Islamic Horizons May/June 2021

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MAY/JUNE 2021/1442 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET


Understanding Divorce in Muslim American Communities


Cover Story


24 Understanding Divorce in American Muslim Communities 27 Effective Divorce Mediation 29 Divorce in Muslim Society

44 What the *%$@! Why Language Matters 45 The Shriners: From Racism to Philanthropy

ISNA Matters 8 Achieving Educational Excellence Through Faith & Resilience 10 MYNA Program Promotes Personal and Spiritual Growth for Young Muslims

The First Nation 18 Turtle Island’s Identity Continues to Be Erased 20 Honoring Reconciliation 22 The Hope of Greater Unity Continues

Making A Difference

31 A Tale of a Twice-Displaced People

In Memoriam

Muslims Living As Minorities

58 Malik Badri 59 Agha Khalid Saeed 60 Nedzib Sacirbey

35 Life in Rohingya Refugee Camps 38 A Small Muslim Community Determined to Thrive

Family Life 42 Spiritual and Pastoral Care

54 Robert Saleh is far More Than the First Muslim Coach in the NFL 56 Our Interaction with Animal Communities May Determine the Next Pandemic

33 A Success Story Founded in New York

40 Fallen Apart: Can Yemen be Saved?

Sports Health

Islam in America

The Muslim World

47 A Helping Hand 50 A Sheroe’s Story 51 A Young Refugee Couple Feeds Hundreds of Displaced Americans 52 Mental Illness and the Muslim American Community

48 Making Wishes Come True

Departments 6 Editorial 12 Community Matters 62 New Releases

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



Family Life: The Islamic Guidance is Clear


favorite trope of Western feminists and Islamophobes, as well as with their parrot-like imitators in Muslim-majority countries, is Islam’s “dearth” of rights for women. Of course, they and their parrots never mention the marital inequities faced by Catholic and Jewish women. Once titled the Catholic Church’s “defender,” Henry VIII (1491-1547) founded the Church of England (a.k.a. the Anglican Church) because he wanted to remarry and try for a male heir. As its supreme head, he dissolved the monasteries, absorbed and redistributed their massive holdings as he saw fit, and thereby ushered in the English Reformation. One result has been very long-term — the King James Bible (1604-11) “has been described as one of the most important books in English culture and a driving force in the shaping of the English-speaking world” and remains “extremely popular” even today (“400 years of the King James Bible”. The Times Literary Supplement. Feb. 9, 2011). The Catholic Church forbids remarriage if the other spouse is alive. The only way around this is to annul the first marriage, which begins with establishing the marriage’s complete failure and then involving an ecclesiastical tribunal. Obviously, this is a time-consuming process. The traditional Jewish marriage, a contractual relationship, has no ecclesiastically conferred status. Therefore its termination — other than by one spouse’s death — is a matter decided by both parties among themselves. However, there is a catch: Only the husband can issue a get (divorce) (Deut. 24:1-2). Thus his ex-wife, who cannot legally remarry if he is absent or rejects her request, becomes an agunah (Ruth 1:13), a woman “chained” to the marriage. However, the consequences of remarriage without a get are not as severe for a man. The Quran proclaims: “If you divorce women and they reach their appointed term, hold them back in amity or let them go in amity. Do not hold them back out of

malice, to be vindictive” (2:231). Although Muslims can contract and dissolve their marriages, the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) stated: “The most hated of permissible things to God is divorce” (“Sunan Ibn Majah,” hadith no. 2018”; “Sunan Abi Dawud,” hadith no. 2178; and al-Bayhaqi, “al-Sunan al-Kubra,” vol. 7). The guidance is clear: Spouses should be patient and forgiving while trying to save their marriage — if such is their goal — to the extent of seeking help from their families, friends, imams or professional counselors. Islamic Horizons invited Khalid Iqbal, a former ISNA vice president, to contribute his insights in this regard. As the founder of the Rahmaa Institute (, which helps Muslims develop strong family bonds by reducing dysfunction and thereby lowering the divorce rate, his advice is most valuable. In this issue, we discuss the long-term and ongoing inequities faced by North America’s original inhabitants. Despite our own legal status as citizens by birth or naturalization, or as legal residents, we must recognize our obligations toward the Indigenous people, upon whose land we are standing and making our lives and futures, while they largely remain marginalized and voiceless. Thus we have included a section on the lives and challenges of the land’s real owners, who were dispossessed by the original European conquerors and the ensuing floods of settler colonialists and their descendants. All of us, regardless of our faith, have the moral responsibility to not only reach out to them, but also to support their struggle to recoup their rights and lives. While we were preparing this issue, the umma lost three outstanding people: Malik Badri, the “father” of Islamic psychology who sought to formulate an Islamic basis for the discipline; Agha Khalid Saeed, who worked so hard to lay the foundation of Muslim political involvement in the U.S. and fought against injustice; and Nedzib Sacirbey, a founding father of Bosnia. May God reward them and grant them eternal peace. Ameen. ih


PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Safaa Zarzour EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Basharat Saleem EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2020 All rights reserved Reproduction, in whole or in part, of this material in mechanical or electronic form without written permission is strictly prohibited. Islamic Horizons magazine is available electronically on ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch, LexisNexis, and EBSCO Discovery Service, and is indexed by Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Please see your librarian for access. The name “Islamic Horizons” is protected through trademark registration ISSN 8756‑2367 POSTMASTER Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual, domestic – $24 Canada – US$30 Overseas airmail – US$60 TO SUBSCRIBE Contact Islamic Horizons at (317) 839‑8157 / (317) 204-0187 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, E-mail, To subscribe, please e-mail: CORRESPONDENCE Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email:


Achieving Educational Excellence Through Faith & Resilience ISNA hosts 22nd Annual Education Forum — virtual edition BY THOURAYA BOUBETRA, SUSAN LABADI, AZRA NAQVI AND LAYLA SHATARA


h e 2 2 n d A n n ua l I S NA Education Forum, held April 3-4 in collaboration with the Council of Islamic Schools of North America (CISNA; www.cisnausa. org), focused on “Achieving Educational Excellence Through Faith & Resilience.” Keynote speaker Habeeb Quadri (educator, administrator, author and youth activist), acknowledging the pivots and educational paradigm changes endured by both schools and their families, urged us to proactively improve our connections to each other and foster a deeper guardianship relationship to students. His second-day presentation detailed skills and prophetic advice for school leaders. Ustadah Zaynab Ansari (instructor, board member, and scholar-in-residence at Tayseer Seminary), opening the second day, reminded education professionals about true reality and that true success is in our relationship with God. Being mindful of our responsibility toward those whom we teach, we need to refine ourselves.


Fadi Abughoush (public school teacher; president, National Arabic Teacher Association) offered his “Games, Apps & Brain Breaks to Keep the Class Moving and Students Engaged!” to share how teachers should keep largely isolated students engaged via breaking the class into small chunks, incorporating games designed to help students physically move, and taking mental breaks to practice speaking it in pairs or small groups. Ustatha Luluah Mustafa (senior Arabic instructor; head of Arabic program, Boston University) shared “Teaching Arabic Remotely: Modification & Assessment.” In it, she highlighted her department’s main pandemic-related changes: reducing the major tests from four to two, using shorter tests and quizzes to evaluate with the single point rubric method, as well as

writing multiple positive comments about students’ performances and including one area for improvement in every evaluation. Breakout rooms modeled quick questions that could be asked while allowing students to interact and engage in short discussions. She also emphasized building strong teacher-student relationships by trying to get to know them better, what topics can/cannot be deleted or modified to assess students’ performances, and to keep them engaged to increase their confidence regardless of their proficiency level. Dr. Dalia El-Deeb (chair, Nourania Instruction and Certification in North America) presented “How to Enhance Learning of the Holy Qur’an and Adopting its Morals Through Standardizing the Study of Tafseer.” After emphasizing the importance of reading to preserve the proper pronunciation, memorization and tafseer, she analyzed how to conduct a Quran class: begin with talqeen (repeating and mimicking the correct pronunciation) and then explain the signs in the mushaf to help students become independent readers. She provided a wealth of information and tips on enriching the class, and reiterated the need to move students from reading correctly to understanding the Quran by connecting the verses’ meanings, why they were revealed and relate their stories to the students. Dr. Hanada Taha (endowed professor and director, Arabic Language Center of Research and Development at Zayed University, UAE)


spoke on “Standards-based Instruction in Arabic.” After relating their history and worth, she stated that they don’t change when the curriculum changes and that learning indicators have to be set for each level. She demonstrated how standards shifted teachers’ thinking from measuring success by how much material was covered to how much learning was acquired and how language proficiency had advanced the students’ abilities. In “Keys and Tools for Differentiation in the Arabic Classroom,” 2019 California World Language Teacher of the Year Iman Hashem (STARTALK leader) gave ample examples about the students’ backgrounds, proficiency levels and learning styles, along with strategies to handle a classroom. She also tackled the difference between equity and equality, how each student deserves an equal opportunity to learn, how differentiation is based on students’ needs and how the teacher is duty-bound to plan for potential modifications. Dr. Talaat Pasha (director, Arabic Language Institute, American Islamic College in Chicago) and Dr. Salah Ayari (instructional professor of Arabic; director of Language Instruction, Texas A&M) used their joint “Weekend Schools: An Integrated Approach to Faculty Preparation and Teaching” to state that most weekend schools’ approaches are based on memorization. Pasha spoke about their main purpose — building a strong Muslim character, as Islam is based on being and doing, not only knowing — as well as the need to reach before teaching, of building strong teacher-student relationships and of teachers being professionally prepared to succeed. Ayari explained how vocabulary retention becomes much easier when the words are meaningful and purposeful. He provided examples of the integrative approach that coordinates the school’s three main pillars — Islamic studies, the Quran and Arabic — and that teachers can use Arabic words to

teach students how to derive the meanings of new words by using the roots.


The track began with “Smart Phones, Social Media, Internet, Video Games ... How Much is too Much?” with Ahmed Howeedy (chief medical officer, FHE Health), Arfan Qureshi (senior director of talent & organizational development, Campbell Soup Company), and Amir Abdelzaher (principal/instruc-

calls for a two-pronged approach developing both the student’s heart and intellectual skills. In their “Why Islamic School Renewal Begins with Islamic Pedagogy,” Dr. Nadeem Memon and Dylan Chown (Centre for Islamic Thought and Education, Australia) laid out the foundations of grounding Islamic educational institutions in a pedagogical model comprising a philosophy (aims and objectives), a theory of child development, curriculum, instruction, assessment and cre-

THE PANDEMIC … HAS GIVEN TEACHERS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO SEE HOW THEY CAN PARTNER WITH PARENTS TO BECOME TRUE MODELS OF TARBIYA BY SHARING THE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF LIVING THE CHARACTER TRAITS THEY WISH TO SEE IN CHILDREN. tor, Al-Madina Institute, Istanbul). Their main contention was that the tech industry’s devices and apps are meant to be addictive; however, the brain’s neuroplasticity enables us to break these addictions by using spiritual, purposeful, offline and screen-free activities to build healthy pathways. Adults should model how to interact with social media and tech devices for children and youth, according to Saad Quadri (teacher, administrator, and consultant at High-Quality Education Consulting) and Sana Mohiuddin’s (therapist at Khalil Center) “Walking the Walk Together: Parents and Teachers Modeling the Way.” The pandemic, they said, has given teachers a great opportunity to see how they can partner with parents to become true models of tarbiya by sharing the role and responsibility of living the character traits they wish to see in children. Dr. Maryam Razvi Padela’s (educator and researcher) “Towards Building a Resilient Faith: Foundational Concerns About Atheism” shared that people who experience a crisis of faith ‘‘do so during adolescence or young adulthood.” In Islamic schools and Muslim homes, it’s about modeling the behavior expected of children and building trusting, loving and supportive relationships. The research sheds light on four key aspects of a child’s development that contribute to atheism: the need for a strong faith-based foundation, the influence of adult hypocrisy, peer pressure and knowing how to fail. It

ating a conducive learning environment. Clearly defining and understanding the Islamic tradition’s educational values, concepts and perspectives is critical to success. Sh. Mohammad Elshinawy (graduate and instructor, Mishkah University; researcher, Yaqeen Institute), discussed the importance of a healthy relationship between fathers and their family members. Fathers are uniquely responsible, he stated, for paternal authority, affection and financial security. He noted that 64% of suicides happen in fatherless homes and that men “must control … their egos.” While society encourages boys to “toughen up,” the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi was sallam) hugged and kissed his children. Islam encourages strength and endurance, but not at the expense of cultivating affection. Men who feel unappreciated should strive to please God.


Osman Umarji’s (director, Psychospiritual Research and Data Studies, Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research; adjunct professor, School of Education at UC Irvine) “Will My Children Be Muslim? Investigating the Influences on Youth Religiosity” cited that 20% of students raised as Muslim do not identify as a Muslim. Overall, Muslim youth have fewer mental health issues, lower rates of suicide, and a better connection to family than non-Muslim youth. The most critical factor, a healthy parent-child relationship,

must be followed up by placing religious and spiritual values over materialism. Wadud Hassan (co-founder, DEFINE360 []; pioneer, Islamic Mindfulness and leadership development) and Susan Labadi (certified character coach; advisor to DEFINE360; board member, CISNA, American Halal Council, and American Muslim Consumer Consortium; Genius School Inc.), led a double session on “Building a Resilient School Through Prophetic Compassion.” In it, they explored the interrelated components of inner calm, emotional resilience and cognitive resilience. Attendees refined their understanding of compassion from neuroscience as well as a prophetic referenced practice, and how it can help one handle stress and trials. Qur’an Shakir (certified Jegna, master educator and guide) used her “The Joy of Learning” to inform attendees that many Muslim children feel dread and sadness when going to school and that it’s a sin to associate such a reality with Islam. Also, many children don’t want to be with adults because they kill purpose and drive via their own negativity. In mastering our own cultivation of joy, thirst for knowledge and desire to be with God, we must strive to model the positive relationship we hope for them. Ivana Zajkovska’s (product manager, ISNA Youth Development; MYNA advisor) “Positive Youth Development” related the need for head-heart alignment to support lowering risk behaviors. In a study of 2,500 schools conducted during the 90s and 2000, later generation youth were found to explore fewer of the 40 recognized assets to foster positive development than in previous generations. She detailed the importance of external (support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, and constructive use of time) and internal (a commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies and a positive identity) assets. Sophia Jetpuri Naviwala (Al-Fatah Academy, Atlanta; programs director, ISLA) inspired and renewed the desire to teach like a master in “Technology Metamorphosis: The Butterfly Effect” by offering insights and tools for educators to explore. A trainer with the Islamic Speakers Bureau, she has built a training program with Awareness Through Mosque Tourism, spearheaded the ISLA Leadership Academy and provides ongoing professional development for educators to use the latest technology to improve their connection to students.



Anne Marie Balzano (director, Leadership and Governance, National Association of Independent Schools) divided her presentation, “Board Best Practices & COVID,” into three sections: (1) Roles/ Responsibilities: the board defines the organization’s path, mission and vision, and the principal drives it to the set path; (2) The Fiduciary, Strategic and Generative models. The last one requires the board to question the process and diagnose the problem to reach the issue’s root cause(s) before jumping to conclusions; and (3) the importance of having continuous accountability and assessments via different tools and a matrix chart. Certified Leadership Challenge facilitator William White (board officer, CISNA; principal, the Islamic School of Louisville,” presented “Leadership Challenge: Connecting Best Practices to Islamic Foundations.” Participants engaged in interactive activities to learn how to model research-backed Islamic behaviors to improve their school teams and community’ engagement and performance. Habeeb Quadri’s “Rise to Resilience: From the Heart of a Leader” discussed the new technological and human skills we need to learn and improve, and how faith helped leaders build and apply resilience through scriptural verses and our prophets’ stories. He urged school leaders to leverage hope and optimism when interacting with students, teachers and community members to continue building resilience. A much-needed panel, “Avoiding Principal Burnout,” recognized the frustration coming from overloaded responsibilities; stress from the board, parents and teacher retention issues; and that many problems are due to poor financial support and management. Veteran administrators Shahida AliKhan (ISNA Lifetime Achievement Award winner), Magda Elkadi Saleh (vice president-USA, ISNA; head of school, Bayaan Academy), Susan Labadi, Azra Naqvi, (CISNA board; principal, Hadi School) and Pembe Yarsarlar (executive director, Crescent Academy Int’l; board, Institute for Learning and Development, proprietor of The Tarbiyah Project©) responded to questions and provided relevant advice. Elkadi Saleh’s “Engaged Families = Stronger Schools” pointed out that such schools have more substantial retention rates, higher satisfaction rates and greater levels of parental and community financial support. She emphasized that engagement means involving parents in the conversation. CISNA president Leila Shatara and board members Iram Shaikh Jilani and Uzma Shinawari’s “Why Accreditation? CISNA’s New Standards” offered new updates to standards as CISNA ( moves to gain accreditation for its Islamic studies, Quran, and Arabic programs. They also spoke about standards related to governance, school administration, teaching and learning, as well as school culture and environment. Each session was concluded by a Q&A session and a rich discussion. Overall, the tracks generated much positive feedback. ISNA executive director Basharat Saleem related how ISNA has spent the last year — and continues to — reaching out to support its North American constituents, by God’s grace. ISNA president Safaa Zarzour concluded the session by overviewing the forum’s 22-year history and making a closing du‘a. NOTE: Recorded sessions are available on the ISNA YouTube channel.  ih Thouraya Boubetra (director, Arabic Online Education, Aldeen Foundation), Susan Labadi (Genius School, Inc.), Azra Naqvi (principal, Hadi School of Excellence) and Layla Shatara (principal, Garden of Sahaba Academy) are members of the ISNA Education Forum Committee.


MYNA Program Pro Personal and Spiritu Growth for Young M Three-week MYNA’s Hira Intensive reflection, connection, and direction. BY ALAA ABDELDAIEM AND ASEEL ATALLA


eep within Hira cave on Jabal an-Nour (the mountain of light) outside Makkah, Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) reflected on his relationship with God. Unknown to him during his annual retreat in this cave, one day it would serve as the birthplace of revelation and his status as God’s prophet and messenger to humanity. Muslims still marvel at what happened when the angel Jibreel descended and commanded the illiterate Muhammad to “Read,” to which the best of creation responded, “But I cannot read.” Embracing him tightly, Jibreel stated, “Read in the name of your Lord who created (everything) ...” Revelation proved difficult and extraneous, but it also caused the future prophet to impact humanity by igniting his ability to connect and transform. Upon reflection, these formative and foundational verses outline three important aspects of our deen: (1) contemplation and seclusion pave the path to ma‘rifa (knowledge of God, Most Generous); (2) reading and writing turn us into holistic and grounded individuals who can deeply love God; and (3) we can both transform ourselves and others after experiencing great difficulties that “tighten our chest.” Over the past year, the pandemic has deeply affected many of our lives. We find ourselves socially and spiritually disconnected and depleted. Isolation has forced us into unhealthy habits, impaired our hope and trust in the future, as well as separated us from our loving communities’ direct support. As we wait

omotes ual Muslims retreat seeks

for it to play out, how do we acquire the proper toolkit to move past our self-built barriers, regain our trust and hope in God and nourish ourselves so that we may better serve our communities? Named after Hira cave, MYNA’s threeweek residential summer “Hira Intensive” program ( strives to create an environment of learning and growth that will drive change within each participant — one that we hope will lead to a better society. Just as Muhammad retreated to reflect on his Creator, society and self, Hira Intensive calls upon youth to (1) reflect on the past year and their habits; (2) then connect with their faith, God, peers and mentors; and (3) grow in their knowledge and practice by acquiring a deeper understanding of Islam and build good character and habits. Our intention is to serve God with authenticity, sincerity and humility, and then connect youth with God and His Messenger. Islam is beautiful, and when participants experience it practiced holistically, with teachers and mentors as their role models, they see that for themselves. From June 27 to July 17, youth aged 15-19 will have a chance to do just that. The program, which returns to Flint, Mich. this summer, will feature world renowned scholars and community leaders who are ready and willing to teach and interact with participants. They will provide a framework for a deeper understanding of such Islamic sciences as ‘aqida (belief), fiqh (sacred law), tazkiya (good character), Quran and Hadith and the Prophet’s life and character — all of which will assist participants grow in spiritual development. Outside of classes, they will engage in workshops, discussions, field trips and other activities to apply what they learn to reality and prepare them to engage in

WE EXPECT TO CONVENE THE SAME HIGH-QUALITY PROGRAM THIS YEAR. AS WE LEARNED FROM THOSE WHO ATTENDED PAST THREE-WEEK SUMMER INTENSIVES, THE STUDENTS WEREN’T THE ONLY ONES WHO BENEFITTED. follow-up social justice and community service activities. Sana Khan, who went through the program last year, related that it “not only gave me the structure that I was looking for, but it also provided me with a deeper understanding of my faith … I was given a space to ask questions to people who were actually qualified to answer them. I loved that we could continuously ask why and not feel ashamed. “The scholars,” she added, “encouraged that we question things so that we could create a deeper level of understanding, and in turn, love for Allah and His religion. I needed those three weeks to take me out of my daily life and struggles to remind me what it was all for.” With anywhere from 30-50 enrollees each year, Hira Intensive provides youth with an avenue to build long-lasting, beneficial bonds, ones that former student Emaan Tauseef said shaped who she became. “We became a family,” Tauseef said. “We

all knew each other so well because of all of the engaging debates and conversations we would have. The people I met at Hira became my best friends. That’s a special bond that no one can replace.” “It was truly a beautiful space because it became a family of people from all different places,” Sana added. “I remember us all having very different personalities, but we were united with our intentions of being there. Our souls connected. We became the kind of people who can go without talking for years, but when we’re together again, we open up immediately.” We expect to convene the same high-quality program this year. As we learned from those who attended past three-week summer intensives, the students weren’t the only ones who benefitted. Residential advisors (RAs) tasked with mentoring students also found themselves attached to Hira’s mission. Former RA Saad Hasan experienced it firsthand. Now four years removed from his Hira days, Hasan still believes those three weeks in 2017 are “unmatched.” “Being an RA at Hira is a once in a lifetime experience,” Hasan said. “You not only get to attend all of the incredible classes held by the top scholars, but you also get to serve as mentors to an incredible group of youth who are hungry for growth and knowledge. This in turn helps you with your own path, providing you with a new perspective on how to view our religion.” And it couldn’t be offered at a better time, Saad added. For Muslims, membership in this generation presents additional challenges. Some young Muslims are distancing themselves from Islam in the midst of perceptions that it is barbaric, outdated, or simply irrelevant. Those who do remain connected to faith still face issues like social pressures, depression, drugs and more. While mosques and other institutions often find it difficult to meet these unique needs, Hira Intensive is designed specifically for them. “Oftentimes, in society, youth do not have the proper outlet to discuss socio-political issues and their faith simultaneously,” Tauseef added. “Hira, however, is the perfect place to do so, helping youth embrace what it truly means to be Muslim in America.” To learn more about this year’s three-week intensive, visit  ih Alaa Abdeldaiem is regional coordinator, ISNA Youth Development Department. Aseel Atalla, a senior at Zaytuna College, is director for the 2021 Hira Intensive Program.



Ali is on Topps

Topps (, the sports trading card company, released a series of cards called “Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champ,” reported RNS on Feb. 23. It includes a look at the role of faith in the legendary boxer’s career, who announced his conversion to Islam in 1964. The second card, “Converts to Islam,” tells how this decision impacted his life and the world. “His faith guided him as he confronted the indignities of racial discrimination. As one of the most famous Muslims in the world, he travelled widely as a goodwill ambassador, spreading the message of Islam as a religion of peace.” Another card, “Muhammad Ali becomes Muhammad Ali,” relates how Ali, then a member of the Nation of Islam, announced his affiliation shortly after winning the heavyweight boxing championship in 1964. For a brief time, in keeping with the Nation’s practices, he took the name “Cassius X” before becoming “Muhammad Ali.” Ali’s opponents and enemies taunted him with his old name throughout his career. While the Topps card implies that his conversion settled the matter of his faith,

New York State Proclaims Kashmir Day

The 10th card in the Topps series, “Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champ” © Topps

Ali’s religious beliefs continued to evolve. As early as 1961, he had attended meetings of the Nation of Islam; after Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975, Ali, like a majority of Nation’s members, began to follow mainstream Sunni Islam  ih

Diagnostic Testing Moves into the Home   (l-r) Chief Science Officer Mahmoud Zubaidi, CEO Michael McNeely, Ph.D., and Director of Process Development Philip Luk

GattaCo Inc., a Murrieta, California-based medical innovation startup, has developed a method to simplify how blood is diagnostically processed through a purification filter. Its new credit card-sized device replaces the centrifuge to easily separate plasma from blood, reported Susan Belknapp of the California Business Journal. The GattaCo braintrust comprises Mahmoud Zubaidi (chief science officer), Michael McNeely, Ph.D. (CEO) and Philip Luk (director, process development). The tester will confirm if a person has a virus with a finger stick and provide the results for these conditions within minutes. The current diabetes tester only reads

blood glucose because, normally, it actually tests the plasma and not the blood itself. Glucose is one of the rare tests where blood can be used directly. To separate red blood cells from plasma, the sample needs to be purified — usually via centrifugation done in a lab — to obtain the plasma to test. The breakthrough innovation allows patients to independently test and monitor their own conditions. Zubaidi explains, “Other attempts haven’t been very commercially viable until now. We have developed a patented capillary pressure re-set — or Cap-Reset — technology. It’s a new method that simplifies the way blood is processed through a purification filter. We have created a plastic, disposable, credit card-sized device that replaces a centrifuge. It easily separates the plasma from blood automatically and it can be run anywhere, with only a few drops of blood.”  ih


New York became the first U.S. state to proclaim February 5 “Kashmir Day,” when its state assembly adopted a resolution by a voice vote. This significant development is the result of years of efforts by the American-Pakistani Advocacy Group (APAG; — a New York-based nonprofit social service and advocacy organization. “The State of New York endeavors to champion human rights including the freedom of religion, movement, and expression for all Kashmiri people,” the resolution said. Pakistani Consul General in New York Ayesha Ali congratulated the assembly for adopting the resolution and thanked Assemblyman Nader J. Sayegh (D) for facilitating it.  ih Kazi Sabeel Rahman, who has led Demos (www.demos. org) for past two and a half years, was named senior counselor at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which falls within the Office of Management and Budget. While at Demos, a liberal think-tank, he fought racial inequality on the voting rights and economic fronts. Rahman spent one year working as an OIRA analyst in the Obama administration. Under him, Demos was involved in numerous voting rights lawsuits in the run-up to the 2020 election, among them efforts to stop a questionable purging of Indiana’s voter lists, guarantee safety protections for Florida voters concerned about Covid-19 and ensuring the voting rights of Ohioans amid the changing primary calendar. Among other responsibilities, OIRA plays a central role in reviewing and coordinating regulatory actions taken by federal agencies. Rahman, who earned three degrees from Harvard, is an associate professor at Brooklyn Law School. Before joining Demos,

A SINCERE APOLOGY It has been brought to our attention that we used a wrong photo on p. 33 of our March/April 2021 issue for Aisha Shah – whose correct photo is included here. We apologize for this oversight. Shah, (born in Illegally Indian-occupied Kashmir), is now a partnerships manager in the White House Office of Digital Strategy. Raised in Louisiana, Shah previously worked as an advancement specialist for the Smithsonian Institution and as digital partnerships manager in the Biden-Harris campaign. Prior to this role, she worked as an assistant manager on the corporate fund of the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, supporting the first-ever expansion of a presidential memorial. Shah also served as a strategic communications specialist at Buoy, an integrated marketing firm that specializes in social impact communications, as well as at Spitfire Strategies, where she enabled nonprofits to use pop culture as a tool for social change.  ih he held fellowships at New America and the Roosevelt Institute and was a special advisor to the deputy mayor of New York for housing and economic development.

