JULY/AUGUST 2020/1441 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET
ISNA LEADS COVID-19 RESPONSE | THE HINDUTVA PLAYBOOK FOR KASHMIR
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MUSLIM AMERICANS IN THE FOREFRONT OF THE JIHAD AGAINST COVID-19
ISLAMIC HORIZONS | VOL. 49 NO. 4 JULY/AUGUST 2020 | VISIT ISNA ONLINE AT: WWW.ISNA.NET
Muslims Under Siege
19 Health, Ethics and Effective Leadership — Where Are They? 22 The Secret Superheroes Muslims Help Ease COVID-19 Pain 24 in North America COVID-19 and a Look Into the Life 26 of Health Care Professionals Islamic Organizations Help During 28 COVID-19 Pandemic Oral Hygiene Can Help Prevent and 30 Combat the Coronavirus Menace 31 The Global Devastation of COVID-19
40 The Hindutva Playbook for Kashmir 44 The Rohingya Face COVID-19 Under Burmese Terror 46 COVID-19 Is Far More Than Just a Health Concern
ISNA Matters 8
Opinion 48 Are Arabs Wary of a Turkish Cultural Invasion?
42 The Dangers of Genocide Denial
Feature 50 The History, Mystery and Romance of Spices
ISNA Leads COVID-19 Response
52 Dress the Part
18 Are Interest-Bearing Loans Provided by the CARES Act Halal?
56 Exploring Islam Through Play
32 The Muslims of Scotland 33 Bashir Ahmed Maan: The Chronicler of Muslim Scots 34 The Mosques of Scotland 36 Thriving in a COVID-19 Hit Scotland
58 Farooq Ibrahim Selod 58 Akbar Shabazz
54 We Are All Niqabis Now
Departments 6 12 60 62
Editorial Community Matters Food for the Spirit New Releases
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype COPYEDITOR: Jay Willoughby. The views expressed in Islamic Horizons are not necessarily the views of its editors nor of the Islamic Society of North America. Islamic Horizons does not accept unsolicitated articles or submissions. All references to the Quran made are from The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD.
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 5
Will the Pandemic Change Our Hearts?
he COVID-19 pandemic has confronted people across all social and economic strata, bringing totally unexpected challenges. In fact, quite a few aspects of our new reality are rather hard to deal with. While the widespread suffering has brought out the best in many, it has also exposed other people’s greed and lack of empathy. These unprincipled individuals have continued their pursuit of a quick buck, regardless of the negative impacts on other people’s welfare, health and life. Those whose wealth was and is being stolen by the powers that be — often built upon old or new foundations of plunder and racism — continue to live in a precarious state of poverty. Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan, addressing a virtual U.N. event on “Financing for Development in the COVID-19 era and Beyond,” May 28, succintly alerted the world of the challenges ahead: “You have the developed world with 1.5 billion people, but the developing world with a population of six billion people. “Unless the problem is dealt with holistically as a global problem with global solutions, the world is not going to recover from this recession if the bigger part of the world’s population is wallowing in poverty.” While we hope that the pandemic will soon be controlled and ended, the nation continues to roil under racism. Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-Calif.) tweet on May 26 aptly expressed this situation, “Here’s the sad reality: what happened to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery & Christian Cooper has gone on for generations to Black Americans. Cell phones just made it more visible. Dismantling systemic racism in our nation starts with demanding justice & holding offenders accountable.” She talks of dismantling racism; however, unlike popping a pimple, this taught worldview cannot simply be “popped” and then disappear overnight. The powerful must imbibe some of the humility that the pandemic might have instilled within them so that humanity can finally overcome this plague. The horrors confronting the people of Palestine, Indian-occupied Kashmir, Xinjiang and Chechnya who still live in their occupied homelands; the genocidal campaigns that devastated Cambodia, Bosnia 6 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
and Rwanda; the ongoing official ethnic cleansing drives in Myanmar and India to disappear their indigenous Muslims — all of these continue to sicken vast swathes of humanity. But not those who reap financial and other benefits from this hideous status quo. A Bosniak, reflecting on the holocaust that swept his land during the 1990s, wonders, “Can it be that extreme nationalism has become the new language of the dreamed-of total ‘disappearance’ of the imagined other?” God has proclaimed, “We have honored the children of Adam … provided for them good provisions and gave them greater advantages than many of our creatures” (17:70). Thus, each person is equally entitled to His provisions. Furthermore, “O people, We created you from the same male and female [couple] and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes [so] that you may recognize one another. The best among you in God’s sight is the most righteous...” (49:13). Right from the pandemic’s onset in early March, ISNA took the lead to provide relevant and scientific guidance to the community. More and more national organizations – among them the Islamic Medical Association of North America, American Muslim Health Professionals and the Fiqh Council of North America — joined our effort. In a matter of days, what ISNA had started became the National Muslim COVID-19 Task Force, a broad 40+-member coalition. Its important efforts remain ongoing. In keeping with our tradition of sharing the news of Muslim communities around the world, this issue contains a special section on the Muslims of Scotland. During Ramadan, ISNA and Muslim Americans lost Dr. Farooq Selod, a very dear community leader. In addition to being an orthopedic surgery specialist in Fort Worth, Texas, he was also a founder of the Islamic Association of Tarrant County, founder and chairman of PIOUS (Propagating Islam Over [the] United States), and an ISNA Founders Committee member. ISNA president Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, announcing his passing, remarked, “We have lost a pillar of our Islamic work in America, Dr. Farooq Selod. His commitment to our mission, generosity and clarity of vision were great assets to our emerging community.” ih
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Sayyid Muhammad Syeed EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Basharat Saleem EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2020 All rights reserved Reproduction, in whole or in part, of this material in mechanical or electronic form without written permission is strictly prohibited. Islamic Horizons magazine is available electronically on ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch, Questia.com LexisNexis, and EBSCO Discovery Service, and is indexed by Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Please see your librarian for access. The name “Islamic Horizons” is protected through trademark registration ISSN 8756‑2367 POSTMASTER Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual, domestic – $24 Canada – US$30 Overseas airmail – US$60 TO SUBSCRIBE Contact Islamic Horizons at (317) 839‑8157 / (317) 204-0187 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: email@example.com ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, www.isna.net To subscribe, please e-mail: email@example.com 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 Leads COVID-19 Response Working as hard as ever to serve you and all of humanity BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
or the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everything from the economy to the school system, from worship services to how we communicate with others — even to how we grieve and mourn. It’s no exaggeration to say that its side effects have been incredibly far-reaching. As this issue goes to press, there are over 1.7 million confirmed cases, more than 100,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, as well as huge job losses (over 40 million unemployment claims had been filed as of May 28). Terms like “lockdown,” “shelter-in-place,” “social distancing” and “self-isolation” have become part of our everyday speech. This pandemic has forced us to reimage life itself and has upended our future professional and personal plans. Islam teaches us to stay prepared, patient, compassionate, and ultimately to put our trust in God: “Say, ‘Never will we be struck except by what God has decreed for us; He is our protector.’ And upon God let the believers rely” (9:51).
ISNA’S RECENT ACTIVITIES
Laying the groundwork for the community’s response. As this pandemic struck the U.S. during early March, ISNA began taking steps and advising the community. One result of its effort was the formation of the National Muslim COVID-19 Task Force. This task force, now comprising the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP), the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) and similar organizations, has issued timely and much-needed informative statements, established sub-committees to target specific areas of concern and provided valuable services. Its first joint statement, issued on March 8 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
18, asked all Muslims to follow the self-quarantine directives; observe social distancing; close their mosques, community centers, schools and other public centers; and immediately suspend all non-essential gatherings. ISNA’s homepage features a regularly updated COVID-19 window (http://isna. net/covid-19) to keep the community informed. This link also includes ISNA’s Online Programming during COVID-19, where visitors can view video talks of Islamic scholars, health professionals and leaders. Interfaith webinar. On May 23 ISNA hosted an interfaith webinar, supported by
Islamic Relief, on interfaith relations, Muslims in America and the religious community’s response to COVID-19 (https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=6Xns-kTAQzE&feature=youtu.be). After a brief introduction and account of ISNA’s leading role during this crisis, Basharat Saleem (executive director, ISNA) called upon Sayyid M. Syeed (president, ISNA) to speak. Recalling Pastor Terry Jones’ threats during 2011 to burn the Quran, Syeed noted how “out of an evil something good is born. And that was a time when many of the leaders who are here, who came forward and they said that we will not allow this to happen.” This resulted in the formation of the Shoulder-toShoulder campaign (https://www. shouldertoshouldercampaign.org), a group of “American religious communities upholding American values of freedom of religion and respect for the other.” He stated that during 2019, 500 synagogues, churches, and “holy places of other religious communities” held iftars. He praised this development, for “COVID-19 is targeting humanity” as a whole, a reality that requires cooperation. In fact, “religion has to work closely with science, with education, with knowledge while we provide the [necessary] spiritual strength” to deal with the pandemic. Anwar Khan (president, Islamic Relief USA) presented a video on his organization’s response. Saying that “We are driven by our scriptures, we are driven by our faith, to put our faith into action,” he remarked that he is sure all people of faith and of no faith are doing exactly the same thing. In short, interfaith isn’t just limited to talk; it has a very important “action” component as well. Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton (presiding bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) related some of the history of her
ISNA MATTERS denomination’s engagement with Muslims and Jews. She noted how it is working Islamic Relief on joint domestic and overseas projects, as well as advocating for a ceasefire so affected groups in conflict areas can seek and receive appropriate medical care. James “Kevin” Smith (director, DHS Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives), stated that “along with 12 colleagues across the centers of faith for each of the federal agencies … [we] work together to define ways to partner alongside all of our partner organizations.” These officials are focused on “the safety and security of our houses of worship … ensuring that religious freedom is a priority.” The center’s overall goal is to empower faith leaders by making available the tools they need to serve their respective communities. Father David Poecking (pastor, Archangel Gabriel Parish, Diocese of Pittsburgh), speaking on behalf of Bishop David Zubik (bishop, Diocese of Pittsburgh), expressed his admiration for Ramadan, “which is frequently a source of great delight to us Catholics because, among other things, it is a season of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving reminding us so much of our own need to renew our humanity and our religion with these observances.” He also remarked that perhaps Catholics “admire, if not envy, at least aspire to, the practice of iftar … focusing the Muslim members of our community on family and friendship, that shared life which is also so important for our vitality as men and women and as a community.” Bennett Miller, who oversees the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, urged people to “rededicate ourselves [to] continuous charity … and a greater understanding of our shared values.” The final speaker, Roy Medley (general secretary emeritus, the American Baptist Churches USA) reminisced about how the three faith communities worked together after Hurricane Katrina and said that they are doing so in his home area of northern New Jersey — “giving testimony to the heart of our faith, which is that as we are drawn closer to God, we are drawn closer to each other as well.” He stressed the need to oppose those who encourage further division. Education. Some 20 years ago, ISNA launched the Education Forum, which is held each spring in Chicago; a similar event is held in Los Angeles in January. This year, as the Chicago event was postponed, ISNA 10 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
hosted the Virtual Education Forum on April 18-19. Hope remains alive to host the West Coast event.
FATHER DAVID POECKING … EXPRESSED HIS ADMIRATION FOR RAMADAN, “WHICH IS FREQUENTLY A SOURCE OF GREAT DELIGHT TO US CATHOLICS BECAUSE, AMONG OTHER THINGS, IT IS A SEASON OF FASTING, PRAYER, AND ALMSGIVING REMINDING US SO MUCH OF OUR OWN NEED TO RENEW OUR HUMANITY AND OUR RELIGION WITH THESE OBSERVANCES.” VIRTUAL EDUCATION FORUM Tabasum Ahmad (project manager, ISNA Convention Department) remarked that the pandemic had obliged ISNA to convert the 21st ISNA Education Forum into its firstever virtual ISNA Education Forum. ISNA’s dedicated team, in collaboration with the Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA; https://www.cisnausa.org), held this event on April 18-19. Some 175 educators registered. Recordings are available at https://isna.net/education-forums. Magda Elkadi Saleh (head of school, Bayaan Academy), Habeeb Quadri (superintendent, Muslim Community Center Academy) and Dalia Fahmy (associate professor of political science, Long Island University) spoke on “Leading During a Crisis.” Rabia Khan (principal, Salah Tawfik Elementary and Middle Schools), Suzy Ismail, (founder, Cornerstone Counseling) and Shaykh Shady Elmasry (resident scholar, New Brunswick Islamic Center) elaborated on “Maintaining Iman in Trying Times.” Mark Mitchell (vice president, National
Association of Independent Schools) discussed “Financial Strategies for Crisis Management.” Considering the attendees’ requests, two more sessions were delivered. On May 9 Ismail Ibn Ali (middle school principal) and Farah Imam (elementary school principal) of Al Fatih Academy, respectively, and Ibrahim Yousef (principal, Nashville International Academy) addressed the 157 educators who participated in “Closing out the School Year.” On May 16, Leila Shatara (president, CISNA; head, Noor-ul-Iman School), William White (board secretary, CISNA; principal, the Islamic School of Louisville) and Nadeem Memon (senior lecturer, University of South Australia’s Center for Islamic Thought and Education) discussed “Preparing to Reopen School in the Fall” with the 271 registrants. A sampling of the messages received reflects how much the attendees valued the speakers’ well-prepared and useful lectures. Among the comments and messages were the following: “I am so blessed to be here in this virtual convention,” “Excellent food for thought for us to reflect and incorporate into our thinking and into our programs going forward” and “Attending these webinars helps me level up my leadership game, and for that I’m grateful.” Other undertakings. In yet another effort to meet the community’s spiritual needs, ISNA has provided virtual programming that features major national speakers and scholars from the Fiqh Council. One such program, the “Friday Reflections,” is live streamed every Friday at 1 p.m. EST. We also created a specific website that dispenses vital COVID-19 information and updates, features important statements and meets Muslim Americans’ spiritual needs via virtual programming, videos and many other related resources. From the onset of this health care emergency, ISNA has undertaken several initiatives and provided leadership for the community. Indeed, a crisis brings out the best in people as they join together to accomplish a common goal through a renewed spirit of resolve. We can see this every day, from our Muslim health care workers laboring on the frontlines to Islamic relief agencies providing much-needed on-the-ground services. Their contributions, which reflect our community’s high spirit of service, have been recognized at highest levels. ih
Hamza Comic Contest Launched
The Barzinji Prize Foundation (BPF) launched the Hamza Comic Contest on May 1 in honor of (late) Hamza Barzinji. Its website (https://www.hamzanama. org) carries the official submission form, helpful information on the contest’s characters and resources on the classic “Hamzanama.” Both individual and team submissions are invited. Working with a group of talented comic artists, BPF (https://www.facebook.com/ barzinjiprize) published the origin story of
the hero, Amir Hamza, to provide an illustrated guideline by setting the scene and introducing the main characters and their special powers. The Barzinji Prize Foundation is a 501(c) (3) organization, and all contributions are tax deductible. It has raised 60% of its goal — $65,000 — to cover the start-up costs, as well as the contest’s administration, promotion and prize money. For information or to donate, please contact email@example.com. If you want to support this contest, please promote it by word of mouth and social media tools, forward this email to your friends, ask them to sign up for updates, share our website and “like” and “share” our Facebook Page; encourage the writers and artists you know to submit their work; continue providing advice, suggestions and guidance on how to improve this project; and consider making another donation to help us raise the remaining funds either directly on our website or through our Launchgood Campaign. You will receive a thank-you gift as a token of our appreciation for your efforts. ih
Global Virtual Muslim Graduation
A global Virtual Muslim Graduation for the Class of 2020, coordinated by a group of volunteers, led by civil engineer Ziyad Dadabhoy and upcoming medical student Sara Alattar, was hosted on May 30 by Midwest MSA (midwestmsa.com), MIST Chicago (mistchicago.org), and A Continuous Charity (acceducate.org) — Muslim organizations dedicated to serving Muslim students in different capacities, from on-campus services to interest-free financial aid. 12 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
Dadabhoy is co-founder and co-director of Midwest MSA. A Continuous Charity (acceducate. org) is the first and only national Muslim 501(c)(3) that provides interest-free loans and financial mentoring for higher education. Muslim Interscholastic Tournament (mistchicago.org) hosts annual educational and creative competitions for high school students across the US and in 19 regions across the world. ih
S. Amjad Hussain delivered the virtual commencement address to graduates of University of Toledo’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences on May 15. Noting how strange it is to “participate in a ceremony where the audience is conspicuously absent,” he told the graduates that this event “marks the end of one phase of your life and the beginning of another exciting phase.” Dispensing with the usual platitudes and pictures of a rosy future, he said that “unlike other professions, our role as health care providers remains paramount and central. … hundreds of professionals … came out of retirement to extend a helping hand [during this current health care crisis].” He also stated “Times like these remind all of us in health care, both physicians and non-physicians, that when there is a need beyond the call of duty, we respond. We are not robots or indoctrinated soldiers who, when ordered, march into an inferno …” After advising them to balance their lives to avoid burnout, he concluded, “Most of what I did as a surgeon I [learned] on the job. … the bulk of what you will end up doing professionally has yet to be discovered” and asked them to “practice medicine, but with empathy, [and] resist being placed on a pedestal by society and your patients. Climb down and stay grounded.” A 1962 graduate of Peshawar’s (Pakistan) Khyber Medical College, he holds emeritus professorships in cardiovascular surgery at the College of Medicine and Life Sciences and at the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Toledo. During this event, he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science for his accomplishments in surgery and surgery research, teaching, writing, journalism, exploration, calligraphy and other fields. ih
Syrians Supported Via Peace Award
Promoting Enduring Peace (https://pepeace.org) bestowed its Gandhi Peace Award for 2020 on Dr. Zaher Sahloul and Mayson Almisri. The award, instituted in 1960 by the veteran peace and environmental organization, comes with a medal made of “peace” bronze (forged from the metal of retired nuclear weapons) and a $5,000 cash prize shared by the two honorees. The group hopes to hold the actual presentation ceremony in September. PEP administrator Stanley Heller said that most of the peace movement has ignored the agency of Syrians and their efforts for a democratic uprising, one that has been met by incredible violence and turned into a proxy war by several foreign powers, but which still remains active whether hidden in Deraa and Idlib or alive in the diaspora. PEP recognized two Syrians active in these organizations doing humanitarian work. Dr. Zaher Sahloul is past president of the Syrian-American Medical Society, which has recently built and rebuilt hospitals in Syria both underground and in caves. He’s now president of Medglobal, which helps people in 14 countries. The Chicago pulmonary specialist has helped treat patients with the coronavirus. Mayson Almisri of Deraa, where the 2011 mass demonstrations began, is a leader in the Syrian Civil Defense, known in the West as the White Helmets. They dig out survivors and bodies from under the rubble of Syrian or Russian bombs and have enraged the Assad regime by making videos of the devastation caused by barrel bombs and chemical weapons. During the recent ceasefire, they have worked at disinfecting, hoping to ward off the coronavirus inside the remnant of Idlib province. Past honorees include Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Tom Goldtooth, Omar Barghouti, Ralph Nader and Jackson Browne. ih Dr. Abdulrahman Mohamed El-Sayed, popularly known as Abdul Syed, is serving on the Democratic Party’s Unity Task Force on health care, having been nominated by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). In May, Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden established six task forces to deal with critical issues facing the country. Each one includes eight members — three appointed by Sanders and five appointed by Biden — who are working together to formulate the specific platform
Zohaib Begg visits the SpringHill Suites hotel in Ashburn to pick up protective gear from the hotel manager (© Isma Zubair)
Northern Virginia second-grader Zohaib Begg spent his time off from school helping front-line health care workers serve a growing number of COVID-19 patients. In March, the 7-year-old visited hotels in his Ashburn area — Hilton Garden Inn, Embassy Suites, Aloft, Courtyard Marriott Dulles, SpringHill Suites and Hyatt House — to ask if they could donate any shower caps to hospitals. Not only did they have some that local doctors, nurses and technicians could use, but also stocks of gloves and facemasks that they were happy to give to him. As a result, he and his mother Isma Zubair collected more than 6,000 personal protective equipment items. Zohaib donated the collection to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he had had emergency surgery when he was 4 years old to remove a tumor from his abdomen. For the next three years, Zohaib was under the care of a hematologist to ensure that there was no regrowth of the tumor. A year ago, his doctor gave him a clean bill of health. ih recommendations that will form the basis of Biden’s campaign and the Democratic Party’s 2020 platform. In that role, El-Sayed contributes his expertise as a physician, epidemiologist, former city health official and public health policy scholar, as well as his experiences as an organizer and activist lifting up the stories and lived experiences of Michiganders. “The existence of these Task Forces is a testament to the hard organizing of the progressive movement and the power we’ve built JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 13
Advice for Shenandoah University Graduates M. Yaqub Mirza, member of Shenandoah University’s Board of Trustees and chairman of its Investment and Endowment Committee, helped mark the May 5 graduation via a letter. Reminding the graduates that they were “making history” due to the unique circumstances of their graduation, he stressed that they “should be incredibly proud of themselves” for having persevered in the face of the current pandemic. “The job market,” he said, “is tight, so you may consider continuing education or volunteering at your favorite nonprofit — both will build your resume and skills as the economy recovers … hopefully soon.” Sharing some of the life lessons that he has read and learned, he said, “Although you are graduating, remember [that] learning never stops. It is a life-long process ... Success comes to those who make it happen, not to those who let it happen. Success is not success without a successor, so share what you have learned. Remember, a candle does not diminish its light by lighting another candle.” In addition, he encouraged them to “Always have an attitude of over the past five years,” stressed El-Sayed, who served as Detroit’s public health director (2015-17). He was a candidate in Michigan’s 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary and is the author of “Healing Politics: A Doctor’s Journey into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic” (Abrams Press, 2020). After graduating from the University of Michigan, El-Sayed won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he earned a doctorate in public health. He is a former assistant professor in Columbia University’s department of epidemiology and director of Columbia’s Sys-
14 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
gratitude: be thankful for what you have. Do not adopt the attitude of ‘my way or highway,’ but rather learn [how] to get along well with others.” He also advised them to make saving a priority, noting, “A few dollars spent here and there may seem like a small leak, but it will eventually sink the ship. Saving for future needs will never hurt.” Referring to the importance of excellence, he said his personal motto is, “‘If someone can do my job, then I am not doing my job,’ If so, then I have to work harder to do better. This made me to [strive] be ahead of the others. Excel in everything you do, [for] employers are looking for excellence and performers. There is absolutely no room for arrogance.” He stressed “Courage and Honor,” being ethical, truthful, honest, having faith and standing for what you believe is right. Abraham Lincoln, he pointed out, said, “Ability (skill and will) can take you to the top, but Character will keep you there.” He concluded with, “Be the change you wish to see in the world, rather than being a complainer … Go out there and do something remarkable.” ih
tems Science Program and Global Research Analytics for Population Health.
During this past Ramadan, courtesy of Mayor Jacob Frey’s unique noise permit, Muslims in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood enjoyed hearing the adhan broadcast five times each day by speakers from outside Dar al-Hijrah Mosque. The call, reaching thousands of residents, allowed them to pray together while practicing social distancing amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. CAIR paid for the audio equipment. “At a time when physical distancing requires [that] we pray apart, it’s incumbent on leaders to create a sense of togetherness where we can,” Frey said in a statement. “[The] adhan provides solidarity and comfort — both of which are essential during a
time of crisis. As our Muslim community prepares for Ramadan, we hope the broadcast will offer a measure of stability and reassure our entire city that we are all very much in this together.” CAIR-Minnesota executive director Jaylani Hussein added, “This historic effort to promote religious inclusion — offering the call to prayer in Cedar Riverside Community — will be welcomed by the Muslim community and all those who value diversity and mutual understanding. The call to prayer will be especially meaningful to the many senior citizens in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood who have been isolated due to the pandemic. It will help them feel more connected to their community and mosque in this sacred month.” The City of Ottawa also granted a new noise exemption to allow all mosques to broadcast the maghrib adhan until May 23, in recognition of Ramadan and in light of the Ontario government’s order prohibiting the gathering of more than five people. Mayor Jim Watson tweeted, “I hope this will help our Muslims friends in their observance of this sacred month of devotion and spiritual reflection. Ramadan Mubarak!” In the Greater Toronto Area, the cities of Mississauga and Brampton made similar exemptions. ih
COMMUNITY MATTERS ACHIEVERS
Yousef Saleh, a first-generation American born and raised in Jersey City’s Heights neighborhood, was sworn in by Mayor Steven Fulop on May 1 to the position left vacant by the COVID-19-related death of Jersey City Councilman Michael Yun. Five other candidates had vied for the seat. On Nov. 3, the city will hold a special election to fill Yun’s seat for the remainder of his term, which expires in Dec. 2021. Saleh — the first Muslim appointed to the council — graduated from McNair Academy in 2007, where he was elected to represent the district’s 30,000 students as the student representative on the Jersey City Board of Education. He went on to obtain his Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law School, where he studied corporate and political corruption, and then served as a law clerk in the Jersey City Department of Law (2014-15). At J.P. Morgan Chase, he works with businesses to maintain regulatory compliance. On his own time, he volunteers similar help to small businesses on weekends, was a board member and treasurer for the Riverview Farmers Market (2015-17) and emcee for the Ramadan iftar that takes place in front of City Hall. In 2018 he was a candidate for the Board of Education. He’s been a community leader and advocate at Masjid Al Hoda in Jersey City’s Heights neighborhood, as well as for Muslims countywide. Yasir Syeed, solution specialist and mindfulness meditation teacher (and student) at Red Hat Company (https://www. redhat.com/en/about/company), was recently presented with the 2020 Red Hat Innovation Award. Each year, a panel of judges selects five Red Hat Innovation Awards winners from a pool of global nominees. 16 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
Syeed, a digital transformation sales specialist for the company’s North America Public Sector and a trained mindfulness instructor and crisis counselor, took questions on how to build wellbeing and resilience, especially in times of uncertainty. He is certified in solution-focused brief therapy and is pursuing his master’s degree in psychotherapy. Syeed will share his perspective on how individuals can recognize resilience within themselves and prioritize wellbeing during stressful times.
