May/June 2013/1434 | $4.00 | www.isna.net
ISNA stands against gun violence • “Halal” nail polish? • “Muslima” Online Art Exhibit
How to talk about Sharia
50 Co th n An v n en u t i al o I n S N 7 A
In the battle of Islamophobes against Sharia, are Muslims only hurting themselves by staying silent?
Vol. 42 No. 3 May/June 2013â€ƒ visit isna online at: www.isna.net
cover Story: 22 Shared Knowledge Nurtures Peace Muslim Americans have not adequately explained Sharia to their fellow citizens. It is not too late for Muslim Americans to better understand Sharia in order to explain it to others.
22 28 30 31 32 33 34 36 38 40 43 44 46 48
Be a Better Muslim Consumer Inglot Nail Polish: To Wear Or Not To Wear? Halal United Halal and Healthy
Muslims in Action
Muslim Filmmaker Kickstarts Project Finding a Home and Joining Hearts Art Exhibit Takes Creativity Online Soaring Young Canadian Muslims
Politics and Society Gun Violence: A Muslim Issue Where was Humanity Take a Stand against Torture Muslim Americans Citizens, Not Victims
Around the World
50 A Tower of Islam in France 52 A Glimmer of Hope
54 A Muslim Toolkit against Sexual Exploitation 56 Muslim, American and HIV Positive
6 11 14 59 60
Departments Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters Reviews Food for the Spirit
58 Ahmed Fannun Kanan DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Meha Ahmad. 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. Cover illustration by Abdullah Fadhli.
Islamic Horizonsâ€ƒ May/June 2013
Guns Do Kill People
n April, the Connecticut state assembly approved gun control measures said to be the most comprehensive in the nation. The sweeping new restrictions include a ban on new high-capacity magazines and background checks on all gun buyers. In March, Colorado, which like Connecticut has also been hit by gun violence, despite its deeply embedded culture of gun ownership, imposed limits on the size of ammunition magazines and expanded background checks for gun buyers. The much neglected gun control debate was revived in December 2012 after a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, at a Newtown elementary school. In April, President Barack Obama launched another gun control campaign, reminding the pro-gun lobby, “If you want to buy a gun... you should at least have to pass a background check... that’s just common sense.” The powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby, however, argues that more guns keep people safer. It has blocked several efforts to impose stricter gun controls, insisting that the Constitution forbids firearms restrictions. And now there is an even harder hitting gun lobby: Gun Owners of America is growing in influence since the debate over gun control has surged. In 2008, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to possess guns in the home for self defense; however, they also stated that this right is “not unlimited” and elected officials may enact common sense gun laws to protect communities. No doubt, the NRA is a powerful force. The NRA and its government affairs subsidiary, the Institute for Legislative Action, spent more than $3 million lobbying the federal government on firearms-related legislation in 2012, according to their lobbying disclosure forms. In its 2011 report, the non-partisan Violence Policy Center noted that “selling
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
militarized firearms to civilians—i.e., weapons in the military inventory or weapons based on military designs— has been at the point of the industry’s civilian design and marketing strategy since the 1980s.” And in its 2011 annual report to investors, gun maker Smith & Wesson noted that there was a $489 million domestic, non-military market for “modern sporting rifles.” This being a euphemism for auto-loading, assault-style rifles; modern sporting rifles are perhaps the fastestgrowing segment of the domestic long gun industry. From 2007 to 2011, the Freedom Group reported that modern sporting rifle sales grew at a rate of 27 percent. The November 2012 Congressional Research Service report found that, as of 2009, there were approximately 310 million firearms in the U.S. What about assault rifles? In 2009, in a declaration made as part of a court case, NRA research coordinator Mark Overstreet said that, from 1986 to 2007, at least 1.6 million AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles were produced nationally—imports not included. More recent estimates suggest the number of AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles in American homes today is close to 3.3 million. ISNA has been working to address gun violence and mental health issues through the interfaith coalitions Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence and the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, which recently published Grounded in Faith: Resources on Mental Illness and Gun Violence. This is not about banning guns. It’s about responsibility in selling and owning guns—and making our homes, schools and communities safer. And Muslims have a stake in it. Instead of just resigning to the dictates of the NRA or the arms producers, Muslims need to fan out and join every possible pressure and lobbying group to get their state laws made more effective.
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
PRE SID ENT Mohamed Hagmagid Ali ED IT O R
Omer Bin Abdullah A ssistant Editor Deanna Othman ED IT O RIA L A DVIS O RY B OA RD
Imam Mohamed Magid (acting Chair); Haroon Mughal; Sohaib Sultan; Wafa Unus; Wajahat Ali. ISL A MI C H O RIZO NS
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Halal Alliances: ISNA and IFANCA
ISNA and the Chicago, Ill.-based Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), the largest halal certification organization in the U.S., agreed Feb. 12 to work together toward establishing the national halal standards and accreditation body. An agreement was signed at the ISNA headquarters by Ahmed ElHattab, executive director, ISNA Development Foundation (IDF), representing ISNA and Dr. Muhammad Munir Chaudry, president of IFANCA. The halal industry has been an emerging global market force and is starting to really make its presence felt in the North American market. The growing problems regarding improperly labeled products, (specifically the halal ones) stretch across the globe, it is now more important than ever that Muslims begin to seriously address the issues here in America. ISNA is committed to serve the interests of U.S. consumers and businesses with support Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
from IFANCA and other industry stakeholders. Fairness, transparency and development of the halal market are also in the nation’s best interest, as it should create employment and economic vitality. The development of a standards and accreditation body in the U.S. will help safeguard the integrity of the halal industry and regain the confidence and trust of Muslim American consumers of halal products and those countries that import American products as well. ISNA enjoys confidence with the U.S. government agencies, industry stakeholders and international bodies. IFANCA officials met with ISNA Development Foundation staff on Feb. 12 to explore the future cooperation, including organizing a panel of experts that will work together through the processes of establishing the halal standards in the U.S. This panel shall include representatives
from the halal business sector, Shariah experts, food scientists, and government officials.
ISNA Founders Committee
For nearly two decades, ISNA has enjoyed the facility of a caring group of partners: the ISNA Founders’ Committee.
ISNA Founders’ Committee Members: Abdul Alim Khandekar (Chairman) Abdul Rauf Mir Abdul R Piracha Abdul Wahab Ahmad Adam Ashraf Sufi Farooq Selod Ghaus M. Malik Ghulam Nabi Mir Rashad Husain Husain Nagamia Ihsan Ul Haque Inayat Malik Jukaku Tayeb Khalid Bhatti Laeeq Khan Mohammad Saleem Bajwa Muhammad Akram Dar Muhamed Ashraf & Mubeena Balti Rashed Nizam Sajid Peracha Saiyid Masroor Shah Tajuddin Ahmed Talal Sunbulli Waheed Akbar Maseer Bade
Partners in Progress By Hiba Alalami and Maggie Siddiqi
uring the last weekend of February, IFC members traveled to D.C. to discuss Muslim Americans’ issues. On Friday, Feb. 22, IFC members and their families visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House with a tour led by ISNA Majlis Ash Shura member Asma Mirza. There they met with officials who have been engaging with the Muslim American community for years. The meeting was organized and hosted by Paul Monteiro, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, who has been actively reaching out to Muslim Americans through ISNA since the Obama Administration began in 2009. He shared resources with IFC members, giving examples of ways to engage with the White House. Monteiro said that ISNA was his primary means of outreach to Muslim Americans and thanked them for their efforts in supporting
ISNA and fulfilling the needs of their community for over 50 years. Arsalan Suleman, President Obama’s Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Deputy Special Envoy, and Rumana Ahmed, executive assistant in the White House Office of Public Engagement, also offered words of gratitude. ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid thanked the White House for their ongoing engagement. Rashad Hussain, Obama’s Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, while lauding the Founders’ efforts, reminded that now is the time for the younger generation to rise up to the model of the Founders and others who have done great things for their communities and society. George Selim, White House director for community partnerships, has had one of the longest relationships with ISNA, working previously in the Department of Homeland Security in both the Obama and Bush Administrations. Selim, a regular speaker at the ISNA Convention, shared his experiences with the Founders about working with ISNA to address national security concerns. In the afternoon, the Founders and their families toured the Capitol, where they learned how the Congress and the Capitol have changed as the country has grown. Later, they enjoyed a dinner hosted by Dr. Ashraf Sufi and Dr. Moen Butt. The next day was dedicated to descriptive presentations and productive discussions. Dr. Abdul Alim Khandekar, the IFC Chairman, offered the opening remarks and introductions, followed by Dr. Iqbal Unus’s presentation of the proposed Strategic Vision for ISNA that meets the dynamic changes in the Muslim community. IFC members discussed the direction ISNA is heading towards and shared their thoughts on the topic. Hiba Alalami, development coordinator at ISNA Development Foundation (IDF), presented on ISNA financial stability and discussed Planned Giving and Endowment Building at ISNA. The Founders and IDF staff reflected on IDF Action Plan for 2013. Dr. Saiyid Masroor Shah highlighted ISNA’s Electronic Transfer Fund (EFT) for 2012. Rizwan Jaka, Budget and Finance chairman at ISNA Majlis Ashu-Shura, reviewed the ISNA budget and finances for 2011-12. Mohamed Elsanousi, director of community outreach at IOICA, along with Maggie Siddiqi, IOICA Program Coordinator, and Christina Warner, IOICA Shoulder-toShoulder Campaign Director, informed IFC about the various initiatives and campaigns in which ISNA Office for Interfaith & ComIslamic Horizons May/June 2013
munity Alliances (IOICA) is engaged at the national level. The session on planning for the Community Service Recognition Luncheon at ISNA 2013 Annual Convention was followed by dinner hosted by the Indonesian Embassy. The dinner featured a panel discussion of young Muslim professionals working in civic engagement and public affairs in Washington, D.C. Adam M. Tugio, the ambassador’s counselor of political affairs, shared a welcoming message on behalf of Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal. Djalal said he believes that our globalizing world means we encounter not only different cultures but also different religions at a faster pace. He recently helped promote international interfaith dialogue by sponsoring Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, ISNA national director for Interfaith & Community Alliances, and other interfaith leaders from the U.S. and Indonesia as part of a delegation to Indonesia, Jordan, and the U.S. The evening’s panel discussion featured Muslim professionals who shared their experiences working for the common good
both in and outside of the government. The panelists highlighted the role that ISNA has played in their lives and how it has helped with their spiritual development. ISNA President Magid thanked the Djalal for his hospitality, and the Founders for their tremendous efforts over the past 50 years. “Without their help to keep ISNA moving,” he said. “I would not be standing before you today.” On Sunday, Feb. 24, Magid was invited to a breakfast with IFC members as they discussed the road ahead for ISNA as a national organization. IFC was officially created in 1994, with a mission “to support ISNA and ISNA Development Foundation (IDF) by serving as advisors, helping ISNA’s strategic priorities, and creating a sound financial base needed by ISNA to serve the Muslim community and society at large, independently and perpetually. IFC will also promote the role of philanthropy in the Muslim community.” Since then, IFC members have brought invaluable expertise and substantial financial support to IDF.
The Jamaica Muslim Center’s
Al-Mamoor Islamic School (www.al-mamoor.org)
is looking for a qualified, highly motivated Principal with at least four years of teaching and school leadership experience. • Administrative leadership, academic excellence, and development skills are a must. • PhD or Master’s Degree in educational leadership is preferred and Teaching Certification is must. • Knowledge of public & Islamic school settings is a plus. • US sitizens and permanent residents only can apply for this position. There are nearly 170 students in grades from PreK to eighth grade. The school has been operational since 2003. The school will soon be relocated to a new facility and extend to high school level. Please see detail about the job requirement by visiting: http://al-mamoor.org/common/uploaded/ Al-Mamoor_Principal_Advertisement1.pdf
Community Matters Muslim American Physicians Spread Smiles In March, the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) Medical Relief SaveSmile Surgical team traveled to Sudan, where they performed 208 cleft palate-related surgeries with the goal to spread smiles. “Everybody in our team came with devotion, dedication, spending their own money to help these people in need,” said Dr. Badar Zaheer, volunteer physician. “When I saw a 45-year-old man with big cleft lips and impaired speech, I felt that we are living in a world with so much shame and guilt. This poor man, if he had $200 or if someone had contributed $200, his life might have changed.” Zaheer, clinical preceptor/lecturer at Rosalind Franklin University, Chicago Med-
ical School, is a consultant at Arizona Medical Board and Mercy Hospital in Chicago. Rasheed Ahmed, executive director, Dr. Ismail Mehr, and Dr. Parvaiz Malik started this project several years ago. Members of this humanitarian mission were: Mahdi Shkoukani, Marium Laiq, Zoya Tirmizi, Ali Taqi, Mujahid Ghazi, Haashir Lakhani, Saquib Lakhani, Kashif Saleem, Osaamah Lakhani, Khurram Khan, Shaista Ali, Pervaiz Malik, Khalique Zahir, Ismail Mehr, Asif Malik, Umar Khan, Kashif Irfan, Inam Hussain, Kanwal Chaudhry, Saroosh Ahmed, Kamran Jafri, Mehr Qureshi, Tahaine Aboushi, Jessica Censotti, Haytham Aboushi, Mohammad Ali, Tarick Sheikh, Asra Ali, Badar Zaheer, Amir Mian, Nurain Fuseini, Nada Salem.
Imam Faizul Khan Honored by Community Against Domestic Violence The InterFaith Community Against Domestic Violence (IFCADV ) recognized Imam Faizul Khan, the imam at the Islamic Society in the Washington Area in Silver Springs, Md., for his efforts in the area of domestic violence awareness, said the Rev. Zeke Wharton, the IFCADV president, at their 15th Annual Conference on March 12. Khan, who is a board member and
domestic violence counselor at Muslimat Al Nisaa Shelter in Baltimore, is known not just locally but nationally as a long-time advocate on behalf of victims of domestic violence. Asma Hanif, executive director and founder of Muslimat Al Nisaa, lauded the dedication and tireless effort which Imam Khan devotes on behalf of those in need, especially for victims of domestic violence.
ICNA Elects New President Naeem Baig was sworn in as president of Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) for the 2013-14 term on Jan 26. Baig succeeds Dr. Zahid Bukhari, who served as president for two terms during 2009-12. ICNA head, elected through secret ballot from among members of the ICNA general assembly (MGAs), can hold the office for a maximum of two consecutive terms. Baig has served as ICNA secretary general for three terms and on the Majlis Ash-Shura (2010-12). He has served as the ICNA vice president for public affairs and the executive director of the ICNA Council for Social Justice. He is also the chair of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) and the American Muslim Taskforce (AMT), an umbrella body of 10 national Muslim American organizations. He currently serves on the board of 14
Interfaith Workers Justice and co-chairs the National Muslim-Christian Initiative. He is also a member of the Taskforce on Global Initiative on Faith, Health and Development. He additionally worked as a consultant on the “Study on Christian-Muslim Relations,” sponsored by the Department of Interfaith Relations of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Since its founding in 1968, ICNA has worked to build relations between communities by devoting itself to education, outreach, social services and relief efforts.
New York Police Needs Strict Oversight
A report titled, “Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and its Impact on American Muslims,” was issued by the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC), The Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR), and The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). The report addresses the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslim communities throughout the Northeast, which places the surveillance in a legal context, and more importantly, interviews Muslims to understand the real world impact of the surveillance. It has been established that the exercise produced no intelligence related to terror activity of any sort, except may be some about any criminal activity. Despite being proved by reports such as the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security that Muslim terrorism is not a threat after 9/11, NYPD continues to insist that if Muslims have nothing to hide, they should overlook the violation of their rights. The report documents how the surveillance is affecting the lives of Muslim New Yorkers in whatever capacity they may be working: leaders, or students. Imams and students are afraid to express themselves, and some Muslims are scared to pray in public. Even if a Muslim went to report a crime, he was the one investigated. Better oversight is needed, perhaps a Department of Justice investigation, when it is seen that the NYPD is reported to be lying on a regular basis. The coalition behind the report seeks legislative redress to these gross violations.
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Chicago Women Honor Humanitarians community and was honored for her extensive work in civil rights advocacy. As founder of Universal Knowledge Institute, Imam Left to right: Jeanean Othman, Dr. Seema Imam has helped to advance the idea and Anse Tamara Gray. that a better understanding of the Quran and its historical food blogger and chef Yvonne Maffei of My context would facilitate a greater compre- Halal Kitchen. hension about Islam and Muslims. Each Chicago chef was challenged to The final award went to Tasmiha Khan lead a team of two audience members to who, at the age of 19, founded Brighter victory during two rounds of competition Dawns, a nonprofit organization that pro- with the mystery ingredients of scallops and vides access to clean water to thousands of bananas. The mothers of MWA board memslum-dwellers in Bangladesh. Khan’s trail- bers served as the surprise judges giving top blazing work—installing wells, bathrooms honors to Team Malika in the savory round and latrines and conducting seminars teach- and Team Yvonne in the dessert round. — ing the local women about proper hygiene— Khadija Husain is having a far reaching impact in Khalishpur, Khulna and beyond. Keynote speaker Minnesotan Anse Tamara Gray, who is at the forefront of the revival of Muslim female scholarship, highlighted the rich legacy of Muslim women such as 19th century North African scholar, poet and pioneer Nana Asma’u, who was dedicated to women’s religious education. The sizzling grand finale was a culinary cook-off between Bravo TV’s Top Chef: Desserts alumnus Malika Ameen and acclaimed
Photo credit: Sadia Ahmed
In commemoration of National Women’s History Month and International Woman’s Day, Muslim Women’s Alliance (MWA) hosted their annual 2013 Celebration of the Muslim Woman in Oak Brook, Ill., March 15. With some 600 women in attendance, the Chicago-based nonprofit organization’s fifth spring luncheon was their largest and most successful event to date. Each year, MWA recognizes three outstanding Chicago women that exemplify the organization’s key cornerstones of community service, personal development and philanthropy. The first recipient of MWA’s “2013 Inspiring Muslim Woman” award was local humanitarian Jeanean Othman for her decades of community service and interfaith work. For more than 20 years, Othman, as director of the Mosque Foundation Food Pantry in Bridgeview, Ill., has been the driving force behind organizing, planning and providing basic essentials to more than 150 needy Muslim and non-Muslim families on a weekly basis. The second award winner was Dr. Seema Imam, a pioneer in Muslim American activism. She recalled the early history of Chicago Muslims trying to establish the fledgling
Northern California Shura New Leaders
Dr. Hatem Bazian, co-founder and Academic Affairs Chair at Zaytuna College, was elected chairman of the Northern California Islamic Council on Feb. 9. Dr. Ali Heydari and Iftekhar Hai were elected as new board members. The board includes Junaid Shaikh, Mehboob Abedi, Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Reshma Inamdar, Samina Sundas Somayeh Nikooei, and Yasir Ali. Bazian is also a senior lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to Berkeley, Bazian is a visiting professor in Religious Studies at Saint Mary’s College of California and adviser to the Religion, Politics and Globalization Center at UC Berkeley. “We wish Dr. Bazian the very best and look forward for continued collaboration and cooperation between the two California Shura Councils,” said Islamic Shura Council of Southern California chairman Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi. The Newark, Calif.-based NCIC, founded in 2006, embraces area mosques and Islamic organizations.
