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52ND ANNUAL ISNA CONVENTION | SAVE THE FUTURE | WHAT’S ON YOUR BALLOT?
M CA N US A LI DA Pp M C : A . 2 OM R 4 M ISI – U N 52 N G IT Y
DR. JAMAL BARZINJI A Visionary, Humanitarian and Reformer 1939 – 2015
VOL. 44 NO. 6 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015 visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET
C ONVENTION REPORT 18 52nd Annual ISNA Convention The American Muslim Narrative
IN MEMORIUM Dr. Jamal Barzinji
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
24 Canadian Muslims: A Statistical Review 28 A Beacon for Muslim Canadians 30 Challenging Islamophobia in Canada 31 Riding with Faith 34 A Religion on Ice 36 Adhan in the Northern Reaches 38 Meaningful Lives 41 Taste of Faiths 42 Living and Sharing on the Pacific Coast 44 Some Are Less Equal 45 Homegrown Islamic Financing 46 A Movement-based Community 47 Muslim Canadians and the Challenges Ahead? 48 Rap with Faith 49 Islam Favors Engaged Citizenship 52 They Desire a Better Country
ISLAM IN AMERICA
54 Muslims Can Work as Muslims
MUSLIMS IN ACTION
55 6 10 12 60
DEPARTMENTS Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters New Releases
55 Change Now to Save the Future
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
56 What’s on Your Ballot? 58 Incubating Islamophobia
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Jay Willoughby. The views expressed in Islamic Horizons are not necessarily the views of its editors nor of the Islamic Society of North America. Islamic Horizons does not accept unsolicitated articles or submissions. All references to the Quran made are from The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD.
Strength to Strength: O Muslim Canada
hirteen years ago Islamic Horizons published a cover report on Islam and Muslims in Canada. In this issue, we revisit these Muslims who, now more 3 three percent of the population, comprise immigrants and first-, second-, and even third-generation Canadians. All of these citizens are keeping up with the times and meeting numerous challenges. They are still a mainly urban community, for two‐thirds of them living in Toronto and Montreal. Only 10 cities have more than 15,000 Muslims. But we also see bold initiatives: the three mosques in the country’s uppermost reaches, the Northwest Territories. All three — catering to communities that exceed a little more than believers each — are examples of dedication and resilience. And, of course, they are also examples of what some people dedicated to public service can accomplish among themselves and their neighbors. Muslims do not just build mosques, but are also reaching out and supporting the First Nations. Muslim life in Canada is also shaping up to the realities of life. The citizens’ rising life expectancy has called for greater attention to senior care and welfare. It is inspiring to discover Muslims in the fray and helping to set up institutions to serve their elderly coreligionists. Indeed there is hope that such noble projects will be replicated in many other communities. Local interfaith meetings and social outreach engagements, such as Ottawa’s Harmony Iftar and Eid festivals, help imprint the community’s presence on the nation’s mainstream. Like other Western societies, Canada also has its share of Islamophobia, which only became more intense under the hardline Conservative Party Stephen Harper-led (2008-) regime.
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRE SID ENT Azhar Azeez
Muslims have stood firm: the menacing Islamophobia in Quebec slowed down when its lead dispenser, Parti Québécois, was voted out last year. However, considering the many adverse factors, especially the belief of some media and political personalities that disparaging Islam and Muslims helps advance their personal goals, Muslims have to continue prioritizing their struggle wisely. The wolves of hate never stop baying for blood. Uzma Jamil aptly observes in her article: “A more enduring story is the one that Muslims tell about how they live in Canada today while challenging Islamophobic discourses about who they are supposed to be.” Daood Hamdani, a pioneer in the study of Muslim Canadians writing in this issue, states, “The Muslim population is changing. The emerging generation is less fixated upon ethnicities than their parents or grandparents. Born into diverse ethnicities but bound by their Canadian heritage and a common faith, they come closest to defining that cherished but elusive entity called ummah. A visionary leadership can seize the moment to develop a Canadian Muslim identity and set an example for Muslims in other Western societies. Only a few generations are privileged to have such an opportunity.” In 2002, the Canadian issue of Islamic Horizons had the help of a dedicated Islamic worker and writer and former Islamic Horizons editor, Zulf M Khalfan. And when he was asked 13 years later to assume this mantle once again, he did not hesitate. This issue owes a great debt to his overwhelming support and guidance and to ISNA-Canada president Syed Imtiaz Ahmad, professor emeritus at Eastern Michigan University, who ignited the idea of revisiting the northern community.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
SECRE TA RY GENER A L Hazem Bata EDITO R Omer Bin Abdullah EDITO RIA L A S SISTA NT Faryal M Khatri EDITO RIA L BOA RD Parvez Ahmed (Interim Chair), Julie Belz, Iqbal Unus, Ingrid Mattson, M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Hazem Bata, Edgar Hopida. ISL A MIC 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 @2015 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 STM A STER Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUB S CRIP 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: email@example.com A DV ERTISIN G For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, firstname.lastname@example.org, ww.isna.net Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distribution) Sales Agreement No. 0666300 C O RRE SP 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: email@example.com
Dr. Jamal Barzinji: A Humble Giant, A Lasting Imprint
such a highly diverse community. And he never inclined to backseat driving or criticizing from the sidelines. Generations of ISNA leaders will testify that Dr. Barzinji always made time for meetings to discuss strategy, speak at conferences and conventions, and listen to fundraising appeals. In honor of his long-lasting contributions to ISNA in particular, in 2008, he received the Mahboob Khan Community Service Recognition Award (now the ISNA Pioneers Memorial Service Award) for his lifetime of Muslim Americans have lost a visionary service to the community. Even during his remarks upon receivleader; however, he has left deep-seated ing this award, he did not shy away from renewing his desire that ISNA position itself as this country’s premier Islamic organization. foundations upon which they can grow. When chronicling his life, students of the history of Islam in America, and I am one of them, will no doubt marvel at the fact BY ALTAF HUSAIN that Dr. Barzinji belongs to a very select group of people who conhe Majlis Ash Shura, the Executive Committee tributed to the development of four interconnected organizations, and staff of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) each representing a unique stage of human and community developjoined the rest of the Muslim community in the United ment. There are two more organizations to which he contributed, States and Canada and around the world in bidding in addition to the tremendous personal sacrifices he made during farewell to Dr. Jamal Barzinji, a humble giant who passed away on the nascent stages of the development of the MSA National and, as September 26, 2015. I have spent that week reading obituaries and noted above, in the conceptualizing and ultimately founding of ISNA. tributes to him that, as expected, acknowledged his contributions With the growth of Islamic centers and mosques around the U.S., to numerous organizations, including ISNA. it became readily apparent to Dr. Barzinji and other pioneers that What is particularly unique about a separate organization was needed to Dr. Barzinji’s contribution to ISNA is serve as a silent caretaker that would that this organization would not exist, ensure the perpetual status of these in part, without his foresight in anticihouses of worship consistent with pating the young community’s growth the endowment approach (waqf). A and increasingly complex needs — a decade after the establishment of MSA community whose development and National (then called the Muslim Stusubsequent entrenchment within the dents Association of the United States American landscape he was able to and Canada), the North American witness firsthand. Few individuals in Jamal Barzinji delivers his acceptance speech for 2008 Islamic Trust (NAIT) was set up in history have been blessed with the Community Service Award. 1973. Although he never sought leadability to harvest the labor of their sacrifices in terms of talents, ership, one of the honors bestowed upon him was to serve as a skills, and yes, financial contributions. founding director of NAIT and a member of its board of trustees. During the mid-1970s, Dr. Barzinji was a member of the StraLastly, as the population of pre-teen and teenage children of tegic Planning Committee of the Muslim Students Association Muslim immigrants started to grow, Dr. Barzinji was among the of the United States and Canada (MSA National), which laid the proponents of forming an organization dedicated to meeting their groundwork for ISNA in 1981. Generations to come will appreci- needs, one run by the youth and for the youth, with guidance from the ate the dedication and commitment he showed to ensuring that ISNA leadership. In 1985 that insight became a reality: the Muslim ISNA came into being and has stayed relevant and responsive to Youth of North America (MYNA), which continues to flourish and the community’s needs. serve hundreds of youth through vibrant and spiritually uplifting Although he had served as a president of MSA National, he never youth camps and programs — and all the while promoting the sought a leadership position within it. And yet he was among its development of a strong, civic-minded Muslim identity. staunchest supporters and most compasA reflection of the comprehensive sionate critics. Those of us who belong to nature of his strategic thinking is that MSA the ISNA leadership who sought his coun- A REFLECTION OF THE National, NAIT, ISNA and MYNA all have a sel were reminded gently, but consistently, COMPREHENSIVE NATURE working relationship until today. Dr. Barzthat just getting by, just surviving and just OF DR. BARZINJI’S inji’s contributions in terms of founding and existing as an organization was not acceptsupporting of just these four organizations able – that was simply not enough. ISNA is STRATEGIC THINKING IS is summarized in this all-too-inadequate not a convention; it is not just a magazine THAT MSA NATIONAL, NAIT, short essay because there are no words and such as the Islamic Horizons. These complex ISNA AND MYNA ALL HAVE not enough pages for any of us to ever fully bring to bear the weight of these contributimes demand a sophisticated analysis of tions of just this one man — a humble giant the social, economic, political and religious A WORKING RELATIONSHIP who has left a lasting imprint. landscape coupled with strategic thinking UNTIL TODAY. and planning to address the issues facing Altaf Husain is vice president of ISNA
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
Remembering Our Father
“Respect for humanity is the foundation of all interaction” —Jamal Barzinji THE BARZINJI FAMILY
hether in the company of dignitaries or their chauffeurs, scholars or students, waiters, artists, or small children, our father Jamal Barzinji embodied the same unfaltering grace and humble demeanor — he extended the same gentle smile and warm curiosity to each person he met. He had a unique ability to take genuine interest in anyone’s story. His pointed questions and inquisitive nature never felt intrusive and always came from a place of respect and love for fellow human beings. Above all else, his embracing nature was driven by inspiration and humility before God, and his actions were guided constantly by the example of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Given the magnitude of our father’s intellectual, institutional, charitable, humanitarian, and religious contributions, we reflect, as those who loved him dearly, on the distinguishing characteristic that allowed him to constantly strive toward doing more and accomplishing more, because in his mind there was always more to do. Even in his last days our father strove to find meaning and value and discuss with us what priorities were still critical, rather than resting in the contentment of a life well lived. Most importantly, his ambition was never borne out of a love for this world and its trappings or to seek name recognition or prestige — rather he had an eternal restlessness, bordering on obsession, to salve the ailments of the Muslim ummah and, ultimately, to glorify our Creator. The inseparability of our beloved father’s character and his life’s work is readily apparent in all of the projects he passionately forged. As he built mosques in this country and abroad, he was adamant that they not become islands that walled off the faithful from their broader communities; rather, 8
God’s houses should serve as welcoming oases with doors and services open to all. As he founded institutions for religious thought, his goal was never to maintain the status quo of unchallenged thinking, but to push the boundaries of knowledge and understanding in pursuit of Divine truths and to reject intellectual stagnation — reformation of thought in its truest sense. As he established national and international organizations, the goal was never to create exclusive and irrelevant clubs, but to create sustainable and evolving platforms to contribute meaningfully to our world. As he worked to turn around struggling businesses and factories, the welfare of the daily workers came first, bringing much needed equity and dignity to the neglected. As our father, he encouraged each of us to seek out the vulnerable and work to alleviate their suffering, even if all we could manage was a kind comment to make them smile. He pressed each of us to be hospitable and serve others in any way we could, because it is in this manner that we receive blessings and grow as human beings. Our father’s boundless compassion means that his passing is not only a loss for our family, but a loss for us all. As much as he was greatly regarded by many, his humility kept him accessible and grounded. Those who had the fortune of attending our father’s Friday sermons know that he never dwelled upon superficial ritualistic or dogmatic aspects of faith; rather, he urged us to find these practices’ deeper meanings and connect them to our daily lives. Often, he used the pulpit to impel our collective action on pressing contemporary issues. Education, health care, civil rights, racial justice, gender equality — he did not view these as political or intellectual debates, but as pivotal opportunities to create and ensure societal harmony. He reminded us constantly to speak truth to power and find
the courage to stand on principles that are universal and beyond any one person. He challenged each of us to be faithful, active learners, informed activists, and persevering peacemakers. Our father nurtured us, his seven children and their spouses, along with his grandchildren, to be critical thinkers — whether as
A Son Reflects SUHAIB ALBARZINJI
n behalf of the Barzinji family, I want to convey our heartfelt gratitude to the thousands who have touched us from all over the world with their prayers, words of support, and kind condolences. Whether one knew him for decades or merely spent a moment with him, he or she could not escape the sense of serenity and peace my father exuded. My father inspired me most not by his civic engagement or his institution building (although prolific and significant), but by his courageous capacity to be a freethinker and seeker of Truth in a world acquiescent and delirious with the mundane. I understood from him that his chosen path in life, Islam, is not a mere “religion” in
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
Jamal M. Barzinji
A Visionary, Humanitarian and Reformer 1939 – 2015
teachers, artists, advocates, healers, writers, or stewards of this Earth — to question the status quo and seek out ihsan wherever our passions drove us. He knew that any family blessed with such a diversity of talents and perspectives would inevitably face moments of hardship and passionate disagreement. Yet he never let us forget the unbreakable bond the traditional and suffocating sense (an off-the-shelf package of absolute rituals, superstitions, and beliefs), but rather a holistic way of life and an understanding of the universe based on mercy and love. In my eyes, my father’s pact with the Creator was not motivated by abstract and eventual consequences (rewards and punishments), but rather that submission to the Creator’s Will, and having indiscriminate compassion for all that exists, immediately infuses the moments of one’s life journey with beauty, awe, and tranquility. My prayers are not so much that his soul finds Peace, for it already had that, nor that the Creator grant him Mercy, for that is in the incontrovertible nature of the Creator he believed in. Rather, it is that Baba’s grace, wisdom, and serenity be the seeds that those who loved him, and his children’s children, carry ... till the end of time.
r. Jamal M. Barzinji, a founding member, trustee, and vice president for research and publications of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT; founded 1980), passed away Sept. 26, 2015, after a long bout with cancer. The Iraqi-born engineer had over fifty years of progressive experience in development and leadership of diverse organizations (business, educational, think tanks, political and charitable), such as the founding general manager of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT; 1973), president, Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc., Safa Trust, Amana Mutual Funds, SAAR Foundation (board of trustees), Bank Islam Malaysia, Nada International, and dean of School of Islamic Revealed Knowledge & Social Sciences of the International Islamic University Malaysia (1994-98). In 1959, he helped found the Muslim Student Society of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. In 1972, he served as president of the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada (now MSA-National). Barzinji was also a board member of ISNA and a member of ISNA’s Majlis Al-Shura. In addition, he was a founding member of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS) and the Association of Muslim Scientists & Engineers (AMSE) a founding board member of the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy, and an officer with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. In 1991, he contributed to founding Dar alHijrah in Falls Church, Va. Barzinji served as advisor and consultant to various educational, charitable, and professional organizations. He delivered numer-
that pulled us back together, as branches that sway in the wind but share the same firm roots. No matter how far our individual paths took us, he forever let us know that his home and his heart were ours and that both were filled with nothing but unconditional love. As was his attitude toward his family, so too was his relentlessly optimistic embrace of humanity. His genuine, soulful smile reminds us of his character and his life’s work and that the greatest honor we can do to further his legacy is to live our lives with
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
ous lectures and wrote articles on Islamic thought, banking, Islamic movements, current affairs, education, and the Islamic presence in the U.S. and Europe. After completing his BS degree, Barzinji returned to Iraq in 1962. Since military service was mandatory, he attended an officertraining college for six months that year, amid great political turmoil, counterrevolution, and a Baathist coup. He graduated from the academy with more than 1,000 other officers, but, known to the Baathist regime for his reformist work in the U.K. and Iraq, he was summarily dismissed from service. Barzinji and his close friend Hisham Altalib graduated from high school in Mosul, and in 1959 both young men moved to the United Kingdom to attend Liverpool University to study engineering. He obtained his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and fuel technology from the University of Sheffield, England (1962). He obtained a PhD in chemical engineering, with a minor in management from Louisiana State University (1974). In 2008, Barzinji was presented with ISNA’s annual Dr. Mahboob Khan Community Service Award (now the ISNA Pioneers Memorial Service Award) in recognition of his “fifty years of ... service to Islam and Muslims in the West.” Besides this, he received several lifetime service awards: the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (first Faith in Action Award; 2007), the New Dominion Political Action Committee (2011), CAIR (2012), and The All Dulles Area Muslim Society (2013). His wife Suzanne and his children Suhaib, Ghaida, Zaid, Fadwa, Firas, and Iman, as well as 13 grandchildren, survive him. His son Ali preceded him in death last year.
that same compassion, awe of beauty, and thirst for truth — all with love and seeking a deeper relationship with God. We must all, therefore, be the watchful gardeners of the many seeds he planted in this world. We say repeatedly what he taught us to have ready on our tongues and in our heart —Alhamdulillah. Praise and thanks be to God, the Sustainer and the Most Compassionate, who gave us our father as a teacher and a guide for the years he was on this Earth. Surely to God we belong, to Him is our return.
PHOTO © SHAYAN BAWANEY
MYNA CAMPS OFFER FUN AND FAITH
On Aug. 3, More than 140 youth from across North America drove, bussed or flew to the small hilly town of Tippecanoe, Ohio, for the MYNA Summer Camp. Two chartered busses brought over 40 campers from the Midwest and over 50 from Lexington, Ky. With a private waterfront, the campers swam, rode pontoon boats, canoed, kayaked and even trampolined off a water blob into the lake. The campers put their fears aside as they harnessed up and rode down Tippecanoe’s amazing Zip Line. They participated in archery and shooting at the BB range, played volleyball and basketball, and engaged in other activities. Ibrahim Eljirby, no stranger to MYNA and assisted by Bahar Gheyaszada and Dina El-Giar, ably managed the kitchen. But food and activities were not the camp’s only highlights. YMCA Camp Tippecanoe and its staff that hosted MYNA, was commemorating it 30 years of camps. The camp featured speakers who satiated the campers’ intellectual pallets: Habibe Ali, chief operations officer of ISNA, represented the organization at the Chaplains and Endorsers Meeting hosted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at its Management and Specialty Training Center in Aurora, Colo. The BOP offers regular professional chaplaincy training for its chaplains; 100 men and women have participated in it. ISNA, in its capacity as an endorser of Muslim chaplains, was invited to attend part of this weeklong training; experience some of the chaplaincy program; and 10
Ma’moon Syed, director of Alim; Habeeb Quadri, chair of MYNA and Muslim Community Center Islamic School principal; neurosurgeon Jawad Shah, a MYNA life member; Alauddin Alauddin, founder of Muslim Family Services; and a special surprise appearance by Hazem Bata, ISNA secretary general. They all delivered spiritually uplifting, socially insightful and critical developmental lectures on how the youth should view injustice, what it meant in the past and what it means today, and the role that each and every one of us should play in remedying it. The lectures spilled over into open spaces where the youth participants engaged in deep and meaningful conversations about their own personal issues and helped each other with their various life choices. The weeklong camp ended with campers saying how quickly the days had passed. There were hugs, tears, laughter, smiles and an overall bittersweet emotional umbrella that covered them as they embarked on their journeys home after having their lives changed for the better.
Habibe Ali (2nd from right) represented ISNA at the Federal Bureau of Prisons Chaplains and Endorsers meeting.
strengthen the collaboration between the program administrators, chaplains and endorsers.
Alaa Abdeldaiem, incoming MYNA executive council vice president, reports that for the second summer in a row, MYNA’s regional California camp was one to remember. Campers spent a week at the YMCA Point Bonita campsite in Sausalito, Calif., a location that allowed for oceanside reflections and hikes in the mountains to see the Golden Gate Bridge and the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean. The mostly pleasant weather was another plus, for it gave campers the chance to enjoy the outdoors whether it was playing basketball on the courts or reading in the shade. When the campers were indoors, they spent their time listening to speakers such as Zaytuna College’s dean Bilal Ansari, ING founding member Ameena Jandali, and CAIR San Francisco executive director Zahra Billoo. Speakers covered several aspects of the theme, “Injustice Anywhere is Injustice Everywhere” and engaged campers in such activities as writing a letter to their state representatives in Congress. The camp concluded with a series of beach bonfires under the starry skies. Campers sang nasheeds while enjoying S’mores, after which Fiyyaz Jaat, ISNA Youth Programming and Services Department coordinator, took them on a detailed verbal tour of Paradise. After witnessing the campers’ tears upon departure, it was no secret that the camp left many participants with lasting memories and bonds. Amanda Saab, the first hijabi to compete on MasterChef USA, talked about following one’s passions and staying firm with God in our decisions. She also judged a cupcake-decorating contest. According to Jaat, “She was a huge hit!”.
Ali said the two days she spent there were very informative and provided insight into the unique work of chaplains, which is based on compassion for the special needs of our nation’s incarcerated men and women. Some chaplains are fairly new to this work; others have dedicated decades to this special calling. The chaplains shared their experiences about the challenges and successes in their work. The chaplaincy program seeks to “Reach, Reconcile and Restore”
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
A PASSION FOR GOOD
Lexington physician Hamid Hussain Sheikh has selected ISNA to host an endowment fund honoring his mother Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh (HRSS). The program, which comprises the HRSS Islamic Studies and HRSS Journalism scholarships, as well as the HRSS Lecture, traces its roots to Hajja Razia Sheikh (1920-89), a mother of eight with a passion for helping the less fortunate. Her family has established endowments and trusts so that her legacy will live on through helping others and educating university students about Islam. Born in Lahore, she had no formal schooling and learned the Quran and Islam at home. A firm believer in education, she nevertheless made sure that all of her children were highly educated. Three became physicians. A brave woman, she did not let her disabling stroke deter her from performing Hajj. An endowment at the University of Kentucky funds the library’s HRSS Islamic Civilization books section. Funds are also
SECRETARY GENERAL EXPLAINS HATE SPEECH
disbursed through the HRSS Islamic Studies scholarship and the HRSS Lecture program. Anna Secor, professor of geography, social theory, and gender and women’s studies at the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, was appointed on April 8 as the first Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh Islamic Studies professor. Sheikh and his wife Amy Lee created the endowed professorship under their HRSS endowment. Hamid Sheikh has eleven children and four grandchildren. An endowment at Oakland University, Rochester, Mich., funds the HRSS Islamic Studies Scholarship, the HRSS Lecture, the HRSS study abroad scholarship and the library’s HRSS Islamic books section. An endowment at the University of Michigan funds the HRSS Lecture, the HRSS Islamic Studies Scholarship and the HRSS study abroad scholarship in Islamic Studies. The Columbia University endowment funds the HRSS Islamic Studies Fellowship Scholarship. Efforts are underway to establish an HRSS Lecture there. These endowments support students interested in studying Islam’s history, traditions and culture, and students who, as part of their academic program, travel to a Muslim country. The program provides funds for tuition, fees, books, room and board and travel expenses. The HRSS Charity Trust in Pakistan serves the needy and the sick. To apply, visit isna.net/scholarships. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, demonstrate financial need, and be enrolled in an Islamic studies or journalism at an accredited institution in the U.S.
ISNA secretary general Hazem Bata (center) at the festival.
individuals for “Reentry” into society. Ali remarked, “The crucial work that chaplains do is admirable and inspiring. This special group of dedicated men and women provide vital services to those in need, which also impacts their families and society at large.”
The Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership Steering Committee, of which ISNA is a member, has published two resources on faith and mental health: “Mental Health: A Guide for Faith Leaders” and its companCORRIGENDUM On Oct. 17, Sayyid M. Syeed, national director ion “Quick Reference of ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community on Mental Health Alliances, received the 2015 HCEF Faith and for Faith Leaders.” Tolerance Award from The Holy Land ChrisBoth of these can be tian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) board downloaded for free at www.psychiatry. of directors. In our Sept./Oct. 2015 issue, we org/faith. mistakenly used the short headline “Holy Land Foundation Honors Sayyid Syeed.” HCEF has These guides provide information to no relation to nor has it ever been associated help faith leaders understand more about in any way with the Holy Land Foundation. mental illness and how to help those Palestine is the Holy Land for Jews, Christians members of their congregations who are and Muslims alike. affected by these challenges.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
On Aug. 29, ISNA sponsored and participated in the annual Indianapolis Festival of Faiths hosted by the Center for Interfaith Cooperation. Indianapolis is one of few cities to host this event, which seeks to foster the humanitarian spirit by bringing people together to learn, understand and appreciate shared ideas and prayers as one human family. “There’s a lot of divisiveness today and it’s important that we build bridges through dialogue and experience to counteract the divisiveness.” ISNA Secretary General Hazem Bata stated. “The festival helps us recognize that we’re all sisters and brothers in humanity and fellow Americans. It brings us closer together in a beautiful way by celebrating our diversity. The Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Reconciliation, and Global Justice hosted two workshops: the “I am Change Youth Empowerment” and the “Leadership Workshop and Social Awareness Table Conversations.” Bata discussed hate speech, one of the eight topics on his table’s conversations, by examining the legality of four scenarios, including antiIslam bus ads. The festival’s Sacred Art Stage highlighted various prayers, music, and dances from different faith traditions and cultures. Najam Sheraz, who also performed at ISNA’s 52nd Annual Convention in Chicago, sang nasheeds and traditional folk songs with lyrics that highlight Islamic beliefs. The stage was also used to demonstrate Jewish, Pagan, and Sikh wedding traditions. Booths set up by various places of worship and nonprofit organizations presented their faith tradition’s work and educational materials. ISNA worked with a local mosque and Muslim organizations to showcase their diversity as well as to create an opportunity to strengthen intra-faith partnerships. The festival concluded with a group prayer for world peace and unity.
