakes up on Eid morning, he rushes to the family room wide-eyed and eager with anticipation. Amidst a colorful bouquet of balloons there are baskets filled with candies and toys, and a pile of brightlywrapped gifts. Abdullah’s mother, Lacey Studnicka, and his father try to make Eid a memorable holiday for their children. “When the kids started getting a little bit older, we really made the intention to make it special,” says Studnicka, a development professional at a local non-profit organization in Nebraska. Before having kids, or before their children were old enough to know about Eid, Studnicka and her husband celebrated the holiday in a more sober way, often by attending Eid prayers and maybe visiting a few friends. Studnicka remembers her first exposure to Eid when she attended Eid prayer with her husband in 2003, the same year she got married. Months later, she took shahada in an airport before boarding a plane for a business trip, and, a few years afterward, she started wearing hijab. She credits her husband’s sincere practice of Islam as growing 50
her interest in the faith, but ultimately chose to accept Islam because it aligned with her personal beliefs. “I just discovered that it was exactly what I always believed; it just had a name now,” she says. After the kids have a chance to examine their treat baskets, they shower and dress in fancy clothes. For the past few Eids, the family arrives at the prayer hall early to help set up. Afterward, they may go out to breakfast with other friends. In the evening, Studnicka’s family, who live nearby, visit for an Eid dinner. Her husband’s family is in Tajikistan. Studnicka’s parents, her sisters, and brother-in-law come to her house bearing gifts for the kids. “I told them for Eid you can give us our presents for the holiday and for Christmas we’ll give you presents since it’s your holiday, so it’s been kind of nice,” she says. Studnicka’s
family and extended family, who she says aren’t very religious, are very supportive of her being Muslim. “They’ve been amazingly supportive,” she says and they always make accommodations for her and her family at gatherings, such as making sure there are halal alternatives to eat. “We talked to them and we told them that it’s really important to us that Eid be the major holiday for the kids and so they were very cool with us and very accommodating with us switching the importance of the festivities.” Studnicka says that in addition to making Eid a fun time for her kids, she also tries to make it, and the month before, a learning opportunity. One year, the kids made cookies during the end of Ramadan and gave them out to the neighbors. As Eid comes near, she sends the kids to school with candy tagged with “Eid Mubarak” to share with their friends and classmates. The kids take the day off from school on Eid day. “It’s a way for them to share that piece of themselves,” she says. “Their teacher has asked me to write up something about what is Eid and she explains it to the class before.” Studnicka feels that this is very important for the kids. “They’re not exposed to a lot of Islam throughout their day at school so it’s an opportunity for us to really create that identity for them,” she says. “We talk to them about what Ramadan is and during Ramadan we go to the masjid for iftar, and they get to see their friends, and we try to have people over. We try to make it a really special month as well, not only socially, but educationally.” For the last few years, Studnicka’s Eid festivities begin a night before as she gathers with other Muslim women for iftar and a henna party. Most of the ladies who attend are converts. “A lot of times, people in their own ethnic community groups have their own things that they do, and so, as converts, we are kind of excluded from that. And so we get together and do henna and have iftar together and just really start the celebration the night before,” Studnicka says.
I told [my non-Muslim family], for Eid you can give us our presents for the holiday and for Christmas we’ll give you presents since it’s your holiday.” Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
She would like the Muslim community in general to extend an invitation to converts. “I think it’s important for people to reach out of their comfort zone and invite somebody and include them in their festivities,” Studnicka says. “For people in their ethnic communities, I would really suggest that they invite a convert or a family. Even if someone’s been Muslim for 10 years, invite them to your celebrations, because we don’t have the same social structure; our families aren’t Muslim, a lot of our friends aren’t exclusively Muslim, and so it just makes us feel more included if we can go to an Eid party with more Muslims, [and] be included in a deeper way.” Studnicka, who is active in the Muslim women’s community in her area, works with other Muslim women to create a multi-ethnic sisterhood through various social, recreational, and educational events. As Ramadan nears, Studnicka laughs when asked if her kids are looking forward to Eid. “It’s really the one time [of year] where they know they’re going to get spoiled. Especially for Ahmad, who’s four, all year long he’s like ‘Can I get that for Eid,’ ‘Can I have that for Eid?’ So by the time Eid comes around, he already has like 40 things he’s ready to get.”
her maternal grandfather, who they are very close with, took their converting to Islam the hardest. “[H]e didn’t want to see us for a while,” she says. “[I]t was maybe two years ago [that] he slowly started letting us back in, and then [the rest of the family] started inviting us back to holidays and things like that.” Stamoulas’s first Eid was after Ramadan in 2006, the year she and her brother took shahada. She was 16 at the time. Her mother, who was no longer married to Stamoulas’s father, had taken shahada about a year earlier. Stamoulas would like to invite her extended family, especially her grandfather, for Eid. “I don’t even think they know about Eid, but a few times we thought about inviting my grandfather over for Eid to see if maybe he’d like to celebrate it with us. We haven’t done that yet.” In an effort to create the holiday spirit last Eid, Stamoulas organized a gift exchange for her mother and brothers. “I wanted to bring some sort of holiday spirit … and I thought gift-giving would be a good idea,” she says.
