JULY/AUGUST 2021/1442 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET
AL-NAKBA: THE ONGOING PALESTINIAN CATASTROPHE | SOHAIB NAZEER SULTAN
ISLAMIC HORIZONS | VOL. 50 NO. 4 JULY/AUGUST 2021 | VISIT ISNA ONLINE AT: WWW.ISNA.NET
15 Abidullah Ghazi
44 The Need of the Hour: An Equitable Climate Action Plan
19 Malcolm X’s Hajj and Today’s Hunt for Humanity 21 Malcolm X and Blackamerican Islamic Liberation Theology
46 India Marches into Fascism
48 Do We Need Halal or Ethical Investing? 50 Zakat Is Not for Hors d’Oeuvres 52 Legacy Planning in Islam
ISNA Matters 8
A Commitment to Service
24 Al-Nakba: The Ongoing Palestinian Catastrophe
28 The Challenges and Joys of Leading Islamic Schools
uslim American Women: M Between Pandemic and Politics
54 Brotherhood Through Basketball
56 Do You Know What You Are Eating?
Islam in America
58 Sohaib Nazeer Sultan 59 Maulana Wahiduddin Khan 60 Abdul Aziz Said
30 Representation Matters
34 The Spiritual Approach to Better Mental Health
6 Editorial 10 Community Matters 62 New Releases
Muslims Living As Minorities
36 Out of the Pan and into the Fire
38 Islamic Artist Rida Fatima Designs a New Life in Wisconsin
42 Cyber Homo Sacer
40 ar, Digital War Games and W Islamophobia
Cover designed in honor of her father, the late Abidullah Ghazi, by Saba Ameen, a multimedia artist, spoken word poet, and author ©.
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz COPYEDITOR: Jay Willoughby. The views expressed in Islamic Horizons are not necessarily the views of its editors nor of the Islamic Society of North America. Islamic Horizons does not accept unsolicitated articles or submissions. All references to the Quran made are from The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD.
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 5
Killing to Stamp Arrogance
s the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims were preparing to seek spiritual rewards during the last ten days of Ramadan, the occupied land was riled up with yet another bloodbath. Hundreds of Muslims, including dozens of children, were killed by those who believe that they have the birthright not only to steal Muslim property, but also the sole right to live and to rule. Ignited by the military-backed armed colonists’ invasion and desecration of Masjid al-Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest mosque, the ensuing criminal raids were designed to drive as many Muslims families out of their generational — or relatively newer — homes as possible. Alongside this criminality, Gaza — the world’s largest open-air prison, measuring 140 sq. miles and containing 2 million Palestinians — was bombed indiscriminately. What better way to show Americans, many of whom were paying their taxes, how Washington uses their taxes to destroy Palestinian lives instead of saving American lives! The Carnegie Foundation for International Peace reports that through 2020, the U.S. has provided Israel with $146 billion in military, economic and missile defense funding (i.e., $236 billion in 2018 dollars), making Israel the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. assistance since World War II (https://carnegieendowment.org). Given domestic political realities, it’s hardly surprising that all American politicians, except for a tiny handful, have focused their eyes and hearts on securing as many endorsements — and as much cash — as possible for the 2022 midterm and 2024 general elections. As Quran 2:11 proclaims: “When they are told, ‘Do not create mischief on Earth,’ they reply, But we only want to make peace!’” It’s no secret that Muslims, rattled by Trumpian Islamophobia, chose the lesser evil and heavily voted Democratic. Thus, more than a few public office holders owe their positions to our community. The ongoing and oft-recurring coldblooded inhumanity reinforces the fact that Islamophobia is real and prevalent at all echelons of the U.S. power structure, as well as its opinionmakers and citizenry. The media, so self-aggrandizing when
speaking the “truth” and presenting “facts,” indulged in blaming the victim, supported the oppressor’s right to oppress and told the oppressed to endure it graciously. As always, advertising revenue and investors’ dividends trump morality. MIT undergraduate Holly Jackson’s research paper on the New York Times’ anti-Palestinian bias just proves it (http://web.mit.edu/hjackson/ www/The_NYT_Distorts_the_Palestinian_ Struggle.pdf). The less said about the Muslim rulers the better. Despite what has been going on since 1947 in the region, no Muslim ruler – except a rare few — has had the integrity to rebuke the colonizer-oppressors. Too busy in their hedonism to care even about their own people: “Deaf, dumb, and blind, they will not return (to the path)” (2:18). Even a toothless tiger, upon sighting an emergency facing its streak, would have done better than these spineless despots. For all his faults, Trump will be remembered for telling King Salman the truth “… we’re protecting you — you might not be there for two weeks without us…” (Oct. 2, 2018). Muslims who aspire to public office should reflect upon the fact that evil is an indelible part of the “choose the lesser evil” mantra. “Exercising your right to vote” is reduced to a meaningless act when you are expected to choose one evil over another. Decidedly, they should pursue an independent path instead of seeking endorsements from either party, which are two sides of the same coin. Yes, they have financing behemoths, but God has sent a cure for every disease (“Sunan Abu Dawud,” Tibb 11, No. 3874). Muslims need to pool their resources to help Muslims attain public office. As we were preparing this issue, Muslim Americans lost two gems: Sohaib Sultan, 40, who had blazed an admirable path of service and offering Islamic learning, and Abidullah Ghazi, 85, founder of the IQRA Educational Foundation, which continues to provide Muslim children with a truly indigenous learning approach to their faith. Once again, Covid-19 restrictions oblige ISNA to hold a virtual convention. ISNA and its youth wing, the Muslim Youth of North America, are working with leaders and volunteers nationwide to offer an inspiring event. ih
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PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Safaa Zarzour EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Basharat Saleem EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed, Saba Ali ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @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 https://isna.net/SubscribeToIH.html https://isna.net/islamic-horizons/ For inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, E-mail email@example.com, www.isna.net CORRESPONDENCE Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Commitment to Service The ISNA 58th Convention will be a virtual event BY ISNA AND MYNA STAFF
SNA will be hosting its 58th annual convention on Labor Day weekend (Sept. 5 to 6) virtually, given lingering concerns about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As we prepare, we at ISNA are more excited than ever to be hosting another major event and are looking forward to marking our 58th year of serving Muslims in America. Building on last year’s theme, “The Struggle for Social Justice: A Moral Imperative,” we plan on addressing critical topics relevant to Muslim Americans and the public at large. Be it challenges we face at home, school or in the workplace, we look forward to engaging them and many others. Topics dealing with peace, social justice and human rights will feature prominently in this year’s convention as well, given the long list of domestic and global challenges our community faces. We also look forward to honoring two more outstanding and accomplished members of our community with our Community Service Award and our Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition, we hope to provide, even in our virtual format, entertaining events and opportunities to network.
LAST YEAR, ISNA VIRTUALLY HOSTED ITS ANNUAL CONVENTION — THE 57TH — WITH 100+ SPEAKERS AND 1,000+ FAMILIES IN ATTENDANCE.
All that and more, God willing, is what we are anticipating, and we hope you will join us and continue to support us.
Ever since its inception, ISNA has dedicated itself to serving you. We have proudly advanced Islamic education, interfaith relations, civic engagement, youth empowerment and other activities — all for the betterment of our community. Although 2020 was one of the most difficult years the
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U.S. has ever faced, ISNA managed to show tremendous leadership, determination and resilience. Last March, ISNA helped established the National Muslim Task Force on Covid-19, a collaboration of 40+ organizations comprising experts in various fields. The task force, which is still active, has issued many statements to provide critical information and public health advice to Muslim Americans. On your behalf, we remain engaged on this front. Last year, ISNA virtually hosted its annual convention — the 57th — with 100+ speakers and 1,000+ families in attendance. That convention spotlighted our community’s great work and provided scholars, teachers, artists and many others with a platform to help educate and inspire our community. Our virtual programs have included a “Friday Reflections” series that has been held weekly over the last year. It remains ongoing to this day. Our 22nd Annual Education Forum — held virtually in April — had a historic turnout of several hundred participants worldwide, including experts from education, child development, psychology and many other fields. ISNA’s interfaith programs stayed consistent, as we participated in numerous interfaith events throughout the year. We continued our chaplaincy training program by hosting a virtual conference for chaplains during September. ISNA also marched ahead with its environmental advocacy efforts. Our “Green Ramadan Campaign,” having recently completed its seventh year, was launched in 2015 to encourage environmentally friendly practices in mosques and Islamic centers. Today, as we get set for another convention, we remain optimistic. We hope that we can continue to count on your support — our passionate, dedicated and generous donors. Your support allows us to host our annual convention, and your generosity enables us to provide a multitude of year-round services to our fellow Muslims. From conventions and virtual events
to education forums, youth programs and so much more, your support has helped us thrive for over 57 years. And for that we are humbly grateful and truly proud. Still, our work now must continue, so let’s strive and keep up the momentum as we welcome our 58th annual convention.
Journalist Saba Ali Joins Islamic Horizons Editorial Advisory Board
Saba Ali (Syracuse ’04) who has over a decade’s worth of newsroom experience, has accepted the invitation to join the Islamic Horizons Editorial Advisory Board. She has worked as a reporter, web producer and project manager for news outlets such as The Press of Atlantic City and Newsday. She currently works for her hometown newspaper, The Poughkeepsie
Journal, as an investigative reporter. Saba's priorities in life are family, faith and community. She was the vice-president of the Mid-Hudson Islamic Association for two years and teaches at Masjid Al Noor's Islamic weekend school. She has also volunteered with organizations such as Muslim Education and Converts Center of America. lessons from Sheikh Ubaydullah Evans (ALIM’s first scholar-in-residence) and Dr. Jawad Shah, a Flint-Mich.-based surgeon and youth groups leader, who touched on how youth can find their passions in this world. This session also delved into one’s passion for Islam, helping youth maintain that sense of devotion to our religion while excelling in what we love. At this year’s convention, the team hopes to once again touch on relevant topics and offer youth more creative and innovative spaces to connect with their faith. Whether
it’s through art contests or Quran recitation circles, lectures or interactive workshops, MYNA is ready to ensure the 2021 convention is unforgettable — even virtually. “Although the convention was virtual last year, a lot of the lessons conveyed through those sessions are applicable to our lives moving forward as well,” said Maham Bawaney (project manager, MYNA Executive Committee). “This year, we hope to continue to touch on such relevant topics that can guide our youth through the experiences of this world.” ih
SPACE DONATED BY THE ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA
For the second consecutive year, the Muslim Youth of North America is excited and proud to host a virtual MYNACON, the youth track at the 2021 ISNA Convention during Labor Day weekend. Last year, hundreds of participants across the nation gathered virtually to explore the theme “Packing the Essentials: Living in this World as the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) wanted us to live.” Youth were joined by several speakers who all touched on the relevancy of the topic, diving deeper into what it means to focus on the essentials as a youth in contemporary North America. Sheikh Rami Nsour (founding director, the Tayba Foundation) opened the virtual convention by introducing the theme, discussing how to replace non-essential worldly distractions with “essential” matters that will prepare us for success in both this world and the hereafter. Participants were then given the opportunity to explore the topic of tawakkul (trusting in God) with Ustadha Khadeejah Bari (the Qalam Foundation). The weekend concluded with practical and timely
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 9
Washington State Senate Confirms Umair Shah as Health Secretary The Washington State Senate voted 48:2 to confirm Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, as secretary of health on April 23. The vote followed Shah’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Health & Long-Term Care in a confirmation hearing on March 10, and the committee’s subsequent recommendation of his confirmation to the full Senate. Last December, Gov. Inslee appointed Shah to lead the Health Department. Since then, Shah has been responsible for the state’s Covid-19 response and vaccination efforts. Under his leadership, over 40% of the state’s population had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 2 million people had been fully vaccinated by April. Secretary Shah has also championed innovative efforts like the Vaccine Command and Coordination System (VACCS) Center, a unique public-private partnership responsible for launching an improved Vaccine Locator tool that has helped 2 million
Halal on the Menu
The Atlantic City (N.J.) school district will begin serving halal food five days a week at several elementary schools and the high school, Superintendent Barry Caldwell announced on March 23. “We’ve heard the community,” Caldwell said at the start of the school board meeting. “I think it’s an amazing step forward,” said Selaedin Maksut of the New Jersey CAIR chapter. “I’ve been in communication with officials from Paterson, Jersey City, Prospect Park and other towns across the state that have begun rolling out halal meals for their students, and I think it’s an amazing initiative to see that Atlantic City is doing the same thing.” Maksut thanked school board member Farook Hossain, who, he said, “has worked tirelessly to get this program up and running.” Buffalo (N.Y.) Public Schools, which serves a growing population of about 5,000 Muslim students — out of its student population of about 34,000 — hopes to make
users search quickly and easily for vaccine appointments. Since he took up his position, DOH has steadily improved its transparency as regards vaccination data by launching a new dashboard tab to help people understand where and when vaccinations are being given, how many people are getting vaccinated and the demographic makeup of the vaccinated population. DOH continues to update the dashboard with new metrics regularly. “I am proud of what our state has achieved in the past four months. We are making incredible strides in vaccination, equity, public-private collaboration and more,” Shah said. “We are so close to turning the corner on the pandemic, and there is a bright future ahead of us if we keep working together. We can do so much to improve public health across our state in the Covid-19 response and beyond, and I look forward to tackling those challenges.” ih
Survey Advocates for Muslim American Spiritual Needs in U.S. Hospitals
Thousands of Muslim Americans are overlooked in hospital environments that are not attuned to their religious values and spiritual needs. If you or your loved one have ever had to stay in a hospital, you know how it feels. To help improve this situation with datadriven policy recommendations, the Initiative on Islam and Medicine, along with the Islamic Medical Association of North America, Stanford Medicine, the Khalil Center, The Family & Youth Institute, the Association of Muslim Chaplains and American Health Professionals, have launched a national survey. Please check out https://www.medicineandislam.org/mahsn and lend your voice to this effort. The three-part survey — spiritual needs, experiences of discrimination and sociodemographic questions — takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. Your responses are confidential and unidentifiable. Please try to answer all the questions to ensure our findings’ validity. Survey Link: Is.gd/MAHSN ih halal-certified meals a lunch option in some schools by the fall, reported The Buffalo News on March 10. Will Keresztes, the school district’s chief of intergovernmental affairs, planning and community engagement, told the council’s Education Committee meeting, “We will be offering … a separate halal menu so that parents know exactly what they’re getting every week, and it’s a separate and distinct menu that they can be a part of.” The district can be reimbursed by the
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federal government for the costs of providing specialized meals as part of its regular federal nutrition program. Common Council members Bryan J. Bollman and Mitchell P. Nowakowski, both of whom represent burgeoning Muslim populations in their districts, approached the school district after receiving a letter from Atiqur Rahman, a director of Buffalo Muslim Community Services, about the importance of halal food options in public schools. ih
Oklahoma Senate Hears Islamic Invocation Imad Enchassi (senior imam, Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City) gave the morning invocation for the state Senate on March 29 and 30. Four years ago, after he was denied entry into a similar program at the state House of Representatives, he accepted an invitation from Sen. Carri Hicks (D-Oklahoma City), who was unaware of the prior rejection. The 2017 denial became controversial, particularly after House leader Rep. Chuck Strohm changed the rules of the House Chaplain of the Day/Chaplain of the Week program to eliminate all non-Christian religious leaders. Interfaith leaders from
across the state came to Enchassi’s defense, arguing that because the Legislature was majority Christian, the changes were discriminatory. Enchassi, a Palestinian, has previously given the invocation for the Oklahoma City Council, the Oklahoma County Commissioners and other government groups. “I had mixed feelings in the sense that it was déjà vu. It wasn’t long ago that I was asked to serve as a chaplain and my application was denied. It was a big embarrassment,” Enchassi told The Oklahoman on March 21. He added, “At the same time, my heart was pulsating with joy that we go ahead and went over this hurdle and they want me back.” ih
Reem Kirja, now a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Iowa City, Ia., Northwest Junior High, led a petition on change.org and spent three years raising awareness and support for Muslim students to have a school holiday on Eid al-Fitr. She launched her campaign, which received more than 5,000 signatories, with fellow student Rayan Saeid at Weber Elementary School. Kirja, told KCRG.com/9-ABC on March 4 that while she appreciates the thousands of people who signed her petition, the support from her classmates and teachers means the most to her. “As someone who’s been bullied in the past years, instead of teasing I get support and encouraging words, so that’s kind of my push to keep going.” On March 24, the Gazette reported that Matt Degner (superintendent, Iowa City Community School District) has announced that future calendars, starting with the 2022 school year, will include Eid as a no-school day. Kirja’s effort was covered statewide and by major media.
had been sharing space with Jewish Congregation BCRC. The hard work and countless efforts of the Ashburn Committee, led by Syed Akhtar Alam (chair and member, Board of Trustees), bore results when the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors approved the special use permit for the new branch to build its center on the approximately 10,000 squarefoot property purchased, with donations from the community, for $1.25 million.
The Sterling, Va.-based ADAMS Center inaugurated its Ashburn branch mosque on March 27. The $1.6 million mosque’s groundbreaking ceremony had taken place on Dec. 22, 2019. ADAMS Ashburn, established in 2003,
Sanford, Fla.’s Masjid Al Hayy became the first Covid-19 vaccination site where county workers vaccinated almost 400 people. It was Seminole County’s first mobile vaccine site hosted at a mosque. Mosque outreach director Minaz Manekia told News13 that the event was “a natural step” that “truly represents the culmination of a year-long effort to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in Seminole County.” Manekia said Masjid Al Hayy, as part of its efforts to serve others, delivered pizza to first responders and provided food to local schools and homeless shelters. “Since we opened our doors, we have always been an involved and active member of the Sanford community,” Manekia said in an email to Spectrum News 13. “Looking after and advancing the well-being of our community is a core value, and one that we are passionate about.”
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The mobile unit returned to the mosque in mid-March to administer second vaccination shots. The Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA) welcomed its newest board member, Berthena Nabaa-McKinney, Ed.D., in March. Nabaa-McKinney, who has 20+ years of educational experience in teaching, school administration, board leadership and development, accreditation and professional development, has participated in and led accreditation teams in schools and school districts across Tennessee. She also has private and public school leadership experience, acquired during her six years as principal of an Islamic school and as a member of her public school district’s board. As a school improvement and turnaround specialist, Nabaa-McKinney focuses on working with public and private schools and districts to reimagine equitable outcomes for students of color. She sits on the board of the Muslim ARC, is a commissioner for the Metro-Nashville Action Commission, board chair with the
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
n his letter to the editor for the May/ June issue, Wa’eel Alzayat (CEO, Emgage) took issue with my article “Political Scams under the Muslim Cover and How to Avoid Them” (March/April 2021, p.30). Alzayat claimed that the previously documented and by now well-known facts about his organization were “slander,” even comparing it to the “QAnon” conspiracy theory. However, he identified no “incorrect” facts in the article, but only claimed that I had cited a “discredited Islamophobe with a history of genocide denial.” For the record, I had cited Emgage itself, the US Council of Muslim Organizations, Middle East Eye, Mondoweiss, and from my newsletter on Muslim nonprofits, where I had spoken to several Emgage insiders (ehsan.substack.com). Alzayat made a valiant effort to prove his organization’s bona fides by leaving the facts in my article unrebutted, while offering his own, evidently hoping that readers won’t bother to check. Ahmed Shaikh
Muslim American Cultural Center, co-chair of Women of Color for Education Equity and is a board member of several other important organizations. ISLA executive director Shaza Khan, PhD, said, “We are thrilled to have Dr. Berthena join the ISLA Board! She brings such a broad array of experience and expertise to the organization.” Malik Aziz, former Dallas deputy chief of police, took charge as chief of Prince George’s County (Md.) Police Department on May 9. Speaking at his appointment announcement on March 26, Aziz, who has a 29-year record in law enforcement, said, “I want the citizens and the officers of Prince George’s County to understand what type of police chief I will be, and that is one of communication and high visibility.” Aziz said that the nation is in the throes of a “reformation era” defined by a crisis in police–community relations. He stressed that local actions can “form a blueprint and an action for positive policing with 19,000 police departments around this great nation.” The county police department employs about 1,500 sworn officers and 300 civilians in the Washington suburb of nearly 1 million. Aziz served as the national chair of the National Black Police Association and caught President Barack Obama’s attention for his contributions to the task force on 21st-century policing in 2015. He invited Aziz to the White House for a discussion on policing. According to the task force’s final report, Aziz advocated for the Justice Department to collect annual demographic statistics from all police agencies to hold them accountable for diversifying their command ranks. Yousra Khan has joined the nonprofit Poughkeepsie Public Schools Foundation board of directors. The foundation champions for children in Poughkeepsie City Schools. A Poughkeepsie native and product of area public schools who works with the Office of International Services & Special Projects at Vassar College, Khan said, “Our school district holds a special place in my heart.
We are blessed with talented youth, families who have overcome adversity and remain committed to supporting our small, close knit community and my goal is to ensure that our Poughkeepsie families have the resources they need to succeed. This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to join our foundation. It is an honor to be given an opportunity to assist in overcoming the challenges our district faces and understand the responsibilities we have to help our students and families accomplish their goals.” Salma Hussain Bachelani, OTD, OTR/L joined faculty at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in the departments of occupational therapy and pediatrics. She teaches pediatric case-based learning, professional identity and practice, and other courses to students in the masters and doctoral programs. Bachelani was previously affiliated with St. Louis Community College and St. Louis Public Schools. She sits on the advisory board of Project Downtown St. Louis. A Kansas City native, Bachelani (OTD, WashU ’16; BS, Missouri State University ’13) is interested in examining best practices in therapy service provision in school settings and in developing community-based programs such as youth development workshops and parent education sessions. ih
ACHIEVERS Zaiba Malik, M.D. (University of Miami School of Medicine Medical School) and Zaina Al-Mohtaseb, M.D. (Baylor College of Medicine) were named in the first-ever Top 100 Women in Ophthalmology Power List by The Ophthalmologist (https://theophthalmologist.com/). When asked why it is important to celebrate Zaiba Malik women in the field this way, Malik (medical director, Medpace; ophthalmologist/CEO, EyeMD; clinical assistant professor, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Med Zaina icine) replied, “Amplifying Al-Mohtaseb women’s efforts empowers
more women — and men — to envision broader possibilities and create their own legacies.” An ophthalmology specialist with 20+ years of experience in the field, she should know. Al-Mohtaseb (associate residency program director and associate professor of ophthalmology, Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine) completed her ophthalmology residency at the college’s Cullen Eye Institute and was elected chief resident during her final year of training. She finished her training at the nation’s top program, University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, with a fellowship in cornea/external disease, cataract and refractive surgery. Throughout her career, she has excelled in clinical/ surgical, education and research. Her work involves the medical and surgical management of patients with cornea, cataract and refractive issues. Al-Mohtaseb’s clinical and surgical productivity led to her being awarded the BCM Early Career Faculty Award for Excellence in Patient Care in 2018. Due to her adoption of new surgical and clinical techniques (e.g., DMEK corneal transplantation and double needle scleral lens fixation) she has become the go-to clinician for many referring optometrists and ophthalmologists. She has also won the “Top Doctors” in Houston for the past three years, BCM Women of Excellence Award, the National Award Outstanding Leader in Ophthalmology, and, most recently, the Rising Star in Ophthalmology National Award. And as if all of that were not enough, she has authored 37+ peer-reviewed publications, 40 poster/paper presentations and 33 non-peer reviewed publications such as book chapters, online journals and articles. The Ophthalmologist editor Aleksandra Jones noted that the Power List of the Top 100 Women in Ophthalmology celebrates the impact the nominees have had on ophthalmic clinical practice, research, education and industry. She said that the past lists have been undeniably male-dominated, with women making up a mere 17% of nominees in 2020. The magazine received nominations for 300+ “incredibly accomplished individual female leaders.” Jones added, “The thought of whittling that list to 50 was almost impossible, which is why we chose to expand our list to include the top 100 women in ophthalmology. And once you see the list, you will understand why.”