February 5 is observed worldwide as “Kashmir Solidarity Day,” a day upon which millions voice their full support for the just struggle of those Kashmiris living in illegally Indian-occupied Kashmir. In his address in Kotli, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan assured Kashmiris that not only the Pakistani nation, but also the entire Muslim world, stood behind them.

Hamzanama Comic Contest Awards The Barzinji Prize Foundation announced its first Hamzanama Comic Contest awards on March 31, which would have been Hamza Barzinji’s 25th birthday. His parents Suhaib Barzinji and Afeefa Syeed, along with brothers Zaki (and Michelle) and Yusuf (and Eeba), made the announcement. The family is honoring Hamza’s life and passions with an ambitious project that reflects his love of comics and cartooning. The Hamzanama, a Mughal-era illustrated work, presents the series of paintings done for Emperor Akbar (1542-1605) to illustrate Amir Hamza’s adventures. This fantastical manuscript, an early form of superhero comic, followed his outsized adventures as he spread truth and justice worldwide. The Foundation worked with comic book artists to create an origin story that “Even the non-Muslims who believe in justice and human rights also realize that the Kashmiris should be given the right pledged to them by the United Nations,” he proclaimed. Reiterating that India must resolve the issue through meaningful dialogue, as there is no other way, he called upon it to restore the occupied territory’s autonomy. The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCOC; welcomed its new 2021 board members: Azizah Ali-Regan (Islah-LA; http://islahla. com/), Sh. Tarik Ata (imam, Orange County Islamic Foundation; and Deana Helmy (ICNA Relief SoCal). The board lauded the services of outgoing board members Imam Wali Fardan (Masjidul Taqwa San Diego; and Fauzia Rizvi (The Islamic Society of Corona/Norco; Board chair Owaiz Dadabhoy (Uplift Charity;, who stepped aside from his role, continues to work with ISCOC’s Muslim Charities Association and the Credit Union. Saleha Jabeen, the U.S. military’s first Muslima chaplain, graduated from the

introduced Hamza and gave him the power to travel through space and time so he could be a hero to anyone at any time and place. The family invited artists and storytellers from all over the world to submit their own chapters. Amazingly, they received beautiful artwork and inventive storytelling submissions from over a dozen countries. With help from an all-star panel of judges, they selected the best ones, which are now uploaded on the Foundation’s website: https://www. The stories range from Hamza leading an anthropomorphic freedom march against fascism to battling mech elephants centuries in the future. But most importantly, all the stories carry on the spirit of the legendary Hamza through the favorite medium of their very own Hamza."  ih

First Lt. Saleha Jabeen raises her hands in prayer during a group prayer at the start of the graduation ceremony. This event was held on Feb. 5 at the Ira C. Eaker Center for Leadership Development on Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. (Photo © USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Jackson Manske)

U.S. Air Force Basic Chaplain Course on Feb. 5. She was commissioned last December as a Second Lieutenant at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, becoming the first Muslima chaplain in the Department of the Defense. “I did not have to compromise on any of my religious beliefs or convictions,” Jabeen said. “I am surrounded with people who respect me and are willing to receive what I bring to the table as a woman, a faith leader, and an immigrant.” She added, “I get to provide spiritual care to all service members, Guardians and families


COMMUNITY MATTERS and advise the commanders on religious and moral matters regardless of my faith, ethnicity or gender. Like our boss says, it has never been a better time to serve as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps.” Capt. Mara Title (staff chaplain, Air Force Chaplain Corps College), who believes the newly graduated students are ready to provide for the spiritual needs of all Airmen across the force, said that Jabeen’s addition will be of great benefit to everyone. Snohomish County’s (Wash.) Islamic Center of Mukilteo ( came face to face with Islamophobia when it first announced plans to open a mosque. On March 5, however, the community celebrated its groundbreaking ceremony with elected and religious leaders who came from around the county to say they’re glad to see the project going forward. The mosque, which faced a seven-year struggle to get building permits and is now rising near city hall, should be able to accommodate 100 worshippers when it is completed in two years. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) said, “Freedom to practice religion is important. I think what we have realized is we have to make sure we’re defending that freedom.” President Riaz Khan replied, “This is for the people. The children, they’re going to learn here, they’re going to live here. They’re born here, and they’re going to use this facility. It’s for them, for the young people.” For the first time ever, the Pittsburgh public school system has designated Eid al-Fitr as a vacation day for the 2021-22 school year. The district decided to do so after receiving input from families. Christine Mohamed (executive director, CAIR Pittsburgh) stated, “We welcome this decision to recognize Eid al-Fitr within the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ calendar. It’s a necessary step and we appreciate the school district’s attentiveness to the diversity of its students and families in our community. We hope other school districts surrounding Pittsburgh [will] follow suit.” The Washingtonian Magazine included Nihad Awad (cofounder and executive director, CAIR) in its Civil Rights and Criminal Justice category of Washington, D.C.’s 250 experts and advocates — outside the government — who’ll be shaping the policy debates of the years to come.  ih

ACHIEVERS Prof. Jackie Y. Ying is the first scientist to be elected as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE). She will be formally inducted on Oct. 3 during the NAE’s annual meeting, reported on Feb. 19. Ying, chosen over roughly 100 other new members, is a A*STAR Senior Fellow and head of the NanoBio Lab (NBL), was recognized for her contribution to the “interface of nanostructured materials, nanomedicine, and diagnostic devices to improve human health.” Election to the NAE is one of the highest distinctions in engineering, and her incredible background and contribution to this field and science in general testify to her dedicated and lifelong work in nanotechnology. As an NAE member, Ying (BE and PhD, Cooper Union and Princeton University; MIT faculty, 1992-2005) can participate in the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s workshops and reports on relevant engineering issues for U.S. policies. Since 2003, Ying, a Taiwan-born convert to Islam in her 30s, has served as the founding executive director of Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. Her research on nanostructured materials has been recognized by countless awards, among them the American Ceramic Society Ross C. Purdy Award, the American Chemical Society Faculty Fellowship Award in Solid-State Chemistry, the Technology Review’s Inaugural TR100 Young Innovator Award, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Allan P. Colburn Award, Wall Street Journal Asia’s Asian Innovation Silver Award, the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Jubilee Medal, Materials Research Society Fellowship, Royal Society of Chemistry Fellowship, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering Fellowship and the Crown Prince Grand Prize in the Brunei Creative, Innovative Product and Technological Advancement (CIPTA) Award. Ying, editor-in-Chief of Nano Today, was also elected as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader; named as one of the One Hundred Engineers of the Modern


Era by AlChE in its Centennial Celebration, selected by The Muslim 500 as part of the world’s most influential Muslims (2012, 2013, 2014) and inducted into the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014. In 2015, she received the inaugural Mustafa Science and Technology Foundation’s Mustafa Prize and the Top Scientific Achievement Award for her contributions in the field of nanostructured materials and systems. Ying was also named a Fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Inventors (2017) — the first Singapore-based scientist to earn the highest professional accolade for academic inventors. In the same year, she was elected to the Islamic World Academy of Sciences and, after winning its Academy Prize in Science and Engineering Sciences in 2018, to the Turkish Academy of Sciences. She has more than 190 primary patents, 41 of which have been licensed to multinational companies and start-ups in the field of nanomedicine, drug delivery, medical implants, cell and tissue engineering, as well as medical devices.

Dr. Fatima Ebrahimi (Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory [PPPL], U.S. Department of Energy) has invented a new fusion rocket that could one day take humans to Mars 10 times faster than current rocket thrusters, all of which use electric fields to propel the particles. The device uses magnetic fields to shoot plasma particles from the back of the rocket and propel the craft through space. Using magnetic fields allows scientists to tailor the amount of thrust for a particular mission and astronauts to change the amount of thrust while piloting to distant worlds. She conceived the idea in 2017 while thinking about the similarities between a car’s exhaust and high-velocity exhaust particles. During its operation, this tokamak produces magnetic bubbles — plasmoids — that move at around 25 miles per second, which means a lot like thrust.

Fusion, the power that drives the sun and stars, combines light elements in the form of plasma. Scientists have been struggling to replicate fusion in a lab, hoping to harness its power to produce electricity for rockets traveling through deep space. Current plasma thrusters that use electric fields to propel the particles can only produce low specific impulse, or speed. Computer simulations performed on PPPL computers and at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Berkeley’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, showed that the new plasma thruster concept can generate exhaust with velocities of hundreds of miles per second, 10 times faster than those of other thrusters. Ebrahimi finds that faster velocity at the beginning of a spacecraft’s journey could bring the outer planets within reach of astronauts. Los Angeles-born Hassaan Shahawy, 26, was named editor of The Harvard Law Review, elevating him to the top of one of the nation’s most prestigious U.S. law schools. He is possibly its first Muslim president in the review’s 134-year history, Shahawy told Reuters in an email, “Coming from a community routinely demonized in American public discourse, I hope this represents some progress, even if small and symbolic.” As a Rhodes Scholar, Shahawy (BA, Harvard ‘16) obtained a Master’s and a PhD in Islamic studies, as well as in Oriental studies and Islamic law, from the University of Oxford. Dedicated to working with marginalized communities to point out social injustices, he thinks that he might become a public interest lawyer or work in academia. He has already worked with refugee populations and on criminal justice reform. Volunteering at a children’s cancer hospital in Cairo is not beyond him, for he is definitely an active member of each community he joins. Shahawy is presently vice president of the Harvard Islamic Society and an executive committee member of the Harvard International Review.

The prestigious student-run Stanford Law Review journal has elected its first Muslim-American, second-year law student Daniel Khalessi (‘13 J.D. ‘22) as its president. Stressing the need for a more diverse Stanford faculty, he told Kirsten Mettler of The Stanford Daily, “By diversity, I’m talking about diversity of race, gender, ethnicity, background — all the things that encompass diversity, including diversity of opinion and ideas. I think it’s very important for us to be a university where people can feel comfortable bringing their whole self to the university.” Speaking of his election, he stated, “I think the hope that I have for my election, if it has any symbolic meaning or anything like that, is that I want people to know that there is a more tolerant America beyond the America that we’ve seen in the last four years [Trump, 2016-20].” The Iranian-American, who is interested in constitutional, national security and international law, had [former secretary of state] Dr. Condoleezza Rice as a professor at Stanford and interned for Ambassador [to the UN] Susan Rice, who’s also a Stanford alumna. Attending Stanford as an undergraduate (major, international relations; minor, Iranian studies), he moved on to Yale University for his MA and spent a year at China’s Peking University as a Yenching Scholar. R as ha d A h m e d Hauter made history when Governor Roy Cooper (D) appointed him a district court judge in North Carolina’s Wake County Judicial District Court on Jan 8. A first-generation immigrant born in the remote village of Gatham, Yemen, Hauter is the first Yemeni American to become a judge in the U.S. Hauter, who previously worked as a criminal defense and immigration attorney in private practice, began his legal career by serving in the Wake County District Attorney’s office as assistant D.A. He sports an impressive legal resume, having tried 1,500+ bench trials and 50+ jury trials and prosecuted cases in 17 counties.

Working in his father’s small business in Vance County as a youth, he graduated as Southern Vance High School’s valedictorian and was the first one in his family to graduate college. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated cum laude from Campbell University School of Law (‘11). Bill Bazzi, a city councilman since 2018, became Dearborn Heights’ first Muslim Arab-American mayor on Jan. 20, 2021, when the City Council voted 4-to-3 for him. Bazzi, an engineer at Ford Motor Co. for 20+ years, served the remainder of Dan Paletko’s four-year term. Paletko, 70, died during December 2020. His term ended in January; there will be a November election for mayor and City Council seats. The council also chose Mo Baydoun and Zouher Abdel-Hak, a former city treasurer, to fill vacancies on the seven-member council. According to 2019 census data, Dearborn Heights is now 32% Arab American. The largest ethnic group in this city of roughly 56,000 residents is Lebanese. In addition, this city that borders Dearborn is now 8% Black and 22% immigrant. Born in Lebanon, Bazzi immigrated here when he was 10 years old. After graduating from Dearborn’s Fordson High School, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served on active duty (1984-88). Bazzi, who earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, worked at Boeing and then at Ford (starting in 1999). Cardiologist Dr. Hina Chaudhary (director of cardiovascular regenerative medicine, the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, N.Y.) is known as a “Cardiac Magician” and an Irving scholar. Her work revolves around new heart muscle growth after a patient suffers a heart attack (cardiac regeneration in which dead heart cells can be regenerated after a heart attack). She has been named among the top science fellows by National Institute of Health for the National Research Service Award.



Aymen Aboushi began his new post as Paterson’s (N.J.) corporation counsel for the law department on March 15, upon appointment by mayor Andre Sayegh.

Aboushi, who has specialized in commercial and employment law and successfully handled various employment cases, is the first Muslim and Arab American department head in the city’s history. Sayegh described him as a “hardworking and compassionate person” and pointed out his role as a board member of Wafa House, a nonprofit that provides services to domestic violence victims. Aboushi has also focused on probono work by volunteering to assist the formerly incarcerated transition back into society through the state’s reentry program and mentoring incarcerated youth offenders. His experience includes time as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. A graduate of Fordham Law School, Aboushi clerked for the Honorable Patty Shwartz for the N.J. U.S. District Court. He is a partner at The Aboushi Law Firm.  ih

Alim Somani, a Frontline health care Hero, has been working tirelessly as a respiratory therapist in the Richmond Hospital, Richmond, B.C., Canada, ever since the pandemic broke out. He was recently named among National Hockey League’s (NHL) “First Stars” of the Week (Jan. 25-31). A NHL press release said, “He has witnessed numerous Covid-19 outbreaks over the past year, but continues to selflessly protect the community as a frontline worker. Day and night, Somani — who has an autoimmune disease — strives to provide the best care for all of his patients while risking his own health. When asked

about the potentially life-threatening risks he faces, Somani says, ‘As long as I know that my friends, family and the people I care about are safe and healthy, I’ll keep fighting this as long as I can.’ “Somani cares deeply about everyone around him and continues to put the community first. Whether it’s working on the front lines, moving into a hotel alone to keep his family safe at home, or volunteering to help those who are older and immunocompromised with essential services in his community, Somani stops at nothing to help those who need it most.” Throughout the 2020-21 season, the NHL said it “is celebrating the remarkable efforts of the off-ice stars who make it possible for us to play our games amid a pandemic by honoring frontline healthcare heroes from the regions represented by the League’s weekly and monthly ‘Stars.’”  ih

This cardiologist, scientist and entrepreneur also received a $2.9 million NIH research grant to further her study into cardiac cell rejuvenation. Her team’s findings could lead to new therapies for repairing the heart and other organs. She is the principal investigator for this four-year award. Chaudhary has also been featured among the top-20 most influential women in science in the Islamic world.


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n the March-April issue of this publication (p. 30), Ahmed Shaikh made harmful and unsubstantiated claims about Emgage and gross generalizations of the American political system. Our Islamic tradition teaches us to assume the best intentions of others and to refrain from slander, so we will assume that Mr. Shaikh is simply misinformed. The author implied, in an article entitled “Political Scams Under the Muslim Cover and How to Avoid Them,” that our organization, which has been in operation for 14 years for the sole purpose of empowering Muslim American voters, is somehow, a scam. Mr. Shaikh alleged that Emgage is a fake grassroots organization and cited a discredited Islamophobe with a long history of genocide denial to back his claims. Emgage is a well-established Get Out The Vote and civic education organization with chapters in six states that is supported by community members and reputable foundations. Our 100+ staff and local committee members are permanent grassroots organizers who in turn mobilize their local communities to vote and engage public officials on issues that range from criminal justice reform and combating Islamophobia to supporting human rights abroad. Our communities are extremely diverse and so are the set of issues that we do our best to engage on. In 2020, Emgage’s chapters along with wonderful partner organizations, made over 1.8 million calls and sent over 3.6 million texts as part of a historic Million Muslim Votes campaign ( This effort



hat are we supposed to do about domestic terrorists who hide behind the mask of patriotism to justify violence? They are marginalized people who form a gang around a cause and build a violent community, one ready to kill innocent people. People like the Proud Boys and Timothy McVeigh (executed on June 11, 2001) happen to use guns and/or bombs to get the job done, but I don’t think that people who like guns are extremists. They may have found a tool in Donald Trump to lift them up, but I don’t think they care about voting rights or legal elections. To tell the truth, I don’t know what they really care about. It is the experts’ narrative that really bothers me. Domestic terrorists and foreign terrorists, they say, are somehow different. As such, we must devise a new way to deal with the former. But as an ordinary Muslima who has been trying ever since 9/11 to protect our country to discern who among us is a violent extremist, our communities, and ourselves, I see countless similarities. The “Religious Boys,” such as Al-Qaida or ISIS, hide behind the screen of religion to justify violence. Conventional wisdom has it that they present the greatest threat to our country. But for years Muslim Americans have felt that the definition of terrorism has been the unfortunate fact of just being a Muslim. Thus, the challenge has been to devise some sort of litmus test to help us “define” someone as a “threat.”

not only helped get Muslims out to vote, but it reshaped the national narrative regarding Muslim political engagement. At a time when Islam is being cast as incompatible with American democracy, increased civic participation by our community is a powerful rebuttal to such hateful rhetoric. Our organization is made up of real people who work hard every day by hosting town halls to educate the public about issues that matter to them, connecting voters with legislatures and policymakers, and holding candidate forums to learn about those who seek our votes. As CEO of a nonprofit, I know that my talented staff do this work because they view it as a form of ibadat (worship) and are truly committed to their community and our nation. We encourage readers and our community at large to learn more about our nonpartisan work at and issue advocacy at When I first took this job, my main concern was attacks by Islamophobic personalities such as Pamela Geller or publications such as Breitbart. But I have since learned to appreciate that misinformation from within our community is potentially more destructive, if we allow it to take hold. As we saw with QAnon supporters, once a lie takes hold, it is very difficult to dislodge. This is why I encourage our community members to carefully scrutinize supposed experts and to pay particular attention to sources and publications that are used to undermine confidence in successful Muslim American institutions. I pray that God instills baraka (blessings) in our work, purifies our hearts and intentions, and does not allow slanderous comments to keep away those with the intentions of doing good. Wa’el Alzayat Chief Executive Officer, Emgage and Emgage Action Does a practicing Muslim present a threat? What if he decides to pray in the middle of a Walmart aisle because it’s prayer time? I would consider that “extreme.” Are Muslims who don’t like music or dancing extremists too? What about a Muslim who thinks that it’s “wrong” for all other people, especially Muslims, to celebrate Christmas? I’m sure I don’t know what they really care about. The authorities are now facing this exact same problem with “defining” domestic terrorists. My suggestion for fighting violent extremists, whether foreign or domestic, “religious” or “patriotic,” is to begin by asking: What do they really care about, and how far are they willing to go to get it? Then, build a litmus test based on their answers. We don’t have to solve their problems. We only have to determine who is the real threat, and who among us wants to kill us. As a side note, when I was growing up, my parents always told us not to discuss our party affiliation, whom we voted for or talk about religion with anyone. In the times we live in, when differences seem impossible to accept, I offer the same wise advice. Chaplain Mary Lahaj — the first Muslima chaplain to serve on staff at Boston’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Simmons College, Groton School, and at the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland, Mass. MAY/JUNE 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   17


Turtle Island’s Identity Continues to Be Erased Some of the roots of hate toward Canada’s Indigenous people BY DAWOOD ZWINK   Jacques Cartier, a French-Breton maritimer, who claimed Canada for France, erecting a Cross at Gaspe Photo © Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1996-282-1

Even after some 500 years of the growing presence of primarily western Europeans immigrants and their descendants, the First Peoples, who were here quite a few millennia before we were, continue their struggle to survive and honor their passed-down legacy of wisdom, knowledge and guardianship. During the last 150 years, the influx of immigrants has become more diverse in terms of ethnic groups, nationalities and religions, including Muslims. The First Peoples did not invite any of these new arrivals to settle in their homeland. They have been generous, respectful, hospitable and accommodating according to their capacity and ability. However, in return and right from the beginning they have been met with genocide, diseases against which they had no natural immunity, greed, disrespect, domination, humiliation, sexual violence and deliberate attacks on everything that makes them who they are in terms of language, culture, religion, worldview and social and family structures. Among the many imposed realities they have tenaciously resisted is the Europeans’ practice of putting a price on everything. The resulting behavior and attitudes toward consumption, elite ownership and environmental destruction, all of which violated their communities’ norms, landed along with the first immigrants. How can such a calamity be explained?


s a resident of the unceded traditional land of the Mississaugas of the Credit, Anishinaabe Nation, I acknowledge and extend my respect to the Haudenosaunee Six Nations of the Grand River and to the HuronWendat Nation. I also acknowledge that the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples know this continent’s original name to be Turtle Island. History tells us that the Europeans’ obsession with achieving imperial domination on a global scale caused them to claim the original inhabitants’ land, create maps and change names wherever they went. When considering Indigenous peoples’ issues from a Muslim newcomer’s perspective, one is immediately confronted with two questions: Why have this land’s First Peoples encountered so much clear racial hatred from white settlers and their institutions, and why does Canada continue to refuse to acknowledge and confirm Indigenous rights to land ownership? 18    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2021


This disaster can be traced back to 16th-century Imperial Europe, which was awash with racial supremacy, religious intolerance, brutal military expansion and violent absorption of all lands and peoples around the Mediterranean Sea. The Roman Catholic Church, which arguably absorbed the values and attitudes of the Greek city-states and the Roman Empire, became the foundation of Europe’s cultural development and power relations. After the Church lost its power, it was the turn of its successor, the Holy Roman Empire. Regardless of which one was in power, however, all of them had one enduring ambition: to subjugate everything in the world.

