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EMERGENCE OF MUSLIM AMERICAN CHAPLAINCY | BEHIND THE TOUCHDOWNS IN A HIJAB
LOVE LESSONS FROM MALCOLM X’S HAJJ
VOL. 47 NO. 4 JULY/AUGUST 2018 visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET
COVER STORY 24 Three “Love Lessons” from Malcolm X’s Hajj 28 A Sincere Service 29 Umra Under the Shadow of Vision 2030
38 Muslimahs Helping Muslimahs in Need
46 The Emergence of Muslim American Chaplaincy
50 Another Muslim Minority Under Siege
aith-based Education F First Regional ISNA Education Forum in Dallas
CONVENTION #55 Unique Muslims
ISLAM IN AMERICA
32 Becoming the Solution 33 Finding Zeyd Şakir 35 Intra-faith Dialogue 36 We Still Have a Long Way to Go 40 Muslim Foster Care Becomes a Reality
MUSLIMS IN ACTION
Behind the Touchdowns in a Hijab
MUSLIMS IN THE MINISTRY Seeing the Human in Everyone
6 8 12 59 60
DEPARTMENTS Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters New Releases Food for the Spirit
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Jay Willoughby. The views expressed in Islamic Horizons are not necessarily the views of its editors nor of the Islamic Society of North America. Islamic Horizons does not accept unsolicitated articles or submissions. All references to the Quran made are from The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD.
48 Deir Yassin to Netanyahu: Are We Closer to Liberation? 52 Rohingya Refugees in Malaysia
Don’t Scream for Every Ice Cream Halal Food Science Recognized
IN MEMORIAM Mohammad Jaghlit Ahmad Raza Khan
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 5
To Imbibe the Hajj in Its Spirit
his issue of “Islamic Horizons,” which will be with our readers some forty days before hajj, is blessed with an exclusive insight by Prof. Jimmy Jones, chair of African Studies and World Religions, Manhattanville College — the three “Love Lessons” that Malcolm X learned while on hajj and as he described them in his Autobiography. Dwelling on his much-quoted observation about what he saw of “true brotherhood! In unity...” during this major event, Jones, opines, “If we take these ‘love lessons’ with us on hajj or learn them during hajj, there is a greater likelihood that our community will break loose from our obvious, painful mimicry of mainstream society’s color-based racial politics..” Especially during Ramadan, when many Muslims read and strive to imbibe the guidance contained in the Quran, we need to attend to the values prescribed in 49:13: “O humanity! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (the one who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge (and) is well acquainted (with all things).” This passage strikes a discordant voice to what is happening, or rather what the Muslims are doing to themselves, around the world. Ever since 2015, the people of Yemen have been mercilessly bombed by fellow Muslims and Arabs. After the destruction of Iraq and Syria, some of the Muslim world’s most developed countries, the flames of destruction are now being directed at what remains: Iran and Pakistan. Indeed, some tame Muslims view this as the vividly Islamophobic forces and leaders seeking to wring the life out of those of their coreligionists who refuse to abide by the self-serving edicts of
their masters. This is in addition to the never-ending massacres of Muslim men — and yes, even women and children — in Indian occupied Kashmir, Palestine, Libya and elsewhere. Jones reminds that the impetus for a believer’s making hajj should be to obey God and follow the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) Sunnah. Unfortunately, many of us who go on hajj don’t consider enhancing and sustaining a strong, loving connection with the Creator as our top priority. While the hajj is obligatory only on those who can physically and financially afford it, recent years have clearly shown that more emphasis is now being placed on providing for the rich, or rather the super rich, instead of creating an atmosphere in which ordinary Muslims can enjoy this unforgettable experience with true ease and dignity. Malcolm X transformed himself from a defenseless target of racism into a major spokesperson for the Nations of Islam’s assertive, strident and racially focused philosophy. And yet after the hajj he abandoned that worldview. Thus, Jones asks, if hajj could so drastically transform his worldview, then why hasn’t it done the same for those of us who have made the same pilgrimage? Why does racism continue to plague our community? His answer for this phenomenon is that the racially inclusive, colorblind ethos that Malcolm X experienced during his 1964 hajj has still not become the norm for us. Shootings, primarily carried out at schools, seem to have become a relatively new “norm” for Americans as well. One wonders, as have the inspirational and social media-savvy Parkland students and their allies, “how many more” students have to die before we do anything? Muslims need to ask “how many more” of us have to be humiliated, butchered, defeated and insulted before we do anything? ih
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PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Azhar Azeez INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Habibe Ali EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Faryal M Khatri EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed, Habibe Ali, Faryal Khatri ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2018 All rights reserved Reproduction, in whole or in part, of this material in mechanical or electronic form without written permission is strictly prohibited. Islamic Horizons magazine is available electronically on ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch, LexisNexis, and EBSCO Discovery Service, and is indexed by Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Please see your librarian for access. The name “Islamic Horizons” is protected through trademark registration ISSN 8756‑2367 POSTMASTER Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual, domestic – $24 Canada – US$30 Overseas airmail – US$60 TO SUBSCRIBE Contact Islamic Horizons at (317) 839‑8157 / (317) 839‑1811 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, email@example.com, www.isna.net Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distribution) Sales Agreement No. 0666300 CORRESPONDENCE Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ISNA MATTERS ISNA STANDS WITH VICTIMS OF GUN VIOLENCE
ISNA representatives and community members joined hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans at the March for Our Lives (https://marchfor ourlives.com/home) the largest collective action on gun violence prevention to date. On March 23, Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances (IOICA) director Colin Christopher joined a packed crowd at the National Cathedral to honor the victims of gun violence nationwide. While at Washington Hebrew Congregation, ISNA Policy Fellow Sara Ahmed joined hundreds of Jews and high school students for the Shabbat for Our Lives event, highlighting teen voices and performers speaking out about gun violence.
On March 24, ISNA partnered with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL; https:// www.fcnl.org) to facilitate a “How to Lobby” seminar on gun violence prevention with Muslims and Quakers. ISNA representatives and community members then joined faith allies outside the Capitol Hill’s United Methodist Building for an inspirational interfaith prayer. Local Muslim and two-time gun violence survivor Luqman Sabour offered powerful words of faith, resilience and hope. Following prayers, they headed for the march, part of 450 coordinated marches nationwide totaling over 1.2 million participants. ih
ISNA SUPPORTS APPALACHIAN DEVELOPMENT
ISNA Health Policy Fellow Kamil Jamil traveled with interfaith partners from Creation Justice Ministries and the Franciscan Action Network to Pipestem, W.Va., for the second annual State of Appalachia Conference, held on March 23-24. Kamil offered an opening prayer to the predominantly Christian Appalachian participants and discussed how Muslims can help make an impact in low-resource mountainous regions of the country. The conference focused on the intersection of poverty, environmental degradation, opioid addiction and a loss of faith. ISNA’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances plans to continue working with interfaith partners to pass the federal Reclaim Act, which seeks to revitalize coal mining communities through healthier opportunities, address the opioid crisis, increase wages for working families and reduce carbon emissions. ih
ISNA AT THE A.C.T. TO END RACISM RALLY
ISNA president Azhar Azeez joined Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Miller, president, Northern Province, Provincial Elders Conference Moravian Church in North America, Bishop Clement W. Fugh, president, Council of Bishops African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Jim Winkler, president and general secretary, National Council of the Churches to address the
A.C.T. to End Racism rally on April 4. This three-day historic event, held in Washington D.C., was organized by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA to launch its Truth and Racial Justice Initiative. In recognition of the 50 years since the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this gathering is a recommitment “to do our part to eradicate the entrenched racism that grips the United States and paralyzes our ability to see every human being as equal.” The acronym A.C.T. stands for AWAKEN (oneself to the truth that racism is ever-present, deeply rooted in American culture and profoundly damaging to our communities), CONFRONT racism, speak truth to power and stand up against injustice) and TRANSFORM (the hearts, minds and behaviors of people and institutions).
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ISNA, an official endorser, is committed to taking more substantive action on systemic, internalized white supremacy within the Muslim community and our own organization. ih
ISNA CO-SPONSORS BAPTIST-MUSLIM DIALOGUE
ISNA president Azhar Azeez, IOICA director Colin Christopher and over 50 Baptist pastors and imams from dozens of states gathered in Green Lake, Wis., on April 16-19 to strengthen Baptist-Muslim relations. Building off of the past two national dialogues, ISNA and partnering Baptist and Muslim organizations emphasized the importance of grassroots relationships and solidarity built through project partnerships. During the dialogue, Azeez spoke of the
importance of religious freedom within the Islamic tradition, and Christopher emphasized the history of white supremacy in the U.S. and its influence on some of the barriers to interfaith engagement with Muslims. ISNA also sponsored Muslim Center of Greater Princeton’s Imam Adeyinka Mendes, who spoke on the inner dimensions of fasting and ablution. At the conclusion of the dialogue, Christopher spearheaded a BaptistMuslim Steering Committee process that will sustain the relationships and joint projects moving forward, including an interfaith chaplain residency program, clergy twinning and a shared spiritual experiences conference, and a church-mosque internalized white supremacy curriculum exploration. The 4th National Baptist-Muslim Dialogue is scheduled to meet in at Princeton Theological Seminary in 2020. ih
IOICA OPENS NEW EXHIBIT HONORING INTERFAITH SOCIAL JUSTICE ADVOCATES
In recognition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sacrifices and the 50th anniversary of his assassination on April 4, 1968, IOICA officially opened its Faith-Based Trailblazers photo exhibit. The exhibit celebrates the work of 18 faith leaders who drew inspiration from their own faith tradition(s) to bring about structural change in their own place and time. IOICA’s mission, Advocating Alongside Interfaith Allies to Push for Prosperity for All, draws inspiration from their sacrifices and dedication to their faith. The following leaders were chosen for their dedication to issues ranging from environmental justice to civil rights: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Maud Nathan, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Steve Biko, Wangari Maathai, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Sojourner Truth, Abdul Gaffar Khan, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, Linda Sarsour, Archbishop Oscar Romero, and Malcolm X. ih
IOICA EMPHASIZES DANGERS FOR STRUGGLING FAMILIES IN POTENTIAL FARM BILL IOICA director Colin Christopher and the other faith leaders from the Washington Interreligious Staff Community’s Domestic Human Needs (DHN) group held meetings with staff from the offices of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) — both members of the Senate Agriculture Committee — to discuss the upcoming Farm Bill. DHN emphasized how the U.S. House Republicans’ pledges to include stricter work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would likely leave millions of families in deep food insecurity. Christopher and his colleagues also noted in the meeting that eliminating eligibility to basic food for families is a sure way to decrease able-bodied workers’ chances for finding good paying jobs and that any serious interest in helping struggling families would better come in the form of job training, fair scheduling and wage increases. Staff assured DHN that both Senate Democrats and Republicans are opposed to further work requirements and that upcoming House legislation will face strong opposition. IOICA will continue to work on this and other issues that directly affect the basic human needs of all Americans. ih
ISNA JOINS CHRISTIAN PARTNERS FOR NATIONAL WORKSHOP ON CHRISTIAN UNITY IOICA Fellow Sara Ahmed joined the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and others for the annual National Workshop on Christian Unity (http:// nwcu.org), held on April 16, in Silver Spring, Md. Citing recent research documenting the disproportionate media coverage and sentencing of Muslims and other empirical evidence of anti-Muslim discrimination, Ahmed discussed the uptick in Islamophobia with Christian partners. Additional 10 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2018
group discussions focused upon film screenings exploring the key ingredients for effective interfaith relationship building, peace building traditions in both religions and the most important actions leaders can take to squash misconceptions about each other’s faith communities and theologies. ISNA and the Kingdom Mission Society continued their national partnership campaign screening of Unity Productions Foundation’s “Sultan and the Saint,” facilitating discussions on similarities among peacemaking efforts across place and time. ih
ISNA JOINS MYNA FOR CAMP HONORING LEGACY OF MALCOLM X
The Joy of Being Featured in the Magazine She Cherished
As part of ISNA’s increased focus on intra-Muslim racism, IOICA director Colin Christopher joined the Muslim Youth of North America for their Atlantic Region Weekend Camp, held on April 6-8. The theme was “Lessons from the Life and Legacy of Malcolm X.” Reflecting upon his legacy, Christopher engaged campers in critical conversations that explored the parallels between the U.S. in the 1960s and today: the spiritual significance of white supremacy, the internalization of and how the residue of colonial racial hierarchy and colorism continues to plague Muslim Americans. Campers shared personal stories of painful experiences related to anti-blackness, colorism within Islamic school settings and the difficulty of explaining these realities to adults. Camp sessions also allowed them to share strategies for confronting internalized racism with adab and compassion, recognizing that many of those who mistreat, either consciously or unconsciously, black and darker-skinned Muslims have also been victims of colonialism and unknowingly carry forward many of its harmful aspects. At the end of the session, campers learned about the history of hip-hop, its foundation in post-civil rights New York City and how important the art form is for marginalized communities to express themselves around the world. Campers reflected upon the lyrics of Minneapolis-based hip-hop artist Brother Ali, how his Muslim and albino identities inform his work and how his words of faith and love inspire youth to find a deeper connection with God. In confronting these systemic challenges within our community, ISNA president Azhar Azeez’s recent remarks at the A.C.T. to End Racism Rally in Washington, D.C., reflect our commitment to charting a different path: “We admit that we have seen racial prejudice and discrimination, bias, and exclusion — in our own churches (mosques) and others — and we have failed to act. “We have neglected the work of confronting systemic and structural racism, demanding racial justice, insisting on reform of our law enforcement and criminal justice systems, and advocating for the people of color in our communities seeking a better life here in America.” ih JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 11
COMMUNITY MATTERS New York City Muslims no Longer Targeted by Police The New York Police Department (NYPD) agreed on April 5 not to conduct surveillance operations based on religion or ethnicity as part of a deal to settle claims that it illegally spied on Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11. It also agreed to meet with community members to discuss various issues. “We are proud that we stood up to the most powerful police force in the country and against the suspicion and ignorance that guided their discriminatory practices,” said Syed Farhaj Hassan, a U.S. Army reservist and the lead plaintiff. The lawsuit followed a series of award-wining articles by the Associated Press (AP) that revealed how the department infiltrated Muslim student groups and put informants in mosques as part of a broad effort to prevent terrorist attacks. In New Jersey, it began collecting intelligence on ordinary people at mosques, restaurants and schools during 2002. At a press conference, the plaintiffs pointed out that this spying on 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, 2 schools and 2 Muslim student associations in the state produced no leads. The deal came in 2015, after a Philadelphia appeals court likened the surveillance program to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. “Today’s settlement sends a message to all
Syed Farhaj Hassan
law enforcement: Simply being Muslim is not a basis for surveillance,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates (https://www.muslimadvocates.org), a legal advocacy and educational organization. As part of the settlement, the AP reported that the NYPD will be (1) required to provide input into a new policy guide designed to control the department’s Intelligence Bureau; (2) NYPD counter-terrorism probes in New Jersey will be required to follow the Handschu Guidelines, which resulted from a 1971 Black Panther Party lawsuit alleging that police engaged in widespread surveillance of legitimate political activity; and (3) the city will pay $47,500 to businesses and mosques harmed by surveillance, $25,000 to individual plaintiffs, and $950,000 in legal fees for plaintiffs. ih
Maryland Gets a New Mosque
The Islamic Society of Princess Anne (ISPA) in Somerset County is renovating the disused and mortgage-free bank building they purchased to use as their mosque. The site consists of two commercial-use buildings totaling 19,500 sq. ft. Since 2000 they have been meeting at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) for prayers. Fr.
Denver Bosnians Inaugurate Mosque
Rob Laws of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church said that he’s pleased the group has found a permanent home. ISPA imam and president Bryant Mitchell, who teaches business at UMES, told the Delmarvanow.com on April 5 that the entire purchase price came from members’ donations and fundraising efforts. He also stated that in the small town of 4,000 people, close to 200 Muslim families and international students live within walking distance of the building. According to the 2010 census, the town had a total of 652 families. “Easy access is important. And we also have a good number of UMES students who will need access. We plan to use the back of the building for educational purposes,” said Mitchell, who converted at age 35. “And that includes educating non-Muslims about the Islamic faith.” ih
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Denver’s Muslim Bosnians celebrated the grand opening of the Mile High Islamic Center (Bosnian Educational and Cultural Center) on March 31 — a project seven years in the making. The community comprises about 275 families, according to the center’s news release. Ademir Ceric, president of the mosque’s board, said he wants the center to be an educational tool to teach those who are interested in learning more about Islam. The downstairs houses a kitchen and dining area where the center plans to hold dinners. “We have a lot of young kids who were born and raised here in Colorado, and we’ve put together a Sunday school where they can come and learn about their culture and see where their parents came from,” said Minela Ibisevic, a board member who works as a youth leader at the mosque. Binet Alagic, another board member, remarked that “it is a place for us to find peace and serenity. It is a safe haven.” ih
St. Louis Mosque Gets Permit
St. Louis’ Muslim community will finally get to build its Qooba Mosque. On March 26 the board voted 4-1-2 to deny the opposition’s appeal and allow the building of an approximately $1 million one-story mosque on a lot it owns on the edge of the city’s McKinley Heights Historic District. “Every day that building is not being built it impacts these people’s lives on a real basis,” said Faizan Syed, Director of CAIR-Missouri. “All across the country, sadly, Islamic centers are being proposed and neighborhood associations gather and try to delay those constructions or try to block those constructions.” ih
Islamic Co-op Recognized
Ansar and Islamic Co-op Housing Corporation of Toronto, Canada, received the “Best Corporate Social Responsibility” Award at the 7th Global Islamic Microfinance Forum, held in Istanbul during November 2017. This event was held as a part of World Halal Summit organized by AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking & Economics (CIBE).
Islamic Co-operative, North America’s first Islamic financial institution, was founded in Canada in 1980 and has been offering Sharia-compliant home ownership and investment programs ever since. These two co-operatives use the Sharia model known as diminishing partnership (co-ownership concept) for their home ownership program. During the past twenty years, they have funded, sponsored and donated to community development and social causes such as education, student talent competitions, free community iftar dinners, facilities for children with disabilities and local hospitals. AlHuda CIBE, an established name in the Islamic microfinance and development sector, focuses on research, development, capacity building, product development and publications. ih
Toledo Muslims Buy New Center
The Toledo Muslim Community Center (TMCC) has purchased the facility formerly occupied by the Armory Church, which lost its ownership earlier this year, reported the Toledo Blade on May 4. TMCC serves the spiritual, educational and recreational needs of an estimated 1,000 individuals — primarily families and college students.
TMCC spokesperson Zeinab Khalil told the Blade that it is too early to know when the community will relocate, now that its years-long search for a new space to accommodate the growing community has ended. SunBridge Schools, which was leasing space under Armory Church to operate its three grades classes, hopes to continue this arrangement under TMCC. ih
Muslims Open Philadelphia Free Health Clinic On April 8, northeast Philadelphia-based SHAMS Clinic began offering free health care to everyone who needs it, no religious qualification asked. Medical Director Dr. Ammar Shahid said, “We’ve reached out to the local churches, synagogues, local businesses and let them know that sure we’re under a Muslim name and Muslim leaders, but we are open to everyone. We’re not discriminating based on race or culture, even where you’re from. The whole community is helped, not just the Muslims here.” The clinic, which currently operates from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, has about 10 volunteer doctors and serves anyone who doesn’t have health insurance or can’t afford co-pays. It offers free primary care and mental health services, connections to social services (e.g., food pantries, government benefits programs and shelters) and help in signing up for insurance. “SHAMS” — which is run by Islamic
Circle of North America — has a double meaning: “Social Health and Medical Services” (Ar. “sun”) and, as the staff says, the idea that the clinic is brightening peoples’ lives. According to its website, https:// www.shamsclinic.org, more than half of the city’s roughly 75,000 Muslims live in poverty and 25 percent lack health insurance. Philadelphia, the nation’s poorest big city, has about 400,000 people living below the poverty line. City Councilman Bobby Henon (D) said there is a need to serve the underserved. ih
Turkish Mosque Opens in Dayton
The Osman Gazi Mosque, the first official Ahiska Turkish community mosque, celebrated its grand opening on April 22. Local leaders, out-of-town guests and religious representatives, as well as Turkish consular officers, were in attendance. The mosque, embellished in traditional Turkish style and located in Old North Dayton, was formerly a long-vacant funeral home. WHIO-TV-7 noted that Osman Gazi’s leaders have “transformed what was an eyesore into an eye-catching house of worship.” The interior has Ottoman Empirestyle designs featuring colorful tiles and turquoise carpets handcrafted in Turkey. “We tried to put a 1,000year history in this house,” said Mirza Mirza, secretary of the board of directors. The community has also purchased a 17,000-square-foot former city recreation center. After being refurbished, it will house Head Start education programs open to the public. The Dayton area has more than 1,000 Ahiska Turkish families, according to some estimates, which are concentrated in Old North Dayton. Also known as Meskhetian Turks, this ethnic subgroup of Turks formerly inhabited the Meskheti region of Georgia, which borders northeastern Turkey. ih
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New York Muslim Wins Damages
Rabab Musa, 35, is being paid $85,000 after the New York Police Department (NYPD) made her remove her hijab after she was taken into custody on Sept. 6, 2016. Released after six hours without being charged, she was thrown in a holding cell with men and then transferred to a Brooklyn police station, where she was strip-searched. Police urged the mother of four to “confess to what she did” with no further explanation. The New York Daily News reported on March 23, 2018 that the police had arrested the wrong person. Late last year, the NYPD distributed guidance to its officers regarding religious headwear that clarified rules previously distributed in March 2015. People who don’t agree to remove their religious headgear can be taken to a private space at police headquarters. Musa’s experience did not follow the NYPD patrol guide. ih
Al-Amal Welcomes New Leadership Al-Amal School, Fridley, Minn., announced that Principal Audrey Zahra Williams, one of its founders and its first administrator, would be retiring after an illustrious 25-year career. An educational consultant for ISNA, she helps new Islamic schools with principal and teacher development and serves on the board of the Council of Islamic Schools of North America (CISNA). Vice-principal Dr. Ghada Al-Sadoon, who has been associated with the school for over 15 years, will be the new principal starting in 2018-19. She was elected to the CISNA board of directors at the 2018 ISNA Education Forum in Chicago. She also serves on the Bethel University education advisory board, her alma mater. Ishrat Islam, a director of curriculum and academic excellence who has been with Al-Amal since 1997, moves up to vice principal. In her capacity as chairperson for AdvancED (NCA) accreditation committee since 2008, she led the school through two accreditation cycles. ih
Najeeba Syeed, associate professor of Interreligious Education at Claremont School of Theology and director of the Center for Global Peacebuilding, along with Zahra Billo, executive director of CAIR San Francisco Bay Area, and Mana Kharrazi, executive director of Iranian Alliances Across Borders, were among the 20 social (e.g., racial, gender, economic and beyond) justice leaders who received the 2018 Public Voices Fellows by the OpEd Project (https://www. theopedproject.org). This is the fourth cohort of this nationwide Ford Foundation-supported special fellowship program. The Public Voices Fellowship is part of a prestigious national initiative to change who writes history. Together with 15 powerful institutional partners, including Yale, Northwestern and Global Policy Solutions (and a dozen other institutions and foundations), the project seeks to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world and has helped accelerate the ideas and impact of underrepresented voices at the highest levels in their fields, including overwhelmingly women of all backgrounds.
Dr. Noor Fatima
Chaplain Asma Inge-Hanif, RN, CNM, ANP, executive director and founder of the Baltimore-based Muslimat Al Nisaa Shelter (http://mnisaashelter.org), received the MLK Jr. Drum Major Service award on April 3 from the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and a letter from the U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans in Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s Drum Major Legacy. She was one of only 20 people selected for this award, which recognizes volunteers who perform extraordinary everyday acts of service focused on innovative approaches to serving students and the community. Also honored was Pakistan’s Dr. Noor Fatima, chairperson and assistant professor,
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Department of International Relations and Political Science, International Islamic University, Islamabad, who introduced new educational ideas. The first female South Asian awardee, she has worked hard to foster interfaith harmony and was among the 50 educators invited to the White House in 2015. In 2018 the Daily Record of Baltimore recognized Chaplain Inge-Hanif as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women who are making an impact through their leadership, community service and mentoring.