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COMMUNITY MATTERS Bayan Galal, ’23, is Yale’s first Muslim student body head in the school’s 320-year history. She accomplished this feat by winning the presidency of the Yale College Council (YCC) on April 30 with 56.4% of the vote. A molecular, cellular, developmental biology and global affairs double major on the premed track, she is interested in pursuing the intersection between health care access and international development, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. Galal, a research assistant with the Yale School of Medicine who is especially focused on how social and political infrastructure impacts one’s access to and delivery of healthcare, hopes to bridge the worlds of medicine and international relations in order to work toward equitable health care access. She is currently devoting her time to the etiology of autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes. In her position, she works with various Arab countries’ ministries of health to assess factors impacting the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine and with Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, where she focuses on global health ethics. In the YCC, Galal has previously served as a senator from Grace Hopper College, the YCC’s health and Covid-19 policy chair and the Yale International Relations Association’s events and partnerships director. Her sister Ayah has also made history in recent years — the first reporter in Connecticut to wear a hijab on TV. Marya Bangee (vice president, Multicultural Audience Engagement, Disney Studios) works as a creative thought partner with Disney live action, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Animation, Pixar, 20th Century and Searchlight, all of which are under the Disney Studios umbrella. She is tasked with telling culturally representative stories. In her previous job, she worked with networks, studios and culture shapers to promote new narratives within popular culture. She also ran her own company, SILA Consulting, which advises on film and television projects and consulted on Disney’s live-action $1.05 billion grossing feature “Aladdin” and the upcoming Disney+ series “Ms. Marvel.”` Bangee (UC Irvine ‘09; University of Southern California, MPA ‘15) started her journey as a community organizer in the
Muslim American community. She has led a national advocacy campaign to protect free speech on college campuses. After graduation, she became director of Mentors for Academic and Peer Support, a MSA West UCLA organization dedicated to improving youth education in inner-city high schools. She also led the national advocacy campaign for the Irvine 11, a highly publicized trial of eleven Muslim students prosecuted for their pro-Palestine activism. Selected for the prestigious Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, she worked on a national senate campaign, staffed California’s Speaker of the Assembly and helped develop part of the 10-year strategic plan for the California Community Foundation. In 2017, the Ford Foundation named her a Public Voices Fellow. In 2019, as part of the inaugural cohort of the Pillars Fund Narrative Change Fellowship, she participated in developing narrative strategies for Muslim communities. In 2020, she was selected as a USC Annenberg Civic Media Fellow, where she is exploring how to cultivate her own creative practice for social change. According to a Navy press release, on April 9, U.S. Navy Commander Houssain “Sam” Sareini of Dearborn, Mich., became one of the first Muslim Americans to command a U.S. naval ship — the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze — at a ceremony held in Portsmouth, Va. Sareini, who enlisted in the Navy in 1994 as an operations specialist, earned his commission through the Enlisted Commissioning Program. He graduated from Iowa State University with a BS and MS in biochemistry. Dearborn mayor John B. O’Reilly Jr. said, “His [Sareini’s] remarkable military service reflects a strong sense of patriotism and duty, and such impressive accomplishments throughout a long career serve as inspiration to others on what can be achieved through determination, dedication and education.” Captain Ammen Matari recently took charge as Prospect Park’s (N.J.) police chief. Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah announced, “Captain Matari has demonstrated tremendous leadership capabilities since the departure of Chief Charlie Atie. The Public Safety Council Committee and I were impressed with
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his plans for the Police Department, which includes additional community policing and innovative quality of life initiatives.” Matari is the second Palestinian American to hold this position in the state. The first one was Police Chief Mustafa Rabboh of Bergenfield. Yasar Bashir has been appointed assistant chief of Houston Police as head of the family violence department, said an official announcement. Bashir, who also appeared in a National Geographic feature on Muslims in America in 2018, is the nation’s first Muslim assistant chief of police. Born near Lahore, Pakistan, his family came to the U.S. in 1985 when he was eight years old. Pursuing a college major in criminology, Bashir joined the police force in 2001. He was in the academy when 9/11 happened. Houston police chief Troy Finner, who personally attended a Muslim community event to announce Bashir’s appointment, said, “I am going to have somebody who will represent all of you.” The police department respects its Muslim officers. For instance, during Ramadan they are allowed to take breaks for iftar and prayers if they want to. ih
IQRA Foundation Needs Funds Urgently
HE ROOF OF THE IQRA FOUNDATION building suffered extensive damage during the winter 2020 storm. The foundation must complete the work before winter 2021 to restore and protect the premises, which include the offices and a boardroom; a library and an archive; classrooms used for two weekend Islamic schools; the community musalla, meeting spaces for the community, interfaith, youth and refugee programs; and the warehouse. Earlier fundraising drives were impossible, due to the illness of its founder and president, Dr. Abidullah Ghazi. He passed away on April 11. (Please see his obituary on p. 15.) Those who wish to honor Dr. Ghazi’s legacy, can donate through https:// www.launchgood.com/campaign/give_ schools_a_roof#!/ ih
Abidullah Ghazi 1936-2021 Visionary Educator, Scholar and Poet BY AHMADULLAH SIDDIQI WITH SEEMI BUSHRA GHAZI
arly Sunday morning, April 11, the Muslim world lost a visionary educator, scholar, poet, interfaith activist and a humanist par excellence — a true insan (ultimate human). Abidullah Ghazi, Ph.D., was born in 1936 in Ambehta Pir-Zadegan village, Saharanpur district, northern India. He came from a family of renowned religious scholars, saints, luminaries, journalists and freedom fighters. His father Hamidul Ansari Ghazi, who had served as editor-in-chief of several prestigious Indian newspapers, was deeply engaged in the Indian independence movement. The family had close ties with Darul Uloom Deoband, the renowned seminary founded by his great-great grandfather Moulana Qasim Nanautavi (d. 1880). Abidullah Ghazi experienced an itinerant childhood and a youth filled with familial and material challenges. He lost his mother Maimuna Bi when he was two, yet wrote poignantly of her tenderness and of his pain when relatives would pull him from her arms to protect him from her terminal tuberculosis.
He was raised by his maternal grandfather Moulana Muhammad Miyan, a Sabri Chishti practitioner who cradled him through nightly prayer vigils, and later by cousin-sisters and aunts. Their vivid voices fill his literary portraits of the social world of pre-Partition (1947) Indian Muslimas. The charming vulnerability and compassion reflected in his poetry, relationships, and charity likely stem from these years. In a na’t (versified praise) to the Prophet he pleads, Abid ko Gudri men samole. Mahjoor e Aalam bohoth hai (“Enfold Abid in your embrace. He has experienced so many hijrahs, so many wounds”). Despite these challenges, he shone in his studies in madrasahs in New Delhi, Bahawalpur and Bijnaur. He journeyed to Kabul and Jalalabad to reconnect with the Afghan branch of his family descended from his politically exiled grandfather. When they fled the Soviet invasion, Ghazi took his family to stay with them in the refugee camps in Pakistan, and supported their education. His personal mentorship and support led to thousands of people being educated and uplifted. His brother Tariq noted that after their father’s demise, “The father-like-brother took us under the shade of an oak. We never felt alone or left out.” Abidullah Ghazi had an illustrious career. In his autobiography “Jahde Musalsal: From Aligarh to Aligarh” (2017), he summed up his upbringing as follows: “I combined the religious scholarship [that] I inherited from my father’s side with the mystic and spiritual traditions of my maternal grandparents, and spent my entire life in reconciling the two with the modern educational movement of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).” Ghazi spent the years 1951-59 at AMU, earning a Bachelor of Theology and an MA (political science), earning gold medals. Elected secretary and then president of its Students Union, he went on to become president of the National Council of University Students of India. In 1956 he was among 10 nationally selected students who were part of an Indian government-sponsored goodwill trip to China. While at Aligarh, Ghazi fell in love with Tasneema Khatoon, an illustrious fellow student, champion debater and student union secretary of the Women’s College. When divergent family backgrounds delayed their marriage, Ghazi’s cherished mentor, Chancellor Dr. Zakir Husain (later India’s president) wrote to their parents that “Abidullah is the jewel of the Men’s College, and Tasneema is the jewel of the Women’s College. It is only right that they should come together in one beautiful ring-setting.” Married in 1963, Tasneema Ghazi, Ph.D., a thinker and scholar in her own right, remained his life partner and soulmate for more than five decades. After graduation, Ghazi taught for a few years at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 15
A Personal Reflection BY SULTANA AL-QU‘AITI
t was in the 1980’s that I met the Ghazi family in Jeddah. Dr. Abidullah Ghazi’s wife became my Tasneema Khala,1 and their daughter Seemi my “adopted” sister. After the loss of my inspirational mentor and guide, the late and much lamented Muslim polymath, the Raja Sahib of Mahmudabad Mohammad Amir Ahmed Khan (d. 1973), Dr. Ghazi assumed this role in my life and instilled further understanding of my deen, emphasizing its simple essence, great tolerance, Divine compassion and comportment with others no matter what their faith. Dr. Ghazi was the quintessential Muslim buzurg2 endowed with impeccable akhlaq3 and that rare quality of complete humility that is the hallmark of the true mu’min.4 He was utterly authentic in his persona, his deportment, his oldworld tahzeeb5 and wore his deep scholarship lightly. He devoted his life to advancing one’s knowledge of Islam, and the way he imparted it to the younger generation was joyful and inspiring. He was exceedingly erudite and well versed, both in Persian and Urdu, which he loved and spoke to perfection, not forgetting his great love of Arabic. He was the ne plus ultra6 of that rare and dying breed of Urdu speakers whom we delight in listening to, such is the captivating eloquence of that polylingual language. Listening to him converse with friends and family with his ineffable bonhomie was a sheer pleasure, as he interspersed his exchanges frequently with pithy couplets in his preferred idioms. He imparted his great love of Islamic calligraphy to my three children, finding an excellent Pakistani calligrapher residing in Jeddah to teach them this great art. For his guidance and encouragement in this regard, I remain truly beholden. As I scanned my visitor’s book to remind me of his beautiful khatt,7 I noticed that instead of perfunctorily writing his name and address, he had graced it with verses from a bygone age in both Urdu and Persian. He was totally without pretension, and I can hear his soft voice ringing in my ears today expounding on some fascinating Islamic topic in his own quiet, understated manner. He had a spontaneous knack of somehow making one feel the most important person in the room, when it was his gentle personality and overwhelming aura which dominated. ih Sultana al-Qu‘aiti, MBE, (based in Jeddah) is cofounder of the U.K.-based Friends of Hadhramaut, which promotes philanthropic, educational, and medical links between the people of Hadhramaut (Yemen) and overseas. Hadhramaut (www.hadhramaut.co.uk) 1 Maternal aunt. 2 Respected elder. 3 The practice of virtue, morality and manners. 4 Who has complete submission to the Will of Allah and has faith firmly established in his heart. 5 Refinement. 6 The highest point. 7 Calligraphy.
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In 1964 he joined The London School of Economics, earning another MA focusing on Palestine. He was part of the student initiative that invited Malcolm X (now al-Hajj Malik el Shabazz) to speak there in February 1965. Malcolm was so moved by Ghazi’s knowledge and person that he spent three days talking with him and meeting Muslim leaders, scholars and activists in London. In 1968, Prof. Wilfred Cantwell Smith (founding director, Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School) recruited Ghazi for a Ph.D. He and his family lived there along with such scholars as Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Mahmoud Ayoub, Muzammil Siddiqui and Diana Eck. He participated enthusiastically in the interfaith celebrations, intramural volleyball games and the center’s cultural life, and co-founded the first weekend Harvard Islamic school with fellow students. Ghazi studied literature with the renowned scholar Anne Marie Schimmel and completed a dissertation in 1973 under Prof. John Carter on the Hindu social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy — the 400-page draft that Tasneema retyped three times. Ghazi’s diverse and distinguished education made him a luminary. His autobiography notes, “Harvard taught me to take all criticism positively and not to blame others for my own mistakes.” He went on to teach at San Diego State, the University of Minnesota, Northwestern University and Governor’s State University, after which he settled in Chicago in 1979. He also spent five years as an associate professor of Islamic studies at Jeddah’s King AbdulAziz University. Ghazi also co-founded The American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin, The Iqra International Educational Foundation (Chicago), The Iqra Educational Foundation India/Pakistan/Europe, The Indo-American Foundation of America, The Academy of South Asian Studies and The Aligarh and Muslim University Students Endowment Fund. Aside from these, he relished civic engagement at all levels. He loved the book booths and banter at the ISNA convention and the Parliament of World Religions. He embarrassed and delighted his children by inviting Jehovah’s Witnesses inside and regaling them with chai and pakoras, nuances of Buddhist philosophy or the construction of the Christian canon. Above all, Ghazi shone as an unparalleled “conductor” of the Urdu mushaira (poetry recitals). Youtube videos show audiences mesmerized by his extemporaneous wit and repartee. A maestro of Urdu love lyrics and creative prose, he used ghazal to express not only adoration for his beloved, but also immigrant nostalgia, social aspiration, political critique and even ecological concern. He left behind an Urdu-language volume of poetry, “Zikr e Saman Azaran,” essays on sareer e khama and insaniyyat,
RIBUTES POURED IN FROM ALL strata of society, especially educators of all ages. ➤ Renowned educator Seema Imam, Ed.D., a former chair of The Islamic Schools League of America (2018) and one of the first “Ansars,” as the Ghazis called those who cared and supported IQRA, said, “I speak, along with many other voices, as we look at educational development over the past half a century and the role the Ghazis have fulfilled. We are so very, very grateful to Dr. Abidullah Ghazi for his commitment and role in getting it right. Children nationwide have benefited from IQRA International. May Allah grant him the highest stations of the garden.” She also reminisced about his immense role in the teaching and learning of Islam in the U.S. and the world. ➤ Educator and author Freda Shamma, PhD, recalls asking Tasneema Ghazi why they were writing a series for a separate religion class. Tasneema replied, “Because we have so many full-time Islamic schools starting up with one subject being Islamic studies, and there are no books for them. Yes, we need to integrate Islam into every subject, but this is the pressing need right now.” Shamma added, “Not only has North America benefitted from IQRA’s books, but they have been essential textbooks in Muslim schools in many other countries.” ➤ Shaza Khan, PhD (executive director, ISLA) fondly recalls, “The IQRA books from which we learned our deen were foundational. My eyes well up with tears as I think about their enormous impact on my own Islam and on that of every Muslim child in my city. We are just one small city of Muslim children who have now grown up and are trying to make our own small impact in this world, drawing upon this foundation in which IQRA played a huge role. “I can only imagine the many mountains of good deeds he will be greeted with when shown his scales of good deeds! Surely he will be greeted with, ‘Return to your Lord, well-pleased and well-pleasing Him‘” (89:28). It is now up to us, the well-wishers of the Ghazis and IQRA, to see that his mission continues with even stronger zeal and vigor.
and his 1,000-page autobiography, “Jahd e Musalsal.” More than three dozen scholars, academics, political and literary personalities have paid tribute to him in “Ahl e Fikr o Fan ki Nazar Mein: Dr. Abidullah Ghazi.” Together, the Ghazis won numerous local, national, and international honors in the U.S., South Asia and the Arab world. In 2009 they were included in “The 500 Most Influential Muslims,” published by Amman’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre and Georgetown University’s Prince Walid Bin Talal Center for Christian Muslim Understanding. They continue to hold this honor. Ghazi’s crowning accomplishment was his 1983 establishment of the IQRA International Educational Foundation. While establishing Sunday schools wherever they lived from 1968-79, the Ghazis discovered that there was no existing curriculum apart from A.S. Hashim’s pioneering books. They began writing sira books at Harvard and eventually left the Academy to devote themselves full time to writing and publishing a “Comprehensive and Systematic Program of Islamic Studies,” the first full “Scope and Sequence for Islamic Studies” for children outside a traditional madrasa. They divided Islamic studies into sira, Quran, aqida, fiqh and akhlaq, along with Muslim history and Muslim geography. They then produced textbooks, workbooks, teacher’s guides, and enrichment for each subject from the K-12 level — all of which incorporated graded readability formulas and developed critical thinking skills. The first series completed was sira, a subject that allowed them to seamlessly integrate all other topics. Fully convinced of the work’s importance, Dr. Ghazi sold the family house and gave the $25,000 equity to Kazi Publications, who published the first edition. The books were widely used by Muslims of all sects, ethnicities and worldview. Over 150 IQRA books are being taught in schools in 40 countries. The curriculum became a model for new Muslim publishing houses and inspired similar projects among both Muslim and non-Muslim groups. IQRA hosted workshops in which Jewish, Christian and Muslim educators read one another’s curriculum to remove bias and promote cooperation. In the early 2000s, the Singaporean Education Ministry invited the Ghazis to create a new Islamic Studies curriculum for their madrasa system, integrating traditional and academic pedagogies. In cooperation with the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, the Ghazis helped develop a complete program that satisfied all parties. In 2016, Ghazi contracted a lung condition that began to weaken his vigor. Just before falling ill he had made a spreadsheet of 40 projects he wished to complete — he finished them all. His devoted wife, children, their spouses, grandchildren and caregivers kept him slowly writing and at home. After years of being wracked by violent coughing, his last day was peaceful, his last breath, gentle. Ghazi passed at 12:30 am on April 11. Condolences and tributes poured in on social media and in newspapers worldwide. Forty years ago Sidi Farid, Gouverneur of the Islamic Texts Society, called Ghazi “the last of the Muslim gentleman scholars.” A culmination of 1,400+ years of Muslim cosmopolitanism — adab, akhlaq and rahma — he lived according to “And do not forget your share in this world; and do good as God has done good to you” (28:77). Dr. Ghazi has left an enduring legacy and example, and now it is our work to see that his vision and mission thrive. Indeed, we all belong to God, and to God shall we all return. Abidullah Ghazi is survived by his wife Tasneema and five children: Bushra Yasmin (lecturer in Arabic), Rashid Mansoor (businessman), Saba Tasneem (artist and designer), Suhaib Hamid (lawyer) and Usama Hameed (physician) and sister-in-law, Asiya Khan. His daughter-in law-Ruhma Quraishi Ghazi created a beautiful haven for him. He also left behind nine Ghazi, Ameen and Samad grandchildren; four brothers and a sister; and many family friends, disciples, and admirers worldwide. ih Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Ph.D. (professor emeritus, journalism and public relations, Western Illinois University-Macomb), with Bushra Seemi Y. Ghazi (lecturer, Classical Arabic, The University of British Columbia).
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Malcolm X’s Hajj and Today’s Hunt for Humanity
Ideologues of all stripes continue to ignore on-the-ground realities
BY JAMES JONES
O humanity! Be mindful of your LORD who created you from a single soul, from that soul created its mate, and from them spread countless men and women. And remain conscious of God — in whose name you appeal to one another — and honor family ties. Verily, God is ever watchful over you” (4:1). “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand human relations on a global scale, race relations in the U.S. and the ability of human beings to transform themselves with God’s help. Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, was brutally assassinated as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, on Feb. 21, 1965, at the young age of 39 in front of his terrified family. Although we tend to assess his biography in terms of the narrow American Black vs. white racist realities that impacted him throughout his short life, we should also step back and try to understand some of the broader global contexts that impacted his development.
Art rendering by Anishmah Banu, 17, from Chicago, who is marketing chair for MYNA’s all-girl ISRAA course. She enjoys creating both digital and traditional art.
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MALCOLM'S HAJJ Two examples are the eugenAs Richard Rothstein noted in ics movement, which began in the his “The Color of Law: A Forgotten U.K. during the late 19th century History of How Our Government and ended in the U.S. during the Segregated America” (Liveright 1970s, and the worldwide Great [reprint]: 2018): “…until the last Depression, which began in the quarter of the twentieth cenU.S. in 1929 and lasted until the tury, racially-explicit policies of late 1930s. These two phenomfederal, state and local governena are very important to underment defined where Whites and standing the complex forces that African-Americans should live. helped shape Malcolm X’s life. Today’s residential segregation in The eugenics movement the North, South, Midwest and reminds us that the post-ReWest is not the unintended conconstruction racial animus sequence of individual choices aimed at formerly enslaved and of otherwise well-meaning African Americans was not the law or regulation, but of unhidden public policy that explicitly only lethal racial game in town. While over 4,000 Blackamericans segregated every metropolitan were being lynched and disfigarea in the United States.” ured (see https://lynchingin Rothstein makes it abundantly clear that the Federal america.eji.org/), more than 30 states were busy sterilizing over Housing Administration, one of 60,000 poor whites and various the major federal agencies that people of color with the blessing promulgated and implemented of Chief Justice Oliver Wendell this segregated “unhidden public Holmes and the U.S. Supreme policy,” was also a key compoCourt (see SCOTUS Buck v. nent of FDR’s “New Deal” that Bell, 1927). Edwin Black has was supposed to rescue the entire meticulously documented this country. However, Malcolm and essentially liberal elitist movehis family, along with millions ment in his “The War Against the of other non-white Americans, Weak: Eugenics and America’s got a raw deal from this so-called Campaign to Create a Master “New Deal.” AS MALCOLM X FAMOUSLY SAID IN Race” (Dialogue Press: 2012). “Be sure We shall test you with Ironically, Nazi Germany used A LETTER WRITTEN DURING HIS HAJJ: something of fear and hunger some of this movement’s phisome loss in goods or lives or the “I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF SOMEONE fruits (of your toil) but give glad losophy and policies as models for Hitler’s genocidal anti-Jewtidings to those who patiently ELSE’S PROPAGANDA. … I’M FOR ish and anti-other “undesirables” persevere” (2:155). TRUTH, NO MATTER WHO TELLS IT. I’M campaigns. In 2021, the world remains Consequently, while the U.S. FOR JUSTICE, NO MATTER WHO IT IS in the grips of yet another parwas busy enforcing segregation phenomenon FOR OR AGAINST. I’M A HUMAN BEING adigm-shifting laws, it was also busy trying to — the Covid-19 pandemic. As I improve the white race through FIRST AND FOREMOST, AND AS SUCH am writing this article, the worldvarious means, like Dr. John I’M FOR WHOEVER AND WHATEVER wide numbers are daunting: over Kellogg’s diet and fitness reg150 million infected and over 3 BENEFITS HUMANITY AS A WHOLE.” million dead. The U.S. leads the imens (for which he invented the Corn Flakes cereal) and way in both categories. Once again, we, in our capacity as the nationwide “fitter families” and “better babies” contests. human beings, are called upon Combined with state-sanctioned forced sterilizations, these efforts to be God-conscious, step up and care about and for other human sought to weed out “defective” white people. beings. As we try to fix this serious problem, I urge us to remember This is part of the American context in which Malcolm Little how Malcolm X approached his hajj to find a way out of the crisis. In an earlier article (Islamic Horizons, July/August 2018), I disgrew up. In addition, the Great Depression of the 1930s further worsened cussed the three love lessons that we can glean from Malcolm X’s the African Americans’ already bad situation. Even President Franklin hajj: Love for Allah, Love for Learning and Love for Humanity. Delano Roosevelt’s highly touted “New Deal” ultimately left “coloreds” If we are to handle this crisis without making it worse, we must more segregated and economically disadvantaged than ever. consistently hunt for our collective humanity while dealing with 20 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2021
our individual sorrows. As Judith Butler pointed out in her Time article (April 21, 2021, https://time.com/5953396/ judith-butler-safe-world-individuality/), “However differently we register this pandemic we understand it as global; it brings home the fact that we are implicated in a shared world. The capacity of living human creatures to affect one another can be a matter of life or death. Because so many resources are not equitably shared, and so many have only a small or vanished share of the world, we cannot recognize the pandemic as global without facing those inequalities.” Unfortunately, not all pundits and politicians agree with her, for some would rather spend their time manufacturing their own truths and worrying about the next election. Over the last year up until today, it grieves me to watch such divisive pandering while people are dying. One hopes that this country’s leadership will soon understand that we Americans are as bruised and battered by the twin pandemics of Covid-19 and our raw, sustained racial reckoning as the British people were by the devastation brought about by World War II. As a consequence, in 1948, Britain’s political leadership stepped up by creating a more just, inclusive single payer national healthcare system that today outperforms the U.S. healthcare by every important metric, including cost (See the recent PBS Special “Health Care: America vs. the World,” https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=BytzrjEfyfA). One waits for our politicians to stop their self-serving partisan fighting long enough to face the raw truth that Covid19 has revealed — our much too expensive health care “system” provides subpar care. This is a golden opportunity to find our humanity and fix it now! As Malcolm X famously said in a letter written during his hajj: “I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda. … I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole” (“The Autobiography of Malcolm X”). ih James (Jimmy) Jones, DMin, is professor emeritus, Manhattanville College, and board vice chair, executive vice president, The Islamic Seminary of America.
Malcolm X and Blackamerican Islamic Liberation Theology Hajj and the path of self-transformation BY EMIN POLJAREVIC
ave you ever wondered why Malcolm X has a beard in some of his TV interviews and photos, while in most video recordings he does not? His beard is a cultural and religious symbol for his last major transformation — from Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik el-Shabbaz — initiated by his hajj. In the last year of his life, his religious and political understanding takes another radical turn marked in part by his immersion into Islamic teachings and his travel experiences, including numerous meetings with Muslim activists, dignitaries, scholars and students overseas. This year is also perhaps the least studied period of his life. And yet it contains some of his most lasting messages and insights — ones that continue to impact the ethical and moral trajectory of some contemporary Muslim youth’s struggle against anti-Black racism and Islamophobia particularly in North America and Europe. From his official break with the Nation of Islam (NOI) and Elijah Muhammad (March 1964) to his assassination (Feb.
