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MARCH/APRIL 2018/1439 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET


Faith-Based Education Works


VOL. 47 NO. 2  MARCH/APRIL 2018 visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET


Faith-Based Education Works


Reclaiming an Islamic Core Value

Islamic Schools: Healing for the Soul 28 

40 You Can Never Cook the Devil Out

48 They Are Our Responsibility

57 Indonesia’s Female Ulama Want Public Recognition for their Contributions

DEPARTMENTS 6 8 16 60 61

Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters New Releases Food for the Spirit

DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Jay Willoughby. The views expressed in Islamic Horizons are not necessarily the views of its editors nor of the Islamic Society of North America. Islamic Horizons does not accept unsolicitated articles or submissions. All references to the Quran made are from The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD.


Reorienting Our Hearts and Minds


Educators Take a Field Trip to Finland


Art: A Unique Form of Da’wah


Bleakness After Revival Islamic Education in Taiwan: A State of Emergency

FEATURES 38 Religious Exemption is No Bar to Animal Welfare 42  N.Y. Muslims’ Businesses Solve Everyday Problems

NATIONAL AFFAIRS 44  Loyal Customers Can Be as Naughty as they Like to Be 46 Is the Muslim Ban Becoming an Africa Ban?


The Center That Keeps on Giving Imams, State Agencies and Law Enforcement

MUSLIMS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA 54  Actual Peace Remains Elusive in Thailand’s Far South 56 Muslim-Buddhist Intermarriage in Cambodia

OP-ED 59  Muslim Americans Also Have Much at Stake in Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court Case



An Initiative That Keeps on Giving


he small beginning made by ISNA in 2000 to create a platform for teachers and administrators of Islamic schools to gather, exchange ideas and experiences continues to grow. The emphasis on education can be traced back to ISNA’s roots in its founding organization, the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada (now MSA National). The continent’s first Islamic school — an MSA initiative — has been joined by many more that continue to flourish across North America, graduating achievers and leaders. Considering the logistics, ISNA — now working alongside the Council of Islamic Schools in North America — initiated a West Coast Education Forum, which concluded its 7th annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif., during January 2018. Today, ISNA’s education forums on the west coast and in Chicago are important annual events for Muslim educators and administrators. Not only do they provide professional growth, high quality educational materials, pertinent training, networking opportunities and motivation for improvement, but they also bring together hundreds of full-time Islamic school teachers, administrators and board members to discuss and exchange ideas about how to develop and grow Islamic educational institutions in America. The Muslim American cultural paradigm presents unique challenges. Our community’s efforts to combine academic excellence with an emphasis on Islamic morals have proved very fruitful. Having survived the initial challenges of galvanizing the necessary community support to establish a school, Islamic schools are now determining the most effective means of building curricula

and programs that will strengthen these two goals. These schools continue to build on every level to enable their students to succeed in a competitive and increasingly multicultural and interdependent world. The ISNA Education Forum has striven to be a major platform for this critical endeavor. The theme for the West Coast Forum, “Moving from Good to Great,” was right on target. The 19th Annual ISNA Education Forum, “Faith-Based Education: A Source for Hope and Healing Islamophobia,” will be held during March 30-April 1 in Chicago. This year’s Education Forum sought to guide educators in addressing their students’ spiritual and academic needs. The theme draws on the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) reminder that he relayed in his Farewell Sermon, “I leave with you two sources, the Qur’an and my Sunnah…” As this editorial was being written, the U.S. experienced its first fatal school shooting of 2018 — the shooting in western Kentucky by a 15-year-old. It was also the nation’s 11th act of gun violence in the first month of the new year. Gun violence, refugee displacement and dysfunctional families impact the lives of our school children every day, either directly or indirectly. Thus educators are constantly doing their best to provide them with a safe, supportive learning environment, one that maintains hope and promotes healing. This envisioned environment comes from the Quran and Sunnah, which provide our educators with all the tools they need to cultivate simultaneously their students’ spirit and mind for success. The two annual education forums are yet more opportunities to discuss and share such initiatives and how to instill them within our children.  ih


PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Azhar Azeez INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Habibe Ali EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Faryal M Khatri EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed, Habibe Ali, Faryal Khatri ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2018 All rights reserved Reproduction, in whole or in part, of this material in mechanical or electronic form without written permission is strictly prohibited. Islamic Horizons magazine is available electronically on ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch, LexisNexis, and EBSCO Discovery Service, and is indexed by Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Please see your librarian for access. The name “Islamic Horizons” is protected through trademark registration ISSN 8756‑2367 POSTMASTER Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual, domestic – $24 Canada – US$30 Overseas airmail – US$60 TO SUBSCRIBE Contact Islamic Horizons at (317) 839‑8157 / (317) 839‑1811 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108,, Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distribution) Sales Agreement No. 0666300 CORRESPONDENCE Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email:



Dr. Julie Belz

ISNA has appointed Dr. Julie Belz and Dr. Asra Ali to its Executive Committee. And, after an almost unanimous vote, its general body adopted the proposed amendments to the organization’s Bylaws/Constitution. These became effective on January 1, 2018. The other members are ISNA President Azhar Azeez, ISNA Vice President–USA Dr. Altaf Husain and ISNA Vice President– Canada Pervez Nasim. Azeez announced: “I am very pleased to welcome two very talented and highly accomplished sisters to our new executive committee. ISNA will tremendously benefit from their knowledge, wisdom and experience. This is a turning point for the organization. We remain grateful and indebted to the dedicated commitment and service of generations of leaders and organizations who fostered the organization to what it is today.” Husain, who also is chair of the Strategic Reorganization and Planning Committee (SRPC), noted: “The adoption of the proposed amendments is a historic and momentous milestone.”

Dr. Asra Ali

Belz, an associate professor of applied linguistics, English, and world languages and cultures at Indiana University, also directs the Graduate Certificate Program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Her academic expertise lies in intercultural communication, second language acquisition, foreign language education and discourse analysis. Ali has worked as a dentist in the Chicago area for several years. Before joining the Dental Institute as a clinical faculty member and assistant professor, she was as an adjunct faculty member in the preclinical program of Midwestern University’s College of Dental Medicine, Illinois. She is a member of the American Dental Association, the Illinois State Dental Society, the Chicago Dental Society and the CMDS Dental study club. Belz remarked: “I am humbled by the opportunity to serve on ISNA’s Executive Committee. My main focus is collaborating with my board colleagues to improve the quality and reach of ISNA’s community

programming, especially in the areas of poverty relief, youth development, Islamic chaplaincy and interfaith relations.” Ali said: “I’d first like to commend ISNA’s leadership and members on the adoption of the new bylaws. This is a momentous step forward in the history of the organization. I’m honored to serve as a member of the inaugural Executive Committee, and I’m eager to work towards helping make ISNA a stronger organization with greater services and a greater voice for the community.” ISNA recorded its thanks to the outgoing Majlis and Executive Council members, who, as a result of the approved bylaws, concluded their service on Dec. 31, 2017: Sohel Anwar, Association of Muslim Scientists, Engineers & Technology Professionals; Sana Baban, Muslim Youth of North America; Kenan Basha, Muslim Students Association of the US & Canada; Mohamed Bekkari, Canadian Islamic Trust Foundation; Dr. Imran Qureshi, Islamic Medical Association of North America; Muzammil Siddiqi, North American Islamic Trust; Safaa Zarzour, Council of Islamic Schools in North America; and House of Community Representatives Safiah Chowdhury (Ontario), Faizul Khan (Maryland), Muhammad Farooq Malik (Texas), Ahmed Quereshi (Wisconsin) and Abdul Hamid Samra (Florida). The out-going Executive Council members are Ahmed Shaikh, ISNA West Zone; Lubabah Abdullah, ISNA Central Zone; Farhan Syed, East Zone; and Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, Past President.  ih

ISNA RENEWS LUTHERAN TIES ISNA Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances (IOICA) Director Colin Christopher met with Bishop Elizabeth Eaton at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) headquarters in Chicago on Nov. 27, 2017 to discuss how both faith groups can continue learning about each other’s tradition and building bridges. During the Interfaith Banquet at the 2017 ISNA Convention in Chicago, Christopher thanked Bishop Eaton for the reconciliatory statements made about discrimination and racism at their 500th anniversary celebration of Martin Luther (d. 1546), and Bishop Eaton expressed gratitude for ISNA’s recognition of ELCA’s impactful interfaith work with

the Muslim community in synods nationwide. Both leaders reflected on the success of Lutheran Pastor Mandy France and Dr. Ayaz Virji’s nationwide tour to share their story of an interfaith friendship in smalltown Minnesota amidst intimidation and violent threats from congregants and religious leaders. Christopher and Bishop Eaton also spoke on expanding the ISNA-ELCA partnership to tackle anti-Muslim sentiment and strengthen Muslim-Lutheran relationships nationwide, particularly in rural communities. Both leaders committed to creating a joint ISNA-ELCA Interfaith resource guide and ISNA Muslim community connections


Colin Christopher with Bishop Elizabeth Eaton who was recognized at the 2017 ISNA Convention

resource for interfaith partners. These documents are expected to be completed and available by the spring this year.  ih


IOICA Director Colin Christopher and interfaith partners met on Jan. 16 in Washington, DC, to analyze the harmful effects of the recent federal tax overhaul. Fellow faith-based policy advocates expressed concern for the undue financial burden placed upon lower-income families over the duration of the bill’s provisions, the benefits of which are weighted heavily toward wealthy individuals and large corporations, and the increased deficit that will be generated. Christopher also facilitated a seminar on messaging strategies for the Washington Interfaith Staffing Committee’s 2018 AntiPoverty Campaign. Over the next year, IOICA and partnering organizations will highlight their bipartisan recommendations


for the U.S., among them decreasing wasteful spending and increasing safety net programs and economic development measures that have a proven track record. On Nov. 6, Christopher joined faith leaders from Network Lobby ( and the Religious Action Center ( to talk about tax reform with Rep. James Rennaci’s (R-OH) office. Christopher and fellow faith partners emphasized the importance of tax reform, focusing upon economic mobility for working and middle-class families, their concern about discriminatory legislation that prohibits mixed-status families from receiving the Child Tax Credit, and the importance of fiscal responsibility.  ih


On Jan. 21, IOICA Director Colin Christopher joined dozens of Muslim

community members at the Good Tree Farm of New Egypt (www., N.J., for the inaugural prayer for their new Noah’s Ark Mosque and Interfaith Peace and Justice Center. Dr. Hisham Moharram, the farm’s founder and lead agricultural specialist, led the dhuhr prayer at the site of the forthcoming center on the farm’s premises. Sheikh Muhammad Adeyinke Mendes, imam of the Muslim Center of Greater Princeton, spoke of the spiritual benefits of interfaith community farming and the parallels it has with the traditional

Colin Christopher (left) with Stop Predatory Gambling National Director Les Bernal

In late 2017, ISNA joined a broad coalition of organizations in signing on to an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court for Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. Like other faith-based organizations, ISNA is concerned about state-sponsored predatory gambling, which preys upon the economically downtrodden, capitalizes on gimmicks and deceit and generates addiction. On Jan. 23, IOICA Director Colin Christopher met with Les Bernal, national director of Stop Predatory Gambling (https://, to renew ISNA’s commitment to preventing this most egregious forms of gambling. He informed Bernal that Islam prohibits all forms of gambling and that Muslims are particularly motivated to work on this issue during 2018 due its growing economic and social costs to American families.  ih farming practices of the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) community in Madinah. ISNA is working with Good Tree Farm of New Egypt and other faith-based organizations in the region to host a 2018 summer interfaith youth camp for teens, which will incorporate agricultural education, spiritual reflection, climate justice advocacy and peace building.  ih



ISNA 2.0: Overhauling the Governance Structure BY ALTAF HUSAIN


he good news first. A near unanimous vote by ISNA’s members during Dec. 2017 resulted in a complete overhaul of the organization’s governance structure. This is a significant milestone, and one in which the members, donors, former and current board members, along with key stakeholders, can take great pride. How did we get here? How has the governance structure been amended? What comes next for ISNA? BACKGROUND ISNA has essentially had the same governance structure since its founding in 1981. Often described as a wagon with two wheels, one serving students and the other serving the community, ISNA emerged from the strategic planning efforts undertaken by the leadership of the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada (now MSA National). The governance structure included a Majlis Ash-Shura (Majlis), a body comprised of individuals elected directly by the members, the presidents of

constituent organizations and individuals elected to represent the House of Community Representatives. When the ISNA elections were held in 2014, the highest governing body, the Majlis, comprised 23 members; the Executive Council was responsible for the headquarters’ day-to-day operations; and the Majlis and its appointed committees were entrusted with policy and personnel matters, as well as approving the budget.

SOMETHING IS JUST NOT RIGHT Anyone with even a cursory understanding


of American nonprofit governance and operations could see that the original structure was unsustainable due to its sheer size and almost annual ad-hoc reconstituting of the governing board due to the turnover of the constituent organizations’ presidents. It seemed that every ISNA president felt the weight of this unwieldy structure; however, pressed both by the burden of maintaining tradition and handling day-to-day matters, no substantial changes were ever introduced. Under the leadership of former ISNA presidents Shaikh Abdalla Idris Ali, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Shaikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah, Dr. Ingrid Mattson and Imam Mohamed Magid, ISNA held three strategic planning retreats in 2003, 2007 and 2012, respectively. Although well attended and well intended, the retreats’ attendees did not tackle the structure at all, but focused

primarily on ISNA’s programs and services. In 2013 Imam Magid commissioned an outside firm to conduct an operational audit. Although the firm’s report recommended substantive changes in both governance structure and staffing and operations, there was no sense of urgency to implement them.

steady decline in the number of paid registered attendees at regional conferences and the annual convention?” Encouraged by the Majlis and key stakeholders, the SRPC team members challenged each other and pressed ahead with recommendations for transformational change

IT WAS HEARTENING TO SEE THAT THE MEMBERS, SPEAKING IN A NEAR-UNANIMOUS VOICE, APPROVED THE OVERHAUL OF THE BYLAWS. NEARLY 37 YEARS AFTER ITS FOUNDING, THE MEMBERS HAVE REFORMED THE ORGANIZATION’S GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE AND THEREBY USHERED IN A NEW ERA: ISNA 2.0. With the election of President Azhar Azeez in 2014, far more concerted attention was given to finding a way to improve ISNA. The arrival in 2015 of a new secretary general, Hazem Bata, was instrumental in moving ahead with a robust process to consider reorganization and strategic planning. In 2016 the Majlis authorized the Strategic Reorganization and Planning Committee (SRPC) to conduct in-depth conversations with key ISNA stakeholders and analyze internal data sources. The SRPC is comprised of a team of passionate ISNA supporters who, most importantly, have the skill sets and experience to undertake this awesome burden. Despite the obvious discomfort any organization’s leadership would feel during such a process, the SRPC began by asking a simple question: “Should ISNA exist?” The resounding and expected answer from over 75 interviews was: “Yes, ISNA should exist.” However, there was tremendous variance as to what ISNA does well and should do going forward. The internal data sources led to questions such as “Why, at a time when other Muslim organizations are experiencing unparalleled growth, ISNA is experiencing an unchanged budget for over 20 years of approximately $3.6-$4 million maximum?” “How did ISNA reach a point of operating with unchanged revenue streams but steadily increasing expenses, a shrinking and greying donor base, an alarming decline in membership of both individual and affiliates as well as a

so that ISNA could position itself as a mission-driven, highly impactful and successfully operating organization. The data led to the recommendation that ISNA pay more attention to four key areas: (1) Governance: How do we manage our organization? (2) Operations: How do we run our organization? (3) Strategy: What activities do we focus on? and (4) Location: Where do we work from?

GETTING IT RIGHT: RECOMMENDATIONS With almost all Majlis members in attendance, history was made at the Dec. 3, 2016, meeting of the Majlis at the ISNA headquarters in Plainfield, Ind. The SRPC presented its recommendations for the first major area — governance — and the Majlis, after a full day of deliberations, adopted substantive reforms to overhaul the original structure and pave the way for ISNA 2.0. The language in the original bylaws was revised to reflect best practices in the governance of American non-profit organizations. The Majlis ash-Shura has been renamed the Board of Directors, the secretary general is called the executive director and the general secretariat is referred to as the directorate. The governing board was rightsized from 23 members to between 9 to 13 members by shifting the representation of constituent organizations and the House of Community Representatives to an Advisory Council, replacing the Executive Council with an Executive Committee comprised

from within the Board of Directors and dissolving the Zonal Councils. The new Advisory Council, a major part of the overhaul, allows ISNA leadership direct access to the diverse expertise and experiences of constituent organizations and other organizations aligned with ISNA’s mission/vision. The Board of Directors is comprised of a mix of directors elected by the General Assembly and appointed by the Board. The number of appointed members will never exceed the number of elected members. In addition, the executive director is now envisioned as a more empowered position and a formal search will be initiated to fill this position. The incumbent will serve as the organization’s chief executive officer unencumbered by the original, complex and multiple reporting and oversight layers. The rationale for these bylaws reforms was presented during the business session convened at the 2017 convention in Chicago, and two webinars were held in July and August to allow members to review the proposed bylaws and ask questions in real time. Ultimately, the bylaws were mailed, with a cover letter signed by the current and five former ISNA presidents, to all ISNA members with ballots to vote. The 500-member quorum was reached on Dec. 2017. It was heartening to see that the members, speaking in a near-unanimous voice, approved the overhaul of the bylaws. Nearly 37 years after its founding, the members have reformed the organization’s governance structure and thereby ushered in a new era: ISNA 2.0.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR ISNA 2.0? The SRPC will remain fully engaged with the Board of Directors to turn our attention to the next phase: ISNA operations. It will conduct a thorough assessment in order to prepare the development of a long-term strategic plan. When the new executive director is hired, he or she will assume a central role in strategy development, assisted by the Board of Directors and the Advisory Council. What strategic priorities will guide ISNA’s work? Where will the ISNA headquarters ultimately be located? These questions have yet to be answered, and it is our hope that all ISNA members will remain fully engaged and provide input and encouragement. Stay tuned for more information about the search for the executive director and the continued strategic planning process!  ih Altaf Husain serves as ISNA Vice President–USA and Chair of the Strategic Reorganization and Planning Committee.



From Good to Great California Hosts the 7th Annual West Coast Education Forum BY SUFIA AZMAT (Standing L-R) Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad, Nishat Alikhan, Thouraya Boubetra, Tabasum Ahmad, Safa Zarzour, Ahmed ElHattab, Mehmet Ozgur (Sitting L-R) Basharat Saleem, Shahida AliKhan, Necva Ozgur, Sufia Azmat Not pictured: Sadeq Al-Hasan, Rania El-Sioufi, Shabnum Husain


athering in the Speakers’ Room to evaluate the 6th Education Conference, held in Orange County, Calif., members of the ISNA West Coast Education Forum Program Committee listened dejectedly as Necva Ozgur announced that she would no longer be able to lead the committee planning the 7th Annual West Coast Education Forum in 2018. After all, she wasn’t just another member, but the committee chair, past honoree of ISNA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Islamic Education and leader of the conference since its inception. Paying attention to detail and planning for the future is in Ozgur’s blood, and so she wasn’t going to leave the committee high and dry. Pulling out binders that contained all of the information that the future committee leaders would need to plan for the next conference, she began distributing them. Having anticipated each member’s reaction, she had formulated her answers to every objection. Committee members looked at each other, trying to come up with something to convince her to change her mind. But their protests were in vain, for she had made her decision.

Drs. Yahia and Magda Abdul-Rahman

While ISNA staff members insisted that they were committed to the idea of a West Coast Education Forum, volunteer committee members were not so sure of the future. Ozgur’s leadership had inspired them, and all

of them were now looking for someone other than themselves to assume this responsibility. At the end of the meeting, the committee adjourned not knowing whether there would even be a conference next year. But God rewards all actions undertaken with the best of intentions. Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad, ISNA’s programs director, insisted that this event would continue, and Ahmad ElHattab, ISNA Development Foundation (IDF) executive director, pledged his strong support. And so Ozgur finally agreed to serve for another year. The 7th Annual, yes, ANNUAL, West Coast Education Forum — jointly hosted by ISNA and the Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA; — took place in Anaheim on Jan. 12-13. Ozgur had suggested the theme, “Moving from Good to Great: Fostering Growth,” based on a book of the same title by Jim Collins, who in 2017 was recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the “100 Greatest Living Business Minds.” From the opening session, a panel representing teachers, board members and administrators, to one of the final sessions, which addressed challenging




Following in His Footsteps questions asked by students, attendees were exposed to a wealth of information from experts. The theme of Moving from Good to Great resonated in every session. Educators acknowledged that while our Islamic schools are doing good work, so much more needs to be done so that they can begin to move toward “great.” On the evening of Jan. 12, IDF hosted a celebration banquet to honor Drs. Yahia — president of the American Finance House Lariba ( index.php) — and Magda Abdul-Rahman with the Lifetime Commitment and Service to Islamic Education Award. The keynote speaker, former ISNA president Dr. Ingrid Mattson, spoke about her experiences in regard to the growth of institutions and examples from the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) life and teachings. Students of New Horizon School Westside and Minaret Academy entertained the audience with a superb performance. While photos have been posted on social media platforms and the program and submitted papers uploaded on, the atmosphere of camaraderie and collegiality could only be experienced in person. If you were unable to attend this inspiring conference, perhaps a glimpse of what it was like can be inferred from a quote made by an attendee during the closing session: “I like the sincerity of everyone. Everyone is willing to share what they do the best, which is not always the case everywhere you go. You get inspired by all the struggles and stories that you hear.” God willing, those inspired by Necva Ozgur’s leadership and efforts, as well as those of all programming committee members, will continue this particular tradition, for our youth can move “from good to great” only if we provide them with the best Islamic education possible.  ih Sufia Azmat is executive director of CISNA and a student at Bayan Islamic Graduate School in the Department of Islamic Education and Leadership.