Synergies Worldwide founder Khawaja Munir Mashooqullah, who was honored as Olin Business School Distinguished Alumni for 2018, graduated with a MBA from Washington University’s Olin Business School in 1998. The Asian American Business Development Centre named him one of the “Outstanding 50 Asian-Americans in Business.” An active participant of New York City’s Asia Society, he also works with charitable organizations in South Asia. Apart from serving as an adviser and board member for textile fiber, design and food companies in Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and the EU, he is the founding trustee of Karachi’s Institute of Business Management. Founded in 1987, Synergies Worldwide specializes in global supply chain management and providing low-cost sourcing in apparel, home textiles, fashion accessories, footwear and other goods for companies in the fashion and hospitality industries. It is listed among the top 10 global sourcing companies. Basim Elkarra, executive director at CAIR’s Sacramento Valley Chapter since 2004, has been appointed to the 25-member California Complete Count Committee, a statewide panel of community members that will guide that state’s outreach
for the 2020 federal census, announced by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. (D) on April 13. “It is vitally important for California to do everything it can to ensure that every Californian is counted in the upcoming census,” said Brown. Thus, committee members represent a diverse cross-section of the public and private sectors. The governor appointed 23 individuals, and Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon appointed one each. Elkarra, a member of the Twin Rivers Unified School District Board of Trustees, is chair of the City of Sacramento Community Policy Review Commission and an executive board member of the California Democratic Party. This position does not require Senate confirmation, and there is no compensation. 2018 Truman Scholars: The Truman Foundation selected 59 outstanding college students from 52 institutions as Truman Scholars for 2018 based on their records of leadership, public service and academic achievement. The Truman Foundation, the nation’s official living memorial to the 33rd president — his idea — and The Presidential Memorial to Public Service, was created by Congress in 1975. They are:
Hadeel Abdallah, a University of Kentucky undergrad majoring in political science and Arabic and Islamic studies, is also pursuing a certificate in peace studies. She has a long list of accomplishments to her credit: As MSA president, she created the Refugee Benefit Gala, serves as the director of Inclusion and Outreach for the UK student government and with the UK Student Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion, interned at the office of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and attended the two-month Congressional Leadership Development Program as an intern on Capitol Hill. A William C. Parker Scholar, Robert Henry Hughes Scholar, Chellgren Student
Fellow, Gaines Center for the Humanities Fellow, Provost Student Advisor and board member of the University of Kentucky Equal Opportunity Committee, she hopes to pursue a PhD in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies.
Sara Al-Zubi, a Miami University junior majoring in premedical studies and human capital management and leadership, has worked extensively with Ohio’s Arab refugees to increase their self-sufficiency and improve their knowledge about and access to healthcare and mental health resources. This led her to start her own nonprofit 3Sisters Foundation. She is currently serving as the U.S. Ambassador for UN Humanitarian Affairs, leading the recruitment of 150 North American delegates to the UN’s University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bangkok this summer.
Mohamed Nur, a Bowdoin College government and Africana studies double major, has interned for Sen. Angus King, Rep. Chellie Pingree and various community organizations on a range of issues related to foreign policy, immigration, education and healthcare reform. He is also the vice president of academic affairs for the Bowdoin Student Government, the chair of the Multicultural Coalition, student director for the Student Center for Multicultural Life and head residential advisor for Residential Life. He plans
to pursue a dual JD/MA in international conflict resolution and security policy.
Dina Eldawy is a Syracuse University junior pursuing a double major in international relations and citizenship and civic engagement with a minor in Spanish. Specializing in Middle Eastern studies and international security and diplomacy, she interns at a local refugee education center in Syracuse, N.Y.
Safia Mahjebin, a CUNY Hunter College junior studying philosophy, is the creator of “Right to Say ‘NO!’” a workshop series that addresses unhealthy and abusive relationships in New York City’s Muslim communities. An opponent of child marriage in the U.S., she has advocated for raising the age of marriage from 14 to 17 in New York. This Mellon Mayes Fellow will soon pursue a PhD in Islamic studies, focusing on the political and intellectual history of Muslim women.
Attorney and business entrepreneur Salman Bhojani, 38, whose opponent’s
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COMMUNITY MATTERS campaign was heavily funded by Republican state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, won a seat on the Euless City (Texas) Council by defeating Molly Maddux, a 63-year-old retired teacher and Tea Party candidate, by a margin of 37 votes on May 5. Bhojani garnered 50.44 percent, while Maddux had 49.56 percent, in the Place 6 race. Stickland, warning residents of Bhojani’s “dangerous agenda,” had criticized him for being a Muslim and “lifelong Democrat” who had arranged for a Quranic passage to be read at the invocation during a council meeting. Bhojani’s Cub Scout troop, invited to give the invocation in March, read a passage about solidarity among faiths.
Stephanie Khadijah Ali, director at the DHS Special Investigations Region and a 25-year veteran at the department, was recognized at the 19th annual Children’s Crusader awards on April 23 for her exemplary commitment and dedication to children and youth. Cynthia F. Figueroa, commissioner of the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS), presented the award. The mother of two daughters, Ali leads a team of three administrators, 16 supervisors, 80 social workers and support staff members.
Huda Alkaff, founder and director of Wisconsin Green Muslims, was recognized by the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education’s Eco-Justice Award on April 28. The award honors her leadership in developing and implementing inclusive and culturally relevant programs that seek more equitable internal practices and represent the state’s diverse communities.
community. Notably, the MLK Foundation honored him for his exemplary spiritual leadership and support of the African American community. He founded and ran the South Bend Communicator (19772006) and hosted radio program about Islam. He and his wife Julie ran a bookstore and founded the nonprofit Michiana AfricanAmerican Culture & Development Center. Julie served as a Great News Islamic Center board member and has received many awards and honors in her own right. “I feel it is in recognition of my family and the Muslim community here,” she stated. Mayor Pete Buttigieg presents award to Imam Anthony Scott Sr.
On behalf of his late father Imam Nabaa, Julia Nabaa and her son Clarence Nabaa II receive awards from Mayor Buttigieg.
South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg honored Imam Anthony Scott Sr., (the late) Imam Clarence Abdullah and Julia Nabaa with commemorative plaques during the third annual Black History Month Awards ceremony. Julia Nabaa was honored along with her late husband Imam Nabaa, a newspaper publisher and longtime imam at Great News Islamic Center. The City of South Bend released digital billboards for the 20 honorees to enrich residents’ understanding of local African Americans who have contributed to city history and culture. Apart from serving as imam for seven years, since his retirement Scott Sr. has served as vice president of the Martin Luther King Senior Men’s Club. In 2009, he received the Martin Luther King Drum Major Award of Service in acknowledgement of his civic service, especially with the youth. He also ran a radio program during 2008-15. Imam Nabaa (1930-2014), a former Nation of Islam member, established Muhammad Speaks and, under Imam WD Mohammed, was resident imam of Great News Islamic Center for 20 years. He was an active member of the Michiana Islamic Society and a leader of the Midwest Muslim
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Shereen Abdelfattah received The Winston-Salem Foundation ECHO (Everyone Can Help Out) award on May 2 at the foundation’s annual community luncheon, which was attended by 1,200 community leaders. Davida Martin, secretary of The Winston-Salem Foundation Committee, said, “Shereen Abdelfattah is a social entrepreneur and, according to her nominator, ‘one of our community’s unsung leaders.’” Abdelfattah, who emigrated from Egypt in 2002, founded a nonprofit catering company to provide jobs for Syrian refugee women, leads an Interfaith Winston-Salem team and was instrumental in organizing Women of Worship. The San Jose Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) honored Islamic Networks Group executive director Maha Elgenaidi at their annual gala on April 28 with the “Dorothy Irene Height Community Award.” Height, an influential leader, educator and civil and women’s rights activist for over 60 years, died in 2010. ih
Faith-based Education: A Source for Hope and Healing The ISNA Education Forum continues to grow and inspire teachers and administrators BY SUSAN LABADI
his year’s ISNA Education Forum, held on March 30-April 1 in Chicago, focused on “Faith Based Education: A Source of Hope and Healing.” The idea came from the volunteer education committee’s conversations last September, a time when headlines of injustice and politics caused us to think about how Islamic schools could help their students bear these pressures. As teachers, administrators and parents, we contend that the solutions lie in our resolve to be better Muslims and more knowledgeable of our religion, how to make our schools examples of education using the Prophetic traditions. Just as past Muslims have risen and met immense challenges, so do we lift our students to meet the future, to be prepared and to lead. The forum was co-hosted by ISNA and the Council of Islamic Schools of North America (CISNA; www.cisna.org).
PRECONFERENCES The event started with five full-day parallel preconferences held on Friday, March 30. Opal Davis Dawson, faculty member, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ACSD; www.ascd.org/ Default.aspx), received very positive feedback for the second year as she shared about “Leadership that Makes a Difference.” Always popular and informative was Dalia El-Deeb, director of the Bayaan Academy of Tampa’s hifdh program, and her team, who trained Qur’an teachers in ways to remove obstacles for students and to emphasize learning with comprehension. She is also director of Ahlul-Quran Academy, which provides Quran education for children and adults in Tampa and statewide, and chairman of Nourania
Instruction and Certification in North America. Attendees received a special certificate at the end of the preconference workshops led by leading experts in the field. Given the importance of providing our schools with safety and preparedness for emergencies, Chief of Police Roy Newton of neighboring Lombard related many anecdotes from his career and resources, thereby enabling several attendees hailing from Florida and Texas to find answers to their most vital concerns. In the afternoon, attorney Katherine Ellis discussed numerous case studies that gave insight to the potential legal pitfalls affecting school communities. Each year, a loyal and growing team of Arabic-language teachers enjoy high caliber training sessions arranged by committee member Salah Ayari, instructional associate professor of Arabic and director of language instruction, Dept. of International Studies, Texas A&M University. This year Paul Sandrock, director of education at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL; https://www.actfl.org), suggested that educators examine the newly revised National Council of State Supervisors for Languages (NCSSFL)-ACTFL Can-Do Statements to plan, instruct and assess various levels of Arabic-language learners. Our veterans and leaders collaborated over the most comprehensive workshop: to create a New Principal & Vice Principal Boot Camp. Instructors were Magda Elkadi Saleh, director, Bayaan Academy, Shaza Khan, interim executive director, ISLA, Yasmeen Qadri, professor of education and education coordinator, Valencia Community College, Patricia Salahuddin, CISNA board member Islamic Schools, and Leila H. Shatara,
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Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodology, Florida Atlantic University. With the ever-growing number of Islamic schools, this vital training provides the committee insight as regards the level of our schools’ proficiency and offers a fast track to their development. Competent leadership and mentorship nurture schools to maturity so they can benefit their communities. Each year the leadership track has garnered more attendees than previous years, and its great reputation draws principals from all over North America and even other countries.
BANQUETS, DREAMS AND AWARDS Two banquets, a networking breakfast and lunch were included in the low-cost registration package offered by ISNA. In her welcoming remarks at the Inaugural Banquet, held on March 30, ISNA Interim Executive Director Habibe Ali stated, “About 20 years ago, ISNA created the Education Forum as a tool for professional development for people focusing on education in the Muslim community. The forum presents high quality information and training from experts in the field of education as well as Islamic values which form our foundation.” The beloved Necva Ozgur, charter committee member of the Education Forum, founder of the West Coast Education Forum and president of MERIT, pronounced her heartfelt vow to commit the rest of her life’s work to creating “Dream Schools” for the ummah: “Allah is giving us an amana, a trust. He’s giving us these little children in our trust and to be educated by us. Such a great task! Part of me is happy and honored Allah is giving us this trust, but part of me is really scared. Are we doing the right job
Maha Elgenaidi, executive director, Islamic Networks Group (ING; https://ing.org). In her emotional speech, she cited the need to join ranks with Jews and Christians to find our commonalities and to focus on the positive. She also reminded the audience of Islam’s unique beauty and God’s profound mercy (IH, July-August 2018, pp. 36-37).
with these students? Insha Allah, if we are doing our job right, then this will be our test that we will be passing and at a time when we face our Creator. That will be our passport to heaven.” Saturday’s Celebration Banquet opened with a Quran recitation by Sh. Hassan Aly from the Willowbrook, Ill.-based MECCA Center, and students of the Islamic Foundation School performed a lovely set of nasheed under the direction of faculty sponsor Amro Helmy. Chicago-based, newly appointed ISNA executive committee member Asra Ali gave her welcome address. California’s retired principal, West Coast forum committee volunteer and former Chicago teacher Shahida AliKhan was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for her humble and consistent acts of service to further the development of Islamic schools. Alikhan — whose son and daughter were present at the event — became principal of New Horizons School in Los Angeles in 1988. Under her leadership, students became high achievers who passed the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) tests with high grades and won a variety of prizes and awards in many competitions Often behind the scenes, but rarely on stage, ISNA Development Foundation (IDF) director Ahmed El-Hattab expressed his personal appreciation of ISNA Education Forum and for the selfless commitment of those who serve. Departing from the usual fundraising script, he merely requested the audience to “stand for Islamic schools” and then politely requested each attendee to only give what he or she could so that the forum could continue its work. Sh. Abdalla Idris Ali cheered the audience with his knowledge and spiritual light, which represented a nice segue into the keynote address of
Schools: Understanding your Options,” held on Saturday afternoon. In her capacity as CISNA’s executive director, she also chaired the annual CISNA meeting for member schools that evening. CISNA works with the Forum and supports schools seeking accreditation, a resource that members have increasingly found helpful.
COMPETENT LEADERSHIP AND MENTORSHIP NURTURE SCHOOLS TO MATURITY SO THEY CAN BENEFIT THEIR COMMUNITIES. EACH YEAR THE LEADERSHIP TRACK HAS GARNERED MORE ATTENDEES THAN PREVIOUS YEARS, AND ITS GREAT REPUTATION DRAWS PRINCIPALS FROM ALL OVER NORTH AMERICA AND EVEN OTHER COUNTRIES. PARALLEL SESSIONS FOR ALL Thirty-three sessions were scheduled for the Leadership, Curriculum, Arabic and Islamic studies tracks. Among the most popular was the “Finland Phenomenon: A Paradigm Shift in Education” presented by Mussarut Jabeen, principal, Al-Iman School, Raleigh, N.C., and Dr. Seema Imam, ISLA chair and co-chair, National College of Education, National Louis University (IH, pp. 31-32, March-April 2018), who traveled to Finland with a group of education specialists to learn more about that country’s culture and education system. An encore presentation was given the next day, as attendees shared their enthusiasm for its content. The room was overflowing for Noha Abdel-Hady’s (STEM K-12 director at Windsor Public Schools in Windsor, Conn.) “From Good to Great: A Practical Guide for School Transformation.” Committee member Shatara presented “Using Data to Drive Instructional Practice” in response to educators’ request for more guidance in how to use data. “Students Taking Charge,” as created by award-winning education professional Dr. Suha A. Jaber, founder and principal, Rising Leaders Academy, Panama City, Fla., demonstrated steps and resources to challenge students to tackle local and global issues that empower them. Sufia Azmat led those who sought information about how to get their school accredited in her “Accreditation for Islamic
Although there were too many excellent presentations to mention here, one of the most creative endeavors ever seen was that of Malikah Muhammad, a community volunteer who helps families in New York state’s Erie and Monroe counties. On Sunday morning, she recreated a variety of stations for pre-K teachers. The seminar room was transformed, as she even brought goldfish from Buffalo, N.Y., to treat attendees to the ultimate “experience” with their participation. It showed how a caring teacher could creatively design any environment to become a wondrous space for learning and happiness with the remembrance of God and appreciation of creation. The 19th ISNA Education Forum wrapped up with the Executive Forum, during which the audience shared highlights of their experiences and suggestions. This year there were several educators who came for the first time. Raffle giveaways, many from the bazaar’s vendors, topped their engagement with veteran Islamic schools leaders. Research papers and presentations made at the forum can be found at www.isna.net/ education-forum-papers. Everyone is looking forward to the 20th Education Forum. In fact, several educators volunteered to become future committee members in the hope that ISNA will initiate an East Coast Education Forum as well. ih Susan Labadi is consulting advisor of the Education Forum and President of Genius School, Inc.
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Dallas Hosts First Regional ISNA Education Forum BY MUSTAFA SYED
n April 14, ISNA held its first education conference in Dallas under the theme of “Upholding Faith: Serving Humanity,” as well as an ensuing celebration banquet that attracted some 500 people. Over 140 attendees benefited from education program, which focused on Islamic education and featured sessions for the professional development of teachers, principals and administrators of Islamic schools. All of them were led by several renowned experts and current and former principals of the nation’s top-ranked Islamic schools. The program included interactive sessions, training workshops and networking opportunities for Muslim educators and administrators of full-time and weekend Islamic schools. Speakers included ISNA president Azhar Azeez, Shaykh Abdalla Idris Ali, former ISNA president and current outreach director of ISNA Canada, Fawzia Belal, director of Islamic studies, Qalam Collegiate Academy, M. Aftab Diwan, superintendent of the Islamic School of Irving, Susan Labadi, president of Genius School Inc., Matthew Moes, school development lead, Razi Education, Habeeb Quadri, principal of the MCC Full Time School in Morton Grove, Ill., Dr. Iram Shaikh-Jilani, head of school, Brighter Horizons Academy, Wadud Hasan, co-founder and CEO of Define, and Noor Saadeh, co-founder and co-creator of Noorart. Labadi spoke about revolutionizing and creating new innovations in schools to help further develop and foster students’ educational growth and prowess. She explained how schools and teachers should implement technology to help create a more individualized approach to student learning and new opportunities for students and teachers alike. Belal spoke about implementing a Tarbiya model to influence change in classrooms, teach responsibility and build dignity in students. Her presentation was followed by many educators and people involved in educational development, such as Quadri. The conference also included a bazaar and matrimonial banquet, as well as an evening banquet featuring a keynote address by political journalist Mehdi Hasan, host of al-Jazeera English’s “UpFront.” He spoke on “Making a Difference: Turning Challenges into Opportunities.” Former White House
staffer Rumana Ahmed presented a special address on “Upholding Faith: Serving Humanity.” After a community service recognition award ceremony honoring local leaders, the well-known comedian Preacher Moss provided the evening’s entertainment. Azeez initiated the banquet proceedings by introducing ISNA and explaining its contributions and goals.
ISNA president Azhar Azeez presents award to Akram Syed
ISNA president Azhar Azeez presents award to Dr. Hind Jarrah
Rumana Ahmed, senior advisor to the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications in the Obama White House, resigned after eight days of serving in the Trump administration. She related her journey and influential work in the White House, how she organized President Obama’s visit to a Baltimore mosque and encouraged the attendees to make a positive difference in society. Mehdi Hasan spoke about combating Islamophobia through education and involvement in journalism, social justice organizations and in other fields. Community Service Recognition Awards were presented to Akram Syed and Dr. Hind Jarrah. Akram Syed, whose key contributions led to the establishment of the Islamic Association of Collin County (IACC), is president/CEO of Accelore Solutions and SAMZ Management in the U.S. as well as president/CEO of Oncom Wireless in Bangalore, India. He served as a shura member and secretary, as well as an IACC amir during 2013-14. A prominent leader in the Dallas Muslim
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and the Dallas Indian Muslim community, he brought the American Federation of Muslims of India (AFMI) conference to Dallas in 1995 and 2005. He also founded the North American Society of Indian Muslims (NASIM) Foundation in 2008. Through AFMI and NASIM, he has provided scholarships to several underprivileged students in India. Syed also served on the India Association of North Texas (IANT) board for several years as board member, secretary, president and board of trustees member. He worked extensively on the Indian Consulate Service and was often referred to as the key contact for obtaining an Indian visa within Dallas. He led over 65,000 Dallas-area Indians as IANT’s second Muslim president in 2009. Dr. Hind Jarrah has served as executive director, co-founder (2005) and former president (2005-09) of the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation (TMWF), a non-profit, educational, philanthropic, outreach and social service organization dedicated to empowering women and their families. TMWF is a unique trauma-informed, culturally sensitive agency that provides comprehensive prevention and intervention services for victims of domestic violence. One of the first direct service agencies to partner with imams since 2007, it provides training workshops to dedicate the Friday khutbah to Islam’s emphasis on establishing peaceful families and condemnation of domestic violence. To date, it has served over 4,000 male and female victims and children from all faiths through its Peace in the Home program. Dr. Jarrah has been engaged in the promotion of understanding and respect for multicultural diversity since 1982. Dr. Jarrah (Ph.D., pharmacology, University Health Science Center in Dallas, 1980) has received several awards, including Person of Faith from the Perkins School of Theology (2015), the Maura Award from the Dallas Women’s Foundation (2017) and the Mariam Award for Faith Advocacy from Genesis (2017). The event concluded with a delightful comedy performance by Preacher Moss. He told hilarious interpretations of his life stories and made jokes that filled the room with endless laugher. The event would not have been possible without a large team of youth and adult volunteers who worked selflessly under the guidance of Rabeeya Azeez and Sabeen Faheem. They took care of registration, set-up, photography, ushering, welcoming and many more tasks in order to ensure that the conference proceeded smoothly. ih Mustafa Syed is a Dallas area 10th grade student.
August 31 – September 3, 2018
Houston, TX George R. Brown Convention Center 1001 Avenida De Las Americas • Houston, TX 77010
ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA
CONVENTION HIGHLIGHTS: ◉ More than 200 Renowned Speakers ◉ Plenary Sessions ◉ Main Sessions ◉ Parallel Sessions ◉ Round Table Discussions ◉ MSA & MYNA Sessions ◉ Enlightening Entertainment ◉ Largest Muslim Bazaar in America (550 Booths) ◉ Health Fair ◉ Art Exhibit ◉ Meet the Author ◉ Interfaith Reception ◉ Film Festival ◉ Photography Exhibit ◉ Qira’at Competition ◉ Matrimonial Banquets ◉ Community Service Recognition Luncheon (CSRL) ◉ Basketball Tournament ◉ Children’s Program ◉ Babysitting, and more
▶ ▶ REGISTER ONLINE AT WWW.ISNA.NET ◀ ◀ REGISTRATION INQUIRIES:
BAZAAR & SPONSORSHIP:
JOIN THE CONVERSATION:
(317) 838-8129 ◉ email@example.com
(317) 838-8131 ◉ firstname.lastname@example.org
CONVENTION #55 As Houston is scheduled to host ISNA’s 55th Annual Convention this Labor Day weekend, we are introducing a six-part series highlighting the city’s uniqueness by interviewing extraordinary Houstonians and exploring various scenes in the country’s fourth largest city. This article, the fifth piece in this series, features two Houstonian Muslims with non-mainstream jobs.
Unique Muslims Not all young Muslim Americans dream of entering “traditional” professions BY SAMAN ESSA
ccording to the Houston Chronicle, in 2012 Greater Houston was home to one of the nation’s largest Muslim communities — an estimated 1.2 percent of the overall population of 2.3 million. Among the lawyers, physicians, engineers and teachers are other Muslim individuals who have become pioneers in their respective fields. Islamic Horizons chose to interview aspiring Broadway actor Muhammad Yunus and NASA astronaut trainer Sophia Mela, in the hope that their stories will inspire all people to chase their dreams and provide a sense of optimism to Muslim Americans toward those of their coreligionists who are weaving their legacies into the national narrative in unconventional, but incredibly important, fields.
MUHAMMAD YUNUS In a society where actors and playwrights have an accessible fan base and can change perceptions through pop culture, theater, acting and drama are incredibly powerful professions. Muhammad Yunus, a University of Houston sophomore, is studying acting in order to open more doors for himself. In 2016 he received the Tommy Tune Award for Best Actor in a Musical, an award that he describes as “the high Muhammad Yunus accepts school version of the Tonys (the award the Tommy Tunes award. given to Broadway’s best acts) for the Houston Area.” He was nominated for his role as Usnavi in Lin Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” musical. Miranda is best known for his hit “Hamilton.” “In the Heights” is a hip hop musical about the celebration of Hispanic culture in New York’s Washington Heights and trying to find your place in America as a first generation son of immigrants. “It’s a story about home, family and loss. It’s honestly everything in a show I could ever want,” Yunus says. “It [playing Usnavi] was my first time performing in a major role, but winning that award allowed me the opportunity to perform and 22 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2018
ISNA 55: Coming Soon
Discover what the 55th Annual ISNA Convention will offer this September in Houston, Texas.