Indiana Church Honors Imam
J. Tamir Rasheed, imam of the Islamic Center of Fort Wayne, received Plymouth Congregational Church’s annual Amistad Peace and Justice Award on March 3. The award is named for Africans who were kidnapped and sold into slavery but then revolted and took control of the ship transporting them, the Amistad, in 1839. Imam Rasheed is the first non-Christian to receive the award. Church leaders praised Rasheed for his longtime and ongoing efforts to promote interfaith understanding and respect in the community. In the period following 9/11, Rasheed also served on a local committee on tolerance created by then-Mayor Graham Richard.
California Center for Women and Families In the heart of California’s Central Valley, a new family resource center will be opening to cater to the needs of Muslim women and their families. The area is among the state’s poorest regions, and many families are in need of assistance. The project is initiated by the Muslim Women’s Association of Bakersfield (MWAB), a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide women, youth, and families with social, economic, and educational information and services. MWAB has been actively assisting families on different fronts: through a zakat fund; monthly homeless feedings; interfaith activities and seminars; senior assistance and youth activities. A center will create greater access to services, and provides a meeting place for proposed activities, such as youth tutoring, mental health programs, and employment assistance.
The facility will further MWAB’s mission of being a resource for families. However, funds are needed for operation and maintenance. MWAB also seeks collaborative partners to help implement its mission. Donations are tax-deductible. To donate or contact MWEAB: Facebook.com/MWABAKERSFIELD; P.O. Box 11542, Bakersfield, CA 93389; or email mwabakersfield@ yahoo.com, or call (661)565-6761.
Noor-ul-Iman Wins Third Championship The Monmouth Junction, N.J.-based Noor-ul-Iman (NUI) School’s Mock Trial team won its third championship in 10 years, besting the fancied North Brunswick School team in the county finals, Jan. 31, qualifying for the central regional playoffs. NUI, which won the 2006 and 2011 Middlesex County Mock Trial championships, has been competing in the event for the last 10 years, finished runners up on five other occasions.
The winning team members were: Ameena Soliman (captain and attorney); Hasnaa Esseghir (attorney); Aaminah B’hat, Maryam Rostoum, Iman Soliman, Ayesha Durrani, Salma Elkholy and Ayesha Qureshi (witnesses). The other members of the team were: Norman Epting, Esq., and Ahmad Aboelezz, Esq. who served as attorney coaches, while Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, Sufia Azmat, and Aysha Azmat served as teacher coaches.
Muslim Democratic Club of New York March 14, a handful of political operatives including Ali Najmi, a former New York City Council staffer, and Umair Khan, a staffer for State Senator Kevin Parker, a Democrat from Brooklyn, launched the Muslim Democratic Club of NY—the first club of its kind in the city. The organization will be “dedicated to helping elect responsible Democrats to local office.” Helping launch the group was Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian American from Brooklyn whose work 16
on immigrants rights and voter outreach has been praised by the White House. Sarsour finds there are areas with high concentrations of Muslim Americans—South Brooklyn, parts of Queens, and the Bronx. The club leaders hope to engage the city’s Muslim American professionals such as in the finance, medicine, and law. At present, there is only one Muslim elected official in New York City: City Councilman Ali Najmi Robert Jackson, who is running for Manhattan borough president.
Zarzour Heads Zakat Foundation
Zakat Foundation of America has welcomed Safaa Zarzour as general counsel and chief operations officer. As ISNA secretary general, he worked with Muslim communities nationwide to strengthen vital community institutions including families, mosques, schools and organizations involved in civic and social service. For over a decade, he served as a teacher and then principal at Universal School, one of the nation’s largest PreK-12 Islamic schools and continues to serve as the school board’s vice chairman. He is also a board member of the Council of Islamic Schools of North America (CISNA), and serves as the program chair of the ISNA Education Forum. Working with the Chicago community in the area of education, Zarzour is also a member of the advisory board of St. Xavier University School of Education and board member of the Governor State University Foundation. Zarzour, who is active in interfaith circles, is a member of the Bernadine Center at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago’s advisory board. Zarzour, whose civic and educational work has been featured in the media, has received several honors and awards for his public service including the Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ Outstanding Service Award. An attorney, Zarzour, an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School, focuses his law practice in the areas of local government, education and nonprofit law. He is a principal of the law firm of Zarzour, Khalil & Tabbara, LLC. Zarzour lives with his wife Rhonda and their children in Bridgeview, Ill.
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Diverse Ontario Ontario’s new cabinet reflects Canada’s diversity. Kathleen Wynne, the 25th premier of Canada’s largest province, is the first woman in this job. Yasir Naqvi, a successful lawyer and academic, who was born in Karachi and came to Canada in 1988 when he was 15, was appointed labor minister. Naqvi, 40, a devoted volunteer, was elected to the legislature in 2007 and was appointed parliamentary assistant to various ministers. He also served as president of the Liberal Party of Ontario. Ottawa Life magazine included him in its tenth annual “Top
50 People in the Capital” list for 2010. Reza Moridi is the first Canadian of Iranian origin to be elected to a federal or provincial legislature and to become a minister. He was elected to the Ontario legislature in 2007. Moridi was born in Azerbaijan. He studied in the UK and obtained a PhD
Legislative Night in Annapolis From L to R: Rizwan Siddiqi, Anwer Hasan, Gov. O’Malley, Dr. Syed Haque, Paul Monteiro, Akbar Ansari, past president, Baltimore County Muslim Council
Howard County Muslim Council in association with the United Maryland Muslim Council and The Governor’s Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs organized a “Middle Eastern American Legislative Night” on Feb. 28 at the State Senate Office Building in Annapolis, Md. The event was sponsored by State Senator Jim Robey (D-District 13). Several distinguished public and government officials, diplomatic representatives and about 400 community members attended. Dignitaries who attended included: Gov. Martin O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Paul Monteiro, associAida Mansoor, president of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, received an Official Citation from the Permanent Commission of the Status of Hartford Women and the City of Hartford on March 13 for her work in the community. The theme of the eighth Annual Women’s History Month event was “Women Leaders TranAida Mansoor scending All Limits.” Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
ate director, White House Office of Public Engagement, eight Maryland state department secretaries, several state Senators and delegates, higher education representatives. Anwer Hasan, chairman, Governor’s Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs, Dr. Syed Haque, president, United Maryland Muslim Council and Rizwan Siddiqi, president, Howard County Muslim Council also addressed the audience and advocated bills the community supports, including: gun control, school safety, education, job creation, transportation funding, and green energy.
A relentless volunteer and outreach worker, she serves as secretary of the Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding. The mother of two, wife of a cardiologist, Mansoor, originally from Sri Lanka and raised in England, moved to the U.S. in early 1992. In 2005, Mansoor, who graduated from Britain’s King’s College in
in engineering. He received high awards from Iran, the UK and the US for his contributions to physics and engineering. Omar Khan serves as chief of staff to Harinder Jeet Singh Takhar, the Punjab, India-born minister of government services, who migrated to Canada in 1974.
Dr. Ihsan Bagby Honored
On March 15, the Washingtonbased Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) honored retiring national board member Dr. Ihsan Bagby at a ceremony during the Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization’s 10th annual National Council meeting in Arlington, Va. He has been on CAIR’s national board since 1995. Bagby is currently associate professor of Islamic Studies at University of Kentucky. His most recent research has focused on Muslims in America. In 2001, he published the results of the first comprehensive study of mosques in America, titled, “The Mosque in America: A National Portrait.” He authored an updated study in 2012. He is currently working on a book about African American Muslims.
the sciences, and is an alum of Hartford Seminary’s Islamic chaplaincy program, started working at the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut (a nonprofit organization).
Muslim Among the Select Few Rahaf Safi, an Indiana University Bloomington junior from Plainfield, Ind., has been named a 2013 Truman Scholar. She is one of only 62 undergraduates from 54 U.S. colleges and universities to receive the award; and the only Truman Scholar this year at a college or university in Indiana. “I am delighted that Rahaf Safi has received the prestigious Truman Scholar-
ship—our second in a row,” said IU president Michael A. McRobbie. Madeleine Albright, president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation and former U.S. secretary of state, announced the 2013 scholarship recipients April 10. Each scholar receives $30,000 for graduate study along with priority admission and additional aid at premier graduate schools. Safi, who is majoring in political science and philosophy and is earning a certificate in the political and civic engagement, wants to attend law school. She has been deeply involved in civic activities and campus leadership at IU and in Bloomington. She founded and serves as president of the IU campus chapter of Oxfam America, a relief organization dedicated to finding lasting solutions to global hunger, poverty and injustice. Safi was recently appointed to the IU Board of Aeons, a student board that advises the IU president, for 2013-14. She served as student body representative to the Committee for Fee Review in 2012 and has served as student representative to committees for the university’s Wells and Stahr senior awards.
Hartford Seminary Celebrates Islamic Chair The Hartford Seminary community and guests from across Connecticut and the nation celebrated the successful completion of funding for an endowed faculty Chair in Islamic Chaplaincy, March 17. The Chair is currently occupied by Timur Yuskaev, assistant professor of Contemporary Islam and director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program at the Seminary. The lead gift for the Chair, of $1,000,000, was made by Herndon, Va.-based International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). “Islamic Chaplaincy embodies the threefold mission of IIIT to encourage worship, community, and service, and there is no better place for this Chair to be established than at Hartford Seminary, which shares our commitment to these priorities,” said Dr. Abubaker al-Shingieti, IIIT executive director. Another significant donation for this Chair came from the estate of Hartford alumni: the Revs. Jane and William Inderstrodt. The Hartford Islamic Chaplaincy program, initiated in 2003, prepares Muslims for chaplaincy positions in hospitals, prisons, universities and the military. The only such accredited program in the U.S., its graduates 18
have been named to positions institutions nationwide, most notably at Yale, Williams College, and Princeton. “IIIT and Hartford Seminary have established a productive, creative and effective relationship which is advancing the vitality and impact of Muslims in this country, and this most generous gift to the Islamic Chaplaincy Chair dramatically embodies that relationship and our shared mission,” said Hartford president Heidi Hadsell. Dr. Saleem Bajwa of Holyoke, Mass., a former trustee of Hartford Seminary and long-time supporter of the Seminary’s Islamic Chaplaincy program, acknowledged the visionary leadership of Dr. Ingrid Mattson, founder of the program, and former director of the Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations and professor of Islamic Studies and Christian Muslim Relations at Hartford. Mattson, a former ISNA president, is currently chair of the Islamic Studies Program at the University of Western Ontario. Founded in 1833, Hartford Seminary has had a commitment to interfaith dialogue for more than a century.
AP Disarms Islamist
The Associated Press Stylebook, considered the “bible” of the media industry, responding to requests from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has disassociated the term “Islamist” from its negative connotations with “Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.” Last year, CAIR had pointed out that the AP’s old definition of “Islamist”—a “supporter of government in accord with the laws of Islam [and] who view the Quran as a political model”—had become a pejorative shorthand for extremist Muslims or “Muslims we don’t like.” The Stylebook’s entry for Islamist now reads as follows: “An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam. Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists [added]. Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.” CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said, “We believe this revision is a step in the right direction and will result in fewer negative generalizations in coverage of issues related to Islam and Muslims. The key issue with the term ‘Islamist’ is not its continued use; the issue is its use almost exclusively as an ill-defined pejorative.”
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Fierce Islamic Fashion
Photo Credit: Nadah Feteih
A young Overland Park Kan., Muslim couple, Drs. Sajid Khan and Maryam Arshad have authored a book, “Khan’s Cases: Medical Ethics 101.” The b o ok i s described as “the most up-to-date book for students preparing for their medical boards.” The paperback presents all of the important areas in ethics. The question/answer/explanation format publication includes: autonomy, beneficence, substituted judgment, end-of-life issues,abortion, and medical ethics.
Photo Credit: Nadah Feteih
The sixth annual Fashion Fighting Famine (FFF) show in Irvine, Calif. on March 31 brought in its array of fashionistas, attendees, and a live performance by Malaysian singing sensation Yuna. With designers debuting their clothing from as far away as Australia and the UK, the air was filled with anticipation of the fashions to be displayed on the runway, Runway designers present in the show were: RAYAN (Los Angeles), Hijab House (Australia), Nisaa Boutique (London), Madamme BK by Couture Swim N’Sport (Paris); INAYAH (London); Abaya Addict (Dubai); Mohajababes; and SixteenR. “One of the things we do is try to raise the caliber of production,” said show cofounder Asmaa Hassanein. This caliber includes placing front-row
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seats to the fashion show for journalists, bloggers and celebrities. Reporters from the BBC were present, as well as Hafsa Ahmed of RedBottomsFlair, a fashion blog. This year, fashionista and Youtube personality YaztheSpaz was in attendance, as well as UK personality AmenaKin of Pearl Daisy. Muslim American celebrities were also in attendance, such as Edina Lekovic, director of Policy and Programming at Muslim Public Affairs Council. Malaysian singing sensation Yuna was another highlight of the evening, with her 20-minute acoustic presentation. The bazaar, with its Shop for a Cause theme, included designers that didn’t present on the runway. Such designers included sister team Amany and Bayan Jondy of Zeena, a ready-to-wear clothing line. “We do shirts, scarves, suits, swimsuits, and came all the way from D.C.,” said Amany. The bazaar included designer’s clothing, as well as other vendors who might be interested in marketing to Muslim women. Even Total Woman Fitness of Irvine, as well as designers for special events, were present in the bazaar. As a charity fashion show, FFF donated 25 percent of monies from all purchases to New Star Family Center of Los Angeles. The nonprofit, which seeks to help and empower the Muslim communities through advocacy and supportive services such as domestic violence awareness, adoption and foster care services, is open to all those who seek out its services. —Eman Shurbaji
U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer ruled March 30 in favor of an Irshad Learning Center’s request to build an educational center near Naperville, Ill., after it was rejected by the DuPage County Board more than three years ago. The federal lawsuit was filed by CAIR on behalf of ILC in April 2010, three months after the county board voted 10-7 to deny ILC, an Islamic religious institution primarily serving the Iranian community, a conditional-use permit. Pallmeyer found DuPage’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”
The First Presbyterian Churchowned Mount Kenton Cemetery (MKC) announced a Muslim burial section in Paducah, Ky. The cemetery, which serves all denominations, has started a Muslim section, currently the only one in Western Kentucky. The plots in the Muslim section are free, but a $695 burial costs fee is requested by way of a tax-deductible donation. So far, several Kentucky and Texas Muslim families have purchased 50 of the original 80-plus plots. MKC would be willing to expand the section as more plots are sold. For information, contact Iftakhar Choudhury at email@example.com or the cemetery directly at 270-554-1566 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
14th Annual education Forum
The Education Forum gathers many talented principals, board members, and teacher practitioners who share their successful strategies to make amazing Islamic schools even better.
Faith, Achievement & Service Islamic schools further their potential using the base of the ISNA-CISNA Education Forum. By Susan Labadi and Sufia Azmat
he diversity of the Muslim community was evident as nearly 800 people gathered to celebrate, network, and join an array of professional development opportunities. Educators also took advantage of down-time to peruse products from Muslim-owned businesses at the 14th Annual ISNA-CISNA Education Forum, March 29-31 in Rosemont, Ill. The theme of this years forum was “Islamic Schools: Champions of Faith, Achievement & Service.” More than 200 attendees chose from five pre-conferences held on Friday that introduced Common Core State Standards by ASCD faculty; Core and Communication Standards for Arabic; Al-Nurraniyah Method Certification; AdvancEd-CISNA Accreditation training; and Weekend School management guidance. Attendees came from all over the U.S. and Canada, as well as Australia. Also in attendance was a delegation from Kuwait. Dr. Mutlaq Al-Qarawi, assistant undersecretary for Technical Coordination, Foreign Relations and Hajj lauded the high level of development and quality of U.S. Islamic schools. He stressed the need for promoting education to build a bright future for our children throughout the world. Articulating the community’s capacity and need to further strive
for excellence was Mohamed Geraldez, an entrepreneur, investor and executive director of Sherman Jackson’s ALIM Program, keynote speaker at the dinner banquet. Entertainment was provided by Ms. Latifah, a spoken word poet-performer, whose sharp intellect and talent transferred a clear message of empowerment, hope, and industry. Talat Sultan was recognized as the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to Islamic schools and education that affects generations of Muslim students and their communities. His wife and daughter accompanied him. M. Munir Chaudry, founder of Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA.org) offered his resources to schools free of charge. His global halal certification has established roots in education, as publisher of Halal Consumer, provider of the Halal Foodservice Kit, and halal school nutrition assemblies. Nouman Ali Khan, founder of Al-Bayyinah Institute, also inspired an increased understanding of teachers’ methodology in Friday’s lively dinner presentation. He essentially described the “flipped” classroom, whereby students read and practice content first, and use class time and the teacher as resources to clarify and perfect implementation of knowledge. Illustrating this, he modeled
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the technique by asking the audience to text their emails to him, and they subsequently received a video of Khan introducing his creative video series “Arabic with Husna,” his daughter. In it, he delivers lessons in 20-minute segments. This link opens the door to free videos to learn from: http://www.bayyinah.tv/sq/22192free-arabic-lessons-from-bayyinahtv. Another living legend, Freda Shamma, presented her anthology, “Treasure of Muslim Literature” (www.muslimlit.com), to a receptive group that has waited years for its publication. It contains the best intentions of many in the community who seek to integrate Islam with other academic subjects; intending to recognize what many history books have overlooked; the significant inventions, discoveries, and finer elements of knowledge and civilization credited to Muslims. Mazhar Hussaini and Mohammed T. Taher generously gave access to resources for learning the Quran, Arabic, and Islamic Studies through www.babulilmlrc.org/ in a structured program that was originally designed for weekend schools to distill lessons using brain research and that is globally available for study and applicable for students in 125 lessons, free of cost. Since the audience favors Arabic-language programming, there is always a pre-conference and tracks devoted to professional development using technology, research-based methods, and resources. Also high on the favored list of topics are those addressing the climate of schools, and sessions about using advisories, building Islamic personality and character, and the prophetic approach to education. Each year we have many talented principals, board members, and teacher practitioners who share their successful strategies to make amazing Islamic schools even better. This being the 50th anniversary year for MSA/ISNA, Dr. Iqbal Unus recollected the initiation of the first MSA at the University of Illinois in Urbana, and how it has evolved into ISNA of today. The strength in diversity is galvanized by a willing spirit to share and grow. Sponsored by the Amana Mutual Fund and Midamar Foods, the ISNA-CISNA Education Forum provides an opportunity to network and interview for positions in Islamic schools. The Forum is a wonderful occasion to enjoy the company of those who believe that service is worthwhile and who believe that it is the means to build a strong, noble community. “It was a wonderful experience,” said first-time attendee Jawed Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Anwar, board president of Toronto, Canada-based Seerah Mission School. He also said that all the workshops he attended were “impressive and informative.”
Susan Labadi is president of Genius School, Inc., project coordinator of the American Halal Association, VP of ActionNet Trade, Inc., and a member of the Education Forum planning committee. Sufia Azmat is principal of Nur-Ul-Iman School in New Jersey, executive director of CISNA, and a member of the Education Forum planning committee.