A system of European feudal monarchies emerged out of the noble families’ relentless competition for ever more land, for at that time land was considered the basis of wealth. The popes, often drawn from that same network of familial relationships, eventually acquired absolute power, only to eventually lose it to the monarchs. Claiming ownership of all the land, they parceled sections of it out to the nobility in exchange for the provision of soldiers and resources when needed.

authority, although staffed by clergy and Catholic orders and independent of the Vatican. In contemporary English, we would call the Spanish Inquisition’s ultimate goal — to establish a pure Catholic Christian society by eliminating all “heretics” (according to their definition) and non-Catholics — ethnic/religious cleansing, if not outright genocide. Papal bulls were issued that allowed Catholic “explorers” to enslave non-Catholics wherever they landed, assert their control over the land and its people and even work them to death — all to increase the wealth and power of their various monarchs. In his “The Doctrine of Discovery and the Christian Conquest of the World,” Nick Gier, professor emeritus of the University of Idaho, states, “In 1455 Pope Nicholas V exhorted Catholic rulers to conquer, even those ‘in the remotest EVEN AFTER SOME 500 YEARS OF THE GROWING parts unknown to us,’ all who were enemies PRESENCE OF PRIMARILY WESTERN EUROPEANS of Christ.” The Pope gave them permission “to invade, IMMIGRANTS AND THEIR DESCENDANTS, THE search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens [Muslims] and pagans,” take their FIRST PEOPLES, WHO WERE HERE QUITE A possessions and “reduce their persons to perFEW MILLENNIA BEFORE WE WERE, CONTINUE petual slavery” (see also Steven Newcomb, “Finding the Papal Bull Documents,” May 20, THEIR STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE AND HONOR 2020). In short, this pope placed the Muslims THEIR PASSED-DOWN LEGACY OF WISDOM, in the same category as the world’s Indigenous KNOWLEDGE AND GUARDIANSHIP. peoples and oppressed nations. Here are some important dates that help chart the beginning of European encroachThose at the bottom of the social order, serfs and ment upon Indigenous land: •  1497: Italian John Cabot, under contract to King Henry VII of England, peasants, were bound to serve and work their lords’ land for survival. Classified as property, they were performs ritual claim on behalf of England. •  1534: Jacques Cartier is commissioned by King Francois of France. Upon expendable (P. R. Schofield, “Peasant and Community in Medieval England, 1200-1500,” Palgrave Macmillan, his arrival at Labrador, he makes land claim and trades for furs with members 2003). of the local First Nations. Societies were characterized by the powerful •  1608: Samuel de Champlain extends France’s claim and engages in fur trading. elites’ violent ambitions and vicious repression. For •  1619: Arrival of first slave ship in Virginia. At the time that Europeans example, opposition to and “deviance” from ortho- started to make land claims, there was no Canada. There were imperial powers dox Catholic belief and practice was countered by a in competition with one another that imposed slavery globally. British influence series of Inquisitions. Opposition to Roman Catholic ran up the East Coast and was using and promoting slavery as part of their dominance and corruption eventually drove Martin domination formula. What is called Canada today started to coalesce slowly. Luther, a dissident priest, to launch the Protestant •  1670: The Hudson’s Bay Company obtains its first charter from King Charles Reformation in 1517. III of England to trade furs. Europe spent centuries in continual competition •  1763: The British Empire claims the territory that becomes Canada after and frequent conflict, which drained many royal cof- signing the Treaty of Paris to end the Seven Years War in Europe. fers. Competitive hatred is expensive. It was a conThese and other events enabled European racism and institutions to enter tinent full of intolerance, articulated through ethnic Turtle Island. They also form part of the basis for the claims of Crown Rights. All and religious conflict, and acts of racial supremacy. land claimed by Crown [Canada] is the product of such racist domination-reThis formula informed the policies and strategies lated values and rights. The Crown claims ownership of 89% of the county’s land applied by France and England in the Indigenous to the exclusion (extinguishment) of the Indigenous people’s ancestral rights lands that, over time, were transformed into Canada. (Canadian Encyclopedia). Today, the White-dominated Commonwealth realms are the successors to ROOTS OF EUROPEAN RACISM AND Imperial Britain, which created a global network of colonies to channel their wealth to the “mother country.” (For one example see: “The Untold Story of the ENTITLEMENT The desire of various European empires to get rid of Hudson’s Bay Company, Canadian Geographic, https://www.canadiangeographic. their Muslims and Jews culminated most dramatically ca/article/untold-story-hudsons-bay-company.) This devastating legacy of global in Spain, where the Inquisition was employed as an plunder to benefit Imperial Europe’s wealthy elites and noble families persists instrument of clerical and royal policy that would even today, as can be seen around the world. Given this horrific legacy, we must devastate large sections of the world. Queen Isabella I ask “What is the responsibility of Muslim Canadians today?” and then act upon of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon established the answer, for we will be held accountable.  ih their own Inquisition in 1478. Unlike earlier ones, Dawood Zwink, who resides in Mississauga, ON, manages ISNA-Canada’s Office of Social Justice, is a past ISNA-US vice however, it was implemented under Royal Christian president and member of ISNA’s Majlis ash Shura. MAY/JUNE 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   19


Honoring Reconciliation Although late, Muslim Canadians are reaching out to the Indigenous people and finding shared traditions BY SHAHINA SIDDIQUI

Matriarchs from the three host nations on whose land Vancouver is situated wove a prayer rug to fill the mosque installation


uslim Canadians and organizations are pro-actively building relationships, standing in solidarity and collaborating on social justice issues with Indigenous communities. These sincere efforts are guided and inspired by Prophet Muhammad’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) life, and the Quran’s injunctions that Muslims stand for justice and with the oppressed. For example, the Quran reminds Muslims to strive for human unity and dignity because all human beings were created from a “single male and a female, and from them came numerous diverse nations so that you may know, respect and honor each other” (49:13). The Indigenous community’s history in the Europeanized-colonized Americas has been one of genocidal policies, crimes against humanity, persecution, pillage, ethnic cleansing, tearing apart families and racism. Tragically, even today in the supposedly “postcolonial era” we see the emotional, physical and spiritual scars and trauma still impacting their intergenerational relationships and the continuation of racist anti-Indigenous policies that have infiltrated Canada’s public sector. This reality begs the following question: Why have Muslim Canadians stayed indifferent and isolated from reaching out to this land’s original inhabitants for so long? Today however, inspirational work is being done in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba. Long-term outreach work in Ontario between a few visionary Muslim leaders and Turtle Lodge elders through conversations and sharing of each tradition’s spiritual teachings is now bearing fruit — for the uninitiated, the lodges are gathering place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples from all Nations, founded upon spiritual, land-based teachings and the pursuit of mino-bimaadiziwin (the good way of life). More than three years ago, Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies (CCMS; began to increase its community engagement in terms of this vision. One of the key priorities was to increase Muslim-Indigenous interaction around the issue of European 20    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2021

colonialism. Both communities have had long, complex struggles against this phenomenon, as well as with European racism and White supremacy. SFU and CCMS coordinator Aslam Bulbulia, who resides in Vancouver, which is unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territory, British Columbia (BC), reports that both groups have diverse and complex intra-community dynamics. The City of Vancouver acknowledges this land as unceded because the First People and the settlers did not sign any treaties. The first CCMS-hosted event, convened in early 2018 to discuss decolonial solidarity, drew participants of diverse backgrounds from the Philippines to South Asia, South Africa to the Indigenous communities, to share some of their common experiences and to think of ways to stand alongside one another. In March 2018, a dialogue was held specifically for Muslims so that they could begin to think about what “Being Muslim on Unceded Land” (https:// means. Participants explored the spiritual implications of earning and eating food grown on stolen land and delved deeper into this land and its peoples’ history. Over the next two years, CCMS worked alongside Vancouver Biennale as they installed a life-sized mosque made of chain fencing designed by Saudi artist Ajlan Gharem ( artworks/paradise-has-many-gates/). It was set up in what is today Vanier Park, but what was once the Squamish village of Senakw. This provided Muslim and Indigenous artists a unique opportunity to engage, learn from one another and work together. Here, participating weavers and graphic artists created a series of prayer rugs, thereby recognizing their shared artistic heritage and experiences of relationship building over the project’s course. The following year, matriarchs from the three host nations on whose land Vancouver is situated wove a prayer rug to fill the mosque installation. The frame for the weavings was the collaborative effort of a Muslim graphic designer and poet. The Indigenous creators handed the weavings over to the Muslims, who had gathered there to receive it and place it into the frame. CCMS has also used the arts to bring Muslim and Indigenous communities together through its 2018 and 2019 Islamic History Month programs. This was the result of Muslims recognizing that they should no longer ignore the land’s original inhabitants when celebrating their own history here, as well as the need to make space for other marginalized voices while making space for themselves. Many people who attended a daylong Vancouver Public Library event that allowed Muslim and Indigenous artists to share their work and stories found themselves transformed. As the virus made it impossible to gather in person for the 2020 event, Islamic History Month opened online with a welcome

from Indigenous elders. CCMS and Indigenous communities in accordance with the recomcreated a new website to showmendation #60 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. case a curated display of Muslim This project, which is funded by the Winnipeg Foundation and Indigenous artists’ work and being implemented in partnership with Ma Mawi Wi speaking to the themes of joy and Chi Itata Centre, Inc. (, focuses solidarity, hosted a dialogue on on increasing knowledge of each other through recreational, Muslim and Indigenous Sacred spiritual, social and educational events. Space, screened “The Feeling of During the past 10 years, the Canadian Muslim Leadership Being Watched” and followed it Institute (, with logistical support from the Winnipeg Central Mosque, has with a discussion of how both been hosting events, conferences and workshops, as well as communities are subject to state surveillance. It also collected 18 organizing anti-racism rallies and vigils that feature both stories about acts of Muslimcommunities standing shoulder to shoulder to denounce Indigenous solidarity to share injustice, racism, Islamophobia and anti-Indigenous hate. with a broader audience. ISSA has stood with the Idle No More (https://idlenomore. THIS REALITY BEGS ca/) movement and participates in the Moose Hide Campaign In addition to these events, many other efforts are being made (, which fasts in prayer for THE FOLLOWING to bring the two communities the murdered and missing Indigenous girls and women. closer in terms of spirituality. For QUESTION: WHY HAVE In Winnipeg, Indigenous elders, community members example, during Ramadan 2019 MUSLIM CANADIANS and organizations join with Muslims, be it a vigil for the a community “Sharing the Fast” Quebec City Mosque massacre, anti-Islamophobia or antiiftar was held at the Vancouver STAYED INDIFFERENT hate forums, offering smudge and honor drumming. Our Aboriginal Friendship Centre. Indigenous compatriots come to mosques and stand in prayer, AND ISOLATED There, attendees learned from as well as attend Muslim celebrations, while Muslims particFROM REACHING Indigenous peoples from the ipate in Indigenous ceremonies. East Coast, Prairies and West ISSA has recognized Indigenous leaders for their services to OUT TO THIS Coast about their fasting pracjustice and community. So far, it has presented its IHSAN and LAND’S ORIGINAL tices and then broke the fast ANSAR awards to Calvin Murray Sinclair (former Canadian INHABITANTS FOR together. This was the first time Senate member and First Nations lawyer who chaired that many Muslims had visited the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation SO LONG? a friendship center and heard Commission [2009-15]), James Falvel (co-founder Bear Clan firsthand about the similarities Patrol), Michael Redhead Champagne (member, Shamattawa in the two spiritual traditions. Cree Nation) and others. Manitoba Muslim youth have been enthusiastic participants in events co-orFinally, CCMS ( has ganized with Indigenous youth, such as the Bell Tower gatherings, anti-racism hosted Indigenous guests to share their stories and events, advocating for clean water on reserves and workshops. Over the years, Winnipeg Muslims have donated qurbani meat and grocerwork with young Muslim leaders to understand how their future work can be grounded in this land and ies to First Nations communities and reserves, courtesy of the Zubaida Tallab done in solidarity with its original people. Foundation. For example, in 2013 the foundation delivered 3500 lbs. of food to In Manitoba, social justice and anti-racism efforts Attawapiskat First Nations. have been the driving forces behind Indigenous and The Edmonton-based Islamic Family and Social Services Association (IFSSA; Muslim collaboration, outreach and relationship, whose executive director Omar Yaqub resides in Treaty 6 territory building. For nearly two decades, the Islamic Social (a traditional gathering place, traveling route and home for the Nehiyawak/Cree, Services Association (ISSA; Tsuut’ina, Niitsitapi/Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Haudenosaunee/Iroquois, has led the way in recognizing the atrocities com- Dene Suliné, Anishinaabe/Ojibway/Saulteaux and other Indigenous peoples), mitted by settlers against the Indigenous people and has been working closely with the Bent Arrow Healing Society (https://www. acknowledging that Muslim Canadians, who have also inherited this dark colonial burden, are obliged This cooperation includes welcoming newcomers at the airport and collaboratto stand with the Indigenous people. ing on Roots of Resilience ( — a celebration of Indigenous ISSA has tapped into the strong ties that bind Peoples Day and World Refugee Day ( The Canadian prayer rug ( produced by both communities in shared values and traditions of community service, caring and nurturing family, IFFSA is a gift that reflects the similarity of both communities’ commitment to along with helping neighbors and protecting the preserving the environment and seeking signs of the Creator in nature. Islamic History Month Canada has promoted themes for Canadian cities to environment. ISSA volunteer executive director Shahina Siddiqui organize celebrations devoted to Indigenous and Muslim interaction, relationship resides in Treaty One territory, the heartland of the building and sharing.  ih Métis people. ISSA board staff and volunteers have Shahina Siddiqui, LLD, volunteer executive director of ISSA, is human rights and social justice activist, speaker, freelance undertaken reconciliation work between the Muslims writer, author and spiritual counselor. MAY/JUNE 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   21


The Hope of Greater Unity Continues Racial justice protests unite Indigenous and Muslim Americans through their forgotten histories BY RASHEED RABBI   Flag of the American Indian Movement

already have higher rates of infectious disease severity and death compared to any other U.S. population group (Johns Hopkins Center for Native American Health). And along with this, their rate of youth suicide, being killed by police, illiteracy and unemployment has traditionally been higher than those of any other racial minority.



ast year’s racial justice protests brought visibility and awareness to the Indigenous community’s centuries-long fight against oppression, violence and discrimination. Many of these long-term movements, coincidentally, started bearing results while bidding farewell to the pandemic-ridden 2020 resonated loudly with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. One such historic success was the U.S. Supreme Court’s July 9, 2020 (McGirt v. Oklahoma) ruling that more than half of Oklahoma, almost 3 million acres, would remain American Indian reservation land, as originally designated in 1866 ( Another was the court’s decision to deny Trump’s 2016 campaign promise to permit TC Energy Corporation’s Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry slurry crude from the Alberta tar sands to Nebraska through reservation lands (https://www. These victories exude hope. But they also highlight the danger of relying on this country’s courts and/or legal system. Much more work is needed before the Indigenous community can attain real sovereignty and environmental justice. These few successes at the outset of the BLM movement merely indicate the wider population’s impending awareness. A rather embarrassing case in point is the Redskins’ decision to change its 87-year-old nickname and logo, dismissing owner Dan Snyder’s previous vow to “never” do so. Even Darrell Green, the team’s most celebrated player during his 20-season career (1983-2002), was unaware of the controversy over a term considered just as offensive as the N-word ( us-news/native-americans-see-hope-day-reckoning-s-20-generations-making-n1233736). Ironically, a June 2017 Supreme Court judgment had handed Snyder a key victory: Justice Alito and all of the other justices reasoned that the government cannot remain in compliance with the First Amendment if it picks which speech is offensive and which speech is not. Hidden by sweeping unawareness, such discrimination transcends sport logos or court victories. In reality, such embedded images continue to dehumanize minorities. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the consequences of such structural inequality via its clearly disproportionate impact on Native Americans, who 22    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2021

Indigenous communities constitute about 2% of the U.S. population, including the 6.7 million Native Americans who belong to the more than 565 tribes holding sovereign governmental status by law (https:// Their invisibility has a long history: genocide, dislocation, and various forms of physical, mental and social abuse, first at the hands of the military and then of law enforcement agencies at all levels. Furthermore, it is a direct outcome of deep systemic bias. Native Americans have a median income of only $23,000 a year, just one-third of the $68,703, the U.S. median household income. Their collective historical trauma and socioeconomic conditions have a direct correlation with substance use, poor education and high mortality rates. Over the recent decades, 78% of them were forced to migrate and assimilate into urban or suburban areas. The American mainstream and many Muslim Americans remain largely unaware of these peoples ongoing struggle to preserve their tribes and cultures. Thus they remain stereotyped and considered people of the “past.”


During the recent turbulent weeks, many Native American activists beheaded several Christopher Columbus statues. The national symbol, celebrated for centuries, is ironically connected with the history of racism ( Many Native Americans view Columbus as an originator of genocide and conquest. Ironically, unmindful of his atrocities, some Muslim Americans continue to take pride in the fact that Columbus employed a Muslim navigator.

In fact, Alan Mikhail’s “God’s Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World” (New York: Liveright, 2020), states that at its inception, European exploration of the “New World” can be understood as an ideological extension of the Crusades — a new effort to circumvent Islam’s ever-more-powerful presence in Europe. To get an idea of his main arguments in this regard, one should consult columbus-islamophobia-ottoman-empire.html.

up during Constantinople’s apocalyptic loss to Christian Europe in 1453. He also envisioned defeating Islam with the help of the “Grand Khan” from Asia, who was believed to be interested in converting to Christianity. Columbus managed to find funds for his expeditions to Asia to realize this secret ambition. The ensuing barbarism could be an inclusive story of Muslim ancestors, who seemed to be connected with the Taínos. These Indigenous people used alfanjes, the metal scimitars inscribed with Quranic verses used by Muslim soldiers. In his diary, Columbus mentioned that the women wore almaizares, the head and body coverings used by the “Moor,” a 15th-century term widely used for Iberian and North African Muslims. They had likely been forced to convert during the 16th century by Catholic Inquisitors like Columbus. He also documented the region’s custom of nose THE TRADITIONAL VERSION OF COLUMBUS AS A piercing, a popular Middle Eastern and Arab BRAVE EXPLORER SEARCHING FOR A SEA ROUTE practice. The possibility of these two minorities TO CHINA IS BASICALLY A HAGIOGRAPHIC living harmoniously during the 16th-century remains, given that copper mines, found mainly TALE. THEN THERE’S THE REVISIONIST ONE: A in Virginia, Tennessee and Wisconsin, were BLUNDERER WHO “DISCOVERED” THE “NEW operated by Middle Eastern settlers. Indigenous WORLD” BY ACCIDENT. communities revered them for their mining expertise and hard work ethic ( The traditional version of Columbus as a brave cgi?article=1150&context=bis437). In the mid-17th century, the Navajo began explorer searching for a sea route to China is basically herding sheep and making their own wool, skills picked up from Muslims, brought a hagiographic tale. Then there’s the revisionist one: by the Spanish settlers. By the late-17th century, they had learned weaving from a blunderer who “discovered” the “New World” by their Pueblo neighbors, an important technical expertise of Arab Mudejars accident. Mikhail states that there are also corollaries (Muslims who stayed in Iberia after the Reconquista [11th-15th centuries]) of these two versions: the Italian American hero and the genocidal murderer. This possibility can be further argued by the 565 names of reservations, 484 of During his second trip in 1493, Columbus, leading which are in the U.S. and 81 in Canada, as they have a link to Arabic vocabularies. an invasion force of 17 ships, returned as a viceroy Columbus also acknowledged the presence of West African Muslims throughout and governor of the Caribbean islands and mainland North America, their affiliations with the Iroquois and Algonquin tribes and the America. While holding this position until 1500, he use of Arabic words in their culture ( promptly set up shop on “Española” (modern Haiti cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1150&context=bis437). Mahir Abdal-Razzaaq, a Muslim Cherokee Blackfoot American Indian, suband the Dominican Republic), instituted slavery and, within five years, reduced the indigenous Taínos from stantiated the idea of Native Americans’ long-term familiarity with Islam by noting 8 million to about 3 million people. After 1542, they common vocabulary, such as Allah and many other Arabic roots used by various were considered extinct. The estimated 15 million tribes ( He highlighted the fact that indigenous Caribbeans who were alive when this the last Cherokee chief — the tribe’s leader in 1866 — was called Ramadhan Ibn “first contact” was made suffered the same fate (Ward Wati (Jane Smith, “Islam in America.” Columbia: Columbia University Press, Churchill, “Indians Are Us?: Culture and Genocide 1999, p.68). Even today, their daily accessories or symbols, such as the squash in Native North America.” Monroe, ME: Common blossom necklace, hint at such a connection. This prominent piece of Native Courage Press, 1993.) American jewelry was designed over a crescent ornament on the horse bridles of Similarly, there is no reason for “celebrating Spanish-Arab Mudejars who arrived and assimilated into their tribe during the the arrival of Pilgrims,” the widespread myth of 1500s (Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber, “History of Design: Decorative Arts and Thanksgiving that hides centuries of cruelty against Material Culture, 1400-2000.” New York: Bard Graduate Center, 2013). the Indigenous community, as noted by a native These above tidbits, which unite these two communities, should convince leader, Kisha James ( us to view Columbus’ cruelty as a part of our shared history to challenge racial news/2020/11/26/no-thanks-no-giving-natives-on- prejudice collectively. Moving forward as a united front, while harnessing these 400-years-of-mayflower-landing). As fellow minori- common stories and memories, can help rehumanize and depoliticize the centies, we should learn about their realities, both past turies-long systemic bias that impacts both minorities. and present. At the outset of a new year and a new administration, our increasing acknowledgement of these shared histories can inspire us to deal with systemic bias in FORGOTTEN HISTORY CONNECTS MUSLIM purely rational terms within the political arena.  ih


Mikhail’s book reveals the disturbing narratives of Columbus’ crusade against Muslims. Born in 1451 in Genoa, a mercantile port city of Crusaders, he grew

Rasheed Rabbi, an IT professional who earned an MA in religious studies (2016) from Hartford Seminary and is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry from Boston University, is also founder of e-Dawah ( and secretary of the Association of Muslim Scientists, Engineers & Technology Professionals. He serves as a khateeb and Friday prayer leader at the ADAMS Center and a certified Muslim chaplain at iNova Fairfax, iNovaLoudoun and Virginia’s Alexandria and Loudoun Adult Detention Centers.



Understanding Divorce in Muslim American Communities Why is the number of married Muslims declining? BY KHALID IQBAL



ivorce trends among Muslim families in the U.S. have been poorly understood and not widely analyzed according to empirical data. As a result, more such research, scholarship and support programs are needed. Last year, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (www. sought to bridge this data gap by conducting a survey of Muslims, Jews and the general population. This article reviews some of the key findings and questions raised and offers recommendations based on interviews with imams, experts and leaders. Ilyas BaYunus (d. 2007) — a founding MSA member (est. 1963) and former president (1969) who served in its central leadership until ISNA’s (est. 1982) formation — conducted a survey in the 1990s and warned Muslims of various disturbing trends. About a decade ago, Judy McFarlin wrote a book on it: “Islamic Divorce in North America: A Shari’a Path in a Secular Society” (Oxford University Press, 2012). Other works includes Sound Vision’s online survey. The ISPU 2020 report raises new issues. In January 2021, ISPU published its “Five Surprising Facts about Divorce in American Muslim Communities” at This report, based on ISPU’s 2020 American Muslim Poll and conducted by the professional polling firm SSRS, surveyed a total of 2,167 from the general population: 801 Muslims, 351 Jews and 1,015 adults. Following are some of its highlights and analysis of the results.


Zahra and Adil (not their real names) married while they were students working part-time. They lived in his parents’ basement suite for the first two years until Zahra got a full-time job. Her earnings went to support Adil’s law studies. Today both enjoy great professional careers and are proud parents of three children. More Programs Needed. The general social trend toward internet dating complicates compatible matchmaking. Instead, Islamic centers and mosques should offer more interesting matchmaking programs so that youth can meet and find good compatible mates. ISNA, ICNA and other national Muslim organizations are doing a wonderful job by holding such events during their conferences and conventions. But as these only cater to attendees, more effort is needed to reach a seemingly growing number of singles. Elders must be trained to provide good matchmaking services within their community to reduce these numbers. For example, Michigan’s Community Helpers Matrimonial Services is a WhatsApp group managed by community elders that enables singles to share their personal matchmaking profiles. Religious and Cultural Considerations. Young people should be urged to seek a spouse within the community. Ali (not his real name) met Kelly during a university event and, soon after, broke his engagement with Sairah. The common phenomenon of interfaith marriage, which dilutes and confuses the pool of available matches, leaves many of our own youth single. Greater efforts must be made to educate young adults and their parents about expanding their spousal-based criteria rather than restricting it to certain professions, ethnicities and other demands. For example, Aisha had several proposals when she was in her teens and early twenties. Yet she and her parents rejected them, because the men did not meet their/her criteria of profession, career, ethnicity and so on. And so the proposals started to dwindle. Now in her 30s, she wonders if she’ll ever get married.

The authors explain this fact — 35% of Muslims are single, compared to 22% of the general population — by noting that Muslims are, on average, younger, especially in the 18-29 age bracket, than the general public: 41% versus 21%, respectively. This trend may be a factor, although imams receive many marriage requests from highly educated, professional women in their 30s or even 40s as well, or from parents looking for a suitable mate for ISLAM HAS NOTHING AGAINST their adult child. The consensus in anecdotal interDIVORCE IN THE EVENT OF views is that matchmaking needs to UNRESOLVABLE MARITAL be addressed urgently. A few solutions ISSUES, AND YET MUSLIM were offered to address the gap in institutional programs and the need for a SOCIETY AND CULTURE REMAIN changed approach to lead to more sucBIASED AGAINST DIVORCED cessful marriages and fewer divorces. Balance Career with Marriage. INDIVIDUALS, ESPECIALLY For example, young people and parents should moderate their high-pres- WOMEN WHO HAVE CHILDREN. sure expectations for their children to THE ISPU SURVEY SHOWS THAT complete their education and establish their career before marriage. ONLY 67% OF MUSLIM PARENTS Rahmaa Institute’s (www.rahmaa. SAY THEY WOULD ACCEPT org/) research and professional expeTHEIR CHILD MARRYING rience show that couples who struggle A DIVORCED PERSON, AS to finish their studies and career after marriage have a more successful marCOMPARED TO JEWISH (79%) ital life. After solving their problems AND CATHOLIC (72%) PARENTS. and growing together, they can look back with pride and inform their children of their struggle.


This result contradicts the perception of imams, community leaders and professionals. Sound Vision’s 2010 survey reports that 56.55% of Muslims are currently divorced ( This discrepancy may be due to how the survey question was framed and presented to the participants. It could also be due to shame surrounding divorce and a reluctance to answer truthfully. Divorce Perception. Regardless, this raises the question: How are we, as a Muslim community, accepting divorce as a solution to unresolvable marital problems? According to the ISPU report, Muslims appear to accept the fact that divorce is increasing. Surprisingly, divorce is more acceptable in the older age groups (30 and



above) than in the younger group (18-29). Nonetheless, it tends to be a very isolating and embarrassing situation, especially for women. Effects on Families. Going through a divorce is among life’s most hurtful and stressful phases. So many suffer tremendously from losing their spouse. Children especially suffer confusion, displacement and insecurity about what the future will bring. Social stigma, still a common reality among Muslim Americans, makes finding another spouse very difficult. We should make sure that our imams and community leaders, usually the first line of defense, are trained and have the resources to handle such cases. Many divorced people go into depression and/or isolation to mourn their loss. As a result, Muslims need welltrained counselors and social workers to deal with their mental health needs. A support infrastructure is needed. As the divorce population increases, one wonders whether Muslims have the infrastructure to serve and support this group, especially children. Single parents need job programs, emergency shelters, financial support, babysitting, childcare facilities and many other services. Mosques should evaluate their programs and partnerships with stakeholder organizations and encourage those seeking divorce to be open about the issues they are facing.


God is explicit on forbidding illicit and premarital sex. For instance, the Quran (17:32)

admonishes: “Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil opening the road (to other evils).” However, some Muslims feel that they have to address this disturbing statistic in an “amicable” and “constructive” way. Some young people and imams believe that this number exceeds 6% in some communities. These couples might also be ashamed to admit this to ISPU surveyors. One imam said that this trend depends on how much the mosque and the community welcome diversity and what kind of programs are available. The survey finds that some young people find solace together and decide to cohabit. They meet and enjoy each other’s company rather than visit a mosque where they don’t feel accepted. They are also mirroring a greater societal trend within the general population of living together before getting married or dating multiple people. Although this issue is hard to deal with, some argue that as a community, they must discover more solutions and engage in conversations that welcome rather than alienate them.


Islam has nothing against divorce in the event of unresolvable marital issues, and yet Muslim society and culture remain biased against divorced individuals, especially women who have children. The ISPU survey shows that only 67% of Muslim parents say they would accept their child marrying a divorced person, as compared to Jewish (79%) and Catholic (72%) parents. As


Catholicism views marriage as a sacramental act, its rules against divorce are far stricter than those of Islam. Similarly, Jewish divorce laws are not women friendly either, where the religious legality of the divorce rests on the husband’s assent. Divorce and compatible matchmaking within our communities require urgent attention. More work, open minded conversations and research will lead to objective statistics, reasons and solutions. The following plans should be considered: Think tanks and academic institutions should conduct more research and study to provide a better, more comprehensive picture of diverse Muslim communities, their needs and solutions. Imams should be trained to address all aspects of matchmaking and divorce through qualified counseling and sponsoring masjid and community programs. Islamic centers and mosques have to hold more events so young people can meet and get to know each other in a safe environment. More khutbas, workshops and conferences targeting parents and marriage-age youth are also necessary. We hope and pray that more practical suggestions will result from such dialogues. It’s long past time to engage young people, address their needs realistically and support them. As all of this requires a combined effort, please send your comments and suggestions to Rahmaa.Institute@  ih Khalid Iqbal, founder of Rahmaa Institute, which focuses on issues related to marriage, conflict resolution, divorce, domestic violence and anger prevention. In his capacity as an author (“Anger and Domestic Violence Prevention Guide for the Muslim Community” [with Aisha Changezi, 2016]) and speaker, he has developed a comprehensive eight-hour premarital counseling course. The author is grateful to the following individuals for their time and recommendations: Erum Ikramullah (research project manager, ISPU), Shaykh Mohamed Almasmari (imam and khatib, Muslim Unity Center, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Sheikh Ali Suleiman Ali (imam and religious director, Muslim Community of the Western Suburbs of Detroit; director, Muslim Family Services, Detroit), Imam Mohamed Magid (executive imam, ADAMS Center, Sterling, Va.; chairman, International Interfaith Peace Corps; former president, ISNA), Imam Mustapha Alturk (amir, Islamic Organization of North America; imam, IONA Mosque, Warren, Mich.), Aneesah Nadir, M.S.W., Ph.D. (president, Islamic Social Services Association-USA; former professor, Arizona State University [17 years]; professor at several institutions) and Salma Elkadi Abugideiri MED, LPC (a leading mental health provider in Virginia; a founding board member, Peaceful Family Project; co-author of several books on marriage and family).