HE 55TH ANNUAL ISNA CONVENTION IS SET TO TAKE PLACE in Houston on Labor Day weekend — Aug. 31 to Sept. 3. This will be Houston’s first time hosting the national conference, and the community hopes to give all attendees a warm Southern welcome and a taste of Texan tradition. The convention has a promising confirmed speaker line up, which can be viewed on ISNA’s website, and a Saturday evening “entertainment night” with exciting guests. To keep up to date, please visit http://www.isna. net/convention or https://www.facebook.com/isnahq. The convention organizers have arranged for a special showing of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival “Best Inspiring Movie,” “Bilal: A New Breed of Hero.” A film festival and several “Meet the Author” panels are also planned, as well as a Girl Scouts of America “fun feature” and a children’s Quranic recitation competition. Following tradition, the 55th convention will feature a matrimonial banquet and the bazaar, which in the past has attracted over 300 business vendors and organizations displaying their wares and explaining their missions and visions in over 500 booths. Al-Jazeera reporter Mehdi Hassan will host a private Community Service Recognition Luncheon (CSRL). To purchase tickets to the CSRL and/or to register for the matrimonial banquet, please visit the above-mentioned ISNA website. For those new to Texas, and more specifically to Houston, you will find that Houstonians are the epitome of foodies, which explains why the city’s steering committee has gone to great lengths to not only organize unique halal options such as BBQ, Tex-Mex, Arab and Desi food inside the George R. Brown Convention Center, but to also ask surrounding restaurants, among them McAlisters and Bud’s Barbecue, to make their meat halal for the weekend. Finally, ISNA will be hosting a 5K Fun Run for all Houstonians. Proceeds will go to Meal on Wheels, an Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston (IMGH; https://www.imgh.org) program that serves hot meals to disabled adults and homebound IMGH clients.
compete in the Jimmy Awards (the National High School Musical Awards). It’s a 10-day Broadway extensive, filled with workshops with Broadway professionals. It is hosted by New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The 10 days end with a Tony Award Style show at Broadway Minskoff Theatre, the same theatre ‘The Lion King’ performs on.” Yunus competed with 31 other U.S. regions and 61 other contestants — one best actor and one best actress invited from each region. He represented Houston and won the Spirit of the Jimmy Awards. Yunus, who began acting in middle school, remarks that among his earliest acting memories is playing Lewis Carroll in his sixth grade’s production of “Alice in Wonderland.” One of the most profound moments of understanding that acting can be a career was, according to him, when he saw “Kinky Boots” at Houston’s Hobby Center for Performing Arts. “It was the first professional musical I had ever seen,” he recalls, “and it inspired me at such a raw level. It was a story about accepting who you are and creating your own path, despite the expectations from our parents. It was a show that spoke to me at every aspect of my life for sure.”
Commenting on how winning the two awards impacted him and the doors of opportunity and inspiration, he said, “There were so many talented people that I got to work with, but one of the most significant people I met was Karen Olivo. She was a Tony award winner and played Vanessa in the original Broadway cast of ‘In the Heights,’” the show I was nominated for. Learning from her and being able to be part of a Broadway show was just absolutely incredible. It showed me that ‘theatre’ is an industry. It’s as competitive as any other industry, but ultimately an industry that I have an avenue to get into. The Jimmy Awards just taught me that I can perform at the caliber of Broadway. So, it solidified my decision to pursue acting as a career.” Like many people pursuing unconventional careers, Yunus had his fair share of pushback from family members. His greatest advice to people, especially youth who are deciding their path in life, is to believe in yourself and have a plan. “Even if your plan changes, having one in place shows you’re serious in transforming your passion into a career. Wanting it is half the work. Actually having a game plan [shows] your parents that you have goals and objectives. And while they may never be 100 percent supportive, that’s only because they’re afraid you won’t be able to support yourself. As long as you can reassure them that you are committed to create a life with your passion, your job is done. All that’s left is to just keep working hard, keep networking, never turning down an opportunity and always always ALWAYS having faith in something. Whether it’s God or some other higher belief, having faith allows you to carry the burden easier. Honestly, if I didn’t have Islam I’d have quit this acting life along time ago. But because I have Allah with me, I didn’t quit. Any awards, accolades and opportunities I [have received are] due to that faith.”
SOPHIA MELA Sophia Mela works for Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies (SGT), whose employees have expertise in engineering, mission operations and IT services. The company is responsible for all of the details of NASA’s human spaceflight program operations, which include, but are certainly not limited to, the International Space Station (ISS); the Space Operations Contract (ESCO), which manages astronaut spacesuit activity while astronauts are on the ISS; and the Integrated Mission OPerations Contract (IMOC II). In her capacity as an avionics instructor at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, she states, “It means I conduct training in C&T (Communications and Tracking) and CDH (Command and Data Handling) systems. My ‘students’ are astronauts and CRONUS (Communication Radio Frequency Onboard Network Utilization Specialist) flight controllers for the ISS. The training includes lots of different work, such as running simulations, giving lessons and evaluations, designing training flows, testing our simulators and lots of paperwork and documentation to go with all of that.” Mela’s original career plan was to be a math teacher. “I loved math up through high school. From my tutoring experiences, I knew I also liked teaching math. So, I decided that being a math teacher
would be the perfect career.” Learning more about that particular career and the necessity of obtaining a bachelor’s in mathematics to teach it at the high school level, she “set that as my goal and did my best. I had a husband and young son, so it was not an easy journey. I had to make a lot of sacrifices, but I knew it would be worth it in the long run.” And sure enough, it was.
LIKE MANY PEOPLE PURSUING UNCONVENTIONAL CAREERS, YUNUS HAD HIS FAIR SHARE OF PUSHBACK FROM FAMILY MEMBERS. HIS GREATEST ADVICE TO PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY YOUTH WHO ARE DECIDING THEIR PATH IN LIFE, IS TO BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND HAVE A PLAN. After graduation, Mela began work as a math teacher. Presented with the chance to get a master’s in education, she seized it but soon realized that “[w]hile I loved teaching, there were aspects of teaching that made me realize it was not right for me. I began looking for other career opportunities ... I have always been fascinated with space. Instead of physics, chemistry or biology, I had taken planetary science electives, such as astronomy and geology, as my science electives of choice in college. The instructor position I was interested in required a degree in engineering, physics or math. I also had my education background, which I felt was a bonus. It honestly sounded like a dream job, one that I had never dreamed of. I almost didn’t apply, that’s how unreal it seemed. Looking back, I am so thankful I didn’t talk myself out of applying.” In her current job, she frequently encounters “Aha!” moments that let her know that this was the job for her. “There are a lot of dedicated, hardworking people who come together to work toward the single vision of manned spaceflight. All of their hard work makes it possible for people to live and work in space. Being able to be small part of that is my favorite part of the job.” These two stories showcase the immense talent that exists within the Muslim American community and enable other Muslim Americans to become aware that there are numerous possibilities for those striving to break the norm and to understand that there is more than one way for Muslims to build a positive legacy here. At their core, these two stories are ones of faith in one’s self when faced with exciting, but daunting, opportunities. Yunus and Mela took the plunge by applying to positions they considered “dreams,” and His plan for them prevailed. ih Islamic Horizons deeply appreciates the time that Yunus and Mela set aside for these interviews in order to share their stories. Saman Essa, who is majoring in psychology and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Houston, plans to become a psychologist with a focus on immigrant and refugee populations in the U.S.
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 23
Three “Love Lessons” Racism is learned, not inherent, and thus can be unlearned. BY JIMMY JONES
y pilgrimage broadened my scope. It blessed me with a new insight. In two weeks in the Holy Land, I saw what I had never seen in thirty-nine years in America. I saw all races, all colors — blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans — in true brotherhood! In unity! Living as one! Worshipping as one! No segregationists — no liberals; they would not have known how to interpret the meaning of those words” (Alex Haley, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” 1965, p. 362). This excerpt from a letter written by Malcolm X after his 1964 hajj encapsulates what was, for him, a major paradigm shift — a shattering takeaway from his pilgrimage. In a way, up until then his whole world had been framed by multiple manifestations of “American racism,” as he saw it. From chapter 1 of his “Autobiography,” appropriately entitled “Nightmare,” to chapter 17, entitled “Out,” his life had been filled with the enormous psychic and emotional repercussions of this country’s enduring prejudice against African Americans. His years as a defenseless target were followed by his becoming a major spokesperson for the Nation of Islam’s assertive, strident and racially focused philosophy.
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from Malcolm X’s Hajj
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 25
IF THE HAJJ COULD SO DRASTICALLY TRANSFORM SUCH A FIERCE CRITIC OF AMERICAN RACISM, WHY HASN’T IT DONE THE SAME FOR THE MANY MUSLIM AMERICANS WHO HAVE MADE THE SAME PILGRIMAGE? SADLY, ALL OVER THIS COUNTRY WE FIND MANY “IMMIGRANT” AND “INDIGENOUS” MUSLIM COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE APPARENTLY IMBIBED THIS DEADLY “KOOL-AID.” IN OTHER WORDS, THE RACIALLY INCLUSIVE, COLORBLIND ETHOS THAT MALCOLM X EXPERIENCED HAS STILL NOT BECOME THE NORM FOR PRESENTDAY MUSLIM AMERICAN COMMUNITY INTRAGROUP RELATIONS. If the hajj could so drastically transform such a fierce critic of American racism, why hasn’t it done the same for the many Muslim Americans who have made the same pilgrimage? Sadly, all over this country we find many “immigrant” and “indigenous” Muslim communities that have apparently imbibed this deadly “Kool-Aid.” In other words, the racially inclusive, colorblind ethos that Malcolm X experienced has still not become the norm for present-day Muslim American community intragroup relations. I believe that a prime reason for this embarrassing state of affairs is that many Muslim Americans who go on hajj have failed to learn (or take with them) what I call the three “love lessons” learned by Malcolm X: Love for Allah, love for learning and love for humanity. If we take these “love lessons” with us on hajj or learn them during hajj, there is a greater likelihood that our community will break loose from our obvious, painful mimicry of mainstream society’s color-based
racial politics. As God reminds us in 49:13: “O humanity, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (the one who is) the most righteous of you. Allah has full knowledge (and) is well acquainted (with all things)” — a verse that is often quoted and just as often ignored in practice.
LOVE FOR ALLAH At its core, the impetus for a believer’s decision to make hajj should be to obey God and follow the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) Sunnah. Unfortunately, when it comes to hajj, many Muslim Americans are far more concerned with creature comforts than with enhancing and sustaining a strong, loving connection with the Creator. When we look at chapters 17 (Mecca) and 18 (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) of the “Autobiography,” it is clear that his motivation for making this “journey of a lifetime” was based on his
26 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2018
strong love for God, which he manifested in two important ways. First, he believed that God instructed him (and all mature, physically and financially capable believers) to do so. His initial discussion of his preparation was based on his understanding of the Quran (p. 318). He begins by pointing out that it is “a duty owed to God” (3:97). Thus, his laser-like focus on fulfilling that duty was apparently fueled by his strong love for and sense of duty to God. Unfortunately, due to his very recent break with the Nation (March 1964), he wasn’t financially able to undertake it. Nonetheless, he started preparing for it, because believers truly love God and try to obey Him, regardless of their circumstances. While similarly situated people might have been consumed with money worries, Malcolm X focused on what was apparently most important to him at the time: pleasing God by making hajj. This intention is critical for those who want to make hajj in order to get the maximum possible spiritual benefit while perhaps reshaping “race relations” in
this country for the Muslim community and all Americans. The second manifestation was Malcolm X’s constant lookout for “signs.” As the Quran and Prophetic tradition make clear, God constantly communicates with humans through various “signs.” For instance, 30:2122 mention marriage and “the creation of the heavens and the earth,” respectively, which are clearly messages for the believers. As he stated on page 319 of his “Autobiography,” “Allah always gives you signs, when you are with him, that he is with you.” Thus, to him, the manifestation of his close love relationship with God was that He gave him signs that were apparently meant specifically for him.
LOVE FOR LEARNING “You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions,
I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.” (p. 340) Reading the “Autobiography” ultimately led me to accept Islam. One of the things that impressed me the most about this extraordinary book when I first read it during the summer of 1967 was that Malcolm X came across as a perceptive, insightful and lifelong learner who was a genuine truthseeker. His descriptions of his life experiences were full of illuminating, thoughtful details. When it comes to fighting racism, an active love for learning is very important because the racial prejudice that almost all of us Americans have is something we learned from the cultural milieu in which we grew up. Thankfully, as Malcolm X showed, that which is learned can be unlearned and replaced with something better. Two basic characteristics underpin his love for learning. First, although an acerbic
critic of this country and its racial practices, he was always willing to listen to other viewpoints, as was exhibited whether he was talking to “orthodox” Muslims (pp. 318-319) or reflectively observing another country’s cultural norms (as he did with Germany on p. 321). As he remarked on page 329, “I have always been restless and curious,” two qualities that are emblematic of a tolerant spirit that is not found very often in people who were so involved with the Nation’s racebased philosophy. Essentially, the Nation’s “black and white” binary view of the world tended toward anti-intellectualism, which clashed with Malcolm X’s love for learning. The second characteristic was probably one of the main reasons he was open to changing his worldview — he was very comfortable in “the world of ideas.” His restless intellectual curiosity inevitably led him out of the Nation to a world of (Sunni) Islam as well as domestic and international politics. An avid reader and astute debater, it was only a matter of time before the Nation’s narrow black/white racially focused approach would become too small for him. The idea of whites being a “devil race” created by genetic engineering (p. 178) did not fit too well with: “O humanity, reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, its mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;…” (4:1).
LOVE FOR HUMANITY “In the past years, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people. I will never be guilty of that again...” (p. 362) The “new” Malcolm X was infused with a reconfigured understating of humanity, one more in keeping with the verse quoted above. My hope is that more Muslim Americans will use the hajj’s inclusive ethos as a way to move all of us toward greater racial equality both inside and outside our community — something that is more likely to happen if we focus more on love for Allah, love for learning and love for humanity. Then, hopefully, we can move toward the spirit and practice of his oft-quoted words: “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole“ (p. 366). ih Prof. Jimmy Jones, chair of African Studies and World Religions, Manhattanville (N.Y.) College, is also board chair, The Islamic Seminary of America
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 27
A Sincere Service
prior to travel, it makes for a smoother trip because everyone is on the same page. When and if a trial arises, the leaders communicate what is going on and then do what they can to fix it, thus hopefully keeping their hujjaj calm.“You make [the hujjaj] realize [the trial is] Hajj group leaders hold the hands of hujjaj year not as extreme as it seems,” Zaidi says. “Whatever you’re facing, it’s been faced before.” after year during their journey of a lifetime Sacred Hajj’s Hafiz Sayeed says that one of the most important lessons he has learned is that God has control over all things. Ten BY HABEEBA HUSAIN years ago, as a rookie group leader, he dealt with “a lot of anxiety, a lot of not knowing, and wanting everything to go perfectly.” While ajj — they call it the journey of a lifetime. With that nervousness still remains, it has subsided significantly with the potential to have every sin that you have committed up to experience. that time forgiven, the moniker is quite appropriate. Sometimes a lot of experience can result in routine and the loss of When embarking upon this journey that has such high that initial excitement, like seeing the same tourist attraction multiple stakes, like an opportunity for spiritual rebirth, one doesn’t want to times. But visiting the Haramayn is different, Zaidi says. take it lightly. With numerous rituals to fulfill and rules to follow, all Before his close friend and teacher Shaykh AbdulNasir Jangda while being in a foreign land with millions of unknown people, most recruited Zaidi for Qalam Hajj, he had organized multiple umrah trips travelers would opt for a guide. That’s where the hajj group comes in. for local Bostonians. To ensure that he doesn’t take this opportunity Hajj group leaders are responsible for providing travel packages for granted, Zaidi attends the lectures that his group organizes for — making arrangements for the visas, accommodations, flights, the hujjaj, acting upon the advice given to him by Mufti Hussain meals, on-the-ground transportation and numerous other tasks. Kamani, a scholar for Qalam Hajj. They often partner with larger travel agencies to get the items on “You’ll have a handful of individuals who see the Ka‘bah for the the to-do list checked off first time, and they’ll just be before and during the days bawling and … mind you, of hajj. But aside from the this could be upwards the logistics, the group operatwentieth time that you’re tors become the points of seeing it [as a group leader],” reference for all those who Zaidi says. “But you have signed up with them. They to vicariously live through are the leaders, the guides them and put their ibadah and the veterans who know first over anything of your own. In a sense, that both what they’re doing. The rest of us rely upon them to comrenews it and makes it speplete our pilgrimage. cial all over again.” “The biggest thing you Hafiz Azam cites the keep in mind as an imam same scene as one of the most rewarding of the trip. is that people are looking to you for guidance,” “We’re directing the group says Imam Tahir Anwar, a to that spot where they scholar who has accompa- Pilgrims complete the hajj at the Plain of Arafat can then look up [at the nied the hajj group El-Madina Travel of New York for the last 15 years. Ka‘bah] and cast their first gaze. We also get a moment to reflect “They’re looking up to you to make sure their hajj is done correctly, and see everyone’s reaction, the tears, the duas, the focus — I love so you have that responsibility and amana.” that moment. For me, that sets the tone for the rest of the journey. Sacred Hajj, a group started in the Chicago area in 2009, also I really feed off that.” seeks to do exactly that. “We made [our group] about service, to A moment to feed off is certainly needed. If the hujjaj are tired, take someone on this amazing journey and guide them properly,” the group leaders are exhausted. They’re in constant communication says Hafiz Sayeed Shariff, one of the three directors. “That was our with the agencies providing transportation, fetching meals and drinks, driving force behind starting something like this.” teaching the appropriate rites to their groups and serving as everyone’s Contrary to what one might think, the guidance doesn’t start during go-to people if something goes wrong logistically or medically — all the days of hajj or even in Makkah or at the airport when waiting to while simultaneously trying to complete their own worship. board the flight. “As Americans, we take the hajj for granted. We go During his journey, Dr. Abdul-Bari Syed, another Sacred Hajj for two weeks max, maybe three weeks,” says Hafiz Azam Hashmi, director, carried the largest backpack — one full of the medicine another director. “In order for us to really benefit from this journey, needed to treat anyone who became ill due to heat, dehydration, it requires preparation.” exhaustion and other factors. This preparation can be done via transparent communication “Last year I saw women get IVs put into them due to dehydration from the operators to the hujjaj. In addition to providing resources right in front of me,” Zaidi says. “It’s getting more and more difficult about the spiritual aspects, rites and the history of hajj, the group every year. You should make hajj when you’re young and have the leader must inform its members about the heat, physical challenges, health and [physical] ability.” crowds, delays and more that will potentially occur no matter the Instead of going when you’re old to wipe the slate clean prior to amount of money one may put down. death, these groups emphasize taking advantage of your youth and “You’re the guest of Allah. There is no entitlement,” says Tauqeer setting yourself up for a successful future. “Go when you’re young,” Zaidi, Qalam Hajj’s director of travel. If these factors are understood says Hafiz Sayeed. “That’s when you want to set your life on track
28 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2018
and straighten yourself out. We all make mistakes and we’re going to mess up again, but at least you have something to hold on to.” If people are financially able and healthy, they should make the intention and go. As age increases, so do responsibilities with marriage, children and the home. “A lot of times we want to accomplish certain things in life before we go for hajj, and I think that’s a flawed concept,” Imam Tahir says. “The way we should look at it is, ‘Let me go for hajj so that my needs and wants are fulfilled.’”
A common message the group leaders’ emphasize during this journey is God’s mercy. Couples struggling to conceive begin expecting their first child after returning from the hajj. Single individuals who made dua at the Ka‘bah for a righteous spouse marry soon after their return home. “It brings me to tears thinking of God’s mercy on hajj,” Zaidi says. Every cent spent becomes worth it. People fear the financial burden that comes with the journey, but Imam Tahir explains that hajj was always meant to be physically and financially grueling. “As expensive as hajj is, every penny you spend on it is considered sadaqah,” he says. “Although you’re fulfilling an obligation, you’re doing a good deed while you’re performing that obligation. It’s a win-win situation.” And to actually be making hajj is surreal. It’s a blessing and an invitation from God. In the Mina tents, at Mount Arafah, under the desert sky in Muzdalifah, opposite the Jamaraat and during tawaf with millions from around the world to fulfill this obligation — all of it is due to God’s allowing those people to be there. “Twenty years ago I would have never dreamed of this. It was never part of my plan,” Imam Tahir says. “Allah facilitated it for me, kept me going on hajj and allowed me to do this. And I pray to Allah to continue to facilitate this for me for as long as I live.” The leaders of these hajj groups bring the utmost sincerity, holding the hands of the hujjaj until they see that their pilgrimage is complete. It’s a service no pilgrim can ever forget. “If [our hujjaj] remember us with khayr and make dua for us, that’s a huge reward that we are a part of their hajj memory,” Hafiz Azam says. Imam Tahir adds, “For people to remember you because of hajj and for you to be associated with hajj and, ultimately, Bayt Allah [the House of God] — there’s nothing more powerful than that.” When you accompany people on hajj — this journey of a lifetime — to sincerely provide a service for the sake of God, it seems only appropriate for you to be remembered in their duas for a lifetime as well. JazakAllahu Khayr to all those who work tirelessly to make the pilgrimage proper and possible for us all. May Allah reward you and your families for your sacrifices and allow you to continue this great work. Ameen. ih Habeeba Husain, a freelance journalist based in New York/New Jersey, contributes to SLAM Magazine, blogs for Why-Islam and is a social media manager for WuduGear. Her work has also appeared on Narrative.ly and MuslimGirl.com, among other online and print publications.
Kaba Under ClockTower
Umra Under the Shadow of Vision 2030 Can spiritual ecstasy be attained while shackled in worldly pursuits? BY SHAKEEL SYED
little over three decades ago I had the privilege of performing hajj, a pivotal moment of my life. I returned this year to perform umra, hoping to reconnect with my long-ago experience and to compare it with this one. I was 30 years younger then and single. Now I am a married father of four. The rites and rituals of hajj and umra, as well as visiting places like the plains of Badr and Arafat, the hills of Uhud and Nour and the cemeteries of Baqi (Madinah) and Moalla (Makkah) — resting places of some of the Companions (‘alayhum rahmat) — stirs the heart and awakens the soul, making it an ineffable experience. And then, of course, we bow our head in awe of the man who was tasked with changing everything for everyone and forever. Ritual worship is important, for it connects us with the Creator. Reflecting on events and people helps us connect with the created. For Muslims, only Makkah, Madinah and al-Quds (i.e., Jerusalem) offer an opportunity to connect with both the Creator JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 29
PHOTO (C) BATHOOL SYED
IN ADDITION TO PROVIDING RESOURCES ABOUT THE SPIRITUAL ASPECTS, RITES AND THE HISTORY OF HAJJ, THE GROUP LEADER MUST INFORM ITS MEMBERS ABOUT THE HEAT, PHYSICAL CHALLENGES, CROWDS, DELAYS AND MORE THAT WILL POTENTIALLY OCCUR NO MATTER THE AMOUNT OF MONEY ONE MAY PUT DOWN.
COVER STORY and the created. Having been blessed to visit the three holiest cities, I am grateful to my Creator beyond words. My last visit to al-Quds and Masjid al-Aqsa was a little less than a year ago. My visit to Makkah was after three decades. Comparing and contrasting happened naturally. Not much seemed to have changed in al-Quds, except the visible effects of the apartheid regime’s continued occupation. I was an eyewitness to the July 2017 siege of
I always resented the expressions “The Mecca of Shopping” (Dubai) or “The Mecca of Gambling” (Las Vegas), comparing it with the Makkah. Shops of all kinds and sizes, including but not limited to Starbucks, McDonalds and H&M, along with highbrow brands of which I may be unaware, open at the break of dawn around salat al-fajr and remain open until past midnight. Tragically, Makkah is well on its way to becoming the Mecca for the religiously shopaholic.