This year she plans on putting up holiday lights in the house. Stamoulas says she wishes her mosque would organize an event on Eid day that would allow people to mingle and visit with each other. She feels that it is important that the event takes place on Eid day, rather than a week later, as is common with many mosques. With her three years of experience teaching kids at her local Islamic Sunday school, and having a seven-year-old brother, Stamoulas knows how important this is especially for children. “Since America doesn’t really promote Eid on TV as it would Christmas …they’ll never really understand Eid except for what their families will tell them. And if the family doesn’t promote Eid, then how’s the child going to realize that this is a very important holiday and that it can be fun?” Stamoulas plans to keep brainstorming fun Eid ideas. “When it gets closer or when we’re in Ramadan, that’s when I’ll probably start thinking about ‘Ok, what can we do to make the Eid so exciting?’”
Zahra Cheema, a freelance writer, resides in Maryland.
Starting from scratch Greek-Serbian American Simeitsa Stamoulas, who converted six years ago, is on a mission to create memorable Eid traditions for her family. Even though the family attends Eid prayers and goes out afterwards, Eid often feels like a normal day. “It’s like an everyday type thing,” says Stamoulas, an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland. “I guess we don’t get that feeling that today is Eid … because none of our [extended] family is Muslim. We just kind of spend it with each other and we don’t really make as much of a big deal as we should.” Stamoulas grew up with family-filled Christmas and Easter gatherings that started in the Greek Orthodox Church, and then moved to her uncle’s or grandfather’s house where her aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins would feast together. Her grandfather would often roast a whole lamb on a spit in the yard. Initially when Stamoulas, her mother and brother took shahada, their relationship with their extended family became strained, and, for a time, the family stopped communicating with them. Stamoulas says Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Ramadan Special Religion. “This should be a practice that gets mothballed or left ‘back home’”
Fasting challenge: feasting
Wife, Mom, Servant of God Women struggle to attend to all duties, both inside and outside the home, and find time for extra worship in Ramadan. By Samana Siddiqui
ore than half of American women have less than 90 minutes of free time every day, according to a survey conducted by Real Simple magazine and the Families and Work Institute this year. But as Ramadan approaches, many Muslim women feel this limited time is even more constrained, leaving few moments for spirituality. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when the revelation of the Quran began, is a time when Muslims are recom-
mended to build their connection to God, particularly through fasting and extra acts of worship (Quran 2:183). But for Muslim women, especially those with children, finding those worshipful moments can seem as insurmountable as Mount Hira on a sweltering, Ramadan day. “While we like to build and preserve traditions, often families who come from more traditional societies tend to rely on the mother to uphold these traditions and cater to the needs of the entire family while neglecting her own spiritual needs,” says Kari Ansari, a blogger for Huffington Post
Foremost amongst problematic traditions is food—literally tons of it. “It’s a sad truth that the majority of Muslims gain weight during Ramadan, but there is no need to consume excess food at suhoor or iftar,” says Ponn Sabra, of the blog “American Muslim Mom” and author of the e-book “Balancing Life as a Muslim Mom.” “There is no reason to vary your diet too much from your normal diet before fasting. During a period of fasting, our bodies are able to compensate so there is no reason to eat more than normal.” While no statistics are available about Ramadan food consumption in the U.S., a 2009 study by Egypt’s National Centre for Social and Criminal Research offers a glimpse of how serious the “feasting not fasting” problem can be among Muslims. The study found that 83 percent of Egyptian families alter their food consumption habits during Ramadan in a way that augments their food bill during this month by 50 to 100 percent. In addition, during Ramadan, Egyptians spend nearly 67 percent more on meat and poultry, 63 percent more on sweets, and 25 percent more on nuts and nibbles. They also host 23 percent more banquets and dinner parties. The study further notes that at least 60 percent of food on an average Egyptian family table, and more than 75 percent of food in a banquet, gets tossed in the trash. Back in America, Muslim women find food, its preparation and related clean-up, snatches away a bulk of those coveted Ramadan moments. “I would wake up a good hour and a half before suhoor so that I had time to cook, wake everyone and have sufficient time to eat before dawn,” says Nikia Bilal, an attorney and homeschooling mother of four. “After everyone else had gone back to bed, I’d be up longer, trying to make sure the kitchen was cleaned. During the day, I was trying to go through each of the kids’ lessons while trying desperately to stay awake without the aid of coffee.” But this was only part one of the daily, food-related preparations. “Dinner had to be started relatively early so that it’d be ready by iftar, and because it’s Ramadan, I don’t like to take any shortcuts
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
This shift in the way I saw the relationship between motherhood and spirituality has helped me reshape the way I view my relationship with Allah.” — Nikia Bilal with dinner because I want to make sure everyone’s eating nutritious, balanced meals every night, which takes longer than popping a pizza in the oven or heating up a frozen meal,” says Bilal. But others see nothing wrong with making mealtime easier in Ramadan to ensure more time for worship for women. “Prepare and freeze food so that you can make iftar special for the kids,” advises Amber Rehman, a mother of three in Montreal, Canada. “There are modern conveniences like microwaves, and deep freezers, and even halal takeout so women don’t cook their days away during this only once-a-year, special opportunity for extra connections with Allah,” Ansari says.