MYNA campers trace the Prophet’s ways at winter camps in five states BY ALAA ABDELDAIEM

ISNA Youth Programs and Services Department Program coordinator Ivana Zajkovska leads a session


ollowing Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), the best of humanity and the walking Quran, means making one’s way along the path that will lead one toward ultimate success in this life and the next. And for seven days this past December, 423 youth in five states tried to do exactly that. Under the theme of “Following in His Footsteps,” the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) challenged the participants who attended its 2017 winter camps in Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Maryland (Dec. 24-30) and California (Dec. 25-31) to reflect, explore and apply the Prophet’s teachings and lessons to their lives. Each retreat featured guest speakers, interactive workshops and fun recreation throughout the week to help campers not only learn

about his life but also form lifelong bonds. Campers were treated to lectures about the Sunnah so that they could better apply it to their own lives. The Indiana camp was addressed by speakers such as Ustadh Ahmad Deeb, former director of the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent; the Illinois camp by Nancy Nasr, assistant head of school of The Ancona School, and Habeeb Quadri, principal at MCC (Chicago) and MYNA Majlis Youth


ISNA MATTERS Committee member; the Texas camp by Mufti Hussain Kamani, scholar and instructor, Qalam Institute, and Ammar Qouqa, Dearborn, Mich., based youth director; the Maryland camp by Noura Shamma, scholar and SeekersGuidance instructor, Imam Mohamed Magid, a former ISNA president and imam and scholar at ADAMS Center, Sterling, Va., Naeem Baig, Qalam Seminary graduate, and Qurat Mir, former Fawakih Islamic Studies and Arabic instructor; and the California camp by Fiyyaz Jatt, director, ISNA Youth Programs and Services Department, and Dr. Jawad Shah, Flint, Mich., based neurosurgeon and MYNA Majlis Youth Committee member. Ustadh Deeb spoke about the prophetic mannerisms of dealing with one’s parents and those around you. Baig and Shamma

spoke on how the Prophet dealt with a diverse community, his mannerisms with people of different walks of life and how he overcame the endless challenges he faced. Imam Magid and Mir reminded campers of the importance of being self-aware and adopting the Prophetic examples of


forgiveness, empathy and compassion as their own ideals. The youth also memorized and recited several hadiths to counselors throughout the week and applied them to short lectures after each prayer to teach their fellow campers about the Prophet’s various characteristics. In addition to spiritual lectures, the retreats featured many recreational activities — team-building games, zip lining, gaga ball, ice fishing, archery, field sports and scavenger hunts — all of which kept campers excited and energized throughout the day. The Indiana camp organized a workshop that involved blindfolding and assigning participants to different groups before discussing icebreaker questions. Upon removing their blindfolds after the workshop ended, many were shocked to see who had been in their group and were amazed that they had many things in common with individuals who they may not have spoken to during the first few days. Some camps also had youth write letters to themselves — they will be sent to them weeks later — a reflection that will remind them to continue following in the Prophet’s footsteps. Campers, including Indiana camper Mariam Soliman, left the retreats feeling as if they had just spent “the best week of their lives.” “This camp made me realize that it’s alright to be different and that it’s important to have a support system,” Soliman said. “I’ve been to a lot of camps, but at this past winter camp I realized that at MYNA I have

The Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown, OH seeks


Required: • Comprehensive knowledge of Islamic Aqeedah, Figh, Sunnah & Shariah • Bachelor’s Degree in Islamic Studies • Fluent in English & Arabic (spoken and written) • Ability to teach Qur’an (Tajweed) and Religion • A dynamic personality & motivational speaker • Experience in Interfaith outreach • Ability to teach and relate to youth • At least 2 years of experience as an Imam or Assistant Imam • Collaborative relationship with Shura • Authorized to work in the U.S. • Some administrative duties Email resume with 2 reference letters to: or mail to: Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown PO Box 1452 Youngstown, OH 44502

a support system and a family that’s there to support and accept me no matter what it is I am going through. MYNA creates an atmosphere that is uplifting, accepting and loving for anyone and everyone. That is the reason I will always come back to MYNA.” Illinois camper Sarah Hussein also felt



that the 2017 winter campers were especially memorable. “I loved this past winter camp a lot because I got close with every single girl there,” Hussein said. “I also got closer to my deen. I see my life differently now than what I’ve been looking at before. I can say that this camp has been the best one I’ve gone to so far.” The 2017 winter camps aren’t the end, either. MYNA, ISNA’s youth organization, has touched the lives of many Muslim American and Canadian youth for over 30 years via the social support and national networks needed to mold “MYNA kids” into local community leaders and the next generation of Muslim activists. As the organization prepares to launch its next season of camps this spring, President Sana Baban believes that MYNA will expand its reach and impact throughout 2018. “Alhamdulilah, as we wrap up our most recent winter [2017] camp cycle with an overwhelming amount of success, campers and MYNA hype for all ages, I am so excited to look toward upcoming activity within the organization,” Baban said. “The amount of activity and astounding growth and interest that we have seen in the past year is only growing, and we are so excited to initiate our upcoming spring camp cycle with high hopes of creating a reach further than we ever have been capable of acquiring before.”  ih Alaa Abdeldaiem, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Class of 2018, is majoring in psychology. She has a certificate in journalism.


Pennsylvania to Host National Muslim Scouts Jamboree

Syed Ehtesham Naqvi, jamboree chief, and Saffet A. Catovic, jamboree director, Muslim Scout Jamboree Committee: National Islamic Committee on Scouting (NICS) have announced that the second National Muslim Scouts Jamboree will be held during July 29-Aug. 4 at Camp Minsi, Poconos, Penn. ( ISNA, a National Charter Partner through NICS with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), has long promoted scouting at its annual conventions. This event, which is open to all registered Muslim boy scouts and troops, is an opportunity to build upon the successes of 2016’s jamboree, the first and historic gathering of U.S. and international Muslim scouts, said Naqvi and Catovic. The jamboree’s theme, “Service to Humanity through Mercy and Compassion,” builds upon Scouting’s Messengers of Peace ( program. This second jamboree is being organized and sponsored by NICS, the official advisor to BSA National since 1982, the Islamic Council on Scouting of North America (WOSM Representative — Custodian and Administrator of the Islamic Religious Emblems Program) and Minsi Trails Council of the BSA. In addition to the regular resident summer camp program, which provides scouts with rank advancement opportunities, BSA-certified instructors are available for over 45 merit badges

in a wide variety of sports. Older scouts, international scouts and adult leaders will be able to participate in expanded offsite special “higher adventure” programs, including a hiking expedition, whitewater rafting, action rope/zip line course, a river tubing trek, mountain biking, natural-face rock climbing, a trail hike and horseback riding for additional fees. Camp Minsi has been serving scouts for more than 65 years. The regional scout summer camp encompasses more than 1,200 acres of beautiful and pristine Pennsylvanian woodlands along the shores of the 314-acre Stillwater Lake. While there, the scouts will experience the fun and excitement of summer camp while enjoying fellowship and learning with other scouts. In addition to special interfaith programs, all participants will receive two special issue patches: a commemorative t-shirt and a neckerchief, and a participation certificate. Islamic dietary laws will be respected, special BSA Islamic emblems workshops will be held, congregational prayers will be offered daily and guest speakers and special presentations have been arranged for all attendees. This mini-jamboree is open to guest scouts and scouters from abroad and serves as a lead up to the 2019 Worldwide Jamboree at the Bechtel Reserve. Register at specialty-camps/muslim-boy-scout-jamboree/61596. For more information, contact  ih

First Muslim Couple on TED Stage Rufus and Jenny Triplett became the first Muslim couple on the TED stage in November last year. Their topic, the “Power of No,” was based on the lessons they’ve learned from a lifetime in the entertainment industry. They got their start back in the 1980s as a music producer and a radio host, respectively. Of course more than one couple has pulled off a marriage in the entertainment industry, but they managed to do it while identifying first

as black Muslims and second as entertainers, wrote Nasr Pierce, Nov. 20, 2017 in HuffPost.


The Tripletts, who have hosted their own radio show — Prisonworld Radio — for nine years, are authors of the bestselling “Surviving Marriage in the 21st Century: 13 Easy Tips to Help You Get to 20 Years & Beyond” (Dawah International, 2013). They were also Ebony Magazine’s 2012 Couple of the Year. The TED platform, founded in 1984, used to be a conference that focused primarily on technology, entertainment and design. Today it covers issues from science to business to global issues in more than 100 languages  ih


Virginia Appoints Muslim Education Secretary

Gov. Ralph Northam (middle) greeted people after announcing that Prince William County teacher Atif Qarni (left) will serve as his secretary of education.

Atif Qarni, Virginia’s education secretary under Gov. Ralph Northam (D), is the first Muslim to be appointed to a cabinet post. Qarni, 39, who was serving as a civics, economics, U.S. history and math middle school teacher in Woodbridge, Va., stepped directly from the classroom into the cabinet. According to the Virginia Education Association, one of the state’s confederations of teachers, this hadn’t happened in more than a decade. Qarni, who brings a lot of field expertise to his new posting, is responsible for providing guidance and support on education policy. His priorities include addressing teacher pay, bringing Internet access to all school districts and lowering class sizes,

particularly in Northern Virginia, where overcrowding is acute. An unsuccessful candidate for the state House of Delegates in 2013 and for a state Senate seat two years later, he documented the struggles he faced as a Muslim seeking public office in a 2015 op-ed in The Washington Post. He wrote that Democratic leaders had told him to drop out because a “Muslim would never win.” In 2003, he served as a sergeant in the U.S. Marines Reserve and was deployed to Iraq. He holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from George Washington University as well as a master’s in history and a teaching license in secondary education from George Mason University.  ih

Religious Organizations Protection Bill Welcomed The New York City-based Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council ( welcomed the passage of the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2017 (H.R. 1730) by the U.S. House of Representatives, in statement issued on Dec. 11, 2017. The bill, adopted by a vote of 402-2, expands coverage of federal hate crimes laws protecting houses of worship to religiously affiliated institutions and sends a signal of no tolerance for hate crimes against people of faith. “Crimes against religious institutions are intended to create an atmosphere of fear that deters community members from attending

worship services and social involvement. These hate crimes pose a danger to the religious freedom and security of all Americans,” said council co-chair Stanley Bergman. Co-chair Farooq Kathwari added, “We look forward to the Senate also adopting this bill on a bipartisan basis, as now is the time to take action against hate crimes in this country.” The FBI’s recent “Hate Crimes Statistics” report shows an increase of 4.6 percent in hate crime incidents in 2016 compared to 2015. Anti-Jewish incidents remain the majority of religious-based hate crimes, while anti-Muslim incidents rose nearly 20 percent over 2015.

NJ Muslim Elected to City School Board

Mussab Ali, a Rutgers-Newark student, 20, who may be the youngest person ever elected to a public position in Jersey City’s history, took his seat on the school board on Jan. 10. Named a Truman Scholar last year, he was sworn in to his one-year term by Assad Akhter, Passaic County’s first Muslim freeholder. Ali pledged to focus on the district’s 27,000 students instead of politics and to protect students from bullying. “In an era where Trump is president, to be a Muslim elected here in Jersey City is something which I believe to be a powerful statement to the world,” he said. “It’s a testament to the discerning eyes of our residents who saw past the prejudices and biases attached to my name and age and voted me in to represent our students.”  ih The bill amends P.L. 104-155, the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, expanding it to include religiously affiliated institutions (e.g. schools and community centers) in addition to houses of worship already under the scope of its protections. It also amends the statute to encompass threats against, as well as acts that result in damage or destruction to, religious real property. Further, it enhances the penalty for intentional damage to religious real property from the current one year (misdemeanor) to three years (unless there is bodily injury to a person, in which case the penalty is higher). The American Jewish Committee (AJC) and ISNA are its co-conveners.  ih



Islamic Center Gives $1 Million to University of Cincinnati

The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati (ICGC) has donated $1 million to the University of Cincinnati to increase the understanding of Islam. The gift is funded by Dr. Inayat Malik, a urologist and member of the UC College of Medicine clinical faculty for 20 years, and his wife Ishrat Malik. He also served as ICGC board chair for 18 years. The Malik professorship seeks to add to the university’s expertise in the Abrahamic religions — it already has chairs in Judaic and

Catholic studies. This new position will allow the university to boost its classes and research related to Islamic studies, which already include a focus on the Middle East and Arabic language and culture. The Maliks have been leaders in their Muslim community and promoters of interfaith dialogue and understanding. One result of their efforts has been the co-founding of the Bridges of Faith Trialogue, an ongoing conversation among Cincinnati’s Christian, Jewish, and Muslim civic leaders restarted in January 2016 to address renewed incidents of Islamophobic violence and hate speech. “We have a significant Muslim population in the area now, many of them affiliated with UC Medical Center,” Inayat Malik related in a UC Foundation-released statement. “Ishrat and I felt that we needed to make this resource available to UC not just for the sake of the Muslim community, but for the larger community so they have an understanding of the history of Muslim civilizations and contributions.” UC’s College of Arts and Sciences will seek a top scholar with an international reputation to fill the chair. Before launching its search, the college plans to invite other Islamic studies scholars to learn more about the field and spread the word of its larger commitment, said Dean Kenneth Petren.  ih

First Student-funded Scholarship for Refugees University of California Irvine (UCI) senior Iman Siddiqi created the first student-funded scholarship within the UC system available for refugees and asylum seekers, reported the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 2, 2017. Inspired by an encounter with Syrian refugees during a family trip to Turkey in 2014, she set up this program and went on to learn Arabic so she could better communicate with those she wanted to help. Siddiqi, 20, the paternal granddaughter of Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, a former ISNA president and chair of the Fiqh Council of North America, raised a little over $93,000 during a November 2017 banquet held at the university. “The best way for us to invest in the post-conflict development of war-torn countries and prevent a lost generation is by providing higher-education opportunities for displaced people,” said Siddiqi, a political science and global Middle East studies major. She is also a contributing writer to the Orange County Register, author of the children’s book “Haya: The Loyal Student,” an honors student and a news editor for UCI’s New University. According to Karina Hamilton, who mentored Siddiqi through the fundraising project, this is the first scholarship of its kind in the country. Hamilton is the director of the UCI Dalai Lama Scholarship, which is granted

to students who propose a project related to peace, passion or ethics. Siddiqi received this award during May 2017. The scholarship

winners receive $10,000 for themselves and $6,000 for their project. Siddiqi’s project was raising $100,000 for the scholarship funding. She plans to establish a committee to determine eligibility requirements and oversee the distribution of money to eligible students. Scholarships will be available by the 2019-20 academic year, she said. The UC student government approved her resolution to offer scholarships to Syrian students. However, when the UC Board of Regents members hesitated because of financial and political concerns, she turned to the XIV Dalai Lama Scholarship as a way to make the project happen. “My initiative has shown me the impact of grassroots fundraising,” she related. “It was all family, friends — no crazy corporations or anything.”  ih

Southern California Elects New Shura Leaders Dr. Ahmed Soboh, religious director of the Chino Valley Islamic Center, and board member of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, has been appointed chair of the council. A dentist by profession, he serves as an imam and speaker at several Islamic centers, as well as a youth adviser for several Southern California communities. In addition to being a regularly invited speaker about Islam at various colleges, schools and faith institutions, he is active in the region’s interfaith community. Dr. Ahmed Azam, chairman of the Islamic Center of Hawthorne’s Board of Trustees and senior professor at DeVry University, is the new vice-chair. The council thanked the outgoing chair and vice-chair, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Islamic Society of Orange County, and Imam Mustafa Umar, the Islamic Institute of Orange County, respectively, for their commitment to its growth during the past three years.  ih



Dr. Umair Shah Receives Excellence Award

Dr. Umair Shah (center)

Dr. Umair A. Shah received the 2017 Excellence in Patient Care Award at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation dinner in New York City, held on Nov. 29, 2017. NACDS recognized Shah with its highest honor to a healthcare professional for his leadership role in the Houston hurricane response and recovery efforts.

Nike launched its long-anticipated ProHijab for athletes on Dec. 1, 2017. The sportswear giant claims that its technical hijab suits the needs of hijab-wearing athletes. The $35 item, which debuted at Macy’s, is also available on Nike’s U.S. website.

Shah, M.D., M.P.H., executive director and local health authority for Harris County (Tex.) Public Health (HCPH), is also president of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Shah and his team rendered extraordinary public health service to the county’s 4.5 million people. Under his leadership, HCPH has also initiated innovative public-private partnerships designed to prevent diseases — including the Zika virus and tuberculosis — through emerging technologies. Last fall his department launched a fleet of large recreational vehicles, including a mobile medical unit, a mobile dental unit, a mobile mosquito museum, a nutritional assistance unit, an environmental health unit, a mobile pet adoption unit and a mobile command center — all in an effort to serve the community. HCPH also initiated a Public Health Innovations Lab, a novel concept in emerging public health practice that provides a unique space to grow, develop, expand or sustain an innovative idea in a 12-week long accelerator program. In 2016, HCPH was the recipient of NACCHO’s Local Health Department of the Year Award. NACDS Foundation President Kathleen Jaeger said, “We are excited to recognize Dr. Shah’s distinguished public health service as well as his innovative approach to tackling some of the toughest problems we face in healthcare today. Under his leadership, Harris County Public Health has become an inspiration to health agencies across the country. We are looking forward to recognizing the work of Dr. Shah and his colleagues with the 2017 Excellence in Patient Care Award.” The NACDS Foundation funds evidence-based research, educational programs and philanthropic initiatives designed to improve patient outcomes and advance public health. In one of its most recent projects with the University of New Mexico, the foundation is evaluating the impact of expanding access to community testing for latent tuberculosis infections.  ih

Olympic fencer bronze medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad told Nike that she sometimes had trouble hearing the referee while wearing a traditional hijab, which resulted in her being carded for false starting. She used to compete wearing a hijab made out of doubled georgette fabric that, in addition to obstructing her hearing, was hard to pair with her fencing uniform. The ProHijab is made out of opaque mesh, which currently comes in black and navy blue and ensures breathability. It has an elongated back so as not to come untucked and features fluff threads around the neck to preserve athletes’ skin from rubbing and irritation due to sweat. CAIR-Arizona’s executive director Imraan Siddiqi received Living United for Change in Arizona’s (LUCHA; www.luchaaz.

org) Community Luchador Award on Dec. 7, 2017, during its seventh annual gala. Siddiqi, co-originator of the #NoBanNoWall hashtag that became a global rallying cry of protest of the Trump administration’s executive orders, was honored by the presentation: “It is truly humbling to be recognized by a group of peers who have done so much for the Arizona community. Our organization looks forward to continue to build and collaborate with marginalized communities to help realize a better tomorrow for our state.” LUCHA, an economic and social justice organization focused on minority families, presents the award to those community members who embody its mission and vision of pursuing steadfast dedication to social justice in the state.


COMMUNITY MATTERS 20 years. He has also been honored with the Dallas Peace Center’s Peace Maker of the Year Award (2012) and Tarrant County Medical Society’s Humanitarian Award (2008).

Dr. Basheer Ahmed receives award from Gov. Abbot of Texas

Texas Governor George Abbot presented the Asian American Chamber of Commerce’s achievement award to Dr. Basheer Ahmed, chairman of the Muslim Community Center for Human Services of North Texas in Dallas on Oct. 27, 2017. This nonprofit charitable organization has provided medical and social services to community residents irrespective of religion, race and country of origin for the last 25 years. Early last year Ahmed received the Multi-Cultural Alliance of Fort Worth’s recognition award for his interfaith activities in the Dallas Fort Worth area over the last

CAIR-OK Civil Rights Director Veronica Laizure was among the 13 human rights award recipients from the Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance (OKUHRA; about), on Dec. 9, 2017 for their work on behalf of human rights and dignity. The event was held in the state House

of Representatives chamber on the 70th anniversary of passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the United Nations’ earliest actions. She cited Quran 5:32 — “And whoever saves one, it is as if he had saved humanity” — praised CAIR-OK executive director Adam Soltani as “the best boss ever,” and then thanked her colleagues, friends who attended and “community allies” who assist CAIR. “Veronica Laizure has proven to be a staunch proponent of human rights in Oklahoma, and she spends her days and nights advocating for the rights of the Oklahoma Muslim community,” said Soltani. “This recognition, coming at a time of heightened civil rights challenges in our country, is well deserved and serves as a reminder that we must honor those that protect our Constitutional rights as Americans.” On Dec. 5, 2017, Dr.Taghi J. Mirsepassi, president of Claremont, Calif. based Associated General Technology Company Inc., announced a $1 million endowed scholarship for Muslim students in memory of his late wife Heshmat Mirsepassi at the University of La Verne. The scholarship is intended to help Muslim students enrolled at the university for the 2018 fall semester. To apply, visit  ih

OHIO CELEBRATES 30th ANNIVERSARY OF ISLAMIC DAY Ahmed ElHattab, executive director, ISNA Development Foundation, spoke about Muslims’ contributions toward American prosperity while addressing the 30th Islamic Day in Ohio last fall. He noted, for instance, that over 40,000 Muslim physicians currently work in the country. As this event was a collaborative effort between the Islamic Council of Ohio (ICO; www.ic-ohio. org) and the University of Dayton, ICO president Dr. Bashir G. Ahmed and Dr. Eric Spina, president of the University of Dayton, addressed the approximately 150 attendees. Dayton mayor Nannette L. Whaley Dayton and Judge Walter Rice, Senior U.S. District Judge, were among those who addressed the event’s theme: “Muslims & American Prosperity.” The mayor gave the proclamation, and Commissioner Debora Leiberman presented the proclamation of the county commissioners of Montgomery County. State Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) mailed his proclamation. The seed for the special day was planted during November 1985, when Dayton’s Muslim community invited all Ohioan 20    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MARCH/APRIL 2018

Muslims for the “First Unity Day” banquet. In March 1986, the Columbus community sponsored the event. Out of that celebration came the ICO; its bylaws and structure were finalized in Toledo that summer. Then-Governor Richard Celeste (D-OH) and the legislators agreed to proclaim an “Islamic Day” for all Ohioans, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.  ih

August 31 – September 3, 2018

Houston, TX George R. Brown Convention Center 1001 Avenida De Las Americas • Houston, TX 77010


CONVENTION HIGHLIGHTS: ◉  More than 200 Renowned Speakers  ◉  Plenary Sessions  ◉  Main Sessions  ◉  Parallel Sessions ◉  Round Table Discussions  ◉  MSA & MYNA Sessions  ◉  Enlightening Entertainment ◉  Largest Muslim Bazaar in America (550 Booths)  ◉  Health Fair  ◉  Art Exhibit  ◉  Meet the Author ◉  Interfaith Reception  ◉  Film Festival  ◉  Photography Exhibit  ◉  Qira’at Competition ◉  Matrimonial Banquets  ◉  Community Service Recognition Luncheon (CSRL) ◉  Basketball Tournament  ◉  Children’s Program  ◉  Babysitting, and more




(317) 838-8129  ◉

(317) 838-8131  ◉


CONVENTION #55 As Houston is scheduled to host ISNA’s 55th Annual Convention this September, we are introducing a six-part series highlighting the city’s uniqueness through interviews with extraordinary Houstonians and exploring various aspects of life in the country’s fourth largest city. This article, the third piece in this series, focuses on Houston’s Islamic Arts Society.

Art: A Unique Form of Da’wah A group of Houston-area Muslims are reaching out to the general public through their art BY SAMAN ESSA


rt is the best form of da’wah,” says Dr. Khawaja Azimuddin, president of the Islamic Arts Society (IAS; www.islamicartssociety. com), “because anyone, Muslims and non-Muslims, can appreciate art.” Azimuddin, one of the few board certified colon and rectal surgeons practicing in North Houston, is also a calligraphist who displays his art on ceramic glazed tiles. The non-profit Houston-

based IAS seeks to build bridges between the city’s Muslim community and its neighbors through a unique lens — art! The organization began in 2014 when a group of enthusiastic, art-loving Houstonians recognized there was a local interest in Islamic art. The local Pearl Fincher Museum invited Azimuddin, who had taken an interest in tile and ceramic art during a trip to New Mexico in 2001, to provide a small sample of Arabic art at


its exhibit of Islamic Art. At that event he met his fellow co-founders of what would soon become the IAS. Around the same time, Azimuddin displayed the murals he had created at his local masjid, Masjid Al-Salam (better known as Champion’s Masjid). Feeling that this would be a great time to invite a few other artists to showcase their work, it turned into the first Islamic Arts Festival. Advertised only through word of mouth and Facebook, it drew over 400 people.

