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ILHAN OMAR STANDS HER GROUND | THE MADRASAH: REFORMS YES, STEREOTYPING NO
IS AMERICAN EDUCATION ISLAMOPHOBIC?
ISLAMIC HORIZONS | VOL. 48 NO. 2 MARCH/APRIL 2019 | VISIT ISNA ONLINE AT: WWW.ISNA.NET
COVER STORY – EDUCATION 21 Is American Education Islamophobic? 24 Integrating Social Justice in Islamic Education 26 For the Love of Reading 28
Teachers Meet and Learn
30 IIIT's Advancing Education in Muslim Societies Initiative
34 T he Madrasah: Reforms Yes, Stereotyping No
16 Teaching Values to Empower Students
SPECIAL REPORT 18 First Muslim Chaplains Promoted to the Rank of Colonel
ISLAM IN AMERICA
42 aking a Bosnian M Home in Upstate New York
44 The Quran: The Light to the World
36 Musulmamis 38 Ilhan Omar Stands Her Ground 40 A Muslim African-American Journalist Working in Post-9/11 America 46 Shine Bright 47 Fighting Moral Corruption in Islamic Institutions 48 “See me! I am a living, breathing person, not a statistic or an abstract idea.”
VIEWPOINT 52 The United States: Gardener of Graveyards
FOOD 54 Are All Kosher Products Halal?
FEATURE DEPARTMENTS 6 8 10 61
Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters New Releases
56 Ignoring Islamic Inheritance Laws Is Not Always Islamophobic
IN MEMORIAM 58 Altaf Fatima 60 Syed Azhar Ali Shah
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.
MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 5
The Link between Education and Action
he 8th Annual West Coast Education Forum, held on Jan. 18-19 in Orange County, Calif., brought together more than 150 educators, administrators and leaders to discuss “Teaching Values to Empower Students.” On April 19-21, ISNA will host its 20th East Zone Education Forum: “Integrating Social Justice in Islamic Education.” This successful startup, which continues to grow, eventually led ISNA to create a more convenient venue for the West Coast communities as well. In fact, today, many educators and Islamic schools schedule their spring break activities around this forum. Concern about and workers for social justice seem to be almost everywhere these days. Unfortunately, SJW (social justice worker) has gone from being an honorable term applied to such people as Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to “someone who thinks they are making a change, when really they’re just screaming about made up problems like white privilege” (https:// www.urbandictionary.com). However, this shouldn’t deter our teachers from educating their students about these pressing issues’ history, context, rationales and reality. ISNA’s focus on education is rooted in its predecessor organization MSA, which began to regard education a priority soon after its founding more than 50 years ago. This quest has not waned, but indeed continues to enhance and spread its good. Each year Islamic Horizons, in its capacity as ISNA’s flagship publication, devotes a special section in both its January/February and March/April issues to education. In 2017, the magazine’s education platter lost its best resource: Karen Keyworth. Fortunately for the community, she left a remarkable legacy — the Islamic Schools League of America and its Islamic Educators’ Communication Network — that continues to provide invaluable resources to educators and education issues for all interested parties, and of which Islamic Horizons is a grateful beneficiary. Reading the exchanges among educators 6 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
upon their return from these two forums is always most inspiring and rewarding. Last year, ISNA proposed an educational tool for Islamic schools that could accrue financial benefit to schools while enhancing their students’ awareness about Muslim media — selling annual subscriptions to Islamic Horizons could teach students how to reach out to their community to garner sales while also learning accounting and customer service skills. Now, Islamic Horizons, which began its life as MSA Newsletter more than 50 years ago, has received three awards from the mainstream, competing with many highly funded publications. Its contents are available on several search engines (i.e., ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch, LexisNexis, and EBSCO Discovery Service) and indexed by the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, all of which are well known to professionals and students. Moreover, university instructors often request permission to use some of its articles in their courses. Let us, ISNA and Muslim educators, help bring the magazine to more Muslim families and institutions. On the national front, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a Muslim American women who prefers to wear the hijab, stood her ground and got a 181-year old law changed to allow her to sit in the House of Representatives and fulfill her duties as her constituents’ representative. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) took her oath in a Palestinian thobe, a bold statement delivered in an institution not known for its concern with Palestinian rights or even their continued existence. Not only have they opened the door for hijab-wearing and self-assertive Muslim women, but they have also delivered a wake-up call to those who tried and continue to cast aspersions on observant Muslims. Thanks to Omar and Tlaib, more glass ceilings have been broken and the House of Representatives now has three Muslim members. This number must continue to rise. ih
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Sayyid Muhammad Syeed EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Tayyab Yunus EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed, Habibe Ali ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2019 All rights reserved Reproduction, in whole or in part, of this material in mechanical or electronic form without written permission is strictly prohibited. Islamic Horizons magazine is available electronically on ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch, Questia.com LexisNexis, and EBSCO Discovery Service, and is indexed by Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Please see your librarian for access. The name “Islamic Horizons” is protected through trademark registration ISSN 8756‑2367 POSTMASTER Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual, domestic – $24 Canada – US$30 Overseas airmail – US$60 TO SUBSCRIBE Contact Islamic Horizons at (317) 839‑8157 / (317) 839‑1811 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, E-mail email@example.com, www.isna.net Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distribution) Sales Agreement No. 0666300 CORRESPONDENCE Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lives and Legacies Explored Young Muslims gather to learn and explore their faith’s heritage BY ALAA ABDELDAIEM
hen Islam was first introduced, they were the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) greatest Companions. In every state of Islam — the trials and the successes, the defeats and the victories — they were the ones who were totally unified and fearless in His way, stood firmly with our beloved Prophet, who died for the success of this divine message. And the lives and legacies of these stars were explored during MYNA’s five winter camps. Last year, from Dec. 23-30, 485 campers gathered to learn how they could implement the Companions’ lessons and teachings. Youth in Indiana, Illinois, Texas, California and Maryland attended empowering lectures, hands-on workshops, hours of ice-breakers, ziplining, canoeing, hiking, archery, bonfires and other activities. The winter retreat saw a 16 percent increase from 2017 and was six times as large as the 2014 event. All of the camps opened with an introduction to the Sahabah. Speakers such as Imam Dawood Yasin (Muslim Life and Service Trips Coordinator, Tucker Foundation), Imam Mohamed Magid (executive Imam, ADAMS Center, Sterling, Va.), Ustadha Noura Shamma (vice president, Sila Initiative), Imam Qutaibah (Duncanville Islamic Center), Fatima Lette (youth director, East Plano Islamic Center), Mufti Wasim Khan (resident scholar, Islamic Center of Frisco in Dallas), Mufti Hussain Kamani (imam and member, board of directors, Islamic Association of
MYNA, TO ME, IS MORE THAN THE EIGHTHOUR DRIVE AND CABINS. IT’S A FAMILY FULL OF LOVE, LIGHT AND BLESSINGS,” CAMPER NUSAYBAH FIROZI SAID. Carrollton [Texas]), Fiyyaz Jaat (director, ISNA Youth Programs and Services Department) and Iyad Alnachef (CEO, Ascend Camp and Retreat Center, Dallas/Fort Worth) gave the attendees an inside look as to what characteristics and qualities made the Companions so special. Campers learned that even the Companions made mistakes for which they had to seek forgiveness and overcome. They were informed how to do exactly that, as well as the importance of
8 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
friendship, how the Companions established their personal relationship with the Prophet and maintained it thereafter. “MYNA, to me, is more than the eight-hour drive and cabins. It’s a family full of love, light, and blessings,” camper Nusaybah Firozi said. “I couldn’t possibly describe the emotional value a MYNA memory holds … I had some of my most life-changing experiences at MYNA camps.” MYNA’s winter camps were also full of interactive and hands-on workshops. After a
very emotional lecture at one camp, Imam Dawood Yasin of Masjid Al-Islam (New Haven, Conn.), led campers through an exercise: Write down an action you wish to be forgiven for and toss it into a bonfire. Watch the fire engulf the card and turn it into ash, and this will help you visualize the power of God’s mercy. Campers at another retreat were tasked with devising a skit on how to bounce back from mistakes, just as the Companions had done. Everyone, regardless of age and gender, also had the
opportunity to present a story from, or a short lecture about, a Companion’s life after every prayer. “MYNA camp was probably the best experience I’ve ever had,” camper Farah Hussein said. “You make new friends — but most importantly you make new family. When we work together and help each other get better, nothing can stop us from reaching Jannah, insha Allah. … MYNA inspires me to become a better Muslim and just a better person in general. I truly am grateful that I’m able to go to MYNA every year, because honestly, it feels just like home.” In addition to ziplining, hiking and paintballing, every camp ended with some fun during MYNA’s entertainment night, a chance for youth to showcase their talents — spoken word and poetry, cabin-group-made videos — and bond with fellow campers. MYNA’s retreats revealed how the Companions impacted their own time and still impact our time. With enlightening speakers, engaging workshops, numerous new friendships and the right amount of fun, MYNA’s 2018 winter camps were truly ones to remember. “I want to thank MYNA, the organizers and all of the campers for opening a big door to my life,” first-time camper Deama Musleh stated. “I knew right away that it was the start of something new. Now that I’ve been to this camp, I’ve realized how much closer it’s gotten me to my deen and Allah. Especially the friendships that started, and the little things like the MYNA chants that we did. I’m so glad I got to spend this first MYNA camp with everyone there. I can’t wait for future camps and more memories.” ih
INTERFAITH LEADERS RECOGNIZE ISNA PRESIDENT ISNA president Dr. Sayyid Syeed’s interfaith work at Shoulder to Shoulder was celebrated at the Interfaith Legacy Dinner on Jan. 9 in Washington, D.C. The event was attended by more than 100 faith leaders, government officials and community members who honored Syeed with their reflections and remarks. This included leaders from the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, the United Methodist Church and the Jewish Theological Seminary, among others. A cohort of Syeed’s family was present, with his eldest daughter Afeefa, founder of al-Fatih Academy in Virginia, offering words of gratitude on the family’s behalf. Rev. Richard Killmer, co-founder of Shoulder to Shoulder, presented Syeed with the Interfaith Unity Award, marking his significant contribution to advancing American ideals. The event showcased the incredible ways in which Syeed has built relationships, programs and institutional connections to advance religious
pluralism and respect for all Americans. Several speakers noted his mastery of relationship-building, as was witnessed by the attendees’ love and commitment. His decades-long efforts to build interfaith relationships has had ripple effects throughout communities nationwide and to the next generation. Charles C. Haynes, founding director, Religious Freedom Center/Newseum Institute, whom illness prevented from attending, said in his message, “[Syeed] Your lifetime work of bringing people of all faiths together and your vision of a more peaceful and just society have inspired me and many, many others over the years. Now you have taken on even more ... How fortunate our country is to have you as one of our key leaders at this critical moment.” Catherine Orsborn, PhD, director, Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, addressing the faith leaders, said, “Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do to further interfaith relations in this country. I am truly privileged to work with you and to learn from you, and I look forward to our continued work together.” ih
Alaa Abdeldaiem is marketing and documentation fellow, ISNA Youth Programs and Services Department
MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 9
Muhammad Ali Lights Up Louisville Airport
PHOTO: © (U.S. AIR FORCE/TECH. SGT. LILIANA MORENO)
City officials announced on Jan. 16 that Louisville International Airport will be renamed Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport. Ali would have turned 77 on Jan. 17. Muhammad Ali once said his “greatness came and started in Louisville.” Mayor Greg Fischer said, “Muhammad Ali belonged to the world, but he only had one hometown, and fortunately, that is our great city of Louisville. Muhammad became one of the most well-known people to ever walk the Earth and has left a legacy of humanitarianism and athleticism that has inspired billions of people. It is important that we, as a city, further champion The Champ’s legacy. And the airport renaming is a wonderful next step.” The SDF code will not change. Over the next three to five years, the airport’s $100 million project will upgrade the airport’s terminal, jetways, rental car area, elevators and moving walkways. ih
Military.com. reported on Aug. 1, 2018, that USAF Staff Sgt. Abdul Rahman Gaitan of the 821st Contingency Response Support Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., became the first Muslim airman to receive a waiver to wear a beard in keeping with his faith. The Catholic-raised Gaitan developed an interest in Islam during a 2011 deployment to the USAF base in Izmir, Turkey. Pursuing this interest at his next duty station in Hawaii, he ultimately decided to convert. 10 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
In 2014, the Pentagon released a new policy outlining how to apply for a waiver to wear otherwise-prohibited items — such as a turban, headscarf/hijab or beard — as a way of expressing “sincerely held beliefs.” In 2017, the Army streamlined the process for Muslims and Sikhs to obtain waivers to wear beards and turbans, respectively, and other religious headgear. While they are still required to receive case-by-case permission at the brigade level, once approved, the waivers remain permanent. ih
Muslim Advocates Moves HQ to Washington
Muslim Advocates (https://www.muslimadvocates.org) has moved its headquarters from Oakland, Calif. to Washington, DC. The staff expansion includes increased legal, campaign and community engagement teams. In a statement, founding executive director Farhana Khera announced, “We will continue to evolve and incorporate the latest techniques, innovations, and tools to defend all Americans and work to ease this tidal wave of bigotry and discrimination.” The organization, founded in 2005 in response to widespread surveillance and discrimination against American Muslims, rolled out a new website and online action center in January 2019. Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights organization, works in courts, the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks.. ih Chief Petty Officer Genevra M. Wilson, who serves in the U.S. Navy Reserves, won approval in Nov. 2018 to continue wearing a hijab with her uniform. On July 27, 2018, CAIR-Georgia requested the Navy’s approval for her religious accommodation request. She appears to be the first Muslimah in the Navy’s history to serve at that rank while wearing a hijab. As of 2017, the U.S. Army has also permitted Muslim servicewomen to wear hijabs as part of their official uniform. ih
PHOTO COURTESY OF SYED ULLAH
Pakistani physicians present $5,000 for police vests for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
The Pakistani Physicians Society of Illinois (PPSI) donated $5,000 for bulletproof vests to the Chicago Police Memorial
Foundation’s “Get Behind the Vest” initiative on Dec. 15, 2018, at Chicago Police Department headquarters. Commander
Roberto Nieves of the 24th District, Dr. Sajid Mehmood, Dr. Tariq Butt, Dr. Amin Nadeem, Salman Aftab and several prominent Pakistani community members attended the event, said the Daily Herald on Dec. 12, 2018. PPSI is a part and local chapter of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA), one of North America’s largest ethnic medical societies. It represents more than 12,000 physicians and health care professionals of Pakistani descent serving throughout North America. Vests, which cost about $500 each, need to be replaced every 5 years but are mostly used longer. The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the lives of fallen the city’s police heroes, provides support and financial assistance to the families of city police officers killed or catastrophically injured in the line of duty. ih
MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 11
Los Angeles-based Masjid Bilal Islamic Center hosted its groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 17, 2018, after the Los Angeles Building and Safety Department issued final approval on Nov. 16, 2018. Originally demolished due to an earthquake in the 1980s, the center is finally on its way toward reconstruction. The mosque and 55-foot-tall minaret will be built first, and then the community center. Imam Abdul Karim Hasan has been the religious leader of Masjid Bilal for nearly 50 years. Under his guidance, in 1999 the community launched a three-phase plan to build a new masjid, school and business complex on their vast property. Phase One saw the completion of a beautiful new two-story, 16-classroom educational facility named Bilal Learning Center, which opened in 2007.
Revere’s celebrated ride from Boston to Lexington. While incorporating traditional Islamic architecture on the inside, members worked with the Historical Society to make sure they preserved the building’s colonial aspects. Our Revolution Medford, a progressive organization, held a fundraiser Dec. 13, 2018, for ICCM to show support for a Muslim community center in Medford, and have positive messages from non-Muslims. Northern Virginia’s Mclean Islamic Center (MIC) was granted approval of its application to permit modifications of development conditions on Dec. 12, 2018. Fajr prayer will now be reinstated with no limit on the number of worshippers allowed (the previous limit was 10) and congregational asr and maghreb prayers are permitted between 4-7 p.m. on weekdays. The center also received permission to extend the time allowed for evening services on holidays and special events to include taraweeh prayers (the previous closing time was 10:30 p.m.). And lastly, MIC has requested permission to hold community services that end by 11 p.m., as well as overnight activities for the youth.
exemplifies what it means to be a health care advocate with inclusive public health policies and a demonstrated commitment to improving healthcare outcomes for all Harris County residents. Shah was 2017-18 National Association of City and County Health Officials president.
Rep. Abbas A. Akhil (D), an engineer with expertise in energy storage and renewables, was sworn in on Jan. 15 as a New Mexico state house representative. The house has 42 members. An active member of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, he brought the center’s Imam Fazail Ahmad Shaik to witness his historic swearing-in ceremony.
The Islamic Cultural Center of Medford (Mass.; ICCM) is opening in a three-story, historic home known as the Isaac Hall House, making history as the city’s first mosque — a location finalized after four years of searching. It will provide prayer and spiritual services, activities, events and burial services with the help of a contracted licensed mortician. The house, which dates to 1720, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was home to Captain Isaac Hall, a commander of the Medford Minutemen during the Revolutionary War, according to a plaque outside the property. Residents may be familiar with the home because of the yearly Patriots Day tradition whereby an actor in colonial garb stops at the home during his reenactment of Paul 12 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
Umair Shah, M.D, MPH, executive director of Harris County (Texas) Public Health, who led his county’s public health efforts after Hurricane Harvey, was recognized by Doctors for Change on Dec. 1, 2018, with the 2018 Healthcare Advocacy Award for his incredible leadership. Under his leadership, the HCPH department has won numerous awards, including recognition as the local health care department of 2016 for its work in innovation, engagement and health equity. Shah
Deqa Dhalac made political history when she was sworn in on Dec. 13, 2108, as the City of South Portland’s (Me.) newest city councilor after defeating a longtime local business owner Donald Cook in the Dec. 11 citywide special election, reported News Center Main on Dec. 14, 2018. Dhalac is believed to be the first African American and first Muslimah to be elected to the city council. Originally from Somalia, Dhalac is a U.S. citizen, a social worker with two master’s degrees and a single mother of three. The first Muslimah and woman of color to be elected to the council, she knocked on more than 2,000 doors to learn what people wanted her to work on if she got elected. CAIR Sacramento Valley executive director Basim Elkarra received the 2018 American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California’s (ACLU-NC) Chief Justice Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award on Dec. 8, 2018. The award, established in 1973 to
Basim Elkarra (center) receives the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California’s (ACLU-NC) Chief Justice Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award.
recognize those who serve as leaders in the fight to protect and expand civil liberties, is the organization’s highest honor and will be presented to Elkarra at the ACLU-NC’s annual Bill of Rights Celebration. Past honorees include Rosa Parks, Dolores Huerta, Fred Korematsu and Justice Thurgood Marshall. Mohammed Yousuf, founder and president, EquallyAble Foundation, received the 2018 Henry Viscardi Achievement Award on Dec. 4, 2018, at an award ceremony held in New York City. He was one of the 10 awardees chosen by The Viscardi Center, which honors leaders around the
Mohammed Yousuf (center) receives his award
world who have made a significant impact in improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. Senator Bob Dole led the selection committee. Individuals with any type of disability and of any age are eligible. Awards winners must have served as a powerful force for change and enhanced the opportunities for people with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of society; demonstrated a vision, understanding and commitment to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities; and helped to lead societal transformation that is producing improved outcomes and higher expectations for the disability community.
Fadwa A. Hammoud, vice president of the Arab American Political Action Committee and Dearborn resident, was appointed on Jan. 15 as Michigan’s Solicitor General by the state’s Attorney General Dana Nessel. She is the nation’s first Arab American and Muslim solicitor general. Hammoud, who has served as lead attorney in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, where she established the Business Protection Unit, is a trustee and treasurer of the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education and the Henry Ford College Board. She also sits on the Legislative Committee for the Hispanic/Latino, Asian Pacific American and Middle Eastern American Affairs Commissions. A graduate of Wayne State University Law School and the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Hammoud is a 2018 member of the Harvard Business School’s Young American Leaders Program.