Rochester, N.Y., attorney Kamran F. Hashmi was named one of the “Super Lawyers” for 2020 as a Top-Rated Civil Litigation Attorney in his city. This peer designation is awarded to only 5% of accomplished attorneys in each state. The selection process takes into account peer recognition, professional achievement in legal practice and other cogent factors. Hashmi, who earned his undergraduate degree from the University at Buffalo (2004), graduated from Florida State University’s College of Law in 2008. He was admitted to legal practice the same year and now runs his solo practice: Hashmi Law Firm. He has appeared at every level of the state’s civil court system — from small claims and the state Supreme Court to the New York State Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court).
Ameena Soliman, a player personnel coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, was among the three inaugural Scott Pioli & Family Fund for Women Football Coaches and Scouts grant recipients announced in 2019. She was one of those who worked behind the scenes of the 2020 virtual NFL Draft. Soliman (IH, July/Aug 2018, p. 42) is the first woman in hijab to receive this auspicious award. “Being awarded this grant will allow me to focus on getting better at what I do with fewer distractions,” said Soliman, who hopes to one day become a vice president or general manager of a team. “It’s an honor to be recognized by an organization that does so much to help women advance in football, and I hope to be able to pay it forward.” The Fund, launched by the Women’s Sports Foundation and NFL executive Scott Pioli in 2017, supports the development, education and training of aspiring U.S. female football coaches and scouts who are pursuing careers in collegiate or professional football. The grants are distributed on a rolling basis.
Al-Amal School students put on a superlative performance at the Minnesota Science and Engineering Fair 2020. The Fridley, Minn.-based school’s award winners were: Grand Award – Gold Medal: • Maryam Shahkhan: Pharma Pack: Engineering a Medicine Packaging Container Using Insulation to Transport
PHOTO (C) JAMEEL SYED
Michigan native Jibril Syed, a graduating senior at Auburn Hills Avondale and a rising Georgetown freshman in the fall, was featured in MileSplit.USA (https://www.milesplit.com). The only online publisher in the sport that provides a high level of timely and comprehensive nationwide coverage, it commended him for continuing his athletic training route while fasting during Ramadan. Last summer, Syed earned a rare honor — the first track and field athlete in the AAU Junior Olympics and US history to score All-American honors in both the 400-meter hurdles and the 2,000-meter steeplechase. This achievement opened up scholarship opportunities from various NCAA Division I universities, including Georgetown University, the school with which he eventually signed. AAU National Track and Field Secretary Karen Hall, who verified that Syed became the first athlete ever to earn All-American honors in both events during the same weekend, joined Troy University Athletics’ Charles “Coach O” Oliver in delivering a plaque to the Auburn Hills native. The 2019 AAU National Junior Olympic Games, held July 28-Aug. 3 in Greensboro, N.C., were the largest youth track and field meet to be held in the country to date. A total of 13,601 athletes participated. Syed told Kyle Deeken of MileSplit-USA (https://www.milesplit.com/articles/279785-this-michigan-athlete-has-found-balance-during-ramadan, May 6, 2020) that his soon-to-be coach at Georgetown, Associate Head Coach Alton McKenzie, understood his Ramadan challenges and helped him feel confident that such a choice would not have to be made. McKenzie’s gesture, Jibril says, made him believe that the decision to attend and compete for Georgetown, an institution with Roman Catholic traditions, was a good move. His father Jameel has been his lone coach on the track till now. In 2015, Jameel made record books by becoming the only person to call the adhan along with reading the last sermon of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in all of the 50 states within a record span of 35 days (IH, July/Aug. 2015, p. 13). ih Medicines to Homes [Also won the Broadcom MASTERS Award and the Wolfram Research Mathematica Software Award] • Abdur-Rahman Lodhi: “Tapping” Clean Energy — One Step at a Time [Also won the Broadcom MASTERS Award]
Grand Award – Silver Medal • Muhammad Ali Qureshi and Tarek Sid: Beware of Radon Gas [Also won the Seagate Emerging Scientist Award] • Noor Omar and Muminah Mohammed: The Invisible Carcinogen in Your
Home [Also won the Seagate Emerging Scientist Award, the Broadcom MASTERS Award and the MN Environmental Health Association (MEHA) First Place Middle School Award ($100)] Grand Award – Bronze Medal • Adnaan Said: Engineering a New Transmitting Insulin Pen for Type I Diabetics [Also won Honorable Mention for the Most Innovative Middle School Project] First Place: Middle School Engineering Project Award ($350) • Beckman Coulter First Place Middle School Engineering Project Award ($350) and the Wolfram Research Mathematica Software Award: Omar AbouZahr: The EV3 Lego Robot Swiffer National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Taking the Pulse of the Planet Award: • Abdullah Saidi, Mohammed Omer and Eyad Wazwaz: Designing a Remote Controlled Boat That Naturalizes the Process of Eutrophication by Filtering Excess Phosphorus and Nitrogen United States Navy — Naval Science Award for Middle School: • Zainab Lodhi: “Fidgeting” with a Fidget Spinner — Can a Fidget Spinner be put to Scientific use Using Magnets and Solar Energy?
ISLAMIC JOURNEY FROM THE MSA TO ISEC: FROM 1960 TO 20?? A Brief Autobiography of Dr. Osman Ahmed One of the blue-collar Islamic workers in the U.S. To order obtain a copy, please donate $15.00 or more DONATION to The Islamic Society of Essex County 39A Musket Lane Whiting, NJ 08759
CORRIGENDUM We apologize to our readers and seek God’s forgiveness for our typo on page 57, column 3, of the May/June 2020 issue (IH, Vol. 49, No. 3). The reference about shura (mutual consultation) was mistyped as Quran 43:28 instead of 42:38: “who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation.” ih JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 17
Are Interest-Bearing Loans Provided by the CARES Act Halal? The Fiqh Council of North America and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America have unanimously ruled that Muslim small business owners can apply for these loans if they intend to pay them off before any interest accrues BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
n March 26, 2020, the U.S. government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares), which allocated $2 trillion to help the country recover from the effects of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Small Business Administration is implementing the Paycheck Protection Program (https://www.sba. gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program) established by the CARES Act, with support from the Department of the Treasury. This program provides small businesses with funds to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs, including benefits. This includes loans for major industries and small businesses impacted by the pandemic. These “loans” will be forgiven if certain requirements are met. For example, here is a summary of one clause that mentions these requirements: “Any portion of the Section 7(a) loan used to maintain payroll, provided workers stay employed through to the end of June 2020, will be forgiven in an amount equal to the sum of the following costs incurred and payments made during the eight-week period beginning on the date of the origination of a covered loan: (i) payroll costs; (ii) interest payments on mortgages; (iii) covered rent obligations; and (iv) covered utility payments.” These loans were actually intended to function like grants or gifts to eligible institutions. However, they have been structured as loans so that they can be easily and quickly administered through existing financial institutions and already-established processes: FDIC banks, credit unions, etc. Thus, the interest may still be due on them even when the principal is forgiven. An important principle of the Islamic law is captured by the legal maxim: “The consideration in contracts is the functional meaning, not the wording” [al-‘ibrah fi al-‘uqud li al-ma‘ani la li al-alfaz]. For example, if someone says, “I will give you this gift if you give me that gift,” then the contract is viewed as a type of sale transaction. Even though the word “gift” is used, it is functionally a sale contract because two items are being exchanged. This same principle applies to a loan contract that has a guarantee of forgiveness. Normally, Muslims cannot enter into a contract that stipulates interest on a loan. However, exceptions can be made when there is an extremely high probability that the interest will not be incurred. The reasoning here is that such a contract would, in reality, be functionally equivalent to an interest-free loan. The Fiqh Council of North America (http://fiqhcouncil.org) has opined that Muslim business owners can avail themselves of this loan under the following conditions: 18 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
■ The amount must be used strictly for the purposes for which it is given. ■ All of its terms must be followed so that the amount is forgiven, as stipulated in Section 7 of the CARES Act. ■ All Islamic organizations that take this loan must make every effort to ensure that they will not incur interest on it. ■ Businesses should consult a lawyer before submitting the appropriate application in order to protect the organization and its representatives from any future legal problems. (Adopted by the Fiqh Council of North America on April 2, 2020) The Association of Muslim Jurists and Scholars (AMJA; https://www.amjaonline. org) was asked: “The U.S. government has announced a large stimulus package because of the recession caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Part of this package comes in the form of low-interest, small business loans that are intended to keep the business viable. The principal debt will be forgiven, but not the interest, if the loan is used to pay specific essential business-related expenses (e.g., rent, utilities, wages and salaries) and doesn’t lay the employees off. In light of this current crisis, can Muslim business owners apply for those loans?” It responded: After the necessary deliberations, and based on the recognition of the magnitude of the current crisis, AMJA’s Resident Fatwa Committee (RFC) finds it permissible for Muslim small business owners to apply for these government loans for the following reasons: ❶ Muslim scholars agree that taking interest-based loans is forbidden. However, necessity warrants concessions in this regard. It appears to the RFC’s members that there is a justifying hardship and public need in our current conditions due to the global recession and the harm that has befallen small business owners in particular. ❷ In this case the lender is the government, which seeks to bring relief to its subjects and save the economy. The government has indicated that it will forgive the principal debt and turn it into a grant if the borrowers fulfill the stated conditions. This shows that the underlying intent is to ease the people’s suffering and that even though the interest will not be waived, the principal debt itself will be. ❸ Of course, applying this fatwa to individual cases requires honesty. Whoever intends to fulfill the conditions necessary for turning these debts into grants may apply for them, and whoever thinks that they will not fulfill those conditions may only apply for them to repel an existing or expected hardship. May the blessings of God be on His last Messenger, and all praise belongs to the Lord of the Worlds. ih [Editor’s note: Slightly edited to conform with IH style]
President Trump, joined by Vice President Pence and members of the White House COVID-19 Coronavirus task force, addresses the press during a coronavirus update briefing, April 16 (© Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
Health, Ethics and Effective Leadership — Where Are They? Countering the U.S. pandemic’s “Bucks over Bodies” mentality
BY JAMES JONES
illions of English-speaking/knowing Muslims worldwide are familiar with this English translation of Q. 4:135, “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: For God can best protect both.”
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 19
Unexpectedly, this verse is also part of the “Words of Justice” exhibit hand-stenciled at the Harvard Law School Library’s entrance. Clearly, these ethical imperatives have a universal appeal to humans who aspire to live in moral, just societies. This civilizing, ethical impulse can also be found in the opening words of the Declaration of Independence, which the Second Continental Congress passed unanimously in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. This revolutionary document’s second paragraph begins with the famous words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” At that time, “all men” referred exclusively to male members of that era’s White privileged class. Ultimately, the social dynamism engendered by the country’s diverse population pushed the American executive, legislative and judicial branches to recognize “all men” as inclusive of every citizen, irrespective of their gender identity or cultural background. Thus, the “right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness” applies to all citizens. Although the Declaration isn’t an explicit source document for lawmaking, the sentiments found therein permeate federal, state and local jurisprudence. Given this fact, you can imagine how stunned I was to wake up one morning to find that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) of Texas — the second largest state in the Union – had told all Americans, via Fox News on April 21, that “there are more important things than living. And that’s saving this country for my children, my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us. And I don’t want to die [Patrick is 70]. Nobody wants to die, but man we gotta take some 20 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
NOT ONLY ARE OUR KEY GOVERNMENT LEADERS ETHICALLY CHALLENGED AS A RESULT OF THEIR “BUCKS OVER BODIES” MENTALITY, BUT WE ALSO HAVE A PROFITDRIVEN HEALTH CARE SYSTEM THAT REALLY ISN’T A SYSTEM AT ALL, DOLING OUT THE WORST OF SUBPAR CARE TO PEOPLE OF COLOR AND THOSE WHO HAVE LOWER INCOMES. risks and get back in this game and get this country back up and running.” [Ed. Note: Patrick is a former conservative radio talk show host who advocated for fiscal conservatism and evangelical Christian values on social issues and became a vocal opponent of illegal immigration.] Unfortunately, Patrick’s opinion is not an aberration. His crass “bucks over bodies” ethical calculation is shared by several key federal, state and local (mostly Republican) political leaders. Somewhere between the Second Continental Congress in 1776 and the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, the unalienable right to life got lost. Ironically,
he belongs to that select group of people who want to ban legal abortion while simultaneously encouraging those of us over 70 to risk our lives unnecessarily. This group urged “opening up” without the proper public health infrastructure to “save” this country’s economy — bucks are clearly more important than old bodies (particularly those bodies of people of color, like me). The U.S. is now facing an unprecedented public health/economic debacle. We have had the 1918 influenza pandemic, which took approximately 675,000 American lives, and the Great Depression of the 1930s. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 1918 there were no flu vaccines or antibiotics available to treat the resultant secondary bacterial infections. Consequently, control efforts were limited to isolation, quarantines, increased personal hygiene, disinfectants and restrictions on public gatherings (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/ pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1. html). Essentially, the U.S. was ill equipped to handle that devastating pandemic. The Great Depression was another story altogether. A charismatic, inspirational leader “stepped up” and recognized that bold, calculated steps were needed. During his first inaugural address in 1932, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously stated that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself ” and proposed a “New Deal” to help “the forgotten man” at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Although he made major missteps (e.g., his 1937 attempt to pack the U.S. Supreme Court and his 1942 racist, morally bankrupt Executive Order 9066, which sent 110,000+ Japanese American citizens to concentration camps), he did get the country back on track economically. In 2020 we face both of these challenges and ethically challenged politicians in
charge. History will ultimately be the best judge, but it seems that at a time when we need ethical, effective leadership the most, our political leaders have largely failed us. The current situation is daunting. An aggressive, stealthy virus continues to confound some of the world’s best scientific minds. Scientific modeling has been far from accurate, and our public health experts are all over the place when it comes to predicting the ultimate impact of this deadly disease. What we do know is that things are likely to get worse before they get better, and that “normal” as we once knew it will never be seen again. This uncertainty is exacerbated by a clearly broken health care system. Some of the statistics are chilling: • According to a Harvard University study, “in 2016, the U.S. spent nearly twice as much on health care as any other high income countries, yet had poorer health outcomes” (“What’s behind high U.S. health care costs,” March 13, 2018, https://news. harvard.edu). • According to the Brookings Institute, “In the U.S., based on data from 2016, White babies die before their first birthday at a rate of 4.9 per 1,000, and White women die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes at a rate of 13 per 100,000… Black babies die before their first birthday at a rate of 11.4 per 1,000, and Black moms die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes at a rate of 42.8 per 100,000 — more than double and triple the rates of White babies and moms
respectively” (https://www.brookings.edu/ blog/usc-brookings-schaeffer-on-healthpolicy/2020/02/19/there-are-clear-racebased-inequalities-in-health-insuranceand-health-outcomes) • Further, according to Popular Science magazine (popsci.com, March 9, 2020), “Researchers say that the American health care system can make the [COVID-19] outbreak much worse. In fact, we don’t really have a system,” says Lynn Blewett, a professor of health policy at the University of Minnesota. Clearly, we have a huge problem when it comes to ethical, effective leadership in the face of this pandemic. Not only are our key government leaders ethically challenged as a result of their “bucks over bodies” mentality, but we also have a profit-driven health care system that really isn’t a system at all, doling out the worst of subpar care to people of color and those who have lower incomes. For Muslim Americans, this situation is particularly distressing for several reasons. First of all, aside from Q. 4:135, several other verses insist that those who profess Islam must adhere to high ethical standards. Over time, Muslim legal scholars have developed a concept known as maqasid al-shari‘ah, which focuses on the aims or purposes of Islamic law. Not surprisingly, one of these is preserving human life. Consequently, many Muslims are shocked and saddened by the apparent callous disregard for human life found in the governmental policies articulated in response to the current pandemic.
Second, in an article from the Avicenna Journal of Medical Biotechnology, posted on the National Institutes of Health’s website, we find that “medicine is one of the scientific dimensions by which he [Avicenna, also known as Ibn Sina (9801037] has dominated the world of medical science for at least six centuries (11th to 17th centuries).” In other words, much of modern medicine is predicated on his and other Muslim thinkers’ foundational medical and related work. For example, in the first volume of his five-volume medical encyclopedia, Ibn Sina promoted the use of quarantines. Thus, the Muslim community has a special historical relationship with the medical profession. In addition, Muslim Americans often choose to become medical professionals. For instance, according to an April 2015, study entitled “The Physician Workforce in Texas,” Dallas County had approximately 5,924 physicians (https://www.merritthawkins.com/ UploadedFiles/MerrittHawkins/surveys/ Merritt_Hawkins_NTREC_Physician_ Workforce_Survey.pdf). If the count of 634 members claimed by the Dallas Muslim Medical Alliance Facebook page is accurate, then approximately 10% of all Dallas County doctors are Muslim — far larger than the estimated 1% of this country’s total population (Basheer Mohamed, “New estimates show U.S. Muslim population continues to grow”; https://www.pewresearch.org/,Jan. 3, 2018). Consequently, it is likely that in places like the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex Muslims represent a significant proportion of the people on the front lines. The bottom line is that there are many reasons why Muslims should be active in shaping the public discourse, public policy and public praxis when it comes to confronting this pandemic. More specifically, we need to • Raise our collective voice against the “bucks over bodies” ethics that calls for sacrificing human life in the pursuit of establishing a stronger economy. • Use our roles within the health care system to push for a health care system that is more effective and just, as urged by Q. 4:135. • Become more civically engaged so that our political participation can help us influence the first two actions. ih Prof. James Jones, DMin, executive vice president of the Islamic Seminary of America, is professor emeritus of World Religions and African Studies at Manhattanville College, Purchase, N.Y.
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 21
The Secret Superheroes Public health officials are the “offensive line” of the community against diseases BY SAMAN ESSA
CNN chief national correspondent, John King hosted Dr. Umair Shah to provide local perspectives on COVID19 in Texas as the state reopened. He stressed that public health is critical to sound decision-making related to this pandemic
OVID-19 has shaken our world as we know it, whether we like it or not. One thing we can say for certain is that we have collectively developed a greater appreciation for certain professions that have stepped up to care for us. From the teachers who transitioned their lesson plans to an online platform almost instantaneously in order to continue providing an education to our children, to those who work in grocery stores who worked overtime to ensure the shelves were stocked and healthy practices were implemented, to healthcare workers who are on the front lines, working to cure those infected. However, one profession that often goes unrecognized, but is instrumental in keeping our community safe, is public health. Islamic Horizons interviewed Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, the Executive Director and Local Health Authority for Harris County Public Health (HCPH) to highlight the invaluable work he and his team are doing to keep Harris County, the nation’s third most populous county with 4.7 million, safe and healthy. Every county is required to have a health 22 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
authority or health officer; a physician who is appointed to carry out state and local laws related to public health. Dr. Shah’s role as the local health authority means that he is responsible for communicating public health laws that come from the federal and state levels and implementing them on a local, county level. He is also the individual that is responsible for keeping the entire community safe and preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Being the health authority
for a county that is larger than 26 states and whose constituents speak more than 140 languages is no easy feat. It is hard to imagine how the coronavirus outbreak was to be managed at this seemingly micro, but actually macro, level that is Harris County. Dr. Shah credits his team and his faith for being sources of motivation in combating this virus. “Growing up, my parents taught me two things that sound similar but are very different,” he says. “My parents told me to ‘do good’ and to ‘do well’. To ‘do well’ means to be great and to excel in everything you do. To ‘do good’ is giving back to the world, giving back to your community. And our faith teaches us to do just that.” Dr. Shah expressed immense gratitude and pride for being in a position in which he can serve his community. “Because of our ability to do good, and through doing well, I feel the Harris County Public Health Department is in the best position to continue keeping the community safe.” Dr. Shah is a strong advocate for increasing awareness around public health and the work that public health workers do. “Some people think that public health is second to health care and that health care reform is the solution to the current health crisis. But what’s really needed is a revitalization of public health. In public health, a single
DR. SHAH SAYS THAT WHEN PUBLIC HEALTH IS VISIBLE TO PEOPLE, WE AS A COMMUNITY VALUE IT MORE AND, BY EXTENSION, VALIDATE THE WORK THEY DO. EVEN IN THE LANGUAGE WE USE CURRENTLY TO VENERATE HEROES, WE CALL THE DOCTORS AND NURSES AND HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS THE HEROES. THEY ARE, AND WE SHOULD RIGHTFULLY HONOR THEM. BUT WE, AS A SOCIETY, OFTEN OVERLOOK AND ARE NOT EVEN AWARE OF THE WORK PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSIONALS DO EVERYDAY.
Dr. Umair Shah (center) leads a meeting of his team on Jan. 23, when his department officially became a response unit to COVID-19
person isn’t our patient; the entire community is our patient.” He calls the lack of attention paid to public health workers and their work the #invisibilitycrisis. Dr. Shah says that when public health is visible to people, we as a community value it more and, by extension, validate the work they do. Even in the language we use currently to venerate heroes, we call the doctors and nurses and health care professionals the heroes. They are, and we should rightfully honor them. But we, as a society, often overlook and are not even aware of the work public health professionals do everyday. In order for public health to be an actual investment, we must invest in it outside of a pandemic. “Public health should be visible and valuable to everyone, not just during a pandemic,” Dr. Shah says. “It has to be supported in a way in which we use it not as a reaction to something, but value it as an integral piece in proactively keeping our communities safe and healthy.” Dr. Shah gave an example to illustrate what he meant by proactive investment. “Prior to
COVID-19, we had 25 epidemiologists on staff. In light of COVID-19, we increased that number to 100. We have since added 400 more public health workers to our team in the months following COVID-19. That’s 500 more people added on to a staff that was originally only 750 people, and we did that because of a pandemic. Now think about what health would be like in a community if we invested in the diseases that kill hundreds of people every day; diabetes, heart disease, cancer.” Dr. Shah isn’t saying that his team was unprepared; in fact, it’s the opposite. “We get a lot of health alerts,” he says. “We have to assess which ones to prepare for. The fact that Chinese authorities were acting assertively to combat COVID-19 alerted us to start preparing. We knew it would affect us and we started formal planning as early as January 23rd though the preparation dated to even earlier in January. So it wasn’t a matter of reacting ‘if ’ COVID-19 made its way to Harris County, but ‘when’ and that ‘when’ very quickly turned in to acting NOW.”