Why the Muslims’ failure to explain Sha
By Asifa Quraishi-Landes
magine that a dish of Martha Stewart’s famous apple recipe is served to one of the leaders of the anti-Sharia movement—say, Frank Gaffney. He hates it. He thinks it tastes like sawdust. Based on this terrible taste, Gaffney concludes that Martha Stewart’s recipe is repugnant. In fact, it is so awful that he insists that this dish should never be made in the U.S. Gaffney starts a campaign to have Martha Stewart’s recipe banned and prohibit American chefs from attempting to make it ever again. It is easy to see the ridiculousness of a Martha Stewart apple pie ban. But it is essentially what the anti-Sharia campaign in the U.S. is doing. Citing examples of “distasteful” Islamic law rules, it argues that Sharia itself should be banned in America,
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aria matters and how to correct it.
and is working hard to get such a ban passed in every state. Most Americans don’t see this campaign as ridiculous because they know very little about Sharia in the first place, and trying to learn about it now means wading through a sea of definitions and counter-definitions with no solid ground to help distinguish fact from fiction. Unfortunately, in all the smoke created as we put out the many fires of Islamophobia, Muslim Americans have failed to adequately explain Sharia to their fellow citizens. The word has begun to acquire an English-language meaning that (like the word “jihad”) bears little resemblance to how Muslims understand and use it in our own lives. But it is not too late. However, Muslim Americans need to better understand Sharia in order to explain it to others. Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Cover Story By depicting Sharia as Public Enemy No. 1, the anti-Sharia movement in the U.S. has put Muslim Americans in a new and challenging situation. Until recently, the typical Muslim generally did not need to know much about Sharia beyond the particular rules by which he or she lives. But now, average Muslims are expected to explain and defend Sharia at a level of sophistication usually demanded of PhDs. Even worse, this happens in a social context that is increasingly suspicious of the Muslim Americans’ patriotism, often with suggestions that adherence to Sharia means that we do not share American values, and may even threaten national security. Some of the crucial foundational concepts of Sharia and Islamic legal theory are not part of the average Muslim’s knowledge. However, these concepts are the most under-appreciated yet very important aspects of Islamic jurisprudence, and understanding them can help raise the quality of the ongoing American public conversation about Sharia.
How Not to Talk about Sharia Confusingly, the same word “Sharia” is used to refer to two different things: 1) the Islamic ideal of Divine Law and 2) the specific legal rules found in the books of Islamic law. The first refers to something that is divine, and the second to something that is humanly-created. It is very dangerous to use the same word for both concepts because it causes people to confuse what is divine and unquestionable with what is fallible and subject to debate in Islamic law. To understand this better, let’s use the recipe metaphor again. If you have ever followed a recipe, then you actually know a bit about what it is like to follow Sharia. “Sharia” literUnfortunately, in all the smoke created ally means “way” or “street.” In the Quran, as we put out the many fires of Islamo- it refers to the way that God has advised Muslims to live—“God’s Way.” Sharia can phobia, Muslim Americans have failed thus be understood as the Islamic “recipe” for living a good life. But, of course, we to adequately explain Sharia to their can’t taste a recipe. We can only taste the fellow citizens. product of a chef ’s efforts to follow one. In addition, different chefs can follow the same recipe but come up with quite varied results. Without the recipe author there in person, it is impossible to declare one chef ’s interpretation a correct or incorrect interpretation of that recipe. It is the same with Sharia: the divine “recipe” of Sharia is known only through fallible human interpretations of that recipe. Remarkably, Muslim legal scholars were very well aware of their own fallibility, and accommodated for it as they built the system of Islamic jurisprudence. This is illustrated in the very word, “fiqh,” that they used to describe the legal rules that they produced. Fiqh literally means “understanding,” underscoring the principle that every fiqh rule is only a scholar’s best understanding of Divine Law. Fiqh scholars are aware that, although the object of their work is God’s Law, they do not (and cannot) speak for God. It should now be clear that, properly speaking, “Sharia” is the divine ideal of God’s Law, and “fiqh” refers to the specific legal rules written by Muslim legal scholars. 24
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Out of One, Many There is one more important thing to know about fiqh: it has always been pluralistic. For Muslims, there is one Law of God (Sharia), but there are many schools of fiqh articulating that Law. This is because there is no way to know (in this lifetime at least) which fiqh scholar has accurately understood God’s Law, so every fiqh rule that is the result of ijtihad is respected as a possible articulation of Sharia. Over time, this grew into many equally valid schools of law, with individual Muslims free to choose which school (such as Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi’i, Hanbali or Ja’fari/ Shi’i) they wish to follow. Fiqh pluralism thus allows the divine Sharia “recipe” to be tangible enough for everyday Muslim use, yet flexible enough to accommodate personal choice. It also illustrates the dynamic engagement of Sharia interpretation with many different human environments. Sharia, in other words, is a recipe that is meant to be made — with all the natural diversity that results — not to sit in pristine condition decorating a kitchen bookshelf.
Sharia does not require theocracy The next important thing to realize about fiqh is that it isn’t the only type of law that has existed in Muslim societies. Failure to appreciate this fact has led to a lot of confusion about the role of fiqh in modern legal systems. In the pre-modern era, though, Muslim governments divided law into two types: fiqh and siyasa. Siyasa (meaning “administration” or “management”) is different from fiqh in important ways. First, it is created by the ruler, not fiqh scholars. Second, it is drawn not from ijtihad study of the Quran and Sunnah, but rather the ruler’s determination of what will serve the public good. These laws covered many Fiqh pluralism thus allows the divine topics on which scripture had little or nothing to say, such as civil taxes, marketplace sharia “recipe” to be tangible enough for regulations, and public safety. The realms everyday Muslim use, yet flexible enough of fiqh and siyasa law operated separately to accommodate personal choice. but interdependently, often checking and balancing each other. If we use the recipe metaphor again, the relationship between Muslim rulers and fiqh scholars might be compared to the division of power in a restaurant: the fiqh scholars are like the chefs interpreting the (Sharia) recipe and preparing the meals, whereas Muslim rulers are like the managers who keep the restaurant running in a safe, orderly, and sanitary way. These managers make and enforce the rules (siyasa) of the restaurant, but they do not decide on the recipes or seek to influence the chef ’s cooking (fiqh). Understanding the separation of fiqh and siyasa law reveals why it is wrong to think that Sharia requires theocracy. This is hard for Americans to understand because westerners tend to presume that law always emanates from the state. In this view, the idea of “religious law” must mean state direction of religious behavior. But, unlike our Christian cousins, Muslims never merged “church” and state. Not only was there no Muslim “church” in the first place, but (when early events illustrated the Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Cover Story dangerousness of letting rulers speak for God) the fiqh scholars insisted that the articulation of religious law (fiqh) be left to private scholars. Without a Muslim “church” to either take over or be co-opted by government power, the division of fiqh and siyasa law created a non-theocratic system of government that facilitated access to religious law (fiqh), but also protected its plurality and flexibility by keeping it out of government legislation. Today, the fiqh-siyasa bifurcation of legal authority has virtually disappeared. The governments of most Muslim-majority countries follow a the western nation-state model The degree to which sharia governs that centralizes all lawmaking power with average Muslim American lives depends the state. Unfortunately, when these states their degree of religiosity, their preferred legislate selected fiqh rules (misleadingly “Sharia’”), they effectively act as fiqh school (if any), and which fiqh rules labeled theocracies, because they use state power to declare and enforce “Sharia” with little they believes relevant at all. to no recognition of fiqh pluralism. Even more unfortunately, most people do not realize that this is a new phenomenon in Muslim world history, the result of a variety of modern political events, and not because Sharia demands it.
Sharia in the United States The phenomenon of “Sharia legislation” overseas has fueled fears of Sharia in America. But these laws indicate no more about Muslim Americans than the Israeli laws indicate what American Jews want in America. Muslims, like any religious group, are not monolithic. The degree to which Sharia governs average Muslim American lives depends their degree of religiosity, their preferred fiqh school (if any), and which fiqh rules they believes relevant at all. For some, following Sharia can have legal implications in things like marriage, estate planning, and business and property transactions. But there is nothing particularly novel about Muslim Americans wanting legal recognition for religious practices that differ from the law of the land. American legal history is full of minority religious practices—such as those of the Amish, Mormons, Jews and Native Americans—asking to be constitutionally protected in American courts. These courts have always weighed religious freedom against other constitutional values and social policies. Thus, American courts honor the choice of many Muslims to organize their legal lives according to rules of fiqh within the limits of American public policy. To see this as a threat that Sharia is “creeping” into American law (as asserted by the antiSharia campaign) is simply to mistake religious freedom for religious invasion.
How to talk to about Sharia If we are to talk about Sharia in a constructive way, we (both Muslims and non-Muslims) need to resist the language choices of those who manipulate the concept of Sharia for political gain. In Muslim countries the conflation of Sharia with fiqh has enabled political actors to promote supposed “Sharia legislation” with little opposition because the public assumes that it is mandated by God. A similar strategy is used by anti-Sharia activists 26
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in the United States who select a few objectionable fiqh rules to argue that Sharia itself is offensive. In both cases, linguistic sleight of hand is used to manipulate an unknowing public. Muslim Americans could counteract this dangerous dynamic by being more careful when we talk about Sharia. As a start, I recommend these three guidelines: 1) Do not use “Sharia” for “fiqh.” Use the word “Sharia” only to refer to the concept of perfect, divine Law of God in Islam; use the word “fiqh” when referring to the humanlycreated doctrinal rules created by Muslim religious legal scholars as the result of their Rather than being a threat to American efforts to understand and articulate Sharia; rule of law, the insights of Islamic legal 2) Remember that fiqh is pluralistic. Remind yourself and others that fiqh theory could provide valuable insight into (human articulation of Divine Law) is pluhow to honor multiplicity without giving ralistic, made up of multiple variations of equally-legitimate schools of law and their up individual values. respective doctrines, all of which are available to individual Muslims to choose from as they seek to live by Sharia (Divine Law); 3) Do not refer to the laws in Muslim-majority countries (even those calling themselves “Islamic states”) as “Sharia.” Even if a Muslim government draws from fiqh rules to legislate a law, that law is still a political selection from among multiple fiqh choices, all of which are equally valid. It cannot be said to be conclusively dictated by Sharia itself. Can Sharia benefit America? Census projections estimate that by mid-century the U.S. will no longer be a whitemajority country. Americans are facing big questions about whether to balance their multicultural, multi-religious, multiracial, multi-ideological, and multi-gendered realities, or establish one homogeneous standard to which all are held. Seeking out realistic ways to embrace diversity without losing cohesiveness as a nation is going to be an ongoing challenge. What if, in undertaking that challenge, Americans found that Sharia—the very thing that has been so demonized in American public discourse lately—could actually help Americans navigate their pluralistic future? Rather than being a threat to American rule of law, Islamic legal theory could provide valuable insight into how to honor multiplicity without giving up individual values and identities, or unity of the whole. A quick look back at both Muslim and American history indicates that both have been at their worst when they insisted upon rigidity and sameness— especially when the government tries to enforce it. And both histories illustrate that societies can thrive when they are not scared by difference—they might even be at their best when they find ways to understand and learn from the reality of human variety. As Americans wrestle with multiculturalism and diversity, it might be worth the effort for Muslim Americans to learn enough about Sharia to show that help sometimes comes from where you least expect it. When it comes to dealing with diversity, America could learn a lot from Islamic law, if only it could stop painting it as something that it is not.
Asifa Quraishi-Landes is a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and an associate professor of law at the University of Wisconsin, where she teaches courses in American constitutional law and Islamic law. For more, see her full report “Sharia and Diversity: Why Some Americans are Missing the Point” at www.ispu.org.
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“As far as Canada is concerned, and especially Ontario, which has a large Muslim community, Muslim businesses are definitely patronized,” said Samna Ghani. “This not only includes halal meat and grocery stores, but tax preparers, attorneys, and doctors, too.” For consumers patronizing Muslim businesses, Ghani prefers a Muslim tax preparer because her expectation quality and customer service remain a top priority. generally is that they would help her save some more money. Similarly, her family doctor is a lady from Pakistan, and while she has by Kiran Ansari experienced other physicians at walk-in clinics, she just feel more comfortable with her. “I can’t explain the reasons. It’s just so, and may explain why we ameera Khalid placed an order at her halal butcher store that she would pick up the meat at 2 p.m. cut professionals from our community a little slack,” Ghani said. Like several times before, her order was not ready when “I don’t believe that Muslim-owned businesses take our partiality she arrived. toward them for granted. They do try their best to live up to our “I am often disappointed with the poor customer service,” Khalid expectations. The only exception would be auto workshops; I think said. “But what can I do? The next halal butcher is a half hour away!” they tend to be less reliable.” Bingo. “If you keep the dollars within the community, it definitely Khalid just answered her own question; because the second strengthens the community in the long run,” said Kamal Solaiman, closest meat store is far away, her local butcher knows he has a president of the D.C. chapter of Council for the Advancement of captive market. Hence even if he does try to please customers, it Muslim Professionals (CAMP). “I have always advocated recycling may not always be his top priority. He knows Khalid and dozens dollars, but Muslims should not buy Muslim just for the sake of it; of other Muslims in the area will still come to him even if they are the business has to earn your trust.” unhappy. Not everyone agrees. Some Muslim consumers But this is changing and such instances are going to complain that they do not get be the exception and not the the best selection, prices or norm. As younger Muslim customer service at Muslim professionals and entreprebusinesses. Or it could be the neurs are entering the eco“white man’s ice is colder” nomic landscape and the syndrome. community is maturing with In the book “Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest more competition and webto Buy Black in America’s savvy customers, the level of customer service offered by Racially Divided Economy,” Muslim businesses is improvMaggie Anderson chronicles ing. There is no other way. her and her husband John’s The perfect solution in this journey as an affluent African scenario is the fast-growing American couple that chose to buy from black businesses website, www.taaza2u.com. Taaza2U is an online halal for an entire year. While some meat store that delivers fresh heralded their initiative to zabiha meat to your door, even with free delivery in some areas. By empower their community, others called it a form of racism and providing superior customer service and convenience like online they learned that some African American consumers themselves orders, promo codes and marinated meats, companies like Taaza2U didn’t want to shop at black stores because of the “white man’s ice is colder” syndrome. might just replace the traditional butcher. That meant that they believed they would get superior quality Younger, educated Muslim Americans are now providing better if they shopped at a mainstream store and customer service. But the mom-and-pop ethnic grocery stores run by predominantly also why they shouldn’t when the days of immigrant Muslims still need to learn the segregation were long over. They wanted customer-is-king mantra. to exercise the right their forefathers had This is just one example of how the fought so hard for. community is changing and how Muslim Similarly, children of early immigrant Muslim businesses, businesses and consumers have to adapt Muslims who do not have the cultural baglike any other, need to survive. gage or language hurdles of their parents’ to earn the trust generation prefer the buying experience at big box stores like their peers, just because As a Muslim Consumer and deserve the they can. Do Muslim consumers actively seek out business. Muslim businesses or do they look for lower If Muslim customers expect the same level prices and good customer service? of service that they would get at Nordstrom
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Verbatim from Facebook Here is what people said on Facebook when asked
in New York City from an abaya store business owner helps but is not the only if they prefer to buy from Muslim businesses. criteria that people go by.” in Dearborn, Mich., then they should ✔ I will definitely try to support and help a fellow also behave in the same manner. They Some Muslim businesses try to repay Muslim business—but expect no less but rather wouldn’t ask the Nordstrom associate to the community support by hiring more even better service—even for a little extra price. give an extra discount or “not charge tax Muslims. This again can work both ways. ✔ I do choose to buy Muslim as much as posif we pay cash.” Both should play by the Some might find a great sense of camarasible. When I can’t, I make an effort to choose rules if we really want to keep with ceteris derie by celebrating the same holidays or a minority business. For instance, I sometimes paribus—“all other things being equal.” maintaining some decorum for mingling purposely choose African American professionIt also becomes the responsibility with the opposite gender. als and businesses because as a visible minorof the Muslim consumer to give conHowever, an employer may specifiity myself, I feel they deserve my support much structive feedback to community busically avoid Muslim employees because more than a white business which can easily find customers because they represent the “norm” nesses. If we cut them slack thinking, of one guy who used to take three-hour in our culture. “It’s okay, I’ll support them even if they breaks for Friday prayer without making shipped my items four days after they up the time. Taking undue advantage ✔ I try to buy from Muslim businesses when poswere promised,” we are actually doing sible. And if I find something made in Pakistan, by one person burns bridges for many I HAVE to buy that. them a disservice. others down the road. Solaiman relates an example: if you ✔ I would pay a little extra to any minority to are a regular at a diner and always tip Muslims as Professionals support them including Muslims the standard 15 percent, you are actually and Service Providers ✔ If a Muslim business person is making an effort doing a disservice to the server. The tip As far as service providers and profesto conduct his/her business honestly and ethishould be based on the level of service— sionals go, Aly looks for the best. cally, then yes, then I don’t mind paying extra and that translates into instant feedback. “If that person happens to be I also don’t bargain. However if I am uncertain of their business ethics and practices (which is Like other smaller, close-knit comMuslim, that’s great. If I had a choice un-Islamic) then I will not buy from them. I supmunities, customer service is of parabetween two service providers who port those who work hard to make an honest mount importance as word spreads like have the same level of quality, and one day’s living. wildfire. Market research shows that if was Muslim, I’d pick the Muslim. Howyou are happy with a purchase, you’ll ever, anytime I chose someone because tell up to six people. If you are unhappy, you’ll tell eleven. This I knew them or just because they were Muslim, it failed miserably. just highlights how important it is for Muslim businesses to step If they came highly recommended and were Muslim, we were up their standards or bow out. almost always satisfied.” Solaiman has received varying feedback from his peers like As a Muslim Business Owner attorneys. Some lawyers consciously avoid Muslim clients as they As the marketing director at Eshticken Pizza in Hoffman Estates, feel that there is a heightened probability of being taken advantage Ill., Eman Aly has learned that some Muslims base restaurant deci- of. A Muslim client might be your cousin’s sister-in-law’s niece and feels like she is entitled to call you up on Sunday afternoon on your sions on cost and whether or not the food is zabiha. “I’m always surprised at how many Muslims live in the area, cell phone to ask about a case. She would most probably not call an some of them are even acquaintances of mine, who don’t come attorney outside the community beyond regular business hours. “I personally do look for Muslims service providers whenever and support the business,” Aly said. “It is always in the back of my mind—for instance, for printing we always use a friend of ours I can,” Ahmed says. “But, I look for professionalism and customer service first.” who we knew was a good printer.” As an interior designer in addition to launching the swimwear As a business owner, Aly believes they have to keep very high standards, because they are representing the millions of Muslims line, 80 percent of Ahmed’s clientele are Muslim. She feels people in America. use her design services partly because they feel, as a Muslim, she can “This is my opportunity to demonstrate how Muslims can be relate to their needs better. She takes that trust as a responsibility. “It is extremely important that I maintain a high level of service awesome,” Aly said. “When I have a bad experience with an employee or another business or even a customer, it makes me sad because simply because I am Muslim” that person is going to associate the experience with Muslims. Muslim businesses, like any other, need to earn the trust and We’ve not risen above stereotypes or generalization. I also have God deserve the business. They have to recognize that if they have a watching over me, and I deal with Him when I deal with people. I laid-back attitude assuming customers will line up regardless of want Him to reward me for my work, and through that my hope how they are being treated, they are in for a rude awakening. is that my business is successful.” The restaurant business is still one exception as there are very Asmah Ahmed is an entrepreneur who has launched a line of few places where you consistently get the whole package: highhigh-end modest swimwear. Couture Swim ’N Sport offers a variety quality zabiha food, great décor and outstanding customer service. of swimwear designed and made in Paris. For most industries, the captive market days are gone—or at “I believe customers pay top dollar for the high quality of the least well on their way out. swimwear and not necessarily to support a Muslim business,” Ahmed Kiran Ansari is a writer, editor and new entrepreneur. She hopes her website for personalsaid. “If someone is fashion conscious and appreciate high qual- ized products, www.upanotchgifts.com, surpasses customer expectations in quality and ity, they will definitely pay the price for it. I think being a Muslim customer service.