Ghufran Salih (‘20, IT major with a minor in physics) was elected president of Syracuse University’s Student Association. Salih wants the university to recognize American Sign Language (ASL) as an official language to improve accessibility, especially MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 13
COMMUNITY MATTERS for registered student organizations that want ASL interpretation at events. Sudan-born Salih is involved with other campus groups, including First Year Players and the MSA. She is also a volunteer at an area high school, a peer adviser and a member of a Syracuse theater group.
Quis Formoli was sworn in as Sacramento County Sheriff ’s Department’s first Muslim sergeant Dec. 21, 2018. Formoli, who migrated with his family from Afghanistan when he was 9 years old, joined the Sheriff ’s Department when he turned 20. He told Sacramento, Calif.-based KCRA, “I came from the other side of the world and started with nothing. Our family struggled and we came here and we made a living for ourselves and went from that to working at the Sheriff ’s Department.”
Sadaf Jaffer was sworn in as mayor of the Montgomery Township (N.J.) on Jan. 3, becoming the state’s first Muslim American female mayor. A resident of the area 14 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
Monem Salam, executive vice president and portfolio manager at Saturna Capital, received the Islamic Relief USA Award in Sincerity on Dec. 7, 2018, at Islamic Relief USA’s 25th Anniversary Gala in Washington, D.C. It recognizes his steadfast devotion to the organization’s core values. During his engagement with the organization, Salam has worked to bring greater awareness to its causes through his continued community involvement. He has led for five years, she has previously served as a Montgomery committeeperson and was elected to the committee last year. The new mayor is a scholar and activist. She has worked for the U.S. Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of South Asian Affairs. She is currently a postdoctoral research associate in South Asian studies at Princeton University, where she teaches South Asian, Islamic and Asian American Studies. Jaffer earned her bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and obtained her PhD in Near Eastern languages and civilizations from Harvard University. ih
fund-raising events and various initiatives to educate the public about the importance of helping the poor and vulnerable. Saturna Capital Corporation, established in 1989 in Bellingham, Wash., is a private, employee-owned investment adviser that provides investment advisory services to mutual funds, institutions, businesses, individuals and endowments. It also advises the Amana Mutual Funds Trust, the nation’s oldest and largest Sharia-compliant family of funds. ih
Teaching Values to Empower Students The 8th Annual ISNA West Coast Education Forum BY SUSAN LABADI
he 8th annual West Coast Education Forum, “Teaching Values to Empower Students,” was held in Los Angeles, Jan. 18-19. Tayyab Yunus, ISNA’s new executive director, stewarded the event. Safaa Zarzour, ISNA-U.S. vice president and seasoned Islamic schools advocate, welcomed the educators and related the forum’s history and ISNA’s passion for helping all types of Islamic schools. Addressing the initial plenary session, Dr. Omar Ezzeldine, a director of Professional Development, Santa Ana Unified School District, who teaches at University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, said, “Don’t be afraid to express love for your students.” Ezzeldine, who has also served at California’s New Horizon Irvine and Emirates National School, noted that parents of homeschooled students are advised to consider how they will socialize their students and to be sure that morals and values are included. Teachers were encouraged to look for ways to help students practice their values and manage their fears. In his Friday khutba, Yunus discussed the five characteristics of a high performing Muslim: serving humanity by emulating the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) practice, having a clear vision of success in achieving Jannah, believing that God has already written everything, doing everything with intentional excellence in execution and silencing the applause-seeking side of yourself. He concluded, “When your plan works, thank Allah. When your plan doesn’t work out, thank Allah ten times.”
org), designed a four-segment workshop: Empowering Students: Being Actively Engaged and Pedagogy for Spirituality; Every Class Can Be a Maker Space; Brave Teachers Teach with Technology in a Digital World; and The “Triple E”: Engage, Enhance, and Extend Digital Teaching while Making Sense of Time Management. • Mental Well-being in the Classroom was led by Noha Alshugairi, a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified positive discipline trainer, with a philosophy grounded in Islam and the Islamic sciences. She reminded teachers, “It takes only one positive relationship to change how a person perceives the world.” She emphasized the importance of self-care for teachers and administrators. Friday evening’s Celebration Banquet opened with the co-emcees Deana Helmy and Muhammad Aftab Diwan, the Quranic recitation of Sh. Zouhir Raslan and featured the songs spiritedly performed by New Horizons West LA students. Forum founder Necva Ozgur delivered The Lifetime Achievement in Islamic Education Award to Iman Hashem, a former New Horizon School teacher. Her expertise in Arabic has given her key opportunities with major educational institutions and the Advanced Development of Language Proficiency Program at the Language Acquisition Resource Center. In addition to designing a certificate program for teachers of Arabic and Arabic speakers at California State University-Fullerton, she has directed, designs and conducts STARTALK workshops and is a candidate for national recognition as Teacher of the Year with the American Council of Teaching Foreign Languages.
AN EXCEPTIONAL KEYNOTE
The 22-session forum included and three specialized four-hour workshops: • Differentiation in Arabic, with Dr. Ghayda Al-Ali, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Georgetown University, whose research interests lean heavily toward News Discourse Analysis of Arabic print media and its interaction with the Western media. She helped teachers working with Heritage Language speakers and 2nd Language Learners find the optimal balance in understanding their different approaches to pedagogy. • Delve into Teaching Strategies for the 21st Century. Dr. Seema Imam, who co-chairs the National College of Education at National Louis University, serves as professor in Teacher Preparation and as a director of The Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA; theisla.
Dalia Fahmy, an advocate and beneficiary of an Islamic school education, recollected that she attended Islamic school from 2nd through 12th grade and credited her parents for that wise decision. She stated that we should be able to teach knowledge, but that “knowing without doing is the equivalent of not knowing anything at all.” Acknowledging the friends that our children make in school are very important, she said that partnering with Islamic schools can put them on the path of success in this life and, more importantly, in the Afterlife.
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HIGHLY POPULAR SESSIONS One of the highest attended sessions was Necva Ozgur’s “Teaching and Internalizing Values: Taking it to the Next Level.” Based on
personal research and interviews, she contended that values need and cultural pressures. He said, “We cannot avoid sex in this culture to be identified and that schools must design ways for students because it is everywhere.” Parents and teachers, he stated, should to implement them. Teacher spiritual renewal retreats and being be developmentally appropriate and start talking about sexual with students during informal play times helps them do just that awareness at about 6 years of age. However, this talk should be in a safe supportive environment. Ozgur is executive director of about “good touch” and “bad touch.” For example, ask a child how MERIT, founder of four New Horizons schools, former CISNA board they would feel if someone gave him/her a “high-five” or touched member, board chair of Bayan Claremont and charter committee his/her “privates” — other than his/her parents, doctors, or others specified as having legitimate need. member of the ISNA Education Forum. Fazaga mentioned that exposure to pornography is widespread Islamic history scholar and author Susan Douglass of Georgetown University and professor for Bayan Claremont, conducted a session and explicitly prohibited primarily because it damages the natural about Islamic history, working with textbook reviews and writing. stimulants, for one has to keep exceeding the previous experience. She also spoke on a panel with Ozgur and Ezzeldine, along with It also deprives people of their own experience because it gives one ISNA program committee members Sadeq Al-Hasan and Sufia someone else’s fantasy, which is entirely contrived and staged with often irreverent and dysfunctional schemes. Azmat, on “Preparing Staff to Teach at an Islamic School.” Adita Arya, founder of AIM Academy, president and co-founder of Afghan Literacy Foundation (prevents forcing children into SATURDAY’S LUNCHEON KEYNOTE SPEAKER child labor in Afghanistan), served as emcee of the Saturday luncheon and had her own par- SH. YASSIR FAZAGA, FOUNDER OF TANWEER allel session, “Creating an Effective Weekend INSTITUTE, SPOKE ABOUT ADDICTIONS. HE School.” She referred to Michael Fullan’s “Deep Learning” and emphasized that teachers help DISPELLED THE MISCONCEPTIONS THAT IMAN their students connect with their Creator. NEGATES ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION AND Wadud Hassan and Leiya Hasan, co-founders of Define 360, have created a successful and THAT BEING AFFLICTED WITH THEM MEANS sought-after series of workshops that help weekend schools and after-school programs build THAT WE MIGHT NOT HAVE IMAN. knowledge and skills in character development and values. Their highly popular “Mindfulness in the Classroom: Teaching Children Self-Awareness and Self“Principles of Governance and Leadership,” led by Mussarat Regulation” revealed that the purpose and method of effective Jabeen, was informative and interactive. Establishing an exceptional parenting and teaching is not necessarily obedience and control, board with research-based 12 principles was featured. Jabeen has but teaching students how to engage in deep self-awareness to be significant experience with AdvancEd school accreditations and is on ISLA’s board of directors and co-chair of the Annual Leadership integrated with Islamic guidance. Saturday’s luncheon keynote speaker Sh. Yassir Fazaga, founder Retreat. Dr. Shaza Khan, ISLA executive director, delivered “Improving of Tanweer Institute, spoke about addictions. He dispelled the misconceptions that iman negates anxiety and depression and that Islamic Studies Classes: Focusing on Excellence, Relevance and being afflicted with them means that we might not have iman. He Delivery” with energy and enthusiasm. She encouraged attendees referred to Prophet Yusuf ’s father, who became blind when stricken to visit https://theisla.org website and join the Islamic Educators with the news of his son’s “death.” Fazaga said that the body often Communication Network (IECN) — a listserv of over 700 members experiences physical ailments due to unresolved and unrecognized who connect and communicate on a variety of relevant topics. mental maladies. Furthermore, some resort to pornography and drugs, particularly marijuana, to cope with emotional pain, thereby ARABIC TRACK SESSIONS creating a vicious circle of addiction. While marijuana has some One of the prized tracks featured Lina Kholaki and Nachida Tizani, benefits, its big issue is the incurred emotional dependency. He Marwa Thabet, Samar Dalati, Amal Toameh and Iman Hashem. noted that suicide is the third leading cause of death of people aged Their topics ran the range of assessment, expanding repetition in 16-35; 80 percent of those were determined to die had an untreated a non-repetitive strategy, integrating technology, flipping learning, or undiagnosed mental disorder. accessing websites for teachers and learners as well as using new As we don’t like to discuss such issues in our communities, educational protocols to pave the way for deeper understanding, the common response is “read the Qur’an” or blame the victim. building new communities and fostering creativity and critical According to Fazaga, our greatest risk is ignorance and unresolved thinking in Arabic. curiosity, and prevention is our greatest ally. As the average age of The West Coast Education Forum, recognized as a valuable ISNA exposure to marijuana is 12 or 13, he said that our schools should offering to the educational community and a link to the national be addressing this issue because peer pressure is real. voice of Muslim Americans, connects, uplifts and fortifies values Continuing his keynote through the following session, “Islamic and character development with respect to preserving and living Approach to Mental Health,” Fazaga captured one-third of the the divine guidance of Islam. ih forum’s attendees with his counsel about working with our youth and community adults regarding sexuality, appropriate education Susan Labadi is halal industry and education consultant; chair of ISNA Education Forums MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 17
Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad gave the opening and Agbere is pinned with his ranks by his wife and closing prayers at Agbere’s promotion ceremony Army Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) David Hurley
First Muslim Chaplains Promoted to the Rank of Colonel During 2018, two US Army Muslim chaplains were promoted to the highly respected rank of Colonel BY ABDUL-RASHEED MUHAMMAD
haplains Khallid M. Shabazz and Dawud A. Agbere were two of the 21 Army chaplains selected for 2018 promotions. Every year, each military service branch makes selections to their various officer ranks, including their most senior officers. Both chaplains, who began their military careers as chaplains in 1998, were recently promoted from the rank of Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel and are the first to be promoted to this rank. On Oct. 4, 2018, while on assignment in Hawaii, Chaplain Shabazz was moved up to the next rank. Chaplain Agbere, on assignment at Fort Belvoir, Va., was promoted on Dec.10, 2018. They began their chaplain careers at the same time and graduated in June 2000 with Master degrees from the Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences under the direction of (the late) Dr. Taha Alwani.
CHAPLAIN SHABAZZ Growing up in a disciplined single-parent household headed by his mother in Louisiana, Chaplain Shabazz was a practicing member of the Lutheran church. Prior to embracing Islam, he was known as Michael Barnes, a religious young man with excellent athletic abilities who loved playing baseball and basketball. He attended and graduated from Jarvis Christian College, a historically Black liberal arts college in Texas, only to wind up working in a K-Mart as a salesman/maintenance 18 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
man in order to make ends meet — not the career path he’d envisioned for himself. In 1991 he enlisted in the US Army and was placed in the Military Occupational Specialist (MOS) field as an artilleryman. While stationed in Germany, he was drawn to the base’s imam who was also teaching Islam. After several months of serious self-study, Shabazz took his shahadah and converted. However, he only became sure where his new faith was leading him when a Christian chaplain mentioned that he had heard of a Muslim chaplain being officially sworn in as the military’s first Muslim chaplain in 1993 [the author of this article] and that
THEY BEGAN THEIR CHAPLAIN CAREERS AT THE SAME TIME AND GRADUATED IN JUNE 2000 WITH MASTER DEGREES FROM THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ISLAMIC SOCIAL SCIENCES UNDER THE DIRECTION OF (THE LATE) DR. TAHA ALWANI.
Present at Agbere’s (right) promotion ceremony were Chaplain Shabazz (center) and AbdulRasheed Muhammad (left)
maybe he should consider the chaplaincy as his career. Considering this suggestion a direct message from God, Shabazz pursued it and transformed what had started out as a dream into a reality. Among the many accomplishments of his illustrious career is what happened on May 23, 2017, at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. — Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Shabazz became the first Muslim to hold the position of US Army Division Chaplain, which made him responsible for the spiritual care of 35 unit ministry teams, 70 chaplains and chaplain assistants and over 14,000 soldiers.
CHAPLAIN AGBERE Chaplain Agbere, a native of Ghana, began his military career in 1996 as a seaman in the US Navy. In his promotion acceptance speech at the Pentagon, he stated, “I always wanted a career where I could do my very best to serve others.” While on active duty in the Navy and after being convinced by a former Navy supervisor that being a chaplain would be a good way to serve many others, he decided to pursue a career in the US Army Chaplain Corps. During his career, Agbere has been the first Muslim chaplain to serve at the Pentagon, in the Army Chief of Chaplains Office of Personnel as the Chaplain Assignments Officer and the first Muslim chaplain to attend the Army War College in Residence. Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) David Hurley, the Army Chief of Chaplains, officiated at Agbere’s ceremony at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes. As senior military chaplain supervisors, both Shabazz and Agbere serve as advisors to the Office of the Chief Chaplains on all matters pertaining to religion and religious accommodations, especially those related specifically to Islam. ih Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, MS, MSW, BCC, is ISNA director of Chaplaincy Services and Endorsing Agent.
COVER STORY – EDUCATION
20 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
IS AMERICAN EDUCATION ISLAMOPHOBIC? Conservative Texas has a large influence upon the contents, production and purchase of American history textbooks BY MELISSA LEVINSON
he number of hate crimes committed against Muslims in the U.S. has reached an all-time high. In 2016, the number of assaults targeting Muslims surpassed post-9/11 levels for the first time in 15 years (FBI, “Hate Crime Statistics, 2016,” 2017). Other manifestations of Islamophobia have skyrocketed as well, including the proliferation of racial slurs, the rise of farright Islamophobic groups and the increase of threats to mosques (Christopher Mathias, “A Running List of Shameful Islamophobic Acts Since the Paris Attacks” HuffPost, Nov. 20, 2015). The persistence of anti-Muslim bigotry and violent backlash begs the following question: How have these negative attitudes become so entrenched in American public discourse? While significant research in the past two decades has detailed the pervasiveness of negative stereotypes of Muslims in popular media and news coverage since 9/11, far less research has focused on another central driver of Islamophobia: the American education system (Jack Shaheen, “Reel Bad Arabs,” 2001). MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 21
COVER STORY – EDUCATION Education is often cited as a successful mechanism to reduce intergroup prejudice (“Principles of Social Psychology,” 2014). Various studies indicate a negative correlation between education level and racial, religious and ethnic prejudice (Héctor Carvacho et al., “On the relation between social class and prejudice: The roles of education, income, and ideological attitudes,” European Journal of Social Psychology 43(4), June 2013). In other words, as education levels increase, intergroup prejudice decreases. However, studies that praise the positive influence of education on intergroup relations overlook a central issue: In the process of forming perceptions of groups, the content of education is as, if not more, important than the amount of education provided. Simply teaching students more about a group does not necessarily reduce prejudice. Rather, what students learn more reliably impacts their perceptions. History textbooks act as vehicles for forming students’ perceptions of their own identity and how they relate to the people around them (Michael Apple and Linda Christian-Smith, “The Politics of the Textbook,” 1991). Thus, the representations of Islam in American world history and U.S. history textbooks influence students’ understanding of contemporary Muslims. My research on world history textbooks used across the country finds that sections about Islam and Muslim-majority countries advance a “rise and fall” narrative: In the medieval period, Islamic societies were flourishing and advanced civilizations, but due to an inability to modernize, the religion and its followers have subsequently declined into oppression, violence and terrorism. This sensationalized version reduces Islam to a bygone, violent religion and fails to account for the vibrant and dynamic contemporary reality of the Islamic faith. Similarly, U.S. history textbooks situate Muslims outside of the American national narrative by portraying them as foreign and 22 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
U.S. HISTORY TEXTBOOKS SITUATE MUSLIMS OUTSIDE OF THE AMERICAN NATIONAL NARRATIVE BY PORTRAYING THEM AS FOREIGN AND ANTITHETICAL TO AMERICAN VALUES OF FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY.
antithetical to American values of freedom and democracy. It should go without saying that these textbook representations didn’t appear out of thin air. However, that is exactly how they are presented to students: as objective facts. But in reality, according to Apple and Christian-Smith, textbooks are the products of political, social and economic forces and are written by real people working for for-profit companies with financial interests. Because formal education functions as an institution of cultural transmission by determining what values and information are passed on to younger generations, the process of developing educational curricula has become a battleground for those with competing ideas about American principles. As textbooks represent the official narrative — or “master script” (Springer) — presented to students, the content development process is rife with political influences. The series of decisions made throughout the publication process hinges on those power dynamics that determine whose voices shall be included and excluded in the nation’s legitimized narrative. To understand how these negative textbook representations came about, we must analyze the complicated publication and adoption processes. First, the decentralized textbook adoption process allows each state to set standards for which textbooks their public schools should use. Nineteen states, mostly concentrated in Republican states in the South and West, employ a statewide textbook adoption system: A state committee approves a list of textbooks from which school districts can choose (Randria Williams and Vonzell Agosto, “Missing and Shrinking Voices: A Critical Analysis of Florida’s Textbook Adoption Policy,” 2012). As for-profit companies, textbook publishers vie for spots on these statewide adoption lists in order to sell wholesale packages to states and thus vastly increase their profits. But how do these publishers secure spots on the states’ lists? A closer look at Texas, the largest statewide textbook
adoption state, can shed light on this answer. Although the Texas textbook selection committee is only mandated to evaluate textbooks for factual correctness and compliance with the state’s social studies standards, in reality it assesses how closely the narratives presented conform to its members’ ideological and religious values. It just so happens that this particular committee is dominated by members of the conservative Christian right (Keith Crawford, “The Manufacture of Official Knowledge: The Texas Textbook Adoption Process,” Internationale Schulbuchforschung 25, 2003). In addition, the committee holds public hearings during which concerned Texans can express their opinions on the proposed textbooks. Since the 1980s, Christian right special interest groups have effectively organized and lobbied to pressure textbook publishers to write books that align with their views of this country’s Christian foundation and Islam’s incompatibility with American values (Fritz Detwiler, “Standing on the Premises of God,” 1999). Thus this pressure, as well as the committee’s conservative inclination, pushes textbook publishers to write content that narrowly defines the American nation by its white, Christian roots and ignores the plurality of the country’s historical experiences while seeking to preserve the notion of American exceptionalism. The root of the negative depictions of Muslims in American textbooks isn’t limited to just the Christian right. The dominant U.S. governmental discourse since 9/11 (and even before) has often used Islamophobic rhetoric, such as the notion of “saving oppressed Muslim women,” to justify its foreign policy actions in the Middle East and Central Asia (Lila Abu-Lughod, “Do Muslim Women Need Saving?” 2013). These textbooks reflect the government’s messages and seek to foster consent among the public for the U.S.’s role in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim-majority countries. The language used also excludes Muslims from the American narrative and demeans the
cultures and histories of the Middle East and other Muslim-majority countries, which naturally results in increased anti-Muslim prejudice. Although the Christian right has
effectively impacted textbook content for several decades, the decentralized nature of the textbook writing process actually opens the opportunity for more liberal efforts to sway the content — if the efforts made by liberal special interest groups and even individuals to mobilize were to become more organized and well-financed. In other words, far from these historical and ongoing negative representations of Muslims and other minority groups being inevitable, the decentralized publication process can be utilized to create more positive representations. Parents — if you are interested in participating in such advocacy, begin reading your child’s textbook. Community members — consider attending textbook adoption hearings if you live in a textbook adoption state or speak with your local school district if you do not. If we want to begin rooting out Islamophobia, we must start with the source: our children’s history classes. ih Melissa Levinson is a Master’s student in Arab studies at Georgetown University, where she focuses on reforming educational representations of Arabs and Muslims.
MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 23
Integrating Social Justice in Islamic Education Teaching students to see the relationships between cause and effect BY AQSA KHAN
ne of the most important questions educators must continually ask themselves is whether they are providing a strong foundation of learning and knowledge for their students. The current social and political climate has been troubling for many in our nation, especially Muslims. However, there is a silver lining: Many social justice issues have arisen, thereby giving students a great opportunity to use their knowledge in a purposeful way. Many people face persecution and hardship. Whether it is denying education to girls or the Black Lives Matter movement, more people are paying attention to the ongoing advocacy for protecting people of color against police brutality as well as social justice issues at home and abroad. Therefore, 24 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
these are relevant subjects in our Islamic schools’ curricula because of their inherent value as topics for Muslims to affect meaningful change. A closer look at such issues reveals that not only is there ample evidence of concern in our Prophetic and Islamic tradition, but also that it is an effective educational tool — one that deepens students’ learning and application of knowledge.
MOTIVATING STUDENTS One benefit of building curriculum on the basis of social justice issues is that educators find topics that inherently pique teens’ interest. Young people are often agents of change because of their ability to critique issues. Rallying them behind problems that matter to them, especially the injustices they see in their own lives and in those around them, is a great tool for educators to use. Through
projects that serve their own community and the nation, we can train students to be proactive and help cultivate them to find solutions. Many of the injustices that make today’s headlines affect our youth. Analyzing the incarceration of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds is knowledge that pushes students to identify societal problems and find creative ways to tackle them. While examining this issue, teachers can network with outside resources so students can meet with non-profit advocacy groups, local courthouses, local government and others who are focused on lowering incarceration rates. Such interaction exposes them to institutions that can help further their knowledge and passion. The purpose of education is to elevate human beings and improve their condition.
COVER STORY – EDUCATION Taking up social justice issues is one way for young people to affect change more directly. Discussing how others have no access to education or basic human necessities makes students conscious of their own privileges, and connecting the Islamic ideals of standing for justice moves them to live by Islamic values. Ultimately, social justice calls for people to say truth to power, and young people are often the ones bold enough to do just that.
EXAMPLES FROM OUR TRADITION As Muslims and teachers, we hold dear our beloved Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) saying: “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim” (“Sunan Ibn Majah,” 224). Inevitably, the question we pose to ourselves and our students is: Why would the Prophet insist that attaining knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim? The more one experiences and seeks knowledge, the more the answer becomes clear: to draw closer to God and to serve humanity better. Through serving humanity by serving justice we can often attain inner peace and closeness to our Creator. He reminds us again and again in the Qur’an: “Oh you who believe! Be standard bearers for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, whether it be rich or poor, for God can best protect both. Follow not
the lusts, lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do” (4:135). A study of the Prophet and his life provides us with abundant stories and anecdotes about how he removed injustice from situations around him, even when it angered
YOUNG PEOPLE ARE OFTEN AGENTS OF CHANGE BECAUSE OF THEIR ABILITY TO CRITIQUE ISSUES. RALLYING THEM BEHIND PROBLEMS THAT MATTER TO THEM, ESPECIALLY THE INJUSTICES THEY SEE IN THEIR OWN LIVES AND IN THOSE AROUND THEM, IS A GREAT TOOL FOR EDUCATORS TO USE. those in power. In pre-Islamic Arabia, many customs violated women’s rights. For example, he preached against honor killings and female infanticide and ended them once he established Islam, and advocated for a woman’s right to divorce an abusive husband. It was hard to upend such a heavily patriarchal societal power structure, but the Prophet
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knew the importance of helping those who were powerless. Islam was meant to engender societal change to bring justice to all. History records many instances of Muslims speaking truth to power even shortly after the Prophet’s passing. His own beloved family fought for social justice when
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tyranny and persecution became common. By studying and discussing these events, today’s youth can see that attaining equity for the disadvantaged and justice for the persecuted is an ongoing and timeless struggle.
WAYS TO ENGAGE Integrating social justice issues in a social studies curriculum so that societal problems and their connection to historical events, as well as current and past governance, might seem rather obvious. However, when different subject teachers collaborate, it becomes apparent that connecting such issues to English, math and science is thoroughly engaging for both students and teachers. Creating a thematic curriculum for all students can help them connect mathematical concepts to real-life situations, where they can see computation and calculation put to good use. The parallel between literature and historical events during times of great social upheaval is strong. Enabling students to see these relationships deepens their understanding of the material and helps them form a stronger foundation of knowledge. Ultimately, social justice is a value that should be integrated into school teaching philosophies and curricula. By helping students feel empowered and encouraged, teachers can help them begin to ask the right questions and participate in purposeful and productive ways. ih Aqsa Khan, a certified educator, has taught for seven years in both public and Islamic schools in New York and New Jersey.
MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 25
COVER STORY – EDUCATION
For the Love of Reading Reading is far more than just another school-based activity BY SAULAT PERVEZ
he revelation of the Quran began with the command to read (96:1-5). The unlettered Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) even freed prisoners of war if they taught Muslims how to read and write. This early emphasis on learning led to a robust scholarship-based culture that spurred the glorious history of Islamic civilization. As Muslims, we know this and cite it quite often. However, the reality today is that we, as an ummah, lag behind in literacy, reading habits and knowledge production. Our education, whether religious or secular, has increasingly regressed into an exercise of rote learning, a mass of discrete knowledge, as well as a frenzied race toward what we deem “useful” skills. The reasons for this current state of affairs are many, one of which is the massive disruption Muslims experienced due to colonialism and Western imperialism. Instead of delving into the past though, this article focuses on addressing a fundamental question many parents and teachers face: How do we inculcate a lasting love of reading in children?
UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM
Learning how to read does not necessarily or automatically lead to wanting to read. And yet while this may seem to be perfectly logical, too many homes and schools operate as if this were not the case. In fact, raising literate children requires parents and teachers to proactively employ various methods, such as constantly exposing them to books and reading aloud activities. Once children become proficient readers, this engagement tends to dwindle due to the assumption that they should now read independently. However, what goes largely unnoticed is that this is the time when they are moving from picture books to chapter books, from glossy pages and vibrant pictures to black-and-white text with hardly any illustrations. Soon, that hearty mutually active reading environment is overtaken by a oneway rhetoric and nagging to “read something,” which turns a once-joyful activity into a burdensome task that leads to “reader fatigue.” 26 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
This situation is compounded in bilingual homes. For instance, children might be studying in English at school but speaking in another language at home. Novice readers may face more serious comprehension issues over time. The lack of a reading culture at home also plays a vital role, for we often tell our children to read even though we do not. Yet another example of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Our failure to role-model reading at home may impact our children’s personal efforts in this regard. Inordinate access to screens can be another barrier. As Trevor Noah states in his “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” (2016), “If you add up how much you read in a year on the Internet — tweets, Facebook posts, lists — you’ve read the equivalent of a … ton of books, but in fact you’ve read no books in a year.” Comparing this to a hamster wheel, he concludes, “It’s maximal effort put into minimal gain.”
READING ALOUD TRULY EMPOWERS TEACHERS TO IMPACT EACH ONE OF THEIR STUDENTS — NOT JUST IN TERMS OF DEVELOPING A FONDNESS FOR READING, BUT ALSO IN SOWING THE SEEDS FOR HIGHER ORDER THINKING SKILLS AND REFLECTION AS A HABIT.
Although many of our kids do blossom into avid readers despite these challenges, we must never forget those who fall through the cracks.
THE PLOT THICKENS Reading is a thinking activity. According to Robert Fisher, author of “Teaching Children to Think” (2005), fluent readers can extract meaning from the text while reading it, whereas those who struggle with reading cannot and suffer from “cognitive confusion.” This directly impacts their ability to “read to learn” as schoolwork becomes more and more demanding, especially for those who only read what the teachers assign. Scholars refer to this decline as the “fourth grade slump,” a downward spiral in reading scores first identified in fourth grade and that, in the U.S., is often linked to lower socio-economic status. However, this research has monolingualism embedded in it and multilingualism can actually complicate this situation regardless of one’s socio-economic status. In fact, many students of higher socio-economic families can succeed without being readers thanks to their access to private tutoring, including online enrichment courses. Reading for pleasure can actually help children improve their academic achievement and enjoy their textbooks more. But how can we sustain such reading as they progress through the grades? In a classroom full of children with various skills
and interests, what is the lowest common denominator that may motivate them to start reading again or to keep at it?
SHOW, NOT TELL The American Commission on Reading’s “Building a Nation of Readers” (1985) terms reading aloud the “single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.” It was deemed essential at home and indispensable in the classroom “throughout the grades”! Yes, not just when we are trying to teach them how to read, but during their entire academic career. Indeed, research shows that elementary and middle school children say that the favorite part of their school day is when their teachers read aloud to them. Jim Trelease mentions two important facts in his “The Read-Aloud Handbook” (2001): Humans are pleasure-driven and reading is an accrued skill. In other words, we like to do what we enjoy and the more we read, the better we get at it. When children experience reading in a positive way, their brain receives a “pleasure” message. The greater the number of such signals, the more they come to associate reading with fun. Reading aloud truly empowers teachers to impact each one of their students — not just in terms of developing a fondness for reading, but also in sowing the seeds for higher order thinking skills and reflection as a habit. According to the Fountas and
Pinnell, exposing children to consistent reading aloud helps them develop cognitively and improves their fluency and reading habits. As students can listen on a higher language level than they can read, reading aloud makes complex ideas more accessible to them and exposes them to vocabulary and language patterns that are not part of their everyday speech. This, in turn, helps students understand the structure of books when they read independently. We know that fluency in conversation, richness in vocabulary, depth in comprehension and creativity in composition all stem from reading. So instead of telling students to read, it’s high time to show them the pleasures of reading. However, it cannot be emphasized enough that here we are talking about supplemental reading aloud. Reading assigned textbook selections aloud is perfectly fine, but note that these are also weighed down by affiliated assignments. Therefore, to get the best results teachers must introduce additional books that are not part of the curriculum per se. Complement the classroom syllabus with an unabridged book that does not have the cumbersome baggage — report writing, homework or marked assignments — to prove to students that reading can be fun. Let one teacher — not necessarily an English teacher — start the book and another one continue it whenever the opportunity arises. Give students a chance to read with expression. Invite guests to participate: the
principal and teachers/students from higher grades, as well as parents and local librarians. As kids get older, reading aloud is a great way to introduce them to quality literature, especially since they may have become stuck in reading and re-reading the same kind of books. Audio books can be very helpful in this regard. Select an easy first book and then, once they’re hooked, raise the bar. Imagine the thinking skills being developed while they follow a plot over an extended period of time only by listening. In addition, the beautiful thing about reading aloud is that we can choose books above their current developmental level in order to challenge them. Above all, such activities prepare them for independent reading. When the school has developed a reading aloud culture through consistency, time should be allotted for sustained silent reading during the class. Parents and teachers should incorporate these useful tips into their daily routines. While it is extremely important to cultivate reading habits among our children, it is equally vital that we, as parents and teachers, do likewise. If not, how can we possibly be surprised to learn that our children aren’t really interested in reading? ih Saulat Pervez, a IIIT research associate, has been researching and focusing on reading for more than a decade. She conducts motivational reading workshops for teachers, parents and students. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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EDUCATION – REPORT
Teachers Meet and Learn Teachers and schools leader share experiences in learning BY SHAZA KHAN
he Islamic Schools League of such as suicides, intruders on campus America (ISLA; https://theisla.org) or life-threatening health situations, Tahseen and ISLA Board member Leadership Retreat, held during Dec.14-16, 2018, in Parrish, Fla., Rasha El-Haggan facilitated a session brought together 66 educators and school on developing crisis response plans. leaders from Minnesota to Texas and They engaged the participants in realistic from California to New Jersey. “real-time” scenarios unfolding in their This annual retreat enables particschools, which helped the participants ipants to reconnect with God, nature realize the complexity of such events and and one another while learning about how their plans can help them during relevant and timely topics. To achieve such moments. these goals, the retreat typically takes These sessions were funded by a genplace in a location outside the urban erous grant from Islamic Relief USA. hustle and bustle. Another important session was about Throughout the weekend, particsex education. Imam Zaid explained the ipants engaged in presentations and Islamic imperative and framework that workshops related to the theme: “Beyond should be used to approach this topic Academics: The Unspoken Challenges both at school and at home. After stating Facing Students Today.” that specific biological terms should be In his Jummah khutbah, Imam used and slang should be avoided, he preZaid Abdelrahim from Masjid Taqwa School leaders take time out of their busy weekend to sented suggestions on how to approach (Kissimmee, Fla.) highlighted the impor- reconnect with nature and each other. various aspects from the earliest ages up tance of the surrounding environment until adolescence. by referencing the hadith recorded by Afeefa Syeed, principal of Virginia’s AFEEFA SYEED, PRINCIPAL al-Bukhari and Muslim — in brief, Al-Fatih Academy, shared that their OF VIRGINIA’S AL-FATIH someone who had murdered 99 people schools’ approach and teaching of family was forgiven because he repented and life education is seen as a critical way to ACADEMY, SHARED empower students with knowledge and followed a scholar’s advice to migrate THAT THEIR SCHOOLS’ understanding of their mental, physical to a city in which he could start a new life and be surrounded by doers of good. and spiritual development. She discussed APPROACH AND He drew a parallel to full-time Islamic their philosophy and approach, how a TEACHING OF FAMILY schools as providing just such a beneficial curriculum can be created and develenvironment. The former nasheed artist oped, as well as the challenges facing LIFE EDUCATION IS SEEN then yielded to the participants’ request schools tying to implement what is AS A CRITICAL WAY TO and performed a rendition of “Ta’ala al increasingly becoming an important EMPOWER STUDENTS badru ‘alayna.” aspect of nurturing the holistic child. Every year, the ISLA Leadership In addition to the workshops and preWITH KNOWLEDGE AND Retreat invites a scholar to present on the sentations, participants went canoeing, UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR took a canopy walk atop the Florida palm theme. This year’s speaker, Dr. Madiha Tahseen from The Family and Youth trees, practiced tai chi and connected MENTAL, PHYSICAL AND Institute (http://www.thefyi.org), dilated with one another around a bonfire while SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT. sharing personal stories of how they have upon mental health, suicide prevention and bullying issues. She provided the had a positive impact on their students. educators with information and resources to help them identify ISLA is the oldest professional organization for full-time Islamic the warning signs of suicide and how they may be able to prevent schools in the U.S. Co-founded by Karen Keyworth (d. 2017) and it. As a board member of an Islamic school that had to respond to Judi Amri, the organization supports Islamic schools, in part, by a student suicide, she shared the challenges they faced in helping providing professional development to teachers and administrathe school community cope with this crisis and how other schools tors. This annual leadership retreat is one of its main programs. ih can know what to do if this threat is made or actually carried out. To prepare school leaders to think through crisis situations Shaza Khan, PhD, is executive director, ISLA. 28 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
COVER STORY – EDUCATION
IIIT's Advancing Education in Muslim Societies Initiative Designing relevant and meaningful theoretical and empirical social and educational research for Muslim societies BY AHMED ALWANI AND ILHAM NASSER
hat are the goals of education? The an integrated curriculum, one that no longer views ensuing answer, the source of constant dis- the social and natural sciences as purely secular dispute among politicians, economists, edu- ciplines but as those that lead to a strengthening cators, parents and students themselves, of faith and values, has dominated its intellectual naturally gives rise to other heavily politicized ques- discourse for more than three decades. tions: Why do young people need schooling? What The institute’s “Integration of Knowledge” (IOK) knowledge is critical to becoming successful citizens? discourse is rooted in an Islamic epistemology that To contribute to the global debates about education gives credence to the Quran and Sunnah as the conand reform efforts, especially as they relate to educa- stitutive and methodological sources of knowledge, tion systems in Muslim societies, the International respectively, in addition to human knowledge in Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT; https://iiit.org/ general. To close the circle from theory to applied en/home) recently refocused its efforts in this field research and thereby share the accumulated knowlby launching the Advancing Education in Muslim Societies (AEMS; https://iiit. org/en/research) initiative. Its sole goal is to respond to the assertion that global THE CORE OF THE AEMS EMPIRICAL collaboration initiatives in education for RESEARCH PROGRAM IS ALIGNED WITH employment and global citizenship haven’t been enough or, in many cases, suitable “LEARNING TO BE,” IDENTIFIED BY UNESCO for Muslim and other societies. After all, AS ONE OF THE FOUR IMPORTANT PILLARS what else can explain why the billions of dollars spent on learning have shown little, OF EDUCATION. THE OTHER THREE ARE if any, change in the state of education in “LEARNING TO KNOW,” “LEARNING TO DO” so many countries? The challenge is even greater in Muslim AND “LEARNING TO LIVE” WITH OTHERS. societies due to the disconnect between these initiatives on the one hand and the Quranic values, the people’s cultural traditions and the lack of stability and/or resources on the edge widely and acquire a voice in academic fields, other. AEMS’ research agenda highlights the impor- IIIT recently expanded its focus in order to investigate tance of holistic development in terms of learning, the manifestations of IOK in education. This newly especially as regards the socio-emotional aspects of added empirical research agenda — AEMS — will not education for a meaningful life. This doesn’t negate only build on, but also complement and test, IOK’s the importance of academic performance, citizen- theoretical discourse with data-driven research that ship and education for employment, but rather refo- represents the highest levels of intellectual integrity. To realize its vision, IIIT is currently adopting an cuses our attention on a holistic approach to human agile organizational structure as well as introducing development. Since its inception in 1981, IIIT has been an new research units in policy, leadership and goveragent as well as a leading academic and research nance, curriculum, pedagogy, evaluation and assessinstitution for renewing Islamic thought by reforming ment to guide its departments of publications and education and integrating Islamic knowledge and translation, strategic engagement, the AEMS policy the social sciences. The idea that Muslim societies center and its teaching arm: The Fairfax Institute. need to reform their educational systems through The initiative’s primary mission is to have a positive 30 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
impact on youth and educated Muslims and thereby produce a new generation of Muslim intellectuals. These aspirations will be accomplished via policy recommendations based on empirically generated data; strategic partnerships with universities, school systems and research institutions worldwide; teaching programs that will provide sustainability to our initiative and create a pipeline of researchers and intellectuals to carry on its mission; as well as a rigorous publication and translation program.