Effective Divorce Mediation

Do those who sign the certificate as well as the witnesses know that they are obliged to help the couple during their difficulties? BY KHALID IQBAL


li and Sadia (not their real names) had a difficult 18-year marriage. Ali, a carefree personality, made a good living and enjoyed spending on family and friends. Sadia, serious and controlling, also had a successful career but never felt the need to contribute to the household expenses, as is her right according to the Sharia. Ali, who lost his job in the economic downturn, had little savings and expected Sadia to help. She refused. After struggling for months, they decided to separate and arrange shared custody for their three children. Being smart and knowledgeable, they agreed to what they felt were equitable and fair child custody and financial arrangements. Things changed when they filed for divorce (talaq). The Sharia defines this term as untying the matrimonial knot. Uttering this term inaugurates a compulsory waiting period of three menstrual cycles during which the husband must provide her with all the amenities he did during their married

life. This also serves as a cooling-off period to rethink and reconcile. Sadia, uninterested in reconciling, moved out. Since divorce in the North American context falls under state laws, most imams and scholars opt for performing religious divorce after completing the court process. This post-divorce often prevents the couple from receiving guidance as to the spiritual, emotional and sometimes financial assistance involved during the process. They often find themselves isolated from the community, extended family and their social circles. In many cultures, the attached stigma prevents couples from seeking help when they need it the most. Family and friends, who may be unaware of the couple’s marital issues until they announce their divorce, obviously cannot provide any pre-divorce support. Social media, with its ease of broadcasting rumors and gossip, can also have a negative pre-divorce impact. It is important for such couples to interact with an imam who can guide them through the relevant religious injunctions, “A divorce

is only permissible twice: after that, the parties should either hold together on equitable terms, or separate with kindness. It is not lawful for you to take back any of your gifts (from your wives), except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by God. If you (judges) do indeed fear that they would be unable to keep these limits, there is no blame on either of them if she gives something for her freedom” (2:229). When I counsel and mediate a divorce, I remind both spouses, “They are your garments and you are their garments” (2:187), alerting them to the fact that a divorce case is like stripping off their garments. As they don’t want to broadcast their nakedness, they should not air each other’s shortcomings and deficiencies. Although doing so may benefit a party in the short term, it brings life-long hurt and guilt. I specifically guide them through this verse, to ensure that the discussion and terms are equitable and beneficial, especially when children are involved.


In most cases, the decision to divorce is due to long-simmering issues. In some cultures, its unacceptability causes the couple and their children to keep it a secret during a time that is most stressful and disturbing. Marriage is a community affair that brings the families and community together in happiness. Those who sign the certificate as well as the witnesses are obliged to help the couple during their difficulties. Thus, the decision of a possible divorce affects the children as well as the extended family and friends. Before such a decision is made, family elders and religious leaders should be allowed to attempt reconciliation or reach an equitable separation agreement. Family members know them and would, hopefully, have their best interests at heart. If they are sincere, a mediator might help them resolve their issues by explaining the




If you have a choice, look for and select a mediator who has good reviews of being impartial and willing to work with his/her clients. Here are some of our recommendations.

• Realize that your children need both of you and vice versa. As you are the only biological parents they will ever have, they will need you to cooperate in the future even after you remarry. Thus, consider your parenting plan and how you will handle child and spousal support. A good mediator helps you negotiate a balanced parenting plan that allows each of you to help them grow, excel and thrive. Child custody is a very serious issue. For example, you have to think about which days — especially holidays — will be spent with which spouse, who will pick them up

START THE PROCESS BEFORE GOING THROUGH THE COURT SYSTEM, FOR THIS IS THE TIME WHEN THE COUPLE MOST NEEDS A NON-JUDGMENTAL, UNBIASED AND SENSITIVE INTERMEDIARY. FAIRNESS AND EQUITABLE TREATMENT OF BOTH PARTIES ARE THE KEY. • Understand the mediation process’ scope, how it’s conducted, its limitations and how the courts may view your agreed-upon agreement negotiated through mediation. • Check with someone who has gone through the process or do your own research. Remember that the focus is on both of you and no one else. So, take the time to read, evaluate and view the result thoroughly because it’s your life. • Realize that you’ll pass through emotions like grief, resentment, anger, sorrow and winning over your partner. Don’t become a victim of them so that you can negotiate a settlement with wisdom. • Ask if you can bring an elder and prepare yourself in terms of financial, income, expenses and other relevant information. • Gather and organize all information on your assets and liabilities, capital gains, bank account, investments, retirement plans and mutual funds. Have your accountant calculate how much you will pay in taxes if you cash in your retirement plan. • Determine the value of your fixed and moveable assets (e.g., vehicles, jewelry and house). • Provide your income tax returns for the last three to five years, as well as any interest you might have in a business, and the cash value of your life insurance.

and drop them off, not to mention how their expenses will be met. Both parties should realize that courts like fair and impartial agreements. Realize that if the court views the agreement as biased, the presiding judge has the authority to issue a formula-based decision that disregards each party’s personal situation. Both mediators and arbitrators must realize that they are not marriage counselors. If they begin to think that they are, the parties usually choose not return to the table. After all, this is the time for devising realistic and practical arrangements for couples who have no desire to reconcile. Imams or family members who assume this role can provide a neutral environment in a mosque and remind them of Islam’s method of conflict resolution. In addition, this lessens the financial burden associated with going to court and can reduce everyone’s level of distress. Muslim couples thinking about getting a divorce welcome the opportunity to resolve their differences through the Quranic process, “If you (who believe) fear that a couple may break up, appoint one arbitrator from his family and one from hers” (4:35). Essentially the reference to arbitrate suggests the appointment of two elders: one by each party. Reconciliation may be the


primary objective, but other verses allow either spouse to petition for divorce.


Start the process before going through the court system, for this is the time when the couple most needs a non-judgmental, unbiased and sensitive intermediary. Fairness and equitable treatment of both parties are the key. Mediation can help them reach agreement about financial matters and child custody, whereas minimizing the involvement of family members might lessen the danger of fueling conflict between the separating spouses. For their own peace of mind and their children’s well-being, mediation sessions can be convened swiftly and can often achieve more lasting agreements than adversarial court procedures. The couple must realize that no matter how bitter the divorce is, they will need to communicate with each other for their children’s sake, whether it is for health, education, special activities or events in which both of them would like to take part. A good, mediated contract can help with this. Despite the mediator’s efforts, Ali and Sadia had a bitter divorce and child support matters went to court. Sadia decided not to work, which meant that Ali had to pick up the child support tab and make the payments in full and on time.  ih Khalid Iqbal is founder of Rahmaa Institute (, which focuses on issues related to marriage, conflict resolution, divorce, domestic violence and anger prevention. In his capacity as an author (“Anger and Domestic Violence Prevention Guide for the Muslim Community”) and speaker, he has developed a comprehensive eight-hour premarital counseling course.


divorce process’ steps and consequences of each decision on the couple and the children. The court ordered Ali and Sadia to seek mediation before the final divorce and to devise an adequate plan for dealing with parenting, financial and other issues in their families’ best interest.

Divorce in Muslim Society

Is maintaining the family’s “face” more important than freeing its suffering members from a failed marriage? BY F. M.


ivorce is an isolating experience, and our culture cuts us little slack during the process. This is especially evident in comparison to non-Muslim societies where, barring some exceptions, marriage is viewed as a legal procedure that seals the deal on a relationship that already been maturing for a while. Many Muslim societies focus heavily on gender segregation, which enables little understanding of the opposite sex. While this has its merits, our societies have failed us by being unable to prepare us for what marriage is really all about. We all know of people who got married because of societal or parental pressure and, consequently, spend the rest of their lives resenting their partners and children. In fact, happiness or even contentment seem to take a back seat to parental expectations (e.g., grandchildren), children and familial expectations, economic stability and social mobility. To add to the complexities, many things that worked in favor of the traditional Muslim marriage are slowly changing — for

example, women are pursuing higher education and professional careers. In addition, the experience of Muslims living in the West is increasingly at odds with that of their peers in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, who don’t have to deal with the various financial stressors and other factors. Although many Muslims here have achieved considerable economic and social progress, their attitude toward human relationships remains firmly rooted in a mythical past. This past does not stretch back to the lives of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions — real people who went through complex emotional and personal challenges while struggling with persecution, migration and war — but to a semi-mythical past involving a utopian Muslim society that had no need for comprehending human behavior or encouraging compassion and kindness. Is it any wonder, then, that Muslims are experiencing a major explosion in divorce rates? Now that we find ourselves in this defining moment in our collective social history, it

is perhaps time to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Historically, Muslim societies have prided themselves on the family unit’s structural integrity and, as a result, Muslimmajority regions have low divorce rates. However, it’s incredibly naïve to expect a community of over 1 billion people to remain unaffected by global societal trends, especially as we do not have a centralized Sharia or legal system. We cannot pretend that divorce is a oneoff occurrence, that it happens to “other people,” that it’s absent in our culture or shift blame to something else. For instance, one respectable scholar correlated a women’s right to seek divorce in a particular country to the rise in that country’s divorce rates. Even if we agree to that being a part of the reason, we fail to look at other underlying societal factors that push people to divorce. Ignoring these reasons has led us to where we are at present and will inevitably cause more harm to the fabric of Muslim society. More often than not, divorce is a lonely


COVER STORY and alienating process. What makes it worse for Muslims is our culture of shaming these people. During my own divorce, I remember feeling like I was on the other side of the looking glass — everyone else was on the side where time and life were “normal” with their normal daily activities, whereas I had chosen this anomaly for myself and therefore had to go through it alone as punishment. I remember some friends and relatives telling

that anything more than one-time assistance only enables them. People who go through divorce, especially women, are left to fend for themselves. They often hear, “Oh, this is God’s will,” as if His will frees people from social responsibility. We speak in excited tones and speculate on the reasons underlying the breakup, as if it was a new episode of some Turkish soap opera and not a person’s life. I know of so many men and women who

IT SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT OUR COMMUNITIES’ ATTITUDES THAT WE WOULD RATHER HAVE A WOMAN DIE AT HER ABUSIVE HUSBAND’S HANDS — OR OUR MEN AND WOMEN SUFFER DEAD-BEDROOMS AND PERPETUATE MISERY IN OUR CHILDREN — THAN GET A DIVORCE. SINCE THEN, I HAVE WONDERED WHAT IS IT ABOUT OUR SOCIETY THAT MAKES US VALUE “FACE” MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE. me point blank that I had brought shame to my family and respectable Muslim girls don’t do this to their families. It speaks volumes about our communities’ attitudes that we would rather have a woman die at her abusive husband’s hands — or our men and women suffer dead-bedrooms and perpetuate misery in our children — than get a divorce. Since then, I have wondered what is it about our society that makes us value “face” more than anything else. My quest has led me to some answers. As products of the post-colonial and post-modern eras, many of us were (subconsciously) defined by economic progress. We convinced ourselves that if we behaved like model citizens (both in the West and in Muslimmajority countries), with our heads down and seemingly united, what we did in the shadows wouldn’t matter. Islam became a private affair instead of a way of life, and our practice of piety turned into rituals with no real belief in anything but the Next Big Thing. It was only a matter of time before our private shortcomings became communal habits with no one to enjoin good and forbid evil. As a result, our hearts hardened and we no longer felt our fellow Muslims’ pain and suffering. When our charitable efforts became restricted to major dramatic events or an annual obligation, we convinced ourselves that private suffering is overrated and

were encouraged to keep a stiff upper lip simply because our society has no support system for divorcees. Our mosques have no programs or affiliates to provide marital counselling, and our imams are ill-equipped to deal with problems that require professional counselling. If we seek to address this crisis, we must embrace those going through a divorce. They are humans in need of our love and support, and not gossip fodder. Their loss may not be as visible as death, but their relationship has died. It’s convenient to be passive or forget to include those who don’t live “regular” lives. But it’s precisely because of their situation that we must extend our love and friendship to them. As our deen teaches us, personal discomfort shouldn’t prevent us from enjoining good and forbidding evil. We all know someone who is undergoing a divorce or has been through one, and yet how many of us offer our time or compassion to them? Our communities will benefit by investing in greater social care for our people. I would love to imagine a Muslim society where members rest easy in the knowledge that they have qualified counsellors to whom they can turn for mental and emotional healing. The road to recovery is a slow one, and having the help of a counsellor and divorce support groups would be invaluable.


It would be equally beneficial if community elders and members would embrace divorcees and divorces without judgment and criticism. I’m not saying that we’re ignoring the underlying reasons for divorce: there may be plenty of good nasiha from which the couple may benefit, but during the heat of battle or its immediate aftermath, so to speak, is not the best time to offer it. Another aspect is the lack of self-advocacy and emotional growth. Our limited social interaction with the opposite gender and lack of interpersonal skills during our formative years means that many young Muslims enter marriage with almost no idea of what a serious long-term relationship means — almost like trying to maneuver a car on the highway with no prior driving experience. It is telling indeed that we see Muslims successfully navigate their professional relationships and then fail to do the same in their personal lives. A divorce, as painful as it may be, might be that wake-up call for some to become mature adults. Perhaps we have mental health issues stemming from a tumultuous childhood or carry emotional baggage from the past. Now would be a good time to unpack it all and come to some internal resolution through counselling. Our spouse isn’t equipped to be our counsellor or nanny; in fact, we set our relationship up for failure from the start when we come into an adult relationship with the expectations of acquiring a servant/shrink. Another angle might be to evaluate our life goals and see what compromises might be necessary and how we can benefit from approaching the matter for the greater good instead of individualism. Our societies would benefit by looking at the prophetic character and reminding ourselves of the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) behavior toward the Quraysh and the Hypocrites, the Bedouins who knew very little of social etiquette and his Companions. He never let his personal reservations get in the way of social justice and truth, and was never one to ostracize his opponents — much less his community’s members. Our actions have strayed so far from his example that I wonder how we would feel if he were to observe our gatekeeping and outward shows of piety instead of genuine compassion and mercy.  ih The author, a divorcee, wishes to keep her identity private.


A Tale of a Twice-Displaced People Guyanese Muslim Americans make their mark in the U.S. BY MISBAHUDDIN MIRZA

An Eid prayer in the park organized by Masjid As-Siddiq

It is graduation time!


came from India during the 19th century. His website is a treasure trove of information and e-books on the history and affairs of the country’s Muslims. What makes this community’s story so fascinating is its members’ unique ride on life’s rollercoaster. Theirs is a tale of promises made, lives uprooted and fateful decisions that forever cut most of them off from their roots and assigned them a new identity and lifestyle — twice in about 150 years. Islamic Horizons spoke to both men to get an insider’s look at the trials, tribulations, successes and challenges that are so exclusive to their community. The British Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 set into motion a complex chain of events that would impact thousands of the Subcontinent’s inhabitants. The Guardian’s April 16, 2019, story documents that the Scots, who later posed as champions of the anti-slavery movement, were actually one of the largest slave traders. The British had to compensate 46,000 slave-owners for the loss of their “property.” Since the plantations in Guyana — a country on South America’s North Atlantic coast that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean — were primarily in the business of producing sugar, the British had to compensate Scotland’s slave-owners £100 [about $9800 today] for each sugar boiler operator, as opposed to a relatively lower compensation of £18 for unskilled field workers. These enormous compensations allowed the Scots to purchase huge swathes of land in the Scottish Highlands, which their progeny still own. The abolition of slavery also resulted in a sudden dearth of farm workers, a void that was soon filled by unscrupulous middlemen who started the indentured servant system. Hamid’s paternal and maternal grandparents were among the gullible Indians lured away

he snowplow gently lowered its blade on the busy four-lane Rockaway Boulevard in South Ozone Park, Queens, N.Y., and then, with supreme confidence, started hurtling past the three campuses of the Guyanese Muslim American community’s Al-Ihsan Academy Islamic schools. Inside the main campus office Principal Dr. Shaykh Rafeek Mohamed, a Guyana native, is reviewing plans for a 7,500 square feet addition to the main campus building. One of the founders, as well as a graduate of Makka’s Umm al-Qura University (Arabic Language and Shariah), he is also the president of the Caribbean American WHAT MAKES THIS COMMUNITY’S STORY SO Muslim Association and a member of N.Y. City Department of Education Commissioner’s FASCINATING IS ITS MEMBERS’ UNIQUE RIDE ON LIFE’S Advisory Council. ROLLERCOASTER. THEIRS IS A TALE OF PROMISES In yet another part of Queens, 76-year-old MADE, LIVES UPROOTED AND FATEFUL DECISIONS Guyanese Imam Ahmad Hamid, ex-principal of Brooklyn’s Al Noor Islamic School and an THAT FOREVER CUT MOST OF THEM OFF FROM THEIR avid writer on Guyanese matters who spent the ROOTS AND ASSIGNED THEM A NEW IDENTITY AND first 50 years of his life there, is preparing his Friday khutba. Hamid was born in one of the LIFESTYLE — TWICE IN ABOUT 150 YEARS. indentured servant’s house on the Guyanese plantation built by his grandparents, who MAY/JUNE 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   31

ISLAM IN AMERICA from British-ruled India to cultivate and and arrangements made to invite these harvest the region’s sugarcane fields. scholars, as well as some of the differences Muslim African slaves like the and objections posed to inviting certain Fulani had been brought to Guyana people. Eventually, the two groups united much earlier and forcibly converted to to form a single organization. In 1979, local Muslims experienced a Christianity. The indentured servants from the Subcontinent, eventually quantum change in their religious knowltotaling 238,979 people, were allowed edge and practice when Libya opened its to retain their religions and build their embassy in the country. From 1979 to own houses of worship. Most of the 1982, chargé d’affairs Ahmed Ibraheem indentured servants were brought from Ehwas gave lessons in Islamic studies. The   Al-Ihsan Academy Islamic School classroom modern India’s northern states: Uttar subsequent rise in the level and standard of Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal. Some from Islamic education, consciousness and culTamil Nadu also joined the mix. tural changes encouraged some families The majority was Hindu, with a subto send their children to religious schools stantial percentage of Muslims. Those located in India, Pakistan, and various who could read the Quran and knew Arab countries. These youngsters, trained the basics of Islam became imams and, in other madha-hibs (schools of thought), in addition to leading prayers, officiated at returned home and soon started challengmarriage ceremonies, conducted funeral ing the older imams, which, unfortunately, prayers and settled disputes. If the dispute permanently eroded the latter’s authority involved non-Muslims, it would be placed to settle matters inside the mosque. before the panchayat (village council), an Today, Guyana has 125 mosques. Indian system of five wise men from the While some Guyanese Muslims migrated village selected to act as judges. to the U.S. during the 1950s and 1960s   A school day in the park The indentured servants’ contract and established mosques and Islamic allowed them to return home permanently after work- organizations, the 1970s saw a real surge of Guyanese newcomers who started ing for five years under the unforgiving equatorial arriving in New York and stayed to work without legal authorization. They evensun — if they could afford to pay for their passage. tually obtained sponsorship from their employers and became legal residents. Many of them saved a few pennies every week to According to Mohamed, the Guyanese American Muslims have spearheaded do so; a total of 65,538 people actually did return to the establishment of 15 mosques in New York City: ten in Queens, two in Brooklyn, India. However, a few of them found conditions in and three in the Bronx. Remarkably, no riba (interest) was involved — however, to India to be worse than those in Guyana, where there put matters in the right perspective, Rafeek said that a few of the mosques may have was no scarcity of food, and thus decided to return had some initial riba involvement before he joined the organization. The Al-Ihsan Academy started in 1989 with 95% Guyanese students; today, voluntarily. The indentured servants’ contract allowed them to 50% of its students are non-Guyanese. The school, which provides a modern own land after completing their contract. The planta- standardized education, also teaches the Quran, Arabic and Islamic studies. Some tions were located on one side of the railway tracks, of its graduates now work as medical and other professionals. and the indentured servants’ villages were located on In New York Times’ Joseph Berger’s article about those who live in New York the other side. The plantation owners allowed them City, “Indian: Twice Removed,” concludes “These Indo-Caribbeans have not felt to build homes and put up a fence to enclose the particularly embraced by the more flourishing Indian communities of Flushing and surrounding land. Some who were thinking about Elmhurst in Queens, nor have they made many overtures to the Indians. Instead, the future also enclosed land for farming. they have cobbled together their own fragrant neighborhood of roti, saris and gold Eventually, a law was passed granting them the jewelry shops among the row houses of Richmond Hill, Queens” (Dec. 17, 2004). When asked if Guyanese Muslims also experienced similar treatment, Hamid title of the house and fenced-in land. These rules were further relaxed to allow them to cultivate rice for their remarked that “The Muslims from the Caribbean are the descendants of South own profit and set up shops. Education was made Asian indentured laborers from India [the Subcontinent], hence the [resemblance compulsory for all children who were 6-14 years old. in physical appearance]. [But] When it is known that we are from Guyana or A few managed to send their children to England for Trinidad, the attitude towards us changes, as if we are of a lower class or caste.” Hamid also mentioned that one of his friends served the South Asian comfurther studies; some of them came back as physicians munity in a prominent role for several years, but was never invited to any of their and other professionals. Becoming more organized, the Muslims began homes or private social gatherings. Unfazed and undaunted by these negative attitudes and ignorance of fellow inviting Muslim scholars to tour Guyana and lecture on Islamic teachings to the growing community. Muslims, the vibrant Guyanese Muslim American community continues its Hamid’s website contains his “Guyana: The Story of upward march with its feet firmly on the ground and its gaze on the skies.  ih Four Moulanas (1937-1968)” (https://www.caribMisbahuddin Mirza, M.S., P.E., a licensed professional engineer, is registered in the States of New York and New Jersey. A, former regional quality control engineer for the New York State Department of Transportation’s New York City Region, he is the which gives a fascinating account of the excitement author of the iBook “Illustrated Muslim Travel Guide to Jerusalem.” He has also written for major U.S. and Indian publications. 32    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2021

A Success Story Founded in New York A seedling that sprouted and branched out to spread care worldwide BY NAZRADEEN LALLMOHAMED

Participants of AH run sewing class in Cambodia show their work


uyana’s premiere Muslim broadcast entity, the weekly “Islam for Guyana” interviewed Zeleena Hack, who spoke passionately about the work of Amaana Hands, Inc. (AH; https:// This charitable and volunteer-staffed organization, which she and her husband Mohamed Nasar Hack co-founded in 1997, has its headquarters in South Ozone Park. The family has also been involved in establishing other Islamic organizations, such as the Islamic Association of Newark, N.J., the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana and the Guyana Islamic Trust. Zeleena, who earned a bachelor’s in psychology and serves as AH’s executive director, has conducted an Islamic study circle for youth and adult women at her home. She began this undertaking in 1983, a time when the mosque offered no Islamic lessons. The parents also entrusted her with their zakat for distribution, which prompted her

to launch this initiative. AH’s motto, “Our Foundation is Trust,” is guided by its principle of “Empowering the Poor and Needy with Dignity and Respect.” Now in its 23rd year, it is so proficient and professionally organized that anyone who comes in contact with it can testify to its success.

Nasar, who served as imam at Masjid al-Abidin in Richmond Hill, Queens, N.Y. (, is an adjunct professor in social sciences at the Metropolitan College of New York and also works as a senior analyst for the New York City Department of Social Services.



In 2011, he published “Selective Narratives” (Nook Book). He also leads Friday prayers at various mosques in the city. The organization’s mission of serving the poor began when the Guyana-based Imam Hafeez Zid and the author told Zeleena about the severe living conditions of a poor couple in Guyana with several children. AH immediately secured a new house for them, and the rest, as they say, is history. All AH projects are geared toward fostering self-sufficiency and improving the recipients’ standard of living. Its volunteer staff uses well-defined guidelines to carefully determine if the potential recipients qualify for assistance to enforce its motto of trust, equity and fairness, and also to ensure that people’s zakat funds reach the intended parties. Current AH projects include arranging for monthly Grocery Hampers and sponsoring orphans and orphanages; providing education and medical assistance, as well as skills training (sewing); and assisting microeconomic projects such as helping a recipient start poultry farming and more. One of its hallmark projects is sending monthly financial assistance to more than 50 recipients in the U.S. Some of its larger projects include building houses and water wells in several countries and helping widows, single-parent households, women in abusive relationships and divorced women. AH started its work in Guyana by providing new houses, monthly grocery hampers, clothing, self-sufficiency projects, education and medical assistance and school supplies, along with clothing and footwear for poor

children. It morphed into a reliable source for many poor Guyanese. Since then, AH has become active in Bangladesh, where it assists families with their educational and medical needs, as well as builds water wells in many villages. AH has now reached the shores of Cambodia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan (Darfur), Afghanistan, Syria, Trinidad and the U.S. It has also ventured into other countries with smaller projects on an as-needed basis. For instance it added Togo, doubling down on its projects to bring much needed assistance to a larger poor population. AH even provided suhoor and iftar meals for workers in the Masjid al-Haram. Despite having limited resources, AH has been able to impact the less fortunate around the world. During the current Covid-19 pandemic, it has been at the forefront and relentless in its response both locally and internationally. Again, Zeleena is at the center of this assistance. Unfortunately, the poor have been the most affected and needed assurance that they had not been forgotten in these stressful times. She continues to reach out to families who need financial assistance. During Ramadan, AH organized food and grocery distributions in the U.S. and in the countries where it is active. These distributions, although on a smaller scale, remain ongoing. Due to the pandemic and the subsequent closing of quite a few businesses, many people have been unable pay their rent, grocery and utilities bills. Again, Zeleena is reaching out to them to bring ease, assurance and comfort. For example, it has helped arrange respectful


Muslim funeral and burial services for those who have died from the virus. In Senegal, AH works with five orphanages and provides support to many widows. It has also found ways to serve people in war-stricken Yemen and Palestine. In the U.S., the organization has helped refugees after they were no longer eligible for government assistance related to paying rent, legal and other related fees, and made sure that children were ready for school. It also paid for job training and helping with their transportation needs. Zeleena is truly a quiet rescuer of so many poor and needy people. A selfless humanitarian, she does her best to anticipate what they need, advocates on their behalf and almost never fails in her pursuit to represent their interests. Well-respected in her community for such advocacy, she also uses her skills as a family and marriage counselor to counsel children suffering from peer pressure and helps the elderly, both Muslim and non-Muslim. She is a pillar in her community and a true activist for the poor. In addition to all of this, she directs all of the correspondence from Amaana Hands, which is very timely, efficient and of interest to readers.  ih Nazradeen Lallmohamed, a graduate of the Guyana Islamic Institute, is fire safety director at a New York City hotel.