Fasting challenge: fathers “Fathers tend to go to the masjid, and expect the women to deal with the kids. This can be unfair,” says Rohina Malik, a Chicagobased playwright and mother of four. “I think asking fathers to stay home once in a while, so that mothers can worship without the children, is not too much to ask.” In the U.S., this is even more important in situations where no extended family is available to help women share in childcare and other household chores. “My challenge has been the inability to go out to iftars, seminars, events, prayers,” says Maryam Iram Khan, a San Franciscobased attorney. “As a mom, the child tends to stay with you.” This, she says, leads to situations where worship is interrupted. She recalled the time her young daughter walked away from her during Taraweeh prayers. “It’s very distracting to have to cut your prayers to chase the child,” Khan says. Ansari says that fathers need to participate in making a balanced Ramadan experience for the entire family, regardless if he alone works outside of the home or if both parents work.
“Why should her line to Allah’s grace be like a rotary phone full of static, noise and interruptions, while her family has a highspeed wireless connection to Allah?”
Fasting challenge: Fatigue Fatigue is a major challenge for all who fast, but especially so for mothers, and even more so for those employed outside of the home. “There is no solution for fatigue for the working parent, since you can’t nap in the day,” says Khan. “You sleep when the kids sleep at nap-time, and if they’re older, you make them fast with you and explain to them that you need to rest, while giving them an activity.” “By the time everyone was in bed for the evening, I was usually fighting to keep my eyes open long enough to clean up after them,” Bilal says, recalling her experience of past Ramadans. “Being able to find time for myself during those few solitary hours remained elusive since I had to get enough sleep to be functional in the morning so I could repeat the whole cycle again.”
Solution: Realistic Goal Setting While finding time for extra worship in Ramadan is a challenge, Bilal advises Muslim women to also be realistic about what they can reasonably achieve. “What I found was that, year after year, I was setting goals for myself at the beginning of Ramadan that one week in, I’d fail to keep pace with, which then led to discouragement and an eventual abandoning of the extra ibadat that I’d planned going into Ramadan,” she says. “A lot of times that was due to not being able to find the time for my own spiritual development because there were so many other pressing needs to be met first.” She says she now sets more realistic goals, like aiming to simply read more Quran instead of all of it during Ramadan, as well as praying tahajjud (pre-dawn prayer) in the
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
month’s last 10 nights instead of every night. This offers her a sense of accomplishment and helped remove “the guilt that accompanied setting larger goals that I wasn’t able to find the time to achieve.”
Solution: Seeing Motherhood as Worship “Intentions are key,” notes Malik, “and if you intend that your daily responsibilities as a mother and wife are worship, then they will be counted as worship. Mothers should not forget that what they are doing with their children is worship. Yes, they may have less time in the masjid, but, they are raising the next generation of believers, and nothing can compare to the magnitude of that.” It was this kind of a shift in attitude that helped Bilal stop seeing motherhood and an impediment to the acts of worship she struggled to incorporate in Ramadan. “I went through quite a number of years feeling like motherhood was in some ways limiting my ability to reach my full spiritual potential during Ramadan,” Bilal says. “So much of what we do as mothers seems to distract from our relationship with Allah. “Last Ramadan, I made a point of searching out those Hadith and those scholarly nuggets that illuminate how important our role as mothers truly is, and how each of those tests or distractions in and of themselves have Barakah (blessings) attached because what we’re doing, the challenges we’re facing, are all in the service of Allah, and therefore don’t go unrecognized or unrewarded, insha Allah. “This shift in the way I saw the relationship between motherhood and spirituality has helped me reshape the way I view my relationship with Allah.” Solution: Avoid separating the “religious” from everything else Sabra recommends not compartmentalizing religious duties and daily work as another solution to balancing motherhood and spirituality this Ramadan. “‘Deen’ means ‘way of life.’ If you segregate the two, then there’s a division in love, time, effort, and appreciation. It must be intertwined in our daily living, so nothing is ‘hard,’ it’s ‘a welcomed challenge,’” she says. Rehman summed up this strategy in a fitting motto: “Life doesn’t halt for Ramadan, and Ramadan doesn’t halt for life.”
Samana Siddiqui, content manager of Sound Vision Foundation’s website (www.soundvision.com), is also reporter and columnist for the “Chicago Crescent.”