Dr. Shah likens public health officials to the football “offensive line” of the community against diseases. “Everyone knows who DeShaun Watson is. He’s the Texans’ quarterback. But no one can name the offensive lineman whose job it is to protect the quarterback.” The lineman, like the public health officials, are there, but we do not value the work the lineman does in being an integral part of the team. Health workers have been working 18-20 hours a day, weekends, and essentially have no off days in response to COVID-19, but because they behind-thescenes workers, we do not appreciate them in the same way as health care providers. COVID-19 has been disruptive to everyone’s lives, causing people to miss out on and re-envision births, funerals, celebrations, and religious holidays, including Ramadan. Shah gave a particularly telling answer and said that the way he chose to respond to COVID-19 is the same way he responds to Ramadan. “In Ramadan, it’s go-go-go. We wake up at 4 a.m., fast for 15-16 hours, and then rush to go home to spend a few hours together at night. Then we wake up the next day to do it all over again. In the same way, energy and strength are needed in the response to this pandemic.” Just how NBA great’s Hakeem Olajowoun’s game point average was higher during Ramadan, Shah commented on a similar concept, saying that the energy he brings to combatting COVID19 can be attributed to carrying the spirit of Ramadan into his work life. His assistant Tony Castaneda echoed that sentiment, and though he could not see his face during the phone interview, his awe of Dr. Shah’s energy was obvious. Similarly, Dr. Shah gracefully channels the negative energy directed toward him into fuel for motivation. Not everyone is satisfied with the way HCPH is tackling COVID-19, and people are not shy to voice their opinions. But he recounts what he told his team: “Our heads are down in response. We’re developing policies, setting up testing sites, creating data visualizations and working on contact tracing. I told my team that we need to lift our collective heads up and embrace the moment, because the decisions we make today will impact not only public health, but the very people whose lives depend on it.” ih Saman Essa, counseling psychology PhD candidate, Department of Psychological, Health & Learning Sciences, is instructional assistant, Office of National Fellowships and Major Awards, University of Houston.
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 23
Muslims Help Ease COVID-19 Pain in North America Despite widespread Islamophobia, Muslim organizations and health care workers are serving everyone BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
uring this year’s viral Ramadan, Muslim American individuals and nonprofits, guided by Prophet Muhammad’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) statements that God will rescue those in the Hereafter who help relieve a believer’s distress in this world (“Sahih Muslim”) and will compensate (generously) those who spend (in charity) (“Sahih al-Bukhari”), are doing their utmost to serve others. Muslims are visibly represented in the professional fields. In fact, President Donald Trump actually named Dr. Moncef Mohamed Slaoui to head his Operation Warp Speed program, which is working to find a vaccine for COVID-19. He even praised this world-renowned Moroccan-American immunologist who has helped create 14 new vaccines, saying “That’s a lot of our new vaccines — in 10 years, during his time in the private sector.”
INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS Dr. Saud Anwar, a pulmonologist and Connecticut state senator, was saluted by his South Windsor community on April 10 for inventing a setting — connection modus, where one medical breathing air ventilator helps ventilate seven patients simultaneously — an ideal means to manage scarce resources. He told the Connecticut Magazine (March 25), “I’ve been guiding people how to do this.” Rowaida Abdelaziz, writing in HuffPost on May 5 (“Muslim
Dr. Saud Anwar
patients and his teleICU work, in which he advises ICU nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and more via video chat.
Dr. Uzma Syed received IMANA’s donation of 2,000 KN95 masks on behalf of Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, West Islip, N.Y.
Doctors Fight COVID-19 — and Islamophobia — on the Front Lines”), highlighted the health care-related work being done by Syed Raheel Hassan, MD (John F. Kennedy Medical Center, Edison, N.J.), Marium Husain (hematology and oncology hospitalist; vice president, IMANA), Uzma Syed (infectious disease specialist; chair, COVID-19 Task Force, N.Y.), Ammar Bazerbashi, MD (owner and founder, the Medical Art Center, Middletown, N.J.), Bulland Zaman (family medicine, N.Y.), Tarnima Ahamed
(OB-GYN, N.Y.), Shoaib Malik (internal medicine, N.J.) and Amar Bukhari (director, Intensive Care Unit; associate chairman of medicine, Saint Peter’s University Hospital, N.J.). Many Muslim health care professionals, seeing the pandemic as a moral and religious issue, chose to work through Ramadan. For instance, Leila Ettachfini reported that Ann Arbor, Mich. pulmonologist Hasan Shanawani cancelled his usual Ramadan absence from the ICU and worked some in-person shifts there (vice.com, April 21). This was in addition to his day job at Blue Cross Blue Shield — overseeing the quality of care given to Medicare
MANY MUSLIM HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS, SEEING THE PANDEMIC AS A MORAL AND RELIGIOUS ISSUE, CHOSE TO WORK THROUGH RAMADAN.
24 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
The Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA; https://imana.org), the largest network of American Muslim healthcare professionals, provides medical relief through quality health care worldwide. Guided by faith, they aim to provide access to safe environments, equitable healthcare, and wellness. In 2019 IMANA launched a medical debt relief program which provided a grant of $15,000 to immigrant families in the Chicagoland area who were unable to afford their medical premiums. With the COVID19 pandemic looming, they launched a partnership to map out active households impacted by COVID-19 and cleared $1.5 million worth of outstanding medical debt. In direct response to COVID-19, IMANA has partnered with Islamic Relief-USA, Penny Appeal and Dar El Salam Travel to distribute 50,000 KN95 masks to frontline healthcare professionals in 20 hospitals nationwide. Additionally, after FEMA and the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health requested IMANA — which has provided medical relief to 2.5 million patients worldwide — to
supplement their COVID-19 response efforts, the nonprofit launched three medical relief missions during May-June 2020 to hospitals in St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. More of IMANA’s coronavirus-related resources: https:// imana.org/covid-19. The Zakat Foundation of America (ZFA; https://www. zakat.org/en) is helping F1-visa students facing financial hardship (via firstname.lastname@example.org) and maintaining an open line (1-888-ZAKAT-US) for health care centers or workers who need gloves. On April 17, The Dallas Morning News noted ZFA’s two donations to Parkland Memorial Hospital: a delivery of 1,500 meals and 1,000 boxes of sweets to the hospital staff and, a few hours later, 1,000 face shields and 1,000 N95 surgical masks. The foundation also gave about 900 face protectors to Baylor Scott & White Health in Irving and Sunnyvale, the Dallas Regional Medical Center in Mesquite and the Mesquite Police Department. Since Illinois’ lockdown, ICNA Relief ’s Chicago chapter (https://www.icnarelief. org/chicago-illinois) has distributed $65,000 worth of groceries to impacted families in Chicagoland (as this issue was going to press) and donated $4,000 toward local financial assistance requests. Nationally, the organization has distributed over 55,000 lbs. of groceries and served more than 33,000 individuals. “With the COVID-19 crisis, the need has skyrocketed,” said Dr. Saima Azfar, ICNA Relief ’s Midwest regional director. “Not only are our clients low-income wage earners, [but] now they are out of work or have seen their hours dramatically cut. Further, so many new families asking for assistance aren’t typically our clients but have lost their job or
IMANA distributed 10,000 KN95 masks to Chicago’ Sinai Health System, Roseland Community, Jackson Park and South Shore Hospital
been furloughed and still have bills to pay.” ICNA Relief, in collaboration with community organizations, has set up a free TeleHealth Helpline — 630-444-7411, 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Mon-Fri) and 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Sat-Sun). In Texas, donations from 20 primarily Muslim organizations, including the Islamic Center of Irving and the Muslim American Society of Dallas-Fort Worth, have funded 1,500 meals for Irving Independent School District students, the Irving police department and the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center. “We decided to take care of those who take care of us,” Raed Omar Sbeit, CEO of the North Texas Leadership Development Academy, told Dallas News on May 5. In New York, Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams joined community groups on April 29 to launch The Mobile Ramadan Break Fast Initiative, which served hot iftar meals citywide from four mobile food trucks. At the kickoff in Borough Park, Adams was joined by Council Member Farah Louis, the Pakistani American Youth Society, the Shorefront Coalition, Muslims Giving Back, the New York City Police Department Muslim Officers Society, the Khyber Society of America and Innayah Services Inc. “This year, Ramadan comes during a time of great hardship for so many New Yorkers throughout our city. As we continue to fight the COVID19 pandemic … helping New Yorkers who belong to religious communities to observe holy
days can be a source of great comfort to people of all faiths,” said Adams. Louis remarked, “The Mobile Ramadan Break Fast Initiative is a true testament to our ingenuity and unwavering commitment to being a good neighbor. I want to thank Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for his leadership and partnership in protecting the most vulnerable within our community.” The Associated Press (May 7) highlighted the work of Muslims Giving Back (http:// www.muslimgivingback.com), a Brooklyn, N.Y. charity that distributed food from Manhattan’s Herald Square during Ramadan. While their Need2Feed project has distributed food twice weekly since 2014, during this viral Ramadan they did it every night. The volunteers even made grocery runs for needy or sick local residents. The Tallahassee Democrat/ USA Today featured CAIRFlorida’s community activist and organizer Hiba Rahim on May 15, who sent 400 pounds of dates to incarcerated Muslims in Florida.
GRIEVING COVID-19 has caused our traditional ways of grieving and mourning to disappear. To help people cope with such a totally unexpected reality, ZAF has set up a digital COVID-19 Memorial Wall (https://www. zakat.org/en/covid-19-relief) so survivors can grieve and connect to others, remember, commemorate accomplishments, acknowledge challenges and reflect upon how the departed impacted others. “There is nothing more human than grieving; this is our small gesture of connecting us to one another during this unimaginable time,” said Amna
Mirza (head, Marketing & Communications). “Humanity above all else — that’s what we [ZAF] stand for. We hope our memorial wall will allow people to pay tribute to their loved ones. We hope it will provide some solace.” Muslim Canadians are also striving to help ease the sufferings of the pandemic-affected compatriots. The Canadian Muslim Response Network (CMRN; https://covid19relief.ca), a coalition of some of Canada’s leading Muslim civil society organizations, is operating a coordinated and united campaign to distribute essential groceries as well as hygiene and sanitation products to the elderly, the immune-compromised and vulnerable families. They also partnered with The Good Neighbour Project (https://goodneighborscanada. ca), founded by Mississauga, Ont.-based Tariq Syed when the pandemic began in midMarch. In addition to helping seniors, this project coordinates the delivery of essential items to self-isolated people, those who have disabilities, are pregnant and/or single parents, as well as health care workers. For instance, ISNA-Canada led through its “Putting Faith into Action” campaign, which included supplying food packages to the needy. Its food bank, which has operated since 2008, started its drive-thru service in April and has served 500 and 700 families a month. This article is only a very small report on how North America’s Muslims are living their faith through their actions during a time of great uncertainty. Despite widespread anti-Muslim and anti-Islam sentiments, we have every reason to be proud of who we are and what we contribute to our societies. ih
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 25
COVID-19 and a Look Into the Life of Health Care Professionals Going the extra mile to take care of patients BY SHAZIYA BARKAT
Alarm after alarm after alarm,” states Dr. R, a Muslim emergency medicine physician in Brooklyn, New York, who requests anonymity. “Alarms are constantly ringing because people are hypoxic — their oxygen saturation is below 90% and our machines are preset to ring when that happens. In previous days, an oxygen saturation below 90% would be considered an emergency and we would intervene. Now, almost everyone has an oxygen saturation below 90%. We have become desensitized to these alarms.” With the growing number of COVID19 patient cases, health care systems across the nation have been struggling with an overwhelming number of deaths. This is
26 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
especially true in New York City, the epicenter of the crisis in the United States. “One of the hardest parts is the no-visitor policy,” he reflects. “This is true especially for the patients that have baseline dementia and are not able to tell you what happened to them or why they are in the emergency room. The most difficult part of the no-visitor policy is when you know their loved one in front of you is dying, or they are intubated and there’s a 90% chance that they are not going to live to be extubated [when the doctor takes out a tube that helps patients breathe], and they don’t have their loved ones besides them to comfort them.” Many physicians at his hospital have resorted to using iPads or cellphones to allow
patients to Facetime loved ones during their final moments. With the growing number of patient cases, a lot of hospitals do not have enough beds. “It’s difficult,” he states, “explaining to the people who aren’t sick enough to be in the hospital but still don’t feel well that, unfortunately, we can’t really do anything for you right now. The hospital is at its capacity.” In addition to such limitations, many institutions across the nation are also facing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for their staff. “The lack of PPE and ventilators is making it difficult for us workers as well as the patients,” states Saifullah Mohammed Siddiqui, a respiratory care practitioner at Chicagoland’s Edward Hines
WITH THE GROWING NUMBER OF PATIENT CASES, A LOT OF HOSPITALS DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH BEDS. “IT’S DIFFICULT,” HE STATES, “EXPLAINING TO THE PEOPLE WHO AREN’T SICK ENOUGH TO BE IN THE HOSPITAL BUT STILL DON’T FEEL WELL THAT, UNFORTUNATELY, WE CAN’T REALLY DO ANYTHING FOR YOU RIGHT NOW. THE HOSPITAL IS AT ITS CAPACITY.” VA Hospital.. “Since the pandemic started, our work has grown exponentially. We are seeing something we have never seen before in our previous work experiences. In my role as a respiratory therapist, I am managing ventilators and trying to keep patients alive. We are taking things a day at a time. We are using the latest research to treat them better.” Pharmacists are also playing a vital role in the fight against COVID-19. While many work in community pharmacy settings providing for patients, others are serving in COVID-19 units in hospitals. Annie Qadir, a pharmacist specialized in narcotics and pain management who works at New YorkPresbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, says, “I’m here for my patients. This is my calling. My patients are often intubated and I have to approve their pain medications during this time. It means I have done my part and that I was able to make someone’s stay at the hospital a bit easier.” Drug shortages, however, have added to the challenge. “I follow our inventory like a hawk and order every bit of medication that I can so that my hospital is fully stocked and we can manage our patients and their pain
appropriately,” explains Qadir. “The drug shortages accompanied by the high influx of patients is really a recipe for disaster, but we are really working on overdrive to take care of these people.” In addition to the sickness plaguing hospital corridors, the pandemic has posed mental health challenges for those struggling with depression, anxiety and more. “Due to the pandemic, there’s been a great increase in phone calls and requests for antipsychotic medications,” explains Safia Mujtaba, a registered nurse working in the outpatient psychiatry at North Shore Evanston Hospital in Illinois. “I find myself talking to these patients for an hour at times, giving them reassurance, mindfulness tips and activities to occupy themselves. Many patients have lost jobs and, additionally, are being asked to stay home, which is having detrimental effects in their mental and ultimately physical well-being.” Not only is the pandemic taking a toll on patients, but also on health care providers. The amount of patient deaths seen within these few weeks has surpassed those seen within many providers’ entire careers.
“It is hard,” reflects Qadir. “I struggle at the end of my shift, cry often and then return home with the responsibility not to bring any germs home.” “I feel inadequate now, whereas I felt so comfortable before,” Mujtaba adds. “I do feel that I am doing my best, but it’s wearing down on me, my coworkers and providers.” Despite their daily challenges, many health care workers look for the silver lining. “The rewarding part of this is when we see a patient get better and then eventually come off of the ventilator,” comments Siddiqui. “It’s a priceless moment for all of us as a team, as we are working to overcome these obstacles.” “Coming to work, every day, with the signs from the community expressing gratitude and joy — that’s been the most rewarding,” reflects Mujtaba. “It has really shown that we, once committed to an idea, can succeed and do well — but only together. We should move forward in unity, continuing to watch out for one another and help one another as we attempt to move forward.” ih Shaziya Barkat, PharmD, is an Inpatient Bone Marrow Transplant Pharmacist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She is also the author of “knowing You” (2019).
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Islamic Organizations Help During COVID-19 Pandemic
During a crisis, what previously separated us no longer matters BY SHAZIYA BARKAT
s the COVID-19 pandemic brings challenges for many, Islamic nonprofit organizations continue to step up to provide aid for those affected. The Washington, D.C.-based American Pakistan Foundation (APF; https://www. americanpakistan.org), which aims to empower Pakistani Americans and build bridges with their homeland, has been playing a crucial role in responding to the COVID-19 crisis by partnering with the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition (IMCC; https://www.ilmuslimciviccoalition.org) and other organizations. “We have established the Pandemic Response team, which includes a community assistance directory, to connect those in need with those that can help,” explains APF Leadership Council and an IMCC founding member Essam Choudhary. “We’ve collected and delivered over 2,000 masks to the New York City area hospitals with more on the way.” 28 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
MOVING FORWARD FROM THIS CRISIS MAY BE DIFFICULT, BUT MANY ARE USING THIS TIME TO REEVALUATE AND REDIRECT THEMSELVES IN THEIR FAITH. APF has also created a grant for small nonprofit organizations to help them continue their work and has collaborated with other groups to provide COVID-19-related mental health, business and other informational webinar series. In addition, they have provided the community with a wellness hotline, educational materials and meals.
“In my role, I connect with partnerships that provide supplies,” adds Choudhary. “Every day, particularly here in Chicago, low income families, new immigrants and refugees are on the frontlines of our stores and communities without proper protection, access to information to stay safe and the ability to shelter in place like the rest of us. Some of our biggest hot spots of outbreaks are within our own community, which includes children and elders alike.” The work doesn’t come without obstacles, however. “The most challenging part has been to keep up with the changing nature of the virus and how it is impacting people who have little access to all the great digital aids. How do you reach a community that’s off the radar,” he adds, “like the undocumented?” Like APF, ICNA Relief USA (https:// www.icnarelief.org) is also working to reach out to individuals in need. “We are a Muslim organization and feel it is our religious responsibility to support those in need in our country, regardless of their race, religion or other identifying features,” states Dallas-Irving chapter member Imran Khan, who streamlines the food delivery process. “We are playing a vital role to alleviate suffering due to COVID-19 by providing courtesy grocery food boxes to needy families, by delivering [them] to their doorsteps. So far [May 2020], our organization has provided more than 770 food boxes containing rice, flour, pasta, cereal, oil and more to needy families. This is so profound that people from different cities are calling our hotline and asking for food boxes. “We have more than 100 volunteers in a group,” continues Khan. “Proper instructions and safety trainings are provided to volunteers before they deliver the food. For instance, we ensure that volunteers wear masks and gloves and always maintain six feet of social distancing.” ICNA Relief USA also has set up a
tele-health hotline in collaboration with the Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicago (CIOGC; https://www.ciogc.org) and the Pakistani-Descent Physician Society (PPS; https://pdpsil.com). Hiba Abbas, a registered nurse, has been working with a network of physicians to address patient questions through this hotline, which is open seven days a week. The questions range from how to get tested for COVID-19 to how to manage symptoms at home and when to seek additional care. “The purpose is really to answer any non-emergency questions,” explains Abbas. “I get calls not just from Chicago, but [also] from New York and Michigan. We triage the patients who have symptoms — should you stay at home, should you go to an urgent care center to get tested or should you go to the emergency department. But it’s not as easy as saying, ‘You can go to the hospital.’ “If you don’t have insurance or you haven’t been to a primary care provider in forever, I will work with you to find a center that will test you and will also go on a personal website and find you a community health center to help you reestablish care. I also get calls from people asking for financial support because so many have lost their jobs. So it’s about connecting individuals to ICNA as well.” Like many others, Abbas has found meaning and satisfaction in her work. “It’s about providing education that’s not always readily available to the community,” she reflects. “When I’m watching the news
about social distancing, disease transmission and the importance of wearing masks, that’s sometimes not relayed to the lay person. So really being able to break down that information in digestive form and educating the public is the most rewarding.” In New York, the crisis epicenter, many Muslim organizations have stepped up as well. MusCare (https://www.muscare.org), an organization dedicated to uniting the Muslim community, is providing relief to those affected. “With the number of Muslims there are in New York alone, and the amount of success and wealth amidst ourselves, there is no reason why our brothers and sisters should feel alone or go hungry,” states MusCare administrator Radwa Ahmed. “During COVID-19, we have been trying to assist those who are in need by creating two main fundraisers. The first one was to raise funds for hot meals to be delivered to the homes of people who are unable to cook or afford food during this time, due to a multitude of reasons including being laid off, sick, elderly, etc. “The other fundraiser is for groceries to be delivered to people’s homes as well. Within this, we do not have specific roles. It’s been more of an ‘all hands on deck’ type of situation, where everyone helps with sharing the fundraiser, organizing the form responses, setting up deliveries and communicating with our participants to make sure that they are receiving the food.” Other Muslim organizations in New York have accelerated their efforts to provide aid.
The American Pakistan Advocacy Group (APAG; https://apagusa.org), a Queens, New York-based nonprofit social service and advocacy organization, has already provided over 1,000 food packages to the families in need during the pandemic. Each package contains around 15 essential items such as rice and flour, enough to last for a month for a family of six. “The goal of APAG is to change the narrative surrounding Pakistani Americans in the United States, and it is especially imperative that we recognize our duty to serve our community,” states Ali Rashid (president, APAG). “As of March 26, APAG has launched another initiative to provide free meals to all first responders every day,” he continues. “With local restaurant partnership, we are providing free lunches to our heroic first responders in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Nassau County and Suffolk County. As global citizens, it is our duty to respect and honor the service of the individuals facing this disease on the frontlines. It is our responsibility to look after the people helping keep us and our families safe.” Moving forward from this crisis may be difficult, but many are using this time to reevaluate and redirect themselves in their faith. “The pandemic has been a wake-up call to say the least,” reflects Ahmed. “While the death tolls rise, we come to realize more and more that it is only by the decree of Allah that we can get through this. We read about the pandemics and the trials that our Prophets (salla Allahu ‘alyhum) faced, and we take a lesson out of it and then carry on with our days and our lives. “It is only now that I realize the reality of the horror that our ancestors must have felt when dealing with these trials, not knowing when it will be over and not having anyone to turn to except for Allah. “At this moment, there is no end date for this pandemic. There is no telling how many more people will lose their lives, how many families will lose their breadwinners, how many children will never meet their grandparents — and all of this due to a virus that cannot even be seen by the human eye. It is terrifying and humbling, but I am reminded that the cure for worry is faith.” ih Shaziya Barkat, PharmD, is an Inpatient Bone Marrow Transplant Pharmacist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She is also the author of “knowing You” (2019).
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 29
Oral Hygiene Can Help Prevent and Combat the Coronavirus Menace Simple steps to protect yourself from coronavirus and other diseases BY S. A. RAHMAN
he human immune system, which comprises white They also go to the vital organs and lead to diseases of the heart, blood cells and antibodies, as well as organs, lymph nodes brain, liver and kidneys. Therefore, oral hygiene is crucial. The first step is to wash your and other components, is designed to protect the body from infection. However, many disorders can weaken it and thereby hands with soap and water many times a day and regular brushing compromise the entire system. Such immunodeficiency disorders and flossing of your teeth. Brush them vertically from one side can be mild enough to avoid to the other and then gently detection for years, or severe behind them. enough to cause a person to Gargle five or six times as experience frequent infections. you brush your teeth to remove Practicing good hygiene the germs from your throat. helps one stay healthy by Also, suck a little water into increasing one’s resistance to your nose four or five times a infection. Those who have day and then let it drop out. The a weak immune system are American Academy of Family likely to get infections more Physicians (https://www. frequently than others and aafp.org/home.html) and the thus suffer from more severe American Dental Association or harder to treat illnesses (https://www.ada.org/en) have than others, or from infections stated that by “following the that a person with a stronger above steps, not only do you immune system would not get. get fresh breath and bright When a virus enters our teeth, [but] you don’t have to WHEN A VIRUS ENTERS OUR BODIES, IT bodies, it encounters two visit the dentist often.” ENCOUNTERS TWO SYSTEMS OF DEFENSE: systems of defense: the innate Oral hygiene strengthens immune system that tries to THE INNATE IMMUNE SYSTEM THAT TRIES your immune system and can flush out the invading cells some cancers, diabeTO FLUSH OUT THE INVADING CELLS AND prevent and the adaptive system that tes, high blood pressure, as well THE ADAPTIVE SYSTEM THAT TARGETS targets specific pathogens as diseases of the heart, the thythat the body has already had roid and other organs. Finally, SPECIFIC PATHOGENS THAT THE BODY contact with. In the latter case, some simple oral hygiene HAS ALREADY HAD CONTACT WITH. IN the immune system creates practices can keep your body THE LATTER CASE, THE IMMUNE SYSTEM healthy and enable it to fight off memory cells of new ones so that the body can fight them all kinds of germs, viruses and CREATES MEMORY CELLS OF NEW ONES off if they return. the diseases mentioned above. SO THAT THE BODY CAN FIGHT THEM OFF One of the easiest ways to Washing the face keeps it IF THEY RETURN. stay healthy is paying attention fresh and free of dust. Washing to oral hygiene. After you eat, the eyes protects them from some food particles remain embedded in your teeth and the uvula. infections like pink eye (conjunctivitis). Washing forearms above The uvula, which is located at the back of your throat, is the nesting the elbows keeps them dust free. Wiping the head and cleaning the place for many germs, viruses, bacteria, mold, dust and so on. Germs ears removes excess grease. Washing the feet above the ankles keeps thrive on these food particles and start multiplying. Initially, these them dirt free, and cleaning the toes thoroughly by pushing the germs lead to diseases of the teeth and gums. But more importantly, fingers in between them prevents fungal infections like athlete’s foot. they can give you sinus infections, bronchitis and pneumonia. This routine is a regular for Muslims who pray regularly and Without proper oral hygiene, they multiply endlessly and even- perform wudu up to five times daily, and sometimes more. tually enter the bloodstream. Once there, they begin to weaken the We should always be grateful to God for His mercy and guidance, immune system for your normal immune system, which fails to for otherwise we will be the losers. ih recognize your own body and attack it. The result is autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and even multiple sclerosis. Dr. Sheikh Rahman, MD, has spent 50 years practicing medicine in the U.K., the U.S. and India. 30 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
The Global Devastation of COVID-19 Will the bleak future of Bangladesh’s garment factories lead marketers and consumers to take an ethical look at the manufacturers’ end of the fashion supply chain? BY RASHEED RABBI
nce-bustling shopping centers are now seemingly deserted and desolate as businesses have closed their doors. Big brand and big box stores across Europe and the U.S. have shut down; some have even filed for bankruptcy. The grievous consequences landed on the low-margin small and medium suppliers in countries like Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest clothing manufacturer, whose garment factories have supported the global fashion industry’s glamorous facade for decades. As the lockdown reduced demand, many big brands severed their business ties with small and medium suppliers, delayed payments without prior notice or abruptly cancelled orders that were already in production or ready for delivery. Thus this industry, which generates about 84% of Bangladesh’s export revenue, is struggling to survive. The COVID-19 disaster is unprecedented, but it exposes the decade-long flaws of the entire supply chain system.