Last year’s event was held in late November. The fourth festival to be held at Champion’s Masjid, it attracted over 900 people and over 50 artists from across the country. One reason for its popularity is the scarcity of art forums devoted exclusively to Islamic art. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why Azimuddin and his colleagues continue to organize it. Upon my arrival at 10 a.m., the event was already bustling with people! The parking lot was lined with halal food trucks, booths set up and manned by local Islamic organizations to advertise their latest events and stalls selling clothes and jewelry. The masjid’s basketball/ gym arena, now serving as a temporary art gallery, featured Muslims artists from across the city and even some from other states. A red carpet was rolled out in a square-like layout, which visitors were asked to follow. Paintings hung from each wall, bringing color and life to the now-unrecognizable gym. To some, Islamic art may seem rather mundane. In fact, even I thought — foolishly, as it turned out — that I would only see calligraphy with Allah’s names or paintings of landscapes with mosques in the background. I soon realized how wrong I was. Sadaf Saleem carved Allah’s name into metal gates and wooden doors. Some used clocks as their medium and etched Arabic calligraphy into the background. One artist employed laser cutters to create geometric patterns in lanterns, and a photographer showcased her photos of unique masjids from across America and around the world. Samar Babar presented her artwork on a “canvas” of tree trunk slices. Some artists applied their talent to jewelry and created unique pieces related to

PRINCIPAL POSITION Islam, while others displayed handmade cards or printed mugs, shirts and magnets with graphic designs. The festival also dedicated a few tables to students who attend Houston’s Islamic schools to showcase their artwork.

parts: outreach and small group events. As part of outreach, members go to local libraries and set up a display in an art cabinet. Their target audience is openminded individuals, who are drawn to libraries because they enjoy gaining

ART MAKES PEOPLE CURIOUS ABOUT ISLAM IN A WAY THAT CANNOT BE REPLICATED IN OTHER WAYS OF DA’WAH. Swaleha Khanzada, inspired by quotes from the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and Ali (‘alayhi wa rahmat), paints Islamic folk art. Houston-based Hina Chaudhry utilizes glitter, gems, stones and glass to give a glitzy feel to her paintings. Parvana Ali, who works with paisleys, draws from Slovak, Persian and Azerbaijani sources as inspiration. Hedaya Kelani creates pieces of artwork from old books. When graphic artist Riyad Ghosheh, who attended with his artist wife Badira Farrah, was asked to identify his favorite art technique, he replied, “For me, it’s not about the tool. It’s about the message.” He views art was a form of da’wah because this unique medium enables him to show people how beautiful Islam is through beautiful pieces of art. During the interactive sessions, visitors could request something to be written in calligraphy or watch a live demonstration how the Turkish marbling technique known as ebru helps create a piece of art. Stations set up in the middle of the exhibition encouraged kids to “Paint with the Artist” and learn techniques from the artists themselves. Shaheen Rahman, artist and IAS co-curator, employs ebru in her paintings. She recently exhibited her work in Houston’s City Hall and was recognized by Mayor Sylvester Turner. Although the majority of those paintings did not survive Hurricane Harvey, she was able to salvage and display a few pieces at the event. When asked what she liked most about painting, Rahman responded, “In art, some things are on the surface, like the object of the artwork. But some things, like the meaning, are hidden, and folded into the artwork itself.” Azimuddin splits IAS events into two

new knowledge. IAS also holds a library demonstration day, during which artists will demonstrate Arabic calligraphy, ebru, or henna. These art displays move to a new library every month. After nearly four years of existence, IAS has been showcased in nearly every local library and now hopes to expand this event to libraries nationwide. The society’s second set of events are held when companies, universities or groups contact IAS to bring its members’ art to them. In the past, IAS has collaborated with the University of Houston, Texas A&M University and companies for Diversity Day. Rahman, Azimuddin and the rest of their team hope to solidify their financial stability before expanding their traveling library art cabinet display and successful festival to other cities. “In America,” Azimuddin says, “people understand and appreciate art. The best way to build bridges is through art. When you talk about politics, culture, ethnicity ... you may not find common ground. When you hand out CDs or pamphlets about Islam, sometimes it turns them away from something that we all find beautiful [Islam]. So for me, art is the best form of da’wah. When you show people art and talk about it, people are impressed by the translation of some of the Arabic calligraphy.” Art makes people curious about Islam in a way that cannot be replicated in other ways of da’wah. IAS members, who have displayed their artwork at ICNA conventions, hope to bring their artwork and live demonstrations to this year’s ISNA convention — to be held in Houston.  ih Saman Essa, who is majoring in psychology and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Houston, plans to become a psychologist with a focus on immigrant and refugee populations in the U.S.

K-8 Private School in East Lansing, Michigan Employment Opportunity 2018- 2019 Academic Year Contact: Dr. Janine Sinno at: or Dr. Mohammad Khalil at: (517) 332-3700 Basic Duties: Serve as the chief instructional leader of the school. Work in cooperation and coordination with the School Committee and the Islamic Center (upon occasion) to manage all affairs of the day to day operation of the school in accordance with the SC policies and procedures. §§ Communicate regularly and effectively with parents and community §§ Work with faculty, support staff, parents and students from diverse multicultural backgrounds §§ Communicate effectively orally and in writing §§ Curriculum development and MStep testing coordination with state and local ISD §§ Work with the Advanced Accreditation Agency to maintain continuous improvement at GLIS §§ Analyze school achievement data and lead staff in using the data to support student achievement §§ Recruitment of teachers and staff §§ Help develop the school budget and manage the school finances within that budget §§ Help with the annual school fundraising §§ Collect tuition and maintain record of tuition payments §§ Keep record of all financial transactions conducted by the principal and school staff §§ Conduct observations of instructional practices and follow-up with feedback §§ Manage the school budget with the support of the school treasurer to support GLIS instructional goals §§ Oversee the coordination of extracurricular activities and the after school program (i.e. tutoring program and clubs) §§ Set up and oversee morning assembly §§ Develop the school calendar and class schedule §§ Revise and maintain report cards §§ Interpret, apply and explain rules, policies and procedures to faculty, staff, parents, and students §§ Oversee the publication of an annual school yearbook §§ Obtain volunteers to help with school activities §§ Develop emergency lock-down and evacuation plans §§ Develop clear lines of communication and hierarchy within the school Preferred Qualifications: §§ Master’s Degree in Educational Administration or its equivalent in experience §§ Teaching credentials and a minimum of five years teaching experience §§ Experience as a principal, vice-principal, department chair, or university professor §§ Knowledgeable in the Islamic religion §§ Practicing Muslim ISLAMIC HORIZONS   23


Faith-Based Education Works A source for hope and healing, faith-based education helps grow a new generation of leaders and doers BY AQSA KHAN


he world in which we live today is undoubtedly more fast-paced than ever before. With the advances in technology over the past decade, both we and our children are more connected with others and have more information at our fingertips than we could ever have imagined. These modes of connection have facilitated communication between those who would otherwise never have had the chance to interact. Naturally, this easier access to information both inside and outside the classroom for both educators and students has led to a real change in the teacher-student classroom dynamic. In faith-based education, we can cultivate attitudes and behaviors that help mitigate the challenges that we currently encounter. Many middle and high school students seem disinterested and bored. Some of this apathy is part and parcel of being teenagers, who from time immemorial have been known to resent authority and find comfort in their peers. However, now that information and social circles can be accessed at any time, it can often seem more challenging to keep them engaged instead of turning to social media any chance they get. Interviews with parents whose children do well in school and participate in extracurricular activities find that they are still “itching” to get onto their cellphones when they’ve completed their activities. This is new territory for everyone. Digital media has revealed the great need for parents and educators to find a new way to introduce students to principles and ideas grounded in something beyond their world, for that connection is what keeps our children on the straight path.

INSTILLING MORALS Muslim Americans, often concerned that their children understand the difference between right and wrong, act accordingly. Aware that their local public school 24    ISLAMIC HORIZONS

cultivates students who attain top scores on state exams and achieve high honors in their community, they search for a place that can guarantee the soundness of their students’ moral upbringing. Understandably, some of the children end up attending parochial or Catholic schools. This is where Islamic schools often shine: Taking time each day to discuss the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa

sallam) life and how he overcame challenges allows students to understand that their faith is neither some old relic of the past nor a series of rituals, but that Islam guided those before them and can help them deal with their own obstacles. For example, in one 7th-grade classroom at a New Jersey Islamic school, a class talked about how the surrounding culture can often


DIGITAL MEDIA HAS REVEALED THE GREAT NEED FOR PARENTS AND EDUCATORS TO FIND A NEW WAY TO INTRODUCE STUDENTS TO PRINCIPLES AND IDEAS GROUNDED IN SOMETHING BEYOND THEIR WORLD, FOR THAT CONNECTION IS WHAT KEEPS OUR CHILDREN ON THE STRAIGHT PATH. push an atheistic worldview. This session gave them the opportunity to ask questions that would not have been addressed with such religious guidance elsewhere, for such an approach is only used in a faith-based classroom. As such, they could examine fundamental tenets in a profound way.

Whether it’s a discussion about global problems such as poverty and abuse, or gender issues in a culture that presents confusion, taking time during the school day to analyze these important ideas helps students define who they are, where they stand and why they believe in their convictions.

One of the most pressing challenges is to inculcate a concept of community in students when so many of them prefer the communities they have created online. With apps like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, our youth cannot wait to have some alone time with their smartphones even though, in fact, they are far from alone. This reality raises a critical question: How do parents set online boundaries so that their children don’t engage with peers and strangers who may provide inappropriate information or contacts. While many parents have had one-on-one conversations with their teens about the rules of using the Internet, these necessary talks can be substantiated with a community that buoys our teens in an environment that naturally prevents them from the ills of social media. The Prophet confirmed the benefits of companionship when he said, “A man follows the religion of his close friend, so be careful whom you befriend” (Narrated by Abu Hurayrah. “Sunan Abu Dawud,” hadith no. 4833). As the Prophet emphasized, whom we spend our time with is critically important — and especially so for teenagers. Islamic schools provide an environment in which students befriend fellow Muslims with whom they can have the serious conversations about deen (faith) and dunya, conversations that can help them navigate their lives. Not only does such an environment provide guidance for their physical surroundings, but also, and perhaps more importantly, it can help cultivate their inner voice for when they are surrounded by others in the digital world. Having teachers and peers who inculcate a sense of modesty and self-awareness can steer students away from the perils of current social media usage, during which many teens share information that they later regret.


As our deen teaches that we must focus on our character, it makes perfect sense that we seek to cultivate the best character in our children by providing them with the best suhba (companionship) and making sure that their educators — including us — do our best to help them become people of integrity and honor. Faith-based education naturally picks up on these facets, as its foundation relies on a much larger reality than public education. Emphasizing that the events in ISLAMIC HORIZONS   25

COVER STORY this dunya, whether physical or digital, are ephemeral and will at some point end can help them realize that spending so much time on social media is a waste of their time and energy. Curricula in Islamic schools stress the significance of action. One New Jersey Islamic school has created a community service program in which all K-12 students are expected to help out at local soup kitchens and shelters. Thus its classrooms scheduled days during which the youngest students would make goody bags for the needy and the older students would cook and serve food to the homeless. Engaging in these activities with a realization that doing so not only makes the world a better place but also draws us closer to our Creator makes them all the more important in raising young people with strong character. There is much to worry about in today’s world. Daily headlines indicate that existing problems are forever morphing and always requiring our attention. But as daunting as that may be, it is reassuring to know that faith-based education is producing a new generation of leaders and doers who will both continue to make the world a better place for all and reap the rewards of their actions in the Hereafter.  ih Aqsa Khan, a certified educator, has taught for seven years in both public and Islamic schools in New York and New Jersey.

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Reclaiming an Islamic Core Value Where do Islamic schools stand when it comes to genuinely serving their students and staff by providing them a nurturing environment? BY ASLIHAN YILDIZ-ODEH


n its March 2017 issue, Forbes magazine reported that psychologist Angela Duckworth, who has spent years trying to understand what makes high achievers so successful, was surprised by what she found. It wasn’t SAT or IQ scores, or even a top-ranking business school diploma that turned out to be the best predictor of success, but a “combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special,” she reported. “In a word, they had grit.” According to Duckworth, being gritty is the ability to persevere. It’s about being unusually resilient and hardworking — so much so that you’re willing to continue on in the face of difficulties, obstacles and even failures. It’s about being constantly driven to improve. And where do children spend most of their time in their formative years? At school, of course. According to Alicia Chodkiewicz and Christopher Boyle (Positive psychology school-based interventions: A reflection on current success and future directions. Review of Education, August 2016), an increased focus on youth development has led to an understanding of the importance

of children and young people’s wellbeing, resilience and mental health. As a result, over the last two decades a growing body of research has begun to increasingly recognize the complexities of learning and development during one’s school years. Alongside this trend is the rise of positive psychology, which is changing our conceptions of youth, education and development. Support for a new era of student-centric teaching practices dedicated to enhancing student wellbeing has come from researchers and psychologists, as well as from school and education authorities, who are showing a greater desire to integrate positive psychology-based programs into the learning curriculum. Anna Pluskota states that according to the World Health Organization website (WHO;; Mental Health, 2001), mental depression is the main cause of disability. After remarking that it had become the world’s fourth gravest health problem (see the YLD-indicator [Years of life Lost due to Disability] and the DALYindicator [Disability-Adjusted Life Years]) by 2000, WHO experts went on to estimate that depression would become the world’s second largest health problem by 2020. The

foremost proponents of positive psychology also expect an epidemic of depression, which will be particularly dangerous when it begins to spread among younger people. According to the DALY indicator, for people aged 15-44 years, depression is now the second greatest cause of disability (, 2010). An epidemic of depression, pessimism and lowered self-esteem in the young generation constitutes not only one of the major threats to mental health, but is also a serious social and economic problem. Although positive psychology was conceived in reaction to deteriorating social indicators, this does not mean it is the only remedy. In the view of its founder Martin Seligman, education is the most important tool to combat and prevent the above-mentioned identified problems and threats (The application of positive psychology in the practice of education, Anna Pluskota. Springerplus. 2014; 3: 147.). Further research by Dr. Suzy Green, Dr. Lindsay Oades and Paula Robinson (Positive Education: Creating flourishing students, staff and schools. Australian Psychological Society) indicate that schools are now seen as institutions where their role extends beyond academic competence to further preparing the “whole child” (Huitt, 2010). In fact, this focus on schools as a means for helping young people become adults is a hallmarks of developed countries (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). Therefore, it would appear that schools are obliged to educate their students on the research and application of wellbeing and implement interventions that seek to improve their students and staffs’ optimal functioning, thus hopefully reducing the incidence of mental illness, which often appears during the early stages of puberty.1

ALL GOOD THINGS ARE COMPATIBLE WITH ISLAM AND ISLAMIC TEACHINGS CAPTURE ALL BEAUTY THAT THERE IS, ONLY IF WE HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE AND THE PERSPECTIVE TO UNEARTH THEM. What exactly is positive psychology? Let’s hear it from the institute founded by Seligman: the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania: “Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.” Seligman’s PERMA model contends that positive psychology is composed of Positive E m o t i o n , E n g a g e m e nt , Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments The big question is, where do Islamic schools stand when it

comes to genuinely serving their students and staff by providing them with a nurturing environment that supports PERMA among its students? All educators need to answer this question honestly, instead of just paying lip service by proclaiming that “we have a holistic approach to education” or some such thing without fully realizing what this means, let alone implementing it in a wholesome manner. All good things are compatible with Islam, and Islamic teachings capture all of the beauty that exists — but only if we have the knowledge and the desire to unearth them. Optimism, the premise of positive psychology, is neither foolish optimism nor fantasy, but optimism fueled by (1) the

belief in God’s goodness and that He wills good for us and (2) full confidence in our self-efficacy as agents who are capable of helping themselves and effecting results and changing our direction if we so desire. One hadith qudsi captures the importance of the first premise: Abu Huraira narrated: The Prophet said: God says: “I am just as My slave thinks I am (i.e., I am able to do for him what he thinks I can do for him), and I am with him if He remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I, too, remember him in Myself. If he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better than them. If he comes one span nearer


COVER STORY to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him. If he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him. If he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 7405) In this hadith, God is saying He makes our expectations come true. This is an amazing thing! The Lord of the Worlds says that if we expect good from Him, then He will grant it to us. What more do we need to adopt optimism as our way of living, and what can possibly give us more resilience than this optimism? The second element to optimism mentioned above is captured in the concept of qadar (the divine will and decree), which is beyond the scope of this article. I will only mention this hadith instead: It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said: “The Messenger of God said: ‘The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, although both are good. Strive for that which will benefit you, seek the help of God, and do not feel helpless...” (“Sunan Ibn Majah,” Sahih, vol. 1, book 1, hadith no. 79). In other words, we are encouraged to be strong, resilient and determined as well as to seek what benefits us, thereby proving that we have the capability and self-efficacy to better our situation. All of this ties in with resilience in the face of hardship. The Prophet was profoundly optimistic, as attested to by his Companions and as we read in his life story. He is reported to have said: “I am amazed by optimism, the good word, the kind word” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 5422). How many good and kind words are spoken at Islamic schools or in our own homes, for that matter, as opposed to harsh, scary and condemning ones? Do we have programs in place that are truly in line with the sunnah of optimism and the scientific approach to raising resilient children? It’s not too late to mend our ways if we have none. If we decide to take the right steps now, we’ll get the results we want in the form of a positive, happy and optimistic generation of Muslims tomorrow.  ih 1 Positive Education: Creating flourishing students, staff and schools, Dr. Suzy Green, Lindsay Oades, and Paula Robinson. au/publications/inpsych/2011/april/green. Aslihan Yildiz-Odeh, Ph.D., who has worked in Islamic education for over 10 years, is currently an independent researcher and consultant to Islamic schools in the field of positive psychology and Islam.


Islamic Schools: Healing for the Soul

Islamic schools provide Muslim students with the ability to focus on academic achievement without feeling any anxiety about fitting in BY IRAM SHAIKH-JILANI


he morning assembly had just finished. Students were lined up by grade and dismissed to start their day as their teachers lead them to their classrooms. One could hear the clamor of parents walking students in, the front desk personnel answering questions regarding transportation or lunch as well as students bustling about while they removed their coats — after all, it was a cold fall day. Albeit busy, it was just another ordinary day at our Islamic school. I made my morning rounds and greeted teachers, parents and students as any responsible principal does. Later that morning I received a call from Amina’s mother Kayla. Amina was a kindergarten student whose mother had converted only one year ago. She was still learning the faith and often had questions regarding day-to-day life and Islamic practices. And so I assumed that she was calling with a similar question. I answered

lightheartedly with salaam and made some small talk about her health, for she had been going through dialysis for her advancedstage diabetes. She responded in a monotone that she was in the hospital and didn’t think that she was going to make it this time. There was cold silence on both ends. Caught completely off guard, my mind began racing with questions. How come I didn’t know that her health was that critical or what she meant by “this time”? How did she manage to always be present at school events, to drop her daughter off every morning? Is this why she repeatedly asked questions about Islam and whether she could maximize the rewards of such small deeds as saying bismillah or entering the bathroom with her left foot. Her voice went faint while I listened to my own questions — until she asked, “Iram ... are you still there?” I confirmed that I was, after which she asked me if I

could ... Not sure of my answer, I hesitantly asked her to repeat it. And so she asked me once again if I could join her at the hospital down the street. She had been admitted last night and was worried that she might die. I was searching my mind as to whether she had dropped

be facing soon. Her vital signs were deteriorating, and the beeps were incrementally getting closer. And then the final solid beep sounded, the flat line appeared, and I realized that Kayla was no longer in this world. I was in sheer disbelief that I had just lost one of our sisters and a school parent whom

ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT GAPS ARE SLIM WHEN STUDENTS FEEL LOVED, CARED FOR AND SHARE A COMMON PURPOSE. IN FACT, THEY DEMONSTRABLY THRIVE UNDER SUCH CONDITIONS AND ACHIEVE HIGHER MARKS THAN THEIR PUBLIC SCHOOL COUNTERPARTS. Amina off this morning, and remembered that I hadn’t seen her. I asked her awkwardly, “Is that why you weren’t here?” She said that it was and then asked me again if I could come. And so I quickly told the school administrative assistant that I was going out to visit a student’s sick parent in the hospital. I don’t remember the drive or how I got to her room. I just remember the silence and walking into a room that was empty. She was lying in the bed hooked up to various beeping machines. After giving her my salaam, Kayla asked me to promise her that she would have an Islamic burial. I was genuinely confused as to why this would be a concern, and thus asked her about it. She insisted that I just do so because her family, if they were allowed to handle it, would insist on a non-Muslim burial. I reassured her that I would do so when the time arrived, but that this was not it. I tried to divert her attention, but she kept returning to it and asking me to commit to her “dying wish.” I asked Kayla to make du’a and repeat the shahadah. Kayla soon lost consciousness. The nurse came in and informed me that she was taking her last breaths and that I needed to prepare for the aftermath. I was not prepared for this! I had never taken part in arranging for a burial, let alone witness anyone dying. What do I say to her? Can she hear me? Where is her husband? I made an unconscious supplication to God that He give me strength. I began to recite the kalimah out loud, repeating it again and again. I spoke to Kayla, encouraged her to supplicate for her own salvation and reminded her of the questions that she may

I used to serve. I immediately thought of how to break this to her husband and her 5-year-old daughter. But before any complete thoughts could form in my mind, the nurse walked in and asked me where I wanted to send the body. I immediately asked for clarification, desperately trying to buy time with the hopes that her husband would arrive soon. Her husband arrived, and the entire burden was soon to be lifted off me. My panic did not allow any sadness to resonate at the time. A sense of relief warmly spread, and I was hoping to allow myself to feel grief for my loss. Instead, her husband looked to me and sought my input as to where to send the body. Thinking quickly, I called the Islamic center and requested a list of funeral homes that handle Islamic burials. Within minutes we gave the name to the nurse, and the corpse was placed in a body bag and driven to its destination. Her husband and I had instructions to reach to the funeral home by 6 a.m. I only had a few hours to learn how to perform ghusl and organize the janazah to fulfill Kayla’s dying right as a Muslimah. Her husband accompanied me back to the school, picked up his daughter and, together with me, told her what had happened. Amina’s tears were heartbreaking. Kayla’s janazah was well attended, and a few of the women in our school helped to shroud her. Hours later, her siblings arrived and, genuinely upset, made it known that they wanted her to be buried according to their own faith. But we had already fulfilled Kayla’s rights, in line with her last wish. She

had been right to insist. God knows what would have happened if we had not. The value of a janazah had never crossed my mind until I realized it was something that some Muslims may not have. The entire experience was surreal and left a great imprint on my soul. Twenty years later, I am still moved by the recollection of that phone call. Kayla taught me the value of gratitude and the importance of Islamic schools.

A POSITIVE INFLUENCE Students learn their faith when they are young and are given the opportunity to look at the world and solve their problems via an Islamic lens. Kayla had the great foresight to provide the privilege of an Islamic education to her daughter during her formative years, when prayer and the remembrance of God were part of the family’s daily routine. Islamic education enables children living in the U.S. to fortify their Muslim American identities with unwavering and uncompromising resolve. As the principal of an Islamic school, I myself did not attend an Islamic school and found myself regretting that I had not. Islamic schools now provide our students with the ability to focus on academic achievement without feeling any anxiety about fitting in. Academic achievement gaps are slim when students feel loved, cared for and share a common purpose. In fact, they demonstrably thrive under such conditions and achieve higher marks than their public school counterparts. Students who suffer great losses, like Amina, start traveling the road of recovery faster due to the strength of identity and spirituality they feel while in school. Academic achievement is undeniably significant. However, having a school that supports common moral and Islamic values is far more important in terms of shaping a child’s future personality. Students strengthen their beliefs and are empowered to deal with the world in accord with Islamic reasoning. This inevitably heals those who need to be healed. Amina’s teachers and administrators reminded her that God was with her, to supplicate for her mother and to grow stronger in her faith by living according to the simple virtues of faith. Islamic schools are an extension of the home at the most primal level.  ih Dr. Iram Shaikh-Jilani is head of school for Brighter Horizons Academy, located in Garland, Texas. Raised and schooled in the U.S. since Pre-K, her educational philosophy is to bridge understandings between home and school in order to develop a strong Muslim American identity.