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
To Wear Or Not To Wear? Do Muslim women really have an authentic wudu-compliant nail polish? By Kiran Ansari
ome are touting it as the cake without the calories or a rock concert without the guilt. A new phenomenon that is making Muslim women wonder, can they finally paint their nails and make wudu for prayer? Can they really have it all? The Inglot O2M nail color line—the invention of Wojciech Inglot, a Polish chemist and entrepreneur, who died Feb. 23 at 57—is creating ripples among Muslim communities, with people on both sides of the fence. Whether you agree with it or not, chances are you have heard friends talk about the “nail polish you can pray in.” The Polish brand claims that the polymer they use is like the one used in breathable contact lenses. There will always be some people who believe that you can pray with nail polish and that praying with painted nails is better than skipping salah. And then there will be some who will say that spending a lot of time on manicures and nail color can be a waste of time and money and that flashy, attractive nails can border on the opposite end of the “haya/modesty spectrum.” This nail polish is for neither party. It’s for those women that fall somewhere in between. So does that mean you can have a beautiful manicure and keep it on for weeks without having to feel your prayers are incomplete? Sounds too good to be true? To some, yes. They would still err on the side of the caution and refrain from praying with the nail polish just because the stakes are too high for them.
Yasmin Ayyad, Zumba instructor at Fusion Fitness For Women, loves that she can finally paint her nails with the Inglot O2M breathable nail color line.
“Considering that prayer is the first thing we will be accountable for on the Day of Judgment, and prayer is incomplete with proper wudu, I’m inclined to skip it,” said Samana Siddiqui from Oak Lawn, Ill. “But I agree that more research needs to be done. We all have varying levels of comfort and if something is halal, we should give others latitude even if we choose to be strict ourselves.” An experiment conducted by one of the students of Mustafa Umar, director of education and outreach with the Islamic Institute
I wouldn’t want to risk having my wudu incomplete in any way— considering all the benefits of a complete wudu. Indeed, only Allah knows best.” —Asima Bhatty
of Orange County in California, (http://mustafaumar.com/2012/11/is-breathable-nailpolish-sufficient-for-wuḍu/) involved putting the O2M polish and a standard polish on coffee filters, letting them both dry, and then putting water drops on top of each and seeing if the moisture seeped through. In the case of the traditional nail polish it did not, but it went through the O2M polish and even wet a second filter below. Umar deems it permissible, while scholar Shaykh Faraz Khan disagrees. However, one must be aware that Umar’s opinion is based on a single student’s test, where variables can easily exist, such as the consistency of mass-produced coffee filters and the painter’s expertise, and not on a scientifically-conducted finding. “There is definitely a lot of interest in the younger generation,” said Bina Raheem who runs Fusion For Women, a wellness and fitness studio in Naperville, Ill. “College students who previously were not wearing any nail color are calling us up and asking for Inglot by name. Ironically, none of our non-Muslim clients have even mentioned it.” And even though the Inglot O2M brand is pricier (about $14 a bottle), there is definitely a demand for it at Fusion, where an Inglot manicure includes their breathable base coat and top coat, too. “Personally, unpainted nails has never been a big issue for me,” Raheem said. “But there are girls that feel ‘deprived’ if they don’t have pretty, painted toes, especially during the summer. I don’t consider myself fit to give a fatwa (religious ruling) about the permissibility. We offer it at Fusion, but it’s a personal decision if someone prays in it or not.” Are there safer alternatives? Henna is one, but you have to apply it several times to get a deep hue and then it starts receding as your nails grow. Until there is more awareness about this brand, seeing women pray with nail color at the mosque, for instance, may confuse children, new Muslims or those who are not familiar with the specifics of this brand. Even after reading up about it, Asima Bhatty from Boston, Mass., is on the fence. “I don’t mind applying and removing nail polish within the same night,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to risk having my wudu incomplete in any way—considering all the benefits of a complete wudu. Indeed, only Allah knows best.”
Kiran Ansari is a writer, editor and new entrepreneur.
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
“It’s about how we conduct our business, how we conduct ourselves in the world,” Durrani said. In Whole Foods supermarkets, the Saffron Road line is first in frozen entrées sales. Within the larger sphere of grocery stores, the brand is sixth as it enjoys 250 percent growth. Success has been achieved through synchronized social media with print, online, retail merchandising, and extending to the blogger community. Can Muslim Americans create In the realm of halal foods, 35 percent of sales are credible halal standards? processed foods and 10 percent in meats, according to Mian Riaz, PhD., director of food and protein at Texas A&M University. This, he said, is not a niche Susan Labadi market anymore, and that 1.5 billion people eat ritually butchered food each day. ood bridges diverse cultures effecAbdalhamid Evans, founder and senior analyst of tively, and it forged bonding at the InterImarat Consultants, further defined the scope of the national Halal Food Conference, hosted by the Islamic halal industries as finding shared values beyond religion. Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) April “They see halal as lawful, safe, nutritious, healthy, humane, dem6-8 in Rosemont, Ill. The event brought a multinational array of onstrating awareness, and equitable,” Evans declared. “These values corporations; among them were Abbott Nutrition, the Coca-Cola have commercial worth, and are described as eco-ethical and moral.” Company, PepsiCo, American Halal Company; Organic Valley; Evans, a global halal expert, knows the multiple facets and defiMcDonald’s Corporation, and others lesser known to the public but nitions of what it means for a product to be “halal.” that have products used by other companies in their formulations. “Halal has different connotations in different parts of the world,” Several public figures from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, Evans said. “There are much nuanced contexts that corporations and food scientists, export agency representatives, entrepreneurs, need to be aware of. Certification as a ‘cottage industry’ is going to and consultants, from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Belgium, Switzerland, end. Halal is big business and on the verge of becoming irrevocably Kuwait, U.A.E., Pakistan and India rounded out the program. sophisticated and complex. Certification is going through changes. The theme of unity was iterated by several presenters who acknowl- Industry is looking for clear standards so there is a checks and baledged that the former stance of protectionism and competition needs ance. They want to see an accreditation industry with transparency.” to be cast away in exchange for transparency, mutual support and The application of the term to the finance industry is not new. “What Islamic Finance needs to do is get more involved in the cooperation. Attending the IFANCA conference were other halal certifying agencies, and ISNA’s Ahmed El-Hattab called for a unifica- real economy,” Evans said. tion of standards and formation of an ISNA Accreditation Board. Investment and financing, he said, should not be sought for gain, IFANCA founder and president, Dr. M. Munir Chaudry, said the but more for building the strength, education, and solid economic objectives of the gathering included import/export requirements; stability for all. Halal then becomes an asset class with indexed introducing Halal entrepreneurship opportunities; presentations funds, venture capital, and micro-finance. on animal welfare; and advice of food safety and security. Emphasizing the need for unity, Hani Al-Mazeedi, expert in Naming brands of their certified products—Cabot Cheese, Baskin halal quality, safety, and services, cited that the initial standards Robbins, and Tom’s of Maine—he expressed that although there are will be guidelines. Mark Overland, director of global certification 8 million Muslims in the U.S. and 1 million in Canada, they are not at Cargill, Inc.—IFANCA’s Company of the Year—mentioned that visible, even though they represent $18 billion in purchasing power. his company has about 200 halal certified plants out of their 800, Adnan Durrani, CEO of the American Halal Company—which based on consumer demand. None are in the U.S. “We should recognize what consumers want, and then deliver markets the hugely successful Saffron Road products—presented that with integrity,” he said and and he has a video with grocery industry magnate Errol echoed the sentiment for unity by advocatSchweizer, senior global grocery coordinaing a council. tor for Whole Foods Market, who says “Saffron Road is the fastest growing brand in Underscoring many speakers was the the frozen category.” impression that business people, researchers, Halal is not a niche Ann Daw, president of the National Assoand religious scholars often have no concept ciation for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. of the realities of each other’s constraints. The market anymore; (NASFT), noted in the video that, “Halal current challenge is to establish trusting relaabout 1.5 billion should be a mainstream concept.” tionships, communication with good will, people eat ritually Durrani said that “Seventy percent of and efforts to find equitable solutions. our [Saffron Road] customers are not even butchered food Susan Labadi is project coordinator of the American Halal Muslim.” Association, president of Genius School, Inc., a professional each day. He has consistently presented Halal as an development company, consultant for the ISNA Education Forum, and VP of ActionNet Trade, Inc. aspect of ethical consumerism.
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Halal and Healthy Is halal enough or should Muslim consumers insist that their food is healthy and nutritious? By Muhammad Munir Chaudry
n the traditional societies, the selection of halal food was easy and straightforward because all food groups except meat were inherently halal. The food was prepared fresh without the addition of any functional ingredients. With the advancement in technology and the search for higher returns on investments, food processing has become rather complex. Halal foods may now contain ingredients from haram and questionable sources. Food labels display a wealth of information for consumers to make the right choices. Muslims now face difficulty in choosing clearly halal products. It has become very important that Muslim consumers understand to read and interpret food labels and gain knowledge of food ingredients. Muslim food laws dictate the requirements for halal that govern the lives of Muslims. Muslim consumers are not only concerned about health and nutrition; they are also concerned about the halal nature of foods they consume. Some of these consumers’ concerns may be philosophical or nutritional choices, whereas others are mandated by their religious convictions. Muslim dietary laws are based on the Quran and Hadith. In the traditional societies, movement of food across the regions was very limited. Muslims generally produced their own foods and consumed them locally. With the advancement in the technology of food production and transportation, more processed food is entering international trade than ever before. Major corporations of the world, with limited knowledge of the requirements of halal, are involved in producing halal foods and marketing to a potential consumer market of 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Two important aspects of the food supply need attention: nutrition and hygiene. The hygiene aspect of the food deal with immediate impact of food on health, and nutritional aspects deal with its long term effects on one’s well-being. In order to keep the food supply safe, the emphasis by food manufacturers and governments has been on quality systems that assure food safety. Manufacturers may use systems like FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), ISO
It has become very important that Muslim consumers understand to read and interpret food labels and gain knowledge of food ingredients. 32
22000, BRP and HACCP (hazard analysis critical control points), in-house quality assurance systems or a combination of various quality systems. The underlying objectives for these procedures being the assurance that not only our food is safe to consume, it is also nutritious. Nutrition is the process by which body utilizes food. Nutrients are chemical substances contained in food which is broken down during digestion. There are more than 50 nutrients known to be required by the body for optimum functioning and good health. The nutrients are broadly classified into carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, minerals, vitamins, and fiber. These nutrients are present in variety of foods and foods are grouped into different classes based on their nutritional composition: milk and dairy group, meat group, vegetable group, fruit group, grains and cereal group, and fats and sweets groups. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has published guidelines for Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) as a guide to healthy eating. The RDAs for each food group are: Bread, Cereal, Pasta group
6 – 11 serving
3 – 5 serving
2 – 4 serving
Milk, Cheese Group
2 – 3 serving
Meat, Poultry and Fish
2 – 3 serving
Fats and Sweets
Islam advocates moderation in eating and consuming a variety of foods. These RDAs are complementary general principles of halal eating. A typical label has the following information: company name, brand, ingredients, net weight, expiry date, nutrition inform per serving, and RDA percentage for key nutrients. General advice for good nutrition: eat a variety of foods; eat in moderation; eat minimally processed foods; eat mostly fruits and vegetables; make fish part of routine diet; avoid too much fat; avoid too much sweet; avoid too much salt; eschew the use of tobacco and alcoholic beverages.
Muhammad Munir Chaudry is president of the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA).
Adapted from IFANCA Educational Program Files 2013. Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Muslims in Action
Muslim Filmmaker Kickstarts Project Lena Khan’s endeavor to make a featurelength film and the challenges of Muslims in Hollywood. By Tasbeeh Herwees
ive days before the Kickstarter campaign was set to end, Lena Khan’s “The Tiger Hunters,” a featurelength film about a Muslim Indian immigrant in 1970s America, had only received a little more than half the minimum goal in pledges. Unless they came up with $15,000 more in donations, Khan and her team would lose the $40,000 they had already secured. In the last harrowing moments of the campaign, her supporters pulled through. “I don’t know if they just felt bad for me or they finally got around to looking at the site, but most of the pledges came in the last four days,” says Khan, laughing. Today, she celebrates the successful Kickstarter campaign for her first feature-length film, before she rushes off to secure more investors and start casting the actors. The Muslim American community may already recognize Khan’s work, even if they may not be familiar with the woman behind the camera. The UCLA film school alumnus is responsible for directing “A Land Called Paradise,” the popular music video for Muslim country singer Kareem Salama’s 2007 single. Since then, she has directed several other music videos and commercials, but “The Tiger Hunters” represents the realization of Khan’s ultimate goal: to direct a feature-length film for a mainstream audience. “The dream was always to make a movie,” said Khan. “I hadn’t planned on doing any of those other things. So this was always the goal at the end.” Khan’s idea for the film came from the stories her father used to tell of his father, a tiger hunter in India. “It was a kind of a time when literally tigers would come into villages and just wreak havoc, and they would kill people and things like that,” Khan said. Before writing the script, Khan conducted interviews with other immigrants who arrived in the U.S. in the 1970s. Several rewrites later, “The Tiger Hunters” was born—the story of Sammy Malik, and the crazy hijinks that ensue when he immigrates to the U.S. Khan is careful about labeling the film a “Muslim movie”—she wants to cater to a mainstream market. “The film’s not about him being Muslim by any means—he’s only Muslim inasmuch as Seinfeld is Jewish,” said Khan. “But still, you don’t see that very often in film.” Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
The fact that Sammy Malik’s faith is incidental is what makes “The Tiger Hunters” special. This past Oscars season, two of the most critically-acclaimed films—“Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty”—both featured prominent Muslim characters. But they weren’t the kind of characters Muslims were happy to see on the big screen. In both films, Muslims are featured as terrorists. In “Argo,” they were the Iranian hostage takers of the 1980s; in “Zero Dark Thirty,” Muslims were detained and tortured as Al Qaeda terrorists in the search for Osama bin Laden. As the filmmakers lobbied for Oscar nominations, they received criticism from the Muslim, Iranian and Arab communities. Journalist and author Rachel Shabi scathingly called the films “Islamophobic” in a column for The Guardian. Mondoweiss published several tweets from moviegoers who said the films made them “hate Muslims.” In response, “Argo” director Ben Affleck and “Zero Dark Thirty” director Kathryn Bigelow deflected criticism that their Muslim characters were one-dimensional and unsympathetic. Deanna Nassar, the Hollywood liaison at the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, says Affleck and Bigelow are probably not out to perpetuate negative stereotypes of Muslims, even if they do. “I don’t think it’s simple as people wanting to reinforce stereotypes for some political agenda,” said Nassar. “I think that people aren’t generally that sinister.” The problem, says Nassar, is two-fold: Hollywood filmmakers often don’t have the resources or knowledge to develop more interesting roles for Muslims in cinema. Additionally, says Nassar, Muslims tend to be “risk-averse” in their career choices. Only recently, she says, have young Muslims started to see “the link between image-makers and the policies that result from the images.” MPAC has held a Young Leaders’ Hollywood Summit for the past three years, and throughout those years Nassar says she has seen a notable increase in applicants. “Had there been more Muslims involved in those stories, they would have been better stories, in my mind, no doubt,” said Nassar. “Because they would’ve added a perspective that was glaringly missing.” Khan’s career in several production companies has shown her much of the same. The films that big Hollywood studios make are not diverse because Hollywood is not diverse. But she says even if they won’t make them, they might buy them, as many saw with the indie film “Amreeka,” about a Palestinian immigrant to the U.S. “That’s not ‘Spiderman’ but millions of people saw that movie,” said Khan. She hopes studios will see the same potential in “The Tiger Hunters,” but not because it’s a “Muslim movie”—but because it’s a good movie. “I hope at some point I can move beyond being ‘the Muslim Filmmaker,’” said Khan. “I don’t know that my next film will necessarily have a Muslim in it. I’m not sure.”
Tasbeeh Herwees is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles.
Muslims in Action
Finding a Home and Joining Hearts It was truly an interfaith effort: the bishops of United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Diocese wrote to the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California in support of its member: the ICTV. The Progressive Jewish Alliance brought together dozens of rabbis to speak out in support of the mosque.
California Muslims forge ahead to live their dream in the face of Islamophobic attacks. Islamic Horizons Staff
he much-debated Islamic Center of Temecula Valley is finally building. And it has brought up both the good and bad in the area’s larger community. The five-member planning commission gave unanimous approval in December 2010, and city of Temecula officials attended the groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 28, 2012. Construction started December last year on the $4.2 million project being built in two phases. The first phase includes the 4,000 sq. ft. multipurpose room that will also serve as a mosque until the traditional mosque is built. The two-story 24,943-sq. ft. center is located on a 4.32 acre lot next door to a Baptist church in the Nicolas Valley, a rural area in the city’s northeast corner. Ahead of that vote, however, the project was heatedly debated by Southwest County residents for months, coinciding with similar protests targeting mosque projects in New York and Tennessee. Temecula Mayor Jeff Comerchero had expressed disdain over the opposition to the mosque. “We’re very protective of the image of the city. Generally it’s a very positive image and it helps us in terms of our economic development,” Comerchero said. Past president and currently construction committee chairman Hadi Nael said Muslims worked through more than six years of city proceedings and intense opposition from the local Islamophobes creating hurdles on excuses such as concerns about traffic and the size of the project. In a tale so common to most Islamic communities, before securing permission to build, Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
prayers were held in area homes, a local business park, and most lately in a commercial space. Nael, a mechanical engineer turned business consultant, says the community started in 1998 with five Muslim families. Today, he estimates that there are more than 275 families in the Temecula-Murrieta area. Southern California’s Temecula Valley, spread over 35,000 acres, is centrally located and within an hour’s drive from San Diego, Orange County or the Palm Springs area, and just 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The second phase, which includes a traditional mosque—with two 43-ft. tall minarets—and space for classrooms, will be about 20,000 square feet, and could be finished by 2015, provided they raise enough money. The on-going construction includes excavation work for next phase. The mosque leaders are confident that the activity on the lot will spur donations. In 2010, upon learning of the mosque’s application, some residents banded together to try to kill the project. The opposition included rallies, protests and public dialogues about Islam, and the usual misleading and inflammatory accusations. A January 2011 protest obliged the city council to rule on the planning commission’s December 2010 decision. After an eight-hour session that started at 7 p.m. and ended at past 3 a.m., the council voted unanimously to reject the appeal. It was truly an interfaith effort: the bishops of United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Diocese wrote to the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California in support of its member: the ICTV. The Progressive Jewish Alliance brought together dozens of rabbis to speak out in support of the mosque. “As a citizen, I am somewhat ashamed and somewhat flabbergasted by the rhetoric I Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
heard,” said City Commissioner John Telesio, a longtime Temecula resident, after the hearing. “I’ve got holes in my tongue from biting it from some of the things I heard. Ignorance of the facts breeds fear, fear breeds hatred and I hope that’s an anomaly.” Concerned about Murfreesboro, Tenn., where opposition to the mosque included arson, vandalism and court battles, the center has 24-hour security and video cameras. The Islamophobic forces have not reconciled. The Huffington Post reported that George Rombach, a Temecula resident and co-founder of a group called Concerned American Citizens for The First Amendment (CACFA), which opposed the mosque, has said, “This is not stopping with this appeal if things don’t go our way.” Jim Horn, a Menifee-based author of a book that derides the Sharia, told The North County Times that residents who fought the mosque project on grounds that it would create a traffic mess and worked to share their concerns about Islam will continue to nonviolently share their message as the project moves forward. Horn’s fellow CACFA member, Steve Klein, argues that Islam does not qualify for protection under the Constitution. Klein served as the consultant for a film called “Innocence of Muslims.” Nael has worked hard to build bridges with neighbor Bill Wrench, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. Muslims, part of the mosaic, says Nael, have “developed a mutual trust. They [the larger community] would ask me to do something, and it got done.” For Nael, the opposition was unexpected. “I am proud American citizen, and originally from Lebanon, where Muslims and Christians get along together for centuries and help each other. So I was caught by surprise. A small group can make a loud
noise, but the majority of the Temecula Valley community are very supportive of building the mosque.” He is all praise for the city hall, along with the police and sheriff ’s department, and school districts in Temecula and Murrieta.
