Page 1

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014/1435 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET

THE UNQUESTIONABLE RIGHT  •  STEREOTYPING OF ARABS AND MUSLIMS

ISNA 51ST ANNUAL CONVENTION Iconic American Leader Inspires Attendees in Promoting Peace, Activism and the End of Oppression


CONTENTS

VOL. 43 NO. 6 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014  visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET

COVER STORY 26 2014 ISNA Convention Report

Iconic American leader calls for promoting peace, activism and the end of oppression

26 ISLAM IN AMERICA

18 Reviving Preschool Education in Muslim Schools 20 College Applications 101 24 Giving Back to Bangladesh 36 39 41 44

MUSLIMS IN ACTION

The Disappearing Muslim Youth The Return to the Hijab An Inflatable Mosque Supports Climate March Muslim Mom Bloggers

18

POLITICS AND SOCIETY

46  Stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims persists after 9/11 50 Married without Consent

MUSLIMS ABROAD

41

54 The Unquestionable Right 56 Women Pay the Emotional Price of War

OBITUARIES

6 8 10 59 60

58 Tayyibah Taylor

56 ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

DEPARTMENTS Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters Reviews Food for the Spirit

DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Madihah Krishnamurthy. 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.

5


EDITORIAL

Spreading Hope

D

etroit called and ISNA answered, taking its 51st Annual Convention to the Motor City. This was a much welcomed boost to a city that is faced with stark options. And more importantly, it was matter of introducing the dynamic Detroit Muslim community to their fellow Muslim Americans who responded to their invitation from across the nation. It was a challenge that the greater Detroit area Muslim community met beyond expectations as the numbers and accolades speak for themselves: the convention was supported by about 300 volunteers, and drew more than 15,000 attendees. However, ISNA conventions are more than an opportunity to meet friends and family; they’re also about service to humanity. The service mode was evident when volunteers made 500 humanitarian packets for distribution to those in need in Gaza, Syria and Detroit. About 40 volunteers helped lay gardening beds and planted vegetables in a community garden. The Islamic Medical Association of North America added a new element to its annual IMANA Health Fair, and more than 200 people responded by donating blood through the American Red Cross blood drive. The message of service to fellow human beings was shared and practiced. It is up to the convention attendees to introduce this spirit in their own communities. Volunteering and giving is part of American culture, but more impor-

6

tantly, Muslims are reminded that volunteering is a beneficial and productive form of sadaqa (giving to those in need). The Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘ayahi wa sallam), when asked if the verse, “And those who give whatever they (have to) give while their hearts are trembling,” referred to people who committed sins, replied: “No. They are those who fast, pray, and give charity whilst fearing that (these deeds) may not be accepted (by God). They are those who compete with one another in good deeds” (Bukhari). ISNA continues to nurture volunteerism where its events draw many who freely give their time and energy to support the cause. The dedication of volunteers at ISNA events is admirable. Muslim Americans are not bound to volunteer within their own communities, but to help, and especially support causes that benefit all peoples. Volunteering is not only a great way to give to the community, but also an opportunity to acquire a broad range of experiences. Volunteering by Muslims through mainstream avenues is increasing. Islamic centers organize food drives for the homeless and the needy. Several centers also are organizing health screenings and other services. This tempo should not only continue, but advance. Muslim Americans are part of the national fabric, and volunteering for worthy causes — within and outside the community — needs to be incorporated into the Muslim American identity.  ■

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRE SID ENT Azhar Azeez E X ECUTIV E DIREC TO R & CEO Hazem Bata ED IT O R

Omer Bin Abdullah D EPA RTMENT S EDITO R Aisha Kishta ED IT O RIA L B OA RD

Julie Belz (Chair); Iqbal Unus; Sohaib Sultan; Wafa Unus; Tarek Elgawhary. ISL A MI C H O RIZO NS

is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2014 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 P O S T M A S TER

Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUB S C RIP TIO NS

Annual, domestic – $24 Canada – US$30 Overseas airmail – US$60 TO SUB S CRIBE Contact Islamic Horizons at (317) 839‑8157 / (317) 839‑1811 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: membership@isna.net A DV ER TISIN G

For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, horizons@isna.net, ww.isna.net Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distribution) Sales Agreement No. 0666300 C O RRE S P O ND EN CE

Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email: horizons@isna.net


ISNA MATTERS

AZHAR AZEEZ ELECTED NEW ISNA PRESIDENT Azhar Azeez, who served two terms as ISNA vice president, was elected as the new president. Altaf Husain, who has served on the Majlis Ash-Shura was elected vice president. The new Majlis Ash-Shura began its term Sept. 1. The newly-elected leaders joined 16 existing members on the Majlis. The ISNA electorate also chose Pervez Nasim, chairman of Ansar Financial Group, as ISNA vice president for Canada. M. Affan Badar, professor and interim associate dean at Indiana State University, Ziauddin Mahmood, a financial consultant, and Manzoor Ghori, chairman of Indian Muslim Relief & Charities, were elected as members of the Majlis. “ISNA members have elected a next group of leaders that will build from the foundations of a 50-year legacy, and take the organization to the next level that is relevant and receptive to the community we serve,” ISNA Executive Director Hazem Bata said. “I look forward to working with the elected leadership in continuing to provide not only the services and programs we currently offer, but also explore new ideas and services that meet the needs of our ever changing community.”

Outgoing ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid congratulated the new leadership saying, “I have full confidence that the incoming leadership will continue to take the organization in a positive direction and serve the community well.” The Majlis Ash-Shura thanked Magid for his leadership, wisdom and more than a decade of service. 

8

ISNA, along with 14 major religious organizations, joined others in the United States and around the world Sept. 15 in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt strong net neutrality protections that allow for Internet openness. Religious organizations fear that policies like paid prioritization would force both religious and secular nonprofits to pay fees to ensure that highbandwidth content receives fair treatment on the Internet. Nonprofits don’t have the financial resources to compete with profitable, commercialized content. The petition emphasized the importance of free and open Internet communications that enable religious organizations to reach out to and connect with their members as well as advocate for social justice issues. These protections will also ensure that disenfranchised and vulnerable people can use advanced technology to access services, including educational and vocational opportunities. 

US MUSLIM LEADERS SPEAK OUT

ISNA PARTICIPATED IN FERGUSON CALL On Aug. 18, then-ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid participated in a conference call with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on the ongoing situation in Ferguson, Missouri. The head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Acting Assistant Secretary Molly Moran also participated stressing that this is a top priority case for them. “This case highlights the problem with racial profiling that still exists in the country,”

ISNA CALLS FOR STRONG NET NEUTRALITY PROTECTIONS

Magid said. “We as Muslims have to stand against all racial and religious profiling and we ask law enforcement to adhere to the constitutional principles of equality before the law.” 

A broad coalition of Muslim American leaders, including ISNA President Azhar Azeez, along with national and regional community leaders came together Sept. 10 in Washington to underscore their condemnation of terrorism and extremism. Leaders reaffirmed the fatwa against extremism and identified programs, initiatives that counter toxic narratives and ideas used

to recruit vulnerable individuals. These efforts help ensure that ISIS and other groups do not negatively influence young Muslim Americans, and address the community’s response to the potential for threats against the U.S. 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


ISNA CONFERENCE IN CINCINNATI ISNA SUPPORTS PRESIDENT OBAMA’S COMMENTS AT UN ASSEMBLY

ISNA welcomes President Barack Obama’s remarks about Islam and Muslims in his Sept. 24 address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. “We have reaffirmed that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam,” Obama said. “Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them — there is only us because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country.” ISNA President Azhar Azeez said Obama’s remarks recognizing the Muslim American community as a welcomed part of a diverse country were appreciated. “It is unfortunate that segments of American society continue to demonize Muslim Americans,” he said. “We also thank the President for acknowledging the actions of Muslims around the world in addressing extremism and terrorism, as well as reaffirming that the United States is not at war with Islam. All too often, misinformed people, including some media outlets, continue to perpetuate the false claim that Muslims have not condemned terrorism and have not taken any action in addressing religious extremism.” ISNA also joined 120 international scholars of Islam and Muslim leaders as a signatory to an open letter, available in Arabic and English, denouncing the ideology of the terrorist group ISIS and providing a point-by-point refutation of ISIS’ so-called religious justification for its criminal actions and violence. 

THE PROPHETIC MESSAGE — VISION FOR OUR COMMUNITY November 21 – 23, 2014 Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati 8092 Plantation Dr  •  West Chester, OH 45069

EVENTS INCLUDE: Main Sessions  •  Youth Sessions  •  Bazaar Matrimonial Event  •  Saturday Night Banquet Entertainment  •  Childcare

SPEAKERS:

Altaf Husain

Hussain Zaid Yasmin Suhaib Azhar Habeeb Kamani Shakir Mogahed Webb Azeez Quadri And many more local Scholars, Imams, and Interfaith leaders

FEES: Adult $30;  Husband & Wife $55;  Student $27; Family of 4 $110; Family more than 4 $25 per person; Saturday Banquet Ticket $35

CONTACT:

Registration: (317) 838-8129 • convention@isna.net Bazaar & Sponsorship: (317) 838-8131 • akhan@isna.net


COMMUNITY MATTERS First Muslim Wins Top Math Award Maryam Mirzakhani, 37, became the first Muslim, first woman and first Iranian to win the Fields Medal, the world’s most coveted award in mathematics widely described as the “Mathematics Nobel Prize.” She is the first and only Muslim among 56 mathematicians who have received this honor. The $13,700 award money is, however, appreciably less than the Nobel Prize. The award committee cited the Stanford University mathematics professor’s work in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces. Her research topics include Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, ergodic theory, and symplectic geometry. Officially known as the “International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics,” it is awarded to two, three, or four mathematicians once every four years on the occasion of the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) to recognize outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and

for the promise of future achievement. A candidate’s 40th birthday must not occur before Jan. 1 of the year of the ICM at which the medals are awarded. This requirement makes the prize difficult to achieve.

This year’s awards were announced during the ICM held in Seoul, Korea, in August. The executive committee of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) selects the award committee, which is usually chaired by the IMU president. The three co-winners are: Artur Avila from Brazil, the first South American award winner, Martin Hairer from Australia; and Indian-origin Canadian Manjul Bhargava. Mirzakhani gained international math recognition as a teenager, winning gold medals at the Hong Kong (1994) and Toronto (1995) International Math Olympiads. After earning her bachelor of science degree from Iran’s Sharif University of Technology (1999), she obtained her doctorate from Harvard in 2004. From 2004 to 2008, she was a research fellow and assistant professor at Princeton’s Clay Mathematics Institute. Her honors include the 2009 Blumenthal Award for the Advancement of Research in Pure Mathematics and the 2013 Satter Prize of the American Mathematical Society. 

Basketball Federation Allows Hijab The International Basketball Association — the sport’s governing body — announced Sept. 16 that players will be allowed to wear religious head coverings, such as hijabs or turbans, on a trial basis in some competitions. FIBA’s central board voted to allow a two-year testing phase that would let players wear head coverings. Indira Kaljo, a Bosnian-American Muslim who played college basketball at Tulane and professionally in Ireland, but

adopted the hijab last year, called it an “amazing first step.” She wasn’t able to play overseas because the earlier FIBA decision only allowed a head-band. The central board will reevaluate the rule in 2015 and determine whether testing at the lowest official international level should begin next summer. A full review will be done in 2016 on whether it will be a permanent rule change after the 2016 Olympics. In 2012, professional soccer’s govern-

ing body, FIFA, changed its rules to allow female Muslim players to wear headscarves after a campaign by executive committee member Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan. 

Catovic is a Captain of the People’s Climate March Saffet Catovic has been confirmed as one of the People’s Climate March Congregational Captains for the Muslim Community. The march was held Sept. 21 in New York City. Catovic is a Muslim environmental leader and activist, founder of Green Muslims of New Jersey, board member of Green Ramadan-NYC, and GreenFaith Fellow. He helped develop informational and promotional materials for the Muslim community to utilize in mobilizing for the march. The organization is mobilizing for a 10

massive grassroots interfaith effort. Several

hundred faith communities and national organizations already have committed to endorse the march (http://peoplesclimate.org). Catovic said a significant Muslim presence was critical for what is being billed as the world’s largest march on climate change with similar actions around the world. “Through tapping into our Muslim communities’ networks, we’ll have the power needed, with Allah’s help, to save our planet — Allah’s Masjid (Hadith: Al-ard kulluha Masjidaan),” he said. 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


Yunus Appointed to Health National Advisory Council Mohammad Yunus, former CEO and hospital administrator of Singer Mental Health Center, has been appointed to the National Advisory Council (CSAT) of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) for a four-year term. The council advises, consults, and makes recommendations to the health secretary to promote the quality and availability of community-based treatment services for individuals and families who need them. The council consists of 12 leading national representatives in the fields of public health, social and behavioral services, and public policy. The council is a major component of the DHHS’s strategic effort to improve the quality, availability, and fairness of medical care across America, for groups including the homeless and military personnel, as well as for the general public. With a career spanning more than 30 years, Yunus has dedicated his life to improv-

ing the quality of care for people with mental illness and substance abuse. In 2011, the Illinois Senate issued a Senate Recognition commending Yunus “… for going above and beyond with his compassionate spirit; touching lives and making a difference in our community.”

Yunus, who has served in several senior management and teaching positions in his field, is currently the CEO of The Asoka Group, where he heads a panel of experts focusing on new ideas about management, innovations, motivating employees and managing change. He also has been active outside the hospital and local communities serving with distinction on several national committees and task forces. He also served as a grant reviewer on the DHHS's Access to Recovery Committee in 2004 and 2007 and was a panel member of the Federal Listening Program, designed to address issues related to the behavioral health and well-being of Arab-American and Muslim American youth in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. He helped develop “A Prevention Guide for Youth Leaders in Faith Communities,” which was published in 2003 by the White House Office of National Drug Policy. 

Canadian Mosque Marks 50th Anniversary

ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFER — A good deed done regularly! You can make a significant impact on the quality of ISNA’s services by contributing through EFT.

The London (Ontario) Muslim Mosque celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding, Aug. 15-17. When it was built, it became the first mosque in Ontario and only the second in all of Canada. The seed was planted by 12 immigrant families from Lebanon living in London seeking a communal place of worship. They purchased the property at 151 Oxford St., and built the mosque in 1964. It began attracting

Muslims from around the world. The only other mosque operating in the country at that time was in Edmonton. The London mosque has continued to thrive over the years with the addition of an Islamic school in 1996, and a multi-million dollar renovation in 2010. Now, the London Muslim Mosque is one of three in the city serving a Muslim population of around 30,000 people. 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

As little as $10 per month will help ISNA to serve the Muslim American community through effective leadership and state of the art training seminars for imams, Muslim chaplains and community leaders.

Sign up today to donate through EFT. WWW.ISNA.NET/DONATE 11


COMMUNITY MATTERS

Muslims for Support to Special Needs Persons Dallas-based scholar Sheikh Omar Suleiman formally launched MUHSEN (Muslims United for Handicap and Special Education Needs; http://muhsen.org/), an organization serving people with special needs, at the 51st ISNA Convention in Detroit. The organization advocates, educates, trains and implements programs and services nationwide to improve access to mosques for special needs individuals, and promotes acceptance and inclusion by the community in all aspects of their daily lives. Suleiman, who addressed a session at the convention on creating enabling mosques,

noted that mosques lack facilities to properly accommodate people with special needs. MUHSEN Executive Director Joohi Tahir, the mother of an autistic daughter and a vice president at Crescent Foods, said the

Canadian Muslim Physician at International Space Studies Program Dr. Farhan Asrar, a prominent Canadian physician who served as faculty member at this year’s annual international Space Studies Program, led an international team to provide recommendations on health and space. The conference, hosted by the Canadian Space Agency, brought together international space experts, along with participants from more than 30 different countries. The program, organized by the nonprofit Strasbourg, France-based International Space

Dr. Farhan Asrar, right, with Canadian astronaut Dr. David Saint-Jacques at the Canadian Space Agency headquarters John H. Chapman Space Centre in Quebec.

12

University, is sponsored by organizations such as NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, and space agencies and government organizations of several other countries. The intensive, nine-week annual program has been hosted by more than a dozen countries in four continents since its inception in 1988. Countries must bid to host it. During the 2011 program in Graz, Austria, Asrar was appointed in a faculty teaching role as deputy/emerging chairman of the Department of Space Life Sciences and Space Medicine. He was then selected as chairman of health and space for the 2014 program, in which he led a 30-member team consisting members from 14 countries to research and work on a report that provided recommendations for using space technology in assisting with public health and disaster relief. The project, officially sponsored by NASA, was supported by several world renowned space medicine experts and astronauts. Asrar, a recipient of several local, provincial, national and international awards, has a keen interest in space and space medicine. He and his team presented their findings at the International Astronautical Congress Conference — the world’s largest space-based conference held in Toronto, September-October. The Space Studies Program provides global postgraduate and professional participants a unique opportunity to interact and work with space experts and enthusiasts from around the world. There are also many

organization will “work to lead in creating a better understanding of disabilities in our communities and building a better future for individuals with special needs — where they are welcome, all their needs are addressed and they are accepted by all.” “Individuals with disabilities are growing in numbers, and we are in denial if we believe that it does not affect us. Childhood disorders and illnesses are at an all-time high affecting millions, Muslims included.” She added that MUHSEN plans to develop programs to train youth to become peer buddies, develop closed captioning displays for the hearing impaired and “quiet” rooms for sensory issues, and provide counseling and support groups by trained professionals.

scholarship opportunities available for professionals and university students to pursue this program. The 2015 program will be held in Ohio, home of several astronauts, including Neil Armstrong and John Glenn. 