MOST PILGRIMS WOULD BE CONTENT WITH AFFORDABLE HOSTEL-LIKE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR THEIR SHORT STAYS. AFTER ALL, THEY VIEW THEIR UMRA OR HAJJ AS A QUEST TO SEEK SPIRITUAL FULFILLMENT, WHICH REQUIRES A BREAK FROM THEIR MUNDANE AND MATERIALLY MEANINGLESS ROUTINES. Masjid al-Aqsa as well as of the Palestinians’ graceful resistance to free it for the righteous of the world. Unlike in al-Quds and Masjid al-Aqsa, everything seems to have changed in Makkah and Madinah. Obvious changes are the skyscrapers around Masjid al-Haram and Masjid un-Nabawi. Understandably, there is an ever-growing need for more housing for the pilgrims, but surely the answer is not the mega multi-star hotels that dominate the landscape and skyscapes of these sacred cities. It should not take too much guessing to realize that accommodations focused on the privileged have come at the expense of affordable accommodation located near the holy precincts. Most pilgrims would be content with affordable hostel-like accommodations for their short stays. After all, they view their umra or hajj as a quest to seek spiritual fulfillment, which requires a break from their mundane and materially meaningless routines. Only then can they experience the rich legacy of a Makkah that is known for obliterating classism. We should not be resurrecting it. Most painful was to see these mega multistar hotels selling mineral water distilled in faraway lands, while the blessed water of Zamzam is quenching the spiritual and physical thirst for free for millions of the righteous.
I believe the other subtle but structural changes are far more destructive than the obvious ones. For example, all of the mega multi-star hotel rooms are hardwired and networked with the audio from the Haram al-Sharif to encourage pilgrims to pray comfortably in their deluxe rooms, while leaving the dirty, dusty Haram al-Sharif to the “other.” After leaving Makkah and Madinah’s precincts, I found Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure akin to an impoverished developing country. The so-called Jeddah International Airport, exclusive home to the national carrier Saudia, is a dark and sleepy airport that can barely accommodate a few thousand passengers and less than ten flights at a time. This may be one of the few international airports that has yet to use jet ways. The city streets were plastered with billboards: Vision 2030 and a somewhat smiling image of the ailing King Salman and of the millennial Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Curiosity led me to go online to Vision2030.gov.sa, which lays out this vision as: Saudi Arabia — the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds, the investment powerhouse and hub connecting three continents (Asia, Europe and Africa). Adel Abdel Ghafar, May 11, 2016, writing in Brookings (https://www. brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2016/05/11/ saudi-arabias-mckinsey-reshuffle/) said,
30 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2018
“…the Kingdom’s new economic direction — finds its impetus in a report by the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.” It is doubtful if Egyptians, Iraqis or Syrians — as devastated as they may be presently be — see Saudi Arabia as “heart of the Arab world.” Muslims surely do see Makkah and Madinah as the heart of their Islamic identity, but not necessarily Saudi Arabia as the heart of their world. To understand the nation’s vision as an “investment powerhouse,” I picked up the only English newspaper with a circulation of 50,000 copies for a nation of 20 million citizens and 12 million expatriates. The headlines were not so much of “other nations” investing in Saudi Arabia, but rather the other way around. For example, some of Saudi Arabia’s top “investments” were the kingdom’s purchase of several billion dollars’ worth of weapons from the U.S. and the U.K., and invitation to the U.S.-based but Chineseowned AMC Theaters to build movie theaters and the Texas-based Six Flags Entertainment Corporation to build an amusement park on the outskirts of Riyadh. It is highly likely that other investments are not reported in the state-controlled Saudi press, but if the Arab News reports are any indicator, one can only wonder why building theaters and amusement parks is considered an attribute of an “investment powerhouse.” It seems the Saudi 2030 vision is to build a few more brick and mortar structures, taller and larger than others. A better Saudi 2030 vision would have been to build upon the intellect, integrity and courage of Muhammad ibn Abdullah (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), Aisha, Fatima, Bilal and Salman (‘alayhum al-rahma), among many others. Considering the existing conditions, it seems doubtful that such a thing will happen. Yet one can pray, because we know that the Creator has His own plans and is the best planner (3:54). Only God knows whether I may have another opportunity to visit Makkah and Madinah before leaving this world. But in the decades to come, I know that my children and grandchildren will follow the footsteps of my parents and grandparents, just as they followed those of their own ancestors, to perform umra and hajj. It is my fervent prayer that they find within themselves, and be inspired by, the centuries-old vision of Prophets Ibrahim and Muhammad (‘alayhum as-sallam) and not by the distractions of the millennials. ih Shakeel Syed is a freelance writer and seeker of justice and human dignity.
HAJJAT ATAAGLANCE GLANCE HAJ
THE INTENT OF THIS CHART IS TO HIGHLIGHT THE SEQUENCE OF IMPORTANT EVENTS OF HAJ AND THE SUITABLE & CONVENIENT TIME FOR THE PERFORMANCE OF DUTIES WITHIN REQUIRED FRAMEWORK OF TIME.
APPLICABLE TO ALL THREE TYPES OF HAJ
Ansar H. Burney
DURATION TAKE SHOWER, WADU AND PUT ON IHRAM GARMENTS. OFFER TWO RAKAAHS NAFIL & NIYAT FOR HAJ & UMRAH. RECITE TALBIA THREE TIMES ALOUD, THEN CONTINUE ITS RECITATION
PERFORM UMRAH. (TAWAF & SAIE, NO HAIRCUT) CHANGE CLOTHES
STOP RECITING TALBIA PERFORM RAMMI ON JUMRAT-AL-AQABA SACRIFICE ANIMAL GET HAIRCUT REMOVE IHRAM GARMENTS TAKE SHOWER CHANGE CLOTHES
TAKE SHOWER, WADU AND PUT ON IHRAM GARMENTS. OFFER TWO RAKAAHS NAFIL. NIYAT FOR HAJ. RECITE TALBIA THREE TIMES ALOUD. THEN CONTINUE ITS RECITATION.
PERFORM TAWAFAL-QUDUM & SAIE (PREFERRED)
Z A M I
MUST STAY WITHIN MUZDALIFA BOUNDARIES
TAKE SHOWER, WADU AND PUT ON IHRAM GARMENTS. OFFER TWO RAKAAHS NAFIL, NIYAT FOR UMRAH. RECITE TALBIA THREE TIMES ALOUD, THEN CONTINUE ITS RECITATION
MUST ARRIVE BEFORE ZUHR
COLLECT 70 PEBBLES FOR RAMMI ON JUMRAT
MUST LEAVE AFTER SUNRISE
ARAFAT MUST STAY WITHIN
ANY DATE IN THE
MONTH OF THUL-HAJJAH
THE PILLARS OF HAJ ARE: IHRAM, WAQUF AT ARAFAT, TAWAF-AL-IFADAH AND SAIE. WITHOUT THESE THE HAJ IS INVALID. IF ANY OTHER REQUISITES ARE NOT DONE, FIDYA MUST BE SACRIFICED.
PERFORM TAWAF-AL-IFADAH PERFORM SAIE ALSO IF NOT PERFORMED WITH TAWAF-AL-QUDUM
* MUST LEAVE BEFORE SUNSET
MUST LEAVE BEFORE SUNRISE LEGEND:
MUST LEAVE AFTER SUNSET
F = FAJR Z = ZUHR A = ASR M = MAGHRIB I = ISHA
FOLLOW LOCAL PRAYER TIMINGS RAMMI = HITTING 7 PEBBLES TO JUMRAT WAQUF = STANDING IN ARAFAT FIDYA = ANIMAL IHRAM = GARMENTS USED FOR UMRA & HAJ TAWAF = 7 ROUNDS AROUND KAABA SAIE = 7 TRIPS FROM ONE MOUNT TO ANOTHER
NOTE: PRE-REQUISITE OF HAJ-E-TAMATTO IS THAT THE PERFORMER MUST BE "AFAQI". (RESIDENT OUTSIDE MEEQAT). HAJ-E-TAMATTO CAN BE PERFORMED IF ONE HAS PERFORMED UMRAH DURING THE MONTH OF HAJ, AND HIS STAY IN MAKKAH IS TEMPORARY FOR ONE OR TWO MONTHS. PERFORMER OF HAJ-E-TAMATTO DOES NOT HAVE TO PUT ON IHRAM FOR UMRAH AND HAJ AT MEEQAT. HE CAN PUT ON IHRAM WITHIN MAKKAH FOR UMRAH AND WITHIN ARAFAT FOR HAJ BUT, FIDYA MUST BE SACRIFICED FOR THE VARIANCE.
The Handy Hajj Guide
rchitect Ansar Hasan Burney first created the Hajj Chart in 1983 for use as a quick reference guide while performing this annual ritual. Seeing its utility and value, the Saudi daily newspaper The Arab News, published it in 1984. Due to the ensuing popular demand, the newspaper re-published the chart a week later. For the next three consecutive years, The Arab News would publish it a week before hajj. This chart was one of the first graphic aids of 1980s to present all of the hajj’s events and sequence of rituals in a very simple bar chart, as well as information on the three types of hajj, in a concise one-page graphic display. After its publication in 1984, the chart was presented to the
7TH.THUL-HAJJAH 8TH.THUL-HAJJAH 9TH.THUL-HAJJAH 10TH.THUL-HAJJAH 11TH.THUL-HAJJAH 12TH.THUL-HAJJAH
* EXTENDING HAJ TO 13TH. THUL HAJJAH IS OPTIONAL. TO COMPLETE HAJ ON THE 12TH., ONE MUST LEAVE MINA BEFORE SUNSET.
PERFORM RAMMI ON JUMRAT IN THE FOLLOWING ORDER: JUMRAT-AL-ULA JUMRAT-AL-WUSTA JUMRAT-AL-AQABA A M I
PERFORM TAWAF-AL-IFADAH & SAIE This Chart has been reviewed and approved by the Ministry of Hajj & Auqaf, Saudi Arabia
PERFORM TAWAF-AL-WIDAA BEFORE LEAVING
C Copyright 1996.
FOR NON RESIDENTS WITHIN MEEQAT
CONSULTING BOOKS FOR DETAILED KNOWLEDGE IS RECOMMENDED
LOCATION OUTSIDE MEEQAT
Ministry of Hajj and Awqaf for review and comments to ensure its credibility and accuracy. It was subsequently revised to reflect their comments. The popular chart was soon published in Dubai’s The Khaleej Times (1985, 1986 and 1987), Pakistan’s Dawn (1985) and India’s The Munsif [of Hyderabad] (1990). Newspapers in Malaysia and Bangladesh also requested copies. In 1995, ISNA published the chart in its bimonthly Islamic Horizons, a practice that it continued for several years. This very useful chart is now being uploaded on the internet to help those who consider it a big help in their attempt to develop a complete concept of the hajj process. ih
During summers, we see construction workers toiling under the blazing sun to make our highways safe for us to drive. It will be a nice gesture to keep with us an icebox with 24 bottles of water and give to them. You will see miles of smiles and appreciation and gratitude, and it costs less than $10. During winters a hot cup of coffee and snacks will be welcome. Such kindnesses will show that Muslims care for all the year-round. It will go a long way for our generations to come, and infinite rewards from Allah. Ameen. Dr. S.A. Rahman, M.D.
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 31
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Becoming the Solution Dr. Katherine Bullock, ISNA-Canada’s first female president, hopes to bring her community the solace, solutions and spirituality she first found with the organization decades ago BY HABEEBA HUSAIN
Christian woman who refused to convert before marrying her soon-to-be Muslim husband is now a devoted member of the faith and someone the rest of us now know as ISNA Canada’s first female president. Dr. Katherine Bullock’s introduction to ISNA began on her wedding day in her native Australia. When she and her fiancé ran into a roadblock with an imam about their union, they pointed out the president of ISNA-U.S. at the time was married to a Christian. If the leader of a national Muslim organization could do it, why couldn’t her fiancé? “That made me just fall in love with ISNA,” Bullock reminisces. “I was like, ‘Wow, this must be a really amazing, progressive tolerant organization.’” About a year and half later Bullock accepted Islam, and she and her husband became lifetime ISNA members in 1994. “I had a very, very positive and loving feeling toward this organization and a strong sense of loyalty,” she says. At the time of her conversion, Bullock was studying for her doctorate in political science. She soon began to lecture as a
professor and, 13 years later, she’s still going strong at the University of Toronto. She was involved with the campus MSA and found a lot of grounding in the organization as a new convert, for “It’s very confusing when you first become Muslim. Every time you go the mosque, so many people
are telling you what to do, and sometimes the advice is contradictory. You can feel very isolated from the society because suddenly the people who you were friends with, you can’t go out with them anymore because they’re going to the pub.” Bullock turned to the MSA and ISNA (at that time they were more integrated) to find solace in what she refers to as her “home away from home.” Any time she had a question, she could count on her fellow MSAers for an answer. It’s where she felt safe and guided. That on-campus involvement, paired with interactions with other Muslims at conferences and during halaqahs, “helped me with my spiritual journey — and it still is. It still is helping me.” After her initial wonderful first impression of ISNA, Bullock became a volunteer. In the mid-2000s she began working there as a media officer; however, she soon went on maternity leave and became busy. Between raising three boys, running her nonprofit research organization (The Tessellate Institute; http://tessellateinstitute.com) and founding her children’s book publishing company (Compass Books), she no longer had time for other endeavors. It wasn’t until four years ago that she delved back into the ISNA world. After some convincing from fellow members, Bullock ran and was elected to the board. After her term ended in December 2017, she was again convinced to run and subsequently was elected to her current post. This election is historic not only because of Bullock’s position, but also because the
CANADA IS A COUNTRY THAT REALLY PRIDES ITSELF ON ITS DIVERSITY AND ACCEPTING PEOPLE FROM ALL AROUND THE WORLD,” BULLOCK REMARKS. “I THINK IT’S APPROPRIATE FOR A NATIONAL ORGANIZATION TO REFLECT THAT KIND OF DIVERSITY. EACH [MEMBER] HAS A DIFFERENT INSIGHT INTO COMMUNITY NEEDS AND STRENGTHS AND CHALLENGES, SO HOPEFULLY IT MEANS WE CAN REALLY HELP ISNA-CANADA GROW TO BE AN ORGANIZATION THAT WILL BE RELEVANT IN THE COMING DECADES.”
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board is extremely diverse and well representative of the community it’s meant to serve. Khadija Saidi is the first female vice president, and the following people are board members: business lawyer Burhana Bello-Ayorinde, leadership coach Chihab Kaab, director of analytics and technology Michael Singh, aerospace engineer Nabeel Mirza, and businessman Usman Siddiqui. This group of seven includes three women, four men, and three converts. “Canada is a country that really prides itself on its diversity and accepting people from all around the world,” Bullock remarks. “I think it’s appropriate for a national organization to reflect that kind of diversity. Each [member] has a different insight into community needs and strengths and challenges, so hopefully it means we can really help ISNA-Canada grow to be an organization that will be relevant in the coming decades.” Bullock relates that a board like this “was a long time coming” and alludes to the comforts of familiarity as a potential hurdle in getting to this point. This investing in the names of already “known” people is a common occurrence in many spheres and not limited to ISNA. Even in politics, a candidate running for a second term in the U.S. Congress is roughly 90 percent more likely to get reelected than is a newcomer to get elected. But now the time has come for a diverse board reflecting a diverse community, with Bullock spearheading the way. She looks to past leaders for inspiration, one of them being Dr. Ingrid Mattson, the first female president of ISNA-U.S. In fact, “People often used to mistake me for her, so I’ve always had an affinity and identification with her. She pioneered the way for us, and so I look to her as an example.” In her new post, Bullock hopes to help Muslims feel free to practice their faith, contribute to the society at large and strengthen their community. Anti-Muslim sentiment is very prevalent today, and although Bullock says there is quite a difference between Canada having Justin Trudeau as prime minister and the U.S. having Donald Trump as president, the challenge remains. To combat this challenge, ISNA-Canada has launched a massive ISNA Listens campaign, consisting of small in-person engagement sessions with specific groups within the Muslim community, like the youth, elders and female leaders. Through this, Bullock says the organization hopes to acquire a better understanding of community needs and how ISNA can be a part of their solution. ISNA was a part of the solution Bullock needed to see her marriage enacted and during her confusing early years as a Muslimah. Today she has an opportunity to bring solutions through ISNA to others who are also struggling. “There is no success without Allah,” she states. “He is the one who brings you to where you’re at. He gave you the strengths that you have, but also brought to you challenges and trials for you to learn and grow through.” If she hadn’t encountered those trials in her early years, Katherine Bullock may never have been a part of the organization in which she found such solace, solutions and spiritual benefit. ih Habeeba Husain, a freelance journalist based in New York/New Jersey area, contributes to SLAM Magazine, blogs for Why-Islam and is a social media manager for WuduGear. Her work has also appeared on Narrative.ly and MuslimGirl.com, among other online and print publications.
Finding Zeyd Şakir
Another piece of the puzzle of my father’s life — the “American Black Muslim” — falls into place BY HALIL IBRAHIM YENIGUN
The author (left) meets with Imam Zaid Shakir.
ne does not often expect childhood mysteries to be solved through pleasant coincidences. Having lost my father Sedat when I was only two, his life has always been a puzzle and a constant source of inspiration. He was still a young journalist, teacher and activist who dreamed of big things for Turkey when he was assassinated at a barbershop. Having grown up in a conservative family environment as recent immigrants to Istanbul, he joined the National Turkish Student Union (Milli Turk Tarikat Birligi, MTTB) as its K-11 section’s founder and second president. In Turkey’s version of the events of 1968, political violence was just starting to hit the streets, targeting even peaceful, non-violent youth. Aged only 19, in 1969 he placed his best friend’s whiteshroud corpse in the grave. For the next 11 years, he became part of a struggle he saw as fighting against oppression and for justice and rights, which he thought could be realized only by leading a JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 33
ISLAM IN AMERICA life of faithful submission to God. Gradually moving from Turkish nationalism to adopting a cosmopolitan and egalitarian worldview, he became a dedicated writer, speaker, organizer and intellectual, apart from working as a high school teacher who used every occasion to spread his idealism. But all this ended when his idealistic, outspoken and written demands for a just order brought him to the attention of an
converts stationed at Incirlik airbase whom they befriended back in 1979. My father was very excited to have met them and enthusiastically invited them to my grandparent’s apartment for dinner. While interviewing the man, he focused on his conversion story and observations of Turkish society. Later on I would learn about this meeting through a piece my father had written in his Islami Hareket magazine, “From the American
NOT EVEN A YEAR HAD PASSED WHEN THE NEWS OF MY FATHER’S ASSASSINATION REACHED THE “AMERICAN BLACK MUSLIM,” AS MY FATHER CALLED HIM, AND HIS WIFE. DEVASTATED, THEY HELD A SMALL FUNDRAISER AMONG THE AIRBASE’S MUSLIMS AND CAME TO ISTANBUL TO OFFER THEIR CONDOLENCES. increasingly “deep state.” Just moments after his assassination, the news being circulated in the neighborhood was that a “communist” teacher had been shot to death. The predominantly ultranationalist residents living in that ultranationalist turf just went back to their business after a moment of confusion. The police never encircled the area, the prime witness (i.e., the barber) soon vanished into thin air and the case was never solved. The last couple of years of my father’s life were particularly interesting. His prolific and enthusiastic articles had made him a well-known public figure. The resurgence of Islam, which had become a matter of global interest especially due to events Afghanistan and Iran, was finding its reverberations in Turkey. The influence of Arab, Iranian and South Asian Muslim thinkers was ever increasing. Malcolm X had become an icon for the more and more cosmopolitan religious youth, following the enthusiastic reception of the translation into Turkish of Alex Haley’s “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (1965). “Roots” was already being aired on the national public TV channel. Almost every day my mother would tell me and my brother something about our father, for neither of us had any memory of him. Every once in a while she would talk about a couple of African-American
Black Muslim to Bokassa.” In it, he related the man’s story with Black Africa as a victim of colonization and exploitation and its regional politics at that time. As the encounter and article later made its way into my father’s posthumously published book, Notes of a Martyr, it had further aroused my curiosity. My father asked the convert what had stirred his interest in Islam, his impressions of Turkish society as a new Muslim as well as his views of American society. At that time, Adana was experiencing daily rightwing-leftwing violence. As they toured around the city through these dangerous quarters, they talked about what Islam could offer a politically polarized country like Turkey. Not even a year had passed when the news of my father’s assassination reached the “American Black Muslim,” as my father called him, and his wife. Devastated, they held a small fundraiser among the airbase’s Muslims and came to Istanbul to offer their condolences. Around a year later, they left Turkey and we heard nothing more of them. In 2000 my mother met Yamina Mermer, an international scholar with European and North American connections, at the wedding party of one of my friends. Thinking that she might know the long-lost “American Black Muslim” family, even though all she knew about them was that he had ended up
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as an imam somewhere in the U.S. and their first names: “Zeyd” and “Saliha.” She said that Yamina’s husband, Dr. Ali Mermer, an acquaintance of mine, could probably help us and would call me. He called me a couple of days later and suggested that I contact Professor Ibrahim Abu Rabi, who was very connected to the community leaders and imams. Knowing that I could hardly expect one professor to know about all of the imams in such a large country, I did as he suggested and was not too disappointed when I received no response. In 2001 I moved to the U.S. to pursue my Ph.D. in political science. I was really thrilled to experience a quite cosmopolitan religious life with its autonomous and self-governing mosques, independent scholars and centers, as well as nationwide conventions such as ISNA, and academic groups and institutions such as AMSS and IIIT. And so I tried to immerse myself in this new reality by joining MSA and serving as my university’s MSA president, later on as a board member at Islamic Society of Central Virginia and as the managing editor of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences for several years. Every once in a while my mother would ask me about “The American Black Muslim.” But the U.S. is so large, and I didn’t even know his full name. I returned to Turkey almost a decade later. By then, Istanbul had become a far more globalized and cosmopolitan city with highly acclaimed economic development. Part of the boom was the large number of new public and private universities, and I thought I would not mind working in one of them. On a hot summer afternoon in 2011, as I was reading the late Ibrahim Abu Rabi’s work and while organizing my father’s files in our family library, my mother called me and asked excitedly, “Do you recall the American Black Muslim?” She then related that she had received news from Adana that he had returned and was looking for us. I got quite excited, for meeting him would complete another piece of what had become a lifelong venture for me: the puzzle of my father. Whenever I meet people from his past, I would always be able to fill in another part of the puzzle. She told me, “Call this man at this number. He’s a mutual acquaintance of your father and that man, and he’s going to give you their number.” I did so immediately and, after some reminisces on his part and impatience on mine, he finally told me,
“He said his name is ‘Zeyd.’” Knowing the American spelling, I wrote “Zaid.” And then he gave me the missing piece: His last name is “Şakir,” which I wrote down as “Shakir.” I looked at the full name once again, and there it was. I cried, “Zeyd Şakir! You mean Zaid Shakir? No way! Are you telling me my father’s friend from 1979 is Imam Zaid Shakir?” Süleyman Bey, who does not speak English and seemed unaware of my excitement, replied, “I don’t know. But they say he is somewhat known in the U.S.” I put the phone down, took a deep breath, and called the number. I don’t remember exactly what I said beyond introducing myself as Sedat Yenigün’s younger son and continued, “I suppose you are the American Black Muslim that we have been talking about ever since I was a child. And you are Imam Zaid Shakir?” He replied, “Yes, I am.” Then I must have related what had happened to us after my father’s assassination in under just two minutes. As the purpose of the call was to arrange a meeting, we did that and then ended the conversation. It was a mixture of amazement and shock for me. Putting these last pieces of the puzzle would not be easy. I kept on saying to myself, “So, all those years, ‘the American Black Muslim’ my father had written about, and whom my mother had never stopped talking about, is Imam Zaid Shakir, for whom I have always felt love and respect?” And so we go way back with him and his wife, Saliha Shakir, even to the late 1970s. Who would ever have thought that this little known part of my family’s past would be the beginning of such an amazing family connection? In addition, my father’s interview with him would then be perhaps the first public interview Imam Zaid Shakir gave to a magazine, in Turkish, and never translated to English. Now I would eagerly wait for the day when they would come, to host them again in our family home — this time in Istanbul. ih Halil Ibrahim Yenigun earned his doctorate in comparative political theory at the University of Virginia, specializing in contemporary Muslim political thought. He is currently a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University’s Abbasi Center for Islamic Studies. In his native Turkey, he has worked and volunteered for various human rights organizations as well as independent educational organizations devoted to the free circulation of ideas.