(left to right) Saulat Pervez, associate researcher, Ahmed Alwani, vice president, Ilham Nasser, senior researcher, Nora Elbilawi, researcher, and Maryam Saroughi, associate researcher
The core of the AEMS empirical research program is “learning to be,” identified by UNESCO as one of the four important pillars of education. The other three are “learning to know,” “learning to do” and “learning to live” with others. Our own review of international organizations and their reports, as well as of most of the international research conducted in those countries in which we are interested, indicates that the “learning to be” component is lacking. In fact, UNESCO itself is going back to the notion of “learning for life,” in which we also strongly believe. AEMS’ contribution is twofold: (1) identifying and highlighting the aspects of “learning to be” in Muslim societies and their educational systems and (2) providing evidence to support our assessment(s). Another core element is the further examination of the “learning to be” component’s Islamic underpinning and the empowerment of a new generation of Muslims who are ready to participate fully and effectively in the 21st century.
Our research department began with a pilot study that sought to map the existing educational terrain in Muslim societies. Launched in the summer of 2018, it provides a baseline that may answer some of the questions that continue to perplex scholars. As a data-driven initiative, the study is investigating the conditions of education in 16 Muslim societies to formulate evidence-based recommendations and address the information gaps in terms of the well-being of Muslim learners. The target groups are K-12 students, teachers, administrators, parents and university students. The initial focus is on four universal Quranic values and constructs — empathy, forgiveness, moral reasoning and community-mindedness — all of which are important for living a meaningful life and critical for learning, in addition to being relevant to a value-based education. Subsequent phases will build on this pilot study and introduce themes that promote social and emotional learning, such as the well-being study of Muslim learners. These studies will dig deeper into the development process and how learners move from a self-centered stage of consciousness to higher states of being, namely, those that have a purpose and meaning relevant to living as Muslims. Currently, the AEMS team is researching designs, sampling plans and developing appropriate measures. To bring out the authentic voices of education scholars around the Muslim world and build localized capacity, our research team is forging a funded research venue that will utilize the results obtained
MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 31
COVER STORY – EDUCATION via the pilot study to highlight the specific successes and challenges in areas aligned with AEMS’ goals. We encourage all scholars who are interested in using field research to support an Islamic education framework grounded in Islamic thought and evidence-based knowledge to submit their proposals. Further information can be obtained by visiting www.iiit.org or by emailing email@example.com.
END-GOAL RECOMMENDATIONS AND DISSEMINATION AEMS’ agenda is collaborative as well as content- and process-oriented. Our multidisciplinary education team brings talents in both quantitative and qualitative research, along with expertise in education research and the knowledge and sensitivities necessary for meeting the needs and aspirations of Muslim communities and societies. This initiative’s work and research findings will be shared publicly and disseminated via education and policy conference presentations and publications in scholarly and academic journals. For example, our academic Journal on Education in Muslim Societies (JEMS) and book series — the first edited volume is on hope in education in Muslim societies — are already underway. Both projects are being done in partnership with Indiana University Press. To further publicize its reform agenda, AEMS will distribute its State of Education in Muslim Societies report to all interested parties. At the end of a threeyear research cycle, the team will share its findings in a comprehensive report in order to shed light on its achievements and activities in areas of educational growth related to curriculum, pedagogy, policy, and leadership as well as evaluations and assessments. IIIT will also utilize its strategic engagement resources to promote an agenda of reforming and advancing Islamic thought and education. AEMS experts will recommend system-wide plans to support governments and stakeholders in promoting reforms that are authentic, rooted in local ecosystems and based on empirical data.
NEW POSSIBILITIES FOR NORTH AMERICA AND BEYOND The institute will continue to support its North American constituencies by inviting talents and community members who support its mission to become involved in its research and educational programs. For example, negotiations are currently underway with recognized universities in the region about offering a degree that promotes the initiative’s approach and research agenda, as well as certificate programs in research methods and other fields. The goal here is for AEMS to influence policies and priorities in education in North America and Muslim societies while being open to responses and feedback from those involved in the field as well as 32 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
VISION: Thriving Muslim societies in which individuals can achieve their fullest potential through transformative learning, social development and personal growth. MISSION: To conduct and disseminate theoretical and empirical research to empower Muslim societies via data-driven policy recommendations, while simultaneously fostering societal and individual development through transformative learning. The AEMS initiative seeks: To contribute to the Integration of Knowledge (IOK) intellectual discourse and its interface with academic disciplines in Muslim societies’ educational systems via a four-phase approach: Quranic epistemology and hermeneutics, enlivening the Sunnah, re-engaging the Islamic heritage and interfacing with Western thought. The initial interface will occur through adopting the “Universal Quranic Values” paradigm. To provide evidence-based knowledge on how to advance education in these societies initially through the above paradigm and eventually through other possible paradigms resulting from the interface of IOK’s theoretical framework with AEMS’ empirical aspects. To recommend policies that engage all stakeholders in discussions on ways to transform education systems and advance people’s well-being so they can proactively help build both their societies and a civilization of peace and prosperity for all. To advocate for a holistic and developmental approach that is relevant to Muslim youth, schools, universities, families and communities at large. To support a new generation of Muslim intellectuals, educators and academics for research and teaching careers engaged with AEMS’ major initiatives. To forge a universal intellectual discourse on the IOK and its “Universal Quranic Values” paradigm. that of Islamic studies. AEMS is a dynamic initiative that offers a fresh, positive and hopeful direction while being fully aware of the numerous gaps, limitations and unanswered questions that continue to exist. Engaging in an evidence-based dialogue on educational issues that concern Muslim youth and learners in general will allow those involved to have more meaningful interactions as well as some direction for action and transformation. Such goals may be achieved by highlighting policies and acting on recommendations in a systematic and intentional manner. ih Ahmed Alwani, IIIT’s vice president, has worked on reforming K-12 curriculum in Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education and many other education-related projects. Ilham Nasser, a senior AEMS researcher, has over 25 years of experience in teacher training and research in various American, African and Middle Eastern educational settings.
COVER STORY – EDUCATION
The Madrasah: Reforms Yes, Stereotyping No Traditional Islamic education’s rough road in the modern world BY ABDUL MALIK MUJAHID
he vicious cycle of war-terrorism-Islamophobia instills fear in some hearts just at the mention of the word madrasah; conversely, it stirs a defensive reaction among Muslims. This irrational fear goes hand in hand with Islamophobia, a Western invention that impacts the world. China has placed more than a million Uyghur Muslims in “reeducation” camps, which the world is calling “concentration” camps (Umar Farooq, The Nation, Nov. 27, 2018), where they are asked to denounce their faith as a disease and accept the Communist Party as their savior. The party and the government have shut down all of the province’s madrasahs. In 2012, the Burmese government banned all madrasahs. During the August 2017 military action — many called it “genocide” — against unarmed civilians, madrasah teachers were specifically targeted. In Tula Toli village, only one of the five imams survived. The area’s top madrasah scholar, a muhaddith, was murdered and then quartered. Madrasahs need to be looked at independently of the war on terror. And yet since 9/11, Saudi Arabia has had to revise 34 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
Ulugh Beg Madrasah on Registan square, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
its syllabus and textbooks three times. In January 2018, all textbooks were removed from schools and distribution channels and sent to warehouses. In Pakistan, the U.S.based Aga Khan Foundation, with USAID funding, removed schoolbook references to the Quran and the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) teachings. Of course, some Western countries have set up NGOs to channel government funds to “reform” madrasahs under variously named countering violent extremism (CVE) initiatives. But how much do these “reformers” and their paymasters know about this system of education and its centrality to Muslim societies? For instance, on July 29, 2002, the International Crisis Group, founded in 1995 by George Soros, Mark Malloch Brown, Baron Malloch-Brown, Morton I. Abramowitz, and Stephen Solarz (a rabidly anti-Pakistan congressman), published “Pakistan: Madrasas, Extremism and the Military” (https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/36-pakistan-madrasas-extremism-and-the-military.pdf).
Do they know that madrasahs, which have a long tradition of resisting tyranny, colonization and occupation, have resisted syllabus changes despite the international security establishment’s crying for them to do so? The largest madrasah system, which stretches from Afghanistan to Burma, came into being to resist British colonial power. The British executed thousands of its scholars to replace the existing system, which prepared civil servants of all faiths for the Mughal Empire, with their own. Madrasahs were also given monetary incentives to drop their centuries-long Farsi (Persian) medium of instruction and adopt local languages in which hardly any Islamic literature existed. Altaf Fatima (d. 2018), a novelist, short story writer and professor of Iqbal’s philosophy and poetry, told Asif Farrukhi (https://www. humsub.com.pk/193569/asif-farrukhi-97/3) that cutting off Muslims from this vital part of their heritage, culture and civilization was an act of extreme cruelty. Madrasah teachers worked to preserve the Mughal Empire's syllabus as “Islamic” education while replacing their Persian textbooks with Urdu, which the British were promoting through the Gilchrist College (Calcutta). Thus, Islamic scholars from Thailand to Afghanistan, with the exception of Bangladesh, were educated in Urdu and followed the Dars-e-Nizami syllabus designed by Mulla Nizam Uddin As Sihaalwi (d. 1748) (M. van Bruinessen and S. Allievi, “Producing Islamic Knowledge,” 2013, p.99). Farangi Mahal was a mansion in Lucknow which the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb gave to the sons of Qutubaddin Sihalvi, a compiler of the Fatawa Alamgiri. Sihalvi’s third son, Mullah Nizammuddin established a madrasah there and introduced his own program of studies in it — the Dars-e-Nizami (https:// www.scribd.com/doc/138640733/2012FNF-Madrasah-Reforms-and-State-Power-in-Pakistan, p.17). Founded in the Muslim but essentially secular Mughal Empire, the Dars-e-Nizami places a lower emphasis on the Quran, introduces the study of Hadith only after the students complete the Dars-e-Nizami and offers classes on philosophy and rhetoric frozen in the centuries-old Arabic scholarship of
Greek philosophy. Subjects like mathematics are no longer taught. Although none of those connected to 9/11 were madrasah graduates or from Pakistan or Afghanistan, the West’s post9/11 Taliban anxiety led many Islamophobes to declare that Islam and the madrasahs teach violence and thus must be hotbeds of anti-Americanism. Some were actually subjected to drone attacks.
books, learn the languages and then translate them, test their theories and produce more knowledge. For example, Central Asia’s al-Khwarizmi (d.850) went to Baghdad, became the “father of algebra” and received a Latinized name: Algorithm. All computer techies owe him some gratitude. Four centuries later, Latin translations of his works jumpstarted modern mathematics in Europe. During Islam’s “golden era,” students
THE LARGEST MADRASAH SYSTEM, WHICH STRETCHES FROM AFGHANISTAN TO BURMA, CAME INTO BEING TO RESIST BRITISH COLONIAL POWER. THE BRITISH EXECUTED THOUSANDS OF ITS SCHOLARS TO REPLACE THE EXISTING SYSTEM, WHICH PREPARED CIVIL SERVANTS OF ALL FAITHS FOR THE MUGHAL EMPIRE, WITH THEIR OWN. I am familiar with the syllabi of Pakistan’s madrasahs, having read most of the prescribed textbooks of Sunni madrasahs. No class or textbook teaches war, fighting, weapons training or even foreign policy. Madrasah (lit. “a place of learning and teaching”) is a generic name for all types of schools throughout the Muslim world. As a young child in Indonesia, Barack Obama attended a Catholic school and a madrasah: Menteng 01. The history of Islamic education begins with the Prophet’s mosque in Madina. The centers of learning moved along with the seats of Islamic civilization — Kufa, Baghdad, Nishapur, Damascus, Cairo, Cordova, Granada, Timbuktu, Qayrawan, Samarqand, Bukhara, Istanbul and Delhi all had clusters of great madrasahs. So did Sicily, where a medical madrasah translated Ibn Sina’s books into Latin and hosted the first scientific dissections. From the 14th through the 16th centuries, Sankore madrasah, located in the thriving intellectual city of Timbuktu, enrolled more foreign students than New York University does today (Dennis Rizzo, “Parallel Communities,” chap.12, 2008). This curriculum expanded for almost 1,200 years. Imam Abu Hanifa (d.767) gathered a team of full-time students in a formal setting and Caliph Harun al-Rashid (d.809) established Baghdad’s House of Wisdom, whose scholars traveled to China and South Asia to gather
studied the Quran and Sunnah along with Plato, Aristotle and other ancient sages from Persian, Chinese and Sanskrit sources. Graduates managed the empire as bureaucrats and judges, built hospitals and observatories and taught, among many other subjects, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and geography. Maimonides, one of the greatest Jewish theologians, both studied and taught at the Jamia al-Qarawiy yin madrasah in Fez, Morocco. However, all of this fell before the twin pressures of the Crusader and the Mongol invasions, in addition to the Sufis’ concern with the culture’s materialism and some scholars questioning of their peers’ overemphasis on philosophy. But it was British colonialism that finally destroyed South Asia’s great madrasah system by displacing its sole educational system, which produced the necessary intellectuals and professionals, with its own — probably one reason why the ulama became the backbone of anti-British uprisings. Most of this system’s textbooks were centuries old. For example, the fiqh books were written in 1037, 1310 and 1346. Almost 90 percent of Pakistani madrasahs still study such texts. Although many of them contain numerous jewels and/or still-relevant religious and ethical insights, modernity has rendered the majority of them irrelevant. Unfortunately, such curriculum is being replicated in North America’s madrasahs
and Darul Ulooms, following the example of Britain and South Africa. Muslims have their own critical discourse about madrasahs. As a result of internal pressure, the Dar ul-Uloom Nadwat ul-Ulema in Lucknow (India) and many other South Asian madrasahs now offer modern subjects. I am a graduate of a madrasah that combined the Dars-e-Nizami with modern subjects taught in public schools. The well-known reformer and Sufi leader Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (d.1943), a Deoband graduate who taught the Tablighi Jamat’s founder, Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi, lamented that the Quran isn’t at the center of the madrasah curriculum. Mufti Taqi Usmani, leader of Darul-Uloom (Karachi), deputy chairman of the Islamic Fiqh Council of the Organization of Islamic Conference (Jeddah) and former member of Pakistan’s Federal Shariat Court and the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court, says that madrasahs don’t devote enough time to the Hadith literature. In a Sept. 30, 2010, interview with NewAge Islam (http://newageislam.com), Vice President Maulana Zahidur Rashidi of the Madrasah Nusratul Uloom (Gujranwala), noted, “All madrasas are based on one or the other maslak or Islamic sectarian affiliation, and are geared to defending that particular tradition. That is why intolerance undoubtedly does exist in the madrasahs for other Muslim maslaks and other religions. This is not at all appropriate.” While addressing a press conference on June 20, 2002, Minister for Religious Affairs Dr. Mahmood Ahmed Ghazi (d. 2010), formerly a teacher at the International Islamic University, Islamabad, assured Pakistanis that Islamabad wasn’t seeking to undermine madrasahs, but to improve their condition and status. Interviewed for an ICG report in April 2002, he said, “Admission to the model madrasas will not be on sectarian grounds, nor will the teachers and the administration belong to one school of thought.” The system’s leadership seems to agree that the institutions’ educational program must change. Prime Minister Imran Khan, while recognizing the urgency of reforms, asserted “equating madrassas with terrorism in unjustified.” However, the internal debate remains stifled due to the very vocal Western anxiety about madrasahs and their historical memory of resistance to government interference. ih Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid is president of Sound Vision and chair of the Burma Task Force.
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ISLAM IN AMERICA
Musulmamis Parenting while Latina and Muslim in the U.S. BY WENDY DÍAZ
eyond the initial takbirs and bumpy transitions converts face lies a complex struggle that is often overlooked: the challenge of raising children to be Muslim. Too often, the lack of education, aid and established support groups within the greater Muslim community for this purpose leaves converts to teach themselves and their children on their own. Mothers who embrace Islam know that the older the children, the harder it is for them to change. Younger children are more likely to follow their parents' religious inclinations; however, divorce, separation or other family dynamics may present some obstacles when the couple’s children are caught between a Muslim parent and a non-Muslim parent. Women who marry and bear children after their conversion also face the lack of the adequate education and experience needed to properly teach them Islam. To look further into this multifaceted issue, Islamic Horizons interviewed two Muslim Latina converts of different backgrounds who successfully raised their children as Muslim — they are now independent adults — to learn how they were able to take on this tremendous endeavor while maintaining their cultural identity. 36 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
FROM DOMINICAN SINGLE MOTHER TO MUSLIMAH EDUCATOR Amada “Sahar” Quesada was born in Manhattan to Dominican parents and grew up in Chicago. Raised as a Pentecostal Christian, she married a fellow congregant and remained with him for 10 years. By the time of her conversion in 2001, however, she was a single mother with three children. Having been introduced to Islam while trying to convert a Muslimah to Christianity, she said, “[At the time] I was unhappy spiritually with my Pentecostal church. I started to research Islam and got in contact with Muslims in the Chicago area.” Once she embraced Islam, she took advantage of whatever resources were available to teach her children, aged 8, 4, and 3. “I started with Quran recitation for the kids when they were younger. I even had them enrolled in private Islamic schools, which helped with their development toward learning about Islam and understanding what it was,” Sahar explained. These classes helped build a solid foundation for her children while she dedicated time to learning about Islam through reading books, listening to lectures and attending Islamic conferences. Plenty of resistance came from her
ex-husband, who tried his best to force his children to remain Christian, even forcing them to eat pork and go to church. It was the eldest child who finally stood up to her father and told him to let them practice Islam. As the eldest, like her mother she had been immersed in Islam and understood its value. Coming from an already religious background, Sahar had understood the need to build a strong connection with God for the sake of her children. Having become an Islamic school teacher more than 15 years ago, she also volunteers in various capacities within the Islamic community. At the same time, Sahar made sure that her children kept close ties with their father and other non-Muslim relatives. Maintaining her Dominican identity was important to her, and this kept her connected to her family, regardless of religious differences. Still, she admits that it was hard and that she often felt isolated. “Finding a proper balance and being able to distinguish my identity with each ‘hat’ that I wear has been the hardest thing about practicing Islam as a Latina and a mother,” she said. “However, I do love the fact that I can relate to others who share being Latin-American, a mother, or a Muslim, or even all three, and finding that commonality.” Sahar’s family initially detested her decision to convert, but gradually became supportive as they saw its positive impact on her and her children’s lives. All three are now married and living on their own as independent Muslims, while keeping their Latino identity. For Sahar, her children are a source of constant pride and happiness — and a reminder of how far she has come in her journey.
