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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014/1435 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET

SISTERS FOR SISTERS  •  A COMMUNITY OF BELIEVERS

Muslim Americans:

GENERATIONS RISE

A new generation of Muslim Americans contribute to the community and society at large


CONTENTS

VOL. 43 NO. 5 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014  visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET

COVER STORY 16 Muslim Americans: The Generations Rise

A new generation of Muslim Americans contribute to the community and society

16 24 26 28 32

MUSLIMS IN ACTION

A Community of Believers Sisters for Sisters War on Gaza, Social Media and Efficacy of Protest Sami Al-Arian: A Decade Plus of Persecution

POLITICS AND SOCIETY

24

36 Female Genital Mutilation in the United States

OBITUARIES

40 Haris Suleman 40 Syed Ali Ahsani 41 Abdulalim Abdullah Shabazz

26 28

32 ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

6 8 12 42 44

DEPARTMENTS Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters Reviews Food for the Spirit

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

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EDITORIAL

A Time For Change

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or over a month now, the Gaza Strip has been shelled and bombed, claiming the lives of almost 2,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, with more than 10,000 wounded and over 300,000 displaced. Attempts at multiple ceasefires have done little to help the situation and the aftermath of this latest Israeli violence inflicted upon the Palestinians has still yet to be fully accounted for by the international community and United Nations. According to human rights organizations, Israel has deliberately targeted and bombed civilian infrastructure, crippling Gaza’s population and leaving them to live without basic human necessities. While this has led to action on various fronts from protests to letterwriting campaigns to our elected officials, what is needed most urgently for those in Gaza is the essential humanitarian aid that can give them the basic supplies of food, water, shelter and medical care. Even before the most recent wave of violence, the people of Gaza have been under a brutal Israeli blockade now in its eighth year, which has prevented such efforts and continued a downward spiral. It is highly unlikely that Israel will be ending the blockade anytime soon; however, there has been pressure internationally to allow more humanitarian aid to reach Gaza. This is an opportunity as Muslim Americans, to help by contributing to the effort of alleviating the dire suffering that they have expe-

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rienced. The challenges that face the people of Gaza are beyond measure. Though we lack the political capital to effect immediate change in American policy on the IsraelPalestine conflict, our assistance can make some positive difference. Muslim Americans are realizing their potential for change and advocacy to bring about meaningful solutions for issues such as this. The 51st ISNA annual convention theme “Generations Rise: Elevating Muslim American Culture” highlights our younger generations of Muslims in America and the shift in redefining their role in American society and the global community as well. Younger Muslim Americans don’t necessarily have strong ties to a ‘native homeland’ but rather feel a sense of obligation and desire to make a positive impact in their communities and around the world, regardless of ethnicity or cultural influences. Given the fact that the internet and social media connect people together, despite miles of oceans and continents between, the global community is now closer than we’ve ever been before. We are instantly connected to tragedies and marvels happening everyday. It is with this sense of intimacy and emotion that Muslim Americans feel a need to push limits further, expect more and fulfill their religious obligations by helping to create a better world for everyone.  ■ —By Edgar Hopida & Aisha Kishta

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

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

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

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

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ISNA MATTERS ISNA CO-SPONSORED STOP HUNGER NOW PROJECT IN NEW YORK

ISNA Executive Director and CEO Hazem Bata assisting other volunteers during the Stop Hunger Now Service Project

ISNA in collaboration with the Jamaica Muslim Center in New York hosted a service project on June 13 titled, “The Joy of Caring & Sharing: Feed the Hungry.” This event was facilitated by the Stop Hunger Now project and co-sponsored by the North American Bangladeshi Islamic Community (NABIC) and Islamic Relief USA. More than 150 volunteers turned

Community volunteers packaging meals for the Stop Hunger Now Service Project in New York.

out for the event and packaged more than 30,000 meals for international relief efforts. “Wow, what an event! Such dedication and energy,” said ISNA Executive Director and CEO Hazem Bata, among the volunteers who participated in the project. “I was very impressed with the community. Everyone really stepped up. You had to be there to truly appreciate it.” 

STUDENTS GET FINANCIAL BOOST Rezwana Parveen, Ahmed ElSadek, Iman Shamen, Batoul Sadek, Fatmah Berikaa, Mariam Fawzy, Yasmeen Azam, Jenna Baker, Maya Eter, Lamees Mahmoud, Nadine Jawad, Sidrah Hanif, Zehra Hussain, Amna Khanani, Asma Malik, Rawia SalehNaji, Yasmeena Zouita, Sameena Ahmed, Jumanah Shareef and Waliullah Rifai are scholarship recipients for the Dr. Abdulmunim A. Shakir ISNA Scholarship Program 2014-2015 academic year. The scholarship program was established because of Shakir’s strong belief in the value of education. He arranged for this scholarship fund to be established to support freshman students in their first year of higher education. Malak Habbak, Maleeha Babar, Rolla Al-Abbasi, Omama Altalib, Asma Noray, Suhaib Khan, Roshni Khan, Shonnan Usman, Muhammad Salman Habib and Eman 8

ENDING TOBACCO USE THROUGH FAITH COMMUNITIES

Mozaffer secured the Aziz Jamaluddin ISNA Scholarships, whose primary goal is to have a generation of educated Muslims to speak out and communicate the true meaning of Islam in all types of media. Nabeeha Abdulkadir, Mohsin Mirza, Hena Rafiq, Sahl Hakim and Sumaiya Asif were awarded the Abdus Saleem Scholarship, established due to Saleem’s firm belief in the value of education. It helps entering college freshman, majoring in the areas, but not limited to, medical technology, oil and energy, computer science, journalism or business administration. “The moment I opened the email, my heart was pounding. And when I read the good news, I said Alhamdulillah because I am one step closer to achieving my dreams. Thank you for investing in me with this scholarship. I hope to continue this spirit of academic achievement,

Faiths United Against Tobacco and the Centers for Disease Control’s Office on Smoking and Health conducted a webinar July 29, “It Takes Faith: Addressing Tobacco Use within the Faith Community,” about the importance of addressing tobacco use with faith community members. The webinar featured the CDC’s national tobacco education campaign — Tips From Former Smokers. Participants learned about the campaign and new resources designed for faith leaders and their communities. Speakers also discussed how Faiths United Against Tobacco engaged and motivated their communities to adopt healthier lifestyles. ISNA is a proud member of the Faiths United Against Tobacco Campaign. 

leadership, and community service into college.” — Waliullah Rifai “Alhamdulilah, Allah (SWT) always brings my goals and dreams to fruition when I least expect it. This scholarship has actually inspired me to work harder toward my dream of becoming a successful and thought-provoking journalist.” — Rolla Al-Abbasi “I am immensely thankful to Allah (subhana wa Ta’ala), the donor, and ISNA for giving me this scholarship! I am incredibly blessed and humbled to receive this award and I hope that Allah will help me inspire other young Muslims to become prominent advocates for the Muslim society.” — Nabeeha Abdul-Khadir 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


INTERFAITH PRAYER FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM

Reverend Barry Knestout

Rabbi Aaron Miller

ISNA participated in an Interfaith Prayer Service for the 2014 National Migration Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, held July 7-10, was hosted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS), the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA). It combined training workshops and roundtable discussions complemented by general

Venerable Bhante Dhammasiri

sessions featuring renowned experts and speakers in the migration field. Its goal was educating public policymakers about the challenges and abuses that refugees, immigrants, migrants, and trafficking victims face in the United States and throughout the world. Dr. Sayyid Syeed, national director of ISNA’s Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances (IOICA), was among the speakers in the Interfaith Prayer Service, an integral part of the 2014 National Migration Conference.

ISNA EXPRESSES CONCERNS ON GAZA CRISIS TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN On July 22, ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid spoke with Vice President Joseph Biden while attending an interfaith iftar dinner, to express the Muslim American community’s concern for the loss of innocent lives in Gaza. Other guests included Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Rep. Andre Carson (D-In.), Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) and representatives from the Jewish and Christian faith traditions. According to the most recent reports, thousands of Palestinians have been killed with thousands more injured. Imam Magid along with Christian and Jewish leaders who attended the interfaith iftar dinner, conveyed the message of respect for human life, a principle common in all three Abrahamic faiths. They

also emphasized the importance of collaboration in establishing an environment of dialogue and understanding between faith traditions. Many efforts are being made by Muslims and ISNA’s interfaith partners to help end the violence. Among these efforts is the more than 53,000 letters that have been sent to congressional representatives through the website nodeadkids.com.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

On July 10 on Capitol Hill, Syeed led a prayer alongside the Rev. Barry Knestout of the Archdiocese of Washington, Aaron Miller, assistant rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation and Bhante Dhammasiri, president of the Washington Buddhist Vihara Society, Inc. “God, in this sacred month of Ramadan, the month of fasting, when we are commanded to share our food and resources with those who are hungry and thirsty around the world, help us and give us a renewed sense of purpose and faith to deal with the vulnerable, victims of human trafficking and of natural and man-made disasters, forcibly disempowered and displaced people,” Syeed said. Vigil organizer Myrna Tordillo said, “With the Interfaith Prayer Service, we draw inspiration through the prayers from our various faith traditions, for prayerful solidarity for immigrant families, and to call on our public officials to support comprehensive immigration reform.” Advocacy Day on the Hill followed the prayer service. 

“We encourage our communities to engage their elected officials to express their desire to end conflict and bring about peace,” Magid said. The “No Dead Kids” website’s introduction says in part: “The escalation in and around the Gaza Strip is causing terrible suffering to people — to men, women, the elderly, and children — Palestinian, as well as Israeli civilians. The military offensive conducted by the Israeli military has so far caused hundreds of Palestinian casualties; the vast majority of them unarmed civilians. The siege and economic blockade have reduced most of Gaza’s population to abject poverty, devastated its economy and caused the death of critically ill patients who were denied access to vital treatment.” 

Islamic Horizons apologizes to its readers for producing a second successive 48-page issue instead of our regular 64-page fare.

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ISNA MATTERS

ISNA PARTICIPATES IN INAUGURATION OF MENTAL HEALTH AND FAITH COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP On July 11, Dr. Sayyid Syeed, national director of ISNA’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, participated in the inauguration of the Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership held in Arlington, Virginia. The partnership is a collaboration between psychiatrists and clergy aimed at fostering a dialogue between two fields, reducing stigma, and accounting for medical and spiritual dimensions as people seek care. Partners include the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the American Psychiatric Foundation (APF) and the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). The partnership also announced it will create new resources to train religious leaders about mental health and substance use disorder issues, and train psychiatrists about faith and faith communities in mental health recovery. “The rate of suicide in our nation, both in the army and civil society, has reached an alarming level,”

ISNA National Director of Interfaith and Community Alliances Dr. Sayyid Syeed speaking at the Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership Inaugural event.

Syeed said. “We need to use more resources and funds to address this problem. It is imperative that we do the research to better understand the mental health challenges our nation has been shaken by in recent times, including recurring killings in schools, places of worship and public places, perpetrated by those who are mentally ill. In the last few decades, we funded research and treatment of AIDS, and as a result, we are now able to control the AIDS epidemic that was threatening the human race. Mental health issues are taking

a much higher toll on members of our society and wreaking greater havoc. We need to heavily fund and advance the understanding of these diseases like we did for AIDS. Only then can we hope to grapple with the prevalence of mental illness in our society.” Other partnership participants include: former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy; American Psychiatric Association (APA) President Paul Summergrad, MD; Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) President and CEO Mark Perriello and Director of AAPD Interfaith Initiative Ginny Thornburgh; Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, M.Div., of American Baptist Home Mission Societies; APF Executive Director Paul Burke; Sister Nancy Kehoe, RSCJ, Ph.D., author of “Wrestling with Our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness, and the Journey to Wholeness”; Bishop William Young of the Healing Center Ministries in Memphis; Rabbi Edythe Held Mencher, LSCW and dozens of other national mental health and faith community leaders. 