To donate: Routing Number: 121000248 Account number: 3214553970, Islamic Center of Temecula Valley. Or, mail a check to ICTV (Memo Section: Land Development). ICTV, 26820 Hobie Circle, A. Murrieta, CA 92562
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Muslims in Action
Muslim Women's Art Goes Online
By Amanda Quraishi
& Voices.” The exclusively online collection features visual, audio and written works by Muslim women from around the globe, highlighting the diversity of our international sisterhood. The website is searchable by the location of the artists or by subject matter. Topics include Power, Faith, Leadership and Myth, making this collection about far more than just traditional “female topics” that Muslim women are often relegated to in other forums. “We are inspired by the courage and creativity of Muslim women around the world,” says Catherine King, IMOW’s interim executive director. “Our hope is that this exhibition will foster a dialogue between Muslim women and the larger community of women and men of all backgrounds who are working for tolerance, equality and justice.” Renowned Muslim author and feminist activist Samina Ali was brought on board to help curate the collection. Ali has spent more than a decade engaged in interfaith dialogue with a strong focus on women’s issues. She believes that the inherent equality of men and women, which is part of the Quranic narrative, must be revived and stripped of the power, politics and patriarchy that has kept Muslim women in a secondary role in their families and societies for centuries. Ali believes that “Muslima” represents a great opportunity for Muslim women to define themselves individually and as a diverse collective. While a substantial amount of art is currently displayed, the exhibit will eventually become much larger and even more diverse. Because IMOW is an
Courtesy of Maria Bashir
n March 8, the online International Museum of Women (IMOW) launched a groundbreaking new exhibit titled “Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Courtesy of Maria Bashir
1. “Hands of Fatima” by Laila Shawa, included in IMOW’s online exhibition at muslima.imow.org. 2. “Target Wall of Gaza 1,”by Palestinian artist Laila Shawa, included in the International Museum of Women’s online exhibition at muslima.imow.org. 3. “The Look IV,” from Italian artist Boushra Almutawakel’s “Hijab Series,” included in the International Museum of Women’s online exhibition at muslima.imow.org. 4. Maria Bashir, an Afghan female public prosecutor from Herat province, featured in IMOW’s online exhibition at muslima.imow.org. Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Courtesy of Shirin Ebadi
Amanda Quraishi is a Austin, Tex.-based blogger, interfaith activist, and technology professional: AmandaQuraishi.com
online museum, curators are able to accept submissions in a wide range of media types. Over the next nine months, additional works will be added on an ongoing basis. Women from around the world have been invited to submit their work online, where it will live on indefinitely as part of the museum. Curators hope to receive video, photography, art, fiction, multimedia, poetry, and audio with personal stories offering a global perspective on what it means to be a Muslim woman. One of the ways “Muslima” promotes this process of crowd-sourced self-definition is through a section of the exhibit that asks visitors to submit a six-word answer to the question, “What does it mean to be a Muslim Woman today?” Answers ranged from the inspirational to the esoteric: “Fluid. Flying High By Staying Grounded” or “I am the Salafi Feminist,” for example. Submissions may also include a backstory to expand on the six-word descriptions, as well as personal photos. Visitors to the exhibit can get involved by signing the petition titled, “Speak Up, Listen Up” at muslima.imow.org. Ali hopes to get 5,000 signatures from individuals willing to support the pledge which reads: “I pledge to support the efforts of Muslim women and others worldwide who are leading the movement for a more just, equitable, and inclusive world. I will speak out against negative stereotypes about Muslim women and encourage others to truly listen to their voices.” Now, more than ever, Muslim women seek to define themselves, taking back the public narrative from the individuals and institutions who have sought to impose unrealistic ideals and patriarchal constraints on them for too long. Samina Ali and her team of curators at the International Museum of Women are on a mission to create a place where Muslim women can do just that. Art has a truly profound effect on those who view it. It can reach across divides of race, culture, economics, language, and religion and touch another person’s heart and mind when other forms of communication fail. “Muslima” is much more than just a collection of aesthetically pleasing, culturally infused paintings and photos. It is beautiful in its diversity, disturbing in its honesty, passionate, powerful, and utterly frank about the state of Muslim womanhood.
5. An untitled calligraphy piece by Serbian artist Azra Hamzagic, included in the International Museum of Women’s online exhibition at muslima.imow.org. 6. Website button featuring art by Helen Zughaib (230 px by 410 px). Please link to muslima. imow.org. 7. From Iranian artist Shadi Ghadirian’s series “Nil, Nil,” included in the International Museum of Women’s online exhibition at muslima.imow.org. 8. Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi, featured in IMOW’s online exhibition at muslima.imow.org.
Muslims in Action
Dr. Mohammed Saleem
Dr. Aisha Sherazi
Soaring Young Canadian Muslims Can Muslim Canadians inspire communities across the continent in providing quality and affordable education? By Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan
hree Muslim schools in Ontario have done Canadian Muslims proud: the schools follow the regular Ontario curriculum but add Quran, Islam and Arabic to foster their religious values. According to the Fraser Institute, a national independent public policy thinktank that assesses the province’s 2,714 elementary schools, and also high schools, annually, Abraar School this year was Ottawa’s top elementary school for reading, writing and math scores with 9.4 marks out of 10. It tied for 41st place in the province. It did so, moreover, without state funding. Additionally, teachers and staff there
Abraar School 38
work for far less than the provincial norm. While most private schools charge fees of Canadian $8,000 to $15,000 annually, Abraar charges less than Canadian $4,000 to ensure students are not excluded for financial reasons. The data came from tests conducted under the Ontario government’s Education Quality and Accountability Office. It is a tribute to what one can achieve through dedication, hard work and innovation in a welcoming, democratic society. School Principal Mohammed Saleem said the dedication of teachers and support of the Muslim Association of Canada produced the achievement. MAC, which owns the school, is a national nonprofit organization
Rabbi Reuven Bulka
that seeks to further Muslims’ educational and spiritual development within Canada’s social fabric and culture. It believes in serving every community regardless of faith or background. MAC also runs Al Furqan at Abraar School, where 280 students learn the Quran and Islam. MAC also owns the Olive Grove School in Mississauga and it did even better— chosen the top school in that city, securing 16th place in the province and 9.9 marks out of 10. Abdullatif Bakbak, the principal, asserted that the school seeks to provide education that exceeds the expectations of the provincial curriculum and encourages character building and healthy living. The school was started in 2006 and now has 600 students. Both schools have waiting lists. Abraar started 11 years ago, has 348 students and seeks to expand to grades 9 and 10 next year. It also runs a daycare center for 24 students. Abraar School has always enjoyed an excellent reputation. However, a controversy arose when in 2005 uproar erupted over an essay written by a student of Palestinian origin, whose family had been uprooted from their homes. The article was considered derogatory of Jews. Ontario’s then education minister Gerard Kennedy ordered an
Islamic Foundation School Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Our emphasis is on excellence in scholarship as well as moral and spiritual development.” —Yahya Qureshi, principal Islamic Foundation investigation because Canadian laws prohibit promotion of hate against any group. The then school principal Dr. Aisha Sherazi took immediate action defusing the crisis. Rabbi Reuven Bulka praised her and was deeply moved when he learned that Sherazi worked without remuneration as a community service. Saleem, who joined as principal last year, brought a new perspective. He has lived in various states in the U.S., served as principal of an Islamic school in Oklahoma, did his PhD from Wisconsin and is on the executive committee of the Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA). Another Islamic school, however, did even better. The Islamic Foundation of Scarborough’s Islamic Foundation School scored 10 out of 10 and shared first position with 14 other schools in the province. School Principal Yahya Qureshi credited teachers and parents for their devotion that led to the pupils excelling in “all areas of growth and development.” The school was started 17 years ago and is regularly ranked among the top 10 schools in Ontario. It has 600 students from kindergarten to Grade 10. For the past four years the school has achieved a 100 percent success rate on the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test for Grade 10. Students in other grades have also done well. One Grade 3 student secured second place nationally by getting a score of 24 out of 25 in mathematics. Two students were included in the top 25 leadership candidates in the international competition conducted by the Bentley College in Boston. “Our alumni are well equipped to excel in any academic or professional arena that they wish to pursue,” Qureshi says. “Our emphasis is on excellence in scholarship as well as moral and spiritual development.” Not all Islamic or private schools are this successful. Most Canadians prefer public schools, which are free until high school and also enable students to meet with Canadians Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
of diverse backgrounds from an early age. But some Christians, Jews, Muslims and others have established private schools to provide higher quality of education, safeguard cultural values and raise secure, balanced children who, on graduation, blend
in better with fellow Canadians. In several schools, this is working out nicely.
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan, a Canadian journalist, is a retired civil servant and refugee judge. He has received the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario and the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals.
The Muslim community of Cedar Rapids, Iowa is seeking a qualified Imam to lead this diverse community. The potential candidate must have the following qualifications: · Formal degree in Islamic Studies from a recognized Islamic institution. · Comprehensive knowledge of the Quran, Hadith and Fiqh. · Complete fluency in English and excellent communication skills · Ability to communicate effectively with all age groups (children, youth, and adults). · Proficiency in moderate level computer skills. · Hafiz-e-Quran highly preferred. · Ability to lead da’wah and interfaith activities. · 5-10 years of previous experience as an Imam or Director in the United States. ICCR offers an attractive compensation package including housing, utilities, family health insurance and vacation. Interested individuals should submit their resume with salary history and references to: email@example.com or mail to: The Chairman Selection Committee, ICCR P.O. Box 8446 • Cedar Rapids, IA 52408
Electronic Funds Transfer — A good deed done regularly! You can make a significant impact on the quality of ISNA’s services by contributing through EFT. As little as $10 per month will help ISNA to serve the Muslim American community through effective communication to media organizations, government and civic agencies on behalf of all Muslim Americans.
Sign up today to donate through EFT. www.isna.net/donate 39
Politics and Society
Gun Violence: A Muslim Issue Can Muslim Americans join their voices to shape a safer America? By Ruth Nasrullah
n Dec.12, 2012, in the silent moments after the gunfire, as the sirens of first responders neared, the story of Sandy Hook Elementary School began—a tragic story of 20 children and six adults killed by a stranger with an assault rifle. It was a story that would bring public discourse on issues surrounding gun violence to an urgent state. The Newtown, Conn. shooting reopened the debate about gun violence in America. It wasn’t—unfortunately—the country’s first mass shooting, but its viciousness, the young age of the victims and the type of weapon the shooter used rekindled arguments about the use and availability of guns, especially automatic weapons of the sort the Newtown killer used. Voices were raised on all aspects of gun-related issues. Among those were Muslim American voices.
Interfaith activism and advocacy A week after the shooting, the Newtown community held an interfaith service attended by President Obama and led by leaders of multiple faith traditions. Among the faith leaders was Jason Graves, director of youth affairs at Newtown’s Al Hedaya Islamic Center. “It is in such times of almost unbearable loss that we seek comfort with our creator,”
Graves said at the service. “And that artificial divisions of faith fall away to reveal a nation of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all united in a desire to bring healing and renewed hope. So let us all, of every faith, of every background, pray for God’s comfort at this time of heartbreaking tragedy.” ISNA, which is a member of Faith United to Prevent Gun Violence as well as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, also responded to the tragedy and has been a leader in interfaith efforts to address gun violence prevention. On Dec. 21, nine days after Newtown, ISNA president Imam Mohamed Magid joined with other national religious leaders at the Washington National Cathedral calling for an end to gun violence. “Our nation has seen so many incidents where innocent lives have been taken,” said Magid. “But our national conscience was
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Muslim activists consistently point out that it’s not enough to wait until there’s a major tragedy to take action regarding gun violence, that it is incumbent on every American, and that insularity does not benefit anyone.
shaken when we saw photographs of the beautiful children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “We call on the thousands of mosques nationwide to have sermons on the issue of gun violence, asking their congregations to call on their representatives to bring about a solution to end gun violence in America.” In Seattle, Wash., another group of religious leaders came together to call on legislators to enact stricter gun control laws. On Jan.13 of this year, “StandUp Washington,” a march and rally by gun control proponents was held. Among the religious leaders supporting the event was Abdullah Polovina, an imam active in the Seattle Bosnian community. “We as people of faith should do something, because I think there are some issues in our society that we cannot leave to politicians,” Polovina says. “We need to act and
raise concern, not just to politicians but to all people of conscience.” He additionally notes that Muslims like himself and his Bosnian compatriots, who have experienced war and violence in their countries of origin, have a special sensitivity when assault weapons are concerned. “We know the meaning [of gun violence], not just for one hour or one day but for years,” he says.
Legislation Janice Tufte, another Seattle Muslim, has been an active participant in promoting gun control legislation. She spoke at a February rally organized by the Faith Action Network, an advocacy organization whose work includes promoting legislation on a variety of issues—gun control among them. They have specifically supported state bill HB1588, which calls for universal back-
ground checks for all gun sales, among other provisions. Other state legislatures, including New York, Massachusetts, Florida and Colorado, have proposed or enacted gun control measures. Organizations such as the National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gunrelated lobbying organization, traditionally view gun control measures as contrary to citizens’ rights to gun ownership. Tufte disagrees, and calls on the Muslim community to increase its involvement with the greater community to move toward enacting laws such as bans on assault weapons. “School shootings involving children are horrific acts of violence incomprehensible to our communities,” she says. “These recent school shootings challenge our moral compass, making us ask why. It is imperative that gun owners be held responsible for keeping their firearms safely locked up, away from
Gun Violence and Mental Health There is reason to be concerned about the effects of mental illness on violent crime, but are we focusing on the wrong issues? By Fatima Ashraf
dmit it: every time there are reports of a mass shooting in the U.S., Muslims hope and pray that the perpetrator is not a Muslim. In shock for the victims’ families, Muslims are nervous for their own safety, and desperately want to know the perpetrator is not one of their own. Interestingly, the recent wave of mass shootings from Aurora, Co., to Newton, Conn., were carried out by white males, American-born and raised, with no direct or obvious or stated Muslim connection. None of these events were immediately labeled as terrorist acts, there were no related uprisings in the Middle East, and “Jihad” Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Associating violent crime with mental illness, risks stigmatizing people even further, and discourages them from seeking help, and risks perpetuating fellow humans’ silent suffering.
was not uttered once. What a relief, right? Wrong. The recent shootings are troublesome because of the threat they pose to everyday safety but also because of the implied causal relationship between gun violence and mental health that has invaded national discourse. This coupling of the two issues unfairly removes any conversation of malicious intent when the convicted shooter is of a particular background; and stigmatizes those suffering from mental illness as potentially dangerous and violent beings. 41
Politics and Society any available access to children, unstable individuals and burglars.”
More important than foreign policy In Philadelphia—where more than 300 murders occur annually, according to FBI statistics—freelance writer and community college professor Margari Aziza Hill sees the city’s high murder rate reflected in the Muslim community as well as the greater community. She is collecting data on the subject, hoping to get a clearer picture of how gun violence affects her city’s Muslim community. Such data is especially important because government agencies don’t track the religion of crime victims. Hill describes a depressingly high number of janazah services she has attended for victims of gun violence. She has relatives and neighbors who have been shot. Muslims, she notes, are not immune to urban violence.
Gun violence in America, however, is much larger than the handful of mass shootings that have recently catapulted the issue into the spotlight. Most of gun violence in this country takes place in low-income urban centers, predominantly communities of color. Only 3 months into 2012, Chicago saw 114 murders—a record 35 percent increase from 2011. According to the Chicago Police Department, some 3,000 people were shot in the city in 2012. Shootings are an everyday occurrence in Chicago with most of perpetrators being from racial and ethnic minority groups. In these hundreds of cases of gun violence, the blame is directed at gangs, drugs, poverty, joblessness, and cuts to law enforcement. These are likely valid reasons. However, mental health is rarely mentioned, even though the stressful and traumatic conditions under which many of these perpetrators live predispose them to a variety of mental illnesses. The mental health discussion, however, is not seriously addressing mental illness but is being used to cover up the country’s racial and socioeconomic bias when it comes to gun violence. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a quarter of adults in the U.S. suffer from one or more mental disorders. Does it mean that 25 percent of the population is likely to commit mass murders? The current rhetoric that pairs gun violence and 42
“Inner city Muslims really need to address street violence and gun violence because they’re just as affected,” says Hill. While many Muslims Americans are rightly concerned about issues overseas, Hill urges us not to forget about issues in our own cities. “Many of our masajid are in high gun violence areas and we have to begin to become part of the solution,” she says. “Whether we
ISNA has been working to address gun violence and mental health issues through the interfaith coalitions Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence and the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, which recently published Grounded in Faith: Resources on Mental Illness and Gun Violence. ISNA has also partnered with American Muslim Health Professionals and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships for a webinar series on mental health for the Muslim community. mental illness comes dangerously close to calling anyone with Asperger’s Syndrome or depression a cold-hearted killer. Mental illness is already so socially stigmatized that it’s severely underreported, underdiagnosed, and undertreated, according to a 2012 research study by the Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow, Scotland. Associating violent crime to mental illness, risks stigmatizing people even further, discourages them from seeking help, and risks perpetuating fellow humans’ silent suffering.
work as mediators to help diffuse violence or on economic development and promoting policies that help reduce gun violence.” Imam Polovina echoes this sentiment, and mentions an indirect benefit for Muslims to speak out about gun-related issues. “Working together with our governmental leaders is a good opportunity for us to show that we are not violent,” he says. “That we truly believe that through peaceful, moderate, controlled ways of solving problems we can be of help.”
Act before it happens Muslim activists consistently point out that it’s not enough to wait until there is a major tragedy to take action regarding gun violence, that it is incumbent on every American, and that insularity does not benefit anyone.
Ruth Nasrullah is a Houston-based freelance writer.
The inability to examine gun violence and mental health thoroughly and independently may result in discriminatory policies and incomplete reforms. Muslims can help prevent this by starting to openly discuss mental health and gun violence—together and separately—in their own communities and become advocates for these issues. Muslims are not immune from suffering from mental illness, so why the silence on the subject? Muslim communities need to build support structures that do not stigmatize those with depression or autism or schizophrenia. These conditions must be recognized for what they are—common, real problems— and be incorporated into education, counseling, and support services in mosques and schools. Muslims certainly live in neighborhoods where gun violence is a problem. Instead of cowering in fear, they can join organizations and groups striving against guns and against violence in disadvantaged communities. For instance, after every shooting, Chicago’s Cure Violence (cureviolence.org) rallies hundreds of people to denounce violence and make a bold statement that violence will not be tolerated. A Muslim presence at such events would not go unnoticed.