FROM THE INNER CITY TO THE ISLANDS Newlyweds Karima Kayyam and her husband converted in 1973. Karima was born in Coamo, Puerto Rico, but her parents migrated to New York and later on to Newark, N.J., where she was raised and introduced to Islam. Her husband, Juan Garcia (Yahya) was a member of the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican civil rights organization, during a time when Islam was spreading rapidly in the urban landscape. “Newark had recently gone through a civil rights uprising. The youth were tired of the racism, and Islam opened the doors to new guidance and equality for us,” Karima explained. They attended the classes of Heshaam
Jaaber, a Muslim scholar from Elizabeth, N.J., and embraced Islam through his guidance and after all of their questions had been answered and explained logically. In Newark, Black Muslims also opened the doors of acceptance to them, which made their transition easier. By the time Karima had children, she was already deeply absorbed in the Islamic culture of inner-city Muslims but still connected to her Christian family and Puerto Rican roots. She taught her children about Islam through reasoning and logic, explaining to them the meaning behind “La ilaha illa Allah” (Only God is worthy of worship). She reasoned that if her children were wellgrounded, then their faith would not be easily shaken. “Alhamdulillah, logic wins over doubt,” she explained. The couple’s three children went through the public-school system, for Islamic schools were less common at the time. Since they couldn’t afford private education, their children learned Islam at home and in the mosque. The whole family learned by being around other Muslims, frequenting Islamic lectures and conferences, reading the Quran and Hadith and always asking questions of those who were more knowledgeable. The five daily prayers were of utmost importance for Karima, who made them a priority regardless of what was happening in her life. Karima and her husband helped establish a Latino Muslim community and Newark’s Bani Saqr mosque. The mosque dissolved over the years, but right from its inception it was perceived to be a beacon of learning for Puerto Rican and Latino Muslims. The family’s members spent their early years reaping the benefits of a motivated and
WHILE MOTHERHOOD DOES NOT COME WITH A MANUAL, EVEN IF YOU PUT THE WORD “MUSLIM” IN FRONT OF IT, ISLAM PROVIDES THE GUIDELINES TO PERFECT A MOTHER’S CHARACTER. unified convert community before relocating to Puerto Rico. The situation for Muslims on the island was very different, however, for most Muslims were either Arab or South Asian immigrants. The family would attend Friday prayers and Eid gatherings at the established mosques, but at that point their spiritual growth as Muslims had to come from within the household. They also had to set an example for non-Muslim family members and neighbors of how to live Islam while remaining true to their Puerto Rican roots. They faced the challenges of attending family reunions where pork, a common staple of Puerto Rican cuisine, and alcohol were frequently served. Karima joined family gatherings out of respect. But when opportunities for dialogue arose, she spoke to her relatives about Islam and explained
the reasons behind certain restrictions. She believes that the lessons she was taught by her own parents helped shape how she handled all situations as a Muslimah and a mother. “I was born to beautiful God-fearing parents who allowed us to seek knowledge and stressed family unity despite our differences,” she noted. Karima passed down these lessons to her children, who, in turn, treated their kin with patience and respect. As the only Muslims in their extended family, they relied on each other as their Islamic support system. Although they faced their fair share of trials, Karima and her children have remained firm in their faith because of their reliance on Allah and each other. Even now that her children have grown up, this strong mother prays continuously for them to be kept on the straight path, as Islam teaches that a parent’s supplication for his/her child is always accepted (At Tirmidhi). Karima and Sahar’s stories may have taken place at different times and locations and under different circumstances, but there are some profound similarities in how they approached parenting as Muslims. Both had the support of their communities and developed their own support system in the home. While motherhood does not come with a manual, even if you put the word “Muslim” in front of it, Islam provides the guidelines to perfect a mother’s character. These mothers found a balance between Islam and their Latina identities so that they could provide the best example for their children while fighting the same battles as all other mothers. ih Wendy Díaz, co-founder and director of Hablamos Islam, is a writer and translator for the Islamic Circle of North America.
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ISLAM IN AMERICA
Rep. Ilhan Omar along with more than two dozen of her colleagues in the House and Senate, introduced The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, Jan. 10, which would reform the U.S. health care system and dramatically reduce prescription drug prices in the country.
Ilhan Omar Stands Her Ground One small step for women, one big leap for humanity BY SABA ALI
n January 3rd, wearing an orange and gold hijab, Rep. Ilhan Abdullahi Omar (D-Minn.) stepped onto the floor of the House of Representatives as one of 101 newly minted lawmakers of the 116th Congress. However, before taking that step, she had to first contend with history. A 181-year-old House rule banned the wearing any kind of hat, including a hijab, in the chamber where Omar would be deliberating and voting on laws that govern our nation. Omar, along with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), co-authored a proposal to amend the archaic law so that members can wear headcoverings in accordance with their religious beliefs. The original law, passed in 1837, was meant to distance the newly formed government from the hat-wearing British House of Commons. The break from tradition marked the Somalian-born Omar’s term as the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman elected to Congress. Once a refugee, she now is the voice and image of those who do not fit the 38 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
white, American-born, secular, male majority profile we see in office. Omar won her seat in the midwestern state of Minnesota during a time of increasing attacks on Muslims by turning out 37 percent more voters than previous elections. She won over the male-dominated Somalian refugee population and fought for progressive ideals such as a higher minimum wage, Medicare for all and more relaxed immigration policies, reported The New York Times. Petite and with a quiet tone, she was recently appointed to the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, a governmental body that could influence the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia. Omar, not shying away from a fight, openly declared
the need to “reign in arm sales to human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia,” reported Business Insider (Alexandra Ma, Jan. 17). During her run for office, Saudi-owned media outlets attempted to link her campaign to the Muslim Brotherhood. While wearing the headscarf is an accomplishment, it should not be the only one that defines her term. She is one of 127 elected officials who are Muslim and must balance that fact with the work they must do. Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first two Muslim women to be sworn into Congress, must carefully walk a fine line when it comes to public perception due to their visibility. In January, both Omar and Rashida were criticized on two separate occasions for their use of certain terms. Rashida was criticized for using a swear word when calling for the president’s impeachment and Omar for using the word “hypnotize” in a 2012 tweet about Israel. Both stood their ground and apologized
NON-MUSLIMS CONTINUE TO USE ISLAMICSTYLE HEADCOVERINGS AS A PROP FOR ANTI-MUSLIM SENTIMENT OR A POSTER CHILD FOR INCLUSION.
without backing away from the intent of their meaning. Omar wasn’t the first woman to wear a headscarf on the House floor. In October 2001, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) stood on the floor while wearing an Afghani burka in an effort to garner support for the war against the Taliban. Non-Muslims continue to use Islamic-style headcoverings as a prop for anti-Muslim sentiment or as a poster child for inclusion. Hijab has always been an easy target when it comes to anti-Muslim sentiment. In recent years, police officers, transit employees and other public servants have sought exemptions from uniform codes to wear hijabs, turbans or even grow a beard due to stated safety concerns or existing dress codes. However, some believe such justifications are pretexts for the growing anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment that predates President Trump’s administration. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a hijab wearing woman who filed a lawsuit against retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for denying her employment for that very reason. The New York Times reported the retailer said that the scarf clashed with its dress code. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discrimination in hiring. Internationally, only France and Turkey ban the headscarf in government jobs and/or educational institutions. Before Turkey lifted its ban in 2013, many women had dropped out of universities in protest. What sets Congress apart from other governments is that the headcovering law was amended quickly and with very little hand wringing or protest, other than a remark made by a little-known conservative pastor: “The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic Republic.” Discussion surrounding the law faded away just as it had surfaced — with quiet dignity and collegiality. Even First Daughter Ivanka Trump tweeted her support. While women’s attire will always be a preoccupation for the American public, from Omar’s headgear to Rep. Alexandria OcasioCortez’s (D-N.Y.) fashion decisions, the headscarf is one thing that upward-bound female politicians won’t have to worry about again. One small step for women, one big leap for humanity. ih Saba Ali is a freelance writer from Wappingers Falls, N.Y. She has worked for several newspapers over the course of her 15-year career in journalism.
The world we live in is constantly evolving and ISNA is committed to being a positive driver of change. ISNA has long recognized the importance of engaging with other faith communities as a fundamental part of its mission, and therefore, we continuously host and participate in interfaith events, meetings and webinars to educate our friends, partners, officials and activists about Islam. These interreligious initiatives have helped break down barriers of misunderstanding, formed genuine partnerships of faith and ethics, and established a platform to advocate for social justice issues for the common good. We aim to work together to fight Islamophobia and share knowledge about the true teachings and understanding of our religion in all sectors. The gift of education has a ripple effect—it creates change locally, nationally and globally. Ignorance is our enemy, and with your support we can make a difference. Please donate to ISNA today.
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MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 39
ISLAM IN AMERICA
A Muslim African-American Journalist Working in Post-9/11 America Sincere efforts lead to recognition and inner peace BY SULAIMAN ABDUR-RAHMAN
perating as a journalist in the U.S. is a privilege, especially in this age where adversarial critics brand us as “fake news.” The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution promotes press freedom and the right to embrace faith, while the 14th Amendment establishes equal protection under the laws of the land. Although these legal protections enshrined on paper do not necessarily eradicate misperceptions and negative stereotypes, they do allow people like me to help set the record straight. Writing has always been my passion, but it was God who placed me on the frontlines of American journalism as a Muslim African American. I have written about politics and social unrest, examining the social ills of racism and bigotry and documenting the struggles in urban America and the country at large. Recording history as it unfolds is important, but educating readers about the essence of Islam is critical in these unsettling times. As a newspaper reporter, I’m often assigned to write about 9/11, covering the annual remembrance ceremonies. These events usually go smoothly, although I have been reminded that some people still associate Islam with terrorism. For example, on the 17th anniversary, a U.S. Army combat veteran told me that he had decided to enlist when the hijacked airplanes became weapons of mass murder. He served in Iraq and seemed at peace with himself. But one of his academic advisors at Mercer County Community College in central New Jersey, an older person, interrupted my interview by saying that I shouldn’t write a terrorist-support piece — as if I would have done that. Hard to believe that he made such comments to my face, but such is life, where one can always expect the unexpected. When former President Barack Obama confirmed the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, I was assigned to write the breaking news story for local reaction. I quickly reached out to Imam Qareeb A. Bashir, president of the Islamic Council of Greater Trenton in New Jersey, who released a profound statement that still stands the test of time. “We have not yet defeated terrorism and its misguided ideology,” Bashir stated, “but today marks a significant step forward. We pray that this development leads to a reduction in radical extremism in the world. As we have stated repeatedly since the 9/11 terror attacks, bin Laden never represented Muslims or the religion of Islam. In fact, in addition to the killing of thousands of Americans, he and al-Qaida caused the deaths of countless innocent Muslims worldwide.” Earlier in my journalism career I had to scramble for breaking news reaction to the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto (1988-90; 1993-96). Any news reporter should have been qualified to write that story, but my editors understood or assumed that a Muslim journalist would have 40 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
an easier time and better success interviewing other Muslims. I was considered a unique commodity, one of the few Muslim journalists employed by a mainstream American newspaper, The Trentonian. This worked to my advantage, for I had established congregational prayers at a nearby masjid and then conducted brief interviews with fellow Muslims. It made for good journalism. It’s nice to work on award-winning news teams, but it’s even better to work for employers who respect my commitment to Islam and serving God. Whether working for The Philadelphia Inquirer or a small-city newspaper, I have always been allowed to observe the regular prayers and attend the weekly Jum‘a service. This has paved the way for my new book, “Friday Inspires Muslim Success,” which is directly related to my observations as an American journalist. Along the way, I’ve had many opportunities to write columns from my faith perspective. The Bucks County Courier Times, a
TO SHINE LIGHT INTO THE DARK TRENCHES OF IGNORANCE — THIS IS WHAT I HAVE STRIVED TO DO DIRECTLY AND INDIRECTLY AS A MUSLIM AFRICAN-AMERICAN JOURNALIST, ONE WHO UNDERSTANDS THAT ANYTHING I WRITE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO INVITE PEOPLE TO ISLAM. Pennsylvania-based newspaper, published several of my writings about the purpose of the Ramadan fast plus other facets of Islam. After a powerful earthquake ravaged Haiti in 2010, I wrote a column about that and mentioned how it became a major talking point at a Friday khutbah. Many Muslims that day pledged thousands of dollars to the relief effort, showing that Islam promotes charity and compassion, something I felt that my interfaith colleagues ought to know. To shine light into the dark trenches of ignorance — this is what I have strived to do directly and indirectly as a Muslim AfricanAmerican journalist, one who understands that anything I write has the potential to invite people to Islam. One breaking news assignment I covered for The Philadelphia Inquirer was the region’s local reaction to the election of Pope Francis in 2013. Interviewing a gathering of people at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints
Peter and Paul, I received some priceless quotes from an Argentinian woman who had cried tears of joy when she learned the new pontiff was a cardinal from Argentina. As a news reporter, my journalism career has taken me inside the churches of various denominations, a fact which suggests that my editors have never doubted my ability to tell the stories of Christian ministry. These houses of worship tend to be welcoming abodes, but awkward moments can arise. One year I covered a pre-Thanksgiving meal basket giveaway during which an older female church member opined that Muslims and Christians don’t worship the same God. I just smiled, while other church members said those comments were inappropriate. This was a moment where I could have said, “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion,” but that sentiment seemed to be implicitly understood. Journalism is a very public profession in terms of the open exposure it presents. It is about connecting
with people and building trust through empathy and professional courtesy. My career has been largely positive. However, I still recall a taste of racism in August 2008 when I covered a fatal accident in Chesterfield, N.J. A 13-year-old boy tried running across the road and was struck and killed by a pickup truck. It was a tragedy, and I arrived on the scene to learn more. Folks in this mostly white neighborhood told me the deceased victim “was a good boy, and he was loved by everyone in the community.” One of the onlookers eventually came over and basically told me, “You better leave.” I wasn’t scared by his threat and, after doing my job, returned to the newsroom on my own terms. But it certainly left a lasting impression in my mind. Yet when all is said and done, I can look back on my full record, see the better world that I have tried to promote through my published work and continue to hope that God allows it to positively impact people in the years ahead. ih Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman is a member of the Zubaida Foundation masjid in Bucks County, Pa., and a professional journalist with more than 10 years of multimedia experience.
MUSLIM ASSOCIATION OF CLEVELAND EAST (MACE) 26901 Chardon Road, Richmond Heights, OH 44143 Applications are invited from US Citizens/Permanent Residents for the position of a part-time/full time Imam at the MACE Islamic Center, Richmond Heights, OH 44143. Successful candidate, in consultation with the Executive Committee (EC) and BOT, is expected to develop and sustain programs for community and youth involvement and development, Dawa, Counseling in the light of Quran and Sunnah, etc. Salary is negotiable and relocation assistance will be available. Applications will be accepted till the position is filled. If interested, please send your application and a complete resume with names and contact details of references to: firstname.lastname@example.org MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 41
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Making a Bosnian Home in Upstate New York Many of these former refugees have built successful lives BY AIŠA PURAK
ver 3,000 Bosnian Muslims currently live in Rochester, N.Y. Fleeing for their lives during the early 1990s, they have worked hard to attain the American Dream. They have never shirked from working two jobs in order to save money for a house, cars, their children’s college education and to both help and visit their families and relatives back home. In fact, it took them less than a generation to produce physicians, nurses, teachers, professors, lawyers, insurance agents, bankers, tech specialists, engineers, designers, entrepreneurs and other professionals. The first Bosnian Cultural Club was established in 1995. Faruk Ferizović, who arrived with his mother in the winter of 1994 from Banja Luka and was its vice-president, stated that about the 25 Bosnian families already living there got together especially on the holidays and, during their off hours, would play soccer and chess. The first soccer club was formed in 1995 and charged a $3 membership fee per person. 42 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
Its first president, Ibrahim Grcic, recalls that they bought their first team uniforms and participated in local soccer tournaments, playing against Bosnian clubs in New York and Pennsylvania. But this club broke up about 18 months later over whether alcohol should be allowed. Although the club collapsed after a majority of members stopped paying their dues, people still got together at their homes, on weddings and for Bajramska Sijela (Eid parties). As Bosnian music was played, the attendees felt like they were once again in their birthland. Five years later another club was formed, but history repeated itself. Finally they bought their own place, which is now their mosque. The first arrivals mostly attended the Turkish mosque. Even though the multiethnic Islamic Center of Rochester had sponsored and helped many of them, the majority felt culturally closer to the Turkish mosque, given that the Ottomans had ruled Bosnia for over 400 years. Thus, it is only
natural that many cultural similarities exist between these two groups. Mehmet Aktas, a former imam at the Turkish Hamidiay Mosque who sponsored and helped many of the refugees settle in Rochester, recalls: “Miss Gail, I don’t remember her last name, called me from the Catholic Family Center in 1993 and asked me if I would help her sponsor refugees from Bosnia since we share the same faith, Islam. She thought that they would feel more comfortable around Muslims once they arrived in Rochester. I agreed, and I sponsored three families and found other Turkish families who also sponsored Bosnian refugees. We met the first group … at the Rochester International Airport in 1993. The host families took [them] to their homes, and for the next few days we took them from office to office to do the paperwork.” The first group, he remembers, didn’t practice the Islamic lifestyle, pray regularly or come to the mosque. However, when other Bosnian refugees began to arrive, they started asking where they could pray Jummah. During Ramadan they fasted and came to the mosque at night, but after the month ended they would come mostly for the Friday prayer. Bosnians, he noted, work tirelessly to be financially successful, are generous and like to help; however, they also like to drink alcohol and many do not pray regularly. Only in 1999 did more Bosnians start sending their children to the mosque. Despite being a roughly 3,000-member community, only 150 families are paid members of the mosque. A vast majority of Bosnians have no interest in the mosque or its activities. One group, which is more empathic to the cultural traditions, including music and dance, promotes parties with like-minded groups so their children can meet and get to know each other and, eventually, marry within the community. The other group, which is more interested
in religious organization and events, wants an imam who can attract and connect Bosnians as well as lead the prayers and teach Islam in Bosnian. They also want more religious content and less cultural content — at least all five daily prayers offered during the weekend, Jumma, iftars during Ramadan and all religious holidays celebrated in this mosque. In addition, they are pushing for more Bosnian-language women, children and youth programs. Their hope is that these programs will preserve their language and lower the incidence of two major realities: alcohol consumption and divorce. Both groups agree that the mosque must provide Islamic studies and Quran classes, but not on the language of instruction. The first group wants English because the youth understand it better, and thus the imam does not necessarily have to be Bosnian. The Bosnian language, they say, should be taught and spoken at home. The second group argues that everything must be taught in Bosnian so that the youth will learn and keep their language. Everyone also agrees upon having many youth sections or activities, such as traditional dancing or singing, as well as a soccer or tennis team. Many such attempts have been very successful; for instance, the dance group Sevdah and the choir group Sabur have performed at Bosnian or Turkish events. Both groups have also been invited to perform at other Bosnian annual festivals nationwide as well as the international festivals held at the city’s Memorial Art Gallery and Brockport’s art gallery. A Bosnian soccer team played other Bosnian clubs in Upstate New York, as well as other ethnic teams in the Greater Rochester area. On October 26, 2011, the community finally managed to buy and transform a disused church into a mosque and a site for holding religious, cultural and social events. Enes Tralješić, the first (and current) imam, described his journey and noted: “Never, in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined that I would ever come to America, let alone that I would live there.” He mentioned how some children dreamed of leaving Bosnia, especially after the war. But he was not one of them, for none of his immediate family lived abroad and only a few members of his extended family lived in other European countries.
CHALLENGES Drug abuse, primarily alcohol abuse, is
AS IT DID EVERYWHERE ELSE, COMMUNISM SUPPRESSED THE BOSNIANS’ RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL IDENTITIES ON THE GROUNDS THAT RELIGION IS A MORAL WEAKNESS AND BEING A PRACTICING MUSLIM IS SOMETHING SHAMEFUL. obvious in Bosnian homes for many men drink heavily on the weekends and barely remain sober during the weekdays. There are a few cases of youth dropping out of high school, and divorce rates are on the rise. While economic and educational prosperity is clearly improving, the challenges mentioned above are clouding this progress. Moreover, the gap between the generations is widening. As such, there is a need to recognize that the first Bosnian generations must serve as a bridge between the two worlds
so that their children can safely move from one to the other, instead of feeling trapped in either of them. As it did everywhere else, communism suppressed the Bosnians’ religious and cultural identities on the grounds that religion is a moral weakness and being a practicing Muslim is something shameful. As such an upbringing had a tremendous effect upon their culture, many of them are still not part of the Jema’at religious organization and have issues with their religious and cultural identities. Further research is needed to thoroughly explore and evaluate this community’s historic development and current situation. Right from its early days, members of Rochester’s Bosnian community were connected in one way or another. More than 20 years later this is still the case, due to a variety of personally organized gatherings: birthday parties, weddings, bridal and baby showers, holidays and religious gatherings, as well as sports and cultural clubs. The Bosnia & Herzegovina Culture Center of Rochester, which is open to non-dues-paying members, serves this very purpose. Today, a majority of Bosnians are living the American dream. After leaving everything behind, they strived for a better life through hard work and the endless opportunities this country offered. Now they live in almost-paid-off houses, own a car, have at least one child with a college degree — and many of them still send money to their family and relatives back home. These immigrants and those in the U.S. in general can only prosper and retain their identity by establishing religious and culturally centered organizations, keeping strong and firm connections with their birth country and refusing to segregate themselves from the surrounding society. Otherwise, they will continue to experience such social ills as early pregnancy and running away. Unfortunately, dozens of young girls and boys have already fled their strict and traditional Bosnian families. The Bosnians maintain contact among their various communities through the Islamic Community of North American Bosniaks (http://icnab.com/index.php/ english/about-icnab), the premier umbrella organization representing the continent’s more than 200,000 Muslim Bosnians. ih Aiša Purak was born in the small, beautiful village of Jastrebac, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She adapted this article from her first book: “Bosnian Immigrants: Opportunities and Challenges” (2017).
MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 43
ISLAM IN AMERICA
The Quran: The Light to the World Chicago hosts 17th annual ICNA-MAS Convention BY HUBA AKBAR
eople from across the country gathered for the annual ICNA-MAS convention in Chicago on Dec. 29, 2018, one of the continent’s largest and most diverse Islamic conventions. The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Muslim American Society (MAS), which share similar missions and visions, focus on personal development through a program of lectures, Islamic educational sessions and youth programs. As a family-oriented event, the annual theme is chosen to benefit Muslim American families. Last year’s theme, “The Quran: The Light to the World,” related that the “communication” process of sharing this light requires capable communicators, the correct methodology, a positive medium clear of any obstructions and susceptive recipients. The panels were specifically designed to help attendees use this process. A wide variety of parallel sessions also offered, among them Muslims’ civil rights 44 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
and how Latinos are becoming Muslim. Lectures aimed at young adults taught Islam’s fundamentals and how to live according to the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) teachings. The speakers and attendees’ energy
were perceptible. Volunteer Ali Mubarak remarked, “I’m so excited to listen to Omer Suleiman live… MAS and ICNA Relief are playing a huge role in spreading awareness and educating through bringing together amazing speakers from all over America.”
LECTURES AIMED AT YOUNG ADULTS TAUGHT ISLAM’S FUNDAMENTALS AND HOW TO LIVE ACCORDING TO THE PROPHET’S (SALLA ALLAHU ‘ALAYHI WA SALLAM) TEACHINGS.
The “Foster Parenting” panel was conducted by Imam Hassan Aly, director of religious affairs, The Mecca Center (Willowbrook, Ill.) and Kristina Engel, a licensed clinical social worker with the Department of Child and Family Services who serves as the northern region supervisor for resources and recruitment. Engle stated that some children, through no fault of their own, find themselves in emotionally and mentally traumatizing situations due to parental abuse, negligence, substance-abuse dependency and other negative realities. After both speakers raised awareness through facts, figures and Quranic verses as to the dire need for foster parents, a Q&A session was held.
leading their national task force to tackle Islamophobia. This was followed by a very interactive Q&A session.
as the nature of it was so intimate and it covered a very huge issue in our society,” said attendee Muntaha Tariq.
COMMUNITY SERVICE IS ISLAM IN ACTION
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
This session was presented by Dr. Maqsood Ahmad, CEO of ICNA Relief USA, and Dr. Altaf Hussain, assistant professor and chair, Community, Administration and Policy Practice, co-chair, Human Behavior & the
Besides lectures, the bazaar was a major attraction and a very lively place. Also featured was a kids’ carnival and intensive workshops to enhance the skills necessary for success. Entertainment sessions included a talent show, a Quran competition and nasheeds.
HASSAN ALY CITED VERSES IN WHICH GOD TALKS ABOUT CARING FOR ORPHANS. BUT ACTUALLY DOING SO REQUIRES A LOT OF MOTIVATION, ATTENTION AND SUPPORT.
Hassan Aly cited verses in which God talks about caring for orphans. But actually doing so requires a lot of motivation, attention and support. After stating that our society needs more foster parents and that the community must act, he outlined how to become licensed foster parents and the licensing process. “This was an eye-opener,” said attendee Nadia Ismail. “Such lectures should be more common, as we need more people to realize how foster parenting has become a necessity.” The “Elements of Successful Islamic Activism” session explained how being vision-oriented is one of the many features of Islamic activism. It was presented by Ayman Hammous, executive director of Baitulmaal, an international humanitarian relief organization serving people of all faiths, and Mazen Mokhtar, former MAS executive director and a frequent lecturer on Islamic and interfaith topics. This topic was of particular interest in activism and youth work. Another popular session, “Clearing Misconceptions about Quran,” was presented by Abdool Rahman Khan, a member of ICNA’s Shari’ah Council and of the Fiqh Council of North America, and Sabeel Ahmed, executive director of the ICNA-outreach GainPeace Project and a shura member of ICNA National who is
Social Environment Social Work in the Howard University School of Social Work, focused on the light of Quran and their own experiences. They shared how much society needs volunteers to serve and help others, for helping them when they need help both solves their problem and brings our own hearts peace. “Hunger Prevention,” “Islamic Halal Investing” and “Proactive Dawah” were some other sessions. “Hunger prevention is one … of the best deeds, among many, to make this world a better place …” said attendee Yasir Fateh.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK ICNA Relief case manager Summer Zehra and Muslim Family Services coordinator Atya Kazmi used their “Domestic Violence and Social Services” session to explain how they assess clients before accepting them into their transitional home. They also shared success stories of women who received their green card and completed the immigration process while living there. “Apart from the social stigma, women have to go through independency issues as well,” they noted. They discussed ways of obtaining justice for these victims through the legal system, such as assisting them through the Violence against Women’s Act (https://www.thehotline.org/resources/vawa), which allows certain abused individuals to petition for permanent residency. The following Q&A session indicated the attendees’ great interest in ICNA Relief ’s programs. “This session was one of my favorites,
Munazza Shahzad of Chicago summed up what many attendees felt: “The theme … attracted me so much. I got to interact with so many people from all over the world. I’d definitely recommend anyone to attend this convention.” ih Huba Akbar is an ICNA Relief intern.
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ISLAM IN AMERICA
Shine Bright During her summer research program, high schooler Hamdi Ali displays what young Muslims can do BY HABEEBA HUSAIN
oday’s youth are often brushed aside with stereotypes painting them as self-obsessed, tech junkies and viral trend followers — the kind of kids who will actually consume Tide Pods or drive blindfolded all in the name of accepting a social media challenge. But this is far from what some members of Gen Z are really like. Just take a look at Hamdi Ali, a 17-year-old Canadian Muslim hijab-wearing high school student at Edmonton Islamic Academy, who this past summer discovered a more effective way of mining diamonds. Those same precious stones that so many consider a girl’s best friend were what she liberated from rocks during her time at a University of Alberta research program. Unlike those of her generational peers who sometimes make news for foolish trends or lapses in judgment, Ali shines a dazzling light on what focused, hard-working and dedicated youth can accomplish. Through the university’s WISEST (Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science, and Technology; https://www.ualberta.ca/ services/wisest) summer research program, she, along with other Canadian high school students who had just completed their junior year, were able to explore various often male-dominated fields. Ali specified geology and other subjects of interest in the hope of being accepted somewhere, for “I was always interested in science and learning about the world around me — geology, meteorology, anything, and everything. After I heard about the program … it sounded like a great opportunity to broaden my understandings of what a career in science could look like.” Under the supervision of Professor Graham Pearson and graduate student Margo Regier, she was tasked with comparing the results of mining diamonds via two methods: (1) the traditional one of crushing a host rock called kimberlite with mechanical steel plates and then sifting through the debris and (2) a new one that utilizes SELFRAG, a machine that is taller than she is, and delivers high voltage pulses to break down and separate the kimberlite from the diamonds. In the end, the first method destroyed the gems contained in the sample kimberlite, whereas the second method yielded ten diamonds. “The results surprised everybody,” Ali states. “It was interesting to see how much we were missing out on.” This young researcher’s discovery could very well have a strong impact on the diamond industry, as it has the potential to salvage many gems that would have otherwise been crushed. Ali presented her findings to professionals in the field. Ever since the six-week summer program ended, she has had the opportunity to work on the geochemistry of the diamonds she liberated. While a scientist’s first go-around in a research lab rarely results in potentially industry-changing findings, Ali’s experience serves as an 46 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
YOU SHOULDN’T LET YOUR HIJAB HOLD YOU BACK,” ALI PROCLAIMS. “IT DOESN’T MATTER — YOUR RELIGION OR THE COLOR OF YOUR SKIN. DON’T LET THAT MAKE YOU AFRAID OF ANYTHING.” example for all youth — male and female, Muslim and non-Muslim. But Muslim youth in the West, like other minority groups, have to work extra hard to prove their worth and display their skillset. Their outward appearances (e.g., wearing the hijab, praying and engaging in other observable practices) can sometimes be mistaken as inhibitors to their advancement in their schools and careers. “Whenever you see Muslims in the media, we don’t really get any positive representation,” Ali says. “Muslims can be scientists, and Muslims do great work as scientists and as doctors and as lawyers and as engineers and as artists and as everything else any other person can do.” And that’s exactly what her own case shows — her hijab didn’t prevent her from making an important discovery in a field she was merely exploring for the first time. In fact, far from setting her back in the internship program, it helped bolster the reputation of the numerous intersecting minority groups of which she is a part. “You shouldn’t let your hijab hold you back,” Ali proclaims. “It doesn’t matter — your religion or the color of your skin. Don’t let that make you afraid of anything.” This young Canadian born to immigrant Somali parents is proudly Muslim. And thanks to her hard work and ambition, she seems to have a dazzlingly bright future ahead of her, God willing. ih Habeeba Husain, a freelance journalist based in New York/New Jersey, contributes to SLAM Magazine, blogs for Why-Islam and is a social media manager for WuduGear. Her work has also appeared on Narrative.ly and MuslimGirl.com, among other online and print publications.
Fighting Moral Corruption in Islamic Institutions No “superhero” is going to solve this problem for us BY ZOOBIA W. CHAUDHRY
ecently, a number of news reports about ethical, spiritual and moral dilemmas have surfaced within the Muslim community. But how the leadership handles such issues never seems to be discussed or responded to by the affected congregations. One wonders how such un-Islamic behavior goes unchecked and unpunished again and again. No one volunteers to serve the community intending to be unethical or corrupt. Human behaviors are hardwired, difficult to change and vulnerable to corruption by one’s ego, power and money. Muslims are not immune to such temptations. Many Muslim American nonprofit organizations were founded and continue to be run by the generation of immigrants who arrived in the 1960s. Their presence in leadership positions is correlated to the cause of such problems. However, a closer look at some recent scandals reveals that they are due to men of all ages and backgrounds. Not a month that goes by that we don’t hear of some type of ethical, legal, financial or sexual misconduct occurring in a mosque or an Islamic center. Regrettably, unchecked and thus ongoing micro-aggressions turn into macro-aggressions, thereby worsening the misbehavior. Not too long ago, the president of a mosque was presented with proof that a board member had hacked into its school’s database account. After several months passed without any official response, the problem was escalated to the mosque’s advisory board; however, once there it received only a vague response — something to the effect that the board members understood that this particular action is illegal. In the meantime, the hacker was appointed to lead the mosque’s IT department. To date, the issue remains unresolved despite several attempts to contact the leadership. This mosque is known for its leadership for second-generation immigrant Americans and professionals. However, this is not an untypical response to similar
complaints, which only reinforces the bad, if not illegal, behavior. The community is inspired by the leadership examples of the Righteous Caliphs, especially Umar (‘alayhi rahmat), presented in many Friday sermons and lectures. A Qurayshi woman once challenged Umar: “O Leader of the Faithful! You prohibited
THIS PARTICULAR NARRATION IS QUOTED MANY TIMES, AND YET WE RARELY SPEAK ABOUT HOLDING LEADERS ACCOUNTABLE WITH AN EDUCATED ARGUMENT. WE NEGLECT TO APPRECIATE THIS WOMAN’S COMPREHENSION OF THE QURAN AND THE COURAGE AND COMFORT IT TOOK TO DO WHAT SHE DID. people from paying more than 400 dirhams in mehr for women.” When he agreed, she inquired: “Have you not heard what God sent down in the Quran?” He asked for the reference, and she replied: “Have you not heard God’s statement: ‘And you have given one of them a qintar (a large measure) of gold?’ He exclaimed: “O God! Forgive me...” He then went to the minbar and said, “I had prohibited you from paying more than 400 dirhams in mehr for women. So, let everyone pay what he likes from his money” (“Tafsir Ibn Kathir,” vol. 2, p. 152). This particular narration is quoted many
times, and yet we rarely speak about holding leaders accountable with an educated argument. We neglect to appreciate this woman’s comprehension of the Quran and the courage and comfort it took to do what she did. As a community, how can we transform ourselves and follow this example of the early Muslims? In an informal sitting, the world-renowned scholar Yusuf Islahi once commented on the need of Muslim organizations and communities worldwide to give da‘wah (invite/call to the Word of God) to our own community. These days, mosques and Islamic organizations have limited da‘wah to outreach among non-Muslims only. Ibn Abee Omar writes that mosques need to do “in-reach” (https://www.ibnabeeomar.com/masjid-inreach-vs-outreach), to develop a tarbiyah process for the community as a whole and to create longitudinal learning opportunities for all. For example, they could put more effort into holding public meetings to convey meaningful information in easily understandable ways and provide open forums to share informed opinions and listen to dissenting voices, instead of just labeling them as “the voice of those with bad intentions” or “those who want to hurt the mosque.” As individuals, Muslims are obliged to invest in personal growth by seeking knowledge in the Quran. Many volunteers and activists have turned their back on their communities because they “hate” the ongoing politics. No doubt such work requires forbearance, and the strength to do this work for God’s sake can only be drawn from learning, understanding, and implementing the Quran and Sunna. Giving up would certainly won’t change the coarse. When we stop holding our leadership accountable, we do an injustice to future generations and to ourselves because this passivity halts the congregation’s progress. Accountability is the key to having a moral and ethical institution. The leadership needs educated, engaged and informed stakeholders to succeed, just as the community needs committed and sincere leaders. Therefore, instead of waiting for the next election, people should start working on themselves today by affirming the principles of fundamental morality, ethics and accountability. ih Zoobia W. Chaudhry, a practicing physician in the Baltimore area, has served on the school and the executive board of local Islamic organization.
MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 47
ISLAM IN AMERICA
“See me! I am a living, breathing perso Yes, YOU can make a difference BY JAY WILLOUGHBY
n October 20, 2018, the Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help (FAITH; www.faithus. org), held a benefit dinner program to recognize October as “Domestic Violence Awareness Month.” This 501(c)(3) nonprofit located in Herndon, Va., opened its doors in 1999 because a few Muslimahs wanted to do something practical for the arriving Bosnian refugees. From that humble beginning, it has grown into a full-fledged social service organization deeply committed to empowering individuals and families — regardless of faith, ethnicity or gender — to become self-sufficient, build 48 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
strong families and be a force for good wherever they happen to find themselves. To meet these goals, FAITH has set up several programs that are supported loyally by area residents, organizations and local businesses. Family Assistance Program. Immediate financial relief for clients who can document their need for it. Its most important component is the fact that in this case “instant” actually really means “instant” – there is no bureaucratic red tape to wade through. Thrift Store. This storefront business, which has been cooperating
on, not a statistic or an abstract idea.” with local shelters to provide vouchers that clients can use both here and in other stores, has been supporting Herndon’s lower-income families for over 14 years. Clients can choose from a large array of used clothing, toys, school supplies and other items. And if the clothes don’t fit, they can visit the tailor working in the back who will modify them appropriately. Also, they provide a way for donors to help clean out their unwanted items and find a good home for them. Food Programs. Despite its reputation as a wealthy region, some of Northern Virginia residents are hungry — and not just metaphorically. For the past eight years, FAITH has run one of Herndon’s two food pantries for the community’s low-income members. Every three months, clients receive rice and oil, salt and sugar, laundry detergent, canned goods and fresh produce from a local farmer’s market. One sub-program, Project Food Boost: Herndon Without Hunger, has a special intention. According to Dr. Tanveer Mirza,
president of FAITH, “The idea behind Herndon Without Hunger is that for a month we can help people with food so that they can take care of other expenses or focus on improving their current situation.” Sponsored by Easterns Automotive, each week during Ramadan clients who come to the location receive a three-month supply of food, no questions asked. Muslim clients also receive qurbani meat to celebrate Eid al-Adha. Safe & Peaceful Families Program. This program helps caseworkers promote stable families and help victims learn about available resources. Not only do they provide crisis counseling, safety planning and legal representation, but they also accompany clients to court hearings, arrange for translation services and secure financial assistance. There are currently 116 persons in this program, some of whom have been helped for quite a few years. Self-Sufficiency Program. As FAITH’s programs seek to equip MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 49
ISLAM IN AMERICA its clients to live independently, the types of assistance given can vary quite a bit: ranging from finding a car so they can get to work, help them access government resources and providing job training to helping them with a one-time medical bill or place them in a shelter or housing. The Children & Teen Program. Directed toward the community’s orphan, refugee and needy children, staff members distribute clothing and school supplies and arrange enrichment events such as monthly activities and parenting programs. As of this writing,
Ambreen Ahmed spoke proudly of one success story: “Aisha,” a woman with four children who had been abandoned by her husband. FAITH worked with her for several years. After all of her children had graduated and found jobs, she called up and stated: “I don’t need your help anymore …” A few weeks later, she brought in her children’s donation — $6,000 — and the message that “We will never forget what FAITH did for us.” The first featured speaker, Laura Harris (director, Domestic Relations Services at Fairfax County Government), cited FAITH
NOTING THAT “THE ADMONITION TO ‘BE QUIET’ IS ONE OF THE HARDEST TO RESIST,” KRONEMER STATED THAT FAITH IS BUCKING THAT TREND AS WELL. HE APPLAUDED FAITH’S DECISION TO NOT PRESENT A “PERFECT IMAGE” OF OUR COMMUNITY, AS DOING SO HAS CAUSED SO MANY TO SUFFER IN SILENCE AND NOT TO GO TO THE AUTHORITIES, ALL IN AN ATTEMPT TO AVOID SHAME. 197 children are in the children’s program and another 150 in the refugee children’s program are benefitting from these services. As the scope of these various social needs became better known, FAITH began reaching out to the community and local government agencies. It is now working with 15 nonprofit partners, 19 government partners, 21 business partners, as well as the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center) and other regional mosques and Muslim organizations. On Oct. 20, 2018, FAITH held a benefit dinner to raise money for its Safe & Peaceful Families program. The emcee for the October 20th benefit dinner program was Yasmin Elhady, a lawyer, activist and comedian. While introducing the FAITH staff and other involved people, she urged the community to become proactive when it comes to “building a future together … [to create] an ethical, viable future for Muslim women” facing unexpected circumstances: the husband’s death, children who need constant medical attention, abandonment, leaving an abusive husband to protect herself and the couple’s children, health issues that affect their ability to work and many others. In her remarks, Executive Director 50 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
as a group engaged in agape, unconditional love for everyone, at a time when people have become “invisible” because we no longer believe in hope (advocating for others) and can no longer look them in the eye. She praised the organization for how it teaches the children, how it inspires them and directs them toward a better life. In closing, Harris remarked that FAITH “walks the talk,” unlike many other nonprofits, and realizes the importance of working with children. Laura Harris was presented with the Outstanding Support to Minority award and Ghazala Amir was presented the Ongoing Support and Commitment award. Speaking of her own experience, the emcee gave an example of how it’s the little things that matter. She landed in Kentucky, knowing no one and disoriented. It was cold outside, and her feet were cold. She remembers entering a church and being welcomed, that a woman came over and held her feet and, noting that they were cold, inserted them into a pair of warm socks. Such a humble act by a Christian woman who didn’t even know her! She said that it reminded her of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. The second featured speaker was Alex Kronemer, co-founder and executive producer, Unity Productions Foundation (UPF;
https://www.upf.tv). He discussed his journey to Islam, which began with a Unitarian minister advising him to go to a mosque. The product of a Jewish-Christian home full of constant religious strife, he did so and found answers to the questions he had been asking for so long. Not content with the community’s conspiracy theories — “it’s all the media’s fault,” “the system is rigged,” “nothing you can do can make a difference, so no need to even try” — in 1999 he and Michael Wolfe decided to do something about it: They established UPF to “tell the Muslims’ story, to make a difference.” Interestingly, he stated that most of those who advised him not to do this, to remain silent, were fellow Muslims. More than 12 films later – among them “American Muslims: Facts vs Fiction,” “Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story,” “Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think,” “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet” and “The Sultan and the Saint,” all of which have been shown to millions at home and abroad and some of them nominated for an Emmy — his “advisers” have been proven wrong. According to UPF’s webpage, “Finally, UPF works in Hollywood through its MOST (Muslims on Screen and Television [https://www.mostresource. org]) Resource Center, providing facts and research to script writers and producers on popular shows seen worldwide.” Noting that “the admonition to ‘be quiet’ is one of the hardest to resist,” Kronemer stated that FAITH is bucking that trend as well. He applauded its decision to not present a “perfect image” of our community, as doing so has caused so many to suffer in silence and not seek outside help, all in an attempt to avoid shame. He asked: “When our homes are the place of violence, where can we go?” Comedian Azhar Usman concluded the event by entertaining the audience with a childhood memory of a several-day journey by car to visit Disneyland in California while listened to old Bollywood songs on cassette tapes and the various “interesting” incidents they experienced until they finally — and safely — reached their final destination. His message — Enjoy your time with your family, regardless of your age — applies to everyone. To learn more about FAITH and its work in the community, contact Fakhir Ahmad, director of business development at Fakhir. Ahmad@faithus.org. ih Jay Willoughby is an author and freelance copy editor.