21, 1965), Malcolm underwent a radical shift in his theology and activist thought. During these tempestuous 11 months, he performed the hajj; made two tours of the Middle East and various newly independent North, East and West African states; and briefly stopped over in Europe. He met with no less than 33 African and Arab heads of states and numerous anticolonial leaders, students and activists, all of whom heard him deliver a damning analysis of his country’s systemic racism. During the same period, he took an intensive course in Sunni Islamic teachings at Egypt’s al-Azhar University. This training was an extension of Malcolm’s initial interactions with Elijah Muhammad’s sons, the young Warith Deen [upon announcing his distancing from his father’s ideology, he changed his last name’s spelling to Mohammed] and Akbar Muhammad, both of whom were well versed in and later embraced Sunni Islam. His older sister, Ella Collins, herself a Sunni Muslim since 1959, was a key supporter of this educational process and religious transformation. Equally
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MALCOLM’S HAJJ CAUSES HIM TO NO LONGER REGARD WHITENESS AS NECESSARILY PHYSICAL OR BIOLOGICAL FEATURES, FOR “WHITE PEOPLE WHOM I HAVE MET, WHO HAVE ACCEPTED ISLAM, THEY DON’T REGARD THEMSELVES AS WHITE BUT AS HUMAN BEINGS. AND BY LOOKING UPON THEMSELVES AS HUMAN BEINGS, THEIR WHITENESS TO THEM ISN’T THE YARDSTICK OF PERFECTION OR HONOR OR ANYTHING ELSE…”
important is Malcolm’s exposure to Sunni Islam by Ahmed Osman, a young Sudanese Dartmouth College student, and later connections with Dr. Mahmoud Shawarbi, an Egyptian activist-scholar and imam associated with the Islamic Cultural Center in Manhattan, both of whom contributed significantly to his religious evolution. Malcom X’s core commitment to Blackamericans’ freedom and self-worth manifested itself early in his NOI activist life and remained strong until the end of his life, despite his deep disappointment with the NOI leader’s defense of his moral failures. Rejecting the NOI’s narrow theology of Blackamerican separatism, he focused his activism on developing a sense of urgency among his audiences: improving his people’s sociopolitical conditions, spiritual restitution of collective dignity and, subsequently, liberation from centuries of racial oppression. His newly acquired and hajj-reinforced understanding of Islam’s basic tenets enabled him, together with his activist determination, to transcend his people’s collective struggle for physical liberation and launch the equally important fight for their spiritual liberation. In his letter to his family and supporters back home, he states, “We [the pilgrims]
were truly all the same, because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude” (Herb Boyd and & Ilyasah Shabazz et. al., “The Diary of Malcolm X: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz” [Chicago, Illinois: Third World Press, 2013]). His diary entry of April 21 1964, reads, “People from every rank, from king to beggar, are all here [at Muzdalifa] eating & sleeping alike — of every color & class — the Hajj equalizes all’’ (ibid.). These words give a sense of his newly acquired priorities and a keen analysis of some of the major problems that Blackamericans and other non-White people have — and still — experience. His hajj experiences and travels through Muslim-majority societies transformed him from the main NOI minister into a Blackamerican Muslim liberation theologian. A eulogy-like entry in his diary from April 25, 1965, reveals his theological development, “The brotherhood, people of all races, colors, from all over the world coming together as one, which proved to me the power of the One God. This also gave me an opening to preach to them a quick sermon on American racism & its evils [...] For me the earth’s most
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explosive evil is racism, the inability of God’s creatures to live as One, especially in the West. The Hajj makes one out of everyone, even the king, the rich, the priest loses his identity (rank) on the Hajj — everyone forgets self & turns to God & out of his submission to the One God comes a brotherhood in which all are equals” (ibid.) His search for the moral and ethical equality of all people compels him to intensify an information campaign that primarily targets his own people: You must first and foremost reform your mental state by liberating yourselves from your centuries-long “psychological castration” and “self-hate” (Malcolm X, and Alex Haley, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” [New York: Ballantine Books, 1965]). As his goal is to reinstate his audiences’ humanity, his answer to the question of equal rights goes well beyond those given by Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders. Malcolm X argues that Blackamericans need to reconstitute themselves as a people by re-creating their collective dignity around their common history and collective suffering in order to achieve equality in American society. At its core, therefore, the civil rights struggle isn’t really about a citizen’s rights
PHOTO COURTESY © ANWAAR UL HUK
Gravesite of Hajj Malik El Shabazz and Betty El Shabaz, Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester, N.Y.
at all, but about reaffirming people’s basic human rights and self-worth. Theologically speaking, human rights emerge from God’s creative act of humanity from a single soul (Adam) and appointing humanity as Earth’s vicegerent. Any subsequent denial of a person’s dignity and right of existence therefore implies the denial of God and Its sovereignty over creation. Malcolm asserts that Islam, through the rites of hajj and other practices, contains convincing evidence for the possibility of spiritual reformation and is an authentic method through which Blackamericans and all other peoples can reconstitute their dignity. In other words, Black lives matter because all lives matter, and vice versa. What stands in the way of this process is the repressive, idolatrous and destructive nature of White supremacy. Malcolm argues that this attitude enables the social denigration of anyone who doesn’t fit the established profile of a worthy human being and, by extension, citizen. It both facilitates political oppression and marginalizes anyone who doesn’t conform to the system’s ideals. His analysis effectively institutes the concept of “systemic racism.” Malcolm X identifies the idolatry of his time and place — and perhaps even of our own — as White supremacy, a system that presents “whiteness” as the supreme signifier of being fully “human.” Anything that contradicts this “truth” becomes undesirable
and subordinate to “whiteness.” Malcolm’s hajj causes him to no longer regard whiteness as necessarily physical or biological features, for “white people whom I have met, who have accepted Islam, they don’t regard themselves as white but as human beings. And by looking upon themselves as human beings, their whiteness to them isn’t the yardstick of perfection or honor or anything else. And, therefore, this creates within them an attitude that is different from the attitude of the white that you meet here in America […] it was in Mecca that I realized that white is actually an attitude more so than it’s a color. And I can prove it, because among Negroes we have Negroes who are as white as some white people” (Stephen Drury Smith and Catherine Ellis (eds.), “Free All Along: The Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Interviews,” [New York: The New Press, 2019]). Just as jahiliya (spiritual ignorance) was the hallmark of the Quraysh’s vanity and oppressive nature, White supremacy has been the hallmark of the U.S.’s nationalist self-image and power structure. This form of jahiliya seems to be equally based on systems that deliberately perpetuate inequality and injustice regardless of the amount of melanin in one’s skin. Malcolm’s Islamic liberation theology is born out of his struggle for personal redemption and grounded in his high level of perseverance and desire to overcome the
effects of White supremacy. Echoes of his struggle can be heard through subsequent generations of activists well beyond North America. His last attempts to implement his version of liberation theology was based on including people in a broader struggle and collective mobilization via the social and religious organizing of poor and oppressed people. Malcolm’s hajj experiences reveal the high potential of both a spiritual and a political transformation during the global mass meeting of people intent upon answering Prophet Ibrahim’s call to serve God. Borne out of these experiences, his liberation theology shows how a principled commitment to the freedom of and justice for an oppressed people, if based upon universal human dignity, diametrically opposes this idolatrous worldview of White supremacy and its gospel of racial chauvinism. Pilgrims of all skin-tones, whether performing their hajj or making their way through life, ought to critically reflect on this reality and then act upon it, justly. ih Emin Poljarevic (associate professor, Department of Theology, Uppsala University, Sweden) has published numerous scholarly articles on Malcolm X. His latest one is a co-edited special issue of the Swedish Theological Quarterly (2020), “The Political Theology of Malcolm X” (https://journals.lub.lu.se/STK/issue/ view/3128). His podcast lecture, “The Critical Method of Malcolm X,” is available at https://podtail.se/podcast/religion-och-teologi/ emin-poljarevic-the-critical-method-of-malcolm-x.
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JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 23
Al-Nakba: The Ongoing Palestinian Catastrophe Zionism’s settler-colonial project in Palestine started in 1882 and continues today BY TAREK M. KHALIL PALESTINIANS AS NON-PEOPLE
s the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims were set to celebrate Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power), their beloved Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem was desecrated by the Israeli army and mobs. This invasion, which included forcible confiscation of Palestinian-owned dwellings in East Jerusalem by the Israeli authorities, was followed by a ferocious bombing of Gaza. Both military actions caused death, injuries and massive destruction. These May 2021 atrocities are yet another chapter of al-Nakba (The Catastrophe), which is a culmination of a colonization process that has its origin in 1882 and reached its eventual climax on May 15, 1948, when Israel declared statehood. The forcible displacement and ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians from 1947-49 (https://www. unrwa.org/palestine-refugees) created space for the establishment of Israel in 78% of historic Palestine (Holy Land Studies 7, no. 2 [Nov. 2008]: 123-56). Contrary to the Zionist mythical characterization of the nakba as “a miraculous clearing of the land,” the Zionists meticulously and methodically orchestrated this ethnic cleansing and the destruction of Palestine’s landscape (https://inside arabia.com/palestinian-rejection-of-zi-
FROM 1921 TO 1948, THE BRITISH COLONIAL REGIME PROVIDED THE POLITICAL AND MILITARY UMBRELLA UNDER WHICH THE ZIONIST ENTERPRISE WAS ABLE TO DEVELOP ITS BASIC INSTITUTIONAL, ECONOMIC, AND SOCIAL FRAMEWORK, AS WELL AS SECURE THE ARAB COLLECTIVITY’S ESSENTIAL INTERESTS.
onism-is-a-historical-anti-colonial-strategy-1/). This ethnic cleansing and denationalization continues unabated.
24 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2021
The Zionist state was created by the Ashkenazi Jewish Yishuv, a predominantly European settler community that immigrated to Palestine from 1882 to 1948. From 1921 to 1948, the British colonial regime provided the political and military umbrella under which the Zionist enterprise was able to develop its basic institutional, economic, and social framework, as well as secure the Arab collectivity’s essential interests (Baruch Kimmerling, “Benny Morris’s Shocking Interview,” https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/3166). While Palestinians were the land’s predominant majority until the nakba, their existence was irrelevant to Zionism’s founding fathers. The oft-repeated Zionist slogan popularized by Israel Zangwill, a British author at the forefront of cultural Zionism during the 19th century, of “a land without a people for a people without a land” was a necessary myth, because if the land is conceptualized as barren or empty, the moral underpinnings of its military conquest are diminished, if not eliminated — at least within the Zionist discourse. Theodore Herzl, political Zionism’s founder, initiated the Basel Program in 1897. Adopted by the first Zionist Congress, its objective was to “establish for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine” (https://azm.org/basel-program-1897). Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the Palestinians were not even mentioned. Herzl’s close associate Zangwill (d.1926) expounded on the infamous slogan with shocking clarity: While it’s “literally inexact” that Palestine is a “country without a people,” it’s “essentially correct” because “there is no Arab people living in intimate fusion with the country, [and] utilizing its resources…” His derisive and dismissive attitude continued after Israel’s declaration of statehood. In 1969, Israeli prime minister
Golda Meir provided one of this attitude’s most infamous examples, who audaciously uttered that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people ... they didn’t exist” (https:// stationmuseum.com/past-exhibitions/madein-palestine/a-land-without-a-people-for-apeople-without-a-land-by-tarif-abboushi/). This policy of denial continues today.
CONQUEST AND DISPOSSESSION
The Zionist leadership understood early on that the native population would resist this colonization and eventual conquest. In the 1920s, Zeeve Jabotinsky, the founder of revisionist Zionism — forerunner to the present-day Likud, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — affirmed that, “Zionist colonization, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population — an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs. To formulate it any other way would be only hypocrisy” (“The Iron Wall,” 1923). He added that Zionism “is an adventure of colonization” (Nur Masalha, “Expulsion of the Palestinians,” 1992). In 1914, talking about the Zionist conquest, Ukraine-born Moshe Shertok, Israel’s future first foreign minister, said: “We have forgotten that we have not come to an empty land to inherit it, but we have come to conquer a country from a people inhabiting it.” Therefore, Zionism’s essential elements are conquest, dispossession and demographic change. The small minority of 160,000 Palestinians who remained in what became Israel have always been viewed as a “demographic threat,” for Zionism is predicated on establishing and maintaining Jewish demographic superiority. This explains why 65+ Israeli laws directly or indirectly discriminate against them (https://www.adalah. org/en/content/view/7771). Israeli historian Benny Morris (BenGurion University of the Negev), a British immigrant who believed that David Ben Gurion, Israel’s primary national founder and first prime minister, didn’t go far enough, exposed Zionism’s racist nature by shamelessly averring that Ben Gurion’s “fatal mistake” was not “carr[ying] out a large expulsion and cleans[ing] the whole country. … Had he carried out a full expulsion — rather than a partial one — he would
ISNA CONDEMNS THE MASSACRE OF PALESTINIANS
SNA HAS CONDEMNED ATTACKS PERPETRATED AT AL-AQSA Mosque, the violence against Palestinian civilians in East Jerusalem, the evictions of families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the attacks on Gaza. These acts of brutality, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, deserve outright condemnation, and they must stop. ISNA stands in solidarity with all Palestinians peacefully protesting the ongoing theft of their land. We call on the Israeli authorities to cease forced evictions – something for which the international community is also calling — and end their military occupation. ISNA President Safaa Zarzour proclaimed that the U.S. must uphold the values of human rights and religious freedom. ISNA calls on the international community to uphold international law and help end Israel’s occupation and use of force against innocent civilians. The Fiqh Council of North America, expressing its deep concern about the latest crisis in Jerusalem, especially, Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the three most sacred sites in Islam along with the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, said “It is therefore a religious duty of Muslims to protect all places of worship. It is also a moral imperative for all that we protect places of worship of all faiths. The despicable act of attacking worshippers in the holy month of Ramadan during their prayers is rife with inhumanity and anti-religious symbolism. It is the duty of the council and all religious and interfaith communities to stop what might be a direct incitement of violence and bloodshed. The Council calls on Muslims and non-Muslims to protest those irresponsible and violent actions.” ih
have stabilized the State of Israel for generations” (“Survival of the Fittest,” Haaretz, Jan. 8, 2004). Morris, using declassified military documents, relates the early Israeli leaders’ calculated effort to impose a Jewish majority through ethnic cleansing (“The Birth of the
Palestinian Refugee Problem,” Cambridge University Press: 1988). Gen. Yigael Yadin, head of the operations branch of the Israeli unified armed forces, had his own ideas about how to achieve these goals, “Actions against enemy settlements located in our, or near our, defense systems [i.e., Jewish
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 25
PALESTINE settlement and localities] with the 1948. The Arab armies numbered aim of preventing their use as bases between 12,000 and 23,500 troops. for active armed forces. These actions should be divided into the TOCHNIT DALETH following types: The destruction By March 1948, veteran Zionist leaders and other military perof villages (by fire, blowing up and mining) — especially of those vilsonnel finalized the Tochnit Daleth lages over which we cannot gain (Plan Dalet; Plan D), according to which Zionist forces would [permanent] control. Gaining of deliberately employ violent and control will be accomplished in terror tactics to forcibly remove accordance with the following Palestinians. The Deir Yassin instructions: The encircling of the village and the search of it. In the massacre of April 9, 1948, led to A Palestinian family being forcibly evicted from their Sheikh Jarrah event of resistance — the destructhe mass flight of Palestinians home under Israeli supervision tion of the resisting forces and and eventual Zionist takeover of the expulsion of the population beyond the (https://mitvim.org.il/en/publication/the- Palestine. Ironically, just a mile away from boundaries of the State (Israel Studies 1, no. 1947-partition-plan-the-palestinians-big- Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem (World Center 2 [Fall 1996]: 98-121). gest-missed-opportunity/). However, the for Holocaust Research, Documentation, Morris’s notion of stability is premised events leading to the resolution reveal the Education and Commemoration; est. 1953), on the Palestinians’ removal and/or political truth: the Zionist Yishuv’s rejectionism and the Deir Yassin’s martyrs lie in unknown and powerlessness. the Arab League’s embrace of a legal pro- unmarked graves (Ilan Pappé, “The 1948 cess to determine the resolution’s com- Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Journal of THE 1947 UN PARTITION PLAN petency. Arab delegations requested that Palestine Studies 36, no. 1 [Autumn 2006]: On Nov. 29, 1947, the UN, through its the International Court of Justice decide, 6-20). General Assembly Resolution 181, divided among other issues, if the partition contrahistoric Palestine into an Arab state and a dicted the principles of the UN Charter and THE AFTERMATH Jewish state, giving 55.5% of the land to the if the UN had the jurisdictional competence Immediately after the mass expulsion and Jews (most of whom were recent immi- to even suggest partition. dispossession, the Judaization, Hebracization grants), and paved the way for the depopBy accepting the plan, the Zionists gained and de-Arabization of Palestine’s landscape ulation of approximately 500 Palestinian international recognition of their right to a accelerated. Depopulated villages were bullvillages (https://www.palestine-studies.org/ Jewish state and a base for further expansion. dozed and concealed by building new setsites/default/files/jq-articles/Pages_from_ Ben-Gurion’s statement that the Jewish state’s tlements, planting forests and turning them JQ_70_-_Irfan_0.pdf). In 1947, Palestine borders “will be determined by force and not into natural parks. Many visitors and even contained 1.2 million Palestinians and by the partition resolution” (https://imeu.org/ ordinary Jewish families who now enjoy the 608,000 Jews. Preeminent Palestinian his- article/the-nakba-65-years-of-dispossession- parks have no idea about the bloody history torian Walid Khalidi, who analyzed the reso- and-apartheid) remains in force, for Israel’s underneath their feet. lution’s various components considering the borders have never been unilaterally declared. The new state appropriated the indigedemographics and land ownership realities, nous urban residential quarters, transport concluded that it was neither a moral, fair, THE DAVID VS. GOLIATH MYTH infrastructure and railways, police stations, nor pragmatic compromise. Aside from the In our current soundbite culture, the schools and libraries, churches and mosques, fact that Jews made up less than one-third Palestinian exodus was caused by the as well as jewelry and furniture, art and carof the total population, even after decades Arab armies’ invasion into parts of his- pets, and other personal possessions. In the of rigorous and foreign-sanctioned coloni- toric Palestine on May 15, 1948. However, Israeli collective memory, Palestine was a zation, they also owned less than 7% of the between 250,000-300,000 Palestinians land without a people for a people without a land (Journal of Palestine Studies 27, no. 1 had already been driven out before Israel land. Palestine’s demographic, geographic [Autumn 1997], 5-21). Moreover, they were declared statehood on May 14, 1948. and toponymical transformation changed awarded the best and most fertile lands. This David vs. Goliath myth (https://ffoz. the course of history. The nakba lies within Furthermore, the proposed Jewish state org/discover/israel-history/who-is-the-real- the Palestinians’ collective memory worldwould only have a bare Jewish majority david-and-goliath.html) is still prevalent in wide. In contrast to Jerusalem’s Holocaust (499,000 Jews and 438,000 Palestinians), Zionist political discourse, especially given Museum, where Jewish lives are remembered because the resolution did not incorpo- the present on-the-ground realities. Archival and memorialized, there’s still no central rate the Jaffa enclave, the home of 71,000 evidence clearly shows that Zionist forces collective database for nakba victims. But Palestinians that the proposed Jewish state had a clear edge in terms of manpower, despite this, the world should never forget engulfed. More crucially, even within the military prowess, intelligence and organiza- the victims, just as the Palestinians will never proposed state’s borders, Jewish-owned tion. The Jewish forces’ total manpower was forget their land, their rich history, and the land was about 11.2 percent. The Zionist around 35,000 with 15,000 to 18,000 fighters beauty of their landscape. ih discourse touts the partition resolution and a garrison force of roughly 20,000. The Tarek M. Khalil is education coordinator of American Muslims for as a prime example of Arab “rejectionism” numbers increased to 41,000 in mid-June Palestine (www.ampalestine.org). 26 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2021
The Challenges and Joys of Leading Islamic Schools ISLA’s groundbreaking report provides insight into Islamic school principals’ working conditions BY SHAZA KHAN
he Islamic Schools League of America’s (ISLA; theisla.org) latest research report, which paints a portrait of Islamic school principals that has, until now, been based on anecdote and conjecture, reveals that most are satisfied, despite the numerous challenges faced in their role. ISLA supports the country’s approximately 300 full-time Islamic schools by facilitating professional networking, conducting research on Islamic education, creating and curating resources, as well as providing professional development to address the training needs of principals and teachers. This past year, as educators’ needs kept changing due to Covid-19’s unpredictable nature, ISLA increased efforts to conduct research that could help drive data-informed decision-making. To that end, it launched quarterly pulse surveys that could respond to and yield data relatively quickly that was otherwise unavailable on Islamic schools. ISLA’s second pulse study, which profiled Islamic school principals, included their characteristics, salaries, sources of challenges and joys (www.theisla.org/principalsreport). It was launched in response to multiple requests from schools requiring benchmarking data to assist in setting principal salaries and recruiting new hires. As this data was otherwise unavailable, ISLA devised a survey to administer with its constituent principals, constructing the questions in a manner that would uphold the respondents’ anonymity, given the highly sensitive nature of the survey items, such as questions about their salaries and benefits. The survey sought to obtain only one response from the school’s highest-ranking administrator, whether this was a principal, head of school or superintendent. The survey received 107 responses, approximately onethird of the entire full-time Islamic school principal population, that fit the participant criteria. The report highlighted important — and previously unknown — factors, among
them that Islamic school principals are more highly educated than their private school counterparts. While 70% of the latter hold an MA degree or higher, 85% of Islamic school principals fit into this category. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated that they have 16 years or more years of experience in education. Yet, their years of experience as a principal are significantly lower. Approximately 40% stated that they have only one to five years of experience in that role, whereas the National Center for Educational Statistics reports that the average private school principal has 10 years of experience. This
28 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2021
raises questions about why Islamic school principals have so few years of experience. For example, is retention a problem and, if so, why? ISLA’s survey also included an openended question about principals’ biggest challenges. Overwhelmingly, they reported their workload and the lack of support as their biggest challenges. Thirty respondents shared comments reflecting this theme. Following this, many others noted difficulties in hiring and retaining highly qualified and talented teachers. Some respondents pointed to the lack of sufficient funds to offer competitive salaries, and 20 others listed finances and limited resources as challenges. The survey also revealed that most Islamic school principals are female, with approximately eight out of ten respondents indicating that they are female. To provide greater context for the salary data and to accommodate general cost-of-living differences, the report broke down reporting on salaries by region and gender. The report revealed an apparent gender pay gap, with women receiving less than
men in every region. Importantly, some women reported that they chose lower wages to help their schools financially. The report concluded with implications of the research and spoke directly to this gender pay disparity. Specifically, it highlighted the importance of gender equity and noted that there is no precedence in Islam for paying women less than men
for the same services, given comparable education, experience and talent. The survey also included data on components of our principals’ benefits packages, which most commonly included paid sick days and child tuition discounts, and less so included health insurance, retirement plans or other forms of insurance. The survey sought to understand the job satisfaction of
THE FACT THAT ISLAMIC SCHOOLS ARE LED BY HIGHLY EDUCATED AND EXPERIENCED PRINCIPALS IS SOMETHING TO BE EXTREMELY EXCITED ABOUT. HOWEVER, THE REVEALED CHALLENGES POINT TO THE NEED FOR MORE ROBUST FUNDING STREAMS TO ENABLE OUR SCHOOLS TO PAY COMPETITIVE SALARIES AND THEREBY ATTRACT STRONGER TALENT AND ENABLE THE RETENTION OF PRINCIPALS AND STAFF. Islamic school principals as well. For this, respondents reported on a scale of 1-5, with “5” being highly satisfied. A significant percentage, 29%, reported a “5” and 50% reported a “4.” Less than 4% reported a “2” and none reported a “1.” The most common source of satisfaction indicated by principals was “working with the students” and “helping foster a strong Muslim identity.” Overall, the data obtained is important for those in the field of Islamic education and more broadly. It seeks to help school boards benchmark a principal's salary within the landscape of Islamic schools and strive for competitive adjustments to improve retention of highly talented professionals. It also tells a story about the maturity of a critical nonprofit institution that caters to Muslim Americans. The fact that Islamic schools are led by highly educated and experienced principals is something to be extremely excited about. Yet there is a need for more robust funding streams to enable Islamic schools to pay competitive salaries and thereby attract stronger talent and enable the retention of principals and staff. ISLA’s long-standing professional network for Islamic school principals and teachers allows it to successfully capture relevant data and communicate findings ISLA leadership in one frame
in a timely manner to key constituents. It also facilitates the development of surveys that respond to educators’ current needs, obtain data from a significant pool of participants and then report findings directly to teachers, principals and school board members. This responsive cycle of connection, research and feedback ensures that ISLA’s research reports include not just raw data that is otherwise unavailable, but also important implications for the continuous improvement of Islamic schools. As ISLA seeks to continue administering pulse surveys on a quarterly basis, more important insights can be gained to help understand how Islamic schools are faring and what kinds of professional development and services can be provided to help them offer a strong value proposition to all of their current and prospective constituents. ISLA hopes that its data and research-informed efforts will enable Islamic schools to increasingly serve as educational institutions of choice for Muslim families nationwide.