Calgary Islamic Schools Mainstream The Muslim Council of Calgary (MCC) and the Muslim Community Foundation of Calgary (MCFC) received Calgary’s Palliser Regional School Division’s authorization to operate both campuses of their Calgary Islamic School (CIS) as an alternative program effective September 2015. The resulting increase in the schools’ funding has allowed them to lower their tuition rates and receive more funds to expand the schools, according to MCC chairman Abduljalil Elkadri and MCFC president Mudhir Mohamed. This relationship also enhances their programs, including the core Arabic and Islamic studies. The CIS, founded in 1992 as a private school, has about 900
students in K-12 at its Akram Jomaa Campus and about 380 K-9 students at its Omar Bin Al-Khattab Campus. They now have access to Palliser’s expertise in early learning, literacy, technology integration and other supports. The school’s just-over 100 staff, 65 of whom are certificated teachers, now have access to Palliser’s professional development and collaboration programs and instructional supports. Palliser Regional Schools, a diverse studentand literacy-focused division, serves 15 community schools, eight Christian faith-based schools, alternative programs for Low Germanspeaking Mennonite students, outreach high schools, 17 Hutterite colony schools and an online school.
Canada Hosts First Official Iftar
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made Canadian history on June 22 when he hosted the first iftar at his official residence, known as 24 Sussex. Invitees included Muslim leaders and Tim Uppal, a Sikh, junior minister for multiculturalism, and Conservative Party member of the Canadian House of Commons. Other guests included Sen. Salma Ataullahjan, whom he appointed to the Senate of Canada in July 2010 and helped organize the event; three Conservative candidates for the October 19 election, namely, Abdul Abdi, Karim Jivraj and Qais Hamidi; and Samir Dossal, president of the Canada Pakistan Business Council. Harper has been criticized for not reaching out to mainstream Muslims. During this event, Harper, whose Con-
servative government’s relationship with the Muslim community has been highly unsavory, said, “This house belongs ultimately to all Canadians. And I hope all Canadians, especially our Muslim friends and neighbours, share in these blessings tonight.” Critics saw this as election-eve pandering, for Harper has extremely high Islamophobic credentials. Andrew Mitrovica (iPloitics, Jun 26, 2015) reminded the public that Harper had blocked Heal100 Kids, to which physicians, nurses, governments, businesses, unions and countless other Canadians had vowed to lend their time, money and services to help, largely for free, the children in Gaza who have been mercilessly brutalized by the Israeli occupation.
Islamic Relief USA gave a grant to support the Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) Foundation for the university’s physical therapy clinic at the Community Care Center of Winston-Salem (CCC). The $24,500 grant will enable WSSU’s Department of Physical Therapy to expand its services and hours and to purchase supplies and equipment for the clinic. It will also allow WSSU’s Department of Occupational Therapy to purchase the supplies needed to establish an occupational therapy clinic at the CCC. In 2009, WSSU’s School of Physical Therapy established the free clinic at this center — one of North Carolina’s only two free university physical therapy clinics. The CCC, which serves the medically uninsured and underserved residents of Forsyth, Stokes and Davie counties, is the state’s largest free medical clinic. It has over 17,000 patient visits annually. Director Jim Robinson said that “we are thrilled to count Islamic Relief USA as a partner in this important work.” Derrick Lea, U.S. programs director for Islamic Relief, USA, added, “We rely on compassionate medical professionals and partners like WSSU, who so eagerly share their talents and skills to serve our patients.” He emphasized the importance of funding this project to serve the community.
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Pervez Nasim, chairman of the Ansar Financial and Development Corporation (center), and Scarborough community members at the presentation.
Contract signing at General Presidency of the Haramain, Makkah. Left to Right: Saeed Algarni; Waleed Alsagabi, head, Traslation Department; Mohamed Salahuddin; Shaikh alSudais; and Muhammad al-Khuzayem, vice president, General Presidency of the Haramain.
Floridan Creates Simultaneous Translation Equipment for Mecca and Madina Mosques NAZTEC-USA president & CEO Mohamed Salahuddin, like 70 percent of all pilgrims, could not fully understand the Arabic-language Friday sermon at the Masjid al-Haram and Masjid al-Nabawi during his first umrah four years ago. He therefore decided, and went on to develop and install, the first-of-its-kind digital simultaneous live translation system at both mosques. The West Palm Beach, Fla.-based engineer, scientist and entrepreneur, along with his team, spent three years creating the system. The design involves complex and critical unique innovations that enable the simultaneous translation of the Friday sermon into 35 languages. Last year, Salahuddin’s dream was realized when he met with Shaikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais president and Grand Imam of Masjid al-Haram and Masjid al-Nabawi, who approved the project. Translation departments have been created at both mosques. Phase-1 offers six 6 languages: English, Urdu, French, Turkish, Malay and Hausa. Phase-2 will add additional channels. The ultimate goal is to install the 35-language system in both mosques and then expand it to tafseer of the Qur’an during Ramadan, important announcements during hajj, Ramadan, Fridays and at other times. People can hear the translation through an earpiece connected to their smartphones or with the special devices distributed on-site. This device covers both mosques and has a radius of over 30 kilometers around both mosques, making it possible to tune in to the channels from any of the hotels or cars. For the immediate future, at least 4 or 5 specific technologies have been proposed: high quality FM broadcast, digital wi-fi, satellite, the Web and a custom-made digital transmission that will be received with exclusive portable and miniature receivers. “We started the installation at Masjid al-Haram in Makkah with too many technical and administrative challenges at the holy site. A brand new sophisticated control room was designed and created in a record time at the first level above King Fahad Gate of al-Haram. A technically marvelous antenna system was erected at both minarets above the King Fahad Gate,” says Salahuddin. “We [also] invented a new antenna system for installation on the tall minarets of the Masjid al-Haram.” Salahuddin said visitors using portable FM radios or smartphones with FM radio capability can tune into the desired frequencies. The Makkah Khutbah Translation Channel Frequency is as follows: English 100.00, Urdu 90.20, Malay 90.50, Turkish 95.00, Hausa 95.20 and French 99.50. The Madinah Khutbah Translation Channel Frequency is as follows: English 105.50, Urdu 105.00, Malay 99.00, Turkish 107.00, Hausa 107.20 and French 99.50.
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On Aug. 12, the Scarborough Muslim Community presented five new vital signs monitors to Rouge Valley Centenary hospital in Toronto, Ontario — equipment purchased with funds donated by the community as well as individuals. The donors’ names are mentioned on the plaque. The group’s third annual Family Day Walkathon, a fundraising event held in February, was a great success despite the last-minute venue change due to the weather. The community worked together with Save Family Values to organize this annual event, which brings young and old people together to walk and enjoy family time while supporting a favorite community cause. The Islamic Institute of Toronto and the Ansar Financial and Development Corporation then presented Can. $5,000 each.
Islamic Medical Association of North America Elects New President Troy, Mi. anesthesiologist Asif M. Malik from was elected the 47th president of the Islamic Medical Association of North America. The Detroit born Malik, a lifetime IMANA member, who practices pediatric anesthesiology with Henry Ford Health System, is an active community leader at the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit. Malik volunteers annually in IMANA Medical Relief ’s (IMR) missions. He envisions that the Muslim American health care community will expand on the prior achievements in developing charitable clinics and healthcare networks in the United States. IMANA provides medical education, volunteer medical relief services, and mentoring to medical practitioners, dentists, health professionals, residents, students and medical ethics guidance.
COMMUNITY MATTERS Sadiq Mohyuddin, chairman of the World Affairs Council of St. Louis, has supported a charitable clinic that he established in 1994 in Pakistan.
Abdallah S. Kamel
On Sept 18, Yale University President Peter Salovey and Yale Law School Dean Robert C. Post announced a $10 million gift to create the Abdallah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization at Yale Law School. The donor, Abdallah S. Kamel, is chief executive of the Dallah Albaraka Group, LLC, a banking and real estate enterprise based in Saudi Arabia. President Salovey said that the Center “will enhance research opportunities for our students and other scholars and enable us to disseminate knowledge and insights for the benefit of scholars and leaders all over the world.” The center will bring prominent scholars of Islam to the Yale campus for public lectures, seminar discussions, visiting fellowships and visiting professorships. It will also attract students from the university’s law and other schools to its lectures and offer opportunities for collaboration. This gift stems from an earlier gift to support the Dallah Albaraka Lectures on Islamic Law & Civilization at Yale Law School. On June 6, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner issued a proclamation to honor the services and dedication of physicians Sadiq Mohyuddin, Yusuf Mohyuddin and Talat Gul. The Mohyuddin Endowment Fund will enhance health care for the people of Illinois and Missouri. The 99th General Assembly of the Illinois House of Representatives recognized, through a resolution offered by state Rep. Daniel Beiser, the establishment of the Mohyuddin Pulmonary Laboratory at St. Clair Hospital, Alton, Ill., and the Mohyuddin Endowment Fund at St. Anthony Medical Center, St. Louis, Mo. Their purpose is to support the awareness and prevention of pulmonary disease in both states. On June 15, the 114th Congress of the U.S. House of Representatives recognized them for their service to the people of Illinois and Missouri. 14
On Sept. 15, Hisham Yayha Altalib, coauthor of “Parent-Child Relations: A Guide to Raising Children” (International Institute of Islamic Thought: 2013), talked about his book at Hartford Seminary. Altalib’s website describes the book as follows: “All parents can benefit from this extensive guide to the fundamentals of parenting and child development. The series, based on extensive research and scholarship and founded in Islamic principles, is motivated by a drive for intellectual and moral regeneration of the Muslim mind and psyche through education. It takes the frustration out of parenting and offers strategies and techniques for teaching children how to problem-solve, make decisions, and develop self-esteem.” He is co-founder and finance director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought.
On Aug. 4, the Lincoln Times-News reported that Lincoln County commissioners voted to end religious invocations before their meetings after Chairman Carrol Mitchem walked out when Duston Barto, editor of the Charlotte, North Carolinabased magazine Muslim American, recited the opening chapter of the Quran on Aug.
3. They will now open with a moment of silence instead. Mitchem, who had said in earlier interviews that only Christian prayers would be welcome at his meetings, told WBTV that “I ain’t gonna have no new religion or pray to Allah or nothing like that.” He further said that anyone opposed to Christian prayer can “wait until we’re done praying.” Barto was the first non-Christian to ever open a board of commissioners meeting. Shortly after the board adopted its allinclusive prayer policy on May 18, faith groups formed the Foothills Interfaith Assembly, which allows invocations to be delivered by a county religious leader or “appointee of any assembly that periodically and regularly meets (within) the County for the purpose of worshiping or discussing their religious perspectives.” Barto was the first speaker. Originally, speakers were allowed to deliver up to four invocations per year (non-consecutively) on a rotating basis. Basim Elkarra, executive director of the CAIR-Sacramento Valley Chapter, was honored by the community media nonprofit Access Sacramento with its third annual “Power of Voice” (POV) award for his “outspoken support and leadership in the area of free speech, tolerance and civil liberties.” While presenting the award, JoAnn Fuller, chair of Access Sacramento’s board of directors, stated, “As a visionary leader in our community, Basim Elkarra helped encourage and spread the opportunity for reasoned thought and the power of our community voice. … Elkarra helps us interpret that information and challenges us to strive for understanding and an informed perspective on the intercultural misunderstandings in our world today,” she said.
Flanked by Access Sacramento executive director Gary Martin and board of directors chair JoAnn Fuller, Basim Elkarra holds his “Power of Voice” award. (STAFF PHOTO PHIL PASQUINI)
Citing his many accomplishments over the decade — including sponsoring infor-
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mational rallies and a Muslim Youth Leadership program at the state Capitol, coordinating other American Islamic events, creating a job and career fair at Sacramento State University, working for the Los Rios Community College District Bond Oversight Committee and the California Democratic Party’s Affirmative Action Committee — Fuller said, “All of these things speak to his dedication to empowering the many voices in our community. And we thank him for his voice and for helping others share theirs.” Former California Assembly member Mariko Yamada also lauded Basim’s service to community members. Elkarra emphasized that the struggle for civil liberties, as well as the protection of constitutional rights, workers’ rights, and immigration reform, continues. “CAIR can only do this work because of its partners,” he asserted, “and Access Sacramento has been an amazing partner by sharing with others what we are doing.”
On Aug. 20, the Cincinnati Employment Lawyers Association (CELA) presented the Cincinnati chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIRCincinnati) with its 2014 “Outstanding Case of the Year Award” by for its work on a civil rights employment case during 2013-14. Founded in 1984, CELA is an affiliate of the Ohio Employment Lawyers Association. This particular case involved 23 Muslim workers who were fired from the DHL Global Mail facility in Hebron, Ky., for seeking their religious rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — they were insisting on flexible break times so they could pray on time. CAIRCincinnati won the case. Former CAIR-Cincinnati staff attorney Booker Washington, the attorney on the case, was unable to receive the award; CAIR-Cincinnati staff attorney Sana Hassan accepted it on the organization’s behalf.
The Muslim Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, a Sunni mosque and community center, has operated for years in Monroeville and has good relations with its neighbors.
On Sept. 9, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced that Abdulrahman M. El-Sayed, a 30-year-old graduate of Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, had been appointed the new executive director of Detroit Department of Health & Wellness Promotion. El-Sayed, a Michigan native who studied at the University of Michigan, is a Rhodes Scholar and internationally recognized expert in the social determinants of health, health disparities, preterm birth and infant mortality, and obesity. His responsibilities include overseeing the department and other health-related issues, as well as restructuring the department, its programs and public health services. City health care services returned to the Detroit health department last fall, two years after the department was dismantled amid complaints that it was bogged down in bureaucracy. Before returning to Detroit, El-Sayed was a professor at Columbia’s Department of Epidemiology and director of the Columbia University Systems Science Program and Global Research Analytics for Population Health. At Columbia, he managed a team of more than 20 researchers with a research budget of more than $1.2 million. Its funding came from the federal government, the Rockefeller Foundation, and other sources. The Monroeville (Penn.) City Council’s 7-0 vote on Aug. 12 to approve the Imamia Organization of Pittsburgh’s request to build a mosque, was quick, quiet and unanimous, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Monroeville already has a diverse array of houses of worship that rivals any Pittsburgh suburb. The future 8,419-square-foot center, which can accommodate up to 90 people, is located within blocks of a Lutheran, a Presbyterian and a Catholic church. An estimated 1,000 to 2,000 Muslims live in the Monroeville area, and many have been there for years.
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Valedictorians/salutatorians from the six Charles County high schools: Salma Ansari (top right) and Laila Abujuma (bottom right).
Two Muslims led their 2015 class, graduating first and second in a class of 503 at North Point High School (NPHS) in Waldorf, Md. — a first in the school’s and the county’s history. Salma, daughter of the Pentagon’s Muslim Lay-leader Zadil and Hanaa Ansari, was the valedictorian; Laila Abujuma, daughter of Nabil and Fatima Abujuma, was the salutatorian. Both women, also close friends who received numerous college and university scholarship offers, are continuing their STEMrelated studies at the University of MarylandCollege Park on full four-year scholarships. Starting this fall, Hartford Seminary’s new faculty members include Sayed Ammar Nakhjavani as a faculty associate in Shi’a Studies and Dialogue among Islamic Legal Schools. He has a Ph.D. in Islamic studies from Exeter University. In 2014, Nakhjavani was included on the list of “The 500 Most Influential Muslims” (also known as “The Muslim 500,” an annual publication first published in 2009) in the Preachers and Spiritual Guides section. Prior to joining Hartford, he served as the visiting scholar of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge in England. On Aug. 24, the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships announced the appointment of the 2015-16 class of White House Fellows. The Fellows, who come from diverse backgrounds and varied professions and have a strong commitment to public service and leadership, include Teeb Al-Samarrai and Shereef Elnahal. Al-Samarrai, an Oakland, Calif., physician and epidemiologist, has served as deputy health officer and tuberculosis controller at the Santa Clara County Public 15
COMMUNITY MATTERS Health Department. Her work has focused on immigrant and refugee health issues, particularly tuberculosis and hepatitis B. Elnahal, who lives Baltimore, Md., and is taking a leave from residency in radiation oncology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, has authored over a dozen publications on health care quality, operations management, and patient safety. Winner of the 2015 National Quality Scholar Award from the American College of Medical Quality, he co-developed a published methodology that doubled clinic efficiency at The Johns Hopkins Pancreatic Multidisciplinary Clinic by halving patient wait times. The White House Fellows program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson to give promising American leaders “first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.” The Fellows participate in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation and current affairs. Community service is another essential element of the program, and Fellows participate in service projects throughout their year in Washington, D.C.
On Aug. 18, the Atlantic City-based Muslim Community Organization of South Jersey (MCOSJ) converted a former public school into the area’s first Islamic academy, reported the Press of Atlantic City. From 2000 to 2010, Atlantic County’s Muslim population grew by nearly 164 per16
On Sept. 1, Orlando International Airport inaugurated a $250,000 prayer room for Muslims just in time for Emirates’ inaugural flight. The room features an ablution area, carry-on luggage bins and shoe racks, as well as directional signs for Mecca. Airport director Phil Brown told the Orlando Sentinel, “Orlando is truly becoming a global community, and we want to be able to accommodate and provide highquality amenities for all our passengers.” Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, said the room will be open to people of all faiths and that a reflection room shows that Orlando is truly an international destination. Orlando International also intends to build another chapel and place in the main terminal, which can be reached without going through security. Janesville, Wisc.’s first mosque, the Muslim Dawa Circle, formally opened on Friday, Aug. 28, reported the Gazette Extra. Founder Salih Erschen, who hosted an open house, told the newspaper, “If they [people of other faiths] don’t know about the faith [Islam] and the practice and the ideas and what Muslims are focused on in life, then that causes a bit a fear, … so I always encourage Muslims to open their doors and invite people in and talk about what our faith is and share. That’s been my approach … to try and be more and more open about it.” Erschen’s son-in-law Ibraham Jitmoud led the maghrib prayer. Erschen, 43, a Catholic who grew up in southwestern Wisconsin, embraced Islam when he was 21. The father of six works as chief of Deer Grove Emergency Medical Services.
The state of Illinois, responding to complaints from Muslim and Sikh groups, has told its Department of Motor Vehicle employees that “articles of faith” are legally permissible and that anyone wearing a religious head covering does not have to remove it for a driver’s license or photo ID. The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which brought up the issue last year, also consulted with the Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations and learned that Muslim women were facing the same issue. Muslims became the state’s fastest growing and third-largest group in 2012, the Chicago Tribune reports. The International Business Times reports 500,000 Sikhs live in the United States.
COPYRIGHT UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE
ISNA, a longtime charter partner of the Boy Scouts of America and supporter of scouting and character development programs for Muslim youth, announced the first-ever “Muslim Scouts Jamboree.” This historic jamboree, organized by the Islamic Council on Scouting and National Islamic Committee on Scouting of the Boy Scouts of America (www.islamicscouting.com), will be held at Camp Minsi, Poconos, Penn., from July 31 to Aug. 6, 2016. All Muslim scouts, troops and venturing crews are encouraged to participate in this historic event.
cent, from 3,782 people to almost 10,000, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives. The new academy’s curriculum is similar to that of area parochial schools. Its students learn Islamic studies and the Quran, said MCOSJ secretary general Muhammad Ayub. The new school has about 40 students in kindergarten through the fourth grade. Grades will be added as needed. This same growth has made MCOSJ’s Masjid al-Taqwa too small for the community. Plans for the new site include building a new mosque. MCOSJ, which expects 4,000 to 5,000 people to attend the Eid prayers, purchased the 12-acre parcel in 2010. The property included the school and a community center.
The Champ Muhammad Ali received University of Louisville’s H. Charles Grawemeyer Spirit Award for his role in inspiring others on Sept. 17. School President James Ramsey presented Ali the medal and draped it around his shoulders. The 73-year-old former heavyweight boxing champion was in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., to receive an award from the University. Ali, who is battling Parkinson's disease, stayed seated but raised his right hand briefly to acknowledge the crowd, which chanted his name. Alumnus and internationally recognized news personality Howard Fineman, global editorial director of the Huffington Post, speaking at the event, said, “I'm here to testify to the fact that the man we honor today
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How Permissible is Zabiha Ahle-Kitab? Researchers at Chapman University’s Food Science Program in Orange, Calif., have published two studies in the journal Food Control (Volume 59, January 2016, Pages 158–163) on meat mislabeling in consumer commercial products. They discovered that 20 percent of all ground meat sold in the U.S. contains more than what is on the label. This international journal provides essential information for those involved in food safety and process control. One study identified the animals found in ground meat products; the other one focused on game meat species labeling. The first study, which analyzed 48 samples, found that 10 were mislabeled. Of those 10, nine had additional animals included and one sample was completely mislabeled. Horse meat, which is illegal to sell in the US, was detected in two of the samples. A more worrying trend observed in the study suggests the possibility of lower-cost meat being intentionally mixed in with higher-cost meat to make a larger profit. “Although extensive meat species testing has been carried out in Europe in light of the 2013 horse meat scandal, there has been limited research carried out on this topic in the United States,” said co-author Dr. Rosalee Hellberg, an assistant professor in the Food Science Program at Chapman. “To our knowledge, the most recent U.S. meat survey was published in 1995.” The researchers collected and tested a total of 48 fresh and frozen ground meat products representing a variety of animals.
is not only a world figure of tremendous import and positive impact - but somebody who represents the spirit of all mankind.” Ali's wife, Lonnie, announced that half of the $100,000 award money will be used to create a scholarship for a student to attend the University of Louisville. The other half will go to the Ali Center, a museum in Louisville that opened in 2005, to "empower" young people to find their voice in social justice issues. On Sept. 1, the Los Angeles magazine named Edina Lekovic, director of policy and programming at the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, one of “ten leaders who make L.A. a better place.” “We applaud the magazine’s selection of Edina Lekovic as one of the city’s top leaders and game changers and congratulate her for the tireless work she performs on behalf of the city and the Muslim community,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. Rabiah Ahmed has joined the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). as its new media and communications director. Prior to joining MPAC, she founded Mirza PR, a public relations and event management firm that specializes in strategic communication for the Muslim American community.
Recently Ahmed, who works out of MPAC’s Washington, D.C., helped launch “My Faith My Voice,” a grassroots effort by Muslim Americans looking to voice their stances on issues affecting Muslims and Islam in America through social media.
25,000 Meals Packaged During NABIC Annual Convention
The North American Bangladeshi Islamic Community (NABIC) and the Jamaica Muslim Center (JMC) organized a meal-packaging event in collaboration with “Stop Hunger Now.” This event, held on Aug. 14 as part of the kick-off of NABIC’s 25th annual convention, was co-sponsored by ISNA and Islamic Relief, USA. A total of 285,120 meals, packaged by hand as part of the international relief effort, were shipped to Haiti for distribution among the schools on the Haitian island of La Gonave. They will go to 1,700 children
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in one of the Western Hemisphere’s most remote and underserved areas, an area so remote that it has no electricity and its road infrastructure resembles dry riverbeds. Most children have no health care providers and go to school hungry every morning. Providing them with a hot, nutritious meal each school day will improve their academic achievement and general health conditions.
52 ND ANNUAL ISNA CONVENTION
THE AMERICAN MU Chicago opens its heart as ISNA Convention returns to the city. BY CONVENTION REPORTERS COMMITTEE*
hicago once again opened its heart to the more than 20,000 people who attended this year’s ISNA convention. “This is a convention by Muslims, but it is for everyone. This is not just a Muslim event. This is an American event,” proclaimed ISNA secretary-general Hazem Bata. ISNA president Azhar Azeez remarked that the “Stories of Resilience: Strengthening the American Muslim Narrative” theme was important because telling our stories can help explain to others who we really are. The 239 speakers, one-third of whom were women, participated in wide-ranging panels and workshops. Chicagoans Asra Ali, Mir Khan, Husna Ghani and Alaa Fahmy led the volunteers, registration and other support activities. Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) chairman Mohammed Kaiseruddin noted, “There was no stage — and there were many — at which ISNA leadership did not specifically express appreciation for CIOGC’s help and partnership.” The popular Saturday night “Let’s Change the Conversation,” attended by some 8,000 people, featured Suhaib Webb, Yasir Qadhi, Omar Suleiman and Nouman Ali Khan. Suleiman stressed that everyone must help resolve community issues. Qadhi asserted that Islamophobia exists and must be acknowledged, but not to the exclusion of other human rights issues. Khan expounded on Prophet Ibrahim’s connection to the Five Pillars and reminded the audience that “ISNA is not perfect, but at least it’s doing something.”