THE FALLOUT PHASES OF SUPPLY CHAIN FLOW REVEAL STRUCTURED DEFICIENCIES This collapse happened rapidly and expectedly, but in phases, which worsened the damage many times over. Researchers have identified three phases to highlight the deficiencies in different layers of the supply chain (Mark Anner, “Abandoned? The Impact of COVID-19 on Workers and Businesses at the Bottom of Global Garment Supply Chains,” March 27, 2020, [Pennstate CGWR]). Delays in Collecting Raw Materials and Penalties from Brands. China’s December 2019 lockdown severely delayed all delivery of the final products and the raw materials (notably fabrics) from China to finishers and exporters. In Bangladesh, 93% of suppliers reported delays in receiving raw materials,
which eventually delayed final shipments and incurred a penalty for 53.4% of the delayed shipments. Additionally, 86% of suppliers reported increased raw material prices during the pandemic, but none of the buyers adjusted their prices to accommodate this price surge as 91.9% of the Bangladeshi suppliers report (Pennstate CGWR). Delayed Payment. Hoping to continue their business, these low-margin suppliers accepted the increased rates, delayed arrival of raw materials, and penalties for late deliveries. Still they couldn’t keep up as the pandemic’s initial blow hit Europe and the U.S., where the buyers either stopped or delayed payments. More than 10% of Bangladesh’s suppliers reported delays of up to 10 days, and 68.8% reported delays of more than 30 days of payments, relative to contractually stipulated terms (Hannah Abdulla, “Rise in Payment Delays Weighs on Bangladesh Factories,” Just-Style, March 17, 2020). Cancellations of Orders in Progress. With the full-blown impact in mid-March, buyers abruptly cancelled most of their in-process, already completed, or future orders. 72% of the buyers cancelled orders and refused to pay for their already purchased raw materials. 91% of them refused to pay for the supplier’s production costs (Pennstate CGWR). Disregarding contractual terms, the buyers started withholding payments for their received orders, cancelling filled orders
that are ready for shipment and cancelling all future orders that were already in the pipeline — many with commitments to already-purchased raw materials. The Dublin, Irelandbased Primark (2019 profits of $1.07 billion; Beth Wright, “Low-Price Focus Drives Profitable 50th Year for Primark,” Just-Style, Nov. 5, 2019) is just one buyer that has canceled all of its orders with its suppliers (Michelle Russell, “Primark Cancels all Orders as UK Stores Close,” Just-Style, March 23, 2020). These phases and statistics are not to single out any particular buyer, but to depict a holistic deficiency of the fashion industry.
DEVASTATING AND IRONIC CONSEQUENCES All these cancellations mounted up to $3.08 billion worth of exports, containing 964 million pieces of clothing as The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association reports. 1,100 factories closed and almost 58% of factories had to shut down most or all of their operations. 72.4% of the affected suppliers couldn’t pay any compensation to their workers, and 80.4% couldn’t provide severance pay. Millions of workers were fired and furloughed and 4.1 million workers are at risk of going hungry. Still, 98.1% buyers refused to pay even partial wages for the already finished pre-furloughed work (Pennstate CGWR, Emily Sutherland, “Millions Will Literally go Hungry: Coronavirus Chaos in Bangladesh,” Drapers Online, April 13, 2020). Such refusal appears as an irony when they spend billions of dollars in going green initiatives (Rachel Cerhnansky, “How to mend sustainable fashion’s multi-billion dollar funding gap,” Vogue Business, Jan. 23, 2020). This fashion chain, including 10% of western buyers, which used to make almost $30 billion worth of apparel business [continued on page 38]
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 31
The Muslims of Scotland Making community, resisting the stigma and surviving the crises BY YAHYA BARRY
Humza Yousaf, wearing a kilt, took oath as member of the Scottish Parliament in Urdu with his wife, parents and sisters (2016)
nation of lochs, kilt-wearing bagpipers, the magnificent highlands, whisky and haggis, neeps and tatties are some of what the mind may conjure up when Scotland is mentioned. While this certainly holds, unbeknown to some, Scotland is home to over 77,000 Muslims — they have been dubbed “the new Scots,” owning their very own tartan, curry houses and — of course — making halal the revered dish that is haggis! It may surprise many readers that Muslims make about 1.6% of the highland nation’s population. Despite being a “wee” — Scots for small — scattered community, their impact is everywhere. In fact, more than their English, Welsh and Irish neighbors, Muslims in Scotland more readily self-identify as unhyphenated Scots. Yes, and complete with an Islamic tartan (http://islamictartan.com), which not all people with a Scottish surname or genealogical connection have. Scotland native Dr. Azeem Ibrahim (research professor, the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College; director, the Center for Global Policy, Washington, D.C.), led this initiative. Although the available data on Muslims in Scotland is relatively detailed and rich, historical accounts remain scarce and patchy (Stefano Bonino, “Muslims in Scotland: The Making of Community in a Post-9/11 World,” 32 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
Faroque Hussain with his parents in Clydebank (June 24, 2011. From A Scottish Family Portrait Series)
FAMILY REUNIFICATION (“CHAIN MIGRATION”) OCCURRED AFTER THE COMMONWEALTH IMMIGRANTS ACT WAS PASSED IN 1962. FAMILYRUN BUSINESSES, ESPECIALLY GROCERY SHOPS, REPLACED PEDDLING AND ENABLED PAKISTANI AND INDIAN FAMILIES TO RISE WITHIN THE SOCIOECONOMIC SYSTEM. 2017). Up until two decades ago, the focus was on South Asians regardless of religious affiliation. However, the 2001 and 2011 Census [conducted every decade by the UK Statistics Authority] inclusion of the “religion” question/factor provides clear statistics. Also, there are first-hand narratives and a credible attempt at collecting this history in the trilogy of politician, businessman,
judge, community worker and writer Bashir Maan (“Muslims in Scotland” , “The New Scots”  and “The Thistle and the Crescent” ) — a key figure who arrived in 1953 and was the first Muslim to hold a public office in Britain (in 1970). The earliest recognized Muslim migrations to Scotland are chronicled around the mid-18th century. An un-quantified steady flow of Indian seamen called lascars arrived to work on ships docked at Scottish shores. Although they tended to not settle permanently, they nevertheless prepared the ground for subsequent Muslim arrivals. Key events related to their trade had a significant impact on certain restructurings of socio-economic activity that would pave the way for their relatively successful integration. The next significant milestone would be in the 1880s — students mainly from the Indian middle- and upper-middle classes attending local universities. By the early 1900s, the original six-member Edinburgh Indian Association had 200 members. Towards the end of the 19th century, lascar employment soared in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee due to the expansion of the British mercantile sea trade routes to and from the East. Structural and technological changes within the British shipping industry created new jobs within the port cities that white European workers found “undesirable” and thus were filled by temporary lascar colonies. Significantly, the arrival of the lascars in the 19th century and the subsequent settlement of Muslims in the 20th century were contemporaneous with one of Scotland’s most concentrated phases of immigration of Irish Catholics and Protestants, Russian and Eastern European Jews, and Italians and Lithuanians. The host society’s responses were influenced by the migrants’ placement within the labor market and their ability to integrate. In the late 1920s through to the early 1930s, “the color problem” emerged after riots in many Scottish seaports caused by the shipping industry’s post-First World War global collapse. The “cheap” colonial seaman workforce was quickly branded a threat in the face of fast-disappearing jobs and dropping wages. In this regard, South Asian Muslims had more in common with the Irish Catholics, Lithuanians and Polish workers vis-à-vis the Irish Protestants, Jews and Italians. After all, the higher-skilled Irish Protestants had a sectarian commonality with their
post-war affluence ascribed to the Marshall [an American initiative passed in 1948 for foreign aid to Western Europe] and Beveridge [guided the British Labor party government after World War II in 1942] plans; nationalization of the railway, coal, electricity, iron, steel and other key industries; the creation of the publicly funded National Health Service; and the availability of council housing — public housing built by local authorities. All of these increased the inhabitants’ standard of living. Better times and the 1950s economic boom led to a need in the U.K. for unskilled labor. Family reunification — “chain migration” — occurred after the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was passed in 1962. Familyrun businesses, especially grocery shops, replaced peddling and enabled Pakistani and Indian families to rise within the socio-economic system. Although they faced some prejudice, racial tensions never reached the levels they did south of the border. Little by
(C) THE MUSLIM NEWS
Presbyterian Scottish counterparts. The Jews and Italians’ entrepreneurial self-sufficiency enabled them to avoid competing for jobs with the locals. South Asians negotiated around this problem by becoming self-employed itinerant peddlers selling ladies’, children’s and gents’ clothing. During the Great Depression, this economic activity dispersed them across Scotland. This independent economic niche provided further social rooting for the fledgling community. In 1944, members established Scotland’s first mosque in Glasgow and acquired the first Muslim cemetery in Glasgow (Sandymount). The official formation of a branch of the Jamiat ul Muslimin (the Muslim Association) a decade earlier helped facilitate these important events. During that pivotal year, Haji Muhammad Kaka, Jamadad Khan, Fakir Khan, Sajawal Khan, Ghulam Muhammed Sharif, Muhammed Ali Azam and Latif
Lord Amir Bhatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ambassador Elvira Begović , present the Alija Izetbegović Award for Good Citizenship to Bashir Maan
Khan each contributed £100 (around £4,500/ US$5,618 today) to purchase a building in Gorbals. Located on the River Clyde’s south bank, by the late-19th century Glasgow’s new industries and available jobs were attracting countless rural migrants and immigrants. South Asians continued to arrive after the Second World War, drawn by the
Bashir Ahmed Maan: The Chronicler of Muslim Scots
(C) A SCOTTISH FAMILY PORTRAIT SERIES
ASHIR AHMED MAAN (1926-2019), AN Claim of Right. In effect, this was the blueprint author, politician, campaigner, for the Holyrood Parliament delivered by Labor businessman and one of Scotland’s four years later. He retired from politics in 2003 after a fourmost influential Muslim leaders, was born in year term as convener of the Strathclyde Joint Gujranwala, now in Pakistan. Despite arriving in Police Board and, during the following year, let Glasgow in 1953 with only £50 — equivalent in purchasing power to about $500 in 2020 — in his Labor Party membership lapse to protest his pocket, he left behind an impressive series Britain’s intervention in Iraq. of accomplishments. In addition to his political life, Maan was He founded Glasgow’s Pakistan Social and actively involved in the planning and develCultural Association in 1955 and later served opment of the Glasgow Central Mosque (comas its president. Ten years later, he joined the pleted in 1983); president of the Standing Bashir Ahmed Maan CBE (center) with his Conference of Pakistani Organizations in Labor Party and became Scotland’s first Muslim Family, Glasgow, June 19, 2011 the U.K., the National Association of British Justice of the Peace (1968) and Britain’s first Muslim elected to public office (councilor, Glasgow). Serving until 1997, Pakistanis and the Glasgow Islamic Center; founder-chairman of the his tough sentences earned him the nickname “Basher Maan.” Scottish Pakistani Association; chairman of the Council of Ethnic Minority He was appointed deputy lieutenant [an appointee who assists the Organizations Scotland; convener of the Muslim Council of Scotland; Lord-Lieutenant in carrying out his role as The Queen’s representative] for vice-chairman of the Glasgow Community Relations Council; and Scottish Strathclyde (1982) and, in 2000, received a CBE (Commander of the Most representative on the Muslim Council of Britain. Excellent Order of the British Empire; an honor rewarding contributions He also served on BBC’s general advisory council; held honorary felto the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organizations, lowships and degrees from Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian and Strathclyde and public service outside the civil service). Universities; and received the Alija Izetbegović award for Good Citizenship Labor’s home [interior] secretary Merlyn Rees appointed him deputy by The Muslim News Awards for Excellence in 2002. chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). In 1980, when CRE And as if all of that wasn’t enough, he found time to author “The New pressed the new Conservative government to investigate the running of Scots: The Story of Asians in Scotland“ (2001), “Muslims in Scotland“ (2004) the Immigration Service, he was one of four members not reappointed and “The Thistle and the Crescent” (2008), which charts the history of by Willie Whitelaw, Rees’ successor . Islam in Scotland. He is survived by one son and three daughters. ih Standing for Parliament in 1974, Maan placed fourth in a safe Conservative seat. He was at the heart of the ongoing campaign for Scottish devolution [Editor’s note: Excerpted and copy edited from Ahmed J. Versi’s “Obituary: Bashir Maan and served on the Constitutional Convention that, in 1995, published the (1926-2019), pioneer of Scottish Muslims,” The Muslim News, Jan. 31, 2020.]
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 33
The Mosques of Scotland BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
cotland’s 34 counties contain 87 mosques/prayer spaces spread across its four largest cities: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Along with AMIC, the city also features Masjid Alhikmah (https://masjidalhikmah. org.uk), the Syed Shah Mustafa Jame Masjid (https://www.syedshahmustafajamemasjid. com) and a few small prayer rooms. During March 2018, a 20-year dream was fulfilled when the Aberdeen Islamic Charitable Trust opened its landmark $2.5 million Alhikmah mosque, which features stunning, iconic, modern and innovative architecture.
as the Jamia Mosque. The $2.5 million building, completed in 2000, can hold up to 1,000 people. The Almaktoum mosque (https://www. facebook.com/Mosquedundee), now an iconic part of the city’s religious landscape, is situated on the premises of the Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education Campus, Al-Maktoum Foundation.
DUNDEE MOSQUES The Aberdeen Mosque and Islamic Centre (AMIC; https://www.aberdeenmosque.org) was founded in 1980 by several Muslim University of Aberdeen students in cooperation with local businesses. Initially located in a small house beside the campus, the growing community finally had to purchase several neighboring houses to accommodate its members. AMIC hosts the AMIC Madrasah, the Al-Noor Islamic School, privately run classes for iGCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) Islamic Studies and a Friday gender-segregated evening school for girls and boys in the Masjid Alhikmah and Community Center.
The northeastern port city of Dundee’s nascent Muslim community appeared around the 1920s. The Dundee Islamic Society established a mosque in 1969. By 1995, the growing community began thinking about establishing the Dundee Central Mosque (http://www.dundeeislamicsociety. com), a purpose-built mosque also known
The capital city of Edinburgh, a city of 15,000 Muslims, boasts 14 mosques ranging from converted churches and warehouses to musallas and rented apartments. A university town, it began attracting Muslim students as early as the 1840s. The community acquired its first purpose-built mosque in 1998: the Edinburgh Central Mosque
little, the small but dispersed community came to be accepted for its members’ corner shops, just as the Italians had been decades before for their ice-cream parlors. Appreciably, the government has supported the acceptance of all faith and ethnic groups. For instance, in 2016 police allowed female officers to wear the hijab. The 1970s and 1980s saw the internal migration of South Asians from England to Scotland — and not just because of family ties. Interestingly, the real pulling factors were perceptions of a relatively more tolerant Scottish society, the affluence of the resident Muslim community and recognition of potential business opportunities. Bashir Ahmed Maan [1926-2019], an author, politician, campaigner, businessman and one of
the most influential Muslim leaders, (2008) estimates that this period’s Muslim population to be approximately 25,000. By the early 1990s, the roughly 35,000 had established a sustained dispersed presence (Maan 2008). In socio-economic terms, Muslims started expanding their businesses and entering such new sectors as auto repair, the service industry, property, do-it-yourself shops, catering and computer technology. Young educated Scottish-born Muslims entered professions that allowed a certain degree of social mobility. They also acquired a growing global and local presence in political affairs. According to recent statistics, Scotland stands out because its once-a-decade census collects data on religious affiliation. In 2001,
Muslims were 0.8% (42,557) of Scotland’s total population (5,062,011). By 2011, they were 1.4% (76,737) of the total population (5,295,403). In terms of ethnicity, almost 60% of them are of Pakistani origin; 10% are of Arab; 6% are of African and 3.3% (2,501) are white Scots. Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen host a significant majority of them: 42%, 16% and 6%, respectively. One of the initial questions I asked at the beginning of my stay in the capital city in September 2013 was: Could you please tell me where the Muslim area is? The answer was, to my surprise, a puzzled look, an awkward pause and then: “No akhi. The Muslims live all over the city.” That was an amazing revelation to me, for this is only city I’ve been to that doesn’t have a
34 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
THE CAPITAL CITY OF EDINBURGH, A CITY OF 15,000 MUSLIMS, BOASTS 14 MOSQUES RANGING FROM CONVERTED CHURCHES AND WAREHOUSES TO MUSALLAS AND RENTED APARTMENTS. A UNIVERSITY TOWN, IT BEGAN ATTRACTING MUSLIM STUDENTS AS EARLY AS THE 1840S. (https://edmosque.org), officially known as the King Fahd Mosque and Islamic Center of Edinburgh. Located near the University of Edinburgh and the National Museum of Scotland, Basil Al Bayati, an Iraqi-born architect and designer, combined traditional Islamic features with some Scots baronial style. Taking more than six years to complete and costing nearly $4.5 million, the mosque opened its doors in 1998. Its main hall, which can hold over 1,000 people, features an overlooking balcony for the women. The mosque also contains a multipurpose room and a medium-sized library, and hosts the Eid prayers and the annual Islam Festival Edinburgh (https://www. facebook.com/islamfestivaledinburgh). The community hall, which can accommodate up 300 people, is rented out for various events and gatherings. Over the years, the community’s dispersed nature, diverse demography and ideological/doctrinal composition has inspired the birth of other mosques, prayer spaces and organizations. The Association of Scottish Muslims,
which manages the Blackhall Mosque (https:// en-gb.facebook.com/BlackhallMosque), was founded as the City of Edinburgh Pakistan Association in 2001. It runs the full-time Edinburgh Islamic Academy’s two campuses — Blackhall Masjid and Wester Hailes — an area in the south west of Edinburgh. In 2011, the Iqra Academy (https://www. facebook.com/IqraAcademyEdinburgh) opened in a converted church and offered the community a madrasa, a for-rent multifunction hall and an impressive outdoor garden for sports, outdoor events and barbecues.
“Muslim” or “immigrant” area. Over the years, I’ve come to see the significance that this reality has on Scottish society as a whole. The little pockets of dispersed Muslims in Edinburgh has indeed facilitated their integration. At first, I lived in the suburb of Portobello. Edinburgh’s city center is indeed a thriving hub for all sorts of activities. It boasts several mosques; the further out one goes, the more sporadic the mosques become. Portobello had one mosque affiliated with the Barelvi Pakistani community. Sufism and especially the Deobandi and Barelvi traditions were the dominant ideological and methodological strains, whereas the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb-ut-Tahrir were more political. This is explained by the
fact that some 43% of Edinburgh’s Muslims are Pakistani. In Edinburgh, mosque attendance is a mixed choice between local proximity and ideological affinity. In fact, Muslims will drive significant distances to attend a more ideologically, culturally and ethnically “comfortable” mosque. This can be seen in Annandale Street, which has a Pakistani and a Bengali mosque roughly adjacent to one another. On July 27, 2010, the Eyüp Sultan and Turkish Community Center opened in Gorgie, a city that also hosts one of city’s major football teams — the Hearts. Not surprisingly, the community’s dispersal has had some side effects, such as the higher risks of hyper-visibility, particularly for those who wear the hijab, and
The huge metropolitan city Glasgow, home of Scotland’s largest Muslim community
— 32,117 (42%) — encompasses some 39 mosques and prayer spaces. Historically, a significant number of South Asian seamen (lascars) settled near its ports due to the abundant available jobs. Two significant events in 1944 provided further social rooting: establishing the first Scottish mosque in Gorbals and acquiring the first Muslim cemetery in Sandymount. The official Scottish branch of the Jamiat ul Muslimin (the Muslim Association), established in 1933, facilitated these major accomplishments. The city’s principal — and Scotland’s largest — mosque, the Glasgow Central Mosque (https://centralmosque.co.uk), sits on a four-acre lot on the River Clyde’s south bank in central Glasgow’s Gorbals district. Completed in 1983, Abdullah Omar Nasseef, then secretary general of the Muslim World League, formally inaugurated this $4 million structure in 1984. Its founding president, retired businessman Muhammed Tufail Shaheen, MBE, was instrumental in its building. Enclosed in a walled garden and with a freestanding minaret, it is the west coast of Scotland’s largest community center – the region was called Strathclyde during 1975-96. Able to accommodate up to 2,500 worshipers, it combines Islamic architecture with the characteristic Old Red Sandstone material used in many of Glasgow’s buildings. The center is open to non-Muslim community groups and educators from various institutions. ih the difficulty of raising children with a distinct Muslim identity. However, there is a concerted outreach to help Muslims integrate within civil society and government. Interfaith work in particular stands out, as does Edinburgh’s annual cultural festival. Historically speaking, right-wing parties have failed to secure a strong foothold in the U.K.’s national level politics. The Muslims’ wide dispersal and non-competition in the low-skilled labor market has given them a benign lived experience of Scotland. ih Yahya Barry, founder and director of the Olive Tree Madrasah, received his BA in theology from the Islamic University of Madinah. A visiting scholar at the University of Edinburgh, since 2016, he has been consulted by the BBC Religion & Ethics board.
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 35
Thriving in a COVID-19 Hit Scotland The Olive Tree Madrasah aims to cultivate a healthy and enriching learning environment through self-discipline, responsibility and respect. BY YAHYA BARRY
n March 18, the Scottish government urged Muslim community leaders to suspend congregational activities until further notice. Four days earlier, we had successfully tried out remote teaching classes and were fully prepared to support our community. When parents lamented the unaffordable tuition fees — social distancing measures were preventing many from working — contingency plans were implemented to deliver classes and free counselling for those in need. We also contacted higher education institutions to offer our services and expertise. As a result, we now provide teaching assistance to the University of Edinburgh’s Islamic Law and Sharia online course. Cognizant of divine favor, we also highlight that survival has been an intrinsic part of our identity right from our inception as a madrasa. Some two years after I was struck off as the imam of Edinburgh Central Mosque, a Muslim institution sprouted in Edinburgh, Scotland’s compact, hilly capital. Born out of a very real struggle, the Olive Tree Madrasah 36 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
(https://www.olivetreemadrasah.org) seeks to do more than just survive. We expect to stay alive and thrive! My nearly two-decade effort to acquire knowledge has enabled me to serve as a visiting fellow at the Alwaleed Center with research interests in Islamophobia, European right-wing populism and Christian-Muslim relations in West Africa and become a certified minister of religion (BA Theology; the Islamic University of Madinah). This quest gradually led me to realize my life’s purpose: to be a positive influence as regards how Muslims live and are understood. While planting the seeds, I merged contingency with reality, a procedure I was taught to recognize as one of Islam’s
distinguishing characteristics. The statistics were etched so deeply into my mind that I could recall them even while sleeping — 5 million people live in Scotland, a meagre 1.45% (77,000) of whom are Muslim. Edinburgh has 15,000 Muslims, 30% of who are 25 and under, and only 14 mosques to meet their needs. The experiences gained while working as an imam stirred my desire to help youth deal with such real-life problems as depression, anxiety, family (parental) conflict, relationships, sexuality, alcohol/drug dependency, gambling/gaming addictions, unemployment, homelessness, and apostasy … the list went on. All of these seemed to be connected by a common thread — the level of support and service provided by civil society organizations and Muslim institutions didn’t always convince the youth to accept the proposed solutions. In August 2018, after completing the relevant research and planning, I and a group of friends began distributing flyers and business cards at community centers, libraries, halal butcher shops, corner shops and elsewhere. It was a slow start. In fact, the Olive Tree Madrasah opened its doors with about only a dozen children registered. The decision was taken right from the beginning to adapt the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence in Religious Moral and Philosophical Studies (RMPS; https://www. gov.scot/publications), for the board held that its role was to support and augment what children were being taught at school and what they would be exposed to in everyday life, as well as to share with them our knowledge of the Islamic disciplines, the humanities and social sciences. The resulting institutions had two tiers, one for youth aged 5 to 15 (the madrasa) and the other (the seminary) for adults. From day one, three core values were articulated to shape both our work and ourselves as individuals: knowledge, sincerity and service. We also made it clear that “more than just a school, we are an idea,” for we wanted to see how the social impact of academic research synergized with the Islamic tradition. Research has shown that madrasas play a vital role in Muslim youth’s socialization. In a city where Muslims are dispersed, such an institution is crucial to creating a sense of identity. Our students, “the olives” as I call them, have played a central role in
communities by means of our educational programs, outreach and services. As a fledgling institution, one of our greatest achievements to date has been to convene an interdisciplinary conference on the theme of family. This event featured workshops, presentations and discussions from leading experts and academics on a holistic range of topics, among them identity crisis, conflict, health and wellbeing, as well as financial management, in a welcoming and supportive environment. A core part of the madrasa’s mission is to create and offer solutions embedded in knowledge seeking and production in order to bridge cultures, languages and people.