MYNA YOUTH JAM BY FAIZEEN AHMED MYNA Jam held June 7 turned out to be an uplifting experience for the attendees. Speakers shared gems of knowledge, such as meaningful tips and stories that everyone enjoyed learning and hearing about. Imam Tahir Anwar reminded that youth need to look up to a role model who doesn’t strive at being perfect at one skill, but rather strives to be perfect in all aspects of deen and dunya, such as the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi was sallam). It was a tip that caught their attention. Realizing that the Prophet’s character was exemplary before he even received revelation and became the Messenger of God reminded youth that good character and manners are also part of our religion and that every small act counts. After hearing inspiring lectures and enjoying the great weather, the event came to its climax with an entertain-

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ment program. The youth were awestruck at moments while watching the amazing variety of talents from the brothers and sisters and having a great laugh with Brother Mo Amer. The event ended on a perfect note and many were excited for next year’s MYNA Jam. 

Faizeen Ahmed from Dayton, Ohio, was a participant at MYNA Jam 2014.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


COMMUNITY MATTERS Connecticut Muslims Host Interfaith Iftar

St. Louis Opens Islamic School

Some 250 people from the general community attended the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut’s annual “Taste of Ramadan” held July 13 at the West Hartford Town Hall. Each year, the coalition invites representatives of Abrahamic faiths to share their perspectives about fasting in their traditions. This year’s speakers included Rabbi Jim Rosen of Temple Beth El, the Rev. Jon Leon-

ard of St. Patrick-St. Anthony and Muslim Chaplain Tricia Pethic from the Albion Correctional Facility. Their presentations were followed by personal table conversations and shared experiences. The audience listened to Egyptian Sheikh Farghali from the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford call the adhan, and then broke fast together. 

LA Doctor Helping the Homeless

The Islamic Society of Greater St. Louis opened a multicultural private school in the Dar Al-Jalal mosque. The St. Louis City Council approved a special permit for the school. The multicultural elementary and middle school will be on the first and second floors of the mosque, a building which formerly housed a insurance office. Dar Al-Jalal is considered to be the second largest mosque in St. Louis with capacity to accommodate 1,000 people, reported the St. Louis PostDispatch, July 17. The mosque presented to the council plans for 11 classrooms, six multipurpose rooms, a library, a kitchen and a cafeteria within 30,000 square feet. The number of students to be served was undetermined, but a Sunday school program at the mosque serves about 200 children. 

Sophia Momand and her son

Dr. Sophia Momand, a family physician, was invited to share her experience on MSNBC with reporter Jose Diaz-Balart in a July 17 interview. She 12

is a staff physician at Cal State Dominguez Hills Student Health and Psychological Services. For more than 15 years, Momand has been volunteering her

time by providing medical treatment to thousands of homeless in Los Angeles through her monthly clinic. She sets up a makeshift tent with tables and brings supplies and medicine, and with the help of a few volunteers provides medical care for homeless patients. Momand said she feels good helping and encouraging them, and truly enjoys being a doctor. Those who are seriously ill or injured, she will refer to nearby free health clinics. She said her efforts stem from a part of her faith as a Muslim. “Everyone has a story ... they need our help and we are obligated to help them. They are our brothers and sisters in humanity,” she said. “I believe Muslims need more recognition for all the good work they do to help the community at large,” she said. “We are an important constituency of humanity and must stay actively involved in making things better….inshallah….wherever we are.” 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


COMMUNITY MATTERS

Duke Receives $3 Million for Islamic Studies Chair Bettye Martin Musham (Nursing ’54) donated $3 million to fund the William and Bettye Martin Musham director of Islamic studies post, according to a Duke University news release. The new director will oversee the Duke Islamic Studies Center, established in 2006 and facilitates the university’s teaching and research about Muslim and Islamic communities. “We’re grateful to Bettye Musham for her generosity,” President Richard Brodhead said in the release. “In our increasingly interconnected world, it is vital that non-Muslims and Muslims are educated in each other’s cultures, beliefs, practices and contributions to the world. This gift will help keep Duke and our scholars at the forefront of crosscultural learning and understanding.” The first William and Bettye Martin Musham Director of Islamic studies will be Omid Safi (Trinity ’92 and Ph.D. ’98), who will come to Duke from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to the directorship, Safi will hold an appointment in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. “Duke has a long tradition of extraor-

Omid Safi

dinary scholarship in the study of Islam. We are thrilled that Omid Safi will continue that pursuit, both in the study and translation of Persian texts, as well the study of contemporary Muslim thought in America and in Iran,” Laurie Patton, dean of Duke’s Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, said in the release. “DISC will thrive under his lead-

DOJ Honors Muslim Physician Professor Khalid Jehangir Qazi, an internist and residency program director at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo, New York, was awarded the U.S. Department of Justice’s Attorney General’s Citizen Volunteer Service Award, June 11. “I just think that because Dr. Qazi has done so much to break down the barriers between the Muslim community and law enforcement, the time is right to honor him,” said William J. Hochul Jr., now the U.S. attorney in Buffalo, who nominated Qazi for the honor. Hochul praised Qazi for organizing a community meeting on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Qazi founded the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York in 2004 to create a forum in which Muslims could discuss public policy and interact with government officials. 

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ership and vision, and we are delighted at his arrival.” Musham is one of the founders of Gear Holdings, Inc., a design and marketing group based in New York. A member of the Council on International Relations, she was general manager of Louis Vuitton for North America in the 1970s. 

Humanitarian Service In Ramadan, a group of Muslim college students spent a week providing assistance and caring for orphans, the elderly and families in Guyana, reported the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, July 24. “It was a great segue into Ramadan. This trip was something I’ll never forget,” said Abid Farooq, president of the Muslim Association of Students in Health Care and one of four Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine students who traveled to Guyana. The trip was part of Friends of Humanity International’s Global Communities program, Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic started by Miramar resident Afeefa Abdool- Medicine students Zaid Rana, foreground, and Hassan Iqbal provide medical care to two Guyanese women. Ghany. Abdool-Ghany, 18, was joined by her sister, Faheema, their mother, Naima Khan-Ghany, and the second-year medical students for the program’s second international trip. The group was honored at NSU July 19 by Miramar Mayor Lori Moseley. 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


Muslim Americans: THE GENERATIONSRISE

I

BY LAILA ALAWA

n an exclusive feature with Islamic Horizons, Laila Alawa sat down with eleven young (18-45 years old) Muslim Americans who are creating change and influence within and outside the Muslim American community. They come from media/journalism, religion, community activism, film, art/music, and business fields.

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ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


CATEGORY: MEDIA/ JOURNALISM According to the Pew Research Center, 58% of Americans say they know little or nothing about Islamic practices. Recently, a Zogby Analytics poll found that favorability towards Muslim Americans is at 27%, down from 36% in 2010. Umbreen Bhatti is the co-founder of islawmix, created to add context and nuance to the many stories about sharia and Islam in the American news cycle. She is a civil rights lawyer.

and authoritative presentation by putting Islamic law under a critical lens. Our outside-the-community challenges have more to do with ensuring that journalists continue to access our website and access its high quality information. What do you offer to people looking to emulate you?

UMBREEN BHATTI 35, Lawyer/Journalism Fellow

UB:  Don’t emulate me! I’m far more inspired by what other people are doing. I constantly see amazing projects being cooked up by brilliant people. I urge those who come to me to think how their work can complement that of others.

What is your day to day like?

What would you like your legacy to be?

Umbreen Bhatti (UB):  My work is about making law and legal concepts easier to understand and less intimidating to nonlawyers. There is no day to day for me right now. The islawmix site is almost four years old. At Stanford, I was constantly thinking about the project’s next direction in light of what I was learning about journalism and journalism innovation. We seek to create content that is easy to understand and explain. We now have enough empirical data to tell you about some trends. I also have a two year old, so that definitely keeps life unpredictable. Why did you decide to go into media/ journalism?

Mohamed Geraldez (MG):  My day-to-day is a bit hard to describe because I travel a lot. Anyway, I like to finish my work day early so I start immediately after fFajr. I write emails, take conference/meeting/consultation calls, scan social media for articles and videos to view/read later on, and drink coffee. I like to end by noon so I can get to the finer things in life — surfing, skateboarding, reading, and watching documentaries. I nap whenever I can, reply to emails in the day/evening, fulfill my daily obligations, go to the gym, and read a book and some ayats.

Umbreen Bhatti

UB:  To have done some good in this world.

CATEGORY: BUSINESS

What has been your biggest challenge within and outside the Muslim American community?

The US has a modest estimate of 8 million Muslims, according to Lisa Mabe, founder of multicultural marketing firm Hewar Communications. In a 2010 study by Ogilvy Noor, the Muslim American consumer market was valued at $170 billion. Mohamed Geraldez is known for pursuing a variety of initiatives — a driving force behind the first and largest vegan tie company in the world, (Jaan J.), executive director for American Learning Institute for Muslims (ALIM) Program, and motivational speaker — is always busy building up the next big thing. Melanie Elturk is CEO of Haute Hijab, a leading US hijab fashion lines, and a civil rights attorney.

UB:  One challenge that came up quite often the mistaken belief that we were trying to make Islam look good. Actually, we were trying to explain the richness and complexity of Islam and Islamic law in an understandable way. We worked to present an honest

MOHAMED GERALDEZ Business Owner, Investor MELANIE ELTURK 29, Attorney, CEO What do you call yourself? What is your day to day like?

UB:  Journalism can help non-lawyers understand and navigate the law. In 2010, three of us were discussing the coverage of the Ground Zero mosque debacle and “Everybody Draw Muhammad” day, both of which confused readers as to what was actually taking place, and what it truly meant. Seeing a real need for credible, authoritative information about Islamic law in our society, we created islawmix.

Mohamed Geraldez

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

Melanie Elturk

Melanie Elturk (ME):  I’m a civil rights attorney and CEO of a company. But I don’t feel I’ve earned the right to call myself a stylist or designer, because I haven’t gone to fashion school. I can make a pattern, but I can’t do what my employees do. I currently live in Dubai, after having been born and raised in Detroit and living in Chicago for two years. I started Haute Hijab with my husband a few months after getting married, and it’s been going for five years now. Many times I wanted to quit or wasn’t happy, so I sought God’s guidance and help. I believe that He continues to guide us. 17


COVER STORY Why did you decide to go into business? MG:  I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit, but only embraced it as I grew older. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, create my own schedule, and have some kind of independence. I don’t have a business background, but I did get an MBA, so I could talk intelligently about business. But they’re not the same thing. Being an entrepreneur is a mental thing, and entrepreneurs are relentless, thriving on challenges and the freedom to make mistakes. I’ve had several failed endeavors, all of which were horrible to undergo, but each of which was necessary to keep pushing forward. ME:  I’ve always been into fashion, reading Vogue at an inappropriate age, being really particular about what I wore, and so on. After I got married, I was sitting at home in Chicago and didn’t have anything to do. This was 2010, when there was no hijab fashion industry — no Vela, Zeena, nor CoveredGirl. So, I put up a Facebook page, came up with the logo and name overnight, and got more than 1,000 “likes” in just one week. Thus we realized the need for a hijab brand focused on instilling confidence and empowerment. We’ve just kept going.

What has been your biggest challenge within and outside the Muslim American community?

instilling confidence in them and relay the message that hijab should be the force that keeps you moving forward.

MG:  Finding a Muslim role model who is a serious student of the Islamic sciences and a savvy entrepreneur. It’s difficult to find someone who is meticulous in both areas. I’ve never dealt with interest, even when starting my own company. I feel a sense of loss when I can’t find someone who really “gets” both. As for outside the community, I sometimes face non-Muslim investors who are wary. These days, more people are becoming spooked by their perceptions of Muslims and Muslim matters.

CATEGORY: FILM

ME:  I find a lack of compassion within the community. People are so quick to judge and to be negative. Second, our community is kind of miserly. We’re so used to paying a couple of dollars to buy products from H&M or Forever 21, so Haute Hijab gets questions about why our products can't be just as cheap.

A good deed done regularly!

You can make a significant impact on the quality of ISNA’s services by contributing through EFT. As little as $10 per month will help ISNA to serve the Muslim American community through effective leadership and state of the art training seminars for imams, Muslim chaplains and community leaders.

Sign up today to donate through EFT. WWW.ISNA.NET/DONATE 18

MUSTAFA DAVIS 41, Filmmaker, Photographer, Creative Director LENA KHAN Writer, Director What is your day to day like? Mustafa Davis

What do you offer to people looking to emulate you? MG:  Aim high. Emulate the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). ME:  You have to really, really, really want it. If you don’t have the passion, there will be no motivation or drive. I’ve been running the company for five years now, and not because of the money. Check your intention. If you’re not doing it for the right reasons, you won’t succeed. Intention, passion, and drive go hand in hand.

ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFER —

The Gallup Center for Muslim Studies found that in the first-ever nationally representative study of a randomly selected sample of Muslim Americans, these people are the most racially diverse religious group surveyed in the United States. Mustafa Davis, an internationally renowned photographer and filmmaker, teaches film and photography courses. Lena Khan, a director and writer, is working on her directorial debut: “The Tiger Hunter.”

What would you like your legacy to be? MG:  The ability to solve big problems. In my most current venture we are pitching and raising capital for sharia-compliant student loans. As a perfect pairing of religion and business, it interestingly has zero scaleable solutions at this time. Hopefully, if you are an investor or have any questions, you will access www.mgeraldez.com for further information. ME:  To be known as someone who put God first, and kept my eyes on the price of the hereafter, for lifting up the scores of hijabwearing women, and being a source of support by providing a platform for their voices and opinions. I hope that I’ve contributed to

Mustafa Davis (MD):  I have two typical modes: travel (on the road for at least five months of the year) and in the studio to edit film and photography. When I’m traveling, I really have no idea of what will happen: some days you can’t shoot until 4 pm or have to prep before sunrise for a photoshoot. It might just rain and delay your photo shoot. But it doesn’t feel like work, because I love what I’m doing. Lena Khan (LK):  I just came off the set, so the day to dayday-to-day then was insane. I was up around 4 am every day, prepping scenes, coordinating actors, and other things. I would head to set at 6:30 am, say hello to everyone, and start work. The last few days of filming, we wrapped up around 9 pm. Then we’d have the assistant director and cinematographer figure

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


UMA Interfaith Alliance work focuses on seeing what is common between American values and Islamic values. America is built on three key principles: 1) Pluralism  2) Democracy and  3) Secular Governance. UMA Interfaith Alliance also promotes those same values through The Quran: Pluralism in The Quran: To you We have given the scriptures, just as We have given the scriptures to people before you (Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, etc). We have protected your scriptures (Quran) in its entirety. So judge among people from what knowledge has come to you and do not be carried over by your vain desires. To each among you, We have prescribed the Law and an Open Way. If God had willed, all humanity would have been of one single community. So strive, as in a race in all virtues. The goal of all the people is to God. God (alone) will tell you the truth in matters of which you dispute.” (Quran 5:48 ) Democracy in the Quran: “Conduct affairs through mutual consultation.”  42:38 Secular Governance: In all sincerity when pluralism and democracy is preached and followed, a secular governance is the most judicious outcome. Freedom of Religion: Let there be no Compulsion in Religion, U.S. Constitution agrees with the Quran in 2:256, when it says, “Congress shall not pass any law establishing any religion nor shall they pass law prohibiting the exercise of any.” Our Mission: United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance promotes understanding and cooperation among world religions through interfaith dialogue, thereby creating racial and religious harmony and encouraging faith based communities to get involved locally, nationally and globally for the good of all people and help bring healing and spiritual reconstruction. In God we Trust Iftekhar Hai, President UMA Interfaith Alliance  •  www.umaia.net ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014 A Tax Exempt and Non-Profit

Organization Federal ID #20-1448118

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COVER STORY out schedules for the next day, do a bit of rewriting, go to sleep at 2 am, wake up at 4 am, and do it all over again. Now that we’re off set, we’re getting into everything. I’m hiring editors, talking to score composers, and figuring out a plan to raise the remaining funds. If you want to help, check www.thetigerhunter.com. Why did you decide to go into film? MD:  I grew up in a broken home, and when I picked up a camera, I could shoot photos of happy people in parks. When I got older, I learned that history isn’t what we were taught and that there was a lot of disenfranchisement. So I want to tell the stories of people who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to tell them. Photography is like air for me — without it, I wouldn’t do well in the world. I was 23 when I converted. The second day after my conversion, I was told that photography was impermissible. It took me seven years to learn the truth and come to terms with the reality I had been living. When I came back to it years later, I adopted a different outlook, and found that my Islamic foundation helped focus my art that much better. LK:  I started out wanting to change the world, and earned a BA in political science and history. I used to want to go into academia, until I got to college and found that people weren’t learning very much. You’d have half-empty rooms for informational lectures about Sudan, and then Don Cheadle would come to UCLA and the whole room would be packed to the brim. That’s the power of Hollywood. So I decided then, that that would be my path of influence. My brother was the first one to say I could do it as a career, so when I got into the competitive UCLA film school, I just kept on going forward. What has been your biggest challenge within and outside the Muslim American community? MD:  Being a human being trying to find my voice. As an artist, I am constantly negotiating my voice, because my art is an outward expression of my internal self. I get awards for my work, but I’m just doing it because it feels right. I’m thankful for the opportunity. LK:  Fundraising. There’s nothing harder in the community than fundraising. People 20

ask the philanthropic interest, and what the value of the film is. It’s not just wanting to give, but an actual fight about why I’m even choosing to make feature films. Outside of the community, it’s very difficult to break into the film industry as a Muslim. Until recently, very few Muslims were in the industry, so things are very much like an old gentleman’s club where you have no way in. What do you offer to people looking to emulate you? MD:  I would say, don’t emulate me. If you want to be someone awesome, take the good qualities from the people you see. Really, really study the art. It’s so easy to pick up a pen or a camera because social media makes you an instant artist. Don’t judge yourself on likes, for art has to originate from a place deep within you. I can’t teach that.

Lena Khan

CATEGORY: RELIGION Given that religious freedom is one of our fundamental rights as Americans, it is only natural to engage with our religious leaders on a higher level from both a community and personal standpoint. Suzy Ismail is a visiting professor at DeVry University, lead instructor at the Center for Muslim Life, and author of Modern Muslim Marriage: Finding the Right Match & Making Your Marriage Succeed. Imam Khalid Latif is the university chaplain and executive director of the NYU Islamic Center. SUZY ISMAIL 37, Speaker, Visiting Professor, Author KHALID LATIF 31, University Chaplain, Imam, Executive Director What is your day to day like?

Suzy Ismail

LK:  It’s incredibly hard, and you have to be willing to fail for a very long time before you can actually make it. It’s a very unstable work path, and a very difficult process. If you still want it after all the failures, go for it. If people show enough initiative, there’s a place for them on the set. As long as you’re willing to put in the work, I’ll do what I can to help you.

Suzy Ismail (SI):  It’s pretty hectic. I work on marriages and community-based spiritual activism. From the viewpoint of marriage, I view it as trying to rebuild families and all elements of pre-marriage. From the community-based spiritual activism viewpoint, I encourage spiritual activism, and the realization that there is more to the dunya than a day to day.

What would you like your legacy to be?

Khalid Latif (KL):  My day isn’t really too routine. What stays consistent, is its apparent long duration. In my role as executive director of the NYU Islamic Center, I oversee institutional development, fundraising, pastoral care, and religious services and programming. I also engage with the media, build cross- cultural and interfaith relationships, and work to provide a model to help people to fit in to the religious community here, rather than forcing them into a rigid definition of what it means to be a practicing Muslim.

MD:  My children and have people catch brief glimpses of who I am through my work. I know this is a temporary world, and thus I hope that these photographs and films contribute to the world after I’m gone. LK:  I got into making films because I wanted to create films with social subtlety. I’ve also been working to foster talent in the Muslim community, so after this, I would like to make a production company.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


Why did you decide to go into religion work? SI:  I started to write books because we, as Muslims, aren’t open to speaking about issues that affect families internationally. I wanted to identify existing problems, and provide an outlet for dialogues about identity, marriage issues, and community. KL:  I fell into it, to be honest. The role I was invited to take on wasn’t something I anticipated going in to. As a person, I have benefited more from this role than anyone else. I’m able to be a part of people’s lives during pivotal junctures, and have improved my understanding on various issues. What has been your biggest challenge within and outside the Muslim American community? SI:  The resistance to talking about problems, being proactive, and creating implementable solutions. When the first book on divorce came out, people told me that if you don’t talk about it, it won’t happen. Outside the community, it’s easy to fall into the token Muslim role on issues that are more right wing. I refuse to be the Muslim face of an entire population. KL:  Where I find a big gap in the community is in its self-esteem and confidence. We really need to create a sense of empowerment and begin to harness our diverse talents, skills, and credential. Outside the community you have to deal with reality. So we need to understand and readjust our strategies to change our realities accordingly. What do you offer to people looking to emulate you? SI:  Start small. Start locally. If you feel like you have something to offer, volunteer. It can be exhausting sometimes, but you can’t really put a monetary value on your time and efforts, until you’ve worked for free. If you want to write, carve out some time and just write. Don’t lose sight of your purpose. KL:  I’ve learned that each person is bigger than just their identity. They have a name and a narrative, an entire life experience that they’ve lived and need to tap into, so they can reach into their own list of potentials. When people say they’d like to do what I’m

NAIT Invites Candidates for the Position of

Executive Director in its Chicago Headquarter

The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) is a Waqf, serving Muslims in the United States and their institutions. NAIT supports and provides services to ISNA, MSA, their affiliates, and other Islamic centers and institutions. NAIT is a religious not-for-profit entity, governed by its Board of Trustees. Executive Director reports to NAIT Board. Executive Director manages NAIT, its personnel and its activities. Core Considerations: • Corporate, business, and financial or legal skills. • Ability to effectively relate with the diverse Muslim leadership and communities across all schools of thought and ethnicities. • History of working with grass-roots organizations and volunteers. • Islamic mindset. Responsibilities: • Promote Islamic centers’ participation in NAIT’s Waqf program and Islamic Centers Cooperative Fund. • Provide regulatory and quasi-legal guidance to Islamic centers. • Attend to Corporate matters. • Engage with outside counsels defending lawsuits targeting Islamic centers. • Diversify NAIT investments. • Interact with NAIT Board of Trustees. Qualifications & Experience: • Law, CPA or Masters’ degree in Business • At least ten years’ experience in public dealings, including Muslim community/college organization • Preferably five years’ experience in Financial or Legal matters • Exposure to real estate and securities industry • Public Speaking & writing skills • Demonstrated communication, organizational, and people skills. Compensation: Commensurate with competence; will include health insurance for family. Contact: Interested persons should email a resume stating education, work history and references, with a cover letter to: mSarodi@aol.com and CC to Baosman@Yahoo.com and Chairman@NAIT.net

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

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COVER STORY doing, I think what they’re really saying, is that I think you’ve found something you’re passionate about, so how can we go about feeling and doing the same things. What would you like your legacy to be? SI:  My husband and children to look back and say that I made a difference changed someone’s life and made a difference in my life, too. The real legacy is my hope that my children will do meaningful work, and that people will make dua’a for me.

to help create Quwa, a community violence prevention program that will work with Syrian refugee women. My day to day has been planning for that, interviewing women on the ground and already involved with refugee communities. It will offer self- defense training and trauma therapy and, hopefully, be a way to build a sisterhood community.

KL:  To leave behind people with the strength and conviction to keep moving forward. The Prophet would come into the community, and people who couldn’t distinguish him from his Companions, because he was so much a part of his people.