Maryland Student Joins University Regents Board

Raaheela Ahmed (Courtesy of Raaheela Ahmed)

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley appointed Raaheela Ahmed to serve a one-year term as the student member on the 17-member University System of Maryland Board of Regents. The board oversees the university system’s academic, administrative and financial operations, formulates policy, and appoints the chancellor and the presidents of the system’s 12 institutions. Ahmed, 21, who attends the University of Maryland in College Park, is majoring in finance and economics. 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


COMMUNITY MATTERS

State Department Appoints New Muslim Communities’ Representative The United States Department of State has appointed Shaarik Zafar as its new special representative for Muslim communities in the United States and the international community. He succeeds Farah Pandit. Zafar was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and moved to Katy, Tex., with his family at a young age. He has been active in Muslim outreach since his college years, arguing in past public appearances that although Muslims and Arabs may have issues with American foreign policy, they also share the same concerns of mainstream Americans. Zafar previously served as deputy chief

of the Homeland, Cyber and Countering Violent Extremism group at the National Counterterrorism Center. He coordinated strategic planning and collaboration with federal departments and agencies, state and

local governments, allied foreign nations, and community stakeholders on efforts to strengthen homeland and cyber security, build resilience against terrorism, and integrate all elements of national power on efforts to counter violent extremism. Zafar has served as director for global engagement at the White House National Security Council. He received the 2011 Outstanding Young Texas Ex Award, which recognizes alumni under 40 years old who have made significant achievements in their careers and service to the university. He is a recipient of service awards and has received awards from a number of civil society organizations. Zafar is a lifetime member and former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Mapping out Islamic Bioethics The Initiative on Islam & Medicine jurisprudence, followed by Q&A sessions on at the University of Chicago hosted a threethe development of fatwas (legal opinions) and the implementation of health policy. day workshop on “Mapping out an Islamic Bioethics,” Aug. 1-3, addressing the strucIIM Director Dr. Aasim Padela explained ture of Islamic ethical thinking. A gatherthe actors and materials of Islamic bioethics. ing of physicians, nurses, policymakers, Case studies were presented emphasizing hospital chaplains, academic researchers, Islamic ethical legal obligations. Sessions bioethicists, and Islamic scholars discussed included an in-depth overview of Islamic Dr. Aasim Padela the general framework of Islamic bioethics moral theology and its doctrinal considerand some of the most important bioethical issues of concern to ations and epistemology, along with the perspective of experiences Muslims today. of Islamic bioethics in Iran and Oman. Other sessions explored Bioethics is a multidisciplinary field of study concerning the contrasting conventional concepts of clinical ethics, providing application of moral principles to the conduct and practice of conceptual literacy and the methodological tools to understanding biomedicine, and to the making of health policy. Due to rapid the doctrinal considerations of Islamic bioethics. The diversity of advances in science and technology, fundamental questions about issues covered in the workshops increased awareness of concerns human life regarding euthanasia, abortion, human cloning, and specific to Islamic bioethics and moving forward will enrich the organ transplantation are confronting health care stakeholders. discourse between interested stakeholders. Islamic bioethics examines these issues from a multicultural “I found this integral workshop to start a critical conversation and theological perspective, and one of its main objectives is to in mapping out Islamic bioethics,” said Tuba Erkoc, a doctoral apply the principles of Islamic jurisprudence to support bioethical, candidate in Islamic Law at Marmara University pursuing her informed decisionmaking within Muslim communities. dissertation on euthanasia in Islamic Law and a visiting researcher The workshop revolved around the key concepts in Islamic at Georgetown University. 

Californians Break Ground on New Mosque More than 300 community members, including Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqi, the chairperson of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Islamic Center of South Bay President Ehtesham Mirza, the board members, and Pakistani Consul General Tasawar Khan joined the groundbreaking ceremony at the Lomita Masjid Alnoor and youth center after Friday prayers on Aug. 22. Dr. Siddiqi also gave the Friday sermon. The community braved a five-year struggle to obtain the city permit. 

Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqi, left, and Pakistani Consul General Tasawar Khan, second from left, help break ground for the new Lomita mosque. 14

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


Dalia Mogahed Joins Institute for Social NEWS BRIEFS Policy and Understanding

Dalia Mogahed is the new director of research for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Mogahed, an experienced research analyst and director, has managed the establishment and growth of other research-based

institutions that study issues related to Muslim populations in the United States and abroad. She previously served as executive director and senior analyst for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies where she led global research analysis of surveys from more than 40 countries. Mogahed successfully established the Gallup Center as a leading authority on Muslim affairs. In 2008 with John Esposito, Mogahed coauthored the book “Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think.” Mogahed is a frequent commentator on global media outlets and international forums. She has received numerous awards and recognitions from organizations, such as the World Economic Forum, University of Wisconsin, Ashoka, and Freedom House. On Aug. 21, the institute also announced the appointment of Meira Neggaz, who has international and domestic nonprofit experience, as its new executive director. 

Supporting Education in Pakistan The Tehzibul Akhlaq Trust USA (TAT USA; www.tehzibulakhlaqtrust.org) held its first fundraiser Aug. 23 in Silver Spring, Maryland, to introduce the trust’s mission and raise funds for its educational projects in Pakistan. More than 2,000 students are enrolled in its schools, which run on selfsustainable, nonprofit basis, and all development projects at the trust’s schools and colleges have been funded by donors. The Tehzibul Akhlaq Trust was established in 1960 by Lahore, Pakistan-based alumni of Aligarh Muslim University, in partnership with local philanthropists. AMU alumni realized that after the creation of Pakistan, the mission of education for the socioeconomic development of Muslims, started by the great educational reformer Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, should be continued. TAT USA President Rizwan Siddiqi provided an overview of the trust’s mission and the history of its formation in the United States. TAT USA is a tax-exempt organization. G. A. Sabri, president of Tehzibul Akhlaq Trust Pakistan, presented details about activities and projects in Pakistan. Keynote

Rizwan Siddiqi

speaker Dr. A. Abdullah, past president of Aligarh Association of Washington, D.C., which has run its educational endowment for decades, stressed the need for education in Pakistan and the support people in the U.S. can offer. 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

Northwest Suburban College in Illinois has received accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, one of the most respected and longest established national accreditors of academic institutions in the United States that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The college, founded in 2008, is now accredited to offer four-year degrees. It started classes with only two students in 2009. To date, it has graduated 350 students in various branches of allied health sciences and 14 students in basic sciences. At its third annual commencement Aug. 17, the college graduated 80 students from its school of Allied Health Sciences and awarded six students a bachelor of science degree in basic sciences. The college boasts a record 90 percent admission rate of its graduating class into offshore medical schools.

Imam Adeel Zeb was named Duke University’s new Muslim chaplain and director for the Center for Muslim Life as of Sept. 20. He succeeded Imam Abdullah Antepli, who took on a new role with the university. Zeb, who has led interfaith immersion trips and spiritual retreats to Trinidad and Saudi Arabia, hopes to continue such work with students and colleagues at Duke. 15


COMMUNITY MATTERS Zeb comes to Duke from Trinity College and Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and before that served the Muslim community at American University. He has a master’s degree in Islamic chaplaincy from Hartford Seminary, and a bachelor of science in Islamic studies from Arees University.

The University of Florida opened its center for global Islamic studies Sept. 18-19 with a conference on “Global Islam and the Quest for Public Space.” The center within the school’s Center for African Studies and the Department of Religion is staffed by a cross-section of faculty from religion, science, history, anthropology, languages, literatures and cultures.

Norwalk, Connecticut, zoning commissioners over-rode a barrage of opposition and voted 4-3 on Sept. 4 to permit construction of Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk and multipurpose hall in West Norwalk.

The third Muslim American Citizens Coalition and Public Affairs Council-TFI Youth Retreat was held Aug. 4-8 at the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, Virginia. Twenty participants attended the program, featuring talks and lectures by prominent Muslims active in public life. Speakers included Jihad Williams, former legislative assistant to Rep. Gregory Meeks, Moon Sulfab, president of the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association, Arsalan Suleman, deputy special envoy to the OIC, Jameel Johnson, Meeks’ former chief of staff, Imam Mahdi Bray, national director of the American Muslim Alliance, and Yasmin Taeb, legislative assistant to Rep. Karen Bass. The retreat included discussion sessions, visits to local mosques and Islamic centers, and to Capitol Hill. The graduation ceremony was held Aug. 8 on Capitol Hill. The Wilmington City Council voted Aug. 5 to approve a zoning request from the Islamic Learning Center, which is raising $300,000 to purchase and renovate its building.

Phoenix-based Swarthmore College has appointed Ailya Vajid as religious advisor for Muslims on campus. Vajid’s appointment is for just one year. The college’s religious advisers are not paid faculty members, in part because of the school’s Quaker heritage. Religious advisers serve in part-time, affiliate positions, funded by outside groups not affiliated with the college. The Swarthmore MSA hired Vajid in 2009 to support the organization and help establish a school-supported advisory position. Last semester, college officials agreed to begin the process of establishing a Muslim advisor position. However, these consultants are hired on a semester basis. 16

After a three-year struggle, the Manassas, Virginia, Muslim Association received approval for its Jamiah Masjid in late August. The Manassas City Council voted unanimously to approve a special use permit allowing the association to operate an Islamic community center and school. The community center will have capacity for 380 people. The school was approved to serve up to 105 students and is expected to open with about 30 students.

The proposed 21,800-square-foot center, to be located on a 1.5-acre property, will serve a congregation of roughly 100 families. The plan includes 135 on-site parking spaces. In June 2012, Al Madany sued the city after zoning commissioners rejected plans for a 27,000-square-foot mosque/multipurpose hall on the property. The city counsel told objectors that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act places the burden on municipalities in such lawsuits. Per a settlement agreement, the city will pay Al Madany $145,000 to cover litigation costs, and the city’s insurance carrier, Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, will pay Al Madany $162,500 for a total settlement amount of $307,500.

Toronto-based Ansar Financial and Ansar Housing hosted an Eid lunch at the Scarborough Grace Hospital, on behalf of the Muslim community and its members/ shareholders, for the hospital’s frontline medical personnel, nurses, doctors and technicians who provide valuable services to patients. Dories Fillier, director of the hospital’s Spiritual and Religious Care department, said events such as these are “an opportunity for our staff to become more familiar with the varied expression of faith and faith communities.”

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, and that denying the permit in 2012 made it difficult for the group’s members to practice their faith. The suit seeks a court order requiring St. Anthony to allow the Abu Huraira Islamic Center to maintain a worship space in the basement of the St. Anthony Business Center, which the group purchased for $1.9 million.

Maimuna Ahmad, a Muslim American, was among 10 recipients of the 2014 Anannya award given out by a Bangladeshi women’s biweekly magazine. Every year, the magazine recognizes 10 women for their contributions to their respective organizations. The first annual award was given out in 1993. Ahmad, born and raised in Northern Virginia, who has taught math to high school students at a Washington D.C. charter school, has served as CEO of Teach for Bangla (www.teachforbangladesh.org) for the past two years in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She was lauded for her contributions to education in Bangladesh. This year’s award recipients also included Shirin Sharmeen Chowdhury, the first woman speaker of the Bangladesh parliament.

A federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis accuses the city of St. Anthony, Minnesota, of religious discrimination for rejecting a proposed Islamic center, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger told the Associated Press in an Aug. 27 interview. The complaint alleges the city, a Minneapolis suburb, treated the group’s application for a conditional use permit differently than that of non-religious applicants. The lawsuit contends the St. Anthony Village City Council violated the Religious

The Islamic Society of Tulsa has purchased 15 acres in south Broken Arrow for a possible future mosque. Chairman Masood Kasim said it could be years before a mosque is built there. Zoning for the property is appropriate for a house of worship, and the parcel is directly north of a church. Kasim said negotiations are underway for an existing building in Broken Arrow, which could be used for a mosque in the more immediate future. The Tulsa Muslim community has outgrown its space in the Masjid Al Salam mosque, which can only accommodate about 1,000 people. An estimated 7,500 Muslims call Tulsa home. Oklahoma has 12 mosques, and according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, Islam is the largest non-Christian religion in Tulsa County.

Binghamton, New York, kindergartener Inaaya Sethi was named a national winner in the annual PBS KIDS Writers Contest Aug. 13. She was chosen from among thousands of submissions received by 62 participating PBS stations nationwide. Her winning story, “The Secret Alligator Key,” was awarded third place. The PBS contest helps children in kindergarten through third grade build valuable literacy skills for success in school and life. National winners receive prizes from the sponsor. The City School District of New Rochelle, New York, has added Eid al-Adha to its 2014-15 school calendar. The community continues its efforts to get Eid al-Fitr also included. The Wilmington City Council voted Aug. 5 to approve a zoning request from the Islamic Learning Center, which is raising $300,000 to purchase and renovate its building. 

ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFER —

A good deed done regularly! Through Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) ISNA can receive your donation each month automatically from your bank account or credit card, saving you postage and time.

Be a key that opens the door to ISNA’s long-term financial stability:

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

Donate through EFT!

WWW.ISNA.NET/DONATE 17


ISLAM IN AMERICA

Reviving Preschool Education in Muslim Schools Can Islamic schools use the Montessori model to help lay a stronger foundation of learning? BY NAKHAT AHMAD

M

ost Muslim immigrants have been professionals, and while establishing places of worship and social institutions, they also focused on schools for imparting religious education. African-American Muslims already had taken the lead and opened Sister Clara Mohammad schools in major cities. Immigrant Muslims, however, lacked the expertise and the financial stability to undertake such ventures. They instead opted for weekend schools in the mosques they built. Over time, sensing the need, they too opened private schools in many cities with sizeable Muslim

18

populations. Today, there are more than 260 full- or part-time Islamic schools nationwide. These schools typically use state curriculum and add on Islamic and Quranic studies. They are privately funded and do not get state support. It makes it difficult for them to meet the high operational costs and pay good salaries to their staff. Many schools cannot afford highly qualified and certified teachers without significantly raising tuition. Thus, administrators are sometimes obliged to hire teachers who, while lacking certification, may be otherwise qualified in their subjects. At preschool level, the need for qualified

teachers is even more critical. However, many administrators feel there is a greater need for trained teachers in the higher grades, while they can “get by” at preschool with minimally trained teachers. Thus, preschool education has chronically suffered. In reality, however, preschool learning is critical for inculcating a lifelong love of learning and producing the foundation of a well-rounded personality. Montessori, a well established early childhood teaching method, has proved effective in many countries with diverse social, cultural and religious backgrounds. Over the last few decades, Montessori’s success and usefulness has waned in the United States. It has recently staged a strong comeback with greater popularity as Montessori schools are springing up all over the country, and many public schools have adopted “Montessoribased” educational systems. Why has this method of education been so appealing in so many parts of the world? What can we, as Muslim educators, learn from it? Its success is based on the philosophy behind it. The Montessori Method is named after its inventor, Maria Montessori (1870-

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


1953), an Italian physician and anthropologist who developed her theory of education by careful observation of the children in her care. She established the first experimental school, “Casa Di Bambini” (Children’s House), in Rome in 1907. A champion and advocate for children’s rights, she worked with children at all levels, including the mentally challenged, with amazing success. This also invited worldwide attention. As a physician and anthropologist, she knew children’s developmental needs and how to satisfy and stimulate those needs. She devised certain didactic materials and had them made under her own supervision. These special didactic materials helped distinguish her method, but the true basis for her success was her educational philosophy. Montessori developed her philosophy of education through her experience with children and benefited from the theories of psychologists, such as Jean Piaget, Friedrich Frobel and J. McVicker Hunt. She and Piaget were convinced of the importance of sensory motor training and realized that mental development is connected with physical development and should not be separated. The Montessori Method puts great emphasis on learning through the senses to have a better understanding of the physical world. The same emphasis can be seen in the Quran: “And God who brought you from your mother’s womb knowing nothing … but He has endowed you with hearing, sight and mind so that you might have cause to be grateful (16:78).” As Islam teaches, she too believed that the child at birth possesses an inherent sense of good and bad. For moral development, the child needs good role models, appropriate environment, and inculcation of grace and courtesy in everyday living situation. The teacher must be sensitive to their needs and provide ample opportunities for exploration of their environment. What does a typical Montessori classroom looks like and how does it incorporate her philosophy? Usually three, four and five year olds are placed together in the same classroom. They learn according to their ability and readiness. The advantage of having different age groups in the same classroom is that they learn from each other. The older ones help the younger ones. Learning and practicing skills are reinforced in the process. There are six basic areas of learning in a Montessori classroom: practical life

(including arts and crafts), sensorial, language, mathematics, cultural subjects and science, and physical education. Practical life is regarded as the foundation of a Montessori classroom. The child’s natural desire to work independently is fulfilled here. While his hands are working, his mind is absorbing everything he does. The child acquires different manipulative skills by pouring, spooning, squeezing, screwing, closing and opening. These activities help prepare his fingers to hold a pencil and the

for His Creations, is a breath of fresh air in today’s secular world. Thus, the Montessori approach to education has several similarities with the Islamic view of education. The only thing we lack is the expertise. Muslims do not have to reinvent the wheel. Today, Montessori Teacher Training Centers are spread all over the country. All that is needed is to find interested and committed individuals and administrators who are willing to try this method of teaching in their schools. An experienced teacher

THE MONTESSORI METHOD PUTS GREAT EMPHASIS ON LEARNING THROUGH THE SENSES TO HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD. THE SAME EMPHASIS CAN BE SEEN IN THE QURAN. hand-eye coordination helps give him the control necessary for reading, writing and math skills. In math, sandpaper numbers, number rods and Golden Bead materials are nonthreatening, manipulative and interesting. Language learning is made more fun by using sandpaper letters and moveable alphabets. The phonic approach to reading also helps the child along the path to reading. Montessori emphasized the joy in learning more than anything else. She believed that a child must feel happy to continue learning. It promotes self-motivation. The teacher prepares the environment with utmost care, cleanliness and consideration for the child. She guides the child gently and respectfully to unfold his or her own potential for life. She acts as a director and catalyst, not an authority figure who dictates every move. In a free and open environment, children gain independence to move around and do the activities they can perform for themselves. With this freedom comes the child’s inner discipline guided by the teacher through setting limits against destructive and unacceptable social behavior. Like Islam, the Montessori Method also teaches peace and love toward all other human beings, animals and the environment. Taking care of animals, gardening and enjoying nature is part of the curriculum. This holistic approach to education, where belief in God and reverence and respect

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

can easily integrate Islamic teachings and values with the Montessori Method. Standard Montessori materials are expensive but not necessarily unaffordable. The complete Montessori classroom package costs about $3,000 (e.g. kidadvance.com). This amount can easily be collected through fundraising efforts. Schools can start with the essentials and later on add to them. Fees and tuition may also be increased, if necessary, and most parents are willing to pay more, if it is a Montessori-based school. Regular Montessori schools charge as much as $1,000 tuition monthly. Muslim preschools could offer the incentive of lower fees, while offering quality education. A word of caution about sincerity of intent is necessary. When opening a Montessori preschool or class, the objective should be to provide quality, affordable education and to earn the reward from God. It is easy to fall into the trap of seeking a quick way to earn lots of money for the school and boast that we are “offering Montessori.” Every Islamic school can open a Montessori classroom for 3-5 year olds and give them a good head start and a lifelong love of learning. A team of motivated administrators and teachers can make it a reality. It is heartwarming to see some Muslim preschools already taking this path. It is essential to act because the success of our children and future generations of Muslims is at stake. 