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Life in Rohingya Refugee Camps An ongoing humanitarian crisis that never seems to end BY ADNAN KHAN, WITH ASSISTED TRANSLATIONS/REPORTING BY KYSAR HAMID [Editor’s Note: Islamic Horizons invited Adnan Khan, a multi-platform journalist, to offer readers a peek into the challenges faced by the Rohingya Muslim refugees. He currently serves as a producer for NowThis News.]

Muhammad Saleem fled his home village in Mrauk-U District with his seven family members. It took them one month and ten days to reach the relief centers in Bangladesh. Oct 2017


yanmar’s security forces have inflicted yet another bloodbath on its people, killing 100+ anti-coup protesters since a young woman succumbed to her bullet wounds in the head on Feb. 19. The post-coup [Feb. 1] military junta has detained hundreds of elected officials, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and declared a year-long state of emergency. This is the same junta that, on Aug. 25, 2017, started a campaign of mass killing, rape and arson on Rakhine state’s Rohingya Muslims, sending 250,000 of them fleeing for their lives to neighboring Bangladesh. Both the UN and several human rights groups have categorized these atrocities as genocide. Human rights groups estimate that 740,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh and other neighboring countries since 2017. “They started spraying us with gunfire; we fled into the trees. When the military was done shooting at us, they took the living women and girls and raped them. When they were finished, they burned the homes with the girls inside them; there were 70 girls in our village,” said Hamida Begum.

At a relief center in Sabrang, Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar, a child stares at a truck that will take them to one of the camps in Cox’s Bazar.

On Aug. 30, 2017, the military attacked Hamida Begum’s village of Tulatuli in Rakhine state and forced her, her elderly mother, ailing husband and their five children to flee their farm. Hamida says that when she saw her home burning she lost her memory, “I did not know which way was east or west.” Joining a caravan of other displaced Rohingya villagers, it took the family 15 days to reach Bangladesh — eventually entering through Kanjurpara, a border point with Teknaf.

Survivors reported that the military had targeted their villages, burned down their homes, mercilessly killed thousands and tortured and raped hundreds of women and young girls. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Boarders; reports that since 2016, the military has killed 6,700+ Rohingya, including at least 730 children under five. The junta claims that its military “clearance operations” were in retaliation for attacks on Rakhine police posts and army


The Kutupalong Rohingya Refugee Camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, is on the border of the nation of Myanmar next to the Nafs River. The 740,000 Rohingya—including more than 400,000 children—have fled into Cox’s Bazar (UNHCR) Oct. 2017

At a relief center in Sabrang, Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar, The World Food Program provides Rohingya refugees with soap, water, and food, including milk, rice, dough, biscuits, and lentils. Private donors are distributing towels and clothes, and according to Muhammad Elias of UNHCR, they are supplying 4 x 5 m tarps to families so they can build shelters once they reach the camp. Oct. 2017

bases by the militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA; wiki/Arakan_Rohingya_Salvation_Army) group in late August 2017. “The Buddhists and Hindus came along with the military to ransack our homes,” says Muhammad Saleem, an Islamic teacher from

a village in the Mrauk-U District. “The military would come in groups of 30 plus, and the local Hindus and Buddhists would be with them,” he continues. “Before the [ARSA] attacks we had a good relationship with all the local Hindus and Buddhists.” Saleem watched all their possessions being taken


away. While the military burned down the village on Sept. 5, 2017, they escaped. Saleem says the unlike the Muslim Rohingya, the Hindu and Buddhist Rohingya have national identification cards. In 1982, the Buddhist-majority government of Burma — the military government renamed the country in 1989 to reflect its name in Burmese: “Myanma” — enacted the Burma Citizenship Law, which denied Muslim Rohingya citizenship because the government doesn’t recognize them as one of its national races. Rohingyas, who claim to be descendants of Arakan’s indigenous Muslims, ruled the Rakhine state from 1429 until 1784 when the Burmese king Bodawpaya invaded and conquered it. Experts in the region reported that they ruled over the present-day Rakhine state, Myanmar and Chittagong Division, Bangladesh. But Myanmar accords this status only to Rakhine’s Kaman Muslims, which the government acknowledges as one of its 135 officially recognized ethnic groups and to whom it has given national identity cards (NIC). It dismisses the Muslim Rohingya as culturally and racially different and recognizes them not as “Rohingya,” but as “illegal Bengali immigrants.” The Rohingya language and culture both vary from Bengali. Muhammad Saleem, no relation to the previously mentioned person, says the

MUSLIMS LIVING AS MINORITIES military persecuted them for two years 2018 the Trump administration imposed Rohingya don’t believe it is safe to return, before the influx. “My life was unbear- sanctions on the military, accusing it of and the junta’s inactivity over the past few able. The military wants to finish off all the “ethnic cleansing” — not “genocide” — years makes them even more uncertain. The Bangladesh Daily Star reported on [Rohingya] Muslims. We weren’t allowed to against the Rohingya. move around because they said we were all On Feb. 10, President Joe Biden, along March 16 that the crisis’ enormous scale has ARSA,” he said. Without a NIC, the govern- with Canada, the U.K., and other nations, placed a tremendous burden on Bangladesh ment can regulate Rohingya travel within imposed sanctions (https://www.reuters. and Cox’s Bazar environment (https://www. Rakhine and restrict education, health care com/article/us-myanmar-politics/biden- approves-order-for-sanctions-on-my coping-rohingya-refugee-crisis-1534645). and voting rights. “ARSA was fighting for us because the anmar-generals-businesses-idUSKB- There is also increased crime, human trafMyanmar government wasn’t giving us our N2AA2OF) to pressure the junta to return ficking, gender-based violence and facrights. We couldn’t educate our children. We control to the democratically elected gov- tionalism. The New York Times reports couldn’t go to the mosque, and we always ernment and release all detainees. that “gun battles” have broken out in the had to pay extortion money to the military,” The UN says roughly 600,000 Muslim camps as various divisions fight over said Hamida. Rohingya live in Rakhine and believe that limited resources (https://www.nytimes. The 1982 law was a precursor to getting genocidal actions are still occurring. Arab com/2020/12/04/world/asia/rohingya-banrid of all Rohingya. In 1991, the military News reported on March 4 that the junta gladesh-island-camps.html). launched Pyi Thaya (“Clean Dhaka has invested $350 and Beautiful Nation”), a viomillion in Bhasan Char, a 15 lent pogrom that drove out an sq. mile island in the Bay of Bengal, to relocate an estiestimated 250,000 Rohingya. mated 100,000 Rohingya. Since the 1990s the government has waged many similar Several international organiattacks on them; the UNHCR, zations have expressed their the UN Refugee Agency, esticoncerns, and the UN worries mates that nearly a million about the risk of tidal surges Rohingya have fled. Most of and cyclones. The Daily Star them, Human Rights Watch says the facilities are equipped ( state, live in what with 120 cyclone shelters and is now the world’s largest refflood protection barriers. Since ugee camp: the KutupalongDec. 2020, 14,000 refugees have Balukhali mega camps in the been relocated with the help of Cox’s Bazar region. 22 local NGOs, says RFA.   On October 31st, eight Rohingya Muslims died when their boat capsized while For years Myanmar has A year after the WHO attempting to beach their boat ashore in Bangladesh; 32 survived. Oct. 2017 rejected the UN and the declared Covid-19 a global International Criminal Court’s (ICC) intends to review the recommendations pandemic, the Rohingya have managed to request to investigate and settle these alleged of the 2018 Advisory Commission on keep cases to a low, although their population atrocities and prohibited foreign journalists Rakhine State ( density — a million people per 10 square into the region. An analysis of HRW satellite node/1819481/world). A series of measures miles – renders social distancing is imposimages shows that 288 Muslim Rohingya led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi sible. However, WHO says the pandemic’s villages showed signs of destruction by fire Annan called on Myanmar to end this crisis; most severe consequences are hunger and after August 2017. Myanmar has never implemented them poverty: “Nearly a quarter of all refugee The ICC, International Court Justice, and ( households moved into a higher vulnerability the Argentine Court have taken legal action mar-implement-recommendations-kofi-an- category — meaning they had less food and on the full range of these atrocities. UN News nan-led-commissi on). There is no telling experienced more economic stress.” The future of these 1.1 million stateless ( what dangers the refugees would face if they reported that Aung San Suu Kyi “was pres- go home; however, repatriation is still con- refugees is bleak. They cannot return home, ent in court [on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019] to sidered the ideal solution. and there are few economic opportunidefend the country against accusations of Muhammad Hashim and his family ties for them in the refugee camps. “The genocide. She is due to address the court escaped a military attack on their village Myanmar military has been persecuting us on Wednesday.” Last summer, the military near Buthidaung Township, leaving behind for a long time, so we come here because said a secret court-martial convicted three the family farm. Hashim said they do not Bangladeshis are Muslim. At least if we die, soldiers for the 2017 massacre of hundreds of know exactly what they will do now, but they we die with Muslims on Muslim land,” says Muhammad Hashim.  ih Rakhine’s Rohingya; however, neither their are willing to work if there is work. identity nor ranks were revealed. “We do not know what we will do; only There’s been a minimal impact from other Allah knows. I will only go back if we get Kysar Hamid, founder & executive director of Youth Alliance for Sustainable International Development, is a former field producer nations trying to resolve the Rohingya ref- citizenship; otherwise, we will still not have for Washington Post, the New York Times, PBS NewsHour and Human ugee crisis. As Reuters reported, in August rights in Myanmar,” says Saleem. Most Rights Watch. MAY/JUNE 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   37


A Small Muslim Community Determined to Thrive Muslim Americans remain committed to helping Cambodia’s Muslims even as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravage their own country BY SLES NAZY   A water well installed by the Zakat Foundation of America


oreign donors have been most generous with those Muslims who survived the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge (1975-79). Most of the recently built religious facilities, such as mosques, musallas and madrassas, have been constructed for Cambodia’s estimated 1 million Muslims. Among those who have helped are Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and some Middle East countries. They even receive a small degree of help from Muslim Americans. Local Muslim nonprofit organizations cooperate with all of them to better the community’s current conditions. The country’s Muslims have really benefited from the Cambodian Muslim Media Center’s (CAMM; relationship with the Zakat Foundation of America (ZFA;, a U.S.-based nonprofit. A mosque, built in memory of

Rawaa Aljassim with the financial support from goodwill donors through the ZFA, was officially inaugurated in the Muslim rural area of Oupii village, O’Kreang commune, Phnom Khiev district, Kratie province. The ceremony was presided over by Lep Ismail, the village

chief of Phnom Khieu, and members of the Communal Council, Mosque Committee, various authorities and many local people. Ismail stated that because of their living conditions, the 160 Muslim families could not afford to build a proper mosque by themselves. However, a local family donated a lot for the mosque and, fortunately, CAMM answered their appeal and made it happen, despite the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Mrs. Yousof Aminah, 73, a congregant who came to pray at the new mosque, said that most of the villagers are farmers. When she came here for the first time in 1998, there was no proper mosque and not so many people. And so they used a wooden structure as a temporary mosque for their religious services and events. “Al hamdu lillah,” she remarked, “now we just have this new mosque. Even though it isn’t big enough to accommodate all our people, especially for the Friday congregational prayer, Eid al-Fitri and Eid al-Adha, at least we can enjoy these events with a new mosque and perform our daily prayers indoors.”



She added, “I am very happy to have the new mosque in my village, and I would like to extend my sincerest and deepest thanks to the donors and CAMM’s work for helping our villagers. May Allah bless all of them, and may He grant them success in life, wealth and health.” Ahmat, 55, a cashew nut tree planter who lives in the village with his eight family members, said that it was a bit far for the village’s 160 families to go from one area to another area in the village. With a broad smile, he said, “Right now, there are three mosques in this area, including the new one funded by the Zakat Foundation of America. But the other two are small, and the roads to their entrances are very slippery. So we used to go there and perform just the Friday prayer. Now we have a very nice mosque, one that is very close to our houses.”

He added, “I, in my capacity as a representative for all the villagers, would like to thank the donor for funding and building this new mosque in my village. May Allah bless everyone who donated, as well as the CAMM workers, with baraka, rahma and reward all of you with janna.” During the inauguration program, CAMM project manager Nora Kry told our reporter, “This is a second mosque that ZAF has supported. It cost more than [U.S.] $20,000 to build. Al hamdu lillah, even during the Covid-19 crisis our brothers and sisters in America have sent their donations to help our people in Cambodia, not only with this mosque project, but also with some other charity projects as well.” He added that the project has generated much happiness among the villagers because they now have a place to perform

their daily prayers. On their behalf, he expressed everyone’s appreciation to the donors, especially the ZFA, who trusts the Cambodian Muslim Media Center as a reliable local partner. Nora also told the villagers to adopt a community spirit when it comes to helping maintain all waqf achievements, whether mosques, water wells or other things designed for long-term use. He then urged them to participate in preventing the spread of Covid-19 by following the safety measures instituted by the Ministry of Health. The Zakat Foundation of America has placed special focus on strengthening community integrity through building mosques in which one can also find schools and libraries. These community centers form a vital source of cooperation, togetherness and literacy in Cambodia’s small Muslim community. In addition, ZFA specialists have instituted a water security campaign by installing communal water wells as sadaqa jariya. Many of these provide water to remote rural villages. Since 2016, ZFA has funded some 200 wells and hand pumps in various rural communities located in Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Kampong Cham, Tboung Khmom and Kratie provinces. No distinction is made between Muslim and non-Muslim villages, because everyone needs water to survive. Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said, “If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” book 78, hadith no. 43). Note that the beneficiary’s religion is not mentioned. Surely this hadith also applies to water wells. Muslim Cambodians hope that those who donate to this very useful ZFA program will continue to help all Cambodians with their ongoing generosity. Among the ZFA’s most important humanitarian programs, however, have been the Ramadan iftar meals that feed families for the entire month, as well as the fresh zabiha meat of locally raised cattle for the udhiya (qurbani) sacrifice on Eid al-Adha. The meat is hand-delivered to thousands of food-insecure villagers every year. This provides a vital infusion of meat into the diets of these largely poor families — an eagerly awaited gift that is regarded as a very rare and much-appreciated treat.  ih Sles Nazy, president, Cambodian Muslim Media Center, and Advisor to the Ministry of Information.



Fallen Apart: Can Yemen be Saved? Yet another seemingly impossible task BY HAROON IMTIAZ


ow approaching its seventh year, the merciless war in Yemen continues to generate humanitarian conditions that are among the world’s worst. All parties are guilty of human rights abuses, the arms trade has enabled widespread atrocities, diplomatic efforts have failed and the country is terribly fractured. Ever since 2015, a Saudi-led coalition has been locked in a destructive conflict with the Houthis, a rebel group that captured Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, from the Republic of Yemen government in 2014. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a number of other Middle Eastern, African, and Western states have backed the Saudi-led effort, in order to curtail Houthi influence and prevent Iran from securing a geopolitical ally at the Peninsula’s base. This effort has failed and also implicated

Saudi Arabia and the UAE in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, have documented numerous coalition attacks on “homes, schools, hospitals, markets, mosques, weddings and funerals” ( news/2015/09/yemen-the-forgotten-war/ [Updated: March 24. 2020]). The Saudis’ punishing blockade has restricted critical imports of food, fuel and medicine — a type of collective punishment that may be considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (www.rescue-uk. org/press-release/yemen-collective-punishment-must-end-now). The UAE, a major ally in the coalition, has been implicated in running a torture network ( report-mass-torture-in-network-of-uaerun-prisons-in-south-yemen), and both it


and Saudi Arabia have transferred weaponry bought from the U.S. to extremist groups on the ground (www.learnexportcompliance. com/cnn-exclusive-report-sold-to-an-allylost-to-an-enemy/, March 28, 2019). The Houthis have also grossly violated international law by, for example, deliberately targeting and killing civilians and deploying antipersonnel mines — declared illegal under the Mine Ban Treaty — that have killed and injured hundreds (www. They have arbitrarily arrested and tortured journalists, enlisted thousands of child soldiers, tortured and raped detainees, as well as obstructed the free flow of humanitarian aid (Ibid.). And while all of the parties directly involved are guilty of human rights abuses, the involvement of foreign countries has been undeniable. For example, the Saudi-led coalition has depended on weaponry, intelligence and logistical support mainly from the U.S., the U.K. and France. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has documented Saudi Arabia’s dependency, in particular, on U.S. and British arms from 2015 to 2019: “A total of 73 percent of Saudi Arabia’s arms imports came from the USA and 13 percent from the UK ( media/press-release/2020/usa-and-francedramatically-increase-major-arms-exportssaudi-arabia-largest-arms-importer-says).” UN investigators also concluded in 2020 that numerous countries had failed “to ensure respect for international humanitarian law,” by knowingly transferring weapons to warring parties with previous patterns of abuse (, Sept. 29, 2020). Some states, they argued, had likely violated their international obligations contained in the Arms Trade Treaty of 2013 (Ibid.). However, under public pressure and scrutiny, some countries have begun to change course. Germany, for instance, extended its ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia until December 2021 (www.middleeastmonitor.

com/20201211-germany-extendsof humanity,” and directed blame saudi-arms-sale-ban-for-1-year/, toward the world’s richest countries Dec. 11, 2020). Italy recently ( announced a halt on thousands of david-miliband-responds-insufficient-funding-galvanized-yemissiles and bombs destined for both Saudi Arabia and the UAE (www. men-pledging-conference, March 1, 2021). italy-makes-permanent-arms-saleThe head of the UN Office for freeze-to-saudi-arabia, Jan. 29, 2021). the Coordination of Humanitarian And President Joe Biden announced Affairs also castigated Britain for its an end to “all American support lack of pledging toward a crisis it for offensive operations in Yemen, helped create and rightly accused it of balancing its books on the backs including relevant arms sales” — WHILE ALL OF THE PARTIES a significant turnaround from his of starving Yemenis (www.theguardDIRECTLY INVOLVED ARE predecessor (www.whitehouse. OF HUMAN RIGHTS marks/2021/02/04/remarks-by-presstarving-people-says-un-diplomat, ABUSES, THE INVOLVEMENT OF ident-biden-on-americas-place-inMarch 7, 2021). This level of neglect, FOREIGN COUNTRIES HAS BEEN especially by a country that helped the-world/). Yet despite these positive devel- UNDENIABLE. FOR EXAMPLE, THE perpetuate the war, is inexcusable. opments, along with overwhelming And despite the failure of previSAUDI-LED COALITION LARGELY ous efforts, dialogue must continue. evidence implicating foreign powers in prolonging the war, some of the The international community can DEPENDS FOR ITS WEAPONRY, involved countries have not yet and must bring the Saudi-led coaINTELLIGENCE AND LOGISTICAL lition and the Houthis to the negotisignaled a willingness to end their support. ating table. Both parties must make SUPPORT MAINLY ON THE U.S., Countries cannot simply stand by concessions, among them putting an THE U.K. AND FRANCE. and ignore the moral imperative to end to cross-border attacks. This, in help end this war. The international practice, could help move the sides toward ending the war. community must immediately end the transfer of arms to all warring Going forward, many wonder parties and then focus on conflict what a future Yemen will look like. resolution and diplomacy. The U.S. Some believe that the fracturing can and should play the role prombrought on by the war has made ised by the Biden administration: to unification impossible in the near be a force of moral leadership in the future. Former UN investigator world. So far, the administration has Gregory Johnson said, “Yemen no terminated U.S. support for offensive longer functions as a single country” military operations in Yemen and ( certain arms sales. the-u-s-is-ending-its-support-forNow it is time to commit the U.S. the-saudi-led-war-in-yemen-thatmore broadly to a human rights-oris-the-easy-part/ar-BB1dqI9L, Feb. 5, 2021). Bruce Riedel of the ented foreign policy, a redirection that could involve banning milBrookings Institution has argued, itary aid to all governments that “The more likely outcome is multiple egregiously violate human rights Yemens, like in the past,” prior to until they noticeably improve their Yemeni unification in 1990 (www. conduct. In fact, U.S. law prohibits assistance “to any country the gov- with Saudi Arabia conditional upon this chaos/2021/03/01/getting-yemens-houthernment of which engages in a consistent very action. is-to-yes-on-a-ceasefire/, March 1, 2021). pattern of gross violations of internationally At the same time, leaders must prioritize Such forecasting should not, however, recognized human rights (22 U.S. Code generous humanitarian aid to help millions diminish our resolve. Governments can take § 2304).” of Yemenis who are food insecure. The inter- bold and decisive action now to avert furIn addition, world leaders must call for national community’s collective failure in ther harm. Doing so is our responsibility as an end to the blockade — a cruelty that has this regard can be seen in the UN’s contin- states, non-governmental organizations and contributed to the death and starvation of ued struggle to procure enough funds. At human beings. We must take it seriously.  ih countless Yemenis. One way states can do a recent UN conference, the International Haroon Imtiaz, who holds a MS in Global Affairs from New York this is by making improved foreign relations Rescue Committee called this “a failure University, is communications coordinator at ISNA. MAY/JUNE 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   41


Spiritual and Pastoral Care

Providers of spiritual and pastoral care must assume the essential role to ensure that the needs of Muslim Elders are met BY ASHAKI TAHA-CISSE


leven Quranic verses and several hadiths establish the Islamic moral imperative to be kind and respectful to parents and, by extension, to elders in general. However, the lived reality of too many Muslim Elders does not reflect this shared mandate. Here a bit explaining the use of “elder” is due. It is a way of making the distinction for a person of advanced age as opposed to “senior,” which is generic for older people. The term “senior citizen,” a euphemism for “old person,” was coined in the U.S. in the 1930s, while elder is recognized cross-culturally as a term that connotes not only age but also wisdom and that requires respect (see the author’s MA thesis: “Toward An Islamic Culture of Peace: Intrareligious Nonviolence and Peacebuilding Among Muslims.” 2013, Hartford Seminary). As we read in 17:23-24, “Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to your parents. If one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of disrespect or scold them, but say a generous word to them. Act humbly to them in mercy and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy on them, since they cared for me when I was small.’” The Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “He is not [one] of us who does WHILE ISLAMIC SOCIETIES GENERALLY VALUE, not have mercy on young children nor honor RESPECT AND CARE FOR THEIR ELDERS, WESTERN the elderly” (“Sunan al-Tirmidhi,” hadith no. 1920; “Sunan Abu Dawud”; “Musnad SOCIETIES TEND TO DISCARD THEM, VIEWING Ahmad,” hadith no. 7033). OLDER PEOPLE AS A BURDEN TO BE RELEGATED The two primary cohorts of Muslim Elders are those born into Islam from tradiTO NURSING HOMES ONCE THEY CAN NO LONGER tionally Islamic countries and who typically LIVE INDEPENDENTLY. SHAMEFULLY, ELDER ABUSE live with their adult children, and those who embraced Islam in the Western hemisphere, IS A REALITY FOR THOSE IN BOTH COHORTS. typically live alone and, in many instances, may have non-Muslim adult children. The differing cultural attitudes and mores toward aging and elders within these diverse cohorts could not be starker. While ◆  Loss of agency and autonomy Islamic societies generally value, respect and care for their elders, Western societies ◆  Inability to perform daily responsibilities (e.g., tend to discard them, viewing older people as a burden to be relegated to nursing housekeeping, laundry, shopping, garbage removal, homes once they can no longer live independently. Shamefully, elder abuse is a paying bills and managing medications) reality for those in both cohorts. ◆  Transportation challenges (e.g., loss of the abilSources of anxiety for Muslim Elders span the gamut of physical, financial, ity to drive, which leads to increased isolation and psychological and spiritual concerns, among them: dependency) ◆  Physical safety, including the fear of falling, actual falls and abuse ◆  Fear of getting sick, whether from Covid-19 ◆  Memory loss or from having a heart attack, a stroke or other non◆  Physical limitations that impact mobility and functionality Covid-19 illnesses that require hospitalization ◆  Mental limitations resulting from dementia, depression or other mental illnesses ◆  Fear of rationed Covid-19-related care based on ◆  Separation from family, especially time lost with grandchildren age/comorbidities and chance of survival 42    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2021

◆  Fear of dying alone ◆  Fear of dying before paying off all debts ◆  Sadness over the loss of family members, friends and animal companions ◆  Sadness over the state of the world their grandchildren are inheriting ◆  Sadness over the inability to pray in congregation, and ◆  Death-related concerns, specifically related to religious requirements such as preparing the body, janaza and burial. In addition to these sources of anxiety, many Muslim Elders are experiencing marginalization and a sense of invisibility. Despite constituting a rich repository of wisdom borne of life experience, education and professional achievement, they are routinely overlooked or treated as if their age was their IQ. Although Islam is a religion of consultation (shura), Muslim Elders are not consulted, which contributes even more to their feelings of irrelevance, uselessness and despair. Imams, chaplains and other spiritual caregivers have a unique opportunity to perform a service (khidma) that will honor and fulfill the Islamic moral imperative to treat elders with respect and compassion, and to meet their multilayered needs with Prophetic kindness and love. Some recommendations for addressing our elders’ needs are given below: ◆  Familiarize yourselves with community and governmental senior services and reach out to senior service organizations to inform them about our elders’ needs in medical and assisted living settings (e.g., accommodations for modesty, wudu’, salah, dietary needs and procedures to be carried out after death). ◆  Acquire supplemental training. Ideally, this would include support for geriatric psychological concerns as well as for the spiritual concerns of those whose ends are nearer than their beginnings. Training in sensitive interviewing

strategies to probe for and recognize elder abuse is also essential. ◆  Encourage Muslim Elders to write down their wishes and help them do so. ◆  Actively advocate for including elder needs in verbal and written community assessments, as well as the needs of Muslim Elders in conference and webinar agendas. ◆  Recognize the physical, knowledge-based or cultural barriers to elders’ participation in planned events. One of the greatest barriers is their lack of access to and facility with technology. ◆  Connect elders with other elders and volunteer opportunities to reduce isolation, provide peer support and empower them to remain active and engaged. ◆  Develop community telephone trees to check on their well-being and support the provision of emergency response units such as Life Line to those who live alone. It is important to acknowledge that barriers to effective service provision exist on both sides of the client/provider dyad. On the elders’ side, these include resistance to sharing personal information and the absence of trust. The providers’ cultural and language deficits, as well as their failure to prioritize the needs of Muslim Elders, impedes their ability to address elder needs. Institutionally, congregational adaptations during the pandemic have frequently overlooked the issue of Muslim Elders’ access to and facility with technology. Scholars are encouraged to further study this topic, and providers of spiritual and pastoral care are strongly advised to focus on identifying and addressing the unmet needs of our community’s elders.  ih Ashaki Taha-Cisse is an Indigenous Muslim Elder and executive director emeritus of the African American Islamic Institute (AAII;, an international humanitarian NGO founded in 1987. (The original paper was presented at the Pastoral & Spiritual Care During the Pandemic Global Webinar, Nov. 13-14, 2020).