Shia Sunni Dialog
Intra-faith Dialogue The prospects and challenges of a serious Sunni-Shia intra-faith dialogue BY ADITA ARYA
he Shia Muslim Council of Southern California (SMC), in collaboration with the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Bayan Claremont College, MPAC, and CAIR, hosted an academic seminar on “Sunni and Shia Islamic Thought: Prospects and Challenges” at the University of California Irvine, on April 28. Mehdi Reza Hirji, SMC treasurer, expressed that the purpose of the event was to “put aside our differences and come together.” Imam al-Qazwini summed up the purpose of the event as “A Celebration of Our Unity.” Among the panel of academic speakers were Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, former head of ISNA’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances in Washington, D.C., Dr. Liyakat Takim (McMaster University), a prolific author and speaker on many aspects of Islam, Dr. Najeeba Syeed (Claremont School of Theology), a recognized leader in peacebuilding who has twice received the Jon Anson Ford Award for reducing violence in schools and in the area of interracial gang conflicts and Dr. Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini (Shia Muslim Council), founder and imam of the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County (IECOC; http://iecoc.org). Among their many other achievements, all of them have long records of working for interreligious and intra-religious understanding. Dr. Hasnain Walji (United Global Initiative) and Dr. Sana Tayyen (University of Redlands) served as moderators. SMC president al-Qazwini opened the first session by announcing “we are not here to debate, but to discuss” and that “someone who is insulting one school of faith is insulting the entire religion.” Sayyid Syeed added, “Sunnis don’t know how to empower their minorities called Shia, and Shias don’t know how to empower their minorities called Sunni.” Najeeba Syeed utilized the innate force of mercy in Islam by asking, “Why are you and I not an embodiment of mercy (rahma) in our dealings with each other?” Takim highlighted the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alyah wa sallam) hadith: “The differences in my umma are a mercy from Allah” (Editor’s note: The veracity of this hadith is, however, doubted). He eloquently explained that the purpose of the word “dialogue” must be to transform us so that we can “enter the heart of the other or create space for the other in our hearts ... [however,] unity does not mean uniformity.” The second session allowed for Q&A. A summary of the issues raised follows. Q: What can be done to ensure that professors/speakers who promote misconceptions about the other groups are not promoted in our institutions? A: Takim: The only way to wipe this out is to allow each other to speak in each other’s mosques. Engage in self-definition — allow others to speak about their faith. JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 35
ISLAM IN AMERICA A: Imam al-Qazwini: We need to reach out ... and educate them. Q: Shias and Sunnis both believe in the coming of the Mahdi .... How can we make this a greater focus in our community? A: Sayyid M. Syeed: The U.S. Constitution is similar to the Madina Constitution, which was a fundamental part of Islam that has been lost by Muslim-majority countries. The model of Madina was pluralistic and allowed for differences. The U.S. has provided Muslims a new haven in which we can have religious freedom, and we need to unite and work together to have the same rights and to promote freedom for the underserved.
THE U.S. HAS PROVIDED MUSLIMS A NEW HAVEN IN WHICH WE CAN HAVE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, AND WE NEED TO UNITE AND WORK TOGETHER TO HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS AND TO PROMOTE FREEDOM FOR THE UNDERSERVED. — Sayyid Muhammad Syeed Q: What is the plan to bring Sunni and Shia together in order to move forward in America? A: Najeeba Syeed: People come from places of pain, and we need to recognize that our tradition has caused pain to others and be humble, apologize and ask for forgiveness ... without being apologetic of who we are. ... Who is benefitting from this conflict? Who is human? What is most sacred? Anytime there is a conflict, one group has to be dehumanized in order to justify violence against the other. We must outdo the propaganda by celebrating the peacemakers and amplifying the peace stories through social media or any other avenue. A: Imam al-Qazwini: We have different types of Islam. I believe we have a new type of American Islam ... religious pluralism. We need to learn from and share with each other, reach out to each other, respect each other and allow each other to practice the way that allows us to be different and celebrate the differences. We must allow our children to intermarry and promote relationships with intra-faith marriages. ih Adita Arya, who founded AIM Academy (2013), created and proposed a weekend school model for the Islamic Center of Irvine, is president and co-founder of Afghan Literacy Foundation and former director of the Pillars Academy Islamic School.
36 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2018
We Still Have a Long Way to Go How can we improve our Islamic schools? BY MAHA ELGENAIDI
he U.S. has a network of at least 270 full-time Islamic schools, 85 percent of which are 10 years old or less. Furthermore, at least 90 percent of their graduates go to college, according to a recent study (Sabith Khan and Shariq Siddiqui, Feb. 1, 2018, Cato Institute). Muslim educators can take pride in this achievement, especially because it’s vital to Islam’s survival here. The descendants of previous waves of Muslim immigrants were not so lucky, which speaks directly to the value and importance of setting up full-time Islamic schools and other institutions. Contrary to the Islamophobes’ claims, Islamic schools don’t make their students foreigners in their own land. A Boston University research team (“Inside US Islamic Schools”, 4.26.2016) that studied Islamic high schools found that their students were solidly confident of their identities both as Muslims and as Americans. As one student put it, “America is kind of like a melting pot. And to be able to blend in, you have to stand out, in a way. And I think faith gives you that edge.” In other words, Islam makes them not less but more American. Interestingly, this sentiment agrees with that of Will Herberg (1901-77), the sociologist of religion: “Today, unlike fifty years ago, not only Protestants, but increasingly Catholics and Jews… feel themselves to be Americans not apart from, or in spite of, their religion, but in and through it, and because of it” (“Protestant-Catholic-Jew,” 1955). Islamic schools are solidifying their students’ Muslim identity, but only 2 percent of our community’s children attend them. The Islamic Networks Group (ING; https://ing.org; est. 1993) and our affiliates around the country deliver thousands of presentations a year in public schools on Islam and Muslims. We supplement social studies curriculum related to the study of religion via our trained and certified adult Muslim speakers. More recently, we have been training middle and high school Muslims to take on this role as well. However, Islamic schooling as a whole should lead the way in producing
genuine Muslim Americans and thus help engender the distinctly ideal American and ideal Muslim that both the U.S. and the Muslim world so badly need these days. And here is where we can benefit from the experiences and best practices of Catholic and Jewish schools. Last year, ING had a Jewish American teenaged intern: “Avraham.” One of the most remarkable young men I’ve ever known, he was exemplary in his character and behavior, took his responsibilities seriously (but with a sense of humor), had a smile for every situation and never spoke ill of anyone. He was deeply grateful to be working for
reflection, collaboration, and identity.” This same school respects the community’s internal pluralism and embraces the full spectrum of contemporary American Judaism: from Orthodox to Reform and Renewal. As is the case with Islamic schools today, only a minority of Jewish children attends Jewish day schools. However, the same vision and values are carried over to weekend and after-school programs, where, by both preserving their identity and being unequivocally American, Jewish kids realize the deeper meaning of a pluralistic democracy that is not just a form of government, but a way of life.
WE NEED TO INCORPORATE THAT WHICH MAKES US MUSLIM AND AMERICAN — UNCOVERING THE VALUES AND IDEALS IN EACH IDENTITY, DISCOVERING THE PROFOUND HARMONY BETWEEN THEM AND LOOKING AT WAYS TO INSTILL THEM IN OUR CHILDREN AND MOSQUE-RUN WEEKEND SCHOOLS. ING, although he had to take several buses to reach the office. He did an excellent job on every assignment, respecting the adults around him and never taking his position for granted. Everyone, especially the other four Muslim interns, looked up to him and took him as an example. I witnessed this repeatedly over the ensuing two-month period. All of the Muslims had attended Islamic schools; two were or had been in full-time Islamic schools. “Avraham” is a product of Jewish education, which has over a century of experience here. It’s the story of immigrant Jewish educators who agreed upon a vision for the youth they wanted to develop in their new homeland: someone who was fully integrated into mainstream culture and embraced and lived by its ideals, while remaining connected to his or her roots, ethnic and religious identity, and the larger Jewish community. The education they developed was solidly rooted in Jewish values — a tradition that continues. For example, a Jewish day school I’m familiar with articulates its guiding values as “integrity, service, and kindness” and includes, as “values undergirding its curriculum and pedagogy,” “compassion, mutual respect, intellectual curiosity,
It is the Jews produced by this vision who made the community the success that it is today. Certainly the Jewish and American values inculcated ensured that Jews would be the first to oppose the refugee and Muslim bans, their leaders to proclaim that they would declare themselves Muslim if the government ever tried to register Muslims and that continue to maintain solidarity with our community. Do we have a similar vision of education for those of our students attending full-time or weekend Islamic schools? If we do, we need to go further. We need to incorporate that which makes us Muslim and American — uncovering the values and ideals in each identity, discovering the profound harmony between them and looking at ways to instill them in our children and mosque-run weekend schools. To create the ideal Muslim, a Muslim that other kids could look up to as an example, we should: • Teach not only creed or beliefs, but also and above all the value of loving God and the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and all of the earlier prophets, along with the appropriate dua and dhikr, both of which are powerful transformative tools.
• Teach that religious pluralism as God’s will, as attested to by dozens of Quranic verses. • Teach the pursuit of good, virtuous character and personal excellence — ihsan — and how to become a muhsin. Our kids need to see role models who are respectful of, kind toward and honest with everyone. • Teach the spiritual reasons and outcomes related to Islam’s rituals so that they become as natural as breathing. • Teach the basic, universal principles behind some of our teachings and rulings, such as a woman’s intention to wear hijab. • Teach Arabic in a way that enables students to unlock the Quran’s meanings for themselves. All graduates should be fluent in Arabic. • Teach why we have to care about those who are suffering, enjoining good and forbidding evil, bettering the local environment, taking part in social activism, engaging with our neighbors, volunteering and participating in civic organizations. To create the ideal American in our kids, we need to teach: • American history from the perspective of those who built it, for most certainly not all of them were Europeans. There were Native Americans, Black Americans, Chinese Americans, Mexican Americans and so many others. I think Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” (1980) should be required reading for all educators and students. • American values that are rooted in our form of democracy: freedom of thought and expression; pluralism in race, ethnicity, religion and politics; and civility in debate and disagreement. • American culture, from holidays and celebrations to food and music, including our own long presence here and our many contributions. I put these ideas forward to add to ongoing conversations or to initiate new ones about what kind of children we want to produce and what curriculum and pedagogical practices will enable us to achieve that goal. We want to develop a genuinely Muslim American character and a genuinely Muslim American character so that we can follow in the footsteps of the Prophet and his Companions (‘alayhum al rahma). ih Maha Elgenaidi is executive director of ING — which celebrates its 25th year anniversary this year —, a nonprofit organization with nationwide affiliates that pursues peace and counters all forms of bigotry, via education and interfaith engagement, while working within the framework of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom and pluralism.
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 37
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Muslimahs Helping Muslimahs in Need Our responsibility toward divorced and widowed Muslimahs BY SOMAYYAH GHARIANI
From top left: Margaret Farchtchi, Somayyah Ghariani, Salwa Medani, Rahat Ahmed, Dr. Ilham Altalib
t was the summer of 2014 when Ikram (The Foundation for Empowerment of Muslim Women; www.ikramus.org/ overview) began to provide funding for divorced or widowed Muslimahs interested in enrolling in education and skills development courses. Ikram is the result of a very passionate vision held by Iman Al-Shingieti (d. 2015), who, soon after graduating with a Master’s in social work, was hired as its executive director and went straight to work. This nonprofit organization is concerned with issues affecting the well-being of Muslimahs. While recognizing that all women — regardless of faiths (or lack thereof), nationalities and cultures — share many common struggles, its staff contend that certain issues are unique to Muslimahs living in the U.S. Ikram’s primary goal is to help divorced and widowed Muslimahs enhance their earning potential as they seek to establish new goals and explore new opportunities. Due to the staff ’s firm belief that education is the key to personal empowerment, educational grants are awarded to low-income clients to fund college degrees and vocational programs, as well as to obtain accreditation or certification courses (e.g., culinary, IT, cosmetology, and caregiver). It currently offers
the following programs: College/University Degree Seeking, Vocational Institutions, Interest-free Educational Loans, Student Loan Re-payment Assistance, Professional Accreditation and Certification Assistance, and Research Grants. Other services are also offered, such as groups that help women examine vulnerabilities, build confidence and self-esteem, explore options and set goals, as well as guide them through the application process and provide career counseling. Over the past four years, Ikram has helped over 50 women change their lives, not to mention the lives of their children and communities as a whole. During that time, it has dedicated over $250,000 to fund its clients’ degrees, certifications and other school-related expenses. Members recruit, retain and graduate clients and then guide them through the process. According to Somayyah Ghariani. “When we begin to approach this issue as a responsibility of our community, we approach it as a longterm investment in the future of our communities, rather than a one-time charitable donation. When the community supports these women, they are also supporting their children and empowering our community as a whole. Our clients are some of the most
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passionate, driven and dedicated women we have ever encountered. They come through our doors determined to take on the challenges they face from financial hardships, language barriers, raising their children and going back to school to get a better education. Here lies the true inspiration and reward of the work we do.” Intern Hiba AlNakhlawi documented the experience of “Sarah,” a story of one client’s strength and dedication: “Home is where the heart is, or so they say. She moved her home, uprooting the very thing that most people use as an anchor in their lives. She left it to chase her American dream, to better herself after the passing of her husband. She made this bold decision, hoping that she would be able to provide a new life for her children. Not knowing what lay ahead, she persevered. “Life in America was not easy — it was like a puzzle whose pieces did not fit together. Unable to find a job, she continued applying day after day, going from one interview to another. She struggled to find a job as an immigrant in a country that seemed to have turned its backs on foreigners. Little did she know that things would soon turn in her favor. “Defeated, she was beginning to lose faith that her American dream would ever come true. Her old diploma wasn’t valid here, and her kids were relying on her more than ever. That’s when things started to look up. Overhearing a conversation, she was introduced to the Ikram Foundation. After explaining her journey and ambitions, she finally found an outlet that could actually help her. Going back to school in accounting, she eventually received her degree, which later would open more than one door. Working hard every day, studying and taking care of her family, she made it. “Taking another shot at job applications, one day she found a job that meant more than just a career. It meant that her American dream was coming true, and nothing at that moment was more important to her. Not only did she find work, but she found two stable jobs that allowed her to support herself and her family. She is living proof that hard work and dedication pay off. She is the American dream come true.” Ikram works every day to make more stories like this possible. But none of this would be have been possible without such
early visionaries like Iman, who made it possible for Ikram to be up and running today by helping lay the groundwork and believing in the community’s collective responsibility to empower and change the lives of Muslimahs. Due to her resilience and dedication, Ikram now supports the dreams of many divorced and widowed women. The Muslim community is forever indebted to her — for her ability to push for a better tomorrow and make women’s dreams become a reality.
HAVING SOMEONE BELIEVE IN YOUR DREAMS AND HELP YOU ACHIEVE THEM IS THE GREATEST GIFT ANYONE CAN GIVE, AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT IKRAM IS WORKING TO DO. To really understand what the organization does today, one must first unlock its rich history. In the beginning, qualified women came together to fix a problem about which no one else was talking. These women were (and still are) feminist icons who not only excelled in their own lives, but also made it possible for other women to excel. They are the powerhouses that make sure that our community is taken care of, regardless of how small their issues might seem to be to others. With that framework in place, Ikram continues to acquire new clients and assist existing ones. Understanding that pursuing an education generates various hardships, Ikram does its best to alleviate some of them so that furthering one’s education becomes more accessible to our women — some of our community’s most valuable assets. No matter how strong a person is, everyone needs a support system, and Ikram is ready to be a leading organization that supports our future generations. Having someone believe in your dreams and help you achieve them is the greatest gift anyone can give, and that’s exactly what Ikram is working to do. Our clients have become small business owners, accountants, therapists and educators. They are using their degrees to work at some of our country’s top institutions. They are refugees, mothers and daughters, all of whom will pave the way for a stronger community, inshaAllah. Over the years, Ikram has established partnerships with the ADAMS Center, FAITH Social Services, Salma Abugideiri (a licensed professional counselor), Peaceful Families Project, KARAMAH, The Fairfax Institute and BAU International University. Interested in donating? Follow the “Donate” link at www.ikramus.org. If you know anyone that can benefit our services, please reach out to us at email@example.com or call 703-505-1950. ih Somayyah Ghariani, current executive director at Ikram Foundation, has over 10 years of experience in nonprofit work and holds a B.A. in psychology & communications from George Mason University. She is certified as a mental health first responder by the Khalil Center.
The world we live in is constantly evolving and ISNA is committed to being a positive driver of change. ISNA has long recognized the importance of engaging with other faith communities as a fundamental part of its mission, and therefore, we continuously host and participate in interfaith events, meetings and webinars to educate our friends, partners, officials and activists about Islam. These interreligious initiatives have helped break down barriers of misunderstanding, formed genuine partnerships of faith and ethics, and established a platform to advocate for social justice issues for the common good. We aim to work together to fight Islamophobia and share knowledge about the true teachings and understanding of our religion in all sectors. The gift of education has a ripple effect—it creates change locally, nationally and globally. Ignorance is our enemy, and with your support we can make a difference. Please donate to ISNA today.
P.O. Box 808 • Plainfield, IN 46168 • (317) 839-8157 www.isna.net •
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 39
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Muslim Foster Care Becomes a Reality in Our Community After 20 years of effort, the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s Muslims finally have a foster care program BY M. BASHEER AHMED
n the mid-1990s, child protective services (CPS) removed two children from a Muslim Albanian family in Dallas on charges of sexually inappropriate behavior: The father was seen kissing his young child in a public park. As chairman of the Muslim Community Center for Human Services (MCC), I asked Governor George W. Bush that the children be placed with a Muslim family. His office responded that CPS could find no registered Muslim foster parents in the area. This embarrassing situation led me to appeal to the community to become foster parents — 50 people responded. Five couples signed up for the training schedule, and all of them dropped out after only two or three classes. All of our
subsequent attempts shared the same fate.
WHAT IS A FOSTER CARE PROGRAM? A foster care program is for children who may need a temporary or extended foster care after being removed from their parents due to neglect or abuse. The program’s primary goal is to ultimately reunite both parties. Foster care parents work with biological parents who receive parenting training and/or anger management training with the help of CPS, trains and guides biological parents in caring for their children (e.g., feeding, clothing and medical care) and then reunites them with their children. If this proves impossible, the court can terminate “parental rights” and order the
40 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2018
children to be prepared for permanent placement with relatives or non-related adoptive families. The state maintains all legal guardianship during this period. Adoption is a controversial issue among Muslims, for the Quran defines identity by blood: “And He has not made your adopted sons [/daughters] your [true] sons [/daughters]. That is [merely] your saying by your mouths, but God says to call them by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of God. But if you do not know their fathers — then there is no blame upon you. And those of [blood] relationship are more entitled [to inheritance] in the decree of God, except that you may do to your close associates a kindness [through bequest]” (33:4-6).
Current research shows that secrets are not a good way to hide an identity from an adopted child or for any relationship. According to Islamic law, adopted children have no right to an inheritance, but can be left whatever the adopter designates in his/her will. As both Islamic and American civil law accept this, adoption should not be a problem for Muslims. Child abuse and neglect is common all over the world. Some 37 percent of American children are reported to CPS by their 18th birthday (http://www.invisiblechildren.org). According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, 49 states reported a total of 1,585 child fatalities (2015) — the second leading cause of death after accidents. Sexual abuse, which occurs frequently, is less often reported. By 1968, 50 states had enacted child abuse and neglect reporting laws. Abuse includes any form of physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, sexual abuse is any form of sexual contact and neglect means leaving the child exposed to a substantial risk of harm. Many Muslim child abuse victims get placed in non-Muslim foster homes due to the lack of Muslim foster parents. Muslims must organize and be prepared to intervene, consult Muslim lawyers to help the affected family and use the available psychiatrists, social workers and psychologists to help to bridge the gap between the accused family and the CPS workers by educating them about the Muslim culture and religion.
A FEW CASE EXAMPLES FROM TEXAS ❶ A 10-year old Muslim girl told her teacher that her stepfather was touching her inappropriately. The teacher, as required by state law, informed CPS and the caseworker visited her home
and removed all four children — aged 9 months, 2 years, 8 years and 10 years. ❷ Two children were removed when a neighbor notified CPS of physical abuse, which was later confirmed by visiting the home, interviewing and examining the children. ❸ Four children were removed after repeated incidents of neglect: One child fell and broke his arm, a 4-year-old was found wandering on the streets and another child almost drowned in the bathtub. ❹ A child who fell off the top of the dryer while its mother was loading the washing machine was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. A hospital social worker reported the case, and the child was removed due to negligence. ❺ In my personal practice, I have seen a few young women who suffer from depression and have a history of sexual abuse by close relatives. They never reported it, due to feelings of guilt and shame. In one case, when the girl reported the abuse to her mother and grandmother, they strictly advised her to keep quiet and blamed her for not telling the truth. This particular patient suffered from chronic depression with suicidal tendencies.
WHY MUSLIMS FAMILIES RESIST BECOMING FOSTER PARENTS Muslims immigrants had no concept of foster care due to their societies’ traditional extended family systems. Orphans and neglected children are raised in orphanages established by philanthropists until they can support themselves or get married. Moreover, male relatives are responsible for taking care of and protecting them. No laws related to child abuse or neglect exist, and sexual abuse is often a family secret due to feelings of guilt and shame. Muslim families feel strange and uncomfortable
about taking care of children they don’t know or with whom they have had no previous relationship. They also perceive difficulties in handling children with behavioral problems or a history of sexual abuse, as well as the possibility that foster and biological children may not get along. Thus, a significant number of Muslim foster kids all over
non-Muslim foster home. MCC for Human Services sought funding for a full- or part-time social worker to recruit and support the family during the foster care training process and to remove the misunderstandings and myths related to fostering. The organization contacted a national philanthropist organization that had a local office
period of time. They approved funding for a Muslim caseworker to recruit Muslim foster care parents. She approached several area mosques and spread the word about the need for foster care parents. We started getting calls, and some families signed up for the necessary training. Having a caseworker devoted to this particular task proved
MUSLIMS IMMIGRANTS HAD NO CONCEPT OF FOSTER CARE DUE TO THEIR SOCIETIES’ TRADITIONAL EXTENDED FAMILY SYSTEMS. ORPHANS AND NEGLECTED CHILDREN ARE RAISED IN ORPHANAGES ESTABLISHED BY PHILANTHROPISTS UNTIL THEY CAN SUPPORT THEMSELVES OR GET MARRIED. MOREOVER, MALE RELATIVES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR TAKING CARE OF AND PROTECTING THEM. the U.S. have been placed with non-Muslim families. And as we all know, the number of Muslim refugee children continues to increase. The Quran urges Muslims to provide shelter for orphans and children (93:6) and to assume responsibility for those children in need (2:67 2:147, 4:36 and 107:1-7). As Sahl ibn Sa‘d reported: “The Prophet said, ‘The one who cares for an orphan and myself will be together in Paradise like this,’ and he held his two fingers together to illustrate (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 5659). In Dallas, MCC for Human Services tried to recruit foster parents by providing information and education in the local mosques and community centers, but again failed. In 2015, CPS removed four children aged 4 to 11. The father (Pakistani origin) had killed their mother (due to domestic violence) and was imprisoned. Initially, the grandparents took them in, only to die within a few months. The children were then placed in a
in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. An agreement was reached to sponsor and fund a caseworker position for the project. This was followed up with a workshop on child abuse where presentations were made to interested imams, community leaders and interested families. Texas laws on reporting child abuse, the role of CPS and the dire need for Muslim foster parents were also explained. There was general support for this project; however, two weeks after the event the organization informed us that legal and fiduciary considerations did not allow them to pay the salary of an intern or a social worker. I later learned that some imams were concerned that this project may lead to the recruitment of adoptive parents, which is not permissible in Islam. Although disappointed and disheartened, I continued my efforts. Through my interfaith contacts, I called the CEO of a foster home agency and requested funding for a limited
to be very helpful because she supported the families at every step and clarified the existing misconceptions, such as having to take any CPS-referred child or being unable to change their minds after a child is placed in their home. The Muslim case worker remained with us until the last part of 2016, when we had seven families who were ready for training. After the funding ended from the foster care agency, we contacted another area agency that agreed to provide the required training and MCC assigned a staff member to help the families through the process. By now 20 more families were interested. Our staff continued to make presentations at local mosques. By the end of 2018, we expect to have enough trained foster parents to satisfy our community’s needs. A dedicated paid staff member is necessary for the success of the project. ih M. Basheer Ahmed M.D. is founder and chairman emeritus MCC for Human Services.