Nakhat Ahmad, a retired Montessori teacher, has advised and trained Muslim teachers in the United States and abroad.

19


ISLAM IN AMERICA

College Applications 101 Why you need to pay attention beginning high school freshman year. BY NAAZISH YARKHAN

F

all is back-to-school time and for many parents and their high school seniors, it’s a scary time of year. If it is the family’s first born, there’s anxiety. If it’s an immigrant with a first-born child new to applying to U.S. universities, or a family with no previous college-going family members at all, it’s pretty much panic time. Throw in a high school counselor who has her hands full, and parents can feel lost at sea, rudderless. Welcome to fall of senior year of high school. Alternatively, you could be a more seasoned, organized parent and student, who have been planning for college since freshman year.

KNOW YOUR END GOAL – EVEN IF IT’S KINDA, SORTA, PERHAPS Some high schools offer credit courses in the summer before high school to incoming freshman students. Explore the possibility of taking those so you can plan your schedule, if needed, for a more demanding class in the school year. Then there is the weighted grade point average (GPA). Find out if taking an honors or Advanced Placement (AP) class carries more weight at your high school. Have some idea, even if a vague one, as to colleges you would like to attend. There are community colleges, state schools, top tier schools and extremely selective schools, such as the Ivy League universities. If a selective school is even a blip on your radar, not taking honors or AP classes, if your school offers them, can be a strike against you. Find out what prerequisites you need for taking AP classes at your high school. Besides required high school courses, talk to your counselor to ensure that the rest of your courses align with the university you want to attend. In Illinois, for instance, graduation requires three years of high school mathematics. However, to pursue engineering in college, universities often require four years of math in high school.

GRADES, EXTRACURRICULAR AND COMMUNITY SERVICE MATTER For many universities, GPA and scores from standardized college entrance tests, such as SAT and ACT, are the first considerations. They influence the scholarships and financial-aid packages offered. College admissions officers also look at extracurricular activities and community service. Establishing a track record is important — depth is preferable to breadth — and that means starting early. Community service isn’t just what you do outside the home or for organizations. If you have family responsibilities, work part-time, contribute to the overall household income, watch your siblings while your parents work, or look after a grandparent, let schools know. It all makes a difference.

JUNIOR & SENIOR YEAR The Practice SAT (PSAT) is mandatory and given in October of junior year, nationally. Although not every student chooses to compete, those who place in the top half of the top 1 percent of PSAT qualify to compete for the National Merit scholarship that takes place in spring. 20

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


The scholarship is not a large amount but winning does open doors elsewhere. If the National Merit List is on your radar, start preparing early — possibly even as a freshman. Your student will not have covered all the curriculum but practice tests get them accustomed to the format. Winning a National Merit Scholarship also is a factor of “your academic record, PSAT and SAT scores, extracurricular and leadership experiences, an essay, recommendations from your school, your school’s curricula and grading system, and your state residency.”

PAYING FOR COLLEGE — MYTHBUSTERS Junior year should be spent researching colleges to create a preliminary list. Begin looking for scholarships now as well. Use the internet to gather information. Have your children attend college information sessions, presented through September and October at their high school. Parents can attend university information nights being presented in their city, during the fall and spring. Examine what their requirements are and where your student stands in fulfilling them. Then look at tuition rates. Remember, the sticker price, or the price on a college’s brochure, is not the price you pay, says Frank Palmasani, author of “Right College, Right Price” and counselor at Hinsdale Central High School in Illinois. A lower “net cost” is what you must pay out of pocket — minus scholarships, student loans, financial-aid packages and grants. He recommends using the Net Price Calculator available on each university’s website to determine net cost and outof-pocket cost, and even compare private and public schools. Lesser known, small, private schools often incentivize students they want with great financial packages. Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, is known for offering bright students generous packages. Depending on your income, some of the most prestigious schools require you to pay nothing, should you be accepted. Many community colleges, including College of DuPage in Lisle, also offer a full ride to students who meet, and maintain a certain high school GPA. If the cost impacts your choice of where to attend, applying to about a dozen colleges allows you to see who offers the best financialaid package. Application fees being what they are, however, qualified students can request a waiver voucher from their high school guidance counselor.

HOW MUCH DO COLLEGE APPLICATION ESSAYS MATTER? College essays often throw students for a loop. Yet, they are the one place admission officers can learn about them and their circumstances. With most colleges receiving more applications than they have seats, the essay is your student’s chance to put a personal face to the grades and scores. An essay has the potential to sway an admissions committee when candidates are identical in every other respect, or even when your scores don’t match others.

THE COLLEGE SEARCH AND APPLICATION PROCESS IS IN YOUR HANDS. AND IGNORANCE COMES WITH A HEFTY PRICE TAG. ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

21


ISLAM IN AMERICA

“If a friend of yours finds an essay in the corridor and reads it, he should be able to identify he’s reading about you,” said MIT admissions counselor, Holly Hinman. “That’s how the essay is supposed to read.” The University of Chicago advises, “Give careful thought to the questions asked, but don’t try to write the answers that you think we want to hear; give us the answers that tell us about you. Do not be formulaic.” Pay attention to the craft of writing. An essay that stands apart is one that’s authentic and brimming with the student’s voice, and not that of a parent.

ACT VS SAT & SUBJECT TESTS As your child completes subjects, have them take an SAT subject test if you’re planning on sending them to a competitive school. State schools usually don’t require these except for specific programs. This can be right after freshman year, as the material will be fresh in their mind. Ideally, juniors and seniors should directly confirm a school’s preference for one subject test over another. Given that the money you get from a school is tied to your GPA and ACT/SAT scores, be prepared to take practice SAT and/or ACT tests regularly. The “ideal” score depends on what the schools you want to apply to accept. The more selective the school, the earlier your student should begin preparing. In freshman or sophomore year, consider signing up for the actual tests to get a taste of the testing environment. Advance planning is needed because spots in test centers may fill up and the registration deadline ends weeks before the actual test. By the time summer of junior year rolls around, you should have decided about tests to take “for real,” how many times and when you should take them to meet early action, early decision and/or regular deadlines. The SAT is in the process of being redesigned for a spring 2016 launch. While the high school graduating class of 2015 can still test for the current SAT, you may want to hold off on spending on SAT prep books for your current freshman. 22

EARLY ACTION VS EARLY DECISION The College Board advises that early action and early decision “can be beneficial to students — but only to those who have thought through their college options carefully and have a clear preference for one institution.” Definitions, such as early decision and early action, can be nuanced and vary from school to school. However, loosely, early action means you can apply early, by November of senior year, and will receive an early response. You have until the normal reply date in May to decide, if you want to attend. Early decision is a binding commitment that a student will attend a particular school, if accepted. “Unfortunately, early decision means you apply early and are willing to go regardless (of the financial aid offered). Once the brochures rolled in, our eldest was very set on American University. He went early decision and had a one-onone interview. He was offered no money. Once on campus, nearly everyone else he knew was on some type of aid or scholarship,” said Barbara Palmer, a parent in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Restrictive early action is another early application caveat.

YOU ARE IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT High school counselors care about students but are often spread thin. “Schools’ counselors didn’t know to tell us our students needed one full year of a single art, be it music, theater, studio art, for California schools. It is a California State requirement,” said Palmer. A good first resource is collegeboard.com. Networking with parents who have been through the process is invaluable. If there’s unconscious “profiling,” economic or otherwise, chances are your counselor isn’t even going to mention certain schools or recommend certain courses in high school to you. The college search and application process is in your hands. And ignorance comes with a hefty price tag. 

Naazish YarKhan is a college essay coach, writer and editor whose work has been featured on NPR, LeanIn.org, OnBeing.com, Huffington Post and Common Ground News Service.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


ISLAM IN AMERICA

Giving Back to Bangladesh The North American Bangladeshi Islamic Community celebrates 24 years of service.

From left, Rashed Nizam, Abdullah Idris, Shaykh Omar Sulaiman, and Dr. Ataul Karim.

BY ALIYA KARIM

T

he North American Bangladeshi Islamic Community’s 24th annual convention held in June in Queens, New York City, served as a reminder that we often forget to take care of others before ourselves. The engaging, day-long event tackled a number of issues, but at the core of the conference’s messaging was the idea of looking out for our fellow human beings. “The Prophet (Salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) dedicated himself to the service of mankind,” said Shaikh Omar Suleiman, director of the Islamic Learning Foundation. “There needs to be an understanding of the greater cause here.” Spiritual and thought leaders at the summer conference included, Shaykh Abdalla Idris Ali of ISNA Canada, Imam Khalid Latif of the Islamic Center at New York University, Imam Shamsi Ali of Jamaica Muslim Center, Dr. Mohammad Karim of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Hazem Bata, CEO and executive director of ISNA, Ahmed ElHattab, executive director of ISNA Development Foundation, Saadia Yunus of the Institute of Islamic Sciences, Ayesha Islam of Hunter College, Salman Azam of Azam Chandran & Gilani LLP, Habib Siddiqui of BASF Corporation and Dr. A. Rashed Nizam, NABIC president.

24

“We’ve forgotten about caring and sharing,” said Habib Siddiqui speaking about the duties we have toward others. “We’ve forgotten that all human beings are brothers and sisters because they’re all children of Adam and Eve. Islam has a teaching of brotherhood and sisterhood. It’s an infusion of brotherhood and love.” Speakers addressed various subjects of concern for Bangladeshis, both within Bangladesh and abroad. Dr. Jahangir Sultan of Bentley University discussed the effects of climate change and more severe weather patterns on millions of Bangladeshis living on the margin. Dr. Karim highlighted moral disputes and practices of Bangladeshis and how moral practices across cultures vary in what is called “ethical relativism.” Aliya Karim of World Food Program USA presented a communication campaign plan that could be used to improve safety standards in South Asian garment factories. Other speakers tackled issues affecting the day-to-day lives of Bangladeshi communities in North America, such as family dynamics, financial investment, youth involvement and volunteerism, and the South Asian American Muslim identity. “You can ask questions at forums like this, but you also have to build relationships one-on-one,” Latif said about the different family and individual concerns raised throughout the day. “Your situation deserves that kind of attention.” ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


BRIGHTER HORIZONS ACADEMY COLLEGE PREPARATORY

The event culminated with a fundraising banquet at which NABIC received roughly $350,000 in donations. NABIC, established in 1990, is a non-partisan, non-sectarian organization that has numerous projects in Bangladesh related to health care, poverty alleviation, science and technology education, and emergency relief and rehabilitation. Funds raised at the convention will go toward projects in Bangladesh, such as the rehabilitation of the victims of the Savar factory collapse, a dowry-free marriage campaign, a new glaucoma research and eye-care hospital, rehabilitation of families affected by the 2007 Cyclone Sidr, and computer literacy centers for schoolchildren. Suleiman said Muslims have to “care of those who are less fortunate.” “We have that responsibility. We have that amana,” he added.

NABIC AT THE ISNA CONVENTION NABIC had a large presence at this year’s ISNA convention, fueled in part by a gender equality panel in front of a jam-packed audience. With an information booth inside the convention center and a gathering of members and newcomers, NABIC was able to reach more people at an ISNA convention than ever before. NABIC took note of newcomers’ enthusiasm, concerns and ideas for its projects in numerous sectors, including health care, poverty alleviation, science and technology education, and emergency relief and rehabilitation. In the breakout session, “Root Cause of Gender Gap in Muslim Majority Countries,” Mohammad Karim, provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a past president of NABIC, said although the assumption is that women enjoy equality in the U.S., women still earn only 75 cents to every dollar a male counterpart makes, even when they have similar education and background. Such gender disparity also exists in countries like Bangladesh, but Bangladesh is achieving success — female enrollment in schools and universities is higher than in many other developing countries. “In the gender disparity movement, the women of Bangladesh are at the forefront,” Karim said. Parvez Ahmed, director of the Center for Sustainable Business Practices, associate professor of finance at the University of North Florida and a past Fulbright scholar to Bangladesh, said learned behaviors and societal expectations are what create differences in gender, not genetic traits. “We didn’t think anything of women until God singled them out in the Quran,” Ahmed said. “For example, it is compulsory for both men and women to be educated. They have the same, equal opportunity to be enlightened through books and experiences.” The first believer and the Prophet’s (Salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and martyr in Islam were women, teachings show that he was a feminist. Yet, Engy Abdulkader writing in the Huffington Post cited a June 2013 U.N. Women study that almost 100 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed, millions of girls undergo child marriage and female genital mutilation every day, and Muslim women in the U.S. continue to feel unwelcome in mosques. For NABIC, gender disparity is a major issue, and it is striving to improving women’s lives in Bangladesh through various social and support projects. NABIC works to educate both men and women about equality and how it can empower families and communities. 

Aliya Karim is a communications associate at World Food Program USA.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

3145 Medical Plaza Dr. Garland, TX 75044 Tel: (972) 675-2062  •  Fax: (972) 675-2063

“Where Knowledge, Faith, Academics and Character Meet.” JOB TITLE: MIDDLE/HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL REPORTS TO: School Head/School Board SUPERVISES: Students and staff assigned to the Middle/High School QUALIFICATIONS: ● Hold a Master’s Degree from an accredited college or university preferably in the area of education. ● Have a minimum of seven (7) years of excellent experience in teaching and working with adults or adolescents. Have at least two (2) years excellent administrative experience as a Principal, Assistant Principal, or Central Office Administrator. ● Should have completed an approved principal educator preparation program and the required exam. ● Demonstrate excellent leadership, organizational skills, and ability to motivate people. ● Have excellent integrity and demonstrate good moral character and initiative. ● Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of curriculum development and program evaluation, child growth and development, effective instructional strategies, classroom management, learning assessment and diagnosis, and research relating to learning. ● Exhibit distinct personality traits such as enthusiasm and strong interpersonal skills to relate well with students, staff, administration, parents, and the community. JOB FUNCTIONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES: ● Establish and promote high standards and expectations for all students and staff for academic performance and responsibility for behavior. ● Ensure that the instructional programs engage the learner in tasks that require analytical and critical thinking. ● Supervise the instructional programs of the school, evaluating lesson plans and on a regular basis. ● Establish procedures for evaluation and selection of instructional materials and equipment. ● Establish a professional rapport with students and staff. ● Establish schedules and procedures for the supervision of students in non-classroom areas. ● Communicate regularly with parents, seeking their support and advice, so as to create a cooperative relationship to support the student in the school. ● Work with the Director of Operations to make sure that facilities are operated effectively and efficiently and see that applicable health and safety standards are met. ● Establish procedures for safe storing and integrity of all public and confidential school records. ● Collect and analyze data regarding the needs and achievement of students, including State Assessments, and other pertinent information affecting the design and implementation of services and programs. ● Perform any duties that are within the scope of employment and certifications,. ● Work with the Dean of Tarbiyah and Islamic Education to guide and instruct the teachers to help integrate Tarbiyah in secular studies, in a manner that promotes social justice and instills Islamic character. ● Participate in defining future vision, direction and growth potential of the Academy. ● Facilitate in the school accreditation process. APPLY TO: Hire@bhaprep.org

25


2 0 1 4

I S N A

CONVENTION R

E P O R T

CONTRIBUTED BY NASHIA CHOUDHURY & NASREEN ALHASSAN

O

n Aug. 30, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who spoke at the 51st ISNA Convention in Detroit, became the first prominent American leader to address a national Muslim American event. Carter, who spoke on a wide range of subjects, including health care for children in poor nations and the need for free elections in countries struggling for democracy, emphasized the urgency for a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. “You can’t make peace between Israel and Palestine without justice and peace for the Palestinians,” he said. He also called for an end to the abuse of women and girls in the name of religion. In his new book, “A Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power,” Carter notes, “The abuse of women and girls is the worst human rights issue not being addressed on earth.”