CIVIL RIGHTS Tahera Ahmad, director of Interfaith Engagement and associate chaplain at Northwestern University, addressed the panel “How Do You Represent?” She explained how being a high school hijabi was hard, but that “having skills on the basketball court helped,” for her peers could see the varsity basketball player beyond her attire. She related that after she 18
floored a boy who pulled off her hijab, she began acquiring Islamic knowledge. ISNA vice president Altaf Hussain remarked, “This is the best time to be a Muslim. Islam is getting more media coverage than ever before. We need to learn about our faith so that we can represent our faith in the best possible way.”
on the “Crisis of Nonprofit Governance” and how to ensure security and efficiency. Panelists encouraged Muslims to build relationships with law enforcement and the media.
COMMUNITIES MATTER “The Community Faith Leaders” session, comprising Farha Abbasi, Reham Gassas, Imam Hassan Lachheb and Imam Mohamed Magid Ali, sought to develop skills and prac-
ISNA president Azhar Azeez
tices to encourage sound mental health and decrease compassion fatigue and burnout. They agreed that stigma and shame prevent many affected Muslims from seeking help. In the post-9/11 climate, Islamic nonprofits and organizations fear for the safety of those involved. Zulfat Suara, president of Advance Business Consultants, Rebecca Lenn, Media Matters, and Tahirah Clark, legal counsel of Muslims of America, Inc., spoke
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Linda Sarsour and Maymunna Syed explored “Parallels of Islam and the American Labor Movement.” Ellison asserted that the labor movement affects many Muslim workers and protects their right to prayer, fast Ramadan and wear hijab. Sarsour, who was on the committee that helped get New York City’s public schools to recognize both Eids as public holidays, discussed the importance of including the labor unions when fighting for change. She remarked, “Make a difference in your community and get the support you need from local chapters.” Holly Garza, a Mexican American convert who outlined the issues facing Chicago’s Latino Muslims, mentioned, “I know four Muslims who have stopped practicing in the last two years because nobody talks to them (at the masjid) and they don’t feel there’s a point.” Muslims need to welcome everyone, and Latino Muslims need to be more vis-
THERE WAS NO STAGE — AND THERE WERE MANY — AT WHICH ISNA LEADERSHIP DID NOT SPECIFICALLY EXPRESS APPRECIATION FOR CIOGC’S HELP AND PARTNERSHIP.” —Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) chairman Mohammed Kaiseruddin
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USLIM NARRATIVE ible in the community. She advised converts to “keep the good parts of the culture” and realize that becoming a Muslim is a process. South Asian Saleem Siddiqui, who has been married to his Puerto Rican Muslim wife Janelle Scheron for 12 years, asserted, “We Desis need to stop the Desi privilege and appreciate that Latino Muslims practice Islam better than we do. Please let us know where we need to improve.”
MAKING PARADISE IN OUR HOMES Mohammad Bashir, a leading expert and coauthor of bestselling books on Islamic family and parenting, stated that a good marital relationship is key to domestic tranquility. This can be achieved by mutual patience, open communication and sensitivity to one’s spouse. Shaykha Anse Tamara Gray, the founder of Rabata, reminded attendees that the parents’ ultimate goal is to “get to Paradise with our righteous children by our side.”
Fahmi Islam Jones, who converted in prison, remarked that the Muslim community didn’t welcome him when he was released. Khaled Beydoun, assistant professor of law, said, “We need more Muslim lawyers and Muslim institutions to see this as a Muslim issue.” He credited the Nation of Islam with obtaining many of the religious rights Muslim inmates enjoy today.
ISNA vice president Altaf Husain
Racism Collaborative asked why people are suffering, what their needs are, and how to improve their lives. Recalling the Civil Rights era, Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the InnerCity Muslims Action Network, said that the constant doing of small things leads to success in big things. Sharing personal accounts on racism and speaking on behalf of African Americans, both he and Bambade ShakoorAbdullah, executive director of Leadership Development Institute and her husband, discussed the legacies of civil rights Muslim leaders such as Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, and the Nation of Islam. The group’s medical director, Altaf Kaiseruddin, explained how his group chose community service to get to know and then empower people.
MUSLIM AMERICANS AND THE NEW JIM CROW ISNA secretary general Hazem Bata
ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS This new initiative featured six discussions. “Building a Diverse Community” featured Naazish YarKhan and Ahlam Mahmood, both representing ICNA Relief, and Shaykha Gray and Hazel Gomez, a community activist. YarKhan discussed how people can help in this undertaking Ahmed Minhaj, Haroon Ullah, Muna Jondy, moderator Parvez Ahmed and an engaged audience delved into how much we should be involved with overseas political unrest and our present/future involvement with Syria and Palestine. Each speaker drew on his/her background to explain how social injustice affects the community. Namira Islam, co-founder and executive director of the Muslim Anti-
Imam Jihad Saafir, leader of Los Angeles’ Masjid Ibaadillah, was among those who spoke on why policing and the criminal justice system matter. “It is,” he declared, “a problem when you have Jim Crow occurring right here in the Muslim community.” He encouraged mosque leaders to start reentry programs by employing ex-felons, for “we’re tired of the school-to-prison pipeline … (Muslims) are about 5 percent of the country’s population, but 25 percent of the prison population.” “Black men and women killed by law enforcement is a problem,” said Margari Hill. “African Americans represent one million of the 2.3 million people in the prisons. African Americans are 12 percent of the population, yet represent 30 percent of drug arrests. Muslim women in prison are one of the most underserved in the country.”
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
YOUNG MUSLIMS During “Challenges of the American Muslim Youth,” Habeeb Quadri, principal of the MCC Full Time School, presented some facts from the Hilliard, Ohio-based Family Youth Institute: “One in two Muslim college students drink alcohol. One in two Muslim college students are sexually active, and one in four Muslim college students use drugs.” Sameera Ahmed, director of Family Youth Institute, urged parents to communicate with their children. Fiyyaz Jaat, coordinator, ISNA Youth Programming and Services Department, remarked that MYNA camps and adult role models can be very helpful in this regard. Spending time with one’s children and getting to know their friends, interests and habits is more critical than ever. In the “Food for Thought” MYNA session, psychiatrist and MYNA national advisor Omar Mahmood wondered why Muslims stigmatize mental disorders. Instead of blaming “weak iman,” he stressed the importance of legitimizing psychological illnesses. Educators Sufia Azmat, Necva Ozgur, Abdalla Idris Ali and Habeeb Quadri discussed “Islamic Schools: Excellence Through Accreditation and Best Practices.” Quadri pointed out that what children do during and after school is vital to their development. Ozgur agreed that Islamic schools are “part of the solution” and provide a foundation for positive peer pressure and increased Islamic knowledge. Azmat and Ali discussed the accreditation process.
ENHANCING RESILIENCY IN CHILDREN Syed Arshad Husain, professor emeritus of psychiatry and child health, mentioned that “some say that my experience during that 19
52 ND ANNUAL ISNA CONVENTION time [1947 India-Pakistan Partition] is the reason why I have spent my life working in war zones and disaster areas.” He emphasized that many children do manage to overcome adverse childhood experiences.
someone else.” Hasan said, “The way you change people’s mindset is … by building relations … to win battle against Islamophobes and bigotry.” Vali added, “We need our imams to come out of the masjid and experience interfaith to increase dialogue towards Muslims.”
RELIGION, DIPLOMACY AND DEVELOPMENT
Yasir Qadhi, Salam Al-Marayati, Chris Abdur-Rahman Blauvelt, Alejandro Buetel and Anisha Patel, members of the “Proactive Measures: Protecting Youth from Online Recruitment for Political Violence,” discussed the recruitment of Muslim youth through social media and how to avoid FBI entrapment tactics. The Girl Scouts of the USA hosted the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) for the sisters’ session, during which they coded a robot to move an ambulance across a platform and gained some self-confidence. “I worked with Girl Scouts, [an organization that] has always been interested in ensuring that we have girls of courage and confidence to make a difference in the world,” said Chief Strategy and Finance Executive Sofia Qureshi.
MUSLIMS IN THE MEDIA Mariam Sobh, Mehdi Hasan, Wajahat Ali, Yusuf Vali and Dalia Fahmy participated in “Changing the Media’s Narrative on Muslims.” Hasan said, “I blame my industry, the journalists, for not holding politicians accountable for their comments against Muslims. … The media industry lets their comments about Muslims slide.” Ali remarked, “If you are not writing your story, your story is being written by
Senior U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development officials also participated. David N. Saperstein, ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department said the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, prosecutes hate crimes and advises communities on constructing places of worship and other projects. Eric W. Treene, special counsel for Religious Discrimination Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, said, “We have the legal tools in the government agency to help advance religious rights and put those principles into practice.” Rashad Hussain, Special Envoy and Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications for U.S. Department of State, noted that, “We engage with Muslim communities around the world, with government and non-governmental organizations on projects where they take the lead in coming up with alternatives for young people.” Arsalan Suleman, Acting U.S. Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) stated, “We work on building positive alternatives to help build peace in society.” Saperstein concluded by outlining how ISNA and the Union for Reform Judaism cooperated to create a mosque-synagogue dialogue. Panel members encouraged civil society interfaith initiatives.
AMERICA’S FIRST ACCREDITED UNDERGRADUATE MUSLIM COLLEGE Berkeley’s Zaytuna College was well represented by co-founders Imam Zaid Shakir and Hatem Bazian, dean of faculty Mahan Mirza and dean of students Colleen Keyes. According to Mirza, “They [the accreditors] want to see how clear we are in our mission, effective in education and programs, transparency in governance and processes and that we are constantly improving.”
MOSQUES Mehdi Hasan speaking
MSA-National and MUHSEN (Muslims Understanding & Helping Special Education
Needs) jointly hosted the panel on promoting and building inclusive and welcoming mosques. The main point was that it’s time to build facilities that better address the needs of women and children, the sick, the elderly and disabled, minorities, and converts. “Our grandparents and parents lived in this country in a much simpler time,” said MUHSEN executive director Joohi Tahir. “Never did we really take the time to look into our own community issues. Our focus was all about how we could live, function, and thrive within this country while maintaining our Islamic principles.”
MUHSEN’s founder Omar Suleiman stated that MSA-National has been working to involve more Muslims in disability causes. Mufti Hussain Kamani said the Prophet sought to unite people and combat his contemporaries’ pervasive racism. Many people name their mosques after his wives and prominent Companions, yet how many have women or blacks on their boards, he asked. ISNA’s Inclusive Masjid Campaign: Side Entrance founder Hind Makki, Sami Catovic, Imam Muhammad Musri, and Abdul Malik Mujahid agreed that it’s time to prioritize women’s equality, generational relevance and community service. Makki maintained that American-born Muslims are being pushed out by cultural and immigrant priorities, although “no one was turned away from the Prophet’s mosque during his time.” Catovic emphasized the need to “focus on building human beings” rather than expensive physical structures. Imam Musri called upon imams to find a way to effectively and realistically address Muslim American concerns. Makki introduced ISNA’s Inclusive Masjid Campaign, which focuses on inclusion of women in the masjid. Architects Irfan Rydhan, Christopher McCoy, Saaema Alavi and Rahim Akbar spoke on “Avoiding Common Mistakes for Mosque Projects.” They gave practical tips
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
regarding project organization, finances, and project scope and design; reinforced the importance of obtaining three cost estimates, permits and having good relations with neighbors and city officials; and urged the creation of “all inclusive spaces” that treat everyone with “courtesy, harmony, and respect.” Women in Islam hosted an interactive workshop on “Building Women’s Spiritual Resilience in Mosque Spaces.” Attendees sat in three large circles and were asked to answer, “Where do you worship on a daily basis? Tell a story about a time that going to a mosque challenged or supported youth faith.” As more women shared their experiences, it became clear that once they became mothers the mosques became less welcoming. Khalid Bhatti said that “on many occasions it’s the women who do not support change for women.” This session was an eye opener on the need for women to learn what fiqh and the Sunnah say about women in mosques and Muslimah solidarity.
Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X
FINDING ISLAM: STORIES OF CONVERTS Born Muslims need to realize that conversion is a process based on discovering a new identity. For Edgar Hopida, a Filipino American convert and director of communications at ISNA, fitting in is difficult for converts and thus they need support, which is sometimes hard to come by. This is especially true when friends and family see this as a phase and do not take them seriously. One difficulty faced mainly by new Muslimahs is their supposed “need” to get married as quickly as possible. This patronizing attitude is usually a very negative experience. Calara Hardin and Ingrid Mattson, both converts, spoke on the ensuing difficult and embarrassing situations. Hardin also mentioned how new Muslims are confronted with unrealistic societal ideals of what a “good” Muslim should be,
an attitude that often leads to negative feelings and maybe “convert burn out.” Born Muslims seem to forget the Quran was revealed over a 23-year period for a reason: No one can become Muslim overnight.
THE GREEN MASJID PROJECT
TOP AWARD: (L-R) Hazem Bata, Alim Khandekar, Azhar
Colin Christopher, executive Azeez, Yaqub Mirza, Tanvir Mirza, and Altaf Husain director of Green Muslims, urged attendees to learn how they can help napolis and devoted majority of his time or prevent further environmental damage. for three decades as a legal counsel to the Imam Saffet Abid Catovic noted, “We’re part above mentioned organizations, and affiliof the Earth, and the Earth will always be ates. His services included rendering legal part of us.” Huda Alkaff, founder and direc- advice, preparing organizational documents, tor of the Islamic Environmental Group of formulating leases and trusts for transfer of Wisconsin (Wisconsin Green Muslims), assets of many organizations in trust to NAIT asked Muslims to get “involved in your for protection from community disputes local Muslim community and implement and judgments, developed Islamic wills one environmental issue at a time.” and trusts, obtaining zoning of ISNA headThe “Islamic Concept of Insurance” and quarters, helped in defending litigation, and “Faith-Based Entrepreneurship” featured assisted in incorporation and registration open discussions led by Pervez Nasim and of the first Amana Mutual Fund in North M. Yaqub Mirza. Nasim discussed takaful America. His contribution has been vital is and how Muslims can participate in its to growth and success of the organizations. system and Mirza spoke on how to commit to a goal and design a plan to manage an REACHING OUT Islamic business. Amany Killawi, Haaris Ahmad, Sultan Shar rief, Alex Kronemer spoke on “Storytelling RECOGNITION to Connect Generations and Communities.” M. Yaqub Mirza received the ISNA Pio- Kronemer, a filmmaker and co-founder at neers Memorial Service Award (formerly UPF, believes that Muslims must share the Mahboob Khan Service Award) at the their own stories because information Community Service Recognition Luncheon. conveyed through emotion can be a powThis co-founder of Amana Mutual Funds erful change agent. Killawi, co-founder and Trust, now with $3.5 billion in assets, has COO of LaunchGood.com, explained how long been associated with the MSA and ISNA crowdfunding can make our stories more and currently serves as chairman. accessible and visible. Sharrief, a filmmaker Recognition awards were also given to who works with Detroit’s youth, noted that Tawakkol Karman for her work in nonvio- Muslims could be doing a lot more with lent struggle for the safety of women and their smartphone’s technology platforms. for full women’s rights in her native Yemen; Linda Sarsour, Debbie Almontaser, and to motivational speaker Ilyasah Shabazz, Kronemer and Imam Johari Abdul-Malik daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz addressed “The Importance of Getting and author of Growing Up X. Muslim Holidays Recognized” and shared During the Saturday Night Special Ses- some strategies: build a coalition with the sion, spiritual and community leader pul- right partners and frame the message appromonologist Aziz Ur Rahman of Centralia, priately (Sarsour); honor and support all Ill., was recognized with the Community Americans exercise their First Amendment Building & Philanthropy Award. Attorney rights (Abdul-Malik); and overcome our Abdullah Bade received the Community own “unconscious bias” (Kronemer). In the “Safe Place in Cyberspace” panel, Building & Professional Service award for his many legal contributions to the com- Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founding editormunity, MSA, ISNA, MYNA, NAIT and in-chief of blog site MuslimGirl.net, urged their affiliates. He practiced law in India- Muslims to get their stories out via their
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
52 ND ANNUAL ISNA CONVENTION cellphones. This successful and popular blogger also outlined how to get noticed. Sabina Khan-Ibarra, founder of the Muslimah Montage blog, explained how to make a blog. Digital strategist and research specialist Eman Hassaballa Aly provided statistics on podcasting and shared stories of Muslim podcasters who’ve helped change lives. Stand-up comedian, storyteller, and journalist Aman Ali shared how he overcame his shame of being a Muslim by watching his favorite NBA star, Hakeem Olajuwon, fast during Ramadan. Moderator Wardah Khalid spoke at the session “News Outlets Not Rigged?” about the online media portion at the Media 101 workshop session. Outreach strategist Mustafa Tameez stressed the importance of engaging with the press instead of pushing it away.
THE 18TH ANNUAL ISNA/CIOGC INTERFAITH UNITY BANQUET At this event, Nobel Peace Prize winner Karman remarked that “the heart of all religion is to make peace … to protect peace. … We charge you with the responsibility of all the crises in the world because most of you are silent against all the dictators in the world.”
In his opening remarks, ISNA president Azeez said that interfaith communities must call for joint action against racial and religious intolerance. CIOGC Interfaith Committee co-chair Shakir Moiduddin added, “The faith community has failed to provide the much needed moral and ethical guidance.” A panel of speakers discussed the plight of minorities overseas, the Syrian refugee crisis, and ISNA’s Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign. Catherine Orsborn, Shoulder-toShoulder campaign director, remarked that “We need to protect the rights of minorities here so we can impact the rights of minorities abroad.” ISNA and CIOGC honored Maulana 22
Azhar Azeez presents award to Abdullah Bade as his wife looks on
Wahiduddin Khan, an Islamic spiritual scholar who established New Delhi’s Center for Peace and Spirituality, the Rev. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network of Chicago, and the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a priest with the Archdiocese of Chicago, for their advocacy for social justice.
HUMAN RIGHTS Lord Nazir Ahmed, member, British House of Lords, addressed the panel “Kashmir: A Case of Steadfastness.” He asserted that Indian prime minister Modi’s reckless approach to this issue threatens regional peace and stability and elaborated upon the Indian army’s well-known 25-year record of brutality there. Ghulam Nabi Fai, secretary general, World Kashmir Awareness, said that the U.S. should be concerned about these two nuclear armed foes, given their past history of warfare. The session, “Persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (Burma): An Instrument of Genocide.” Samuel Shropshire, founder of Muslim Voice for Peace and Reconciliation and a visitor to refugee camps in Myanmar and Thailand, said, “What I saw [there] I have never witnessed in my 35 years of working in human rights.” It is now illegal for Buddhists to covert to Islam. Rohingya members of Parliament, having lost their citizenship, can no longer participate in elections, Wakar Uddin said, adding, “Inside Myanmar they have marginalized [the] Rohingya community. The international community is the answer.” Tom Andrews, a former Maine Congressman and president and CEO of the Washington-based United to End Genocide, announced that “The rights of Rohingya have been systematically demolished and denied in a campaign of hatred and fear.” A resolution calling on the Myanmar government to change its policies and the U.S. to
take a stronger stance against this persecution passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. House. Some lawmakers are starting to call for economic sanctions against Myanmar. The North American Buddhist community is standing firmly behind the Rohingya, said Abdul Malik Mujahid, chairman of Burma Task Force USA. “This issue has become an orphan issue,” said Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen, a permanent observer of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to the United Nations. IMRC (Indian Muslim Relief and Charities) and IAMC (Indian American Muslim Council), both of which seek social justice and religious harmony in India, hosted a panel on India’s 180 million Muslims. AbuSaleh Shariff, chief scholar at the US India Policy Institute, said, “The Wall Street Journal recently published an article which says that the only bright spot in economic growth in the world is India. And the real issue here is can an Indian Muslim access the opportunity which the country has?” The panel recognized that India’s Muslims need to enter the mainstream and that educating the society is the key. He said, “We are in the process of recognizing civil societies in every district in India to start training programs.” IAMC president Umar Malick stressed the need to raise Muslim awareness about Hindutva, which seeks to make Muslims second-class citizens. Removing their voting rights and forced sterilization are among a list of suggestions targeting them. Attendee Shoaib Khadiri said, “I don’t think the millennials can relate to these issues, so it’s important that we educate our next generation and also make sure that my generation should do as much as possible.” IMRC executive director Manzoor Ghori stated that his organization is building one school a month in rural areas, for “literacy among Muslims is low and to improve this situation we are doing field work to help.” IMRC recently started building universities. Attendee Waseem Razi, interfaith representative for Australia’s nonprofit Islamic Research and Educational Academy, said, “We should also include non-Indians in this session … as it would increase development and support the network as well.”
MEET THE AUTHOR African American Muslimah authors Jamillah Karim (Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam; co-authored
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
with Dawn-Marie Gibson, professor of history at Royal Holloway, University of London) and Debra Majeed (Polygyny) related stories of resilience from their peers. Karim, an award-winning Atlanta lecturer and blogger who specializes in race, gender and Islam in America, conveys the 1970s struggles of African American women and why they joined the Nation of Islam. She read part of her A view of the Bazaar interview with Jessica Muhammad, one of her community mothers: “I grew up under knowledge of various topics. He described the Jim Crow Laws. My mother worked in the curriculum and explained that they offer a restaurant. We couldn’t go in front of it. institutional thinking along with advanceIf we wanted to buy something, we had to ment in human development. Historian buy through the back door. My grandmother Todd Green, author of The Fear of Islam: worked for $17/week for a family that was An Introduction to Islamophobia in the nice and kind, but my grandmother was still West, shared his personal experience of what like a slave to them.” Islamophobia is like when he was invited by MSA in fall 2010 to give a lecture. An interview with him appears elsewhere in this issue. Carla Power, author of If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran, got a bit more personal. After she befriended a sheikh and became comfortable with him, she received myriad lessons and often joined him and his family on the weekend to listen to the Quran. In “Muhammad’s Legacy,” three authors shared their love for the Prophet (Salla allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). The panel was joined by Karim said that we need to learn about Meraj Mohiuddin, author of Revelation, the Nation through its women. “We know Jonathan Brown, author of Misquoting that there were women like Jessica Muham- Muhammad, and John Andrew Morrow, mad and, of course, sister Clara Muhammad author of The Covenants and the Six Covwho played an intricate role in the build- enants of the Prophet Muhammad. Najiyah ing of the Nation of Islam.” Her book also Diana Maxfield (Sophia’s Journal) encourhighlights Imam Warith Deen Mohammed’s aged authors to represent their identity in contributions to these women’s successes and their work. Tamara Gray (Joy Jots) remarked accomplishments, for example, by appoint- that we must be able to find happiness daily ing the Nation’s first sister minister. and then jot them down on a daily basis. Majeed, professor of religious studies at Krista Bremer’s My Accidental Jihad: A Love Beloit College, focuses on African American Story, revolves around a certain period in her Muslimahs who share husbands. The result life when she met and eventually married of a decade-long study, she says, “ [the Afri- an older Libyan Muslim. can American woman] may, and I preface, may find that she has only two choices: one, HEALTH to remain single, two, take a husband who A Health Fair coordinated and run by she may at some point in their marriage share Compassionate Care Network, IMANA, with another woman whom he will take as and AMHP offered physician and dental his wife.” She hopes to focus her reader’s consultations, weight management counselattention on the resulting family life and ing, and diabetes and blood pressure screenemphasize the collective responsibilities for ing. Organizer Mohammad Gafoor said the its success. groups were providing a mobile clinic to In the “Discovering Islam” session, Ebra- Muslim communities. He expressed an interhim Moosa, author of What is Madrasa?, said est in adding a nutrition component to the that madrasas are important for acquiring Health Fair that catered to cultural food prefISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
erences. During the first day over 100 participants were seen; approximately 10% diagnosed as serious cases and 2% as new onset diabetics. For 29 cents a meal, Stop Hunger Now feeds thousands of impoverished people worldwide. On Sunday morning, volunteers gathered around the prayer hall to run workstations and assemble packages of scientifically planned and long-lasting meals. ISNA chief operations officer Habibe Ali and coordinator of Stop Hunger Now encouraged communities to contact her organization to arrange for their masjid to participate in an interfaith project that benefits everyone. “We work in about 70 countries … and we work with children at schools so they can learn better on a full stomach,” Ali said.
BAZAAR & MORE According to volunteer Sabit Abbasi, the ever-popular bazaar with its more than 500 vendors “provides variety and once a year exposure to businesses that people usually don’t have.” Dilnaz Waraich and Dilara Sayeed coordinated the convention’s first American Muslim Lifestyles event, which featured seven very popular 45-minute interactive segments. The “Fashion Show for Sisters” panel comprised Amany Jondy, co-founder of Simply Zeena, Islamic fashion blogger Essra Abdel-Azam, Ibtihaj Muhammad (founder of Louella) and Amina Sayeed (founder of Zujaja Creative), all of whom expressed their views on modesty and clothing and how they intersect with faith. This was followed by a display of the latest apparel from Uzma Collections, designed by Uzma Mirza. It was a night of celebrating conservative Islamic attire for all women. Saturday evening’s entertainment session featured the international singing sensation Sami Yusuf, Native Deen, Raef, Mo Sabri, Najam Sheraz, and Azhar Usman. A film festival, an art and photography exhibit, a matrimonial banquet, a young professionals’ banquet, a men’s basketball tournament, a women’s fashion show and other events also captured attendees’ imagination.