Fatima Ashraf is former senior policy advisor for health and education to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Where was Humanity Can Muslim Americans help remind fellow beings about finding humanity instead of blaming things on God? By Abubakar N. Kasim
ome, even Muslims, are asking where God was in the face of calamities such the Newtown, Conn. Tragedy. This only shows how arrogant we as humans have become. Human beings always try to avoid responsibility and personal accountability. When things go wrong, they tend to blame it on others, rarely blaming themselves for failing to do their part — to do anything — to stop the crime from happening. Upon hearing such horrific news, and there are many, instead of asking where were humans and what had happened to their feelings and why hadn’t they done something to stop what was happening, some not only ask “Where was God when this happened,” but also “where was He when he/she/they died?” In India, a 23-year old college student died on Dec. 29 as a result of injuries suffered in a gang rape attack in New Delhi, the capital city. As reported in the New York Times (Dec. 29, 2012), revulsion and anger over the rape have galvanized India, where women regularly face sexual harassment and assault, and where neither the police nor the judicial system is seen as adequately protecting them. The government was obliged to fly her to Singapore but she could not survive. Doesn’t one need to ask where is humanity that is leading to purchasing frenzy for guns that are civilian version of the M16 rifle? And where is humanity when gun manufacturers are generating $4 billion in commercial gun and ammunition sales? With an estimated 300 million guns, America is, by far, the most heavily armed nation in the world. And the gun buying Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
spree continues: Newport, Conn. has only added to the impetus. Instead of asking where was God, it was more appropriate to ask where are the police, politicians and conscious citizens and why haven’t they done something to stop this dangerous violence? We should ask instead, where is the human being in the face of the many human caused calamities around the world? Where is his conscious? What went wrong with him, what had happened to his compassion and care, his feelings and concerns toward others? Why has he become so selfish and will care less even if he/she hears someone crying for help as what had happened recently in New York on Dec. 4, 2012 when a man was pushed to the subway tracks where he was crushed to his death by the incoming train? There were hundreds of people on the platform waiting for the train, as reported in the media, and no one had done anything to help him. Shamefully, there was a journalist in the vicinity who instead of helping the victim, pulled out his camera and took a picture of the helpless man so that he might perhaps
Asking where God is at a time of a tragedy also shows weakness in faith.
win an award for the best picture of the year! What have we become as humans? And on Dec. 20, a 31-year New Yorker sent a man to his death by pushing him into an oncoming subway train in Queens, N.Y., declaring that her hate of Muslims and Hindus led her to murder — the victim was raised as a Hindu. If Charles Darwin was alive today, he would have likely changed his theory of evolution. Instead of going through progression in our evolution process as his theory stipulatess — from being monkey and turning into humans — perhaps he would have changed the theory altogether after seen how pathetic, selfish we have turned into. He might have concluded that instead of going up on the ladder, we are falling downward and sinking to the bottom of the ocean and becoming low of the lowest until we eventually turn into monkeys. Questioning the existence of God in the face of a calamity shows a high level of arrogance and ignorance at the same time. A wise person should instead point the finger of blame to himself and herself and his fellow humans. At the December 2012, Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) conference in Toronto, Ont., Canada, Dr. Abdal Hakim Jackson pointed out that in the entire Muslim history, even throughout the Mongol invasions and the calamities that it brought upon the Ummah, “Where was God?” and “How can we continue to believe in God?” were never questions that were asked in the Muslim philosophical/theological literature, unlike the Jewish tradition after the Holocaust (i.e. the idea of putting God on trial, etc.). The injustices happening around the world including massacres in Syria and elsewhere bring shame to each and every one of us. While we have succeeded to land on the moon, we have lost our sense of humanity altogether and have failed to establish a common link of understanding between ourselves as we have also failed to take care of each other as a human family. Asking where God is at a time of a tragedy also shows weakness in faith. We forget that life is full of tests and tribulations. It is not all about the life of this world as we see it. There is much more to the picture. Sooner than later we leave this world and move on to another face and another stage which is more permanent and has a lengthier span of life than the life we are familiar with as faith tell us.
Abubakar N. Kasim is a freelance writer from Toronto, Canada.
Politics and Society
Inhuman and Degrading Muslims utilize Torture Awareness Month to sensitize fellow Americans to unite against cruelty. By Paz Artaza-Regan
very June, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), alongside many human rights and faith groups, marks Torture Awareness Month. Why in June? Because the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) was enacted on June 26, 1987. In 1997, the UN commemorated CAT’s 10th anniversary, and declared June 26 the International Day of Support of Victims of Torture. President Ronald Reagan signed CAT in 1988 and the U.S. Senate ratified the Convention in 1994. By ratifying CAT, the U.S. agreed to the commitment: “No exceptional
circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, international political instability or any other public emergency may be invoked as justification for torture.” However, after 9/11, in its War on Terror, the U.S., despite being a CAT signatory, tolerated the CIA and military interrogators using torture on detainees captured in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other nations. In 2013, as a nation, we are still trying to heal the deep wounds caused by U.S.sponsored torture. For more than three years, the Senate Intelligence Committee conducted an investigation into CIA torture. This investigation, the most thorough that has yet been done into CIA torture, has been reported to detail how the use of torture was not conducive to our national security.
Torture wounds the soul of the perpetrator, the victim, and inflicts great moral harm on our society. 44
The Committee, which adopted the 6,000-page report last December, is still undecided about making it public. However, in order to ensure that U.S.-sponsored torture never happens again, the public needs the facts. The NRCAT is also concerned about torture in U.S. prisons and the overuse of prolonged solitary confinement. The U.S. is a world leader in holding prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement, where a prisoner is confined alone in a small cell for up to 23 hours per day, allowed to exercise alone for the remaining hour. There are 44 state-run super-max prisons and one federal super-max prison—each of which holds inmates exclusively in solitary confinement. At least 80,000 people in the U.S. criminal justice system are held in solitary confinement on any given day. The UN considers anything over 15 days in solitary confinement to be torture. Torture is illegal, immoral and counterproductive. Yet, a recent poll showed that almost half of respondents accept torture as either sometimes or always justified (YouGov poll, December 2012). Healing a culture of torture requires people to truly embody our common belief in the inherent Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
NAIT Invites Candidates For Two Positions in Chicago Headquarter The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) is a waqf, serving Muslims in the United States and their institutions. NAIT supports and provides services to ISNA, MSA, their affiliates, and other Islamic centers and institutions. NAIT is a not-for-profit entity, governed by its Board of Trustees. The President of ISNA is an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees of NAIT.
This year’s theme for Torture Awareness month is “Healing a Culture of Torture,” encompassing the need to reflect, pray, and act about the deep physical and spiritual harm caused by torture. NRCAT has prepared a Torture Awareness Month toolkit available on its website (www.nrcat.org/june2013) with bulletin inserts, prayers, litanies, and a downloadable poster. During Torture Awareness Month, NRCAT will highlight the need to: • Urge the Senate Intelligence Committee to release its 6,000page report on CIA torture. • Share the report of the Task Force on Detainee Treatment of The Constitution Project, a high-level bipartisan report on U.S.-sponsored torture. • Encourage people of faith to learn the facts about prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, including the placement of youth in solitary. • Urge people of faith and religious institutions to participate in NRCAT’s efforts to end the use of prolonged solitary confinement. To help plan for June’s Torture Awareness Month activities, visit www. nrcat.org/june2013 to download the Torture Awareness Toolkit and for ideas and materials to mark the month.
dignity of each human being by ensuring that torture never happens, either abroad or in our prisons and detention centers. NRCAT is working to ensure that we, as a nation, learn the facts about torture in U.S. prisons, as well as the facts about torture of 9/11 detainees is made public. Through vigils, educational forums, letters-to-editor campaigns, programs in congregations and other activities, we aim to raise the nation’s consciousness about torture as a moral issue that must be addressed in public policy.
Paz Artaza-Regan is the director for program and outreach of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Manager – Waqf Development
Raise funds for NAIT’s Waqf services to Islamic Centers.
Manage NAIT services and programs to achieve NAIT’s services to Muslim community.
Core Considerations: • Capability of fund raising in diverse settings, especially as a follow up to a Jumuah khutbah or a khaterah. • History of working with grass-roots organizations and volunteers. • Islamic mindset.
Core Considerations: • Corporate, business, and legal skills. • Ability to effectively relate with the diverse Muslim leadership and communities across all schools of thought and ethnicities. • History of working with grass-roots organizations and volunteers. • Islamic mindset.
Responsibilities: • Educate Muslim community about Waqf tradition. • Develop a strategic plan to achieve funding priorities for NAIT. • Cultivate, solicit, and steward support from donors; potential individual and institutional donors. • Focus on acquiring donations from face-to-face contact with small groups of major potential donors. • Engage with appropriate decision-makers for corporations, foundations, planned giving, trust, estates, real estate, and other tangible assets. • Give Jumuak Khutbahs and Khaterahs at Masajid.
Responsibilities: • Educate Muslim community about Waqf tradition. • Promote Islamic centers’ participation in NAIT’s Waqf program and Islamic Centers Cooperative Fund (ICCF). • Visit Islamic centers to promote NAIT services. • Provide regulatory and quasi-legal guidance to Islamic centers. • Attend to Corporate matters (including States’ Filings). • Engage with outside counsels defending lawsuits targeting Islamic centers. • Interact with NAIT Board of Trustees . • Step up in the absence of the Executive Director.
Qualifications & Experience: • Bachelor›s degree • At least three years’ experience in fundraising, sales, and/or marketing. • Skilled in raising money, cultivating donors, and organizing events. • Proficient in the Waqf legacy of Muslims, and its role in the growing Muslim community of the USA. • Bi-lingual (or multi-lingual) speaking ability • Able to travel extensively • Demonstrated communication, organizational, and people skills. • Committed to abide by the best charitable giving guidelines and donors’ stipulations.
Qualifications & Experience: • Law (preferably) or Masters’ degree in Business • At least ten years’ experience in public dealings • At least five years’ experience in Muslim community/ college organization • Preferably five years’ experience in Legal matters • Exposure to real estate and securities industry • Skilled in preliminary investment analysis • Public Speaking & writing skills • Able to visit communities in the United States • Demonstrated communication, organizational, and people skills.
Respond to the General Manager/Executive Director.
Respond to the Executive Director and NAIT Board of Trustees.
Compensation: Commensurate with competence; will include health insurance for family.
Compensation: Commensurate with competence; will include health insurance for family.
Send Resume to mcheema@NAIT.net and Chairman@NAIT.net • These positions are full time jobs, requiring all successful applicants to work out of NAIT’s headquarter office in Oak Brook suburb of Chicago, Illinois. • Successful applicants will receive competitive salary and benefits. Pay is commensurate with education, skills and experience. • NAIT is a religious, not-for-profit organization which serves Muslim communities across North America. Successful applicants for these positions would be practicing Muslim with a high level of integrity and commitment to the American Muslim community and Islam. CONTACT Interested persons should email a comprehensive resume stating education, work history, references, and salary requirements along with a cover letter and copies of relevant academic certificates to: mcheema@NAIT.net and chairman@NAIT.net OR mail to: Mujeeb Cheema, Executive Director, North American Islamic Trust, 721 Enterprise Drive, Oak Brook, IL 60523. 45
Politics and Society
Judge David Shaheed
Judge Halim Dhanidina
Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin
Muslim Americans in Public Office Can Muslim Americans show their mettle in public service? By Zahra Cheema
aith was the reason for David Shaheed, an Indiana superior court judge, to enter public life. “I was primarily motivated by the image of Islam in the world” he says, noting that this was a time before the events of 9/11. He wanted to challenge misconceptions about Islam and Muslims by giving people an opportunity to know a Muslim. “One of the things I was able to figure out is that a lot of people don’t come to the mosque to learn about Islam, but if you run for public office, they want to know what you’re about,” he says. “I saw that political involvement and running for office was an opportunity to engage people and have people know what a Muslim was like, and what they thought, and what it was like to be around them.” When Halim Dhanidina was appointed as a superior court judge in California, he made headlines as the state’s first Muslim American judge, and soon after started receiving hate mail. “I never considered myself to be controversial,” he says. “Certainly as an applicant for this position, based on my qualifications, I thought it was a completely non-controversial appointment, but really it had everything to do with me being identified as a Muslim that has created this controversy.” Dhanidina says that some of the fear comes from the assumption by some that a Muslim judge cannot uphold American laws because they are beholden to another set of laws. “At the moment, since there are so few of us [Muslim judges], I feel that a lot of people out of ignorance will have these worries about how the American justice system is going to be corrupted by the participation of Muslims,” he says. However, he believes that when more Muslims become judges, these fears will diminish. In the meantime, he is doing all he can to increase his visibility by never turning down speaking invitations. He believes that his appointment and work can send a positive message.
“It may also send a message to both Muslims and non-Muslims that Muslims are Americans like everybody else and can serve honorably in public institutions,” he says.
Mayors and a City Council Member Mohammed Hameeduddin refers to his path into public office as a “really big accident.” It all started when his Jewish childhood friend encouraged him to join the planning board after hearing that the mosque was seeking approval for an expansion. Hameeduddin’s focus and efficiency was quickly noticed by those around him, including the serving mayor. “I had the reputation for cleaning up the backlog on our planning board,” he says. In 2010, Hameeduddin made national and international headlines when he was elected mayor of Teaneck, N. J.—a Muslim mayor of a predominantly Jewish town. He was overwhelmingly reelected in 2012. “And my name was Mohammed the whole time,” he says, jokingly. Hameeduddin says that he experienced skepticism from his own faith community when running for mayor. “When I ran for office the first time, the established Muslim community, … political leaders, laughed and said I was going to lose.” He sees this in part as a generational issue. “I think that children who were born here, who go through the public school system, know that our possibilities are limitless and this is a great country, that there is no ceiling for where you want to go,” he says. Abdul Haidous has experienced the limitless possibilities Hameeduddin talks of. He could have never imagined that one day he would be mayor of a U.S. city after emigrating from Lebanon and later moving to Wayne, Mich. in 1974. Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Mayor Abdul Haidous
Mayor Wayne Smith
“It was not in my American dream to be in the political arena,” he says. The serving mayor, however, seeing a public official in Haidous, invited him to serve on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Haidous accepted and several years later, in 2001, he was elected mayor of Wayne, a city where the majority of residents are not Arab or Muslim. His win came 52 days after 9/11. As the city’s first Muslim mayor of Arab origin, Haidous is aware of the precedent he is setting. “My job is to set a precedent as a Muslim American,“ he says. “I have the right any other American has, but I want to prove to everybody, we are good Americans, we are part of the system and I hope our kids have the same feeling because I don’t want my son or my daughter to live as stranger in their own homeland.” For Wayne Smith, his interest in public life and activism started at an early age. Growing up in the 1960s civil rights movement, he developed a strong social conscious as a young teenager. In college, he became involved in student government and afterwards in politics at the local level, inspired in part by his politically-engaged Muslim mentor. Later, Smith helped get Michael Steele elected as Irvington’s first African American mayor. Since 2002, Smith has been mayor of Irvington, N.J. Smith says that Islamic values do inform some of the areas that he chooses to focus on as mayor. “I think your value system does drive some of your priorities, so one of the priorities of public life for me is always try to see what I can do for the disadvantaged, for the locked out, for the poor, so to the extent that government can be used to do those kinds of things I think that’s driven by some of my religious values,” he says. For Robert Jackson, a city council member in New York., faith has not been an issue for him as a public official and he says he does not hide the fact that he is Muslim. “When I ran in 2001, no one asked me what my religion was,” he says. “My religion was never an issue in my electoral process.” In fact, he says that people sometimes question his religious identity. “Some people have said to me that, ‘You don’t have a Muslim name,’ and I said, ‘What is a Muslim name?’ [Or] ‘You don’t look like a Muslim,’ [and I said], ‘What does a Muslim look like?’ Muslims look like everyone on this planet.” Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
N.Y. City Council Robert Jackson
Jackson entered public life as parent activist fighting to improve local area schools. Growing up on welfare as one of nine siblings, Jackson credits education as the key to getting people out of poverty. “Education is the key to lift up all people. It doesn’t matter what your religion is, your nationality,” he says. “It doesn’t matter. Education is the key.”
Inspiring the next generation of public officials Dhanidina knows first-hand the power of a role model. He is one for his youngest daughter. Before he became a judge, his daughter wanted to become a doctor or teacher when she grew up. She now adds judge to that list. “That has so much meaning for me because I feel like the only reason she is saying that is because she knows a judge who has a name like hers, who looks like her, and she can see herself in that role,” he says. “When I was growing up, I didn’t know any Muslim lawyers, let alone any Muslim judges. When you’re a young person, you’re trying to find your way in society, you’re trying to imagine what you want to do for a living; a lot of it is just by example.” Shaheed—whose son-in-law is Indiana’s Rep. Andre Carson— tries to lead by example as well and has a daughter who is a lawyer. He invites parents in the community to have their child shadow him for a morning. “I know how powerful that interaction is for young people to be able to kind of sit in the same seat that I sit in on a daily basis and say, ‘Well if he can do it, […] I can probably do it,’” he says. Hameeduddin finds that more Muslim youth in his community are stepping up for leadership roles in their schools. He encourages youth to dream big. “[I] let kids know that […] you can make your parents’ dream come true and become a doctor, but you could also own the hospital,” he says.
To watch a webcast of the program in its entirety, visit http://www. wilsoncenter.org/event/american-muslim-local-officials-challengesand-opportunities. Zahra Cheema is a freelance writer based in Maryland.
Muslims in Action
Citizens, Not Victims North American Muslims utilize the available opportunities and assert themselves as equal and valued citizens. by Nabeel Shakeel Ahmed
uslim Canadians often seem to be grappling with the question of their identity in a multicultural land. It has been so widely and so often discussed that many wonder why we still talk about it. However, it comes up every now and then, sneaking out from veils in Quebec or arising when trying to understand why honor killings take place. Such examples illustrate why establishing a Canadian Muslim identity can seem to be such a difficult, thorny issue. Ingrid Mattson, chair of the Islamic Studies Program at Huron University College, London Ont., Canada, and a former ISNA president, challenges Muslims to shrug off questions about identity and re-imagine themselves as citizens first, discarding the “troubled victim” narrative. Addressing the launch of Emmanuel College’s new prayer room at the University of Toronto on Jan. 22, Mattson said that identity is a relatively recent topic in Muslim discourse. It is only over the last few decades that the “clash of civilizations” hypothesis has gained popularity, and that a number of factors have reduced Muslim identity to politics. Muslims are often perceived to have political stances that clash with those in the West, yet those conflicts are primarily due to injustice, not identity. For example, many Pakistanis dislike Western foreign policy mostly because it has supported most of the dictators in the country’s short history, not
due to some irrational hatred. Many people conflate anti-Americanism with mainstream Muslim opinion, but antipathy of Western hegemony is hardly limited to Muslims. Islam is particularly good at rallying people against injustice, but do some Muslims seem to focus only on the injustice that is done upon them, and not that which they are guilty of? After all, she said, “justice is not just about identity, but also ethics.” Muslims have to escape a siege mentality and resist those who seek, both from outside and within the community, to make them feel like victims. The marginalizing effects of attacks on Islam in the mainstream media may actually be amplified by the complaints made about Islamophobia. This is not to deny that discrimination and bias exist, but the stories we tell ourselves, and especially to our children, are critical. Muslim youth are indeed under pressure as it is; by repeatedly warning them of the dangers they face, imams, teachers and parents may discourage them from feeling secure enough to achieve their potential. They are already faced with temptations and distractions, and only Muslims can choose to free them from an additional burden and help them feel empowered to take action and fulfill the Sunnah of the Prophet. The immediate opportunity for Muslims, and youth in particular, to engage as full citizens is in the communities where they reside. The Ummah is more than just the global community of Muslims. It can also be seen as the intersection of politics, religion
Compartmentalizing the everyday injustice faced by Canadians and focusing only on that which affects primarily Muslims does a disservice to the message of Islam, playing into a false “Us vs. Them” dichotomy. 48
and place. Thus Muslims should not forget the value of place-based community and citizenship that is tolerant of multiple religions. One approach to tackle the question of “Muslim Canadian identity” is to rally to Canadian causes as “Muslim” issues. Religious leaders can support the rights of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, or tackle the complex issue of environmental change. Mattson’s message would have resonated with all who have witnessed the frustration and divisive results of framing Muslims on the basis of received identity. To be part of Canadian society, Muslims have to become part of it and internalize “Canadian” issues as their own issues, too. There are examples in other faith communities as well. One example is Sikhs who support the Seva Food Bank that serves low-income residents in Peel, Ont., with the Sikh values of seva (service) and sarbat da bhalla (well being of all) at heart. The good news is that by and large, Muslims are engaged and pluralistic. Initiatives such as Civic Muslims (www.civicmuslims. ca), which identifies itself as “a Canadian grassroots initiative promoting volunteerism and civic engagement,” are indications of a promising future. The Tessellate Institute seeks to contribute to civic engagement in Canada through its research and programs. Compartmentalizing the everyday injustice faced by Canadians and focusing only on that which affects primarily Muslims does a disservice to the message of Islam, playing into a false “Us vs. Them” dichotomy. Solidarity, Mattson said, does not need to arise in opposition to a mutual enemy; it can flower in a community of mutual respect. The discourse of victimhood can be dangerously disempowering. Perhaps the best way of dealing with it is to highlight and assert the strong civic role that Muslims play in communities across Canada.