26

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

27


COVER STORY

Carter talked about issues of racial segregation in his youth. “One of the justifications for the mistreatment of black people was a misinterpretation of the Bible, and the verses were used to justify these actions,” he said. “Misinterpretation of the scriptures also led to abuse of women and girls.” He said there is still a need to fight issues, such as slavery, child marriages, and female genital mutilation. He quoted a hadith (Prophetic saying), “The best among you are those who are best to their wives.” “Nowhere in the Bible does it say Jesus Christ treated women as inferior to him,” he added citing his own beliefs. Female infanticide rates, he said, are increased due to poverty as families want sons to care for them in their old age, and some countries’ governments mandate small families. He also added, in the U.S., women earn 23 percent less for the same jobs as men. Carter joined Muslim community leaders in signing a declaration standing against the mistreatment of women and girls. Azhar Azeez, newly-elected ISNA president, served as the moderator in the opening session introducing ISNA board members and key speakers. 28

Outgoing ISNA president, Imam Mohamed Hagmagid, thanked Detroiters who participated in putting together this year’s convention, and those who came from throughout the U.S. and overseas. Hazem Bata, the new executive director and CEO of ISNA, also was introduced and he thanked all who were involved. “God bless this city and help it in its revitalization,” Bata said. He also stressed the importance of engaging ISNA: “Don’t just show up! Tell me about the issues that ISNA has. What can ISNA do to help your community?” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder also spoke, but disappointed attendees with his biased remarks over Palestinian rights. On a more positive note, he talked about how the sessions at this year’s convention were vital not only for Muslims but also for the larger community. Elizabeth Eaton, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, said, “During the last millennium, mountains of hate and discrimination have been built. It is our job to remove these mountains.” Eaton commended the topics discussed at the convention. “The lectures that are tailored

toward the Muslims at this convention are also applicable to the Lutherans,” she said. “You shall not bear false witness to your neighbor,” Eaton said quoting the Bible and recognizing the importance of this verse. Adam Shakoor, former chief judge of the 36th District Court and deputy mayor of Detroit, talked about how relevant activism is to citizens. He repeated former President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” These words led him and many other young Americans to work to improve the lives of others around them, he said. State Rep. Rashida Tlaib noted that the “Motor City” was “the birthplace of the American dream.” Syed Mohiuddin, Michigan Muslim Community Council board member who was pivotal in bringing ISNA to Detroit, said, “Detroit is on some tough times right now, but our bright days are not just in the future. They are right now!” Sohaib Sultan discussed how the ISNA convention theme, “Generations Rise,” emphasizes the importance of working together and uniting different generations.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


Muzammil Ahmed, Kashif Siddiqui, and Ismail Mehr, the president of the Islamic Medical Association of North America, also welcomed everyone and wished them a wonderful experience at the convention.

Dr. Osman Ahmed

Dr. Osman Ahmed, an MSA pioneer, was recognized at this year's Community Service Recognition Luncheon, with the Mahboob Khan Community Service Award for his dedication and distinguished achievement for Muslims and Islam in North America for more than 50 years. He also shared a heartfelt speech about his personal journey to receiving this award. President Barack Obama sent a recorded message to be played for attendees. Former President Jimmy Carter gave the keynote speech about the significance of bringing peace to the Middle East and shared stories of his work through the Carter Center. He said he looked forward to working with ISNA through the Carter Center on humanitarian issues in the future. ISNA honored him for his global efforts for human rights and peace building.

A LOOK THROUGH THE CONVENTION

Mehdi Hasan

The “Generation Rise” session featured a lively discussion with some of the young Muslim leaders and activists who are elevating Muslim American culture in the new millennium. They included, Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR San Francisco Bay Area, Mehdi Hasan, political director

17th Annual Interfaith Unity Banquet Roughly 200 guests, including Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims, attended ISNA’s 17th Annual Interfaith Unity Banquet whose theme was “Broadening Interreligious Partnerships: Promoting Common Good.” For several decades, Muslim American communities have been actively engaged in interreligious dialogue and cooperation with Christian and Jewish communities at the national and local levels to promote the common good. These collaborations have resulted in significant projects and initiatives that have helped build and strengthen relationships with people of other faiths. Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values is a direct result of this cooperation and mutual trust built with interfaith partners. The guests heard from the new Shoulder-to-Shoulder (S2S)Campaign Director Catherine Orsborn. S2S, a national campaign of interfaith, faith-based and religious organizations, is dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment. The panel included Roopal Shah, cofounder and co-leader of Indicorps, a diaspora-focused, grassroots-change and leadership-building initiative for India; Dr. Bob Roberts, Jr., senior pastor of NorthWood Church in Texas; Kim Zeitman, deputy director of the Hebrew Free Loan Society; Maha Elgenaidi, board chairwoman of ING, a nonprofit organization dedicated to countering prejudice and discrimination against Muslim Americans; and moderator Zahra Huber, a CBS reporter and producer in Detroit. Zeitman spoke about Judaism & Islam Dr. Shakir Moiduddin in America, an initiative funded in part by a Carnegie Corporation grant and co-hosted by ISNA, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Hartford Seminary. One of the products of this initiative is a series of papers, which were presented by Muslim and Jewish scholars in the seminars sponsored by ISNA and its partners. They have been used to form two publications: “THE MUSLIM WORLD: Special Issue on Judaism and Islam in America” and “Sharing the Well: A Resource Guide for Jewish-Muslim Engagement.” It is a resource that conservative synagogues and mosques can use to help facilitate grassroots interfaith dialogue. Dr. Roberts, an Evangelical pastor, said people mistakenly think the only way to do interfaith dialogue is to talk about issues of common ground. He argued that real dialogue happens when these communities are brave enough to broach topics about which they disagree. He and Shah highlighted the importance and power of moving from dialogue to collaboration on social justice projects that benefit all of humanity. Elgenaidi said before interfaith dialogue and service can happen, people need to have religious literacy. When we are educated about our own faiths as well as others, it deepens the interfaith experience for all parties involved. Dr. Shakir Moiduddin, banquet chairman, said he understands the value of deep, meaningful interreligious engagement and has been working to promote it for several years. Moiduddin, who has chaired the banquet since its inception, was surprised when he was announced as the second recipient of ISNA’s Annual Interfaith Unity Award for his efforts in advancing interfaith dialogue and collaboration at the national level. 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

29


COVER STORY

Shoulder-toShoulder Campaign Hosted Seminarian Interfaith Group

The Shoulder-to-Shoulder Campaign, for which ISNA provides ongoing support, organized an interfaith seminar for emerging religious leaders to coincide with the ISNA convention this year. Ten Christian and Jewish participants, based on their commitment to interfaith efforts and their future leadership potential, were invited to take part in the program. They alternated between attending convention sessions and special workshops about the future of interfaith leadership. The students participated in many ISNA sessions and commented on the vast diversity of thoughts shared and topics discussed throughout the weekend. The Jewish participants, in particular, were moved by the warmth with which Muslim attendees welcomed them and inquired about their attendance there. The group discussed a range of topics, from dealing with anti-Muslim bias in their communities to strategic approaches to interreligious collaboration against hate, bigotry and injustice in the United States. The aim of the seminar is to prepare participants for leadership in interfaith efforts, including working to end antiMuslim sentiment. The seminarians have been reflecting on their experiences by writing op-eds and articles for local newspapers and denominational publications as a way to spread the message to others in their communities about the things they learned at the ISNA convention. In an increasingly diverse world, the Seminarian Interfaith Seminar at ISNA plays an important part in advancing the vision of getting religious leaders to know and work with leaders from other faiths. 

30

of the Huffington Post U.K., Maryam Amirebrahimi, and Mansoor Sabree, director and resident imam of the Atlanta Masjid of AlIslam Community. Haroon Moghul, a fellow at New America Foundation, served as moderator. Hasan discussed how there seems to be a “laziness of the mind.” “Sirat-ul-mustaqeem is a broad path,” he said. “One can follow the path and do it completely different than others.” He discussed the importance of talking about issues and “hashing it out” so that we are collectively stronger after the discussions. Billoo addressed the need to engage in spreading resources wide and within the community to really benefit the community as a whole. “It’s not just about going to protests. They are just one method of bringing about change,” she said. She talked about it being more of a lifestyle change.

Dr. Omar Mahmood addressed the session on “Be Strong Muslims for Allah.” “Being strong in our terms may not necessarily translate into being strong for the sake of God,” he said. “Someone who is very strong is someone who can control himself in a state of anger.” He encouraged people to learn to discipline their nafs (self), citing the story of Taif. “The strength of your character is demonstrated in moments when you have the ability to take your right.” Mufti Hussain Kamani talked about the importance of being healthy and strong as a part of one’s deen. He said a person who seeks to be healthy can fulfill the rights of the Creator, and the rights of the creation around him (children, spouses, etc.). Nadine Abu Jubara stressed the importance of being physically healthy. “The Companions and the Prophet were the epitome of healthy,” she said. “They ate to live, and, in today’s society, we are living to eat.” She talked about the importance of shifting one’s thinking of food as more than a means of taking care of one’s body, and the significance of making this a lifestyle change. “It is a marathon, not a sprint!” she said. “A sound heart lies in a sound body.”

Zahra Billoo

Hasan added, “where things matter, Muslims should be involved!” Amirebrahimi shared the story of her journey to making Islam her priority. She said it was difficult for her in the beginning because a lot of information she was receiving about Islam was not necessarily correct. She learned over time the importance of finding scholars who are well versed in the texts and being able to apply them in right contexts. Sabree, who has traveled and lectured in several different countries, was another key player in sharing the importance of the Muslim American experience. Some important takeaway points included remembering that failures are tests from God and also opportunities to bring one closer to Him. “There is no end point to the journey. What we’re doing is the journey,” Hasan said. All speakers stressed the importance of getting involved and engaging local elected officials on topics of interest and concern.

Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid Shakir speaking on the “Role of the Muslim Student in the 21st Century” emphasized the importance of being patient. “Victory only comes from God,” he said. “It doesn’t come from us. If God wills it, we win. If God wills it, we lose.” Altaf Husain, new ISNA vice president, talked about the different events that the MSA has worked on over the years and their relevancy, and how Muslims are able to gain and develop the skills necessary to succeed in this world and the hereafter. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi discussed the roles and responsibilities of the MSA. He urged the audience to look at history to educate themselves and understand what is happening in the world today.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


Meeting Government Officials at the Convention More than 70 invitees, including government officials and Muslim leaders, attended the annual ISNA Government Officials’ Breakfast, to discuss how to get Muslim youth civically engaged. Special guests included, Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s special envoy to the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Rumana Ahmed, advisor to the assistant to the President at the National Security Council, Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat, and Michigan Secretary of State’s community affairs director Linda Lee Tarver. Rashad Hussain Hussain said the Muslim community is enjoying a different level of conversation than when he was a youth. Yet, Muslim voices and debates have to reach policymakers and it is not enough to have “insular, online debates,” he argued. Moreover, news releases and statements from Muslim non-governmental organizations need to receive adequate coverage, he said. Hussain said Muslims are often reacting and responding to events, which though necessary, should not be the only strategy. It is imperative Rep. Dan Kildee that Muslims have an “affirmative position” on education, the media, political issues, and their engagement with the government has to be “active and consistent,” he said. Ahmed echoed Hussain’s comments about translating online social media debates into concrete action. She said her friends on Facebook are frustrated about a number of issues. Yet, she said she did not hear from any of them when she was the head of a White House initiative to reach out to American Arabs and American Muslims. Ahmed urged her fellow Muslims Linda Lee Tarver to compliment government engagement with advocacy and to do a better job of building relationships with White House officials and members of Congress. Muslims, in general, and youth groups, in particular, should educate government leaders about issues of concern for the Muslim community, she said. “President Obama loves to hear from young people,” she added. 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

Altaf Husain

During the session on “Re-Thinking Education,” Islamic scholars addressed critical points in discussing the real purpose of education and how best to achieve it in the modern world. “The reason why many youth drop out of high school is not because they are bad students but rather they are subject to an educational system that is not relevant to their psychological and emotional needs,” said Mohamad Mendes, adding that it needs to be improved if not reformed. Yasir Qadhi explained the meaning of the word “Iqra” in the Quran, making the distinction between worldly knowledge that is indirect and the knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah, which was direct. He focused on the importance of an imam’s background in science. He feels the biggest problem that imams and scholars face has much to do with the dismal knowledge they hold in the sciences of the world, and as a result, fatwas are given that are backwards and sometimes even bizarre. “If you are not going to become an alim, do not remain a jahil,” he said.

Ingrid Mattson

Ingrid Mattson, ISNA past president, addressing the session on collective conscience, talked about the importance of treating others respectfully and in a dignified 31


COVER STORY

Muslim Youth Energize

BY RAHMA IQBAL

A

t every convention, the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) hosts its own parallel track. All participants (ages 12 to 18 years) were able to enjoy what MYNA had to offer — T-shirts representing Muslim youth, inspiring discussions, and the annual MYNA Jam session. This year, the MYNA conference hosted a Muslim Interscholastic Tournament, which showcased the talents of Muslim youth, including 3D art pieces and spoken word. The tournament gave Muslim youth an opportunity to showcase their work, and get recognized for their efforts in pursuing their passions. MYNA gave attendees a taste of the talent in the Muslim world with its jam session featuring young Muslim artists such as Sadiyah Bashir, Raef, Naeem Mohamed, Hassan Ahmed, and many other local and national talent. The competition and jam session contributed to starting off the MYNA conference positively and paved the way for a successful event. Every session was packed. The conference focused on helping youth with their needs, and tried to create a more

32

personalized experience. Sessions such as “Its a Girl Thing” and “Its a Boy Thing” are great examples of such efforts. “Salah Crisis, Muslim or nah?” and “#TheStruggleisReal” also were a huge hit, identifying challenges Muslim youth face in the modern world. Imam Zaid Shakir, addressing the session “God, Are You There?” said, “as humans, our humanity is tied to our physical composition, but we are more than just the physical.” The conference also strongly touched upon spirituality, and how one can maintain it while being a Muslim youth. Several discussions were hosted by youth who had experienced the same situations their peers are going through now, all while maintaining a spiritual relationship with God. The conference discussions dealt with everyday problems. The ultimate goal for every MYNA event is encouraging youth to take whatever they learned there to heart, apply it to their lives, and teach it to their peers who weren’t able to attend. 

Rahma Iqbal, 14, is a high school freshman from Flint, Michigan.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


manner. She said Muslims need to stop looking down upon manual workers.

A Snapshot of the ISNA Convention BY ERUM MOHYUDDIN

ISNA Detroit Convention Steering Committee

The Michigan Muslim Community Council joined ISNA in helping host the 51st Annual Convention in Detroit, which surpassed expectations with 15,000 attendees. The event was supported by roughly 300 volunteers.

ISNA DETROIT BY THE NUMBERS: Dawud Walid

Dawud Walid, who moderated the session, briefly talked about the history of Detroit noting that it is the battleground for the injustices. Rep. Keith Ellison a Minnesota Democrat said “the Muslim community should be a source of honest and fair dealing. We should lead the way there.” He said it was not politics. It was about paying workers fairly. Linda Sarsour spoke about an issue usually overlooked — the accessibility of ISNA conventions to every Muslim. “There are Muslims who are not at ISNA because they can’t afford to be here,” she said. She said the attendees were privileged to be a part of the convention and encouraged them to be a part of the social justice movement. “When people ask why you are there, you say it is a part of your faith to do these things!” she said. Dawud Walid talked about poverty in the U.S. “In the state of Michigan, four out of 10 children live in poverty and suffer malnutrition,” he said. “You are the best if you live up to these three: you enjoin what is good and just in your locality, you forbid that which is indecent and unjust, and you believe in God.” The session “Key Insights from Studies of the American Muslim Community” featured speakers Ihsan Bagby, Dr. Yasir Shareef, Dr. Muna Ali, and Dalia Mogahed. Shareef talked about the roadmap used to focus on community building. He discussed the significance of personal development, family life, and spiritual life in developing this 15-year strategic roadmap. Ali elaborated on the importance of research, as it helps explore issues deeper. There were four narrative frameworks with a focus on identity crisis and pure/true Islam versus cultural Islam.