Editor’s Note: This report is the work of the Convention Reporters Committee that comprised of Madihah Krishnamurthy, a veteran journalist based in Chicago. Nasima Patel, Nabiha Asim, Eman Mozaffar, Sarene Alsharif, MPH, Naznin Larya, Shahzmeen Hussain, Hiba Zakai, Naazish YarKhan, Qudsiya Siddiqui, news production/curation intern at Rivet Radio
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
CANADIAN MUSLIMS: A Statistical Review Are Canadian-born Muslims a different genre than their immigrant parents? BY DAOOD HAMDANI
uslim Canadians, who crossed the one million mark in 2011, constitute 3.2 percent of the national population and rank fifth among its faith communities and denominations. Figures drawn from the National Household Survey 2011 (NHS-2011), which replaced the long-form census, and information from other censuses and statistical studies find that Muslims are an urban community and that two-thirds of them live in Toronto and Montreal. Only ten cities have more than 15,000 Muslims (Figure 3).
will continue accelerate as the recent immigration policy changes emphasize language skills and give employers a bigger role, both of which will likely slow down immigration from Muslim countries. Canadian-born Muslims already outnumber the Arab Muslim population and are poised to replace the South Asians as the nation’s largest group. Civic engagement is an important indication of a community’s integration because it reflects the sense of belonging, the relevance of political and democratic institutions to its life and how government relates to it. Muslims are passionate about citizenship, but less enthusiastic about exercising its core right: voting. Their voter turnout rate, estimated to be around 46.5 percent, is lower than that of other faith communities. Over half a million Muslims are eligible to vote; however, their political geography gives them a more than proportionate influence when elections are very close. Although accounting for only 2.1 percent of the electorate, they can influence the outcome in 23 constituencies in 2015. Due to their high geographical mobility, many Muslims have moved since the last federal election. Moreover, and an unprecedented number of Muslim youth will be first-time voters (Figures 8 and 9 and Table 2).
The Canadian Council of Muslim Women conducted similar studies on Muslim women more than a decade ago. Canada’s Muslim history begins during the mid-nineteenth century, when the Fathers of Confederation were trying to conceive of Canada. In 1854 Agnes Love, a Muslim teenaged bride of Scottish descent and wife of James Love, gave birth to the couple’s first child in Upper Canada. He was named after his father. They welcomed the Canadian Confederation with the birth of Elizabeth in 1867. Muslim Canadians are a mix of newcomers and descendants of those who arrived over a century ago. Nearly two-fifths of all immigrant Muslims arrived during 2001-06, and many of them are still in the early phases of adjustment and integration, situated somewhere between the desire to preserve ethnic languages, cultures and communities, and being pushed to adapt.
After decades of slow change, a demographic transformation is now under way. In 1991, 22 percent of the Muslims were Canadianborn. In the next ten years, this proportion increased to 24 percent and then jumped to 28 percent in 2011 (Table 1). Indigenization 24
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
Muslims have a non-Muslim spouse, 26 percent of Canadian-born Muslims have political geography a non-Muslim spouse (Figure 6).
Muslims represent numerous ethnicities and cultures, but defining ethnic identity in a pluralist society becomes harder as people acquire multiple ethnicities due to intermarriage. Neither of the two current measures, ethnicity according to the Employment Equity Act of 1986 (later amended as the Employment Equity Act of 1995) or by reference to ancestry as defined in the NHS-2011, can accurately depict this rapidly changing population segment. In fact, both serve to emphasize their foreignness, and neither one highlights the fact that by birthplace, Canada is the Muslims’ principal source country. Quebec’s Muslims stand out among the non-Catholic communities for having adopted French. In the obsession with the artifacts of culture like hijab, the discussion on secularism sidesteps the key point: How young Muslim women are embracing the province’s language. Ranked by this measure of attachment to Quebec’s culture, they rank above their peers in all non-Christian communities. Compared to the major Christian denominations, they are second only to the Catholics. Some 89 percent of female Catholic younger than 15 speak only French followed by 62 percent of all Muslimahs. The NHS-2011 reveals a Muslim community that is holding fast to its social traditions yet feeling the strain of exposure to a multifaith and multicultural society. Attitudes towards interfaith marriage are shifting. Growing up in a pluralist society, second- and third-generation Muslims are less fixated on immigrant views about marrying non-Muslims. Whereas 11 percent of foreign-born married
Another indication of social change is the rise of lone or singleparent families, which defies both the extended family system and the traditional Muslim family model of a full-time female homemaker and a male breadwinner. Defined as one parent with children, there are 60,000 lone parent Muslim families (Figure 5), 84 percent of which are headed by women. This changing family structure reinforces the need for Muslim Canadian scholars to bring the Muslim family law designed for foreign-born Muslims into line with 21stcentury reality. Islam is no longer a Middle Eastern religion; more Muslims now live in Europe and America than in any Middle East and North Africa country except Egypt.
Early marriage (when the bride is 15 to 24 years old) is more common among Muslims than other communities. Paradoxically,
THE MUSLIM POPULATION IS CHANGING. THE EMERGING GENERATION IS LESS FIXATED UPON ETHNICITIES THAN THEIR PARENTS OR GRANDPARENTS. BORN INTO DIVERSE ETHNICITIES BUT BOUND BY THEIR CANADIAN HERITAGE AND A COMMON FAITH, THEY COME CLOSEST TO DEFINING THAT CHERISHED BUT ELUSIVE ENTITY CALLED THE UMMAH.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY in a society that allows individuals to choose their life partners, some young Muslims encounter more difficulties in the form of very few and less extensive social networks, restricted (or no) access to mosques for women and there are the tiny number of social and cultural institutions at which to meet potential spouses. Concerned, some immigrant families feel more pressure than they did back home to find suitable husbands for their daughters. This process usually starts early and often reaches back to the original homeland and the resulting early marriages. Predictably, the divorce rate among such couples is higher than that of the Canadian population as a whole. The Muslims’ educational profile reflects the long-standing concern that the demand for highly skilled workers is outpacing Canada’s ability to educate its citizens. No less important is the Muslim Canadians’ own conviction that good education is the best thing they can give their children in an increasingly competitive global economy. As a result of this view, 44 percent of working-aged Muslims (25 to 64 years old) have a university degree, compared with the national average of 26 percent (Figure 9). There are enough Muslim doctorate degree holders (13,955, according a Statistics Canada count) to fill the academic faculty of two Canadian universities.
Another generational shift is also underway: Canadian-born men and women are opting for community colleges in relatively larger numbers than did their immigrant parents. While 20 percent of immigrant Muslims graduated from a community college, the figure for Canadian-born Muslims is 31 percent. In addition, the underlying reasons driving young women are different from those influencing young men. For some men, this shift underscores the harsh reality of a tight labor market where the industry-oriented, hands-on experience offered by community colleges is more valued than a liberal arts education. For women, however, it reflects changing social attitudes toward their role in society and working outside the home. Some immigrant mothers and grandmothers came from conservative societies where what they could study was often dictated by a patriarchal socialization process. Casting off such cultural traditions, young women aware of the labor market are choosing their own paths based upon their own aptitudes and aspirations. The shift is more obvious when it comes to making academic choices. Muslim university women are increasingly shifting to majors that are in demand despite the dismay of conservative communities. Immigrant women who completed their education back home 26
tended to specialize in such “appropriate” subjects as education, arts and humanities. But younger Muslimahs going through the Canadian school system are increasingly enrolling in science and engineering programs (Figure 11).
The evaluation of foreign credentials and re-accreditation of foreign professionals in regulated occupations have become hot issues, especially as the global competition for foreigners of exceptional skills and knowledge has intensified. In Canada, high Muslim unemployment rates are attributed to, among other things, the low quality of education they received in some of their native land’s institutions. This sweeping generalization is, however, based on obsolete assumptions. An increasing number of Canadian-born Muslims are attending Canadian institutions. In addition, some immigrants completed their education in advanced countries before coming to Canada. Still others upgrade their qualifications after they arrive. According to NHS-2011, half of all Muslim postsecondary graduates obtained their highest degree or diploma from Canada or from countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), specifically the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany, which have standards and institutions similar to Canada’s. The ratio was much higher for doctorate degree holders (66 percent); the lowest was for selected healthcare graduates (33 percent). (Figure 12)
Some 13.9 percent (or 66,000) of Muslims were unemployed in 2011, as compared with the national average of 7.8 percent (Figure 13). All visible minorities, which share ethnicities and cultures with Muslims and probably studied at the same universiISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
ties, fare much better than Muslims with an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent. The standard factors do not fully explain why this is so. Muslims are not concentrated in regions of high unemployment or declining industries or in stagnant occupations. Nor can their difficulties be attributed to poor language skills or sub-par educational qualifications, because Canadian-born Muslims also experience high unemployment (Figure 13).
Underemployment is also a serious problem. Although segments of the labor force experience some underemployment, the problem is acute among foreign-educated professionals trained for occupations that are regulated in Canada. In other words, their qualifications are not recognized until they meet the relevant licensing requirements, which demand that they have their foreign credentials evaluated for equivalence and undergo a lengthy procedure of re-accreditation. The waste of talent caused by the disconnect between the country’s immigration policy and the professional standards of licensing bodies is huge. The percentage of foreign-educated professionals working in regulated occupations ranges from a low of 9 percent for those trained in Morocco, to a high of 33 percent for Nigerian graduates. Most Muslim countries score somewhere in the 20s (Figure 14).
pensionable jobs, comprise only a small part of Muslims’ earnings (Figure 15).
A substantial income disparity exists between Muslims and all Canadians, although the Muslim labor force is well qualified. In 2010, one half of all Muslims 15 years or older who reported some income earned more than Can$18,950; the other half earned less. This is three-fourths of the median income of all Canadians, which was Can$29,878. Despite the considerable difficulties faced by Muslims in the labor market, NHS-2011 data dismisses two of the most common misperceptions about their dependence on the social security system. Employment insurance benefits make up only 2.2 percent of their income and 1.8 percent of the income of all Canadians. This is not much of a difference when seen in light of the two groups’ unemployment rates: 13.9 percent among Muslims versus the national average of 7.8 percent. There are several possible explanations: (1) Muslims may be drawing benefits for a shorter period than allowed and returning to work as soon as a new job becomes available, (2) the jobs they can find are not stable enough to qualify them for employment insurance, or (3) they may be making less use of maternity and paternity benefits because their jobs are less generous in terms of such benefits. Research also shows Muslims are far less dependent on oldage security benefits than are other Canadians. In 2010, Muslims drew 2.6 percent of their total income from Canada Pension Plan/ Quebec Pension Plan and old-age pension and guaranteed income supplement. The corresponding figure for the national population as a whole was 6.6 percent. The Muslim population is changing. The emerging generation is less fixated upon ethnicities than their parents or grandparents. Born into diverse ethnicities but bound by their Canadian heritage and a common faith, they come closest to defining that cherished but elusive entity called ummah . A visionary leadership can seize this moment to develop a Muslim Canadian identity and set an example for Muslims in other Western societies. Only a few generations are privileged to have such an opportunity.
The analysis of the community’s income reveals that it is still in the early stages of establishing itself in the national economy. Investment income, which is usually attributed to well-off people with savings to invest in equity and money markets, as well as pension and superannuation income, a characteristic of stable and ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
Daood Hamdani, a pioneer in the study of Muslim Canadians, is author of several groundbreaking works, among them “The Al-Rashid: Canada’s First Mosque” and “In the Footsteps of Canadian Muslim Women 1837-2007.” A world authority on innovation measurement, he has served as special advisor on science and economy in the government service of Canada and on the advisory panel on innovation measurement of the U.S. National Science Foundation, Washington, DC. [Editor’s Note: This article is drawn from the author’s eponymous report commissioned by the Canadian Dawn Foundation, with permission.]
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
A Beacon for Muslim Canadians ISNA Canada and, by extension, the ISNA Canada Center are trusts for all Muslim Canadians. BY HINA MIRZA
ohammad Ashraf, who served as director, director general and then secretary general of ISNA Canada during 1979-2011, fully appreciates the opportunity that God gave him to play a central role in establishing the ISNA Canada Center. He says, “I assisted and guided the conception, planning, organizational and feasibility studies and took this project to the finish line. I was very fortunate to be able to work with many talented and dedicated community members during my tenure at ISNA. When I accepted appointment as director in April 1979, the ISNA Canada Zonal Office in Toronto was operating from a one-room rental office. In 1988 we moved from that office into our present seven-acre location in Mississauga. In between, we had spent almost 15 years in semi-detached houses on Beverly Street —
the Muslim House — that we had purchased in 1983 through financing provided by the Islamic Cooperative Housing Corporation (ICHC), a brainchild of Mahmoud Rashdan, a former secretary general of ISNA in the United States.” Ashraf recounts some of the challenges he faced while establishing ISNA Canada projects. “Initially,” he says, “the ICHC board did not take my suggestion seriously to buy the Beverly Street property. However, persistence and perseverance paid off. ISNA Canada purchased the building in late 1983 and we moved into it during early December of that year.” There was also resistance from community members and the board of directors to new project ideas. One example was the setting up of the interest-free housing project in Canada. He says that Rashdan, who visited Toronto in August 1979 to give him some orientation for managing the zonal office, emphasized the need to organize this housing project in Toronto along the same lines
as they had used during the late 1970s in Plainfield, Ind. He recalls, “From September 1979 to September 1980, I presented the Indiana Model in the Greater Toronto Area and at some mosques in Ontario; however, it never really got off the ground. People were skeptical at first, but I finally convinced some community members.” Raising funds, he says, “for a project like the ISNA Canada Center was always a challenge. ISNA’s own ICHC, then under the direction of Pervez Nasim, was there to help ISNA pay the bills during construction. This was another Rashdan vision — having our own financial institutions to support our projects.” A major challenge was getting the City of Mississauga to rezone the property. Ashraf says, “At the time of purchase, our lawyer had erroneously assured us that the property was zoned for a place of worship. Later we found out from the city that we required rezoning. This was a very difficult battle, as the city was opposed to having an Islamic center at that location. We had to take the fight to the Ontario Municipal Board, where we prevailed. Although this was a very trying time for ISNA Canada, it was also a beautiful example of the community’s
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unity. So many people worked tirelessly to achieve this goal.” Asked about his feelings when the center was opened, Ashraf says that he thanks God for help on this project, which was the one dearest to him. This, he says, was “a real community project and the result of the efforts of so many individuals … At the opening ceremony in May 2000 during the ISNA Canada convention, I thanked everyone who helped make this project a reality, with special thanks for Mahmoud Rashdan, who attended the opening ceremony, and my wife Jamila.” He remarks, “Rashdan, whom I consider an Islamic visionary, was the one who had spearheaded the establishment of the ISNA headquarters in Plainfield, Ind., during the early or mid-1970s.” Mohammad Ashraf thanks God for letting him be part of the process that helped shape the Muslims’ identity in Canada and allowed him to work purely for God’s pleasure. “May He accept my sacrifices and efforts as well as those of my family, especially my wife’s, in His way.” He adds, “It has been a truly humbling and joyful experience to be a part of this project, which will continue to benefit the community in the future.” His vision for Canada’s Muslims is that “they have many opportunities to establish the Islamic way of life in this great land. Canada is a wonderfully diverse society and one in which we are able to practice our religion freely.” Muslims, he reflects, need to get involved in its political process by joining a political party. In addition, they should work toward building a national trust like the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) and the Canadian Islamic Trust Foundation (CITF). In his words, Muslims should unite under one umbrella and not become divided over such minor issues as moon sightings. Leadership, he stresses, should be honest, transparent and held accountable.
A PERMANENT HOME The Islamic Center of Canada (ICC), located on 2200 South Sheridan Way in Mississauga, Ontario, houses a mosque, a high school, and the ISNA Canada headquarters. It even has its own story. Ashraf believes that reviewing the events that led to this building shows that God had a plan for Mississauga’s Muslims to worship Him on this site. Before ISNA Canada purchased the building in March 1996, it had functioned
as a warehouse for approximately 30 years. The city had no records on the exact date its construction, he relates, and before the purchase deal was finalized city officials said that the records had been destroyed in a fire.
which was established in 1963, opened two zonal offices: the Canadian Zonal Office (Toronto) and the Western Zonal Office (San Francisco). Over time, MSA evolved into ISNA due
MOHAMMAD ASHRAF THANKS GOD FOR LETTING HIM BE PART OF THE PROCESS THAT HELPED SHAPE THE MUSLIMS’ IDENTITY IN CANADA AND ALLOWED HIM TO WORK PURELY FOR GOD’S PLEASURE. He says, “The whole process of planning, purchasing the site property, zoning by-law problems and the highly painful and costly rezoning process, not to mention the construction/renovation stage, has led me to firmly believe that this project was only through God’s miraculous help. When I reflect and try to look back at all these events and the process of building this mosque from 1995 through 2001, I cannot help but believe that God and no one else made it possible for us to in complete this project.” Reminiscing over the years, he has concluded that at least ten miracles occurred during the ICC’s establishment. The major miracles are the following (1) the warehouse already faced Makkah, (2) being able to purchase the building, (3) the Ontario Municipal Board rezoned the site for a mosque and a high school, and (4) being allowed to lease the building during the rezoning process (from April 1997 to March 1998). The minor miracles are the fact that (1) ISNA Canada accepted no offers on other sites, (2) the desired site was taken off and then put back on the market, (3) the ICHC increased its original 33 percent share of the project cost to 50 percent and pledged to advance funds to cover any shortage in ISNA Canada’s 50 percent share, (4) the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) granted and actually sent $500,000 for the school portion of the building, and (5) the unity, trust, confidence and commitment among the project’s team, which Ashraf led, made the project a success.
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF ISNA CANADA In 1977 the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada (aka MSA National,
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to the efforts of its founding affiliates: the Muslim Communities Association (MCA), MSA, the Islamic Medical Association (IMA), the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers (AMSE), the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) and the Islamic Services of Canada (ISC: predecessor of the Canadian Islamic Trust Foundation) ISNA Canada has accomplished quite a few things over the years: (1) it established the Islamic Cooperative Housing Corporation Ltd. (1979) and the Ansar Cooperative Housing Corporation Ltd. (Muslim Cooperative Housing Corporation Ltd; 1996; (2) Incorporated in Canada during 1981, in 1983 ISNA Canada registered as a charity with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and, in 2005, amended its by-laws as ISNA Canada – 2005; (3) incorporated The Canadian Islamic Trust Foundation (CITF; 19830; (4) started the ISNA Canada Halal Certification program (1988); (5) incorporated the ISNA Halal Certification Agency (2001); (6) incorporated the Islamic Schools Association of Canada (ISAC; 1994) and registered it as a charity with the CRA in 1995; (6) incorporated ISNA Travel Service (1995); (7) started the ISNA Hajj program (1996); (8) started the ISNA IDB Scholarship program (1995); (8) incorporated the ISNA Development Foundation (IDF; 2004) and registered it with the CRA as a charity 2005; and (9) dissociated the ICHC and ACHC housing cooperatives from ISNA Canada (2007) and incorporated as the ISNA Housing Cooperative Ltd. in 2008.
Hina Mirza is member of ISNA Canada Media and Communications Committee
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
Challenging Islamophobia: A Story of Muslims in Canada How Muslim Canadians are responding to the growing malaise of Islamophobia. BY UZMA JAMIL
he story of Muslims in Canada is often held to be one of a multicultural country that highlights the Muslims’ injection of their hardworking, community-oriented values along with those of the other communities that have made up the national mosaic since the early 1900s. This is illustrated through the historical importance of the country’s first mosque, Al-Rashed Mosque, built in 1938 in Edmonton, Alberta, through the sweat and sacrifices of an early Muslim Arab community. But most people do not hear this story today, for Ottawa’s post-9/11 national security and terrorism concerns have made Muslims highly visible as potential threats to the nation. In turn, these political and media discourses have generated and increased level of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim discrimination. An 2006-07 Environics survey of Canada’s Muslims found that 66 percent of respondents were worried about discrimination and that 31 percent had had bad experiences because of their race, ethnicity or religion during the past two years. The 2011 Ipsos-Reid poll found that 60 percent
of Canadians surveyed felt there was more anti-Muslim discrimination today than there was ten years ago. Before 9/11 Muslims might have been seen as culturally and religiously “different” from their white neighbors; after 9/11 they came to be seen as distinctly “dangerous” as well. For example, commenting on the changed perceptions toward the national Pakistani community over time, a PakistaniCanadian interviewed in a 2010 community-
based research study in Montreal believed that when he had arrived during the 1960s as a graduate student at McGill, people had been far more positive and welcoming. Now, he feels that public perceptions are entirely negative and that most people associate Pakistan and Muslims with terrorism. Research conducted in Toronto during 2012 confirms that his perceptions are supported by experiences of discrimination directed especially toward the “visibly Muslim” in dress (hijab) or appearance (beard). Such research results highlight the overlap between Muslims as immigrants and as racial and ethnic minorities, for all of these groups have been negatively singled out since 9/11. What is particularly disturbing is the state’s role in furthering Islamophobic discourses through its actions, particularly with regard to legislation relating to Muslims. In 2014 in Quebec, the Parti Québécois (PQ) government’s proposed Charter of Values (Bill 60) ignited a contentious public debate on whether people who work in public institutions and provide government-funded public services should be allowed to wear “ostentatious” religious symbols, such as turbans, kippas, hijabs and large crucifixes. Moreover, any woman offering and receiving government services would have to have her face uncovered, ostensibly for security reasons, meaning that one would have to remove her niqab to access healthcare, education or any other publicly-funded services. Despite the different religious minorities affected by Bill 60, the public debate about “Quebec values” quickly became focused on Muslims. In fact, it created a public space that legitimized the expression of xenophobic and Islamophobic sentiments, as anyone could see during the public consultations at the National Assembly in January 2014
MORE BROADLY AND AT A POLITICAL AND GRASSROOTS LEVEL, MUSLIMS NEED TO STRENGTHEN THEIR NETWORKS AND ALLIANCES WITH RELEVANT ANTI-RACISM AND ANTI-DISCRIMINATION ORGANIZATIONS AS AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO CHALLENGE LEGISLATION THAT AFFECTS THEM NEGATIVELY.
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and in anti-Muslim incidents on the street. Hijab wearers were attacked and/or insulted on the Montreal metro, in shopping malls or just walking down the street. In one incident, the perpetrators said that the state would either make them remove their headscarf or “send them back,” by implication, “to where they came from.” In January 2014, a Muslim woman was strangled to death by her scarf when it got caught in the escalator at a Montreal metro station. This tragedy provoked a storm of negative comments, as the media had initially reported that the deceased had been wearing a headscarf, rather than a long winter scarf. Ultimately, the Quebec Charter failed to pass because the PQ lost the April 2014 election and was replaced by the Liberals. Recently, however, the party tabled another bill that deals with some of the same issues, and thus the public discourse remains unchanged. Living in this socio-political context is challenging in terms of how to address Islamophobia and discrimination. Perhaps the most important factor is recognizing that it exists and then critiquing those discourses that perpetuate the idea of Muslims as people who do not belong, who are not Canadian “enough” or Québécois “enough” to be part of the nation. Second, research among Montreal’s Muslim families and communities has found that strengthening family-school alliances helps create a supportive environment for Muslim children, for it allows both parents and teachers explain things to them and helps them cope with the current political realities. More broadly and at a political and grassroots level, Muslims need to strengthen their networks and alliances with relevant anti-racism and anti-discrimination organizations as an effective way to challenge legislation that affects them negatively. A story about Muslims may begin with when they first arrived in Canada, but focusing on that historical moment must not prevent one from taking a critical look at his or her contemporary life. A more enduring story is the one told by Muslims about how they live in Canada today while challenging Islamophobic discourses about who they are supposed to be.
Dr. Uzma Jamil, a researcher on Montreal’s SHERPA (Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access) Research Team and a research fellow at the University of South Australia, specializes on Muslim minorities in Canada and the West. She has published on the impact of the “war on terror” context for Muslims, as well as on securitization, Islamophobia and discrimination, for academic and nonacademic audiences globally.
Muhammad Itani and his horse Tax Free competing with good placing in his first American Grand Prix at the Vermont Summer Festival against a competitive field of top international Grand Prix riders, including former Olympians.