COVID-19’S IMPACT ON ENROLLMENT
Last November, ISLA released its first Covid19-related pulse research report: https:// theisla.org/covid-19-impact-on-islamicschool-enrollment (see also “The impact of Covid-19 on enrollment in full-time Islamic schools for the 2020-21 academic year,” ISLA Research Report, p. 28, IH Jan./ Feb. 2020). This report revealed that Islamic schools were disproportionately negatively impacted by the pandemic when compared to other religious or non-denominational private schools. Specifically, the CATO Institute reports that approximately half of all pre-K-12th grade private schools experienced enrollment declines, with an average decline of 6 percent (www.cato.org/blog/ survey-roughly-half-private-schools-seedecreased-enrollment). In contrast, ISLA reported that approximately three-fourths of all Islamic schools experienced enrollment declines, with the majority reporting a 20-30% decline. Based on this data, ISLA targeted its programs and services to Islamic schools for the coming months by offering webinars and courses on hybrid learning design for teachers and leaders, financial sustainability amidst the pandemic and continuous updates on federal sources of additional funding, such as the PPP and CARES Act. ih Shaza Khan, PhD, is executive director of the Islamic Schools League of America
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 29
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Representation Matters Latino Muslims need to be seen as part of the global Muslim community BY WENDY DÍAZ
ifteen years ago my husband and I, both Latino converts, welcomed our first son into this world. He was the first Muslim child born into our two families, a blend of Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian heritages, living here in the U.S. His fitra, that innate faith in one Supreme Creator, was untainted. Unlike us, he did not have to discover Islam later in life. We named him Uthman, after the “bearer of the two lights” who was both a son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi was sallam) and the third righteously guided caliph. And so began our Muslim parenting journey, one that we are still striving to navigate efficiently as more and more challenges and blessings present themselves. As convert parents, our objective is to raise righteous Muslims by God’s will; as Latinos, we endeavor to preserve our culture within the Islamic framework. We learned early on that despite what we heard from some well-intentioned Muslims, Islam did not come to take away our identity. In fact, Islam is part of our rich history as Latinos — an inheritance left by our ancestors that has been largely buried and forgotten. Unfortunately, this reality remains largely unexplored in contemporary circles of knowledge because non-Latino Muslims do not consider Latin America part of the Islamic narrative. Yet, as more of us return to Islam, we are unearthing this truth and are eager to pass it on to our children with pride. When we began searching for Islamic books and material to teach our first son in our native language, we were unsuccessful. However, as a mother who wanted to instill a love of reading in my child, I settled by purchasing books in English and translating them simultaneously to Spanish as I read them to my son. I soon began reaching out to publishing companies that specialized in Islamic books and offered to translate their children’s books. After receiving no response or downright rejection because as they said, there was “no market for Spanish material,” I realized that if I wanted books for my children, I WE LEARNED EARLY THAT DESPITE WHAT would have to write them. WE HEARD FROM SOME WELL-INTENTIONED Thankfully, I love writing as much as I love reading. However, I also knew from MUSLIMS, ISLAM DID NOT COME TO TAKE AWAY my experience with traditional Islamic OUR IDENTITY. IN FACT, ISLAM IS PART OF OUR publishers that they would most likely RICH HISTORY AS LATINOS — AN INHERITANCE reject my manuscripts. My husband and I investigated self-publishing and, after LEFT BY OUR ANCESTORS THAT HAS BEEN investing our own capital, published our LARGELY BURIED AND FORGOTTEN. first bilingual Islamic children’s book: “A Veil and a Beard” (2010). Other books followed, including a series on the prophets, a book on Ramadan and another one on the Friday congregational prayer, a 30 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2021
children-oriented artistic representation of the Hadith of Gabriel and others. We sought support from friends and family through our nonprofit social project and dawa organization, Hablamos Islam, Inc. Due to the high demand for these books throughout Latin America, we were able to supply Spanish-language Islamic children’s books to needy communities in over a dozen countries. Thanks to God, we also began creating Spanish-language children’s programming on our YouTube channel, Hablamos Islam. So far, it has been viewed in over 40 countries. Nevertheless, this was not enough. After my first — and then second and third — child entered school, I began to see another concerning trend: As the only Latino children in their Islamic schools, they experienced some
alienation and bullying. My eldest son was often taunted by his classmates, who called him “Mexican” and said he ate tacos, despite him telling them that he was half Puerto Rican, half Ecuadorian and that tacos are not a staple of either country. My second son’s teachers complained about his behavior and suggested that he was having trouble in class because we were converts and thus, he did not have many Muslim relatives as role models. And yet their last name, Guadalupe, a blend of Arabic and Latin (wadi [valley], al [the] and lupus [wolf]), was always mispronounced and ridiculed. Despite bringing this up to the school’s administration, little was done to curb the occurrences and misconceptions that fueled his classmates’ poor conduct. At this point, I understood that the problem was not just the absence of Spanish-language Islamic books for children, but also the lack of Islamic books with Latino representation for all Muslims — children, parents and educators included. Latin American Muslims needed to see themselves represented in Islamic literature and be accepted by other Muslims as part of the general Islamic community. Later, when we moved and I was forced to enroll my children in public school, I faced yet another issue: the need to educate non-Muslims about my Latin American Muslim family. This is when the idea for my most recent books was born. Since the beginning of 2020, I have published six important pieces of literature that represent our experiences as Latino Muslims here in the U.S., both inside and outside the Islamic community. ◆ “De Puerto Rico to Islam With Love: A Collection of Poetry about Identity and Faith” — A book of memoir and poetry detailing the events that led to my conversion and that decision’s aftermath. ◆ “The Secret of My Hijab” (English and Spanish) — a children’s picture book showing the various reactions to the questions my hijab-wearing daughter encountered in public school. ◆ “The First Day of Ramadan/El primer día de Ramadán” (second edition) — a bilingual children’s book that follows a Muslim family’s first Ramadan fast and provides a glossary of the relevant vocabulary in both English and Spanish. ◆ “Yo Hablo Islam/I Speak Islam” — A Spanish-English dictionary for Muslim children to learn Spanish vocabulary, including terms related to their identity as Muslims. ◆ “Why Do Muslims…? 25 Questions for Curious Kids” — A Q&A children’s book with 25 facts about Islam and Muslims. The main character is Latino. ◆ “Eid Empanadas” — A book celebrating the Ramadan and Eid traditions of a Latin American Muslim family. My mission is to be a voice for the underrepresented Latin American Muslim community, and especially for our children. Hopefully these books — and those yet to come — will help us understand each other and become more welcoming to those whom we do not know. After more than a decade of being involved in this work, my family and I are now beginning to see other authors and even publishing companies starting to work toward filling this gap of missing Spanish-language material and representation for Muslim children. For that, we are profoundly grateful. However, there is still a lack of support for these important resources. I hope that you, my dear reader, will help us raise awareness of this cause by adding these books to your home library, discussing diversity within our community with your children or students and sharing this article with others so that they can benefit from it as well. May God reward you, and may He bring back the unity in our commUNITY. Ameen! ih Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim author, award-winning poet, translator and co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a social project focused on creating Spanish-language educational resources about Islam. Read more about her at hablamosislam. org and follow her on Facebook and Instagram @authorwendydiaz and @HablamosIslam. Her books are available at amazon. com/author/wendydiaz.
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 31
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Muslim American Women: Between Pandemic and Politics Facts, fiction, and future representation BY SAHAR KHAMIS
quick Google search for “Muslim women” generates hundreds of photos of women totally cloaked in black garments head to toe, and even artistic images of women confined to the harem in a Shahrazad-like fairytale fashion. As a communication and gender studies specialist, I stress that such images exist within a specific context and are not generated by coincidence. Rather, they reflect long-held and deeply rooted false stereotypes about Muslim women being submissive, repressed and silenced, or as overly sexualized objects—or both—from
purely Orientalist, Western and/or male perspectives. The danger of stereotyping lies not just in creating skewed misrepresentations, but also in translating them into actual biases and discrimination. Muslim American women are not immune to these threats. Despite being part of a fast-growing population segment that has been making significant economic, cultural and social contributions to American society for many years, they still suffer from these negative attitudes. Oftentimes, such discrimination is directed more against those who wear the hijab, a marker of their visible Muslim identity.
32 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2021
Although there are laws, such as the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which can protect their right to wear the hijab, it takes more than laws to change societal mindsets, negative attitudes and prejudices. According to the “American Muslim Poll 2018: Pride and Prejudice” conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU: https://www.ispu.org/public-policy/ american-muslim-poll-2018/), Muslim women and young people are more likely to experience racial discrimination. It also revealed that Muslim American women report higher levels of discrimination
compared to Muslim American men (68% vs. 55%). The “American Muslim Poll 2020: Amid Pandemic and Protest (https://www. ispu.org/public-policy/american-muslim-poll/) revealed that 65% of Muslim women report experiencing religious discrimination in the following circumstances: at the airport (47%), when applying for a job (32%), at their place of work or school (47%) and while interacting with strangers in public places (53%).
American women are no exception in this regard (https://www.ispu.org/public-policy/ community-in-the-time-of-corona/). An ISPU 2020 report documented many shining examples of their putting themselves forward to serve not only their own community, but also the larger one, to do what they can to help others deal with this pressing crisis. These remarkable yet little known efforts have ranged from coordinating their mosques’ responses to Covid-19 to distribut-
SINCE FEAR OF THE “OTHER” IS ALWAYS IGNITED BY IGNORANCE, WHICH, IN TURN, IGNITES ANTAGONISM, THE BEST FORMULA TO COUNTER SUCH NEGATIVE REALITIES IS TO REPLACE FICTION WITH FACTS TO CONQUER FEAR.
Since fear of the “Other” is always ignited by ignorance, which, in turn, ignites antagonism, the best formula to counter such negative realities is to replace fiction with facts to conquer fear. ISPU data reveal that Muslim women are more likely than their male counterparts to be middle class (43% vs. 38%) and to have completed post-high school education (73% vs. 57%). They also tend to be more liberal-minded compared to their male counterparts, with 47% supporting feminism (compared to 37% of Muslim men), and nearly 75% of them supporting their faith community’s efforts to build coalitions with groups like Black Lives Matter, compared to 58% of Muslim men. Any attempt to overcome the obscurity of Muslim women’s roles, identities and realities must pay attention to two important factors, namely, the pandemic and contemporary American politics. The pandemic has had a double-edged sword effect on women worldwide. On the one hand, it has negatively impacted them more than men in terms of detrimental economic, social and health effects, including losing jobs, providers and loved ones, while having to shoulder the additional burdens of caretaking. On the other hand, it granted them unique opportunities to step up and assume more visible and effective roles in serving their communities. Muslim
ing free food items, face masks and personal protective equipment; serving as frontline workers, as well as doctors and nurses; and providing online education and training. American politics, especially during the Trump years, posed another paradox for Muslim women. While the Trump presidency witnessed an unprecedented surge in Islamophobia, which impacted all Muslims, especially women, it also provided an unprecedented incentive for them to resist discrimination and push back against unjust policies, such as the Muslim Travel Ban. This was reflected in their relatively increased civic engagement and political participation, best exemplified by the reelection of the first few Muslim congresswomen, Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), thereby ushering in a new era of visibility for fellow Muslim American women and setting bright role models for future generations to emulate. This positive development was also reflected in their utilization of social media as an alternative mediated sphere in which to express themselves and resist their misrepresentation. One good example is the #CanYouHearUsNow Twitter campaign, which Muslim women launched to raise their voices in response to Trump’s attack on Gold Star mother Ghazala Khan during the 2016 general election, falsely depicting
her as “silenced.” Another example is the Facebook pages and groups created by young Muslim women, such as “American Muslim Women in the Media,” which connects and coordinates the small but growing community of Muslim women who decided to take charge of changing their traditional stereotypical images by redefining their narratives and retelling their stories in their own voices. It is certainly the hope that this new dawn of Muslim women’s civic engagement, social leadership and political participation, now coupled with their relentless efforts to amplify their voices, unveil their identities and redefine their narratives using a variety of tools and platforms, will translate into a more accurate representation of them in all spheres. All this effort will, if successful, greatly help counter stereotyping, discrimination and Islamophobia, while also supporting causes that are important to Muslims worldwide. This latter point is evident in the efforts exerted by Reps. Tlaib and Omar, who, together with other progressive Congress members, proposed actions to support the plight of the Palestinian people and to alleviate their suffering during the recent Gaza crisis. The Biden era ushers in a new dawn of hope for minorities in the U.S., including Muslims, who voted for him with an overwhelming majority of 69%, according to a CAIR 2020 Muslim Voters Presidential Election Exit Poll (https://www.cair.com/ press_releases/breaking-news-cair-exitpoll-shows-american-muslims-vote-in-record-numbers-69-voted-for-biden/). The fact that President Biden is fulfilling his promise of putting together a new administration that “looks like America” when it comes to diversity and inclusion is very assuring. While it’s fair to say that this country still needs to see more Muslims, especially women, represented in the Biden administration and beyond, it’s also fair to say that the opportunities for this to happen are now much greater than ever before. All it takes is more hard work and investment in the realms of community engagement, activism and alliance-building—all of which are areas of strength for Muslim women. It’s only a matter of time. ih Sahar Khamis, Ph.D., is associate professor of communication, affiliate professor of women’s studies, and affiliate professor in the Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity, University of Maryland, College Park. Her area of expertise is Arab and Muslim media. Twitter: @skhamis
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 33
The Spiritual Approach to Better Mental Health The Khalil Center offers Islamic psychology-centered help in both Chicago and Los Angeles BY STEPHENIE BUSHRA KHAN
ental health is part of being human, a matter of adjustment and how you deal with what’s going on around you. At times, these events can be rather challenging. Emotional problems can be situational or biochemical in nature. Tranquility, which is felt in the heart, is defined as how one deals with adversity, for, as God tells us, “Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere” (2:155). The Quran and Hadith help us understand happiness and mental health. Unhappiness, grief and stress affected both the prophets and ordinary people. The Quran informs us that many prophets experienced extreme difficulties. Through these two core sources, Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) laid the foundation upon which later Muslim scholars used to diagnose different types of mental illness as being the outward manifestation of the interaction of body and soul, religion, science and spirituality. They viewed all of these elements as mutually intertwined. Islamic psychology is the science of the ego/self (nafs), which refers to our soul and heart. The Quran uses nafs in both the individualistic (2:48) and the collective sense (4:1), thereby indicating that although all human beings possess the positive qualities of a
nafs, they are individually responsible for exercising the free will that it provides them. The Quran, which is the ultimate guide for those who are striving to lead normal lives, categorizes abnormal behavior into al-nafs al-amaara (the commanding self [12:53]), which gives guidance to help overcome the inner turmoil caused by this nafs, to bring our peaceful self into being through the al-nafs al-lawaama (the correcting self [75:2)], which leads to the al-nafs al-mutma’inna (the reassured soul content with God’s Will — a state of serenity [89:27-28]). When we become aware of how we think and behave, we begin to develop our sense of morality. This awareness, when complemented with mindfulness, enables us to be aware of our actions.
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Unlike traditional Western psychology, the spiritually based CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) that arose in the field during the 1960s describes the link among thoughts, emotions and behaviors so that patients can be guided toward developing more adaptive behavior.
THE ISLAMIC APPROACH
Islamic psychology, pioneered by Abu Zayd al-Balkhi (850934; see Malik Badri, “Abu Zayd al-Balkhi’s Sustenance of the Soul: The Cognitive Behavior Therapy of a Ninth Century Physician,” 2013), began during Islam’s golden age, traditionally dated from the 8th to the 14th centuries." In his writings on the body and soul, all of which were based on the Quran and Hadith, al-Balkhi stated that diseases that affect one’s spiritual and psychological health are related to the body and the soul.
He critiqued those contemporaneous physicians who emphasized their patients’ physical health to the exclusion of their mental health, arguing that one can be considered healthy only when both the body and the soul are healthy. If the body is mentally ill, then the patient’s physical body will suffer as well. Al-Balkhi, who pioneered cognitive therapy, as well as psychotherapy and psychophysiology, stressed that individuals should develop and then maintain healthy thoughts and feelings. Ibn Sina (980-1037), the founder of modern medicine, believed that mental illness was environmentally and chemically based. In 705, al-Razi, among the leading physicians of his time, founded the world’s first psychiatric hospital in Baghdad. Malik Badri, Ph.D. (19322021), a Sudanese professor of psychology, is considered the father of modern Islamic psychology. Among his several published books and articles, the “Dilemma of Muslim Psychologists” stands out. He founded the International Association of this field (www. islamicpsychology.org) to increase awareness of both it and the interaction between mental and physical health. Going far beyond traditional psychology, he focused on cleansing one’s ego and the spirituality of the heart and soul through the Quran and Hadith. His philosophy made the birth of the Khalil Center (www. khalilcenter.com) possible. Hooman Keshavazi, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist living in Chicago, is the center’s founder and current executive director. A clinical therapist holding a masters and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Istanbul’s Ibn Haldun University, he is an adjunct professor at the American Islamic College (aicusa.edu) and Hartford Seminary (www.hartsem. edu), as well as an instructor of
psychology at the Islamic Online University (iou.edu.gm/homepage/). He has authored several academic papers on integrating Islamic spirituality into modern psychological practice. Today the Khalil Center (est. 2010), a teaching and research institution that offers mental health workers training via certificate and degree pro-
as an imam, scholar and social worker, he saw a great need for this service in his community and thus visited the Chicago facility. Very impressed by what he saw there, he went back home and set about establishing a center in Los Angeles. Shaykh Mulla says that its success can be seen in the patients’ belief that they have
Health Care: Introducing Traditional Islamic Integrated Psychology [TIIP]” (2013). Its program utilizes modern contemporary therapeutic care in an Islamic setting and with Islamic approaches of psychotherapy inspired by the Quran and traditions of the ‘ulema (religious scholars), muraqaba (observation and meditation)
TODAY THE KHALIL CENTER (EST. 2010), A TEACHING AND RESEARCH INSTITUTION THAT OFFERS MENTAL HEALTH WORKERS TRAINING VIA CERTIFICATE AND DEGREE PROGRAMS IN TRADITIONAL ISLAMIC INTEGRATED PSYCHOLOGY (TIIP) AND ISLAMIC SCHOLARSHIP, IS CONSIDERED THE NATION’S LARGEST AND FIRST ISLAMIC WELLNESS CARE CENTER. ITS SERVICES ARE COVERED BY MAJOR INSURANCE COMPANIES, AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE IS OFFERED FOR THE UN- OR UNDER-INSURED. grams in Traditional Islamic Integrated Psychology (TIIP) and Islamic scholarship, is considered the nation’s largest and first Islamic wellness care center. Its services are covered by major insurance companies, and financial assistance is offered for the un- or under-insured. In 2014 the center came under the Zakat Foundation of America’s (www.zakat.org) umbrella. It’s also a community partner of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (www.ciogc.org), which runs Zakat Chicago. Such support enables the center to accept patients of all backgrounds and to help many of them overcome their challenges. In addition to its Chicago founding center, it has centers in Southern California, the Bay Area, New York City, and Toronto.
THE WEST COAST FACILITY
Shaykh Suhail Mulla (director, the Khalil Center of Los Angeles) started the center in January 2019. In his capacity
received the tools that they need and, after implementing them in their lives, can function normally, work, be with their families and community and become as productive as they possibly can. He says that every step that a patient takes is a step forward in overcoming his or her mental health difficulties. The Khalil Center focuses on individuals who have mental health needs. In addition to psychiatric services, it provides pre-marital counseling as well as individual and family therapy, serves adults and children who suffer from feelings of loss and dysfunction, and offers religious consultation (e.g., can they take their prescribed antidepressants during Ramadan or even whether they can fast). Specialized support groups are also available. Keshavarsi and Haque outlined the center’s spiritually integrated ever-evolving psychological treatment in their book “Applying Islamic Principles to Clinical Mental
and du‘a, and other TIIPconsistent practices. Different meditation techniques, as well as Islamic affirmations, help one build a connection with God, says Dr. Rania Awaad, a Stanford University practicing psychiatrist who, along with licensed therapist Humera Sheikh, teaches this technique at the Los Angeles center. Like other mental health clinics, the Khalil Center also has licensed clinical trained therapists. Licentiate therapists have state and national boards and receive training in TIIP and Islamic principles from social workers and psychologists. Due to the pandemic, all appointments remain virtual. The Los Angeles center, which has no psychiatrists on staff, refers its patients to Bay-area Muslim psychiatrists. These two centers, which offer alternative mental health care to Muslims, has served some 60,000 patients in Chicago and Los Angeles. Its team of 40+ licensed therapists and mental
health care workers has grown during the pandemic due to the increased number of patients. Muslims communities suffer the same conditions as other cultures do. Due to the traditional stigma and shame associated with mental health problems within the community, however, Muslims tend to remain silent about or ignore these problems. They may also hesitate to seek such treatment on the grounds that conventional Western health care workers don’t understand their cultural and religious backgrounds or may judge them. And yet this is not the case. Many times, such families go to religious authorities who have no mental health training. They are told that they will recover if they pray more, instead of encouraged to seek therapeutic intervention. The uninformed and the superstitious feel that the patient is possessed by a demon and/or a jinn, for they have no concept of a mental disease that can be helped — even cured — by treatment. They don’t realize that treatment can both greatly improve the patient’s quality of life and end a great deal of suffering for both the patient and the family. Sometimes medication is necessary. Many times the patient needs to be convinced that it will improve his or her psychological health and not interfere with his or her spirituality, functioning or creativity. Due to its Islamic grounding, meditation and affirmation techniques, non-judgmental attitude and teaching the patient about God’s mercy and forgiveness, the Khalil Center relieves patients of their shame and hesitancy to seek treatment and offers services that can improve their situation. ih Stephenie Bushra Khan is a freelance writer for Islamic magazines and professional artist. She also wrote for The Independent newspaper in Bangladesh for three years.
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 35
MUSLIMS LIVING AS MINORITIES
Out of the Pan and into the Fire Rising Islamophobia places Sri Lankan Muslims in challenging situations BY MISBAHUDDIN MIRZA ISLAM IN SRI LANKA
n April this year, the Sri Lankan cabinet approved a proposed ban on wearing full-face veils including burqas, despite a UN expert’s comment that it would violate international law. Considering the ruling party’s parliamentary majority, there is real fear among Muslims that this could now be enacted into law. Public security minister Sarath Weerasekera has called burqas, an outer garment that covers the body and face worn by some Muslim women, a “sign of religious extremism” and said a ban would improve national security (“Sri Lanka cabinet approves proposed ban on burqas in public,” April 28, 2021; https://www.aljazeera. com/news/2021/4/28/sri-lanka-cabinet-approves-proposed-ban-on-burqas-in-public). This is yet another outrageous and highly discriminatory step in Colombo’s systematic and sustained harassment of Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority in recent years. Islamic Horizons spoke to Rohan Sourjah, president, Sri Lankan Muslim Association of California, and with Amina Salley, a U.K. law student and daughter of Mohammed Azath Sanoon Salley, former governor of the Western Province and leader of the National Unity Alliance, who is currently imprisoned on reportedly false charges. Talking about the challenges confronting Muslims, Sourjah said burqas were
temporarily banned after the 2019 Easter Sunday bomb attacks that killed more than 260 people. Two local Muslim groups that had pledged allegiance to ISIS were blamed for the attacks at three churches and three high-end hotels. Sourjah explained that there have never been any issues between Sri Lankan Muslims and Christians, and thus it was unimaginable that a native-born Muslim would be involved in these massacres. The delay in releasing the investigation report, he added, is spawning rumors about the culpability behind those horrendous atrocities. Krishnadev Calamur, writing in The Atlantic, quoted C. Christine Fair, an expert on terrorism in South Asia and an associate professor at Georgetown University, “It doesn’t make sense,” for the National Thowheed Jamath had never attacked churches previously. Moreover, Sri Lanka has generally not seen tensions between Muslims, who make up 10% of the population, and Christians, who are about 7%. It’s far more likely, she stated, that an outside group, such as ISIS or al-Qaeda, based in the Indian subcontinent is involved in some way (“What’s Different About the Attacks in Sri Lanka,” April 22, 2019). Buddhists account for 70% of the island’s population; Tamils, who are mainly Hindu, comprise about 15% of the population.