Spreading Joy: • 1600+ children participated in the first ISNA carnival rides • 2,000 cups of tea and 900 paan were served as free snacks to attendees • 550 vendors had booths in the bazaar • 500 people ran or walked in the inaugural ISNA 5K along the Riverfront • 30 minutes of fireworks courtesy of the Jazz Festival Creating Impact: • 500 humanitarian packets were made by Zaman International volunteers for distribution to those in need in Gaza, Syria and Detroit • 40 DREAM and HUDA volunteers constructed gardening beds and planted vegetables in the HUDA community garden. They also helped remove debris, performed interior demo, and cleared brush from overgrown lots of the DREAM homes • 202 people donated 71 pints of blood through the American Red Cross blood drive, a newly added element of the annual IMANA Health Fair • A potential $50,000-$100,000 donation to the Detroit Water Fund from Islamic Relief and MMCC is under discussion • Sold out hotels, flights, halal food carts, and patronage of local restaurants created a projected local economic impact of $20 million Sharing Our Story: • President Carter gave two speeches; President Obama acknowledged Detroit’s Muslim history in his video address; and Gov. Snyder proposed Michigan faith-based partnerships as a model to the world • 250 local and national leaders, including an archbishop, ministers, pastors and Rep. John Conyers participated in the ISNA Interfaith banquet • More than 80 officials discussed community engagement strategies at the government breakfast • 350 singles connected through ISNA matrimonial events • 55 press passes were distributed with dozens of local and national stories generated Elevating Muslim American Culture: • More than 100 female speakers were featured, including 65 panelists and 22 moderators in the ISNA main program, 22 MSA speakers, and 23 presenters to the MYNA youth • 20 artists, two National Arab American Museum exhibit tables, and African American History 101 Mobile Museum comprised the art exhibit in the new $50 million atrium • One Community Café in partnership with IMAN, 15 films featured in the film festival, 1 mushaira (poetry reading), and 4,000 attendees for the Sunday night entertainment session • 300 passes were given away to National Arab American Museum • 120 people participated in the Detroit mosque tour  Erum served as an intern at ISNA headquarters in mid 1990s.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

33


COVER STORY Mogahed said earlier in her work she realized that “the real power, and the real opportunity for change, was in the community itself.” She said the Muslim American community is the most diverse, ethnic community in the world, and there are a lot of challenges that come with such diversity. “Religiosity correlates with greater openness to other faith communities; people are more religious due to being more comfortable in their own religious identity,” she said. Mogahed stressed the need to strengthen the mosque. Dalia Mogahed, Amal Kilawi, Hamada Hamid, and Altaf Husain addressed marriage issues in “Keeping Half of Your Deen” educating the community about the resources they can use to prevent divorce and understand what to focus on. Statistically, half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Divorce rates are similar within the Muslim American community. A preliminary survey about divorce, conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, concluded that of the sample used, 20 percent of people reported they were divorced. Seventy percent claimed to have experienced divorce within their fami-

Dalia Mogahed

lies and 77 percent have perceived a rise in the divorce rate in their community. These figures underscore the need for increased attention on marriage intervention within the community. Hamid said the main causes of divorce include, but are not limited to, lack of communication, too much arguing, infidelity, unrealistic expectations, and lack of preparation for marriage. The community, the study suggests, should seek resources, such as marriage counseling, education programs, and

communication and conflict resolution skills. Imams, while lacking the proper resources and intervention skills, become overburdened with marriage issues, the study notes. The study recommends communities should hold seminars and provide mentorship, which would not only educate people but also will help the imams. Young people should mediate and prepare for marriage. They must understand their expectations, develop self-knowledge, and invest time in the process. The session “Halal as an Identity” emphasized consumer awareness and advocacy to bring more halal products into the fold of American businesses and mindset. Dinar Standard’s Rafi-uddin Shikoh focused on the concept of a “halal and tayyib” identity, and shared statistics about Muslim consumers and their buying power, as well as their top expense priorities. Unsurprisingly, food was number two on the list. He further assessed the potential and capacity of Muslim consumers to influence and persuade industries to offer more halal options.

Prayer for the Oppressed Candlelight Vigil at 51st Annual Convention On the evening of Aug. 31, hundreds of ISNA convention attendees carrying lit candles gathered around the River Walk outside the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit for a “Prayer of the Oppressed” reading and candlelight vigil. This special gathering brought hearts together in prayer for those suffering from oppression around the world. The prayer was written by the 11th century Muslim scholar Imam Muhammad al-Dari and translated into English by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, founder of Zaytuna College. The prayer is a plea to God that our transgressions be overlooked, that divine mercy be bestowed upon us, that social justice be restored in spite of us, that wrongs be righted, and that righteousness reign once again in our lands so that the destitute may no longer be in need, the young may be educated, the animals’ purpose fulfilled, rain restored, and bounties poured forth. It is a plea to be freed from the aggression of foreigners in lands over which they have no right — a plea much needed in

34

our times, rampant as it is with invasions and territorial occupations. Ultimately, it asks not that our enemies be destroyed, but simply that their plots, and the harm they cause, be halted. Its essence is mercy, which in turn is the essence of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “And We have only sent you as a mercy to all the worlds.” This poetic prayer was recited in Arabic by Shaykh Rami Nsour, founding director of Tayba Foundation in Union City, California, and Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown, director of research for Tabah Foundation in United Arab Emirates. The English translation of the prayer was powerfully recited by American Muslim poet Mona Haydar. The vigil was emceed by Fatima Salman, community engagement chairwoman and a member of the ISNA convention steering committee. Concluding remarks and supplication was made by former ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid. 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


The session “Halal as an Identity”

Nadeem Siddiqui, resident district manager at Washington University in St. Louis, shared his personal experiences in bringing a halal food program to American universities. He noted that food connects people together, and that halal cuisine is consumed by people of many faiths for its taste and quality. He said in pushing for a halal food program, it opened up further dialogue with others about Muslims, what halal actually is, and why it’s important. Donald Sgontz, manager of halal/kosher programs at Abbott Nutrition, discussed his journey with the company in getting halal certification globally so that every consumer, no matter what part of the world they live in, can get the same halal products that they need and enjoy. He encouraged attendees to get involved in asking or petitioning companies for halal products, who would offer them, if there is a demand. Session moderator Yvonne Maffei, publisher of My Halal Kitchen, said in her personal and professional experience, she strives to pass along knowledge and ideas to make a halal lifestyle easier and practical. The town hall forum attracted partici-

pants who were curious to learn more about ISNA’s operations. The meeting began after the presentation and adoption of the budget. ISNA board members wanted to hear from the audience about ways to engage and improve upon ISNA’s interaction with its members. Many in the audience brought up specific questions about ISNA’s position and actions with regards to domestic and international policies and affairs. Hazem

Bata, ISNA executive director and CEO, said there has to be an increase in participation of ISNA members, an increase in funding, and people must vote on the issues, if they want ISNA to have a larger political footprint. 

Nashia Choudhury is working on a master's degree in public health at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Nasreen Alhassan, University of Michigan, School of Education

ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFER — A good deed done regularly! You can make a significant impact on the quality of ISNA’s services by contributing through EFT. As little as $10 per month will help ISNA to serve the Muslim American community through effective communication to media organizations, government and civic agencies on behalf of all Muslim Americans.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

Sign up today to donate through EFT.

WWW.ISNA.NET/DONATE 35


MUSLIMS IN ACTION

The Disappearing Muslim Youth Are Muslim communities investing in effective mentoring programs to protect and develop their most valuable asset — the youth? BY RIYAD SHAMMA

L

ooking at mosques in America, one would ask, “how many young adults do you see?” Sadly, not many. So where are the active, motivated, and engaged youth that Muslims refer to as “our future?” Statistics show the number of young adults engaged in Muslim communities is dropping. There is a noted absence of 13 to 27 year olds in the mosque — a group which already has developed into the “unmosqued” generation which will, if not checked, continue to grow. This issue concerns all Muslims. After building so many rich, diverse, and thriving communities, how can they stand by and watch, as they die a slow death? How can Muslims staunch the flow of their communities’ lifeblood — the youth? The challenge of keeping youth in their communities is one that all Muslims face. Why do Muslim teens lose interest? Frankly, too many of the communities have failed at adequately serving them. At weddings, one often sees dozens of youth who have never even come to the mosque. Where have they been? Yes, there are Sunday school programs, and many youth still attend these programs, but those are the ones who have attended only when forced by parents or for a short period of time. Sunday school works up to a certain point, but surveys show it is not enough. Although they serve the purpose of providing education, weekend schools and even full-time Islamic schools do not provide the needed personal relationships. Furthermore, youth groups tend to serve only small groups of kids and few youth stay engaged for long. Ultimately, Muslims are losing their youth because they have failed to engage them with meaningful relationships and activities.

at the lowest priority with their actions and funding. Many mosques with six- and seven-figure budgets have a youth budget of $1,000 or less. The youth, however, don’t fail to notice this hypocrisy. Basketball hoops and pizza are not the solution to lack of youth engagement, nor is having the youth

do setup and cleanup for mosque functions. These activities are good starts, but they fail to serve in place of much-needed outreach programs. Furthermore, when mosques do form committees to create youth activities, many times the short-lived programs are inadequately staffed and managed, and they

WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET? Ironically, with the same breath mosque leaders use to tout “the youth as our future and most important asset,” they put them 36

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


do not have the capacity to engage the youth effectively. Hiring a youth director tends to be the next step most communities take. Unfortunately, the youth directors are typically set up to fail. Not only do they often lack any formal training in youth development, they also have limited experience, if any, as a youth director. Moreover, even if the director is a “natural” with deep insight and creativity, and someone whom every youth loves, the reality is that no one person can effectively manage all of the youth in a community. If there are 100 youths and the director spends just a half hour per week with each of them, that’s 50 hours — and there are still many

MUSLIMS ARE LOSING THEIR YOUTH BECAUSE THEY HAVE FAILED TO ENGAGE THEM WITH MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS AND ACTIVITIES. other tasks that he or she is expected to do. Youth directors are often hired with an expectation that they will be the one-stop

shop solution for the youth. Anything that has to do with the youth is laid at their feet, from tutoring to drug counseling, and everything in between. Not only are they expected to befriend and nurture every youth, they are expected to develop, oversee, manage and run innovative youth programs, events and activities. Of course, there are also a host of administrative tasks that must be taken care of as well. The end result is that most youth directors feel overwhelmed and burned out and leave their positions within a few years, unhappy or frustrated with their experience, and the same feelings are echoed by the board.

SOLUTION The best solution to engaging the youth and establishing meaningful relationships with them is to bring a team of trained mentors on board. Having several mentors provides a team approach and allows sharing of the workload, thus enabling more effective outreach. If a youth director is present, the mentors provide him/her with trained volunteers who can be given the task of directly engaging dozens more youth than the director could alone, which frees the director to take on the broader task of developing programming and events. Mentoring is a prophetic model and the Seerah (biographical) literature is filled with examples of the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) mentoring his Companions over their lifetimes. Many studies, from professional and peer-reviewed journals, show the direct and measurable benefits of mentoring for all youth, regardless of background, toward building self-esteem, improving academics and how well adolescents adjust while growing up. However, the quality of the mentoring also is critical and mentors need to be trained and committed, and willing to invest themselves with the youth (Hurd & Sellers, 2013 in “Cultural ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

37


MUSLIMS IN ACTION Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology”). This is why it is essential to train mentors in established methods and best practices so that they can be effective (Martin & Sifers, 2012 in “Children and Youth Services Review”). Many existing mentoring organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Boys & Girls Club don’t offer much by way of mentor training. Furthermore, they offer their services only through their organizations. An example is the youth mentoring program, the Cincinnati-based Institute of Youth Development and Excellence (www. iyde.org) that the author established in 2007, provides mentor training within the communities. This enables them to become self-sufficient by training an initial group of mentors and a trainer who will be able to teach subsequent mentors. The year-long program is customized to meet each community’s goals for their youth. Under the program, mentors are volunteers from the community, ideally three to 10 years older than the youth they will mentor — young enough to understand where the youth are coming from, but old enough to still be “cool.” Typically, college students and young professionals will step into this role, and it is a great way to engage them meaningfully. Additionally, the youth who are mentored often become mentors themselves in the future to give back the care they themselves received. Potential mentors are typically willing to volunteer for this role for three reasons. Firstly, they will be given professional training to take on this role successfully. Too often we ask people to volunteer without giving them meaningful instruction or training, simply leaving them to figure it out on their own. Secondly, they will have a relatively fixed time commitment, typically two to three hours per week. Too often volunteers who commit two hours per week end up being pulled into volunteering six to 15 hours per week, often by guilt trips and trickery. A team approach prevents this from happening. Thirdly, the work is deeply meaningful. One of the most satisfying feelings in the world is to know that you have positively impacted someone’s life. The All Dulles Area Muslim Society, one of the major Muslim communities in the Northern Virginia area, has adopted the institute’s mentor program. One mentor in the program said that the training gave him “a good foundation. After the training, I looked back on things I had done [trying to help 38

youth] and thought, ‘that was the worst thing I could have done.’ It allowed me to see beyond my own nature and that there was a better way.” He said it benefited him at work, allowing him to reassess situations to respond in the best way, and with his family teaching him to be more fair-minded and understanding. In Cincinnati, a mentor of three years said, “My mentee was able to make more friends within the community, even to the point he was going across town to spend time with his new friends. They were positive role models for each other. The program really benefits the youth, far more than I thought it would.” A youth in one of the mentoring programs, who had memorized several juz (sections) of the Quran and was in a religious family, said that the mentor and the program

was instrumental in following the straight path. Another youth who was struggling with depression said his mentor was a tremendous blessing and helped him overcome many of his struggles. In both cases, the youth were still benefitting and in a better place in life even after completing and exiting the mentoring program. It is critical that mosques begin to invest in their people, and train them so they can achieve excellence. When one needs a medical doctor or a lawyer, one searches for the most highly educated and experienced professional one can find. Similarly, one should do no less for what is truly most valuable to the community — its youth. 

Riyad Shamma is executive director of Institute of Youth Development and Excellence.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


The Return to the Hijab Do Muslim women know the path to hijab is not straightforward for all women? BY NAAZISH YARKHAN

A

study conducted by University of Westminster psychologist Viren Swami found that women who dress modestly have better body image (Journal of Psychology, August 2014). They worry less about conforming to social norms of beauty. The sample involved 600 Muslim women in Britain, 200 of whom had never worn the hijab. “Well, I’ll be darned,” said Thamreen Siddiqui Khan, a Bloomingdale, Illinois, social worker. “Empower yourself. Our body is our own and we don’t need to show it to anyone to prove to ourselves that it’s beautiful.” However, Swami acknowledges the path to hijab is not straightforward for all women. “I wear it because it’s an order from my Lord, and not obeying it is an act of disobedience. All this talk of body image is irrelevant to me,” said Aliya Husain, author of “Neither This Nor That,” a light-hearted novel about a daughter of immigrants in the 1970s, and her attempts to straddle

the multiple facets of her identity. But it wasn’t always so simple, even for her, remembered Husain. Like her character in the novel, she, as a middle schooler, had initially balked when her parents reminded her it was time to adopt the hijab. “The hijab was a nonexistent phenomenon in the U.S. at that time, and at that age, understanding religion and spirituality is not easy, so accepting this mandate wasn’t as black and white as it is now,” she said. For others, like myself, it’s been a long and winding road. After moving to the U.S. in 1994 as a bride of two weeks, I lived on the Northern Illinois University campus where my husband completed his undergraduate degree. That year, I adopted the hijab. After we left NIU, I continued to hold on to this facet of my faith. I wore the hijab with diligence while I interned at Chicago Public Radio. I had my first child in 1997, and soon after, I began working full-time at an internet consultancy. I was one of a few who

THE JOURNEY TO ESTABLISHING A VISIBLE MUSLIM FEMALE IDENTITY IS COMPLICATED ON MANY LEVELS AND THERE IS NO LINEAR TRAJECTORY IN HOW ONE STARTS OR CONTINUES THIS JOURNEY.” — SADIA WARSI, NATIONAL LOUIS UNIVERSITY

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

39


had a toddler to rush home to after work. I was one of two people who sounded different when I spoke. I was one of those people who didn’t head out for drinks after hours. Wanting to fit in and to forge friendships that lasted beyond the workday, I began to view the hijab as hindrance. Over the next few months, I gave up wearing it while on the commute via train into Chicago. Soon, it came off completely. Sadia Warsi, associate professor of Special Education, National Louis University, herself a hijabi, sees how that can happen. She doesn’t call it hijab because the Quran uses the word khimar for “head covering.” “The journey to establishing a visible Muslim female identity is complicated on many levels and there is no linear trajectory in how one starts or continues this journey,” she said. My Islamically appropriate clothes gave way to form-fitting outfits. I felt comfortable. However, it stung when my boss told me that I’d done the right thing because the hijab posed an invisible barrier between our team and me. Further, it surprised me to discover that abandoning the hijab didn’t translate into a wider social circle. Those who had chosen to be my friends at work while I wore the hijab were the same who continued to be my friends. Perhaps wearing or discarding the hijab didn’t impact my relationships after all. Over the next decade or so, I ran my own business that included

public speaking engagements. The hijab stayed off. I told myself that, this way, I was a more approachable ambassador of my faith, where people who had questions about Islam would be more comfortable approaching me. However, I noticed that no one knew I was a Muslim unless I brought it up. My justification for not wearing the hijab began to feel hollow. In 2011, after completing my graduate studies from Northwestern, I decided to build a corporate career. This was also the year that I decided to adopt the hijab once again. I did a compromise that I would only wear it outside of work thinking the hijab could be a negative, especially in public relations where image was everything. As I reconnected more strongly with my faith, I felt cowardly for hiding my beliefs. Didn’t my faith teach me that as long as we worked hard, bounties came from our Benefactor? I began interviewing with the hijab on. Within weeks I landed my dream job. I wore the hijab with pride. I recently changed my LinkedIn photograph to a smiling woman in hijab. Am I afraid that future employers may judge me and disregard my potential worth? Certainly. But I have learned to recognize that having faith is about trusting God and knowing that He is our best friend. Yes, when doubts of any nature lurk, I remind myself that He alone is sufficient in taking care of me. 

Naazish YarKhan is a college essay coach and internationally published writer.

MATRIMONIAL NETWORKING EVENT at the ISNA CENTRAL ZONE CONFERENCE

Saturday, November 22, 2014 LIMITED SEATING AVAILABLE DATE: Saturday, November 22, 2014 (3:00 to 6:00 PM)

LOCATION: Wingate Hotel, 7500 Tylers Place Blvd West Chester, Ohio 45069 As a participant at this matrimonial networking event, you will have the opportunity to meet and interact with single Muslims in a faster and Islamic way.