OLIVE TREE IS GOING GLOBAL shaping our service delivery. By listening to them, we brokered a relationship of a participatory learning process in which they are stakeholders, peer reviewers and family. This feature, which has really come through, sets the Olive Tree Madrasah apart from other madrasas by making it more of a sanctuary of learning, a youth hub where we can coach our students to develop a conscious Muslim identity. During the first year, we sought to establish ourselves with the limited resources available. Social media became a key tool, and outreach was a fundamental aspect of our operation. If the madrasa was going to stay alive and thrive, the board had to move it from the periphery and entwine it with the city’s sociocultural fabric. The results of this strategy have been truly gratifying. Over the course of our starting year, we collaborated with Earth for Life and the Scottish Forestry Commission to take a school trip to the Scottish woodlands so our students could explore nature. As part of their study of values and morals, they organized a bake sale to raise funds for the families of the March 15, 2019, massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand. Our engagement with the media — we have taken part in five BBC radio interviews and played a crucial role in producing a documentary with BBC Radio 4 on divorce and separation within the U.K. and Swedish Muslim communities — have been positive from the onset. The madrasa’s goal is to work with both Muslims and people of other faiths and traditions. In our interactions with
RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT MADRASAS PLAY A VITAL ROLE IN MUSLIM YOUTH’S SOCIALIZATION. IN A CITY WHERE MUSLIMS ARE DISPERSED, SUCH AN INSTITUTION IS CRUCIAL TO CREATING A SENSE OF IDENTITY. OUR STUDENTS, “THE OLIVES” AS I CALL THEM, HAVE PLAYED A CENTRAL ROLE IN SHAPING OUR SERVICE DELIVERY. the mainstream, we have engaged with the Presbytery of Edinburgh, the Church of Scotland and Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees. Also, we conducted a 10-week Arabic course for the city’s Multicultural Family Base and are now advising local councils on Islamic family law. In short, we have evolved into a “community interest company” that seeks to work with other
Last September, I participated in a unique initiative to connect faith leaders from the Muslim and Church of Scotland communities through focused dialogue and a trip to Ghana. We are following up on this by planning to visit Muslims living in the Highlands, because one of the lessons we learned in Ghana was just how important intergroup contact is in fostering peaceful relations. My current visiting research fellowship with the University of Edinburgh is being used to explore questions on diaspora Muslim identity and citizenship claims. The madrasa’s board members envisage redirecting the fruits of such scholarship into the curriculum’s design as we supplement last years’ teaching with leading-edge research into matters that affect the everyday lived lives of Scotland’s Muslims. As our madrasa is working hard to differentiate itself from others, we are committed to remaining relevant and pursuing our passion to provide innovative interdisciplinary work. Our outlook for 2020 is to continue building on excellence. Our driving motivation is the hadith: “Allah loves that when you do something, you perfect it.” As professionals, we take immense pride in both our work and in serving Islam and humanity. We are working hard to share our good with the wider community by engaging with the region’s culture and arts to inform them our faith and heritage by sharing our knowledge through dialogue and exchange forums, as well as creating safe spaces of positive interaction. ih Yahya Barry, founder and director of the Olive Tree Madrasah and a visiting scholar at the University of Edinburgh, has served as consultant to the BBC Religion & Ethics board since 2016.
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 37
COVER STORY [continued from page 31]
from Bangladeshi garment factories, left those suppliers devastated in COVID-19 (Robert Handfield and Rejaul Hasan, “Breaching Contracts, Cutting Lifelines of Innocent Workers — Will it Ever End? Not Likely!” The International Association for Contract & Commercial Management [IACCM], May 1, 2020). Once the economy recovers, there is no guarantee that a low-cost apparel industry able to produce the millions of garments needed by the major clothing brands will reappear.
These liquidations may collapse Bangladesh’s garment industry, but leave questions for big brands’ ethical accountability.
ETHICAL COMMITMENTS TO CONTINUE
As the apparel brand executives’ first priority is survival, they should consider a more macro view of how to move past the COVID crisis. In fact, THE BANGLADESH GARMENT MANUFACTURERS AND EXPORTERS their hesitation to take responsibility damages the worldwide supply chain ASSOCIATION REPORTS THAT even further. While researchers have AROUND $3.08 BILLION WORTH OF developed short-term and long-term QUESTIONABLE LEGAL POSITION EXPORTS, CONTAINING 964 MILLION sustainable plans, they expect buyers’ ethical commitment won’t be paused AND MODE OF TRANSACTION PIECES OF CLOTHING, HAVE BEEN The absence of any legal negotiation during pandemic. At a minimum, such CANCELLED OR SUSPENDED. THE stresses on ethical obligation. The commitment includes: global brands are taking advantage ■ Preserving supply chain relationIMMEDIATE RESULT? OVER 1,100 of the vagaries of the force majeure ships. Avoid cancelling completed FACTORIES CLOSED AND ALMOST clauses to cancel without prior notice. orders to prevent factory closures and 58% OF FACTORIES HAD TO SHUT Typically, these brands create lengthy engage in collaborative and respectful DOWN MOST OR ALL OF THEIR generic contracts developed by their conversation with suppliers. legal team and send them to thou■ Defend Human Capital and OPERATIONS. Financial Assets. Release payments sands of their suppliers. Some of these contracts often range more than 250 full for the goods already ordered (Brooke for already shipped orders to cover pages. Simply put, a legal team would need Roberts-Islam, “The True Cost of Brands not all legally mandated wages and benefits for at least three months to review and change Paying for Orders During the COVID-19 all in-production orders. ■ Reimagine new Ethical System: Future such buyers’ prerogatives (IACCM). Most Crisis,” Forbes, March 30, 2020). Temporary small- to medium-sized factories cannot suspension of all future orders still persists. procurement practices should focus on order afford such legal reviews, negotiate terms However, others like Gap, Inc., which stability, timely payment and full respect with the other counsel and rewrite sections owns Old Navy and Banana Republic, have for workers’ rights. A new system with that are unfair or contain hidden clauses not even respected that minimal contractual more transparency, interconnectedness and meanings. agreement or made any assurance, although and human flourishing (Weaving a Better Moreover, these small- and medium- Gap Inc. had $1.7 billion on hand at the Future: Rebuilding a More Sustainable sized suppliers usually accept telephonic beginning of February 2020 (Rachel Sandler, Fashion Industry After COVID-19. BCG, transfer for their transactions, counting on “Gap Inc. Has Stopped Paying Rent and Will Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and Higg Co. established business trust. But this doesn’t Likely Need to Find More Money Within the April 30, 2020). ensure payment after delivery, as a Letter of Next 12 Months to Stay Operational,” Forbes, Finally, such fallout is not just for Credit would do. It is also unclear if these April 23, 2020). Around 4,000 Bangladeshi Bangladesh or the South Asian countries, contractual terms violate the Uniform factories, which have supported many such but impacts the entire fashion supply chain. Commercial Code. As yet, no court of law brands to make huge profits for four decades, However, this crisis leverages a shifting exists to examine such cases, nor are there are facing collapse within a matter of just tide worldwide to develop a resilient and funds to pay lawyers to examine them four months. scaled business model. Now more than ever, (IACCM). The powerful corporations have While waiting to learn about their imme- manufacturers and customers need to work their own lawyers in Bangladesh to fight diate future in the face of mounting order hand in hand to streamline responsibility, any claims. Most likely, the impact of these cancellations, Bangladeshi garment export- partnership, cooperation and collaboration breaches of trust will last for years in the ers faced the final blow: JCPenney, J. Crew, not for profit-centric, but for value-driven industry and may bankrupt large portions the Neiman Marcus Group, John Varvatos systematic changes. ih and British retail giant Debenhams all filed of the apparel supply chain. for bankruptcies. Currently, Debenhams Rasheed Rabbi, an IT professional who earned an MA A CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL risks $66 million and JCPenny risks $800 in religious studies (2016) and a graduate certificate in Islamic chaplaincy from Hartford Seminary, is also million worth of garment items to its founder of e-Dawah (www.edawah.net); secretary of the BRANDS TO STEP UP Bangladeshi suppliers support hundreds Bangladeshi vendors (Refayet Ullah Mirdha, Association of Muslim Scientists, Engineers & Technology of big brands across Europe and the U.S., “American National Treasure JC Penney Professionals; serves as a khateeb and leads the Friday prayers at ADAMS Center; and works as a chaplain at iNova but only a few like H&M, Wal-Mart and Has Left Bangladeshi Garment Exporters Fairfax, iNovaLoudoun and Virginia’s Alexandria and Loudoun Primark have agreed to pay in part or in in the Lurch,” The Daily Star, May 17, 2020). Adult Detention Centers. 38 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
MUSLIMS UNDER SIEGE
The Hindutva Playbook for Kashmir India continues bulldozing its own constitution to roll over Muslim and Kashmiri rights BY FARHAN M. CHAK
The indefatigable stalwart of Kashmiri freedom roars: Syed Ali Shah Geelani, 90, chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference
mong India’s Hindutva fascist movement’s most disingenuous and carefully orchestrated playbook strategies is to pursue three contradictory, irreconcilable policies in the occupied state of Kashmir. Clearly, the current Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government plays an integral role in this unfolding three-part process: weaponizing pluralism to enforce homogenization; fomenting radical authoritarian and majoritarian impulses to break the law while insisting that the victims of violence abide by it; and claiming to champion freedom of speech, assembly and dissent while labelling any Muslim or Christian who utilizes these rights as guilty of incitment or terror. Each of these deceitful stratagems contain further internal dissonance that only adds to the Hindutva enigma, no part of which can be understood outside the psychosomatic link between cowardice and oppression. Or, what Prof. George Simon refers to as the 40 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
“predatory aggression” and “narcissistic bullying” (“Why Narcissistic Bullies Really Taunt,” https://www.drgeorgesimon.com, Aug. 11, 2017) that Hindutva and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh; http://rss.org) fanatics so callously exhibit. All this is designed to further their broader political objectives of disempowerment, pacification and gaslighting Kashmir, as well as to directly impact the lives of the country’s Muslim, Christian and Dalit (Untouchable) communities. First, the monolithic Hindutva project is desperate to propagate the seemingly righteous, but insincere, claim that “we are all same”— read Hindu myth (Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, “In Mohan Bhagwat’s India, Everyone Is a Hindu,” https://thewire.in, Dec. 31, 2019). The insistence of cultural and racial homogeneity — ludicrous in the vast expanse of South Asia, home to several dozen languages, cultures and ethnicities — is sugar coated with universalism to secure the moral high ground. But as
Washington Irving cleverly wrote in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1820), “villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.” Essentially, Hindutva shrewdly uses humanitarianism to appropriate and undermine dissenting voices under the appealing garb of celebrating diversity. In this ideological trap, plurality submits to their hegemony, and therein lies the internal duplicity. The Hindutva modus operandi comprises razing mosques, lynching Muslim traders and threatening to rape dead Muslim women while invoking Mahatma Gandhi, calling for peace and then enforcing conversion because we are all “one” (“Conversion row: Ghar wapsi is illogical and so is its ideological opposition,” https://www.firstpost.com, Dec. 22, 2014). Second, Hindutva propagandists openly and arrogantly admit that not all people are equal — and that they can never be equal. In fact, the BJP’s Harvard-educated Subramanian Swamy has point-blank
declared Muslims as ‘not equal’ in India (“Muslims not in equal category,” https:// www.theweek.in, April 3, 2020), in clear violation of Article 14 of the constitution. In the BJP’s India, the law is not worth the paper it’s written on. Its only utility lies in the party’s ability to manipulate it. As seen in the government’s unilateral, illegal and unconstitutional abrogation of Kashmir’s guaranteed special status as spelled out in Article 370, as well as in its alteration of the occupied state’s domicile law (the Jammu and Kashmir
to others” (https://www.newindianexpress. com, May 10, 2020). How else can this be understood as anything but a public figure who is mindful of his secular credentials and showbiz purse? Consider how any self-empowering act, meaning one undertaken by a Muslim that proudly uses Islamic culture or religious vocabulary, is seen as “communal,” “anti-national” or, worse, “fundamentalist Jihadi.” Even pointing out that Kashmir’s newly formed administration is unrepre-
THE INSISTENCE OF CULTURAL AND RACIAL HOMOGENEITY — LUDICROUS IN THE VAST EXPANSE OF SOUTH ASIA, HOME TO SEVERAL DOZEN LANGUAGES, CULTURES AND ETHNICITIES — IS SUGAR COATED WITH UNIVERSALISM TO SECURE THE MORAL HIGH GROUND. Reorganisation [Adaptation of State Laws] Order, 2020) to allow demographic flooding, Hindutva policy flays Indian laws and uses political skullduggery to justify doing so. In the meantime, after declaring tens of millions of people to be outside the scope of the constitution and law, they activate emissaries of love — the yoga-loving Sadhguru [a controversial “spiritualist”]-type of meek megalomaniacs and charlatans who utter meaningless, sweet-sounding drivel to conceal their nefarious role in gaslighting and pacification. Their underlying so-called mission is to cajole people via charm offensives to prevent the oppressed from energizing and galvanizing themselves to act on their own behalf. Then, in chilling terms, they are told that despite being victims, they should not take the law into their own hands. Instead, they are urged to file their grievances with the proper legal authorities and then wait ... for justice that will never come. Third, the Hindutva strategy is to pay lip service to India’s legacy of cultural tolerance of freedom of expression. But, in reality, it seeks to prevent any type of authentic Muslim, Christian or Dalit civic participation. This undermining of all authentic representations, especially for Muslims, encourages the existence of non-practicing, outwardly non-distinguishable “Muslims.” A case in point is veteran writer-lyricist Javed Akhtar, 75, who tweeted on May 9 that calling the adhan on loudspeakers should be banned because “it causes discomfort
sentative — it includes no Kashmiris! — is tantamount to “provocation.” Calling out such an obviously sectarian policy now gets one labelled as a “sectarian.” Together, these strategies amount to the ongoing othering of Muslims. Muslim military personnel — but not their Sikh counterparts — are forbidden to grow beards. They also cannot chant any Islamically inspired slogans on the grounds that doing so may lead to feelings of exclusivity. But in a Muslim socio-cultural context, God is often invoked in sacred or secular affairs, for any authentic reading of the Islamic tradition recognizes the intertwining of sacredness and secularity based on intent. However, the ability of India’s Muslims to show their authenticity and express their faith and love for the country in healthy, productive ways is vanishing. In occupied Kashmir, Indians have always been primarily seen as foreigners. So, the proponents of Hindutva understand this playbook very well. And yet despite these indigenous Muslim gladly accepting India as their home, they continue to face the brunt of a majoritarian predatory state. Ultimately, these Hindutva strategies will gradually disempower the life force of Muslim camaraderie. First, this camaraderie will be weakened by doubt and a sense of shame in their own heritage. At some point in the future, it will be replaced with a false promise of egalitarianism. Second, the government will break every rule in
the constitution related to minority rights in India or occupied Kashmir. Disgruntled segments of society will be directed to the courts, where their cases will drag on for years in the hope of pacifying the passions that spark revolt and limit blowback. Third, they wish to demonize as “fundamentalist” all Muslim social bonding practices that provide the necessary cultural capital needed to resist oppression. This becomes even more reprehensible, considering that Kashmir and the world as a whole are suffering under the COVID19 pandemic. Moreover, the Indian army has placed heavy artillery weaponry inside villages as it fires barrages of shells onto Pakistan-aligned Azad Kashmir. As Simon articulates, this profoundly disturbing development amounts to “red-flagging aggressive intentions and surreptitiously get[ting] the other person to unwittingly but voluntarily surrender. Instill shame, invite guilt, evoke fear, or create great doubt, and the other person will likely back off the stance they really wanted” (“Manipulation and the Gaslighting Effect,” Aug. 18, 2017, https:// www.drgeorgesimon.com). ih Dr. Farhan M. Chak is the secretary-general of Kashmir Civitas, an international civil society and strategic advocacy organization committed to the sociopolitical emancipation and right of self-determination for the people of Kashmir, in line with UN resolutions.