CATEGORY: COMMUNITY ACTIVISM Community activism is defined as encompassing actions taken by individuals within a community or group, to bring about change. Zeinab Khalil is a community organizer, writer, and justice worker headed to Turkey to implement a community violence prevention program and working with Syrian refugee women. Salim Patel is the chairman on the board for SMILE, which seeks to address sociocultural maladies that occur at every income level. ZEINAB KHALIL 22, Community Organizer, Writer SALIM PATEL 36, Chairman for SMILE, Corporate Finance What is your day to day like? Zeinab Khalil

Zeinab Khalil (ZK):  I’ve been living in New York City, doing research with a public policy think tank, but now am moving to Turkey 22

Salim Patel

Salim Patel (SP):  My day to day varies significantly, since SMILE is a very young organization. What I end up doing is triage, where I work to connect people’s needs with other people that can take care of those needs. We’re trying to formalize the resources we have in the community — if it’s legal, mental health, counseling — versus my trying to help someone within a situation where I don’t have adequate experience. Why did you decide to go into community activism? ZK:  I was kind of pushed into it because of the situation at University of Michigan. Once I graduated, I realized that the feelings of suffocation, gaslighting, being ignored and sidelined but at the same time feeling hyper visualized, were all struggles and experiences that prepared me for what’s out here in the world. During my time at college, I began the Michigan Women of Color Collective, which soon became a space for critical conversation about the racial status quo around us. So I was able to engage in a lot of activism through that avenue. SP:  I saw a need, and I had to fill it. There are so many resources that the Muslim American community is lacking, but we decided to begin locally within the state of New Jersey, both to remain realistic and to provide the highest impact services. I believe that many people need assistance, either community members or otherwise, and that I have a

responsibility to connect them to those that are better able to help. What has been your biggest challenge within the Muslim American community? What about outside the religious community? ZK:  In the community, we tend to ignore differences or gloss over them. When it comes to bringing gender into the conversation, the community can be reactionary, and people are more willing to use fear to silence necessary conversations about patriarchy within the community. Outside the community, its liberal politics’ rosy pictures of tolerance and coexistence that don’t allow for needed, healthy tension. If we can talk about oppressed groups, but not the oppressors, we have a problem. SP:  Donations. We’re a small organization that depends on donations. That comes with its own challenges, particularly donor management. On the organizational structure side, we don’t have the luxury of multiple staff members. What do you offer to people looking to emulate you? ZK:  Humility. Real, genuine humility, especially if you’re an outsider in any way. If you’re serving communities, don’t disconnect from those you’re claiming to serve. Be on the ground, and hyper- aware all the time. SP:  Do good deeds because that’s what needed at that point. For us, it’s working for humanity, and it’s a reflection of the Divine’s favor to each of us. Don’t get bogged down in getting that credit or being a mega- personality. It isn’t sustainable. What would you like your legacy to be? ZK:  Viable frameworks of safety and security for women, informed by their own experiences and accountability. I envision security rooted in living experiences, a dynamic that enables us to affirm different sorts of safety for women in schools and communities. SP:  That SMILE remains a necessary social service organization.

CATEGORY: ARTS/MUSIC Our faith tradition is steeped in self expression through the arts. When the Prophet first

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


began teaching Islam, poets were employed to spread the word. Big Samir is part of The ReMINDers, a hip-hop and reggae duo that blends soulful sounds and roots music with insightful messages and thoughtful lyrics. Shahara Ahmed is a spoken- word artist who has performed in several venues, including the New York City Poetry Slam, and ARISE. BIG SAMIR 33, Performing Artist SHAHARA AHMED 18, Spoken- Word Artist

SA:  My eighth grade drama teacher had the class participate in the New York City Poetry Slam. I had always liked poetry, but had never performed it. Performing made me feel empowered. I used to be very shy. Being on stage allowed me the space to be myself and belt out my words. What has been your biggest challenge within and outside the Muslim American community? BS:  In the beginning, we would get booked for MSA gigs and they would then ask for Aja not to sing or for the music to not be played. The latter is still a big conversation for Muslims, but we’re a musical group, and Aja is a woman who sings. Thus we have a fine line to tread. We’ve begun declining gigs that don’t allow us to be ourselves.

What is your day to day like?

Big Samir

SA:  Addressing existing problems in the community through my work is quite challenging. Many are in denial, and yet I keep pushing forward because I need to keep doing what I do. Outside, people still aren’t used to seeing a Muslim American woman of color doing performance art. At the end of the day, it’s pretty rewarding knowing that I’m breaking down stereotypes.

Big Samir (BS):  Getting the kids ready, working on music, possibly recording. Depending on the week, we might be traveling and performing. Aja, my wife and the other person in The ReMINDers, and I are generally around all kinds of people, so our music speaks to the general demographic. That makes us slightly different.

What do you offer to people looking to emulate you?

Shahara Ahmed (SA): Generally is really quiet. For part of that process it’s very lonely, but that allows me to focus. Most of my spoken-word pieces are related to Islam, although I’ve written more abstract pieces. The process surrounding the performance is very stressful. The idea of being on stage kind of freaks me out, but when I’m on stage, I’m just in my zone.

SA:  Spoken word is something that you don’t just write or perform. It’s a feeling, the very essence of our beings. If you feel it, go for it. If it’s what you need, then pursue it.

Why did you decide to go into music/art? BS:  It started out as a hobby. But it got more professional, we got better, which brought us more exposure, until it became what I do full time. It wasn’t easy at first, but you get to a point where you have to choose between music, and the 9-5.

person. I hope my performances can push people just a little beyond their beliefs and stereotypes of Muslim American women. 

Laila Alawa a writer, entrepreneur and cultural critic based in Washington, DC., is founder and president of Coming of Faith LLC, founder of The Everyday Bigotry Project, associate editor for The Islamic Monthly, and columnist for The Huffington Post, PolicyMic, and AltMuslim.

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

Sign up today to donate through EFT.

WWW.ISNA.NET/DONATE

BS:  Understand that you’ll spend a lot of time working, before you get to shine. Work hard, study hard, and things will come. People love to look at the end result and think they can skip the struggle.

What would you like your legacy to be? BS:  My children. I feel I’m raising some real powerful children, so we’ll see what they become. I feel we’re well rounded people, and everything we’ve been learning we’re instilling in them. They’re our biggest project so far. SA:  I hope people can take away a small message from each piece, if not the lesson I’m trying to convey, then about me as a

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

23


MUSLIMS IN ACTION

A Community of Believers Atlanta Masjid thrives and serves BY ATLANTA MASJID STAFF

A

tlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, located in the historic East Atlanta community, is the city’s largest and oldest Islamic community. It is a community of believers adhering to the Quran and the life traditions of Prophet Muhammad (salla allahu ’alayhi was sallam). We serve as a center for religious development, social, educational, economic, and cultural enrichment. We believe in the oneness of God and the oneness of humanity. We are committed to promoting excellence in community life and human dignity throughout our neighborhoods, city, country, and global community.

The Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam was founded in 1958. A majority of the congregation is of African American descent, many of whom were Christian and converted to Islam. It was first established when the late Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad purchased a property on Atlanta’s Bankhead Highway. The property was disputed after his death, however, the mosque was then moved to Fayetteville Road under the leadership of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, who died in 2008. In 1990, an abandoned shopping center was purchased by its members and it was then renovated to what is known today as the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam. The mosque identifies itself under the association of the late Imam Mohammed, who guided its members to the practice of Sunni Islam.

The Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, widely considered to be the city’s oldest, largest and most progressive Islamic community, is supported by four generations of Muslims. The community has more than 3,000 supporters and nearly 200 students attending the Mohammed Schools of Atlanta. The masjid has men and women represented on its board of directors. The membership continues to expand and the extent of volunteer and charitable services offered has expanded steadily in recent years. Because of the mosque’s interfaith, economic and civic engagement activities, many local, national, international agencies seek out the Atlanta Masjid’s expertise to model programs of self-help, community and economic development. These programs are products of Mohammed’s visionary leadership. At a time when many communities across America, and locally in Georgia are

AT A TIME WHEN MANY COMMUNITIES ACROSS AMERICA, AND LOCALLY IN GEORGIA ARE LOSING NEIGHBORS TO FORECLOSURE, ATLANTA MASJID ASSISTS WITH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES TO DEVELOP AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES FOR THE BENEFIT OF OUR NEIGHBORHOOD AND ASSOCIATE COMMUNITIES. 24

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


Imam Mansoor Sabree

losing neighbors to foreclosure, the Atlanta Masjid assists with community development activities to develop affordable housing and sustainable communities for the benefit of our neighborhood and associate communities.

IMAM MANSOOR SABREE Mansoor Sabree, the director and resident imam, represents a new generation of indig-

enous Muslim American leadership. He is a student of the late Imam Warith Deen Mohammed. He succeeds the 25-year leadership of Imam Plemon T. El-Amin. He studied Arabic and Islamic law at Abu Nour University in Damascus, Syria, under the tutelage of the late Grand Mufti Shiekh Ahmed Kuftaro. He also serves as director of Islamic Affairs at the Mohammed Schools of Atlanta, which

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

are fully accredited kindergarten through 12th-grade college preparatory institutions. Sabree is a member of Atlanta’s citywide Majlis Ashurah, Atlanta-based interfaith group World Pilgrims, board member of Atlanta-based Interfaith Children’s Movement, an advisory board member for Fons Vitae Publishing and a fellow of American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (AMCLI). 

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Sisters for Sisters MUSLIMS IN ACTION

Ameena Shehab takes her past experience to serves others. BY SHAKEEL SYED

CHAPLAINCY Shehab said she received an accidental phone call from one of the only two Muslim woman inmates at the Dayton Correctional Facility, asking for help to provide Quran, hijabs and Friday congregational service. In June 2013, she started volunteering and in 13 months helped increase the Muslim inmate population to 32. Shehab said they had four new converts during this past Ramadan. Shehab successfully advocated for the institution of Friday prayers, distribution of Quran and other Islamic educational materials and hijabs. As the first paid contractor chaplain for the institution, she provides 10 hours per week of services. She also teaches two classes, Islam101 and another a bit advanced. She purchases all materials from her own resources and some small donations. The Dayton Correctional Facility is a state-owned and operated women-only prison with a population of 928 inmates, of which 32 are now Muslims. Shehab said initially prison authorities did not trust Muslims and were discriminatory toward Muslim inmates and Muslim volunteers. They were giving one hour per week to Muslims compared to 86 hours per week for Christian services. The facility’s library had no Islamic material, but now they have allowed a couple of bookshelves. She said the institution is under review by the Department of Justice for “unethical” behavior toward female inmates.

THE FAITH AND NEEDS

A

meena Shehab reverted to Islam four years ago. Instead of lamenting her past, Shehab has not only rebuilt her life but also is helping others better their lives. Shehab, who did her undergraduate in criminal justice, is working on a master’s degree in social work. The hijab-clad social worker, now a mother of a 19-month-old daughter, said she practices Islam to its core. Originally from Arlington, Texas, she now lives in Cincin26

nati. She met a Muslim small business owner online and married and moved to Cincinnati. “Through Islam, everything is possible,” Shehab said.

Shehab said inmates are attracted to Islam by its simplicity, solidarity through brotherhood/sisterhood, its equity and equality, consistent education and spiritual study, and Friday services. The result has been near total transformation from angry and anxious to mild-mannered Muslims who are content, calm and hopeful for a better tomorrow — more optimistic than pessimistic. She said some new Muslims have become better inviters to the faith than her. Shehab said the common needs and concerns of the inmates are fighting for equal religious rights, and seeking human dignity and not a mere number. The inmates’ needs are hijabs, copies of the Quran, prayer rugs, and prayer services. They need to secure basic Islamic educational programs. “I treat them as my sister-in-faith and

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


Southern California Supports Inmates Rights For the first time in the history of Los Angeles County correctional system, Muslim inmates in are now entitled to halal meals. This is one of the achievements of the patiently pursued efforts of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC) which fully-sponsors the Prison Outreach Program (POP) in six counties (LA, Ventura, Kern, Riverside & San Bernardino). Every Ramadan, the ISCSC provides thousands of pounds of dates for County prison inmates. The POP is led by Imam Abu Ishaq Abdul Hafiz, a retired federal chaplain, and overseen by the ISCSC executive director Shakeel Syed. The POP includes providing free education material including copies of the Quran. It provides and also serves to train and certify volunteer Muslim chaplains for area prisons. It advocates to secure religious rights for inmates within the federally mandated Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) laws. The POP has successfully advocated to help establish Friday prayers with or without a volunteer chaplain in Los Angeles County prisons. ISCSC is donating sets of Islamic educational material to more than fifty prison libraries. The ISCSC, which works in coalition with other faith groups and criminal justice advocacy groups for more justice and less jails, also serves are advisor to county, state, and federal prisons regarding the provision of halal meals, Ramadan services, and other Islamic related matters. sister-in-humanity and not as a convict or a felon,” Shehab said. She said the inmates face many postrelease challenges, such as safe housing, continuing education, life skills program, job training and jobs.