Early Registration Deadline: November 15, 2014

40

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


MUSLIMS IN ACTION

An Inflatable Mosque Supports Climate March BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF

O

rganizers of the People’s Climate March, using data provided by 35 crowd spotters and analyzed by a mathematician from Carnegie Mellon University, estimated that 311,000 people marched the 2.2 mile route in New York City, Sept. 21, to express dissatisfaction over international inaction on global warming. This was the figure cited by the New York Times, but some estimated various numbers. The marchers had assembled to send a message of alarm for world leaders who had gathered at the United Nations for a summit meeting on climate change. New York City does big things but this march was the real thing bringing a diverse crowd that included Muslims and the inflatable

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

mosque that is regular feature in the prayer area of ISNA Conventions. Besides the diversity in attendees, there were symbols, such as a bus-sized wooden replica of Noah’s Ark parked across from the mosque, inflatables carrying a message, and placards that expressed the marchers’ concerns.

41


MUSLIMS IN ACTION

Syed Ehtesham Haider Naqvi, chairman, National Islamic Committee on Scouting, Boy Scouts of America, told Islamic Horizons

42

that the March inflatable is the same inflatable mosque that they displayed at the national 50th and the 51st ISNA Annual Conventions. This, he said, was created in 2010 at the 100-year celebration of BSA and it was the first time entry to scouting world as the Muslim wing. It was installed at Virginia in 2010 at National Jamboree, it was also displayed in Sweden at the World Scouts Jamboree, and again at in National Jamboree in 2013 in addition to the ISNA conventions. “It was honor for the Islamic Council on Scouting and its National Islamic Committee on Scouting, and Boy Scouts of America to lead the Safe Environment March in the Big Apple,” said Naqvi, while on the Hajj pilgrimage. The prominent Muslim presence included contingents from CAIRPhilly, CAIR-NY, Islamic Circle of North America, ISNA, Islamic Relief, Majlis Shura of New York, Muslim Consultative Network,

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


Al-Khoei Foundation, Greenfaith, Muslims Giving Back, Muslim Boys Scouts, Arab American Association of NY, MSAs, and MAS. Jacob Bender, CAIR-Philadelphia executive director, noted that dozens of religious groups met on West 58th Street before the March for an inspiring interfaith service, where one of the speakers was Imam Zaid Shakir. The Manhattan march was joined by solidarity marches in many world capitals and major cities of at least 150 countries. The marchers included environmental movement supports such as former Vice President Al Gore, author and anthropologist Jane Goodall, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. The march was particularly focused on highlighting the intersection between people’s needs and climate change, including housing, employment and education.

It was also a time to show organizational support for the cause. The march witnessed the collaboration of New York community groups and international nongovernmental and faith organizations, with more than 1,000 of them partnering on the action. They included businesses, unions, religious groups, environmental groups, social justice groups, schools and other agencies. The March’s main organizer was Avaaz—meaning “voice” in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages— which was launched in 2007 with the mission: “Organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.” 

Photos (c) CAIR-New York

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

43


MUSLIMS IN ACTION

Muslim Mom Bloggers Some Muslim women bloggers are balancing passion, profit and privacy. BY KIRAN ANSARI

O

ne of every three bloggers is a mother. This year, 4.4 million American moms are blogging and the rest of the mothers are reading what they have to say. Whether it’s tips related to parenting, frugal living, faith, food, or design, there’s a blog for it. And chances are, behind the pretty blog page you see with vibrant pictures and step-by-step instructions on making your own piñata, is a multi-tasking mom writing between packing lunches and resolving sibling squabbles, while trying to get a few hours of shut-eye each night, if she’s lucky. While there aren’t concrete numbers for how many Muslim mothers are actively writing or following blogs, research shows nine out of 10 moms have their smartphones by their side most of the day. Learning about the blogging boom is important because more than half of moms active on social media make purchases based on blog reviews. Blogging is the perfect creative outlet for moms who might have taken a break from the workforce and crave adult interaction and an avenue to express their passion in between diaper changes and nursing sessions.

PASSION Amnah Ibrahim, a California-based, downto-earth mother of four girls, began her blog (www.littlelifeofmine.com) in 2007 when her first daughter was a baby. Initially, she wanted to keep her sisters living abroad updated on her daughter. After a while, as she followed more craft blogs, she began searching for a Muslim blog like the many Mormon blogs

she followed. When she couldn’t find any, she decided to start posting her own projects and recipes, especially for Ramadan and Eid. “I never portray myself as a blogger that lives a Pinterest-perfect life,” Ibrahim said. “My life is far from that! I actually become uncomfortable when people call me ‘super mom.’ Most people share their best moments/recipes/projects because readers are searching for inspiration, but I also try to share real life moments because my life is indeed very real with its ups and downs.” Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki also started blogging in 2007 when she and her Moroccan husband moved to the Washington, D.C., metro area. She wanted a way to share what they were doing with family that lived far away. She cooked a lot of Moroccan foods and had friends ask for recipes, so she thought a blog (www.marocmama. com) would be a good place to have all the information in one place. Saima Nasim, mother of three from San Diego, had been running a successful design consulting business before she started her blog (www.azzuredesign.blogspot.com) in 2011. While working on clients’ homes, she was constantly researching the latest trends and finding inspiration from multiple sources, so she decided to start a blog to gather all these ideas for herself and her readers. One of her favorite parts of blogging is the opportunity to connect with talented artists and entrepreneurs and hearing from others how her blog and ideas have inspired them to add a greater sense of Islamic design into their own homes.

WHETHER IT’S TIPS RELATED TO PARENTING, FRUGAL LIVING, FAITH, FOOD, OR DESIGN, THERE’S A BLOG FOR IT. 44

PROFIT Blogging has proven profitable for Nasim as it has opened many new venues for her design business. Before the blog, she was working locally, but thanks to the online exposure, she now has clients scattered throughout the globe, which at times means even creating a waiting list. Through her blog, Nasim has been able to connect with other Muslim artists and has commission agreements with a few companies. She also receives free samples to review, but like her counterparts, only accepts samples of items that appeal to her. Advertisements bring in minimal revenue at this point since she hasn’t set up too many ads on the blog. “There have been a lot of opportunities I’ve been given to travel, stay in hotels, eat meals out, being invited on specific trips to share on my blog,” Mouttaki said. “It’s not cashin-hand, but these benefits can total up to thousands of dollars that we might not have been otherwise able to do.” When the Moutakkis moved to Morocco last year, the husband-wife duo started a food tour company in Marrakech (www. marrakechfoodtours.com). Because of her well-known blog and social media presence, they have been able to make it a profitable venture with little money invested. “I’ve worked hard to build an audience

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


5

tips to jumpstart your blog

Ê  Decide whether you want your blog to be a hobby or a business. “If it’s a business, then you need to run it like a business,” Amanda Ponzio-Moutakki said. “Set hours. Make a plan. And you may need to invest some money, and think about income streams. If it’s going to be a hobby, have fun. Write what you want, when you want, and if opportunities come your way, soak it up!” Ë  Hone in on about what you are passionate. “Don’t do it for followers. Do it for you,” Saima Nasim said. “Make your blog a place to express yourself and the right readers will come.” “Find your niche and go for it!” Amnah Ibrahim said. “Homeschooling on a budget, halal restaurant food reviews, hijab fashion for moms … whatever it is, there’s an audience.”

that trusts me, and I am very cautious about who and what I endorse,” Mouttaki said. Ibrahim believes blogging can be a great way to make an income through sponsorship, affiliate programs, and being a part of blog networks. She is working to open up her blog to sponsorship. While companies often approach her providing complimentary products to review and share with her readers, she only accepts items she believes in, would like and herself use. She is a huge supporter of Muslim women-owned businesses. Raising four daughters of her own, she hopes they will grow up to find that kind of support in their communities.

Did you know, the average American mom blogger: • Is 37 years old • Has children between 2 and 11 years old. • Is more likely to buy eco-friendly products • Is more likely to volunteer than the average mom • Has an average annual household income of $84,000 Source: Scarborough Research, eMarketer, Mashable, Punchbowl

It is through her blog that she landed her first official paid blogging position as the first Muslim mom blogging for DisneyBaby.com.

PRIVACY From the beginning, Mouttaki has tried to keep some details of her family private. She uses an initial for her kids’ names and refers to her husband as MarocBaba on the blog. “I wouldn’t say I struggled with privacy, because I know there’s no such thing as being anonymous,” Mouttaki said. “If you want to be anonymous, you shouldn’t be online — at all.” As her children get older, Mouttaki gives them more of a say in her posts. If they say, “Mom don’t put that picture on the blog,” she tries to respect that. She also gives them more ownership over where they go and about what she writes, making the blog a family adventure in some ways. There have been times when Ibrahim has written long posts that she chooses not to publish for many reasons, including if they have too many personal details. “I keep it real, but I don’t talk about everything,” she said. “I never discuss my marriage because it’s such a sacred aspect of my life. A lot of family reads my blog and I never want anyone to take anything the wrong way. I don’t think I’ll ever post anything I regret.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

Ì  Have a catchy blog name — you’ll be surprised how many names already have been taken. Check availability at Wordpress or Blogspot for starters. Í  Drive traffic to your blog through social media. Comments on your blog hold more weight than on a Facebook page. Use Instagram, if your field is visual, such as design or food. Ibrahim said she has seen a surge in traffic on her blog from Pinterest and her handy tips and tricks pinned there. Î  Connect with other bloggers in a “we’re all in this together” way, rather than eyeing them as competition. Enjoy blogging, but don’t let it take over your life.

Whenever I suspect something questionable, I always run it by my sister, Iman. Every single time she either stops me or helps me tone it down.” Privacy has not been much of a concern for Nasim. “I decided early on that I wasn’t going to get personal in my blog,” she says. “On occasion, I do mention my husband and children, but since my blog is based on interior design and not my personal life, keeping the two separate has been easy.” 

Kiran Ansari, a mother of three in Chicago, uses her blog, www.kiranansari.wordpress.com to archive all her published writing.

45


POLITICS AND SOCIETY

Stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims Persists After 9/11

How the media-devised positive imagery of Arabs and Muslims operates to justify discrimination, mistreatment, and war against Arabs and Muslims. BY EVELYN AZEEZA ALSULTANY

I

n 2004, the Council on AmericanIslamic Relations (CAIR) warned that the Fox television network’s popular drama series, “24,” was perpetuating Arab and Muslim stereotypes. The group noted the “repeated association of acts of terrorism with Islam would only serve to increase anti-Muslim prejudice.” Critics and defenders of “24” argue that programs like it are cutting-edge, reflecting one of the most pressing social and political issues of today — the “war on terror.” They claim CAIR is trying to deflect the reality of Muslim terrorism by confining television writers to politically correct themes. “24” responded to CAIR through two immediate actions. In February 2005, the show aired a public service announcement during one of the program’s commercial breaks. This featured lead actor Kiefer Sutherland looking into the camera, reminding viewers that “the American Muslim community stands firmly beside their fellow Americans in denouncing and resisting all forms of terrorism” and urging us to “please bear that in mind” while watching the program. A scene with two patriotic Arab American brothers was written into one episode in which the brothers tell Jack Bauer, the show’s hero, that they want to help him fight the terrorists. Efforts such as those made by “24” to soften the impact of stereotyping are not unique. They are part of a larger trend that emerged from the multicultural movement of the 1980s and 1990s. The movement, dubbed by conservatives as the “politically correct” movement, raised awareness around persistent stereotypes in the media. Many media critics have shown how the multicultural movement has been co-opted and its political potential diffused. However, it has

46

led to more diverse portrayals of historically marginalized and stereotyped groups. This increase in positive portrayals of Arabs and Muslims after Sept. 11 is the topic of the author’s book, “Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11” (New York University Press; 2012). It looks at this new trend in television shows and films: if there is a focus on terrorism perpetrated by Arabs or Muslims, then to diffuse the stereotype the producers typically include some kind of positive representation of an Arab or Muslim, usually a patriotic U.S. citizen or innocent victim of hate crimes. This trend continues in current television dramas, such as “Homeland” — based on the Israeli series “Hatufim (Prisoners of War)” — and “Tyrant,” and in recent films, such as “Argo.” How to understand these seemingly positive developments, especially considering despite such sympathetic portrayals of Arab and Muslim Americans on commercial television since Sept. 11, hate crimes, workplace discrimination, bias incidents, and airline discrimination targeting Arab and Muslim Americans increased exponentially. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims multiplied by 1,600 percent from 2000 to 2001. Dozens of airline passengers perceived to be Arab or Muslim were removed from aircraft. Hundreds of Arab and Muslim Americans reported discrimination at work, receiving hate mail, physical assaults, and their property, mosques, and community centers being vandalized or set on fire. Cornell University’s Department of Communication 2004 poll revealed that 44 percent of Americans believe some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim Americans. They favored steps, such ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


as immigrant registration with the federal government and close monitoring by undercover law enforcement officials. According to a 2006 USA Today/Gallup poll, nearly a quarter of Americans — 22 percent — say they would not want a Muslim as a neighbor. In addition to individual citizens taking the law into their own hands, the U.S. government passed legislation that targets Arabs and Muslims (within and outside the United States) and legalized the suspension of their constitutional rights. More than a decade after Sept. 11, such discriminatory acts and policies have persisted. Why would there be an increase in sympathetic portrayals of Arabs and Muslims

DESPITE THE SHIFT AWAY FROM THE MORE BLATANT STEREOTYPES OF PREVIOUS DECADES, ARAB AND MUSLIM IDENTITIES ARE STILL UNDERSTOOD AND EVALUATED PRIMARILY IN RELATION TO TERRORISM.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

47


POLITICS AND SOCIETY while the U.S. government adopted domestic and foreign policies compromising the civil liberties and human rights of Arabs and Muslims? The book introduces the term “simplified complex representations” to describe this phenomenon of inserting a positive representation to diffuse a negative one. Television producers, writers, and directors use such strategies to give the impression that the representations they are producing are complex, yet do so in a simplified way. They are predictable strategies that can be relied on, if the plot involves an Arab or Muslim terrorist, but are a new standard alternative to the stock ethnic villains of the past. If an Arab/Muslim terrorist is represented in the storyline of a TV drama or film, then a “positive” representation of an Arab, Muslim, Arab American, or Muslim American is typically included, seemingly to subvert the stereotype of the Arab/Muslim terrorist. These representations often challenge or complicate former stereotypes, yet tend to contribute to a multicultural or post-race illusion. As a result, positive imagery of Arabs and Muslims can operate to justify discrimination, mistreatment, and war against Arabs and Muslims.

are merely pawns or a front for Euro-American or European terrorists. During season 2 of “24,” Bauer spends the first half of the season tracking down a Middle Eastern terrorist cell, ultimately subverting a nuclear attack. In the second half of the season, we discover that European and Euro-American businessmen are behind the attack, goading the U.S. to declare war on the Middle East in order to benefit from the increase in oil prices. This strategy challenges the idea that terrorism is an Arab or Muslim monopoly. Fictionalizing the country of the enemy also has become increasingly common. This strategy rests on the assumption that making up a fake nationality for the villain eliminates potential offensiveness; if no particular country or ethnicity is named, then there is less reason for any particular group to be offended by the portrayal. In season 3 of “The West Wing,” the fictional country, “Qumar,” is a source of terrorist plots; in season 8 of “24,” it is “Kamistan.” Most recently, the setting of “Tyrant” is Abuddin. Fictionalizing the terrorist’s country can give a show more latitude in creating salacious storylines that might be criticized, if identified with an actual country. Nonetheless, these fictionalized countries are depicted as Muslim.

SIMPLIFIED COMPLEX REPRESENTATIONS IN TV DRAMAS

THE FUTURE OF REPRESENTATIONS

Among many forms of simplified complex representations, the most common is the patriotic Arab or Muslim American character who assists the U.S. government in its fight against terrorism, either as a government agent or civilian. Such characters include Nadia Yassir, a dedicated member of the Counter Terrorist Unit on season 6 of “24,” and more recently, Fara Sherazi, a CIA analyst who wears the hijab on season 3 of “Homeland.” This strategy challenges the notion that Arabs and Muslims are not American and/or un-American. Judging from the numbers of these patriots, it appears that writers have embraced this strategy as the most direct method to counteract potential charges of stereotyping. In addition to Arab and Muslim patriots, TV dramas have employed a host of devices to circumvent stereotyping, including flipping the enemy and fictionalizing the country of the enemy. “Flipping the enemy” involves leading the viewer to believe that Muslim terrorists are plotting to destroy the U.S., and then revealing that those Muslims 48

Despite the shift away from the more blatant stereotypes of previous decades, Arab and Muslim identities are still understood and evaluated primarily in relation to terrorism. How effective can these strategies to minimize stereotyping be, if they appear within a story about Arabs and Muslims as terrorists? Representations of Arab and Muslim identities in contexts that have nothing to do with terrorism remain strikingly unusual in the U.S. commercial media. This new representational mode is certainly an improvement over past blatant stereotypes. However, it does not signify that American society has arrived at a postracial moment. It shows that we must think beyond whether an image is good or bad and see how images produce meanings and logic that can justify exclusion. So what would real progress look like? The issue is not that Arabs and Muslims should not be portrayed as terrorists. Rather, the issue is that they are rarely portrayed in other contexts. The way to reduce stereotypes and increase our collective humanity is not to simply add a positive representa-

tion to a story about Arabs and Muslims as terrorists. The way to reduce a stereotype is to tell so many different stories that the terrorist story becomes just one of many. The issue is one of having access to a diverse field of images so that one representation does not have the power to represent an entire group of people. There have been a few good starts through which we can draw inspiration: the character Abed on “Community” is Palestinian American. He is a weird guy, but it has nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion. The character Mohammed in season 1 of “Nurse Jackie” is another good example. We need more of such characters on American TV and shows like “Little Mosque on the Prairie” aired in Canada. To compete with stereotypes that have been developed about Arabs and Muslims through hundreds, if not thousands of films and television shows, it is necessary to produce alternate images and stories that would offer insight into the diversity of Arab and Muslim American life. 