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MUSLIMS UNDER SIEGE
The Dangers of Genocide Denial It’s as if Bosnia’s Muslims and Serbs are living in two different realities … Laying to rest the 8,400 innocent souls slaughtered by the Serbs as United Nations Protection Force’s Dutch troops looked aside
BY EMIN POLJAREVIC
uly 11, 2020, marked the 25th anniversary of the genocides carried out in Srebrenica and Potočari village in a still very much divided Bosnia. Known as “Srebrenica Remembrance Day,” it also commemorates the Serbian military’s launch of its pre-planned five-day massacre of nearly 8,400 defenseless Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys. The Serbian political leadership in Bosnia, with the tacit approval of the neighboring Republic of Serbia’s highest political and military leadership, intended to ethnically cleanse entire regions in eastern Bosnia and annex them to Serbia proper (https://www.hrw.org/report/1995/10/15/ fall-srebrenica-and-failure-un-peacekeeping/bosnia-and-herzegovina). The Serbian effort to eliminate all Bosniaks in eastern Bosnia, and arguably in all of Bosnia, was intentional and backed by real action. What makes the whole tragedy even worse is that it all happened under the watch of the international community. Only after the fact did such actions provoke its invocation of the Genocide Convention’s definition of genocide as “the intentional destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such.” 42 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
THE DISCOURSE OF GENOCIDE DENIAL IN BOSNIA, MYANMAR, CHECHNYA OR ELSEWHERE ALSO ALTERS THE DENIER’S STATE OF MIND. IT CAN BE ARGUED THAT THIS ALTERATION DEPRIVES A PERSON OF HIS/HER SENSE OF TRUTH AND JUSTICE AND THUS ACTIVELY CORRUPTS HIS/HER HUMANITY. SUCH CORRUPTION LEADS INEVITABLY TO THE CONTINUATION OF SAVAGERY, INHUMANITY AND DESTRUCTION. Besides the nationwide harassment and displacement of Bosniaks, the Serbian political and military leadership orchestrated mass killings to both cleanse the territories and as acts of revenge. The extremist national discourse presented the whole
ordeal as getting back at Muslim “Turks” (read Ottomans), who had conquered and ruled the Balkans from the early 15th to the late 19th century. The pattern of murderous events both prior to and after the Srebrenica genocide have been well documented and proven by the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC Judgements from 2007, https:// www.icj-cij.org/files/case-related/91/13687. pdf). Until today, nearly 50 perpetrators, including the key political and military leaders, have been found guilty of genocide and related crimes and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences, sometimes for life. At the end of the armed conflict in December 1995, various national and domestic fact-finding organizations recorded over 100,000 mostly non-battle-related deaths in total — the overwhelming majority of them being Bosniaks — numerous concentration camps, tens of thousands of raped and tortured women and well over two million refugees. Today, the Serbian political leadership in Bosnia continues to deny the genocide. This consistent and prevalent denial, a fundamental segment of the Serbian public discourse on the war as a whole, has rekindled secessionist political rhetoric that has, among other things, paralyzed the country’s institutions and any serious reconciliation efforts. Fully integrated into the broader Serbian nationalist ideology, this denial has become an integral part of the Serbian politicians and prominent religious leaders’ political and religious rhetoric throughout the region. This allows the new generation to regard the premeditated extermination, torture, and rape of Bosniaks as a possibility in the future. The toxic logic of genocide denial presupposes the idea that its perpetrators cannot be blamed for unleashing violence against a group of people that was intentionally denied existence. This “logic” of denial can be seen in the geopolitical reasoning among the Russian political elite and a range of European and North American
leftist intellectuals who, due to their ethical virtues. As the Quran states, anti-imperialist and anti-Ameri“Because of this did We ordain unto can zeal, have adopted the Serbs’ the children of Israel that if anyone revisionist view of the genocide. slays a human being — unless it be An important example of this [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on Earth — is the Austrian novelist Peter Handke, the 2019 Nobel Prize it shall be as though he had slain winner in literature, whose support all humanity; whereas, if anyone of Serbian nationalist extremism saves a life, it shall be as though he is hardly a secret. The Swedish had saved the lives of all humanity” Academy has argued that its widely (Q. 5:32). criticized choice was based solely To overcome the corruption Part of the list of names carved in stone at the Potočari Genocide on Handke’s literary contributions. of one’s display of humanity, such Memorial Center near Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia Aleksandar Hemon, a Bosnianas adamant genocide denials, a American novelist and essayist, called Handke religious hostilities can actually encourage person and an entire collective can benefit “The Bob Dylan of Genocide Apologists.” new mass atrocities. For instance, part of the from aspiring toward truthfulness and jusHe writes that Handke’s “immoral delusions new generation of Serbian youth, inspired tice for all. But this aspiration can only come could perhaps be related to his literary aes- by this discourse’s apparent success, may from a person or a collective’s willingness thetics, to his suspicion of language and its adopt and then engage in similar acts of to engage in reflective and contemplative ability to represent truth, which ultimately extremism. This assumption is visible in a self-criticism, as such an undertaking repleads to a position that everything is equally range of conflict zones around the world resents the process of personal and collective true, or untrue” (https://www.nytimes. today (see genocidewatch.com). purification in the attempt to regain what History shows that the 20th century was Muslims regard as their God-given sense of com/2019/10/15/opinion/peter-handke-nono stranger to the attempted extermination dignity and compassion. bel-bosnia-genocide.html). If this is indeed a case of untruthful of whole groups of people. In the 21st cenOn the one hand, to take an amoral posidelusion, Handke’s stance does not absolve tury, humanity seem to have inherited the tion in the face of atrocities and revisionist him of the guilt of denying the attempted nationalistic extremism, racism and insti- narratives chips away the observers’ humanextermination of a people, or perhaps of an tutionalized Islamophobia that produce ity. On the other hand, extremists of all types “unpeople,” as seen through the eyes of the genocidal tendencies even today. seem to lack the capacity for self-criticism, Serbian aggressors. Can it be that extreme nationalism has for even the thought of engaging in such In the recently published “Srebrenica become the new language of the dreamed-of an exercise is alien to their methods of reaGenocide Denial Report 2020,” (https://www. total “disappearance” of the imagined other? soning. In other words, extreme nationalist srebrenicamemorial.org/en/article/230/ If so, this totalitarian and nuance-erasing mythologies, racist otherings and systematic download-srebrenica-genocide-denial-re- tendency legitimizes the denials of unimag- Islamophobia act as traps for human conport-for-2020), Monica Hanson Green inable atrocities. Such denials are far more sciousness — traps that distort the very idea reveals some aspects of the insensibleness serious than just a question about different of what it means to be human. The same of Srebrenica genocide denial by members viewpoints on war atrocities and the distri- goes for the idle observers of the processes of the Serbian and other establishments. The bution of responsibility, because they cut of genocide and its denials. report’s most intriguing — but unfortunately through, corrupt and deprive us of our very In fact, the real danger of genocide denisomewhat truncated — part is its discussion humanity. als in Bosnia and elsewhere is the deniers’ on the consequences of this denial. Genocide and its denials can best be lack of remorse and empathy for the perOne of the major consequences in this described as processes of evil that continue ceived other, which, in turn, opens a way regard is the obstruction of reconciliation to perpetuate some of the suffering in our for continued violence and the potential for efforts. Conflicts produce wounds that are world. The discourse of genocide denial in new atrocities and genocides. At the same often healed through reconciliation and Bosnia, Myanmar, Chechnya or elsewhere time, the survivors and their families, as honest discussion about the nature of a also alters the denier’s state of mind. It can be well as public and outside observers, are specific conflict, the venting of guilt, victim- argued that this alteration deprives a person responsible for identifying and then conhood and moving forward. Instead, geno- of his/her sense of truth and justice and thus demning, refuting and indicting all of the cide denial causes the still-open wounds to actively corrupts his/her humanity. Such cor- deniers’ attempts to corrupt and deny our fester in the collective minds of its victims. In ruption leads inevitably to the continuation collective sense of humanity. ih fact, this residual resentment can extend for of savagery, inhumanity and devastation. Emin Poljarevic is associate professor, Department of generations if the post-war collective action In this situation, overcoming this type Theology at Uppsala University, Sweden. One of his short remains so apathetic that no serious effort is of corruption requires a personal commit- articles, “Bosnia, a sui generis state,” deals with the post-Dayton political arrangement of the Bosnian Federation made to deal with those issues pertaining to ment to justice, higher moral ideals and and its unsustainability due the imposed sectarian-Lebathe Bosniak collective as a political, religious truths. This is why Islam, understood as the nese-style institutional state order. His July 2019 interview divinely ordered pathway to God (Sharia), on the Bosnian genocide by Johannesburg’s Salaamedia or even social group. radio station can be listened to at https://soundcloud.com/ The discourse of denial’s ability to per- establishes and reiterates the importance of salaamedia/revisiting-the-srebrenica-massacre-and-genopetuate nationalistic, ethnic, racial and our embedded potential (fitra) for moral and cide-in-bosnia-24-years-later-with-prof-emin-poljarevic. JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 43
MUSLIMS UNDER SIEGE
The Rohingya Face COVID-19 Under Burmese Terror A Muslim minority under siege from Buddhists and disease BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
he first report of the global COVID-19 pandemic appeared much earlier in Myanmar. While part of the Burmese government has finally begun mobilizing some resources to address its spread, the country’s military remains consumed with fighting various ethnic groups and thereby grossly disregarding the pandemic’s serious threat. Arakan State’s overcrowded internally displaced persons (IDP) camps set up for the Rohingya, as well as their villages and those of other ethnic groups, remain at high risk. Various national media outlets are reporting the country’s rapidly changing pandemic situation; however, many details and the exact number of cases remain sketchy because there is no effective tracking system. Today, the Rohingya are facing a twopronged threat: the invisible COVID-19 disease and the regime’s highly visible and ongoing hostility and genocidal crimes. According to on-the-ground sources, in March a Central Burma court sentenced 15 Rohingya from Arakan to two years for fleeing to Central Burma to escape the violence raging in a number of the state’s townships. Washington-based Radio Free Asia noted that a court in Central Myanmar’s Magway region sentenced 15 Rohingya [including one child] on Feb. 14 to a maximum of two years each for attempting to leave the country illegally — they were accused of traveling without official proof of identity or travel documents. Upon being sentenced under 44 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
Section 6(3) of Myanmar’s Immigration Act, they were immediately transferred to Thayet Prison; the six-year-old was sent to the Magway Childcare Center, which is run by the region’s social welfare department. “Their sentence came fast because they traveled without any proof of identity or travel documents,” said Minhla township immigration officer Aung Pyi Soe, who testified at the hearings. “We didn’t need much evidence to convict them” (https://www. rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/rohingya-jailed-03062020155637.html). Similar cases have been reported from the Central Myanmar townships of Pathein, Yangon, Bago, Magwe and others. Thousands of Rohingya men and women have been wrongly imprisoned on false or unfounded charges — sometimes even without any charge being leveled against them at all — in at least seven Arakan townships. The state’s heavily overcrowded prison facilities offer little or no protection in the case of coronavirus outbreaks. The previous military dictatorship and the current government enabled such travel-related arrests by confiscating and/ or voiding government-issued documents — national registration cards, white cards (temporary identity cards), Form-10s (owner’s housing registration form) and others — to the Rohingya, thereby restricting their freedom of movement and making it a crime for them to travel within or outside the state. Hundreds of internally displaced
Rohingya have been arrested in at least five Central Burma townships over the past several months, despite the fact that all they are doing is trying to escape the Burmese military’s indiscriminate bombing of villages as the armed conflict between it and the Arakan Army of the ethnic Buddhist Rakhine armed group rages. [Editor’s Note: The Arakan Army “is by far the largest insurgent group in Rakhine State.” Its purpose is to “protect our Arakan people, and to establish peace, justice, freedom and development.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Arakan_Army_(Kachin_State)] On April 8, Burmese authorities dropped charges against many Arakan Rohingya accused of traveling to Central Burma, including over 200 in Pathein Township. The Irrawaddy (www.irrawaddy.com) — founded in 1990 by Burmese exiles living in Thailand — reports that the Labor, Immigration and Population Ministry’s spokesperson did not respond to its query on why the charges were withdrawn. “I am very happy that they have their freedom. It needed to be done. It’s also good for the government,” attorney Daw Thazin Myat Myat Win told The Irrawaddy. In recent months, the Burmese military has stepped up its fighting with the Arakan Army. For example, on April 7, on-the-ground sources said that the government’s aerial attacks and heavy artillery shelling in Paletwa Township killed seven villagers, injured eight more (reportedly not “life-threatening”) and rendered over 100 villagers homeless. “The village residents are facing shortages of food and life-sustaining supplies, not just due to the armed clashes today, but also due to the closure of markets since early March as fighting has been going on for quite some time in this area,” a village elder said. On April 13, the Burmese military launched a heavy artillery barrage against the Rakhine village of Kyaukseik in Punnagyun Township, killing eight villagers and injuring 13, according to on-the-ground sources. Four persons were killed and 17 were taken to the township’s hospital. Two persons reportedly died on the way and two others died after being admitted. On April 8, the Office of the President
of Myanmar issued two directives related to the Jan. 23, 2020, International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on provisional measures ordering the government to preserve the evidence of crimes and acts of genocide. The directive, addressed to all ministries and all regions and state governments, seeks to ensure that the personnel, officers, staff — whether military or other security forces, or civil services — and local people under its control or direction conform to Articles II and III of the Genocide Convention (https://www.president-office.gov.mm/ en/?q=briefing-room/news/2020/04/09/ id-10001). The second directive prohibits all ministries and the Rakhine State government, as well as their agencies, departments, offices and personnel, from destroying, removing or permitting the destruction or removal of: 1) Any property, immovable or movable, in any area of northern Arakan/Rakhine State, that may provide evidence of events referred to the ICOE’s final report; 2) anything that may provide evidence of killing members of a group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of a group, deliberately inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group, or forcibly transferring children of a group to another group (www.president-office.gov.mm/en/?q=briefing-room/ news/2020/04/09/id-10003). The Burmese military has destroyed a great deal of evidence of the crimes it committed both before and after this order. After nearly three months, the Office of the President issued the directives, which are clearly too little too late. Atrocities, including extrajudicial killing, mass killing, rape, mutilation and torture, particularly in 2017, are only some of the instruments of genocide. Government authorities, driven by the current anti-Rohingya policies, ensure that such events continue. The Dhaka Tribune, April 23, quoted Bangladesh foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen that the two boats carrying some 500 Rohingyas will not be allowed into the country. It added that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and some diplomatic missions in Dhaka have requested the government to let them in. The Rohingya on board fled the ongoing fighting in Arakan between Burmese military and Arakan Army, the newspaper reported.
ATROCITIES, INCLUDING EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING, MASS KILLING, RAPE, MUTILATION AND TORTURE, PARTICULARLY IN 2017, ARE ONLY SOME OF THE INSTRUMENTS OF GENOCIDE. GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES, DRIVEN BY THE CURRENT ANTIROHINGYA POLICIES, ENSURE THAT SUCH EVENTS CONTINUE. The Arakan Rohingya Union (http:// rohingyaunion.org), based in State College, Pa., has recommended that: ■ The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the international community demand that the government swiftly implement concrete measures to safeguard all Arakan communities from COVID-19 via coordination with international agencies. ■ The OIC and the international community demand that the government release all of the Rohingya imprisoned in Arakan on grossly false charges. The state’s heavily overcrowded prisons are high-risk, disease-prone areas. ■ The OIC, in cooperation with the international community, warns the government
and the military not to exploit the global pandemic in any way that will deliberately put the state’s Rohingya in harm’s way. ■ The OIC, in coordination with international agencies, strongly urges the government to allow international relief groups to deliver necessary medical, sanitation, and food supplies to Arakan’s IDP camps. ■ The OIC, in coordination with the Gambian government and the international community, demand the Burmese government provide information on the military and the government authorities’ destruction of evidence in northern Arakan both before and after Jan. 23, 2020. ■ The OIC and the international community insist that the government lift the internet blackouts and stop the current violence in northern Arakan. On April 12, The Irrawaddy reported that the total number of COVID-19 cases stood at 38 with three deaths, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports. By April 14, the VOA Burmese program announced that there were 63 cases. In Arakan, there is a report of COVID19 in Sittwe Township. The person had recently returned from China via Yangon, was reportedly hospitalized in Sittwe and then transferred to Yangon, which is better equipped to handle these cases. There is increasing concern for the Rohingya’s safety because the state’s non-Rohingya ethnic groups are allowed to travel back and forth between Arakan and various Central Burma townships. On-the-ground reports also indicate that the identities of many Buddhist Rakhine migrant workers who recently returned from China and Thailand by overland routes are largely unknown, as there is no government tracking system for people returning to Arakan from Central Burma. The Arakan Rohingya Union, a global umbrella organization representing 61 Rohingya organizations worldwide, was formed under the patronage of the OIC Secretary General through the 38th OIC Council of Foreign Ministers Resolution No.4/37-MM as a united Rohingya coordinated council to reclaim the rights of Rohingya people in their homeland. Registered in the U.S. as non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, the OIC’s 57 members recognize it as the Rohingya’s official representative. ih Editor’s note: This article is based on a press release put out by The Arakan Rohingya Union on April 14, 2020.
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 45
MUSLIMS UNDER SIEGE
COVID-19 Is Far More Than Just a Health Concern Did you remember to pray for Asia’s Muslim minorities during Ramadan? BY JAY WILLOUGHBY
he now-global COVID-19 pandemic first came to public attention on Dec. 31, 2019, when the WHO China Country Office was informed that people in Wuhan were coming down with pneumonia “due to an unknown cause.” Between Dec. 31, 2019 and Jan. 3, 2020, national authorities in China reported 44 case-patients. During January, various Asian and other countries began reporting individual cases. The first death outside of China occurred in the Philippines on Feb. 2. Perhaps due to the lack of knowledge or slow governmental responses, recently held Tablighi Jamaat events in Southeast Asia have caused a great deal of concern in some of the region’s countries. One such event was held in Kuala Lumpur during Feb. 27-March 1. According to https://www.malaymail.com (March 22), “After the early success in containing the first wave of Covid-19 infections, Malaysia has experienced a sharp rise in cases, hundreds of which have been connected to the tabligh [the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic missionary movement that focuses on exhorting Muslims and encouraging fellow members to return to practicing their religion; notably through regional and national conventions and retreats] event.” Malaysia, home to 100,000 Rohingya who have fled the Myanmar government’s genocidal policies, also has to contend with the fact that since these people are considered illegal immigrants, meaning that those who attended would naturally hesitate to identify themselves and, if infected, seek treatment. Upon their return home, many of the estimated 1,600 foreign attendees from 30 countries were greeted with suspicion. In Cambodia, for example, Human Rights Watch (https://www.hrw.org) noted on March 30, “The Health Ministry reported on March 17 that 11 ‘Khmer Islam’ [the official designation for the country’s Muslims] 46 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
returning from a religious ceremony in Malaysia’ had tested positive for the COVID19 virus…” When this report became known, the result was widespread economic and social discrimination, as well as online verbal abuse and hatred. As of March 30, Phnom Penh had neither apologized to the Muslim community nor sought to alleviate the report’s negative consequences. An on-the-ground friend told me that he personally knows of a man who was murdered simply because he was Muslim. He also informed me of a word-of-mouth rumor and a Facebook posting: “If you eat a duck egg, you can’t get the virus. But you have to eat it tonight. Supposedly, a lady who had died a couple of days ago came back to life at 8:00 p.m. to reveal this ‘fact.’ Of course no stores were open, so people began knocking on other peoples’ doors. They woke up their kids and made them eat the egg. As Cambodia is not a safe county [at night], they were literally risking their lives. Thousands, tens of thousands, including Muslims, did it in Cambodia and Vietnam.” Phnom Penh’s initial denial and lax response has been severely criticized. My friend said that despite closing its border, mainland Chinese are still allowed to come and go as they will. After all, China is Cambodia’s economic lifeline. Ana P. Santos (https://www.aljazeera. com, March 22) reported that the Philippine government was searching for the 215 attendees, most of whom it said were from the “Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), a group of [Muslim-majority] provinces in the southern Philippines.” An article posted on https://reliefweb. int reveals another problem: “Subsequently, similar measures [stated above] were imposed throughout the country, including in Mindanao [23.39% Muslim] where more than 300,000 people remain displaced from
the Marawi conflict [https://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Battle_of_Marawi] and series of earthquakes in Cotabato and Davao del Sur.” A segment of Mindanao’s Muslims have been locked in a decades-long military conflict with Manila. On a positive note, Santos stated: “If the deceased is a Muslim, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the body of the deceased Muslim should be placed in an air-tight sealed bag and buried in the nearest Muslim cemetery within 12 hours with Muslim rites.” Shereena Qazi and Ashkar Thasleem (https://www.aljazeera.com) reported on April 3 that Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health, which begs to differ, said, “on Tuesday [March 31] issued COVID-19 guidelines saying the standard procedure of disposing bodies should be cremation. It reversed an earlier guideline that allowed traditional Muslim burial.” They further noted that “forced cremation of two COVID-19 infected Muslims in Sri Lanka has sent shock waves among the minority community” and that “Muslim leaders and activists have pointed out that the World Health Organization (WHO) allows both burial or cremation.” There is also some concern that Colombo will use this crisis to clamp down on its Muslim-minority community (https:// www.hrw.org). Meera Srinivasan, writing for the Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India-based The Hindu from Colombo on April 13, observed that “A group of Muslim organizations [including the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka and the Colombo District Mosques’ Federation] in Sri Lanka have sought immediate investigation and urgent
20) that “Thousands of Muslim pilgrims from across Asia gathered in Indonesia [in Gowa, South Sulawesi province] on Wednesday (March 18), despite fears that [this Tablighi Jamaat] meeting could fuel the spread of a coronavirus, just two weeks after a similar event in Malaysia caused more than 500 infections.” And this despite the authorities’ formal request to postpone the event. Mustari Bahranuddin, one of the organizers, stated that “We are more afraid of God … Because everyone’s human, we fear illnesses, death. But there’s something more to the body, which is our soul.” And yet it is narrated that the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) stated: “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague
PHNOM PENH’S INITIAL DENIAL AND LAX RESPONSE HAS BEEN SEVERELY CRITICIZED. MY FRIEND SAID THAT DESPITE CLOSING ITS BORDER, MAINLAND CHINESE ARE STILL ALLOWED TO COME AND GO AS THEY PLEASE. AFTER ALL, CHINA IS CAMBODIA’S ECONOMIC LIFELINE. action on ‘the continued hate-mongering against the Muslim community’, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.” They cite anonymous audio clips “urging the public to refrain from making purchases from Muslim-run businesses, while accusing the community of trying to spread the coronavirus.” Such fears are very real in neighboring India. Given New Delhi’s increasingly brutal treatment of its indigenous Muslims and that a Tablighi Jamaat event scheduled during 2019 was convened at its headquarters (Nizamuddin Markaz Mosque) in early March 2020, communal tensions have increased. The center was sealed after allegedly “dozens tested” positive. BBC reported on April 3 that Islamophobic hashtags have been trending on Twitter since the news first broke on Monday, quoting historian Rana Safvi, “Instead of corona quarantine, we should have hate quarantine.” One meme, for instance, shows China as the “producer” of the virus and Muslims as its “distributors.” In Indonesia, Channel News Asia (CNA) reported on March 18 (updated on March
breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place” (https://sunnah.com/ bukhari/76/43). The estimated 8,695 people who had already arrived came primarily from neighboring countries, the Middle East, and South Asia. Organizers were taking the attendees’ temperatures, and health officials were requesting permission to monitor them. After several days of trying to convince the organizers to postpone/cancel the event, Adnan Purichta Ichsan, head of Gowa regency, posted the following statement on social media on late March 18: “Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God), Ijtima finally agreed to postpone/cancel.” Nevertheless, it appeared to be too late, for according to CNA, “Tiny neighbour Brunei has confirmed 50 infections linked to it, while Cambodia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have also said [their] citizens were infected there.” Ida Lim of Malay Mail (https://malaysia.news.yahoo.com) reported on March 14, “The Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has issued an urgent advisory to all 132 Thai Muslims who were present at a recent
religious gathering at Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur to get themselves tested for Covid19 ‘as soon as possible.’” In addition, they were “told to quarantine themselves until they receive the Covid-19 test results, and that they may have to be quarantined for 14 days at state quarantine centers in Malaysia.” Pimuk Rakkanam and Mariyam Ahmad (https://www.aljazeera.com), reporting from Bangkok and Pattani on April 4, wrote: “The most powerful among separatist insurgent groups in Thailand’s troubled far south [the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (National Revolutionary Front)] has declared a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds, citing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak and calling it ‘the main enemy of all humankind.’” This statement coincided with UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ renewed appeal for warring parties around the globe to stop fighting so that health authorities and other first respondents wouldn’t be placed in danger. One wonders what the future holds for the Muslim-minority communities of Thailand and the Philippines, parts of which remain locked in decades-long military and cultural conflicts with Bangkok and Manila, respectively. What effect will the influx of government soldiers and police forces, as well as government officials from various ministries, have on these long-standing hotspots? What about Sri Lanka’s Muslims, who are still dealing with the backlash of the apparently ISIS-affiliated Islamist National Tawheed Jamaat’s 2019 Easter suicide bombings of the nation’s churches and hotels? More than 350 people died. According to Carl Court, writing for Newsweek on April 25, 2019, in post-civil war (1982-2009) Sri Lanka, “Hard-line Buddhist monks began targeting churches and mosques, priests and imams, often with the tacit support of the security services,” just as has happened in southern Thailand and Myanmar. And what about Cambodia’s Muslims? Prime Minister Hun Sen, one of the Khmer Rouge members who opposed Pol Pot, made it a point to establish good relations with them. But he is now 67, and people are talking of his waning political power and possible successors. Moreover, Washington doesn’t like him. ih Jay Willoughby is a freelance copy editor and writer.
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 47
Are Arabs Wary of a Turkish Cultural Invasion? Have the culture wars of Europe, Turkey, and the Arab world become virtual battlegrounds? BY LUKE MATHEW PETERSON
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Resurrection: Ertugrul” (hereafter, “Ertugrul”) is a wildly popular Turkish television drama, a historical fiction depicting the life and times (and the many battles) of the Ottoman Empire’s progenitor, Ertugrul Gazi (1191-1281). In this somewhat slow-moving Turkish “Game of Thrones,” the titular character represents an idealized Ottoman warrior — brave, wise, strong and cunning; a daring-do warrior/ king who goes to great lengths to stave off both regional (read Arab) and international (read Crusader) foes to skillfully lay the groundwork for the empire his son Usman (Arabized as “Uthman,” Anglicized as “Ottoman”) will one day bring to fruition. The show ran for five seasons (with a sixth depicting the life of Usman himself) and more than 150 episodes to rave ratings in Turkey. It had international distribution as well, being subtitled and broadcast to international media audiences from Venezuela to Afghanistan. In the U.S., Netflix picked it up in its entirety during June 2017. Rumors allege that it has even served as the inspiration for the Netflix English-language historical docudrama “Rise of Empires: Ottoman,” 48 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
a single-series program that mixes elaborate battles and intimate drama with documentary-style interviews with experts in Middle Eastern history. “Ertugrul” is as nationalistic as it is far-reaching. The dramatic fight scenes in Turkey’s beautiful natural settings give the medieval Ottoman language and traditions pride of place in comparison to the other cultural groups depicted. While the program does mirror some historical truths, various non-Turkish national media cultures and interested political groups assert that it is propagating a secret agenda. In February 2020 the Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah, Egypt’s official media center and Islamic educational services provider, issued an official fatwa condemning “Resurrection: Ertugrul” and instructing the country’s faithful Muslims not to watch it — not because its scenes violated any social norms or religious customs, but because it “weaponized” Ottoman culture and history, thereby threatening to “undermine” the Arab connection to the Middle East and possibly to Islam (as well). The fatwa also declared that President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan promotes the show as a way to influence impressionable, young Arabs by “forcing” them to imagine the Ottoman Empire as a purer, more Islamic community than some of their contemporary Arab state counterparts. Following suit, the Dubai-based Middle East Broadcasting Center pulled the show and a number of other Turkish-language programs from all of its networks in 2018. Turkish authorities cried “censorship”; Arab media authorities retorted that their action was a necessary part of indigenous, Arab cultural preservation. Might these Arab media outlets be on to something? Does Turkey, under Erdogan’s leadership and the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) rule, have imperial aspirations? After all, this is hardly the first time that Erdogan’s neo-Ottomanism vision for the future has been asserted. Do Arab states’ concerns with Ankara’s possible cultural and policy ambitions, enforced by an ahistorical and xenophobic ideology, have any validity? Ironically, all the shaken ones happen to be Arab dictators and absolute monarchs. Of note, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar on June 5, 2017. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been tense ever since Ankara sided with Qatar against the blockade imposed by Riyadh and several other Arab states. For their part, European officials are inclined to agree with collective Arab fears about an increasingly intolerant Turkish cultural presence. Members of the European Parliament [which has welcomed ex-Soviet satellites] have recently become openly wary of Erdogan and his fellow AKP officials’ uber-nationalistic and distinctly anachronistic proclamations. Far beyond the casual, all-too-common background of Islamophobia among European politicians, many European officials were disturbed to hear Alparslan Kavaklioglu, head of the Turkish Parliament’s Security and Intelligence Commission, declare in early 2018 that “Europe will be Muslim.” European wariness is noting new; [Muslim majority] Turkey, recognized as a candidate for full European Union membership on Dec. 12, 1999, still awaits finalization. This pronouncement differed significantly from the welcoming invitations to Islam that I have received warmly and openly on a dozen occasions while traveling in the Middle East. Kavaklioglu was speaking of conquest, not tolerance or acceptance — a
Shawki Ibrahim Allam, Mufti of Egypt
Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister UAE & ruler of Dubai
EVEN SO, “ERTUGRUL” MIGHT STILL RIGHTLY BE CLASSIFIED AS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN TURKEY’S CONTEMPORARY SOFT POWER, A CULTURAL PRODUCT FROM A STATE THAT PROJECTS ATTRACTIVENESS AND PALATABILITY TO FAR FLUNG AND OFTEN CULTURALLY DISPARATE COMMUNITIES. crucial distinction. And he is hardly an isolated voice among Turkish officials and activists. For example the activist group Milli Gorus (“National Vision”), which claims cultural supremacy over Arabs and Europeans, advocates an extreme form of Turkish nationalism among Turkish immigrants in Germany. Milli Gorus was founded in the 1960s by Necmettin Erbakan, whom many Muslims revere for his efforts to move Turkey away from its Kemalist past and who was one of Erdogan’s mentors and confidants. One can therefore assume that it would support AKP officials in this regard (https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/07/ erdogans-long-arm-in-europe-germanynetherlands-milli-gorus-muslim-brotherhood-turkey-akp). Erdogan, for his part, seemed to agree with his colleague’s political predictions when, in January 2019, he declared that Turkey’s true borders extend “from Vienna to the shores of the Adriatic, [and] from East Turkestan [Xinjiang] to the Black Sea.” Of course, this statement may also have been an election-time rhetorical flourish, for Turkey held local elections on March 31, 2019. Such pandering is a time-honored political reality. However, it ignores the undeniable value of
the contributions made by Turkey’s ethnic minorities (the Kurds and Armenians perhaps foremost among them) to the country’s past and present cultural, martial and political glory. But whether all of this justifies the Arab media outlets’ censorship is far from clear. “Ertugrul” is unapologetically nationalistic from the first moment of its opening credits, which declare that: “The stories and characters depicted here were inspired by our history” (my emphasis). And Erdogan and the AKP undoubtedly support the program’s dominant theme — the Ottoman Empire’s benevolent rise due to the superiority of its proto-Turkish culture. For instance, the serial’s showing in Pakistan, which started in May, broke all-time viewership records – ironically the only objectors were those identify themselves as “liberals” and “secularists.” However, that is not the same as saying that Ankara has deliberately weaponized “Ertugrul” to pursue a secret neo-Ottoman agenda. Rather, some analysts have suggested that this program is an independent (if convenient) entity for the ethno-nationalist Erdogan. In this reading, “Ertugrul” is no more than Turkey’s Coca-Cola, a palatable projection of an idealized culture connecting
Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces
imagined visions of modern Turkey’s history with contemporary images, sounds and stories. It’s not meant to be taken literally, for it’s just a simply rendered historical drama ... entertainment ... nothing more. Even so, “Ertugrul” might still rightly be classified as the single most important element in Turkey’s contemporary soft power, a cultural product from a state that projects attractiveness and palatability to far flung and often culturally disparate communities. And soft power can have a real-world impact in the realm of policy and society. This was amply demonstrated when products of Americana helped form consumer markets in the former Soviet Union, and remains the case in Britain, which continues to use its royal family to draw trade and tourists to the United Kingdom. But analysts will also tell you that soft power is a double-edge sword, for it often promotes as much resentment and rejection as it does enthusiasm and acceptance. The setting sun of the British Empire in the 1940s and the steady decline of America's cultural cache throughout the Middle East in this century are both testimony to soft power rejectionism. Might “Resurrection: Ertugrul” become the next iteration of widespread cultural rejectionism in the Arab world, a larger point of real-world political contention between coreligionists and regional neighbors? Time will tell. ih Luke Mathew Peterson (Ph.D., Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge) is a professor of Arabic, history and politics in Pittsburgh. He is the author of “PalestineIsrael in the Print News Media: Contending Discourses,” “Palestine in the American Mind,” the article “PalestineIsrael and the Neoliberal Ideal” (The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, Fall 2017), and a regular contributor to Islamic Horizons.