Nabeel Shakeel Ahmed is vice president of the Toronto, Ont.-based Tessellate Institute.
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Around the World
A Tower of Islam in France Can Muslim preserve Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah’s legacy in furthering Islamic scholarship?
1963: A rare photo Dr. Hamidullah obtained by the author from his Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research; CNRS) membership card.
By Amara Bamba
e was born in Hyderabad (now in India) and breathed his last in Florida, but Muhammad Hamidullah (1908-2002) chose France for his missionary life. In 1948, he took up residence in Paris and never changed his address until he left in 1996 for the U.S. Ten years after he passed away, Hamidullah’s intellectual inheritance is now melting in France. The more you study his life, the more Hamidullah appears as one of God’s greatest gifts to France during the last century. He came at the right moment, with the right profile, carrying the exact projects our community needed. He discovered Paris as a 26-year-old graduate student. He had just finished a Ph.D. in Germany (1933) and planned to take another Ph.D. in England but unable to afford the conditions of the British universities for foreign students, by default, he joined Sorbonne and took a Ph.D. in one year.
In the 1930s, Europe was in turmoil. In Germany, Hamidullah witnessed the rise of Nazism and the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor (January 1933). He saw France mobilized by the Font Populaire (FP), a coalition of leftist parties opposing totalitarianism. In 1936, FP established a spirit of solidarity that typifies the social system in France today. For historical reasons, Islam often inflames passions in France. The ban on hijab and burqa are the modern forms of these passions. But Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) has said, “In France, I saw Muslims but no Islam; in Egypt, I see Islam but no Muslims.” Hamidullah may have seen non-practicing or secular-esque Islam-less Muslims during his first stay in Paris. However, he returned to Hyderabad after his Ph.D. to teach at his alma mater, Osmania University. All the while, he was keeping in touch with Paris as correspondent in India for the “Revue des Etudes Islamiques” (Journal of Islamic Studies). He also promoted French
culture in his area as general secretary of the Alliance Française in Hyderabad. Hamidullah was 40 when, in September 1948, India invaded Hyderabad. Shortly before the surrender, Mir Usman Ali Khan, the last Nizam of Hyderabad, dispatched a five-member delegation to plead the state’s case before the UN Security Council. Because the Council had just moved from New York to Paris, Hamidullah set foot again in Paris as one of the representatives of the Nizam, the Seventh. The mission failed. Two of the delegates never returned to Hyderabad for the rest of their lives: Moin Nawaz Jung (minister of finance) and Muhammad Hamidullah. They went to Pakistan where Hamidullah joined the committee working on the new country’s constitution. However, he preferred science to politics and soon left Islamic Pakistan for Islamless France. For half a century, he dedicated himself to scientific research while teaching Islam. A lifelong bachelor, his Hyderabadi nationality Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
denied, when asked about his origins, he countered: “I come from Paradise, my mother is Hawwa and my father is Adam.” For many of us, he embodied how to Be French and Muslim. For Malika Dif, 75, who converted to Islam 30 years ago, said she looked up to Hamidullah in a fashion. “Hamidullah was the first professor who explained that we could be French and good Muslim as well.” During my first visit to Hamidullah in 1988, his advice was: “You are new in France […]. You will find, here, everything you need to be a good Muslim; you will also find everything you need to be a bad Muslims.” After World War II, France needed workers to rebuild the country. Empty planes were sent to the colonies, in Maghreb as well as Sub-Saharan Africa, to fetch young single males—mostly Muslims. They established communities according to their countries of origin but very few among them had enough experience of their religion to grasp a position of community spiritual leader. These communities still coexist but nationalisticbased rivalries simmer, making the emergence of a Muslim leadership unmanageable in France. For decades, Hamidullah held this position of a Muslim intellectual authority for all communities. This role was specially reinforced in the 1960s, after the French colonies became independent countries. More and more students arrived in France from the former colonies. As a consequence of the colonial strategy that cut them off from their traditional beliefs, this new elite, which was excelling in secular education, had a weak religious background. They were more involved into politics than science and culture. Once a week, after Friday prayer, Hamidullah undertook to gather those students inside the Grand Mosque of Paris to offer them the Islamic education they had been kept away from. With the unqualified workers on one side, the intellectual students on the other, Hamidullah stood alone; a tower of Islamic science everybody referred to. He moved from mosque to mosque, from campus to campus without ethnic bias, free from political influences. Except for the communists, he was welcomed everywhere with reverence and respect. In 2010, my interviews at the Osmania, revealed that Hamidullah remained a political personality for Hyderabadis. For MusIslamic Horizons May/June 2013
Hamidullah’s students include Bani Sadr, first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Tourabi, Muslim leader in Sudan, Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda in Tunisia. lims in France, he was just a shining Islamic watchtower, erected in the Quartier Latin, totally disconnected from politics. Did Hamidullah purposely become the “Islamic Watchtower” many used to see him as? I got my answer from Prof. Ihsan Süreyya Sirma, who has published 132 pieces of mail sent to him by Hamidullah, in Turkish and French. When I was a student, we had lectures with renowned French Orientalists at Collège de France. Hamidullah was already a famous lecturer and used to teach us, too. But, curiously, he was always present during our lessons with his colleagues. It was surprising to see a teacher so regularly attend other teachers’ lessons. So we questioned him. Then Prof. Hamidullah explained that he didn’t need the courses of his colleagues. But he knew the Orientalists: they have good assets but they also have weaknesses. Hamidullah being present among us would prevent them from dropping in their ideological distortions and force them to stick to the academic contour we needed as students. In March 1954, Maurice Godefroy Demombynes, professor at Collège de France, was Hamidullah’s supervisor for his researches at CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research). In a letter to the director of the CNRS about Hamidullah’s work, M. Demombynes wrote: “[I]t should be remembered that the author [Hamidullah] is a practicing Muslim whose views are different from ours. His writings are, however, useful to maintain and develop the relationship between the East and the West. […] Being a man of great learning as well as a Muslim, Hamidullah has the appropriate profile to make interesting finds in the libraries of the Middle East.” Hamidullah was successful in his researches. He had regular scientific training of Muslim students in Turkey. But he remained stuck at the grade of research assis-
tant, the lowest grade of CNRS. Louis Massignon, the most famous French Orientalist, could no longer bear that situation and wrote to the head of CNRS: “His [Hamidullah’s] three-month yearly courses at the University of Istanbul, his sounding of the Manuscripts’ funds and the research tools he recasts and perfects for all of us, make me demand that Mr. Hamidullah’s promotion as a Researcher should not be delayed. The ascetic solitary hermit life he has been living among us for more than five years, should not dissuade the CNRS.” Finally, Hamidullah was raised to research fellow; a full member of CNRS in 1958. With the Muslim students, Hamidullah created the Islamic Students Association in France (AEIF), a nursery of French speaking Muslim leaders through the world. Politics was forbidden at AEIF to encourage students of all origins and backgrounds to gather on the basis of Islamic projects. Bani Sadr, first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan al-Tourabi, Muslim leader in Sudan, Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda in Tunisia are a few of them. Many former AEIF members are high ranking scholars in their home countries. In Turkey, Prof. Salih Tuğ, former dean of the faculty of theology of Istanbul and Ekmeleddine Ihsanoğlu, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, are known as Hamidullah’s students. Hamidullah translated the Quran into French, he enlightened mosques and organizations, built inside and outside bridges between communities, wrote inspiring books and convinced Muslims to step into Islamic media. His work is part of the Ummah’s national patrimony even if his face is unknown. Once, the only reference on an envelope was “Pr. Hamidullah, France,” but the post office brought the mail to AEIF. It came from Africa! None of us could imagine Hamidullah’s intellectual heritage could be threatened only 10 years after his death. Attempts to promote it through the Collectif Hamidullah association are at standstill because his books are not republished. A biography of Hamidullah can keep the watchtower alive. Collectif Hamidullah is working in that direction.
Amara Bamba is promoting the Islamic Patrimony in the West through Collectif Hamidullah (of which he is a founder), and Islamic media in France with Saphirnews.com, which he also founded.
Around the World
Aboriginal people in two western Canadian cities have demanded their needs be met by some of their own when it comes to safety and security.
A Glimmer of Hope Is Canada finally waking up to the sufferings of the long neglected First Nations? By Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan
he Canadian government is facing unprecedented pressure from the Aboriginal people to deal with them fairly and a new unpublished report will strengthen the Aboriginals’ demands. Research by the Missing Children Project released in February says that at least 3,000 children died while being forced to attend Canada’s residential schools. About 150,000 First Nations children were wrenched away from their homes and forced to attend church-run residential schools from 1870s to the 1990s. The object was to “de-Indianize” them and make them Christians. A $1.9-billion (Canadian) settlement of the lawsuit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This follows allegations that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has been involved in serious violations of Aboriginal women in British Columbia, including threats,
torture and sexual assault. A Canadian and an American, who visited ten First
On reserves, the Aboriginals suffer heart diseases, diabetes, tuberculosis, and hepatitis and suicide rates far higher than those for other Canadians.
Nations communities in B.C., linked to the “Highway of Tears” where 18 Aboriginal women have disappeared over the years. RCMP Chief Superintendent Janice Armstrong responded that the force is taking the allegations “very seriously.” While this resolve should be welcomed one wonders how two researchers of a U.S.-based organization could uncover abuses that the RCMP, despite its vast resources, didn’t have a clue about. Aboriginal communities had lived in North America for thousands of years before the European settlers arrived in the 11th century. In the 1500s, Europeans established settlements that grew at the expense of the indigenous people. Millions of Aboriginals were killed in the U.S., hundreds of thousands in Canada. The trusting Aboriginal people had originally helped the settlers and agreed to oral and written treaties of peace and friendship. In the 1812 war, Aboriginals helped repulse the American invasion. The first agreements go back to 1701, before Canada existed. Treaties continued to be signed over the years, but there is still land the Aboriginals did not cede; it was simply taken away. In some treaties Aboriginals gave up or agreed to share some of their land in exchange for assistance and land being reserved for them. Other treaties provided for settlers’ access to natural resources on Aboriginal territory. Many Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
ome Muslim Canadians are becoming Courchene referred to his proposal as a spiritual sensitized to the sufferings of their fellow citiagreement. Dawood Zwink, one of the Muslim leadzen—in fact, the original owners of the land. ers at the meeting, considers this as a gateway to One such effort was in 2010, when Elder a new future. Dave Courchene Jr., of the Anishnabe Nation, Eagle The seeds of friendship were planted in the Clan, in Sagkeeng, Manitoba met with a group of summer of 2009 when Elder Courchene first met Muslims in Toronto on Aug. 8, 2010 and presented a with Muslim leaders and elders at the Islamic InstiElder Dave Courchene Jr., proposal to develop a relationship of brotherhood tute of Toronto, and he also spoke to students at the and sisterhood between the Aboriginal peoples Islamic Foundation of Toronto. and Muslims. This was the outcome of yearlong contacts, which Martha Troian (Lac Seul Ojibway), an Ottawa-based journalist, have also involved U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.). interviewing a young Inuit convert to Islam, Maatalii Okalik, notes, “It’s The proposal, “Agreement Of Kii Zhay Otti Zi Win And Ukhuwa not known exactly how many have converted, but some Indigenous (An Agreement of The Spirit of Friendship, Kindness, Broth- Muslims report seeing more and more people like them praying at erhood/Sisterhood, Sharing And Gentleness),” states that it Ottawa-Gatineau mosques.” will be a gateway to furthering a relationship of knowing and Reports continue to flow of Muslim outreach among First Nations supporting each other in the sharing of each other’s unique communities such as distribution of qurbani (sacrificial) meat and contributions to Canadian society, for the common good. essential supplies. Courchene is the visionary behind the Turtle Lodge, an Indigenous The Winnipeg Free Press meanwhile reported that during 2011 Eid center which hosts a range of spiritual, educational and social events Al-Adha the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation of Manitoba provided food for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. It seeks to establish baskets to the most needy 200 families in two remote First Nations relationships with communities across North America and the world. communities in the province.
Aboriginal groups are fighting their land claims in court. Canada’s Constitution Act of 1982 “recognized and affirmed” existing Aboriginal and treaty rights. Ultimately, Aboriginals were herded on small reserves and governed by the Indian Act of 1876, which controls the lives of the Aboriginals while conferring some benefits. Canadian columnist Michael Den Tandt of the “National Post” described the reserves as a “national disgrace” and “incubators of misery.” Today, Aboriginal number about 1.3 million with 868,000 registered Indians and 615 bands. Metis—mixed EuropeanAboriginal ancestry—are 404,000 and Eskimos, or Inuit, number 53,000. The Canadian
government has ruled that all Aboriginals, Metis and Inuit are “Indian” under the Constitution Act. On reserves, the Aboriginals suffer heart diseases, diabetes, tuberculosis, and hepatitis and suicide rates far higher than those for other Canadians. Life expectancy, employment and salaries are much lower. The situation is complicated by divisions within the Aboriginal communities, clash between federal, provincial and municipal jurisdictions, the changing landscape and lifestyles of Canada compared to the slow pace of life for Aboriginals and different outlooks—Aboriginals seek harmony with nature.
Aboriginals erupted after the government made changes to the Indian Act and passed Bill C-45 and C-38 which removed federal environmental protection from rivers and lakes across Canada. They felt this was another major violation of the treaties and would result in ruthless exploitation of their lands for others’ benefit. Earlyer this year, Attawapiskat reserve Chief Theresa Spence’s liquids-only fast in Ottawa, near Parliament Hill, attracted international attention. Aboriginal leaders across the land seek serious talks with the federal and provincial governments to address their grievances. Harper has pledged to cooperate and opposition parties are pressing him to do so. Provincial governments are also feeling the heat. It is possible that these developments will restore to the Aboriginal people their rightful place in their ancestral land. But the situation is complicated and sustained effort, wisdom, patience, and determination are needed to resolve it. Aboriginals live on reserves as well as outside. Different organizations represent those on reserves and those outside. Canada also adopted the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights in November 2010. But Aboriginals still live in poverty on reserves and, generally, elsewhere also. Canadian authorities would have to be much more serious if they wish to make Aboriginals part of Canada rather than of the Third World.
Gladys Radek has had an enormous amount of tragedy in her life. Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is Canadian journalist, and a retired civil servant and refugee judge.
A Muslim Toolkit Against
Sexual Exploitation By S. Maryam Al-Zoubi
very two minutes somebody is sexually assaulted in the U.S., according to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports. Their data also states that one in every six American women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape, one form of sexual exploitation. Each year, about 207,754 become victims of sexual assault. The repercussions of this harm manifest physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. While this is a multi-layered issue, it is one that not only can, but must be reformed. According to RAINN, victims of sexual violence are: • three times more likely to suffer from depression; • six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder; • 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol; • 26 times more likely to abuse drugs; • four times more likely to contemplate suicide. While exact statistics are not available, sexual violence in Muslim communities occurs far more frequently than is addressed. In 2011, four Muslim American nonprofit organizations—the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, Health Education Advocacy Research Training for Women and Girls, and Rahma Network—issued a call to action to end sexual exploitation and violence in the Muslim community. They explored the meaning of Islam’s message, and developed a toolkit. The toolkit, “Engaging Muslim Communities in Ending Sexual Exploitation: A Toolkit and Resource Guide,” is used to empower Muslims and Muslim communities to effectively confront issues of sexual exploitation and to stand in solidarity with victims. Underlying their activism was the Quranic guidance: “O you who believe!
Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor...” (4:135). The toolkit provides Quranic passages and reflective questions to guide community members and leaders in understanding the issues surrounding sexual exploitation in a manner that is relevant for Muslims. Designed to raise awareness and mobilizing Muslim communities to join together to end sexual exploitation, it includes practical steps for providing support to those who have been abused, and outlines activist opportunities for eliminating sexual exploitation of all persons. The toolkit is a valuable resource for Muslims, not only because enjoining good and forbidding evil is a religious obligation, but also because the entire community is obligated to address the trauma sexual violence has had on its members. The Prophet said, “Whoever of you sees an evil must then change it with his hand. If he is not able to do so, then [he must change it] with his tongue. And if he is not able to do so, then [he must change it] with his heart [...]” (Sahih Muslim No. 49). Can Muslims be on the sidelines while their own suffer from depression and slip into drug and alcohol abuse? Doesn’t the community hear their voices in these sta-
tistics? Can’t it imagine that it may be a family member or friend who is contemplating suicide, feeling shunned by their own community? On account of certain cultural outlooks and not due to any religious strictures, discussing sex, even sexual violence, has long been taboo among Muslims. And there are considerable cultural barriers that stand in the way of survivors seeking the help they need. However, the guidelines presented in the toolkit, can help break down these barriers, understand the experiences of survivors, reach out to them, and empower the community to create strong and safe spaces for mothers, daughters, fathers, brothers and sons. Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
unaware of the root causes and the extent of sexual exploitation, the trauma experienced by victims will continue. Muslim communities can lead the effort in raising awareness and advocating on behalf of these victims. Muslims have a history of striving to make the world better for all and a responsibility to take action to help those who are suffering, and to provide an unwavering voice for fairness.