Evelyn Azeeza Alsultany is an associate professor in the Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan where she coordinates Arab and Muslim American Studies.

ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFER —

A good deed done regularly!

Through Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) ISNA can receive your donation each month automatically from your bank account or credit card, saving you postage and time.

Be a key that opens the door to ISNA’s long-term financial stability:

Donate through EFT!

WWW.ISNA.NET/DONATE

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


POLITICS AND SOCIETY

Married Without Consent How informed is the Muslim community about laws defining forced marriage and its socioeconomic implications? BY ENGY ABDELKADER AND SALMA ELKADI ABUGIDEIRI

T

he Quran describes marriage as a mutually loving relationship governed and protected by maintaining taqwa (God-consciousness) and by implementing the higher values of rahmah (mercy), mawaddah (love) and `adl (justice). God describes spouses as “garments for one another” (2:187) and says that He has put love and affection between them (30:21). This beautiful relationship begins with a marriage contract with several conditions, the first of which is mutual consent of the intending spouses. The contract itself is based on an offer, or proposal (ijaab) and an acceptance of that offer (qubul). Before executing the contract, the officiating imam must obtain the bride’s consent. For the marriage to be valid, it is the responsibility of the wali (guardian) — being the bride’s representative — to obtain her consent. In a famous Hadith, “Abu Huraira (‘alayhi rahmat) reported God’s Messenger (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as having said: A woman without a husband (or divorced or a widow) must not be married until she is consulted, and a virgin must not be married until her permission is sought. They asked the Prophet of God: How her (virgin’s) consent can be solicited? He (the Holy Prophet) said: That she keeps silence (due to her possible shyness)” (Sahih Muslim). Seeking the woman’s consent is part of the major reform that Islam brought to preIslamic society, when women were considered property and could even be inherited as such. In that context, women may have felt shy to openly voice their interest in marrying someone when consulted by their wali, so their silence was interpreted to be an indication of acceptance. This hadith emphasizes the importance of the bride’s consent. However, consent cannot be derived where silence is induced by fear or coercion. The Quran recognizes women as autonomous beings, and emphasizes their right to be treated kindly and justly, even if the marriage ends in divorce. The Quran empha-

50

sizes, “You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the mehr (dowry) you have given them… on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity…” (4:19). Marriage is “a solemn covenant” (4:21), and God is watching over us as we “demand our mutual rights” (4:1). Despite such clear guidance, too many marriages between Muslims occur without the requisite consent of both parties. Often parents may be using the marriage as a means to achieving a particular goal, such as honoring an agreement between relatives for their children to wed, or guarding their teenage or college-aged progeny against premarital relationships. Regardless of the parents’ intention, the absence of consent classifies it as a forced marriage.

WHAT IS FORCED MARRIAGE? A forced marriage is where the full and free consent of one or both parties is missing. This includes (but is not limited to) those who are (a) below the legal marriageable age; (b) suffer some other incapacity or disability; and/or (c) subject to force, fraud or coercion (FFC) from parents and guardians, friends and/or extended family in the U.S. and abroad. FFC can take many forms, such as psychological manipulation or emotional blackmail where a parent threatens their offspring’s reputation will be ruined if s/he resists the marriage. FFC also includes deception where say an individual is taken abroad thinking that s/he is visiting family or going for a vacation and is then forced to marry. FFC also encompasses isolation tactics where, for example, family members severely limit an individual’s ability to leave the home or attend school. In some cases, family members follow the individual when they leave their home. It may include immigration-related or financial threats, such as threatening to throw the refusing individual out of the house. ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


Finally, in the most extreme instances, FFC encompasses physical threats, violence, and kidnapping and/or even death threats.

FORCED VERSUS ARRANGED MARRIAGE While the phrases are often used interchangeably, forced marriages differ from arranged marriages. In an arranged marriage, families typically play an active role in introducing the parties, but the ultimate decision to wed remains theirs. This is in stark contrast to the non-consensual nature of forced marriages. However, an arranged marriage can become a forced marriage when one or both parties are subject to continued pressure and/or psychological manipulation, as depicted in the following real life scenario: 18-year old Asma (not her real name) has a strained relationship with her father, who she characterizes as abusive. She describes a long history of domestic violence between her parents and relates incidents of physical abuse as a child. She recently graduated from high school and in the past three to four months her appearance has changed. She dyed her hair and began wearing flashier clothing. Her mother confided that Asma’s aunt (living overseas) recently overheard a conversation in which her father arranged Asma’s marriage to a cousin. Her father had already purchased Asma’s ticket, but did not realize that she knew of his plans. Asma, a U.S. citizen, believes that she will be forced to sponsor her cousin for permanent residence (green card). Asma is distraught. She does not want to marry him. Rather, she wants to attend college and marry by choice. Her mother supports her but she feels powerless to help her daughter. Asma, terrified at the prospect of a forced to marriage, seeks help from a local community organization.

FORCED MARRIAGE IMPLICATIONS Sadly, Asma’s situation is not unique. In other situations, sometimes the couple remain unaware of what’s in store until the wedding day itself, while others suspect or learn of the plans in advance. A person who feels forced to marry may often struggle, not knowing what to do, feeling torn between obligations to please parents and their own preferences. Tremendous anxiety may build up as the prospective bride or groom anticipates getting stuck ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

51


POLITICS AND SOCIETY in an unwanted marriage. People resort to a wide range of behaviors in an attempt to cope, including seeking professional help, running away, or going through with the marriage but having an extramarital affair later. Others, seeing no way out, become overwhelmed with despair, leading to depression, self-injury, and even suicide.

marry her cousin, Faruk, who wanted to get married and also had dreams of coming to America. Without consulting Faiza, Ali began planning a family vacation with the intention of getting Faiza married. He was confident that she would eventually come to love Faruk. Many parents, like Ali, are motivated by

FORCED MARRIAGE VICTIMS COMMONLY SUFFER VARIOUS PHYSICAL, DEVELOPMENTAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES. Forced marriage victims commonly suffer various physical, developmental, psychological and social consequences. Often the practice excludes women and girls from education, financial independence and reproductive autonomy. It commonly signals the end to the wife’s formal education, limiting her power of autonomy. Women and girls are left vulnerable should they become victims of intimate partner violence or in the event their husbands leave them. Early marriage usually leads to early intimacy and early pregnancy, which are directly linked to increased rates of infant and maternal morbidity and mortality (due to the immaturity of young brides’ reproductive organs), HIV/ AIDS, and other diseases. Victims of forced marriage may also suffer from isolation, rape, domestic violence and even suicide.

MOTIVATING FACTORS Forced marriages transcend religious, cultural and geographical boundaries. But, considering the harmful implications of a forced marriage, why would parents or relatives (anywhere) engage in such a practice? Consider the following parental perspective: Ali has tried to raise his children in accordance with Islamic and the cultural values with which he himself grew up. As his children got older, he became increasingly worried about their commitment to Islamic practices. He especially worried about his daughter Faiza, who began to challenge her parents’ ideas about how to dress. He feared Faiza would get a boyfriend, and become distracted from her studies. Wanting to protect her, he decided that Faiza should 52

their intent to protect their children, not realizing the damage they could be causing. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office identified factors and motives that potentially precipitate forced marriage, and that are relevant in the American context, as well: • Curbing promiscuous conduct or premarital intimacy; • Controlling unwanted behavior (alcohol or drug use, wearing makeup or behaving in what is perceived to be a “westernized manner”); • Preventing “unsuitable” relationships (outside the ethnic, cultural, religious or caste group); • Protecting “family honor”; • Responding to peer group or family pressure; • Attempting to strengthen family links; • Achieving financial gain; • Ensuring land, property, and wealth remain within the family; • Protecting perceived cultural ideals; • Protecting perceived religious ideals; • Ensuring care for a child or adult with special needs when parents or existing caregivers are unable to fulfill that role; • Assisting claims for lawful residence and citizenship; and • Long-standing family commitments.

THE RULE OF LAW The Islamic position against forced marriage corresponds with U.S. and international laws. The U.S. State Department recognizes the practice of forced marriage as a serious human rights abuse. It also is regarded as

such in international law as reflected in the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16(2); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 23; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 10(1); Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Article 16(1)(b); Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration for Marriages, Article 1(1); United Nations Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, Article 1(c); and Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, Article 6(a). More recently, in September 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council, recognizing that child, early and forced marriages represent inherent gender inequalities and continue to “be an impediment to not only the economic, legal, health and social status of women and girls but to the development of the community as a whole,” passed a resolution to increase efforts to prevent such marriages. Eight American states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have criminalized forced marriage. The forced marriage statutes often appear in state criminal codes in the context of either abduction or pandering. Most of the statutes protect women and men, while a few only protect female victims. Most states will void a marriage, if consent to the marriage was obtained through force, duress, or fraud. Every U.S. state except Mississippi and Nebraska has set 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage. Notably, some argue that forced marriages also constitute a form of child abuse. Depriving a person of their divinely given right to autonomy and free will at the outset of the marriage is a violation of God’s will, endangers the well-being and welfare of the coerced individual, inevitably dooms the marriage to failure and compromises the health of our communities. However, when individuals are encouraged to exercise their free will, they are more likely to work toward making their relationships a source of mutual love and tranquility. 

Engy Abdelkader, Esq., co-directs the New York-based Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit agency dedicated to serving the clinical, economic, legal, and shelter needs of domestic violence victims and their children. Salma Elkadi Abugideiri, a licensed professional counselor, is a founding board member of the Peaceful Families Project.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


MARK YOUR CALENDAR

52 ANNUAL ISNA CONVENTION ND

Chicago, IL.

September 4 – 7, 2015

Contact:  Phone: (317) 838-8129  •  Email: convention@isna.net  •  Web: www.isna.net


MUSLIMS ABROAD

The Unquestionable Right The right of self-determination guaranteed by the United Nations remains applicable to the Kashmir conflict. BY GHULAM-NABI FAI

T

he principle of self-determination, which has been developed in philosophic thought and practice over centuries, empowered people to challenge oppression. Defining the right to self-determination has proven elusive since it was celebrated as one of President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points to settle World War I. Article I of the United Nations Charter enshrines as a major purpose in the development of friendly relations among nations based on the “principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.” The 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples states: “All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Self-determination is the act of a people,

54

expressing their free will to control and participate in their nation’s destiny. A people must be free to express their will without interference or threat of interference from a controlling authority not of the people’s design. This includes alien domination, foreign occupation and colonial rule. The United Nations explicitly recognized the applicability of this principle to Jammu and Kashmir, upheld by both India and Pakistan, when India brought the Kashmir dispute before the Security Council on Dec. 31, 1947. The right to self-determination of 18 million Kashmiris is undeniable. Kashmir’s legal history entitles it to self-determination as much as Eritrea’s historical independence entitled it to self-determination from Ethiopian domination. The level of human rights violations in Kashmir also demand self-determination as much as Yugoslavia’s human rights violations and ethnic cleansing created a right to self-determination for the peoples of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo. Kashmir’s history of

social and religious tranquility furthers its claim to self-determination as much as East Timor’s history of domestic peace before Indonesia’s annexation in 1975 that entitled it to self-determination in 1999. After the century-long British rule ended, Kashmir achieved independence on Aug. 15, 1947. At that time, Kashmir had chosen neither accession to Pakistan nor to India, which had been created as separate nations through a British partition along largely Hindu-Muslim confessional lines. Nothing regarding partition or the lapse of British control required Kashmir to renounce independence for absorption in a neighboring nation. Kashmir was overwhelmingly Muslim, with Pandits (Hindus), Buddhists, and Sikhs coexisting as welcome religious minorities. The ecumenical religious atmosphere found expression in inter-religious friendships, neighborhoods, businesses, and mutual celebration or respect of religious holidays. Kashmir was neither convulsed by religious strife, nor religious extremism.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


Hari Singh, the ruling Maharaja, however, was an oppressive Hindu whose tyranny had sparked an indigenous insurgency. The thenIndian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, (1889-1964), had voiced a consensus view that sovereignty in princely states like Kashmir had devolved on their respective peoples as of August 15, 1947. In cases of conflict, the peoples’ voice should prevail in a plebiscite over the sovereignty ambitions of ruling maharajas. In Kashmir, Nehru initially championed a plebiscite to determine its sovereign destiny. Addressing a meeting at Allahabad in February 1957, Nehru denied that India had attempted to back out of any commitments. “Kashmir is not ours but it is of the Kashmiris,” he said. “We cannot stay in Kashmir for a moment without the consent of the Kashmiris. It is not our property.” However, not only he, but also his successors reneged on their country’s international obligation when they realized Kashmir would never accede to India in a free and fair election. A commanding majority of Kashmiris covet independence, democracy, the rule of law, and religious pluralism.  All that is needed today for the settlement is returning to the point of agreement which historically existed between India and Pakistan and jointly resolving to retrieve it with any modifications necessitated by the passage of time. The point of agreement was one of inescapable principle, that Kashmir’s future status shall be decided by the will of the people of the state, impartially ascertained in conditions free from coercion. The Kashmiris, being the primary stakeholders should be an integral component of the ongoing peace process. They should be inclusive in the peace process with India and Pakistan as it will facilitate permanent, durable and honorable settlement of the Kashmir dispute. While 67 years have passed since the Kashmir resolutions were adopted, just as many years have gone by since the Charter of the United Nations was adopted. The lapse of time does not invalidate international agreements. However, India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri leadership must signify their willingness to consider any arrangement which conforms to the same principle as the United Nations resolutions may be more feasible in the changed circumstances of today. When India first brought the issue to the United Nations, its representative, Sir Gopalaswami Ayyangar set out three

options for Jammu and Kashmir: accession to India; accession to Pakistan; and independence. Presenting his government’s case to the Security Council on Jan. 15, 1948, he said, “The question … whether she [Kashmir] should withdraw from her accession to India, and either accede to Pakistan or remain independent with a right to claim admission as

but because it would not be justified in foreclosing any option for the people of the state. The idea of independence for Kashmir has, in fact, never been beyond the mental horizon of its people. Ram Chander Kak, a Kashmiri Pandit (Hindu) leader and the Maharaja’s prime minister, recommended on July 19, 1947, that Kashmir remain inde-

THE KASHMIRIS, BEING THE PRIMARY STAKEHOLDERS, SHOULD BE AN INTEGRAL COMPONENT OF THE ONGOING PEACE PROCESS. a member of the United Nations — all this, we have recognized to be a matter for unfettered decision by the people of Kashmir.”

The iconic leader of Kashmir freedom movement, Syed Ali Gilani comforts women terrorized by Indian Occupation Forces in Srinagar.

The possibility of the third option is reflected in the wording of more than one resolution of the Security Council. Those adopted on March 14, 1950, and March 30, 1951, refer to “the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir (to be) made in accordance with the will of the people expressed by the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.” The phrase “final disposition” is inclusive. It has a wider meaning than “accession to India or Pakistan.” The Security Council used this expression not for convenience of drafting

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

pendent of India and Pakistan for a transitional period of at least one year, then take a decision on accession to India or Pakistan, or otherwise, in the light of developments. “Should not the accredited leaders of India, Pakistan and Kashmir sit together and agree to restore to the state its age-old status of sovereign independence it enjoyed all along before it was invaded and occupied by the Pathans, Mughals, Sikhs and Dogras? … Why cannot Kashmir be granted independent status?,” said Rugho Nath Vaisnavi, another Kashmiri Pandit leader. In the interim, several measures should be taken to ease the misery and tensions in Kashmir. Human rights organizations should be given greater access. The presence of India’s security forces should be reduced. All political prisoners should be released. Emergency laws which give India’s security forces immunity for violation of human rights should be repealed. The Cease-fire Line (CFL) should be monitored by an independent third party, such as the United Nations or the European Union. Kashmiri leaders should be permitted free exchanges across the CFL, and Kashmiri exiles should be allowed to return without hindrance or retaliation. The economies of India and Pakistan would grow, not contract, with an independent Kashmir.  The end of turmoil in those countries would attract investment in the region. The free movement of goods and labor between Kashmir and its neighbors could be negotiated. Economics is not a zero-sum game, but a win-win game. Prosperity is mutually reinforcing and beneficial between all parties competing on a level playing field. 