Riding with Faith
A young Muslim Canadian makes strides onto the international equestrian show jumping circuit BY SAADIA AHMAD
s far back as Muhammad Itani can remember, horses and riding have been part of his life. As of this writing, he has represented Canada in two Young Rider Nations’ Cups and begun his competitive international Grand Prix career. He remains committed to the sport for the bond it allows him to have with his horses and for the peace and happiness they bring to his life and the lives of others. Itani’s story shows how Muslims born and raised in diverse North American environments can find themselves acting as ambassadors for Islam. Raised on a horse farm in rural Southwestern Ontario, horses were considered both family members and a key feature of his identity and Islamic tradition. He fondly remembers his days on the family farm, “I spent all my time before and after school training and caring for my horses. They were family and best friends to me as
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much as they were my athletic partners.” While passing through childhood and adolescence, he enjoyed success competing in the local equestrian show jumping circuit; however, the level of competition he desired required that he push himself beyond what the local or provincial circuits could offer. And so Itani and his family began their weekly family trips to the Greater Toronto Area to compete at the national level. Disregarding the many naysayers who predicted that he could not possibly compete succeed against the experienced and financially wellsupported national circuit competitors, Itani recalls that he and his family felt that God was guiding their path. “Every time we felt this was too much or unattainable for us, God seemed to open a door and provide an opportunity to move forward.” Itani also says, “My parents and grandparents are simple, hardworking people and we knew we did not have a fraction of the financial foundation of most athletes on the circuit; however, we kept faith and followed the path that God seemed to be creating for 31
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
us. It was a family effort. My parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents have all been very supportive with helping me compete at this level…There even came a point when I just couldn’t travel back and forth. My grandparents, in their efforts to provide ongoing support for me, sold their home in Southwestern Ontario and built a new home right across from the international showgrounds in the Greater Toronto Area.” While attending his first clinic taught by an international-level coach, Itani was invited to ride in the coach’s barn — considered one of the top competitive barns at that time. With the right coach, in his first full year on the circuit he qualified for the national finals at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair — and has qualified every year since then. In 2013 and 2014, Itani was one of only three and one of only two senior young riders selected nationwide to represent Canada internationally at a Nations’ Cup competition run under the governance of the FEI (Fédération Équestre Internationale, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports), the international equestrian sport’s governing body. Many of North America’s best equestrians received their start at these competitions. This year, Itani began showing on the international grand prix show jumping circuit against some of the world’s best riders. He has met with some success: He is currently tied for second place in Eastern Canada for the Jump Canada National Talent Squad Series, and was a member of the 2014 Jump Canada Talent Squad. According to Equine Canada, the National Talent Squad Series 32
MOST OF THESE COMPETITORS SPEND NEARLY ALL OF THEIR TIME AT HORSE SHOWS. FOR MANY OF THEM, ITANI AND HIS FAMILY REPRESENT MUCH OF THEIR DIRECT EXPOSURE TO MUSLIMS. identifies and recognizes up-and-coming riders who are preparing to enter the international grand prix ranks and demonstrate the ability to become future members of the Canadian Equestrian Team. Competing nationally and internationally has created a new role for Itani and his family. Due to their clear visibility as Muslims through name, practice and appearance, other attendees regularly ask them questions about Islam. Muslims are extremely underrepresented on the national and grand prix circuit in North America. In fact, Itani has not heard of or met another Muslim Canadian or American competing at the national or the international Grand Prix Level.
Most of these competitors spend nearly all of their time at horse shows. For many of them, Itani and his family represent much of their direct exposure to Muslims. “We are asked a lot of questions about our faith. Everyone is very respectful of our beliefs and practices. My coach has even come out to train me very early in the morning in Ramadan on hot days.” Itani thanks God for the opportunity to enjoy success at this level and is thankful for the opportunity to portray Islamic values to others. He hopes that his presence, social interactions, and behavior at these competitive events will help remove any fear or misunderstanding of Islam and Muslims. Nowadays, he spends all of his time training his horses and pursuing his university business degree so that he will be able to successfully manage his career. Although he admits that it’s a challenge doing both at the same time, Itani is determined to obtain the necessary skills to sustain his success. Now that he has left the junior and young rider levels, he faces the formidable challenge of developing healthy investment partners so that he can continue to represent Canada internationally. “I hope, along with the right investment partner, to represent Canada in the future on our Canadian Equestrian Team at the Olympics, Nations’ Cups, and World Equestrian Games and together enjoy the gift of horses from God,” he concludes.
Saadia Ahmad, growing up in Southwestern Ontario, also had a love for horses, although falling short of her goal of showing on the national circuit, she is thrilled that Itani never gave up on his dream of national and international competition.
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CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
A Religion on Ice Are Muslim Canadians striving to participate in all spheres of Canadian life?
PHOTO YASIN MAZUMDER
BY HILAL SHIMLAVI
Nazim Kadri joins Islamic Relief Canada to host a golf tournament.
oronto Maple Leafs ice hockey center Nazem Kadri, 24, the Lebanese-Canadian six-footer centerman, comes with a US$4 million paycheck — 2009’s seventh overall pick. He is the first Muslim drafted into the major league, the National Hockey League (NHL). For the uninitiated, the minor league is the American Hockey League (AHL). Ironically, the draft was held in Montreal, home of the Canadiens, the Leafs’ greatest rival. And like his father, he also grew up as a Canadiens fan. His father Samir told The National Post in a 2013 interview that as he was driving to be at his wife’s side in 1990, when Nazem was born, his car radio started playing Tom Cochrane’s Big League, a song about a father who hopes his son will someday play in the NHL. Kadri padre — a car dealer — insists, “I knew right then it was going to happen. Like it was a sign.” Hockey — “ice hockey” for the uninitiated — is really religion on ice: Nearly every Canadian father, whether from the beaches of British Columbia or the fishing villages of Prince Edward Island, dreams that his son will play in the NHL. And here is Nazem Kadri, a practicing Muslim, making waves in a typically Anglo-
Saxon game. Fans booed when the Leafs first called out his name. Now he hopes, “A lot of Muslim kids are going to start playing hockey because they see someone like them being successful in that area.” Hockey, Prime Minister Stephen Harper once told Sports Illustrated (Feb. 2010), defines Canada in a unique way: “One of the first things you see (is that) immigrants
NAZEM KADRI MAY BE GOOD NEWS FOR THE LEAFS AND THE CHAMPIONSHIPSTARVED CITY OF TORONTO, WHICH LAST WON A STANLEY CUP IN 1967. BUT HE IS ALSO GOOD NEWS FOR THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY.
start to belong to Canadian society when their kids start to come to the hockey rink… Then the parents start to integrate with the other parents. It crosses social class lines. So it’s a great common denominator.” Nazem’s father has had much to do with his son’s success ever since he was a young athlete. Samir, who named his son Nazem after his own father, immigrated to London, Ontario, in 1968 at the height of Lebanese unrest. Finding a place to live about an hour’s drive west of Toronto, he built an ice rink in his backyard. Kadri, who was practically born with a stick in his hands and was skating at the age of two, was a natural. He won a junior hockey championship when he was 17 and represented Canada at international events. On draft night, attendees included his parents and four sisters, as well as about 40 other extended family members and his hijab-clad grandmother. Kadri’s father taught him about successful Muslim athletes like Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakim Olajuwon while he was growing up. The National Post stated that the “Lebanese-Canadian is not just the best Muslim hockey player. He is also one of the best hockey players. Period.” Kadri’s coach calls him a “magician with the puck.” Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan considers Kadri — the team’s fourth leading scorer — an important part of their future. Kadri, well aware that his name means “leader” and who also organizes an annual golf tournament for Islamic Relief Canada, wants to be a symbol of change. His answer to those who wince at his faith is always the same: He does something on the ice to prove that he belongs. Kadri told Michael Triakos (April 5, 2013), who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs for the National Post, that he is doing this without sacrificing any of his beliefs. Kadri said he tries to be an observant Muslim, although it is a challenge to fast or pray five times a day during the season. He adds, “I try to make up days when I miss them, because that’s allowed.” He said, “I do what I can. I have a strong faith and believe everything happens for a reason. I think that a lot of the reason why I’m here is because I kept believing in myself and God … [it] put me in a very fortunate position.” Nazem Kadri may be good news for the Leafs and the championship-starved city of Toronto, which last won a Stanley Cup
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in 1967. But he is also good news for the Muslim community.
OTHER MUSLIM HOCKEY PROFESSIONALS Nail Yakupov, an ethnic Tatar Muslim from Russia and a right winger currently playing for the NHL team Edmonton Oilers, was selected first overall by the Oilers at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. In addition to being the first Tatar ever to achieve this distinction, he is a potential breakout hockey star. With his draft selection, Yakupov surpassed Kadri as being the highest drafted Muslim player in NHL history. As Edmonton Journal’s Jonathan Willis observed on July 14, “Yakupov entered the NHL with the burden of being a first overall draft pick ... Nail Yakupov isn’t a typical No. 1 pick, but he’s an interesting and promising young player and going forward the Oilers will need to focus on what he is, rather than what he isn’t.” Yakupov says that it is hard to explain to people that he is a Tatar despite the fact
that he played for Team Russia and has a Russian passport, for his largely unknown homeland is part of Russia. When OilersNation’s Andrey Osadchenko (June 12, 2012) asked him about how religious he was and “if Ramadan happens to be during the season, are you going to fast? This may seriously affect your game,” Yakupov retorted,: “No, I don’t do stuff like that. I just believe in God and go to mosque if I have a chance. I just live. Don’t worry, I’m not going to disappear during the season because of my religious beliefs.” The Montreal-born left wing TunisianCanadian Ramzi Abid had a short NHL career, playing with the Phoenix Coyotes,
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Pittsburgh Penguins, Atlanta Thrashers and the Nashville Predators. Selected by the Colorado Avalanche as the first choice in the second round (28th overall) of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Abid was redrafted in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft (85th overall) by the Phoenix Coyotes, where he had a career high of 18 points in 30 games before being traded to Pittsburgh and falling off the map. Montreal-born Lebanese-Canadian Alain Jean-Paul Mohammed Nasreddine, a former defenseman who played in six different NHL organizations, mostly in the minor leagues, is currently an assistant coach of the New Jersey Devils. He saw very limited NHL duty with the Chicago Blackhawks (7 games), Montreal Canadiens (8 Games), New York Islanders (3 Games) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (56 games). In 2008 he signed with the Sinupret Ice Tigers of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga and, two seasons later, was released on June 12, 2010, following the 2009–10 season.
Hilal Shimlavi is a freelance writer.
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
Adhan in the Northern Reaches Muslim Canadians reach out to serve First Nations communities.
PHOTO MAI_ABDALLA MOHAMED
BY ABU AMAL HADHRAMI
n apt item for the classic TV game show ”Jeopardy!” would be “The location of North America’s northernmost mosque.” The answer, “What is Inuvik?” in Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) comes courtesy of the Manitoba-based Zubaidah Tallab Foundation, which helped to build it. This nonprofit organization was founded by Susan Ghazali, a Winnipegbased oncological surgeon and assistant professor at Manitoba University; her husband, internist Hussain Guisti; and Hisham Tassi, an internist in the northern town of Thompson. Ghazali serves as its president, and Guisti as general manager/CFO. Ghazali, a Saudi woman who relocated to Canada in 2002, received much of her medical training and education in her own country. She holds professional memberships in many medical organizations. Due to the unique approach employed in its construction, the Midnight Sun Mosque (Arctic Mosque), built in 2010, garnered much national and international media coverage. In 2008, the Inuvik community, which had outgrown its old one-bedroom trailer “mosque,” purchased two lots. In 2010 the foundation answered the community’s 36
request for assistance by paying for the construction; the Muslim Association of Inuvik (MAI) bought the land. Inuvik, sitting on the banks of NWT’s Mackenzie River, is located in the Beaufort Delta (68 -18 N, 133-29 W). A majority of its 3,500 people are Inuvialuit, Gwich’in and First Nations peoples with distinct aboriginal cultures. A MAI representative says that a little over 100 Muslims live there. For prayers and Ramadan they follow Edmonton, Alberta, times. Due to its northern location, Inuvik is called the “Light of the Midnight Sun” because it experiences an average of 56 days of continuous sunlight every summer and almost 30 days of complete darkness every winter. The small Muslim community could not afford to build a new mosque, for labor and
materials costs in the arctic region are far higher than in Canada’s southern parts. The most economical way, they found, would be to fabricate it in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as a Ready To Move (RTM) structure, and then transport it from Winnipeg to Hay River, NWT, by road (1,700 miles [2,700 km]) and a further 1,100 miles (1,800 km) by barge to Inuvik. The receding water levels in Mackenzie River, precipitated by a less-than-expected amount of seasonal rain, necessitated its being shipped three weeks earlier than originally planned. After an excruciating and difficult journey starting in Winnipeg on Sept. 1 — it almost fell off a bridge and into the Reindeer Creek about 1.8 miles (3 km) after entering the NWT province — the mosque finally arrived in Hay River on Sept. 10, only two days late. It would have missed the season’s last barge to Inuvik had it not been for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s urgent and frantic request to the Northern Transportation Company to hold the barge. The barge finally docked in Inuvik on Sept. 22 — the world’s longest building move. After completing the necessary on-site installation work, the mosque was officially inaugurated on Nov. 10, 2010, exactly three years after the inauguration of another foundation project: the 1,564 square feet Thompson (Zubaidah Tallab Masjid) mosque built in collaboration with the MIA’s Thompson chapter and also pre-fabricated in Winnipeg. At that time (February 2007), it was the foundation’s largest project. The Thompson mosque was only the third purpose-built mosque in Manitoba and the only nonChristian house of worship north of Winnipeg. With the completion of its basement in 2012, the mosque can accommodate some 300 congregants. The basement, which can also serve as a recreation room, has a bedroom and a bathroom for overnight guests. The foundation also supports the Islamic Society of Nunavut, which has
OUT OF MANITOBA’S 4,500 NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS, THE ZUBAIDAH TALLAB FOUNDATION IS THE ONLY ONE HELPING THE FIRST NATION RESERVES OF NORTHERN MANITOBA. ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
Timeline of important events in the history of Manitoba’s Muslims 1900s-1950s: First Muslim immigrants arrive from Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Lebanon. 1950s-1960s: Groups of South Asian and Arab immigrants begin studying and settling down. 1966: Approximately 25 Muslim families live in the province, and the Sunday noon prayers are held regularly in a Muslim family’s basement. 1967: Muslims in Winnipeg form a group that is later renamed the Manitoba Islamic Association (MIA). 1967-71: Sunday noon prayers are moved to the Unitarian Church, due to the growing number of Muslims. 1969: Incorporation of the MIA. 1969: Fundraising for first mosque begins. 1971-74: The Sunday noon prayers are moved to the International Centre. 1972: Friday congregational prayers are held at the University of Manitoba. 1974-75: Construction of Winnipeg’s first mosque begins. 1975: Completion of the MIA Mosque in August. 1976: Opening of the mosque’s weekend Islamic school. 1980: Annual summer camps begin as an institution. 1987: MIA imports its first imam from Nigeria, Imam Tahir Aderonmu, who serves for about~ 3 years. 1990-91 The Muslim Youth Council (MYC) is formed. 1991: A feasibility study for a new Muslim community center is conducted. 1991: Statistics Canada report that Manitoba has approximately 3,525 Muslims.
been working on its mosque in Iqaluit since 2009, and dispatched a construction crew this summer. The mosque is slated for completion by December 2105, said Syed Asif Ali, the society’s president. Currently 100 or so Muslims live in Iqaluit, which has a population of 6,700.
1991: Muhammad Safi, the MIA’s second imam, arrives in Winnipeg from Guyana and stays until 1994. 1994: Establishment of the Takaful Fund to help needy Muslims. 1996: The Al-Hijrah full-time Islamic school begins. 1997: A North America-wide educational retreat is held at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. International and North American scholars attend. 1999: Establishment of the Manitoba Muslim newsletter. 1999 MIA reports that over 5,000 Muslims live in Manitoba. 2000: Arrival of the MIA’s third imam: Hosni Azzabi of Tunisia. 1999-2003: Expansion of community and Islamic activities: the holding of regular and Friday prayers at both universities, the Health Sciences Centre, the Islamic Education Foundation, the Pakistan Association Centre, the MIA and other locations. 2003: Construction of the new Islamic center begins, the full-time Ecole Sofiya, a full time Islamic School is established and. the Islamic Institute of Manitoba (IIIM) in formally opened in downtown Winnipeg. 2004: The Winnipeg Central Mosque officially opens on Oct. 15. 2006: The Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute (CMWI) is officially launched in Winnipeg on Nov. 12. 2007: The Islamic Social Services Association, Inc. (ISSA) launches the first-of-its-kind public awareness campaign on Dec. 14 to highlight the contributions of Manitoba’s Muslims. 2007: The Winnipeg Grand Mosque, located on Waverely St., officially opens on Jan. 20. 2008: The Manitoba Muslim Seniors Association (MSSA) is established. Source: Manitoba Muslim staff.
In 2012, both Shamattawa and Garden Hill received 1,800 pounds of meat from the program, as well as foodstuff, and donations collected by Muslims. In 2013, Attawapiskat received 4,000 pounds of meat and foodstuff collected by the program. The foundation also works extensively with new Muslim refugees and strives to
meet their needs and help them blend into Canadian society. In addition, it continues to donate meat from the Udhia Qurbani program, collect and distribute used furniture and household goods and provide other services to new families.
Abu Amal Hadhrami is a freelance writer.
The foundation has now undertaken more than 100 projects, some of which are rather. Some of these projects are considered small, like the regular children’s parties that attract over 200 participants each and are usually held once a month from October till May in the Winnipeg Central Mosque gymnasium, and others that are rather large, such as supporting for the First Nation reserves of Shamattawa and Garden Hill in northern Manitoba and Attawapiskat in northern Ontario. Of Manitoba’s 4,500 nonprofit organizations, the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation is the only one helping the First Nation reserves of northern Manitoba. This support began in 2008 by sending four shipments of food and clothing to Garden Hill First Nations. In 2011, the Shamattawa received 400 pounds of meat from the Udhia Qurbani program. ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
Meaningful Lives Involved Muslim Canadians seniors continue to giving back to their communities. BY KATHERINE BULLOCK
ast year at a screening of the new documentary film “Serving Others: Memoirs of Muslim Seniors,” which celebrates the lives of four extraordinary Muslim volunteers, a panel of seniors were asked, “How do you deal with burnout?” “Oh, there is no such thing as burnout,” replied Amjad Syed, one of the film’s protagonists. His response somewhat startled a multitasker and homemaker: myself. Is this, perhaps, the dividing line between being “a” volunteer and “an extraordinary” volunteer? Certainly the panelists’ passion and energy suggests that they are motivated by a force strong enough to overcome or negate volunteering fatigue. What motivates them to keep going? In the film, his tears welling up, Syed speaks of the many blessings he has received from God: “Good shelter on our head (sic), lots of food, you name a thing, we have it. So it’s up to us to, it’s time for us to give. The time started long time ago, but it is still continuing
and God willing, as far as possible, we’ll do that.” He adds with a smile, “Let’s see how long it will go.” Funded by the Canadian government’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, the documentary sought to promote volunteerism among seniors. Managed by the Muslim Seniors Circle (www.muslimseniorscircle. ca) and the Tessellate Institute (www.tessellateinstitute.com), and produced by Fatima Altaf and Farhiya Ahmed from the Sisters in Dawa, a film production company, the project included three community film screenings followed by question-and-answer sessions with the panelists. My research on Muslimah activists and Canadian Muslim youth civic engagement indicates that the community highly values and practices volunteerism, yet under the radar of the wider Canadian and U.S. societies. Singling out four people from the many meritorious volunteers was challenging. The project steering committee had over 25 applicants to choose from — a small sample compared to the actual number of such people. Guided by such criteria as gender parity, ethnic diversity, comfort of speaking in front
of a camera and being easily understood, as well as having a record of extraordinary community service, we finally settled on (in alphabetic order) Doris Elharchali, Hanny Hassan, Amjad Syed, and Wahida Valiante — each of whom had volunteered for at least 40 years. Our next challenge was to encapsulate their stories into a thirty-minute film. We settled on highlighting two of their especially important contributions. Elharchali, 64, talked about her experiences growing up as a Catholic immigrant and how even as a child she sometimes felt
Creating a Template for a Seniors Group in the Community The Birth of the Muslim Seniors Circle of Halton/Peel BY MOHAMED BHABHA
or the last thirty years Canadians have been living longer than before. According to Statscan, the average Canadian life expectancy in 2012 was 81.24 years. And so it is hardly surprising that issues to seniors have started to occupy governments, policymakers and community leaders. The Muslim community has also been asked about what could be done to help its seniors. For me, the answer came when I was working with the Mississauga-based Family Services of Peel (FSP) to design and implement an appropriate program funded by the Federal New Horizons for Seniors Program. At 67, I had never considered myself a senior. Since retiring from the Federal Public Service, I had, among other activities, served for several years as a volunteer principal to help
establish an Islamic elementary school in Oakville, Ontario, and had spent a couple of years with a civic education project for Oxfam Quebec in Ramallah, Palestine. However, I had no knowledge or experience of senior-related issues. Under a 12-month grant, FSP gave me a free hand and facilities to develop a program. I decided to develop a work plan to not only fulfill the project’s requirements, but also to provide for sustainability that would lead to the establishment of an ongoing Muslim seniors group. The plan included the following elements: ❶ Self-education: I learned about seniors’ issues and needs, available services, organizations serving seniors and what service gaps remained unfilled via online research, speaking to FSP staff and visiting various organizations. ❷ Identify and recruit volunteers: I formed a core group of ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
Muslims seniors enjoy camaraderie at a leisurely walk.
the sting of exclusion from the white Anglo mainstream. While working in social services catering to refugees, she met many Muslims. These encounters piqued her interest in Islam, and a few years later she reverted and eventually married a Moroccan. Her desire to serve continued. She quickly recognized that the small Muslim community of the early 1970s was sorely lacking in faith-appropriate expertise in social services. To remedy this situation, she got together with some likeminded individuals, including fellow revert and imam Sheikh Abdullah Hakim Quick
and his wife, and founded Ontario’s — and possibly Canada’s — first Muslim social service agency: The Islamic Social Services and Research Association (ISSRA). In addition to counseling clients, she trained ISSRA volunteers. She spoke a little about burnout (a question I had asked the directors to include) and talked about having to step back a little during her childbearing years. Perhaps volunteer burnout has a gendered dimension, reminding me of a favorite epigraph on one of my friend’s wall: “I wanted to change the world but I couldn’t find a babysitter.”
The Canadian Muslim community, at around 940 000, approximately 3.2 percent of Canada’s population, is the largest nonChristian religious group. While most Muslims arrived after the country changed its immigration laws during the 1960s, there had been a slow and steady immigrant stream ever since the 1830s. Hanny Hassan, 73, is a second-generation Muslim born in London, Ontario. His father migrated from Ottomanruled Syria in 1913, and in 1955 his family helped establish Ontario’s first mosque. In the film, he recalls how being one of the city’s few Muslims launched him into his lifelong participation in interfaith dialogue — he began responding to biased or denigrating information about Islam dispensed through the then-mandatory Christian education classes in school. His eyes filling with tears, he recounts how Father Paul of Toronto’s Holy Rosary Catholic Church invited him after 9/11 to demonstrate the adhan and teach the congregation about Islam. Hassan was also active in two national associations that predated the continentwide MSA and ISNA: the Federation of Islamic Associations of Canada and the United States (FIA, founded 1924), and the Council of Canadian Muslim Communities of Canada (CMCC, founded 1972). He became a lead organizer of their weeklong summer camp, Camp al-Mu’mineen, which is still running some forty years later. In 2011 he was awarded the Order of Canada for his service. Amjad Syed, 78, came to Canada from
trained volunteers to help establish and develop a database of Muslim OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH such as group and possibly replicate seniors, the imams of three large ISNA CANADA HAS BEEN mosques in the Peel Region were the process in other communities. asked to deliver a seniors-related Nine Muslim seniors, both male and MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL. khutba on Fridays. Our group female, and one young Muslim adult MUSLIM SENIOR CIRCLE, male were recruited. would then set up a display board, ❸ Develop a training plan for engage the community by distributWHICH IS PROVIDED WITH the core group: This plan would ing the bookmarks and brochures THE NEEDED PHYSICAL cover seniors’ issues and visits to and gather the seniors’ names and relevant service organizations, as contact details. A total of 115 names SPACE, CAN BE RELIED well as workshops on how to faciliwere collected. UPON TO PROVIDE tate meetings, conduct outreach and ❻ Gauge the seniors’ interest in establishing the envisaged introduce grief counselling sessions. WHATEVER SERVICES ARE FSP staff, police officers and subject group: The plan initially called for REQUIRED OF THEM. matter experts from local organizaa bottom-up approach. Accordingly, tions provided training resources. invitations were sent to everyone on ❹ Develop marketing tools for outreach activities: We designed the new seniors’ list asking them to attend a meeting on how to and printed a bookmark and a brochure and created a display establish the group. The approximately 60 senior attendees were board. divided into groups and asked to discuss their needs and what ❺ Conduct outreach in the community: To connect with obstacles prevent them from getting those needs met.
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CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY India in 1965 with his wife Malika. From 1961-68, he was active as a weekend Islamic teacher in Toronto’s first mosque, which was in fact a converted store. He began to make his mark by volunteering in the hospital system where he worked, motivated by an encounter with a patient who found it too difficult to pray. This gentleman was planning to make up his prayers once home, but passed away before he was discharged. After retirement, Syed and his wife began to visit the patients. He wrote brochures and a book about coping with sickness and hospitalization from an Islamic perspective. He agitated for about three years to get hospitals to include halal food options on their menus. Once ISNA-Canada had a beautiful new large building in 2001, Syed convinced the board to include funeral facilities. He and his wife then served as principal volunteers for washing the bodies and spearheaded training for male and female volunteers. He even wrote a guidebook on the subject. He received the Trillium Hospital’s President’s Gold Leaf Award in 2002. Wahida Valiante, 78, came to Canada from Pakistan in 1961. Like Elharchali, she trained as a social worker and noticed an overwhelming need in the community for trained experts in social services from a Muslim perspective. She volunteered for ISSRA and became particularly interested in issues facing women. She eventually founded the Hedayet Foundation and volunteered there as a counsellor for over ten years, stopping in while on her way to her 8:30 a.m.