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Islam arrived in Sri Lanka primarily through Arab traders, some of whom who settled down and married local women. Later on, some Tamil-speaking Muslims from India migrated. Also, the Dutch colonialists exiled some Muslim Malays to the island. Muslims span the entire spectrum of life in Sri Lanka, ranging from gem traders, merchants and businessmen to teachers, farmers and mechanics. Due to their business acumen, they have been quite successful financially. Ironically, after the long and bloody conflict (1983-2009) between the minority Hindu Tamils and the majority Buddhist Sinhalese ended, Islamophobic groups such as the ultra-nationalist Sinhalese Bodu Bala Sena (BBS; Buddhist Power Force) started raising their ugly heads. Led by its general secretary Venerable Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, they started targeting Christians and the relatively prosperous Muslim community. Subsequently, following the June 2014 Aluthgama pogrom against Muslims, Gnanasara’s visa to the U.S. was cancelled. In his “‘Fascists’ in saffron robes? The rise of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist ultra-nationalists” (July 18, 2014), CNN’s Tim Hume explains that the BBS has emerged as a troubling presence on the Sri Lankan political landscape in recent years and is blamed by many for inciting the deadly violence in Aluthgama. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives, told CNN that he believed the BBS, which he described as a purveyor of “classic hate speech,” had become emboldened by the lack of censure over Aluthgama. “Their more violent or aggressive demonstrations of power, involving even criminal acts, have gone unpunished. They seem to have a lot of support, if not protection, from within the regime itself.” The same phenomenon is happening in Myanmar, where the monk-led anti-Muslim 969 Movement has been blamed for instigating deadly clashes. Speaking on his 79th birthday, the Dalai Lama called upon Sri Lanka’s Buddhists to desist from violence against Muslims (https://www.cnn.
com/2014/07/07/world/asia/dalai-latheir response citing the possibility ma-muslim-violence). But some of landmines, led some to suspect Sinhalese Buddhists do not consider government involvement. the Dalai Lama as their head because The LTTE had graduated from he belongs to the Tantra School, the carrying out terrorist attacks and was Tibetan version, which bears scant, now engaging the Sri Lankan army if any, resemblance to Sri Lanka’s and navy in pitched battles. The army, Theravada School. having suffered a series of major battlefield defeats, was now in complete Political scientist and former Sri Lankan diplomat Dayan Jayatilleke disarray and thoroughly demoralized. said that the rise of militant Buddhism The LTTE established a de facto sepaIRONICALLY, AFTER THE LONG should not be surprising, for a “fanatirate state in the north, collected taxes AND BLOODY CONFLICT (1983cal strain [has been] running through and even had its own traffic police. In 2009) BETWEEN THE MINORITY Sinhala Buddhism for years” (www. 1990, the LTTE ethnically cleansed amren.com/news/2014/07/fasHINDU TAMILS AND THE MAJORITY the country’s northern province, cists-in-saffron-robes-the-rise-ofexpelling 72,000 Muslims from Jaffna, BUDDHIST SINHALESE ENDED, sri-lankas-buddhist-ultra-nationMannar and other towns to create a ISLAMOPHOBIC GROUPS SUCH alists/). After all, a monk named “Tamil homeland.” Talduwe Somarama Thero had When the entire north was lost, AS THE ULTRA-NATIONALIST assassinated Prime Minister S.W.R.D. the Sinhalese Buddhist-dominated SINHALESE BODU BALA SENA (BBS; government turned to the country’s Bandaranaike in 1959. But overwhelmingly, Muslims have been the BUDDHIST POWER FORCE) STARTED Muslim minority and neighboring target due to such issues as halal cerPakistan for military assistance. The RAISING THEIR UGLY HEADS. tification, the largely expected burqa Muslims, who had a proven record ban, mosque construction, da’wa and of martial prowess, as well as experialleged militancy — in a country with ence with the pre-independence’s elite no history of domestic Muslim-connected In his “Buddhist Extremists and Muslim Malay Regiment of the British army, readily extremism. Minorities” (2016), John Clifford Holt writes, responded and served in uniform as well as So why are Muslims suddenly in the “Observers have been quick to notice that in intelligence gathering. Pakistan armed, crosshairs? Jayatilleke said that anti-Mus- the BBS and its allies bear a resemblance to equipped, trained and converted the army lim sentiment within the Buddhist clergy India’s right-wing Hindutva organizations, into a modern fighting machine. Using the arose in 2009, when the 25-year civil war such as the VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad) Muslims as the proverbial wind under its between the government and separatist and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak wings, the military regained control over Tamils ended. “When the war was over, Sangh), who target Muslims and Christians the lost northern provinces. the Sinhalese looked around and found and who espouse a narrow Brahmanical defiThe Sinhalese Buddhist majority’s recent that while the two major communities were nition of the Hindu religious heritage. Recent persecution of Sri Lankan Muslims reminds bashing each other, the Muslims had been developments indicate that the BBS aspires one of the famous American fable in which at peace and had prospered,” he said. “They to emulate these militant Indian Hindutva the frog agrees to rescue a drowning scorfound more mosques, stores, better educated groups by organizing a Sinhala Buddhist pion on the promise that it won’t sting him; young Muslims — a changed profile after counterpart organization.” later in midstream, when the scorpion stings Amina Salley, who is also vice president it and the dying frog asks for an explanation, years of war. And they lashed out.” Saravanamuttu said the BBS’s anti-Mus- of the charitable Azath Salley Foundation, the scorpion replies that it is in his nature lim rhetoric tapped into concerns about described Mohammed Azath Salley’s — her to sting. As if this wasn’t frightening enough, Lt. global jihadism, an “atavistic fear” of “high” father — persistent persecution for simply Muslim birth rates and resentment of their demanding an end to the relentless oppres- Col. (ret.) Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa, business community’s perceived success. sion and harassment of Muslims. who had officially opened a BBS-linked acadOn Aug. 3, 1990, during a quiet evening emy shortly before becoming the country’s All of this fed into a dominant ideology of aggressive Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism in the tiny east coast and almost all Muslim eighth president in 2019, was photographed that was pushed by the government as a town of Kattankudy, heavily armed gunmen with Gnanasara. way of making itself seem “eternally rele- with automatic weapons and grenades masThe terrified Muslims nervously contemvant and needed,” he said. “It’s a range of sacred 147 men and boys in four mosques plate their fate and earnestly hope that the arguments to make the Muslims into ‘the while the villagers were prostrating during world will unite against the brutal oppression other’ and say that the Sinhala nation is the isha prayer. Colombo blamed the out- of Sri Lanka’s innocent minorities. ih under threat and requires protection,” he lawed LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Misbahuddin Mirza, M.S., P.E., a licensed professional engineer stated. Saravanamuttu told CNN, “If this is Eelam), which promptly denied its involve- registered in the States of New York and New Jersey, served as the a country of law, it needs to be brought to ment and alleged that the government had regional quality control engineer for the New York State Department of Transportation’s New York City Region. The author of the iBook bear on whoever breaks it — irrespective of launched it to obtain weapons from Muslim “Illustrated Muslim Travel Guide to Jerusalem,” he has written for whether they’re in robes or not.” countries. The army units, which delayed major U.S. and Indian publications. JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 37
Islamic Artist Rida Fatima Designs a New Life in Wisconsin Waiting for the pandemic to end to share the joys of creativity BY SANDRA WHITEHEAD
rtist Rida Fatima’s professional life has a pattern: move to a new city, create a studio and work schedule, develop her business and then move and start over – a consequence of her husband’s path from medical school to residency to fellowship to professional opportunities. Along the way, the 32-year-old artist has paved a trail of success. Since moving from Pakistan to the U.S. 11 years ago, her architectural drawings and calligraphy have been exhibited in galleries in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Richmond, Columbus, Portland, New Brunswick (New Jersey) and Laguna Beach (California). Her work won “Best in Show” at an exhibit at St. Louis’ The Old
Orchard Gallery. A company chose one of her designs for its logo. CAIR displayed her work at its annual banquet in Cleveland for three years running. Now in Wisconsin, it looks like Fatima, her husband and two children will stay put, for, she remarks, he’s working at the Milwaukee College of Wisconsin and “likes it very much.” In an interview from her studio in their new home in suburban Milwaukee, Fatima shared her journey as an artist.
IN HER MOTHER’S STUDIO
It began in her mother’s studio in Islamabad. “I was born into a family that appreciated art. I am the youngest of my siblings and was
38 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2021
Islamic artist Rida Fatima
the lucky one who spent a lot of time with my mother,” she says. “There was always a lot going on in her studio and I was always there. She loves to sew and do carpentry, making wooden furniture.” Fatima’s mother also moved about every two years, following her husband, an air force officer. In each new house, she found space to make her studio. “It wasn’t fancy, sometimes a storeroom, sometimes a space under the stairs. She made amazing stuff in those small spaces,” Fatima reminisces. “For me, the seed was always there. I knew from an early age I wanted to do something with art.”
Fatima studied interior design at Islamabad’s Hunerkada College of Visual and Performing Arts (https://www.hunerkada.edu.pk/) and did a few commercial projects after completing her associate degree. Her interior design drawings led to her interest in architectural paintings. Calligraphy entered Fatima’s repertoire when well-known calligrapher Rasheed Butt (http://www.rasheedbutt.com/) conducted a three-day workshop at her college. “I just loved it,” Fatima recalls. “I talked to my mom after the workshop and told her I wished I
found a community that was “really into art” and her business boomed.
CREATING ART AND LIFE IN MILWAUKEE
Islamic art symbolizes God’s transcendent, infinite nature via repeated, stylized patterns known as arabesque. Like Islamic art, Fatima arranges the space and time of her life into repeated patterns. Her time with her children flows naturally in and out of her workspace and professional life.
ISLAMIC ART IS A VAST FIELD. A LOT OF PEOPLE DO A LOT OF OTHER BEAUTIFUL THINGS AND CALL IT ISLAMIC ART. AS FAR AS I’M CONCERNED, IT’S ARABIC CALLIGRAPHY AND THE VERSES FROM THE QURAN OR THE HADITHS THAT I’M RENDERING – THAT’S ISLAMIC ART FOR ME.” could get ahold of him to take classes.” That same day in an art store, Fatima heard a familiar voice. Butt was there with his daughter. She asked him for lessons, and for a month he taught her the kufic script used by early Muslims to write down the Quran. “He didn’t charge for it,” says Fatima. “‘Just come and show me you really want to learn,’ he told me.”
THE ROAD TO MILWAUKEE
At 22, Fatima married and moved to Cleveland. In the dead of winter, with her husband busy in his residency, “art was almost the only thing that kept me sane,” she states. The couple moved every two years – from Cleveland to St. Louis, then Richmond, and, finally, Milwaukee. “I like meeting people and I am thankful for the people who have crossed my path. But it takes time to develop friendships,” Fatima notes. In each new place, she immersed herself in her art and found her biggest support. Art also provided connections. In Cleveland she volunteered as an art teacher in a home for older residents. She became a regular at CAIR’s annual banquets, exhibiting her calligraphy. “A lot of people in the organization became my good clients,” she says. In St. Louis, she worked and also displayed her art in a gallery. In Richmond, she
In her new home’s spacious, opened basement, which became her studio, she set up stations. She practices calligraphy at a tilted drawing table, which makes drawing more comfortable, flanked by a collection of bamboo pens and inks. Another area is for her acrylic and texture painting work. “On the side sometimes, I like to experiment with wood. That’s in the corner,” she says. An extra room became a classroom where she offers art sessions. Her children have stations to do watercolors, and adjacent to the studio is a play area arranged with Montessori materials. Fatima likes to share the activities with them. On weekends, she makes schedules to have an idea of what she’ll be doing in the week ahead. “I love schedules,” she says. “I love making files and doing time-slots, and check-marking the time-slots at the end of the day and at the end of the week.” On a typical day, Fatima wakes up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. A couple of hours in the early morning and another two hours in the afternoon, when her 4-year-old daughter is in school and her two-year-old son naps, “is my studio time.” That’s when she practices calligraphy. The rest of the day she is with her children in the studio. “They grew up with paint stains. I consider myself lucky that I have company in the studio.” In the early evenings, when it’s nice, they go outside together.
Her work process involves sketching or painting samples of the art she plans to create, then moving to a bigger canvas to work in pastel watercolors or acrylic and texture painting on wooden boards. For her architectural pieces, she usually draws on the photographs taken during her annual visits to Pakistan. She visits her husband’s family in Lahore, “a city filled with beautiful arches and architecture from the Mughal era (1524-1752),” she says. Her mother-in-law takes her to her favorite sites, Badshahi Mosque, Lahore Qila (Fort) and Shalimar Garden. “Pakistan is filled with mosques. Every few miles you drive, there’s a mosque. Then there’s another mosque just a few minutes later.” While Fatima loves the range of perspectives and dimensions she explores in her architectural drawings, she considers calligraphy her Islamic art. “Islamic art is a vast field. A lot of people do a lot of other beautiful things and call it Islamic art. As far as I’m concerned, it’s Arabic calligraphy and the verses from the Quran or the hadiths that I’m rendering – that’s Islamic art for me.” Thankful for the lakefront and natural surroundings in Milwaukee, she’s happy to see an active Muslim community. But having moved here shortly before the pandemic closed everything down, she doesn’t know much about the art scene yet. She hopes that Milwaukee will be a place of growth for her art, business, family and for her personally. ih Sandra Whitehead is a journalist and teaches in the Journalism and Media Studies Program at the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, Marquette University. [Note: The original version of this story appeared in the Wisconsin Muslim Journal; https://wisconsinmuslimjournal.org/islamic-artist-rida-fatimadesigns-a-new-life-in-wisconsin/]
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 39
War, Digital War Games and Islamophobia Do you know that all video games are not as innocent as one may assume – so beware! BY TANNER MIRRLEES AND TAHA IBAID
he rise of the U.S. as an empire has long been intertwined with Islamophobia, the widespread irrational fear or hatred of Muslims. The work of those researchers who scrutinize how American news and entertainment products may perpetuate it offers a great deal of information in this regard. The two of us are communication and media studies researchers who are interested in how popular culture contributes to Islamophobia. In our article “The Virtual Killing of Muslims: Digital War Games, Islamophobia, and the Global War on Terror,’ published by Islamophobia Studies vol. 6, no. 1 (Spring 2021, 33-51), we probe how some digital war games are linked to the U.S.’s Islamophobia. Here is the gist of our findings. Digital war games are produced and sold by a global interactive entertainment industry. But more than being “apolitical” entertainment, they intertwine with and support real U.S. wars. For the past two decades, the U.S. and some of its NATO allies have been involved in military conflicts, either directly or indirectly, with Afghanistan (2001-), Yemen (2002-), Iraq (2003-), Pakistan (2004-), Iran (2005-), Somalia (2007-), Libya (2011-) and Syria (2014-). Throughout all of them, the U.S. military has used war simulation games to recruit teenagers, promote a positive image of itself to the public, train personnel how to fight and treat soldiers afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Video game companies have kept up with these real conflicts and made billions of dollars selling products that immerse civilian players in the roles of male Anglo-American soldier-heroes who virtually invade “enemy” countries and kill a wide variety of “villains” who threaten the American way of life.
To find out if digital war games depicted Muslims as the “enemies” of the U.S. and buttressed Islamophobia, we analyzed ten popular war games: “Conflict: Desert Storm” (2002), “Conflict: Desert Storm 2” (2003), “SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs`” (2002), “Full Spectrum Warrior” (2004), “Close Combat: First to Fight” (2005), “Battlefield” (2011), “Army of Two” (2008), “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” (2007), “Medal of Honor” (2010) and “Medal of Honor: Warfighter” (2012). We chose these games because they
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were published between 2001 and 2012, a period characterized by the U.S.-led global “war on terror.” In addition, they contain interactive stories in which the U.S. military battles people implied to be Muslim. Furthermore, they were among the bestselling and best reviewed games in the war game genre for this period. As part of our research process, we played these games from start to finish and examined their trailers, marketing materials and walkthrough guides, all the while making detailed notes about how they represent Muslims. We found that they convey largely simplistic stereotypes of Muslims as “Arab,” “foreign,” “violent,” “terroristic” and “anti-American.” For example, the stereotypes of all Muslims being Arab and all Arabs being Muslim seem to frame the enemies. The Muslim Iraqi characters in “Conflict: Desert Storm” (2002) speak Arabic. Similarly, “Conflict: Desert Storm 2” (2003) represents Muslims as Arabs in the stage “Air Strike,” during which Arabic writing appears on Kuwaiti street signs, and in “Prisoners of War,” where Arabic appears on Iraqi street signs. Overall, these digital war games also represent Muslims as foreigners, not American citizens. In “Conflict: Desert Storm” (2002) for instance, the player wars across several Muslim countries in the boots of a virtual American soldier. In “Close Combat: First to Fight” (2005), the enemies are Lebanese, Iranians, Syrians and Yemenis, and the game contains no Lebanese, Iranian, Syrian, or Yemeni Americans. Similarly, the Muslim characters in “Army of Two” (2008) are Afghani, Somali, Iraqi and Chinese, not American. In “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” (2007), Muslims of many nationalities are shown, but no American soldiers or civilians are represented as Muslim.
Furthermore, these games by and large cast Muslims as violent enemies of, and terrorist threats to, the U.S. and “the West.” “In SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs” (2002), the Allah Sadikahu terrorist group is comprised of Muslims. In “Full Spectrum Warrior” (2004), al-Qaeda and Taliban forces commit acts of terror throughout the game’s story. “Battlefield 3” (2011) follows suit, as the main enemies to neutralize are Muslim Iranian soldiers who have taken over a public school and a bank and are holding civilian hostages. In “Army of Two,” four of the five key enemy leaders are “Islamic extremists.” Additionally, these digital games mostly represent Muslims as anti-American and anti-Western. In “Army of Two,” the terrorist Mo’Allim chastises U.S.
AS ANTI-MUSLIM FEELING HAS INCREASED IN NORTH AMERICA AND ELSEWHERE, THE U.S. EMPIRE’S ISLAMOPHOBIC DIGITAL WAR GAMES INDUSTRY ADDS INSULT TO INJURY AND INTERSECTS WITH THE CURRENT PATTERNS OF ANTI-MUSLIM PREJUDICE, DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE IN SOCIETY. SUCH STEREOTYPES PLACE UNNECESSARY PUBLIC ATTENTION ON, AND MAY INSTIGATE ANXIETY ABOUT, REAL MUSLIMS LIVING IN THE U.S. AND ELSEWHERE. troops for their country’s vices. In “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,” Muslims seem to express resentment toward, or hatred for, the West. Briefly, the ten digital war games we analyzed vilify Muslims as a threat to American security. In addition, they invite their millions of players to virtually play out militarized fantasies of killing Muslims to save the U.S. (and win the game). In effect, these games’ narratives both add to the popular cultural repertoire of Islamophobia and contribute to the notion that the exceptional global military superpower known as the U.S. uses its immense might for good, defeating bad Muslim terrorists and rogue states and saving civilians from evil. Although one can distinguish between the U.S.’s real wars and playable war games, these games risk desensitizing their players to war’s embodied horrors and deterring the
public from democratic deliberation about war’s causes and human consequences. For decades, U.S. wars in Muslim-majority countries and American Islamophobia have marched in lockstep, and so this digital vilification of Muslims is not surprising. And yet the games’ stereotypes of Muslims should not be treated lightly, because Islamophobia is a real and growing social problem. As anti-Muslim feeling has increased in North America and elsewhere, the U.S. empire’s Islamophobic digital war games industry adds insult to injury and intersects with the current patterns of anti-Muslim prejudice, discrimination and violence in society. Such stereotypes place unnecessary public attention on, and may instigate anxiety about, real Muslims living in the U.S. and elsewhere. This, in turn, may sanction the intensification of state surveillance and policing of Muslims, not to mention public
support for the ongoing disproportionate allocation of public resources and national security projects to combatting the perceived Muslim terrorist threat instead of white supremacist organizations and other greater — and growing — terrorist threats. Furthermore, these games’ major Islamrelated representations are so negative there is a risk that players who have had no contact with a real Muslim may think that this digital portrayal is true. While digital games do not unilaterally cause people to dislike or harm Muslims, they may reinforce already existing prejudicial outlooks, especially among those on the far Right who are responsible for so much anti-Muslim hate speech and hate crime. While it would be an exaggeration to claim that all such published and played digital war games convey an Islamophobic representation of the community’s diversity, the immensely profitable and globally played games that we studied mostly do. How, then, can we challenge their role in buttressing Islamophobia? We hope that our study will make both current and future digital war game developers and players aware of this issue. Developers should make a concerted effort to create more multi-dimensional representations of Muslims, and players need to understand that the motley group of Muslim “enemy” characters do not reflect the majority of real Muslims who live, work and play in the U.S. and around the world. If the portrayal of Muslims in digital games is to change, then those with the power to design, produce, publish and sell these games must be made to care and change their designs. Over the past two decades, Muslim Americans have pressured the U.S. film and TV industries to stop stereotyping Muslims; however, only now is the interactive entertainment industry beginning to face similar pressure. Much more work needs to be done. Importantly, the U.S. digital game industry must do more to include and represent Muslim game developers in its workforce so they can represent themselves, tell their own stories about Muslims living in the U.S. and elsewhere and counter Islamophobic stereotypes. We hope that our study contributes to the steps being taken in that positive direction. ih Tanner Mirrlees is an associate professor in the Communication and Digital Media Studies Program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada. Taha Ibaid is an Oshawa, Ontario-based independent researcher.
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 41
Cyber Homo Sacer A critical analysis of cyber Islamophobia in the wake of the Muslim Ban BY ZEINAB FAROKHI
atred toward marginalized communities, particularly Muslims, in the West is at its peak in the IT era, where social networking sites (SNS) like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram dominate digital spaces. The reliance upon SNS, as well as their ubiquity and accessibility, not only allow far-right extremists and Islamophobic discourses to proliferate at alarming rates, but also help create Islamophobic cyber communities that connect like-minded groups worldwide. Research conducted by Imran Awan (onlinelibrary.wiley. com/doi/abs/10.1002/19442866.POI364), Matthew L. Williams and Pete Burnap (academic.oup.com/bjc/article/56/2/211/2462519) and Walid Magdy, Kareem Darwish, and Norah Abokhodair (arXiv:1512.04570v1) are very informative in this regard. Despite general perceptions, anti-Muslim rhetoric in cyberspace is hardly organic. Rather, in many cases it is carefully orchestrated to present Muslims as “radicals,” “extremists” and “terrorists,” thereby criminalizing and dehumanizing them. The analysis of two hashtags, #BanMuslims and #Muslimban in “Cyber Homo Sacer: A Critical Analysis of Cyber Islamophobia in the Wake of the Muslim Ban” (www.jstor.org/stable/10.13169/ islastudj.6.1.0014#metadata_ info_tab_contents), demonstrates how the Muslim body in cyberspace has become a site of contestation and a space of exception, where the law that
ought to restrict the dissemination of hatred and fake news, despite being present, restricts itself from operating. Moreover, it shows how the enactment of the state of exception is carried out upon Muslim bodies in cyberspace as well as how they have been placed between outside and inside, exception and rule, where juridical protection makes no sense and offers no succor. Furthermore, the parallel drawn between Girgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer:
In this way, this figure expelled from society is included in the form of exclusion and therefore stands both outside and inside the law simultaneously. The homo sacer analogy shows that Muslims have been forcefully reduced to homo sacer, to “bare life,” and thus stripped of any social and political rights and dignity. Muslims are being excluded, expelled and even killed virtually in cyberspace, all of which encourages their death in the “real” world.
THE HOMO SACER ANALOGY SHOWS THAT MUSLIMS HAVE BEEN FORCEFULLY REDUCED TO HOMO SACER, TO “BARE LIFE,” AND THUS STRIPPED OF ANY SOCIAL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS AND DIGNITY. Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1998) conception of homo sacer and Muslim bodies shows that in cyberspace, where the exclusion of bodies can occur, Muslims render a homo sacer figure par excellence: those who cannot be sacrificed but can be killed with impunity. In the context of cyber space, I refer to this figure as cyber homo sacer who can be injured or killed endlessly by anyone with full impunity. In other words, in cyberspace, the Muslim body is reduced to a depoliticized, naked or bare life who can be excluded or exempted from society. They, therefore, can be violated by anyone with full impunity.
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By focusing particularly upon the proliferation of virulent, anti-Muslim rhetoric and discourse on Twitter, as well as following the hashtags #Muslimban and #BanMuslim, I demonstrate how the concept of homo sacer helpfully illuminates the ways in which current Islamophobic and anti-Muslim sentiment online can be understood as a refiguration of Muslims as bodies that exist in a state of in-betweenness. Trump’s Muslim Ban, which originally barred Irani, Iraqi, Libyan, Somali, Sudanese, Syrian and Yemeni nationals from entering the U.S., made him the hero of anti-Muslim movements. Trump
supporters deployed Twitter hashtags such as #BanMuslims and #Muslimban to endorse it. According to some users, politics like the Muslim Ban are paramount and the contagion (read “Muslims”) should be quarantined outside the system for the wellbeing of Western society. Some users argue that the ban is necessary because Muslims are inherently dangerous, are actively seeking to Islamize the public sphere and have no intention of integrating into mainstream society. Others indicate that Muslims threaten Western civilization and should be banned from entering the West. Some users even go further, demanding that Muslims in the West be removed and exterminated, if not from the world. Such comments reveal the degree of violence and horror directed at Muslim
dehumanize Muslims, thereby deepening and reifying widely held stereotypes about Muslims as “violent,” “subversive,” “animalistic,” “inhuman” and unworthy of living in a “civilized” society like the West. Such negative comments circulated on Twitter testify to the excessive politicization of Islam and Muslims’ bodies, which subject them to different types of biases and prejudices that result in vilifying and, ultimately, the homo sacer-ian depoliticization of the Muslim body. Such depoliticization further entrenches the already pathologized Muslim body established by mainstream media and results in excluding Muslim bodies from the nation-state. Given all this, the question remains: How might individual Muslims and Muslim communities resist this profoundly violent figuration and positioning as bare life, as cyber homo sacer? Further research should track not only the perpetrators of such tags, but also investigate bodies in cyberspace. Given that users demand the annihilation of Muslims, whose lives are seen as unworthy of being lived, the Muslim body becomes an instantiation of the cyber homo sacer-ian figure. While policies like the Muslim Ban legitimize removing the rights of particular Muslim communities and thereby reducing them to homo sacer, cyberspace expansively reproduces and maintains this already homo sacer-ian figure. While considering the ban, the Trump administration created conditions wherein the bodies of Muslims were forcefully stripped of dignity, social and political rights, and abandoned to be injured, expelled and killed within cyberspace. In fact, the Islamophobic rhetoric manifested in cyberspace reinforces Muslims’ exclusion from the
nation, and Muslims become a single threatening entity — the unwanted, dangerous citizens that need to be disposed of to maintain the nation’s “safety.” Thus, Muslim bodies in cyberspace become a battlefield, a locus of state-sponsored violence that is often overlooked by the law. Put differently, in cyberspace Muslims fall into the space of exception — they are in the system, but their rights are not fully recognized. Thus, they live in a zone where the law operates through its absence when it comes to the question of Islamophobic discourse. Hence, cyberspace is a zone in which Muslims and other minorities are abandoned and reduced to homo sacer. These online discourses, triggered by exclusionary politics like the Muslim Ban, help
how such violent rhetoric might be productively countered. Additionally, considering that the reduction to bare life is likely not only the experience of Muslims, further research should also seek to document the potential avenues for powerful coalitional modes of resistance that bring groups together — to reclaim their dignity and safety while keeping their differences intact — between Muslims and, for example, other racialized minorities, the impoverished and the otherwise “debilitated” (Jasbir Puar, “The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability,” 2017). Subjecting Muslims to the status of homo sacer is without a doubt a matter of profound concern. Such a (virtual) reality must propel us to formulate tactics that can shift the dispersal of netizens toward more responsible and responsive rearticulations of online politics and policies. ih Zeinab Farokhi is a PhD candidate at University of Toronto’s Women and Gender Studies Institute.