S. Maryam Al-Zoubi is an A.M. candidate at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.
Suggestions from the toolkit:
The Quranic verses reflected upon in the toolkit focus on topics such as justice, duties to women and children, gender equality, slavery, and a commitment to social justice. The reflections help in understanding how the Quran encourages and even demands that Muslims stand together against sexual exploitation. For example, in the Commitment to Social Justice section, the toolkit expands upon Prophet Muhammad’s teachings that facilitated the end of many injustices. His teachings help to strengthen spirituality and a love for God, his guiding example and the words of God, remind Muslims of their commitment to social justice and fighting oppression. Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Muslims are reminded of their legacy, the example of the courage of the Companions of the Prophet and how they risked their lives to honor this commitment. The toolkit contains many action items doable by individuals or organizations. First, they can begin by learning more about the issue and adding a personal dimension by talking to survivors. And imam and community leaders, and even an individual, can address the issue in a Friday sermon, community lecture, or a classroom, or a discussion group. Sexual exploitation and human trafficking are human rights violations that occur in neighborhoods all over America and indeed, worldwide. As long as people remain
• Include victims of sexual exploitation and violence in supplications during Taraweeh, Witr and daily prayers. • Ask that a Khutbah be dedicated to topics such as sexual violence and trafficking. • Use Ramadan to raise awareness about the issue. • Hold an iftar for a women’s shelter. • Hold a special lecture on the topic after an iftar. • Provide counseling services for victims. • Host a book club or movie night in your mosque or Islamic school. • Plan an activism activity for your halaqa, mosque, or Islamic school. • Encourage your community centers/ mosques/Islamic schools to establish a set of policies to guide your institution in responding to sexual assault cases and prevention strategies. • In celebrating Martin Luther King Day as a congregation, meditate on the methods that MLK implemented to raise awareness on institutional discrimination, systematic injustice, and a need for equal rights and opportunity. • Serving Fair-Trade Coffee or trafficfree chocolate at mosque events to bring attention to the issue. • Participate in the National Month of Human Trafficking Awareness. • Sign up for End Demand Illinois Action Alerts. The toolkit can be found at: http://g. virbcdn.com/_f/files/e3/FileItem270285-MuslimCommunitiesofFaithToolkitFINAL.pdf
Muslim, American, and HIV Positive Are Muslim Americans informed and prepared to serve those suffering from HIV? By Amber Majid
n the time it took you to take a shower this morning, another two Americans became infected with HIV. Statistically, this deadly virus strikes every nine and a half minutes in the U.S. Since its clinical discovery in the early 1980s, HIV has spread like wildfire throughout the world. In Washington D.C. alone, three percent of the population is currently infected. This is a higher rate than some parts of West Africa and the number is growing drastically each day. Large parts of the Muslim world have also become infected; many are still in the dark about their status. HIV, short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, gradually destroys the immune system, which makes it harder for the body to fight off infections. If not treated, HIV can develop into AIDS, which leads to death. HIV is spread through bodily fluids such as blood, seminal fluids, vaginal fluids, or breast milk. Most often it is transferred during sexual contact, but intravenous drug use has also spread HIV rapidly throughout the world. It’s no surprise that this topic is taboo to discuss in the Muslim community. Some stereotypes of HIV are that it is related solely to homosexuality, which is not true; or that it is caused by rampant promiscuity, which is also no longer true. A heterosexual female is the most likely to be infected due to lack of prevention education. In 2008, Khadijah Abdullah, then about 22 years old (now 27), was living in New Haven, Conn., studying her undergraduate degree in public health when a friend of hers became infected with HIV.
“I was ignorant, I had never met anyone who had it, so I educated myself and decided to educate others,” she says. That year, Abdullah organized a campus-wide AIDS awareness week on campus and participated with a team in AIDS Walk New Haven. After graduation, she interned with The National Minority AIDS Council in D.C. and could not find any active HIV/ AIDS organizations that reached out toward Muslims specifically. She formulated plans to start her own organization that would reach out to Muslims infected with HIV. Fast forward to spring of 2012, Reaching All HIV+ Muslims in America (or RAHMA) was founded with the intention to provide services to at-risk HIV-positive Muslims living in America, and to educate Muslims across America in order to breakdown stereotypes. Luckily, rahma is an Arabic word that translates to mercy, so the corporation
Reaching All HIV-positive Muslims in America, or RAHMA, serves to provide services to at risk HIV positive Muslims living in America, and to educate Muslims across America in order to breakdown stereotypes. 56
strives to remind Muslims that they should exercise mercy toward fellow Muslim who are infected. “Our goals are to go to masjids in the area and talk to people about how this disease is spread, to help them understand what it is, and through education we can help with prevention,” Abdullah says. Some of their long-term goals include hosting education workshops nationwide and providing services for HIV-positive Muslims such as support groups, treatments, and counseling. Sarah Bounse, 26, director of research at RAHMA, understands that this is going to be a tough issue to tackle with the Muslim community. “HIV is a sensitive issue for obvious reasons in the Muslim community, but this can happen in a marriage. You wouldn’t dare to think of asking your future spouse to get tested but that’s exactly what we should be doing.” RAHMA hopes to create space in the Muslim community to openly discuss HIV prevention. Asma Hamid, 28, secretary, believes that the HIV positive Muslim Americans should not be shamed into silence. “We don’t have many Muslim organizations that directly address sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases. Our Muslim communities need to realize that HIV/AIDS is not a curse; being HIV positive doesn’t make you any less of a person.” Six board members currently volunteer their time to operate RAHMA, and the advisory board includes Imam Zaid Shakir, one of the founders of Zaytuna College, as well as Dr. Sunni Amatullah, an HIV/AIDS activist. RAHMA hopes to have a booth at ISNA this year and to host a workshop, furthering their goals to reaching out to Muslims. Are you or someone you know HIV positive? RAHMA would like you to reach out; your anonymity will be respected. If you are interested in volunteering with the organization or in knowing your own HIV status, be sure to visit their Website at haverahma.org. You can also find them on facebook at www. facebook.com/haverahma.
Amber Majid, a recent graduate of Florida State University, is interested in writing, religion and philanthropy.
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
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Ahmed Fannun Kanan
A Caring Community Builder 1928 – 2013
hmed Fannun Kanan passed away in Joplin, Mo. on Feb. 5, the place he made home since 1951, emigrating from Bethlehem, Palestine. He was 84. A devout Muslim, he was a leader, motivator, entrepreneur, philanthropist and activist. He was a model family man, friend, neighbor and a patriotic Muslim Palestinian American. Even at short notice, some 200 people from across Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma and beyond, gathered for his funeral. “Uncle Fannun”—as he was known to hundreds or maybe thousands of youths and adults—had touched many lives and communities in the U.S. and overseas. He had worked for many charitable causes around the globe. Many communities considered him as part of them. Kanan served in the 203rd Unit of the Missouri National Guard. Dr. Abdul Mun’im Jitmoud, principal of the Islamic Academy in Lexington, Ky., reminisces about Kanan. “I gave my first Friday Khutba at the Islamic Center of Greater Kansas City in summer 1989 on the ‘Importance of Islamic Education.’ After Salat, he (Kanan) hugged me tightly and said with tears in his eyes, ‘We will build our Islamic School together and you will find my support.’ Since then he has been true to his dedication and commitment to the Islamic School. He also took care of me in a family level. We shall miss him very dearly. We love him, but Allah loves him even more.” He loved children and supported several youth organizations and schools. The Missouri Senate recognized and honored his services to the communities in the state. Asma Rehman of Kansas City says that Uncle Fannun was a pillar of the community. “He was the uncle who always came to the 58
Ahmed Fannun Kanan (center) receives Heartland Muslim Council Leadership Award, Rushdy ElGhussein (left) and A Rauf Mir.
mosque and Islamic School with a smile and a magic trick up his sleeve that always ended in finding lots of cash behind kids’ ears.” Sheikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah of the International African University, Khartoum, Sudan, and former ISNA president, remembers Kanan as someone who was always there to support a good cause. Upon landing in Kansas City 60 years ago, his first prayer was for God to help him build a mosque in this town. His prayer was answered in 1981 when the Islamic Center of Greater Kansas City was built. He also provided major assistance in establishing the Mid America Muslim Cemetery and the Islamic School of Kansas City. He supported mosques across Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and beyond. In 2006, the Heartland Muslim Council presented him with the “Community Leadership Award.” He was appreciative and supportive of the work being done by ISNA. Kanan performed Umrah and Hajj several times. He visited the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and in Palestine. He opened the doors of his house to accommodate some of the victims of the May 2011 catastrophic tornado in Joplin, Mo. In August 2012, when the Joplin mosque was completely destroyed due to a suspected hate crime, Kanan consoled the community. “Allah will bless us with a bigger and better mosque,” Kanan told them.
The Joplin community has drawn out plans for the new mosque, but Kanan will not be around for the groundbreaking and grand opening ceremonies. Kanan was president of Roadside Investments Inc. and the Canaan Land Development Co. He also was vice president of the former Martin Oil Co., and a board member of the Commerce Bank of Joplin. He was on the advisory board of the Missouri Southern State University. For many years, he served on the board of directors of the Ozark Center—a residential care ranch for children. His obituary in “The Joplin Globe” reported: “Fannun Kanan was a longtime presence in Joplin’s business community,” said Rob O’Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. “As an individual and with his partner, Dr. Richard Joseph, he created a number of developments that brought new business opportunities and new employment to this area. Perhaps most notable is their willingness to work with our economic development team to create a location for AT&T to bring a 600person customer contact center here a few years ago.” His wife and right-hand in his community work, Elma V. Kanan, a son Raaji Deen Kanan, and a daughter Renee J. Kanan survive him.
(by Zulfiqar Ali Malik, Overland Park, Ks.)
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Reviews Sayyid Qutb: The Life and Legacy of a Radical Islamic Intellectual James Toth 2013. Pp. 320. HB. $35. Oxford University Press
t a time when Sayyid Qutb is mostly painted as a “radical,” and even connected as a mentor of America’s enemies of the moment, Toth offers a balanced account. Qutb, he shows, is a much more complex figure than the many one-dimensional portraits would have us believe. Qutb first gained notice as a novelist, literary critic, and poet but then turned to religious and political criticism aimed at the Egyptian government and Muslims who he considered insufficiently committed. He returned home from the U.S. after a two-year stay, with a new outlook and joined the Muslim Brotherhood, serving its outreach. The Brotherhood members were accused of attempting to assassinate Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and their group was outlawed. Consequently, Qutb was jailed and later executed—the first martyr to the Islamic cause. Using an analytical non-judgmental approach, Toth traces Qutb’s life and thought to a wide selection of his writings, such as “Signposts on the Road, Social Justice in Islam,” and his 30-volume Qur’anic commentary, ”In the Shade of the Qur’an.” In providing a balanced account of Qutb’s ideas, he measures their impact, and approaches him like other intellectuals who inspire revolutions, however unpopular they may be to some. While Qutb is reviled by propagandists of a certain bend, Toth’s work deepens the understanding of a central figure of a movement.
A Call for Sanity The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam Akbar Ahmed 2013. Pp. 424. HB. $32.95. Brookings Institution Press, Washington, DC
hmed, who once served as an administrator in Pakistan’s tribal area—bordering Afghanistan— whose residents have been victims of both President Bush’s and President Obama’s kill lists, offers a nuanced report of the suffering, the dilemmas, and the dangers and the challenges facing our world, in particular the suffering of the marginalized communities of the periphery. Akbar argues, offering case studies, that drone strikes have devastated the tribal fabric of societies at the periphery, and thus ushered more and complex problems. The work attains a new urgency in the face of the latest drone war-related findings of the UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson released last March. Ahmed seeks to inspire people to rise above race, religion, and nationality to search for the universal values that point to a harmonious and peaceful world. The question is will western politicians and the armaments and special interests lobbies listen. This is the third part of his Brookings trilogy on relations between the West and the Muslim world post 9/11, including “Journey into Islam” (2007) and “Journey into America” (2010).
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
Short Takes Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America Vivek Bald 2012. Pp. 320. HB. $35. Harvard University Press, Boston, Mass. Bald reconstructs a lost history of South Asian sojourning and life-making in the U.S. At a time when Asian immigrants were vilified and criminalized, Bengali Muslims quietly became part of some of America’s most iconic neighborhoods of color. As steel and auto workers in the Midwest, as traders in the South, and as halal hot dog vendors in New York City, these immigrants created lives as remarkable as they are unknown. Their stories of ingenuity and inter-mixture challenge assumptions about assimilation and reveal cross-racial affinities beneath the surface of early twentieth-century America. Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent: Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic Schooling in Canada Graham P. McDonough, Nadeem A. Memon and Avi I. Mintz, eds. 2013. Pp. 280. PB. $39.99. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Waterloo, Ont., Canada This collection of essays examines a selection of Canada’s Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic schools which show that at times Canada’s faith-based schools both succeed and struggle in bridging the demands of the faith and the need to create participating citizens of a multicultural society. Such a compilation can contribute to the discussion surrounding faith-based schools in Canada. Suppression of the Muslims: US Policy and the Muslim World Mohammed Ashraful Haque 2013. Pp. 128. HB. $28.99. PB. $11.99. Archway Publishing, Bloomington, Ind. Ashraful Haque considers U.S. policies toward Muslim countries and the ways in which they affect Muslims perception of the West. He argues that the U.S. policy has always attempted to weaken the Muslim countries. He analyzes his theory against the backdrop of events such as the Iraq war, the breaking up of Pakistan, and the support for dictators in Muslim countries. Snow White: An Islamic Tale (Islamic Fairy Tales) Fawzia Gilani and Shireen Adams 2013. Pp. 40. HB. $14. The Islamic Foundation In a book written for 5 to 8 years old, Gilani offers an Islamic touch on this fairy tale, while keeping the popular classic much-loved story and its characters intact, set in the heady snow-strewn woodlands of Anatolia. The Three Elephants App By Kids Love Arabic Canadian start-up Kids Love Arabic has created an original storybook app for children, with a unique character and plot, to get parents excited about kids learning Arabic. “The Three Elephants” story tells of baby elephant Daghfal and his family as they encounter new adventures in their jungle habitat. Daghfal faces the unique challenge of having a bee enter his ear, and readers follow along to learn of his final fate. The story is written in Arabic, and readers have the option of having a narrator or reading it themselves. Readers may also click on pictures for a few lively animations per page. The illustrations are textured and angelic in presentation; the narrator has a childlike voice as well. Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPad HD through the Apple App store for $0.99.
Food for the Spirit
Relying Upon God, Not Our Actions by Imam Zaid Shakir Wisdom #1: “Among the signs one is relying upon actions is a lessening of hope when a slip or setback occurs.”
he principal lesson Ibn ‘Ata Allah conveys in this aphorism is a warning against relying on our actions, in the sense of believing they can ultimately bring about outcomes. God is the Ultimate, however, although our actions do have an important part to play in terms of both our spiritual progress and our salvation. When we believe that our actions affect outcomes, which are solely controlled by God, we might tend to lose hope in God when we perform certain acts and the outcomes we consider to be associated with those acts do not ensue. This aphorism is orienting us away from the reliance on actions and directing us toward reliance on God. Reliance on other than God, including on the acts we undertake ostensibly for God, can become a factor that erodes the purity of tawhid, or Divine unity, and, hence, sour our relationship with God. This is the great danger that Ibn ‘Ata Allah warns us against. One of the signs that we are relying on actions is a lessening of hope when a slip or setback occurs. For example, we can find ourselves in a situation where we are undertaking all of our prayers on time, we fast Mondays and Thursdays, we read a regular portion from the Qur’an, yet we do not feel we are making any “spiritual progress.” Therefore, our hope that God will elevate us is lessened; because we are doing what we believe is sufficient to obtain the outcome we desire, however, we do not witness
the outcome. Something must be wrong. Something is wrong. Namely, while we are acknowledging it is God who elevates us, we may come to feel He must elevate us because of our deeds. Hence, it is our deeds that we view as the critical factor for our elevation, and not the grace and mercy of God. In a somewhat related manner, when we are unable to perform our normal portion of devotional actions, owing to illness or lawful preoccupation, we may feel that we are not doing enough to invite God’s mercy into our lives, and this becomes a source of lessening our hope in God. We should understand, again, that God knows our state and that it is He who has tested us with the situation that resulted in a lessening of our actions. If we persevere, and maintain a good opinion of God, we will find that our patience brings us greater spiritual benefits than our actions ever could.
Reflect on the saying of the Prophet, “When the child of Adam falls ill or travels the reward of the devotional actions he used to perform while in residence or in good health is recorded for him” (Bukhari). In other words, God, from the profundity of His grace bestows upon him the reward of those devotional acts, even though he has done nothing, other than entertaining a good opinion of God, and patiently enduring the trial that prevented him from acting. This narration clearly emphasizes the primacy of God’s grace over our actions. Overreliance on our actions can also prevail in our mundane affairs. We can work hard preparing for a critical examination. When we learn that we have failed the examination, we might feel that God has let us down because we did everything necessary to succeed. Again, we are subtly blaming God, because “we” did everything necessary to succeed. We studied hard, we reviewed with our peers, we took practice examinations, etc. Hence, we feel that we should have succeeded. In the face of our failure, our hope in God is lessened. Ibn ‘Ata Allah is alerting us to just how important it is for us to rely solely on God. By so doing we actualize one of the critical meanings of tawhid in our lives. Namely, there is no source of harm or benefit except God. When we understand this we understand that our responsibility is to work. As far as the consequences or outcomes of our work that is something we depute to God. This orientation, that it is the grace and mercy of God that determines our success, is also relevant in salvation. In this context, one can point to the Qur’anic verse that mentions our entering Paradise based on our actions, “Enter Paradise because of the devotional Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
acts you were undertaking” (16:32). This verse apparently contradicts the prophetic hadith, “No one’s actions will enter them into Paradise.” They said, “Not even you, O Messenger of God!?” He replied, “Not even me. Only if God covers me in His Mercy” (Muslim). The apparent contradiction between the verse and the Hadith is reconciled in the following way. Actions are only considered if they are acceptable and their acceptability depends on the grace and mercy of God; as does the propensity to undertake them in the first place. Hence, while actions are necessary for our entrance into Paradise, they are not sufficient. Sufficiency comes through the grace and mercy of God. As recipients of that grace we should be forever joyous. God reminds us in the Qur’an, “Say, in the Grace of God and in His Mercy, in this let them rejoice. It is better than anything they gather [from the world]” (12:58). This orientation requires a very high state of spiritual maturity. Such a station is one that lies at the end of the spiritual path. Ibn ‘Ata Allah mentions it first to alert the traveler as to his or her destination. However,
Islamic Horizons May/June 2013
WHAT SPIRITUAL TOPICS MATTER MOST TO YOU? Please help “Food for the Spirit” better meet your needs by completing a two-minute survey at: www.isna.net/foodforthespiritsurvey while journeying towards that goal actions are very important and should never be minimized or neglected. They are the foundation of subsequent spiritual stations. Ibn ‘Ata Allah alludes to this in a subsequent aphorism, “Whoever has an enlightened beginning will have an enlightened end” (AlHikam, no. 27). The enlightened beginning lies in consistency and vigorous enthusiasm in devotional actions. The enlightenment at the end lies in refined spiritual stations. In fact, at the beginning of the spiritual path, the fear of disappointing God by falling short or displaying insincerity in our devotional acts pushes us along the way like noth-
ing else. This fear is captured in the Qur’anic verse, “Those who offer what they offer [of charity and worship] while their hearts are trembling with awe, knowing that they are returning to their Lord” (23:60). Hence, actions play a critical, necessary part in this life and in salvation. Sufficiency, however, lies with God. God reminds us in the Qur’an, “O Prophet! God suffices you and those who follow you of the believers” (8:34). If we can look beyond our actions, we will never be disappointed or lose hope when we do not experience the outcomes we anticipate to ensue after the performance of those actions. We work as assiduously as we can in undertaking the worldly means normally associated with a particular outcome. However, we leave the outcome to God. This is not only a key to actualizing the reality of tawhid and maintaining good manners with God, it is also a great source of internal peace and tranquility.
Imam Zaid Shakir is chairman of the board, co-founder and senior faculty member at Zaytuna College, where he now teaches Islamic law and history. Known to the world as Imam Zaid, he has authored numerous articles on a wide range of topics, becoming a voice of conscience for American Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
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