Keeping Fit While Fasting How to maintain nutritional and spiritual balance during Ramadan By Susan Labadi
ach time Ramadan rolls around, we are faced with the issue of keeping our fitness and nutrition plans on track. There are some who say that fasting breaks down tissues and causes a net loss of muscle and concurrent increase in fat; however, there is evidence that fasting actually makes the body more efficient. Proper hydration, nutrient consumption and exercise tailored to optimize the fat-burning and muscle-building hormones can truly make this the best opportunity for one’s body to be fit. Fitness professionals today are committed to stoking the metabolic rate by frequent consumption of proteins and nutritiously potent meals. Dr. I-Min Lee of the Harvard School of Public Health, an epidemiologist in the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says that seven hours of exercise per week helps maintain our present weight (March 2010; Journal of the American Medical Association). Monitoring consumption, as well as daily activity, are essential to maintaining optimal weight and body composition, according to health experts. However, many Muslims tend to over indulge during Ramadan, perhaps to compensate for the day’s self-discipline. While mindful of the less fortunate as we fast and give zakat during Ramadan, we should also balance celebration of our blessings and material comforts with a prudent attitude toward avoiding excess. The Quran says: “Oh, Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer; eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters” (7:31). So what is a tired and famished devout Muslim observing the pre-dawn to sunset fasting ritual to do during the 29-30 days of Ramadan each year?
Many Muslims confess that after fasting all day—and these summer days in the Northern Hemisphere are long—they indulge ravenously in traditional heavy cuisine. The result is usually an increase in weight and girth, and a respectively inverse decline in fitness and activity.
Those with perhaps weaker levels of faith, or lacking insight to the multi-faceted benefits of fasting are inclined to justify cheating on the obligation to fast. “Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint”(2:183). However, there is hope and a solution for the resolute. Certified fitness instructor John Ali Rodgers, who holds a degree in kinesiology and nutrition, advises that hydration is key to optimal metabolism efficiency. Rodgers advises against working out while fasting because muscles can breakdown from a significant rise in the stress hormone cortisol. Also, dehydration of 3 percent causes a 12 percent loss in strength. He also related, “The wisdom in Islam is never ending. We break our fast with dates and water, but if you investigate this nutritionally, you will see that dates are very unique in their nutrient content. They contain very high levels of
potassium, a key re-hydration mineral and a special carbohydrate blend that enhances hydration above and beyond water alone.” He has suggested the following guide so you can read Quran, pray, eat and keep your metabolic engines still burning all month during Ramadan: • When breaking fast at sunset, begin with three dates, water and eat a nutritious meal with protein, fibrous raw vegetables and plenty of liquid. Do not overeat! Treat your body gently after the fast, and know that more nutrition is coming. • During taraweeh prayers, whether you do 8 or 20 rakat, have a protein bar at the midpoint with a quantity of water. You can also include a complex carbohydrate meal to ready the body for working out. Eating small meals can speed up the metabolic rate, nutrient absorption, and stabilize insulin and blood sugar levels. • 1 ½ – 2 hours later, drink a whey protein shake. Consult a protein calculator to know how much you need. • After taraweeh, work out doing up to two days of moderate cardio work each week and concentrating on weight training during the other days. This helps preserve lean muscle. If you cannot access a gym, the next best time to weight train is about one hour after eating, when the body has absorbed nutrition and hydration. • The early morning meal should have some high quality protein or a protein shake, carbohydrates, and essential good fats that have fat burning and muscle building properties. Be sure to have enough liquid and a bit of cucumber or other quenching vegetable before you begin another fast. May be a multi-vitamin is advised. Rogers recommends extra vitamin C and states that doing cardio before suhoor is the best time for maximum fat loss. A brisk walk or 30-45 minutes on the treadmill is ideal after some tea, coffee, or green tea to get you up and going. Whatever your exercise choices, just keep up some kind of movement, and carry some weight to maintain muscle and bone mass. Be wary about over-eating those bad, empty calorie temptations while socializing.
Susan Labadi, project coordinator, American Halal Association, is president of Genius School, Inc, a principal of ActionNet Trade, Inc..