Reorienting Our Hearts and Minds: A Paradigm Shift in Leading Islamic Schools BY SHAZA KHAN


he sixth Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA; https://theisla. org) Leadership Retreat, held in New Braunfels, Texas, during Dec. 8-10, 2017, brought together nearly 40 educators representing 15 Islamic schools from across the nation. Participants engaged in workshops, networking and opportunities for reflecting upon the event’s theme: “Reorienting Our Hearts and Minds: A Paradigm Shift in Leading Islamic Schools.” An unexpected weather pattern, one that blanketed this southern town with a layer of snow, welcomed the participants. By the end of the weekend, both they and the city had undergone a transformation — educators had engaged in an in-depth analysis of Quranic passages that provided guidance, and the bright sunlight had erased all traces of the snow. ISLA hosts the annual leadership retreat as part of its mission to strengthen Islamic schools in North America. This was the first year that it took place without Karen Keyworth, ISLA’s co-founder and late executive director, who passed away

on Jan. 30, 2017. She and her friend Judi Amri founded and incorporated ISLA in Virginia in 1998 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization at a time when Islamic schools were witnessing new growth across the U.S. but there were no online or professional networks to bring Islamic school educators together. As a result, well-intentioned and hard-working individuals often spent precious time and resources reinventing the wheel. Furthermore, the lack of a registry left parents, researchers and others

unaware of these important institutions’ very existence. Two decades later, ISLA can boast of quite a few accomplishments. For instance, it has established an online community of educators, hosted free resources on its website for Islamic schools to use to both establish and develop their schools, worked with researchers and organizations to better understand Islamic schools’ successes and challenges as well as sought to improve these schools as a whole by offering professional development opportunities. In addition to the leadership retreat, it has set up the ISLA Leadership Academy, a 2-year mentoring program for Islamic school administrators. The leadership retreat in particular seeks to focus on one specific area of interest. In the past, it has examined approaches to teaching the whole child, developing character education programs, cultivating a strong Muslim American identity and integrating literary and creative arts into the curricula. The retreat also features a resident scholar who is entrusted with working on the educators’ spiritual development while providing professional development pertinent to the field of education through scholars who have founded, led and worked in Islamic schools. This year Dr. Nadia Katrangi, a founding member of Arizona’s Good Tree Institute ( and a lead scholar for all of its programming efforts, supplied the desired spiritual development through a series of workshops that engaged participants in an analysis of selected Quranic passages. After the final workshop, they walked away with a “road map” designed to help them navigate the challenges and opportunities that confront them in Islamic schools. During their excursion into the Natural Bridge Caverns, the educators immersed themselves in otherwise unseen wonders,



reflecting on the magnificent landforms created by nature’s small but consistent forces and the consistent but impactful work that they do as school leaders. The retreat environment, which is purposefully remote and intimate, is chosen with a specific point in mind: to facilitate a spiritual reawakening. School leaders are inundated with daily challenges by varied stakeholders, including issues related to staff retention, student discipline, quarterly budgets and tension with school boards. Thus, the opportunity to reflect can be rather hard to find if it is not deliberately sought out. Hence, the retreat offered an opportunity to pray qiyam-ul-layl and salat-ul-fajr together and well as facilitated Katrangi’s mindful remembrance of God sessions. Short post-fajr talks also helped the attendees concentrate on spiritual points that they could refer back to throughout the daily presentations and activities. The 2017 retreat was based upon two focal points: (1) spiritual growth and (2) the concrete information and strategies that Islamic school educators could use to develop their own staff and students’ spirituality. In line with the second point, the results of the “Spirituality and Muslim Youth: What Works” survey, in which 200 Muslim youth aged between 12 and 21 had taken part, were also presented. Among the highlights was the overwhelming percentage of students who felt that adults could help youth connect with God by being more respectful and better role models. Participants learned about the Finnish educational system and how Al Iman School, a PreK-8th grade Islamic school in Raleigh, N.C., incorporated many of that country’s innovative elements into its daily practices (see Educators on Field Trip to Finland by Mussarut Jabeen and Seema Imam [pp. 31-32]). Among the new concrete strategies implemented were hallway huddles, flexible seating arrangements and regular brain breaks. They also watched a video that explained the post-WWII trajectory of the American and Finnish school systems and the resulting markedly different academic and cultural outcomes. Finally, the educators formed themselves into teams and engaged in action planning sessions to perform a SWOT analysis of their schools and create SMART goals using ideas generated throughout the weekend. They then presented their action plans and received feedback about how to best implement them in their specific schools.  ih Shaza Khan, PhD, is the interim executive director of ISLA.

Educators Take a Field Trip to Finland

Two Muslim educators on a quest to understand the workings behind the “Finland phenomenon” BY MUSSARUT JABEEN AND SEEMA IMAM

Mussarut Jabeen


he world has been discussing the Finnish educational system for over a decade now, as Finland consistently ranks among the top countries in the world according to all academic measures of success. What is unique about its schooling or culture that helps students consistently perform highly in reading, math, science and other subjects? Is it possible that Islamic schools in the U.S. could benefit from this educational model? Principal Mussarut Jabeen, a former teacher at and current principal of Al Iman School, a PreK-8th grade Islamic school in Raleigh, N.C., has been intrigued by these questions for some time. Her dual perspective has shaped her desire for innovative teaching practices that address all students’ needs. A consistent believer in the idea that quality teaching requires an underlying element of trust among the principal, staff members, students and their families, as well as knowing that this culture of trust exists in Finland, she longed to visit the country to learn more about it. As it so happened, Dr. Seema Imam, professor and co-chair of the School of Education at the Chicago-based National Louis University (NLU), was participating in a university-led book study of Finland, and a “field trip” had already been planned. Finding a place for Jabeen, the two professional colleagues joined the NLU faculty delegation. During their March 2017 visit, they attended workshops and participated in various events at the country’s Department of Education, university teacher education programs and numerous schools in three cities.

Dr. Seema Imam


One of their first observations was the pervasive feeling of mutual respect between the adult staff and students. Even as they ate lunch in the middle school lunchroom, no unruly behavior or discipline problems were noted. Instead, cordial and orderly behavior appeared to be the norm, and students engaged the visitors in conversation with little or no prodding. At the school’s greenhouse, the delegation watched students care for animals and plants. In all of the schools they visited, students were on task, thoughtful and, most importantly, meaningfully engaged without any direct adult supervision. Imam and Jabeen’s observations seemed to be a natural outgrowth of Finland’s teaching philosophies. Education governance is built on a platform of trust in teachers, which allows educators to think outside the box and develop teaching strategies based on the whole child — his or her academic, physical and psychological well-being. For example, children of all ages spend 15 minutes each hour outside in the fresh air and teachers also take regular breaks. There is a focus on project-based learning and critical thinking, and learning is valued for its own sake as opposed to what utility it can serve. Other noticeable differences are that Finnish students don’t take standardized tests, start school at the age of 7, have a shorter school day and are assigned little to no homework. Finland’s education system helps prepare students for both academic and trade-oriented careers. During their K-12 schooling, students are exposed to courses that enable them to pursue careers in the


COVER STORY culinary arts, hospitality, auto mechanics, computer science and other fields. Unlike the American tendency to value technical fields more highly than trade, students are encouraged to learn about whatever holds their interest. Importance is therefore placed on exploration and self-directed choices.

of the reality that only the most exceptional students can become teachers. A student teacher at the university explained that even after entering the college of education, he will have to complete practicum hours in various classrooms and then complete a Masters degree in a content area before he

IN ADDITION TO EMBODYING BEST PRACTICES, THE FINNISH MODEL IS COMPATIBLE WITH PROPHET MUHAMMAD’S (SALLA ALLAHU ‘ALAYHI WA SALLAM) METHOD OF TEACHING BY USING CONCRETE EXAMPLES, RECOGNIZING PEOPLE’S UNIQUE STRENGTHS AND EMPHASIZING RESPECT FOR TEACHERS AND LEARNING. While a college education is valued, there is no assumption that all students will pursue higher education. In addition, students are supported in their academic decisions, are allowed to change their mind and can easily loop back into college- or trade-tracked courses if they choose to do so. At the University of Jyvaskyla, delegation members’ learned more about teacher preparation. Teacher education and training programs are so competitive and hard to enter that less than 10% of all applicants are accepted. Student applicants are well aware

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can apply to teach. In contrast, teaching programs in the U.S. are less competitive, provide less opportunity for developing expertise in core subjects and translate into less trust in the profession nationwide. Islamic schools in the U.S. have traditionally attempted to copy the public school model — an 8-hour school day that is focused on tests and oriented toward academics. Jabeen and Imam contend that Islamic schools can learn a lot from the “Finland phenomenon,” an approach that treats life skills as paramount, values early childhood as the basis of all future education, allows students to use flexible seating, realizes the importance of play-based education and work-life balance and, finally, regards learning for the sake of learning as a strong value.


During Al-Iman School’s 2017-18 school year, Jabeen felt it was only natural to select from what she had observed and learned. Her overarching goal was to nurture the high level of trust in the Finnish schools that the delegation had visited. Believing that a shared vision and mindset is a prerequisite to any other changes, she decided to get her whole team on board, create enthusiasm and then motivate them to try out some of the Finnish educational system’s best practices. After learning more about that country’s innovative culture and practices, the teachers and administration were determined to move toward a holistic approach to help students’ social-emotional learning and academic growth. With this plan and vision in mind, the school incorporated the following best practices: Faculty Hallway Huddle Time, Flexible Seating Arrangement, Brain Break Activities, Outdoor Experiences, Power of


Play, Student Collaboration and Developing Content Area/Discipline Experts. After implementing some of these strategies, Jabeen and her staff immediately saw positive changes in their classrooms and school environment. For example, the hallway huddle enables teachers to gather in a hallway before classes start to get feedback about ideas, share concerns or just exchange salaams. Middle school English language arts teacher Farea Khan related that “the hallway huddle has been highly effective because it allows time for teacher collaboration, quick communication and it strengthens the bonding between teachers when they take time to meet and greet one another on a daily basis, and a great way to start the day!” She also remarked that “flexible seating benefitted middle school students by transforming the classroom into a highly functional space where students [could] feel comfortable in their learning environment. They [now] have the choice to sit where they feel comfortable and take ownership of their learning.”


In addition to embodying best practices, the Finnish model is compatible with Prophet Muhammad’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) method of teaching by using concrete examples, recognizing people’s unique strengths and emphasizing respect for teachers and learning. The Prophet also stressed the importance of maintaining balance and giving our body its rights — both elements of the wholechild approach. Islamic schools in the U.S. can craft their own models to help prepare their students for success in this world and the next. As private schools, they are in a unique position to offer innovative practices that move beyond the traditional public school model. As educators, it only makes sense to maintain a global perspective on what works. Finland’s educational system continues to produce excellent results for its students in both academic subjects and in maintaining a culture of trust and respect. As Muslims, this is something toward which we always aspire.  ih Mussarut Jabeen, now in her 12th year as principal at Al-Iman School in Raleigh, N.C., serves on the Islamic Schools League of America’s (ISLA; Board of Directors and was a co-chair of the annual leadership retreat held in Texas during Dec. 2017. She is also a member of the Council of American Private Education’s ( Board of Directors. Dr. Seema Imam, co-chair of National College of Education, National Louis University, serves on the ISLA Board of Directors. Among other works, she co-authored the children’s book “I am Listening” (Lucent Interpretations LLC 2007).


Bleakness After Revival

What is the status of Islamic education in China? BY FAWZIA MAI TUNG


f we define a full-time Islamic school as one that serves a segment of or all of a K-12 student population five days a week and offers a general curriculum plus Arabic, Islamic studies and the Quran, there are no Islamic schools in China. Islamic education in the country consists of producing state certified imams, as opposed to instructing Muslim children. After the post-1980 optimistic revival, during the past few years Beijing has started clamping down on Islamic education and outward symbols. Implemented first in the western provinces,

these policies are now spreading very quickly nationwide. The most ominous news is that as of February 2018, a new law will go into effect: Parents will be forbidden to teach religion to their children, meaning that Islamic knowledge will be effectively snuffed out, that practicing Muslims will disappear from China within a single generation. According to official sources, China has between 20 to 24 million Muslims — 22 million is the oft-cited total. However, the last pre-Communist census (19081913) counted 40 million. One can only wonder why this population segment has been halved after 100 years.


The most obvious answer would be that the current number is erroneous. For one thing, the current census only asks people to list their ethnic background. Since the Hui and Uyghur minorities are assumed to be Muslim, the assumed number is around 20 million. However, we can come up with a very different number by taking the 1910 census figure of 40 million as a starting point. Since the country’s total population at that time was 439.2 million, 9.1 percent would be Muslim. In the last census (2010), the total population was 1.3 billion. If we apply the same 9.1 percent (instead of the current official 1.5 percent), 122 million

Chinese are Muslim. If this is correct, China has the world’s fifth largest Muslim population. This number is of course hypothetical — but likely. Several factors could contribute to a higher or lower possible total. As minorities, Hui and Uyghur families were allowed two children — and often produced more in rural areas — during the one-child policy era. On the other hand, the suppression of religions and religious studies following 1949, and especially during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), effectively wiped out a significant portion of an entire generation of Muslims. Then again, even in other countries the definition of who is a Muslim often depends upon an identity rather than a judgment of one’s personal religiosity. In China, this defining characteristic is abstaining from pork. If we use a more unscientific observation, we could say that if

Muslims make up 1.5 percent of the population, as official numbers project, then there should be one or two halal restaurants per every hundred restaurants in a city that is neither heavily nor sparsely known to be Muslim. Yet a simple walk through the streets of Nanjing, for example, the former capital of China, reveals that there is at least one halal restaurant or butcher shop per city block.

large buildings with names such as Muslim Elementary School or Muslim High School. Some locals still remember that these schools, built in the cities’ primarily Muslim parts, used to include Quran or Islamic studies classes. But all of that has changed. At least for the past two generations, the academic curricula was similar to that of any other school. The slight distinction — that of halal food — is now gone. In addition,

AFTER THE POST-1980 OPTIMISTIC REVIVAL, DURING THE PAST FEW YEARS BEIJING HAS STARTED CLAMPING DOWN ON ISLAMIC EDUCATION AND OUTWARD SYMBOLS. IMPLEMENTED FIRST IN THE WESTERN PROVINCES, THESE POLICIES ARE NOW SPREADING VERY QUICKLY NATIONWIDE. This city used to have 30 mosques. Despite their reopening after 1980, only three remain open, the others having been demolished or closed. A fourth one is being built. In the far western province of Xinjiang (East Turkestan to the indigenous Uyghur), the recent clamp down on Muslims is possibly a government response toward what it regards as terrorist activities aimed at independence. It seems that Beijing views ethnic identity as equal to religious identity, and thus its campaign to erase the religious facets of life. The authorities view religiosity as indicative of a low educational level, resistance to modernization and refusal to assimilate. Right now, for instance, university students are legally prohibited from praying in mosques and imams from teaching religious studies. Although this repression is primarily aimed at Uyghurs, such measures have unfortunately started to affect the Hui minority and Muslims in general. Many cities used to have

only the names remain, but not in all of the cities. Traditionally, Islamic education was provided either privately or through the local mosque. Apart from one-on-one coaching, after-school and weekend classes, there was a “mosque education” that offered years-long and well-structured courses for youths who preferred a mosque education to a more academic one. Children would join it any time during elementary or middle school, spend a few years studying with an imam (ah-hung, from the Persian akhkund) and then move on to another mosque to apprentice with a different imam. After a dozen years or so, the student would “graduate” and his mentor would recommend him to a mosque to serve as an ah-hung. A few such “mosque schools” still survive in the northwest provinces and in Huabei (the North China plain). Another interesting type of educational institution, the “Arabic school,” offered an alternative high school and

higher-level education that started with Arabic and was followed by Quran and Hadith studies, tafseer, and so on. This centuries-long and well-structured curriculum, known as jing tang jiao yu, produced graduates qualified to serve as ah-hungs, pursue higher studies in Arabic-speaking countries or launch appropriate careers. Recently, these schools have started to diversify the languages taught in order to improve the graduates’ opportunities. For example, in 2007 the Arabic school in Linxia (Gansu province), known as “Little Makkah,” was renamed the Linxia School of Foreign Languages. Traditionally “Islamic colleges” have provided the equivalent of a higher-level education in Islamic studies. Today, nine provincial Islamic colleges accept high school graduates. The China Islamic College, the only national one, also requires some basic knowledge of Arabic, the Quran and Islamic knowledge. After three or four years of study, its students graduate with a degree in Islamic studies. However, even these graduates have a poor job outlook. They might find positions as ah-hungs in the south, but in the northwest many do not consider them good enough to occupy the post of imam. Interestingly, ah-hungs are not salaried and thus have to depend upon the alms and gifts given by the local community. Traditionally, every family would take turns preparing meals — bai jia fan (a 100 family meal) — for

them. Alternatively, some communities would hire cooks to prepare food for the imam and the mosque students. Becoming an ah-hung was a totally voluntary act based upon one’s deep love of Islam and a passion for passing on Islamic knowledge. If an Islamic college graduate chose to follow another career, his greatest drawback would be the lack of other academic knowledge. However, one great benefit of these colleges was that, following Deng Xiaoping’s “Reformation and Opening Up” policy (1978), Islamic knowledge experienced a revival and spread. Unfortunately today’s young parents, the children of that generation which could pursue an Islamic education, at least at the imam level, cannot legally pass this knowledge on to their own children. All they can do is join weekend or evening “cultural activities” at the mosque — formal religious classes are banned. Islam entered China during the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) lifetime. Its name in Chinese, “the Pure and True Religion” (清真教), is the direct translation of the meaning of “Islam” according to the Mu’jam Maqayis al-Lughah by Ahmad Ibn Faris al-Qazwini (fl.10th century). We can only hope that this large and ancient non-Arab bastion of Islam will continue to thrive and nurture many more Muslims in the future, despite the bleak outlook at this time.  ih

Islamic Colleges (IC) in China Northwest provinces


Qinghai IC, Ningxia IC, Lanzhou IC and Xinjiang IC

Southwest provinces


Yunnan IC

Huabei (North China plain)


Zhengzhou IC and Hebei IC

Northeast provinces


Shenyang IC



Beijing IC

National (Beijing)


China IC



Dr. Fawzia Mai Tung is a board member of the Islamic Schools League of America (https:// as well as a board member and presenter of Consultants for Islamic Schools Excellence (



Islamic Education in Taiwan: A State of Emergency The lack of Islamic education is undermining yet another small Asian Muslim community

Eid prayer at Taipei Grand Mosque, June 2017.




id al-Fitr 2017 in Taipei was hot and crowded. The worshippers spilled out of the mosque premises, all the way onto the sidewalk, half of the street, and the sidewalk across the street as well. The City of Taipei had erected canopies to shade the pavement. After the prayer, Mayor Ko Wen-je addressed and congratulated the congregation. The administration served free refreshments later that afternoon, and activities were set up for Muslims at the Central Metro Station. Booths lined the edges of the mosque on the sidewalks. Despite arriving early, I could find no place indoors and finally resigned myself to praying with the women on the street. This scene was very different from the Eid prayers of the early 1970s, when prayer halls easily contained all of the worshippers. I was rather overwhelmed with pleasure at the


thought of such an increase in the number of Muslims. But then I started listening to those around me and heard conversations primarily in Indonesian along with some English, Arabic and Urdu here and there. The great majority of Taiwan’s estimated 180,000 Muslims are foreigners, mostly from Indonesia. The number of Taiwanese Muslims is estimated to be 20,000 to 60,000 — depending on the level of optimism — from 40,000 half a century ago. At the mosques, weekend classes and summer camps for children are very poorly attended. Those who attend the Friday prayer are primarily foreigners and elderly Chinese. The shrinking Muslim population is very real and has reached a state of emergency. Some Muslim writers warn that Taiwan’s Muslims will soon become extinct, as did the Lukang Muslims, who arrived during the 17th century and gradually disappeared. Their descendants have forgotten about Islam and only observe traces of it, such as abstaining from pork on Friday and not making offerings to ancestral shrines. In the port city of Keelung, a port in northern Taiwan, some families have kept and honored a sacred book inherited from their ancestors — it was only recently recognized as an Arabic-language copy of the Qur’an. The great majority of Taiwan’s Muslims arrived during the 20th century, especially the approximately 20,000 Muslim families who came with the Nationalist government at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. They built and inaugurated the Taipei Grand Mosque in 1960. Several thousand more, descendants of Nationalist soldiers, moved there from Myanmar and Thailand during the 1980s. Today, Taiwan has seven mosques in its major cities: the Taipei Grand Mosque, the Taipei Cultural Mosque, the Dayuan Mosque, the Longgang (or Lungkang) Mosque, the Taichung Mosque, the Tainan Mosque and the Kaohsiung Mosque. The initial increase of Muslims was the simple result of family growth. What, then, is the cause of the gradual decrease? The simplest and most glaring answer is the lack of Islamic education. As in other Asian countries, Taiwan’s public education system is extremely competitive. To maintain their grades, students regularly attend cram schools after regular school hours or hire tutors. Weekends are usually spent studying or attending some form of tutoring. Parents therefore find it difficult to send their children to mosques for Arabic, Qur’an or

The Islamic Association of Taiwan’s first center. Meeting rooms for book club meetings.

Islamic studies. By and by, these children grow up and, ignorant of their religion, find it hard to integrate into modern society without discarding Muslim facets of their life. Many also marry non-Muslims. Sometimes their own children do not even know that one parent used to be Muslim. Indeed, the outlook is gloomy. If this state of affairs continues, the prediction that Taiwan’s Muslims will soon become extinct might just come true.

IS THERE ANY SOLUTION? If the lack of Islamic education is the cause, then the remedy is simply to supply this education. But as the pressure and competitiveness of public education remains largely the same, weekend schools cannot resolve the issue. The source of knowledge must then come from a full-time Islamic school. I have personally witnessed how Islamic schools can maintain a Muslim community’s character as well as enlarge and develop it. According to Joe McTighe, executive director of the Council for American Private Education, Islamic schools are by far the fastest growing segment of private schools

in the U.S. Their influence can be seen in the healthy and active Muslim communities around the country. The younger generation not only stays Muslim, but also actively participates in mainstream society while moving and shaking their own communities. Many Islamic school alumni have become community leaders. The U.S. has even grown its own generation of scholars and imams and thus no longer needs to import imams. The U.S. has 7.12 Islamic schools for every 100,000 Muslims, Australia has 5.46 and Hong Kong boasts of 5.83 Islamic schools for every 100,000 Muslims. Taiwan, on the other hand, has none. The older generation of Muslims, including Dr. Ibrahim Chao, imam of the Taipei Grand Mosque and a graduate of Umm al-Qura University, has tried to implement various projects, including more weekend workshops, but to no avail. The Chinese Muslim Association and the Chinese Muslim Youth League have also been unable to reverse the tide. A Turkish Muslim in Chung-Ho, a suburb of Taipei, has opened a small boarding school. A group of educators is gathering resources for the establishment of an Islamic school.