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 49
The History, Mystery and Romance of Spices Spices not only make our food and drinks better, but also provide various health benefits BY SYED IMTIAZ AHMAD
pices have prompted some of history’s greatest trading expeditions — maritime routes from Europe to South Asia and back again, as well as overland routes from southern Arabia and Africa to Europe. Considering their scarcity, accessibility, and cost, for most of history they have been luxury items for monarchs and their courts. So useful, indeed indispensable, were spices in both political and economic terms that monarchs sent expeditions to find them, merchants risked life and fortune to trade in them, wars were fought over them. Whole populations were enslaved to produce them, the world was explored and the restless, ruthless competition to find and sell them engendered many far-reaching changes. History. Looking back across some 7,000 years of history enables historians to highlight spices’ pivotal part in developing
modern civilization. Frederic Rosengarten’s “The Book of Spices” (1973; https://www. gutenberg.org), a classic account of the history of some 41 of the world’s most popular spices, describes their earliest appearance in ancient Egypt and ends with their myriad uses today. Many of the spices were native to South Asia, which has suitable climatic conditions, although some were imported. (https://www. mccormickscienceinstitute.com/resources/ history-of-spices). At a time when Europe knew nothing of sugar, tea, coffee, chocolate, potatoes, citrus fruits or tobacco, South Asian spices supplied flavor and piquancy for food and drink and fragrant aromas to mask a multitude of unpleasant odors. The early sea routes promoted the growth of this trade. Arab traders sailed directly to spice-producing lands long before the Christian era. Chinese merchants crossed
the waters of the Malay Archipelago to trade in the Spice Islands (the Maluku islands of modern-day Indonesia). Sri Lanka was another important trading point. In Alexandria, Egypt, port dues revenues were already enormous when, in 80 BCE, Ptolemy XI bequeathed the city to the Romans, who soon initiated voyages from Egypt to South Asia. Under them, Alexandria became the world’s greatest commercial center and the leading emporium for South Asia’s aromatic and pungent spices, all of which found their way to the markets of Greece and the Roman Empire. Roman trade with the region was extensive for more than three centuries, revived somewhat during the fifth century and declined again during the following century. It weakened, but didn’t break, the Arabs’ hold on the spice trade, which endured through the Middle Ages. Cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger and turmeric have always been important commercial items. The first two found their way to the Middle East at least 4,000 years ago. From time immemorial, southern Arabia had been a trading center for frankincense, myrrh and other fragrant resins and gums. Arab traders artfully withheld the true sources of the spices they sold. Spices have been used in China since about 2700 BCE, although ancient reports are shrouded in mythology and superstition. A
The economically important Silk Road (red) and spice trade routes (blue) were blocked by the Seljuk Empire c. 1090, triggering the Crusades, and by the Ottoman Empire c. 1453, which spurred the Age of Discovery and European Colonialism. (c) Cartographic-images.net 50 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
reliable tradition holds that in the third-century BCE, royal courtiers had to put cloves in their mouths to sweeten their breath when addressing the emperor. The ancient Greeks imported pepper, cassia, cinnamon, and ginger to the Mediterranean area. The use of spices gradually became widespread among the common people as well. Both the Quran and the Old Testament record Prophet Yousuf ’s (‘alayhi as salam) sale to a caravan of Egypt-bound spice traders and the Israelites begging Prophet Moses (‘alayhi as salam) to ask God to send
Mutant Prostate Cancer Cells,” https://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/66/6/3222). Cumin and turmeric, which possess powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, can be used against harmful bacteria in the body. Chile peppers are one of the world’s most important spice crops. Although hot peppers contain no real heat, eating one may cause a burning sensation in one’s mouth — they trick the brain into thinking that the mouth is on fire — or to sweat. Eaten moderately, they strengthen one’s digestive system and have other beneficial health effects.
IN GENERAL, EVIDENCE-BASED DATA SHOWS THAT SPICES KEEP ONE’S HEART HEALTHY, PROMOTE WEIGHT LOSS AND ACT AS CATALYSTS THAT ENHANCE THE BODY’S METABOLIC ACTIVITY, CALM AND KEEP THE GUT HEALTHY AND RELIEVE PAIN. them herbs and spices, including garlic and ginger. Before his prophetic mission, Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) worked as an agent for Makka’s various spice and other merchants. Many centuries later, European armies began spreading the spices of the “Old World” to the “New World,” notably South America. The U.S. entered the global spice trade in the late 18th century. Freed from the taxes and trade restrictions imposed by Imperial Britain, Americans traded salmon, codfish, tobacco, snuff, flour, soap, candles, butter, cheese and beef for pepper, cassia, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and other spices. Studies indicate that spicy food leads to longevity, particularly in the absence of alcohol and other intoxicants. Spices such as cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, peppers and chilies can raise one’s metabolic resting rate and slow down one’s appetite. Curcumin, a compound in turmeric, may reduce inflammation (Jun Lv, et al., “Frequent Spicy Food Consumption Linked with Longer Life,” doi: 10.1136/bmj.h4932). Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties can heal arthritis, autoimmune disorders, headaches and nausea. Capsaicin, an active component of chili peppers, slows and destroys cancer cells. A UCLA study found that it also inhibits the growth of prostate cancer cells in mice while leaving healthy cells unharmed (Akio Mori, et al., “Capsaicin, a Component of Red Peppers, Inhibits the Growth of Androgen-Independent, p53
In general, evidence-based data shows that spices keep one’s heart healthy, promote weight loss and act as catalysts that enhance the body’s metabolic activity, calm and keep the gut healthy and relieve pain. Mystery is defined as that which is secret, lacking a clear explanation, hard to understand or explain, or something unexplainable or unsolvable, often eliciting curiosity. What lies behind the outward face of the taste and aroma of spices? What leads to the choice and amount of certain spices in a recipe? How are additional spices chosen — through trial and error, cultivating a certain “art,” or is there some science behind it? The phrase “Grandmother’s recipe” often carries mysterious connotations. Ayurvedic texts dating back some 5,000 years advise that chewing cloves and cardamom wrapped in betel-nut leaves will increase one’s saliva, which helps digestion, and to recline on one’s left side after chewing spices. What was the source of this advice — experimentation or some form of revealed knowledge? Merchants imported and traded in spices from distant, unknown lands. By the time these spices reached their final European destination, they were reputed to have mystical, almost occult-like and barely fathomable properties. To discourage competitors and enhance prices, long-ago spice merchants told many stories. Cassia cinnamon, a type of cinnamon prepared from the dried inner bark
of an evergreen tree that grows in areas of Southeast Asia, was said to grow in shallow lakes guarded by winged animals and/or to grow in deep glens infested with poisonous snakes. Other merchants claimed that giant birds grabbed cinnamon sticks from massive slabs of ox meat to build their nests on cliffs. The large slabs would collapse the nests, allowing clever merchants to collect their prize. An author who lived around 400 BCE wrote, “Cinnamon grows in deep lakes, near the homes of flying animals.” A story related in a 13th-century book told of how people cast their nets in the Nile in the evening and went out in the morning to get the collected ginger and cinnamon. Some maintained that the source of these spices was the “Earthly Paradise,” interpreted by some as the Garden of Eden. The 16th-century English encyclopedist Bartholomew de Glanville believed that black pepper was the result of white pepper scorched by fire. He considered peppercorn to be the fruit of a tree that grew in a forest on the south slope of a hill named Caucasus, the home of a vicious breed of snakes that had to be driven out by fire so the fruit could be harvested. Romance, the idealized use of imagination, has elements of mystery and excitement often far removed from earthly considerations. Cooks are known associate various spices with certain symbols. For example, rosemary symbolizes remembrance, bay leaves fidelity, oregano joy and happiness, and thyme affection. In his book “The Poetics of Spices” (1968), Timothy Morton focuses on spice and Romantic consumerism and details the relationship between consumer capitalism and literary representation. Spice became a figure of pure opulence, the richness of figurative language itself. He claims that capitalism achieves its legitimacy by mobilizing desire and promoting fantasies that produce consumers who desire them. These “exotic” goods, which materialize dreams, play a powerful role in producing and then circulating those desires found in consumer culture. ih Syed Imtiaz Ahmad, emeritus professor at Eastern Michigan University, has served as ISNA vice president and president as well as ISNA Canada vice president and president, and as well as president of the Computer Science Association of Canada, the Association of Pakistani Scientists and Engineers of North America, the Pakistan Canada Association, the Windsor Islamic Association and chair of the ISNA Canada School Board. He is currently the Rotary Club of Palgrave’s international service director.
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 51
Dress the Part Does dressing modestly encourage pious behavior? The idea of enclothed cognition strongly suggests that, yes, it does BY HABEEBA HUSAIN
efore transferring to AN Islamic school in the seventh grade, my after-school routine consisted of removing my socks and sneakers, swapping my department store “American” clothes for my Mommy-made shalwar (baggy pants) qameez (long/midcalf tunic), grabbing a snack and sitting on the corner of my parents’ bed to watch Kids’ WB by 3:30 p.m. (a program which aired 1995-2006). I so looked forward to getting comfortable and unwinding with my favorite things. I could finally breathe in the soft cotton fabric touching my skin. The elastic holding up my shalwar made it much easier to move around in than the tight zipper and button atop my stiff denim jeans that left a mark on my squishy stomach. At home, my style was very different. A child of Indian parents, I wore shalwar qameez every day, ones that my mom had 52 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
carefully measured, cut and stitched out of the patterned fabrics we had selected at the local Rag Shop. I could play outside, eat dinner, visit my extended family next door and across the street, do my homework and sleep all in the same outfit. Talk about versatile and the ideal day-to-night “fit”! When I officially enrolled in an Islamic school, I was happy to cleanse my closet of my public-school clothes. I now had a uniform — a navy, sleeveless tunic with matching trousers that had an elastic waistband, just like my shalwar. The only thing I needed to salvage from my public-school days was a white button-down blouse to wear underneath my tunic and gym pants for physical education classes. “School clothes” had a new meaning. I loved wearing a uniform and actually dreaded the “dress down” days awarded to students from time to time. Most kids
looked forward to it; for me, it was a cause of stress. As a kid, I was either at home or at school. Each setting had its appropriate attire. School had a uniform, which for my preteen and then teenage self, took away the mental stress of picking out an outfit and making sure it looked cute. I was able to use my mind’s energy to focus on learning and actual schoolwork. When I got home, I changed into my cozy and colorful shalwar qameez — perfect for lounging and sleeping, but still presentable enough to pop into my cousin’s house next door and say salaam to my aunt and uncle before us kids went outside to play. Similarly, other spheres of our lives have their respective dress codes, albeit with more guidelines — a suit and tie in the corporate office, performance gear in the gym, blingy formalwear for a wedding or one’s Sunday best for a church service. In each of these settings, a person has different goals, and the attire reflects that. The clothing sets the tone — it fits in with the place’s vibe and can mentally prepare a person for the tasks at hand. When the clothing doesn’t fit that sometimes unspoken dress code, a distraction develops that can disrupt the flow of events. I can tell you that I most definitely stuck out and received more funny looks than usual as
a Muslim in hijab observing a Palm Sunday mass for a college paper. This idea that human beings’ minds, and subsequently their behavior, are affected by what they wear is called “enclothed cognition.” In their article entitled “Enclothed Cognition” (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2012) Northwestern University psychologists Hajo Adam and Adam Galinksy [now at Columbia Business School] examined how people’s clothes affected their behavior.
Quran and Sunna, provides us with a dress code that is designed to benefit our spiritual selves. This code contains both obligatory and supererogatory aspects of outward display. For example, women are told to wear a hijab and men are instructed to grow a beard. Additionally, both men and women must cover their ‘awra in a public setting in such a way that its shape is hidden. These are all observable acts on the outside, and while they most definitely do not completely reflect a person’s religiosity on the inside, they do
SIMILARLY, OTHER SPHERES OF OUR LIVES HAVE THEIR RESPECTIVE DRESS CODES, ALBEIT WITH MORE GUIDELINES — A SUIT AND TIE IN THE CORPORATE OFFICE, PERFORMANCE GEAR IN THE GYM, BLINGY FORMALWEAR FOR A WEDDING OR ONE’S SUNDAY BEST FOR A CHURCH SERVICE. IN EACH OF THESE SETTINGS, A PERSON HAS DIFFERENT GOALS, AND ONE’S ATTIRE REFLECTS THAT. The experiment consisted of three tests. In the first test, one group wore a white doctor’s coat and the other wore regular clothing. The first group demonstrated a more selective attention than the second one. In the second and third tests, one group wore a white “doctor’s coat” and the other group wore the same coat; however, it was described as a “painter’s coat.” Again, the first group showed a more selective attention. The psychologists write, “The current research suggests a basic principle of enclothed cognition—it depends on both the symbolic meaning and the physical experience of wearing the clothes.” In other words, donning the coat alone doesn’t heighten a person’s attention, but the symbolic meaning (here, the association of a doctor’s stern concentration versus a painter’s free flowing creativity) also has an effect, so much so, in fact, that the “doctor’s coat” group made half the number of errors as the other group. “There’s something about putting on the coat, and feeling it and being that person,” said Galinsky to the women of the NPR podcast Invisibilia. “By putting on the clothing, it essentially becomes who you are. It’s a little bit about a momentary shift in identity.” This study suggests that the outer does indeed influence the inner. Islam, via the
tell you one thing: This person is following something of the deen. In that, there most definitely is baraka (blessing). We pray that dressing modestly affects both our inner hearts and outer actions. For many people, it is easier to wear loose clothing than it is to purify their hearts and rid their selves of the tendency to disobey. But the idea is not to be a hypocrite; rather, one’s physical appearance represents a goal — to be as inwardly good as the public may assume from the visible scarf or fistlength beard. Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was perfect both inside and out. If we can at least model the outer, we can pray that God will bless us out of His love for His Messenger so that we may change our inner self to reflect His beloved as well. Just as my school clothing readied me for the academic day and just as we dress for success before an interview, our religion’s requirement of modesty is simply step one. By making that effort, we can hope to eventually attain a purified heart and purified action. ih Habeeba Husain is a freelance journalist based in New York. She blogs for Why-Islam and helps manage social media for WuduGear. Her work has also appeared in SLAM Magazine, Narrative.ly and MuslimGirl.com, among other online and print publications.
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 53
ISLAM IN AMERICA
We Are All Niqabis Now Coronavirus masks reveal hypocrisy of face covering bans BY KATHERINE BULLOCK
A scene from the operating room in “Grey’s Anatomy” (© ABC)
rey’s Anatomy, the longest running prime-time medical drama on U.S. television, contains many scenes of doctors and nurses in full gear (hospital scrubs, surgical caps, face masks) around the operating table. As they talk, laugh and argue, close-ups of the actors’ eyes convey concentration and emotion. These scenes contradict one of the common arguments against face coverings — or more accurately, niqabs worn by some Muslim women — that they are a barrier to communication. Now that facemasks are being used to help fight against the spread of COVID-19, it has caused some to look anew at general discrimination against Muslim women wearing niqabs. And it has got me wondering about Québec’s face-covering ban that came into law in October 2017, as well as France’s ban that came into law in 2011. If Canadians, Americans and Europeans can get used to the new ubiquitous facemasks, will they also get used to niqabs? 54 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
Will discrimination against the few women in the West who wear it stop?
THE HISTORY OF FACE POLITICS The European disapproval of the face veil has a long history, as I learned while researching my book on Canadian Muslim women and the veil (“Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical & Modern Stereotypes”, Intl. Inst. of Islamic Thought. 2002). Niqab has been seen as both a symbol of cultural threat and also of the silencing of Muslim women. In her book “Western Representations of the Muslim Woman: From Termagant to Odalisque” (University of Texas Press, 1999), Mohja Kahf traces one of the first discussions of the veil in western fiction to the novel “Don Quixote.” One of the novel’s characters, Dorotea, asking about a veiled woman who walks into an inn: “Is this lady a Christian or a Moor?” The answer came: “Her dress and her silence make us think she is what we hope she is not.” As this scene from “Don Quixote” indicates,
European women sometimes also covered their faces or hair — but when they did so, it was not associated with something negative. Eventually, the rise of Western liberalism, with its prioritization of the individual, capitalism and consumerism led to a new “face politics.” Jenny Edkins, professor of politics at the University of Manchester, studied the rise of a politics centered around this new meaning of the “face,” including the idea that the face, “if it can be ‘read’ correctly, may be seen to display the essential nature of the person within.” The flip side of this new face politics became true as well: concealing the face became something suspicious, as if the person had something they wanted to hide and to prevent others from knowing the real them. At the same time, we grow up learning our face is something to be manipulated, in the same way actors manipulate their faces to entertain viewers. We learn about “putting on one’s face” with makeup, “facing the world” through our education and personal grit, cultivating a “poker face” to deceive people in cards or lying to parents and teachers. We learn how to compose our face so as not to show emotion in the wrong places, like crying at work. The face is often a mask of our real selves.
ANTI-NIQAB ATTITUDES AND HATE CRIMES Generally, hate crimes are on the rise in Canada, with the highest increases being in Ontario and Québec. In Ontario, the increase was tied to hate crimes against Muslims, Black and Jewish populations. In Québec, the increase was the result of crimes against Muslims. According to a recent peer-reviewed study by Sidrah Maysoon Ahmad, a PhD student at the University of Toronto (“Islamophobic violence as a form of gender-based violence: a qualitative study with Muslim women in Canada”, Journal of Gender-Based Violence, Volume 3, Number 1), a tally of hate crimes in Canada released by Statistics Canada in 2015 noted that Muslim populations had the highest percentage of female hate-crime victims. The rise in hate crimes mirrors the opinion of many public leaders who have loudly proclaimed their anti-niqab attitudes. Jason Kenney, the former Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, tried — and failed — to ban the niqab in citizenship ceremonies.
In 2015 he called it “a tribal cultural practice where women are treated like property and not like human beings.” In the same year, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper called it a dress “rooted in a culture that is anti-women … [and] offensive that someone would hide their identity.” A 2018 Angus Reid poll found that the majority of Canadians support a ban of niqabs on public employees. These contemporary attempts to unveil Muslim women echo British and French attempts to the same in both colonial and current times.
IF CANADIANS, AMERICANS AND EUROPEANS CAN GET USED TO THE NEW UBIQUITOUS FACEMASKS, WILL THEY ALSO GET USED TO NIQABS? WILL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE FEW WOMEN IN THE WEST WHO WEAR IT STOP?
9th Annual ISNA-CISNA West Coast Education Forum
MEDICAL FACE VEILS In an op-ed for the Toronto Star, University of Windsor law student Tasha Stansbury (April 21, 2020) pointed out that in Montréal hospitals, people are being asked to wear surgical masks. They walk in and interact with medical staff without being asked to remove their mask for identity or security purposes. But a woman wearing a niqab walking into the same hospital would be forced by law to remove it. A decade ago, U.S. philosophy professor Martha Nussbaum brilliantly exposed the hypocrisy of face veil bans in an opinion piece for the New York Times (“Beyond the Veil: A Response,” July 15, 2010). If it is security, she asked, why can we walk into a public building bundled up against the cold with our faces covered in scarves? Why are woolly scarves not seen to hamper reciprocity and good communication between citizens in liberal democracies? She wrote: “Moreover, many beloved, trusted professionals cover their faces all year round: surgeons, dentists, (American) football players, skiers and skaters … what inspires fear and mistrust in Europe … is not covering per se, but Muslim covering.” Is a facemask used to help block coronavirus really that different from a niqab? Both are garments worn for a specific purpose, in a specific place and for a specific time only. It is not worn 24/7. Once the purpose is over, the mask and niqab come off. The calling of the sacred motivates some to wear the niqab. A highly infectious disease propels many to wear facemasks. If we all start wearing masks, does it mean we have succumbed to a form of oppression? Are we submissive? Does it mean we cannot communicate with each other? If we are in Québec, will we be denied employment at a daycare? Refused a government service? Not allowed on the bus? ih Katherine Bullock is lecturer in Islamic politics at the University of Toronto [Editor’s note: Reprinted with permission (c) The Conversation Canada]
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 55
October 9 – 10, 2020 Santa Ana, CA Contact Email:
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Exploring Islam Through Play Learning about our religion, history and culture must capture children’s hearts and minds BY CLAIRE ALKOUATLI IMAGINATIVE PLAY WITHIN STORYTELLING
— tying strips of colored fabric onto a tent-like structure and piece of shimmering golden fabric was the desert imagining how Hajar and Ismail might have set up a new life sand. A piece of blue silk, the Red Sea. I added some tiny — I played some nasheed (Islamic music). This combination put canvas squares for tents, dark green palm trees carved out all of them into a contemplative mood; there was no fighting or of wood, a falcon and wooden sheep in white and brown. grabbing, and very little talking. They began preparing pretend Four small blocks in the scene’s center were overlaid by a square food of clear glass marbles, stones and shells. At one point, several children gathered around one basket, playing in harmony. of black fabric. A dark blue fabric strewn with sparkles and stars indicated that it was night-time in the Hijaz. Inviting the children to gather round, I told them about Ibrahim, WHAT IS IMAGINATIVE PLAY? Hajar and Ismail (‘alayhum as salam) in the barren valley of Makka. This playgroup centered imaginative play. Children engage in At one point, I asked them: “Where might Hajar and Ismail have imaginative play to explore emotionally significant experiences lived?” One of them suggested a and to understand things that tent; others agreed. “Could we happen in their worlds (Göncü make a tent ourselves?” They & Perone, https://www.academia. gathered the materials, conedu/5054304/Pretend_Play_ structed their own tents and as_a_Life-span_Activity) in ways became active participants in the that are often self-initiated and story. After their tent building, fulfilling (Vygotsky, https://files. the story continued… eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1138861. I explored play pedagogy in pdf). For example, Göncü and a playgroup consisting of nine Perone contend that when a Muslim Canadian children, girl pretends to be a mother, ranging from three to five years she begins to understand what old, along with their mothers. motherhood means. Each mother was striving to Through the multidimenestablish a social and individual sional and intersubjective activIslamic identity within her child ity of play, children inform the in Canada’s secular culture. outside world about what is Tent Building: The children are constructing a tent for Prophet Ibrahim’s Together, we identified a pedimportant to them; simultanefamily to live in agogical challenge: dry, dull and ously, they learn from the outside boring methods of teaching Islam, including world “what that outside world expects them rote, fear and force, all of which can destroy to learn” (Göncü, Abel, & Boshans, https:// Highlights of glimmers of beauty, love, iman and taqwa www.academia.edu/11291009/The_role_of_ within an Islamic learning environment. attachment_and_play_in_young_childrens_ Play as Pedagogy This problem is amplified when children learning_and_development pp. 57-58). ■ Draws from and stimulates both are exposed to active pedagogies in secular People play across their lifespan. Very cognition and emotion schools that emphasize fun, creativity, and young children can’t separate the field of ■ Helps children make sense of life excitement. meaning from the visible field. Things are experiences in a cultural context Designing engaging experiences with motivating forces: a bell must be rung, a ■ Promotes creativity and the develMuslim learners is critical. I chose play pedbowl of marbles overturned. After the age of opment of abstract thought agogy with an overarching goal: to create three, they start to see meanings in things. ■ Is intersubjective, fostering activities that raise children’s consciousness Marbles become pretend food, a piece of social-emotional development of Islam — its conceptual framework, ethical wood becomes a doll and a stick becomes ■ Engages today’s children, who a horse. Objects and meanings diverge: “In values, social etiquettes, stories, histories and are exposed to diverse pedagogic heroes. When used in an environment of love play activity, thought is separated from repertoires and stimulation, I believed that this would objects and action arises from ideas rather ■ Enables children to assemble the enable children to make their own meaning than from things” (Vygotsky, p.12). Thus, tools of their culture in creating while drawing their development forward. some experts posit that imaginative play culture anew This article shares aspects of this experience. is a vital transitional step in developing As the children were making their “tents” abstract thought.