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Mirror of the Invisible World
A new film showcases the depth and diversity of Islamic art. By Naazish YarKhan
ou are about to embark on an incredible journey, one that I think you’ll find quite remarkable, but not for just the reasons that will be apparent. At one level, you will travel to nine countries and across 14 centuries. (You will be) transported inside some of the most beautiful and dramatic buildings in the world… But the most important thing may not be what you will see, but rather, what lies beneath... Sometimes the context was conflict or even a clash, sometimes competition, but in all cases it was the spirit of collaboration that ultimately prevailed, at least in their work. Whatever may have divided these various societies has long been forgotten. What united them is what endures and what we celebrate on the screen tonight.” So began Alex Kronemer, executive producer at Unity Productions Foundation (UPF), at a Harvard University premier of the nonprofit’s latest documentary, “Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World.” As Kronemer would agree, what lies beneath is the melding of cultural influences on the aesthetic sensibilities of a great diversity of Muslim patrons and rulers. Covering the story of Islamic art from the first inscribed Quran to the present day, the documentary showcases works of diverse artists and architects who were commissioned to chisel and sculpt beauty from stone, metal, water and colors. Accepted into the PBS Summer Arts Festival, which started June 29, some of the art showcased in this documentary has never been seen before. Islamic Horizons caught up with UPF to learn more about the documentary and its making. IH: Art and architecture are by-products of intercultural exchanges and influences—for Islamic art, has that changed in recent years? UPF: What distinguishes most of the great masterworks of Islamic Art is how the best of it has come as a result of intercultural exchanges and influences.The traditional lands of the Islamic World have always been at a crossroads of trade and migrations of different kinds. The interaction with other people, and with
other religions, has always been rich and that shows in the history of Islamic Art. A lot is changing today. Intercultural exchange remains big, but the dominate art form today is film—movies and television are the major art forms, and they are dominated by America. This poses great challenges for artist filmmakers in traditional Islamic lands, both in trying to develop unique visions, and in trying to compete against Hollywood even for their own national audiences. IH: In the documentary, we saw how different an African mosque could be from a Turkish one. Is the label “Islamic” art and architecture a misnomer, because it varies considerably between Muslim majority nations? UPF: Diversity is the great hallmark of Islamic Art, as one would naturally expect from a global religion. We explore those regional differences, while also looking for qualities that unify Islamic Art around five main themes: the Word, Space, Ornamentation, Color, and Water. IH: As documentary filmmakers, what inspires your work? UPF: We are a mission-driven organization, working for peace and understanding through the media. Living at this time when there is so much misunderstanding, it is very compelling to have a calling that contributes some light to the world. Films are complicated things and have to succeed on many levels to tell their stories. The most worthwhile moment of every film process is when the film starts coming together in the edit. Up until then, you have plans and expectations, (but) live with a bit of fear that it might not jell. Seeing signs that it is working is always a great moment of celebration. IH: What one occasion stands out as especially rewarding during any of the screenings? UPF: The Dec. 1, 2011 premiere at the Kennedy Center was thrilling. It was our first screening of the film before a large audience, and you never know until that moment whether or not you’ve made something that’s going to connect with people. So there is a great sense of vulnerability and apprehension that you naturally feel as the lights go down and the film flickers on. We had a sold-out audience. We usually are in the first row, so we can hear audience reactions, and a few minutes into the film, it was clear that people were enjoying it. I was then able to sit back and enjoy it, too, as an audience member like everyone else. I felt like I was watching it for the first time. When the lights came back up, it got a standing ovation, which was a great feeling, especially in knowing that we had done right by this topic which has long deserved to be explored in film. This is the only film of its kind. We hope to give a world audience a greater appreciation and understanding of the masterpieces of Islamic Civilization.
Naazish YarKhan is a writer and a communications strategist in the Chicago area.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
The Light In Her Eyes
A film about a women’s school in Syria allows Muslim women to control their own narrative. By Marwa Abed
n 1986, 17-year-old Houda AlHabash opened a school. Even more extraordinary, the school was in Syria, a country that had—and continues to be—devastated by a secular dictatorship and a conservative class that doesn’t welcome women in leadership positions. About 25 years after the school’s inception, filmmakers Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix traveled to Syria to bring light to her story and highlight the increasingly significant role of Muslim women in Eastern society and the backlash that they face. Al-Habash battled conservative elements in her society and founded one of the first allgirls Quran schools in Damascus: Al-Zahra. The school and Al-Habash’s story inspired the documentary, “The Light in Her Eyes.” A common Arabic phrase, “light in her eyes” refers to the purity or passion of a person. The documentary does not follow her road to success or the actual founding of the school, but shows the present-day institution and its developments. The school, a yearround academy, teaches secular knowledge
throughout the regular school year and an optional Quran program hosted during the summer. “The Light in Her Eyes” is unique in that it is a documentary that allows for an unprecedented look into the rarely seen and seldomly independently defined world of Muslim women. The documentary is progressive in that it simply allows Al-Habash to tell her story herself, rather than allow her to fit into a pre-constructed narrative of either oppression or feminism. Filmmakers Meltzer and Nix had the odds of bias against them. Two Western, white women writing about the Other; how would this be perceived? However, the film was almost void of an Orientalist taint, not looking down upon her story or mission, and nor looking toward saving the image of Muslim women. Instead, the film allowed viewers an additional dimension to the oftentimes limited discourse on gender roles within Islam and its correlation to education. The documentary invites viewers into looking at a place where Muslim women