A game of badminton offers friendship and exercise.
WHEN ONE FEELS OVERWHELMED, SCALE BACK TO SMALL ACTS, AND WHEN ONE FEELS THAT SHE IS BRIMMING WITH ENERGY, SCALE UP. job in Downtown Toronto. She wrote papers on family therapy from a Qur’anic perspective. After 9/11 she became involved in a new national Canadian Muslim organization, the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC),
and served as its president in 2009, the first woman to lead a national Canadian Muslim association. In 2007 CIC achieved a milestone of working with the Canadian Parliament to declare October as “Islamic History
The FSP work plan was executed physical space, can be relied upon successfully. The exploratory meetto provide whatever services are ing was held on Jan. 9, 2009, and, required of them. Between 50 and after reflecting upon the attendees’ 70 seniors attend monthly MSC meetings at ISNA. Two of the feedback, a seniors group was set up in accordance with the focus FSP-trained volunteers established groups’ wishes. In addition, a tenta- From left: Hanny Hassan, Doris El Harchali, Wahida the MSC of Waterloo/Wellington tive meeting and activities schedule Valiante and Amjad Syed County, and another one is located in Hamilton. In addition, a seniors was devised. Although the project had been completed, FSP officials organization in Toronto followed the MSC model, including allowed the Muslim Seniors Circle (MSC) to continue their joining forces with Family Services of Toronto, in order to launch facilities, including the meeting rooms. Having outgrown these their own group. facilities we approached ISNA Canada, which offered us the use The MSC website (www.muslimseniorscircle.ca/) lists the of their facilities, including a boardroom for committee meet- available programs and services. After clicking on the link, one ings, a gym for badminton and other activities, and a space will see that there is much room for improvement not only with large enough to accommodate the planned monthly meetings. the website itself, but also in other areas, particularly in terms of Today, six years later, we have a membership list of over 200 identifying and helping isolated seniors and conducting better men and women. Our relationship with ISNA Canada has been outreach efforts. mutually beneficial. MSC, which is provided with the needed Mohamed Bhabha, chair, Muslim Seniors Circle of Halton/Peel.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
Taste of Faiths One Ottawa Muslimah’s dedication has nurtured a growing interfaith event in Ottawa. BY AMIRA ELGHAWABY
Katherine Bullock, outgoing president, The Tessellate Institute, is a board member of ISNA-Canada
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
PHOTO (C) HARMONY IFTAR DINNER
Month,” an initiative now in its eighth year and celebrated throughout schools, libraries and communities nationwide. Valiante had to scale down her volunteerism after a series of car accidents impacted her health; however, in the film she spoke about how volunteering helped her regain her health by not allowing her to focus too much on her illness but rather on how she could be useful to others, even if on a smaller scale. She has been selected for each of the past five years for inclusion in the “500 Most Influential Muslim in the World” edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin of Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. “Serving Others” was meant to showcase extraordinary Muslim volunteers, but the takeaway from the film and panel discussions is that even small acts of kindness that might go unnoticed are of great importance and value to our protagonists. As the film makes clear, their motivation is not recognition but the feeling of having tried to give back to their communities. This seems to be the answer to my burnout question: When one feels overwhelmed, scale back to small acts, and when one feels that she is brimming with energy, scale up. But above all, remember God’s favors to you and work to spread them to others. The film is available at http://www. tessellateinstitute.com/newsite/projects/ memoirs-of-muslim-seniors.
n high school, Ayan Ismail was constantly questioned why she wasn’t eating or drinking during Ramadan. These questions persisted right through university. “I wanted to answer them,” she explained, “but I also wanted to do something.” In 2014, that “something” turned into an annual Harmony Iftar Dinner, which promotes understanding and friendship between Muslim Canadians and the wider community. “At the first dinner there (were) forty people,” she recalled. Over 400 people attended the July 2015 dinner. “They liked it because people didn’t feel so comfortable going to the mosques. They liked the informal atmosphere,” she said. A group of dedicated volunteers and funding support from individuals and local Muslim organizations has helped her keep the effort going. In fact, it is often featured in the local press and on local news broadcasts. Every year, guest speakers focus on such themes as the value of uniting people to propel positive change. Ottawa mayor Jim Watson remarked that the event “is such a welcoming way to share the Holy Month of Ramadan with your friends and neighbors. Ottawa’s Muslim population enriches our city and our communities in many ways.” He further said that such events not only educate the guests about Islam, but also help foster a sense of camaraderie and cultural exchange that contribute to making Ottawa the great city that it is. “The key principles that are the foundations of Ramadan — charity, sacrifice and compassion — are values we all cherish” and that “This is true in our communities, our city, our country and our world.” Khadija Haffajee, a pioneering force for interfaith cooperation in Ottawa and beyond, has often focused on that message. This year, she urged the guests to think about their role in promoting goodwill and understanding of the “other” in order to further the social good. At a previous dinner Sue Evans, director of the Multi-faith Housing Initiative, reflected on the tireless years-long effort to
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson addressing the Harmony Iftar.
provide affordable housing for low-income families that has enjoyed the support of myriad faith groups as an example of positive collaboration. Organizers also recognize community leaders from various faith groups and organizations. Past honorees have included Sulaiman Khan of the Islam Care Center and Erica Bregman from Jewish Family Services Ottawa for their contributions to furthering success among all faith communities. Representatives of Ottawa’s police services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario and federal legislatures and local school boards often join the breaking-of-thefast meal and listen to presentations explaining Ramadan’s significance and rituals. “This has been so wonderful,” exclaimed a Christian woman and first time attendee. “I loved the [maghrib] prayer. There was a real energy there.” For Ismail, such comments keep her going and make her admit with a rueful smile that, yes, she hopes to do it all again next year.
Amira Elghawaby, who has worked as both a full-time and freelance journalist, is human resources director, National Council of Canadian Muslims. [Editor’s Note: The author first published a version of this article in the Muslim Link.]
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
Living and Sharing on the Pacific Coast Muslims are spread across British Columbia. BY IMAAD ALI
he church located on East First Avenue in Vancouver, bearing in its stained glass windows the ancient Croatian state’s heraldic arms, was built with the financial help of Muslims, reports Daood Hamdani, who is a specialist in Canadian Muslim history. Vancouver, the bustling west coast seaport in British Columbia (BC), is among Canada’s densest, most ethnically diverse cities. The Pacific Coast province is also home to a uniquely diverse Muslim population. Muslims have been in BC since at least the 1920s. Some of the early settlers came to work in lumber mills on the banks of the Fraser River. Others fought in the Second World War, and some Muslim families living
on the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California today are descendants of Muslim who came to BC during the early part of the 20th century but moved south during the Great Depression. After the Second World War, most of Canada’s new immigrants came from such war-ravaged countries as Italy and Britain. Muslims were part of this post-war boom as well, albeit in far smaller numbers. They included Pakistanis, Egyptians, Turks, Romanians, Bulgarians, Albanians, Indians and Russians — all of whom would meet for prayers, Eids and even religious classes for their children. Finding that Canadians were not very familiar with Islam or its followers, they nevertheless integrated into the mainstream community and worked with other
religious groups. The Vancouver church is just one example. During the early 1960s, after Prime Minister John Diefenbaker altered Canada’s immigration policy, the province saw exponential growth in the Muslim population: from estimated 300 in 1964 to about 700 in 1968, and to more than 2,000 in 1972. The Pakistan Canada Association in Vancouver, which came into being in 1963, was housed in an old two-story building. Its first floor, a hall, served as a mosque and temporary lodging for newly arrived immigrants; the second floor was used for social gatherings. By 1965, the diverse Muslim community established BC’s first mosque in Vancouver. Abdul Hafiz would serve as its first imam. On July 2, 1966, a nine-member ad-hoc committee was appointed to form a multiethnic Muslim organization that would work “towards achieving our objectives and our ultimate goal — a Mosque in British Columbia.” At the inaugural session, the founding members assigned tasks to set up the organization. The first donations to the newly named BC Muslim Association (BCMA) were $25.00 contributions made by committee members to cover the costs of registering the organization, filing
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
the constitution and paying a consultant. They also helped purchase snacks for a meeting with the greater Muslim community. Despite the financial challenges, these pioneers, fully aware of the opportunity provided, declared that their new organization would “be responsible to unite all the Muslims of BC and erect a Mosque in Vancouver.” On August 28, 1966, the committee was disbanded and seven of its members were appointed as the association’s directors. Mohamed Ghamim Harris, an immigrant from South Africa, declined his appointment because he was moving to Chase, a town in the province’s interior; he later helped establish the BCMA’s presence in Kamloops. His replacement Khawja Mohammed Shahid, an immigrant from East Pakistan (now Ban-
ground on its first high school. The school operates two campuses today, one in Richmond and the other in Surrey. A decade later, as the population continued to grow and move to all corners of the province, there was a push to further decentralize the organization. In 1994 local management comBC Muslim Association mittees were set up to do a better has never had issues with integration, ghet- job of meeting their respective communitoization, isolation or ethnic strife. “Second- ties’ needs. Over the years this expanded diaspora Muslims don’t idolize where they to various local communities, and today come from,” MacLean wrote. “This large BCMA has branches and chapters in every group of Muslims has acquired a certain part of the province, each operating its taste for Canadian multiculturalism.” own Islamic center. This includes the city BCMA would gradually become the of Prince George in the north, as well as community’s largest body. Its members communities on Vancouver Island and in the registered the first registered Muslim mar- Fraser Valley. In 2016, BCMA will celebrate riage officer in the province’s history in 1970. its 50th anniversary. In 1976 they purchased 304 cemetery plots Today, the BC Muslim population is growing exponentially. An estimated 230,000 Muslims, six percent of the population, are expected to call Metro Vancouver MUSLIMS THRIVE IN EVERY CORNER OF home within the next 20 years. There are a THIS PROVINCE, FROM THE FROZEN NORTH multitude of Islamic centers, mosques and prayer spaces; two Muslim schools and a ALONG THE ALASKA BORDER TO THE pre-school; a Muslim sports association; a ISLANDS ON THE PACIFIC COAST, FROM youth center; two Muslim food banks for the less fortunate; a Muslim Business CounTHE CANADIAN ROCKY MOUNTAINS TO THE cil; two Muslim newspapers and organizaBUSTLING METROPOLIS OF VANCOUVER. tions for Muslim women. Muslims thrive in every corner of this province, from the THEIR HISTORY IS STILL BEING WRITTEN. frozen north along the Alaska border to the islands on the Pacific coast, from the gladesh), would eventually become BCMA’s to establish one of Canada’s first Muslim Canadian Rocky Mountains to the bustling first president. The six other directors were burial grounds. Their main goal, however, metropolis of Vancouver. Their vast history Mohammed Zainul Khan, a Pakistani; was to build a mosque to serve the grow- is still being written. Usman Ali, Mumtaz Ali, and Abdul Aziz ing Muslim population. After a seven-year Imaad Ali has been researching the history of Muslims in Khan, all Fijians; and Farouk Elesseily, a search, BCMA purchased a lot in Richmond, North America for over 7 years. young Egyptian engineer. BC (near Vancouver International Airport) Derryl MacLean, a professor at Simon and spent years getting it reclassified so they Fraser University (the Vancouver Sun, 2001), could build their envisaged mosque. In 1981, writes that this multi-ethnic setup signi- they opened their mosque. Responding fied that the organization would welcome to the Muslim population’s growth in the Muslims from all backgrounds and avoid nearby city of Surrey, BCMA purchased its the ethnic isolationism seen in some of the second property, a Salvation Army church, Educate deprived West’s Muslim communities. Since most of and converted it into a mosque. Children of these officials were from Fiji or East Africa By the mid-1980s, having established and “Second-diaspora Muslims” who did not two mosques, BCMA started planning to Pakistan come from Muslim-majority countries, they open a Muslim school. In 1984 it secured were already used to living as tiny minority a license to run a school in the Richmond communities. Thus they knew how to adapt Mosque’s multi-purpose hall. Forty children and take the initiative when it came to build- were in the inaugural class. Portables were 2011 4th St. Sac: CA 95818 ing their own communities and institutions. added as the school grew, and by September http://www.shaffe.org Consequently, BC Muslims, perhaps more 1988 a new seven-classroom building was than any other Western Muslim community, opened. In December 1995, BCMA broke
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
Some Are Less Equal
Are Muslim Canadians getting equal protection under law, or do race and religion matter? BY SHEEMA KHAN
n 2000 Canada, always at the forefront of multilateral efforts to safeguard the interests of children during wartime, became one of the first nations to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. Among other measures, this protocol requires signatories to rehabilitate and reintegrate former child soldiers who fall within a country’s jurisdiction. That same year, Canada hosted the first International Conference on War-Affected Children, which galvanized the international community to act on behalf of children. In fact, the Optional Protocol went into force in 2002, at which point, the U.S. signed on. In 2004, the Canadian government highlighted the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) funding for demobilizing, rehabilitating and reintegrating child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Uganda, and Sudan. However, nowhere in this report does one find the name of Omar Khadr, a 13-year-old Canadian citizen who had been indoctrinated by his father into the ways of al-Qaeda and sent to the battlefields of Afghanistan. He was captured two years later and charged with the murder of U.S. Sgt. Chris Speer during a battlefield fight with American soldiers in 2002. At the time, the Liberal Party-led government acquiesced to Khadr’s transfer to Guan-
tanamo. Since 2006, the Conservative Party led government has ignored calls by respected jurists, human rights organizations and the nation’s Supreme Court to bring him home. Ten years later, in 2012, after his incarceration in Guantanamo as its youngest inmate and subjected to torture, mind games, and denied counsel during his first two years, Omar Khadr was returned to Canada, after the Conservatives’ grudging acceptance of a plea deal. He was also the last Western detainee to be repatriated (all of whom have had a zero percent recidivism rate). By all accounts, he fit the description of a child soldier as defined by the Optional Protocol, but was not classified as such. Why did Canada and the U.S. ignore their treaty obligations?
IT’S EASY TO HAVE COMPASSION FOR CHILD SOLDIERS IN A DISTANT LAND; THE TRUE TEST OF SINCERITY OCCURS WHEN THE INDIVIDUAL IS A FELLOW CITIZEN.
Some believe “once a terrorist, always a terrorist.” Seeing this teenager a traitor who cannot change, they are willfully blind to successful rehabilitation programs of child soldiers. A prominent example is Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone. Recruited into the war at 13, he committed horrific atrocities before entering a UNICEF rehabilitation camp when he was 16. He later made his way to New York City, eventually graduated from Oberlin College and in 2007 published his memoir “A Long Way Gone.” His personal redemption and efforts have been lauded. Beah has criticized how Ottawa and Washington have handled Khadr’s case. In a 2008 interview, he observed: “But you can’t say that one person’s life is more valuable. So, if a 15-year-old kid in Sierra Leone, in Congo, in Uganda, in Liberia, if they kill somebody in the war it’s fine, but as soon as that kid kills an American soldier... they are no longer a child soldier, they are a terrorist [sic].” He also noted that it’s easy to have compassion for child soldiers in a distant land; the true test of sincerity occurs when the individual is a fellow citizen. Beah cautioned against releasing Khadr back into society (unsupervised) too quickly, as time and space are needed for reorientation. The Conservative government happily obliged and used every possible means — at considerable taxpayers’ expense — to keep Khadr behind bars as an adult and under maximum security. When that failed, they tried to silence him by opposing media interview requests and bail. In the interim, they painted him as a hardened criminal without hope of reform, labeling him a “convicted terrorist.” Kadr was finally released in 2015, a bittersweet event for the nation’s Muslims. Like many Canadians, they were touched by the young man’s modesty and warmth. His words were genuine — much like his smile. He seemed truly grateful for the freedom so long denied, for the support of so many, for the chance to start his life anew. He expressed remorse for the pain he caused. No hint of bitterness. Only the desire to complete his education, with hopes of entering health care — a field, he noted, rooted in compassion for those in pain. A reintegration program requires separation from social networks that espouse extremist ideology. In addition, the program must also address mental health issues, pro-
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
vide religious counseling that emphasizes common ground between Islamic principles and Western norms, closely monitor Khadr’s progress and provide educational opportunities. The latter has been underway since 2012, when Arlette Zinck, a Canadian university professor, traveled to Guantanamo to provide him with a U.S.-approved curriculum that included subjects such as Canadian literature, science, and the Canadian Charter of Rights. Khadr has been a model, voracious student. There is cautious optimism for Khadr’s reintegration into society. However, Muslim Canadians have seen this post-9/11 scenario before: a Muslim swept up in the “war on terror” and, denied basic rights and tortured, left to rot in legal limbo only to be saved by the efforts of human rights activists, ordinary Canadians and the country’s courts. Canadian citizens Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El-Maati, Muayyed Nureddin and Abousfian Abdelrazik were all detained abroad, with the complicity of Canadian security agencies. Abdelrazik’s case was particularly vexing. Ottawa refused to allow him to return to Canada from Sudan (citing him as a “threat”), even after Canadian security agencies cleared him. A Federal judge finally ordered his return. Meanwhile, Muslim Canadians saw the deferential treatment given to convicted (Caucasian) felons Brenda Martin and Conrad Black by the government. Or, as Abdelrazik explained, “The Canadian government has a racist mind. It is because I am black and Muslim.” These words were echoed by Khadr’s lawyer, Dennis Edney, when asked why Khadr was left to languish in Guantanamo: “Mr. Harper is a bigot” and “doesn’t like Muslims” — a stinging criticism of the Prime Minister. In his first public interview, Khadr asked Canadians to “see who I am as a person, not as a name.” This is a wish that Canadian Muslims have for themselves and their children: “Please see me for who I am, not as an object of fear.” Since Omar’s release, some Canadians have argued for compassion, others for revenge. The foundation for an inclusive future lies in the fairness and compassion of Canadians.
Sheema Khan, PhD a patent agent, is a columnist for The Globe and Mail and author of “Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman.”
Homegrown Islamic Financing Ever-growing Islamic finance project offers stability and growth. BY ANWAR RAHMAN
he need and the demand were there, and in 1980, 17 individuals invested Can. $17,000 to meet to start Sharia-compliant financing for home ownership. Over the period, it grew to fulfil needs such interest-free car ownership, and retirement savings plan and general investment vehicles with security even with a low return. After registering as the Islamic Cooperative Housing Corporation Ltd. (ICHC), they eventually received the regulators’ reluctant approval. The seed money purchased the first house. The required rules and regulations, bylaws and occupancy agreements and other necessary documents were formulated to comply with the Sharia, the Canadian Cooperatives Act and taxation laws. Justice (ret.) Muhammad Taqi Usmani, who served as a federal Shariat court judge in Pakistan and pioneered Islamic banking there in 1997, attested that it was usury-proof and conformed to Islamic financial principles. After financing seven houses, membership and house purchases grew rapidly. ICHC’s authorized share capital grew from Can. $10 million to Can. $30 million. Besides increasing the authorized share capital, in 2002 the Ansar Co-operative Housing Corporation Ltd. (ACHC) was founded to complement ICHC. Today, their combined authorized share capital exceeds Can. $160 million. Membership has grown to approximately 5,000, and over 600 house purchases have been facilitated. Due to regulatory issues a sister cooperative, Qurtuba Housing, was established in Quebec. Membership is now international in scope. The three international Islamic banking, finance and Islamic insurance (Takaful) conferences led and organized by the housing cooperatives and Ansar Financial Group (AFG) have generated great interest. The group also became an active member and supporter of Takaful by participating in conferences held in Malaysia, Bahrain and the UAE. The housing cooperatives partnered with the Cooperators, a leading Canadian insurance provider, to establish Sharia-compliant automobile, home and commercial insurance for members as a pilot project. In the current Islamophobic atmosphere, this arrangement has relieved Islamic institutions from the dangers of refusal for property insurance by the industry. The Cooperators set up a separate pool where premiums would actively grow via ethical investments. Notably, the policyholders received a considerable return from their residual premiums after paying out claims.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
In summer 1995, partially controlled taxdeductible registered retirement saving plans (RRSP) were established under an affiliate: AlAmin Association. Invested in eligible AFG projects, they receive returns on their investments. Increasing demand led to two other corporations being registered and added to this pool of operation. This gradual but sure growth culminated in the Ansar Financial and Development Corporation (AFDC), a Sharia-compliant public corporation launched in 2009. Now publicly traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange as “AFD,” it administers the entire RRSP portfolio, including private funds of over Can. $22 million. In 2003, barely three years after its inception, AFDC paid dividends after realizing profits from capital gains and rental income. AFDC is currently developing one of its tracts as Ansar Industrial Park on the Trans-Canada Highway near Calgary, Alta. Ansar Centre, the three-story medical/office in Scarborough, Ont., acquired in 1997, is now fully owned by Ansar Investments Ltd. and hosts the ACHC, ICHC, and Ansar Group and offices and other renters. Ansar Medical Services Inc. is working on a promising multi-faceted Can. $60 million project: the Ansar Village located on an eightacre lot in Pickering, Ont. This includes retail, business/office, residential apartments and a seniors’ residence/long-term care facility. In early 2000, when Alberta witnessed vibrant economic growth, the Ansar Development Corporation and several sister concerns acquired 1,000 acres of agricultural land that it hoped to profit from by reselling after rezoning or developing or through appreciation. The assets also include a shopping mall that generates regular rental income. While waiting for capital gains, the farmland receives income from its lease and from the lease of a few oil/ gas wells on the property. Progress under the leadership of one of the founders, Pervez Nasim CPA, chairman, and Mohammed Jalaluddin, vice chairman, into the present broad spectrum of several financial strands of the Islamic economics in Canada has drawn notice from abroad. The group has been invited to various domestic and international events. Local and global media have mentioned its accomplishments. Financial regulators have invited the group to inform their lawyers and staff about Islamic banking, finance and Takaful. Various Ansar Financial entities have also received awards from prestigious international and local private/government bodies.
Anwar Rahman is manager of Ansar Financial
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
A Movement-based Community The birth and growth of a Muslim Canadian da’wah-oriented organization.
BY RISHAT FATIMA
n the early 1970s Canada could boast of an estimated 33,430 Muslims nearly no established da’wah-oriented organizations. Montreal, then the largest city, had only one mosque. Toronto was home for the Albanian Muslim Association, which was also active during that period. However, the country did have its share of Islamic activities: two mosques built in the late 1930s and some informal da’wah work. Against this backdrop, in 1973 Zaheer Uddin established the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Canadian branch in Montreal. A core group was developed and a weekly Quranic study was started; its membership slowly increased. His visits to Toronto and other cities led to the gradual establishment of ICNA chapters in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa. In 1978, ICNA held its national convention at a beautiful campsite in Montreal. Building on this very successful event, the central leadership decided to hold the next year’s convention in Toronto, which was another success. Zaheer Uddin, elected national president in 1982 and reelected in 1983 and 1984, began focusing more on continental activities. Along with other like-minded groups, ICNA Canada established Fatimah Masjid in Downtown Montreal and the suburban Muslim Center of Quebec. Today, ICNA Canada has chapters in Downtown Toronto,
Toronto East, Scarborough, Peel & Halton (Oakville, Ontario), Windsor, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. When other organizations appeared, it always sought to work with them to promote Islam. The organization even helped to set up an MSA chapter in Montreal and other cities. ICNA, the mother organization, was established in the U.S. in 1968 in response to the growing need for a supportive Muslim community in North America. It initially focused on educating its growing membership about Islam, thereby enabling individual Muslims to adhere to Islamic values while living in a religiously diverse community. In the early 1970s ICNA members, the majority of whom were of South Asian
DURING THE PAST DECADE, ICNA HAS EXPANDED ITS REACH ACROSS CANADA WHILE REMAINING ACTIVE IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES.
descent, focused their efforts on education and personal/spiritual development. In November 1977, nearly a decade after its formation, they met to discuss the need for Islamic work based in North America. After drafting and adopting a new constitution, the organization formally registered itself as the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). Basing themselves upon this new direction, members were determined to make ICNA an inclusive, diverse organization and adopted English as the official language. With the 1980s came several key expansion projects, among them the 1980 formation of the ICNA Sisters’ Wing. Various projects were launched, many of which still thrive today: ICNA Relief, WhyIslam, Young Muslims, the Fiqh Council of Canada, Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) and Gain Peace. In addition, new branches were set up in various North American cities. In 1997, ICNA Canada purchased its first Canadian property in Oakville, Ontario, and gradually turned it into one of the area’s major Islamic centers. Al-Falah Islamic Center provides religious, educational and social services to the community and youth, and attracts thousands of Muslims and nonMuslims every year. In 2005 it became an independent organization with no official relationship with the founding organization: ICNA in the U.S. Three years later it acquired a center in Mississauga and another in Milton (Southern Ontario). During the past decade, ICNA has expanded its reach across Canada while remaining active in local communities. Its major projects are Muslim Family Services, ICNA Food Banks, Youth Leadership Development Programs, Gain Peace project, Al-Falah Islamic School, ICNA Relief Canada, MCNA weekend schools, the Islamic Community Center of Milton and Ar-Rahman Islamic Center in Mississauga. The women-instituted Ad-Duha Institute of Islamic Sciences (and Al-Fajr Institute of Islamic Sciences, which welcomes both men and women) provides all levels of Islamic knowledge and understanding to its female students. In 2012 ICNA improved its culture of accountability, communication and transparency. It submits regularly to a yearly external audit.