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 41
MUSLIMS IN ACTION
Behind the Touchdowns in a Hijab The first hijabi at NFL headquarters
magine raising your hand in a classroom of 3,000 people and actually getting called on. That’s what it’s like to apply for an internship at the National Football League (NFL) — and a young Muslimah named Ameena Soliman got the call. A graduate student at Temple University in North Philadelphia where she currently lives, Ameena is getting her master’s degree in sports business. But that’s not all — she also holds a full-time position as a player personnel assistant at the NFL headquarters in New York City. If her commute time doesn’t show her commitment to the position, then nothing else will: She currently shuttles 2 1/2 hours each way. So how, exactly, does a young hijabi manage to snag a position coveted by thousands across the country? No, she didn’t have any special connections or send in a gimmicky application video. Ameena says that her current position today is the result of hard work. In a male-dominated industry that has acknowledged its need for increasing diversity and including women in football, hiring women is the first step. According to the NFL’s own data about 45 percent of football fans are women, and yet women currently make up only 30 percent of the corporate staff. In 2017, the NFL hosted a Women’s Careers in Football Forum in Orlando to help bring more women into the world of football. As a new pre-med undergraduate student at Temple, Ameena wanted to work with the football team but wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She started by emailing the coach, and her interest helped her land an operations and recruiting position that basically touched on every part of the game — configuring player’s class schedules, catering team events, planning travel and more — except the actual playing. Despite the workload, she “loved interacting with people
and I got to know the players, coaches, their wives, the academic office … that was my favorite part.” Having her interest sparked, she switched from pre-med to finance and marketing with a focus on sports. In 2016, during the summer before her senior year, Ameena applied for an internship with the NFL in New York City. Like the thousands of other applicants, she submitted it online and hoped for the best. And after a grueling series of interviews, she was chosen. In 2017, as a graduate student at Temple, a colleague at the NFL whom she had met during her internship encouraged her to apply for an open position at the headquarters. Despite her exhausting schedule and
EVERYONE SUPPORTED HER WHEN SHE WAS PREMED, SHE RELATES, BUT WHEN THEY FIND OUT SHE’S IN SPORTS SHE HEARS “YOU HAD SO MUCH POTENTIAL” AND “WHY’D YOU SWITCH TO SPORTS?” UNFORTUNATELY, THEY DON’T SEE WHAT HER JOB MEANS TO WOMEN, ESPECIALLY HIJABIS. “I’M STILL TRYING TO PROVE MYSELF,” EVEN THOUGH SHE REALLY SHOULDN’T HAVE TO.
42 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2018
PHOTO BY SHEFA AHSAN
BY RUBINA ALI
knowing that she’d probably be competing against hundreds (maybe thousands) of other qualified applicants, she did so. In December 2017, Ameena announced her new job at the NFL on Twitter and received encouragement and support from Temple’s coaches and players. Fast-forward to spring 2018, and this hijabi is working for the NFL, a boy’s club known for its lack of diversity, which has even instilled certain hiring practices in the organization. For example the Rooney Rule, an NFL policy, requires all teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and senior football operation openings. While the NFL should be applauded for instilling Rooney, it’s there because it’s trying to fight still-existing bad hiring practices. Minorities and women have had a hard time getting their foot in the door, but it’s definitely changing — and Ameena has helped pave the way. It doesn’t matter what she looks like or what she wears, only that she’s a hardworking person who’s good at her job. As Ameena explains, “I don’t use religion or hijab as a crutch.” She says that the scarf doesn’t hold her back and that she doesn’t want it to hold back any other young Muslimahs who want to pursue their dreams. But from where did Ameen’s love of football come? She says that as a young girl she’d watch football with her cousins, and that’s probably when she got into the game. Her cousins were New York Giants fans; however,
MUSLIMS IN THE MINISTRY
Rubina Ali, who has passion for reading and writing, owns the online Alina’s Boutique that sells Islamic books and gifts.
Seeing the Human in Everyone Clinical pastoral education fits with the prophetic purpose of mercy BY NORA ZAKI
Chaplain (Lt. Col. ) Ibraheem Abdur-Raheem at Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, Wash., where he is a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Supervisor-in-Training, which is a one year certification for chaplains who wish to perform ministry in a hospital setting.
n pursuit of my interest in university chaplaincy, I completed my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) from Aug. 2017 to Jan. 2018 at Tampa General Hospital, as the program’s first Muslim student. Although CPE is located in a hospital setting, the skills gained from it would be excellent training for chaplaincy and pastoral care in any environment. My 800 hours of combined clinical and class time as a hospital chaplain challenged me in so many ways and engendered so much anxiety within me that I wanted to quit in the middle of it. I am a visible Muslimah chaplain. I have struggled at work with my pastoral/spiritual authority due to my not being a health professional, because many Muslim Americans, especially Arab Americans, are in the medical field (and I am half Arab). But I have finally realized that a hospital chaplain is part of the medical field — healing is physical,
emotional, psychological and spiritual. While I am not a physician, I have earned a Master of Divinity, which makes me a trained chaplain, in addition to the CPE clinical hours. The stories I’ve heard from patients — the traumas and tears, snot and blood — all of them have moved me. Hospital chaplains are nicknamed “intimate strangers” and “wounded healers.” The resiliency, perseverance and hope that most patients, doctors, nurses and staff embody is constantly amazing. On one of my visits, I was able to comfort an immigrant Hispanic family whose mother had just died from stage 4 cancer. The pain and tears I saw in the eyes of her three children and husband hurt my heart. I talked with a 70-year old white Christian man, whom some would have labeled a “redneck,” as he cried and cried, telling me about his intubated wife lying on the hospital bed. A 94-year old Jewish
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 43
PHOTO: (C) MADIGAN ARMY HOSPITAL, FORT LEWIS /MCCORD, TACOMA, WASH.
Philadelphia-born and raised Ameena knew that that wasn’t going to work. “I decided I was going to be an Eagles fan,” she jokes. She also adds that she only attended her first NFL game this year. Of course she’s often asked if she plays football. Ameena admits that except for a couple of flag football games with friends, her skills on the field are pretty limited. But that doesn’t take away from her skills in the office. In a recent interview with CBS News, NFL head of hiring John Quinones shared some advice on how to stand out: “Loving football is not really a qualification. Writing about how much they love the game doesn’t really create a reason to hire someone. I never ask candidates if they’re fans. I am far more interested in their skills and their potential to grow with us.” When people first find out that Ameena works for the NFL, they immediately want to know who she’s met that’s famous — it’s her chance to name drop. But those who Ameena considers “celebrities” aren’t who you’d think. Instead of naming players, she talks excitedly about meeting Eagles head coach Andy Reid (1999-2012) and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Clearly she isn’t there to meet famous people; she truly loves the game and is in awe of the people who’ve shaped its history. As more friends and family are finding out about her job, the support has been a little wavering as people try to understand it. Everyone supported her when she was pre-med, she relates, but when they find out she’s in sports she hears “you had so much potential” and “why’d you switch to sports?” Unfortunately, they don’t see what her job means to women, especially hijabis. “I’m still trying to prove myself,” even though she really shouldn’t have to. In an industry that would not have been so welcoming even a decade ago, Ameena has found a way to follow her dreams without sacrificing her identity as a Muslimah. To young Muslims who want to pursue their dreams, Ameena says, “Focus on what you’re doing and everything will come.” Evidently, that dedication and perseverance worked for her. This won’t be the last time you’re going to hear about Ameena Soliman. And to those concerned about her commute — don’t worry, she’s planning to move closer to her job in New York City later this year. ih
MUSLIMS IN THE MINISTRY woman and Holocaust survivor encouraged me as a young chaplain, and an 80-year-old Indian Hindu woman who had no family to visit her wanted me to listen with her to Hindi songs on her old laptop. A grieving African American family welcomed me by saying, “You are part of the family now — stay with us,” as they watched their uncle in palliative care slowly deteriorate. I was grateful to be able to listen to these patients’ sacred stories and simultaneously share in various emotions with them.
races and medical conditions has taught me: Humble yourself and see the human in them. In 80:42, God calls out Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) for not speaking to a poor, blind man who had a question about Islam while he was trying to explain Islam to a rich Makkan tribal chief. God reminded him that the blind’s man heart was pure and that he wanted to learn about Islam, whereas the Prophet naturally wanted to reach out to this very influential person and convince him
THE PROPHET EMBEDDED SO MUCH MERCY NOT ONLY FOR HUMANS, BUT ALSO FOR NON-HUMAN CREATIONS LIKE ANIMALS AND THE ENVIRONMENT. Islam encourages people to be introspective (mujahada al-nafs) and call ourselves to account. CPE is an introspective experience, for giving full care to our patients causes us to ask ourselves about our own potential bigotry and bias. In the words of Michael Jackson, we must look at the “man in the mirror.” Our leaders need to monitor the self constantly. This is what a CPE experience of meeting patients from various religions,
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to accept Islam so that his task of spreading it would become easier. In other words, every seeker of truth is important, even if that person is weak or poor, and that every person who is heedless of the truth is unimportant, even if that person holds a prominent social position. It is sometimes hard to be merciful, compassionate and forgiving to people. In fact, some patients have rejected me because I am a Muslim — a reaction that hurts my ego. Every chapter but one in the Quran begins with “In the Name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate.” The Arabic word for mercy, rahma, is derived from the word for womb. The Prophet embedded in people's hearts and minds so much mercy not only for humans, but also for non-human creations like animals and the environment. Muslims furthermore believe that all prophets were sent as shepherds to learn what it is like to have concern for and empathize with others, of getting used to isolation and solitude, since they will later call people to God. The Prophet is described in a Quranic verse as feeling sorrow for the suffering that he saw his followers endure. When I shared my CPE experiences with a friend in Kashmir, he shared the following reflection with me: “The other day I was pondering upon the Prophet’s du’a. Well, I found him in a continuous state of mental struggle. But the good news is that I found him highly focused. Everything is seen against the backdrop of tawhid (God’s oneness). Many times
I thought that he should not make du’a for such small things, because he stands as the Messenger of God. But look at him. Allow me to rephrase this. Look at his sublimity and humility. Being so close to tawhid, I found him too busy to guard his own head and heart. I found him, like us, having fears, struggles, sensitivities and so on. But unlike us, I found him immersed in du’a. Du’a at times of happiness, du’a at times of struggle, du’a at times of fear ... for him, du’a is all about humility, hope and courage…” My friend’s reflection really touched me about how we, as Muslims, also need to recognize the prophets’ humanness, rather than always putting them on a pedestal, as if they had no issues. Furthermore, we must remind ourselves to put our full trust (tawwakul) in God. At the hospital, I did my best to empathize with everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. After all, the Prophet was sent as a mercy to the “worlds,” which means not only Muslims but all of humanity. What was rewarding about CPE was being present for everyone. I fear that many contemporary Muslims are “identity Muslims” — overly concerned with the outer appearance of a headscarf and/or ‘abaya or a long beard — instead of the inner excellence of the soul, namely, worshipping God as if you see Him and, although you cannot see Him, knowing that He sees you (ihsan). There is nothing wrong with these outer expressions if the intention is to please Him. But have we forgotten about coming to God with a sound heart, as referenced in: “The Day (of Judgment) where wealth nor children will benefit anyone except the one who comes to God Most High with a sound heart (qalb salim)” (26:88-89)? Visiting and being present with the sick in the hospital is one way to soften the heart and to be reminded of this earthly life’s fragility and temporality, as well as of what matters: being merciful to others as God is merciful to us, and striving in His way by worshipping Him in the best possible manner and serving others. As the Prophet said: “The best of people are those who benefit others” (Khayr al-nas man yanfa’ al-nas) (Daraqutni). ih Nora Zaki is a graduate of the University of Chicago’s Master of Divinity program, where she specialized in Islamic studies, Arabic and chaplaincy. She writes for an interfaith blog, State of Formation, and is an Arabic-English editor for the interfaith publishing company Fons Vitae.
MUSLIMS IN THE MINISTRY
The Emergence of Muslim American Chaplaincy Our community needs more trained and licensed chaplains BY ABDUL-RASHEED MUHAMMAD
The author, third from left, front row, with chaplains at the 2017 ISNA Convention
ne Quranic verse highlights the chaplain’s mission: “O humanity! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily, the most honored in God’s sight is the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)” (49:13). These specially trained, gifted religious leaders have been called to serve in hospitals, universities, prisons, the armed services and among emergency responders, police and fire department staff. They serve people regardless of their faith or lack thereof, and often assist and support those searching for real meaning and purpose in their lives for the first time or perhaps who may have lost faith. The chaplain often serves as the first responder to tragedy, grief and loss and notifies the family of a family member’s or a loved one’s death. The three most influential chaplaincies affecting Muslim Americans are those in the military, prisons and hospitals.
ISNA AND MUSLIM CHAPLAINS Since 1992, ISNA has been the leading Islamic endorsing agency for these emerging chaplaincies. Although a growing and prominent profession within several American institutions, chaplaincy remains a relatively unfamiliar profession to many Muslim Americans. Today, ISNA endorses 41 chaplains, chaplain candidates and lay
leaders. They are a very diverse group of men and women from multi-ethnic backgrounds and experiences. Some are trained and certified in other related professional areas (e.g., mental health and substance abuse, clinical pastoral education, marital and family counseling, crisis intervention and domestic violence). All have obtained master’s degrees; a few have doctorates.
WHO IS A CHAPLAIN AND WHAT IS CHAPLAINCY? A chaplain is a religious leader assigned or called to minister to not only those in their respective congregations, but at times they may provide spiritual care services to others outside their faith group. In absence of a chaplain, occasionally a lay representative, with less experience and training within a religious tradition, can be called on to perform certain rites or rituals of their own faith. These semi-professionals are often sought after when there is a shortage of chaplains of various faith groups. According to the “Encyclopedia Britannica,” this early Christian concept describes a chaplain as “originally a priest or minister who had charge of a chapel, now an ordained member of the clergy who is assigned to a special ministry.” Chaplains not only bring healing and hope to those they serve, but often bring real meaning and purpose to their congregants, as well as the lives of many others. The U.S. was founded upon
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principles, in part established by those fleeing religious persecution in Europe. According to historian Paul Johnson, “[America’s] first Christian inhabitants were only too anxious to explain what they were doing and why ... in a way, the first American settlers were like the ancient Israelites. They saw themselves as active agents of divine providence (“Does Human Rights Need God?,” eds. Elizabeth M. Bucar and Barbra Barnett, 2005). Today, he adds, “it is generally accepted that more than half the American people still attend a place of worship over a weekend, an index of religious practice unequaled anywhere in the world, certainly in a great and populous nation.” Despite being a Christian term, chaplain is now applied to non-Christian religious leaders as well. Imams are often referred to as imam, chaplain or both. This is often determined by the situation. For example, local Iraqi Muslims always called me Imam Muhammad because this was the only reference they had for a Muslim religious leader. However, the majority of non-Muslims typically refer to me as chaplain or padre (commonly used by those of the Catholic tradition). Such terminology doesn’t offend me, as it is generally intended to be an inclusive term of endearment and respect. The foremost attributes of a good chaplain are excellent communication skills, listening being of uppermost importance for those who generally seek chaplains as first responders for counseling or consultation. Effective communication normally enables chaplains to build and establish trust with their clients/patients. Chaplains must also be able to meet the people where they are, not where he/she thinks they should be or would like them to be. This ability enables them to establish the quality of “relationship” unequalled in any of the other helping professions — a claim substantiated in a joint 2011 Department of Defense and Department Affairs research project titled, “Chaplaincy and Mental Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense.” This is particularly true when a client/ patient may be suffering from the effects of mental illness often found in service members and veterans that have experienced the traumas of serving in a combat zone. Those who have dealt with mental health problems certainly turn to clergy for many of the same reasons as non-military personnel — for example, familiarity and convenience,
TODAY, ISNA ENDORSES 41 CHAPLAINS, CHAPLAIN CANDIDATES AND LAY LEADERS. THEY ARE A VERY DIVERSE GROUP OF MEN AND WOMEN FROM MULTI-ETHNIC BACKGROUNDS AND EXPERIENCES. reduced stigma, accessibility during times of crisis and shared spiritual or religious world view. For Service members, the chaplain can serve as a spiritual advisor who ensures the provision of religious observances and as being a trusted confidant. Many Service members might be reluctant to seek care from a mental health professional for fear of stigma or negative impact on their career; however, they are often willing to turn to a chaplain for help. Another issue is the expectation of confidentiality. This is more specific to military chaplains, but could sometimes include correctional facility chaplains. Most chaplains across the profession’s full spectrum grant complete confidentiality, except when doing so might cause harm to self or others. This “sacred” trust between the chaplain and client often enables military and prison clients to seek out chaplains for emotional and spiritual support. As was previously mentioned, the very nature of military service often exposes many Service members to distinct challenges and emotional strains that can have consequences for moral, spiritual and religious functioning. The availability or presence of chaplains can often ameliorate these human concerns.
THE MANY UNIQUE QUALIFICATIONS OF CHAPLAINS Although many Muslim chaplains serve as imams, not all imams are qualified to be chaplains. Because chaplains are typically trained to serve diverse population groups in pluralistic institutional settings, they’re generally willing to make temporary sacrifices other religious leaders are unwilling or unable to make. This generally means that chaplains are at times required to cooperate without compromising their own faith, yet must demonstrate professionally the ability to respect the beliefs, values and opinions of others outside of their faith tradition. Chaplains are also forbidden to either consciously or intentionally proselytize those of other faith traditions; however, they should be ready and willing to listen to and respect
their clients/patients’ spiritual background and needs. If a patient wants to learn from either the chaplain’s faith journey or spiritually venture beyond where the person may be at that time, then the Muslim chaplain can, as Allah revealed in the Qur’an, “Invite them (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching. And argue with then in ways that are best and most gracious, for your Lord knows best who has strayed from His Path and who has received true guidance” (16:125). When I served as a military chaplain, I was often asked, “How difficult has it been for me to provide pastoral services to non-Muslims? “My response was consistent, “Doing so was only as difficult as the patients’ willingness to accept me as their chaplain.” The challenges and rewards went together. Most people will initially accept a chaplain of any faith, particularly when he/she is sincere and willing to meet and address their needs. In order to meet the client/patient’s religious/spiritual needs, the chaplain also serves as the spiritual advocate or religious liaison for their clients/patients. The military chaplaincy, either performs or provides for these R/S needs of their clients and are often successful in accomplishing this mission. For example, an imam “performs” the Friday congregational prayer for the unit’s Muslims. Yet, if an imam visits a Catholic soldier/client and learns the latter wishes to take communion, he “provides”, i.e., locates a priest to conduct this religious ritual. Within their institutional settings, chaplains are designated as the subject matter experts in all matters pertaining to religion and spiritual care for all clients/patients, family members and staff assigned to them. Muslim Americans are slowly accepting this profession as a viable way of providing religious and/or spiritual support, especially when Muslim chaplains are not available within the local unit or area or operation. Due to a current shortage of Muslim chaplains, as a potential recruitment effort it would be helpful if local mosques and Islamic centers invited
our Muslim chaplains to share their story with their congregations and answer any questions or concerns related to the chaplaincy profession. In addition, there is also a need for an American Muslim seminary. In my opinion, such an institution is long overdue. A community-based Islamic seminary could bring many benefits to Muslim Americans as well as Americans in general. This is only possible if our Muslim community is willing to take the lead in what could be perceived as a monumental community-based effort. It could also be another voice to combat the current social trend of Islamophobia.
ICSD AND THE NATION’S NUMBER ONE ISLAMIC ENDORSING AGENCY Similar to their chaplain peers, Muslim chaplains are often known as “the face of Islam.” They’re not only the primary spiritual advocates for Muslims, but they also collaborate with multiple professional staff on matters pertaining to Islam and any related religious accommodations required by Muslim congregants within these various institutions. Often included are the following religious and spiritual accommodations associated with Muslim patients/clients: procuring halal meals and products, medical issues influenced by Islamic law, designated or neutralized prayer areas, worship requirements during Ramadan and the two Eids, multiple Islamic-focused counseling services, the need for hijabs and jilbabs (especially during prayers), and continuous religious education and professional development.
ISLAMIC CHAPLAINCY SERVICES DEPARTMENT (ICSD)
Mission Statement: To accommodate the free exercise of religion by providing spiritual care to all people within American institutions who desire the same, without compulsion or cohesion. Vision Statement: To assist Muslims and people of other faiths or of no faith backgrounds pursue their religious and/or spiritual beliefs and practices according to the Qur’an and Sunnah, as well as being in accord with federal regulations and policies related to religious accommodations within American institutions. Mutual Consultation Services: The Islamic Fiqh Council of North America provides religious consultation. Its current president is Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui. ih Chaplain Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, MS, MSW, BCC, is director of ISCD and an Islamic Endorsing Agent.