Number of Muslims

Number of Islamic Schools

Number per 100,000


3.3 million (Pew, 2015)

235 (ISPU/ISLA, 2011)



604,200 (Australian Census, 2016)

33 (Wikipedia)


7 schools 16 madrassas

3.89 or

Hong Kong 300,000 (Wikipedia) (including 120,000 female foreign domestic workers). Actual number: 180,000


More interestingly, a small but vigorous new segment of Muslims composed of converts, foreign students and Taiwanese married to foreigners has launched a new conversation with the goal of reviving Islam. The Islamic Association of Taiwan was established in 2016 with well-spelled out goals, one of which was to set up Islamic educational institutes: kindergartens, elementary and high schools, colleges and graduate schools. The first step in this direction consisted of organizing book clubs or reading clubs. Members raise questions and then find the answers in the Qur’an. The first such club now has 15 members. The association hopes to continue opening book clubs in every county. Another focus is to develop an awareness of Islam among Taiwan’s indigenous inhabitants. Therefore, at least 50 percent of the club’s membership is reserved for them. Planning to establish the first school involved many questions, the first one being “Where?” After taking various factors into account, it became obvious to the small group of organizers that there was no ideal location because the Muslim population is too spread out. Thus it was decided to use the existing technology to establish hybrid schools and build a main brick-and-mortar central school in Taitung that would also house the administrative offices. The resulting extensive and varied curriculum can be delivered either via online chat rooms or video courses. The hybrid locations would provide face-to-face opportunities as well as hands-on student and team activities such as arts classes and sport teams, and concrete resources such as laboratories. The next step is to create a steady revenue stream. The planning committee is currently juggling various possible projects, such as renting out premises to local businesses after training their staff in Islamic guidelines. This future center could also provide a strong economic boost to the local economy. The Chinese say “the times create the hero.” Indeed, the urgent endangered status of the country’s Muslims has spurred a few concerned persons to action. Insha’allah, according to school project organizer Sana Shaikh, it is hoped that in 20 years’ time a new wave of Muslims in Taiwan will be leading and developing the community.  ih Dr. Fawzia Mai Tung, board member, Islamic Schools League of America; board member and presenter, Consultants for Islamic Schools Excellence



Religious Exemption is No Bar to Animal Welfare Are any of those who pontificate upon the various slaughtering methods used to turn living animals into meat products aware of how these animals are raised? BY MOHAMMAD ABDULLAH


ome groups and politicians target religious methods of slaughtering animals as “cruel” in the belief that they cause animals pain. Denmark and New Zealand require that animals be pre-stunned. On Oct 26, 2017, Lancashire (U.K.) became the first council to ban unstunned halal meat in state schools. Supporters maintain that this promotes animal welfare and thus has nothing to do with Islamophobia or disrespecting Muslim children. However, such measures are inciting controversy over the status of halal meat.

THE RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION In the U.S., the Humane Slaughter Act (1958) and similar laws elsewhere required that animals be stunned before being slaughtered, as this will render them unconscious and thereby mitigate any pain. Animals slaughtered in accord with religious dietary laws are exempt. But consider the following fact: Animal welfare would actually be better served by examining the entire farm-to-fork process. We all know that animals grown only to feed us — primarily poultry — are overwhelmingly raised in overcrowded “factory farms.” Chickens are confined in such conditions for their entire life. Some broilers are so genetically modified they can’t support the weight of their own large breasts, and layer hens are so crammed together in wire cages that they can’t even spread their wings. Recent studies show that chickens are quite intelligent as regards cognitive, communicative and social abilities. Their ensuing frustration sometimes leads to fighting, which causes their beaks to be partially cut off. Sometimes pigs become so stressed out that they bite off the tails of other pigs. To prevent this, their tails are cut off. Other practices include keeping pregnant sows in small crates until they become unproductive and are shipped to abattoirs. Every week millions of animals from farms, feedlots and auction and sale barns are shipped to abattoirs: steers, heifers, broiler chickens and turkeys (raised for their meat), bulls and rams (for breeding), females used in the breeding stocks as well as layers, toms and dairy cows. Shipping can also be stressful, for some places lack proper loading and unloading ramps. Animals being shipped long distances receive no food, water and rest breaks. Some may die due to extreme weather conditions, and some may be injured, fall and trampled to death. Upon arrival, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats are led to the stunning box area. Small distractions such as air hissing, people standing around and sudden movements can cause them to balk and refuse to move forward. The animal handler may use an electric prod, which can cause them to vocalize. This reaction can also be caused by excessive pressure from a restraint device powered by pneumatic cylinders and ineffective stunning. People talk about stunning, but how many have actually performed or observed it? Regardless of what they think, the usual 38    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MARCH/APRIL 2018

methods of stunning — captive bolt gun, electricity, and gas — are not always effective. For example, the captive bolt gun may not be placed precisely enough on the animal’s head to achieve instantaneous insensibility. In electric stunning, an insufficient amperage current passing through the animal’s brain will cause pain; large amperage surges can fracture bones. According to Colorado State University’s Temple Grandin, since not all plant personnel can become electrical engineers, as an auditor he looks for clinical signs that the stunner is actually creating an epileptic seizure with a tonic (rigid) phase and clonic (kicking paddling) phase ( Cattle

Captive Bolt Gun

Sheep and Goats

Captive Bolt Gun and Electric


Electrified Water and Gas


Captive Bolt Gun, Electric and Gas

METHODS OF STUNNING ANIMALS Electrified water stunning has its own issues. Chickens and turkeys are often unintentionally boiled alive because fast-moving lines fail to kill them before dropping them into scalding water (Nico Pitney, Scientists Believe the Chickens We Eat Are Being Slaughtered While Conscious, HuffPost, Oct. 28, 2016). Gas stunning also has its problem. For example, it doesn’t result in instantaneous insensibility. Birds sometimes exhibit such behaviors as gasping for air, headshaking, wing flapping and convulsions. The Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS) and the Low Atmospheric Pressure method requires either window or video cameras to ensure its correct operation. It takes pigs up to 30 seconds to lose consciousness, and disturbing footage of them struggling to breathe while being killed by the CO2 stunning method has been reported. In contrast, the Muslim slaughterer recites Bismillah Allahu Akbar before cutting the animal’s throat with a very sharp knife to remind Muslims that the animal’s life is being ended with God’s

slaughtered after being stunned with a captive bolt gun. The study concluded that halal slaughtering, if carried out properly, is painless in sheep and calves according to the EEG records and the animals’ missing defensive actions. No change was recorded in the EEG graph for the first 3 seconds after the cut, thereby indicating that the animal felt no pain from the cut itself. The following 3 seconds were characterized by a condition of deep-sleep like unconsciousness due to the loss of large quantities of blood. After the EEG recorded a zero reading (no pain), the heart was still beating and the body was convulsing vigorously as a reflex reaction of the spinal cord. Contrary to what some witnesses think, at this stage the animal feels nothing because its brain is no longer recording any sensual messages. The stunned animals were apparently unconscious soon after stunning. Although this method would appear to cause less pain, the EEG nevertheless showed severe pain immediately after stunning. Some scientists opine that many people have lost their objectivity when this topic is discussed, which has resulted in a biased and selective reviewing of literature as well as the interference of politics with good science.

DIFFERENCES IN SCHOLARLY OPINION Table for slaughtering a restrained small animal, a sheep or goat

ANIMAL WELFARE WOULD BE BETTER SERVED BY EXAMINING THE ENTIRE FARM-TO-FORK PROCESS. permission to fulfill one’s needs for food. The cut severs the skin, trachea, esophagus and major blood vessels, but not the spinal cord, so that the heart can continue pumping out the blood. Because of the greater number and larger circumference of blood vessels cut, the blood drains out quickly. The ensuing drop in blood pressure renders the animal unconscious within seconds. Any convulsions are symptoms of hypoxia of the brain, a reflex action of the spinal cord that squeezes the muscles on the blood vessels to force out the maximum amount of blood. After this cut, which signals the procedure’s end, the animal is put on the overhead moving rail. Some people say that it can take up to 14 seconds for sheep and up to 85 seconds for cattle to become insensible following the severance of the major vessels and that doing this to a fully conscious animal is cruel. The time needed to achieve unconsciousness varies due to the differences in the anatomy of the blood vessels that supply the brain. As regards how much stress and discomfort an animal undergoes before losing consciousness, researchers have reported different results. However, deeming the halal method as immensely cruel is inaccurate, for scientific studies have proven that overall, it produces no more pain than pre-stunning. Wilhelm Schulze of Germany’s University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover led a study that used an electroencephalograph (EEG) and electrocardiogram (ECG) to observe the condition of the brain and heart in animals slaughtered in the halal manner and those

The global meat industry’s quest to produce more meat both quicker and cheaper has impacted the halal meat industry. Halal meat products are produced via private labeling in the same plants, and thus with the same equipment and staff, that produce non-halal meat and poultry products. The only difference is the Muslim slaughterer who makes the cut. But this is done under the supervision of a halal certification organization whose representative may or may not be on the premises. In the absence of any entity with enforcement halal certification authority, there is no global uniform standard for halal slaughter or agreement among religious authorities on stunning. Those who allow pre-stunning don’t want the stunning to be fatal. Some hold that the stunned animal is still alive if its heart continues to beat. Others disagree on the grounds that this cannot be accurately determined.

PROMOTING ANIMAL WELFARE A review of the entire farm-to-fork process reveals that neither method is completely free of stress or pain. Right now, our first priority is to address anything that causes stress and/or pain in these animals. Ending the religious exemption will not make a big difference because, according to Masuma Rahim, in the UK some 85 percent of the halal meat is from pre-stunned animals anyways (“It isn’t just halal slaughter that Britain needs to make more humane,” The Guardian, Oct. 30, 2017). Moreover, keeping the religious exemption in a multi-religious society is a good example of non-interference in religious matters. One solution would be transparency. Let the product label show how the animal was slaughtered and then leave it up to the consumer to decide.  ih Dr. Mohammad Abdullah retired after serving for 29 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which regulates the meat industry. He is the author of “A Closer Look at Halal Meat: From Farm to Fork” (2016).



You Can Never Cook the Devil Out There’s no reason to use alcohol and wine as ingredients, because halal substitutes are almost always available



any people — even some Muslims — believe that alcohol used as an ingredient dissipates during cooking and thus leaves only the taste behind. As such, there is no possibility of any intoxicating side effects — and for Muslims consumption of the prohibited substance. Despite this conventional wisdom, however, cooking foods for even 2 to 3 hours doesn’t remove all of the alcohol. Common sense dictates that the dash of salt, a cup of butter or a teaspoon of allspice and other ingredients that you add will show up in your final dish. The same is true for alcohol. The reason given for alcohol’s being cooked out of food is because its boiling point is lower than that of water: 173 degrees Fahrenheit versus 212 degrees Fahrenheit. This fact leads people to assume that cooking food over 173 degrees Fahrenheit burns off all of the alcohol. In the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Jorg Augustin, PhD, et al. (1992) reported on the amount of alcohol retained in food that had been refrigerated overnight, added to hot sauce, flamed, oven baked and simmered for various amounts of time. The

study found that the “assumption that all alcohol is evaporated when heat is applied during cooking is not valid. Six alcohol-containing recipes in this study retained from 4% to 85% of the alcohol.” This and similar studies verify that if alcohol is used as an ingredient, a certain amount of it will remain. Writer and editor Graham Lawton takes a less clinical, but nonetheless practical, firsthand approach. In the online video documenting his experiment (https://www., he

eats foods prepared with alcohol via different cooking methods, times and temperatures. After consuming each dish, he blows into a breathalyzer to test his blood alcohol level. After the first dish, rum-flambéed chorizo, Lawton’s breathalyzer reads “HI.” This coincides with the USDA’s findings that flaming food retains 75 percent of the alcohol. His second dish, fish stew cooked with white wine, was cooked for 30 minutes. After blowing into his breathalyzer, the results indicate that his blood alcohol level is too high to properly operate a vehicle. Finally, for dessert, Lawton eats a sherry trifle topped with cream and a milk thistle. As expected, even with a substantial amount of food now in his system, Lawton’s blood alcohol level still greatly exceeds the driving limit. This demonstration illustrates two important facts: (1) alcohol used as an ingredient remains to varying degrees and (2) affects both the hidden blood alcohol levels and transforms a person’s visible nature. After finishing his alcohol-laced meal, Lawton says, “I feel a bit queasy in the head, like I’ve had a bit too much to drink.” Unfortunately, many Muslims have unintentionally consumed such dishes — often not reading the full list of ingredients after satisfying themselves with a kosher certification emblem (NOTE: There are kosher-certified alcoholic drinks). Although we stopped eating those dishes once we learned that they contained alcohol, we don’t have to shun them, for there is a solution — nearly all alcoholic beverages have delicious, halal substitutions. For example, almond extract can replace a splash of the Italian almond-flavored Amaretto and chicken broth, white grape juice or ginger ale can be used instead of white wine to

Alcohol Burn-off Chart – US Department of Agriculture Preparation Method

Percent Retained

alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat


alcohol flamed


no heat, stored overnight


baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture


Baked/simmered dishes with alcohol stirred into mixture: 15 minutes cooking time


30 minutes cooking time


1 hour cooking time


1.5 hours cooking time


2 hours cooking time


2.5 hours cooking time




concentrate the flavor of a dish. Sherry, a common ingredient in sauces and desserts, can be swapped with orange or pineapple juice. Crème de menthe, a thick sweetened mint liqueur syrup used to flavor dishes, can be easily replaced with a mix of spearmint extract and water or grapefruit juice.

away from alcohol because its harm greatly outweighs any potential benefit. Some argue that the existence of “some benefit” means that it’s all right to consume it in measured portions. However, alcohol is one of the most addictive substances known to humanity. According to the Centers for

ONCE ALCOHOL IS ADDED TO A DISH, IT WILL UNDENIABLY REMAIN IN THAT DISH, ALBEIT IN LESSER CONCENTRATIONS DEPENDING ON THE COOKING TIME AND METHOD. Other than imparting flavor, alcohol is added to achieve a desired chemical reaction, such as leavening or breaking down tough fibers. In this case, using yeast, baking powder or baking soda as a leavening agent does the trick just as well. These alternatives show us that God always provides a solution even before we discover that there is a problem.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH A TINY BIT OF ALCOHOL? New York’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services warns, “For some people having just a tiny bit of alcohol or the taste of alcohol may be enough to act as a powerful cue. Similar to blowing smoke at a former smoker, using alcohol in cooking should be carefully thought out and guests should be informed as it could do a great disservice to a recovering alcoholic.” Imagine how even a tiny amount can have grave consequences for a former alcoholic. Now, connect this thought with God’s command to avoid alcohol in any amount in order to prevent short- and long-term suffering. Indeed, Islam is deen-ul-fitrah because it instinctively protects us and preserves our humanity. Although it’s unlikely that a person will get drunk from a single serving of a favorite dish that has been splashed or dipped in alcohol, for Muslims it’s not about the “drunk” factor because God forbids its consumption in any way, shape or form: “They ask you [O Muhammad] about drinking and gambling. Tell them: ‘There is great sin in both, although they may have some benefit for men; but the sin is greater than the benefit’” (2:219). God, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge, informs us of this potential benefit and yet, out of His mercy, guides us

Disease Control and Prevention, “Alcohol affects every organ in the body. It is a central nervous system depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream.” The Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco, found that when someone drinks it, endorphins — happy chemicals — are released in the nucleus accumbens part of the brain and cause drinkers to feel temporary pleasure. The more pleasure they feel, the more likely they are to repeat the experience. This desire develops into one of addiction’s main components — craving, the constant desire to replicate that elusive pleasurable feeling. Alcohol addiction is a nationwide crisis, a treatable but incurable disease. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, one in every 12 adults suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence. In addition, alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation. The council’s findings are clear: “Alcoholism has little to do with what kind of alcohol one drinks, how long one has been drinking, or even exactly how much alcohol one consumes. But it has a great deal to do with a person’s uncontrollable need for alcohol. Most alcoholics can’t just ‘use a little willpower’ to stop drinking.” Islam gives the easiest and most straightforward answer to this epidemic: Don’t consume it. As educated people, we know it robs us of our senses. As Muslims, we know that it also drives us away from the remembrance of God. The next time someone tells you that food cooked with alcohol is halal because it cooks out, remember that there is no such thing as disappearing alcohol. Once alcohol is added it remains, albeit in lesser

concentrations depending upon the cooking time and method. More importantly, for our own safety we must adhere to God’s command, which He has decreed for reasons that are both known and unknown to us. We know that no one is immune to alcohol dependency, regardless of age and circumstance, and that alcoholism affects all societies. And yet alcoholic beverages are advertised in all media outlets and are legal to buy, sell and consume in nearly every country. They produce a great deal of revenue, but they also destroy individuals and families along the way. In the end, consider God’s warning that “Satan only wants to cause animosity and hatred among you through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of God and from prayer. So, will you not desist?” (5:91).  ih Asma Jarad, a freelance writer and editor, lives in the Chicagoland area with her family.

RELIGIOUS COORDINATOR WANTED The Islamic Center of Yuma (AZ) is seeking applications for a part-time or full-time religious coordinator to serve its growing diverse Muslim community. Qualifications: • A Bachelor’s or equivalent degree in Islamic Studies from an accredited Islamic higher education institution. • Must be fluent in English and Arabic. • Must be a U.S. citizen or a Permanent Resident. • Duties include but are not limited to: leading prayers, giving Jumma Khutba, and providing Islamic guidance to the community. • References required. Interested candidates apply at: Islamic Center of Yuma 200 West 24th Street Yuma, AZ 85364 Or through the “Contact Us” form at:



N.Y. Muslims’ Businesses Solve Everyday Problems New Yorkers Fahad Tirmizi of WuduGear and Dr. Mohamed Issa of NoorVitamins serve the ummah with their unique and innovative business endeavors, benefiting Muslims everywhere BY HABEEBA HUSAIN

family and friends, Tirmizi received a green light and was officially launched. Putting together a team made up of his wife, brother Samad, and others, he opened shop at Muslim conventions around North America and explained to consumers why scholars have agreed unanimously that wiping over regular thin socks is impermissible and how WuduGear’s Shariah-compliant waterproof socks help revive the sunnah of masah. At one ISNA convention, a man offered Tirmizi some heart-felt feedback. After stating that he had many pins in his foot due to a surgery and thus found it hard to remove his socks, he proclaimed, “You have no idea how much you helped me!” Tirmizi recalls, “He thought our product especially helped him from some suffering, and he actually gave me a hug.” It’s moments like this that Tirmizi considers especially fulfilling — interacting with so many Muslims and knowing he can have an impact on their lives. “I would attribute our success to two main things: (1) The help of Allah and du’as of scholars and (2) the sincere intention when we started the company of what we were trying to achieve. We simply wanted to make wudu’ easier.”



hile on his cellphone store showroom floor catering to customers, Long Island native Fahad Tirmizi found himself having to answer another call — his daily prayers. So, excusing himself from the floor, he punched in the code on the lock and made his way through the “Employees Only” door to begin his routine: go to the office, remove socks and shoes, put on flip flops, walk to the bathroom, make wudu’, wash feet in sink, go back to the office, dry feet and, finally, pray. The post-prayer routine consisted of ensuring his feet were absolutely dry before putting on his socks and shoes and returning to the sales floor. Many Muslims face this struggle in the workplace. Aside from the awkward encounter that ensues when a non-Muslim sees a Muslim washing his or her foot in the sink, just preparing for the prayer can be quite time consuming. Tirmizi came across potential solutions, but they all fell short. But when he developed a sock that was lighter, more affordable

and more comfortable than its counterparts, while still meeting Shariah requirements for masah (wiping over), he knew that he had found the answer. “I thought it was the most useful thing in the world,” he reminisces. This sock works on two technologies. The first is a waterproof layer that, despite its impermeability, is still breathable. This material is then flanked by a comfortable inner material against the skin and a durable outer material that withstands the elements. The second technology, a patented lamination, seamlessly combines all three layers to create a waterproof sock that can be wiped over instead of removed when performing wudu’. “We did a lot of the legwork on our own, talking to scholars about what the requirements are and making sure quality wasn’t sacrificed by meeting those criteria,” Tirmizi says. “We also didn’t want to sacrifice comfort.” After consulting one of his teachers about possibly expanding the endeavor beyond


When New York-based pharmacist Dr. Mohamed Issa and his fellow Muslim health professionals looked for halal vitamins to recommend to their same-faith patients, they realized that the options were few and far between. As he recalls, “Almost nine times out of ten, we found many of the ingredients were sourced from pork and/or alcohol. They obviously weren’t permissible from a halal standard.” In 2010, this predicament turned into an opportunity when he and his colleagues decided to formulate a halal alternative to major brand supplements — NoorVitamins, which was launched with four products: multivitamin, prenatal, children’s chewable, and calcium with vitamin D. Dr. Issa, chief executive officer of Noor Pharmaceuticals (which makes NoorVitamins), says Muslims who regularly take supplements appreciated the new option. However, there were skeptics who had seen too many Muslim companies come and go. Fast forward eight years, and Noor Vitamins is still around — with a presence that is stronger than ever. In fact, his products

now line store shelves in multiple countries, making NoorVitamins, according to Dr. Issa, “the No. 1 halal vitamin brand worldwide. But more importantly, [approximately] thirty to forty percent of our customers are not Muslim. They buy our brand because of its high quality nature.” NoorVitamins now has a product line of thirteen and counting, six of which are patented and trademarked. Each product contains ingredients from all-natural sources only and is manufactured in the company’s own FDA-approved facilities. “Everything,” he states, “from the ingredient sources to the manufacturing and packaging Dr. Mohamed Issa process and the formulation development, [we do] ourselves.” an opportunity to elevate expectations of The executive team’s involvement guar- ourselves and our priorities.” antees the high quality product in which One such priority is giving back. the company takes so much pride. At the Each Ramadan the company runs a same time, Dr. Issa notes, it requires great #NoorishTheHungry campaign, during persistence, consistency and commit- which it donates a meal to the needy for ment, for “with every challenge, there’s each bottle purchased. “Every time we try

to give, Allah blesses us with more. We really believe the more you give, the more you get.” NoorVitamins is run in an Islamically compliant way, from steering clear of interest to ensuring that its products deliver what they promise. All of this, Dr. Issa says, contributes to the “real value” his company has placed at its core: presenting consumers with a product that is the best of its kind and that also meets halal standards. This is in contrast to what he calls “affinity value,” in which a business relies on fellow Muslims to buy something simply because it’s coming from a Muslim company. For Dr. Mohamed Issa, what began as a project to satisfy the needs of his community has now expanded into a business that benefits everyone.  ih Habeeba Husain, a freelance journalist based in New York/ New Jersey, contributes to SLAM Magazine, blogs for WhyIslam and is a social media manager for WuduGear. Her work has also appeared on and, among other online and print publications.