Shehab said impediments and challenges to chaplaincy include overcoming the systematic discrimination of Muslims, lack of the community’s empathy toward the formerly incarcerated, and lack of moral and financial support. She wants to see more

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

volunteers who are consistent and committed, and the community offering post-release work possibilities.

MOVING FORWARD Shehab has secured the domain name, sistersofsisters.org, and is working on the website. She has started the 501-C3 process to establish a nonprofit and is writing grant proposals to secure faith-based transitional (post-release) housing, and for building or providing a safe halfway house. The transitional home is the first priority, she said. “My dream is to provide my sisters a safe, secure and spiritual environment for their growth and emotional and psychological well being,” Shehab said. Building/securing a halfway house in her area would cost an estimated $60,000 to $70,000. Furnishing rooms for four occupants, with kitchen, bathrooms and other amenities would cost $10,000. The annual operational costs for four guests would be $10,000 to $15,000 yearly. To support the project, write to 5432 Fenwick Ave., Suite 3, Cincinnati, OH 45212; sistersofsisters@outlook.com. 

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MUSLIMS IN ACTION

War on Gaza, Social Media and Efficacy of Protest The social media activists use of gory photos to shock more people into action on behalf of Palestine is highly problematic and objectifies the individuals whose images are utilized. DR. HATEM BAZIAN

I

srael’s summer 2014 war on Gaza will be extensively studied by military and political strategist alike due to the extensive shifts witnessed on the battlefield, government offices at home and abroad and more critically through social media. For starters, the Israeli leadership’s expressed goal of ending Hamas’s rule in Gaza was quickly jettisoned as unfolding events

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demonstrated the folly of such a plan and a narrower aim directed at locating and destroying existing tunnels took center stage. The initial hope for Israeli military success (which was politically supported by some Arab and Western powers) collapsed as the Palestinian resistance managed to withstand the pressure and mounted a sustained response that altered the war’s contours. Yet, a more critical aspect that deserves as much attention is the global response through social media by activists and organizers who managed over the course of the war to alter the highly controlled and managed Israeli military and political narrative. The Israeli narrative dominates the mainstream media outlets but on Twitter, Facebook and other social media avenues, Gaza’s story had a Palestinian face to it. What is the impact of social media in this war and how effective were pro-Palestine activists in dominating this medium? More critical are issues relative to the nature of the medium and the prevalence of gory images and whether they provide the lead to greater level of engagement or have a negative outcome. Lastly, as Israel’s war on Gaza intensified, a global protest movement got underway. It is too early to ask questions on the long-term impact of this mobilization. However, the need is to ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


weigh the efficacy of protest and demonstrations and what impacts do they have on the unfolding events. It is too early to assess the overall impact of Israel’s war in Gaza on public attitudes across the world and whether the success in the mainstream media is sufficient to keep support for Israel moving forward. The cracks are already visible in the social media space with Twitter and Facebook being dominated by pro-Palestine narrative and contributing to shifts in some mainstream media coverage. For example, NBC initially removed from the area Ayman Mohyeldin, the award-winning news correspondent who personally witnessed the killing by Israel of the four boys playing soccer on Gaza’s beach as well as sending a photo of the grieving mother to Twitter; however after a massive response on social media, NBC was forced to change its decision and send the reporter back to the area. On the other hand, CNN reassigned Diana Magnay, an international correspondent from Israel to Moscow after sending a tweet “Israelis on hill above Sdrot cheer as bombs land on #Gaza threaten to ‘destroy our car if I say a word wrong’. Scum.” The removal from the area was deemed to be for security and safety concern but social media and activists on Twitter were able to focus attention on the coverage and the story became one of the most widely shared across the globe. Indeed, CNN’s actions and removal of the reporter lead to greater attention to Israel’s response and attitudes during the war on Gaza. Palestinians’ use of social media with a number of bloggers operating from Gaza made for an open and uncensored channel of reporting that became a window into the daily lives and the impact of the war on the ground. This steady Gaza information source became important in countering the eraser or obfuscation of the Palestinian narrative in the mainstream press that was heavily affected by the Israeli public relations infrastructure. The Palestinian success in social media led Israel to attempt a response by offering to pay students to work on posting positive stories about it and to counter the narrative coming out of activists narrating Gaza’s suffering. Taking this step on a governmental level was a clear indication on the one hand of the success of Palestine’s activists in this medium and the utter failure of Israel’s ability to keep its carefully crafted war narrative intact outside the controlled mainstream.

PALESTINIANS’ USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA WITH A NUMBER OF BLOGGERS OPERATING FROM GAZA MADE FOR AN OPEN AND UNCENSORED CHANNEL OF REPORTING THAT BECAME A WINDOW INTO THE DAILY LIVES AND THE IMPACT OF THE WAR ON THE GROUND.

However, one consequence of Palestine’s activists heavy reliance on social media is the overuse of gory images and prevalence of photos documenting almost every case of death. While it is important to record and document each death in Gaza for possible future legal investigations and to ascertain the cause of death, social media activists often use these photos to shock more people into action on behalf of Palestine, which is highly problematic and objectifies the individuals whose images are utilized. Death is painful and Palestinians are dispossessed of agency alive and likewise in death. It is not blaming individuals who are sharing these images to bring about a human response; rather it is the over-all colonial structure that makes the approach paradigmatic of how Palestinians are approached. The problem is colonization and the continued occupation that makes the life of a Palestinian subject to contestation while alive, dead and post-death documentation. Ways must be found to uplift Palestine and Palestinians at all times without having to objectify them so as to get the needed support. I am not dealing with the Islamic legal and ethical treatment of the dead body for the issues at hand are beyond discussing the religious norms. It is far more powerful to construct a

Seeking an Imam The Raleigh Masjid (www.raleighmasjid.org) is the largest mosque in the Raleigh, NC area with over 2000 regular congregants. We’re seeking an Imam with the following qualifications: • Degree in Islamic Studies or related Sharia area from an accredited university • Excellent Qur’anic recitation skills and strong memorized command of a significant portion of the Qur’an • Strong communication, organizational, interpersonal and leadership skills • Adequate knowledge of Fiqh to teach and counsel the community on matters of Fiqh in the four main schools of thought • Adequate knowledge of the Seerah of the Prophet (PBUH) • Fluent in English - spoken and written • A strong understanding of Islamic etiquettes, manners, and appropriate behavior • A complete understanding of challenges and hardships Muslim youth face in the US • US work authorization Salary is commensurate with qualification and experience. To apply please submit your resume along with references and recommendations to: jobs@raleighmasjid.org

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

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MUSLIMS IN ACTION

full picture of the lost Palestinian life with a narrative focusing on his/her as a human being with family, friends, and potential that was brought to an end by Israeli violence. Indeed, if we only focus on images of the dead bodies of Palestinians then we are reducing the full life of an individual or a family into the crime. We should resist this reduction and seek to draw the full picture and insist on it at all times. Many are fully aware of the pain and difficulties, witnessing the daily suffering of the Palestinians, but let us resist the dehumanization by keeping them alive even after the moment of death. The above also brings to the protest movement that erupted after the Israeli attacks on Gaza. Across the world activists and organizations mobilized heavily to protest Israeli crimes and to urge government to take the needed actions to end this assault on a captive population. Parts of Western Europe, South Africa and Latin and South America witnessed the largest protests, a fact that has not been seen since the mass mobilization in 2003 against US invasion of Iraq. The demonstrations were unable to shift the government positions in the short period, however the same can’t be said in the long run as the effects of these efforts will have a bleed-in effect in the upcoming elections in England and other countries facing the voters this coming fall. Protests and putting massive numbers of people in the streets is important in the face of governments who are refusing to alter or 30

be critical of Israeli policies or even domestic related issues. For example, Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam war efforts had a very strong and sustained protest movement that in the long run helped shift public opinion and as a result brought about a change in policies.

Thus, the lesson is not whether protest and demonstrations are effective or not, but how to bring about a sustained effort and also engage in complementary strategies that takes the numbers in the streets and converts them into political muscle to change policies and unjust laws. In the days ahead we collectively have to think seriously about the needed steps that can transform the thousands in the streets into a source of political empowerment that can bring about a change in policies pertaining to the unconditional support extended to Israel. The U.S. government continues to support Israel’s position be it right or wrong, which means that Palestinians are expendable and Muslim and other concerned voices in America have no value. For sure the time has come for Muslims and Arabs in America to take their numbers, resources and political worldview seriously and begin to effectuate a sustained protest movement on the outside and a focused inside political strategy to bring an end to this one sided support. Muslim Americans need to look inside that their own taxes are purchasing the bullets that kill the Palestinians. It should be their own responsibility to exert maximum effort to bring this to end; otherwise we are part of the problem. 

Hatem Bazian, Ph.D., is a senior lecturer, co-founder of Zaytuna College.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


POLITICS AND SOCIETY

Sami Al-Arian:

A Decade Plus of Persecution BY KHADIJAH QAMAR & HAMDAN AZHAR

Al-Arian case is not the last tragedy of pain and humiliation in a line of postSept. 11 cases that repudiate the wrongfully accused to America’s altered judicial landscape.

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O

n June 27, the U.S. Department of Justice dropped all charges against Dr. Sami Al-Arian. The government’s motion to dismiss the six-year-old indictment minced few words: “In light of the passage of time without resolution, the United States has decided that the best available course of action is to move to dismiss the indictment so that action can be taken to remove the defendant from the United States.” For Al-Arian, the Palestinian activist and former University of South Florida professor who found himself at the crossroads of a vengeful post-Sept. 11 criminal justice system gone awry, the date marked a bittersweet end to a protracted legal battle lasting more than 11 years. That included more than five years in prison, much of which he spent in solitary confinement, and four and a half years of house arrest. “This case remains one of the most troubling chapters in this nation’s crackdown

after 9/11,” said Jonathan Turley, Al-Arian’s lawyer for the past eight years. Al-Arian’s case is an example of how post-9/11 government policies, under the Bush and Obama administrations, have fundamentally altered the judicial system and our understanding of due process.

PROFESSOR AND ACTIVIST A son of Palestinian refugees, Al-Arian grew up in the Middle East and immigrated to the United States in 1975 to earn his doctorate in computer engineering. He settled with his wife, Nahla, in Southern Florida where he raised five children and became a professor on track for tenure at the University of South Florida. He excelled in his new American homeland, winning outstanding teaching awards, and travelling the country to speak about the Middle East, interfaith dialogue, and civil rights. He was especially influential in gathering political support to repeal the use of secret

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TERROR TRIAL

On Sept. 11, 2001, America and the world grieved for the more than 2,000 innocent lives lost on that tragic day. As evidence emerged that the perpetrators were of Arab origin, Muslim Americans, along with other minority groups, came under public attack. Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly invited AlArian, as a community leader, to discuss the reactions of Muslim-Americans on his show. Within the first few minutes, it became clear that O’Reilly had other intentions. He barraged him with questions about his personal associations. He closed the interview telling Al-Arian, “If I was the CIA, I’d follow you wherever you went. I’d follow you 24 hours.” O’Reilly was picking up where Fechter had left off, and, in a fearful post-Sept. 11 America, his insinuations foreshadowed what was to come. Less than a month later, USF President Judy Genshaft placed Al-Arian on administrative leave, citing concern for “campus security” — an intrinsic reaction to the death threats the professor had received following the O’Reilly fiasco. Soon after, Genshaft announced her intent to fire Al-Arian. The United Faculty of Florida, a union representing many USF professors, lambasted the university for its decision and decried the violation of academic freedom. The case garnered national attention and impelled the American Association of University Professors to threaten to censure the university. Then-U.S. Attorney General John Ash-

PHOTO CREDIT: AGHA K. SAEED

evidence — a cause for which Newsweek magazine would name him a premier civil rights activist in 2001. Ironically, that same limelight would make him a target of the very civil liberties abuses he was combating. In 1994, Steve Emerson, founder of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, produced the documentary “Terrorists Among Us: Jihad in America” warning of imminent Muslim violence in America. It specifically attacked AlArian, accusing him of setting up the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE) as a terrorist organization front. A few months later, Michael Fechter of the Tampa Tribune followed with an equally disparaging piece, framing Al-Arian as a terrorist mastermind. The smear campaign spiraled out of control. The FBI raided Al-Arian’s home and offices to search for potentially incriminating evidence — they found nothing. During this time, USF placed Al-Arian on administrative leave for two years. He returned innocent, but with a publicly damaged reputation.