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 47
Deir Yassin to Netanyahu: Are We Closer to Liberation? Isolationist societies cannot survive in a globalized world BY MAZIN QUMSIYEH
n April 8, 1948, my mother’s friend Hayah Balbisi (both at the time school teachers in Jerusalem) chose to go back to her village of Deir Yassin. That was the last time my mother saw her. In early 2017, a dying friend born in India and made a refugee during the 1947 Partition (of the Indian subcontinent) gave my mother a framed photograph of Hayah that he had found on the Internet. Both of their eyes teared up for this woman, who would have been their age had she lived. That friend, Mohammed Abdulqavi (affectionately known as Qavi), died soon after and realized his dying wish: to be buried in Palestine. My mother, now 86, has seen it all — from the Nakba (1948; her mother was from Nazareth) to the Naksa (1967), the Jordanian civil war (1970), the 1973 war, the Sabra and Shatila massacres (1982), the 1987 uprising (she was at the front of demonstrations), the fake promises of Oslo (1993) and the massacres committed
since then. Deir Yassin was not the first or the largest massacre committed by Zionist forces during the ethnic cleansing of 194850, but it was prophetic and emblematic for Palestinians because its deliberate effect was magnified to scare the villagers — some survivors were paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, and loudspeakers told of impending massacres. Dozens of massacres were committed in the six weeks leading up to Israel’s creation — more were carried out afterwards. In all, 534 villages and towns were depopulated in this bizarre 20th-century attempt to transform a multicultural, multi-religious and multilingual Palestine into the monolithic “Jewish state of Israel.” Seventy years later massacres are still being committed, whether here or in the Palestinian refugee camps of Gaza and Yarmouk. The latter, the largest Palestinian refugee camp and home to 160,000 Palestinians, was besieged and starved. People tried to subsist on grass; over 200 died of starvation and hundreds in the
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bombardment. Largely destroyed now, one wonders where all the people are! Sometimes my mother feels that it’s hopeless. We Palestinians face incredible odds. On one side is the most sophisticated and best financed settler colonial enterprises, backed by Western imperial power, and on the other side an orphaned people who continue to be betrayed by the Arab and Muslim leaders of nearby countries and by their own corrupt leaders. I try to let her know that no power lasts forever for the Roman, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Persian, Soviet and other empires all eventually fell. History is dynamic. But I sometimes have doubts. I think of the British Empire’s machinations from the late 19th-century until today. I think of the Balfour (British) and Cambon (French) 1917 declarations in support of Zionism (partly quid pro quo in return for the Zionist lobby’s help in convincing the U.S. to enter WWI). I think of the U.S. support that started in 1918, the 1919 Paris “peace conference,” San Remo, the Mandate, the Saud family collusion, the January 1919 Faisal-Weizmann correspondence (Prince Faisal, representing and acting on behalf of the Arab Kingdom of Hejaz, and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, representing and acting on behalf of the Zionist Organization) and so much more. I am reminded of the Italian Marxist Antonio Graemsci’s (d. 1937) “Pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will” (“Cadernos do Cárcere” [“Prison Notebooks”], 1948). I tell my mother that we don’t have the luxury of despair. We must keep hope alive. Still, I wonder how can we gain a larger perspective on our lives and all of these tragedies? Here we are, tiny creatures among 7 billion humans who have spread around and damaged this beautiful blue planet ... a small planet in a small inconspicuous solar system, one of billions of solar systems in this galaxy, itself a small galaxy among billion and billions of galaxies. Maybe we take ourselves too seriously, I thought. How can I help get people to know that there are enough resources to feed everyone (now over a billion go hungry). The scientist in me wants to find logical explanations for why people kill each other instead of sharing and caring for one another. I try to convince myself with my own words to visitors to Palestine: lighting a candle is better than cursing the darkness, first do no harm, travel the path of your conscience even if few are doing it and so on. Maybe lack of sleep makes my mind
LET’S JUST THINK OF THE POTENTIAL OUTCOMES OF COLONIAL/ANTI-COLONIAL STRUGGLES. THERE ARE REALLY ONLY THREE: THE INDIGENOUS WIN (E.G., ALGERIA) OR LARGELY LOSE BY GENOCIDE (PARTIAL OR COMPLETE), OR REACH A WIN-WIN OR LOSELOSE SITUATION IN WHICH BOTH GROUPS LIVE IN ONE SHARED COUNTRY (E.G., SOUTH AFRICA). THE LATTER IS THE MOST SENSIBLE OUTCOME AND ALSO HAPPENS TO BE THE MOST COMMON ONE, AS OVER 100 COUNTRIES HAVE CHOSEN IT.
wonder into Buddhist philosophies (Joyful participation in the sorrows of this world) and to mystic philosophies (Rumi’s words come sloshing around my brain). These thoughts are like shields to help us in this stark reality. The reality is that the vast majority of people (whether Americans, Palestinians or Israelis) are simply apathetic. Yarmouk, Deir Yassin, Tantura, Sabra and Shatila and others represent a heritage for some of us Palestinians and few other people who care. A country was stolen; 7.5 million of us are refugees or displaced. Zionists are happy that they managed to get Arabs and Muslims to kill each other, whether in Yemen or Syria. According to a recent survey, 81.7 percent of Israeli Jews consider themselves “Zionist” or “very Zionist,” while only 15.5 percent consider themselves “not so Zionist” or “not at all Zionist” (Hermann, Tamar. 2012. The Israeli Democracy Index. The Israeli Democracy Institute). These are dynamic statistics and thus liable to change. However, there is clear evidence that Zionism has reached a dead-end and the natural state of equilibrium must be restored, one in which the 12.5 million Palestinians (7.5 million of whom are refugees or displaced) and the 6.2 million Israeli Jews will find a way to live together in one country (Qumsiyeh, “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle.” Pluto Press, London, 2004). I have argued elsewhere that diversity is strength and that attempts to make monolithic societies will be resisted (Qumsiyeh, “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History
of Hope and Empowerment.” Pluto Press, London, 2010). Most isolationist ideologies are extinct or almost extinct: Crusaderism, Nazism, Stalinism and soon Zionism. It is possible (although that window is closing very quickly thanks to Israeli actions) to return Palestine to a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural society (albeit with now a far more prominent Jewish and Hebrew presence). Zionists insist on their program, which is analogous to that of the Crusaders — to “Christianize” Palestine and make it this fictional “Christendom.” Zionists want to transform the country into a Jewish state, and their relentless program is now focused on Jerusalem and strengthening the Jewish-only colonies built around it on Palestinian lands. When the Crusaders were defeated, the Christian presence continued and actually flourished (my family members are descendants of Canaanites who converted to Christianity in the 3rd century and lived through that tumultuous era as Arab Eastern Christians). This begs the question of what will happen to Jews, whether indigenous Arab Jews or immigrant European Jews, if/ when Zionism is defeated. The answer is not as dramatic as the Zionists like to imagine and plan for. Let’s just think of the potential outcomes of colonial/anti-colonial struggles. There are really only three: the indigenous win (e.g., Algeria) or largely lose by genocide (partial or complete), or reach a win-win or loselose situation in which both groups live in one shared country (e.g., South Africa). The latter is the most sensible outcome and also
happens to be the most common one, as over 100 countries have chosen it. There is no fourth scenario, and certainly no possibility of a “two state” division between colonizers and colonized (Qumsiyeh; ibid. 2004). The question is merely how to push and at what pace for this inevitable outcome. The answer is not in head-on collisions, but in popular resistance to actions (not hatred of people or revenge) and thus bolstering the popular resistance that leads to hope, empowerment and then liberation, which benefits everyone (see Qumsiyeh, 2010). I moved from Palestine to the U.S. for my graduate degrees and then moved back in 2008. Since then I have lost 19 of my personal friends in the struggle. I have met thousands of people of diverse backgrounds and traveled to over 50 countries. This only emphasized to me the beauty of diversity, the mix of perceptions that are never really as binary as some people would like them to be. I noted that what divides us is for the most part usually artificial and mythological. Technological and information advances make for both great opportunities and great threats that are no longer local, but global (e.g. climate change and potential nuclear war). Perhaps these global threats can unite us to educate people more about the strengths of diversity and interdependence. Perhaps all we can do is try our best to create a ripple effect for a better, more peaceful world. Perhaps, as the old song says: in the end only kindness matters (Jewel, 1998). ih Mazin Qumsiyeh, professor and director, Palestine Museum of Natural History, Bethlehem University, Occupied Palestine.
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 49
Another Muslim Minority Under Siege Buddhism is losing its “peaceful” image in the West BY ABDUL MALIK MUJAHID This editorial now looks prophetic, as we see onslaught of attacks on Muslim minorities in Myanmar, India and Sri Lanka. In the last six months the Burmese military has driven out almost a million Rohingya, killing almost 100,000 and raping 52 percent of all women interviewed by the UN. The world still has to call it a genocide. And now the world’s continued inaction is encouraging other extremists: On the last New Year’s Eve, India declared 13 million people in its northeastern state of Assam, mostly Muslims, non-citizens and it is now is talking about detaining and deporting them. Elsewhere in India several hundred Muslims have been lynched due to false accusations of eating beef, despite the rather ironic fact that India is the world’s largest exporter of beef. Earlier this year, when 8-year-old Asifa Bano was raped and murdered in a Hindu temple in Kashmir, temple head Sanji Ram and the police conspired to make it a reason to expel her nomadic tribe from that Hindu neighborhood, said the police report. The Hindu Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara scheme, reported the AFP, “seems to have worked: the girl’s family have headed for the Kashmir hills under uslims were still praying police protection. Other Muslim families SRI LANKA ALSO HAS in Noor Jummah Masjid when in the community of around 100 people the attacks began on March 5, all left after the rape in January” (The AN EQUIVALENT OF 2018. According to an early Strait Times, April 18, 2018). report from Sri Lankan Muslims, during Thousands of Hindu extremists linked BURMA’S EXTREMIST the first three days 17 mosques, 141 homes to the ruling party marched, along with a MONK ASHIN WIRATHU, couple of its ministers, to get the rapists and 113 businesses were completely or partially destroyed, along with 60 vehireleased. Rape was consistently used in THE LEADER OF THE cles. These well-organized attacks took Burma by Buddhist extremists to throw 969 MOVEMENT — place in Kandy, the island’s second largest out the Rohingya, and now Indian city, which is just 75 miles away from the extremists are using it toward Muslims. GALAGODA ATHTHE Not to be left behind, on March 6 Sri capital city of Colombo. Kandy is also GNANASARA, THE a popular tourist zone as it houses the Lankan Buddhist extremists launched Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, one a well-organized, coordinated attack on SAFFRON-ROBED of the most sacred places of worship in Muslims that forced the government MONK WHO LEADS SRI to declare a nationwide state of emerthe Buddhist world. These attacks are not isolated case. gency. But in a marked departure from LANKA’S EXTREMIST In fact, the Sri Lankan Muslim commuBurma and India, Prime Minister Ranil BODU BALA SENA (BBS; Wickremesing told Parliament, “The govnity has documented hundreds of such incidents. ernment is taking all possible measures to THE BUDDHIST POWER protect the people, especially Muslims.” ARMY). THESE TWO Parliament then issued an apology to the NOT A SURPRISE An October 2014 editorial in the New MONKS HAVE ACTUALLY Muslims. York Times first warned the world of the Sri Lanka also has an equivalent of MET AND PUBLICLY things to come. It was entitled “Deadly Burma’s extremist monk Ashin Wirathu, Alliances Against Muslims,” namely, those the leader of the 969 Movement — ANNOUNCED THEIR Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the safamong extremists from Buddhist Burma, SUPPORT OF THEIR Hindu India and Buddhist Sri Lanka. It fron-robed monk who leads Sri Lanka’s was a surprise editorial, however, since extremist Bodu Bala Sena (BBS; the “MUTUAL CAUSE.” Buddhist Power Army). These two there was no major new buildup about monks have actually met and publicly this collaborations to warrant an editorial.
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announced their support of their “mutual cause.” The BBS’ formation in 2012 coincided with the year during which rioting Buddhists drove out almost all Muslim residents of the Burmese city of Sittwe.
MILITARY AND POLICE COLLABORATION I have conducted about 160 interviews of Rohingya victims in refugee camps. Almost always the police and military were the number one perpetrators of these crimes, along with the local Buddhists’ active participation. In Sri Lanka, however, police have most often facilitated such events instead of actually attacking the targets. Reuters news agency has seen CCTV footage that shows the special police letting attackers through the police cordon that was put up to protect a mosque, reported Aljazeera, on March 25, 2018. This is not the first time that Sri Lanka’s Muslims have come under attack. For example, in 2014 the local police did nothing to stop an outbreak of anti-Muslim violence — a policy that is sometimes observed in India as well.
THE RUMORS AND SOCIAL MEDIA Whether it is Burma, India or Sri Lanka, mob attacks on Muslims almost always begin with a rumor that then spreads through social media. A 2012 rumor that a Buddhist woman had been raped by three Rohingyas led to the anti-Muslim attacks in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State. It later turned out that the woman was not raped and that the accused were not Rohingyas. Today, 129,000 Rohingya Muslims still sit in the camps, which Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times described in his June 16, 2014, documentary from Burma as “the concentration camps of the 21st century.” The military marched them to these camps as their houses were set on fire with active police participation. On March 27, 2018, I met one of the women who had been released after five years in prison — only because she accepted the government’s claim that she was a foreigner who had entered the country illegally. She was arrested while sewing clothes in her own ancestral home in Sittwe. The Sri Lankan government moved quickly and suspended social media for a week to stop the rumor frenzy. A smart move, considering that the UN’s March 2018 report blamed it for spreading hate in Burma. Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said Facebook had “substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissention and conflict” and that “Hate speech is certainly, of course, a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media.” UN Myanmar investigator Yanghee Lee remarked, “I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended.” But as in Burma, Facebook employees in Sri Lanka who monitor hate speech are part of the majority and use their position to actually ban those who are exposing the hate. Facebook suspended my account after I posted a Human Rights Watch report about
Burma. Facebook also suspended the account of Sri Lankan lawyer Jeevanee Kariyawasam, who complained to Facebook about the hate speech being propagated through its platform. The main leader of these hate campaigns is Ashin Wirathu, a prominent Burmese Buddhist monk. His vitriolic hatred is all over Facebook. In fact, he is so well known that on July 1, 2013, his face graced Time magazine’s cover as “The Face of Buddhist Terror.” Even the Burmese government, which refuses to recognize the name “Rohingya”, has banned his hate group — Ma Ba Tha. It took Facebook until February 2018 — 4 years, 6 months and 30 days after Time’s feature was published — to ban Wirathu’s Facebook page, far too late for the many dead, the thousands of women raped and the hundreds of thousands wasting away in Bangladeshi refugee camps. And yet Facebook continues to allow his videos to be uploaded, and hundreds of other Facebook pages promoting his hateful teachings still exist. Interestingly, in both Burma and Sri Lanka, the rumor’s main claim is similar: Muslim men are committing sexual crimes against Buddhists and converting Buddhist women. One of the Sri Lankan rumors was that a Muslim chef was adding contraceptives to the food being sold to his Buddhist customers.
THE MYTH OF BUDDHISTS AS A PEACEFUL PEOPLE The emergence of the Dalai Lama and other trends have caused Americans to view Buddhism as a “peaceful” religion, in part helping Buddhism becoming this country’s fast growing religion. However, one would do well to remember the Buddhist turned ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge’s genocidal rule of Democratic Kampuchea (i.e., Cambodia). The historic consideration of Buddhists as being peaceful people, when compared to the followers of other religions, is due to the absence of knowledge. The largest genocide in human history — at least as far as we know — probably took place when 10 to 20 million Chinese were killed by Japanese, a Shinto country with a Buddhist overlay. American Buddhists have condemned what is happening in Burma, as it is against the Buddha’s teachings. Two top American Buddhist leaders, Zen Buddhist priest Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke and Richard Reoch, personal envoy of the Sakyong of Shambhala, joined me in an interfaith delegation in March this year to the Rohingya camps to show solidarity with the victims. The Dalai Lama told me how much these attacks on Muslims pain him. But he also informed me that the Buddhists of Sri Lanka and Burma don’t follow his form of Buddhism.
SRI LANKA’S MUSLIM COMMUNITY This particular Muslim minority is a business community, one that is relatively better organized than other Muslim minorities, as well as educated and politically active. Mohammed Ibrahim Mohammed Rizwe (also known as Rizwi Mufti), president for the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, who visited Chicago in April 2013, briefed me on what was going on in his homeland. His main goal was to alert Muslim Americans of the forthcoming attacks. JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 51
MUSLIMS ABROAD Muslims comprise about 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s total population of approximately 21 million. The primarily Buddhist Sinhalese make up 70 percent, and the mostly Hindu (13 percent) and Christian (7 percent) Tamils make up the rest. The Sri Lankan Muslim community has been socially engaged ever since the country became independent (1948). Its members participated in the new dominion’s constitutional debates. Last year, Muslim votes helped the current coalition government replace an earlier anti-Muslim one. However, fearful of angering the country’s Buddhist majority, while visiting the most affected city of Kandy, President Maithripala Sirisena avoided the affected areas and the victims of violence.
THE ISLAMOPHOBIA WARS Islamophobia is on full display in Sri Lanka, Burma and India. In all three countries, the extremists contend that the Muslim community is much larger than usually believed and that the Buddhist majority is in imminent danger of becoming a minority. This demographic fear-mongering has roots in the West, where Islamophobes promote a fear of Muslims taking over. Sri Lankan Muslims have no history of militancy whatsoever. In fact, local extremists campaign on issues that emerged in the West: zabiha halal food products, hijabs and other specifically Muslim attire, mosque construction, forced conversions and stoking fears of “Islamic” terrorism. Such unfounded fear-mongering is common in each country. Burmese extremists say there are “8 to 9 million Bengalis, and they are trying to take over.” For instance, Indian federal minister of state for micro, small and medium enterprises Giriraj Singh and Banwari Lal Singhal, a state ruling BJP legislator from Rajasthan, said Muslims are focused on taking over the nation by increasing their population (Chaitanya Mallapur, www.firstpost. com; Jan. 15, 2018). However, the national census says that the present Muslim population is actually 14 percent. The West’s Islamophobia machine, funded with hundreds of millions of dollars, has a negative impact on all Muslim minorities. Therefore, its Muslims are obliged to formulate a strategic plan to counter it. When indigenous anti-Semitism did not allow Jews fleeing Nazi Germany to find refuge in the U.S., they invested heavily in communication, coalition building and human relations. The Rohingyas and the Muslims of the Central African Republic have almost been wiped out. Other Muslim minorities continue to face uncertain futures. It’s time for them to organize. ih Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, president, Sound Vision; chair, Burma Task Force USA; and chair emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Follow him on Twitter at @MalikMujahid.
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Rohingya Refugees in Malaysia Try to Build New Lives Ever wonder what it feels like to be a refugee? BY JAY WILLOUGHBY
he Rohingya continue to flee what the U.N. and many other international organizations have called the latest round of officially sanctioned ethnic cleansing or genocide — a charge that the government rejects. Some of them have ended up in Malaysia. One concerned professor working for the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), seeing a chance to expose his students to the realities of such an uncertain and anxiety-filled life, asked some of them to talk with three refugees and learn their personal stories. What follows is an abbreviated account of how they have fared in their new land. The first interviewee related that he fled across Bangladesh to Thailand in 2012. All of the arrangements had been made by Thai and Malaysian agents, who set the price at between RM3,000-RM5,000 (RM1=U.S.$0.25). But upon reaching Thailand, he discovered that the actual cost was RM10,000, supposedly because of the greater risks involved. His friend had a Rohingya acquaintance who received a commission for each refugee smuggled into Thailand. After being told how to contact the Malaysian agent, they walked from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, passing through the horrendous thick hilly forest, crossing raging rivers and eventually reduced to eating wild plants and wild animals. They made it to Thailand
in a very cramped boat and, four years later, he entered Malaysia hidden in a trunk on top of another Rohingya man and beneath heavy fabrics merchandise in a lorry. His life in Myanmar had ended very suddenly: “[O]ne day, when I was at the farm, armed forces came terrorizing our village, burning our houses down to the ground and shooting resisting villagers. Some of the girls in my village are even stripped and raped before leaving them in the houses that were catching fire. My youngest sister, who was only a baby was snatched from my mother’s arms and thrown like a ball on the ground. My father and three brothers ... tried to stop him before he threw her to the ground .... All of them were then shot. If I [had been] at the farm, I believe that I would have been dead too.” The second refugee told a somewhat different story. A native of Arakan, his engineer father got a better job in Chittagong and moved the family there when he was five years old. They were granted Bangladeshi citizenship in 2005. He related how his people’s suffering began during the 1970s and 1980s when the military assumed power and revoked their citizenship, which they had enjoyed since the country’s independence (1948). He expressed regret that the Western and local media often neglect the Rohingya, how heartbroken he felt when people stood in solidarity for the “Charlie Hebdo” attack in Paris and the Brussels bombing — but not for the Rohingya. When asked what advice he would give to the refugees, he replied: “I
EACH OF THEM IS VERY GRATEFUL TO BE IN MALAYSIA AND THANKFUL FOR THEIR WIDESPREAD ACCEPTANCE BY MALAYSIANS. ONE WENT SO FAR AS TO SAY THAT IN “MY OWN COUNTRY I HAD NO RIGHTS AND WASN’T EVEN CONSIDERED A HUMAN BEING. I FEEL INDEBTED BECAUSE MALAYSIA HAS GIVEN ME A CHANCE TO SAVOR THE TASTE OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN.” advise them to have a very strong faith in Allah, because He has promised that behind every difficulty there is relief. They should be grateful for being allowed to be in safer lands, even if their lives get harder sometimes.” As a person originating from Arakan, he still feels the burden that his people have to face back at home in Myanmar. “Being a Bangladeshi now, I am glad since I do not have to bear the hardships experienced by the other Rohingya people, and at the same time sad for the fact that I am living in peace whereby my people live in a state of fear,” he said. A third one related how he was baffled as a child by the open prejudice and how troubled his late uncle had been that he wanted to work and live in the capital, Yangon. There was, according to him, “a strong bond between us Rohingya, for what else could we do?” Even before the military crackdown, on some nights near the border they could see large gatherings of Buddhists listening to a loud-voiced monk standing on top of a wooden box, his face reddened in shimmering flame of the mob’s torches. They would sing the national anthem before dispersing. After some Rohingya fighters allegedly killed a dozen government security
personnel, the military stormed into a nearby village and a group of terrified survivors ran into his town. His family, along with several others, set out that very day on their weeks-long trek to Bangladesh’s Kutupalong refugee camp. When asked why they had left Bangladesh for Malaysia, the refugees replied, “Malaysia is a paradise for … immigrants because it’s easy to land a job, the currency rate is high and one can live on low wages”; “Malaysians are incredibly tolerant, and people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds can build a new life here”; and “Malaysians are very generous and soft-hearted, for whenever I say that I am from Arakan, they ... state their sympathy for us.” Each of them is very grateful to be in Malaysia and thankful for their widespread acceptance by Malaysians. One went so far as to say that in “my own country I had no rights and wasn’t even considered a human being. I feel indebted because Malaysia has given me a chance to savor the taste of what it means to be human.” However, there are still difficulties, as one interviewee related: “Private school fees are way too high. Luckily, several NGOs have set up schools especially for us to train educated refugees to teach or tutor the young ones. Any adults caught working without the proper documents are detained. But they have to work in order to survive and sustain their family members.” While they hope to go home one day, one stated: “For me, the UN and other global organizations are not serious. They claim to unite countries and act as global peacemakers, and yet we continue to suffer. Unlike [Turkey’s] Erdoğan, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Muslim countries do nothing.” ih Jay Willoughby is a freelance copy editor and writer. He would like to thank Khairunnisa Binti Mohd Khaidir, Izzul Dzakirin bin Muhammad and Muhammad Zaem bin Shamsul Zamdi — all students at International Islamic University of Malaysia — for supplying the interviews.
JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 53
Don’t Scream for Every Ice Cream Never forget to check food ingredients and the sources when the labeling is ambiguous BY ASMA JARAD
ne of the beauties of childhood is that you can eat whatever your little heart desires without having to worry about counting calories or the fat content. But what you do have to know as a Muslim of any age is whether your food is halal or haram. Ice cream, a sweet frozen treat enjoyed by people of all ages, usually falls under the halal category. Whenever you want to encourage children to eat their vegetables or a particular food, many times the enticement of an ice cream dessert will do the trick. However, as adults we must ensure that anything we consume is, in fact, halal. The Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever among you wakes up physically healthy, feeling safe and secure within themselves, with food for the day,
it is as if they acquired the whole world” (“Sunan Ibn Majah,” vol. 5, book 37, hadith no. 4141). In other words, having food is equated with being physically healthy and safe, which implies having a healthy outlook and satisfying life. And just so you know — in the U.S., July is National Ice Cream Month. Although most ice cream treats are halal,
we should always check the list of ingredients and scan the label just to make sure. Two of the major ingredients to look out for are pork/animal gelatin, the long-held nemesis on the haram list, and alcohol (e.g., rum, brandy, amaretto, daiquiri ice or vanilla distilled in alcohol). Finally, discern the source of fat, which most of the time will be hydrogenated vegetable fat or palm fat. In rare
TWO OF THE MAJOR INGREDIENTS TO LOOK OUT FOR ARE PORK/ANIMAL GELATIN, THE LONG-HELD NEMESIS ON THE HARAM LIST, AND ALCOHOL (E.G., RUM, BRANDY, AMARETTO, DAIQUIRI ICE OR VANILLA DISTILLED IN ALCOHOL).
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cases, the source could be lard — a fat derived from pigs.