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What the *%$@! Why Language Matters Using profanity does not make a Muslim cool BY NOOR SAADEH


hen it comes to profanity, maybe I’m just old school. My son certainly thinks so. Like many others of his generation, he believes those words don’t mean what they used to. Yet I still wince. As a baby boomer, “shut up” or “stupid” would draw the parents and teachers’ ire alike. Fast-forward several generations, and profanity is now mainstream. But despite the denials of some, profanities haven’t lost their derisive and foul meaning. Why else would they be delivered with such verve and passion? It begs the question about what including ever more swear words into our vocabulary might say about us as a society. While psychologists and thinkers back up this opinion, the majority of articles commend, rather than condemn, the increased usage of four-letter words. Authors attributed the widespread usage of vulgarity less frequently to shock value and more to the increasing rise of individualism in America and as a safe, nonviolent means of expressing anger (https://www.theguardian. com/books/2017/aug/08/shocking-figuresus-academics-find-dramatic-growth-ofswearing-in-books). A niggling little voice within still says, “Au contraire.” Watching Netflix and other restriction-free subscription services, one often wonders how it’s now grammatically acceptable to use profanities, notably the “f ’ word, for verb, noun, adjective and adverb alike and for every emotion, whether happy or sad, glad or mad. How very versatile and multipurpose! Equally powerful as defamation, praise or in wonder. In his 1934 song “Anything Goes” (www. Anything+Goes), Cole Porter seems to have captured it well: Good authors too who once knew better words Now only use four-letter words Writing prose. Anything goes. Sarah Day writes: “It starts out slowly — you begin to say swear words in your head,

PROFANITY,” FROM THE ANCIENT LATIN WORD PROFANUS, LITERALLY MEANS “OUTSIDE THE TEMPLE.” AS MUSLIMS, WE MIGHT CONSIDER THE WORD HARAM, AS IN THE SANCTUARY OF MAKKA OR THE MEANING “FORBIDDEN.” TO USE PROFANE LANGUAGE WAS TO SHOW A LACK OF RESPECT FOR SACRED THINGS. then out loud on occasion and then out loud on a regular basis. Some curse as a way to blow off steam in negative situations. Some use profanity because everyone else seems to be doing it. And still, some swear because they’re joking around with their friends. What is this culture of cursing doing to society?” (“Cursing Negatively Affects Society,” April 2, 2018,


Curse words slowly creep into our vocabulary without us realizing until they become a natural reaction in a variety of circumstances. Swearing can leave someone with a bad impression, signal a lack of control and indicate a bad attitude or immaturity — particularly from the viewpoint of our older population. “Profanity,” from the ancient Latin word profanus, literally means “outside the temple.” As Muslims, we might consider the word haram, as in the sanctuary of Makka or the meaning “forbidden.” To use profane language was to show a lack of respect for sacred things. Profanity was, in previous decades, only common and acceptable in the armed services and perhaps among blue-collar workers. Moreover, such words were not for mixed company, for women’s “sensitivities” had to be honored. “She curses like a sailor” was hardly a compliment back in the day. In “Family Talk: Bad Words,” Jim Priest noted, parents are advised that “Cursing can lead a child to believe that using profanity is an acceptable way of dealing with anger, frustration and stress. He’ll likely then struggle to learn more appropriate ways to manage and express anger and other emotions, which could have many adverse consequences in the outside world” (The Oklahoman, April 23, 2018). University of Bristol researchers showed that volunteers, wired to assess their stress levels when asked to say swear words or their euphemisms aloud, showed higher stress levels when they were asked to swear than when asked to state the common euphemism (Louis Tickle “Research demonstrates how the use of bad language can alter our behavior,” The Guardian, Oct. 3, 2011). “Profane words, the direct line to our emotions, are a spontaneous reflection of strong emotional states, like anger, fear or passion. They are also unequaled in their capacity to inflict emotional pain and incite violent disagreement. They’re the words that provoke the most repressive regulatory reactions from the state in the form of censorship and legislation. In short, bad words are powerful — emotionally, physiologically, psychologically and socially. And because

profanity is powerful, it behaves differently from other types of language. It gets encoded differently in the brain. It’s learned differently. It’s articulated differently. It changes differently over time. And that lends it the unique potential to reveal facts about our language and ourselves that we’d otherwise never imagine” ( So how, you might ask, does this affect us as Muslims? As many Muslims are immigrants from lands where English is not the dominant language, the shock effect of swear words, used frequently in the media and in our children’s slang, is not as jolting to their senses as it is to those who were raised here. The use of profanity has stealthily but so effectively invaded English that today this type of language is seldom censored anywhere. The increased use of profanity is causing us to lose our language — and perhaps more. God commends, “And speak to people good words” (17:53) and “Tell My servants to say that which is best” (2:83). Husna, Arabic for beautiful, good or best, is used in both verses. And God further instructs, “O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule other people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule other women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by offensive nicknames” (49:11) [italics added for emphasis]. With just one definitive syllable and a cacophony of dueling consonants, swear words hit the air hard and fast, like a battery of quick blows. These words are stored in the frontal cortex, which is linked to emotion, whereas ordinary language resides on the left side of the brain. Perhaps most powerfully, God states about the frontal cortex, “But no! If he does not desist, We will certainly drag him by the forelock — a lying, sinful forelock” (96:15-16). Considering that the deniers of His favors and disbelievers will be dragged into the Fire by their frontal cortex, one might reflect on how this applies to their use and choice of language as well. Like much of the dominant culture that clearly is in opposition to religious teachings, morals, ethics and behavior, Muslims are left to make the hard choice to integrate or live outside these culturally acceptable mores. It is interesting that the Quran does not directly address vulgar language; however, Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) made his opposition to it clear in numerous hadiths. Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud reported the Prophet said, “None has more self-respect than God, so He has made obscenities unlawful” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” 4847), while another relates, “The Prophet was not one who would abuse (others) or say obscene words” (“Sahih al-Bukhari” 5970), “The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe” (“Sunan an-Nasa’i,” vol. 6, book 47, hadith no. 4998) and “Verily, the servant may speak a single word for which he plummets into the Hellfire farther than the distance between East and West” (“Sahih al-Bukhari” 6112, “Sahīh Muslim” 2988). As Brian Palmer writes, “These anti-obscenity provisions appear regularly in the Hadith, making Islam the sole Abrahamic religion with a clear prohibition in its sacred texts on obscene language” ( Meanwhile, pardon me when I wince.  ih Noor Saadeh is production manager, Noorart, Inc. (

[Editor’s note: This article appeared in part in American Muslim Today]

The Shriners: From Racism to Philanthropy

What started out as a huge party-club with distinct racism toward the Arab/ Islamic world has now assumed the role of charity and volunteerism BY S. M. GHAZANFAR


here are many U.S.-Arab/Islamic cultural connections: language, architecture, foods, music, furniture, fashions and carpets — as well as, of course, the historic civilizational-intellectual links, including the transfer of knowledge. However, one rather interesting connection pertains to the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, formed as a secret society in 1870 and identified with the Freemasons, known simply as the Shriners. And this relates to their historic racism toward the Arab/Islamic world in particular, and toward non-Whites in general. The Shriners present the Arab-Islamic world quite distinctly, although in a perverse fashion, with their bright red MoroccanTurkish fezzes (with an inverted crescent, topped by a sword), elaborate buildings that mirror mosques (now called temples) and contain Arabic inscriptions of exact Islamic phrases. From their very beginning, members dressed like medieval Arab/Muslim men, and the order pretended to be part of a secret society whose lineage they traced to Makka. Their gathering places (“mosques”) adopted names such as Mecca, Medina, Al-Koran and Al-Malaikah. In addition to printing documents in Arabic and organizing parades that included camels and elephants, members consumed generous amounts of alcohol during their gatherings. The group began as an orientalist playground for partying and drinking, the mainstay of early Shriner events. Shriners would typically mimic Islamic greetings, such as “Salam-o-Alaikum.” Their parades continue around the country even today. At a 1900 parade in front of the White House, President McKinley stood at attention as the Shriners’ imperial potentate addressed him in Arabic and greeted him with “AssalamoAlaikum.” At another parade in 1921, President Harding spoke told the Shriners “Wa-alaikum as-salam.” In 1923, he adorned his head with a bright red fez as he watched the Shriners’ parade. Presidents Harry Truman and JFK delivered speeches from the Shriners’ Syria “mosque” in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh structure looks like a mosque, with the Arabic MAY/JUNE 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   45


Shriners Hospital for Children — Lexington, Ky.


inscription La ghalib il-Allah (There is no victor but Allah) rimming its top. In fact, newcomers from the Islamic world often mistake it for a genuine mosque. Another “mosque” is Atlanta’s famous Yaarab Shrine Temple, with its distinct, centralized dome in front, as well as several internal manifestations. Incidentally, Yaa-Rab means “O God” or “O Allah.” However, the most famous one is Los Angeles’ Al-Malaikah “mosque,” which has hosted numerous Oscar, Emmy and Grammy ceremonies. From its architecture and other representations (e.g., depictions of Muslim men on camels, next to palm trees, and next to mosques with minarets and domes), this “mosque” seems straight out of the “Arabian Nights.” Until recently, Shriner parades presented

Arabs as distinct “others,” as sword-swinging desert nomads dressed in the bare-bodied Bedouin garbs, with marching camels and scantily clad harem girls — all that one is accustomed to seeing in Hollywood movies. Obviously, their parades in recent years have been quite different and a bit more “politically correct.” One can see their gradual transformation on Youtube videos. Yet a considerable Arabic/Islamic-based nomenclature remains. For example, their governing body is called the “Imperial Divan.” And what comes to mind as a huge surprise is this. The Shriners’ best-known sports facility is the Medinah Country Club, located near Chicago. The club’s main gate tells visitors as they leave, “Allah be with you.” And along with its Islamic domes, arches and turbaned statues, it contains a lake named


after the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) first wife, Khadija (radiy Allahu ‘anha). Clearly, the Shriners saw Arabs/ Muslims through an “orientalist” prism — a denigration and “commodification” of a people, as the late Edward Said would say, one that clearly reflected the “us vs. them” mentality. Yet for good or bad, the Shriners’ history and various manifestations at least helped introduce the idea of Arab/Muslim culture to Americans. However, in more recent decades, the Shriners have gradually transformed their identity; obviously there has been pressure from our demographic diversity. It has now mutated into a civic-service organization. What started out as a huge party-club with distinct racism toward the Arab/Islamic world has now assumed the role of charity and volunteerism, as well as a sponsor of sports events, including the famous Shrine Circus. Even their parades have abandoned the racial exposition of the Arab/Islamic world. This welcome transformation has legitimized the Shriners in the larger American culture, notwithstanding their racist past.  ih Dr. S. M. Ghazanfar, professor emeritus, University of Idaho, founding director of International Studies Program, 1988-93, University of Idaho, is author of several books and almost 200 professional publications. He has a global reputation as a scholar; he has received numerous honorsand awards and contributed to 2003 PBS series on “Islam: Empire of Faith.”


A Helping Hand Temple University student Syed Waseem launches a nonprofit foundation, The Muzaffar Brain Trust, in honor of his late father to assist local families caring for loved ones BY HABEEBA HUSAIN


bout an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, a family spent the past year and a half recovering from the loss of their father to Stage Four brain cancer. The pandemic, oddly enough, helped. “That was kind of like a blessing in disguise, keeping us all together,” says Syed Waseem, 20, the eldest of three siblings. “After an event like this, it’s nice to stay home, recuperate ... before everybody actually returns back to normal life.” Waseem, along with his mother, brother and sister, is trying to turn his family’s space into a home again after his father succumbed to glioblastoma — an aggressive type of cancer that can occur in the brain or spinal cord — in the fall of 2019. “It was almost like being in a warzone because you’re hearing cries of pain at night, you’re barely sleeping, you’re giving morphine around the clock,” Waseem says. After his father’s diagnosis, Waseem knew there would be a lot to juggle in terms of college, finances and of course caring for his father, but he didn’t realize to what extent. “Everything became top priority. There was a list — this has to get done first, this has to get done first, this has to get done first,” he says. Soon enough, the to-do list became overwhelming. Real fears set in about the cost of living from groceries to bills, from medications to hospice care. “I saw the bill for the chemo pills. My dad only took them five days out of the month, and it was upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars that the insurance would pay,” Waseem relates. “Someone losing their insurance — it’s pretty scary.” He took on three jobs to help out financially. While at home, he cared for his father when his mother worked a night shift. “My brother and I were lifting [my father] to the point where I was [taking] Advil every day because of my back pain,”

Syed Waseem wearing the foundation’s shirt he sells to raise money

Waseem explains. “I would work throughout the day, study at night, getting maybe two to four hours of sleep. That’s how it was for almost a year and a half.” Although he had a full course load as a math, computer science, and neuroscience triple-major at Temple University, Waseem limited his schooldays to only once or twice a week due to everything going on at home.

“I was teaching myself organic chemistry, theoretical math, and complex data structures for comp sci while sitting at my dad’s bedside,” he says. One Saturday morning, Waseem had an organic chemistry exam scheduled. It started at 6:30 a.m. He looked at the clock — 4:30. He had to leave in an hour if he wanted to make it on time, but he hadn’t studied for it. Three jobs, three majors, bills, lack of sleep, a terminally ill parent — when do you cope? “The emotional aspect was there, but you’re always expected to push that down for the greater good, for your future,” he states. “But at that point, does this future even matter?” He wondered why the empathy from professors, bosses and healthcare providers was nowhere to be found. “No one is willing to show anybody any humanity in this situation, except for family of course,” he says. “My dad always taught us to never take a helping hand … but at some point in life, everybody needs help.” That’s when Waseem decided he would do anything possible to ensure that others wouldn’t feel the same stresses and strains he and his family did while caring for a loved one. He wanted to be that help, share that humanity and show that empathy he so desperately needed. “No one else should have to go through that. It’s a type of thing when someone says, ‘I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy ever.’ I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, period — past, present or future,” he says. Thus, last summer, Waseem founded a nonprofit organization named after his father, The Muzaffar Brain Trust (www. The organization aims to assist struggling local families in small ways, whether that be buying groceries for a week, paying an internet bill or hiring a nurse for a few extra hours on the weekend.



MAKING A DIFFERENCE It works through collecting donations and selling merchandise like shirts and their newly launched hoodies via an online store, Waseem recruited his friends, all of them skilled in different fields, as his board of directors. A designer and calligraphist friend created the logo, an accountant friend handles taxes, while he and others manage the website. It’s a team effort for a greater cause. Once Covid-19 restrictions lift, Waseem plans to hold in-person events, like fundraisers at mosques, 5K runs and small marathons to raise money for families in need. The Muzaffar Brain Trust, though launched during the pandemic, has already helped a few families with its limited pool of resources. Eventually, the goal is to expand this pool and share stories online to nurture understanding among the greater community. “Keep an eye out on your neighbors,” Waseem says. “It’s not too hard to ask people how their day is going.” Something as simple as that can go a long way. Waseem says if the conversation develops further, offering a helping hand within the home doesn’t hurt either. Essentially, his advice encourages acting on multiple practices of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), like treating neighbors with kindness, visiting the sick and giving charity to those in need. The Muzaffar Brain Trust’s mission is part and parcel of Islam, as well as an opportunity for the rest of us to fulfill what is already expected by our religion. “The day we [as an organization] don’t have to be here ... that means that people are helping each other out without any push — that would be an amazing thing to see,” Waseem says. “The day I get to dissolve the foundation, I think, will be a great day.” The Muzaffar Brain Trust is still very much in its infancy, but Waseem and his team are quietly working behind-the-scenes until they can get to that point. “You never know when someone who sleeps in the next room is going to need something,” he says. In the case they do (may God protect us all), Syed Waseem hopes to be there, offering a helping hand.  ih Habeeba Husain is a freelance journalist based in the New York tri-state area. She helps manage Muslim-run businesses WuduGear and Kamani. Her work has appeared in SLAM Magazine, WhyIslam. org and, among other online and print publications.


Making Wishes Come True Three Texan Muslim American teens giving people the water they need faster BY RABIYAH SYED

Zunaira Farooq, Samar Siddiqui, Raisa Gire (l-r) fundraising at Al-Noor Masjid in Houston


fter the February 2021 snowstorm, Texans had to boil water for a whole week because the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said that it was potentially “unsafe for consumption or may pose an acute health risk.” This is something no one could imagine happening in the U.S., an advanced country. In Flint, Mich., a water crisis began in 2014 when high levels of lead in the water made it harmful for consumption. The residents had to cook with bottled water. This crisis has been resolved, but the residents’ trust has yet to be regained. While these incidents are exceptions in the U.S., water contamination and scarcity are common problems in many other countries. Three Texan Muslim American teens, Raisa Gire, 17, Zunaira Farooq, 17, and Samar Siddiqui, 16, decided to take action. They founded R-Zu (https://www.r-zu. org/) to provide easily accessible wells and filtration systems in developing countries


that would enable the people to have access to clean water. Zunaira says their inspiration came from hearing stories about how hard it is for people living in Africa and Asia to get clean water. Water contamination and scarce access to clean drinking water are common issues, especially in developing countries. Factories may discharge waste into lakes and rivers, while chemical run-off from fertilizers can contaminate groundwater as well. “Some 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is dumped — largely untreated — back into the environment, polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans. This widespread problem of water pollution is jeopardizing our health. Unsafe water kills more people each year than war and all other forms of violence combined,” reports The Natural Resources Defense Council ( water-facts/scarcity/). In many developing countries, women and young girls have to walk miles to fetch water even before the sun comes up. “In Afar, Ethiopia, 13-year-old Aysha trudges eight hours, roundtrip, every day to collect water for herself and her family. Worldwide, women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours — daily — collecting water,” according to UNICEF, USA. Balancing clay pots brimming with water on their heads, they are often at risk of getting hit by passing traffic. For them, turning on a tap isn’t an option, let alone getting hot and cold running water at any time of the day or night. The little water they collect in the morning has to suffice for the whole day — for showers, drinking and cooking. “We started to draw and sell greeting cards (to raise funds) and we thought it would be a small project at first,” Zunaira admits. However, their project grew as they received an overwhelming amount of support from their community. It led to the founding of R-Zu and sponsoring the building of 12 handpumps at central locations, including at four schools, in Jaurah and Karnana, Gujrat, Pakistan. R-Zu has also built a tubewell with an electric water pump in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.


According to Rajendra Singh, founder of Tarun Bharat Sangh (https://tarunbha­ [Young India Organization]), “The third world war is at our gate, and it will be about water, if we don’t do something about this crisis.”

will be built. Its placement is also determined by the people’s needs. Donors, too, play a role. A lot of times people will send money to sponsor a well in memory of a loved one or to support the community “that they are from,” says Raisa. “They will request that the well be built in a certain town.”


For the past 32 years, Singh, known as the “water man of India,” has been working with communities in Rajasthan, India, to harvest and conserve water. Here there isn’t much rainfall, and the high temperatures cause the water to evaporate quickly. This is a problem in many places that have hot climates, and the people often don’t know what to do about it. Water is essential for survival, and yet many people have a problem accessing it. The world needs leaders who will lead the effort in conserving and purifying water ( publications/archive/policy_innovations/ innovations/00308).


Water scarcity refers to not having clean water that is fit for consumption, whether due to a shortage (e.g., drought) or because it is located far away. Although 70% of our planet is covered with water, the fact that only 3% of it is reachable freshwater creates a problem for millions of people around the world. The water they have access to could be contaminated, and sources are usually not easily accessible. According to worldvision. org, “2.3 billion people live without access to basic sanitation.” In 2015, NASA’s satellite data revealed that 21 of the world’s 37 large aquifers are now severely water-stressed. The wells that R-Zu has built can give people the water they need faster. Raisa says the cost of the well depends upon its location and type. For instance, in places where one has to dig deep in the ground, an electric well

These young women have received heartwarming photos and letters from towns and villages that their wells have helped. “We got a letter from these girls in Baiwala, Pakistan. It was an all-girls school. We built a well there, and they were telling us that all these students could get water and not have to worry about it,” said Zunaira. These letters just go to show what a big impact a project that started small can have. While they have had successes, they have also faced challenges. One of the biggest ones has been to balance their organization with schoolwork and other activities. Sometimes they would have to reschedule planned meetings if they had a test or a big assignment. The Covid-19 restrictions proved to be another problem. Before the pandemic, they would have fundraisers and meet with people to explain what R-Zu was about. But when the pandemic hit, R-Zu had to brainstorm and pivot. To continue raising funds, they decided to sell their hand-made cards on The teens were serious about their organization, and their drive allowed them to accomplish their goals and overcome their challenges. Raisa advises people “to run with whatever you do,” for the society at large and “encourages people to fight for what they believe in and help in whatever way they can.” Water scarcity is a global problem. Although one well doesn’t solve the crisis, even one single well makes a huge difference in the lives of the people it helps. Raisa, Zunaira and Samar have worked tirelessly to raise money to make a difference. These three teens believed that they could make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate — and they did. The wells that were built represent the first step they have taken, and one can easily conclude that it won’t be their last.  ih Rabiyah Syed,13, an eighth grader and student at Writers Studio (, loves photography and baking and aspires to be a speech pathologist.



A Sheroe’s Story Recognizing doers who are not in the spotlight BY BAHEEJAH FAREED


ublic speakers and graduate degree holders are usually held in the highest esteem when it comes to recognizing doers. However, a lot can be learned from the lives of those who undertake selfless acts of kindness in social work. The everyday heroes/sheroes, good doers (volunteers and caregivers) who work tirelessly to meet our community members’ needs can inspire and motivate everyone to strive to improve themselves and make a difference. One such sheroe is Tamana Jiandani, whose dedication and love help our community survive and thrive. A leader in community case management, she organizes and runs the face-to-face operations for the Irving, Texas-based Jabalu-Nur Foundation’s ( food program. A forerunner and member of several volunteer groups that serve the Irving community, she makes a difference via her involvement in ICNA Sisters (https://www., the Islamic Center of Irving ( and Valley Ranch Islamic Center ( She is also a leader in fundraising, including for mosques worldwide. To top it all, she still manages to take care of her large family and work. Islamic Horizons was able to catch up with Tamana and ask her about her life. IH. What were your dreams as a child? Tamana: As a child, I always dreamt of becoming a lawyer ... of wanting to fight for [those] who couldn’t fight for themselves. Becoming a lawyer didn’t happen, [and so I went] into social work. This has allowed me to help the people in a different and better way than I could have as a lawyer. IH. What were your parents/guardians’ dreams for you? TJ: My parents always wanted me to grow up and be happy. They didn’t care what I did, as long as what I accomplished in life made me happy. IH. What was a day in your life like growing up? TJ: I didn’t have the best life ... I would wake up pretty early and get myself ready to

go to school, since my parents would wake up even earlier to go to work. After school was over, I would take the [New York City] subway and work with my parents at their restaurant. … During high school, I would wake up earlier and work at my parent’s restaurant until the start of school. I am



grateful for the childhood I received ... [it] taught me to appreciate every single thing that I earn as I worked hard for it, [that I] shouldn’t waste it and be ungrateful. IH. Who and what were your driving influences as a child to help you to make your life’s most impactful decisions? TJ: [That person] would probably have to be my mom. She was there from the beginning. I lost my dad, who I was closer to at the age of 12, and after that my mom was my rock. She was the person I ran to when in trouble and the person who helped me stand on my own two feet today. Without my mom, I don’t know where I would have ended up ... IH. What is your vision and mission for your life and your family? TJ: [For] them to be happy and healthy. I want them to be someone who they respect and for them to have some type of positive impact on the world, big or small. IH. How and what do you and your family do to make this vision reality? TJ: [By] just living life. We know that everything happens for a reason, and [so] we don’t let it [impact us] too much. We cherish [and learn and grow from] both good and bad. IH. What would you (or your family members) say to someone looking for direction on how to do more and better with their lives? TJ: I would tell them to find something that makes them happy, that is good for them and the world, … to find their purpose and make someone’s day so they can be accomplished and feel better [about] their lives. IH. What would you tell parents seeking direction in acquiring resources to positively impact their children? TJ: [To] throw out all the negativity in their lives … [because] it will have the same negative impact on their families and children. I would also let them know that … people … can help you [acquire] anything you may need for you[rself] or your families. IH. If you could make a formula for raising oneself or children to be the best they can be, what would be in the formula? TJ: [As] everyone has a different way of raising children ... there isn’t a simple routine ... Everyone makes mistakes and everyone has flaws. We should all learn from those mistakes when raising children and try our best to adapt. IH. When was the most impactful time of your life and why?