At the Islamic Center of Rochester (NY) Minimum Required Qualifications:

Duties and Responsibilities:

§ A degree in Islamic Studies or related field from an accredited educational institution. § Fluency in both English and Arabic (spoken and written) § Knowledge of Shariah, Hadith and Sunnah § Hafiz or have memorized a good portion of the Quran. § Prior experience as Imam or Assistant Imam. § Ability to interact with and relate to youth. § Ability to work with people of diverse backgrounds. § Ability to teach Qur’an and religion. § Experience in conflict prevention and resolution. § Experience in family and youth counseling. § Dynamic personality and speaker. § Experience in explaining Islam to Non-Muslims. § Must be a U.S. Citizen or a Permanent Resident

§ § § § § § § §

Lead the Daily, Jumu’a, Janaza and Eid prayers. Conduct matrimonial and funeral services Offer family and youth counseling and guidance. Provide Qur’an and Hadith, Seerah and Fiqh lessons. Advise and teach at the Islamic schools. Participate in interfaith activities. Conduct educational program for new Muslims. Develop and implement educational and extracurricular programs for our youth. § Provide direction to the Board of Directors on religious matters, community issues, and activities. § Maintain regular and convenient office hours. § Prevent discrimination on all bases, including but not limited to, gender, race, nationality, ethnic origin, citizenship, political affiliation, school of thought, sexual orientation or economic status.

Additional information can be found at If interested, please send résumé to MARCH/APRIL 2018  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   43


Loyal Customers Can Be as Naughty as They Want to Be Massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia helps fulfill the neoliberal ideal BY LUKE MATHEW PETERSON Franklin D. Roosevelt with King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy on Feb. 14, 1945.


n August of 1945, as the world was winding down from more than a decade of unrelenting political violence, ceaseless bloodletting and unprecedented inhumanity, two seasoned but frail political leaders — one famous and of international renown, the other obscure and known primarily to regional rivals — took place on Egypt’s quiet Great Bitter Lake. Their face-to-face meeting aboard the American destroyer the USS Quincy produced consequences that still impact politics, international economics, diplomacy and human rights. The fabled Saudi monarch Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud left his enigmatic kingdom and for the first time appeared in front of television cameras and prying international eyes. For President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it was a version of a well-practiced diplomatic mission, but one of unprecedented import. At the time the meeting was arranged, FDR was at Yalta, along with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, deciding the fate of a completely devastated Europe. Roosevelt’s hasty departure left his European colleagues perturbed. Upon hearing news of

the president’s imminent departure for the Middle East, Churchill accosted one of FDR’s aides and accused the aging American leader of engaging in “a lot of horseplay!” But the deed was done, and Roosevelt departed the day after announcing his impending retreat from the European field of diplomacy. What awaited him on the calm waters of the Great Bitter Lake, though, would be just as groundbreaking as the decisions being made at Yalta. Aboard the USS Quincy, FDR met face-toface with three kings: Ibn Saud, Egypt’s King Farouk (a pliable British puppet of Albanian descent set in place to preserve London’s financial interests in the Suez Canal), and Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie (a self-proclaimed direct descendant of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the latest in an unbroken line of kings and queens stretching back to the biblical kingdom of Sheba). But the jewel in the crown was clearly Ibn Saud. One description of the generosity with which Roosevelt treated him states: According to press secretary Steve Early, “The President, seated on the forward gun deck of his ship, received


the royal visitors as the crew manned the rails, bugle calls sounded, and the shrill notes of the boatswain’s pipe kept all hands standing rigidly at attention.” In anticipation of the king’s visit, Roosevelt had decided on an appropriate gift, a DC-3 Dakota, the two-engine propeller-driven mainstay of U.S. commercial fleets. (Gardner, 2009: 20) FDR, in return, received a gilded sword rumored to have been worth $100,000 in 1945 dollars. And with that, the two men began carving out a mutually beneficial political and economic relationship that has existed with uninterrupted intensity for the last 70 years. Washington’s trumpeted claims to be the global leader in terms of social justice and the still secretive Saudi regime’s documented cases of horrific human rights abuses has failed to disrupt this relationship, for no Washington agency or administration has ever applied any significant pressure on Riyadh to change its ways. One wonders how the kingdom, given its blatant double standards before the law and between the sexes, consistent oppression of its Shi’a minority and draconian corporal punishment for all manner of minor offences manages to retain its Most Favored Nation Status as a U.S. trading partner. With a patently racist immigration policy, with homosexuality punishable by death (by crucifixion), and with the criminalization of all forms of political dissent, why does it not appear on Donald Trump’s list of states banned from entering the U.S.? In short, if Saudi Arabia is such a habitual abuser of human rights, why is it still considered a normal state within the international community? If your answer to any of the above-posed rhetorical questions was “money,” “resources,” “oil,” or, more pointedly, “the neoliberal ideal,” then you are dead right. In an earlier piece for Islamic Horizons (Jan.-Feb. 2018; p. 56) I characterized contemporary neoliberalism (quoting George Monbiot) as an “unrelenting ideology,” the global manifestation of unrestrained privatization and, more to the point, the single greatest economic threat to human liberty as we know it today. Its symptoms are plainly visible: selling the public sector British Railways to greatly enrich a small number of people and selling Flint’s public water utility to private owners who immediately cut the amount of corrosion-control treatment in the water supply to reduce expenditures and vastly increase their own profits. On the international stage, it is the unprecedented growth of the arms industry — pouring hundreds of billions of dollars and other

currencies into developing newer, deadlier machinery to insert into political conflicts, investments that are repaid tenfold through bloated sales to foreign governments that seek military solutions to pressing foreign and domestic political problems.

indeterminate period of time. In exchange, FDR vaguely offered “political support” for the fledgling state. Within a generation, this promise became a completely laissez faire attitude, a hands-off policy of complete silence that continues to this day, despite

ONE WONDERS HOW THE KINGDOM, GIVEN ITS BLATANT DOUBLE STANDARDS BEFORE THE LAW AND BETWEEN THE SEXES, CONSISTENT OPPRESSION OF ITS SHI’A MINORITY AND DRACONIAN CORPORAL PUNISHMENT FOR ALL MANNER OF MINOR OFFENCES MANAGES TO RETAIN ITS MOST FAVORED NATION STATUS AS A U.S. TRADING PARTNER. Neoliberalism, with its attendant unrelenting privatization and rampant market creation, has been at the heart of the WashingtonRiyadh relationship from day one. From this perspective, it would be accurate to describe FDR as de facto CEO of the Seven Sisters, the 1940s-era oil cartel comprised of seven ostensibly independent although indelibly interconnected companies working hard to create and sustain their respective market share of the exploding petroleum industry. FDR’s clandestine purpose was at best, therefore, multi-faceted. With his intimate connections to the new global financial capital in New York City and as the scion of the well-established Roosevelt clan, he was uniquely situated not just because of his political office, but also because of his family’s well-known business interests. Transcripts of the two leaders’ conversations in August of 1945 reveal that Ibn Saud was happy to guarantee robust oil concessions to this American-centric cartel for an

Riyadh’s moribund brand of Islamic jurisprudence and social organization and the kingdom’s increasingly grotesque violations of human rights. Compounding this Faustian pact of cheap gas and zooming company profits, during the Reagan Administration the U.S. famously began selling military equipment to Saudi Arabia, most notably the 1986 sale of E-3 Sentry AWACS aerial intelligence aircraft. Publicly, Israel was much chagrined by this shift of American military favoritism in the Middle East. Privately, Israel need not have worried, for there was plenty to go around. Since the 1980s, the U.S. has doubled-down on this commitment by outfitting Saudi Arabia with the latest military technology — all from catalogs displaying the latest wares from private defense firms based in the U.S. This trend shows no sign of slowing down. During his May 2017 two-day official state visit to the kingdom, one of his first major diplomatic efforts, President Trump pledged

“All I wish is for Palestine to be free” — Ahed Tamimi On December 19th of last year at 3 a.m., 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian resident of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, was taken from her home by a group of roughly 30 Israeli soldiers. The Tamimi family has long been at the forefront of village efforts to resist the confiscation of village land by encroaching Israeli settlements, which have been recognized internationally as illegal. Ahed herself has led these protest marches and, as a result, has become a target of Israeli aggression. A few days before her arrest, she had shoved and then slapped an Israeli soldier who was menacing her mother and another young family member on the driveway of her family home. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett declared that Ahed and other protesters should “finish their lives in prison.” Ahed remains in custody as of the time of this writing (Jan. 26). She spent her 17th birthday — Jan. 31 — in prison.

$100 billion in U.S. military equipment and training over the course of the next decade. It is rumored that he also engaged in some "family" business, just as FDR appears to have done. But perhaps neoliberal practice is simply carried out more blatantly than it was when FDR met the three kings. Remember that neoliberalism functions by moving money from public hands into private pockets. Its architects justify policies that benefit individual firms, families and trust funds directly by declaring loudly that they do, in fact, serve the public good. But that’s just so much smoke and mirrors designed to conceal their true motive: profit, profit and more profit. In this forprofit system of privatized industry, the environmental and human consequences glibly referred to as “externalities” simply don’t exist. However, they are clearly visible on the long, unbroken tarmac connecting Washington to Riyadh. When private defense contractors in the U.S. pack up and send off yet another shipment of laser guided surface to surface missiles destined for the Saudi military, they are playing the game by the game’s own rules and, according to the only measure that matters, winning. When those missiles obliterate civilian encampments in war-wracked Yemen, the resulting deaths are not mentioned on company balance sheets. Likewise, when the entrenched Wahhabist state executes a prisoner for political dissent via public beheading — since 2014 Riyadh has done this with greater frequency than even the Islamic State — this obscenity produces no meaningful consequences in Washington. Rather, Americans are simply told that these contracts and diplomatic relationships are in the best interest of the people. Architects of the neoliberal ideal in both countries have been playing this mutually beneficial game for decades now, funneling oil profits into the hands of ever richer executive offices while pouring mass casualty weapons into the hands of ideologues willing to turn them against captive civilian populations at home and abroad. It is enough to make one wonder aloud whether or not the two old men sitting on board an American destroyer on that calm salt lake so many decades ago would do it all over again if they had the opportunity. Chillingly, I believe we all know the answer to that question.  ih Luke Mathew Peterson (Ph.D., Middle Eastern studies, University of Cambridge) is a professor of Arabic, history and politics in Pittsburgh. His book Palestine-Israel in the Print News Media: Contending Discourses (London and New York: Routledge, 2015) is available on Amazon, and his piece “Palestine-Israel and the Neoliberal Ideal” was released in the fall 2017 volume of The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences.



Is the Muslim Ban Becoming an Africa Ban? As the U.S. Africa Command expands operations, the geographic focus of Islamophobic rhetoric and exclusionary policy will follow suit BY SARA SWETZOFF


n late September 2017, the Trump administration announced its third version of the “travel ban,” dubbed “Muslim Ban 3.0” by protestors. The first version banned immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, as well as refugees from Syria; the second version removed Iraq and the third one replaced Sudan with Chad. Just one week after the third version was signed, four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger, Chad’s western neighbor. These developments indicate that American intervention is increasingly shifting toward the Lake Chad Basin and greater Sahel. While the ensuing impact may be invisible to most Americans, Ghana and other members of the Economic Community of West African States are experiencing a spike in the migration of nomads caught in the crosshairs of climate change and counterterrorism. Last summer in Accra I witnessed an epidemic of street beggars hailing predominantly from Niger, Mali and Chad. Apparently few academics or think tanks have documented this phenomenon, despite the Ghanaian media’s coverage since 2015. The soldiers’ deaths caught Americans by surprise. Congress claimed that it had been kept in the dark about the extent of special operations in the region, and the U.S. media quoted various politicians’ sternly stated intentions to investigate. However, these complaints about insufficient Congressional oversight did not necessarily take issue with war itself: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explicitly embraced increased military operations in Africa and condoned an escalation of violence via laxer criteria for kill strikes. Furthermore, despite Congress’ claimed exclusion, it played a significant role in enabling the situation. In 2002 the Senate had voted overwhelmingly for the post-9/11 “Authorization of Military Force” bill that gives the military carte blanche to secretly send troops wherever necessary to pursue the “war on terror.” In Sept. 2017, mere weeks before the Muslim Ban 3.0 was proclaimed

and the soldiers were ambushed, the Senate voted 2:1 to reject an amendment designed to revoke this authorization. Furthermore, Congress was deeply complicit in the Libyan fiasco that precipitated this current surge of violence. After all, in 2011 then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced little, if any, opposition to the intervention agenda. Consequently, the U.S. and NATO imposed a no-fly zone on the very day that African Union leaders were slated to arrive in Libya and negotiate a peaceful transition. They were totally ignored and not guaranteed safe passage.This thwarting of a key opportunity for Pan-African diplomacy arguably set the stage for the ongoing multilateral war in Libya and its eventual spread to Mali, which France seized upon as a pretext to (re)invade its former colony. In May 2017, an Al-Jazeera documentary exposed the dramatic increase in oil extraction in Mali’s northern regions, where France still has boots on the ground. The flood of Libyan arms into the Sahel remains extremely problematic. Undoubtedly, the ensuing weapons conduits and non-state actor networks emboldened Boko Haram to rapidly expand across the Lake Chad basin between 2012 and 2014. Remember the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign in response to the mass kidnapping of Chibok schoolgirls in April 2014? Since May 2013, the conflict between Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces has displaced 2.3 million people — at least 250,000 of whom have fled to Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The U.S. presence in Chad and Niger is just the latest episode in the post-9/11 chapter of American interventionism, which includes the 2006 U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia to crush the Islamic Courts Union and the tightening of sanctions against Sudan. Sanctions were purportedly imposed in response to state-sponsored massacres (or genocide, depending on who you ask) in Darfur and, arguably, to punish Sudan for not sharing intelligence.


American Military Bases in Africa

But after President Omar Hassan al-Bashir proved himself a willing ally of the U.S.Saudi axis in Yemen during 2015, sanctions were lifted and the country was removed from the travel ban. In his “Lake Chad: The World’s Most Complex Humanitarian Disaster” (The New Yorker, Dec. 4, 2017), Ben Taub warns: “In Chad, the [U.S.] security-based approach mistakes the strengthening of [President] Déby’s regime for the stabilization of the Chadian state. The strategy is a paradox: in pursuing stability, it strengthens the autocrat, but, in strengthening the autocrat, it enables him to further abuse his position, exacerbating the conditions that lead people to take up arms.” Kenyan writer Nanjala Nyabola concurs: “In the name of this ‘Stability Doctrine’, foreign governments…bolster the short-term status quo, even if that means disregarding visible discontent and overlooking state abuses. They pick power over protesters” ( will-the-stability-doctrine-in-africa-destabilise-the-world). Taub offers no solutions, and the American officials he interviewed supplied only vague platitudes about development and democracy defeating terrorism. He writes, rather chillingly: “Travelling through the Lake Region, I got the impression that almost everyone there — and especially those in the Presidential palace — has a stake in Boko Haram’s continued existence as a distant, manageable threat.” Despite his cogent analysis, Taub’s lack of regional dissident interviewees and uncritical use of the term “jihadist” might have typically

steadiest regional allies that currently hosts a major base camp for drone operations (https:// you-might-not-know-where-chad-us-military-has-big-plans-it). While the exact reasons for its inclusion remain unknown to the public, it seems that Chad is currently unable to thoroughly screen its citizens before issuing travel documents. According to Amnesty

caused one to bypass his article. However, those striving to follow events in the Lake Chad region have few options. In-depth coverage has been so scant that I can count the journalists I follow on one hand — Nick Turse (, Joshua Hammer ( and Amnesty International’s news bulletins on the targeting of human rights activists in Chad. After the soldiers’ deaths in Niger, media outlets rushed to present “experts” on “America’s shadow war in Africa.” But the flood of thinkpieces only quoted Washington, DC-area officials, with few staff writers even sent to report briefly from the ground. This now-familiar scenario raises two questions: “When are we going to start supporting independent media, including local journalists in Africa, that prioritize the voices of Africa’s grassroots civil society organizers, human rights advocates, students and labor leaders?” and “How else can we hold our government and military accountable while developing viable policy alternatives?” Furthermore, accurate reporting and knowledge production are essential to keeping Muslims in the U.S. safe. As “Islamic terrorism” is the primary rhetoric justifying the U.S. Africa Command’s current expansion into almost every African country, clickbait journalism (i.e., brief, superficial, and sensationalist stories designed to get as many clicks as possible) will only reinforce existing stereotypes and fuel more anti-Muslim fear and prejudice worldwide. To return to the Muslim Ban 3.0, Chad is listed despite its status as one of Washington’s

Islamophobia and the continual depiction of Black Africans as too uncivilized to rule themselves democratically must be tackled together. Now that the Muslim Ban has shifted towards West Africa, Islam and African Blackness can be conflated to justify Trump’s core agenda of containing populations from “shithole” countries. In this sense, the Muslim Ban has come to


International’s recent “Between Recession and Repression: The Rising Cost of Dissent in Chad” report, over the past year Chad’s cutting of civil society and army wages sparked widespread protests followed by a wave of state repression and incarceration of human rights activists. I contend that the collusion of Muslim elite — such as President Déby — with the international American war machine will only further endanger the vast majority of people, regardless of their religion. I’m not saying that we should ignore militant groups acting “in the name of Islam,” but that only truly democratic, internationalist organizing can engender transparency and justice in the U.S. and its client states — “internationalist” in the sense that grassroots activists (e.g., students, workers, farmers and teachers) in the region and elsewhere are our real partners in forging a shared global vision of community-led development that can replace a war economy with a peace economy. In addition, the Muslim American community must finally achieve unity. Washington profiles Muslim-majority African countries for political purposes, while we treat many Black and African Muslims here as somehow not “real” Muslims. For example, fourth-generation Muslim African Americans might be patronizingly asked when they converted, while immigrant African Muslims are often presumed to know little about their faith.

its fullest non-partisan, capitalist expression by including Chad, a country whose people staged a national strike in 2016 to protest their president and demand a constitution. If there is one thing the American empire despises more than terrorism, it’s the thought that Africans might actually become free and throw a wrench into the ceaseless corporate plunder of their continent. In fact, African organizing has the potential to both uplift Africans and deprive late capitalism of the resource base that would sustain its destructive path well into this century. As Pan-African community leader Ahjamu Umi wrote about local human rights organizing in both Chad and Niger: “People in the U.S. are programmed to view the U.S. as the center and initiator of everything in the world. The truth couldn’t be farther from that. These uprisings in Africa are the current steps towards fighting for a unified Africa to cement the final battle against imperialism on the world stage.” Muslim Americans might do well to look toward Africa. The silver lining of Chad’s addition to the Muslim Ban has quite literally put it on the map of American Muslim awareness. Now that it’s there, let’s build international solidarity.  ih Sara Swetzoff is a PhD candidate in Howard University’s African Studies department. She recently started working with ISNA’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliance as a policy fellow.



They Are Our Responsibility As the number of Muslim child refugees and orphans continues to surge with no end in sight, one cannot help but wonder who is going to take care of them BY ZAINAB ALWANI


t is one of those phone calls I dread. A social worker is asking if I know any Muslim families who would be interested in caring for a foster child,” said Catherine England, a Muslim foster parent. As one of the few — if not the only — Muslim foster homes in her area, England is frequently asked if she knows of other families who would be interested in assuming this responsibility. “Sadly, the answer is most often no,” she wrote in a 2006 article about foster care in Azizah Magazine (www.brycs. org/documents/upload/fostercare.pdf). This situation is not an isolated one. In fact, although her story was published more than 12 years ago, the same issue continues to exist: social workers are still struggling to find Muslim families who will foster Muslim children. In an interview with the Muslim Link, Molley Dagget of Lutheran Social Services stated that the organization gets calls for Muslim foster families for Muslim children, but that they can’t place them. “When everyone says ‘no,’ that means they are placed wherever the state can place them. That will be within a culture and religion that is foreign to them. Every day they are within a non-Muslim home diminishes their Muslim identity” (www. Many Muslim children are currently in the foster care system due to substance abuse, mental health issues of a guardian, homelessness, extreme poverty, physical abuse, domestic

violence, sexual abuse, the death of a guardian, war and the refugee crisis. Although these types of child neglect or abuse are found in all communities, our obligation begins within our own community. For people who are interested in taking care of these children, guidelines for foster care have been uploaded to In addition, they can contact the Muslim Foster Care Association ( Unfortunately, Muslim families in the West, specifically the U.S., have shown an increased reluctance to foster or become the guardians of non-related children. This is primarily due to the general lack of clarity about American family law, which causes many Muslims to think that there is no alternative to adoption. Other discouraging factors include the lack of a support network, adverse environmental conditions, cultural dissent, financial restrictions, language barriers and potential legal ramifications. But despite these factors, Muslims need to get involved and help care for orphaned and abandoned children. In the Quran, God reminds Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu


‘alayhi wa sallam), who was an orphan himself, that these unfortunate children are to not be oppressed. “Did He not find you (O Muhammad) an orphan and gave you refuge? … So as for the orphan, do not oppress [him/her]” (Quran 93:6). Taking care of orphans is an act of piety in Islam. The Quran repeatedly emphasizes the importance of assuming responsibility for them and for those in need (e.g., 2:67, 2:147, 4:36 and

107:1-7) and reminds believers that they are duty-bound to treat orphans with equity (4:127). To persuade adults to engage in such a selfless action, the Prophet said, “The one who cares for an orphan and myself will be together in Paradise like this,” and he held his two fingers together to illustrate (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 5659). In addition, he encouraged and practiced guardianship (kafalah). Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger said, “The best house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are well treated. The worst house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are ill treated. I and the guardian of the orphan will be in the Garden like that,” indicating his two fingers (“Adab al Mufrad,” hadith no. 137. According to Ibn Hajar, this

hadith is hasan [fair] “Mushkat al-Masabih,” vol. 4, p. 426). Therefore, a child’s wellbeing is the primary consideration in all decisions related to his or her future. Moreover, Allah directs Muslims to protect and care for orphans as a virtue: “They ask you concerning orphans. Say: ‘The best thing to do is what is for their good; if you mix their affairs with yours, they are your brethren; but God knows the one who means mischief from the one who means good. And if God had wished, He could have put you into difficulties: He is indeed Exalted in Power, Wise’” (2:220). Basing themselves upon this clear order to care for and protect orphans like one’s own family members, Muslim jurists developed doctrines of guardianship and long-term foster care to

meet the needs of children who are without proper care or biological families. Guardianship is based on the fundamental Islamic principles of generosity, charity, responsibility

foster homes and supporting licensed foster families and children is a communal obligation, one that should be encouraged and supported by the mosque and the community.

educators and activists to assist in helping our community take the necessary steps to support all initiatives that seek to provide the necessary care for of orphans and abandoned chil-

UNFORTUNATELY, MUSLIM FAMILIES IN THE WEST, SPECIFICALLY THE U.S., HAVE SHOWN AN INCREASED RELUCTANCE TO FOSTER OR BECOME THE GUARDIANS OF NON-RELATED CHILDREN. THIS IS PRIMARILY DUE TO THE GENERAL LACK OF CLARITY ABOUT AMERICAN FAMILY LAW, WHICH CAUSES MANY MUSLIMS TO THINK THAT THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO ADOPTION. for the needy and protection of the vulnerable. Its primary goal is to provide food, shelter, clothing, education, health care and other care for a child who would otherwise be deprived of a family environment. The guardian (kafeel) acquires the legal authority to act on behalf of the orphaned child (wilayya ala al-nafs) and his or her property (wilayya ala al-mal). This relationship allows the child to know his or her birth parents’ identities and maintain contact with them, if they are still alive, and ensures that they are clothed, sheltered, fed, educated and loved in a family home setting. Moreover, guardianship emphasizes transparency, equity and compassion not only to orphans, but also to the biological children who are affected by this change in family structure. Another way Muslims can help is by becoming foster parents. Domestic foster care is typically a short-term commitment, unless the parental rights have been terminated. For many foster children, their birth parents are living and yet, for some reason, are unable to take proper care of them. Increasing the number of licensed Muslim

In addition to guardianship and foster care, it is our role as Muslims to ensure that the most appropriate and effective model for orphaned and abandoned children is available, accessible, controlled and properly implemented. This means that we need to participate in collaborative conversations designed to discuss their future, familial ethics and law. We also need to begin making serious efforts to improve the existing institutional frameworks so that they will one day be able to secure both justice as well as psychological and socioeconomic stability for all orphans. In sum, there is a growing number of Muslim orphans and abandoned children, but only a limited availability of Muslim caretakers. The consequences of this disparity leave thousands of Muslim children without a basic family structure, a proper upbringing and a suitable education that will give them a chance to make a positive contribution to the world. Therefore, it is our role as Muslims to work together as world citizens, scholars, intellectuals, social workers, lawmakers, lawyers, mental health professionals, religious leaders,

dren, as well as to join together as a community to ensure that we have enough Muslim foster parents and guardians so that no more children become lost in the system.  ih Zainab Alwani, an associate professor of Islamic studies at Howard University, Washington, DC, currently serves as vicechair of the Fiqh Council of North America and spearheads the Orphan Care Project (

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The Center That Keeps on Giving Chicago Muslims got a running start at community building with their first mosque BY ASMA JARAD


hile going through grade school during the 1980s, I rarely if ever had Muslim classmates. My entire school body consisted of predominately Christian white, Latino, and black classmates who had no idea of what Islam was. The curriculum never mentioned Islam or Muslims, and the teachers were oblivious to my cultural and religious distinction. In the second grade, my teacher Mrs. Berman asked each student to make a poster describing where our ancestors had come from. All of my classmates found their ancestral flag and information about their background from the class encyclopedia and atlas. When it was my turn to do my research, I found that these two sources contained absolutely no information on or even mentioned Palestine. It was as if Palestine did not exist. This had an immediate and lasting effect upon my outlook and personal identity as a Palestinian-Muslim-American. I knew that I was American because I was born here.