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The Need of the Hour: An Equitable Climate Action Plan Do people realize that when they tackle climate change, they address their families and communities’ health? BY ISNA GREEN INITIATIVE TEAM
ver the past year, families across the country and the world lost loved ones and livelihoods. The coronavirus, a respiratory disease made worse by air pollution, turned the world upside down. Communities nationwide are bracing themselves for another devastating season of extreme heat, wildfires and hurricanes — all made more frequent and severe by climate change. Everyone deserves to live in healthier, safer communities powered by pollution-free, efficient and renewable energy. This, in addition to providing immediate economic relief to those in need, is why we need climate action now to protect the public from dangerous extreme weather events and the threat of climate change. No one is exempt from the vagaries of climate change, and Muslims accept their share of the responsibility. Everyone must play their part in returning Earth to some semblance of balance. Environmental and climate justice are embedded in the matrix of Islamic teachings. The Qur’an is rich with guidance on our role, responsibility and accountability to our neighbors, humanity and the world. We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last to be able to do anything about it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/) was notable for its 44 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2021
combination of scientific and ethical clarity. It discussed some critical truths: 1. We must do everything to try to hold the warming to a maximum of 1.5°C. This effort is our only chance of achieving the Paris Climate Agreement’s backstop goal of holding global warming “well below 2°C.” 2. To have a substantial chance of achieving 1.5°C, global emissions must decline by at least 45% and as much as 60% from 2010 levels by 2030 and must reach net zero around 2050. On Earth Day, April 22, President Biden announced a new target for the U.S. to achieve: a 50-52% reduction from 2005 levels in economywide net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030. The announcement — made during the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate (https://www.state.gov/leaders-summit-on-climate/) that he held to challenge the world on increased ambition in tackling climate change — is
part of his focus on building back better in a way that will create millions of good-paying union jobs, ensure economic competitiveness, advance environmental justice and improve the health and security of communities nationwide. Equitable, democratic and bold climate action is needed now. That means implementing holistic and comprehensive policies that integrate equity and justice while achieving net zero emissions targets limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. Democratizing energy is central to achieving a “just transition” away from a fossil-fuel economy and toward a new renewable energy economy grounded in economic and social justice. Energy democracy seeks to address the energy system’s legacy of structural inequities through greater public accountability and distributive infrastructure investments.
country. If left unaddressed, methane pollution will continue to cause significant harm to public health, threaten the stability of our economy and compromise the well-being of future generations and the planet. Methane, over 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide, is a potent climate pollutant released alongside toxic air pollution during oil and gas production that can worsen respiratory illness. One in three people in the U.S. lives in a county with oil and gas production, and oil and gas facilities leak nearly 13 million tons of methane a year (www.edf.org/sites/default/files/content/methane_rule_health_fact_sheet_reboot_final_no_citations.pdf). Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities are disproportionately impacted by harmful oil and gas pollution from facilities that have historically been built in and near their communities. This pollution degrades their health at a time when everyone, and especially those with pre-existing health conditions like heart disease and asthma, are even more susceptible to serious respiratory illness, including the coronavirus. The transportation sector is our largest source of carbon pollution (www.epa.gov/ greenvehicles/fast-facts-transportation-greenhouse-gas-emissions). Air pollution from dirty vehicles and heavy-duty trucks also disproportionately impacts low-income and BIPOC communities, making clear the need for a global commitment to STRATEGIES TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE tackle environmental injustice. Tailpipe and MUST PRIORITIZE THE MOST IMPACTED AND diesel pollution severely contribute to deadly health impacts in low wealth and BIPOC LEAST RESOURCED COMMUNITIES. ACTION communities and results in higher-than-avON CLIMATE RESILIENCE AND MITIGATION erage rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases, which disproportionately impact AT THE LOCAL LEVEL INCREASES LIVABILITY, children of color. Jumpstarting electric vehiSTIMULATES ECONOMIC ACTIVITY AND cle (EV) manufacturing has the potential to drive millions of well-paying and sustainable LOWERS THE COSTS AND SOCIETAL union jobs to U.S. workers. DISRUPTION CAUSED BY NATURAL DISASTERS. For the U.S. to take responsibility for being one of the world’s leading carbon polluters and to get back on track as a global climate leader, it must address pollution from It is no secret that communities of color and low- its transportation sector. We must act by reinstating the California waiver that wealth communities are hit first and worst by the allows states to band together to set tougher tailpipe pollution protections (www. climate crisis and suffer disproportionately from federalregister.gov/documents/2013/01/09/2013-00181/california-state-motor-veextreme weather events and pollution. Decades of hicle-pollution-control-standards-notice-of-decision-granting-a-waiver-of); underinvestment and systemic discrimination have using Obama-Biden era clean car standards as a starting point from which to left these communities with disproportionately high improve vehicle pollution limits; implementing strong standards that put us on costs for energy, transportation and necessities, lim- the path to 60% clean, electric vehicles by 2030 and 100% clean, electric vehicles ited access to public services, high levels of poverty by 2035; creating strong standards to cut pollution from buses, freight trucks and pollution, and outdated and weak critical infra- and delivery trucks and by transitioning to pollution-free trucks and buses; and structure. Climate change exacerbates these injus- sparking the electric vehicle revolution by building a network of EV chargers, tices — making climate adaptation and community electrifying transit buses, electrifying our school buses and helping consumers resilience essential priorities. purchase the vehicles of tomorrow. Strategies to tackle climate change must prioritize When we tackle climate change, we address our families and communities’ the most impacted and least resourced communities. health, and, as such, it is imperative that frontline people of color lead this moveAction on climate resilience and mitigation at the ment and ensure a just transition into a pollution-free, efficient and renewable local level increases livability, stimulates economic energy future. Now it is time to make smart infrastructure investments to rebuild activity and lowers the costs and societal disruption our communities and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation and caused by natural disasters. Done correctly, these energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change. To secure a investments can also make communities healthier lasting and equitable economic recovery that allows us to bounce back from the last year of economic hardship, it is time to do more: going big on jobs, justice and improve equity for all residents. Methane pollution from the oil and gas sector is and climate solutions. ih accelerating the pace of the climate crisis and harming the health of families and communities across the ISNA Green Initiative Team: Huda Alkaff, Saffet Catovic, Nana Firman, Uzma Mirza and Saiyid Masroor Shah (chair). JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 45
India Marches into Fascism The Biden administration needs to ensure that federal funds and U.S. tax-exempt charities do not bankroll growing Hindu fanaticism in India BY SHAKEEL SYED
Modi at lunch hosted by (then) Vice President Biden and (then) Secretary of State John Kerry, in Washington D.C. on Sept. 30, 2014 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4eEii509II)
resident Biden, visiting NASA on March 4 to celebrate the Mars Perseverance rover’s landing, made one of his most head-turning comments since being sworn in when he told Swati Mohan, NASA’s guidance and controls operations lead for the rover landing, “Indian — of descent — Americans are taking over the country: you; my vice president [Kamala Harris, who overtly stresses her maternal Indian roots but rarely her paternal Jamaican roots]; my speechwriter, Vinay. I tell you what. But thank you. You guys are incredible,” declared Biden (https://www.independent. co.uk/news/world/americas/biden-india-usnasa-mars-rover-b1812881.html). Among Biden’s appointees is Sri Preston Kulkarni, 42, the twice-failed Texas District 22 Democratic Congress nominee who has been criticized for accepting money from donors affiliated with the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), HAPAC and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grand diaspora celebrations in the U.S. Upon learning of Kulkarni’s financial sources, area Muslims formed a taskforce and helped defeat him by supporting the Republican nominee, Troy Nehls. Kulkarni now occupies a key position at AmeriCorps as chief of external affairs.
The Intercept reported that among his donors is Ramesh Bhutada, the national vice president of the U.S. wing of the RSS. In the 1970s, Bhutada helped establish Houston’s first chapter of the HHS, an organization under the RSS umbrella and registered in the U.S. as a nonprofit engaged in service work and fostering community among Hindus living in this country. Bhutada has also been active in political organizing for Modi’s election campaigns, as well as organizing and fundraising for several U.S. politicians, notably Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who has been criticized for ties to Hindu nationalist groups and has been a vocal Modi government supporter (https:// theintercept.com/2020/10/29/sri-kulkarni-congress-indian-politics/; https://theintercept.com/2019/01/05/tulsi-gabbard2020-hindu-nationalist-modi/). HAF recruited Gabbard to weigh in with the Vedic Foundation (VF) and the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) — the Hindu groups who proposed these changes — and asked the California Board of Education (CBE) to remove or rewrite other significant sections. However, many American Hindus and academics complained that this was unacceptable — they were concerned that Hindutva groups wanted to silence minority voices and present an idealized, false representation of Hinduism. Some
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pointed out that the VF and HEF were promoting a representation of Hinduism specific to upper caste North Indians that they did not share; and to VF and HEF ties to Hindutva — conservative Hindu nationalist organizations in India that have tried and failed to make similar changes there (https://rpl.hds.harvard.edu/religion-context/case-studies/minority-america/ hindus-american-textbooks). Just how ethical is this “Indian-descent takeover" of the U.S.? Kulkarni is not a stray example, and pandering to Indian Hindu fascism is nothing new. After all, it was the Obama-Biden administration that lifted the travel ban on Modi, which had been imposed for the 2002 Gujarat massacre of Muslims (https://www.washingtonpost. com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/06/ from-pariah-to-capitol-hill-narendra-modis-extraordinary-rise/). Trump only sexed up the relationship. In her June 24, 2017, tweet, Harris had enthused, “I welcome Indian PM @ NarendraModi to the United States and reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our two nations.” In a severe indictment of Modi, at that time chief minister of Gujarat, for his alleged role in the 2002 post-Godhra massacre, India’s Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team released a 600page report on May 12, 2010, holding that he failed to control the riots that killed 1,200+ people, among them Indian National Congress leader Ahsan Jafri and dozens of other Muslims who were hacked to death (https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/ sit-report-indicts-modi-in-gujarat-riots/ story-ApMNztHsH47JFts1Oob63L.html). It had also noted that the Modi government appointed Vishwa Hindu Parishad- and RSSaffiliated lawyers as public prosecutors in the subsequent cases. Another example: In 2008, Obama’s closest advisory team member was economist Sonal Shah, a VHP America national coordinator who served [now Transportation Secretary] mayor Pete Buttigieg as the national policy director in his failed 2020 presidential campaign (https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/obama-team-membersonal-has-vhp-links/story-YzJW8jDOVBaQgkGDdu60lI.html). The CIA declared this strident Hindu extremist group a terrorist organization in its “World Factbook” (2018). Shah is a consistent supporter of Ekal Vidyalayas, a VHP-founded movement
The lure of India’s billion plus market overpowered humanity. The initial euphoria about Modi is taking time to cool. This redemption story was only possible because of the Western world’s bigotry toward the poor and India’s and in fact any Muslims.
dedicated to countering Christianity among India’s Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes). Her father, Ramesh Shah, vice president of the Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP), had campaigned extensively for L. K. Advani, prime minister aspirant and architect of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. Similarly, the Biden campaign also appointed its heavily backed Amit Jani outreach director of Asian American Pacific Islanders.
AMERICANS SHOULD BE CONCERNED
OFBJP, which registered as a foreign agent only last August despite launching itself in 1992, was founded as a BJP public relations project to “correct what members argued
JUST HOW ETHICAL IS THIS INDIAN-DESCENT AMERICA "TAKEOVER" OF THE U.S. KULKARNI IS NOT A STRAY EXAMPLE AND PANDERING TO INDIAN HINDU FASCISM IS NOTHING NEW. AFTER ALL, IT WAS THE OBAMA-BIDEN ADMINISTRATION THAT LIFTED THE TRAVEL BAN ON MODI, WHICH HAD BEEN IMPOSED FOR THE 2002 GUJARAT MASSACRE OF MUSLIMS. TRUMP ONLY SEXED UP THE RELATIONSHIP. were distorted views of India and the BJP and [to] promote the political party’s platform” (Sonia Paul, “How Hindu Nationalism Could Shape the Election,” 10/30/2020; https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/10/30/hindu-nationalism-election-indian-american-voters-433608). Paul pointed out that “[G]roups that embrace and advocate for some form of Hindutva have existed in the United States for decades, operating as nonprofits for immigrant communities wanting to retain Indian culture.” She wrote, “Now, in the United States, a small but vocal group of donors and activists is pressuring Indian American and Hindu politicians to embrace the ideology, while criticizing as “Hinduphobic” those who reject Hindutva for its nationalist roots. These Hindutva advocates hope to use the ideology as a wedge issue for the roughly 1.9 million Indian American eligible voters in this country, who represent one of the fastest-growing and wealthiest immigrant groups in the United States.” In 2020, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) — a campaign cash-rich Senate aspirant — won his third term with 73.17% of the vote after a nominal primary
election, despite being criticized for attending events like “Howdy, Modi!” — where Trump appeared with Modi in a Houston stadium (2019) — and the World Hindu Congress, a 2018 VHP-organized conference in Chicago (https://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/2021/4/22/22398564/ illinois-rep-raja-krishnamoorthi-9-million-campaign-cash-election).
HISTORY OF FUNDING HINDU EXTREMISTS
On July 1, 2014, the South Asian Citizen Web (SACW; http://www.sacw.net/), an online platform that promotes dialogue on South Asia, released “Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Nonprofit Groups.” It stated that the Hindu nonprofits were linked to Sangh Parivar — the umbrella term that refers to all of the Hindu supremacist organizations linked to the RSS. The report, based on an analysis of official tax records between 2001-14, found that U.S.-based charity groups sent millions of dollars to RSS-affiliated organizations: “India-based Sangh affiliates receive social and financial support from its U.S.-based wings, the latter of which exist largely as tax-exempt non-profit organizations in the
United States: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Sewa International USA, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation-USA. The Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party - USA (OFBJP) is active as well, though it is not a tax-exempt group.” For instance, between 2001-12, both the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation and the VHPA sent $27 million and $3.9 million, respectively. SEWA International spent $3.3 million during the same period on activities of right-wing groups across India, while Infinity Foundation gave $1.9m in grants to universities and researchers to promote the Hindu supremacist agenda. The report noted Hindu fascists’ youth outreach in the U.S., “Sangh-affiliated youth and family programs, such as those held by the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, have concentrated their classes, camps, events, and materials on Hindu cultural identity. As of May 2014, there were 140 HSS shakhas (chapters) in the United States listed on the HSS website. Between 2002 and 2012 the HSS and VHP have collectively spent more than $2.5 million on youth and family programs.” It added “In 2009, Sangh-affiliated Hindu Students Council (HSC) student groups were present on 78 U.S. and Canadian university and college campuses, including those of Duke University, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McGill University, New York University, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Stanford University, Syracuse University, University of California at Berkeley, Irvine, and San Diego, University of Ottawa, and University of Texas at Austin and Houston. “From 2001 and 2012, five Sangh-affiliated charitable groups (India Development and Relief Fund, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of America, Param Shakti Peeth, Sewa International, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America) allocated over $55 million dollars to their program services, funds which are largely sent to groups in India. Several of the recipient groups have affiliations with the Indiabased Sangh Parivar, and more investigation is needed into: a) other funding channels from the United States; b) whether the monies collected were allocated to the purposes reported
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 47
OPINION to the Internal Revenue Service; and c) the effects of funding recipients’ work” (http:// www.sacw.net/article9057.html; http://www. sacw.net/IMG/pdf/US_HinduNationalism_ Nonprofits.pdf). In the California textbook controversy of 2005-2006, the Vedic Foundation and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh’s educational wing, the Hindu Education Foundation, led an effort to insert edits into California textbooks that foregrounded Hindu nationalist priorities and downplayed gender and caste oppression in Ancient India. d) Since the textbooks controversy, the Hindu American Foundation has become a voice for Hindu nationalist interests to U.S. politicians.
THE STATE DEPARTMENT REPORTS DETERIORATING HUMAN RIGHTS IN INDIA
On April 5, leading Indian-origin American civil rights organizations welcomed the State Department’s 68-page Annual Report on Human Rights in India. Released on March 30 by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, it detailed the Modi government’s massive violations of civil liberties, as well as its failure to prevent such violations and hold the perpetrators accountable. The statement’s signatories included Hindus for Human Rights, the Dalit Solidarity Forum, the International Christian Concern, the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), India Civil Watch International, Students Against Hindutva Ideology and the Federation of Indian Christian Organizations of North America. This report documents unlawful and arbitrary killings; torture, arbitrary arrest and detention; impunity for police, paramilitary and military violence; persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians; attacks on the news media and the internet and site blocking; criminalizing free speech and restricting freedom of expression; excessive curbs on NGOs; and restrictions on academic freedom. It also highlights the brutal police crackdown on the “legitimate and peaceful protests” by students at Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Milia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University, which the government “portrayed as terrorist activities.” The Delhi police also “selectively pursued cases against Muslims and anti-CAA protesters.” Arvind Rajagopal (professor, media studies, New York University; author,
“Politics After Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Public in India” ) said the report was especially significant as it was the new administration’s first such report, adding, “We expect that President Biden will act on this report and raise the issues of human rights abuses with the Indian government.” Rasheed Ahmed (executive director, IAMC) said, “The Modi government’s discriminatory citizenship law, the persecution of Muslims and other minorities, the pogrom against Muslims in Delhi and the manufacturing of criminal cases against Muslims for the violence, and the judiciary’s failure to provide justice all clearly indicate an alarming decline in civil liberties.” In its annual report on global political rights and liberties, the U.S.-based nonprofit Freedom House downgraded India from a free democracy to a “partially free democracy” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/11/ india-democracy-freedom-house-narendra-modi-rana-ayyub/; https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2021/ democracy-under-siege). The Sweden-based V-Dem Institute’s latest report on democracy said India had become an “electoral autocracy” (https:// www.v-dem.net/files/25/DR%202021. pdf). And in March, India — described as a “flawed democracy” — slipped two places (to 53) in the latest Democracy Index (published by The Economist Intelligence Unit). The report noted, “The BJP’s ideological approach leans towards Hindu nationalism, mixing social conservatism with a more aggressive foreign and security policy. Its growing dominance of national and state governments has thus challenged India’s secular tradition” (https://country. eiu.com/india). The US Commission on International Religious Freedom called on the State Department to place India on a list of “countries of particular concern” for the second consecutive year, based on the sharp escalation in violations of human rights and religious freedom there. One wonders if all of this will cause Biden and Harris to have their administration investigate the complicity of some Hindu Americans and U.S based Hindutva-oriented nonprofit organizations in supporting fascism in India. ih Shakeel Syed is a freelance writer and public interest campaigner.
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Do We Need Ethical Inves
Halal and ethical screens are n BY MUSTAFA UMAR
thical investing is on the rise in the U.S. “Impact investing,” “socially responsible investing” (SRI) and “environmental, social, and governance” (ESG) screens are now common terms in the finance industry. Today, ethical investing makes up over $1 out of every $4 under professional management in the U.S. This amounts to over $12 trillion in assets under management yearly, according to a 2018 survey by the U.S. Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (www.ussif. org/blog_home.asp?display=118). They also reported a 38% increase from just two years prior. Muslims have generally focused on halal (a.k.a. Sharia-compliant) investing. With the rise in ethical investing, the similarities and differences between the two models — halal and ethical — need to be understood. Both models forbid investments in pornography, gambling and alcohol. For example, halal models forbid investing in banks; ethical models do not. Ethical models forbid investing in companies that cause massive pollution; halal models do not. Let’s say that Maryam wants to invest in
Halal or sting?
not the same thing
Maryam must give whatever profit she makes from that percentage of “tainted” income to a charity to compensate — some suggest such income should be given to charities like a zoo, not to people. Second, the “Financial” screen will check to make sure that the company minimizes haram financial activities. The tech company may sell many products and have plenty of cash in the bank, so it is likely loaning that money out on interest, even though that is not the company’s primary business.
Islamic teachings about the environment, as well as human and animal rights and labor violations. Islam cares about health and safety breaches and seeks to discourage companies that help destroy society, whether it be in the U.S., Palestine or elsewhere. The fact that these important issues are absent should be addressed by adding appropriate ethical screening factors to the already-existing halal screening process. However, the practical implementation of such screening factors is not so easy. The var-
THE CURRENT ETHICAL SCREENS DIFFER FROM ONE ANOTHER AND HAVE EVEN BEEN CRITICIZED RECENTLY FOR EITHER BEING TOO STRICT OR TOO LAX. MUSLIM SCHOLARS AND INTELLECTUALS WILL NEED TO DEVELOP THEIR OWN ISLAMICETHICAL SCREENS THAT ARE NOT INFLUENCED BY POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS FROM EITHER THE U.S., THE UN, OR ANY OUTSIDE ENTITY.
the stock market. She knows she cannot buy bonds, debt securities or money market instruments because they’re based on interest (riba). She also knows that she shouldn’t get involved in day trading stocks regularly, for doing so can result in excessive speculation and moral hazard (gharar). After careful study, she has decided to buy a few stocks in a tech company, the oil industry, a coffee store chain and a bank. Checking the Zoya Finance app on her phone will apply two screens to inform her whether they are halal or not. First, a “Business Activity” screen will make sure that the nature of the business is not haram and that it does not sell too much (more than 5%) in terms of haram products (e.g., pork, alcohol, pornography, gambling, drugs or weapons). There is some gray area in applying the screens, but the app easily flags the bank as haram since banks primarily deal in interest-based loans. The coffee shop chain may sell a marshmallow cake with porcine gelatin as an ingredient. However, this is the chain’s only haram product and makes up only a tiny percentage of its total revenue and profits. Therefore,
The two main ratios checked by the second screen are if the debt-to-market value ratio is less than 30% — otherwise, the company may be paying too much interest — and if cash and interest-bearing deposits are less than 30% of market cap. Otherwise, the company may be receiving too much interest. Lastly, the app reminds Maryam that she must purify the “tainted” income and attempt to calculate the percentage of income derived from such haram sources so she can give that amount to charity, but without any expectation of reward. This is similar to what average Muslims do when keeping their money in the bank, for they cannot prevent the bank from paying them a small percentage of interest income on it. This charity attempts to make income 100% halal and also acts as an ethical protest against those practices. The halal screen will most likely not flag the oil company if it meets the other conditions. However, ethical screens are likely to object to it based on its practices and how much environmental damage it causes. What’s missing from the halal screen is
ious ethical screens that exist differ greatly from one another and have been criticized for either being too strict or too lax. Muslim scholars and intellectuals need to develop their own Islamic ethical screens that are not influenced by political motivations from the U.S., the UN or any other outside entity. Perhaps the division of Islamic actions into required (fard), recommended (mustahabb), allowed (mubah), disliked (makruh) and prohibited (haram) can be used to enable Islamic ethical screens to allow some flexibility while developing the framework. For now, remember that neither the current halal screens nor the ethical screens are enough to make an investment properly Islamic. Muslims need to up their game and expand their understanding of “ethical” beyond the current “halal” screens that exist. In the meantime, they need to review their investments by using a combination of halal and ethical screens so that God will be pleased with them and bless their wealth. ih Mustafa Umar, founder, and president of California Islamic University, is director of education and outreach at the Islamic Institute of Orange County, as well as an executive member of the Fiqh Council of North America.
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 49
Zakat Is Not for Hors d’Oeuvres A guide to zakat-eligibility and avoiding misdirecting its distribution BY AHMED SHAIKH
s things generally stand, much of the zakat given in the U.S. by wealthy Muslims ends up circulating among themselves, whether by design or misunderstanding. God admonishes Muslims that “… wealth will not merely circulate among your rich” (Quran, 59:7). We can do better. Many fatwas state that zakat can mean almost anything. While making no claims about the individual rulings’ integrity or quality, however, we should lament this demoralizing and socially unjust campaign’s cumulative effect to “anythingify” zakat. I attempt to provide a guide that takes into consideration the economic impacts of your worship.