On June 30, 2014, Dr. Al Arian visited his parole officer to have his GPS tracking device removed. He was required to wear it at all times from Sept. 2, 2008 to June 30, 2014. While taking the photos, Dr. Agha Saeed recalled the words from the Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

croft interrupted the 16-month controversy on Feb. 21, 2003. He announced a U.S. Department of Justice terrorism investigation implicating eight men in conspiring to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a U.S.designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. In a chilling, but telling, nationally televised news conference, Ashcroft hailed the Patriot Act as pivotal in gathering evidence to indict Al-Arian as the North American leader of PIJ. “The individuals named in this indictment play a substantial role in international terrorism,” Ashcroft charged. “They are ‘material supporters’ of foreign terrorist organizations. They finance, extol and assist acts of terror.” In a frenzy-fraught, post-9/11 landscape, a fundamental U.S. legal principle was flipped on its head: “Guilty, until proven innocent.” A week later, USF fired Al-Arian. As the government built its case, AlArian and his co-defendants languished in prison for 37 months. Attorneys and Amnesty International activists raised concern over cruel prison conditions and violations of the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees defendants the right to a fair and speedy trial. Finally, on June 6, 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice presented more than 80 witnesses, including more than two dozen flown over from Israel, 400 transcripts of intercepted communications, and 472,239 telephone calls on 18 tapped lines.

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

Much of the prosecution’s case rested on depicting violent acts perpetrated by the PIJ — acts, which the government conceded had direct involvement from the defendants. The government’s expanded powers under the Patriot Act had lowered the bar for what was considered legitimate evidence of “material support for a foreign terrorist organization” given the court access to an unprecedented wealth of surveillance data, including phone recordings of pizza deliveries from as far back as 1994. On the other hand, Al-Arian’s defense did not call a single witness; their defense — the First Amendment. Despite the mountain of information presented, the jury acquitted Al-Arian on eight of 17 counts, and remained deadlocked on the remaining nine, splitting 10-2 in favor of acquittal. Testimony from one of the jurors attested to the irrelevance of much of the evidence. “I don’t think the government had the case that they were trying to give us. They were going to a very extreme area to try to convince us of the (defendants’) guilt. That was when I saw a side to the prosecution that was less than fair, less than honest.” When asked why he voted to acquit on all charges, another juror simply answered, “I didn’t see the evidence.” The case cost the American taxpayers an estimated $50 million. Although no charges stuck, the deadlocked indictments made retrial a possibility. The prosecution threatened a lengthy retrial, during which Al-Arian would have to stay in prison. In the hopes of escaping an indefinite legal battle that would keep him in jail, Al-Arian opted to plead guilty for one of the less serious charges, which accused him of sending money to a Palestinian charity before the U.S. government made it illegal to do so. The judge gave him a 57-month sentence, most of which he had already served, with the promise of deportation by April 2007.

CATCH-22 Al-Arian’s sentence was almost up when federal prosecutor Gordon Kromberg of the Eastern District of Virginia, issued a subpoena to require Al-Arian to testify in a case investigating a Muslim think tank. Al-Arian was caught in a catch-22 — if he testified, he could be charged with perjury; if he refused, he was in danger of criminal contempt. Kromberg was no amateur to this double jeopardy tactic. In another 2004 terrorism case, George Mason University graduate Sabri Benkahla was acquitted on 33


POLITICS AND SOCIETY all counts. Kromberg, unsatisfied with the decision, summoned Benkahla to testify to a grand jury; soon after, Kromberg charged him with perjury. Benkahla is still serving his 10-year sentence in an isolation unit, despite being classified as a minimumsecurity prisoner. Al-Arian’s attorneys argued that his plea deal protected him from having to testify in response to Kromberg’s subpoena. Meanwhile, the Fourth Circuit and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the government, paving the way for a criminal contempt indictment in March 2008 in the Eastern District of Virginia. The courts found that although Al-Arian had been verbally promised exemption from cooperation in future government cases, the agreement was not explicitly worded in his plea deal. Federal District Judge Leonie Brinkema was openly skeptical of the Justice Department’s tactics. “I think there’s something more important here, and that’s the integrity of the Justice Department,” she said. Following the contempt indictment, AlArian undertook a second hunger strike to protest the charges and his dismal prison conditions, losing more than 50 pounds. Over the next year, he was issued two more subpoenas. “When the system is manipulated by the powerful, and tolerates abuses against the minorities or the weak members of soci-

ety, the government not only loses its moral authority and betrays future generations, but will also be condemned by history,” AlArian said in a statement released through his family. On March 24, 2009, Al-Arian’s attorneys filed the first of many motions to dismiss the contempt indictment in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. The government responded on April 7 and a hearing was scheduled for April 23, only to be cancelled the night before. “It is hereby ordered that the hearing on the defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment be and is cancelled,” Judge Brinkema wrote. “The court will issue a written opinion on the motion in the near future.” Over 18 months transpired before a subsequent hearing was scheduled for Oct. 29, 2010, only to be cancelled the day before again. “The parties have fully briefed their positions and the court is working on an opinion which addresses all relevant issues. Accordingly, it is hereby ordered that the hearing scheduled for Oct. 29, 2010, be and is cancelled.” Over the next four years, numerous procedural motions appeared on Brinkema’s docket — namely seeking to alleviate the terms of Al-Arian’s house arrest to allow him to attend two of his daughters’ weddings, his son’s college graduation, and even the funeral of one of his lawyers — but no written

opinion followed and his case remained in limbo, until the government finally moved to dismiss on June 27, 2014. Critics point to the unique nature of the case, perhaps unprecedented even in the annals of bizarre post-Sept. 11 government judicial practices, in which a man having served a five year sentence under the terms of a plea agreement, was again sentenced to five years of house arrest pending a trial on a contempt charge filed in a different federal district. Down the sidebar of the “Free Sami AlArian” website runs Maya Angelou’s “We Shall Rise.” It reads, “They may insult you with their eyes Denigrate me with their lies Trying to kill you with their hate Bury me alive to seal my fate But they’d certainly Be shamed and fail As the free chant and sing On their march to prevail So keep your head held high.” Let these lines remind us that the AlArian case is not the last tragedy of pain and humiliation in a line of post-Sept. 11 cases that repudiate the wrongfully accused to America’s altered judicial landscape. 

Khadijah Qamar is a recent graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Hamdan Azhar, a data scientist in New York, writes about culture, politics, and technology.

FULL TIME IMAM POSITION Islamic Association of Greater Hartford in Connecticut

The Islamic Association of Greater Hartford (IAGH) serves a very diverse Muslim community in the greater Hartford area, with active participation of both genders. IAGH is seeking a qualified Imam who is well versed in Islamic sciences and is highly experienced in North American Islamic culture, to help advance the progress of its vibrant community. Some of responsibilities include leading prayers, giving Khutba, teaching, participating at official functions for youth and adults, conducting marriages and funerals, counseling, participating in interfaith activities. Minimum of a Master degree or its equivalency in Islamic Studies from an institute of higher education and must be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident with a minimum of 5 years residency in the USA. 34

For more details about the position, please visit: www.berlinmosque.org or see IAGH Facebook: www.facebook.com/IAGHBERLIN How to Apply: Interested candidates are to submit a cover letter, resume, and 3 references with phone numbers and a statement addressing the items listed in the job description and mail to: Islamic Association of Greater Hartford, 781 Berlin Turnpike, Berlin, CT 06037 Or email it to: IAGHBerlin@gmail.com Application Deadline: October 15th or until the position is filled. ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


POLITICS AND SOCIETY

Female Genital Mutilation in the United States BY ENGY ABDELKADER, SALMA ELKADI ABUGIDEIRI AND MARIAMA DIALLO The Victim’s Perspective: “My name is Fatoumata, and I am a victim of female genital mutilation.”

F

atoumata (not her real name) is a Gambian Muslim victim of female genital mutilation (FGM), who still endures its continuing physical and psychological impacts. “I remember the day when I was subjected to FGM,” she recalls. “I was 10. That day, my younger sister, Maryam, and two of our neighbor’s daughters were also subjected to FGM. We were told that we were going to my father’s sister’s house for a party. We were very excited to go. I did not know that we were being taken there to be cut.” “We arrived to find about 20 people there, clapping and playing drums. We were taken individually into one of the bedrooms to be cut. I was the first to go. Upon entering, I encountered a strange woman.

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“My sisters, aunt and my mother’s friend grabbed my arms and legs and pinned me to the bed, lifting up my dress. Someone also blindfolded me so I was unable to see what was happening. I suddenly felt a sharp object between my legs, and then felt an intense pain. I began shouting in pain and crying for them to let me go. I was not given any anesthesia or analgesic, nor was I treated with an antiseptic before or after I was cut. “After I was cut, I was bleeding profusely. They wrapped me in a cloth to stem the flow of blood, carried me into another bedroom and laid me on a bed. Each of the other girls was brought into the bedroom to lie with me after they had been cut. “I know that all of the women in my immediate family have been subjected to

FGM. However, my mother and older sisters never talked to me about the practice. Although my family cared for me after I was cut, no one sympathized with me or apologized for cutting me. It was a tradition and rite of passage that I was required to endure. When I had daughters, I wanted to protect them from being cut. I did not want them to go through the pain that I had to endure.”

WHAT IS FGM? The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM, also called female circumcision, excision and female genital cutting as “any type of procedure that involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Most frequently performed by a female

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


elder from the family or community, the “circumciser” or “cutter” employs a variety of crude instruments, including razors, knives, broken glass, or scissors. They are typically unsterilized, and used on a number of girls forced to undergo FGM in a series during a ritual ceremony. Moreover, the girls are subjected to FGM without the benefit of antiseptics, anesthetics, analgesics or antibiotics.

VULNERABLE POPULATIONS A WHO study found that roughly 140 million women have suffered FGM, while 3 million girls in Africa are susceptible to cutting. Notably, young girls and women may be subjected to FGM at a few months of age up until one marries. In some cultures, a woman is ineligible for marriage until she has undergone such cutting; where the cutting previously occurred at a tender age, a soon-to-be bride may be forced to undergo a reversal procedure to remove stitches previously sewn. Unfortunately, in some instances, the victim may experience a second cutting pursuant to a family member or husband’s wishes. Consider, for instance, the matter of Fanta (not her real name), a Guinean immigrant to the U.S. who was married early and subsequently widowed. A forced second FGM compounded a forced second marriage soon thereafter. FGM frequently occurs in a context of wider societal marginalization and abuse of women and girls. FGM victims also are often afflicted by coerced or involuntary marriages, physical, emotional and psychological spousal abuse and deprivation of educational and economic opportunities. Regrettably, FGM persists in roughly 28 countries distributed throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. However, some members of immigrant communities in the United States, Canada, France and Britain continue to subscribe to the practice, notwithstanding its deleterious effects.

THE JARRING REALITY OF “VACATION CUTTING”

The phrase “vacation cutting” refers to the practice of families sending their U.S. citizen or immigrant daughters for FGM to their native countries where such practice persists. This typically occurs during school vacation time and commonly represents a parental effort to curtail the influence of American culture. Christie (not her real name), born and raised in New York, vacationed to Guinea with her father who had actually arranged

for her to undergo FGM. Alerted by an aunt there, Christie fled to the U.S. embassy and was eventually reunited with her mother in New York, who had opposed it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) roughly 150,000 to 200,000 girls in the U.S. are susceptible to FGM practices here or through “vacation cutting.”   As of 2000, American states with the highest concentration of vulnerable populations included (in descending order): California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, Georgia, Washington and Pennsylvania. More recent data and analysis are woefully lacking.  

A LIFETIME OF SUFFERING: FGM’S DELETERIOUS CONSEQUENCES

To be certain, FGM results in physical, psychological and emotional harm. The physical consequences that victims endure can be immediate and long term. Since the cutting is undertaken without anesthesia and rarely by medical doctors, women and girls immediately suffer from excruciating pain and bleeding (and may end up having severe anemia), tetanus, hemorrhage, infection, sepsis, and in some cases, death. A 2009 WHO study finds that FGM victims also endure significant, adverse, lifelong effects, such as inflammation, infection, urine retention or incontinence, open sores in the genital region, and severe psychological consequences, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. FGM typically also reduces or completely eliminates sexual sensation for women and can cause intense pain and reopening of wounds or sores during intimacy. Also, women commonly experience painful menstruation cycles and complications during pregnancy and childbirth.  