GELATIN For starters, gelatin is a translucent, odorless and tasteless incomplete protein (contains 9/10 essential amino acids). The gelatin used by mass-producing companies usually comes from combining the tendons, skin, bones, cartilage and ligaments of cows or pigs via boiling water. As the boiling proceeds, the collagen leaks into the water and is then purified and set into thin sheets, or dried and ground up into tiny granules or fine powder. The separation line between cow and pig gelatin is not always clear, so it’s best to verify by contacting the company and asking them whether they only use cow or pig gelatin or a combination of both. Even then, beef-based gelatin may not be from an Islamically slaughtered animal, and thus haram. Possibly the most important reason why large companies love to use gelatin is the bottom line: it’s cheap. Gelatin comes from the left over, inedible byproducts of animals, which makes it a highly profitable ingredient. Furthermore, its many uses only increase it value for food companies. For example, it quickly sets gummy candies and marshmallows and successfully thickens yogurt, puddings, marshmallows, ice cream and so many more products. In addition, gelatin also helps make ice cream smooth, works as a natural glue for foods and makes them more elastic. Gelatin has become such a common ingredient that it’s a real possibility to find it in our favorite foods, including ice cream. But don’t fret, because not all gelatin is haram or bad for you. In fact, gelatin derived from halal sources such as Islamically slaughtered cows, or from fish or vegetables, is both permissible and healthy. Vegetable-based gelatin alternatives, such as carrageenan and agar-agar, are derived from various types of seaweed. Vegetable gum, another alternative, is used in ice cream because it dissolves quickly in liquids and is effective for thickening. Although these substitutes don’t completely replicate traditional gelatin’s gelling properties, they do provide a green alternative. Some of gelatin’s health benefits include healthy skin, hair, teeth and nails;
Halal Food Science Recognized Indonesian professor wins first 2018 King Faisal International Prize for halal food science BY SAMEEN AHMED KHAN
rof. Irwandi Jaswir, director of the International Institute for Halal Research and Training (INHART; http://inhart.iium.edu.my) at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), had done pioneering work in establishing halal science pertaining to food. His research and development of new methods for analyzing the substances used in manufacturing halal food alternatives was recognized with the 2018 King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam. Jaswir, 48, a native of Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, worked with others to develop new methods for quickly detecting haram substances in foods and beverages. A notable example is the “Portable Electronic Nose,” which can detect within a few seconds the presence of alcohol or lard (pork/ porcine-derived fat) in foods, cosmetics and consumer goods. He adopted this from the pharmaceutical industry and medical diagnostics. He holds a bachelor’s in food technology and human nutrition (Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia; 1993), a master’s in food science and biotechnology (1996) and a doctorate in food chemistry and biochemistry (the Universiti Putra, Malaysia; 2000). At present, he is serving as the secretary of IIUM’s Council of Professors. Jaswir’s contributions have strengthened the importance and relevance of the emerging halal industry with a uniquely strong scientific foundation in halal science. Along with the novel testing tools, he has helped develop alternatives to widely used haram substances, such as gelatine in numerous food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products; practical methods for their large-scale production; developing manufacturing standards that can be employed in this rapidly growing industry; and training those who will have to enforce them. The prize committee stated that Jaswir is recognized for the following achievements: • His contribution to establishing and developing halal science through various publications and research studies. • His valuable efforts in assisting the IIUM’s International Institute for Halal Research to become a renowned center for
Prof. Irwandi Jaswir receivies the award from King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
JASWIR’S CONTRIBUTIONS HAVE STRENGTHENED THE IMPORTANCE AND RELEVANCE OF THE EMERGING HALAL INDUSTRY WITH A UNIQUELY STRONG SCIENTIFIC FOUNDATION IN HALAL SCIENCE. research and services related to halal food and consumer goods. • His work in developing new methods for analyzing the substances needed to manufacture halal food alternatives as well as practical procedures for producing halal gelatine from camels and fish. • His collaboration with other scientists to develop new methods for the quick detection of non-halal substances in food, cosmetics and other consumer goods, such as the “Portable Electronic Nose.” Five researchers and scientists from Malaysia, Jordan, Tunisia, the U.S. and the U.K. also received the King Faisal Prize for 2018. The prize, inaugurated in 1979 to recognize individuals’ distinguished contributions toward humanity, was named after the third king of Saudi Arabia. It consists of a certificate, a 200-gram gold medal and a cash endowment of approximately $200,000. In all, a total of 46 scholars from 21 countries have received it. ih Sameen Ahmed Khan, Dhofar University, Salalah, Oman.
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FOOD serving as an agent that fights the negative effects of aging; prevents stretch marks and cellulite; and helps maintain muscle, hormone balance and arthritis support. Certified Nutrition Consultant Caitlin Weeks says, “Gelatin is a great source of amino acids, which support a healthy mood, strong bones, smooth skin and proper muscle synthesis. It is important to get gelatin from the best grass fed/pastured animals to avoid hormones, pesticides and heavy metal contamination.”
ALCOHOL-FLAVORED ICE CREAM For Muslims, it’s a no-brainer when it comes to alcohol-flavored ice cream — it’s haram. Therefore, pay attention to even the most innocent-looking packages or descriptions. For example, you may read a label that says “Affogato” and wonder if they misspelled “avocado.” Affogato refers to an Italian coffee-based frozen vanilla ice cream that is drowned in a hot espresso with a shot of amaretto or another liqueur. This brings us to the exotic-sounding amaretto flavor, that sweet almond-flavored liqueur commonly added to desserts and chocolates. More examples of sneaky alcoholic names that can be misleading for some people, especially youngsters, are Snickerdoodle Cookie Martini, French Connection, Piña Colada, Spiked Mint Chocolate Chip, Grasshopper, Rum Ginger Cookie and Pink Squirrel. Don’t always expect to see a wine glass or a bold declaration that alcohol is included. In many instances the graphics are colorful, inviting and carefully calculated to attract a broad audience.
THE SOURCE OF FAT For many years McDonald’s has refuted a longstanding myth that its ice cream — specifically the soft serve — is made with pig lard. Nick Garner, a McDonald’s franchise owner, says, “When it comes to what’s in our soft serve, it’s really quite simple … the only animal ingredients are the dairy products themselves.” My supplemental research has confirmed that pig lard is not a common or useful ingredient in ice cream. People who add it do so because they enjoy its taste. Lard is more frequently used in baked desserts such as piecrusts, tarts, biscuits and cookies. The two most common types of fat used to manufacture ice cream are hydrogenated vegetable fat and palm fat. Vegetable fat is unsaturated; however, inserting hydrogen atoms makes it hydrogenated and therefore firm and solid at room
Remember to check for these suspect ingredients: Determine whether the mono- and di-glyceride emulsifier is derived from an animal or vegetable source. Whey solids used as milk powder replacer, because whey is byproduct of the cheese industry. The majority of such cheeses are from calf rennet, which may not be an Islamically-slaughtered animal. All natural flavors (especially natural vanilla) are distilled with alcohol. Rum, resin and daiquiri ice contain alcohol. Some vitamins are derived from animal sources. Any fat other than vegetable fat and butter or cream. Baked products, if used as inclusions, may contain a few haram ingredients. Suspect baking powder. Watch for food colors used in ice cream, which are natural and not synthetic. ih temperature, similar to saturated fats. This fat contains trans-fat, which is known to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol while lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. Hydrogenated vegetable fat is one of the cheapest fats on the market and, according to ice cream manufacturers, is best for ensuring resistance to melting. For these reasons, mass-producing ice cream companies prefer to use it. On the other hand, palm fat is a vegetable fat that is a little more expensive and does not contain trans-fat. However, butterfat is better in terms of both health and taste than hydrogenated vegetable and palm fat for dairy desserts and is naturally found in milk and cream. It adds a firm texture while delivering that unmistakable creamy flavor melting in your mouth, instead of an oily residue polishing your tongue. Most people agree that gelatin and fat are important traditional ingredients for dairy ice cream. For those who prefer to avoid all meat products, vegetarian alternatives do exist. For the majority, however, we imagine ice cream as a flavorful and creamy dairy treat. While you can cut out some fat and use alternative gelatin, we don’t have to as long as we enjoy it in moderation and make sure that the ingredients come from halal sources — which in no way impairs the taste!
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Keep in mind that labels don’t always specify the type of gelatin or fat used. Thus it’s best to contact the company or choose products that specifically indicate a vegetable or halal source. In addition to the halal aspect, it’s also important to have a generally healthy diet. Vague, ambiguous and complicated ingredient lists are your first red flag to reach for a simple and healthier choice. When God instructed us to follow a halal diet, it wasn’t to limit our options and restrict our enjoyment, but rather to steer us away from what is harmful and guide us on the right path. Moderation and sensibility are important tenets of Islam. Before the healthy lifestyle waves entered the West, the Prophet had already instructed his followers as follows: Abu Hurayra narrated: “A man used to eat much, but when he embraced Islam he started eating less. When this was mentioned to the Prophet, he said, ‘A believer eats in one intestine (is satisfied with a little food) and a non-believer eats in seven intestines (eats much)’” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” vol. 7, book 70, hadith no. 5397). ih Asma Jarad is a freelance writer and editor. She recently began a YouTube channel narrating picture books to help instill pride and confidence in Islam and personal heritage among the youth. Catch her on YouTube and Facebook: Sami & Amro Reading Time.
Ahmad Raza Khan
(Contributed by Abdallah Omeish)
(Contributed by Sufia Azmat)
A Striver for Education
r. Mohammad Jaghlit, a man widely known for his kindness, generosity, respect for others and, most of all, his straightforwardness, has died. And that is what made him special. Born in Jaffa, he became a refugee in 1948 due to the Israeli occupation. His family sought refuge in his mother’s birthplace of Latakia, Syria. But he persevered and graduated at the top of his class from the University of Damascus. A physician, he specialized in pediatric medicine, hematology and oncology. Moving to Chicago to complete his residency at Rush University Medical Center, he later moved to Eau Claire, Wis., with his wife Intisar and their seven children. After the sudden demise of his beloved wife, his daughter Sumaya became a mother-like figure to her siblings. He later met and married Laurie, who survives him. Jaghlit dedicated his life to his family and Islamic work (e.g., MSA and IIIT) and was one of the earliest contributors to many Muslim organizations. After many years of service he established the International Education Trust, which focused on projects ranging from establishing libraries and education centers to providing scholarships for underprivileged women. He also shifted his efforts to his homeland, for “if you educate a person you would not have to worry about them in the future.” The first of many projects was the building of a learning center in Hebron. His love for people was pure and real. He modeled his everyday life after the Companions and, most notably, led by example. Having known him for over 20 years, I can state the he was honest even if what he had to say was not pleasant for others to hear and that he always dealt with people in a trustworthy manner. Everything he said was concise and transparent. He was a strong advocate for women, having five daughters for whom he had great respect and love. You could see this at his funeral, for many women came to pay their respects. He is survived by his wife Laurie and children Suad (Susu), Sumaya, Baraa, Nora, Ammar, Huda, Heba and stepsons Michael and Jonathan. ih
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y father came to the U.S. in pursuit of higher education. After obtaining his MS in engineering, he arranged for his wife and children to join him in 1968. They built a house in Elgin, then a small suburb. As the first Muslim family, we received a lot of attention — all of it good! We were even featured in the local newspaper to introduce us to the town. Our elementary school invited my mother to talk about Islam and Pakistan. Everyone, down to the crossing guard, was very kind. In fact, the crossing guard was so kind that on the last day before Christmas vacation she asked if we had a tree, and finding that we did not, her family brought over their own very large tree. It was then that my father realized that if he and his working wife didn’t do something, we might lose our Muslim identity. They poured over Elgin Yellow Pages looking for Muslimsounding names. When they read in the local paper about a couple named Hamid who had been in a car accident, they immediately contacted them and began building a network. My father encouraged his newly married friends to move to Elgin, where they would meet at our house every Friday evening for prayer, socializing and teaching basic Islam and the Quran to the children. There was talk of building a mosque, but my father suggested that it should be called the Islamic Community Center. Finally, with the help of some community members and the North American Islamic Trust, the group bought and converted a disused church and into a mosque and community center that still stands today. Realizing the community’s needs, my father sponsored two Muslim doctors and helped them open a clinic. He sponsored his siblings and their children, who lived with us until they could move to their own homes. My father helped many people get an education so they could support themselves, gave them guidance and advice on education and careers. Us kids grew up fully aware of the importance of education and excellence in all that one does, and that both knowledge and its application are meaningful. He leaves behind his wife, four children, eleven grandchildren and one great grandson. ih
NEW RELEASES The Extreme Gone Mainstream: Commercialization and Far Right Youth Culture in Germany Cynthia Miller-Idriss 2018. Pp. 312. HB. $29.95 Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. iller-Idriss examines how extremist ideologies have entered mainstream German culture through commercialized products and clothing laced with extremist, anti-Semitic, racist and nationalist coded symbols and references (e.g., 88 [Heil Hitler] and 18 [Adolph Hitler]). She contends that this commercialization is part of a radical transformation happening today in German far right youth subculture, how they have gravitated away from the singular, hard-edged skinhead style and toward new brands of clothing (e.g., Thor Steinar and the Nordic Company) that desensitize far right consumers to extremist ideas and dehumanize victims (e.g, “Reconquista” and “My favorite color is white” T-shirts). She maintains that this subculture has reached the U.S., one example being the “Kafir” T-shirt.
Teaching Children: A Moral, Spiritual, and Holistic Approach to Educational Development Ann El-Moslimany 2018. Pp. 100. PB. $12.95 International Institute of Islamic Thought, Herndon, Va. ur current educational system is flawed. Based on a hundred year old factory-model approach, it is outmoded, soulless, and tragically emulated by most Islamic schools worldwide. This book outlines an alternative approach for Islamic education, one that engages the child’s whole thinking process and explores education from Islam’s fundamental principles.
American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear Khaled A. Beydoun 2018. Pp. 264. HB. $26.95 University of California Press, Oakland, Calif. eydoun, associate professor of law at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and senior affiliated faculty at the University of California–Berkeley Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, is a critical race theorist who argues that while the term “Islamophobia” may be fairly new, irrational fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims is not. He describes how law, policy and official state rhetoric have fueled the frightening resurgence of Islamophobia in the U.S., traces its tainted history — from enslaved African Muslims to the “war on terror” — and assigns blame for any terrorist act to Islam and Muslims. He argues that by failing to frame Islamophobia as a system of bigotry endorsed and emboldened by law and carried out by government actors, Americans ignore how it injures all of them. He recommends how all affected parties can build coalitions with other groups.
Latino and Muslim in America: Race, Religion and the Making of a New Minority Harold D. Morales 2018. Pp. 272. HB. $35.00 Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y. orales examines how so-called “minority groups” are made, fragmented and struggle for recognition. The U.S. is poised to become the first nation whose collective minorities outnumber the dominant population. Even as many people view Latinos and Muslims as growing threats, Latino Muslims celebrate their intersecting identities in their daily lives and in their mediated representations. Morales follows the lives of several Latino Muslim leaders from the 1970s to the present, tracing their efforts to organize and unify nationally in order to solidify the new identity group’s place within the public sphere.
Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain Brian A. Catlos 2018. Pp. 496. HB. $35.00 Basic Books, New York, N.Y. atlos rewrites the history of Islamic Spain from Islam’s founding and the final expulsion of Spain’s Muslims in the seventeenth century. He recounts how Muslims, Christians and Jews built a sophisticated civilization that transformed Europe even as they relentlessly fought against each other and their coreligionists. Religion, he says, was often the language of conflict but seldom its cause — a lesson we would do well to learn in our own time.
The Merchant of Syria: A History of Survival Diana Darke 2018. Pp. 224. HB. $27.95 Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y. arely literate and supporting his mother and sisters from the age of ten, Abu Chaker built up a business empire — despite twice losing everything he had. Darke follows his tumultuous journey, from instability in Syria and civil war in Lebanon to his arrival in England during the 1970s, where he rescued and then transformed Hield Bros, a failing Yorkshire textile mill, into a global brand.
A Righteous Heart: The Axis of One’s Deeds Khurram Murad (Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui, tr.) 2018. Pp. 51. PB. $5.99 KZS Books, Ashburn, Va. urad’s analysis of the concept of qalb in the Quran and Hadith literature shows that “heart” is thoroughly inadequate to explain its various meanings, all of which are essential for developing the human personality. Siddiqui brings out the text’s meanings and connotations through explanations and usage of idiomatic English.
Peg + Cat: The Eid al-Adha Adventure Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson 2018. Pp. 32. (3 - 7 years). HB. $12.99 Candlewick Entertainment, Somerville, Mass. t’s Eid al-Adha, a very special holiday for Yasmina and Amir, who invite their friends to check it out. Thanks to a balancing scale, a trip to a soup kitchen and an unexpected visit to a housebound neighbor, Peg and Cat learn all about taking from where there’s more and giving to where there’s less.
Ramadan Recipes: From Our Holiday Table to Yours Samantha Sanchez 2018. Pp. 81. PB. $19.99 One Ummah Publishing, Millstone Township, N.J. anchez offers a celebration of traditional Ramadan foods served around the world. Ramadan reminds Muslims that they are one community and, by selecting foods from different cultures, they experience this holy month in a most beautiful way.
Ramadan Hannah Eliot (Rashin Kheiriyeh, Illustrator) 2018. Pp. 24. (2 - 4 years). HB. $7.05 Little Simon, New York, N.Y. liot introduces readers to Ramadan’s traditions by highlighting celebrations across the globe. Readers learn that Ramadan is a time to reflect, be thankful and help others. ih
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FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT
The Modern Idol Being Adopted by Muslims Don’t destroy all that is precious to you by searching for an ideal to sustain you with a sense of spirituality, for the entire universe is a manifestation of meaning BY EHAB AL-ALI
was born a Muslim, a standard Arab American transplant who practiced the basics and visited the mosque with my father once or twice a year until, aged 18, I decided to immerse myself in Islam. And yet, until about one year ago I and many of my friends found our spiritual growth blocked. I believe that this was due to our focus on rituals that do nothing to quench the heart’s need for the divine, thus turning what were intended to be anchors of spirituality into lifeless habits. After all, how beneficial could communing (the proper word for salat) be without understanding God and the human soul, as well as the nature of the live dynamic between them, the role of the space-time continuum in fostering a master-slave relationship? Age — I’m now 34 — has taught me two great truths: (1) We’ve cut ourselves off from nature, the fount of life, and (2) are blinded by our artificial beliefs that we justify loosely with appealing words such as “rights,” “modernity” and “progress.” That “there is no god but Allah” must be translated for today’s age as “there is no absolute truth in the relative, for absolutism exists only absolutely.” After all, much has been lost over time and in translation, for our ancestors lived before secularism split the cosmos into two distinct spheres of reality. I can just hear the “Mullahs of Modernity”: “If the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)
had been around, he surely would have adopted secular thought ... and if you tilt your head and squint your eyes a bit, you can kind of see him moving the Companions in that direction. Perhaps if they had been further removed from the Age of Ignorance, they would have been ready to adopt it. From our vantage point, it behooves us to move the heavenly ordainment in the direction of humanity’s newfound enlightenment” — except that secularism had been the way of the Greeks for centuries before “Christ,” who sought to purge Judaism from Hellenistic idolatry. I’m aware of what the Quran says about Jesus. However, I’m not referring to the spiritual reality of what occurred, but to the historicity of the matter. Muhammad was illiterate when he was commanded to read, the “green mountain” of Sinai was always barren and martyrs are physically dead. What could such phrases mean other than the Quran is trying to open our eyes to the fact that all things have an apparent and an inner meaning, thus allowing the realizer to live a purely spiritual experience? Before we can understand the absolute truth of God’s eternal words, we must understand the context in which He couches them. “And We sent not before you except men to whom We revealed [Our message]. So ask the people of the message if you do not know” (16:43). In other words, the People of the Book possess a canon to which the Quran speaks. And yet Muslims assert: “But the People of the Book corrupted their texts, all
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of it is fabricated! Unreliable! Their scripture hasn’t been filtered through our scruples!” Let’s put aside the facts that Jesus Christ upheld this same “corruption” in both letter and spirit and that the Companions and our earliest scholars immersed themselves in these “Israelite fables” that modern Muslim intellectuals are so quick to dismiss. According to Muhammad, Islam has been preached since humanity’s advent. But today we see a schism between “the sons of Israel,” who possess “The Book,” and “the sons of Ishmael,” upon whom was bestowed “The Reading.” “The Night Ascension,” the surah that recounts Muhammad’s spiritual ascent through the darkness of the unseen realms of consciousness until he communed directly with God, is also known as “The Sons of Israel.” I contend that its mentioning of the Jewish community’s fall (symbolized by God referencing the Temple Mount’s destruction) is intended to juxtapose with the rise of Mohammedan spirituality — the way of surrender (Islam). In other words, this surah reflects the torch being passed back to Ishmael, who had been waiting in the desert while Abraham finished situating Isaac, so to speak. As humanity continues its evolution, experientialism finds itself the increasingly neglected other half of Abraham’s wisdom, whose teachings were divinely split between a “learned boy” — 15:53 (left/West/Isaac) and the boy abandoned in the desert — 14:37 (right/East/Ishmael) — an allusion to the brain’s left and right hemispheres, which correlate to logic and intuition, respectively. Given that time is meaningless in the face of the divine presence, “now” is all that ever exists. This “now” is the portal between God and the manifestation of His will, which includes us. When one learns to interface with it by completing the divine pair (“And of all things We created two halves in order that you may penetrate [the truth] [51:49])” in accordance with the master-slave paradigm (or, as per our modern vernacular, “positive
and negative”), God becomes to His slave “the eyes with which he sees, the ears with which he hears, the hands with which he grasps, and the feet with which he walks” (Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, “Fath al-Bari,” 11.34041, hadith no. 6502). Beauty is created when polar opposites meet, and there is no greater disparity (and thus no greater potential for beauty) than that between infinity and the nothingness behind the ego. This is what Jesus meant when he stated: “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The Pharisees picked up stones to throw at him for blasphemy, but he managed to escape. However, before you judge them, understand that they fought for Jewish rights under Roman subjugation, took care of the community’s social needs and organized their religious affairs. Jesus’ words shook the very foundation upon which they perceived and interacted with reality. The problem isn’t the Jew or located in the religion, but in the underlying epistemology to which people are enslaved until they purify their consciousness and become a slave holistically. We were trained how to think and discern truth from falsehood before we had the option of “freedom of thought.” Consider the following: You will receive more pressure from the government to indoctrinate your children per a standardized curriculum than assistance in the case that you, as a taxpayer, begin to suffer from severe illnesses, the ever-diminishing retirement benefits, mortgage assistance programs for those who lose their jobs, and so on. The Pharaohs of this world feed off materialistic beliefs, cutting off your hands (power) and your feet (mobility) from opposite sides (coordination) so they can bind us to the trunk off the date trunk (the Quranic equivalent of the carrot and stick). They seek to indoctrinate you into their material world by subjugating your thought processes to the system. When I was younger, I was confounded by the Prophet’s prophecy that al-Lat and al-‘Uzza would return (“Sahih Muslim,” 8:182). Now that I know they are Arabizations of the Greek goddesses Minerva and Aphrodite (Herodotus, “Histories,” 1:131. On the correlation of al-Lat with Aphrodite... scholars have noted that al-Lat and al-‘Uzza were historically interchangeable and linked to various regional gods), respectively, the matter has become clear: We have retroactively read our spirituality into Greek philosophy, and its physics into our religion. The Greeks didn’t look to the meta to explain physics, for they saw it as a plane wherein they could define a driving aesthetic. Concoctions superimposed atop the canvas
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of reality. And so the idolaters aren’t working with a tabula rasa, but with a tapestry of God’s direct and absolute preaching expressed via creation itself. The “Abrahamic” prophets’ relative preaching was simply to point people to the one and only speech, that which is continuously expressed into consciousness.
MEANING ISN’T MEANT TO BE PROJECTED BY US; RATHER, WE SHOULD LISTEN INTENTLY TO THAT WHICH IS BEING REVEALED, NAMELY, EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS, BY THAT WHICH IS BEYOND COMPREHENSION.
canon) to present moral truths, then know that: “Behold, God does not disdain to propound a parable of a gnat...” (2:26) and “We have certainly propounded unto man every kind of parable in this reading” (39:27). Also, don’t forget that people worshipped Baal by sacrificing their still-living children as burning offerings to Him in the Valley of Hinnom (Heb.: Gehinnom, Ar.: Jahennam). So don’t destroy all that is precious to you by searching for an ideal to sustain you with a sense of spirituality, for the entire universe is a manifestation of meaning. The command to “read” extends to signs in nature, all of which speak the same ubiquitous message of God’s essence. Worship only Him, for worshipping anything else brings damnation in this life and the next. Secularism is an illusion, the greatest lie ever told, for it creates a materialism-meaning dichotomy that was never meant to be. All knowledge rests with God, and may the writer and the reader be blessed by it. ih Ehab El-Ali is a systems engineer who is coming to grips with the nature of his work, which has left him spiritually deprived enough to want to make Islam relevant to his current life.
Meaning isn’t meant to be projected by us; rather, we should listen intently to that which is being revealed, namely, everything that exists, by that which is beyond comprehension. God’s will is absolute, and life is the process of interfacing with His transcendence. But God has become an ideal removed from reality — synonymous with the remote God “Baal” (37:125) who divided the sons of Israel in a war between the prophets of YHWH and the false prophets of Baal (The Book of Kings). Baal is also the the “powerful jinn” in the Quran’s reimagining of the pseudepigraphical “Testament of Solomon,” which chronicles the confrontation between Solomon and Beezlebub/Beelzbul aka Baal Zebub/ Zebul, who turns out to be Lucifer himself. The message here is that if your perception of God doesn’t align with the God of reality, then it’s just a tool of the devil. And if you have reservations about God leveraging the Apocrypha (Biblical or related writings that do not form part of the accepted Biblical JULY/AUGUST 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 61
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