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In older children, adolescents and adults, imagination can be considered play without action (Vygotsky) and used to make sense of social contexts (Göncü & Perone). Adult play might include improvisational acting, creative writing and stand-up comedy. For all of these developmental reasons, imaginative play seemed particularly well-suited to a multigenerational playgroup. Along with play within storytelling, we also explored literary play.
DESIGNING ENGAGING EXPERIENCES WITH MUSLIM LEARNERS IS CRITICAL. I CHOSE PLAY PEDAGOGY WITH AN OVERARCHING GOAL: TO CREATE ACTIVITIES THAT RAISE CHILDREN’S CONSCIOUSNESS OF ISLAM — ITS CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK, ETHICAL VALUES, SOCIAL ETIQUETTES, STORIES, HISTORIES AND HEROES. LITERARY PLAY In literary play, children tell and then act out stories. I invited each child to author a story, which I then wrote down and read aloud to the group. Next, the child-author assigned actors for each role, which the children would enact via costumes and props. Often, such story-acting evolved into full-blown imaginative play that would sometimes last for hours or days. The developmental benefits of literary play primarily revolve around emerging literacy: improved narrative skills, enthusiasm for storytelling and enriched journal writing (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263807007_Narrative_Play_and_Emergent_ Literacy_Storytelling_and_Story-Acting_Meet_Journal_Writing). Yet, with my playgroup, I saw that literary play might have additional benefits. First, it acts as a doorway into imaginary play landscapes that are shared among children, even with those who are initially reluctant to engage. The story’s structure, generated by an individual child that others can enter, is enticing; it invites participation. I asked Khalid (5 years old) to offer a story. After I read it to the group, he assigned roles, some of which were unusual — like a 3-year-old girl being someone’s father and wearing a massive black curly wig. The children took their roles seriously. Upon the second reading, the children enacted the story. I asked the audience to sit in a designated area, which helped them understand the importance of their observational roles. One child said afterward: “I loved being the animal. I was hiding in the room, waiting for the little girl to walk by!” The imaginary situations originated with the child-author, and each child played his/her assigned role by adhering to its intrinsic rules (Vygotsky). The “father” didn’t act like a 3-year old girl, and the “fox” hid sneakily, waiting for his victim to walk by. Each child understood and obeyed the “rules” of his/her character, which required self-discipline and an expanded imagination.
While some have suggested that literary play’s narration element is a catalyst for a more effective emergent literacy (https:// www.researchgate.net), I found that the children’s narrations were inspired by those of each other and also by my regular narrations from Islamic history. A second developmental benefit involved this unique adult-child collaboration in expanding Islamic meaning. As the children offered their stories, I encouraged them to weave in Islamic concepts — taking care of people, animals, the environment, smiling.... At the end of Tala’s (4.5 years old) story, a cat dies in a house fire. One mother shared the common Islamic expression said when someone dies or experiences a calamity: “From God we came, and to God we will return.” The child included it in her story, thereby illustrating the collaborative nature of adults working with children and helping them draw deeper meaning from a given situation. Finally, this type of play allowed the children to be both leaders (writing the story, assigning roles and directing the enactment) and team players (accepting assigned roles and contributing to the enactment), each with varying dimensions of challenge. I invited Abdi (4 years old) to dictate a story. English was his second language; he had recently arrived from Morocco. For a while, he just sat there. “How can we start?” I asked him. “Maybe something like, ‘One time there was a boy’…” “It’s me!” he exclaimed. “I was running and getting faster.” He paused. “Yes?” I prodded. “I got to the cave. I was not scared of the monster. He was a scary monster with these things coming from his head — tall ears. I put fire on him.” The story went on, about breaking bones and things. As I read bits back to him, he seemed to enjoy hearing his own words. Finally, he paused, and so I asked him “How could this story end? Could something nice happen at the end?” I didn’t want to co-opt his story, yet I was aware that thinking with children can elevate their thinking. “Monsters are not real. That means no monsters are scary,” Abdi said. This was his take-home message to the other children.
THE POTENTIALS OF PLAY Research has long indicated that play enhances the natural flow of child development because children love to engage in it and it simultaneously challenges them at the farthest edges of ability. “In play, a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior. In play it is as though he were a head taller than himself ” (Vygotsky, p.16). Further research is required on play pedagogy with Muslim learners. In this experience, we found that play enhanced children’s engagement with each other and with the learning itself. Mothers reported that their children continued to discuss Islamic topics from the playgroup in other contexts. Exploring Islamic material through play, within a learning community of Muslim friends and mothers, may hold potential for meaning-making in context, for holistic development — cognitive, social/emotional and spiritual — and for internalizing Islamic material to enhance our selves, cultures and communities. ih Claire Alkouatli, PhD, is a writer and educator based between Vancouver, Beirut and Riyadh. Her current qualitative research examines the roles of culture, relationships and pedagogies in cognitive, social-emotional and spiritual development, with emphasis on imagination, play, dialogue, challenge and pedagogies that are uniquely Islamic.
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Farooq Ibrahim Selod
Physician, Community Builder and Philanthropist (1942-2020) BY OMAR, SAHER AND SAMIRA SELOD
r. Farooq I. Selod was born in Burma on Jan. 1, 1942. His father Ibrahim Mohamed Selod migrated along with his family to Pakistan via India in 1946, where he and his wife raised their children.
The youngest of 12 children, our father attended Dow Medical College (now University) in Karachi, where he met and married Dr. Sayeeda Anwar. After completing a short residency program in England, they moved permanently to the U.S. in 1968, where he completed his residency in orthopedic surgery. Our parents lived in multiple cities — Chicago, Peoria, Ill. and Wichita, Kan. — before settling down in Fort Worth, Texas, where they lived for over 45 years. Our father, a dedicated orthopedic surgeon, was known to say, “If you take care of the patient first and foremost, then everything else will take care of itself.” But practicing medicine was not his only contribution to the city’s community, for he also held prayers in our home because at that time there were no mosques. In fact, 58 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
the local Muslims were renting space at the YMCA for classes and to pray on Sundays. Both of our parents had a dream — to make the U.S. a true home both for our family and for other Muslims. This love of their adopted country drove them, along with others, to build the first mosque in the North Texas region in 1981. A founding member of the Islamic Association of Tarrant County (IATC), he served as its board president for two terms. Years later, he helped open a larger mosque — Fort Worth’s Al-Ibrahimi Masjid. IATC was only the first local endeavor of what would become our father’s decades-long contribution to the national Muslim community. Today there are over 80 mosques in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He visited many of them and would often give khutbas to their congregations. Never turning down an opportunity to support Islam’s spread, as long as it was done in a way that complied with our local communities and working with our interfaith neighbors, he wanted to use his platform to empower Muslims nationwide. Over time, he became equally invested in the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), ISNA and similar national organizations. The vision of growing Islam, protecting Muslims and working with our interfaith partners through ISNA was a passion in which he took great pride. Additionally, he was committed to IMANA’s medical work both at home and abroad — to help the underprivileged — a mission that he considered his religious duty. He served as IMANA president from 2004-05, as well as a member of ISNA’s Founders Committee. Our father also founded PIOUS (Propagating Islam Over [the] United States), an organization that initially focused on dawa and sadaqa and sent free literature to those interested in Islam. Deeply invested in correcting all misunderstandings about Islam, he sought to provide people with factual resources. This non-profit now offers free educational materials to anyone who asks for them. The organization’s second mission is to help the needy and marginalized, as well as those Muslims impacted by war and those
living in poverty. In addition to zakat, he dedicated time and resources to helping worthwhile causes, regardless of the people’s religion or lack thereof. Our father truly believed that giving charity was an essential religious act. Over the last few years, he worked with The Islamic Seminary of America (TISA) to establish domestic Islamic seminaries that could formally train both current and future Muslim scholars so that they could help guide this country’s Muslim communities. He wanted to make sure the best Islamic scholars could also be educated here. A dedicated physician as well as a proud and committed Muslim American, Dr. Selod paved the way for future generations of Muslim Americans by making sure that they had mosques and Islamic organizations to help them maintain their faith. He left behind a devoted and loving wife, Dr. Sayeeda Selod, who supported all of his efforts; three children (Dr. Omar Selod, Saher Selod, Ph.D., and Samira Selod); a loving daughter-in-law (Roshan Selod) and a dedicated son-in-law (Eben English); six grandchildren (Sommer Selod, Nadia Selod, Zara Selod, Isra English, Jahaan Killough and Aman Killough); and the Anwar and Selod family members living around the world. He will be greatly missed. We hope his legacy will continue on. ih
First Texas Muslim Prison Chaplain 1950-2020
kbar Nurid-Din Shabazz, 70, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDJC) first Muslim chaplain, passed away on April 23 after a nearly three-week battle with COVID-19.
He began his 40-year career during September 1977 first as a volunteer and then joining the TDJC as a regional area Muslim chaplain. Among his duties were coordinating ta‘leem classes and Friday prayers, as well as leading the committee responsible for the annual Ramadan observances. TDCJ executive director Bryan Collier told Ahmed H. Sharma, “Chaplain Shabazz was a part of the foundation of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. His dedication to his faith, his family, and this agency will not ever be forgotten. I considered him a personal friend, and this loss to all [of us] is heavy. We can only hope that the thoughts and prayers of the TDCJ family help to lighten the burden.” Houston pediatrician and founder of Prison Dawa (https://www.prisondawa.com) Dr. Laeeq A. Khan reminisces that Shabazz was initially a volunteer visitor to most of the prisons from Galveston, Huntsville and up north. “I first met him in Huntsville in December 1993. [He] told me that he had charge of 44 prisons and the Islamic Society of Greater Houston provided no help for him, whereas Christian volunteers helped Christian chaplains. As director of ISNA’s North Zone, I offered him the excuse that the society’s funds were mostly being used for building mosques. “His small request was if we could provide him copies of Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s Quran translation and commentary and Red Book. This resulted in the formalized beginning of Prison Dawa in Texas and the appointment of three more Muslim chaplains. Thus God enabled Imam Shabazz to establish an institution of prison dawa, which is now an ongoing statewide activity. I pray that God may accept his efforts and bestow upon him and his family a place in Jannatul Firdous. Ameen.” In 2012, Akbar Shabazz received an honorary doctorate from Trinity International Seminar. Abdul Aleem Muhammad-Myles, 50, a local resident and assistant imam for San Antonio’s Masjid Bilal Ibn Rabah, told Sharma that he first met Shabazz in early 2000 while he was being transferred to a prison in Livingston, Texas. He noted that Shabazz’s contagious spirit impacted both him and other notable Muslims in the state who also turned their lives around being released (April 29 2020, https:// news4sanantonio.com). Shabazz was preceded in death by his mother Matheal Shabazz, sisters Angela Rudd and Diane Anderson and daughter Orianda Mosley. Shabazz, who was very active in the Prince Hall Masonic Association, was a member of Fidelity Lodge #221, Past Joshua of Heroines of Jericho Cuney Court #231, treasurer of Mt. Horeb #117-Holy Royal Arch Masons, treasurer of Mt. Moriah Council #13-Royals & Select Master Masons, member of Knights of Templar Sanderson Commandery #2 and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason with Douglas Burrell Consistory #56. Left to cherish his memories are his wife Janice Shabazz; his father Omar Shabazz; his son Akbar NuridDin Shabazz II; daughters Rabiah Shabazz, Janice O’Guin, Shirley Kamau, Vickey Shaffer and Janice Burns; brothers Derrick Williams and Bernard Williams; and sisters Donna Al Mansour, Chandra Giggins, Deborah Ann Glenn and Rhonda Murray. ih JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 59
The world we live in is constantly evolving and ISNA is committed to being a positive driver of change. ISNA has long recognized the importance of engaging with other faith communities as a fundamental part of its mission, and therefore, we continuously host and participate in interfaith events, meetings and webinars to educate our friends, partners, officials and activists about Islam. These interreligious initiatives have helped break down barriers of misunderstanding, formed genuine partnerships of faith and ethics, and established a platform to advocate for social justice issues for the common good. We aim to work together to fight Islamophobia and share knowledge about the true teachings and understanding of our religion in all sectors. The gift of education has a ripple effect—it creates change locally, nationally and globally. Ignorance is our enemy, and with your support we can make a difference. Please donate to ISNA today.
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FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT
2020: The Year Without a Hajj Now that performing the outer hajj is impossible, why not undertake an inner hajj? BY RASHEED RABBI
iyadh’s suspension of the 2020 hajj season came as no surprise. After all, history records that it has been cancelled due to armed conflicts, political disputes and disease. Even the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) advised Muslims not to travel from or to a place where a plague has broken out. This year’s intending pilgrims were understandably saddened. As for me, I decided to reflect on this ritual’s origin and the eternal desire to perform it. The obvious imagery, such as the Kaaba and performing the requisite rituals, doesn’t include the pilgrims’ spiritual longing to continue their “never-ending journey of [the] soul,” which is the flaming origin of all hajj longing (Bianchi, “Guests of God,” 2008, p.25). To facilitate this journey, think of the Kaaba as an airport and the hajj’s rituals as enablers along the way. In the Kaaba’s premises, millions rush to perform tawaf or kiss the Black Stone. Everyone supplicates in their own language, recites from the Quran, meditates, rests or even sleeps — just like in an airport’s waiting areas. The areas for drinking Zamzam water resemble the quickstop coffee shops found in every terminal. Such analogies don’t undermine the House of God’s sanctity, but discern its subtle role and the pilgrims’ ultimate goal. An airport, the most liminal area, exists between cities, flights, appointments and so on. The Kaaba exists between the seen and 60 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2020
unseen worlds, the physical and spiritual realms and one’s vertical and horizontal journeys — a transitory passage that begins
the most engaging journey to God. Every ritual facilitates, but doesn’t represent, the actual journey.
THE POET-PHILOSOPHER IQBAL SUCCINCTLY EXPRESSES THIS IDEA BY EXPLAINING THAT THE KAABA AND MAKKA ARE ICONS THAT CAN BE CREATED SYMBOLICALLY IN ANY PLACE TO WARD OFF MATERIALISM AND INSTILL ISLAM’S PRINCIPLES WITHIN US.
This blissful and eternal journey locates “the home of the Hereafter” (28:77). Pilgrims physically reach the Kaaba, where their souls begin journeying toward a new sanctuary (Maybudi, “Unveiling the Mysteries and the Provision of the Pious,” trans. William C. Chittick, 2015, p.68), completely immersed in His presence (89:28). To Maybudi, this inner sanctuary is the locus of Lights – “and he [pilgrims] is upon a light from his Lord” (39:22). The desire to immerse themselves in
that light and trace the path to the sanctuary makes pilgrims passionate about hajj. They cherish each ritual. However, performing hajj doesn’t readily permit pilgrims to experience that effable journey. Rather, it takes their souls to a mystical airport. Their ability to perceive the unseen world produces their portion of light, illumes their path to the sanctuaries and initiates the journey toward God. In Muslim eschatology, this is a post-death journey (2:28). Unfortunately, such parallelism often demoralizes materialistic people (Bianchi, pp.33-34), who barely have time to focus on anything beyond the rituals. Deprived of their historical and spiritual significance, these rituals become superficial and hard to understand. This perception naturally causes the pilgrims to focus on avoiding mistakes, which only endangers their spiritual ascension. To avoid such traps, pilgrims must prepare themselves beforehand by transcending their earthly bonds. Now that the pandemic has separated us from our usual lives and provided us with a great deal of free time, we can engage in prolonged reflection. Ayatullah Husayn Mazaheri, who contends that this spiritual aptitude is a prerequisite for making hajj, divides it as follows: “Cutting off affinity from all things with the exception of Allah in order to reach to Allah; Continuing towards Allah and strengthening the alliance (with Him), until one reaches to Allah and (the true) essence of worship; Once a person has reached to the level of perfection and has arrived at the stage of (true) worship, he then returns (to the people) to guide the creations of Allah towards Him” (https://www.al-islam.org/ secrets-hajj-ayatullah-husayn-mazaheri/ hajj). Interestingly, the first stage reiterates
the metaphorical death from which we often shy away. The parable of death here doesn’t mean to annihilate oneself or promote passivity, but to enable a self-righteous activism to flourish in both worlds. As the sole source of continuity between them is death (Ostransky, “The Sufi Journey to the Next World,” 2015), we need to explore the life after death. Thus our objective isn’t death, but rather to perceive the post-death world in order to undertake our soul’s journey beyond the physical Kaaba. Dwelling in this duality gradually becomes simpler because, as Rumi explains, everything in this world “has its root in the unseen world; The form may change, yet the essence remains the same” (Rumi, “A Garden Beyond Paradise”). What better time than now to search for those roots and thereby help our souls ascend? We can begin to complete the integration between these two worlds by performing Islam’s most fundamental duties (Ostransky). For example, deep reflection can provide us with a spiritual ascension equal that of any hajj ritual. Every dua and dhikr can evoke the same solemnity as the talbiya. Fasting can exemplify wearing the ihram. Our prayers, just like the manasik, can help us progress toward Him. We can maximize our charity and voluntary engagement to relive the actual pilgrims’ exhaustion, impatience and expense. The poet-philosopher Iqbal succinctly expresses this idea by explaining that the Kaaba and Makka are icons that can be created symbolically in any place to ward off materialism and instill Islam’s principles within us (Mohammad Iqbal, “Secret of Collective Life,” Chapter 19; E. J. Brill, 1963). Covid-19 has exposed the menace of shallow materialism, so why not develop an iconic Kaaba at home to further our own spiritual progress? The outer sanctuary is temporarily closed, but the inner sanctuary is permanently open. Deeper reflection will help us bypass the above-mentioned airport while moving toward our inner sanctuary. ih Rasheed Rabbi, an IT professional who earned an MA in religious studies (2016) and a graduate certificate in Islamic chaplaincy from Hartford Seminary, is also founder of e-Dawah (www.edawah.net); secretary of the Association of Muslim Scientists, Engineers & Technology Professionals; serves as a khateeb and leads the Friday prayers at ADAMS Center; and works as a chaplain at iNova Fairfax, iNovaLoudoun and Virginia’s Alexandria and Loudoun Adult Detention Centers.
JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 61
NEW RELEASES Islamic Finance: Law and Practice (Second Edition) Craig Nethercott and David Eisenberg (eds.) 2020. Pp. 416. HB. $230.00 Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y. his second edition enhances the value of this comprehensive practical guide to the law related to Islamic finance transactions. In addition to being enriched with a new chapter on Islamic investment funds, the “Sukuk” chapter has been expanded with case studies of its most common structures, its role in project finance, sovereign sukuk in Qatar and the U.K. and rating methodologies for sukuk instruments. In the “Istisna and Ijara” chapter, wakala (agency) has been explained in greater detail. This book provides in-depth coverage of the core traditional Islamic transactional structures with relevant case studies, structure diagrams and precedent material, and also explains the general background of Islamic finance and law in clear and thematic introductory chapters. The updated “Islamic Financial Institutions” chapter includes new legislative and prudential regulations. This book should be useful for professionals in Islamic finance and banking, as well as for students and those interested in learning the intricacies of this field.
Iran and Saudi Arabia: Taming a Chaotic Conflict Ibrahim Fraihat 2020. Pp. 224. HB. $132.22, PB. $29.95. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, U.K. he Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict that broke out after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq is one of the most important interstate rivalries in recent decades. It has also caused great damage in the wider Middle East and the Muslim world. Fraihat, who interviewed scholars, policymakers, think-tank experts and activists to gain insights into Iran-Saudi relations, treads beyond diagnosis and analysis and argues that rapprochement is possible. He posits that peacebuilding would be achievable if the participating countries integrated their diplomatic efforts on three levels: government, Track Two and grassroots.
Early Islamic Textiles from Along the Silk Road: The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait Friedrich Spuhler 2020. Pp. 400/500+ illustrations. HB. $95.00 Thames & Hudson, New York, N.Y. puhler offers a peek into Kuwait’s al-Sabah Collection, which holds a spectacular array of ancient textiles created in Islamic lands. Dating primarily from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries, these textiles were traded along the Silk Road, the network of ancient trade routes that linked China, Central Asia, and Byzantium for more than 1,500 years. The volume also offers a selection of predominantly Chinese textiles dating from the Han period (25-220) to the Yuan period (13th-14th century). A selection of rare intact garments vividly evokes the lives of merchants, pilgrims and travelers, as well as of the inhabitants of regions linked by the Silk Road, making this a one-of-a-kind resource.
The Discourses: Reflections on History, Sufism, Theology, and Literature — Volume One Al-Hasan al-Yusi, Justin Stearns (trans.) 2020. Pp. 372. HB. $35.00 NYU Press, New York, N.Y. n 1084/1685, aged about 54 and after a long and distinguished career, al-Yusi, the most influential and well-known Moroccan intellectual figure of his generation, began a three-year task: writing short essays on a wide variety of subjects. His work was eventually published as “Discourses on Language and Literature” (al-Muhadarat fi l-adab wa-l-lughah).
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The volume offers a rich insight into his varied intellectual interests, which covered subjects as diverse as genealogy, theology, Sufism, history and social mores. In addition to representing his intellectual interests, its numerous autobiographical anecdotes offer a revealing portrait of Morocco’s history, such as the transition from the Saadian to the Alaouite dynasty, which occurred during his lifetime. The Emergence of God: And Other Topics Linda “iLham” Barto 2020. Pp. 200. PB. $14.99 Light Switch Press LLC, Fort Collins, Colo. hrough seven stimulating chapters, beginning with “The Emergence of God,” Barto evaluates how God’s attributes emerged according to what the world needed at any given time. “Examples of Modern Science in the Qur’an” demonstrates how scientific facts permeate its pages. “Mary, Mother of Jesus” focuses on the life of the most honored woman in Islam. “When Nature Testifies” gives evidence that people will be held accountable for the horrors they do to animals and their surrounding natural environments. “A Response to Suffering” provides a unique perspective on the struggles we all share. “A Compassionate Approach to Gender Complexities” is a kind and loving approach to LGBTQ+ issues and how we should respond to members of that community. “The Islamic View of Hell” gives a fascinating account of what Muslims believe happens after death.
In the Name of God: The Role of Religion in the Modern World: A History of Judeo-Christian and Islamic Tolerance Selina O’Grady 2020. Pp. 480. HB. $29.95 Pegasus Books, New York, N.Y. ’Grady takes an in-depth look at the Abrahamic religions’ history and their relationship to each other in terms of their history of tolerance and intolerance. Her approach offers an essential narrative to understanding Islam and the West today. She relates that much of the Christian world operates under the misguided belief that Islam is the bloodier religion, although history reveals that Christianity scores much higher on the “intolerance” scale. While taking readers through the intertwined histories of these three faiths, however, she also argues that monotheism is inherently intolerant, as monotheists believe that their god is the only god and, therefore, everyone else must be wrong. O’Grady states that throughout history, governments have often manipulated their laws to create more tolerant and intolerant environments, often swinging toward tolerance when the country was prospering and toward intolerance when facing instability. Intolerance is used to unify the majority at the minority’s expense.
knowing You Shaziya Barkat 2019. Pp. 106. PB. $9.99 Amazon.com Services nowing You, a spiritual reflection upon returning to a better, truer version of yourself through knowing God in all of His glory, is about overcoming struggles, disappointments and mistakes by finding your worth through faith. Barkat offers ideas for uplifting spiritual renewal to build oneself back up by contemplating God’s attributes when one feel damaged, broken and hopeless. This collection of poetry, prose, personal narratives and essays is tailored to each of God’s 99 attributes, because it is in knowing Him that we discover who we truly are. This book is a #1 Amazon Bestseller in American-Asian Poetry, Women in Islam, and Teen Religious Fiction. ih
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