CONTEMPLATE, FOR INSTANCE, AMINA’S EXPERIENCE:

Amina’s friends were visiting her in an American hospital after she delivered her first child. When her husband poked his head in the room to check on her, she let out a shrill scream, ordering him to get away from her. When she eventually calmed down, her friends began to understand her reaction to her husband. After delivering her child, she underwent surgery to restore the infibulation (stitching together the labia) she had undergone as a young girl. Through tears,

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

she explained how much pain she had suffered from the time she got married, each time her husband attempted to be intimate with her. Although repeated intercourse had slowly and painfully partially torn open the infibulation, the obstetrician had been forced to completely cut the infibulation in order for the baby to be born. Despite Amina’s intense pain during delivery, she had heard the nurse and doctor exchanging comments about how horrified they were to see the mutilation she had sustained. She had felt this same shame the first time she had seen her obstetrician, who had never before had a female patient who had been cut in this manner. Now, she was lying in the hospital bed wondering how she could ever be intimate with her husband again. Although she knew it wasn’t really his fault, seeing him had brought back all the memories of pain she had endured. She never wanted to feel that pain again.

THE ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE:

“But, doesn’t Islam require the circumcision of girls?” The terms circumcision and FGM have been used interchangeably in many contexts, muddying an issue that may already be confusing for Muslims coming from cultures where pre-Islamic practices like FGM have come to be labeled as “Islamic.” Adding to the confusion is the difference of opinion among the Islamic schools of thought about female circumcision, in addition to the different ways that this has been defined. Despite these differences, there is agreement that what causes harm (darar) is prohibited and there is no Islamic basis to support such cutting. While commonly associated with Islam and Muslims, FGM predates the advent of Islam and is rejected by the majority of the world’s Muslims. Notably, however, diverse faith communities, including Muslims, Christians, and animists, among others, practice FGM. Ultimately, Islam and its law is meant to protect five broadly defined interests (maqasid al-shari`ah) including, faith, life, lineage, intellect and property. Islam does not and cannot condone or encourage any practice that causes such harm (darar) — not only to the women and girls victimized by it, but to the families and communities that suffer from its consequences as well. FGM can result in a tremendously adverse psychological and physiological impact, and in a number of instances, even death. 37


POLITICS AND SOCIETY Some cultures that support FGM believe that women’s sexuality should be curbed or restrained, and that sexual pleasure is only for men. These values contradict Islamic teachings that emphasize the mutual satisfaction that both men and women should experience during marital intimacy (Quran, 2:187 and 2:223). Many hadith provide details on the mutual nature of the sexual relationship in Islam. And yet, FGM predisposes women to have, at best, an unsatisfying relationship and, at worst, an extremely painful one. Some leaders in Darfur, where FGM in its severe forms is commonly practiced, identified FGM as a root cause of domestic violence in their community. They informed one of this article’s authors that because FGM makes sexual intercourse so painful, many women refuse to engage in intimate relations with their husbands. In response, the men torture them to submit to such intimacy. These and leaders in many other areas where FGM has been practiced for centuries, have led joint efforts with healthcare professionals to educate women, including those who perform FGM, about the Islamic perspective condemning the practice and the accompanying health complications. One of this article’s authors, who traveled late last year to Kenya, found FGM was pervasive in Christian, Muslim and animist faith communities alike. The majority of Muslim women who spoke about their experiences confided that while they did not believe the practice to be Islamic, a number of communal leaders (and their congregants) continued to mischaracterize it as such. Notwithstanding such misplaced notions, many well-known religious figures, scholars, and theologians have publicly condemned the practice. “This practice is a ritual that has survived over centuries and must be stopped as Islam does not support it,” said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, former secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The late Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, grand imam of Al-Azhar Mosque and grand sheikh of Al-Azhar University, said “there is no text in Sharia, in the Quran, in the prophetic Sunna addressing FGM.”

THE LEGAL PERSPECTIVE

“FGM is something that has affected all of our lives… at least now we know that there’s a law out there that’s protecting us. There’s a law out there that’s defending us. We can stand up and say that, ‘you know what, this 38

can’t keep happening to us anymore.’ We have a law in the U.S. that says that it’s illegal to take these kids out of the country and take them to another country and have this performed on them.” — Jaha, 23, The Gambia.

INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW

International law has long rendered FGM a violation of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights proclaim the individual’s right to be free from cruel, inhumane and/or degrading treatment. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights mandates member states to preserve their citizens’ rights to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Further, signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child commit to “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical and mental violence.” Finally, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women obliges governments to modify “social and cultural patterns of conduct . . . with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.” In December 2012, the United Nations adopted a landmark resolution, “Intensifying Global Efforts for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilations,” calling on all countries to pass laws criminalizing FGM.

U.S. FEDERAL LAWS

In 1996, a Togolese woman fleeing FGM in her native country obtained asylum in the United States. In its landmark decision, a federal immigration appeals court recognized FGM as a severe harm that constitutes “persecution” under immigration law. Later that same year, Congress passed a law criminalizing FGM in all of its forms on anyone under 18 years of age. The act of performing FGM was made punishable by a five-year prison term and excluded culture as a defense. In January 2013, President Barack Obama signed the “Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act,” criminalizing the practice of “vacation cutting.” The federal ban attaches a potential five-year prison term to those implicated in the practice.

U.S. STATE LAWS At the time of this writing, laws in 20 states specify FGM as a crime. In some instances, these local laws provide additional protection to the federal ones referenced above. In Delaware, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Oregon, and West Virginia, a parent or guardian who consents to the FGM is guilty of a felony offense. In other states, laws relating to child abuse and neglect encompass FGM practices as well. FGM is a horrific practice that while commonly associated with Islam and its adherents, can be traced back to the time of the pharaohs. Only through collaborative educational initiatives, and the proper implementation and enforcement of laws, can we eradicate such violent practices, together. 

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

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ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


ISNA CENTRAL ZONE CONFERENCE

THE PROPHETIC MESSAGE — VISION FOR OUR COMMUNITY

EARLY REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS OCTOBER 20, 2014

November 21 – 23, 2014

Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati  •  8092 Plantation Dr  •  West Chester, OH 45069

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

SPEAKERS:

Hussain Kamani

Zaid Shakir

Altaf Husain Yasmin Mogahed Suhaib Webb Azhar Azeez And many more local Scholars, Imams, and Interfaith leaders

Habeeb Quadri

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

CONTACT:

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


OBITUARIES

Haris Suleman

Syed Ali Ahsani

1996 – 2014

Diplomat & Social Scientist

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aris Suleman, 17, died after his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean July 23 after leaving Pago Pago. His father, Babar Suleman, who traveled with him, is yet to be found. Suleman, a rising senior at Plainfield High School in Indiana this academic year, was thrilled to spend a summer adventure flying around the world. Suleman had hoped to set the record for the fastest circumnavigation around the world in a single-engine airplane with the youngest pilot in command. He had earned his pilot’s license this past June. His father, who had been flying for years, accompanied him on the flight that took off from Plainfield June 21 and they were just a few days short of their arrival back to their home in Plainfield in time for Eid ul-Fitr. The duo’s journey was also a fundraiser to help build schools in the father’s native country, Pakistan, through the Citizens Foundation (TCF), a nonprofit that supports education for underprivileged Pakistani children and has built 1,000 schools in Pakistan. The father and son set a goal to raise $1 million for TCF, and had already raised half that amount, but since the accident private donors helped to achieve and surpass the $1 million target. The trip involved numerous stops in several places, including Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Sri Lanka, Karachi, Lahore, Cairo, Islamabad, Al Ain and London.

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“I could have easily and quietly gone around the world and satisfied myself, but my father and I decided that we wanted to do this for a purpose and a cause,” Suleman had said. “Why does any explorer undertake the necessary risks in order to accomplish their dream? Because that person has a drive, they have a focus, and they have a need to explore that dream.” Friends knew Suleman as a person full of life and energy with a great sense of humor. Nearly 100 people gathered on a ferry the following Sunday off the coast of American Samoa during a memorial service honoring the Indiana teenager. Among the attendees were three members of the Suleman family and a family friend. The memorial service and a wreath-laying ceremony were held at the site where local authorities believed the plane crashed. The Pakistani government is helping with the ongoing search for the father and helped with arrangements to fly Suleman’s body back home to Indiana for burial. Senior officials from the Pakistan Consulate General in Chicago attended the funeral service for Suleman on July 31. He was buried in a Plainfield cemetery. The local community was deeply saddened to lose such a young and inspiring future leader. Suleman is survived by his mother, Shamim Babar, brother Cyrus Suleman, and sister Hiba Suleman. 

yed A. Ahsani, born in Bareilly, India, died July 31 in Arlington, Texas. Ahsani received his undergraduate education in India and Pakistan and was pursuing his post‐graduate studies at McGill University in Houston, Texas. Joining Pakistan Foreign Services in 1952, Ahsani served on missions to Cairo, Rome, Kabul, Beirut and Calcutta, India. He worked from 1966-70 as director in the Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, RCD and CENTO desks. He attended the famous Ramsar Summit along with President Ayub Khan, the Shah of Iran and Prime Minister and President Suleman Demirel in July 1967 following the Six‐Day Suez War. After serving as ambassador to Sudan, with accreditation to Ethiopia, Chad and the Central African Republic from 1971-75, he dealt with the war with India in 1965, obtaining Sudan’s full support, including banning of Air India flights over Sudan. He attended meetings of the Organization of African Unity, including the last one at Kampala in 1975. Moving to Ghana, he was accredited to Togo, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1975-79. After serving as ambassador to Brazil from 1979-81 with accreditation to Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia and Suriname, he returned to the Foreign Office in Islamabad where he was co‐founder/director of Pakistan Foreign Service Academy from 1981 until retirement in 1988 when he moved to the United States. Settling in Arlington in 1988, he taught at the University of Texas at Arlington and Tarrant County Junior College as visiting professor. In 2000, Ahsani was elected as delegate to the Democratic National Convention at

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


Los Angeles. He attended the Association of Muslim Social Scientists Convention at East Lansing in 1993. At AMSS, he coordinated an international conference on Islamic Spain in Lahore in November 1991. Ahsani presented a paper on the current state of research on Islamic Spain, which was published in Journal of American Social Scientists in 1992. In 1995, he presented a paper on “Strategy for development of the Ummah: Political Economic and Social dimensions” at The Islamic Research Foundations Conference in Chicago. Since 1995, he has been working as chairman of Southwest American Muslim Alliance. Since 2001, Ahsani served as chairman/co‐chairman of the Regional Conference of Southwest Association of American Muslim Social Scientists held in Dallas/Fort Worth. In 2001, the conference was held in Dallas. In 2004, the local organizing and planning committee made the transition to establish the Institute of Medieval and Post-Medieval Studies, Dallas/ Fort Worth Branch. Ahsani was the president until 2008, after which he became the institute’s president emeritus. He is survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter. 