TJ: I think … when I moved from New York to Dallas with my family. … moving from such a fast and packed city to a more family friendly one had some positive influence on our family life. We were able to become a part of a community. I became happier and was allowed to help others in a community …. IH. Where do you find yourself most at peace and productive? TJ: I find myself most at peace while working … and helping other people. … I feel productive when I’m out of bed and moving. If I’m not moving and not getting things done, I feel lazy and know that I didn’t accomplish all I wanted to accomplish for that day. IH. What is a day in your life like now? TJ: My life is currently very fast paced. I don’t [seem to] have a second to rest. I’m up before sunrise and down to sleep at midnight. I wake up and start the day, feeling accomplished and fulfilled by the end. IH. What (experience, place, thing, or idea) and whom do you think most affected who you are today (how and why?) TJ: [All] that I have experienced and been and everyone I’ve met has affected who I am today. [Everything] … [has] made me a better and well-driven person. The people have made me a better [person] as well. They have told me and showed me that I can be a better person than I was the day before. We all carry a heavy load to some degree. Learning from each other and about the life of others truly enhances our own life. We are enriched through faith, conviction, work ethic, grit, giving, patience, perseverance, caring, love, gratitude, peace and overall goodwill. We can all make it through life’s trials and triumphs by looking beyond ourselves.  ih Baheejah Fareed is administrative coordinator, The Islamic Seminary of America (, Richardson, Tex.

A Young Refugee Couple Feeds Hundreds of Displaced Americans A Syrian refugee steps forward to bring comfort to storm-affected Dallas residents



he February 13-17 snowstorm that hit Texas not only delivered a disaster but also heroes like Dallas resident Shaza Al-shaara, a Syrian refugee who served dinners to those who took shelter in the Dallas convention center. With husband Faez as her sous chef, she worked from morning to evening to feed them dinner — 600+ meals. She supplemented the first night’s menu — chicken and rice — on the second night with vegetables so they had a balanced meal. This hardworking mother of two had also worked with Dallas’ ICNA Relief center for the past five years as one of their main volunteer cooks. “I help my community in Dallas. Any wedding or party, I cook all the food. I love helping out in my community,” she mentions proudly. She has done this so frequently that cooking so much food has become second nature to her. “No, I was very happy, I didn’t find any hard work while cooking,” Shaza responds when asked if cooking the same two meals literally hundreds of times stressed her out or made her tired. Her only real issue, she adds, was finding the majority of the ingredients in bulk. “We bought everything from a warehouse store, and ICNA Relief donated some of the ingredients,” she explains. The couple did several runs for ingredients, and yet none of these inconveniences seemed to pressure her at all. In fact, she got everything done in record time while also managing her young daughters. Even a mundane job can be impressive or praiseworthy. Imam Omar Suleiman (founder and president, Yaqeen Institute; adjunct professor, Islamic Studies Southern Methodist University) noted her effort by commending her on his Instagram page. Her response, “I was very happy. I didn’t think twice about helping the people. I was surprised when I saw the posts thanking me for my work.” She admits that his post had filled her with pride and a little shock, for she never expects anything in return for helping others.

Shaza said she hadn’t thought much about helping out, but since her sister had asked her to do so, she knew they needed it. Although she expected assistance from others, only her husband worked with her. Al-shaara, a truly hard-working good Samaritan, is finally receiving the “Thank you” she deserved from the community. “I am just happy to help where I can,” she selflessly claims. As not many volunteers are recognized, all of this publicity has brought more awareness to these selfless volunteers and turned the spotlight on them in a most humble manner. Shaza truly sheds light on the good refugees can bring to the U.S. and how giving them a chance will allow them to help others and give them a chance as well. She is passing this kindness forward, doing whatever she can to thank those who gave her a chance in her new country. Never seeking to define herself through her past and her struggles, she lets her actions define her. A perfect example of “actions speak louder than words,” instead of arguing with people to prove her worth, she spreads joy and kindness all around her — happy with herself and her impact on others. She’s a prime example of what good services immigrants and refugees can bring. The couple’s journey to their present life was covered by Time magazine: https://time. com/a-syrian-refugee-story/. Remember Shaza Al-shaara and her story the next time you hear someone slander or disrespect other refugees or immigrants. By oppressing them and denying them legal access to jobs, we not only slow our society’s progression but also stop potentially successful people from bettering our world or helping others. When someone asks what immigrants bring us, tell them kindness and opportunities for others, more light, and a way to better our society. Shaza — remember her name — is truly an inspiration for our community.  ih Reham Fahad is a student at Naperville Central High School in Illinois.



Mental Illness and the Muslim American Community The traditional stigmatization of the mentally ill needs to end BY STEPHENIE BUSHRA KHAN


ental illness can be debili- she will keep repeating this deed (“Sahih further complicates mutual acceptance. Many tating, making it difficult to go al-Bukhari,” book 23, hadith no. 446). new Muslims carry a lot of emotional baggage about one’s daily business life or into their new religion and feel that although household responsibilities. Many POSSIBLE CAUSES Islam has been their salvation, those who immigrant Muslims experience a great deal of Some evidence indicates that American con- were born Muslim are another story. discrimination and adjustment problems after verts, especially Blacks, experience new difBelief brings strength. There are challenges arriving in this country. Converts also face a ficulties. This is especially true for Muslimas of being accepted by other Muslims, especially great deal of adjustment, which also adds to who wear the hijab and modest clothing when marrying into another culture. High mental health challenges. divorce rates and mainstream stereotypes may persuade future in-laws to Estimates of the Muslim population vary, especially in the absence oppose the marriage because of the of a faith-identified census. Current language barrier and necessary culstatistics reveal that Muslims make tural adjustments. This leaves the up at least 1.1% of the nation’s popucouple in immense pain (“Muslims lation and that about half of them are Are Welcoming Towards Muslim American-born. Converts, But Parents Rather Don’t Recently, mental health concerns Have One Marry Their Daughter,” have become a growing problem among this population. They often A mental health diagnosis feels like experience isolation and rejection one’s heart and soul are breaking, as if and feel out of place in mainstream it were a weakness or a punishment culture. Additionally, immigrants from God. Such Muslims become coming from war-torn countries very secretive, feeling that they will usually bring their traumatic expebe judged. Some assume there is a riences with them. cure in praying, whereas others think In the U.S., suicide is the second that they will not get better. But mental illness is not a weakcause of death among those aged 15-34 years old. This is also true for ness, for it may be caused by chemical the Muslim community. Research has imbalances in the brain or emotional been very sparse, but the figures are trauma. Unfortunately, some Muslims lower than other faith groups (David avoid the mentally ill because such Lester, “Islam and Suicide,” https:// people have been traditionally stig  The author’s painting, rendered when she was very matized in their birth lands. Often overwhelmed, titled “My Song Goes Unsung Today,” represents the family rejects the diagnosis and People may consider suicide due a saddened woman. The sunflowers represent and the sun that to discrimination, adjustment probthus leaves the patient untreated. Any life still goes on. ( (c) Stephenie Bushra Khan. With permission) lems, the shame of abuse, trauma, extreme psychotic or violent behavior substance abuse, abandonment (e.g., divorce ( is hidden. or death), neglect, the belief that no one cares tion-against-muslim-women-fact-sheet). When a woman experiences postparand other causes. As immigrant parents have Some families cut them off altogether, and tum depression, she needs support. Others higher expectations for their children, failing friends often break relationships because they may assume that she lacks sufficient faith to live up to them can cause these youth no longer have much in common. ( Gaining the acceptance of first- and sec- islam-say-postpartum-depression/). a sense of failure and extreme depression. There is also the added shame of suicide, ond-generation Muslims can be difficult, for Overwhelmed with motherhood, depressed given the Quranic statement that such people converts may be seen as not Muslim “enough.” women are afraid to tell their husbands, will be punished in the afterlife (4:29). Islam New converts may be set apart due to cultural especially if they have no independent condemns suicide, and a hadith states that and language differences as well as racism. financial support or fear abandonment. this person will be sent to Hell, where he/ Even reverse discrimination can occur, which Engqvist and Nilsson find that most of 52    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2021

the men gained maturity and increased self-esteem, whereas others went through divorce, custody, disputes and loneliness (“Men’s experience of their partners’ postpartum psychiatric disorders: Narratives from the internet,” Ment Health Fam Med. 2011 Sep; 8(3):137-46; PMID: 22942895 and PMCID: PMC3314270; Postpartum Support International: 1-800-944-4773; https://www. Muslim youth who are bullied have it especially hard (see Nargis Rahman,,

11, hadith no. 3874). Mental health is no exception. Many Muslims have unfavorable views of mental health care organizations, considering therapy a waste of money or that the patient has been possessed by a jinn. Such families may seek a faith healer instead of a therapist, for therapy requires a lengthy period of time to become effective. Then there is the issue of medication, whether one can take it while fasting or even fast at all. Medication is lifesaving, and yet many fear to take it even though it can make the patient function much better. Many feel that it will take away their spirituality and

MENTAL ILLNESS IS A REAL ILLNESS. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT IT IS CHEMICAL — NOT PHYSICAL — IN ORIGIN. AS MEMBERS OF A COMMUNITY, WE SHOULD TRY TO BE COMPASSIONATE AND WORK TO ALLEVIATE THEIR SUFFERING. April 30, 2019; https://blog.hautehijab. com/post/childhood-suicide-and-muslim-communities-part-two, May 2, 2019). Young Muslimas are often harassed because of their hijab. Adolescents have a hard time balancing two cultures. Mental illness can turn up in adolescence, making a person act out in a bizarre way that invites ridicule from their peers and conflict with parents. The youth suffer from depression; affected college students who violate Islamic teachings hide it from their parents and thus develop a serious feeling of guilt. God is compassionate and forgives everything except shirk — the “great sin” (4:48). This brings comfort when a family member commits suicide. The Quran’s identification of suicide as a great sin may prevent some from committing it. When someone commits suicide, the family may try to hide it by implying other causes. For some there is no private or public janaza in the mosque, for it is a common belief that suicides cannot be buried in a Muslim cemetery. But now, people are becoming more understanding. Muslims are apt to remember and cite the hadith, “There is no disease that God has created, except that He also has created its treatment” (“Sunan Abu Dawud,” Tibb

creativity. But medication, along with therapy, improves a person’s life and can make them more spiritual and creative than before. The Quran and Hadith deal with mental health (see Frankie Samah, quran-and-mental-health). Both sources emphasize gratitude; being patient with anxiety, depression and grief; and cite examples from the Prophet’s life. YouTube videos show well-known imams and scholars, among them Mufti Ismael Menk, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Yasmin Mogahed, talking about such issues. Patients hospitalized with physical illness may have many visitors. However, Muslim patients with a mental illness are usually isolated, both at home or at the hospital, for many people still do not consider it a real illness and continue the traditional practice of stigmatizing them. Mental illness is a real illness. The only difference is that it is chemical — not physical — in origin. As members of a community, we should try to be compassionate and work to alleviate their suffering.


A hospital can provide emergency lifesaving care, especially if the person is totally debilitated. Recovery may take a long time

after a mental breakdown, followed by an outpatient psychiatric program. That may cause a person to be removed from a job or his/her household. If these people can no longer drive, they may become dependent. Consider a young Muslim man who, having problems with substance abuse and depression, enters an outpatient treatment center. Laws oblige employers to grant sick leave. He can tell his employer that he is taking sick leave for an undisclosed illness, hoping thereby that his employer and/or co-workers won’t learn why and that he’ll be able to keep his job. Several Muslim American organizations are working to help the mentally ill. Many imams who are being trained to recognize mental illness often refer those afflicted to the appropriate organizations. Muslim mental health workers are also emphasizing a spiritual relationship with God. They may teach mindfulness meditation in addition to EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), a form of psychotherapy. Developed by Francine Shapiro in 1988, the therapist asks patients to recall distressing images. More frequently, mosques are inviting Muslim mental health organizations to educate their congregations about mental health issues, thereby alleviating the accompanying traditional stigma and feelings of shame. ICNA Relief ’s Muslim Family Services ( has both licensed and religious counselors who offer child and adolescent mental health services, as well as psychiatric referrals, substance abuse and other programs — all with an Islamic perspective (1-844412-9809; The nonprofit Khalil Center (1-8555KHALIL; has psychological wellness centers in Chicago, New York, the Bay area, southern California and Toronto that address Islamic spirituality’s role in treatment. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (1-800-950-NAMI;, originally founded as a grassroots group by family members of people so diagnosed, advises those who suffer from it. People trained to deal with suicidal individuals can be contacted at The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-2378255), Naseeha ( and the Muslim Suicide Hotline (1-866-627-3342).  ih Stephenie Bushra Khan is a freelance writer for Islamic magazines and professional artist. She also wrote for The Independent newspaper in Bangladesh for three years.



Robert Saleh is far More Than the First Muslim Coach in the NFL The New York Jets coach is a role model who embodies the working-class and perseverant spirit




obert Saleh is a pioneer. After signing a five-year contract with the New York Jets on Jan. 19, he became the NFL’s first Muslim American head coach. A milestone moment for a nation marred by renewed racial reckoning, and a league beleaguered by its own turbulence. But before Saleh became a pioneer, he was a Tractor. He is a native of Dearborn, Michigan’s eastside, a blue-collar community on the margins of Detroit and the sidelines of economic anxiety. A place where Arab refugees fled war and found stability around auto factory assembly lines, raising daughters and sons in a land that didn’t always love them. A town where hard knocks and Friday night lights are not gridiron fiction, but the real-time sights of a football-obsessed community.

To be clear, East Dearborn is an Arab American football-obsessed community. Where young boys from Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Saleh’s native Lebanon proudly don the working-class blue on the gridiron for the Fordson Tractors, from a high school

in the heart of the Midwest that houses dreams of youths with roots in the Mideast. This is the high school Saleh attended that fueled his signature fire and everyman charisma. Fordson High School, which has a 95% Arab student body, welded the grit



that shot Saleh to the top of the NFL’s coaching ranks. I witnessed this firsthand, as Saleh’s childhood friend and Fordson High classmate. So did Abed Ayoub, the legal and policy director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee who grew up blocks away from Saleh in Dearborn. Minutes after the Jets announced Saleh’s hiring, Ayoub said, “This is huge. It only makes sense that Robert was the man who made history. He’s a natural-born leader who just happens to love football. He leads from the ground up, shoulder to shoulder with his men. That humility is what sets him apart, and what makes him an embodiment of our working-class Arab American community.” Ayoub’s perspective is fitting, given that Saleh worked his way up from the   Saleh speaks at his alma mater, Fordson High. lowest rungs of coaching to become the first Muslim coach in the NFL. He started from the bottom. Beyond the bottom. brought in to serve as the quality-control Entirely out of football after playing at coach for Gary Kubiak’s defense. Saleh’s Northern Michigan University, another New enthusiasm captured the hearts of his playYork story – on Sept. 11, 2001 — changed ers while his intellect won over the coachhis professional course. And like millions ing staff, opening the doors for other NFL of Muslim Americans, the era that followed opportunities — doors that led to a Super would forever change his life. Bowl ring with the Seattle Seahawks in 2013 On the morning of 9/11, Robert’s older and a high-profile defensive coordinator brother David reported to the 61st floor of position with the San Francisco 49ers, where the South Tower of the World Trade Center. his stalwart defense led the storied franchise When David Saleh heard the explosion and to the Super Bowl in 2019. learned that a “bomb had gone off ” in the Saleh became a hot coaching prospect nearby North Tower, he ran down the 61 with the 49ers, earning the love of fans and flights in between frantic crowds who did not his players. Richard Sherman, the star coryet know the scale of the incident. Moments nerback for the 49ers who played under later, a plane flew into the South Tower. But Saleh, praised the next Jets coach as “a great David, an investor with a larger-than-life leader of men.” Ahmad Abuznaid, a civil sense of humor, made it out alive. rights activist and die-hard 49ers fan, said, “It “Nothing was guaranteed after that,” he has been so inspiring to see a Muslim whose reflected, “and every day that came after was family is originally from southern Lebanon coaching my team at such an elite level. I’ll a blessing from above.” The incident highlighted the precarity be rooting him on with the Jets and I expect of life for Saleh and the urgency of each plenty of other Arabs and Muslims will, too.” moment. While racism and racial profiling Saleh’s impact will be far bigger than descended upon his largely Arab and Muslim football. As the first Muslim American head community, Saleh was not frightened. He coach in the NFL, and a minority coach in a found courage in the resolve of his family profession dominated by white men, all eyes and community and marched toward his will instantly be on him. But the pressure NFL dreams. If not now, then when? in the NFL’s biggest media market will be Saleh left his comfortable office job in countered by the affection from those in Michigan for a graduate assistant position his hometown, and millions beyond, who at nearby Michigan State, followed by stints look up to Saleh. at Central Michigan and the University of “Kids, especially our students, need to Georgia. His first NFL break came with see themselves in successful people. He is the Houston Texans in 2005, where he was a ‘possibility model’ for Arab and Muslim

youth, a graduate of our high school that walked through these very halls and sat in these very classrooms. He opens up entire worlds of possibilities for our students,” said Zeinab Chami, an English teacher at Fordson High School. Mike Ayoub, a leading real estate agent and friend of Saleh’s, echoed, “The message this sends to our kids is immeasurable. Any cliché you want to use fits.” Being the first comes with its distinct set of challenges. Particularly in the NFL — and the league’s biggest media market no less. But Saleh will learn from the trails the first Black quarterback or the first Latino head coach had to blaze. In a nation grappling with trumped-up Islamophobia and white supremacy, Saleh stands on the shoulders of Black and brown giants who opened the way for him to land an NFL head-coaching job. On football Sundays, millions of Muslims will stand alongside Saleh, cheering on a man who embodies the best of who we are. Particularly those of us raised in the shadow of factory towns, reared by parents who deferred their dreams so that their children could pursue their own. Saleh is the NFL’s first Muslim American head coach. That, particularly in today’s America, is a milestone worth celebrating. However, the native son of an immigrant, blue-collar town is far more than that. The Jets will find out for themselves very soon.  ih Khaled A. Beydoun, a Detroit native, is a law professor at Wayne State University and a Scholar-in Residence at Harvard University’s Initiative for a Representative First Amendment. [Editor’s Note: Reprinted with the author’s permission. Originally published at https://]



Our Interaction with Animal Communities May Determine the Next Pandemic Environmental degradation and factory farming make future pandemics more likely BY MOHAMMAD ABDULLAH


ohns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 dashboard ( reports that the pandemic has killed more than 2 million people worldwide. Last December, the World Health Organization warned that it might not be the “big one” they have long feared and have repeatedly warned the world to prepare for ( Scientists say as humans increasingly encroach on the habitats of wild animals, the likelihood of big epidemics rises. The key to preventing another pandemic, they say, is reducing the viruses’ animals-to-humans spillover risk. Animals have always had viruses coming through their bodies. More people are venturing into wild ecosystems and thus exposing themselves to new animal infections, and yet there is no effective global early detection and disease containment system. Deforestation and urbanization continue, as do global trade and the consumption of wild animals. Moreover, concentrated animal feeding operations make it easier for viruses to jump the species barriers and cause new zoonotic diseases. For instance, in 1998 Malaysia cleared rainforests for palm oil, lumber and livestock farms ( July 30, 2013). Consequently, some of the displaced fruit bats ended up on new pig farms where mango and other fruit trees also grew. Their saliva and feces infected pigs with the Nipah virus, which sickened farmworkers and others living close by, killing hundreds of people in several outbreaks (>books>NBK215318). Wet markets — popular in certain Asian countries — offer prime conditions for viral spillover, as they feature stressed animals stacked in cages with bodily fluids running down. A year or so ago, a mysterious pneumonia outbreak was initially thought to be SARS, a coronavirus disease that had emerged there in 2002 and had now returned through one such market in Wuhan, China. Actually, Covid-19 was a new disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a virus that infects and replicates in human cells. Like earlier pandemics and outbreaks, Covid-19 began inside an animal. Viruses, which only replicate inside living organisms, can adapt rapidly to a new host. Covid-19, thought to have originated in bats, probably could only infect humans via an intermediate host animal, thought to be pangolins. Further research is needed to confirm this theory. “Novel” diseases such as Covid-19, ones not previously seen in humans, trigger pandemics. Coronavirus is a family of viruses that causes zoonotic diseases. Corona means “crown,” due to the crown-like spikes on their surface. Most coronaviruses circulate among animals, including pigs and bats. Bats are hosts to many viruses such as SARS, MERS, Ebola, and Nipah, usually without any symptoms. Kaiser Health News said experts had long anticipated the pandemic. But a 20-year period of good luck with emerging pathogens — including SARS, the H1N1 (“swine flu”) pandemic, MERS, Ebola, Zika virus and two strains of bird flu — gave them a false sense of security (https://www.khn. org>news>article>many-us-health-experts-under...). The Guardian reported that 60% of all emerging diseases are now zoonotic; 80% of new pathogens come from the top pork-producing countries, such as China. 56    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2021

Globally, more than 90% of livestock and poultry live in factory farms. Viruses may jump from animals to humans when people interact with them in new ways. It’s believed that the race to produce cheap pork led to the African swine fever by incorporating such practices as cutting the cost of feeding pigs. And now, according to the Guardian on Oct. 8, 2020, artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to standardize pigs, much like fruit and vegetables, unaware of the unintended consequences (

A factory pig farm in Xingan County, east China’s Jiangxi Province (Peng Jianxin/Handout via Xinhua)

Pigs and birds are raised in factory farms. While most avian diseases aren’t transmissible to humans, they are more transmissible to pigs. Once they establish themselves in pigs, they are more likely to evolve and become able to infect humans (https://www.ncbi.>pmc>articles>PMC7120200). Historical data suggests that zoonotic influenza originated from influenza type A viruses circulating among birds, pigs and horses. Pigs have receptors, to which both avian and mammalian influenza viruses bind, which increases the potential for virus gene substitution to produce new re-assortants or novel viruses in pigs. Pigs are like a “mixing vessel” (www.>default-source>searo>whe>). Generally speaking, there are two kinds of viruses: DNA and RNA viruses. Unlike the African swine fever, which has a DNA genome, coronaviruses have RNA genomes, which allow the virus to mutate and

change, similar to influenza viruses, more quickly and easily than DNA viruses. Linda Saif, virologist and distinguished professor in Ohio State University’s Food Animal Health Research Program, says this is how coronaviruses infect different tissues in different animal species (, March 19, 2020). According to scientists, mutations happen all the time; some take off, and many don’t. The rate at which a virus can mutate is an important factor to consider when investigating which viruses will be able to jump between species. The SARS-CoV-2 virus has already mutated into two variants (British and South African), which are

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences focuses on an influenza virus dubbed G4, a descendant of H1N1 strain that originated in Mexico and caused the 2009 pandemic. Researchers say that the strain “possessed all the essential characteristics of being highly adaptive to infect humans.” About 10% of swine workers tested positive for the virus. Kin-Chow Chang, a professor of veterinary molecular medicine at the University of Nottingham, said on BBC News: “Right now, we are distracted by coronavirus. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses”( New finding that pigs in China are more and more frequently becoming infected with G4 has scientists worldwide taking serious notice. There have been serious pandemics before. One of the severest pandemics, the “Spanish” flu (1918-19) caused by the H1N1 virus, killed at least 50 million people worldwide (https://www.cdc. gov>flu>1918-pandemic-h1n1). But this was before intercontinental air travel and THIS DEADLY PANDEMIC SHOULD SERVE AS globalization, a time when the world’s 2 billion people A WAKE-UP CALL, FOR IT HAS SHOWN THAT lived mostly in rural areas. Today, the world population is over 7 billion. The 2009 swine flu pandemic — the same OUR WORLD IS MORE INTERCONNECTED strain as the 1918 flu pandemic (H1N1) — originated THAN EVER BEFORE AND THAT HUMANS, in pigs from a tiny region in central Mexico and spread much faster worldwide. ANIMALS AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH The U.S. leads the world in COVID-19 cases and ARE ALL CRITICALLY LINKED. deaths — 400,000 deaths as of Jan. 20, [former] President Donald Trump’s last day in office. Some believe that if everyone had taken this pandemic seriously from the described as highly contagious and spreading much beginning, we wouldn’t be in this mess; others remain unconvinced that Covid-19 faster than the original “Wuhan” variant. Still more is as bad as the scientists say. Ironically, they do extremely well with this virus, variants may be on the way. Scientists are concerned have only mild cold symptoms or none at all (asymptomatic carriers), while others because a more transmissible variant will increase are on ventilators and die within days or survive long hospitalizations and tell the death toll simply because it will spread faster and others to take it seriously. Scientists have never seen such an unpredictable virus. infect more people. Unhealthy people are more likely While the vaccines’ mass rollout offers hope, we don’t know when that will to contract and transmit disease than healthy people. occur. Meanwhile, we need to follow the public health guidelines and get vacciVaccine companies say that vaccines appear to work nated, as the vaccine will protect you and your family, and also slow the virus’ against these variants. But to stop disease transmis- transmission. The Islamic concepts of hygiene and halal and haram have many virtues. God sion people must get inoculated, because mutation depends upon replication. made things halal and haram for a reason. Muslims believe that halal things The good news about vaccines might have been lead to the society’s health and welfare, whereas haram things eventually lead to tempting for the tired and exhausted public. Scientists, problems, diseases and suffering. however, still don’t know how the virus jumped into Some preliminary evidence from Britain suggests that people infected with humans and got into a Wuhan meat market, from the new variant tend to carry greater amounts of the virus in their noses and where it is thought to have spilled over into humans. throats than those infected with earlier versions (>coronaviThis is important, because knowing the virus’ rus-variant-transmission). The more virus carried by infected people in their origin and from which animal it jumped to humans noses and throats, the more they expel into the air and onto surfaces. Islam’s helps determine how that jump occurred and find ritual ablution plays an important role in mitigating the virus’ spread. In effect, ways to prevent that transmission pathway in it works as a pretty cheap sanitizer. the future. Dr. Emilia Skirmuntt, an evolutionThis deadly pandemic should serve as a wake-up call, for it has shown that ary virologist at the University of Oxford who our world is more interconnected than ever before and that humans, animals is studying viruses that affect bats and disagrees and environmental health are all critically linked. with the theory that pangolins served as the interGod put animals on Earth both as communities (Quran 6:38) and for our mediate species between bats and humans, told benefit. Thus, we must try to reduce the risk of a spillover of viruses from animals MailOnline (U.K.) Feb. 17, 2021: “The ancestor to humans. We need to include them in our strategy to control pandemics by of this coronavirus was an animal species which mitigating person-to-person spread, to see them as partners whose health and were reservoirs for millions of years and then there habitats should be protected. This will require global cooperation, because no was some mutations which made it more efficient country is safe unless all countries are safe.  ih with infecting other species and humans. That’s Mohammad Abdullah, DVM, MS, MPH, who retired as deputy district manager at USDA-FSIS, is the author of “A Closer Look at Halal Meat: From Farm to Fork” (2016). how we got SARS-CoV-2.” MAY/JUNE 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   57