I knew that I was Muslim because that’s what I was raised as. And I knew that my ancestry was Palestinian because we had just visited the country during the summer. Palestine was real to me, even though my class encyclopedia didn’t acknowledge it. I still remember when Mrs. Berman pointed to other countries on the world map that had Arabic as their national language, like Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. I felt so demeaned when she asked me to pick one for my poster. At that point in my life, I recognized that I was different. I longed for a place outside of home, one in which I could feel a sense of belonging, could relate to others and others could relate to me. For my family and about a dozen other Arab families living on the north side of Chicago, that place came in the form of the Muslim Community Center (MCC;, where we gathered every Saturday morning for Islamic and Arabic classes. Going to Saturday school


also gave us a chance to meet up with Muslim and Arab friends. A mosque like MCC in the heart of Chicago on the corner of North Elston Avenue and West Montrose Avenue was the premier Islamic hotspot for our small but diverse community at that time. There were special programs for women, men, families, and of course the youth. Daily prayers were conducted, as were the weekly jumuah sermon and prayer, monthly dinners with special guest speakers and annual fundraising dinners. I even got a peek at the traditions of South Asian Muslim cultures by sneaking into wedding ceremonies, which were often conducted on weekend evenings in the mosque’s “Red Room.” Before MCC became a mosque, it had actually been a fancy banquet hall. In 1969, fifteen Muslims established MCC to serve the metropolitan area’s small Muslim population. It’s no coincidence that MCC was visualized and founded during this revolutionary decade of economic, political

and social change. Over the years, the community grew and MCC acquired its reputation as a prominent Islamic center — one that still stands today. Many American Muslim leaders in got their start at this masjid. Hundreds like me took — and continue to take — their first glimpse inside the world of Islam in the U.S. by stepping inside MCC. My Saturday school classmate Illiana Elayan recalls how MCC played an intrinsic part in her early life. “It was a place where my religious knowledge grew. I improved my Arabic language skills and I was introduced to girls who started out as friends but became my sisters,” she reminisces. “MCC ... allowed me to grow as a young Muslimah in America.” Indeed, today, as my generation of young conflicted Muslims has emerged as parents of school-aged children, we can take a step back and appreciate the value of our youthful involvement with the center’s Islamic and Arabic school. Even though going to school on the weekend was sometimes a drag, since we didn’t exactly want to spend our day off from regular school in another school, going to MCC early on helped confirm our identity as Muslims in this country. We grew up in a place and at a time when the only Muslims we encountered on a regular basis were those of our own immediate family. MCC was a weekly gathering place to show us that we were not alone and that we belonged to a community. “I have an extensive Muslim family that supports me and who I am,” Elayan states. Furthermore, reflecting upon her experience as an adult and mother, she notes, “I always refer back to my time spent at MCC. The deep connections to the people, the place and the religion are connections I want my children to have — a strong and loving atmosphere that will help aid them in growing into strong, confident Muslims in today’s society.” Feda Awad, another MCC Saturday school classmate, fondly remembers her early experiences there and how they affected her life. “I found people that were of a similar background. It was a safe haven, a world to explore, a place of exotic dress and smells. Weddings from different cultures were hosted, a place where strangers met and became instant brethren and a home away from home. It was also where I met and befriended girls my age who knew exactly how it felt to be us.” Surely, as children of parents who were raised overseas — parents who were imposing the overseas life on us, their American

children, we lived in cultural conflict. We felt disenfranchised at school due to cultural and religious differences, and by the expectations of our immigrant parents and extended family members that we would maintain their cultural identifications. Attending MCC helped bridge these divides in a way that made it possible to be both American and Muslim, as well as to be proud of our cultural heritage.

assimilating into mainstream American society and holding on to a faraway culture and religion that grew more distant with every passing year. Unfortunately, many of them chose to assimilate. The establishment of MCC provided Muslims with another option, for the center represented a place where both the young and old could return to their religious roots. It created a safe haven where they could feel a sense of belonging

HUNDREDS LIKE ME TOOK — AND CONTINUE TO TAKE — THEIR FIRST GLIMPSE INSIDE THE WORLD OF ISLAM IN THE U.S. BY STEPPING INSIDE MCC. As the mother of four boys and currently living in Abu Dhabi, Feda says that she wouldn’t be the person she is today if it wasn’t for those long-ago days spent at MCC. “My MCC experience makes me realize the absolute need for a community and a place where you feel you belong, a place where my children can feel comfortable practicing their faith without being stared at, somewhere that they can find friends that will carry them through adulthood no matter where they go.” Most Muslim immigrants in the U.S. have a hard time adjusting to their new life. In their home countries they shared a common language, religion, culture and traditions. They had family and were living among all of their friends. They were comfortable practicing their faith and their traditions without the glare of foreign eyes. For these reasons, it is absolutely vital to have Islamic centers such as MCC in our communities to help reassure all of us that it’s okay to be who we are, that it’s our right to practice our religion as it’s meant to be practiced. Although we are obviously not the same as our other American counterparts, belonging to a mosque helps make Muslims of all cultural backgrounds feel the strength of community. This, in turn, propels us to work hard to be successful, which, in turn, makes the entire country successful. Since 1969, MCC has helped the Chicago community in enormous ways. Many earlier immigrants did not have the opportunity to join a mosque and connect with other Muslims because no such facility was available. And so they had to choose between

that, as Elayan says, “leads to stronger minds and hearts [that enable members] to go back into the world and be proud Muslims.” The pioneers who established such community centers as MCC understood the importance of obeying God alone and, secondly, of what the freedom of religion actually meant. God will no doubt reward their hard work, and they are fully entitled to the gratefulness of the generations that follow in their footsteps as well as of those who simply enjoy the fruit of their struggles. It is because of our predecessors’ efforts to establish Islam as a resilient presence in this country, as well as of those who worked to include us, that we are able to proudly announce ourselves as Muslim Americans while simultaneously honoring our heritage.  ih Asma Jarad, a writer and editor of Palestinian heritage, was born and raised in the Chicagoland area. Attorney Ismail Laher (202) 596-7863 (d) We help Doctors, Dentists & Health Care Providers Nationwide Medicare Audits, Compliance Revocations, Negotiations… Liles Parker, PLLC Washington DC (202) 298-8750



Imams, State Agencies and Law Enforcement As the role of imams in the US continues to evolve, training programs must be constantly re-evaluated and upgraded BY ISMAAIL QAYYIM


gainst the backdrop of increasing immigration raids and a general climate of openly hateful bigotry, the role of imams in Muslim communities has become ever more vital. Not only are these individuals religious authorities, but they have also largely become de facto liaisons for law enforcement and other state agencies that wish to penetrate the mosque. Muslims live in a world where individual religious authorities are deputized into roles as unofficial state representatives. Despite this trend, there appears to be a shortage of resources that train religious leaders to effectively understand and navigate this constant involvement with the state. Religious leaders are likely unprepared for prolonged and consistent interactions with law enforcement officials, and community members often don’t understand the extent to which these leaders take on these roles. The degree of state interaction with the Muslims’ religious leadership is unrivaled by any other domestic religious group. The end result is that everyone in the community remains uniformed about these pervasive relationships and thus becomes more vulnerable to surveillance and other abuses of civil liberties. Dr. Nancy Khalil, who completed her PhD dissertation on religious authority in the American Muslim community, maintained in an interview with Islamic Horizons that the community’s religious authority is decentralized compared to that of other religious faiths. The two primary leadership roles are the governing body and the imam. While the duties associated with them are likely thought to be familiar to most mosque goers, the actual diffusion of authority creates many complex issues of labeling and defining who does what. Most churches provide training in a curriculum specific to the denomination’s goals and values, often through seminary or divinity programs housed in religious

Dr. Nancy Khalil

institutions and/or universities. Institutions like the Duke Divinity School and Hartford Seminary train religious leaders of all faiths. However, the standards for becoming a preacher or a minister are externally imposed by the denomination’s regimented organizational structure. There are no such universal standards for imams, whether they are classically trained in a seminary, at a classical Islamic institution abroad or a combination of both. Imams are selected by the mosque’s managing body, and a mosque is


a not-for-profit corporation. The domestic legal structure of religious organizations creates a dynamic whereby every mosque is entitled to set its own standard for what credentials an imam must possess. This issue of religious authority is further complicated by the fact that imams may not be the only individuals perceived as “religious authorities.” As mosques have the agency to select standards for leaders who provide traditional functions (e.g., leading the five cardinal prayers, teaching classes and working with youth), these activates may also be taken on by community elders who may or may not be on the mosque’s managing board. If a mosque is unable to hire a permanent imam, a community member may temporarily assume this role. Khalil’s interviews with members of mosques and imams revealed that the most reoccurring expectation for an imam is his ability to connect with the youth. While most people who complete religious training in the U.S. are African-American, the vast majority of imams in the non-African-American community are trained abroad. There is a perception that having a American-raised imam whose parents are from the same country as most members of that community enhances his ability to reach the youth. Khalil cautions that this belief is often mistaken, as youth outreach requires cultivating specialized skills that go beyond the existence of cultural similarity. The decentralized nature of religious authority for mosques in the American landscape, coupled with the many ways that authority may be diffused across the congregation, presents unique challenges as well as some potential benefits. If there is tension between the governing body and the imam, the congregation may suffer. An imam whose visa depends upon his continued employment at a specific mosque may be subject to abuse (e.g., underpaid and overworked). Conversely, he may hold a tremendous amount of sway with the congregation and thereby usurp the board’s managerial roles. Also community members may feel squeezed in a tug of war between the board and the imam, particularly if they have strong positive or negative feelings toward the latter. This also means that congregations have a great deal of power to shape what religious leadership looks like within the community, particularly if its membership elects the mosque’s governing body.

When external actors seek to define a specific mosque’s religious figurehead, serious problems can arise due to the decentralized nature of religious authority. This often occurs during legal disputes over everything from marriage contracts to allegations of sexual abuse. “If you’re an imam and you know of child abuse, and you don’t report

also emphasized that the scale and scope of these relationships between the community’s religious leaders and law enforcement is disproportionate, given the community’s relative size in comparison to the general population. Such extensive ties do not exist between law enforcement and any other American faith-based community.

KHALIL, WHO INTERVIEWED BETWEEN 60 AND 70 IMAMS IN CITIES ALL ACROSS THE U.S. FOR HER RESEARCH, FOUND THAT ALL BUT ONE OF THEM, AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN IMAM, HAD A RELATIONSHIP WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT. “WHAT CAN BE PROBLEMATIC IS WHEN THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND WHO THEY ARE DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP WITH,” SHE MAINTAINED. it and they identify you as clergy, then you are legally accountable,” said Khalil. Many imams use the title “imam” but don’t serve as “clergy” in the American cultural and legal conceptions, while many who would be considered ”clergy” do not officially use the title “imam.” For these reasons, Khalil believes that court cases in which imams are expert witnesses or defendants are particularly valuable. When the “imam” acts as an expert witness or a defendant, the state is often engaged in the process of molding a legal persona or definition of an imam that may be applied to the entire community — one that may not fit the realities and expectations of most mosque attendees. When the state tries to define this authority in reference to terrorism or extremism, perhaps relying on the imam’s testimony to convict someone, this mismatch can take on implications that impact the mosque’s very existence as an institution. Khalil, who interviewed between 60 and 70 imams in cities all across the U.S. for her research, found that all but one of them, an African-American imam, had a relationship with law enforcement. “What can be problematic is when they don’t understand who they are developing a relationship with,” she maintained. She noted that it was common for the imams she interviewed to conflate local and federal law enforcement and for a small congregation to have a relationship with the attorney general of a state. Khalil

Many imams or religious leaders in the mosque believe that they can bridge the gap between their communities and the state. While this relationship is directly linked to surveillance of mosques and other tactics that can coerce mosque leadership into a relationship with law enforcement, many imams engage in these types of relationships voluntarily. Many also believe that having such a relationship can be leveraged to protect a young person from law enforcement entrapment or protect someone facing an immigration violation. The presence of mosque informants, mosque surveillance and consistent civil rights intrusions show that this approach makes the community, according to Khalil, “significantly more vulnerable.” She further states that it is “unfair to put an entire congregation at risk for the perception of saving one person.” Imams may inadvertently be perpetuating hostility toward the community while reinforcing the notion that Muslims need to be under surveillance by engaging in such relationships without the proper training. The conversation with Khalil reveals two important features for addressing those gaps in the skillsets of imams that render the community more vulnerable to abuses of civil rights and civil liberties by the government. Since the qualifications that legitimize someone as an imam emerge from the congregation, it is vital for Muslims to be engaged in the decision-making process. This means being actively aware of what is happening

in the mosque while understanding that the community is growing and becoming more politically sophisticated across the political spectrum. As more people get involved, particularly those with a high civic and political literacy, the mosque will be more transparent with its practices in regards to law enforcement. Transparency allows members to make an informed decision about a mosque’s particular interaction with state agencies while also pushing for practices that protect the community from risk. The second feature for addressing this skill gap in religious leadership is training imams to understand how to interact with law enforcement. This training requires an overall increase in the understanding of the duties of “clergy” under the law. One such annual initiative is run by the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America (https:// Imams should also be targeted for “Know Your Rights” trainings. Member involvement coupled with training imams in these areas can help make the mosque a more secure space that better serves the needs of the community.  ih Ismaail Qaiyim is a freelance writer currently enrolled in law school in New York. Follow him on twitter @ismaailqaiyim.

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Actual Peace Remains Elusive in Thailand’s Far South Thailand’s peace initiatives with the Malay separatist militants has hit a snag as the government and the rebel refuse to soften their demands over recognition, legitimacy and the idea of internationalizing the process BY DON PATHAN


ive years ago, the then-Thai government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra launched a peace initiative to seek political solutions for the separatist insurgency in Thailand’s Muslimmajority three southernmost provinces. Ever since, progress has been moving at a snail’s pace partly because of division among the separatist movements and partly because of Bangkok’s refusal to address the historical grievances of the Malay Muslims in this historically contested region known as Patani. There is a growing concern among Thai policymakers and security officials that the longer the peace initiative takes, the greater the possibility that the banner of the

struggle will evolve from an ethno-nationalist issue to what the Western press loosely refers to as “global jihadism.” However, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN —National Revolutionary Front; formally Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani) insists that its members are not interested in joining the global jihadists, but only in liberating their homeland from the “invading Siamese.” Attempts by Salafi-leaning jihadist groups like the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) to exploit the conflict for their own gain have failed. Moreover, the BRN has stated publicly that it rejects the Islamic State (IS) and its ideology and that their brand of Sunni Islam — Shafi’i jurisprudence — is totally incompatible with the extremist ideology of such radical groups.

The current wave of insurgency-related violence, which erupted in Thailand’s far South during January 2004, has claimed about 7,000 victims, most of whom are local Muslims. The previous wave of full-blown armed insurgency broke out during the early 1960s — 50 years after the Kingdom of Siam and British Malaya drew the borders. Besides establishing a political border, Bangkok also replaced the seven Patani Malay sultans with governors dispatched from Bangkok to administer the area. Prior to this political border, Patani was considered a vassal state of Siam, which became Thailand in 1932. Although the first 50 years of living under Bangkok’s direct rule were not exactly smooth sailing, the Thai government did succeed in establishing and managing a comfort level with the Malay minorities in this restive southern region. That comfort level ended during the 1960s when Thailand introduced a policy of assimilation. Malay Muslims felt that this policy was executed at the expense of their historical, cultural and religious identities. The discontent resulted in an explosion of armed insurgency in the region, and support came from the Middle East and North Africa. In fact, Damascus became the “intellectual”


Thai soldiers patrolling conflict-affected Thailand’s far South stops by a village school in Patani, one of the three southernmost province hit by a 14-year-old separatist insurgency by militants bent on carving out a separate homeland for the ethnic Malays who accounts for nearly 90 percent of the people in this historically contested region.


center for groups like the Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO), and Libya trained about 3,000 Patani Malays along with secular Palestinian groups and leftist “revolutionaries” from various lands. The BRN, on the other hand, is inspired by Indonesia's President Sukarno's nationstate building and anti-colonial outlook.

identity. Local Malay Muslims regard the Shafi’i school of thought and Islam as two sides of the same coin and thus will reject any attempt to change that balance. The Thai state and society accept the fact that the three southern-most provinces are a melting pot, culturally speaking, and yet pluralism as a concept was never incorporated

THE THAI STATE AND SOCIETY ACCEPT THE FACT THAT THE THREE SOUTHERN-MOST PROVINCES ARE A MELTING POT, CULTURALLY SPEAKING, AND YET PLURALISM AS A CONCEPT WAS NEVER INCORPORATED INTO THE COUNTRY’S NATION-STATE CONSTRUCTION. That wave of armed insurgency ended during the late 1980s, when support from Arab countries dried up as many Sovietbacked countries began to reposition themselves for a post-Cold War world. At the same time, Bangkok also stepped up its diplomatic assaults, urging Arab countries to stop funding Patani Malay separatist movements. Moreover, with the assistance of the Muslim members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) granted Thailand Permanent Observer status in 1998. This status, however, has enabled Thailand to block diplomatic efforts launched by Patani Malay separatist movements to obtain the much needed international recognition in order to make their case known. By the early 1990s, most if not all of the cell members on the ground had either opted for a blanket amnesty from Bangkok or laid down their arms and returned to their villages to resume their former lives. For nearly a decade Thailand mistakenly assumed that the absence of violence meant peace. Although the fighting had stopped, the indigenous narrative that Patani is the homeland of the Patani Malays and the Thais are invaders had not disappeared. The Thai state made no effort to address the historical grievances and mistrust or reconcile the fact that the two people — Thais and Patani Malays — embraced two different sets of historical narratives. Not only did the Patani Malays reject Thailand’s notion of nationhood, but they also viewed the official policy of assimilation as something that comes at the expense of their religious

into the country’s nation-state construction. In other words all Thai citizens, regardless of religion or race, must either embrace the Thai state-constructed identity or, at the least, not challenge it openly. A recent study on the history of Thailand has pointed out that Thai society and the state can be extremely harsh to people who challenge their notion of nationhood and the narrative associated with it. This explains why the local Thai majority, including those Thais who are themselves Muslim, don’t have much sympathy for the Malays’ historical grievances. The current wave of insurgency erupted in January 2004. Unlike the previous wave, this time there were no Arab countries for them to turn to for help. Today, the BRN controls virtually all of the armed combatants and is supported by the local Malay Muslim villagers who take turns cooking for the local cells in their respective communities and serve as their eyes and ears vis-à-vis Thai security forces. In February 2013, the-then government of Prime Minister Shinawatra launched a peace initiative to end the conflict. However, it was seen as something between a big leap of faith and a hoax because the BRN was not involved in the planning from its inception. It did come to the table, but only to sabotage the initiative — a goal that it achieved by the end of the same year. In May 2014, the government was ousted in a coup and the peace initiative for the Malay-speaking South was pushed to the back burner. The coup leaders, who are currently running Thailand, revived the talks and managed to attract the interest of several

long-standing separatist movements that had surfaced during the 1960s. Most, if not all, of the participants were exiled leaders of various separatist groups that had been actively involved at that time but now have no cells on the ground. The BRN, however, refused to join the talks for various reasons. Sources in the movement said that the group will engage in direct negotiations only if Bangkok permits members of the international community to mediate the peace process. The BRN argues that this is in line with international best practices, similar to the peace processes underway in Mindanao (southern Philippines) and Aceh (Indonesia). Furthermore, the BRN demands that the members of their negotiating team be granted legal immunity before they come to the table and that the members of their political wing be properly trained in governance affairs. This means that members of the international community, preferably a foreign government with a strong record of conflict resolution and mediation, must be involved. BRN members believe that both sides could explore ideas that are considered within reach, such as the rules of engagement at the operational level, ceasefire arrangements for various small areas and other confidence-building measures with the assistance of the international facilitator. They regard the international community’s participation as important because it will enhance their legitimacy. But even if Thailand agrees to internationalize the talks, many pending problems still need to be addressed. Family members of the victims, both Malay Muslims who have been unlawfully killed by Thai soldiers and Buddhist civilians murdered by insurgents in an effort to demoralize and discredit the security apparatus, will demand justice. An independent inquiry into atrocities committed by both sides could help build confidence in a peace process. Moreover, Bangkok must stop pretending that it has the situation under control and that it has contained the violence in the far South. Indeed, the BRN has already shown that it is capable of operating outside the traditional theatre of separatist violence and that it is willing to export its campaign to other regions.  ih Don Pathan is a Thailand-based security analyst and a founding member of Patani Forum (, a civil society organization dedicated to critical discussion on the conflict in Thailand’s far South. He lives in Yala, one of the three conflict-affected provinces in Thailand’s far South.