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Abdulalim Abdullah Shabazz 1927 – 2014

Teacher and Leader

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bdulalim A. Shabazz died June 25, 2014, in Grambling, Louisiana, where he was a professor and endowed chair of mathematics at Grambling State University. He received the National Association of Mathematicians Distinguished Service Award for his years of mentoring and teaching excellence. President Clinton awarded Shabazz with a National Mentor award in September 2000. Shabazz was born with the name Lonnie Cross in Bessemer, Alabama. In 1949, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry and mathematics from Lincoln University. Two years later, he earned a master of science degree in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a doctor of philosophy in 1955 in mathematical analysis from Cornell University. The subject of his doctoral dissertation was: “The Distribution of Eigenvalues of the Equation: Integral of A(S-T) PHI (T) with Respect to T Between Lower Limit -A and Upper Limit A=Rho (Integral of B(S-T)).” Shabazz was appointed assistant professor of mathematics by Tuskegee Institute in 1956. From 1957 until 1963, he served as chairman and associate professor of mathematics at Clark Atlanta University. Shabazz announced in 1961 that he was a member of the Nation of Islam (later on he converted to mainstream Islam). From 1975 until 1986, Shabazz taught in Chicago, Detroit, and in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In 1986, Shabazz came back to Clark Atlanta where he served as chair

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

Abdulalim Abdullah Shabazz (Courtesy Photo/draas.info/home)

from 1990 until 1995. From 1998 until 2000, Shabazz was chairman of the mathematics and computer science department at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. The American Association for the Advancement of Science presented him with its 1992 Mentor Award for his leadership in efforts to increase the participation of women, minorities, and individuals with physical disabilities in science and engineering. He received the National Association of Mathematicians Distinguished Service Award for his years of mentoring and teaching excellence. In 2001, the Association of African American Educators awarded Shabazz with its Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding work with African Americans in mathematics. Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, national director, ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances said Shabazz was a regular member of ISNA and attendee at ISNA conventions and conferences. He had close contact with the leadership, and it was always an uplifting experience to welcome Shabbaz and discuss with him how best to relate to our brothers and sisters from the African American background. “We will miss him as a leader and as a strong supporter of our work,” Syeed said. “He has earned paradise for his service to the cause of God and his compassionate relationship with the community. We pray to Allah to reward him and help us to advance his legacy of intellectual and community work. We express our condolence to his bereaved family and ask God to give them patience.” 

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REVIEWS A VISION OF THE PROPHET AND SACRED HISTORY

SHORT TAKES

The Expeditions: An Early Biography of Muhammad Mamar Ibn Rashid. Sean W. Anthony (Trans.), M.A.S. Abdel Haleem (Foreword) 2014. pp. 384. HB. $31.56 Library of Arabic Literature New York University Press, New York and London

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bn Rashid (d. 153/770) was a contemporary of Ibn Ishaq (d. 151/786), author of the famous Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah. However, these two works are not the earliest works on the Prophet’s life. These two authors have brought together material from different sources into one place. He finds the book to be the result of many teacher-student relationships among: Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri (d. 124/742), ibn Rashid and ‘Abd al-Razzaq ibn Hammam. Ibn Rashid, who was of Persian origin, was a slave but of the sort where he had to reimburse his masters a portion of his earnings. Indeed as a trader, he traveled and added to his knowledge. 

RELIGIOUS IDENTITIES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSLIM WOMEN Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam Dawn-Marie Gibson and Jamillah Karim 2014. Pp. New York University Press, New York

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he overcharged personalities, like Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Louis Farrakhan, often gave the impression that the Nation of Islam was a male-centric movement. Dawn-Marie Gibson (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Jamillah Karim (formerly a professor at Spelman College) argue that and more than 60 years of scholarship have perpetuated that notion. Instead, they find that women have been pivotal in the NOI’s development, playing a major role in creating the public image that made it appealing and captivating. This book — an exhaustive study of women’s experiences in both the NOI and the W.D. Mohammed community — emerges from oral histories and interviews with roughly 100 women across several cities to provide an overview of women’s historical contributions and their varied experiences of the NOI, including both its continuing community under Farrakhan and under Imam Mohammed. They examine how women have interpreted and navigated the NOI’s gender ideologies and practices, illuminating the experiences of African-American, Latina, and Native American women within the NOI and their changing roles within this patriarchal movement. The authors argue that the Nation of Islam experience for women has been characterized by an expression of Islam sensitive to American cultural messages about race and gender, but also by gender and race ideals in the Islamic tradition. 

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Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past Sally Howell 2014. Pp. 384 | 38 illus. HB. $35 Oxford University Press, USA One major wave of Muslim arrivals in the United States was in the 1900s, there were thousands of Muslims in Detroit. Most came from Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire, and British India. In 1921, they built a mosque in Highland Park, Illinois, the nation’s first, finds Sally Howell. She argues that over the decades due to influences, including inter-racial marriages with natives, an “American Islam” had emerged. However, when immigration laws were liberalized in 1965, the new immigrants found Detroit’s old Muslims and their mosques to be Americanised, even unorthodox. Also in that period, African American converts became the Muslim majority — although some held beliefs at odds with Islam. Howell documents the rise of early Muslim communities, and documents the cultural wars and debates that arose when the newcomers found the old Muslims’ mannerisms or their American identities at odds with the tenets of the faith. Palestine Speaks: Voices from the West Bank and Gaza Edited Mateo Hoke and Cate Malek 2014. Pp. 320. PB. $16 McSweeney’s Books In their own words, residents from West Bank and Gaza describe how their lives have been shaped by the conflict. These stories humanize the violations of human rights that occur daily in the occupied Palestinian Territories. A Treasury of Hadith: A Commentary on Nawawi’s Selection of Prophetic Traditions Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Daqiq al-’Id. (Trans.) Mokrane Guezzou 2014. Pp. 200. HB. $14.95 Kube Publishing Ltd., UK Imam Nawawi’s (1233-77) collection of 42 hadith includes some of the most important and pivotal Prophetic traditions. Each tradition highlights a great rule of Islam, described by Islamic religious scholars as an “axis” in Islam. The commentary of the great hadith master Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Daqiq al-’Id (d. 1302) is simple but scholarly. Mokrane Guezzou is a well-known translator of more than 10 works, including the Quran. Divided We Prosper — A Humorous Reflection on Muslim Cultural Practices Mahmood Jawaid 2014. Pp. 140. PB. $20 InstantPublisher.com Mahmood Jawaid, a multi-talented engineer and writer, and a well-established commentator about the Muslim scene offers a humorous reflection on how Muslims conduct their affairs in the United States. He creates a showcase of cultural practices of Muslim Americans. Hurayrah the Cat: The Snake Catcher Farah Morley (Author), Alexandra Nyerges (Illustrator) 2014. Pp. 44. HB. $12.95. Age Group: 3-5 years The Islamic Foundation, UK In addition to telling the story of Abu Hurayrah — the father of kitten, the Companion of Prophet Muhammad (ITALICS salla Allahu ‘alayhi was sallam), Farah Morley introduces her readers to the city of Madinah. Illustrator Alexandra Nyerges plans to illustrate more children’s books once she finishes high school. 

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT

Wisdom #5:

The Blinding of Spiritual Sight BY IMAM MOHAMED MAGID AND S. J. ROSS “Your striving for what has been guaranteed to you, and your remissness in what is demanded of you, are indications of the blinding your spiritual sight.”

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he wayfarer is ever in need of a means to take their bearing and adjust their course: a compass needle, a landmark on the horizon, a star in the nighttime sky. As this holds true for worldly travel, so too does it hold for spiritual travel, lest we fail to reach our destination. In this beautiful maxim, Ibn ‘Ata Allah draws our attention to a subtle means within our own selves: the relationship of our worldly and otherworldly exertion. The commentators on this maxim explain that by “what has been guaranteed to you,” Ibn ‘Ata Allah intends our worldly provision: wealth, food, and other material comforts. These have been guaranteed to us because God is al-Razzaq, the Sustainer, and as He promises in the Quran, “There is no creature on earth but that upon God is its provision” (11:6). Of course, this is not to deny the necessity of working for our livelihood. But it is to remind us that if we live within our means and according to His commands, we will, God willing, always be able to eat. By “what is demanded of you,” Ibn ‘Ata Allah intends our worship and adherence to His guidance. As God counsels us in the Quran, “Worship your Lord and do good, that you may be successful” (22:77). By “spiritual sight [basira],” Ibn ‘Ata Allah intends the human heart, which if cleansed and puri-

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fied, is capable of perceiving metaphysical realities beyond what the eye can see. As the Quran rebukes the Quraysh, “Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts” (22:46). What then are the ways in which we might be striving for what is guaranteed to us and remiss in what is demanded of us? If we are like most Americans, we probably exert great effort into earning our living. Most American families are now dual-income, with the majority of men and women working more than 40 hours per week. Many of us forego vacations and will check our work email on weekends. Working hard, of course, in and of itself is commendable. We have been commanded to work and as Prophet Muhammad (ITALICS salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught in a sound hadith, “Verily God has prescribed excellence in everything” (Sahih Muslim; 1955). But does our work ethic extend to our spiritual lives? Worse, does it ever distract us from our connection with God and fulfilling our religious obligations to family and neighbor? To assess our state, let us ask ourselves a few clarifying questions: How often do we think about work and money? How often do we think about God? Are we more likely to delay our work to pray, or to delay our prayers to work? Do we ever postpone our worship until

just before going to bed and then struggle from exhaustion to be fully present in it? If our answers are not as we would like, there are several steps we can take to rectify our work-spirituality balance. Firstly, we should remind ourselves that God is al-Razzaq, the Sustainer, and that He is in ultimate control of our bank accounts. All our paychecks and all our expenses originate from Him. For proof, one need look no further than to all of the times we have been the recipient of an unexpected gain, made a fortuitous contact, or unintentionally chanced upon a financial opportunity. Similarly, we can recall all of the times we have lost money for reasons outside our control: an accident, an act of forgetfulness or illness. The quantity of our labor is thus but one small factor in determining our overall financial state. Secondly, we should remind ourselves that if the reason we labor is to be happy, through the satisfaction our work entails and the material comforts our paychecks permit, ultimately neither of these can ensure happiness. Happiness is a state created in the heart by God. Moreover, God has made happiness conditional upon following His guidance. As He promises in the Quran, “As for anyone — be it man or woman — who does righteous deeds, and is a believer, they shall We most certainly cause to live a good life” (16:97). And “Whosoever turns away from My Reminder, verily, for them is a life of hardship” (20:124). When our connection with God languishes, even if we amass material goods, we will fail to find contentment in

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014


them. How many are the examples of wealthy people we may know who are nonetheless unsatisfied, angry, or depressed? But when we are connected with Allah, we find contentment in however much we have been apportioned. Indeed some of the poorest people on Earth are among the happiest we will ever meet, because their hearts are rich with the love of God. Thirdly, whenever possible, we should try to pray at the beginning of the time. Doing so helps us to make God the priority in our lives, and by consequence, to put our labor in its proper place. Moreover, we should avoid relegating prayers, dhikr, or reading Quran to the final parts of our day when our minds are worn out. God’s message to us deserves more attention than any message from any colleague, speaking to Him more concentration than any workplace meeting. Fourthly, we should make sure that we are fully aware of what God asks of us. This can only be known through studying our religion, and we should never assume that there is no room for improvement. If we have not reviewed worship, the major sins, and the diseases of the heart recently, we should make every effort to do so.

WHAT SPIRITUAL TOPICS MATTER MOST TO YOU?

Please help “Food for the Spirit” better meet your needs by completing a 2-minute survey at: www.isna.net/foodforthespiritsurvey Unfortunately, one common mistake we can fall into is assuming that our hearts are in good health merely because we are working for commendable ends. God has made us responsible for our families, for example, so by working hard we are fulfilling their God-given rights upon us and thereby worshipping Him, or that by working hard we are making money, some of which we give in charity. If we find ourselves saying such things to ourselves, we have to ask if, in fact, they are the real intentions behind our work or merely an after-the-fact justification for a different real intention. One of the best ways to discern this is to examine the quality of our prayer. As our scholars have observed, our prayer is like a barometer of our relationship with God. If our hearts are truly connected with Him, we would not think of anything but God when we pray. When we pray, do we find

ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

thoughts straying into our minds? Do we find it difficult to stand? If so, it is a good indication that our labors may not be entirely for Him alone. We must strive to improve the quality of our prayer. Until our prayers are fully characterized by focus, humility, reverence, and love, we should question the extent to which other daily activities are truly for His sake. We should also remember that children usually become who we are, not what we say. If we neglect our own spiritual lives, we are also neglecting theirs, and there is no greater wealth we could give them than a loving relationship with God. In a famous sound hadith, God says that when his servant draws sufficiently close to Him, he reaches the station of Divine love and “I [God] am his hearing with which he hears, and the sight with which he sees… Were he to ask of Me, I would surely grant it to him. If he were to seek refuge with Me, I would surely protect him” (Sahih Bukhari). May God help us to trust in His sustenance, work sincerely for His pleasure, and may He illumine our inner sights. Amin. 

Editor’s note: This column is a revised version of a previous Horizons column by the authors.

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Islamic Horizons Sep/Oct 14  

Islamic Horizons Sep/Oct 14