Malik Badri

A Giant in the field of Islamic Psychology 1932-2021


alik Babikr Badri Mohammed (“Malik Badri”), an influential professor of psychology who founded and served as president of the International Association of Islamic Psychology (, passed away in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 8. During his career, he held the posts of UNESCO expert in psychology, WHO expert in the Committee on Traditional Medical Practices, as well as senior clinical psychologist in a number of hospitals. He lectured and worked in the administrations of several universities before holding the Ibn Khaldun Chair at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He later moved to Turkey, where he taught at Istanbul Sabahuttin Zaim University until his demise. Badri was born in Rufaa’, Sudan, on the banks of the Nile on Feb.14, 1932, to the respected scholar Sheikh Babiker Badri, who left influential imprints in Sudan’s history: his pioneering of women’s education and the establishment of Ahfad University in 1907. Badri (BA, American University of Beirut, 1956; MA, University of Leicester [UL], 1958) earned a PhD (UL, 1961) and a specialization certificate in clinical psychology (1967). Ermin Sinanovic, PhD (executive director, Center for Islam in the Contemporary World, Shenandoah University), says that his teacher “was among the first to point out the biases in Western social sciences and to question their utility in non-Western (especially Islamic) contexts. His book, ‘In the Lizard’s Hole: The Dilemma of Muslim Psychologists,’ written in the early 1970s, should be required reading for any Muslim social scientist.” It was later published as “The Dilemma of Muslim Psychologists” (London: MWH London, 1979). In this book, Badri questioned the suitability of the dominant psychological theories — Freudian psychoanalysis and Skinnerian behaviorism — to Muslim contexts. Showing that their basic assumptions were antithetical to Islamic epistemology and ontology, he urged Muslims to think

more organically about if these theories could be applied to Muslim societies. Sinanovic advises those who talk about decolonizing knowledge to pay attention to Badri’s works. Badri pointed out that, as in other social science fields, some Muslim thinkers and scholars have developed an amazing skill for the unthinking repetition and blind copying of Western, non-Islamic ideas and practices. He cited the hadith in which Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri reported that the Prophet (salla allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) warned, “You would tread the same path as was trodden by those before you inch-by-inch and step by step, so much so that if they had entered into the hole of the lizard, you would follow them in this also (“Sahih Muslim,” 2669a, book 47, hadith no. 7). The Prophet’s reply, Badri stressed, describes this activity very well. Some Muslim psychologists, he lamented, insist dogmatically on prying even into lizard’s holes that their Western counterparts have partly or totally abandoned. He even asked if Muslims really need modern psychology at all. Sinanovic, who describes Badri as a path-breaking scholar in the field of Islam and psychology, a wonderful teacher and role model, reminisces that his teacher would address his students as his children. He remembers Badri bringing in Western psychology textbooks and pointing out how they presented the field’s historical development. Invariably, they would talk about ancient Greece and Rome and then jump to post-Enlightenment Europe. The period between the 7th and 15th centuries, a time when Muslims were flourishing intellectually, was simply not mentioned, as if they had never existed. The Indian and Chinese


civilizations were also completely ignored. Badri “didn’t simply talk about these things; he showed us how to spot these biases and — most importantly — how to rectify them.” Malcolm X, who often mentioned the Sudanese as evidence of Africa’s support for the African American struggle, visited Sudan in 1959. His guide was Malik Badri, then a 27-year-old student of psychology. Badri met Malcolm at Khartoum’s Grand Hotel, gave him a tour of Omdurman and invited him home for lunch. After his hajj in 1964, Malcolm flew back to the U.S. through Beirut to visit Badri, who was then teaching at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Badri tried to organize a lecture for Malcolm there, but AUB president Norman Burns refused, declaring that the campus is the “territory of the United States” and Malcolm X is “an enemy of the United States.” So Badri moved it to the city’s Sudanese Cultural Center. In the words of Hisham Aidi (senior lecturer, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University), the event was packed with students, journalists and even AUB faculty. After obtaining his PhD, Badri conducted scientific research in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology, Middlesex Hospital, London. He held several positions, including assistant professor (AUB, 1962-64), visiting professor and head of the Department of Psychology (University of Jordan, 1965), associate professor of psychology and education and director, Guidance and Psychological Counseling Unit, Omdurman Islamic University (196771) and distinguished professor of the Ibn Khaldun Chair (IIUM). Badri published several books and research articles in both Arabic and English. Among his research papers published in English are “Islam and Analytical Psychology,” “Islam and Alcoholism: Islam, alcoholism and the treatment of Muslim alcoholics” (Indiana: American Trust Publications, 1976) and “The Catastrophe of AIDS.” His books “The Dilemma of Muslim Psychologists” (1979), “Contemplation: An Islamic Psychospiritual Study” (2000) and “Abu Zayd al-Balkhi’s Sustenance of the Soul: The Cognitive Behaviour Therapy of a Ninth Century Physician” (2013) were foundational publications in the field of Islamic psychology. His work defined a new specialization and had an enormous impact in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia,

Turkey, and throughout the Western and Muslim worlds. Badri had a long-term relationship with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and Association of Muslim Social Scientists UK (AMSS UK). In July 1990 he participated in the first IIIT Summer School organized by the IIIT London Office jointly with Oxford University’s Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies. He also participated in the AMSS UK’s second annual conference: Social Responsibility: Challenges for the Future (London, October 2000). Since 2000 he was a regular participant in various AMSS UK events and the annual IIIT Summer School held in Turkey. IIIT published and translated (and reprinted) some of his books into various languages, such as the best-selling “Contemplation: A Psychospiritual Study” (reprinted several times), as well as “Sustenance of the Soul,” one of its most requested titles. His latest book in Arabic, currently at the printers, will to be jointly published by IIIT and Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University. Deeply respected by all, Professor Badri’s legacy of intellectual contributions will continue long into the future. His passing is a great loss to the Muslim academic community. In 2016, he was awarded the AMSS UK Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his profound contributions to psychology, psychotherapy, Islamic psychology and clinical psychology, as well as for his eminent career and scholarly achievements. Aptly, the hadith narrated by Ibn Abbas applies to Badri. The Prophet asked, “Do you know what is the departure of knowledge?” and then stated, “It’s the death of the scholars” (Transmitted in “Musnad Ahmad,” with a sound chain). He is survived by his wife Dr. Fatimah Abdullah (associate professor, Department of Usuluddin and Comparative Religion, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, IIUM) and seven children.  ih Sources: prof-malik-badri-1932-2021-a-giant-in-thefield-of-islamic-psychology, https://sapelosquare. com/2020/03/05/interview-malcolm-x-andthe-sudanese/ and opinions/2020/3/19/malcolm-x-and-the-sudanese.

Agha Khalid Saeed

A Worker for Muslim American Empowerment 1948-2021


gha Khalid Saeed (known to most as Agha Saeed), who was born in Quetta, Pakistan and became a towering Muslim American figure, passed away on Feb. 19 due to complications from Covid-19. He had also been suffering silently from Parkinson’s for more than eight years. He spoke straight from his heart, meaning fearlessly. Aptly, Rep. Paul Findley (R-Ill., d.2019) described Saeed as “a driven man” (Jan./Feb. 1999, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs). Muslim American history would be incomplete without recognizing his achievements and tremendous efforts on the community’s behalf, said Dr. Sami A. Al-Arian (director and public affairs professor, Center for Islam and Global Affairs, İstanbul Sabahattin Zaim Üniversitesi). This and future generations of Muslim Americans, he stressed, particularly the youth, must appreciate the accomplishments of their community’s intellectuals, leaders and pioneers — people like Saeed, Dr. Ismail Al-Farouqi (murdered in 1986), Dr. Mohammad Taki Mehdi (d.1988), Dr. Jamal Barzanji (d. 2015) and Dr. Maher Hathout (d. 2015). Such individuals paved the way for our community’s empowerment, relentlessly opposed those who sought to marginalize it and fought to secure the respect and status our community deserves. A Harvard-trained scholar (PhD, political science) who was involved in academia for decades, Saeed also wanted to make a real difference. Therefore, during the late 1980s and for over two decades thereafter, he led the effort to empower Muslim Americans in the political and public spheres. Believing that respect and recognition is earned, he was active from the streets to university campuses and community centers, and from conference halls and TV studios to the corridors of Congress. He gradually became a renowned leader and voice fighting for recognition, inclusion and dignity. By educating, mobilizing, organizing and uniting the major Muslim American political and civic engagement organizations, he inspired and mentored countless people in terms of their civic duties and political involvement.

A true visionary endowed with great intellectual and leadership skills, as well as real human decency, Saeed was regarded as a fierce fighter for truth and justice; a brave spokesperson for the weak, exploited, the poor and downtrodden; a sworn enemy of injustice, tyranny and dictatorships; and a passionate defender of civil and human rights in the tradition of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. And yet he remained a humble and loving person with a big, soft heart and teary eyes upon hearing of people’s suffering or pain. In the early 1990s, he was among the first to establish the American Muslim Alliance, a nationwide political organization established to empower Muslim Americans through electoral politics. Despite the obstacles and resistance, Saeed never compromised his faith, tradition and values or sacrificed any great cause, regardless of the temptations or potential short-term rewards. From Palestine, Kashmir, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq to the genocides, massacres and famines in India, Burma and Somalia, he was leading, advocating, speaking up and devising the roadmap and setting the red lines. Saeed always set the bar of moral clarity very high when it came to such issues as the status of Jerusalem; fighting occupation and racism, tyranny and dictatorships in the Middle East; opposing domestic racial tension and the entrenchment of the post-9/11 security state. In fact, he was instrumental in building coalitions and alliances to pursue the universal struggle against injustice, tyranny and racism. He singlehandedly established and led the American Muslim Political Coordination Council during the 1990s to organize all


IN MEMORIAM national political campaigns. After 9/11, he led the American Muslim Task Force on Civil Rights and Elections’ efforts to oppose the erosion of civil liberties due to the “war on terror” and to encourage Muslim Americans to remain politically active. For many years, he was the face of their political engagement at countless Islamic conferences and meetings nationwide. In 2003, despite the government-orchestrated fear and intimidation tactics, he insisted upon testifying during the bail hearing of Sami Al-Arian, a victim of government overreach. When the judge asked Saeed if he would still consider himself Al-Arian’s friend after his arrest, he replied, “Not only was I his friend, but his brother.” He was willing to give up all that he owned and pledged to do everything within his power to secure his friend’s release. Over the years, Saeed devoted himself to opposing injustice, racism, Islamophobia and government repression. For example, his voice was unique among Muslim American leaders in advocating for the innocence and release of another victim of government overreach — Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist with degrees from MIT and Brandeis University who is serving an 86-year sentence for alleged “multiple felonies.” In Sept. 2008, when Al-Arian was released and placed under house arrest, Saeed immediately flew there to celebrate with him. Over the following years, Saeed visited him several times each year as he continued to work on the community’s behalf. Only Parkinson’s was able to slow him down. In 2010, he served as the first board chairperson of the Coalition for Civil Freedoms (CCF), an organization founded by Al-Arian to champion the cases of this country’s political prisoners and Muslim American victims of the government’s policy of entrapment. When Al-Arain was leaving for Turkey in Feb. 2015 Saeed, despite his deteriorating health, flew from California to Washington, D.C., to say a final goodbye. Al-Arain considers it a tremendous honor that he was allowed to present Saeed with CCF’s Life Achievement

award last October during its tenth anniversary celebration. He told the audience that people of Saeed’s caliber, whose lives are full of struggle and sacrifice, need to be embraced and remembered. Omar Ahmad (founder, CAIR) said, “Agha Saeed left us a legacy of leadership, courage and service. His visionary leadership shined during the most difficult of times, all while staying true to his Islamic principles. “His quest for truth and justice never stopped even when he fell ill. When he was confined to a wheelchair, he continued to speak and write. When he lost his ability to speak, he would write. When he struggled to write, he persisted through every letter taking minutes to write one sentence.” Ahmad says he will be forever grateful to God for his experiences with his “good friend.” He visited Saeed regularly and would advise him to rest, but Saeed would shake his head and proceed to write him questions about the state of the Palestinians. As his physical illness became worse, his resolve and mental fortitude stayed firm. Ahmad hopes that such resilience will inspire others to continue the work. Shakeel Syed (former executive director, Shura Council of Southern California) noted that unlike most young leaders/activists today, Saeed sought neither grants nor bursaries; rather, he spent his own funds and sacrificed his family life for the larger good. He also stressed that members of Saeed’s generation did community work out of their own volition and that their accomplishments deserve to be recognized. Saeed, who authored “Pakistan in its Own Mirror: Elite Autobiographies and National Consciousness” and “Syncretic Self-Understanding of South Asian Muslims: Texts and Contexts,” is survived by his daughter, Sasha Mariam Saeed.  ih [Sources: Sami Al-Arian “Mourning Dr. Agha Saeed and celebrating his life” https:// posts/872818669960904/ and https://]


Nedzib Sacirbey A Founding Father of Bosnia 1926-2021


edzib Sacirbey, MD, considered a“founding father” of Bosnia, passed away on Feb. 23 at his son Muhamed’s home in Key West, Fla. According to sons Muhammad and Omar, this sad event was due to complications from Covid-19. Born Nedžib Šaćirbegović on April 23, 1926, in Travnik, at the time part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, he shortened his name when he settled in the U.S. He was 9 when his journalist-businessman father moved the family to Sarajevo, now Bosnia’s capital. Sacirbey, a psychiatrist, attended the Dayton, Ohio, peace conference in 1995 as a confidant, adviser and right-hand-man to Bosnia’s first president, Alija Izetbegovic (d. 2003). He then went on to serve as the new state’s global ambassador-at-large, including its first envoy to the U.S., although without the formal title of ambassador. Sacirbey “made a powerful contribution to the emancipation of Bosnian political identity and to Bosnia’s independence and defense against aggression,” said Bakir Izetbegovic, Bosnia’s former president and son of the country’s first president and 1992-95 wartime leader Alija Iezetbegovic. While practicing psychiatry, Sacirbey lobbied for Bosnia in Washington D.C., and at the UN. His elder son Muhamed, also a U.S. citizen, became Bosnia’s first ambassador to the UN. He used his position to enlist the support of such well-known American politicians like then-Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.); key administration and international officials like Cyrus Vance, Brent Scowcroft and Boutros Boutros-Ghali; and other public figures like Muhammad Ali, Hakeem Olajuwan, Elie Wiesel and (future prime minister of Pakistan) Imran Khan. Sacirbey attended a state school in Sarajevo where he, a Muslim, recalled that his two best friends were an ethnic Serb (Orthodox Christian) and an ethnic Croat (Roman Catholic) at a time when all of the country’s young people

mixed and played freely together. Both of them later emigrated to the U.S. as ethnic tensions flared in the 1990s, and the three of them met together regularly in the Washington D.C., area for the rest of their lives. In 1943, aged 17, Sacirbey joined his friend Izetbegovic in the Mladi Muslimani (Young Muslims) movement during World War II, when Sarajevo was controlled by the Ustaša, well-armed Catholic Croation Nazi collaborators who perpetrated atrocities against Muslims, Jews, Serbs and Bosnia’s Roma population. Jailed for three months for refusing conscription into the Ustaša army, in 1944 he married fellow Muslim activist Aziza Alajbegovic. In 1946, a year after the war ended, the couple, along with Izetbegovic and other Muslim rights activists, were jailed by Marshal Josip Broz Tito’s communist regime for their continuing involvement with the Young Muslims. As Tito began distancing himself from the Soviet Union and Stalinism, Sacirbey was released after two years and his wife after one. Both of them resisted aggressive pressure to join the Communist Party. In 1955, the couple enrolled at the University of Zagreb’s medical school. They both graduated in 1959. Returning to Sarajevo to practice medicine, they continued to advocate for greater freedom in communist Yugoslavia. Sacirbey also taught psychiatry. Many years later, one of his students, Radovan Karadžić became the infamous leader of Bosnia’s Serbs during the Bosnian War (1992-95). In 2016 he was sentenced to life in prison. Always under surveillance by Tito’s secret police for their pro-Muslim, anti-communist activism, and still refusing to join the Communist Party, Sacirbey and his wife decided to practice medicine elsewhere. Granted visas to work in Libya in 1963, they worked there as a district health officer and a gynecologist, respectively. One of Aziza’s patients was Queen Fatimah el-Sharif. In June 1967, with their son Muhamed, they flew to New York City as political refugees. Their second son Omar was born in Columbus, Ohio, later that year, and the entire family, previously Yugoslav nationals, became U.S. citizens. They added Bosnian nationality after Bosnia became independent in 1992. Both professionals continued practicing medicine, first at the Orient State Institute

in Columbus and later at the Cleveland Psychiatric Institute. In 1974, Sacirbey became a staff psychiatrist at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where one of his first priorities was dealing with the post-traumatic stress disorder affecting Vietnam War vets. His wife was a gynecologist at what is now Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia. At the same time, Sacirbey continued to lobby on behalf of Bosnian Muslims, particularly during the 1992-95 war. Retiring in 1995 just before attending the Dayton peace conference, he spent the next two years as Bosnia’s envoy to the UN. Muhamed served as ambassador from 1992 to 2000, except for a seven-month stint as foreign minister in 1995. Omar Sacirbey told The Washington Post that his father had told him how, in 1967, Libya had refused to extend his and his wife’s visas. Fearing further imprisonment in Yugoslavia, the couple had two choices of destination — majority-Muslim Turkey or the U.S. “While living in a country where most people were Muslims like them was appealing,” Omar said, “they were more drawn to the opportunity to live in a pluralistic democracy where individual rights were respected regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.” Former ISNA president Sayyid M. Syeed said Sacirbey “worked with us closely at local, national and international level. He was very involved in building the Muslim community in the Washington, D.C., area. He was our bridge with the Bosnia Muslim leader Dr. Izetbegovic. It was through him that we got directly involved in the Bosnian situation. The first president of Bosnia, Dr. Izetbegovic, visited ISNA and decided to get his book ‘Islam Between East and West’ published by ISNA, which is a monumental work written by a Western Muslim. “Sacribey was a member of our ISNA family and we had the honor of working with him very closely at every level.” His wife Aziza died in 1988. In addition to his sons, Muhamed and Omar, a Bostonbased journalist, a sister and two grandsons survive him.  ih

The world we live in is constantly evolving and ISNA is committed to being a positive driver of change. ISNA has long recognized the importance of engaging with other faith communities as a fundamental part of its mission, and therefore, we continuously host and participate in interfaith events, meetings and webinars to educate our friends, partners, officials and activists about Islam.

[Sources: obituaries/nedzib-sacirbey-dies/2021/03/04/955f433c7ba0-11eb-b3d1-9e5aa3d5220c_story.html; http://]

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These interreligious initiatives have helped break down barriers of misunderstanding, formed genuine partnerships of faith and ethics, and established a platform to advocate for social justice issues for the common good. We aim to work together to fight Islamophobia and share knowledge about the true teachings and understanding of our religion in all sectors. The gift of education has a ripple effect—it creates change locally, nationally and globally. Ignorance is our enemy, and with your support we can make a difference. Please donate to ISNA today.



NEW RELEASES Women and Gender in the Qur’an Celene Ibrahim 2020. Pp. 206. HB. $29.95 Oxford University Press, N.Y. brahim argues that 300 verses directly involve women or girls who are depicted in complex and previously unknown ways. Divided into four main chapters and accompanied by a long introduction and copious endnotes, this book thoroughly examines sex, gender, girls and womanhood in the Quran. Ibrahim makes keen observations of the Quranic intertextuality of female figures and other prophets, often showing parallel prayers, plights and situations faced by members of both genders. One of this book’s unique literary aspects is its identification of many affective readings of women cast in God’s speech. The numerous appendices clearly identify female Quranic figures and share biological information about them and their families, along with these women’s direct speech. Ibrahim writes for both a secular and religious audience. (Reviewer: Nora Zaki, Vassar College)


Original Turkish and TurkoFarsi States and Traditions: A Brief Outline of a 1200+ Year Journey Basith Osmani 2020. Pp. 442. PB. $24.50. Kindle. $24.50 Independently Published ll Abrahamic people, argues Osmani, particularly the 21st-century descendants of Turkish and TurkoFarsi Muslims, will remain perplexed until they reflect upon the dramatic changes of the last 150 years of world destiny. Muslims became increasingly dissociated from Islam over time and gradually deviated from their faith, whereas Europeans completely abandoned Christianity and followed the Trinitarianism imposed by the Holy Roman Empire and then separated church and state. This, he says, paved the way for the trade-dependent Europeans, with their burgeoning knowledge, understanding and global experience, to start leading humanity albeit at the price of, retrospectively, distorting and disparaging of Turkish and TurkoFarsi contributions. Concurrently, Muslims continued to degenerate and deviate into the catastrophic pattern of killing each other, as well as innocent people, including in the Euro-American lands that shelter and educate them. The biggest calamity was depriving the Abrahamic peoples of Islam’s message as conveyed by God’s last Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). This divine message is the definite confirmation and restoration of the identical message conveyed by all of the Abrahamic prophets, upon whose principles the governing and administrative charters of TurkoFarsi states, societies and people were based for more than 1,200 years.


Far Beyond My Comprehension Mohammed Siraj Uddin 2019. Pp. 400. PB. $15.00 CreateSpace Independent Publishing retending not to see or hear and trying to run away is futile, because the One who sees, hears and knows the truth is always there, argues Siraj Uddin. Addressing the issue of spirituality derived from the Quran, he argues, has the spiritual vision, hearing and feeling: it sees and hears far beyond the ordinary wavelengths of seeing and hearing, and feels deeper into the core. It works with the heart, mind and the free will, and is the driving force behind success or failure: one who controls it succeeds, and



one who lets it control the heart and mind loses. What is it? The soul, the mind, the heart? What is metaphysics, and how does it relate to every moment of life? Physical existence requires metaphysics to be complete. Are there forces and energies beyond the known, speeds beyond that of light? If so, what are they? This book attempts to answer some of those questions. A Blessed Olive Tree: A Spiritual Journey in Twenty Short Stories Zain Hashmi 2020 (Kindle). Pp. 140. PB. $7.55 CreateSpace Independent Publishing ashmi presents topics linked with spiritualism and Islamic teachings in an understandable manner. The stories, which contain easily understandable layers of meaning, allow both adults and children the pleasure of reading them and extracting an array of wisdom from each theme presented. The illustrations capture each story’s essence and can be a point of interest for visual and young readers. Almost all of the chapters have footnotes, which help readers understand the hidden meanings behind certain parts of each story; the footnotes quote elements ranging from Quranic verses to poetry and even song lyrics, all of which offer spiritual knowledge. (Reviewer: Sadaf Hashmi)


Calling the Christians: How Understanding Christianity Brings us to Islam Adam Hafiz 2020. Pp. 123. PB. $6.77 Amazon Self-Publishing dam Hafiz, a convert from Christianity, adopts a logical and unbiased approach by using deductive reasoning to systematically address the core Christian concerns. He explains what goes on in the heart of a person who loves God and is looking for the right path. His understanding of both Christianity and Islam is commendable. This book can help born Muslims understand Christians, thereby helping them devise effective dawa, and also help Christians clarify misconceptions while finding the truth. (Reviewer: Sadaf Hashmi)


In My Mosque M. O. Yuksel (Illust. Hatem Aly) 2021. Pp. 40. HB. $15.99 HarperCollins, New York, N.Y. his children’s book, beautifully illustrated by New York Times bestselling illustrator Hatem Aly and written by Mindy Yuksel in lyrical form, comes as memories of the massacres in New Zealand mosques continue to haunt the world and sweetly announces “All are welcome in my mosque.” “In My Mosque,” truly a book for everyone, warmly welcomes readers into the Muslim house of worship, a place where people are “a rainbow of colors and speak in different accents.” Yuksel’s words open windows for those unfamiliar with a mosque’s interior. The reader learns both what goes inside as well as the etiquette of entering a mosque, “In my mosque, we line our shoes in rows, like colorful beads, before stepping inside. I wiggle my toes and sink into the silky-soft carpet.” Simply stated, this book belongs in every home and school. Such books can change the world and raise empathetic human beings who respect everyone. The endnotes that enhance the learning and understanding of phrases add to an already informative book.  ih


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Articles inside

Nedzib Sacirbey article cover image

Nedzib Sacirbey

pages 60-61
Agha Khalid Saeed article cover image

Agha Khalid Saeed

page 59
New Releases article cover image

New Releases

pages 62-64
Mental Illness and the Muslim American Community article cover image

Mental Illness and the Muslim American Community

pages 52-53
Robert Saleh is far More Than the First Muslim Coach in the NFL article cover image

Robert Saleh is far More Than the First Muslim Coach in the NFL

pages 54-55
A Young Refugee Couple Feeds Hundreds of Displaced Americans article cover image

A Young Refugee Couple Feeds Hundreds of Displaced Americans

page 51
Our Interaction with Animal Communities May Determine the Next Pandemic article cover image

Our Interaction with Animal Communities May Determine the Next Pandemic

pages 56-57
A Small Muslim Community article cover image

A Small Muslim Community

pages 38-39
Divorce in Muslim Society article cover image

Divorce in Muslim Society

pages 29-32
A Sheroe’s Story article cover image

A Sheroe’s Story

page 50
The Shriners: From Racism to Philanthropy article cover image

The Shriners: From Racism to Philanthropy

pages 45-46
Fallen Apart: Can Yemen be Saved? article cover image

Fallen Apart: Can Yemen be Saved?

pages 40-41
Life in Rohingya Refugee Camps article cover image

Life in Rohingya Refugee Camps

pages 35-37
A Helping Hand article cover image

A Helping Hand

pages 47-49
A Success Story Founded in New York article cover image

A Success Story Founded in New York

pages 33-34
The Hope of Greater Unity article cover image

The Hope of Greater Unity

pages 22-23
Effective Divorce Mediation article cover image

Effective Divorce Mediation

pages 27-28
Editorial article cover image


pages 6-7
Honoring Reconciliation article cover image

Honoring Reconciliation

pages 20-21
Achieving Educational Excellence Through Faith & Resilience article cover image

Achieving Educational Excellence Through Faith & Resilience

pages 8-9
Understanding Divorce in American Muslim Communities article cover image

Understanding Divorce in American Muslim Communities

pages 24-26
MYNA Program Promotes Personal and Spiritual Growth for Young Muslims article cover image

MYNA Program Promotes Personal and Spiritual Growth for Young Muslims

pages 10-11
Turtle Island’s Identity Continues to Be Erased article cover image

Turtle Island’s Identity Continues to Be Erased

pages 18-19