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
pave spaces for themselves into a globally male-dominated society, asking in particular, where do Muslim women find themselves within the realm of the mosque? Mosques have become central hubs for Muslim community life, yet Muslim women are still navigating the system. With AlHabash in charge of what was perceived as a women’s mosque, was she challenging her traditional role or was she crossing over into a terrain of blasphemy? The film quotes clerics who cite that Muslim women should avoid the mosque, stating their “homes are better for them” and education is not mandatory. Al-Habash sets the perfect tone in rebuttal by saying, “For a woman, the Quran is protection. The Quran can teach a women her rights so she is not mislead in a culture-based society who might not value these rights.” Al-Habash never clearly defines her role on the ambivalent spectrum of religiosity, with modernity usually on one end of the spectrum and fundamentalism on the other. This is where the film succeeds. Muslim women—in the media, in conversation, in society—must be allowed to break free of stereotypical and limiting definitions of self. Instead Al-Habash is allowed to express her views on leadership, what she believes about marriage and domestication, and beyond. Al-Habash pushes Muslim women to educate themselves, not only challenging traditional male domination, but also challenging the limitations Muslim women sometimes internalize. Al-Zahra is a model 57
Yameen Zubairi Pakistani-American scientist and community activist 1936 – 2012
D for a shift in understanding that gives women the tools to disseminate cultural bounds and truly understand the pure form of Islam. The documentary ends with the rise of the revolution in Syria. Al-Habash is forced to close her school due to the escalation in violence and eventually leaves the country. Her mother represents an aging generation but sheds timeless wisdom when she closes the documentary by saying, “Education is the foundation of every household. Even a mansion can be destroyed by ignorance.” “The Light in Her Eyes” is a must-see documentary that can open up an array of conversations on gender, politics and religion, and is also a film that introduces the viewer to the stories of real people, outside of the lens of judgment.
Marwa Abed is a Palestinian American, Chicago-based freelance writer who works in immigration.
r. Yameen Zubairi passed away on May 15, following a major stroke and cardiac event. He was laid to rest on May 15 in Laurel, Md. A memorial service was held May 19, at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, Md., to celebrate more than 50 years of his professional and community life in science and international relations in the U.S. and abroad. Zubairi served as professor, research worker and administrator in the departments of biology, human physiology, medical biochemistry and toxicology in several insitutions, including the universities of California, Berkeley; WisconsinMadison; Minnesota; and Maryland, Baltimore. He also served at the U.S. National Cancer Institute; National Institute of Child Health (NIH), and Center For Scientific Grants Review. He was senior grants review administrator in the U.S. Army Cancer Research Program as chief of the sections on Breast Cancer, Clinical & Experimental Therapeutics and Neurofibromatosis. He was the scientific review administrator in the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Oncological Translational Clinical Branch. Zubairi held several posts in senior academic positions overseas, including visiting professor in Karachi’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and as faculty of University of Karachi, University of Faisalabad, S.M. College, and the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research. He served as advisor for various educational institutions including the University of Karachi, Hamdard University and UN Development Project. He headed Transknowledge International, an educational consulting firm. Zubairi wrote both in English and Urdu and authored books and more than 100 articles, including the first Urdu-Hindi novel of North America: “Khush Raho Ahle Watan,” and “The Purpose of Islam.” He served as an adviser and chairman of a standing committee in the U.S. Association for Asian Studies, as editor and columnist of D.C.’s “Eastern Times” and Chicago’s “Unity Times,” as president of Pak-American Institute of Science and Technology and Citizens For Peace in South Asia, and as founding trustee of American Institute of Pakistan Studies. He also served as an adjunct professor of Islamic studies in the Towson State University Md., president of Islamic Society of University of Minnesota, and president of Islamic Students Organization of Karachi University. Zubairi supervised the Z-Journal. Some of his published poems can be visited on www.poetry.co. As a community worker and activist, he served in positions such as the president of Pakistan Association of Greater Washington, and founder of Pakistan Festival, Washington, D.C., and the Washington Policy Analysis Group. Zubairi received NIH Star Award for his contribution in professionally disbursing the $5 billion ARRA fund through NIH grants. He participated in the management of RC-3 and SBIR grants sections, an enormous undertaking assigned by President Barack Obama to NIH in a special executive order. Survivors include his wife of 42 years, Sabiha Qadri Zubairi of Potomac; two sons, Rahel Zubairi of Great Falls and Daniel Zubairi of Bethesda; and three grandchildren.
(Contributed by Zubair Saleem, Ph.D.)
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Faith in Life Matters
Islamic Divorce in North America A Shari’a Path in a Secular Society Julie Macfarlane 2012. pp. 336. HB. $65.00
Islamic Finance and the Influence of Religion on the Law Rene Smits 2012. pp. 72. PB. $28.50 Eleven International Publishing, The Hague, The Netherlands
acFarlane points out that the most common way North American Muslims relate to Shariah is in their observance of Muslim marriage and divorce rituals; recourse to traditional Islamic marriage and, to a lesser extent, divorce is widespread. Her book, based on hundreds of interviews with Muslim couples, as well as with religious and community leaders and family conflict professionals, describes how Muslim marriage and divorce processes are used in North America, and what they mean to those who embrace them as a part of their religious and cultural identity. She raises the issue that how the secular state should respond in order to find a balance between state commitment to universal norms and formal equality, and the protection of religious freedom expressed in private religious and cultural practices. ISNA president Imam Mohamed Magid says that this is a “very timely book in light of the current debates about Shariah law in the Western world.”