EVERYTHING IS “FI SABILILLAH”
For many centuries, our community’s religious scholars have interpreted this category of zakat eligibility (i.e., fi sabilillah) as being limited primarily to warfare. However, fi sabilillah has gradually become the conventional go-to for nonprofit organizations eager to repurpose your worship for anything and everything. Instead of getting caught up in the debates about its meaning or the different scholarly opinions, ask yourself the following question: Do you want your zakat to benefit the needy or the well-to-do? Not infrequently, the affluent nonprofit corporations appeal for your zakat fi sabilillah to support their own projects and the related expenses. Some nonprofits have cynically promoted fi sabilillah as a classic catch-all category, which indicates that they are profoundly non-seriousness, even frivolous, about their fellow Muslims’ worship. The Muslim nonprofit sector has created and normalized this “zakat loophole,” thereby moving this core pillar of Islam away from its main purpose: taking care of the community’s poor as part of living their faith.
CHARITY VS. MUTUAL BENEFIT ASSOCIATIONS
All Muslims benefit from giving zakat, for doing so fulfills an act of worship and
religious obligation. We may even feel good about ourselves afterward. With other kinds of charity, however, donors tend to benefit from the value of the dollars contributed because their contributions benefit themselves. This type of giving is like giving zakat to yourself. Listed below are a few common examples found in our community. ◆ Mosques. A mosque is a classic mutual benefit organization. If you donate to it and the salary goes to an imam, the value created was the great khutba you heard. Given that money only has value when spending it, your donation was not for a khateeb but for you to benefit from him. Similarly, the good resulting from your contribution was not the building itself, but that you and others had the opportunity to pray in it. Historically and still today, many mosques do not accept zakat for their operations. This may seem odd to many who see fi sabilillah as a zakat category, since mosques would seem to be in that category. Some mosques do accept zakat when they are running behind schedule for raising funds for a construction or major project, or if they just feel the need for more money. It’s always easy to find a fatwa that gives desperate mosque board members the permission they need. Muslim donors can generally see the recirculation problem here more starkly and are more likely to object to their mosque accepting zakat for such purpose. This “recirculation” problem affects other classes of charities as well. ◆ Civil Rights and Political Advocacy Organizations. These types of organizations, which do not specifically focus on the needy, also deploy the fi sabilillah claim. In fact, much of their activity is framed as benefiting all Muslims. In truth, however, they actually often benefit the most affluent among us. Advocacy groups focus on lobbying, finding internships for young people and pursuing interfaith and media relations while concentrating their efforts and energy on their affluent donor base.
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As such, they sometimes spend significant sums on sumptuous fundraising events and expenses to attract potential donors who are far from impoverished. If you go to a small fundraiser at your friend’s home, somebody’s zakat probably paid for the hors d’oeuvres that you end up eating. Yes, some civil rights and political advocacy groups may be doing good work, and not all of it is for the affluent. However, you may consider donating non-zakat funds if you feel strongly about their mission. Given that your zakat is an economic act of worship, you would do well to consider it a right of the needy, rather than a right of multi-million-dollar nonprofit corporations.
◆ Dawa and Educational Organizations. Generally, if you or your family members benefit from an organization, it is a mutual benefit organization. In Muslim contexts, this means that your zakat dollars circulate back to your or to people with a similar socioeconomic background. Some educational organizations may have a “zakat policy” that segregates zakat funds and uses them only to benefit those who are eligible to receive them. Scrutinizing such things is essential. Another related category here is those
organizations that produce content that you might read or watch on the internet. Donating to such organizations is similar to contributing to a mosque. But you don’t donate zakat to an organization to hire someone at $100,000 a year to produce internet content. Rather, you do so to benefit those who read the articles or watch the YouTube videos. Thus, if you and your children read those articles or watch the videos, you are the actual beneficiaries. Unfortunately, some of our media operations ask for zakat and offer supportive
SOME NONPROFITS HAVE CYNICALLY PROMOTED FI SABILILLAH AS A CLASSIC CATCH-ALL CATEGORY, WHICH INDICATES THAT THEY ARE PROFOUNDLY NON-SERIOUSNESS, EVEN FRIVOLOUS, ABOUT THEIR FELLOW MUSLIMS’ WORSHIP. fatwas. But you must understand that such zakat only transfers the value of your dollars to yourself. If you look beyond the fatwas and consider the economic impact, this is among the worst possible ways to give your zakat. If you like dawa and education, pay for it — with non-zakat dollars. ◆ Blanket Claims of “Zakat-Eligibility” Please beware of any Muslim charity that claims that all of its operations are zakat-eligible, for such blanket claims are absurd on their face no matter how many Islamic scholars claim otherwise. Is paying a $5,000 honorarium to a wealthy banquet speaker zakat-eligible? Was that grandfather clock displayed in the CEO’s office zakat-eligible? Every nonprofit, even those dedicated to the poor, have some line items in their expense account that are not zakat-eligible, unless you believe that zakat is a joke religious practice. Blanket claims of zakat eligibility happen in two places; one is deceptive, the other is obvious. To identify the first one, look at the donation button. If there is only one donation button and no statement that zakat is separated from other donations, the organization is indicating that all of its operations are zakat-eligible. The second and more deceptive practice is when the charity includes an option to donate zakat. This option is either coupled with an excessively wide zakat claim (like the ever-suspect fi sabilillah) or provides no explanation as to how it distributes zakat
differently from everything else it does. The whole pitch is limited to proclaiming that it is a wonderful organization that does fantastic work. As they are not transparent about a zakat policy, the separate donation buttons are often only for show.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A ZAKAT POLICY
If a large organization cannot be bothered to create a well-thought-out zakat policy, you should seriously consider donating elsewhere. Of course, zakat policies may vary in complexity, depending upon the organization’s activities and size. Suppose a local charity or mosque zakat committee tells you that all of the zakat collected is distributed among the local poor people instead of part of it being used to meet overhead expenses. That is an adequate zakat policy for a small organization, although it should publish this policy and be transparent about it. If the organization in question is a service organization or an educational institution, it may well — or should — have a much more elaborate zakat policy. You need to see who the actual beneficiaries are, or if the stated “zakat policy” is just another way of making everything zakat-eligible. If you want your zakat to benefit actual human beings in need, you should scrutinize every charity on that basis.
THIS OBLIGATION IS ON YOU
Zakat is your obligation and your worship. Unfortunately, Muslims often use the “proof ” from a scholar published on the nonprofit’s website as an excuse to turn off their brains. When you decide to fulfill your zakat obligation, always start by assessing the economic impact of your dollars. You can get into the weeds of fiqh all you want, but if you end up doing no more than just transferring part of your wealth from the affluent to the affluent, assume that you are probably doing it incorrectly. This is not aimed at discouraging paying zakat, but only to urge that observing zakat rules is important. And one is perfectly free to donate non-zakat funds to organizations and projects of choice. ih Ahmed Shaikh, co-author of “Estate Planning for the Muslim Client” (American Bar Association Publishing, 2019), is a Southern Californiabased estate planning attorney. He writes a newsletter focused on Muslim leadership and nonprofit issues at ehsan.substack.com. Note: A version of this article was originally published on inshaykhsclothing.com.
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 51
Legacy Planning in Islam Deeds of merit have a lasting reward BY M. YAQUB MIRZA
bservant Muslims seek to leave two types of legacies: those that will cause the family and kith and kin remember them positively and attain a higher status in the Afterlife. Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that, “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift for him” (“Sahih al-Bukhari”). Islam and Muslims want everyone to live with dignity, peace and honor. Regarding the piety-charity relationship, the Quran teaches: “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West, but to believe in God and the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your wealth, out of love for Him, for your kin, orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, those who ask, and to ransom slaves; to be steadfast in
prayer and practice regular charity; to fulfill your contracts; to be firm and patient in pain (or suffering), adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-conscious” (2:177). Islam outlines four ways to do this: zakat, sadaqa, bequests and voluntary gifts Zakat (Obligatory Charity). Those entitled to receive zakat or sadaqah are “the poor, the needy (destitute), zakat administrators, those whose hearts are to be reconciled, captives (those held in bondage), debtors, stranded travelers and in the cause of God” (9:60). The last category includes any Islamically permitted community welfare activity. Zakat is paid yearly out of one’s accumulated savings beyond one’s annual expenses. M. Umer Chapra comments, “The prescription of Zakah is a clear and unambiguous signal of the Divine desire to assure that
52 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2021
no one suffers because of lack of means to acquire the essential need-fulfilling goods and services (“Islam and the Economic Challenge,” 2016; p. 271). Sadaqa (Voluntary Charity). The Quran proclaims, “They ask how much they are to spend; Say: Whatever is beyond your needs” (2:219). The Prophet used to do this and place his faith in God as the best of the providers. Giving sadaqa while alive is a preferred act of devotion. Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri said, “It is better for a man to give a dirham as sadaqa during one’s lifetime, than to give a hundred at the time of his death” (“Readings on Charity and Kindness in Islam,” 2002, p. 19). Bequests. Islam advises Muslims to write their wills. Prophet Muhammad said a person who has something to bequest cannot sleep three nights without writing a will (“Sahih Bukhari,” vol. 4, book 51, hadith no. 1). Muslims can distribute up to 1/3 of their wealth (and more if the inheritors agree) for charitable purposes or to those who aren’t legal heirs. Islam also permits Muslims to transfer up to 1/3 of their wealth to a trusted individual(s) who can manage their financial resources judiciously. In his/her role of trustee, that
person ensures that this legacy is preserved and continued almost in perpetuity, “And do not entrust to those are weak in judgement the possession which God has placed in your charge [for the whole society], but provide sustenance therefrom, clothing for them, and speak to them kindly and fairly” (4:5). The Quran and Sunna contain specific inheritance rules that every observant Muslim must obey, unless the heirs voluntarily agree to a different arrangement or forego their rights to the inheritance.
literature. One hadith reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (radi Allahu ’anh) and cited as the prime source for Islamic legacy planning, reads, “When the human being dies, his deeds end except for three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him” (“Sahih Muslim,” 1631). Three categories could be understood today as investing in institutional charity, ideas and knowledge, as well as in human capital.
IF MUSLIMS WERE TO CALCULATE THEIR ZAKAT ACCURATELY AND DISTRIBUTE IT ON A CONSISTENT BASIS, IT COULD, ALONG WITH THE MONEY DONATED BY NON-MUSLIMS, ELIMINATE POVERTY AND ENABLE EVERYONE TO LIVE IN DIGNITY. Before they die, Muslims can give to whomever they want, keeping in mind the Prophet’s saying, “It is obligatory for a father to treat all his children (male and female) equally, especially in the matter of giving gifts” and “Fear God and be just towards your children” (“Sahih Muslim,” vol. 3, hadith no. 76). Voluntary Gifts. The Quran encourages sharing one’s wealth, “If other near of kin, orphans and needy are present at the time of division of inheritance give them something of it and speak to them kindly” (4:8-9). In addition to commanding inheritors to give to their relatives, the poor and needy family members or to orphans who are present when the inheritance is distributed, it also allows those who lack any legal claim (as inheritors) to be considered for charity. Thus, Islamic law ensures a wide distribution of inherited wealth. If Muslims were to calculate their zakat accurately and distribute it on a consistent basis, it could, along with the money donated by non-Muslims, eliminate poverty and enable everyone to live in dignity. If this were not possible, then God would have mandated higher percentages. In fact, history documents that at certain times in the past, Islamic societies had no people who were qualified to receive zakat.
Legacy planning is a Prophetic tradition detailed within the Quranic and the Hadith
“Perpetual charity” means to create an endowment (waqf). The Prophet said, “Endow it for the sake of God, so that it cannot be inherited or sold forever, and its produce would perpetually go to the poor, your relatives, for freeing slaves, sheltering wayfarers and the homeless, and in the way of God in general. And those who manage the land and work on it could also benefit from it with moderation” (“Sahih Bukhari,” vol. 4, book 51, hadith no. 33). Such acts may also include digging a well, planting a tree, feeding animals and birds, and treating or caring for the sick. Another hadith speaks of seven specific areas of perpetual charity: teaching knowledge, unblocking a (water) channel, digging a well, planting a tree, building a mosque (or a place of worship), bequeathing a book (leaving behind written knowledge) or leaving behind offspring who pray for the deceased parents.” In this hadith, teaching knowledge and bequeathing books are also parts of legacy planning. Specifically, we may encourage individuals to consider creating endowments that help elderly people, hospitalized people and nursing home residents have a better quality of life; taking care of animals at a shelter; improving local parks and playgrounds; establishing health clinics (especially in rural areas) and propagating and supporting preventive medicine; campaigning lighting along poorly lit streets; cleaning up trash on vacant lots
and highways; petitioning town leaders for more drinking fountains and public restrooms; and so on. According to the Prophet, knowledge is the second area of leaving behind a legacy. This means every kind of useful knowledge (‘ilm al-nafi’), not just religious knowledge. One is rewarded for the knowledge taught to others and left behind as books or educational institutions. Modern examples could be establishing an endowed chair at a university, equipping a science laboratory, buying books for local libraries, reading books or letters to the visually impaired, teaching computer skills to the elderly and rehabilitated inmates, providing counselling services, establishing diverse and inclusive scholarships, providing books and supplies to students and providing room and board to students residing at the college/ university campuses. The “offspring who pray for him,” includes both the biological children and the beneficiaries. Such projects could be creating an endowment that supports teaching justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion; providing money for teacher education, orphans and needy students, tutoring and mentoring programs; and adopting/ fostering a child living in another country. Mentoring students and investing in building their character, strong ethics and values is akin to the remark of John Wooden, an American basketball player and coach, “Ability can take you to the top, but it is your character which will keep you there” (John Wooden and Jack Tobi, “They Call Me Coach,” 1973, p. 153). A perpetual charity can also involve building collaborative projects, such as a $1 million university laboratory. The interested party — an investment club/group or a group of like-minded individuals or philanthropists — can ask friends to pool their donations so that the university will receive the allocated funds over a certain amount of time. The Quran teaches that people of different faiths should “compete with one another in doing good” (2:148), and the Prophet said, “The best good deed is the one done promptly” (“Sahih Muslim,” book 1, hadith no. 0213). ih M Yaqub Mirza, PhD, chairman, Amana Mutual Fund; member, Board of Trustees, Executive Committee, and Chair, Investment Committee, Shenandoah University, Winchester, Va. He is also author of “Five Pillars of Prosperity” (2014). Imtiyaz Yusuf, PhD, also contributed this article.
JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 53
Brotherhood Through Basketball A local league impresses talent and faith of all kinds through its organized, competitive hoops and an unshakeable brotherly bond BY HABEEBA HUSAIN
hen former and current NBA players stand on the sidelines of your basketball game — and even join in themselves — it’s clear you’ve got something special on your hands. Muslim Basketball, a men’s league that began in New Jersey 15 years ago, not only left a spectacular impression on its 1,400-plus unique players over the years, but also on the pros too. “I think it has great potential, great potential,” said former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf when he visited the league in 2013. “I’m really liking what I see.” In addition to Abdul-Rauf, many other Muslim and non-Muslim talents have graced the league’s courts. Former Seton Hall University starter and current head coach at Farleigh Dickinson University Marcus Toney-El, a former University of Pennsylvania two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, retired professional player overseas Ibrahim Jaaber and current NBA player Enes Kanter have all had a connection with Muslim Basketball. Kanter is the most recent. The current Portland Trail Blazer visited Muslim Basketball in 2019 through a joint event with SMILE for Charity, a nonprofit also based in New Jersey. The 6-foot-11-inch center’s visit was twofold. In the morning, he hosted a Q&A with the Muslim Basketball players in Parsippany and then competed in 54 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2021
a 3-point shootout with a longtime member of the league. “Our player actually won,” says 25-year-old Ibrahim Omar, who joined Muslim Basketball as a stats keeper in high school 10 years ago and currently serves as a commissioner/director. “We had [Kanter] hanging out in the crowd while our games were going on, watching … cheering, and players chatting with him on the sideline.” Kanter also sold some autographs, and the money raised went to SMILE for Charity to help combat poverty in the state. For the second part of the NBA player’s visit, Muslim Basketball organized a youth camp at nearby Passaic High School. One hundred kids, aged 6 to 17, participated. “He actually scratched our schedule and told us what to do,” laughs another commissioner/director, 36-year-old Edriss Froogh.
But it wasn’t always bright lights and big names. The humble beginnings of Muslim Basketball date back to the summer of 2005, when a group of friends gathered to play pickup games outdoors. As interest grew, they formalized the competition and launched the first season the following year. By 2007, these friends had established Muslim Basketball as a non-profit organization. Today the league is held in two states: the original New Jersey and in Whitehall, Pennsylvania. Players can expect competitive indoor games at their respective facil-
faces. Due to gym availability, the league needs to limit the number of teams and, unfortunately, sometimes has to turn players away. “We have very, very loyal players,” says Omar. “The kids who play in our league love it.” But due to the ongoing pandemic, the gyms look more like ghost towns. Muslim Basketball canceled its Winterball 2020 season right before their playoff games a year ago, following the example of the NBA. A year into lockdown, things are still a little uncertain. Omar explains that Muslim Basketball took three main points into consideration: government protocols, level of risk from a moral standpoint and comfort of players. Although at the time of writing the state had resumed most indoor sports, Muslim Basketball remains at that second point. “We’re still not comfortable as a league coming back yet and bringing that large level MUSLIM BASKETBALL WELCOMES ALL of measured risk to our players and their famINTERESTED PLAYERS INTO ITS LEAGUE. IN ITS ilies,” Omar says. Froogh and Omar are monitoring the vacciMOST RECENT SEASON, NEW JERSEY HOSTED 70% nation’s distribution and hope to reassess closer OF MUSLIM AND 30% OF NON-MUSLIM PLAYERS, to fall with the rest of the league’s Board of Directors and commissioners. WHILE PENNSYLVANIA WAS SPLIT 50-50. For now, the men get their basketball fix by watching pros like Kanter on the screen. As for their brotherhood fix, that comes through ity, electronic scoreboards, certified referees, jer- social media, phone calls and FaceTime. seys and highlights, as well as detailed individual “[The brotherhood] shows now during Covid-19 so much,” Froogh says. “Every and team statistics — all of which can be found on time I chat with a player … it’s like, ‘Bro I miss playing, but I miss being with the guys [even more].’ No one just came for their own game. You came and you stayed MuslimBasketball.org. But perhaps the most enticing thing the league for the two, three hours that everybody was playing.” has to offer is its brotherhood. Once it’s deemed completely safe, players can look forward to donning the “One [player] was telling me … how Muslim Muslim Basketball jersey once again. They’ll come for the competitive play, but they’ll stay for that special brothBasketball actually changed his life,” Omar says. “He wasn’t very close to the Muslim community. He didn’t erhood bond. ih have a connection to the masjid or anything like that. But when he started playing — that was his opportu- Habeeba Husain is a freelance journalist based in the New York tri-state area. She helps manage Muslim-run businesses WuduGear and Kamani. Her work has appeared in SLAM Magazine, WhyIslam.org and Narrative.ly, among other online nity to have Muslim friends and a real community.” and print publications. Muslim Basketball welcomes all interested players into its league. In its most recent season, New Jersey hosted 70% of Muslim and 30% of non-Muslim players, while Pennsylvania was split 50-50. A Good Deed Done Regularly! Due to this diverse makeup of players, the league has two unique responsibilities: “How well are we able to serve our community directly, first and foremost,” Omar explains. “And from there, how can we also capitalize on some opportunities to spread a good positive message of Islam, which we’ve realized has been more organic than anything — da‘wa by interaction.” For the then college-aged Froogh, Muslim Basketball provided an atmosphere in which he could play competitively and still be surrounded by those who shared his Islamic values. “I was asked to come in as a sub,” Froogh says about his initial interaction with the league in 2008. “Honestly, the first time I watched them even play I fell in love with the league — everything about it.” www.isna.net • (317) 839-8157 Froogh isn’t the only one who felt that way. Among the registrants each season, Muslim Basketball sees Convenient. Secure. Affordable. roughly 80% of players return as opposed to new
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JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 55
Do You Know What You Are Eating? A closer look at food fraud means buyers must learn to be vigilant BY MOHAMMAD ABDULLAH
isrepresentation, substitution, mislabeling and other methods of food fraud never stop. For example, as processing meat involves several steps, in 2013 people buying “beef ” in Europe were actually buying beef mixed with horsemeat. University of Guelph (Canada) researchers found that 20% of sausage samples collected from grocery stores nationwide were mislabeled and cross-species contaminated. The Oceana seafood fraud investigation report, which DNAtested 1,200+ samples from hundreds of U.S. retail locations, revealed that one third of the samples were mislabeled. In 2014, an Iowa food supplier was charged with selling $4.9 million worth of beef as “halal” (The Guardian, Dec. 15, 2014). Peterborough (U.K.)-based Dutch Bangla Ltd.’s 100+ tons of “halal lamb” was actually ground turkey (BBC News, March 9, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/ news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-39220397). Last December, The New Straits Times (Malaysia) unearthed a meat cartel that had been forging halal documents for beef for 40 years, even passing off horse/kangaroo meat as beef (www.nst. com.my/news/nation/2020/12/651322/cartel-crackdown-neither-beef-nor-halal). Such scandals should also be a wakeup call for those who give blanket acceptance of consuming meats and foods of the People of the Book (Ahle-Kitab). According to the Interpol’s July 22, 2020 “Operation Opson,” more than $40 million worth of potentially dangerous fake food and drink was seized, involving 19 organized crime groups and the arrest of 407 individuals worldwide (www.interpol.int/en/News-and-Events/News/2020/Food-fraud-in-times-of-COVID-19). The FDA defines food fraud as “economically motivated adulteration” (EMA). Simply put, food fraud is committed when you find out that the food you purchased is inauthentic — it’s not what you paid for. According to another report, higher-value fish (e.g., red snapper, catfish, and salmon) are substituted with cheaper and more abundant fish. Extra virgin olive oil is often blended with cheaper oils (www.newyorker.com/search/q/errico/ page/2/r,n; Tom Mueller, “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil,” 2011). Honey is adulterated with high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners. Orange juice is watered down. Color additives, such as Sudan red dye, 56 ISLAMIC HORIZONS JULY/AUGUST 2021
are added to enhance the color of poor quality paprika. Melamine is added to diluted milk to increase protein contents (www.foodsafety-experts.com/food-safety/ food-fraud-prevention/). Today, food fraud is a global business worth more than $50 billion annually. The Grocery Manufacturers of America estimates that the annual EMA cost in the U.S. ranges between $10 to $15 billion. It remains a significant issue for food processors. The 2019 Food Safety Insight survey revealed that 36% of U.S./Canada and 33% of international food processors consider EMA a significant issue. For combined U.S./Canada and international food producers, 15% reported detecting food fraud in their supply chains, and 29% currently use analytical testing to detect it. Food commodities for which EMA was a significant issue were spices (56%), seafood (44%), beverages (42%), meat (36%), dairy products (35%), fruit and vegetables (31%) and grains and milled products (24%) (https:// fsns.com/news/an-update-on-food-fraud). The requirements for regulatory compliance on mitigating vulnerability generally focus on food safety, not religious dietary requirements. One 2019 survey presented in the Journal of Food Science identified overall food fraud as a “food safety” issue (86%) and “food fraud” issue (50%) (pubmed.ncbi.nlm. nih.gov/31546281/). Consequently, many such incidents go undetected or unreported because they usually don’t result in a food safety risk and consumers often may not see the quality problem. This is especially relevant to halal meat consumers, who generally look at the “halal” logo and not necessarily at the product’s quality attributes. Those who have become more conscious about what they consume and want to purchase halal “grass-fed” or halal “certified-organic” meats may not find these products in the ethnic grocery stores and supermarkets, although they do carry halal fresh, frozen and Ready-to-Eat (RTE) meat and poultry products. The paradox is that some of the plants that produce conventional “grass-fed” or conventional “certified-organic” meats may be halal accredited and produce halal meat on an as-needed basis. A while back, after reading an article about “certified-organic” in LinkedIn, I wondered why halal “certified-organic” beef is unavailable. So far, my post has been viewed
270+ times, but I’m still waiting for even one response to my concern. Europol, Interpol and even some halal certification organizations often urge consumers to remain vigilant. And for good reason — in 2007, melamine that had been inserted into pet food killed many dogs and cats in the U.S. The real need, however, is a comprehensive program for food producers and distributors to mitigate the food fraud pandemic. Consumers don’t know if their food comes from a dubious source,
of halal meat. But if an observant Muslim consumer is asked about the most important thing when buying a meat product, the answer — authentic halal — would be second to none. The need for transparency to increase consumer trust in safe, nutritious and authentic foods has never been greater. However, this has become a challenging task for the food industry and its regulators. The current system seems to lack the resources to adequately combat food fraud. Some question the fragmented oversight responsibilities by various government agencies or think that these agencies play a double role. For example, the USDA helps livestock farmers make their business profitable, but is also responsible for enforcing food safety regulations that may be unfavorable to the industry’s bottom line. Similarly, the FDA has a “Standard of Identity” for “Meat,” “Milk,” ” “Butter” and “Yogurt”; however, it FOOD FRAUD AND THE CONTROVERSIAL NATURE “Cheese, also allows the production of plant-based prodOF SOME FOOD INGREDIENTS UNDERSCORE ucts such as “Almond Milk,” “Peanut Butter” and “Beyond Beef ” (https://fsns.com/news/ THE FACT THAT MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE an-update-on-food-fraud). PAYING CLOSER ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY EAT. The perpetrators of food fraud are organized crime groups that take advantage of this situaIT’S ALL ABOUT ENSURING AUTHENTICITY. tion. Consumers need a global food fraud prevention strategy that focuses beyond food safety. Regulatory agencies are acting. A Canadian as they don’t know exactly what terms like “natural Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) study determined the cross-contamination baseline flavor” refer to. For instance, The New Scientist, April for working with meat processors to achieve a transparent food supply (“University 7, 2021, reported that the long search for a natu- of Guelph Conducts First-Ever Sausage Mislabeling Study,” Food Control, Aug. ral alternative to artificial [petrochemicals-based] 4, 2017; https://news.uoguelph.ca/2017/08/sausage-study/). The U.S. Food Safety blue food coloring (Brilliant Blue FCF or E133) may Modernization Act (FSMA) requires food processors to take a comprehensive look have come to an end, with Pamela Denish and her at the entire supply chain and focus more on preventing, rather than responding University of California team discovering a blue pig- to, contamination incidents. FSMA also includes requirements for “food defense” ment in cabbage (https://www.newscientist.com/ designed to prevent malicious adulteration to prevent incidences such as the article/2273889). bioterror attack on restaurant salad bars in The Dalles, Ore., carried out by a Case in point: In 2001, because of a lawsuit that Baghwan Shree Rajneesh cultist during the early 1980s that sickened 751 people alleged deceptive use of beef flavoring by McDonald’s, (“The Secret’s in the Sauce: Bioterror at the Salsa Bar,” http://www.slate.com). Also, some states are taking action. California requires farmers market venthe company contradicted its previous claims that it uses 100% vegetable oil for its French fries by stat- dors to display the farm’s name, location and the statement, “We grow what we ing that it has always used beef flavoring, a “natural sell.” Violators are fined. flavor” that, by law, doesn’t have to be declared (https:// Some companies are using blockchain tracking of a food product’s journey cbsnews.com/news/mcdonalds-settles-beef-over- through the supply chain to pinpoint where the fraud occurs. Moreover, new fries/). Subway was also sued for fraud as regards its detection techniques continue to evolve to combat honey fraud, prevent spices tuna sandwiches (https://www.foodandwine.com/ (herb) adulteration and analyze the quality and authenticity of edible oils. The news/subway-tuna-lawsuit). government is also taking steps to regulate food sold online (www.newfoodmagFood fraud and the controversial nature of some azine.com>topic>food-fraud). food ingredients underscore the fact that more and Advancement continues. The makers of a new rapid testing technology more people are paying closer attention to what they claim that in less than 5 years, consumers will be able to hold a scanner that can eat. It’s all about ensuring authenticity. tell them their food’s entire molecular makeup (www.foodfraudadvisors.com/ Eating nourishing food keeps the body and mind preventing-food-fraud-testing-is-not-the-answer/). healthy during stressful times. Your concern that the However, adulteration remains hard to detect unless you know what you’re foods and beverages that you routinely consume may looking for. For example, DNA testing can determine if the “Pure Beef Patty not contain the ingredients that you think they do Mix” product is made from a cow, but not whether it contains undeclared PDCB (Partially Defatted Chopped Beef), let alone how the cow was slaughtered. is not idle. In 2017, after my Friday khutba at the Islamic There is no simple and quick cure for this fundamentally complex centuCenter of Guelph about the importance of eating ries-old global problem. However, Muslims need to stay informed. Meanwhile, halal food, stressing that halal-meat purveyors should recognizing the pandemic’s continuing stressors, buyers should purchase better provide more information to consumers, not surpris- quality meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as unprocessed foods, whenever ingly one person said doing so would further raise possible to bolster their immune system. ih the genre’s already high price. Such a perspective is Mohammad Abdullah, DVM, MS, MPH, deputy district manager (ret.) USDA-FSIS is author of “A Closer Look at Halal Meat: often at odds with how some of us conceive the issue From Farm to Fork” (2016). JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 57
Sohaib Nazeer Sultan Embraced Life & Spread Care 1980-2021
© HARTFORD SEMINARY
haplain Sohaib Nazeer Sultan, 40, Princeton’s first full-time Muslim Life Coordinator and Chaplain, passed away on April 16 after battling for a year a rare and aggressive form of bile duct cancer. A graduate of Hartford Seminary and Trinity College’s first Muslim chaplain, Princeton recruited Sohaib in 2008. He was only the nation’s second institutionally supported Muslim chaplain. At Princeton, he developed the well-regarded Muslim Life Program as an extended community. His soft manners and sensitivity toward everyone’s spiritual growth, with kindness and a smiling welcome, has set a standard for what chaplaincy is all about. Sohaib received his cancer diagnosis a few weeks before Ramadan 2020. Knowing that his disease was terminal, he wrote openly and frequently about what he faced and what he looked forward to in ways that reflected his gentleness and compassion even in his pain — his concern for others, profoundly about the meaning of life here and in the hereafter, what he valued in life and how his passing was only a transition he was ready for. Sohaib wrote frequently on social media and spoke about his illness “But, al hamdu lillah,” he said, “upon receiving the diagnosis, an immediate calm, peace and acceptance came into my heart. Upon interrogating and having the feeling interrogated, I just felt even more contentment with God’s decree. Slowly, I saw that same peace enter into the heart of my family.” He wrote about his patience in his pain, “Cancer has taught me something very profound about the Quranic encouragement to aspire to ‘beautiful patience’ (sabran jameela). To hold myself back from negative thoughts and feelings and push myself toward positivity when experiencing so much physical distress has opened my eyes as to why prophetic patience is as praised in the Quran. To smile and to try to be cheerful through it all is a valuable lesson that this companion is teaching me” (https://medium.