Muslim-Buddhist Intermarriage in Cambodia Increases

All of them have moved there from different provinces. Ms. Math Sarah, an Islamic teacher who is helping them to understand Islam told our reporter, “I am very proud that, despite my own struggles and those of my husband, most of the new Muslims are now good practitioners of Islam. Some can even make the adhan and recite parts of the Quran.” Sarah added that at first she had a very difficult time teaching them about Islam. BY SLES NAZY The converts and their Buddhist families don’t practice good Islam due to their low knowledge and their spouse’s own ignorance. often maintain good relations. A Buddhist ambodian Muslims make up only Most Muslims say that they would prefer their man from Kandal province, whose son 4 percent of Cambodia’s roughly 15 mil- children to marry within the faith, but would converted and married a Muslim woman, lion people. In general, and excluding accept the marriage if both individuals loved answered our question on the condition of the Khmer Rouge years, they have lived each other and the Buddhist spouse agreed anonymity, “It doesn’t matter that my son peacefully with the country’s Buddhist major- to convert. married a girl of another belief. Islam and ity for centuries. Although both faith Buddhism are not very different, for communities treat each other with both religions teach us to do good deeds. We live in the same country fairness and equality, some Buddhists remain prejudiced because they do not and have almost the same customs. understand Islamic practices very well. I still consider him as my son, even Interfaith marriages, while still though he is away from me and pracrelatively uncommon, are apparently tices Islam. He sometimes bring his increasing the number of converts, wife and kids to visit me, and I someeven if there is no record on the contimes visit them. I understand that he’s version. After marriage, some converts abandoned some religious practices face a degree of discrimination from because he now believes in Islam, but I don’t mind that.” both sets of parents, other family members and even friends due to the Research conducted in 2010 by Ysa The wedding ceremony of a new female convert, Takeo province convert’s decision to follow a different Osman, a Cham Muslim researcher, culture and religious belief system. found that intermarriage rates among UNFORTUNATELY, EVEN THOUGH Cambodia’s Cham community has Rohany Abdullah, 23, a former Buddhist woman named Dy Leakhena slowly increased over the past 36 years: THE NUMBER OF CONVERTS from Kandal province, told our from 0.45 percent (62 of 13,651 couIS GROWING, THERE ARE NO reporter, “It was not hard for me to ples) in 1970 to 3.5 percent (526 of practice [Islam] and marry a Muslim. I 15,045 couples) in 2006. He offers the CENTERS WHERE THEY CAN following reasons for this growth: the did it voluntarily. But it was a bit hard for my parents and friends, because integration of both faith communities, LEARN ISLAM OR RECEIVE A they feel uncomfortable with Islamic school enrollment, increased travel, CERTIFICATE OF CONVERSION. practices. Some of my non-Muslim opportunities for entertainment, the friends seem to discriminate against introduction of new technology and THOSE WHO WANT TO MARRY me because of the hijab and my new some other culture changes as regards A MUSLIM JUST LEARN ISLAM dietary restrictions. Sometimes they clothing. His research also indicates don’t even want to talk with me after that 88 percent of the intermarried FROM ONE ANOTHER IN THE realizing that I have converted.” couples practice Islam, 10.3 percent VILLAGE OR FROM THEIR SPOUSE. practice Buddhism and 1.7 percent Her husband Kob Safy, 45, from Prey Veng province and now residing practice their original religion. in Phnom Penh, also faced problems with Unfortunately, even though the number H.E. Sos Mousine, secretary of state his new in-laws. “I decided to marry her ... of converts is growing, there are no centers at the Ministry of Cults and Religion and because of love and her promise to follow where they can learn Islam or receive a cer- head of the Cambodian Muslim Students me. I tried very hard to ... teach her. Now we tificate of conversion. Those who want to Association, recently told a local newspaper live with our families happily. My wife can marry a Muslim just learn Islam from one that the number of Muslims in the kingdom speak Cham and practices very good Islam. another in the village or from their spouse. is growing village by village and conceded In my village, many men like me have mar- The Cambodian Muslim Media Center is now that sometimes conversion through marriage ried converts.” offering some printed materials for them and is a factor. Despite this discrimination, the teach- providing online Khmer-language materials But such intermarriages are nothing new in ings of both religions accept intermarriage. for those who want to learn more about Islam. Cambodia. Ordinary people have always conIslam allow such a marriage on the condition Recently, a remarkable village has appeared verted, and history records that three Khmer that the Buddhist spouse converts, whereas in Kampong Speu province. Kwan village, also kings married Cham Muslim women.  ih Buddhism has no such condition. But the known as Muallaf village, contains more than Sles Nazy is president of the Cambodian Muslim Media Muslim community worries that converts 50 families in which one parent is a convert. Center.

Compared to Myanmar and Southern Thailand, Cambodia is a Paradise for Muslims



Indonesia’s Female Ulama Want Public Recognition for their Contributions BY INA RAHLINA

of teaching” for people who want to deepen their understanding of Islam so they can teach it to others. These unofficial and voluntary groups consist of small-scale neighborhood, community units and other local groupings interested in spreading Islam and increasing their members’ knowledge of the Quran and other Islamic subjects.] The NU has around 3,030 majlis taklims throughout the countryside of South Sulawesi. Every year Muslimat NU holds training and refresher seminars for dai’a cadres so that their awareness of the issues is always current. Although the NU Regional Authority in South Sulawesi has given Muslimat NU a specific sphere in which they can practice, the existence of female clerics and preachers has not been very popular in the community, as can be seen in the mosques’ refusal to invite them to conduct services during Ramadan. In South Sulawesi, the Great Mosque of Makassar (Masjid Raya) is recognized as being the first mosque to accept clerics and women preachers. Masjid Al Markas Al Islami Makassar followed its lead. According to Majdah, this is “perhaps because of the lack of information about preachers and female clerics.”



he existence of Indonesia's female clerics is nothing new; however, their contributions are rarely mentioned when discussing the history of Islam’s development in the country. Therefore, the Congress of Indonesian Women Ulama (Kongres Ulama Perempuan Indonesia; KUPI), held at Pesantren Kebon Jambu Al Islami Cirebon, West Java, during 2017 is considered a milestone in the national rise of female Muslim scholars and feminism. Female clerics in Indonesia have existed along their male counterparts for several centuries. Traditionally, female scholars and preachers generally chose to speak in closed study rooms, where they would conduct da’wah sessions and recite the Quran, and teach the Quran in villages. But now they are going public and working to publicize their universal message and engender more interest in social issues, such as sexual violence, child marriage, education and environmental destruction.

Women are quite close to the problems of the ummah and are confronted daily by contextual issues such as sexual harassment, early marriage, poverty, drugs and other phenomena. Dr. Majdah M. Zain, Head of Nahdatul Ulama (NU) Muslimat Area South Sulawesi, Indonesia, revealed that female clerics and preachers are always at the forefront of these issues and thus make great efforts to remain up-to-date on what’s going on in the social and other spheres. As the country’s largest Islamic organization (2016: 96 million members), NU allows both male and female clerics and preachers to instill the values ​​of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah (Aswaja) in society. “The NU Muslimah is given a specific role so that she can help enlighten the lower levels, especially through the majlis taklim,” said Majdah, who also served as Makassar Islamic University’s rector and chairman of the Board of Trustees for South Sulawesi’s Forum of Study and Love of the Quran. [Editor’s Note: Literally “the place

Dr. Firdaus Muhammad, a lecturer at Alauddin State Islamic University Makassar and chairman of the Da’wah Council of Indonesian Ulema Council of South Sulawesi, stated that the existence and role of these female clerics is not widely known due to the lack of documentation and publication about their role. “The clerical congress becomes the proof of the presence of female clerics,” he remarked. The Commision of Da’wah of the Indonesian Ulama Council South Sulawesi gave the same space to the female ulema and scholars in both South and West Sulawesi in its book “Anregurutta: Literasi Ulama Sulselbar.” In the second volume, Firdaus identified several female scholars, among them Dra Hj Sitti Aminah, Prof. Rasydianah, Hj Marliyah Ahsan and Syarifah Mar’ah. He launched the first volume during the halaqah akbar and the declaration of students of East Indonesia in November 2017. Firdaus, who also leads the Pondok Pesantren An Nahda Makassar, admits that information and data about female ulema are minimal and limited. Of the 50 male


MUSLIMS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA clerics, he has identified only about five female clerics, although, according to him, “many female clerics contribute just as much as the male clerics do.”

THE INDONESIAN WOMEN ULEMA CONGRESS (KUPI) The KUPI at Pesantren Kebon Jambu Al Islami Cirebon, West Java, represents the first national gathering of female ulama. This meeting was held to bring together those female scholars who have been working to solve civil society’s problems. They not only talked about Islam, but also about the humanitarian and national conditions confronting them. Badriyah Fayumi, chairman of KUPI’s Steering Committee, told the media that this event was convened to enable female clerics to better consolidate their efforts and synergize with various parties to solve the problems of Islam, nationality and humanity. During the sessions, participants involved themselves in a great deal of work to deepen their understanding of the community’s problems and find a way to resolve them. However, their work remains largely unpublicized. KUPI is just another attempt to show that female clerics do exist and that their contributions can be documented. The congress, which was attended by about 1,280 religious scholars and female scholars from all over Indonesia, was officially closed by Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, minister of religious affairs, and Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Hemas, vice chairman, Regional Representative Council of the Republic of Indonesia. The minister’s presence showed that the meeting of the Women’s Ulama enjoys the recognition and support of the state. In his closing address, Minister Lukman announced that the women’s congress continues to make progress in its struggle to achieve gender justice, revitalize the role of female clerics and emphasize that the modernization of Islam should always be pursued because it places no restrictions upon women in this regard. Badriyah explained to the media at the launch of the results of the Indonesian Women’s Ulama Congress in Jakarta during August 2016 that the congress resulted in the recognition of the existence and role of female clerics in the history of Islamic civilization in the country. Moreover, KUPI issued a fatwa on three major issues: sexual violence, child marriage and environmental destruction:

•  In terms of sexual violence, KUPI ruled that all of its forms should be considered haram, regardless of whether they occur within or outside of marriage. As the state and society are obliged to guarantee the fulfillment of the victim’s rights, failing to do so is considered an injustice. •  KUPI considers child marriage to contain more harm than good. Therefore the com-

of the moderate attitudes found among NU clerics about the position of female speakers who appear in public. Unfortunately, some NU ulama still forbid them to pursue such activities. The advancement of education and the modernization of information-based education encourage Muslim women to be more open in terms of publicly stating


munity and the government, as the leading actors, are duty-bound to prevent it. If such a marriage nevertheless occurs, then all parties must ensure that the children’s rights, especially as regards education and health, are protected. •  KUPI highlights the destruction of nature in the context of social inequality. Religion must play a role in protecting and conserving the environment, for if it does not, the continued undermining of nature will cause an imbalance of social relations justified in the name of development. Therefore the state cannot just stand idly by while the ongoing destruction of nature impoverishes the people, especially women.

ISLAM INDONESIA POST REFORMATION The collapse of Soeharto’s 32-year New Order regime in 1998, which ushered in the “Reformation” (Reformasi) period characterized by the new openness of society and religion, led to a resurgence of the roles of female preachers and clerics. In his book “Islam Indonesia PostReform” (2015), Muhammad Khodafi revealed that the phenomenon of female preachers can be traced back to 1935 when the ulama decided, during the NU’s congress that year held in Surakarta, that Muslimahs could give public lectures. This is evidence


their attitudes and opinions about various social problems. Preaching in the public sphere, either through the majlis taklims or on television, is done by female ulema and lecturers such as Mama Dedeh, whose program “Mamah dan Aa Beraksi” airs on the Indosiar television station. Due to the strong dominance of male clerics in developing religious discourse in society, the existence of female clerics rarely receives special attention from academics — despite their rather large and strategic role in the national Islamic community. Only a tiny number of researchers have sought to publicize this phenomenon in any depth. This reality is certainly inseparable from the male-designed cultural and religious controls that have resulted in women being more active in the domestic sphere. One result of this legacy has been to make it very difficult for researchers to gain access to information from those women involved, especially in the traditional pesantren (Islamic boarding schools). Khodafi contends that this relatively new phenomenon has no direct correlation with the rise of Islamic orthodoxy that has occurred in other parts of the Muslim world.  ih Ina Rahlina, alumni of the International Visitor Leadership (IVL) United States of America, Edward R. Murrow for Journalism, 2006.


Muslim Americans Also Have Much at Stake in Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court Case BY FARHANA KHERA [Editor’s Note: Islam and Muslims do not endorse the LGBTQ community’s various lifestyles, but in fact regard them as great sins. However, in this instance the critical issue of civil rights also arises. God tells us “For you your religion, and for me my religion” (109:7). IH is not printing this op-ed to endorse the LGBTQ movement in any manner whatsoever, but rather to voice its unwavering support for the equal treatment of all Americans.]


he United States Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case that could determine whether business owners can use their religion as an excuse to discriminate against their customers. Some in the Muslim community are concerned about the implications of this case. I want to set the record straight, because this is a moment when standing on the right side of history is not just the right thing to do, but it’s also in our community’s best interest to do so. The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, is one of the most closely monitored cases in the Supreme Court’s current term. At issue is whether a Colorado baker can refuse, based on his religious objection, to make a wedding cake for a gay couple without violating the state’s anti-discrimination law. This situation probably sounds familiar to Muslim Americans. There is already an underthe-radar trend of businesses putting up “No Muslims Allowed” signs and attempting to deny services to our community. This practice is currently illegal; however, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the baker, business


owners may be able to legally refuse service to Muslims as well, so long as they do so out of a “religious objection.” It’s been rumored that if the court rules in favor of LGBTQ equality, Muslim storeowners will be forced to sell pork or alcohol against their religious objection. This is simply not true. The court isn’t considering whether to force businesses to sell particular products; it’s considering whether or not a business must serve all of its customers equally. In other words, if a Muslim shopkeeper decides to sell alcohol, he or she must be willing to sell it to any customer, regardless of that person’s race, religion, sexual orientation or similar characteristics. Some are worried that imams would be forced to perform gay marriages against their will. This is also not true. Clergy are not required to perform ceremonies that are incompatible with their views, and nothing in this case changes that. This lawsuit is about a set of businesses serving the public, not about the affairs of imams or mosques or other religious institutions. I cringe at the thought of what would happen to our community if we lose in this case. Should the court rule in favor of antiLGBTQ discrimination, it could imperil every fight against anti-Muslim discrimination that we’re currently waging. In order to challenge discriminatory actions like the Muslim ban, Muslim Americans must rely on robust and meaningful civil rights laws and protections for all people. This is not the first time people have attempted to distort religious freedom into a tool of discrimination against others. Religion has been abused as an excuse to justify slavery and segregation, as well as to oppose interracial marriage and even the Americans with Disabilities Act. If the Supreme Court opens this door of discrimination directed toward LGBTQ people, Muslims and many more communities will likely also suffer. That’s one of many reasons that my organization, Muslim Advocates (https://www., has weighed in with the court in favor of equality. It’s also why we have been joined by a long list of religious and civil rights groups that agree with us. Our voice matters. Standing up for the LGBTQ community, for women, for people of color, for other religious minorities, for people with disabilities and for immigrants sends a clear signal to the nation that we are strong, that we are united, and that we won’t let the rights of any American be trampled upon.  ih Farhana Khera is the founding executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.


NEW RELEASES Deport, Deprive, Extradite: 21st Century State Extremism Nisha Kapoor 2018. Pp. 256. HB. $26.95 Verso Books, Brooklyn, N.Y. rawing from the stories of Muslim men accused of terrorism-related offenses, Kapoor exposes how these racialized subjects are dehumanized and transformed into non-humans, both in terms of how they are represented and via the disciplinary techniques used to expel them. She explores how this deliberate process of creating non-humans enables the expansion of inhumanity more broadly, targeting Muslims, people of color, immigrants and refugees. By asking what such cases reveal and legitimate about precariousness and dispossession, she offers a radical analysis of the contemporary security state.  ih


Israel: Democracy or Apartheid State? Josh Ruebner 2017. Pp. 120. PB. $15.00 Olive Branch Press, Northampton, Mass. uebner, basing himself upon personal anecdotes and reflections, as well as historical documents and legal analyses, provides an answer to one of the most pressing issues in international affairs today: Is Israel a democracy, or does its separate and unequal treatment of those Palestinians living under its rule render it an apartheid state? With President Donald Trump seeking a onestate resolution to this longstanding conflict, Ruebner argues that any settlement must be based on freedom, dignity and equality.  ih


Shariah: What Everyone Needs to Know® John L. Esposito and Natana J. DeLong-Bas 2018. Pp. 320. HB. $74.00. PB. $16.95 Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y. oliticians, media commentators, televangelists and others in the U.S. and Europe have stoked fears that Muslims intend to impose a repressive Shariah-based rule upon them, a medieval system that is portrayed as oppressing women, stifling human rights and imposing harsh punishments. Intended for a general audience, Esposito and DeLong-Bas provide clear and even-handed answers to a wide range of questions, show that Shariah is a complex concept that has been interpreted in many ways, depending upon time and social context, and explain its vital role as regards offering guidance on everything from personal morality to ritual practices, family life and finances.  ih


Islamic Education in the United States and the Evolution of Muslim Nonprofit Institutions Sabith Khan and Shariq Siddiqui 2017. Pp.168 pages. HB. $99.95 Edward Elgar Publishers, Cheltenham, U.K. ne longstanding American belief is that the country’s national education system is responsible for assimilating new and different groups into mainstream society. These efforts, however, have often been wrenching for some members of these groups who, it is apparently assumed, will reject this process or even rebel against prevailing norms. This worry has animated opposition to school choice and may be particularly acute when it comes to Muslims, especially since 9/11. But are such fears — Islamic schools may be failing to Americanize their students, or worse, are teaching things antithetical to American values — borne out in reality? By incorporating national survey data on Islamic schools, in-depth interviews with Islamic school leaders and more information, Khan and Siddqui offer a compelling case for the Muslim American nonprofit sector’s key role in the U.S.  ih



Religion as Critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace Irfan Ahmad 2017. Pp. 300. PB. $29.95 The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, N.C. hmad’s book deals with two important issues: (1) potent systems and modes for self-critique as well as critiques of others are inherent in Islam and (2) critique is integral to the religion’s fundamental tenets and practices. He challenges the notion that Islam is hostile to such an undertaking by focusing primarily on South Asia’s thriving traditions of critique. He highlights Islam as an agent, not an object, of critique. On a broader level, Ahmad expands the idea of critique itself. His offers new theoretical considerations of modernity and change, taking on such salient issues as nationhood, women’s equality, the state, culture, democracy and secularism.  ih


The Practice of Islam in America: An Introduction Edward E. Curtis, ed. 2017. Pp. 296. PB. $28.00 New York University Press, New York, N.Y. rof. Curtis argues that although Muslims have always been part of the U.S., very little is known about how they practice their religion. How do they pray? What’s it like to go on hajj? What rituals accompany the birth of a child, a wedding or the death of a loved one? What holidays do Muslims celebrate, what charities do they support and how do they learn about the Qur’an? This compilation offers an inside look at Muslim American life, ethical actions, religious holidays, prayer, pilgrimage and other religious activities. Readers are taken into community members’ homes, religious congregations, schools, workplaces, cemeteries and all the way to Makkah so that they can acquire an accurate understanding of their diverse religious practices. Sherman A. Jackson, King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture, University of Southern California, states that this book sheds a great deal of light these and other questions for all members of the general public interested in the religious and cultural traditions of their Muslim neighbors and friends.  ih


Halal Food: A History Febe Armanios and Boğaç Ergene 2018. Pp. 376. HB. $29.95 Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y. rmanios and Ergene present a survey of those foods considered to be halal, ranging from the original religious texts to adaptations to contemporary business, gastronomic and government involvement around the world. They also discuss its finer distinctions and focus on the politico-cultural and economic implications of halal food for the world’s Muslims, along with what is tayyib (good and wholesome) and other aspects. The book should help both the food industry and campus and other institutional food administrators where Muslim students and other clients seek halal foods.  ih


Dark Guardian: Legends Ammar Habib 2017. Pp. 210. PB. $10.99 Ammar Habib, Lake Jackson, Texas he third and final volume of this bestselling author’s Dark Guardian series, which sees Ethan Daniels transform from a lost soul into a hero and then into a legend, offers many lessons for its readers — just as it did for its author.  ih



Standing up as Muslim Americans Good acts and behavior are the best way to convey Islam’s message BY SALEH MUBARAK


espite being less than three percent of the nation’s population, Muslim Americans attract a significant amount of media coverage, most especially negative. How does this affect them or, rather, how should they react to it? One very important rule to keep in mind is that their actions may not necessarily be reactions to what others do or say, for others are not their teachers. Here, one sees two opposite and extreme attitudes: Those who “bend over” and conceal their Muslim identity in order to assimilate, and those who go out of their way to stand out. In the early days of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions looked just like the unbelievers: they wore the same type of clothes and ate the same food (with some restrictions). In fact, scholars have defined sunnah as the Prophet’s sayings, deeds or approvals. But when it comes to his deeds, this term is restricted to his consistent choice among other available choices. This is why there is no such thing as “Islamic attire,” but only clothing guidelines. The same thing applies to food and other personal matters, for Islamic guidelines provide Muslims a great deal of latitude in terms of personal choice. So is trying to stand out right or wrong? For Muslim women who wear the hijab, it is obvious. They wear it because it’s a religious mandate to do so, as opposed to purposely trying to stand out or to label themselves “Muslim.” All men have to do is to stay within the permissible clothing guidelines, such as covering their awrah (between their navel and their knees), avoid silk and gold and refrain from imitating women or non-Muslims. A problem arises here, for some people think that this means that Muslims must distinguish themselves from non-Muslims. But this is mistaken. For example, does wearing jeans and

a shirt associate one with a specific religion or sect? Of course not. Also, a Muslim South Asian attired in a shalwar (baggy pants) qameez (long shirt) is indistinguishable from a non-Muslim South Asian wearing the same outfit. Muslims are, however, prohibited from mimicking the specific religious attire of non-Muslims, such as the Catholic priest’s collar, the Buddhist monk’s orange wrap-around robe or the dot that Hindus place between their eyebrows. One authentic hadith records the Prophet as telling Muslims to wear whatever they want to, as long as there is no overspending or arrogance in it. While Muslims can wear traditional Arab, Pakistani or Afghani clothing in this country, such clothing must not be presented as part of their religious identity. Those who wear them are not “more Muslim” than those who wear blue jeans and a shirt. Besides, insisting upon always wearing such clothing may cast doubts upon a Muslim American’s loyalty, patriotism and social integration. Such attitudes are also present as regards how Muslims should behave. I remember a


friend whose children attended a public school. Too embarrassed to inform the school that his children were Muslim, he said that they were “allergic to pork.” One also sees this attitude when fasting during Ramadan or having to pray in a public or any place where “strangers” might see them. Some have changed their names from Muhammad to Mike, and so forth. But others would like to make a loud adhan and pick out a visible or even noticeable spot to perform the prayer. They seek to create a spotlight with a shiny “Muslim” label on it. Where is the balance? Just be yourself and do what you have to do without making a deliberate effort to publicize or hide your religious identity. However, keep in mind that in some environments certain actions may cause discomfort to others (even if its source is illegitimate), such as calling the adhan or praying loudly in public. Both male and female Muslims have caused uproars by washing their feet in the sinks of public restrooms. Some of them erroneously consider such actions as da’wah, seemingly unaware of the fact that inviting others to Islam must be conducted in a friendly and gentle manner and in a way that those people can recognize and understand. After all, God commanded Prophet Muhammad to “invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best” (16:125). Good manners and good behavior are the best da’wah, for they make a far deeper impact than do appearances and looks.  ih Saleh A. Mubarak, Ph.D., a construction project management consultant, is a trainer and author.

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Islamic Horizons March/April 2018  
Islamic Horizons March/April 2018