Preserving the Authenticity of Islamic Economics and Finance Islamic Capitalism and Finance: Origins, Evolution and the Future Murat Çizakça 2011. pp. 360. HB. $150.00 Edward Elgar Pub., Northampton, MA
rof. Çizakça examines key issues within Islamic capitalism and finance, asking whether the Islamic system can justifiably called “capitalist”, the principles on which the system was built, the institutions that developed resultantly, how they function and have evolved. Especially in the light of worst recession — since 1929 — it is proper to ask whether they can be modernized to meet today’s needs. He rejects the notion that Islamic finance is only four decades old, and argues that it is actually 15 centuries old. He lays the blame of the conventionalization of Islamic finance on practitioners who are unware of the achievements of their forefathers. Çizakça is committed to the preservation of the authenticity of Islamic economics and finance. Offering a backdrop of the rapid changes in the Middle East, Çizakça gives a solid background to the economic systems that will emerge in the Muslim world. Dr. Abbas Mirakhor, former IMF Executive Director and the recipient of the Islamic Development Bank Prize in Islamic Economics (2003) labels the book as “the product of such a remarkable feat of scholarship.”
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Smits offers papers from the International Law Association panel on “Islamic Finance and the Influence of Religion on the Law.” The book introduces the concept of Islamic finance to foster a better understanding of Shariah compliant financial products and service providers. It discusses the wider issue that Islamic finance raises, namely the application of religion-based law in multi-religious societies and in global transactions. And deals with the interface between law and religion, from the perspective of religion in the wider context of striving for peace and justice. Finally, the book covers Islamic finance and the financial crisis.
Muslims At The Crossroads Siraj I. Mufti 2011. pp. 684. PB. $25.00 CreateSpace In his well-researched book, Dr. Mufti discusses the 9/11 related issues and problems as well as the mainstream Muslim responses to these happenings. Muslim Americans, he says, became the immediate targets in the post-9/11 environment with mass suspicion and grave violations of their constitutionally-guaranteed rights at home. One can only but agree with Dr. P. David Wilkinson, senior pastor, St. Francis in the Foothills UMC, Tucson, Ariz., who observes: “This book is filled with documented facts and history that American either do not want to hear, or that we are unable to hear because it has not been accurately expressed through media.”
The Headscarf Controversy: Secularism and Freedom of Religion Hilal Elver 2012. pp. 288. HB. $55.00 Oxford University Press USA Elver evaluates governmental political actions and court decisions in Turkey, several European countries, and the U.S., to the international sphere of the European Court of Human Rights, concluding that judges and legislators are increasingly influenced by social pressures concerning immigration and multiculturalism, and by issues such as Islamophobia, the “war on terror,” and security concerns. She shows how these influences have resulted in a failure on the part of many Western governments to recognize and protect essential individual freedoms.
American Sheikhs: Two Families, Four Generations, and the Story of America’s Influence in the Middle East Brian VanDeMark 2012. pp. HB. $25.00. Prometheus Books VanDeMark tells the story of the American University of Beirut: how a humble missionary school grew to become the Middle East’s most influential institution of higher education. VanDeMark shows how America’s outreach to the Middle East can be improved as well as the vital importance of maintaining good relations between America and the Muslim world.
Daily Wisdom: Selections from the Holy Quran Abdur Raheem Kidwai 2010. pp. 400. HB. $18.00 Kube Publishing Daily Wisdom encloses 365 selections from the Quran paraphrased in simple English, while striving to retain the original meaning — using translations by A. Yusuf Ali, Maududi, and Abdul Majid Daryabadi.