Rishat Fatima is a freelance writer.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
Are Muslim Canadians Ready for the Challenges Ahead? How aware are Muslim Canadians in creating their own effective civil rights institutions? BY AMIRA ELGHAWABY
ome time ago, a distraught acquaintance phoned and asked if I would be heading to Parliament Hill that day for a protest rally. The call came just as federal politicians were bickering over how much time should be allotted to reviewing Bill C-51, the controversial new government-proposed anti-terror legislation (Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, enacted June 18, 2015). This legislation would grant security agencies sweeping new powers while broadening definitions of terrorism, which many civil rights groups fear could be used to clamp down on legitimate protest and chill speech. For Muslim Canadians, the implications were extremely worrisome for it was obvious that they would be a chief target. And who could blame them for reaching that conclusion? Prime Minister Harper and various ministers have freely conflated Islam, Muslims, their dress and mosques with the emerging security threat. Back to the phone call — was she asking me to join a protest? Actually, no. She wanted me to join a protest rally to show my opposi-
IT ISN’T ENOUGH TO ACCEPT PLATITUDES OF GOODWILL AND SUPPORT; RATHER, WE MUST ASK THEM TOUGH QUESTIONS AND DEMAND ANSWERS ABOUT THE DECISIONS THEY PLAN TO MAKE ON OUR BEHALF. tion to the Ontario government’s new sex education curriculum. I gently explained to the well-meaning mother of two that the federal government had nothing to do with the new curriculum
The Muslim Voice
ompared to the U.S., which has well-staffed Muslim-run civil rights offices in every major city, Canada’s reality is dismal. The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), the only national human rights and civil liberties organization, answers calls nationwide about discrimination and human rights abuses in addition to offering suggestions, advice, and guidance to those who sometimes need up to a full year (or more) of support and follow-up. At any time, NCCM is dealing with about forty ongoing discrimination cases. This organization, which is the only one that collects and keeps data on specific human rights complaints (e.g., travel and border issues), receives approximately 100 reports each year. All of this material is relevant to our understanding of current trends affecting Muslims. NCCM also supervises law students who volunteer with it. The organization’s successes include litigating for the right of a Muslimah correctional officer to wear her hijab in a provincial facility. NCCM is also assisting Rania El-Alloul, the Montreal
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
and that this particular protest was likely taking place in Toronto. I also offered suggestions for how she might raise her concerns more constructively, including speaking to her school’s administration and parent council to see how parent concerns could be allayed. She seemed appreciative and we hung up.
KEY QUESTIONS It is instructive to note how quickly Ontario’s Muslims reacted to the new sex education curriculum as compared to the proposed anti-terror legislation. This difference speaks directly to several critical issues: How civically engaged and adept are we as citizens? How aware are we of the issues that impact us today and will do so in the future? How strong is our support for the organizations trying to promote and protect our own human rights and civil liberties? While answering these questions, one must make general observations due to the lack of both current quantitative and qualitative data about our community and what concerns its members. Fortunately, the Environics Institute’s recently announced
woman who was asked to remove her hijab in order to be heard in court, and offering support to families who recently won human rights complaints against a Calgary private school. There are just some of the cases that critically affect many of our community’s families and individuals. The organization is also invited to answer critical questions asked by the media. Its members write Op-eds, letters to the editor and politicians and issue news releases on matters affecting Muslim Canadians. In addition, NCCM monitors and compiles an annual report on hate crimes and anti-Muslim statements and incidents, monitors legislation and provides substantive feedback to legislators. Its staff has appeared at parliamentary hearings and before the Supreme Court; holds workshops and discussions on media engagement, Islamophobia, rights and responsibilities, youth engagement, and on many other topics; and produces publications for educators, journalists, employers and health care professionals on Islam and Muslims. However, it needs to produce similar materials for social services, law enforcement agencies, parents who are trying to navigate the education system and other sectors.
upcoming poll will soon provide this data. The 2015 survey comes almost a decade after the institute published its first instructive and widely quoted 2006 poll about Muslim Canadians. When campaigning politicians visit mosques and community centers to attract voters, our audiences must be aware of the issues. It isn’t enough to accept platitudes of goodwill and support; rather, we must ask them tough questions and demand answers about the decisions they plan to make on our behalf. Thus, we need to be educated and aware. As the nation’s Muslim presence continues to grow, the understandable priority has often been on building mosques, important projects to which our communities have donated generously. Yet due to the financial drain or lack of vision, or both, our commitment to building institutions that promote civic engagement, human rights, and civil liberties have been wanting. We are all in this together. Strong institutions cause us to be strong and, as we become more civically engaged, to be noticed by our fellow Canadians who will respect our input. Without a clear vision, targeted education, thoughtful participation, and unwavering commitment to capacity building, how can we possibly have any impact?
A MONUMENTAL TASK Serving over one million diverse Muslims, one would assume that NCCM has a large staff and a few volunteers. However, the reality is totally different — it has a miniscule staff and with many volunteers and supporters who use a triage system to meet the daily challenges. Therefore, sometimes we can only be reactive. For example, an angry Canadian Muslimah once called to ask why NCCM wasn’t meeting with a Member of Parliament who had made an offensive statement concerning Muslimahs. I tried to explain that we simply didn’t have the time to even request a meeting due to the demanding number of media calls that particular week, our work on Bill C-51 and other demanding cases on top of our regular duties. She made it clear that she was unimpressed and unsatisfied.
Amira Elghawaby, who has worked as both a full-time and freelance journalist, is human resources director, National Council of Canadian Muslims. A version of this article first appeared in The Link Canada magazine.
Rap with Faith A Muslim Canadian pair brings clean music to the community. BY ZULF M KHALFAN
Canadian Muslim duo is halal rapping its way upward — high enough up to catch national media attention. On Aug. 25, they were featured on CBC-TV’s nightly “The National” news hour. CBC says that Deen Squad’s Karter Zaher and Jae Deen are challenging Muslim expectations by introducing Quranic verses into their hip-hop songs and even performing in prayer halls with an imam present. In one mosque’s prayer hall they cheerfully rap their song “Got the mosque going up on a Friday.” The imam approves. Imam Omar Farouk (president and CEO, International Muslim Organization of Toronto], who is all about shaking up tradition, told CBC reporter Ionna Roumeliotis, “It was so exciting and so refreshing to see a new breed of a different dimension of Islam. This is what the youths had wanted to see; this is what they were hoping for. Thank God we have such a group as the Deen Squad bringing about this new face into Islam.” It’s hard to criticize the bearded youthful duo who starts one song with bismillahi, assalaam-u-alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa
barakatuhu. Zaher, who informed CBC they are devout Muslims, said, “First of all there are no Muslim hip-hop artists preaching this message. That’s why we believe it has taken off.” Roumeliotis says, “They are putting the halal, or the holy, into hip hop. … The community treats them like religious rock stars.’’ According to Deen, they now have millions of followers on Instagram. They adapt popular hip-hop lyrics to transform haram into halal. They try to be Islamic, but are seemingly irreverent to some. The American rapper Fetty Wap’s debut single “Trap Queen” has been adapted to “Muslim Queen” with lyrics praying to find a righteous female prayer partner. “Islamic and slightly irreverent,” says Roumeliotis, “critics have called their shtick haram or unholy, but they insist a divine force is guiding them every step of the way.” They do not respond to critics, says Deen. “We have good intentions, and in our religion intention is everything. We will be judged according to our intentions.” They say they are part of Canadian society and are embracing it.
Zulf M Khalfan is community worker and writer and a former Islamic Horizons editor.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
Islam Favors Engaged Citizenship Does anything bars Muslims from participating in their nation’s political life? BY ZIJAD DELIC
ne of Islam’s unique features is how it balances individualism and collectivism in terms of their individual and socio-political lives. It accepts both equally and holds everyone accountable to God: “A human being shall have nothing but what he/she strives for. And all of his/her effort will be seen” (Q. 53: 39-40). Islam also awakens its followers’ sense of social responsibility, organizes them in a society and a state, and enjoins them to work for the social good. In short, Islam does not neglect the individual or his/her society, but rather harmonizes and balances them and gives each one its proper due. Thus, Islam facilitates, or is a catalyst
in, the life of Muslim to participate fully as citizens, actualizing their faith practically to realize their potential as contributors to their well-being, that of their community, and all Canadians. Beyond merely holding a passport or paying taxes, citizenship requires people to take ownership of their rights and the relevant social responsibilities, among them participating in the civic decision-making processes, caring about society’s cohesion, and building its social capital (e.g., human, cultural and economic resources). Muslim are here to stay. Present in every walk of life, they are successful citizens who enjoy all the country’s guaranteed freedoms and are proof that Islam is fully compatible with Canadian values. In cases where this is
BUILDING A HEALTHY SOCIETY IS NOT ONLY THE AIM OF CANADA’S LAWS AND CONSTITUTION; IT IS ALSO WHAT ISLAM REQUIRES OF ANY COUNTRY’S MUSLIM CITIZENS. ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
not the case, Islam and all Muslims should not be held responsible for those people’s faults and actions. Let’s not forget that this view is not applied to any other faith and its followers. Muslims should forget about the old questions of whether Muslims can participate in a non-Muslim environment and start asking: Why shouldn’t we fully? What are some of our internal and external challenges as a faith group? How can we become more effectively engaged? What are the best ways to do this while improving the image of Islam and Muslim Canadians? How can we help other citizens? What do we have to offer to non-Muslim fellow citizens and our country as a whole? How can we join with other faith groups to fight discrimination and prejudice? What are the most democratic methods of challenging discrimination and Islamophobia, and of making Canada the safest and most peaceful place on Earth? Canada’s Muslim leadership needs to mobilize Muslim communities nationwide if they want to have a positive impact on policies regarding citizenship and civic engagement. Being critically engaged in lobbying and advocacy does not contradict citizenship or Islam. In fact, the right to confront inequality is inherent in the social contract that comes with citizenship and is part of its evolution in a democratic context. Citizenship, like dialogue, is always changing. Understandably, Muslims might feel uneasy when they hit bumps on their path to citizenship due to misunderstandings or antipathy toward Islam or their status in Canada. But if they want to belong to mainstream society, Muslims must contribute responsibly to the common good instead of hiding behind the negative “us” vs. “them” dichotomy. Some media and politicians try to perpetuate this false notion, which means that major Muslim leaders and their organizations have to work hard to remove these barriers so that others can understand exactly what citizenship entails. Building a healthy society is not only the aim of Canada’s laws and constitution; it is also what Islam requires of any country’s Muslim citizens. Our lives as good, faithful, engaged and contributing citizens is also our Muslim life.
Zijad Delic, PhD, imam of the South Nepean Muslim Community, in Barrhaven, Ottawa, is the author of “Canadian Islam: Belonging and Loyalty.” An outspoken anti-terrorism speaker, he is also a public and community speaker who is an active participant in interfaith dialogue.
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
The State of Muslim Canadians BY MOHAMMED AZHAR ALI KHAN
While Muslims have built mosques and organizations, they have not generally built the community or effectively reached out to the larger society. Relatively few Muslims are involved in these mosques or organizations except for the Friday or Ramadan prayers. Most organizations do not have programs to assist youth, women, refugees, new immigrants, seniors, the disabled and converts. As the mosques’ regular programs and conferences are mostly devoted to the hereafter, comparatively little effort goes into assisting the vulnerable or educating community members about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Interfaith work consists mostly of exchanging information about religions, as opposed to working with civil society to promote human rights, dignity, justice and equality for all Canadians. Even worse there is very little intra-faith cooperation, especially between Sunni and Shia organizations. Interaction with people of other faiths and persuasions is minimal. There is no national Muslim organization. Even cities lack umbrella organizations to bring groups together. Many organizations work alone and without fresh ideas, new leaders, and imaginative and overarching programs. The lack of Sunni-Shia cooperation tells our youth that it is acceptable to ignore the Quranic injunction of Muslim unity and signals Canadians that Muslims cannot work even with other Muslims, let alone with other faiths and traditions. While most Muslim youth are doing well academically, some are alienated from the community and society in general, and a small number have been convicted 50
of attempted terrorism — acts that violate both Islamic teachings and Canadian laws. Such acts cast a dark shadow over the entire community. All Canadians were horrified by the October 2014 murder of soldiers Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa and Warrant Officer Price Vincent in Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu by disturbed people who had converted to Islam without understanding its teachings. The news from the Muslim world does not generally convey Islam’s emphasis on peace, justice, human unity, compassion, honesty, respect for women, rule of law, freedom of speech and according minorities full rights and equality. Instead, the atrocities of ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban and al-Qaeda suggest that Muslims are prone to violence, intolerance and barbarism. Most Muslim countries are seen as being governed by authoritarian, corrupt, intolerant and oppressive rulers due to their lack of respect for democracy and people’s wishes. For example, thousands of Somalis came to Canada seeking refuge after clan rivalries among the predominantly Muslim citizens of the same race caused the country to disintegrate. Elsewhere in the Muslim world Muslims are killing innocent coreligionists and persecuting non-Muslims. The West’s generally biased media deepens such prejudices. The rise of ISIS and the sectarian conflict in Iraq, for instance, were produced by Washington’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of that country. Yet the media remains quiet about such facts, along with Christianity, while it savages Islam and Muslims. Iran offers another example. The U.S.,
ZULF M KHALFAN/APTWORD
he 1871 census listed 13 Muslims in Canada. One hundred forty years later, according to the 2011 national household survey, Muslims numbered 1,053,945, or about 3.2 percent of the population. Today they perhaps number more than 1.5 million and enjoy freedom of religion, civil rights, democracy and the friendliness of their neighbors. Generally, they also have a high standard of living and opportunities for education, employment and business.
Masjid Bilal in Ottawa
U.K., Russia, China and Germany pressured Iran to dilute its nuclear program and accept international inspection so it would no longer have the potential to build a nuclear bomb. Ironically, all of them except Germany have nuclear weapons. The pact is being attacked by Israel, which developed nuclear weapons clandestinely, routinely violates U.N. resolutions and maintains a brutal occupation. Huge U.S. economic, military and diplomatic support enables the latter to remain ongoing. But the U.S. attacks Iran for supporting the resistance groups Hezbollah and Hamas. In the past some media and bigots promoted Islamophobia while most Canadians remained fair-minded. Now the Conservative Party is dividing Canadians and promoting Islamophobia, as shown by the Senate Committee on National Security and Defense and statements made by the prime minister and other ministers. Unsurprisingly, while hate crimes fell in the country during 2013, a Statistics Canada study unveiled on June 9 reported that they had risen against Muslim Canadians. Not
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
of Canada, 54 percent of the people view Islam unfavorably, as compared to the 46 percent in 2009. This is producing difficulties for Muslims in terms of immigration, employment and other areas. Some people are demanding an end to or at least a reduction of Muslim immigration on the grounds that they do not adapt to “Canadian values” and constitute a security threat. The Senate committee’s call to license imams and Bill C-51 reflects the same distrust. There is very little that Canada’s Muslims can do about the deeds of their coreligionists who live elsewhere. Thus both they and their organizations need to show the real Islam, as taught by the Quran and the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), through their actions and words. Parents need to inspire their children by their own example; infuse hope, love, creativity and kindness in the youth; and assist female victims of violence, the mentally ill, the disabled, refugees, senior citizens, single parents, new immigrants and converts. Muslims have to participate fully in Canadian life and act according to Islam, instead of just paying it lip service, in order to win their fellow Canadians’ trust and safeguard their future.
only were Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin unjustly accused, but the entire community fell under a cloud despite its ongoing
contributions to Canada in every sphere. According to an Angus Reid poll released October 2013, 69 percent of Quebecers hold a negative view of Islam. In the rest
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan, a retired Canadian journalist, public servant and refugee judge, is founder and former president of the Muslim Coordinating Council of the National Capital Region. He has received the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario and the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals.
IMAM POSITION AVAILABLE The I.C.C.D. (Islamic Center of the Capital District), located in Albany, NY, serves as the Largest Islamic Center in New York’s Capital District. We are currently seeking an Imam with the following requirements: • Legal ability to work within the U.S. • Fluency in the English language • Excellent communication skills for the media and greater community
• Strong Qur’anic recitation and understanding • Extensive knowledge in Fiqh and Shariah • Must be able to relate to youth in the struggles being raised in the U.S.
APPLICANTS WITH LESS THAN 2 YEARS OF US WORK EXPERIENCE NEED NOT APPLY Salary will be based on qualifications. Please send all Resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
CANADA: A RISING MUSLIM COMMUNITY
They Desire a Better Country The Order of Canada given to me symbolizes the recognition of Canadian Council of Muslim Women’s work. BY ALIA HOGBEN
ompassion, social justice and equality are integral to Islam and guiding principles of Muslim life. The rise of literalism, patriarchy and severe conservative interpretations that deny equality, tolerance and social justice, as seen in the last thirty years, is saddening. Islam, as practiced by my family, was wonderful, simple, tolerant and open to other faiths and peoples. My parents taught us to be proud of our Indian and Muslim heritage. Having lived in Canada for over 50 years, I have added Western Canadianism to my identity. Only in Canada have I been able to identify myself as embodying all of these elements. As a Muslimah I am strongly committed to the equality of individuals, including gender equality. I see this as an integral part of Islam. One of the major issues for all men and women is the value given to patriarchy as a social system. This belief and practice is often entrenched and undermines healthy family relationships and social life. My reading of the Quran does not see this inequality of gender as part of our teachings or as a necessary practice in our lives. In 1982, I cofounded the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW), a national organization of Muslimahs seeking to create change within our communities while addressing discrimination, racism, and the lack of opportunities. We try to help women and their families participate as fully as possible to become agents of change rather than passive recipients. As we value the family, CCMW works with Muslim women and girls as well as with Muslim men and boys. If we want to help the whole family, then we must reach out to men and boys because they are, after all, our fathers, brothers, sons and husbands. CCMW has completed projects working with men, one of them being a new project launched in September 2015, “Engaging Men and Boys,” to end the use of violence as an response to family disputes. We base our position on the Quran and its teachings and use Islamic scholars to explain interpretations.
The Order of Canada given to me symbolizes the recognition of our work. The Order’s motto is Desiderantes meliorem patriam (They desire a better country). I am proud and humbled to be included in this fellowship. The Order, established in 1967 as part of the Canadian Confederation’s centennial celebration, is awarded in recognition of “outstanding merit or distinguished service by Canadians.” It is given to individuals. Some of them earn it on their own merits, but for some of us it is an honor to be shared with the group we represent. CCMW passionately does “desire a better country” for all Canadians and for those of us who “appear” to be “different” because of religion, race or ethnicity. As Margaret Mead said, “If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.”
MY PARENTS TAUGHT US TO BE PROUD OF OUR INDIAN AND MUSLIM HERITAGE. HAVING LIVED IN CANADA FOR OVER 50 YEARS, I HAVE ADDED WESTERN CANADIANISM TO MY IDENTITY.
The Order now includes two Muslim women — both CCMW members – the late founder and renowned educator Lila Fahlman and now me. Even in Canada we are overwhelmed by a global tide of literalism, patriarchy and conservative religious interpretations that deny equality, tolerance and social justice for many of us. There are times when we are disheartened and wonder if any of our work creates change. However, being passive or, even worse, being silent is no longer an alternative. The award exemplifies Canada’s magnanimity in honoring its citizens, especially those who are newer and facing issues that were probably never faced by long-term citizens. It feels good to have this recognition, for it publicly proclaims to all Canadians that advocacy, activism and altruism are active among us. Such a declaration of faith enables us to stand up against pettiness, selfcenteredness, prejudice and anti-women rhetoric worldwide. This affirmation not only gives hope to Muslim Canadians, but will also be seen internationally as another example of Canada’s celebration of its diversity. As Mead rightly remarked, “Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man” and “A small group of thoughtful committed citizens could change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” As a Muslimah, I pray that we move beyond literalism and narrow interpretations to focus on the Quran’s fundamental message: “Truly, for all men and women who have surrendered themselves to God, and all believing men and believing women, and all truly devout men and women, and all men and women who are true to their word, and all men and women who are patient in adversity, and all men and women who humble themselves before God, and all men and women who give in charity, and all selfdenying men and women who are mindful of their chastity, and all men and women who remember God unceasingly, for all of them has God readied forgiveness of sins and a mighty reward” (Q. 33:35). I hold deeply and dearly the Quranic verse in which God says, “God has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy.” Alia Hogben, executive director of the CCMW, writes for the Kingston Whig Standard on issues of faith and women. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by Queen’s University and, in Dec. 2014, was included in Maclean’s magazine as one of the “50 Most Important People in Canada.”
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Muslims Can Work as Muslims Do Muslim Americans have to abandon their faith to work in mainstream jobs? BY ASAD BA-YUNUS
uslims regularly face discrimination, particularly when applying for a job, because of the hijab, or a beard or a kuffiyah. Samantha Elauf, however, refused to accept the company’s reasons and took her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — and prevailed. In 2008, this Oklahoma native applied for a job at Abercrombie & Fitch. The store had a “Look Policy” that regulated its employees’ clothing during working hours. For example, it prohibited “caps” (without defining them) for being too informal for the company’s image. The store’s assistant manager, who interviewed Elauf and found her qualified, thought that her hijab might violate the policy. So she asked the store manager, who had no an answer, and then the company’s district manager, informing him that she thought Elauf was wearing the hijab for religious reasons. The district manager decided that all headwear, including the hijab, would violate the policy regardless of why it was being worn and instructed the assistant manager not to hire her. Elauf appealed to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which, after investigating, sued the company on her behalf for violating her rights under the Civil Rights Act. The district court also ruled in the EEOC’s favor; however, the Court of Appeals reversed the ruling on the grounds that since she had not specifically told the interviewer that she wore it for religious reasons, the employer could not have violated the Civil Rights Act.
On June 1, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, rejected the Court of Appeals’ ruling. In his opinion, the highly conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that it is unreasonable to expect an applicant to have to specifically inform the employer of their religious accommodation (like a hijab) and that the Civil Rights Act does not contain any language requiring the employer to be given specific knowledge of that religious
ANY TIME PEOPLE SUSPECT THAT THEY WERE FIRED, DENIED A JOB OR OTHERWISE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, PARTICULARLY IN THE WORKPLACE, THEY SHOULD SEEK OUT A COMPETENT ATTORNEY WHO CAN HELP THEM CHALLENGE THE EMPLOYER’S DECISION. 54
accommodation. Scalia, known for his very literal reading of statutes, argued that the law only requires that the applicant show that her religious accommodation was the motivating factor in the decision not to hire her. The Court noted that the employer’s motive for not hiring her makes the difference. If an employer has knowledge of the applicant’s hijab, beard, yarmulke, turban, the five daily prayers, fasting, and so on but decides not to hire her for a different reason, then the decision would likely not violate the Civil Rights Act. When the applicant’s religious needs are the actual reason for the decision, however, the law has been violated. Also, and notably, the Court found that a job applicant’s religious beliefs cannot be the motivating factor for denying him or her a job. So if Abercrombie & Fitch had a “no Muslims” policy, it would most certainly be in violation of the law as well. Two other Muslims also sued the company: one was denied a job because of her hijab and one was fired because she insisted upon wearing her hijab at work. The company settled those cases but fought Elauf ’s case. Abercrombie & Fitch eventually changed its “Look Policy” to include religious attire. During the case it received support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which argued, similar to the company, that knowledge of the practice’s religious nature must be necessary. Elauf received the backing of civil rights, religious and gay/lesbian groups, all of whom filed supporting briefs. Any time people suspect that they were fired, denied a job or otherwise discriminated against, particularly in the workplace, they should seek out a competent attorney who can help them challenge the employer’s decision. The EEOC, a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Labor, is dedicated to fighting for the rights of all Americans who may have been denied, fired or otherwise discriminated against at work and, as in Elauf ’s case, will file the lawsuit and prosecute the employer.