The United States: Gardener of Graveyards “Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires.” — Unknown BY LUKE MATHEW PETERSON
n Jan. 23, 2018, Washington Post Mideast correspondent David Von Drehle reminded his readers that: Twenty-five centuries of history suggest that Afghanistan is as close to ungovernable, untameable, as any land on Earth. The list of conquerors and imperialists who have come and gone is daunting: from Cyrus the Great, the father of the Persian Empire, to Alexander the Great, to Genghis Khan, and later Queen Victoria. Even Napoleon thought about having a crack at Afghanistan, and maybe it says something about the degree of difficulty that he attempted a winter march on Moscow instead. (“There’s no endgame in sight in Afghanistan. But maybe that’s okay,” https://www. washingtonpost.com/opinions) His summation might fairly be called a “horse out of the gate” assessment. By January 2018 the U.S., still clinging to leadership in an ever-fragmenting international coalition of actors, had been the de facto occupying force in Afghanistan for more than a decade. The initial mission — to capture or destroy Al Qaeda operatives in that country presumed to be responsible for 9/11 — had morphed into America’s longest military engagement. After the Obama Administration’s extra-judicial assassination of Osama Bin 52 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
Laden in 2011, the U.S. military lingered in the country for the stated purpose of denuding the Taliban’s hold on the country. That effort, as much as any U.S. enterprise to “democratize” various countries around the globe, has utterly failed. Indeed, expert assessments nearly 12 years on from the moment the first American boots stepped foot in the country nearly universally converge on one idea: the U.S. is not only not the solution in Afghanistan, it is presently a large part of the problem. Undoubtedly this is because the continuing presence of American soldiers in the region gives succor to the seemingly embattled Salafi, Wahhabi interpretation of Islam embraced by the Taliban. Rising to a position of moral and political authority in the remnants of 1980s Soviet occupation, an occupation defeated expressly because of the U.S. financial and political support for the religiously-motivated opposition groups in the country collectively known as the mujahideen, the Taliban (“the Student Party”) envision the establishment of a caliphate on Afghan soil and are content to cooperate with likeminded ideologues. Still, the Bush Administration’s global War on Terror has allowed these groups to claim that a new wave of Crusaders is treading upon Muslim lands and that Islam’s fate hangs in the balance of a multi-front war that they did not begin, but that they are determined to finish.
Fueled by this increasingly violent vendetta, Taliban forces and their allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan have actually grown stronger since Bin Laden’s assassination. These groups exploit the American soldiers’ ongoing presence to recruit new members, expand their influence in local and state politics and resupply themselves using connections throughout Central and South Asia. But this evidently counterintuitive conundrum — that American soldiers are actually destabilizing Afghanistan, not pacifying it — is hardly a newly discovered phenomenon. Gilbert Achcar, professor of international relations at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, identified that: the United States, by its presence in Afghanistan, is presently fueling the Taliban’s comeback… U.S. troops are deeply resented and hated by a major section of the Afghan population … Afghanistan is witnessing—and this is confirmed by many reports—a real resumption and increase of Taliban influence in the country. The only conclusion is that the United States should get out of Afghanistan now. (“Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy.” Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2007, p.82) Despite this and many similar analyses, few policymakers in Washington paid even the most cursory of attention to such prognostications. And yet between the moment that those words were put to paper and the time of the current writing, the number of casualties there has ballooned to 104,000 with at least a third of those, according to conservative estimates, stemming from the killing of innocent civilians (https://watson. brown.edu/ costsofwar/costs/human/civilians/afghan). U.S. soldiers are still dying on battlefields throughout this landlocked polity, with 2,372 U.S. military deaths reported since 2001 and more than 20,000 battlefield injuries — including life-altering wounds such as limb amputation(s) and irrevocable traumatic brain injury. All of this death and destruction might be palatable to the international community, were it to be accompanied by some type of manifest and positive sea change in the political structure of Afghanistan itself. Instead, according to nearly all measurable standards and expert analyses, including those applied by the U.S Department of Defense itself, the U.S. is losing the war, and losing it badly:
THE GRAVEYARD IS NOT THE FINAL RESTING PLACE OF OUR DEAR DEPARTED … THE REAL GRAVEYARD … IS SOMEWHERE DEEP IN OUR HEART.” — DANNY CASTILLONES SILLADA, “THE GRAVEYARD IN OUR HEART” The percentage of the country’s 407 districts under government control has decreased from 66 percent in May 2016 to 56 percent in May of . Over the same two-year period, the number of areas under Taliban or insurgent control has risen, as did the number of districts considered “contested,” according to an audit by the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. (Robert A. Manning, “The United States Needs an Afghanistan Exit Strategy.” FP: Foreign Policy. https:// foreignpolicy.com/ 2018/10/05/theend-game-in-afghanistan-china-pakistan-nato-united-states) Given these and other sobering evaluations, when the U.S. military finally does leave Afghanistan, they will ultimately be leaving it much worse off than it was when they arrived there with tremendous international support and broad public approval during October 2001.
“TIRED OF WINNING” On Dec. 20, 2018, though, the Trump Administration announced a profound policy pivot: the unilateral withdrawal the 15,000+ troops currently deployed in Afghanistan during the early months
of 2019. Made, as usual, with little prior warning, this declaration evidently signals the beginning of the end of America’s longest-ever war, abruptly changing the course of U.S. operations in the Middle East. But it also plainly contradicts the stated long-term goals of the mega-party war hawks currently driving the nation’s military-industrial complex, particularly members of the fatuously nicknamed Grand Old Party, who see the ubiquitous U.S. military presence in the Middle East as a vital cog in the continued long-term manipulation of its oil and gas reserves. But beyond this naked imperialism, the Republican Party, along with its pro-war allies across the aisle, has long castigated the mere idea of announcing troop withdrawal timelines during active combat operations on the grounds that doing so “emboldens the enemy.” According to the New York Times, this came just hours after the announcement that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis had resigned, marking him the latest casualty in what has become a revolving door cabinet. According to reports, Mattis viewed this snap decision as the straw that broke the back of his relationship with the unconventional president. Mattis, a former general and dedicated proponent of American imperialism, was
nevertheless respected as knowledgeable and rational. His fleeing the scene, as it were, and Trump’s snap decision to cut and run in Afghanistan, leave that country’s future well-being seriously in doubt. Some fear that Trump’s reversal is based much more on his commitment to his ultra-national, white supremacist base to put America in a position to “win” no matter the cost, and much less on sound advice from experts in international affairs. Others see the impending U.S. departure as a necessary first step toward repairing that country, which will necessarily involve further expenditure from U.S. coffers. Still others see any U.S. retreat as anathema, with the end of its mission representing a green light to the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other nefarious actors in the region.
CUT, DON’T RUN An assessment of this new policy, however, should take into account that any reduction in the American military’s pervasive global presence — more than 800 bases, camps, assignments and installations — is necessarily positive. But while the “cutting” in the new U.S. cut-and-run policy in Afghanistan should be viewed in broadly positive terms, the U.S. will likely never be rid of responsibility there. Nor should it be. The repair and rehabilitation of that country, under whichever form of government their citizens see best fit, must be paid for by the U.S. both fully and willingly. Roads, bridges, schools and hospitals must be rebuilt, or built anew, and paid for by the U.S., which spent more than a decade destroying untold swaths of the land and its people. But these must be organized and outfitted by able Afghanis of all ethnic and religious stripes. Their authority must be complete and total into perpetuity. Perhaps then, in Afghanistan, there is a chance for the U.S. to make good on its own self-assessed image as a global leader in establishing democratic institutions, even under the leadership of the most autocratic president of the modern era. Hope remains, therefore, for Afghanistan. Can the same be said of the United States? Time will tell. ih Luke Mathew Peterson (Ph.D., Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge) is a professor of Arabic, history and politics in Pittsburgh. His book “Palestine-Israel in the Print News Media: Contending Discourses” (London and New York: Routledge, 2015). His piece “Palestine-Israel and the Neoliberal Ideal” was released in the Fall 2017 volume of The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences.
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Are All Kosher Products Halal? Not all Abrahamic Dietary Laws Are the Same BY ASMA JARRAD
ith millions of Muslims currently living in the U.S., it may seem that we’ve always had halal grocery and meat shops nearby. But this was not always the case, for before 1965 only an estimated 150,000-200,000 Muslims resided here. After the 1965 legislation eased immigration restrictions from Muslim countries, the ensuing waves of Muslim immigrants naturally increased the demand for halal products. According to the International Journal of Environmental Science and Development, our community has risen from nearly 1 million (1971) to 3 million (1981), 5 million (1991), 6 million (2001) to 7 million (2009) (H. Kettani, “World Muslim Population: 1950-2020,” International Journal of Environmental Science and Development, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2010). Before this dramatic growth, early Muslim immigrants were faced with either assimilating into the American mainstream or hanging on to their cultural and religious identities and guidelines. While the first group’s choice was hardly an easy choice, that of the second group was an even harder choice. One of those obstacles was finding halal foods, for it was nearly impossible for the infant Islamic community to find a shop or restaurant that carried halal certified products. The next option, accepting kosher foods, thus became and continues to be a norm because such a labeled product is assumed to be halal. Let’s take a brief look at how these two sets of beliefs coincide and differ. In this particular case, “halal” refers to foods that contain no pork and alcohol: “He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], 54 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
there is no sin upon him [her]. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful” (2:173). Halal meat also involves treating live animals with dignity and compassion and then slaughtering them according to Islamic law. This requirement has three components: (1) the animal must be healthy and slaughtered with a quick and deep slash of the jugular vein so as to limit its pain by immediately cutting off its blood’s circulation to the brain, (2) the slaughterer should be a Muslim who recites a prayer and invokes God’s name to show gratitude for this blessing; and, for sanitary purposes, (3) drains its blood to prevent the spread of harmful toxins or bacteria. Thus, halal meat is actually healthier and tastier. “Kosher” (proper) meat also excludes swine. Based on the Torah’s guidelines, the schochet (ritual slaughterer; from the Hebrew root shin-chet-tav [to destroy or kill]), also performs his task in a way that inflicts the least amount of pain for an instantaneous death, but without pronouncing God’s name on each animal slaughtered. Another difference is that kosher animals must chew cud and have cloven hooves, meaning that a camel isn’t considered kosher (Deuteronomy 14:3-10). Also, Jews don’t consume such animals’ hindquarters, except for poultry, because Genesis 32:22-32 prohibits the consumption of the sciatic nerve and its adjoining blood vessels. Removing this nerve is both time consuming and not cost effective. Furthermore, Jews don’t combine meat and milk: “You may not cook a young animal in the milk of the mother” (Exodus 23:19 and 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21). Thus, observant Jews avoid serving dairy and meat simultaneously and have separate pots, plates and utensils for each. After draining the animal’s blood, the carcass is taken to the butcher shop and
placed on special salting tables for about an hour to ensure that all of the blood is removed. Kosher and halal meat are similar; however, the main difference is that the slaughterer belongs to his respective faith. Due to the similarities, it is easy to see why some Muslims are comfortable eating kosher meat. The Quran states that observant Jews and Christians are People of the Book because they had previously received the Torah and the Gospels. We also know that the Quran perfects the previous revelations and that Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is the seal of the prophets. Nonetheless, we accept these two books’ original teachings and are permitted by both the Quran and Sunnah to eat meats and foods prepared by Jews and Christians [subject to their Islamic permissibility]. Now we can look at a glaring difference between halal and kosher food with regard to alcohol. Muslims are prohibited from consuming any type of alcohol due to its destructive and addictive side effects, whereas Jews believe that they can drink kosher wine and other kosher-certified alcoholic beverages.
MUSLIMS ARE PROHIBITED FROM CONSUMING ANY TYPE OF ALCOHOL DUE TO ITS DESTRUCTIVE AND ADDICTIVE SIDE EFFECTS, WHEREAS JEWS BELIEVE THAT THEY CAN DRINK KOSHER WINE AND OTHER KOSHER-CERTIFIED ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. In fact, many Jews consider wine a holy beverage that brings joy. In fact, they are actually encouraged to consume kosher alcohol on special holidays and occasions such as Shabbat, Purim and Passover. There is even a 2,000-year-old tradition of giving infant boys a few drops of wine as a blessing during the circumcision ceremony. Therefore, Muslims must not assume that all kosher foods are always halal. Generally speaking, kosher foods fall under three categories: dairy, meat, and pareve, namely, edible substances such as
fruits and vegetables that contain neither dairy nor meat ingredients. Therefore, Jews can eat pareve foods with meat and dairy. In addition, you may notice the dozens of different kosher symbols, each of which is known as a hechsher and comes from a different Jewish organization or rabbi. The most widely seen one in North America is the Orthodox Union’s certification. A is the Chicago Rabbinical Council certification, and is from the Kosher Supervision of America. Multiple organizations certify the same product because different Jews trust
different organizations. For example, while some organizations certify gelatin derived from pigs as kosher because it is processed and transformed, others do not and opt to only certify gelatin that comes from non-pig sources such as fish or vegetables. In the end, there are many similarities and yet distinct differences between what is considered halal and kosher. While it is important for Muslims to observe halal food guidelines, keep in mind that halal is a comprehensive way of life that includes not only our food and drink, but our overall existence. Islam is the final and perfect revealed religion, and God does not burden us with what we cannot handle. We are blessed to live in a time of easy access when we know the truth and can easily practice our religion while allowing for provisions when harmless and necessary: “O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to God if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” (Quran 2:172). ih Asma Jarad is a freelance writer and editor. She has a YouTube channel, Sami & Amro Reading Time, to promote literacy for children of all backgrounds.
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Ignoring Islamic Inheritance Laws Is Not Always Islamophobic Islamic and Western wills have different priorities BY AHMED SHAIKH
man died in Greece. In keeping with the custom in many Western countries, his wife wants everything. The trouble is that the man was Muslim. Of course the widow inherits, but so do others — in this case his sisters, who actually received more than the widow did. A local court awarded the inheritance under Islamic law, only to have it overturned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after the widow filed a review petition (AP News, Dec. 19, 2018). Why Islamic law in Greece? Legislation concerning the country’s minorities was based on international treaties drawn up in the 1920s when the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Civil cases involving northeastern Greece’s 100,000-strong Muslim minority were dealt with under Islamic law and presided over by a single official, a state-appointed Muslim cleric, or a community-recognized mufti. Many countries have dual or multiple systems. Israel has Sharia courts, India maintains a personal law board for Muslims and some Muslim-majority countries allow religious minorities to have separate systems. Historically, religion has always been consequential when it comes to deciding who has rights. If we don’t care about rights to inheritance, we will start to see more injustice, particularly to orphans. Islam’s inheritance system is obligatory on all Muslims, whether the government mandates it or not. In Greece, though, the ECHR decided that in this case the system is discriminatory, where widows are treated differently based on religion, and should not be permitted. Can this be interpreted as an anti-Muslim decision, given the reality of such bias in Europe and other countries with historical Muslim minorities? Not necessarily. A single inheritance system is not always bad for Muslim minorities, provided that Muslims can implement this obligation for their own families. One example of this is the U.S., where 56 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
every state follows some variation of “free alienation of property,” meaning that you can mostly do whatever you want with your money or property. The U.S. Supreme Court has likened this to an essential stick in a bundle of rights that goes with ownership, for only ownership permits you to make such a decision. While Islam teaches that everything belongs to God, the U.S. system is still useful for practicing Muslims. But not every state has the same rules. For example, many states have “forced” shares, where the surviving spouse is always entitled to inheritance (though not everything)
unless he/she waives it. However, you can plan to arrange an Islam-compliant distribution in any state. When, during the 2010 elections, Republicans focus-grouped the scary word “Sharia,” it was unclear whether Muslims would be able to maintain this religious obligation – Oklahoma’s “Save Our State” amendment went so far as to outlaw Sharia. This anti-Muslim animus helped Republicans gain a super-majority in the legislature. In the same year, Muneer Awad, then executive director of CAIR-Oklahoma,
drafted an Islamic will and went to court to vindicate his right to do so, naming the Oklahoma State Election Board, then chaired by Paul Zirlax. Awad argued that the amendment would make Oklahoma’s constitution a vehicle for “an enduring condemnation” of Islam. His case resulted in a quick injunction and an appellate court win (Awad v. Ziriax, 670 P.3d 1111 [10th Cir. 2012]).
Inheritance in Islam is not really about governments and their policies, at least not in the U.S. Residents of other countries, including some Muslim-majority countries, aren’t always so fortunate. In fact, the reasons why they can’t implement this system can vary and range from sloth to ignorance. Surprisingly, Muslim Americans who draw up a will may find it put aside by a judge who rules in favor of non-entitled people
SURPRISINGLY, MUSLIM AMERICANS WHO DRAW UP A WILL MAY FIND IT PUT ASIDE BY A JUDGE WHO RULES IN FAVOR OF NONENTITLED PEOPLE DUE TO STATUTES THAT MANDATE IGNORING THE WILL UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES. due to statutes that mandate ignoring the will under certain circumstances. By doing a “will-based” plan, you are subjecting your property to a probate, which has its own rules and internal logic. In some cases, the will may never even reach a judge due to non-probate transfers — property transfers to people outside the court system. Say that Abdullah, a single homeowner whose home is worth $1 million, marries Haritha and dies a month later. If he does not have a last will, depending on the state, the wife will get everything or nearly everything. But if he has one, there are other considerations. For example, if he owns it jointly with his wife (and many spouses set this up soon after the marriage), everything goes to her even if his will follows the Islamic system. If he didn’t update his will to reflect his changed status, his wife will receive an “intestate” share: an amount similar to what she would receive in the absence of a will. A lot of the concern for Muslim American parents is not what the children or siblings get, even though a daughter only inherits half of what a son does, for this is clearly stated in the Quran. Instead, the primary concern is the wife, who receives either one-eighth or one-fourth; the smaller amount is for those with children. If she is a non-Muslim she has no right to any inheritance; however, she can receive up to one-third of it through
wasiyyah through her Muslim husband’s right to distribute up to one-third of his estate to all such people. It is entirely reasonable for people to worry about a widow’s welfare, as seen in the Greek case mentioned above. There is a conflict of values here. Many societies favor widows, including people like the wicked stepmother in “Cinderella,” whereas Islam places more importance on orphans. Indeed, the Quran warns guardians not to grab the latter’s wealth (4:10) just before laying out the inheritance rules (starting at 4:11). Of course widows inherit, but along with a constellation of other heirs, including orphans. In the U.S., a plan might consist of a property agreement between spouses, a living trust, a will, beneficiary designations, deeds and other contracts — all of which can be drafted to create a private Islamic system. Although not as simple as it may be in a Muslim country that applies this system, it works fine. ih Ahmed Shaikh is an attorney and certified specialist in estate planning, trust and probate law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. He is the co-author of “Estate Planning for the Muslim Client” (ABA Publishing, 2019).