since his undergraduate days at Indiana University Bloomington and then followed him to Hartford. A public lecturer and writer on Islam, Muslim cultures, and Muslim-Western relations, Sohaib was a highly regarded and visible figure in the Muslim American community. He traveled around the U.S., the Middle East and Europe to promote mutual respect and understanding. Known for his compassionate outlook on life inspired by his faith, Sohaib was well regarded as an active bridge-builder between Muslims and other faith communities.
com/@seekingilham/life-lessons-livingwith-cancer-49940fbd3754). Born in North Carolina and raised in Indiana, Sohaib graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism and political science. Writing and communicating with clarity, simplicity and passion became his hallmark. His compassion, care and a keen sense of what matters in life ran through his frequent writings. His first book, “The Koran for Dummies,” translated in a few other languages (Wiley, 2004), was followed by his “The Qur’an and Sayings of Prophet Muhammad: Selection Annotated and Explained” (Skylight Paths, 2007). He authored many articles for TIME Online, the Huffington Post and other publications. But journalism was not his career to be. He was called to a higher calling. Motivated by Dr. Ingrid Mattson (a former president, ISNA; founder, Islamic Chaplaincy Program, Hartford Seminary), Sohaib chose the path he was destined for. He graduated from Hartford in 2010 with a master’s thesis on “Preaching with Purpose: Writing and Delivering Great Sermons.” Every word in the title was a window to his brilliant future. Soon after his graduation, PBS filmed him among eight chaplains of different faiths in a four-part documentary, “The Calling” (2010). They recognized the trailblazing nature of his calling and his growing role in the American interfaith experience and in the Muslim community, significantly through ISNA. The crew had followed him
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Sohaib’s career was remarkable. Just this year Princeton honored him as one of six recipients of its President’s Achievement Award for “commitment to excellence and exceptional performance.” Rev. Paul Raushenbush (then associate dean of religious life, Princeton) considered hiring his as chaplain a “singular honor” and added that “Sohaib brought his kind heart, deep spirit and welcoming smile into every room, and made life better at Princeton not only for Muslims but for every student, staff and faculty member. His presence in my life was a gift that I am forever grateful for.” Alison Boden (dean of religious life and the chapel, Princeton) said, “Sohaib built a wonderful and caring Muslim community at Princeton, and he often said that this fact provided his greatest sense of joy and accomplishment in his work.” New Jersey governor Phil Murphy shared his condolences on Twitter, recalling how Sohaib had delivered the call to prayer during a 2018 iftar at the Governor’s Mansion, “A giant within the community, he’ll always be remembered for his deep faith [and] selflessness.” Joel N. Lohr (president, Hartford Seminary) offered these words, “Our dear brother and friend Chaplain Sohaib Sultan was such a powerful presence at Hartford Seminary as a student and then as an alum. He never turned down a request to visit and to educate our students about what it means to be a chaplain. He was a gift from our Maker and he will be sorely missed. The Association of Muslim Chaplains has requested that we plant a tree on our grounds that will remind everyone of Chaplain Sultan’s important legacy, and we are honored to do so.”
IN THE WORLD OF MUSLIM CHAPLAINCY
Sohaib’s associates acknowledged an irreplaceable loss and celebrated a life well lived. “I am afraid to think of the world without Sohaib,” said Dr. Timur Yuskaev (co-director, Islamic Chaplaincy Program; associate professor, Contemporary Islam). “Thank God I do not have to. Thank you, Sohaib, for helping Sohaib and Arshe with daughter Radiyya so many of us lower our voices in the Nusayba Ahmed-Sultan presence of the Creator. Thank you, Sohaib, for balancing us as we walk through this world. We love you. As one of our teachers would say, see you on the other side of forever.” “When the elect of Muslim chaplains in the field close their eyes and say ‘chaplain,’ Sohaib Sultan immediately comes to mind,” said Dr. Bilal Ansari (co-director, Islamic Chaplaincy Program; faculty associate, Muslim Pastoral Theology). “If your eyes never met him or ears have yet to hear his words, then know he was a gentle and kind chaplain. It was love at first sight 16 years ago for me, and I long to see him in the highest company, God willing.” “Sohaib was my companion and kindred spirit,” said his close friend Chaplain Khalil Abdullah (Muslim advisor, Dartmouth College). “During the past few months, we spoke often. He always listened deeply and gently guided me, and so many others, with sage wisdom and compassion. He cared about human beings and their happiness, no matter who or where they were on their spiritual journey. He wanted nothing more than to serve his family, friends and community with humility and a joyful heart.” “Sohaib is one of the most gentle people I’ve ever met, and it truly is a privilege to be able to call him a friend,” said Chaplain Khalid Latif (university chaplain, NYU; executive director, ICNYU). “He possessed a character rooted in compassion and was a trailblazer for so many of us who followed in his footsteps as Muslim chaplains. He built a remarkable community and has benefited thousands ma sha’ Allah. He also was just a really kind person — just a real sincere brother who was so genuine and full of a light that illuminated so many of us.” Sohaib once stated that 40 years was a lifetime when well lived. In a YouTube conversation he said there was rahmat (grace or mercy) in accepting death, “Nobody wants to leave this world, there are too many attachments. … Whether you’re 40, or 80, or 120, you never want to leave, but at some point, you’ve to leave. … That is the way God has decreed the world to be.” Chaplain Sohaib Nazeer Sultan was an outstanding chaplain by any standard. The lives he touched and transformed testify to his unique place in Divine Purpose. His grace in living life was matched only by his grace in meeting death.
His father Dr. Talat Sultan, who had served as ISNA director of education, is founder-president of ICNA (1968-75, 2003-05), and a former president of AMSS (1979-81). Sohaib is survived by his wife Arshe Ahmed and daughter Radiyya Nusayba Ahmed-Sultan (4): parents Talat and Amra; his sister Sohaira and her children, Ayyoob Saeed and Rumaysa Saeed; and his brother-in-law Ahmed Elaswad. Sohaib’s friends have set up The Imam Sohaib Sultan Family Trust for his family (LaunchGood.com/Imam-Sohaib-Sultan-Family-Trust), and The Imam Sohaib Sultan Charitable Fund to build upon his work and further his vision to support Muslim chaplaincy programs and students (LaunchGood.com/ Imam-Sohaib-Sultan-Charitable-Fund). ih Contributed by Iqbal J. Unus (board chair, TISA; board member, ISNA), is a 50-year friend of the Sultan family.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan A Scholar and Seeker of Peace 1925–2021
aulana Wahidduddin Khan, an Indiabased Islamic scholar and peace activist, passed away in New Delhi from Covid-19 complications on April 21. He was well known for his exhaustive scholastic Islamic work that rendered the Quran’s meaning in simple English. His writings also explored the Quran and the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) life. In 1976 he established an Islamic publication house in New Delhi and launched his famous Al Risala monthly magazine. However, what most attracted me was his unique — and sometimes controversial, but nevertheless very popular — philosophy about God, humanity and this world. His first Al Risala article was so thought provoking that I couldn’t believe he was an Islamic scholar with his own convincing philosophy. It was about his journey from Istanbul to Mumbai. As far as I remember, one could summarize his philosophy as follows. “I was flying from Istanbul to Mumbai and looking out the window. I wondered how the aircraft was flying. I knew the mechanical theory of propeller jet engines, and yet I was having second thoughts. Surely, a force behind those engines was pushing the aircraft. That force had been created by God Almighty. God states in the Quran that He created humanity and jinn, assigned duties to them and kept a veil between the two creations. So, might the jinn have been assigned to carry out such a hidden task?” His words were striking jewels in each narration enriched with guidance from the Quran and Hadith. A few of his quotes are worth remembering, among them “Knowledge (education) makes a human, and knowledge is the only authentic way to develop humanity.” In 1993 he asked Muslims to relinquish their claim to the site of the 600-year-old Babri Masjid, which was demolished by Hindu mobs led by many of those now heading the fascist Bharatiya Janata Party government. He wrote, “On Dec. 6, 1992, in India, a group of Hindu zealots demolished the Babri Masjid. If the Muslims at the time had thought that Sultan [Mahmud of Ghazni] had demolished Somnath’s Hindu temple in 1001 and that this was an act of revenge, it would JULY/AUGUST 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 59
IN MEMORIAM have fostered a positive, realistic and result-oriented attitude among them. But instead, under unwise leadership, they indulged in futile negative activities that proved to be counterproductive” [author’s translation]. After the mosque’s destruction, Khan embarked on an interfaith peace march through south India’s Maharashtra state. In 2012, when the YouTube movie “Innocence of Muslims” ignited Muslim passions worldwide, he reminded Muslims that it’s better to ignore evil, citing Caliph Umar’s (radi Allahu ‘anh) that “kill a lie by keeping quiet about it.” Khan also recited 14:26: “An evil word is like an evil tree torn out of the earth; it has no foothold.” And in his own way he succeeded. In an Al Risala article, he wrote that he was once invited to an interfaith gathering in Mumbai chaired by the then deputy prime minister LK Advani. Looking at the large crowd, he looked at his watch and asked if everyone would allow him to pray the Maghrib prayer, as it must be done in time. Advani nodded, and Khan prayed on the stage. He later reminisced that had been totally silent while he was praying. To him, this meant everyone had respected his prayer. This was the fearless, frank and honest scholar who respected other faiths and earned respect for himself. He was listed in the “500 Most Influential Muslims” of the world; received the Demiurgus Peace International Award, under the patronage of Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev; the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian honor; the National Citizens’ Award, presented by Mother Teresa (2000); and the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award (2009). In January 2021 he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honor. Khan also authored 200+ books on Islam, prophetic wisdom, spirituality and coexistence in a multi-ethnic society, as well on Islam’s relations with modernity and secularism. Among them are “Indian Muslims: The Need for a Positive Outlook,” “Islam Rediscovered: Discovering Islam from its Original Sources” and “The Issue of Blasphemy.” He is survived by two sons and two daughters. ih Contributed by Abdul Q. Siddiqui, editor, Research In Islam YouTube channel, Chicago.
Abdul Aziz Said
A Leading Peace Studies Scholar 1930-2021
bdul Aziz Said (Al Ishak), PhD, director emeritus of the American University Center for Global Peace, died on Jan. 22 at his home in Washington, D.C. The Syrian-born Said, whose father, a Nationalist [Orthodox] Christian member of parliament exiled by the French, spoke about resolving political conflicts without violence. His conviction can be traced back to his own grief brought on by his experience of living as a boy in a war zone. In 1939, 9-year-old Said was living in a northeastern Syrian village as the country struggled against French occupation. One day he was playing soccer when a boy told him that his little brother was hurt. Said followed him to where 3-year-old Riyad, who had been fatally struck by a French military truck, lay bleeding in the street. Decades later, Said often told his students that he could still remember the taste of his brother’s blood in his mouth as he carried the body home. In 1995 Said established the Center for Global Peace as part of American University’s School of International Service (SIS), the department where he taught international relations for 59 years until his retirement in 2015 — the university’s longest-serving tenured professor. A gifted and beloved teacher who attracted international students, his mentees included such peace activists and leaders as Germany’s Green Party founder Petra Kelly (SIS/BA ‘70). In addition, Said created AU’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution master’s degree program (1995) and wrote or co-wrote 25 books, including “Islam and Peacemaking in the Middle East” (2008), “Toward a Global Community: Sufism and World Order” (2014), “Concepts of International Politics in Global Perspective” (co-authored with then-SIS dean Charles O. Lerche Jr., 1963) and “Ethnicity and U.S. Foreign Policy” (1977). He became a go-to expert for U.S. ambassadors to Syria and Foreign Service officers
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with the State Department’s Near East Affairs Bureau. He served on the State Department’s Future of Iraq project (early 2000s), the White House Committee on the Islamic World (1980) and the boards of nearly three dozen organizations (e.g., the editorial boards of the Human Rights Quarterly journal and the International Journal of Nonviolence, as well as the board of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, a Washington-based research group). After attending schools in Cairo and Beirut, Said came to Washington in 1950 to study at AU. A triple Eagle — SIS/BS ‘54, SIS/MA ‘55, SIS/ PhD ‘57, he became one of the original SIS faculty members. In 1996 he became the first holder of the Mohamed Said Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace, an endowed university chair that focuses on the study of Islam and peace. Over the decades, he participated in civil rights marches and demonstrations against the Vietnam War and South African apartheid. In the late 1950s he served as the faculty adviser of an AU chapter of Phi Epsilon Pi, a fraternity started by Jewish students who had been excluded from other Greek organizations. Sayyid M. Syeed, PhD, a former ISNA president, reminisced that even though Said was born a Christian, his appreciation and defense of Islam was strong. He was very supportive of Muslims and their constructive role in the U.S. and abroad. Syeed recalled that during the Iraq war, when Muslim stereotyping was rampant, Said took a stand and made a positive statement. He nursed the newly emerging discipline, conflict resolution, and Islam’s potential role in it. In her remembrance, SIS Dean Christine BN Chin quotes Said, “Peace is not only an absence of violence, but a presence of justice, a presence of equality, and a presence of cooperation.” Said’s marriages to Lucille Brousseau and Elizabeth Schmucker ended in divorce. In addition to his third wife of 37 years, Elena Turner (SIS/BA ‘82), survivors include son Riyad from his first marriage and son Jamil from his second marriage, along with six sisters, a brother and two grandchildren. ih [Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/abdul-aziz-said-dead/2021/04/02/8eb8f904-93df11eb-bb49-5cb2a95f4cec_story.html; https://www.american.edu/sis/remembering-abdul-aziz-said.cfm]
NEW RELEASES Essential Writings Ismail Al Faruqi Imtiyaz Yusuf, ed. (Foreword by Anwar Ibrahim) 2021. Pp. $15.00 Center for Islam in the Contemporary World, Shenandoah University, Winchester, Va. mtiyaz Yusuf’s collection is a tribute and insight into the scholarship and perspective of Ismail Al Faruqi, a trailblazer of what he called “Islamics” or “Islamic studies” in the modern age. He placed a special focus on studying Islam from the perspective of phenomenology, the history of religions and interreligious dialogue. Al Faruqi was one of the major Muslim scholars and teachers of Islamic studies during the late-20th century. He established the program of Islamic studies section within Temple University’s Department of Religion. In 1986, this dedicated Palestinian American scholar and mentor to a generation of students both in the U.S. and overseas, many of whom he recruited and supported, and his wife were murdered in their home. Yusuf ’s compilation represents a great effort to preserve Al Faruqi’s thought for future generations.
Determined to Stay: Palestinian Youth Fight for Their Village Jody Sokolower 2021. Pp. 230. PB. $20.00 One Branch Press, Northampton, Mass. his is a moving story of Palestinian residents defending their village of Silwan, located just outside of the Old City of Jerusalem’s ancient walls. As Silwani youth and community members share their lives with us, their village becomes an easily accessible way to understand the Palestinian peoples’ history and current reality. Written with young people in mind, the richly illustrated text stresses connections between the lives of youth in the U.S. and Palestine: the criminalization of youth, forced relocations, the impact of colonialism on Indigenous communities, efforts to bury history and inspiring examples of resistance and resilience. Human rights attorney Noura Erakat rightly says that this is a mustread book for all ages, one that fills a critical gap in the standard U.S. curricula.
The Flying Man, Aristotle, and the Philosophers of the Golden Age of Islam: Their Relevance Today Akbar Ahmed 2021. Pp. 128. HB. $16.95 amana publications, Ellicott City, Md. kbar Ahmed, a professor and former diplomat, analyzes the legacies of some of Islam’s greatest medieval philosophers and examines the impact of the Islamic Golden Age’s achievements on the Jewish and Christian philosophical traditions. Citing Ibn Arabi, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Sina and al-Ghazali, he introduces readers to the deep philosophical and religious issues that preoccupied them — primarily reconciling divine revelation (as represented by Islam) and ancient Greek philosophy, which emphasized human rationality and logic. In his remarks, Dr. Husein ef. Kavazović (grand mufti, the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina) brilliantly places Ahmed’s mission, “You are making the world a much better place by bringing people together from a deep vantage point rather than just superficial agreements.” This is a book that needs to be considered as the world seeks to build a better future after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fiqh of Social Media: Timeless Islamic Principles for Navigating the Digital Age Omar Usman 2020. Pp. 103. PB. $14.99 Independently Published ocial media and digital technologies have changed our lives, and there is no indication that things will slow down. For Muslims, Islam contains the perfect guidance for humanity to follow. This book focuses on how to implement that timeless advice in our unprecedented times.
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Past scholars have written on the adab of speech and social interaction. Usman, a technology consultant, helps connect those guidelines with the modern world of social media by dealing with the tough questions of how it impacts our life. Pluralism in Islamic Contexts: Ethics, Politics and Modern Challenges Mohammed Hashas, ed. 2021. Pp. 261. HB. $89.00 Springer Nature Switzerland, Cham, Switzerland his compilation of works by international scholars of Islamic philosophy, theology and politics examines various major questions: What is pluralism’s place in Islam’s founding texts? How have Sunnis and Shi’as interpreted sacred and prophetic texts throughout Islamic intellectual history? How does contemporary Islamic thought treat religious and political diversity in modern nation states and in societies in transition? How is pluralism dealt with in modern major and minor Islamic contexts? How does modern political Islam deal with pluralism in the public sphere? What are the major internal and external challenges to pluralism in Islamic contexts? Case studies cover Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia and Thailand, along with internal references to other contexts.
The Orphans of Kashmir Ammar Habib 2021. Pp. 295. PB. $14.99. Kindle: $4.99 Independently Published his novel is a coming-of-age story set in the backdrop of the sufferings in Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. In an over-politicized world, this work seeks to humanize the state’s Muslim Kashmiri inhabitants and to put more spotlight on the human rights injustices they have suffered at the hands of New Delhi. This book isn’t about the region’s politics and history, but about its people and humanity’s unbreakable spirit.
Boy, Everywhere A. M. Dassu 2021. Pp. 400. HB. $19.95. Ebook. $9.99 Lee & Low Books, New York, N.Y. his book, written for middle schoolers and based on the experiences of real Syrian refugees, chronicles their harrowing journey and struggle to settle in a new land. Forced to sell all their belongings and leave their friends and grandmother behind, Sami and his family travel to Turkey, where they end up in a smuggler’s den. From there, they manage to cross the treacherous Mediterranean and fly to England, only to be separated and detained in an immigration prison for the “crime” of seeking asylum. The transition from refugee to immigrant will be the greatest challenge that Sami has ever faced.
LALA Comics: The Hilarious Encounters of a Muslimah Learning Her Deen Umm Sulayman 2021. Pp. 128. PB. $16.95 Tughra Books, Clifton, N.J. ala, like most Muslim children, goes through life with her family learning and trying her best to get closer to God. What’s different about her is that she gets into some quite peculiar, but hilarious, situations. Created for middle school children, this compilation of stories teaches and reminds its readers of simple Islamic teachings.
Granny, Where Does Allah Live? Yasmin Kamal (illus. Citra Lani) 2021. (Ages 4-8). Pp. 32. HB. $12.95 Tughra Books, Clifton, N.J. he story of two inquisitive children on a journey wanting to understand Allah better and learning from the wisdom shared by their charming Granny along the way. ih
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