Food for the Spirit
The Blessed Guest By Samuel Ross
t is not a coincidence that nearly all of the world’s religions recommend fasting. Fasting reminds us that while living in the world, we are not of it. It reminds us that food and drink are gifts to be grateful for, not commodities to be taken for granted. It restores the proper relationship between our will and our desires. It reminds us that only when we are in control of ourselves are we truly free. God in His wisdom prescribed an entire month of fasting for us, and, as anyone who has spent time in the Muslim world knows, the month is an incomparable experience. The busiest of families unite together over food. Generosity bursts forth, like seedlings after a rain, with people giving abundantly in charity and competing to provide the food to break other’s fasts. In some Muslim cities, people can even be seen standing in busy intersections, handing out dates and water to passersby in hopes of acquiring reward. A spiritual seriousness descends and additional worship becomes easy. Mosques fill to capacity and even overflow. So infectious is the collective energy that even those who do not normally concern themselves with religion get caught up in the atmosphere. Because Ramadan is a time to be experienced, and not a thing to be possessed, it is very precious. It cannot be bought, stored or duplicated. Indeed, for some of us reading this article, this may be our last and final Ramadan. What can we do to take advantage of our remaining time? Our scholars suggest several steps that we can take. The first is to try to arrange our respon-
sibilities in advance so that we will be free for worship in the afternoons and evenings, and especially during the last 10 days. Moreover, this year Ramadan falls in long days of summer, so many of us will still have a few hours until sunset, even after we return home from work. This will require a little planning on our part, but it is well worth the effort. The second step is to organize the physical space around us to facilitate connecting with God and discourage easy but empty diversions. Where do we usually go when we come home from work? How do we spend our time once at home? If we have a favorite chair or couch, we can place the Quran, prayer beads, or Islamic books within easy reach so that we are more likely to benefit from them. Conversely, if we tend to get distracted by the television or the Internet, we should consider moving them to a different room where we are less likely to use them. We should also consider putting the remote away, since nothing is easier than pushing a button, and even think about removing its batteries. Third, while it can be hard to go against an unfortunately widespread custom, we should avoid regularly breaking our fast with lavish meals. As Imam al-Ghazali reminds us, one of the purposes of fasting is to overcome the lower self. Delectable meals with large quantities of food can have the exact opposite effect. While honoring guests is an important virtue, and social gatherings help to strengthen our community, it is important that we try to keep a few nights per week simple. After all, Ramadan is the real guest worth honoring during the month.
Fourth, we should be mindful of not only what enters our stomachs but also what enters our eyes and ears. One step we can take is to turn off images on our web browser. Similarly, we should think about the people or places with whom or where we most frequently encounter slandering and backbiting. If it is an office lunch room, we should try to minimize our time there. If it is a particular website or news program, we should try to avoid it. If it is a particular friend, we should let them know that we are trying to avoid hearing anything that the person being discussed would not want said about them. Fifth, we should take advantage of the power of companionship and mutual support to help us to increase our worship of God. Let us seek out a family member or friend and encourage one other another to perform a particular act of worship together or separately. It could be reading a section of the Quran daily, performing dhikr together, working through a book of du’a, etc. Lastly, Ramadan has a special relationship with the Quran, as it is the month when the Quran was revealed and the month in which the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to review the Quran with Gabriel (‘alayhi as Salam). Indeed, our scholars have suggested that one of the wisdoms for fasting during the month is that it purifies our hearts to be able to receive the Quran. We should strive our utmost to connect with God’s speech during this month. Checking ourselves is a good place to start. What is our relationship with the Quran presently like? One of the best ways to do this is to compare ourselves with our forebears. Imam al-Bukhari records that when
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
Abu Bakr (radiya Allahu anhu) used to recite the Quran, his eyes would well up with tears and he would be unable to stop himself from crying. So moved was he, that Aisha (radiya Allahu anhu) describes how once a group of polytheist women and their children passed by Abu Bakr while he was praying and stopped to marvel at the depth of his emotion. Imam an-Nawawi records that the earliest generations used to recite the entire Quran in periods ranging from every day to every two months, with the majority finishing it every week. Uthman (radiya Allahu anhu) is said to have noted that when the heart is purified, it is never sated from the reading of the Quran but always yearns for more. When we read the Quran, do our eyes well up with tears? When was the last time we read the Quran from cover to cover? Do we hunger for the Quran as Uthman described? If we find that our relationship with the Quran is not as we wish, let us seize the blessings of this month to work at improving it. According to our scholars, the first step is to prepare our bodies outwardly for an inward ascent. Just as our mind influences
WHAT SPIRITUAL TOPICS MATTER MOST TO YOU? Please help “Food for the Spirit” better meet your needs by completing a two-minute survey at: www.isna.net/foodforthespiritsurvey our body, our body influences our mind and heart, and these practices help to attune our hearts to the majesty of the One speaking to us: a) Cleanse our mouths to make it a befitting place for God ’s speech; b) Wear nice clothes; c) Tidy the place we will recite in; d) Face the qibla; e) Sit with the comportment of one sitting before a king. Next, let us summon to mind Whose book we are reading. When we read the Quran, let us strive to summon to mind its Author: the Lord of the Worlds, Who created the universe with all its splendor, and Who will one day judge us and determine our final resting place.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2012
We should also strive to read the Quran with deep contemplation, using a translation if necessary. As God says in the Quran, “(This is) a Scripture that We have revealed unto thee, full of blessing, that they may ponder its verses, and that men of understanding may reflect” (38:29). Every time the Quran asks us to reflect upon His signs, let us take the time to do so. In this month of Ramadan, let us remember that our fasting, worship, and reading of the Quran are not ends in themselves, but means to an end. That end is given to us by God: “O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might become conscious of God” (2:183). May God accept our devotions and transform us through them. Ameen.
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