Ghulam-Nabi Fai, Ph.D., is secretary general of the World Kashmir Awareness

55


MUSLIMS ABROAD

Women Pay the Emotional Price of War Relief workers are rendering heroic efforts toward helping war-stricken women facing numerous challenges. BY KARI ANSARI

T

he iPhone buzzes with another WhatsApp notice from Yasser (not his real name) in Aleppo, Syria. With the generous benefit of reading glasses, I see a photo of two little giggling girls sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. Behind them sits an older woman gazing into the unseen distance with the care-worn eyes of one who has experienced too much heartache. The little cousins, Yasser wrote, had just come to live in their grandmother’s home. They fled with their mothers from another Aleppo neighborhood when it was all but demolished by barrel bombings. “Their fathers left them behind due to the financial situation,” he added. Responding to my inquiry about what he meant by “left them behind,” Yasser replied, “No one knows exactly. We only know the men have likely left the country and the women and girls are now alone.” They would be relying solely on the monthly food basket from the charitable organization for which Yasser and I work — Mercy-USA. Their story is not atypical of other girls, their mothers and grandmothers in Syria. They have lost their husbands and fathers to the war through various means, death, kidnapping, conscription, or as in the case of these girls, financial hardship. In late September 2014, USAID reported there were 10.8 million people in Syria in need of assistance with 6.4 million being internally displaced from their homes. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported there were more than 3 million registered Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. Many of these are women and children bearing the burden of a desperate situation on their own. Before the war, Syrian society was a traditional one where the typical household included two or three generations living together with the men as bread earners. For

56

the most part, women were not required to work outside the home, and for many households, a woman seldom left the confines of her tight-knit residential compound or neighborhood. The war has changed all that in many ways. The UNHCR July 2014 report, “Woman Alone: The fight for survival by Syria’s refugee women,” details the plight of Syrian refugee women who are surviving with children alone. Women now head 25 percent of refugee households, per the report. Probably due to the extreme instability inside Syria, this comprehensive report did not include the plight of women and children left behind in Syria. My colleagues at Mercy-USA who work in Aleppo Province say that the stories and numbers highlighted in the report mirrors what is seen inside Syria with one major and damaging difference — those left behind are surviving under endless deadly threat. Mercy-USA’s senior Aleppo field staff officer, Yasser, says these women’s challenges are more than finding food for their children or being both a mother and father to them. The indiscriminate air attacks on Aleppo have everyone living in a constant state of hypervigilance. Many women are now the only ones left to care for the elderly and children. There are no bomb shelters, while missiles rain or helicopters drop 50-gallon drums filled with TNT and shrapnel. This relentless state of fear is causing depression. “Because of the conservative nature of the culture, women don’t admit to emotional pain or trauma,” said Yasser, an Aleppo native, who visits and assesses the needs of

aid recipients. “Society rejects depression as a real illness, so when a woman sees a physician, she’s not complaining that she’s frightened to death for herself and her children, she’s saying she’s sick to her stomach, or she can’t breathe. These physical symptoms are treated and are viewed as an acceptable illness by the woman’s family and neighbors.” When emotional trauma is suppressed, the pain from it manifests in physical ailments, said Iman Elkadi, a Tampa family therapist who has worked with survivors of torture and refugees. “And because in war

THE CHALLENGES ARE ARDUOUS AND RELIEF WORKERS NEED ALL THE SUPPORT TO HELP SYRIANS, ESPECIALLY WOMEN, REBUILD THEIR LIVES AND THEIR FUTURE. ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


zones like Syria, where everyone is suffering the same trauma, a woman will tell herself that the situation is normal, and she should ‘just get over it,’” she added. Elkadi said because everyone is in survival mode from the chaos of war, the psychological ailments don’t get addressed. She added, once a person’s trauma becomes part of her past, the emotional issues can be attended to, thus preventing further physical expressions of the suffering. “The most effective help will be offered through group therapy with others who have experienced the same ordeal,” she said. “Of course, that can’t happen now while bombs are dropping and bullets fly through streets at any given moment.” Teenage girls also are enduring an aggravated form of emotional trauma. Mothers experiencing depression can become unable to care for their younger children, forcing

older daughters to take on their mothers’ role. Another troubling trend is many underage girls are being asked to marry much older men simply as a way of providing them safety or to financially unburden their families. Also, extended families consider the safety of marriage for orphaned girls who, without the protection of a father or brother, are at additional risk of rape. Young or underage marriage results in more new mothers giving birth in precarious situations without prenatal or postnatal care. When hospitals are inundated with traumatic, war-related injuries, routine medical care for a pregnancy or vaccinations for a newborn may take lower priority. To alleviate such problems, Mercy-USA has recently opened a mother and child health clinic in Aleppo. But it will be a drop in the bucket compared to the magnitude of need these women will face in the years to come.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

Amid the pain and suffering are an admirable lot — aid workers — serving and living through the same emotional trauma and chaos to deliver food, supplies and medical care sent by various aid and relief organizations. The challenges are arduous and relief workers need all the support to help Syrians, especially women, rebuild their lives and their future. War reveals the sheer will, strength and determination within people, despite the horrific atrocities. With the collective efforts, the hope is that these war-torn areas will thrive once again, and with it bring stability and peace to the future generations.

Kari Ansari, director of communications and public affairs for Mercy-USA for Aid and Development, is an occasional contributor to Huffington Post and Islamic Horizons. EDITOR’S NOTE: Islamic Horizons invited Kari Ansari to present her viewpoint of the challenges facing Syrian women of all ages and backgrounds. Her opinions are her own and not representative of IH. This is not an endorsement of any particular relief or nonprofit organization or service.

57


OBITUARIES

Tayyibah Taylor 1952-2014

Life of Azizah Magazine Leaves the Earthly Abode

T

ayyibah Taylor — trailblazer, entrepreneur, leader, interfaith activist, peace advocate, role model, writer, teacher, mother, sister — succumbed to colon cancer Sept. 4. She was 62. Life seemed its normal busy rush in April 2014 for Taylor. While writing drafts for her next presentation, arranging meetings, working on Azizah magazine and caring for her granddaughters, her industrious schedule was interrupted with a sharp pain in her side that just would not subside. What started with a light “flu” became something much more serious. After tests, Taylor was diagnosed with colon cancer, and advanced-stage neuroendocrine tumors that metastasized to her liver. Taylor, who served on the ISNA Convention Program Committee, was the founding editor-in-chief and publisher of Azizah magazine launched in October 2000. The magazine was the winner of two Folio Eddie Awards and a New America Media Award. She was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Middle Eastern think tank The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies. In 2013, Huffington Post named Taylor one of 10 American Muslim Women You Should Know. Through Azizah, Taylor realized her vision of providing a vehicle for the voice of Muslim American women that portrays their perspectives and experiences, and shatters commonly held stereotypes. She blended her passion for spirituality, women’s issues and communication to further the causes of Muslim women. She appeared on CNN and other news media outlets commenting on current affairs and visited 37 countries. She presented lectures on Islam and Muslim women at national and international conferences, including ISNA Conventions, the Harvard Divinity School’s Islam in America Conference; the International Islamic University of Malaysia’s Islam and Muslims in the

58

21st Century Conference, the Belgian-US Muslim Dialogue, the Lecture Series at the Women’s College of Shariah and Law of the International Islamic University of Islamabad, and the Fulbright Symposium in Perth, Australia. Taylor worked on several interfaith initiatives and traveled to Turkey, Spain, Morocco, Jerusalem, Greece and Jordan with various groups of Jews, Christians and Muslims. In the spring of 2010, she was one of eight Muslims to meet the Dalai Lama at an IslamBuddhism Common Ground event and was invited to the White House Iftar in August 2011. In the last two years, she travelled to Belgium, Tajikistan and Afghanistan to speak about women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship, and to Jerusalem for studies. The Trinidad-born Taylor grew up in Toronto, and studied biology and philosophy at the University of Toronto. She lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for several years. Taylor was an avid adventure seeker who went skydiving for her 50th birthday. She also loved to ride horses, parasailing and enjoyed family fun nights on Fridays. Taylor served on the board of directors of Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters, the board of trustees for the Georgia Council for International Visitors, the board of the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta, and the steering committee of WISE, an organization that convenes global Muslim women leaders and fosters Muslim women’s participation in Islamic law and contemporary debates. She served on the advisory board

of the Interfaith Community Initiatives. She received numerous awards for her work. She is survived by her daughters, Mariam Abdul-Aziz Brailsford, Atiaya TaylorMcGhee, and Saara Abdul-Aziz, sons, Adam Abdul-Aziz and Yusef Abdul-Aziz, and five grandchildren. 

ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFER —

A good deed done regularly!

Through Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) ISNA can receive your donation each month automatically from your bank account or credit card, saving you postage and time.

Be a key that opens the door to ISNA’s long-term financial stability:

Donate through EFT!

WWW.ISNA.NET/DONATE

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


REVIEWS HURT OF DEPRIVATION

SHORT TAKES

Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation 2014. Pp. 320. PB. $16 by Cate Malek Mateo Hoke (eds.) McSweeney’s, San Francisco

Ethics of Assisted Reproductive Medicine: A Comparative Study of Western Secular and Islamic Bioethics Sharmin Islam 2014. Pp. 220. PB. International Institute of Islamic Thought, Washington, D.C. The book, based on the author’s 2008 doctoral thesis, compares and contrasts Western and Islamic models of bioethics. She argues that the Islamic perspective offers an alternative, and the basis for making the right choices.

I

n an environment where Palestinian voices, and especially their sufferings, are carefully airbrushed, “Palestine Speaks” — a Voice of Witness (VOW) book — is a welcome publication. This volume comprises a collection of testimonials from Palestinians narrating their own experiences and suffering — voices of those who endure and try valiantly to survive. Like all VOW books, it presents narratives that help readers see the connections between themselves and the narrators. This truly needed service has been rendered by VOW, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering a more nuanced, empathy-based understanding of contemporary human rights crises. VOW books serve through amplifying the voices of those most closely affected by injustice, and by providing curricular and training support to educators and invested communities. Noam Chomsky invites readers to “listen to them carefully, to grasp their suffering, to learn from their testimonies about them and about ourselves, and to use this understanding to bring their tragedy to an end.” 

GROWING UP MUSLIM Growing Up Muslim: Muslim College Students in America Tell Their Life Stories Andrew Garrod, Robert Kilkenny (eds.), Eboo Patel (Intro.) 2014. Pp. 232. PB. $22.95 Cornell University Press.

Prayer in Islamic Thought and Practice Marion Holmes Katz 2014. Pp. 243. PB. $29.99 Cambridge University Press Marion Katz presents a broad historical survey of the rules, values, and interpretations relating to salat, the five daily prayers of Islam. She examines the ways in which prayer has been understood in Islamic law, Sufi mysticism, and Islamic philosophy. In the closing chapter, she discusses issues around gender roles, including the question of women participating in and leading public worship. What Is Veiling? Sahar Amer 2014. Pp. 256. HB. $28 The University of North Carolina Press Sahar Amer highlights the multiple meanings of veiling, that the realities of the practice cannot be homogenized or oversimplified and extend well beyond the debates raging both inside and outside Muslim-majority societies. She clarifies the voices of Muslim women who struggle to be heard and who, veiled or not, demand the right to live spiritual, personal, and public lives in dignity. Slavery, the State, and Islam Paperback 2013. Pp. 260. PB. $29.99 Mohammed Ennaji Cambridge University Press Mohammed Ennaji looks at slavery as the foundation of power and the state in the Muslim world, and challenges traditional approaches to the subject. He examines authority as it functions in the Arab world today to explain the difficulty of attempting to instill freedom and democracy there.

T

his volume brings together 14 personal essays by Muslim American college students who are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Andrew Garrod and Robert Kilkenny, veteran scholars of youth autobiography, provide these young Muslim Americans the opportunity to express insight about their own lives in the midst of the rude discourse surrounding Islam in America today. These writings were done outside of class and not for academic credit. They discuss issues of ethnicity, religious prejudice and misunderstanding, and Islamophobia. The trauma brought about by the post-Sept. 11 reaction, and the subsequent surveillance and suspicion of Muslims, especially those hailing from the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent, which has affected them, their families, and their communities. 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

Kindergarten Curriculum and Teacher’s Guide For Islamic Schools Nakhat Ahmad 2013. Pp. 188. PB. $20 CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform Combining the best of Montessori and Islamic educational philosophies, Nakhat Ahmad’s guide provides the tools and information, offering a curriculum for Islamic preschool teachers, especially those new to teaching, in a home or school setting. 

59


FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT

The Wisdom in Suffering BY IMAM MOHAMMED MAGID AND S. J. ROSS Wisdom 24: So long as you are in this world, be not surprised at the existence of sorrow. For, truly, it manifests nothing but what is in keeping with its character and its inevitable nature.

— Ibn Ata’ Allah. “The Book of Wisdoms,” translator Victor Danner (New York: Paulist Press, 1978).

A

frequently asked question is why bad things happen to good people. Despite our efforts to please God, we can struggle with the pain and challenge of illness and early deaths, abuse and neglect, family problems and financial woes. At the global level, we can feel frustrated, wondering why the Muslim Ummah, which God praises as “the best of nations brought forth for the benefit of mankind” (Quran 3:110) should seem perpetually beset with tragedy. The news inundates us daily with reports of anguished parents and children: innocent victims of war, poverty, and natural disaster. Our hearts go out to them, and we try our best to help them and remember them in our prayers. How can one make sense of their suffering and our own? Why does God, who we know is infinitely Good, Merciful, and Wise, allow so many to suffer, especially the innocent? Ibn Ata’ Allah, the author of the above aphorism, was no stranger to the level of suffering that we see today. He was born in the middle of the 13th century as the Mongols were concluding their ruinous destruction of Muslim lands that killed millions and drove innumerable refugees to his native Egypt. In the midst of human suffering, he wrote with penetrating wisdom about the 60

nature, purpose, and wisdom of this world’s trials, while shining as a spiritual light that continues to illuminate the present day. Before discussing Ibn Ata’ Allah’s explanation, it is important to note that any human attempt to explain the wisdom of human suffering is inadequate. Persian poet and theologian, Rumi once compared man’s encounter with the vicissitudes of life to an ant crawling across a multicolored carpet. The ant, bewildered by the seemingly random and often abrupt changes in color, protests the seemingly meaningless design. Yet the carpet maker sees the beautiful and harmonious pattern he has woven, unfortunately imperceptible to the ant. In this aphorism, Ibn Ata’ Allah reminds us that God intended for the world to be an abode of both happiness and sorrow. In saying this, he summarizes God’s statements throughout the Quran, such as: “We test you by evil and good by way of trial” (21:35), “We shall surely try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and life and crops” (2:155) and “Do you think that you shall enter the Garden (of bliss) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Messenger and those of faith who

were with him cried: ‘When (will come) the help of God?’ Ah! Verily, the help of God is (always) near!” (2:214). These tribulations in our earthly lives serve many ends. The first and simplest is that they can expiate our sins, both individual and collective. As Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that” (Bukhari; Vol. 7, Book 70, Hadith 545: USC-MSA web). Second, if we have fallen into heedlessness or ingratitude, life’s afflictions are actually gifts that serve as reminders. As Ibn Ata’ Allah notes in a different aphorism, “Whoever does not draw near to God as a result of the caresses of loving beneficence, is shackled to Him with the chains of misfortune.” God in His mercy filled the cosmos with manifestations of His kindness, so numerous they cannot even be counted (Quran 16:18). Our response to His blessings should be gratitude expressed with not only our tongues but also our eagerness to please Him through worship and actions. Amazingly, God, in His generosity, then blesses us even more, as a reward for our gratitude: “If you give thanks, I [God] shall surely increase you” (14:7). Should we fail to respond with gratitude, however, due to our being distracted by the comforts that He has placed in our lives, He removes these distractions, such as wealth or health, which we experience as afflictions. This drives us back to Him, which is ultimately a blessing, for in times

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014


of difficulty, we instinctively reach out to Him, raising our hands and reconnecting with Him. How much easier to connect with God through voluntarily gratitude, however, than in the consequences of heedlessness and ingratitude! While many of the world’s problems are a direct consequence of our own actions, at times even the innocent can suffer, and the pillars of piety in our community endure hardship. The Prophets, surely the greatest paragons of piety, were among the most afflicted. Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would, for example, bury all but one of his six children during his own lifetime, and his Companions had to endure humiliation and oppression while in Mecca. How can we make sense of their suffering? Here it is important to note that our earthly lives that conclude with our deaths are only the first part of the full story of our lives. As the annual cycle of nature reminds us, after the death wrought by winter comes the rebirth of spring. In the next life, God perfects history, as He has perfected creation, rectifying all wrongs and rewarding those who were patient, so much so that those who suffered the most in this life, upon tasting the

WHAT SPIRITUAL TOPICS MATTER MOST TO YOU?

Please help “Food for the Spirit” better meet your needs by completing a 2-minute survey at: www.isna.net/foodforthespiritsurvey eternal reward of paradise will proclaim, “I have never suffered. I have never undergone hardship” (Muslim). To pass judgment on the justice of life before we have passed beyond the threshold of death makes no more sense than to judge the justice of an author, before one has seen how his book ends. It is also important to note that trials are also a means for God to determine of what we are truly made. How can the lover demonstrate their devotion to their beloved, if there are no obstacles to overcome or dowry to pay? Trials also refine our mettle. “We test you by evil and by good by way of trial (fitnatan). To Us must ye return” (21:35). Here God uses the powerfully evocative Arabic word, (fitna, which means a trial, but is etymologically related to the process of exposing gold ore to a fire to melt off its impurities and leave only pure gold behind. The lives of some of the greatest mas-

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014

ters of the spiritual tradition benefited from trials. They were transformed by the tremendous suffering they and those around them endured. Ibn Ata’ Allah’s teacher, Abu al-‘Abbas al-Mursi, for example, was a refugee from Spain, having fled the Christian Reconquista, only to have the boat carrying him and his parents sink in a storm, making him an orphan. Though his name literally means, “the Roman”, Rumi was originally from Afghanistan. He only bears the name “Rumi” because his family fled the destruction of the Mongols and resettled as refugees in the lands of the former Roman Empire, in what is modern day Turkey. Along the way, they encountered numerous displaced persons who helped him hone his insight into the human condition. May God help us to see the wisdom in life’s trials and be patient through them. As the Prophet said, “How amazing is the affair of the believer. There is good for him in everything and that is for no one but the believer. If good times come his way, he expresses gratitude to God and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way, he endures it patiently and that is better for him” (Muslim). 

61


The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168-0038

NON PROFIT ORG. US POSTAGE PAID PERMIT #15 KENT, OH

Islamic Horizons Nov/Dec 14  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you