Asad Ba-Yunus, a member of ISNA Majlis ash-Shura, is an attorney practicing in Peekskill, N.Y.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
MUSLIMS IN ACTION
Change Now to Save the Future Will Muslims and others embrace the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change? BY SAFFET A. CATOVIC
he Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change (http:// islamicclimatedeclaration.org/ islamic-declaration-on-globalclimate-change/), adopted in Istanbul on Aug. 17-18, 2015, is possibly unique among similar declarations because it calls for a rapid phasing-out of fossil fuels, switching to 100 percent renewable energy and increasing support for vulnerable communities. This historic meeting, attended by more than 60 Muslim scholars, academics and environmental activists from over twenty countries, was a bold grassroots initiative driven by such non-governmental organizations as Greenfaith, Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Climate Action Network International and the OurVoices campaign. This declaration considers some of the previous declarations and reports of the environmental ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It builds upon the 2009 Muslim Seven Year Action Plan for Climate Change (Istanbul) and the 2010 Declaration on Climate Change (Bogor, Indonesia). In addition, it comes in the wake of the widely circulated and referenced Papal Encyclical on the Environment and Climate Change (Laudato Si) as well as similar faith-based statements and declarations put forth by Christian denominations and Jewish leaders. ISNA president Azhar Aziz said, “ISNA values highly the global efforts of Muslims towards the issue of climate change. ISNA greatly appreciates the First Islamic Declaration on Climate change and endorses the declaration. ISNA through ‘Green Masjid Task Force’ is making efforts to have Masajid in USA to adopt environmentally friendly practices. We just had our first ‘Green Ramadan’ national campaign. ISNA wishes most success in your efforts and stands with you on this issue.” The declaration presents the moral case, based on Islamic teachings, for people of all
faiths worldwide to take real action to stem climate change. It reflects the broader rising tide of global concern over the harmful and imminent effects of climate change and represents a call for immediate governmental and popular action. Global faith communities and their respective religious leaders have largely been tardy, even paralyzed, by the rapid change in priorities brought about by environmental degradation and climate change. However, they are now finally taking up this existential issue by providing a moral and even a spiritual framework for immediate action by the faithful and, in particular, those governmental leaders who will be attending the Paris December at the Conference of the Parties 2015 talks and negotiating a new international climate agreement. This long-absent religious voice lends a much needed moral authority and pressure to an area of environmental concern
THE DECLARATION PRESENTS THE MORAL CASE, BASED ON ISLAMIC TEACHINGS, FOR PEOPLE OF ALL FAITHS WORLDWIDE TO TAKE REAL ACTION TO STEM CLIMATE CHANGE.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
and climate action that has historically been dominated by secular and non-faith-based leaders, groups and organizations. Specifically, the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, when taken together with similar declarations made by other faith traditions and the support of the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace of the Holy See, some of which were represented at its official launch, seems to signal the end of the road for polluting fossil fuels by creating a new international regime that will limit global warming above pre-industrial levels to 2, or preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The declaration can be seen as part of a popular groundswell calling for governments to scale down their use of and dependence on fossil fuels. Wealthy and oil-producing nations are urged to phase out all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. All people, leaders and businesses are invited to commit to 100 percent renewable energy in order to tackle climate change, reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. Among the keynote speakers were three senior officials from the UN Environment Program, the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Secretary-General’s climate change team. Scientists; NGO leaders, academics, and religious leaders who were also in attendance made presentations. The Istanbul location is significant because for the first time ever the G20 summit will be organized by the presidency of Muslim-majority Turkey. Leaders from the world’s largest 20 economies will gather in an attempt to discuss what can be done to improve international financial stability, the economic implications of climate change and the sizeable subsidies that the G20 countries will give to the polluting fossil fuel industry. The G20 summit will take place a mere two weeks before the Paris Summit and, as such, will likely impact the latter’s tone. The declaration symbolizes more than just a call for action to protect the environment; it urges coordination and cooperation between all faith communities and organized religions. Such a powerful tool can be used as a means to address issues ranging from human rights to poverty.
Saffet A. Catovic, special representative of GreenFaith to the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, is co-founder and chair of Green Muslims of New Jersey and a founding member of the ISNA Green Masjid TASK Force.
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Election Day is First Tuesday Next November: What’s on Your Ballot? Do Muslim Americans realize the importance of voting for issues besides a particular candidate? BY ABU ALI BAFAQUIH
he election industry never stops churning out new faces and, of course, revenue for the media and livelihood for an array of consultants. There are federal, state, local and board elections. Of course the main focus is on the main candidates, either due to their own efforts or courtesy of the powers that be. The question on Election Day 2016, November 1, the First Tuesday of November is: What’s on Your Ballot? Despite the stray rumbling or two against the political process or even voting itself, Muslims and their organizations have endorsed political participation. In fact, quite a few mosques even invite candidates to address their Friday congregations and, ironically, allowing clapping, hardly a part of traditional mosque etiquette. The issue, however, is what direction should such activity take and what are the desired outcomes? Some political activists have walls at home that display themselves in more photographs with politicians than their own parents; other activists interpret the Quran and hadith to justify their political support for rather controversial issues. For instance, the 2014 midterm elections in the U.S. were billed as extremely important. After all, control of the Senate was up for grabs because 34 states choosing new senators and voters in 36 others were choosing new governors. Many voters also had to deal with ballot measures on legalizing marijuana, increasing the minimum wage, guns, the homosexuals’ agenda, and abortion rights. Many voters, however, walked into their polling place without any idea of just how any local issues and propositions they could affect. People need to be very well informed before casting their ballot.
Ordinarily, the vast majority of Muslims would ignore questions related to drugs or gay liaisons, assuming that they and their progeny would avoid such activities. However, despite their numbers Muslims need to tick boxes in those sections as well, because being part of society means that they also pay the bills incurred by local, state or federal governments for the harmful side effects. In its “The Cost of a Nation of Incarceration” presentation, CBS News (Apr. 23, 2012) cited “The Price of Prisons” report, which revealed that in fiscal year 2010 it cost $31,307 to incarcerate one inmate per year and that “In states like Connecticut, Washington state, New York, it’s anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000.” It also said that in 1971 fewer than 40,000 people were incarcerated for drug offenses; now , it’s more than half a million. Many more studies, but truly honest and impartial studies, need to be done on so many issues and “lifestyle” choices that are being pandered to under the “right to choose” category and have personal and societal consequences. Research costs, as do the researchers, and anything that costs is negotiable and available for the right price. Money coming from the wallets of Muslims is also used to pay the bills.
(mend.org.uk/muslim-manifesto-2015/), encouraged people to mail it to their local candidates and asked the candidates if they would support such policies if they were elected. MEND pointed out, “This step is important before and after Election Day, as it is important to get MP’s thinking about and making a commitment to tackle issues which are important to the Muslim members of their constituency (and the Muslim community as a whole in Britain).”
WHAT PRICE MUST MUSLIMS PAY? The United States has Barack Hussein Obama, who, despite Colin Powell’s defense, continues to remind everyone that he was never a Muslim. And it goes beyond becoming a Mo, Tony or Bob, those Muslim hopefuls who are ready to render more to Caesar than what he demands.
ENGAGING CANDIDATES AND CAUSES In June 2015, some British Muslims launched MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development), which works with policymakers, statutory agencies, local councils, police forces, civil society organizations in Britain and Europe, and grassroots communities to tackle all forms of Islamophobia: anti-Muslim hate speech, media bias and hate crime. For the 2015 national elections, they launched the MEND Muslim Manifesto ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
Due to the paucity of senior Muslim officials in the U.S., here is an example from across the Pond. During his election campaign, British Prime Minister Cameron boasted of having a Muslim in his cabinet: Sajid Javid, 45, his Secretary for Culture and a rising star in the party, one of five sons of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver. The triumphant Conservative promoted him to Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. During 2009 in his pursuit of a career in politics, Javid gave up a highly lucrative corporate banking position. In 2010, he became the first British-Pakistani Conservative Member of Parliament. A self-described “proud British-born Muslim” who lives with his wife Laura, a practicing Christian, and their four Christian-raised children, he declared that his family’s heritage as Muslim. But he personally practices no religion, although he believes that “we [Britain] should recognize that Christianity is the religion of our country,” and claims to attend services at the mosque. At a Conservative Friends of Israel lunch in 2012, Javid declared that “if [I] had to leave Britain to live in the Middle East, then [I] would choose Israel as home.” According to The Jewish Chronicle (Dec. 13, 2012), only there, he said, would his children feel the “warm embrace of freedom and liberty,” for only Israel shares his country’s democratic values. He is even being touted as a future prime minister. “Of Britain or Israel?” someone at the dinner quipped.
And then there is Conservative life peer Sayeeda Warsi, another rags-to-riches story. This daughter of a textile factory worker is now the senior Foreign Office minister, the first Muslim in a British cabinet and Conservative party co-chair. She resigned on Aug. 5, 2014, to protest her government’s “morally indefensible” policy on Gaza.
his reign as Nawab of Rampur in 1889 as Nawabzada Sayyid Hamid Ali Khan Bahadur; at the time of his death in 1930, he was top heavy with more than a chestful of other titles. In other words, he lived up to his master’s trust. In 1915, when Maulana Mohamed Ali was proving an obstacle to British rule, London asked the Nawab (and he obliged)
EXERCISING THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE, ESPECIALLY BY TICKING SOME OF THE OTHER BOXES ON YOUR BALLOT PAPERS, REQUIRES SERIOUS CONSIDERATION. The Muslim American community has an ample share of Javids; it needs more Sayeeda Warsis.
WHAT PRICE POLITICAL SUCCESS? Exercising the right to choose, especially by ticking some of the other boxes on your ballot papers, requires serious consideration. Enthusiasts of pluralism would have Muslims support the full array of “acceptable lifestyles,” arguing that such freedoms also guarantee their right to practice their religion. The importance of being “part of the American fabric” is frequently taken too far by some, who liberally seek to do away with Islamic mores and even justice and humanity. Besides political hopefuls, there is no dearth of self-aggrandizing “liberal” or “moderate” Muslims (the “good” ones) always ready to chime in along the mainstream media, or paucity of Muslim fame-seekers who have no problem being photographed with the likes of such odious figures as Dick Cheney and his ilk. Another variety of political activist Muslims are those who never tire of flaunting their social credentials while hobnobbing with the basest of characters, who are indeed crime bosses in their own countries. The cynical observation that “every man has his price,” first recorded in 1734, may be much older, but it applies to both sexes. When the British ruled India, they devised titles for those who served their ends, among them landed grandees known as Farzand-iDilpazir-i-Daulat-i-Inglishia (Most Special and Favored Son of the British Empire). Some of them rose to high offices in the realm. For instance, Hamid Ali Khan started
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
to intern Mohamed Ali from 1915 to 1919. By the time of his release, the international scene was fully in step with British designs. Muslim Americans have to decide between what is moral and what is desirable: a life of honesty and integrity, or a life of being a “Most Special and Favored Son/ Daughter” with its attendant invitations to dine with the powerful or receive deputy assistant secretaryships. Is this the political success they seek? Will such useless honors divert Muslims from choosing the path that God has unambiguously defined for them? The choices are hard or rather almost impossible, but if Muslims want to hone a path that will serve them in both worlds, their political choices should be to stand with those few and rare honest politicians, if any, and to support or oppose things that may please some. But in all cases, such Muslims should prefer principles over pragmatism and be conscious of the Last Day. Abu Ali Bafaquih is a freelance writer.
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POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Incubating Islamophobia BY JAY WILLOUGHBY
odd H. Green, associate professor of religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, wrote “The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West” (Fortress Press, 2015) to outline this organized campaign’s historical origins and contemporary manifestations. The past co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Religion in Europe Group, he has published articles in peer-reviewed journals on Islamophobia and secularization in the West; authored “Responding to Secularization: The Deaconess Movement in Nineteenth-Century Sweden” (2011); and edited “Islam, Immigration, and Identity” (2014). He was interviewed by Islamic Horizons magazine. IH: One foundation of Islamophobia is the assumption that Western values are far superior to those found in Muslim-majority countries. What purpose is served by defining Western values against Islam? TG: One purpose is to perpetuate the idea that Islam and the West are engaged in a clash of civilizations, for doing so enables one to claim Western superiority and endorse policies ranging from military intervention in Muslim countries to restricting immigration and freedom of religion in the West. Like all Islamophobic claims, this insistence says much more about the West than it does about Islam. It’s a narrative that diverts our attention from the messy realities of our own past and present. For example, the Bush administration’s use of “Islamo-fascism” for groups such as al-Qaeda was a clear attempt to link fascism with something inherent to Islam. The irony, of course, is that fascism was born in Italy, which means that “fascist” al-Qaeda can thank the West for inventing this “value.” Western nations often decry human rights violations in the Middle East, and yet our own history is riddled with the abhorrent treatment of other peoples. Colonialism, slavery, and genocide feature prominently in modern Western history. True, some of these dehumanizing “values” have receded into history, but others continue to rear their ugly head.
Take the example of torture. In 2014 President Obama admitted that the U.S. had tortured people during the “war on terror,” that we “did some things that were contrary to our values.” I disagree, for the CIA-orchestrated torture actually reflected our values. Remember the Shah’s Iran (ruled 1941-79) to Jorge Rafaél Videla’s Argentina (president 1976-81), and so many other U.S.supported regimes? We facilitated torture during the Vietnam War through the Phoenix Program. And, lest we forget, for a time torture was part of the curriculum of the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga. The time for such boasting is past. This type of thinking is arrogant and serves as the catalyst for some of the most egregious human rights violations in modern history.
IH: Why does the West hesitate to apply “terrorism” to non-Muslim individuals or groups? TG: Frankly, the word “terrorism” has become practically meaningless, no more than a racialized term that refers to violence committed by people who “look” Muslim or Arab. When it comes to white, non-Muslim perpetrators such as Norway’s Anders Breivik or our own Dylann Roof, politicians and journalists can’t quite bring themselves to use the term. And yet the FBI’s definition — violent acts intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, or to alter the conduct of the government — clearly applies to them as well. This hesitancy reflects the biases of the political and media establishments as to who represents a threat to Western interests and power. White men clearly do not; if anything, they represent the establishment. That’s why the media spend so much time discussing what sort of mental health challenges young white male mass murderers are facing. But with Muslims, politicians and journalists need a separate category because we are dealing with a completely different type of creature, one bent on our utter destruction. When the West limits “terrorism” to violence carried out by Muslims, it also legitimizes Western violence that could be construed as terrorist in nature. After all, a case can be made that the “war on terror,” drone strikes, and torture all fit the term’s general definition. But the rules of the terrorism discourse enable us to dismiss such a proposition. IH: How do Muslim women and men factor into Western theories of radicalization and terrorism? TG: These theories of radicalization devote little attention to women. To the extent that they appear at all, women are either potential accomplices to or oppressed victims of violent Muslim men. Sometimes they are viewed as both, as in the case of the “brides of ISIS.” Radicalization theories, including the models developed by the NYPD and the British government, view terrorism as the preserve of Muslim men. Thus law enforcement should keep tabs on them to determine if they are moving along a “conveyor belt” toward radicalization. For example, we all “know” that growing a beard indicates that a Muslim man might be moving toward radicalization and jihadization. Linking terrorism with Muslim men is also behind some of the West’s post-9/11 reg-
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istration and deportation programs. The most infamous example is the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) instituted by the Department of Homeland Security in 2002. Non-immigrant men aged 16 and older from over 20 Muslim-majority countries had to register. In NSEERS’s first nine months, 128,000 men were registered at their port of entry, and another 83,000 men already residing in the U.S. were registered. Some were eventually deported. NSEERS was overt religious- and genderbased profiling due to the assumption that Muslim men in particular threatened homeland security because of their latent terrorist tendencies. But during its nine-year run, it generated a grand total of zero terrorismrelated convictions. IH: U.S. history is replete with examples of minority communities that endured bigotry and discrimination but gradually gained acceptance in mainstream society. Isn’t it only a matter of time before this happens with Muslims, or are they an exceptional case? TG: I’m skeptical that things will simply get better with time. Martin Luther King was right about time when he said that it is neutral; it can be used either constructively or destructively. This means overcoming anti-Muslim bigotry is not just a matter of time. We must make it happen. Besides, regardless of the gains made, we would be foolish to dismiss the power and persistence of racism and white supremacy. For example, slavery and Jim Crow may belong to a bygone era, but bigotry toward African Americans lives on. African Ameri-
cans suffer from higher levels of unemployment, poverty, and discrimination than their white counterparts. African American men are also subject to significantly higher rates of incarceration, a fact that one scholar refers to as the new Jim Crow. And there are reminders that white supremacy still retains its lethal nature, as we saw in the Charleston shootings. Clearly, dehumanizing and demonizing the racial “Other” is not easily uprooted. Add religious bigotry, and you realize what we’re up against. The fact that Washington will have economic and military interests in the Middle East for years to come also means that its political and cultural elite will continue to benefit from Muslims being “the enemy” and from Islam and the West being engaged in a “clash of civilizations.” And finally, let’s not forget that by most indicators — hate crimes, hate rallies, mosque conflicts, anti-sharia legislation — Islamophobia has gotten worse since 9/11. Time alone will not defeat this cancer. IH: You argue that Islamophobia is driven in part by Western ignorance of Islam and a lack of personal relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims. Do these observations apply to other religions? Where does the responsibility lie in remedying these problems? TG: A 2014 Pew Research Center survey found that knowing someone from a different religious community, regardless of the particular religion, translated into a more positive view of that community. So yes, this applies broadly to other religions and not just to Islam. Sadly, the same survey revealed that 62
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percent of Americans do not know even one Muslim. Add to that the fact that most Americans have never studied Islamic texts or traditions, they apparently receive most of their “knowledge” from the media. It almost goes without saying that most media coverage of Islam is sensationalist in nature. The responsibility to remedy these problems lies with all of us; however, the institutions that are best positioned to do so are public schools and religious institutions. Professor of religion Stephen Prothero (Boston University) reminds us that America is a paradox. It’s the most religious nation in the West, and yet Americans are illiterate when it comes to religion — any religion. The widespread misunderstanding about the First Amendment and whether religion can be taught in public schools means that children do not receive a solid background in the world’s religions. Encouraging public schools to teach religion in an academic way, as well as getting more religion scholars to partner with school districts to provide teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills, would make a big dent in the Islamophobia industry. Religious institutions can facilitate more interfaith engagement and forge personal relationships across religious boundaries. As the dominant and most influential religious institutions in the country, churches in particular need to take more initiative here, for building interfaith relationships is vital to making headway against all forms of religious bigotry. But mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship also need to prioritize interfaith work, for lives and livelihoods are literally at stake.
NEW RELEASES NO ONE IS SAFE Improbable Cause: The War on Terror’s Assault on the Bill of Rights Sharia Mayfield & Brandon Mayfield 2015. Pp. 164. PB. $14.95 Divertir Publishing LLC, Salem, N.H. randon Mayfield, an African-American lawyer living in Portland, Ore, who just happens to be Muslim, was unexpectedly arrested on May 6, 2004, in connection with the March 11 Madrid train bombings that killed nearly 200 people. Despite having an expired U.S. passport, no ties to Spain, and proof that he was in Oregon on that particular day, he was detained for weeks without charge. In this true account of one of Washington’s biggest blunders in the “war on terror,” Mayfield and his daughter Sharia, also an attorney, provide a view into the secretive world of espionage, faulty forensics and wrongful accusation. This account is powerful reminder of why everyone — even those who are confident of their innocence — should care about the USA Patriot Act and similar laws. Brandon, not being a criminal law practitioner, hired lawyers in this field and was told something rather alarming: “Brandon, they [government agencies] could indict a ham sandwich.” The authors are donating a portion of their book sales proceeds to the Oregon Innocence Project.
A MUSLIM LEGACY International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies Sameen Ahmed Khan 2015. Pp. 96. PB. 49.90 € Lambert Academic Publishing, Germany he UN declared 2015 the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies, with the intention to stimulate worldwide interest in light-related sciences and technologies. That also marks the 1000th anniversary of Arab scientist Ibn al-Haytham’s encyclopedic treatise on optics. Prof. Khan, Dhofar University, Salalah, Oman, traces the history of optics from ancient Egypt to the modern day. Half the book relates the medieval Arabs’ contributions to optics and its impact on the Renaissance. The author proclaims,“It is time to build international science centers in the Arab and Muslim countries, possibly modelled after the international European institutions.” The book will be useful to popular science readers, historians, researchers and policymakers. (Reviewer: Azher Majid Siddiqui, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi, India)
This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror Moustafa Bayoumi 2015. Pp. 304. PB $19.95. HB $89.95 New York University Press ayoumi is a teacher at New York City’s Baruch College. He is also an extra who plays a generic Arab, a terrorist suspect in a detective novel, and is the subject of a trumped-up controversy because the right-wing media maintained that his book was pushing an “anti-American, pro-Islam” agenda. In fact, a U.S. citizenship officer asked him to drop his middle name: Mohamed. This was mild. Others have endured far worse fates. Bayoumi — in this set of 17 articles written over several years — reveals what the “war on terror” looks like from the vantage point of Muslim Americans, highlighting the profound effect this surveillance has had on how they live their lives. To be a Muslim American today often means existing in an absurd space between exotic and dangerous, as well as victim and villain, simply because of people’s negative assumptions. His gripping essays expose how contemporary politics, movies, novels, media experts and
more have produced a culture of fear and suspicion that not only willfully forgets the Muslim American past, but also threatens civil liberties in the present.
Understanding Maqasid al-Shariah: A Contemporary Perspective Musafir Bin Ali Al-Qahtani 2015. Pp. 212. PB. $14.95. International Institute of Islamic Thought, Washington, D.C. l-Qahtani adds to the ever-growing body of scholarly literature in the field of maqasid al-Shari’ah. He draws attention to the importance of understanding the maqasid’s various levels, including distinguishing between primary and secondary aims. He asserts that a positive understanding of them should produce affirming human and cultural developments in Muslim societies.
The Qur’anic Principle of Wasatiyyah The Middle Path of Moderation in Islam Mohammad Hashim Kamali (Foreword Tariq Ramadan) 2015. Pp. HB. $47.31. Oxford, U.S. amali, a leading Islamic law expert, examines wasatiyyah (moderation) and argues that scholars, religious communities and policy circles alike must have access to this governing principle that drives the silent majority, rather than focusing on the extremist fringe. Framing his work as an open dialogue against the arguably destructive Huntingtonian “clash of civilizations” thesis as well as the public rhetoric of fear of Muslim extremism since 9/11, Kamali connects historical conceptions of wasatiyyah to the themes of state and international law, governance, and cultural maladies in the Muslim world and beyond.
Women and Peace in the Islamic World: Gender, Agency and Influence Yasmin Saikia, Chad Haines, eds. 2015. Pp. 428. HB. $429.44 I.B. Tauris, London group of Middle Eastern, North African and Asian Muslim scholars offers a look at Muslimahs as peacemakers, thereby challenging any assumptions of Islam as an inherently violent religion. The debate on how realistic the prospect for peace in the Middle East is frequently ignores the Muslim world’s socio-cultural complexity in favor of reducing the region to a system of states and major figures. These authors address this failing by exploring how women’s everyday interactions, in accordance with Islamic personal ethics, can offer the world a new interpretation of peace.
Shared Stories, Rival Tellings: Early Encounters of Jews, Christians, and Muslims Robert C. Gregg 2015. Pp. 752. HB. $39.95 Oxford University Press, U.S. udaism, Christianity and Islam hold ancestral heritages and monotheistic beliefs in common; however, there are definitive distinctions between these “Abrahamic” peoples. Through five specific stories — Cain and Abel, Sarah and Hagar, Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, Jonah and the Whale, and Mary the Mother of Jesus — shows how interpreters (both artists and authors) who adhere to each of these religions have developed their unique and particular understandings of these scriptural narratives. Gregg shows the wide-ranging humanity and intelligence that runs through Islamic traditions, even when it comes to discussing spiritual matters.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015
ROAD MAP TO IMPROVE THE IMAGE OF MUSLIMS/ISLAM in USA Your mosque can do it, but you can do it by yourself Today, the image of Muslims is under attack. However, we should not forget, that it is our responsibility to correct it collectively and individually: it is every Muslim’s responsibility. YES, if we do it seriously we can see positive results emerging in a few years. Muslims, who are spread out across the United States, should place this ad. in their local newspapers and magazines.
Below is a sample text for the ad. that you can use:
Islam is a religion of inclusion. Muslims believe in all the Prophets of Old & New Testaments. Read Quran — The Original, unchanged word of God as His Last and Final testament to humankind. More information is available on following sites: www.peacetv.tv • www.theDeenShow.com www.Gainpeace.com Or 877whyIslam • www.twf.org Such ads are already running in many newspapers in the United States but may not be in your area of residence yet. Placing these ads can be a continuous reward (sadqa-e-jaria) for yourself, your children, your loved deceased ones and with the prayer for a sick person that Allah make life easy here and in the Hereafter. Please Google the list of newspapers in your state and contact their advertising departments. Such ads are not expensive. They range for around $20 to $50 per slot and are cheaper if run for a longer time. Call your local newspaper and ask how many print copies they distribute, and run it for a longer period of time to get cheaper rates. Don’t forget that DAWAH works on the same principles as that of advertisement, BULK AND REPEATED EXPOSURE CREATES ACCEPTANCE. Printing continuously for a long period of time is better than printing one big advertisement for only once. Let your advertisement run for a longer time even if it is as small as a business card. NOTE: If you are living East of Chicago, choose in the ad 877-whyIslam, but also please call 877-WHYISLAM before putting the ad and check if someone is already running an advertisement in the same newspaper as yours. If that is the case choose another newspaper. And if you are living West of Chicago, choose www.GainPeace.com and also call GainPeace.com before putting your ad. Also, after the ad appears, please send a clipping to the respective organization. If you have any questions, or want copies of the ads that others have already placed in their area newspapers/ magazines, please contact me, Muhammad Khan at: email@example.com so that I can guide you better. You can also contact 1-877-why-Islam or Gainpeace.com
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