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The little lady with the biggest heart BY HUMEYRA KAZMI [NOTE: Exercising the editor’s prerogative: Altaf Fatima was not only my maternal aunt, but also cared for me and my little sister, the author of this memoriam, when we lost our mother very early in our lives.]
AROUND HER NEIGHBORHOOD, SHE MADE SURE THAT NO CHILD WENT UNEDUCATED AND NO ONE WENT HUNGRY. THE VEGETABLE VENDOR, THE RICKSHAW DRIVER AND THE DHOBI (WASHERMAN) WOULD SEND THEIR CHILDREN TO LEARN AND BE GROOMED, AND WITH THAT CAME THE QURAN LESSONS AND THE PRAYERS.
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ltaf Fatima (1927-2018) — a name not lost, but rather dimmed on the horizon of the new world order, the “star plus culture” with its effect on modern writing, waiting to be understood by the younger generations. Her writings abound with subtlety and depth. She is an authority who never tried to climb the starry stairs to glamour and fame, who never sought to occupy the center stage. She had a deep insight, and her heart and soul were dedicated to the poet-philosopher Allama Mohammad Iqbal — the originator of the idea of a Muslim homeland in South Asia. If you recited a verse of Iqbal, it would cause her to recite the poem in full, often with tears rolling down her cheeks. So intense was her desire that Iqbal be understood, his mission fulfilled and that our young generations would be enlightened that she would sway to the verses as if the music of Iqbal’s poetry had flown into her soul. Her respect for his dedication to the ummah sometimes made it difficult for her to continue. As tears choked her, she would pause, gather her thoughts and then resume explaining his philosophy with conviction and fervor, her face alight with the glint of the believer that Iqbal had envisaged. The way she explained each verse, elaborating its philosophical and religious aspects and providing the historical and political background, was a mesmerizing experience for her students. Sadly, the country is losing such lovers of Pakistan’s spirit to the obscene loudness of Indian cinema, with its songs and dances, and Indian-style sitcoms that blare ironically on Pakistani television and movie-theaters. Their intended targets of mental, cultural and spiritual assassination are Pakistan’s younger generations. It is sad that our values and culture are now a
“remix.” Even Pakistan’s school and college syllabus have been affected — expunged are Iqbal and the authors who breathed faith and Pakistan. The tune of the new world order is that these generations are being turned over to a hegemony. There was a completely different facet to the phenomenal personality of Altaf Fatima, a lady who was a repository of the treasures of knowledge. Behind this strong, intelligent, versatile and fiercely independent woman was a very kind, gentle and homely little lady with those busy little hands. In addition to her literary output, there was always a generous supply of homemade pickles, jams and jellies for all of the near and dear, for neighbors and friends and students. In an age when we complain and lament about the dearth of time and the difficulties of transportation or offer so many alibis, this brave lady, undeterred by challenges, moved around swiftly. She was active to the very end, whether shopping for groceries, buying gifts, fulfilling a request for some herbs or finding something for which a niece or a daughter-in-law had asked. She never complained about how she would manage or accomplish the task despite not having her own transportation. An excellent cook, while the pot was on her busy little hands were either knitting or crocheting a shawl or a sweater for a niece, a nephew or a newborn. And when she was not busy with such items, she was writing — after all, she was ambidextrous. Sitting at her round dining table, she would respond to “What are you writing?” by declaring, “Oh, this young man has requested a short story and a book review for his magazine.” When asked, “How much is he paying?” pat came the reply, “Oh, this poor thing has just started in this business. It is his first edition. Money doesn’t matter.”
Altaf Fatima was born in Lucknow, British India, to a literary family (on her father’s side, she was descended from Allama Fazle Haq Khairabadi — a leader and martyr of the First W ar of Independence from the British in 1857), the second of four children born to Mohammad Fazle Amin and Mumtaz Jahan. She had lived in Lahore, Pakistan, since the Partition in 1947. She did her MA in Urdu literature from Punjab University. Her thesis “Urdu Mein Fan e Sawaneh Nigari ka Irtiqa,” (The introduction of biographical writing in Urdu) is available at https://www.rekhta.org. An Urdu novelist, short-story writer and teacher, she specialized in the philosophy and poetry of Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Among her literary output are: • Novels: “Nishan-i-Mehfil” [Signs of Lost Gatherings], “Chalta Musafir” [The Traveler on His Way] and “Khwaab Gar” [The Maker of Dreams]. Her “Dastak Na Do” (1965), regarded as one of the defining works in Urdu, was translated into English by Rukhsana Ahmed (Heinemann, 1993) and adapted for Pakistan Television. An abridged translation was serialized by the Karachi-based monthly magazine Herald. • Memoir: “Khizaan Kay Rang” [Colours of Autumn] (unpublished). • Short stories collections: “Woh Jisay Chaaha Gaya” [The One Who Was Loved], “Jab Deewarien Girya Karti Hain,” “Taar e Ankaboot,”
Altaf Fatima reviewed piles of book on Iqbal. Her head bowed, the blue sword moving elegantly in fast strokes, another masterpiece would soon be in the making. And, after a while, she would put her pen down and swiftly walk toward the kitchen … and the aroma would take over — a chicken qorma or the koftas (spicy meatballs) were ready. Those busy hands just kept on churning out literary masterpieces, short stories and novels. She designed her own house, which is amazingly airy, well lighted and convenient. You just glide from one room to the other, and there is peace all around. Where she tended her enclosed little garden, which was a sort of an atrium, you can still feel her watering the grapevine. There are the jasmine and night jasmine bushes. The doorbell rings and there are her students: the butcher’s son, then another girl appears, the tailor’s sister … they are among a succession of students most often gathered by her in the course of her grocery shopping or other walkabouts. Of course her classes are tuition free; some students even received financial support. Then there were family children, the O and A level students coming to prepare for Urdu who not only got Urdu lessons but also Farsi, as some verses have Farsi words. And with all of this came history, philosophy, poetry, English and Urdu, along with character-building lectures; tips for cooking, health and beauty; and herbal treatments. But all the while, those busy
“Deed Wadeed” [The Spectacle and Sight, which won the best book of Urdu fiction prize at the Karachi Literature Festival in 2018] and “Gawahi Akhir e Shab Ki” (forthcoming). • Translations: “Naghmay ka Qatal” (Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”), “Haveli ke Ander” (Rama Mehta’s “Inside the Haveli”) and “Zaitoon ke Jhund” (various Middle Eastern short stories). She also translated Japanese, Tamil, Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi and Latin American short stories into Urdu from their English translations. • Anthologies: Muhammad Salimur Rahman’s collection, “The Naked Hens,” is named after a story by Altaf Fatima; and Muhammad Umar Memon’s collection is named after her story “Do You Suppose It’s the East Wind?” • Awards: She was nominated for the President’s Pride of Performance Award during the President Gen. Ziaul Haq days but declined. In 2016, she also declined the National Award for Literature. She declined both the award and the accompanying check for “Deed Wadeed,” a collection of her short stories, recognized at the 2018 Karachi Literature Festival. After much insistence, her nephew Arsalan Qadeer received on her behalf the 7th United Bank Limited Literary award (2018) in the category of children fiction for “Haye Mera Kan Katta” (Oh My Ear Got Lobbed Off ).
little hands were at work peeling potatoes for French fries or shelling green peas. After serious study, there came breaks with interesting stories, incidents and anecdotes from the past with a touch of historical and political background, like how it was to live as a Muslim child in India and reminisces of her cousins and siblings’ pranks. And somewhere in the midst of everything would emerge the shelled and boiled peas as green pea puris (fried puffed bread) with aloo ki bhaji (stir-fried potatoes) to die for. She never bothered about what was in vogue. Her trademark was cotton or khaddi kurtas with side pockets and, for special occasions, her cotton saris. Around her neighborhood, she made sure that no child went uneducated and no one went hungry. The vegetable vendor, the rickshaw driver and the dhobi (washerman) would send their children to learn and be groomed, and with that came the Quran lessons and the prayers. There was no place for a spoiled child, as she stuck to the old school of discipline — not sparing the rod. They all dreaded not doing the work given by her. When confronted with overwatchful or panicky mothers, she would simply ask them to leave the child and go about their shopping errands. The chastised mothers left quietly — and out came a shiny new child. Although she never married, she had excellent tips on rearing children and handling both in-laws and troubled marriages. There were students who had no
accommodation and were waiting for the slot in a hostel. And, of course, there was her room and board. Her table was always welcoming, and her house was spotless and organized. Her style of writing was unique, deeply philosophical and insightful; each work was a study of human nature and psychology, skillfully crafted characters, ordinary people showcasing the degeneration of society and the shallow materialistic values of the nouveau riche. Going through one of her collections of short stories was an experience, for it was amazing to see how her mind meandered through a river of thoughts, as well as through the Quran and the Bible. It would take volumes to write everything about this wondrous lady, a very aggressively independent strong-willed and courageous person who was sensitive to the plight of the world and has yet to be experienced by the young Pakistani generations. We were blessed to be her family. We would get reprimanded for some sloppy housekeeping or some negligence toward a child or spouse. She was there before Google and is still there. We still feel the need to ask her, for she was a walking thesaurus, dictionary and encyclopedia. May this shining star continue to shine ever more brightly. May God shower His blessings upon her. ih Humeyra Kazmi, a poet and painter, is a Karachi homemaker.
MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 59
Syed Azhar Ali Shah 1932-2018
Community Leader and Organizer
yed Azhar Ali Shah, who emigrated from Pakistan in 1960 and founded the Islamic Association of Cincinnati (IAC) in 1968, passed away in Houston on Dec. 20, 2018, surrounded by family and close friends. More than 1,000 people attended his funeral prayer in Houston. In 1970, while serving as secretary of MSA, the precursor to ISNA, he connected the local work with that of other activities. Nationally recognized in the field of research chemistry as an expert in high-pressure liquid chromatography with multiple scientific methods to his name, he was even more esteemed for his humanitarian and community work. Before starting the IAC, he conducted Cincinnati’s first formal Eid prayer in his apartment. After incorporating IAC without any funds, in 1969 it received a donation that covered the cost of purchasing and converting a small house into a makeshift mosque — the city’s first formal mosque. He later volunteered in the inner city near and around Cincinnati, including northern Kentucky, to reach people interested in 60 ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2019
Islam. During 1972-76, he rented a small apartment in inner city Covington (Ky.) to start an Islamic learning center and, over time, helped and converted some 27 families. During 1983-89, he hosted Cincinnati’s first-ever Islamic-focused radio programs: “Islam the Straight Path” and “World of Islam.” Along with encouraging pride in one’s Muslim identity and endurance in the face of adversity, he lectured on Islam at area universities. Taking early retirement in 1989 due to ill health, he moved his family to the Washington, D.C. area, where he continued his Islamic work. Returning to Cincinnati in 1990, during 1993-97 he led a weekly Quranic discussion group on Islamic practice hosted the “Awaz-e-Pakistan” (Voice of Pakistan) radio program and led community efforts to resettle Bosnian refugees in the city. Area physician Sheikh A. Rahman called Shah’s passing a personal loss, as “he was the first person and Muslim that he had called when he and his wife landed in Cincinnati in 1975. Since then, he was our mentor and part of our extended family.”
Saiyid Masroor Shah of the ISNA Founders Board called him an unsung hero. Having known him since 1964, when he entered the University of Cincinnati as a graduate student, he added: “Other than being an early worker [secretary, 1970] of the then MSA, his contributions to the cause of Islam and Muslims are beyond counting.” After moving to Houston in 1997, Shah held key leadership roles in numerous Islamic activities due to his reputation as an honest and fair arbiter of internal community disagreements. He also returned to the airwaves by joining Radio Baseerat to provide in-depth Islamic perspectives. For his efforts, he received multiple awards from the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, the Al-Noor Society of Houston, Radio Baseerat, the Consul General of Pakistan in Houston, and Rep. Nick Lampson (D- Texas), to name but a few, for Islam and community-related volunteer work. He also published the booklet “Quran and Bible” (2008), a comparative study of teachings on social issues, and “The Holy Prophets of Islam” (2012), a comprehensive and well-acclaimed book. His third book, his participation in the 1940s civil disobedience movement started by the Punjab branch of the All-India Muslim League, remains unfinished. In his formative years, Shah was arrested while picketing the British governor’s residence in Lahore along with fellow Islamia College students. He laid himself on railroad lines to protest injustice, helped dig mass graves and volunteered to vaccinate countless refugees. His involvement in the independence struggle shaped his devotion to service. Just before being hospitalized last September, Shah was recognized for his 50+ years of service to Islam and the broader community at ISNA’s 55th Annual Convention held in Houston. Always trying to improve the community at large, he was organizing an initiative to assist victims of domestic violence and promoting respect for women at the time of his death. Known for both his keen intellect and vibrant personality, Shah is survived by his loving wife of 52 years, Khaleda; his daughter Saira, a respected attorney; his son (Dr.) Umair, a leader in public health; their spouses Aamir and Tara, respectively; three grandchildren: Safeera, Razaan and Shayaan; and scores of others whose lives he touched. ih
NEW RELEASES Leading While Muslim: The Experiences of American Muslim Principals after 9/11 Debbie Almontaser 2019. Pp. 138. HB. $52.00, PB $26.00, eBook $24.50 Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Md. lmontaser, a veteran New York City educational leader and founding principal of Brooklyn’s Khalil Gibran International Academy, discusses the post-9/11 challenges experienced by Muslim American principals and how to address them, particularly through decisions about educational policy and district leadership. Educators have access to research on how 9/11 has impacted all public and Islamic school communities, teachers and parents. This book fills the slot about Muslim public school principals.
Cambodia’s Muslims and the Malay World: Malay Language, Jawi Script, and Islamic Factionalism from the 19th Century to the Present Philipp Bruckmayr 2018. Pp. $120.00 Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands ruckmayr examines the development of Cambodia’s Muslim minority from the mid-19th to the 21st century. During this period, its Cham and Chvea Muslims established strong relationships with Malay centers of Islamic learning in Patani, Kelantan and Mecca. During the 1970s to the early 1990s these long standing relationships ended due to civil war and the systematic Khmer Rouge repression. Since the 1990s the ties to the Malay world have been revived, and new Islamic currents have left their mark on contemporary Cambodian Islam. Bruckmayr traces how these dynamics resulted inter alia in a history of local Islamic factionalism, culminating in kingdom’s official recognition of two separate Islamic congregations in the late 1990s.
Islamic Geometric Patterns (rev. and expanded) Eric Broug 2019. Pp. 136. PB. $21.95 Thames & Hudson, New York, N.Y. ourg utilizes the geometric patterns from some of the world’s most famous and beautiful Islamic architecture and art, including La Mezquita (Cordoba), Capella Palatina (Sicily), Mustansiriya Madrasa (Baghdad), the Umayyad Mosque (Damascus), the Mosque of al-Salih Tala’i (Cairo) and the Koran of Rashid al-Din (Iran) to offer a guide for craftspeople and artists everywhere. The book shows how to master this art and create intricate patterns, or re-create classic examples, with a pencil, a ruler, a compass and a steady hand.
Islamophobia in Muslim Majority Societies Enes Bayraklı, Farid Hafez (eds.) 2018. Pp. 230. HB. $134.07, Kindle $54.95 Routledge, N.Y. he contributors to this collection argue that Islamophobia is a global phenomenon that affects Muslim societies for a variety of historical, economic, political, cultural and social reasons. This interdisciplinary volume seeks to open a debate about this understudied phenomenon Muslim-majority societies by focusing on its sociopolitical and historical aspects in those specific societies. This book should interest students, scholars and general readers involved in racism studies, Islamophobia studies, area studies, Islam and politics.
Sifratna: Recipes from our Yemeni Kitchen Amjaad Al-Hussain 2018. Pp. 250. PB $39.50, HB $56.00 Sifra-safar.com ifratna — “our dining table” — and Al Hussain’s cookbook brings Yemeni cuisine to life. A health care professional, Georgetown University professor and avid home cook, her well-produced and profusely illustrated book, indeed a guidebook, leads users to prepare dishes that are her legacy from a land she has never visited. Initially begun as
way to share recipes with family and friends, it introduces the cuisine from her ancestral homeland — now the “star” of increasingly depressing war reports. Profits of the first 100 copies sold were donated to Pure Hands and other Yemen famine relief efforts. Our Muslim Neighbors: Achieving the American Dream — An Immigrant’s Memoir Victor Begg 2019. Pp. 280. HB. $28.99, PB. $19.99, Kindle. $9.99 Front Edge Publishing, Canton, Mich. orn in Hyderabad, which India invaded and occupied in 1948, Begg migrated to the U.S. in the 1970s and, starting as a door-to-door salesperson, transformed himself into the owner of a popular chain of furniture stores. Everything, he relates, really happened as he strove to help people understand their Muslim neighbors and advance interfaith relationships — interfaith work is a family passion with him. He is a co-founder of both Interfaith Partners and the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metro Detroit.
Intimations of Ghalib: Translations from the Urdu M. Shahid Alam (trans.) 2018. Pp. 60. PB. $16.00 Orison Books, Asheville, N.C. rof. Shahid Alam has undertaken the daunting task of translating a special genre, ghazal (verse), into English and has succeeded marvelously, given the widely different languages, varying genres and cultures. A translator-poet himself, he is completely qualified to explain the complexity of Ghalib’s work as well as the limitations and possibilities of translation. His work both introduces one of Urdu’s greatest poets to English readers and should be welcomed by the diaspora generation of Urdu speakers.
Inheritance Laws and the Islamic Will: According to the Islamic and State Laws for Muslims in North America Abdul Majid Khan and Nadia S. Khan 2018. Pp. 140. PB $99.00 Islamic Education Foundation, Richmond, Va. oth the Quran and Sunnah obligate Muslims to make a will. This is important, since the absence of a will allows North America’s intestacy laws to take over the deceased’s estate. The probate courts then distribute it according to their own formula, not necessary according to the Islamic one, and are entitled to appoint a non-Muslim executor and guardian of any minor children if they so decide. However, due to its complexity and the conflicts between Islamic and state laws, most Muslims still have no will. Having one would go along way to overcoming such court disputes. The authors explain issues such as the categories of heirs and conflicts between Islamic inheritance and state probate court requirements. The solution domain shows how a properly drafted will can resolve such conflicts. Useful tools such as templates, worksheets, tables, figures and step-bystep instructions for drawing up a will that complies with both legal systems are presented at the end.
Friday Inspires Muslim Success Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman, Tara Abdur-Rahman Khan (Illus.) 2018. Pp. 292. PB. $11.95 n the age of Donald Trump and ongoing Islamophobia, Muslims often need reminders about Islam’s truth and justice. These are regularly provided on Fridays through the sermons that reinforce the importance of praying, exercising patience and advocating good and forbidding terrorism, oppression and other evils. These reminders further showcase the significance of al-Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem and political engagement against injustice. This book is a compilation of Abdur-Rahman’s numerous sermons delivered in the U.S. and Australia during 2012-18. ih
MARCH/APRIL 2019 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 61
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